bits and pieces

My wife and I (and the dogs) snuck out to the cabin last weekend because we had a window in our busy social calendar (ha ha), and I had left something undone when last we were down there with the NYC grands two weeks before. My son-in-law and I had, with a good deal of not-by-the-book effort and ingenuity, managed to cut down a tree, but the chain on my saw was so dull (it was a Black Jack oak, which is a hard on a chainsaw, but also, the chain was already dull before we had started) that once we had it down, we couldn’t cut it into manageable pieces or remove the remaining stump. (I am trying to expand my parking area, so the stump needed to be removed.)

In the time since that visit, I took all of the chains in the bottom of my chainsaw container to the local hardware store to be sharpened. I found five of the greasy things, and now they are all sharp and ready for action. Should I face another job I couldn’t have finished before, I’ll be able to change the chain on my saw and finish the job!

Which is what I did last weekend. With the sharpened chain on the saw, I cut through the fallen tree and the stump in about five minutes. It was delightful. And then I took the saw to the tree the beavers had brought down below the cabin to cut up some of that. The saw performed admirably, but the operator did not. Rather, the operator soon grew tired from muscling a heavy, dangerous machine on sloping, rocky ground in the full sun of a day with a hazardous heat warning. I managed to cut up most of the visible parts of the fallen tree, so the view from the cabin porch is no longer spoiled, but the big, heavy parts await cooler days.


So I continue to discover new features of Word that have apparently been pushed down from Microsoft. Among them is an Editor button that will give me a synopsis of the grammatical standing of the document I’m working on, taking off points for things like spelling, grammar, and conciseness. I ran it against a story I recently completed and earned a 95% score. It’s not a perfect system. I lost a point for using (correctly) the word “wife’s” — the possessive form — when the program thinks I should use the word “wives” — the plural form. A few things like that. I have a rough character who speaks the word “gimme” a couple of times, and the program doesn’t like that either. Plus, the first part of the story is supposed to be impressionistic, so it’s full of incomplete sentences intended to create images. I’m sure that hurt my score too.

I ran it against the 100,000 words of Obelus and got a (surprising) score of 94%. It found 322 spelling “errors” but I intentionally use the word “enuf” throughout, and it appears that the dictionary is limited since it flagged “Luis” (as in Jorge Luis Borges) and “raffishness.” It also didn’t like the word “shitty” but couldn’t suggest an alternative. There are 103 grammar citations, eleven conciseness violations, and two punctuation convention issues in Obelus, none of which I intend to “fix.”

If I were writing a high school term paper or some legal document, I suppose this feature would be helpful, but for creative writing it seems mostly just good for a laugh.


There are prefixes and suffixes, and I learned recently of infixes. An example is “Mid-freaking-west,” a word I saw repeatedly in the latest Richard Russo novel I read (though he may have used something other than “freaking”).

Not sure how useful this tidbit of knowledge it, but there you go.


For the past two years, the cypress tree in my backyard has not produced any cones. These things are spherical and drop on the ground, eventually breaking apart into sharp little pieces. We’ve had to pick these out of the dogs’ paws many times. And they are a chore to rake out of the grass. So we were glad to have a two-year respite from them. But the tree is full of them this year, and in a couple of months they’ll begin dropping.

I’ve read that oak trees do something similar with acorns. That the energy demand to produce a crop of acorns is so intense that the trees will often take a year or two off before doing it again. And then animal populations will cycle in a similar way since there is less mast for them to eat. (Nobody eats cypress cones that I know of.)

Our plan this year is to buy a leaf blower with the hope that it can dislodge the cones and their parts from the grass so they can be collected more easily. I’ll also be able to use a leaf blower at the cabin to clear fallen leaves away from the wooden structure.


Books read in July:

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner – Have you ever read an older book for the first time and regretted not having discovered it earlier? I had known of Wallace Stegner for some time, but I had never read any of his novels. I happened upon this one at the used bookstore and decided to give it a try. The novel is about a lifelong friendship between two academic couples, which doesn’t sound like a compelling narrative, but the writing was flawless and the reading effortless. I forgot I was reading a novel when I was reading this novel.

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck – I found this on a shelf in our house, and I suspect my wife had purchased it at some time. I’ve read a lot of Steinbeck through the years, but I had not touched this novel. It’s not one of his best, but it is a good reflection of his writing style, I think. Filled with stock characters who need to get in touch with themselves, thrust into a perilous journey in a rickety old bus. I suspect some of his characterizations would be considered outdated today. A movie was made of this novel, though I understand it’s not highly regarded.

The Waves by Virginia Woolf – I think I may have read this once before, but I’m not sure. This isn’t a novel to read for plot; there isn’t much of one. Rather, it’s something to be appreciated for rhythm and the blending of characters and viewpoints into a single, lifelong observation. I think this would benefit from several close readings and a lot of attention to the voices of the various characters. Woolf makes me think that I’m not trying hard enuf.

Explore posts in the same categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: