29 December 2017

A few hours ago, I'd thought I hadn't started 2017 with any specific mileage goals, but I just went back and looked, and I did. This time last year I wanted to hit 1300 miles, because I'd done 1205 in 2017, and why not? There were the obvious things in the back of my head--be ready for the 3 Day, not gain 100 pounds--but I'd kind of forgotten that I actually set a goal of specific miles.

About 3 weeks ago, I looked at my account, and realized was I so freaking close to hitting 1500 miles. I was around 45 short, with the holidays looming and not much time to get those miles in. I hadn't known that I wanted to hit it until I saw that, and then I really wanted it.

So, on our anniversary, we walked around downtown Sacramento. We walked around the outlet malls. We didn't WALK but we walked, and today I just squeaked over the 1500 mile mark.

So, there we go. Accomplishment of a goal I didn't realize I had. I didn't do a lot of what I said I wanted--we didn't go to Disneyland, I didn't hit the gym twice a week, and we only got to SF once--but I ticked a few things off that list.

The Wick books I wanted to write got written and published; I'd wanted to write two, did three...which also explains not getting to the other things. And we'll get to Disneyland in January for a short visit.*

Much of our lives were centered around work and training for the 3 Day; I really wanted to get those stories out of my head, and I really wanted to not get sick on a 3 Day, and finish the walk.

So there's that; I got those things done, alone with some extra miles.

The downside, something I've been chewing on for a while...that was probably my last 3 Day, at least as a walker. I registered for next year, but the truth is that I'm not sure my body can take it again. This year was tough and took some time to recover from--hell, I'm still recovering. My back still hurts and my left knee aches most of the time...we laughed a lot about the volume of Fireball consumed along the way in San Diego, but the truth is that it wasn't as much as it seemed, and I probably couldn't have gone as far each day without either it or without the Norco I took along. I got through it with free shots of booze, followed by Norco, and soothed with the hotel hot tub at night.

My brain is telling me that if someone requires opioids to get through something, and barring that, booze, then maybe it's time to take a step back. I partook of the Fireball because it was fun and it was funny, but somewhere along the way it occurred to me that it was taking the edge off the pain in my back and knees; when the buzz from that wore off, I used the Norco.

In the grand scheme of things, I didn't drink a lot, nor did I overdo it with the Norco, but that I needed it to finish each day tells me that even with training, my body just doesn't want to cooperate.

So...for 2018 I want to top 1500 miles, but it's not all going to be on foot. The goal will be 2000, half of that on foot, half on the bike.

Pretty sure I can do that. The bike is a lot friendlier on my back, and hopefully it won't do anything more to my knees.

*I feel like a broken record and I also feel crappy about it, but..there are 16 of you in the area and only 2 days, and, well, you remember from other years...I am really, truly sorry. I know it seems super bitchy and selfish, but I have to be bitchy and selfish when it comes to stuff like this, because the odds are that the same things that are ending the 3 Day for me are gonna rear their ugly heads there, and 1) I don't want anyone else to have to see and deal with it, and 2) I don't want to have to cancel on anyone while at freaking Disney. It's not personal, it truly is not.


21 December 2017

He's not happy.

A while back--I think 2 or 3 years ago--he spun his collar around so often that it rubbed the fur off in a neat circle around his neck. We took it off to let the fur grow back...which freaking took forever. There's still a bare spot or two.

He's strictly an inside kitty, and has always had a big enough fear of the outdoors that we weren't especially worried about him being without identification. When presented with an open door, he'd look and then turn around and walk away, because outside is big and noisy, and inside is not.

But he's getting old, and a bit forgetful. And one of the things he seems to have forgotten is that outside is Bad. Now when presented with an open door, he sits there and sniffs, and has a look of "That seems interesting" and he doesn't turn away.

We've always been careful, whether it was Max or Buddah at the door. Buddah has kept his collar, with the tag that has his name and address and phone, because who knows what he'll do.

But today Max sat at the back door a bit longer than I was comfortable with, and all the What Ifs ran through my mind.

I put the collar on him.

He didn't fight it; I showed it to him and let him sniff it, hoping he'd remember the smell of it and have the thought that it was not a horrible thing, and he let me put it on. But he was not happy when he realized what I'd done. And for the next ten minutes he followed me around, reminding me that he was the good kitty, and he didn't need one. And I'm pretty sure he called me a bitch.

Now, we went out for steak on Monday night--early Christmas with the Boy and his Much Better Half--and he's had steak treats every day since then. But tonight fresh steak was grilled, and I promised him he would get a big portion, because he really was being a good sport about it.

He sat on the floor between us during dinner (no, we do not give them food from our plates unless no one else is looking) and as soon as we were done, I shredded 1/4 of my steak, and gave him most of it. It was perfect bite sized and still warm, his favorite way to have steak.

I think he's mostly forgiven me. Mostly. I'm pretty sure that later on he'll sit in front of me and remind me there's still some steak in the fridge, and if I don't jump up, he'll hike his back leg and scratch at his neck.

And dammit, that will work.


