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Launch Day Is Tuesday, September 19, 2017
What's New and What's Next?
Four Days and Counting
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

daily events

We Interrupt the Grimness of the Writing Marathon to Bring You . . .

Views from the Inside of a Homeowners' Meeting


I've had a couple of pretty productive days -- 3600 words Sunday and 2500 yesterday -- so when our annual Home Owners Association Meeting popped up on my calendar, I couldn't come up with a good excuse. It even stopped raining. So off I trudged to the clubhouse last night to get a good look at my neighbors, hear the bad news about our finances, and vote for three new board members from a slate of  - - - three candidates.

Wow! If I were a scientist, I think I would have seen the room as a group of petri dishes, in each of which  a separate cluster of germs have been incubating for an entire year.

There were the "old-timers," of which I happen to be one. We moved into this condo community together back in 2004, just as soon as our buildings were ready for occupancy (six buildings, 24 housing units in that first batch.) There aren't many of us left. The half-life of a "retirement" community is not very long! But those of us still hanging around were clustered in the back row, many wearing hats to hide the ravages of disease or the disinterest that was leading us to nap through the formalities. We've heard these complaints and arguments a time or two before and know they are not going anywhere.

There was a row of widows and divorcees -- women newly single, inheritors of property they knew little about -- ready to ask the resident men trivial questions they used to ask their husbands. I could belong to that group, too, but the back rows were more fun.

There were the independent women, many long-time residents, who were not about to see their opinions trample on by a small group of "know-it-all" men. They were busy exchanging gossip, reports on who had died, and which units were coming up for sale. The self-appointed Neighborhood Watch mavens were a part of that group.

There was a gentleman in the back who announced that he wanted to run for office so he could find at least a few "like-minded individuals" in the group. That set off warning signals for me. "Like-minded" is usually a code word for "those who share my own particularly vitriolic group of prejudices." Fortunately he was not elected to office.

And finally there were the newcomers -- mostly young-middle-aged couples, looking around wide-eyed at their neighbors and wondering if that back door was really an exit or if it would set off an alarm if they tried to sneak out. (Note that we have no age-restrictions here, but the units are not designed for family living. They appeal to newlyweds who need to make due with that bargain set of "furniture for a whole apartment," to grandparents who are tired of babysitting the grandkids, and to singles of all ages who are just looking for comfort and privacy.)

At the front of the room sat the current board, at least one of whom was asleep.  A mixed bag of conclusions resulted from the meeting. The usual suspects were elected (re-elected) to fill the slate of offices. The sprinkler system still isn't working right, it's too expensive to put a cover over the pool for the winter, some trees need to come down because somebody planted them to close to foundations, and it may take up to two weeks to fix a water leak from a roof although it's quicker if the water is coming up through the floor. The good news was that our monthly assessment is not going to increase and the budget is finally in the black.

And so to bed, safe in the knowledge that our little community will survive for another year without our help!

A Celebration for Day Seven

I'm still churning out the words.  Here's my progress chart for the first week. The diagonal gray line represents normal, satisfactory, finish-on-time progress. You'll see that I'm pushing over twice that level. If I keep going at this rate, i'll be finished in another week and have the other two weeks to do some deep editing. I'm pleased.

There were a few interruptions today, however. The first one was a lovely surprise when a delivery arrived at my front door. One of my all-time fans sent me a pot of live daisies to celebrate making it this far on NaNoWriMo. When I opened the box and saw the daisies, I had no doubt that they came from Miss Dazey. She's a delightful woman from Springfield, Missouri, who for various health reasons spends most of her day on the internet. That's where I first met her, although we've had a couple of meet-ups over the years. We talked later this morning and I hope she realizes how much that little surprise of hers meant to me.

The second hitch came when I realized that my plot had a giant hole in it.  There's an event near the end of the book that makes no sense unless the reader has learned some vital information at the beginning of the story.  Now I found that a bit embarrassing, because one of the ladies in my NaNoWriMo cabin had asked for advice about correcting a weakness in the early part of her story. My advice? "No! Don't stop. Forge ahead. Keep writing and fix problems later." Did I take my advice? Nope. I went back and closed the gap. And that meant I only finished half of the current chapter today,

Hitch number three came in the form of another call from my favorite trio of plumber, gas company, and Code Enforcement Nazi. it seems the gas line in question does not run directly from the meter to my attic, but passes first through my neighboring  condo owner's attic. So now they need to get into her attic and check that pipe -- and maybe even put one of those regulators on it. Which means, of course, they have to find a time when all FIVE of us can be at the same place at the same time, and it is up to me to make that happen. Cheers.  So far I haven't even gotten her to call me back, although I can see that she's home. She's not going to be happy!

Anyhow, that's my report on the day. Tomorrow's another chapter.

My New Car Is Smarter than I Am




The weatherman promised that we would not be under a heat advisory until this afternoon, so I set out early this morning to get some errands run: to the pet store for 40 pounds  of cat food; the bank to make a couple of deposits; the office supply store to find a desk calendar that starts in July; the gas station for Sadie's first fill-up, and then Costco to restock some of the supplies that they sell in bulk, like plastic garbage bags and paper towels (and popcorn in little 100-calorie portions.)

All was going well. The attendant at the gas station had to help get my gas cap off for the first time, but I think he really just wanted a closer look at the car. I was having a great time. I even managed to find a classical music station on the radio. And I love some of the new-fangled gadgets this car has, particularly the keyless feature. All I have is a key "fob" which I keep in a pocket or in my purse. As long as I have it on me somewhere, I can just open the door, even though it is locked to anyone else, get in and start the engine, etc. without ever seeing or handling the key fob. This is going to sound silly, but it gives me the feeling that the car is recognizing me as its owner. It doesn't take a whole lot to please me these days, so I like it!

By the time I came out of Costco, it was HOT! And I had forgotten that my little trunk already had 40 pounds of cat food stashed in it. So there I am, struggling to shove everything into the back. Eventually I succeed and push the trunk lid closed.  It makes a funny sound and pops back open. I figure there's something blocking the latch, so I push and shove a little more and then close the trunk again. It closes, it latches, it makes a funny sound, and pops open again.

And that time it opened wide enough for me to see the problem.  I had laid my purse on top of the cat food bags so that I had two hands to unload the cart. If I had had my way with that trunk, I would have locked my purse (and the key fob) inside. I wouldn't have been able to open the door to trip the open-trunk  latch or start the engine.  Poor Sadie. She did her best to save me from my own stupidity.

She's smarter than I am, and that's a good thing!

Where Does All the Cat Hair Go?



For several years now, I have been indulging the OCD side of my personality that demands I keep my desk neat.  That’s doubly hard to do, of course,  when the four felines with whom I share this office insist on parading across the desk, sleeping on the warm modem, or rolling around on top of a stack of papers. However, I have one tried and true solution to the cat-hair accumulations — “Dust-Off” — a can of compressed air that makes cat hair disappear like magic.

Or so I thought!

Fast forward to this morning. My new living-alone morning ritual follows this pattern: Make coffee, feed cats, check overnight book sales, and eat breakfast while watching Good Morning America or The Today show, depending upon what they are obsessing about. Then, when I’ve had enough of the world’s troubles, I take a second cup of coffee back to the office, place it carefully on the two-drawer filing cabinet next to the desk (to keep any spills out of the computer innards), and visit electronically with some my favorite long-distance friends.

But this morning! One cat started seeing spooks. Tail went to bottle-brush position and the race was on. Eventually I was directly in the path. The 20-pound diabolical orange male took a flying leap over my shoulder and landed with one front paw in my coffee cup. (I determined that later when he was fastidiously cleaning all of that black stuff out of the fur on his right front paw, and grumbling about it with a throaty growl.)

Mayhem ensued. Coffee everywhere, pencil holder flying, phone off the hook. papers and books hitting the floor. By the time I grabbed a towel to mop up, the flow of coffee had spread far underneath a tall stacking rack of file folders. And when I lifted it up, I found the answer to today’s burning question. Cat hair never disappears. It just piles up behind the file folders — the better to soak up spilled coffee.

It's the Little Things That Matter



What Havoc 1/10 of an Inch of Snow Can Cause

It snowed in Memphis last night -- maybe the earliest snowfall on record, as reported to one dramatic pronouncement. The total was 1/10 of an inch, according to the weatherman. At our house, we could find the snow piled in little 1/2-inch drifts on top of a few shingles where the roof overhangs the house. We found it in the flowerpots and under the hedge (a scrawny hedge). And we saw its leavings in a puddle in a low spot in the driveway.

But it hardly ever snows in Memphis.  Last year, we had NONE. The year before, there was one little snowfall that disappeared by noon. Storms from the west usually split at Memphis and go north and south of the city. Storms dropping down from the north? They go slanting off to the southeast of us. I have lots of boots that have never been wet, and we no longer own a snow shovel. It just doesn't snow, here. Until it does! And then what chaos ensues.

The weathermen missed it. The highway department wasn't ready. The traffic cops were off duty. And it snowed, and sleeted, and the temperature dropped to 31 degrees, and everything froze. You also need to understand that around here, the traffic-related weather problems tend to be caused by hard rains, so the roads are built with a hump in the middle, sloping off toward drainage ditches on both sides. But when those humps are covered with ice, everything--not just rainwater--slides off the road into the ditches.

By the time I got up, at a perfectly respectable 7:30, the world had come to an end. There were 25 multiple-car accidents on the traffic report map -- not just more than two cars per incident, but 7,8, and 10 cars at a time. Three people were dead, and a child was on his way to the hospital (slowly!) after his school bus crashed.

And the roads were parking lots. Traffic on the interstates was at a bumper-to-bumper standstill, and sometimes those bumpers were more than touching. There are two bridges that cross the Mississippi River at Memphis -- the only two bridges for 45-50 miles in either direction. They were both closed because of accidents blocking them. Traveling between Arkansas and Tennessee this morning? Wasn't going to happen! They did open one bridge around noon, and the TV coverage showed a few cars creeping over it at less than 20 miles an hour.

I counted myself lucky. I could pour another cup of coffee and poke my toes deeper into my fuzzy slippers. But 1/10 of an inch of snow ruined the lives -- or at least the days -- of much of this city. How does this happen in 2014? And what on earth would these people do if we suffered the blizzards that much of the country is experiencing today?