Ah, Summer.

The weather is hot and sticky, and leaves me disinclined to do anything at all, including cook dinner.  So cold cuts and storebought potato salad are the order of the day.

We have what I think — based on comparison of its noises with sound files on the web — is either a barn owl or a screech owl living in the messed-up soffits of the upstairs gable window.

There is a black bear wandering around town, eating from the garbage cans out back of the Wilderness Restaurant and showing up in people’s back yards — also once in broad daylight at the verge of the school baseball field, while a game was going on.  (The kids were taken inside — a case of “game called on account of bear,” I suppose.)

And something knocked down and tore up our front-yard bird feeder last night.

It’s enough to make one peevish, so it is.  Herewith, therefore, a peeve to make your day complete:

Past and passed are not the same word.  Past-the-noun refers to an earlier point in time (“The past is another country”); past-the-adjective describes something having to do with an earlier point in time (“remembrance of things past”); and past-the-preposition indicates that something is moving from a point either metaphorically or literally behind something to a point forward of it (“a first-past-the-post voting system.”  Passed, on the other hand, is the past tense of the verb to pass (“time passed” or “the winner passed the post in record time.”)

Don’t confuse them; it makes the baby copyeditors cry.

Collecting the Whole Set

Along with a series of ongoing infrastructure repairs and upgrades (what can I say — it was a hard winter), we’ve finally managed to acquire all of the college decals for our assorted offspring, including the year each at Elms and Rivier that Twin B and Twin A did before moving on to bigger things:


Putting four kids through college is a hefty undertaking under the best of circumstances. Doing it while freelancing is even more so. As my spouse/co-author says, we are entitled to fly our battle honors.

In Which I Eventually Make It to a Recommendation

This is a post for all the female, female-identified, and female-presenting people out there, or for anybody else who has ever, for some reason, needed to buy and wear a bra.

If delving too deeply into Women’s Mysteries™ is not for you, read no further, and I’ll see you next post. But if you’re still with us, I’ll start by explaining a couple of things about bras that most bra-wearers already know.

The first thing is that bra sizes — for all shapes and sizes and configurations of bra-wearing people — are based on two measurements and two measurements only. One measurement is taken around the rib cage just under the breasts; that’s the 36, for example, in the classic 36DD bra. The second measurement, for the cup size, is derived from the circumference of the chest at nipple level on the bustline. (It’s not an absolute, because the D-cup in a 32D bra is not going to be the same size as the D-cup in a 42-D bra.)

That’s it. Those two measurements are the whole thing. Never mind the shape of the breasts in question (which will vary from one person to another for all sorts of reasons), or the placement of them (higher or lower; closer together or farther apart) on the rib cage, or the muscular development (or lack of it) of the wearer’s chest and shoulders. Two measurements.

Which leads us inexorably to the second thing that most bra-wearing people already know: You can’t just pick up a bra off the rack in your size and expect it to fit. You have to try it on, first. And it’s probably not going to work for you when you do — the cups will be the wrong shape for your breasts, or will be set too close together/too far apart, or they’ll fit just fine except for the internal seam that irritates you unspeakably; or the straps will slide off your shoulders, or cut into your shoulders, or somehow, in defiance of all common sense, manage to do both at once; or it will be your perfect bra in all respects, but will be the last one in the store and the manufacturer has discontinued the line.

So you can’t just try on a single bra when you go out bra-shopping. You have to try on a whole stack of them, and most, if not all, of them won’t fit.

It is, therefore, no wonder that shopping for bras is an experience calculated to make almost anyone feel — at best — like some kind of mutant alien.

Which brings me to the science-fictional part of this post.

We already have scanners and sensors that can map and image a body, either still or in motion — Hollywood uses them all the time. And we have 3-D printers that can spit out everything from houses to handguns. So how long will it be before some servant of bra-wearing humanity combines the two and comes up with a commercially-viable device that will scan you and then print out, in a comfortable material, a custom-made bra in your own personal size?

My guess? Quite a while, probably. Maybe not until we get enough bra-wearing people in STEM fields to make it likely that at least one of them will think that the problem is one worth tackling. And maybe even longer than that, because while handguns are easy (they were what the idea of interchangeable parts was originally developed for), bras — because people do not, in fact, have standardized measurements and interchangeable parts — are hard.

(Also, guns are a cool guy thing, and bras are girly. These things should not matter, but they do.)

Which brings me to a recommendation. If you’re a bra-wearing person on the east coast of the USA, check out Zoe&Company in New Hampshire or Rhode Island. They’re not just bra sellers; they’re bra fitters, and they’re damned good at it. Their store carries the full range of bra sizes, from AA all the way out to KK  (yes, the range is that wide), and they’re trained to help you find bras that actually fit.

Also, they won’t make you feel like a mutant while they’re doing it.

A Brace of Peeves

(Because I’m waiting on a dishwasher-repair person, and that sort of thing always makes me peevish.)

Peeve the first: It’s vocal cords, people, not vocal chords. It’s an easy mistake to make, given that cord and chord are homonyms, and given the association with sound-making and hence with music . . . but the items in question were named by anatomists, not musicians, and for the anatomical mind the notable thing would have been their physical structure. Wikipedia has some good pictures, which I’m not going to reproduce here because while interesting, they aren’t particularly handsome or appetizing.

Peeve the second: This one’s a bit more subtle. If you’ve got a character listening in on another character or characters talking about something, but the listener isn’t quite able to make out what’s being said, the conversation isn’t undecipherable or illegible.

Undecipherable and illegible are adjectives for something that is, or is meant to be, seen or read. Something that’s undecipherable is, taken literally, unable to be decrypted or decoded; by extension, it refers to something drawn or written or otherwise seen, the meaning of which cannot be determined. (You can have an undecipherable letter, or an undecipherable carved inscription, or — speaking metaphorically — an undecipherable expression.) Something that’s illegible is something written that cannot be read, such as an illegible signature (though not — because it isn’t written down — an illegible expression.)

If what you’re dealing with is something that is, or is meant to be, heard, the words you’re looking for are unintelligible (the listener can hear it, but not well enough to make much sense of it) or inaudible (the listener can’t hear it well enough, period.)

I run into this one oftener than you’d think, and it drives me batty.

For Lo, the Winter is Past

And of course, everything is blooming, and the landscape is full of road repair personnel.

This particular winter, which showed up early around here and then overstayed its welcome, and which included a three-week subzero deep freeze, was particularly hard on the local infrastructure. Which is to say, the north country is full of potholed roads and busted-up plumbing; also, porch roofs that were previously merely dilapidated emerged from the snow-time as disaster areas requiring demolition and replacement.

Fortunately, my new desktop computer system is now up and running (16G of RAM! Zoom-swoosh!), and my editor-hat has acquired a spiffy new plume: I’m now a paid-up member of the Editorial Freelancers Association.

The Simple Joys of the Editorial Life

My new desktop computer has arrived.

It’s currently still in its box, because I have an editing gig I have to wrap up before I can let myself fall down the rabbit hole that is setting up a new system. But it’s there, and I can hear it calling my name.

Tomorrow I’m going to have to clear up my desk preparatory to moving in the new machine.  That’s going to be the kind of fun that isn’t, but it will be worth it when it’s done.  The new machine has got 16 gigs of RAM, which is twice what my herky little laptop has got, and four times the RAM of my old desktop machine.  The latter was starting to buckle under the weight of Windows 10 even before it developed the fatal case of malware-or-whatever that caused it to spend most of this past winter steadily degrading into a nonfunctional brick; I figure that 16 gigs should hold me through at least a couple more iterations of Windows.

In other news, we had a downy woodpecker on our bird feeder this morning, which is a change from the usual chickadees and assorted LBBs (Little Brown Birds.)

Ah, spring.

Six of One and Half a Dozen of the Other

But no ones or twos.

Or, like this post, half an appreciation of nifty stuff and half a peeve.

The nifty stuff, first:

Medieval Dice with No 1 or 2 Found on Street in Norway.  Dice are really old tech, as it were, and crooked dice of one sort or another are almost equally old.  When Og and Ugh were casting knucklebones to pass the time in their Paleolithic cave, it probably wasn’t long before Og figured out that if he shaved down one side of his favorite knucklebone just so, he could up his chances of winning by enough to end up the possessor of Ugh’s best flint hand-axe before Ugh caught on.

Now, the peeve:

The article isn’t actually about finding dice.  It’s about finding a die, singular.  That’s how it goes:  One die, two (or more) dice.

It’s a common error, but one expects better of a science blog. I blame LiveScience.com for the error, because when I followed their link to the source article at  Norsk institutt for kulturminneforskning, and clicked on their link to get the text in Norsk bokmål, I saw that the  caption for the picture of the crooked die used the singular terning, as would be proper, rather than the plural terningen.  (The article itself speaks of dice, plural  and die, singular, depending upon context.)

Where I’ll Be Tomorrow

Jim Macdonald is on the road again:

Madhouse Manor

I’ll be at the Granite State Magicians’ benefit performance for the Merrimack (NH) CrimeLine.

Come out on Saturday, April 14th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to support the Merrimack Police K9 Program. Meet Dallas, Merrimack’s new K-9 officer and watch a demonstration at noon!

The Magic Show will be held at the American Legion Post 98 on Baboosic Lake Road.

$5 per person / $2.50 under 12 / $15 family max

Enter to win one of the many raffle prizes!

Hot Dogs, popcorn and soda for sale during the day!

View original post

When First I Came to Town; or, Some Families are Like That

One of my favorite folk songs is “Katy Cruel,” a cheerful ditty from the point of view of a young lady who has run completely out of [bleeps] to give:

Our Ms. Cruel comes from a distinguished (or maybe the right word is “notorious”) folkloric lineage.

There’s the Cruel Mother:

And the Cruel Father:

(Sorry, no video link here, just audio on the web page.  But he’s cruel, believe me.)

The Cruel Sister:

And the Cruel Brother:

Hell, if I had a family like that, I’d leave town and take to drink, too.