Playlist for writing

I have a playlist that I use when I’m writing horse-related stories. There are two I’m working on currently, one short story and a novel-length, tentatively entitled The Lady in the Tree. The playlist corresponds approximately to events and characters in the novel and shows their progression through the story.

Post-chiropractor lameness check

The chiropractor said to check Kasane’s lameness on her front right leg a week after her adjustment on November 15th. I have very carefully had Kasane on rest: no riding, no rambunctious mornings. She’s been very good about it. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a change in her front leg lameness. The good news is that her rear end no longer has the waddle.

I took two videos to check her lameness four days apart.

Here’s the baseline video from earlier this month:

This video was taken one week after her adjustment. Rear-end waddle is gone but the front right lameness is still present.

The last video was taken 10 days after her adjustment, with the same lameness on the front right. It’s slightly more pronounced in this video since she had been goofing off before the video. That’s what I get for trying to lunge her by myself while taking video.

The vet is going to come back out next week for further evaluation.

Got some of the wonk out

The chiropractor adjusted Kasane today. She was seriously out of whack. Her sacroiliac joint (SI joint) was rotated up on one side and down on the opposite side, which caused her to have waddle when she walked or trotted.

We’re hoping that the correction in the back was causing the lameness in her front right.

Kasane seemed to feel a lot better after her adjustment. She has 72 hours off and then I’ll check her again to see if there is any improvement in her lameness.

I’m so glad that we had the chiropractor evaluate Kasane. Next appointment is in a month to see how the adjustments are holding.

Finding a wonky lameness

Today, I had planned to ride Kasane and do a little trot work. We have been just walking up and down hills on the trails to help her recover from the windpuffs (swellings above the fetlock joint). She has had them for a while, but the one on her back right leg was about 20% larger than the one on her right. The vet had told me to give her bute for 3-5 days, keep her up at night, put standing wraps on her back legs, and limit our rides to 20-30 minutes of mostly walking.

When I went out tonight, she felt off a little at the walk. It wasn’t anything that seemed consistent. It was just not right. She trotted off immediately when I asked her to. Periodically her gait didn’t sound even. A trotting horse has a steady two-beat rhythm. Her footfalls didn’t sound quite right, but not all of the time. She normally engages her hind end and lifts her back when we trot. Instead, she was heavy on the forehand and felt like she was leaning on the reins.

My friend at the barn noted that Kasane didn’t seem to be moving right. The second I gave Kasane a loose rein and we trotted off, her head started bobbing slightly. She was lame. I got off immediately and took the video below.

Her gait is so strange: a waddle in the back and like it is a lot of extra work to move her front right leg forward. It is very strange.

The barn manager noted that Kasane had been cutting up in the field most mornings. it’s been cold and she gets excited when she knows it’s meal time. She’ll run, buck, do sliding stops, and other things that aren’t good on joints that need to heal.

The tricky thing with lameness is do you leave the horse up and take a chance that they might get stiff or do you turn them out and hope they don’t further injure themselves. I turned Kasane out, hoping that she would not be stupid in the morning.

Help Gleann have life-saving surgery

My friend Saigh has been through a rough year with her furr-babies. Her dog Gleann needs to have surgery. It’s scheduled for this month. They are trying to raise the money through Fundrazy. Help them, if you can. If you can’t, please spread the word.

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CM QuickFire TK on Mac OS Yosemite

A friend of mine at work gave me my first mechanical keyboard, an older, well-loved Razer with either brown or blue switches. I loved typing on it. Unfortunately, the connector cable has been losing its connection and it would quit working.

If you are a touch typist like me, mechanical keyboards offer a different feel than regular keyboards. The feel of each key can be customized by changing switches. Google differences in switches for mechanical keyboards and you’ll find a wealth of information. Brown switches are usually one of the best choices for typing. They are clicky, but not as clicky as the blues.

