Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Unkind and unfair

I was thinking about the resurgence of the '70's policies and their inevitable consequences, and I realized something. 

We, as a nation, have become profoundly unkind and unfair.  

History repeats; or if it doesn't straight up repeat, it rhymes.  Or at least, that used to be the case, when it was actually taught as a series of choice/consequence pairs. Now, it just repeats.  Over and over.  About every twenty or thirty years.  

We used to learn from history, until people who were kind and gentle and didn't want to traumatize the kids changed the way it was taught (at the behest of people who thought that they'd find it easier to seize power if it wasn't taught...and they were right).  We no longer learn from the mistakes others have made; instead, we make our own.  

When I was in school, I read history.  I read a lot of history.  Mostly because of the self-esteem movement blocking me from reading-level-appropriate fiction because "we don't want to make your classmate that can't read feel bad."  I read a lot dissecting how this act led to that reprisal.  

And then, I saw similar playing out on the playground: one of my classmates would be an asshole, and another classmate would bop them, or kick them, and their behavior straightened up.  Action/choice led to obvious (and fair) consequences.  

And so, children used to learn not to be dicks to each other.  

I also saw when the "anti-bullying" turned from "Hey, y'all, stop being a dick to the weird kid" to "Oh, you poor, disenfranchised baby, you can be mean to anyone, and we'll punish them for applying consequences." 

That was profoundly unkind, and unfair: kids are dicks.  And they've got to learn that there are consequences.  By preventing the consequences of their actions from being applied, the "kind" grownups removed an opportunity and an incentive to learn socially appropriate behavior.  

It's spreading, even now: we've seen it with people living way above their means; we've seen it with businesses going under because they've made long-term stupid their missions statement.  And it's because kids aren't taught consequences of their choices at young enough ages, because kids are protected from the fallout of their own stupid choices.  

It's a profound disservice, and we're really starting to see the economic fallout: in slapping layers of regulations on businesses, the government are jacking up the costs of doing business.  The businesses start jacking up prices, and people stop buying from them.  The government slaps more regulations on the businesses, limiting how much they're allowed to charge, so the business cuts prices...but also cuts quality.  Which drives more people away from them...and then the business starts failing. 

We've seen what happens when they're allowed to fail.  Yes, it's horrible for the people employed by the business; however it's worse when the business is bailed out by the government.  Especially when part of the bail out is new regulations that prevent new businesses from rising up and doing what the failing one was doing, but better and cheaper and higher quality, because there are better choices--smarter choices--being made.  

Case in point: car makers with plants in the United States.  The ones owned by American companies are infested with unions and slammed with regulations; the ones owned by foreign car manufacturers have some of the same regulations, but they're not infested with parasites on top of it.  American car makers are failing; they're failing, and their flailing for government bailouts.  

Unfortunately, those come with more shackles strings attached.  

I say let them fail.  Let the unions murder the jobs that they claim they're trying to protect.  Let the government murder the industries.  Let them fail.  

Maybe, just maybe, we can figure out where the fail point was, and fix the problem.  

But it takes failure, it takes natural consequences to punish bad choices before we can even begin to recover.  

The fail point is government.  The fail point is regulations, regulatory costs, and the push by the stupid and uneducated toward the impossible. 

It's not fair to the rest of us.  It's not kind to us, or to our children.  

We're not allowed to hit the bully back.  We're not allowed to side-step the increasing regulations laid on vital infrastructure.  

Sarah Hoyt says "Build over, build under, build around." And we're going to have to.  Because the Gods of the Copybook Headings will not be gainsaid.  

Not teaching that has been the harshest, most unfair, most unkind thing that weaponized "nice" has done.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Of interest:

Yesterday, I grocery shopped in person.  I forgot to set up a pick up earlier in the week, and my phone was dead anyway, so...yeah.  

Anyhow, I have been needing new bathroom rugs for post-shower/post bath for a while.  Walmart's options were...not good.  All I wanted was basic, rubber-backed pile.  In darkish brown or gray because those can go longer without needing washed because they look grody--or at least, look worse than they are. 

There were options at Walmart, but I didn't want memory foam--takes forever to dry--and all of the rubber-backed sorta carpet? Light colors or bright colors.  All matchy-matchy with towels and wash cloths and all sorts of stuff.  

And not a single option was less than about $9.  None.  

There were designers, designs, and color palettes that Walmart used to not carry, not bother with.  Those were JC Penney or Target (both of which are having actual problems with falling market share, because in a lot of people's minds, Walmart meant cheaper...even if it's not anymore).  What there wasn't was basic level bath mats in the color families I wanted.  Almost everything but that, but not...that.

I'm not settling for something that isn't what I want, and paying that much to do so.  Not for something that basic.  If they'd had the general color families I wanted, in the material I wanted (rubber backed rugs were more like $16--the $9 option were the memory foam pads), I would have been less unwilling to pay that much for something that wasn't exactly what I was looking for.  

Fifteen years or so ago, I joked about JC Penney having gone to the dogs: Penney's prices, but with Walmart quality levels.  Walmart has now officially joined Penney's in having Penny's prices with Walmart quality. 

Dollar General has taken over the niche Walmart used to fill. Their prices are about what Walmart's used to be, on the types of things they used to carry.  You know: dry goods, some semi-durable goods, paper goods, and cleaning supplies.  Things like that. 

Dollar Tree has taken over what Dollar General has dropped: cheap shit that is about the most basic of the basic. THAT is where we found the bath mats I was willing to settle for, and I almost didn't have to settle: I got a slate-gray one, and a dusty purple one. 

As we were waiting to check out and leave, there was a young couple in front of us with a cart full of kitchen supplies: some pots and pans, basic mixing bowls, and some tableware.  Plastic drinking glasses. Paper towels, oven mitts. The most basic of the basic of setting up a kitchen.  Total price was $42. 

My bathmats were $5 each.  Yeah, the pile was sparser than I'd like, and the colors weren't exactly what I wanted. However.  I will settle for almost right for $5 each.  Not for double that, much less triple.

I may go back there when I need to get new kitchen towels.  Or dish rags.  The basics of the basic.  Because you don't need to pay Penney's prices at Walmart on basics when your budget is tight, and there are alternatives. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

ADHD Hack: checklists


I forget things.  Badly.  All the things. All the time.  It's worse when I'm trying to clean the house because the tasks are so tedious that it's actively painful, if I don't let my mind wander.  And sometimes, I get distracted mid-task by another task that needs to be done before I can finish what I had been doing.  And then, I forget what I was doing, distracted by another idea, and wander off to write.

(I get some great ideas while I'm doing housework, and carry a little notebook to pause and write them down...and that's one of the ways and reasons I get lost.) 

So, how do I combat the whole "wait, what the fuck was I doing?" 

Checklists.  I have checklists.  So many checklists.  I have every day checklists (it's on the fridge, because it's mainly the "before I can even get started on my coffee" tasks).  I have day of the week checklists.  There's a whiteboard calendar on my fridge where I keep the weekly tasks noted, and the approaching appointments written. 

My checklists are exactly that: a list of tasks typed up with a space to check them off, printed, and slid into a page protector.  I use a dry erase marker to check off finished tasks. 

What's on my checklists?  I'm glad you asked!  Because the things on my lists?  Are the things that I'm trying to build into a routine.  Into habit.  Into something I do automatically enough that I don't have to think about it. 

"Things like what?" you may ask.  

Everything.  I have everything on a checklist.  From "make sure the kids have their breakfasts" to "make sure the kids have their lunches" to "make sure your other half has his lunch" to "make the kids follow their checklists.*"  And all of that goes before coffee. 

Some of it has made its way into habit (specifically, the making breakfast for the imp, who still won't make his own).  But there's a lot that hasn't.  Not even in doing the same thing every morning for decades.  

My morning checklist ends with "get the kids to school." 

Day of the week checklists involve straightening up a single room: the bathrooms; the entry hall,  hallways, and the walk way into the kitchen; the kitchen, pantry, and utility rooms; the living room; the dining room and craft areas; the TV area; the bedrooms.  Then, there's a week-of-the-month deep cleaning for each of those areas (thank you FlyLady!).  

One thing I've managed to turn into a habit? Checking my checklist.  It actually was one of the hardest things to turn into a habit (it feels overwhelming, sometimes).  But it has kept me going, without forgetting too much.  

Wait, where was I going again?  Oh yeah, building routines.  

How do checklists build routines? Easy: they help you not to get lost in your attempts to create habits of your day-to-day, every day chores.  Eventually (maybe?), you won't even have to look at your checklist while you're moving through the chores--just remember to skim through it before you move on to make sure there's nothing you missed before you celebrate.  Or you'll end up with the cat so disgusted by the litterbox (that you've forgotten for weeks) that she's peeing on anything fabric left on the floor...and sometimes, fabric that she's pulled onto the floor to cover up a puddle.  

Seriously.  Make yourself a checklist (or more than one).  And use it. 

*The kids' checklists start with get dressed. Goes through assemble and eat breakfast.  Take your morning meds--focus pills for one, allergy pills and vitamins for the other.  Feed your pets. Wash hair, brush teeth, wash face, PUT ON DEODORANT!!!  Get your stuff ready to get out the door. Are you wearing shoes?

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

MUCH better

The school the kids go to fixed the absolute cluster-fuck they'd turned the drop-off into.  It's not perfect, but it's a lot better, and now moving quicker.  All the kids are still being dropped off at the same door, but they fixed the worst of the traffic flow issues (with pressure by and input from the local PD and FD).  Instead of having traffic moving both ways (in and out) in the same driveway, they've got everyone coming in the side street at the back driveway, and going around the building in the other direction from what initial drop off was.  There are two lanes for leaving the school's campus, depending on which way you'll be turning onto the MAJOR EAST-WEST ARTERY INTO TOWN the school sits on. 

There's currently only one drop-off lane, but I can see how they can reconfigure that to streamline things further.*  And I think I could re-configure things without FUBARing dropping the imp off next to his first class.**

They reconfigured the drop off over the weekend.  It still takes forever, compared to last year, but at least it's not a total cluster-fuck anymore.  And as people get used to it, if it streamlines further, it might start taking no longer to drop the kids off than it did last year.  Monday's drop off took double the time that it did from last year (but was so much better and less confusing--and less dangerous to both drivers and pedestrians), but Tuesday's was better, and today's was faster.  

Better yet, I seem to be done with school shopping (until one of the kids hits a growth spurt and suddenly need new shoes/new jeans).  I haven't had to go to Walmart this week at all, yet.  And I don't plan to until grocery pickup. 

 Because I need to stop hemorrhaging money.  August has really sucked for that, and for me replacing that. 

And, speaking of, I need to go do some writing, so I have new things to sell next year. 

*Once drivers get to the end of the school building and turn back south, they could be funneled into a two lane drop-off, which would funnel naturally into the lanes for turning right or left onto the street. 

**There is a separate trailer--a modular classroom--that had to be added for the increased student body.  It's a solid thirty or forty feet from the closest exterior door...and is a point of vulnerability that makes an absolute mockery of their "must use only one door for entry for safety!!!" policy.  Imp's first class is in that building, so I pause to let him out so he doesn't have to fight the crowds to get to his locker then out to class on time.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Dark brown sugar

I ran out of dark brown sugar, recently, and grocery day was still several days away.  So, I improvised--and improved. 

See, I've always gotten dark brown sugar, and I've noticed it getting...lighter. Much lighter.  Honestly, that last bag of dark brown sugar was about as pale as the light brown sugar used to be (and the light brown sugar's...well, damn near plain sugar).  I've always known brown sugar's nothing more than white sugar with molasses mixed in, so...I went hunting proportions.  So that I had a starting point.

For every cup of white sugar, you add a tablespoon of molasses for light brown sugar; for dark brown, you add two tablespoons.  

I made dark brown sugar.  And I discovered, in so doing, that I've never actually had dark brown sugar. 

I will never buy brown sugar again.  The dark brown sugar I made has far more--and better--flavor than anything I have ever picked up in the store. 

Friday, August 18, 2023

Hey, sorry.

It's been a while since I was able to sit down and blog, last.  I've been chasing my own tail, trying to do ALL THE THINGS, all at once.  I'm pretty sure I dropped a couple of balls, but I'm trying to pick them up.  

The kids are back at school, as of day before yesterday.  Last Monday was their back to school night, when we take them in, have them collect their schedules, and load their lockers.* And go around and meet teachers and pick up syllabi.  

...at which point, we find out that some of the things they need for some classes weren't noted on the school supply lists (which haven't been updated since they started there ten years ago).  So I went to Walmart, and picked up the supplies.  Except for the composition books.  Walmart was out of their store brand of those.  I'd assembled a collection of all the colors they were offering this year...and now, I don't have two of the colors.  Because Walmart was out.  

Wednesday was an utter cluster-fuck.  Because they had a "potential intruder" scare last year, they've utterly fucked over the drop off.  They've got ALL THE KIDS coming in the same door--the main one by the high school office.  Instead of elementary being dropped off on the other side of the building.  They've set up traffic lanes.  Right lane for elementary, left for secondary.  Right lane pulls around the building to turn out of the worst exit onto Newman.  Left lane pulls around the ends of the parking lots to turn out of the second worst exit...if the driver's smart enough to pull through the lower parking lot, instead of just going around the outside of the main one, and through the incoming traffic and pedestrians.  This absolute brilliance caused traffic to back up in front of the school on all four sides of the traffic light a quarter mile away from the school's driveways.  

And then Wednesday, the kids get home,** and the pixie tells me she needs more.  Thankfully, Walmart still had a few spiral-bound notebooks still in stock.  Not many, but some.  And I found that what I'd wanted to get for Mom for her birthday (yesterday, in fact--she turned 78), was on the sales racks.  

And then, Wednesday evening.  Wednesday evening decided that I was going to have to go back to Walmart on Thursday.  Because my Other Half's wireless mouse shat the bed.  No worries, I thought, I'll grab that and...completely forgot to grab a gift bag for my mom's birthday present.  

By that point, I was getting supremely frustrated.  In four days, I'd been to Walmart four times.  I just grabbed groceries for the week, and said to hell with making a curbside pickup order, since I didn't want to go back.  

And then I got home, unloaded the groceries and got Mom's gift bagged up.  

And realized that I'd utterly forgotten to grab a couple of two-liter bottles of soda for the kids to use to get into their school-sponsored back-to-school bash...which is tonight.  

I had my beloved other half pick them up.  I am not kidding about "don't wanna go back to Walmart again this week."  

He did.  And without having to go out again, I've actually accomplished a few things today.  Which makes me feel a little less like I've been spinning my wheels and making no progress on anything.

And maybe, just maybe, I can finish that freakin' stuck turd of a story that's blocking everything else before I go get the kids in two and a half hours.  

*I'm certain the imp's is already a mess, and the pixie's is...heading that way, but never as badly as his.

**Pick-up was, thankfully, not the absolute cluster-fuck that drop-off was...and drop-off has not been the absolute shit-show that it was on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

It's alive!!!

 I'm refusing to fight this post into being on Firefox--took way too much of my time and energy last time.  This time I'm just...using Edge.  Which actually works.  Go figure.  

Anyway...part 3 of The Schrodinger Paradox went live as of this morning.  

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Bloody buggering hell!

 Okay. I have been TRYING to get this stupid thing done and posted for days, now. I don't know if there's something going on with Blogger (likely not, since Wordpress is being a similar pain in my ass), or my browser (more likely, considering this seems to be working at the moment...).  

Anyway. The Schrodinger Paradox: Heisenberg's Point of Observation is live, and has been since the first.  

Monday, May 8, 2023


Did you know that some schools are offering classes in how to adult for their students? It involves things their parents ought to have been teaching them all along, but haven't.  

Part of the problem there is that the parents may not have been taught by their parents.  There are a lot of different possible reasons for that. It could fuel a whole series of blog posts, finding fault. It won't fix the problem, though. 

Point of fact: adulting is hard.  It's hard if you have a good idea of what you need to be doing going in. It's even harder if you don't, and fuels all sorts of psychological issues (imposter syndrome, anyone?).  

It's almost impossible if there's executive function disorder involved.  Mostly because people with executive function disorders do not just "pick things up." They've got to have explicit instruction.

Who has executive function disorders, and what are they? 

Executive function disorders are the cornerstone of ADHD. It's a difference in the brain that makes it damn near impossible to figure out what's important, what priority the item should have, or how to even begin a fucking task

I have not been diagnosed with ADHD.  I'm almost certain I have it. Too much has added up to "probably" as I've researched what's going on in my son's brain, and how to help him learn to adult.  And I have learned a lot about how my brain works...and how to trick it into adulting when it's screaming and flailing "no...don't wanna" in the corner.  

Routines.  Routines are vital. Turning things into auto-pilot makes adulting a lot easier, especially for those of us with executive function issues.  

Routines are hacks. Except instead of "this one weird hack" being a get-rich-quick thing, it's a make-adulting-possible thing.  It's a set of leg braces so that you can walk.  

FlyLady says that there are two types of people in the world: those that are born organized* and those that aren't.  

Developing routines is a way of imposing organization on disorganized brains so that you can actually function at life.  

For a lot of us, adulting is impossible without that hack, without those braces.  

I'll do a series of posts discussing how to create the routines around things.  How to create your prosthesis system so that you can be a semi-functioning adult.  

This post?  This is just an answer to "but why do I gotta?  It's so boring it's painful."  

I know that. Setting the auto-pilot lets your brain do the interesting stuff while your body's doing the boring stuff.  