10 December 2017

I mocked a friend who bought 250 bitcoins early on, when they were $100 each. I am no longer mocking; they hit $19K last week, and he managed to sell at $16K. I am marginally irritated because I dismissed his "why the hell not, it can't hurt" attitude then, because he makes investments like this all the freaking time and comes out on top.

The waking hours of the 3 Day seemed to have done a bit of a reset on my brain. Having to get up at 3:30-4:30 every day and falling asleep by 9 every night has carried over a bit. I'm asleep by 10:30, 11 at he latest, and have been waking up at 7-7:30. Normal people hours. I'm awake the same number of hours as before (on good days) but I seem to be getting more done. Go figure.

I hope I didn't just jinx myself.

♦ Max and I are 143,000 words deep into the next Wick After Dark book, but in reading through it, I'm 95% sure we need to break it up and then cut a bunch of stuff. Otherwise people will read it and wonder WTF happened to that one story thread, and WhyTF did the biggest one take 200 pages to really get rolling?

♦ Still, I'm having fun with it. I really dig drunk Aubrey. There, you have something to look forward to.

♦ There will be another Wick Chronicles book, for those who don't like the more adult After Dark stories. Once I get this one sorted out, I have a WC short planned, and there will be a summary of the AD books online, I think.

♦ Why are so many people at Starbucks on a Sunday morning? Cripes.

♦ UCD is nearby and finals are approaching. I know why it's busy, but I'm still gonna whine about it.

♦ Holy fark, chai tea is good. Why did it take me so long to try it?

♦ Yeah, back to work...

And a random picture of Max snuggling, just because...


2 December 2017

Because I'm avoiding both housework and tackling nearly 400 pages of notes for the next Wick After Dark Book, let's see how many people I can piss off. And I'm gonna be all over the place with this, since I'm writing without self-censoring.

Thinking Out Loud.

A bit over thirty years ago, I worked in a gym; this was when the tide was turning and they were no longer places for steroid-munching meatheads to sling weights around while grunting loudly, and aerobics were The Thing. Women were not only welcome, but marketed toward and sought out as members, and there was available drop-in child care to make it easier.

There was still a section of the gym for the guys who were only there to push their muscles to develop muscles of their own, a free weight room that was cordoned off but not walled off, and the aerobics floor and resistance machines were in full view of the guys who headed straight for the free weights and wouldn't dare consider taking a cardio-drive class.

My job was basically that of a low-paid intern. I worked in the child care center most of the time, but I was also a janitor, tinkerer, and when no one else was available, I escorted prospective members around and showed them all the amenities. Toward the end of my employment there, I had been trained to train new members on the resistance equipment.

Because I was all over that gym, working six days a week, I was exposed to a hell of a lot of people. There were the jerks (one manager who called me "Thunder Thighs" because it was apparently hysterical) and the clueless (another employee who seriously was not All There and liked to hug. A Lot.) and the talk was often crude. Granted, never Trump Crude--his version of locker room talk would not have flown there--but still 12-year-old-boy crude.

I had my ass slapped while being told I'd done a good job, I witnessed one male employee grab his crotch while mocking another female, I was called "sweetheart," "Babe," and God knows what else. It was suggested more than once that I could use a good fucking, and Not All There Guy once draped his hand over my shoulder, his fingers deliberately brushing my chest.

Not once did I think I had been abused or attacked. It was just the way things were. I learned to dish it right back out, and Not All There Guy got an elbow to his ribs. I didn't report it. He learned the hard way.

If any of those things happened today, any single one of them would be reason to complain--and I would. It was poor behavior then, no doubt, but it was also accepted behavior. Anyone running to HR because the trainer called them a name, or made a comment about their figure or looks, or even touched them inappropriately would have been laughed out of the office.

These were guys who had been raised to think it was okay. If we'd spoken up then, they probably would have at least considered the way they were treating the women around them at work, but we didn't, so neither did they.

It really didn't seem worth getting upset over. Not then.

If I were the same kid in the same gym today? Not All There Guy would have backed up with broken fingers. Thunder Thighs manager would have had a complaint lodged against him, for no reason other than to leave a paper trail. The names would be met with resistance and a warning--I'm not your sweetheart, I'm not your babe, and you couldn't fuck your way out of an orgy with someone else's dick.

It's not nostalgic to say that times were different then--they were. And with all the accusations against public figures being made now, calling them out for things they did years ago, I keep thinking that we need to take a collective breath and remember that we truly are looking into the past through lenses created to look to the future.

Our standards are vastly different now. They're significantly better; I think most of us coming into adulthood 40 years ago made an effort to raise our children with equality in mind. Those kids are in turn raising theirs to be more open and accepting of others and how they feel, and how their own actions can impact someone. Not just in the moment, but forever.

Yes...every single person being called out needs to take a damned hard look at why they're being accused. And every single person who has not been accused needs to stop and consider if their past actions fall into the realm of behavior that was once acceptable but not is not, and then cut that crap out.

Yes, the women coming forward should be believed. Believing when they say they were harassed, molested, or emotionally scarred is not the same thing as believing the men they're naming are guilty. It's believing that they FEEL harassed and molested. There needs to be accountability, legal or otherwise.

And those who are crying rape? Yeah, they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose by coming forward. Believe them.

