Monday, April 29, 2013

Cute and Fluffy

I found out today why the cats sometimes race up to the house all puffed up.

I feared it was coyotes.
I suspected that it was another feral cat roaming around nearby.
I also suspected it might be the neighbor's dog, a small, friendly sort that actually doesn't mind cats but our cats don't know that. All they know is that it smells bad.
I always looked and never saw anything.
I thought it was odd that it seemed to happen at all hours of the day, rather than just dusk and dawn, when most of the predators are out and about.

But today, while walking in the garden with The Poop, she got all puffed up and stared and I saw it.
A bunny.
An adorable, wee little bunny.
Turns out there was another bunny, too. It ran when I scared the first, terrifying bunny away after multiple coaxings for The Poop to 'go get it' did nothing but make her sit down with her back still mostly arched and her tail still completely puffed up. The second bunny, which she also hadn't noticed, took off after the first one and made The Poop retreat back toward the house.

Yes, I know that bunnies can actually be pretty fierce and that they have wicked claws (all the better with which to dig into your intestines, my dear) but still. Seriously? The bunny is half her size, and she's a very small kitty.

The one that really baffles me is that Wizard is scared of the bunnies too. He's like four or five bunnies-worth of muscle.

I guess they've watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail too many times.
Oh well. That just means that I have to put up a tighter fence around the garden.
I wonder if the bunnies laugh as the kittehs run away in terror ....

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dread Full

Why stores sometimes dread selling stuff to young people:

A. Their wives and/or husbands and/or parents come back to the store with the 'we don't really need this' face, and some of them try to say the item is defective, when it's not. It's okay, folks, the customer service people understand. Trust them. They don't judge. They just want to know if it's okay to put the item back on the shelf or not. Your domestic financial issues are of no concern to them (although if you out yourself, the customer service rep sometimes can't help but find your story hilarious and/or pitiful, so if you don't want that in their heads, just don't say anything beyond 'I don't want it.' That's good enough for them.)
B. They take it back an hour later because their friends are going to play (fill in the blank) and they want to play too, but can't unless they have the cash to buy (something else, fill in the blank.) And, of course, they have no receipt and no packaging and no instructions even if they bought it only an hour before because they're young and that stuff is all useless (until they need it, and they're not willing to dig in the trash for it. Which, in some cases, depending on what's in the trash, may be merciful.)
C. They break it within five seconds of toying with it and try to take it back with the claim that it broke because it's defective. (sigh)

There are lots of responsible young people out there, and most don't cause problems. But, generally speaking, if they're throwing footballs down the aisles, trying on makeup and perfume, chasing each other around the store, and are too busy on the phone to talk to the cashier to check out (especially if they give attitude when the cashier tells them the balance and they have to stop texting/talking/whatever to ask 'what?') then the dread tends to set in. And all too often, it's justified.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Important Writer's Workshop at Orycon

For the writers out there (and spread the word please):

Every year at Orycon there's a quiet little writer's workshop thing that goes on, usually with very few people hearing about it. This is a great workshop with almost but not quite one-on-one time with some great pros. The pros that participate change from year to year depending on who volunteers and who can make it. Anyway, usually there's two, maybe three people and two pros per session. That could always change, but so far there's been very personalized attention from people who really know their stuff.

This year, as most years, there's a $10 fee, plus you have to have an Orycon membership. Considering all the writing-related panels Orycon puts on, this is a serious bargain for anyone who wants to pick up good advice on writing techniques and the publishing industry. Plus! Anne Bishop (author)! Larry Elmore (artist)! Liz Gorinsky (editor at Tor Books)!

For more information see this announcement here put up by the organizer, and the Orycon website. If you buy your membership now, you'll save considerably over the at-the-door membership charge.

A neat patch amid the chaos

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, the cats are lounging around on the deck with their eyes half-open ....
And I have to mow the grass. A lot.
I love this weather. Yesterday, drivers zooming by had the dubious privilege of seeing me in spandex wearing a Celtic knotwork silk scarf and a white headband (this would have been a lot more awesome if I was in decent shape) pushing a lawn mower back and forth across a lot of grass. At one point while I was messing around with the lawnmower (this was before I got it actually running) our garbage truck driver pulled up and commented on the gorgeous sunshine.
"Yeah, if I can get this lawnmower started, it's the perfect time to get this mowing done." I gestured to the orchard and the field beside it.
"You're going to do all that with that little push mower?" He laughed good-naturedly and stared with disbelief at the half-acre or whatever the heck it is.
I had to laugh too. "Yeah, well, our ride-on lawnmower isn't working, and probably won't have a chance of working for at least two weeks, so this has to get done."
He shook his head and drove off. I got the lawnmower started not long after that.
And you know, I don't pay our son enough for that damned job. Holy crud. My DH offered to pay me $20 for it. I think I'm going to keep my day job. Of course, it only took about two hours. It was just a really, really long two hours. In fact, I'm still feeling that two hours in my shoulders, hands and legs. When I woke up this morning, my thumb and pointer finger were twitching.
Fortunately, the rest of the grass is in smaller patches and not as important to get done. I have paths to where I need to get without getting soaked up to the knees on those early, dewy mornings. "But Kami, it won't look nice with all that long grass ...."
Um, yeah, I know, but considering the state of my garden ... no one is going to notice the really long grass. Trust me. It's everywhere. Having a tidy lawn-looking thing here would be a lot like having a tiny patch of lawn in the middle of a corn field. No one's gonna notice, trust me. Or, if they do, they'll have a little laugh like our garbage truck driver did.
The boy is coming over today to help me out over the weekend. I think I'm going to have him do some more mowing.  :-)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Can there be justice for Boston?

I was going to post about badly behaved people, but then someone decided to blow up what was supposed to be a life-affirming expression of human endurance and accomplishment.

Unfortunately it's very likely that whoever perpetrated this is enjoying the media exposure, indifferent to or excited by the anger and grief, and is perhaps comparing the tally to other monsters who do this sort of thing.

It's become popular over the years to place motivations, histories, abuses and justifications upon individuals and groups who do this sort of thing. They've been downtrodden/poorly socialized/minimized/suffer from mental illness, etc. Some of that is valid, but most of the time the people who are doing the analysis are trying to make sense in terms of what they would do and what would drive them to do something like this.

I find it strange that often the very people who wish to embrace diversity are very resistant to the idea of diversity of emotional capacity, mental makeup, and diversity in not only intelligence in general but types of intelligence. They may be comfortable saying, well, so and so has trouble reading, but they're really good with their hands, but would be uncomfortable with saying this person has no compassion and is really good at torturing people emotionally and physically. The lack of redeeming quality becomes too judgmental, I guess, and makes them feel bad for not seeing the bright or positive side of grim or negative people. Yet we all have met, if not intimately know, people with no regard for anyone except themselves and view the world as either an irritation or a playground in which to do whatever they want without consideration for consequences other than which impede their play.

As much as I appreciate our legal system, often they give what certain sorts of people crave, so if the bomber(s) are ever brought to justice, they will be most pleased, I believe, to receive as much condemnation from the public as possible. After all, the goal is most likely to make as much of a splash as possible in an effort to either outdo or pay homage to similar sorts. And until they get caught, they get to collect magazine and news articles, and watch the drama unfold on television and radio along with the rest of us. Maybe they're gleeful, or maybe they're keeping some sort of tally, attempting to be the best (worst) of their kind.

It may be that whoever did this is what we might politely term deeply disturbed. But regardless of the reasons we may try to place into the background and psyche of a bomber, or rapist, or pedophile, ultimately, it does not change them, or help us. What it often does, unfortunately, is give them legal, moral and ethical weasel room to extend the pleasure that their act gave them.

And Boston suffers like any victim of a crime, wondering how justice can ever be done.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Color Addiction

I have a new addiction. An art addiction. A color addiction.
ColourLovers hooked me up and now I can't stop. I don't want to stop. I feel alive, I feel free, I feel a little crazy and it's oh so good. I got to name some colors! It makes my little heart go pitter pat.

In all seriousness, just when I thought I had things figured out, I realized I was in the dark. Again. Still. So even though I've read all kinds of stuff about color theory, apparently I don't know jack and I need to get up to speed. This website is going to help me.

I hope.

Anyway, it's really fun, and I'm learning a lot. Be careful if you visit, though. You might stay, and start chasing the dragon's colorful scales just like me.

Color by COLOURlovers

Monday, April 08, 2013

Time for Tomatoes?

I planted my tomato seeds yesterday. That's really, really late. I don't know how it'll go, but I guess I'll find out!

They're already selling tomato starts around town. If you decide you can't resist, here are some tips:

Pick ones with well-developed roots. A lot of times they'll have big, fat, beautiful tops (growers encourage that any way they can through fertilizers, etc. because big tops sell better) but almost no roots. No matter how pretty they look, trust me: you do not want those tomatoes. Shop around and hold out for the good ones. How do you know? First, see if any roots are poking out of the bottom. Do a small, random sample of the rack. Zero roots showing on three or four plants means that it's very likely that the roots haven't even gotten to the bottom of the containers on any of them. Second (please don't do this to more than once--the plants will probably all be the same-ish) you can cup your hand over the container with the tomato gently supported between your fingers, turn it sideways (or upside-down if the dirt doesn't start falling off right away) and pull the container off partway to see if there are roots out to the sides. if there are no roots, as a courtesy buy the plant if the dirt all falls off and repot the plant at home to grow it out, but don't buy any others. If there are enough roots to hold the dirt together, that's a good buy and you should buy as many as you want of that variety of tomato. Bear in mind different varieties of tomato develop at different speeds, so the Early Girls may all be fine, while the Mortgage Lifters may be meh.

When you get them home, don't put them outside, even in a sheltered area. They can go in one of two places: in a greenhouse sturdy enough to withstand the weather (those inexpensive kit ones you can get at most stores are great, but they must be tied down and protected from heavy rain/hail/snow because they crush easily) or in your home.  In the home, you can set them up just about anywhere as long as they get enough light. Sunlight through the window is not enough light. Get them an aquarium light or a plant light and set it just above the leaves, as in an inch or two away. Sunlight through a window is great too, as a bonus. Make it a warm-ish area, but not in line with a heater vent as they'll dry out too fast. It helps to put a fan on them for an hour every other day or so. The very still air in a house makes tomatoes grow lazy. The stress of wind on their stems helps both the roots and stems grow stronger. Don't blow them over, but give them something to resist.

If they have nice, big root systems, pot them up to a bigger size.

Fertilize them on a schedule, but don't over-fertilize. If you luck out and don't burn them, you'll still have issues. They'll grow lots of big leaves, but often the roots become underdeveloped and it's actually the roots you'll really need to grow good tomatoes.

Waaaaaiiiit to put them outside! People say any time after Mother's Day is fine. Well, not for me. I've always regretted putting them out that early. You can ... if you protect them. But I think it's better to just hold off for at least two more weeks, or if the weather is really lousy, until June. In the meantime, keep potting them up. You'll love how big and strong and beautiful they get. Plus, on nice days, they can go for walkies outside. Just don't put them out in full sun on the first sunny day. They will burn to a crisp. Which leads me to ....

Harden them off before you plant them in the actual garden.  Lots of people have lots of different methods. I'd go crazy trying to put them out for a certain time each day, and then putting them back in. Instead, I have this spot under my porch that gets about an hour of sunlight and then is in shade the rest of the day. Perfect. They're also protected from hail that way. Generally speaking, you can put them anywhere sheltered (shade is necessary, cover from elements is optional) for a week or two until they get used to the elements. Dappled shade is even better than full shade. If you haven't fanned them, tied them to supports. It doesn't take much of a gust of wind to knock them flat and potentially break the stem.

Watch out for bugs! It's really easy for plants to get buggy when they're young, and it doesn't take much to set them back or stop growth altogether. Their most vulnerable times are in the house when they're kept moist--perfect environment for fungi--and when they're first outside in warm weather and all the bugs in the universe are looking for an easy, succulent meal. Be careful when applying pesticides. Remember, this is a food plant and you don't want to use anything that isn't rated for food plants. Also, young plants can be damaged by some pesticides. Be gentle!

And last, but not least, when you repot, consider planting the tomato a little deeper than the original soil line. If you look at mature tomato plants, the whole main stem, and often the larger side stems, start to develop roots. If permitted to crawl along the ground, tomatoes will add more and more roots, which will develop a larger, more robust root system, and hopefully more and faster-ripening tomatoes. You can help your tomato get more roots by taking advantage of this. Just don't plant them too deep--never deeper than the bottom-most leaves--and hold off on watering a bit. Don't let them dry out, but you don't want the soil around the freshly-buried stem bit soggy until the plant has gotten accustomed to the new reality. The stem can rot or develop fungal problems. And, when you plant them outside, consider planting them at an angle instead of straight up and down so that more stem is in contact with the soil, or, again, plant them a big deeper than the soil line.

I'm really looking forward to the growing season. I just hope I get the deer fence finished in time!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Violence: A Writer's Guide (Second Edition)

Violence: A Writer's Guide (Second Edition) by Rory Miller is now available in print! The ebook version should be coming out soon. The first edition, which is in ebook form only, is still up. The second edition is much more comprehensive, over 35% longer than the original. Both are extremely good texts not just for writers but anyone interested in violence dynamics.

Table of Contents:

Establishing a Baseline
Mechanics of a Physical 'Fight'
Survival Stress Response
Bad Guys and Violence
Good Guys and Violence
Gender Differences
Why People Carry Weapons
Weapon Use
Impact Weapons
Edged Weapons
Less-Lethal Weapons
Concealed Carry
Mass Combat
Violence in Other Places and Times
Being Hurt
Being Wounded
How You Die
Random Details
A Final Rant