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Our Recent Posts

December Book Project

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 17:04

I’ve decided for December I want to keep the Blackwood Book Box stuffed with Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter related books. I have a few on hand (there are a few in there now that I will pull out until December) but I need more.

Do you have any you’d like to share with the community? Kids picture books, board books, story books; adult fiction books (those Christmas mystery or romance compilations that your aunt keeps giving you?) craft books you’ve grown tired of; festive cookbooks; song books; winter gardening books; that Frozen book you are really tired of reading? Maybe even an old VHS copy of A Charlie Brown Christmas or that CD of seasonal music by Taylor Swift that seemed like a good idea at the time…?

Bring them by our place any time — if we aren’t here, just tuck them in the book box and I will pull them inside until December. Or, if you are on campus, let me know and they can be dropped off at my desk, or I can come find you!

Christmas Books by Lisa Clarke (CC BY-ND) on Flickr.

 

Unholy Book

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 18:35

Written in 2011, this poem was featured in Sanitarium Magazine, issue #13 last September. As the rights have reverted to me, I thought I’d share it with you.

Creepy Animation

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 16:55

Today’s internet distraction was a series of creepy short animated films.

That last one reminds me how eager I am to see this:

Morning Exercise

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 12:52

Today was the third day of the new schedule and I’ve done three different yoga video routines.

I started with the Kripalu Yoga: Gentle DVD. I’ve been doing this routine for many years on and off — I had it on VHS and it was my introduction to Yoga. I love the beginner-level transitions, clear explanations, and with three people they show variations for most poses. It’s a half hour long — there’s a second portion that adds another half hour, but I almost never do that portion.

However, over the years, I bought a bunch of other videos, yoga and otherwise, and I figured it was time to start trying some of those. Thursday I tried the Yoga Now: 10-minute A.M. Energizer routine. Led by Mariel Hemmingway, I must have yelled at the tv a half dozen times inside the 10 minutes. I was frustrated by the speed of the transitions (I was unable to keep up with her “left, and right, and left, and right…”) and the lack of explanation — telling me to move into a pose that I’ve never done is not really helpful. I know both of these are constraints of the 10 minute timeframe, but I don’t need to start my day annoyed. There’s a second video in there, a 10 minute evening de-stressor with Rodney Yee. I’ll try that one in the morning but if I don’t enjoy it, that DVD set might well end up in the little library book box.

This morning I opened the Yoga Zone: Stretching for Flexibility program and it was kind of a Goldilocks “just right” moment. I’ve done the first of two programs and at 20 minutes it was a perfect morning length. The instruction was clear and there were two people doing variations of the poses. It was also the right kind of stretching for me. I’ll try the other program next week and see how it feels, but I suspect it will also be a winner.

Next week I will also try one or two of the routines on 5 Day Fit Weight Loss — it includes a mix of exercise types including walking and yoga — and a couple from 5 Day Fit Pilates to introduce me to those exercises. I’m not sure about Weight Watchers: Punch workout (basically boxercize) but I will give it a shot, too (it reminds me more of the 80’s aerobics videos; here’s a clip). All of these inclued 15-30 minute routines that are aimed at beginners.

Finally, there is Bellyfit: Earth (now available as a download instead of a DVD). At 62 minutes it is a longer program that I don’t have room to do on a weekday morning but I will try it at some point. Alice Bracegirdle, who developed Bellyfit, is based here in Victoria and her routines are really a blend of every kind of dance and exercise style you’ve ever heard of. I’m not keen on bouncy, jumpy exercise so I am not sure whether it will be something I do frequently but maybe once a month to blow out the cobwebs.

Shifting

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 00:50

When September started, the bus schedule changed. After some juggling, I found that I could leave the house at almost 7:30 — about 15-20 minutes later than I had been.

When school reopened after the strike, Kiddo started at a new school with a different bus route. Her shift meant that she started leaving the house at about the same time as me.

Tomorrow, everything shifts again.

Shawn starts a job on campus in the ETCL, in the next building over. [He wrote about his decision to take regular job instead of freelancing on his blog] I will be changing my hours of work to match his, 9 to 5. We bought a parking pass today — despite the continued increases to parking rates, it is still cheaper for both of us to carpool and park on campus than to buy two bus passes. As much as I have gotten used to taking the bus, I am really looking forward to not standing in the rain and not jostling for a seat, and speaking of seats, I am looking forward to having mine heated in the morning.

In order for Kiddo to get to school on time, we will still have to get up at the same time — about 6:20 am — but I am going to take advantage of the shifted schedule to get back to regular yoga. I’ve been trying to find an extra half hour in my morning but I just couldn’t get up any earlier (heck, this morning, I overslept by mistake) so I am very much looking forward to the extra hour.

Of course on the other side of things, we’ll need to shift too. We will need to get back to meal planning and sharing the weight of meal preparation but Kiddo has a small arsenal of meals she’s good at preparing — including Pad Thai, vegetarian shepherd’s pie, and chili with cornbread — so if Shawn and I take two nights each and she takes one, we can get weekday meals made without too much trauma.

Other things will shift too, but for now, this is the big shift. It may not be seismic, but it’s significant, so please bear with us as we adjust.

Music, Memories, and a Muse

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sun, 09/28/2014 - 16:42

On Friday, I found myself crying at the bus stop when “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” rotated into play.

An odd song to trigger tears, right? But some of my readers may already know where this is going.

Star C. Foster was the first person I became friends with online without ever having met her in person. We connected through Orkut then she invited me to Flickr. I followed her plublic blog, her LiveJournal, and the sites where she contributed articles. I met others through her, and I learned about her city of Philadelphia.

My heart broke for her as her relationship crumbled rather publicly, but Star picked up the pieces and went on living the life she wanted. She kept writing and blogging. She continued to pursue world domination with the aid of her robot, Trotwood. She happily donned costumes and makeup to act as a vampire, or zombie, or pirate whenever the opportunity arose. I shared her excitement as she took up dancing and met her kindred spirit.

And then the impossible happened: a sore ankle somehow led to a blood clot and a pulmonary embolism and she was gone. It’s been nearly 8 years — much longer than I knew her — and I still can’t believe it.

Getting back to that track, I might not have found LCD Soundsystem or that song without Star’s endorsement,

“…I can’t listen to their (his?) self-titled album without dancing all over the place. This is especially true of my favorite track, Daft Punk is Playing at My House.”1

..and I will never be able to hear it without thinking of her.

When the same song came up for a second time on Friday evening — this time on the soundtrack for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist  — I decided Star needed to be heard and so I started composing this post.

Doing so, I started digging back through what she’d written, re-reading the shocked obituaries that appeared, and remembering how her friends and family embraced one another and included me, too.

Star herself thought about and wrote about death, funerals, and legacies — more than anything she was determined to leave her mark, to make a “dent in the universe,” and to be remembered,

“But do I want to leave behind something after I die, so that I will be celebrated, venerated, remembered? Hell, yes. I am human after all – burdened too with ego and super ego. I write; and if recording one’s thoughts, ideas, dreams and stories isn’t the most willful act of enforced remembrance, I can’t imagine what is”2

I think she succeeded. While she may not have published novels like those of Dickens (whose writing she loved), we can still read the thoughts she shared through her blog and articles, and see her world through her archive of photos at Flickr. In Philadelphia, you can visit Rittenhouse Square — a place that was dear to her in life — and see the plaque placed there in her memory, across from one of her favourite sculptures. There’s also a scholarship in her name for aspiring writers to encourage others to follow in her wake.

I always smile when I read the paragraph at the head of her last post,

My PC fan is slowly dying. I’m hoping it will wait till after the holidays to give up the ghost. With all of Scrooges fellas flying about, we’re up to our ears in ghosts already. (Also, if this post ends abruptly, you’ll know why. Just in case, I’ll be trying to back some thing up over night tonight. In either case, forgive my brevity.)3

Such a modern and uncanny coincidence that she was worried about her PC dying when her own body betrayed her instead.

Star is still one of my muses; she is one of the voices that urges me to write, and to try things, and go places, and live like there is no tomorrow because one day there won’t be.

 

 

1. Do You Like Good Music? (Yeah, Yeah) Sarcasmo’s Corner, April 28, 2006
2. Sarcasmo in Necropolis Sarcasmo’s Corner, October 11, 2005
3. Friday Follies Sarcasmo’s Corner, December 7, 2006

Note that I had to disable javascript in order to view the archives of Sarcasmo’s Corner because a tracker script was redirecting the pages. 

Plumbing Predicament

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 03:02

This post is a bit long, so go grab a cup of tea and settle in…. 

Every homeowner will tell you there are a few things no one wants to deal with but plumbing problems are probably at the top of the list. Throw into the mix a house that is about a hundred years old, with long-ago grandfathered pipes and fittings plus a host of not-likely-to-code DIY repairs and renovations and you have a veritable nightmare in the making.

We’ve been having problems with our tub draining poorly for a few months. We got a little reprieve last month after plunging, two rounds of drain-cleaner, hot water purges, and elbow grease. I tried to open the trap clear-out but it seemed pretty much stuck solid, so we just crossed our fingers.

Drain:Before

Then on Friday it just plain wasn’t draining at all. Six hours post-shower (on restricted flow, no less) and the tub was still full of water. I went back to the clear-out hammering on the pipe wrench arm and then suddenly water was flowing. In two places. Neither of which was the clear-out because it was still jammed.

The jolt had done two things: it broke a soldered seal on one of the elbows leading to the trap and it had snapped a brass compression nut holding the drainpipe to the tee — the nut had corroded pretty severely over the years and it was as brittle as clay.

At this point, I was dejected. I felt like none of my plumbing skills could be either summoned or trusted. In fact I had an all out meltdown on Saturday, that was only made worse by once again trying to use the Windows8 machine, but that is another blog post.

Hubby started studying DIY videos and decided we could still try to replace the existing garbage with ABS. We went to Home Depot this morning and grabbed everything we thought we might need, went to friends’ for their open house then came back to tackle the task.

broken cross-hairs

Hour one: remove the existing drain pieces. You know the piece that threads from the top of the tub into the drain housing below? There’s a special tool you can use to remove it, or you can use pliers, handle down, in the cross-hairs to turn. I have one of the special tools but after a few turns, CRACK! The cross-hairs split off. Commence cursing. However, the half turn  tore that part of the drain away from the tee, so we were on our way. Sort of.

Rest of hour one and hour two: try to clear out the trap. This was the whole reason for the exercise. I’m not going to go into the gory details. Shawn wore the worst of this task though — very literally.

Hour three: researching how to remove the tub drain without the cross-hairs. Naturally there is a special tool for that too. It costs $80 and is not in stock. I left to pick up kiddo who was at a friend’s, thinking we would have to cry uncle and call in a professional.

Drain vs. Dremel

On our return, Shawn exclaimed, “HAH!! Someone needs to pay me $80!” Turns out a Dremel tool defeated that particular plumbing piece very handily. With that, kiddo and I made dinner while Shawn finished deconstructing the old and preparing the new downstairs.

Hours four and five: notching the wood that supported the old, smaller tubing, fighting to remove brass fitting from the cast trap, further attempts at clearing the trap (while some was cleared earlier, it was clear there was more to come — once the brass fitting was out, this task was easier). Pulled out more gunk — even gave the wet/dry vac a shot.

Drain:After

Hour six: let’s just finish this thing. Measuring. Checking. Math. Cutting. Checking. More math. Fun with angles. Then finally, trying to figure out how to get the last pieces in place. Measure twice. Cut once. Fiddle, check, then deep breath and GLUE.

ABS glue sets in 30 seconds. No takebacks! Happily, we got it all together and in place. It looks great but we just have to wait for the silicon seals in the tub to set before we give it a proper test.

Then we can take back the “just-in-case” parts we bought but didn’t need!

Now we need a good night’s sleep… we’ve earned it.

 

Alternatives to Kindle for Authors

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 17:07

More specifically, alternatives for Those DeWolfes authors. Ever since we moved to the electronic payments with the Kindle store, we’ve had problems. I won’t get into the details right now, but it has been a giant pain in our side. I’m also keen to use the sales portal for Those DeWolfes that Shawn designed which takes away the big benefit of Kindle — the exclusive promotion period and a HUGE audience — but gives us unlimited flexibility to offer specials, coupons, or other promotions.

Being in the Kindle store has other benefits of course; Amazon is often the first place people look for books. However, with our own sales portal plus Smashwords for greater distribution, we should be OK. The one drawback to Smashwords is this: “ if the book contains buy links to Amazon or other retailers, we can’t distribute it.” [source] — so we will have to settle for links to our author pages in the back matter. 

Right now, what this means is finding the best way to build an EPUB. I could code straight HTML, but I would far prefer a friendlier interface. Sigil offers that. Calibre allegedly does too, but the three files I attempted to translate to epub came out so ridiculously garbled they were unusable. I am trying to find others who have used Sigil — I like the idea of having more control over my product rather than having Smashwords crunch through a Word file.

Sigil is a reader but also has editing capabilities. It is open source and creative commons and multi-platform friendly (above is a Linux screenshot). My hope is that I will be able to use it to manhandle the images much more easily than in Word.

I also like knowing I can check the final product for problems myself through online (or downloadable) validators using EpubCheck, before I submit the finished design.

I’ll likely give this a shot very soon and write more once I know sort out the best option.

If you’ve already used Sigil, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Epub Reader Sigil by Linux Screenshots on Flickr. CC-BY xmodulo.com

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