Southern Service Dawgs

Because I haven’t enough to do, I started up an older project a few months ago.

A long time ago, back when I first started training Joella, I got involved in a Yahoo group for folks who were training their own Service Dogs. It was an interesting group of folks that’s for sure! Anyway, we realized there were a bunch of us who lived kinda sorta close together and we decided to have a gathering. I can’t remember the date but Jo was young so it was probably ’01 or ’02. We had a get together at Elena’s house in Charlotte. It was rather fun! I guess there were about seven dogs of various sizes (Akita, Keeshound, Aussie, Rottweiler, Beagle, several Mutts) but you know, not much barking at all! And they had a blast. We let them off leash in Elena’s fenced-in yard once we figured they were getting along and off they went.

And it was good for us humans to get together, too, to meet in person and get to discuss our dogs in person. I’m visual to a fault so getting to see what people meant when they were discussing something really helped me. I am still really good friends with Elena and am online friends with at least one other person from that gathering.

My project that I restarted is the Southern Service Dog website, ServiceDawgs.org. It’s been in existence since shortly after that gathering. I tried to keep up with all the SD laws in the Southern states but states change their websites a lot (which breaks links). But now there are two organizations that are doing a good job of keeping track of the laws and keeping it all organized. I also had several listings of commands several of our dogs had, what we were working on, photos of the dogs at work and play, etc. I really wanted to emphasize that Service Dogs were DOGS, not robots. They had down time and yet all of them would “work” with the cape off. The cape was just for the public’s benefit, really. Anyway, since I am getting back into the Service Dog thang again and doing more research, I dusted off the website and revamped it. It’s still got a long way to go, however.

It used to be based purely on html code. Oh, that was fun to do. Then I did it with CSS which was slightly better. But now I have it on WordPress which will really keep it organized and easier to update. I am basically starting over since so much of the information from the old site no longer applies. Which brings me to the point of this missive. If anyone lives in the South and has a Service Dog, or would like a Service Dog, or trains dogs, or breeds dogs that would make good Service Dogs or has anything to do with dogs and Service Dogs, I invite you to join me on this endeavor. I would like to have regular blog posts by individuals (other than me!) on topics related to Service Dogs in some way.

Interested? Comment below or on my Facebook page!

Bread and Butter Books

Some of you may not know, but I tried to be a potter. I was decent at it, too. I loved the tactile sensation of the soft yet rough clay. The instant gratification of it yet knowing it wasn’t done yet. That I could take that wet, smooth, delicate thing and turn it into a hard, functional, object of beauty. And sell it! There’s money in pottery, especially in this area. It’s expensive as heckaroni to start up. It’s a horrible Catch-22 situation. To make good stuff to sell, you need good equipment. From the wheel to the kiln to tools to clay to materials for glazes. You get the idea.

One thing about pottery is most of us had our pots we loved to make but for various reasons, they didn’t sell that well. Often the reason was because we had to sell them at a higher price. Pottery ain’t cheap! And then there were pots we hated to make yet they sold faster than we could produce them. We called those pots “bread and butter pots”. We made what we didn’t like in order to afford to make what we loved the craft for.

Now that I am a writer, I really really want to write science fiction and fantasy. Yet they don’t sell that well. Not in the lesfic niche market. What does sell is romance. Holy cow! Lesbians love their romance! And for good reasons! But dangit, I don’t like writing romance. It’s tough for me to write. Butch Girls Can Fix Anything was a fluke I think. And after eight (yes, eight) years, it is still selling like mad.

Since it first came out in early 2007, it has sold 3226 copies. That number may not mean much, I know. Heck, I don’t know much about it either since I have nothing to really compare it to. Except since Regal Crest started doing ebooks, sales took off. Of that number above, 2007 of those are ebooks. Amazing, isn’t it? No, print books aren’t dead, far from it. But ebooks aren’t going away.

I often wonder if BGCFA sells so well as an ebook because of the title. I mean, do you want to sit on the bus and read the paper version of a book with that name? Or would you rather hold you tablet or reader so the title is hidden? Same with a lot of lesfic titles, I suppose. And no, I’m not removing “Butch Girls” from the title of the other books.

Meanwhile, To Sleep has only sold 132 total copies in its first year (compared to BGCFA’s 605). I love that series and those that have read it, and have told me they did, have liked it too. I’ve read a few Amazon reviews that were negative and I appreciate them. I’d like to hear from more folks who read it and didn’t like it. There’s THREE more in The Soliloquy series and I can’t fix what I don’t know is broke. Ya know?

With these sales numbers, it means 2015 will be the Year of Romance for me. I am going to put out at least one of these, more if I can, but I don’t want to set goals (again) and set myself up to fail (again). I am not a hobby writer. Let me repeat that. I am not a hobby writer. I am in this for the long haul. This is my job, as much of a job as I can do. Writing takes up several spoons and I need the right ones in place. I am lucky to have a partner who has a stable job that allows us to be comfortable but we could use my additional income from book sales to take care of extras and to put into this thing we keep hearing about called “savings”.

So, those of you who like SF and F? BUY THEM! Tell everyone else to buy them, too. Don’t buy used. Don’t borrow or share. Buy them new. It tells the publisher that they are worth offering contracts to writers. It tells writers they are worth writing. It gets them out of our heads and desktop folders and into your hands. I am lucky that my publisher (who I heart muchly) takes risks on that genre. To Sleep has not yet earned back its investment. Our hope is the release of To Dream will increase sales.

Fenced In

We need to rebuild the dog lot fence. It won’t be in the same area but on the other side of the house, going down into the garden (or what once was the garden). That means the pear tree has to go. We’ll start measuring soon, deciding the size. Then calling around for estimates. The original dog lot was HUGE. The dogs miss it muchly.

The old fence was put in, wow, how many years ago? Long time ago, that’s for sure. Fifteen maybe? The part that attaches to the back porch was done later. And the Dog Deck was done back in ’09. Yeah, time flies when you’re pouring money into an old house. Which happens a lot here.

We have decided to hire a company to put it in versus us doing it ourselves. We could have a fence party, which is how the first one went in. It was a blast! But now all our friends are as old as we are. Instead, we’ll have a fence opening party and folks can bring their dogs to pee on every post. Having someone else put one in will cost more but hopefully will last longer. Before the limbs fell, most of the posts were being held up by sheer determination and honeysuckle vines.

Anyway, this is a Google maps pic of the house. The red line is where the fence used to be. Well, technically it is still there but parts of it were smashed. The yellow is all they have left and includes the Dog Deck. The pink line is about where we’d like to put it.

Another reason we need a dog fence? We have three big dogs. Mike is the smallest at 60lbs, Whisper is around 75lbs, and Sam at 85lbs. And sometime in the spring, we’ll be getting a puppy. They’ll all need space to stretch out and run.

Yes, you read that right. I’ll be getting a puppy. We’ve talked about it for a while. It’s still not written in stone final (I owe Elena an essay) but we’re getting things done that need to be done, even if the puppy doesn’t happen. Dog fence tops the list. Next is lift for truck. If I am to get a puppy to train as a Service Dog, then I need to go places more. That’s the whole point, to get me out of the house. And I can’t do that because I can’t load the chair by myself. After that is more general house arrangement stuff. You know how it goes. One thing leads to another. You can’t get one thing done until you get this other thing but you can’t get that one done until that one over there is done and….yeah, old houses. Gotta love ’em.

The Pig Didn’t Fly Because….

I finally found something I was looking for! An article from the perspective of the woman with the pig on the plane. If she were legitimate, one would exist. On my one hand, perhaps she is. Perhaps she does have issues and truly desired to have this animal with her on her trip. And that is her right according to the Air Carriers Access Act (links at the bottom) which covers planes which the ADA does not.

She (I’ll call her RB) is upset from it, of course. RB has had to take her Facebook page down. Photos of RB’s face were posted on a news site and people who were in photos with RB on her Facebook page prior to the incident were not happy to be identified with her. Go friends and co-workers! Love to you, too!

I tried to read the article in a way that I would understand her side. RB must be miserable and even more mentally pushed back. And I did try. I always do. Because I always hold out the hope that there was a mistake somewhere, you know? That surely to shit someone really did not take a pig on a plane, faking it as an emotional support animal!

But there are a few things that stuck out. And this was someone who was not with her but speaking from elsewhere but it does make me wonder even further. Anyway, Victor Kinoian, the owner of My Pet Piggy LLC where the woman bought her pig, says she (the passenger) worked with the airlines to ensure the airlines was aware she was arriving with her pig. Then he says:

“American Airlines knew they needed to accommodate my customer, so after calling & triple checking for approval to make sure a pig as an ESA (emotional support animal) was allowed to fly, she received no help from them that day or placed in an appropriate seat to ensure safe travels & proper accommodation for her ESA.”

Red flag. For one, it is not the airlines that determines the seating. The passenger does. Why did SHE pick a seat in the middle of the plane? Why not the bulkhead? As a person who has flown with a Rottweiler, I didn’t expect the airline to appropriately seat me when I got there. I expected me to pick out the best seat ahead of time. I’m not a child. And she’s not mentally ill, she’s not mentally challenged, she has a need for emotional support. That means she has the mental capacity to determine this for herself. Ahead of time. This wasn’t Southwest she was flying.

And she didn’t need help from them. She could walk to her seat by herself. She could put her bag away by herself. Her special needs were for emotional support. If she needed special accommodation to assist with that (seated early to help with crowds, for example), then she would have gotten it.

“After passengers became very standoffish towards Hobey, he had an accident, & as we all know, accidents do happen.”

Um, not by Service Dogs. I would be devastated if my SD pooped on a plane. If this guy who is selling pigs to be emotional support animals thinks “accidents happen”, then he’s an idiot. I know that pigs not eating “slop” must have better smelling poop than pigs that do, but we’re talking about a very crammed airplane. I don’t care who poops, it’s gonna stink for several rows.

And if Joella, my Rottweiler Service Dog, if she had gotten upset every time someone was “standoffish” toward her? She’d have crapped a lot. Thank gawd she just gave them her softest look instead and said “Why don’t you like me?” and moved on.

“What is expected of an ESA? Are they not allowed to have accidents? If my 90 yr old grandma has an accident mid flight, is she to be removed?! It’s not to be funny, but if there wasn’t so much grey area for situations like this to occur, this would have never happen. My customer was setup for failure by the airport and deserves an apology and an apology to all the passengers on the plane for having poor regulation and lack of common sense.”

What is expected? They are held to high standards, sir. They are representing not only all the other ESAs that come after them, but all the Service Dogs, too. And you, sir, are setting a poor standard. I expect my Service Dog to act in such a way no one knows she is there. I expect my SD to respond appropriately to stress (hide behind me, right Joella?) and not poop on the floor.

There is no grey area. It is written as a law called the Air Carriers Access Act. Read it. Perhaps your “customer” should, too. I take that back. There are grey areas. They are there on purpose. It is there because no passenger, no ESA, no SD, no situation is identical to the next. You cannot rubber stamp this and expect us all to fit.

RB could be legitimate. If she is, she needs to tell the guy she bought the pig from to shut the F up ’cause he’s an idiot and is not helping her or anyone else one dang bit. He’s enjoying his few minutes in the limelight while she is at home, probably with the curtains closed. Does she deserve the heckling? Did she really get herself a seat not in the bulkhead? I’ve seen photos of the pig in the airport. It’s not *that* big but it would not have been happy in that little space at her feet from Rhode Island to South Carolina. Did she really expect the airlines to take care of her that much? If she did, then she is…well, she needs to plan a little bit better the next time.

Correction: I originally called the law the Air Carriers Act but it is the Air Carriers Access Act. I have corrected all of the references. I should have known it was too easy and too few letters! Elena is much more smarter than me and caught it. – PaulaO

Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) – web version | pdf version
Air Carriers Access Act FAQ (pdf)
ACAA Summary from Disability Travel
Air Consumer Rules – scroll down to “Part 382”
Another article about RB (basically says the same thing but has more photos of the pig)

Samsung Note 4

I recently got the Note 4 to replace my possessed Galaxy S3. I loved my S3 from the beginning. But, yes, it was possessed. For one, it would not connect to the computer with the cable that came with it. Not on my computer. It would on my computer with Lorna’s cable, but not my cable. Then it would connect to Lorna’s computer with it’s cable but not Lorna’s cable. And yes, I knew which cable went to which. So finally we just switched cables and that was that. Then the headset port decided to not work. Most of the time it would, sometimes it wouldn’t. Totally random. It would be playing fine, plug in the headset or speaker, it would go to full volume for two seconds then nothing. The program would pause. Sometimes Google Voice Search would open. Sometimes not. Sometimes Dragon Voice Search would open, sometimes not.

See what I mean by possessed?

Meanwhile I had my tablet with the pen which I used more than I thought I would. I got the pen because I figured I would like to freehand notes and the like. Actually I fell in love with the handwriting-to-text software. I was thinking of getting the Note 3 but Lorna had a co-worker with one and she said it was just too big. Then my sis-in-law got one and I got to play with it. It’s big, yes, but not overly so. When I heard the Note 4 was due out, I decided that was what I wanted.

And I am glad I did.

And yes, it is big. But I wear men’s pants with real pockets so no problems with carrying it. Lorna is going through a phase of wearing women’s pants which has pretend pockets and she can’t even carry her S3 in her front pocket. If I were thinner, I’d get a holster for it and carry it that way, just to be cool. Right now I am carrying it naked. I’m not naked, the phone is.

Let’s start off with what I don’t like. Some of what I don’t like is the different version of the OS, KitKat 4.4.4. My S3 is running 4.4.2.
– I can no longer turn off/on the mobile data with just a tap of an icon in the “drawer”. I actually have no clue where to access it. I’ve not been in a situation yet where I have had to force it to do it so maybe they fixed that problem.
– If the screen is off and you have the phone locked with something other than a simple swipe, a missed call only shows up as a missed call. No other information (other than time) shows. They consider it a “privacy setting” and assume that if you don’t lock your phone, you don’t care who sees it but if you lock it, you do. There’s no way to change that. Really?
– Accessing widgets is a PITA. On my S3, they are with the Apps. On the Note 4, you have to long press an empty spot on the screen and access them via an icon that way. Why??
– The screen is slightly curved on the edges and Samsung neglected to let anyone know this ahead of time. All of the case and screen protector designers who had made things ahead of time were left scrambling to not only recall and offer refunds on things they had sold, but to now redesign their stuff.
– There are two mic holes and depending on who your carrier is depends on which mic hole you use. Verizon folks are SOL when it comes to cases right now. For some stupid dumbass reason, they use a totally different mic hole than everyone else so unless the case has an open bottom, yep, SOL. We have Sprint!

What I do like:
– Very, very sensitive screen. I am tempted to not put a screen protector on it because I love the crisp, clear screen (Zagg’s plastic tends to cloud up).
– What a beautiful screen! Wow! So clear! We went to BestBuy so I could see one and as soon as I turned it on, I knew that was what I would get.
– The pen? It is awesome. It is like a mouse, actually. I can draw, select, move, cut, paste, write, erase. I use the phone for quick notes for the manuscripts as well as just various “don’t for get to do this” kind of notes. And I write them by hand! Amazing! I don’t write much by hand anymore because I tend to grip a pen too hard. And it hurts anyway. But the stylus, I grip lightly and don’t press as hard.
– Probably more to do with the OS than the device itself but the widgets are grouped together. On the S3, if an app had 12 widgets, they were all listed, 6 to a page. But now they are grouped together into kinda like folders that are kinda open. This makes finding things MUCH easier.
– To move icons from one screen to another, you don’t have to hold and skim from page to page. You hold it and little images of the other screens appear below. You can then drag it to the image of the page you want to put it on, it pops up and you drop it there. Done. Great for when you are doing massive re-arranging!

There’s lots more of course. Some good, some bad. There’s some battery issues. This battery gets hot while I never noticed the S3 ever getting warm. But it has a “fast charge” where it goes from dead (1-2%) to 100% in 1hr 37mins (I timed it). It took forever to get it to die, though. A guy who does YouTube reviews and stuff was able to get the iPhone 6+ to bend which then cracked when he tried to straighten it out. The Note 3 did not bend at all, although there was a slight warping to it. The Note 4 bent some but he was able to straighten it out without it breaking. What else? The more I use it, the smaller it gets. Really, it’s not as big as it seems. I mean, yeah, it’s big but for my old eyes? It is just right.

A great resource for most things Android is Android Central. Their forums are quite active and huge. I have learned a lot from the forum for the Galaxy S3 and now the Note 4. Since the wifi only tablets are rather static (I have the Note 10.1), not much happens to them but I go to that forum sometimes just to see if any update is expected. It is still on 4.1.2 and I doubt it will ever get an update.

S3 (left) and Note 4 (right) – the app is Sol Calendar

Widget screen for the Note 4

Widget Screen for the S3 (yes, those are all for one app and yes, there’s more)

How to access the widgets for the Note 4. PITA, IMO.

Writing Apps

So what mobile apps do y’all use to do your writing? Even research? And by mobile I mean not laptop or netbook, but tablet or phone.

I use all Android on my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone (soon to be upgraded) and my Samsung Note 10.1 tablet. When I do write away from home and it is not on the laptop, it is on the tablet. With the Note’s pen, I can either do it by hand or use a keyboard (bluetooth or onscreen). I went with the Android because, as a writer, I wanted the ability to easily get to my files and keep backups on a card vs being forced to use a cable or cloud the iWhatever is limited to. My Note has a 32gb card that holds all my WiP files as well as my music, ebooks, and bunches of other stuff. My phone has a 64gb card because it has ALL of the music and a ton of other useless stuff. I keep the tablet more “professional” (less games, for one).

If I like a program, I don’t hesitate to buy the pro or premium version. And if it is free, I like it, but the ads are annoying or I don’t like the permissions, I won’t use it.

The two I use the absolute most are OfficeSuite Pro and AndFTP Pro.

OfficeSuite Pro – word processing. Tracks changes that actually transfers to the desktop. Reads the .odt format (open document, which is what OpenOffice uses) but cannot save in it. It can, however, edit that document then save in .doc which OpenOffice can then handle. Which is why I love OpenOffice.

LectureNotes – I heart this muchly. You can import an image or pdf file then take notes on it or beside it. It is mostly for college students to use this way. You can also create your own drawings, notes, or whatever. There is a fully functioning trial version (has some limits, of course).

Write: Tablet Journal – well organized note taking or journaling kind of app. I use this for world building and idea growing when away from home. I can export them in .txt format when I get home. Easier to manipulate the text than a simple note program yet not overly complicated. The notes can be organized into folders. There is also a version for phones.

WordWeb – I use this on my desktop, too. Dictionary and thesaurus program that can also tap into Wikipedia and Wiktionary. Freakin’ way cool program. On the desktop, I use this a lot.

Aldiko Premium – eBook reader. Reads epub, pdf, and acsm formats. I upload the books (including L’s Nook books) to my tablet via Calibre, a free ebook organization program. I just now found a Calibre Companion app which, somehow through wifi, works with your phone/tablet and Calibre on your desktop to keep your books organized. It won’t read them, but it can help you tag them, mark them as read, etc. I haven’t tried it yet but I will soon!

SimpleMind – a mind mapping / brain storming program. I have it on the desktop, too. I prefer Novamind, however, but that program doesn’t have an app just yet so when I need it while away from home, I can explore the thought process with SimpleMind then transfer it when I get home.

Rory’s Story Cubes – excellent and fun way to get a little spark back into your creativity! Hard to explain so you’ll have to check them out. They existed in “hard format” first and I think I would prefer them that way.

BeyondPod – I was into podcasts for a while but then if I missed a day or week, I got behind and then it is hard to catch up and and and…so I don’t anymore. But I still have the app for if I ever want to get into it again. This was THE best app I tried (and I tried a lot of ’em) for finding the source, downloading, sorting, and then finding the download to listen to it.

And finally, AndFTP Pro and S3Anywhere Pro. AndFTP is an ftp app that lets me upload/download to/from my backup ftp site. I do regular backups and syncs (yes, I do both) from my desktop and when actively writing, I do daily syncs of the active project. That way, when away from home, I can access the most recent version from my tablet, even if I haven’t put it on there. S3Anywhere allows me to access the cloud service I use (I use DreamHost’s DreamObjects). I don’t often use it but in case something happens to the FTP version, I still have the cloud version. And ya never know! The two apps are made by the same company.

There’s a few more that I tap for reference but these are the faves. OfficeSuite and the ftp one are used the most. I’ve tried a LOT of different apps over the past, what, two years? I really liked Kingsoft, which became WPS Office but it couldn’t handle the odt format. Remembering to save in doc and to upload it was a pain in the arse. It had some other issues as well (clearing the “most recent” list had a tendency to delete the files themselves!) and I was pleased to find another app.

My First Reading!

Paula Offutt (me) and Robin Whitley (somebody else) will be doing a presentation, discussion, and reading at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC October 10th 6:30pm.

The fun part is my book is a science fiction (To Sleep) and Robin’s book is poetry (More Than Knowing) and we are going to connect the two together through the theme of Coming Out and LGBT History. How will we do that? The audience will guide our direction but the idea is how far
LGBT books have come, in particular the characters within them.

For those who cannot make it, an auditory recording will be made and will be available later as a podcast.

O.M.G. I’ve never done this before. What have I agreed to do? I know, I know, it’s for my own good. It sells books. It promotes the next one and the others I’ve written. It promotes LGBT books as a whole. I know. But…I’ve never done this before. What if I do something stupid? It wouldn’t be the first time.