I noticed the other day that a new sandwich shop called “Which Wich” has opened across the street from the local post office, so I decided to try it out. Their gimmick is that below the wall menu is a bunch of hoppers with different paper bags in them, one for each category of sandwich (e.g. turkey, ham, specialty, etc.), and printed on each bag is an order form where you can use the provided markers to check off the type of bread, toppings, etc. you want, whereupon you hand it to the cashier, who rings up your order and then hands it to the preparer to follow like a deli order slip, sliding it along until the completed sandwich reaches the end of the prep area and is inserted into the aforementioned bag. It seemed like kind of a neat idea at first, and maybe it would make things more efficient when things are busy; but I was the only customer ordering and it seemed to me that it just added more complications to the process. Even with my clearly marked instructions on the bag/form, I still had to watch the guy preparing the sandwich and remind him I’d asked for cucumber.
At least the guy had his salesmanship down, asking how my day was going and then saying it would get better once I got the sandwich. But it didn’t live up to the hype; the sandwich was okay but fairly ordinary, a lot like Potbelly or maybe Penn Station. The ordering gimmick is the main thing that distinguishes it. And I don’t know if that gimmick would really appeal to the university students who are likely to be the store’s main clientele, and who have enough bubbles to fill out on forms as it is. “Now you can have the fun of pretending to take a test while you order lunch!” Yeah, that’s a good idea…
Still,the menu did list some varieties of sandwich I haven’t seen elsewhere and might want to try, like chicken pesto or black-bean patties — and they offer spinach as well as lettuce, which is good. So if I should again happen to find myself at the post office around mealtime, I may decide to give it another try. At least it’s good to have another option.
Actually there’s a lot of new construction around the university these days, new apartment buildings going up all over the place to accommodate the student market, and there are a number of storefronts included on the ground floors. I’ve noticed a few new signs already going up closer to home, including a Mexican restaurant, a frozen yogurt place, and a Waffle House — which is cool, since I’ve long lamented the lack of a breakfast-type eatery in the area. And there’s still plenty of room for other businesses. I wonder what other dining options might materialize in the neighborhood soon.
I went for a walk today to enjoy the 70-degree weather, and I decided to take a path that would a) include a long, moderate uphill climb so I could get some decent exercise and b) bring me to an area near the university where various sandwich shops and the like were located, in case I decided to buy lunch at one of them. But I wasn’t really in the mood for the available options, though I was leaning toward one.
But then I noticed that there was some kind of food cart on the corner, and decided to investigate. It was someone giving out free samples of Sabra brand hummus. Never one to pass up free food (if it’s a kind I like, and I do like hummus), I took a couple of samples and decided my lunch selection had been made for me. I already had some pitas and vegetables in the fridge, so now I’m having hummus pitas with tomato, cucumber, and onion, and they’re reasonably good. The hummus has a little too much bite for me, but it works better blended with the other flavors, and it’s got a good texture. I think I’ll stick with the hummus mix I usually buy, but a little variety now and then isn’t bad. Especially when it’s free.
I’m posting from a motel room in Detroit, where I’ve been in town for my Aunt Shirley’s 85th birthday bash. They didn’t have room for me to stay with the family, since so many other relatives came in for the event. It was good I was able to make it, because it makes up for missing Thanksgiving last year. I was finally able to give out some of my complimentary copies of Only Superhuman to the clan. And one of Shirley’s friends works for the local library, and I donated a copy which she will put in their collection. I also gave Shirley a copy of the audiobook, since her eyes aren’t what they were; I was hoping I’d have more to give out, but the copies I was expecting this week didn’t arrive in time.
Anyway, the motel (officially a hotel, but let’s face it, it’s a motel with a slightly fancier lobby) hasn’t been all that pleasant. The bed’s too hard, the room’s too noisy, and the soap literally stinks. For once, I won’t be taking any motel soap or shampoo home with me — it just smells too bad. I always tend to have a sleepless night on the first night of a trip, due to adrenaline and the new setting and whatnot, but my second (and fortunately last) night wasn’t much better — I think I got 5 hours sleep at most. But the continental breakfast is okay and the wi-fi works. This morning I finally decided to try one of those waffle makers they have at motel continental breakfast buffets — there are individual cups of pre-measured quantities of batter, and you follow the instructions and pour one in the preheated griddle, close the lid, use the handle to flip it over around the axle, wait until it beeps, then flip back and extract with the tongs, resulting in a largish Belgian waffle. It wasn’t bad, but not easy to cut with the flimsy plastic knife and fork they supplied. And I wish there’d been a better topping available, like fresh blueberries. The syrup was fine, but I wanted more fruit. And I wasn’t in the mood for an apple or an unripe banana.
One other annoyance about the room is that the TV is stuck on the wrong aspect ratio and there’s no way to adjust it. The TV in the breakfast room has the same problem. I continue to be bewildered by all these widescreen TVs that default to stretching out conventional 4:3 images to fit the frame so that everything’s flattened out. It looks ridiculous. I don’t understand why TVs are even made to be capable of doing that. It seems like it should be a given that correct aspect ratio is more important than fitting a certain frame width. One reason I still haven’t upgraded to a widescreen TV at home is because I’m worried about whether I can find one that defaults to the correct aspect ratio every time. My computer monitor does that automatically when I watch videos online, so why wouldn’t TVs do the same? It’s the natural way to do it, and I’m bewildered and annoyed that TV designers seem to think otherwise.
(Oh, by the way, yesterday morning, they had a local newscast on the breakfast-room TV, and a reporter mentioned something about “secretarian conflict” in Iran. So there’s violence between the receptionists and the filing clerks? Oy. People hired to be newsreaders should be better readers.)
Anyhoo, I’ll be checking out in an hour or so, stopping by to see the family one more time after that, then heading home, which should be about a 6-hour trip, or less if I’m lucky. There’s some snow in the forecast along my route, though not as bad as I hear it is further west. Hopefully I’ll avoid any substantial snowfall.
Oh, what a terrible pun. So naturally I couldn’t resist. Anyway…
Sometimes taking a chance on something new works out well — like last year when I decided to try out the Earl Grey teabag I found in a hotel room where I was staying and rather liked it. But sometimes it doesn’t work out at all — like yesterday, when I finally decided to try the bonus sample of French vanilla chai that came in the box of Earl Grey teabags I had bought as a result of that discovery. (I don’t have tea very often, so I’m still working through the first box.) Or rather, it was a blend of black tea with French vanilla and spices which I think were cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves. And I found it so repulsive that I dumped it down the sink after the first test sip (well, the second, but they were really tiny sips), rinsed out the cup, and made some Earl Grey instead. What’s more, I was still detecting whiffs of its cloying aroma as recently as this morning. Not pleasant. Well, at least it was a free sample (I think).
Apparently “chai” is the term generally used in the West for a sweetened, spiced Indian variety of tea properly called Masala chai (since chai is simply the word for tea in many Asian languages), and this was apparently a pretty typical example of that in terms of the spices, though with French vanilla added. Maybe that makes sense; I gather Indian cuisine is quite spicy and aromatic. I’ve never actually tried it, though, which may be why I didn’t know the flavoring in the chai would be so overpowering. Well, now I know.
TrekMovie.com’s book reviewer, Robert Lyons, has posted his latest “Book Roundup” article, which includes an interview he conducted with me in which I discuss both Enterprise: Rise of the Federation and Only Superhuman. Here it is:
Recently I did a print interview for author/blogger Cody L. Martin, which can be read here:
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago how stressed I was from the tight deadline on my Trek novel, anxiety about how Only Superhuman was performing, and pain from over-exercising, and how I was starting to feel better as I got close to the deadline. Well, after the deadline passed, I started to feel worse again. The pain came back, my indigestion kept getting worse, and so the stress returned too. I’d lie awake in the middle of the night feeling this ache in my side and be afraid it was an ulcer or a hernia or a tumor or something rather than just the muscle strain that, in the light of day, I knew it probably was.
So I did a few things. One, I went to the doctor and got reassured that it was just a muscle strain, and got some advice on how to cope with it. That actually caused me a little more pain for a couple of days because of one of the tests he had me do, but that finally cleared up a few days later. Two, on my doctor’s advice, I started to cut back on my food intake a bit in order to lose some of the excess weight I’ve put on over the past year or so — fewer between-meal snacks, smaller portions, less peanut butter, fewer desserts. Although I still try to eat pretty healthy, I may have simply been eating too much, and my peanut butter habit was maybe the worst contributor of excess calories.
Three, I got a new mattress and boxspring. My old ones were getting kind of saggy and I thought maybe they might be worsening the pain in my sides; plus I was often feeling quite sleepy and faint-headed during the day. I actually wasn’t sure at first if the new mattress would help, if I’d gotten the right kind that would give me enough back support and what-have-you, if its “pillow top” was too lumpy for me to get comfortable on it. That was itself a source of stress for a while. For the first couple of nights with it, I was awake in the middle of the night and had to get up and then go back to sleep later, but that was due to the humidity or my side pain or whatever, so I couldn’t specifically pin it on the mattress. Still, it caused me some concern.
