Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Smoked prime rib.

Kinda rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?  And into my belly!

I had a wonderful holiday meal last night.

There's a lot of suffering in the world, close to home and far away and everywhere in between.  There's joy too.  May Christmas Day, whether you celebrate it or not, be full of joy, love, and beauty.

Now I'm going to have the most epic breakfast ever.

Leftover smoked prime rib.  Mmmmm ....

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The End is Not

It's always possible that the world might end, but (at least so far) it appears that the so-called Mayan doomsday didn't happen.

I'm good with that.

I didn't even want to go on Facebook because I knew the jokes would go on and on and I wouldn't be able to tear my eyes away from the screen.  Even without going on Facebook, some of the fun found me at work in the form of a printout someone made.  

I do feel badly for all the people who were truly afraid.  I heard a rumor that one person in our area was so afraid, he jumped off a bridge to his death rather than witness what would happen.

We're in a weird place in human existence.  We are aware, more than ever, of what is really and truly possible, even likely.  

Ancient predictions of doom had to contend with how to spread the news, but on the other hand, skepticism didn't have as much oomph as it does today.  If an ancient doomsayer claimed that we were about to be smashed by a comet or death planet, he or she didn't have to contend with hundreds of thousands of astronomers and banks of computers analyzing the movements of planets that say meh, not so much.

To turn that around, we're getting a clearer picture of, say, our odds of being obliterated by an asteroid in the near future.  Last I heard, it's 1 to 5500.  That's not too bad, but I'm not comfortable with the non-zero aspect of those odds.

I feel that we're more aware of some scary stuff that could really and actually happen.  What is it that compels people to make up stuff that's really, really unlikely, or impossible, and then get scared about it when there's the real stuff out there?  Not just fun, horror-movie scared, but jump off a bridge kind of scared of something completely made up?  And how many more times will we go through predictions of the planet changing its spin on a dime and invasions of dinosaur-like aliens and the coming of various beings both enlightened and, um, not-so-much ...?

It's a question that's going to follow me around for a while.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Not Right in the Head

It seems like lately we've been having more customers with, um, issues.

Here's one that didn't take the cake, but the other one was so awful I can't even write in detail about it:

Young man came in with a shoe box.  The box has old shoes in them.  "These aren't the shoes I'm returning," he said.
"Okay," I said.  "What seems to be the problem?"
"The shoes I got are about a half size too big."  He lifted a foot to show me a somewhat worse-for-the-wear New Balance runners.
"Um, okay.  Do you have a receipt?"
He does.  "I just want to know if I can trade them out for the right size."
I gaze at the receipt with some astonishment.  "You got them yesterday?"
"Yeah.  And I got good use out of them already, because I was in an accident in them."
"Oh my god.  Was everyone involved okay?"
"No," he said with a grin.  "I'm dead."
I started the return process, trying to be friendly instead of grim.  "I'll have to call my supervisor."
So she shows up, and runs through pretty much the same deal.  Neither of us want to take them back, but it's policy, so ....
"I'll need those back in the box," I told him.
"Boy, you sure don't want to touch my shoes!" he said with a laugh.  All I can do is try not to look at him so that I don't make too much of a point of revealing in my expression how much of an ass I think he is.  "Good thing that the customer's always right, huh?" he said with a laugh as he left.

The other thing, all I can say is that I really, really wish that retailers had discretionary power as far as who they will sell firearms and ammunition to.  Because the four comments the kid made were so tone-deaf, so awful, and so clearly crossing social and emotional lines that everyone present wondered if he might need to be evaluated.  The father made excuses for his son three times, and the fourth he gave his son a long look like even he might be wondering if he really should be buying firearm accessories for his kid.  Please, dad, if you're reading this, lock the weapons up and don't turn your back on him if you take him hunting.

The police, teachers, etc. can't prevent tragedies.  They can only react.  The ones closest to the perpetrators are the only ones who have a chance to predict or head off a problem.  Also also, we need a much, much better mental health system.  Not just who can and can't be admitted under what circumstances, but treatment options, research, etc.  We have a huge population out there.  Some are 'natural' and some have drugged themselves into mental illness.  What are we going to do?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Don't Be a Dork

Classic rookie flub up.

I had this great idea for a chapter in a book I'm working on and I forgot to write it down.  No prob, I thought.  This is such a great idea, I won't forget it.  For sure.

Well, I forgot it.  I know I had a great idea, but the actual contents are no longer in my brain.  Or, worse, the idea is stored someplace safe.  You know, the same way that I put something important somewhere safe and then I can't find it to save my life.


Speaking of classic rookie flub ups, if you wrote a Nanowrimo book this year (or part of one) for pity's sake back it up!  Off site!  Email it to yourself, or something.  Anything!

Because rewriting from scratch is no fun.

Unless you're doing it on purpose.  Then it's okay and it can be kinda fun just writing the good parts and forgetting the parts that are meh.

Still, that's a lot of work to kiss goodbye forever.

So, don't be a dork like me.  Write down your fantastic ideas, and back up your computer frequently, just in case.

This has been a public service message sponsored by me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Wind, She's a Blowin'

The wind, she's a blowin'.

Around here, the wind gets going pretty good.  The land makes a natural funnel, channeling cold desert winds into a breath-stealing, icy howler that makes me wonder things.  Like, how do the sparrows not turn into little feathered popsicles, much less fly?  Is the wind really blowing through my lined leather jacket or is it my imagination?  And most compelling of all ... how are there still leaves in the trees beside my house?  I have plans for those leaves, evil raking into flowerbeds to kill the weeds plans.  The wind shouldn't have to blow harder to get those things off.  I mean, my glasses are in danger of being blown off my face when I go out to the truck to drive to work.  A little leaf shouldn't be a problem.

Not that I'm super-excited about raking leaves in the wind.  I think that's a joke, or country wisdom, or maybe one of Aesop's tales.  Don't rake leaves in the wind.

But I hope to get those beds full of free mulch, bugs and all because the bugs are better than the weeds at this point.  Maybe the bugs will eat the weeds.

Nah.  That's just asking too much.

I pin the leaves down with branches, of which I also have plenty around the yard for free.  Those branches don't have leaves on them, which I think may be some sort of tree conspiracy.  If they still had the leaves attached, I wouldn't have to rake so many into the flowerbeds.

But I digress.

We have a really, really big branch up in the bigleaf maple still.  The plan is to get it down out of there tomorrow.  Will the wind still be blowing, or will it be rain?  Maybe we'll luck out and have both at the same time.  Then I could justify having a big hot chocolate with toffee whiskey in it.  Maybe even have one before and then one after.  Yeah!  I could get good and liquored up and do something super dangerous in inclement weather.

Okay, maybe not.

Hey, maybe the wind will blow that big branch right out of the tree!

Consider what it's done with the leaves, I'm thinking I have a better chance of winning the Powerball.  But I have my ticket, and you never know.  Because the wind, she's a blowin'.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

I went for a walk tonight in Bend, Oregon.  The cold in the air had me gasping and my heart pounding.  It wasn't that chilly, but I'm used to warmer, damper weather so it stole my breath.  There weren't many people out.  I suppose everyone was getting ready for Thanksgiving, or they didn't want to deal with any crowds, real or imagined.
There's something extraordinary about the high desert.  Stark, desolate beauty gets mentioned a lot, but for me it's the way my desert-raised husband behaves.  He takes full breaths, and smiles, and laughs more readily.  In a place where it's tough for living things to scratch out a living, he thrives.
We're here with family, looking forward to feasting and spending time together.  I love our family, and the desert, and the stars, and the clear air that steals my breath.  And I love the way my husband comes to life in the desert.
It's good to be here in my home away from home.
Happy Thanksgiving.  May you be surrounded by love, life and joy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Orycon 34 Promo

Here's a coupon for anyone who'd like a free copy of Masks from Smashwords!

Promotion and marketing is weird.  Not tough, not bad, just weird.  Everyone and no one seems to know what they're talking about.  And I'm not sure I want to spend time and money promoting.  I love doing little things -- designing post cards, business cards and stuff like that.  But ads in newspapers and stuff?  Trying to get on the radio or tv?  Maybe it's a hurdle I have to overcome.  Or maybe my instincts are right.

You gotta just spend time writing, and writing well, and then putting that writing out where people can find it.  Promotion and marketing stuff is what's supposed to help people find your writing.  But with the great flood of self-publishing out there, how much marketing would it really take, and how much would it cost?

Hard to say.  I guess that's why even the big publishers get it wrong with marketing sometimes.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Trials of Marketing Part One


I just spent all day ordering my first ever promotional postcards.

Okay, maybe not allll day.  But it felt like all day because I had to redo the postcards so that they fit within the bleed margins.  I thought I already had, but apparently not.  Also, apparently my powers of math are weak, because they weren't quite proportioned right.  After playing with resizing the existing postcard sides, I gave up and rebuilt them from scratch.