But why did they wait so long? It's simple: they had no power. They would have been speaking out against men who held a tremendous amount of power, and even if believed, their claims would have been dismissed because power + money = you lose the game. They're coming out in droves now because there's safety in numbers, and people are finally listening.

When Bill Cosby was accused, people turned a blind eye to it. So many women came forward, but were waved off; surely they were riding on coat tails, just trying to get something from him. It was Bill-fucking-Cosby, straight up all around Nice Guy, right? He would NEVER. Whatever you're thinking, just NEVER.

Yeah, but he did. And he's getting away with it, because those womens' voices were shouted down.

And stop for a moment and consider the landslide that is still gaining momentum: it began when a man stepped forward and said that another had molested him. If Anthony Rapp had not outed Kevin Spacey, the names would not be exploding around us like popcorn kernels.

Women have been complaining for years, and it took a man speaking out for them to be taken seriously.

So yes, believe them.

But also admit that not every woman coming forward will be honest. People lie for attention, even when there's nothing to be gained. Just look at what happened to Emmet Till all those years ago, when Carol Bryant lied about what he had said, and then done, to her. He was a kid with a stutter who sometimes whistled to calm himself in order to get the words out, and died because his only real crime was being black in 1950's Mississippi.

At some point, someone will cry rape and will be lying about it (and this is where I wish I could find the screen cap I recently saw on Reddit; it was from a woman's IG account, saying that she always asked guys to go rough the first time they had sex, so that if she regretted it later, she could claim rape. Seriously, there are people like this out there.) There are some truly selfish, horrible people out there, who wouldn't care about what their claims did to someone else.

Believe, but allow yourself some healthy skepticism when the dominoes don't all line up right. Listen carefully. #MeToo was more than a hashtag (and I admit, I initially thought it was stupid); it's millions of women crying out because until now, they had no voice.

Yes, we're looking back with a critical eye honed to today's standards. No, I wouldn't try to hold former co-workers to today's standards. BUT...yes, I hope they understand that they way they behaved really was immature and hindsight makes them look like tiny little pricks.

There's only one person I would ever hold to serious accountability for what was done to me in the past, but the son of a bitch is dead, so at least I have that.

So yeah, #MeToo, but life goes on, and I'm winning.


21 November 2017

We survived.

Over the three days of the 3 Day, the Spouse Thingy and I walked 54 of 60 miles. We found it necessary to cut a couple of miles off each day--we hopped on a shuttle or sweep van--just to assure that we'd be able to either walk the next day, or finish on the third. I think the Spouse Thingy has a new appreciation for what it takes to do these walks, and an understanding now of why people do more than one.

He learned that it's not just hard: it's really hard. He learned he could not only do it, but in the end, it meant a lot and being able to finish feels so freaking good. Also...there's a ton of fun to be had in the agony of all those miles.

Fireball Ski Shot. No, I was not passing that up.
Now, this is posted on the route.

They do not want walkers to drink while participating in the event. And we all get it, we all understand why, but, hey...pain relief, you know.

There is a tremendous amount of community support during the San Diego 3 Day--more than I've ever seen before--and a lot of it involves alcohol. It would be rude to pass it up.

Ok, fine, I'll take the excuse. I did partake once or twice or five times.

A day.

There may be a few pictures of me slugging back 3 or 4 of the multiple-times-per-day offering of Jello shots.

And adult gummy bears.

And pink lemonade vodka.

And holy hell, all the Fireball along the way.

Have I ever mentioned that I freaking love Fireball?

I do.

I was not alone.

There was a lot of beer offered along the way, too, and I took the tiny little cups, but I did not drink any of them.

I gave them the to Spouse Thingy, who enjoys beer.

I won't lie: I got a decent buzz at least once a day. Also: I kinda needed it because I was seriously hurting at a few points, and it was medicinal.

One tiny bit of the support...and all those tents had libations

It was, too.

No, for real: I enter every walk knowing I'll be starting with the kind of pain most people have at the end of day one. FMS, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, spinal arthritis, as well as hip and knee arthritis. Not to mention what the pituitary tumor did to how my body processes water and the havoc it plays in keeping my electrolytes in check. I have some genuine issues.

Not mentioning that for sympathy, just a reminder that I take this sucker seriously, the walk is that important, and your donations get my asterisk out there in spite of all that.

The fact that it can also be fun is just a bonus.

And this one was amazingly fun. The community support was All That, and doing it with the Spouse Thingy made it that much better.

The icing on the cake? This team:

I've told you before, I love these ladies (two are missing; one showed up after this was taken. FOR SHAME, JENNA! ;) and DKM was nursing a bad knee at the time.) I didn't walk with them so much as I did behind them because they are freakishly fast and I am not, but we caught up at pit stops and lunch, and I got a lot of reminders why these people are among my favorites. They are welcoming and friendly, and make me laugh. A lot.

DKM = My Enabler
Right at the time I needed it the most--seriously--DKM met us at a pit stop with cold Diet Pepsis.

Mock my addiction if you want, but holy hell, after all the water and Gatorade we were drinking, that Pepsi damn near sang to me.

I wasn't even buzzed yet.

