Mar 222017

WW76ALast week we had another reminder that we no longer live in a major metropolitan area when we had our septic system pumped.  Whether or not you’ve ever lived off of a major sewer system, I’m sure you’re heard of a septic system. What you might not realize is that there are different types of septic systems. If you’ve never dealt with them, you may think (as I used to) that it’s basically just a big tank under the ground that your home’s wastewater runs into.  And you may even realize that eventually, whatever goes into it, must somehow come back out.

My first exposure to this fact of life came when I was eighteen or nineteen years old.  I was at an old girlfriend’s house and asked to use the restroom.  Her father pointed the way, and informed me that their septic system was full, and asked that I refrain from flushing “if possible”.  Bottom line, if I just needed to pee, don’t flush.  The rest went unsaid.  I later found out that they had let the system go too long without having it pumped, and it was overflowing into the yard.   :eek:

Now, it’s more than thirty years later.  MBH and I have lived in our current home for a bit over two years, and it has a septic system too.  Ours is something called an aerobic system, though, and at first we were under the impression that it never had to be pumped.  We were told by a contractor that an aerobic system was like a miniature water treatment plant for our home… that wastewater went in, and a combination of chemicals and bacteria broke everything down into harmless gray water that was then used to irrigate part of the property.  For more than a year, that was what we believed.

Then one of our neighbors had their system pumped.  That prompted me to ask them about it, and I found out that there is no such thing as a maintenance-free septic.  The helpful neighbor informed me that they had their system pumped about every two years.

Pop quiz… how long did I say we’ve lived in our home?  Yep.  A bit over two years.

So I called a local septic pumping company to get a quote.  That’s when the questions started.

What kind of system do you have?  An aerobic system.  (I was proud that I knew this.)

What size?  Er….

Concrete? Steel? Fiberglass?  Er….

How long since it has been pumped?  Well, we’ve lived in the house more than two years, and we’ve never had it done.

What about the previous owners?  When did they last have it pumped?  Er….

So after confessing my near complete ignorance on the matter, the very kind gentleman arranged to come out to take a look to see what we had.  And that was where the fun started.WW76B

An aerobic system usually consists of a tank that is partitioned into four different chambers, like the picture here.  Waste goes into one end, through the aerobic and clarifier chambers, and the resulting gray water is pumped out through a sprinkler system.  For our size home, with two people living in it, the entire system should be sized at about 500 to 600 gallons, divided up among the various chambers.

So the guy I called pulled up in his big pump truck… complete with the clever tagline “WHEN DOODIE CALLS.”  And when he began his inspection, he found a much larger tank than he was expecting.  Not only that, but it wasn’t a typical aerobic, multi-chambered system.  No, this was a single tank, and it wasn’t where he expected it to be.  It wasn’t part of the actual pump system.  It was several feet to the side of the main system, and had a much larger cap on it than he expected.  Yet the system had a pump, sprinklers, and all the other external equipment of an aerobic system. This prompted him to pull records from the county to see what the builder had installed.

We’ve been told that the original owner of our home was one of the builders in the neighborhood, and I have no trouble believing this.  There are doors that don’t quite fit right in the frame, valances over the windows that are made from baseboard (and held in place by velcro), and other items that give the impression that someone got a really good deal on some parts… as if they were rejects from a build site.  It’s nothing really bad.  But it’s enough to make you wonder.

So when the septic inspector came back with a record of issues from the county during the installation of the septic system, it didn’t come as too much of a surprise.  It seems that initially, the builder wanted to put in a standard septic system, and for whatever reason, installed a massive 1000 gallon tank.  Unfortunately, he neglected to inform the county before he put it in.  He was fined for doing so, and the county sent their inspectors out to see if it had been done properly.

Did you know that a property has to have its soil inspected before installation of a septic system?  Evidently, neither did the builder.  It’s to determine what kind of system is best for the land it’s placed on.  And guess what?  The builder put the wrong kind of system in.

