Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Refrigerator Needs Fixing Too


If you were with me on Monday, you’ll know that I posted about our frustration with our ISP and buffering. (If you missed it, you can read the blog post just below this one.)

Anyway, last night I got a phone call from EPB. The service person said, “Missus Keller, I heard you have a problem with buffering.

Me, thinking, “How does he know?”: Uh, yeah.

Service Guy: We’d like to fix that for you.

Me, thinking, “The only way he could know is if he read my blog.”: Uh, hold on a minute.

During this time, I tell my husband what is going on. He’s thrilled—fist-pumping the air. At this point, I’m a little creeped out.

Me: Sure. We’d love to have our buffering problem fixed.

SG: When would be a convenient time for you?

Me, thinking, “Seriously, I get to choose a time?”: How about Thursday morning?

SG: Thursday morning it is.

So we’re scheduled to have our buffering problem fixed. And we’ll be able to watch every Yankee out and homerun. But I have to say, that it’s kind of Big Brother-ish. I know that there are a lot of data mining programs available to monitor uses of names, trademarks, etc., on the internet.

Some authors use them to be notified where their names and books are mentioned. But I haven’t. I really don’t need or want to know.

So while I’m really thankful that EPB wants to fix my problem, it’s a reminder that everything’s monitored.

 Hmm. You know what, I’m having some problems with my Roper refrigerator. The lights inside don’t work. We tried replacing the bulbs and that didn’t help…Of course, the fridge is probably 40 years old. But still, I’d love for Roper to fix it. Hello, Roper, are you out there?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Buffering Tonight


When we moved to Chattanooga six years ago and tried to set up an ISP, we discovered that our area only had dial up. Seriously. Only dial up. Thankfully, a couple of months later, DSL was ready and we switched. And that was great. Sort of.

Except for all the buffering. Forget streaming. Unless you want to do it at 2am. Still, it was better than dial up.

Then fiberoptic cable came to town. Articles showed up in the newspaper. Chattanooga was now the internet hot spot of the United States. We now had access to the fastest internet around. So we signed up.

So the EPB (I have no idea what the initials stand for. Maybe Electric Power Board.) technician came out. He put a sign in our front yard proclaiming that we were now a techo family. We had the fastest internet around. I think it was supposed to make our neighbors jealous. Honestly, I don’t think our neighbors cared.

After lots of cables were laid, we were hooked up. The technician gathered us together for a speed check. We formed a semi-circle around him and waited with bated breath. The data speed appeared. The technician cleared his throat. “Let’s do this again.” So he did. Our breath was less bated. Again, we got horrible numbers. He said, “Um.” I said, “Why are our numbers so low?”

Him: You have plaster walls. They cause trouble with wireless signals.

Me: But we’re in the same room as the router, so it doesn’t have to pass through or bounce off the walls.

Him: Yeah. So if you want high speed interest, try plugging your computer directly into the Ethernet cable.

(We did. The speed didn’t improve.)

Him: Hmm. Uh, when you all get a chance to record your internet speed on our website, don’t do it okay?

Me (wondering how many other people he asked not to record their internet speed): Okay.

So our internet speed is okay. We can stream. Usually. However, there is great gnashing of teeth when the guys are streaming Yankees’ baseball games and A-Rod comes up to bat, and the spinning circle of buffering purgatory comes up. So it buffers for thirty seconds or so. Then the game pops back up. And the guys discover that A-Rod hit a homerun, but we missed it. And we missed the replay too. (Yes, I know to the Yankees/A-Rod haters out there that’s the ideal way to watch a baseball game. But not at our house.)

We’re getting by with our high powered internet provided by EPB. (Maybe it stands for Exaggerating Promises Bureaucrats.) And we’re enjoying Julian Smith’s “Buffering Tonight.” Obviously, EPB is his ISP too.

Enjoy.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Graduation

Yesterday we had a high school graduation party for my son. Yay, Jacob!!
(He's our third high school graduate.) And I thought I'd share some photos. Jacob plans to study electrical  engineering in college next year.


