Thursday, March 29, 2012

Writing Woes

What the heck, we'll keep the alliteration going...

I've mentioned before how I have been working on a set of three books that I started writing late in 2008 for my two daughters. Well, I never quite finished the third book. Back in 2010, I wrote the 50k word first draft and then set it aside (I do this with all the longer stuff I write). The plan was to take another look at it after a few months and then finish up the series.

In October of 2011 I started reading through the series again, making updates and generally "adding the awesome" to the books. Then I got to book three right when I accepted a new job at another company and also right when Nanowrimo started.

So book three went into the "someday" pile and I got busy with everything else in life.

But my younger daughter hounds me about the book. She promotes the series to her teachers and random strangers.

This is hard for me on several levels (I'm very shy, for example). But I want to finish this series and get to work on the story I wrote for Nanowrimo 2012 (The Bardo Rider) which I'm very excited about.

So I pulled out book three yet again and realized I have a lot more work ahead of me than I thought initially. I knew the very end was not finished, and sure, some of the middle sections had some minor typos, but I thought I could finish this off in a day or three. A week at the most.

Nope. Turns out I have two missing chapters and a missing ending. I'll be working on this for a while, I fear.

So today I got a good start. I've re-read the whole book, fixed a ton of typos (why on earth was I capitalizing the seasons? They enjoyed Summer vacation?) and I think I have a plan for the first missing chapter. Heck, I even found and fixed a plot hole that I missed the last time through.

I'm going to have to try to do this piecemeal. I cannot just sit down at a computer for 8 hours a day until it's finished. I've got work to do at work, and I can never do any real writing at home these days. So I'll have to take the baby steps as they come and push that rock, every so slowly, up that hill.

Something else has served to inspire my motivation. A couple of writers I met via Twitter have both recently mentioned some exciting things they're working on.

Raymond Masters is actually using Kickstarter to help fund his series:

And Jason Letts is relaunching his Suspense trilogy.

These two always manage to motivate me to keep at the writing.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Garden Going!

We finally got around to getting the garden started this weekend. We started a bunch of seeds (corn, cucumbers, beans, etc.) and planted a few starts (peas, romas, tomatillos, poblanos).

Ah, but we were only just getting started!

We also planted a dwarf mineola/tangelo in a big pot on the patio.

And we finally replaced the old avocado tree. We planted a pit, you know, like you do, about 10 years ago. It grew up to almost 6 feet tall in a big pot on our patio, but it never fruited/flowered. I figure it's not supposed to, it's probably infertile.

But who knows. So we offered it for free and found someone who actually wants a big avocado tree that's root bound and probably infertile.

Then from there we planted a few herbs and transplanted several roses and other plants around the yard.

My daughter planted Rue, Primrose, and Catmint (it her "Hunger Games" garden, funny because I don't think you're supposed to eat any of those plants).

And now we're relaxing and cleaning all the dirt out from under our nails...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Think You're Doing It Wrong

We live in the suburbs on the peninsula in the Bay Area in California. Our neighborhood is "old" -- houses built in the mid to late 1940s. Some of the houses even have wells in the back yards. These are vestigial -- the water table has long since dropped and the water quality there probably isn't the best.

But recently the city has been sending out notices to home owners stating that we need to schedule an inspection to be sure the well is either capped or being used correctly (backflow preventer/etc.).

And that's fine. It's a pain that we have to do the scheduling and have someone home and what not, but I can absolutely see why you don't want anyone using a well to accidentally pump sewage or whatnot down into the water table.

Today the inspector came to our house and I just cannot believe what he told us. Luckily, ours is capped so this won't apply to us, but: In order to NOT USE a well on your property, you have to get a $700 permit which gives you the ability to hire someone for $7k to properly remove the well. In what world would anyone be motivated to do things properly and by the book when it costs an extra $700 just to get a permit to do _what the city wants you to do_?

If the city didn't want you to remove or cap the well, then maybe I could see adding the financial barrier. But we're trying to do the right thing. We don't want a well. I know many of our neighbors won't be able to spare almost $8k to meet the city's requirements.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shop Online or My Mom Will Starve!

Like many people, I talk a good game. I say things like "I would never support a company that treats its customers and employees like adversaries!" Or "I don't want an iPad or iPhone or iPod because of how poorly the people who build them off shore are treated!"

And I really mean it. I still haven't purchased an i-anything. My cell phone is practically 5 years old. I mean, I tell myself I do an okay job...

But then I need, NEED, to get my hands on a book or a game or whatever and I find myself right there at the ol' web browser, clicking away at Amazon.

We've all heard the stories of how Amazon treats its employees. Oh, wait. No, not "their" employees. They hire staffing firms that in turn hire workers and treat them like cattle. So they're not really employees... Just like Apple (and many others), it's not _their_ fault if the people they pay to provide labor are tyrants.

Anyway, we've read the stories. We've seen the news reports. But it's other people. It's not like I'm actually hurting someone myself, someone I know.

Except... My 60+ year old mother works at an Amazon warehouse. It really is as bad there as the articles say. It's degrading, but she needs the money as she cannot afford to retire, even with the little help I can give her.

So I'm torn. Amazon could fix this problem incredibly easily. But they say that people don't want the problem fixed because then they might have to pay more for their stuff. And we hear that from Apple/etc. too. If they have to raise prices, they won't need as many contract warehouse workers. Maybe my mom would lose her job!

The thing about Amazon, though, is that it treats me, the customer, so well. "Would you like free shipping with that? Oh, we just happen to be having a sale on something you want. Here! It's practically free!" They love me. They really love me.

So it's hard to turn my back on them. It's hard to abandon my wishlist and give up the virtual shopping cart.

I don't have a solution. I don't know the answer. I think maybe just closing loopholes would help.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Building a Basic Raised Bed Box

Pumpkin Town!

Ok, the goal was to do this without having to make a trip to the hardware store for supplies (but I might go to the local nursery/landscape supply  place and get some really good dirt).

So I started by digging out all of my left over redwood fencing supplies from a recent project and sorting them out:

That long piece is 8 feet tall, 12 inches wide, and has a split. The other two planks are 5 feet long, so I decided to basically cut a foot off the taller one and then cut that in half for the sides. They'll be about 40 inches. And I'll just leave the front and back pieces their original 5 feet. Then I got to work building a really basic frame:

... which turned out okay... I used scrap 2x2's and an old 2x3 to act as corner supports and left the pieces long so they could sit in holes I dug in order to keep the box/frame/bed from moving too much. I used some galvanized deck screws to put it all together since I had them on hand and they would do better job of pulling in the cupping of the planks. Those had been in my garage rafters for a couple of years and they were badly cupped.

Here's the leftover from my leftovers pile:
Too bad that longer plank is < 5 feet as I could have found a way to use it on the front as a kind of detail or whatnot...

And the finished box in place. I swear it's level. You'll just have to take my word on it though... :) I haven't filled it with dirt yet, and as you can see the whole place is a mess, so I'll have to go out there and do some cleaning up.
We'll tie a soaker hose in right there off that garden hose that runs the perimeter of the yard.

While I was digging around, I found lots of tunnels. I don't know what made the tunnels but a neighbor claims to have seen moles (or was it voles?) in their yard recently. That's something we haven't had to deal with before in the 12 years we've lived here. Maybe I should put some metal mesh at the bottom of the box...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Planting Option

We just had some trees removed and part of the changes that brought is a new patch of ground that gets at least 7 hours of weak February sunlight per day. We're thinking that number will increase once the spring/summer arrives.

That spot used to be covered by the big ugly palm tree and we stored our chicken supplies under there in sealed garbage containers (hay, DE, pine shavings).

But now I'm thinking that we can finally  have a place to plant pumpkins. We've tried before but they take up too much space. This could be the solution. But then we'd have to find another place for the chicken supplies.

I'm thinking I'll build a small raised bed there and see what we can accomplish with some of our saved seeds from last year's pumpkins. I have some left over redwood fencing that I can use for the borders -- all I'll need is better dirt. What's there has a lot of ashes and cement chunks (from the previous owners) that I've never bothered to remove.

Seems like I have plenty of time before I need to plant them though. Another two months according to what I've read.