But rather than digging up that giant tank, he simply built an aerobic system out of other tanks, in essence creating the same function that the compact little multi-chambered tank, by making each chamber an actual tank, and piping them all together.  When the septic guy was showing me the records, he was shaking his head.  There were records of two other fines related to the installation and inspections of the system before they finally passed inspection.  Our guy said he’d never seen anything quite like this, but he said it seemed to work, so yay for us. :-?  The up side is that we should only have to have our tank pumped about every six years or more, rather than every two to two and a half.  The down side is that when we do have it pumped, it costs quite a bit more than the normal maintenance call.

And that’s our adventure in rural living for the week.  LOL  Stay safe, everyone.  I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

WW76CRPoTW – We found this little item in the local liquor store.  It’s a mix of horchata and rum.  For those who don’t know, horchata is a “rice milk” pretty popular in Mexico and South America.  I first had it by accident in Ciudad del Carmen several years ago when the company I was working for sent me to one of our offices there to help out with some network issues they were having.  On the second day there, they were ordering takeout for lunch, and asked me what I wanted to drink.  They told me that the place they were ordering from had two drinks for which they were well-known.  One was a kind of hibiscus tea, and the other was horchata.  They explained what horchata was, and I politely declined, asking for the hibiscus tea.

See, many years before, I had worked with a bunch of guys from Vietnam, and they had a rice dessert that they liked to share.  It was a mixture of rice, rice milk, and some spices.  It was also MUCH too sweet for my taste.  So when they mentioned rice milk, that was what came to mind.  Besides, I’d had hibiscus tea before, and liked it.

Unfortunately, (or maybe it was fortunately), they mixed up my drink order and I ended up with the horchata anyway.  After that, I couldn’t get enough of it.  But I had never thought of mixing it with rum!  So when we saw the little single shot sample bottles in the liquor store, I had to try it.  Yes, I liked it.  No, I probably won’t buy it again.  After all, I already have rum.  I just need to find some good horchata somewhere in the area, and I’m set.   ;)

 Posted by at 4:06 pm
Mar 152017

WW75AWell, as you can see, we got the fence back up, though it did take a few days longer than expected. I managed to get the old post out of the ground well enough.  See that big “log” on the ground in front of the fence?  If you click on the picture, you’ll see that it’s really not a log at all.  It’s the two feet of concrete that the old post was set into… two feet of concrete that I had to dig out of the ground before I could plant the new post.

I suppose I should be grateful, though.  The guy that put up our fence used an auger to plant the posts, so the holes are all nice and neat – smooth cylinders of concrete straight into the ground, and relatively easy to find and dig loose.  Not so easy to get out of the ground by yourself, though.  I mean, that much concrete is heavy!  :beatup: 

However, I managed it all right, though I had to go wide enough with the hole so that I could get enough leverage with the shovel to help lift it out.  And that meant that the nice, neat, round hole, was no longer nice, neat, or round.  Now I had an oblong, ragged, gaping hole in the ground, with considerably more volume to fill than I had bought concrete for.  But yours truly is nothing if not inventive. You see, I get buckets from the local bakery for use in my various gardening experiments.  They’re free, and give me considerable freedom to test out various ideas for planting, irrigation, or to just carry tools around.

In this case, I just sacrificed the bottoms of two of them, cutting them out so that I had a couple of empty plastic cylinders.  I poured a little concrete in the bottom of the hole, slid the first bottomless bucket around the new post, filled it with more concrete, and when it was full, repeated the process, stacking the second one on top of the first.   The end result was a post set within concrete filled buckets that were then easily surrounded with the fill dirt I had dug out in order to remove the old post.

So there I was, feeling quite clever… old post still propped up, holding the horizontal rails and fence in place so the dogs couldn’t get out and nothing else could get in. The new post was standing straight up in the ground (I knew it was straight, since I had repeatedly checked it with the level while placing it).  And that was when I realized that the horizontal posts from the old fence had to go into the new post before the concrete completely set.

And I still hadn’t even taken them off of the old post!   :eek:

The next several minutes were filled with me frantically struggling to remove the fencing staples that held the fence to the rails with a screwdriver and hammer, all the while hoping the “QuickCrete” I had bought, wasn’t so quick that I wouldn’t be able to move that post to get the rails into the holes on the new post.  And after considerable hammering and prying at the staples, (you know, those crazy “U”-shaped, double-headed nails?) and more than a little bit of cussing, I managed to get the rails loose from the fence itself, and then from the old, broken, post.

And the concrete hadn’t set so much that I wasn’t able to move the post.  So I shoved the new post out a bit, placed the horizontals in place, and shoved the new upright back into place, all with the concrete still pliable enough to fill back into the hole. Crisis averted.  Whew!  :struggle:

At that point, the new post and rails were in place, but the concrete hadn’t set well enough to put any tension on them.  The QuickCrete bag said it would be four to six hours at a minimum, so I still had to prop the old fence back up again with old lumber (and a bit of wishful thinking) right up against the new post.

Saturday came, and as promised, brought with it more than enough rain to keep us from working on the fence any further. No big deal though, we still had Sunday, right? (sigh)

Unfortunately, Sunday brought its own set of issues… namely, me.  I’d been having problems with my asthma for the last few weeks, which let me know that I was probably getting ready to have a full-blown allergic reaction sometime soon.  “Soon” ended up being Sunday.

MBH and I got up and made cinnamon rolls.  It was another experiment for us, as we had never made them before.  They turned out pretty good, though as with most experiments, there was room for improvement and we’ve already decided how we’re going to change the recipe for next time.  After breakfast, we bundled up (Saturday’s rain brought more cold weather with it and the temperature was down into the upper 30s), and took the girls for a brisk morning walk.  That was all it took.

WW75BMany years ago, I was diagnosed with exercise induced allergies.  My first attack was when I was a teen.  I had just finished one of my karate classes, and was jogging home when I started noticing how much my feet were hurting. Within a few minutes, I was having trouble breathing, and by the time I made it home, I was in the midst of my first asthma attack, accompanied by my first experience with hives.  My mom freaked (understandably), and rushed me to the local emergency clinic, where the doctors also just about had a cow.  To be fair, I suppose I would have done the same.  I mean, you see a thirteen year old kid on the table, face so swollen that his eyes are barely able to open, and he’s wheezing like his throat is swollen shut.  My mom told me later that they were about ready to trache me.  Luckily, one of the docs recognized my symptoms, administered a dose of adrenaline, and within several minutes, I was breathing normally again and the swelling was going back down.

Since that first time, I’ve learned to deal with this as a normal part of my life.  I’ve also learned to recognize the symptoms leading up to an attack, and minimize their effect.  MBH has also learned to help me deal with them.  Because of the tightness of chest and trouble breathing I’d been experiencing for the last few weeks, we knew it was coming.  And since I had shut down the last few attacks before they’d really run their course, we suspected I was due for a relatively bad one.  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as we had feared, though as you can see in the picture, I did end up with a few hives.

But the end result was that my Sunday was spent kicked back, trying not to scratch, while I tried to let the attack run its course.  A few hours of hives, with the accompanying itching, swelling, high blood pressure, and asthma, meant that I wasn’t about to be outside working on the fence.  Instead, I ended up sitting like a lump in the easy chair, waiting on the symptoms to peak so I could take a Benadryl and crash.

But Monday, I finally got to get outside to finish the freaking fence.  Yay!  It’s still not perfect.  It turns out that I set the pole a couple of inches higher than the original, and the gate is about an inch higher off the ground than it was.  And while there’s nothing I can do about the post being higher, there is enough adjustment in the gate itself to line it up properly.

So that’s it for my “Post about the Post”.

Other news…

End Point PangaeaEPP now sits at nearly 55k words, and is still moving.  This has been my main focus (other than visiting family, fence posts, and allergic reactions :wink: ), so no other real writing news to report.

