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Coming up again [Apr. 26., 2016|10:02 am]
Da
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In tough times, I take refuge in my garden. One of the roughest bits of the last month was that I had a bunch of indifferent strangers tramping around in it. It got to the point where I could't bear to look out the windows. I remember one morning waiting for Mom to get ready so we could head to the hospital and pacing up and down the hallway because it was the only part of the house where I couldn't see outside.

Now the tuckpointers are supposedly finished, but we haven't had the final walkthrough yet so I'm still waiting to exhale completely. After I bitched to the association president, she asked me to inventory the damages, which I did over the weekend. It was not as bad as I feared. I did lose the double-flowering kerria it took me so much trouble to rustle up, but monshu was never that fond of it, so I'm looking at this as an opportunity to replace it with something he'll really enjoy.

The heuchera I thought I'd killed by moving it out of harm's way in a fit of pique is coming back as is, miraculously, the oak fern I'd written off after last year's late drought. Even more miraculously, the mayapple has returned as well. It looked so sad last fall, I thought it a goner for sure. It seems just about the only thing I lost from last year's planting frenzy was the Solomon's seal, perhaps some of the lily-of-the-valley as well. (One or the other is coming up near my newest hügelbeet, but it's too soon to tell which.)

I had some time over the weekend to get dirty again and planted another dogwood to replace the one that got taken out. As long as I was digging on the western end of the Hellstrip, I also relocated the Persicaria to a sunnier spot, shifted a dogwood into its place, and surrounded it with wood poppies from the southern edge of the lawn. I thought that would take me an hour; it took me two and left me wiped out for the remainder of the day.
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Déjà flu [Apr. 7., 2016|03:07 pm]
Da
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I was looking through my journal from a year ago and was surprised to see that I'd managed to post anything at all during monshu's hospitalisation. Maybe there was a bit more adrenaline I needed to work out in those days as opposed to now where after I type up my daily digest I'm fit for nothing beyond bed. Especially now that I've managed to come down with something.

Saturday it felt like an ordinary cold, so I went on a zinc regime and it seemed to clear up to the point that I discontinued it. But I tried my first nearly-full day of work this week and I feel pretty craptastic at the moment. For a while it was dodgy if I'd even be able to keep my lunch down, but it stayed and now it's just a creeping crud-type illness which if I'm luckier than I have any right to be is some 24-hour bug. If not...well, it hardly bears thinking about, does it? Mom could end up with two patients when she comes into town.

Now it's a waiting game. The Old Man is perfectly stable, he is--by some measures--ahead of where he was at this point in his last extended stay. But his physical therapy only began yesterday and--most importantly--his GI tract is still slumbering and until something gets out, he doesn't get out. Today I let mollpeartree and zompist take over some of the burden of distracting him. Tomorrow, Nuphy will be able to pitch in. And if I can convince myself that the world doesn't come to a halt if I'm not there to keep pushing on it, I might even be good to myself and get a little rest tomorrow.
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Beating the Devil [Apr. 2., 2016|11:16 pm]
Da
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It's rare that the weather matches my mood this well, but it's rare that both the weather and my mood are this mixed up. Today I saw sunsnowshowers like I never have before. One minute, it would be cold but sunny, the next visibility would be shot to hell by swirling snow and the wind would be biting. And the snow itself varied from big flakes to graupel to nearly rain. It was like nothing I've ever seen.

Jack up the temperature at least 6 Celsius degrees and you have Friday, which was a similar patchwork of showers, sunshowers, and sun. Killing time in the waiting room with a trio of associates, I even got a glimpse of a rainbow. They left shortly afterward and it was just me for three long hours until the surgeon came out to speak to me.

This time last night, I was almost in a panic. We had hoped for a simple procedure; we got one as complicated and painstaking as last February. I was fretting about another long and difficult recovery ahead of us. But seeing the Old Man today gave me real hope. By the end of the day, he was able to chat with a visitor (Fig, who spirited me away for dinner at Pearl's) and play with his phone like it was all no big. With any luck, he's got only one more night in the ICU before they return him to the 8th floor.

Of course there'll be more twists and turns before this is all over, but I'm feeling much more confident of my ability to manage them.
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Teacht Anuas an Cháisc [Mär. 28., 2016|12:43 pm]
Da
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Our Easter dinner was a very modest affair. I didn't even get around to decorating the eggs (unless you count scribbling faces on them in felt-tip pen so they wouldn't get confused with the raw eggs in the same carton). monshu had a gratin all ready to go until he decided at the last minute it smelled a bit off and pitched it, so the brussel sprouts we had were simply steamed instead. In a nod to the nominal reason for the season, there was Jerusalem artichoke in the mash, but the centerpiece was obviously the perfectly cooked rack of lamb. It was such a treat I had TWO WHOLE CHOPS and damned the consequences.

We were both somewhat worn out by the good weather, which coaxed us outside to do a little yardwork. The Old Man attacked the porch, whipping it into fit shape for me to eat my egg salad sandwich on before the afternoon showers began. At that point, I'd been hacking out in the hellstrip for a couple hours, digging another whole large enough to bury a body in so that I could fill it with fallen branches and dead leaves. Probably one more of these and I'm done for the season. Then it's time to start thinking about what to do with the shambolic retaining wall Scooter left behind.

I was unsuccessful getting ahold of anyone later in the day, so I spent most of my time reading. Roddy Doyle's A star called Henry isn't great, but it reads quickly and seems a decent introduction to the major episodes in the fight for Irish independence. It does feel a little overly determined at times and I'm not sure what's with all the gratuitous fucking except for some middle-aged wish fulfilment, but I'm already two-thirds of the way through it and thinking about what my next novel should be.
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"Happy Good Friday" [Mär. 25., 2016|12:10 pm]
Da
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In the end, the snow the forecasters predicted did actually fall, but only for about an hour. Coworkers brought it to my attention around 4:30 yesterday, but by the time I reached Rogers Park, it was gone. Lovely while it lasted, though. Usually by the time it starts to snow the grass is yellowed and dying, but it was a fresh spring green in most places, which produced a beautiful contrast. I was bemused to see so many complaints given what a mild winter we had. We had snow on the same date two years ago (which also melted off in short order) and I remember it lasting into May before.

We have characteristically modest plans for Easter. The Old Man is going to pick up a bit of lamb and maybe we'll invite Nuphy over or something. ladytiamat is in town and it looks like I'll have to head down to the Inner Darkness of Hyde Park for a glimpse. I had Fabulous Gay Plans for the day, but they were tentative and likely to be sidelined in favour of gardening anyway. (There's a whole lot of wood to bury and I think the condomates are getting impatient.) I guess I should dye some eggs.
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Divil a finer sentence [Mär. 23., 2016|10:19 pm]
Da
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At some point in my reading of Borstal Boy, I attempted to compare it to my memories of the 2002 film adaptation and come to the realisation that I had none. I mean, I dredged up a few vague images and I remember something about a stage play, but I couldn't recall the plot. Or the character arc. Or the characters. Or the actors who played them. So I was pleased to find out from rereading my original entry that I apparently rather enjoyed it. That was over five years ago now, which is about twice as long ago as what it had become compressed to in my mind, so maybe I shouldn't fault myself for forgetting so much.

In retrospect, the movie was spot on in having the central character move away from radicalism rather than toward it. Ebert faulted this in his review, but unfairly so, since that's very much the impression Behan leaves you with. Yes, his young self is defiant until the end, but there's absolutely no indication in the closing chapter that this is the same man who would attempt to assassinate two gardaithe within a year of being released. I also faulted the compression in the film, but Behan sums up his last two years in six pages after having spent 230 on his first year in borstal and 130 on a few months imprisonment before that.

Dramatically, the biggest change is to have the film build up to a violent climax when it's the opposite with the book: the most vicious violence occurs in the first hundred pages whereas the last hundred have none at all. In my review of the film, I mentioned "short shrift" being given to the straight romantic subplot, but that's quite understandable considering that the object is a character that barely merits a walk-on in the book. The homosexuality is, as expected, dealt with rather more cagily in print, and it's hard to tell how much this reflects Behan's own youthful naïveté and how much a grown man's prudence.

It's a smashing read. Behan has a fantastic ear for dialogue and true way with words--poetical and very Oirish without getting too aye-and-begorra. For once an Irish novel with a fair bit of the Irish language in it and all of it correct (ignoring the lack of accents, for which doubtless blame the printer). I am now a treasure trove of mid-20th-century English prison slang, such as "judy", "snout", and "graft china". Wonder when that might come in handy.
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Bursting out [Mär. 23., 2016|12:07 pm]
Da
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Looks like the forecast for tomorrow has been revised to remove any mention of snow. That's a relief even though I didn't expect the brief dip below freezing to do any real damage. On our stroll yesterday evening, my horticulturalist neighbour advised keeping an eye on the natives because, unlike the imported ornamentals, "they're not fooled". I'm not sure if the columbine I have coming up in the hellstrip counts, as I can't remember now if it's the plain red-and-yellow of my youth or one of these fancy new varietals.

Everything seems two or even three weeks ahead of where it would normally be around now. Yesterday brought the first full-sized daffodils in bloom. I've noticed their buds swelling since last week, but I hadn't yet seen any open. Dutch irises are awakening, too, and I'm pleased to see the ones I planted along the alley edge late last fall returning despite the compaction from sloppy drivers over the winter. Elsewhere there are even Virginia bluebells leafing out. Rhododendrons are in bud, forsythia are just starting, and we may have magnolias soon.

I'm still not sure when to expect my saplings, but I suspect it could be as early as next week, so if the weather's at all good this weekend, I'll need to get digging. It would make sense to rebuild the retaining wall at the same time, but I'm also wondering if it doesn't make more sense to dismantle it completely and use those pavers to hold back the weight of soil and mulch from creeping over the narrow walk along the curb. Ah, so much I could accomplish if I only had the physique.
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The road not traveled by [Mär. 20., 2016|08:55 pm]
Da
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I'm trying to do what I can to make sure this doesn't go down in my memory as the Weekend I Missed C2E2. (Rather counterproductive, I suppose, committing that to writing here.) Last year, I cared not a jot, but monshu's relations were in town late in the summer exhibiting at Wizard World and that was a lark, so when they said they'd be back again, I made plans to stop by. But then we heard nothing from them until late Friday evening I got a message from his niece offering me passes.

But it'd been a long week and I'd already made plans to sleep in. I still felt like going, just...not then. But Sunday was set aside for gaming. As the hours crept by on Saturday, it became apparent that I'd made my choice and it was in direct opposition to my recent resolution to Do The Thing instead of sitting at home questioning whether I should've Done The Thing.

Still, I'd made my peace with this. Then Sunday came around, I walked to JB's...and found that as I was ordering my torta de pescado at the place on the corner, the only other player slated to be there had cancelled. At that moment, I considered cancelling, too, and making a desperate effort to see if I could still line up pass and make the long trek to McCormick. But JB was saying, "We'll find a game to play, don't you worry!" and it was too easy to avoid saying "no".

Ironically, the game he chose was a "two-player LARP" called 183, which is based on a short story about two clairvoyants falling in love. One can see several possible futures; the other only one--and it's one in which the couple separates 183 days after their first date. It makes for an intense two hours. There's a warm-up phase in which you discuss your past loves, and then you collaborate on a series of five scenes which together sketch the arch of the relationship from beginning to end.

Was it a better way to spend the afternoon than in a noisy hall surrounded by cosplayers and hawkers? I'd have to be the character who can see many futures to answer that, but I played the other. Honestly, the chief difference between the two possibilities is that with more stimulation around me I would've been less distracted by the notion of what the other choice would've been like. Maybe I'd be less melancholy-tired now and more plumb exhausted. Who's to say?
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Mealltach [Mär. 18., 2016|11:21 am]
Da
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For another year, I failed to get myself to the IAHC for March shenanigans. It wasn't just that I can't face it sober and I'm less eager to drink than ever. Usually I start listening to Irish tunes a couple weeks before, but I hardly did that this year. So my celebration of my Celtic heritage was reduced to playing "Óró, sé do bheatha 'bhaile" for the Seanduine at dinner (which didn't even feature potatoes!) and watching Neil Jordan's Michael Collins afterwards.

It's a somewhat uneven film. Neeson is terrifically cast in the lead (even if he was a bit long in the tooth to play the youthful Collins once Jordan finally secured funding) and Rickman does a good job with a fairly negative portrayal of de Valera. But Aidan Quinn and (lord help us all) Julia Roberts make the love-triangle subplot almost unwatchable. It doesn't dominate the film, as with some biopics, but I would've rather seen more of the cat-and-mouse game between the IRA and British intelligence. Because of the foreshortening required to keep the film to two hours, there's barely time to introduce the Cairo Gang before leaping to their liquidation six months later.

I'm not making great progress on my reading either. I only just today reached the midpoint of Borstal Boy. Not because it's not fun and easy reading, I'm just not pushing myself on it. I spend as much time on the shuttle mooning at the cloud formations or chatting with my neighbours as reading these days and I can't say I'm worse off for it.
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It's comin' up, it's comin' up, it's comin' up [Mär. 15., 2016|09:03 pm]
Da
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For days now I've been failing to get pictures of the crocuses which bloomed in our yard on Saturday. When I came back outside with my camera in the evening, they had already closed up. Sunday was an all-day rain. I was too tired from DST to even check on them yesterday, despite the persistence of daylight. Today I left work early in order to get my voting in before dinner, but even so they were in shade. I was determined to photograph them anyhow--and then my camera died just as I was about to press the button.

In the meantime, I've seen a few pop up elsewhere, but at the time they were not only the only crocuses in bloom in our 'hood but the only spring flowers at all. Now there are squill and reticulated irises and daffodils in bud at the house across the street. Tulips are sprouting as well and I'm chuffed to see that, despite the manky condition they were in, most of the ones I planted out front seem to have survived--at least on the north side of the walk. But that's in clear view of the windows of the couple who planted them, so I don't feel so bad.

I thought the tire treads across the edge of the parkway corner had obliterated the rudbeckia, but two out of the three I planted in the fall are still there. Precious little of the seeds I planted there are sprouting, but I think it's still early days for prairie plants. Least I hope so. I thought that another set of tire tracks paralleling the alley had crushed the irises, but they're coming up as well. It's going to be the most colourful spring in quite some time (if everything doesn't get slaughtered by hail tonight).
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