Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Solstice!

It's all lighter from here - the sun is coming back!

May you all find many happy memories, and the new year be full of light, warmth, love, and laughter!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The art in my life

Over at Cat Rotator's Quarterly, Alma posed the question: "Does modern culture have room for Rubens and Rembrandt, for Van Eyche and Velazquez, for Caravaggio and Bernini, for DrĂ¼rer and Holbein?"

Well, generally my opinion of what the idiots in NYC, DC, and LA try to feed us as "modern culture" is soul-dead excrement with a Marxist core they can't articulate for the same reason fish don't think about water, and teenagers don't notice whining.

However, if we talk about modern culture as what those of us out here in reality are living and creating every day, there's plenty of room for it. There's also plenty of room for smaller, less well-known artists to make their living. Now that there's enough wealth in the society that it pretty much takes active self-harm and mental dysfunction to live as badly off as the patrons of the old dead dutch guys who knew how to paint, any of us can be a partial patron to an artists instead of them being tied to one merchant family or king. (Seriously: we have vaccines, entire closets full of clothes, ice in the summer, heat in the winter, exotic foods prepared for us year round, and replaced hordes of servants with the stove, microwave, dishwasher, laundry machines, and vacuum cleaner.)

Also, with the advent of prints, artists can paint once, and then sell that painting to hundreds, or even tens of thousands, of people. This means that art has disseminated all over the place, if we're willing to get it.

Around our house, for example, we just hung a James C Christensen print, and I still have to get the wire on the back of the frame to hang a commissioned Ken Nelson original. (A friend got it for me for my birthday. They're awesome. So is Ken!) I have a print of a Keith Greba watercolor in the office, and we have yet to hang a James Humble that we picked up at Libertycon.

There's still more art that we haven't framed yet - a few treasured pieces that Peter brought from South Africa, from an artist he knew there. (He had to leave most of his art when he emigrated. A painful parting, not unlike cutting off a limb to escape a trap.) There's even more art yet in a few "coffee table" books, because I can't afford the prints, much less the originals: Bev Doolittle, Stephen Lyman, and a collected works of Frederick Remington.

There are also smaller spots around the house that are getting prints and works by artists I've come to know and like as people, as well as artists, including Melissa Gay and Sam Flegal...

But coming back to the original question: yes, I will get a Monet or two. I have a spot in the spare bedroom in mind.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Cats and cream

I rarely have milk in the house, as half and half has far less lactose for more deliciousness. Even so, the cats have wheedled and miaou'ed us into getting it up to twice a day.

But Peter got a gallon of milk to make a proper British Christmas pudding and custard. (True to British food stereotypes, this is a custard that doesn't set. Rather defeats the point of custard, to my way of thinking. I love my man, and he loves his food flavoured with nostalgia, but I'm afraid we don't see eye to eye on what tastes like fruitcake drowned in custard gone wrong and runny to me.)

So we have a good part of a gallon of milk left over, and while some of it can go into tea, it's a lot less expensive than half and half, and can be doled out to the warm furry felines as a substitute. Easy, right?

...Kili likes it more than half and half. Ashbutt is just plain enthusiastic about any hint of food ever, but Kili has gone from knowing when to demand her due, to importuning us every time we turn on the tea kettle. I can't even make my first cuppa (black, two pieces of ice) without a faint desperate squeak and paws tapping my thigh.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Yesterday, in a fit of determination, my husband cleared a low mound of "stuff" that had been piled against a wall since it first came off the moving truck. Of course, said "stuff" did include the toolbox, so I had to track it down this morning for the utility knife and duct tape.

(Given nobody ever sees the metal legs of the bed frame, I have been constructing ugly and effective toe-savers: lengths of foam pipe insulation, with the utility knife providing cutouts where stringers come out one side, secured with a length of duct tape. I'm sure there's an expensive solution somewhere, but when I rammed a foot into one while making the bed today, it was annoying instead of followed by hopping, clutching the injured appendage, and making lots of whimpery noises. It'll do.)

After the wall was clear, I brought out a fine art print that I've had for going on fifteen years, and the studfinder, and we hung it on the wall. Hanging art is not exactly a giant undertaking, but once I had it up, I felt ridiculously pleased, as though I'd passed a mental milestone for "I live here" right up there with the bookshelves being unpacked.

Tonight, I tested out the fireplace with a firelog. The dampers do work, as does the firescreen (If I can keep a kitten from batting at the metal pull handles and biting the mesh.) Soon, I will acquire firewood so I can have bigger, better fires - but between books, art, and fire, this house is feeling like a truly relaxing home.

Life is good.

Monday, December 5, 2016

What a long, strange trip it's been.

Peter has Maxwell 5, Stoke the Flames Higher, released to the wilds of the internet today. It's been so long living with the book hanging over our heads, well over a year after he thought he could finish it, that it's still taking time to process the idea of the book being done, gone, out to readers.

(Okay, I still have promotion to do, although I got the newsletter out this morning. But that post-publication checklist is rapidly dwindling, especially with turning print and audio over to Castalia house.)

Now for that strange post-piece period in an artist's household, when Peter looks around and sees things that have been ignored for months under the fog of ill health and press of plot: the boxes in the living room that he plunked there when we moved in, back in February, and has been grumbling that he'll get to when he has time, and don't move them, wife, because you won't put them in the right heap in the garage. (The garage still has to be unpacked, too.)

Meanwhile, I wake up, take a deep breath, and look around, too, at the things that I've let slide: the pile of laundry I've been stealing clean clothes out of instead of folding, the floors that need swept, the pile of mail that wasn't urgent to deal with... And that diet and exercise thing. Blargh.

Some households make new year's resolutions, and base their spurts of activity annually. Some have the "when the kids are back in school." Ours, apparently, has "Once the book is done."

I feel better knowing I'm not alone, and other author spouses confirm this is normal, and the weirdness shall soon pass. Or, to quote one, "Yeah, two weeks. After about two weeks, he starts getting really distracted plotting, and then starts sneaking off to write instead of doing the chores..."

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m working today. And you know what? That’s awesome. Because I have a job that carried us through Peter being unable to make up fiction and write it down for the last year and a half, through the surgeries. Seriously, yay! (Besides, this means all the coworkers with kids will be able to have Thanksgiving with their families. Even the ones with military spouses, and you know how rare that is!)