Then and only then was I able to upload them, order them, and I then find out that with the not-cheapest but not most expensive shipping, they will arrive the day before Orycon.


That's a little tighter margin than I like, but I'll live.  And they are done.  Done!  For this batch, anyway.  With the heart attack moment at the end of ordering time (finding out when they'll actually arrive) I think I would have preferred to go with a local big box instead and worry about getting the cheaper price later.  Especially since the shipping was scary expensive.  The moolah I saved I basically lost to shipping.  Assuming the quality would have been the same (I'm not sure it is) I think I would have rather spare myself the heart attack and buy the cards at a higher-per price and driven them home myself.

But, having said that, now that I'm a (scarred) postcard-creating veteran, I can save buckaroos by ordering larger batches with essentially the same shipping from the same company.

Or not.  These postcards may not result in any sales.  If not, I guess I'll be out about $60, which is not devastating in the grand scheme of things.  If so, it'll be money well spent even if it only initially sells me a couple of copies.  That'll be a couple of chances for reviews, a couple more chances for the word to get out, but most importantly, a couple of chances for the writing to prove itself (or not.) 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Autumn Work

The weather forecast promises a wee bit of rain soon.  I dunno.  It's clear skies as far as the eye can see right now, and warm and beautiful.

The air has that autumn bite to it.  Makes me want to wander, explore, hike, get stuff done in the garden ....  The natural cycle of things makes me restless.  Is it a deep instinct written into my DNA, to either migrate to warmer climes or batten down the hatches for a long winter?  I can't say either way, but it feels good.  The grapes are getting sweeter every day, and the akebia fruit is starting to darken from a pale green to a deep, dusky purple.  The apples are ripe.  I still have tons of pears on the trees.  Though this year was kind of a bummer as far as the veggie garden is concerned, the arbor and orchard didn't fail.  In fact, they're better than ever.

If you're a gardener, now is the time (or past time, if it were a normal year!) to get out there and clean up stuff like crazy.  The work done now is work that won't have to be done in the spring.  Put fresh mulch down, weed, edge the lawn, prune trees and shrubs, and make everything tidy.  Note to self--put away all those tools still laying around before they're covered in snow.  A rake in the face kinda puts a damper on that first fun walk through fresh snow.

It's also time to start stocking up on winter supplies.  Rice, flour, sugar, butter, etc. will go into dry storage or the freezer.  If we're snowed in, we want to have plenty of stuff on hand.  I used to have lots of canned food too, but it actually takes up a lot of room, is usually over-salted and over sugared, and it's under-nutritious.  Better to keep the raw materials around.  This year I'll probably add a big bag of frozen sausage patties and frozen chicken patties.  That one year we were stuck for an extended period, they really came in handy and unlike the rest of our frozen protein, could be cooked without thawing.  I'll get those last.  The things that keep the longest and are the least expensive I'll get first, and I'll do it in installments this year instead of making one big trip.  The one big trip thing is fun, but sure hurts when it all gets added up at the register.  And this year, I won't forget a nice big box of hot apple cider packets and two big containers of hot chocolate mix.  Yum!

Happy Autumn Weather, everyone.  I hope your last days before winter are as beautiful as mine are.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Hanging in There, Waiting

My belly is full and now all I want to do is sleep.  The problem is that there are all kinds of things I have to take care of.  Besides, if I went to sleep now, I probably wouldn't wake up again until the middle of the night.  Fabulous for getting creative work done, not so much for going to work the next day.

That's rational, intellectual stuff, though.  My brain feels as heavy as my belly and my eyes feel sooo good when I shut them.  It feels even better when I lean back and rest my head and stretch my body.  It's like an all-over body massage.

Not gonna go there.  I have a book cover to finish, and a time line I have to do.  Those take forever, especially when I get sucked into the book.  Instead of skimming I end up reading, and I'm not a fast enough reader to get through a book in a day.  Plus, I want to get something done outside.  Watering, at minimum.

It is scary dry out there.  Between the lack of rain and the brisk wind, plants are literally shriveling up and blowing away.  I'm afraid we're going to lose one of our big trees as a result.  The mountain ash out front looks really terrible.  It's mostly brown.  We're in the midst of a record-breaking dry spell, with no end in sight.  We're a little late to the drought party, but it seems that the party is still goin' on.

Not good.

I have to be careful with our well water, too.  Like any other natural resource under stress, it's fragile.  I'd like to think that we have almost no impact on the local water supply, but that would be a dangerous assumption.  We can't afford to run our well dry.  So, sadly, we may have some losses this year.  As much as all of us here in the Pac NW love the sun and miss it all winter long, just about everyone I've talked to is ready for the rain.

Once it starts, it may not end until July, but we're ready.  Until then, I have to make the artificial rain fall, and hope that our luck doesn't run out of the end of that hose.

Monday, October 01, 2012

My Silver Lining Day

There's so much sun I hardly know what to do with myself.  Should I bask?  Play?  Write while sitting or standing on the deck?  Cut flowers for the table?

I can't garden.  Well, okay, I can, but it's depressing.  The deer officially have eaten everything.  They tore through the netting over my surviving tomatoes and eaten both the fruit and the vines. 


Pumpkins, gone.  Yes, they ate pumpkin leaves, and zucchini leaves and stalks and fruit, everything. 

Okay, not everything.  Weirdly they've left the grapes pretty much alone, and to my surprise, my marionberries weren't reduced to stumps.

They've eaten so many tomato leaves and vines their flesh must be toxic. 

So, my next project is a fence.  I've got the bones of it up, but I can't do anything with my veggies this year or any other until I've got this fence up.  Even if I were to succumb to my disgust and anger and decide venison is on the menu tonight, that won't solve my overall problem.  I need to protect the garden.

The long growing season this year, stretching into October, is almost unprecedented.  Everyone has tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, everything coming out of their ears.  Except me.  I'm like Charlie Brown at Halloween, only I didn't even get a rock.

But, I have lots of beautiful sunflowers!

I guess there's always a silver lining, at least when you have clouds.  Which we don't.  But today there's a silver lining anyway.  It's a beautiful, beautiful day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New Covers coming soon

Wyrd Goat is, in conjunction with the anticipated release of Innocence and Silence, the third book in the fantasy series by E.M. Prazeman, issuing new covers.  Here's a low-res version of the first one, unless I freak out and change my mind and do it all over again!

Comments are welcome.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Great Outdoor Mind Expander

We had a little bit of rain last night, and I wore a jacket to work.  It feels good.  And, bonus, the weather report claims we'll have a nice, warm afternoon.

With the next four days off, I'd planned on writing, editing and working on book covers for various Wyrd Goat Publishing projects, but with weather like this I'd much rather be gardening.  I may have to embrace the power of 'and'.  I'll probably be sore, tired, and coming back to work at the end of it will become needed recovery time.

It'll also be a good opportunity to write, edit and design book covers outside.  I think differently when I'm outside.  Something about the environment makes different parts of my brain activate.  I'm not sure it's quantitatively better, but when your focus is creativity then anything different from the norm is better for future work, learning, expanding, all that good stuff.  So the quality of work is probably the same, with some parts getting worse and other parts better thanks to the change in external environment, but overall because I'm doing some new things, in theory my work overall in the future will be better.

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

Pretty soon it's going to get pretty uncomfortable to be outside, not to mention that once the rain begins, it would be pretty dumb to expose my computer to that.  I think it's past time to pledge to work on my computer for at least an hour outside everyday, weather allowing.  We'll see how long I stick to that.  I'll keep y'all posted as far as things that change in my prose, editing style and artwork.  Anyone else want to give the challenge a try?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tomatoes Forever

I'm still having issues logging in from home, which makes posting super-extra irregular.

The growing season is extra long this year, with unusually warm (and, unfortunately, dry) weather.  This means that even though I started my tomatoes kinda late, I'll have some ripe ones this year.  Yay!  One of my customers at work has already harvested about a five gallon bucket worth out of his garden.

I think this is the first year in three years (or more) that I've had ripe tomatoes.  Cold, wet springs have done them in.  The last time I had ripe tomatoes I kept the seedlings in my greenhouse practically forever, potting them up all the way up into gallon pots before I set them in the ground.  And they were fantastic that year.

Which makes me want to build a permanent greenhouse even more, one big enough to safely house a small propane heater to keep them toasty at night.  Because life is too short to go without home-grown tomatoes with the exception of an occasional good year here or there.

