A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pets and their care

Continuing on the thread of last Friday's post, I want to talk for a minute about feeding your pets. People try all the time to force their pets into a diet similar to their own. What we need to remember is that animals have their own dietary needs and we shouldn't force them into something they're not made for.

The worst one I've seen is people feeding their cats a vegan diet. There are some who say they are successful at it. There are others who aren't. Personally, I'd never feed a cat a vegan diet. They are carnivores. They hunt for their own meat in the wild. Dry pet food we feed to cats is made from meat. The wet food we give them is also meat. There are things they eat that don't have to be made of meat, but the bulk of their diet needs to be that.

There was a story I heard about a couple wanting to make a sizable donation to a zoo. Their only requirement was that the tigers had to be fed a vegetarian diet. When the zoo asked them how they expected that to happen when tigers are carnivores and prefer to hunt for live animals, the couple said that they were vegans and didn't believe that anyone had to eat meat. They believed everyone could be shifted to the same diet they were on and be perfectly healthy. The zoo didn't get their donation.

Dogs are different. Dogs are omnivores and can survive on anything. They're opportunistic as well in some circumstances, eating whatever they can find. They love chewing on stuff and if they can eat it, great. If they can't, well, if you've had a dog with chew toys you know what can happen.

I've heard stories from my nieces, who both work at a pet store, that people would come in and ask what kind of pet food that a snake or lizard could eat and then were horrified when they were told that many reptiles needed live food (or at least frozen mice/rats/things like that) to survive. There are some reptiles that can get by with a vegetarian diet, but for the most part they need meat.

I get the fact that people want their pets to live a healthy life. I don't blame them. I want Reidar to be a healthy, happy cat. But the humans who adopt/purchase a pet need to do the research. They need to understand that their diet decisions may not be suitable for their pets.
A “pet parent” needs to understand the physical requirements of their pets as well as the emotional ones. Pets need love and affection, just as people do. They need to eat balanced diets, just as people do. They need to stay hydrated in all seasons, just as people do. There is so much to think about when taking on the responsibility of living with and caring for a pet.
Okay, the soapbox is getting put away now. (I'm really big on taking care of your fur kids.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Feeding the trolls

Earlier this week, I got into a conversation with someone online. If you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, you've probably seen my ranting about this conversation. Please excuse the repeat of the information you already have.

I posted a completely innocent comment online about how Reidar doesn't like people food and how I found that odd since my last three cats have all had a fondness for various types of human foods. I had someone jump down my throat, tell me I was a cruel and irresponsible pet parent, how I must have killed my three previous pets (one vanished, one was hit by a car, and one is still alive living in Washington with a friend of Himself's mom), and how I was trying to kill Reidar. I should be arrested for animal cruelty and have Reidar taken away.

When I countered his arguments with the fact that I didn't let them gorge themselves on it, that I only gave it to them in small portions as a treat, he said that I should stick to what is in the pet stores as treats. Another thing he brought up was if I wanted to give Reidar a real treat, I'd give him wet food and I again was being a cruel pet parent if I was depriving Reidar of this. There was more but you get the general idea.

I'll admit it. I fed the troll when I got into the debate with him. But it brought a problem to light that I've seen all over the net. People are so much nastier than they would be in person to people they might not even know. They are judgmental, they don't want to engage in a reasonable discourse, and they're more determined to tear people down than actually talk.

I seem to be among a select group of people who doesn't like tearing people down online. I couch my responses to things in a civil manner, I don't (for the most part) swear, and I respect other people's opinions even when I think they're wrong. If I don't think I can stay civil, I don't leave a comment or respond to one left for me. If it's something I'm genuinely curious about the reasoning behind, I'll ask questions. If it becomes a bash fest I'll walk away.

There are times where I will post things that can be seen as controversial in some crowds. I fully believe that if you want to talk to me about it, go ahead. I'll talk to you as long as you don't attack me personally for my beliefs. After that, the conversation is over and if it's possible you're blocked. If it's on Facebook and we're friends, we're not friends anymore.

Why isn't this a common thing on the internet? Why does it seem that there are so many more people online willing to be assholes towards others? I really don't understand this. I've heard it called human nature, but what do you think?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Science (forensic style)

I don't like summer. Around here, once we get into July and August, it can get up to (and above) 100 F. It's the downside to living in a desert. You may remember my saying I hate winter too. I don't like the cold. My favorite seasons are spring and fall. We didn't get much of a spring here. We got two weeks of consistent spring temperatures, then we spiked up into the 80s. Since then, we've gotten down to the 60s and back up to 90. Our weather is very weird this year.

I've heard from friends that their weather is weird as well. It makes me wonder if finally people will recognize global warming as a real problem. It certainly is showing itself in a rather spectacular way.

Don't worry, I'm not going on a nature tear like I did on Monday. My concern today is the science behind things. There's a lot of scientific evidence behind global warming, evolution, and many other things. There are people in this world who don't believe in it and they are the most vocal.

But the one thing I discovered that doesn't have as much “science” behind it is forensic science. I've always loved forensic science. Not what you see in the CSI programs, though the technology behind that is fascinating. But the real forensic science. I got introduced to real forensics watching TV. There were a handful of shows that showed how forensics worked to convict criminals.