And Peter is feeling well enough to write again. Not just “I’m physically capable of putting fingers to keyboard”, but “I am trying to hold a battle in space that’s four light-hours wide in my head, and make sure there are no inconsistencies as each ship gets the information and acts upon it, and the other ships see those actions in turn…”

And I now have a hangar for my plane: came open yesterday.

I’m going to take an hour lunch (swing shift) to pop over to a friend’s house, where we’re having a group Thanksgiving dinner. And for the friends around us, I am truly grateful.

All in all, it’s a good year. Terrifying, traumatic, expensive, frazzling, but a good year. We have always lived in interesting times, and I’ll take my blessings where I can get ’em. You take care of you and yours, and have a happy Thanksgiving, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Right of Way

I learned to fly before I learned to drive. This means the first right-of-way laws pounded into my head at the helm of a motorized vehicle are based on naval shipping and physics. It is also enforced by nature - in aviation, most collisions are deadly to one, if not both parties. I understand that on the road, with its lack of falling, airbags, crumple zones, and often lower speeds of impact, accidents are usually far less deadly (though the total number of drivers per year means a smaller percentage of deadly accidents results in far, far higher numbers of deaths, every year.)

As on the sea, in the air, the biggest and least maneuverable thing wins. This means that hot air balloons, having no ability to steer, win over everything else. The equivalent on the road is: the broke-down car with its flashers on or road flares wins, no matter what you're driving. Also, trains win EVERY TIME. Because if it can't get out of the way, it WON'T. And, no, that combine isn't going to pull over to let your happy butt past. It CAN'T. So sit back and enjoy the farm road at 7 miles an hour, because you're on a farm road, and this is a known hazard here.

Second, the jumbo jet always wins over the small airplane. Because massive airliners take miles to turn, while small airplanes can get out of the way faster. Also, no Cessna is ever going to win an argument with a 747. While this may not be enshrined into road law, there are two practical aspects: the first is that nobody has ever yet won an argument with a semi, a dump truck, a school bus, or G-d forbid, a concrete mixing truck. They're going to take longer to get up to speed, and longer to stop, and massively more amounts of room, in the case of semis, to make a 90 degree turn. So prudent drivers will give them room to do so, not wanting to end up as a bumper decoration.

Most especially, the difference in stopping distance between a car and a bicycle... look, I commuted by bicycle. It wasn't because I was a happy eco-warrior, it's because I was spending all my money on flight lessons and college tuition. (Cars are expensive!) And from that experience, I hate bike lanes. I don't think cars and bikes should be on the same roads at all. I adore bike trails that segregate bikes from everything but pedestrians. I hate "bike paths" that consist of taking a chunk out of the road that put bicyclists and drivers into conflict every turn lane, and MOST especially bike paths on city streets that put the bicyclist in the arc of every parked car door being opened. 

As every motorcyclist and bicyclist learns, many to their scars and sorrow, cars and trucks have big blind spots, bigger stopping distances, even more mass than that to launch you down the road, and worst of all, they don't expect to see anything but cars, so even if their eyeballs register your presence, their brain will often fail to see you in time to avoid being hit.

And if you think it's bad as a bicyclist, honey, don't wear dark clothes in the night and jaywalk. Don't wear light clothes at night and jaywalk. In fact, stay out of the road, and as far off on the shoulder as you can, if you must be there. As millions of deer, moose, and elk can attest every year, not to mention coyotes, dogs, armadillos, skunks, and other furry critters, if you're moving at a walking pace in a busy road, you're roadkill. Even if you're protesting and your cause is righteous, well, whose to say the deer didn't think his cause was righteous, too?

And you poor darlings, at some point when you think you're brightly lit because you have the flashlight app on in your cell phone, walk over into the glare of parked headlights, and point it at the driver. Can he see it? Only from so close it's too late to avoid. Little glowstick necklaces and bracelets? Those are for ravers, not traffic. (Except when trick-or-treating, in which case, I'm going to be creeping along at three miles an hour and frantically looking for any sign of movement shorter than the bumper, and those help. But at normal traffic speeds, no.)

The second is that the car with the least insurance wins. I've driven flashy things, shiny and brand new, and observed other drivers let their asshole flag fly a lot more often than if I'm driving a beater that I can identify from any angle in the parking lot by its unique wrinkles and dents. Just like the guys with the fight scars on their knuckles and the level dead stare get a lot fewer men shoving them aside at the bar than dorks do, the beater car says it's a very bad idea to try to cut in at the last second of a merge by aiming at my front quarter panel and revving your engine while making eye contact and lifting your middle finger. Don't pick fights you can't win, eh?

Third, the ones with clearance win over the ones without clearance. This is all throughout road law, with its stop signs, traffic lights, yield signs, etc. Know it, follow it, avoid getting t-boned because somebody else expected you to follow the law.

Speaking of road law, it's not uniform. After almost a year in Texas, Peter and I got into a debate yesterday over whether a car was following traffic laws or not. Turns out, he's totally legal in Texas, but not in Alaska, and while arguably legal in Tennessee, he's also breaking the law in Louisiana. (Hazard light use, for those wondering.)

Yeah, that one surprised me, too. Pro tip: if you move to a new state, pick up their copy of the DMV booklet and read all the way through. It's the little things that get you, and that's not just whether you're required to have a front license plate or not - it's also whether or not the traffic around you is expecting you to do that thing you "always" do, or if they have different "of course" expectations here. 

Fourth: emergencies have right of way over everything else. If you're really enjoying some Tocatta And Fugue in D Minor, or anything else with lots of high notes and bass, take the time to check your rear view mirror for flashing red lights more frequently. Because Ambulances, Fire Trucks, and Police running with their lights on have right of way.

And, you'd think this'd be obvious, but any vehicle out of control has the right of way. If the wind is roaring across the Palmer flats hard enough to pick a semi up and drop it four feet over in my lane, I'm not going to pass him. Because I don't want to be next to him if a gust does that again! If the side of the semi in front of you disappears in dust and haze with a loud bang or two and exploding chunks of tires are flying higher than your vehicle, GET OUT OF THE WAY.

Similarly, if you _think_ a vehicle is shortly to be out of control, you can argue that you were legally right, but physics will win. So if you see a car with a tire that's wobbling very badly in and out, a truck with a load that looks about to depart the pickup bed, a semi on a downhill with one brake locked up and leaving a thick trail of smoke, or a perfectly sound vehicle that's weaving across all lanes... now is the time not to argue. It may be the time to call 911 so a nice officer with flashing lights can help fix the hazard before it becomes an emergency, but it's also time to just let that one have Right of Way.