The Burning Land – “But wait,” you say. “I thought there wasn’t any other writing news.”  That’s true.  However, I’ve done a bit of recording, and am going to see about releasing TBL as audio via ACX and Audible.  We’ll have to see how that works out.  But with the changes that Amazon has made in terms since they bought out ACX, it’s very difficult to find voice actors who are willing to work for a royalty split.  These days, they want payment up front, and for anyone that does a decent job, the cost is usually at least $200 per finished hour.  Since ACX lists Year 12 as an estimated 12.8 finished hours, that means I would have to come up with roughly $2600 to have it produced.  And I just don’t have that kind of money.  So it occurred to me that perhaps I could do it myself.  But I need to start with something smaller… MUCH smaller.  Most sources agree that you can count on working about eight to ten hours per finished hour when you begin audio work.  Thus, this experiment with TBL.  I’ve already recorded the basic reading, and I already have the software, and know how to use it.  I’ve used it to record my promos for my other books.  Now it just remains to be seen if I can get a decent enough production level to put out something good enough to Audible.  That means editing out the miscellaneous train whistles from town, jet noises as they pass overhead, stomach gurgles from when I try to record just after eating (lesson learned there), wind whistling through the trees, laptop fan when it kicks on… I think you get the idea.  But IF I can get all that done, and manage to produce a decent audio file, then I might consider tackling the recording for Y12.

And that’s it for now.  Time to get back to writing.  So for now, stay safe everyone, and I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

Mar 082017

WW74AHere’s our project for Saturday.  It doesn’t look like much, does it?  Well, I guess the picture might be a little misleading. I guess what I should say is that this is a picture of the materials needed for our upcoming project for Saturday.

As those of you who follow me on Facebook know, we caught the trailing edge of a pretty severe storm system on Monday night.  Luckily, despite the thunderstorm warnings, and the tornado watch, we didn’t get much of the really bad stuff like a lot of folks north of us. But we did get some pretty strong gusts that made us wonder a few times if that was going to hold true.

But it did.  However, we didn’t come through completely unscathed.  When I went out with the dogs the next morning, Cricket let me know immediately that there was a disturbance in her Force. WW74BIt turned out that the severe gusts we’d heard the night before, had left their calling card for us, and now we get to deal with the aftermath. For the moment, I have it braced up with some spare wood.  Saturday, MBH and I will get to do the grunt work on digging up the old post, and putting the replacement in place.  Not a big deal, except that while we’re doing the repairs, we have to keep a closer eye than usual on the girls so they don’t wander off.  The quick-crete I bought says it should be strong enough for us to put the fence back in place in four to six hours, so it’s not all that bad.

Hmmm… I guess I should check the forecast for this weekend, shouldn’t I?   :idk:

Well crap!  100% chance of rain for Saturday.  I guess I’ll be doing this on Friday, instead. (sigh)  All right, so be it.  If any of you hear about an out of shape old man in Oklahoma who dies in a tragic fence-post accident, you’ll know what happened to me.   ;)

Now, since I spent a good portion of the day yesterday trying to track down the right parts for this little project, and a couple more hours today on the road going to get them, I need to keep this post short and sweet today.  So that’s all I’m going to blog about today, so I can get back to writing.

Stay safe everyone.  I’ll talk to you later.   :bye:

 Posted by at 4:53 pm
Mar 012017


Last week, MBH convinced me to take a little road trip. She pointed out that, since Saturday was the anniversary of my father’s death, it might be a good idea to go spend it with my mom to help keep her on the positive side of the emotional fence. And quite honestly, it would help keep me on the same side.  She’s pretty freaking special, like that. :inlove: So I hopped into the ground transport and made the eight-hour drive to Houston.

What was even more fun was the fact that my sister and brother-in-law helped me keep the trip a secret from my mom, only asking her to stay at home on Friday because they were expecting a package (she lives with them). So when my BIL let me in, all the while pretending that he was trying to get rid of a solicitor, she was completely surprised.  ;-)  Better still, my son came by with my youngest granddaughter shortly after I got there.

During the next few days, I got to spend time with my mom, my sister and BIL, my son, DIL, and granddaughter, my oldest nephew and his new girlfriend (yeah, hang on to her, M.  She’s got a good head on her shoulders). We saw a few movies, (A Cure For Wellness and Suicide Squad), had a barbecue with a lot of family… I even got to play Cards Against humanity for the first time (and THAT was hilarious, as anyone who has played before will already know.)

But all good things come to an end, and Monday was the trip back home. Luckily for me, while the trip back home did represent the end of one good thing, that didn’t make it a bad thing. You see, I don’t sleep well without MBH, so being apart is sometimes a little tough, which made coming home again wonderful. Yeah, I love you wife.  :heart:

Baby Bird’s Paper – Last night, MBH and I got a call from Baby Bird. She was working on an important presentation for one of her Psychology classes, and wanted us to look it over for any obvious mistakes. It was a presentation on several studies about the effects of stress on performance, and was filled with phrases like “…High Anxiety (HA) anticipation response accuracy was lower than the Low Anxiety (LA) pre-test, however both HA and LA showed greater accuracy of judgments compared to the pretest and Control Group (CG), and in the HA post-test, the HA testers remained accurate when compared…” and “…investigates the role of intuition in a probabilistic reasoning task by manipulating the time pressure in an effort to discern if the results supported the dual-process theory or the fuzzy-trace theory…”.

In short, it was enough to let me know that she is MUCH smarter than I am.  LOL.  However, I couldn’t help but note the irony of her stressing so much over a presentation about how stress affects one’s performance.   ;-)

In other news, I’ve decided to start the garden late this year. The recent trip home helped point out to me that if I had already started the garden, then a four-day absence from home wouldn’t have been possible, and MBH and I would like to take a short trip together later on. So I think I’ll hold off putting new dependents in the ground for a bit longer.  That means I won’t be boring you all with pictures of my growing plants and daily harvests.   8-)

On to the writing news… or lack thereof…

Because of last week’s road trip, I didn’t get as much written as I would have liked. However, End Point Pangaea is getting close to the 50k word count mark. Typically, I tend to easily break 100k with my novels. But I get the feeling that this one is going to be my first novel under that count. The book simply feels more like an 80k to 90k book. Of course, I won’t know until it’s done, but you tend to get a feel for things like that as you write, and that’s what I’m getting from this one. I suppose I’ll just see. For now though, I need to get back to writing, if it’s ever going to get finished.

So to finish off the blog post, here is this week’s Random Pic of the Week:  WW73b1

For this week’s RPotW, I decided to make it truly random. I called up the gallery on my phone, scrolled down at random, and, with my eyes closed, I tapped a picture. This is what you get.  :laugh:

Here you see a picture of a breakfast I made a few months ago. Why did I take the picture? This was my first attempt at making my own cinnamon-raisin bread. It turned out pretty good, although I did learn a valuable lesson. Any raisins on the top of the loaf tend to turn into little charred bits of charcoal when unprotected by surrounding dough. After that first loaf, I made it a point to pick off as many raisins on top as I could.

And that’s enough of my insanity for today. You folks stay safe, and I’ll talk to you again soon. :bye:

 Posted by at 6:23 pm
Feb 222017

Vitamin B3, or Niacin, is a fantastic little vitamin that serves all sorts of functions in the human body.

Hmmm….  I suppose before I go any farther with this, I should do the whole “I am not a doctor or medical care specialist of any sort. Anything I say regarding the matter is for educational and/or entertainment value only. I am not offering advice, making suggestions, or in any other way indicating that anyone should do anything that I write about here. I am only passing on my personal observations on what I have done, and what has happened to me.”

There. All the crazy legalese is out of the way. It’s insane what the gooberment requires you to do before talking about medicine or nutrition. After all, someone might accidentally interfere with all the money that the pharmaceutical, “health”, and medical industries make by fleecing er, helping all of us to a “healthier” lifestyle.

Uh, oh. Sorry, but I seem to have stumbled up onto this soapbox somehow, when all I intended to do was tell you about something that happened to me recently. As I was saying, B3 serves all sorts of functions in our bodies. But did you know that it also has an interesting side effect once you’re body reaches its saturation point with it?  It’s call the “Niacin Flush”, and occurs to various degrees to different people. For some, it manifests as a slight warmth and reddening of the skin on the head and upper body (a flush).  It usually lasts somewhere between fifteen minutes to an hour or so, depending on many variables.  I’ve read that some people actually find the feeling to be quite pleasant.

But Yours Truly has a history of allergic reactions that includes breaking out in hives all over my body. So when I began to feel that warmth, I started getting a little concerned that I was heading into another reaction.  After a few  minutes though, I realized this was something different. For one thing, my hives are accompanied by an insufferable itching sensation, and almost always first begin with itching and swelling in the tender areas of the body (inside elbows and wrists, backs of knees, behind ears, around the eyes, and yes, the groin – after all, they aren’t called the “tender bits” for nothing).

WW72aBut this was different. It was more like a sudden sunburn on my forehead that soon spread down to my upper torso and arms.  And there was none of the insane itching or racing heartbeat that always accompanied my allergic reactions.  But lucky me, I did still get a slight swelling of my face, eyes, and wrists. (see the pic to the left, here.)  Nowhere near as bad as when I get a true allergic reaction, but enough that I decided to show my wife just in case it was some new presentation of my allergies.

Within an hour or two (I’m at the outer range of the timeline for such things – like I said, lucky me…), the swelling and “flush” were mostly gone. Of course, the next morning, I began my typical Holmsian investigation of what all I had done the night before it occurred and quickly stumbled upon reports of the Niacin Flush. The vast majority of the articles I found indicate that it is quite harmless, and while the swelling that I had is rare, it does occasionally happen.  I imagine my predisposition to such reactions because of my allergies likely makes a difference, as well.

Bottom line, while the reaction was a little disconcerting as it was happening, at least now I know what it was, and will be prepared if it happens again (which most accounts seem to agree, it likely will).  So that was my excitement for the week.  And I get to combine my regular blog post with my RPotW.  :heh:

So enough about the weirdness of my reaction. On to the writing updates.

EPPEnd Point Pangaea is now a bit over 46k words in length, and the plot still flows smoothly.  Ask yourself, how would a society develop if we began to dump murderers and political dissidents into the late Triassic Era?  How would they and their families adjust to a world of dinosaurs, where the world is barely evolved, with no grains, fruits, or vegetables as we know them?  Fun stuff.   ;-)

BoRThe Sekrit Projekt (phase 1) is now done and out of my hands. There is nothing more I can do with it until I hear back from those who are farther up the food chain. Now I can only wait to find out if it moves forward.

Y12 – The only other thing worth reporting is that there are now six reviews on Year 12, and three reviews of Chucklers, Volume 1, all of which are five star reviews.  Yay!

And speaking of Y12, I had been getting a bit depressed about not getting any audiobook auditions for it.  I posted an audition script for it in mid-January and received a single audition. But after that, nothing for almost a month.  I was beginning to think no one was interested in working on it. My original narrator no longer works for royalty share, and as much as I like his work, I simply can’t afford to pay up front. But I remembered that I had saved some of my favorite auditions for HPM back when I was taking auditions for it, so I thought I would investigate whether any of those narrators still worked for royalty share. Imagine my surprise when I found that somehow, Y12 had been marked as no longer taking auditions! I have no idea how or when that happened, but it sure explains why I haven’t received any more auditions!  So I’ve now reset it to accept auditions, and we’ll see whether or not that makes a difference.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Well, that’s enough for now.  Time to get back to writing.

So stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye: