Friday, December 30, 2022


Aside from a slowdown caused by what looked like cleanup from a chemical spill, the drive back home was uneventful. I had a little over seven hours left on the audiobook (Wildfire by Ilona Andrews), and it finished right as I got off the freeway in my town. I even got home early enough to pick up the dog from camp.

For the drive back, I chose a book I'd read before because on the way down, I was listening to an audiobook that really wasn't doing it for me. Around the time I hit the grapevine, I realized I strongly disliked both main characters and I sort of hoped they would kill each other. But I had no way to change what I was listening to unless I pulled off the freeway, so I listened to another few hours before I made it to the hotel because I just wanted to get the drive over with and I wasn't stopping for anything less than the car erupting into flames.

(In case you're wondering, it was Rock, Paper, Scissors by Alice Feeney. Taste is subjective — this might still be a book you enjoy. My only real complaint is the scenes with the dog. I would be shocked if anyone involved with the book had ever owned a dog before, because those scenes broke my suspension of disbelief.)

Anyhow, the bird was excited to see me, the dog was excited to come home, and the two feral cats... are hopefully somewhere in the house. I am the unlikeable character in their story.

Obligatory Photo

He's very happy to have his bed back.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Next Time...

We had our big holiday dinner today which involved roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beens, creamed corn, and stuffed peppers. My sister-in-law brought over the creamed corn, but everything else was cooked in a tiny kitchen. Making matters worse, anyone wanting to get ice for a drink halted the flow of the kitchen because the refrigerator door takes up most of the space when opened. Seventeen people wandering through a space that fits maybe three is a problem.

So this is my reminder to myself: Next time, the drinks, glasses, and a bucket of ice should go in some other room. It won't stop people from wandering into the kitchen and standing around (a standard for any party), but maybe it will make things a little better.

Obligatory Photo

Two more days until I see this goober again!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022


Holiday with my siblings means that it's time to go over all the home improvement and computer questions for the year. Not that I should actually trust all the advice I'm given, but it's almost always entertaining. My other option would be to ask ChatGPT to give me instructions on how to rewire my electrical panel in iambic pentameter.

One of the things I wanted to do was figure out how to hand my DAZ 3D files off to someone with the correct graphics card (GPU) for rendering the final image. My MacBook Air is great, but it's not optimized for this sort of thing. Two of my brothers have computers specifically for gaming, so I thought I might be able to pass the files off to them.

So far the results have been mixed. We did finally figure out what format the files need to be in — they have to be exported so all the associated objects are brought along — but thus far the gaming laptop has decided to use its CPU instead of the GPU. It also seems to take longer than my laptop, but I suspect we just need to get the settings right.

At least it gives us something to do other than argue about politics...

(Someday I'll figure out how to light scenes correctly.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2022


Riddle of the day:

What is wrong with this picture? (View of hotel room bathroom door, from the outside looking in)

I feel sorry for anyone with small children who stays in this room...

Monday, December 26, 2022

As Far as the Eye Can See

This is pretty much all there was to see on my walk this morning. This place is the ultimate utopia if you're a car. Everything is either a road or a parking spot. Not so great if you're a human.

Eventually I made it into a housing tract where many of the cars were owned by fascist cosplayers who fail to read their history. Just saying, if you're going to put a popular slogan on your car because you think it makes you sound cool, maybe look up what happened to that general who said "Come and take them" first. The other side came and they took them. Don't hitch your wagon to a loser right out of the gate...

This place saps my will to live.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

End of an Era

The last of my vet school bottle babies is gone now. Guido had a good 20 year run, so I can't complain, but I'll miss him. (The dog will probably not miss him as much — Guido would wake up, seek out the 65# dog, and then yell at him until the dog fled the room.)

Some things Guido will be remembered for:
  • He was named Guido because he resembled the mafia enforcer characters in the old movies. As a small kitten, he was enrolled in a behavior study along with his littermates. Every day I had to mark down how roughly the kittens played with each other and with people, and every day all his littermates were in the 1-2 range and Guido was up in the 7-8 range. He was a bit of a legend in the behavior department.

  • Guido got into everything. He saw people as convenient stepping stones so he could jump to a place he couldn't normally reach. He had to help plumbers and electricians do their jobs. Mostly, they thought this was funny.

  • I had to change all the interior doorknobs because he could open anything with a lever. During the house remodel, the contractor went to great lengths to keep him out of the demolished area and it took Guido less than two minutes to get inside.

  • He was the only cat to make it out of the cat porch, and he did it at least three times. Each time he would wander around on the roof, just out of reach as I clung to a ladder trying to make him come down. Before I finally fixed it so he couldn't get up there anymore, I spent 30 minutes trying to coax him to the edge while he rolled around just out of reach, and when I paused to feed the other cats dinner, he strolled in like nothing had ever happened.

  • During his annual exams, he would climb all over Keith (his vet), walking across his shoulders as he contemplated getting into the ceiling tiles, and generally being a complete nuisance while we laughed about it.
Anyhow, he was a great cat and a great pain in the ass and I'll miss him.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Not a Place to Live

Given the number of people traveling to meet at my mom's house for the holidays, I've opted to stay at a hotel nearby. I think there will be at least ten people staying at the house plus another eight staying at my brother's house and I need my own space to survive that.

So the hotel is about 1.5 miles away, which would be the perfect distance to walk off a few extra cookies, but... This is southern California. Great weather for walking, but cities built to require cars and discourage people from getting out of them.

The direct route from the hotel would require me to dash across a two-lane freeway on-ramp where people are already going forty-five mph and then a freeway off-ramp where everyone is looking the other direction to see if they can merge into traffic. Even Google Maps doesn't suggest that route for a pedestrian.

The other way to get there requires walking half a mile in the wrong direction to get over the freeway without dying, so it goes from a 30-minute walk to a 50-minute walk. For me, that crosses the barrier between "good walk" to "pain in the butt". I'll probably walk it at least once, but...

This is one of the reasons I would never consider living in that area. I don't even like to visit.

Obligatory Photo

I bathed the foster kittens in lime sulfur again this morning before dropping them off at the shelter. An hour later, the coordinator emailed to let me know their second culture came back negative, so they're cleared for spay/adoption. Here's to Margo & Tina as they head off to their new lives!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Being Social

Now that Twitter has been purchased by a billionaire so he can throw tantrums as people make fun of him, I've been exploring Mastodon.

(Or, I guess, technically the Fediverse. Basically, I'm too old to give a crap about the difference between them, but I think Mastodon is a part of the Fediverse. If you feel the need to explain the difference in the comments, I swear I will drive to your house and burn it down. But I'm a good person, so I'll evacuate the pets first.)

Anyhow, Mastodon is like Twitter in many ways — you can post short things and follow people. But it's unlike Twitter in that it's made up of a zillion independently owned and operated servers that talk to each other. So instead of just going to Twitter and creating an account, you find a Mastodon server that seems like a good fit and request an account on that server.

Servers are often geared toward specific interests — writers, gamers, lawyers, journalists, etc. Since you can follow anyone on any server, as far as I can tell the server you choose only matters in two cases:
  1. You can view a feed of all the posts on your local server, so you might want a server that caters to your specific interests so you can easily meet other people who are into that thing. 

  2. Servers can get blocked by other servers. This is the equivalent of shunning someone until they get their act together.
And if you decide you joined the wrong server, you can migrate to a different one.

In addition to following specific people, you can also follow hashtags. For example, #DuvetKnowItsChristmas is a collection of pictures from people forced to stay in odd places while visiting for the holidays. Stuck in your childhood racing car bed as a thirty-year-old? Post a picture with #DuvetKnowItsChristmas in the text and everyone following the tag will see it. Apparently this hashtag has existed on Twitter for years, but I never saw it, so let's all pretend this is a new thing, 'kay?

Obligatory Photo

We don't really get snow here, but we do get a nice mixture of browns in our foliage.

(This picture would look better if I had a macro lens, or even some way to affect the focus on my phone. Didn't that used to be a thing?)

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Last Write-in

Yesterday I went to my last write-in of the year. My current schedule has a Wednesday morning write-in in the restaurant specializing in crepes and a Saturday afternoon write-in at the local coffee shop. Both those venues were chosen because they have outdoor seating and don't mind people taking up space for a couple hours. I tip heavily to encourage that behavior.

Luckily, I live in a climate that makes that mostly possible, even in winter. Layers are my friend, as are my scarf and fingerless gloves.

I miss sitting in a warm room when it's cold outside, but it's just not worth it at this point. The only people I know who haven't had COVID/RSV/flu in the past month are the people who don't spend time in crowded indoor locations. Please note that I'm not saying anyone who spends time indoors deserves to get sick — nobody deserves to be sick, no matter what they do. But I can rearrange my life to minimize my risks, and it seems stupid not to.

Having said that, I'm about to visit with a bunch of people who will be flying and visiting other groups of people right before we meet up, so... Fingers crossed the test kits are accurate!

Obligatory Photo

The view from the coffee shop patio. It really is a great place.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Another Three Minutes

Speaking of three minute tasks that I've been avoiding... There were a bunch of dead bugs in the light fixture in the kitchen and I thought the cover was going to be glass and heavy, so I've avoided touching it for twenty years.

Turns out the cover is light plastic and I was able to take it down, clean it, and put it back up in just a few minutes. The change isn't quite as impactful as I thought it would be because it's not dust that's blocking the light but the fact that two of the four fluorescent bulbs aren't working. I guess I should probably replace those, but that requires a trip to the hardware store, so...

Anyhow, I hope my pet sitter enjoys the bug free dim kitchen experience.

Obligatory Photo

I'm not sure how much longer this dude will be around, but 20 years is a good run.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Schrödinger's Novel

Today was once again "bathe the kittens and bleach the bathroom" day, so at least I got one thing done.

I also wrote up some notes on what I need to fix in the cozy mystery. Overall, I like how it turned out, but I need to make the first chapter stronger and fix some inconsistencies.

One thing I still need to do is write up a family tree for both sides of the wedding party. I got partway through drafting the novel when I realized I'd accidentally made the victim related to one of the suspects, which was bad because he shows up to start an affair with her. That absolutely was not where I wanted to go with that. So there's a note in the original draft that says "Make Ashley one of Brian's relatives." I have to go back through and change earlier references.

I also realized that I named a new character "Brian" and then brought in a recurring character, also named Brian. All the names in the world, and I have two people with the same name in this novel. Clearly new-Brian needs a different name, but I can't just do a search/replace on all instances of Brian without screwing up the places talking about old-Brian. Ugh.

My margin notes always make me laugh, because they range from the obvious ("Fix this sentence.") to the irritated ("Be consistent with the periods and then document it somewhere dammit."). Sometimes I can't describe what needs to be fixed, so it gets a "Meh".

Anyhow, it's mostly good and I think I know what I need to do to improve the beginning. After I write a story and before I read over the first draft, it's Schrödinger's novel — it might be good or it might be terrible. This time the novel gets to live.

Obligatory Photo

Let's hear it for this brave sunflower which has made it through multiple nights below freezing and is hanging on until the winter solstice. We salute you, messed up flower!

Monday, December 19, 2022


I was watching a new show today ("Perfect Murders", aka "Crimes Parfaits") with subtitles because I only have three words of French.

The description of this show is "Quirky investigators team up to solve impossible crimes in this fun French mystery series." Every episode starts out with an extended scene (~5 minutes) of someone getting murdered. I'm not sure they really nailed the vibe of the show in that description.

Anyhow, at the end of one episode, the word "garrigue" showed up in the subtitles and I wondered why they had left that one word in French. But then I looked it up and found out we have conscripted it for use in English. Collins defines it as "open shrubby vegetation of dry Mediterranean regions, consisting of spiny or aromatic dwarf shrubs interspersed with colourful ephemeral species". Apparently, it's a thing that comes up a lot when people talk about wine.

Wine Enthusiast says "Garrigue is a classic example of terroir, the notion that aromas and flavors in wine are influenced by the environment in which wine is produced."

I know almost nothing about wine, and it's always interesting to run into stuff like this — one new word leads to a glimpse into a subculture that opens up into a whole new vista. My #4 Learner is all about this sort of thing. Maybe I'll figure out a way to put this in a book so I have an excuse to learn more about it.

Obligatory Photo

Look at the bark on this tree I found today while walking the dog. How wild is that?

Sunday, December 18, 2022

It's Not My Fault

Okay, I know I make jokes about my inability to follow directions all the time, and I've always assumed my baking disasters are due to that. And honestly, they probably are.


When the butternut squash was still nearly raw after 45 minutes, I put the digital thermometer on the tray.

This is the oven dial. Note the preheated light is on, which means it thinks it has hit the temperature I set (425° F).

Ignore the protective coating of broth splatter

And now look at the digital thermometer. (Ignore the bottom number — that's for the alarm.) 242° F! It's barely half the temperature it should be. No wonder things always take longer than the recipe says.

I thought I was running into problems with different areas of the oven being hotter than others, but this says there's more going on.

I will just add here that it's entirely possible it's not working because something needs to be cleaned. I mean, I don't think anything has ever spilled in my oven and it looks clean to me, but I haven't run the cleaning cycle... maybe ever? I don't remember the last time anyhow.

Anyhow, I guess I need to google some stuff...

Saturday, December 17, 2022


There's a workflow style that almost everyone I know follows, though I don't think anyone teaches it: the ebb and flow of browser tabs.

It starts when you bring up a browser window to look up something, or order take-out, or do one of a hundred things. But then you see a useful link and you bring that up in a new tab so you can come back to it later. And then another. And another.

Soon, you have so many browser tabs, it's hard to find the ones you need. You have tabs open for things you can't remember. Half of them are requests for a password because your session has expired. My old boss, H., used to have hundreds open at a time and every time he wanted to show me something, I had to wait as he clicked through the most likely candidates until he found the one he wanted or gave up and opened it again.

Eventually, it ends. Either the browser or your brain crashes — you realize you're never going to get around to looking at them all, and if they're that important you'll look them up again.

So you go through and close everything you don't recognize, close fourteen tabs that are showing the same login request, and maybe even close that second window that has all the overflow tabs. And you breathe a sigh of relief because suddenly your browser and your entire life seem manageable again.

But then you see a useful link, and you bring it up in another tab so you can come back to it later...

Obligatory Photo

This birdbath in my neighborhood is often red. I looked up why that might be happening, and now I have three tabs open with information on bird baths and Haematococcus pluvialis.

Friday, December 16, 2022

I'm a Pro at Crastinating

I have a monthly newsletter for my author business. It's not all that complicated — just a way to share a bit of personal news and maintain a connection to people who might enjoy my books. I usually follow the same format every month: 
  • hello, here's what's in the newsletter,
  • a bit about my foster kittens or whatever else is going on,
  • something related to my Tess Baytree cozy mysteries,
  • something related to the T.M. Baumgartner SF/F novels,
  • some indie books to check out
  • a closing question (sometimes with a picture of the dog)
Here's the November newsletter as an example:

Each section is a few hundred words at most, and it really doesn't take long to write. But every time, I put it off for days. It's not like I don't have a deadline; the indie books are usually author swaps, where I get together with another author and we boost each other's books in our newsletters. As part of that, I agree to send out my newsletter on a specific day.

I timed it today, and it took me almost exactly two hours to put it all together. That's a lot of procrastination for no real reason.

(It's a little more than that, of course. I have to set up author swaps and take pictures and think of something to write. But still. It's not much more than two hours.)

Anyhow, I currently have about 800 subscribers, which seems like a lot to me except the fact that I'm still using the free tier on MailChimp reveals how relatively tiny my list is. But still, 800 people signed up for this thing?

Obligatory Photo

Look at this handsome dog!

Thursday, December 15, 2022


I had one of those weirdly good days today, and while I didn't get everything checked off on my todo list, I made a dent in it.

The kittens went off to the shelter for the day for their latest ringworm tests. (Since Lemontina has recently lost almost all the hair on both ears, I'm not sure why we're bothering, but I guess it's good for the kittens to get out and see other people.) When I picked up the kittens in the afternoon, the local turkey flock was hanging around the shelter parking lot as usual. I swear there are more turkeys every time I'm there. One even jumped onto my car, but my car has a protective layer of dirt so I wasn't worried.

I finished the second half of a short story that is going out to my Patreon supporters today tomorrow and then played three hours of solitaire.

I used to think playing solitaire was just a way to waste time, but there's something about the simplicity and monotony that allows me to think about stuff. Which is to say: I'm counting those three hours as work time.

Hey, I'm my own boss. I sign my own timesheet. I can do that sort of thing.

Self-Promo Time!

For the Smashwords End of Year Sale (going on until January 1, 2023), I made the first book in three different series FREE (with the checkout code SW100), so if you were ever curious about the stuff I write, now's the time to check it out without risking your hard-earned cash. 

(In case you've never heard of Smashwords — they are an ebook retailer, like Amazon but 100% less evil. If you get a book through Smashwords, you can either read it on your phone/computer through an app, or you can send it to your Kindle or other e-reader. You can also buy ebooks for other people as a gift, which is not easy to do on Amazon.)

In any case, now is your chance to grab these books for free:

Cozy mystery: Death Walks a Dog by Tess Baytree (me in disguise!) Death Walks a Dog
SF / Space Opera: The Chaos Job by T.M. Baumgartner The Chaos Job
SF / Science Fantasy: All Gremlins Great & Small by T.M. Baumgartner All Gremlins Great & Small

If you enjoy them, maybe tell a friend or write a review.

Obligatory Picture

There's a bunch of stuff going on with this tree trunk. I thought it was interesting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022


One of the problems I have in making covers for my books is the lack of non-sexualized female figures available in stock images. You can get a male mage of any age in 150 different poses, but if you want a woman on the cover... well, you can probably get an 18-year-old woman in a thigh-high robe pouting for the camera. (Finding images of people of color is another issue, but other people are probably better suited to address that shortcoming.)

So I've been looking into DAZ 3D off and on for a while. It's a program that allows you to create objects (including humans, animals, and background buildings, etc), dress & pose them, set up multiple light sources, and then render the final image. A lot of covers are created this way, though the good ones usually have some overpainting done on them before they get to the final image.

In some ways, DAZ is kind of amazing — it's free, and it comes with a basic male and female human form, plus a few pieces of clothing, and some basic poses. (You can buy extras at the DAZ store — everything from different hair to intricate clothing to yoga poses to animal forms to...) There's definitely a learning curve, but the fact that I can get anything on the screen is truly amazing.

But it does have just a wee bit of sexism in the defaults. Here's what you start with:

(I should point out: These are not the final rendered images. These are just the mock-ups on the screen so you can get everything the way you want it before spending the time to generate the detailed image.)

The forms are about what you'd expect if you'd looked at Barbie or Ken dolls growing up. So far, so good.

But Barbie comes with a sports bra and panties as her only clothes. Ken comes with shorts and a t-shirt. You can put Ken's clothes on Barbie, but you have to know a little of what you're doing. The shorts worked, but Ken's t-shirt led to this:
Not gonna lie — I thought this was hilarious and I sent it to at least three people.

I was able to fix it, mostly...

Then we get to the poses, and... Ken walks and sits and plays air guitar (I think? I'm not sure what else that's supposed to be.)

Meanwhile, Barbie breasts boobily*

It's all stuff that can be changed if you know what you're doing, but the defaults tell an interesting story...


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Art in Progress

I finished watching all the videos for the sculpture class, and now I'm starting my own. It's going great! [throat clearing noises]

Actually, so far it's fine. Here's the drawing I'm starting with. You'd be surprised how hard it is to find a sideview picture of a wolf/fox/whatever that isn't turning to look at the camera. I had to mix a few photos together, but I'm secure in the knowledge that nothing I produce will look anything like the original so it absolutely doesn't matter.

(Yeah, I don't know what the neck is supposed to look like either.)

Then I moved on to making the wire armature. This was attempt two.

Let's just say that mistakes were made on attempt #1, which resulted in four legs of various lengths and then I ran out of wire before I got to the tail. I learned some things.

Anyhow, I'm happy with how it is progressing. The next step is to use epoxy clay to strengthen the armature. I'm reasonably confident I can get through that, though I was pretty confident I could get through the wire armature step in one try, too, so I may be overestimating my abilities.

Right, well, it's time to go bathe kittens again. Enjoy your Tuesday!

Monday, December 12, 2022

Three Minutes

Getting the house in shape for the pet sitter continues...

Yesterday, I looked at the kitchen faucet and realized I was going to have to do something. For the last two years, the handle has been falling off. Basically, if you don't hold it on just right, it comes off in your hand. And if you aren't hanging on to it, it falls down the drain.

It's been a pain for two years, but I've been ignoring it. I looked at it once, and I thought there was a screw missing, so I went back to ignoring it.

But today, I decided to google it to find out what size screw I needed to buy. And that was when I found out the screw that is in there is a hollow cylinder. I wasn't missing a screw. I just needed to tighten it with a hex wrench.

So it took about three minutes (google, watching the start of a video, then finding the right hex wrench, and finally, tightening it) to fix something that's been bugging me for two years.

This is why I should just rent. I'm terrible at this stuff.

Obligatory Photo

How about a picture of two kittens sleeping? They're very messy, but also very cute.

Sunday, December 11, 2022


Update to Unlabeled: When I was washing the Talenti container, I realized I had labeled it "Pumpkin 11/2022". I'm not sure if that makes the whole thing better or worse...


I have a Patreon. If you're not familiar with Patreon, it allows fans to give a creator a small amount of money every month. In return, the donor receives something like early access to serial episodes, or exclusive maps or pictures.

For those people with their "one thousand true fans", it can pay the bills. For me... well, it pays for the people I support on Patreon plus a cup of coffee or two. Financially, it doesn't make a lot of sense for me to have one at this point given the effort involved. But because I promise to send my patrons two "digital bonus" items every month, it forces me to come up with something small every two weeks. It's a fun puzzle. Most of the content will eventually be offered to my newsletter subscribers, so it's not wasted.

Anyhow, I'm planning to write a short story for the next digital bonus. I think I want to do something that comes after the events of Dragon Freehold. The good news is that book has many things that didn't get tied up at the end of the book avenues for exploration, so I could easily write five short stories that tie in.

At the end of the novel, they know there is a dragon egg out there somewhere and Lisette is on the hook to find it, so I think that will be the main action for this story. Now I just need to figure out the personal problem to get resolved while Remy and Lisette (and Simi the cat) are stealing the egg. I thought I had something, but that involved a third party — it's hard to have a satisfactory resolution to a problem if one person isn't there.

So... I need to think for a while. Maybe I'll put on the Podrunner podcast for a soundtrack and go clean the back room.

Obligatory Picture

I pull out my phone to take a picture and he looks the other direction and closes his eyes. It makes me laugh.

Saturday, December 10, 2022


Today being Saturday, I bathed the kittens in lime sulfur and cleaned/bleached everything in the bathroom. All in all, it's a process that takes about two hours. Two-pound Princess Lemontina is starting to have an attitude about being bathed, which makes it all very exciting. It's always the little ones you have to watch out for...

I made pumpkin soup for dinner since I accidentally thawed the pureed pumpkin. It was an easy mistake to make. Almost everything in my freezer is stored in Talenti ice cream containers because:

  • The containers hold almost exactly two cups, so they're the perfect size, and
  • the sides are clear so you can see inside, plus the lid screws on, and
  • the plastic holds up in the freezer since it was meant for ice cream, and
  • I eat a lot of ice cream, so I have a ton of them.
Every time I put something in the freezer, I think oh, of course I'll remember what that is. Fifty-four years old and I still fall for that.

I never remember what it is.

Anyhow, I thought the container held the other half of a can of pizza sauce, and only after I was wondering why it was thawing as a solid did I remember I'd put the leftover pumpkin from the pumpkin pie in there.

I did not use it on pizza — I used honey mustard dip instead, which was better than it sounds — but instead thawed two more unlabeled Talenti containers holding homemade vegetarian soup stock (and I just put them in there last week, so I knew for sure what they were), sautéed  onions and garlic and mixed it all together. The soup was good.

I couldn't taste the pumpkin.

Obligatory Picture

Here's a handsome dog in a bunch of leaves.

Friday, December 9, 2022

It Was a Dark and Stormy Afternoon

It's early afternoon and a big storm is rolling in, so it's already getting dark. But I'm inside where it's dry and warm, the kittens are learning how to destroy their first box, and the dog is snoring on the couch behind me.

Guido had his annual exam yesterday. He yelled in the car and in the waiting room, but then demanded his doctor spend extra time petting him. Guido used to jump onto Keith's shoulders every time Keith tried to listen to his heart, but he's a little less mobile now. (Guido also used to escape from the cat porch onto the roof and I'm okay with those days being over.) At the end of it all, Guido was declared to be in great shape for a 20-year-old cat, after which he got his rabies vaccine and then he yelled at me all the way home.

(At his age, Guido is probably completely protected from rabies already, but I learned my lesson with his sister. I'd stopped worrying about her rabies vaccination status when she made it to 15, and then she got sick and bit someone while they were trying to put in an IV catheter. One rabies quarantine is enough for this house.)

As for me, I'm going to spend some time this afternoon working on the series bible for my cozy mysteries. It's a simple document, with a list of all the facts I've mentioned in the past — character descriptions, locations, pet names, etc. — because there are now two novels and two novellas already published, and trying to keep things consistent would be easier if I don't have to search through all the books.

How many cats does Esther have, and what are their names? Uh... six, and... I know I've named at least one, but... When the series bible is complete, I will have all that info in one place.

Obligatory Picture

Bark textures are kind of cool, aren't they?

Thursday, December 8, 2022


(Habits: I mean the good and bad practices you follow. Not the kind nuns wear. That would be a little weird.)

After a lifetime of trying to wipe out my bad habits, I've pretty much given up on that.

Is eating sweet stuff good for me? No. Am I going to change that now if I haven't in the last 50 years? Also no. So instead of that, how about working to make sure I eat reasonably healthy food otherwise. Overall, it's a win and I can stop worrying about whether eating that chocolate is "good" or "bad".

So my current goal is to find and encourage good habits. 

Twenty minutes, three times a day

This is the whiteboard above my desk:

Yeah, it's not very legible. Whiteboards are hard to write on.

It's Thursday morning and there are an awful lot of squares without Xs in them, but we'll ignore that. Over on the right is the "Exercise - 20 minutes" grid. A few months ago, I added this so I would prioritize getting up and moving. Twenty minutes, three times a day.

Note that it doesn't say "Run" or "Bike". It just says "Exercise - 20 min". That was deliberate. I know myself. If I don't put a time limit on it, I will keep extending it — "yesterday's run was 2 miles, so if I don't run more than that today, I'm failing." It's obvious that can't go on forever, and eventually I either hurt myself or just can't face going out to beat the previous record and stop completely.

So I made it easy on myself. Some days I don't feel like doing much, and on those days, walking around the neighborhood for 20 minutes counts. Some days I garden. Twenty minutes is a fairly easy chunk of time. Even if it's raining or late at night, I can pedal leisurely (or not) on the exercise bike in my living room.

And it works. My blood pressure is consistently lower by 10-20 mmHg when I do this. And it's good for my mental health, too.

Use that early morning time for good

This habit is a little harder for me, but I'm trying. Instead of spending those moments when I'm lying in bed still half-awake to think about all the stuff I haven't done, I work on plot problems. That way, when I get to my desk after feeding all the little people, I'm ready to go. (Writing first thing in the morning is another habit I find helpful.)

Still looking for more

Do you have a positive habit that has been helpful?

Obligatory Picture

This is from the sidewalk in front of the cemetery.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Organic Matter

On my afternoon stroll, I went through the town cemetery. I'm not someone who understands attachment to the dead — for me, a body's just a collection of organic matter, and after death it's all up for grabs for whatever organism needs to use it. Or it should be — I try to be respectful of other people's beliefs on the subject, but I will never understand poisoning the earth with embalming chemicals to keep a body from breaking down naturally.

All that is to say that I don't make pilgrimages to cemeteries because I know people buried there. But this cemetery is within walking distance, and since there aren't any roads running through, it's a quiet place to walk.

Modern cemeteries favor conveniently flat grave markers the landscapers can just mow over, but this cemetery dates back to the 1800s, so it has more upright grave markers.

Lots of small children

Family plots

Even a mausoleum or two

Two of the people buried inside:
  • John Wohlfrom, Born Nov. 9, 1832, Died Feb. 13, 1918 "A native of France"
  • Mrs. Helena Wohlfrom, Born April 4, 1848, Died Nov. 24, 1907, "A native of Germany"
Above them is "Harry W., Born Dec 15 - Died Dec 22, 1881. Like I said, lots of children in that cemetery.

There are rows of men who died in WWII — there may be victims from other wars in some other part of the cemetery as well.

Lots of names I recognize from streets and buildings around town.

It's a lot easier to find the graves of men than women, though presumably just as many women have died since the town was founded. But the men got big gravestones that lasted, and the women got a little plaque nearby that said "Mother", as if that was their only purpose in life, and the plaques have mostly disappeared under the leaves and dirt. Or maybe the men died first and their wives just got added to the plot later. Either way, it would be easy to believe there were very few women around if you didn't look closely.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

An Adult Lives Here, I swear

Apparently, my family has reverted to celebrating the holidays in Southern California this year. My mom still lives there, so it makes some sense, but the only thing I like about Orange County is my family. Everything else (traffic, architecture, traffic, billboards, traffic, omg is it ugly down there, etc.) sucks.

Because I'd assumed we were staying up here, I didn't book space for my dog to board back in July, and now he's on the second page of the waiting list. I suspect there won't be that many cancellations. So... I'll probably have to take him with me. That means he'll probably spend a lot of time at my brother's place during the day, since my mom isn't really into having animals in the house. And I'll have to book a hotel that allows dogs.

Anyhow, that's more or less sorted, the fungus-ridden foster kittens will go back to the shelter until I return, and my petsitter is still in business and agreed to look after the rest of my pets.

Which means I need to clean up the house so it looks like an actual adult lives here.

I mean, I'm not a hoarder, but I really don't notice when stuff piles up. I have a stack of empty CSA boxes in the living room, and the dining table has plant repotting supplies. The dog crate in the living room is covered with stacks of junk mail. There are cobwebs everywhere.

None of this stuff bothers me until I have to make the place presentable for someone else. And I haven't really had anyone visit for three years.

Luckily I have a couple weeks to get it all under control. But it's good that I'm starting now...

Obligatory Picture

This is Christmassy, right?

Currently Reading

  • I have a few hours left on the audiobook of Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia. Fingers crossed the book sticks the landing — I've been enjoying it so far.

  • Just finished the advanced reader copy of Fangs a Million by Tammie Painter. If a cozy mystery set in a circus of unusual creatures in the 1920s sounds like your sort of thing, you should check out this series. It's a lot of fun!

Monday, December 5, 2022

Look what you've done! I'm melting!

I'm not a big fan of bathing adult cats. Kittens, yes — they get covered with disgusting crud on a regular basis, and a quick trip under the faucet is usually the best solution. And, of course, the ringworm kittens get bathed in lime sulfur twice every week. But healthy adult cats usually take care of themselves just fine.

However, Guido is 19 years old and his sister groomed him more (before she died) than he ever groomed himself. So I decided it was time.

If you ever find yourself in a position of needing to bathe a cat, I recommend the three litter box method.

(These aren't litter boxes, because I don't have three clean litter boxes sitting around. But if you're at any animal hospital or rescue, that's the best option. These tubs are a little too square.)

The cat gets soaped up in tub one, then rinsed in tub two, and rinsed again in tub three. Then it's into the towel and you're both glad it's over. This cuts down on the stress of having to constantly monitor water temperature, and you also don't have to worry about the sound of the rushing water bothering the cat.

After the bath, Guido did more grooming than he's done in the last year.

Obligatory Photo

These big tree ornaments are far better than the blow up dolls other people put on their lawns.

Oh, Hey, Speaking of the Holidays...

Do you read cozy mysteries? Ready to curl up with one for the holidays? Check out these indie books! My own novella, Death Trims the Tree (by Tess Baytree) is a part of the promo.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Ready to Sculpt

This year, my birthday gift from my mom (via the check she sent) was an online class on sculpting. (The polymer clay class here:

I've never done any sculpting, and I'm not particularly good at any visual art, but what the heck, I've got #5 self-confidence, so sure, this is totally something I can do. (To be fair, the description does say the course is suitable for beginners, so I didn't just do my usual thing of skipping all the boring pre-requisites in order to fail spectacularly.)

This is how far I've gotten:

Guido was helping with the photo shoot. And by helping, I mean he refused to get out of the way. I fully expect the same level of help when I open the packages.

The instructor suggests watching all the videos first before starting, and for once, I'm following directions. This has been the progression so far:

  1. Him: I'm not great at drawing, so I find a picture of the animal I'm going to do and start by tracing the shape at the finished size using tracing paper.
    Me: Holy cow, I can probably do this!

  2. Him: Then I draw lines for the armature.
    Me: Still on board!

  3. Him: Then I twist the wire into shape.
    Me: I think I can do that.

  4. Him: Then I add a layer of epoxy clay to stiffen the armature.
    Me: Okay.

  5. Him: Then I start building it up using Sculpey.
    Me: ... How did it suddenly start looking like a real animal? (I'm betting this is where mine completely goes off the rails.)

  6. Him: And now I start adding details.
    Me: Holy cow. This is fun to watch. Mine will never end up like that, but this is really cool!
Anyhow, assuming the first four steps aren't harder than they look (which... they might be), I should get to step five before I create a horrific monster instead of the cute sculpture I'd intended.

I still have a couple more videos to watch before I begin, but this will be fun. And memorable, though possibly not in a good way.

Obligatory Picture

I do like all the leaves and berries falling from trees right now, even if they do make it harder to walk the dog.

Saturday, December 3, 2022


Perhaps you've heard of a lemontini, aka the lemon drop, which is a vodka cocktail that has a lemon flavor. I'm not a big drinker so I've never had one, but it sounds pretty good.

That's not what we're talking about today. No, today's topic is the Lemontina. (Name courtesy of my friend Hilary, who doesn't have two kittens with ringworm living in her bathroom probably until the end of time.)

A pathetic orange kitten
Please don't dunk me!

Her official name at the shelter is Tina. She was one of two unrelated kittens who came in with ringworm at about the same time. Keeping kittens separate is always sad — they end up poorly socialized and don't grasp the concept that biting others can hurt — so the shelter bundled them together to be fostered together.

Problem 1: Ringworm

Yeah. I knew that one going in. She had bald patches, though her other fur hid them pretty well.

Problem 2: Her right eye

I'd had her a couple days when I had the whole "one of these things is not like the other" thought. One eye was the normal kitten blue/green. The other eye was darker. Cats can have differently colored eyes, but I could also see a little wispiness on the cornea. And changes in the color of the iris can be a sign of uveitis, a form of inflammation that can often be caused by more systemic illness.

I was pretty sure this hadn't just happened because she wasn't squinting or showing any pain, and she could see just fine. In my defense, the kitten has ringworm, so I wasn't handling her as much. I felt better when I sent my "uh, is there something wrong with her eye?" email, and got back the response that nobody had noticed it in the shelter, but her eyes were different on her intake photo.

I was told the shelter's vet thinks it's a congenital abnormality.

Problem 3: Her weight

Margo was a week or two older than Tina, and a bit bigger, but they were close enough that it shouldn't have been a problem. Except then this happened:

This shows their daily weight in grams over the first week, Tina on the left, Margo on the right. Margo gained 210 grams. Tina gained 52 grams.

There was nothing obviously wrong with Tina — she ate and she had normal poop, but she just... didn't gain much weight. By the end of the second week, Margo was twice Tina's size.

Problem 4: Her leg

About that time, I was emailing the foster coordinator the latest update when I saw that Tina was only using three of her legs. I'm still not sure if Margo played a little too rough or if Tina got her leg caught on something, but she wouldn't put any weight on her right rear leg.

She's too small to safely anesthetize for x-rays, and too wiggly to get a diagnostic x-ray when she's awake. Plus, there's not a lot you can do to fix things at that age — a splint that slips can cause more harm than good.

I was told to keep her in a confined space, which was kind of funny since she's living in the bathtub and it doesn't get much more confined than that.

She's getting better! (Sorta)

I've had her for about two months now, and she's finally gaining weight. Her eye hasn't changed. Her leg is a little better, but I think there's probably some ligament damage — it's not slowing her down much, though. She can jump onto the top of the carrier now.

The only real problem at this point is the ringworm. Despite twice weekly lime sulfur dips and daily oral anti-fungal medicine, her last two ringworm cultures have come back positive. She needs two negative cultures in a row to be considered cured. That means she's here at least another month. In the last week she's developed a huge bald spot on her ear.

Fingers crossed she doesn't develop any new problems...

PSA: Lemontina Tina will be available for adoption someday from the Yolo County Animal Shelter. She's very sweet and maybe she's burned through all her bad luck and will have no medical problems ever again! She could be your perfect companion!

Obligatory Photo

Hello, turkeys!

Friday, December 2, 2022

Empathy, My A**

Oh, look, I'm back for day two of Holidailies and I've had sleep AND a bunch of tea, so I'm not just giving away exclamation points today — no, you have to earn them.

(Rereading that sentence, I have no idea what that means. Perhaps I am a little overly caffeinated? Just roll with it.)

The topic of the day is Clifton Strengths; specifically, my top five.

What are the Clifton Strengths?

That's a trick question because I think they're actually the Gallup Strengths now. But anyhow, there are 37 personality traits (aka, strengths). You take a quiz and at the end of it, you have the trait list in the order that you have them, from strongest to weakest. The idea behind it all is that you should lean into your strengths instead of trying to follow a process that depends on your weakest traits.

They also clump the strengths into four categories (executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking).

Is this just astrology with a gilding of pseudoscience?

I mean... maybe, a little? But also, it's not like any one strength is better than any other. And I know I, a person who lives alone in my house with three cats, am definitely stronger at analyzing things (aka, strategic thinking) than relationship building.

So there may be a bit of woowoo in this, but there are also some practical tips for each strength that can help people juice it up.

Who uses this?

I'm guessing big companies, because they love to spend money on shit like this instead of just getting rid of half the management and giving people higher salaries.

But also, writers. Becca Syme has built an empire out of this. Her courses have become so popular in indie writing circles that there's a drinking game involving writing podcasts mentioning Clifton Strengths. Listening to any two podcasts in a row would probably send me to the hospital.

Can this be used for evil?

Probably. After all, big companies use it. That's a sign.

Go ahead, list your top 5 for people to skip over:

  1. Empathy (???)
  2. Intellection (introspective, need time to think about stuff)
  3. Maximizer (like taking good to great instead of meh to good)
  4. Learner (the process of learning, not the outcome, is the goal)
  5. Self-Assurance (feel confident in their ability to take risks and manage their own lives)

What the hell is "empathy" doing at the top spot?

Right? But apparently being able to sense people's bad moods makes you score high in empathy even if all you do is turn around and leave.

Have all high learner people amassed as many useless degrees?

I don't know, but I bet most of the people with engineering and veterinary degrees probably have learner in the top 10 because there's no other way to explain it.

Is high self-assurance why you make such a terrible employee?

Almost certainly. I hate having other people tell me what to do.

What useful writing tips are there for your top 5?

I'm currently getting the most out of the intellection stuff. Instead of always listening to podcasts or audiobooks when I'm walking the dog, now I listen to silence or ambient music so I can think about what happens next in whatever I'm writing. And instead of waking up by checking my email, I think about what I'm going to write next.

I also had a book recommendation: Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland which I'll be looking into this month. (I started reading it at the beginning of November, but I couldn't do NaNoWriMo and the exercises in the book at the same time.)

Seriously, though, empathy?

Yeah, whatever.

Obligatory Photo

This is the super friendly cat that lives by the park I pass on my walk. He loves people. He loves dogs. He loves everything. I had a hard time taking a photo because he wanted to rub all over me. He has an excessive number of toes.

A green-eyed orange cat with lots of toes

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Welcome to December!

It's time for Holidailies again, during which I dust off the blog and write an entry every day through January 1st.

I'm feeling a little foggy today because

  1. National Novel Writing Month just finished yesterday, and
  2. My 65# dog developed a urinary tract infection and woke me up every hour last night to go outside.
Basically, I'm too old for those things to happen simultaneously, so here are a bunch of exclamation points for you to add anywhere you think this blog post needs more excitement: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Feel free to use them all.

About Me

Call me Theresa. I'm currently a full-time author (SF/F as T.M. Baumgartner, cozy mysteries as Tess Baytree, and one website for both because I'm lazy). If you read those genres and want to check out my books, great! (I added that exclamation point for you as an example.) If not, don't feel awkward. It's fine, I promise.

I also foster kittens for the Yolo County Animal Shelter. Right now, I have two kittens (Margo & Tina) who have ringworm. Fingers crossed it clears up soon because they are tired of living in the easily-cleaned-and-bleached tub. Here's a link to the kitten cam:

I'm also a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month, which sounds like more work than it really is. Basically, I cheer writers on and try to have write-ins at venues that aren't randomly closed at the time we've scheduled to meet there. (This is a bigger problem than you might expect.)

My Pets

Let's face it. They're far more interesting than I am. Ordered by descending age:
  1. Freeway - the 20-something cockatiel. Likes to chirp loudly when I'm on the phone.
  2. Guido - 19-year-old cat. He's reached the screaming houseplant stage of his life, when he mostly sleeps, I make sure he has enough water, and every once in a while he springs to life and howls his opinions about whatever he's mad about. (Long-time cat owners know this stage well.)
    He has lymphoma (of course) and may not be around much longer, but who knows? He's had lymphoma for four years and he's still here. I love this little jerk.
  3. Georgie - 10(?)-year-old dog. The one who kept me up all night. Aside from that, he's a good boy. He's also just stupid enough that I can mold cheese around his antibiotic capsules while he watches, and he's still excited that I'm giving him cheese. Let's hear it for dogs that aren't rocket scientists.
  4. Gin - 3.5-year-old feral cat. She lives in the house, but I can't get near her.
  5. Tonic - 3-year-old feral cat. He's Gin's son. To him, I am the devil. Luckily the house is big enough for the ferals to avoid me. They seem reasonably happy.

Plans for Holidailies

I have a list which is six topics long and I've just used one. So this will probably get random pretty quickly. I mean, one year I blogged about things in my hotel room, so this isn't unprecedented. If that scares you off, godspeed, my friend.

I'll probably talk a bit of indie author shop and maybe play around with the 3D modeling program. Plus, I'm taking a sculpture class — no, I've never sculpted before, so this will likely be a complete disaster, aka perfect for blogging.

Obligatory Picture

Random sight from a walk in my neighborhood. Click on it to make it bigger. It's kind of cool.
Branches with yellow leaves hanging in front of green clover-like weeds