Author: lokispeaks

Ridiculously smart and incredibly good-looking

Of Zinnias and Mooncakes

I do soooo much mischief that sometimes I can’t keep track of it all and I fall behind in writing about it. No rest for the wicked! And sometimes it’s the little, not-especially-mischiefy things in life I don’t get down on paper. Or electrons. Whatever.

ANYWAY. This is by way of being a catch-up. None of this is recent, but it made Sigyn smile, so it’s important.

The human male came home one day with some enormous zinnias (plus some thistles) that someone at church gave him.

There was a red one AND a yellow one, so Sigyn was extra excited.

That right there is some pretty decent camouflage.

And one day, somewhat after the traditional equinoctial celebration, the human male came home from the oriental market with the biggest, last-chance-for-this-year mooncake Sigyn and I had ever seen.

It was enormous.

Could Sigyn and the human female eat it in one go? They were certainly willing to try.

(poke, poke poke.) The wrapper said it was filled with lotus seed paste. But I didn’t trust it, because I know that often there are other things hidden inside.

The human female, pretending she wasn’t going to eat all of it, cut herself a slice. (She wasn’t fooling anyone.)

See?! I knew there was something else lurking inside! Vindication! People really should learn to listen to me.

But what was the orange stuff? The human female took a bite and said she thought it tasted like egg yolks. Sure enough, she did a little looking online and learned that mooncakes are often filled with salted duck egg yolk. She and Sigyn didn’t care for it much and didn’t eat it, but they ate the cake and the lotus seed paste, all the while reading about Mooncakes and What Goes In Them. Apparently, the really fancy ones have two egg yolks inside.

Then the human female read how many calories are in one of these things, put her fork down, and turned a funny color. She and Sigyn by this point had eaten most of it between the two of them, so they shamefacedly put the rest in the cold box to save for another day. Sigyn, of course, doesn’t need to worry about her figure, but the human female is a different story. She consoled herself by thinking that since they didn’t eat the egg yolk and saved a bit for later, it was probably only million calories instead of a million and a half.

The only person who believes her lies is her, but then, she’s extra-gullible.

Anyway, we had two fall treats, one colorful and one sweet. Which brings to mind the ancient Chinese saying,

更明智的做法是在远处吃花和欣赏蛋糕,这样裤子才能继续合身。

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Well, What Did You Expect?

I have noted before the human female’s preference for unusual colors in fountain pen ink. She is also rather finicky about her pens. Perhaps you recall the antique olive green one she purchased at her first pen show? It has never functioned satisfactorily, being unpleasantly “scratchy. Recently, she had an expert adjust the tines so that now it writes smoothly.

She wants to fill it with an olive-green ink to match the pen. That weird color she has called “Walk the Dog” is just about perfect. The human male filled the pen for her yesterday, did a little test sentence, and handed it over. The middle sample is what the ink is supposed to look like. (The bottom one is her weird pinto bean ink, “Brunch Date.”)

So it does write olive for the human male. The human female’s test sentence is at the top up there. Tada! While olive green is green, I like darker greens better, so I changed it for her. No olive here, no sir!

After she asked herself what ink had been in the pen last (because, even though the human male flushed the pen, sometimes there’s a little carry-over), she located her little pen notebook in which she writes down what is in all of her pens.

Ehehehehehe! See that?! Same pen, the Shaeffer 275, and the same ink! Dark green in the Shaeffer and olive green in anything else!

I have thoroughly enspelled this particular writing instrument, and no matter what color you put into it, mortal, dark green is going to come out. Get used to it.

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P.S.–In Today’s Mail

A BILL from Insurance Carrier Number Two that is for TWO months and is marked PAST DUE.

She can’t win, she can’t quit the game, and the rules keep changing…

Ehehehehehehe!

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PNC= Pervasive Number Confusion

The humans have had the same bank account since the Miocene. It was the human female’s before they got married. That was with Guaranty Bank. Then it became Southwest Bank. Then BBVA. Throughout all of the name changes–and location changes!–the account number remained the same. The human female had it memorized.

Earlier this year, though, the humans were notified that BBVA had been bought by PNC. The dire warnings communications started arriving in August.

What did the humans need to do? It says, right up there: “Take any action applicable to you.” As in, “We’re changing, there’s nothing you can do about it, and any work will need to be done on your part. We don’t care.”

As you may have guessed, I was part of the changeover team, and I am so, so proud of my efforts.

Studying this Orange Booklet and all the other mailings pointed out one crucial bit of information: The routing number and bank account number were going to change. The bank would close as BBVA on October 8 and reopen as PNC on October 12. From the 9th to the 11th, all the customers would be in a vague, formless, currencyless limbo.

Cue panic. On Asgard, everything is done with barter or gold coins–or magic. On this rock, though, everything depends on that 9-digit routing number and that 10-digit account number. The humans scrambled to notify every entity that either puts money into or takes money out of their account.

Of course I assisted. Here’s how it unfolded.

They’re Really Swamped (TRS), the retirement pension system that puts money into the account, was the most critical. TRS is very hard to get hold of, but when the human female finally managed to contact a living human being, she was told that a change request can take up to sixty days to process. Both humans had to stop direct deposit of their pension checks, wait until the changeover happened, then file a change of direct deposit info form, including a cancelled check, which they don’t have because the bank couldn’t even order checks until the switch. So now they are getting paper checks in the mail for some period between now and sixty days, at which point they will have to log back in to their accounts to see if the paperwork was received and put through.

PayPeople: The humans could change the info online after the changeover, which looked to be very simple. PayPeople, however, needs to verify that the linked bank account is a good one, so two very small amounts were sent to the new account now linked to PayPeople , just to establish that it exists. Then the money was taken back out. The human female had to go online with PayPeople, tell them the amounts of the two deposits, then confirm the new account and delete the old one. They think it works now. We shall see.

Charity #1: It was easy to get hold of these people, as they know the humans personally. The accountant wrote herself a sticky note and put it in her planner on the day that the automatic withdrawal happens every month. We shall see if the change is effected…

Charity #2: This charity draws on the 20th of each month. The human female called, left a message. When the helpful person called back, the human female almost didn’t answer since the call was from an Unknown Number in Kansas City. Turns out it was an actual Helpful Person who was able to take the new information over the phone and who then sent a paper letter confirming the changes. I let the human female have this victory, because I knew what was coming.

Charity #3: This charity draws on the 15th of the month, so timing was critical. When the human female called, the person she spoke to told her that the September automatic withdrawal hadn’t happened, even though the human female could look at the BBVA account and see that it had. She got put on hold and was later disconnected. After the changeover, she was able to call back and change the information over the phone. We’ll see if it actually worked…

Insurance Carrier #1: The telephone number on the humans’ original policies is no longer in service, so the female had to Google around to find one that works. She got put on hold, then disconnected. The person she ultimately spoke to emailed her some forms to fill out, with the admonition that they had to arrive after October 1 for the October 12 changeover, so they wouldn’t be put through whenever they arrived, if it was before the changeover. The human female mailed the forms on October 1. When she followed up with a phone call post-change, the person on the other end said the forms never arrived but she was happy to process the change over the phone. The human female *thinks* the change has been made, but she’s keeping an eye on things…

Insurance Carrier #2: This was my favorite! It is a good thing that the operators at this company are always kind and helpful, because the humans are now on a first-name basis with them and will probably be inviting each other to barbecues and exchanging Yule cards. When the human female first called, she was told that she and the human male could each set up an online account and manage it from there. The automatic withdrawal happens on the 10th of the month with this outfit– which would be right in the middle of the Great Bank Account Gap. The way around this was for the humans to each log in, change their account from automatic withdrawal to direct billing via paper bill, and then–after the change–log back in and provide the new electronic funds authorization. Not so bad. Things got interesting, though, when the humans logged in and saw that they had a “billed through” date in October and a “paid up through” date in September (only it wasn’t presented that succinctly), and things were a little confusing. Did they owe for October or not? They couldn’t remember if they’re paying ahead or not. After the changeover, the humans dutifully logged back in, downloaded the forms, and filled them out, and the female uploaded hers. There was still some question about whether they owed a payment or not, so the male called (hello again, old friend!) His account had some odd amount in it. Apparently, the last time the premium increased, his automatic withdrawal took the old amount one month, so he owed a little. He got that straightened out, but was then told that the human female’s form had arrived but had somehow–even though she provided the new bank account number–was put through as direct billing (send paper bills) rather than auto withdrawal, so he had them fix that. Then, to put the cherry on top of the whole mangled sundae, he was able to change his information over the phone. Or so he thinks. We shall see.

So how did it go with the actual bank? It’s a good news/bad news sort of thing. Good news: The human male was able to call in and activate his new debit card on one try. Bad news: The human female couldn’t get through on the first call but was eventually able to do it. Bad news: She tried logging in to the new account and was told she needed to select a new user name, though the system seemed perfectly happy with the old password. Good news: the transaction info from the BBVA account is still accessible. Bad news: The available BBVA statement shows only dates and amounts but nothing about to whom the amounts were paid, so balancing the checkbook this next time is going to be a lot of fun. Bad News: Something in the human female’s online exploration of the new account triggered an Alarming Email saying that an email address for the account had changed! She needed to call PNC immediately. So she did. This was on October 12, the day of the Great Changeover. What she got–and I love this part!–was a recording saying that due to high call volume, they were “Not taking calls at this time. Call again some other time.” Not “we’re very busy, please stay on the line.” Not “leave a message and someone will call”. Not “leave your number and when your place in the queue comes up, someone will call.” Just, “Nope.” Then (Bad News) the human female got an email that said “Error C05118441–Non-categorized transactions–contact the bank for more information!” Does that refer to the statement with just amounts? Or something more sinister? Who knows! And then, just for final Bad News funsies, I did a little mail switcheroo, and it looks like all of the general emails from the bank are going to come to the human female and start out, “Dear Human Male…” Good luck getting that sorted.

What still doesn’t make sense: The humans can use their remaining BBVA checks until new ones can be printed. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Oh, and the first email the human female got sort of implied that automatic transactions had been rolled over for them, despite what the Orange Booklet had said. So we shall see whether the next round of deposits and withdrawals happens correctly, or whether some or all happen incorrectly, twice, or not at all. Stay tuned, because I think I may not be done with this yet.

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INKSPLOSION! Revisited

Previously, I related the multicolored mess that was the human male’s shipment of ink samples. His trading partner apologized profusely and agreed to reship the worst offenders. The packet has just arrived. Let’s see whether he has had better luck.

Each vial is in its own little bag this time.

The blue does not look promising.

Though it looks decidedly less bloody than prior packaging.

Yes, indeed! There is leakage in this batch of samples too. My mischievous magic is holding well! However, between the old vials and the new, he has a more-or-less complete sample of each color, so satisfaction has been achieved.

Great Frigga’s Hairpins! Spillage has occurred!

Someone should come clean this up! I’ve no idea whether this ink will stain laminate flooring, but it is probably best (if less fun!) not to put the hypothesis to empirical testing.

Of course, by “someone,” I do not mean me. You made the mess; you clean it up!

But, I’m not a monster. I shall summon help for this operation.

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It Might Not Be The Most Important Meal of the Day, But It Is The Most Delicious

We are on a fleeting visit to the Big City to the South to meet up with the Knittery Friend and her family. The smaller members of this family insist on growing at an alarming rate, and they are larger each time I see them! Soon they will be old enough to recruit into my army of minions, so there is that to look forward to.

All of that growing (and the human female’s gluttony!) dictate that the consumption of food should be involved in this visit. An establishment that specializes in what mortals call “brunch” (a very silly word) has been selected. There is quite a wait, and the hungrier members of our party are growing antsy, but I am assured that the cuisine will be worth waiting for.

We are seated inside now. There are no actual menus and we have been directed to an online version. Scroll, scroll, scroll…

There is an entire section of something called “Arnolds.” I’m not sure I even want to guess what that might entail.

We have ordered, and while we wait for our food, Sigyn is exploring the coffee creamer options.

She doesn’t drink coffee, but I suspect that, left unsupervised, she might try to just drink the French Vanilla one straight out of the little container…

It’s either that or start digging into the jam.

Do you think she could eat all of it, even without toast? My guess is yes.

Myself, I am both intrigued by and fearful of this green stuff.

I have so many questions. If it is made with jalapeños (which are a relatively mild green chilli), why is the illustration of a flaming red pepper? Is that merely the brand label? Is “greengo” a play on the word “gringo”? And why “gringo” anyway–is it meant to imply that gringos can only handle the mild stuff? If it’s meant to be refrigerated after opening, why is it just sitting out on the table? And finally and most importantly, can I sneak some of this into/onto whatever the human female orders?

The food has arrived, and I’m still not sure a) what it is that she has ordered and b) whether it would be improved with a surreptitious addition of capsaicin.

Ah. I have been informed that this is something called “shrimp and grits.” There appears to be a great deal of tomato and bacon atop the grits as well, along with two fried triangles of something tortilla-ish. I am still perplexed by all of this, but I can tell just by looking that has approximately three days‘ worth of calories. I can only hope the human female immediately asks for a to-go box and sets aside half of this for another meal.

Who am I kidding…

Must have been good. It disappeared so quickly that I never got a chance to add the hot sauce.

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P.S. This is a chain restaurant. I hear they are opening one in the city we live in, so I may yet have a chance to have all my questions answered.

Agalinis navasotensis–Scientia Versus Tempestate

It is a lovely early fall day. The sun is shining and it’s not brutally hot. The calendar has rolled past the third week of September, so it is time for that annual botanical adventure, checking up on the rare Navasota False Foxglove, Agalinis navasotensis that the human female discovered. We are all headed to the outcrop in the next county over to see how many there are and how they are doing.

(a bit later)

Things actually look pretty good. There is a lot of grass this year, since the summer was wet. The human female and two other plant nerds have counted over 100 plants in flower.

A good year, if not great. The usual fall flora is in evidence too. The blue sage is open for butterfly take-out dining.

Or is it dine-in? Except the lepidopteran is not sitting down. How does it work with bugs anyhow?

It took a bit of looking, but we found the little cacti again.

The plant nerds have located the endpoint stakes of a sampling transect that was run in 2006 and are going run the transect again so they can compare results.

That’s the human female up there at the top of the outcrop. If you could see her any more clearly you might be turned to stone. You’re welcome.

Ugh! This science is tedious! Every half meter along the line, we have to note what is touching the line between 0 and 0.5 meters, between 0.5 meters and 1.0 meter, between 1.0 and 1.5 meters, etc., all the way up to the canopy. I think that at most of the points along line we are going to have…grass. It’s not in flower, so we won’t be able to write down what kind it is. Grass. Grass. Grass. And we have thirty meters of this to do? The plant nerds will be at this all morning and I will die of boredom. Time for a little excitement!

And here it comes! I’ve noted before that, while I cannot really control the weather, I can certainly nudge it along. (You don’t grow up around my stoopid brother Thor without picking up a few tricks.) So I think I will take advantage of the forecast “chance of precipitation” to see how dedicated botanists conduct a transect in the pouring rain.

Vera quaestio est quousque perstent antequam cladem agnoscant.

Norns’ nighties! They are actually doing it. The human female is crouched under a car windshield sunshade, trying to keep her notes dry, her partner is completely exposed, holding the height pole, and a third intrepid plant nerd is marking a GPS record of groups of Agalinis plants. Everyone is soaked to the skin and I am laughing so hard at the human female slipping in the mud that I almost fell down myself.

Sigyn and I, of course, are under a magic umbrella spell and are perfectly dry.

(later)

The botanists and all available paper being sodden, they have decided to call it a day and not set up a second transect. Farewell outcrop! We shall see you again in the spring, perhaps.

(later still)

This is what the human female’s notebook looks like–after drying out a bit!

The notes themselves are barely legible.

I am grudgingly impressed, though. Her cheap little ballpoint did a pretty good job of not running.

When all typed up, the transect results look like this:

Prope est ut si quid agerent sciebant.

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We Might Need to Invent a New Word

It will come as no surprise that there is a LOT of ink in this house. You have read before that the entire household has been infected (and are carriers!) of Pen Pox, the incurable–though not usually fatal–addiction to fillable writing instruments and what fills them. The human male seems bent on collecting a sample of every dark green fountain pen ink on the planet, and he is in perpetual search of the perfect maroon that matches the University’s color. The human female has several orders of magnitude fewer inks, and hers tend to be the colors of foliage and flowers, things that look like watercolor when they dry. (Except for that one weird pinky-brown one she has that she describes as the “color of cooked pinto beans.” Yes, she’s strange.)

There are different ways to acquire inks–direct purchase at the Purveyor of Pens in the Big City to the South or other emporia, at pen shows, via mail order, and by trading samples with other individuals afflicted by Pen Pox.

Recently, the human male arranged a sample trade with one of his fellow addicts. The little vials have come in today’s post and he is about to open them. I arranged a surprise for him. Let’s see how it plays out.

We are through the outer packaging and into the guts of the parcel.

Ehehehehe! This does not bode well. Padding material should not look like used battleground field dressings…

Suspecting that this may be a Messy Operation, the human male has moved everything into a containment field.

I think I see hints of yellow and green as well as the red mess of the other side.

Vinyl gloves have been donned and surgery is commencing. Careful, now!

By Asgard’s Technicolor Sunsets!

Is there going to be any ink at all left in the sample vials??

The vial of blue has been extracted.