I found a CoolMaster QuickFire TK on Amazon for about $55 (Warehouse deal), which is a great price for the mechanical keyboard. (It’s also backlit and pretty, which doesn’t hurt.) The keyboard is short enough to fit in my small keyboard drawer, too, which is a bonus. However, the product description does not include support for Mac OS. I took a chance and ordered the keyboard. (Any firmware updates will have to be done from a Windows box or VM, which will be interesting since I don’t have either.)

I’ve found two issues with the keyboard so far: the numlock didn’t work (only had access to arrow keys) and the keyboard didn’t work after the system went into hibernate. I have to reboot the computer to correct the issue. Unplugging and plugging back in the keyboard doesn’t seem to help.

The Geek Hack keyboard enthusiasts forum posted a solution to fix the numpad issue by using either Karabiner or ControllerMate. I opted to use the Karabiner solution and so far it seems to be working great. Numpad issue is gone. We’ll see if that corrects the other hibernate-no-worky problem.

Girth trials and tribulations

Ever since i got back from Horse Camp, I’ve had trouble with the saddle on Kasane. She had most of July off because of the heat and gained weight. Good grass and less work = chunky monkey. The Arc de Triomphe anatomical girth has been rubbing behind her elbows. My dressage saddle, a Prestige Venus K Monoflap, has been fitted to Kasane about ever six months.

Kasane has a well-sprung rib cage, short back, and a narrow area for the girth to fit. When she is over weight, then the space for the girth is even smaller. Her larger belly can push the saddle forward.

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I bought two girths from Amazon to try. The two girths I tried today are the Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief girth and the Tekna contoured dressage girth. Here is a picture comparing those girths with my Arc de Triomphe dressage girth (bottom).

Three anatomical girths

The Tekna girth (middle) has a very wide end, but it’s soft, so I thought I would try it. The Shoulder Relief girth (middle) also has a wide end behind the buckles. I hadn’t realized how much an issue these would be when I ordered the girths.
Girth width comparison

The Tekna girth was not a good fit for Kasane. The large end hit her elbow. The entire girth moved when she walked. Tekna girth

Here is what the saddle looks like with the girth on.Tekna girth on saddle

The Shoulder Relief girth was a better fit, but still too wide at the ends. I had hoped that the shape of the girth would bring provide more space. Unfortunately, her confirmation isn’t built for this type of girth. Shoulder relief girth

Shoulder Relief girth

Here is what the Arc de Triomphe girth looks like on the saddle. It has the narrowest ends and fits her best of the three. Arc de Triomphe girth

The other two girths will go back to Amazon. I’ll use the girth cover until I figure out a solution so she doesn’t get girth sores.

Resources for Occultist Pathfinder class

I’ve been playing some Pathfinder Society games at the local gaming store. Two of the gaming groups I’m in used to play Pathfinder but switched to D&D 5th edition. Reverting to Pathfinder feels very strange. It’s not as annoying as D&D 3.5, but it’s close. So. Many. Rules.

I normally play a Ranger or Bard, or some variation on striker with some healing capabilities. I liked the idea of the Occultist class: great flexibility, lots of options to be melee, ranged, or spell-focused. With all of those options, comes complexity. Here are the resources I found for playing this class. The Occultist guide was by far the most helpful, both in creating and playing an Occultist character.

Three viola trials

I have a Franz Hoffmann Amadeus starter viola from Carlo Lamberti Symphony ($1250) and Carlo Lamberti Sonata ($750) violas. I had originally wanted a European instrument to try but was sent two Lamberti instruments instead. They are both made in China.

I went back to the local string shop to see if they offered the same type of deal. The shop had a Grottano viola in stock that was between $600 and $700. The Grottano viola is made in Romania and has a deeper tone than the Lamberti violas.

I’ll post again when I have played them for a week. Maybe I can add pictures and sound samples.

