Oops! Distracted by something shiny…

December 7, 2008

So there I was, blogging and blethering around here on WordPress, checking out Carocat’s blog; and she was talking about taking part in National Novel Writing Month (aka “NaNoWriMo”), and so I cruised over to their website….and that was the pebble that started the landslide.

The deal with NaNoWriMo is that you start fresh on Nov. 1, and try to write 50,000 words of a new novel by November 30. If you succeed, you get 1) bragging rights, b) a PDF-file certificate suitable for printing, & the right to display a banner similar to this one: 

I Won! I Won! I Won!

I Won! I Won! I Won!

and iii) a 50,000-word draft of that novel you’ve been meaning to get around to writing one of these days. 

Well, I had been meaning to write a novel one of these days – well, about five novels I’ve been meaning to write – so I picked one* and jumped into NaNoWriMo feet-first, and before I knew it the waters had closed over my head.

(*A synopsis and excerpt await your perusal at my page on the NaNoWriMo site.)

I did make 50,0o0 words, and it feels darned good to have accomplished so much; but it was a tough slog and took a lot out of me, and led to my neglecting  this blog terribly.

If anyone asks, it’s all Carocat’s fault. :)

– the prodigal Evelyn

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Wheeee!!! I’m freeee…..

October 7, 2008

[exuberant singsong]
I got my bills paid! :) :) :)
I got my bills paid! :) :) :)

I’m free of bill-paying for another 30 (well, 24, if I were going to be more prompt about it next month) days – wheeeeeee!!!

It’s not the money (well, sometimes it’s the money, but that’s a separate issue, and fortunately a more-or-less manageable one for now), it’s the physical act of paying the bills.

I just don’t wanna.

I really, really, really don’t want to do it.

Every month, it’s a monumental struggle to make myself gather up all the mail from wherever it’s dispersed itself to (this time was particularly bad), (open that mail), balance my checkbook, sort out which bills are from where and how much they’re for, w-r-i-t-e (this is the really hard part)  o-u-t (I have to force myself to just get it done)  t-h-e (it’s like pulling teeth)  c-h-e-c-k-s,  get the checks and payment coupons all into the correct envelopes with all the addresses showing properly in all the little windows, get stamps and return addresses onto them, and get them into the mailbox.

(I’m trying to make it easier on myself: out of the nine bills I have to pay each month, one is already automatically deducted from my checking account, three are currently being changed over to being automatically deducted last month,  and one I’ll try to get changed over this month. That leaves four that won’t work with auto-deduct for one reason or another, but four is less than half of nine . :)

And now I’m done with all that for the time being: I can feel the weight falling off my shoulders, the millstone and the albatross both lifting from around my neck, the clench relaxing away from my teeth…. …oh, boy.

I think I’m going to go whirl around the room in ecstatic euphoria for a moment, and then collapse into a great big detensioned heap.

Toilet Paper and the Credit Crunch

October 6, 2008
Don't Panic! 

 

Don't Panic!

Way back in the last century, in the late 1970’s, the US wasn’t doing so well.  The USSR was being ornery, OPEC was being tetchy, and that whole Vietnam thing hadn’t worked out quite like we’d hoped. The economy was troubled, too: jobs were scarce, prices were high, and inflation was ridiculous.

So then-President Jimmy Carter instituted a (wildly unpopular) series of price freezes on consumer goods. Now what happens if you hold the price of something artificially low? Sellers don’t want to sell, so they hold back as much as they can, limiting supply. Buyers do want to buy, though, and shortages are readily created.

And, if you hear that a price control is about to be put on something like bread, which means there might be a shortage, you might run out and buy a couple loaves – and if I do that, too, and that guy over there buys a couple loaves, and so do a couple hundred thousand of our closest friends – and lo and behold, now there is a bread shortage.

And what with people’s tendency to behave according to the laws of human nature, people reacted to the possibility of shortages by stocking up on whatever they thought there might be a shortage of, which only made any shortage that much worse.

Now, if stocking up on something is considered a wise and prudent thing to do, it’s called “stocking up.” If it’s considered a greedy and selfish thing to do, it’s called “hoarding.” President Carter and various other politicians, newsmen (they were almost all men in those days), and celebrities made announcements condemning hoarding; and assuring us that, if everybody just stayed calm, everything was going to be all right.

(As  words to the effect of “just stay calm and everything will be all right” were invariably the first piece of government-sanctioned advice regarding what to do in case of a massive nuclear attack (such an attack was considered a very real and uncomfortably immediate possibility), some people found that last part less soothing than was presumably intended.)

Now things were so primitive back then that, as our pet  dinosaurs curled up beside us on the bearskin sofas in the living room areas of our caves, we only had three (only 3!) channels to watch on our knapped-flint TV sets. But if it was 11:35 on a weeknight, that didn’t matter, because everybody was watching the same channel anyway. Johnny Carson didn’t quite invent late-night TV (or even “The Tonight Show”), but (begging the pardons of his predecessors, Steve Allen and Jack Paar) he might as well have.

So everybody who wasn’t already asleep was watching Johnny’s opening monologue when he made a joke about reported of toilet paper shortages, primly admonishing the audience not to hoard this vital commodity. (I happened to be watching, and I remember dismissing it as cheap bathroom humor and hoping that his next joke would be funny.)

And the next day, grocery stores across the nation were sold out of toilet paper, some well before noon. (The first thing on “The Tonight Show” that night was Johnny explaining that it had just been a silly  joke, and encouraging the American people to refrain from buying toilet paper unless they really, really, needed it.)

But it was, for me at least, an object lesson in self-fulfilling prophecy and the power of a single influential individual or idea. Johnny said there was a toilet paper shortage – et voila! – there was a toilet paper shortage.

I mention all this now because I think may partly explain the current global economic whatever-it-is. (Is it just me, or does “Credit Crunch” sounds like what financiers have as breakfast cereal?) One bank heard, rightly or wrongly, that some of the other banks weren’t going to be lending any money, so they stopped lending money. Then, once the other banks heard about that, they did stop lending money. Those banks that had been counting on borrowing a bunch of money, as they routinely did to cover some routine transaction or other, got caught with their coffers empty and went bankrupt. Any banks that had lent the bankrupt ones any money now weren’t going to be getting it back, causing some of them to go bankrupt, and all of them to be that much more unwilling to lend anyone any money.

Now, one thing I don’t understand about this is why everybody, not just banks but almost every business of any size, needs all this credit all the time – why can’t they just use their own damned money instead of incessantly borrowing from Peter to pay Paul? – but apparently they do. (Maybe it acts as the grease that lets the metaphoric wheels of finance and industry turn?)

But I understand that President Bush has just released a statement saying that, as long as everybody just stays calm, everything is going to be all right.

Poll: McCain Insane?

September 28, 2008

Wildy Ambiguous Old Great-Auntie Evelyn

September 26, 2008

Yesterday, I became a Great-Aunt. GreatNevvie was born at 3:30 this afternoon to my 17-yo YoungerNevvie and his 16-yo girlfriend. Mother and baby are both healthy and doing fine –

– and old Great-Auntie Ev is feeling very much ambiguous.

click here for further ambiguity

Upset, Appalled, and Aghast

September 25, 2008

Evelyn Q. Gorfram

Gorfram’s Community Garden Plot
Housing Complex Community Gardens
Seattle Area Suburb, WA   %@#&!

September 25, 2008

M. T. Hedd
Building Manager at Housing Complex 
Seattle Area Suburb, WA   %@#&!

 

RE: My Request for Approval of “Dr. Earth 7” Organic Fertilizer

 

Dear M. T. Hedd,

I am upset. I am appalled. And I am aghast. 

I submitted a request for approval of “Dr. Earth 7” Organic Fertilizer for use in our Community Gardens was submitted over a months ago. Tuesday, I asked (your  colleague) to follow up on this request.  Wednesday, I received the following e-mail:

 “I spoke with M. T. Hedd about the Dr. Earth fertilizer. She states that the best fertilizer to use is the Walt’s Organic fertilizer which is on the approved list.

If you have further questions about this, please feel free to contact M. T. Hedd.”

So, which one of you is sleeping with Walt?

read on to learn whether I am sleeping with Dr. Earth

Goats and Money

September 23, 2008

[Nothing’s more fun than starting off with a bunch of disclaimers, right?]

[The following does not address the US and global credit-crunch/mortgage-backed-securities-meltdown/Three-Hundred-Billion-Card-Monte-Scheme that is ongoing even as I post; not because I don’t understand it (I don’t, but I’ve never let that stop me yet); but because I can think of nothing more outrageous or nonsensical to say about it than what is already being reported as hard fact in the New York Times.]

[Nor does the following, which is purely hypothetical, bear any relation to anyone’s real financial status and/or dealings. Unless, by purest coincidence, it does, because I know nothing about said statuses and dealings and wouldn’t be able to tell.]

[The same goes for livestock values.]

Delores Loves Hydrangeas

Delores Loves Hydrangeas

 

Okay, so –

My friend Alfie works in the greater Washington area, owns her own home, and does not particularly care for hydrangeas. 

Let’s say that her house is worth some number of items for potential barter, say, 2500 goats (unneutered yearling milking nannies in good health; for further details, see fine print). Since Alfie & Mr. Alfie had saved and traded carefully for several years, they had 500 goats to buy the house with, and they were able to borrow the other 2000 goats from the Bank Of Seat Pleasant (at a fixed interest rate of 200 goats per annum). Thus Alfie’s house payments are 20 goats per month, at which rate she will have paid off the mortgage sometime after all the present goats have gone to goatie heaven. 

So what does the Bank of Seat Pleasant do with a bunch of goats?

Rafts, Ping-Pong Balls, and Radio Waves

September 9, 2008
[First off, I’m not a signal transmission engineer. I’m a mechanical engineer who knows a lot about metals and corrosion, a little about electrical stuff, and not so much about this (IMHO, unbelievably complex and arcane) signal transmission stuff.
My thanks to all of you in advance for not asking the myriad questions about the physics of signal transmission that I couldn’t  answer to save my life.]   
Waves rolling in

Waves Rolling In

 

(This is a truly wild and ridiculously oversimplified analogy, but it might be of some help to someone somewhere.)

A broadcast wave (radio, TV, etc) is really two sets of waves: the carrier wave, which is the one you tune your radio to (e.g. 91.5 MHz), and the audio wave, which is at a much higher frequency. 

You might be able to imagine it as something like if you guys were all on the beach, and I were out on a raft too far from shore for you to be able to hear me, but I wanted to tell you elephant jokes. If I had a bucket of red ping-pong balls on the raft, and a bucket of white ones, I could translate my elephant jokes into binary code and place a series of ping-pong balls on the passing waves, using red for one and white for zero (somehow also making sure that they would arrive in their proper sequence). If someone there on the beach with you (let’s call him “Bill”) could then translate them back from binary to English, you’d all get to hear why elephants wear red tennies. :) 

find out why, and read on

Inside the Bloggers’ Studio

September 9, 2008

Inside The Blogger's Studio

Since blogging itself seems like an exercise in ego (who on earth is ever going to want to read this stuff?), I figured I’d make my first post biographical and all about *me.*)


I really like the interview format that host James Lipton uses on “Inside the Actors Studio” (the Bravo cable TV show). But it’s vanishingly unlikely that I might ever be on that show, so, hey – I might as well interview myself. 

read the interview