Category Archives: Life in general

“Violet, You’re turning violet, Violet”

Ah, yes. Violet the gum chewer who did something stupid at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

While I might not have a three course meal with blueberry pie in gum form, I do have blueberries here at the ranch. Well, potential blueberries.


One of the blueberry bushes is taller than me.

That’s fine, though. I’ll haul a ladder out to pick them if I have to.

We’ll be awash in berries in the very near future. They freeze extremely well, so we won’t lose any of the harvest. I need to prune these back in the fall. They’ve had a wee bit of lack of management over the past few years, for obvious reasons. The same goes for the blackberries and raspberries: their canes need to be cut back after this season. I also need to run another trellis wire on my posts to train those. one more thing on the todo list!

Speaking of todo lists, I have been putting a dent in mine. I transferred all the “work” work stuff into a journal, and I’m working on getting the other items transferred over.

The only thing on my lists I have not gotten to is the reading. By the time I finish doing the normal daily things and some of the items on the lists, I am dog tired. i’m falling asleep at my desk as I try to get this done, so time to wrap it up. Tomorrow is another day filled with possibility. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Spring cleaning

It is not yet spring here, if you go strictly by the calendar. If you go by the weather, however, Mother Nature is telling a far different tale.

This is not to say she won’t change her mind about bypassing winter entirely here. It’s possible she will bring some random freeze and drop it on our doorstep with the same pride a cat has when it brings a dead critter home. Our forecast for the next ten days, in fact, has a random evening with a forecast overnight temperature of 34F. This is mildly concerning to me, as I have directly sowed some things, and if they have germinated and are up, it is possible they could get zapped by a sustained freeze (or even frost, in at least one case).

I’m not going to worry about that, though – I can sow those same seeds again, as they are plentiful and cheap. I sowed them early because that allows me to get them out of the way of when transplant time comes. That’s a very busy time for me, both in the gardens and in the bees. Anything I can knock out of having to do then is a plus.

Right now that means weeding and cleaning out hives that are not in active use. I lost some colonies in 2018, and also have other gear that needs to be cleaned, so I got to it.

Hives to be tidied
Cleanup time!

 

One of the things that happens as you are recovering from a couple of years of constant pneumonia and being in and out of the hospital, and then a year of recovery from that,v is that some things miss the boat as far as getting done. This didn’t rank high on the list, and what happens is that wax moths will move in and start using brood comb for their grossness. I got a late start (in the afternoon, as the rain that was forecast never quite made it) and managed to get three stack done.

As part of that doneness, I picked out some of the larvae so the girls (and Sir) could have some nice extra (live!) protein in their diet.

They loved these. I’m sure I’ll have more for them as I move through the rest of the hives to clean them. The best thing is that when I give them food – this or other food – they transform it into eggs for my family.

The hive cleanup is one of the items on the bees section of attractions on Todo Lake, and while I did not get through all of them today, I got a start, and that is what matters. It isn’t always the doing that is the difficult part. The difficulty is in the starting. Then it’s just a matter of allowing momentum to take over to power through, as many of the things on my list are not things that can be done in one sitting.

Once I get the hives cleaned and the frames and foundation dealt with, I’ll need to repaint a few of these hive bodies. And then, these condos will be ready to be put back into service by some of the new bees I’m getting and from the splits I’m going to have to make from the existing hives, as they continue their population levels. Except for a few packages, the rest are varieties I’ve never had before: Russians, Buckfast, and Carniolan. It is going to be fun learning the traits of these newbees in my beeyard.

The other day, I pulled some weeds in the rear gardens as I continue the race against “No Winter”and schedule my transplants.

One row was infested with lesser swine cress. Nice rosette pattern. Deep taproot, though, so it’s a hard one to get out completely, and if you want it done well, you cannot half-ass it.

Even the baby ones have long roots.

 

Tomorrow – as long as the rain holds off, or at least whatever time I have before it arrives for a visit, I’ll be continuing my bee gear clean up adventure.

