Thursday, February 21, 2008

Shutting It Down

Well, for those of you that read this blog, I have some bad news:  In a couple of days, I'll be shutting it down.

I'll probably be deleting it, too.  I don't really know why I've kept my blogger page as long as I have, except that it was my very first blog, and I had sentimental attachment to it.  But I far prefer the flexibility of my Wordpress page, so I'll mostly be updating there.

I'll be doing that over the weekend, and this will probably be my last update.

It's been fun, and thanks for following along.  Update your links, if you will, and you can continue to watch me over at if you're interested.

God bless, all, and if I don't see you again, please know I'm grateful for whatever time you spent with me.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Update-ish Things

Okay, first off: I have to tell you, those of you that played the Flash-Fiction 2-paragraph game did an outstanding job!  Am-AZING work, y'all!  Thanks for playing!  And if you had fun, the LOML has a site just for this kind of thing.  She wants it to be a fun, creative place for writers to go when they need to loosen their writing muscles, slap their muse around, or just take a break from their projects.  That site is:

The Writers Nesst

She's going to work hard to make it fun, so stop by and get involved.  Tell people about it, too; if you know writers that aren't hanging around in other places and doing those sorts of things, let 'em know they're welcome and can come by.  They can make suggestions, too, if they have a favorite game or a good idea they want to share.  All are welcome, so spread the word!

Again, thanks for taking the time to play, everyone.  I'm going to repost what we've got so far and then, if anyone is still interested, they can add two more paragraphs to it in the comments section of the new post.  The old post will be closed to comments, but I'll add an update link to the new post.

If you didn't get a chance to play, don't worry -- like I said, it's still open, and of course, the Writers Nesst will be available too.  Make your presence known!

Now, as for me -- I've no more software to review.  I really don't.  Most of what I have to say about software has been said, but if you guys know about a cool piece of freeware that you want to find out about, let me know.  I'll check into it for as long as I have the Internet.  Drop me an email, or leave me a comment here.

I've added a contact block to my ever-growing sidebar with a new email address.  Reach me there if the mood strikes you.

My precious wife and I are still hacking through the edits of Ghost Hunters.  Most nights we do one or two chapters, but we've got a ways to go yet.  I think we just finished Chapter 29, so ... only 17 left to go.  Some of the chapters need more ... help, let's say ... than others, so it's hard to do a set number of chapters per day.  We try to do at least two, but lately, we haven't gotten more than just one.  Ahem.  That's a testament to my poor post-writing editing skills, unfortunately, but it's coming along.  When it's finished, it's going to be time to start putting query letters together.  Sherri, if you're still willing to critique and assist with the rest of the process, I'd be very grateful; but if not, that's cool, I know you've got your own stuff hap'ning.  Just let me know.  :)  Like I said, I'm not there yet, but it's coming.

While we're on the topic, I'll need critics and beta readers for the new, updated version.  Raga?  Interested?  Bryce, do you have time or interest?  Anyone?  I'll be looking for help with it soon.

Of course,  Witch Hunt isn't going as well as I wanted.  It's a harder story to write from the get-go.  There's a lot of plotting I have to do, and outlining isn't taking the priority it should.  Bryce's Text Tree program has been a Godsend though; if you're an outliner and haven't tried, it I recommend it.  Highly.

The good news is, I have some idea where the story's going for the immediate future.  I can probably (!) pen more of it before the end of the week.  Now, I've made that promise before, and you all see how it turns out, so I'm not saying I will pen more by the end of the week.  But I have a little path to walk before I run out of rope.

That's for those of you that care about Witch Hunt, of course.  All three of you.  :)

As for our personal situation -- nothing's changed.  Nothing.  We sure can use all the prayers and PPT you can spare us.  Please know we love and appreciate you all, and thank you for your support in our hard time.  It means more than we can say.

God bless, everyone.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Software Review - FireShot

Technically, FireShot's not software.  Well, it's not stand-alone software.  It's a FireFox add-in.

As a semi-regular blogger (for as long as I can be, at least), I often find myself blogging about things in the blogosphere or on the web.  It's not unique; I think most of us do that.  But when I'm blogging about things like weird search terms (which are some of the most popular posts I do) or doing software reviews, having tools at my disposal for the task makes it much easier, more enjoyable, and faster.

You may have noticed lately that some of my posts have included screen shots of portions of my Wordpress dashboard.  Those screen shots were taken with FireShot.

FireShot is one of those tools.  For blogging, it's amazing.  Once it's downloaded, the installer prompts you for choices.  One of which is whether to include FireShot as a context-menu item.  For the less geeky, that means when you right-click on your browser somewhere, FireShot is able to be among the choices you're presented with.  This is a cool feature, and one I use a great deal.

What happens is this: you have an icon on your browser's toolbar.  It's a big red square with an "S" in it.  There's a drop-down arrow next to the icon.   When you click on the icon, there's a list of things that FireShot can do.  Those items are Resume Editing (grayed out unless you're editing a shot), Take  Screen Shot (Entire Page) and ..., Take a Screen Shot (Visible Area) and ..., Preferences, View Demo, Write a Review, Support, Donate and About.  Most of these are self-explanatory, but some of them aren't as intuitive.

Take a Screen Shot (Entire Page) and ... does just that: it takes a shot of the entire page you're visiting.  That's great if there are multiple things you want to include in whatever you're writing, or you want the unedited content as it is, or you're showing the entire page for any reason.  Be aware, this feature will create quite a big image file in pixels, depending on the page you're visiting when you take the shot.

Take a Screen Shot (Visible Area) and ... again does just as it indicates: it takes a shot of the portion of the page visible within your browser.  The smaller your brower window, the smaller the area snapped will be.  This is the one I use the most; and from there, I do more editing still.

I won't really discuss the rest of the options.  Support is where you get tech support on the product.  About tells you about the version and such.  View Demo -- 'nuff said there.  Et cetera, et cetera.

Now, once you've captured the screen shot, you can do a few things with it.  That's the "and ..." part of the menu entries.  FireShot prompts you for the next step.  You can edit within the built-in editor (very cool), upload the image to your image storage location, save the image to your local drive, copy the image to the Windows clipboard, email the shot and open in an external editor.  Lots of choices.

The FireShot image editor lets you drag and drop the image size (don't expect the resolution to adjust, though; it gets pretty grainy very quickly), crop the image, and manipulate it just as you would in any simple image editor.  It also allows you the opportunity to upload, save or copy the image once you've done the editing, so those buttons are available too.  There's a Select button that makes choosing the portion of the shot you want a snap with either an ellipse or a rectangular call-out.  And there's a nifty Shapes button that allows you to highlight certain parts of the shot for annotation.  You can also do annotation outside the Shapes menu with the Pointer and Text buttons.  There's a Drawing button, too, which enables freehand drawing of lines, shapes and probably note-writing too.  Very slick.  While it's not Adobe Photoshop, it's a nice little image hacker, and it lets you stitch an image together cleanly and neatly, without having to get a graphic designer's degree to use the program.

I've used it on a couple of occasions, to create images of the portions of the screen I want to use in my blog post.  I capture the image, then I select the portion I'm interested in with the Selection tool of choice.  That brings up a sub-menu in the sidebar to the right of the screen, and I can crop the image there.  (You can do a lot of other things, too, including blur, invert, grayscale convert, annotate, add glow effects, fill ... nice).   Then I add the call-out shape I want and type in any text, which you can control (font and size).  I can move the call-out and the pointer will automatically be adjusted.  I like it a lot.

If you like blogging on web sites or portions of pages, FireShot's a very nice little package that makes grabbing sections or portions easy and fun.  It's simple, powerful and very light-weight.

I declare, with all the great add-ons to FireFox, we won't need to use other programs at all pretty soon.

I recommend FireShot highly to bloggers and web0philes.  It's really nifty.

Try it and see.  Let me know what you think.


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Monday, February 18, 2008

Witch Hunt - Ch. 6

The next installment of Witch Hunt is up on my main blog!  Check it out!


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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Come and Play!

If there are any writers that visit here, I've got a little writer's game going on over at my main blog. Come and join in the fun! You don't have to register to play; just sign in with your email and have at it! All are welcome!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Still Not Much to Say ...

I still got nothin'. But I'm workin' on changing that.

I'm going to write something ... tonight. It will be up tomorrow. Shame on you if you don't follow your blogs over the weekend. What're you, a person? What, you think you gotta life or somethin'? Sheesh.

I may just do some flash fiction to warm up. How about a game? A two-paragraph game. I'll write two paragraphs. You follow in the comments with two more of your own. We'll see how many takers we have by Monday morning. I'll post the full story by Monday evening. Wanna play?

This is the sort of thing we'll do over at the Writer's Nesst when it's up and functional. LOML tells me it'll be soon, but she says we're gonna be rich and thin too. That magical "someday" never seems to arrive, does it?

Anyway, I'll have something for you. I promise. Something.

God bless, and keep praying for us, you all. We need it. We're praying for you too, just so you know. :)


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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ever Have One of Those Blogs ... ?

Yeah.  This is one of those entries.  You know, the ones where the author clearly has nothing, whatever, to say, but goes ahead and posts anyway.

I got nothin'.

I should be writing ... or maybe editing ... but I'm not doing either.  I should be relaxed and taking advantage of this time I have while I have it, because I'll regret it later when I don't have it anymore.  I just can't.  I don't have the drive, the creative flow.  There's not much going on in my head.  I can't do anything except sit and think about my personal crap.

I want to do something, but I've got nothing.

I'm more than halfway through the edits of Ghost Hunters now.  I believe they're going well; I think it's a much stronger piece now than it was before we started.  My wonderful wife has done a phenomenal job pointing out the areas of weakness and helping me get it up to snuff.  But we've done nothing for several days now, and it's my fault.  She's offered to work on it, and I just ... ain't there.

Witch Hunt is going stale right before my eyes.  I have a few more chapters plotted out but I've not written a word.  I don't know why.  Worry has a tendency to kill your creativity.  I do a lot of that lately.

So, I figured I'd write something else.  I haven't.  Maybe it'll happen sometime soon.  Goodness knows, I need that bright spot, that release in my life.  Hopefully the throes of this agony will ease over the weekend so I can get something down.  I feel like a completely useless lump right now.  And I hate that.

Toldja it'd be one of those posts.

Anyone have any interesting software I can review?

Thanks to all our constant supporters for your constant support.  We love you and appreciate you.  Happy Valentines day to all the happy couples out there.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Quick Update

My thing at 10:00 a.m. this morning went well, despite the hazardous driving conditions. My thanks to all of you that prayed and supported me during that time. I won’t know how it pans out, but that’s another matter all together.

As for me, I’ve been doodling around with Linux today for the most part. I’ve downloaded a bunch o’ LiveCDs and spent some time today burning them. Some of them actually failed, just DOA. I think those may have problems with the image. I’ll download it again when I can and give it a second try … maybe. They don’t give CDs away.

So far the only one that goes off without a hitch is Mandriva. Fedora worked too, but not as nicely. Nothing has detected my wireless card, either. I can’t get on the network via live CD, so hopefully the actual installation will give me a better chance to configure the Windows driver with NDISwrapper or something. I hope. I pray.

Pff. I should be writing. I’m sorry, but that’s going to have to wait until tomorrow, y’all. I hope that’s okay.

I might have new fiction by then, or I may have more Witch Hunt. I hope to edit a couple of more chapters of Ghost Hunters too.

Oh, and I’ll try and give you more detail on what happened with my Linux try-outs later this week. If I have time between all the running around and writing I’m going to do. (I’m trying to pressure myself into being productive.)

Anyway, thanks to all, and God bless.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Rising Tension

We're getting into some tense times, now. Things are very dicey for us at the moment. Those of you that know our situation, I'm afraid I have to call on you again to support us, if you will, in prayer.

Tomorrow is another glimmer of hope. It's a thin thread, and we really need it. Tomorrow at 10 a.m. if you have time to pray, please do. I want to thank you all in advance for your loving kindness and suffering through posts like this one.

Our situation has to change, really soon. Really soon.

Anyway, I hope to have something less cryptic and depressing later. For now, I have to try and prepare for tomorrow.

Thank you, everyone.


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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Software Review - ScribeFire

Well … I was going to give you an indepth look at ScribeFire, which is a browser plug-in blogging client for FireFox. I know a lot of you are using FireFox for your browser, and it starts becoming everything a blogger, researcher and general ‘Net junkie needs when you extend it with the add-ons available to it. (Get them here.)

ScribeFire turns your browser window into a split-screen blogging client. This is really great and it’s very easy to set up. It allows you to control what’s visible in a left-hand sidebar and shows you publishing options for your blog of choice in the right-hand sidebar. When you’ve selected your publishing options (like Technorati tags and TrackBack URLs), the options can be closed, restoring the right sidebar to the default tabbed layout. This allows addition of blog accounts, displays the tags for each blog account, the posts that ScribeFire finds for it (not exhaustive), the pages for the blog if any, and has a Notes tab.

A word of caution here: The Notes feature isn’t what it would appear to be! I found out the hard and painful way, selecting a note will populate your editor window with the note’s contents, replacing whatever you’ve typed into the editor. I lost a loooooooong, well-researched and fully image-enhanced post before the one you’re reading now (it was my original review of SF) by trying out the notes feature on the fly. You can, however, save your editor screen data as a note (it will allow formatted or plain text), but I don’t know about images. And I’m not willing to experiment again, sorry. Once bitten …

Anyway, ScribeFire does a lot of neat things. It’s a pretty well-featured editor, and adding blogs is pretty straight-forward too. That’s nice. Since it’s browser-based, it’s truly cross-platform (at least, it appears to be; there is no “Windows” or “Mac” or “Linux” segregation in the installation from FireFox’s add-on site). As you can see from the link in the sentence prior, it makes links easily enough. It may look a bit odd, sitting in your browser screen taking up about half of it (a bit more in my case), but you can have it consume either the top- or bottom half, to suit your preference.

Its image-handling capabilities leave a lot to be desired. I can insert images fine, but there are no settings to control where on the page it sits, the white space around it, whether the text wraps it or not, etc. My beloved WLW still sets the unattainable standard for this feature, in my estimation, despite the claims by several other blog clients that they are as good. For blogging in text, ScribeFire seems to be strong enough. Just type and go.

I didn’t notice a performance hit by installing it. Since it’s a browser plug-in and not a full-blown installation of software, it only requires a restart of FireFox to get it going. The screen is straight-forward and easy to use. But SF really shines when it comes to blogging about an interesting site or article online. A right-click on the page of interest and a context menu will pop-up allowing your to import the text into SF. You then edit to get to your point, and publish. This is especially intriguing to people like LOML, who loves to surf the ‘Net and is occasionally interested in talking about what she’s found in her blog. News hounds will probably love it too; you can blog right there on the site without having to navigate away, either to a separate blogging client or to your blog service’s editor. That’s a boon for a lot of folks.

But, losing all my work because I selected a note in the Notes tab gave me pause. It also ticked me off no end; I’d invested probably an hour or more in writing my initial review, and had mostly good things to say. That incident showed a major weakness in the software (it’s not really a notepad as the name implies if it’s not usable apart from the editor), and gives me something negative (very negative) to point out. I’m sorry to do that, ScribeFire, but if you’re going to provide a place for notes they should be separate and distinct from the main entry. Provide a cut/paste feature to move information from notes to posts. That’d make the feature usable and, in my opinion, better. And for Pete’s sake, please put some sort of warning about the text in the editing window being replaced by the note BEFORE it happens to another unsuspecting blogger.

Overall, I like the speed and portability of ScribeFire. I think being able to blog on the fly about a site while you’re on it is a great feature. I think the flexibility of having it built into your browser is a nice idea, even if it’s not my cup of tea. It’s never going to be as cool and feature-rich as Windows Live Writer, but what is? (WLW is one that Microsoft got RIGHT.) If you can’t use WLW, or you want to be right on the web page you’re blogging about, or your system is sluggish and doesn’t handle big GUI-based programs too well, ScribeFire might be a very viable alternative for you. It’s plenty strong and capable.

Something from my perspective; my wife had a different one. Check both and decide for yourself.


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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sound Off: Mac vs. PC; YOU Tell ME

Yeah, we've all seen the cute commercials with the laid back comedian and the uptight comedian bantering about how much better a Mac is than a PC.  I've been contemplating this issue literally for years, and in doing some of my homework, I have some legitimate beefs with switching that I either don't hear about from other switchers, or that don't seem to come up with other people.  So, being that I well could be the odd man out again (as is so often the case), I present to you a few issues that spring to mind in the Mac vs. PC decision.

  1. First of all, a Mac is friggin' expensive.  Don't gimme a line o' crap about "What's cheaper, replacing your PC every two years and protecting it from Malware, Spyware, viruses and hackers, or buying a Mac?" either.  That's not gonna fly.  Initial outlay of capital is initial outlay of capital.  The cost of ownership isn't even a factor in this argument yet, so let's leave it alone.  Right now, the Mac costs a lot more than a PC, period.  I'd love to make the switch, really I would, but -- day-um, y'all, those prices are exorbitant.  Yes, you can get them on eBay and refurbished for less, but those still run more than an off-the-shelf PC.
  2. Lack of standardization between the two OSs for users.  I mean to tell ya, you have zero similarity between Macs and PCs functionally.  I'm not arguing one's better than the other here; you can do that if you want, but the fact of the matter is the number of PCs in the world far, far outweigh the number of Macs in the world.  Common shortcuts are different, the naming and location of commands is different, the interfaces are different (like menus and even the three buttons at the top of the screen for applications) , the input devices -- yes, keyboards and mice -- are different.  Hell, there's not one thing except the alpha-numeric keys they seem to share in common.

    That's not easy to get over one way or the other.  Give the advantage to Mac users here, because they most likely have to use a PC in their workplace, so they know both.  I had one user I supported years ago tell me, "I use a PC because I have to; I use a Mac because I want to."  Have to or want to, he had the best of both worlds.  He used a PC at work (the "have to" part) and a Mac at home (the "want to").  He knew a fair amount about how to get around in both worlds.  I think this will be true for most Mac users, since most commercial places of employment aren't willing to spend the extra money on Macs to fill their cubicles.  I've never been a Mac user; PC only am I.  Therefore, I have a steep learning curve ahead of me with a Mac, and I wonder what my frustration level and stress level will be in doing that. 

    I'm a writer too (just ask me), so I spend a lot of time working my keyboard shortcuts and avoiding my mouse when I can.  I like my keyboard layout; I'm familiar with it and know where to find almost everything without looking.  What about a Mac?  How much trouble amd I going to have with a Mac?  I've also heard that the shortcuts aren't always consistent from one software package to another.  Any truth to that?

    Any recent switchers from PC to Mac, please sound off here, because I'm legitimately interested.
  3. Shortage of USB ports.  I've read a couple of articles where users have complained that their Mac desktops only have 3 USB ports, and most Mac notebooks only have two.  Are you frickin' kidding me??  What the hell are you thinking over their, Jobs??  Get a clue!  Beef 'em up!  You're asking people to pay an arm and a leg and depending on what model they're getting a right lung too for a computer.  Put the things they need on it, jackass!!  Most PCs are coming with 4 ports on the back and at least 2 more on the front.  What's Apple's problem?  The iPhone cost them so much they can't afford USB ports on their computers?  Gimme a break.
  4. Shortage of software.  Okay, you want to talk about the overall cost of ownership with a Mac vs. a PC?  Take a look in this category.  There's a fair amount of premium to be paid off the shelf for Mac software, and there's not a lot of it.  I go to any computer specialty retailer and I can find hundreds of titles for PC.  I go to the Mac ghetto section of the same store, and I see a couple dozen titles.  And that's only the beginning.

    I personally have ... obtained, let's say, thousands and thousands of dollars worth of software.  I have it, I can install it and use it on any PC I buy running Microsoft Windows (so long as it's an appropriate compatible version of the OS, which would be true for any computing platform).  But, if I switch to a Mac, all those CDs and DVDs become coasters only suitable for protecting my table top from the condensation from my Long Island Iced Tea.  I can't use it anymore, unless I'm willing to work with some sort of emulator like VMWare (EXPENSIVE) or WINE (which claims it's NOT an emulator, but also doesn't have a 100% success rate with Windows software and doesn't have the same performance capability as Windows software running natively in Windows).  To get back all the capacity I currently have, I'd have to spend thousands of dollars to replace that software, some of which are high-cost suites.  Now, total cost of ownership?  You tell me.  I don't know about the "average" user, but for me, it's no contest.  Period.  (Incidentally, this is the primary reason if not the only one preventing me from switching to Linux, too.)
  5. Viruses and Spyware.  Mac users claim Macs are virus-proof and don't need antivirus software, but my beautiful and highly-intelligent wife read just scant months ago how a new spate of malicious code was being scripted lovingly just for the *nix crowd of OSs, including Macs.  I don't know how popular or widespread those infections are now, but give it time.  There will be no advantage to having a Mac in the security area before very long, because evil people are evil, and when Microsoft no longer presents a challenge to their abilities, they will seek others.  Mac is foremost among those challenges.  Unix-based OSs are next.  What's the advantage here, then?  I still need to get AV software, and with PCs it's readily available, even for free in some cases.
  6. And while we're discussing cost of ownership and free, what about freeware?  I have a good supply of programs I use, which are Windows-based, and is freeware.  I can download it from their site or others and run it without any problem.  Get a Mac, and I lose free programs.  I don't have a Mac, so I've never done a search for Mac-oriented freeware, but if the difference in commercial software availability is any indication, it will be no contest.  Again, this is a hesitation point for me in switching.  What does Mac offer that is the equivalent or at least comparable to the things I'm using on my PC?  How do I find out?  I mean, besides Google.  ;)
  7. Maintenance and repair.  I'm fully capable of diagnosing and repairing any problem I have with my PC.  I haven't had a problem yet that I couldn't find and fix.  After 12 years of technical support experience, I'd better be able to say that.  But with a Mac, despite the introduction of Intel chips, the guts of the machine are different.  How hard is it to figure out?  This is yet another learning curve; how steep of one?  Anyone who knows, sound off.  I'm sincerely interested.
  8. Cost of hardware.  My last exposure to Mac hardware was many, many years ago.  There was absolutely no comparison in pricing.  As cost of parts plummeted for PCs, Mac hardware was both difficult to find (without going directly to Apple somehow) or difficult to afford.  The premium on their proprietary innards was so ridiculously high it just wasn't worth it.  I personally know of at least one person that gave up on Macs when his broke and he couldn't afford the replacement part.  He switched to a PC and hasn't gone back.  At least, not that I know of.  Is this still true?  Does Apple continue to shoot itself in the market foot by pricing itself out of competitive play?
  9. I've heard a lot of good things about Macs, but their networking capabilities aren't among them.  I don't guess there's a definitive answer for this; my only experience with networking a Mac was pretty painless, but it only involved setting up a printer on a TCP/IP network so the Mac user could print while he was in the office.  What's the story with AirPort?  Is it reliable?  Do Macs come with built-in wireless cards like PCs, or do you need to add a third party one?  And if they are added, do the driver disks that come with the devices work with Mac?  Most of them will have a few generations of Windows drivers on the CDs (Win95/98, W2K, XP, maybe Vista now).  Does Mac use those drivers, or is it something completely different?  And if they don't use the standard drivers, where do you get the drivers?  If you can't get online, you can't very well download them, now can you?

Well, those are a few of the off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts regarding switching to a Mac.  Some of these are common to my concerns about switching to a Unix-based OS, too, but at least those don't run on proprietary hardware platforms.

What have you got for me, Mac world?  Answers?  I truly want to know.  I'm not planning on making this switch soon, and I can tell you that it's a shame if I'm told I have to attend some stupid workshop taught by an "Apple Genius" at an Apple store to make this happen, but if that's the truth, I want to know.  Sound off, tell me how it is.  Don't tell me how great Macs are and once I go Mac I'll never go back (for the money I'll shell out to "go Mac" I damn well better not have to go back!).  I can get that kind of "Rah-Rah" anywhere Macs are sold or used.  I want the guts, the internals, the workings of switching from a PC to a Mac.  I'm especially interested in hearing from any of you that only recently switched.

So ... whattaya got for me?


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Witch Hunt - Ch. 5

A new chapter in the Witch Hunt saga is available! Go here to read it!

To start at the beginning, go here!


Monday, February 04, 2008

Okay ... 24 Hours and a LOT of Tears Later ...

... my computer is back up and running again.

I had a major issue that occurred when I tried to upload a post to my Wordpress blog.  I got an error stating there was a problem logging in due to an RPC-XML issue.  I'd been testing some blogging clients and wanted to do a software review of them (which never happened, by the bye), but when I tried to post, nothing.

Being a technical support person, I did what came naturally to me.  I got pissed off, then acted rashly.  I assumed the blogging clients I'd sampled created the problem, that it was a local problem to my PC, and that I had to re-do everything.  I uninstalled Windows Live Writer and the other blogging clients.  Then I "cleaned" the Windows registry.  Then I rebooted, and tried to reinstall Windows Live Writer.

And it promptly failed.

I got even pisseder.  Yes, pisseder.

So, the error messages (or lack thereof) led me on a wild goose chase that had me doing everything from trying to recover my system through the Windows System Recovery utility to contemplating creating my own registry entries to address and re-acquire my lost beloved Live Writer.  Nothing worked, however, because like any good tech support person, I wasn't prepared for a catastrophic failure.  I tried reinstalling Windows (which left all my programs and data intact, supposedly).  It didn't, of course.  I wound up trampling roughshod over my programs and settings, and one after another things started snowballing.  Somewhere around this point, my beautiful and much more intelligent wife discovered it wasn't Windows Live Writer having the problem, it was Wordpress.  They'd disabled the RPC-XML apparatus on their servers for some reason.  But by then, it was far too late.  I was on a commit path toward having to do something both drastic and unwelcome.

After about three and a half hours of wrestling with the PC, I decided it was time to reformat the drive.

That meant moving my many gigabyte data storage to my wife's computer.  That also meant having to update, patch and secure Windows all over again, just like I did when I got it.  And it meant having to reinstall, reconfigure and worst of all find all my programs.

Well, it turned out to be a good exercise.  I had a virus issue a couple of months ago that left me drained, ticked and with a PC that was ... well, less than trustworthy in some respect.  The recovery process allowed me the luxury of leaving off the things I didn't want, knew I wasn't using, couldn't use and didn't like.  In the end, I recovered about 9% of my hard drive, and only have the things I really love installed now.  The recovery process from one of my writing programs (Page Four) was more tricky than I imagined, but it finally worked, albeit differently than it said it would.  After battling it out with this thing for about 28 hours, I've got my PC back up to snuff, my Windows files and Windows Live Writer are functional, all my beloved writing software is working, and now I just need the finishing touches to make it perfect.

On the downside the Patriots lost the Super Bowl, and that was more being pissed.  I do. Not. Want. To. Talk. About. It.

It's a long, long offseason.  But my computer is fixed.

That also means I didn't get any writing done.  Neither any editing.  I'm sorry all, I'll try and get back on the horse soon, but for now, it's ... well, I have other pressing matters to address right now, so I'll take care of it when I can.  I have Chapter 5 of Witch Hunt started, and should be able to finish that pretty soon.  I'll advise as events warrant.

It's been a nightmare weekend.  Please pray that things go better for us this coming week.  We need a break in our situation really soon.

God bless.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Inconsiderate Clod

When my mother opened the door, her jaw dropped and her eyes bulged just like she'd been slapped across the face.

There wasn't much to do in the crappy little town where I grew up most of the time.  When we moved out of our established neighborhood into a new development things got even more boring.  There weren't any kids my age around, but my brother Ryan had more luck.  A young couple with a kid just about his age lived on the cross street directly facing our cul-de-sac, and they became buds.  Me, I had to stick with people I knew, or worse still, hang around with the two of them.  Life could be pretty boring.

Since sticking with kids I knew from the old neighborhood wasn't possible very often, I spent more time than I'd liked with Ryan.

My best friend Bill was my salvation from it.  He lived about an hour away, but every summer he came out to visit us.  He'd stay a couple of weeks, and we'd do all sorts of fun things, most of which involved trying to ditch my loud mouth brother and his whiny, pants-pissing friend.  The rest of the time we tried to get spending money for the trek to the little candy store in the older part of town bordering our new subdivision.

Some days, though, there just wasn't anything to do.

Those hot, dusty days we'd spend in our neighborhood were made of bike rides in the blistering desert-like air, finding adventures in ragweed hillsides and romping through the cracked yellow clay exposed by scraping and scaling house lots.  We were kids, and the heat didn't bother us too much.  We had a centrally air conditioned house to retreat to when it was too much.  But that almost never happened.

When the developer laid out the cul-de-sac we lived in, my parents were told the area behind it would be a park.  My dad had big ideas about building a gate leading to that park, so my brother and I could go out there and play.  He thought it'd make their lot more valuable later, since there would never be houses butting up against our yard.

The day they started clearing the yellow seed-topped wild grass and breaking open the ochre clay beneath, he knew he'd been screwed.  The developer wasn't planning on turning that area into anything but another street packed with cookie-cutter tract homes and the single olive sapling dropped square in the middle of the front yards.

Against the side yard of our pie-slice property facing the cross street, a young couple moved in not long after we did.  They were pretty and fit and firm.  He was a tall, bearded guy that always seemed to be working.  I can't remember his name to save my life, but I don't know if I'll ever forget her name: Sue.

She was a vision, all leggy and lean, with perfect curves and sassy brown hair.  She had a smile that made me all awkward and nerdy -- not that I needed any help with that -- and she was nice, to boot.  She'd always say hello to us as we puttered around the neighborhood.  My friend Bill, much more precocious than I, used to say spicy things about her that made me blush and giggle.  He'd say she was "fine", but I guess now that'd be "phine" or something.  He'd make sexual inuendos about her, at the ripe old age of 11 or 12.  I smiled and nodded in agreement even though I had no clue what the hell he was saying half the time.

That particular hot dusty day of yellow dirt and sweat we were in our back yard.  The fences were new enough to still be straight and rigid, but old enough to weather to that dirty brownish-gray.  To ease the cost of the fences, a lot of knotty pressure-treated pine was used, and when the wood dried beneath that solar beating and whipping dry winds blowing in from the delta, it shrank.  Big gaps would open between the fence boards, and knots would drop out leaving perfect peep holes.

Sue and her husband were young, tight-bodied twenty-somethings.  Bill was a precocious boy full of hormones.  I was a sheep following along behind him.  So when he heard her come out of her house and recline in a creaking tattle-tale chaise of vinyl straps and aluminum tubing, his face beamed with a mischievous grin.

"Hey," he said, "let's go see what she's doin'."

I shrugged.  "Probably layin' out.  She does that a lot."

"Layin' out??  She does??  Why didn't you say that before??"

"I guess I didn't think it ..."


He was soft-stepping through the dirt, trying to hide the crunching his generic grocery store sneakers made on the cracked clay.  We went past the patch of zucchini, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes my mother insisted on having, and got low and stealthy for the final approach to the fence.

We hunkered down next to him, Ryan being amazingly quiet.  Bill put his eye up to a splintering knothole and squinted through.

"Holy shit, man," he muttered, his face dropping in disbelief.  "Oh my God.  She's out there in a bikini.  Christ, you oughtta see 'er tits!"

Truth was, I had seen them, a couple of times.  At least, as much of them as he was seeing.  I'd seen Sue plenty of times outside in a halter top, or bikini top with cut-offs, puttering in her yard.  I didn't need to look through that knothole to see it again.

But I pushed him aside just the same.

"Lemme see!"

He eased aside to let me look.  I could see some of her, lying in the sun, basted in Coppertone, sunglasses over her eyes.  She looked so serene, so calm.  But I couldn't see much of her prone body, so I quickly lost interest.  But Bill had other ideas.

"Wonder how close I can get to beaning her with this?"

I looked over, suddenly interested.  He was pulling a fist-sized dirt clod up, and hefted it in his hand like a baseball.

I shook my head.  He grinned.  "Don't think I can?"

"No, don't ... she's nice, man.  We have to live here."

He considered.  "Yeah, you're right."  He absently tossed the clod into the air.

Somehow it sailed over the fence.  His eyes bulged in horror as we watched it sail over the tops of the dog-earred boards.

We hunkered down and covered our ears, waiting for the cry of pain.

There was none.

Bill looked at me, and I stared back.  He shrugged, and put his eye to the peephole again.

Sue was sleeping peacefully on her chaise.  The spattered remnant of the projectile was sprayed over the concrete of their patio like spin art.  He looked back at me and shrugged again.

Ryan giggled wildly.  We both looked simultaneously.

Four or five dirt clods, all bigger than the one Bill threw, were arching fast over the fence like a miniature meteor shower.

"NO! ..."  The voice was Bill's blended with mine.

It was too late.

There were the sounds of dirt clods dying in explosions of scattering clay and crumbling earth.  One after the other they crashed.  Bill didn't wait to see what else would happen; he lunged for Ryan.  But the butterball was quick enough and just out of reach, so he scrabbled out of the way.  We couldn't react fast enough to stop another volley from lobbing over the fence.  We tried to shout whispers through gritted teeth at him, but he laughed his hideous, evil cackle and ran toward the house, sending yet another sortie of missiles across.

We bolted then, giving up on trying to stop the idiot maniac.  We dove through the sliding glass door and slammed it shut behind us, hopefully sealing Ryan outside to die in the baking heat.  We stumbled toward our room when my mother's stern shout of "Stop!" froze us.

"What is going on?" she demanded, hands on hips in her "I'm pissed and want answers" stance.  She'd been in the kitchen beside the slider we used for our escape.  It was a miracle she hadn't seen the entire event unfold, but she seemed ignorant enough.

"Nothing ... we're just ... havin' fun," Bill said calmly.  I was always astounded by the ease and smoothness of his parent handling.  His silken tongue always soothed them and left us out of trouble.  Well, usually anyway.

"Well, quit running through the house.  You're tracking dirt!"  My mother wasn't slurring her words yet, so I knew the binge hadn't started.

"Okay, mom, we will," I said, and we walked as fast as we could down that long hallway toward our room.

It was impossibly long that day ... miraculously long.  So long that just as we passed the entry way of chocolate brown ceramic tiles and dark-stained double doors, the doorbell rang.

My mother was still at the end of the hall when it chimed.  Both Bill and I jumped at the sound and froze.  Mom was able to make the trip to answer the door in about six steps, and we didn't have the brains to run out that same slider when she passed us.

So she opened that door, and her face dropped in shock.  Just like she'd been slapped.

Sue was standing at the door.  She held her arms out away from her sides slight, barefoot and bikini-clad.  But there was no joy in seeing her sleek tanned body for us this time.

She was covered in tiny little dirt chunks, shrapnel and remains of the large ones that flew over the fence and erupted all over her patio when they hit.  The dry, crumbling dirt mixed with her suntan oil and became a sludgy goo that ran down her legs, her stomach, her arms ...

... and her face.

She stood there, fingers combing dirt from her hair, pulled up and held in a barrett.  She looked dead in my mother's eye.

"Sue!  Oh my God ..."

"Will you please tell your kids to stop throwing dirt in our yard?  Please?"

Bill and I made a hasty retreat for the bedroom.  We should have gone out that slider in the back of the house, because it wasn't pleasant after my mom closed that door.


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