Good morning campers

Our recovery of nameless guy’s server continues today, but I did implement part one of my overall plan to get some writing time.

See, the thing about owning a small business in the field I’m in is that not only is it very unpredictable, but sometimes it takes more than one day. It can take dayS, plural. We are in day three of this specific issue, and still going.

Fortunately, right now does not involve a ton of hands on for me while we wait, so I’ve been able to knock out a few other things that also need to be attended – payroll, for instance, since my employees don’t work for free, the bastards, and payroll taxes, because neither does the IRS or the country. Other “real” work things has filled the nooks and crannies, and I believe I am caught up in the routine, day to day things. Yay!

So maybe it’s time to type a few sentences into Scrivener and move that few footsteps closer to (one) goal. Progress is progress, after all.

More later, peeps. Be well.

The plan was

To write. Because it’s time to, as Neil Gaiman says, make good art.

I’d been moving sites around as we retire older servers, and finally got to bed this morning somewhere between 4 and 4:30. A few hours later, I get a notice to my phone about a customer server. Nothing is responding. I try to log in, get a login incorrect error. Huh, that’s weird, the client is unlikely to have changed the password without telling us. I try it again, same deal. Well, hell.

So by 7:30, I’m up and around and chatting to the client, and something very bad has happened – I won’t go into details except to say it is something so bad it makes your heart stop. The plans to write this morning and perhaps a second, smaller session this afternoon? Gone.

Off to the NOC to do some recovery on this client’s server. Spend a large number of hours reviewing the damage. Build a new machine because all his sites have to be transferred off the existing one. Deal with other client stuff throughout.

Finally, I’m shot at about 2-3 AM or somewhere in there. Crash out, wake up again at 7:30 (I am now typing this on Monday, the next day here), realize I have to go get blood drawn to check various things, drive out to the hospital (again) where I was in the ER back in February to get my records for that visit, as two previous requests to relay those records to Mayo resulted in the records not being sent because they didn’t have my fax although the transmission was good, then the records not being sent because the form I hand delivered to them, in person, wasn’t done (and a bonus: they lost my form and couldn’t find it when we called asking them where the records were), and then to Publix to pick up my meds.

Off I go right out the door, because the bloodwork has to be fasting. Do all of these things today, and I am back, in my chair, at my desk, at 10:50. That is not bad at all, and shows that focused work can be truly productive – and those tasks involved other people, as well. I wonder how much writing I could get done in three hours without people (real people, anyway) being involved in things I need to get done.

Sine we’re still dealing with this server, and some defacements of pages, and because I had to mow beeyard #1 as it hasn’t been mowed in three weeks, and because I needed to feed the bees and add a second brood box to one hive, and because work has been a steady drip, drip drip of things going wrong for people, no writing today. In fact, right now I am very sleepy, and if I didn’t have to transfer this guy’s sites off his server to the new box, I’d probably go hit the sack for a bit. I actually may not do that immediately, but run something that I won’t go into detail about, and then transfer the sites after that.

Now, I wait for something else to finish on that server, and I have titles popping in to my head, so I’m writing those down. Something productive in the writing arena after all! And the day has been productive otherwise, even if it seems like treading water.

Treading is better than sinking, though.

More later, peeps. Be well.

Moving day

No, not me. Late Saturday evenings are for the heavy lifting of maintenance, including server moves, which is what I’ve been doing for hours now. People who don’t work in tech don’t realize that probably a third of your time is spent waiting for something: waiting for a copy to finish, waiting for a compile to complete, waiting for a server to reboot after a new kernel is built, waiting for someone to reply to the question you’ve asked them.

A funny: a “webmaster of x years” (x = more than two decades) spent “two hours” trying to configure FTP, couldn’t connect after figuring out what to use like on ALL other systems he uses, which of course were MUCH easier to use, finally managed to get connected to find NO files listed when he KNEW there were files under the account, and WTF don’t we have the configuration information on the page for the FTP accounts, huh? I got to point out that clicking on the handily named “FTP configuration” link RIGHT NEXT TO the FTP account he created had the configuration information listed, that he had been unable to connect because he was using “user@domain.com@domain.com” according to the logs, and that he configured the FTP user incorrectly, assigning it to its own, restricted, directory, and not the directory with all the files in it. I didn’t bother to ask WTF he spent “two hours” trying to figure it out when he could have just opened a ticket and had a reply literally within minutes, as he did with his whiny list of trial and tribulations he was going through. As of right now, almost two days later, he has not responded to our last reply, nor has he corrected the incorrectly configured FTP user as per the instructions I laid out. And what’s absurdly remarkable about all this: he has the actual user’s master username and password. I wanted to ask him WTF he was bothering screwing around with a secondary FTP user when he could just log right in with the master username and password. Problem solved, in two minutes, not two hours of dumbassery.

This is why we use lots of quotes when someone claims to be a “webmaster” of x years, or a “developer”, or an “IT person”, or a “network engineer” – the latter are amusing when they insist there’s an issue with the network (because of course, they are a network engineer, far more skilled then we are even though they know nothing about us) because look at this trace and this ping from my computer and my cell phone can’t even pull up my site, so your whole network must be down, you suck! It’s fun to tell them they triggered the firewall because they tried to access the control panel on the wrong port, having transposed the last two numbers, and perhaps untethering their phone from their home wifi network would yield a different result if they in fact triggered the firewall in the future at some point, because then they would be able to check their site from a network unrelated to their home system.

Thus ends my mini rant about clueless people who proclaim themselves to be experts on something. I find that the louder those people speak about how many years they’ve been in x, or how they hold a high position of y in some random company, the less likely it is that they know what they’re talking about, and they will probably be among the rudest people we have to deal with in any given day.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

What’s that smell?

“Your upper lip.”

That was a joke in my family that, as kids, we found vastly amusing. Another one that was equally giggle-worthy to our pre-teen brains was when someone said “excuse me”, and someone else would say “There’s no excuse for you!”

Kids are silly.

The smell was not, as it happens, my upper lip. Today was round one of mowing. It’s rare that I will do all the mowing on the property in one go, because it takes about three hours plus change to do that on a regular-size growth of the areas that need to be mowed. Because I’d been in the hospital, I missed my mowing date earlier this week, and things were a bit higher than usual. In addition, all the areas that had flooded with the daily rains we received in June are now dry – because we haven’t received any rain of significance since July 1. Such is Florida. Those areas could not be mowed while they were under water, and the grass in those areas today was almost up to my hip. Today’s session of three parts of the first group of areas I usually do in a batch took almost three hours by itself.

One of those areas is outside the gates of our tiny development here. We don’t have a HOA (how I hate them!), which is terrific, but that also means when something needs to be done, like a fix for the gate, someone has to organize it, then divvy up and collect everyone’s share of the cost to fix it. No problem for me on that; there’s a guy down the road who handles those sorts of things.

It also means we don’t have a HOA to hire a lawn service to deal with the hedges at the gates or the grass that we are responsible for, from the gates to the main road. For awhile, the guy across the street from us – the guy who has a garage mahal that’s almost as large as his house – had a lawn service, and they would mow out there. He dumped them at some point, and a couple of times he did the mowing outside the gates, then for some reason, he stopped. Since it needed to be done then, and needs to be done now, I’m doing it.

Today was one of the few days that the county doing their mowing jobs of the strips on the sides of the roads and in the ditches/swales coincided with my mowing, something that doesn’t happen often. They, of course, are in air conditioned cabs. Yours truly is on a lawn tractor, without a shade. As I started my run out there by the road, I noticed they’d missed a spot at the end of their responsible area. No big deal, I figured, I’ll just run over it and it will be done, too.