Last but never least, if you encounter angry people who look like they're going to swarm your vehicle and injure or kill you - drop it into low gear, add gas, and drive on. People intent on hurting you do not have right of way, okay? Call the cops when you're at least several miles down the road, somewhere safe, where their angry friends who also wanted to injure or kill you even before you escaped can't wing you with a bullet.  That's a situation where the only way to survive is not to be there, so Move On, because Your Life Matters.

Stay safe out there.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Oh, dear

Ashbutt has been growing by leaps and bounds. A month after he came home, he's already twice the size of the kitten who slept most of the way home. The growth doesn't look like it's slowing down any time, soon. He has more rambunctious energy than two humans and an adult cat can deal with (and today he learned how to climb legs encased in socks. Ow.) He also purrs, near-frantically, at almost everything. Including the food bowl, where he's eating more than Kili does, and has also quickly learned to show up when she gets treats.

To date, I've heard two faint, tiny little chirps out of him, and one gigantic squall when he dashed underfoot and said foot landed on his tail. (Well, at least we know he's not mute.) But an extremely quiet cat, purrs aside.

Tonight, I realized his tail is already fluffier than Kili's fully adult tail. This bodes a long-fur fluffy future. With some trepidation, I did more internet searching, and happened upon some incredibly close matches to his own kittenish frame and coloration.

They both had the caption: "Black Smoke Maine Coon Cat"

...oh, dear.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


We have acquired a kitten. He was presented with a dual attack: first by a friend dumping the purring kitten in my lap. Second, by the inescapable logic of "You need to take this one home. He's too pretty for the 'yotes to eat."

I'm not complaining, mind you. Well, not much. Sleep deprivation is a torturous thing, even when it's due to four pounds of black and silver fur attacking my toes through the blankets, and the purring loudly while shoving a little wet nose in my face and trying to nibble on my earlobe.

Yoga now requires excess cat toys, to throw and distract someone long enough to get a pose or two done.

Folding laundry... the only way that's actually getting accomplished is to lock myself and the older cat in the guest bedroom. Kili flops on the bed, and declines to even do her prior playful interference. In every line of her sacked-out body is "Oh, Bast, I'm too old for kitten antics. At last, a respite!"

Sadly, that only works until Kili's enjoyment of a kitten-free space is overriden by her awareness of a closed door (an abomination unto felinity.)

No matter how cute, this picture represents laundry that didn't get folded. Because someone thinks a towel held up to fold in half is an exciting new climbing wall. Every. Time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Introverts Don't Unite, Given a Chance

There's a chain on the front door, that we only use at night.

At about 5:30 this afternoon, my husband goes to check the mail, and stops dead at the front door, eyeing said chain. "You haven't been out at all today?"

I pointed at the backyard from my spot on the couch. "I've been out! I pulled weeds, and watered the herbs, and sat in the shade!"

He undid the chain. "Yes, dear."

"Hey, it's my day off!"

"Yes, dear."

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Recovery and rain

My darling husband continues to get better. This morning, he felt up to doing the dishes, and did so... though this afternoon has since proved that amount of bending was, ah, ambitious. Ah, well.

I have no surgical excuse; I just don't feel like sweeping, or want to tackle folding the last loads of laundry. Sadly, there's no good excuse for not shouldering the responsibilities of adulthood to go with the privileges thereof, so after this short update, it's off to the salt mine (laundry pile) I go!

On other notes, got rain yesterday. Surprising, unexpected, and joyous. (There have been other thunderstorms nearby, but I was starting to wonder if the house was at the meteorological equivalent of the center of the target in a flour-bombing competition.)  The grass has switched from yellow-brown and mowed to bright green and shaggy in less than twelve hours. Well, I needed a little more mulch anyway, so it's all good.

And last but not least, I have this distinct feeling I may soon be the butt of a joke by the Divine. You know, I go shooting my mouth off about how I never use and don't need my instrument rating... That's like inviting the universe to offer an opportunity for IFR flight, isn't it now. *sigh* Back to the books and simulator, to try to reforge and hone those skills!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Yep, that's my love.

After the surgery, the doc came out to talk to me about complications, and the need for a one to two day stay. He then informed me that my darling husband would be about an hour in anesthesia recovery, and then I'd be able to see him when they transferred him to a bed.

I went and got a salad. After all, I'd had about two bites of an overly-sugary danish, a mocha, and about three cups of bad hospital coffee since 4:45 am, and it was well after noon. Food means I'll be able to take care of him instead of needing care myself.

Twenty minutes later, I came out of the elevator and headed for the waiting area, only to be intercepted by two harried-looking nurses. "Are you Grant?!!?!" (You could hear the extra punctuation, especially in the body language.)

"Yes." I close with them, noting the harassed, annoyed expressions. Self, I thought, these do not look like the faces of women here to tell me bad news. They're too annoyed.

"I'm the charge nurse, this is the floor nurse." One snaps. "First, your husband said to tell you he loved you. That was the first thing he said in recovery."

"Told me that, too." The other one chimed in. "Very insistent."

"Now, would you get back there and tell him that he needs to follow the doctor's orders?"

I grin, knowing exactly what's going on now. "Ah! Yes! No offense to his parents, whom I know were married, but he's a cranky stubborn bastard when he's coming out of general anesthesia, isn't he?"

"YES!! Yes, he is! This way, now." They hurry me off to past the No Unauthorized sign, and one mutters to the other, "If this doesn't work..."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The story behind the entry

My "weekend" was full of getting things done. One of those things was repainting the gas tank covers on the plane, as black was a perfectly ration de-icing color in Alaska, and an utterly irrational color in Texas that'll boil the gas out of the wing tanks in direct sunlight.

So I roll out of bed bright and early like 6am, whip them off, sand, prime, and paint 'em while it's still cool, and have them in time to go fly before it gets hot, right?

...Not so much.       

Especially not when my husband, whom I adore beyond telling, took a look at the stepladder I was using and finally understood why I'd been talking of getting a 3-step stepladder for the plane instead of the 6-footer that I was awkwardly twisted halfway around trying to use. He took off to nearby city's big box store to get the stepladder for me. Because he loves me, and buys me stepladders that are correctly sized instead of jewelry. Did I mention he's awesome?

