Lake Break

How was your week? Any milestones?

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Visiting Desolation Wilderness, which is much prettier than it’s name implies.

Reached two summits: (1) Mt. Tallac — and didn’t die of a heart attack or get eaten by bears — and (2) the 100th blog follower. Yay.

Blog experts warn that sites without a focus or brand don’t get followers, so am sending virtual chocolate to anyone who has clicked my follow button, and promise to follow you back if I haven’t already.

Photo: dantada at Morguefile

Photo: dantada at Morguefile

What was the subject of your best posts? What attracts the most followers? Do the two coincide?

Open Call for Writers Writing

What are you working on/writing?

How does your writing/work differ from others in its genre?

Why do you write what you do?

How does your writing process work? 

– Blog hop questions

Audrey Kalman was kind enough to invite me to join a blog hop. Thank you Audrey. 

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Audrey’s blog, “Writing of Many Kinds

While I generally shy away from this kind of thing, the questions are estimable. How does my writing differ from others’ in the same genre? Would I really want to ‘fess up about my process (best described as scattershot)? How do other people go about writing?

Checked back to see how past participants handled this meme.  Here is bestselling author Laura Munson in an introduction to her answers:

Writing is just what I do—it’s how I’m wired. I’m no good at getting to the gym or balancing my checkbook, but I know what it is to sit at the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is the writing life, and I’ve done it with all my might for a long time.

Turns out…this is an uncommon way to live. Not a lot of people know how to climb into that uncomfortable but enchanted playground and play, skin their knee, fall off the merry-go-round, pump so hard on the swing they swear their sneakers touch the sky.

Here’s esssayist, editor and memoirist Ana Hayes:

When I am beginning a new chapter or essay, I start by writing with pen and paper. Then I type my pages into my MacBook Air. This is my first step in rewriting. And then I rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite until I feel like there’s nothing else to rewrite.

It was inspiring.

So, I wrote back to Audrey to say — Sure. Let’s do this. She gave me a date to post. When her week came, she previewed the next featured writers – Darlene Frank and yours truly, and posted her answers, which are awesome and funny.

I write every day. I floss regularly, exercise 40 minutes 4 times a week, and get at least 8 hours of sleep.

One of those statements is true. Ask my dentist.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, it was time to pass the baton to other writers. First on my list was Kristin Ohlson, whose book The Soil Will Save Us, shook up my thinking.

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Too late. Kristin had already been tapped:  “Some Thoughts on Writing.”

Checked in with essayist and novelist Anna Willman, who is blogging about walking across the country, three miles at a time, and has published a series of Regency romances as well as literary fiction.

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Sorry, Anna wrote. Too busy writing and walking.

How about my friend Valerie, who co-chairs the Mid-Valley Willamette Writers and recently released a memoir, Smell the Blue Sky?

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Nope, no time either. How about Tess of “How the Cookie Crumbles,” currently entertaining her 1000+ followers with tales of her visit to China?

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Cookie Crumbles header with Gingko for those of us whose cookies are crumbling

Already tapped. See Writing Process Blog Meme

You get the picture. As nominees politely declined, my week to post — expired!

But a strange thing happened along the way. I got into reading about why and how others write, and want to read more.

Let’s open this meme.

Have you already participated? Leave your link in the comments and I’ll stop by and read about how, why and what your write.

Want to participate for the first time? Answer the questions on your blog or website, then leave a link. I’ll visit. While you’re here, check out two or more writers who leave links. Keep the ball rolling by inviting more writers, and feature your nominees on your blog. It’s fun to see who is putting up great posts.

Again, the questions are:

1. What are you working on/writing?

2. How does your writing/work differ from others in its genre?

3. Why do you write what you do?

4. How does your writing process work?

Cheers!

For some of us, the publish and preview buttons are too dang close together.

Have you ever accidentally pushed Publish instead of Preview?

Sorry if you got an e-mail saying Scribbler put up a blog post about visiting Cozumel. It was not supposed to be posted yet. This is why easy publishing should be kept out of the hands of people in a delirious state of summer-itis, and in a rush to post something! Anything!

Here are my excuses, I mean reasons. It’s graduation season.

 

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It’s travel season, and a time to have friends for dinner, pick blueberries, hike, bicycle, play music, visit friends recovering from surgery, celebrate a niece’s engagement, mourn a death in the family, and worry about, I mean applaud, a kid, I mean young adult, who insists on swimming across the San Francisco bay.

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It would be better if the writing bug took a vacation, but alas, it keeps biting.

So, if you’ll just excuse me while I duck out of sight and fry, fry a hen.

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Please share your bloopers. Am in need of company. 

 

Sun Reflector and Summer Blog-Fog

How are you spending summer (assuming you are north of the equator)? Hope you’re managing to both warm up and chill out.

For blog-laggards such as myself, check out Blogdramedy‘s June 4 post, How to pull a post out of your bum. One of her recommendations is to post a few words and a picture of yourself, even if it’s not very flattering, and at least let people know you are alive.

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Here I am, alive and in shorts, tentatively sampling coconut water. Those babies are heavy! Oddly, no one took me up on my offer to share.

In this neck of the woods, summer not only gives bloggers an excuse to be lazy, it also provides nature an opportunity to remedy the vitamin D deficiency that 99.9% of us Pacific Northwesterners suffer from. The Mister says my skin reflects sunlight, so it’s probably better to just keep taking supplements, but hope for a little color persists, and every year, out come the shorts.

Feel free to send photos of your own summer bronze. Maybe some of it will rub off on me.

What are your tips for keeping up the blog-flow in summer?

 

New Orleans. Six things to do.


Ever been to New Orleans? What are your favorite sights/activities/restaurants?

The news stories about New Orleans, at least the ones that filter through to where we live, are hyperventilatingly negative. Highest crime rate in the nation! Second highest poverty rate! Brain eating amoeba in the water supply!

Bah.

Here to tell you, we visited recently and loved it.  Music everywhere. Amazing food. Even had mild and cool temperatures — a rarity it, but it does happen.

Six tips for NOLA visitors, particularly neophytes (like us):

1. If you like to bicycle, several bike rental companies cater to tourists. Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had 11 miles of bike paths. Now there are 84 miles of bike lanes in the Parish, and 104 miles in the greater New Orleans area, with more planned. You’ll find the cyclists, like everybody in New Orleans, hospitable and friendly.

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Lips of Lips and the Trips, who was kind enough to take a break from her commute to her day job for a chat.

 

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Lips at her night job. Image source: Lips and the Trips website

2. By all means take the famous trolley, admire the brass and mahogany fixtures, and squeeze in with all the other tourists. To really see the city though, take the bus. The same $3 day pass for the trolley also gets you on the bus. You’ll ride with locals, see more sights, and get where you want to go, faster.

3. Museums. Save time for museums. Try these:

National World War II museum. For anyone who likes history, planes, guns, technology, and gadgetry, this place is heaven. It was a tough sell for me because war museums seem like an excuse to glorify genocide, but the curators make an effort to include the sobering side of war along with the glory. There are oral histories from veterans, nods to the Women’s Air Corps, the holocaust, and the Tuskegee Airmen. There is a sizable exhibit on Japan. There’s an entertaining, patriotic film for an extra $5, which is “four dimensional,” meaning vibrating chairs, steam-smoke and stage sets. For another $5 you can participate in a Submarine Reenactment, in which an heroic crew goes down, victim of one of it’s own torpedoes. I pooped out after 3 hours, but my husband the history buff could have spent the whole week at this museum.

The Insectatorium. Don’t be cowed by all the kids in line for tickets, and bring your knee pads because the signs are at kid height — but I guarantee, you’ll come away with a new appreciation for bugs. Couldn’t talk the Mister into sticking around for the cooking demonstration, so if you get to see it and sample the menu, let me know how the fried cockroaches are.

The Civil War Museum. Be forewarned, the sign outside says “Civil War.” The sign inside says “Confederate War,” which is closer to the truth. This is a commemoration from the perspective of the South, and is full of uniforms, photos, testimonials, flags, equipment, stories and swords — lots of swords — of Confederate soldiers and officers. It’s a moving display, complete with letters from sweethearts and cannon balls lodged in ossified tree trunks.

4. Food. Glorious food. We did not have a bad meal. Favorites? For a fancy meal, August.

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Photo source: August website

For less formal food, the lunch counter at Cochon Butcher. Decidedly not for vegetarians. Dead pigs right there in the back room. The food was terrific.

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On the other end of the gustatory scale, with vegetarian & vegan options, organic, raw, gluten free — catering to whatever special needs you can think of, Meals from the Heart Cafe:

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Photo source: Meals from the Heart

5. Music. Mardis Gras is the just tip of the iceberg. There are jazz cafes, and music on the streets, festivals, concerts, you name it. We were lucky enough to hit Wednesday Music at the Square, on Lafayette Square,

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And the French Quarter Festival,

But pretty much any time you visit, be ready to be soaked in music. Check the event calendars to make sure you don’t miss the musical events happening near wherever you stay.

6. The guidebooks warn tourists not to stray from main thoroughfares because crime is high. That’s no doubt good advice, but be a little adventurous. Visit cemeteries that aren’t so famous. Walk a block or two off the avenues of antebellum mansions, to the quiet streets with modest homes. Visit the areas where whole blocks have been bulldozed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is sensory overload. You’ll be glad for the break.

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We hope to return. Do you have suggestions for things to do on future visits?

The NSA’s best excuse ever to play War Craft

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Be afraid. Be very afraid.

What do you think about Edward Snowden’s release of classified documents?

Go ahead. Sound off. The National Security Agency couldn’t possibly be listening.

Whatever your feelings, you have to admit, Snowden got people talking. Other whistle blowers using legal channels were forced to give up their careers, and aren’t exactly household names.  William Binney, a 30 year NSA veteran who tried to raise red flags, was greeted one morning by FBI agents pointing guns at his head as he stepped out of the shower. Who has heard of William Binney?

Snowden at least got noticed.

My favorite revelation: the NSA’s decision to target online games.

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Is that a camera in your cleavage?

A 2008 NSA memo warned that virtual games might seem innocuous, but actually, they are a “target-rich communication network” allowing intelligence suspects “a way to hide in plain sight.” Because terrorists, like gamers, assume fake identities and make financial transactions, online games “are an opportunity!” Agents adopted avatars (make believe characters), collected data and communications, and attempted to recruit informers.

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Check out Pro Publica’s slide show on NSA, CIA and British spying in online games

So many agents were playing online games, one memo declared that “deconfliction” was needed so that spies wouldn’t spy on each other.

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Happy ever after on Second Life

Was the mission successful? Were terrorists found using Second Life or World of War Craft to launder money and plot bomb attacks? No.

There will be a flurry of media stories about Snowdon this month when Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer and, until October 13, 2013, journalist for the Guardian, releases his book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Security State.

Expect more fun and games.

“I want to spark a worldwide debate about privacy, Internet freedom, and the dangers of state surveillance. I’m not afraid of what will happen to me. I’ve accepted that my life will likely be over from my doing this. I’m at peace with that. I know it’s the right thing to do. I want to identify myself as the person behind these disclosures. I believe I have an obligation to explain why I’m doing this and what I hope to achieve.

“I only have one fear in doing all of this, that people will see these documents and shrug, that they’ll say, ‘We assumed this was happening and don’t care.’ The only thing I’m worried about is that I’ll do all this to my life for nothing.” Edward Snowden 

 

What’s your favorite leaked secret from the NSA documents? Do you play online games? If so, have you noticed any suspicious characters hanging around?

Read more:

World of Spycraft: NSA and CIA Spied in Online Games

Spies Infiltrate a Fantasy Realm of Online Games

Xbox Live among game services targeted by US and UK spy agencies
NSA and GCHQ collect gamers’ chats and deploy real-life agents into World of Warcraft and Second Life

 

 

 

 

Score One for Pollinators

Geranium jolly bee

Image source: kfjmiller via morguefile

Are you following the news about the collapse of bee colonies? If so, you probably know that neonicotinoid insecticides (dinotefuran, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam) were linked in a recent Harvard study to bee deaths.

This spring our town, Eugene, Oregon, passed a ban on neonicotinoids, the first community in the country to do so.

In Oregon we had our share of bee wipeouts last summer, including one in June, when an estimated 50,000 bumblebees were killed after a licensed pesticide applicator violated the label and sprayed blooming linden trees with the neonicotinoid dinotefuran (brand name Safari). The intended victims were aphids, and the site was a Target parking lot. Within weeks, another massive bee die-off was reported in Hillsboro, where trees had been sprayed with the same pesticide.

Other states and communities are trying to pass laws restricting neonicotinoids, which is good, because not much is happening at the national level. The EPA is studying the issue, and their study is not scheduled to be completed until 2018.

If you’re following the fight to protect pollinators, check out Saving America’s Pollinator Act, H.R 2692, introduced by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D- OR). It would limit the use of neonicotinoids until a review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators.

Meanwhile, restrictions need to be put in place locally, town by town. Hopefully, Eugene is the first of many.

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Photo source: playfuldragon via morguefile

Know any beekeepers, or have you kept bees yourself? What’s happening in your area regarding bees and other pollinators?

Good news on climate change: Garlic

Good news on climate change? Anyone?

It’s probably progress in the right direction that the issue has started appearing regularly on the front pages. It only took five rounds of being taken to the woodshed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Still, it’s not clear how we’re to fix things, or if that’s even possible. Politicians sure aren’t jumping on the bandwagon. In Oregon’s Voter’s pamphlet for the upcoming election, only one out of 48 candidates even mention the topic. And, on a gorgeous day like today it’s particularly hard to wrap my head around the idea. It’s too big, and too depressing.

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Things look fine. Three Sisters, Bend, Oregon

When good news about climate change surfaces, I glom onto it like cling wrap to a bowl.

For example:

Garlic can cut emissions of methane gas.

When it comes to global warming, methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and methane gas emissions have increased by 150% in the last century. Cows produce methane in their manure, and when they fart and burp. Each cow produces between 30 and 50 gallons of methane a day. With about 1.4 billion cows in the world, that’s a lot of gas.

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Photo source: Yvonne Parijs-Bosman via Queen of the Cows

And garlic? A three-year study at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth demonstrated that cows fed garlic produce 50% less methane than non-garlic eating cows.  “Garlic directly attacks the organisms in the gut that produce methane.” Still unknown: whether garlic affects the flavor of the milk, but we’ll take that as it comes. For now, bravo Aberystwyth scientists. Yay.

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Image source: hotblack via morguefile

Is climate change on your mind? Have you done anything to change your lifestyle or are you politically involved in climate change issues? Do you know of any leaders we can vote for, or innovators who are inventing/promoting solutions?

Sources: Do Cow Farts Actually Contribute to Global Warming?

Garlic May Cut Cow Flatulence

How Garlic May Save the World

Me and My Petroleum Distillates

What’s in your cleaning cupboard? Got anything poisonous? Are you sure?

You might have trouble finding out.

Take Petroleum distillates. As part of a remodel, we received a sample cleaning solution as a “gift.” It worked pretty well — magically, wonderfully well. It did everything — polished mirrors, cleaned sinks and counters.

When the sample ran out, I bought a jug of it.

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DANGER: HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED.

Never mind the strong smell. It made things look really good.

Now the bottle is almost empty. Reorder? Probably worth it to find out what’s in it. Also, maybe it’s time to look into why it smells, and if it does bad things to the water used to wash the cleaning rags.

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Avoid contact with eyes and prolonged contact with skin. Avoid prolonged breathing of vapors.

1. What’s in it? The only ingredient listed on the label is down at the bottom, in small letters, on the back of the jug: Petroleum distillates.

2. What are petroleum distillates? According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), it’s a synonym for Naptha and rubber solvent. It is flammable. Permissible exposure limit: 500 parts per million.

3. How much is 500 parts per million? How much time does it take for “breathing of vapors” to become “prolonged”? Unknown.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, another of my favorites, Spray n Wash laundry stain remover has a petroleum distillate, too. Hmm. Spartan Chemical Company’s material safety data sheet adds more info., pretty much unintelligible to me.

So, all that digging, and still hanging on the fence. Wear gloves. Don’t breathe it. Use sparingly. Already doing all of the above. Should be OK, right?  Maybe. Maybe not.

4. Should it be kept out of the water supply? Unknown.

5. Why is it so hard to figure this out?

Partly because there’s a labeling loophole that allows chemical companies to omit the names of ingredients in dyes, fragrances and preservatives. Partly because nobody is sure about the dangers. 

Friday (April 11, 2014) Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., introduced the Household Cleaning Products Right to Know Act of 2014 bill, which would require cleaning products makers to disclose ingredients. We can follow how that goes at his website.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Working Group turned out to be a good resource. They looked at 2000 household chemicals in 2012 to see what’s in them, and rated the ingredients in terms of the risks they pose.   Protect All Shine Plus isn’t on the list, but lots of other stuff is. Check it out. They give petroleum distillates an F, citing allergy and cancer risks.

OK, ok. Probably not worth the shiny sinks.

 

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Image Source: kakisky via Morguefile

 

Got any substitutes for me?

Tech for Troglodytes: What to do about the Heartbleed Bug

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Bleeding heart in bloom this week, on a computer near you

Shall we take the Heartbleed bug seriously? Yes. We do not want hackers selling our credit card numbers, social security numbers and personalities. Think of it as housekeeping. Nasty but necessary.

Run, don’t walk.

Do these 5 things:

1. Change the passwords for your most important and sensitive sites — banks, credit cards, mortgage payments, utilities, and probably, social media sites. Now. Many sites are getting fixes. Sadly, when fixes are complete, you will have to do this again, and change all of the rest of your passwords too.

2. Use hard-to-crack passwords. See Best Passwords Ever.

3. Sign up for a password manager like Dashlane, LastPass or KeyPass, which will store all your passwords in one place. A manager can speed up the time it takes to generate new passwords with a password generator. Protect your account with a long, goofy password that you can remember, and can’t be cracked. Memorize the password, and store it offline.

4.  Take advantage of two-step sign-in whenever it’s offered. Google offers it. So does WordPress.

5. Check to see if sites you deal frequently with have had their bleeding hearts fixed by going to this site put out by Bruce Schneier: http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/

Good luck!

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