My DH and I have been making tasty lettuce-free salads a lot lately.  Here's one of my favorite variations:

Chop into bite-sized pieces: two tomatoes.  Place in a medium/large bowl, drizzle with about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and stir.
Chop up/slice:  one cucumber, two sticks of celery, half a green pepper, half a cup of black olives, half a cup of green olives, and 1-2 tablespoons (or more if you like heat) pepperoncinis.  Place ingredients as you chop them on top of the tomatoes but don't stir until the end of the recipe.

Add a pinch of salt, pepper to taste, two tablespoons of pepperoncini juice, 1 tablespoon of olive juice, and a pinch of dill.  Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese and 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar.  Toss salad, taking care to make sure the tomatoes are all mixed in well, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Orycon 34

Orycon is coming up.  Orycon 34.

My relationship with the convention has changed a lot over the years.  My first (unofficial) time, a friend and I went downtown and snooped around on a Sunday afternoon while everyone was packing up and closing down.  I think it was one of the early cons, Orycon V or maybe '84.  A Dr. Who mini-fest was playing in one of the rooms.  My friend said we couldn't go in there without a badge.  I picked up a free Buckaroo Banzai headband.  I still have it.  I'm not sure if those were being handed out to promote the 1984 movie, or if they were leftovers after it had already come out.  You'd think I'd be able to date it.  Nope.  That was in the 80's, and that was a looooong time ago.

Years later, I got an official membership and tried out the writer's workshop.  Back then the convention had a lot more editors showing up.  Different time, different economy.  I got a lot of encouragement from two people I respect to this day:  Dean Wesley Smith and Gardner Dozois.  I ended up being invited to a small writer's group.  I had no idea what wonderful relationships would grow from that group.  I don't see Mary Rosenblum and Mike Moscoe (aka Mike Shepherd) as much as I like.  Orycon is the one place I can depend on seeing them for at least a few minutes.

As I began to show up more regularly, I made some convention friends I looked forward to seeing each year, and I put up art in the art show.  I even made some sales there. 

Later still I became involved in helping out.  It started so innocently, organizing the Child Care room.  I graduated to the writer's workshop.  C.S. Cole took over for me and now runs an amazing ship.  I briefly became involved in Programming, then faded away as my work load at home and the day job ate up what little time I had to devote to it.  I still help when I can, but sadly, not as much as I'd like to.

Which brings me to this year.  I'm a panelist.  I have some e-books out.  I have a teeny, tiny micro-publishing company.  I've published a couple of short stories, with one still in the pipeline for a really great magazine.  I can't wait to announce that when it happens.  I have to decide soon whether I should try to put up something in the art show again, and whether I should print up promotional materials.  It's not as clear-cut as you might think.  I used to try to make professional connections and break in with my writing.  Now the whole writing world has changed, and I have all these great friends ... mainly I want to just hang out and listen and learn and give hugs to long-found friends.  Promoting my cover art and writing doesn't seem natural after spending so many years as a member of a community.

But there are always the new kids, and some of my buddies might want to have a look at what I've been up to lately, I guess.  

It'll be interesting and fun, as it always is.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Case of the Deadly Paintbrush

I'm having trouble posting from home again.  Oh well.

I'm trying a new product in my garden.  It's vine and stump killer.

I normally don't use much in the way of chemicals of any sort.  I try to spray the peach and cherry trees at least once in spring.  I don't always get around to it, and sometimes the leaves curl up and drop off in protest of all the fungal diseases even when I do spray.  But everything else, from black-spotted roses to zucchinis dusted with powdery mildew is on its own.  I think that we have the yummiest worm-ridden chemical-free apples in Clark County.

I think something snapped when I faced round three (this year) of cutting back blackberries out of my largest garden bed.  And we're not talking some unsightly runners.  I'm talking monster canes, some of which verge on an inch thick.  I cut these bastards down to the ground not two months ago and they're back and just as huge.  When I look at the stumps, the new cane comes out of the side of the old one just under the cut and just as wide as the original vine.

It's totally, totally evil.  I kinda have to admire it, though.  I wish all my roses were this vigorous.

So I went to the stinky aisle at our store and got this stuff.  You cut the vine and then use a paint brush to brush it on the end.  I've been dabbing it on the leaves too whenever there are some left below the cut.

The stuff didn't have a nasty smell, or make the vine blacken or instantly shrivel or anything.  Mostly it just made it wet.  I'm juggling an open container of poison and a toxic paintbrush around plants I love, cutting a few vines at a time, switching the brush to my other hand, wetting it, and dabbing the cut ends before I lose track of what I've done and not done ... and of course I'm halfway through this before I remember someone recommending adding food coloring so that I can see what's been done and not done.  A couple of times I felt something brush my off hand, only to see a valued plant, and I'm scanning the leaves looking for wet spots in case I have to prune off the poisoned region right away.  Not fun.  And once I almost fell over and that could have meant poison splashing everywhere.

But I'm determined.  I'm going to make this work.  I've done my job (mostly--I have a long way to go) and now it's the poison's turn.  Justify my labor and make my time and worries worth it.  Kill 'em, kill 'em all, down to the root.  Let's have a beautiful, blackberry vine free spring next year.  Or if not free of all those little guys I'll probably miss, let's at least not have to deal with MegaBramble.

Don't let me down or I swear I'll never, ever buy you again, you nasty, nasty chemical you.  Deal?  Deal.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ABBB Prep 2012

We're prepping for our big party of the year.  Weirdly, I love it.  Yes, it's hard work and all that, but stuff gets done.  That's rare anymore.  Lots of stuff gets started, and half done, and way too much doesn't get done at all.  But done?  That's like magic.  Suddenly I can actually see up the road before I pull out of the back driveway.  It's like being psychic.  Well, maybe not really.  But I don't have to guess if someone's coming now and pull into the wrong lane first before moving over into the proper lane, just in case.  Our wyrd window is open again.  (It's an opening among the akebia vines.)  There's a wonderful shady place for lots of people to sit.  On and on.

Of course that brings up the point that if we worked like this all the time, our place would be so full of awesome we might not be able to contain ourselves.  We won't, though.  I'm not sure many people do, or would want to.  We wouldn't have traditions like spring cleaning if we did.  Must be a human thing.

Anyway, we're almost ready.  The ongoing disaster area is slightly less disastrous, and we're at a point that it's unlikely that our guests will be eaten by cougars or get lost in the blackberries.  Party on!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Return Man

Sometimes customers bug me for no other reason than they're just being their same old selves, but on a hot day.  I try not to let it get to me.  I hope it doesn't show.  Everyone should get the same excellent customer service they always do, regardless of my mood.  But the world isn't an ideal place, y'know?  Still, I do my best.

Ordinary stuff that happens all the time that bugs me number 309:  The customer that returns everything.

I mean, what's the point?

There are people who frequently return things, and people who never return anything including things that they should return.  Most people fall somewhere in between.  But it's a rare duck that returns everything.  I should say, everything possible.  They can't return firearms or ammunition, though some try.

I had one today.  He had four items on his return slip this time.  One item had already been returned--crossed off, signed, dated, and initialed by a coworker.  He came in today (why not do it all at once for crying out loud!) to return the rest.  By the time I was done, he had one item left on his receipt.  It was for a candy bar.

Why buy that stuff in the first place?  Why does he do this to me?  Why tease us with a purchase of a whole bunch of camping gear, only to bring it back?

Sometimes it's a scam, or a theft operation, or what we call free rental.  The stuff he brings back isn't.  It's too big, it's usually unopened and always unused, and it's on a credit card (which we return back on the card ... he doesn't get cash back) so it's not like he gains anything.  If anything, he loses because he may have to pay interest on his credit card purchase.  He wouldn't have to ordinarily, but sometimes he waits over a month to bring stuff back.  

It's crazy, and it's crazy-making.  Most of the time I can shrug it off.  It's just his thing.  But on a hot day after four hours of sleep, I wanted to strangle him.  I don't always have a ton to do, but I always have something far, far more useful to do than process a return onto a credit card for stuff someone buys who has no intention of keeping said stuff.

I suppose he could be doing it for points.  But do they still give you the points if you return everything?