Let me show you how I hacked my  own brain.  Let me help.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Friday, April 28, 2023

Stand by...

We have had two weeks of unseasonably cool weather for this part of the country, and this time of year. I know a lot of people complain about the hot, but I really am looking forward to it. 

I know: it's on the way. My irises bloomed for the first time this year (yeah, only one stalk of blooms, but still). My roses are COVERED with buds, and will likely all burst into bloom within the next week.  My wild roses are about the same, and so are my blackberries.  My baby pecan trees are starting to put out leaf buds.  Things are indicating that better weather's on the way...

But we're still having early-mid March weather at the end of April.  And I'm freezing, today.  

I'm really looking forward to the hot.  

In other news, I put the first part of The Schrodinger Paradox up on Amazon.  I put it up on Monday.  Since then, it's been "in review." Which "could take up to 72 hours." 

It's...still "in review." I contacted Amazon, and they said they're "running behind" on the process, and that if it's still marked "in review" on the first (when I set it to go live), to contact them again.  

I have to wonder if they're stupid, or if they think I am. There are no live people in the process--it's an automated computer thing that has clearly glitched.  They need to fix it.  

So, I'm also waiting on that.  And, given the utter shit handed me as an excuse, my book may not make my projected publication. Stand by. 

In the meantime...here's the cover art, and the back cover text.

The end is coming.

Unlucky jerk Tom Beadle was on watch at NASA when the collision alert sounded: a new asteroid, bigger than the dino-killer, headed for Earth. Big problem, but that's why we have NASA, right? Except, after decades of budget cuts, NASA has no way to shove it off course. That job has to be contracted out. Will the private sector company his best friend from college works at succeed where the government option failed? Might be best to have a backup plan, just in case…

Monday, April 10, 2023

Oh, you idiots.

So. The receptionists at the doctor's office in the local hospital systems I use? Yeah...

They're probably going to get shit-canned, sometime soon.  No more paycheck, no more awesome health insurance for working in the hospital system, no more retirement program.  Nothing.  

And they deserve every bit of it.  

As does every individual who's a "living wage minimum wage" proponent.  

Why am I saying this?  Glad y'all asked! 

The bunch screeching that the minimum wage doesn't allow enough to live on are...either union shills* or require a tiny voice beneath their ear, reminding them to breathe in, breathe out. And close your mouth, you drooling nitwit.  

Minimum wage is not, and never was, intended for people to live on.  Minimum wage was intended, from the get-go, as a racist method of preventing minorities from under-cutting what the white workers were charging for the same amount of work.  And when that passed, the white workers started demanding more, for doing the same work, and...the minorities accepted the minimum to HAVE a job.  So, in reality, the initial intent DIDN'T EVEN WORK.  

As it functions now, minimum wage jobs are...trainer-jobs.  They're the ones that are part time, dumb work geared toward the lowest skill level.  

The jobs paying minimum wage? Most of those are, and have always been, taken by teenagers.  Teens who still live at home, where they don't HAVE to worry about their living expenses.  And they get a raise if they stick with the job for 90 days. 

These workers don't need health insurance--they're still on their parents' plans**--and they're not even starting to consider retirement.  I suppose they could be offered a college savings account.  That would actually be a semi-useful benefit for part-time minimum wage jobs; however, that's the only thing  I can think of that minimum wage starting pay jobs should consider offering.  

Adults that take the minimum wage, no-skill jobs? The vast majority of them deserve that.  Or less.  They're...useless.  And they're often a drain on the employers' bottom line.  Should probably qualify as a tax break, considering the value they DON'T add, if they're minimum wage and STAY there.  

Case in point: I have had friends start minimum wage, fast food jobs as adults.  Because their physical health precluded them from taking some of the heavier factory work type jobs that (frankly) pay better.  They got a raise in two weeks. Within six weeks, they were promoted to team lead.  The store was making noises about promoting them to SHIFT manager, then STORE manager within six months.  Every promotion came fast, and with a fairly hefty pay bump. They kept getting those because they showed up, on time, ready to work, for every shift they were scheduled.  Or called if there was something that was going to prevent that. Like when they got food poisoning

That is a very low bar to clear.  Show up. Sober. On time. Do the job.  

Why does it seem so impossible for so many?  

I've noted a lot of places like that are...no longer hiring.  Instead of paying financial drains on the company by hiring no-skilled workers that won't, they're putting in kiosks.  They're putting in robots that do the kitchen work.  The only workers they're actually hiring are IT people to maintain and troubleshoot the automation.  Maybe one or two people per shift.  

So.  As we are seeing with this, the real minimum wage is...no wage at all.  

Back to the doctor's office.

What does the receptionist do? She answers the phone. She sets appointments. She inputs patient information, if it's not already in the patient file.  

Except...now, she doesn't. She doesn't answer the phone: there's an idiot push-button phone tree that reads off a two minute automated shpiel that urges patients to be absolutely sure they want their primary care doctor, rather than the urgent care (number provided) or the emergency department (no, I will NOT abbreviate that, TYVM.  I already have issues with the giggles calling it the "emergency department").  And when you FINALLY wait through all that crap, you get "press one to make or reschedule an appointment" or "press two to talk to the nurse" and instructions to have the PHARMACY  contact them if you need refills, rather than doing it yourself.  Then you'd make your appointment, go check in...

...but now, you're not checking in. You've already done that with the electronic stuff that was the receptionist's job.  

I'm not sure if the receptionists whined about the tedium or what's going on, but they're not answering phones anymore.  They're not helping you figure out who you need to talk to.  They're not doing your check-in work.  They're...setting your appointments.  And...

...doesn't that sound like what fast food is doing? Adding automation and dumping the useless money drains?  

Really, the receptionists should have been balking this automation at every turn, rather than cheering the lightening of their work load.  Because like fast food, the office managers are going to look at what they're doing, and ask "Why are we paying you and paying for your health insurance, again?"

Effectively, minimum wage is none at all.  And apparently, that "minimum" is climbing the ranks of jobs that get it. 

*Union pay scale is tied to minimum wage: it's set a certain dollar amount higher automatically by position. 

**Kids are on their parents' insurance well into early adulthood, now...so why offer insurance to minimum wage workers? Who are teenagers?

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Adventures in breadmaking

My most beloved other half recently got me a bread machine.* I used to have one, but gave it away to an aunt because I barely used it, and because I developed an allergy to wheat.  

Gluten free bread is...expensive. And most of it really isn't good enough to justify the price charged for a Walmart brand loaf of standard white sandwich bread...on sale.  Gluten free flour is expensive, but not that much more than regular flour, really.  Not enough to justify the difference in bread cost.  

I went looking for bread machines for making gluten free bread.  Because I really don't have the energy budget to just do it by hand, not really.  

I found them.  Several, at several different price points.  I put the one I thought would do in my Amazon wish list.  

It's...a bread maker.  Fairly easy to use.  Has recipes in the back for a few different basic types of bread.  Including gluten free bread.  So, I gathered up my courage and got a new jar of breadmaker yeast, and gave it a try.  

It was easy enough: measure the ingredients, and put the liquid ones in the bottom.  Mix the dry (except the yeast, and dump them on top of the liquid. Then add the yeast on top. Set the cycle, and set it going. 

It smelled...almost right.  The recipe lacked eggs, and wheat flour smells different from other types of flour. The baking cycle finished while I was getting the kids. I fished the bucket out and dumped the loaf out onto the cooling rack. 

It smelled okay, but it didn't look quite right. Granted, gluten free bread lacks what browns on normal bread, so I was expecting the very pale look of the loaf, but it was...squat. I sliced into it, and found out why. It...failed to rise.  I made the 1.5 lb loaf, and it didn't rise.  My yeast was new.  I followed instructions.  I went looking for answers about what happened online.  

As it turns out, what happened was the breadmaker.  It was programmed to do two knead cycles.  Which is one knead cycle more than gluten free bread needs.  

Normal bread, for example, has gluten in it, which provides a protein structure for the yeast to inflate.  You have to punch it down part of the way through the knead cycle, or you end up with everything overflowing.  

Gluten free flour...yeah, it'll rise, but not as well as wheat flour, and it WON'T rise again if it's knocked down.  It's wimpy like that.

Still, in spite of making a loaf with the consistency of a small rock, the bread machine's recipe was fairly good on flavor. I will be trying the recipe again, but on the quick bread setting, rather than the gluten free setting.  We'll see how that turns out.   

*Bread machine is Amazon's house brand, and was a birthday gift. 

Monday, March 13, 2023

Dear Amazon:

As a long time customer and book buyer, I'm incredibly grateful for your existence. I became even more grateful when you opened the world of publishing to people who don't want to sell their souls for the chance to see their name in print on their very own book. I love the Kindle Unlimited subscription, and generally don't mind your marketing, because you've recommended some very cool new stuff for me to read, based on what I've read in the past.*


I have noted recently that your recommendations have been...off.

I haven't read very many traditionally published books in years. And almost all of your recommendations are trad pub. They're...tired. Trite. Boring as fuck. And preachier than they are boring.  Some of them are okay, but never more than that. 

I haven't ever read women's lit, romance, romance-themed urban fantasy, book club fiction, or the whining naval-gazing of any women's memoirs. None of that is entertaining, and the women's memoirs make me want to fling the book, scream, and slap the shit out of the writer. 

And let me share a few key words in your book descriptions that make me run the fuck away from ever looking at any particular book:

  • "Critically acclaimed"
  • "groundbreaking"
  • "Best Seller" 
  • "New York Times best seller"
  • "award winning"
  • "Hugo Award winning"

If your ad blurb mentions any of the above, I nope the fuck out. If your ad blurb is nothing but reviews, awards, "everyone's reading this book," I nope the fuck out. 

Wanna know what I want to see in the ad blurb? I want to see what the book is about. I want a basic, one sentence plot summary. I do not give a flying fuck that other people are reading this book. In fact, the popularity might make me nope the fuck out, too, because the standard, average person is, at best, a vapid twatwaffle that needs a crowd of twatwaffles around them, all exclaiming how cool the latest thing they're reading is...and most of them won't enjoy it, or possibly even understand it. 

Want to know what I do read? What you can improve your bottom line by pushing? 

That's easy. You're doing it already. You're already tracking my husband's and my reading habits.

I'd ask why you're pushing dreck that I wouldn't read on a fucking bribe, but I already know. I've heard about the internal memos chirping happily about pushing trad pub (in spite of what it's going to do to the bottom line), and the latest "sensitive" or "nuanced fiction." 

I know why, too. 

Marxist-trained business majors are not who you want running a company. They don't understand that making money is more important to a company than "moral business choices." If, in fact, they understand what "moral business choices" actually are.  

And given what I've heard about warehouse working conditions and worker safety? I strongly doubt they actually do.  

There's a good reason I haven't even considered using your advertising services. I don't think I'd get a good return for my money, and with the way you've screwed the pooch on choosing trad pub dreck over much better stories published independent through your services, where you get a cut of any sales I make, I don't think you'd get good value, either.  

I probably won't stop shopping for books on Amazon.  But I'm certainly going to just be deleting the "Recommended for you" emails as soon as they hit my inbox from now on.  

Or maybe I'll open those so I can see who you're pushing hardest so I don't trip over more crap in my escapist reading. 

*Tracking spending for advertising purposes is creepy and intrusive as fuck, but USELESS if you're not paying attention and using it for making recommendations.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


Last weekend, both my mother and my mother in law sort of jumped the gun on my birthday.  Mom & Sis got me Guns 'N' Roses Appetite for Destruction, and my mother-in-law gave me a framed print (which I LOVE), and a Walmart gift card. 

I had asked for Appetite.  I used to have copies--one on cassette tape (which got eaten by a past tape player, so I no longer have...even if I had a tape player to listen to it with), and one on (burned) CD. Which wouldn't play any longer.* I really hadn't expected to get the album.  Quite honestly, I expected them to balk, hard, at it.  It's...something.  And it's not something I'll play around the kids (with the exception of about three or four of the songs). 

Sunday evening, I dragged my other half with me to Walmart, because I knew precisely what I wanted to do with part of that card: a quiet USB keyboard.  I can't stand rattly keyboards when I'm writing fast.  HATE them.  It's like sitting next to somebody chewing loudly with their mouth hanging open.  

I got this one: Onn Wireless Silent Keyboard.  It's not quite silent, mind you, but it's very, very close.  Yeah, it's almost certainly made in China, is probably a cheap POS, and will likely quit working within the year; however, at the price point, it's replaceable.  

The good points: it's a full-sized keyboard, and all of the keys are standard size/placement, and there's a raised ridge at the bottom of the F and the J keys.  I touch type, so those are really important.  Especially the standard size: I had a laptop that had a half-sized shift key, with...something else between the question mark and the shift key.  I routinely missed the shift with my right pinkie, and had to go back and fix whatever got FUBARed instead of capitalized.  

It's quiet.  It's probably the quietest keyboard I've ever used.   

It's lightweight.  And it uses standard, AAA batteries, so easy to replace.  And it's got an on/off switch on the bottom, to not waste your battery life when you're not using it.  

It was seriously inexpensive.  I'm not kidding: I went looking for a silent keyboard, and the next price point is $20 higher than this one. 

The bad points: It's a standard, straight keyboard. There's no bend to it for even slightly improved ergonomics. There's no flip-down legs to adjust it, if I were to set it on a desk and try to use it (not really an issue for me--even at a desk, I tend to type in my lap).  It's Made In China, so it will probably crap out within the year. 

Really, though, the good points heavily outweigh the bad points, and the bad ones aren't...really an issue for me.   

Yesterday, I dropped the kids off at school, came home, got the rest of my coffee, and turned on my speaker. Queued up Appetite for Destruction on repeat.  Set up to write. 

And got around 4K words added to Certified Public Assassin in the seven hours they were gone.  

The book really likes G&R.  That album in specific.  And the keyboard is comfortable to work with, and doesn't drive me nuts.  

*Did you know that burned CDs will quit working after a while?  I didn't.  In any case, I've got the CD loaded on my laptop, so that point is moot. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Darkship Thieves: a book review

I never read Darkship Thieves while it was a Baen book.  Recently, Sarah Hoyt re-released it, as she got her rights to it back, and I pulled it to read via Kindle Unlimited.  I deeply regret not having read it before--it's a massively fun romp.  

Per the back cover: 

Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go to space.

Never wanted see the eerie glow of the Powerpods. Never wanted to visit Circum Terra. She never had  any interest in finding out the truth about the Darkships.
You always get what you don’t ask for. Which must have been why she woke up in the dark of shipnight, within the greater night of space in her father’s space cruiser, knowing that there was a stranger in her room. In a short time, after taking out the stranger—who turned out to be one of her father’s bodyguards up to no good, she was hurtling away from the ship in a lifeboat to get help.
But what she got instead would be the adventure of a lifetime and perhaps a whole new world—if she managed to survive….
A Prometheus Award Winning Novel, written by a USA Today Bestseller.

I can't say a lot without giving everything away, but I can say that the character development is spectacular, and the plot and pacing are incredibly well done.  I deeply enjoyed the book, and have snagged the second in the series to read. 

I will probably be buying this book when I can.  Because I will want to read it again. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Sample from my upcoming...

 This is the first part of the first short story from a collection I'll be publishing soon.  I'm in the final stages of editing, now.  Hope you enjoy it!

A Friend, Indeed

 “Momma, there’s a dragon in my wagon.” 

Zoe blinked awake, rubbed her eyes, and blinked some more. “What did you say, baby?” she murmured, voice rough and scratchy with the nap she hadn’t intended to take when she’d laid down.

Zoe hadn’t been sleeping well. Neither had Tish, her daughter. Since Duane had deployed, she’d been waking up with nightmares every few hours. Zoe don’t know what he did tucking the little four-year-old girl in that was different from what she was doing, but she’d never had so many.

“I said there’s a dragon in my wagon. In the back yard. I was gonna go out and play, but it’s there.”  She popped a thumb in her mouth, frowning worriedly.

The exhausted woman closed her eyes and sighed. A dragon. In her wagon. Zoe supposed her daughter simply wanted her momma out in the back yard with her, since she was feeling her daddy’s absence. “Is it a friendly dragon, or an unfriendly one?” she asked, humoring her little girl. Her daughter was only four, and this was the first time her daddy had been gone longer than his two weeks a year training. She wasn’t taking it well.

Hell, neither was Zoe. Even without counting Tish’s nightmares, she had trouble falling and staying asleep without the warm, breathing hulk of her husband next to her. Her eyes were drifting closed again, against her will while Tish considered her question.

“I don’t know, Momma, it’s sleeping. I didn’t go near it. I didn’t even open the outside door—I saw it through the glass when I opened the inside door to go into the back yard. It looks like it’s only about the size of my floppy dog.” She blinked big brown eyes at her mother, while Zoe tried desperately to keep her own eyes from falling shut.

“Tish, can you hand me my shoes?” Zoe forced her eyes open wide, trying to wake up enough. “We can go investigate.” 

“I have them already, Momma,” she said, holding out the canvas slip-on shoes Zoe kicked into for grabbing the mail from the box down by the street.

She sighed and sat up, shoving her thick, black hair that had escaped from her braid out of her eyes with one hand, taking the shoes with the other to set on the floor so she could shove her bare feet into them. “You said it was in the back, right?  What color was the dragon?”

“It was the same green as my juice,” she replied, reaching up and wrapping her small hand around Zoe’s index and middle fingers. “It was really pretty in the yellow wagon, on the red leaves.”

Zoe smiled down at her. “I bet it was,” she said, thinking of that yellow Little People/Duplos plastic thing Tish insisted had to go into the back yard. Duane really would have preferred her to have a little red, metal wagon, like the one he’d grown up playing with, but this one was what they’d found, and what she’d loved.

Since it was November, it was full of dead leaves that she’d been using it to transport from one leaf pile to another around the yard. “I wonder if the dragon is in your wagon because it wants to sleep in your leaves,” Zoe mused.

She looked up at her mother, brow scrunched and brown eyes thoughtful. “I dunno,” she said. “Could be, if it doesn’t mind how scratchy leaves are. They are soft.”

The back yard had a really high privacy fence surrounding it. It was one of the things Zoe and Duane had liked about the house when they’d moved in: with the gate closed and locked, it was safe for a little girl to go out and play by herself. Usually. And their little girl was very independent. Usually.

Zoe opened the back door and looked out. And blinked.

Tish hadn’t been making things up to get her mother to go outside with her. There actually was a dragon in her wagon. It was about the size of a basset hound. Same general shape, too, with a long body. Just…there were also wings.

And it was looking at them, with golden eyes about as mournful as a basset’s.

“Momma…the dragon looks sad,” Tish observed.

“I noticed,” Zoe said absently. “Stay here.” 

“Okay,” she said softly.

She opened the back storm door and stepped out on the top step, closing the door carefully behind her. And really looked at the dragon, her arms crossed. She didn’t go any closer. It dropped its head and whined, wiggling in the wagon. The dragon was heavy enough to rock it on its wheels, plastic creaking ominously.

It sounded like the bassets Zoe had known—both the one she’d grown up with, and the one that they’d had until Tish had turned two—used to when they wanted scritches. That had to be why she went down and sat on the bottom step, about six feet from her daughter’s little plastic wagon full of dead maple leaves.

The dragon…the dragon hopped out of the wagon, and slunk over to her, creeping close to the ground even considering its short legs, and kind of sidling a little. As soon as it got close enough, it went belly down and crept the rest of the way before sitting up and laying its head on her knee. It looked up at her mournfully, then up at where Tish was standing, hands and face pressed to the glass of the door. And it whined again, and then nudged its head under her hand, just like a dog would, when it wanted to be stroked.

So, Zoe obliged, stroked its bright green snout, up to its brow ridges. The dragon’s jaw fell open, a bright red, forked tongue falling sideways out its mouth. Like a dog’s, just…forked. Its breath was hotter than she expected, considering she was currently petting and scratching a four-footed creature with scales. Not hot, like threatening fire, just hot like a mammal’s.

Even though it was clearly reptile-like, it was definitely not a reptile. Really lizard-like, low-slung with scales, just…warm-blooded. Maybe more like a bird?  But…birds had two legs and wings, not four. And feathers.

Zoe shook her head, trying to think past the exhausted fog as she looked at the creature begging for affection, and eyeing her daughter with longing. Not a bird. Not a lizard, either, despite the four legs and scales. And wings? So, six limbs, and warm blooded, but otherwise looking like a lizard. She really didn’t know what to make of it, but could tell it was happy with the attention.

“You like that, huh?” she said, rubbing around a weird, ragged-looking ear. Not like a dog’s, but not the exposed membrane of a reptile, nor the feather-covered membrane of a bird. Just…weird. Scaly and floppy. It leaned hard into the rubbing and…grumbled wasn’t quite the right word. One hind leg started thumping.

Zoe couldn’t help but smile. She glanced up to where Tish was dancing in impatience, but staying in the house like a good girl. “Come on out, honey, but go slow,” she said.

The dragon, after all, had very, very sharp predator’s teeth. And even if it was acting like a dog, it wasn’t one.

It whined again as the door came open, and closed very quietly. Trembled as she came slowly down the steps on the other side of Zoe from the dragon. And then, the dragon crawled across her lap to shove its head into her daughter’s arms, and try to cuddle with both of them at once.

And Zoe could tell why the plastic wagon had been creaking: the dragon weighed around half again more than her four year old.

Tish’s delighted giggle had the dragon jerking away to gallop around the back yard in sheer joy, which let Zoe get a better look at it. It was long and low, with short legs like a basset. It stretched its stubby wings out to help it keep its balance in the turns.

She wondered where it came from, and if it could fly.

It wound up crawling up under Tish’s arm and draping its front half over her lap, nudging against her cheek and chin with that smooth snout. And she cuddled the dragon, cooing happily as it blinked and smiled at her, bright red, forked tongue hanging from one side of its mouth. Zoe couldn’t help but smile, and reach down to scratch behind the dragon’s ear again. It grunted and started thumping the step with a hind leg, disarming Zoe further, the more it acted like a dog.

Tish smiled up at her, brown eyes bright, and dimples showing. “Momma, can we keep it?”

She hesitated. The dragon whined, climbing half over Tish’s lap to nuzzle Zoe’s arm and add hopeful eyes to Tish’s request. Zoe sighed. “I suppose,” she said hesitantly. “We can keep the dragon for as long as it will stay.” 

It licked her face. With raw meat-smelling breath. She sighed, wiping the rather slimy slobber off—there honestly wasn’t much—and pushed up to her feet. “I’m going to get a chair,” she said, “and a bowl for water.”

Both were just inside the back door. If either had been much further away, she’d not have gone for them. Because she’d been raised knowing you didn’t leave a child unsupervised with any animal for long at all.

They had the supplies to get a dog—they’d had a dog for a while, and then she’d passed. She’d been a great dog. Zoe wished, in a way, that Tish had been old enough to remember her, but in another, she was glad that Tish didn’t miss her dog for long. They’d either thrown away or donated most of the things they’d had for the dog, but not all of them. The things they still had would be about the right size for a basset-hound-sized dragon…she thought.

Zoe still wasn’t convinced she wasn’t hallucinating. Dragons weren’t real. Couldn’t be real. Because it was scaled like a lizard, but warm-blooded like a mammal. Or bird. Just with four legs. And a pair of wings, so six limbs, total. It acted like a dog, but she couldn’t quite get past the differences. The critter was strange.

The phone rang, while she was getting the bowl and the umbrella chair next to the back door. There was a handset and charger base just inside the kitchen, next to the stove, and she ducked in to grab it and answer. “Coffman’s residence, Zoe speaking,” she said, pinning the handset between her shoulder and ear.

“Zoe, it’s Mom.”  She hesitated. “I hate to ask you this, but has there been anything…strange…going on?”

She thought wryly of the dragon in the back yard. “Not much, no,” she said. “I do have a four-year-old with a vivid imagination who’s upset that her daddy’s been gone for a month, and has no idea when he’ll be back, and a bad case of prego-mush-brain, but other than that?  Nothing terribly strange.”

Just the dragon in the back yard that shouldn’t exist, she thought.

Her mom hummed. Then realized what Zoe had said. “Prego-mush-brain?  Are you pregnant?  Again?”

“You make it sound like I’m pregnant so often,” Zoe said drily. “This is only the second time.”

“But…but Duane isn’t there,” she said.

“He’s not been gone that long,” Zoe replied tartly, offended.

“That wasn’t what I meant,” she lamented. “Does he know?”

Zoe carried the bowl and chair and phone out in the back yard. Set the bowl down, and filled it with water. “Mom. He’s been gone a month. I just started the second trimester. He was with me for the first appointment, and saw and heard the bean’s heartbeat, and saw it jumping around on the portable ultrasound screen they brought in when they couldn’t find it with the Doppler. I am not scheduled for the big sonogram for another two weeks.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” she demanded.

Zoe sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “When did I tell you about my pregnancy with Tish?” Tish was bouncing around the back yard, giggling, and jumping into the piles of leaves she’d gathered. The green dragon bounced around behind her, moving like an extra-large ferret, and piling into the leaves after her, shoving its head down and flipping leaves into the air.

It was so cute it damn near gave her cavities. And it was one of the first times in the past two weeks Tish had played so happily and enthusiastically.

“Halfway through your second trimester, when you had started showing and couldn’t hide it anymore,” she replied acidly.

“No, Mom. Halfway through my second trimester, when the dangers of miscarriage dropped to nearly nothing,” Zoe pointed out. “You know. When you wouldn’t have your heart broken by losing another grandchild, like you did with Steve’s wife’s baby they lost right after they told you?”

She went silent for a moment. Then, “Oh. I see. Well. I guess that teaches me to make assumptions.”  Her voice was apologetic—Zoe knew that was probably all she’d get, since she wasn’t her mother’s darling youngest son who was perfect in every way. In her mother’s sight.

But only there. Everywhere else, Zoe’s little brother was a flaky twit, who should thank God every day he’d managed to marry so far above his worth.

“What kind of strangeness were you calling about, anyway?” she asked, after she’d let her mother brood a bit.

“Oh. Not much, really,” she said hesitantly. “Only…your brother called, and swore up, down, and sideways, he’d seen horse with a horn, running around with a herd of deer. I was wondering if he was on something, or if he’d actually seen something…unusual.”

“You mean mythological,” Zoe said flatly. “I’d say it was safer to assume he was on something until you get verification otherwise.”

“It’s one of the reasons I called you,” she explained, matter of fact. “You always have your head on straight, and you’d be more likely to know one way or the other.”

Zoe sighed. “Mom, Tish is in the back yard. I really need to go.” 

“Call me later, and tell me how you’re doing,” she demanded.

“Tired as hell, but the queasy is fading,” she said. “I’ll call sometime soon, when she’s gone down for a nap.”

Zoe found herself holding a phone giving her a fast beep as her mother hung up without saying goodbye, like she always did. She had this superstition that actually saying goodbye was bad luck, and would end with someone’s death.

She rolled her eyes, and leaned the umbrella chair against the house, thinking about what else they still had for a dog that might work for a dragon. Or what it might need. Shelter. A food dish. A collar?  Probably not that. Beds, bedding. Probably not a kennel for the house, either.

Shelter first. Zoe frowned, scratched her head while she tried to think, and then remembered where the dog house was: in someone else’s yard after they’d set it on the curb. She would have to either build or buy a new one, if the dragon decided to stay with them for long. And if the dragon spent much time outside.

The pillow, bedding, and toys would need to be replaced. They’d tossed the old stuff since it’d been old and worn when the dog had passed away. So Zoe would need to buy everything new.

The dragon galloped along after Tish, using its wings, now and then, to help it make a turn, or to keep it on its feet after a jump over a toy. Tongue hanging out of the side of its mouth, just like a dog.

Tish finally got tired, and went over to her favorite spot to sit, over in a small hollow beneath the spindly little maple tree, and flopped down. The dragon followed, curling around behind her with its head under her hand, and sighed as she started petting it. She scooched down to lay against the dragon, twisting over onto her side, murmuring to it. Zoe couldn’t hear what she was saying, but the dragon seemed to be listening intently.

Zoe got up, then paused and squinted toward the sun, thinking about the time. “Tish, it’s time to go in for a while,” she called.

“Can I bring Buddy?” she called back, climbing to her feet.

“Why did you call it Buddy?”

“Buddy isn’t an it,” she said firmly. “Buddy’s a boy. And it’s his name.”

Zoe looked down at the dragon. There wasn’t any visible cue of sex, so she had to ask. “How do you know that?”

“He told me. In my head.”

“Of course,” Zoe murmured to herself. “How stupid of me.” She eyed the dragon’s feet. The talons were blunt, and didn’t look like they’d damage the floors any more than the dog’s had, so she shrugged. “Why not. We’ll see if Buddy can be a house-friend.”

She squealed, hugged the dragon (apparently named Buddy, now) around its long, scaly neck, and scampered for the house, the dragon happily gallumphing behind her, pausing to look up at Zoe as she held open the door. “It’s okay,” she said, nodding toward the interior of the house. “You can go in. Just no crapping on the floor.”