I’m Not Sure What to Say

I guess I’ll just post to say that I don’t know what to say.

I worked today and worked on my foreign languages. I don’t know if I’ve talked about the graded reader things that Duolingo has now but Duolingo has all of these short stories divided by difficulty. I’m in the middle of Set 3 in both Spanish and German. I suspect that I won’t get to Set 4 in German without some more studying, but I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near my upper limit in Spanish yet.

I left my podcast phone at home, so I didn’t get any podcasts done today, which is a pity because that’s where I get most of my money saved up for the day. I pay myself $0.02 per minute for podcasts but only $0.015 per minute for songs, including radio, because songs are more repetitive. I figure that hearing the same song two or three times per day should pay less than spending those same six to nine minutes listening to a unique podcast. So instead of more than $2, I barely broke $1.30 for today. But that’s okay. Tomorrow is, after all, another day. Well, okay, today is technically another day, since it’s after midnight, but you know what I meant.

Tonight’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is from Allie Brosh, another humorist who is also a mental health icon (for my generation, at least): Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. I haven’t read that book in ages. Maybe I’ll dig my copy out and reread it soon.

Just a Few Words Before Bed

Today didn’t end up anything like I expected. When I got up this morning, I planned to leave work at 5, meet Evelyn about 6, have a couple of sandwiches for dinner, and head to the McNay Art Museum for the evening. Just before bed last night, Alex said that he didn’t have any plans for the evening, so he might join us at the museum.

When I checked with Evelyn to see if sandwiches were good for her, she told me that someone had called in, so she would have to work too late to make it.

Then when I asked Alex if we were on for the museum, he said yes. A few hours later, when I asked Alex if he could pick up filling for the sandwiches, he said that he’d just been told that he had a school project due this evening, and that he had to go to a foreign food restaurant.

So between talking to coworkers and texting Alex, we eventually decided that “foreign” largely meant Asian cuisine. I researched Asian restaurants near the McNay but it all seemed like such a gamble. We eventually ended up at the Indian restaurant that my dad and I go to when we go out for Indian.

After years of me telling Alex that he’d like Tandoori chicken, we split a platter of fish, chicken, shrimp, and lamb cooked in the tandoor. It was amazing. And now Alex likes Indian food. Ta-da!

Unfortunately, Alex’s after-school nap, picking a restaurant, travel to the restaurant, waiting for the food, and eating the food all took too much time and so we never made it to the museum at all. It looks like I might be off on March 12, so we’ve tentatively scheduled an actual museum trip for that date. Let’s see what happens then.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time: The Lost Hero, the first book in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan. The kids from Camp Half-Blood return, this time with some new friends from a different kind of camp.

I Had a Bad Mental Health Day Yesterday

Alex and I were both off work yesterday, so I texted him to invite him to lunch. He then was silent for nearly an hour. The longer he was silent, the more worried I got. My mental health professional said that I feel alienated from my family and I kept thinking about that and thinking that clearly Alex didn’t want to go to lunch with me, so rather than waiting even longer for an answer, I just sent him the money I would’ve spent on his lunch and texted him to let him know. He immediately responded to thank me for it, which just made my worry worse.

So, rather than taking Alex to lunch, I went out to find a good picture for the new blog theme. I got some pictures of the turnaround up by the Pearl where the river taxis, well, turn around. I got some pictures of the Brewery Bridge, which is the bridge that used to connect the two towers of the Lone Star Brewery and which now crosses the San Antonio River just north of the museum (which is in the old Lone Star Brewery building), and I got some pictures of the Augusta Street Bridge, which crosses the river just west of the Southwest School of Art, which was originally the Ursuline Academy.

I spent less time on the River Walk than I wanted to because I thought my backup battery was dead so I only got down to Houston Street, did a Pokemon Go raid on the Houston Street Bridge, then crossed the river and walked back up to the Pearl.

When Alex came home we talked about what had happened and he said that he was stuck in traffic for most of that time and that he just happened to have gotten my text saying that I’d sent him the money just as he got parked. And, well, it was lunchtime and traffic is a nightmare at lunchtime, particularly if you’re going as far across the city as he was at the time.

And I do mean that it’s a nightmare. Back 23 years ago, in the year that San Antonio hit the 1,000,000 mark in population, Thomas was in the hospital. I visited him every day on my lunch two hours and no, I didn’t actually get two hours of lunch every day. I took an hour of paid time off every day so that I could get to the hospital and not have to turn around and head back immediately. That was 500,000 people ago. Our streets aren’t keeping pace with the growing population.

Things were way better after Alex and I talked, but I was just too stressed out and tired to post last night. When I realized that I’d missed it, I decided that I was allowed to miss a day and I don’t have to feel like I failed myself just because I broke my streak.

I guess, in a way, yesterday was also a good mental health day. I was feeling really good about my new writing habit and then I missed a day, but I was able to tell myself that it was okay to miss a day and I really believed it. And I still do believe it.

By the way, after I fooled around with the pictures, I ended up with one I really liked of the Brewery Bridge and one I really liked of the Augusta Street Bridge and none I really liked of the turnaround. I may have to actually take the river taxi to get a shot of the turnaround that I like. And that will be okay, too.

I’ll probably share the pictures with my fan once I get a good selection. Alex likes my Brewery Bridge photo better than the Augusta Street Bridge photo. I prefer the Augusta Street Bridge photo. I at least want a good photo of the turnaround and to see if I can get a good photo of the Arsenal Street Bridge (unfortunately the river taxi doesn’t run that far south). I may even try for the Johnson Street Bridge or the Hays Street Bridge (which is a pedestrian bridge that goes over Hays Street).

So, in honor of both a bad and a good mental health day, today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is a great book about both good and bad mental health Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson.

Gratuitous Amazon Links

I’m thrilled that I’m writing again. Help from competent mental health professionals, well, helps. How about that?

I’m even working on getting to the place where I’m writing before bedtime rather than in the middle of the night. It’s 12:40 in the morning. That may sound like the middle of the night to you, but it’s only three and a half hours after I got off of work. So, if I worked an 8 to 5 job, it’d be, like 8:40 in the evening. And that’s not late at all.

I may still write during the time that pretty much everyone would agree is the middle of the night (like, 3:00 am or 4:00 am) but for now, let’s be happy that it’s still pretty early.

Today’s problem is that I keep forgetting the Gratuitous Amazon Links in my posts. How am I going to remember to put them in? I could put a note by my computer, but I’d probably learn how to ignore that pretty quickly. It’s probably just a matter of making it a habit. But how do I accomplish that?

Maybe I could write them up ahead of time in a separate Word document from the one that I’m drafting my more important blog posts in and then it’d just be a matter of remembering to paste them in? That just might be an idea.

But first, a Gratuitous Amazon Link to get me back in the swing of things. I’ll have to go digging through old posts to figure out where in the works of Rick Riordan I was. I found it! I was only on the second Percy Jackson book. Should I keep doing that series or do the first book of each series? I think I’m going to do the first book of each series. Maybe I’ll follow that up with subsequent books in the series if I feel particularly motivated. Or desperate.

So, the next Rick Riordan series I’m going to start plugging is the Kane Chronicles. The first book in the series? The Red Pyramid. I really loved that series. I should reread it sometime.

I’m probably off later today (I may pick up a few hours at work in the early to mid afternoon), so I hope to get downtown and get a new cover illustration for the blog. Maybe I’ll end up going to the Pearl and taking a picture there. Or, ooh! a bridge! There are a bunch of really pretty bridges over the San Antonio River. And a bridge would, by definition, be a lot wider than it would be tall, which would mean that it might be possible to make it fit the header image size that I need for the theme I’m considering. This has got potential. I’ll probably write more about it as I photograph various bridges in the city.

Blog Update

I honestly intended to use the time immediately after my dad and son went to bed to get my quiet writing time in so that I wouldn’t be up at 4:00 writing. But I had a headache and so I went to lie down for a bit so that I could concentrate better after the headache passed.

And, well, I guess the headache has passed. And so has four more hours.

I got a notification the other day that the tool that has made this blog mobile-compatible for the last four-and-a-half years is being discontinued. After doing some research, I’ve found that this theme still isn’t set up to adapt to mobile on its own.

This means that I’m going to have to either choose a new theme by the end of March, or suddenly develop a miraculous skill in web development and cook up a “child theme” that does adapt.

Guess which is more likely to happen?

The style I’m considering has two white-on-gray color styles to choose from, one of which is pretty close to the current colors of this site. The orange-red parts will be gone and the accent color looks like a kind of grayish blue to my eyes. My header image is way too small, though, so I’m either going to have to see if I can cook up a new header image out of the original photo or go out and take a new picture to use.

I wonder if there’s a tool that will crop a photo to a specific size centered on a specific spot. Because if there is, I could dig up the original, find the center of the current image, then use that tool to make a new photo that’s basically the same image but has more of the original image in it.

Never mind. The original photo is too short to use at all. The image I need should be 280 pixels high and the original of my header image is 245 pixels high.

Wait. That doesn’t make sense. I wonder if I downloaded it wrong or something. The original photo should be *huge*. I probably still can’t use it because there’s a big expanse of concrete on the left side of the photo, but still, it should be larger than 280 pixels high. Shouldn’t it?

So I’m going to go to Google Photos and see how large that one is.

Argh. Google Photos is taking *forever*, but their version is 388 pixels high. Still smaller than I would expect, but large enough to at least get an image 280 pixels high out of it.

Using an automatic cropping tool I gave it a shot, but that guy that wandered into my shot is pretty much the focal point of the new photo when I used an auto cropping tool. So I guess I’m going to be using a different photo.

And now I’m thinking that 280 pixels high and 1200 pixels wide seems awfully short? narrow? wide? But the page that has those specs won’t reload. I think my computer’s tired, too.

Ah! I got into that page finally and, yep, 280 by 1200. So tomorrow it looks like I’m going to be playing with my current crop of photos to see if I can cook up something usable that looks good.

I suspect I’m going to end up going downtown, or to the River Walk, or both, to take more photos to play around with later.

Foreign Language Update

Despite my depression, I’ve still kept up with my foreign language studies. After all, they’re my retirement plan. As I get better at my foreign languages, I hope to gradually transition to a work-from-home business as a translator.

Well, once I pick a language, that is. Right now, I have three tiers of languages, with two languages in each tier. The first tier is Spanish and Mandarin, the second tier is German and Italian, and the third is Czech and Vietnamese. I’m most likely to pick one of the first tier, but the ones in the second aren’t out of the running yet. It’s doubtful that I’ll ever be good enough at the languages in the third tier for them to ever be possibilities, but who know what will happen in the future.

I also still intend to add more languages as time goes by. Next up, I think, may be Arabic, since it’s spoken in so many countries, which makes it pretty useful, and right now I have a coworker who speaks it and could help me. Well, he speaks Egyptian Arabic, but it’d give me something to work with.

I’d like to learn Hawaiian, since I’ve offered to take Alex on a trip to celebrate his college graduation in a couple of years and he wants to go back to Hawaii. Even if I take to Hawaiian like the proverbial duck to water, it’s likely that anyone who speaks Hawaiian would be able to do their own translations into English, so that’s not likely to be my choice.

Whenever I try to learn French, I end up having some kind of traumatic experience that leads to an awakening to something broken in my life (I found the lump that was my cancer the first time and I got a divorce the second). I already know that a bunch of things in my life are broken — that’s why I’m seeing a mental health professional and also trying to start a business that will give me the money I need to make those changes. I don’t want to have an awakening to other things that are broken just now. Maybe later.

There are other languages that are appealing as well (too many to go into at 5:00 am). So, in short, Spanish or Mandarin is likely to be my choice, German and Italian aren’t out of the running yet, and any other language will be fun to learn, but probably will not be anything I can base a business on.

It may boil down to what schools I can get a master’s degree in modern languages at. Wow, that sentence sucks, but I’m going to leave it there and then explain. Not all schools teach all languages. I mean, that’d be impossible. To cover all of them, your modern languages faculty would probably have to be hundreds, if not thousands, of people. I figured that hundreds might be a possibility because some could double- triple- or more up. Each professor from Papua New Guinea might be able to knock out quite a few of their 851 languages all by themselves.

And since my plan is to have public university money and not private university money, that limits the number of schools I can go to. Like most universities have the languages that are popular in high school — Spanish, German, French, etc. Once you leave those languages, the number of public schools that have graduate degree programs drops by quite a bit.

Right now, the best school I’ve been able to find for Mandarin is Berkeley. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to go to Berkeley. But would I ever have the money to live in Northern California? Not unless I win the lottery, I won’t. And in that case, I’d have private university money.

Another limiting factor is that I want to travel for foreign study as well. I won’t have the money to pay for my foreign language degree for a long time (if ever) but when I do it, I want to do it right and spend a semester abroad. Medellin looks like it’d be fun, but the rural areas of Colombia are pretty dicey right now (who knows what the status will be in 12-ish years, though). I’ve never been to Spain, but that’s not the dialect I’ve learned. Maybe it’d be helpful to get out of my comfort zone and go to Spain.

I’d love to go to China, but with the way our relationship is right now, maybe I’d be better off not planning on that. Also, with my asthma, I should probably not plan to study in Beijing if I do go. I’d love to spend time in Liaoning, though, since that’s where they’re finding all of the dinosaurs.

I loved Italy and would love to go back. Doing foreign study in, like, Naples or Rome? That’d be wonderful. Maybe doing my study in Florence, since everyone I know who’s been to Italy raves about Florence. I’ve never been to Germany (or Austria, or Switzerland), so traveling there to study would really stretch my wings.

Well, I don’t have to decide anything regarding school, at least, for more than 12 years. I already have a bachelor’s degree, so I’m hoping to go to grad school for my modern languages degree. Unfortunately, already speaking the language isn’t good enough, you need actual undergrad class credits. So, since adults over 65 who aren’t pursuing a degree get free undergraduate tuition in most states, and since I don’t *want* to pursue an undergraduate degree, I figure I have until I’m 65 to start taking classes. I’ll use that program (in whichever state I end up in) to get the undergraduate hours and then get a master’s degree.

Unless, of course, I can start making enough money actually using my target language before then to defray the cost of both the undergraduate classes and the master’s degree. In that case, I’ll start taking classes as soon as I have the money. I have a spreadsheet that I need to transition to a database someday. I have three shares of stock, ten CDs, and the savings account that I’m keeping the money in until I have the money to buy the next share of stock or CD as appropriate and it’s getting cumbersome to keep track of it all. I’ve also just added a column that will either count up to or down to the amount of money I need. I tried counting up for a while and kept thinking it was supposed to be going down, so I’m going to try counting down for a while and see how that works out.

I actually had something to say about my blog tonight, but I have to be up in two and a half hours, so that’ll have to wait until tomorrow night’s 5 am writing spree. Good night.

A Possible Solution to My Doubts About My Writing

Apparently I’ve been depressed. The problem about being depressed is that when you’re depressed you don’t necessarily realize it at first. At least I don’t. But eventually I do, and then I generally do something about it.

I think I’m coming out of it, with the help of some friends and a competent mental health professional. My executive functioning is getting better and I’m able to write again. I’ve gotten up and written at 4 or 5 in the morning every day this week. Will I ever be able to write again at a humane hour of the day? Well, that remains to be seen. But progress is progress.

Once I’m pretty confident that this depression is behind me, I’m thinking about taking an online creative writing course. I’m looking at my options right now, but I’m not ready to actually commit to spending money on this. Yet.

Well, that’s pretty much it, I guess. Hopefully I’ll have more news over the coming weeks and, since I need content, I’ll probably share that progress here. Now I need to get back to sleep.

Downtown San Antonio and Alamo Research, December 2019

Comic Sans Project Post 4

So, like I said in my previous post, I wanted to go downtown to do some research on the Alamo next. Since they had the Impeachment Eve march the day I was planning to go on my research trip, I decided to do both and make a day of it.

In mid-December 2019, they found three new bodies at the Alamo. Let me explain my use of the word “new.” I don’t mean “new” like “they were just killed,” I mean “new” like “additional to all of the other bodies that we know are there.” You see, between the Alamo’s years as a mission and the aftermath of the battle, there are a lot of bodies in/near/around the Alamo. A group of commenters on a blog I follow were discussing the discovery, and I started down the Alamo research rabbit hole.

The founding site of Mission San Antonio de Valero is generally described as being “near the springs of San Pedro Creek.” One thing led to another and I found that they believe that the location was near where San Franceso di Paola church is today.

On the blog, we also talked about the fact that the church at the Alamo today is the second location of the church on that site. We completely ignored the second location of the mission, which I have yet to find. Ooh! Maybe another research trip this week? So, on Impeachment Eve, I took the bus downtown and checked out those sites.

When I first arrived downtown, my first stop was unrelated to the Alamo at all (well, it was kind of obliquely related, in that it has a connection to James Bowie). One of the bigger figures in the area a generation or so before the Texan Revolution was Fernando Veramendi. He was a businessman and a shopkeeper and built a large house which came to be known as the Veramendi Palace. Fernando’s son, Juan Martín, was mayor of Bexar (the name San Antonio had before it became San Antonio) and then vice governor of Coahuila and Texas, the name of the Mexican state that San Antonio used to be part of. Juan Martín was also James Bowie’s father-in-law. James was married to Juan Martín’s daughter Ursula.

The Veramendi Palace stood on Soledad Street and gradually fell into disrepair. When they widened the street in 1909, they razed the building. The historical marker for the Veramendi Palace was placed inside a building which was later built on the site and housed the department store Solo Serve. The marker is still on the list of official historical markers, but they are in the process of razing the Solo Serve building, so I am now on a quest to find that historical marker.

As a result, my first stop on that trip was to visit the location of the Veramendi Palace and see if I could find the marker. I visited the hotel that is now on the site, hoping that maybe the marker is now in there, but had no luck. I asked the ladies at the front desk about it, and neither had ever seen a historical marker anywhere near there. There’s a passage down to the River Walk from Soledad Street next door, though, and they suggested I check there. It wasn’t there, either. So I pressed on and continued my search for the original location of The Alamo.

The Alamo at night with Texas flag, August 2019
I know this would be more appropriate in a post about the Impeachment Eve events, since the march is when I passed by the Alamo at night, but since I may never make that post, and I like this photo, I’m using it today. This picture was actually taken in August of 2019 when Evelyn and I took the bus downtown to see if it would be feasible for Frank and me to take the nighttime bus lineup to the B-52s concert. It was, by the way, and we did, but more on that in that post, since this caption is going to be longer than my blog post if I keep this up.

I hiked northwest to San Francesco and nosed around in their parking lot. The discovery of the site came because there was a spot in the parking lot that didn’t seem to stay paved. When they pulled up the asphalt, they found a spring. Then, while looking in that area, they found wrought iron that looks to be from the 18th century (when the Alamo was founded) and later pottery, rosary beads, and other items. They’re looking for one specific type of pottery called “puebla polychrome” which would need to be found there to confirm San Francesco as the location.

I looked around in the parking lot for the site of the spring with no luck. It hadn’t rained in a long time, though, and since the city is pulling so much water from the Edwards Aquifer these days, it’s hard to find the smaller springs unless it has rained recently. Maybe I’ll hike out there after a rain sometime.

I also walked along the street that separates the property from San Pedro Creek, but didn’t see any markers or anything. There were cars in the parking lot, so I walked up to the church, so see if anyone was in there who had answers, but the door was locked. I’m not sure if the cars were people working on the construction of the new linear park there by San Pedro Creek or if they were having some kind of private meeting in the church or the hall next door, or if people use the parking lot as a kind of park-and-ride and were taking the bus somewhere else from there. I suspect that some day when I have nothing better to do, I’ll head out there and figure that out.

I walked from there to the Alamo and walked around the inside of the building to see if maybe I could buttonhole an archaeologist. I found one man standing on a ladder working on something, but didn’t want to interrupt whatever he was doing. So I just walked around inside the church for a while and then toured the grounds.

I visited the new museum at the Alamo and found that maybe there were no actual cottonwoods on the property (“alamo” is Spanish for “cottonwood”). The name Alamo may have come from a branch of the Mexican military that was stationed there, the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras, known commonly as the Alamos de Parras, because the soldiers originated from the town of San Jose y Santiago del Alamo.

I realized at this point that it was nearly 5 and I was near where a friend works. She takes the bus to and from work and her dad picks her up at her bus stop and drives her home, so I knew she wouldn’t have time to socialize, so I just texted her to say “hey” and went on my way to the Impeachment Eve events.

I’m thinking about blogging about the Impeachment Eve events, even if their time has sort of passed. Maybe I’ll do the B-52s concert instead. I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve done my five minutes of work on my blog for today and so I can go to bed now.