That’s it for today, peeps. Until next time:  be well.

Gearing up

Aaaaaannnnnnd we are back. Again.

When I finally got over having pneumonia all the time, I thought, great, now I’ll be able to get stuff done and also start writing. But it didn’t quite turn out that way, thanks to a number of things, one of which is the constant shuffling at the NOC. They’d like it very much if we moved over to Jax2, which is the shiny new area they’ve built out. I’m trying to stop saying “the only problem with that is…” because it sounds rather like I’m valuing problems more than solutions. So, the solution to that would be to physically move all the servers and assorted gear from Jax1 to Jax2. Our racks, the ones we own, cannot go there – we’d be using their racks (for free) and we’d still have a cage to ourselves, just as we do now. We’d remove our racks from the NOC entirely – they would join the ones already in my shed here at the ranch, and would be destined for craigslist, I imagine. The logistics need to be worked out on that.

Circling back to the main point: there are going to be some changes around here. I spent much of 2018 dealing with about a billion things that slipped into Todo Lake while I was busy being sick. That impacted other things, like the bees and the gardens: neither thrived. I also got virtually no writing done.

After this all bled into 2019, I made a decision: either I was going to write – which I’ve wanted to do since I was quite young – or I was not. And if I was not, I was going to stop talking about it and thinking about it, and just go on with the rest of my life. It is not an easy conversation to have with yourself, believe me. But I decided that yes, writing was something I really, really wanted to do: both prose and poetry, the latter of which sustained me through high school boredom.

How do we prioritize writing over everything else I have going on (except the business; that of course has to stay, as it’s what pays the bills)?

By brain dumping absolutely everything that needs to be done in all the non-writing areas of my life, no matter how large or small they are, no matter how much or little time each task will take. And then, going over the lists and knocking out items from Todo Lake. What do those dumps look like? Like this:

This is two pages, just for the biz, of two columns each. I have lists for other areas: bees, chickens, gardens, home. The idea is to run through the lists and start knocking things out: if I run across something that will take five or ten minutes, and I’m in a position to do that something, the goal is to go ahead and do it at the moment, instead of saying “I’ll do it at x time” or allowing that five or so second of decision making pass and allow the chore, whatever it is, to be punted along down the road.

Obviously, not everything will take just a few minutes to do. But if there is something I estimate will take 15 minutes or more, or is a multi-day item (rolling out some administrative scripts to all servers, for instance, would probably be a multi day activity), doing X numbers of servers each day until they are all completed.

I’ve given myself the month of February to cross off as much of this as I can. On March 1, the writing takes priority, regardless of how many items are still floating in Todo Lake. Those will then get done by and by.

There are some things, though, I’ve decided to start early.  One is that I deactivated my primary facebook account over two years ago, and have just a personal facebook profile that now manages my author facebook page (since publishers want you to have a “platform”, ugh) and the biz page. I’ve also kicked myself off my personal twitter account this week: no going on twitter for any reason, including to look at links other people send me.

Two is to post on this here blog every day. I’ve had streaks before, but this particular exercise is to do it regardless of how I feel, what else is going on, if I “don’t have time” (there is usually some kind of block of a few minutes or longer to put something up), or if I don’t have anything in particular to say. Even if I just type in the date and the time, that will be enough. The goal: to simply make sure I can commit to it. After all, writing novels takes that kind of commitment.

Three: read 100 pages of a book every day. Any book, any subject. The goal: to keep up my reading habits. Not terribly difficult, since i love to read. The danger of this is settling in to read and then not stopping to do the other things I want to get done.

Four: meditate for ten minutes a day. The goal: mindfulness and stress relief. The secondary goal for this is to bump that to twice a day. I plan to start small, for five minutes a day to begin, because I know it will take practice to get my brain to stop yammering away when it should be still.

