Five and Counting

Five and Counting

Yesterday’s internet outage was brief – less than two hours after the snowplow broke the “temporary” cable lying in the street near my house, the cable was replaced. With all of our calls about lost service in the last month, it appears we have been made a priority for repair.

A phone call to the city’s Streets Department was met with sympathy, but, “That’s between you and the cable company. The streets need to be plowed.”

And the snowplow struck again this morning.

January 15th – 3 days
February 8th – 1 day
February 14th – 2 days
February 17th – 2 hours
February 18th – ?? –– update – 2 hours

My new SIM card, which will allow me to switch to T-Mobile with unlimited data (at a savings) will arrive today. Just in time. Verizon has notified me that, with two days left in my billing cycle, I’m about to go over my data allowance, which is no surprise since this snowplow/cable situation has forced me to burn data on my phone.

And yes, this blog was uploaded from my phone.

Cutting the Cord
Three for Three
Four for Four

Four for Four – the abridged version

No — this was not composed on my phone
                         ~ Edited for profanity ~

  • My internet service was restored yesterday, after a two day outage
  • At 9:30 this morning a snowplow came down our street
    – breaking the temporary cable that has been in the street since summer
    – disrupting our service for the 4th time since January 15th
  • My wife was working from home
    – so I took her to her office so she could continue working
  • I continued on, grocery shopping before heading home
  • Arriving home at noon, I saw a new cable, connected and lying in the street
  • Internet service was restored
  • Our morning call to customer support bypassed all voice menus
    – something unheard of
    – apparently our account has been flagged as a priority
         ~ a perk for suffering four snowplow-induced outages?
  • Two work orders were placed
    – a repair to restore our service — Surprise! Completed this morning!
    – an order to bury the cable under the street
  • That cable has been there since last summer
  • There’s now a foot of snow — That cable ain’t goin’ nowhere
  • We anticipate more outages before spring weather arrives
  • And probably after

Three for Three

Monday, February 15, 2021

Once again, I’m an internet orphan.  For the third time in the past month, a snow plow has taken out the temporary cable my internet provider has had lying in the street (a block from my home) since last summer.  This outage occurred at 9:30, Sunday evening.  A call to customer support gave us a scheduled repair date, February 22nd.  A call in the morning asking support how my wife can work from home as a state employee gave us a new, expedited repair date, February 16th. Meanwhile, continued snowfall on the steep hills of my neighborhood means we’re pretty much stuck at home.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Our internet outage continues. Snowfall since Sunday has been about nine inches of powder, falling in intervals that have required plowing on at least three different occasions – still pretty slippery on these hills. With three inches of new snow predicted for tomorrow, and with subsequent plowing, will a repair this afternoon mean a damn thing? Single digit, and sometimes negative, temperatures (Fahrenheit) means the salt laid on the side streets each morning is marginally effective until noon. There are steep hills entering, and within, my neighborhood, and trying to get out to the main thoroughfare proved futile this morning.

Lacking typical internet access has given me an opportunity to assess my phone usage. As popular as web use on phones is to the current generation, I’m not big on phone surfing. I find absolutely no convenience in reading web pages on my phone. Other than actual phone usage (what little there is), I’ve narrowed my phone use to a few categories: text, clock, calendar, camera, calculator, and banking. Currently, I can’t cast my phone – stream any shows or videos – because both the Chromecast and Amazon Firestick attached to my TV want to communicate with the web. I can’t cast Spotify from my phone to my stereo for the same reason. I even find using the reader in the WordPress phone app to be annoying. I use that mostly for notifications. Yeah, I’m an old man, although I guess that composing this on my phone says something about my dedication to my blog.

A Mediacom service truck just turned around in my cul de sac. Relief in sight? I guess we’ll see.

Cutting the Cord

I’m taking this opportunity to write a blog on my phone. Fat fingers, and all. I’ve always enjoyed wrestling with auto-correct. NOT! 😜

Mediacom is our internet provider. Internet only. We cut the cable, so to speak, for “television” a while ago, switched to DISH, and ditched that a year ago, switching to YouTube TV to save money. YT TV has its quirks, but there’s unlimited storage with the cloud acting as our DVR. That can be pretty handy. Say, for instance, there’s a film noir on Turner Classic Movies. Once I’ve saved it, it’s available to watch any number of times.

The downside is that it’s the Evil Google, but I just bought a Google phone, so what can I say? I’m a slave.

