altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
Grey dawn here, though the NWS promises temperature above freezing and a little sunlight today. For the moment, all is peaceful even if it looks a bit bleak.

Whatever you celebrate, be it Yule, Midwinter, Christmas, or just a day with family and friends or one of peace and quiet: I wish you warmth, happiness, and health in the year to come.

We had the few remaining local family here for dinner yesterday, and have exchanged gifts, cards, and messages with the more scattered siblings. Today will be a day of quiet relaxation, I hope. Time edges ever onward, and I have quite a bit more grey hair today than I did even just a year ago. Even our dog Red is more grey than rufous now.

Know that I hold you all dear in my heart, friends. Be happy and be safe, please.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Today is the 31st anniversary of Gary's and my first date. Earlier this year, I had hopes that the useless Illinois legislature would pass a gay marriage bill in time for us to finally make it official today, but no, of course it's still stalled. Passed the Senate, but the House continues to dodge the vote. Perhaps Wednesday's Supreme Court decision will finally put a fire under their lazy butts but I doubt it.

Anyway, Gary gave me tigers. Because, y'know, we had lions and bears, but not lions, tigers, and bears, (Oh my!) Turned out he wasn't quite right, because the tiniest tiger in the photo was already here but he hadn't noticed it. The large Wild Republic Cuddlekins tiger and the medium Aurora tiger on the left arrived today.

I know a fair amount of music from the 30s and 40s that I play on piano and/or organ, but this should perhaps inspire me to learn the Tiger Rag (not easy, but I can do it if I work hard.)

Tiger Rag


Jan. 1st, 2013 10:07 am
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Miktar's Altivo)
We've heard a lot of misguided nonsense about the Maya and their calendar over the past year. The end of the "long count" is just a cyclical event after which a new count begins. The calendars familiar to Central American scholars consist of multiple cycles of varying length, each of which simply repeats itself when it runs out. Thus the thirteenth long count began on or about the winter solstice of 2012. (Technically, it's the fourteenth b'akt'un since the first one was "zero," but by convention the repeating long counts are numbered in that way.) Anyway, the world didn't end on December 21. Instead, we just flip the long count back to the beginning and start over, just as we do with January 1 of each year in the common Gregorian calendar.

A similar occasion for our own calendar took place on January 1, 2000, when the collapse of civilization was predicted by some based on the notion that computer software would get confused about dates with the beginning of a new century. This was equally misguided, and very little happened related to that change. Furthermore, the actual 21st century didn't begin until January 1, 2001, since there is no year zero in the Gregorian system.

Recycling calendars is a practice we have picked up here at the farm, not out of miserliness, but because we save wall calendars that have particularly attractive pictures on them. The Gregorian calendar has repeating cycles too, just as the Mayan or Aztec calendars do, but the pattern of repeats is more complicated (at least to my way of thinking.) A little investigation, however, shows that the pattern of weekdays and dates for 2013 matches exactly with 2002, 1991, and 1985, as well as many earlier years. Our collection of favorite old calendars only goes back to about 1984, so those are the three years of greatest interest. Though we did get two new wall calendars this year (one with puppies, one with wolves) we normally use four at various locations in the house. This morning we sorted through the old calendars and pulled out two from 2002. One of those is the Workman Teddy Bear calendar from 2002, and the other is a calendar with photos of sheep breeds from the same year.

Phases of the moon, if indicated, on such recycled calendars are almost never correct. The dates for Easter and Ash Wednesday are usually wrong. Other fixed holidays and civil holidays that are moved to the nearest Monday are normally correct. We use a lunar astronomical calendar for moon phases anyway and disregard the approximations shown on wall calendars, so this is not a big issue. It's fun to revisit favorite calendar photos of years past, and our collection of 30 or 40 some old ones takes up little space on a bookshelf.
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
I haven't posted for weeks, I know. From the time of that last post the distractions and time demands have been extreme.

The biggest highlights (or maybe low points) have been illnesses and deaths in my mate's family, including an uncle at Thanksgiving, sister-in-law a week later, and then his mother on December 20. Needless to say, this has been a gray and gloomy season for us. He spent several weeks in Chicago sitting in hospital rooms and dealing with stressful and difficult situations, while I stayed home and took on all the animal responsibilities which made for very long days indeed here.