I hope all of you are pursuing whatever it is you want badly to do. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Review: Bad Blood

I’ve been a user of GoodReads in a half-assed kind of way of the last several years. I read – a LOT – and sometimes it just felt like a bother to put the books in so they could be rated.

That was before Amazon bought the company.

Now that they have a handle tool to connect to your Amazon account to pull in all the books you have purchased, unless you get a book via another means, rating something you’ve read via a purchase or Kindle Unlimited is much, much easier.

Not so easy was getting my Amazon account linked with the primary GR profile I had set up. Because over the years I would forget that I had set one up, I’d create another. In the end, I wound up with three GR profiles, and none of them would connect to my Amazon account.

But thanks to the efforts of Sofia C. in their support department, I was able to get my accounts merged AND get Amazon linked to the one profile I now had. Sweet!

Of course, this comes with another round of rating things, and I realized when looking at the list of purchases (or Kindle Unlimited reads), that it was going to take awhile to do the ratings, for two reasons: one, because there are just so many of them. Two, because the details of the ones I’ve read relatively long ago have faded a bit from the brain.

I’d like to do reviews, but that takes being organized enough to put my thoughts down in a coherent way that the review would be worthwhile, and there would be quite a number of them to write. I may do it, maybe not, but I figured I would go ahead and a drop a review here of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (not an affiliate link) by  John Carreyrou.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a sucker for a well-written business book, especially if the book is about an implosion at a company. For instance, I have read many books about the collapse of Enron, and books about the failures of Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns during the housing bubble crash, and about the failure of AIG, something thought impossible.

In Bad Blood, Carreyrou, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal takes a look at Theranos, the management team of which promised to be revolutionizing the way blood tests were drawn and processed, via their proprietary system of sliding pipettes of miniscule amounts of blood – gathered from a fingertip lancet – which were then put in a cartridge and then slid into a box for processing by the machinery in that box.

Carreyrou does a terrific job of using firsthand accounts from people inside and out (mainly out) of Theranos and describes the rather toxic environment it must have been to work there: paranoia, suspicions, blatant lies from management, and probably a dash of psycopathy thrown in. Remember: these devices were supposed to work to give people information about their health. As the book makes abundantly clear, and as people who had been at Theranos make clear, the boxes didn’t work, and never had worked to do all the tests the founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, told everyone who would listen that they would. Toward the end of the book, he switches over to first person, describing how he put the pieces of the story together for his article.

It is a bit difficult at times to keep up with all the people introduced in the book, but don’t let that deter you if you’re interested in reading accounts of businesses torpedoing themselves because of their vaporware.

Overall, I would give it five out of five stars.

If you’re not interested in business-related books, I hope you are reading something.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Coloring the sky

After a pretty heavy storm back in July, we got a nifty double rainbow at the ranch: sharp, full colors, courtesy of Mother Nature.

I had been doing really well both with the daily blog posts and with the writing toward the novel, but got derailed because (as usual) I shift a ton of energy to all the things that are on the todo list – which of course never ends – for the business. By the end of the day, between the chickens, bees, and work on the property/in the gardens, and the work work added on top of that, I’m usually falling asleep at my desk.

So, I have to rein in the “everything has to be checked off every day!” portion of the brain and divert that energy into writing. I’ve recruited one of my sisters to act as an accountability person for me, just to ask me if I got my writing done each day around her bedtime hour.

I keep having specific scenes for books other than the one I’m working on primarily, and ideas for other books come zipping into my brain all the time. I suppose this is a good problem to have, Focus. Focus. Focus. Get the first one done. Then you’ll know you can do it, and the next one should be easier in reducing that gut-wrenching worry about finishing something. Anything.

Remember, folks: it’s never too late.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Peepers

True story about the arrival of the chicks (ten layer chickens, plus an additional free layer thanks to the hatchery, and ten for meat, if you have forgotten or are new – and if you’re new, hi!).

It’s kind of the same story about the bees and UPS, really, except the USPS tracking updates really, really suck sometimes.