But lest you think this was a three day bender, that the 2200 walkers were just going from drink to drink to drink ( we weren't) there was a steep reminder of the seriousness of what we were doing.

There were firefighters in full gear, walking each and every mile. Those miles included some hills that made people cry, two hills that I did not have the nerve to attempt (even though I went there determined to male Torrey Pines my bitch), and one downhill (I did that one) that will result in the loss of my right big toenail. These men and women marched in boots and uniforms, weighed down by tanks and heavy jackets, and they freaking smiled while doing it.

There were 2200 walkers in the San Diego 3 Day this year, raising a total of $6.5 million. 75-85% of that will go toward research, the rest to running the walk.

While we were walking, the news filtered through that Avon is suspending their 39 mile breast cancer walk. That's the loss of a lot of millions every year in the fight to find a cure. Komen walkers mourn that loss as much as Avon walkers do, because the fight is the same. The goal is the same.

We want women and men to stop dying, and we want a world where our kids grow up seeing pink as a pretty color, and nothing more.

This walk was hard, no doubt about it. The Spouse Thingy and I are still sore, still walking funny, and wondering when we'll feel like normal again. It was harder than he imagined and as tough as I remembered. And it was worth every step.

San Diego is an amazingly beautiful place, and I seriously want to go back and take in all the sights at a more leisurely pace one day. It made me wish I would remember to buy a freaking lottery ticket, because if I win big, I'm buying a house on the beach there, and inviting my 3 Day family to use my potty along the way (hey, a real toilet is a big freaking deal when you've been using port-a-potties.)

And seriously, peoples, thank you. We would not have been at the walk without your support and donations.

It was amazing.

Damn, we look so serious...

I have never taken a mile 59 picture before...this one means the world to me

The 2017 Pink Slips...the most amazing people you could hope to know
My most treasured teammate...he made the miles a hell of a lot easier and all of it way more fun.


12 November 2017

After The Space Between Whens was put to bed, I declared that I was taking a break for a bit. I'd written four books in a year (okay, fine, MAX wrote four books in a year but I helped. A lot.) and my brain needed a break. With the 3 Day looming, it was a good time to take a step back from work, train, and let thinking things happen instead of writing things.

Thinking things tend to happen on long training walks--and, as I have discovered, long bike rides. The best of the Charybdis series, The Flipside of Here, popped into my brain while on a training walk in 2010. I can clearly remember where I was walking, to the exact section of pavement on a bike path here in town, when the opening flashed in front of my eyes. I spent that summer walking and writing in my head, and when the 3 Day was done that sucker poured out of me like water from a hose.

This was my intent, and my hope, for the next book in the Wick After Dark series: I'd walk, I'd ride, and it would form in the back of my brain, then over Thanksgiving weekend while the Spouse Thingy worked and slept, I would start writing. There were a dozen threads to pick from, story ideas that I could weave into something decent; whichever one worked its way forward best, that was the book that would be written.

It was a plan, anyway.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that taking a 100% break was not happening. Writing is a habit carefully cultivated over several decades, something I just don't suddenly stop doing. While I didn't want to work on the actual book until after the 3 Day, I could take notes, get some background stuff down, things upon which I could build.

You see where this is going.

The notes were easier to write as if I were, you know, writing. Complete with snippets of dialog. It was stream of consciousness writing; there was no plot, no real story. Just day to day things in the World of Wick. I wanted to know who would be doing what and when, the minutia of life. Nothing the would make a reader sit down and think, hell yeah, I'm reading the whole thing. Just stuff.

You know, X did Y thing on Tuesday. Q had tea with F on Monday. M might be kind of a tool. W likes cheese.

Well, that's a given.

Somewhere along the way the notes became a several stories unto themselves, and The Story presented itself...and I kept writing. I am now 120,000 words deep with this (42K of The Story, which is being used for NaNoWriMo, because why the hell not?) and I have hit a point where I don't just want to write, I NEED to write.

It wants out of my brain.

It is at the write-for-12-hours-a-day stage. Demanding my attention.

For some reason, he's not helping...
The problem is that we leave on Wednesday. I have things I need to get done around the house before then. Laundry. Packing. At least a little cleaning lest something come alive and swallow DKM's niece while she's here with the cats. I have Things To Do, yet at the same time Wick is pawing at me, demanding that he have a voice.

I am not nearly mature enough to structure my days to accommodate the things that need to be done before we leave and the things my brain is demanding I do.

It might be a good time for the masses to send good thoughts to DKM's niece, because something here just might rise up and eat her...I doubt any cleaning will get done...


10 November 2017

Right about this time, seven days from now, we’ll be making the last push to finish day 1 of the San Diego 3 Day. There’s probably a hill—there’s always a hill—and I’ll probably be whining because my feet hurt and my back hurts and I’m ready to be done. Either that or I’ll just stop talking, because what the hell am I going to say? Ouch? Several hundred other people will be thinking the same thing. Although I’m pretty sure I’ll be thinking Fark, Ouch, but with a much more colorful bent.