The final straw was his mom's passing. She had surgery for cancer in November, and was in chemotherapy. Finally starting to improve, we thought, when a stroke hit her. He was there with her when she went to bed as usual and couldn't be awakened the next morning. Back to the hospital for the third time in a month, where she died without regaining consciousness two days later. Gerri was a kind and generous woman and we will all miss her very much, though at age 83 she had in fact been occasionally expressing a wish for her succession of medical difficulties to come to a final ending.

We're trying to return to a semblance of a normal schedule now, but it's taking a bit of a shakeout to get back onto the rails. I intend to return to a more regular posting schedule with the new year, if I can.

30 years

Jun. 29th, 2012 08:58 pm
altivo: (rocking horse)
Has it really been that long? Yes it has. My mate and I celebrate 30 years together as of this weekend. Not that we're doing anything big. We plan to join some friends who are celebrating their 50th anniversary and go to dinner at an Indian restaurant. We also went out to a relatively new Polish buffet style place tonight (it wasn't bad, but wasn't really impressive either.) I bought us a new mattress that is being delivered next week, and he gave me a teddy bear. That's about it. We tried to plan a real party on our 25th but no one was able to make it, so this time around we're not doing that.

Weather today has been a bit on the peculiar side. We had a very odd display of cloud shapes around 11 am. There was no warning or watch in our county, but the sky looked like a honeycomb of cavities going upward. It's hard to explain, but imagine a uniform overcast that appears to have a definite ceiling. then imagine huge holes in it pointing straight up, looking as if someone had pushed a giant carrot up into the cloud ceiling at regular intervals, making a series of rows of holes that covered about half the sky. There was severe thunderstorm activity to the south of us, but we had no wind and no rain, just this very weird cloud formation. Later someone referred to it as a "mesoscale convection" I think. or something like that. In any case it was the oddest looking and most disturbing cloud distribution I've ever seen in my life.

Now there appear to be thunderstorms headed in our general direction, but it wouldn't be surprising if they miss us, as they often do. It's bone dry here, and we really could use some decent rainfall.
altivo: Gingerbread horse cookie (gingerhorse)
Survived. We drove into Chicago with ham, potato salad, bread, kohl-rabi, and asparagus. Also a small home freezer that Gary picked up used for his mom. We set up the freezer for her, after much fiddling to get the cover re-installed correctly, and it obligingly chilled itself right down to 0°F in about an hour. So that's taken care of and the thing is out of the garage here.

The remaining relatives arrived late as usual because they'd all been to more than one dinner today. Even so, a fair quantity of food and wine got demolished. (We still brought home leftovers aplenty, but that's OK.) And that brings the guilt-obligated holiday dinners to an end for this season, Thank goodness.

I was so worn by the whole affair that I took a nap after the horse and sheep chores were done, while Gary walked the dog out in the pasture. It was a gray and gloomy day, with spattering rain just before sunset, weather that rightfully would be more appropriate for Good Friday, I think.

Because the guild newsletter went out yesterday, I have nothing left to do but get ready for FCN. That means finishing up Rails 'n' Tails modules and checking over the fursuit, then packing and planning the driving details. Since the Rails 'n' Tails panel takes place at 3 pm on Friday, we have to get there early enough on Friday to set up for it.

Right now, though, I need to get some more sleep. That should make the rest of this two weeks much more pleasant.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Being at work is easier. As usual, I find we are making the entire holiday dinner for a dozen people and carting it into Chicago. I'm so tired now I'm cross-eyed, and once again I'm thankful that the little family I have left is so small and scattered. These overbearing guilt obligations are just too much to have to deal with. At this point, I'd settle for hot dogs tomorrow.

At least after tomorrow is done it should be pretty clear sailing until Thursday when I depart for FCN. There are things to be done, of course, but where to draw the lines is my own decision and I can drop any of them if necessary.

Gary, of course, has been having a double hell week between all the church choir obligations and trying to get his final project for school done before the end of the month. Then, on top of that, it's his family that incurs all this food responsibility. It's a "tradition" I think I could do without, and it strikes four times a year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and Easter. At last we're done with it until November once we get through tomorrow.

