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All contents copyright 2004 by C.J. Cherryh

Last update: 06/06/2005

Date: 01/10/04..................................127,499. Finished! The title is Destroyer, and I have a good clear vision of how the next book starts and proceeds. So this segment of the journal will be archived, and you will see a button appear tomorrow that will take you back to this entry and others. I am officially starting on the next book today. so you will get two entries for today, this one, and the one in archive, because of the new book. I was lucky enough to get a same-day appointment for two of us to go down and get new glasses prescriptions, and I will take off to go do that, which both of us have   been needing to do for some time. The original title for the book was indeed messenger, which would be appropriate, too, but it suddenly dawned on me that the rhythm didn't fit the recent sequence of titles, and I just wasn't satisfied with it. So Destroyer it is. And Finis!

Date: 01/10/04.....................................500. Isn't that a come-down? All that white space yet to go. But I know exactly where we begin, and what we have to do, and I'm quite happy with the ending that finally, different than my first version of the ending, wrote itself. So we start with a new book, as yet untitled, and we begin all over again on a day of above-freezing weather, with everything rather soggy, with blue-streaked skies. We're off to the optometrist this afternoon to see if we can get a better prescription, since I've been going berserk trying to focus on the tax accounts. But I got them done! I am ready now to prepare my own taxes to send off to the accountant just as soon as all the extraneous W-this and W-that's come in. I feel so virtuous I'm disgusted. But off we go, slush and all.

Date: 01/11/04....................................4955. Now there's a cheat---I inserted the outline for the next book, and did a little further outlining, which is what I may do for the next few days. Writing for me is a process of inflation, conflation, and deflation---first, expand the outline, then conflate---join up the miscellaneous bits that ought to be in, but that have been languishing in small tags and files, then start deflating the outline by actually producing text and erasing the bits that are done and handled. This process helps battle redundancy. I have a sort of a rule that a scene to be worth doing has to do three things, any three things, but three things, all the same, and this helps me combine purposes. Writers that have begun writing novels after books began to hit 120,000 words never had to cope with the 80,000 word limit, which, let me assure you, was a difficult limit, to get in everything you need and still have room enough to do an artistic piece of writing. It was good discipline. It did produce good, tight books. And if I'm going to take more room to tell a story, I do feel that I shouldn't have monopurpose scenes any more than I ever did. It just feels 'thin' otherwise. So this is my organizational phase. I have an opening scene. I know where all my principals are located. And now the real work starts. There isn't often a whole lot of word-count at the beginning, or if there is, it's subject to being erased wholesale. But there is a lot of thinking....And I have great hopes that the new vision prescription will make life easier: one lens is a blur, which isn't helping my concentration at all, and which is giving me a headache. I decided to try Eyemasters, in the mall, and we both went, both of us having problems, and being due for the annual vision check---so off we went, both securing an appointment on the very day we called, which was one piece of luck---no waiting three weeks for an appointment. And the optometrist was professional, up to date, had all the good equipment, and knew what he was doing with a prismatic correction, which is not easy to get right. Then we went and got glasses next door, which are due to be ready today, since they prepare the lenses on the spot, no two-more-weeks for preparation, shipping, and fitting. I'll tell you, I was a little dubious about going to a mall, but this has been stellar so far. Now we'll see if the lenses turn out as good as they ought...The peasoup fog is persisting, but lifting a bit. At least it isn't freezing fog, by about one degree Fahrenheit. Good idea to watch the big bridges. As for Destroyer, though I'm happy with the ending, I'll let it lie a while to make sure I continue to be happy with it. We need a reading trip, but it is such difficult weather, we don't think we're going to be able to manage it. We were going to Rustycon over in Tacoma, but this is now all but canceled, because of the computer glitch that threw us so far behind, and because of the hazardous weather. We'll drive through incredible stuff, and can, if it happens to us on the road, but we have a prime rule against starting out from home when we know there's a risk of getting into bad stuff. It's just a safety thing.

Date: 01/12/04...............................5222. A little more thinking, a little more note-taking. This journal has drawn no few letters from people who want me to tell them the secret of writing. Alas, I have to tell you, there is no secret, just what you see here: plant one's backside in a chair daily, at the computer or with a tablet and pencil---pencil, because fiction writing in indelible ink is just too self-confident. Erasure is as important as setting thoughts down. You see how I make progress, a bit at a time, sometimes not at all, but every day I make physical contact with my work. I turn on the telly to give me white noise, I park in my chair by the window, and I write...I write good stuff. I write bad stuff. I write anything. When I can't write any more I stop and do something else. Back when I was a fulltime teacher, I got home, got a sandwich, sat down at my computer, and wrote all evening. Now I write in the mornings and watch telly like most people in the evenings, or play the odd video game. The key is: I sit down at the computer. Daily. Even on holidays. I am also not afraid to go to the store or take a break when I'm written-out for the day. I cook, I clean, I do ordinary things. I have a life. I used to cope with 300 highschool students a day and come home and write because....here's the key...I enjoy writing. And people will find a way to do what they enjoy doing. So my best advice is: don't quit your day job, don't stop living while you write, and then there are the do's: accept unusual experiences gladly, enjoy your writing, take pleasure in it, and take all the time you need. A book is as long as it needs to be. I can't recommend any courses or any books on writing, except to read good books and annotate one---write in the margins (which is what margins used to be for) exactly the point at which you became aware of certain things, where you met certain notions, and then collect those margin notes and look at the pacing, the divisions into chapters, the hints, the revelations, and over all, do likewise. That's how I taught myself, besides just practice, practice, practice. "There are nine and twenty ways of composing tribal lays [poems] and each and every one of them is right." ...MacAuley. I made one of my rare mall forays yesterday, after the glasses, while we were waiting for the coating to be stripped off one of Jane's older pairs, and bought some really good makeup for the first time in 3 years, and then went out to dinner, had more of the bottle of wine than I ought, watched the Ice Skating Nationals, then hit the sack at 7pm and waked up at 9am. I feel absolutely splendid today, as if the whole world is sparkling---which it isn't: it's overcast and soggy, but that makes no difference. I think getting the book finished and getting the glasses so I can see, and spending a wee bit of self-indulgence cash---and maybe the first good night's sleep I've had in, oh, a month, is quite the thing.

Date: 01/.13/04................................5122. Write a bit, erase a bit, until what's left looks better. Did a little web research on technicals this morning, reminding myself of what I thought I knew about various topics. Days are cloudy but bright, though yesterday a short trip landed us in freezing fog, not my favorite winter weather phenomenon. Though not as bad as driving in a full-fledged ice storm---which nowadays I flat wouldn't do. But back in my stupid youth I did: I went 200 miles in an ice storm, in which I began using fuel like the space shuttle on launch, because my car was increasingly coated in the stuff and getting heavier and heavier---silly me, I never looked at the tires, which could have blown; and I couldn't refill the gas tank once I did find a station, because the lid was under a third of an inch of ice that nothing would penetrate---using a match to solve the problem was not something I was stupid enough to do; and when I finally got to my destination (on fumes) I had to use my feet to batter the driver's side door open because the door was now frozen completely over. Never do anything that stupid. Ever. Nowadays I just won't. Get a room, no matter what. Yesterday it was just a minor nuisance in a very small trip, but reminds us this winter still has teeth...the forecasters are saying we're done with snow, and I'd just read that when we ran into the freezing fog---so much for the forecasts...Anyway, Jane just battled the account reconciliations to a standstill and I get to go in and see if they give me some sort of reasonable numbers for the tax reports. It's fog again today, but a mild and misty-sunny fog, all that melting snow. It's a good time to have good boots.

Date: 01/14/04.................................5122. Did accounts yesterday, and Jane spent the whole day at it: And then more bank statements and papers came in. May we scream? ...Meanwhile I have added a few features to this page, an Archive access link for those of you who don't have Java script enabled, which was one request, and the other---no matter whether Jane or I enter the journals forward or in inverse order, someone writes us wanting the other format, so I hit on a third idea: use the bookmark at the top to get to the current entry. This may take a few days to iron out the bugs, since the things are invisible. But it should at least get you to a point where the day's entry is quicker to reach your screen, if you're in a hurry; otherwise, just mouse through at your leisure. I figured a bookmark would be a good idea, since I am starting this journal not 80,000 words into the process, but right at the beginning of a book, which means that the scroll-down method of finding the day's entry could become quite onorous. From other letter-writers I have had requests that when events happen that regard the previous book, eg, when I turn it in, and when I get information about it, I record that in this journal, too. I shall, so you will indeed get a window into the other process of writing as it happens. Last night, for instance, I told my publisher that I had actually finished the book. I haven't done anything about mailing it yet, because I want to be sure it's finished, but she now knows it exists...and that lets her begin to think about where she wants to put it, regarding her schedule...an important process over which I have no control whatsoever---that's her business... Weatherwise, it's another of our Misty Mountains days: a real thick fog at dawn, less so as the day warms. The creek is melted and flowing free again. But freezing fog yesterday advises us not to get too confident. The foam stuffing can now come out of the window, at least, and give me some fresh air, despite the 32F outside---I like having a window open, even in the winter.... Today is banking day; got to go turn in the tax forms at the bank; and since we've now eaten out two evening in a row and risked our diet, it's time for me to start cooking again, so I'd better be sure I have the necessaries. I hope to get some work done this morning, but the tax deadline is upon us, and I have to see to that first of all, plus find out what some of these forms mean and what I'm supposed to put in the blanks.

Date: 01/15/04....................................5444. Got to the bank, got the estimated tax mailed---today's the deadline, if you've forgotten your own---got all of that done, and called the accountant to straighten out the end-of-calendar-year....All of this, and then.....just to make life wonderful...recall that in our recently archived episode we had mailed two faulty hard drives back to Maxtor, and delayed a test on the 'old' middle-aged drive that sits in the 'new' computer, until Maxtor sends us back two drives we hope this time will be viable? Well, last night, in mid-operation in a file copy, the 'old' middle-aged drive reports 'unable to write to drive', when the drive in question is C. Groans from the gallery, at this point. And in the middle of tax prepartion, too. It hadn't failed totally. We used the housenet to back up the essential financial database, and then it seemed to resume working again, but this does not augur well. The only other drive on that computer is the still-useless SATA drive, which can be written to, but not booted---not until we get XP installed, and our copy of XP still has not arrived. I begin to agree with Jane, that these Very Large Drives are not all they're cracked up to be. Our one absolutely rock-solid drive is an antique 10-gig that's survived being moved dozens of times and still forms the reliable backup for our 'old' computer---for which, if you recall, we got a good 40-gig drive that checked out fine. So I'm about in a mood to go after another 40-gig---except that it's freezing rain out there, and I'm not fond of driving in that---not until the streets melt. So. Meanwhile we are only miles behind, and here this starts again.

Date: 01/16/04.................................6682. Started on the story itself. Moving well. Good start. Writing this would be easier without an 8 pound cat sitting on my arm. But I had been out of the house and out of Ysabel's sight for an hour, and she just has to be sure I have gotten back with no incidents. Had to do a grocery run. We're both on the Atkins diet, both dropped some pounds, and the only drawback is, a) it isn't cheap and b) it requires fresh stuff, more than not. But success is a great encouragement, and finding out you eat only half your restaurant dinner and have to doggy-bag the rest is a bit of an economic savings, too...we not only couldn't manage dessert if one was set in front of us---well, maybe, but we'd be royally sick if we ate it---we can't eat all the free munchies and then call for another bowl, and we can only eat half what's set before us, most times, which means we have dinner for tomorrow night, too. In this case, I'm going to do my favorite Angry Shrimp tonight, which involves...do you want the recipe? A little pasta, 3 tomatoes, frozen medium shrimp, basil, pinch of smoke flavoring, Thai Garlic Hot Sauce, chopped garlic, and olive oil. Cook shrimp in olive oil with scads of garlic, add flavorings except hot sauce, add two TBS of pre-done spaghetti sauce, cook until broth forms, then add three chopped tomatoes (Roma is best) add one TBS of Garlic Hot Sauce (more, if you're a masochist) whisk around the pan and serve over pasta. This ferocious concoction will cure the common cold. And I found some low-carb pasta at the store, so this means this dish is back on the menu again....We still haven't seen to our ailing computer drive: we're still hoping the replacement drives will come in, and spending a hundred dollars for a drive we don't absolutely need hurts---so we're just crossing our fingers and hoping it holds out until the two drives arrive. Been watching the old Robin of Sherwood tapes in the evening---those are special. Mostly we've been working and writing and doing accounts---we still have some figures to crunch---and some accounts to print off, and some forms to fill out, lots of forms to fill out. Last night the weather glass nearly emptied itself into the catch basin---it seems much more sensitive than the well-worn barometer my uncle gave me when I was eight. And whatever the actual numbers were on that front that rolled through, I could about point to every time I'd fallen off a horse (once), off a bike (countless) off a bridge (once) or down the stairs (several): aches and pains I've never had. Jane was complaining likewise. Then they say the thing hit the mountains, rolled back, and is currently camped over us again---but at least the pains have mostly left today---nothing like they were yesterday.

Date: 01/17/04.....................................7240. Going along quite nicely, close to a decision to turn in the manuscript, but not quite there yet. I want to be sure---this isn't because I can't make changes after turn-in, and changes will happen, but if I should make major changes, it become a several-way headache, because I have to print new pages, then trouble my editor to take out the old pages and put in the new ones, which is a hassle---and fraught with dangers. If the excision is not made cleanly, that leaves pages behind, or has the numbers 'off'. If that happens, the typesetters, who set exactly what they're given (except for their own typos) are apt to put in spurious pages, leave out a paragraph, or do other inventive things---if you check the hardbound special edition of 40,000 in Gehenna you will see, on a certain map page, my own typing header preserved, with original page number and the original title. Such things, along with the frantic phone call from England wondering where a certain page was, tend to be branded in memory. Consequently I'm hesitant to turn in anything until I'm relatively sure of the final format. I occasionally run across young writers who don't think they have to spell or paragraph or count their pages correctly, in the touchingly naive belief that the editor's job is to fix such things. No, no, no. This isn't the way the world works. The fewer possible glitching-places you can turn in, the better life will be, and the less likelihood that your book will come out with the chapters in scrambled order. So I wait to be sure.....Meanwhile the weather fronts have settled down, the wretched ache in my shoulder has departed, the weather-glass has subsided, and we're only moderately misty in the distance, down where the creek joins the river. Snow still coats the ground, and more may come down this weekend. For those of you in the extreme south, this is the season when you think you've spotted a wonderful parking place, and race to it, only to discover a snow mound the size of a small truck...The shrimp didn't happen last night, because I found a couple of peppers that had to be cooked or else, but tonight...tonight. And writing is going well. This is always a wonderful thing. Bren and company are always fun to write. I may, this evening, even do a little painting. I used to paint, as in, paint pictures; but nowadays my craft has gone to whimsy. My organizational sense tends to operate best when I have a lot of distinctive little boxes in which to store the little items that clutter my life, and getting boxes at craft stores and painting them in everything from vines to sailing ships satisfies both a practical and a relaxation purpose. I'm not a bad landscape painter. I can do creditable flowers. And if I have all these little boxes, I can remember pretty well what's in them without having to open them to search. They fit on the shelves that form the sound-barrier between my sleep and the kitchen cabinets of the late-roving neighbor next door. I lugged those monster ceiling-high bookcases from Oklahoma City, along with many things I should never have brought, but that wall of bookcases  has proved a good thing. And when your living space is at a premium, organization is good.

Date: 01/18/04......................................8736. A good stretch of writing. Sometimes the scenes just happen and everyone wants to cooperate....It's snowing heavily out there, resurfacing our snow, which had gotten a bit tired. It's getting pretty again. Our streets still have high ridges of snow taking up one lane of 3, and while I was out at the bank the other day...well, one of the things you see hereabouts is lots of Really Big Pickup Trucks, which are fine for people who live or work up amongst the logging roads and need the big tires (although I'd readily challenge them with our little car, until it comes to pushing a plow blade)  or who honestly have serious things to haul, like hay or machinery. The ones that get me riled are the attitudinal citydwellers who have them and can't handle them, don't know where their wheels are, or who think they're Entitled to more space on the road because they have a Big Truck. And worst of all are those who think they can drive right over obstacles that the rest of us respect. So what does this fellow think he can do? Change lanes in mid-block, across the snow ridge?  He attacks it obliquely, gets one tire well into it, and spends the rest of the block trying pull his left front wheel back onto pavement. I enjoy a bit of slip-and-slide driving myself, but not, thank you, on a downtown city street at noon, where six other cars have to make room for this fellow's learning curve. Speaking of which, the roads down there, especially the hill, are starting to look interesting---at that midway condition between too warm for it to stick and just starting to be cold enough. I may delay my trip to the store today until there's a bit of a coating to hold to.

Date: 01/19/04.......................................9729. I hope the slant this scene has taken works. We'll see. Meanwhile, after a day of snow, it's been a day of fog, people stranded at our airport, first time that's ever happened. And after several nights of struggling to breathe and precious little sleep, yesterday I  decided my bonsai had to go into exile. It's a warm weather tree, a little banyan from Madagascar, that I had tended and shaped all summer, but I foolishly left it next to the wnidow when we had the cold snap. Its upper leaves turned dark, its lower ones yellow and drooping overnight. I began to notice that my allergy becme worse whenever I sat near it, and it's normally right next to my working chair. So I exiled it to the closed back room. That brought an immediate improvement in my allergy. Well, this evening, after returning from the store, I started having a ferocious allergy attack, eyes tearing, nose running, the whole business, and I felt worse and worse, until I finally, in desperation, took some outdated allergy medicine that only half blunted the attack and left me feeling completely rotten. Finally I went down the hall and checked that door. Open. By then I'd taken medication that upset my stomach, I couldn't breathe, and I was wretchedly miserable. The  bonsai has to go to the porch, where it will undoubtedly die of the cold, but at least it will have rainwater and a chance.

Date: 01/20/.04.............................9729. Up at 10 AM, because I got maybe three hours sleep last night, trying to breathe. Jane, bless her, got up and grabbed the bonsai out of the back room, scrubbed the pot with vinegar, washed trunk and leaves with the same, and stirred the soil at the roots, in hopes of saving the little tree. She put it again into the back room, and we are going to give it a try. Meanwhile her investigations in the kitchen turned up another problem: this last summer we stored three big water bottles on the top shelf of the cupboard, and one leaked, which flooded that shelf and the two below it., absolutely saturating them, and allowing swelling of the particle board. Now, wood is something I am quite allergic to, and wet wood is worse, but molded wood is desperately bad for both of us. Why mention this now? Well, she just took a look for alternate mold sources and found a problem in there. She, on the other hand, is allergic to Kilz, the white paint product that will seal a waterspot or mold area on a wall or other painted surface and eliminate it. She proposed waiting until just before we take a trip and painting that area. I know us, that just before a trip, the very last thing on our minds is emptying kitchen cabinets and painting shelves. So I volunteered: Kilz doesn't particularly bother me, and if we just wrap up in warm clothing on this at-least-above-34-degree day we can open the windows and balcony door. I haven't been troubled by allergies in a long time. And I don't intend to suffer from them. Kilz it is. I'll devote today to getting that cabinet painted and inoffensive. Because we have active mold on one shelf, we'll hold off painting that one on the bottom, but the Kilz above and directing a fan in there will dry that shelf in fairly short order---granted it's been wet for 5 months. Then we'll seal it completely. One of the nice things about our apartment has been that it's well-painted, and has been allergy-free. We intend to restore that condition, forthwith, and then we should both feel better. If I'm fuming up the apartment with the kitchen painting, I may well attack that dresser that I've been wanting to paint, and not painting because of Jane's allergy to that primer paint, which greatly resembles Kilz. I've got to go put on my painting clothes and get to work. Going to be a long, no writing day.

Date: 01/21/04.................................9729. Well, the theory of painting the cabinet shelves was good, except that they were saturated. It seems it wasn't the old leak: it was a new one, with two 5 gallon containers that emptied themselves on the top shelf and, fortunately, after passing through several shelves, ended up caught in my stowed pots and pans below, which kept it from getting the carpet. But the mold was worse than we'd thought, so we decided the only thing to do was rip out all the pantry shelves and replace them. Not too hard, give or take the cabinet is a pointed sort-of-rectangle with even the sides that look parallel not quite parallel at all. So we jury-rigged some shelves out of predone formica-covered shelving, and they work, if you force them a bit. And then we came to the pointy part, which would have been a snap if we'd had a table saw, but we couldn't beg or borrow one, and we finally decided just to put a retaining edge on the back of each shelf as is, and store tall things in the rear (point) of the pantry. We then restored all the things we'd taken out, threw out what's gotten too old, and have more space than before: I can't quite figure why, since we have about 3 square feet less shelf space. Cleaning seems to do that sort of magic. After struggling with that all day, I went for a haircut and what do you figure, but a waterpipe burst and people who'd been shampooed had to wait for a rinse. They ironed it out with fair speed, and it was no great inconvenience. I feel better, anyway. The air in the apartment is ever so much better. We're beginning to pack up the Christmas ornaments. And I've about decided to turn in the book. I'm hoping to get writing done tomorrow. Oh, dear, I heard a door creak in the hall---and both Jane and I are sitting in the living room. I think that's a cat. I think, to be precise, it's the Black Prince, who's ever so good at getting his paw into doors. I wonder what's in that closet, or whether it's simply the challenge that's intrigued him. Ysabel is suddenly right here by me, trying to look innocent. I'd better investigate.

Date: 01/22/04...........................10324. Modest progress, but we're still in cleanup. My old doctor used to say that there were two kinds of people in the universe: those who have allergies and those who don't believe they exist. Add to that the large number of people who don't have allergies but who think they understand the effects. I'm here to say that the effects are numerous, and we're very lucky Jane went on an allergen hunt, because we both do have allergies, and particularly molds, which are particularly subtle, variable and nasty in manifestation. For the last several months Jane has had a wretched shoulder pain and a backache; I've complained about a shoulder pain, and backache. We've had boxes to carry, and of course blamed our aches on that. We live in wheat country, and decaying wheat stalks produce a mold which could account for my slight eye-watering this last fall, and so on, and so on, plus insomnia, mysterious pains, and occasional days of glum mood. Well, well, well, we get the unfortunate bonsai moved out, we solve the kitchen mold problem, and within a day the aches have gone, the minds are alert, and eye and nose symptoms are going away. I haven't had a cold in years, and I'm hoping not to have one now, in the aftermath of the irritation. The air is fresh and clean again, and our brains are back on line. Mold is particularly bad about giving me a case of the mopes, just generic down mood and lack of energy. And Jane gets short-fused and out of sorts with the same mold in the air. Go figure. I'm going to back up our current efforts with an under-cabinet search to make we don't have any hidden plumbing leaks, just to be double sure. We've always done that periodically, but this place has been so clean prior to this that we've not had to worry about it. Disgusting stuff. Perfectly fine little organisms when making cheese or penicillin or such, but not friendly to human respiratory systems, not at all. That nasty black stuff that grows where  water leaks has been driving human beings nuts for millennia, I'm quite sure, unless perhaps woodsmoke and soot in ancient houses helped keep it in abeyance. Certainly our modern sealed buildings with no smoke-coating, our pristine painted surfaces and particularly all our cabinets made of compacted sawdust and glue just seem to be the perfect growth medium, once water gets out of pipes and onto and into particle board. But we've got it fixed now---got more compacted sawdust shelves, though these are completely coated in formica, and should be a bit more resistant if we're so foolish as to let anything else leak in that pantry....The cat raid last night, by the way, was the Black Prince discovering a spare sack of cat food in the closet. It's not that we don't feed him. It's the thrill of the hunt. The exercise of kitty talents. Like a perfectly painted portrait---a skillful closet heist....The haircut was a success: translation---it looks much the same after the morning shower....And snow is forecast to move in tonight. Feels like it. So since the cold and damp are coming back---it had gotten all the way up to 38 degrees---I guess I'm not going to be able to attack the dresser-painting project. I'll just be glad to get the kitchen back in service.

Date: 01/23/04............................10853. Thinking, thinking, thinking. At least the brain is working again. The air is clean---and cold: it's been snowing most of the day and looks fair to continue snowing through the middle of next week. A local bookstore, Auntie's, wants me to come and autograph---and I'm set for March 2nd in the evening. So anyone who's in the area, I'll see you there. I spent all day long doing things I can't quite identify---oh, we did get the tree bundled back into its box, a two person job. We're both feeling ever so much better. I've still got cleaning to do, but at least I can see what I'm doing....Ysabel is disgusted with the chill in the apartment: she has her series of heat-sources: my bathroom heater, the fireplace---and she becomes a heat-magnet; but it's lovely outside, all done up with white trees and lots of mist. I'm beginning to feel as if I have a little energy for things now, and the book is beginning to find its legs like a newborn something-or-another. I know what pinnings it stands upon, at least, and begin to see how I can get from here to there. As with most days that are somewhat productive there's very little to report but a word count, which isn't that great, but they're important, direction-setting words...and if you ever wonder whether I know where a book is going---oh, I can tell you pretty well what happens in the middle, but I haven't a clue how they get there. Waiting for those brilliant notions to just fall out of a conversation between the characters or a door one of them chooses to open, or not, is occasionally nerve-wracking, because it's precisely at this stage that the rascals can throw me really hard curves. Oh, one will say, I'd never do what you planned. I'm not that stupid. Or another: I'm sorry, I just don't feel motivated to do that. Go back and provide me a reason. Or the rascals all sit in their rooms refusing to come out---hey, you worked us too hard yesterday; I have a headache. And the ultimate, when they all sit in the same room and think their own thoughts and everybody's too smart to make a move that might betray something... The real joys of writing.

Date: 01/24/04..........................10853. The day dawned white---one of those wet snows sticking to every twig and making the pine woods gorgeous. And we determined, after being up here in the nice cold for several years, that it was time we tried some of the local sports. We discussed skiing, Nordic, and otherwise; discussed snowshoeing, and where we could go, locally, which is quite close, but not quite so close as the city's ice rink down in the park, a very short drive away. Now, I have spent maybe 8 hours total in my entire life on ice skates, and Jane hasn't gotten on ice at all, though she's always wanted to. So we went downtown and arranged for lessons tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.

Date: 01/25/04..........................10853. We're still alive and nothing is broken. Actually, we think we had a great deal of fun. We showed up at the rink like two kids on Christmas morning, early, and waited for our instructor. Got the skates---rentals---got them on, and practiced standing up, which I haven't done, mind, in 40 years---thank you, Chris, and Lisa, and all my years-ago students for shoving me out onto the ice those few sessions and proving to me I wouldn't die---and Jane, who loves the sport with a great passion, never had been on the ice even once, having grown up, like me, in a warmer clime where rinks weren't convenient. At our local downtown rink, which is open air, though with a roof, the Zamboni had just resurfaced the ice, and I swear this has to be the only rental place on earth that sharpens the skates. I'd promised Jane the ice wouldn't be too slick---that the ice and skates together would have more the feel of concrete meeting street skates, which was the condition of the ice I'd met before. Not so. It was smooth and slick, a very cold morning after a very cold night, and a newly-polished surface, where even water that tracked outside onto the public area was freezing slick as fast as it got there. I want Jane to write her version of this, and you'll have to nudge her to do it in her journal: I wish she would, because I'd like to know what was going through her head. Say at least that even padding our pockets with spare socks and wallets, it took guts for a person who's absolutely never done this to go out there and do it, with fear of falling and waking up in hospital, but guts, too, because if you really love something, it's doubly hard to settle down to the reality of it and go through the new-born colt stage in front of God and some little kid who zips along like a bandit. We picked a Sunday morning when the ice was mostly vacant, And our instructor, Leslie, is a jewel. We wanted to stay longer than we did---but after a little over half an hour, we were suffering fine-muscle fatigue, one of those haven't-worked-that-set-in-years sort of  fatigues that wouldn't re-steady after a quarter hour of rest. But it was a win.We didn't fall down. Came close a couple of times, and this rink has no rail, being mostly designed for hockey. But we didn't fall, and I actually achieved about 4 seconds of honest-to-God skating, meaning relaxed, balanced, and using both feet---before my legs began to shake and my fine control went. Jane, on her first ever venture, had the guts to cross center ice, and her feet were beginning to work. before she tired out. We were so happy with our venture we decided we wanted to do this, and practice, and we decided, well, we might get our own skates, which turned into an adventure that produced 1) a winter coat, 2) a plant stand and finally 3) ice skates we hadn't planned to buy, in a color (white) we'd rather not have had, but we discovered that mail-ordering skates, our other recourse, was pretty chancy, and if we bought them from the pro shop, they'd adjust the fit for us, which seemed a bonus. Amazing how very different the fit is: we both used the same size rental skate, but I ended up being comfortable and steady with a size larger, in a particular brand, and the brand  that fitted her hurt my feet something awful, and vice versa. The place where we got them is yet another ice rink, one we hope will be a summer retreat, once we get our legs under us. Ice skating when the outside temperature climbs into the 90's would be a pleasure. The evening, sitting down, turned up soreness in really surprissing places, and a stitch in my back that required a heat-patch to unkink. And the new skates we acquired give us other second thoughts---we don't want to look like the person who shows up for the second-ever riding lesson with a 5000 dollar horse and a silver-trimmed saddle. So we may work with the rentals just a little longer, so we at least aren't a traffic hazard to the five-year-olds. Didn't get a bit of writing done, but satisfied two since-childhood ambitions.

Date: 01/26/04..........................10853. Well, we were going to go back to the rink today, but I doublechecked the chiropractic appointment and discovered it was today. Oops. It was somewhat snowing and icy, but we decided, hey, we'd better go. I'd pulled that stitch in my back, my one negative out of the skating,. So off we went, and the doc said no skating today or even tomorrow, after getting crunched into shape. So we decided, hey, a little uninterrupted work is good. Part of the work had better be on taxes, which have to get mailed, on answering a couple of time-critical correspondences---why does my stress level go up when I know I've got some little thing I could handle in two minutes lying on my desk unattended because it's got complications? It's a mental quirk I have, arranging a queue of things that have to be done, and when something comes in that has to violate that orderly queue, it gets postponed, and then I start feeling anxious about it. So I'd better attend to that before it becomes a crisis. And we'd better start tidying the apartment---a few days of visiting stores and unpacking items has presented us a wash of paper, sacks, bits, pieces, packing material, all of which has to be carted back down 3 flights of stairs. We need to get to the storeroom and get the back seat clear of Christmas items. And we need to hear from the Christmas tree people as to what we do now that the light-unit in the trunk has quit working. I think I know what the answer will be...frustration. But Jane, ever the optimist about such things, has written to them. I've got to download a virus protection for the latest nuisance---someone else trying to inflict his personal stress on the whole planet---and see if I can squeeze in some work on the manuscript. It was a wild and windy night, howling wind, and the temperature in the apartment, or at least in my room,reached 40 degrees yesterday evening, about bottom limit for the safety of our house plants, despite having the fire on and a heater going. Still, we're quite comfortable with the snows and the cold. The east coast is having a far rougher time, by what I see on the news. My sympathies to those of you living on the borderland between rain and snow, in particular, or those of you coping with door-high drifts. Ours at least comes down definitely snow, in 2 to 6 inch increments, and is perfectly navigable.

Date: 01/27/04..........................11812. At a certain point after getting a story going, it's time to go back to the beginning and tuck all the loose ends into place---rearranging place and time, making sure references match, all that sort of thing. It's like plotting a ship's course: be careful about the aim at the beginning, because a line extended from a slightly faulty beginning can mean a big error later. If you've tried writing, yourself, and you get stuck, go back to the beginning and make sure it's aimed where you think you're going, and that if you've painted yourself into a corner (forgive the mixed metaphors) you've checked those opening scenes to see if you can't solve certain problems by making reality a little different here. An example is the new writer with immense low spots in, say, the simple quest novel, who never realizes that the problem could be solved by moving the mountain on the map (the underlying assumptions) rather than writing three chapters getting there. Your free writing lesson for the day....Going to get a little work done today and then head downtown to the rink, to see if we can do better than lesson one---this time just a practice session. Jane and I have talked one another into using the new skates, and we're going to get a season pass to the ice, which is only 29.00: you can't get a season pass to anything that's a better bargain, and it supports the city park department keeping the Ice Palace going. We decided better do the thinking in the morning and the exercise in the afternoon, since when I've exercised to the wobbly-knees stage, the mind isn't its sharpest. Jane's going in her new down coat, which is ample padding if she slips---myself, I'm still relying on my wallet in one back pocket and a pair of socks in the other, but at this toddly stage, that coat of hers looks really like a good idea....I got 200 pieces of mail dealt with yesterday, got the really urgent letters off; only have 75 to go, but there's only so much time in the day, and taxes are a by-the-law thing that I can't neglect. If you run a business, you have tax reports that should be done on the first of every month, on the fifteenth of the month following every third month, on the thirtieth of the month following every third month, as well as calendar year end for employees, fiscal year end for the company, and not to mention several smaller reports like the 940, 941 annual in January and W-2s in Februaery, and   of course the Estimateds, which are also on the fifteenth day of every third month.   The computer can't help me remember these things because my computer use doesn't involve a calendar or schedule I regularly resort to, and when I'm in the mood to write a scene, the last thing I want is a cheeky popup jumping into view distracting me and scattering my creative thoughts to the four winds...or rather, into the labyrinth of government forms. So I have everything on a Palm when I remember to consult it (every two weeks), and on a physical calendar on which I write down all these confusing dates. And then you'd better remember accurately which quarter you're in or you get letters from the tax people wanting you to fill out more forms to straighten it all out---I have, for instance, a payment they can't figure out what to do with because I forgot to manually add a special payment (there are some of those, too) into my annual total, so now I've got to file an amended 941 to explain 75.00 from last year and file the 941 for this year. And they do studies wondering why Americans feel stressed. Too many confounded dates to remember...that's what.