Well, Netflix has a show that talks about how forensics is on trial itself. A lot of forensic “science” is perception and in some cases guess work. Crime scenes can be contaminated to the point where proper evidence can't be gathered. Theories can be created and the wrong people convicted based on badly interpreted evidence.

There are some new developments that will bring science back to forensic science though. In Sweden they're using CT scans and MRIs to take a complete view of a victim's body. They can look at fine slices of the body without ever cutting into it, getting a more detailed view of what happened and how the victim died.

In North Carolina, they're working on a device that allows them to take pictures of a crime scene using lasers to create a complete view of the area. Even if evidence gets disturbed, they still have the original crime scene to work with. They're using the video game creation classes at the university to render the information from the scenes into the 3D images.

Another lab here in the States (I no longer remember which one) is working on getting more accurate fingerprints. Fingerprints on a non-porous substance are hard to get. Right now the common method is evaporating super glue to get the print. But that has problems and can lead to the conviction of the wrong person. This lab is using a new technology and an alternate substance that allows them to take a 3D image of the fingerprint.

Science is an amazing thing and perhaps one day we will be able to use science to pinpoint exactly who committed a crime. I don't think we'll ever get to the point where we can figure out who will commit a crime before they commit it (yes, I saw Minority Report and no I don't think we'll ever get there even if we don't have psychics). But I'd be interested to see how much more we'll advance in the next few years.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Random recipes

I've shared recipes on here before. I thought, for a random post, I'd share a few more with you. These are some of my favorites. I may have posted them before, but I didn't see them in the tags. I didn't tag all my posts, so for all of you older blog followers if these are repeats I'm sorry.

Sauerkraut Bake

1 jar sauerkraut
1 kielbasa, cut into 1/4” slices
Two apples, sliced
1 can new potatoes/2 c. cooked Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2” chunks

Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C). Drain sauerkraut. Put all ingredients into a medium casserole dish and mix together. Place in oven for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.

Cheddar Biscuits

2 c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
2 tsp white sugar
½ tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt
½ c melted butter
1 c milk
1 ½ c grated medium cheddar (I've also used sharp. You can use mild, but the sharper cheddar stands out more.)

Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C). In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Stir in butter and milk until moistened. Add cheddar cheese. Drop batter on a lightly greased cookie sheet by the tablespoon. Bake in preheated oven until golden on the edges, about 8 to 12 minuted. Serve warm.

Texas Brownie Sheet Cake

1 c butter
1 c water
¼ c cocoa
2 c sugar
2 c flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
½ c sour cream


½ c butter
¼ c cocoa
¼ c plus 2 T milk
1 lb powdered sugar, sifted (also called confectioners' sugar)
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp mint extract, optional (I've used mint extract and almond extract for this)

Cake: Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C). Combine 1 c butter, water, and ¼ c cocoa in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until butter melts. Add sugar, flour, salt, eggs, soda, sourcream, and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix well. Pour into a 15x10.1 inch jelly roll pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Frost while still hot.

Frosting: Combine ½ c of butter, ¼ c of cocoa, and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add powdered sugar and ½ tsp of vanilla, and if desired additional flavoring. Pour over the cake. Spread to cover the hot cake.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Story Trumps Structure

You all know how Facebook will show you want a friend likes/comments on sometimes. I'm not sure what the algorithm for that is, but it does happen. One day a friend commented on someone's picture of her holding up a book that looked interesting. I decided to see if my library had it. They were processing it as a new book when I first looked. I slapped a hold on it and waited for it to get put on the shelves. The book is Story Trumps Structure, by Steven James.

I was the first person to check it out. I gleefully opened it up and started reading. I couldn't get into it. I put it aside and finished up the fantasy book I'd been reading. I tried again, but still couldn't get into it. Then I realized that maybe it was my background noise. Sometimes I concentrate better if I have music on over a movie, or my favorite podcast instead of music.

I experimented and found that with music I was able to concentrate on the words in front of me. I read a quarter of the book that night. I've progressively read a few chapters every day since then, and the more I read the more I feel that the process he's describing fits my writing style completely.

One of the things he talks about is writing organically. Figure out where you want the story to begin and how you want it to end and then let the story flow naturally to get from point A to point Z. Keep three simple questions in mind and see if you can answer them in every major scene in the book.

I still haven't finished it. I've got a few more chapters to read before Thursday. It's only a 2 week loan, and I can't renew it because there are more holds on it. I know I'll finish it before then though. I'd like to read it through again, and soon I'll be able to. Thanks to the kindness of someone I love, I've got my own copy on its way. It was half price at the Writer's Digest store (it's a WD book). As far as I know, it's still there and still half price. It's a book I highly recommend.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Us and nature

We have Netflix. Himself and I each have our own profiles because we have very different tastes in what we watch. Over the weekend, when Himself wasn't on his computer (Netflix doesn't run on linux), I watched the documentary “The Blue Planet”, narrated by David Attenborough. It was an incredible view of our oceans. It made me realize just how little we know about our own world.