Some of Jake's friends. (All the red shirts--there were even more of them--are actors in the Shakespeare troupe that Jake participates in. Jake's playing Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing this summer.)


Jake, Cal, and a New York-style cheesecake. (I made it.)


The graduate and his parents.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Closed Hearts!





Here's Susan Kaye Quinn's latest book. I'm very excited to read it, and I'll definitely be signing up for her contest.

(If you'd like a chance to win a free e-copy of Closed Hearts, check out this post and leave a comment.)

Announcing the release of Closed Hearts, the sequel to Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn.
Book Two of the Mindjack Trilogy
When you control minds, only your heart can be used against you.
Eight months ago, Kira Moore revealed to the mindreading world that mindjackers like herself were hidden in their midst. Now she wonders if telling the truth was the right choice after all. As wild rumors spread, a powerful anti-jacker politician capitalizes on mindreaders’ fears and strips jackers of their rights. While some jackers flee to Jackertown—a slum rife with jackworkers who trade mind control favors for cash—Kira and her family hide from the readers who fear her and jackers who hate her. But when a jacker Clan member makes Kira’s boyfriend Raf collapse in her arms, Kira is forced to save the people she loves by facing the thing she fears most: FBI agent Kestrel and his experimental torture chamber for jackers. Now available! $2.99 Ebook at Amazon (and Amazon UK) and Barnes and Noble Request a Kindlegraph Paper copies available at Amazon or get signed copies from the author


Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling YA novel Open Minds,  Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy, available on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iTunesSusan's business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist," but she mostly plays on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.







Mind GamesOpen MindsClosed HeartsIn His EyesLife, Liberty, and PursuitFull Speed Ahead


CLICK HERE to join the Virtual Party for Closed Hearts
(including bonus content for the Mindjack Trilogy and writerly guest posts) 
and/or 
ENTER TO WIN prizes below

Monday, May 21, 2012

Exciting News!!



I've got some exciting news to share. Compass Press will be publishing an anthology this winter, and I've been asked to contribute a short story! Though I've know for a little while, I wanted to wait to share the news until they revealed the book cover. Here it is:


If you'd like to check out Compass Press's website, here's a link.

There are a lot of great writers who are contributing, and I can't wait to read everyone's short stories. Here's are links to their sites.
Anne RileyHeather McCorkleAlexandra ShostakChristine FonsecaConnie KellerCrystal HarrisElle StraussHarley MayJamey StegmaierJen StayrookJessica Naccari,Jodi BurrusJudith GravesKaren Amanda HooperKrissi DallasMercedes Yardley,Natalie ConeRegan LeighSusan Kaye QuinnTina MossTS Tate, and Yelena Casale.

Remember if you're interested in signing up for a change to win a free e-copy of Screwing Up Time, today is the last day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Distressed-Leprous-Skin Rot


As you know from a previous blog post, we are overhauling the kitchen cabinets and giving them the “distressed look,” which is a step up from the “abused 60s look” that they had when we bought the house.

In pickling the cabinets, I’ve been spilling white stain on myself. Small splotches on my face, big drippy patches on my legs. I realize that I sound like the messiest painter ever, but have you ever tried painting the inside of cabinets that are mounted flush to the ceiling? Let’s just say it’s not easy task.

So I am covered in weird semi-transparent paint blobs. It’s been okay thus far because I haven’t really gone anywhere besides the hardware store. And that reminds me, why don’t other people buying one-more-thing at Home Depot for their DIY projects look as skanky as I do? Maybe I’m na├»ve, but do people do their hair, scrub their skin, and put on makeup before they go to the hardware store? They must because I’ve never seen anyone else in cutoffs, a sweat-stained t-shirt that says, “Ask me about my book,” and paint speckled skin.