As I neared that spot, mowing around the telephone/electric pole in that side of the of the outer gate area, the breeze kicked up and I got a snootful of the most horrid smell, but one I know: death. For awhile now, I’ve been wearing a mask as I mow, as it isn’t good for my lungs to be inhaling all the things that get kicked up during that mowing time, but some of the odor managed to get through then and a few times as I went back and forth on that side of the areas outside the gates.

I thought, ugh, something has died, fairly recently, and the wind is bringing it to us. I got up on the spot the mowers had “missed” and found that the wind was bringing that smell from much closer than I imagined: there was a dead raccoon at the edge of the road there, baking in the Florida sun (it was 96F when I went out to mow). How did I know its death was fairly recent? I’ll tell you:

First, the body was pretty intact. A lot of times around here, when something dies near the road, they’re usually run over a few times. This poor creature wasn’t.

Second, it wasn’t bloated (yet). If something sits long enough in our heat, it starts to bloat as the insides get hotter and hotter. It didn’t look too much bigger than a regular sized raccoon to me.

Third, and finally: nature’s clean up crew had not yet arrived to start dealing with it. We have tons, and I mean TONS, of turkey vultures around here. Last weekend when I went to the store, I saw not one but two individual examples of those birds at work. Today, as I was mowing, I’d not seen any on that raccoon, hopping around as they jockeyed for the power of having the first go, and there were none circling above in the sky. That tells me the raccoon’s death was recent: they had not gotten to it at that point.

I had to stop after just those three sections for a few reasons: almost three hours bouncing around was eating into time I was supposed to be on the helpdesk, I’d used almost a full tank of gas on the tractor (that one tankful usually allows me to finish four or five sections in this particular area group), I was getting hungry, and I was sweating so much that my hands were slipping on the wheel, no matter how often I was wiping them on my equally sweaty and wet shirt.

It was a bit windy, as I mentioned, everything is quite dry from no rain, and I was filthy, covered in dirt from head to toe. After getting the tractor cleaned and back in the shed, I got a shower, had some lunch, and worked.

And now, I’m eating again, a bit sleepy, planning my day tomorrow, but planning to write this evening despite the fatigue as my “real” work slows down for the weekend, since that’s the time I have for it. Between Wednesday evening and this morning, I had four more ideas for stories involving the main character in the book I’m working on. Clearly, I don’t lack for ideas, as one of the previous posts showed. Some are more fleshed out than others, and I thought of a title for one of the new ones last night when I was trying to get to sleep, and just as clearly as being overflowing with ideas, I need to write faster. Much faster, and much more regularly. Getting the writing in each day can be a struggle, as of course the “real” work is often unpredictable, given the nature of it, but it’s time to take what I can get, when I can get it, and, as Neil Gaiman says, make good art.

That’s it for this one, peeps. More later, as always. Be well.

The lost weekend

OK, so it was not a weekend, and not as Oscar-worthy as the movie of that name (which is brilliant, by the way – you should watch it if you’ve never seen it). It was a few days during the week, and yours truly was back in the hospital with pneumonia. Again.

The  first sign of an issue: I slept for almost 11 hours straight, without waking up. Not normal for someone who regularly wakes up every 2 to 2.5 hours.  When I got up, I couldn’t really see – everything was sparkly, and not in the sparkly vampire sense, but in the sense of standing up too quickly, or getting heat stroke. So, we took my blood pressure, which was a rather alarming 64/48, then twice more because hey, you have to confirm these things, and the other two were not much different. I also stuck a finger in my handy pulse ox (O2) thing and it came back as 76%. Stuck it on another finger and got 80%. None of this is good. We called 911 and yours truly took a delightful ride in the ambulance to the ER. They gave me oxygen and fluids and finally I was back into normal ranges. But, I also got admitted because the chest xray showed lower lobe pneumonia, and they wanted to nuke me with some IV antibiotics.

And here’s where those sensitive to descriptions of bodily functions should stop reading. Seriously, if, say, reading about people puking gives you the heebie jeebies, stop here. I mean it.

Still here? Good. let’s have a little chat about heavy doses of antibiotics via IV, shall we?

The point of it all is to kill all the bad stuff, knocking it down quickly to a level where you can go home and take more antibiotics the way any normal person would take them, for x days. The problem is that those large doses of antibiotics kill everything – including the good little bacterial guys humming around in your guts, happily keeping things stabilized down there. You know what happens then?

Explosive diarrhea. And I don’t mean that in the joking, ha-ha sense, I mean that in the “OMG, am I going to make it to the bathroom before I shit my pants and the bed and everything between me and the bathroom” sense.

Fortunately, it’s kind of easy to tell from the gut rumbles when the time is close, so the astute patient hauls their ass out of bed and into the bathroom. This was made easier for me this time because they didn’t have me continuously hooked up to the IVs, so I was free to get up without having to take the IV stand with me.

And then, I got my independence from the hospital on Independence Day, July 4! I made my escape back to the ranch, and have two antibiotics to take, along with something they quaintly describe as being “for loose stool”. Thankfully, the doses are not high enough to cause me to have to race to the bathroom, so things are not quite as explosive as they were in the hospital. We should be thankful for some small favor every day, and right now, that one’s mine.

More later, peeps. Be well.

Crawling out of timesinks

As I said yesterday, I made a massive shift that gave me time I could assign to something else.  What was that?

I shut down pretty much all social media.

Now, to be fair, I was most active on facebook and twitter, with a small dabbling in instagram from time to time, and those three are the biggies, name recognition-wise. But I got sick and tired of facebook, and deactivated my account there. As a result, I have quite a lot more time to pursue other things, because those “I’ll just spend ten minutes checking out facebook” is never really ten minutes. You look up, and suddenly you’e been checking it for an hour or longer, wasting time that could be better spent on other pursuits.

I still have a page on facebook, since publishers expect writers to have a “platform” (and let me tell  you how I want to launch that phrase into the heart of the sun). Before I deactivated my primary account used to create that page, I created a new account for myself that follows nothing and friends no one. I then passed administrative duties for the page from the account I used to this new account that I do not use except to manage that page: an object lesson in how to both have a presence and not have a presence on facebook.

That was followed next by twitter getting the heave-ho for the most part. I created another twitter account to use as my author account (for branding purposes, of course).   Under that umbrella, I can do the author update thing now and again without spending hours at a time on social media throughout the day.

So, while I know that it’s necessary for me (the artist) to have a presence on these outlets, it really is not necessary for me (the person) to have one, and now I basically don’t. And I’m ok with that.

Hotties

No, not those kinds of hotties, you pervs – get your mind out of the gutter!

I’m referring to this sort:

This was just before 3 PM local time, with a temp of 93F and a heat index of 110F. You know that phrase “It isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity.”? This week has matched that phrase. This morning I popped out to the beeyard to check a few hives to see who needed a second brood box and to generally make sure there were a good number of bees and stores in those hives. At that time, about 9:30 AM, it was already 84F with a heat index of 92F. I was so soaked with sweat when I came in I had to change all my clothes. It was like wearing a swimsuit, and I had to peel all my clothes off my body, they were that soaked – including my socks.

But that’s ok. This is Florida, after all, and while some days are not all that pleasant, I expect this, and I chose to live here. Making it through the summers is my version of climbing Everest: how far can I push myself without keeling over?

I rolled out of bed at about 7:30 this morning, and this is what greeted me:

Foggy morning at the ranch, which turned into a burner of a day. It all burned off by the time I went out to the bees, and then Mother Nature did her thing by bringing the heat.

The gardens are still a work in progress, and there is still more work to be done. However, each year, I keep refining the processes out there, and I think next year will be even better because of the changes I have in mind. That refinement is what I’m trying to do in other areas of life as well, from outdoor work to the helpdesk where a new user accused us of selling his email address to spammers. He had registered a domain, and naturally, since WHOIS information is public, and the spammers watch new domain registrations, he started getting spammed. He also told us this was “very unprofessional”. I counted backwards from five, then pointed this fact out to him and offered to use our masking info for the domain, so that we would get the spam and the phone calls. He took up that offer. Problem solved, and for me, no being pissed off because of the rudeness some people shoot our way for no reason.

I’ve now posted to the blog here daily since the 24th. It’s a start, and helps me get into the groove of making writing a habit. It occurred to me that I wasn’t making writing one of my top priorities, being too busy with the business, doctor visits, and so on. I made the decision to make it a priority, just as the business, my gardens, and my bees are. I had started a web site as a hobby type of thing, tracking deaths in any given week, I realized that was a major timesink, since I had to pick from the lists, then go do research to build the short blurb I’d give to each. That one had to go, because it took away time I wanted to assign over to my writing instead.

There’s another major shift I made that freed up a ton of time. But that’s a story for tomorrow.

Be well, peeps, and I’ll blather more at you soon.

Critters

Big mowing day today at the ranch. We’ve had a ton of rain, so there are still areas where it’s flooded and can’t be mowed. There are also places where the water has been absorbed or evaporated enough that the ground is springy, but not under water, so it can be mowed.

The problem with those areas is that they stink: a fetid, dead smell enveloping you as you drive by, cutting grass that’s almost hip high because the area was previously flooded.

In addition, in all of these area, the mosquitoes are heinous, even with the addition of mosquito dunks and granules thrown in to try to keep the larvae to a minimum. The mosquitoes are also gigantic, much like any other pain in the ass annoyance/invasive species down here: giant slugs, giant snakes, giant roaches, etc. I smacked three of them and left a bloody trail where they had landed and immediately tried to bleed me dry. But some of their buddies made it beyond my slapping and got me here and there.

In other news, one of the turtles made an appearance after I’d mowed the front of the property. This is one of the smaller ones. I think there are three living here, one of which is massive and probably quite old.

The kids had a good time crouching down with it, looking it over, and taking pictures. I’m sure the turtle was thinking what a horrible commute it was having.

There was also a small harvest going on: peppers, green beans, and sungold tomatoes. It was raining, so it was a bit of a short harvest, but the bell peppers are doing fantastic, the tabascos are beginning to fruit, the paprikas, anchos, and cayennes are producing crazy amounts, and the giant jalapenos (for stuffing) are just beautiful. There isn’t a ton of bug/critter activity on the peppers, and that’s good since I’ve basically neglected them. I’d love to have some of the green bells to age to red, but down here, leaving them past the green stage is usually an invitation to have the pepper get scalded or go soft. There’s a reason red peppers are generally grown in greenhouses and cost more than greens: they take longer and they need more specialized care.

Of course, once you harvest, you have to wash. There wasn’t much in the way of dirt or anything else on these, but someone loves to wash the veg, so of course…

She did an excellent job, too, even if she was eating every other sungold. Both the soul eating baby (kid, now, I guess) and the monkeyboy ate bell peppers like apples. There’s nothing quite like fresh, right out of the garden veg to get kids to eat their vegetables.

On not pushing

AKA: on not being a complete dumbass that you head out to do strenuous things just when you’re starting to feel whole again.

Today, a day when the forecast said 80% chance of rain, a day when that went to 0% chance of rain but overcast, would have been a fine day to do rounds of pulling weeds. But I didn’t, even though it wound up not raining today at the ranch.

After yesterday’s escapades with my guts trying to escape my body, I was a tad more prudent than I have been in the past, and I just said: nope. I stayed in, getting work done, doing end of the quarter stuff, finishing repairing my desk drawer as seen in a previous post, putting those things away, and so. For my efforts at minding myself, I was presented with just one horrible round of gut wrenching cramping.

Tomorrow, I plan to pop out to feed my bees and have a look at the peppers. There are some that have to mature to red before they’re ready to be put to some use: cayennes, paprikas, tabascos. As much as I’d like to get red bells out of the garden, so I can roast them and sock them away in the freezer for future batches of roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup – a favorite of mine, loaded with vitamins, fiber, and damn tasty to boot – it’s very difficult to get to stage red from stage green thanks to the weather and the bugs. The hot chiles are better about bugs (if I were a bug, the capsaicin would probably be a turnoff for me, too), but I haven’t really looked at those plants in about two weeks to see how the rains have treated them. The tomatoes are a disaster, this I know. It’s sad, because those really are the crown jewels of the garden, and it’s been a few years since we had harvests of any significance.

What I do not plan to do tomorrow is to go right back into overdrive mode to try to clean up a couple of months of lack of weeding in a couple of hours worth of work. I am slowly, every year, improving on what I’m doing out there to continually lessen the aggravation that is weeding, which will leave me more time to tend to the actual plants, do bug and worm hunts, and keep the plants productive for whatever their lifespans may be.

This weekend, I plan to start a new flat of tomato seeds, to see if I can squeeze in another planting. I tried this last year, but it didn’t work out well, as I started the flat too late for them to get going after transplant. This time, I’ll start earlier, and pick varieties that won’t (or shouldn’t) immediately keel over in August, the month of hellishness down here, and that have shorter maturity times, as it doesn’t make much sense to try to get a 90-day post transplant seedling to produce when that’s cutting to the very edge of what is the norm here toward the end of the year. I’ll also be doing some brassicas: broccoli, cauliflowers of different colors, and brussels sprouts, which I hate but other members of the family enjoy quite a lot.

Saturday is also July 1, the start of CampNano.  CampNano is a twice a year event put on by the same people who bring NaNoWiMo (National Novel Writing Month) to life once a year in November.  The goal for participants in NaNoWriMo in November is to write 50,000 words toward a novel during that month. CampNano, which opens in April and July, is a bit looser, and allows for almost any any kind of creative activity: revising, editing, writing poetry or nonfiction or essays music or pretty much anything else. There is no set target word count; each participant sets their own goal(s), whether that is to complete a revision, write/create x hour(s) a day or week, write something completely new, and so on. Participants are sorted into cabins, and can choose to create a cabin and have friends join it, or allow CampNaNo to assign participants to a random cabin, or to a cabin with other people in the same genre or pursuit.

I decided to throw my name into the participation bucket and I opted for them to group me with other people working on novels in my chosen genre (mystery, for this first book). A quick check this evening shows that there are 15 of us in the cabin, and I think that means we’re full up.  Time for us all to introduce ourselves, I suppose. For my goal, I want to complete the first draft of this thing that’s banging around in my head pretty completely. Those piles of notes in the picture from one of the previous posts does not actually contain a narrative outline for this book, because it’s almost fully formed in my head; however, I do plan on writing that narrative tomorrow or Friday to see how the scenes flow together on paper the way they do in my head. That way, I can pick out what doesn’t seem to work as well as I thought, rearrange it, and the story will be better for it, I’m sure.

If you’re an artist of some kind, you might want to check out CampNano. If you’re a novel(la) person, you might also want to check out NaNoWriMo in November, too.

For me, if this next month works out well, I may very well just start making every month a NaNoWriMo, in the same way I’m treating CampNaNo as one. After all, I have plenty of ideas.

Sick sick

What I’d really like from the universe: a fairly long length of time of feeling good. Not great. I don’t need great. But I don’t need a once a week visit from bug-o-the-week. Today appears to be that day. The bugger of the thing is that I felt pretty good over the weekend, and yesterday was good, too: three shakes, two cans of formula. This morning, though, I woke up queasy, had some dry heaves, thought that did it, started breakfast (such as it is for me) and it’s been downhill from there.

Now, I have my handy bottle of a popular sports drink, one flavor of which (available around here) does not cause my mouth to burn. I’m hoping this will go down, stay down, and I can get back on my horse – or tractor, since I mowed Friday, and you can’t even tell – and get back to what has now become my rather unfortunate normal.

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life