Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Really Short Review - Atlantis Chronicles Hardcover

Considering that I never thought I'd see this book in my lifetime, I pre-ordered it with a great deal of joy.

And it's GORGEOUS.

The story is a wonderful epic, the art has been reproduced fantastically and the small amount of supplemental material was interesting to read. It did justice to the work, which was my biggest concern. And now the book is available for more readers to check out.

Aquaman fans ought to go get it. People who like interesting comic book art ought to go get it. People who are interested in one amazing interpretation of the backstory of DC's Atlantis definitely should get it.

The Atlantis Chronicles

Monday, November 27, 2017

Visual Oddities

I'm pretty good at spotting things that are out-of-place in photos or drawings. I'm not perfect at it, but I generally can spot the anomaly pretty well. I'm curious, how good are you are seeing the out-of-place thing? In the first four images, find the panda. In the final image, find the dog. If you feel like it, leave a comment (here or on Facebook) to indicate how difficult you found them. I found 1-3 easy, 4 mildly difficult, and 5 mostly easy.

Click Each Image To Make It Bigger

1. Find the Panda

2. Find the Panda

3. Find the Panda

4. Find the Panda

5. Find the Duplo Dog

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

More Inkwell Tales

Last night as I was watching a documentary on Amazon Prime, I suddenly heard hubby-Eric yell - a growling yell he usually reserves for scaring Inkwell the cat - and then a number of loud thumps, as if he were deliberately pounding his feet as he chased Inkwell. The yelling and pounding continued, surprising me enough to pause my video and start to get out of my chair. But the thumps were coming up the stairs, so I waited. Sure enough, Eric popped his head in and said, "Inkwell has vanished!"

I was terribly bemused and unsure what to say, so hubby continued, "I chased him up the stairs and was about to chase him down again, then he just *poof* vanished!"

As I tried to figure out a response, hubby said, "Oh, there he is." and the chase continued.

I love my boys.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Inkwell the Magnificent

There is something that Inkwell the cat does that I would love to get video of (since a still photo would never do it justice), but because of the circumstances it's impossible for me to record.

He did it to me again this morning.

I was waking up late after staying up until 2 am and he did a half-meow half-purr as he jumped up onto the bed. I was lying under the covers on my back, and he quickly made his way onto my chest, then started "tucking me in" by massaging the blankets in my neck area while purring EXTREMELY loud. I peeked up at him and his face was next to mine, purring away in wonderful bliss as he kneaded the blankets.

After a few minutes of this, I put my left hand up to pet him a little on the top of his head. He responded by rubbing up against my hand, directing me to the best places to rub. He wanted me to rub his jaw and behind his ear. Then he glanced over to where my other hand ought to be, so I hastily put it out and he rubbed up against that hand as well. Suddenly we were locked in a mutual moment of comforting each other. He was kneading me while directing my hands to the best places to rub him - mostly his jaw, behind his ears and on top of his head.

I'm not entirely sure how long that lasted, but finally he made a few murping meows and stepped off my chest, walking to the foot of the bed and looking back at me. I checked the clock and realized it was time to feed him. I got up and went downstairs with him at my ankles giving me what sounded like instructions all the way.

But I have to admit, for a short time there I truly felt completely in tune with Inkwell. He's been my owner for many years now, but this may be the first time I felt like we completely connected.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Sunday Comic Books Review

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • May 17th
  • Aquaman #23 - The Atlantean Council has a funny way of showing that law and order rule their actions. Putting Rath up to fight Arthur the instant he got back was a provocation instead of an invitation to discussion. In short, the actions of the council undercut their own argument, leaving Arthur undeniably in the right. Of course, people picking a stupid person as a leader happens, but the Atlanteans are being exceptionally dumb about this whole thing. I'm not sure I like where this story is headed.
  • Justice League #21 - Well, that was a nice finish to the Groundhog Day Flash storyline. I didn't find it wonderful, but it wasn't bad. The art bothers me slightly for some reason I cannot put my finger on - there's a softness to it that doesn't work for me, I guess. Still, solid enough and the continuing mystery of what the heck is coming is also built up.
  • Green Lanterns #23 - Jessica is definitely a match for Guy, even if she didn't know it. And Baz... well, Kyle is a match for him. I like the training stuff, it's funny, but I could do without the evil not-Guardian plotting.
  • Teen Titans #8 - My almost complete lack of interest in Slade Wilson's story meant I spent most of this issue looking for Aqualad moments, and there were a few good ones. I particularly like when Garth meets Jackson and offers help. I hope we get to see more of that relationship forming.
  • DC Comics Bombshells #27 - That's a different take on Trigon than I've seen before. But lots of potential there for both mischief and joy. Harley lives up to her reputation in this issue as well. I'm a little less enamored of Kara's plotline, but I guess it's fine.
  • Astro City #44 - I'm in love with Kittyhawk the fantastic feline. And I adored the team-up with Rocket Dog, although it was pretty clear it wasn't exactly a willing team up on the pup's part. This issue just sang with wonderful moments and I had to got back and reread it several times, watching the cat each time. So cool. More like this!
  • Wonder Woman '77 and Bionic Woman #4 - Still not sure about the various bad guys, but the origin summaries were a fun moment. And the final fight was a bit strange... I had to go back and see how the bots removed the bracelets so the final moment could happen. A good book, a little heavy on dialogue in this issue.
  • Forever War #4 - Every issue I remember more of the book and what comes next. This one ends on a bad note, but I realized it was about to happen as I read. It's very odd to be reading a new format of something you read a long time ago and have bits and pieces of the original drift in as you read.
  • Torchwood #2.4 - While I'm mostly following the plot, I'm not really sure I'm getting the point of the plot - if there is one. Perhaps it's just not my cuppa.
  • Doctor Who 10th #3.5 - Pretty solid little done-in-one story that references a lot of the Doctor's past and also manages to emphasize how alien he is at the same time. Not bad at all.
  • Doctor Who 12th #3.3 - I generally like siege tales, and this is a decent one so far. Nice cliffhanger.
  • May 24th
  • Deathstroke #19 - I admit I know very little about any version of Deathstroke, so this whole storyline is mildly frustrating to me. Oh, I'm getting enough background to follow the story, but not really enough for it to have a real impact on me. I just want to see more of the aqua-characters getting to know each other. Also, Robin is a real twit in this story. I hope he gets Guy Gardnered at some point.
  • Batman Beyond #8 - Ok, I wasn't expecting that final page. As for the rest, I can see how that suit could definitely be fatal to the wearer - but at least it's not fatal in the way I was expecting it to be. This isn't going to end well.
  • Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77 #5 - Oooh, Bruce Wayne has shoulder angels and devils! And one of them reminds me of a recent video game. Lovely stuff. Looks like the future of Gotham is in good hands in this universe... except for the current problem. It'll be fun to see how this turns out.
  • Scooby-Doo Team-Up #26 - The silliness of this one will not leave quickly. Danger-prone Daphne is the hero of the day, while the rest is bizarre all the way through. I felt like this was one of those stories you just have to roll with, instead of think about. Read that way, it was funny. Think about it too hard and you will regret it.
  • Saucer State #1 - I was a little surprised at how quickly the first series filled itself in for me while reading this, as I recall being a bit confused while reading the first series. Still, I remembered enough to enjoy the story and get even more confused - which is kind of what the book is aiming for, as it's a confusing situation.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day - Aquaman

Veterans Day - Doctor Who

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Did You?

I Voted

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Halloween 2017 Post-Mortem

It may be time for another Halloween Fundraiser next year. I'm seriously considering doing a fundraiser in the spring to get enough money to get comic books and candy bars for the 800-1,000 kids who visit us every year. My post about it on Facebook garnered some positive thoughts, so it might be worth doing. And if I push it back to spring, I won't be nearly as frantic as I was in 2014 when I did it in the summer.

If we do this again, I really really want a front-door security cam that I can set to streaming so everyone who contributes can join the fun of watching the hordes descend upon our house. But the cost of a decent (doesn't have to be great) wi-fi cam is as much as the cost of buying comic books and candy bars for 1,000 kids, so I'm not sure it's the best use of time and money. I can always take video with my iPad again - but a live-stream would be SO MUCH fun. Especially if I limited it to people who contributed to the fund... hmmmm...

Well, that's all dream-stuff for the moment. I will ask that any of my friends who might have extra mini-comics from this or previous Halloweens sitting around to feel free to send them to me. That way I can give them out next year regardless of whether or not I run a fundraiser or livestream.

A total of 800 children wasn't bad. I like having extra candy, if only because it means everyone got something. I wish I could give out handfuls and not just one piece per kid. But when you've had crowds of more than 1,000 children, it's hard to justify giving out more than a single piece.

I'll have to retire to my Laura-lair to decide what to do next. But don't be surprised if I post a fundraising link at some point.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hallowe'en 2017

4:45 pm - first trick or treaters. Two young'uns. A construction worker and a soldier (Eric says 2/5 of the Village People). Still very light out. Inkwell raced up the stairs and is now locked away safely in the bedroom for the duration.

5:12 pm - Five more, including a couple of superheroes and a Dalmatian in a firefighter outfit.

5:14 pm - Three more. One was a very little girl pink Supergirl outfit and also a Spider-Man. I suspect the flow will be getting intense shortly, as it's a school night so most people are trying to get ToTing done early.

5:23 pm - Lost count already. That's fine, they are dribbling in. We got a very cute minion, then a handful more. The last rays of the sun are hitting the houses down the street. Lots of cars in the neighborhood already, and plenty of people walking around. It'll just get more crazy from here on out tonight.

5:27 pm - Another run, including two little cowboys, and a family of Things (Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing Mom, dad was NOT dressed as the Cat in the Hat).

5:38 pm - A serious run with lots of children, including one that said "Hi Mr. Gjovaag!" It was the first serious run, but tiny compared to what we've become used to here.

5:44 pm - A break in the action, Cheese Zombies are in the oven. Inkwell wants out of the bedroom. I'm playing a song selection from Amazon Prime. Lots of people out in the neighborhood.

5:58 pm - Lots of kids, some really good make-up and some not so good. Pennywise! A child dressed as a box! Ninjas! Superheroes! More make-up! Ack! Crowds! Almost out of first bowl (about 75 candies).

6:06 pm - Another run of LOTS of kids with a large scary clown at the end that I didn't see until he said the magic words because of a group of little and very cute children ahead of him behind held by their parents. I had a minor heart palpitation... Then we got another long run after that.

6:16 pm - Through the first bag of 150 candies. Zombies ready and Eric is heating up the soup. Lots of kids.

6:17 pm - First Wonder Woman.

6:21 pm - First kid with the nerve to ask for a second piece of candy. I explained that we get 1,000 kids and don't have enough candy.

6:28 pm - Almost through 3rd bowl, which would be about 225 candies. Roughly.

6:38 pm - We are working in shifts now with one sneaking up to grab the bowl and take the place when one of us gets tired. Lines and lines of kids. I will need to jump up and replace the bowl soon.

6:40 pm - Poop emoji, tiny Scooby, Vampire, lots of Day of the Dead make-up. Through two Costco bags. 300 kids. Hubby said, "Only 300?" and I'm also in agreement. Seems to be slow this year.

6:56 pm - Long stream of kids. So many kids. So many... so many... so many...

7:06 pm - Lots and lots of spider-man. Lots.

7:08 pm - Through three Costco bags. That's 450. Long runs during which we can't close the door. One child attempted to grab the bowl of candy. Several smaller ones have tried to come into the house. Several without costumes had to be coached to say "I'm an undercover cop" or "I'm a teacher on his/her day off". So many children. So so many.

7:12 pm - Some clowns with make-up and masks. I asked them what their costumes were.

7:16 pm - Traffic jam in the neighborhood. Amazon Prime party music is playing "I Want Candy" and both of us are dancing.

7:24 pm - Opening smaller bags now.

7:29 pm - More than 600 now. Last year it slowed down about 7:50... so we will probably have a little leftover candy this year.

7:38 pm - The doorbell toy is a hit. Little ones are pressing the buttons to hear the various monsters.

7:51 pm - More runs, including teenagers. Fortunately, the teenagers were in costume. Lots more. I have no idea how many bags we've gone through. I will need to count eventually.

7:58 pm - A few kids that were just starting out with empty buckets. Either that or they'd emptied their baskets somewhere along the way. I'm thinking we're over 700 now. Some have tried to sneak back for seconds.

8:03 pm - Lots of Harley Quinn, the neighborhood is crawling with Spider-Men, lots of various Super-family members, lots of Batman, tons of Ninja Turtles, quite a few Disney Princesses (mostly Elsa), Clowns, a couple of monkeys... But they are still coming. More time in between kids, but there's still plenty and we still have some runs where we leave the door open for awhile.

8:11 pm - They are still coming. Like hordes of zombies. By the way, we had the cheese zombies and tomato soup for dinner in between runs of children. Basically, Eric made dinner while I manned the door.

8:16 pm - After reading my updates, Eric noted we've also had a lot of Minnie Mouses.

8:22 pm - Eric and I each had a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Then a really scary gargoyle came to the door. I hope it wasn't related.

8:30 pm - A fellow in a scary mask just came to the door. He was WAY taller than me. I gave him candy anyway. He was scary.

8:32 pm - A group of teenagers, about 10 all told in two groups. Good costumes.

8:39 pm - Wow... we've had nearly ten minutes without a ToT'er.

8:45 pm - Another run of about ten kids, mostly teenagers... and here come some more.

8:47 pm - After a bag count, we think we've hit at least 800.

9:00 pm - It's definitely winding down. I shall leave the lights on some time more since I had a Dr Pepper and won't be falling asleep any time soon. But I think we're close to the end. It *IS* a school night.

9:05 pm - Inkwell has been released from the bedroom and is wandering the house in befuddlement.

9:15 pm - No one for half and hour. It may just be over this year.

9:28 pm - Still no one. I took down the Halloween lights and closed the shades. Porch lights are still on, along with indoor lights. But I think it's just about over. I'm tempted to jump into the candy and gorge myself, but I'll be good.

9:30 pm - Doorbell rang - it wasn't even a teenager... Then another two in baseball outfits. Inkwell ran and hid both times.

9:35 pm - Inkwell is guarding the front door. I'm amused.

9:55 pm - Lights are mostly out, just the front window light which is on a timer still on. I turned off the porch lights and am ready to hit the hay soon. Eric has already gone upstairs. Inkwell is prowling the front of the house, checking for strangers or any bugs that got in. I had a fun-size Snickers bar... mmm.

10:30 pm - And Halloween is officially over at the Gjovaag House. I'm headed to bed now, where I will buzz around on a caffeine high for a few hours listening to Eric snore. G'night all!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Seattle Aside to my Sister

I was telling you about those books I read that featured steampunk versions of Seattle?

Ok, one was Boneshaker by Cherie Priest and the other (with the seamstresses) was Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. Also, there are TWO notable "seamstresses" that helped early Seattle - Mary Ann Conklin and Lou Graham. Karen Memory features a character based on the former and includes quite a bit about the raising of the streets and those ladders we learned about, if I recall correctly. All very fun and very Seattle. Both books are worth a read if you find the time.

A Nightmare

I woke up from a nightmare about 3 am this morning.

At first I didn't know where I was. I had family - not my family, dream family - and neighbors. All of us were thirsty and hungry. All of us were suffering and more than a few were dying. I understood everything, but we weren't speaking English.

I've never been to Puerto Rico. My Spanish is weak, at best, nonexistent at worst. I don't know what an inland village looks like. My subconscious was clearly creating and filling in the details I couldn't possibly know.

This place had one building that appeared to be partially built with brick or stone that was intact, all other buildings were either destroyed or badly damaged by Hurricane Maria. We'd made efforts to rebuild whatever we could, but water was a big problem. Everyone needed more water and there wasn't any clean water to be had. Food was less of a problem, but still a huge worry.

We were suffering. We wondered when help would arrive. The roads couldn't be completely gone, could they? Some people had left the village, and hadn't come back, so they must have gotten through. Cell phones didn't work. We didn't have power.

But mostly I remember the thirst.

I remember the feeling of being abandoned and forgotten, the despair of watching another person dying while we couldn't help. I remember thinking of leaving and finding a safer place to live - although when I thought that I felt a horrible pang in my heart that told me I loved my home. I remember wondering if I would die before I had a chance to leave, and thinking of trying to get out and find help before I was too weak to go.

I woke up so thirsty I thought I was dying and looked at my clock. The thirst faded so quickly I wanted to cry. I am safe and protected. I'm not in the middle of a disaster zone that is being ignored by my countrymen. But people who should be protected and safe are not - they aren't just being ignored, they are being intentionally insulted and demeaned. People who are also Americans.

This is truly a nightmare.

Friday, October 20, 2017

My Sister's Birthday!

Yesterday, Inkwell and I set off across the mountains to visit my family in the ancestral home in Renton. My sister's birthday is today, and I planned to spend it with her.

As many of you know, Inkwell the cat does not travel willingly, and he got a little suspicious on Wednesday when I cleaned up and closed off the guest room, then packed a bag. On Thursday he hid for a bit until I fed him, then tried to keep an eye on me while being ready to hide as I got ready to travel. I quietly closed all the doors upstairs to cut off his potential hiding spaces, and when I got out the carrier he did what I expected and bolted for the stairs - only to find the bedrooms and the nice hiding places under the beds cut off. I caught him as he came back down the stairs, and the look he gave me is not one I will soon forget.

He settled down quickly once in the car, especially after I pulled the towel over his carrier. Along the way I only stopped twice to rest, and checked on him both times. A little unsettled, but he wasn't too upset. Once at our destination he almost couldn't wait to get out of the carrier, throwing my balance off as I hauled him up the hill to my parents' front door. Once inside, I opened the carrier immediately and he darted out, pleased to find himself in the big house he loves.

My sister arrived home later that night from a work site in Oregon, and we had dinner together and caught up. Her first choice of destination for her birthday turned out to be closed for the winter, so she suggested the Underground Tour in Seattle, and I enthusiastically agreed, since I have lived in the Seattle area most of my life but had never been on the tour.

The next morning we got ready to go and Inkwell hid, afraid to be caught and stuffed back into his carrier. He was still a bit worried when Lisa and I left.

We got downtown before 11 a.m. and parked in a garage, then as we started the walk to Pioneer Square we spotted a fellow selling the Real Change newspaper and pulled out the $2 to buy one. He looked at us and said, "Wait, you're sisters, right?" We nodded, and he looked back and forth between us, carefully, then pointed at Lisa and said, "You're the younger one!" We laughed and confirmed it, then I said, "Yeah, and it's her birthday!" Immediately he said he had a gift, and sang a beautiful rendition of "Happy Birthday" for her, right there on the sidewalk. It was great.

We thanked him and headed down to the tour, with Lisa quickly learning that I cannot walk quite as fast as she can. Once there, we learned the 11 am tour was sold out and they were selling tickets to the noon tour. We bought them, and, with about 45 minutes to spare, headed out to first get some Cow Chip Cookies, then visited Magic Mouse Toys, a place my husband worked at some years ago, while he was still in high school.

We got back to the Tour spot a little early and I read Real Change while waiting for the tour to start. We were called down to the theater and listened to a nifty 15 minute tale of the early days of Seattle to start the tour.

Now, I knew most of the information in the tour. Like I said, I've lived in Seattle a long time, and I paid attention to the history because, frankly, it's hilarious. But there were some great tidbits I didn't know for sure. Like Yesler becoming mayor and suing the city over his taxes, then settling out of court with himself. And everyone who grew up here knows about the Denny regrade, but I didn't realize just how they did it to not cover the sidewalks. In short, it was fun, punny and informative.

Then we split into smaller groups to go on the tour itself. There were a lot of people in each group. It turned out that there was a cruise in town and a lot of people from the cruise were doing the tour.

I hadn't realized that the tour goes outside and aboveground, then heads down into different sections. I think we went up or down stairs at least 10 times, maybe more, and crossed a lot of heavily trafficked streets. Each time we emerged it was wonderful to come up into cool air - by the end of the tour I'd taken off my coat and didn't need it at all walking back to the car.

The tour group looks at an old photo of Seattle before the fire and learns about the dangers of flushing toilets at high tide.

The tour started in a small gallery with a photo of Seattle before the fire, when the toilets were such a big problem that a person was almost risking their life if they flushed at high tide. The group then moved to a corner spot underneath a set of purple tiles, which we learned were original skylights that had kept the underground usable in a time before electric lights were practical. The tour guide actually turned out the lights so we could see how much light the now grungy tiles provided, and it was actually quite nice.


The tour guide also told us about the teller's ghost in that area - a young man shot in his teller's cage while reaching to for the keys to give them to the robbers so he wouldn't get shot. They apparently misinterpreted his move as reaching for a gun. The guide said he'd never seen a ghost in all the time he'd been working in the Underground, and he's been there since 1879. That is, indeed, the level of the jokes on the tour.

The ghost of a man shot inside the teller's cage is said to haunt this area.

The city was originally built on what were basically tide flats, and flooded frequently. Particularly the sewage pipes. The problems were bad and getting worse when the city burned down. Most businesses wanted to immediately rebuild, for obvious reasons, but were told to have entrances on the second floor of the building. But for a time, folks still used the ground floor of the buildings - and because the sewage problems were no better, the toilets were usually up on platforms.

A crapper device on a platform in the underground.

The guide also showed us an image of the building we were in, and showed how the building originally looked, before the streets were all raised to the second story and filled with dirt from Denny Hill.

Our guide Thad shows where the street is now on the Korn Building

After the streets were raised, people were still using the sidewalks that were now, sort of, below ground. This is because the city owned the streets while the sidewalks belonged to the buildings. The city provided ladders for people to climb up at each corner to get up to street level to cross streets. As you can imagine, this was not an ideal situation. Eventually, the sidewalks were covered with a series of Roman arches supported at the base with metal beams.

Roman arches supported by I-beams covered the "sunken" sidewalks.

The beams and the arches have withstood earthquakes and such better than the upper levels of Pioneer Square.

The underground sidewalks remained in use until an explosion of the rat population encouraged the city to shut them down and seal them off. Of course, not everything got sealed - some businesses continued to use their areas. And the sidewalks no longer connect around every block as they once did. In the 1960s, Bill Speidel started a crusade to save the underground part of Seattle's history and created the tour we went on. My mother apparently went on the tour only a couple of years after it opened.

The tour lasted about 90 minutes, and Lisa and I were tired from all the walking. We headed to her office to pick up a couple of things she needs when she heads back to her work site, and then headed back to Renton, stopping only long enough to get a light meal from Taco Time. Once home, Inkwell greeted us with much sniffing of the shoes and cautious optimism that he didn't have to deal with any travel. We had a family meal with four of the seven siblings and a spouse along with my mother and father, making us seven around the table. Inkwell was overwhelmed with all the scary, loud humans.

After dinner and cake, Lisa and I started to work on a puzzle. Then she went out with our brother-in-law to catch Pokemon while I came up here to write this...

...and now I think I will get a nice glass of chocolate milk and head to bed, since I'm wiped - yet again.

Monday, October 16, 2017

An Imaginary Conversation Between Inkwell and Myself

"Hey, mom, I can smell some food. Can I have some?" Inkwell slinks under my chair and then around my table and looks up at me with wistful eyes.

"I'm eating, leave me alone." I say, stuffing my face.

"No, seriously, I can smell something. Let me try it!" Inkwell attempts to jump into my lap but fails due to strategically placed hand at the right moment.

"MMMffphh, mmm meedgph." I say, with my mouth full.

"At least let me sniff it!" Inkwell says, attempting again to climb onto the chair.

"No! I'm nearly done and you wouldn't like it anyway."

"Let me be the judge of that!" Inkwell whines, making sad mewling noises as he stalks around, looking for a way to the food.

I finish up, and look at the hopeful cat. "You really wouldn't like this. It's just veggies and rice." He gives me 'the stare'. I sigh.

I put the bowl down next to him and he eagerly leans forward ---

---only to jump back in disgust after getting a good whiff of the sweet and sour sauce.


"I told you you wouldn't like it," I say, picking up the bowl and starting down the stairs. He walks along beside me and meows when we get to the kitchen.

I put the bowl in the sink and start back up the stairs. A moment later there is 16 pounds of annoyed cat rushing into my ankle.

Failing to make me fall, the cat then spent the next 20 minutes running at top speed around the house while I calmly got back to my computer. Now he's at the doorway of the room, sulking.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Various Bits and Bobs from the last few weeks

Whew. With my internet problems solved, my life got a lot easier. I get through my morning 'netting much faster when I'm not being interrupted by the internet failing every ten minutes or so.

I've been doing some stuff recently, but I have mostly been posting about it all on Facebook, because it's easier than writing out a blog post for whatever reason. Still, I owe it to my couple of readers to let them know what I've been up to...

In September I went to Adam West Day in Walla Walla, and I wrote a decent article about it for File 770. At least, I think it's a decent article. I meant to write a more personal account and post it here, but my old problems resurfaced and I'm not sure I'll ever finish it. At the very least, check out the article and enjoy me slightly professional write-up of events.


Just yesterday I received my prizes for the History Goes Bump flash fiction contest. I came in third place, which was lovely. You can listen to the episode by clicking here. If you only want to hear my story, it starts about 24 and a half minutes in.

My prizes were a medal and a t-shirt, which I adore. I also got a couple of awesome History Goes Bump stickers.

In addition to the story I wrote for the contest, my brain pumped out three more not-very-horrific stories as well, which I'm willing to share if people are at all interested. Considering the lack of response to my previous posting of fiction, I feel that's not likely.


In addition to winning a contest for my actual writing, I also won a sweepstakes prize of $50 at Spirit Halloween, which I promptly spent on my first ever animatronic, a sound-activated skeleton. Hubby-Eric and I tested it by screaming at it and having it scream back. Then Eric forgot I turned it off and kept screaming at it, which really amused me.

I also got a Haunted Manor Greeter, which is a doorbell set that little kids at our porch at likely to get a kick out of, as there will be a ton of them, I'm sure. If it doesn't drive us crazy first.

I filled out my order with a Hand Held Candelabra which was unfortunately broken on arrival. When I contacted the company for support, they were less than helpful. I'm much less likely to buy from them again. As it happened, I spent a little money on Crazy Glue and some time with a file and managed to fix the main problem with the candle, making it usable. There are other issues with it that make me think the quality control on the thing is non-existent.


Anyway, that's been the big events of life. I've also had some bouts of insomnia and an ankle that didn't want to work properly. I also joined a study on depression, and part of the study was a DNA test. I got the results from the test back and am about as white as it's possible to be, I guess. That's sort of depressing on its own, as I'd rather be a mutt. Oh, I'm also looking forward to the Justice League movie and seeing this new interpretation of Aquaman. And if you really want to see my political rantings, I keep those on Facebook and Twitter for the most part, now.

Monday, October 09, 2017

And now...?

After Saturday's net test, I waited until this morning to text the Centurylink Tech who has been working on my problem. He said he'd be over as soon as he could make it to take another look - this time NOT inside my house. Adding urgency and worry to his life, the network tool he uses to see if an individual line was working apparently couldn't find my line at all.

Well, about 20 minutes ago he pried open the box that has the drop to my house - where the line splits off. He found a badly damaged wire inside and fixed it, then called me to ask if my net was working. As I'd given up on it, I had to open up my computers again and check, and we chatted about the damage while I ran a speed test and checked the modem's reporting.

My net is about as fast as it's ever been since we moved in here.

The modem shows all the various bits and bobs ActionTec told me to look at are within the perfect parameters.

And since he left, knock on wood, the net hasn't gone down. It was failing so much this morning I literally gave up on getting anything done on the computer.

The tech said the line "looked like it was hit by lightning" and was all blackened and burned. As the line itself is inside a box and the box is mostly underground, I'm not sure how that happened. But I'm SO glad we have an answer and I really hope this was the problem all along and it doesn't happen again.

I'm feeling giddy with relief now. Thank you Centurylink Tech who's name I won't mention here, but I shall definitely tell Centurylink that he's the best and needs a raise.

Update: About five hours later, and the net hasn't gone down at all in that time. I tweeted a message to Centurylink support with the tech's name and told them he needs a raise since he fixed a problem that we've been having since July. About four months of this - although due to the intermittent nature it was sometimes just fine.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Ongoing, Annoying Internet Problems

Since July, Hubby-Eric and I have been having problems with our Centurylink internet connection. It will "drop out" frequently, disconnecting us from whatever chatline, game, or website we are using. Most of the disconnects last about 90 seconds, then our ActionTec C1000A modem will reconnect and we can get on with it. For me, it means I can barely play my DCUO game, because it disconnects me each time.

After it started happening, I assumed the modem was dying and purchased a new one. An ActionTec GT784WN - because it was the most inexpensive that could handle the job and we are in financial straits. Right after it arrived, the 'net started to behave and we had a couple of weeks of peaceful bliss. Then the problems started again.

I switched out the modems, only to find the new problem happened on the new modem. Worse, the new modem couldn't recover itself from a drop out - I had to physically get up and turn the modem off then on again to get it to reset. I couldn't even reboot it from my computer, it would just freeze.

During the outages, I called Centurylink MANY times. A couple of times I got people who knew what they were talking about, mostly I got people who asked if I'd rebooted the modem in a bored voice and apologized when they couldn't help. Finally, I decided the cord to the modem might be the issue and bought a new cord.

Nope. Didn't help.

I started some ping logging so I could "see" the problem. Here's a typical outage:

Sun 09/24/2017 14:58:57.52 "Reply from bytes=32 time=20ms TTL=58"
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:02.66 "Reply from bytes=32 time=21ms TTL=58"
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:11.62 "Request timed out."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:20.62 "Request timed out."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:28.23 "Reply from Destination host unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:37.12 "Request timed out."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:42.26 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:47.40 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:52.54 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 14:59:57.69 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:02.82 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:07.95 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:13.08 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:18.22 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:23.36 "Reply from Destination net unreachable."
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:28.51 "Reply from bytes=32 time=28ms TTL=58"
Sun 09/24/2017 15:00:33.67 "Reply from bytes=32 time=26ms TTL=58"
So I scheduled a tech to come out. He fiddled with the cords and the outlets and was unable to find a problem. Typically, the 'net behaved perfectly while he was there. He suggested an adjustment to help the cord fit more securely in a wall socket and declared the problem solved.

It wasn't.

He came out again after I attempted to escalate the problem to someone higher up at Centurylink. Again, we couldn't find a problem, but he believed me that there was one. He tried some things inside the house, but nothing helped. He did determine that my speeds were WAY lower than they ought to be, and figured out how to fix that problem. Of course, I care more about a steady connection than higher speeds, since higher speeds are useless with a crappy connection, but at least it's something, right?

I decided that there was a chance both the modems from ActionTec were crap, so I contacted Actiontec and asked them for help. I specifically said I wanted to know how to troubleshoot my line, and that I'd had my ISP out to my house a couple of times. Here's the response:

In your Address Bar, where you would normally type a website, erase everything. Then type in the numbers and hit enter.

Log into your modem, click the status link and on your left, click on WAN status.

In the Broadband settings, check for Near and Far End CRC and Near and Far End RS-FEC Errors Interleave.

These should all have a ZERO to the right. If there are higher numbers here, you have a bad DSL connection and the modem is picking up errors on the line. The higher the error counts are, the more chance you will be disconnected.

Check the SNR margin too. This should be 11db to 29db for a good connection. Less than 6db and your modem WILL be disconnected.

Check the Attenuation. This should be 20db to 30db. Higher than 30db and your modem WILL be disconnected.

These all indicate issues with the DSL line or your phone wiring in your home.

Make sure you have no splitters or filters connected to your wall phone jack outlet to the modem.

Make sure your phone cord is between 6 and 12 feet long, no longer.

You may need to contact your ISP to have them check the lines at your house.

This has a little bit of new information in it. Of course, I already knew how to log into my modem, but most of the status information was meaningless to me. Heck, even with this advice, it still is meaningless, but at least I know what to look for. So, the Near End CRC Errors Interleave was not zero - it has a number. First sign that something is wrong. SNR Margin? 8 & 9 - but I need at least 11 for a good connection and if it drops to 6, I'm disconnected. Hmm. Attenuation? 33 - although I'm still connected.

I have no splitters or filters, the cord is the correct length.

I decided to check the older modem, and the results were exactly the same. So, that rules out the modem. I switched out the cords. Same problem.

That means the next step is to go outside and check the test line coming into the house. Sadly, I could not manage it alone. It's a simple enough procedure, but I needed Eric to pull it off. This morning we did the test, and here are the results:

I could be wrong, but those appear to be pretty much the same as the inside problems, which suggests the problem isn't inside my house, it's the line to my house.

Now, how on earth do I convince Centurylink of that?

Thursday, September 28, 2017


I used to not suffer from insomnia. That was hubby-Eric's problem. But now I have it almost every night.

For Inkwell, my insomnia is a huge gift.

Take last night as an example. I went to bed about 10pm, but couldn't sleep and after an hour of tossing and turning I got up and went across the landing to my room to play on my computer. I closed the door most of the way so if hubby-Eric woke the light wouldn't bother him. Naturally, Inkwell came over and opened the door to check on me. Oh well.

After a couple of hours I was feeling tired enough to try to go back to sleep, so I picked up the tiny flashlight/laser pointer from my desk and headed to the bathroom at the top of the landing. After taking care of business, I turned off the light and opened the bathroom door to let my eyes adjust... and spotted a little black shadow right outside the door. I flicked on the flashlight long enough to confirm it was Inkwell the black cat and to see that he had no interest in me at all, but was watching the floor.

He knew I had the laser pointer.

So, being a good cat mommy, at 1am or so I let the laser play all over the landing as Inkwell chased it joyfully. I'm not really sure how long I played with him, but eventually I was too tired to continue and so headed into the bedroom to go back to sleep. I heard one last "mrrrp?" of protest as I hung up my robe and headed for the bed.

While this isn't the exact sequence of events for every night, when I have insomnia there seems to be a better than even chance of me playing lasers with Inky.

Of course, after being up late/early, Inkwell has no problem whatsoever with waking his mommy by tapping her nose in the morning. For some reason, tapping my nose triggers a bladder response in me, and when Inky does it I generally have to get up to use the bathroom. At which point I'm awake and can listen to him explaining in lots of meowing mouth noises why I ought to feed him.

I believe the cat has trained me well.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Sunday Comic Books Review

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • May 3rd
  • Aquaman #22 - Ha. Mera had the same thought, and same complaint, as I do. Why blow it up when you can talk? Ok, I admit, there wasn't a lot of time to act in this case, but destroying the portal seemed a bit extreme in the end. If Aquaman had convinced Tethys to stop the signal, I'm sure he could have found another way to dispose of the mini-nuke. Mera is completely in the right on this one.
  • Justice League #20 - Groundhog Day with the Flash in the lead role. For a guy who moves as quick as he does, it sure seems like he's figuring this one out really slowly. And having the league barge in like they did really doesn't reflect well on them - especially since it appears they are at fault. Not horrible, but not very good, either.
  • Green Lanterns #22 - And we get into the space stuff. I'm just not a big fan of the space stuff. Somehow the GL Corps just takes all the sensawonda out of it. This book is no exception - with the earthbound pair getting introduced properly to the corps while their pet not-a-guardian becomes a real threat. Are we going to get the inevitably boring training montage next?
  • DC Comics Bombshells #26 - The first half of the book is a song of endings, then we get right back into the action with a tale of Kara's attempts to return home. I've never been a big fan of songs in comic books because there is no way to hear the melody. This issue hits my annoyance right in the kisser - I don't mind that there is music but I'm terribly upset that I cannot hear it. Still, it is a nice way to wrap up the main storyline, and if it were an animated series it would no doubt be perfect.
  • Spider-Man 2099 #23 - I'm not really sure what was happening right at the end there, but it sure seems bad enough. Nasty toxin, multiple spideys *and* people from the future. I'm just wondering exactly what happened to Tempest.
  • Back To The Future: Biff to the Future #4 - I know this is an alternate timeline, but wow it's depressing. And since I already know the outcome of some of these plotlines, it's even more depressing. Still, interesting to see how it all happened. Or didn't, as the case may be.
  • Doctor Who Ghost Stories #2 - Back on familiar ground, sort of. I wasn't expecting that cliffhanger, but then, apparently the Doctor wasn't either. An ok issue with a big ol' infodump in the middle - nothing special but not bad.
  • May 10th
  • Titans #11 - Enter Deathstroke. I don't have a good grip on this part of the Titans' storyline, but I'll follow along as best I can. Garth gets to look silly in this one, which isn't my favorite moment. The fact that the universe has been altered is once again driven home in this issue, and I know we're going to see who and perhaps even why soon enough - which just makes me want to catch up to the current books faster. There's a lot in this issue to unpack, and I'm going to have to read it again.
  • Star Trek/Green Lantern V2 #6 - A decent end to this series, which is itself the second series set in this particular universe. One nice touch - Kirk is a little disturbed by Hal's casual altering of the course of events on an alien planet. I guess this Kirk cares a little more about the Prime Directive than the original.
  • Scooby Apocalypse #13 - I read this during a particularly bad insomnia bout, and was comforted immensely by what happens to Rufus. It's pretty clear to me who the real-life Rufus would be, and it's just as clear that both of them deserve that fate. I wonder how the team dynamic will change with a new person, or if she's doomed to die quickly? I'm really loving this book, despite it NOT being Scooby-Doo as I remember and love it. Ok, the back-up story wasn't to my liking, but Scrappy should just be scrapped.
  • Future Quest #12 - And they all lived happily ever after! I didn't realize this was the final issue until I was pretty much at the end, then I realized I was a little sad it was ending. I've really enjoyed the massive crossover with some familiar and many new-to-me characters. Overall, a fun series and I liked how the problems were solved in the final issue. Great job on everybody's part with this series.
  • Back To The Future #19 - So, we finally get to learn a little more about Marty's uncle. As I recall, he met him as a child in the first movie and referenced the fact he was in jail. This seems like a pretty good storyline to explore. I really wouldn't have thought this movie trilogy could spawn so many great stories - I just wasn't thinking widely enough.
  • Planet of the Apes/Green Lanterns #4 - Wow, by the time I got to this book, I was about Green Lanterned out. Good thing there was plenty of ape action to pull me back into the story. Still a long way to go in this series, but it's shaped up to be a bit of a crazy battle of the rings.
  • Doctor Who 11th #3.5 - A done-in-one that's Oodles of fun. Except for the fact that it appears to be a symptom of a greater problem - one caused by The Doctor himself. I would say the full understanding of this story requires lots of knowledge of past stories, particularly all the television stories involving the Ood.
  • Rough Riders: On The Storm #3 - One thing I love about historical fiction is looking to see how and where it departs from the history we know. So I had to go look up McKinley's assassination, of course. Fascinating stuff, which led me down another rabbit hole of knowledge. The comic itself is pretty darn good, setting up some nicely terrifying bad guys and a multiple cliffhanger. Lovely.
  • Spongebob Comics #68 - For one shining moment, SpongeBob took the wheel and got them safely there. I was surprised how funny I found this one. I usually just laugh a little and enjoy this book, looking for Mermaid Man references, but this one I laughed pretty hard at. Of course, there was also a serious side to it, because as happens all too often, the food service worker ignored a warning by a customer which had serious repercussions for everyone. So, funny but also push-button-y!