Best laid plans

The actual quote behind “best laid plans” is from Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, in his poem “To a Mouse: On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough“, written in 1785:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!
This comes toward the end of the poem. Of course the phrase has morphed over the years, and by now all one has to say is “Best laid plans…” in order to allow others to understand that something has gone awry.
Coincidentally, and probably not of interest to anyone but me,  but John Steinbeck took the title of his book “Of Mice and Men” from that very same poem.
I wasn’t sure where I was going with this – it’s been several hours since I began this post before getting bogged down in work, but I think it’s going to be a twofer: one, writing progress. Two, dealing with assholes.
The first bit should probably be called lack of progress. I should have known better than to even attempt to believe Tuesday would cut us a break and not be insane, as they normally are. So yesterday, no writing, to bed at about 4AM this morning. Back up at 8:30 as my sister and the Soul Eating Baby came over, and of course, work work work. It’s pretty quiet now, so I’m going to get some writing in after I post this. “Why not do it before you post this?” you may ask.
Eating. Plus, getting warmed up before writing. (Note: this has not worked, as that very sentence was left hanging while dealing with someone’s DNS issue.) Summary: no writing yesterday, no writing today. It’s quite annoying.
Second bit: assholes who don’t pay their bills for five months beginning late LAST year, and who were termed early THIS year, having the audacity to show up a year later whining about their stuff, claiming that they were thisclose, on the cusp, on the edge, almost about to write a no doubt best-selling book and need that one domain for it, and why is that no longer theirs and what have I been paying you for.
You know what that gets you? A timeout. Also a bullshit notice, internally, because look, if you’re serious about your stuff and you have been around for years, and you’ve been billed the same way, at the same time, every month for years, it might occur to you to wonder a bit about how it’s odd that no charges from us have appeared. Or that the site was suspended. Or that the domain wasn’t working. Or, you know, you might show up a lot sooner than a whole YEAR LATER, asking what the issue is. That is, if it was actually important, and not some magically coincidental lie. Because we’ve read THAT book before. And it blows.
So there you have it. Another day in paradise. Until the next day in paradise, peeps: be well.

Random

I just saw an ad for the Winter Olympics.  I suppose that makes sense since the opening is exactly three months from now.

There are few things that bother me more than ungrateful people, and that means to anyone. If someone helps you with something, a simple “thanks” will do loads to improve their day. If everyone was a tad more free with expressing their gratitude for something – anything – the world would be a better place. Even if it starts with just a small corner of it. It’s why I always thank the people at Publix for whatever they’ve done, and mean it. Mindlessly blurting out anything from “thanks” to “have a nice day” to “thank you for your service”  doesn’t mean anything. It may just be because I’m a writer that I think these words and the way they are given to others should matter just as much as anything else people think are important. Or I may just be cranky. Who knows?

I’m not feeling particularly insightful or profound right now, thanks to the latest bout of pneumonia I’ve managed to get, and I did think this was going to be very random (like the fact that the Seahawks are wearing neon green uniforms that make them look a lot like the Oregon college team and their ever-changing, eye-popping unis).

 

Walmart will never convince me that they have some cheerful, personal shopper for you who will go gather All The Things, bag them up, and take them to your car. Or that they’ll have a bunch of xmas-festooned clerks keeping an eye on the lines and opening a new checkout when the lines are starting to snake back into the store. And I wish they would stop using music I like in their ads.

A cool front is making its way to us. The winds are swirling around on the front and back porches, giving a deep voice to the wind chimes as they move with the wind, bumping into one another.  Even when the wind has let up, their tones continue until the last vibrations of the chimes have run their course.

I’m always casting about to find new things to read, especially mysteries and more especially mysteries with series characters. This means that I read a lot of blurbs and reviews on Amazon during my hunt, and sometimes the things they suggest are not strictly mysteries, but more like thrillers. I’m not averse to reading those, and today while searching I found an author with more than a dozen books in three series, featuring the usual thriller-type main character: ex special forces or spy, very nearly indestructible, who prefers to work alone, usually pissed off at their previous employer and betrayed by their fellow agents or their employer, or both. Reading through the material on them, I found three that were pretty much the plots of movies – ex spy gets insulted or otherwise chewed out by a dumbass sheriff in a small town, takes to the mountains and has to be hunted down (Rambo). Or, ex spy finds a young boy who has witnessed a murder, sees the crooked cop in a picture as the ex spy is about to go to the police, and the ex spy takes the kid and hides out in a nearby community that prefers their own company to the world at large (Witness). Or, ex spy is pregnant, betrayed by her team and her handler, gets left for dead, recovers, vows revenge, heads off to Hong Kong, and starts taking out the other members of the team, and even uses a samurai sword at one point. Did I mention she has lung cancer, a year to live, does all the murderous rampage, is actually named Beatrix, and finds her kid? (Kill Bill). I know that there is nothing terribly new or original under the sun and writers are basically rewriting all the stories all the time, but when a lot of the scenes in the books are exact replicas of scenes in the movies, that’s a bit too close.

And I guess I’ll wrap up with this. I hear some nyquil calling my name. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Maintenance

Way back in the day – and by that, I mean around 1998-2000 – I used to keep a personal page about the weirdo things we would field from people about their technical issues. This was originally set up on a GeoCities page. Remember that? At the time, it was groundbreaking: a place where you could build an online presence in a “city” where other sites similar to yours also lived. Eventually, I moved the content to its own domain.

The point of this history lesson is that at that time, HTML was language, and the page I maintained and updated weekly required me to go right in to the code and modify it to put in the things I needed to put in. It was a great experience: learning some things from the ground up, troubleshooting what didn’t work after you updated a page and finding that you left a termination code out, and deciding just which h code  you wanted to have for the title and headings to make them normal sized or large or gigantic and bold, and so on.

As time passed, of course people developed content management systems in perl and PHP and the world drifted over from doing things in HTML to doing things in other languages, first in raw files and then in applications people developed to make creating and maintaining sites much easier than they had been.

Fast forward to today. We’ve absorbed clients from other hosts over the years, and some of those sites are still anchored in HTML, built by those hosts and then not really updated code-wise, even if they had a maintenance contract with the user. When we inherited those folks, we also inherited the content modification requests. This is forcing me to take a very deep dive back into the brain and go retro on the editing the user wants to have done. I firmly believe that challenges like this keep those brain cells active, and according to “they”, this can only be a good thing.

And now back to that deep pool in the brain, swimming in HTML code.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Plugging away

It’s a sad state of affairs when you have to weed the walkways in the gardens so you can get to the frames to weed THEM.

But that’s how it goes when you’re out of the field for most of the year, and you didn’t get enough done to get some plastic down to solarize the frames and kill off the crap you don’t want so things will be ready when you’re about to put in things you do want.

I suppose I should be beating myself up about it, or feel guilty about how the non-frame plants – the berries, grapes, fruit and nut trees – haven’t been taken care of, either, but that’s useless and unproductive. Instead, it makes more sense to plan out what I need to do: set off the watering for those on a consistent basis, and continue to pull weeds one area, one bag at a time.

Persistence. Focus. Determination. These are the words I am using to replace the words like “should” when such thoughts pop up in my head. One way is forward. One way is spinning my wheels in one spot, unable to break out of the rut.  The latter is not just bad, but unfair – after all, I can’t control if or when I get ill. It’s just the way things go sometimes. The former is much better on the psyche.

Speaking of medical-related things,  I had a visit with my gut doc to check the feeding tube and make sure I’m gaining weight. He would like to see me gain 10 pounds over the next three months, and I’m not entirely sure that’s doable, given that my food intake consists of shakes with weight gain powder (by mouth) and formula via the tube. I think if I can get close, and then demonstrate to him that I can keep my weight stable, we can all agree the tube can be removed, perhaps around my birthday next March. It will be difficult to reach that goal, but I’m willing to give it a go if it results in losing the medical attachment in my abdomen.

That’s all for now, peeps. Until next time, be well.

The next big thing

The gardens. They are in terrible shape, thanks to the way 2017 was a total bitch.

