Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On to Plan C...

As news of the horrible devastation of southern Louisiana and Mississippi continues to indicate that Hurricane Katrina is one of the worst natural disasters to hit that region ever, we are altering our plans slightly once again.

We have now definitely decided to take the more northern I-20 across those two states, hoping to avoid most of the damaged areas. Amid reports that nearly 90% of Mississippi is without electric power and may remain so for days, we have made a few other schedule changes.

We now plan to leave EARLY (before dawn) tomorrow morning and try to make it all the way to Montgomery, AL, in one long push.

The only reason we wouldn’t make it is if stations along the way have no gas (or long gas lines), if there is no power to pump gas, or if there are road closures we don’t know about.

I wrote proudly a few weeks ago about our wonderful GPS antenna and laptop with MapPoint combination that will keep us from ever getting lost. Trouble is; knowing where you are doesn’t help if you can’t get fuel.

Yeah, I know gas has jumped to $3.00 per gallon. I’m STILL not ready to cancel or postpone this trip!

What, ME hard-headed? You bet! I come from a long line of hard-headed people, and I uphold the tradition proudly.

Sometimes my hard-headedness stops just short of stupidity. Other times it doesn’t even slow down, let alone stop.

In any case, we’re going to leave in the morning and see how far we get.

So, faithful readers, you may get a post tomorrow, or Friday... Or you may not. I’m making no promises other than this: If the opportunity presents itself to write something you may want to read, AND to go online and post it, then you’ll get a post. Otherwise...

Be patient. I imagine I’ll have plenty to report about the trip. Probably a few pictures at some point as well.

Joy, if you’re reading this we still think we’ll be there Friday afternoon. With the earlier start, we MIGHT make it by lunch time. But Murphy’s Law tells me that it’ll probably be late that day. We’ll let you know by phone.


I’ve just returned from checking TINA’S blog (as I do periodically in the slowly declining hope that it will yield some evidence of her formidable wit and writing ability).

WHOA!! There was actually a new post there! It appears that she has picked up the gauntlet I threw down, and is slapping my face with it!

Please do click the link and read it for yourself. It’s worth it. Karyn, you in particular might enjoy it.

To tease you I will quote an excerpt here: “And yes, I am a bit obsessed with where I put my behind. It must be clean and it really must flush...”

There. That gives you an idea of the high intellectual level of her topics.

(Makes me wonder what she sits on at the dinner table. And her office furniture must be... Hmmm.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Plan B.

This seems like a ludicrous concern, given the misery that has affected the central Gulf coast the last two days. But I’m still on the subject of (now last-minute) vacation planning.

Our planned route, leaving Thursday afternoon, was to be I-10 from Texas to Florida, and then turn south to Tampa. Even if I-10 is open and passable by then, there will likely still be areas along it with no electricity and no gas available.

So, plan B calls for proceeding north from Houston to Shreveport, turning east on I-20, taking the most direct route to Montgomery, and then angling southeast through Dothan, AL and on to I-10. That will add about 200 miles to the driving distance.

As I indicated in the first sentence, who cares?

Did you see the news story of the man in New Orleans who, along with his wife, was forced up onto the roof of his home? He was later rescued, but not before she was swept away. He cried that he just couldn’t hold onto her, and now she’s gone.

I just can’t imagine the anguish.

Stories like that will be repeated in other areas where fast-rising water made a mockery of any plans folks had for “riding out the storm.”

Yes, life goes on (for most). And my life for the next 3 weeks will (hopefully) consist of travel and fun and good family visits.

But my mind and my prayers keep returning to the people whose lives will never be the same. Some lives will be slightly different, and some vastly so. Others’ lives are simply gone.

None of us, it is said, has a contract with God. Sobering.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Crape myrtles?

...or “crepe myrtles?”

Several of my alert readers pointed out that in yesterday’s post I mentioned crepe myrtles. They wondered if I was merely ignorant of the correct spelling (“crape myrtle”) or if I was trying to make some vague point or pun that nobody would get.

Meaning that they didn’t get it, and didn’t want to feel stupid. So they tried to accuse ME of making a careless or stupid mistake.

HA! They should have known better!

Although they pointed out (correctly) that a “crepe” is a very thin pancake, often rolled up and stuffed, they conveniently omitted the fact that the word comes from the French and Latin, and is descriptive of many things that are thin with a textured or “crinkly” surface.

(And that’s from a published dictionary, not my DotM!) (“Dictionary of the Moment”).

“Crape myrtle” is an alternate spelling of the more traditional “crepe myrtle.” The “crepe” in that term is descriptive of the shrub’s “showy clusters of variously colored flowers with crinkled petals.”

And, there’s a subtly difference in pronunciation between the two forms “crape” and “crepe.”

“Crape” rhymes with “grape.” “Crepe” has more of an “eh” sound that is somewhere between a short E and a long A. In fact, if you listen closely, there’s almost a diphthong in the word.

You regular readers will remember all about those, right?

So, the debate about “crape” or “crepe” is really kind of a “po-tay-to” vs. “po-tah-to” argument. In other words, it’s not worth arguing about.

On another unrelated note, if you care to leave a comment on this blog now or in the future, I regret that you’ll be subjected to typing a random word into a box to verify that you are a human being. Or you’re a very smart machine, because average machines are not supposed to be able to read that word.

I didn’t come up with that through my own considerable intelligence. Blogger suggested it as a method to limit spamming to actual humans who are willing to truly visit each blog they want to advertise on and type in the random word. We’ll see if it helps or not. The spam comments are just obnoxious enough that I’ll try this inconvenience on you REAL PEOPLE to see if it works.

Oh, btw, if the random word is something nasty, blame Blogger, as I had no control over it.

On a final unrelated note, since Tina has chosen to make fun of my family’s religion (micro-managing our vacation planning) and has revealed the secret of our lovingly hand made, individualized but matching ski sweaters (each of which comes with a hand-signed Certificate of Authenticity), I will have no choice but to publicly ridicule her if I don’t see some significant posting activity on her blog. Soon, and with some degree of regularity better that 4-5 times per year.

I may decide to reveal some of her porcelain phobias, although that would be the equivalent of a nuclear strike when probably this little pea-shooter mention of her blog two days in a row will be all it takes. Right, T?

(Oh, and thanks for letting us know Amy’s plans for next year. We hadn’t heard!)

(And Karyn... You wanted a picture? “Ask and Ye Shall Receive.” If the film’s been developed, that is.)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"If you can’t stand the heat... "

Can you stand one more post about how hot it is in South Texas?


Well, I don’t blame you. Right now everybody’s focus is on New Orleans, all of eastern Louisiana and western Mississippi, and points north and east of there.

I have never been in anything close to 165 mph winds on the ground. That’s what Katrina’s top winds are as I write this.

