Chapter 4: Weather, Reading, Cars

And how are you, now that you have a child minder?  Are things (other than with Artyom) finally sorting themselves out?
As Catharine would say YAY. 
She came early this morning so I could get off to work promptly, so I shouldn't be sat here writing to you.  See you later.
Bad boy.  I shouldn't be writing to you, either.  Bad me.
My outstanding job queue is beginning to look a bit smaller. 
See?  It's worth it. 
I know its worth it but this is the easy cop-out version.  I had to try to give Artyom the opportunity to contribute to our life, feel useful and to repay his debts.  The effort of trying was painful but it had to be done.  It meant a very stressful month.  Now I've given up and taken the easy path of hiring someone.
I don't mean to sound facetious, but I have never met (nor was one) a helpful, contributing teenager.  I know that such teens must exist, else why would we see stories in the newspaper about kids who pull people from raging surf or burning buildings, support whole familes or discover new cures for diseases?  I maintain that such kids are actually space aliens.
They probably are, but some by 19 at least get jobs and pay a peppercorn rent to stay at home, not just lie around expecting to be fed, watered and paid pocket money.
I have been rebuilding an old test rig to measure the thermal resistance of quilts. 
Quilts?  As in what one sleeps under in winter?
Yes, and the rest of the year in England too.
And that's why I love England so.  Though Juneau is kind of like that, as is Ketchikan.
Yesterday I finally got it debugged and lined up so it works properly and reads more or less the right values across the range.  Now I can leave it to the customer to spend a week or so running through the calibration procedures, then I can send them the final invoice.
And what is the range?  Popsicle Toes to Hot Flush?
More or less. 5 tog to 15 tog.  A tog is a tenth of a watt per degree per square metre.  It is all measured at with a 'body' at 33C in a room at 20C., so there should be 13 degrees drop.  We measure the amount of power required to maintain this temperature difference through an area of 0.6m of the quilt under test lying on a flat 'bed'.  So now you know.  The physics is simple calorimetry, but the engineering is a bit more complicated, eliminating extraneous heat flows is tricky, and measuring average air temperature can be difficult if there are any significant air currents about.
OH.  So that's how Consumer Reports and the LLBean Catalog rate the confort level of different quilts, coats and sweaters in different temperatures.  I always thought they had extremely cooperative volunteers.
Double quilt comfort testing sounds like an idea that Charon would run with, using her 20yr-old male volunteers after the testosterone patch test.
Oddly I installed a machine to make these things in Capetown.  It's quite warm there (doesn't snow or anything) and you wouldn't think there was much demand, but there seems to be.  The weird thing was that our big automatic machine squashed down the quilts quite a lot in handling them, and so on the shelf they looked flatter than what the customer was used to.  (But just as warm, it would inflate once it had been shaken a few times) We ended up having to make fatter heavier warmer quilts than we usually sell in England so that people would buy them!
I actually prefer flatter, heavier-feeling quilts.  I don't like a big fluffy pouf on top of me.  Plus I like something that will fit in the washer, so I can keep it very clean.
You know in winter people in Capetown drive to the mountains to see snow! 
Oh, yes.  People on the Big Island in Hawaii drive up Mauna Kea to see snow.  The pre-Christian contact Hawaiians had several different words for different types of snow.  You tell someone that and they either (a) laugh, (b) don't believe you, or (c) assume that the world's climate has *really* changed since 1770.  The truth is that several footpaths for royal messengers ran right through the snowlines on both Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, and the various chiefs' messengers were very well acquainted with lots of different snow conditions.  Plus they ran over a 13,000 foot mountain in bare feet!
Ouch.  I seem to recall from geology studies that the rocks aren't the most forgiving either.
They are not.  They are extremely sharp, and as they are solid black, they soak up the sun's heat.  Very nasty to walk on, and I have pretty tough bare feet.

Apparently we had a fall of 5" near Hull this week.  The Met people were keen to explain this wasn't snow but soft hail, it just looks the same but is generated by thunderstorms.  They also had a tornado, which is pretty rare here.
I'll say.  That really freaks me out, and strikes me as a sign that the global weather patterns are wa-a-a-a-y out of whack.  It's like imagining a tornado in Hawaii.  I wouldn't have thought you had enough of a land
mass or high enough temperatures to generate tornadoes, but what do I know.  Come to think of it, you must have enough land mass, because you do get thunderstorms, but I still think of tornadoes as late-summer, very hot weather phenomena.  And no, I mean the very hot weather of the Great Plains states and Siberia, not the very hot weather of England.  Sheesh. 
I think this one was actually sea phenomenon, a waterspout, that got lost.  However I understand that England gets a handful of small tornadoes along the south coast every year, but it is rare for them to be so far north as Hull.
I remember the first time I was there, in 1979, and the newspapers were screaming of a heat wave, and people were dropping like flies, and it was all of 79 outside.  Colin, my ex-fiance from Leeds, came to visit me in Texas during the summer of 1982.  I had all these great plans for things to do with him, and he just wanted to lie around inside in the air conditioning... he just couldn't handle 114 outside, with 60% humidity.
What a wuss.  :)  Hey, I can't handle such weather anymore myself.  That's why I'm happy to be in Seattle.
When I was a student, for a while I dated a girl from San Diego who was visiting Europe.  After she returned I got invited to San Diego, (and found out that her family was kind of wealthy, millionaires anyway - one day we went out looking at a small yachting marina - to decide whether to buy it!)  She was originally from Arizona and we went to visit her folks in Ajo.  I learnt about heat then.  What was strange was that the Arizonans were quite comfortable in a range of temperatures, they just moved slower as it got hotter, but the Californians were reaching for sweaters as soon as the temerature dropped below about 70.  They seemed to adapt ok to the heat, but couldn't handle the changes.  I stepped out barefoot onto the sand of the back yard at about 110 and burnt my feet!  What really shook me was the toilet flushing hot water.
Oh, yeah.  Hawaii is not as hot as Florida.  We lived in Florida for a while when I was small, and I remember people doing the oooch ouch eek ow dance across the beach.
What really makes me marvel is looking at pictures of myself in high school.  School in Texas starts in late August, at the absolute hottest time of the year.  And yet then I had my hair long, worn a la Farrah Fawcett (remember those big poofy hairdos from the late 1970s?), it took me 45 minutes to torture it into shape in the morning, and then I put on full makeup, including foundation, three different colors of eye shadow, etc., and then tottered off to school in very tight jeans and 3" heels.  And I wore that ALL DAY LONG in 110 F heat.  God, how stupid.
And the Farrah Fawcett hairdo was meant to look 'casual', if not positively post coital.
Yeah, casual like the Russian imperial court.  Real post-coital hair often has knots in it and is hiked up on one side.  One couldn't go out like that.
And now I wear plimsolls and socks everywhere and only wear mascara because it will force me to wash my face before I drop into bed.  God, what a change.
I lived in Texas too long, I think.  When the civil defense sirens went off at 4:00 a.m. on a September morning in 1992, (long after I moved back to Hawaii) I woke up curled up on the floor of the closet, tucked into the tornado-defense position.  Oh, that was Hurricane Iniki, by the way.  And then I had to drag myself out of the closet, turn on the TV to see what was up, and then flee to the grocery store to buy canned food, bottled water, and toilet paper with the rest of the island.  My, that was an awful experience.
Aloha from the groves of nostalgia, Catharine
Wow that sounds fearsome! 
The only time I woke up due to 'external forces' was a minor earthquake.  We do have small earthquakes here occasionally, but mostly to small to notice. 
Really.  I didn't think y'all were seismically active.
Not in the way that the tectonic edge zones would know it, but all geology is moving, and we do have some small fault lines.  Most of the activity is in 'recently' uplifted areas like the Lake District.  I was there one day and heard a BOOM in the distance that sounded like quarry blasting.  I read in the paper the next day that that had been my only other earthquake experience.  The fault in the other story was part of the Pennines.
This one was big enough to make headlines.  I woke up clinging to the bed, which was shaking gently.  Although I had never experienced one before, in my dreamy half-waking state I remember thinking "Oh its an earthquake.  We don't have earthquakes here so go back to sleep.", and doing so.
Actually, no.  The hurricane itself was not terribly frightening, but elbowing my way through throngs of people at 4:30 a.m., having parked very illegally outside, was horrifying.  All that and the only thing I could find to buy was three cans of chicken chili, two tubes of anchovy paste, and a six-pack of passion-orange-guava juice.  Thank heavens we were on Oahu, which wasn't badly hit.
This sounds like one of those television cookery shows where the experts are given a miscellany of foods selected by an amateur, and asked to make a meal out of it.  That's my specialty.  The other night I did spectacular things with rice, a can of peaches, some salmon, and some onions.  Oh, and some flour and an egg.  Short of mashing the whole lot up and sucking it through a straw I am at a loss what I could make out of your items though.
I guess at least the hurricane would have blown away the parking ticket?
I didn't get one, that I know of.  However, it preyed on my mind all the time I was in the store standing in a Soviet-style line and I was quite unhappy.
Alarums and Excursions
I am vaguely reminded (I am not sure why) of an occasion when I visited a girlfriend overnight (long ago when I had those things) who lived in a lower floor flat of a large block. [You slut!  :)  Oh I wish! ]  It was summer, we were sleeping with the windows open, and were awoken by my MG car alarm going off (Morse TTT on its air horns every 30 seconds.  Rather loud and definitely sleep disturbing.) in the parking lot, as I had actually parked quite near her window.  Dragging on some pants and looking out I found the security officer standing by my car.  He had noticed it was a 'stranger' and decided to check it out. "Your car is not secure, the doors are not locked."  "Yes, putting a knife through the fabric hood doesn't set off the burglar alarm.  As you may notice, opening the door does." "Oh. I see."  I never locked the doors, hoods were expensive and I got through quite a few.  However I only once encountered a burglar 'smart' enough to rip the hood before trying the door.  Of course then he went and opened it anyway.
That burglar alarm had a strange quirk.  I had designed and built it.  It was fitted behind the dashboard where some previous owner had been foolish enough to fit a radio.  It very rarely false alarmed, only if it got very damp.  However one summer day I was driving into work and as I turned into the car park, it went off.  Strangely it did the same thing at the same time the next day.  Eventually I figured it out.  The device was based on an EPROM memory chip with a quartz window which allows the contents to be erased with ultraviolet light.  I had not bothered with the little foil sticker you are supposed to use to protect the window.  At a certain angle and time of year, the sun could shine through the side window , the empty radio cutout in the dashboard, the quartz window and straight onto the chip.  While there isn't enough ultraviolet to erase the chip, there is enough to stop it working temporarily.  I've since had a similar experience with industrial photoflashes fouling up electronics this way.
I detest car alarms and have always vowed not to have a car valuable enough to require one, but David's truck has one.  To my horror, as I came out of the grocery store the other day, I discovered that the monotonous honking I had been hearing for the last twenty minutes was my truck.  I was mortified.  The very thing I rant about, and here I am doing it.
Yes that was why I built my own.  The one I have in my van is even more odd.  It is based on a US motorcyle alarm, and is somewhat illegal to operate here (but only if it goes off).  It has ultrasonic and microwave sensors in the van and a fairly quiet sounder inside.  However it is radio linked to a bleeper in my pocket.  When it is armed a set of door-lock actuators drive " steel bars through the doors.  It has foiled quite a few attempts, these (Ford) vans are popular targets for the scrap metal fraternity, the standard locks take about 5 seconds to pass, and there is a hungry market for the expensive but efficient diesel engines.  They just cut out the engine and trash the body as soon as they can.  I already lost one that way.  If my alarm goes off it sends out a 27MHz tone for ten seconds.  That will reach my bleeper up to 5 miles away (the standard ones can't punch through the steel framed factory buildings where I am likely to be).  It could also knock out any hospital bleeper systems within range, which use the same band here.  However they go on for a lot more than 10 seconds so they won't hurt.  It's only false-alarmed once or twice in the last 3 years anyway, certainly less false than true alarms.
I must say, it is nice to e-mail to Brits.  I guess I grew up reading (mostly) British literature, and my idiomatic expressions and habitual sayings tend toward the other side of the Atlantic, though I say them with my perfectly neutral American accent.  I would have titled something "Alarums and Excursions," but I assumed that you would think I was misspelling Alarms and not using Excursions correctly.  Aaaah.  The relief of speaking my own language.
I must admit that I am reading the Bridget Jones sequel and laughing my butt off in manner of hyena.  My, that's funny.  I know anyone in GB must be entirely sick and tired of the phenomenon, but it's still very cool here. 

You may know: what are Minstrels?  I gather, from context clues, that they are some kind of candy, but what kind? 
You know, I can see the packet in my mind's eye but I am not sure what is in it.  I think they are one of the variants of Revells, chocolate coated oblate ellipsoids with something or other inside, the something defining which variant it is.  Maybe fruit flavoured fondant.  Maybe chocolate 'truffle'.  Or maybe a mixed selection.  In shape rather like an double-size version of Smarties or M&Ms. 
I'm going on the road in a minute, I'll get a packet when I stop for coffee, and find out.
The first time I went to the States I was fascinated to find the same sweets as in England but with different names.  I was saddened when many of the US names were later adopted for the UK market.  The one that bugged me was The Mars company products which we called Mars and Milky Way, the Americans called Milky Way and 3 Musketeers respectively.  So the same name got you something quite different, although made by the same company. 
And Milky Way fits 3 Musketeers bars much better.  (That, by the way, is my favorite candy bar, especially when frozen.)  Then there was the Marathon bar which became Snickers, maybe the Greeks didn't appreciate the original, I don't know.I don't know, either, because Marathon fits it so well; it takes a long time to eat, it keeps you full a long time, and you burp disgusting peanut burps for a long time afterwards.
There was a comedian on Radio 4 the other day bemoaning the loss of traditional advertising values, such as these changes from the names he grew up with, and the fact that BirdsEye fish fingers which were traditionally promoted by an elderly, bewhiskered 'Captain Birdseye' and who has of late been replaced by a 20-something superhero of the same name, who does battle with a scantily clad archvillainess.
That's something else I'm interested in... grocery stores of different countries.  We have Birsdeye frozen vegetables, but not fish sticks (fingers).  Birdseye is an American company; why don't they sell the full
range of products in the U.S.?
Yeah, it's pathetic when I travel.  My family is out looking at the Parthenon or whatever beautiful, meaningful landmark there is, and I'm dying to go to the local supermarket and look at labels.  Oh, and I want to read the newspaper, too.
I can now confirm that minstrels are the ones with the creamy 'galaxy' chocolate centres.
What is a "galaxy" center?  Is it something like the inside of a Milky Way/3 Musketeers bar?
No just creamy chocolate.  They make ordinary-style chocolate bars out of it, but it tastes creamier than ordinary milk chocolate.  I don't eat it myself, I can eat any amount of chocolate but I don't like cream or creamy tastes, so I prefer the less milky versions.
You Communist.  :)  Though I like chocolate, oddly enough I don't like dark or bittersweet chocolate much, so I'm happy being an Amurrican with Amurrican goddam milk chocolate easily available.
Isn't 'white' imperialist or bourgois or something?
Milk has collective farm connotations with me.
"We'll keep the brown flag flying here" (to the tune of the Internationale, or Tannenbaum if you prefer)
I'll have to go, I'm short on my chocolate eating quota.
Can somebody tell me what people get out of looking at these 'sights'? 
I don't know, and I majored in history.  The only "sight" I would really like to see is Petra, but I suppose I will have to wait a while for that.
Everyone goes to a lot of trouble, expense and discomfort to get to them, then when they get there, what do they get out of it? Yeah its a building.  Now what?  If they are so interested in architecture why not wander round the City of London or downtown Manhattan looking at the office blocks?  Or look at the stone- and earthworks around our reservoirs and canals?  I find my local drinking-water reservoir just as interesting as the Leaning Tower of Pisa (which I saw while working in Pisa on the Millenium Bug).  To me a building is only as good as what you do with it.   So a ruin is just a piece of tourist industry.  (What they do with the Tower is to try to straighten it.  I find that quite interesting, but it makes it ugly.  It looks like a building site.)
I think they should let it fall and then be sure to have its final plunge well-documented.  Then sell off the various pieces of marble and build something useful.
For me to enjoy travel there has to be a purpose, something to achieve. 
I know.  If I want to relax I'd like to do it at home, and get to do the things I want to do and never get to do.  Traveling, to me, is not relaxing, though I am fond of staying in nice hotels.
Most of the travelling I have done is to work in the destination place.  Visiting as a tourist is so superficial.  I probably said this before, but when I was in Russia bringing Lyudmila & Artyom to England, we encountered some British tourists.  I felt like a swimmer in the sea approaching a shore and encountering paddlers in the surf.
You also reminded me about popular perception of corporate 'nationality' or at least, origin.  I think if you asked most Brits they would say that, for example Kellogs, was a British company. Their products are universal here, they are manufactured here and there is absolutely nothing about their image or marketing to indicate their US origins.  I imagine that is even more so in the US because it is a popular marketing belief here that Americans are innately protective of the home market, and that it is difficult to sell visibly foreign goods in the States.  Consequently most exporters to the US make active attempts to conceal their origins, eg be taking over a defunct US company as in interface.

Or try to make it sound not quite so foreign.  I am surprised at the number of people in Hawaii who didn't know that BP stood for British Petroleum.  And remember how long Nissan sold its cars in the US as Datsun, because it didn't sound so Japanese.
Raining Datsun cogs
I thought that was just so they could make the joke of the title when the gearbox broke.  It never occurred to me that it was meant to sound un-Japanese.  At the moment my depression is Ford valves. 
David is pushing me to buy a Ford Focus, and *I* want a Toyota Echo.  I just can't get past my fundamental mistrust of American cars.  Especially not Fords, with the Firestone mess heating up here. 
What Firestone mess?  I know heating up tyres makes a godawful mess, I've worked in a rubber factory; and I remember the old tongue-twisting 'blooper' about the reporter "reporting from the fire at the Firestone tyre factory", but I don't know the current issue.
Oh, heavens.  There is an enormous, world-wide recall of the Firestone AT tires.  They were primarily installed as dealer equipment on Ford Explorers and Mazda trucks of similar type.  When driven at high speeds, they tend to blow out.  The trouble first surfaced in Saudi Arabia, and now is all over the U.S. and South America, too.  Something like 75 people have died in blow-out caused wrecks.  The U.S. Justice Department (ta-DAH) has nothing better to do WHOOPS is investigating Ford and Firestone for criminal collusion and the first of many ultra-billion dollar lawsuits has been filed.  Firestone is cranking out new tires at a ferocious rate it's not enough; Ford has shifted some of its production line to tires, too.  And of course the union has chosen this time to strike poor Firestone.
Oh I see, the lawyers were getting short of readies and needed a few more billion.  What fun.  I've not seen anything about it in our news, I guess we didn't get the tyres. I would hope that you don't have the number of SUV- and pickup-driving idiots that we have. At least it should give the Department of Justice an excuse to lay off Micro$oft for a while, and distract attention from the fact that they can't actually enforce their judgement if Bill Gates says "No".
Yeah, heh heh.  I find myself, oddly, rooting for Bill Gates.  How peculiar.
I went out on Friday in my van and came home in a hire car, the van seems to have burnt or damaged a valve and I had to leave it in a garage in Birmingham.  And this engine has only done 25,000 miles.   Well at least it is in the home of the (former) British engineering industry so it should be in good hands.  One always trusts a mechanic with a Birmingham accent, probably quite wrongly.
Quel dommage.  God, I *hate* having things go wrong with a car.  I am driving David's '85 Toyota MR-2 right now.  I like it a lot; it is tiny (I like tiny cars) and goes like a bomb when one even *thinks* in the general direction of the gas pedal, but you have to perform sacrifices and chant magical charms and do a little dance to make it start.  I exaggerate: I have to turn the key with my left hand while slo-o-o-o-o-o-owly easing the (automatic) gear shift out of Park.  Just as the car lurches into Reverse, it starts, and I frantically paw around for the brake, so as not to run over anyone.
Can't you just shove it back into Park?  Or get him to fix the start interlock switch, or even just disconnect it.  After all, all it's for is to make sure you are in Park when you start the engine.  Right now it's not only allowing you to start in gear, but actually preventing starting in park.
He's twiddled with it, and he's taken it to various shade-tree mechanics to get it fixed.  Right before we left Alabam' he took it to a dealer and had them turn it off completely, but now is fuming over it again.  It does start consistently when one does the ritual, I must say.
David collects MR-2s, and this is one he bought off a "shade-tree mechanic" in Alabama.  I appreciate the sentiment that some men feel about cars, but to my mind, a car is a tool.  If something's wrong with it, try to fix it.  If it doesn't work, get a new one. 
I used to feel somewhat sentimental about my MG-B but after the sentiment drained my bank account I had to get more realistic.
Then of course I got an urgent call to go to Scotland yesterday.  I don't often get called out at weekends but you can bet it is always the most inconvenient.  Ezzackly.  Lucky it was in the direction of a babysitter (your mother). So a rapid juggling of the diary and drove up to my mum's (also in Scotland, 3hrs from here, 1 from the factory), yesterday evening with Natasha, did the job this afternoon and then drove back.  Certainly getting some miles on the hire car.

BTW mum has her mastectomy booked for the 18th.
I'll be rooting for her.  


You may or may not be happy to know that I am not a fan of Harry Potter, and couldn't care less if he sells or not.
I haven't attempted to read either of these, although I do know what who Harry Potter is, because it gets on the news.  Everyone I know who has looked at it finds it rather good. 
I didn't.  It was all right, and totally inoffensive, but I found it derivative of all the books I loved as a child.  I thought it wasn't particularly original.  My favorite books as a child were the "Shoe" books by Noel Streatfield and the "Wrinkle in Time" series by Madeleine L'Engle.
So if it sells it does so on talent as well as hype.  Trouble is I spend my spare time writing to you (and others), it doesn't leave much for reading. 
Sadly, my whole life has been spent trying to find spare crannies of time in which to read.  For several years I tried to read while walking home from school, and kept getting nearly killed when I sleepwalked onto streets, nose in book.  Even today I read as I cook dinner, as I'm waiting for slow things to download on the Internet, in the bathroom, etc.  When David and I were doing the mating dance on the Internet, I tried to make my reading habit crystal clear; even so, he still underestimated it.  He gets irritated with me because I don't watch much TV and read read read.  I am, in turn, horrified by him because, contrary to what he told me, he doesn't read.  How can someone not read?  It's like breathing to me.

My dad has a very cute (if I do say so myself) set of pictures of me, starting at about 3 and going upwards, with me in the exact same pose, exact same frown on face, and the only difference is that I get larger and the books get thicker.  Oh, and glasses suddenly sprout on my face.  The last two are me with no hair, in that exact same pose in the chemo chair, and me on the deck of the SS Midway, with my crewcut, baking in the sun.
When I do read it is usually something very light from the library to help me unwind and sleep. 
I go through phases.  I recently went through a police-procedural/mystery phase.  Now I am enchanted by a writer named John Stilgoe who writes about landscape history (!), in which I am currently interested.  I generally have a couple of books going at the same time.  Right now it's _Common Landscape of America, 1580 to 1845_ during the day, and I just finished Bridget Jones as my bedtime reading.  I read freakishly fast, so I plow through huge stacks of library books each week.  I am very fortunate in that I live in a good library system, that allows me to borrow books from all over the country.
Its a long time since I looked at best sellers and current fiction.  What I like to read is stories which have a well researched educational component.  I recently read a murder mystery based on the fact that if you drip model aircraft 'diesel' into an airgun you can get much more power. Another that I enjoyed a while ago was a thriller writen by a rock-climbing expert, which used all sorts of technical mountaineering details (even if the plot was a bit thin).
I have been reading 'Lord of the Rings' to Natasha as a bedtime book for ages now.  It gets a bit boring.

Oh, God, you'll still be reading it when she's 15.  That is a BIG trilogy.  I can't imagine reading it out loud.
Well we did "The Hobbit" and are halfway through the "Fellowship of the Ring", so we are making fair progress.  I did find that reading it out loud was and interesting exercise, there is quite a lot of 3-part dialog (trialog?) where you have to change your voice for each part.  That in itself isn't so hard, but I find that I can't keep the same voice for the same character, they tend to drift into something else after a while.  I have learned new respect for the people who read novels on audio cassettes like David Jason and Lorelei King.
Come to think of it my mother does something like that, she records news tapes for the blind.

Oh, more mortification.  After four months, now that I'm 3000 miles away, I confessed the crush that I had on a fellow inmate (whoops, resident) of Midway.  He responded nocommitally.  omigod, I must go to bed and die of shame.  I am going to be 37 the day after tomorrow and emotionally I'm still in eighth grade.
We'll draw a polite veil over that.  At least you had the guts to tell him.  I love taking emotional risks.  If you don't go on the ride you don't get the thrills.  On the other hand I am the world's worst at admitting I fancy someone.
Well, I always did before, but I suppose I wasn't taking many risks; I think I always disguised sure things as risks and then patted myself on the back when they paid off.  This is the first time it hasn't, and I am still dying the death.

Happy birthday for tomorrow.
Thank you.  It was not unpleasant, but I had my first appointment with the new oncologist and he disapproves of me rather sternly.  Which bits does he disapprove of?  Attitude, shape, lifestyle, race or other? Hmm.  Must win him over with my charm and wit, and get him off this Taxol kick he's on.  His office nurse is from Hawaii, though, so *that's* good.
What is wrong with Taxol?  Does he want you to take it?  What is his rationale for thinking you would benefit from it?  (and yours for thinking you would not?)
He doesn't like the fact that I got out of chemo without doing Taxol, and without doing radiation.  He thinks I don't take my condition seriously enough.  He is very young and very earnest.  How boring.
I have had enough treatment for one lifetime.  I will take my chances.  I'm not suicidal, but I have had an utterly miserable last ten years, and a fairly miserable life before then.  I'm tired.  If I drop dead tomorrow, que sera sera. 
Don't mean to depress you, but that's the truth.

That doesn't depress me, I understand your attitude completely. If maximising life expectancy was all there was to life then we'ed all be starving ourselves (some studies show that many organisms live *much* longer if sustained on minimum input). 
Yes, but are they *happy* organisms, she asks, rooting in the fridge for something yummy to eat.  
Of course not, that's why there's only one guy actually follows this diet.  That was my point, only a masochist would want an extended torture.
It's just as easy to be captivated by the mathematics here as many are by the mathematics of earning money.  Besides, being dead makes it all someone else's problem.
Oh, I know.  And I just want it to be someone else's problem entirely.  Where's the New York trillionaire who travels a lot on business and has a bizarre urge to take care of a fat, breastless, bushy-haired, depressed woman with spectacles?
I don't know but if you meet him ask him if he's interested in a male Russian teenager too. 
HEY!  I'm not into kink.
Sorry, just an act of desparation. ;-)
He just came in to try to scrounge some money.  He is doing some work now, loading newspapers as I think I mentioned, but he wants some money to pay for the canteen at work. 
Where is his (presumed) salary going?
So far he's only been paid for a couple of odd shifts he did a few weeks ago. He was vague as to where that had gone, or the pocket money I had given him.
I feel a bit better about it, and I think I finally talked him out of retaking his University foundation year.  He is now planning to go start a degree course at a really crap University that will actually take him on with his existing qualifications. 
Which really crap University?  And could he transfer from that one to a less crappy one in a couple of years, once he proves his academic brilliance?  :)
'Thames Valley University'.  It is one recently upgraded from a polytechnic to degree issuing status, as part of the Governments strategy to give everybody university degrees.  We've got an election coming up next year sometime, and I think they are going to pledge to make everyone a lottery winner next term.  And no, I shouldn't think so,
Too bad.  The classic American thing after a disgraceful high school career is going to a community (two-year) college for a year or two and then transferring to a real college.
if he wanted to do that he should have retaken his A-levels last year like I told him instead of doing this rip-off foundation course, but that would have meant living at home on pocket money and not getting to blow his student loan.
Sheesh.  As if!  Parents are so dense sometimes. 
He still has a long way to go though.  Am I being too tough on him?  I often wonder what he would do in my position.
Why don't you ask him?  That can be a useful counseling technique.  You might be surprised by the answer.
I did. The answer was "I don't want to talk about it".  I'm afraid I wasn't surprised.
Of course (whacking self on head).  Sorry, forgot you were fairly-well-read and with-it.

Holiday for us tomorrow - Labor Day.  I plan on sleeping in and attempting to do nothing.  I think David has some fell idea about putting up shelves in the new house or something.  Hmm.  I need to practice my limp before he gets home.  Heh heh heh.
School starts for Natasha here, or at least I thought it did.  We got there to find it was a teacher-training day.  They had put 'Tuesday 4th' on the notice, and in a hurry I had just entered the dates on the computer, double-checked the numbers but never sanity-checked the day-names.  Turns out they meant Tuesday 5th.  Fortunately the wonderful Cindy (my child minder) wasn't doing anything special today.

Movers here today.  David is wallowing in the fleshpots of Allentown, Pennsylvania.  I will be over at the new house, acting like the mistress of the plantation, watching various attractive specimens lift that barge and tote that bale.  We should be completely moved in by the end of the week.  Which reminds me; I must go buy a bed.
And how is the mistress of the manor settling in to her new residence?  I trust all the domestic staff have been suitably settled below stairs. And milady is comfortable upstairs.
Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.  Or is dependent on someone else.  David got replaced and called home from his jobsite so his boss can Have A Talk  with him on Monday.  I was afraid that his bad attitude would not work out in peaceful, polite Seattle, and I'm afraid I'm going to be right.  Oh, I DO NOT want to move back to Alabama.  Argh.  I live in dread of Monday, in spite of the fact that my job is going well. 
I have vowed that once this is over, I will NEVER NEVER allow myself to be dependent on another person again.  I do it one time, and look what happens.  Poop.
Oh dear.  Why can't everyone be diplomats at work?  Especially when their livelihood (and their dependent) depends on it.  I hope they can find him something else there and not send him back. 
Because he is convinced that he is better than everyone else and loves to talk about it.
Ah.  Whereas I know I am better than everyone else, but understand that the best way to get the paycheck is to pander to their pagan beliefs.  Missionaries have a bad habit of ending up in the missionary position.  It's all a matter of what is most important to you, God or Mammon.
He just called me, fresh out of the meeting, and very indignantly read me the "action points" he received.  The bad thing is, the traits his boss have identified as problem areas are precisely the same ones that I identify as problem areas in our relationship; so I know his boss is not casting ungrounded aspersions at him.  And yet how do I express this to David?  I don't believe in carping about irritating habits and bad moods. 
I guess this has to be handled in two parts, the first is to get him to talk about solving his problems rather than assigning blame for them.  You have the advantage that his boss has the power, so you don't have to originate the complaint even if you do happen to agree with it.  You can cast all the blame on the boss.  The other is to then discuss what can be done about it, maybe how he has to act Mr Nice-Guy at work if he wants to keep his job and go places.  Maybe then you don't need to explain that this would be a nice way to live the rest of his life too, but some of it might rub off, you know, it might be habit forming.
Ha!  The issue is moot, however, because it all turned out nicely in the end.  He's still employed.  Now, of course, he doesn't have any problems.
I don't even nag him to eat (he's diabetic, and gets very grouchy and nasty when his blood sugar drops), but just assume that he's a big boy and knows that he's being a pain in the prat and needs to eat something. 
I think that is an unwarranted assumption.  I seem to recall that diebetics that go low-sugar generally get sort of defensive and have a hard time convincing themselves of anything.  You have to play trip-controller.  With a bit of luck he should appreciate being rescued once he gets back to normal.
 Don't you know when you are making someone else angry?  So if he does something that makes me angry, I say something about it once and let the matter drop. 
He may then think the problem has magically gone away.  Once isn't enough.  Would it be enough if he told you he loved you once and then let it drop?  If it keeps on making you angry you have to keep on externalising  the anger else the problem won't get solved.  I've made that mistake far too many times.
I'm afraid that if I gently try to tell him that his boss may have a point, he may refuse to listen and I'll be headed back to Alabama.  Shudder!
Bite the bullet kid.  If you don't sort it out between you you'll be headed back anyway.  You don't have to side with the boss, just discuss how you are going to satisfy his unreasonable demands, so that he will satisfy David's most reasonable demands for a large paycheck.  Explain to him that in diplomacy (this is a word which means 'the art of getting your way') you have to recognise the strength of the other guy's position as well the strength of his argument, and sometimes you have to give in to unreasonable demands. 
Q  What do you call a gorilla with a machine gun?
A  Sir!
Wrong, me bucko. I was in Alabama for two months, and hated it intensely.
If he wants to go back, he will be leaving me here.  This is like Hawaii with cooler weather.  I don't intend to leave.
Did you know that poop is Russian for belly-button.  One of a few Russian words that stuck in our household despite speaking English most of the time.
And Yiddish for belly-button is pupik.   And Hawaiian is piko.
I guess pupik is the same.  In Russian the -ik is a diminutive ending, and might be used talking to a child.
Yeah.  There are a lot of Russian words in Yiddish. 
Another usage: Once when I worked in Vancouver for a while, we had a lovely office built out on stilts over the waterfront of a fjord (or whatever the Canadians call fjords).  Over the water we had a sort of promenade deck, where the senior programmer used to go for his smokes.  Unfortunately the overhanging roof made a wonderful perch for pigeons.  So we always referred to it as the poop deck.
And the poop deck on boats... I often wonder if they didn't get their name because that's where people sat to ah, cast things into the sea. 
According to the Dictionary of Modern Slang, the poo-poo usage dates at least from the Middle Ages, while the regular Dictionary gives a direct Latin origin -puppis- for the maritime usage.  I'm not *that* old, but on the whole I think that Latin speaking sailors weren't talking about poo.  I'm not a classics scholar either, so I don't know the Latin etymology, but it probably wouldn't be difficult to find out.
If ancient sailors did use the stern deck for this purpose, then the custom has completely reversed in modern times - marine toilets are universally known as 'heads', being traditionally at the front of the vessel.  As I recall from a visit to Portsmouth, Nelson's cabin on his ship was right under the poop deck, for a good angle of view.  Such a habit would have meant an unpleasant and regular window cleaning job for someone.
Come to think of it there is the bigger problem of getting your own back.  Received wisdom is "don't pee against the wind".  Square riggers generally could only sail a few points to wind'ard, with great difficulty and much swearing.  Generally your best bet on a sailboat is to chuck it off the lee bow.  I think you are imagining powerboats.
That reminds me of my first yacht sailing experience.  The woman who had invited me on the trip suffered a reverse sort of seasickness, and spent much time in the heads, on the starbord side.  I had the helm, and had been on a starbord tack for some time.  She had been 'below' most of it.  I called to her to warn her we had to tack soon, but she was otherwise engaged and not responding.  With Clacton pier approaching fast and the beach on my left and the skipper yelling at me, I eventually had to tack regardless.  I was as gentle as I could but as the yacht rolled to starbord, the back pressure in the heads increased rapidly, making something of a blow-back.  Well, she should have kept a look-out.
I always thought much of the glory of seasickness is puking with bravado over the side.  I'm not frequently seasick, but on the rare occasions when I have been, I heartily sympathize with anyone who has it regularly.
It was great for views of wildlife, one day I saw a family of sea otters.  I found that I would be engrossed in a job oblivious to everything, and suddenly my peripheral vision would catch some subtle change in the ripple pattern on the water outside, and looking out I would see a seal or an eagle taking a salmon or something.  On one occasion it was an errant air taxi, which had drifted away from its jetty.  Our junior programmer who commuted by workboat (his eyes were too bad to drive a car) had to go and rescue it.