Help Gleann and Grainne

My friend Saigh has had a lot of bad luck this year. She lost one of her dear pets and shortly after two more of her dogs were diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. Medical tests are expensive, whether they are for people or for pets. It’s heart-wrenching when you don’t have the funds to do the tests that your loved ones, whether human or fur-covered, need.

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If you can, please consider helping Saigh out.

Undead Mimosa tree

Mimosa trees won’t stay dead.

Deck Project 1, Mimosa 0

Last summer, I had my deck rebuilt. The home inspector had flagged the deck as a “needs to be repaired or replaced, seek professional help” type of project. The boards were rotting. Nails poking up and the joists were soft. The tree cutters removed the Mimosa tree adjacent to the deck a few months prior.

Old deck with mimosa stump
Old deck with mimosa stump

My contractor did a fantastic job. He changed the location of the steps to the backyard to be more centered. Unfortunately, he had to sink posts next to where the Mimosa tree used to be. The trunk had to be sanded to below dirt level.

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Deck Project 1, Mimosa 2 saplings

I’ve been very pleased with the deck and will finally be able to use it since the homeowner association’s house painting project for my townhouse row is completed. Deck is stained, everything looks good. I started shopping for deck furniture.

Until I looked outside and saw this:
Mimosa through deck boards

Mimosas never die. Their roots sprout new trees. That’s two saplings coming up through the deck boards. Underneath the deck looks like this
Undead Mimosa 1

and this
Undead Mimosa 2

I am currently waiting on a response from the HOA. The tree contractor who cut down the tree suggested to the HOA that the landscaping company take care of the saplings by spraying them with poison and clearing them out. A coworker suggested drilling holes in the Mimosa roots and spraying Round-Up in the holds to kill the roots.

I definitely can’t have the tree roots coming up through the deck boards.

Preparing for horse camp

Horse camp! Kasane and I are going to Horsemasters Horse Camp! We went last year and had a ball. She was amazing and we learned a lot. Camp is only three weeks away and I’ve been working on getting myself and Kasane in shape. We’ve upped the number of rides per week. We’ve made huge progress in our work (just what we’ve learned about trotting and cantering could be a bunch of posts).

The coolest thing about camp this year is that my mom is going with me! Since she moved to North Carolina, she has been riding Rajiyyah and doing very well. It has been awesome to be able to ride with Mom. She has made great strides in her riding.

Last year at camp, one of the jumping instructors said that Kasane could teach me. She could give me confidence. In some cases she has, although I still have anxiety about jumping even small stuff. I’m working on that, too, in lessons. My current home work is to trot over a ground pole without rushing it.

She is such a cool horse to ride. For a while, it was difficult for us to pick up and maintain the correct lead at the canter. She would switch leads, some times on the front or on the back. Her lead changes were due to subtle shifts in my position. Looking down was enough of a weight shift for her to roll into a canter if we were trotting. She is so sensitive to my position and cues that she pushes me to be a better rider. Flying lead change will not be a problem for her.

Woohoo camp!

Movement and subtle shifts when riding

I had a great riding lesson with my instructor on Friday. First the good news. Kasane and I have improved in maintaining trot tempo and in our ability to rate (slow down or maintain) speed. She’s listening really well and we are working well together. She isn’t pulling on me anymore.

We were asked to ride a curve along the long side of the ride. It’s a movement from one of the dressage tests (Training Level test 3, I think). As you come along the long side, you go from the outside, ride to X to touch off on the center line (and change bend) and then go back to the last letter on the same long side. It was the first time we did it, and Kasane was amazing.

It’s a great feeling when we have major improvements like this between every lesson. Yay!

My instructor asked me what I wanted to work on, so I explained the issue I’ve been having when Kasane and I canter. She picks up the canter without any trouble. She’s very good about the cue. Before I ask her to canter, I sit the trot a few paces, slide my outside leg back behind the girth, and gently squeeze. At times, it feels like she enthusiastically jumps into the canter. Once we are cantering, then sometimes she’ll swap off leads in the front or back or even do a flying lead change. Her flying lead change feels like she does a four-footed hop and then lands on the opposite lead. She’s very coordinated and smooth about it.

I had no idea what I was doing that might cause her to change leads, swap off leads, or jump into the canter. Was I tense when we cantered or leaning too far forward? Both things that I know I do. I thought maybe the cantering problem was because of lack of work. We’re starting to ride more but we had a lot of time off because of weather and winter. We’ve been walking up and down hills to help build strength. I figured the cantering issue was because of something I was doing but I couldn’t tell what it might be.

This is where lessons pay off. Kasane was jumping into the canter because I was shouting the cue at her. Shouting means that I was moving my leg back and then squeezing. All I had to do was bring my leg back. That’s it. That’s enough of a cue for her. Well, that and upper body movement, which I’ll explain below.

Kasane was swapping leads because I was giving her mixed cues. She was trying to do what I was asking. She is a very sensitive mare and feels subtle shifts in body weight. When I asked for a canter on a circle, I would look where I was headed, which turned my upper body and shifted my weight in my hips from heavier weight on my inside hip to more weight on my outside. That weight helps determine which lead she should be on. So my smart girl said, “Ah! You really want me to be on this lead, okay!” and she would swap. When I canter on a circle, I have to make sure I’m sitting back (instead of leaning too far forward) and have my upper body turned towards the outside of the circle. My line of sight is through her ears. I can see where I’m going still, I’m just not looking in that direction. Upper body position keeps my legs in the correct location.

She picked up the correct lead every time I asked for a canter. She would swap when I shifted my upper body position because that minor shift changed the cue. She did precisely as I asked.

Cantering is hard for me because I tense up. Not because of anything Kasane did, but because of a bad fall I had on Isis many years ago. It’s funny how the fear of something stays with you and you anticipate having to get out of the way of a falling horse after she trips. Except Kasane doesn’t trip and I know that. I am still tense at the canter. We’re working on it, and that’s what we have to continue to do. In order for me to be more relaxed at the canter, I have to do it more often. Oh, and sing while I ride because you can’t be nervous or tense when you sing. At least, until your muscles start to give out and you cramp up.

The other thing my instructor pointed out is that when Kasane picks up the canter, I suddenly become invisible as a rider. It’s rather like “Okay we’re cantering now, let’s not do anything that might make her stop!” That’s what you do with a green horse. Except she isn’t green anymore. It’s funny how you get used to riding a particular way and then you don’t think about changing it until someone (like my riding instructor) points out how I’m riding that I need to be more active. She was exactly right.

I have homework. First, more cantering for fun while telling myself “I love to canter! It’s my favorite thing!” Second, doing more exercises to strengthen core muscles. Third, when riding, don’t think about riding figures from dressage tests. Ride intuitively from area to area: “This feels like a good place to canter.” Not just down a straight line, but doing corners and reversing. Never the same thing twice because smart horses will anticipate the same thing after the first repetition.

The big revelation for me was realizing how sensitive Kasane is. She was trying really hard to do what I asked her (even if I wasn’t aware of a change in cues). It just made me really proud of her. I have to learn so much more to be able to ride her well. She pushes me as a rider, in many good ways. I feel very lucky to have her as my riding partner.

Kindle Keyboard

I originally purchased a Bear Kindle keyboard case for my Kindle Fire 8.9″ tablet. They keyboard was rather like typing on a chicklet keyboard and was unresponsive. I am a touch typist and very picky about the touch on the keyboards that I use. I never used the keyboard case because it felt too bulky and was frustrating to type on. I hit more incorrect keys than correct ones.

After reading some reviews, I opted. to try the Belkin keyboard case for the Kindle. It feels like typing on a regular small laptop keyboard. Like any tablet keyboard case, it takes some time to get used to the smaller key size and layout. The touch on the keyboard is excellent. Amazon had the Belkin case as Warehouse deal for about $40. What a steal.

This blog post is the first thing I’ve used the keyboard to type and I’m quite happy with it. Except that the quote key is farther in and I keep hitting return instead. Just a matter of getting used to it.

Enabling Edimax AC1200 adapter on El Capitan

I replaced my reliable Linksys 54G router with a new ASUS model available from T-Mobile, a “Personal Cellspot” router available to customers. It’s a rebranded ASUS AC1900 wifi router, which, for $25 deposit, is a no-brainer.

I live in a row of townhouses with a lot of wifi networks. Every house seems to have one or more networks. Lots of conflicts. The wifi apps that can help recommend a channel to use to have better reception didn’t find any available channels on the 2.4 GHz networks.

I have a 2009 Mac Pro upstairs, at the farthest point away from the only cable connection in the house. To get network connectivity to the Mac Pro, I could use wifi, pull an ethernet cable, or use a powerline adapter. I tried the wifi option first, with mixed results. Hackintosh sites reported good luck using the 300Mbps Wireless N PCI Express adapter from TP-Link (model TL-WN881ND). It’s a relatively inexpensive card, too. I installed the card and the kexts and got Mountain Lion to recognize the card. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a stable wifi connection. The same thing happened with the Edimax AC 1200 dual-band USB adapter. It seemed to work okay, but then would drop connection every few minutes. Neither the PCI card nor the USB adapter was usable.

I ended up purchasing Netgear powerline adapters. They have worked surprisingly well. I have one plugged in behind the router downstairs and another adapter plugged in next to the Mac Pro. The speed tests show that about 12 Mbps down and 5-6 Mbps up (sometimes faster, depending upon who knows what).

After I installed the Personal Cellspot router tonight, I decided to revisit the wifi adapters and see if anything had improved. Edimax hasn’t released the El Capitan drivers for the AC1200 EW-7822UA yet. (Drivers for other OS X versions are available here; you can register to be notified when the El Cap ones are available.)

I found instructions on how to extract the OS X 10.10 drivers from the Edimax OS X 10.10 DMG and get them working on OS X 10.11 for the Edimax AC1200 wireless dual-band USB 2/3 adapter. The Mac Pro can handle simultaneous network connections (has dual ethernet ports, for example). I got the wifi adapter working and set the priority network to be wifi. The adapter is currently connected to the 5Ghz 802.11 AC network.

And then ran some tests using speedof.me, a speed test that runs HTML 5 (not Flash). This site has been my baseline test for the powerline converters and wifi connection speeds.

The ethernet connection I’m using is via a powerline adapter. It connects at about 12-15 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up (6 Mbps up on a really good day).

With the wifi adapter plugged into the USB 2 slot on the front of the machine, I am getting 35 Mbps down and 12 Mbps up.

When I move the wifi adapter to the USB3 PCI card in the back of the machine, the signal strength is slightly diminished. However, the speed is rock solid. I’m getting 61.2 Mbps down (with a max speed of 117.5!) and an upload of 12.22 Mbps, which is basically the same.

Damn! That’s an improvement! The only problem is the wifi adapter sometimes causes the system to randomly reboot. That’s not good. I’ll have to see how frequently that happens.

Update Feb 19, 2016: The wifi adapter driver causes the system to not awaken from hibernation or sleep. When the system goes into hibernation or sleep mode with the wifi adapter active, the system does not respond to keyboard or mouse movements. The only way to reactivate the system is by a hard reboot. However, if I unplug the adapter and quit the wifi enabler software prior to leaving the system, then hibernation and sleep function as expected. The system becomes active again after moving the mouse or typing on the keyboard.

Update Mar 21, 2016: Edimax released drivers for the USB adapter today that support OS X 10.11. I’m going to try these tonight and see how they work. Hopefully the hibernation issue is fixed.

Update Mar 26, 2016: The new drivers appear to work fine. Instead of having to use a Wireless Utility app to control the adapter, the new driver now integrates with the Network control panel and provides a control menu.