But back to the internet…

As you drive through our neighborhood, you’ll see green boxes near the curb, spaced every few houses. These are access points to deliver cable to customers at each of the nearby houses. There’s one at my curb, which is in the circle of a cul de sac, and another one halfway to the corner of our street. Since our street is a cul de sac, it’s a “T-intersection.” Another green box sits at the curb across the street at the intersection. There must have been a cable break underground sometime in the past year, because there has been a cable lying in the street since last summer, connecting that box to the one half-way down my street – a span of about 200 feet. It has a small black cover over it to create a mini-bump in the street section so cars can drive over it, and it has not been an issue. Until winter arrived.

Now, snowfall here is not frequent. But snow does fall. Three weeks ago, we lost our internet. In a phone call to tech support we were told we could expect a repair in 3 to 10 days! While driving down the street a little later, I saw that the cable crossing the street was broken. We’d had our first snowfall that required a snow plow. I called Mediacom right away, dealt with the frustration of their voice menu and talked to an actual person. I explained the situation, expecting that a crew could fix it in no time. Of course I didn’t expect them to tunnel under the street and bury the cable during the winter, but it should have been a simple connection.

Two days later, I received a text telling me my internet service was reconnected and that I would be scheduled to have the new cable buried. What?! Glancing out the window, I saw that an orange cable was stretched from the green box at my curb to the side of my house – done without a visit to my door. And, of course, I had no internet. I went down the street to see that the broken cable was still lying in the street. It wasn’t repaired until the next day – after I called Mediacom once again. I also asked them to send someone out to remove the cable on my lawn and reconnect my original buried cable.

A week later, my lawn had paint marks and flags marking underground utilities, and a crew showed up to bury the cable two days later. I asked them to just reconnect my old cable on the side of the house. They pointed out that it was cut two inches below the box, and that it could not be spliced due to weather exposure and possible signal loss. So, they buried the new cable.

Now…

Snowfall the past two days, and – you guessed it – last night the snow plow took out that cable down the street. A phone call to tech support put us on the calendar for repair. A technician will come to our house, sometime today – procedure. So, I have to keep an eye out to make sure he doesn’t cut our cable, since COVID policy keeps them from coming to the door. Hopefully, I can then send him down the street to correct the real problem.

Oh! I also received a text from Mediacom saying my repair will be completed in 10 days. It’s time to shop for a new internet provider.

thicker than water, by Jane Dougherty

thicker than water, by Jane Dougherty

Receiving “thicker than water,” the new chapbook from Jane Dougherty, I read. And I read on. With each new poem I thought I had found my favorite. When I came to the end I looked back and thought it should be “She says,” with these lines:

“you will still have my hand’s touch,
the depth of my eyes, the falling into step
that will never fail, while there is still a star
pinned to the vault of the heavens.”

But perhaps because of certain events, situations that make me realize that even the best plans are subject to forces beyond our control, I decided on two favorites, “The storm is coming” and “Grieving.”

From “The storm is coming,” these lines speak to me:

“Will we stay in this skin-warmed dimness
Or walk separate paths
Strewn with roses and thorns,
To a still trout pool, a cove of the sea?”

And from “Grieving,” these words:

“the rain, and the land forever disappeared

in an ocean of mist. Silence.
I called out to bring you back,
my white-breasted gull,

but only the moon replied,
tossing her horns, and strewed the
empty waves with silver feathers.”

With each of the twenty-six poems in this chapbook you will come to understand how rain and waves, and yes even cold seas, are woven through our thoughts and emotions as we navigate events in our lives.

As she says in “The wise woman in the shell”:

“True songs are in the water,
strung and plucked by the wind’s flight
through the chords of the wild air.”

Each of these poems is a song.

“thicker than water,” the new chapbook from Jane Dougherty, is available in the US in both paperback and Kindle format at Amazon.com. It’s also available at these Amazon links:

UK: https://tinyurl.com/y2et7dcr
Australia: https://tinyurl.com/yykla7nm
Canada: https://tinyurl.com/yxu5azlk
India: https://tinyurl.com/yy6qvle5

Order your copy today. You’ll be glad you did.

Hiking with Mark Twain

Hiking with Mark Twain

I’ve always enjoyed taking photos of fall colors, especially when I lived in New York, with its colorful sugar maples. Although Missouri has fewer maples, in the eight years I’ve lived here I’ve taken the opportunity to hike in a few of the state parks and conservation areas in the fall. This year I decided to try something different.  (Click any image for a larger view in a new tab.)

