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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mars at last, but not for me

Several days ago, the Orion space capsule made its unmanned test flight and performed perfectly. This was the first baby step towards landing people on Mars.

I have waited 46 years for this. The first moon landing occurred when I was 15 years old. I would not be dragged away from the TV - I'm glad it was in the summer! I put my mattress there, ate my meals there, and only left to go to the bathroom. When I fell asleep I left the TV on and woke to more.

I truly believed that we'd be colonizing Mars when I was still young enough to go. The original Star Trek had just ended its run (breaking my heart) and its message that humans will pull through all their hatreds and prejudices (making the last episode truly ironic) to work together and create a real civilization still resonated through me. I honestly believed it was possible. Hey, I was 15. Now I'll admit that Star Trek looks a bit campy today, and suffered the common affliction of 1960s TV shows called the "Girl of the Week Syndrome," but at the time it was very edgy and controversial.

Anyway, the Mars program has officially begun, but here I am 61 years old. By the time they actually get people there, I'll probably be in my 70s. Well, if they decide to land a bunch of old people as expendable test subjects, I just might volunteer.

Seriously. Take me. Can I bring a cat?

Monday, December 8, 2014

So how come no one gets bent out of shape over 'Season's Greetings?'

It's December, and the "It's not Happy Holidays, it's Merry Christmas" memes are swamping Facebook, posted by (I hope, since they're my friends and family) well-meaning Christians who see this as a legitimate way to keep Christ in Christmas.

It isn't. Sorry. Arguing about semantics once a year does nothing for anyone.

Here's why it bothers me so much. First off, no one is telling you (except perhaps your boss if you work retail) to say Happy Holidays. Nobody. I have always said Merry Christmas, and no one has ever been offended by it. The rudest return I ever got was "Thanks! I don't celebrate Christmas, but you have a good one." Oh, those heathens. What rude barbarians.

I worked as a sales clerk for some years between college and graduate school, and we were told that it was store policy to say Happy Holidays. So, at work, I did. At least once a day, a customer would get in my face and snarl, "It's not Happy Holidays, it's Merry Christmas!" Or they'd sneer, "I'm a CHRISTIAN. It's Merry Christmas." My, how the Christians spread love and joy during the season of the Savior's birth.

Around once a week, one of those doing God's work on Earth would treat me to a lecture on how I was destroying Christmas and Christianity itself with those two simple words. It was plain from their body language and voice that they considered me about one step away from worshiping Satan.

It's been around 30 years since I last worked retail, but that blasted snarky "it's not Happy Holidays" meme brings back every single snarl.

Enjoy your American freedom of speech by using the Christmas greeting of your choice. And if you don't like someone else's choice, why not try practicing Christian forgiveness and just say "Thank you, you too."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Oh, those whiskey/amber eyes...

I'll admit it. I read romance novels. I am choosy, though, and do have my favorite authors. The books must be well-written with interesting characters, and I must be able to get through the first chapter without wanting to slap sense into the heroine. I enjoy them for the fantasy they are. Shoot, I've even written a couple (Blood and Moonlight and Home Again) and fully expect to write more.

Sometimes, even in the otherwise well-written ones, stuff will bug me. For instance, a lot of authors lately give the hero or heroine whiskey-colored or amber eyes. Folks, that's dark yellow. Ew. I knew a guy once who actually had that color and the effect was anything but attractive. Sorry, just doesn't work. Sounds good in print, but I visualize everything, and yellow eyes are not sexy.

Just now, I'm in the midst of reading Smoke and Mirrors, by Jayne Ann Krentz (2002). I know I can count on her for a great read with no smackable characters. One character (not, thank God, the hero or heroine) is described as having 'striking amber eyes' that the heroine finds difficult to look into. When the hero comments on them, she smiles and says, "Tinted contact lenses." They proceed to call him 'yellow-eyes' through the rest of the book.

Thank you, Ms. Krentz, for skewering that particular annoying trope.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thoughts on the situation in Ferguson

While I support the police, this support is not unconditional. They are human. They have prejudices and hatreds and bad days just like the rest of us.

I don't know all the facts in the Ferguson situation. I do know that both the prosecuting and defense attorneys had major conflicts of interest and should have been excused. The defense's tactic of trashing the deceased's character was inexcusable. The dead can't defend themselves. Provable facts are what courts should rely on, not hearsay, might-haves, and supposition.

I believe lapel cameras that can't be turned off would be an excellent idea for all police. This would both protect the police from false accusations and protect the public from police who abuse their power.

In the case of Ferguson, I believe the actions taken by the officer in question were wrong. That boy didn't deserve to die for what the officer thought he might do. He didn't deserve to die for anything he actually did.

The riots and looting are a separate issue. I firmly support our right in this country to peaceful protest and civil disobedience. I do NOT support rioting and/or looting. From the statements coming from the actual residents of Ferguson, it appears a lot of the looting was committed by outsiders as the residents huddled in their homes. There's no way to prove it one way or the other, of course.

While race, sadly, always has a part - racial bias is still strong in this country - the biggest factor in riots like this is simply poverty. As long as the Powers That Be keep the minimum wage too low to live on, as long as they keep shipping more and more blue-collar jobs overseas, as long as they keep raising the price on a decent education, situations like this are going to become more frequent. Ignorance and poverty are soul-killers. When people see no way out, when they see the rich grabbing up more and more while they have less and less, when the rich sneer and tell people that they're poor because they're lazy and demonize them, they have nothing to lose. When the laws of the land are obviously stacked against them, they have no reason to obey them.

May the laws of karma punish the guilty and ease the pain of the victims. And may we one day see each other as fellow humans, who come in a variety of shades of brown.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving with friends

The husband and I had a lovely Thanksgiving at the home of our friends Peggy and Larry. I took sweet potatoes cooked in a savory way and the cranberry salad my Mom always made, and our hosts provided the rest. We are planning to reciprocate soon with a traditional Korean supper of bulgogi, a beef barbecue dish (not spicy) that my husband makes especially well. As our house is too small to entertain even 2 people, we'll be bringing it to their house.

After dinner, the men went into the family room and talked politics - having found each other kindred spirits - and the two librarians sat in the living room and discussed work and our favorite crafts. Hers is quilting and mine is knitting. We may be trading a quilt for a sweater one of these days, though both of us lament the lack of time and energy to indulge our respective fiber obsessions.

For people with sugar issues or just wanting something different to do with sweet potatoes, here's that recipe:

Garlic Basil Mashed Sweet Potatoes
(serves 6-8)
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 1/2 tablespoon basil, chopped (I used dried)
2 cloves garlic (I buy the pre-diced garlic in the jar - I figure a clove is about 1/2 teaspoon)
2-4 tablespoons (to taste) SOFTENED butter.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Boil sweet potatoes as usual (remove peels)
Mash them with the above. That's it. Easy enough for everyday, and not loaded with sugar.

Marge's Cranberry Salad
(serves 12)
1 small box red jello, any flavor. I'm partial to raspberry.
1 small orange, peeled and diced (I use kitchen scissors)
1 small apple, cored and diced.
1 rib celery, diced
1/2 package fresh cranberries, chopped (blender, add a bit of water and use pulse until they're fine enough. Then drain well)
1/2 cup sugar to taste
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or not, as you prefer)

Mix the fruit, sugar, and nuts.
Prepare the jello according to the package. When it's half-set, add fruit mixture and stir. Chill.

This can be made with Splenda and sugar-free jello if you want. Looks as good as it tastes. I took a pic with my dumbphone but can't seem to get the picture off it.


Monday, September 1, 2014

The Common &%$#**# Cold

This annoying little virus with its unending evolutionary mutations has been around as long as we have historical records, and probably more. No one dies of a cold (unlike the flu) but we all are laid low. I don't know a single person who's never caught a cold.

What purpose does this virus serve in the massive jigsaw puzzle of an ecosystem?

God in his wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.   -- Ogden Nash.

Not true, many animals eat flies: frogs, toads, bats, spiders, often other insects, birds. It serves a purpose. Does anything feed on viruses? What connects them to the rest of creation? If we could actually wipe them all out, would it do more harm or more good?

Speaking as someone who's body seems to think cold viruses are Pokemon and must catch them all, I can tell you it would save a lot of trees from being made into tissues if there were no more of them. And it's a damn shame there isn't a way to turn nasal mucous into a fuel source.

Well, I'm no Ogden Nash, but here goes:

Contemplate the lowly virus
Sent by God to sorely try us.
Evolved for purposes unknowable,
To make us glad our noses are blowable,
Else our heads would fair explode
From the ever-increasing load.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dear Tribble, 1998-2014, rest in peace.

Another sweet cat has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and a gentle, loving soul has left us. Yes, I do firmly believe animals have souls. I have looked into too many pairs of feline eyes to doubt that.

Tribble was a quiet cat, a real snuggler with a nice loud purr. Back when he shared my bed instead of my husband, he liked best to have his head on my pillow so he could purr into my face. I had to hold his paws to keep him from making bread on my neck because that hurt.

He never met a stranger. He'd come greet anyone who came into my home, and if you'd pet him or give him a treat, he was your friend. He asked no more - but sometimes he demanded. My husband got himself trained! He started giving treats, and at last every time he'd go into the kitchen, Tribble would follow and stare at him with the unblinking intensity of a hunter. If treats did not appear, he's meow in a loud, harsh, tomcat voice - the only time he meowed at all.

I heard him hiss once, in his entire life. Hester smacked him for no reason one time when he was just walking by her, and he gave her a look that said, "What's your problem, bitch?" and hissed at her. And kept walking. He was one laid back cat.

Tribble had me trained too, but then I'm easy that way. If, when he was in my lap, I spent too long knitting, he'd grab my wrist to make me pet him. I never minded. Sometimes he'd grab with both paws. He was a love to cuddle.

Of the litter of three tiny kittens I adopted in El Paso in 1998, one is left - Kira. Chakotay died of cancer at age 9, and now Tribble has passed of simple old age. His loving kitty body just wore out.

I hope they have nice laps wherever he is, and I hope I get all my cats back when I cross that bridge. I couldn't find the source of this quote, but my friend Krys told me this: Those of us who share our hearts and lives with creatures whose lifespans are so much shorter than ours have great courage.

I can't imagine living without cats.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A-at LAST - I'm writing in this thing again

The blog has lapsed this time for many reasons. The first, and the reason it usually lapses, it that I lead a quiet life, so there's not much obvious in it to write about. Second, we had to let our home internet service go because our budget was very tight. Frankly, we weren't making ends meet. Of course writing blog entries at work was completely out of the question, and there just wasn't enough time to go somewhere with free wi-fi to do any writing.

I got a real library job again, so finally I'm earning enough money for my disabled husband and myself to live on. We finally have internet at home and TV again. I hope we can get a landline next. I truly detest cell phones. Yes, I do have one. They're a regrettable necessity these days, but I have the kind you buy minutes and load them on the phone. I long for an unlimited phone conversation, one in which I don't have to worry about how long it's lasting.

So now that I'm getting decent money again, we're slowly getting caught up from the two years where we were desperate. We owe lots, and it'll take a while to catch up, but now we can do it. And, wonder of wonders, I'll have paid vacation leave again. Not that we can really go anywhere, but time off with money will be such a treat by itself, I don't care.

The low-paying job I had was zero stress, but the stress of not having enough money to pay the bills more than made up for that. I've been buying makeup at the dollar store and clothes from thrift shops. Mind you, I do find thrift shops fun - it's like a treasure hunt - but sometimes it would be nice to go after something specific and actually be able to go up or down a size in the same item when the first try doesn't fit. It will also be nice to replace and repair broken things - our camera, the passenger side visor in the car.

While a very low-stress job has that to recommend itself, I swear I could feel my brain deteriorating and my library skills fading away. My new job will expect more of me, but the people are good to work with and committed to being pleasant to each other. My mind has kicked back into gear for the assorted challenges of a technical library, a type I haven't worked in before.

On the writing front, the progress on Annie is going slowly but surely. When I'm done with the second draft, I have two other half-finished projects I want to complete. By the time Annie has been run through my writing group, I'll have those done and will be able to do the third and last draft with a fresh pair of eyes. I have a romantic suspense and a historical romance to finish up, then the fantasy series that has grown and evolved until at last I feel I can do it justice. I have three partial novels to choose from to start with, and won't know which one I pick until I actually pick it.

So how are these for titles? Shall I choose Danath of Klarden, The Windwalker's Tale, or Dawn of the Wolf? We shall see.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Trouble With Trust

People want to trust the people they love. But what do you do when that trust is broken? I saw a meme that said trust is like chocolate. When it's broken, you can melt it back together, but it's never as perfect as it was before.

There's an old saying Scotty quoted once on the original Star Trek, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I guess I need a double dose of shame because I've been fooled by the same person several times now.

The first time my trust was broken by this person, I melted the chocolate back together. Maybe I shouldn't have. The second time, I left it broken. The third time, it crumbled. This time it's gone. I literally haven't got any more left. To abandon the chocolate metaphor, it's like I built a stone castle. It got ground into sand, and now I can't get the sand to stick together again.

Trust is fragile and precious. Once broken, it never completely heals. If you have someone's trust, treasure it. If you've broken it, don't blame them for trusting you. It isn't their fault for trusting, it's yours for proving yourself to not be trustworthy.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Thornyrose Books

After quite a hiatus, I'm getting the writing in gear. I have three unpublished finished novels, and I'm going ahead with self-publishing. I am an indie author. At the age of 60 I no longer have time for the slow grind of the traditional publishing process.

My romantic fantasy, Grove Secrets, will be out in both print and e-book on sometime next week. After 90 days as a Kindle exclusive, I'll put it on Smashwords. I am also going to check Book Bub. It looks like a decent venue for indie authors.

As Home Again, Reb Dexter's Last Concert, and Like a Single Cell have been Kindle exclusive for more than 90 days, I'll be uploading them to Smashwords soon. Smashwords, by the way, will put the books onto Barnes and Noble for me, so they'll be available as ebooks for Nook soon after.

In a month or two, I'll release For the Seven Kingdoms, a sword-and-sorcery novel that could be the first of seven in a series. I have ideas for five more. Yes, that's only six. We'll see what my odd little brain coughs up for the last one.

Plague Scars, my post-apocalyptic domestic novel, will be out later this year.

Meantime, I'm finishing my first steampunk novel with a strong romantic plot. Annie's Doomsday Engine can best be described as Mission Impossible meets The Wild Wild West (TV show, not awful movie) on the Island of Dr. Moreau. After that I have a list of six novels to finish, that are in assorted stages of near-completion. Then we shall see about continuing the ones that I'd like to be series, trilogies, or even simply two volumes. I want to write a sequel to Phoenix Hatching, and I've got a rough draft done, called Phoenix Flying. I have two more steampunk ideas that are set in the same milieu as Annie's. I've already mentioned Seven Kingdoms wants to be a series, and Grove Secrets has two sequels involving the same family that are banging around in my head. Then, at last, there are two 'learning experience' novels I wrote a long time ago that had some potential. I'm going to scrap everything but the basic idea and characters, and try at least the first one again.

And if I live long enough, I have a huge list of ideas... I wish I'd gotten my writing feet under me a long time ago, but I've always been a late bloomer.