Interesting to note that deaths in his family always seem to cluster right around those holidays, too. The stress and guilt is too much to deal with, I think.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Nothing routine about this Saturday. Well, except we still had to feed and care for animals. But the day started off with some rather freakish thunderstorms, really isolated little pockets surrounded by clear skies at least as far as the radar was concerned. There was heavy hail, though no tornado threat, and sudden intense rain. The storms moved slowly, and the rumble of thunder continued from various directions for almost two hours, sometimes continuously for several minutes.

Then we went to the Harvard Expo, where I had offered to appear for two hours as the Book Wolf at the library booth. That went well enough. Gary came along to help and did get some photos.

Argos at the Expo

Believe me, it was warm under all that fur for two hours. By Gary's count, one in five younger children was terrified of me, though the others were eager enough to come up and get a cookie at least.

Barely got the costume dried and myself showered before it was time to run off again for a St. Patrick's Day musical performance at the local banquet hall and restaurant. Gary's Wednesday session group was down one violin and they asked me to sit in on flute, as I mentioned before. It went reasonably well. The group was paid something, I'm not sure how much, but we also got dinner out of it. The corned beef was good, with red potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. And they had malt vinegar and horseradish, not just the usual ketchup and mustard for condiments. We played from 5:30 to 9:00 pm with a break for dinner. Some of the audience were quite enthusiastic about it. At least no one threw anything at us. ;p
altivo: Gingerbread horse cookie (gingerhorse)
It was hot today. This is the Ides of March, not traditionally a sweltering day in the sun in this part of the world. We got to 77F here with some significant humidity. It's cooling off now, and supposedly we are in for dense fog and possible thunderstorms.

First barbecue of the year, after we went out at lunch time and voted in the nearly pointless Illinois primary. I do usually vote for a handful of Republicans, but they are in local offices in this totally GOP county were there are often no Democratic candidates at all. Fortunately, some of them do a good job at what they are doing (not the sheriff, alas, but the county clerk and the state senator are at least OK and the county board members from our district are in favor of conservation, preserving farmland, controlling development, and keeping property taxes down.) I might not want some of these same people to be in Congress, but locally they are good. Anyway, take a Republican ballot? No, not interested. On the Democratic ballot, there were really no significant choices. One candidate (or none) for each slot. Except for a choice between two for US congresscritter. The incumbent is a Republican and the usual sort of anti-everything jerk who hates women, gays, unions, and the environment but loves big corporations. Alas, he will undoubtedly win. But I want a real candidate to run against him. We actually had a choice between a gray-haired businessman who takes few positions in public but makes a big deal of the fact that he's a Catholic, married, with kids. Sorry, but I can just guess how he would vote on gay marriage, women's rights, or other issues near and dear to me. Fortunately, the other candidate is in his 20s, a geeky information technology type with longish hair and a beard, and has taken public positions in favor of gay marriage, pro-choice, public health insurance, and other issues I support. He gets my vote and I took the Dem ballot specifically to vote for him. Of course he won't get the nomination, but I tried.

Gas prices are going through the roof. In Harvard they went up by 24 cents just today. Oddly enough, one station in Marengo was bucking the trend and went down by five cents. This made for a 41 cent difference in the price of unleaded regular between Marengo and Harvard. The distance between the two towns is only about 12 miles.

Went over my Argos fursuit and conclude that it's as ready as it will be for an appearance Saturday as the library book wolf. Then that evening I have been arm-twisted to sit in with one of Gary's groups for a St. Patrick's Day session at a local restaurant. Their lead violinist is unavailable that evening and they asked for me to play flute (not violin, not up to that) with them. I agreed, but reluctantly. I understand we get dinner for free and the crowd was reasonably polite last year, so I'll survive it.


Feb. 20th, 2012 08:35 pm
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Thus endeth the 2012 "Great Backyard Bird Count" weekend. It was clear and sunny throughout, but we only saw one unusual thing. This morning when I went into the arena to turn Tess and the sheep out, there was a Cooper's hawk in there. It must have been perched in there when I shut the doors last night. The usual dozen or so house sparrows were all silent or absent as the hawk cruised around the rafters waiting for me to open the big doors to let it go. Of course, the sparrows did reappear in about an hour, so I guess the scare wasn't big enough to completely uproot them. Darn.

Not a real productive weekend, other than in terms of food made and enjoyed. I guess that counts for something, but I really should be getting more done. Well, I did fill out the forms and prepay my horses' vet bills for the year. Costs have come down, too. There was a $34 reduction for each horse, though the services included remain the same. I'm guessing our vet got a better deal on the cost of vaccinations.

The sun was nice, though it has clouded over now. It could have been a little warmer though. Above freezing each day, but not by too much, and dropped back below freezing every night.

So now, short week. At least there's that.
altivo: Plush horsey (plushie)
Like flim flammery. I know, the Woodstock ground hog predicted springlike weather in two weeks, and here it is two weeks and we have sunny days and temperatures well above freezing. All the snow is gone, and replaced by mud.

Drove Gary to his optometrist appointment this afternoon since they would dilate his eyes so he couldn't see to drive home. And they did, and he couldn't, so that was a good thing. He's back to normal now and passed all his tests. Only a slight change to one eye after four years.

Discussion with friends I plan to meet with at FCN led me to check into train schedules and fares to Kalamazoo, which is conveniently close to their farm. To my astonishment, since I haven't looked at Amtrak schedules for some time. There are four trains a day each way between Chicago and Kalamazoo, and the fare is just $22. That's competitive with the price of fuel to drive there. In fact, if the price of fuel goes up this summer as it usually does, the train will be cheaper. I'd have to take Metra from Woodstock to Chicago, then switch stations (just a block or so apart) to get Amtrak. It's quite workable. Timewise it's competitive as well, because though the train ride is slightly longer, I wouldn't be driving and could write or read or whatever (sleep!) on the way. I'd like to go visit them for a weekend, but I hate the driving. This is a good discovery.

And after tomorrow, comes a three day weekend. Yay!

Cupid day

Feb. 14th, 2012 08:55 pm
altivo: Plush horsey (plushie)
Not, in my opinion, to be confused with cupidity. Or stupidity.

Anyway, found some suitable cards in my stash of such things and Gary got one from me and one from the pets. Made him apple pancakes for breakfast and also took him out for dinner. Not overly fancy, but a place we like. He gave me two little plush huskies, knowing full well that they will end up "staring" at him in bed like the other two I already had.

Proofed his proposal for a research paper, and made some changes to vocabulary before he submitted it. (He spent too many years working for a yuppie consulting firm and sometimes needs to have his verbiage reined in, so he gets to the point sooner.)

He's probably on an acceptable track, since he's proposing a library usage study with live data that I will extract for him. He wrote to seven public library directors for permission to use their data, and three have granted him that so far, which is enough to work with even though he'd like a couple more. All three so far have expressed interest in his results and asked for a copy of the final paper. So he has real world data and a real world audience interested in his results, which meets several of the requirements for this project. (It's all statistical stuff, involving projecting results from a sample and comparing the projection to the actual results for the entire universe of data.)

Pulled sample files for him while doing my normal daily work, as I could just submit the requests and let them run in the background. So he should be all set for this class.

On another subject, I had occasion to compare the Amazon price for a hardcover novel and the price for a Kindle edition of same. I'm disgusted. The real hardcover book is $13.23 (with free shipping if you order at least $25 at once, so two books will do that) and the Kindle electronic edition is $12.99. Someone (I assume the publisher) is getting by with much lower production costs and taking a much higher profit. I doubt that the author is getting a higher royalty for the ebook copy than for the printed copy. This is neither fair nor an advance in the economics of publishing. Yet publishers are still resisting the ebook trend, dragging their feet and yelling that it will bankrupt them. Bah humbug.

Dumb horse

Feb. 13th, 2012 08:45 pm
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
Excuse: I felt so cold and uncomfortable by the time I got out of work.

Consequence: I forgot to stop on the way home and get a valentine card as I'd intended.

Probably not a disaster, but it's irritating nonetheless. Guess I have to get into the kitchen early tomorrow and make pink heart-shaped pancakes. ;p Fortunately I've promised him artwork but it won't be done by tomorrow.

It snowed more today, but with little accumulation. Things were nonetheless very slick and slippery for driving home this evening. Felt all afternoon as if I might be getting some bug or other, but now most of that seems to have passed.

Reading William Horwood's Duncton Wood, a long dystopic novel about moles, a bit similar to Watership Down but darker so far. This after having finished Mercedes Lackey's Changes yesterday, the latest in her long Valdemar series. It was OK, but the number of typographical errors and missing or disarranged words was distracting. I've noticed this tendency in her books before. I wonder if she refuses to let an outsider do any copy editing or proofing.

I see the FWA is going ahead with the plan to set up a series of awards in furry literature. While I agree that a juried system will be a good contrast with the Ursa Majors, which are entirely based on popular votes, having watched much of the early discussion I fear that in an attempt to be all inclusive they will make the Coyotl Awards just as ineffectual as the Ursas have become. Porn, porn and more porn does not provide a template for literary growth, any more than a diet of nothing but bacon provides the requirements of healthy nutrition.

Ah well, what I think doesn't matter.

The end

Jan. 2nd, 2012 10:25 pm
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
Of the holidays, anyway. Back to work for me in the morning.

Poking around in a cabinet that has been inaccessible for a couple of years or longer due to a table we had set in front of it, I found a lot of classic films on VHS. It was difficult deciding which one to revisit, but we chose Walt Disney's Fantasia, the original one from the late 1930s. Still as good as ever. Most everyone who's seen it (or who watched Disney's television programs in the 50s and 60s) has seen Mickey Mouse as the Sorceror's Apprentice, but the scenes I always loved were the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony with the classical mythology and the finale of Night on Bald Mountain that fades into Ave Maria at dawn. Noticed something I had never recognized before, too. The Ave Maria sequence features hundreds of tiny figures carrying lanterns or candles that are reflected in the water. In the finale of Conan the Barbarian (the 1982 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger, not the recent remake) this imagery is echoed almost completely after the death of Thulse Doom, as his followers walk past a reflecting pool in front of the temple and drop their torches into the water.

The controversy over edits to the classical myth scenes (removing a black centaur) and the evolution sequence (deleting a brief moment where a fish crawls out onto the land) appear to still be raging online.

Cold here tonight, woodstove cracklng, gonna sleep well I hope.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
All equines share the same birthday, January 1. Well, yes, their registration papers do show the actual date of foaling, but they are considered to be a yearling when their first new year (by the calendar) arrives. Breeders try to make sure that their foals are born early in the year for this reason.

So... Happy birthday to all my horse, pony, donkey, and zebra pals. I guess that includes the unicorns too unless you identify yourselves with goats instead of equines.

Since my RL birthday is in December, it's a good thing our schools and human institutions don't apply the same rule. I'd have been a year old just a couple weeks after I was born. ;p

Holidays finally starting to slow down. Took Gary's mom home this afternoon, now we are left to make our own schedule until Tuesday when I have to go back to work. May do something tomorrow, or may just laze around home. Only animal care chores are mandatory, everything else is optional.

Weather is non-committal. We've had rain, sleet, snow, and a little ice in the last 24 hours, while temperatures hovered just above or below freezing. Wind has been on the rise for the whole time though, and is around gale force now. We've had noisier windstorms though, with hours of 55 mph wind that really roars through the trees, so this seems relatively mild. Gary worries about losing power, but we're used to that as well and can manage as long as the outage doesn't exceed a day or so. (Longer than that, too, but it stops being "fun" after 24 hours.)
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Roasted turkey, stuffing, barley, mashed potatoes, cran-cylinder, pickled beets, black olives, gravy, wine. Got it all on the table, we ate it, and only now I remember that I had asparagus ready to microwave but never did it. Oh, well, we can have that tomorrow.

My feet hurt. I do have a bottle of sparkling wine chilling in case we stay awake long enough to drink it. But new year has never made a lot of sense to me. It's an arbitrary date loosely tied to the Christian church calendar, and people make such a pointless fuss of it.

I did rescue a (little) plush horsey today. We went into the feed store, and they have a lot of Breyer horse stuff. I remembered that they had some soft plush horses with knit scarves that were on sale before Christmas because they were really last year's holiday gift item. I got lucky, they still had exactly one left. So he came home with me.

Moved a bunch of furniture and clutter around so Gary could set up a table for the trains. We'll see what becomes of that.

Weather suggests we might see some snow, but I'm not holding my breath. It is really warm this year and I have a feeling it's going to stay that way.

Happy new year, everyone, for whatever it means to you.


Dec. 30th, 2011 09:35 pm
altivo: Gingerbread horse cookie (gingerhorse)
What a long week it seems like, even with Monday and Thursday off. Glad the next three are pretty much loose. Next week looks much the same, just three days.

Some successes today. I succeeded in getting the train emulator in XtrkCAD to run, thanks to some help received from other users. The boss succeeded in getting a OneClickDigital download audiobook to run on the Sansa Fuze+ but she doesn't know how she did it and couldn't repeat the operation.

It has rained all day, since before dawn, a slow but steady dribble. Fortunately the temperature was above freezing, but tonight it's supposed to drop into the 20s. I guess this is a Nor'easter as they say in New England, since the wind has been NE through all of it and is starting to shift around to the north now as the temperature drops.

Tomorrow's agenda: get groceries, make turkey and stuffing, eat and sleep. ;p

Apple day

Dec. 25th, 2011 09:06 pm
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
For the ponies, anyway. Tess liked hers a lot. I guess the boys drooled all over Gary. We at breakfast late, went out and fed the barn crew, cleaned stalls, came back in and napped some more, or at least I did. Gary changed aquarium water during part of that. Then we ate lunch, and after that played with the new train stuff for a while, figuring out some small pieces that we still need and finding that yes, the switches and crossovers do work.

Then it was time to feed everyone again and put them to bed. I made golubki (stuffed cabbage leaves) for Christmas dinner. Now it's almost time for dessert and bed. Hmm, dessert. Pound cake and fruitcake left from yesterday, plus cookies and two sweet breads we were gifted. Requires a decision I guess.

After yesterday, the quiet today has been most welcome. I can hear myself think, there's no particular pressure to get anything much done, and it was nice and sunny outside but cold enough that I didn't want to go out. Hope you all had a nice day, whatever kind of day that is for you.

Tomorrow is a "freebie" since there's still no work. We may go shopping, or not. Many places we might go will probably not be open, while the big chain stores will be open but frenzied. Have to see how we feel in the morning.

Oh, yes, and our nutty little duck gifted us with not just one, but TWO eggs today. That brings her up to 78 eggs in 78 days, since it makes up for the one day she really did skip. I'd use some to make a cake if we didn't already have a house full of stuff leftover.ho
altivo: Blinking Altivo (altivo blink)
Both of Gary's brothers and their families showed up for dinner at his mom's today. These are the ones who were not speaking to each other for years. Everyone was at least civil, and on the whole it went quite well. The food was good, but that's normal. Gift exchanges were subdued largely as a result of the economic climate, but that's fine too. I gave Gary a new MP3 player (he's worn out 3 and has been using mine to listen to audiobooks but the capacity of my player isn't large enough to suit him.) We received wine and candy from family, and I got a bear wall calendar and a wolf desk calendar. Gary also came up with N scale scenery bits: a run-in shed (assembly required) and six teeny-tiny horses to go with it, as well as two switch turnouts and accompanying controls and track bits for the proposed train layout. (I think he's more into this than I am, even.)

No snow for Christmas, but at least everyone seems happy. I promised the horses apples in the morning, and Red got apple and orange tonight and has a new toy coming but doesn't know that yet. Waiting for Gary to get back from singing at church now...

Wishing you all the very best for whatever mid-winter holiday you observe.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
Submitting stories for possible publication in the midst of all of it (since an editor threatened to punch folks in the nose if they didn't submit... tsk.)

Gifts bought, not yet all wrapped. Food acquired, not yet all prepared. Departure time for getting it all to Chicago: 10 am tomorrow. Will he make it? Stay tuned for our next exciting episode (blah.)

August 2017



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