Anyway.  If you're going to be weird and return everything you buy, do it in the middle of the week, first thing in the morning, on a nice, cool day.  Otherwise, it's possible you'll get the hairy eyeball.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Adventure in a Box

Yesterday we got something in the mail.  Everyone should get  something like this at least once in their lives.  Not necessarily what we got, but something along these lines in this fashion.  Because getting a big wooden crate from overseas is really awesome.
Cue the Indiana Jones theme music (and ignore the existence of the last movie while you do it, please.)
It arrived while I was at work.  I didn't get a phone call from my daughter, (though my DH did--what's with that?!) so I was totally surprised.
Being surprised is super-fun, so actually I didn't mind not getting the call.  And I was working, supposedly.  I just have to publicly hassle my family once in a while.
Anyway, I got my camera and started snapping pictures.  The girl had a hammer ready.  I think she was a little excited too.  :-)
The thing was built like Fort Knox.  Now that I've read 1776 by McCullough, the name Knox has a whole new depth to it.  It's a rockin' name, and a great book.  Highly recommended.  I regret not getting the illustrated edition.  BTW, I have a weird association with McCullough the author and Support Your Local Sheriff, where the bad guy Joe Danby asks what the hero's name is and he replies with Jason McCullough in the middle of a cute, funny section of dialogue.  Also also highly, highly recommended movie.  But I digress.
Getting the box opened was no easy feat.  I had to use my very modest carpentry skills to do it.
Now you can cue the creepy Indiana Jones music where they're about to open the Ark of the Covenant.
And inside the box ... was another box!
I had a flashback to a scene in The Emperor's New Groove.  Also highly recommended.  I don't think as many people saw The Emperor's New Groove as some of the other Disney movies, which is a shame.  It's one of the better ones.  I've rewatched it many times, of my own free will, with no small children to prompt me to do so.

Inside the box was an egg-like object, something wrapped in bubble wrap that was then wrapped in brown mail packaging tape so thoroughly that you couldn't actually see the bubble wrap.
We got a knife and began extracting the contents with surgical care.  My surgical nurse provided tension as I cut and peeled the bubble wrap apart.
This was what was inside.
I gasped.
.... it's so beautiful ....
But our faces didn't melt off.  We were safe.  You can go back to the adventure theme now, if you like.
We put it up on a shelf in the entryway.  Then I started to have waking nightmares about cats hopping up there, as they often do, and knocking it down.  I could actually hear the crash of it hitting the floor in my mind in the middle of the night, followed by the skidding and scrabbling of kitty feet on laminate flooring so that I couldn't even identify the perpetrator that I would have to hunt down and kill.
Not literally kill.  Or even hit, or curse at, actually.  Mostly I would just hug a pillow and rock and sob and tear my hair and throw ashes on my head.  Part of that is very Greek, appropriate in this case.

So we moved some books out of our built-in bookshelves and there it sits in a greek wine amphora-sized cubby.  The cats may still knock it down, but they would really, really have to work at it this time.  It's also nicely at eye level.
It's a replica, of course.  If it was the real thing, I would have to put it in a box.  Preferably a glass box, but back in the wooden box in the meantime, and of course I would never get around to getting the glass box, and no one would ever see it.  Which would be a shame.  But it's a replica, so it's all okay.

I won't have anything nearly so nifty to post about in a while, so enjoy the moment.  I'll get back to our regular boring stuff tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

In Representing Myself, I Have a Fool for an Artist

No Carey.  The neighbors haven't caught that cat yet, though, so there's still hope it's her.

My thoughts are turning toward OryCon.  I've been invited to be a panelist again (yay!).  I'm just hoping that by then I'll be able to officially announce which issue of a certain magazine a certain story of mine will be appearing in.  It's a very, very nice magazine, and I'm excited to be in it, but I haven't gotten the contract yet, so it's best that I muffle my enthusiasm for now.

I will have some sort of card or bookmark or something to hand out, though, which I have to design.  It's funny how I can get a job to do a book cover or a promotional poster and I just sit down and do it, but I freeze up when it's my own stuff.  Human brains can be really dumb sometimes.

I don't think it has very much to do with looking foolish, though it feels that way.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that when I'm doing something for someone else, I'm aware that if they don't like it or need changes, I just do them and I feel that I've satisfied their requirements.  When I'm working for myself, I have no one to really provide outside opinions or judgements that has a stake in the result.  I can ask opinions of friends, but other than their kind enthusiasm and hopes for my success, they don't have a dog in the fight, per se.  They can't really look at it in terms of whether it represents my work well, if that makes sense.  I also fear that they must measure their response in such a way that they can be helpful without bruising my feelings, and each one of them estimates my skin thickness and aptness to bruise differently.

Or maybe all this mental contortionist silliness is just another form of self-sabotage.

Anyway, that's my latest struggle.  The good news is that I have deadlines now, and I do really well with deadlines.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Learning and Remembering

I'm still having issues with blogger.  I'm trying to fix them.  It's a frustrating process.  Hopefully, I'm more or less back, at least for now.

It's nice to be able to post from home again.

Still no Carey.  Our neighbors are trying to live trap a cat that's been hanging around their barn near their tractor.  I'm trying not to get my hopes up.  They think it's a long-haired gray kitty, but long-haired and gray mean different things to different people.  I consider the Poop mostly white, but many would consider her gray, especially people who think in terms of horse colors.  Just Google gray horse and you'll see what I mean, or check out the wikipedia article.  Our neighbors have a gray horse, so ....

In the meantime we'll keep visiting the shelter.

The kids and I went to the fair yesterday.  Long, busy, hot day, but we had fun.  I did book research while I was there, because I can't seem to help myself.  During the pirate parrot show, I make notes about how the parrots behave and look and sound.  In the horse arena, I watch the open halter competition and notice how every horse and rider have different personalities, and how some work together better than others.  I peruse the stables and stand near a horse (with its owner's permission) to reacquaint myself with that sense of living mass when you're near a large animal.

It's been a long time since I've gone riding, or played with a parrot, etc.  Our brains think we remember things accurately, but what we actually remember are broad brushstrokes painted over a main single experience supported by other less important experiences.  It's very diluted until you put yourself into a situation where your mind transports you back far more accurately and combines that experience with current information.  I'm happy I had the chance to do that.  And the Knights of the Realm show was a blast.  They changed the story, thank goodness, from the one last year where the unchivalrous knight won.  The boy took a piece of a shattered lance home with him.  He found the way they cut the lances to make them safe (although they had no eye protection--ack!) fascinating.  It's very convincing and spectacular at a distance.  I wonder how many lances (and volunteers!) they went through before they got the cuts just right.  Yikes.  I was also extremely impressed by the rings competition.  I think most people watching it had no idea how difficult it would be to ride at a perky gallop toward a line of rings and put a lance through it.  The 'large' rings were maybe five inches across, the small probably less than four inches in diameter.  They've had enough practice to make it look easy, though they missed often, and I'm sure it wasn't on purpose.

I'm hoping to make it to the neighboring county's fair.  It's smaller, and I'll see more of our neighbors there.  At the moment I'm done in, mostly from the heat but also because of my work schedule.  It's back to split days off, at least for a little bit.  With my one day off spent at the fair, the week ahead looks  long and weary.  At least we have air conditioning at work.  When I'm cool most of the day, it makes it easier to sleep at night, even when it's so hot and muggy that the kitties are still molten piles of fur at midnight with no sign of relief before morning.

Stay cool and check out your local fair.  You might be surprised, especially if you haven't been in a while, just how much fun they are.  And if you're a writer, don't forget to take notes.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Sometimes, Fun Things are a Chore

Another animal day.

First off, woke up and looked for Carey on the deck, like I do every morning.  No Carey.  It's really hard to keep my hopes up when I hear the coyotes cry all night.

Then, deer, not once but twice.  They savaged my super-expensive ($2.45 for only 25 seeds!) broccoli, but I didn't see that.  What I did see was a doe with her spotted fawn helping themselves to our apples.  Which was fine, and actually really cute.  We have more apples than we know what to do with this year.  There's really only so much applesauce, apple pie, apple tart, apple juice, baked, fresh, and caramel and/or candied apples a person can eat, you know.  They did a nice job of picking the fallen ones first, before moving on to the ones hanging from the tree branches.  How nice.  Every time a car or truck went by, the doe would look annoyed and the fawn bounced around or dashed like mad for cover.  They left, and then returned for more after about an hour.

Last but not least, the suicidal baby robin.  I tried to save it.  Really I did.  The girl and I chased it around until I caught it and put it up in our big trees.  It should have been able to hop and half-ass fly from branch to branch all the way back up to the nest.

But, of course, when I went back out to change the sprinkler, there it was.  The Poop was stalking it.  She ran for it at the same time I did.  She dropped it because I yelled at her at the same time that one of the parent robins dive-bombed her.  The Poop jetted for the edge of the tree's dripline while I dutifully put the stupid, spotted thing with not enough flight feathers or tail to fly back into the tree.  All the cats were then banished to the house.

If it's still alive when we get home, and on the ground again, we might have a guest for a week or two while it finishes fledging out.

Wildlife.  Ugh.  Didn't I used to marvel at it when I was a child?  Actually, I still do, and it's neat that we get to experience this up close most of the time.  Sometimes, though, it makes me a little crazy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Sad Dreams

I'm at Papa's Ice Cream & Deli, having a yummy sandwich with my DH and the girl, who just passed her final exam at driving school.  Soon now, she'll have enough practice to try for her driver's license.  I'll warn y'all if she gets it.