Two summers ago we sat out Hurricane Claudette with its 90-100 mph winds in Victoria as the eye passed about 20 miles south of town. Our electricity was out for 3 days, lots of tree limbs were down, and there was significant damage to some homes in our neighborhood as large sections of trees or limbs fell onto roofs.

I’ll tell you, it was frightening. We sat and watched the trees in out back yard wave and flail. We listened to the wind moan.

At one point some branches from a crepe myrtle were whipping against our bathroom window so hard I was afraid they might break the glass. (Those branches had never come close to the house before!)

Carol and I went out in the middle of the howling wind and driving rain, wading through water about 3-4 inches deep to hack off the crepe myrtle’s branches before they caused any damage. Then we went back inside to dry off and watch the limbs of a large tallow tree in the back yard sweep down and whack the ground again and again.

I didn’t know they could bend that far and not break off.

When you’re sitting through something like that with all the sounds and scenes you’ve not experienced before, it is very unsettling. I don’t say “terrifying” because we knew the winds were only about 90 mph, and that barring a tornado our brick home was pretty secure.

I literally can’t imagine sitting out a category 5 monster like Katrina.

I’ll just say that our thoughts and prayers are with those in the storm’s path. Oh, I know, most will survive. But I sure wouldn’t want to be with them through the experience of finding out which ones won’t survive, because there are sure to be casualties.

We had several deaths here in Victoria from Claudette—a category 1 “minimal” hurricane.

So, good luck to those in Katrina’s path!

And, by the way, the Hades index here today was about 102%.

Yeah, we played golf anyway, but maybe we should have just stayed indoors and, figuratively speaking, “gotten out of the kitchen.”

Saturday, August 27, 2005

More planning

Today our vacation planning included scrolling online through the local library’s list (good alliteration there, in case you weren’t paying attention) of audio books on CD.

This trip will entail many, many hours of driving. We’ve learned that there’s no better way to overcome the boredom of hours on the Interstate than to be distracted by a book.

Experience has also taught me that it’s difficult and sometimes a bit hazardous to read that book while driving. Listening to audio books is slightly less hazardous and distracting than talking on a cell phone (for some reason), so that seems to be the best compromise.

Besides, reading while driving (or riding, for that matter) can sometimes cause motion sickness and eyestrain as the print bounces up and down with each expansion joint in the road. If the sun is low in the sky and you’re driving beside trees, the sun and shadows flickering on the page can either give you a headache of truly surprising proportions, or nausea of similar strength.

As a seasoned road traveler I know these things, and am pleased to pass them along to you at no extra charge.

We plan to check out (borrow) these audio books the day before we leave. That’s because the loan period is 21 days, and we’ll be gone for 3 weeks (which is pretty close to 21 days.)

On a more pragmatic level, I’ve also been readying the van and the camper. You know—checking oil level, tire pressures, and general conditions; cleaning out the interiors, putting Rain-X on the windshield, spraying WD-40 on anything that might squeak, and so on.

Since our van has over 140,000 miles on it, I always take along a full tool kit along with a roll of baling wire and a roll of duct tape. I know you think I’m kidding since those sound like clichés, but I’m serious. There is little that can’t be fixed (for at least long enough to allow one to limp into a repair shop) with duct tape, baling wire, WD-40 and a few tools.

(That’s more free information for you less-experienced travelers. You see? This blog MORE than returns your price of admission thought all the helpful hints and advice you get here.)

We Earles have been accused in the past of taking our vacations very seriously (right, Tina?), so we have to uphold that tradition.

(By the way, Tina... I keep looking for new posts on your blog and coming away empty. As one of the most creative writers I know, you are seriously disappointing your adoring public by NOT posting occasionally.)

Well, I suppose that’s enough information for you for today. Check back tomorrow for the next episode in which I’ll discuss my plans for getting the grass mowed before we leave, and having out neighbors collect our mail while we’re gone.

Or I may have pity on you and discuss a more entertaining topic.

You’ll have to check in to find out.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Three WEEKS!!?

Several of my faithful readers have expressed surprise, amazement, and maybe even a little jealous hostility at the fact that I’m planning a three week vacation.

Hey, I can’t help it if I work for a great company with liberal vacation policies! My boss, Greg, stopped in my office today to ask about my vacation plans and commented, “You know, everybody ought to be required to take at least two weeks off at one time at least once every year, just to get away from this place and recharge. When you’re gone that long you come back with a fresh perspective on things.”

I’ve told you how great my boss is, right? (And how he reads my blog to find out what I’m really saying about him?)

You’re a great boss, Greg! (Now maybe I’ll still have a job when I get back!)

Oh yeah, I also can’t help it if I happen to be the H.R. Manager and write all these employee-friendly policies, can I? After all, it’s not really just self-serving. Part of my job is to improve morale and reduce turnover. So I do that part of my job very well.

My daughter Joy (Christina to many of you) knows all about getting fired the first week back after taking a week of vacation. This past January she’d been off for a week on our annual family ski vacation, went to work on Monday, and was fired on a trumped up issue on Tuesday. We figured they “selected” her for discharge during her time away.

I tell all of our employees that Catbert, the “evil H. R. Director” in Adam Scott’s comic strip “Dilbert,” is my hero. I have a little bean-bag figure of Catbert perched on top of my office computer monitor. But I think (hope) that most of our employees perceive me as a bit more benevolent than Catbert.

So, anyway, my employer actually encourages two or three week vacations. It took me 39 years to find this job, and I don’t plan to leave it any time soon.

(No, we’re NOT accepting resumes or applications now, so please don’t send me yours.)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Vacation planning (continued from last month).

It’s getting closer. One week from today I leave South Texas for nearly three weeks!

I can’t remember the last time I took a vacation this long. Well, that’s not true. The last time it was FOUR weeks, and we went to Africa in 2001.

(Shameless self-promotion warning: If you haven’t ever looked through the photo-journal I put together after that trip, click HERE to browse it for a bit. It was a fantastic trip and we took LOTS of pictures!)

Starting next week we’ll be visiting my daughter “Christina” (Joy), her husband Johnny, and our grandson Trevor in Florida. Then, after a golf interlude in Georgia, we’ll spend a few days with my sister and my 89-year-old mother in Maryland. (If you are a “horse person,” you’ll enjoy Sis’s web site.)

From Maryland we’ll head west to Chicago to visit our other daughter Amy and her husband Tom. Then it’s southwest and hammer down till we’re back in Texas and I can go into the office to rest up and recover from all that recreation and travel.

What? You say you don’t care about my vacation plans?


Well, can’t say I blame you. Why should you? I’m either bragging, or I don’t have anything else really interesting to write about, right?