I ordered the birds on the 30th. They hatched that very day, and McMurray Hatchery (see them for all your baby chicken needs!) packed the chicks and sent them out via the USPS priority mail. They kindly sent a tracking number, and on the 31st, the tracking indicated the package of peepers was at St Paul (McMurray is in Iowa), and “pending acceptance”. I have no idea what the hell that means, USPS. So, I checked throughout the day on the 31st, waiting for some kind of change to the status – like they’d been sent on to the next fulfillment center, for instance. Nope, nothing beyond the package being in St Paul.

Now, chicks can survive for several days, as they absorb the yolk from the egg and that sustains them. But if they get lost in the byzantine maze of the USPS centers, they’ll probably die.

On the 1st, I got up, did the usual morning things, and at about 9 AM I checked the tracking again. The status said: out for delivery, with a time on that status of 8:34 AM.

Believe me, gentle reader, when I say such statuses are complete and utter bullshit.

If  you are getting livestock through the mail or via UPS, it’s highly likely that you will have to go to your local post office or the UPS facility to pick them up. It’s been true for the bees I’ve ordered over the years, and I was certain it would be true this time as well. I told several people I thought it was a lie.

At about 10:30 AM, we got a call from our tiny, rural post office, saying they had our chicks and please come get them. I hate to be the one who says “I told you so” but….

I made my way to the PO – which, by the way, closes for lunch for an hour at 11:30 AM most days – and got stuck at a train crossing as a freight train rumbled and clanked its way to wherever it was going. By the time I reached that point, it was a bit after 11 AM. As much as I love trains (I do love almost everything transportation-wise except cars) I was hoping it would get itself finished so I could get across the tracks to the main road to the PO – which is the second right after the tracks.

They got themselves moved along and I made it to the PO with time to spare. I checked in the box to make everyone was alive (they were), then secured them and headed back to the ranch. My sister and her kids had arrived at the ranch to do a little work before I made it back, so while it was not a surprise I was bringing back chicks, it was a surprise for my niece, who was not even born the last time we had chickens at the ranch. And this is how she reacted.

I don’t think there’s much in this world cuter than a kid meeting baby animals for the first time.

Also, for the record, the chick she put back in the box was just fine. It went into the brooder with the rest and they are all doing well.

Don’t count your eggs

Before they’ve been popped out by a hen.

No, that isn’t the way that saying goes.

Chick prep day whatever: today I braved Tractor Supply to lay in some stores for the chicks, due to arrive (probably) Tuesday. I’m sure the USPS will be much happier with a box of peeping chicks than packages of humming bees.

Anyhow, the local place was hopping today: I counted over a dozen other people there, including the stereotypical grizzled old cowboy, boots, hat, and a belt buckle that was rather impressive. He had a head full of white that nicely set off his deep tan – what could be seen of it, since he was also decked out in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. People may wonder about working outdoors, in Florida, in summer, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, but if you’re doing certain types of work (especially during mosquito season) it’s better to have more cover than less. He was not, alas, there to buy a new hay corral or have Big Jim (in my mind, there is always a “Big Jim” at a feed store or Tractor Supply) load up some heavy ass posts and giant rolls of cattle fencing because he was finally closing in that big piece of pasture, you know the one, on down past that new pond, right?

Nope.

Just a single item, maybe two, that I couldn’t even see from where I was in the line with my 50 pound bag of chick starter feed, some chick grit, and a new trough at the other register they finally opened to relieve Elaine (that was her name, actually), who originally had us about ten deep waiting to check out.

I also had to hit up Target today, looking for a couple of adapters. It wasn’t a horrible experience, completely, but that is one soulless, non-interactive place to be. I imagine it’s only a half step up from Wal-Mart, which I have not visited in well over 15 years at this point, thankfully. Not a single person talked to me – which is fine, I don’t exactly crave human contact – and as I went toward the checkout, the air smelled curdled somehow, as if someone had dropped a jug of milk that splattered everywhere but didn’t it get cleaned up all the way. Five days ago. Or it could have been the guy in line in front of me. Either way.

To top off my day, I had to go to Best Buy, which is now a riot of sound and gigantic active tv screens. They really, really, would like you to buy various appliances. At least the people are friendly enough, but the checkout takes forever because they want to see if you are in their system already. Whatever happened to the days of just buying the crap you need and getting out?

Also, I have to say that moving all the electronic detritus you’ve accumulated from one machine to another has to rank up there with the most tedious, annoying things you have to do. Even more annoying is when you realize you copied some of the outlook-related files, but not the actual PST file that you need to go on the new system. Argh.

Funny stuff from the folks who made the hanging waterers I bought (instead of making them myself because my time is money and I’ve got enough capital tied up in other things at this moment): they would like you to know they also sell nesting boxes – for the non-chicken initiated, these are where the chickens will lay their eggs, typically, although they will also lay them on the floor or, even more fun, under bushes/plants, where you won’t find them until much, much later, and one wrong move translates into a very big mistake involving the sulfuric aroma of rotten eggs. Anyhow, their illustrations just made me laugh, and perhaps you’ll get a chuckle, too.

It is true that chickens, once they start eating their own eggs, will often continue to do so unless they are physically prevented from doing it. There are solutions for that, but the best thing is to prevent them from doing it in the first place. Giving them good nesting boxes and collecting the eggs on a regular basis tends to do the trick. More importantly: no poop on the eggs! (In reality, with good nesting boxes of any sort, the eggs will generally be poop-free.)

Until next time peeps: be well.

 

Consistency

As of yesterday, I had posted to the blog nine days in a row. Today makes ten. Go me.

At first, I thought I might just do something short and silly, like type the date and call it done. Interesting enough, I’ve found something to talk about, even if it’s of interest only to me. And even if it is only me interested, I’m okay with that.

I’ve also written – actual writing on the novel front – for five days in a row. As with the blog, at first I thought I might not have a whole lot to write toward the story – or at least, nothing that I’d be proud to point to and say, “This is not total shit.”

As with this here blog, though, it seems to be not terrible – the act of getting the words down or the words themselves. There will be things to fix, of course, and I can handle that. But if you never write it, it can never be really fixed, even if you think it’s perfect in your head. Excelsior!

I’ll leave you with two pics of a mystery bird my mom caught in the top of one of the trees in the rear of the property. It’s obviously some kind of heron, with that neck extension.

And here is the mystery bird leaving the ranch, neck retracted.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Tuesdays are the worst

I’m not sure what it is about Tuesdays in tech. They are absolutely the worst day of the week, with weirdo requests and people not bothering to take in anything you’re telling them. For instance: we’ve just told someone how to set his email client so he can actually, you know, GET HIS MAIL. He’s decided to leave everything alone  and only change if it becomes a problem. Sir, it already is a problem, so perhaps taking our instructions would be beneficial to your email operations completing properly. These things don’t magically cure themselves.

I have a theory about this phenomenon: I think people get back to work on Monday, blow through whatever it is they have to do, and by Tuesday are once again slacking off and leeching off their employers’ internet connections to do stuff related to their sites. It’s the only thing that makes sense given the sheer number of tickets on Tuesday versus other days of the week. Not that I’m knocking slacking off – if whatever you have to do is done, slack away.  I have a suspicion that some people have not completed their work when they indulge their slackiness. Shame on them.

I don’t recall ever seeing this specific issue in the non-tech, in real life jobs I’ve had in the past. It may be that those jobs were just hellish all the time. Certainly the retail jobs I’ve held were pure hell, every day.

If this is as bad as it gets, user-wise, on otherwise normal days (no server crashes, network issues, etc.) then I guess it isn’t too terribly bad on this end. We could still dowith a little relief from the folks who are not inclined to take instructions to heart, though, regardless of the day.

Until next time, peeps: be well.