Still no sign of Carey.  I sometimes (often, actually) dream about our animals after they've gone missing or died.  In the dream she came home in through the dog yard.  For a few minutes I was completely, ecstatically happy.  I wanted to run and tell the girl, but first I had to pet her and pick her up and tell her what a good kitty she was.  Then, of course, I woke up.  The dogs were barking, so I went out in a robe and slippers and looked around just in case.  No cats, no coyotes, no raccoons, no deer.  The dogs calmed down after I went out.  I think the fog, which was pretty thick and smelled like dry dust, kind of freaked them out and my going out and looking around reassured them.  Or maybe they thought they were all in trouble.  Maybe both.

I spent a few hours typing on a book and then went back to bed.  Today is going to be a loooong day, with maybe five non-consecutive hours of sleep.  I feel okay now.  I'm dreading the carb crash later ....

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: The FURminator: My Hero

Not that long ago I had lunch with a writer friend of mine, and we got to talking about my ten thousand animals.  She suggested that I use a furminator on our dogs to help strip out their winter coats and help prevent mats that might form too close to the skin and eventually cause serious sores.  She used a big one on her horses, and extolled the virtues of the might furminator to me while we had salad.  I was intrigued, but her description of the price tag made me flinch and file it under the category of pipe dream/luxury item.  I was under the impression it was an electric thingy, too, for whatever reason, and decided that I'd just shave the dogs if needed.

Then yesterday I ran into a friend of mine at Petco and she recommended it too (she uses a small one on her cats) so I caved and looked at them.  They're
not electric.  I got a medium one for long-haired dogs for my dogs.  I'm glad I didn't get the large one partly because of the extra money, and partly because although it might have been worth it on the big sections, the larger comb would have made it harder to work on their legs and stuff.  And I was happy that it wasn't as expensive as the one my friend used on her horses.  Size makes the difference, it turns out.

Finn had way more undercoat than I realized he had.  Working with the regular undercoat puller I use, I would have cleaned up his hindquarters in a few minutes and considered my work done.  But running the furminator over his supposedly-clean back was enlightening.  Yikes.   I pulled almost as much undercoat off of him as I did Brian, Brian the Fluff Generator, Brian the Puffy Source of Endless Hair, Brian the ... you get the idea.  

For full-time (or in our case, mostly full-time) outdoor animals, pulling out the undercoat isn't just a matter of neatness or appearance.  Those old undercoats hold a lot of dirt, and way too much insulation value for our increasingly warm temperatures.  I'm really glad I helped Finn rid himself of it before August. Heck, if I hadn't pulled it, it might have hung around until his winter coat came in and shoved it off within reach of our normal brushes, and by then the dogs would have been dangerously filthy, even with baths.  It's just too hard to wash that stuff out, even using the awesome rubber brush to help work the suds in down toward the skin.  

Brian had some mats in his fur that I buzzed off so that I could save him some tugging prior to using the tool.  He hates having his mats pulled.  (So far I haven't let them go so long that they end up matted close to the skin but they are clingy ...)  It turns out that I shouldn't have buzzed them after all.  The furminator pulled out the remaining smaller mats very easily and Brian never gave me the 'owie mommy' look he does so often when I'm using a standard undercoat puller.  I ended up not shaving much around his seat and pulled the mats with just the furminator with no trouble at all.  It's kewl, though.  His tail looks a little funny right now, but he'll be fully feathered in no time.

Getting that undercoat out turned out to be especially gratifying in Brian's case.  Both dogs had dirty undercoats, but Brian's hair is a different consistency than Finn's more labrador retriever-like fur.  The dirty undercoat pulled free of his guard hairs and an almost pristine white summer undercoat.  It was almost as good as giving him a bath.  Combing with a nice bath, he'll be in excellent shape to endure the heat we'll most likely experience in August.  These dogs do really well in very cold temperatures, but tend to suffer in anything over 75 degrees F.  The last two years I've taken Brian to get shaved, and this year I planned to shave him myself (after buying a spacer--the one I like to use on him broke) but now I wonder if it might not be unnecessary.  I think just keeping him groomed, and taking him to the river on 90+ degree days, will be sufficient.

The girl sat down and (very gently) furminated Wizard, our big, fat, very happy and formerly feral tiger tabby shorthair cat.  He loved it.  As an experiment I ran a nice cat brush over him.  We didn't get much.  We ran the furminator over it and pulled lots of undercoat and dander along with it.  They have small ones for cats, but I think that we'll use the one for our dogs on the cats as needed, being careful not to push because the teeth on the one we have are sized for long-haired dogs.

Furminators are expensive, but I think they're worth it.  Now that I have one, I don't see any reason to visit a groomer, which will pay back the worth of the comb by next summer, and that's for an ultra-minimalist grooming schedule (once a year.)  

One minor note about the instructions.  They suggest bathing your animal first and letting it fully dry before using the comb.  In our case, I think it makes more sense to use the comb as a kind of dry bath.  And then, when we get around to a big, wet, soapy bath, we won't have to try to clean old, wooly undercoat hair that shouldn't be there in the first place.  And that undercoat really hinders getting the soap down to the skin and makes rinsing that soap out much more difficult.  

Half of Brian's pile.  The rest is outside.  Bear in mind we brushed him last week to get the worst of it off.

Also, because they're pricy, I suggest that folks living within a budget to shop around and maybe investigate getting a used one if possible.  If you do get a used one, be sure to clean it thoroughly and disinfect it in case the animal it was used on had a transmittable disease.  I don't usually recommend a particular vendor, but in this case, Amazon has one of the best prices for new ones available.

I'm happy with the tool.  The dogs enjoyed the attention, and are tons cleaner, lighter, and cooler.  Wins all around.

Update:  Carey is still not home.  We made some calls and put up ads on Craigslist.  We also left some fliers around town.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.  Thanks for your well-wishes.

Friday, July 20, 2012


The beloved Fluff, Carey, is missing.  We're looking but we don't have as much hope as I'd like to have.  Between the weasel and the huge number of coyotes (more than I've ever heard since we've moved here) ... yeah.  She's not on the side of the road.  We called our local veterinarians to see if anyone brought in an injured cat matching her description.  Today we'll go to the shelters with 8 1/2x11 pictures of her.  I miss her very, very much.  While eating fried chicken, her favorite, I wanted nothing more than to see her waiting patiently by my feet, expecting her share.  The other cats don't mooch for food, so it felt like I was eating dinner alone.  I had a terrible, empty feeling that my daughter (Carey is her cat) felt the same emptiness, though we sat in the same room together.

The other kitties are being forced to stay indoors much more.  They were out for only a few short hours yesterday.  The whining and wheedling first thing in the morning was amazing to behold.  They expect to be let out before we do anything else--before going to the bathroom, breakfast, coffee--preferably before we're awake enough to do anything except stumble to the sliding door and open it.  They'll get used to it, eventually, I think.

The other thing I miss is seeing Carey on the driveway, watching Chase race the cars driving by.  If it was a coyote, that's probably where he grabbed her.  She never goes out of sight of the house except to go next door to our down-the-hill neighbors, where I suspect she has a kitty friend.  Our neighbor takes in strays too.  He was the first one we talked to when she went missing, to see if she might not be there.

Living in a rural area is wonderful, except ...

Of course, in town, there's the traffic issue, and stray dogs, and raccoons, and people using rat poison ...

The world isn't a safe place.  I won't lock up all our animals 24/7 to keep them safer.  Might as well keep our chickens in tiny cages and the goats locked up under artificial lights, etc.  If I could go back and do things over, I wonder if it might not have been better to keep Carey an indoor cat.  She's a long-haired kitty and they do better indoors full time anyway.  But she loved to sit on the driveway, and sleep on the deck, and walk out to the barn and to the veggie garden while we did our chores.  I wonder why she's the one that's missing, when the other kitties go so much farther afield and don't spend as much time close to us when we're out.  Just one of those things, I guess.

Veronica, aka the Poop, sleeps where Carey used to sleep inside the house.  She's been crying by the sliding door most of the night the past few nights.  It's hard to say if she wants us to help her look for Carey, or just wants out.

There's a chance, of course, but hope is fading fast.

Carey with her best friend, Veronica

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: Tardis Room and DiPrima Dolci

Ate at a couple of spiffy places recently:  The Fish and Chip Shop on N. Killingsworth in Portland, Oregon, known as the Tardis Room, and an italian deli just down the road.  Awesome for lunch, a pleasant walk, and dessert.  Parking is on the street and limited near the Fish and Chips, so be forewarned if you want to meet with a group.  The decor in the Tardis Room was lots of fun, and I loved the fresh, hot fish and chips there.  Bear in mind that the chips (fries) and the batter on the fish has next to no salt--you're expected to be a grownup and salt your own.  I also used lots of vinegar on mine, and the lemons that came with the fish were nice and fresh.  I had the cod, and it was very, very good, fresh fish.