Then there was this announcement that they'd found a huge body of water under Asia. The description of how it got there was fascinating. Some people were even asking if this was the water from the flood described in the Bible. It was explained that it wasn't, but it's still interesting to think about where it came from.

I don't know how many new species have been found this year. But it's more than were discovered last year. And we're only in June. There are things that surprise those who have been studying nature for years. It's amazing at how life progresses.

The natural world around us is intense. There is so much to love, to see. It is our responsibility to preserve that world in whatever manner we can. There's so much I've seen in the news lately about how the monarch migration is ending and that we're losing our honeybees. Those are sad circumstances of our world, which were caused by our endless need to control our environment.

Humans have a burning desire to change our environment to suit our needs, instead of learning to change ourselves to match our environment. This is a far cry from our ancestors, who adapted to their surroundings and learned to live within them. But that changed a long time ago and we developed the need to change things. But people still managed to keep nature in mind when they built, when they hunted, when they made their gardens. Things are definitely not the same anymore.

We're becoming a more technologically advanced society. We connect via the internet through our phones and computers. We can send a message instantly to someone whose number we have by sending a quick text, assuming the person can receive text messages. Has that instantaneous contact disconnected us from the world around us?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not going to give up my technology and go live crazy in the forest wearing animal skins and eating what I catch. I'm not that much of a nature lover, though I enjoy walking through the forest or going to see other natural things. I'm as connected through technology as the rest of the world. I'd lose contact with two good friends if I didn't have it.

What I'm saying is we need to be more responsible tenants of this wondrous world we live in. We need to take stock of our actions and see how we can do things with less impact on the natural world. We should be working in tandem with the wondrous world around us rather than destroying it.

I'm really not an eco freak or anything like that. I just get very tired of hearing how we're damaging our world and very few people seem to want to go about fixing things in a rational way. There are those who go about trying to protect our world in the wrong way, just as there are those who go around subverting the natural world to propel us forward in the wrong way. Both sides have their fanatics. I just believe we need to open our minds and hearts more to the big, wide world around us.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Reading history for fun

I love history. I've loved it since I was a kid. My favorite time periods are Ancient Greece and Rome, Ancient Egypt, and the Dark Ages, Medieval, and Renaissance Europe. Get up past the Industrial Revolution and that's where I start to lose interest. It's not that it isn't interesting. And U.S. History is something I should take some time to study. I just prefer the older time periods.

I'm researching something now that I've never looked at before: the Persian Empire. The one that spanned a good chunk of the Middle East, Egypt, and into Europe. It was one of the largest Empires that ever existed, holding sway over around 50 million people at its height. It began to weaken and then fell when Alexander the Great came in but it was the first of its kind.

I'm doing this research as part of my world building for my books, but even if I weren't reading it for that I'd still be reading it. Himself suggested it and it got me hooked from the start. I'm wanting to go to the library as well as reading online and see if I can find historical books that talk about the Persian Empire. I want to know more than I'm finding online.

This is what I do. I find something that catches my attention and I research it, whether I plan on using it in a story or not. I checked out a book recently about Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth I's grandmother. I wasn't researching anything. It was to satisfy my own curiosity about the woman. I've deviated from my chosen period of history in the past as well, digging into the days of the pioneers and learning what life was like for them. Living around parts of the Oregon Trail, and even being able to take a day trip into Oregon to see the big Oregon Trail museum helps.

I pursue these things because I love history. Himself loves coding and hunts down what he can as information on that. I've seen him spend hours on projects where he's hunched over his keyboard doing things that are complete mysteries to me. He's told me what he's doing and I still don't understand it. But it is one of his favorite things and what he wants to learn about.

What's one thing you like learning about? What do you spend your time reading about?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Escaping from stress

I love to cook. I'm especially good at baking. I've only recently begun to experiment with different recipes and methods of cooking. I made my first successful rue last month, for instance. That was something I'd never thought I could do.

Baking is a comfort for me, both the action and the baked goodies I get after I'm finished. Good day or bad, my mom loved to cook. She's the one who taught me to bake and for all the things she did to me, I can honestly say she never went so far as to deliberately burn me, cut me, or any of the other myriad things that could happen in a kitchen. When I was old enough to manage on my own, she let me start baking without supervision. Since this was a way to keep her off my back, I jumped on the chance.

As I've gotten older, I've found it to be a release from a stressful day. I don't have much room to work with for baking here, but I've managed a few times to get something in the oven. What I've baked has come out good and I've shared it with everyone in the house.

Himself derives comfort in his music. He listens to some rather twisted stuff, at a volume I prefer not to deal with. In my case, I put on my earbuds and can drown him out most of the time. He also finds comfort in his video games, especially Minecraft. He can lose himself for hours building and creating in that game. Most of the time he does both at the same time. He'll put his earphones in when I go to bed, or when he really wants to focus.

Himself has always found an escape in video games. He's played Everquest, World of Warcraft, Eve Online. He plays multi-player games with our nephew and his friends, mostly stealth shooter games. Himself plays Minecraft and spends time on an online verbal chat program talking to people playing in the same server he is. He loves it.

As he's gotten older, his taste in games has changed. At first it was running around using magic to kill everything (EQ and WoW). Then it was having a spaceship and doing the same thing. He even became a pirate and attacked other ships with a corporation (EO). Now, for the most part, it's building and creating things.

Everyone uses a different way to escape from stress. For some, it's listening to music. For others, it's going for a walk or jogging. Books, TV shows, movies, all of these are good ways to escape stress as well. It's a way to let our mind process what we're dealing with and come to an understanding of and a possible solution to deal with it.

What do you do to relax and take some of the stress off? Do you have a set ritual to help you focus on something else, to let your mind work its way through what's causing you problems?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Following dreams

I write fantasy. For those of you who've been around for a while that shouldn't shock you. I also write science fiction. I've got multiple story lines in both of those genres. I have no idea which ones will sell and which ones won't, but I'm going to keep writing because it makes me happy. Writing has been a passion of mine since I was a child and I have no intention of giving it up.

I've had a few people tell me to get a “real” job, that being an author never pays out. Being unpublished, I can accept that it isn't paying out now. It doesn't mean it won't pay out in the future. I'm on disability so I can do this full time, but I'm also looking for a job because aside from what you may have heard, disability doesn't go very far when it's your only income.

Himself, for three years, has been living his dream of having his own business with two partners. But things were getting rocky and now there's an even bigger divide: the guys are moving to Oregon while Himself is staying here. That makes working as partners even harder. Now Himself is faced with the choice of either getting a regular job or trying to carry one with one facet of the business on his own, one which has been profitable but not in a consistent manner. He also isn't sure now if he's going to maintain this partnership or go a different direction. We were also talking about moving up to Oregon to be with the guys. We agreed to give it six months before we made any decision. We may not even get up there. But Himself is still willing to pursue his dream of owning his own business.

We've both gotten flak about how we're living our lives. And I'll admit it's not a comfortable life. But we manage to get by. Sometimes that's the trade off for living your dreams. You have to take a chance, be willing to trade a little discomfort for the passion that drives you. You have to let go and accept risks that you normally wouldn't.

In our case, without my disability we wouldn't be able to do this. But now it's become more difficult for us. I'm looking for a part time job right now, which will eat up some of my time. But it'll be worth it if it gives us more opportunity to keep doing what we want to do.

How about you? Do you have a dream job? Do you have other dreams you're hoping to achieve someday?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pain and injury

Sunday afternoon, as I was carrying the litter box out to dump it, I missed the bottom step on the stairs leading out to the front yard. I crashed and burned pretty hard, dropping the litter box and banging my knees pretty hard. I finished taking care of the litter box and discovered it was cracked. I created a makeshift fix for the problem. Only then did I realize my right knee was bleeding. I'd taken quite a chunk out of it when I fell.

It got cleaned up and a band aid went over it. Himself wasn't overly concerned about it but he did empathize with me. As I got up to fix lunch I realized I also twisted my ankle. I wasn't going to be able to stand and cook for any length of time. So I told Himself to fix his own lunch and sat back down with a bag of frozen peas on my much abused ankle. (Works just as well as an ice pack when you don't have ice.)

Himself and I have a very different level of pain tolerance. I am a pain wuss. I hate it and can overreact to it. I often want to go to the doctor (or the ER if I think it's bad enough) to get checked out. Without insurance or Medicaid that was very expensive, and I have medical bills from those times.

Himself, on the other hand, won't go to a doctor unless there's no other choice. It doesn't matter how much pain he's in. He won't let me call and make an appointment for him or do it himself. I've gotten him to the doctor a few times in the last twelve years, but it was kicking and screaming. The worst problem he had was when he broke his hand when we'd been married for around two years. It hurt but he ignored it for three days until it started turning dark colors. I made him go to our doctor then and she got a cast on him within an hour of him getting there.

Emotional pain runs a very similar course for us. I react poorly to emotional pain and at times it can cripple me. Himself deals with emotional pain similarly to his way of dealing with physical illness and pain. He accepts it, makes it part of himself, and pushes past it rather quickly. I've only seen him lose to it five times in twelve years. He may have done so other times, but never in front of me.

Everyone deals with pain in a different way. Physical, emotional, psychological – it's all real pain and everyone has their own way of reacting to it and coming to grips with it. I can honestly say I've gone through all three of those and they've shaped who I am today. I may be a wimp at times but Himself tells me I'm stronger than I was twelve years ago. My dad tells me I'm stronger than I was when I left home for the first time when I was 22.

Everyone gains strength from adversity, from challenges. The catch is we have to deal with the consequences of making those decisions and changes. Sometimes they're good. Sometimes they're bad. Either way they're going to change you.

How do you deal with pain of any kind? Have you changed because of those experiences?

Monday, June 16, 2014


I was on FB yesterday when I saw one of the trending news things. (I hate that trending thing but will occasionally go read something that catches my attention.) I knew that he'd been taken off life support so I was both glad and sad to see that Casey Kasem was dead.

There's a lot about his music and radio career on there but the biggest thing I remember him for is Shaggy in Scooby Doo. I grew up on Scooby Doo, both reruns and the series that came about because of the original series. I had a few reservations about Scrappy Doo, but I still loved the cartoon series.