Given the state of the packing and that the label on the blue vial was supposed to be white and not red, I think we can assume that the red vial will be discovered to have leaked.

All of the vials are now free of the wrapping, and all seem to have misbehaved to one degree or another.

They were all supposed to be full, though some of them seem to have disgorged half or more of their contents. The human male is going to write to his trading partner to see if a reship of the emptier colors can be arranged.

We need a new word for occurrences such as this. Hmm… What shall it be?

I have it! I N K S P L O S I O N!

So, just what brand and line of inks are these the human male has acquired?

Why, Troublemaker, of course!

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Another Sign That Autumn Is Upon Us

There’s another way I can tell that it is autumn. It’s migration time! The last hummingbirds are tanking up on nectar for their long journey south, wild geese will soon be honking overhead, and we are experiencing the annual running of Carassius auratus subsp. caseus.

This species of small fish returns to the same spawning grounds every year. Nature is cruel, though. Not all of them make it home. Sigyn and I have just encountered one such on our walk this morning.

It must have been a very good jumper to have made it here.

I know it’s sad, dearest, but it’s all part of Nature.

Great Frigga’s Hairpins! There’s another one!

Oh, now my sweetie is really upset. Come along, love. Let’s go home and eat something pumpkin spiced and talk of more pleasant things.

(later)

I know! We can log on to the Fat Bear Week website and see who won this year. My money was on good old 151.

What a prodigious embonpoint! You can see that the migrating salmon that didn’t make it just ended up as plump, chunky, huggable bear.

Hmm. I wonder if something similar happens with C. auratus subsp. caseus?

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Signs of the Season

I really do believe we may actually experience autumn this year. The days are still warm, but we have had a cold front or two that have given us some good sleeping weather and some pleasantly cool mornings. As I look around, I can definitely see some signs of the season.

As I noted on Cinnamon Roll Day, the schoolhouse lilies have finally put in an appearance.

They’re several weeks late, but very, very cheerful and very, very RED. Sigyn is over the moon.

As they are coming in, other things are on their way out. The sunflowers, which have been so bright and boisterous all summer, have begun to die back, leaving a tangled brown mess.

I planted this area with wild morning glories, which are using the sunflowers as a living trellis. The human female can’t take down the sunflowers without ripping up the morning glories, which are beautiful and beloved by hummingbirds. The side of the driveway is both beautiful and hideous at the same time. Elegant and ratty. Magical and white trash. She his not particularly enjoying the dichotomy, but I sure am.

The tangle of sunflowers also has the added benefit of blocking easy access to the driver’s side of the human female’s car. She has to shimmy between the car and the compost heap/sunflower/hackberry tree combo that is just beside the driveway.

Speaking of the hackberry tree, I am more delighted year by year that I planted that thing. It’s growing into a fine young thing, tall and leafy—and a home for some cute, woolly hackberry aphids. These little bugs dribble a fine spray of honeydew mist round the clock, with the result that the treeward side of the human female’s car is very sticky indeed!

And, of course, that’s the driver’s side. The side mirror is disgusting.

The hood is all black, since sooty mold grows in the honeydew.

She even has to bring a wet rag out with her to wipe off the door handle before she can get in!

Bleargh! I hate sticky! It all washes off, though, so the paint and plastic will be okay, but the headlights? Not so much. The acrylic polishing kit the human male brought home barely made a dent. Last year, the car needed service about this time and the dealership washed it. I wonder what they thought of a half-filthy automobile? Maybe it’s time for something else on the car to break so it can get washed again. I mean, it is time for the “low tire pressure warning” light to come on, as it does with the first cold morning every year. The human male can reset the one in his car; the female’s car is too old to know how to do that.

Other signs that autumn is here are all around. The stores are full of pumpkin everything. The human female has a rooted-in-a-sugar-fueled-childhood fondness for these grinning pumpkin cookie/cake things:

She looked for them on her last trip to the market, but none were to be found—not in the snack cake aisle and not in a seasonal display near the checkout. She went home dejected. What she doesn’t know is that *I* bought every box they had. Some I mailed to Belgium; some I set out in the rain, whereupon they turned into orange mush; and some I hid in the furthest corner of the most remote stockroom of the store, where they will be found next April, wizened, hard, and no doubt frowning—and far too late to be either saleable or edible.

A very few of the pumpkin items are actual pumpkins. Sigyn likes the little round pie pumpkins.

Whereas I am more a green-and-lumpy man myself.

I know what you’re thinking. Don’t say it or there will be smiting.

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