Monday, December 28, 2009

Sony too!

Once I get on a roll, I don't know when to stop. As long as I'm formatting my book for digital readers, I might as well cover the market. Sony has a new model competing with Amazon's Kindle. It's still a little to pricey for me, but my book will be there.

The formatting took longer this time. As a self-published author, I had to go through Smashwords to get to the Sony reader. Once I passed through their hoops, they will distribute to several other markets as well. This time I really had to flatten my manuscript. No headers or footers, no page numbers or table of contents, no sections, no fancy fonts. Single spaced! They allowed me a space between paragraphs. My eyes couldn't stand the work otherwise. I stuck to the rules and they included me in the Premium Catalog that gets the distribution to Sony, Barnes & Noble, etc.

They didn't even notify me yet. I just found out through Narcisurfing - my weekly Google alert on myself.

You can find a large excerpt here. You don't even need a reader to browse.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's Done!!

Amazon support came through with flying colors and my book is available for Kindle download. If you have a Kindle device, or if you want to get Kindle for PC (free beta download), or if a Kindle is on your Christmas wish list....any more if's I can think of?? Click here for the Kindle book.

It's a win-win. The price is $7.99 vs. $17.99 for the paperback, and the author gets a bigger percentage royalty. Nice Christmas present for everybody. And unlike ordering from Norm Thompson, there is no waiting on pins and needles for the sweater that doesn't arrive as promised "in time for Christmas."

Of course if you want an autographed copy, the price is $16 plus shipping and handling. Click here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Going Kindle

Amazon released its first digital reader in 2007 at a price of $399. Kindle 2 was released in February 2009, and the price was reduced to $259 in October 2009.

As an avid reader, I rejected the idea of a digital reader at first. I like to curl up with a book, I like the heft of a book and the feel of the pages. But I find a gadget hard to resist. It's the price that has kept me away.

As an author, I have been asked time after time, when my book would be available on Kindle. Since I'm self-published, that decision is left to me. I have put off making that transition for a couple of reasons. First, I'm not ready to buy a Kindle at that price, and I wasn't comfortable with the idea of putting my book on a medium where I couldn't see it. Second, I printed out the eight-page guide to the Amazon Digital Text Platform, and found it lacking. The geek in me is up to the task, but the analyst in me could see what was missing in the instructions.

Everything changed this week when I stumbled upon Kindle for PC. I was browsing Amazon as I often do, and clicked myself into the Kindle bookstore. The book I was browsing had several purchase options, and there it was "Kindle for PC free download."

Far be it from me to resist something free, at the same time solving part of my Kindle publication issue. I would be able to see my book on Kindle. Before I knew it I had downloaded that Kindle for PC, and started preparing my book to upload to the Digital platform.

After spending 3 hours Tuesday, I was heading for frustration. Getting the text uploaded was simple enough, but I had never seen a Kindle book. Where does my book cover show up? And what about all my Author bio stuff on the back cover? Does that show up anywhere? What do other books look like on Kindle?

So it was back to the Kindle bookstore to see what I could buy for cheap. Free is usually better than cheap, and I found a free sample of Twilight, part 1 of the Twilight saga. (I have almost been tempted to hook myself on vampires) I downloaded the free sample into my Kindle for PC reader, and there I saw it. Page one is the book cover.

I spent 3 hours Wednesday trying to get my book cover into Kindle. (I don't want to take this ride without Cynthia Marie's handiwork). I followed the sketchy instructions as well as some postings in the forum from equally frustrated people trying to get their stuff into Kindle. Starting with my Word document, I pasted the book cover in the front page and back cover on the last page, and saved it as HTML. That action created a new folder with the images in it. Since one of the accepted file types is a zip file, I zipped everything together and uploaded to Kindle.

They have a preview that doesn't exactly look like Kindle and doesn't always show the images correctly. I read that in the forums. So now I have my text in acceptable quailty, but in place of my images is the message "The image is missing."

(Groan) I found a similar question in the forums from 2007 without a useful answer. My last action was to contact support, by email. I have had no answer yet, but I won't give up. I want my Kindle book available in time for all you people who get a Kindle for Christmas.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Adventures in Belize

When we booked an excursion from our cruise ship for "Xunantunich & Marimba Lunch" I didn't know quite what to expect. I don't do detailed research prior to a Caribbean cruise. This was supposed to be a resting vacation. We had not been to Belize before, and a friend said we might like to see some Mayan ruins.

The excursion description said to wear walking shoes, as there would be hiking uphill and up many steps. We have been to Mayan pyramids in Cancun in the heat of summer, and didn't go all the way to the top due to the 110 degree temperature and 90% humidity. You would think December weather would be more friendly for climbing.

When we arrived at the pyramid at Xunantunich after a steep climb, my first reaction was to stay safely on the ground in the shade. The sun was hot already at 10 AM. Tinker was going all the way up, as were everybody else in the group including pre-teen kids, and senior citizens with canes. I didn't want to be the only wimp in the crowd.

I was up to the physical challenge of the climb, thanks to my months of muscle workouts. I was able to focus enough on the step in front of me, not to be overcome by fear of the height. The heat was the worst challenge. But we did stop at several levels where we could hide in the shade of the stones. I made it to the top without mishap. Coming down was not as bad as I expected, and there was a stairway with a handrail for the very last leg.

I was glad I hadn't chickened out. The view of the frieze on the back side was worth the trip.

The next stop was lunch at a restaurant in St. Ignatio, our tourguide's hometown. It should have been a welcomed end to a day's excursion. But no, I tripped over a bump in the pavement entering the restuarant, and landed face-down, splat, my prescription sunglasses flying in one direction and my camera flying in the other. I heard the voices saying, "Did she faint?" "Help her up." "No give her time to work through the pain." "I see that little bump where she tripped."

By that time, Tinker was helping me up. I felt my face for blood; there wasn't any. My mouth and chin hurt. I went into the restroom to wash my hands of the dirt, and I could see it already, a fat lip. UGH!!! The bartender gave me enough ice to last through lunch and the bus ride back to the ship.

The rest of the day, I hid out in our stateroom, applying ice to my lip that continued to swell. Ed was sympathetic and insisted it wasn't so bad. I had heard enough fat lip jokes on the bus ride already. "Just tell people your husband hit you." (Not funny) "Hey, you don't need Botox." (ALso not funny) Ed went without me to happy hour in the concierge lounge, and our new friends said "Tell her to get a burkha and come on up." (It hurt to laugh.)

Now it's day two, and the lip has gone down very little. The answer on Yahoo Answers says it will take 2 - 3 days. I'll be able to go home without a fat lip.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Conversation with a youngun

"Grandma, have you been to North Dakota?"

"No, but I've been to South Dakota?"

"You've been to South Dakota?" Then turning to Grandpa,"Grandpa, have you been to North Dakota."

Grandpa says, "Yes."

Grandma interjects, "Grandpa has been to all fifty states."

Youngun is surprised and impressed. "All fifty states? But have you been to Canada?"


"How about South America?"





"No, I haven't been to Antarctica."

"How about Asia?"


Now the youngun thinks he's on a roll. How about Africa?


"Hmmm...but have you been to Nigeria?"

Grandpa chuckles, "No."

"My uncle John is from Nigeria. Grandpa, have you been to any other planets."

Grandpa and Grandma chuckle. "No, we haven't been to other planets."

Youngun says, "There is such a thing as aliens."

Grandma asks, "Who told you that?"

"Nobody. I just know."


Material for NaNoWriMo 2010.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Packing Light

We're going on a 7-day Caribbean cruise next week, and this is all I'm taking. One bag under 50 pounds. I'll also have a small backpack for meds, book, music, and one-quart ziploc bag with allowable liquids. The airlines forced us to do this when they started charging $25 to check a bag. Depending on our frequent-flyer status, we sometimes get by with no extra charges. We haven't figured out why we might have to pay outbound, but not coming back. Tinker just got back from 14 days with one bag, so he has it down to a science.

The last time we sailed out of Miami we drove, and had a total of four bags. We took advantage of the early walk-off at the end of that cruise, so we could get the car and be on our way home before 10 AM. That always feels like a cattle stampede with a couple hundred passengers trying to get to the door with their bags. There was this one couple ahead of us who appeared to have only their carry-on luggage, one small bag for her, and a small back-pack for him. The cruise staff asked them several times if they had all their luggage. "You won't be able to get to the other luggage through this door." The couple insisted that they travel light. We really wondered how they managed the week with two changes of clothes, since that's about all that could fit in those bags. We guessed they didn't go to formal night, or even ate in the main dining room. They could hang out by the pool, and go on excursions. They probably had a good time.

So we're paring it down this time. It's easier to do for a warm climate, since we won't need coats and heavy sweaters. I'm packing mix-and match tops and bottoms, including formal wear for two nights. One pair of black shoes, one pair of waterproof sandals, and the sneakers on my feet. I even packed sunscreen and insect repellent. Belize here we come.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What feels like appendicitis, but isn't?

It's been over three weeks since my surgery, and the pain in my right side is gone. The ovarian cyst on the left was not the cause, but the laparoscopy to remove the cyst provided a view of the problem on the left. The picture below is fuzzy because it was a stealth photo of a photo. Adding the legend made it more fuzzy. My daughter had suspected that I had adhesions that caused the pain. When my gynecologist saw it, she called it a "tether." One quick snip, and I'm pain free.

I still can't play the piano. And I'm three days behind on my NaNoWriMo.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Signed Up for NaNoWriMo...what have I done?!?!?

I did it. I thought about it last year and the year before. This time I did it, but I'm going to stay anonymous. If you see a saraphen out there, it's not me....LOL.

It's the National Novel Writing Month. I have pledged to write something during the month of November. The goal is pounding out 50,000 words by brute force, over the course of the month, and maybe a story will be in there worth polishing.

You do the writing online, on the NaNoWriMo website, so they can monitor your progress and at the end they can verify that you haven't copied the same word over 50,000 times or the same sentence a bunch of times. It's free to join at They ask for a $10 donation. (Maybe by the end of November I'll stifle the urge to say Na-No-Ne-Ne-No-Nu)

So all my friends who have a novel just waiting to be written, this is your chance. I won't promise I will make it to the finish line, but if I don't start I know I won't.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Michael Jackson - "This is it!"

I went to see it at 1:00 today with my sons. Tinker says he'll wait to see it on DVD. I wanted the big screen experience. I never had the privilege of a live Michael concert, and I hoped this would give me a taste of what had missed while he was living. I knew this was rehearsal footage, but didn't know what to expect.

First of all, Michael was very much in charge, vibrant, not at all sickly. The movie merged multiple rehearsal sessions of individual songs (you could tell by the change of clothing), and he was dancing, singing (at the same time) many of you 50-somethings can sing while you walk upstairs? He was directing singers, dancers, and musicians, singing the instrument parts, getting the perfectionist's sound and tempo.

There was new movie footage for the Thriller sequence as well as new black-and-white footage of Michael with Bogart and Edward G. Robinson for Smooth Criminal. Just a wonderful small morsel of the concert that might have been.

Michael was demanding, but gentle. He treated the whole team of singers, dancers, musicians, technicians, directors as family. He thanked them with "I love you," when they responded to his changing demands for perfection.

I lost count of the songs. There was a taste of the Jackson Five, and he went through the decades of hits, every one you would want to request. I was dancing in my seat. There were times when he held back on the voice, said he was saving his voice. But other times he got really into it and gave it his top performance.

I guess you can tell I'm a fan.

Attendance was light at 1:00. There were fewer than 20 people in the theater. Many of us had bought tickets in advance, expecting a crowd. Most of us stayed through the credits at the end.

Some critics have given this documentary 1/2 star. I give it four.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Will I be able to play the piano?

When my doctor came to see me Post-op, that was the first thing I said when I woke up. It was like I had been waiting all my life to make that dumb joke, and I finally had the opportunity. She was serious, "If you could play before." "How about playing tennis?"

Two of my greatest regrets. I quit the piano when I was four years old. Or it was really my mother who couldn't stand my banging and crying anymore. I couldn't stand to practice. I wanted to get it right the first time, so I would bang and cry. Some things I will never be able to do no matter how hard I work at it. I will always suck at tennis.

My surgery was a success. My left ovary and cyst along with the fallopian tube, were bagged up and pulled out through my belly button. Now I have three small bandages, one on each side, and one for the belly button. My gut feels like a small bulldozer went through it, but otherwise I'm feeling well.

My daughter said I probably had Propofol for a sedative. That would explain my loopy conversation. I feel like I understand Michael Jackson a little better now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's My Birthday

I had my Pre-OP meeting today. They do it by telephone. Rather strange, but it certainly was convenient. I've accompanied my brother for his last three pre-op appointments, so I knew what to expect. I had my shoe-box of meds all ready to tell them what I take. With my changing assortment of blood pressure medications, there was no way I would remember my dosage and the names of Benicar, Diltiazem, and Terazosin. Those are the three I'll have to take the morning of my procedure.

I had to confirm that I was having a left Oophorectomy...her word, not mine. A laparoscopy, and I'll stay overnight. My pain level is only two today. Any kitchen activity takes it up to a six (for-real!!) I went to muscle class last week, and that took it up to a seven.

I'll be glad to have this thing over.

Today is my birthday! The count-down starts to Medicare...LOL The insurance companies have already started bugging me to select a Medicare supplement plan. Gonna sit on my throne the rest of the day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

“No News” Sucks!

Whoever said, “No News is good news,” must have had their head buried in the sand. Some things I want to know, and I want to know NOW. I have been silent on this blog for a few weeks now, waiting for resolution of a health issue. Waiting Sucks!

When I started writing this blog, I called it “Aspiring Writer.” For about a year, I wrote mostly about the book I was writing and hoping to publish. But with everything else going on in my life, writing was just one of many things on my list of things to do, to see, to accomplish. I changed the title to “Checking off the Bucket List.” Aside from self-publishing my book in 2008, I became involved in the Obama campaign and the witnessing of the election of the first black President of the United States.

I have since gone in many directions with my Bucket List, writing about the things that give me pleasure and the things that keep me awake at night. Everything from that pesky “Check Engine Light,” to figuring out my new digital camera, to travel around the world.

My life has been blessed. At 63 years of age
(I'll be 64 on October 7...don't tell), the youngest of seven siblings, I have out-lived my mother who died at age 54, my first husband who died at age 58, and one sister who died at age 58. I often said that I was living in the gravy. I have been reasonably healthy, an active Senior Citizen. My blood pressure is under control thanks to four daily meds, and I stay up-to-date with the commonly prescribed cancer screenings. If I have a pain I can’t explain, I nag my doctor until I have reason for it.

That brings me to the subject of this entry. I have experienced some non-specific abdominal discomfort for some time now. At first it was a stitch in my side that I had had for most of my life but became more intense in the last few months. I told my doctor and he suggested exercise to strengthen my core muscles. I did that and strengthened my core, and added what seemed to be muscle fatigue. I was never in enough discomfort to take pain killers, although my doctor had prescribed pain patches that I used a few times over the last few months. I became more concerned when I just could not manage an exercise ball. I didn’t have the balance to stay on it very well in a sitting position. I could do crunches from a lying position on the ball, but any pressure on my abdomen made me nauseous enough to quit the ball.

I continued to nag my doctor, until he ordered a CT scan. My insurance denied that request; they wanted me to have ultra-sound first. This is when the waiting started. The radiologists wouldn’t tell me anything specific, but the first ultra-sound showed a cyst on my left ovary. She said it wouldn’t be a concern if it weren’t for MY AGE. So they got approval for a pelvic scan and the CT that the doctor wanted in the first place.

Four business days after the first procedure, I had no word from my doctor, so I called and left a voicemail message. It’s impossible to talk to a human directly in that office. Day five, and still no word, I leave a panicky message. “
I need someone to tell me I don’t have cancer.” Day six, I hear from my Doctor’s nurse. They have the 2 ultra-sounds. My doctor wants to send the ovary to my OB-GYN, and the nurse asks for that name and number. They still haven’t seen the CT. Day eight, I call my gyno. The receptionist says I should get a card in the mail. I have to explain that it is more urgent than that. So she leaves a note for the gyno. Gyno calls that evening. Describes what she sees on the ultrasound. I had my annual exam just 2 months ago, and considering the size of the cyst, she would have felt it. She doesn’t say it, but I hear, “it must be growing fast.” She wants to order blood tests.

I go in the morning of day nine, get blood drawn for a CA125 and a CEA test. I had done my homework. I knew what a CA125 was, and I was getting nervous. By day 11 the waiting is getting on my nerves. I finally hear from my primary physician’s nurse, the CT scan was normal.
(He thinks I’m a hypochondriac.) Day 12 I call my gyno. She’s with a patient, but conveys the message that my numbers are OK, not to worry. She calls me after office hours. We talk about the procedure. I’m a good candidate for laparoscopy. Might have to stay overnight. She’ll hand it over to her office manager to get insurance approval, and schedule the procedure.

Today is day fifteen. That’s
15 business days. So we’re talking three weeks since I had the first ultra-sound. Still no news. I called this afternoon and the office manager is out until tomorrow.

Looming in the background is my dear husband who booked us last year on a cruise leaving from Barcelona on November 6. Ports of call are Athens, Malta, Rhodes, Cyprus, Sicily and the biggie....

Waiting sucks!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Welcome Guest Blogger and Author, Anthony Policastro - "Writing by Fear"

Sarah, thank you so much for helping me with this blog tour and your support.

Both of my novels, DARK END OF THE SPECTRUM and ABSENCE OF FAITH, both mystery/thrillers, were written out of fear, universal fears that I believe all of us consider at one time or another.

DARK END OF THE SPECTRUM is about Dan Riker, a computer security expert whose family is kidnapped by digital terrorists who take over the power grid and cell phone network and hold the United States hostage. Dan is the only one with the know-how to stop them, but the hackers have his family and he must decide to save his family or save millions of people.

While I wrote this book the fear of losing my own family pervaded my thoughts and I wrapped a plot around this fear using the latest wireless technologies and a lot of imagination. I still have my family and the thought of losing them is unimaginable. This was the fuel for DARK END OF THE SPECTRUM.

Dan's life is well planned, predicted and uneventful like most of our lives and I wanted to see how Dan would react when all of that is shattered in an instant when his family disappears.

Does Dan have the courage to save his family or will he just give up because he never had to face such insurmountable odds? Will he save millions of people whose lives are threatened by the terrorists or will he save his family? The book is not just about technology.

These are some of the questions I addressed in the book and when or if you read the book you may ask yourself these same questions and maybe better understand your own capabilities.

ABSENCE OF FAITH also addresses universal fears when residents in a highly-religious small town have horrible near-death experiences and wake up with burnt skin. They believe they went to hell and that God has abandoned them. Matters get worse when a local Satanic cult emerges and wins over many residents.

My fears of losing all hope and all faith in the face of a downturn in life is what spawned ABSENCE OF FAITH. Again, I was interested in how people would react if you stripped them of all hope and faith. Would they pick themselves up and continue their lives? What would they do when this great fear overtakes them.

These are the questions I address in ABSENCE OF FAITH.

Bestselling author and psychic Sylvia Browne writes in her book, Prophecy, that, "...our beliefs are the driving force behind our behavior, our opinions, our actions. Without faith, without our beliefs, we're lost."

I have always been interested in religion and why and how it has such a powerful hold on all of us and what would happen if it were taken away.

I not only wanted my books to entertain, but I also wanted them to inspire, educate and leave readers with something to think about after they put the book down for the last time. I wanted the books to be relevant to people's lives today and some of the problems we all face in the journey of life. I hope my books are that and more.

Both DARK END OF THE SPECTRUM and ABSENCE OF FAITH are available as paperbacks from Outer Banks Publishing Group, and as ebooks from and the Amazon Kindle.
Both books will soon appear on Barnes and Noble's new ebook site.

Visit my blogs for tips on writing, publishing, and books, WRITING IS ABOUT PUTTING YOURSELF TO WORDS and THE WRITER'S EDGE.

Interviews can be found at

The Lulu Blog
Ask Wendy - The Query Queen

Monday, September 7, 2009

Strengthening my core

I didn't even know I had a core until a few months ago when I started taking muscle classes. I found out right away that stuff was hurting that had never hurt before. Even my eyebrows hurt, and I complained about "That woman" who was hurting me.

All I really wanted was arms like Michelle Obama. I got a whole lot more than I bargained for. I still can't do a decent plank, but "Brunhilda" has made me stop doing wall pushes for situps. She says I'm stronger now....HAH!

But I have lost a few pounds, allover inches, and people are noticing.

Now for the part that is only for us girls. Core muscles include the pelvic floor. You know those muscles that start to atrophy after childbirth and with age. Fifty Kegels is no match for a 30 second plank! Hammercy!!

Here's a slide-show from the Mayo Clinic if you haven't mastered the plank.

Click here

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Refrigerator

If you believe my husband, “My wife works me so hard.” And if you believe his status from yesterday, “My wife just took me shopping ....... she spent Alllllllllll my money!!”

Here’s the real story. The photo is our “old” refrigerator. I bought it in 1999 when I sold my empty nest and moved into my bachelorette pad. It has a capacity of 20.7 cu. ft. and still works fine. When hubby and I got married, we bought a new house, and took the then 3-year-old refrigerator with us. The old refrigerator doesn’t fill out the space between the cabinets.

Notice the can’t miss them. That’s his collection, running out of space. Magnets are his favorite travel souvenir – inexpensive, don’t take up much space in the luggage. You’ll find at least one from every place we have been in the last seven years. Everywhere from Maui to Sydney to Kusadasi to Banff.

About a year ago, he started talking about a new refrigerator. He hangs out at Sears, and keeps track of the new TVs, gadgets, and appliances. He fell in love with the refrigerator with the double doors and the freezing compartment on the bottom. Capacity is 24.9 cu. ft. So I made a deal. “You’ll have to find another place for the magnets.”

So he hatched his plan and has been working that plan ever since. He could put the “old” refrigerator in the garage, but he would have to move his workbench to the tool shed. That didn’t take long. Then he started watching the price drop on the new one. It hit the magic number last week, so we went shopping.

When it gets delivered we’ll be a two-person household with 2 refrigerators (oops, make that 2 ½ counting his little one in the bonus room), and a standing freezer. We won’t even start counting televisions for two people, and our humongous carbon footprint.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Getting online in Vegas

Usually when we go to Las Vegas, we don't even think about getting online. Besides, the Hotel/Casinos on the Strip don't want you to be getting online. They want you out of the room, spending money. That goes for "on the Strip." If you stay at a smaller hotel like Hampton Inn, you get free internet the same way you would get it anywhere else in the country.

Tinker used to go to Vegas at least three times every year, and after we got married, we continued that for a while, then it was down to one or two times a year. We didn't go last year at all. The last time we went, we took the laptop with us, and the hotel charged $12.99 per day for internet access. That's shameful.

This time, I'm taking the mini with us (I have a couple of Facebook Scrabble games still active). I found out our hotel is charging $14.99 per day for ethernet...and an additional charge for use of a cable if you don't have one. I'm taking one with us, but I also did a little research on free wifi in Las Vegas. The Venetian (on the strip) has free wifi in the food court and in the lobby. Then there are places where they expect you to buy something to get "free wifi." That includes Starbucks. There's a list of really free hot-spots here: (click on "The_List" button on the left)

We'll probably visit the library on our early morning walk. And there's always the airport when we're on our way home.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Weekend in New Jersey

What a weekend! New Jersey is a long way from North Carolina for just a weekend. I would only consider it to visit with some special friends, my classmates from the class of 1967, Drew University. So it all started in New Jersey.

We had our first mini-reunion three years ago when Karen invited us to her house in Charlotte, NC for the weekend. I live the closest, so it was an easy trip for me. This time she invited us to her summer cottage in South Seaville, NJ. For years I had heard her tell of summer in South Seaville, at the Camp Meeting. Karen's late father was a Methodist Minister, so it was easy to imagine summer revivals at a place on the coast. I thought "Camp Meeting" was an event. It turns out that "Camp Meeting" is also a place. It dates back to the 1800's when people came together on this camp site and pitched tents and had a revival. The tents evolved into cottages, and the revival tent is now an open-air Tabernacle.

We stayed at Karen's cottage, that was built by her father when she was a little girl. Her parents retired there. Only a few of the cottages are approved for year-round occupancy, so the tradition of a summer place continues through the generations. It's like a little village that surrounds the Tabernacle. Children play in and around the cottages that resemble a miniature Martha's Vineyard. Everybody knows everybody else, and we were welcomed as Karen's friends.

One of the requirements of ownership in the Camp Meeting, is membership in a Methodist Church. Methodism is strong in that part of New Jersey, as well as in Delaware across the bay from Cape May. Many of the Camp Meeting people have a connection to Drew University as well, since Drew is associated with the Methodist church, and has a Methodist Theological school. We did some Drew reminiscing with the new people we met.

We didn't stay through Sunday, so we missed the Camp Meeting in the Tabernacle Sunday night. But it was a full weekend all the same. We laughed a lot, played 60's music, and ate too much. It was a bit chilly at 75 degrees to go into the ocean but we did go to Boardwalk at Ocean City nearby.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What's bugging your printer?

In a former life I managed 3rd level tech support for a State Government organization. Level one was the help desk that handled the most frequently occurring stuff like resetting passwords. The next most frequently occurring problem was printers. Such a simple piece of hardware can cause so many headaches. When you want to print something NOW, and you can't, somebody had better have a solution.

Sweetie gave me an HP psc 2410 Color Ink-jet - Fax / copier / printer / scanner for Christmas several years ago. It has been a reliable, fast printer. In addition to the 4-in-1 stuff, it also has slots for the top four popular digital memory cards. No headaches EVER until a couple of weeks ago.

Number 1 son came by and wanted to use it to FAX a job application. I usually use the desktop function in the HP Director to do Faxes, since it allows me to customize a cover sheet. That HP Director icon has worked forever, but that day, I got an hourglass for a couple of seconds and then nothing happened. So I had to do the Fax straight from the 4-in-1, didn't need a cover sheet anyway.

But that was bugging me. Without that HP Director, I couldn't scan. Also when the printer tells me to replace a cartridge, the HP DIrector shows me the ink levels. I never replace cartridges until my printed pages start fading anyway...about 2 months after I get a warning.

But that thing was still bugging me. I had not changed anything!!! (Right!?!) So I figured the printer driver had somehow gotten corrupted. GROAN!!! Dig out the original installation CD...(LAWD, where is it?) Do I really want to start this...probably take an hour. So I put it off until I was bored one night.

The installation CD had me to uninstall the old software and install again. OOOPS...after several "NEXT"s, I get an error.

So I use Add/delete software to uninstall. Then install the thing again. By then it was up to an hour. And the HP Director still didn't work. Printer was still printing, FAX was still FAXing, Digital slots still worked.

So I left it alone another week, and it was still bugging me. Saturday night I was waiting for Sunday's chicken to finish cooking, so I had some time on my hands. I went to the HP site to find a fix. Searched for "HP Director doesn't start." I got lots of drivers for "HP Director doesn't install." I downloaded one big one. It took 20 minutes to download. While it was doing that, I was still browsing and stumbled upon "HP Director Window Does Not Open after installing Internet Explorer 7". ARGGHH!! I don't even use IE. But the week before my trouble started, I did the weekly Microsoft update, and it forced that IE 7 on me.

SO I found my fix. It was a patch that took a few seconds to download, a few seconds to install. Now my HP Director works like it always did. Never believe a client who says she didn't change a thing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Remembering Daddy

Daddy's birthday would have been June 20, so it always fell near Father's Day. For most of his life, we believed that he was born in 1900. Like many blacks born in the south in those days, he didn't have a birth certificate, and relied on something scribbled in the family Bible. It wasn't until he applied for Medicare that we found out what we had long suspected. Daddy was born before 1900. We knew he remembered the Wright Brother's flight in Kitty Hawk a little too vividly to have been only three-years-old.

The Medicare application required a birth certificate to prove that he was 65. Since he didn't have one, they would accept the birth certificates of two of his children to substantiate his age by the age he gave on the children's birth certificates. The trouble was, Daddy wasn't consistent about his age. For a child born in February 1926, he said his age was 26, disregarding the fact that he had not passed his birthday, June 20 of that year. For a child born in July 1931, Daddy showed his age was 31.

That sent the Medicare folks to looking at the Census for 1900. There he was listed with the family as a child. So he qualified for Medicare all right, but the discovery became a source of family amusement for the rest of his life. Daddy passed away in 1968, and the not-so-old age of WHO KNOWS.

Excerpt from my memoir:

When I started school in Petersburg, I was in the afternoon class for first grade at Giles B. Cook Elementary. Daddy walked me to school everyday until he decided I could handle it alone. Instead of telling me I was old enough to go by myself, one morning he was especially slow getting ready. I waited with my book bag in hand, and nagged him that I would be late for school. It was important to be there in time for lunch, when I could eat my bologna sandwich and have a carton of school chocolate milk. After I had nagged for a while, Daddy told me to go on, and he would catch up. I went off down the street, watching for Daddy to catch up. By the time I reached the corner where I would turn, I could see Daddy leaving the house. He followed me at a distance from there on, and at every turn, I would look back to make sure he was still following me. There were no major streets to cross and hardly ever a car passing at that time of day anyway. By the time I reached the school, Daddy was not even in sight, so I waited until I could see him, and waved good-bye as I went into the school building. I was on my own from then on.

The photo is Daddy with my sister Toni and me, on the campus of Virginia State College. My mother finally received her four-year degree the same year that my oldest brother did. They graduated together from Virginia State College.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Shopping for Meds

I know I'm a Senior Citizen around here. My friends call me Ms Sarah, Mama Sarah, Mother Confessor. I don't mind.

I probably take more prescription meds than most of you, so you may think this blog doesn't apply to you. But you may have a parent, grandparent, sibling, neighbor, or someone who is struggling with the cost of prescription medication and could use some relief.

I take seven prescription medications every day, along with a handful of vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements, and assorted other stuff. It takes a lot to keep a sister alive these days.

As a retired employee of the State of NC, my health care premium is free for life, or until they change something. Due to the current economic downturn the State Health Plan has made some changes to keep the plan solvent. Co-pays are increasing, as well as premiums for family members. Tinker has his own retirement, so that's not an issue. But for a lot of State employees the increase means they can't afford to insure their families. It was a short-sighted move on the part of the State, since it's the young people who don't have major medical expenses, who keep the plan afloat for us old folks.

I used to think a $30 co-pay for a 90-day supply of a generic medication was a good deal, until I realized that those same meds on the open market cost less than $30 for a 90-day supply. The preferred pharmacy for State insurance, Medco has been making money off of us. The open-market players have gotten into the pharmacy business and are selling that same 90-day supply for $10.

I've been a little slow in getting into the game, but this week I jumped in. Wal-mart, Target, and all the local grocery chains are in the game. In addition they offer incentives for bringing your new prescription, or transferring one from your old pharmacy. When I picked up my three generics yesterday that previously cost $90 total, I paid $30. It would have been $50 because I take 2 pills per day of two of those prescriptions, but I had earned two $20 incentives for two prescriptions I filled for a family member the day before. I can only cash in one at a time. Not a bad deal.

This is something I've been planning to do for months, but when a new Harris-Teeter opened across the street from my health club, I knew I had to do it.

If you can't take advantage of this kind of discount, check with mama, grandma, auntie, and 'nem. I bet somebody you know can.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Welcome Guest Blogger, Patricia Neely-Dorsey

Sarah, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog! I am thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce my "little book of southern poems" to your readers.
Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems is "a celebration of the south and things southern". There are so many negative connotations associated with Mississippi and the south in general. In my book, using personal thoughts and dreams, I attempt to give a positive glimpse into the southern way of life. I would love for you to Meet Mississippi (and the south) Through Poetry, Prose and The Written Word.

For more information about the book, please check out my website at:


If you want a glimpse of Southern life,
Come close and walk with me;
I'll tell you all the simple things,
That you are sure to see.
You'll see mockingbirds and bumblebees,
Magnolia blossoms and dogwood trees,
Caterpillars on the step,
Wooden porches cleanly swept;
Watermelons on the vine,
Strong majestic Georgia pines;
Rocking chairs and front yard swings,
Junebugs flying on a string;
Turnip greens and hot cornbread,
Coleslaw and barbecue;
Fried okra, fried corn, fried green tomatoes,
Fried pies and pickles too.
There's ice cold tea that's syrupy sweet,
And cool, green grass beneath your feet;
Catfish nipping in the lake,
And fresh young boys on the make.
You'll see all these things
And much, much more,
In a way of life that I adore.

© 2008 Patricia Neely-Dorsey
from Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life In Poems

The book is available at

Sunday, May 31, 2009

I bought an HP 1030NR

Isn't it cute there under my desktop. I plodded through technical specs all over the place. Even tried to build my own on the Dell site and the HP site. By the time I added a few things, the $300 machine was costing $650. This particular model is not available on the HP website. All sources point to Best Buy or

But even after all my research, the best recommendation came from Cynthia Marie. She loves her Mini. My requirements are similar. I went for it. When I went to Best Buy yesterday, my mind wasn't completely made up, so I looked over the other Mini's on display. The ASUS and the Aspire were both stuck and not responding. The HP was running and zipping through the few internet sites I tried. The keyboard is bigger than the others on display. Keys are as big as a desktop keys. I bought it!

Best Buy was offering for an added $39.99, the same model "pre-setup" by the Geek Squad. I decided to do it myself, and it was easy. The hardest part was inserting the battery...I had it backwards...DOH! There is no excess software on the thing. I connected to my home network, let Microsoft do it's update thing, added McAfee Security (I had one remaining copy on my license for three), and Firefox (my favored browser). I folded laundry while various stuff was downloading.

I bought a sleeve for carrying. It will fit easily in my carry-on backpack for travel. And I got another jump-drive for moving files from my desktop.

One problem is the pointer device (mouse thingy). I have never been very good with pointer devices on laptops, from the eraser-head thing on IBM to various configurations of a track-pad. If I'm just doing straight text, I can function OK, but the Mini failed the Pet Society hurdle test. I couldn't click my Esmerelda when I needed to. I'll have to get an external mouse.

Does it pass the Pet Society requirement otherwise? I had to F-11 (I guess I need function keys after all) to get rid of the header stuff, and see my pet and her friends for the visits. I don't do much Pet Society on a real vacation anyway.

By the time we take our next big trip in November, I'll have it mastered. We will probably use the ship-board wi-fi hot spots on days at sea. The mini will decrease the time we have to struggle with those sticky keyboard on the ship's PC, and we can pre-type any long emails or blogs we want to post.

I'll even let Tinker use it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why I need a mini

1) It's in the genes! Gordons love gadgets. My brother George has one. Cynthia Marie has one. And I bet half of you reading this have one already. I'm late to the game.

2) Prices are really low! I've been doing my research only to find that the price doesn't mean a whole lot. The specifications are all over the map for that price. The hard drive might be anything from 150 gig to 8 gig. Eight gig? I carry 2 gig on my keychain! But I must remind myself that my very first PC had no hard-drive. The only application in those days was Lotus 1-2-3 run from an 8-inch floppy. And that PC cost as much as my new 1970 Subaru.

3) It would be easier to travel with a Mini. We have a notebook that we take with us sometimes. Mostly on roadtrips, and we took it on our big train trip. It's gotten to be too much of a hassle to get through airport security with the laptop since Tinker's hip replacement. He sets off the metal detector every time, and sometimes the security officer will help me with his stuff while they wand him down. Most of the time, though, I'm the one gathering up 2 pairs of shoes, two backpacks, coats, and the laptop too.

4) It would be cheaper than a monthly fees.

But to be honest, it's really only #1. It's the gadget thing. I don't know why I need one otherwise. I don't hang out at Starbucks, or any of the other internet hot-spots around town. I could use it for writing when I travel, but I usually carry a paper notebook for sudden bursts of inspiration. Paper is easier to deal with by the pool at Bellagio, or on the beach. But I'm going to get one, anyway.

Now I need to decide what I want the thing to do. Do I need a copy of Word? a CD drive? how many USB ports? Headphone jack? Speaker jack? Some have keyboards with no F-keys. Do I need F-keys? When was the last time I used Function keys? I'm not going to play games on the thing. (Except Pet Society, of course) How much RAM do I need for Pet Society?

OK, friends who have one already, what do you have, and what do you like about it?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Welcome to guest blogger and author, Stacey Cochran

Thanks so much, Sarah, for the opportunity to guest blog at your place. I’m currently in the midst of a 45-day blog tour to promote my new novel CLAWS. Amazon has paperback copies listed for 10.99 and an Amazon Kindle version for $1.59. I need reviews to help generate word-of-mouth and interest in the book and its subject matter.

CLAWS came out of my living in Arizona earlier this decade. For a time, I rented a small bungalow in the mountain town of Oracle up on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Oracle, Arizona is a sleepy little town of about 2,000 folks, perched some 4,500 feet above sea level. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Coolidge some 60 miles northward. To the west, Tucson’s northern edge sprawls through a valley (and along the mountain foothills) up toward Catalina. From Oracle, the ten-mile-wide swath of development looks like a kind of disease spreading northward over the land.

In the short time that I lived there, two new “master-planned” golf course communities (SaddleBrooke and “The Preserve”) went up in what was previously high-country desert wilderness, and homes quickly replaced the natural landscape.

Coincidentally a careless camper’s man-made wildfire burned nearly 250,000 acres in the Santa Catalinas in 2003, and the following year several Tucson elementary schools had to be closed periodically because of mountain lions stalking children.

Ordinarily, mountain lions tend to avoid humans, but the wildfire had destroyed most of the big cat’s natural habitat. This forced the cougar population into areas it might not have ventured otherwise and because housing developments were going up almost monthly in this wilderness area, the result was a tragedy waiting to happen.

Once I began doing research, I saw that the problem was more than a regional anomaly. California had seen an increase in cougar attacks on humans over the past decade, and the animals were being spotted in states like Arkansas, Michigan, Illinois, and North Carolina were authorities had thought they were extinct.

The issues of wildlife management, land conservation, and real estate development are inextricably intertwined, and the decisions legislators make affect human (and cougar) lives. It’s a contentious issue that generates heated debate.

That said, I saw it as a way to write a suspenseful, timely novel that made the land one of its central characters.

My hope is that folks will get this when they read it. My challenge was to write CLAWS in a way that didn’t sermonize the issue, nor treat it glibly. One of the more interesting comments from early readers was that in the novel you could argue who was responsible for the problem.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out CLAWS and write a review at or on your blog. The subject is too important to ignore, and I think healthy discussion can lead to decisions regarding the right course of action.

I appreciate your time and consideration, and I hope you’ll enjoy the novel. Thanks so much, Sarah and friends.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Mother's Day Gift

My sons came last Sunday and cooked dinner. Then we spent the rest of the day filming a video trailer for my book. Here is the finished product.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Loose Ends for Grey's fans

The season finale was last night. It was tearful for many, especially the shocker that John Doe was George O'Malley. We knew TR Knight was leaving the series, but we didn't expect it to be that way.

There weren't any real cliff-hangers, but there are some loose ends, and questions to keep us wondering about next season.

1. Who will be back next year? There are rumors that Patrick Dempsey is leaving the series.

2. Are Meredith and Derek married? They said some vows with post-it notes and shook hands. Was that it?

3. What about Izzie and Alex's baby? Remember she had her eggs harvested before she started the chemo-therapy, and Alex reluctantly "fertilized" them so they would keep better. Who's going to carry that baby? I won't even mention the online flak about a ghost-baby or tumor baby.

4. Will Dr. Bailey take the Pediatrics Fellowship, or stay on the surgery track since they got the new robot thing?

5. What about Yang and GI Joe? (I don't even know his name, but I heard him on a talk-show, sounding all Scottish)

6. I always figured they added Lexie (little Grey) so they would have a back-up Grey in case Ellen Pompeo decided to quit the series. After all you can't have a Grey's Anatomy without a Grey.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I ordered the Wind Song

Sometimes you learn things about your family long years after the events, and suddenly things start to make more sense. Not secrets, not major events, but little things that make some of the rest fall into place.

Last year I hijacked the notes my sister LaVerne had been writing for fifty years, published them on as "The Gordons of Tallahassee." LaVerne's story stopped in Charles Town, West Virginia just after my sister Toni was born, four years before I was born. I had to call on my brothers to complete the story to Petersburg where I was born.

One of the things they told me was after Toni was born, Mother tried to get a job teaching, but there were no jobs in Charles Town. When she learned of jobs in Washington, DC, she went there to work at the Navy Annex during the week, and came home to Charles Town on the weekends. I asked, who took care of Toni while Mother was gone. LaVerne had enrolled in St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, and there was no other woman in the house, just Daddy and my four brothers. George told me they took care of Toni.

That created for me a new image of my family. I know it is common in large families for the older ones to take care of the younger ones, as surrogate parents. I had never pictured it that way when I came along. By the time I was a toddler, my brothers were in high school and college, and it was only Toni and me at home with Daddy during the day while Mother worked. We lived next door to the Episcopal Church where Daddy was rector.

Mother started her battle with cancer when I was eight years old, in an era when children weren't told very much about grown folks' issues. Through my years of puberty while Mother was dying, I thought I was raising myself. I remember Mother's insistence that we never settle for second-class even in the Jim-Crow south. We walked rather than ride in the back of the bus; held our thirst until we got home rather than drink from the "For Colored" water fountain. But the personal side of my mother is missing from my memory. I depend on family saga, in which Mother becomes larger than life. I remember her softness, but I can't hear her voice. My brother Michael says I sound like her, sing like her. Sometimes if I get deep within myself I can hear her say, "Poll tax." She made a do-it-yourself record of her speech about the Poll Tax one summer when she studied in New York. We played it after she died in 1958. The pre-vinyl breakable record didn't survive all the moves in the last 50 years.

Michael remembered this week that Mother wore Prince Matchabelli as her signature scent. I know how smells can evoke all kinds of memories, so I ordered a bottle on the internet. Somewhere in the back of my fading memory, she's still there, waiting to tell me something.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Review from "My White Guy"

By David Roth

I lived an apparently sheltered life. A child of the 50’s and 60’s (I was born on New Year’s Day 1953) I had my coming of age times in the free-love, flower power, sex-drugs-rock and roll mythos of an nirvana that existed only in the Age of Aquarius that found fertile ground in the LSD driven imaginations of the times. From afar, and the emphasis is on afar, I lived through the days – and murders - of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and Malcolm X. was glued to the TV when man first set foot on the moon, and the Nation wondered Who Shot J.R.

And yet, I was profoundly naïve.

Continues here

Friday, May 1, 2009

Check Engine Light

I had my first Check Engine Light experience today. This is my 10th car in 38 years, and even that 1966 Mustang that cut off in the intersection never gave me the experience of the Check Engine Light.

But I am a faithful listener of Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers on Car Talk every weekend on NPR. I have been thoroughly schooled so that I know to go directly to my dealer when I see that light.

Well, it was 1:30 on a Friday afternoon, the day before I planned to drive 600 miles to see the grands. If I hadn't gone out to the ATM, and gas station, would that light have waited until I got down the road at 6AM on Saturday?...horrors!

The rain started just as I was pulling away from the ATM, and it came hard and blustery, like the bottom had fallen out. I turned the corner through a new puddle, a real splasher, when the light came on. The message on the dash read "Replace Gas Cap."

I continued to the gas station, and found that the gas cap was indeed loose, inside the little door. I have to confess that I intentionally left it loose because the last few times I got gas, I had to ask someone to help me get the thing off. I had thought about going to the dealer about it then, but it seemed too wimpy not to wait until my next regular service. So I pumped my gas and screwed that cap on. Back in the car, the light came back on.

So on I went to the dealer...the Cadillac dealer. I started thinking about the fact that I had ignored all those letters telling me that my warranty was about to expire. And I started thinking about the GM bankruptcy, and wondering if my dealer was still there. They are. It's good to have someone who knows you on a Friday afternoon. I told my regular guy that I planned to drive to Atlanta in the morning. So he put me in the line for diagnostics. Meanwhile I had pulled the owner's manual out. This is what it said:

If the Light is on Steady

You may be able to correct the emission system malfunction by considering the following:

Did you recently put fuel in your vehicle?

If so, reinstall the fuel cap, making sure to fully install the cap. Blah blah blah. A loose or missing fuel cap will allow fuel to evaporate into the atmosphere. A few driving trips with the cap properly installed should turn the light off.

Did you just drive through a deep puddle of water?

If so, your electrical system may be wet. The condition will usually be corrected when the electrical system dries out. A few driving trips should turn the light off.

Well, they ran the diagnostics, and got error code P0455 - Faulty Gas Cap. They gave me a new cap, no charge.

Lesson for Sarah: Next time RTFM...Read the F#-ing Manual.
I could have saved myself the 2 hour wait.

But I'm also wondering why...if the car knew what was going on in the first place, why didn't it shut off that light after I screwed the cap on tight?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Anatomy of the Arms

The photo above was taken aboard the Freedom of the Seas in November 2006. Not bad arms for an old broad who had just celebrated her 61st birthday. But there's a story behind the arms.

The trouble started in 2004 when I had a colonoscopy. That was a good thing to do, and I won't have to do that again until 2014. But in the process of moving myself into position on that metal table, I pulled something in my left shoulder. I noticed it at the time and thought it was something that would resolve itself in a few days. Within a few days I realized I couldn't lift my arm above shoulder height, and couldn't reach behind my back without pain for simple dressing tasks, like zipping or hooking stuff.

When I told my regular doctor, he said it sounded like a bone spur in my shoulder. Great, how did I get a spur and how do I get rid of it? So now I'm at the age when the doctor begins too many sentences with "At your age..." Thanks, doc. So he sent me to an orthopedist who specializes in shoulders. I didn't know there was such a specialty. The orthopede gave me a pulley contraption to do shoulder exercises that were supposed to build up my shoulder muscles and correct the pain problem. After a few months of the pulley and cortisone shots, I still couldn't fasten my bra without turning it around to the front. (Tinker thought that was cute.)

The next step was Aqua Therapy. Wonderful stuff. I recommend it highly for everybody. I did shoulder exercises in a warm pool with resistance devices to build up my shoulders. The warm water helped to alleviate the pain, and eventually I was doing lifts outside the pool and at home.

I was even carrying the 3 pound weights with me when we traveled. On one trip, the baggage handling totally tore up one suitcase with that undistributed weight. By early 2005, the shoulder was felling pretty good, except I couldn't sleep on my left side without pain. I tried sleeping on the right side, but I always prefer my left side, and would roll over to the left side in my sleep, only to be awaken by the pain. The therapists suggested sleeping with a teddy bear under that left arm. "A Teddy Bear?" It turns out that the teddy bear is just the right size to fit under the arm. So by our cruise in April 2005, the bear was going with me everywhere.

I stayed faithful to my weight lifting and slept with that bear until I had foot surgery in 2006. Since I was on crutches for several weeks, I was exerting that shoulder in another way. The last pain in the shoulder stopped, and I didn't need the bear anymore.

So there I was on that slippery slope, falling off the wagon.

My friends know the rest of the story. I've been inspired by "My First Lady" to get my arms back in shape, and I have a target date to see some progress. I'll be wearing something sleeveless Memorial Day Weekend, and I want my friends to congratulate me on my arms.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Now I'll never convince him we don't live in Mayberry

When hubby and I married (it will be seven years this month), he moved to North Carolina from the DC area to live with me. We bought a house, where he realized his dream of moving to "the country" where he could have a big back yard with space for a garden and fruit trees.

I remember the first time I got really pissed with him. I came home from my part-time real estate work to find the garage open, the door unlocked, and no hubby in sight. I closed the doors, looked everywhere inside, called all over the yard, and finally locked myself in. Then he came home grinning that he could see me all the time, from his perch on the lot down the street where another house was under construction.

I tried my best to convince him that there had been burglaries in the neighborhood, most often by way of open garages and unlocked doors. He grinned and mumbled something about Sheriff Taylor. He did get start locking the door at night, probably just to appease me.

It's been seven years now, and we haven't had a break-in, but I make sure he sees the neighborhood watch statistics on break-ins.

So yesterday when he decided to get rid of his old lawn mower, now that he has a new one to zip him about on the back forty, he left it in the driveway, thinking someone would take it off his hands. Just about dark, a neighbor called, to tell us we had left the lawn mower in the driveway. I looked at hubby, and he laughed. "Maybe somebody will take it, and I won't have to make a trip to the dump."

Guess what was in the driveway this morning.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Will I know when it's time

For the past month or so, I have been checking out retirement homes in the area, looking for a place that might be suitable for my oldest sister and her husband. She is 83, he is 90. They live in an over-55 condo community in Southern Virginia. Siblings and friends have all agreed that they shouldn't be living alone much longer. My brother-in-law is actually sharper mentally than my sister. He still drives. (Should have quit 30 years ago) And he still has a new joke to tell every time I talk to him.

My sister taught me algebra in high school, and later taught college calculus. It's distressing to see her declining. Some days she's quite lucid, other days not. Brother-in-law is ready to make a move, but he defers to his "Queen." She says we are all plotting against her, and she has no intention of moving. At least that's what she says.

She has agreed to come for a visit this month, and spend two nights at one of the two finalists on my list. I hope she will think of living in a retirement community as a vacation from the struggle of day-to-day chores. It takes the two of them together to perform any task. And I do believe a retirement home schedule of stimulating activities will improve the quality of life for both of them. But it's hard trying to convince someone to do something they say they don't want.

I often wonder what I will be like if I should live so long. I told Tinker, I'll be ready to go before he will. He won't give up his back yard as long as he can walk.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Conflicker Worm

I don't usually pay much attention to news about widespread computer virus attacks because it's mostly corporate computers that get infected. Before I retired, there was a risk of carrying or sending a virus home from the office. Now my home PC is reasonably secure. I don't download music, movies, or games, and I have no kids at home doing that.

I'm rather careful about opening emails with attachments. I have stopped opening all those Powerpoint presentations that people send me in email. Most I have seen years ago anyway. And I know that even a "trusted" friend can unknowingly pass on viruses, or that a trusted friend can have her email hacked and taken over by people sending bogus emails.

My husband calls me "Chuckie" after the Rug Rats character. You know the one who says, "I don't know, Tommy, something bad might happen." That's me. In my last job before I retired, one of my areas of responsibility included Disaster excuse me..."Business Recovery." I was good at thinking of worst-case scenarios, and preparing for them

If you're bored already reading this, scroll forward to the photo down below, and I'll be here when you come back.

I use Mozilla Firefox as my preferred browser, and I control the cookies that are saved on my PC. Each time a new attempt to write a cookie occurs, I have to respond whether to accept it, accept for this session, or deny. It's my habit to deny anything that has "ad" "Click" "zedo" in the cookie name. Some cookies are good, the site keeps them to identify you, and save information about you, like your password if you want them to save it.

I use McAfee for virus protection, and it includes McAfee SiteAdvisor. This may sound like advertising for McAfee, but they help keep me out of bad sites as well. The McAfee SiteAdvisor has a green light in the corner of sites they have checked out, a yellow light if they haven't checked it and a red light for sites to beware. And on my Google search results, McAfee gives the green check for trusted sites.

A couple of weeks ago I signed on to Blogtalkradio for a friend's radio show. A few of my internet pals have radio shows. I had been on BTR many times before but on this particular day there were some new advertisers. There's no such thing as a "free" web-site. Somebody has to pay for hosting it, and many sites get revenue from the advertising. On that particular day, I had pop-up after pop-up from Mozilla notifying me of another attempt to write a cookie. I denied them all. And then this screen appeared.

I got out of there fast, and restarted my computer. I went back into BTR, and it happened again. I saved the screen image, and I was out again. I didn't tell my online friends about it, since they were still online talking. Then I forgot about it until CBS started talking about the Conflicker worm on 60 Minutes last night.

I tell you, Chuckie got busy and deleted ALL cookies last night. I usually clean up cookies once a week and keep selected ones. Last night, they all had to go. Now I have to re-enter every password for every site that I frequent, but it makes me feel like I tried to protect myself. It's very possible that this worm doesn't even travel in cookies. Maybe I'll get past April Fools' Day without incident.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I love spy versus counterspy movies. The trouble is, they suck you in so you find yourself on the side of the crooks. It's like cowboy adventures where you're pulling for the outlaws. I loved Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or anything with Newman and Redford.

Duplicity has about as many twists and plot turns as Newman and Redfords "The Sting" along with some steamy romantic scenes. This is not Mr & Mrs Smith. I think Clive Owen is a whole lot sexier than Brad Pitt. There's no killing or violence in this movie, except that weird slow-mo scene at the start. You can take the kids, but they would be bored. The only tension is when you're pulling for the crooks, and waiting for the last piece to fall into place. You never know who to trust, since they lie and deceive and then change their story.

It's a clever movie. I give it 3 stars.

Friday, March 13, 2009

From the Neighborhood Watch

To me and a long mailing list:

I am forwarding John Doe's email below in case you also encountered these teenagers today or saw anything suspicious. It's important to report these incidents to the police. Several police officers have even told me to call 911, as that gets them here fast and they can see what we're seeing and intervene and prevent something worse from happening before it's too late or the person(s) get away.

>>>>>>John Doe wrote:

I just had a minor run in with a couple of guys walking down XXX Drive at XXX Ln. Two black male teenagers and a white female teenager talking on a cell phone. I asked them if they lived in the neighborhood and one of them responded yes but then when I asked them where they lived one of the males in a dark hooded jacket asked me "Why the hell do you want know anyway" and began to move towards me in a threatening manner. I told them that we had some trouble with vandalism in the neighborhood and they proceeded to ignore me as they left our neighborhood via XXXX Ln.


I received this while we were traveling. It was all I could do to keep from tearing into the public PC that I was using. I did respond, and set off some ugly responses from several people on the mailing list. How would you respond to this?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Should bookstores have a section for African American fiction?

One of the blogs I subscribe to is "White Readers Meet Black Authors." It's part of a movement to get white people to read black authors. Many folks expect all books written by black to be of a certain genre, something they can't relate to. Sure, they read Toni Morrison and Walter Mosley, and an occasional Terry McMillan, but do they even know Pearl Cleage, Bernice McFadden, Tananarive Due? The movement has suggested giving your child's teacher a "black" book for Christmas. We have great authors of literary fiction as well as of every genre you can name. But we often get overlooked.

A while back I went into the local Barnes & Noble, looking for something to read, hubster went over to the sci-fi section and I went looking for "African-American Authors" and couldn't find it. When I inquired, I was told they didn't segregate our books anymore. That was mighty white of them, but it certainly makes it hard for me to buy the authors that get overlooked by the majority population. Sure I can find the latest Toni Morrison by name, but how would I ever discover Sharon Ewell Foster, except that I met her online.

So here's the poll: Check out this blog and vote, "Should bookstores have a section for African American fiction?"

Monday, March 2, 2009


Abraham "Ham" Mitchell of Suffolk, Virginia, is known at the annual Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association basketball tourney as Mr. CIAA. has become a fixture of the conference’s season-ending tournaments. He has been strolling the sidelines for more than 25 years now.

“I started years ago when my nephew was at Norfolk State University, and I always dressed up when I went to games,” he said.

Sometimes, “Mr. CIAA” changes eight to nine times a night. But no matter what he’s wearing, he’s an instantly recognizable figure.

"I supply my own outfits. I never had a sponsor," said Mitchell. "A couple times, I had people ask to sponsor me, but I didn't want my clothes from a regular store."

People stop him and take pictures as he strolls through the arena during the games, and you can only guess how old he might be.