Sunday, June 2, 2019

I'm Sure They're Talking on Nextdoor

So it's summer again, or technically spring, I guess, but I prefer to simplify things and go with:
  • cold = winter
  • wet/green = spring
  • hot = summer
  • omg it's still hot just kill me now and also everything is dead = fall
Obviously there's a little room for overlap, and sometimes spring and winter flop back and forth, but my system makes a whole lot more sense than looking at the damn calendar and claiming that it's spring when it's supposed to be 100 F this week.

Wait, I was going somewhere with the spring/summer thing... Oh yeah. Anyhow, now that everything is growing, I feel the need to plant things around my property. Most of my garden is stuff that grows with little-to-no intervention and is either perennial or reseeds itself. Artichokes, chard, mint, blackberries... that's all stuff that takes care of itself. Some years I get tomatoes and for a while I had tomatillos that came up every year, but I think I smothered them the last time I mulched. But I like to try new things, especially in my ongoing war against the front lawn-weeds. Yet plants are expensive.

You know what's not expensive? Cuttings from other people's plants. (Obviously, this is only true if you don't get fined or shot or whatever. Your mileage may vary.) So my daily walks around the neighborhood have turned into long strolls wherein I size up everyone's landscaping and try to decide if that interesting plant a) is drought resistant, and b) will root from a cutting. Extra points if I can break off a piece from the sidewalk. My kitchen window houses a row of Ball jars with cuttings in water.

So yeah, that's what I've been doing lately. Now I just need to get a pair of scissors that will fit in my pocket and I can go cut a few twigs from a plant a few streets over...

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Only Middle Grade Fiction I'll Ever Write

A while back I purged a bunch of stuff, including some bags of papers. Later I realized I couldn't find the book I'd written in 7th grade English, and I just assumed it had been in one of those bags and was lost forever.

But then today I was doing a clean in preparation for letting my petsitter into my place, and tada!
As covers go, it's a bit... terrible, yes, I know, but in my defense this was done in an era before personal computers. And Photoshop hadn't yet been invented. Also, I'm not sure I had a choice about the orange paper. Of course, I'm not sure my efforts today would be much better.

Anyhow, it's 50 pages of hand-typed amazingness. First off, it definitely starts out in media res. In fact, it's so much in the middle of things that I had absolutely no idea what was going on for two pages as I read it. But hey, I managed to get two characters, the setting, and the hook all in the first page.

The tall green grass felt cool under Mirny's feet as she and Myda, her twin sister, wandered off the trail to explore. As she looked around her, she was surprised at the beauty of the tiny valley they had found. Tall leafy trees towered above her head and provided relief from the hot summer sun.
"I wonder who owns this place," she said aloud, before she realized that they did not have to hide their talent with no one around. She knew Myda could hear her thoughts just as well as when she spoke.
The telepathic twin girls are chasing their dog and fall through a hole into another time. The last 500 years have not been good ones (due to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union -- yeah, this was written in 1980 - 1981), and they immediately run into another telepathic girl (Vena, the third of the titular trio) who has escaped from a mental hospital because she doesn't think like everyone else.

The whole "hey, we just ended up 500 years in the future" thing is covered entirely in two paragraphs.

In many ways this book is way ahead of its time. It's a post-apocalyptic tale with some kick-ass female protagonists who solve their own problems. There's a dog (their German Shepherd "Kenya").

The only men in the story are evil (so... the most lifelike part of the entire story, ha ha!). I give you this snippet, which is the introduction of the antagonist:
Just looking at him gave Myda chills up and down her spine. His black hair was cut short and he did not have a mustache, but one look at his eyes and they knew he was not as soft as his appearance would have them believe. His eyes were black and he had a piercing gaze that reminded Mirny of an eagle before diving for its prey. After a long moment he finally spoke. "My name is Dr. Myze and I'm your new psychiatrist. Even though my colleagues tell me that you," he stared directly at Vena, "are hopelessly insane, I will still try to cure you of your disease. As for your acquaintances, I have no record of them on our files, but I'm sure they're as crazy as you if they were Beyond, in the forest."
I mean sure, there are a few (hundred) cliches crammed into that paragraph, but there's no question about who the bad guy is.

The girls get captured and sent to a mental hospital where they are found to be resistant to the machine that would change their thoughts. They then communicate telepathically with their dog (who, sadly, wasn't enough of a character to make it into the book title) and bust out, destroying the evil machine and freeing everyone in the process.

There's some excellent world building along the way, like this section, during the escape:
The indignant guard started yelling for help.
"Isn't there some way to shut him up? Somebody is sure to hear him and then we're in big trouble." Mirny was glancing around nervously as she said this.
"Oh yea, I forgot." Vena gave a short laugh. She depressed another switch and the noise was instantly silenced although they could still see him yelling. "It's possible to soundproof the door, but I forgot all about it until now."
 Then they get to the evil laboratory, find the unknown-before-this-point button that makes the machine unfold into a computer, and the twins suddenly remember they took a computer course the summer before and decide to reprogram it.
For the next two hours the twins set out on the monumental task. Many times they stopped to try and figure out something that was new and strange, but they finally finished.
That's probably the most unrealistic part of the whole book because I've been programming for nearly thirty years now and in two hours I would probably still be dinking around trying to figure out why the damn button that doesn't do anything yet is showing up twenty pixels away from where it was supposed to... but whatever. Maybe they've given up on web-based GUIs in the intervening 500 years.

Anyhow, they all run off to "Beyond, in the forest" and the three girls (and the dog that saved their asses!) fall back through the OSHA-approved hole in the ground and end up back in the original time and everyone is happy.

Sure there's the odd plot hole and point of view shift along the way, but I've read worse things that were traditionally published.

If only I'd had access to photo editing software back then... I could have made a book cover like this and this thing could have been a best seller!

(Original kitten photo from The House of Floof / Jennifer and/or Richard Crawford)

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Hothouse

A few years ago I got a portable greenhouse for Christmas. It's been sitting in my garage until now because I don't start very many plants. Also, I live in a pretty temperate zone. I've been considering it as my emergency tent in case there's ever a natural disaster that makes my home unlivable.

But April is Camp NaNoWriMo, so I decided to set it up so I could get the true camping experience without actually leaving my property and its associated modern plumbing and wifi. After I mowed the weeds of the back lawn down to manageable size,

(I kept the flowering weeds because they're pretty.)

I started wrestling with the greenhouse. There's a picture of a smiling woman who's probably in her seventies strolling along with the greenhouse carrying case looped over her shoulder. I'm pretty sure she's only smiling because she's been watching some other poor sap try to put the thing together.

First off the directions are in English, but they've clearly been translated. Infinitives are their friends. "To put the pole in the canvas tab." I kept struggling on a section and only after I'd worked it out would I realize what the instructions were talking about. That's not actually a very helpful order of operations. But I persevered and eventually got it all together.

I'll give it one thing -- it holds the heat. I had to find and open the doors before I could figure out the poles because it was too hot to stand in otherwise.

The worst part is that there's no floor. That, in itself, is not a problem. But nature consists of 1 part dirt to 99 parts bugs, so the first thing that happened is that all the bugs in the grass that could fly immediately took off and got stuck inside on the roof of this thing. I could literally close my eyes and listen to the tick tick tick of little insect bodies smacking into the roof.

So I put down a bunch of cardboard to keep the rest of the insects down and then put up a string of solar lights. I'm not sure the solar lights work since I couldn't get them to turn on yesterday afternoon, but it was still light out and I might not have covered the sensor. I'll try again when it's dark. Hopefully all the inside bugs will have died or escaped by then.

And even if it doesn't work as a writing tent I can always use it to burn away a 6x6' section of weeds on my lawn.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Great Escape

* Cue the Mission Impossible music * (It's here if you can't remember it.)

This is Ripley. Isn't he handsome? Look at those bedroom eyes... or, I guess he was just sort of sleepy since I woke him up for this photo.

Ripley likes to chew on inanimate objects. He's not like Crow, who used to loudly chew on things right before mealtimes because she knew it drove me crazy and I would feed her earlier. No, Ripley will hop down from eating his breakfast and go to town on something like this box.
He's a big fan of plastic, cardboard, and fleece. I consider it a sign of my amazing abilities as a pet owner that Ripley has made it through fifteen years without needing surgery to remove something from his intestines.

Here is another one of his projects.
For many years that was a very small tear in the screen, but then Ripley decided to chew on the edges and now it's not so small. Ripley will be right by the door every time I come home, but it's not so he can rush outside -- he wants to greet me and the dogs. So Ripley made this hole in the screen, but did nothing with it...

This is Guido-You-Bastard. Six months of steroids to treat his lymphoma have made him a bit... portly. I may change his name from Guido to Gordo if this keeps up. He has a history of successful escape attempts, but his increased bulk plus my latest attempt at putting a cover over the cat patio have stymied him since last summer.

Guido waited until Ripley had made the hole big enough and then took advantage of it.

This is Mackie. She's a conure. She has a scream that can be heard three houses away even with all my windows closed. (The only saving grace is that my birds are quiet when it's dark.)
Mackie has strong views about whether cats are supposed to be in the back yard, so she started screaming and didn't stop even when I called back to her.

The problem with using Mackie as an alarm is that she screams quite a lot. It's kind of what conures do. Cats in the yard. People in the yard. Birds in the yard. Clouds in the sky. You get the picture -- she screams and I mostly ignore it because otherwise it would drive me crazy. So I wasn't really paying attention until she'd been screaming for a minute or so.

What really got me going to look, though, was Ripley coming to find me with his worried "hall monitor kitty" meow. That's what he does when he sees something that he's pretty sure I would want to know about. Ripley's the double-agent in this story. He enabled the escape and then immediately blabbed.

Anyhow, the great escape was foiled before Guido got more than two feet away from the house, and he let me pick him up and bring him inside without any fuss. I think he really just wanted to go outside and meet the neighborhood cats who hang out in my yard when the dogs aren't patrolling.

Sorry about getting the Mission Impossible theme stuck in your head.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Just an Excuse

This is just an excuse to put some dog pictures here. These are from the southern edge of town taken over the weekend.

I love how all my pictures of the big dog have the ratty-looking leash in them. I guess I could get him a new leash, but I think it's a good representation of my brand...

Thursday, February 28, 2019


It started out as a picture of gravel and then ended up like this. Overall, I'd say GIMP was both a fun and useful subject for Thingadailies. I got a lot of fun pictures out of it and I've gotten a lot more comfortable editing photos. The only thing I didn't really mess with was text, but that can wait until I need it...

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Leaf Imprint

I really do enjoy the liquid metal effect of the wave tool. I didn't quite get the gradient I was going for on the imprint itself, but maybe next time...

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


We had some moss growing on these posts at work. I liked the colors and the textures. The filter takes away from the textures a bit, but I still like the way it turned out.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Odd Bark

It started out as a picture of bark. Then I started playing with color mapping and blur. If you don't have a headache before looking at this, you probably will after a few minutes.

It actually looks like a blurry slide of some sort of tissue under a microscope. All I can say is that if this is what your biopsy looks like, it's time to find an exorcist.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Nature Flare

I'm not even going to pretend that I understand what I was trying to do here. Still, it's colorful and it has a picture of the big dog, so it's not a total disaster.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Cat Mosaic

I spent part of the day putting together some cat "shelves" that I'd gotten as part of a online crowdfunded project. As something to hang on the wall, they didn't really work out too well -- each one has got to be at least twenty pounds and I don't trust my ability to hang them on the wall safely. So for now they are stacked on the desk and attracting the cats. At least that keeps them from sitting on the keyboard which was the whole point of getting the shelves in the first place.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Weaving Pavement

This was kind of fun (and easy, but I'm pretending that isn't just as important). It started out with just a picture of the pavement I'd taken for a bit of background. It's the opposite of material, but photo manipulation has made it into woven fabric.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Thursday, February 21, 2019


The automated clouds are better than the ones I tried to wave into existence, but I needed some pillows for the cats to be lounging on.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cuddle Buddies

Ripley's not like other kitties.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


I was going to state that this is the first one that has nothing to do with cats or dogs, but then I realized I'd started with a pattern called Leopard. This is the first one that hasn't started with a photo. Mostly I was just messing around with patterns and filters. It's definitely a thing.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Blue Lou

Today we have a guest star -- Lou the cat, all the way from Australia. (Technically Lou lives in Davis now, but she did make the trip from the southern land last year.) The request from Lou's owner Laura was to make her blue. I think. I didn't write down the color so I may have remembered incorrectly.

In any case, I found that it's a little harder to add color to a cat with dark tortie spots. I tried to lighten her up a bit but wasn't completely successful. Anyhow, I made a couple attempts. I may try again at some point...

I think I probably should have taken the whole picture to B&W instead of just Lou. Next time...

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Gradients and Masks

Playing with gradients on the mask to hide the fact that I'm not very good at selecting objects that aren't straight... It might need more lasers shooting from Guido's eyes.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Big Dog Watercolor

The GIMP filters really do make things easy. I mean, I'm pretty sure there are Instagram filters that would do this just as easily, but this way I can say that I used sophisticated photo editing software.

(Click to make it bigger -- it looks better that way.)

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Root of Cubism

Today I learned that if you do a slapdash job of selecting part of an image, the cubism filter will hide that fact. I guess that's not all that useful -- the final photo is, you know, sort of cubic.

It does make Ginger look even scruffier than she normally does, but that's not really a drawback.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Glass Tiles

This one is just a filter, but I thought it was kind of interesting (maybe not for this particular photo, but for a different one in the future).

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Laser Eyes

I found the filter menu and made some waves! Once again I've left subtlety in a whole different building, but this is kind of fun.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Magic Road

Someday I'll figure out how to do wavy shapes, but the dogs are informing me that we need to go to agility right now so wavy shapes will have to wait for another day.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Big Foot

Again, I have no taste whatsoever. But I'm having a lot of fun.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Sunday, February 10, 2019


I was going to add texture to a picture, but the process turned out to be complicated so I did this instead. It's like an Easter egg except with the little dog (which is an improvement).

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Full of Stars

I was just trying to do something fun today...

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Friday, February 8, 2019


I was messing around with a few things that would have required a lot more thought than I was willing to put into this tonight. Then I hit on the warp tool and I thought it made an interesting effect with this photo.


It adds a little motion to a static photo.

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Big Dog Pops Out

Lessons learned today:
  • Somewhere there must exist a mouse that works, but I don't own it. I don't know if it's the mouse (which is not the first with this problem), the cat hair on all surfaces, or the desk (although I've tried using a mouse pad and that worked even less well), but I either get no movement at all or... okay mostly it's just no movement at all and then every once in a while it will move and skip over what I was aiming for. Very irritating.
  • When using GIMP, keep an eye on the active layer. When it just isn't doing anything at all, it's probably either made another layer active or added a whole new layer while you weren't looking.
Anyhow, here we have it -- the big dog popping out of the photograph!

And the layers for anyone playing at home:

 Next time -- something that doesn't require fine control over the mouse...

I'm making one image a day for Thingadailies.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Rainbow Ripley

I'm letting Ripley's inner light shine through here. I feel like I've hit peak 70's locally-produced-tv-show with this image.

The original for comparison:

And in case you want to play along at home, here are my GIMP layers:
There's an unnecessary layer at the bottom but when I started messing with the middle layer I wasn't sure if I would need it or not.

I'm feeling a bit more comfortable with creating layer masks from images now. This could be dangerous...

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


I have to walk the dogs to agility in a few minutes, so I just did something quick with the gradient tool. Next time I'll play with using the gradient tool in the layer mask to control how the mask fades in. Maybe.

Bonus fun:

Me (to Noxgear support): I have two Lighthounds that I absolutely love and use every day, but I've lost one charging cable and the other did not survive a run-in with Effing Scooter (the cat).
Can I order another charging cable through you? Or is there somewhere else I can get one?

Noxgear support (in less than 12 hours): (Offer to send me replacement cables for free.)
On a semi-related note, I'm dying to the cat's real name Scooter and Effing Scooter only when you're angry?  Or is he Effing Scooter all the time?
(Thank you for making my morning.)
I sent them back my thanks and a picture of Effing Scooter.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Texture Hodgepodge

It's Monday, otherwise known as the day with no brain power left after 5pm. It's currently 6:15pm.

I took some pictures over the weekend of different textures. Tonight I threw a bunch of them together over a photo of the little dog. It suggests some possibilities for later trials...

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Changing Coats

A few years ago I wanted to color one person green (like the Grinch) in a photo as a joke so I pulled up GIMP and got really frustrated and eventually gave up.

Turns out it can be done by adding a layer of solid color, and masking around the subject.

I added another layer in between to switch the cat's color to black and white first, but I'm not convinced it was really necessary. (Also, Guido is a solid grey cat which brings up the question of why I thought it was a good idea.)

So... I've made him very, very purple. But at least I know how to make someone green the next time I want to.

Saturday, February 2, 2019


It's the second day of Thingadailies, when I'm playing with photo editing software. Today I duplicated the layer, desaturated the image to grey, then added a masking layer and removed the layer over the dogs to allow the original image to show through.

Here's the original:

Here's the modified version:

It looks a bit like the dogs have moved to a place with snow. Also, because of the slapdash manner of the mask editing, it looks a bit like the dogs are levitating or that the original picture didn't have the dogs in it.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Thingadailies #1

February is Thingadailies month. I've decided to spend some time playing with photo editing software. I mess with editing software about once every three years, and usually I make a big mess and get frustrated. My plan this time is to just play around with no goal in mind. It will give me a chance to learn how the tool works with no pressure.

And in the meantime -- horrible images for fun! Here's the first one!
(Pretend it's not a typo and that the cat sleeps in snake sleepwear. I fixed it once and then undid the fix and didn't notice it.)

Maybe I should watch a video or two...

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Pick a Line, Any Line

There's a section on the freeway near work where they are doing... something (and really, at this point I don't even wonder what's going on any more), and apparently they needed more room at a few spots in the median.

So they took something that looked like this (fourth lane not shown):

And then they scraped the pavement to get rid of the paint in the section they wanted to change, which really means they made lane lines that are 1/4" into the asphalt instead of white paint sitting on top.

And then they painted the new lines, so you're driving forward and it looks about like this:

This is all happening at about 70 mph.

Some people notice the painted lines, other people go with the scraped-off asphalt as a guide, and a significant number of people just split the difference. It's a bit like watching bumper cars except I have yet to witness an actual accident here.

These are the days I wish my car was a lot smaller.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Stay Connected

My new laptop showed up this week, so now I'm switching from the so-old-IT-won't-even-support-it HP Windows (ptui!) laptop to a brand new MacBook Pro. Aside from the crapware that the company loaded on the new laptop, it works great.


I work in three locations. With the ancient HP, I had three identical docking stations. In fact, I had three docking stations and a file cabinet full of backups in case one broke because I'm one of the last people who is still using that laptop. I have seven monitors spread out among those three locations, but all I have to do is dock the old laptop and everything magically works.

I have one docking station for the MacBook. So... right there you can see there might be a bit of a problem. Still, I was in the main office on Monday and I had the docking station and I had a drawer full of monitor cables and I thought for sure I'd be able to hook everything together without too much trouble.

Reader, I was naive.

The laptop connections:
  • USB C
  • HDMI
The monitors:
  • VGA
  • DisplayPort
  • DVI
Cables I had:
  • DVI - DVI
  • VGA - VGA
  • DisplayPort - DisplayPort
So then we opened the other big box 'o cables under my boss' desk and dragged out a few more. We eventually found a DisplayPort-HDMI cable that they used back when the Super Bowl was in town. Granted it was twelve feet long and I could have hooked it up to any of six computers in the area, but at that point I didn't really care. I'd at least be able to get one of the monitors connected.

It didn't work. I have since googled and it turns out it is a unidirectional DisplayPort to HDMI adapter which was exactly the opposite direction of what I needed. There's apparently some technical reason that those adapters are unidirectional and can't be made in the other direction and I'd probably understand it if I hadn't slept through my original degree, but I have accepted the bottom line which is that it doesn't work because *reasons*.

And people wonder why I start laughing when movies show hackers breaking into alien computers in fifteen minutes...

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year

Well, 2019 still has that new car smell, and we haven't dented the fenders yet, so I guess this is the time I'm supposed to write resolutions. Except I don't really do resolutions. I occasionally have goals, and even then I tend to go shorter term (ie, the writing goals of the month which I keep on the other blog and we aren't going to mention my failing grade for December because now it's January, yay!).

I guess the closest I'll come is listing habits I'd like to acquire or reinforce. That doesn't seem so scary or a path to failure. Here are all the ones I could think of:
  • Exercise the dogs more. We get at least one walk in every day, and I take the big dog along when I jog, but they would like to get out more and I could certainly use the exercise.
  • Write in this blog more consistently. I used to come up with something twice per week. I think that's possible again.
  • Continue to eat more fresh vegetables.
I mean really, that's about it.  I don't have any non-writing grand goals for the future. Maybe get rid of my car? Win the lottery and quit my job? I can't really control that last one although I'd have to start playing the lottery first.

The timer just went off for my fresh vegetables habit (autumn pot pie) and I even mostly followed the recipe (or at least as much as I ever do).

Happy New Year!