The Mark Twain National Forest covers 3 million acres (1.5 million acres of that is public land), with nine tracts of forests in the southern half of Missouri. On Thursday, I hiked one of the loop trails in the 16,500 acre Cedar Creek Ranger District, which is the one district north of the Missouri River and has 34 miles of trails. Before 1940, private landowners intensively cultivated the land, resulting in depleted and eroded soils. In the 1940s, the Soil Conservation Service began purchasing and rebuilding it, stabilizing gullies and planting trees and grasses. It’s been managed by the U.S. Forest Service since 1953. The Smith Creek Loop covers 5 miles, but I hiked 5.7 miles to cover a couple of side trails for photo opportunities.

It was a sunny day, and the temperature reached 87ºF by late afternoon (a near record). While I could have chosen a cooler day for hiking (Friday’s high was 49º), Thursday was a dry day in the middle of a rainy spell. I started at the southeast corner of the loop, traveling “counterclockwise,” which worked out well as I appreciated the mostly-level stretch of the final mile. This image, with the trail map layered over a Google terrain map, shows how much the elevation changes on the trail.

As I hiked the trail, it was obvious that some of it follows former roads. Any trace of gravel or dirt roadway is long gone, and if it wasn’t overgrown it would look like a lane winding through the forest. The width of the loop trail varies from 15-20 feet down to a mere footpath crowded by trees. This area is known for hills and bluffs, so much of the trail includes slopes that climb and descend the numerous ridges leading to the bluffs. We can get some pretty heavy rain here, and those old paths offer the perfect course for runoff, so the trail often winds around or parallels those sections. In fact, we had a heavy rain the day before, so there were a few spots that had slick areas that were hidden beneath fallen leaves. Even on some of the narrow, steep sections, hoof prints were evident, as the trail is open to horseback.

The trail crosses Smith Creek, which is about 25 feet wide, but there was no water running in the creek. One side trail took me to Cedar Creek, which is 30 feet wide with a very mild current. The trail led to an old iron bridge that served the road that once ran through there.

I never had to actually cross Cedar Creek, but the trail loop approaches it at two other points. The overlooks there gave some nice views looking down and across the water. The first was about 100 feet above the creek. The second, at roughly 150 feet above the creek, had some impressive formations, with cedars clinging to the edge of the bluff.

Cedar Creek, 100 feet below a limestone bluff

This tract of land is primarily oak, hickory and cedar, but I saw a dead tree that could have been an ash, and I did get some maple photos.

I had the trail pretty much to myself, encountering one pair of hikers, and these two that crossed my path.

Western Black Snake – 4 ft. long

Its been about a year since I’ve taken a hike of three or more miles. This one was was a reminder that I’ve had a couple of health issues since then. My back and legs were feeling it before I was done, but I recovered with no problems. Early this year I learned of a heart condition I’ve had all my life, one that now leaves me briefly winded when I climb a flight of stairs. The downhill slopes were a breeze, but let me tell you, my heart knew when I was climbing, even on gentle and moderate inclines.

Occasional stops on the frequent uphill climbs were the order of the day. I’m only 67 and have a few years ahead of me, but I’m learning that I need to modify my activity, something I’ll have to keep in mind on future hikes. My favorite part of this hike was the overlooks, so the next time I walk this trail I’ll start at the bridge near the northwest corner of the loop and hike up to the overlooks. There and back.

Ideal Inspiration

Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award

I’ve been nominated for the Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award by Bacardi Gold.

The award includes five questions, which I’ll answer here.

  1. Is it important to be inspired when you write an article ? Why? and Why not?
  2. Why do you think you deserve to be nominated for this award?
  3. Do you need music to be on the background when you write? If so, what type of music do you listen to?
  4. Is it proper to nominate a friend-on-line for this award? Give a reason.
  5. Are you happy to be on the list of nominees? Why?

~~~~~

    1. The majority of my blog is poetry, and all of it is inspired in some way. Most often, that poetry is my response to something I’ve known or experienced, or a response to something in the news. I’ll have frequent dry spells, so I often reply to prompts from other bloggers. I’m also inspired by the poetry of other bloggers.
    2. I shy away from rewards, so I’m not the best one to answer that.
    3. I need quiet. Music can be too much of a distraction for me. Anything with lyrics definitely is a distraction. So, if I listen at all when I’m writing, it’s instrumental jazz.
    4. I don’t always respond to blog awards, and, when I do I don’t usually forward them. I guess you could say this is a “reward-free blog.” I just haven’t posted any kind of badge.
    5. It’s nice to know that I’ve inspired another blogger. That’s reward enough.

