Friday, March 30, 2007

Newest Toy

No, it's not a "good" machine.

But it has to work better than my old one, which is 27 years old and moans when I ask it to do anything.

Whoever makes this "Shark" machine also makes Singers -- the only thing different on them was the logo. Everything else was the same.

But it has been 27 years since I had to learn how to use a new sewing machine.

Exhausting work.

But fun.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Ex-Rose

This was the rose bush is no more.

It grew too far sideways, and hooked me once too often. I took the loppers to it on Saturday and took it down to the ground.

Bernie will have to wield the pick and remove the roots.

This photo is from last summer; I cut the bugger down before it started to bloom.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sometimes You Just Dig

Alex and John bought us this tree, a cherry tree, for our 30th wedding anniversary last spring.

I didn't expect blossoms on it yet this year. However, the little tree had other ideas. I have no idea how many of the blossoms will set, but the bees have been busy on them.

Behind the cherry tree, there is a lovely fern pine, which should grow to shade the east side of the house in a matter of a couple years. Past that is the darker foliage of a climbing rose, of the variety "Dublin Bay," a loose-blossomed red rose.

Unfortunately, "Dublin Bay" does not only climb, it sprawls ... it looks for excuses, it scoots along fences and tries to attack other shrubs -- and people who need to trim it. One hook too many. Time to trade a rose for a cherry tree.

Goodbye, beautiful Dublin Bay.

Being outside in the sun seemed to help me get an understanding of what is important in life, though. I dug holes in the past few days, I made a place for a new plant. I looked at the light that heats the world and let it fall on my skin. The breeze whispered more wisdom to me than I've been able to find in all my indoor ponderings. Over and over again, I tell myself, "It's all done. The problems are all solved. My only task is to watch how it unfolded."

I keep waiting to feel the consolation.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

These beautiful ornamental pear blossoms smell like dead meat. Fitting picture, then, because my emotional state stinks.

My mother's neighbor called me again today.

"We got your mom's phone fixed today," she told me. "There was something wrong with it, she could hear us but we couldn't hear her."

Yeah, I've been trying to get someone to attend to that since what, last Tuesday? Mom was the first person to whom I tried to explain. "Mom," I said into my end, "your phone is broken. You can hear me but I can't hear you. Get Vickie across the street to check your phone."

Did she? Of course not. Why not? Well, it's really convenient to say "Couldn't take your call" when there are caseworkers trying to call and set up meeting times.

And although Ma doesn't want to talk to them, or admit she needs help, caseworkers are going to be in her life from now on. She's not only getting lost in memories during conversations (a trait that she's had all her life, but has in recent years had all but take her over), and falling during mini-blackouts (mini-strokes? don't know, she won't see a doctor), but now, in the past couple weeks, is having trouble recognizing the neighbor who checks on her regularly, and has admitted she doesn't know how to make out checks for her bills any more. She needs help, and she needs it fast, before Pennsylvania's icy spring greets her with utilities turned off for lack of payment.

The reason the neighbor called me today is that Ma asked her to help her make out her tax checks, which the neighbor did. But she had a look at Mom's check register and was appalled to see only $200 in the account -- far less than would cover the taxes and utility bills. Now, has Mom forgotten to deposit her checks? Has she forgotten to add in the deposit to her check register? She mentioned to me a month ago that she HAD to stop donating to "all these charities" or she wouldn't have anything left. I'd put that down to her lifelong complaint about charities asking for money -- she always complained, but would donate a couple dollars here and there for special causes. Now I'm wondering -- what all has she given away?

I can't see any way out of flying back into that horrible place and putting things in order. Monday at 5am I'll be on the phone trying to get some answers and find some solutions. Mom isn't going to like any of them, but I see no choice at this point.

In tearful humor, I'm reminded of the old adage that if you don't choose a penance for Lent, God will find one for you, so it's far better to choose your own.

No shit.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Post From the Past

Anyone remember how to diagram sentences?

I understand it isn't taught any more, as diagramming sentences has been labeled some misconstrued busy work idea of teaching how grammatical elements link to and modify each other.

When I was in school I found it fascinating ... and easy. So having learned it in sixth grade, when the 11th grade English teacher had us diagram, it was like a day off. Kind of a combo of crossword puzzle and Pictionary, and when we did it for speed, all the better. Day off, recreational diagramming.

Fast forward from 11th grade in high school, to freshman in college, taking a class in Biology, enamoured of the educational process, ready to soak in all that I could of Higher Learning at Penn State University.

Bio 101 with Professor O'Melia. I took the copious notes she projected on the screen, read the book, STUDIED the book, learned tons, took the first exam -- and got a "D".

Never before in my life had a got a "D" grade -- and not because I was in sports or my family had money. I just didn't. I knew my shit from the bottom up. I was a (God help me) serious student.

I was stunned sick by the grade.

When I got my copy of the test back, I looked at every question to see how I could have answered so wrongly so many times.

All my answers seemed right. That is, until I noticed some grammatical difficulties in the phrasing of one of the questions. Whipping out a pencil, I diagrammed the sentence.

ALMOST ALL THE QUESTIONS IN THE EXAM INCLUDED TRICKS OF GRAMMAR. If you assumed that the author of the exam was of average literacy, one answer was correct. If the questions were diagrammed, and you realized that the author was a grammar freak, the answer was entirely different.

That was 1972, the year that ended my repect for higher learning. If you want people to learn, and then test them to see what they have learned, you don't trick them. If you're stuck in the Biology Department instead of the English Department and hate seeing people learn, then get the fuck out of the business, or learn how to test for the Department that pays you.

The next test, while I still took the notes in class and read the text, I didn't worry about studying for the test itself. Instead, when I got the test, I just diagrammed every sentence and answered according to the question revealed. I got a "B."

Studying hard = "D".

Diagramming sentences = "B".

The last test before finals, I didn't read the text, didn't take the notes, just sat in class and then reviewed the notes from my 10th grade Bio class on genetics. And of course, diagrammed the sentences.

I aced it.

Aced a college Biology exam on the merit of being able to diagram sentences and have a 10th grade biology course in a backwater highschool in a town of 1000 people.

Higher learning, indeed.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Infinology Sucks

I wanted to talk about Infinology in a setting dedicated just to it.

We signed up with Infinology as a webhost for the Piker Press some years back. To their credit, back in that day, they were fast and efficient, and we got good working space for our $$.

In 2006, there were more than a few weekends when the site was messed up and we couldn't access the ezine, but our hits were high and I just figured those were days when the Googlebots were sitting around reading through our archives and forums, hogging up the bandwidth. No worries.

Then, in November, we had days of down time, and investigation indicated a problem with Infinology's servers. The Press came back up, much to our relief -- but with one odd and extremely aggravating change: all our image files since the beginning of June had been erased. Every cover, every illustration, every photograph. All. People wanting to go back through the archives and read the comics got blank pages. Articles that used photos to explain content were bald bits of text.

Now I don't know about anyone else, but when I look for info on something, and the webpage comes up with messed up graphics or pictures, I don't bother with it, and generally sneer at the content. Losing all those images was a rude blow, and what really made it rude-issimo was that Infinology never said, "Sorry! We backed up our files, everything is still there" or even "Sorry! We've destroyed six months of files, can we help you in any way?" or even "Sorry, we'll try not to let that happen again."

Infinology sucks. Sometime between noon on Saturday, February 24th and Monday morning of the 26th, the site went down. And so did the business relationship between Infinology and the Piker Press. We sent "trouble tickets" that went unacknowledged; email that went unanswered; phone calls for help that were sent automatically to an answering machine -- and were never returned.

A team of techs from various points in the world on our end discovered that there was a problem with the Cold Fusion translation in INFINOLOGY's servers. Their problem, utterly ignored, just as they ignored our plight.

No choice, we've moved to a new webhost. In a matter of a day or two, we should be back on the Web again, having lost a shitload of readers with two weeks' damn downtime.

Infinology sucks.

Thrown for a Loop

I see that the last post was on the 26th ...

at that time, I was not terribly concerned that the Press' webhost was non-functional. It was a Monday, and sometimes the server crashes if traffic is high. It happens with many sites.

Two days later, I was getting frantic.

Yesterday we moved our domain to a new webhost, LFC Hosting. Still not fully functional, but at least that company is acknowledging that we exist.

I was unprepared for how powerfully the mishap would affect me. Dammit, we've been on the web for almost FIVE years, and except for some rough weeks while the Boss was preggers and feeling ill, we've been weekly all that time. I always had some input to the Press; this past year I grumped and moaned because I had a lot more responsibility for getting the Press up and running.

Suddenly I was out of a job. Suddenly, there was not our venue for writers to continue writing. Suddenly, Filthy Pikers were silenced.

It was so horrid to contemplate that I fell victim to a cold.

And have done nothing but mope.