When he got back, he found me basically sitting on the tire, playing sudoku on the phone, because without my ride, I couldn't go back to the house to get my mini hacksaw to cut a slot in the one stripped screw. Because of course, out of 44 screws, one stripped past saving, without coming out. So we head toward the house, until I recall in despair that I don't know which of the boxes in the wall of Not Yet Unpacked has my mini hacksaw.

Back to nearby city's Home & Aircraft Depot! ...Where, in his intention to spoil me, the man insists I really ought to buy a cordless Dremel instead. Sure, it's not in the budget, but it'll work on his gun stuff too, and I'll be able to use it on something else on the plane, and... My darling man might not buy me flowers, but he bought a cordless micro dremel for me. I'm so keeping him. You ladies will definitely have to get your own; this man's all mine.

And then off to Fastenal, to get replacement screws. Where the replacement screws I need come in packs of 100. Well, if I have to replace one stripped screw, why not replace them all, and not have to worry about the not-yet-really-stripped ones?

By then, Peter's moving slow and getting snappish, which he's just chalking up to it being a painful day. (My knees were telling me all about the weather forecast, so I wasn't surprised.) I look at the clock, diagnose an unrecognized case of hangry (hungry + angry) underlying the incoming-weather pain, and off we go to lunch. Except the first spot is closed on Tuesdays. Eh, Gyros are tasty, and only two blocks further away.

Of course, this puts us back at the airplane to tackle the last screw well after lunch, which means I'm sanding the tank covers in the shade of the mulberry tree in midafternoon. In North Texas. In August. By dusk, I had two primer coats and one color coat on the tank covers (and the cardboard backstop, and on the fence, because overspray goes with the wind... did I mention that it was a calm day, right up until I started sanding?

...So I ended up putting the tank covers back on this morning. You know, roll out of bed, pull on clothes, grab a screwdriver and ladder, the tank covers, and scoot over for a quick install, right?


Anyway, off to go put it in the logbook in accordance with FAR Part 43, Appendix A, Paragraph C - Preventive Maintenance, where it will join many other entries whose "one simple little job" or "Um, this is going to be a lot more involved than we thought" are disguised in dry understatement. (In the case of my airplane, you can even read between the lines and find, in the very first logbook, "Grounded due to war." 9/11 wasn't the first time we closed the airspace; that was 12/07/1941. If logbooks could talk about the story behind the entry...)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Welcome Grey

Today I woke up to a lovely, familiar sound - rain hitting the windows. My back-brain completely relaxed to the grey light leaking in around the blinds, and went "Ah, it's August. Wonderful! All is right with the world!"

The problem is, that's the "everything is back to normal" in Anchorage in August. (Rev Paul explains here.) But I'm in Texas, where the more common response is a full-throated, heartfelt "Thank G-d!" Something about no rain hitting this patch of dirt in weeks. (I don't think it's been two months, because there was this one thunderstorm in mid-June, but...) In our backyard, in the one bare spot of dirt that hasn't yet recovered from the prior owner's dog digging around, the earth was developing cracks almost three-quarters of an inch wide.

The grass in our yard went from "Could use a trim soon, or in the next three weeks" in a shade of green-tinged brown to a variegated patchwork of bright and deep greens, and looks like it's set to grow three inches by tomorrow morning. The world smells of wet earth and growing things, and is filled with birdsong. It's under 100 degrees, and I'm cleaning the house while the chance to get dust out without more dust blowing in lasts.

Still, a good day. Tonight I'll cook comfort food for friends (the tzatziki is already chilling and melding flavours in the fridge), and celebrate the rain and friendship.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What's that position named?

So, Phlegmmy and I agreed that we should start doing yoga again. (Something about getting into and out of inner tubes on the Guadalupe River. Awesome time, absolutely wonderful, but... more flexibility better!)

R, being a wonderful and straightforward person, found a class, and went twice while I was "Eh, I'll get there on my next weekend." She reports flexibility returning in proportion with ouchiness.

I decided I can't just sit there any longer, so I'm going to restart in my office, using a youtube instructor and my yoga mat. Even if I'm not getting out of the house, by gosh and by golly, I'm going to do yoga!

10 minutes in, I'm in a downward dog pose when the cat walks under me and tickles my nose with her tail.

I'm not sure what position I landed in after the sneeze, but I'm sure it's very highly advanced.

At least, even if my dignity, the cat's dignity, and my face didn't survive unscathed, my hip feels better than it has in days...

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Coming back from breakfast today, I noticed spatters of mud on the screen door. This is odd, as the door is recessed, three feet from the nearest mud, and out of the wind. There was also mud on the concrete. So I looked up.

Some enterprising swallow (probably the fork-tailed one that's been yelling at me when I leave for work) is building a nest right above my front door; there's already a good mud foundation on the brick, about 10 feet up.

This explains why the cat is having random attacks of "Bird! Die now! Why can't I get through the glass and kill you?" when she looks out the window that covers the aerial approach to the front door.

Given that swallows like to return to nesting sites, this may have to be dealt with soon, before they complete the nest and use it for a month.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


Didn't go flying today.

The CFI was a little amused by the thoroughness of my preflight inspection - but when you take an unfamiliar aircraft, and put it in the hands of someone who has rebuilt one, there's a lot more things that I now know can be cattywampus to check. Example 1: They'd never had a student check that the ignition wires were firmly attached to the spark plugs. (Look, it only takes once, okay? I learned that lesson from somebody else's exciting flight, and now I check every time.) Example 2: I identified the "we can't find that oil leak", and pointed out that it was very clearly from which spot on which seal on which cylinder - which means that fixing it would require cracking the engine. Given it is a very minor oil leak indeed, I can translate the mechanic's "can't find" quite clearly as "Don't want to crack the engine to fix."

The CFI was less amused when I pointed out previously unnoticed hangar rash that needs fixing.

But be that as it may, no preflight reveals the dead battery. That waited until we got in and pressed the start button, and got a single click from the solenoid as reward. So, we got the plane jumped. Now, once the plane is jumped, there's one instrument that needs extra special loving attention on the checks, and that is the ammeter. It should read as solidly charging the flat battery.