I loved Scooby Doo. I loved how mysteries could be solved so quickly, and that in most of the series, it was just a person in a costume. It taught me that behind all the evil things there was a person with a reason, even if that reason made no sense or was intended to hurt someone.

Cartoons taught me so many things when I was growing up. How to stand up for myself. How to be honest. How to love. How to be creative. I wasn't allowed to watch too many of them as my TV time was limited, but I picked my favorites and religiously watched them, even if it meant getting up at 6:30 in the morning. Sometimes, when I got up that early, I'd sneak in an extra show or two before my mother got up.

Saturday morning cartoons are a thing of the past now. The networks have taken them off the air for the most part to make way for other programming. So children now don't have the opportunities many of us did when we were growing up. I used to wonder what made them take them off the air. I have a feeling it has to do with the way parenting has changed since I was a child.

I can remember riding in the back of our station wagon, curled up in a nest with my younger sister. When I rode in the back seat, I didn't have to wear a seatbelt. When I was allowed to go outside to play, I didn't have to be back in until my mom called or until it started getting dark, whichever came first. I could ride my bike without a helmet. Strangers weren't regarded in the same way as they are now.

When did society change? What made it change? When did we go from an easy going society to a hyper paranoid one? Children these days aren't allowed to play, to fall down and get hurt, to just be kids. They're taught from the time they're small that they have to be miniature adults. A friend of mine put her son into preschool. She was horrified that her son wasn't given much of a chance to play. He was given worksheets that he had to fill out, books he had to read, homework he had to do. In preschool. She looked around for a new one but couldn't afford the ones that would give him what she wanted. So she pulled him out and turned him loose to play and learn on his own.

We are hurting children by not letting them do art, play at both home and school, discover new things on their own. So many parents regulate everything their children do to the point that children don't learn to think for themselves. Our schools are only reinforcing this by having children learn things to pass tests. It's feared that as adults, they're not going to know how to deal with life. It's going to cause a lot of problems for them.

When did childhood stop being about the children? What do you think about the way things are going now?

Friday, June 13, 2014


Friday the 13th has a negative connotation as a day of ill fortune. People will avoid having major events (business meetings, socials, banquets) because of the fear that they'll go badly. For other days of the year, there's the good luck horseshoe. If it's put over a door, on a wall, or on a door with the legs pointed up it brings good luck to the person living in the house.

Superstitions are somewhat funny to us now, but in medieval times they were very serious. You didn't want to miss saying bless you to someone who sneezed, for instance, because a sneeze opened them up to the devil. How many of us say bless you to someone who sneezes today? It's become a habit for most people and there aren't many who know where the saying originated.

A black cat crossing your path brings you bad luck. This is another one that originated a long time ago. It's given black cats a bad rep that follows them even to this day. Black cats are less likely to be adopted, they're more likely to be euthanized because people won't adopt them, and there are still people are rumored to use them for satanic rites.

What about bells? Why do we hear wedding bells? Bells were thought to keep devils away from important events. This tradition started in Queen Elizabeth I's reign. They were used to drive off evil spirits and to ask prayers for the departed soul.

There are so many superstitions. Some people believe in them and some don't. Here is a list of the 25 most popular superstitions around the world. It's interesting to read about the different ones.

What are some superstitions you've heard of?