And four, although this seemed like a long shot, I got a new bottle of the heartburn medicine I take. My recent digestive problems seemed to begin not long after I bought a new bottle of the generic stuff at a different pharmacy than usual. So I’d begun to wonder if maybe there was something wrong with that particular batch, but it was a pretty big bottle and I’m pretty stingy so I didn’t want to buy a new bottle just on a suspicion. I figured that my digestive upset was probably more due to the deadline pressures and so forth. But since the problems were still getting worse even after the deadline, and since there wasn’t that much left in the bottle anyway, I decided to go ahead and buy a new bottle elsewhere.
So the upshot is, it all seems to be working. I’m still a bit sore in my sides, but it’s gradually improving. I’ve adjusted to the mattress and I’m sleeping better and feeling more rested. And my indigestion seems to be clearing up, though I can’t be positive it’s because of the new bottle; maybe getting a better night’s sleep is just reducing my stress, or maybe eating a bit less is putting less strain on the ol’ pipes. Maybe it’s just a placebo effect. But whatever the reason, I am feeling better at long last. Yesterday afternoon and evening, in fact, I felt more relaxed and content than I have in ages. It’s weird, though, but what really seemed to spark my good mood was going for a walk in the heavy rain yesterday. Maybe there were some good ions in the air or something. Maybe it was because I enjoy the sound of the rain, or because it was pleasing to see the little waterfall that formed on the steps of the walkway on the other end of the apartment complex. Whatever the reason, it felt cleansing. And I’m in a better place now psychologically, and increasingly physically, than I have been all month. Hopefully it’ll last.
The New York Times has just “upgraded” its crosswords page, and every change they’ve made is, from my perspective, a change for the worse. There’s no longer a one-click option for downloading puzzles in AcrossLite. You have to scroll much farther down the page to get to the bonus puzzles. And there’s no longer a list of archived puzzles right there on the page — you have to click to a different page. Every one of those changes makes it less convenient for me. The new format looks like it was designed to be more vertical, probably for compatibility with smartphones and mobile devices. But it’s not a change for the better from my perspective.
Meanwhile, the Opera web browser I use has been upgrading frequently over the past several months, and each major upgrade seems to introduce more problems. For the last few editions, there’s been a glitch in page scrolling that causes the progress bar at the bottom to scroll with the page, or causes glitches or gaps in the display. None of the upgrades since has fixed it. And the latest upgrade has disabled my ability to use Ctrl-key combinations to toggle bold, italics, or underlining on the TrekBBS, the main bulletin board I frequent. It still works fine here on WordPress, but not there.
Let’s see, have any other recent “improvements” made things harder for me? Well, there’s Facebook, but that goes without saying. And I’m annoyed that the 2007 version of MS Word I’m now using as my primary word processor has cruder, more awkward table editing tools than the 2002 version of WordPerfect I recently stopped using.
Anyway, that’s enough griping. Sorry the blog’s been so quiet lately — I’ve got a tight deadline on my novel.
Lately I’ve been trying the occasional game of chess against the computer at a website I found at Chess.com, but I’m badly out of practice at the game, so it’s been frustrating — the lowest skill setting poses no challenge at all, but the next one up — called “Easy” — has been embarrassingly unbeatable. But I just managed to make some lucky moves or something, and managed not only to win a game at last, but to win it in 13 moves without losing a single piece — and without taking anything but one pawn! The whole thing was just maneuvering pieces around to threaten or hem in the opposing (black) king and to counter potentially threatening moves by black, until finally I had the king backed into a corner and just needed to figure out the right way to finish it off.
Okay, admittedly, I undid a couple of moves here and there when I realized I hadn’t made the best choice. Since I was playing a computer, I could do that without penalty. But even so, it’s the first time I’ve managed to remember some of what little I used to know about chess strategy, so I’ll take it. I think what made the difference is that I pulled back from the aggressive, capture-what-you-can playing style I’ve been using and focused more on strategy and positioning my pieces to threaten the king. Usually I try to wear down the opponent’s forces so I’ll have a clearer shot at the king, but generally end up sacrificing too many of my own in the process. Focusing more on the ultimate goal helped a lot, and there’s a lesson there.
Here’s the whole game in the site’s chess notation, in the format (white move, black move):
- e3, d5
- Bb5+, c6
- Qe2, Kd7
- Nc3, Kd6
- e4, Bd7
- e5+, Ke6
- Nh3, f6
- Nf4+, Kf5
- d4, Na6
- Bd3+, Kg5
- h4+, Kh6
- Ne6+, g5
So that last move, the only capture in the game, was just a pawn taking another pawn… yet by so doing, that pawn put the black king in checkmate along with my king’s rook, and with the black king’s paths of retreat blocked by my queen, king’s bishop, and king’s knight. And of my sixteen pieces, I only moved seven: three pawns, both knights, the queen, and the king’s bishop. Black also moved only seven pieces: four pawns, the queen’s knight and bishop, and the king. But fully half of black’s twelve moves were of its king, and the last 2/3 of those were to get out of check — and I checked it with a pawn three different times! The triumph of the little guy! Also I only moved my queen once, just sort of using its position as an anchor point for the formation I assembled to keep the black king on the run.
