The Laptop Is Dead (sigh). Long Live the Laptop!

Yeah, this is not how I was planning to spend my first week at home. But my laptop, Cygnus-X, started failing on the trip and limped along just far enough to get me back to Boston. In this case it was the screen, not the smart innards, that went bad. I googled the problem and tried the most common fix, which was replacing the video inverter for $20 from Amazon; and that killed it dead. Here’s me, heroically trying to rescue trusty Cygnus, but it was too little, too late.

Given that the little fellow was over seven years old in laptop years—which is I don’t know what in dog years, but old, and slow—I decided it was time to replace it. (But really, two computers in three months? Seems extreme.) Anyway, here is the new beauty, Antares. Named for her glowing red backlit keys (Antares is a red star), and for the lovely Antares in the Chaos books.

Antares is an Asus gaming laptop. I don’t do gaming, but I wanted as much speed and capacity as I could afford, because in two years, it’s going to seem like molasses. So get a running start, is what I figured. Plus, I really like the keyboard!

Antares, live long and prosper! Please.

The Ponce Chronicles: The Work Force Awakens, Pt. 4: Plug & Pray

Chasing leaks. That’s how this trip started, what with tearing up a tile floor to find out where upwelling water was coming from. (We never did, not really. We couldn’t replicate the problem after the tile was up. We have guesses, but only guesses.) Other leaks were smaller, but equally enigmatic. We had some workarounds in progress.

Then, on our last-but-one night at Casarboles (tree house), I was showering upstairs, and Allysen ran in with cries of, “Stop! Water’s raining down into the closet!” Nooo!  (Yesss!)

Too late to get the plumbers before we had to leave, and anyway, all the pipes were in cement. It was up to me to see if I could find the leak. And amazingly, on the last day, I did. Silicone seal between shower tub and drain pipe was all deteriorated. Ask Freddi, and he says, in Spanish, “Oh yes, that happens. Phil always just put new silicone in.”  And so that’s what I did, carefully troweling it in, just like Doctor McCoy in the Star Trek episode about the Horta. And it cured the leak.  We think. There wasn’t time for really thorough testing. Plug and pray, that’s our motto.

In the last couple of days, we did that, and finished painting every inch of what seemed like a 7-acre deck, complete with railings, and caulked a bunch of molding in a different shower, and inventoried tools, and made little cautionary signs (bilingual) to post above the toilets, and of course made trips to Home Depot. And, oh, a hundred or so other things.

We took a little time in the evening of the last day—before the big, final push right through to 4 a.m. and departure for the predawn flight—to relax and enjoy a meal by the pool. It really was quite lovely. Here’s a selfie of the two of us, relaxing by the pool.

And here’s how Casarboles looks after dark. The place is pretty much ready for guests! We’ll be putting it on Air BnB and like that, very soon.

Oh—we’re home in Boston now, recovering. It’s snowing.

The Ponce Chronicles: The Work Force Awakens, Pt. 3

It’s 3 a.m. here in Ponce, and I just heard my daughter Jayce take off for home. That is, I heard the rumble of a JetBlue Airbus take to the skies from Mercedita Airport, which I used to be able to see from the hilltop here, before some trees downslope got too big and blocked the view. (You can still see it beautifully from our next-door neighbor’s lovely rooftop terrace.)

The reason I know it was Jayce taking off is not only that I just took her to the airport a little while ago, but because the only airline serving Ponce is JetBlue, and they have exactly two flights in and two flights out every day—and they are all in the middle of the night. The one to Orlando, connecting to Boston, leaves at 3 a.m.; and the one to JFK, connecting to Boston, leaves at 5:50. Okay, I suppose that’s not really the middle of the night (though it is to me), but it’s definitely the middle of the night when you have to arrive at the airport.

There isn’t a lot of other traffic from there, as far as I can tell. I once flew a Cessna 150 from that same runway, back when I was still active as a private pilot. It was great. I rented a plane and an instructor on one of my visits, and we flew around over the city and over the hill where the house is, before heading back. That was one well-worn Cessna, let me tell you. I described it as “quaint” to the family when I got back, but refrained from mentioning the peeling paint and the aluminum patches on the fuselage. I guess I can say it now. I wonder if that little one-man flight school is still in business. I hope so.

Only a couple of days left, and then we’ll be getting on one of those middle of the night flights home. Wait—does that make it a fly-by-night airline? Hmm.

 

Ponce Chronicles: The Work Force Awakens, Pt. 2

The pool deck at start of day yesterday, many shredded sanding belts into the job. The Work Force really hates sanding.

The pool deck at day’s end, many rivulets of sweat later. (We did other stuff, too.) Can you spot the board we missed, which I saw right after putting everything away?

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Here are a couple of Puerto Rico’s more charming critters.


Still getting work done on the book, though the Force is ready for a vacation. Maybe in some nice, sunny place.

Ponce Chronicles: The Work Force Awakens

Okay, I said I wouldn’t write much about it, but here’s a quick update. We’ve been in Puerto Rico for a week, give or take, and have even been joined by our friend Crystal, visiting from California. In general, the place looks great—especially compared to what greeted us last year. However, in keeping with the perversity of the universe, and to maintain a sense of continuity with the chaos of those earlier visits, Allysen arrived to find the refrigerator nonfunctional and the hot water on the fritz. Yippee! Amazingly, she was able to get people out to work on them, like the same day. Try that in Boston. A few days later, I arrived, and the same malfunction and miracle occurred with the washer, and a tech from Sears Service. There’s even a stray dog, named No Name, or He Who Has Not Been Named, or now possibly Toby. Cute little fellow. Thankfully, our neighbor Frances has decided to adopt him, not us.

We soldier on. The electricians are here to continue the improvements on lighting and wiring that they had already whipped mostly into shape. Esteban the Amazing—who over the last year finished installing all the new windows that the unreliable and thieving other guys had left undone—is now almost done converting the awkward swinging driveway gate into a sliding one, which will be motorized. When he’s finished with that, we have lots of other things for him to do.

Leaking pipes: we took care of that last year, right? Well, we did. And now we’re doing it again, with different pipes. Water coming up under the floor tiles when showering? Uh-oh. Are we making this up? No.

Crystal and I have tackled some painting: the stairs down from the parking pad, and the main deck. We learned that applying paint in direct sunlight—never the best idea—is an even iffier idea in the tropical sun. It’s gradually working out, though. Today (Sunday), Allysen crashed and napped while Jayce painted furniture pieces from Ikea, and Crystal and I painted—and then headed to the Thermal Springs in Coamo to soak out the muscle knots. Healing heat and minerals from the Earth!

Amazingly most of all, I have gotten some real writing done almost every day of the trip! Progress continues apace on The Reefs of Time. Yahoo!

Chilling in Miami

Here’s a pic of my brother Chuck and me, shot by Chuck’s wife Youngmee. I’m on a brief stopover in Miami, en route to Puerto Rico. Chuck looks well, despite having started a second round of chemo, which we are hoping and praying will keep him going for a good long time to come. Echoing hopes and prayers would be welcome.

And here is Youngmee, with the two adorable and extraordinarily energetic new puppies Jahng and Tntn.

 

Yes, by the way, another round of Ponce Chronicles is coming up, as we strive to complete the renovation and update work on Allysen’s family’s house. That is, we’ll be doing another round of work. I probably won’t write too much about it, as I’ll be trying to focus what writing time I have on the book rewrite, which is coming along pretty well.

 

Arlington Chronicles: The Gate Is Up and the Fence Is Done!

Big gate and fence

It’s done, and everything works! The dogs can now run free in our backyard! And I can clean up the work bench and put away the tools, because it’s done! And if I do say so myself, I think it looks pretty frickin’ good!

None too soon, either. The temperatures are dropping (I could see my breath as I was staining wood*), and the first real snow of the season is predicted for tomorrow! Nothing like cutting it close!

 

*Not the recommended conditions for staining wood.

The Arlington Chronicles Part ?? — Wanna Help Me Build a Fence?

No idea what I last posted about our continuing building and renovation madness, and the thought of looking back makes me feel tired, so none of that. Look forward, always look forward. Do you see a fence? A backyard fence? Keep looking: It’s starting to come into focus.

back-yard-fence

This is what I’ve been building for the last month or two (surely it’s been longer): a little fence in the back yard to make a place for dog-in-law McDuff the Crime Dog to run around in. And since we’re going to all that trouble, we might as well make it big enough for Captain Jack, too, right? So he can turn our back yard into a moonscape, with his digging?

arbor-partially-finished

I told Allysen this would take a lot longer than we thought, and in that I was correct! For one thing, there was the little matter of putting together the arbor kit (some assembly required!) that I promised her fifteen years ago I would assemble for Mother’s Day. The arbor is part of one of the gateways for the fence, you see. A sort of portal into the backyard dimension. Well, I got that up—and I was never so glad that I’d bought a cordless nail-gun with a different project in mind. And as of today… there be a GATE!

jack-contemplates-gate

Here it is, in all its newly built glory! And from outside the portal into the back yard:

portal-to-the-back-yard-dimension

The second gate is gonna be bigger. But that’s another story, still to be told.

 

Thoughts for Thanksgiving

My main thought for Thanksgiving? That I hope you all have a joyous, thoughtful, and celebratory day today! Try not to eat too much, but don’t try too hard. And if you’re feeling down, whether it’s because of politics or family or the weather… see if you can focus for a few moments on something you’re grateful for. If you’re lucky, and my prediction pans out, you’ll feel better for it. In my case, it’ll be the family and friends I hope to have gathered around.

Have a most happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The photo above, by the way, is the countryside somewhere near Concord, Massachusetts. I took the economy autumn foliage ride recently, courtesy of the MBTA’s commuter rail. It was a lovely interlude.

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