Squirrel!

I’m an animal lover and a softie, and I hate to thwart critters from living a normal life. However, I do have my limits. When they repeatedly chew electric wires and go after my house and my solar panels despite my efforts to keep them away… well, it’s game on, you little fockers.

As I mentioned last time, the solar panel guys found yet more squirrel damage last week, even after an expensive tree trimming behind the house, laborious tree-trimming in front of the house (by me), an expensive installation of “critter guards” around our solar panels, and serious efforts on the part of a pest-control expert to get the little pests off the premises.

I thought I had pruned the tree out front sufficiently to eliminate the threat. I basically made it a bas-relief of a spruce tree. That was basically wishful thinking. I don’t think anyone was living in the tree last winter, because our Christmas lights survived the season unchewed. But now I come to find a big summer home nestled in a tangle of branches near the top, on the side facing away from us where I couldn’t see it. I had not observed the rascal itself, but Lexi and Connor downstairs had. And apparently it could get up onto the roof from there.

Yesterday I got out my vorpal sword, the extensible tree-trimmer, and strove mightily against the Fortress of the Squirrel. In the end, its great house fell. And our tree is now a couple of feet shorter, and I hope no longer within leaping range of easy roof access. I still need to do some restorative sculpting.

Did I feel like a heel? I surely did. If this had been a talking-animals animated feature, I definitely would have been the evil developer felling the homes of the lovable critters.

Thankfully, this was not such a movie.

Squirrels 1, Humans 1.

Will the series be renewed? Too soon to tell.

Chimney on a Hot Tin Roof

Okay, my roof isn’t tin, but I’m certain it was blazing hot up there in the sun yesterday. Our chimney has been in need of rebuilding for some time, as evidenced by leaks when it rained and pieces of old flashing falling into our attic. We finally had it done. The able team from Best Chimney that did the work had the bad luck to work up there with the temperature in the mid-90s, as we along with half the U.S. and most of Europe endured a massive heat wave. I did not personally labor in the sun, but I got hot enough just squinting up at the guys who did. As far as I could tell from way down on the ground, they did excellent work.

Here’s the teardown:

And the finished chimney:

A downside of having solar-electric panels on the roof is that we had to pay another team to come and take several panels down, and come back next week to put them back up. As luck would have it, they discovered yet another chewed cable under one of the panels—even after the installation of critter guards to keep the squirrels out. The little buggers are just determined to cause mischief. Sigh. Steps will be taken, perhaps in another post.

Sunday at Tanglewood

The keynote event of our trip to the Berkshires was a Sunday-afternoon concert at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons conducting. Now this is the way to hear music. I had only been to Tanglewood once before, decades ago, sitting on the grass out in front of the music shed, and that was great.

Here’s Allysen, standing in front of the shed. The crowd was just beginning to gather.

This time, I decided that I was a grownup and it was time to spring for seats inside the shed, where I could see the orchestra. It was fabulous. (Although I still couldn’t see the wind instruments, which were completely hidden behind the strings, which frustrated me a little.)

The program included Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, Opus 34, No. 14, as well as his Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Opus 44. I say that as if I know something about it, but I’m just telling you what the program says. Sandwiched between the Rachmaninoff works was a premier performance of a contemporary-classical piece by Helen Grime: Trumpet Concerto, night-sky-blue, featuring Håkan Hardenberger on trumpet. I should note that the Rachmaninoff symphony featured virtuoso tweeting by birds in the rafters of the shed. They seemed totally in touch with the feeling of the final movement. Bravo!

Now, I have about as much business reviewing classical music as Fred Flintstone has reviewing one of my books. But should I let that stop me? As a point of reference, I might note that my absolute favorite orchestral works are Dvorak’s New World Symphony, John Williams’ various themes from Star Wars and Close Encounters, and Richard Rogers’ themes from Victory at Sea.

My favorite of this BSO performance was Vocalise. I can’t say why, just that it was lush and lyrical and swept me along. I need to find a recording of it to listen to again.

The Helen Grime concerto was…interesting. Cerebral, often dissonant, many musical voices speaking at once. The trumpet part was extraordinary in the playing ability demonstrated, but not exactly something to make me hum inside my head. I wanted to like it. I was excited to see a young composer have a new work premiered by the BSO; I felt I was in on something special. And yet… if there were melodies or themes, I was unable to pick them out. It was written during the pandemic, and it felt chaotic in a way that reflected that birthing. It felt like Stravinsky drenched in Jackson Pollock. No doubt this is my lack of understanding of classical music speaking.

The Rachmaninoff symphony began with an exquisite thread of clarinet and/or oboe, then segued into energetic full orchestral motion. I was unfamiliar with the piece, and I frankly couldn’t follow the musical themes for long, although there were passages I found quite beautiful. Unlike my reaction to the Grime, I was aware of the orchestra working together to craft themes I could hear, even if only for a few moments at a time, even if I didn’t follow where they were going. I want to listen to this again, also, though I doubt that any recording will feature the chirping of the birds nearly as effectively as in this performance.

All in all, it was a gratifying conclusion to the weekend. We now return to our regularly scheduled dimension.

A Weekend in the Berkshires

With Allysen, I drove the Mothership to western Massachusetts and the Berkshires this past weekend. We stayed at the Mt. Greylock Campsite Park, somewhere near the base of Mt. Greylock, the tallest peak in Massachusetts. Before taking on the mountain, however, we set off for Stockbridge and the Naumkeag Public Garden, to view a collection of kinetic sculptures by George Rickey. The sculptures were fascinating—all stainless steel, and (I think) most of them in motion from wind energy. This is a double-triangle, slowly twisting in the wind:

The grounds were beautiful. This is a great place to visit if you are in the area. Here’s Allysen and the moving circle sculpture. Except that it’s a still photo, and you can’t see it moving. Use your imagination.

And a tree-lined lane with a shifty-looking writer trying to be inconspicuous:

After the garden closed, we hightailed it back to Mt. Greylock, in hopes of driving to the summit on the scenic parkway. Alas, we arrived at the gate to find a sign prohibiting all vehicles over 22 feet in length from the parkway. At 24 feet, they were looking at us. Undeterred, we parked at the visitor center and set out on an easy walking trail loop on the lower part of the mountain. Easy, my aching feet! Easy for the young’uns. In truth, it was a beautiful hike through the woods, maybe four miles or so; it didn’t feel like more than ten, what with the uphill slopes. (Note to self; buy some decent hiking shoes.) Here we are, cheering ourselves on:

Oddly, we never did get a view of the mountain. You know, as a big, well, mountain rising up before you. Its 3,489-foot height, from where we came in, was pretty much obscured by a sea of forest. Nevertheless, it is the highest point in Massachusetts. Next time, we’ll have to come by car, so we can drive to the top. Yes, I know you can hike it. You can hike it. We’ll pick you up at the summit.

Here’s a lovely fern meadow:

Next stop, Tanglewood.

Would You Buy Eternity from This Guy?

Maybe, if you knew it was the ebook of Eternity’s End, on a Bookbub special, for just 99 copper coins, or if you prefer, 99 bottles of beer on the wall. Those beers won’t last long, so I’d get yours while you can.

If you’re reading my blog, chances are you already know this, but in case not:

“Ghost ship Impris, lost during the War of a Thousand Suns, is the stuff of legend. Her very name conjures the perils of interstellar travel. But no mere legend, she is real—glimpsed on occasion in the hyperdimensional Flux, and then gone. Her passengers and crew live on in a strange limbo, their fate hopelessly caught up in quantum defects in space-time, interstellar piracy, and galactic coverup…” [more]

Nominated for a Nebula, and other claims of wonderfulness. Actually, the cover by Stephen Youll is pretty amazing, I think.

Eternity's End new cover art

If you are the sort to favor print books or audiobooks, we’ve got those, too. In fact, you can even get autographed copies via my Star Rigger Bookstore—your choice of the first-edition Tor hardcover or the newer, even snazzier (in my opinion) Starstream trade paperback! Here’s the full wraparound cover:


(Oops, I just realized I don’t have the Tor hardcover listed yet. But I’ve got ’em. Email me if you’re interested.)

Crash, tinkle! Aaah, make that 98 bottles of beer on the wall. Stop throwing those dog toys, please!

Sherrick Shindig 2022

I have always had a gratifyingly warm relationship with my relatives on my mother’s side of the family, the Sherricks. What with the older generation passing and folks scattering to the ends of the U.S.A., I don’t see any of them very often anymore. Fortunately, my cousins periodically organize a reunion, a.k.a. Sherrick Shindig, at some different location, typically not where anyone lives. This year is the first time in ten years I’ve been able to attend, and we are gathered at a lakeside house in Tennessee, which is a state none of us lives in. We’re having a great time. Swimming, boating, relaxing, talking…

That’s after calming down from the last six miles of the drive here (Allysen and I driving the Winnebago mothership). The road in to this location could very well serve as a roller coaster track for Cedar Point. Up, down, twist right, twist left, twist and climb, twist and drop. The mountain roads of Puerto Rico got nothing on this road. But we made it!

Here are a few pics.

My cousins Kianna and Lois, and me:

My cousin Bruce, with Allysen:

My cousin Stewart and his grandson Luke:

Some of the Sherricks gathered around:

Can you find me in this picture?

This is where we’re all staying:

A good time for all!

A Day at the Beach with the Carvers

We wanted to do something fun this weekend, and we had not yet tried taking the dogs with us in the Mothership (campervan). So we decided this was the time. We threw together some things for a day trip—mainly just food and dog supplies—and hit the road.

Hah! First of all, it took two hours longer than we expected to get ready (although part of that was going online and picking out a destination). We chose one of the loveliest beaches we know—Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester—propelled by the discovery that April 30 was the last day that dogs were allowed on the beach before summer rules kicked in. That settled, I needed to implement an untested arrangement of harnesses and cushions to let the dogs ride safely strapped into the third and fourth seats of the campervan. (Mixed results on that one.)

Finally, though, we really did hit the road. Ten minutes in, Allysen realized she’d forgotten her glasses. Should we turn around? No, not that important. Five minutes more, and I realized I’d forgotten my wallet. Should we turn around? Yes. So we circled back, and I got my wallet. Also, Allysen’s glasses. Also, I shut the garage door that someone had left standing wide open. Back on the road.

Without further delay, we drove to Wingaersheek Beach. It was late in the day, uncrowded and gorgeous. There were some dogs there, off leash, so we let our guys run, too. Captain Jack had a ball, racing around, swimming in the tide waters, playing (peacefully!) with other dogs. He did steal one dog’s ball, but he gave it up and I threw it back to its owner. Even shy McDuff reveled in trotting free of the leash, though she never strayed far from us. By the end, they were exhausted. Or no, wait—that’s in the other universe. In this universe, they were ready and raring for more, and continued that way for the rest of the day. (Jack, you will recall, is an 11-year-old  cancer survivor.) When we got home, they absolutely had to be bathed, so we did that. By midnight, when they should have been totally zonked, they were still jumping around, Jack squeaking a toy in his mouth, looking for someone to play with. Who are these dogs, and where does that energy come from? Zero-point energy from the quantum flux?

Unanswerable questions. But that’s how we do a trip to the beach at the Star Rigger Ranch.

Department of Unnecessary Signs Department

After checking out of the campground, I crossed over the canal and parked at a park for a few hours. Wrote a couple of pages and did a bit of rollerblading—and ow, did I feel wobbly on the skates for the first time in a year. I did not fall, but I definitely felt that this sign on the path was totally unnecessary!

Writing Retreat Wrapped

It was all too short, but very productive. I made some good progress on stubborn chapters that had been bothering me for months. It was maybe a blessing in disguise that internet service at the campsite was crap, so I wasn’t tempted to kick back and watch a movie. Home now, but here are a few pix, looking back:

Four modalities of travel represented here: Walking, biking, barge and tug on the canal, and railroad bridge lifted clear for canal traffic.

Here’s the same barge not long after, going under the Bourne Bridge, which is one of two highway bridges onto Cape Cod.

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