Admittedly, the whole thing was mostly luck, but still, that’s one heck of a game — to lose no pieces and to win by taking only a single pawn. I doubt I’ll manage the like of that again even if I manage to improve my chess skills to the point that I really know what I’m doing.
I’ve mentioned before how I realized that Findlay Market, the city’s main farmer’s market, is within walking distance of my apartment but way, way downhill. Once I went downtown by bus and decided to brave the really steep steps that would take me back up to my street, and it was really exhausting; so as I described in that earlier post, I got to thinking that maybe it would be easier to walk the more roundabout route that the bus takes — a longer trip, but not as overwhelmingly steep. But I never got around to trying it. The one time I almost did, I was too exhausted by the time I got to the first bus stop along the route home, so I gave in and took the bus the rest of the way.
This morning, I wasn’t even planning on going to the market; I was just out for a walk in the park near my place. But the park was getting a bit crowded for me, and I remembered that at the grocery store yesterday, I’d forgotten to get a green pepper. (How I was reminded was odd; apparently the clerk inadvertently entered the code for green pepper when ringing up some other produce item and then cancelled it, and I happened to notice that on the cash register screen and realized that I should have gotten green pepper, but it was too late to go back.) So I got to thinking, maybe I should forget about the park and get my exercise by walking to Findlay Market and back. I wasn’t sure I was in good enough shape to attempt it, but I decided to take a chance, figuring the downhill part would be comparatively easy and if I really exceeded my limits I could take the bus back. So just on the spur of the moment, I headed down to the bottom of the street and the really long staircase.
I was wrong about the downhill part being easier; walking down a slope that steep is hard on my knees. But I made it to the market, and I picked up a nice-looking green pepper and a couple of ears of corn. Then I sat and rested for a few minutes before heading back, and I paced myself. I rested again for a bit once I reached the bus stop, assessing whether I was up to tackling the rest of the trip on foot, and this time I decided to go ahead with it — again, by the more roundabout but less steep route.
And it turned out pretty well. It was an effort, but it wasn’t nearly as exhausting as going up the steps. And I finally got to take a long, slow look at the scenery I’ve only driven or ridden by before, particularly of the cliff face that drops down from the park to the street below. I stopped to take a look at a big stone construction and wondered what it was, and then realized it must’ve been the support columns for the old incline track that used to run between the park and downtown. I checked the aerial view on Google Maps when I got home, and indeed it was in just the right place for that. I probably knew that at some point but had forgotten it.
The corn was a mixed bag, though. It tasted fine, but there was some kind of worm or larva inside at one end, which kind of creeped me out. I cut off that end anyway since there was a bit of a brown, rotted (or eaten?) area, and I didn’t even discover the worm until I noticed that one of the brown bits that had fallen into the sink was moving. Eww. I checked the other ear of corn to make sure it was worm-free, then hastened to dump the husk residue out on the yard-waste dump behind the building while the corn was cooking in the microwave. So that turned out okay, but it was a part of the whole organic-food-buying process that I could do without. Why does nature have to be so darn… natural?
So anyway, that turned out pretty well and wasn’t as hard as I feared, and I got a good workout. I’ll have to do it more often.
No, this post isn’t about some new Mirror Universe story I’m writing, but about my efforts to replace the cracked side mirror on my car. My sister suggested that I should find an auto salvage yard and get a used mirror there, then get a garage to install it, which would be cheaper than the alternative. I found the prospect a little intimidating, but I researched it. I found a relatively nearby yard with a “self-serve” policy — you bring your own tools, pay a small fee to get in, and detach the desired parts yourself. Okay, but did I have the tools? Hmm, I realized, I have that emergency kit I bought for the trunk — that probably has some tools in it. I checked, and indeed it did — plus I realized it also included jumper cables, which would’ve been useful to know when my battery died a few months ago. I haven’t used the kit since I bought it a couple of years ago, so I’d forgotten what was in it.
However, one thing I was hoping to get was a new wheel cover (why don’t they call them hubcaps anymore?), since the one on the front left wheel has some noticeable cosmetic damage. And the emergency kit didn’t have a socket wrench attachment big enough for the wheel nuts. Okay, I thought, that won’t work. But then later I thought, Wait a minute — logically the car itself would come equipped with the necessary tools for changing a tire. So I went back out to the car and checked the manual, and it took me a few minutes to figure out where the tire-changing tools were kept — behind a flap on the left wall of the trunk that I’d never realized was there. I really should’ve put more effort into figuring all this out when I got the car.
