Thursday, September 27, 2012

Milestones, Memories...and Yet Another Return from the Dead

No, it's not Carnac, the late Johnny Carson's mystic alter ego.

Today is a milestone for The Young and the Restless...its 10,000th episode. Of those 10,000 episodes, I'd estimate 7,000 were good ones. Let's face it...soaps are full of contrived plots. If I did some of this stuff in a novel, I'd end up with fifty scathing one-star reviews on Amazon!



I've been watching Y&R off and on since its debut in 1973 (I abandon it when the plots are just too absurd to tolerate). I remember watching the first episode in the student center between college classes. Back then, the story revolved around two families: the well-to-do Brooks family and the poor-but-honest Fosters (David Hasselhoff was one of the Foster boys pre-Baywatch and Knight Rider). Today, only two characters from the show's beginning remain: Jill Foster (now Abbott) and Katherine Chancellor, for whom Jill once worked. The show now centers around three families: the Newmans, the Abbotts and the Baldwins.

There are characters I love: Victor and Nikki Newman, Nick and Phyllis Newman, Adam and Chelsea Newman, Victoria and Billy Abbott, Katherine Chancellor, Jack Abbott, Cane and Lily Ashby, just to name a few. And then there are the ones the mute button was made for...like the empty-headed blonde bimbo Sharon Collins Newman Newman Newman (yep...somehow the ditzoid managed to get Nick, Adam and Victor to marry her). 

I liked Sharon when Nick first met and fell in love with her--she seemed to be a decent, honest young woman who, abandoned by her own father, developed a father-daughter bond with her wealthy father-in-law. Then she left Nick and their young children. She, in her own words, "needed to be adored" (not loved--adored, as in worshipped) and didn't feel she was getting that from Nick. She ended up in an abusive relationship and eventually killed her lover--but never went to prison for it. Go figure. From there on, she's been going downhill.

In the current storyline, Victor had an accident and lost his memory. Long story short, he ended up working on the docks in Los Angeles. While he was away, ditzy Sharon stepped in and appointed herself CEO of his conglomerate. Stock prices plummeted, but she stubbornly hung on, relishing the power she thought she possessed. She alienated everyone with her delusions of grandeur. 

When the show ended today, Sharon's wheelchair-bound mother was at her door. I have a feeling the dumb blonde's about to get grounded!

Yes, it was a stupid storyline. I can only hope that now that Victor's back, Amelia Airhead will be exiled to a land far, far away...and off camera!



  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Avengers Have Assembled....

Ever since Collin and I attended the Marvel Movie Marathon and midnight premiere of The Avengers back in May, we've been waiting for the day we could watch it in the comfort of our own living room. We pre-ordered the deluxe four-disc edition from Amazon and got it at a ridiculously low price. It includes four versions of the movie: 3D Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, regular DVD, and digital copy. There's also the requisite Marvel One-Shot--I'm curious as to what "Item 47" might be. There's deleted scenes (the deleted scenes from Thor were so good, I wish they'd left them in), a lot of behind-the-scenes goodies, the digital music album and a music video, Live to Rise.



We're going to be really busy for the next thirty-six hours...if the storms headed our way don't take out our electricity. (Dammit, Thor, stop showing off!)

We're having another Marvel Movie Marathon--starting tonight with the bonus features. I can't wait to see the gag reel--I think all DVDs should come with a gag reel.

All right...I concede that a gag reel might not be appropriate for films like Schindler's List or Titanic.

Tomorrow, Collin has the day off, so we'll start early tomorrow morning with Iron Man...The Incredible Hulk...Iron Man 2...Thor...Captain America...and The Avengers.

Hmmm...maybe we should watch them in reverse order.... 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Murphy's Weekend...What Else Can Go Wrong?

Things were going so well, crappy haircut aside. I've finally hit my stride after bouts of writer's block, working on a new novel that teams Jaime Lynde from The Unicorn's Daughter with Phillip Darcy from Chasing the Wind. But all good things come to an end, and it looks like Murphy's Law has been enacted in our house.



It started yesterday. I was in the middle of reading and commenting on blogs (I'm so far behind there, I may never get caught up!) when my netbook's screen suddenly went black. Panic time. I'd already had one do that a little over a year ago...the hard drive gave out, right in the middle of an email. No warning, not a hint that anything was wrong. 

And now, it looked like this one had also died a sudden death.

It took me about ten minutes to find the source of the problem. I'd put the netbook on the dining room table so I could connect the external hard drive. I'd also put it on the charger...or so I thought. Yes, the charger's light was on. The surge protector was also turned on. Everything would have been fine...if I had connected the netbook to the charger!

Normally, the netbook will warn me when battery power is low. My eyesight is pretty bad, but those warnings are hard to miss. After charging it for a few hours, it's working again.

I wish I could say the same for our washing machine.

Faced with a quiet Sunday morning at home, I planned to do some writing, but I also had laundry piling up, so I put some towels in the washer and left it to do what it does. Laundry at our place is usually an uneventful, if tedious, process. Not today. Before it reached the rinse cycle, the washer started to smell more like I was burning trash than doing laundry. And now I wait for maintenance to arrive.

What else can possibly go wrong? I don't think I want to know....


Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Unkindest (Worst) Cut of All....

Last spring, frustrated with my shoulder-length excuse for hair, I decided drastic measures were needed. I went to Fantastic Sams and told the stylist, Sera, I wanted to go short. I figured I wear hats and caps almost all the time, so why be bothered with it? I'd have it cut short and be done with it. I showed Sera a photo of a short cut I really liked, not expecting my hair to look exactly like that--but Sera worked her magic and gave me exactly what I wanted!

I was thrilled! It looked so good, I no longer wanted to cover it up. I felt liberated!

Sera recommended I have it trimmed every four weeks to maintain it, so I went back the following month. I was apprehensive when I found Sera wasn't there, but the stylist I got was also very good and made my mop look great. (I didn't get her name. I wish I had.)

I wasn't so lucky the third time. I went at lunchtime and most of the stylists had already left for lunch. I got Vickie. A previous experience with Vickie had sent me running for Great Clips. It was almost a year before I was willing to return to Fantastic Sams, even though I'd been a regular customer for over fifteen years. And now here I was, stuck with her again.



I almost walked out. I should have.

She cut it way too short. The only good thing I could say about it was that I didn't have to have it cut again in four weeks. I was able to wait a couple of months. I grew it out sufficiently to allow a good stylist to make it look good again.

But I didn't get a good stylist on my next visit. I got Vickie...again.

Collin and I both needed cuts, so we went on Thursday, his day off. We stopped for lunch, then headed over to Fantastic Sams. There were four stylists in that day. I figured that gave me a 75% chance of getting a good one.

In spite of the odds, I lost.

It's possible to request a favorite stylist. So, not surprisingly, the other three were all busy. Vickie is always available...probably because not many (if any) clients request her. It was down to Collin and me when she asked who was next. I practically begged Collin to go first. After all, he wouldn't care if she shaved his head (which she almost did). I thought while she was scalping him, I'd have a shot at getting a good stylist.

No such luck.

I suppose I should have waited an hour or two if necessary to avoid getting stuck with her. She outdid herself. This is the worst haircut she's given me to date. I'll be wearing caps and hats for at least two months while it grows out. And next time, I won't let her touch it.

Collin observed that unlike the other stylists, Vickie doesn't ask the client what they want. She just starts cutting, as if it's her choice to make. The first time she cut my hair, I tried to show her what I wanted. I took a picture with me. She wouldn't look at it. She kept telling me to put it away.

Well, Vickie, as they say at the ballpark: three strikes...you're out!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hey, Mom--I've Got the Angry Snails Now!

Years ago, when Mom was still with us, she, Collin and I would walk to Hampton Village, a shopping area about a mile away. We didn't know it at the time, but Mom was suffering from congestive heart failure and only months away from having a life-altering stroke.

Mom didn't--couldn't--walk very fast. She always slowed us down. We were always stopping, waiting for her to catch up. And we gave her a bad time about it.

"Need a push?"

"If you were any slower, you'd be standing still!"

"There's a bunch of angry snails behind you, honking and swearing!"



Mom couldn't move any faster. Her heart wasn't pumping well enough to keep the blood--and therefore oxygen--circulating through her body.  But until the first stroke, we didn't know that.

Okay, that's not entirely true.

I had mentioned some other symptoms she'd been having to our family doctor, who responded, "She's having strokes." What he was referring to is actually called a TIA (transient ischemic attack), a prelude to the main event stroke--the warning shot fired across the bow, so to speak.

And now it's my turn.

When we're out walking, I'm the one slowing Collin down. He's always stopping to wait for me, letting me know it's time for a geezer scooter. I'm the one who feels like I have concrete blocks chained to my ankles. Yep, Mom, I hope you can see this. Payback really is a bitch.

I really wish those snails would shut up....

The Rebirth of a Book...and a Challenge to My Sanity

Self-Publishing has been creatively liberating...and endlessly frustrating. (Yes, that's two "ly" words in one sentence. So shoot me.)



Formatting e-books is no fun. Formatting previously published novels without original Word documents is as difficult as getting through airport security the day before Thanksgiving. My conventionally-published books were either written on my old electric typewriter or saved on disks that are no longer compatible with any computer or program.

They were written in the late '80s-early '90s. I think the last of them were saved onto small diskettes....but I have no idea where they are now.

So...to convert them to ebooks left me with two options: retype each book (I'm not exactly speedy on the keyboard, so that would have taken a long time) or scan the pages, use OCR software to lift the text from the scanned pages, convert it to a Word file, then to HTML...and pray the final product looked professional. Hmmm...maybe retyping wouldn't have been such a bad idea after all....

The process is even more complicated than it sounds. And getting it right on the first try...not likely. The first time out was initially a disaster. I scanned the pages, Collin took care of the OCR process, I converted it to a Word document, Martin edited it, Collin converted it to HTML and uploaded it...and the sample I got when I clicked "Look Inside" was...the JPEG images of the scanned pages!

How'd that happen?

I still don't know. But Collin managed to fix it...for the most part. We fixed everything we found, because some readers will write a nasty review if a misspelled word destroys their reading experience. (And I thought I had a short attention span.)

Funny how they never notice the errors in conventionally-published books....

We thought we'd learned from that experience, that it would never happen again...but it did. Over the weekend, we published the third of my backlist books via Amazon KDP. After it went live and was in the middle of a two-day free ebook promotion, we discovered a handful of errors. After a couple of days of intense editing, we have it set up at Amazon once again.

Maybe next time, I'll type it....

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News (But Please, Use a Fact Checker!)

Last fall, my friend Carolyn and I convinced Collin to go to a public health screening to have a baseline ECG. Heart disease runs rampant in our family--it got both of my parents--and I've got a questionable history with it myself. So Collin got one...and so did I. His was fine, much to my relief.

Mine, however, looked like my heart was doing a war dance.



We're both patients at a clinic that serves those of us who don't have health insurance (I'm self-employed and Collin works at IHOP--his bosses do nothing for their employees; they're lucky they get paychecks). The care, for the most part, is excellent. The downside is that you never know from one visit to the next if you'll have the same doctor. My first doctor there was great--I really hated to see her leave. The second one was very nice but I always had the feeling her mind was elsewhere. It was to her that I delivered this odd-looking ECG. She immediately dismissed it with an offhanded explanation.

I didn't question her. I should have.

"I've been so tired lately," I told her. "I used to walk down to the shopping center every day. Now I can barely walk across the room. I guess carrying extra weight wears me out."

"Then don't carry it," she advised.

Huh? Don't carry it? She made it sound as if I could just take it off and leave it at home. Then I realized she was looking at my shopping bag.

"Don't skip meals," she told me.

That was officially weird. I know I don't look like I'm skipping meals....

She finally told me she would refer me to a cardiologist. She wanted to do an ECG first. Okay, that made sense. I went over to the lab and had it done, then went back to the doctor's office. A few minutes later, her nurse came out. "You can go now," she said. "Your ECG and blood work are fine."

I went home thinking I was fine...and never followed through with the cardiology appointment.  I hate going to doctors or being in hospitals. I'll go, but only if it's absolutely necessary.

When I went back to the clinic for my regular check-up, I had a new doctor, much to my relief. She, like my first doctor, is great. Very thorough. When I commented about my supposed-normal ECG, she gave me a look. Then she dropped a bomb on me. It turns out that my ECG was not normal. She explained that one of the leads showed my heart is not getting enough blood/oxygen.

That can't be good.

It turns out my blood work was not normal, either. I have elevated liver enzymes. She told me she would do another cardiology referral, as well as one for neurology (for anyone who doesn't already know, I'm epileptic).

I passed this information along to my friend Carolyn, who would be driving me to my appointments. Because she has such a hectic schedule, it's easier for both of us for her to schedule the appointments. She emailed me with some incredible news. I have an appointment in neurology in November. The cardiologist couldn't see me until...January???

I guess with the stress of dealing with our economy, a lot of hearts are crapping out. I wonder how far in advance I'll have to cancel if I croak before January?

Ladies, the symptoms of a heart attack are very different for us than the classic symptoms men have. Here, according to the American Heart Association, is what we should be on the lookout for: Heart Attack Symptoms.


A Taste of the Dark Ages

Okay, I may be overstating the problem there.

Collin and I lost our internet service--briefly--a few nights ago.  I first became aware of it when I turned on my Kindle Fire and discovered the little X next to the wi-fi icon at the top of the screen. What did that mean? I'd never seen it before. I looked it up in the owner's guide.  

 

It meant my Kindle was connected to our wi-fi, but our wi-fi router was connected to...nothing. Huh?

About that time, Collin switched from working in Photoshop to the internet and turned our TV from cable to Roku. He had no internet connection and was unable to stream video.

WTF???

"Contact the provider," I told him.

"I can't. The internet's down," he reminded me. For Collin, "contact" means live chat, email or text message.

"Use the old-fashioned method," I suggested. "Call then on the phone."

That was clearly an if-all-else-fails option. He checked and re-checked every connection we had--even the ones that had nothing to do with our wi-fi setup. I guessed it had something to do with the storm that had passed through a few hours earlier. Kind of a delayed reaction.

I was near panic. Don't get me wrong--I'm no internet junkie. I could be happy with one or two hours online a day--but to have no time at all was another story. To not be able to use the Roku  or my Kindle was unthinkable.

What would become of us, I wonder, if we were to lose these luxuries--necessities--completely? Any internet junkies out there have any thoughts on that worst-case scenario?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Celebrate! Oh, Yeah!

The blogging world--and especially me--has reason to rejoice today! Blogger has finally listened to the many complaints! The blogsquatter/spammer known as Desi Jumiati is no more! I received an email from William this morning, delivering the good news...and sure enough, when I entered http://beishirbooks.blogspot.com into my browser, this came up:

Blog has been removed

Sorry, the blog at beishirbooks.blogspot.com has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.



I will resume posting here, as well as my Wordpress blogs....


Monday, September 10, 2012

Blogger Supports Blog Theft!

Still no action by Blogger/Google against "Desi," so once again, I'm posting only at WordPress. Hope you'll join me there!



An update on the war against cyberscum at Windchaser's Journey....

Sam defends himself against suspicions that he's haunting our bathroom at Sam's Story.