Date: 01/28/04...........................12637. A little progress. Still didn't get to the mail. Looked over the tax forms and think I've got enough to send off the two reports on time, namely today or tomorrow, and I'm close to having enough pieces to put my personal taxes together. And we went off to the rink, and tried out the new skates, having persuaded ourselves that it made more sense than continuing to pay for rentals. We seem to be under the curse of the Zamboni---we'd like ice a little less, well, pristine, but whenever we're about to go on the ice, out goes the Zamboni, and we get watered glass to skate on. Add to it that it's an outdoor rink, with temperatures up into the 40's yesterday---a Canadian air mass has been hovering a few miles north of us for two days, complicating our weather, which is incredibly wet air---and we got puddles on the ice. Plus---new skates. I wondered if they came from the manufacturer sharpened. Yes. They do. But rail-clingers though we be, taking practice apart from our instructor, we began to correct some of the small problems. In my case---one-footed skating, and hitting the ice with the toe-pick on the foot I'm using for impulsion. Today, new skates, and ones that don't hurt, I straightened my feet out, got both feet to behave, didn't drop the toe-pick, and found that I can accumulate momentum faster than is convenient for a novice. Posture was better, speed was way up, stability a little better---I do still keep one hand for the side-wall, but I'm not constantly holding to it. Every day a bit more progress. And afterward we made another shopping expedition, this time after a down coat like Jane's, which was a success, motion-wise, and which will definitely help when I do take a fall---it hasn't happened yet, but your likelihood of a fall goes up as you get more independent. Fisherman's knit ski cap for skull protection and a black coat that makes Jane and me look like the old Dutch syndicate. We'd thought to go in the afternoons, but our little rink is pretty crowded then. We're going to make a try at mornings. We did get our season passes.

Date: 01/29/04........................12892. Got the essential tax forms off. Worked in the early morning, then went off to the rink and this time achieved at least some moments of not clinging to the wall. The coat was way too hot, but the day was way warm, too, up into the 40's. It's amazing how readily a couple of times around the rink works up a sweat---but then there aren't many muscles in your body that don't work. More,  your brain has to be making thousands of little decisions a second. It's quite relaxing---in the sense that something exciting at the moment gives you such a mental and physical workout that you feel very comfortable after. The first day I tried it, my legs went to spaghetti after half an hour and couldn't recover. Now I'm good for double that. So something positive has to be happening. But we've got to stop visiting the restaurant on the way to the parking garage. I'm up a pound. Got to get some cooking supplies in and go back to being virtuous....We're sort of caught between a rock and a hard place with the timing of our trip downtown---being such baby skaters, and needing walls constantly by us, we can't be safe on crowded ice, which means going early, which means getting up early to get work done first. This is in one sense good, because I'm chronicly insomniac, and I am sleeping better since Sunday, but it's also a slice of prime writing time, followed by coming home too tired to continue, too tired even to do essential things around the house---like cook and clean. It's my fervent hope that one more week will see us get our legs under us and see us build up our strength, so that we can skate an hour and then come home and have some energy left. I feel guilty taking the time, but then, I write 365 days a year, excepting road trips, birthdays, and Christmas, and I know by experience that taking time off for exercise ends up meaning a faster, not a slower progress. Too much sitting isn't good for the writing either. So we'll see. If we could get something we really passionately like that's good exercise and that doesn't tire us completely out, this could really be a good thing. It's only been four days, and we've gone from creeping out the gate to really almost free flight for about 20 feet or so.

Date: 1/30/04..........................13252. The day dawned windy, to say the least---howling with 45 mph gusts, wind coming through the foam padding I have in the window-crack, and making a sound just like a bird caught in a chimney---to the cats' infinite fascination. I don't know what may have gone on in my moments of absence today, but since the 3 foot tall cactus that stands next to it is still intact and neither the Black Prince nor Her Furry Grace is limping, it probably means they did more looking than leaping....A little work in the morning; and then off to the rink, which was a disappointment. The gale had blown leaves onto the surface of the ice, not just chaff, but really big leaves, and the Zamboni had gotten its blade skewed or dropped a bolt or something: it cut a deep gouge right around the wall. Add to that, the evaporation of the ice in the gale---not melting, but evaporation, which makes a curious texture, and after a couple of rounds of the rink, we reached a mutual decision that the conditions were too bad for a couple of neophytes. I learned that the little leaves are no problem to skate over, but the big limp ones fold up under your blades until they form a wad and then surprise you with a quick stop. This is no way to learn to skate, and the divot the Zamboni took is right in our skating path along the wall. So we gave up and hiked the quarter mile back to our car, did our grocery run, and came home. We're inquiring about the other ice rink for days like this one, and I think I will start carrying its public skating hours in my billfold. We arrived back home considerably chilled, and I recalled I had once upon a time knit two sets of leg warmers---a really good idea. I think I may wear them to skate in: my feet don't get cold, but my shins do. I'm making chili for supper---Senator Goldwater's own blend, sold by the Atkins people, and at first taste, I can say the Senator was fond of chipotle. It's hot, but very good spice combo. A little chili and a lot of cheese topping should make a good Atkins supper for a cold day. I hope the wind will blow itself out. Our gusts on the third floor are probably in excess of the 45 mph they're measuring on the surface. More snow is forecast. We'll see.

Date: 1/31/04..........................13260. A cold, blue day, snow supposed to fall tonight, and looks as if I'm doing the only journal update---Jane started feeling a sore throat last evening which progressed overnight into inner ear problems and general misery. I don't know where she caught it, since we've mostly been open-air in our outings, except at the restaurants---and that's a big 'except'. She's miserable today, dizzy as the proverbial hoot owl, though she valiantly swears she is showing signs of recovery, so she says, weaving dizzily about helping me put away groceries....I didn't go to the rink today, not that I couldn't, but it's far  less fun going alone...The truth is, I didn't much of anything done, either, except another grocery store run---I don't know how two people on a strict diet can eat next to nothing and still always be out of something critical...I did get a little adjustment of Destroyer done, which justifies my holding onto it a little. It's what I said a few days ago, that it's easier to move the mountain on the map than it is to contort a story to adjust to it. Aside from that, I need to sit down at the main computer and do the accounts today, it being end-of-month, but I need to do a lot of things, today, and haven't stirred much about any useful business. I suspect I may have a mild dose of whatever Jane has---I was coughing at the rink, yesterday, as she was. And I'm not feeling too energetic. I did do the hair and get the makeup on---I've resolved, having passed a certain age, that I'm not scanting the care it takes to do that personal chore every day. I find I feel a great deal better when I do. So what's fifteen minutes of work against a day of feeling like warmed over potatoes? But outside of that one act of moral discipline, I haven't pushed myself too hard., and I just don't have that much energy---or wit. We have a skating lesson tomorrow, and Jane's hoping to be on her feet to do it---that inner ear thing doesn't sound encouraging, but hopefully that will improve by tomorrow. One or the other of us has to be there to pay our instructor, for one thing; and if one of us is in too bad case to skate, that one will sit in the penalty box and cheer on the other....Ah. I hear the computer in the other room making 'blup' sounds, which indicates Jane is at least upright and seeing to her email. A sign of returning life. Ciao, and here's hoping we're both in better form tomorrow.

Date: 2/1/04...............................13260. Snowy morning, gray skies, and I waked late, which meant it was a case of dress and rush off to the rink, since we had a lesson scheduled at 11. Jane opted to come along, sick though she was, and having inner ear troubles. I was feeling good---well, until I landed on my head. I was out with the instructor, and I just pushed too hard (my major problem) and took both of us down in a spiral that ended with a nasty, noisy crack on the ice. Didn't tuck my elbows and didn't duck my head, silly me, and the really major mistake was believing I wasn't going to fall when physics had already said it was inevitable. I left the ice for a moment, had half a soft drink, and got back out, after which, with that out of my system, the rest of the lesson went very well. Jane then got her legs under her and took a quarter hour lesson, in which she did better than I did---she at least didn't knock the instructor over. I want to get right back out there to reinforce the things I learned today, but I also know a second crack on the head wouldn't be good. So I think I'll take a wee shopping diversion and get a really thick hat---little good the new hat did me: the hat flew off when I went down. So I've got to find something better---a helmet would be, yes, obvious, but I'd rather something a little less obvious. I'd rather not have another crack like that to the skull, either. It did, however, get the stiffness out of my neck. And having done that to myself, I took to my bed with an ice pack on my skull, Jane took to her bed to nurse her flu---which it turns out our instructor was coming down with at our last lesson, so it's likely the source of the bug. But we're both feeling better this evening, and I've had enough Advil to keep my head together. Tomorrow morning I get a little work done before we go out. We did find out that one of the rinks indeed does have ice all summer, so I know what we'll be doing on sultry summer afternoons, instead of cursing the inadequate air conditioning. And the exercise is good: I feel amazingly well, under the circumstances, and am only anxious to get back out there. I actually skated free in center ice today for, oh, maybe ten feet. And I can turn fairly handily. And I now know what the proper skating stroke feels like when I do it correctly. So not a bad day at all, if only I'd gotten more work done.

Date: 2/2/04..................................13552. Groundhog Day....a couple of the little critters live just down the earthen bank below our balcony, and we're sure they saw their shadows: it was a clear morning. Jane seems to have mostly recovered from her bout with the flu---we had the shots, so even if we got it---and I think I might have had a little touch of it myself---we had a light case. And I know I can't blame my headache on the flu. We did a little work, a little scene-setting, in my case, which is kind of slow doing, but major in importance, setting up the whole book, this way. Then we took off to the rink, but stopped on the way to get a helmet---a lovely little mustard yellow number that wasn't my design choice, but the way my head feels today, I really don't want to take another crack on my skull...not too bad at a walk, but getting up or down or running---I found that out ducking across an intersection downtown---just really sets my headache off. Skating, however, was no problem, and I was careful, having no desire to test the helmet, not after the headache I got just jogging across the street. It was really cold, the Zamboni had, of course, just run, and the ice was superhard, superfast, and very, very slick. One thing we are gaining from this outdoor rink is an appreciation for all the various conditions ice can take...everything is fodder for a writer: all data goes into the memory bank. It was almost impossibly slick and hard surfaced for us neophytes, but between us we chewed up a back and forth track near the penalty box and got a good skating surface---when I can't get traction I unhappily have a tendency to lean forward, which brings the toe-picks into play, and scratches up the ice in amazingly short order. But it actually improved that surface for us. And I did notice, to my satisfaction, that I wasn't the only one with a helmet, though I was prepared to be. In fact we talked to a helmeted couple who also recommended wrist-guards, and Jane agreed she had no desire to have a headache like mine, so after practice, off we went to the sporting goods store where she got a really jazzy white helmet (she swears she's going to paint it, and I swear I'm going to put plastic daisies on my nasty yellow one) and we both got half-pipe wrist protectors, too, because, dear readers, a broken wrist could be a real delay in our respective novels, not to mention the pain and inconvenience and general nuisance. Strong bones don't save you if you hit at the wrong angle.We figure to wear the protective gear while we're learning, and then when we can do without it, fine, and then when we start learning something new, like the quadruple Lutz, back come the helmets and wrist-protection until we master the item. Based on my recent experience, I recommend the helmet to anyone in our phase of learning on the ice or the snow: the snowboarders have some items that are very useful for skaters or snow-sports novices. Meanwhile we've got to take some time off from having fun and get this place cleaned up, and I've got to do the accounts.

Date: 2/03/04..............................13552. Cold and grey day, and neither of us worth much. We decided since today was the third since the infamous fall, I was probably going to be sore all over, and it was forecast to be colder than yesterday, which meant the ice was going to be wretchedly hard and fast, so we decided it would be a good day to stay home and get some necessities taken care of, pay the rent, that sort of thing, not to mention cleaning up the apartment. Well, I've lived on Advil and Bengay, and managed to forestall the muscle soreness---the knot on my head, which was about palm-sized, is now down to about the area of a quarter, and the muscle soreness has largely abated, thanks to lots of treatment---but---Jane's flu has hit hard, she's dizzy, and I'm not feeling too spiff either. I  made one trip after file folders, got some essential filing done, got the rent paid, and after that I developed a headache which could be the fact I'm tapering off the painkiller, or it could be the flu. I'm not at my sparkling best, that's for sure. I don't usually have headaches, and I don't like them when I do. I think I'll go take more Advil. I don't work well when I'm laden with painkiller and antihistimines, and anything I do at this critical stage of the book needs to be focused and intelligent, which I'm not. See my note on errors at the start of plotting a course. So I'm  not about to touch work I care about.

Date: 2/04/04................................14023. Snowy morning.. I found out what's been nagging my subconscious about the book---and this means I've got to slice into Chapter One and make some adjustments, but it will work much better. I have my work cut out for me. Jane came walking in asking if we should go skating, looked outside, and observed that it was snowing sideways. It was. But a little wait produced better weather, meaning it was snowing mostly downwards, and we went off to the rink in much better health than before. Jane's still got the cough and fatigue---this must be a variant of the flu that I once had, because I've had a little cough and a low day or two, but nothing to Jane's reaction to the bug. Still, we were well enough to go down to the park and get kitted up---armored up, as it is now. Mustard yellow helmet, long black padded coat, black mittens and the half-pipe wristguards. Well, safety before fashion. Onto the ice, and this time, after a slow start, I was able to circle the rink without laying a hand on the wall but once. That's way better. But Jane made the greatest breakthrough: she got her boots set right, got her balance, and went flying along in perfect balance, again without a hand on the wall. Applause. We lasted a whole hour until I called a halt---I had the beginnings of a nasty charley-horse above the left knee, and a small rest didn't help it. So off we go home to recover. Bengay is my friend. Ysabel hates it---she's ordinarily on my lap in the evenings, but she took to the bathroom, by the heater, and probably won't speak to me until I wash the Bengay off. The light snow/rain that's been falling all day gave way to a foggy thick snow, which has whitened all the trees and sent us out several times with the lambswool duster to get the sat-dish clear of snow.

Date: 02/05/04.............................15022. As far as we can see, the pines, firs, and birch across the hills are frosted and outlined with snow. The forecast was for sunny skies but this didn't happen: it remains around 32 degrees F this afternoon, and the whole landscape is wonderful. Our outdoor climb to and from the apartment involves stairs winding beside a beautiful blue spruce, which is now snow-coated. We love this tree in all seasons, but this huge fellow is at his best in winter...The insertion into chapter one is just right; it's working well. I like what I'm doing. I finished the day's work and we took out for the rink, which at some points we had to ourselves. I'll have to let Jane relate her recent experience when the rascal gets her update uploaded, but suffice it to say, we're really happy with our venture in the last two days. The wall is diminishing in importance, and other people on the ice don't make us nervous as before, so the time of day we go is not quite as critical as before. The charley-horse worked out of my leg, and I skated, I'm pretty sure, about as long today as yesterday with no complaints, except ripping the nail off one finger---time to cut those fingernails. The boards will get you bigtime. I do quit when I'm getting tired, and the finger was sort of the indication I should stop. The right leg has the basic stroke down to where I don't leave a scar on the ice: the left still takes some work, and leaves this unlovely little toe-pick scar wherever I pass.. Not an uncommon problem, as I understand, but I'm going to ask the chiropractor to see if there's a motion problem with that left leg---it's the same ankle I sprained when I diverted my attention to the field at Safeco Stadium---the Mariners had just done something clever on the field as I was coming down the steps from the concession stand, I caught a plastic sack hand-loop on the center rail, fought for balance, caught my left foot, and went down the steps backwards, severely bruising several ribs---quite a trick, but not one to imitate. My left ankle suffered a sprain, and I note that my skates don't lace as closely on that side, by about half an inch, which seems to indicate that ankle is now larger, although it has no pain or stability problem. Curious, at least, but the laces are coming closer the more I skate, so maybe the exercise is helping, and the boot is settling.We had lunch downtown---a certain restaurant downtown in the mall where we park does a good calamari Caesar. We got home just in time to get two deliveries, so our timing today has been impeccable. We made contact with Midsouthcon, which will be the first leg of our spring caravan. We're going to be there, Michael Sheard is going to be there (the Admiral in Star Wars), who is an absolute madman and darling, Selina Rosen will be there, and it looks very much as if Lynn Abbey is going to drive up to meet us. The mix should be funny and fun. In the meanwhile, we have to get our passports, get the cats their shots (only once every two years is required in Washington, but we'll cross states where they're required every year, particularly in the South, and I don't want to create an issue, should there be a problem). And we have to get the tax reports off. The long-awaited Maxtor drives have arrived, but somehow we're having too much fun at the moment to start in with that: right now we have essential computers working well, and we're not rocking the technological boat until we get through the the annual spring madness.

Date: 02/06/04..........................15022. A beautiful cold day. I decided to get the tax package ready, which meant, this year, installing TurboTax and attempting to work with it. Well, a very mixed success---unintelligible general questions and the help doesn't help, and it's supposed to be for business, but it isn't: it only works for a personal schedule C, not the corporate forms, and it doesn't handle the IRAs in any way I can figure out. I'm vastly annoyed. But I thought it might help my accountant if I went ahead and filled out as much as I understood, and I did, at great labor, trying to find all those pesky papers and statements. I just prepared it to print, not, emphatically not, to send out electronically, because it's a mess, and the stupid program thinks I own our whole massive apartment complex and wants me to depriciate it, can you believe?---but no. Out Of Paper appears. True. I fill the printer with paper. I run it again. This time the printer breaks, completely breaks, with a horrid machine-gun sound from the cartridge-carriage when it tries to operate. I think I jinxed it yesterday by even mentioning the Maxtor drives. At any rate, now I can't even turn in the monthly tax check without buying a new printer. And I'm handing the whole tax mess over to my accountant, where it belongs. It's the confounded IRAs that I can't figure---well, that and the quirk that convinced the program I own the apartment complex. Quel pain! Even the trip to the rink was a near-bust: we were really ready to skate, but we'd only warmed up when a busload of otters arrived. Not butterflies---the little kids who can keep their feet and flit around in the right direction, but otters, whose sponsors had not read them the rules about direction, and who mostly lay about on the ice, falling down every other step, when they weren't going directly across the middle of the rink, through the careening hockey-player practice. They were sweet, but they were everywhere, and most everyone who had been there left, except the hockey-lads, who had thus far not run into any of them. We had lunch downtown and went home, and collapsed. It started to snow fairly heavily. I don't think it was supposed to, but it did. Also I received a reader-request for a discussion of  How do writers get paid?  I suddenly recall I've done a couple of articles on writing for The Panel Room, and you'll find it there: I've added that bit on finance to the appropriate discussion, The Writing Life. If you want to get back here, you'll have to use the 'back' function on your browser.

Date: 02/07/04........................15532. It looks like a picture postcard out there, just gorgeous trees up and down the hills and the streets. I never get tired of this view---I love other seasons, but I'm always anxious for winter, especially one that's properly snowy and where slush is a minor factor. Jane reported she'd applied broghan mechanics to the printer---i.e., she'd forced the carriage---and it worked. Who knows? It can't be worse than merely broken, and sometimes if there are plastic gears involved that have just skipped too far over, you can indeed force them, because the same stretch factor that let it slip out can let it slip back in. Whatever happened, it seems to be operational  again, which is dollars in our pockets. So I'll get to print out my tax work and the checks I need. We decided in spite of the fact it's Saturday at the rink---read, lots of small folk going all over the place---that we'd get one more good practice in before our lesson tomorrow, so off we would have gone, except that Jane wanted me to look at a file and shoved a pendrive into my notebook USB. Well, well, it seems since the reformat and reinstall of WinME, my faithful laptop doesn't recognize the pendrive. Rats! I looked for updates that might solve it. My next move is going to be to kick it out of the Hardware Profile and let it refind it. Never a dull moment. If this fails, I'm going to call Dell and get THEM to find the pendrive, which worked just fine until I followed their advice to reinstall Windows....So....having delayed with that problem, we arrived late at the rink, when we'd hoped to be among the first, practice, and go. We kitted up anyway, got out there, and warmed up. Yours truly didn't hear the "clear the ice" call, which was embarrassing, especially since I was fairly far around and had to make my way very slowly to a gate---sigh---but I hadn't heard because I was beginning to make a breakthrough. I've had all sorts of left foot problems, and had just adjusted the lacings just one more time, after which things were starting to work. So we stayed through the Zamboni, went back out in a tide of small skaters, and I actually managed to get away from the wall and skate. Jane and I had a fierce argument over which is the key to proper balance---getting your toe up or your heel down (I'm the heels down proponent) and technically she's right, muscle-wise: the front of your leg has to contract. But I walk on my toes, run on my toes, and have been skating on my toes...preferentially. When I began thinking about getting the left heel down in firm contact with the ice, the toe-pick behaved. Wondrous! I also found what I thought was true: the ice slants, quite a bit: there are two spots that you have to climb or watch out for if you're going the other way, because you can really sail along. I haven't learned to stop yet without using a hand on the wall. I can turn. I can even spin around, like a newborn giraffe, but stopping in mid-ice is something I think we need to cover tomorrow.

Date: 02/08/04..........................15532. Still the picture-postcard snow, at this present moment with blue sky and a glorious red, purple, and orange sunset. Jane and I just had a discussion about the work we're not getting done---but our assessment is that we haven't done any strenuous physical exercise, we're coming out drenched in sweat and totally physically exhausted, and we tend to come home and collapse, but the collapse, at first profound, is getting shorter and lighter---endurance is picking up, and this means that in not many more days we will be taking it in stride and being able to come home and do a normal day's work. What the exercise is good for is mental acuity and physical stamina, and I think in the long run we are going to get more writing done than if we continued our couch-potato existence. So we are going at this with wild enthusiasm and a determination to make it part of our routine---mind, it's only been two weeks, and from first wobbly steps, one fall each and one pre-helmet crack on the head (mine), we are now free of the wall and skating. We had our lesson, and we learned to use the edge to stop without touching anything (if not going too fast), to turn (which is far too attractive a sensation), to weave around obstacles (fun), and to skate backwards, if very slowly. And between-times, I was able to get out away from the wall and kite around at a fair rate of speed---including the attempt to stop that became a turn, that headed me for center rink in front of a batch of much faster skaters. I was able calmly to continue my turn and get back to the slower lane where I am much safer. But I didn't fall, didn't lose control, and solved my own problem, which, last week, would have landed me flat on the ice. And now we can stop, turn and go backwards---hurrah! That's a lot of ground for one lesson, but we practice all week, and hope to be turning and weaving and dodging with increased speed and steadiness soon. We also learned we can join the local figure skating club and get summer ice time. We're delighted. Nothing like ice skating when the outside temperature tests the 100's F. This is so enjoyable! And I just dropped two inches of belt size---another item which is going to improve our general health and attitude. Watch out, world! We're going to be energized and at least svelter.

Date: 02/09/04................................16033. A drive to the chiropractor, and a few things straightened out. Frosted trees, white, rolling hills, and clear roads. Can't beat that. And outside of that, not too much done, except some work on a play we promised for Midsouthcon. I think we have a good handle on it. I committed a really stupid mistake last night. I love the sound of running water---have always had fishtanks in every prior house, but since the last 1000+ gallon moneypit we constructed (salt, fresh, a 360 gallon sunken fountain and a foot-wide ten foot long indoor flowerbed converted to tanks, not to mention two reef tanks, several fresh, and the usual side-tanks you end up setting up because some confounded fish needs special space...we swore up and down that we were not even walking through the fish sections of pet shops, or buying the dreaded betta, the sole single fishbowl that will inevitablly lead you to fish stores and more tanks. We held firm on that, but I got a fountain, a little table fountain. Now, I should have known: the last time I had anything to do with fountains, they began to produce mold. And ultimately this one did. So I began to realize it was a mold-factory, and decided to run it with vinegar to clean it. This worked, for about one day, and the minute fresh water went in and the PH went down, up went the mold count. So I decided to try the aquarist's fallback, chlorine bleach, forgetting that we no longer have a big stock of chlorine-negator chemical that we used to maintain, to cancel the chlorine and restore the water to pristine condition---as well as take it off your skin. So I blithely used my bare hands---and had no way to just wash it off. The stuff played hob with my sinuses, my throat, and my night's sleep, struggling to breathe. I knew it hadn't gotten to my lungs---I wasn't that stupid---but it was a night of  no sleep, until I recalled a product I'd bought for Jane during her bout with the flu, a saline-gel concoction called Ayr. This stuff is good. I can't use ordinary saline---the preservative does me no favors. But I can use this, and it enabled a few hours sleep. I'm not doing that again, and I don't think the fountain is worth another such experience. So when we got home, I crashed, and was worthless: we had the mandatory Cougar Burger, from the best little hamburger stand in Washington, and that did it for permitted carbohydrates, so we noshed on low-carb bars for supper.

Date: 02/10/04............................16136. Slow progress, but the front end of a book is like that: lots of thinking. A few solid words gained. Mostly it's important to maintain contact with the book, to open it up, reread the section in question, and to be sure that the stepping-stones laid down are leading the right direction---but not making the conclusion obvious, either. And when you're on the middle book of a set, you have the added problem of getting in enough reminders of what's already happened to jog the memory of a reader without totally giving away the first book in the first set of sentences so that the reader who mistakenly picked up book two at least has a chance to go back and get (and enjoy) book one. There's something to be said for an antisocial hero like Conan, who turns up solo and exits solo---a lot less worrying about who's where. Bren, on the other hand, is a social fellow, with a staff, and getting him organized and making sure he's got what he needs requires a little explanation. At times I wish I had a staff to keep up with him and his...On the skating front---we thought we'd met just about every sort of ice there is in three weeks: I'm beginning to appreciate the variations of this element: yesterday, at 30 dgrees, the air was so saturated with water that many surfaces, the rails and boards, etc., were absolutely sopping wet. I think there must have been condensation going on continually on the ice, because it was very, very slick: far better skaters than I am were complaining that they were continually leaning forward. The good news is that I was able to keep well away from the wall. I couldn't be as reckless as I'd have liked, because the surface was that slick and hard, and Jane was saying her ears (she still has traces of the flu) weren't helping. I think we just chalk it up as one more strange ice condition, part of this skating-outdoors thing. And the pigeons in the rafters above the open-air rink are starting to bill and coo with great energy: and pretty soon they're going to be gathering (and dropping) nesting materials. The outdoor rink closes in early March, and becomes property of the pigeons, at which point we shift our presence over to another rink. Spokane has two figure-skating clubs and three rinks, which is really a wonderful abundance of venues for a city this size, particularly the downtown public rink: a real plus. It really outdoes Seattle in availability. Much as I love the sea, the winter sports in this town, with skiing , including crosscountry, on four or five nearby mountains, skating at multiple rinks, snowshoeing, and all of that, do mean that if you love to get out in the winter, this is a wonderful city to be in.

Date: 02/11/04.......................17115. A busy day. Got a little work done. A little thinking. But Jane's still not over what she had. We got down to the rink., but Jane just couldn't get her feet under her---didn't fall, but her inner ears were not performing well. She hadn't taken her decongestant, and it wasn't a good thing. So we decided before someone fell and undid several days of work, we'd better go. Had lunch downtown and came home to clean up and get some last moment things done before a trip this Friday.

Date: 2/12/04...........................17115. A brilliant sunny day and everything cold and perfect to go skating, but both of us thought since a) we had a ferocious lot of housekeeping to do and b) the rink was scheduled to be full of group/party skaters, it might be less frustrating to stay home. So I did the banking while Jane wrote an article she’s promised to do. And I got the car washed...which took far longer than expected. A Ford Explorer was at the very exit, when the attendant slammed the door with the keys inside and the security system engaged. Now, a Ford Explorer in your automated exit is rather like having an elephant in your kitchen doorway—nobody can move until it does, and about ten other vehicles are stuck in queue and in process somewhere in the building, so we just have to sit and wait until a swarm of people, perhaps including a locksmith, assist the owner to reclaim said vehicle. But I got all the tax deposits made, just as the IRS informs me it’s missing yet another quarterly 941corporate return for last year, which I did turn in, just like the last one that turned up missing. So I have to refile it. You make a little progress and someone unravels it. I got some mail answered, located some missing receipts, and am getting accounts in order.

Date: 2/13/04........................17115. Took out for Seattle, cats and all, and Ysabel decided to serenade us for at least eighty miles...not at all like her. It may have been the snow all over everything. I don't think we ever have started out a trip in the snow, although she's seen enough during our travels. We hit one patch of freezing fog, but fortunately I-90 is so heavily traveled it stays a little warmer, and the road was all right under us. The fog produced a beautiful hoarfrost, nothing to weigh down the trees, just to turn them a beautiful flocked white against the gray sky. The Cascades were beautiful, no white on the trees there, either of frost or snow, except on the very highest peaks. We could't see Mt. Ranier as we came over the ridge at Ryegrass. It often hides on misty days, and this mostly was such a day. We arrived at Jane's brother's place, and Jane set to work fixing her youngest brother's malfunctioning computer...which, it turned out, was completely choked with files, so it wasn't as huge a hardware repair as she'd feared, but I often hear mutterings and the name AOL involved. It's a little old computer with only a 5 gig disk, and it seems to have been the victim of online gaming.

Date 2/14/04......................17115. A rainy day, but turning bluer as the day progresses. Jane's still trying to get the printer to run. Its drivers seem to come from the paleozoic, and the way this little computer is set up, it really really wants to go online and find AOL. Where Jane would like to find AOL we aren't saying. Jane hasn't done a thing except that computer, except for one foray out to breakfast at the crack of dawn. Happy Valentine's Day to us; we have designs on dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, which should be unusual, at least, if we can get in. If not, it's back to one of the diners. I'm mostly sitting about doing video games today---there's not room at that kitchen counter for one more kibitzer. I don't know why I get the idea I can do family visits and get some work done. It just doesn't happen. On the other hand, I'm doing some thinking, and planning, so it will actually translate into having done work when I get a chair I can work in. This one I'm using is better for relaxing than thinking. Tomorrow the weather in Spokane is going to start turning to snow around sunset, so we need to get out on the road at the earliest, to be through Snowqualmie Pass at noon and past Ritzville before the weather turns nasty. Ritzville is a very nice little town where we love to stop for a travel break, but it sits on the edge of the coulees:the area of scablands where the great Missoula Flood ripped through and created a deep low spot, which means cold air leaks down from the north about there in winter and can create unique local conditions, many involving freezing fog. You do not treat the stretch of I-90 between Ritzville and Spokane with any disrespect when there's cold air and water involved. So we'll be giving that stretch plenty of time and plenty of care, if it starts fogging up. Not impossible we'll stop and take a room rather than push it, if it turns that way. We tend to do that, because the fog always lifts, the snow always melts, usually by the following noon, and we lose very little time that way, nothing compared to being stuck, towed, or repaired.

Date: 02/15/04....................17115. A diet bar for breakfast and we pack up the now-repaired computer for Jane's youngest brother and we pack up ourselves and our cats for a trip back. Rainy day in Seattle---actually much rarer than the city's reputation. We were glad of the rain. But we wanted to get out early enough to time our trip through Ritzville to daylight hours. We drove through pine and crag mountains wreathed in streamers of fog and cloud, and at Snowqualmie summit we ran into snow, but nothing was sticking yet. We got down onto the eastern slope and it was all broken cloud from then on, across the deep gorge of the Columbia and on east. At Ritzville it was dry pavement, and we stopped for a salad, but there was a dark cloud in the east, and sure enough, by the time we got to Spokane, around sunset, the sky was overcast and threateningg. We watched the European Skating Championships over diet bars and unpacked. But immediately my fierce allergic reation started up again, which argues that while I'd eliminated one source of my problem in my room, I hadn't gotten all of it. About three in the morning, in the midst of a severe hay fever attack, I got up and started removing potential allergy sources---my much prized terrarium, which I had refused to think could be guilty: and then (insert chain sneezing) my ivy plant, which proved to have a white mold near its roots. I was thrilled---truly: it meant I'd found it, and it wasn't my bird's-nest fern, which is huge, my pride and joy, and I'd go into mourning if I had to pitch that. The ivy can go, no question. As for the cactus, now a yard tall, it was next on my removal list, but it's innocent, too, and the wretched thing lives on. It started out two inches high; it's grown badly and warped, and I repotted it, burying eight inches of its height: it was only happier, and grew. And grew. And I never can bring myself to do in a plant that's thriving, even if it grabs my sleeve every time I reach for the curtain pull. I would rather have ejected it and kept the ivy, but that's not the way things are. It misted snow all night and is foggy this morning. But I'm feeling ever so much better now that I've gotten that problem out to the living room. Now I'll have to nerve myself to put a perfectly good ivy out into the frozen air---or hope that vinegar can kill that mold. I may be able to move the terrarium back in, but right now, being able to breathe, I'm not taking chances.

Date: 2/16/04.........................17227. Presidents' Day holiday, but Jane's hard at work on her article, and I'm on the downside of a severe allergy attack, which usually means being completely wiped out---catching up on the sleep I didn't get while I was struggling to breathe. I detest molds. And this one was nasty: even Ysabel's eyes were running. It is now, however, out of my living space. I didn't get much done at all, except sorting tax papers into proper quarters, preliminaary in getting them sent off to the accountant. Got a little contact with the manuscript---a matter of discipline, if nothing else. I didn't mention in the Seattle segment that we did get to the Rainforest Cafe, which was a fun evening for Valentine's. It's rife with fake trees, robot snakes and elephants, and beautiful huge fish tanks, every surface covered with herbage or animals or animal-related things for sale: the outer rim is a shop like a zoo shop. The waiting list was an hour and a half that evening,  but bars don't have waiting lists. So we found an empty table in the bar, sat right down, and had a really very nice supper, counting it's one of those 'show' places. As for Presidents' Day, it was a stay-at-home day. I wanted to go skating, despite the likelihood of crowds: while I'm learning something, I don't want to let up, for fear of 'forgetting' the body-sense. But Jane said she was making real progress with her article and wanted not to interrupt it, so we stayed home, and I didn't get much done at all. Didn't even have the energy to pick up the suitcases. It's rained all day: I prefer snow to rain, and I fear that a week of 40 degrees will not do good things for our outdoor ice: about time to seek membership over at the other rink.

Date: 02/17/04....................17351. Something strange has happened to our server. Can’t get this update to uplink, so I’m saving it until we figure things out. I pulled the modem card out for the Seattle trip...it juts out sideward and I was afraid it might be damaged. But I don’t think that’s the reason. The housenet seems solid...This has been, over all, a strange day. Worked a bit this morning, salving my conscience for being a complete turnip yesterday, then took out to the rink, which was crowded with a school group—it’s one of the penalties for our wonderful downtown rink, which is that schools from all over use it for a field trip, and if you’ve never seen thirty fifth-graders of all abilities turned loose on freshly Zamboni’d ice, you haven’t seen chaos. We skated, however, amid the otters-on-ice. Jane’s been having balance problems, and is fighting them by working close to the penalty-box rail; I’m having lacing problems—four or five re-laces during the hour. The least little change in tension makes a big difference in control of the blade. Then afterward, we decided to go out to the other rink, since this rink will close in March, and we tried to get information there. Nobody there knew a thing, about the club or the public skating, except one woman who advised us that the lodge that owns the rink could really lower our per-session costs, and that lodge membership wasn’t that expensive. Well, so we ended up going next door joining the lodge, which has a very nice adjacent lodge hall, with all sorts of amenities, and is a very common-sense, civic-project oriented organization, so I have no trouble supporting them and their causes. I was astonished at how little the dues were and how much they offer---not to mention the dart tournaments. That took a while. But we now have information and a membership, when we're voted in, as we're assured will happen. The people there were extremely nice, and it may be fun on its own.

Date: 02/18/04....................17553. Slow progress, and the server still isn’t answering it. I’ve pinged the server and have no problem in that regard. I’ve looked for patches for my newly reloaded WindowsME, I’ve looked for upgrades, I’ve deleted my modem out of the system and refound it. I just can’t figuree what’s going on. Sometimes I can get to the internet, but I can’t FTP. Back to the rink, another battle with the school kids and the laces, and the pigeons in the rafters, who drop, well, signatures onto the ice. I’ve discovered a new sport—pigeon slalom. You try to miss the problems. Jane’s still battling balance, but says she’s beginning to get it back...and meanwhile I’d seen something, during our foray over to the lodge, at the Fred Myers store opposite the lodge, that I’d been thinking about all day. I’ve been looking for some additional drawer space: much of my furniture that I brought with me in the move isn’t optimal for apartment living, but I'm also fussy about color and style: I've reached that time in my life when I want my furniture to match.. I need organization and drawers, and this store had a wonderful small dresser-like thing with substantial wood-bottomed wicker drawers that have real glides---and they had it on sale and cheap. I wanted one. Well, two. Together they make a really excellent storage. And while we were getting that purchase arranged (I wanted two of the honey color, not the white, not the walnut, if you please, and, no, not mix and match, either, a request which was driving the warehouse crazy---I got the feeling the poor chap was going up and down the ladder for every query) Jane found a chair that just fits her room—well, that would fit, with a complete furniture shift. So home we go in our faithful Subaru with two small dressers and a rocking chair. The chair came assembled; not so, the chests, which turned out to be a bear of a job. Unclear instructions, pilot holes in excess of what was needed, badly angled in one instance, screws that don't correspond to the instruction manual, and pilot holes so small it took soaping the screws and using a power driver (thank you, Black & Decker) to avoid cracking the wood or ruining our hands---which for writers, I assure you, is serious. A bad angle on a pilot hole did give us one small crack, which we backed out of, redrilled straight, dropped Elmer’s glue into, and reseated the screw, so I'm sure the chest is as secure as can be. I’ve also never seen a piece of really nicely-finished furniture with two splices on a two foot board and a couple of knothole faults in one top and perfectly gorgeous ripple-grained wood in the other.  I really pity a novice furniture-assembler who buys one of these units. We’re expert and have a good power drill---a thing I recommend for anybody setting up housekeeping as the most essential thing in the universe. Don’t try this with the screwdriver they recommend...But it looks very good. I was so excited I began cleaning up and assigning drawers. Jane began shoving furniture about in her room. I can still hear bangs and thumps from in there.

Date: 02/19/04...................17553. Still no server. We got up and decided to move our health and first aid collection from the wet-bar  into two drawers of the new dresser, which stands  right in the entryway of my room, and that meant taking down the flimsy rescued-from-the-curb shelves we’d used in the bar closet to support coffee, tea, and vitamin pills, and that simple move turned into a heck of a project, a great deal of pitching old bottles, etc. But oh, it looks better. We put in our practice at the rink full of school trips, and I did fine, except I must have hit one of the pigeon-offerings on the ice. During my just-one-more lap of the rink I got back on my heel and then forward and went down, which proves the helmet and wristguards work: the only bruise was to my ego, give or take a general need for Advil.  Rule one: if you’re going to fall on the ice, be wearing your helmet and collapse sideways. Those half-pipe wristguards to afford a skidding landing are also helpful. But I was tired and cold when I got home. I absolutely collapsed, while Jane continued moving furniture and putting up shelves in her room.

Date: 02/20/04............17711. And again, no server. The rink had not one, but two school field trips, which was just a zoo, all grade-schoolers. We gave up early and hiked three blocks up to the gym and cancelled our membership there, figuring f we’re going to be skating year-round, we decided the gym was superfluous. We also discovered in the newspaper rack outside the gym the news that Spokane was contending with Boston to host the 2007 US National Figure Skating event, the results to be announced that afternoon. Well, when we got home, I made another try at the internet, and was able to get up long enough to read the news that Spokane had won. We’re very excited, and absolutely are going to get tickets, the first day they’re available. And in the late evening, after battling the server all day, I finally called our server-provider on the phone and asked what’s going on. Turns out they made a big technical speed change on the 17th, surprise, surprise. That’s going to take some fixing, but now I think we know what our problem is, and it should heal itself if we just shut down the housenet and come up again...seems they didn’t think they needed to tell us about this because most people shut down and come up daily. At least that should be solved soon—but not easy, because the shutoff is likely to cause a reset of our long-running housenet, which is a pain, and even reaching the shutoff switch requires a ladder and some rearrangement. Computer armoires are wonderful until something goes wrong that requires access to cables. Tomorrow, tomorrow.

Date: 02/21/04...............17888. A little work, and off to the rink on a Saturday, which was an absolute madhouse. The morning headlines involved Spokane's winning the Nationals bidding, and I think it must have prompted every kid in Spokane to beg their parents to go to the rink. One fellow, an absolutely wonderful figure skater, said he'd driven clear over from Seattle to enjoy the outdoor ice. And then the news cameras showed up. I do hope they didn't catch me catching my skate in the trench at the gate and taking a sideways sprawl. It was entirely stupid---but the zoo on the ice was so distracting I wasn't even thinking about my feet. Bam! Flat on the same side. This is a two heat-patch day. Not to mention that I caught my foot in the pigeon-stuff again and had to scramble for safety against the boards. On a less crowded day you have the chance to choose your path; today you just skated where there was space to squeeze in edgewise. But I withstood being shoved, run into, and darted-at, and Jane withstood someone catching the tail of her skate, without falling, so we figure this is good training: if you can keep your feet while being run into, you're beginning to get the hang of it. We came home and Jane attacked the internet connection problem, and by the fact you're reading this, she did it---got the net running inside an hour, despite my really bad handwriting on all the passwords we needed. So the journal continues. If you see it fall silent for a time, don't despair, just keep checking: it's likely more tinkering on the net.

Date: 02/22/04..................18559. One of those billiard-shot disasters, one ball hitting another. Recall that I'd reformatted my hard drive? Which means that I dumped every bit of data I hadn't backed up? Well, today my Palm Pilot went down, really down---I'd left it too long, and it lost its basic memory. Well, restore it from the computer backup, right? Ha! No data. I've lost all my notes about where I am supposed to be when---all the conventions, all the phone numbers, all the birthdays and appointments and tax due dates----so remind me if I've promised you anything, and meanwhile I'm going to be hand-inputting all those things I can remember. Right in the middle of year-end tax-prep is not the time I'd have chosen to have this happen, thank you. I didn't know the Palm would do that. I should have guessed, but, oh, well. Now I know why it beeped at me while I was driving. It was dying, poor thing, and I paid it no attention. Now I'm sorry. I seem to have gotten over that hump with the book, being stalled on a thousand-word segment, which involved the meeting of two long-parted individuals, and necessary business. It also was Sunday, and our skating lesson. I was a little sore, counting I've been practicing falling down for two days running, but I was very pleased not to continue that today. Our instructor suggested I try the cross-over turn, which I hadn't expected to do for months, and it worked. I was so pleased with myself. The only problem is that it turns you a lot more sharply than the leaning turn, and this means if you do it at the end of the rink, you end up going down center ice, which is a speed zone I'm not comfortable with. Sunday wasn't quite as crowded as the last several days, but I'm still uncomfortable being a slow-moving object in a fast stream. I also succeeded in turning and skating backward, however gingerly. Jane has been working on her fine foot control, and had her turn at falling down on open ice---caught a toe pick and fell badly, which is to say, flat forward. She banged her elbow, but nothing worse, thanks to the padded coat. This still doesn't bring us even in the fall department. You know how you get sore on the third day after an injury---well, I'm on the third day after for one fall, the second day after for another, and I'm very sore. Thanks to all of you who have written with remedies for bruises. I may need it. Beyond that, our outdoor rink shuts on March 8, and this means we need to make the transition over to the Eagles rink, which is very large, very cold, and very smooth ice. No pigeons there, but fast ice, and a whole new environment.

Date: 02/23/04...............18559. Off to the chiropractor to get Dr. Mike to straighten out the result of sequential falls, but no great problems turned up. He said the exercise was showing up in flexibility---good news. Jane was still having grief from her shoulder, but the injury seems more strain than displacement. Lots and lots of pain-patches. We think we're going to buy stock in the company. I can't say enough for the virtues of a really, really good chiropractor. Ours doesn't use machines at all, just has the knack for putting things back where they ought to be, including the fact I took a header over the handlebars of a bicycle onto concrete some years ago, for which I paid for years and years, and if it weren't for good doctors, I'd be a mess. Jane can say the same, having taken a few notable flying landings off horses.

Date: 02/24/04.................18865. Work in the morning, still straightening out that one scene---which won't be at at spectacular in the book, but which if I don't get it right, will be noticed. The best writing has to go into keeping things natural, an 'of course' rather than the slam-bang stuff, which is easy to write. If you don't see the magician's hands move, that's the good stuff, not the rabbit. We skated, had a nice day with a few of the best skaters, good ice, and no school kids. I wasn't as steady as I could wish, fought the lacings for four re-laces, but over all, progress. Jane's getting up and about the rink again after her battle with flu and inner ear, and over all, I've got a lot of practice to do on the new stuff. We're still battling the banking and trying to get that all in order, not very exciting stuff, but full of aggravations: the bank changed all the online log-ins on us, and all that has to be fixed.

Date: 02/25/04...................19224. One of those mornings when things start with a misplaced bill and proliferate into a set of messes at the bank---overdraft notices which they sent in envelopes that look just like routine statement and which, no email, no, no, a paper letter, which took 3 days covering ten city blocks. Clearly the 25.00 per incident fee doesn't motivate our bank to move faster to notify us of a shortfall or to slow down the instant resubmission of a bounced check.  And the usual time our accounts get messed up like this is when we're completely absorbed with accounts, like end-of-quarter, end-of-year, etc. Never fails. Paper piles up, bank envelopes get stacked, and there we are. The weather is warming, china blue sky overlain with spotty cloud, and a little spit of rain. The Black Prince has taken to pulling the insulation out of the window, because he wants fresh air, and this is a trick I hope he forgets soon, since it requires a battle with the dreaded three-foot-tall cactus to put it back. The rink is showing signs of melting, too, and we will lose our outdoor ice on the 8th of March. We have both concluded that a pigeon bearing an olive branch is not a sign of peace: not if he drops it from the rafters onto the ice, in his nest-building efforts. But over all  it was a beautiful day. I began to discover what's behind my balance problem, which is toe-clenching. Relax the toes and the balance becomes much easier. And I had just discovered that when it was time to leave.

Date: 02/26/04.................19302. Still trying to get the tax info together. Still trying to get all the e-mail answered---forgive me if you've expected an answer: I'm about 300 letters behind. For our morning relaxation, we went to the rink, got the skates on, and about fifty very young children showed up, most of whom must never have been on the ice before. They hit the ice like seal pups, skidding every which way, there were banged-up crying kids at both ends of the rink, and I kept saying "take small steps" to dozens of small skaters who evidently believed that achieving early velocity was the key to staying on their feet, while others clung desperately to the wall, slipping violently every third step along the way. There were bumped chins, heads, foreheads, knees, and rears, and forget remotely following a traffic pattern: I don't think the kids had heard about that rule in advance, among several others. Kids were going onto the ice with skates that wouldn't buckle, and no one checking the fit---a wonder that lad didn't break an ankle---with skate laces draped onto the ice, with only a couple of helmets in the lot, and only one of those buckled, and many without so much as a coat on bare elbows. And the ice was melting in numerous places and super-slick, particularly by the entry, and in a number of surprising locations out across the ice. After a little of this, we gave up in complete frustration. Jane then went back and worked on the finish and polish of the article she's been laboring over for two weeks---and having finished it, ex'ed out of the word processor, only in the act realizing what she'd done. Yes, dear readers, we live with these machines, and occasionally we get tired and do things we really wish we hadn't done. The program had no backup. No save. Nothing. Gone. I've done it. We've all done it. It makes it no easier when it's your finished, perfect version of something you've labored over for weeks, and you just get to thinking about it rather than about the routine movements your hands are making.  So you'll understand if, between that and the accounting, Jane is a bit behind on her page. Sigh.

Date: 02/27/04.................19889. There's something about working on the accounts that makes it near impossible to do any creative work. It's as if my brain shorts out of creative mode and I haven't got a creative thought left...hardly anything left at all, not even the ability to edit. I tried. I tried really hard. This time, after sorting out accounting disasters from last year, I took up the ancient ledger method and decided to keep a duplicate, paper record of the most difficult items to track, in a systematic way, in a notebook in the file drawer. I never had problems when I kept a paper ledger, bad as my math is, and it's notoriously bad. And we went back to the rink, which had many fewer skaters, but the ice was melting, and there were definite problem patches, not to mention the gifts from pigeons in the rafters. Did you know that skating over a pigeon feather on bad ice produces a sudden stop?  It was difficult to keep one's footing, let alone learn anything. We've decided to switch over to the other, indoor rink tomorrow. We also picked up some costume items for our venture to the Memphis convention---items which involve a couple of wigs, one purple, and a, yes, genuine rubber chicken. Those who miss this great drama will be so sorry.

Date: 02/28/04.................19997. Inching my way along, but making progress by erasing outline and creating new solid text, so there's been a bit of number-reverse involved in that word count. Jane is still struggling with her article, and at first said she didn't want to go skating. I was greatly disappointed, because I've seen the ice at the new place and it's beautiful, and I was so looking forward to this. But Jane came into my room later with a change of opinion, so off we went, and it was gorgeous. The new ice is very much larger than the other, and doesn't have a deep trench along the wall. Perfectly smooth, perfectly reliable, and no need to watch the ice ahead for pigeon activity. I was able to go out onto center ice, and there were so many very small wall-huggers it forced me out there, which I am doing very well, thank you. I'm still practicing the crossover step, and have a chance of recovering the knack before my next lesson tomorrow. But one thing both of us have noted and are working on is the right-footedness engendered by same-direction skating. I can glide like a bandit on my right foot. The left veers and behaves badly, and can't be relied on. I think I'm not centering my weight correctly. Jane concludes the same. So we're back to skating round and round, this time relying on the left foot as primary and staying off the right as much as possible. Wretched headache this evening. Can't figure why.

Date: 02/29/04.................20635. The story is finally starting to move. People ask me if I outline. Yes, but...and the very strong 'but' is that outlines are somewhat necessary to remembering where you're going and doublechecking to see that you got all the points in, but the downside of outlining is that it's such an absolute pain to know you have to be writing toward what I call a 'marker',  that you don't want to set very many of them. A 'marker' is a point where, no matter all the maneuvering and goings-on, the characters absolutely have to hit their spot in order for other things to happen. These 'markers' are like one key sentence or visual image which has to happen, and everything points toward that point and leads away from it toward the next marker.. Sort of like planning a trip on which many things may happen, and you may see and learn a great deal you never planned, but at a certain point in the plan you absolutely have to get to Denver before you can get to Kansas City. To continue the analogy, there may be other conceivable routes, which is how stories mutate, or why two writers can write the same tale and have them come out so differently. These 'destinations' so absolutely set the tone and meaning of a story that you have to get there, no choice, must do, or give up that story and write another. I recall being in literature classes (I was writing by age ten) and being as confused as everybody else by terms like 'plot' and 'outline' and 'theme' and all of that sort of thing---didn't mean a thing to me, and still is kind of queasy in my mind. The mental math I go through while constructing a story doesn't bear those names, and doesn't greatly resemble them in function or operation, either. Plot and theme are useful for people trying to explain or describe what a writer has already done, i.e, as analysis of an existing work, but I don't find the concepts useful to the actual creative process.......On the recreational front, we went back to the downtown rink for our lesson, and our very excellent young instructor attacked the right-footedness problem---very successfully. She provided the information that I, in particular,was trying to solve the left-foot balance problem by leaning in the wrong direction and using the outer foot to counterbalance, when what I should have been doing was lean into the center of the circle I'm making (the absolute opposite of what one does in the wall-hugging, clinging to any support stage of learning) and I should not put the off foot out sideways, but tuck it right into the axis of balance, right behind the gliding foot, though off the ice. I tried it. A miracle! Instant doubling of glide-time on the left foot. Jane and I discussed it later, and decided that hockey players are more like cutting-horses, braced wide-legged to head off in various directions and move with force....while figure skaters have to be 'collected' on their feet, like dressage-horses, which is the old war-horse training: stay over your feet, 'collected' on your point of balance, and be ready to pivot and jump and land. So you worry a lot about posture. Curious, curious, and we're working on this theory.

Date: 03/01/04....................21102. Well, well, well. I think we may have discovered a really big item in our skating careers. Seems that when we bought these completely brand-new skates, the pro shop was supposed to sharpen the blades. We haven't a clue what the blades are supposed to look like---but Jane finally asked the right question, plopped her foot onto the rail in plain sight---she's ever so much more flexible than most human beings---and asked a kindly instructor about the condition of her skate blade. The instructor was a little surprised that either of us had made the progress we have. This edge should have been done at time of purchase, in the arena shop, and, she said, it accounts for a number of problems we've had, including why if I go a little out of perfect balance, my blade pn the less secure foot skitters sideways. And probably it accounts for why leaves and pigeon feathers have been so lethal, but I don't know about that. We're still laughing---and we left the skates to be sharpened, which really seems to involve not making the edge sharper, as the instructor explained, but in routing out a groove on either side of the blade that should make the blades a little less slippery and a little easier to "edge" (lean) with without falling over. Jane's also getting her bottommost toepick tooth flattened---it's more extreme than mine, and has a tendency to hit the ice way too often. I'm just amazed that we lasted this long without breaking our necks, and our regular instructor is going to be amused when we tell her this Sunday. She had every reason, since she knew where we'd bought them, to believe they'd have been expertly sharpened, since that comes with the purchase. She'd have had to pick our feet up like horses to figure out this part of our problem, since it's not apparent at a glance---and of course, being both of us well-read and full of opinions, we always know enough to sound as if we know what we're doing---certainly not so, in this instance. You know, I almost asked the fellow who sold us our skates if we shouldn't have them sharpened, but the pro shop was in meltdown at the time we were buying our skates, a hockey game going on outside and players having equipment crises in the shop, so we were just glad to get our purchases made before closing. Now we know, and we didn't break any bones in the interim---we may even be better at some things, because we've had nothing at all to help us keep our feet from skidding, just a flat, unaltered surface. I wonder if I'll be able to glide as freely as now, once this is fixed. So tune in tomorrow, dear readers, to find out what happens when we hit the ice with actual edges on our blades.

Date: 03/02/04............................23889. Up with the sun---and a hungry cat with sharp claws. A clear, blue day, very little to remark, except it's inexorably getting warmer, which (sigh) I suppose is wonderful, but I prefer the snow. I worked quite happily once Ysabel had her morning brushing and I had a breakfast bar---no particular problems, and as usual, an arriving character has to act up, just to claim the scene. But it makes for fun writing: you just don't know if you can keep the blighter under control, or whether you'll have to take it it out. On the continued good news front---the diet has dropped me to a weight I haven't seen in a decade---or so. And of course, the big question about the skate blades. This proved interesting. They don't visually look different, sharpened, but if you run your finger down the blade, there are two fine ridges, one on each outer edge, and the center is just a little high. On the ice---a whole new world of stability: not a huge change, but less likelihood of a foot going off to the side. No effect on speed, but a vast difference in slaloms---plus if you even wiggle your toe toward another direction, you go there. And spins. A violent move would previously get me a 180 degree turn. Today it was 360 plus. And to stop the spin, elbow in the opposite direction. Really quite remarkable. Jane had a little trouble, since she had asked not only for sharpening, but also to have the bottom tooth of the toepicks beveled off, and the bevel went perhaps just a little more than she would have wished, and left a toepick, but one considerably further from the ice. So between one thing and the other, her foot is not meeting the ice in quite the same way. And this new ice, while mirror-smooth, isn't perfect. Jane went down hard on one shin, caught her breath and got back out on the ice. She thinks it was the lack of the toepick, but I think quite the opposite, that there is a high spot there: I was skating along and caught a toepick for no truly good reason. That seems as if there's a microscopic rise right there, and Jane's foot found it, which has the effect of braking violently on one side and not on the other---paradoxically, with the toepick shaved down, she has to reach further than she expects to exert any cautionary force with either foot, and this micro-startlement on a slick surface can take your feet out from under you.. She's bruised but undamaged, and she certainly has my sympathy: that's the same spot I fell twice in two days on, and it's still a lovely shade of yellow two weeks later. On the positive side, I'm doing much better two-footing it on the new edges, and I'm ever so much more secure on slaloms---have learned to hold my speed, using weight and balance, but nothing like Jane's command of this trick: she can hold her speed with nothing but that for the entire length of the rink. And she can stop. I can't. I'm going to have to work on that. The other thing affected is the crossovers, where you plant your free foot in front of the other, take the weight and step aside, in step after step---I'm still reckoning with that edge. AFTER the skate we went to the mall, one of our rare visits, which turned into a shopping expedition---I decided my shabby green coat and baggy jeans have to go (the weight loss has nothing to do with this, of course) once we hit warmer weather, because a Polartec coat just looks silly in ordinary temperatures. So I got a pale blue and gray DKNY track suit on the sale rack, which will go ever so nicely with my mustard-yellow skateboard helmet---can't you just picture it? and Jane raided the boots department, scoring a really neat pair. I got a new sports bag: mine was just about to rip; and we lugged our purchases out of the mall like a safari on the retreat. If I get really style-conscious, I might get a white helmet like Jane's snowboarding number. Tonight I'm cooking---no restaurants to blow that lovely result on the scales.

Date: 03/03/04................................23889. My complaint about the weather brought snow, evidently---quite a nice snowfall, lasting most of the day and actually sticking to the ground. There's supposed to be a bit more through the week, but alternate with rain, that will wash our pretty white coating away. I'll enjoy it while I can. Jane got her article finished, and started cleaning and sweeping; and I got the car to the dealer and got the oil changed, which was about a thousand miles overdue. We put so many miles on our cars and rely on them so much, we're really quite meticulous about oil and filter changes. Also, when you live in the Inland Northwest, there is volcanic dust, which is a lot different than the soft red-clay dust of the American Southwest. This stuff is unkind. The oil change (the dealership is clear across town) took a big slice out of the day, and we decided, since we had the lodge initiation that night, that we'd actually put on good shoes despite the sloppy weather and dress for the occasion---haven't had a spiff occasion in a while, which meant hauling out our good clothes and figuring out what still fits. THE DIET: down another half pound. So what do we do but head for the Italian restaurant that is our major downfall? But we were good, and my dinner arrived lukewarm and not too appealing, so it went home in a box, to be nuked later, and the manager, unasked, comped it, while Jane could only eat a quarter of her dinner. So I think we have supper for two more nights off this. I always hate to complain, and I didn't intend for the meal to be comped; but if there's a problem in the kitchen, best, I think, that they find it out from someone who knows what a wonderful restaurant this is (Tomato Street, for those of you near enough Spokane) than for someone who's there on a first visit to have a bad experience and never come back. They are good, and have made some adaptations for those of us on the Atkins Diet, which is pretty good for an Italian restaurant. THE WORK: Didn't get a thing written today, just one of those days where ordinary life has to get handled, and it's just too chaotic. The story, however, stays in the back of the mind, live and under assembly in a way that can't be allowed to lapse. SKATING: Jane's knee was pretty sore and we had so many things to do today we just couldn't get to the rink.   Tomorrow, tomorrow.

Date: 03/04/04.........................23991. Slow progress this morning, but progress: things are getting in order in the book. The snow all melted. AND THEN: Jane is preparing to back up some working files and get down to work on her novel, when her Toshiba gives a loud electrical pop, goes down, and when rebooted, gives another pop and fails. She was remarkably collected when she arrived at my room to report the fact. We discussed some possible solutions like pulling all batteries and rebooting, but one battery is frozen into the machine, very much as if fused in place. She declared we were going skating, and dropping off her computer at CompUSA. Well, so off we go, and the good news is, it would reboot when one battery was pulled and the machine was plugged in. We still couldn't release the other battery, which is stuck fast. The computer has to be sent off to a repair center. Seven to fourteen days. We bought a keydrive to see if we could get the data off, before turning it in, but XP began to try to create a restore point before accepting the keydrive. Aggravation upon aggravation. So we now own a new keydrive---which won't work in my machine since the reinstall, since the Dell Restore disk isn't the same modern version of ME that was shipped with my machine, and it doesn't have a critical USB map file. I'm so thrilled. Jane, who is in the middle of several important e-mail exchanges, is now e-mail-less, incommunicado, and that took out her web-machine as well. So when she went to set up her website on the desk machine---remember we never had gotten that Maxtor drive situation completely solved---she got handed the blue screen of death on that machine, so she is now dealing with that, in what frame of mind let no one ask. The bottom and mechanism of the zipper pull fell off---fell off---the new track suit I bought and intended to wear today: that has to go back, and it was the last one in my size: I tried to fix it, Jane tried to fix it, and it's a lost cause. SKATING. We did go to the rink amid all this, and for starters, Jane couldn't get her feet under her: I suggested it was the adrenaline charge with which we had started the day, and I don't think I was immune to the shakes, either. It was bitter cold, I had to put on my gloves, and I exited the rink after an hour and a half when my left foot began to go unstable. AFTER. Since then I've been sore and a little sick at my stomach---computer woes are good for just generally giving you a nasty jolt. Jane's still in there working on hardware, on a day which had dawned with the blithe promise of her cleaning up the last of the article and getting back to her novel, with all sorts of good ideas and a bright day. The physiological reaction and the sudden change of direction of ideas all ready to go and the computer going out from under you are horrid. I'm now waiting for a reply from Dell Technical, and the cats are extraordinarily quiet. I wish I could help, with the other machine, but there's only room for one in that machine's guts, and Jane is very collectedly working through its problems, with the singularity of purpose of a person who had a perfectly good novel scene in her head this morning.

Date: 03/05/04....................23991. It snowed again this morning, and melted three hours later---welcome to the Inland Northwest. Work? No such luck---we had the computer emergency still in full swing, since Jane discovered last night that she had given the wrong cord to the repair desk, and that her backup was too old. She had requested the file recovery option, and first on the agenda was finally to run the test on the new Maxtor drive, which we would take to the repair desk for them to use in recovering the files. Meanwhile I started a simple internet search quest for usbntmap, the wretched little file my notebook doesn't have, which will enable the pendrive to run. I found a nice site that has a large collection of drivers for older machines, read, any machine above a year old, contributed by users, a free site. It promotes a software that backs up and installs and searches for drivers: driverguide is the software in question. But I didn't get to test the new USB drivers I found, because I'm not about to install anything until I've backed up my novel file, and every time I try to do that, the main computer is testing or doing some operation. MIDMORNING: The Maxtor tested all right and we grabbed our skates and the cord and the drive and ran off to CompUSA, which is right near the rink. Got everything turned in and went off for a little nerve-settling at the rink, exited sore and worn out and feeling much more cheerful.. I haven't made any new quantum jumps in skills, but I'm getting steadier and faster. We had no sooner gotten home than we discovered the backup had worked and the Maxtor was available for pickup at CompUSA. SO...back into the car for another run. Lunch today was an Atkins diet bar wolfed down with black coffee while I was lacing up my skates. And then a salad, somewhere in the middle of it all. And after we came back from the computer store, with the Maxtor, we settled down to yet another diet bar and battled computers some more: I got my backup done, installed the new driver, and lo and behold, the pendrive works. Jane is meanwhile looking for a good hard case that she can use for a shell around her old Toshi that has a broken lid: if she could locate the one that lets you actually mount the laptop to the shell, she could use that computer without laying out a couple of hundred dollars for the second new hinge it's needed---that model Toshi is notorious for those hinges. I, meanwhile, am really tired, and Jane is about to fall on her face, but her files did come through the restore---she installed the Maxtor back into the main computer, and she now has access to her files via the housenet. I also dropped off some tax forms that needed to go in, and dropped off the damaged jacket and got a new one in exchange---if the zipper flat falls off when unzipped, that does qualify as product defect. So we've spent the whole day repairing things that broke yesterday, but the good news is that no data at all was lost, and we got everything else done that needed doing, including finding that little file I've been looking for to get my easiest backup to function---if you haven't discovered USB pendrives, give them a look: they're quick, they're easy, and the cost has come down to incredibly low levels. We're looking forward to work in the morning, to try to get novels moving again---we need a good day.

Date: 03/06/04..........................24331. A little work, thank goodness. A sunny if windy day in which it was cold enough for an extra quilt and too cold to get out of bed. But things were pretty tranquil---until I tried to go online to get a couple of Mariners' tickets, and the whole online ticketing system seemed to be in meltdown. It was the first day for single ticket sales, for particular days, and we decided to go to the Mariners' Store at the mall because we couldn't get through the online system. We knew it was trouble when we got there and saw an official Mariners car and the news radio people on hand. And people were lined up across the mall. Worse, no one was telling people that in order to stand in line B to get a ticket, you first had to stand in line A and get another ticket to let you be officially in line B for the real tickets. Numerous of us were not amused, and the people in charge weren't doing a thing about explaining The Rules. We decided, after finding this out (only three or four minutes into standing in the wrong line), that we didn't want to stand here for the three hour wait it was projected to take, or wait for the number of unhappy people in the wrong line to increase exponentially. Why would it be three hours? Because, we discover, the ticket sales at the counter were depending on the same web access that hadn't worked from my home machine, and they're at number twenty-five of three hundred. At a certain time you cut your losses and leave, figuring, hey, it's opening day and they haven't worked the bugs out. So we went off to try to find another warmup suit, which was a no-go. Nothing we tried looked acceptable for public wear. So we went off to the rink, for the biggest public skate day, Saturday noon: and they hadn't Zambonied the ice, which was rutted from some heavy action, probably a hockey game the night before. That was bad enough, but the Zamboni when it had run hadn't bothered to clean the snowballs off the ice. I kicked a few of these off. The ice was full of small children, and worse, my makeup had gotten into my eyes and they were tearing very badly. I dodged round a mother and some children, hit one of the snowballs frozen to the ice, and proved that a helmet is a very good thing and a wallet in the back pocket equally helpful. If I hadn't been armored up I'd have laid myself out cold. As was, I have a slight headache and no bodily damage, but my helmet has a pit on it---I think I fell on the ice-chunk. And a sweet child, about six, asks me if I'm a beginner. Yep. A beginner having gathered just a wee bit more speed than was good, and my eyes watering like crazy didn't help. No damage done except to my pride, but I did decide I've got to give up the really nice liquid makeup and get some plain cheap powder to sub for it, before I kill myself. Nothing at all attractive about streaming eyes. We stopped by the store and got that, and the minute I got online, I nabbed the tickets I was after. Which probably means the lines have all moved a lot faster, too. Well, it's spaghetti squash and chili for supper, and I'd better go fix it. Advil, Advil. What would we do without it?

Date: 03/07/04.....................24331. Our sense of time is off. I hadn't even gotten my day organized or my work underway before it was time to rush off to the downtown rink for our last open-air skate and lesson. It's 50 degrees F out there, and the ice had a huge puddle on it, the Zamboni was having a mechanical problem, and when we went out for an experimental skate, it was incredibly bad ice, with huge divots and great ice-lumps frozen to the surface, alternate with huge puddles. I tripped several times, not falling, but it was bad. They got the Zamboni running, pouring more water onto the surface, which added puddles over the divots, but at least they shaved the lumps off. Working on stroking and crossovers today, and trying not to break my neck---the whole rink was about a quarter inch deep in water. And I was doing pretty well on both, having just discovered how to segue between the skating stroke into a crossover turn, which feels really good. But I found a divot, pitched forward and took a great skidding fall through an immense puddle, which meant I was soaked to the skin for the rest of the skate, and dinged my knee and really threw a strain into my neck. Falling forward is almost nastier than going down helmet-first. But no great damage done, except that it was a cold wind and wet clothes. We went to a fancy mall restaurant for lunch, and by then I looked dry, but wasn't; and after the mall, we went overto the pro shop at the other rink to see about some minor repair on Jane's laces, which turned out to involve a wait. So we went over to try to find that alternate warmup suit, which we finally did, but in the meanwhile it turned out the pro shop at the other rink wasn't going to open today. Sigh. So home we go, after two hours, and I'm still soggy, and cold, and by now getting stiff. So I applied lots of medication, took several Advil, finally got into dry clothes, and had a diet bar. THE DIET: We are dropping belt notches and sizes, if not pounds. We're putting on muscle, I suspect, while losing fat, since we weigh the same, but we're dropping in size. We can live with this scenario. And whether because I'm lighter, or because I'm stronger, I had much less trouble getting up after falling. This is also good.

Date: 03/08/04...............24553. Up at five in the morning, the moon being full and shining like a lighthouse beacon right into my window. I worked a while, then after breakfast, faded and fell over. Jane came into my room reminding me I had better rejoin the living and get ready: we had a full day. First it was over to the Spokane Arena to get tickets for the 2007 Nationals---there was a line well in advance of the window opening. Meanwhile Jane ran on with the car and buzzed over to the pro shop, completely across town, to get them to take a look at her skates, the lace-hooks of which were coming out, pulling free of the leather. They replaced the skates entirely, since the skates are only a month old, and now she will have to break in totally new ones, not easy on the feet, but much better than coping with lacings getting increasingly soft and unreliable. This time, however, she is starting off the new skates with the blades sharpened. We then, both of us, had a chiropractic appointment---I can't say enough what a good idea this is on a regular basis for someone with a sedentary lifestyle. Amazing what leaning to make the glasses focus on minutiae can do to your neck, as a whole lot of muscle power goes to make one's body do for hours what no self-respecting ape ever would do. End result? A very sore neck in this advanced primate. And I must say, far from damaging myself in hitting the ice three or four times in the last month, I've knocked loose some major stiffness in my back and shoulders, particularly, in the forward fall, landing principally on my hands, I popped loose that nasty 'typist's shoulder' that has been giving me fits for years...amazing the muscle you develop in your shoulders by typing for decades. But, unbalanced by a similar strength in one's middle back, it serves only to pull everything else into a kink that gets progressively painful. Yoga would have been a good idea for me, way before now, but that unhappily requires sitting still for a while, and I sit still for a living.  In this case, after the face-forward dive onto the ice and a night spent with pain-patches, Dr. Michael straightened my neck out and that wretched stiff spot came free, which I can only describe as a vast relief of tension that I swear has been there for a decade. If it will only stay that way. Otherwise the day's been filled with that sort of work that doesn't figure in the page count, getting the accounts straightened out, the tax records ready to mail, and the stack of papers that fell over in the gust from an open window all gathered up and disposed of. Paper is such an amazing substance: I swear it breeds overnight, and never, ever produces the page you're looking for.

Date: 03/09/04...........24604. Early start to the day, a little progress. I expected to be sore today, but wasn't. We had a vet appointment for the Black Prince and Her Furry Grace, for annual shots and a claw clip. Ysabel in particular grows very wicked claws, and protects them very zealously. We took both cats in at the same time: mistake---Ysabel was upset during the drive, was upset at a lengthy wait, and always gets snappish when having her claws clipped. She got my index finger, quite spectacularly---bled like fury, and is quite sore this evening. A long soak in hot Epsom salt solution is my remedy for it, but if it doesn't improve quickly, I fear I'll have to have go to the clinic and get antibiotics. I'd much rather avoid that. SKATING: a good day in the indoor rink, very smooth ice---we're getting good enough that we no longer fear the Zamboni, and it's very nice to be able to skate without fear of bumps and lumps on the ice surface. I'm practicing crossover turns, still not elegantly, but it feels very nice to accelerate through the turns. Jane's new skates are working very well, and she's flying along now---still ever so much better than I am at the slalom pass, but I'm working on it. She has a natural feeling for dance and rhythm, and in the slalom---a lot like what skiers do---timing for the next push---read: properly picking the vector for the next shove--- is definitely a matter of rhythm. I have two left feet when it comes to any sense of rhythm, I can't dance, never could, and have nearly thrown myself to the ice by bad timing when I start listening to the music. She seems to feel the timing; with me, it's much more a matter of eliminating every wrong move I can possibly make until I've got the right angle in my head. At best, I lose all momentum. At very worst, one foot goes flying off sideways independently. But I'm steadier and faster, and I can dodge, all good.

Date: 03/.10/04..........24604. This was one of those days. Dawn: I think I've finally figured out why our satellite system has gone off---the black wooden balcony rail to which the dish is attached has warped during the winter, and reacts to the sun and to humidity or the lack thereof. So reception comes and goes according to where the sun is and how warm the wood rail is.  That was item one, proven when reception returned when I yanked on the railing. I think we can fix that torqued board with a little creative levelling, not involving apartment management. Then...among other items of the day, the haircut. "Let's try something new," the stylist said, in my case. I wasn't sure at the time. I really wasn't sure when she took a large divot out of the top and proceeded to cut it really short. I'm really not sure about the result. Jane says it looked fine at first. But the person who cut it didn't appear out of the back room  to style it---having lunch, the story went; and the person who did style it turned it all backward, which didn't help the look. I hope it will do better after a shampoo. This was the start to the day. My hand, meanwhile, was hurting badly and getting worse by the hour. I ran Jane back to the apartment---she's up to her ears in alligators, trying to get this article turned in. I knew it was likely to be a long wait at the clinic. My own doctor was up to his ears in clients, so I went  down to Urgent Care, and the doctor, upon one look at the wound and a "When did this happen?" ordered an immediate IV antibiotic, gave me horse pills, stuff to safeguard my stomach from the effect of said pills, and advised me to come back for two more IVs on successive days; and to hie myself to the emergency room at any hour if the redness or swelling increased instead of decreasing. The very good nurse had to hunt about to locate a vein. And I had forgotten my cell phone, so I couldn't call and tell Jane that the couple of hours that had seemed likely were going to go longer still. Much longer.  The clinic meanwhile wouldn't tell Jane where I was because we're not related---maddening----and I couldn't call her, while being way late. She had a worried afternoon, I was sitting there frustrated and in pain, being fed antibiotics through a tube, and I then had to go after the prescription, taking which doesn't help my stomach at all. For a person on a diet, huge pills for ten days are pretty hard---I don't want to eat a lot to cushion the pills, but I don't want to irritate my stomach either. The hand, meanwhile, is quite painful, has to be propped up, and over all, between a bad hair day for which I paid considerable and a heavy dose of medication which cost more than that, I've had better afternoons. I'll have to see what the hair does after a shower---the hand at least isn't worse, although it hurts like blazes. And Ysabel---? Butter wouldn't melt in her little kitty mouth. But I do think both cats are happier with claws clipped: a little less rowdy with each other, as if they're less anxious about getting clawed by each other. And we certainly know they have their vaccinations  up to date, which is what we were doing at the vet's in the first place, so no concerns on any score. I didn't get a shred of work done, but the good news is it doesn't hurt to type. It's just been a sit-and-wait sort of day, in which I couldn't get a thing useful done. I announced I'd like dinner out, thank you, and we went out to a favorite restaurant. Then I sat down with the requisite dry heat and took another huge pill.

Date: 03/11/04............24604. Again, a morning with the accounts. I'll be so glad to get this tax stuff off in the mail. And despite the heavy load of antibiotics, I dragged myself to the rink, where I scarcely had the energy to hold  a course. Antibiotics are such a pain. Then we went back to the hairdressers to discuss the hair problems with the shop, which ended quite well. We understood where communication had broken down, and we have an appointment for a rework next week. Then I went off to the clinic solo to sit for a lengthy time and get another IV---which turned out to be only a shot, since the hand is doing much better: quite sore, but the swelling has diminished, and we're going in the right direction. I also, while at the clinic, found out something shocking, re Jane's attempt to find me at the clinic yesterday. I am informed by agencies in charge of the clinic that it would not have been different were Jane my twin sister:: she could not have found out where I was or in what condition. Since this cursed privacy law went into effect last year, not even a spouse, or for all I can determine, neither a child or a parent can be told the condition or whereabouts of a patient---can you believe that one, dear readers? The clinic administrator, an RN,herself, currently  has a critically ill mother on the east coast, and cannot call to ask  her condition of  the staff at the hospital where her mother is---or provide advice and opinion which is skilled, professional, and a good deal more help to the family on the east coast than the average questioner. She needs information in order to translate it for her family---and can't be told. This is the most stupid, bone-headed piece of legislative micro-management of people's lives that I have heard in a while, all in the name of privacy, no less. I intend to phone, not write, phone our congressmen and senators and complain---and if any of you, out there, contemplate any reason to be in a clinic or hospital and a family member needs to reach you, the clinic told me you have to have a Power of Attorney for medical decisions to be on file in your medical records in order to let the clinic tell your spouse, significant other, brother, or sister whether you are alive, dead, or just left the clinic/hospital in good condition. I am astonished. This is done in the name of your privacy---privacy, mind you, since the government has now presumed to dictate what should, in my own opinion, be arranged between clinic and client. Check it out with your local medical provider. You may be quite shocked at what it takes to get information past that regulation ---and best not find it out for the first time in an emergency. We were advised to carry an additiional Power of Attorney in our wallets, just in case one of us steps in front of a truck and the other has to deal with the fallout. I encourage you to phone your own congressfolk and discuss your own opinions about this situation.

Date: 03/12/04..................24889. Well, the hand is a lot improved, at least enough so I can concentrate enough to work. Still sore, but not as bad. If I survive the pills, I can survive anything. I got a little work done. Jane (who is way behind on updating her blog) is still without her computer, and is trying to catch up on all the regular things that stacked up while she was working on her article. We remembered at the last moment that we'd promised the lodge that we'd help with the annual St. Patrick's Day fundraiser---sandwiches; and that's not so hard. We figure in an organization that provides us free ice time, and does their work for hospital charities, we can show up and load pickles on plates to raise money. We took our turn at the rink, and found out that Jane's newly sharpened skates...aren't. They're missing an edge. So back they had to go. Meanwhile she's trying a slightly fancier pair, which are much stiffer, and harder to break in---that's the thing with skates: the fancier they are, the stiffer, and the harder they are to break in---if you overbuy, and don't skate often, you can end up with a pair you never can pound into comfortable lines. We went back for the evening skate, but they didn't clean the ice after the hockey games, and it was nearly covered with 'snow' and ridged and gouged---not a place to try out new skates. We gave up and went home. I'm fighting the battle of the medication versus the diet---I need to eat to keep from stomach upset, but I don't want the weight gain. Ysabel, meanwhile, is ever so friendly and nice, after causing this. I just can't wait to get the clinic bill. Between her vet bill and mine, this is probably going to dent the budget bigtime.

Date: 03/13/04....................24997. Still improving, although it wasn't particularly pretty today---we'd promised to help out again at the lodge sandwich sale, the day of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Spokane, but the hand being what it was, I wasn't much use. Went over to the rink to get in an hour and a half, and it being Saturday, there were no few kids. But we've gotten far better at dodging. Jane's rework on her skates worked fine; and I'm still not a hundred percent---leg cramps, no doubt due to the medication I've taken and am still bound to take...thank you, Ysabel. We caught the first Mariner's game on the telly, or at least half of it, and they won. We follow both the Mariners, over in Seattle, and the Spokane Indians; and it was a delight to see the team again. We had a midafternoon lunch at an outlying pub on the way home---everything downtown was crammed with St. Patrick's celebrants, by what I heard.

Date: 03/14/04...................24997. Sometimes a day just starts out a complete mess and gets worse. THE DREADED ACCOUNTS. I'm still working on the accounts, and couldn't get the credit card to balance, and finally figured out that all those troublesome red numbers in the credit card account don't mean deficit, they mean excess money, which means we didn't enter some charges, and now I remember why. Last April was a disaster. We lost the March and April credit card bills when the accounting software crashed, and lost the physical bills as well, so the expenses didn't ever get entered. I got mad at the accounting software, which wanted to charge me 300.00 to answer a question. I tried to switch to another brand, which didn't work for us, didn't figure the tax deposits the same, and involved double-entry bookkeeping, which to a non-accountant is total madness. So in complete frustration I bought a new copy of the defunct old software and I switched back to the old brand of accounting software. This meant I had to re-enter everything, and when I tried to mate up what I'd done in one software and the two months I'd done in the other software, I found out that somewhere between the glitch  of the old software and the abortive attempt at the 'new' software, we were missing records that hadn't gotten entered. So I had to find all the missing pieces, get all the accounts fixed, mate the two records together---and that was when I found March and April were missing from the credit card account. So then I had to special-order the credit card bills to enter them, but when they arrived, two months later, we somehow lost them again; I swear we ordered them replaced yet again, but now, at the end of the fiscal year where all accounting errors have to be resolved, we still can't find the two missing credit card bills, and can't figure out whether we didn't get the second replacements, didn't actually order them, or got them and lost them a third time, which I just can't believe---but neither can I account for why the same two months' records keep disappearing into the woodwork over and over again. And I can't send off the year-end accounts until we get those papers replaced and get those items entered---two whole months' records. I could just scream. Did I get any writing done today? No. Nothing of the sort. I absolutely can't write when I'm trying to do numbers---or, I can, but I 'm likely to create more problems than I solve, so I rarely try to do both in one day. SKATING And, it being Sunday, we're off to the rink for our lesson and a little relaxation, but got the time crossed with our instructor, and missed each other. The rink was full of young hockey players who thought they should run races end to end and parents who thought their dodging in and out among the figure skaters was good practice. The good news is that I finally realized that when we had my skates sharpened, the technician didn't do a complete job on them---knocked the edges down a bit, for fear I'd not cope with edges after having skated for four weeks without. Wrong. I finally felt what the edges are supposed to feel like to the finger (sharp as a moderately sharp knife). So I took the skates by to be sharpened, and got onto the ice for the first time with properly sharp blades. Amazing how much easier it is to get that recalcitrant left foot completely under me if it isn't skidding sideways at every other stroke. Both of us had a good skate. THE MEDICAL FRONT: The finger is healing. Jane took her turn at the emergency room last night, but it turned out to be a nerve reacting to the dry cold of the rink, which was good to know. Saline is our friend. We should use a lot of it if we're in that environment daily. WORK. Outside of all the chaos, we are ready to settle down and get some work done, and we would dearly love to, but tomorrow we have to get a contract notarized at the bank and get it into the mail, get a foreign tax form off to my agent, get the IRAs taken care of, go to the grocery store, call the credit card people and get yet one more copy of the two bills in question, call the accountant to advise him of the problem we're having getting him the year-end papers he needs, plus mail the ones we can get ready for him that are absolutely time-critical, file yet one more variety of tax forms at the bank, answer what email we can get to, get to the off-site storeroom and drop off some things that have been sitting in the car way too long, while looking for stored change-of-weather clothing that fits our new, mid-dietsizes, get that washed and hung, and THEN maybe we get time to get some writing done, if not tomorrow, the next day---if everything goes well. Meanwhile I'm still on the antibiotics and getting very tired of the side effects of those, let me tell you. Energy is very hard to come by. I can't figure why. Have you ever seen such a miserable struggle to get past 500 words? The good news is that I'm struggling past a part that has to go precisely, which is futzy, but has to be done right; and then when I do get past it, I'll be in a section which should flow much more readily.

Date: 03/14/04.................24997. Temporary technical pause at Chaos Central. Don't worry. We're all fine, cats and all. When you see the entry page is updated, this blog will be back online. We're in the throes of packing for a trip and trying to get things mailed and finished beforehand. Not to mention the taxes.

Date: 03/15/04............24993. Packing. Packing. Packing. We’re finding all the bits and bobs that have gone mysteriously missing—like Jane’s cell phone, for which we’d turned house and car upside down. It was in my purse cell pocket. Blush. I got a GPS attachment for my Palm, and it hasn’t worked since the reformat of the computer hard disk—funny thing: there’s this little menu item marked ‘turn GPS on/off’ that I hadn’t ticked. Now it works, just in time for the trip. We have our route pretty well memorized down to the gas stations, on our way to Dallas. But we’re jumping off into new territory after Memphis. The cats are suspicious: the suitcases have come out, and the Black Prince is nowhere to be seen. We have to talk to our house-sitter about the plants; we have to get the mail stopped, get to the bank—oh, dear: I’ve got to do the 941's today. I’d better go do that. (Whew! Fast excursion to the rink and the bank.) We had two rinks to choose today, and since everybody was over at the other one, we took the vacant rink to ourselves, and had fun doing very slow two-footed spins and circles in the middle of the ice. I will tell you, that is a lot of white, an eye-tricking lot of white, in which having your equilibrium solid is essential. I think I now know why all those advertising signs around an ice competition exist—to give the skaters some notion where up and down resides. It’s possible just to stand out there in all that white and fall over, in sheer disorientation. But we skated ourselves to absolute exhaustion, and had to rush to the bank to get the tax stuff turned in and the IRA’s settled. And then we went off to a restaurant and home again to collapse.

Date: 03/16/04................24993. Still packing. A safari for six weeks would take less luggage, but we’re bound for three different climates and for only six days of the three weeks do we have a hotel—the rest of the time it’s inflatable mattresses. We have the cats, we have us, we have two conventions worth of good clothes, in two vastly different climates, and we have to leave the cats in the US while we’re across the border, not to mention in the hotel room, which means we use the big cage, which is a major undertaking to transport, if not to assemble. We had our last skate before the trip, and it was wonderful—on the last day we’ll get for weeks, I finally got the knack Jane had been trying to explain to me, on the two-footed slaloms, which boils down to: it’s like standing on the seat of a swing and using one foot and the other to get it going, which means you’re rocking from one edge to the other and learning the basics of what will become a skating stroke. It doesn’t work unless you’re in motion, because swings don’t work without motion, either: it’s the transfer of center of gravity. But I finally got it! And after that, it was like flying, round and round and round, with very great speed—tight laces on the ankles and skates actually sharpened: wonderful. Jane got a bit adventurous and took a flat-out fall, but thanks to the armor we wear, no great damage—just a case of more pain patches this evening. Much too soon the open skate was over, leaving us with a tightly scheduled series of errands to run, so off we went to pick up a cosmetics order at the mall, to get me a pair of heels that will let me avoid hemming pants, and to try to get Jane’s computer back—it wasn’t ready, though there’s a slim chance it might arrive tomorrow. But in a rare exercise of power-shopping I found a parking place while Jane dived into The Bon after cosmetics and I bagged not one but two serviceable pairs of extreme heels inside five minutes, then dashed for a rendezvous mid-mall at the exit to the parking lot: elapsed time: fifteen minutes for a mall venture, and Jane got not only the makeup, but a pair of earrings. Then (not to mention the foray into the fabric shop to get buttons and thread for the costume Jane’s making) we sped across the river and up the South Hill to the hair salon to get fixed from our previous problem—it’s fixed. Then off to the post office to mail the contract and one of the two accounts I’ve been slaving over, which I was ever so glad to see off. We had supper at our favorite Italian restaurant—Tomato Street—and then headed home to get the roof rack on the car, which went more smoothly than we feared. We’re going to need it. We engaged our neighbor to house-sit. Now we have to do the fine-tuned packing—like the separate trailer we’re going to need for cosmetics and hair products. It’s amazing what the two of us have accumulated in the chemical line—between haircuts and face-treatments. The cats got their anti-flea treatment this morning—they’re not thrilled with this, but were speaking to us again as of an hour ago—probably means their food dishes are empty.

Date: 03/17/04................24993. Well, we thought we were going to get an early start, but CompUSA swore Jane’s Toshiba had been mailed, and would be in this morning...no, it wasn’t. We delayed until eleven in hopes, but no. But we hit the road, cats and all, under a moderately overcast sky, which makes it much nicer to drive, at around eleven thirty, and took out past scenic Lake Coeur d’Alene, over Fourth of July Pass, down past Cataldo Mission, and on and on—stopped, as usual, at the 10,000 Silver Dollar waystop, which has more tourist things than you can shake a stick at, and had lunch. Then on toward Missoula and Butte. We stopped as usual at Rocker, which has a nice couple of inexpensive hotels, with adjacent truck stop. It happened to be St. Paddy’s Day, which meant a corned beef and cabbage supper, and people showing up all over for the definitive Butte St. Paddy’s Day parade, which evidently draws folk from all over to drink green beer and generally have a riotous time until strange hours of the morning—some were in our hotel, but hey, they take cats, it’s ordinarily a quiet place, and we don’t mind.

Date: 03/18/04................24993. This is a reading trip, among other things: and I took Destroyer along, the new Bren Cameron book, that I’m about to turn in—I got about 150 pages read aloud and corrected since the start of the trip. Meanwhile we sailed on through Butte under blue skies, with snow on the mountains, still, and on to Garryowen, at the Custer Battlefield, one of our regular stops along this route, where we often enjoy a little tourist shopping; this is the district of the Little Bighorn River and various others you might have heard of. There are a number of good t-shirts from the tourist shop—I leave them to your imagination. Then we headed on through Cheyenne and, past herds of buffalo, on to Denver, which has a third of its population in cars in orbit about the city at any given moment, I swear. But we had a pretty good pass-through on the freeway, at a fair clip—got stalled in Colorado Springs, where the Denver traffic generally thins out. But someone had hit the center median and hung one wheel over the barrier and someone had rear-ended them, or vice versa, and this took half an hour to sort out, particularly with rude drivers thinking they had personal reason to blaze past and get to the head of the line: an amazing number of those, until an annoyed truck driver maneuvered his bobtailed rig onto the line and made that a little less easy to pull. We thought we might stop in Pueblo or Trinidad, but we decided to try to Raton, and the much-advertised indy motel there. They turned out to be anti-cat, so we went on to a very comfortable Motel 6, and had a nice steak dinner at The Ice House, a local steakhouse with nice service and good food. Efanor decided by then he’d had enough of being good, and went on a nighttime campaign of tossing things onto the floor, just to keep us entertained at 3am.

Date: 03/19/04................24993. After the stay in Raton, New Mexico, we took out past the Capulin Volcano and ancient lava field, toward the town of Clayton, NM, and so on to Dalhart TX, Dumas, Childress, Nocona, Henrietta, Wichita Falls, and Gainesville—on toward Sherman, where, after sundown, we saw emergency vehicles parked by the divided highway, just sitting, and a huge supercell in the east. This is, in the Great Plains, not a good sign: this is weather-spotting activity, and a supercell can mean tornadoes. So as we were nearing my brother’s place near Dallas, we exchanged weather advisories by cell phone, and about this time, rain came down like a black curtain, and hail pounded us. Well, if you are caught like this, the thing to do is find a business with an awning or portico, and I knew there was one at the turn of HWY82 toward HWY 72 in Sherman. We kited under that shelter with ten other cars and a trailer, ever so glad to find out our car hadn’t been dented, and waited, while cell phone messages flew in all directions and people in the service station exchanged information from relatives and road experience.The storm bypassed the immediate area, and we took out, chasing the backside of the storm as it veered off toward Denton TX. Lightning abounded, huge, sky-crossing streamers every few seconds, but less rain, and no further hail. So we reached my brother’s place, under a gentle sprinkle of large drops, and had no storm at all where we stayed. The cats recognize the place, and are on extraordinarily good behavior—a good thing, since my niece is babysitting a sugar glider, an incredibly cute variety of flying squirrel-type creature that apparently mistakes me for a tree...it certainly liked the pattern on my shirt, and having one flying at your face makes you think very much of the velociraptor in Jurassic Park, only furry and painfully cute.

Date: 03/20/04................24993. I have about 200 pages of manuscript corrections I need to be putting in, from the drive, but haven’t yet. Jane’s making her costume for The Play, about which more later, and I’ve been doing the family visit, including shopping trips and catching-up on household information. We’re going out to dinner tonight, and that should be nice. Chatter, chat, a little shopping, and the cats are snoozing in the closet, refusing to be at all energetic. The skies are blue, too sunny for my taste, and the temperature is in the high seventies, again, too warm for me. But we’ll survive. I’ve also found something I’m allergic to—Dallas being only a few hundred miles south of Oklahoma, where I spent years, and developed allergies to a very great number of things, including practically every tree in the state. Things are in bloom down here. The redbuds are gorgeous—a reddish purple bloom; the cherry trees, the Bradford Pears just finishing, in white with green leaves coming on. And the trees are leafing out spring green. The coming drive should have a lot of redbud and dogwood in the wood-edge. But for now we sit and drink way too much coffee and chat.

Date: 03/21/04................24993. Monday, and a huge breakfast—the one thing with this diet is that you can pretty well have as much eggs, cheese and meat as you want, which turns out generally to be less than you think you’ll want. But eggs are a fair rarity in my diet, and there were plenty. I was supposed to take my mother to the doctor, and it turned out to be the wrong day—after we’d driven through two other cities to get there. Still, it was a nice outing, give or take the Dallas traffic. Turns out her appointment was for Friday, when I won’t be here. We did a little shopping, and did a little sitting and resting. And then I fixed dinner, which was well received. Not too much beyond sitting and talking. I ought to enter my corrections, but I hate to talk to family while typing: it doesn’t pay proper attention.

Date: 03/22/04................24993. Tuesday, our last day in Dallas, and a little last moment running about. More family chat, and this time we ran my mother out to an Outback steak house and had far too much food. But she enjoyed it, clearly. And more family chat and packing up, which signals the cats to be particularly cute: "Don’t forget the cat! I’m cute, I’m loveable, where’s my food dish?" The sugar glider has gone safely back to its owner, after escaping in the upstairs. And we’re packed and ready to roll.

Date: 03/23/04................24993. On from Dallas to Memphis TN, the diagonal road upward. We’re putting on a play at the Midsouthcon convention, which calls for Scotch, as one of the props, and found the motherload of single malts at really good prices just across the state line as you come out of Texas, in a gas station, no less. So we got a few bottles, saving them for the convention. The drive was pretty, but rife with construction delays. I tell you, there should be a hot spot in the hereafter for people that dart ahead in a lane to be closed, to force their way in on the charity of fools who let them in. What the police ought to do is station one officer in a marked car a mile ahead of the merge, with a 40mph sign, then a merge-right or whatever, and levy a thousand dollar fine on anyone who doesn’t get over in a hundred feet of that sign. It’s ridiculous that all of us have to be held up by inconsiderate folk cutting in line. End tirade. But we made it to the familiar bridge in south Memphis, on around to Airway, and onto Democrat, and into the hotel, where we got if not our usual room, one adjacent to the usual. Lynn Abbey met us there, and we got adjoining rooms—she used to share a house with us, in Oklahoma. We went hunting for a recommended restaurant, in the dark, on unfamiliar roads. The restaurant turned out literally to be in Mississipi, across the state line, and spotted a Walmart and several other useful stores. We have the play props to find, and need a toy gun, and a few other props.

Date: 03/24/04................24993. Thursday. We’re still putting play props together. Turns out the shoes I got for the trip won’t stay on my feet on the spiral staircase in the hotel, so I nabbed a couple of other pair at a two-for-one sale. They work better in athletic situations. We decided at this point we’d better write the script. Michael Sheard (Admiral Ozzel in Star Wars, and numerous other parts) had shown up—Michael had urged us last year to do this craziness; and we had a pre-script meeting at breakfast—much of the script is adlibbed; and nabbed a concom member, Jeff, and the Fan Guest, Cullen, Jeff to play himself; and Cullen to play Manley Mann, a wannabe media star of the worst sort. Lynn’s stepdaughter Annette Asprin showed up and joined us as key grip and stage manager; and that was a good reunion.

Date: 03/25/04................24993. Friday, first official day of the con, and we’re getting down to pure convention mode. The cats are annoyed at being deserted in the room (in their cage, to be sure—we have a nice large accommodation for them, but they demand more attention.) And I actually got to the art show and the dealers’ room both on the first day. The convention is not only a Midsouthcon, it’s a Deep South Con, which means it’s larger than usual, and there’s an uncommon bit of crowd pressure.

Date: 03/26/04................24993.  The title of the play: "Michael and the 7 Bitches," which was a direct offshoot of the famous Midsouthcon Bitch Panel of two years ago, in which all the seven writers who wrote hardheaded female characters participated—with Michael as the 8th. Most of us were here for this one: myself, playing Mallory; Jane Fancher playing Mother; Lynn Abbey doing Rifkind; we were going to have Bev Hale doing Arcana, but substituted Cat, a concom member, since Bev couldn’t make it. Lee Martindale and Lenore Wood added themselves to the lot, original Bitches both, and the play went on. Between malfunctioning bells, malfunctioning mike, and occasional glitches, it went on to general laughter, so we must have done something right. Michael later informed us it’s a theater superstition that it’s bad luck to have real liquor in a stage play, but we countered that it wasn’t a stage and we weren’t sure it was a play, and the Scotch went round to all and sundry, which was followed by the masquerade.

Date: 03/27/04................24993. Sunday morning at the con. For those of you who know the song, it was like that. But we had a breakfast kaffeklatch with attendees, and had to get up and make sense. The hotel restaurant is the one ongoing problem—service at the speed of glacial advance; and they don’t even show up to take your money when you’re trying to pay them. I’d hit the front desk with a laundry list of complaints, and they were trying to do better—had put on more staff, who were trying to learn the ropes. This included our bewildered waitress at breakfast. We began the wind-down, had the next installment of the Bitch Party, and went out to dinner with the concom, after which the Dead Dog party, which ends all.

Date: 03/28/04................24993. Farewells. Breakfast with Michael and Sylvia, Lynn and Annette and Cat. We loaded the car up, packed the cats, and were on the road to Chicago—using my brand new GPS attachment for the Palm. Well, this had its problems. I’d loaded only a dumbbell map, and I turned the Palm off to save power—during which we missed our turn. The GPS woke up confused, told us go East, which is its standard response when confused, but I didn’t know this. We went east, deserting the St. Louis route for the Middle-of Illinois route, Hwy 57, which lies through a boggy patch containing every substance I’m allergic to. And we needed to make it to I-55 to reach the western suburbs of Chicago, our destination. Fortunately the proprietor of a truck stop told us how to get back to I-55 without wasting time or gas, and when we reached it, the GPS realized where it was and directed us neatly to our destination, at Jane’s sister’s, where we have encamped.

Date: 03/29/04................24993. Woke up with a horrid sore throat. Theraflu has saved me. Allergy is fierce here—everything is in bloom, and it’s all the trees I react to. My ears were bubbling. Post-Theraflu, my ears and throat cleared up and my eyes began to water. I’ll settle for that, rather than a sore throat. I’ll be glad to drive into the land of winter-again, where I can breathe. But it’s very nice to have a day to catch our breath and talk with family. We’re doing laundry left and right and will next transit into Canada, but figure it’s easiest to leave the cats with Jane’s sister and cross the border without them, for our next convention, which is in Toronto.