“Paint speckled” is a euphemism for describing what I look like. The truth is that I appear to have leprosy. Or skin rot. So far, no one has shouted, “Unclean” at me. But I’m sure that’s right around the corner, especially since the next set of cabinets will necessitate me climbing inside to paint them.  But, hey, my cabinets will look good, inside and out. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why You Need To Pay Your Characters Well


The other day, I was reading about indie publishing. And someone with knowledge (how did they get to be the prognosticators—I didn’t vote for them) pronounced that to be a successful indie author you had to be publishing more than one book a year.

I swallowed. My heart went cold. More than one book a year. How does anyone do that? Are they chained to their computer? Do they run a tape recorder next to their beds and mutter plot and dialogue as they dream? Maybe they’ve disconnected themselves from Facebook, email, Twitter, and Google. (Of course, without Google how can you spend an hour researching ancient enameling procedures for a scene which will probably be cut from the book. But, hey, I’m an expert on enamel.)

Okay, so maybe other writers spend less time Googling random facts. But it doesn’t account for that much time. I have friends who tell me that they’ve had a good week writing. And I find out they’ve written 20,000 words. My lip quivers. I ignore it and I put on the supportive friend face. But my heart says, “20,000?!?” A good week for me is 5,000. (Before you feel too sorry for me, I write very sparely and can usually resist plot bunnies, so I rarely need to delete more than a couple hundred words from a first draft. Whereas, my friends will often say, “I cut 20k words from my book today.”)

Setting aside my excuses of distilled plotting, how come they can get so many words? Are their characters eager minions lined up to do their authors’ bidding? Mine are as surly as two year olds. And getting them together to do their work is like….herding cats.

Here’s what I think is really going on. (Courtesy of Jasper Fforde. You really should read his books.) I believe Fforde’s theory that characters are real people who live in an alternative universe. Their jobs are to people our books. I suspect that the reason my characters are more surly than other writers’ characters is because I don’t pay them very well. They’re hoping that if they’re difficult, I’ll fire them and they can get jobs elsewhere…Maybe their already putting out resumes. Grrr. If you’re looking for characters, do not hire Henry Mark Montgomery. He’s a total slacker who shows up for work late, complains about unsafe working conditions (okay, the Colors of Time are dangerous, but plot is all about risk), drinks when his parents aren’t looking, and complains that his leading lady is too tall. And don’t get me started on Peter—he’s casting hexes on the text. No wonder I can’t get hefty word counts. Maybe I need to bring in an enforcer. I’ve heard Voldemort is looking for a new job. Of course, he’s way outside my budget.

If you'd like to win a free copy of Screwing Up Time, check out my book blog.


Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm Going to be a Millionaire


As I’m looking at my living room coffee table (which was spotlessly clean and uncluttered on Saturday) and now is covered with a tie, an iPod, a baseball cap, hand sanitizer, a Kindle (okay, that’s mine), a glass, a bowl, a sewing kit, and about nine books (never mind the books—literature is always decorative), I’ve decided what I want for Mother’s Day next year. I want furniture with alarms. Not that I care about my furniture being stolen. I want alarms that go off when someone abandons something on a clean and empty surface.

For example, after someone finishes a cup of hot tea and leaves the empty cup on the coffee table, I want an alarm to go off. The message could sound something like this, “Member of the Keller household, please retrieve your abandoned object and put it away.” Of course, it would need a proximity meter, so that the message would get more insistent the further the abandonee got away from the object of abandonment. Stage Two would sound like this, “Get the empty cup and put it away NOW!” Stage Three, “Yo, git the cup and put it in the sink.” Stage Four would be a blaring alarm. “Eeep, Eeep, Eeep! Abandonment alert. Eeep, Eeep, Eeep!”

I could make some serious money off this product. Do you know any mom who wouldn’t lay out some serious cash for a product like this? The product would market itself. I could take it to The Shark Tank and walk away a millionaire. And I think it’s doable.

Jacob could develop the actual product—he knows about circuits, capacitors, etc., and Ariel could program it (it can’t be harder than the smart phone she’s programming for work to detect falls in the elderly). And Luke and Matt would be great field testers. Yep, this is great. I’ll start taking investor signups right away.

Of course, this presupposes that my kids actually want to help me develop this product. And, uh, I think they like things the way they are. Bummer. There goes my million dollars. And now I’m back to my old method of dealing with newly acquired abandonment clutter—I yell “Slave Labor” and my minions come to help.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Magic of Antibiotics


I’m sorry I didn’t post on Wednesday. Two of the kids and I were sick and we had to go to the doctor. (We had sinus infections—who knew three people could get sinus infections at the same time? I thought they weren’t contagious.) And after the visit, I spent five hours tracking down the prescription—seriously, five hours.

After the diagnosis, the doctor sent e-scripts (e-mail prescriptions) to the pharmacy and told me that our prescriptions would be waiting when I got there. It sounded really lovely. Except, it didn’t work. When we got there, the pharmacy had no e-scripts from the doctor.

I called the doctor’s office and was told e-scripts take time to get through (which seems to defeat the purpose). I told the pharmacist, who snorted and told me that e-scripts often get lost in cyberspace. (What do you know, it’s not only query letters and manuscripts that get eaten by the fiend of cyberspace. Apparently, it has a taste for prescriptions too.)

And during the multiple phone calls I made, everyone kept telling me how it wasn’t their fault. And my voice was too sore and raw to tell them I didn’t really care whose fault it was, someone just needed to make a decision and follow-through. Finally, the weight of phone calls (from me and the pharmacy) convinced the receptionist and the nurse to have the doctor send a new prescription.

We finally got our prescriptions. And I took my medicine. It’s been at least fifteen years since I’d last taken antibiotics, so when I woke the next morning and felt so much better, I remembered the magic of antibiotics. Thanks, Dr. Fleming (messy researcher and discoverer of antibiotics)!!




Weird face blind moment (for all my friends who are fascinated by face blindness):


Last night one of my sons woke me (he was feeling bad and wanted medicine). I stared at his face for a second, thinking, "I have no idea who this is." Finally, he said, "Mom?" And I recognized his voice--it was Matthew.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Home Improvement: The Photos

Last Friday, I promised photos of our latest house project.

Here's the before picture:


Here's the after picture, which I'm disappointed in because the lighting makes the finish look a little uneven and it's not--I haven't figured out the new camera. (Ignore the orange splotch--it's a light from another room reflecting): 

Here's the inside:


I've decided that I like the way the cabinet turned out. Of course, now we'll have to do all the rest of the cabinets. And the walls, which looked hideous before, now look worse. I know paint will help. But the problem is that previous owners took the easy way out. The kitchen walls were originally plaster and tile. The plaster remains. The tile doesn't. Only the grout lines are left. Then, an early owner--perhaps the one who put 70s contact paper everywhere--put cheap paneling over the ripped out tile. (We all know how attractive cheap paneling is.) The last owner (realizing that old paneling, put up with the wrong kind of nails--drywall nails, did not make for a quick sale) decided to paint the paneling. Without properly sealing it. Now the paint is yellowing as wood oil leaches through. And the paint is beginning to peel. I won't mention the kitchen flooring that wasn't properly glued down or the counters that were installed unevenly.

At any rate, I realize now that my Platonic disappointment wasn't so much a disappointment with what we did, but the realization that before the kitchen looks "good," we've got years of work ahead.

But that's okay--my "contractor/laborer/stripping associate/polyurethaning buddy" and I have been together for 24 years, so we're in it for the long haul. And he's already got plans for the walls.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Platonism and Home Improvement


Yesterday Cal and I started refinishing the kitchen cabinets. (I had no idea how ridiculously time consuming it would be. I hope I can finish by Christmas time.) At any rate, we stripped the blond stain and lacquer off the first set of double cupboards. Yes, they were blond. Our house is old, build in the 40s. And the last time the kitchen was updated was the seventies. Before we stripped, I had to pull off orange, green, and yellow contact paper off the shelves—it had become one with the wood. Ugh.

Given the cupboards age and slightly worn condition, the only finish that made sense was a distressed finish. So we decided to pickle/whitewash the cabinets and seal them with polyurethane. We purchased the required chemicals—no thanks to the completely ignorant salesman at Home Depot, who didn’t seem to know the difference between oil-based and water-based. (Next time, we’ll try Lowes.)

We distressed the cabinets. Basically, we painted the cabinets with white stain and then scrubbed off the excess before it dried. It sounds easy. It wasn’t. The wood didn’t absorb the stain equally. And it didn’t dry at an even rate. Imagine white blobs and peeling stain—I’m not sure how stain can peel. But then, I only had one semester of general chemistry in college.

After some experimentation, we discovered a way to make it work. And when we finished staining, it didn’t look bad. Cal says it will look good when it’s polyurethaned.

But I’m a little disappointed. Calvin says it’s because I’m a perfectionist. And maybe that’s the reason I don’t like it. I can pick out all the little flaws. After all, I haven’t liked most home improvement projects I’ve completed—like retiling the bathroom floor and refinishing the bathroom door—until later.

However, I’d prefer not to have my reactions categorized in pop psychology terms. So I’ve decided it’s not perfectionism at all. Instead, it’s Platonism. The ideal distressed cabinet door exists only in my mind (or in the shop of a really skilled craftsman whose services we can’t afford), the reality can only be an approximation of that ideal. Thus, the door is not the only one that is distressed. Eventually, I’ll come to terms with the lack of ideal cabinet-ness and appreciate it for what is it… Yeah, okay, maybe this isn’t exactly what Plato meant. But I’ve got to do something with that year of philosophy/critical theory I took in college. You should see what I can do with Kant. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Staycation


If you visited the blog on Monday, you discovered there wasn’t a post. Sorry. This has been a crazy week. My mom had surgery, which had been planned for next week. My son finished his baseball season. And we’re on a staycation, i.e. a vacation at home.

For those of you who’ve never done a staycation, here’s how it goes. Knowing that the staycation is coming, you have a long to-do list because you imagine endless hours of free time. Naivety makes you forget that those hours are filled with all the normal stuff you regularly do (shop for groceries, cook meals, wash laundry, etc.) There go 5 hours a day of your vacation.

Regular life obligations don’t go away during the staycation. And it’s the end of your son’s baseball season, which means lots of games. So you sit on hard metal bleachers and contemplate suing the manufacturer for spinal pain and suffering.  That’s another 3 hours.

You do begin a small project that wasn’t on your list. Your husband asks why a massive weed covers a fence in your yard. You explain that it isn’t a weed, it’s a vine. A vine you paid good money for. You husband says, “It looks like a weed.” You say, “Um, it blooms.” Husband answers, “Weeds bloom.” You discuss the definition of weeds. Eventually, the decision is made to remove the weed-that-isn’t-really-a-weed-but-may-possibly-look-like-one. Weed removal one hour.

You visit your mom in the hospital and wonder how many surgeries she can endure. She’s at five major surgeries in 12 months. You are so thankful that it’s not you! (And you are amazed at the great attitude and perseverance that she has.) You try to make your mom laugh. But she makes you laugh when she asks you what the morphine button is for. These visits don’t count on the time meter. Not that they don’t take time, but that you can’t begrudge your mom anything.

So the first two days are gone. How did that happen? You wonder whether you should share your to-do list with your husband. It includes: organizing the basement, mulching the flower gardens, fixing the drip irrigation line (which was damaged in the weed replacement program), cleaning out the entry closet (actually, I’m going to assign this to a minion), taking a chainsaw to the overgrown trees, and packing school books into the attic. And, of course, there’s the ringer item—stripping the kitchen cabinets. I’d like to free them from their 70s coat of blond shellac and pickle them….Of course, we could always go to see a movie instead.