The biggest project: weeding. We did get a good number of frames set up with weedblock, but the areas along the edges and in the holes punched for the transplants need to be weeded in the worst way. Fortunately, I decided on no fall crops this year, just allowing the frames to go fallow and break down more of the composted manure they have in them. Unfortunately, I decided on no fall crops this year, and could not/did not keep up with the weeding. Luckily, we do have a winter, such as it is, and the next few months will be devoted to weeding, replacing the plastic-covered frames with weedblock and positioning the irrigation lines, and getting the sides of the frames that have bowed out back to full vertical and braced.

Now, I know, in my head, that this very big project just means starting with a small corner of it and working through to get it done. But there are also those fleeting moments when I’m looking out on the mess and thinking that it’s just far too big a job – it’s the same feeling I get from looking at the narrative outline here for this book and thinking about how much crazy is in me that I presume this is something I can do.

But in those moments, I just step back, take a deep breath, and remind myself that the elephant is eaten in pieces, not in one big gulp.

Unlike the novel, which I feel like I could write in two weeks with the story so fully developed in my head, the gardens are going to take a tad longer. It’s good exercise, though, and I’ll be able to visualize the plans for spring before the seed catalogs start arriving and it’s time to place my order(s).

Get outside, people. Even if  you’re not pulling weeds or thinking of corrupt cops and drug-distributing biker gangs like I am. There’s a big, wide world out there, and you should sometimes remind yourself that your small piece of it has something – at least one thing – you are grateful for when you look out over it.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Let them eat soup

This past weekend was soup time. Why?

Frankly, the diet of shakes and formula and yogurt is, at times, something that just does not satisfy that deep inner craving for food that is…well, more food-like. Normal people food, I call it.

Soups made: broccoli cheese and roasted red pepper. The broccoli cheese went over very well, according to the taste testers, and since that one is nearly gone, today I’ll be making an even larger batch, picking up more of what I need after I finish my appointment with the gut doc.

This past weekend was also the weekend I was going to make hot sauce from the tabasco harvest, but I just never really got there to do it. I’m going to put that back on the list and hopefully be able to cross it off this weekend.

In the meantime, my last feed of the night awaits me: formula, yogurt, and my last round of meds for the day. Night.  Early morning now, I see by the clock.

Speaking of clocks, can I just mention here AGAIN that I cannot stand the end of daylight saving time? I’d rather be like Arizona in this one, particular, specific way: leave the clocks alone. Spring forward and just keep it there. The circumstances for which it was created no longer apply to our world in the 21st century, and like old, obsolete hardware, should be put out of its – and our – misery.

On the writing front: I decided to work on one of the novels for NaNoWriMo this month, while working on one of the other novels in the spaces between that writing and “real” work. This is mainly because the entire plot and story for this NaNoWriMo novel came to me last night rather suddenly and completely. I know exactly how it begins, how exactly it ends, and I know the larger chunks of the material filling in the gulf between those two bookends. I am not quite up to the word count total I should be after two days of working on this novel, but that is only because I had not actually planned to do NaNoWriMo, This is a spur of the moment decision. As an even bigger challenge to myself, I’m setting my goal at over the 50K words that deems anyone a “winner” for NaNoWriMo, and I am also committing myself, here in public, to writing the entire novel, doing all the things that need to be done to get it into publishable form, and publishing it.

Lesson for the day? Make your goals big ones, but make sure your path to that goal is broken into manageable chunks. It’s too easy to have fear invade your mind because you are focusing too much on the giant goal you’ve set, thinking you must do it all at once. You don’t.  There is very little in life that can be accomplished in one fell swoop, but there are a large number of things in life that can be done with consistent, persistent effort, and a map that ultimately leads to the larger goal.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

The art in us

Here we are. November has arrived after an October that seems to have gone far too quickly.

So what are we doing this month? Writing. Every day. On something real – the blogs don’t count, the facebook page update does not count, twitter does not count (although I will be trying to update this and those every day this month as well, even if my author twitter account tweet of the day is just a quote. This is not to say these things do not count in the overall scheme of things, because they do, but these things are not items I’m looking to publish. But novels? Yes. Poetry? Yes. These are the things that are roadmaps to some kind of audience at the other end. These are the things that someone will want to read, I’ve no doubt. There was a quote I discovered back in high school while researching something or another:

“In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.” (Andre Maurois)

This is true, of course. One need only peruse some reviews at Amazon or GoodReads and see that people love books we ourselves can’t stand, and for every one person who thinks the writing by an author is puerile and careless, there is another for whom the author’s prose sings in their heart. For every one person who thinks a particular book is a poorly done rehash of some other author’s story, there is another who has encountered the underlying story for the very first time and feels the story resonating in their bones. For every one person decrying a book as tedious because it seems to have been stitched together from many pieces of fight scenes just so the author could tag the book a thriller, there is another person who sees that same book as a page-turner of nonstop action that they read in just a few hours because they could not put it down.

And so with this in mind, it makes no sense to listen to that tinny, false voice criticizing every word that makes it to paper, that says no one will want to read any of the pap that’s been written, that says giving up on the writing is the best and honorable thing to do, to save others from having to experience its badness. No: that voice is lying. The words we have matter,  to someone. Making and finishing the art is far better and certainly more honorable than giving in to a voice that does not have our best interests in mind.

Until next time, peeps: Be well. And make your art, whatever that art may be.

Tell me your tale

Back when I was attending the local university, there was a semester where I had about 40 minutes between one class and another. I would generally plop down in the outdoor patio area outside the little food shop and bookstore to either to do some reading for classes or work on papers or whatnot. It never failed that at some point, someone would join me at the table where I was sitting, greet me, and, after I replied, would start talking. They would talk about themselves, and not just relative to the university and classes they happened to be taking, but personal things: surgeries they’ve had, jobs they hold, their kids and partners and parents, where they were from if not from Florida, or if they were, what city/town they were from, broad strokes about their homes and the people in their towns, and virtually any other topic that came to mind.

This is not isolated; I’ve had the same experience in other places as well. I don’t ask them anything about themselves when they sit/stand with me or say “Hi, how are you, why don’t you tell me every single thing you can about yourself in the x minutes we have together in this little dot on the planet we find ourselves sharing.”

No, I generally return the greeting, and then simply wait or glance over whatever it is I’m doing – studying, finding a part in a store, looking over electronic gear the geek in me loves to play with and touch. I would say 80% of the people with whom I come in contact spill their guts to me.

Interestingly enough, this seems to be hereditary. My mother is the queen of people giving her info dumps about themselves, and it’s almost she has something on her forehead written in an invisible ink that only lights up when someone’s talkative aura triggers it, saying “Tell me your life story.”

She was telling me about the people in the waiting room at the hospital – my aunt going in for a procedure, not me: Dora, an elderly lady who never married, who has a bundle of nieces and nephews, and who sleeps in a recliner when any of those nieces or nephews stay over. She stopped smoking 20 years ago, and loaned out a daybed/futon to one of the clan, only to receive it back with the mattress almost destroyed and useless, and the frame disassembled when it was returned to her, which was missing some nuts and bolts when she was attempting to reassemble – so many, in fact, that building it back up would be pointless, so out it went to the road for someone to pick up out of her trash.

She collects these tales wherever she goes, from the grocery store to a medical waiting room of some sort.

I’ve told her to start writing them down and emailing them to me, even if just in a stream of conscience matter, without worrying about punctuation or capitalization or spelling. While we were discussing this, I also came up with a title for a collection of stories told to the unnamed protagonist, to detail how intimately some people can confide into a total stranger – I imagine from a psychological standpoint, it helps to be able to unload the stress or the boasts or the worries or any of the usual life situations to strangers, as there’s no emotional involvement as there would be with their family, immediate or otherwise.

If she sent me those, I could flesh them out, and after compilation, the resulting book could be called Other Peoples’ Stories.

My life with critters

Critters I have rescued from inside my house and relocated back out into the world where they belong:

Honeybees, of course. If you keep bees, you’re going to wind up with some inside here and there.  Fortunately, they generally head for the windows, where they can be captured and let loose outside to head back to their hive. This catch and release does not apply to hornet, wasps, or yellowjackets, all of which have met their demise for their arrogance in invading the house.

Birds. One day while going about my business, I heard an odd fluttering and some soft thumps. After tracking down the sound, a small wren was hanging out under the table we use to fold laundry. That came in handy, as it allowed me to grab a light towel, toss it over the wee thing, and let it back outside. There was a sequel to this, with another wren, but this time he/she evaded capture for about ten minutes, with the chase moving from the dining room to the kitchen to the laundry room until finally I cornered him/her and took her back outside.

Lizards. We have, on several occasions, found lizards using the outside of the house as their fun sexy time pad: on the columns of the front porch. On the gutter downspout in the pool area. On the handle of the fence that someone is about to use. In the gardens. The lizards don’t even have the decency to blush and move away from one another as, say, teenagers would when caught in a delicate situation in a not-well-thought-out location. Nope, nope, nope. They simply stare at you as you move past them, and continue their business that you have rudely interrupted. Luckily, I have not encountered any duos getting it on in the house. Single lizards looking for a good time do sometimes wander in, though. I have to say that attempting to catch the lizards is often frustrating and not entirely effective with a head-on approach. Instead, I use the same technique I used when herding the chickens toward the coop: with my arms spread out to either side, the lizards generally move away in a fairly straight line. This allows me to direct them to an open door and send them back outside. I have caught two with my hands out of sheer luck, but most of the time, it’s a lizard roundup and herding.

Frogs. A number of them. Summer and spring brings out the peepers and tree frogs. I generally use them as a harbinger of when to transplant seedlings from the barn to the gardens: the more frog butts on the windows I can see from my desk, the better, as they are not terribly fond of cold weather. We have that in common, they and I. Most of the time it is tree frogs that must be captured and taken outside. The trick is to get the captured one back out into the wild without allowing another to pop in and take its place. Generally, I capture them with my hands, as it’s much easier than using, say, a tall cup as I do for the bees. To demonstrate their thanks for the rescue so they don’t starve to death in the house and turn into a mummified little body that I have to remove (because my mother and my sister refuse to touch them if we’re all together and we find one), they usually pee on my  hands.

By far, however, the oddest critter I have had to remove from the house is the dragonfly that somehow managed to get inside yesterday. I heard wings and the tinkling of an insect hurling itself at the recessed light bulbs in the kitchen. In the past, that has usually been a wasp or other critter that I am not terribly charitable toward, and is an omen of impending death. Yesterday, however, the dragonfly got tired of that set of bulbs and moved to the ceiling above the dining room fan, and that’s when I realized this was a brand new experience. Using a broom to extend my reach, I crawled up on chairs and tables and tried to urge it to the door that I’d opened in the dining room. It was near dusk, though, and the dragonfly was very confused and continued to bang against the light bulbs. We turned out the lights and tried to push it a bit toward the door, but the light coming in through the windows in the dining room was brighter, and it headed there. That was my big chance! I held the dragonfly down gently with the broom, and softly pushed it into the cup we use to catch bees. I released the dragonfly out in the poolyard, and it flew away without so much as a thank you. Such is life in the wild, I suppose.

That’s all for today, peeps. Until next time: be kind. And be well.

Childhood tales come to life

This is wisteria.

This is Sigmund, a Sea Monster.

I see some definite similarities here, although my personal monster is land-based, not sea-based.

Unchecked, wisteria can rapidly take over its own space and then make designs on the space all around it. It’s great at embracing empty space you have you don’t plan to fill any time soon. At the time I put it in, I didn’t have any grand designs for the front garden area. When I did get those plans in my head, each season involved cutting it back. Severely. Mercilessly.

And it kept coming back, its tentacles running again, either along the ground or hanging on the rabbit fence and pulling it outward as the mass of stems followed along, feeling their way along, looking for something to grasp and to root it before sending out another runner to declare to the next space that more stems would be following in its track.

I’ve done some checking of it, cutting off many of the tentacles reaching out to invade all the other areas of the north garden just to be able to move among the raised beds in the general area where it sits and contemplates how to proceed to eventually become a small planet unto itself. The goal is to remove the entire plant. It would be much less problematic if the flowers held an aroma that was not offensive an smelled like wet, sweaty, mildewy gym clothes that had never been washed. But they do, and although the bumblebees seem to love it, the humans who have to work around it do not.

We have another variety whose flowers hold a scent much more agreeable, and that one will replace this one, without offending the noses of the people attempting to work in peace and harmony beside it. And so it goes at the ranch…

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life