Date:03/30/04............24993. On the road to Toronto, via Ann Arbor. Our dear friend Lynn Abbey used to live in Ann Arbor, and recommended Weber’s Inn, right on I-94, as a really nice place to stay and eat—they don’t take pets, but we’re petless for the nonce, and figure to give it a try. It was a hard drive getting out of Chicago area—the interflow between I-80 and getting onto I-94 is hampered by construction. We crept through that, and on through Gary, IN, but picked up speed. I do like the custom of trucks keeping right, and staying there. It makes navigation a lot easier. But they can wear immense potholes. Our one mistake of the trip was at Benton Harbor, MI, where we had a choice between a Something Evans restaurant and Sophia’s. We picked Sophia’s. Wrong. At-ti-tude. We wanted a scrambled egg and a spoonful of cottage cheese. We asked them hold the pancakes, hold the syrup, the butter, the sliced fruit, and the hash browns and give us one spoonful of cottage cheese. No, they say, but we can purchase a half pint serving of cottage cheese for 2.95. Go ask, we say. The waitress does. No deal. They’ll hold the stuff, but won’t substitute. We complain to the onsite manager. No deal. At this point, hell if we’ll pay 2.95 for cottage cheese. We tipped the waitress, who tried, but for that restaurant, no way on earth would we recommend it or its attitude toward its customers. Let’s see—what else? Flashing lights and a two-police-car stop of a car in the opposing lane, occupant with his hands in the air and police with drawn guns everywhere. So nice. And a car wreck—not ours. Someone else in the ditch. But on toward Ann Arbor. We had a lovely dinner, missed the cats, missed Abbey, and called her, but never could get her.

Date:04/01/04............24993. April Fool’s Day, and we’re off to go through customs in Detroit, which wasn’t too bad, but I swear, Windsor, Ontario has a fear of invading Yanks—we couldn’t find signs for the 401, which led us all over Windsor until we reached a Tim Horton’s where I insisted to stop and ask directions. Well, it turned out we were sitting on Dundas Street, which became the 401 if you follow it far enough. So on we go, link onto the Queen Elizabeth Way short of Toronto, and then an immaculate set of instructions get us within sight of our hotel. Now, in the States, if you have a really big hotel sign, it indicates the main driveway: not so here. I spotted a minuscule, official ‘hotel’ sign, yelled, "Turn!" and Jane wrenched the car into a not-very-obvious turn that got us to the parking lot. We settled in, helped set up the con suite, being without cats, without computers, and needing something to do—I’m still fighting the cold, so I stayed away from food service, but I could do some things. Anxious for everything to get underway. It’s a lovely hotel, and has a nice setup for functions.

Date:04/02/04............24993. First official day of the con, and we helped put up art show panels. Then opening ceremonies and first official items. A light day today, a lot of walking around and meeting people. Our friends Robert Sawyer and Michelle West are here, and in the evening we sat around the bar and socialized until late. Jane’s jewelry case is missing. We’re hoping it’s in the tangle of things we left with Jane’s sister, with the cats. We called, but it’s just such a difficult thing to search for someone else’s item. I did receive better news from Dallas: when we left, my mother was not doing well, and landed in hospital the day after. She is improved, and home again.

Date:04/03/04............24993. Saturday, up for breakfast with Julie Czerneda and then a blitz of panels, Jane’s and mine, and a GOH address. Good panels. Crowded panels. Toronto Ad Astra is a very good, very readerly convention where the panel rooms are packed with bright, well-read fans. We are delighted. Evening, after hours, and I left the bar to visit the powder room—came back to realize there was water and white plaster all over the doorway to the bar—the ceiling had caved in after me. No injuries, but a lot of white sodden plaster. The bar soldiered on. So did we all. We had a very nice dinner out at Katsuro’s in the Prince Hotel, a Westin, I believe, and then went back for a quiet evening of parties...including a very nice, informative Scotch tasting. We called again—being doting cat-parents. Still no jewelry case. And the cats are beginning to stress.

Date:04/04/04............24993. A last flurry of panels, and a crisis: the hotel had repossessed the Green Room and the concom had thirty minutes to vacate it or get charged: one of those sorts of things that happens in large events with hotels...so we scrambled to ferry bottles and boxes down to the con suite directly downstairs. Outside of that, at least for the guests, things were immaculate, and everything carried on quite nicely. The concom handled themselves with grace and kept the guests quite happy. And this was our last evening in Toronto: we started packing.

Date:04/05/04............24993. A good breakfast, a last chance to say goodbyes to breakfasting concom, pick up kind notes at the checkout desk, and over all, resolve an overwhelming "We’ll be back to this convention." It’s a great con—to those of you not familiar with fan-speak, that is a compliment. We got advice from the concom to cross the border at Sarnia/Port Huron instead of Detroit/Windsor. And we took out into a rapidly moving local rush hour—the posted speed is 100kph. People were doing 130. You could get run over going slower. And the provincial police just sit in their cars under underpasses and watch it go. And, God, the potholes! These are tire-killers particularly on the middle (truck) lane of the 401, and they have to be dodged—all of these little traps new to us, of course. Jane drove, and dodged them and the trucks, sort of like a video game with one’s tires and life at stake. But after exiting into the countryside, we picked up the 402 at London and went on to Sarnia. We had a very fast crossing, only a few questions from customs, and then went on to Flint, MI, over to Lansing, and then down to Benton Harbor, where we waved Sophia’s a non-fond goodbye and began to skirt the bottom of the lake. Around Gary, IN, we drove into smoke, lots of smoke—something was afire; and at the bridge, an unfortunate trucker had turned his rig on its side—his load of huge heavy pipe fittings had shifted, broken loose, and overset him, ripping the top out of his van, not to mention damage to the cab. No fittings had escaped, that we saw, thank goodness, and we hope the driver is all right. There was scarcely even a slowdown: traffic raced, and there were absolutely no delays even through usual chokepoints and merges. From Toronto on, it was all 80mph, no breathers, no hesitation—Jane kept driving, and we kept going, making the whole trip to Chicago with no slowdowns, 7-point-something hours from Toronto to Chicago. Caught supper in Chicago, and on to Jane’s sister’s place, where the kitties were very glad to see us. Ysabel was so happy she purred for two hours and didn’t even bite me—hard—her usual trick when I’ve neglected her; Efanor had been hiding up in the bookshelves for two days and was ever so glad to see Jane. Ysabel has been so nice, I’m sure she’s saving up a nasty bite when the desertion crosses her mind later, but right now she’s just too sweet for words. And we finally realized where Jane’s jewelry might be—since it’s not here. Weber’s, in Ann Arbor, the hotel we forgot. The only hard bit—Jane’s mattress has sprung an air leak.

Date:04/06/04............24993. Jane called Weber’s, and they do have the jewelry case. She is ecstatic, and we’re all very glad. This is her favorite jewelry, the two necklaces with sentimental value, some very favorite earrings, and a third necklace that’s irreplaceable. So that will be shipped Fedex here. Thank you, Weber’s. They may not take pets, but they are a fine hotel. A quiet morning in Chicago, where we’re quite content to repack and catch a few notes. We’ll be lumps and rest for the remainder of the day, and we intend to reward Jane’s sister with a nice dinner out, this evening. She’s been ever so patient, having surrendered her back bedroom to our two outlaw cats and having our Midsouthcon luggage spread all about her living room for days on end....We solved the mattress leak: Jane took the air mattress (Aero, FYI) back to Bed, Bath, and Beyond despite the advisement from Aero that we should seek recourse from them only: BB&B replaced the faulty mattress with not a blink or the requirement of a receipt or an original box—both of which had gotten pitched during the week we were gone. Applause for them. That’s a store with good customer sense. We’re happy: we bought more stuff, including two Bed Buddy microwave neck-warmers, which we heartily recommend for typists or athletes; and we’ll happily continue to patronize their store in Spokane. Good thing we’re going home: the local Pet Smart didn’t have the special food Ysabel needs, and we have just enough to make it. (For any of you who have cats who can’t keep their food down or who have way too many hairballs, try Nature’s Balance: it’s the only cat food without corn. It consequently costs a little more, but may make you and your cat a lot happier. They’ve taken corn out of a lot of dog food. I wish they’d wake up to the problems it causes in cats.) All of which says we’re starting to pack. We’ve loaded up the big cage, which we didn’t end up using, onto the car roof, and will hoist the Really Big Roof Load tomorrow, which requires some athletic standing on tires. I do, incidentally, recommend those web-and-hook bungee nets: they’ve kept our well-strapped luggage very quiet, soundwise, and stable, through a lot of driving through rough weather and over rough roads.

Date: 04/07/04.........24993. And about page 150 of the singlespace edit on Destroyer, which we will finish by, probably, Wall, NE on our way home. We had a nice dinner at the local pub last night, sat around and caught up on the figure skating World Competition—my British friend Michael Sheard chides us that the American habit of saying Worlds for World and Nationals for National is very curious. We had missed World/Worlds during Midsouthcon and wanted to get a look at what had happened and why. The women’s result we found very close and interesting. I do agree with our host that I don’t like the qualifying round being counted in the final score. It’s the ‘long program’ in preview, and in my humble opinion, counting it as part of the final competition score penalizes the skaters with the most ambitious and strenuous long programs by wearing them out in inverse of the usual sequence (short, then long) and then counting it in meticulous rather than general scoring, where a mistake can make all the rest of the competition at extreme disadvantage. I think they should go back to the old way of scoring, using the qualifying score only to determine who gets into the finals, and not insisting on perfection....but who asks me? Jane’s jewelry and suede shirt arrived safely this morning, to great rejoicing. And otherwise, we’re not doing a thing constructive but sitting around watching news and doing video games. I’d hoped to get some work done, but this is the first day I’ve had the ambition to want to work, which indicates we’ve been away long enough to be eager to be back. The cats have recovered from their trauma—and we’re starting to think homeward. We brought our cameras this trip, and have been traveling too fast to use them: a lot of the road has lain through terrain that is quite familiar in aspect, and we just haven’t thought to come to a screeching halt and take a picture. Also we’ve been on such fast-moving roads that we’d be killed if we tried. We’ve seen a few curious sights: the groundhog standing beside the road in Canada was different; a reindeer farm; the beautiful skyline of Toronto—very little sight of the Great Lakes, the highway always running slightly aside from the water. But we did see Lake Huron, which I never had seen from the ground, and Lake Erie. We were, in Toronto, only a few miles from Niagara, and if we had not been there for quite a lengthy trip with many splendid photos previously, we would have diverted to see that wonder of the North American continent. And we did dive up to the northern suburbs today to the Toscano/Basil Street showroom up in Arlington, where we bought, of all things, two chairs, which we had seen in catalog—we’ve had a hard time finding chairs in which we can both work in the evening, after the demise of the couch. They’re much smaller than we thought, but comfortable and provide a good working posture. We ordered them delivered in Spokane. And back home for a good supper at the pub we discovered on our first night back from Toronto. Over all, we’ve had a good trip and just long enough rest at the end to make us mentally sharp for our return trip, thanks to family hospitality. We do have the name of a local rink, and there’s part of me that would love to take to the ice, but I’m still suffering from way too much party and the aftereffects of the Convention Cold, not to mention the local allergies, so I probably will forego the chance...The one creature who will rejoice at our departure is the long-suffering Deymio, Jane’s sister’s cat, who has known for a week that there are two strange felines living in the back room of his establishment, doubtless up to no good and committing all sorts of feline mayhem with his toy basket and enjoying his favorite sunning window.

Date: 04/08/04.........24993. Off we go, with thanks to Jane’s sister, and away. Packing the car—I spilled the last of the catfood, and we had to scrape it off the porch: Ysabel being allergic to corn, and the local pet store not having her brand of food, we were already short, and what do I do but drop it? We’re hoping to find more as we go west. We were advised by my Palm chip to take the 80/88, but we decided to take the northern route and catch 90 up in the northern suburbs, which worked marvelously: again, traffic moved, and we got over on our route with no problems, over to Rockford, and then up, where we did have a small, but temporary slowdown for construction. Had brunch at a Country Kitchen in Janesville, WI, and let me tell you, if there is a contrast to Benton Harbor MI, it’s here: we ordered the usual breakfast—hold the potatoes and pancakes, sub the cottage cheese—and they not only did it cheerfully, they took a little off the price to compensate. It’s not the money: it’s the attitude. So if you’re on 90/94 going up to Madison or down, stop in Janesville. They’re nice folk, and are installing a low-carb menu. Past Madison and up where 90 splits from 94, and into what they call the Wisconsin Dells, which is a pretty region of little lakes and nooks, and huge motel/waterparks. These folk certainly know how to spend winter. We didn’t get pictures: we were just too tired. We veered west, and ran into hills we hadn’t expected existed...which continued into Minnesota. We crossed the Mississippi, which is a reedy-edged but broad river at this point; and the Missouri River, which is a broad, pretty river. And we drove and drove and drove through farmland—before we left Wisconsin, we bought a piece of Amish sharp Cheddar, and let me tell you, this is very good stuff. It sustained us on the way. And we knew we were going to drive late...took turns at the wheel, though I was supposed to be reading Destroyer: local allergies had Jane sleepy and my voice chancy, so we drove alternately. And in attempting to resolve the Palm-suggested route with the one I’d plotted on the map, I discovered what hadn’t made sense to me: the Palm chip has a flaw in it for that route. It would have delivered us somewhere south of Sioux City IA, not Sioux Falls ND, and left us with the airy instruction to take a highway that would end up in Sioux Falls—in other words, it’s screwed, on that route. Fortunately I hadn’t seen how it could work, and didn’t like the route, so I hand-figured, and a good thing I did. We reached that point where the westerning sun made westward driving difficult, pulled into a very nice steakhouse in Stewartville ND—it’s the first exit, and very nice: we plan to go back. Then we headed for Sioux Falls, where we were vastly overcharged at the local Motel 6, like about a third higher than the book promised, and don’t plan to stop there again. Sioux Falls is a lovely city, but the Motel 6 is a problem.

Date: 04/09/04.........24993. And page 250 of the reading manuscript. On toward Billings, our intended next stop, some 800 miles off, and through South Dakota. We learned something peculiar: if a South Dakota sign tells you there’s gas at a particular exit, or worse, a roadside attraction, it may be miles off. We were twice drawn in by this ploy, and vastly annoyed. At Mitchell SD, however, despite incredibly misleading local signing and going around the block, we persisted in our search for the mythical Corn Palace, which is represented to be covered in corncob murals. We did find a pet store, which didn’t have Ysabel’s food, but which did have something which might serve—and when I got out of the car and looked down the block, lo! There was the Corn Palace, which is truly quite a sight. We drove by, but plan to visit Mitchell again on our next trip to visit Jane’s sister, and next time get a photo. On we go, got drawn in again by the promised Akta Lakota museum, never found it after driving miles, and traversed South Dakota with the vow never to believe another roadside attraction sign at face value. An exception, of course, is Wall SD, which lies opposite the Badlands, and which is an endless tourist stop. Jane found a leather coat I think she should have bought, but she listened to someone else who said if you want leather coats, stop in Sturgis, site of the annual Biker’s rally. So we drove on, and learned in Sturgis that they don’t have leather until the biker festival is imminent. No coat. But an interesting trip through an interesting town, in some interesting shops with very nice people. On to Wyoming, and that district famed in western lore: Sundance, where I was able to make a flying stop and pick up a bottle of handcreme I particularly favor, at the local Best Western; and Deadwood, which we missed. We ordinarily stop just past Buffalo WY, at Garryowen, where there is a nice gas/food/trading post, but at this point I was reading and Jane just rolled past. And after all the delays, we knew we’d kill ourselves getting to Billings, so we opted for Sheridan WY, and arranged a motel there—cellphones in cars do have their uses, if managed by the passenger. We got into Sheridan WY at sundown, one of those silky blue and white sunsets over snowcovered peaks in storm that you never can catch on film, not as it evolves. By sunset we had our very reasonable and brand new Motel 6 at the last Sheridan exit (23) and, dropping the cats in the room, headed off for dinner and debuzz. The lad at the desk advised the lofty Steak and Chophouse, which turned out to be in the historic and spectacular hotel with a Wild Bill Hickok Slept Here sign, and we headed for the pub as an alternative. We couldn’t find the one he recommended—drove past the lodge we belong to, and almost stopped there, but we were too hungry to be social. We ended up at a local watering hole called The Pony, during the hockey finals. It was so loud the waitresses fouled up orders, not being able to hear, but it was an experience—either gambling or contest-drinking going on to the back of us, hockey fans in front, notable numbers of people in hockey team shirts, maybe only four women customers in the place, and we’d managed to get seats on first arrival: five minutes later, the line extended out the door. We went back after a very excellent Cobb salad and the only refrigerated single malt Scotch ever served—it was an experience; and the wine came in little airline bottles: definitely a beer place. But the food was great and the price was unbelievably cheap. So we went back to the hotel, loaded the rest of the gear upstairs, and here we are.

Date: 04/10/04.........24993. And page 300 of the reading manuscript. We got up earlier than we intended, after the cats played chase all through the night, and we lit out this time for home, stopping for breakfast at Billings, at the Flying J stop, which gave us 300 miles of indigestion. Don’t eat the sausage. We know all this territory, right down to the cheap gasoline, which helps: no sweating the sinking needle on the gas tank. It’s one of the most beautiful stretches, as you go north of the Beartooth Range, snowcovered, past Grand Teton and Yellowstone, snowcovered, and the Crazy Mountains, likewise snowcovered. Spring is breaking out on the Yellowstone River, but no allergies to speak of. Up past Bozeman, where again we didn’t get to visit the Museum of the Rockies—again we vow to do that next trip—and on to Butte, past our usual stop at Rocker, and even past our usual mandatory stop-and-shop at Haugen—we’ve bought everything we need, have no use for trinkets, and we’re homeward bound. The cats have smelled home at Sheridan, acted the fools all night, and now are comatose in their cages, absolutely convinced we’re headed into the right territory. We drove past beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene ID, then on to Spokane and home, where we found the silliest drivers on our whole trip—got Jane’s Toshi out of the repair shop at CompUSA, and discovered they’d exchanged her very good matte screen for a bad fuzzy non-matte screen, to her great frustration; and never explained what had snapped and burned. But we delivered the cats home and went out to eat at the Onion downtown, a very nice burger and steak house, which has the only low carb buns around, went home and hoped for a Mariners game, but no, they’re on the road. So we collapse and plan to sleep tomorrow. We've traveled about 6300 miles since the middle of last month, and we've earned it. Spokane is in full spring, all the white and pink trees in bloom, cherry and apple and crabapple, and the deciduous new spring leaves everywhere in evidence, making solid green on the hills. Mt. Spokane still has its snow cap, but definitely spring will win up there as well.

Date: 04/11/04.........24993. I'd thought I could get a little work done, but it was sleep, sleep, sleep today. We did divert over to the rink to see what the spring public skate schedule is like, but couldn't figure from the notes available. We'll have to check tomorrow. We need our chiropractor, we need to be back on the ice, and I need the kink out of my back---the faithful Forester is wonderfully comfortable, but the space-capsule nature of our overpacked car (and all the things I keep in the footwell of my seat) has taken a toll. We did catch the Mariners game, and found that they had sadly lost their first five games while we were out of town and unable to watch. BUT....they never lose when we actually attend a game; and they rarely lose when we watch. We knew what the trouble was. We went off to the Outback for supper/lunch, persuaded them to put the game on two of the several televisions, and sat down to watch with the score Mariners 2, Oakland 4. At the top of the ninth, they began scoring, and finished ahead by five. We think we should apply for a season contract. Or at least tee shirts. So we came home happily to unpack the car roof (Jane slipped down and did that while I wasn't watching) and try to do the laundry. Abbey called, and we did the catch-up on the last week. It seems the MidSouthCon folk have put up a picture from the Play on their website. Shudder. And want us to do it again. We already have a plot.

Date: 04/12/04.........24993. And I got 20 pages of the corrections (singlespace) entered. Anxious to get that done and get back to work on the current manuscript. I worked most of the day entering my mother's checksfor the year into the computer and trying to assign tax categories. And I finally came out with only a few 'unknowns' and with the account reconciled down to 67 cents, me, who notoriously has trouble making accounts reconcile, so I was pretty happy. Jane proposed that anyone who had spent 6 hours entering blurry Xeroxes of checks shouldn't have to cook, so we decided to go out somewhere---and then I discovered my keys were missing. And not only my keys, but, of course, the jumpdrive that's on the keyring---my computer backups. I searched the whole apartment; she did; we searched the car; I called the restaurant we'd been at, all no go, and I recall the nasty habit that ring has of dropping out of the purse pocket. I could envision it lying in the gutter downtown and having some computer thief picking it up....So we decided to go to the restaurant and search it personally---it's pretty dark in the places we patronize. And on the way Jane reminded me that we'd been to the Onion, the place I'd called, the day before. Last night we'd been at the Outback, further across town. So hopes rose. And the minute I walked in, they had my keyring. Great relief and dances of joy---and a resolve to change where I keep the jumpdrive. I think I'll clip it to the purse, which is harder to lose. WE'd hoped to go to the rink today, but Jane is just too sore from driving almost the whole trip, and her shoulder is killing her---the thought of a fall is just too gruesome. So we decided to wait a day and get our backs in better shape. I plan to totter around the rink very gingerly: I'm still pretty sore, too, with bruises---slinging multiple 50 pound bags onto the roof rack turns up all sorts of aches and pains. And today we got a box of clothes that my brother had mailed to us: there's a second-hand shop we frequent in Dallas: it always has great stuff, a lot of it seconds and unsolds from other shops, and of all things, being packed like an expedition in the first place, we'd acquired clothes. It's the diet business: most of my better clothes have gone very baggy, and my wardrobe is taking quite a lot of revision. I can take in certain things---we have good machines, including a serger---but in other cases, the lines are just wrong, and the item doesn't look right. So we diet on---and we really didn't do badly on the trip. I have a belt that's a good gauge: I returned with it in the same notch as when I'd started. And we didn't sustain ourselves on French fries during the trip---it was diet bars and Amish cheese.

Date: 04/13/04..........24993.........and 20 more pages of corrections. We took a trip to our very exccellent chiropractor, who keeps us functional---my back is much the better for it, and he's gone a long way toward straightening up Jane's shoulder from the sprawl she took on the ice before we left. I've been to not-good chiropractors, but let me tell you, when you find a good one, it's so much easier than limping around hoping the pain goes away. For people who spend as much time sitting as we do, it's ever so nice to check all that muscle tension at his office and walk away upright. I wasn't as bad off as I feared I was. And should you wonder about the bitten finger---it's healed. No problems. Since I received an inquiry from a friend in New York regarding the finger, I think I should mention I did get over it. Ysabel has been on such good behavior. But I may take her back to the vet's to get those claws clipped: both cats are ever so much happier if there's a disarmament policy in effect in the household. Some apartments have no-claws requirements; but a good, oft-repeated claw-clip is no worse than getting your fingernails manicured and, repeated often enough, it's just as effective at saving the furniture. If you start with kittens and remain firm but patient (how I regret I didn't) you can arrive at a cat that's very easy to clip. Ysabel is Miss Cuisinart, and doesn't like it, oh, no. So, well, I'm going to have to win this argument, if my fingers hold out: I think I owe it to the Black Prince, who doesn't deserve to get the benefit of a fistful. WE'RE laying off the skating today, in respect of  our backs, but we're going tomorrow, and I'm really looking forward to it. Spring is in the air out there, otherwise---trees are green, or blooming; and I'm disappointed: we got only the mild edge of the cold front we were promised, and the afternoon thunderstorms we were told we'd get haven't materialized, not so much as a sprinkle. That's the one thing I miss up here---the great, noisy thunderstorms. And we did get one on the trip, at last.

Date: 04.14./04...........24993.........and 100 or so pages of corrections entered. 'T is the day before the great US ritual of Income Tax, but I'm at least ahead of the deadline, and Jane got hers in. I've been entering corrections until I'm bored, bored, bored, and off we went to the rink for the first skate since we've been back. It was strange---center of balance was off: glided a foot and then stepped one foot close to the other, went on too narrow a footing and nearly fell over sideways, then recovered, stepped too wide, and had to fight forward lean, waving arms frantically. After that I had my feet under better control. It's amazing---the human rear wants to lag way far back over the tail of the skates, not good, and it took a bit to get the slalom back under power. I have yet to figure how Jane goes all the way around the rink without lifting her feet from the ice, but I'm getting far better: I only have to stroke every 20 feet or so. And I could recover a bit of my crossover, no fear. Also tried working backward a bit, and managed to go about 20 feet in reverse, at a very slow pace. But oh, it felt good to fly around the rink at speed, once I had my feet under control. We've turned the skates over to a person who sharpened blades for Skate America, whose charges are very reasonable. He'll have them both done by tomorrow, and we'll know for certain what is indifferent blade-sharpening and what is our fault. You can get burrs on the blade edge: I'm a little suspicious Jane has one. But of the people who fell down today, they weren't us---Jane staunchly maintains that she didn't fall today: she was standing still and fell over, plump, onto the ice. I understand that. It's exactly what I did, only I didn't quite tip over that much. She was resting after a vigorous skate, and just, bang! moment of inattention. I hope she didn't jam that shoulder again.......We got the roof rack off the car, have the car looking less like a safari vehicle, and have promised to take our faithful plantsitter to supper tonight, in gratitude. I have my hopes for which restaurant she'll pick, but it's her choice. I'm going to be updating our US map, but we didn't get photos this trip. This may take some doing, since I've forgotten some of the knack of getting the hot spots to work, but I'm sure it'll come back to me.

Date: 04/15/04..........24993.........and 30 pages of corrections entered. Income tax day, and we took off and went skating---anxious to see what happens with the new sharpening, and it was very interesting. I had the feeling the tails of my blades ought to be sharp like the fronts, and now they are, which means more stability, more control---and more tendency to have a foot veer under a little redirection. I'm now secure enough on either foot, just by practice, that if one foot becomes untenable, I can equally well shift my weight to the other, which means it doesn't bother me much. Full blade edge means I can lean more, which is good. And I can now go backward at a slow rate, under power. It's just a case now of practice, practice, practice. One of the good skaters at the rink also showed me how to reverse direction---which was funny. Bend your knees, she says, straighten with a snap and turn. Well, I did---but I did it without observing you had to then curtsy again to stop. I went into a several revolution spin, and I don't know which of us was the more shocked. I didn't fall down, but it wasn't pretty. I think that turn is actually easier on one foot, but I need the rail to keep me from going down: getting your balance on the recovery is not easy. I tend to go too far over the tail of my skates, a move which can only end in tears----if not for the wall. We skated full out today, and it is definitely Advil time: an hour and a half of sailing around at meaningful speed, not to mention the muscle pull of trying to 'bubble' backward (a move sort of like fish-finning) has my legs really quite, quite worked out, thank you. We did get to my favorite restaurant last night; and to a sports bar this afternoon, for our one real meal, and I'm going to have to get back to cooking real soon now. It's just going through those few days of complete collapse after exercise that we have to get through.

Date: 04/16/04................24993.............and more corrections. I could have finished up yesterday, but I was coming down with something. I've had just the tail end of the sinus infection that I caught after the allergy attack on the trip, and something in the air just has my name on it. Wretched sore throat, very edgy feeling. I don't know if it's a proven phenomenon, but I ordinarily don't catch colds and, unlike some writers, circulate enough in public places that I keep up my immunities. So does Jane...and she's not catching what I've got, or being affected as I am by allergies. I think it was the extreme flood of antibiotics following the cat bite that set my immune system in a tizzy, overreacting to allergens and then (it was broad spectrum but not full spectrum) leaving me vulnerable to the ordinary sort of bugs that just sort of live in the human population. But---better that than get a bone infection, which I was well on my way to. I decided after a totally nonproductive day (well, except the pages of corrections) that I'd go skate, and hope to throw off the bug---I don't know if that's medically sound theory, either, but I was bored, and I wanted to go. And it was an evening public skate today---they're on spring schedule, and public skate hours are somewhat unpredictible. This meant it was a lot more like our downtown public skate, with hordes of kids playing tag and generally pitting out the ice in very short order. I don't mind hockey skaters careening on either side of me in a race, but I do mind someone gratuitously digging a two inch pit in the ice in a mostly dark arena. The ice rapidly became chancy, and I mostly did straightline skating. But, hey, the added revenue helps keep the arena going. I felt sorry for one brave young kid who'd been sent onto the ice on her first skate with often-broken laces so loose her feet were turning over. I tried to tell her. But probably the skates didn't fit, either---the advice to pick a skate size smaller than your street shoes has its limits of common sense. At any rate, I flagged when I began to have pain in my own foot, and when I got home, discovered that the spot that had rubbed yesterday wasn't just because the boot tongue had slipped. Now I have a nasty blistered spot about the size of two quarters, and I'm beginning to question how long these boots are gonig to last me. But they make these little round sponge pads that you can slip into skates to cushion spots like that, and I will, next time. I felt worse when I came home, worse still when the Mariners dropped a game, and finally think I'll go to bed and hope to get up cured.

Date: 04/17/04......................24993......and finished with the corrections. Now I have to back up the file, organize a printer connection to the printer we don't use too often, and shepherd it through a printing, organize a box, and get to the post office. This may take several days. The post office is not one of our greatest conveniences, and printing, even on the faster printer, takes a while. But I'm finished with the pre-turn-in version of Destroyer. I wanted badly to get back to work on the current book, if only to remember where I am, but the crud I caught is just too nasty and I was afraid if I tried to work, I'd only mess things up. I want to resume this book when I have a brain in full ordinary function. So I took to bed and stayed there most of the day, outside of one grocery store foray. It was a day on which the rink is not available---probably just as well, because I would have gone, and it probably wouldn't have helped---it didn't, yesterday. Or, who knows, maybe I'd be worse if I'd stayed in bed. But a day of rest is good. If I could just get rid of this wicked, constant almost-cough that's been driving me crazy for three days. I have so much work to do. And there's accounting to do. There's always accounting to do. I have to catch up with a basket full of mail from while we were gone, and I have it now sifted down to critical and not so critical, but I haven't made any progress on it. Filing, filing, filing, and bills. Sigh.

Date: 04/18/04...............25304. Well, not a great deal of progress, but restarting after a long hiatus means going back to the beginning, re-reading, editing, and generally reminding myself what's on all the various tables, what's in the closets, what our people are wearing and what they have in their pocketses. This is harder than ordinary reading, because you  not only have to recall what IS there, but what its potential is in the future you had laid out before you took a four week hiatus. And this requires some floor-pacing and communing in the shower with the bannik. The cough wasn't helping, but I'm really suspicious that part of my problem was that we live in a farming area, and that farmers may have been spraying over the last few days. My cough and the hoarseness Jane was experiencing both began to cure themselves at 3pm, which indicates something in the air had changed. Half the city has been coughing and experiencing sore throats, which tells you something too. We were in the middle of a very nice Mariners game (they were winning) when we took off to go for our skating lesson, and we gather they did win. Jane has been having trouble with a strained shoulder---she hasn't been keeping up her blog, in the interval, though she has the best of intentions, so I'll fill in for her. It's a strained shoulder, exacerbated by the single-direction rules at the rink: the side we're compelled to have nearest the wall is her bad arm, and she's fallen on it twice and made too many grabs at the wall. So she's trying to cure that, and didn't have much of a lesson. I took most of the time, and have gotten a few more things to work on, like edging on the rocker (ball of the foot) part of the blade, which will send you in a curve, which I am supposed to do on alternate feet without falling down. We also learned the bunny hop, which is kind of like a one stroke gallop on skates, and predictibly Jane did it quite handily and I fell hard. Thank goodness for helmets. I'm going back to practice my one-footedness. They're taking down the ice on rink 2, which means everybody, hockey, skating lesson folk, skating club and public freeskaters will all be competing for the ice on one rink. The other rink is being converted to rollerblade folk for the summer. I have very little desire to do rollerblading. At least ice skates will grab the ice and stop you---sometimes when you don't want to, but stop you just the same. And we got home, after dinner at Tomato Street, and tried watching the new production of Spartacus. I knew we were in trouble when an adult male character showed up wearing a bulla, the child's amulet, which is given to protect a male child until he gains his manhood, and not worn afterward, for obvious reasons. The main actor is playing Spartacus as Robin Hood, which is far from the mark: throatcutting was done quite freely around the countryside during the Spartacus Rebellion, hardened killers victimizing and slaughtering innocent households and small farmers, if you want the truth. Gladiators were not gladiators because they were poor unlucky slaves: they were mostly condemned murderers, sociopaths, serial killers, and habitual bad eggs, most of whom had been Romans before they were legally stripped of citizenship for crimes committed. Spartacus himself may have been a good guy, a war prisoner who'd fallen afoul of the rules and probably gotten where he was for attacking someone---the Romans have little particularly bad to say about him, but the core of his followers were just what you might expect, and slipped his control, which is ultimately what did for him. It's an interesting period, and one that did a lot to change Roman law---one of my passions---calling the institution of slavery into question and raising all sorts of questions about the post-civil-war  increase in large estates (agricultural industry) versus the traditional small farmer, about slavery as an institution (you were allowed to buy your own way out, but the large estates made it less and less likely), and all sorts of questions of social ethics. It's also a tragedy in other senses, since Spartacus, if he had been the educated, light-in-the-eyes sort of fellow this actor is portraying, might have had a chance of spurring a social change that was already bubbling under the surface of the culture, if he hadn't lost control of his followers, who acted as badly as possible. And I suspect he wasn't that sort of fellow, actually, and that he wasn't capable of doing it. If you're curious about the period, I recommend the mammoth J.B. Bury's History of Rome as a pretty good chronicle of the whole.

Date: 04/19/04..........25389. Still working up toward full efficiency. Haven't mailed Destroyer yet: I can't stand to print with chaos around me---too much likelihood of dropping a page or two, which can make horrid troubles, if undetected. So I have to clear the decks, literally. And the day started with phone calls to the rink trying to figure the new schedule, which wasn't on the robot tape. So I called the office, and found out at 9 that our skate time started at 9:30. Well, we weren't the prettiest pair that ever turned up at the rink, but we were the only two who showed up---everybody else was probably working on last week's information. I was half asleep and wobbly at first, but began to function, and am working on that edging business. Since we were the only two out there, we could go whatever direction we pleased, and Jane got her reverse-direction skate, which makes things easier on her bad arm. She's ordered a brace for it. I hope it arrives before she hurts it worse. We followed up with breakfast at The Swinging Doors, a local 24 hour place, and came home and settled down to work. It's been spitting rain for the last several days, blustery and chill if not cold. But I swear some farmer started spraying his field. I wish the whole county would coordinate that, just declare a day and burn and spray to their heart's content, not piece it out farm by farm for weeks. I know, I know, the logistics---but there's got to be some method of simultaneously spraying and plowing or planting, tubes under the ground or something that doesn't spread 9/10ths of the chemical into the air, wasting money and afflicting all the neighborhood. We worked what time we were sleeping and settled down in the evening to watch a Mariners/Athletics game that turned into a 15 inning riot---one of those games that started going south when a fan got her glove in Ichiro's way on a game-tying run and that proceeded through extra innings with each team loading the bases over and over and over and over again, only to be denied. It finally ended on a controversial balk.We won. I don't think either team is going to be able to move tomorrow. We watched the whole thing, a 4 1/2 hour game, most of it on the edge of your seat. Amazing.

Date: 04/20/04............25506. Gathering pieces. I can't say this has been a high-energy day. I wanted to spring out of bed this morning and get a great deal done, but I slithered out at about 9 and couldn't get my act together for hours. I think it must be the change of seasons. I worked. I cleaned the apartment, somewhat. We finally decided to go out to supper, which we did, and afterward watched the Mariners give every sign of repeating last night's performance. But Ibanez hit it up to the second tier and we won again. This is looking more like the Mariners we know and love. But beyond that, I can't say we did anything useful. Spring has definitely sprung, every tree in town is in gorgeous bloom, pink and white dogwood, all colors of lilacs, tulips and jonquils, juneberry, various berry bushes, and huge dark pink trees we can't idenity, but that are so loaded their branches bend with blooms, all numbing the air with pollen. Showers off and on, little laden clouds that drift over, sift rain down for five minutes and move on, nothing like the crashing violent storms of the southern plains. It's tended to rain at night, and then just to sift down rain every twenty minutes or so. I wish it would stay cool, but I fear we're trending toward real warmth.

Date: 04/21/04...........25506. Out of bed at 8 to try to get my legs under me before hitting the rink. So off we went with minimal breakfast, and a cup of coffee snatched at the desk. We drove out past streets full of parked cars, which made us wonder if the Arts Festival is shaping up for the nearby museum,---but we could see no evidence of it. So off we went. They're converting rink 2 apace, with all the sidewalls taken down and exchanged for pole barriers---it has a concrete base, and they have most of the ice off now. They'll, I'm told, paint the surface for the roller folk, and will probably get that done as soon as it gets dry. Meanwhile everything is quiet---they turn on our music, but that's about all. About four other folk made it out this morning, of our regulars, and two more that are less frequent, so the rink isn't so lonely. I'm doing little else but huge eight foot loops, left foot and right, trying to get the left foot to behave and steady down when relied upon alone: I twisted that ankle badly last year at a Mariners' game, and it still is a little less sure, not to mention being a bit harder to lace up neatly. It's a lot easier doing the edging with my young instructor to provide a steady hand if I wobble. And I'm definitely sided. I can not only curve little half circles on my right foot, I can do whole circles that way, and occasionally even do a little 2 revolution spin in place, but left is just incredibly iffy, with my balance wandering too far to the heel---an irrecoverable error if you let it go too far. Practice, practice, practice. I'm doing best on that side by deliberately aiming myself at the boards until I'm nearly out of room and evading impact via a sharp right turn on the left foot, which somehow persuades my dim brain (and that untidy foot) that it really, really is time to lean and turn or else. Splat. Whatever works. I haven't hit the boards yet. Go figure why the psychology works when I'm facing the boards, but not the dreadful broad white of the open rink. I think it's equilibrium. That's an awful lot of white, with no up or down, if you have any uncertainty of balance. ALSO I managed to skate backwards, if slowly, for maybe thirty feet. More practice. And  afterward, we started out at a discount store that neighbors the rink (a Fred Myers, for those of you in the northwest) to get some socks that are high enough to protect the ankle, and we ended up doing our food shopping as well. Plus I found a new Amelia Peabody book---any of you who have never read Elizabeth Peters' Crocodile on a Sandbank, do: it's a riot, and the series is addictive. We then rushed back home, to be there when a certain business call would come through: and what do we find but our parking lot empty---the source of the cars on the street. Hmmn. We discover it's the day on which they wash down the parking lot for the whole complex, and Jane's car's battery is dead. We haven't got our jumper cables---we lent them to a lovelorn stranded young neighbor on Christmas Eve last, when she was on her way to meet her boyfriend's parents, and she never gave them back: moved out, shortly. So we're cable-less, except for the emergency kit we'd just put in storage. So Jane's car had to sit and be splashed; but we dumped the groceries on the landing and I went parked the other on the street, oh, about a block away, then rushed back to sit and wait. And my business call didn't come through: sometimes there's massive confusion between New York and the West Coast, when it comes to scheduling. We'll straighten it out. So we have a clean parking lot, moved the car back in, and I spent so long waiting for the phone call that I now have officially done nothing useful today either. Ah, well. The sky is full of grey sheeplike clouds, and a high haze that doesn't quite let the blue escape, except here and there. It's sunny, mostly, and getting warm enough to persuade me that we may have to roll our little airconditioners out of storage and hook up. I really don't want to do that. I love the fresh air. But someone is spraying something like bug spray outside: it smells like Raid, and may be termite treatment, which is not a friendly substance. It's too warm inside, but what's outside, despite the lovely pink and green look of the landscape, isn't good to breathe, so we keep the windows shut and hope the stuff goes away soon.

Date: 04/22/04..............25506. Another day spent waiting for a business phone call that could affect the project I'm working on. I was just about to get the current book back up to speed. Sigh. I'm depressed. I don't know what to do. Although this isn't the first time. And trying to get hold of people from coast to coast over a three hour time difference, when our hours don't agree, is sometimes a headache. So...more spring cleaning and a godawful number of games of Solitaire. We did go out to try a new downtown watering hole, The Big Easy, which is geared to handle big concert crowds in the adjacent hall. It was nearly deserted when we were there. I have a feeling it can be much more lively. But they served Jane iced singlemalt Scotch again---what are these people thinking of? I still prefer the comfy, dark Tomato Street.

Date: 04/23/04..................25506. Off to the rink, and a pretty good skate. Interesting watching one of the pro coaches using the jump-harness for instruction. I never did get up much speed, but I'm at least gaining control of inside left edge---my aiming at the wall method works. But I skated past a burst of body heat that persuaded me to take off my winter coat, and then I slowed down for some meticulous edging practice, and began to chill. Once the body chill took over, I got downright sick at my stomach, and felt rather wobbly---and then I went home to wait for a phone call that didn't come. I know, I know, it's Friday in New York, and everyone leaves at noon. After it was far too late for anyone in New York to call, we did take a drive to the post office, always an expedition, and decided to take a further drive along the cliffs to look at the spring flowers, which were quite gorgeous in this older section of the city. We were so inspired when we reached a shopping center and a great large Jo-Anne's that we went inside and, true to our vow that we won't buy hundreds of plants that will only die during our first summer trip, we got some very pretty artificial flowers, which will be much cheaper, and which, oddly enough, I can pitch with clear conscience. I'm quite ruthless---if I'm hungry and catch a fish, that fish is toast, and I have not a qualm about it. But I'll nurse a sick fish in my long-ago aquariums for days and many dollars, and I absolutely can't bring myself to toss that struggling arrowhead fern on the porch, because it still produces leaves---nasty little leaves, but if there's a scrap of green about it, I keep feeling I'm killing something that was trying to survive. So our lives have gotten cluttered with little pots full of dubious little flowers. We caught ourselves this year before we committed to plants, have emptied all the pots and appealed to a neighbor who has a daughter who has a huge porch and wants pots. So away go the pots. Jane has weakened and says if we have really, truly lost our World Peace rose, which seems little more than a brown stick in its pot, she wants a couple of roses. So, well, we have one pot large enough for a tree (or that rose) and we have reserved one pot for a Tropicana, the rose variety she favors. Myself, if we lose World Peace, I might hold out for a rose called Just Joey, or its close relative, Whiskey Mac. My own favorites were that poor World Peace rose, which was a red peace, and very unique---we got it the year the Berlin Wall came down, and have never found another. I also like Granada, when it can be persuaded to live; and the gloriously old-fashioned Queen Elizabeth, though ordinarily I don't like pink. I like the plain Peace for one reason in particular: it grows like Johnson Grass, down in the south, and blooms large and often. I don't know how it survives the colder climes. But we have bundled up all our other pots and are refusing to get anything but cut flowers for the house. I arranged my purchase, which is composed mostly of brilliant artificial red poppies, with a weedy looking white flower and a freesia-looking spike of yellow and one of red in a pitcher that belonged to my grandmother, a brilliant orange-red pitcher, and the whole looks pretty professional, if I do say so. It provides color in here. And outside of that, precious little done. A disgusting baseball game, unless you're a Texas fan: game delayed twice by torrential rain and a final score of 10-8, not in our favor. Too many mistakes.

Date: 04/24/04.................25506. Well, there's no chance of a phone call today, and I have made up my mind I am just going to finish the project I'm on before starting to worry about the one next. It's not but another couple of months to finish this book. I can make it. So I'm back at work, feeling better. I thought we were going to the rink at 11am, but a phone call says otherwise: 1:30. So there's a bit more time to do some housework and some writing. The neighbor's daughter showed up to survey the flower pot situation, and went to get a trailer. Then we found out about the rink hours. So I ported all the pots, dirt, and gear down to our neighbor's porch, where it sits, all 500 pounds of it. I also got the filing finished, and am going to have to buckle down and get the end of month accounts handled. Oh, dear? Did I do the April 941s? Damn, damn. damn.

Date: 04/25/04.............28004. Limping forward again. Our neighbor has moved only half the flowerpots, so I think perhaps we should go downstairs and find out whether the trailer fell through, and if she doesn't need them transported elsewhere. Had a good skating lesson---I'm still working on the edging, and believe I'm gaining on it. My feet are getting smaller with all this exercise---I have very high arches, and if I go barefoot too long, my feet get larger. Well, I had, and they were, and the boots are stretching, as well, which means that I have quite a lot of room in the boots, not always the best situation. I can wear Jackson size 8s, but size 10 in the skate I'm using: the difference is that the Jackson 8's fit the left foot wonderfully, but kill the right, indicating a bit more size is warranted. I won't make up my mind on a next pair until crisis point---I can keep lacing tighter and tighter on the size 10's, which fit immaculately on the ankle and heel, and leave the lower foot, well, quite a lot of room. Not uncomfortable, and the inexpensive model I'm using runs small, so it works out to a smaller size. Jane, on the other hand, has really inexpensive skates, which are holding her back: they're loose on the heel, which is terrifying, and she needs something better, if we can figure out something that fits. She bought what she did because out of a pile of about 6 different boots, these were the only ones that halfway fit. Now she's in the same shape I am, only worse: slipping heels are downright dangerous. So she's talking to various people about the problem and may order new skates---especially since she's already had the eyelets fail in this skate and had to have it replaced. We're certainly not the image of the 45 lb sylphettes who skitter across the ice and whose size 2.5 boots will not fail before they're outgrown. Here we are, two months, three going on four, and with an hour a half a day of hard use, the cheap equipment is beginning to show wear. So, well. Spring is meanwhile still springing, cool days and reasonable nights. We just have to remember to take our heavy coats off when we enter the grocery next to the rink, or people look at us oddly. And I had done the tax reports, so that's a relief. The accounts aren't in such a mess as I'd feared, only half so.

Date: 04/26/04..................29030. Back to the ice, and mostly vacant, smooth ice, unlike the madhouse of weekends. We had a good day. Jane actually got some sleep---she's had a terrible bout of bursitis since a nasty fall on the last day before the trip east, and has gotten only interrupted sleep as a result. She's zealously avoided falls lately, and last night reports she actually rested. This is good. She ordered a new pair of skates---I'm interested, since I tried the Jacksons and found them just a bit too small. If her new ones feel right, I might spring for a pair myself, in an 8 1/2, as per yesterday. Tried some Riedell's, but they weren't any better than the ones I have. And we've got to get the poor car in to get the oil changed---we're just a bit overdue since the trip. Like about 2000 miles over. A bright, clear day, and a good workout. Now down to business, both writing and accounting.

Date: 04/27/04................29030. Down to our chiropractor, to get the kinks ironed out. Jane's still sore in the shoulder; my neck has gone stiff. It's that sitting-still-too-long phenomenon. The drive is gorgeous: the lilacs are just starting. But best of all, I saw my very first bluebird. You have to understand: when I was a kid, about six, I belonged to the junior part of the Campfire organization---the name of which is, you guessed it, the Bluebirds. And we did all sorts of nature-oriented things, including plaster-casting animal tracks in the woods (I still have my raccoon tracks) and making bird houses. Someone got the pattern for bluebird houses, and that was what we made and put up---in Oklahoma, which is alleged to have bluebirds. But while we put up hundreds of bluebird houses, not a one was ever lived in, and no bluebirds appeared. I've always been conscious when I go east that I might sight the eastern bluebird, which has always eluded me. And when we moved to Spokane, along a certain nature walk, some groups of children have put up a great number of bluebird houses. I view these as a very forlorn ecological effort, sort of a tribute to a spirit bird that never arrives...but you keep putting up the houses and keep hoping. And I saw not one, but two---and of all places, in the sterile gravel and steel building environment of our storage facility. We were late for our appointment and couldn't stop, and oh, what I'd have given for a camera. Five decades of waiting, and they've moved right into our storage yard, ignoring all the houses---what can you think? They're a beautiful color. I hope they're nesting there. AND later that evening a front rolled through with such a wind we couldn't get but intermittent satellite reception---we've made one bid to stabilize that flimsy railing they attached our dish to, and I think something more solid than that measly little screw-jack is required. We could hardly get the Mariners game, but I sat there doggedly---wearing my Mariners tee, mind you---and they broke their losing streak and began to look like a team again---so we didn't mind what the reception was: we won, we won! and I saw a bluebird.

Date: 04/28/04...................29030. Up and at the rink again, and I made a major breakthrough: I have done all sorts of things to get my left foot as easy on the edges as the right, and between my instructor's advice (pretend you're leaning on a tabletop with the left hand) to that of another skater (hook the laces down on the hooks, not up, and double-lace the ankle) and my own (aim at the wall and make the left foot work to evade the collision) I have finally arrived at the stepping-on-grapes method: imagine there's a small round grape just behind the ball of your foot and you have to squash it.....and with all of this, the left foot began to find the edge, so that I can rely on it. It's so marvelously easy and solid when it works right---just like walking, when your foot has stopped being asleep. Well, and when we got back, via the grocery to pick up some cottage cheese, Jane decided we should jump her car, which turned into: I'll take the packets to Goodwill, but stand by the phone in case the car dies. And it did. So I ran halfway across the city to jump her car, which only barely started; and we're supposed to have a large UPS delivery today, so we decided instead of taking her car directly to the repair shop we'd go home first and leave a note for UPS. But I never saw her on the return trip, and hadn't my cell on me, so I called her back, and she hadn't made it out of the gas station where we'd jumped the car. She'd called AAA, and meanwhile now I have the packets for Goodwill which we transferred to the Subaru; and she's waiting for AAA on a street corner, and I'm here waiting for UPS, to come after her at the repair shop when AAA takes her there. At least---I hope AAA will give her a lift. In some cities, they'll take your car, but they leave you on the street. I may yet have to go back to the gas station to pick her up. Yes, it's one of those days, and meanwhile the call I was waiting for came, but I wasn't here. So now I play phone tag. Joy.

Date: 04/29/04...............29030. Well, the car turned out to have a problem, the battery....so that got fixed, and we picked up the car. The whole day has been wretched...I don't feel well: cottonwood is floating through the air like snow and piling up in the gutters, and pollen is so thick on the cars it rolls off in waves when you back out. I detest cottonwood. For those of you who've read Cyteen, the nasty woolwood is somewhat inspired by that dreadful tree...which also, they say, draws lightning. I do know that if a bolt is going to hit anything in a given pasture, a cottonwood is a good bet. I've seen them explode with great violence, all the water in them boiled at once, I suppose. And they shed.......terribly. We had a rotten skate: the Zamboni hadn't run, and the pits and snow were thick---hit snow when you're going at a fair clip with not very good balance and you'll go over on your nose. I couldn't even practice my edges---just too rutted and bad. I risked learning bad habits, so I gave up and just skated round and round. Depressing. Not to mention the phone call that I'm still waiting for. I'm just glum. Jane's car died again. And the air conditioning wouldn't work, on a day in which spring had definitely arrived. Back to the shop for it.

Date: 04/30/04..................29030. Decided that one of the things depressing both of us (besides the cottonwood, which makes everyone including drivers on the street completely dim-brained) is the fact that we never have gotten the house back together after the trip. So we decided to do some spring cleaning, to delve into the boxes full of stuff that we'd flung into storage boxes when we had company, to get the spring flowers into vases, and in general try to get the whole place more like springtime. And we got a phone call from the repair shop advising us that Jane's car needs, oh, about its original purchase price in repairs, like new fuel injectors (6 of them) and a new compressor for the air conditioning, which I had greatly feared. But buying another used car doesn't guarantee troublefree operation, and we've been suspecting the fuel injection system for some time, which ought to mean that with this outlay, the car ought to run like a top, and it's just been repainted, and has low mileage. Crossing our fingers, the decision is to repair the fuel injection system and find out if that fixes its problems before we spring for the new air conditioner compressor. So, well, I did get Destroyer into the mail this week. We just figured out that our scanner can sub for a copier, so we've gotten some of the clutter of office machinery out of the way; and over all the place has an airier feeling.

Date: 05/01/04.....................29030. Still waiting for that phone call, done in by allergy to something. Made contact with my agent's office and we agreed how to get in touch, by cell, next Tuesday. Which means more waiting for a stop or go-ahead on the current project. Depressing, depressing. Went skating, which was the only profitable activity besides sitting down with the bank records and trying to get those into shape. Got the taxes in. Allergy is wretched.

Date: 05/02/04....................29030. Well, Saturday, completely overwhelmed by allergy, and dumber than dirt. We decided to clean house. Jane's car is still in the shop, getting renovated. I can't say I did anything  but clean up those sort of boxes every house accumulates, you know---a big box full of all the things you scooped up when company was coming? Well, we have a stack of eight of those, and have to identify mingled birthday cards, computer parts, notes for business, receipts, and warranty cards for things we can't identify, 10% off offers for things that have now expired, and things we didn't know we owned. About time. Some of these boxes are several years old, and it's a lot like archaeology.

Date: 05/03/04..................29030. Sunday. Bloomsday, which is the day all of Spokane turns out for a run/walk/race of 9 miles. I did get some photos and hope to post them. We were too harried to enter this year, but we did manage it a couple of years ago. We went off to the rink for our lesson, as we'd thought, but our instructor has another job, which would have been very active during Bloomsday, and we think that's why the no-show. As was, we just kept practicing and had a good skate. We then looked for a small computer desk so we can get the 'old' new computer off Jane's sewing table and out of the dining room. It turned out Office Depot had a really nice one for just 50 dollars, and it just fit the space we have. So Jane, who absolutely loves assembling furniture, had her evening's hobby, and meanwhile we vacuumed and moved computers and moved furniture and over all have the place looki ng pretty good.

Date: 05/03/04...........29030. Monday. A dash to the rink to get our skating in, and it was very nice, with smooth ice, and I actually got the left foot to behave for the first time, so I could stand on it alone and glide comfortably. It seems to be a question of good lacings. Not to mention a new sharpening. And immediately after we came home to throw he cats in the car and head off for Seattle, because we have Mariners tickets. We picked up Jane's car, which runs like a new car, plenty of power---and some packages, plus a delivery to Goodwill from the office cleanup project; then we loaded the other car, and were gone. Not an hour away, we stopped for gas and lunch, and Jane left her purse at the gas station,  a fact we discovered when we looked for Advil and realized the purse, our money, and our game tickets were all missing. We made a low-flying run back to the station, from about 10 miles out, and discovered the purse had been turned in, and that the counter had been trying to call numbers on Jane's cell to investigate how to contact her---nothing was missing. Seems a whole tableful of Washington Highway Patrol folk had been having lunch next to us, and I would just about bet one of them spotted the left purse. We hadn't gotten much further down the road before Jane's mechanic, who'd gotten a call from the service station, called us to be sure we were all right---we were, and very lucky: not a thing missing, including the tickets. AND I discovered what I'm allergic to: we drove through a region of sagebrush, and I couldn't keep my eyes open. If I'd been driving, I'd have been a hazard. SO knowing what it is, I can at least medicate about the time it comes out, and get over it.

Date: 05/04/04...............29030. In Seattle. Been very tired lately, which is purely the allergy, I know. But also the tedium of waiting for a phone call that could pull me off the book I'm on and divert me to another book. Sometimes that sort of thing happens, and you just have to go with it. But the phone call finally came through, and the consensus is that I should go ahead as I am and everything is cool. It's a relief, but I'm now two weeks behind, and just have to charge ahead when I get back. So we got our stuff together about 4pm and headed for Safeco Field, to stand in line and get our Ichiro train engine handouts---one of those wonderful giveaways that ends up on my Mariner souvenir shelf---and we watch one of the stranger baseball games we've ever seen. It went sixteen innings, within five minutes of midnight---had two controversial calls, one complete baserunning glitch (a case of which direction am I supposed to be going, or did they catch that ball?) and a manager ejected in the first inning. We were playing the Twins, and we won, 4-3, which may have been a case of sleep deprivation...we were part of the few thousand who stayed to the last, and we, along with everyone else in the vicinity, were as baffled by the last play as by the ninth inning call. Huh? We just won? Tonight's game should be interesting. I'm sure the teams were applying Bengay left and right. A chill and pleasant night, very crisp, wihch meant warm and comfy in the stands: I'm not sure the players were as comfortable in the breeze that was blowing. I also completely blew my diet and have to be good tomorrow.

Date: 05/05/04...............29030. Well, up early and a long drive home. I'm tired, exhausted, more to the point, and just can't do much besides haul the stuff up from the car and collapse. Tomorrow I'm going to hit the ground running.....I am so anxious to get back to work and get moving again. We have a clean house, both cars work, and over all, I just want to do something constructive with the keyboard. Fingers crossed, this will happen!

Date: 05/06/04................25553. Sometimes you just go backwards. I had envisioned diving in and making great progress and then...discovered that I had a scene with real problems, so it went into a deep pocket and I have to rework. That's progress of a sort. My glasses aren't working: I've been through every pair of working glasses I own and nothing is in focus---it's partly the allergy. And while I can see enough to type, I wish my eyes weren't blurred and watering. And when we went off all cheerfully to skate---the rink hadn't been Zambonied, the ice was full of pits, and Jane swore she couldn't do it---she's had a heck of a time with the shoulder, and while it's getting better, the surface we saw out there was really bad, which means working really hard for momentum. She'd have sat it out while I skated, but I assessed my own situation---needing to work on edges, and not being able to rely on the surface. Gone are the days when smooth ice used to terrify us. Now we happily chase the Zamboni out and revel in the mirror surfaces, completely happy to have smooth slippage. And I knew if I hit a pit or two out there, while I might not fall, these days, I might unlearn some of the stuff I'd just learned about reliance on deep edges. So, with a sigh, home we went, via the specialty grocery, where we consoled ourselves with some nice steaks, and came home and got back to work. I like cooking on the grill: I've got it down to a science, nearly as fast as using the inside range, if I start in time. Got to be good on the diet: we splurged at the ball park. I don't generally drink beerlike things, but the ball park with a hot dog will tempt me to a good ale, and it's not kind to Atkins diets. So virtue is now in order.

Date: 05/07/04...................25681. A little slow work getting my grasp of the novel back. I'm just proceeding in the hope if I work fast I can get this book done and still make a shortened deadline with the other. I don't write books and mail them off in hopes someone will buy them any longer---that's what you do when you're starting off. I write now on contract, and having multiple contracts outstanding is pretty usual. This means someone can have an emergency opening in a slot and call up asking please, please, can you do it sooner? Which is pretty well what I'm looking at---but having talked to my agent I think we can fit everything in and still not have to pull me off the book I'm on. I usually feel that if each of the companies I deal with has a book in production, I'm safe to pick my own schedule. Occasionally this thinking is wrong. WE went back to the rink and had a very nice skate on really good ice. And Jane's skates had come in, so we went to the pro shop and fitted them. Jane was really suspicious that they'd been ordered too wide. I tried them, meanwhile, and they felt really good, except the toes are a little short for me (our feet are just nearly the same size, except the length). They fitted her to a T, and now we have to figure out how to heat-mold them, since the shop can't do it. One of the expert skaters says you can, too, do it in a conventional oven, but we don't know the right temperature. An online article says a hairdryer. And not to leave them in a heated car, because they will lose their 'programming' and revert to original shape. That's good to know. Now, Jane's 50 dollar skates are really ready for replacement after three months of hour and a half a day skating; I don't have quite that excuse, since my CCM's are still viable and now well-broken-in. But I got an attack of the me-too's and ordered a pair for myself, since the blades are far nicer. They're Jackson Competitors with Ultima blades, and they're way more skate than we began on. But since the chap who sharpens skates can take a few days to get them back, having a viable spare pair isn't a bad thing. Though this may not be as much of a problem as now, when we're skating the edges off our soft-metal blades every week and a half.  WE went home and did grilled hamburgers, and watched the Mariners beat the Yankees, which, considering the way the season had started, was a surprise.

Date: 05/08/04.....................25940. Bits and pieces, and more control of the scene I'm in. Good. It's feeling better. We took out for the rink this morning and had to divert off route: it's the Children's Day Parade downtown, and we couldn't reach Washington Bridge. Lilac Parade this evening: there'll be floats and bands all over. But when we got to the rink the doors were locked. Turns out the rink took the day off. I wish they'd post such closings on the premises. But they don't. We're supposed to call the robot---which itself isn't always right. I've got to get that number into my cell. The clouds have moved in and the wind, she blows....and blows. Typical day for a Lilac Parade---enough wind to threaten the floats. Spokane is The Lilac City, as Seattle is The Emerald City, understand: in our case, every other lawn has a lilac bush, some of them ancient and huge. They were in flower for Bloomsday and now they're really in full bloom, with the azaleas chasing hard after them. WITH the winds has come the sagebrush pollen, curse the luck, and I have a lowgrade headache, runny eyes, stuffy nose---and the mental sharpness of a stone. I've taken so much Benedryl I don't think I'm too fit for much. Tonight it's meatloaf: trying to grill out there is impossible, with the hanging birdhouse flying sideways in the gusts. I wish it would give up and actually rain, a lot of rain: we could use it, and it would clear the air. I need urgently to get in there and do the final stuff to get the corporate taxes turned in---but I'm having trouble seeing things what with the watering eyes, and I'm needing to enter a bunch of pesky little numbers. HUNG a hummingbird feeder, which we picked up on our way back: there's been a frustrated hummingbird trying to find food on the colored Mt. St. Helens glass balls we have in a mobile on the back porch, and we hope the feeder will get the attention of a few of the little creatures. I like them: they winter all the way down in Mexico, and arrive clear up here in Washington---industrious little birds. We looked for my bluebirds, by the way, but weren't able to spot them again. They had to be Western Bluebirds, by the bird book. I haven't yet identified the hummers that have arrived. They're not ruby-throats, I'm relatively sure of that. AND I watched the latest documentary (saved by our faithful machine during our trip) called Dive to the Bermuda Triangle. Ordinarily I get quite out of patience with the amount of time the TV wastes looking for Atlantis or probing the Bermuda Triangle, but this one is worth catching: it offers some illuminating bits on the geology of the sea bottom and some insights from an accident investigator on the Flight 19 business---including human response to an early mistake in one's logic train; and the response of various sorts of ships and aircraft to methane gas---frequently released from that seabed. Catch it on a repeat if you missed it: pilots and geology buffs will be particularly interested.

Date: 05/09/04................25320. Backwards progress again. Sometimes you have to, and it really is progress to decide that you've made a mistake. I did get some good work done, forwards---lifted one scene out, for later repositioning. Sometimes you do that, too, not that it's bad, but that it doesn't belong where it was. So a thousand words may reappear later by magic. Meanwhile I'm dodging doing the taxes---I really hate doing the accounts, even if there isn't so much to do. The glasses are giving me fits, and I hate to interrupt Jane's work to ask her to read me those cursed figures so I can enter them, but this may be what I have to do. WENT off to the rink today, and they'd cleaned the ice, which made it really fast. Except there were puddles. I think they had the bleachers heat cranked too high. We didn't need it, and there were puddles on the ice an hour and a half after the Zamboni had run. I was doing really well until I ran into some pea-sized object embedded in the ice and landed, wham! right on my back and my head. Or as I told the person who rushed to my rescue: "It's what the helmet is for." I landed on the wallet, a wad of Kleenex, and my shoulders, but not really hard enough to rattle my brain. I was able to get up and skate around one more lap, but it was nearly finishing time, and I'd had the breath fairly well knocked out of me, so I decided to sit out the last five minutes. Hard to judge today: I think one of my edges is a little iffy, but I'm not sure---and they were only sharpened a week ago. Anxious to get the ones I've ordered. WE're not mentioning the Mariners game today: started really well, at least. We went out to eat---the slam on the ice sort of removed my enthusiasm for cooking supper. But no damage done. A little Advil, and over all, no problems, no bruises.

Date: 05/10/04.................25320. Actually I forgot to run the word count today. I've been very busy, what with trying to re-sort the outline and the scenes, and word count just isn't wholly meaningful at the moment, tending to go backward and forward without real relation to how much progress I'm making. I'm feeling better about story, but I've become obsessed with the accounts---there are 1) the federal orporate quarterly taxes 2) the personal taxes 3)the estimated tax (handled) 4) the corporate 941 tax (in) 5) the payroll (done) 6) my mother's taxes (stalled, because the printer has quit talking to the computer I put her account on 7) the city property tax corporate accounting of purchases 8) the foulup of last year's 941 quarter 2 tax that I sent off for my accountant to fix and just got a quarter 4 form from him with the paperwork for quarter 2, which I think is a mistake 9) a request for a delay in turning in the federal tax because (10) Capitol One has finally, after five requests and four goof-ups, gotten me the correct monthly statement for last March's corporate account---and I'm trying to get all this coordinated while getting the delayed book back on track. I think, however, that I'm gaining on it, except the printer still isn't talking---I just shot the file over to the computer that is talking to the printer, and hope that I can get it to work. If that's on track, I can ship that off to the accountant, at last. Plus the bank entered Jane's IRA under the wrong year, and she didn't find it out until just this week, so that has to be chased down. We're not sure but what the bank screwed mine up as well. But we have to schedule a meeting with the account person. THE SKATING went very well, however, lovely smooth ice, and no troubles at all. Jane has sent her new skates off to be sharpened.

Date: 05/11/04...................same story with the word count, only this time I got a little work done before heading down to the chiropractor, who managed to get that nagging little spot about 3 vertebrae below the base of the neck: that one has eluded adjustment for two years, and it went, thank goodness. Couldn't be anything like going smack! on the ice. Got to remember to pick up the dry cleaning (Mallory's leather coat [for those who've seen the MidSouthCon skit] is getting a refurbishing) and likewise I need to pick up the earring that I turned in to get rewelded. The little thing has a tubular section and they have to laser-weld it, which prevents the structure melting. It's a nice pair of earrings: pure luck I didn't lose the bits of it when the post fell off. And Jane and I spent the afternnoon listening to a dismal Mariners game while reading in the wretched credit card statements, or at least part of it. I have then to get the accounting program to cough up the reports I need.

Date: 05/12/04.................not a shred of writing done; all accounting. But we got that missing credit card info in, got the city property tax form filled out, and tried again to print my mother's check register: no joy. I'll get it yet. In the meanwhile, I got a number of the essential reports printed. When that monkey is off my back, I'll be able to actually get to work to earn income to pay taxes on. April is a bad month to be out of town, I'll tell you. AT THE RINK Jane got her new skates, and is quite thrilled. She hasn't been keeping up her blog---she wants to, but the press of family business and travel and being behind her deadline has just got her snowed, not to mention being the mathematician in the house and having to help me out with the accounts. But suffice it to say that the new blades are working quite well, give or take a vicious toe-pick that is lower than the one she's been using. They run very fast, that's the truth. She kites around like a bird in flight. And myself, I made a breakthrough, getting my right shoulder to quit trying to do all the work---you flex your shoulder, and you will turn: but the left one hasn't been behaving well and the right one has been tense all the time. Getting both to relax means that the correct shoulder can be involved with the corresponding foot, and that means that the left foot parenthesis/right foot close parenthesis that I've been practicing for two weeks is suddenly much easier to control. I can nearly glide a full circle on my right foot. Now I'm working on the left. But I took a truly spectacular fall: on the left foot again, got a bit off my edge, got too far back on the heel, leaned forward too much and accidentally engaged the left toe-pick, then the right, then the left, then the right, and so on for a remarkably long sequence of on the toe stumbling that ending in a sprawl that surprisingly didn't hurt anything. A jolt, but no damage done. My falls are getting better, meaning I've managed not to hurt myself or get too badly shaken---not at all on this one--- and Jane says we should have had film of that tiptoe sequence. Fast footwork indeed, and, heck, I could have recovered, if the wall had been closer.

Date: 05/13/04.....................ditto. Still trying to figure the taxes, and I can't believe I can't get this cursed printer to talk. It talks to every other program, just not the taxes. Still haven't gotten the dry cleaning. Still haven't gotten the earring.

Date: 05/14/04.......................no forward progress on my own. Sometimes Jane helps me get my storyline straight; sometimes I return the favor. She needs a road trip/book read on her manuscript, and so we're taking a trip to Seattle to get it done.   We practically skipped eating supper, decided if we didn't grab something fast it would be no supper, and had dinner in a lovely little bar that said "no drug dealers or drug users." We were so glad. The food was...well, we decided against a return visit.

Date: 05/15/04.....................still working on Jane's book, on the reading; and dropped by the skating competition to watch the novice competitions. Plus there was a dealer's room, and we got some deals on knit mufflers, skate covers, and laces.

Date: 05/16/04...............and the finish reading of Jane's book, which led to useful conclusions, and made me resolve that I have to get onto mine with a good forward sprint. It rained most of the way back from Seattle, and we finished up at Tomato Street, our favorite Italian place. It's not been hot, which is good---I hate coming home into a superheated apartment. I'm really anxious to lay hands on my skates, which should be in tomorrow.

Date: 05/17/04...............overslept, dashed to the rink, and no skates had come in. Sigh.  Had kind of a lackluster practice, mostly round and round---Mondays, they have several group instructions going on at once, and it gets pretty difficult finding clear ice. And something has bloomed. My eyes were watering so that I could hardly see where I was going. I'm using Flonase, which has kept down the worst symptoms, but Jane's coughing terribly, and the drive home I wasn't my sharpest. I just fell over and slept for two hours---allergy, nasty stuff. Probably the sagebrush, since all that lovely rain fell. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I get up at the crack of dawn and get some forward momentum in this book, if I have to get up before daylight to have a clear head. I know what I want to do. I know I can  have a really good day if I can just get at it ahead of the allergy.

Date: 05/18/04...................27373. Moving forward again. A relief. Sometimes you just have to think for a while, and think, and think, and think, and let things simmer. Plus my skates came in, and while it's Tuesday, a day in which the toddlers get the ice, we rushed over to get them. Lord, they're stiff. They're heat-moldable, so when we got back home, I heated up the oven, put them on a towel-wrapped cookie sheet, and heated them up, then laced them on---a process not as good as a boot oven, I'm sure, but adequate to help form them. I'm not quite as dedicated as some, to sleep in them, but I wore them the rest of the day, and ended up with pretty good comfort. The toe pick is three times the spike that my present boots have. Meanwhile, on the computer front, Jane's computer has developed some interesting habits since the repair shop replaced the screen---I'm not sure they informed the computer there'd been a change. And here she is trying to get momentum on her novel, and her computer is acting up.

Date: 05/19/04.................27503. Slow progress. But forward. Some erasure. The boots are off getting the blades sharpened (yes!) and I had the last skate for a while on my CGM's: after wearing the others yesterday, even with no ice, I could tell wherein they're going to help. The CGMs allow my foot to slide within the boot, and this makes for lack of stability on the outside edge. In other words, I've found the point at which I need a firm hold on my foot. So I'm really anxious to get the others. I decided it was time to get the hair done, and happened to call when they could work me in on thirty minutes' notice. The haircut has finally, after nearly two months, grown out to the perfect stage, and I'm going to snag my haircutter and show her how long I'd like it, please. It looks good at the moment. I'm never on the road appearing in public when it looks good, but, hey, at least the mirror is a better view.

Date: 05/20/04.................27503. Well, the new skates are wonderful. I was really cautious about the toe pick, but managed to avoid hitting it by accident, and the skates are just as I suspected, much more stable on the turns; the boots also have only one sore spot, and that will get better as wear and heat help shape them. I was able, a beginner on brand new boots, to do both edges, backwards, and, cautiously, the crossover in one direction, with no accidents. They're more stable than my others on a one-footed glide or a circle. Plus I can stand on my toes as firmly as if I were standing flat-footed. More so. The toepicks are dug in. So between comfort and stability, I think I made a good choice, and I'm saving the others for occasional outdoor skating, with the dirt and hazard of the rink in the park. The chap who sharpened them says they're good bladess (Jackson Ultima) and that he knows someone who skated Nationals on those blades---so I think they should do me very well for quite a while. Michelle Kwan is in no danger, but I do have the notion that if I can master the bunny hop, I may try to learn elementary jumps. By next year, who knows? We left the rink bound for the computer store, on Jane's problem, and we were going to pass the furniture district, you know, that spot in every American city where all the furniture stores cluster. And I began thinking chairs, so we stopped. The wonderful gravity chairs we bought a year ago turned out not to work for us. They're rigid and swing you into an astronaut's recline, which is great for watching television, but rotten for work while watching telly, so they have to go. A 3000.00 mistake, which we would cheerfully sell as a pair, or singly, to anyone for 500 per. They're dark green, motorized, with a few cat scratches in the leather. And they weigh a ton, so shipping would be a problem. Meanwhile we'd bought these cute little red modern corner chairs which are comfortable for a visit, but you wouldn't want to live there. If I were 5'2" and 90 pounds, they might be great. Not for a whole evening. Very stylish, but they're just tiny. Another expensive mistake, but nowhere near on the budget-busting scale of the green ones. So what do we do but go chair shopping, and found the absolute great chairs at Mor Furniture, which are a chaise with no arms, just a comfy pillow and a really nice muted sage microfiber. Not too expensive. And comfy. Hits my back exactly right, and Jane thinks they're comfy, too---one of the really hard things is finding something matching that is kind to both our backs, which have very different problems. Plus the Mariners won the game---hurrah for us! Tomorrow we have to get some work done, and get a place arranged for the new chairs, which should arrive Saturday.

Date: 05/21/04................28093. And finally, finally, everything is moving again. You see demonstrated in the last entries the real gritty part of writing, and the reason turn-in schedules fall to pieces. It starts with some convention or other interruption that takes one's mind a little away from the story; and then if anything intervenes to break the chain, it gets worse. In my case, a month on the road, racing like mad to get back to do the taxes, the really nasty clincher---because that race to get home meant we didn't do our usual thing of doing a little work each morning; and it cost us both, and broke our concentration on our respective books, even though I was reading Destroyer aloud during the trip and trying to maintain my mental grip on the current book---then, what really did me in, the call from my agent which sounded as if it was going to take me off this book and set me at an other on an emergency basis---and the threads by which I hold the story current just started snapping, one after another, as I resigned myself to changing projects---then was told I wasn't switching after all. Bad combination of circumstances, and it's taken me this long to pull all the threads up and get them in hand again---sort of like driving an eighteen-horse hitch. I think we shall take a lesson from that circumstance and the next time we go on the road, we simply are not going to race. I'm going to do better about getting the taxes truly in order, when I'm on that kind of schedule, and I'm going to try to keep up with things. Letting things slide is very bad: it breeds more slides, and doesn't help you relax at all, quite the contrary, particularly in the writing business, where everything depends on having your mind in good order and nothing nagging at you. The brain finally has gotten back on line. The living room is less cluttered with the new chairs (once we get the old ones out) and I dropped two pounds on the diet: amazing how all that fits together. When you're stressed, you hang onto weight: I'm quite convinced of it. Your body expects a fight: it's not turning loose of any resource whatsoever, not even if you starve yourself. So good news on a couple of fronts. The new chairs are comfortable, the cats approve, and over all, if the Mariners could just win, the place would glow with happiness. If we could only get 48 hours in a day we might accomplish all the things we need to do, but at least we don't feel we're making reverse progress. I got a worried phone call from my mother, who'd heard there'd been a tornado in Spokane yesterday: we were quite surprised, and checked the news. I thought that cloud on the horizon that was flickering so looked downright Southwestern in energy. It was. Fortunately it had made the national news only because it existed at all. But Washington only averages one tornado a year, and it's had three in the last week: unusual thunderstorms, unusual weather. Ordinarily rain sneaks down from the skies here: it doesn't fall like the tropical deluges you get in Oklahoma, when supersaturated air dumps rain down in sheets that turn almost opaque on a rush of wind. We weren't quite that bad, but we did get enough of a downpour that you'd like to run to get to your car. Ordinarily a saunter won't do more than dampen your hair. This was a rain. And indeed---it was a tornado, but it did no damage, as most don't, just because there's more farmland than city in any given state, and statistically (which doesn't help you if you're part of the statistic) they come down in vacant land and dissipate before they run into anything, because they last only ten minutes or less, again, on the average.

Date: 05/22/04......................29405. Working apace. The only thing is, I'm going to have to do some editing and rip out a bit of the word count. Progrediens regredior---that's Latin for "I make progress by going backward." I hate it when I have to do that, but part of this will be peeling outline segments out of the text and doing some cleanup of matters already handled. I'm falling behind a bit in other things, but if the writing works, everything works. I

Date: 05/23/04.....................27003. What did I say? I fear it will get shorter before it gets longer, but I'm clearing out some of the underbrush. Therink  ice was very good today, but I swear, there are good skating parents, and there are the others. Today we had a hockey parent encouraging his five-year-old darling to do belly slides through one of the figure-skaters laboriously etched figure patterns. What are some people thinking? And if I find the culprit who's been chewing tobacco and spitting it on the floor of the penalty box, he (one uncharitably though not infallibly assumes it's a he) is toast. Ninety nine point nine nine of the people we encounter at the rink are considerate and friendly and wonderful. But there are a few.  A good though slow day at the rink, otherwise. Our instructor apparently had to work elsewhere today, so no lesson. Which I was sorry for. I'm practicing the backward business, and I could use a few more pointers. And I managed to leave my keys at the restaurant---my favorite trick.

Date: 05/24/04.....................25039. Well, at least from here the numbers should go up. I am writing forward. I'm just wiping out more than I'm writing. But what you erase is a very important progress, too. Weeding, so just the flowers are left. We're trying to get the place tidied up, and I've moved my terrarium back into my room...it's one of those Victorian glass gardens, which is far easier to manage than a sealed terrarium---you don't have the mold problem, because there is adequate ventilation: it's not a closed system, and really it doesn't need to be to get that lush, tropic look. I have various plants I can't identify, a little fern, a bit of aloe which has outgrown the place, and will have to be relocated to the general aloe pot, plus a cobra lily, one of those carnivorous swamp plants which is absolutely thriving, and something with hairy lilypad-like leaves that proliferate on runners. It looks very nice, for one of my gardening efforts. Oh, and there's some sort of a thing that could be a coffee plant, but one is hardly sure. I wish the store would label these things with more than "foliage" for a tag. I know they have leaves. I want to know their scientific name. The skate was good, if slow: I'm still trying to master the outside edge. I think maybe I need to tighten the laces on the toes, to get more control. I can wiggle down the ice making ripples on one foot, but it's not really like being well over on that outside edge, which will send you into a decided turn, not a mere ripple.

Date: 05/25/04.......................25303. Slowly, slowly. Jane had the notion of taking a walk on the day we have off from skating (bitsy skaters have the ice this morning) and her notion of 'taking a walk' involves the cliff we live on. So, being a fool, I agreed. And I had to borrow a pair of shoes from her, since the only street shoes I own are black and rather loose and fabric, which would be very hard to clean. Her feet are just a shade smaller, but I thought it would be all right. So, a few hundred feet down, then the length of two football fields down to the bridges, and back up the cliff, which is vertical enough to have me wheezing and stopping on the switchbacks. But not so badly as a year ago. It's hard to measure, but it's a good healthy distance in the vertical. And I buzzed by the salon to show my hair cutter what the hair looks like when it's grown out exactly where I like it. I'm sure she thinks I'm one of the most troublesome clients she has, but she cut it two months ago and it's only now grown out to the perfect length---my hair only grows about a quarter inch a month, so when she over-cuts it, it's a bit of a disaster, and the last time was right before that long road trip. We went down to the chiropractor to get straightened out---I was way stiff and sore from the climb, and now my feet are killing me. I think I overexercised them. And I'm still stiff and sore, and Advil isn't helping. I think I overdid it. Jane wants to do the cliff climb daily. I don't think my feet will survive it unless I get some decent track shoes. But the Mariners won last night---in overtime, which is where they apparently play best this season.

Date: 05/26/04.............................25303. Back to the ice. And afterward we went to the Fred Myers' across the street and looked for a pair of shoes that wouldn't kill my feet. What I found were Avia FOMs, which I'd heartily recommend to anyone who has a high arch and can't stand pressure on the top of the foot. These are comfy, so comfy that despite their looks (I'm not the tenny type) they may become my standard footwear. I'm still working on the book, but due to erasing and writing in alternation the word count is practically worthless. I am feeling much better about it. Also Jane has decided we'd be crazy to attempt to go back to Chicago for the planned jaunt to the SFRA conference, which would be just after Miscon, and that has relieved the pressure considerably. We were over-scheduled, and dropping that has freed up a week and a half.

Date: 05/27/04...............................25303. Again---I'm not fighting the word count battle. I don't even want to know. I'm just trying to straighten out this story line and that's progressing. We're about to lose the ice rink for a week. We did go down to the figure skating testing, which is a lot like a contest, except the skaters don't compete against each other, but against a standard of expected technical achievements. And we're packing for Miscon. We'll miss the last day before they strip the ice down for refurbishing and maintenance. We're both at that wonderful stage of completely revising what we are packing because most of our clothes don't fit right---my favorite shirt, for instance, has turned into an impossible baggy mess; and we have to investigate wardrobe to find out what we still can wear for a summerweight convention.  One of these days we're going to have to divest ourselves of all our XXL and XL tee-shirts, and even a few of the L ones.

Date: 05/28/04...............................25303. Cats packed and into the car for Missoula MT---well, not that fast. Jane was still fighting the wardrobe problem for several hours, so we were a little later getting on the road than we liked. But off we went on a wonderful cool cloudy day with a little rain on the way. The mountains are green and beautiful, and wreathed in streamers of mist or patches of rain. We stopped (as usual) at Haugen MT, at the 10,000 Silver Dollar Bar and tourist stop, and were happily wandering among the teeshirts, bear statues, knives, and windchimes when we suddenly realized we had transited a time zone. Oh---dear. Back into the car, at higher speed, because it's Friday at the con and I'm GOH and I'm not there yet, being an hour later than we thought. I made my panel. John Dalmas, Jim Glass, Patricia Briggs, and all were there; we did a writer's workshop until oh-ghod-thirty, and hit the sack. Lovely hotel, Ruby's Convention Center; just the right size for the con.

Date: 05/29/04...............................25303. A selection of panels, and this convention actually read my webpage to find out what I do, what I'm interested in, and what I like to talk about. What a concept! The panels are interesting, and the attendees are getting their money's worth. The attendees have to be a little confused on occasion, because on, say, "Motivation", each writer has a different method/opinion/basic reality---which absolutely points up the truth: there is no one true catholic way of writing. It's result that matters. This is a wonderful convention, with people who actually exit the panels talking about the topics, and small enough that most everyone has been to the same panels, which means a dynamic you just don't get in the monster cons. I'm very pleased. So is Jane. We're swearing we're coming back next year. It's always at Ruby's, always on Memorial Day, and next year they're going to try for a four day con. And we got talked into attending the filk. For those of you who don't know---a filk is an sf folk singing session, often satirical, and by my preferences, freeform. They promised us no bardic circles, so we went, and had a very good time. They only had one, at max two, guitarists, and singers were having trouble getting the tune on songs they'd never heard and we couldn't quite remember---which argued, well, if they promise Chaotic style and no bardic circles, we might practice up for the next year.

Date: 05/30/04............................25303. Sunday, and a panel on "How to Travel with Cats"..........Ysabel and Efanor attended in person, which broke up the boredom of their day. A number of good panels, which wended down to a barbecue of all the hotdogs that had survived the con suite, and a most wonderful day. We doubly swore we'll be back. We went to bed at a not-too-disreputable hour.

Date: 06/01/04.......................25303. Monday, and we were having so much fun the cats had gotten restless, and when released for the night---well, the next morning we were wakened by a yowl OUTSIDE our window. Seems The Black Prince, all 18 pounds of him, had leaned against the screen and popped it. He'd gone for an early morning walk, and announced his return---remarkable, since he's not used to the outdoors. We snagged him back in, were delighted to discover the screen undamaged, and are disturbed to realize the rascal now not only can open any door with a latch-handle by standing on his hind legs, he now knows that windowscreens are moveable. We're going to have to figure how to scotch that. BACK IN THE CAR and off down the road for home---not Chicago---which we decided was a wonderful feeling. Another cold, rainy day, which makes for good driving. And when we got home, we immediately pulled out the guitars. My strings are mostly intact; Jane's are rotted away---the fact that my case had the moving serial number sticker still across the opening indicates I hadn't even opened the case since 2000. My calluses are gone. But we found our music, in horrid order, and began to find out we remember the chords. I'm going to have to get an octave-sensitive tuner---I can't accurately judge which octave I'm in as I tune, and you can break strings or damage the neck overtightening a 12-string. And my former BOSS tuner has died the death. But I hadn't left the capo on, as I feared might have happened in the haste of moving. AND as we were doing this, one of our skating folk called, and we agreed to meet at the Tomato Street bar for supper. She had the entry forms for the Jo Williams Memorial skating contest, which we think we can make, and we're entered at basic skills level. So here we are---a few months on the ice, and we're going up in front of judges, at least on the very elementary level.

Date: 06/02/04.........................26532. Tuesday, and a bit of progress, though still as much erasing as forward writing, which kind of adds up to zero. Sigh. And we managed to find much of our music, and to decide that we are going to have a small filk event which we actually planned yesterday---just a handful of friends to get together at a local hotel and teach each other the songs. We know the older ones; one of our convention-met friends knows the newer ones. So we're going to exchange. The rink is still down for resurfacing, and we're iceless unless we decide to go over to the Valley rink, no longer a drive, but we don't know its schedule, and there's a ton of stuff to be done here, straightening up the apartment---plus our washer died and our drier crisped two towels. This is not good. We're hoping for new ones, but I'll be satisfied if they just work. I have a load of laundry to do. It's moderately warm, about 70 degrees, a little cloudy, which helps, and I wish we'd get a good soaking rain to clear the air. Jane had a lengthy academic workshop in Cheney, near Spokane, which she did with John Dalmas; after I'd swilled three grandissimo lattes, we headed out to a local Italian restaurant, which indeed had very good food, and a very authentic heat---it was high seventies in there, I'd drunk all that coffee, and, very authentically, they'd served scarcely any ice in the water. I asked for more ice, and dropped small cubes down my shirt, which was the only way I could convince my stomach I could face food---I just shut down, in heat, and eating in a room in the high seventies reminds me why, when I was in Italy, I liked to eat one meal a day, and that after dark. My fingers, meanwhile, are sore---curiously, playing Jane's six string folk just kills me, but getting used to the 12 steel is no picnic. It's nice, however, to recall the old songs. We do folk and filk both, and I'm digging up the ones I learned first, which is the best way to recall how things work after a ten year hiatus. The guitars are in good condition, my strings aren't too bad---I don't want to replace them yet: breaking in new strings and new tuner simultaneously is asking for it. We're digging up the old tapes so we can recall the melodies (chords alone are ambiguous, and I have a horrid memory) and we're beginning already to recover our fingerings. Things like Diminished B7 certainly are a cipher, but the usual run of the fretboard in the minor key is hindbrain stuff, so it's surfacing quickly. We've resolved to play and be active instead of sitting on our rears playing video games while watching baseball in the evening. A little exercise of arms and fingers couldn't hurt.

Date: 06/03/04 ......................still making slow progress forward and backward. I hear a bolide came in over Puget Sound---way far from us, but it was apparently about the size of a computer monitor and made quite a racket in the sky. Just one of the passing rocks. And the Cascades are rumbling a bit---nothing unusual for them, but enough that the geologists have posted a comment. When lava moves about underground, it does made the ground stretch and heave ever so little. We even had a little tiny thump in Spokane this morning, something you'd never know if you didn't occasionally peruse the webicorder network (look up webicorder on the internet) and look at the seismograms. The fingers are mostly healed---callus comes back very fast when you played as long as I did; and we'll have a go this evening. And I've cleared out about 10 pounds of tee-shirts that are size XL or worse, bidding them farewell no matter how attached I may be to them---the only exceptions being my Bloomsday shirt, that I got for walking the race and a couple of con shirts that I'm particularly fond of. Be it known, conventions far and wide, I'm now an L and headed for an M, and very glad to be able to say so.

Date: 06/04/04.....................27398. Well, I think I'm through the bottleneck. Sometimes your characters just inform you, "Oh, no, I'm not going in that place. I'm not stupid---" and you have to figure out the means to persuade them. Tossing a grenade into the area (figuratively) is often a good way... Don't take me literally. Someone always takes my humor literally. And officially, just for the record, the calluses are back---a little sore yet on the third finger, but back. Amazing what a memory the body retains for a former condition. I haven't carried calluses on that hand in ten years, and the first time I formed them, let me tell you, it involved weeping sores and a whole lot of pain. This just involved a little tenderness, no blisters, and no loss of skin. I'll tell you...I tried the ukelele when I was about 10...cut my fingers to ribbons and I never liked the sound, so I never learned to play it. I played first chair flute in a good concert/marching band for my high school career---off and on first and second chair, depending on who'd challenged when. And I've tried piano, which requires a spatial location my vision has trouble with. I had a brief fling with the autoharp as a way for an uncoordinated person to handle chords---noisy, and futzy. And in a moment of financial bloom and an act of hubris, I bought a 12-string and a guitar chord book. I lasted through the resurfacing of my fingers, learned to play somewhat. I later tried a 6 string steel and then a 6 nylon, and discovered they hurt something awful, even to my well-reinforced fingers. So 12 it is. I think the double strings of the 12 spread out the pressure on the fingertips. Or maybe it's just how the calluses form. But Jane's guitar hurts my fingers and she insists mine kills hers, so who knows? We're both right. I'm still remembering chords. I've got the usual filk-ish set of AM, G, EM, F and C. You can go amazingly far on those few, in filk or folk. And someone asked me "What is filk?" During the folksinging craze, people did science fictional takeoffs on popular songs. It was a convention after-hours amusement, and actually made the program book schedule---but typos are known in program books, and this one indicated there would be "filksinging" in room thus and such. People decided that described the artform adequately, and after that, "filk" it was. After that, people began writing purely original music to go with the lyrics, and thus the filk of the 80's produced tapes, printed songbooks, and so on. It ranges from the ridiculous to actually beautiful, and ideally is a group-sing event. I detest the formality bardic circles, and that's why I left filk for ten years. A bardic circle means everyone, musician and not, sits in a circle and you "pick" someone to sing a particular song, "pass" the opportunity, or "play" if you have a guitar, a kazoo, or, God help us, a short story to read. And yes, I've sat through a few, politely, gritting my teeth, or falling asleep or thinking about the party I could be going to instead. Chaotic means everyone who knows the piece chimes in with voice or guitar, there is no rotation, and if you don't know the piece you hum it or provide percussion. Whoever thinks of an appropriate 'follower' piece gets it up and chimes in strongly, starting a new song instantly, and there is no pause, no poetry, no short stories, and no long explanations of why you want to sing this piece---if you don't do it fast, you have to wait, and then the theme shifts and you have to find some other piece that fits the mood and the moment. Chaotic is my brand, thank you, and life's too short to sit through a whole minute of intro to "I'm not really a good player, but I wrote this song, and this is about---etc., etc. etc." You just plunge in with it, and if people like it, they yell "copy!" It's a good thing to bring extra copies if you're debuting a new one. I might, might reenter the filk scene, but only where the mood is total Chaos and there's no damned circle.

Date: 06/05/04.................28345. Back where I started before I started erasing things---at least in count. And there seems to be an interesting phenomenon proceeding in the northwest. For those of you who know something of geology, look up 'slow tremor earthquake'. Apparently there's one sort of proceeding up the Cascades---they can involve a lot of force, but they're called 'silent earthquakes' because they don't disturb the surface. They go on in subduction zones and may show up on seismograms as kind of a vibration. It's a fairly new discovery of how the earth moves along a fault line, and there seems to have been a movement traveling from California into the Northwest---which can, theoretically, add up to stress on faults, with the foreseeable result, but it all seems pretty new research. Interesting. Unrelated to that, we had just a little shake yesterday, one of those ghosty ones---I checked the seismograph, and sure enough, there was a very tiny shudder---among others. I think our little fault has been doing some adjusting lately, movements you'd never notice, but disturbances in a usually bland-as-oatmeal seismographic record. Interesting, living on land that breathes and bubbles. On the domestic front, and the diet, deciding we'd been eating out too often, I decided to cook what I'd shoved in the freezer before the last convention, and nearly poisoned us. It was very bad, so dinner became a couple of Atkins corn muffins. I have this cute little iron pan that should turn out cornmeal fish, but it's new, and they all stuck to it, despite an oil treatment. I think I'm going to have to boil that muffin pan in oil and bake it to get it to resurface properly---those of you children of the Teflon age that have never dealt with raw iron, that is the way you break in an iron utensil, by the way---slather oil on it, and bake it or heat it until it goes shiny black. (And if you see an aged shiny black iron skillet at an estate sale, nab it---they're better than Teflon: if something sticks, you can chisel it off without scratching the surface; you can heat an iron skillet hot enough to sear meat or do french fries. The only key is you don't ever wash them: you scour them out with soap and scratchpad and dry them off immediately, and if the surface is dulled, regrease and set aside until next use. The older they get, the better they get, which is why if you see one that's being sold on, grab it fast. There's none better for browning things, particularly the ones that have passed five years of service. They're selling iron skillets now that claim to be pre-seasoned, but I'm not so sure. I started mine as my grandmother did, with gray iron turned black by baking on the finish, and I'll bet you mine takes a finer polish than the pre-done variety. And dishwashers? Putting someone's iron skillet in a dishwasher is a hanging offense, where I come from---they will rust, if treated that way.) WEATHER: it's turned cool again, thank goodness: it got up to 88 when we walked over to the art fair, and when we got back, I needed an hour with an ice pack on my head and neck trying to recover under the airconditioning. Did I mention I don't like heat? But now the wind is blowing a gale and the temperature will be in the fifties tonight. OUR RINK is now resurfaced and is reopening tomorrow---I'm hoping to go, but Jane says she needs one more day of concentrated work on her manuscript. We'll see where we are tomorrow afternoon.

Date:06/06/04....................28939. It's starting to come clear. Amazing the amount of floor pacing it requires after a disruption in the writing schedule. No wonder we're such solitary surly beasts when it comes to interruptions. And to my delight, we decided to go off to the rink this afternoon---the second layer of scratches laid down on this new sheet of ice, which is still fairly thin, and feels strange. Hockey folk had been out there first---the rink manager clearly had no desire to test the earliest layers of his new surface by having one of us figure skaters land a triple and take out a divot down to the underlying sand sheet. Even seven days off the ice and I'm a little wobbly---and the new surface has some interesting features, like a huge crack out in the center, which going one direction is a bump, and going the other---one of our more skilled folk went out to center to set up for a little maneuver and went down, hard. I have a feeling I know what she hit. But we wobbled about trying to get the feel of the blades, and think we're going to have to reheat our heat-moldable boots, since they hadn't been well broken in when we hit this hiatus. After that we went out to supper, at which I ate too much, and then we got home to realize the art fair at the neighboring museum was breaking up, but there still might be strawberries. So we hiked the four blocks over there, and bought two skewers of huge chocolate-dipped strawberries, not on our diet, not even the berries. I can't believe I ate the whole thing---and I have the stomach ache I deserve. Fortunately those only happen at fairs. But the Mariners won, tonight. Cheers.

Date: 06/07/04...........29300. And something's going on with Mt. St. Helen's. Search the word "webicorder" on the web and go to the green webicorder page. Look at the daily webicorder record for Mt. Baker (the first) and Mt. Rainier (RSC); and then have a look at SEP, which is the Mt. St. Helens dome...you know, the bulge that's risen up since the last eruption. Sometimes a webicorder goes temporarily berserk because of wind (which can actually thump hard enough to register) or a nearby mining blast (which makes a big, but single thump) but this looks rather like an earthquake swarm, which indicates magma on the move. No panic---the volcanoes of the Cascades do this sort of earthquake swarm periodically, but it's quite an episode, if this is actually what's going on, and not just a malfunction of the instrument. We did turn out to have had a little quake near Spokane the other day, too---I thought I felt one. On the more mundane front, we went off to skate, had a really good session on better ice, and I actually went backwards a third of the way around the rink---not beautifully, but at least I was moving and didn't pull a tendon doing it. And I got my left foot stable enough to do an inside-edge half circle on that foot, which is good news. I came home to bake my skates and try to punch out that sore spot, which will help my left footing immensely. And boots aside, I'm going to make another attempt at cooking tonight, hoping that this time it will produce an edible supper.

Date: 06/08/04...........30202. Well, St. Helens output SEP has calmed down, though the other one is overexcited: it could be high winds all across the region, or an instrument out of whack, but who knows? At least it shows no sign of continuing it another 12 hours. Got a bit of work in, and we went off to skate and to the chiropractor, in that order. I made a major breakthrough: the blade is supposed to line up between the big toe and the next, and with all the problems I've had, I began to realize that if I visualize it as actually gripping the blade between those toes, I can get my feet much better under control---namely the rebel left, which has been reluctant to take the edge and hold onto it. And it's also the sore one. When I changed my mental image, and remembered to bend the knees, all of a sudden I had shifted my balance over, the edge was cutting as it should, and I could do a deep slalom on the left foot solo, a full half-circle. This is major. I could go flying around the ice doing half circles on this foot and that, and the crossover became much softer-footed and sure. I'm excited about this. I joked with Jane that if I could ever get the left foot to work as well as the right, I'd be twice the skater I was, and I think I may have made another major breakthrough. Getting the knees bent means more stability; and getting the toes under control likewise. We took a bit of a highway drive going off to the chiropractor, and we have a statement to make: the prevalence of cruise control has created some really bad  highway habits---people who blunder out into the left lane because they're going some .02 mph faster than the car they're coming up on out on the interstate, and then bumble along beside that car for the next ten miles getting past, instead of just stepping on the damn gas, getting by in good order, and clearing the fast lane for faster-moving traffic. Passing is a valid excuse for exceeding the speed limit. Passing should be quick, accurate, under control, and involve the foot feed---which is why manufacturers make cruise control so that you can accelerate while it's on, and then let your foot off the gas after you're back in your appropriate lane and the cruise control will resume your former speed. Lord, I detest bumblers! Do, or do not, fish or cut bait, pull out and around with all deliberate and safe speed, and get out of the way---dammit. And then there are the total fools who travel right next to a truck with an unstable load and won't get on by, giving the trucker indigestion, and making all the rest of us wait in hazardous proximity. Aren't they covering passing in Driver's Ed any longer? Bumblers in my way of thinking are right down there with people who park half over the line in crowded parking lots. Not my favorite behaviors, either one.

Date: 06/09/04...............Erasing again. The ice was all ours, just three of us for quite a long while. Very smooth, very good session. Practice, practice, practice. And I'm annoyed that I'm not making more progress on the writing, but sometimes I just have to think about a situation. I've got several fragments of scenes that I wrote early and decided didn't fit yet, and now they need to be worked back in, and made seamless. Once I get through this bit of stage-setting, it should run much more smoothly. I'm going to be highly resistent to interruptions...and I'm trying not to overwork myself at the rink. But I also had reached a point in the paperwork monster where I had to have some help, and Jane and I just took some needed time and settled down to try to figure out what's been mailed and what hasn't. We can't get down the hall because my publisher sent me two boxes of books to sign for special instances, and I've gotten those done and ready to mail back, but Jane pitched out the return UPS tag, which we had to dig out of the outbound garbage---sigh. It's not pristine, but it'll serve---except they sent me two boxes and one tag, so I figure I'm going to end up shipping the second box. I tried packing them all in one box, which would have worked except for one book which doesn't fit. So two boxes it is, down three flights of stairs and off to the UPS counter.

Date: 06/10/04...............Still erasing. I've finally begun to work on my backward skating (to match my writing) and can report definitively that it is possible to get a charley-horse in one's derriere. That uses muscles I swear I've never used, not even on horseback. I discovered a little backward speed, hit one of those dips that seems to occur even in the best-mannered rink, gathered unexpected speed and tumbled face-forward quite gently, no bruises, onto the ice. I have gained the ability to get up again without help. And I wore myself out so that I hit a toepick and did a most amazing fast-footwork sequence not falling down on my way to the boards. I shook myself up a bit on that one. But I am working on the left foot, trying to get my balance on it as casual as it is on the right. It's a whole lot of little things, including how I'm pushing with it, where I'm standing, and where it is relative to my center of gravity. We went out to eat at the Outback, and I'm doing a little practice on the music front---the calluses are back, but the GM chord eludes me. Amazing how I'll hit a certain song and the G7 is just as clear as can be, perfect, but I can't for the life of me recall GM. It'll come to me. I'm trying to improve my style a bit, since I'm having to practice up from zero, cure a few bad habits I used to have---like going way too loud. Our friends from the convention have now agreed that we're going to get together for a couple of days in August to do a little filk.

Date: 06/11/04..............Erasing....sometimes you write sideways a bit, once you get your bearings. And today was one of those completely chaotic days---a good skate, but I'd misplaced my car keys, turned the house upside down, called everywhere I could think of trying to locate them, and then finally found them in the cell phone pocket in my purse. Meanwhile both our allergy prescriptions had expired---have to call on those; the haircut I was supposed to get Monday is Wednesday, and the bank may not have posted a money transfer, which just cost us 100 dollars in overdrafts. We're going to go down Monday and discuss this situation with the bank customer service people. We think they should notify people by e-mail when they're overdrawn: they say the technology doesn't exist---Jane's about ready to volunteer to write them the program. And Jane's MPEG player that she wants to use on the rink has been missing, on various days, its power cord, its software---all found today and yesterday, so there's at least that for the day's otherwise annoying character. You know it's going to be one of those days when the cat's fur bristles up at gremlins and the cats act as if they've lost their minds, from the start of the day on. We did finally get our membership applications for the local Figure Skating Club, and have those filled out---we'll turn those in Sunday. Last of the 9:30 AM skates---we're shifted to the afternoon, now, as the rink goes on summer schedule. We'll see how this goes: we've been really spoiled by uncrowded ice.

Date: 06/12/04..............30101. At least I'm catching up to where I was, and things have come into focus. The chaos of the day came when we set out to get a battery for Jane's MP3 player, which she wants because the rink plays bubble gum rock and thousands of commercials during public skates at popular hours. And Radio Shack said one time letting the battery go down ruins it and they'd have to special order a battery for 20.00 not including postage and handling. We didn't buy this. We went on to Comp USA where they said, no, they didn't have the battery, but they had a special on an IRock MP3 player, which was quite basic---exactly what she wanted---and cheap. So she got it---got it home, and discovered it wanted to create a restore point on her Toshi, which freezes when you create a restore point ever since the Toshi certified repairman worked on it. So, swearing a great deal, she migrated over to the New Desktop and installed it, at which poi nt it started producing the Lesser Blue Screen of Death, otherwise known as Illegal Operation. More curses, and finally she cadged proper behavior out of it. Well, and then she discovered the battery she'd needed for 12.00 online, ordered that, and THEN discovered the battery that Radio Shack had declared dead might not be: turns out they don't die when they go flat, just require a lengthy charge. So we plug it in, wait a lengthy time, and the charging light finally came on, and theoretically we now have two MP3 players. All I have to do is get MY music on one of them---I'm pretty easy to satisfy: just my favorite album, period: I'll listen to it over and over, end report. Jane's pretty much the same way, but she picks and chooses, and put everything in folders on the IRock as advised: wrong. You can't have it scatter-play through all the folders, just one at a time, thank you. So, oh, well, I'll only have one thing on at a time anyway. I then decided to convert a recipe for Thai Curry Chicken with Potatoes to shrimp with mushrooms, and discovered that the chemical combination thereby produced is probably lethal. I don't even want to take the lid off the pot to throw it out. Lord, what a nasty batch! I told Jane we were going out to eat, and we did. Way too much.

Date: 06/13/04..............31302. Gaining on it. If I can calm everybody down---they now want to rush off in all directions.  Bren is so excitable. But it feels good to make forward motion. On the MP3 front, I gave a try to the spare MP3, and it was fine as far as it went, but somehow I got stuck in a folder of things, well, that I couldn't skate to, and gave up. This may be a good device, but I'm going to have to load it with music of my own taste. It was so depressing I couldn't overcome the ache in my lower back, which indicates something is a bit out, and pain finally persuaded me I needed to get off the ice before I hurt something. Very disappointing. They crank up the heat on the weekends, which makes the ice rotten---kind of frosty and slow---and I can't complain about all the traffic: this is how the rink affords to stay open, and it's a good thing; but I've gotten very spoiled about having room enough to do circles and slaloms without hazard. Definitely not the case on the weekends. I ache, we had a rotten hamburger, and over all it was a glum evening---except the Mariners swept the series, first sweep of the year. We buzzed by the storeroom in hopes of finding my box of my best filk tapes, and it wasn't where I thought it was. This is grim. I haven't even got a copy of my own Finity's End. I can see I'm going to have to drift by some dealers' tables at the next con and see if I can replace some of the essentials. Skating to Banned from Argo is probably not what Kwan would do, but you've got to admit it's cheerful and upbeat. I'm hoping this painful hip revises itself before the next rink session. Meanwhile it's approaching the 15th of the month, which means all you folk who file Estimated Taxes should get on the stick. I have to. And I just discovered a mistake on my tax return, so that has to get mended. Sigh.

Date: 06/14/04..........32022. At last. It feels good when it's moving, and it is finally moving. What a lot of neo writers don't quite get is that you're also making progress when you're thinking---that's the 'work' part of writing. Pushing keys is the fun part, the part that produces a quantifiable result. It's the problem I've had with non-writer office aid---that the fact I'm staring into space or lying back in the recliner doesn't mean I'm not working, and working hard; and it's not the time to interrupt me. Reason number 304 in the list of "why writers are impossible to live with." Sometimes you get stuck because you really can't envision what happens next, never mind your outline, which has stopped working. Then sometimes the solution is to bomb ahead "with a mighty bound, our hero leapt from the pit" and write the aftermath anyway. Then go back and edit it all into sense and the bridge that's eluded you for days will miraculously appear. The trick is, to make this tactic work, you have to have peace and quiet around you, or a very single-minded concentration, which serves the same purpose. Skating was still miserable today: I can't get rid of the pain, and I did skate through it---at least my leg had quit shaking by the end of the session. It's got to be a nerve problem, overwork, or something like. Maybe if I'd drop that next thirty pounds I'd cure the problem. AND tomorrow we have to go down to the bank and talk to our IRA person, since it looks as if we have a problem of some sort: our records say we turned them in on April 14th last year, and the bank is giving us a date of 5/17. This would make them within the wrong year.

Date: 06/15/04...........32022. Well, today we went to the bank, and began to figure out that a year ago the bank deposited Jane's Roth IRA (taxed) as a Standard (deductible) and the bank's investment branch then converted it AND the profit it made to a Roth investment, which is going to cost her seven hundred dollars. The even better news is that she gets to re-file her tax return for that year. We now recall the day we did that deposit: the bank turned it over to a new employee, who had people dropping past explaining how to do the forms: she then ripped everything we'd just signed up and started over, and this time presented the wrong form to Jane to sign---as turns out. Not our investment counselor's fault: he knew it should have been a Roth, so he 'converted' it, which is why the tax bill. But we went over to the main branch, sat down with an innocent party, and rehearsed all that mess, plus the other issues: bad information, wrong information on our accounts, being locked out of our online accounts, late reporting, and a long laundry list of complaints, which we trust are now on their way to getting fixed. Some money in bank fees has been refunded, more may be, and over all, we are a good deal happier, and think we may switch our banking two blocks down the street to the main branch, where we have acquired a person, a live career human being with authority, who was willing to give us her phone number and e-mail address so we can even reach her while on the road. So I got my Estimated in, paid what I owe, and that's done for a while. On the skating front, I have discovered the backward stroke is what's causing the pain, and as soon as I balance better, this will improve, not to mention that I'm building muscle, and working quite hard at it. The pain was nearly gone today and the shakes had disappeared. And I discovered what may be the last key to getting the Left Foot Problem solved: not only was I not bearing down on the ball of my foot as I should---a problem I fixed a week or so ago---but my left foot problem seems to reside in the right foot, would you believe? When I glide on my right foot, I neatly tuck the left foot behind the heel of the right foot, lifted, then swing the left foot ahead to set down in its turn. When I went onto the left side, the right foot was straying out to the fore and side, at about 1 o'clock, robbing the left foot of any momentum and thoroughly screwing up the ability to go onto the left inside edge, since an opposing foot forward is one way of forcing the other foot onto the outside edge. Way many moving parts, here! So I began to tuck my right foot behind the left on the start of the glide, and immediately I was able to do the full, balanced slalom to the inside, and even do an inside edge circle on the left foot---which has been easy on the right, but impossible on the left. I'm delighted. It's one reason I wish our arena had a couple of full-length mirrors---of the non-breakable sort---or something reflective. If I could have seen the difference I'd have fixed it far earlier. I've discovered back in my youth that I am not a natural athlete, and have no body-sense: everything has to be puzzled out the hard way. I think natural athletes are analog and I'm digital: I have to do everything by the bits and bytes, and in this case the key was realizing the equation wasn't balanced: that there was a significant difference between what the right side was doing and what the left was doing, and I've only been trying to figure that difference out for a month---a good quarter of my skating career. But I think I've got it. I've begun, too, to experiment with spins and turns, and how to stop a turn. But I think I'm going to be working on that left-right business for the next few days.

Date: 06/16/04............33020. At least a quieter day, even tranquil---I got a haircut, with much less stress than the last one; and mostly worked all day. Still practicing the music, trying to get the strength back in my fingers, now that I've got the calluses rebuilt---it takes a bit of pressure to hit a clean DM, let alone some of the more exotic chords. I'm also trying to strengthen the nails on the other hand, one of which has a nasty recurring split caused by way too much glue and artificial nails the last time I played, I'm quite convinced. So no more glue, no artificial stuff. More clothes go to charity---I tried to find my summer wardrobe, and it's all too large. This is a little sad, because some of these items I liked, but hey, out they go. A quiet skate today, just practice, practice, practice.

Date: 06/17/04...........33332. Steady progress. Got the check for Destroyer, on acceptance, for those of you too polite to ask how long it takes to get paid: a payment has to go through a lot of processes, and the only thing I can tell you is not to bet the house payment on any writing check coming in the week after you sent the manuscript in. And that was the good news of the day. I had a truly bad skate, or rather no skate, since I went out on the ice and nearly broke my neck on huge ridges---well, I wasn't going to go out, though Jane did, and stuck pretty tightly to a small safe zone. Then we found out what caused it, which I can accept: we follow a bunch of little hockey-kids out for our session, and their hockey nets slide out of a storage that gets warm on hot days, which it was. When they set the nets on the ice, the metal poles melt the ice and make one very nasty obstacle when they take the net away. Now that I know what causes the ridges, I can plot where they'll be and avoid breaking my neck. I'm just going to have to get pushy and claim a share of center ice, is all, granted that isn't skuzzy. Just live and learn, I suppose. It's actually worse than winter pigeons at the downtown rink---at least bigger and harder to miss---but I'll manage.


Date: 06/18/04..............33332. One of those chaotic paperwork days. Nitpicking things to do, with no feeling of progress. But I did get back on the ice, which they had Zambonied today, so maybe my gesture did something. I hate to be a gripe-acious sort, but I'm not fond of breaking an ankle, thank you, and that was dangerous. We made a foray over to the department store across the street, and after a session in which my left foot was killing me ( a lot of backward bubbles) I did find something I think may help: I've discovered the little toe on my left foot is turning in a bit, and that's the source of the pain. So I went after something to pad it, and found these marvelous comfy gel toe-cushions, meant for the big toe, but a snip of the scissors cuts them down, and this is promising. Cushy soft, and it puts that toe straight---I don't think it healed right after a notorious bash it got on the furniture last year. I'm anxious to try this out.

Date: 06/19/04...........34389. I decided to go back for a total rewrite. One of the worst problems is when too many interruptions cause a loss of focus in a book, and I've run into a few 'did I do that yet?s' that persuade me that a good note-taking from the beginning is the cure. How to do this? You call up a split screen, and as you rewrite, youi also take down notes in the second file, outlining meticulously where information appears and how it progresses. It's a very good method for un-sticking oneself, and for avoiding duplications. This is going very well. It's a technique I've used before. And it's a Saturday: the rink is closed on Saturdays. So I had all day at it. And as if typing all day wasn't enough, Jane handed me the second half of the job she's been working on: getting an electronic record of our huge stack of filk music. We have this marvelous new printer, one of these does-everything monsters that won't network with the house net, not worth spit, a stand-offish creature, indeed---but it will take a stack of printout and scan it without human intervention. You can see this wonder at your local CompUSA or its equivalent. If, like us, you have stacks of records in chaos, and the ability to copy them into neat stacks, this creature will swallow them down and spit up a computer file. Well, but there's one problem: the OCR program (ours, unrealated to the printer) stacks all the chords on a line together near the front, and to make them playable, they need to be shoved over the appropriate word in the lyrics. Guess who gets this job? I didn't spend all those years doing Roman poetry for nothing---I find the scansion, remember the tune, and move the chord, then check it with the original---this is faster, since I'm sitting on the chaise with printout every which way, than looking to see on each chord. I'm usually right. I trim things up. I go on to the next piece. When we're done, we'll have a nice data file that can spit out our favorite music on demand---so we don't have to worry about losing a precious filk book. We can just pitch the paper and get clean copies. And I got half the entire archive processed in that sitting, before my eyes began to cross.

Date: 06/20/04..........35405. Worked past noon, played a little guitar---the C chord is now firm, and the fingertips are peeling in little shreds, a very annoying stage---you can file and file, and they still shred: don't hurt, but dead skin just goes. Strength is increasing in the fingers. This is good. And I'll tell you, if you're fighting very mild arthritis, get a guitar or piano and go at it. It hurts for a while. But it's good for my fingers. I spend a lot of time at the computer, and my fingers get only one kind of exercise. The two instruments I  named are particularly good at giving the fingers a very different kind of workout. With the guitar, your left hand is going to be a bit, well, less manicured, but hey, it beats reaching your mid-sixties with all sorts of aches. I'll tell you---when I was working on Wave without a Shore I tried taking out a window---on purpose: I wanted a mural in my office. So I took a small (too small) cold chisel to the mortar holding it in. I'd gotten in several days of chipping away when I missed the chisel, bashed my left hand index finger instead, sending the chisel everlastingly into the crevice between bricks and wallboard, and I recall typing for the next day with a small icebag elastic-bandaged to my poor fingers. Hurt, yes.....and ironically, I was already writing the scene where a certain person gets his hand broken when this happened. I may say it contributed a certain realism to a scene already started. And my finger healed stiff: I could only bend it half the distance it had once bent. When I took up the guitar, I began to notice an increase in flexibility of this poor wounded (and important) digit. Ever since, I've been able to fiex that finger all the way, a return of flexibility that didn't go away during the decade I've left off guitar-playing. So trust someone who makes a living by her fingers: it can help your hands. SKATING. Had a marvelous skate, very few people on perfect ice, and the new insert is working marvelously---first time I've had total comfort in these boots, and I think it's going to do some good. It certainly makes backwards a lot easier---without it, it's painful at every stroke. With it, there is no pain.

Date: 06/21/04..........36328. Monday, ah, Monday. Making good progress on the rewrite, and feeling enthusiastic about getting up and getting to work in the morning, what's more. A frantic pace writing, and then we had to dress for a varied day---no use doing the hair, I think, since it's off to the rink, where I wear the nasty mustard-yellow helmet, and then on to the baseball game, where I wear a Mariners cap, because of the sun. So it's a lost cause. Got some inserts for Jane as well, and a couple of gel pads she's put at the tongue of her boot. And what do I do but hit what our friend calls a 'death cookie'---one of those bits the Zamboni drops, that freeze to the ice, while I was standing up, instead of with knees bent. Wham! flat on my back. Thank goodness I'd been carrying my wallet, for security reasons, in my hip pocket, and I'd worn my jeans that do have a hip pocket. Most of all, thank goodness for that mustard-yellow helmet, which was designed for skateboarders and pavement. I was a bit shaky in the limbs afterward---bouncing your brain off a hard surface will do that---but skated it out, and felt increasingly good through the rest of the session. No particular sore spots, except an ice burn on my elbow where I skidded. Then off to the ballpark, where we have 1/4 season tickets. The Spokane Indians were division champions last year, and we have great seats, right above first base. It was a nice game for an opener, though I managed to be in the bathroom during the best base-running (a double steal) of the game. The Indians won, and then we stayed for the fireworks show. The only gripe was the heat---86 degrees. We have been royally spoiled, spending the hot hours of the day at the rink. But it was a full, lovely day, and the worst I got out of the adventure was a slight headache and a slight bruise on the backside and the ego.

Date: 06/22/04............37209. A full day---I was happily working away, when Jane remembered just in time that we'd moved the chiropractic appointment to accommodate the revised skating schedule, and rushed off to get crunched. Which I sorely needed, after dropping myself on my backside yesterday. Then back again, a little rest, time to get to the rink. And I discovered that I'm doing the wrong slalom for the upcoming competition. I'm doing a 2-edge slalom, which is in test 3, and have been for two months, but I'm supposed to be doing the inside edge parenthesis slalom-thing for the level 2 test. So I have to get out there and work at it: 2 edges are, frankly, a lot more fun, but once I understood what Jane and two instructors had been trying to tell me about the single-edge, things worked just fine---piece of cake, almost. I was trying to turn it into something more difficult, but it seems to be just what you do when you actually go deeply on an edge, only you don't go deeply onto the edge. My snowplow stop has improved. And I'm really, really really working on bending the knees, to center my balance. The problem is, when I really get down in the knees---which also feels as if it looks silly---the bend at the ankle loosens the laces or rearranges the tension across the foot. I think I need to do a bow across the instep to secure that part of the lacing and then do another at the boot top, so I have two zones of tension. The Mariner game last night was a disappointment---not, of course, to the Texas Rangers. So we watched "El Dorado" and I got the rest of the filk chords moved over the right words. Which required a lot of musical memory---almost like playing for the whole evening. It's getting nastily hot---it's going to reach 98 degrees tomorrow, which is truly disgusting, especially in our lack of central air. But the heat is supposed to break by the weekend and get back into the low eighties. Got to empty out my little rollabout airconditioner before it drowns, and that means moving a heavy cabinet---one of the joys of apartment living: portable everything; but way better than not having it at all, a situation I well remember. The ceiling fan we installed last year makes a huge difference in the efficiency of the airconditioner.  The fan may fly off the ceiling one of these days and take out all the breakables, (its rotation is more like a plane prop during takeoff) but it keeps me in much better humor until that day.

Date: 06/23/04..........37299. Wednesday. A lot of work, some erasing, some fixing. I'm sore, after the fall on Monday...but undamaged. Been working on the guitar, trying to get my finger-strength back, and it's coming. I can now do a clean C, but I can't finger a leadoff G correctly without doing a C first. Go figure. Mostly I decided that I have to get the house into shape---too much paper, too many stacks of this and that critical item. It's got to get organized, the music's got to be put away, the tax things have to get handled, and receipts have to be filed. Sigh. It's not the most exciting thing, but stacks of paper never improved a decor. I've got everything handled, I think.

Date: 06/24/04.........37802. A nice quiet morning, guilt about the paper stacks, and a little bit of pickup and sweeping. The heat is ghastly, absolutely enervating. It's over 90---I think toward 98, and I'm sure we're going to have to call the repair folk to look at the window unit. It can fight the morning heat, but by noon, it's losing the battle, and so are we. They promise us a 'cold' front, or at least temperatures in the eighties, but it's also going to raise the humidity. So we boil, after baking. I can't think well when I'm too hot. Yes, yes, I know: I spent all those years in Oklahoma, where the temperatures reach over a hundred F for a month on end, but everybody is airconditioned down there. Not so, here. Our little window unit isn't up to 90 degree weather. In the days before air conditioning, or in the days when a swamp cooler (an airconditioner which consists of a huge box with straw pads on the sides, through which water is dripped, with a huge roaring fan in the middle) was the thing, I used to battle for breath---I get asthmatic in the heat---and used to spend hours physically ill from it when we would visit my grandmother, who had no air conditioning at all---the only relief was to go down and sit in the creek, which we did for hours on end, quicksand and all. And if we could do that, I could get my core temperature down. But otherwise I got sick. Years and years of this didn't seem to improve my heat tolerance....in fact it's gotten far less. Probably I had heat stroke or something close to it far too often, and while I can happily tootle about the rink in no sleeves, I'm not about to walk across the street in 87 degrees F if I can avoid it. Unfortunately the dying of the air conditioner is pushing indoor 5pm temperatures over 80, I'm pretty sure of it, and it's not helping my sleep at night. We spend the hotter part of the afternoon at the rink, and get chilled way down. We're practicing for our contest, and I'm trying to straighten out my feet.

Date: 06/25/04..........37802. All the tax things to mail, take to the bank, etc., and the accounts to bring up to date. The apartment is looking in better shape, at least. Oh, drat, I forgot our online bills...I'm going to have to see to those, and then re-fix the accounts. There's a great advantage to the paperless society, but you have to remember to go online, and I'm not the world's best about email, as anyone who knows me can detect. I can go weeks without checking it, which is not good, when your bills come in that way. The heat continues, absolutely gruesome, although it keeps clouding up and spitting just enough to dot a car windshield, but not enough to turn on the wipers. I didn't get a bit of writing done, our baseball team is having a losing streak, and the weather is depressingly nasty. Meaning the sun is shining and it's impossible to sleep at night. In this season, too, it's bright daylight at 5am. This is unkind. Sleep-deprived and overheated does not make for a good temper. Glum is more the word. Had a rotten practice today---not that it was innately bad, but I didn't have the energy to keep my feet under me, and just sort of lazed around and around the rink at slow speeds rather than push it and take a fall. I did have one good moment, though---I've been fighting this backward bubble-thing, being able to propel myself backward and keep my feet under me---it's easy to pitch forward when going backward, and if you lean onto your heels too much, you'll go flat on your head backwards. So I started examining what more advanced people are doing, and trying a backward crossover---which I can't do, but it settled my balance down, and I was able to get my heels under me and really travel with ease and speed. I'll tell you, if you want to trim down the lower gut, try skating backwards in a deep knee bend: that's going to do some figure-sculpting in a hurry. And my weight was down today---lowest it's been in a decade and more. Between the diet and the exercise, this is good. Went to supper at our favorite restaurant with one of our skating buddies, had a nice evening. Here's hoping for the rain they promise us this weekend.

06/26/04.............38005. Saturday. Working, working, and working, in between doing the eternal accounts and straightening up the house, and packing, getting ready to take off for Westercon—which is in Phoenix. Couldn’t get the Streets and Trips program to cooperate on route planning, since in the great West you can really make as good time on some minor roads as on the Interstates that the program much prefers, but I think I’ve got it beaten into submission, by asking it shorter segments with definite towns I know. We’ve been planning a different way down than up again, just for variety—we’ve got everything fixed. We have a set of tickets for the Mariners game on Tuesday, then a departure for Yakima at the crack of dawn on Wednesday, which will get us on down a diagonal toward Provo. From Provo we can make it to Phoenix handily by Thursday evening if we get an early start.

06/27/04...........38005.  Sunday, and a busy day of packing and last-minute mending. Jane thought she was going to alter some of the things we’ve grown too small for, but I decided finally just to splurge and buy three new pairs of dress pants a size smaller; and she’s done much the same. We figure to alter the others when we drop down still another size bracket. We thought about leaving out today, but we’re just not in order yet—still packing and fixing, but the necessary banking is all done: no more account overdrafts piling up while we’re on the road. One of our friends dropped over for a visit, and we knocked off and went skating together, then took a supper break, and finished the evening doing last-moment preparations. I’m determined not to have this trip throw me off the progress I’ve been making on the book. I’m doing to have to take some moments off from the con and get some writing in this next weekend, if only enough to touch bases daily with the manuscript. Jane’s resolved, the same. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to read my book aloud; not quite to that stage, so we figure to alternate driving: I’ll be reading us Patrick O’Brian and she’ll be reading us the new Elisabeth Peters book. Keeps us awake, alert, and patient through long hours and miles and miles of sagebrush.

06/28/04...........38005. Monday, and off like the proverbial herd of turtles. First our diversion over to Seattle to see the game. A habitual drive, one we can do in our sleep but had rather not. We were accompanied by a patrol car for about 50 miles—he’d top a hill, lurk in ambush, then drive on and repeat the process: must have passed us four times. Then we ran into a completely unnecessary jam-up where they were repairing a bridge on I-90. The construction folk thoughtfully warned everyone in the right lane that the left lane was going to close, but didn’t warn the left until another mile had passed, and still there’s no sign of the closure. So people are jammed up on the right, the usual Timid Tessies slowing down to a crawl, though no speed change was mandated, and at times the whole highway is at a standstill as two lanes with different information spook each other out and aggravate each other. Several miles on, finally, they advise everybody get over for real this time, and people actually do start merging in, finally universally sure which lane is the real lane—and then it turns out the jam-up was a bridge repair, but no one was working on the bridge. Maddening. I think they ought to handle temporary lane closures by only a single mile’s warning of a merge coming, then a red-light green-light gate that funnels traffic toward a single lane outlet—something they could tow into place like a derby starting gate. The kind of confusion they had going on today is not a sane solution, since there was no clear point where the sign said get over now! Too many people assume it means later or they fail to register which lane was meant. Got to our destination, where we have a place to stay. We had a nice supper and were glad to turn in. But of all things, there was a 75 pound four foot by two wood-framed mirror balanced on the dresser above Jane’s Aerobed, and in the middle of the night, in the dark, the Black Prince must have nudged it. Down it slid off the dresser, bang! onto Jane’s ankle. Both cats exploded in a dark and unfamiliar room, and ran across me, who was in the regular bed trying to get a little typing done on my laptop. Claws went every which way, the cats both ran across me, and Jane’s down there lying under this damn mirror—I got the light on, and Jane moans, "Go get an ice pack—" Seems the mirror had landed edge onto her ankle. So I remove the mirror, go after an ice pack, and come back, nursing a clawed hand, to deliver the ice—she doesn’t think it’s too bad. And trying to settle back to work I find a strange little square plastic bit lying in my bed. And another on the floor. And when I go to type, keys are missing their tops. Seems that Her Furry Grace, on her way across me during the Cat-astrophe, had sped across my keyboard with all claws deployed, ripping several keycaps off. Jane’s recuperating with ice; the mirror is propped against the wall on the floor, and I’ve got the keycaps back on, with Jane’s help. It wasn’t the cats’ fault, really. They’re not used to thunderously collapsing furniture and expletives in the dark. I’m worried about Jane’s ankle—that mirror is huge, was hard even to lift, and it landed right on the front quarter of her ankle, right on the bone. But she’s reading Amelia Peabody and trying to console her cat, who is feeling quite frazzled. I think Ysabel is under the bed, completely sure it was Efanor’s fault.

06/29/04............38005. Well, Jane is walking without a limp this morning, and both cats have survived physically and psychologically intact, but I’m caffeine-deprived, the only coffee in the house is decaff,  and this is an ugly scene. We made a foray after coffee with caffeine in it, to the nearest Freddy Myers, and then got diverted into trying to find me a pair of jeans that isn’t a) Jane’s hand-me-downs or b)about ready to tear from age. I have all my fancy new-bought dress pants for the convention, but for the drive down (and since the fabric on my two pair of jeans has begun to rip from age) I decided to try a little shopping, encouraged by investigation into the label on the hand-me-downs I’ve been wearing, and discovering that the label says Size 14. Now, this is major. I’ve spent the last three years wearing men’s jeans because a womens’ 18 wouldn't fasten and I refused to go to 1X. And at Freddy Myers, I tried on a new 14, and discovered they were too large in that brand I'd been wearing. Jane meanwhile had brought me another bunch to try, and I found two 14's and a 12 that fit. Can you say a pony in tall grass? I hit the racks, finding designers that I never in my life could fit into, and bought another 14 and another 12, Misses’ sizes, yet. For someone who hasn’t been seriously jeans-shopping in over 5 years, because it’s been just too depressing, this is glorious. I ended up with five pairs of on-sale jeans in various colors and sizes and fabrics, nearly forgot the coffee, and came back to try to help Jane wash the car. That effort took us to 4pm, at which point it’s a quick bite to eat and off to Safeco Field to watch the Mariners try to beat Texas...if it’s going to be another of those 18-inning marathons, we may have to leave early to wake up early enough to hit the road in the morning.

06/30/04.............38005.  (Late entry) Well, the game as I remember it was a wild ride. The new catcher, Olivo, was great. It was a one-run fright all the way to the end and the Mariners won. The only bad part I recall was a mild headache and the fact I had to sit next to someone with garlic fries which lasted the whole game. We got home in good order and good spirits, got to bed, car all packed. But about three in the morning, I woke up feeling overheated and extremely queasy. By four, I was sicker than the proverbial dog and had the headache from hell. Jane went off to Freddy Meyers’ and got some anti-nausea stuff, which at least helped—no idea what hit me: the food, an allergy, some bug I met. Shall we say the next number of hours were a blur...It came with a horrid headache, nausea, and its consequences, and I was pretty well horizontal. But if it was just something I ate, I decided that a few hours might cure it, so we could go on as planned, though late, and we could just drive into the night and make up lost time. But by the time we reached the Yakima cutoff that would take us on south, it was worse, and I didn’t think I could do it. Decided to go on back to Spokane where I’d be within reach of my own doctor if the nausea kept up or I got dehydrated. I emailed the con that I’m hors de combat, best I could do, so that they can start figuring out alternatives.

07/01/04............38005.  Down to a ferocious headache, nausea mostly abated, so whatever it is has gone on the ebb, but the headache hasn’t quit for a minute since Tuesday night. Now Jane has a headache, which could betoken her coming down too, since I recall a headache was the precursor to this, whatever it is. Besides just bad food, there are a couple of allergies that can hit me this violently, most notably crabmeat in any quantity at all, and one meat tenderizer...the headache part is truly most like the latter. But I hear there’s a nasty stomach complaint making the rounds, too, so it may be just some bug with my name on it---we didn't have a thermometer---and I hope it doesn’t have Jane’s on the agenda next. I do know that from now on to eternity I never want to smell garlic fries again.

07/02/04..........38005.  Friday, and the headache still lingers, with a little occasional queasiness. I want my energy back. But I’m trying to work and get back in touch with the book, which, recall, I wasn’t going to let lapse like this. The best-laid plans....etc. At least Jane has shed her headache.

07/03/04..........38509. Saturday. Temperatures are cooler...though not enough cooler. I had picked up one of those Chillow things in anticipation of the trip south, am using it, and it is nice. This flat water-charged sealed sponge-thing fits in the pillowcase atop the pillow and provides a little relief from too-warm temperatures. They’re on the internet. If you need a little relief from summer heat, they’re great. I’m trying to prevent Ysabel from walking on mine—her claws will do it no good, but she seems fascinated by the sensation of stepping on it. And finally, finally, the cursed pounding headache has gone away. I’m still not 100%, but at least I can think straight. They promise us rain tomorrow—that will be nice, except that it might be a problem for fireworks on the 4th. Being a very tall apartment, we have a fair view even from the balcony of several area displays, though at a great distance. And with the 4th coming on a Sunday this year, it’s a tossup what night they’ll appear.

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