Saturday, June 02, 2007

1278 Gas Prices

Saturday, June 2, 2007

[Edit - Changed "May" to "June" above. Ignore.]


Friday, June 01, 2007

1277 PenPal Picnic; Headboard

Friday, June 1, 2007

[Edit - Oops. Changed "May" to "June" above. Ignore.]

I went to dinner with FirstWoman and then Mensa games night last night. I learned yet again that high scores on IQ tests do not correlate with common sense.

When I got home about 11 pm I found a phone message from Roman, saying that he had a favor to ask of me. I called him back, and it turned out that he had found a secondhand headboard he liked, and wondered if I could help him get it home with my minivan. His original idea had been the back seat of his car, but it didn't fit.

Told him I had a picnic to attend Friday morning, but could head over his way early afternoon.

This morning I went to the RSVP Pen-Pals Picnic and got to meet the kid I've been corresponding with all school year. The senior pen-pals of several of the children were unable to make it to the picnic. That's terribly disappointing for the kids. Like a rejection. So I started picking up extra kids, and they invited more to share "their" senior, and I ended up with a small herd. Again, like last year, I had a ball. They're all such good kids. And I'm more active than most of the other seniors, so can I get down in there and dirty. I had a bunch of boys on the beach teaching me how to skip stones (I still can't do it, my rocks sink like, well, rocks), and they taught me the meaning of all the dirty words carved into the picnic tables. In exchange, I taught them about poison ivy.

The picnic was over at 1:30, and I headed over to Roman's, got there about 2:20, and we went to pick up the headboard. It's an old-fashioned "bookcase" style, queensize, and there's a second mirrored piece that fits on top. He took a lot of kidding from me about that part ("ceiling next?"). It's a good thing he asked me to help, 'cause that muttha was HEAVY! He'd never have been able to get it into the house and behind the bed alone.

We finished all that about 4:30, and he suggested dinner, but I thought 4:30 was a bit too early. I know he rents movies a lot, so I asked if he had any he hadn't watched yet, maybe we could watch a movie then have dinner, but he didn't have any, but the library is just around the corner, so we could go pick something out. Ok. But then he got a call from a client, so I washed dishes while he was on the phone, then we took his laptop to the library with us so we could use the WiFi so I could show him some videos I'd found, then etc. etc., and by the time we picked out a movie, it was 6:30.

So we went directly from the library to the diner on Main in Pok, across from Uno's. It's one of those Greek diners with the monster menus, but the food was unexpectedly good. Terrific, even.

Then we went back and watched the movie. "Broken Flowers". We chose that one because we didn't know anything about it except that Bill Murray was praised for it. Watched it. Still don't know anything about it. We were sitting on the sofa (a respectable 18 inches apart and no touching) and we both kept nodding off, but the movie was very strange. One of those things you have to think about.

And now I'm home.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

1276 Andorra?

Just had a blog visitor from Andorra. I didn't even know where that was, exactly.

1275 Lying Clock!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

It IS Thursday, isn't it? I'm starting to lose track of days.

I really needed to go to the museum today. It's getting desperate. So last night I set the alarm for 8:45 am. That's the latest I could get up to get some paperwork done around here and make it to the museum by 11. I'd have to leave the museum by 4:45 pm, to meet FirstWoman in New Paltz by 5:45, for dinner before games night at the library.

I want to get to the library early, if only to foil Zig's plans to gossip about me and The Man and last weekend. That would be amusing. I wonder if Zig will explode trying to hold it in. He wrote a "trip report" for the Mensa Yahoo group, and in it he said "Silk was also there, and seemed to be enjoying herself immensely." I could almost see the grin.

Because I'm working with the databases at the museum, I'd need a minimum of four hours to get an entire job done. Can't stop in the middle, or I'd get confused about where to pick up again, and in the meantime, the database would be inaccurate.

So last night I fussed and fiddled with the alarm clock, trying to decide on exactly the right setting. 8:45 was the winner.

This morning I woke up on my own, and looked at the clock. It said 8:45. I was very pleased with myself, and *closed my eyes again for a few seconds. When I opened them again, the clock said 8:45. I was very pleased with myself, and [repeat from * two or three more times. Knitters among you will recognize this device.]

It never occurred to me that the clock said 8:45 every time.

I was awakened finally by a phone call. I hadn't taken the cordless to bed with me last night, so by the time I made it to the phone, the machine had picked up and the caller hung up without leaving a message. The clock in the den said 12:45. The clock in the kitchen said 12:45.

I guess when I set the alarm clock last night, I didn't switch it from "alarm" to "time", and it never rang. Just sat at the alarm setting all night.

There's no point in going to the museum today. Not enough time to complete one entire task. I'll have to go Sunday. Saturday I have to make up the Habitat commitment I blew off last Tuesday, when I was trapped in inertia, and tomorrow is the pen pal picnic, when I finally get to meet the fifth grade boy I've been communicating with all school year (an English class assignment).

The Gypsy had invited me to a very interesting event this Saturday, but I screwed up on that, too. There was a deadline for registration, and a costume requirement I was fussing over, and with everything else going on, it whizzed by. Sorry Gypsy - please don't see this as rejection. Invite me again next year?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

1274 Aspie Workshop

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Phone calls last night: sister-in-law, needs information on NYS Estate tax rates and law, for planning purposes; FirstWoman, she's having some good experiences; Roman, just chatting, for an hour and a half. He gave me some good leads on the tax info I needed, and walked me through getting rid of that stupid photo-handling software that came with the system.

Toward the end of the call with Roman, I asked, "So, when will I see you again?" He answered, "At the Asperger workshop tomorrow. Remember?" Agh! I'd completely forgotten about it!

So bright and early this morning I met him at Dutchess Community College, and we went to the workshop. Actually, it was not a workshop. It was a seminar, speaker Timothy P. Kowalski, 9 am to 5 pm, with a 1 hour lunch.

I didn't learn anything I didn't already know, but it was interesting anyway. The audience was all (except for me) educators, and the talk was about the different aspects of Asperger Syndrome, how Aspies think and react, what kinds of things they are likely to have difficulty with, and how to help them in the classroom and in career counselling.

Roman and I sat together in the seminar and had lunch and dinner together. He's teaching a class tonight. I told him I had gone to the gathering with The Man, and that I'd enjoyed the weekend. Other than that, we didn't talk about The Man or Roman's girlfriend, but I assume those two are not getting along very well. He said he was "home alone" all last weekend, but he didn't say why and I didn't ask. It wasn't so much what he said as the way he said it. There was portent. I paused for two seconds and changed the subject.

I think without actually speaking the words, we have reached a kind of agreement about what's off limits. If we can stick to it, we might be able to preserve a friendship.

(I want so badly to say the forbidden "told you so". I told Daughter that within six months of his mother's death, he'd break up with the girlfriend, or, if he was still with her after six months, he'd be with her forever. Well, it's just short of four months. I don't know which I'm hoping for. I think she's just using him, but I don't want to see him all alone, either.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

1273 The English Lady

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Listening to NPR this morning. Some guy talking about coal, why it was used, and why it now is not, said that "we realize that God doesn't send electricity down from the heavens in a golden bowl."

I beg your pardon! God does send electricity down in a golden bowl. I'm amused that he used the term "golden bowl" - it so well describes the sun. Someday we will learn how to use it.


Sometimes I'm not American, and that suits me just fine.

In Mexico and France, almost everyone thought I was Canadian. I didn't correct them.

In England, for some reason many people decided I was Welsh. I sort of liked that, because my mother's people came from Wales.

In Wales, and this is weird, most people thought I was visiting from England. Sometimes it was funny. I overheard a discussion between the hosts, husband and wife, at a B&B. The conversation went something like this:

She said to him, "The American woman will be checking out today, so make up her bill."
He: "What American woman?"
She: "The little one. With the daughter, the little girl."
He: "She's not American."
She: "Yes, she is. Where do you think she's from?"
He: "She's English, isn't she? Or maybe Canadian?"
She: "No. I saw her passport. She's American."
He: "Are you sure?"
She: "Pretty sure. What makes you think she's not?"
He: "She's too nice to be American."

I'm quiet. I speak softly. I clean up after myself. I accept. I say please and thank you. I smile. I don't complain about things that are different from what I'm used to. I don't take up much space or air. I guess that makes me not American.

Many of the places we stayed had other American guests at the same time, and frankly, they embarrassed me. Loud. Rude. Banging and thumping. Making messes. Complaining about the food, and the lack of mixing faucets, and the roundabouts, the dampness, and everything else. Bragging about how much better "we" do everything.

I didn't mind disassociating myself from them.

It's worse these days. It used to be my fellow tourists who embarrass me. Now it's my government, too.

I almost don't want to leave the country.

My passport is a liability.


Blogger bug!

Ever since Blogger started periotic autosaves, it's been adding blank lines between paragraphs. Very annoying. I look at the HTML to see what Blogger has added, and nothing shows up. Anyone have any idea what's happening? Someone else has to have noticed it. Why hasn't it been fixed yet?

Ok, so much for not complaining....

1272 Further Info on the Thruway Accident

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Found a news piece:

It probably won't be available forever, so here's the text:

Only minor injuries in fiery Thruway crash in Sloatsburg

(Original publication: May 29, 2007)

SLOATSBURG - No one was seriously injured in a Memorial Day accident that charred two vehicles and halted traffic on the New York State Thruway.

Jackson Julien, the driver of a tractor-trailer, said he was in the northbound middle lane about a mile north of Exit 15A when the driver of a sport utility vehicle attempted to move left from the right lane.

Julien said he tried to move into the left lane to compensate, but hit another car with his trailer. The truck jackknifed and crashed into the guardrail, taking the SUV with it, and burst into flames, sending plumes of black smoke high into the sky.

"The lady said she didn't see me," he said, referring to the SUV's driver.

Sgt. Christine Revella of the state police confirmed that the woman in the SUV "said she never saw a truck" and that police were going by Julien's account.

The northbound Thruway was closed for about an hour and was gradually opened.

Rockland Paramedic Services Capt. Bo Tunno said the woman, her husband and their child, who was about 2, were taken by Sloatsburg Volunteer Ambulance Corps to Good Samaritan Hospital.
The man and child were taken for observation, Tunno said, and the woman complained of pain in her right shoulder.

Tunno said Julien complained of pain on his left side, but repeatedly refused medical treatment.
"We attempted a few times," he said. "We almost had him in the ambulance once, but he did not want to go with us."

Instead, Julien paced the tandem trailer parking lot just south of the accident, watching the traffic and smoking a cigarette.

"I'm OK," he said.

A crew from the Ramapo Valley Ambulance Corps was the first on the scene. First Lt. Patrick McKiernan said the first thing he saw was a plume of smoke. The crash victims were out of their vehicles, he said, so they started triage, first under the tandem lot overpass and then in the lot itself.

"I think they were just in shock as to the whole situation," he said.

McKiernan said bystanders were told to get back into their cars and roll up their windows, as emergency workers didn't know what might be burning in the truck. [Silk edit - Um, no. I was only six cars back, and nobody told me to roll up windows.]

Julien said later that his trailer was empty.

Steve and Kim Leon and their two children were on the way from their home in the Bronx to a barbecue upstate.

They didn't see the accident happen, but were among the first cars stuck behind the emergency vehicles.

"We heard tires popping, debris flying," Steve Leon said. "Lots of black smoke.

"And we also witnessed cars zooming by it," he said.

Wagdi Gobrial and his wife, Mary, of Edison, N.J., were on their way to the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets when they drove up just behind the accident.

"When we got closer, we saw flames shooting up to the sky," Gobrial said.

Like many others trapped on the Thruway, Gobrial got out of his car and watched emergency workers, even taking the time to light a cigarette. Some drivers turned off their engines, while others left them running to keep the air conditioning on. Some climbed through sunroofs to get a better view.

Also on the scene were volunteers from the Sloatsburg, Hillburn, Suffern and Tuxedo fire departments.

Monday, May 28, 2007

1271 A/C Time Again

Monday, May 28, 2007

When I got home this evening, it was 84 degrees in the house. Time to switch to the air conditioning.

My heat is an oil furnace. The A/C and backup heat is a groundwater heat pump. Despised. Totally inadequate. They share the forced air ductwork. The A/C is pretty simple in operation. It pulls cold water from the well, runs it through a web of tubes, blows air over the tubes, then through the house. The water then flows into a drywell.

Showering when the A/C goes on can be a shock.

Switching between heat and A/C is a pain, so I try to avoid doing it until I absolutely have to.

First I have to ensure that both thermostats are off, and then remove the insulated damper from the duct leading to the heat pump. That requires standing on a chair, and the use of pliers and a hammer.

Then I insert a damper in a slot over the furnace. That one's easier. The cover is looser and the damper panel fits better.

Then I have to figure out which of the water pipes goes to the heating section, and which to the A/C section of the heat pump, and open the correct two input valves, and the one that lets the used water go out to the drywell. (I have to be careful not to open the wrong ones, because the heating section has a leak.) One of them requires a ladder and a wrench.

Last year I went almost all summer with inadequate cooling, because I neglected to open one of the spigots fully, and there wasn't enough water flowing through. Tonight I listened carefully, and felt the pipes, and there's a good flow.

Then I went upstairs and turned on the heat pump thermostat, ensuring that the A/C switch was on, the fan was on auto, and the temperature was set correctly.

Nothing happened.

Duh? Did the fan die?

I waited and waited, and finally opened the windows and dragged some fans up from the basement.

At 8 pm it was 85 degrees.

I was standing in the kitchen when it hit me what I'd forgotten. Step two. Switch the breakers in the electric box downstairs. One on and one off prevents the furnace and the A/C from accidentally going on when the "wrong" damper is in. That should be done immediately before or after swapping the dampers.

Done, and I now have cool air.

Sort of.

It's been blowing for three hours, and we're all the way down to 80.

Wow. I wonder what the temperature would be at 11 pm if I didn't turn the A/C on?

1270 Goodness gracious great balls of fire

Monday, May 28, 2007

I left NJ at 12:30 pm, heading north and home.

At 1:45 I was on the NY Thruway, just south of the Sloatsburg/Suffern rest area, when traffic, which had been moving along nicely, skidded to a stop.

I figured there had to be an accident ahead or something, when suddenly there were flames shooting up, about five or six car lengths ahead of me, and huge billows of dense black smoke. A tractor-trailer had hit a minivan, and both of them were engulfed in flames. I mean burning hard and fast! I don't know what the trailer's load was, but every minute or so there was an explosion.

Emergency vehicles started arriving within minutes. Eventually there were three fire trucks (engines!), two heavy rescue trucks, one ambulance, a dozen or two police cars, and a passel of blue-blinker cars. (I was interested to see the firefighters putting on their turnout gear AFTER they arrived. We were required to have it on before leaving the firehouse (well, at least the boots and pants).)

Gawkers also arrived within minutes. People from way behind me were leaving their cars and walking forward, and being chased back by the police. Me, I was fussing because I wanted to get AWAY, not closer. Who knows what was in that smoke. Who knows what was going to explode next. I don't need poison gases or shrapnel.

They put the fire out pretty quickly - well, they turned the smoke from black to gray to white fairly quickly, and eventually the fire was out. I figured we'd be sitting there for hours, but they let us by after removing the minivan, only one hour and 25 minutes of sitting. I snapped some pictures, but they're not digital, so it'll be a while.

When I passed the tractor-trailer, there was nothing but framework left on all but one side. It must have been a really hot fire to do that so quickly. The tires had burned/melted into the pavement, and the trailer was listing.

That ONE ambulance worried me. With a more-than-fenders motor vehicle accident, even if the people involved are walking around insisting they're fine, the rule is to arrive in force, check them out, slap a collar on them, strap them down, and deliver them to an emergency room, ASAP. Resistance is futile. (Well, you can sign a form that releases the rescue crew from liability, but they won't tell you about it unless you kick and scream.) Only one ambulance arrived, for two vehicles, and it didn't leave for a long time. That doesn't sound good.

I hope there's something on the news tonight about it.

The ramp for the rest area was only a few hundred feet past the accident, so when they let us go, I decided to stop and get something to drink. But as I turned into the ramp, I realized that there's 50 miles of bumper-to-bumper pissed off traffic behind me, and SIX CARS ahead of me!


I zoomed through the rest area and back onto the road, and hit the gas. I had an open road ahead of me, and I was going to take advantage of it!

On the OTHER side of the road, people had actually stopped on the sides and got out of their cars to watch the fire. So with them, and the usual slow downs, south-bound traffic was at a standstill. Just for fun, I set the trip odometer. It was 15 miles of stopped, and 11 more miles of slowed cars. Can't imagine what it must have been like behind me.

While watching the fire, I had called The Man (went straight to voice mail) and then called FirstWoman and talked with her a bit. Her home was on the way, so she invited me to stop in and trade weekend news, so I did.

Got home about 6 pm.


Well, the news is on. The big story is a boating collision on the Hudson near Catskill. A woman was injured. Then the newsreader swung into blather about Memorial Day barbecues. With no irony.

I guess Suffern is too far south to interest Albany. Or there's no video, and therefore it's not news.

1269 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Maryland

Friday thru Sunday, May 25-27, 2007

The Man picked me up at the East Brunswick Hilton at noonish on Friday, and we headed for the Maryland/Metropolitan Washington Mensa regional gathering. Friday was The Man's 47th birthday.

He hadn't been too happy with the social aspects of the NJ gathering in March (the first such he had attended), but I convinced him that the Washington bunch were rip-snortin' fun, so this one would be different.

Boy, was I wrong! It was pretty sad. I was a member of the Washington group 25 years ago. Looks like all the fun folks moved since then.

The "executive suite" in the hotel ($20 more per night than the standard rooms, even at the gathering group rate) was small and ratty. The "banquet room" was IN the heated indoor pool area, which made for muggy eating. And the cast of characters was the usual set of misfits.

Friday evening we ate dinner in a restaurant next door to the hotel, visited the hospitality room, attended a "play reading", where a row of people just sat and read the parts, and the pool party. The Man took one look at the pool and decided to lounge and watch. I went into the pool, wearing my bathing suit top and yoga pants. The "party" consisted of four groups of three or four people standing in the pool talking about past gatherings.

Saturday morning we didn't get moving until almost noon, so we missed the one presentation either of us was interested in, on sociopathy. There was pizza in the hospitality room, so that did for brunch. The Man and I were sitting at a table looking at the schedule of programs, and he said "Wanna go for a ride?" That sounded like more fun than anything on the schedule, so we headed for DC. Put the top down and wandered around Washington, stopped at a racetrack and placed two bets, and returned to the gathering in time for the banquet (banquet? Typical "what is this stuff" buffet) and keynote speaker (topic, Benedict Arnold, there's a lot to his story that's not well known), and then the pool party again. More standing around in the pool until someone threw a beach ball in, then it got fun. This time, The Man got in. (Oomph! He's got a great body!)

Sunday morning we wandered around the Mensa stuff a bit, and then met an old friend of mine and his wife for lunch, and then headed back to NJ. The Man dropped me off at the Hilton again, and headed for Connecticut to visit a cousin. I was half thinking about heading home, but I couldn't keep my eyes open. Daughter and Hercules joined me for dinner, and then I fell asleep at the computer and didn't wake up until 6 am, when I crawled into the bed for another three hours.

And that was the weekend. I very much enjoyed my time with The Man, but I doubt that I'll ever be able to talk him into another Mensa gathering.

All that road time in a convertible has earned me some mild sunburn, but a lot less than I expected.