Cardio-wise, the Spouse Thingy and I are ready. We’ve been riding our shiny new bikes all over the place, generally long rides hovering around 20 miles…but...we haven’t been walking much. Our hearts will survive, our feet, perhaps no so much. We may be embracing a sweep van or two, because neither one of us is going into it with our egos on the line. I’ve walked all of more than one 3 Day. I’ve learned that it’s not about getting 100% of the miles in; it’s the effort made, the determination to do something to combat cancer. But it’s not about being stupid.

Six years ago today, I was sitting in a podiatrist’s office because early on day 2 of the Atlanta 3 Day I felt a pop in my right foot, and felt searing pain…and kept walking. That was stupid. I didn’t do permanent damage, but I could have. We had a planned trip to Disneyland a month after that to celebrate our 30th anniversary, and I damn near blew that by not paying attention to what my body was telling me.

(Yes, that was the trip I pissed off a whole bunch of people when I said we weren’t going there to play with anyone else. I would have been more upfront about it—MILESTONE ANNIVERSARY Y’ALL—but we hadn’t exactly been honest about when our anniversary really was…it got complicated. And I’m gonna piss people off again in January when we go back, because we’re still not playing. There are, like, 20 of y’all down there* and 2 of us, and one of us needs to be able to crash and burn on a whim, and we’re only there for a short time.)

((That was a longer parenthetical than intended.))

I will listen to my body this time. I will eat more than I usually do, because I tend to not eat much at all on a 3 Day (hyperactive gastrocolic reflex, anyone?) and while I think I’m drinking enough, I’m probably not. I am fully prepared to seek out every Starbucks along the way and buy giant cups of tea, which I will suck down without being prodded to drink. I’m taking 2 water bottles and little packets of flavoring because deep down I am 8 years old and will drink more if it tastes like Kool Aid.

If I hear a pop, I’m stopping.

It’s only taken 7 years and about that many events for me to get my chit together.

I am super excited about this year, though; it’s the Spouse Thingy’s first year as a walker (he crewed medical in 2011) and we’re walking with The Pink Slips, a group of tres spiffy people that I have a massive girl crush on. The only bummer is that I can’t find my team shirts, and Spouse Thingy doesn’t have one at all, so we’ll look a little odd with the rest of them, and shuddup because I can hear the raging chorus mumbling so what else is new? and it hurts my tiny feelings.

I should probably start packing…and I know I’ll forget something.

No, I don’t know where I’m going with this. But the blog is titled Thumper Thinks Out Loud, so…

*but I'm family! Um, yeah, most of you are. Two sides to the family, guys. and that many people are a major social anxiety trigger. 


19 September 2017

Ok, help me figure this out.

It's 1990.

You're a male in your late 30's on the Registered Sex Offenders list. Your victim was an 8 year old girl.

You only got 10 years probation.

You still own and operate a martial arts school, with seemingly no difficulty.You have a large student base, many of them young boys and girls. A few of your adult students are police officers.

Now...what the hell kind of offense that's bad enough to get you on that list will still allow you to be present in that school, where you are around and actively teaching children?

I really want need to know.


15 September 2017

Odds & Endz #845,019,333.0001(321x782)

♦ Summer finally feels like it's on its way out, which is a relief because we've had some farkton hot days and I'm ready for fall and winter.

♦ The hot streak has made me appreciate having air conditioning, however. For what it cost to replace the damn thing, I better be appreciating the hell out of it.

♦ The arrival of fall also means longer bike rides. I bought the new bike in the middle of a heat wave and didn't get to take it out much at first, but in the last week I've put about 60 miles on it. That still doesn't sound like a lot, but I'm fat and out of shape, so it's a victory.

♦ We're using the bikes as cross training for the 3 Day. The problem is that bike riding is a hell of a lot more fun than walking, so the temptation is there to just go ride.

♦ There's about 9 weeks left until the 3 Day. We will be ready. We will be slow, but we will be ready to walk. We've discovered we really enjoy walking around downtown Sacramento, so we go there a lot. I still want to get a few long walks done in San Francisco, though. Nothing beats walking from the Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge.

♦ Spouse Thingy and I have both met our minimum goals and we're so close in the amounts that it feels like there must be a winner. I'm only $5 ahead right now. I will fix this.

♦ Max's first book in a new Wick series is out, The Space Between Whens, but we're taking a bit of a writing break so that I can focus on training and reading other peoples' books for fun. I might take notes for the next one, but actual writing thereof might not start for a few more weeks.

♦ It's almost 3pm and I forgot to eat today. This is a first.

♦ Asked Max what he wants to do this afternoon, this was the answer:

 ♦ I'm tempted to do the same, but damned if there isn't a kitchen to be cleaned...


30 August 2017

It's bloody hot here this week, so not a lot of training walks have been taken--but we got out last week for a couple of decent ones, walking around downtown Sacramento. I think it's my new 2nd favorite place to walk; the first is still San Francisco and probably always will be, mostly because we can't hop in the car and be there in 10 minutes. It's a 90 minute drive at best, 2+ hours if there's a lot of traffic.

The Spouse Thingy took this last weekend off for my birthday and we planned on going to SF, but then there was an alt-right "prayer rally" that was drawing a massive counter-protest, so we bailed on that as a birthday option (though I admit, I wanted to go be part of the counter protest). The alternate plan was to head for Old Sac and Practical Cycles, where I wanted to test ride a couple of different bicycles, but screwed up sleep and then wicked hot temps convinced me that just puttering around was the better option.

We finally got there this morning--it was only suppose to hit 100 today, which made it seem like we'd have until noon or so to get the test rides done before it got too hot.

Long story short, after testing a couple of bikes, I came home with a spiffy neon pink Pedego Interceptor III. This will replace the eZip Trailz bike that I've had for the last 7-8 years--I'll probably sell it soon--and it's a hell of a lot lighter and faster than that one.

It's a 7 speed electric with 5 levels of pedal assist (not sure when I'd ever need more than the first two, but it's nice to have) and if I just use the throttle, I can speed this puppy up to 25 mph.

Ideally, I won't; the throttle is just to get me home if I get into trouble. Same with the pedal assist (and this is where I grouse that if you give me shit for needing an electric, I am going to wish 10,000 hungry fleas upon your crotch); I doubt I'll run it at more than the first level, but if I start feeling like my blood sugar is crashing or I'm over heated, I have a quick way home. And yeah, this is what it's come to. I just can't handle heat anymore; if it's over 72-75 and I'm exerting myself, there's a good chance I'll start feeling like chit sooner rather than later.

But I also don't want to not be able to go outside and work up a sweat--and I'm a year into a shoulder injury that just won't heal and has seriously limited my swimming--so this is what the Spouse Thingy got me for my birthday.

A few days ago, we picked up a new bike for him--he likes recumbents, and his is a semi-bent--but his is not electric. It's all on him to get this sucker moving. Yes, I can hit the throttle and heave him behind, but I wouldn't do that...heh.

Yeah, it was a spendy week, but all the walking has made us really want to do more, and this is more of an investment in ourselves than anything else. Ideally, no using the car if we're just going to the store or pretty much anywhere else around town. We're also looking into getting a tow bar and bike carrier so we can haul the bikes and hit some trails in Sacramento and beyond (face it, where we live is 5 miles around, and no safe way to get to a bigger town on the bikes.) We've come to realize we prefer getting outside and being active over going to the gym and dreading the workouts.

Now, if the heat wave would just break so that I don't have to get up at stupid o'clock to ride.

Morning burns.


19 August 2017

This cat tree has been in this room since we moved into the house. No matter what the room has been used for--it's been my office, a weight room, and now a closet/treadmill room--this tree has been there.

It's always been Max's domain. If he's sleepy, he often goes there. Upset, he goes there. When I go to bed, he goes into this room and sits at the top of the tree, and talks to me. He meows a bunch, I call out, "You're fine, Max," and he goes to sleep.

It's his tree; his territory.

But lately...Buddah has been exercising his youth and has been working very hard at becoming the alpha kitty. Max never knows when he'll be attacked. He never knows if Buddah is around a corner, waiting. Max has always been the more patient of the two, but Buddah knew: Max was the boss.

Now this. In the last week I've found Buddah up on the top of the tree several times, and his only goal seems to be to keep Max off it. He's not sleeping or using it to springboard to the top of the wardrobe. He waits for Max to come into the room, and then watches as Max turns around and slinks off, dejected.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being pissed off on Max's behalf. He's never liked Buddah, but he's always been willing to leave him alone. He lets Buddah have his own territory--the high places, especially the top of the TARDIS in my office--and all he really wants is the top of this tree, the back of the Man's closet, and my lap. There's really not a damned thing we can do, either.

I get it, Max is old and Buddah is taking that as his cue to establish dominance. But's really pissing me off.


17 August 2017

Another middle of the night conversation (I have sleep issues) with a writer very new to the game. She owns digital rights to her first novel and recently released it on Amazon, enrolling it in Kindle Select and--no choice in the matter--Kindle Unlimited. Visions of dollar signs invaded dreams, because we've all heard the stories about the fortunate few who, when Kindle Publishing became a thing, hit big.

That was pre-Kindle Unlimited, though. And she had no idea the impact it can have. I have zero problems with people who subscribe to KU for the volume of books they can read for a single price, I have problems with the way the writers are paid.

Let's use Emperor as an example. The list price of the paperback is $15.95, and of that, I earn about $4. If I sell 500 copies, I earn $2000.

The Kindle price is $4.99, and the rate is 70%, minus a tiny delivery fee (yes, I pay the delivery fee when you buy my book.) For each book, I earn $3.50 minus that it's around $3.40. If I sell 500 copies, I earn $1700. If I take the book out of Kindle Select, which puts it into KU, my rate drops to 35%. So those 500 books earn $1.74 each, for $840.

When someone reads this book via Kindle Unlimited, I get paid per page read. Now, that's not actual page counts, but an arbitrary count that Kindle decides my book should be based on an algorithm that who the hell knows what it is. The actual page count is 302, but Kindle thinks it's 278

The payment for page reads this month is $0.0040. At 278 pages, I earn $1.11 when someone "buys" my book using Kindle Unlimited. If I sell 500, I get paid $555.

One of the problems is that with an all-you-can-read buffet, people download more books than they can read, so they have a whole bunch of books in their TBR pile. I wont earn a cent until they open the book and read...or at least flip through to the end.

Since the evolution of Kindle sales to include Kindle Unlimited, I've watched my earnings drop in a major way.

Are any indie writers breaking through? Sure. Writers who use click farms to assure a certain number of pages read are leaping to the head of the pack. Ever see a #1 book jump #368,987 to the top? Yeah...that writer paid a few hundred bucks to make that happen.

Anyway...yeah...that was the reality to which the newby writer entered digital publishing.

It's not a huge deal for me; seriously, our lives don't depend on my income. But the IDEA that as time goes on my work is worth so much less that it was just a couple of years ago kind of stings.

It's also why I will never get books under KU. I don't get them when they're free; if I want a book, I wait until it goes off sale from free and has a price attached. If you're a friend and a writer, I probably bought your book, and not when it was $0.00. KU is terrific for readers, it's horrible for writers.

I've kept most of my books in KS for the 70% rate, but I'm seriously eyeing taking them out of it and going wide--being more available on sites other than Amazon.

I seriously appreciate everything Amazon has done for indie publishing, but damn...our work is worth more than $0.004 per page.


13 August 2017

Last week, during one of those nights when I couldn't sleep--not unusual--I fell into a conversation online with a couple of fellow insomniacs. We've all had blogs for over a decade, and we've all noted a sharp decline in the number of posts we create each month. Granted, blogs are not the thing they used to be and most of the ones I looked forward to each day are long gone, but none of us foresaw a time when we would let the dust gather in the spots where we shared the stupid chit that tumbled through our brains.

Across the board, it's been in the last year that our posting has seriously declined. And across the board, it all boils down to politics.

We're all writers. None of us are A-listers; all of us are part of overwhelming majority of writers for whom a sales month that breaks $500 is pretty freaking good, considering our biggest chunk of income come from page reads laid out at $0.0042 per page read. No, seriously, that's what Kindle Unlimited pays, roughly.

But that's beside the point. We're writers, so we need readers. We need readers who are not ticked off at us, angry at us for having opinions, offended because we don't think the way they do. We don't have the kind of power that comes with an A-list name, and can't get away with the political commentary that people like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King manage. Those who are paying close enough attention know where we stand, but we can't afford to be pushy about it.

We all lamented that; we all live in a country where free speech is a constitutional right, yet we all understand the fundamental point that having that right doesn't protect us from the repercussions of exercising that right. And it shouldn't; you can't yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theater and not expect to get your asterisk arrested when there is no fire. You can't hold a sign up outside someone's home proclaiming them to be a coke-sniffing whore without verifiable proof that they both indulge in a lot of cocaine and take money for sex. You can't stand in the center of a shopping mall with a megaphone and announce that Jerry from the customer service stand has crotch worms.

We have free speech; we have libel and slander laws. It's a necessary balance.

We also have freedom of choice, and a reader who despises the political leanings of a writer has every right to never again read, much less purchase, any product that writer offers for consumption. So we tread carefully, lest we offend a part of our base.

I have avoided the Cheeto-coated elephant in the room for over a year, lest I offend. I have mostly steered away from the political, lest I offend. I have have deliberately avoided allowing anything political on Max's official author page on Facebook, because it doesn't feel like the place for it, but I have also restrained myself on mine to the point where some days, I feel like choking on the things left unsaid.

I thought about that conversation a lot yesterday while watching news from Charlottesville unfold and reading the reactions online. Little bits of it pinged around in my brain as I tried to comprehend how, in 2017, there are still people embracing the Nazi party line, so brazen in their stance that they showed up with torches, chanting Nazi slogans, that they didn't bother covering their faces. I stewed in it as I watched video of a car plowing into a group of counter-protestors. It gutted me to learn that a woman was killed.

Her name is Heather Heyer. Her last Facebook post: If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

Here's the thing about that late-night conversation that feels like a grain of kitty litter stuck to the bottom of my foot three miles into a ten mile walk: if my sales suddenly stop, if I never sell another book, we'll be just fine. Max's annual claim that his royalties go toward buying things for Toys For Tots isn't an exaggeration. His musings about spending his money on events to save the boobies isn't a joke. By design, the money I make writing generally goes toward our annual charitable contributions. It would suck, because there is some ego involved in seeing the royalty statement every month, but if I stopped selling what I write, we're not in danger of losing the house. We'll still eat. We'll still be able to afford toys and a gym membership we rarely use. The Spouse Thingy does a fine job supporting us. The only thing that would suffer would be what we contribute.

So I allowed Max his outrage on his personal FB page. I'll survive any repercussions. His furry little asterisk gives voice to my embarrassment: I don't get it. There is nothing special about being white; there is nothing cultural that needs to be rescued from the tides of change. It doesn't matter if white people continue on; give it a hundred years--presuming we don't backslide so hard we wind up with a collective national concussion--and there won't be anyone truly white. That's not losing anything; that's gaining a common culture, and it's taking steps forward.

1992 in Gainesville. Clearly, not much has changed.
The fact that there are people who believe in White Nationalism, and shout Nazi slogans while they march with tiki torches in hand?

We should all be outraged; that the KKK still exists in America is an embarrassment. That anyone feels safe enough to march with torches in hand, screaming to take back something that should never have been theirs in the first place, is morally repugnant. This shouldn't be White America, people. It's just America. The United States of America. The melting pot of the world, bastion of freedom. We should be the foremost example of equality, diversity, and freedom, yet we're stumbling backward and turning this country into a land of which most of the world will be--if they aren't already--afraid. If they're not afraid, they're mocking us.

And we deserve it.

We only need to take a look at the current administration; the people elected to govern this country are a symptom of the problem. We have at the helm a crude, ignorant, misogynistic racist, and those with greater control of Congress aren't any better. They're stuck in a rut of party-over-country and they don't have the balls to do what's necessary to correct the course that we're on.

No, this didn't start with the election of Trump; this has been going on far too long, led by right-wing fundamentalists who were incredibly open about doing everything they could to stonewall the operations of the country, all in the name of putting the Republican Party on top. We all saw it happening. It's still happening.

And yet, we elected to this nation's highest office a man who does not have the temperament, personality, or intelligence to get the job done. He was open about his misogyny, he freely mocked the disabled, he couldn't string together a coherent sentence, and yet people voted for him for no reason other than he wasn't her.

That he sits in the Oval office--when he isn't indulging in one of his far-too-often golf outings--blustering utter nonsense is tacit permission for the lowest of our low to take to the streets and demand for themselves something no one needs.

Come to grips with it.

Your need for cultural identity ends when it infringes on someone else's right to live without fear; your symbols of Confederacy are not necessary for you to live in freedom, especially when they say to an entire segment of the population: you are hated, and we will win. No, you won't. Your monuments to men who fought to hold onto slavery are little more than participation trophies. You should have grown up by now; most people get rid of those once they reach an age where logic wins over ego.

Your fear of infiltration by others is unfounded. Your worry that white people are being displaced is nonsense. Do a blood test, check your ancestry. I guarantee it's not all white. You are a smattering of everything, encased in a skin that makes life incredibly privileged right from the start.

And seriously, don't tell me on one breath that you condemn the actions of yesterday in Charlottesville, and in the next tell me you still support Trump. Trump is a symptom of the disease, and people, you don't cure the disease without treating the symptoms.

23 July 2017

All right, so at the beginning of the month the Spouse Thingy helped me set my bike up for inside riding, because it's been too freaking hot to walk outside. I was all YAY because I could ride in my office and watch stuff on my iPad, and it was set up right where the air vent would blow on me. No heat issues! Huzzah!

So, of course, the air conditioner up and croaked. And it wasn't a gentle, replace-a-part croaking; it was a full on, have-a-memorial service-then-bury-the-damn-thing croaking. And because of the way our entire HVAC system is, it meant replacing the furnace at the same time.

Even then, it wasn't awful. It's not how we wanted to spend our money, but it was a lot less spendy than I feared it would be (thank you HGTV for making me think it might be $40,000 for both. It was not.) The only real problem was time...two weeks until everything could be installed.

Somekitty figured out where the cool air came from...
So...fine. It was too damned hot in the house to get on the bike. It was too damned hot for most things, but I was able to get a portable a/c from Home Depot, so we were able to keep the living room at about 85. Not great, but not horrible. Because of the cats, we ran it even when we weren't home, because they're senior kitties and Max, especially, is vulnerable.

Then the portable peed all over the floor and soaked the carpet, and just made me 20 kinds of cranky. Still, it worked, and once we figured out the whole a/c-peeing thing, it was good enough. Sleeping sucked big fat hairy donkey balls, because the bedroom was 92 and even a fan did no good.

I whined a lot.

I also spent a lot at Starbucks, because they have a/c and don't mind me sitting there with my laptop for hours on end. I got a lot of work done (editor has the first Wick After Dark book...there are some for-sure rewrites that need to be done, though) and read a few books, and drank way too much tea,

But...but...but...heat outside and heat inside meant I didn't do a lot of moving around. Yes, we have a gym membership, but really, the idea of driving all that way when it's this hot was more of a pain in the ass idea than anything.

Then the a/c was replaced this week, and we have cold air again (and more efficient...places in this house that were always hot now are not, so, yay) which means the bike will be used.

In fact, I used it last night. And discovered the seat is really hard (really, my asterisk is just too delicate). And then discovered the iPad I want to use to watch stuff while I pedal away doesn't have a volume setting loud enough for me to hear over the sound of the tire spinning. And THEN discovered the Bluetooth on it doesn't work anymore, so my earbuds wouldn't connect.

I said a lot of HBO words.

Still, we have air, I have bike, all is good.

Next up:

We are not waiting for it to croak. It's as old as the a/c was (went in when the house was built) and since Dixon has horrible water, we're getting it done soon. Probably a week or so from now. And if a new water heater proves to have the same increased efficiency as the a/c, we'll probably kick ourselves for not doing it sooner, since we can't get really hot water in the kitchen.

If anything else goes wrong...surely there's a celebrity out there who will draw attention to the Wick Chronicles and pimp if out, right???

Or maybe Wick After Dark will hit it big. Bouncy things sell well...I hope.