So now that I knew I probably had the right tools, I checked the yard’s website this morning to make sure they had my make and model of car — plus I noted the location of another one from a year earlier as a backup. That didn’t guarantee they had the parts I wanted, though, and the person I talked to on the phone confirmed that they didn’t keep track of that and I’d be taking my chances. Still, I decided to go ahead and drive up there.
The cars were all laid out in rows and I had to track down my target vehicle myself; it was just at the far end of the row, wouldn’t you know it. And it was missing both mirrors and all its wheel covers. Darn! I half-heartedly looked to see if it had anything else I might find useful, but no luck. Then I remembered the other car from a year earlier, and made my way over to it. No wheel covers, but voila, there was an intact driver’s-side mirror! Carefully, remembering how my mirror had come loose and how I’d been able to pop it back on and pull it off again (which I shouldn’t have done because that’s what broke it), I pried loose the mirror from the mechanism that reoriented it, and that left it dangling from a pair of blue wires. Okay, so how to disconnect the wires? I didn’t see any way. The connectors looked fused to the mirror. I remembered some instructions I’d looked at online about how to dismantle a mirror, and I pulled off the panel inside the door, exposing the wire connections within. I managed to unplug a set of five wires in a plastic thingy, but I couldn’t figure out how to disconnect the two blue wires from the thingy. I tried detaching the entire mirror assembly (conveniently, it was the right color), but the bolts were too rusted for my toolkit pliers to work, and they must’ve been metric since none of my socket wrenches would fit them. (Is there a non-metric size between 3/8″ and 7/16″?) So much for the handy-dandy ready-for-anything emergency kit. (I should look into getting another one, maybe.)
Finally another patron walked by and I asked him if he knew anything about how to disconnect a car mirror. He took one look at it, asked for pliers, and pulled out the blue wires from the connectors in the mirror (apparently for its built-in heating element). I had misread what I was looking at before; the parts that were fused to the back of the mirror were the bits that the wires clipped onto, not part of the wires themselves. The connectors were of a type I’m not familiar with, so I hadn’t recognized how they worked.
So now I had the mirror, but looking at it, I wasn’t sure it was the right shape; it seemed too wide. I told the guy who helped me that it was from a year earlier than my car’s model and wondered if it would fit, and he said it probably wouldn’t. ”Think about it,” quoth he. ”That would make it too easy.” But it was the only option I had, so I went to the checkout place and told the clerk that I was unsure of the part’s suitability. She let me leave my license with her while I checked it out, and it turned out to be a perfect match. The reason it looked too wide is that I was used to looking at my mirror from an oblique angle rather than head-on, of course — and probably because the shape of the housing made it seem rounder.
Satisfied, I collected my license and paid for the mirror, then wrapped it carefully in rags for the drive home. I would’ve liked to try installing it then and there, before I had to drive anymore, but there was a sign saying not to work on cars in the parking lot, so I had to wait. Also, I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to risk installing it myself. What the guy at the yard had done looked simple enough, but I’d broken the other mirror trying to reattach it; maybe it took a more skilled hand to do it right? Maybe I should stop by the local garage and ask them to do it? But then, the “skilled hands” at the garage in Pennsylvania had cracked it even worse than it had been before. And it did seem pretty simple, so long as I was careful. But wait, I wondered. How do I avoid getting the two blue wires mixed up? But the answer quickly came to me. There was a roll of electrical tape in the toolkit; all I needed to do was mark one of the wires with a bit of tape. And what if it turned out that, despite having the same shape, there was some difference in the rear connection and it wouldn’t go on easily? But no, I figured that since it was the exact same shape, and only one model year off, they probably just reused a standardized component. So I decided that I would try to install it myself.
And it was quite easy. It was so quick and simple to disconnect the one mirror and attach the other that I hardly even needed the tape to tell the wires apart. (I’m not even sure it would’ve mattered if I swapped them, but better safe than sorry.) And it did click into place properly, although I was too tentative the first time and it didn’t fully engage. So I pushed a little more firmly, but carefully, and as far as I can tell, it’s now properly attached. Then it was just a matter of spraying on some glass cleaner and gently wiping it off, then getting in the driver’s seat and adjusting the mirror angle. The replacement mirror still has a couple of tiny smudges or scrapes on it, but that’s a whole lot better than the multiple cracks on the old one. (Come to think of it, it’s hard to believe I could’ve broken the mirror just by removing and reattaching it. It doesn’t seem they’d be that fragile. It seems more likely that the impact caused a hairline crack or two, and my subsequent handling exacerbated them.)
So I feel relieved and kinda proud now, and grateful to my sister for the idea. I have an intact mirror again, I can feel safer when I drive, and I was able to achieve it for just over ten bucks, a lot less than I would’ve had to spend otherwise. And while I didn’t get a new wheel cover, I gained a better understanding of my car and its onboard tools.
Now the one lingering issue I have with the car (aside from the slight cosmetic damage here and there, most of which was already there when I got the car from my father) is that the ride seems bumpier since I left the garage in PA. I wonder, did they somehow tighten the suspension when they did the alignment after replacing the tires? Or is it like my bicycle, the way it transmits the shocks more when the tires are freshly filled and rigid?
Despite what I said before, I decided to push on for home. I figured I should drive for as long as there was sunlight, and by the time the sun set I’d only be an hour or so from home, so it wasn’t worth paying for a motel. I got home just in time to watch Alphas — followed by the second showing of Warehouse 13, since apparently my damn DVR didn’t record anything I had programmed after Friday. I think most or all of it should be On Demand, though.
So anyway, I’m back.
My car situation is all pretty much worked out. I got a reasonably good night’s sleep in the hotel, though with disquieting dreams about the car (including a “tow” service where four big guys took off the wheels and then carried the body away, which would be really cool, except they did it without my permission). I had breakfast, called the garage the hotel recommended, called the tow service the garage recommended, and got a tow. The estimate was below my insurance deductible, which was unfortunate, but I guess that’s good because it means the damage wasn’t too extensive. And at least the insurance will pay for most of the tow charge, which is something. They also offered a rental car, which would’ve been useless unless I could get the garage to deliver my car 460 miles once they were done with it.
I managed to get delayed checkout at the hotel, and the repairs were done in enough time to let me get back here and have lunch before checking out. I’m posting while I eat. The main trouble I had was putting up with the sleazy talk show another customer was watching. Eventually I decided I’d rather sit outside in the heat (though I did find a shaded, if decrepit, picnic bench).
There’s still some cosmetic damage to the car, and the driver’s side mirror’s still badly cracked, which worries me. And I’m setting out later than I’d hoped, so I doubt I’ll get home by nightfall. Not sure if I’ll risk driving in the dark for an hour or so or just stop at a motel for one more night. We’ll see. At the moment, I’m inclined to take the more cautious option.
While recovering from my frenectomy, I’ve been having to adjust my eating habits so as to avoid anything I need to bite into, like sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, etc. Actually I can have those as long as I cut them into bite-size pieces (an ironic apellation for pieces you don’t need to bite into), and I have done that a couple of times, but that’s kind of awkward.
I wanted to avoid hot foods for the first few days (the instructions only said 24 hours, but I’m extra-cautious), so I made some pasta salad of my own once I used up the varieties I got from the grocery-store deli (only one of which I liked). I used some multicolor rotini I had on hand, broccoli, cucumber, green pepper, cherry tomatoes, and canned chicken (which I figured would be softer than the frozen diced chicken I generally use) with olive oil, Italian dressing, and grated parmesan. I made nearly five servings’ worth, so when I went to the store a couple of days ago, I picked up some feta cheese and added some of that to the pasta salad; and I supplemented the final serving with more tomatoes and cucumber. So there was a little variety instead of just being the same thing over and over.
Also at the grocery store deli, I looked for other types of thing I could try, now that I wasn’t limited to cold foods anymore. I came upon a tub of chicken and sausage gumbo, and I thought that gumbo was something I’d tried before and not minded, so I bought it. Only afterward did I remember that what I’d tried before wasn’t gumbo, but jambalaya. But I was stuck with the gumbo, so I tried it, and I’m not crazy about it. It’s too spicy, and the pork sausage flavor is way too dominant. I’m thinking maybe when I have the rest of it, I’ll dump the remaining feta into it, in the hope that a dairy product will ameliorate the spiciness some, and just to make it taste different. I have no idea if that will be any good, but I have to use these things up somehow.
As of this afternoon, it will have been a week since my procedure, so I’m halfway to the point where I can start eating normally again. Still, knowing me, I’ll probably be overcautious and wait a few days longer.
I’ve been recovering from a bit of minor surgery yesterday. Apparently I had some gum recession around my lower front teeth, because my labial frenum — the little flap of tissue that connects the lower lip and the gums — was too tight and pulling the gums down. So I needed to get a frenulectomy, basically cutting out part of the frenum to relieve the tension. It may also be necessary to graft some gum tissue onto there from elsewhere (behind the upper front teeth is where it would come from), but that won’t be for months at least.
The procedure was fairly easy, thanks to modern technology. I needed to get a novocaine shot, but the periodontist used a little gizmo that vibrated against the area and apparently distracted or overstimulated the nerve endings so I hardly felt the injection(s?). (Plus there was a topical anaesthetic with a “bubble gum” flavor, which was the worst part — I don’t like bubble gum.) Then once I was numb, he used a laser to do the actual cutting, so there was no blood (or maybe that’s just what he was telling me to reassure me). Plus there was a TV over the chair and they gave me a pair of headphones connecting to a handheld wireless thingy that let me control the volume, so I got to watch Maria Sharapova playing at Wimbledon during the procedure, a nice distraction. I had to wear safety goggles because of the laser, and their green tinge made it look like I was in the Matrix.
They’ve got me on the maximum permitted dose of ibuprofen for now; I was told that some people need more, even Vicodin, but fortunately I’m doing fine with just ibu and frequent application of icepacks. But I have to avoid hard, crunchy foods or foods that I have to bite into; I can chew things, but they have to be in small enough pieces that I don’t have to bite with my incisors, lest I drive food down into the healing area. I can’t brush there either, just dab with a swab dipped in a prescription mouthwash. And I’m having to avoid hot foods for the first 24 hours. I wish they’d told me this ahead of time so I could’ve shopped with those parameters in mind. So I went out this morning and bought some stuff that seemed appropriate — two kinds of pasta salad from the deli for today, some cherry tomatoes, some cut strawberries, some hummus mix, some pudding cups, things like that. And I put the bread I recently bought in the freezer, since it seems I won’t be having sandwiches for a while. (Well, I could have a sandwich, but only if I cut it into little pieces, and that seems a bit silly.)
With all that high-tech stuff they had to make the procedure easier, it’s a shame they don’t have some gizmo that can speed up the healing.
It’s been a process of adjustment getting used to my new monitor — both literally adjusting its settings and adjusting to it psychologically. I’m not crazy about the widescreen design. I understand that’s become the default these days, but the screen has less height than my old one along with more width, so there are things I can’t do anymore, like fit a whole page of a word-processor document or nearly a whole page from my Star Trek: The Complete Comics Collection DVD. Why not make it both taller and wider? Where’s the harm in having blank space above and below a widescreen image? Well, maybe it’s my own fault for getting the smallest monitor they had, but I’m not sure a bigger one would’ve fit either my workspace or my budget. (I kinda wish I had one of those monitors that could rotate 90 degrees, so you could have it widescreen for watching videos or tall and narrow for reading documents.)
Once I discovered the controls, I tried turning down the brightness, to save power and to make it easier on my eyes, or so I thought. A few days later, I realized the monitor was giving me migraines (not too bad, but frequent) — and I didn’t figure this out until the day after my 2-week return window at the store expired. So I was worried about what I was going to do. But I researched monitor-induced headaches online, and I learned that the problem is that LEDs, the source of this type of monitor’s backlighting, can’t be dimmed; they’re either on at full brightness or off completely. So the only way to dim them is to make them flicker between on and off — the more they flicker, the dimmer the average light level gets. And though I couldn’t consciously perceive the flicker, I must’ve been sensitive enough to it that it triggered the headaches. Turning the brightness all the way up again has effectively resolved the headache problem, though it’s probably not great for my eyes to have it so bright. Well, all the more reason to step away from the computer more often, I guess.
I’ve had my new computer monitor for a week, and I only just discovered it has any buttons other than the power button. They’re mounted on the underside of the frame and nearly flush against it, so even though they’re slightly lit up, I can’t see them unless I duck way down. And they aren’t labeled, since they access a series of menus and the functions of the various buttons change depending on which menu I’m in (with the functions listed on the menu screen above the respective physical buttons). Once I found out there was a menu, it took me a while to figure out that was how it worked, and only by trial and error.
And that’s because the instruction manuals have gotten too minimalist as well. The only physical booklet included is a “quick guide” which is just 4 pages’ worth of safety instructions and specs in nine different languages. I had to put in the enclosed CD-ROM to open the PDF users’ manual, and that didn’t even include a diagram or a description telling me where the buttons were or how to work them. It discussed the menus pretty well, but assumed the reader would understand how to access and navigate through them.
Why make it so difficult to figure this out? Why not put clearly visible, labeled buttons on the front? Or at least make the manual more accessible and detailed so it’s easier to find out where they are and how to use them?
The reasons I wanted to check the manual were twofold — one, because my eyes were getting sore and I needed to adjust the brightness, and two, because I wanted to find out if I could tilt the monitor. I succeeded with the former, but though the manual says it can be tilted, it won’t budge when I actually try it, and online reviews seem to confirm it doesn’t tilt even though all the sales sites’ descriptions say it can. (It’s the Acer S201HL, so caveat emptor.) I have the front of the stand resting on a stack of 3×5 cards to give it a slight tilt.
I’m also bothered by a lack of adjustability with the speakers I bought. There’s way too much bass in them, which is uncomfortable for me and creates too much distortion and muddiness in some music. And there doesn’t seem to be a way to reduce the bass. There’s a “tone” knob that seems to adjust the peak of the higher-pitched part of the sound spectrum, but it doesn’t have much impact on the bass. I think it has to do with the speakers’ use of passive radiators, as indicated on the box (and again, there’s virtually nothing in the way of an instruction manual). I was hoping I could find a way to ameliorate the problem, but after reading up on PRs I fear I may have to return the speakers and try a different model (since the linked article says that PRs in small speakers can have the sort of problem these seem to be having).
My computer monitor and speakers were showing their age, so on Friday I went out to buy some new ones. Apparently monitors only come in widescreen anymore, so that’s what I got, and I’m still getting used to it. It’s too wide for my needs, and I’ve taken to reducing my program windows to less than fullscreen so I can bring in the edges. As for the speakers, they’re not as high-fidelity as I’d hoped, but at least they don’t have the buzzing the old ones had (a sign that the speaker cones are deteriorating, I gather). I also got a USB 2.0 hub which is faster than my old one. I also looked for a new keyboard, since my current one occasionally has glitches, but I couldn’t find the kind I wanted, ergonomically shaped with a trackpad built in. So I wasn’t able to replace that yet.
I also went to a home-furnishings store to get a new bath mat and a couple of new pillows. My therapeutic neck pillow had gotten rather flat, and I figured it was time for a new one. The inexpensive ones I’d been getting didn’t seem to have a very long life (and I’ve written before about my efforts to refurbish an old one, which didn’t work out well), so I decided to try one of the more expensive kind they advertise on TV. But not only did I mistakenly get a “comfort” pillow rather than a “therapeutic” pillow, but I didn’t find it comfortable. It was too dense and hard, not soft like I expected, plus it didn’t support my neck well. So at about 4:30 AM I switched back to my standard pillow and gained a new appreciation for it. I returned the expensive pillow the next day and didn’t bother to exchange it for another.
Anyway, I did some more shopping elsewhere (and visited the area’s library) so my second trip to the mall wouldn’t be wasted, finishing off with the supermarket, and when I was done it was pretty hot in my car. So I rolled down all four windows, telling myself to remember I’d done that so I wouldn’t forget to roll the back windows up again. But of course I forgot all about it, and just went through my normal parking habits once I got home. Cut to this morning, nearly two days later: I was going to the local park for a walk and was coming through the parking lot, intending to take my usual look at my car to make sure it was still there, unburgled, etc. I noticed a car that had its back windows down. ”Hmm, that looks kinda like my car. And I remember parking in that part of the lot… but didn’t I move it closer since then? I must have, because I wouldn’t be so foolish as to leave my windows… wait a minute…”
Luckily, my car is frumpy enough that it’s essentially burglar-proof, since nobody would want it. The only evidence of intrusion through the open rear windows was a spiderweb. So I rolled up the windows and locked the car properly again, and continued on my walk, musing on what a lucky idiot I was.
The past week or so, it’s been unseasonably chilly hereabouts, and since my building apparently turns the heat off once spring arrives (or something), it’s been chilly indoors as well, which hasn’t been fun, especially since I’ve been a bit sick for a few days. Yesterday I managed to muster enough energy to go shopping (since I was completely out of some essentials), and when I got into the car, I just sat there for a few moments relishing the greenhouse-effect warmth in there. (I’m starting to wonder if I made a mistake getting an apartment with a northern exposure. I didn’t want sun glare through the windows, but there are times when solar heating is nice to have.)
But I just checked the weather forecast and last week’s highs in the 50s and 60s are giving way to 80s all week. Typical Cincinnati weather — spring is a brief transition between winter and summer temperatures, or a few brief transitions as the temperature yoyos between the extremes. I’ll probably start complaining about the heat soon enough, but right now I’m grateful for it.
After finishing off that jar of Cincinnati chili last week, I still had about one serving’s worth of kidney beans left over, so today I decided to attempt concocting a rough approximation of chili for dinner. My concoction consisted of some lightly browned veggie crumble; the beans; diced onions, green pepper, and tomato; chopped garlic; a spoonful or so of tomato paste; and some oregano, salt, and black pepper. (I included some of the ingredients based on the chili recipe in the cookbook my sister and brother-in-law sent me a while back, so thanks to them for that.)
My first thought had been to have it over egg noodles, but I used those up last week, so I decided to have it atop spaghetti instead, and I grated some cheddar on top. It wasn’t bad, but it could maybe have used a little more liquid (should’ve added more of the liquid the beans were in, maybe). And it could’ve used a little more “heat” as well. I don’t think it really qualified as actual chili since it didn’t have any chiles in it, except for the mild green pepper. As it was, it turned out a little bland. Still, for an experimental concoction based on what I happened to have on hand (plus the tomato paste, which I bought specifically with this in mind), it turned out reasonably well. And it’s always nice when I get up the initiative to try something new in the kitchen.
Well, except for the cleanup part. I really wish I had a dishwasher.