New and Improved Email

A few weeks ago I got an email from my domain provider telling me they are switching to a new and improved email platform.

I liked having my own personal email address at my own personal domain (@ patbertram rather than @yahoo or whatever), so I used that email frequently. I also used that email address to sign up for various websites because if I got inundated with junk, it didn’t come to me via the phone. I had to wait until I went online to check my email.

Ever since that notification, I’ve been making a list of people and businesses I have to contact to change my email address, as well as sites where I have to change my email login address. Making all those changes in the two months allotted seems insurmountable. (After two months of a free trial, they will be charging me monthly, though how being charged for a service that used to be free can be considered new and improved, I don’t know.) Because of the monumental task (and because I am rebellious and don’t want to do the work), I’ve been considering going ahead and paying for a year or so until I either get everyone changed over or until attrition makes some of the changes unnecessary.

Today the changeover happened. And the new and improved is nothing more than Microsoft’s Outlook. I already have a Hotmail email using that same platform, but since it’s dedicated to family emails, I don’t have to use it very much, which is good, because I find it tedious cumbersome.

The only good thing about the changeover today is that it made the decision about keeping the account for me. Since it’s a platform I don’t like, and one, moreover, that I already have, I see no point in paying money for the service.

I bet you can guess what I’m going to be doing the next couple of months! And it won’t be me having fun, that’s for sure.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Meeting With My Contractor

I spent most of last evening working on a list of projects for my contractor that included projects that have been started and paid for but not finished, projects that have not been finished but were included in a bulk payment (two installments of which I still owe), and projects that have been contracted for but not started and not paid for.

Whew! What a task! But to the best of my knowledge, the list includes everything we’ve talked about and planned over the past couple of years since I bought this place.

This morning, I met with the contractor to go over the list. A lot of the items could be knocked out in a day if he brought his whole crew here, other items will take longer, especially if he’s only able to send a couple of men here to work. One of those men is new and I haven’t yet met, but the other has been here working on occasion. Still, when they work their way down the list to the projects inside the house, I want the contractor here, not just his minions. Although I like and trust the one who has been here before, I still prefer for the person I hired to do the work. That way there are never any questions about who is working in my house and who might be responsible for any mishaps.

As for the rest of it, though, I’m not sure I care who does the work as long as someone does it.

One of the problems of running a business such as my contractor’s is hiring help. The truly trustworthy workers who can get the job done without supervision seem to be hard to find, so when it comes to a “shopping list” of jobs, such as I have, rather than one big project, he needs to delegate others to do the work.

Another problem with a plethora of jobs, especially those that call for dump truck loads of material such as rocks, gravel, and dirt, is actually getting the stuff here for the delegates to work with.

Hopefully the delegates will be here tomorrow as planned to get started on some of the jobs. The huge amount of rain we had this spring (300% of normal, more than 600% of what we had been getting the past couple of years) spooked me. Water poured off the roof rather than into the gutters because the fascia had been wrongly installed by some previous owner, so I ended up with a gully wash. Also, the workers had dug dirt away from the house to fix the foundation and never got back here to fill the ditch. The combination of the faulty gutters and the ditch created a moat around the house. Although it was a big enough problem to make me worry about the basement flooding, it wasn’t big enough to attract dragons or other moat dwellers. (The mosquitos, however, are ravenous this year and I am their smorgasbord.)

One of the first things they will be doing is building my raised garden in the middle of my rear pathways. I have a hunch it might be too late to get plants to fill the garden by the time it’s done, but perhaps not. I suppose it’s a matter of whatever I can get, wherever I can. Since the brakes on my car still aren’t fixed (I haven’t been calling to nag the mechanic but maybe I should), I only have the sparse selection at the local hardware store to choose from.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. One meeting with a contractor in no way equates to jobs finished. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Mangled E-Books

A few years ago when Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare was first published, a local book club read the book and invited me to be a guest at their meeting. I really looked forward to the discussion because I thought the club would have enjoyed reading a book where one of their members was a character, and where their town itself played a part. If nothing else, I would have thought they would have been interested in what parts of the book were a true reflection of the dance class, and what parts of the book were pure fiction.

As it turned out, it was a miserable experience. Not one person had a question. Not one person had a good thing to say about the book. In fact, the meeting was dominated by a woman who grilled me about the editing. Who edited it? Did you edit it yourself? Did your publisher edit it? Did anyone else edit it?

Then she said she’d never seen so many typos in a single book. The truth is, I’m sure there are some errors, but considering all the people who proofed it for me before I turned it into my publisher, I have a hard time believing that the half-dozen proofers all missed the same myriad errors, though it is possible. It’s almost impossible for any book to be 100% accurate, especially this one considering that my then publisher had a penchant for making unauthorized changes to my books. I didn’t mind another set of eyes, of course, but I let him publish the book with the caveat that he was to inform me of any changes he made. Which he ignored. Foolishly, I did not do a word-by-word check of the book again when I got the proof copy, but I simply could not handle another argument if by chance I found something that needed to be changed. Nor did I ever see an electronic version of the book, so I have no idea what it would have looked like, though, as it turns out, it would probably have been a good idea to check it over.

But I’m getting off the point, which is that book club meeting.

After that woman grilled me about my editing skills, I asked her if she could tell me the pages she found errors so I could perhaps correct them on future editions. She said she’d read the ebook, which didn’t have page numbers, but that there were errors on every “page.” Then, almost as an aside, she asked if there were ever translation errors when a book was made into an ebook. I told her there were often such errors and mentioned a book I was reading at the time where the name of the love interest, Illyena, was consistently mistranslated as Hyena, which had turned a touching story into a farce.

But even that isn’t as egregious a mistranslation as the book I am currently reading. This current book is so badly mangled that way too many passages were almost impossible to understand, such as this one:

“They made a lovely pair, the two women wand honey-skinned, their laughter gay and slim and young ads ruffling in the sultry Puffs Of and sweet, their dark and he and air off the desert.”

Really? This was a passage in an ebook by an internationally acclaimed bestselling author that had been published by one of the biggest publishing houses. How did they ever let such a mess get through?

Still, I bet if he had been a guest at that book club meeting to discuss his book, no one would have thought to grill him about the mangling.

I do know that the typo discussion was a way of putting me down, though I have no idea what I could possibly have done to those unknown women to merit such disparagement. All I know is that I was glad when they went onto other business and I could gracefully make an exit.

***

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare.

Killing friends is a good way to lose friends, even if the murder is for play. When Pat’s adult dance classmates discover she is a published author, the women suggest she write a mystery featuring the studio and its aging students. One sweet older lady laughingly volunteers to be the victim, and the others offer suggestions to jazz up the story. Then the murders begin. Tapped by the cops as the star suspect, author Pat sets out to discover the truth curtained behind the benign faces of her fellow dancers. Does one of them have a secret she would kill to protect? Or is the writer’s investigation a danse macabre with Pat herself as the bringer of death?

A Small House and a Large Garden

A friend sent me a verse written in the seventeenth century by poet Abraham Cowley:

May I a small house and large garden have;
And a few friends,
And many books, both true.

No wonder she thought of me when she saw that snippet — it seems to describe my life perfectly. A small house, a large garden (not quite yet, but in the making!), a few true friends, and many books, though too few of those books, perhaps, are true. Actually, I don’t own many books except those I wrote, a few reference tomes, some tarot books, and quite a few alchemical texts that I have yet to study. Most of my “many books” are in the library that is a mere four blocks from my small house. As long as I can manage to get there, all those books belong to me. In fact, when I was there earlier today, the only person in the building besides me was the librarian. So, not just a private library all my own, but a personal librarian to take care of all my books!

On the way back from the library, I picked up another two plants for my ever-expanding garden. I was going to say ever-growing, but too many plants haven’t started to flower or even spread. My hanging lobelia is doing fine, though.

And so, of course, are the weeds.

When I returned from my errands, I took the time to mow the weedy lawn. Workers are supposed to come later this week, and I thought it might be a good idea if they could actually see where they needed to work. Of course, my having done the job pretty much guarantees that they won’t come, so I suppose it would have been smarter to leave everything the way it was. But then, if I waited too long, the mower wouldn’t have been able to cut the weeds. As it is, there are a couple of very tall, very tough patches of grass that defeated the mover. It seems as if next on my shopping list will be grass clippers.

I paused here to look up battery operated grass clippers and found one that might be a fun and useful tool to have to help me create my “large garden.” Now I know how I will spend my next paycheck!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

At War With Weeds

The weeds are definitely winning the war in my yard. For every one that I manage to eradicate, another three take its place. I don’t want to go the poison route — with more weeds than anything else here on this property, the amount of weedkiller necessary to do the job would probably be strong enough to kill me, too.

So, it’s one weed at a time, though I have been mowing some of them just to clear a space for me to walk.

Oddly, some of those that seemed the most innocuous have turned out the be the most frightening. Since I can’t dig up all of them, I’ve started with those that have seed pods similar to dandelions, because once those take hold, you never get rid of them. I’ve pretty much been ignoring a weed that seemed to have a shallow root system, with skinny “arms” and sparse leaves, that lays flat on the ground. I thought that with all the wind around here, it might not be a bad idea to leave those weeds be so that they could hold the soil in place.

Bad idea! Today when I was out weeding one of my garden patches, I went ahead and pulled up some of those weeds, which turned out to be a monumental task. Each one of those “arm” had grown to about two feet, and at each intersection where a leaf grew, the plant grew a root. Even worse, in some cases, it tied down plants that were in its way. I’d never seen anything like that. I thought bindweed was bad. Bindweed looks like miniature white morning glories, and if they are in a field, they lie flat and look pretty. If they are in a garden, they grow monstrously long and strangle any plant they can climb. Unless I want to resort to poison, the bindweed will always win, but I can sort of keep on top of it. Goat’s head is another plant that is prevalent around here, but I know what it is, and can — mostly — keep on top of that one, too. But this long, skinny plant that ties itself to the ground and to anything in its path is something else again.

I have no idea what the plant is called — I spent the past hour searching online for information about it without any luck — but I do know I have to be more vigilant about pulling it up. If not, I’ll wake up one day and find my whole house wrapped up in the tendrils of that weed.

*Shivering*

The thought is enough to give me nightmares.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Then More Stuff Happens

We live in an strange literary climate where books published by small independent publishers are held to a higher standard than anything published by one of the handful of major publishing houses.

I’m currently reading a book published by one of the major companies, and nothing happens. Well, that’s not exactly true. Stuff happens. Then more stuff happens. And even more stuff happens. But I am now three-quarters of the way through the book, and all I’ve gleaned from the story is that a lot of stuff happens.

But nothing happens to move the story forward. I presume all this “stuff” — murders, crooks double-crossings, political shenanigans, human trafficking — will lead to a cohesive ending, but I’m not sure if I will ever know what happens. For one thing, the story is too convoluted with at least a dozen point-of-view characters, mostly criminals, and I haven’t sorted all of them out yet. (A serious problem is that too many names are closely related, like Donnie and Danbury and Donaldson). So even if I read to book to the end, chances are I won’t know the whole of it. And for another thing, I’m ready to give up. I really don’t care to read about women (and men) crime bosses and gambling and prostitution and all sorts of other nefarious behavior gotten up to by the bad guys. There has to be at least an equal amount of action by the so-called “good guys,” but so far, I haven’t identified any good guys.

I do know that any such book written by an unknown and published by an independent company would have been panned by any readers, not acclaimed as “gripping,” and “raucous” and “unflinching” and “exceptional.” Though, come to think of it, those are rather namby-pamby words to describe a bestseller, as if even the reviewers had a hard time coming up with something good to say about this book. Actually, looking more closely at the reviews, they seem to be about the series as a whole rather than this particular book, so perhaps the reviewers couldn’t finish it, either.

Although it might seem like it, I’m not really picking on this book, just using it as an example of today’s literary climate. Another book I recently finished by a bestselling author who has been around forever, read like a junior high school kid’s attempt at writing a novel, with way too much repetition and explaining, and way too little in the way of characterization. Still, that book made some sort of sense. Stuff happened, but that stuff seemed to tie into the main storyline.

I suppose I have to take the reader (me) into consideration. I have read so many books (about one a day) for so many decades that I could be a tad jaded.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Stumped by a Stump

Shortly after I moved here, I had to have a Siberian elm tree cut down because it was interfering with the electric lines. Unfortunately, Siberian elms are tenacious creatures, and because the stump had never been ground out, the tree stump kept shooting up branches. I sure got tired of pruning that tree! Even worse, for every branch I cut, another half dozen would grow. Last fall, the workers who occasionally stop by to continue with a task they’d abandoned months previously, came back to try to dig out the stump. They told me they’d cut off all the roots that snaked off the main trunk, which should have made it easy to pry up the stump. Not so. They eventually abandoned the project — again — until they could arrange for a stump grinder, as well as schedule others with stumps needing removal to make the price of the equipment more affordable for all of us.

We thought that since that stump had been so mangled, it would die on its own, but that didn’t happen. In fact, this year, the thing grew even more voraciously than it did the previous year. I wasn’t too worried because the stump grinder was finally scheduled to be rented, though as always when it comes to my property, things weren’t that easy. Apparently, the grinder is missing a part, so . . . no grinder. When the part comes in, the grinding will begin. Meantime, I had that horrible mess with the unwieldy growth on the stump. I was thinking unhappy thoughts about the workers this morning as I pruned those dozens and dozens of branches. A new neighbor saw my struggles, and he commented that it shouldn’t be that difficult to dig up the stump.

He doesn’t have a high opinion of the guys who worked on my yard anyway, thinking they are doing me a disservice by walking away in the middle of my various projects and leaving me with half-finished messes, so he figured those guys hadn’t worked very hard on digging out the stump.

He came and worked on the stump for several hours, almost breaking his pickaxe and making his light-weight chainsaw smoke. (Tool envy! I sure would like a battery-powered mini-chainsaw.) He got the smaller stump dug up, but the big one “stumped” him, though he did manage to sever even more of the root arms that were holding the stump in place.

So now, I’m back waiting for the stump grinder.

It would be nice if the stump could be pulverized and the soil readied in time for a late season planting, since that part of the yard seems to be well nourished. Hollyhock seeds I threw in there a couple of years ago on the advice of the neighbor who had grown them and gifted them to me, decided to finally sprout this year, and the plants look like tall bushes with leaves as big as dinner plates. I’ve never seen hollyhock plants that big! And they are still babies.

I don’t suppose it really matters when the stump grinding is done since I am already over my head with work on my various gardens. The neighbor thinks that what he did today should keep any sprouts from growing, and that’s what I was really concerned about. I can deal with unfinished projects (most of the time anyway), but I do resent having to do chores that I wouldn’t have to do if the job had been finished in a timely manner.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Gardening Chores

I went out this morning to do a couple of quick gardening chores. Two hours later, dirty, sweaty, and exhausted, I finally gave up. Each chore had led to another, until it seemed (and rightly so) that I’d never be finished. I suppose that’s both the frustration and fun of gardening — that there is always something that needs to be done, and that there is also always an excuse to go outside and play in the dirt.

I did accomplish some of what I wanted to do. I planted the bulb collection I got from the Arbor Day Foundation.

I realize this summer cutting garden will never look like the photo they sent — for one thing, the plants all flower at different times, and for another, I planted them in a straight line at the back of the flower garden I’m creating outside the one window I regularly look out of.

And then there is the problem with the gardener. (Meaning me.) A rank amateur, that’s for sure! Though admittedly, I am learning, and I am managing to keep some things alive besides waist-high weeds. As you can see, my marigolds and the cherry tomato plant are doing well despite the grass that insists on growing back.

After I planted the bulbs (being careful to follow the directions, which I don’t always do, but I wanted to make sure the bulbs at had at least a slim chance of coming up), I pulled weeds. Then I trimmed a tree/bush. It’s a locust that was cut down a couple of years ago, but it continues to grow. I’ve been undecided about keeping it since I’m not sure I want the responsibility of trimming it as I grow older, so I thought I’d have the tree guy grind out the stump when he comes to grind up all the other on the property, but I kind of like it. It looks like a fern with its tall, wavy branches.

After trimming the tree, I pulled more weeds. There are still more weeds to pull, and the weed patch I laughingly call my lawn needs to be mowed again. I also need to transplant some bulbs that will be buried under gravel if the landscaper ever comes back to do some more work, and then . . . yep, there’s always something!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Word Play

I have gotten into the habit of using a walking stick around town, partly because of the rough terrain (the sidewalks here are worse than a lot of the trails I used to hike) and partly because of my iffy knees. The other day I wondered if I should stop using the stick because it’s become more of a crutch than a necessity, and it occurred to me how strange it was that the word “crutch” has come to mean the opposite of what it used to mean as well as keeping the original meaning of being a device to help when one is injured. In both cases, a crutch is something we rely on, but in the first case, there is a hint that the reliance is unnecessary, and in the second case, the physical reliance is a necessity.

This led me to think of other words that have come to mean something different while also keeping their original meanings, such as “moot.” Originally, something moot was a point to be debated. Now in general usage it means a point that is so obvious or so irrelevant that it needs no debate.

Smart is the same. Originally smart something sharp. Then people began calling those with a sharp tongue “smart.” And now, smart is largely associated with intelligence, though it still retains its original connotation when we refer to a sharp pain as smarting.

Other common words have taken on the opposite meaning of the original intent, and the origins have been lost somewhere along the way.

Two that interest me because they show more of a centuries-old prejudice against the poor than because of the words themselves. A villein used to be a bonded servant, a poor person, one who had nothing but was tied to land owned by someone else and could not leave it without permission. Now, of course, a villain is someone bad. Same with naughty. A naughty person used to be a person with naught, a poor person. So, the general idea, which holds today, is that people without anything are somehow bad.

I tried to find other fun words online, but most of them seemed silly to me. At least by today’s definition of silly. “Silly” used to mean blessed or fortunate. “Nice,” on the other hand, used to mean silly.

One word I did find interesting that I wasn’t aware of was “hussy.” A “hussy” was originally a housewife. Wow, what a turnaround to today’s meaning! “Radical” also has undergone a radical change — it originally meant something rooted, basic, fundamental, not, as it has come to mean, something or someone who advocates upheaval of fundamental ideas and complete social or political reform.

And all this because of a walking stick that may or may not be a crutch.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Banking Online

I’m surprised it took me so long to sign up for banking via the internet, and more surprised at how convenient it is.

Come to think of it, it’s not surprising that it took me so long to sign up after all. I wasn’t sure I trusted the safety of such transactions, with the way passwords are occasionally compromised, and I didn’t like it that I had to ask my bank “permission.” It wasn’t really permission, but it seemed that way since I had to ask them to set it up.

When I opened my accounts here, it was mostly automatic. They told me what to do, I did it, and that was that. Now, I can’t imagine going back to the old way where a person had no idea what was happening in their accounts until they got a monthly bank statement. And even then, a person never really knew what was going on, because there was approximately a two-week lag time between when the statement was prepared and when it was received. And then there was all the adding and subtracting to reconcile the account, because there were always checks that had been written and sometimes even deposits made during that lag time.

I don’t really have a lot of banking tasks, but I do have a separate account to use for PayPal and online purchases, which I keep mostly empty. So that means I have to transfer money from one account to another to pay for online purchases and bill paying. Banking online makes all that so easy! Less than a minute, and the money is transferred. And even though I do keep a separate written tally because just like in the old paper banking days, it takes a few days before checks and transfers show up in the account, and I like knowing where I stand.

In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to have used internet banking during those years I was living in a different state than my bank, but I managed to survive it, as well as survive someone fraudulently using my debit card.

The theft of my card number was probably why, when I moved here, I was so willing to make the change to a paperless account. Back then, I had to call the hospital and give them my debit card number to pay the monthly bills for my arm surgeries, and it was one of those employees who stole my card number. It would have been so much better doing it online.

Not that any of this has anything to do with anything except that I paid bills today, transferring money from one account to another to do so, and it dawned on me how convenient it all is. It makes it convenient to spend money, too, but that’s a different issue.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator