Rappelling on the learning curve

It's been a tough climb. Never reached the summit, but thankfully temps stayed well above zero.

Approximate height of technological climb
My little Kindle is not the Himalayas. You wouldn't think it would be so complicated. All I wanted to do was check out some eBooks from a public library onto my early version Amazon Kindle. When the library where I work first got eBooks, I had managed the feat. It should have gotten easier after a few more years. The device is a happy little Kindle, and I like using it. My sons and their wives gave me the Kindle, and send me gift books. It's fun and easy. I've bought several books, some while sitting in airport terminals, and downloaded them instantly without breaking a sweat. No problemo.

Do you hear Yeti laughing? Make him stop it before he causes a digital landslide!

Cloudless sulphur on canna ignores Kindle
Spent about five hours so far. Two last night, and three today with a little time at base camp in between. I've got all the ropes, belay devices, carabiners, pulleys, and a friendly Sherpa guide with lots of library-to-Nook experience. Not a novice climber myself, I'm an experienced library user able to access two public library accounts via websites given enough passwords and IDs. That is not enough. Maybe we need Jon Krakauer.

This climb was plagued with hitches. To prove my Kindle and Amazon were buddies, I purchased the latest Brunetti mystery by Donna Leon. Bibbity bobbity boo presto digito and it was on my Kindle device via 3G Whispernet.

Free library eBook borrowing requires WiFi instead of 3G . Over these many hours I've downloaded free Kindle For PC and Adobe Digital Reader software to two devices--my Baby Acer computer and my Big Mama computer.

Now I can get magazines on Big Mama from my home town library website via Zinio. Got books from both public libraries downloaded onto Kindle for PC, but not onto my Kindle. Also downloaded books from one library onto Baby Acer to read with Adobe Digital Editions 2.0 Reader. This technological mountain trek has not been satisfying.

In the same amount of time I could have finished both the hard copy books I'm reading, and browsed through an awesome cookbook. Might have even picked up some job interview hints, or Skyped with Mr. Short Stack. Alas, I just wanted to check out an eBook "Because it's there".

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Dysfunctional Family Kampground

What are tenterhooks? Why would readers want to be on them? Do they have something to do with camping in a wind storm? Is there any other way to camp? Not in my personal experience.

Somewhere in the mystery/thriller book reviews my eyes glazed over and my head settled softly in the centerfold of the Kirkus on the table. I dreamed a little backpacking dream about a survival cult of chirping marmots instead of those evil black-lit squirrels. Bigger mammals, still crazy.

No camping! Nooooo!

No, tenterhook is a woolly word of ancient origin involving stretching, maintaining shape, and the tension between the two. Now consider the hand-washing of a wool sweater, possibly that white lambswool sweater your mom bought for you because it was on sale even though she knew wool made you itch. Feel the tension? You could lay the sweater flat on a big piece of paper and trace a crime scene outline before washing the sweater. After rolling the soggy sweater in towels to squeeze out some of the water, you could arrange it back on the paper and make sure it is properly shaped to dry slowly. Or you could throw the darn thing in the dryer.

Oops.  Sweaters are best dried on that mesh contraption that looks like a Barbie party trampoline, except that there never was a good place to store it so you gave it to Goodwill the last time it fell down on your head from the closet shelf. Actually, the lambswool sweater wasn't quite as itchy as the aqua mohair cable knit cardigan your mom bought for you because it was on sale when she didn't yet know that wool made you itch.

Gratitude. A hearty breakfast that doesn't involve freeze-dried and dehydrated backpacking food. A good night's sleep with no tent to blow away. I'm hooked.

Woolite noir crime scene

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


A wok around the lake

Take a walk on the wild side skink
Woke up this morning and said to myself, "You gotta walk the walk before you can caulk the tub. You gotta git out before you fix grout." This was pretty tough talk after a rough night. Don't ever recall waking up screaming from a nightmare before, but it was a very scary psychotic squirrel dream.

They can sense fear!
/Woʊk/ up this morning and said to myself, "You gotta \ˈwȯk\ the walk before you can \ˈkȯk\ the tub. You /ˈɡɑtə/ɡɪt/aʊt/ before you fix /graʊt/." 

But must I take my wok to the lake? My trusty Big Red Dictionary predates the discovery of woks in America. And the morning paper says Rusty the rogue red panda came to the National Zoo from the zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska. I would do The Wave for escapee Rusty with the theme song from Hawaii 5-O. Go Big Red panda!

Should I take my \ˈwäk\ to the park? I'll ask the expert, Dr. Chicken, aka Doc \ˈdäk\. He's a stir-fry kinda guy.

At the lake a red-shouldered  \ˈhȯk\  was screaming overhead. According to Merriam Webster, caulk rhymes with aukbalkcalkchalkgawkhawkKochSauksquawk,stalktalkwalk. I'm sad to say I usually pronounce the "L" in caulk. Maybe my vowels are stuck down behind my epiglottal or uvula outposts of the International Phonetic Alphabet.

But the rooster crows at the break of day, and the cock \ˈkäk\ and the auk  \ˈȯk\ hear the \ˈkläk\ \ˈtik-ˈtäk, -ˌtäk\. We will \ˈtȯk\ again another day, but now back to the tub.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder

Extra, extra, read all about city websites

Diving the wreck of a website
Loitering and jaywalking on municipal websites lately, occasionally crossing against the light to peer into vacant shop windows. I need specific information about city recycling programs, holiday schedules, summer reading programs at public libraries, road construction, mosquito spraying due to West Nile virus, lawn watering restrictions, and printable trail maps.

Most city websites are as cluttered and visually appalling as highway shoulders before the Highway Beautification Act became law in 1965. Municipal attempts to communicate are negated by the equivalent of drifting highway litter and encroaching, overlapping billboards.

What does it cost a city or town to set up and maintain a  municipal website? My attempts to gain this information have been unsuccessful.

What does it cost a city to put up a poorly designed site that thwarts efforts to communicate information to current and potential residents? To reduce costs most cities overload  sites with information and hot links. They pile on the freebie clip-art images that twirl and blink while bombarding the eye with unrelated font families, clashing palettes, different layouts on every page, links that don't work, and dead-ends preventing an easy return to Home. And there's no place like

Help! I can't breathe! There's no more oxygen! City websites are like scuba diving inside a sunken submarine. No visual resting places, the slimmest of margins to squeeze through.

Time for a refreshing dip
If you need a good book on audio CD for a car trip, I really recommend Shadow divers : the true adventure of two Americans who risked evertying to solve one of the last mysteries of WWII, written by Robert Kurson. Read by Campbell Scott.

But if you just need good examples of government website designs, try some of the selections at Digital Government Achievement Awards and Best of the Web Awards given by the Center for Digital Government. A useful set of evaluation criteria for rating library websites can be found at the Outstanding Library Websites blog. The Sunshine Review presents Sunny Awards for transparency in government websites.

Please dear governments, simplify, unify, limit your palette and fonts. Keep in mind that the information consumer has only one tank of oxygen to navigate your site. Don't give that consumer the bends!

Some nice websites:

Wake County, North Carolina website

The Official Website of the State of Texas


Maui County, Hawaii, won a Sunny Award and was a Best of the Web finalist.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


New do for you?

Why did the caterpillar cross the sidewalk? To get to the other salon.**

Caterpillar haircut needed before Worm Show. No regular stylist. Go to no-appointment-needed fifteen dollar. 

We be with you sit down.

I sit down, check the magazines. Instead delete a shaggy collection of sent and received text messages.

Ready you sit. What we do?

Negotiating with beauticians has never been easy for me.  I envy guys who can say "buzz cut #3" and then zone out. There's always that temptation to say, "Well, just shave it all off 'cause it's hot on the playground!"

You want straight or fringy more feminine? 

Let's go with fringy. That's a good word. All I could think of was feathery.

Fringy brings to mind Sixties/Seventies suede hippie shoulder bags, macrame plant hangers, Twiggy and Yardley white lipstick  Like my flowered corduroy Nehru jacket, I shoulda kept that stuff and I'd be rich today. 

But babbling now. The stylist keeps a sharp object in her hand and between us, just in case I get more unfringed. Don't tell her I'm going next to buy four cartons of nightcrawlers at Academy. She doesn't call the nice young men in their clean white coats. 

Each worm has about two hundred segments.  Each segment has eight bristles that can be extended or retracted and feels a lot like the Velcro straps on your shoes.

Nightcrawlers can be eight inches long and live eight years. Most people don't distinguish between caterpillars and worms.

Heck, most people can't even figure out that Sonic styrofoam soda cups and Colonel Sanders chicken bones shouldn't be put in the recycling carts. I get irrational when wasps fly at me from the recycling cart. It's not at all "a little like having bees live in your head.*" It's so much more feathery, or fringy.

1325–75; Middle English frenge  < Old French  ( French frange ) < Vulgar Latin *frimbia,  metathetic variant ofLate Latin fimbria, Latin fimbriae  fringe

fringe·less, adjective
fringe·like, adjective
fring·y, adjective
un·der·fringe, noun
un·fringe, verb (used with object), un·fringed, un·fring·ing.

** Oak Point Nature Preserve.

*  Sure, understanding today's complex world of the future is a little like having bees live in your head. But, there they are.

Happy Pollinator Week!

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Audience participation

No end to volunteers at today's Worm Show! The kids were all excited to guess how many worms were in the bottom half of a coffee cup*, and then queue up by their numerical guesses ranging from five to one hundred twenty. "What do we get if we're right?", one girl asked. All I could offer was The Thrill of Victory, but that was okay by her.

  • Tear newspaper to make worm bedding? You bet!
  • Crush egg shells by sitting on them? Absolutely!
  • Demonstrate the sound effect of Velcro shoes? Squwckkk.
  • Sniff vermicompost?** Very brave.
  • Open the box, grab a book from Dave the Giant Worm, and then pull Dave out of the bin? Sure. Just say when!
  • Stand in front of the group and read aloud silly joke questions about worms beside the alleged worm expert, Dr. Chicken? Nearly all the kids were excited to participate no matter what their reading level. (The Worm Show was for kids ages six and up.) The kids listened respectfully to their peers. It did this old WormMama's heart good!
It was all a ridiculous amount of fun, and that was even before we started watching worms wandering Lego mazes, and touching night crawlers. "Can we check out some worm books, Mom?" I'm betting there will be worm/Lego science fair projects next winter.

*   Two hundred two red wigglers aka Eisenia foetida.
** "It smells like soil." Bingo!

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Ask Dr. Chicken about your gizzard

Which came first? The egg? Or the media celebrity expert?

During contemplation of gizzards, a new celeb expert was hatched. Dr. Chicken will be my professorial silent sidekick for this Wednesday's traveling worm show. This poultry paper sack will be the Mr. Peabody to my Sherman.
Born in the era of Dr. Spock, I've survived many experts:
  • Dr. Laura and Dr. Oz
  • Dr. Phil and Dr. Ruth
  • Dr. Frasier Crane and Dr. Henry Kissinger
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • NPR's Click and Clack
  • "The Doyenne of Dirt", Ketzel Levine* 

Now I need an inanimate expert on earthworms with personality plus that can be created from very simple materials in under two minutes while kids dance the Chicken Dance, and volunteers from the audience assist.


Yes, but still not ready for the Ed Sullivan Show.

Bwuck,  bwuck-bwuck, BWUCK!

*She has the best name ever!

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder with all rights reserved.


O Glowful Day

Unlace my corset and let me swoon on that little couch right here. Might need to dab my forehead with this lovely embroidered handkerchief. I haven't been this glowy since my only visit to New Orleans. Loved visiting those historic homes with their itty bitty fainting couches!

It was a rare couple days of utter freedom for a young mother. My three sons were in the capable care of their grandma. My spouse was busy at the legal convention. I had a fascinating city to explore at my own pace, troubled only by having dropped a library's travel guide into the relaxing bubble bath. Jackson Square, the Pontalba apartments, Cafe du Monde, the Hermann-Grima House, the Gallier House, and the Beauregard-Keyes House are all bright snapshot memories. After the trip I managed to read Frances Parkinson Keyes'1947 mystery, Dinner at Antoine's, not to be confused with "My Dinner with Andre". 

The library where I am lucky to be employed part-time no longer has any of Keyes' books in its collection, but I did check out "Django Unchained" there. After a sweat bee morning removing ugly old caulk, rust stains, and crumbling grout in the condo bathroom rehabilitation effort, I watched the Tarantino movie. Oh, did I mention making many more air holes in the demo vermicomposting bins for the upcoming worm show? That was using my dad's Fifties electric drill, so I'm always relieved when sparks don't fly.

Once at work we all rushed to return the entire Young Adult collection from temporary shelving to its regular shelves. I felt the burn in my wrists, hands, and lower arms as we lifted stacks of books onto upper shelves, then shifted all the books a couple times until they fit. The a/c wasn't working well, so we all felt the glow of a Hunger Games and Twilight workout!

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.--Thomas Edison

Horses sweat, men perspire, women glow.--Victorian etiquette admonition

Feel the burn.-- Jane Fonda workout video

The D is silent.--Django

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Kirkus Kix

"...the tale sags as it lumbers toward its foreordained conclusion."  

Dang, don't we all!  This aging business is ugly. While having a realistic view of mortality is useful, and occasionally motivating, sagging and lumbering are not what we look for in summer fiction. A visit to any beach has enough realistic sagging, so bring on the light summer read.

I get a kick out of Kirkus Reviews, the karate chop of book reviews. The quote above comes from the June first, 2013 issue. If I told you what book was being reviewed, I would have to take you out with a flying roundhouse kick.

Tomorrow I'm brunching with a friend who reads and rates obituaries for style, clarity, occasional humor, sincerity and form. Her tales' sagging and lumbering make my book review addiction seem upbeat.

Visited my former neighbor at the nursing/rehab home on D-Day. This WWII vet will be ninety in July. I'm afraid he is fighting vainly the old ennui, staring at the muted t.v. and wondering if there will be a ballgame on. Cole Porter was not really writing a song about life in long-term care facilities, but there's truly no kick to be gotten there. Walking back to my car, the rain hid tears I could never cry for my own WWII vet dad trapped in long-term ennui.

en-nui n. Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom.

When all we baby boomers hit the long-term care age, facilities could use the Kix slogan for advertising.

 Kid Tested, Mother Approved

Before you sag, lumber, or maybe shuffle off to bed, I leave you with Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You" and this simply splendid elephant pajama costume.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


OMG Vague Greek Omelet

From the exhibit brochure
Did I mention my odyssey to Fort Worth to see Romare Beardon's collage cycle, "A Black Odyssey" at the Amon Carter Museum?  Yup, I went over the wine dark sea and the George Bush Tollway (Bush #41). That was the beginning of my Greek summer.

A day spent reading in waiting rooms about the deciphering of Linear B script added more Homer, but a trip to Trader Joe's brought the feta. The kicker was Kathleen's comment about making a "vague omelet with pineapple".

 Hmmmm. I could make a vague omelet, couldn't I?

Marion Cunningham's, Breakfast Book, did not tell me how, but she gave permission with this opening sentence, "I make omelets in a rather casual way." "Casual" and "vague" seem close. A Google search can seemingly find a recipe for any combination of ingredients. Before long I'd scanned way too many. At least if it didn't turn out well, the omelet wouldn't hang around as long as my quiche attempts.

This online recipe for Greek feta and olive omelette was closest to my idea and available ingredients. I followed Kittencal's directions, but modified the ingredients. The result was extremely satisfying, and probably could feed two for supper with some fruit and a little vino.

Chopped and sauteed in vegetable oil
  • 1/2 fresh tomato
  • 3 mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic
  • a bit of green bell pepper
Whisked together in bowl and let sit for a few minutes
  • 3 large local farm fresh eggs
  • 2 T milk
  • 1/8 t baking powder
  • 1/8 t dried oregano
  • several good grinds of black pepper
  • NO Salt
Slice 4-6 pitted black olives and a couple pieces of marinated artichoke.

Cook the omelet according to directions. My favorite part is lifting the edges so the uncooked part slides under. Fill half the omelet with sauteed veggies, 1/4 cup fat free feta crumbles, and the sliced olives and artichoke. Fold the other half over as far as it will go, as this is one big fat Greek omelet. Serve with a dollop of fat free plain Greek yogurt.

Warning--a nap may be required.

So, which is correct, omelet or omelette? My big red dictionary says either, and the word derives from French for thin plate. The Grammarist says Americans use omelet, and other English speakers use omelette. So, the answer is kind of vague and casual.

In other news on the breakfast front, McDonald's will be selling McMuffins after midnight. They won't be this delicious.

 © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Wonders of the morning mind

Sure, a lot of my early morning is spent staring at the coffee steam or out my patio window for signs of life in that mini-habitat. Today I received the gift of a hummingbird at the first blooming canna by the fence.

One morning I ventured out in my nightie and garden clogs to clean the Weber grill and chop back the mint that was getting knee high. From this I learned that googling images of insect bites and rashes WILL NOT make the itch go away.
Looking like a hood ornament.

Going out will not scare away the squash vine borers fiendishly laying their eggs on the zucchini vines. It will scare the green anole in the lime tree. The little lizard was beginning the scratching of a molt, and rubbing against the tiny limes that have set on the branches. The anoles are so entertaining, and my hopes for a crop of key limes pretty dim, that I wish I hadn't chased him away with my camera.

Ready for the big leap*
A very obsessed squirrel is digging up old acorns and moldy chinaberries. Having made it through Fire, Water, and Air in Michael Pollan's Cooked, I am now in Earth. Fermentation is an amazing thing, and Pollan has reported that some folks believe squirrels bury acorns to let them ferment and become easier to eat. Don't know about that, but I've seen some pretty tipsy birds after berry sprees.

I have not become sufficiently convinced by Pollan to try fermenting my own sauerkraut, although I have plenty of crocks used for that purpose by my ancestors:

Also in the spirit of fermentation experimentation I have tried Dale's Pale Ale, Rogue's Dead Guy Ale, and Mike's Hard Lemonade recently.

Probably time to make some breakfast. Don't think I can beat yesterday's, so I'll repeat it when I get a round to it.  Grilled avocado, cheddar, fried egg, tomato, and pepper jelly sandwich.

As I was reading the fascinating Riddle of the Labyrinth, by Margalit Fox about the deciphers of Linear B script, I kept thinking about Round Tuits. I won't spoil the mystery by telling you what this symbol means, but it is not a Round Tuit.

But you can get a model railroad car like this:

Nate's Round Tuits boxcar, Greenville, Maine.
Then you might become curious about the Katahdin Valley Railroad and whether it was real. And now I have frittered away more time googling the "Bodfish Beer" referred to in the railroad history. So let's just call it time for brunch.

* Big leap with Butch and Sundance?

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Early Bird gets the Moen

Maybe it's a juvenile, but it's definitely a tree swallow. I'm pretty thrilled to get photos clear enough for an I.D.  At the end of my walk around Oak Point Nature Preserve's lake, this bird patiently posed while I tried to photograph a nearby spider web.

Handsome profile

As if the morning was not already momentous, I went to Home Depot to shop for a replacement bathtub/shower faucet kit. My dear Mario had demonstrated the technique I should use for tapping the faucets with my fingernail for sturdiness. So I stood and tapped faucets from $67 on up to $149, from. Delta to Pfister, Moen to Kohler. Thankfully, no "associate" came by to assist me.  If I'm going to flick faucets, I want to do it privately! Plus, as I just relearned at Office Max and Enterprise car rental, any "associate" who does what a customer like me would normally expect wants me to complete an online or phone satisfaction survey.

Hot left, cold right
Prey left, spider right
I am Highly Satisfied by the tree swallow, and by my entire morning walk. I will be Positively Thrilled if Mario can access behind the shower wall from the space under the stairs to install the Moen Banbury chrome shower and tub faucets. I might be Giddy to use the downstairs shower after many months.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


If at first you don't succeed

For the moment I am not revealing what's behind Door #3. Windows have been shuttered, so I wedged my foot in this door to keep creativity ajar. Or in a jar, like fireflies.

I worked all afternoon creating paper patterns from my papercuts and photographs

In this case, "vintage" fabric is just a vintage Barbie Doll undergarment, circa 1961.

My first effort showed technical aspects I need to perfect. Still it was a fun Sunday mental outing --- and I don't get out much!

  • Some of the vintage fabric will not hold up to machine stitching. It disintegrated almost instantly.
  • The fusible featherweight interfacing is too opaque for my needs.
  • Is there a product that stabilizes, fuses, adheres, and disappears?
  • I really need to practice my machine stitching!

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder