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Turns out that the reason that my posts were all getting dated the 15th was that somehow or other, that time had gotten stored as a form fill value for the Sunnydale Herald reading account in my password manager, and was getting applied to posts I made while logged in as rahirah as well. Urgh. Computers can be entirely too helpful. comment count unavailable Rants Talk to me

Tree Invasion

We have a couple of trees in our front yard which are volunteers -- that is, they just grew on their own. One's the Chilean mesquite of which I've written before, and the other is... well, I have no idea what it is, but it is evergreen, extremely drought resistant, has tripinnate lanceolate leaves, sprays of tiny, barely visible yellow-green flowers, and produces zillions of tiny round papery seeds. They grow absolutely everywhere around here. We have to pull up seedlings from the Mystery Tree all the time, but in the last couple of weeks, it's outdone itself.

We don't usually get as many mesquite seedlings, as it produces pods which, in the normal course of things, are supposed to be eaten by deer or cattle, who then obligingly distribute the seeds elsewhere after their digestive system has broken down the pods. We do not have deer or cattle, but we do have cars, which run over the pods which drop into the street and break out the seeds. Earlier this summer, we swept up a lot of the seeds from the street and scattered them along the curb to the north of the tree, which is just west of our back yard. The hope was that maybe one or two of them would sprout and eventually, in fifteen or twenty years, they'd shade the back yard the way the current tree does the side yard.

It turns out that when you get five to six inches of rain inside of a week, you don't get one or two mesquite seedlings. You get hundreds. Maybe thousands. They are EVERYWHERE. I am torn between the desire to just let them go and see how many survive, and the certain knowledge that if even one in a hundred lasts through next summer, we will have a whole damned forest on the curb.

There is a certain allure to this idea.

And its offspring:

The mesquite (looking sad after losing most of its branches in storms over the summer):

And its offspring:

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On the bright side, The Good Place is back

We spent a lot of last weekend doing fall cleaning; besides the usual tidying up and vacuuming, we cleaned the stove, moved a bunch of furniture and swept the mountains of dust bunnies and cat hair out from underneath, and got rid of a couple of boxes of Random Things. Kathy got some new Halloween skeletons and put them up – I like them.

Out in the yard we trimmed up the big pine tree, to the point where you can walk under it without getting whacked in the face by branches. We also made progress on the fence-decorating project. Over the last month or so, we've planted some things out along the back wall – assorted climbing vines, a couple of pomegranates and a desert willow. (Which will eventually be a small tree, but it's a shrub for the next few years at least.) I'd picked up four or five pieces from the scrap iron place that I thought would look interesting mounted on the block wall, and eventually we'll train the vines up on them.

In order to mount the iron stuff, we had to drill holes in the cinder block wall for the bolts. We've done this before, when we mounted security windows on the house some years back. Unfortunately, this time I let the guy at the hardware store talk me into getting a new and untried form of anchor, which has proved less than satisfactory to work with. For one thing, they were bigger than the largest masonry drill bit we had, so I had to get a new bit. The new bit turned out to be larger than our old drill could handle, so I had to get a new drill to fit the new bit. (I don't regret the new drill; it's a hammer drill and it's SO much better than our old one for masonry drilling.) When I finally got the holes drilled and the anchors in, they had a distressing tendency to just slide all the way through the hole and get lost inside the brick (the cinder block bricks are hollow) because unlike lag anchors, they don't expand to grip the sides of the hole when you screw the bolt in. Next time it's back to good old lag bolts for me.

In the meantime, I ended up using floor patch to kind of glue the anchors into the holes. How well this works remains to be seen; it's been raining off and on since last night, so the floor patch hasn't completely cured yet.

I've been torn between obsessing over the news and trying to avoid it completely. If I hear one more political ad I may smash the TV. Even the ones for candidates I plan to vote for are infuriating.

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More rain

Hurricane Sergio finally moseyed inot Arizona, and it's been raining buckets for the last five hours. We decided that we might as well get our shopping done, since yard work is out of the question. We ended up wet anyway. I can't find my umbrella. I only use it once a year, but on that one day, damn it, I want it!

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The Woman Who Fell to Earth

I have no deep thoughts about the season premiere of Doctor Who. Jody Whittaker makes a fantastic Doctor, and the new companions look like an interesting bunch. I'm very, very glad to have multiple companions again, and if at some point we get an alien companion, or even a human companion who's from the far future or past, I can ask for no more. The actual story was a fairly pedestrian monster of the week, but it was perfectly serviceable as an introduction to the new cast of characters. I haven't been terribly impressed by Chibnall's writing in the past, but that doesn't necessarily bear on his abilities as a showrunner. Moffat could be brilliant as a single-episode writer, but as a showrunner, his arcs were often needlessly convoluted and tended to collapse under their own weight when the climax didn't live up to its hype. So scaling back a bit might not be a bad thing.

Also, what the hell is it that makes the date on every post I make revert to the 15th of the month?? It starts out fine while I'm composing the post, but once it posts, the date is always the 15th, and I have to go back and edit it. It's been going on for a while now, and I have no idea why.

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Boring Real World Stuff Strikes Again!

More cleaning-up and getting rid of things this weekend. Some years back, we got a beautiful wool rug for the living room, but over the years various pet accidents rendered it no longer living room material. We moved it into the bedroom a couple of years ago, and this weekend we finally got rid of it entirely. After we dragged it out, Kathy was like, "Hey, it doesn't smell funky in here anymore!" We'd thought we'd cleaned it pretty well, but obviously not as well as we could have. :P

Looking at the icky paint splattered concrete where the rug had been makes me want to bump tiling the floor up a few notches on the List O' Projects, but anything that major will have to wait till I've finished paying off the car. Particularly as I think I'd want to pay for installation as well. I can lay tile, but I've only ever done small projects like bathrooms and kitchen backsplashes. Something this large, which is going to have to stand up to a lot of foot traffic, and require a lot of tile trimming to fit into closets and around corners, I think I'd rather leave to an expert. Maybe next spring, if things work out.

I think the next things up have to be covering the back porch and putting a rain gutter in over by the tiki bar. We had another storm in this weekend, and things have cooled off a lot; hopefully we've seen the last of the hundred-degree weather for the year.

I've got to get back in contact with the local district Dems. I had been going to district meetings pretty regularly, and doing volunteer stuff, but when Mom broke her hip last year, I was just so exhausted from dealing with her medical and place-to-live issues that I couldn't keep up with it. And then just as it seemed I might be able to relax, she died, and I didn't have the heart for it for quite awhile. At the same time, we changed our email addresses, and seem to have fallen off their mailing list. So I've got to do something about that.

I also need to get back to working on POM Ch. 14. I'd been going along pretty well, until I was derailed by last week's infuriating political brouhaha, and also by the realization that I had like four or five scenes of talking heads in a row, and the pacing was terrible. The problem is, I have a bunch of things that characters need to realize and/or tell each other before the Sunnydale crew heads to L.A., which I couldn't fit into Ch. 13 without making it too long and rambly and dull. Urgh. I've been trying to slice and dice the existing scenes and see if there's any way to either cut a lot of the boring stuff, or inject some action, or both, but it's slow going. If I can just get through this part, it's going to be a non-stop rollercoaster ride for the next three chapters. Thus saith the outline.

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I foolishly made a comment on Facebook the other day, to the effect that I used to love the Pern books, but couldn't enjoy them any longer, because [reasons.] This ticked off a bunch of Pern fans. Which was my fault; I shouldn't have made a negative comment on an "I love Pern!" post. ([personal profile] slaymesoftly, I'm really sorry.) I decided that trying to explain why I thought the Infamous Tent Peg Interview was believable even though it wasn't corroborated, and how even if the fan who reported it was lying through his teeth, there was more than enough well-documented gender-and-class-and-sexuality-related stuff in Anne McCaffery's work to make me itchy regardless, was not a hill I wanted to die on (particularly in someone else's space.) So I made a vague and hopefully polite "YMMV" response and exited stage right.

One of the people who found my comment annoying responded with the double whammy of "Lol who gets upset about a ~fantasy~ series?" and "Lol the books are ~of their time!~ If you think Pern is bad, you should read Heinlein!" While the first one makes me roll my eyes, it's the second one I want to talk about. As it happens, I have read Heinlein, and Asimov, and Clarke, and Smith, etc., not to mention quite a lot of even older non-SF fiction. I'm very familiar with putting books and authors into the context of the time in which they were written. It's why I can still enjoy 90% of the original Doctor Doolittle Books despite some pretty appalling-by-today's-standards racism, but I can't enjoy Albert Payson Terhune's dog stories, which were written at about the same time, and also contain appalling-by-today's-standards racism. The difference is, Hugh Lofting was trying to write sympathetic, heroic non-white characters, who were invaluable friends and allies of the main character. Terhune was writing villains who were villains because they were lower-class and non-white. By today's standards, they both produced awful stereotypical caricatures, but the intent of the two authors could not have been farther apart. Both authors were "of their time." But there's a huge variation in people who are "of their time." There's a huge variation in readers as well. Just because I can stomach a particular book doesn't mean that everyone can or should have to.

One big reason that the Pern books bother me more than other books of the same era is that their "time" is awfully damned long. It's true that the series started in the 1960s, but it continued well into the 2000s. Pern is hardly the only series in this situation. There's another far less well-known series, The Sector General books by James White, which had some similar issues. Sector General was a space hospital serving dozens of alien races, and the gimmick of the series was that the doctors had access to mind recordings of great alien doctors. So a human who had to treat an alien could zap a mental overlay from a doctor of that species into his own head. And it was always "his" own head. The series began in 1957, so unsurprisingly, the author wrote all the doctors as male. A decade or more later, and several books into the series, cue a bunch of fan letters asking why Nurse Murchison, who was obviously as smart and medically capable as the male characters, wasn't on track to become a Diagnostician the same way Dr. Conway was. So the author introduced a retcon to the effect that women couldn't become Diagnosticians, because their minds were incapable of handling the alien overlay.

In the original 1960s Star Trek series, there were no female captains. In one episode, it was strongly implied that this was Starfleet policy. As the decades rolled on, and the franchise started to create series set before TOS, they had to decide how to handle the backstory. Was Janice Lester denied command because she was a woman, or because she was unstable, or both? In this case, the Powers That Be waved their retcon wand and said, "There have always been female captains, DUH!" (I'm fairly certain that, having finally bitten the bullet and introduced a gay character, that they'll do the same there. There have always been queer officers in Starfleet, DUH.)

It's a lot more difficult to find a series where an issue comes up which the author never intended to address, or even considered an issue, and yet, when it's raised, the author bites the bullet and tackles it head on. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Stephen Brust's Vlad Taltos series, which started out as a flash-bang witty fantasy series about an assassin. Several books in, rumor has it that a friend of the author's was killed in real life. That incident made him reassess his own character, and the series suddenly took a deeper, darker tone, and Vlad became a deeper, richer character.

The bottom line is, if you write anything long enough, the world is going to catch up to you, and very likely pass you by. It can be hard to deal with, especially for authors who are used to being seen as ahead of their time. But when that happens, you have a choice. You can double down on the Objectionable Thing, say that it's just the way this particular world is. Or you can say well, the Objectionable Thing wasn't really a Thing at all; it just looked like that in the first book. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! OR you can look at your world and your characters and say, yeah, the characters ARE sexist/racist/stone cold killers/whatever. And that sucks, because I didn't mean them to be. But the good thing is, if Objectionable Thing is due to the characters being wrong, instead of being Just The Way The World Is, then the characters can change. And so can the world.

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Fashion Meme

(again stolen from shadowkat)

1. How would you describe your current fashion style?

Uh... no clue. I decided some time back that I had two clothing objectives: I wanted to feel comfortable, and I wanted to look decent. There are a lot of looks I like that just don't work on me. Instead of focusing on what I couldn't wear, I decided to concentrate on finding things I liked that I DID look good in, and building a style around that. So I went through my closet and got rid of a bunch of things that I'd bought because they looked good on the rack, and started replacing them with things that looked good on me. I take some inspiration from soft butch/tomboy-ish styles, but with a lot of modifications. What it boils down to is, in summer I wear jeans and assorted short-sleeved shirts or tank tops, and in the winter I wear jeans and long-sleeved shirts with a sweater or a jacket or sometimes a vest if I want to be fancy. Boots/sneakers/sandals as weather dictates, no high heels except for costuming.

2. What’s your favorite decade for fashion?

90s-present, if I bother to think about it? The 80s were fun in some respects, but I couldn't pull those looks off then, and they're vaguely appalling now. The 70s are right out.

3. Formal or casual?


4. Thrift store, boutique, or online?

Thrift store, occasional online.

5. Do you like to accessorize?

Earrings always, wedding ring and another similar ring inherited from my father's family always, occasionally a necklace or bracelet if I'm dressing up. I use a belt with pants that will slide off my hips if I don't wear one, and that's about it.

6. What piece of clothing do you spend your money on the most?

What piece do I spend money on the most, or what piece do I spend the most money on? It's two different things. I buy pants and shirts most often, but the individual pieces I've spent the most on have probably been either shoes, or my Elaborate Handmade Steampunk Hat.

7. Do you wear hats?

I should, because AZ is Skin Cancer Central, but I have a small head, and so I have a hard time finding cheap ones that fit, and if I wear one too long, I tend to get a headache. I have some knit caps that I wear in the winter to keep my head warm, one good leather cowboy hat (they kick you out of Arizona if you don't own at least one cowboy hat) and a sort of safari-dude-looking sun hat. And two incredibly awesome steampunk hats for costuming.

8. What is your opinion on wearing socks and sandals together?

If it's cold enough to wear socks, I won't be wearing sandals. If you like 'em, though, go for it.

9. What colors do you like to wear?

Blues, greys, reds/pinks/burgundies, red-toned browns, black, white, ivory as long as it's not too yellowy. Purples are meh. Avoid orange/yellow/green like the plague.

10. What fashions do you hate?

I don't really have a fashion that I hate. That's expending entirely too much energy on fashion. If I don't like it, I just don't wear it.

11. What do you think of body piercing?

Neutral. I don't like pain, and I doubt I'd ever have anything but my ears pierced. Besides, I have vague allergy/sinus issues a lot of the time, and having a nose piercing of any kind when you have to blow your nose a lot seems ill-advised. And anything else tenderer, imagining the pain makes my tits want to retract inside my body. (That said, I do want to get a cartilage piercing in one or both ears eventually.)

12. Do you like dyed hair?

I don't like dying my hair to hide grey, and I refuse to do that. I don't mind dying it now and then for fun effects.

13. Can you wear heels? What is the highest heel you can wear?

I can wear 1-2 inch boot heels with no problem. I don't like wearing anything much higher than that. I have a few 3-4 inch chunky heeled shoes, but I wear them very rarely, usually only for costuming purposes. Stillettoes, no way.

14.Do you have any experience with makeup?

Tried messing with it a couple of times in my late teens/20s, decided it was pain in the ass, chucked it and never looked back.

15. Have you ever worn a uniform or traditional clothes?

Choir robes. A Girl Scout uniform. That's about it.

16. What’s your favorite piece of clothing?

The leather jackets I've got that it's too hot here to wear. :cries:

17. Have you ever had to wear something you didn’t like?

Who hasn't? I think the thing that's stuck in my head most over the years was a pair of second-hand Oxfords that one of my aunts sent Mom in the yearly Big Box Of Hand-Me-Downs that we got from our older cousins. They were too big for me, nothing like anyone else at school wore, and heavy and clunky and uncomfortable. I hated them. Mom loooooved them, and couldn't understand why I didn't want to wear them.

18. How do you feel about wearing fur?

I can't afford fur, but honestly, I love the look and feel of it. I'd never buy anything endangered, but I'd be fine with stuff like hair-on hides where the animal's being killed for food anyway.

19. Do you prefer simple or detailed outfits?

Simple for everyday, but I don't mind detailed for special occasions.

20. How often do you wear jewelry?

Earrings and two rings, almost always, anything else, rarely.

21. Do you have any souvenir clothing from trips or concerts?

A couple of t-shirts.

22. Do you paint your nails?

Very rarely. I'm not very good at it. That would improve with practice, but I don't like the feel of polish on my nails. It makes my fingers feel heavy.

23. What are your favorite pair of shoes (add a photo if possible)?

A pair of vintage Doc Martens.

24. Do you carry a bag, backpack, purse, or something else?

I have a leather messenger bag type thing, a backpack, and some smaller purses. Depends on how much I'll be carrying and how fancy the occasion is.

25. What does your hair look like right now?

Very short, bleached on top. In fact, if I had to pick THE most important fashion thingy not to cut corners on, it would be get a good haircut. It is SO worth spending a little extra to go to someone who really knows what they're doing. And don't be afraid to lay down the law about what you want, either.

26. Have you worn something you or someone you know has made?

Yes. My mother and grandmother made a lot of our play clothes when we were small. And I've made a lot of costumes over the years, and a few regular pieces of clothing.

27. Have you made any clothes/ jewelry?

Yes. I was into beading for awhile and made a lot of necklaces and earrings. I still have a few of the necklaces. I've also made lots of costumes over the years, and a few regular pieces of clothing.

28. What are your thoughts on perfume/cologne?

Neutral. I don't wear it myself, and I have a very poor sense of smell, so when people describe a wild profusion of scent notes they get from a perfume, all I can do is say, "Uh... sweet, I guess?"

29. What do you wear to go swimming?

A swimsuit.

30. What would be your ideal outfit?

Jeans, Doc Martens, long sleeved shirt with a vest, leather jacket, maybe a belt, earrings. I can only wear this for like three weeks in the middle of winter. :P

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40 Odd Things About Me Meme

(Stolen from Shadowkat. None of these questions strike me as particularly odd, but what the hell.)

1. Do you like blue cheese?

Yes – love them skeezy cheeses.

2. Coke or Pepsi?

Neither. I gave up caffeine a long time ago.

3. Do you own a gun?


4. What flavor of Kool-aid?

None. Don't like it.

5. Hot dogs?

Very occasionally. I have to be in a hotdog mood, and they have to be really good hotdogs. I prefer bratwurst or Italian sausage. When I do have them, I like them with mustard and sauerkraut.

6. Favorite tv show?

Currently? Probably The Good Place.

7. Do you believe in ghosts?


8. What do you drink in the mornings?

Water, milk, or coconut water.

9. Can you do a push-up?

Not really. I'm working up to it.

10. Favorite Jewelry?

A pair of silver and opal earrings I got at the Tempe Art Fair last year.

11. Favorite hobby?

Writing, when it's working.

12. Do you have ADD?

No idea. I've never been evaluated by a medical professional. My mother always claimed that if I'd been born twenty years later, I would have been diagnosed as ADD, but I grew up in the 60s, so I was just labeled disruptive and fidgety. However, I grew out of that kind of behavior by... fourth grade or so, I think? Or maybe I just learned how to channel more constructively. I've read the lists of symptoms, and some of them do apply to me, but some of them don't, so who knows. If I am, I've learned to cope with it reasonably well.

13. Do you wear glasses?


14. Favorite cartoon character?

Bugs Bunny.

15. Three things you did yesterday:

Took the dog for a walk, played Minecraft, and pored obsessively over the polls on Fivethirtyeight.com.

16. Apparently, there is no 16.

17. Current worries?

Whether or not we're in for another round of layoffs at work, the probability that democracy is in a worldwide hellish death spiral, and assorted minor health issues.

18. Do you believe in magic?


19. Favorite place to be?

I don't have a single favorite, but one of them is an interesting second-hand/antique store.

20. How did you ring in the new year?

At home with a few friends.

21. Where would you like to go?

Great Britain.

22. Name five people who will participate in this.

Shan't, and you can't make me.

23. Favorite movie?

Singing in the Rain.

24. Favorite color?


25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?

No. They're slippery and annoying.

26. Can you whistle?


27. Where are you now?

In my chair in the living room.

28. Where would you rather be right now?

Where I SHOULD be is in bed.

29. Favorite food?

Sashimi. Or homemade cherry pie. Or dark chocolate with sea salt. It depends.

30. Thing you hate most to do?

Talk to strangers.

31. Best job you can think of?

I'm pretty happy with the one I have.

32. What's in your pockets?


33. Last thing that made you laugh?

A joke someone made at our RPG meeting earlier this evening. It was one of those 'you had to be there' things.

34. Favorite animal?


35. What's your most recent injury?

A blister on my hand from mowing the lawn this afternoon.

36. How many TVs are in your house?

Two. But only because we inherited Mom's TV when she passed on, and my wife won't let me get rid of it. (If she had her way, we'd have one in every room.)

37. Worst pain ever?

It's a tie. Worst Pain #1 was the time I had to have all four sideways impacted wisdom teeth removed from my jaws with a bone saw. I came to in the middle of the operation and they had to give me more anesthetic. Afterwards I was too nauseated from the anesthetic and all the blood I'd swallowed to keep any pain meds down, and I remember just lying in bed crying for an entire weekend, too sore and sick to do anything. I couldn't eat for days. Worst Pain #2 was the time I fell off of my bike without a helmet, and smacked face-first into the pavement, and had to go to the emergency room. I remember walking into the house, looking at my mangled face in the mirror, and thinking, "Huh, maybe I do need to go to the hospital," and a few fragments of walking to the car, and then (according to my wife) I lost all memory of the previous two months for about half an hour, and kept asking her where I was and why my head hurt. My next memory is of us getting out of the car at the hospital, and being descended upon by nurses. I think the wisdom teeth may actually have been worse pain-wise, because I was in shock for a lot of the worst of the bike accident, but the bike accident involved more area (I also wrenched a toe and fucked up both hands) and took longer to recover from. It's really hard to choose.

38. Do you like to dance?

No. I'm very bad at it and I find it intensely embarrassing to flop around in front of strangers.

39. Are your parents still alive?

No. My father died when I was seventeen, and my mother died last year.

40. Do you enjoy camping?

Yes, very much.

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Write something, Barb

Uuuuugh I've been meaning to make a post for weeks, but I keep not doing it. Lessee... exciting developments in my life:

1. A week or so after the tree out front broke in half, we had another big storm, and the remaining big branch on the other side broke off, too. So now we have a denuded-looking trunk with sad, stumpy half-branches left. It's a pretty fast-growing tree, so it should recover in a few years, but in the meantime, it's pretty pathetic looking.

2. We are definitely going to see my mother in law in Florida for Christmas. Only for four days, so we'll have a few days of holiday time to recover when we get home, before we have to go back to work.

3. I am working on Chapter 14 of A Parliament of Monsters again, and have about 7500 words of first draft written. There are three scenes left to go. I had to go back and re-read some of the previous chapters to get back in the groove with my own versions of the characters, since most of the fandom discussion of late has been about the annoying developments in Season 12, and the probability of the conclusion sucking even more than Chosen did. (Oh, sure, NOW everyone loves Chosen, but that was not at all the case when it aired. Maybe twenty years from now people will be fawning over Season 12, too, but somehow I doubt it.)

I have a weird relationship with BtVS canon, because although my own 'verse is way AU, I try very hard to ground my characters in their canon selves. However it pains me to say it, S12 may end up being my breaking point, where I have to say, "Nope, not canon for me." The problem is not that I can't fanwank Buffy's 180 from the end of S11; I can fanwank anything if I have to. It's just that doing so puts me back in a place where I don't like Buffy very much, and I don't like being in that place. For all the quibbles I have about seasons 10 & 11, I liked Buffy in them, and felt like I understood where she was coming from and why she did and said the things she did, and that was so so nice after so many years/seasons of feeling grumpy about the writing choices for the main character in the franchise. The Buffy in S12 feels like a completely different person, and I still don't see any good in-story reason for that to be so.

4. I chucked some money at the Pillowfort kickstarter, and distributed the startup codes I got to the populace on Tumblr, hoping to convert them to the joys of threaded comments.

5. I found two random Minecraft seeds in a row where a woodland mansion generates within two thousand blocks of the spawn point (though in one case, it only generates in 1.12, not in 1.13, a problem I solved by creating the world in 1.12, teleporting to the mansion coordinates to generate that block, immediately closing the world and reloading it in 1.13.)

That's really about it. I want very badly to start working on some projects for the long term improvement of the back yard, but it's still too hot, and anyway I can't buy materials until I pay off the plane tickets to Florida. (Buying plane tickets to Orlando on Christmas week is... let's just say all our flights are red-eyes.)

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