Thursday, June 12, 2014


This is a very rough first draft of a micro fiction I'm trying to polish. I've already had a few comments on it from beta readers. I'd love to hear other comments. 
The footsteps were getting closer. Aushka clutched the blaster tight in one hand. The other was pressed to the hole in her leg. Drops of blood spattered over the walkway showed where she'd been. Her breath came in short bursts.
“Aushka, where are you?” The sing-song voice froze the blood in her veins. “I know you're here.”
“Trill, she's been hit. Don't you think that's enough?” Beck wasn't as bloodthirsty as his sister.
“She stole from me,” Trill said, her dulcet tones taking on a note of ice.
“You got the board back, you shot her, and you've ruined her reputation on the station,” Beck said. “She's going to have to go planetside. That's a death sentence right there. Why do you need to be the one to do it?”
“No one steals from me and comes out of it alive,” Trill said.
“Trill, let it go,” Beck said.
“If you don't like it, go back to the habitat sector,” Trill said. “I'll take care of her.”
Aushka heard Beck sigh but there was no sound of him leaving. Aushka peered out through the grate covering the access to the life support units. Trill and Beck stood to one side with Trill's current toy standing to one side. He looked a little sick. He wasn't going to last long. Not with Trill's pastimes.
“She's probably down the life support shaft,” Trill said. “Beck, you go look.”
“Go look yourself,” Beck said.
“Kal?” Trill looked over at him. “Never mind. You're useless at times like this.” She stalked over to the grate. Aushka pushed herself back farther. She aimed her blaster at the opening.
“Trill Hiver, stop right there.” Trill froze. Aushka let out a slow, deep breath.
“Come to rescue your precious little girl?” Trill asked. She turned away from the grate and went back towards her brother, hips swaying with each step.
A blaster bolt stopped her before she got very far. “I said stop.” Aushka trembled at her father's voice. Garrett Leo was not a man to cross. Aushka couldn't see him but from the expressions on Beck and Kal's faces it was obvious he wasn't alone.
“What do you want?” Trill asked. There was no sweetness to her tone now. There was more of a growl to her voice.
“Two things,” Garrett said. “My daughter – alive, of course – and that board you stole from my son.”
“I didn't steal anything from your son. Your daughter stole from me,” Trill said.
“That board still has our family mark on it. You never cut it off. Now, either I get what I want or I start shooting. Either way I win.” There was the sound of blasters powering up.
“Trill, give him what he wants,” Beck said. “I can't afford you dying.”
“I don't have his daughter,” Trill said. “The board is back with Neal.”
“Don't make me laugh,” Garrett said. “I already spoke with Neal. He said you had it with you, and that you were tracking Aushka.”
“Well your daughter is in hiding,” Trill said. Aushka saw her pull something out of a pouch at her side. “Your board is here.”
“Set it down,” Garrett said. “Then go over there with that genetic waste heap you've attached to you. Beck, join them.”
Trill set the tiny thing on the ground. She sauntered over to where the two men were standing. “There. It's on the ground. Good luck getting it without killing me.”
“Aushka, it's safe now,” Garrett said, raising his voice a little. “We've got them covered. Come out.”
Aushka pushed the grate off and crawled out. Blood seeped out from behind her fingers but she managed to stay on her feet. “Sorry dad,” she said.
“I should have sent your brothers, not you. You weren't ready for this,” Garrett said. “Get the board and come over here.”
“Okay.” Aushka limped over and picked up the tiny board. It was half the size of her hand. As she walked towards her father, she heard something behind her. She turned her head in time to see Trill pull her blaster. The impact of the energy bolt spun Aushka around. She collapsed. Her eyes dimmed. She was given the chance to see Trill's body twitch and jerk as it fell not far from her. The last bit of light faded and she released her final breath.
Her eyes opened. She was cold. “Aushka, I'm sorry.” Garrett helped her sit up. “I knew she couldn't be trusted.”
“How many does this make, Garrett?” Her mother looked angry. “How many more are we going to have before you stop?”
“This is only her fourth life,” Garrett said. “The implants are good for six. I'll be sending her brothers out for a while, until I'm sure she's back on her feet.”
Aushka turned her head to the side. On the reflective metal panel just to her right, she caught glimpse of her image. Her face was distorted but she could make out a shock of red hair and a metal band running around her head and down to her jaw. “I'm okay, mom. I'm always okay.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reading YA and younger books

I've been reading a lot of books lately, many of them adult grade fantasy dealing with adult situations. They're fun and I love them, but I found myself looking for a simple read that had nothing to do with angsty teens and hardcore fantasy. So I went to the library and perused the juvenile books. These are books that are a little lower level than YA books. I found two of my favorite books from when I was a child: Anne of Green Gables and Little House in the Big Woods. I decided I was going to reread both series. I checked out the first three books in Anne's story but Little House on the Prairie wasn't there so I just got the first book.

These books bring me good memories. I had a much simpler view of life at the time I first read these, even though things were not very good in my life. They gave me a chance to escape into a world of the past that I didn't have any concept of.

Both of these authors drew on their own life experiences, and those of people around them, to spin these worlds. I haven't started them yet because I want to finish the last two books in the series I'm reading now. Then I'm going to immerse myself in a simpler world.

You've probably all seen the article linked here. It's been all over Facebook and Twitter. I wholeheartedly disagree with the author of this article. YA books aren't just for teens. They can provide a release, a quick read when you're looking for something that isn't as intense as an adult book. Though I'll admit that some of the YA books I've read recently can give adult books a run for their money in conflict.

I always tell people to read what they enjoy. I also say if a teen wants to read, let them. Let them read what they want. If they have questions, answer them. There's nothing wrong with reading something that makes you think. Some adults I know read the Hunger Games series and found themselves asking questions about how the world could get that way.

Do you read YA? Or sometimes books for a younger crowd? What do you read when you need a break?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Views on humor

There was a video linked on Saturday that I was reluctant to watch. I've been having rotten luck this week, finding things that make me cry (and not in a good way). But I took a chance anyway. I cracked up. The video is a German quartet of female musicians who use humor in their acts.

This made me look at some other things. I'm a fairly serious person. I have a sense of humor, but it's not very noticeable if you know me. I just don't find things funny all that often. Himself tries to get me to laugh by having me watch movies he thinks are funny. By about halfway through I want to put my earbuds in and listen to my favorite podcast or music.

My favorite podcast KUEC (here's my review of Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap) is funny to me. The jokes are off color and can be crude at times. But the odd thing is what I find amusing with them I hate in other comedians and movies.

Here's the full definition of humor. Humor is different for everyone. The things one person finds funny others don't. Some people can find something to laugh about in everything. Others pick and choose what they find amusing. Then there are the people who laugh at inappropriate times. It all depends on a person's point of view.

What makes you laugh? How do you feel about humor?

Monday, June 9, 2014

A school somewhat bans a book again

On Friday, yet another school official managed to attempt to openly ban a book. Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother was removed from a summer reading program because of its “positive view of questioning authority, lauding 'hacker culture', and sex and sexuality in passing.” This was the act of the principal of the Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, FL. In the end, the entire summer reading program was ended. The book is on the optional list for students in 11th grade now but it's sad that one man could nix a reading program that might have proved to be educational for students.

Cory Doctorow and his publisher Tor are sending 200 copies of the book to the school for free. He has a great response here. I think it's brilliant. I also think the principal was an idiot for stopping the summer program.

I will admit I haven't read the book, but what I've read about it I can't see anything wrong with it. I'm not a school administrator, but from what I understand the book was already approved before the principal decided to yank it.

I have a problem with schools trying to stop students from reading what they think might be controversial books. In Idaho, a book that parents and administrators felt was too much for the teenagers, The True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, was banned because of some parts the adults didn't think the children should read – including discussions of profanity and masturbation. 10Th graders already know about that for the most part. I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be allowed to read it. A student got some free copies and was passing them out in a park to kids who wanted to read them. Parents called the police on her because they didn't approve of it.

I know I posted about the thought of trigger warnings on books. I could see both sides of the argument. I rescind my view in that post. Trigger warnings should not be put on books. Banning books because of content should not be allowed. People should read books that challenge their views on the world, that are disturbing to them, to get them to think.

Friday, June 6, 2014

TV comments

I don't have a TV. I don't have TV service (for obvious reasons). My main source of entertainment is Netflix and the rest of the internet, though I can't put Netflix on my laptop. Ubuntu is great for many things. Netflix and Sims 3 are not among them. But when Himself is gone, I can watch Netflix all I want on his computer.

There are things on TV that I want to see. Specifically shows on Food Network. I have an admission to make: I'm a Food Network junkie. I've got to their site and there are very few episodes of things there. I don't know if Hulu Plus has the episodes, but I'm already paying for Netflix and Himself doesn't want to change it out for Hulu Plus. So I'm stuck without it.

I also used to love watching the true crime programs like Forensic Files, Cold Cases, and other things like that. Investigation Discovery was one of my go to channels because it almost always had those types of programs. I really only watched two channels back when I had TV: Food Network, Investigation Discovery.

I wasn't fond of watching the basic channels. I got my news from other channels, I got my weather from the Weather Channel, I got my entertainment from the two channels I primarily watched. Himself and I used to fight over what we'd watch since he was not into the same programming I was.

Then we got into a position where we lost our TV. We ended up losing it when we became homeless. When we moved in with our friends out in Kuna, we were able to share one with some of our roommates. When those roommates moved out, we got their TV. Himself used it for video games. I stuck with the computer. Then we moved into Boise and brought the borrowed TV with us. We still stuck to Netflix and didn't bother putting regular programming onto it. We simply couldn't afford it. When we moved out from Crazy's place, we left the TV behind because it was her husband who'd loaned it to us.

I find, other than my occasional desire to watch Food Network and Investigation Discovery, I don't miss TV. Neither does Himself. He doesn't even miss having one since almost all the games he wants to play he can find online. He's said multiple times there's four games he wants to play across all consoles, and it's not worth it to buy the consoles for so few games. He's even made friends playing games with an online aspect (not MMOs, but things like Minecraft), or hung out with long distance friends while playing video games.

I guess the two of us really don't care about having TV service again. That doesn't mean we don't want a TV. Himself wants one to put Netflix on instead of his computer. He jokes about getting a 50”+ TV just for Netflix, and then use it as a computer monitor to play his games. I just shake my head and let him dream. I'm happy with what we have now.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dissecting books and movies

I read a lot. When I read, I tend to pick apart things in the books. I find the plot holes, the poor characterization, the tiny editing errors that were missed. (I read a lot of ebooks that have been self published.) One of my favorite writers completely screwed up her own timeline. I still read her books because I love the stories, but now I have to read them with a more open mind because of that. If the characters are too flat, the story showing a poor build up within the first five chapters, I'll put the book down and not pick it up again. I'm very picky with my books. I have over 200 Kindle books. I don't necessarily have time to read all 200. (All but four of them were free, and I already knew I'd like the four I actually paid for.)

Himself does this with movies. It doesn't matter if it's his first time or his tenth. He will pick it apart. He's been known to walk out of movies that have plot holes and bad characterization because they were so terrible he didn't want to watch it anymore. He's as bad with movies as I am with books. Occasionally I can get him to sit through the whole thing because I like the story, but he grouses about it when we leave. If there's a sequel it gets worse because he's comparing it to the first movie. If there's a remake of a movie, he tends to compare it to the original. Character development is something he focuses on, as well as moving along a storyline. Just like I do in a book series.

I am an author, unpublished though I may be. I look at books that I read as research material. If I love the story, I want to figure out what it was that drew me into it. I want to find out why I'm so fascinated by the characters. What is it about the setting that appeals to me? What's the plot and how does the author have it progress? Everything gets analyzed and filed away in my mind to be used for my books.

Not every book I read to the end is a good book. Sometimes the plot is weak but the characters are so fascinating that I'll push through. If the plot and setting are good, I'll somewhat forgive weak characters. But there has to be something compelling about the story or I won't stick with it.

What do you look for in a book/movie? Is there something that will get you to put it down/walk out? What are some of your favorite authors?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


The first clear memory I have that isn't fractured and vague, is of my 4th birthday party. I remember the frosting was chocolate with blue roses. Written on the cake in blue was “Happy Birthday Alison Dear, You are 4!” I blew out the candles and everyone laughed. I was wearing a pale blue dress with giant dark blue roses all over it and my hair was in a French braid. I don't remember if I was wearing shoes or not, I don't remember what happened after the party. But I do remember the birthday cake.

At one point, before they vanished, my mom had a lot of photo albums. They were visible records of our lives, snapshots of something happy. On our walls were family photo albums where in each cutout there was another glimpse of a family that some of us didn't know. Black and white pictures of my mom and dad's families. People the younger generations didn't know but could see the resemblance to. In one picture my mother was a teenager and beside it was a picture of me. Except for me having glasses and more modern clothes, we looked identical.

There are other things that can symbolize something in our minds. For the longest time I had a pendant made of rose quartz that reminded me of rock hunting with my family when we went camping. Himself has a backgammon board that he was given that had belonged to the grandfather he never knew. Pictures on the wall were the only things he had besides the board that showed him what his grandfather was like. But his mother had memories of the board, the pictures, the pair of cowboy boots they'd kept.

What do you have that helps inspire your memories? Do you cling to things that remind you of the good times?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Little help for the poor

One thing I've noticed talking to a few friends is their lack of charity towards others less fortunate than themselves. We were driving into a grocery store and there were panhandlers at the entrances to the parking lot. My friends were poking fun at them and making comments like “get a job” and “all they're going to use it for is booze and drugs”. Seeing some of those desperate faces made me realize how lucky I am right now. I'm dirt poor, but not to the point where I have to panhandle to get by.

Before our financial situation got as desperate as it's been these past four years, I would give money to panhandlers. I would donate money to charities. I would take things to consignment shops and donate them when I found I had too much. I would buy food just to take to the local food bank so I could help those poorer than me.

Now I rely on those places I shared with while I could. I get food from time to time from a food bank. I buy my clothes and a few of my dishes from a consignment shop. I have no spare money. I have plenty of spare time though, and with that time I have long wanted to volunteer. It's only my lack of transportation that has kept me from doing it.

I'm on SNAP and Medicaid. The food benefits aren't enough to get me through a full month, which is why I sometimes go to food banks. But it's there for me to use. I paid taxes for 20 years just so the program would be there for people to use. Now I'm in the position of needing it. I don't know how many cruel remarks about being a baby factory, being lazy, being a drain on society and I should just kill myself I get. Yes, I've heard all of them.

I've seen the shift in religions, politics, and among the general public. Instead of wanting to help the poor, the homeless, the people who aren't in a position to help themselves, they ridicule and turn away from these people. Look at what's happening to veterans. No luck finding jobs, homeless, in need of medical care they're not getting. Look at my husband and his partners. Not able to find regular jobs because of how long they've been struggling with their own business, no way to get medical help even though they need it, his two business partners aren't even able to get on food stamps because the company makes just enough money for them that it's counted as “too much”, even though they can't live on it.

If you have the ability, do something for someone. Buy a few groceries and donate them to your local food bank. Donate to consignment shops. Take a few dollars and donate them to your favorite charity. If you don't have the ability to do something financially, take some time to volunteer.

Monday, June 2, 2014

RIP Jay Lake

I took myself off of Facebook yesterday for a simple reason: it was too sad for me to stay. Why was it too sad you may ask? Because of the passing of one of my favorite authors, Jay Lake.

Jay was diagnosed with colon cancer in April 2008. He documented his fight with it on his blog. His friends and fans watched each post on cancer with mixed feelings of hope and dread, knowing that the cancer could spread from just a single tumor. It did. It metastasized and progressed into other organs. Over the last few months, it got worse. He underwent some alternative treatments through the NIH to see if there was a way to stop it. The NIH treatments didn't work. Jay returned home and was put on hospice. He died less than a week later.

The days prior to his death, after the announcement about the hospice care, my Facebook feed was flooded with the sight of people commenting on Jay's Facebook feed. Since I am friends with him on there, many of those posting good wishes and prayers were visible to me. I posted my own comment on his page and then thought nothing of it. I expected he'd have a little more time and we could all deal with it. I never expected him to die so quickly, even though I know what being put on hospice care means.

Jay passed in the morning of June 1st. I didn't get the message until the afternoon, when I finally got on Facebook after being off of it most of the day because of various things. I saw the outpouring of grief and prayers/thoughts for the family. I hunted down more information and saw that he'd passed. I posted my thoughts to his page and my own. And then I got off because it was too sad for me to stay.

If you're curious about him, go here. The first of his books I read was Green. I heard it on audiobook. I hunted it up in print format and then read the rest of the series. I was slowly making my way through the rest of the books I could find. I could find them sporadically. My library held a few, and managed to order in a couple more. I loved his way of telling a story.

The SFWA blog has posted a great memorial post here. They put the address there of a place that the family has asked donations be sent in Jay's name.

R.I.P. Jay Lake - you are going to be missed.