Aug 262015
 

 

In Roanoke, Virginia this morning, there was another tragic shooting. This one has made the news mainly because the victims were a reporter and her cameraman, and it happened while they were live and on the air. And as is nearly guaranteed, the shooting has stirred up the debate on gun ownership in the US.

I have to admit it, I got caught up in it. I sat and wrote more than two-thousand words full of statistics and pleas for people to maintain some semblance of civility when talking to one another about it – all the while fearing that my words were going to fall once more on deaf ears. I’ve seen it too many times to believe otherwise, and suppose I’m a bit jaded these days.

I was in the midst of writing my interpretation of the meanings behind the Bill of Rights and an explanation that there is a proper way to go about amending the Constitution when I got a phone call from a friend asking some advice regarding (ironically) firearms. We talked for a few minutes, until I had to go into town to get a haircut.

And when I got back home, I found the most wonderful thing had happened. I was no longer upset. All the rhetoric on both sides of the argument? Meaningless. At least for me. And at least for now. Don’t get me wrong, the shooting was still a tragedy. And my sympathies go out to the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. And I hear that the shooter, the “disgruntled former colleague” has since killed himself. And believe it or not, my sympathies go out to his family, as well. Not to him, but to his family.

But all that angst I had while writing that original blog post was gone.

So I deleted what I had written. I started over. And what you are reading here is what I want to post, instead.

As I posted when defending the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage, I still think the Constitution of the US is a pretty good idea. Want to argue with me about it? Sorry, not interested. And I’m not going to rant online about how “if you believe something different than I do, you can just unfriend me right now!” I’ve seen too much of that childishness lately. And unfortunately, it is usually from people who I otherwise respect in most other regards.

These can be emotional issues. I get that. But to let your emotions go so far that you are willing to stomp your feet and act so childishly? No thanks. Not for me.

I guess I pity people who have so little control over themselves that they can’t stand to be around someone who doesn’t believe as they do. I choose to view things differently. I choose to embrace our differences. I think we’re better because of them.

I have a very good friend who still believes in people. He believes (at least on most days) that our society will right itself. I hope he’s right. But when I watch all the petty and divisive bickering over who’s right and who’s wrong on whatever the topic du jour is, I have to wonder. And when I see people frothing over whatever soundbite is waved in front of them, instead of using their own brains and looking for the deeper story I get… well, like I said – jaded.

I recently went through the Bill of Rights to refresh myself on what the first ten amendments were all about, and I realized that none of them are actually being followed by our government. NONE of them. I think that’s what really gets to me. It’s not the arguing and ranting by John Q. Public. It’s the constant use of one group of people against another to continually erode the very rights that allow us to argue with one another in the first place.

But whether you believe as I do or not, it’s very unlikely that either of us will ever change the other’s mind. And if you’re curious about where I stand… as far as I’m concerned, the Second Amendment recognizes a person’s right to keep and bear arms, and shall not be infringed. Period. Once again, if you want to argue, I’m not interested. Not today. Maybe another time. For now, if you have read this far, you only have yourself to blame.

In my opinion, the Second Amendment wasn’t intended to make sure we can hunt our food, or go to the range to put holes in paper targets. It was intended to allow the people to defend themselves against the tyranny of an oppressive government. It was intended to act as one of many checks and balances within and over the government. It was intended to be a constant reminder to those in office that they serve the people – not the other way around.

Two people were killed today. It was a tragedy. But to me the bigger tragedy is the fact that their murder is now the topic du jour, and it’s being used as just another political chess piece. Maybe that’s just me – once more being jaded.

Like I said, it’s unlikely that anything I have to say here is going to change anyone’s mind. So before I turn this into another long and rambling political post, let me just end with this. I love you guys. You are all wonderful people in your own way. And while we may not always agree on things, I value your friendship – each and every one of you.

So that’s it. Stay safe, and I hope to have something a bit more cheerful to post next time. Bye

 

 

 

 Posted by at 7:34 pm
Aug 192015
 

It’s Wednesday again. Time once more to scramble to figure out what to write about in my weekly post. The truth is, it’s been a relatively quiet week. I suppose I could go through a boring list of things I’ve done, but I don’t know that there’s much there of interest for most people.

The sunsets lately have been absolutely beautiful and I’ve posted a few pics of them on FaceBook (here’s one of the prettier ones). But I realized that it could quickly become irritating (or boring) for people to see a parade of one beautiful sunset after another so I stopped bothering folks with them.

As I wrote in last week’s post, Ghost Story was put on hold due to lack of bandwidth. Tomorrow is the beginning of the new ISP billing cycle, so I should be able to get that issue resolved, and (hopefully) get the story published in the next week or so.

I’m sure most of you know I’m a bit of a prepper. I’ve made no secret of the fact. However, since moving to the Tulsa area, I have found a group of likeminded folks who meet up a few times each month to learn and exchange ideas. It’s the Tulsa Preppers Group, and while most of them don’t know me from Adam, they’re nevertheless a friendly and helpful group. I’ve learned quite a bit from them, and look forward to learning even more.

Note to self – I need to get going on a book for prepping on a limited budget. Title could be something like Prepping on a Dime. Yeah, I like that. More of us need to get some accurate prepping info out there to balance the “Doomsday Prepper” junk that’s so prevalent.

Hmmm…. This coming from a guy whose biggest seller is a post-apocalyptic novel. I suppose there’s a reason the Doomsday stuff is so prevalent, isn’t there? It makes for a fun read. But Prepping on a Dime could be more of a reference book for the common Joe. There’s a big difference between fact and fiction.

ITMT, I need to get back to writing. I’m working on the new version of Chucklers again, and I now have a long ways to go with it. Wish me luck, and as always, stay safe! Bye

 Posted by at 10:30 am
Aug 122015
 

This has been a frustrating week for my writing. No, that’s not right. It’s been a frustrating week for publishing. The writing is already done. Ghost Story is written. Done. Fin.

And with some help from folks in the RoTaNoWriMo writing group, I’ve got the dreaded “story description” done (thanks, Susan J ). I’ve even got an updated “About the Author” written. The thing is DONE!

Except it isn’t. (sigh)

I must have tried more than a dozen different times, a dozen different ways, to upload the manuscript into Kindle Direct Publishing, and each time the sample download file doesn’t pass muster.

Okay, it passes muster as far as Kindle is concerned. But it has problems from my perspective. Initially it had highlighting artifacts in the nighttime view for Kindle (the white text on a black background – see the picture to see how some of it was showing up). I played with several possible solutions on the advice of people much more knowledgeable than I (thanks, Nathan) – saving it as html, downloading and using a couple of other programs to convert the manuscript, or saving it as an older version of MS Word, or loading the html directly into KDP, or standing on my left foot and hopping while singing Gregorian chants as I uploaded. Nothing worked. I either had highlighting issues, or spacing issues, or chapter heading issues, or some other problem as each attempt introduced its own little problem.

Now, let me throw yet another monkey wrench into the works. When we moved here into rural Oklahoma, internet service was limited. AT&T, Verizon, even Cox… none of them are available where we are. When we moved and I checked on them, they said there weren’t even any plans to put service out here anytime in the foreseeable future. So we have Exede satellite internet (a subsidiary of Wild Blue), and with Exede we have a 10 GB data limit per billing cycle. I’m not sure what happened, but this month I got a notice that I was already 7GB into it by the second week. Also, Microsoft loves to push updates on the second (and sometimes the fourth) Tuesday of each month. Guess what yesterday was? So checking my data meter this morning shows that I now have 1GB left, and I have to make it last another week. And since each publishing attempt involves having to upload a manuscript, convert it, then download the newly compiled format to see if it worked, I’m about to have to give up until after the end of this billing cycle (it ends on the 20th).

I suppose it’s not really a tragedy. I wanted to publish it this week, hoping I would be able to get a few reviews before the Halloween season gets into high gear. But I suppose waiting until after the 20th will still be soon enough. I’m just disappointed.

Before I go, I wanted to send out a special thank you to Betty Hiland. Actually, I think it’s Bella and Cricket who truly want to thank you. They loved that chicken jerky you sent them. J

All right, since I can’t publish Ghost Story this week, I guess I need to crack open another of the WIPs. Time to get more writing done. So here I go. BICHOK everyone.

Stay safe. Bye

 

 Posted by at 12:55 pm
Aug 052015
 

It’s August 5th, and I guess I’m just a bit slow, but it took this long for me to remember that I have a piece that I need to get out before Halloween. The story was written about a year ago, and I was going to try to get it out last Halloween, but I wasn’t able to get on the editing schedule in time. L So I worked with my editor for a while, and then all sorts of personal things hit, resulting in my moving up here to Oklahoma. And the truth of the matter is that I pretty much forgot about it until a few months ago, when a good friend (who just happens to own the editing company I was using) called to remind me that I had an unresolved item on her task sheet, and was I ever going to finish that story?

Oops! Eek!

So I pulled it out and got back to work on it… for about two days. But the thread was cold, and I was having trouble remembering the discussions and thoughts on the edits for the story that I had been working on all those months ago, and there was the siren call of my main project and…. Oh! Look at the shiney….

And I thought to myself, “Self, you don’t really need to have that story published until a bit before Halloween, right? Right….” And here I am, a bit before Halloween again, and not much closer to publishing the thing than I was four months ago when she called me. At least I am closer than I was last year, and that’s something, right? I mean, I have a cover, and the first round of editing notes from last year. That’s more than half the battle.

So I’ve slowed on the actual writing for the last few days, concentrating instead on editing Ghost Story and getting it ready to publish. Hopefully I’ll have it out into the world in a week or so, and then I can get back on the main writing projects.

In other news… the garden is beginning to produce some minor returns. Most of my gardening adventure this year has been a bust. The corn is growing, but it looks like ants have gotten to the ears. We got a few baby ears that my mom ate in a salad the other night, but other than that it’s been bad. The grape tomatoes are way too touchy for me to consider messing with them again next year. Out of eight plants we’ve only gotten a handful of the little buggers. The only other tomatoes that we may end up getting are a few Red Acmes. Now, there is a variety of cucumber that seems to be doing well. The Spacemaster 80 cukes keep popping up as fast as I can pick them. They’re big, and once they get started, they’re pretty fast growing, and they taste really good.

You know, rather than listing all the things that failed in the garden, maybe I should list the things that I have gotten from it. I mean, other than the learning experience. It’s a much shorter list. J

The Garden Tower was a huge success. We got cilantro, basil, lemon basil, oregano, several varieties of lettuce, spinach, and some rosemary from it. In the big garden, we ended up with a few (as in maybe half a dozen) strawberries, a few Royal Burgandy bush beans, a few little grape tomatoes, some cucumbers, jalapenos, and the Red Acmes I mentioned earlier. Also, there are a lot of cantaloupes still growing, so that looks promising. And one of the most intriguing items to me… there are half a dozen Bushel Basket gourds growing out there.

The gourds are a bit of a surprise to me. I had tried to get some dipper gourds to grow earlier in the season and had absolutely zero luck with them. When my dad passed in February, I was helping go through the cabin where he and my mom had lived, and found a packet of the bushel basket seeds that he had wanted to try, so I brought them home. I remember thinking how great it would be if I could grow some as sort of an homage to him, and I and planted some on the end of a row of onions. I decided to use a mound planting technique I had read about, and planted about a dozen seeds around a single mound. Imagine my surprise when nine of the twelve started to grow. And it quickly became obvious that they were going to outgrow the area I had planted them in.

So as they got larger, I transplanted two of them away from the main mound, and stuck them in an empty area of the garden. Back on the main mound, one of the plants outgrew the others, shaded them out and killed them, so I ended up with only the three plants. But those three plants have done phenomenally well, spreading about ten feet in several directions. And now I have six large gourds growing. The picture here shows one of them.

 

If they do well, I want to try my hand at some gourd art. What’s gourd art, you ask? Well, take a look at this carved and stained piece from “The Browning House Gourd Art“.

 

Or for a (much) more intricate piece, look at this one from artist Bonnie Gibson. Bonnie’s piece is titled “Beetle Garden” and was featured on the 2013 cover of The Crafts Report. Now, I’m obviously not going to get a “Beetle Garden” out in my first attempts, but the concept is intriguing, and there are techniques in it that I may want to attempt, just as there are techniques used in the one from The Browning House that I want to attempt.

But all that is way down the line. First I have to successfully get the gourds grown, harvested, dried, and cured before I can think about what I can do with them. But it’s a creative outlet that speaks to me, much as my knife making did when I had the workshop available to make them. For now, I’ll concentrate on getting them grown and ready for use. And if I manage to get that done, then maybe I’ll get to try my hand at some artwork.

Wish me luck.

And in the meantime, stay safe everyone. I’ll talk to you later. Bye

 Posted by at 4:45 pm
Jul 292015
 

Didn’t get a lot of writing done yesterday. I started working in the garden (I’ve let it get pretty bad, lately) and found that one of the bigger cantaloupes we had was suddenly missing. I found it over in a corner of the yard, where some little varmint (probably a raccoon) had hauled it away and eaten about half of it. Since the girls seemed pretty intent on it, I tossed what was left of it over the fence, and went back about my business. I worked out there until I ran the battery out on the weed eater, then started gathering up my tools and heading into the house. Just about to head inside, I noticed that Bella, our pretty white and tan Catahoula / Husky mix, was no longer white and tan. She was white and tan… with smears of black, sticky schmootz all down both sides of her neck. Bottom line – our pretty white and tan girl had found something to roll in.

She’s done this before. Since we’ve moved up here and gotten the larger yard, our girls have discovered the pleasures of finding dead animals and, in the manner of dogs everywhere, they love to roll in the remains. What is it about the stench of dead animals that they like, anyway? I mean, that’s just nasty! Eek!

So I naturally assumed that was the case again. And as she came to me, tail wagging proudly, trying for all she was worth to share the lovely schmootz with me, I frantically backed away telling her “No” and “Sit” and “Stay”. It must have looked comical at the time, her running toward me as I backed toward the back door, hands held up to hold her away from me if I had to, but filled with dread that I might have to actually touch her.

Confused, the poor girl probably thought I was mad at her, and I’m sure she was wondering what she had done, but I couldn’t let her into the house until I got her cleaned up. So I backed into the back door, grabbed the cover to the dog door and made sure she couldn’t get in, then went inside to get the shampoo.

Grabbing the water hose, I washed her outside, relieved to find that the nasty looking schmootz actually rinsed off very easily. I remembered that we had burned weeds in the fire pit over the weekend, and concluded that since I couldn’t smell any nastiness on her, she had probably found some soot and rolled in it. Thank goodness, right?

So, I gave her a light wash and while I had the hose out, I went ahead and started watering the plants on the patio. That was when I lost pressure to the hose. This was one of those magical expanding and contracting “pocket hoses” that you see advertised on TV. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are basically a length of something like surgical tubing covered by a loose cloth. Put water into the tubing, and it expands within the cloth cover. Drain the water and it contracts back to its original length. So when I lost pressure, I looked back and found that the black cloth cover for the hose was leaking. The tubing inside the cloth had broken.

Great. Another thing gone wrong.

But not a huge issue. We have an extra one of the old standard water hoses, so I just put the spray nozzle on the old hose, and went back about my business. The nozzle didn’t really fit all that well on this hose, but I thought I would get clever and use this to my advantage. Water trickling out around the fitting on the nozzle was just the thing to do a thorough watering for the garden tower, so I draped the thing over the top of the tower and determined to come out and turn the water off later, after it had had time to do its thing.

Glad that I had resolved the issues of the morning, I went inside to get cleaned up. That was when I discovered that Bella had already been in the house. I knew this as soon as I walked into the bedroom. See, our girl has a habit of rubbing her head up and down on the side of our bed. I’m not sure if it’s her way of leaving her scent on the bed, or getting our scent on her, or even if it’s just a matter of scratching an itch on her ear. Whatever it is, it was immediately obvious that she had been engaging in her curious habit all along the side of our bedspread… our nice white bedspread. And she had left lovely grayish-black smears on the pristine white cotton spread. And while I hadn’t been able to smell anything on her outside when I washed her, it was evident from the stench wafting up from the spread that it was more than simply soot she had been sharing with us. It was the nasty stench of rotten critter. (sigh)

So I stripped the spread off the bed and hauled it into the laundry room, and decided that the light wash I had given her when I thought it was only soot, just wasn’t going to cut it. I called her inside, and put her in the shower with me, giving her a very thorough washing, using my dandruff shampoo.

Bella was not amused. I can only imagine the canine thoughts that went through her mind, as I washed away the lovely smell she had so generously thought to share with me. How could I be so ungrateful? Don’t tell me that dogs can’t sulk, because that girl sulked! You would have thought I had taken her favorite toy and thrown it away. But I finally got us both cleaned and dried. I dressed, got the laundry started, and figured I was finally done with the trouble for the day.

Hah!

I went out to check on the water hose to make sure it was working properly. I should have known better. Remember how I mentioned that the spare hose was an old standard water hose? Well, I should have emphasized the word “old”. The thing had split in the side, fallen off the garden tower, and was busy turning the area just off the patio into a marsh.

You know how some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed? Why don’t those days come with a warning label? I mean, yesterday was definitely one of those days. It would have been nice to have gotten out of bed and seen a sign that says something like “Warning – this day is going to suck so bad that you’ll wish you’d stayed in bed. The crappy day authority advises that you just curl yourself back up in a ball and hibernate until tomorrow.”

These little hints would be SO appreciated.

Oh well. Today is another day, so stay safe. And I’ll try to do the same. Bye

 Posted by at 1:14 pm