Sunday, November 27, 2011

More farm life drama

My  husband has been having a hard time with all the log home renovations I've got going on:

So here I sit while some burly men are downstairs with a sledgehammer, attacking our guest room with a vengeance. Why?  In August the little woman and I decided we needed to be able to sit listlessly in the “cooler” months and view our vast land.  With images of hot beverages in our hands while relaxing in old-people style recliners we ordered two special windows for our homestead.  One would be off the kitchen area in the den.  The other in the guest room on the lower level (more on that later).

The den was/is planned to be our escape room.  In there, we will have matching lazy-boy recliners, no TV, no phone, just a reading light and two recliners (did I mention that already?).  We, the Mrs. and I, had a dream of sitting in these recliners (from now on I shall call these seats weight-bearing cushions of happiness WBCofH), our guard dogs on the carpet by our sides (the Mrs. interjects here "ha ha ha ha, guard dogs!  They weigh ten pounds put together!").  I would say they would be at our feet, but in these WBCofHs, our feet will not touch the floor.  With my eternal spouse by my side, but not like right next to me, I mean this is MY WBCofH – she has her own – right?  We will sit with our hot beverages, all the while gazing over the land that has soaked up so much of blood and almost all of our will to live during the summer and fall.  In front of our view will be the guest house (actually a currently un-used goat shed) and the orchard.  The orchard, well – one live, fruit-bearing tree; six dying, non-bearing fruit trees; three wild pear trees (we've been told, because there are not pears to be seen); and a census-confirmed three dozen woodchucks -- all sitting within our view.  Only one problem.  While completely ensconced in our own respective WBCofHs, we would have been staring at the lower trim of the existing window.   Needed to think of a solution.

So on a warm august Sunday I was working on the fence out back.  While regaining consciousness and waiting for the feeling to return to the lower portion of my body, I had some time to think.  And think I did, on the inside.  On the outside I was crying like newborn baby.  But still, that pesky thinking persisted.  How to solve the dreaded “we can’t see anything because the stupid window is small and high."  (Editor’s note: At our place, anything that does not agree or support our dream of a perfect home is classified as stupid.  To date, our homestead has the IQ of a microwaved avocado.)  Then, as I finally became able to wiggle my toes, it hit me – the internet!  It can solve anything.   

So, a little research and we find the perfect solution -- a bay window -- one as large as the huge viewports from futuristic starships.  A monster window.  We were ecstatic.  We looked at the check book.  We were depressed.  So maybe gigantic was not in the cards.  We toned down the concept.  But the dream persisted.

Around the same time we realized that we had originally purchased (ok, borrowed from Wells Fargo for the foreseeable future) a four bedroom house.  After making some changes, knocking out a wall here and there to bring back the original open splendor of this log home, putting up some doors that never shut properly after our recent earthquake, requiring more home improvements, endless home improvements, ceaseless soul-sapping home improvements -- we went from four bedrooms, down to one.  Yeah, hard to imagine, but there it is.  From four teeny tiny bedrooms to one qualifying bedroom.  Although clever on my part, should we ever want to refinance the house to, say, pay for limb reattachment surgery for me, or something similar, we would not be as successful.  Apparently Pennsylvania has this ridiculous law that for a room to “qualify” as a bedroom, it must have both a closet (and not just a designer sheet thrown over a coat rack, but a real wooden thing nailed to the floor) and, get this, a “method of egress” in an emergency.  I mean, in the event of an emergency, I would take the responsibility of getting out of the house first so I could direct the rescue efforts for those inside.  The “you stay here, I’ll go get help” method of safety and rescue perfected by the French over decades of practice would work for me.   But in the end, our new guest room in the basement lacked this essential "method of egress" and couldn't count as a bedroom. So we had to get a second window.

To complete the dream we interviewed a number of shady window sales people/companies.  For those who don’t have any experience in this realm, these bottom feeding, chromosome missing people are the new aluminum siding sales people of the new millennium.  Nevertheless (don’t you just love that word?  It’s like the shortened version of “I know I’m screwed, but I’ll give it a shot anyway…), we selected a company that was just a tad higher on the evolutionary scale than the others – just above a self-replicating virus.  So with pictures of sitting in a cozy room, the hell hounds sitting on our laps, we signed on the bottom line.  Our first clue that this may not be so easy was when, after my one and only love finished signing her name, the sales rep looked at us with a toothy grin and thunder clapped in the distance.  So with a promise of installation in about 8 weeks, a puff of smoke and flash of lightening, the sales rep disappeared while clutching the signed contract.  But I’m no dummy, I got his business card first.  The following is a transcript of the interaction I have had with the installation company (henceforth called Dante’s Windows, Inc.).

Week 1 – post signing – Me: “Are they in yet?” – Them: “Nope”
Week 2 – post signing – Me: “Are they in yet?” – Them: “Nope”
Week 3 – post signing – Me: “Are they in yet?” – Them: “Nope”
Week 4 – post signing – Me: “Are they in yet?” – Them: “Nope”
Week 5 – post signing – Me: “Are they in yet?” – Them: “Nope”
Week 6 – post signing – Me: “Are they in yet?” – Them: “We’ll call you back”
-          Crickets –
Week 7 - post signing – Me: “You didn’t call me back, are they in yet?” – Them: “We’ll call you back”
-          Tumbleweeds –
Week 8 - post signing – Me: “You didn’t call me back, are they in yet?” – Them: “Nope”
Week 9 – post signing – Wednesday 5:30 AM.  Them: “We’re heeeerrrreeee!” No notice, no phone calls.  Me: – “I’ll reschedule my day.”
Wife abandons me to head toward work, sees window-to-be-installed sitting in garage, notes it looks a bit smaller than she'd expected.  She returns, measures space, measures window.  Not even close to what we'd ordered.

Week 9 – post signing – Wednesday 7:30 AM. Them “Uh-oh!” Me – “Whimper”

And so it continues…

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Print books going the way of the dinosaurs

I'm starting to accept the idea that print books will become a thing of the past the way parchments or illuminated tombs are now relics.  My son is currently in an MFA program for Creative Writing and he despairs that this might be true.  He loves books - the feel, the smell, the act of turning a brittle page.  But he, too, is beginning to realize that there is a dwindling willingness to pay for such items (not to mention wait for delivery or trudge to a physical store) when they can appear on one's e-reader with no wait and at a greatly reduced cost.  I have not read a printed book in years!  And even my son has gotten a Kindle and carries his library of thousands of literary works with him wherever he goes.  He joked, though that some habits are ingrained and he sometimes reaches toward the upper right corner of his Kindle, prepared to quickly "turn the page" of a particulary engaging chapter.  He is retraining himself to leave his thumb on the "next page" button.  On an iPad, the act of "page turning" is a little more like a book, so that's a comfort.  Regardless, I plan to be on the front end of what I believe will be the growing trend toward electronic books.  Admittedly, it's easier for me to get past the desire for a printed copy fo my novel to hold because I've already been in print - as my yet-to-be-published son points out to me frequently. But in the long run, I believe we will learn to rejoice in our publications even when no paper version exists.

Monday, November 7, 2011

This was our first Growing Season on the land

Another installment from my husband:

“With great land comes a boat load of work”  Confucius

Ahhhh, the sun is shining. The birds are singing, the grass is growing, the trees and flowers are blooming.  I now hate this soul sapping, muscle sucking, bloody place.  We first we saw this new land it was like Christopher Columbus finding the new world.  Back then, it was fall, the sky was perfect, a light crispness was in the air and the homestead was beautiful.  There were charming little critters playfully scampering all around.  We were sold.  Who could pass up this Shangri-La?  It was our dream come true.  Sure the winter was a little snowy, but I like to shovel the snow and next year promised a new snow blower under the Christmas tree.  And now, with all of my new experiences, I could probably start the thing and even use it.
But now winter is gone. That beautiful snowy back yard has turned into a lawn the size of many mid-sized foreign countries.  That quaint little stream cutting through the back yard has become an evil twin to the overflowing Mississippi river, but without the help from the Army Corps of Engineers.  Those cute little plants we so admired were mob fronts for weeds, every type of weed known in the universe. The kind that brand the skin and tech maddeningly. The type of weeds that when you go on to the internet and ask about weed removal the responses are all filled with fear, despair and wistful thoughts of napalm.  The kinds of weeds where people answer your question with, “I don’t know, but when you do find out, let me know” kinds of questions.

So now we have a few chores that need to be done – on 6 ACRES!  But we have chosen our lot in life and continue forth knowing that we will never have a day for the rest of our lives where there isn't "something” that needs to be done.  On the bright side, we now have an inventory of tools, motorized equipment, electric gizmos, pneumatic thingys, and gardening machines that is worth more than my car. When my time comes, I damn well better be the winner in the “He who has the most tools (etc.) when he dies – wins” category. Case in point, we own an auger. Do you even know what that is?
But all of this is a set up for the theme of this section of our continuing saga.  Remember the cute little critters that were scampering around?  I have confirmed and been approved by the House and Senate to declare war.  Not just any war, we are talking the all out, land scorching, high explosive, take no prisoners type of war that will be read about in future history books, the next version of Sun Tzu’s Art of War (Kindle Version – iPad version coming soon), and to be taught at the Army War College in Carlisle Pennsylvania. 

It started last fall when I came across a recently deceased cute little chipmunk in our garden.  The same garden that is now the showcase for multiple varieties of genetically enhanced fast growing/spreading weeds.  I felt so bad for this little guy.  I scooped him up and carried his poor little dead body to the back of our property (about seven miles through mowable lawn that grows 3 inches if you look at it sideways) for a ceremony and burial.

Thereafter, my estimation is that the little dead guy had quite the family, no wait, quite the extended family, no wait – did this bastard ever stop reproducing?  I mean I’m now sure I know what killed him – exhaustion (and all those damn kids no doubt).  Maybe some of his extended-extended family came in from out of town to pay their respects to this little blight. And they liked our place so much, they relocated to our porch.  If I could collect rent money, we would all never have to work again – ever.  They cretainly work, so they must have the money for rent. They are miners, they are wire snippers, and they work 24 hours a day.  We have holes everywhere.  The tree stump near the road must be their holiday retreat – and business is booming.  When I come home there are usually two or three actually sitting on top of the stump WAVING at me while I pull in the driveway.  Sure they are cute, but everyone knows that too much of a good thing is very bad. Reports are that some of the damage they can do would be on par with termite damage.

So I do what every homeowner does, I go onto the web and look for a solution.  After all – the web knows all.  So I start Google up and type in Chipmunk – that’s it.  There is a Wikipedia page detailing the historical and biological data about our furry friends.  The other 14,756,002 entries (found in .06 seconds according to Google) were about eliminating these little scamps.  So maybe I’m not alone here.  So out of all those 14,756,002 pages (found in .06 seconds), almost ALL of them were people saying, “I don’t know how to get rid of them, but if you find out…”. 

So there are some suggestions that may or may not work.  I start to get my arsenal together.  I’ll wait until the time is right to strike.  But then the dog barked, furiously snarling toward the door. For a microscopic dog, our chihuahua has an impressive bark. I opened the door for her.  The 4 pounds of unleashed terror bounds out ... and freezes two feet from the threshold.  She then looks at me with those, “well, aren’t you coming?  I’m not doing this alone” eyes and I decide to follow her out.  Once we are both on the porch, she darts to the walkway between the porch and garage and stops, ready to strike without restraint. No warning, just 4 pounds of furry death.  All the target will see it teeth... and ears.  I would not want to be on the receiving end of that.  She might break my skin, or give me a nasty scratch. 

She scans the perimeter.  While her keen dog senses are attempting to zero in on the trouble, right behind her a chipmunk hops up on the walk way.  RIGHT BEHIND HER.  Not down the road, not peering through a floor board, RIGHT BEHIND HER.  The little overfed chipmunk terrorist is eyeballing at the tail of my guard dog.  What’s my guard dog doing?  She is menacingly staring down a weed.  If looks could kill, that weed would be dead, but weeds never die, do they?  Meanwhile, I see that tiny chipmunk gang leader shrug it’s tiny little shoulders and go back to its den of evil under my porch.  The dog has completely won the stare down with the plant, none the wiser that evil had come so close to smacking her on the butt.

Do you see my dilemma?  The chipmunks are trying to take over! This weekend starts the Offensive.  Tomorrow my long range air rifle, night vision scope, extra ammo, samurai sword (for close in combat), black night clothing-of-death, and claymore mines (note:  on the top of the mine there are the words “point this end towards enemy” etched into the metal.  I must remember to heed those instructions. 

Once the gear gets here from Amazon, it's on!



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book piracy?

I've been reading a lot about book piracy. Is it the death of writers (or at least writers who need to be paid)? Or do books from torrent help sales, as people like Neil Gaiman claim?

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