~~~~~

There are “Rules” for the award that include adding nominations with new questions, but as I indicated above, I won’t be forwarding this. I do appreciate the recognition I’ve received from Bacardi Gold, so, thank you.

I’m headed out to go kayaking. Hopefully, that will provide inspiration to write.

Minty Update

Minty Update

It’s been nearly four months since I changed my laptop’s operating system from Windows 7 to Linux Mint (due to the end of Microsoft support for Windows 7). Other than a few hiccups, the transition has gone fairly smoothly. Mint’s utilities are very useful, and there are many programs that are available in a Linux version. As in the past, I use LibreOffice as my word processor, and I have started using KdenLive to process videos. In fact, I find KdenLive to be more flexible than my previous software, Magix Movie Edit Pro.

One major flaw involves my Epson scanner/printer. I’m able to use the printer without any issues, but I’m not having any luck with a driver for the scanner. Fortunately, I installed Linux as a dual boot, so I can restart in Windows and use the scanner from there. I only do that when Wi-Fi is turned off (and with a direct connection to the scanner), since security updates are no longer provided for Windows 7.

As for hiccups, there is one in particular. Lately I’ve noticed (on any browser) that when I Like a WordPress post the Like is gone when I reload the page. I have WordPress designated as a trusted site with my ad blocker, but I think it has to do with the Like button being an app. But… if I turn off Ghostery my Like will register with the post, so I do that when at WordPress

I’m learning my way around the software. In fact, I receive notifications when there’s an available update for routines within the programs I’ve installed, say GIMP or Audacity, so that’s a nice feature. Unlike Windows, none of the updates are force, even those that are a direct modification to Linux, so I don’t have to worry about the laptop restarting when I’m in the middle of something. Everything considered, the switch to Linux Mint has been a good move.

Ken

Minty Fresh

Minty Fresh

Three days away from WordPress (or is it four) has meant three (or four) days away from writing. Not that I’m happy about it, but that’s the way my mind works. ADD. I tend to hyper-focus, and this time it was something demanding my attention.

Microsoft is ending support for Windows 7, including security updates, on January 14th, and I’ve been working on setting up Linux on my laptop. My plan was to make the laptop a dual-boot terminal, allowing me to run Linux Mint as my primary OS and using Windows (while offline) when necessary. There’s a Windows emulator for Linux called Wine, but I’ve read that it’s not 100% reliable.

One specific use for Windows would be when using one of my scanners. It has the ability to scan slides and negatives – I have thousands of slides, my own and my father’s, and I may actually finish scanning them before I leave this earthly plane – and the software interface for the scanner definitely would not be accessible in Linux. Another use would be fine tuning printer settings through the printer interface.

I was able to transfer a large amount of files – mainly documents and photos – from the laptop to a new 4tb external hard drive – freeing nearly half of the laptop memory to create a separate partition for Mint. (Linux totally isolates itself from the Windows partition, meaning that nothing from the old partition can be accessed from the Linux partition, thus protecting Linux from any unforeseen damage that Windows may incur.) While I was at it, I gathered documents and folders from other, smaller, external drives I’ve acquired over the years. A future project will be to eliminate duplicates now that they’re all on one drive, but also within folders. I tend to take burst shots with my camera, often forgetting to delete the unneeded photos.

That being done, I created a Live USB of Linux Mint. This allowed me to boot Mint from a thumb drive. I found that I was very satisfied with it, but there’s a loss of speed and no ability to save changes from the USB. With a new partition in place on the laptop, I ran an app from the desktop of that thumb drive to complete the installation on the laptop… with repeated failures.

Everything I read said to partition from Windows. Doing so through the actual Mint installation can lead to big problems. Well, I decided to go back to Windows to remove the new partition, expand the original to its former size, and let Linux do the partition work. That seemed to be the answer.

Installation was completed, and I rebooted the laptop – only to have it start in Windows, again. (When Mint boots, it offers the option to boot with Linux or with Windows.)

During this whole process, I spent a lot of time getting advice from my son, who works in IT for a web hosting firm. Since one of the early error warnings was regarding a faulty drive he suggested it could be my USB or insufficient power to the USB port. Rather than making a new Live USB and possibly having it be the port, I burned it to a DVD. Bingo!

That was last evening, and I’ve spent today configuring Mint, including changing preferences and downloading and installing software, which is easily done through Mint. I rely on LibreOffice, GIMP, and Audacity, among other programs, and many are available to run with Linux. Mint finds the software through a Program Manager, and takes care of the download and installation.

Once I got this up and running, I decided to try it out on a laptop I stopped using two years ago. I never was happy with Windows 10, and when it started stalling and freezing I retired it to take on this laptop, which was like new and running Windows 7. Well, I pulled out the old Toshiba, wiped it and did an installation of straight Linux. It runs like a charm.

One other good thing came out of this. Last year, a 3tb external hard drive crashed – I was doing that document/photo file consolidation when Windows said it was inaccessible. Well, Linux has no problem reading it, so I have access to a terabyte of files I thought were lost to me.

This laptop with Mint works fine for me, so I look forward to using it for a few more years. With this incident behind me (hopefully), I can get back to reading and writing poetry.

Ken

Blogger Recognition Award

Winter driving has always been one of my least favorite things to do. Imagine that. It was part of my job before I retired – driving a semi in the Buffalo and Western New York area. I got to do just that last weekend – thankfully in a car and not a semi – as I drove home in a lake effect snow storm on I-86 between Jamestown and Erie. That experience was tempered (just a little) while pulled off the road to clean my windows, when I was pleasantly surprised by a WP notification that I had been nominated by Jim Webster for The Blogger Recognition Award.

Jim Webster is a farmer and an author who writes about his books and about farm life in Britain, as well as about his community of South Cumbria and Britain, at large, often providing insightful observations of human character. Speaking of human character, Jim also has a site where he tells the tales of Tallis Steelyard, a poet with the highest of standards, sometimes exercised in the lowest of places. Tallis has appeared here many times as a guest blogger while on book tours, telling tales of Port Naain society, as seen through the eyes of a jobbing poet.

I was back home in Missouri, snug as a bug in a rug, when I received notification that Sue Vincent also had nominated me for The Blogger Recognition Award. I started following Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo when I discovered her #writephoto / Thursday Photo Prompt, in which she offers a weekly photo, taken in her travels about Britain. And boy, does she travel, visiting historic sites in Britain, as far as the northern reaches of Scotland, with her colleagues in the Silent Eye, recounting their experiences of visual and spiritual discovery. Her blog also includes poetry, sometimes written by her roommate, Ani, a canine with a most astute nature.

The rules for The Blogger Recognition Award are as follows:

  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select up to fifteen bloggers you want to give this award to.
  6. Comment (or pingback) on each blog to let them know that you’ve nominated them and provide a link to the post you’ve created.

I started this blog in April 2014, when I wrote a poem for each day of the month to participate in National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). I started following a handful of poets, but once April was over I slacked off, both in posting and reading other poets. I participated again in 2015 and realized I needed that motivation to write. I started reading the poets I followed, adding more as I went along. I found that, by the end of the year, I was writing on a more regular basis, often inspired by the words I was reading, as well as in response to prompts provided by some of those bloggers. I’ve discovered a very welcoming community on WordPress and consider many of those with whom I interact to be friends, people I would enjoy meeting. A stop along my recent trip home showed just how possible that is.

Occasionally, I’ll post a blog with photos I’ve taken while kayaking, hiking, or traveling, but poetry continues to be my main focus.

I’ve had this blog for more than five years, now, and last year I switched to a paid plan on WordPress, for two reasons. First, to have the option to include audio files in which I read some of my poems; and second, to remove the ads from my blog. Occasionally, I will create a video poem, which I embed after posting it on YouTube.

If I were to offer advice to new bloggers, it would be to reply to the people who comment on your posts. As you interact with them, both on your blogs and in comments on theirs, you’ll find a community opening up before you.

As a second bit of advice: We all need encouragement. Even a simple “Like” lets us know that others have seen what we have to say, so do the same for those you have read. And comment, when possible. Sometimes I struggle to find the right words for a comment, but I will do so when I can find those words.

Normally, I don’t take part in blogger awards, so I’m going to forgo nominating other bloggers for this. Regardless, please take the time to find out what Sue and Jim (and his alter ego, Tallis) are all about.

I’ll add one more thing: I wish I could follow more bloggers, but, as it is, sometimes I find it hard to keep up with those I do follow. Real life gets in the way, but that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Ken Gierke