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.