But in my defense I just wanted you to know that blog posts here at “Romantic Ramblings” will be spotty over the next four weeks or so. Oh we’ll have the laptop along, complete with our GPS antenna and a list of all the free wifi hotspots in the states we’ll be visiting. Plus I’m arranging for an emergency dial-up ISP service for the times when we have telephone access but no wifi.

My main blog-posting impediment will be finding the time to write something of interest and getting it up here onto Blogger for you to see it. But I’ll try.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, I never write anything of interest anyway? DOUBLE Hmmph!

So anyway,if we end up driving our golf cart into a river in Georgia, find ourselves attacked by alligators in Florida, get run off the road in West Virginia, or get caught in an early snow storm in Illinois you’ll read about it. You may read it a week or two after the fact, but still.

Oh, yeah, I didn’t mention this, but we’ll be pulling our camper and staying in it much of the trip. Some of the campgrounds (Georgia and Florida state parks, for example) have neither telephone nor wifi service.

Between now and Sept. 1st I plan to continue to post daily. Unless I get too busy getting ready. More to come!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Poems, limericks, etc.

I just got back from my daily visit to Karyn’s blog.

Her post today was in the form of a poem, as is frequently her habit on Wednesdays. (Sex on Friday, poetry on Wednesday... some kind of weird cycle, I guess. But hey, it’s her blog.)

As someone who also enjoys forays into the poetic realm on occasion, I thought I’d try to respond to her in kind.

Now SOME would say my poems are childish, shallow, barely rhyme, have irregular meter, and don’t make any sense. To them, I say, “Oh, yeah!? So what!?” ...which is about the most shallow, childish, un-rhyming response I can think of on short notice.

Besides, I have previously announced that one form of poetry I find particularly difficult to write is the limerick. So I challenged myself to write a poem in stanzas consisting of limericks.

What follows is my effort. (Ahem...)

Once said lovely Karyn in Dallas,
As she lounged in the pool by her palace,
“I write Fridays of sex,
Then on Wednesdays perplex
You with poems that, to some, may seem callous.”

As I pondered her blog post in rhyme,
And re-read it, time after time,
I began to believe
(Though it caused me to grieve)
She’d been drinking tequila with lime.

Then I noted the time of her post.
It was not in the evening, like most.
It was posted so soon,
(Tuesday, mid-afternoon),
If she drank THEN, her job would be toast!

So I read it once more, and I found
That its message was actually sound.
With a question that men
Have asked time and again
On a topic that’s truly profound.

Are our love and emotions for real?
Or just hormones, endorphins, and zeal?
How can anyone know
If that wonderful glow
Is the truth or just something we feel?

So with definite feelings of pride
I left Karyn’s blog satisfied
(Though she wrote NOT of lust,
Or the size of a bust)
With the thoughts that her poem did provide.

Good job, Karyn. Once again you’ve proven that you’re a lot more than just a pretty face with a one-track mind.


(There I go, putting my foot in it again! At least my meter was fairly consistent.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

This MAY be my last post...

...about the ongoing and ever-increasing conspiracy.

Here’s why.

Based on the many comments and emails I’ve begun to realize something. According to my laborious and totally scientific research, those messages are just about evenly split between folks who have noticed the same phenomenon for a long time, and those who were skeptical at first but THEN soon began to experience repeated failures in the areas mentioned.

(Well, OK, my scientific research consisted of just thinking back about the comments and emails, and they seemed to be about evenly split. As best I remember... I think. Aw, close enough!)

What did that tell me? (I’m not sure, so I made something up.)

It tells me that there is at least a 50-50 chance that this is all caused by a computer virus!

It’s probably spread from one computer to another, over the internet, among blog readers! In fact, I probably got it from one of YOUR blogs! (Or, maybe it was that porn site I keep going back to... Hmm...)

Anyway, as each of you reads my posts about the conspiracy, the virus spreads to your machine. If you read this at home, your computer spreads the virus through your home wiring to other appliances. Those that are connected to the plumbing (dishwasher, clothes washer, garbage disposal, etc.) spread it to the sink, toilets and outdoor taps.

As I wrote yesterday, your televisions and/or radios communicate it out to your vehicle. And the house itself picks it up from one or more of those contacts.

As for Schnoodlepooh’s pets, I can only speculate. We all know that dogs can hear frequencies that we humans can’t. And many animals are known to seek shelter before the first tremor of an earthquake. How do they know? Maybe they can pick up these signals somehow.

Keep in mind that, for now at least, this is merely a hypothesis. I haven’t extended my research to the extent I can say it is an incontrovertible fact.

But I’m close to that point.

And here’s another reason why. Sometimes I outline or draft my daily blog posts at my workplace office.

Only during my lunch break, Greg, I swear! I never spend paid work time doing personal stuff, and of course I never read other blogs at the plant.

(Note to self: Remember to erase Internet Explorer history files first thing tomorrow at work.)

Yesterday (during lunch, Greg!) I typed out some thoughts for the day’s post about the conspiracy.

About ten minutes later I hit the flush handle on a urinal in the men’s room, and... instant Niagara Falls! All over the floor. And the flow just kept on flowing! Luckily there’s a floor drain in there, so the building wasn’t flooded. (I am NOT making this up.) We had to replace the flush valve, and everything’s fine. For now!

Don’t you think the timing there is just a little bit suspect? I fear I may have spread the virus to my plant. This could have severe consequences on our manufacturing processes and future productivity!

So, Christina, maybe you were on to something about keeping quiet. I think I’ll stop posting this kind of information for a while and see if things settle down.

Now, if I could just find my meds...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Is it possible...

...that the plumbing/appliance/house-structure conspiracy extends to our vehicles as well?

By now, I think we ALL know that the household plumbing fixtures and various appliances often conspire to fail in a sometimes spectacular series designed to empty our bank accounts.

If you’re not convinced, read some of the earlier posts and comments on this blog for confirmation. Or, just think about it. How often have you had a leaky faucet or toilet that wasn’t followed up in short order by a failed refrigerator or washing machine? And usually that failure was followed up by a short in your microwave or burned out light bulbs. Right?

You see? That’s the way these things happen. Often your house itself will get involved with roof problems, cracked wallboard, sticking doors or frozen windows.

Well, now I’ve come to believe that our van and my little Japanese commute car are somehow tied in with the others.

How do they communicate? Well, DUH. Think about it. Most all of our vehicles have a radio, don’t they? And in our house we have a TV and maybe other radios, right? So even though there’s no direct plumbing or electrical connection, the house wiring and appliances can send signals through the TV to the car radios! It’s obvious once you put it all together.

Why do I believe this is happening? Well, RIGHT AFTER I went through my spate of leaks and failures both inside and outside my home, the vehicles began to cost me extra money. Our van suddenly decided to get very poor gas mileage and need a tune-up. The Mazda then suffered a cracked windshield. Then the van outside mirrors very mysteriously began to get loose all by themselves and blow inward as we’re driving along.

I fixed all those things, and now the Mazda has started burning oil, and the van is overheating.

OK, maybe the fact that the Hades index in Victoria has been well over 100% lately has something to do with it, but we’ve had hot weather before and this hasn’t happened.

Oh, and one of the van’s nearly new tires lost a small piece of the tread about the size of a book of matches, causing a vibration at about 60 mph. The tire store said it looked like we ran over something sharp the cut the tread just slightly so that one piece came off.

So, I believe that the evidence is clear. I’m wondering just how far all this will spread.

Do you think our clothing hanging in the closet will start to develop tears and holes? Maybe the grass and trees and shrubs outside will begin to die off. Once you realize how pervasive all this is, it just boggles your mind.

I would type some more on this topic, but I have to go now. I think I forgot to take my anti-paranoia pill this morning.

Or maybe the kitchen sink swallowed my Prozac.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A good weekend.

Friday afternoon Carol and I left town with our pop-up camper (air conditioned – don’t worry! We may be Texans, but we’re not crazy!) AND our good friend Ruth (the wedding cake lady) to go have a golf weekend.

We stayed in Buescher State Park near Smithville, TX.

No, I didn’t THINK you’d know where that is (except the folks from the Austin area who are regular readers... and maybe my Dallas area friends). It’s about 50 miles east of Austin on Highway 71.

We stay there because the State Park facilities are always clean and well-maintained, and because it’s close to Bastrop, TX.

What’s in Bastrop? Two golf courses that we enjoy playing.

All you non-golfers can skip the next paragraph. I’ll meet you two paragraphs down.

One reason we enjoy those courses is that many of the holes have significant elevation changes. Victoria, TX, is on the Coastal Plains (flat!) and the only ups and downs we get are from the slopes around the “push-up” greens. (They are elevated slightly to improve drainage.) The courses at Bastrop have several par 3s that make you feel like you’re teeing off from the top of a cliff to a green 100 feet below you.

On the way to the park, which is about an hour and 45 minute drive from Victoria, Carol and Ruth sat in the back of the van playing with our laptop computer and our new GPS antenna. It’s addicting to stare at the screen with a map displayed and a little car symbol tracking along the highway. Some of the map detail is extraordinary. When you zoom in close and click at a spot on a street, the screen will display the address (number and street name) where your cursor is. No more searching for, say, the 900 block of a certain road. Now we can know exactly where that is.

So, we spent Friday evening getting settled in and having supper. We had learned that a particular restaurant in Bastrop has a free wifi hotspot, so we drove into their parking lot and fired up the laptop. Sure enough, no security or network key was required, and we logged on and could surf the net. At that same location the laptop detected a second hotspot from the nearby Holiday Inn. I say “nearby,” but it was over 150 yards away! We drove around a bit testing the range of their transmitter and were amazed that we had a useable signal while inside our van for several hundred yards.

OK, enough computer stuff. On Saturday we played 36 holes of golf (riding, not walking — it was 99 degrees in Bastrop that afternoon!) Back to the camper, shower and dinner, a little TV, and we all crashed.

This morning we were up at 6, another 18 holes starting at 8:30, then back to the camper for lunch before loading everything back in the car, lowering the camper, hooking on and pulling out of the park.

We made it home at about 4:30.

I anticipate an early night tonight and a restful day at work tomorrow.

Don’t worry, Greg; I’ll get everything done! I may just be moving a little slower than usual tomorrow.

(Greg’s my boss, and he reads my blog sometimes. He’s a golfer too – and much better than me – so I’m sure he’ll understand.)

(I hope.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

The conspiracy deepens...

While browsing my blogroll yesterday, I found a post by kenju in which she describes a pretty nasty refrigerator repair job.

The hairs on the back of my neck rose.

Some of you (wonderful) regular readers may not remember, but several months ago I detailed a growing conspiracy within my home among the various plumbing fixtures and appliances.

Yes, I said conspiracy! How else can you explain the “seeming” random series of leaks, spread out among a toilet in one bathroom, a lavatory supply line in the other bathroom, and the outside garden hose? In the midst of these, there were also failures of appliances from my washing machine all the way down to a safe, reliable toaster!

(I even began to hear the house clicking and groaning at night in a clear attempt to help these various so-called “inanimate” objects communicate!)

How do you explain that?

Paranoia? NO! My doctor has me on meds for that, so that’s not it!

Coincidence, you say? Ha! You probably also believe in the tooth fairy!

After I had faithfully chronicled these occurrences and pointed out the obvious conspiracy (no other word seems adequate), several of you detailed similar stories of your own. Thus validating my research and conclusions!

So, after reading kenju’s post, I felt duty-bound to warn her. I did so in a comment, reproduced here for you to read:

Uh oh.

Judy, you've just hit one of my "hot buttons."

The fridge repair you speak of will almost certainly lead to plumbing problems and other electric appliances malfunctioning. It's a conspiracy well known to my faithful readers. I described my own experiences in postings of several months ago, and my readers have weighed in with their own. Suffice to say that once it starts, the plumbing and wiring and appliances will work together against you to make your life Hell.

You'll see! Sorry.


Now, wasn’t that the right thing to do? Not that there’s anything she can do about it. But at least she’ll know it’s coming! (I wonder if anyone has tried exorcism...?)

For any of you who may still possess lingering doubts on this issue, let me show you kenju’s response to my comment. She replies:

John, it has already started. First the water holding tank (we're on a well) burst and then 3 days later, a pipe burst under the house and flooded the crawl space for the second time in a week. The next day the fridge started peeing all over the kitchen floor and one of our toilets doesn't want to flush properly. The last time we had a driving rainstorm, the ceiling leaked in our master bathroom (around the sky-light), and I had to go on Lasix for my own ‘water problems.’

The oddest thing is: last week I read an on-line astrology site I check every month and it said that the planet Neptune (the water planet) is in my "house of home" for the next two years - so I should expect water problems in my house. Now they tell me!

Well, there you are!

Poor girl—in her state of stress she has fallen back on believing that the stars might have had something to do with all of this. How naïve to believe astrologers!

I mean, I knew it was going to happen to her without consulting the astrological charts. That was an easy, obvious prediction to make, once you understand the conspiracy and how pervasive it is.

I’m sure that I will now be besieged by another round of these leaks and failures, all because I’m trying to be diligent and warn the world.

Ah, the price we pay when we try to inform an unsuspecting public.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

An explanation, and an apology.

As you regular readers (bless you all!) know, I like to carry on conversations with you in my posts. Sometimes those conversations extend into the comments, but quite a few of you also send me emails to continue the conversations “off line.”

More than a few emails (more than the couple who commented comment on Tuesday’s post about the pun regarding the “Dukes of Hazzard”) said they didn’t get it and asked about it.

That puts me in a slight dilemma. A famous comedian (I think it was Bob Hope) once said, “Never explain your jokes. If they don’t get it and you explain it they won’t think it’s funny. If they DO get it and you explain it, it’s not as funny because you’ll seem patronizing.” (My paraphrase. You get the idea.)

On the other hand, some who emailed me asked for the explanation, saying (like Michelle in South Africa) that they’d never watched the show.

OK, here it is. (If you “got”it, don’t read this. You’ve already decided if it was funny or just painful.)

A main character in the TV show was the sheriff. He was the comic foil to Beau and Luke Duke, the “Dukes” of Hazzard County. When their car (the “General Lee”) would roar up a ramp and sail over a creek, the sheriff’s car, lights flashing and siren wailing, would always fall short of the far bank or otherwise end up wrecked.

The Sheriff’s name, always spoken by him with great pride, was “Roscoe P. Coltrane.” Hence the reference to a “Roscoe P.” on the tracks beside the road.

Hey, I SAID I was sorry at the end of the post! I told you my daughter groaned all the way to the next state (and it Texas, that’s a L-O-N-G way.)

You asked! (Well, some of you did.)

Next topic. Moving right along.

My daughter Joy called today from Florida. She and the doctor she works with now have a regular routine in which the doc will empathize with a patient for the long wait, comment that, “Well, we’re ready to spend some time with you now,” then turn to look Joy in the eye and add, “Finally.” They just smile at each other. It’s an “in joke” at that practice. When they refer to “the F word” they’re talking about the word “finally.” (Don’t worry, they don’t talk about “the F word” in front of patients, who might just not understand!)

Good news as well from my other daughter Amy and her husband Tom who moved in June to Chicago. She works from her home, so can live anywhere in the country, but Tom just started a new job in July in an office building downtown. He has completed his first placement (sale—he works on commission) well ahead of the schedule they had set forth as “normal” and has more deals pending. I think he will do very, very well.

So, no angst in this post other than that caused by the explanation at the top. I promise I won’t do anything like that again any time soon!

Of course, that promise is meaningless, since sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sing! It’s quality time.

My post of yesterday about the truly horrible pun (and if you haven’t read it, don’t scroll down and read it now—you’ll just get sick) started me thinking about the family vacations we took when my daughters were children and teenagers.

Those were special times, because we would always drive (as opposed to flying, hiking, etc.) This enforced time together usually included at least one overnight stay in a motel, and LOTS of time in the van.

Oh yes, our first “SUV” was a 1983 Dodge full-size van. Ideal for those family trips, the van had two bucket seats in front, not one but TWO bench seats, and then, all the way in the back, was still enough cargo room to carry everything four people could want during a week or two away from home.

We even kidded about throwing a kitchen sink back there along with everything else, just to say we’d brought it. But we never did.

Another nice feature of the van was the bench seats could be removed without tools, OR they could be turned to face the rear, or to face each other! That last arrangement became our favorite over the years. The girls could lie down and sleep, each with her own “bed.” Or they could sit side-by-side and look at a book or other object together. OR, they could sit facing each other with a lightweight piece of plywood on their knees between them and play board games. It was ideal.

But what I really remember is the times I would sing to them.

Now, I’m no Caruso. I can carry a tune, most of the time, but some of the notes may be a little (or a lot) sharp or flat—especially when sung a cappella.

No, it was the songs rather than the quality of the singing.

I’d sing them old (top 40 — remember those?) songs, like “The Witch Doctor,” and “Does Your Chewing-Gum Lose its Flavor (on the Bedpost Overnight)?” The girls had never heard them before and were delighted. Oh, another really old one was “Tan Shoes with Pink Shoe Laces.”

(Can you see me driving down the road singing, “Ooo, eee, ooo ah ah, ting, tang, walla-walla bing-bang...)?

As they grew older I switched to ballads—songs that told a story. One favorite was Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe.” Another was “Texas Rangers” (performed by several old western singers, and by Ian & Sylvia). Marty Robbins’ version of “El Paso” kept the girls spellbound, and they delighted in “Pride of Petrovar,” a wonderful, fast-moving Irish tale of Eileen Orr, the Pride of Petrovar, who fell for McGraw, the old horse-trader, because he ignored her!

We’ve had several discussions debating just what it was that Billy Joe and his girl threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge. And they’ve never forgotten those songs.

“So what,” you ask? I dunno. Those were just some special times of connecting with my kids. It’s something like what I can see Hamel doing with his boys.

Times like that with your kids will be treasured later. I call that “quality time.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Just Good ol’ Boys, Never Meanin’ no Harm.

Both my daughters were pre-teens and teenagers when the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard” ran once a week. They grew up on Beau, Luke, and Daisy Duke, Uncle Jesse, Cooter, Boss Hogg, and the rest.

With the recent release and popularity of the movie version of “The Dukes of Hazzard” came the recollection of a time when my younger daughter Amy was nearly overcome by a pun.

It was just a couple of years ago. We were on our way from South Texas to Winter Park Colorado for our annual family ski trip and Amy, though an adult, was riding in the car with Mom and Dad.

Not far from Amarillo, driving beside a railroad track, we saw approaching from the other direction a train with four locomotives on the front and a pusher at the back. The cars were all open top hoppers filled to a point above the sides with coal.

As the train roared past I turned to Carol and said with a bit of a drawl, “Well, that looks like a Roscoe.”

Carol glanced up and nodded, “Yep. A Roscoe P.”

That’s all we said. The groans from the back seat didn’t stop until about the time we crossed into New Mexico.

(If you don’t get it, you’re not a “Dukes of Hazzard” fan.)

(If you DO get it, I apologize.)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Promised Pictures!

Yes, they're ready.

So, by popular DEMAND, here are pics of fawns on the golf course, the goose from hell, and the turtle who caused an electric golf-club caddy to go swimming.

Followed by pictures of our back yard former swimming pool landscaping project including the famous arbor that Carol built (with lots of support and encouragement from me, off on the side). Well, hey, I had to do something.

Sorry, but you're going to have to click HERE to see them. It's easier for me to use an FTP program to send them to some free webspace I have than to post them on blogger.

If you missed (or don't remember) the posts wherin I described all these visuals, you'll just have to go through my archives and read everything to find out their significance.

(A few of the posts were worth it, but not all).


And please don't leave a comment if all you're trying to do is sell my readers something. If they're like me, they're not interested.

(As if the spammers actually read the post! Stupid blog spam!)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I've had it with Hotmail!

I had set up a hotmail account just to use for this blog.

Well, that plus I wanted to have an internet email account (web mail) to use when I'm traveling. With Hotmail, the price was right (free is hard to beat), and I have some friends who have used it for years and seem to like it.

At first it seemed fine, except it took me a while to get used to moving around in it, saving email addresses in "contacts" and "favorites," that sort of thing.

Then a few weeks ago I couldn't even access Hotmail. It seemed to recognizen my ID and password, but Internet Explorer kept showing me a "Could not connect to server" error message.

That went on for 4 days. I was able to send in a "customer support" email message about my problem. The next day it cleared up "all by itself."

Recently I've been sending emails, and then 2 days later receiving an auto message telling me that my email has been delayed. No reason given, but the message reassures me that I do NOT need to send the email again.

Then on the following day, I get another auto message telling me that the email could not be delivered.

That happened again today, and it was the last straw. I heard a loud "SNAP" and the camel's back broke.

I have now set up a gmail account, and my blog profile shows that as the best way to contact me. If you don't want to go to the profile page to see it, it is:

If any of you readers have saved my hotmail address in your address book or "contacts" file, please change it to the gmail address above.

And thanks, Viki, for helping me with the gmail invitation.

With Hotmail, I guess I got what I paid for. Maybe gmail will be different.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


In a comment to my post of yesterday, “Rather – Katie B.” of I’d Rather Be Sailing wrote some things that started me thinking.

(Aside: Carol says I don’t think nearly enough, and when I DO think it’s of the wrong stuff. So thanks, Katie, for getting my process started!)

Well, you can read her whole comment, but it was pretty well summarized in the last sentence: “Waiting in medical offices is pure torture, so if a clerk, technician, nurse or doctor showed a bit of humanness, or humor, I may feel a bit relieved - or at least distracted.”

Carol once took her mother to a doctor who didn’t want to listen to their thoughts about what the problem might be. He stated, “Who’s the doctor here, you or me?” The implication was, “I’m the trained professional and YOU are just lay people, so I will make the diagnosis!”

Carol’s response was, “Yes, but it’s HER body, not yours, and she knows more about how it normally feels and works than you do. She also knows more about how it reacts to certain medications than you do. If you were smart, you’d at least listen. If you don’t agree, we need to see a different doctor.”

(To his credit, he DID apologize, acknowledge her points, and listen.)

Katie’s comments about the need for ALL of the staff at a doctor’s office to show some empathy for their patients are spot on!

Allow me to make a comparison from my profession. As a Human Resources manager, I deal daily with employee concerns and complaints. Often those complaints seem petty to me. Sometimes I think they are groundless!

But these employees are my “customers.” If THEY didn’t think their complaint was serious or significant, they wouldn’t be bringing it to me. To them, it’s a real distraction from working safely and doing their job correctly.

So a big part of my job, as I see it, is to express empathy for their concerns. Even if I don’t agree with them.

Some of my biggest challenges come when a very serious and concerned employee feels he was unfairly cheated out of a few cents on, say, a health insurance claim. I may be thinking, “Gimme a break. Here’s a quarter. Now you’re ahead. Don’t waste my time with petty stuff.”

(Or, to quote an old song as I often do, “Here’s a quarter. Call someone who cares.”)

But I can’t do that. To that employee, it’s a PRINCIPLE. And in principle, he's right—he WAS shorted those few cents according to our insurance contract. So I make the necessary calls and get him his few cents credit. He feels better, and he’ll tell his buddies that the insurance company tried to screw him, but HR got it straightened out.

I’ve had employees tell me, “I know this isn’t much money, but if they’re doing it to me, they’re probably doing it to everybody!”

OK, you get the idea.

Empathy is important. Empathy says, “I care about your feelings. I understand something of your feelings. We’re all in this together.”

Empathy in a doctors’ or dentists’ office is a VERY good thing, and something nobody should be disciplined or fired for.

Joy, Carol and I are proud of you!

Friday, August 12, 2005

A milestone

Remember all my posts back in May and June about my daughter’s unemployment hearing?

You don’t? Well, go back and re-read them. Yes, right now! (We’ll wait here for you.)



Oh! Back already? Good, I was just dozing off.

Anyway, now you remember that she was fired for telling a patient (after a long wait), “OK, the doctor is finally ready to see you now.”

She has subsequently moved to another state and has found a job with another ophthalmology practice as a technician. One of the doctors at this new practice happens to be the very same doctor who had left her former employer just weeks before she was fired. He always had a very high regard for Joy (as she did for him), so both are delighted to be working together again.

She was hired at a higher wage that she had been making in Texas, and has fit in at her new workplace very well. She loves her job, and the people there seem to like her as well.

Today was her first payday. That’s the milestone.

She has told her doctor friend about her firing and what the reason was. He was in total disbelief.

She told me that earlier this week he remarked to a patient who had been waiting for a while, “We’re finally ready to get you started.”

Joy followed him out of the room and stopped him with a warning, “You better be careful saying that in front of a patient. It might get you fired.”

He stared at her for a couple of seconds, and then just roared with laughter. So now the whole affair has become a joke between them. They each use the word “FINALLY” as often as they can in front of each other, and laugh.

What a great work environment! So many physicians seem to think they are above the rest of us, superior in their healing powers and knowledge. Kind of like the wizards of mythology, or the Medicine Men in tribal societies. It’s refreshing to find docs who speak to other people as equals, and are willing to joke and laugh with the “non-professional” staff in their offices.

I haven’t met this guy, but I already like him!

So this week was a real milestone for Joy. Carol and I are celebrating with her.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A new beginning

Well, I was able to re-write the opening to CHERISH IS THE WORD. I’ve sent it off to my Critique Partners for their take on it.

Now instead of a short, confusing prologue and then diving right into the story, I have a weeping man in a room with his concerned daughter, both all dressed up for a “service” that’s to occur in a couple of hours; other family members present and more still to arrive; a reference to an old song written in a note (that brought on his tears); and his offer to his daughter to explain it all. She plops down beside him on the couch and he begins to tell her about a dance and the most beautiful creature who walked in. Then he says, “No, I’ve got to start farther back. All right, this is how it happened...”

That leads to chapter one, set in 1966.

Now, doesn’t that make you want to find out why he’s crying, what the service is all about with all the family members coming in, what the song is all about, who the beautiful creature is, what happened at the dance, and more?

Of course it does. You’re hooked!

(I hope.)

This will necessitate some additional changes in the middle of the tale (I plan to bring the reader back to the present day again with the man and his daughter, and have her demand more information when he seems ready to leave things unfinished), and at the end. The “service” will seem to the reader to most likely be the heroine’s funeral, but will turn out to be a renewal of their wedding vows after 35 years of marriage.

I’m hoping to have the characters crying, the reader crying, and everybody happy.

As I re-read that, it almost sounds sappy. But I think I can pull it off. It really won’t require all THAT much re-writing, as the vast majority of the story will stay the same. And, I think it will make the book a lot better, which is my main goal.

Then I’ll follow Karyn’s advice to leave that book alone and work on my next one. If I am unsuccessful with the first one, maybe the second one will find a niche and the first can become a “prequel” as a second book to sell.

(There, Karyn. I referred to you even though you didn’t say you thought I’d get published. Nyah, Nyah, Nyah.)

(I’m feeling very mature tonight, as you can tell.)

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Sorry about the apparent low quality of yesterday’s post (according to a certain someone). I’ll try to maintain higher standards in the future.

Tomorrow is Friday, after all, so we can all look forward Karyn’s Freaky Friday post. It will undoubtedly display the kind of higher standards that my readers expect from me, as well as from her.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


This will be a short post. Or not.

I guess you never know when you write the first sentence how far you’ll get before you’re ready to quit. Well, maybe YOU do, but I don’t.

Like my two daughters. Amy usually has a five-year plan of goals, etc. Joy has a five-minute plan—maybe. (Joy takes after her dad.)

Anyway, I spent some of my prime blogging time working on the opening of my book. I’ve never been really happy with the opening. There’s kind of a hook, but not much of one.

I’ve read that if an agent or an editor isn’t hooked solidly in the first ten pages, the rest of the manuscript never gets a look. The idea is to grab the reader’s attention, or set up a quick cliff-hanger that will entice them to keep flipping pages to find out what happens.

People who’ve read mine (first ten pages) report that they want to keep going and are interested, but the interest level is mild compared to really good openings.

My new Critique Partners picked up on that right away, and offered a great suggestion for how to fix it. The irony is, their suggestion results in an opening similar to one I had in an earlier version, but scrapped when my agent thought it distracted from the main story.

But with this new suggestion, I can tie in the opening with a new “scene” at the end and make a much neater package.

I know, none of that makes any sense, and you don’t care. But it’s MY blog, and I’m excited about making progress.

So, unlike Hamel’s blog, which is always well written and thought-provoking, my blog is merely provoking.

Told you this would be short.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Time Keeps on Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’, Into the Future.

As Gene Wilder said in the older version of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “So much time. So little to do.”

Or… was it the other way around?

Whatever. My point is that now I’m all hot to start incorporating some of the suggestions of my new CPs (that’s “Critique Partners,” in case you weren’t sure—I wasn’t!) in my not-yet-sold-or-published novel. So why don’t I just get busy and write?

First there's this darn “day job” that pays all my bills. Well… it pays some quicker than others. But eventually they all get paid.

(OMG! I just remembered—my boss reads this blog!!)

Greg, uh, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. I love my job! I need it. Honest!

Anyway, I have a lot of demands on my time. Many of them are related to my main job, and thus very important. (See, Greg? Really!)

Of course, then there’s golf. I’m sure you all realize that the only reason I play golf so often is because Carol enjoys it so much. I’m just doing my duty, being a good husband and escorting my wife during her preferred recreation activity so we can spend that quality time together.

So you see, it’s a chore I just HAVE to find time for every weekend. I owe Carol at least that much.

Oh! Let’s not forget blogging. And reading the other blogs on my blogroll. And, of course, browsing at least a few NEW blogs each day just to keep in touch with what’s out there.

And since I get up at 4:45 each morning I am thus completely worthless by 10 at night. (Some would say that state begins a lot earlier that 10 p.m. In fact some say it's constant.) Anyway, late-night writing sessions are out.

What to do? What to do?


I’ll ponder this dilemma for a while. But if you notice that sometimes I miss a day putting something new on “Romantic Ramblings,” just assume that I’m being diligent getting my manuscript revised again. Or readying a new query letter to tempt an agent, if Lantz opts out of representing me. Or otherwise pursuing my dream of being a published author.

Time. Where does it go?

"I want to fly like an eagle, to the sea..."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Some days I feel like an old man...

Schnoodlepooh left a comment on yesterday’s post that ended with:

“And why, why, why, don't you PLEASE get a digital camera? Join the new millennium. Get with the program.

(Btw, her real name is Peg, which is much easier for me to say than “Schnoodlepooh,” especially when I’m chewing on some food. I tend to spray particles of pizza—ooo, more alliteration!—all over my monitor and keyboard. Anyway, check out her blog. She has taken some absolutely gorgeous pictures—yes, DIGITAL—of... Well, mainly of her dogs. But they’re still nice pictures!)

(Oh, then check out the blog her dogs are writing. Yes, you read that correctly. Her dogs have their own blog. And some days it’s better than some of the people blogs I read. It’s called Paw Prints. If you don’t like dogs, don’t bother.)

(And while you’re checking out good digital photos, scroll through the last month of posts at A Little Bit of Me and look at the shots Robin has taken of flowers and other scenery!)

After Schnoodlepooh, of course Karyn had to weigh in! These women! They always stick together.

Where was I? OH, yes, digital cameras.

My first thought when I read her comment was, “What’s wrong with my film camera?”

My next thought was, “Nothing! So THERE! Besides, I paid a lot for this camera and its lenses. I have an investment here. Why should I toss that away?”

Then a little logic kicked in. I thought, “Yeah, but with digital you get instant gratification. You can see what you shot, and delete it if you don’t like it. You don’t have to wait (whether an hour or several days), you don’t have to pay for developing, and then get credit for the prints you don’t want. You don’t have to scan the prints or negatives to digitize them, and THEN use your cool photo editing software to lighten/darken/adjust them.”

But being basically conservative (read: a tightwad) I hate to spend the money for a nice DSLR camera, several lenses, with at least 6 megapixel resolution that I know I would want if I went digital.

Amy, my younger daughter (who I used to refer to in this blog as Elizabeth, her middle name) spent about $2,000 for a very nice digital Nikon. Then it was stolen when she and companions turned their backs for an instant at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. But that’s another story.

I know I could spend a fraction of that amount for an adequate camera with maybe 3x optical and 8x digital zoom. But I’d always wish I’d spent a little (hah!) more and bought a really nice one.

Thus mired in my internal debate between conservatism and lust for features, I opt to do nothing and keep using the 4-year-old “antique” camera we bought for our Africa trip of 2001. Along with the film scanner I bought to digitize those pictures.

Hey, at the time I bought that gear, the scanning of film negatives achieved higher digital resolution than all but the most expensive digital cameras were capable of. See, I used to be ahead of the digital curve! But times do change.

So, what’s the bottom line? Like an old man stuck in the past, comfortable with the old and unwilling to adapt to the new, I’ll wait to move into the digital photography age.

At least my wife’s new cell phone has a digital camera built in. Too bad there’s no zoom at all and its resolution only produces pictures that look like thumbnails.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Friday night at Jane’s

Well, I had my “date” with Jane last night. Carol came along and chatted with Jane while I re-booted Jane’s new computer about 100 times as I installed software and updates and drivers and virus definitions and... OK, you get the idea.

First we figured out where the components would best be arranged on the built-in shelves Jane was using as a desk. The length of various wires dictated the final setup.

After connecting all the components I turned on the computer. Mistake! I should have turned it on first, gone through the “new machine setup and registration” screens before connecting peripherals. Why? Because Windows kept popping up “Found New Hardware!” message boxes, and trying to load drivers for them before I was ready.

OK, I hear you, you don’t want to read through a blow-by-blow (easy, Karyn, EASY!) description of the computer setup.

I’ll just say that we spent from about 4 p.m. until 9:30 (with only about a 20-minute break to eat some carry-out) getting Jane connected to the internet and installing everything so her system operates like it should. There’ll still be some tweaking to do and helping her get the “look and feel” of everything the way she wants it, but she’s up and running. And happy!

I had another missive from Susan, my new manuscript critique person, telling me she was under the weather but expected to be better in a few days. She hopes to go through the rest of my book soon and offer whatever help she can. I’m still just giddy about that opportunity. It’s probably silly of me, but I can’t help it.

Finally, Carol and I played golf this afternoon (it was HOT!!) and saw one of Bambi’s younger cousins hiding in the shadows of some trees and undergrowth beside one of the fairways. (No, I was NOT looking for my ball in there! We were just going by on our way to the next tee! So there.)

(Well, OK, if you MUST know, I DID hit my ball in the trees on that hole, but not near the fawn. And that was later in the round. No, I do NOT want to talk about our comparative scores, thank you.)

We didn’t have the camera AGAIN! But that was a reminder to hurry up and get that roll of film developed so I can post some of the earlier pictures I wrote about. So you’ll believe me. And so you’ll know that not everything in this blog is fiction.

We’re supposed to play golf again tomorrow with Jane. We’ll take the camera along and just take some pictures of her if we don’t see any wildlife. Weather permitting.

I’ll let you know.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Thank you, Google!

My literary agent was right.

He stressed the importance of having a web site for an internet “presence” (someplace for publishers to go and learn more about a prospective author). He also urged me to maintain a blog as an outlet for all that writing energy and attempts at verbal creativity.

However, if it weren’t for Google, nobody would have made the connection between me and Lantz Powell.

Well, OK, a diligent search using Yahoo or MSN’s new search engine, or maybe one of the dozens of others might have turned up the link, but Google gets the blame credit this time.

What am I talking about?

Well, someone was looking for information about my agent and Googled his name. One result was a link to my blog, since I mention him (Lantz Powell) in the title bar.

That “someone,” who I will call Susan, emailed me to ask about my association with, and impressions of, Mr. Powell. That in turn led to a series of emails about her writing, her former agent, my writing… One thing led to another, and I sent Susan a copy of my synopsis and the first three chapters of my novel.

Susan chose to share that file with her close friend and “critique partner” who I’ll call Joan. Two days later (Wednesday) I got two emails, messages from Susan and Joan.

First, they were both very complimentary and claimed to be impressed with what they’d read. (*blush* Well, if THAT doesn’t turn on an author, nothing will!) Susan asked some additional questions and offered some tips, advice, and perhaps some contacts. Woo — Hoo!

But Joan’s email was amazing!

Joan wrote probably four long pages of thoughts, comments and suggestions about the book. She pointed out a weakness in the synopsis. She nailed a problem I’ve had with the opening and offered me a great idea for a fix! She provided several suggestions for how the story could flow, several of which are better than the way I have it now. And she had only read the synopsis and the first 17 pages!

I just can’t begin to give you a sense of the value (to me) of these emails. And I can’t begin to explain what a morale boost they gave me!

Both ladies expressed willingness to continue a correspondence if I wanted.

(Uh, let me think about this… Do I want to continue to get morale-boosting, valuable help; along with comments like “This book will sell!” Hmmm. Let me decide…)

So, what did I do?

I sent them a four-page email further discussing some of their suggestions, thanking them (maybe too) profusely, and attached a file which was the entire manuscript of the book.

I had completely re-written the book so many times over an 18-month period, mainly based on my agent’s input and suggestions, that I was close to burn-out on more changes. But that was 7 months ago. Now I’m so excited about the suggestions Susan and Joan have made that I’m drooling to go through it again from start to finish and fix parts that I didn’t think needed fixing.

This book project has been a real roller coaster ride. At present I’m back on the up-slope, climbing to no telling WHAT kind of high point. Those of you with whom I shared recent emails from my agent will understand.

Sure feels good!

I think I’ll buy some stock in Google.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Jane meets The Geek

Victoria, Texas’ one and only mall now boasts a brand new Best Buy store.

Have you been to a Best Buy lately? Know about the “Geek Squad?” These are employees who both sell computers and electronic equipment, including answering customers’ dumb questions in language they (the customers) don’t understand, and repair/set up/adjust this equipment for customers either at the store or in their homes.

Yesterday evening our friend who I'll call Jane asked me to go with her to the new Best Buy and help her pick out a computer. She’d had an old machine (first-generation Pentium with little RAM and maybe a 2-gig hard drive) that bit the dust some months ago. She’d been saving up and was ready to take the plunge and buy.

She had shopped at Sam’s club and the Office Max and Office Depot stores in town, and had narrowed her choices down to three models. On the strength of the spec sheets, I told her that one of the three was not in the same league as the other two. She dropped it out of the race. The info she had on the Best Buy model was incomplete, so we went in together to take a look.

We were greeted by a young man who announced with pride that he was a geek, a member of the Geek Squad! I had trouble keeping a straight face.

This guy had thick black hair down to his hips! WAIT! I know—long hair is okay. But when he lisped describing the capabilities of a particular model as creating “a gamer’s paradise” I had to turn my head!

To his eternal credit, he DOES know his computers. He told me MUCH more than I understood about why this particular processor didn’t need a high powered video card to produce true colors, and yada, yada.

Well, Jane decided that was the model for her (all she needs is something to run an internet browser, email, Word and Excel, for Pete’s sake!) so we hauled all the boxes to her car.

Yes, I have a date Friday evening to set it all up for her, load some productivity software, get her connected to the internet, and so on. I told her it will probably take more than one evening to get it all done, but we’ll see.

If she ever needs help with any of it later and I’m not around, she can always call the Geek Squad!

(Btw, the last 20 inches or so of his hair was braided. It really wasn’t a bad look!)