At DiPrima Dolci we sat out on a back patio in the sunshine amid a very nice, romantic garden all overgrown and bountiful.  I bet it looks even better later in the year.  If you love gardening and would like to combine it with fresh cannoli and not-too-sweet but rich and tasty cheesecake, this is the place for you.  I'd also like to thank them profusely for having high quality tea and not pouring boiling hot water over it so that it ended up overcooked.  It was perfect--rare in this day of Stash or Taos tea with hot water meant for espresso searing it so that it tastes muddy and sour.  I recommend going on a day when it would be nice to sit outside, and prepare to relax completely.

Oh, and I have to say that I appreciated the portions at both places.  At DiPrima Dolci I ordered a small cannoli and RL ordered the marbled cheesecake.  I didn't feel guilty snarfing as much as I did--the whole cannoli and half (or more) of the cheesecake.  Much as I adore Rose's giant cake slices, I always mean to take half of them home and end up eating them all in one sitting, which does nothing good for my manly waistline.  At the Tardis Room, the two pieces of cod and the sides were plenty for a heavy lunch, at least for me.  There's a large (probably three pieces) available for folks with bigger appetites than I want to have.  Yes, I would have gladly eaten a third piece of fish, but I'm glad I didn't.

If you're local, plan to check it out and worried about the neighborhood, don't be.  It might be a different story on a hot night, but everyone seemed friendly and nice, and there weren't any people trying to intimidate or conduct questionable business there on a Sunday afternoon.  It's not the prettiest place I've been in Portland, to be sure, but I loved the houses and gardens, and it looks like the locals are dedicated to keeping their area safe, beautiful, and welcoming to visitors.

I hope to visit both places again soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cuteness, with teeth

I was on my way home the other day when something darted across the road.  It was so thin, with a sharp face and long, trailing tail held out in line with its narrow body, that dart described its movements almost perfectly.  Legs scuttled rapidly under its body, making it travel with nary a bump or a squiggle, until it vanished on the far south edge of our property.  It was the color of a squirrel, but definitely not a squirrel.  I asked the girl to grab our copy of North American Wildlife and told her to turn the page to weasels.

Yep.  Sure enough.  I'm pretty sure it's the long-tailed weasel, but it could have been an ermine, too.  Just barely over a foot long including the tail, maybe six ounces of animal tops, they regularly kill rabbits.  Our cats are all over 6 pounds and they very, very rarely take on rabbits.  When they do, it's usually a juvenile.

Weasels, of course, are famous for wiping out whole coops of chickens.  So our days of forgetting to close in the chickens (forgetting=looking outside at the beautiful evening and thinking meh, they'll be fine) are over.  We have just the two, and I treasure my faithful biddies.

I knew this day was coming.  We have to fill in the floor of the coop with cement.  Dang it!  I guess we'll just have to do it in our copious spare time.

On the plus side, the weasel was adorable.  Seriously.  I can see why some people in medieval times kept ermines and such (very occasionally) as pets.  Ferrets are cute too.  Will I have one as a pet, ever?  No thanks.  But I'll play with the ones my friends keep any time.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Weeds, Tea and Soup

The garden is growing really, really well.  Too well, in some cases.  Can you have too much bok choi? Apparently so.  Sadly, the goats don't like it, which I find weird, but useful in that the deer haven't bothered it at all.  I guess I have to eat faster.  Something to think about--bok choi, when cooked, forms a nice, not-too-thick gel.  It might be a good ingredient for soups.  If an experiment comes out all right along those lines, I'll post about it.

Anyway, I noticed something that produced a duh moment for me.

I have areas in my garden where not just the plants, but the weeds are positively huge.  It made me realize that the places that have small weeds are under-fertilized.  Sooo ... when I put the beds to sleep (heh) in the fall, when I put down my homemade fertilizer and cover things over, I can put extra in the places where the weeds are really pitiful, and less where they're gargantuan.

Not that I'll have weeds, of course.  Everything will be perfectly manicured and weeded by then.

But if I did have weeds, I could totally use them as a gauge for how much fertilizer to put down.  Aaaand, the beauty part, if I overdo it in the fall, its not going to burn my veggies because I won't have any in the ground at the time.  It'll have time to mellow for many months before I plant again.  Remember, though, if you add amendments in the fall, if they're super water soluble, they'll just wash away into the soil too deep for the plants to reach them in spring, so either protect against rain or just wait until after your seedlings sprout in the spring.  Don't fertilize when you plant seeds.  It messes them up when they germinate.  If you must, scratch the fertilizer in at least six inches, preferably farther, away from your seed line.

Speaking of fertilizer, I have a scary bucket of chicken poo waiting by.  I haven't decided what to do with it.  It's super hot, and only partially composted.  I'm tempted to spread it between the smallest of my zucchini plants and maybe make tea with some of it to water with around the fruit trees.  Chicken poo is awesome fertilizer, but you have to be careful.  It burns, baby, burns!  There's really no way to measure how hot it is, so I'll have to guess.  In cases like that, it's good to remember that you can always add, but you can't take away the damage from too much once it's done.  It's not like too much salt in your soup, where you can stick in a couple of celery stalks or add potatoes to fix it.

Soup again.  I must be craving it.  I think I'll make soup for dinner tonight.

Watch out for the weather.  Stay hydrated in hot spots, and look out for lightning.  We had an incredible lightning storm just east of us.  It sounded like fireworks show off in the distance, and for a while I thought that's exactly what it was, a post-4rth show, until I looked out the window.  Often there were multiple flashes at once.  We don't usually get that kind of weather around here.  I was very, very glad I could appreciate it at a distance instead of being directly under it.  It must have been terrifying.  Here's the weather report for it.  Photos here.  BTW, it takes three to four hours for me to drive from my home to the worst-hit areas of the storm, but I saw the closest edge of it quite well from our deck.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


I've been having trouble signing in through our family-shared computer at home.  Sorry about the long silences.

I decided to start walking every day, preferably twice a day.  Re-decided would be a more accurate statement.  I decide these sorts of things and then, to no one's surprise, they don't happen.  For some bizarre, reason, though, I re-decided, put on my walking shoes, asked if anyone wanted to come along, and then I went out.

I had one taker.  The sun hadn't quite set, but it was heading toward the horizon fast.  Fireworks had already started to boom and pop in the distance, but around us the people who were home waited for dark.  The boy and I went up the road a short distance and then turned on one of those rural roads where you never know what you're going to see around the next bend or over the steep hill that would make a great sledding slope if it wasn't so darned dangerous.

We talked, and I huffed and puffed and did a bit of rue-ing but mostly I loved listening about the boy's friends and school and life.  We startled a deer, and then snuck up on it.  It's not a real sneaking up, but if you startle a deer, generally they don't go very far.  They'll find someplace where they have enough room to run and see and set themselves at a 90 degree angle to you and listen.  And wait.  The boy saw her first, and moved me so I could see her through the narrow opening in the brush where she stood, both of her huge ears open to us, her large, dark eyes focused toward us but perfectly capable of seeing almost 360 degrees around her.

We also tried to spot birds.  I wanted to get another look at an indigo bunting.  I could hear them everywhere, but despite being brilliant blue, they're tough to see.

The experience inspired me to get out early and walk again this morning.  Scared the same bunny twice--he came out to eat miner's lettuce on the edge of the road.  When I get home, I'll have dinner, put my feet up, and then before I sink too far down into cushiony, weary bliss, I intend to go out and walk again.  And again tomorrow.  Always again, because I love it.  I'd forgotten that.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Customers that make me cringe

Had a return today from a gentleman who didn't like the flip flops he'd bought.

"These have two problems," he told me very seriously.  I put on my best grave attention face.  "First of all, I want you to see this."  He took a flip flop and pushed it across my counter as if it were a Hot Wheels special edition car.  It went about six inches.  I had a really, really hard time not laughing, especially since he looked even more serious.  "Did you see that?" he exclaimed.  "I wore those on a vinyl floor and almost had a very serious fall.  You should pull these all off the shelves immediately."
I imagined demonstrating the Hot Wheels flip flop to my boss and almost laughed out loud again.  I think my serious face cracked a bit around the edges.  "I don't think they'll let us do that."
"Then you'll just be part of the pay out for the lawsuit against the manufacturer when someone is seriously injured in these."
I thought about people suing because they wore high heels in sand and broke their ankle.  Mmm, not so much.
"The second thing is that they have this cloth on the bottom that's peeling off," he said.
"Yeah, that's really bad."  I finished processing the return, thinking about kids skating gleefully around hardwood floors in these things, and why more people don't sue manufacturers for making those hard plastic bottomed slippers that are far, far worse than the Hot Wheels flip flop.  But I left it alone.  "Sorry those didn't work out for you."
He gave me that 'you'll be hearing from my lawyer' look and stalked off.

I also had a lady dash in.  "I just bought this," she said breathlessly, setting hair color on the counter.  "I just want to trade it for a lighter color.  It's way too dark.  I didn't notice until I got outside."
The color was 'Clove,' a very dark, reddish, almost black brown.  "Sorry, I have to run this as a return unless we're trading it for the identical color."
"Can I go grab the one I want?"
"I need your information--"
She left her ID on the table.  I filled out the stuff while she was away.  When she came back, she had a very, very dark brown, but without the reddish tones.  "This is the one I want," she gasped.  "How much longer will this take?  We're buying a pickup truck and I have to meet someone."
And you're buying hair color ...? Now?  Oh, never mind, it's not worth it.  "Just take this to the cashier and you're all set."
"Thank you."
"You're welcome."  Enjoy your almost indistinguishably dark brown hair color.  It'll cover your light brown hair ... a lot.
I expect to see her back tomorrow.

Monday, June 18, 2012

TMI and Stuff No One Likes to Think About

It's official.  I'll be going in for a colonoscopy in about a month.  Yay.  The peace-of-mind part sounds great.  Some members of my family have a genetic hiccup that makes us pre-disposed for polyps, so it'll be good to find out if I got dealt that card or if it passed me up.  The bathroom time (I expect I'll be reading rather than writing, and reading a lot) and the anesthesia, not so much.

At least it'll be a twilight anesthesia rather than general.  I'm not a big fan of general.

Anyway, I get to walk up to this particular milestone sooner than most.  I do hope that I can amble on by like most people.  But the fear--of discomfort, of complications, of what they might find--is very low key, and being a little nervous and then more than a little uncomfortable for a little while is a small price of admission to pay for life.  We're made of meat.  All of us.  Until someone comes up with a way to make that meat invulnerable, or makes our various parts easily and quickly replaceable, we gotta take care of the meat we got.

Every time I feed my goats and chickens (though Beatrice sometimes doesn't let me) I put my hands on them.  Are they thin?  Too plump?  Do they feel strong?  Are they bright-eyed?  When I come home from work I say hi to all the dogs and cats, and it's the same thing.

The sad thing is that I don't check myself over nearly so often.  Good thing that I have a working nervous system, or I'd never figure out when I'm hurt or sick.  Unfortunately the nervous system isn't hooked into everything.  There's a whole bunch of stuff that has few or no symptoms, and a whole bunch of stuff that has symptoms we can ignore or write off as our imaginations, or stress, or whatever. It's sooo important to get these checkups, whether you have insurance or not.

And that's another thing.  I think people are far more willing to spend a couple of hundred bucks (if they're lucky) on having their car checked when it makes a funny noise or doesn't steer right or blows smoke than they are to go to the doctor for the same or less money because they don't have insurance.  Really?  I wonder how much regular folks spend on pop in a month.  I don't drink it, but if I did, I might save the pop money for a few months and go to the doc instead.

Okay, that was totally self-righteous and catty, and I don't care.  Go to the friggin' doctor, people!  Save your pennies for tests and get 'em done.  If you're 'that age', better start saving more in the thousands rather than hundreds for those nasty tests like I'm going to have done.  But get it done.  It's a necessary expense like food, rent, etc.  And call your mother, for pity's sake.  Seriously.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Meatloaf. Mmm.

I had a pound of hamburger, and I wanted to make something simple with ingredients I had just sitting around the house that I could eat on for a few days.  What to do, what to do ....

First, I got some fresh bok choi from the garden and chopped it up into small pieces.  Mmm, bok choi.  I had a portabella mushroom, too.  Chop chop chop into cubes.  Bergenost cheese in the fridge.  I'm briefly tempted by smoked gouda, but I realized that bergenost is just the thing to go with the portabella mushroom.  I grated a whole bunch of it.

By now I had a whole pile of non-hamburger stuff, way more than I had hamburger.  Not a biggie.  I set the oven for 350 degrees F and put a small cast iron pan in there to heat up.  Then I put the hamburger into my bowl.

Seasonings.  Hmm.  Salt, but not too much because there's already cheese in there, and I squeezed in some ketchup, which is also salty.  Can't have meatloaf without horseradish.  I got a tablespoon from the drawer and scooped out a big glob.  Of course I have a big enough jar of horseradish that I can get a spoon in there.  Who doesn't?  A tiny bit of mayo, a sprinkling of mesquite seasonings, and then I stirred the ingredients together.  When they were more or less even, I washed my hands with soap and hot water.

The hot water feels good.  Have to scrub under the nails, of course.  And then it's mushing time.  I kneaded the hamburger like dough.  It was cold, and it made my fingers cold, but it was fun, like playing in mud.  When it held together more or less, and the mushrooms were nice and pink from absorbing blood, I washed my hands again and got that hot pan out.  I rolled the hamburger out of the bowl into my hands and made a loaf.  When it hit the hot iron it hissed and sizzled beautifully.  I loaded it into the oven, and washed my hands in that lovely hot water, and waited.

When it came out, it was delicious.  I had it for lunch and dinner for two days, and it never got boring.  And ... best meatloaf sandwiches for work, ever.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Best in the Bunch

I had a brilliant lunch with a friend yesterday.  We went to a couple of stores after lunch and snooped around for things.  I found some discounted clothes for work and got much-needed cat litter.  I think she had fun, and I know I did.  I think I've found a shopping buddy! We're going to have a shopping date soon.

She has this great way of looking at shopping that fits the dynamic in my household perfectly.  It seems the boy and I are gatherers living with two hunters, my DH and the girl.  My friend's son asks her, when they go shopping, whether it's going to be a hunting or a gathering trip. I like that distinction.  Maybe it'll become part of my family's vocabulary too.

Gatherers like to look around and see if they can find something better.  They like to touch everything if they can, and sort through piles seeing if there's a shinier object mixed in with the others for the same price.  This makes me think of how I used to shop for stuffed animals.  I looked through what appeared to be identical, mass-produced critters, but I was looking at the spacing between the eyes and the ears for the one that clicked for me.  To me, at least at close perusal, they all looked a little different and I wanted the cutest one.

When it came to clothes, though, my inner gatherer hid away in terror.  Through jr. high and high school, I wasn't bullied, but I was ostracized.  At least in high school I finally found a group I could be a part of, (I'm still close friends with one of them!) but clothes weren't on that group's radar, so I continued to dress myself defensively.  The idea that jr. high imprinted in my vulnerable brain was that since I was laughed at and looked down upon even more when I wore something new, it was better to keep wearing the same things over and over, and buy things very similar to what I already had.  And I hated shopping for clothes.  It was stressful.  I didn't want to buy anything, because it felt like anything I chose would be make me an easy target for weeks.

Anyway, in college I went on a non-shopping trip with a whole new set of pals (it took me a year to find them but once I did, again, I'm still friends with some of them to this day), clothes shopping became a delight.  We couldn't afford anything except ramen and frozen peas, so we didn't buy anything, but we tried on all kinds of clothes.  Clothes we didn't dare wear.  Clothes someone else picked out for us.  Clothes that made us look like entirely different people.  Thinking on it now, I wonder how much this experience of clothes changing the outward personality influenced the ideas behind Masks.  We had so much fun, it shocked me out of my hatred of buying clothes.  And I've never looked back.

Now hunters just want to kill it.  They want to buy something convenient, within their price range, that will function the way they want it to.  If they don't see it, they don't mess around looking hopefully at other things, nor do they consider upgrading, or shopping for something else 'since we're already here.' I can't speak to the inner process in a hunter's mind, but I expect that shopping is a boring but necessary chore that ought to be made as quick as possible.  If something they grab is sufficiently defective that it won't work, they either return it or just let it collect dust.  Of course some things I've carefully picked out don't work out sometimes either.  Maybe gathering behavior doesn't gain me anything.  But I like it.  It's not a chore.  So I persist in it.

You'd think that grocery shopping would turn into a sort of hunting trip for me, but it really doesn't.  I'm still gathering.  The only reason I get it done quickly is because of familiarity.  I know, of the things I buy, what's available and what a high-quality item in a given batch will look like.  So, if I snatch the first bunch of celery in the center top and stick it in my cart without a backward glance, it's not because I'm hunting.  It's because within that glance I knew immediately it was a good bunch and sorting through the whole bin will not produce a better one.

It's a fun and potentially useful way of looking at the world.  I wonder what I'll learn from my friend next time.  I can't wait to find out!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Wacom Bamboo Create Tablet Review

I've been producing a lot more art lately, thanks to the Bamboo Create.  It's an awesome tool for creating book covers.  One of the things that I found fascinating was that although this is apparently considered a non-pro art tablet, or as one reviewer put it on Amazon, a 'fun' tablet, the only limitations I ran into were the limitations of my own artistic abilities.  I would not have been able to create the covers for Masks and Confidante without the tablet.

The only features I found lacking related directly to the software I downloaded.  For example, in GIMP, there's no way that I've found to create a virtual group of color dabs that I can then mix and have several different colors on the 'bristles' of the same brush that would then behave like a brush dipped into several colors before it's applied to the canvas.  Oh how I long for that!  I'm sure it's available somewhere or somehow.  I just haven't found it yet.  Also, I haven't figured out a way to tell GIMP or any other software program to, instead of a gradient forming in stripes along a line (so that if I'm making a ribbon, the ribbon is blue then green then yellow then orange then red then violet) to make a ribbon with the gradient running across the surface.  So in my rainbow example, the center would be yellow and the edges would fade out to blue on one side and violet on the other.  I'm sure it's possible.  The way I've gotten around it is to start with a thick line of violet, then a slightly thinner line of blue on a new layer, a thinner one of green on yet another layer, red, and then yellow and carefully using the smudge and erase functions to fudge the colors so that they obliterate what I want to disappear and leave behind only the colors that I need.  Obviously, making a rainbow ribbon this way would be a huge pain.  It's much less so with a tablet then it would be a mouse, but still.  That's a lot of switching between layers, and a lot of pen strokes.

But, back to the tablet.

Whenever I needed more control over an area, I just zoomed in on it.  And I learned to be patient.  My computer isn't the fastest in the universe, and so I had to sometimes wait while the pen figured out where I was and what I was doing.  I wait less now then when I started out, because I learned how close to hold the pen so that it didn't have to reconnect with the tablet.  I also found that by pausing briefly in one place whenever I moved the pen too far away and then back into range again, I recovered more quickly than waving the pen around near the tablet trying to find my spot.  In fact, now that I've had some practice, the vast majority of the time I'm working as fast as I can without having to wait for the tablet at all.  Also, in a matter of a few days, I quickly learned how to switch between mouse, keypad, touch pad and the Bamboo Create which helped me to do things like save files, name files, move between programs and multitask.  Lots of fun.  The tablet was much easier to learn how to use than the software that I interface with when I use it.

It does burn my battery power quickly, so I learned that it's best to have my laptop plugged in while I'm using it.  The pad comes with extra tips.  I bought extra tips in addition to the ones that came-with, under the assumption that I'd burn through them quickly.  So far I haven't had to change tips yet.  When I do, I may experiment with a different kind.

I also ordered a protective cover made for the tablet, but by another company.  Initially I was disappointed.  The cover wasn't big enough to cover the entire tablet area, and it wasn't small enough to fit between the guide corners interior to the 'touch' area, so there was no tidy/pretty way to apply it.  Also, it sticks on rather than being a magnetic-style screen protector like I expected.  Maybe those don't work on tablets.  I don't know.  It bugged me to basically 'tape' it on.  But once I had it positioned I was happy with it.  I had the area on the tablet that used the most protected from the pen tip (which makes little, tiny scratches on the surface that I'm sure would have built up over time) and the cover makes a very yummy surface to work on as far as resistance to the pen tip I'm using.  (It's the one that came originally with the pen.)

Overall I give the tablet a four happy kitty review out of four happy kitties.  I expected a lot less, considering the reasonable price.  I thought I would eventually have to upgrade, but I have no plans to do so.  So far, this tablet does everything I need it to do.  I doubt I'd get more quality work done more quickly with a 'better' tablet.  If I do upgrade, though, I'll let y'all know!

Links in case you're curious ....

The nibs I got don't appear to be available anymore.  I hope there wasn't a problem with them!  Mine had a couple of felt ones in the mix.  I included a link to the 'normal' extra nibs.  Also, the center link to POSRUS is for the Bamboo Create protective cover I mentioned.  I know, it looks like another tablet ....

Extra Nibs

Friday, June 01, 2012

I'm Mean

Retail employees see a lot, and some of it, frankly, we don't want to.  Makes us mean.

Take yesterday.  Two girls came in looking to do a little foraging.  These are awful girls, pre or early teens--hard to tell.  I can't help but imagine what terrible parents they must have, but that may not be necessarily so.  I've seen some nasty kids come out of great families, and some great kids come out of the worst situations you can imagine.

Anyway, I was checking and they got into my line.  Yay.  So I was already in a bad mood when they started picking on the customer I was helping ahead of them.  This disabled lady lives a full, independent life and she is tough as tough can be, but sweet and my kids like her a great deal.  I suspect that she knew that the girls were being mean, but accepted what they said at face value when the taller one said, "I like your eyes.  I think they're pretty."  The lady smiled from behind her coke-bottle glasses, her two lazy eyes wandering independently of each other, and said, "Thank you.  I'm just a brown-eyed girl.  You like brown eyes?"
The girl snickered so subtly that I almost missed it.
The lady noticed the shorter girl had zebra-striped fingernails.  "How did you do that?  The lines--they're so clearly defined."
"Oh, we were real careful," the taller girl said, and this time the smaller one couldn't help but smirk.  The nails, of course, were just a paste-on pattern.
I wondered if they thought I didn't say anything because I thought they were amusing, or because they thought I was stupid and didn't realize what they were doing, or because I'm just another mindless drone with no personality too meek to stand up for others.
Actually, I didn't say anything because I didn't want to pick on someone less than half my age and half my size.
Of course now I'm writing this blog post.  So much for that ... I'm not a very nice person.
After they bought their candy they started making the rounds.  Sadly, we didn't catch them, but they stole all the tampons out of the tampon machine in the bathroom.  (So that's why we never have any!  Mystery solved.)  Then they hovered near the birth control/intimates area.  My boss watched them, and overheard something about needing a pregnancy test.  He was too close for them to make the grab.  I guess the condoms they stole last time didn't work.
My cattiness emerged from its long sleep.  I'm not proud of it.  It's just there.  The girls went out the door, back in, out again, back in, circling, trying to get that pregnancy test but didn't manage it.  As far as I know, all they got were the tampons, unpaid-for of course, and the candy, which they forked out a couple of bucks (probably begged for--we've thrown them out for begging for money from customers before) and some coins, and probably used the bag to get more candy for free on one of their many rounds.

The second-to-last time the shorter girl was almost in tears.  "I'm sorry!" she cried to the other girl, who waited outside with a nasty expression on her face.  And I laughed.  Because they were so mean, they couldn't even be nice to each other.  I didn't even feel bad about it.

I know.  I'm terrible.

The last time they came in I laughed at them again, knowing that by this time every employee in the store was watching them and they wouldn't get squat.  I can be mean too, just like them.  It's human.  I think the difference is, I try to spend as little time being mean as I can.  These girls, who want (and often get) everything that adults have with none of the responsibility, who delight in mocking others, and who take advantage of others whenever possible, who steal and lie and cheat and leech off of others and yet are never satisfied, who feel cheated themselves and probably wonder why they can't have what everyone else seems to have, who most likely know that others look down on them and try to believe that it's everyone else's problem ...
Will be unemployable.  Even if they get a job, they won't keep it because they'll get caught stealing.
Will (maybe even soon) end up pregnant and living off of government money, assuming their health lasts long enough to take them into adulthood (age of majority adulthood--I don't know if stunted creatures like them are able to grow up.  That's a terrible thing to realize when you're looking at such very young girls.)
Will likely spend time in jail, wasting precious moments in their lives they will never get back living among criminals who will be mean to them and who will teach them how to become even nastier and less likely to live any kind of life above what the weakest of animals can scrabble together.
Will never know real friendship.  I thought that maybe at least they had each other, until I saw the vicious look in the taller girl's eyes after she turned on the shorter one.  (For spilling the pop they shared, it turns out.)
Will not understand the joy of real accomplishment or know the true value in striving or creating or being part of a community that doesn't despise them.

I hear the song "Mean" by Taylor Swift running through my head.  ... and a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life and mean ....

And I feel badly for them.  The person they picked on is so much better off than they are.  She is an independent, beautiful and kind woman, liked and appreciated by so many in our little town.  Those girls will never get anything from me, but that lady will always have my undivided attention and help whenever she asks for it.  She spared the unworthy a smile and a moment of her time.  They, the poor foolish children that they are, felt superior to her.  They probably always will.  I doubt that they noticed that I was laughing at them because they were too caught up in trying to score emotional/social points on each other.  I know that they didn't realize I wasn't cheering the lady on, and that I planned on writing about them, revealing their petty natures and stunted souls to the world.

I'm just not as nice a person as that disabled lady.

I'm mean.