This one didn't. It didn't show as discharging (ie, dead alternator and we're running on the freshly jumped battery), but it didn't show charging, either. Hmm, I thought, that's hinky. Either the ammeter isn't working, or something's funky with the alternator. Better keep an eye one it, especially on the runup. 

Three minutes later, as we were rolling toward the runway, the GPS and the Com Panel went dead. Yeah, my apprentice mechanic skills are saying that alternator's either dead, or putting out so little power that we're draining the freshly-jumped battery past the point of sustaining the heaviest electrical load (the big glass screen and high-powered GPS avionics.) My CFI, who has the mistaken impression that I fly no radio because I fly one of those ancient taildragger-type airplanes, leaned forward and shouted (Com panel dead means the headsets don't work.) "I know you're used to flying no-radio, so I'll give you the option of continuing the flight!"

I looked at 'em like they were asking if I wanted to tango with a thunderstorm. "Unfamiliar airspace, unfamiliar airplane, no comm, no electrical? No way!"

So we taxied back to the mechanic's hangar, and waved one over so they could see what was going on. He leapt up on the wing as we slid the canopy back, and I pointed out the dead GPS, dead com, and the backup nav/com and transponder were still live. Then I asked (or shouted, over the engine and prop), "Beacon is switched on! Is the light on?" This is one of those helpful cross-check things, because the beacon is wired to the master switch, not the avionics master. It wasn't - there's enough juice to run the surviving avionics, but not the lights. Definitely sounds like an alternator that's putting out just enough juice that it tests fine under no load when tapped with a voltmeter - but not enough to power the lights and avionics and charge the battery at the same time. Ah, intermittent electrical issues, how I hate thee.

So I shut her down, and rescheduled.

Monday, May 30, 2016

In Memoriam

Yesterday, Ray Carter, known as Gay Cynic online (though he was much more of a lighthearted optimist than the name proclaimed), went off on a grand scheme to consult with G-d on his pranks, black humour, and the fabulousness of the angel's weaponry.

He left behind a lot of friends, a long legacy of fighting for second amendment rights for all people of all persuasions, a red, white, & blue leather with rabbit fur and rhinestone-studded holster, and a body that lost its second round with cancer.

 Here's to all those we've lost, who have gone before. May we meet again, in a better, brighter place, where there is peace, and laughter, and no more tears.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Stretching My Wings

Went flying today.

A good friend asked if it was exciting and fun, and was puzzled when I said it was more akin to finally getting out of the hospital and into rehab. I was flat exhausted, and wiped out for the rest of the day. My darling husband had to wake me from a nap to go to dinner.

There were a few reasons for that - the first being that I haven't gotten my plane down here yet. She's in with the mechanics, getting everything triple-checked and tweaked, a lot of minor fixes done, before I fly her on a long cross-country. So I was flying an unfamiliar airplane, in an area I'd never flown before.

The unfamiliar airplane was really unfamiliar: it was a Grumman Cheetah, which about as different from my plane as you can get and still be a single-engine airplane. Instead of a canvas sling seat that seats two, this has leather seats for four. Instead of high wing with clear patrol doors, it's a low wing with a canopy that slides back. Instead of tailwheel, it's a castering nosewheel. Instead of drum brakes activated by little tabs down by my heels, it has hydraulic toe brakes (at the top of the rudder pedals.)

Instead of cruising along at 85 miles per hour, it cruises at 127 knots (146 mph). It doesn't get down to 85 until you're landing. Oh, and it has flaps. Electric flaps.

Instead of a basic panel and a handheld radio, it has a full IFR setup with two nav/coms, including an IFR-certified GPS. We had to do a VOR check. I didn't even remember what that was...

Essentially, it's like driving a Ford Model T on farm roads for 15 years, and then getting plunked behind a 2016 ferrari with the new-car smell still reeking from the seats, and being asked to perform skids, sharp corners, spinning circles, and parallel parking.

On top of that, we took off in wind 19G30 (nineteen knots steady, gusting up to 30 knots), and found the practice area went from clear on the way over to heavy haze while we were there. So I was trying to perform visual maneuvers without a visual reference... "nose on the horizon" is a whole lot more work when you can't see a horizon.

And then, as the wind got stronger, I started practicing landings. By the time I did my final landing, it was steady 25 knots - thankfully, straight down the runway. The peak wind I like to fly the Taylorcraft in when I'm out of practice is 15 knots - fortunately, this plane is not nearly as good at converting wind to lift, so I was able to get her down smoothly.

Yeah, my brain feels like I took the flying skills portion, and the even-more-atrophied IFR flying skills portion, broke the casts open, and put them through a really vigorous round of physical therapy. The neurons hurt.

Other important thing I learned: must bring water when flying in Texas. I hadn't realized how dehydrated I got in an hour and a half flying, until I was working through the water bottles in my car before I got to less important things like seatbelt, putting keys in the ignition, going home...

But you know what? It was worth doing, and worth doing well. I regret nothing. I got to fly, so it was a good day.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Low(ish) carb gravy!

Just followed an excellent suggestion on the net: put one chicken in crockpot on top of onions, celery, etc. as standard. Cook chicken. After removing chicken from crockpot, pour off most of the broth, until there's just enough to cover the veggies. Then, hit that mess with the immersion blender. Salt & spice to taste, and hey, presto! Flour-free, no-wierd-gums-or-starches, gravy!

...update. Works great when served hot; add more salt & seasonings first. Does not work for frozen & reheated meals; the solids separate out from the liquid.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mr. Lincoln's Haircut

Hopefull all y'all were taught the tire tread penny check by your fathers. If not, it goes like this: take a penny, and stick it in the channels on of the tire tread, with Lincoln's head pointing down. If the remaining tread is high enough to decapitate the guy let the income tax come into being, or at least kill him by slicing off a chunk of his brainpan, then life is good and your tire has enough tread.

On the other hand, if Mr. Lincoln merely gets a marine hair cut, then it's time to replace your tread. There are more precise methods to define for street legal, but this is an excellent rule of thumb for when it's starting to eat into the margin of safety.

The car now has 4 brand new tires, and it's like getting an upgrade on the entire car. It rides smoother, making a lot of the familiar ruts, cracks, and patches in the road almost unnoticeable. Farm more importantly, it stops faster, accelerates a little better, and the car doesn't dip and sway into turns as much. Now, my "haul two kids, a dog, and two kayaks" sized car will never be a sports car by any means, but it's a wonderful upgrade. Even better, I'm now no longer eyeing wet intersections with the narration in my head going "Will it blend? Or will it hydroplane?"

I shall resist the temptation for a road trip via country roads just to take it on sharp corners, leaving a trail of exhaust and giggles. Really. Maybe.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Small town Saturday

This morning, we met at a diner for breakfast with LawDog & Phlegmmy, and then headed out to go see a classic car show. It was the sort of small-town show where the cars and trucks were a mix from the professionally-restored polished classics in cobalt blue, to the antique tractor being started by flywheel (on the fifth try, it still hadn't caught, and the young gentleman in the cowboy hat eyed it in exasperation. "I just cut the grass with it yesterday, and it started right up!")

There was also a dolled-up ATV made to look like a locomotive, pulling a train of fuel barrels cut out to be little train cars for little kids, advertising train rides for a buck per seat. It was beautimous.

The announcer was busy thanking just about every business and church in the small town as we walked past the booth, and Although Peter's on a diet, I stopped to contribute $3 for a funnel cake to a church booth. Long habit from running a booth sticks; I handed over three one dollar bills, to the delight of the gentleman who claimed I was the first customer to do that. "Everyone wants change for twenties!"

Yes, sir, that's going to be a universal human habit as long as that's the base ATM currency. If you're ever going to staff a booth, whether it's major convention or small town car show, make sure you have lots and lots of 1's, 5's, and 10's for change. Most vendors like to price their products at 5 / 10 / 20 just to avoid compounding the change issue - but clearly, North Texas small town felt that was a little too rich for a funnel cake. I'm not complaining! It was delicious!

We saw OldNFO in passing, bustling by and muttering something about forms. I suspect he got sucked into herding cats - as long as he's happy! I got a hug from him, so I'm happy.

Not a terribly exciting day, but it was quite fun, and we got to see friends & neighbors, and some really nifty cars. Hope your weekend is just as fun!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A reading list for understanding Apartheid

When asked for a book that would explain apartheid, I turned to Peter. He replied, in his usual way, with the fact that no one book could hold it all. But here's a list:

1.  MY TRAITOR'S HEART - Rian Malan - - a personal and highly charged journey -

2.  THE MIND OF SOUTH AFRICA - Allister Sparks ( ).  Left-wing, but comprehensive and reasonably balanced.  See also his sequels, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER COUNTRY ( ), the story of the transition period (through which I lived - he captures the flavor well) and BEYOND THE MIRACLE: INSIDE THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA ( ), which IMHO is less good, but studies the first post-apartheid period.

3.  COUNTRY OF MY SKULL by Antjie Krog ( ) - the account of the first two years of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.  Shows in stark, horrifying detail what apartheid was like for most blacks.  Searing.  I was personally involved with some of those who went through some of these things.  It can still make me weep.

4.  KAFFIR BOY by Mark Mathabane ( ) - a black child growing up under apartheid.  Published in 1986, eight years before the end of apartheid.

5.  THE LAST TREK by F. W. de Klerk ( ) - the last white president describes his life and how he helped end apartheid.

6.  LONG WALK TO FREEDOM by Nelson Mandela ( ) - the sanitized personal account of how he turned from terrorism to statesmanship, and partnered with F. W. de Klerk (see 5 above) to end apartheid.  He and de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

Those are only a few out of many possible suggestions.  1, 3 and 4 will give a raw, unvarnished portrayal - essential, IMHO, to grasp the reality of apartheid.  2, 5 and 6 will give a more factual, balanced approach from three different perspectives.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pepperoni Pizza Chili

Pepperoni Pizza Chili (yes, it's low-carb)
2 pounds ground beef
1 onion
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic, minced or powder
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 can kidney beans, drained (optional; for very low carb, skip this)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can tomato paste
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
25 pepperoni pieces, chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Saute ground beef, onion, and spices, until beef is browned. Add to slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker. Set on low, cook 6-8 hours. Eat with a salad.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Laundry is one of those eternal chores that never ends, only pauses. Sometimes, though, the pauses are for reasons creative and interesting, like when the ambush predator you live with decides to move where the attention is...

That's a nice shirt I got here, shame if something happened to it...

Saturday, March 12, 2016


There is something strange and wondrous about spring happening in February. Welcome to Texas! I have now gotten about as far away from Alaska's seven months of winter as is possible while remaining in the USA! (Okay, there's always Hawaii, but Texas is warm, and affordable!)

I am starting a container garden, because the prospect of starting a larger garden while dealing with owning a house and settling in, and starting a new job, seemed a little overmuch. Despite any husbandly jokes about Scarborough Fair, no, that wasn't what I was thinking when I started parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. And cilantro. And basil. And oregano.

I may have gone a bit overboard on the basil. I could only find it in seed, so I started two trays to see if any of it would take. Now I have twenty little pots with basil seedlings, and I'm thinking... pesto? Okay, I could thin it down, only keep a bunch or two... Or I could have a glorious profusion of basil. I might have to plant some in dirt, though, because that'd be a lot of pots.

One of the joys of living off a base is watching their pilots play while I'm sipping tea out in the backyard. Another is the delightful profusion of cultures for small-city Texas, including two Asian groceries. One of the drawback is the inevitable puzzling head-cocked stare at a complex chart on the small airport wall, trying to decipher just where the base does their coming and going, when, and how to fly around them reliably. Thankfully, there does seem to be an easy rhythym once you get into it, but "Just stay between the local TV station's towers and you'll be good" won't be incredibly obvious until I've flown a bit here.

Given a year, I know I'll get the rhythm down: where to fly, when to plant, when to switch from building a fire in the fireplace to grilling outside. Not yet, but it's coming. Strangely enough, though, when I find myself slipping and talking of "back home" when comparing here to there, I still mean Alaska, not Tennessee. Sometimes, I wonder if that'll ever change: I first really learned to put down roots there, and they dug deep.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Settling in

Once upon a time, the cat was bored. As bored cats do, she demanded that her people play with her, and relieve the ennui of being a house-bound cat.

So her people started making boxes, and putting things in them. The trouble with humans is, they didn't stop putting things in boxes when she'd had enough of it. But she adapted, and decided that as long as they'd understood one demand, they could understand another, and upped the demands to go outside and kill the birds in the windows.

They let her out. But it was in a cat cage, and it was only to go to the vet. After getting a rabies vaccination, she decided she wanted nothing to do with outside anymore.

But the people, they're kinda stupid and slow about learning when to stop. And when they'd put everything in the whole house in boxes, they took her out again, and put her in the car, for hours upon hours upon hours. At the end of the day, they hadn't gone back to the house, either: they put her in a new place, with lots of strange smells. It was scary, but she had her people.

After a couple days of this, they came to a new house, with a new person, and she had her whole huge litterbox back instead of the travel stopgap. Life was good, and there were lots of new things to explore, and couches to climb, and beds to sleep on...

And then, before she could get bored, they picked her up again, drove a ways, and plunked her in a brand new house, with familiar furniture and all the boxes. She's decided boxes are the cause of traumatic change, and wants to be anywhere else when one of her people start opening them.

But time went by, and other than the forbidden garage where boxes still lurk, the house was almost unpacked, and back to normal. A cat could get used to this...

And then the people moved the living room furniture. She gave them the dirtiest looks she had ever learned, and swore a bit. Enough change! Stop that!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Exercise and cats

Why exercise at a gym? After all, you can do almost all the same things at home, without the travel, the fees, or the other people, right?

Unless you have cats. To see what doing situps and pushups with cats is like, go here:

This post brought to you by the person who was counting their seventh abdominal crunch of a set when the cat popped out from under the bed, and did a beautiful  cross-body leap, pounce, and bit my left forearm just as I was coming up for the eighth one.

Let's not even talk about yoga with cats. Just...

I've got to join a gym.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A little escalation is good for the... soul?

Now that we live in walking distance from OldNFO, LawDog, and Phlegm Fatale, we've gotten into the habit of rotating group dinners. (And when we decided to make the informal formal, OldNFO and I settle who has which night via the age-old coin toss method.)

Now, when you get a group of very experienced, well trained, highly skilled people together, no matter the subject matter, a natural spirit of competition starts to arise. This can result in such things as marathon races, short takeoff and landing competitions, and gigantic bonfires. But this is just dinner, right?

"Just" dinner.

OldNFO served dinner tonight. Marinated kebabs on the grill, green beans tossed with olive oil, salt, & garlic on the grill, a salad and rice pilaf on the side, a shiraz in the glasses, oh and there just happened to be a german chocolate cake for dessert.

LawDog has proclaimed he's rising to the challenge with a true Texas chili this weekend, and there's an understated understanding that of course this means salad and wine, and we'll see what side.

Great. Not that I feel the need to top both gentlemen. No, I merely need to match their excellent cooking, right? Which is why I volunteered next week to do bobotie. Okay, fine, "Challenge: Accepted!"

..."just" dinner.

Great. Six months from now, are we going to be doing the veggies carved into the shape of lotus flowers and kobe beef? Because this kind of escalation can be dangerous...

I think I need to join a gym.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Ray's Cheesy Grits

I got this recipe from Ray, after we made all three variants of his cheesy grits disappear rapidly last weekend during a gathering. It has nothing to do with low carb, and everything to do with delicious. Even my husband, who cannot abide American grits, devoured it.

Ray's Cheesy Grits


5 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 cups uncooked quick cooking grits*
16 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (roughly 2 cups)
1/4 cup whipping cream (unwhipped)
1 tsp sriracha sauce**
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3 large eggs

For meat
Option A: 1 can hickory smoked spam, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
Option B: 1.5 lbs breakfast sausage, cooked and drained***
Option C: 1.5 lbs Peter Grant's Mex Mix


Step 1:
Verify you have all the ingredients for your intended mode of destruction.

Step 2:
Butter a 9x13 glass or ceramic baking dish.**** Put meat of choice in even layer in bottom of pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Step 3:
Bring chicken broth to a boil in a Large saucepan.***** Gradually whisk in grits, bringing back to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened. (While grits are thickening, in 1 cup glass measure, mix whipping cream, hot sauce, black pepper and red pepper vigorously with a fork or small whisk. Set aside.

Step 4:
When grits have thickened, add cheese. Stir Vigorously! Large whisk works well. Keep stirring until glop is not lumpy. Add cream mix.

Step 5:
In seperate bowl, stir together the three large eggs. Stir into grits mix until thoroughly mixed. Pour into 9x13 pan over meat of choice.

Step 6:
Cook at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes. After baking, remove and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut with spatula and serve to the hovering crowd.

*stone ground grits can be substituted. Increase liquid to 6 cups & cook time to 60 minutes
**other and inferior hot sauces may be utilized, with predictably inferior results.
***drained is important! It avoids setting the stove on fire!
****Use of metal baking dish will result in cursing, soaking, scrubbing, more cursing, and more scrubbing.
******Not medium, you fool!
.****** Failure to allow resting time may result in second or third degree burns.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Foresworn II

So when we last left our intrepid pilot, he was on a sandbar somewhere in the greater expanse of Alaska, with a malfunctioning GPS. I was on the other end of a satellite phone connection, warm and dry in a pilot shop in Anchorage, having just realized that I'd broken my fervent promise never to do help desk.

With clearly great reluctance, our lost pilot turns off the GPS, and I hear the sigh of relief when it boots back up just fine. "Oh! The numbers on the lower left hand side are..." And he rattles off a software version number that makes me want to facepalm. He hasn't updated the software on this thing in years... in fact, I'd bet good money he hasn't updated since he bought it. "And here's the satellite page! It's searching! It thinks the date is... what??"

I nod, even though he can't see it, and pitch my voice low and soothing again. "Was that the last time you'd used the GPS, sir?"

"Oh. Uh. Yeah, I guess it was."

"Your GPS basically went to sleep when you shut it down, and now it doesn't know that time passed, so it's staring really hard in the wrong spot of the sky for the satellites, sir. It's okay. Turn it off again, and listen to my instructions before you turn it back on. I want you to repeat back to me what you're gonna do. You're going to hold down these two buttons, and continue holding them down for three seconds after you push the power button again. What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to... do I hold the power button down for three seconds, too?"

"No, sir, just those two buttons."

I wait. Approximately three second later, the full-pitched panic returns. "It's not finding them yet!"

"It's going to take about ten minutes." I soothe, and desperately reach into my bag of tricks for ways to distract, soothe, and generally de-panic pilots. Time for the biggest one I have. So I pitch my voice up bright. "While we're waiting, what kind of plane do you have?"

He perks up by reflex. "Oh, it's a supercub!"

"Really? What mods have you put on yours, and what are you planning?"

A few minutes later, in the middle of an extended discussion on the best way to spend a limited budget at the amazing and wonderful world of airplane mods known as F. Atlee Dodge, he breaks off. "Hey, it's working! I see where I am! How'd I get... never mind! I can get back to the airport!"


"Um, how much do I owe you?"

I contemplate the absurdity of trying to take a credit card payment from the middle of nowhere over a satellite phone for telling a guy to press three buttons, and reply brightly, "You owe me coming into the shop to get that GPS software updated, next time you get back into the Big City!"

"Okay! Thank you So Much! I'll be right there!" He hangs up, and I put the phone back on the hook with a shake of my head and a sigh.

Fearless Pilot Shop Leader asks all the questions she needs to by just raising her eyebrows. I check - there are no other customers in earshot, just one back by the used avionics counter. I hold up my fingers and waggle air quotes. "I'm on a sandbar and my GPS doesn't work."

She nods, and points over to the GPS update computer. "I got another one over there, waiting for you."

"Can do!" I shift my but off the stool, and head off to another day in the life of tech support. At least I get to talk about airplanes while doing it!

Sunday, February 7, 2016


Many, many years ago, I was in engineering school, with lots of friends who were computer geeks, working helldesk. Help Desk is a job where one has a phone line to even more concentrated stupid than twitter in political season, and is forced to try to help people from the most inarticulate to the most clueless fix whatever went wrong (usually user-caused.)

I swore I'd never work helldesk.

Fast forward quite a few years, and I've gone from working for airport maintenance to taking a job just for the fun of it, at Alaska's best avionics & pilot shop. (Miss that place! They're Good People, and do excellent work!) I was the pilot of the pilot shop ladies, and as such, I got to spend a fair amount of time doing updates, changing settings, and fixing many a pilot's GPS. Backing up their data before doing an update was an interesting in negotiation and trust.

For some reason, many a gentleman whose livelihood depended on guiding clients to his few scratch strips out in the bush where no one else knew a way in to a Dall sheep herd with trophy-sized males... was a might bit paranoid about people handling his GPS data.

And if you think guides are paranoid, let's not even talk about small-claim miners!

They responded well to complete honesty. "Look, sir, I'm rebuilding my T-crate. I couldn't care about your scratch strip, and I couldn't get out there anyway. Now, if you had a line on pre-WWII thickness aircraft sheet aluminum? That'd be a different story!"

I knew they trusted me when they came in and asked when I'd be on shift to fix their GPS.

Well, one day, the talented and beautiful leader of the pilot shop staff answered the phone, then stuck it in my direction with a rather odd look on her face. "It's for you."

"Awesomest Pilot Shop, Wing speaking, how can I help you?" I chirped, raising an eyebrow at my fearless leader.

There was a pause. A pause of a very peculiar variety. The quality of pause that told me this was a satellite phone call, and the pause was mostly lag as voice bounced back and forth from orbit. You get the oddest little hesitations ingrained when you do enough satellite phone calls, waiting to be sure you're not speaking over an incoming voice. And sure enough, after the small hesitation of I'm not saying anything else + lag, came a male voice that was hitting the highest alto of panic, near unto soprano as he yelped in fear.

"I'm on a sandbar and my GPS doesn't work!"

Ah. Interesting. Depending on where he was in where-ever-in-the-world, this could be real trouble. I pitch my voice as low and soothing as possible. "What happened?"

"I was chasing caribou tracks up a braided river, and got completely lost, and now I'm low on fuel and my GPS doesn't work!!" The panic was strong with this one, and for good reason: if he ran out of fuel before he found something that vaguely passes for civilization, he might get the CAP to do a search sweep and rescue him. Or he might die. If he panicked and left the only easy thing to find - the airplane - the chances were pretty high on the latter.

So I hitched myself onto the barstool of Long Phone Conversations, tucked the phone between my shoulder and ear, and slowed my speech down while dropping it to the same register as used for enticing scared cats out from under the pile of parts. "All right, sir. We can fix this. Let's start at the beginning. Does it even turn on when you push the power button?"

"It does, but it can't find the satellites!"

"Aaaah. Okay, I want you to turn it off, and then listen to my instruction before you turn it on. When it comes on, I want you to tell me what number shows in the lower left-hand corner of the boot-up screen. And then, when it goes to the satellite page, what date it's showing."

The pause is longer this time. "If I turn it off, do you think it'll come back on?"

"I'm sure of it, sir. We're going to find the software version number, the internal date, and then we're going to reset it so it thinks it's fresh from the factory and has to search then whole sky, instead of staring fixedly in the wrong spot for the satellites."

I'm sure of it. Just as sure as I'm working helldesk.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Hello, Texas!

The first time I visited this town, I was straight off the plane from Anchorage. It seemed abominably flat, dry, dusty, and treeless, with only scraggly bush. (Mesquite is to Texas as willow scrub is to Alaska, I guess.) It also got dark too darned fast, and let's not talk about the heat! Yeah, when my love asked me if I wanted to move here, I nearly crawled out of my skin.

Then I moved away from where the mountains plunge into the sea, down to Tennessee in the Lower 48. After a few years of the suburban outskirts of Nashville, growing steadily more allergic to the place, I end up moving to the very same town. Funny, the way it's changed.

Sure, it's flat, with those wide-open skies I miss from Alaska, and the air is crisp and clean. I can see for miles, unlike being lost in the humid haze - once again, severe clear means you can see things fifty, even eighty miles away. (In Tennessee, it seemed a severe clear day meant 30 mile visibility.)

It's winter, but the wind is a dry cold that doesn't slice straight through your layers and turn every joint and old injury into stiffness, pain, and swelling. No, here, a windbreaker will do where the same temperature in Tennessee would take several layers and still hurt. Even better, the only thing setting off my allergies here is the dust on the boxes and stuff we're unpacking!

The people are friendly, the food is great, and the sunrise is beautiful to watch with a cuppa.

If I'd learned to like this place the first time 'round, I would have missed some great friendships, and a really interesting job, and plenty of awesome memories. On the other hand, getting that east-of-the-Mississippi-River experience has let me appreciate the wonders here.

Still miss Alaska. Don't miss Alaskan winter yet!