Tao ship's wheel

Looking Back, Redux

I ran this back in 2009, and it bobbed up to the forefront of my consciousness again today. Shall we play again? You can make your contribution in the comments, or on your own LJ (in which case, please tag me so I can read it).

1 year ago: I was still unpacking boxes our new house. We (well, Jeff) bought a home just across the Severn from Annapolis in December of 2014 and moved in at the New Year, but it takes time to sort through two middle-aged people's accumulation of stuff. For that matter, we're still working on a bit of that.

5 years ago: I was still living in Cleveland, and adjusting to a 40-hour workweek again after having to put my dad into a nursing home in the wake of a broken hip and repeated hospitalizations. My marriage was at an end and I'd already made up my mind that I wanted to move to Maryland, but I was still working out exactly how to do it. I had no idea that I'd wind up doing it by the relationship route -- that turned up later as a happy accident.

10 years ago: I was living in Cleveland, Ohio, working as an administrative assistant, and trying to figure out a better career option. I was married to Dave, my now-ex, though the relationship was rocky from time to time. Little did I know that in just a few short months I'd be a full-time homemaker, because my dad would need to come and live with us due to age-related deterioration of his physical and mental health.

20 years ago: I was living in Cincinnati, and busy with two jobs and a lot of activities with the Jaycees. This is where Jeff (who is now my significant other) and I met -- he'd moved from Cleveland to Cincinnati and we were in the Cincinnati Jaycees together for a couple of years before he moved east. (It's also how I met my ex-husband, who was in another Cleveland-area chapter -- we met at a state convention.)

30 years ago: I was twenty-one, living in my hometown in western New York, working and going to college. My parents had recently moved to Cincinnati, but I had remained behind because I really wanted to be on my own, having already got my first apartment when I was twenty. (I wound up accidentally moving to Cincinnati about a year and a half after my parents did, which is a story in its own right.)

40 years ago: I was eleven years old and in the sixth grade... and I was already a geek.
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Cognitive Hazard

No good deed...

Hypothetical for the hivemind:

You go to someone (we'll call her "Tillie") and ask to interrupt her for a moment because there's something you can't figure out but you think perhaps she can. Tillie agrees to help, and pauses in her task to assist you with yours. You explain, "I can't find [item] on [electronic device]. It's gone missing. I've looked [here] and [here]; where else should I look?"

Tillie walks you through a couple more search steps and together you find only an empty folder where [item] should be. Tillie then suggests a course of action to help you avoid inadvertently compounding the problem, and to both resolve the initial problem you noticed that led you to discover that [item] was missing and avoid future instances of that and related problems.

At what point does it become appropriate to get annoyed with Tillie for trying to help, and accuse her of never answering your initial question?

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    aggravated aggravated
Tao ship's wheel

Yeah, Monday...

...and I haven't yet unpacked my suitcase from the weekend spend in Cleveland at a wedding. I suspect I will find my motivation in a crumpled wad stuffed into the very bottom, and badly in need of laundering.
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    lethargic lethargic
A Better Reality

Facebook Has Pissed Me Off

And mind you, I can't exactly walk away from it, because unfortunately it's how I remain connected to a rather large number of people AND organizations that are important to me. But I'm going to scale back my activity over there for right now and maybe hang out over here for a bit.
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    Something classical on WETA-FM
Tao ship's wheel

Na... um... NO

It's November again, the month when half my social circle decide they're going to write novels, whether or not they're normally given to auctorial pursuits.

You see, November is National Novel-Writing Month, affectionately (and sometimes less so) referred to as NaNoWriMo or simply NaNo for short. The idea is to write an entire novel in a month, from start to finish. Complete that task and you're said to have "won" NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words in 30 days, or 1,667 per day. It seems so... arbitrary. I'm all in favor of motivation and measurable progress, and having deadlines can be helpful in these areas. Still, there are things that cannot be rushed, or at least that perhaps shouldn't be. High on this list, at least by my lights, is the creative process.

Now, I've been writing novel-length fiction for a few years. Quite a few. (All right, since the Carter administration. Happy now?) Under a full head of steam, I can generate a couple of thousand words in an hour or two. But whenever I've focused more on wordcount than on form and content, it hasn't taken too long for the quality of my output to fall off dramatically.

For me, that's the biggest problem with NaNoWriMo. I tried it once. Somewhere around the 18,000-word mark I found myself writing in circles, just trying to make wordcount. What I'd lost sight of was how to make my words count.

I didn't "win" NaNo that year, and I haven't played since. For one thing, I'm old-school enough to regard 50k words as pretty slim -- in fact, for my money that's a novella, not a full-blown novel. If I'm going to write a novel, the story will be complex enough to require at least 80k to 90k words to really tell it properly. That's more than I'm likely to churn out in a month's time, however, unless I have virtually nothing else that requires my attention during that month -- no job, no freelance work, no other responsibilities, and enough money on-hand to not waste time worrying about how to pay the bills. Suffice it to say I've never been in that situation. At best, I've had the free time OR the money, but not both, and certainly not the lack of other responsibilities.

Writing fiction takes work. It takes thought, and the freedom to indulge one's imagination. Some days are better spent just figuring out how some new element that's presented itself can be made useful to the story than in pounding out another thousand or so words. I outline my work, but my Muse always surprises me with something I hadn't planned on, or else my characters take on lives of their own and insist on doing things I hadn't anticipated. I've learned the hard way to let them, because if they're fully-formed enough to be doing that in the first place, it usually means they have a better idea of what's going on in the story than I do. If an author is God in relation to his or her fictional world, then I am an absolute pushover of a deity 90% of the time. My characters tend to exercise enormous amounts of free will. Of course, this may also explain why so many of them can be best described as agnostic...

All this is in aid of saying that while I am indeed in the process of writing a novel, I'm not doing NaNoWriMo. I began this project a bit before November, and I'm sure I won't finish it before Christmas. And that's all right. My characters don't feel rushed, the plot isn't slapped together with chewing gum and baling twine, and I'm not as likely to lose whatever sanity I may have before the denouement. Mind, I'm not saying that any of these things are the case with all NaNo novels. I'm quite sure there are some good ones out there. Even so, I have to wonder whether they'd perhaps be even better for having being written in a slightly more relaxed manner, with the author taking his or her time at crafting them.

They say you can't hurry Art, much like you can't hurry love, or the perfect wine. Things take time, and that's fine by me.

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    Ashokan Farewell - Jay Ungar & Molly Mason
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Tao ship's wheel

The stupid, it burns

*bangs head on desk*

So... the water to my house got shut off this morning, on what may well turn out to be one of the hottest days of the year. Have I mentioned the landlord is an idiot?

I share a two-bedroom apartment with my ex-husband on the first floor of a duplex in an inner-ring Cleveland suburb. (Gotta love that economic "recovery".) The rent is cheap, but the place isn't even worth the amount we're charged. The landlord owns some unknown number of houses in this 'burb, and when something breaks, either takes his sweet time fixing it or argues that it isn't really broken -- like the time he tried to convince us that it was perfectly normal for a refrigerator to go into auto-defrost mode and pump warm air rather than cold into its interior for 24 hours straight and that if this was a problem perhaps we just shouldn't buy perishable groceries.

The house has a single water meter, serving the piping that feeds both rental units. This is SOP around here, and the vast majority of landlords include water as part of the rent.

Not this guy. He's paranoid that tenants are going to abuse the water if they're not paying for it themselves. "They'll have all their relatives over to do laundry or take showers and I'll be paying for it, or they'll leave the water running all the time and I'll get stuck with the bill," he says. (I don't even want to know what kind of people do that, but it isn't us. Hell, I don't even *have* more than a handful of relatives left to speak of, and none of the ones I know personally live in this state.)

So instead he charges what he considers a lower rent, eschews leases in favor of verbal month-to-month rental agreements and then expects his tenants to split the water bill, with each unit paying a portion depending on how many people actually live there. The bill, however, goes to his father's home in the next 'burb over, and he never once has shown it to us, mentioned it to us, asked for $!amount toward it or anything, in the 10+ months we've lived here. We asked once or twice, and he said not to worry about it just then, as he would take care of it and get back to us if it was high enough to warrant doing so. I'm not even going to pretend to understand that, but my ex is in charge of this stuff, since technically it's his apartment.

As it turns out, the landlord hadn't paid the water bill in five months. I learned this when, this morning, I stepped out front to find a water department truck parked at the curb, and a guy shutting off the valve in the treelawn in front of the house. He was very apologetic and gave me a number to call. When I did, the water department informed me how far in arrears the bill was, and how much would have to be paid to get the water turned back on.

I called the landlord, who at first claimed to have no knowledge of why our water should've been shut off. I recounted to him my conversation with the water department, and cited the fact that by law HE is responsible for the bill since the account is in his name as homeowner and the rental units do not have their own meters. He said, "You guys need to be paying that bill."

"How," I asked, keeping my voice as calm as possible, "are we supposed to do that when we never even see the bill? The city says they send it to an address in [redacted]."

"Oh, yeah, well I have that go to my dad's place."

"Not our problem."

He agreed to get the bill caught up and have our water turned back on today [update: which as of this writing it has been]. I'm actually glad I was off today and could be here and on top of the issue, because otherwise tonight would've been very annoying... but dear ghods, what is up with this guy? And now he wants to put the water bill in my ex's name -- for the WHOLE house -- and let us wrangle splitting it with the neighbor upstairs, whom we almost never see because she is out of town about 75% of the time. (And when she is home, it frequently sounds like she's making amateur porn up there. Just the thing you want to knock on the door during... but that's a whole separate issue.)

So, um, no.

Is it any wonder I want to get out of this place, this town and this whole area?

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    enraged enraged
book freak

Adventures of the Terminally Uncoordinated, Part N in a series

Well, that was an adventure I could've done without. Ate a handful of trail mix late this afternoon; bit down on a peanut and sheared off part of a molar. It didn't hurt, but it made the most alarming "crunch". Went immediately to the dentist, and was told the nerve is exposed but apparently dead, and that I will need a root canal, post, and crown.

I'll be having that done on Monday. Because, y'know, life wasn't already complicated enough.
book freak

Sixteen Days Of Rain...

As I write this, we are having yet another thunderstorm in Cleveland. It has rained every day for the past 16 days, something that hasn't happened since 1900. Rivers and creeks are flooding their banks, and we now have -- oh joy -- tornado warnings across the northern strip of Ohio along the Lake Erie coast.

I'm worried about the home belonging to one of my best friends, David. Its roof was damaged when Hurricane Sandy (well, technically they were calling it a "superstorm" by then but still) blew through here last October. A tree rooted on the vacant lot next door and thus belonging to the city of Cleveland was uprooted by high winds, crashing onto his roof. It took the city until late January to even remove the tree, and they still haven't done a damn thing about the roof. They just keep telling him they'll get back to him.
The tree on David's roof

David didn't have homeowner's insurance because with his work hours having been reduced in the wake of recent economic upheavals he didn't have the money for the premium. So he's had to keep waiting for the city, which keeps dragging its feet, and in the meantime whenever it rains, water gets down inside the house walls and above the attic ceiling. The initial estimates he got from local roofers came in around the $7,000 mark, but of course because the upper portion of the interior wall structure is open to the elements and we've had so much rain, it's almost a certainty that there is additional, invisible damage. If this goes on much longer, I'm afraid problems could develop with mold and rot, to the extent that he could even lose the house.David's roof after the tree damaged it

This wasn't David's first experience with hurricane damage. He was living in Biloxi, MS when Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, and lost that house as a result. He spent the last of his savings last summer to have his roof redone -- something it had badly needed -- so he’s had no extra cash on hand to have the storm damage repaired. To make matters worse, he was seriously injured on the job several weeks ago, and while worker’s comp is paying his medical bills and covering some basic necessities, he won’t be able to go back to work until he is fully healed (his job is quite physical). He’d been applying and interviewing for a second job until he got hurt, so now rather than getting ahead, he’s falling even further behind.

I've put together a fund to try to get his roof repaired, since at this point neither of us is willing to bet that the city is going to get around to doing anything about it between now and whenever Hades gets an NHL expansion team.

Additionally, I'm having problems of my own (for those of you who remember my Jeep saga, it still isn't over), so if enough comes in I may be able to fix and keep my vehicle.
A Better Reality

Sending Up A Flare...

Okay, I'm going to bring this to the LJ hive-mind, because I can't think where else to bring it. I don't know if anyone here will have any ideas for me, or anything else for that matter, but I need to tell my story on the off-chance someone does.

For those who don't know, my marriage ended in the spring of 2011, not long after my father entered a nursing home once his mental and physical needs outstripped the ability to meet them at home. I'd taken four years off from the workforce to care for him, with my then-husband's blessing and help. However, the stress had proven a bit much, and we'd realized that our differing styles of dealing with it made us Not A Good Match. We had no kids, and the split was an amicable and mutual decision. My ex-husband and I remain good friends. However, over is over, and we've been trying to move ahead with our individual lives.
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I'm tired. I'm desperate. I'm depressed. And I'm asking for help, be that prayer, ideas or anything else. Frankly, there's a side of me that thinks if my ex's car's crappy steering went out on me during my commute and sent me into a fatal wreck, at least I'd have the relief of No Longer Having To Try… and that kind of thinking is so far out of character for me that it isn’t even funny.
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Tao ship's wheel

This is ridiculous

I recently watched a story on my local newscast addressing the dangers of trampolines. That’s right – trampolines, long the joy of children everywhere, are now considered too dangerous to be used by today’s youth. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that kids and teens should never use trampolines at home or even in routine gym classes.

Now wait just a minute. Isn’t this the same American Academy of Pediatrics that’s been so very vocal about the epidemic of childhood obesity? Haven’t they been advocating that children and teens put down the video game controller, turn off the TV, log off the Internet and go outside for some vigorous physical activity?

Let’s face it: ALL physical activity carries risks. And childhood has never been without them anyway. Simply being born is itself dangerous, after all. And if you’re over thirty-five or forty, chances are you remember doing all sorts of things as a kid that didn’t even raise eyebrows back then, but would be considered unacceptable risks in today’s overprotective world. Things like riding bikes without a helmet, climbing trees, jumping off a rope swing into a swimming hole or pond (a favorite of my own rural childhood), rollerskating on the sidewalk, playing dodgeball (in gym class, no less, and without any sort of safety equipment) and yes, even jumping on trampolines.

I remember trampolines fondly. My next-door neighbors had one in their backyard. It wasn’t one of those slick, store-bought jobs with padded edges and safety nets, either. This was a crude, homemade unit constructed by digging a shallow oval pit, surrounding it with a foot-high wooden enclosure topped by a foot-wide metal beam running all round its circumference, painting the whole thing white and then installing thick metal springs all the way around with a trampoline bed made of green, rubberized canvas. We simply stepped up onto the edge and then jumped onto the canvas, ready to bounce to our hearts’ content. This trampoline was large enough to accommodate two teenagers or three younger kids. One of our favorite games was the “seat-drop” contest, in which two of us would get onto the trampoline together and do seat-drops with no bounce between – simply feet-seat-feet-seat – for as long as we could. The first one to tire or miss a beat lost the contest. We also practiced forward and backward flips (only one allowed on the “tramp” at a time for those) and other tricks. A warm summer day would find up to a dozen or more kids of all ages in my neighbors’ backyard, all taking turns on the trampoline. Standing on the grass in our bare feet, without a mat in sight. It was glorious!

Now, I was definitely not the most athletic kid around. In fact, I was probably one of the clumsiest. Always picked last for teams, I abhorred gym class and was absolutely no good at sports. Except for one thing: that particular gym unit each year where we got to use gymnastics equipment, and even then, I found the uneven bars, the pommel horse and the vaulting box daunting. But when it came to the trampoline – that big white elastic square with padding all around and standing chest-high to many of us – I was finally in my element. Most of my classmates did not have access to a trampoline outside of these two or three short weeks, and had to work to master even the most basic of moves. But I could execute even double flips with an ease born of long practice, and I eagerly looked forward each year to the one time in gym class when I morphed, however briefly, from the klutziest student to one of the most graceful. Even my gym teacher was stumped by my transformation, until one year I finally explained my secret to her.

Of course, these days, people are so worried about protecting children from every childhood bump and scrape that it’s a wonder we don’t just pack them in Styrofoam and feed them strained peas until they’re eighteen. Good grief, here we are, worried about plus-size children who would rather spend all summer in the living room with the latest games for Playstation than take a walk around the block, and we’re complaining about the dangers of trampolines, skateboards, bicycles, rollerblades and swimming pools. Does anyone see the irony here?

In all the years my neighbors had their trampoline, I think there were only two injuries – a sprained ankle suffered when one boy stepped off onto the ground wrong and twisted his foot, and a swollen big toe on yours truly when I stepped off the trampoline and onto a yellowjacket that was sunning itself on the edge. Either of the above could have happened as a result of many other activities. Meanwhile, my friends and I were outdoors and engaging in healthy physical activity rather than inside eating chips and playing video games. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating against things like bike helmets and protective gear for rollerblading and skateboarding, nor do I believe that parents should leave their kids unsupervised while engaging in certain activities. It’s a good idea to have someone keep an eye on them when they’re on a trampoline in the same way that it’s a good idea to have someone watching out for them while they’re in a swimming pool. But I don’t think it’s necessary to forbid kids to engage in an activity at all just because it’s possible that they could get hurt doing it. Otherwise, they shouldn’t even be allowed to get out of bed in the morning.