Precognition or Just Bad Luck?

To Sleep was a hard book to write. It started out in one direction then the logistics of it (a reader can only suspend so much belief before the book becomes airborne) got too tangled. I set it aside for a year or more then tried again, this time going in a different direction. But some tangles lived on.

When I first wrote the draft for To Sleep in ’09 (it was called The Awakening back then), the MCs were given these touchscreen devices to interface with the System. They were called the Individual System Access Device. They played with what to name them ISAD was, well, sad so they decided to call them their PADs. In 2010 Apple came out with the iPAD.

Another part of To Sleep that was dropped was the initial scout ship was kinda shaped like an egg, smooth with no visible markings whatsoever, and had been in orbit around Saturn, hidden as one of that planet’s many moons. I dropped that part for various reasons but kept the description for one of the main ships that first arrive. In 2012, prior to To Sleep being released, Saturn’s moon Methone was finally imaged up close. It is perfectly smooth with very little visible markings.

In the Earth I created for the Soliloquy series (To Sleep, To Dream, Perchance, To Die), the Religious Right had gotten a firm hold in the US gov’t to the point they are a political party on their own. If you have read the first book, you know what the Religious Right attempt to do.

Tonight, as we wait for the numbers to start getting counted, I hope and pray that yet another bit from that damn book does not come true. Let us come back together as a species and heal the mental wounds we have inflicted on each other. Followers on both sides have gotten nasty. We all need to move on, one way or another.

Shutting Down Cortana

I don’t like Cortana. Don’t want it. Didn’t ask for it. I find the entire thing not just a waste of resources on my already choked computer, but an invasion of my privacy.

If you want to turn the dang thing off though, ha. Microsoft took care of the “off” switch a long time ago. And now even the registry change isn’t quite enough. (see how to do that here but know what you are doing!) There is one way to turn her off but it has to be done after nearly every major update it seems. It’s a simple matter of renaming a folder.

You will see “Cortana” running as a process in the Task Manager. Right click on the little darling and select “open file location”. This will take you to the folder you need to rename.

Right click the name of the folder and select “Rename”. You want to simply add “.old” to the end of it. Change nothing else. Hit the Enter key. It will tell you the file is in use and do you want to try again. Leave this window alone.

Go back to the Task Manager. Maneuver it so that it is near the “try again” window.

Select the Cortana process and click the “end task”. Then quickly move the cursor over and click the “try again” button. If you were successful, you won’t see that window again. Cortana wants to live and she returns very quickly. If you see that window again, then just simply repeat the end task but be faster, grasshopper.

Next time you see that dang Cortana process running, you’ll have to do it again. This will make the 3rd time I’ve had to do it. I’ve turned it off in the registry so I don’t know what the program is doing. And that is what i don’t like.

Writing the Disabled Character, Part 1

Here I am using the term “disabled” loosely. This can mean anything from quadriplegia to asthma. If an illness/condition is as much a part of their character sketch as their humor, then consider them a “disabled character”.

There’s lots of things to keep in mind but right now I want to focus on medication. Some of us Real Disabled Folks take a lot of them. Currently I have eight full-time prescribed medications and two supplements, resulting in me taking seventeen pills and four puffs on an inhaler. Remembering to take them, and taking them at the right time, is a pain in the ass. Add in the Filling of the Pill Organizer Thingies? And I am so done with taking meds. But wait, we’re not done. I also have five as needed medications so I need to keep track of when I last took one and if one of them is going to interfere with something else.

Many conditions you can saddle your character with are going to require a medication. You don’t have to name it, but you can mention them taking it. The frustration of it. The “crap, did I take it this morning?” or the “is it Friday already?” (because we know what day due to the pill organizer lids). This doesn’t have to hamper your character. It can add a certain depth to her. It can display a part of her personality in unique, distinct ways. Is she OCD? There ya go! Bottles lined up, tray filled regularly, alarms on her phone, etcetera. Is she the complete opposite? Does she have alarms set up not because she is OCD but because she otherwise would never remember? And yeah, there’s apps for that. Sense of humor? She can give them all names. Or mess up the generic names.

And yet this can be done in simple little passing scenes that not only set up the character, but set up her life while a the same time carving out the shape of your character. You can have that character be mature and take her medication like a good girl. Or be a rebel and purposely miss doses. Or have them accept the things as just part of life and handle it with as little thought as what side of her toast to butter.

If you do give them a disability, even a mild one like hypothyroidism, Google is your friend. So is your own physician. Read through some forums. Understand what the condition is like with just as much expertise as you would any other part of your novel. Don’t mess it up. Because disabled readers will notice. We’re so excited to see “us” in books but don’t think we don’t ignore mistakes. If the character takes a pill one morning and bitches about how she has to take it every morning, she damn well better take it ever morning. She stay over with her new love, where’s that medication? Even if she decides it is okay to skip a day, mention it. Or don’t mention the medication at all. You can say she has a condition and just not mention medication which would be perfectly fine. We read books all the time where the characters can go six months and never go pee so we can handle a disabled character not mentioning her medication.

Back It Up

I’ve talked about this before. Lectured on it. Gonna do it again ’cause it’s been a while.

Back up your work, back up your work, back up your work. In as many places as possible in as many ways as you can think of. Some you do every day to catch ever new word, phrase, file change, whatever. Others less often and purely as backups. Others purely as syncs. Redundant? Sure. But when it crashes and you have a copy off site? One not touched by the virus? That’s not a happy dance, that’s a heart that is still beating.

First, let’s discuss terminology. A backup is just that. It takes the files and copies them. Any that are changed or are new on Source are changed or copied on Destination. Any file that is missing from Source is not deleted from Destination. So if I have file A, delete B, change C, and create D, the Destination (if I had done a backup yesterday) would now have Files A, B, an updated C, and the new D.

A sync is different. A sync is essentially making a mirror image of the Source onto the Destination each time. If yesterday my Destination had A, B, and C, today it would have A, C, and D.

A backup is good because you never lose anything, unless two files have the same filename and are in the same location. But backups can be memory hogs at the Destination. A sync is good because it is the exact copy you have on your computer. The Destination will only take up the same amount of memory as the Source. The drawback is if you sync the wrong copy.

Sync can also go both ways. Let’s say you work at your desktop and sync it to the cloud. You then go to your laptop, and now you can sync the cloud to the laptop. Any new work you had on the desktop is now on the laptop. No carrying a memory key around. Cloud files are accessible wherever you have a wifi location. But again, sync will erase one file and replace it with another if the size and/or date is different.

I have a desktop computer. On it are two hard drives. One is the main one, the other is a holder of sorts. Also on the computer is a memory key with a lot of memory on it. Holder drive and USB drive sync themselves to the Main Drive daily. If necessary, I just grab that key and go. On it are all my Works In Progress (WIP) files, emails, and some other stuff. The problem with all this is: it is all at one location, making copies of the main drive. If the main drive is corrupt or have a virus? So do they because they are directly connected. I keep a sync copy on Lorna’s PC, connected via the home network. But again, same location. Should the house burn down or lightning strike us because God has had enough of my sarcasm (ha, like that’d happen), all that dataz is gonez. Same location. You need at least one copy of stuff off site. Away from your house. Sure I can grab that key but, really, if a fire happens or lightning strikes, I got other things on my mind. Like saving my arse and my pets’ arses.

There’s a few ways to do that. One is a cloud service. Another is to remote location. For example, using a program such as Ammyy, you can connect to a friend’s computer and keep your files there. (I use Ammyy to access my home computers while away.) A third way is to have two external drives. Do your backup onto one, take it to work, bring home the one that was already there. Use it the next week for the next backup, exchange, rinse, repeat. Just keep it in a desk drawer at work. Done. External drives are getting smaller. I don’t trust memory keys for this. I consider them for simple file transfer use only. Maybe one of the newer, expensive ones vs the cheap models made in the shape of a ninja. Maybe.

Okay, onto the cloud! My webhost, Dreamhost, has a really cool cloud service called DreamObjects. To that I do a backup and a sync once a week. I like both because with the backup, I never lose a file. And with the sync, it is the latest where I had it last and uncluttered by all the stuff I deleted everywhere else.

Now, to access all that.

To do the backing and syncing, I use Syncback Pro. Love. It. Set it up with what I want it to do, set up a schedule, fuhgitaboutit. I can also tell it what to do with files that are different in one way but same in another. I can tell it to ignore certain file extensions. It does it all in the background. Or it can do the scan, gather the info on changes, and get permission before implementing any or all of them. I have this running on my desktop, my laptop, and Lorna’s PC.

To access the cloud, I use CyberDuck. I can access the files, download, delete, rename, whatever. I can upload too but don’t often use it for that. It is an easy program, small space, and good support.

Sometimes I use FTP to upload a file so I can quickly access it or send it to someone for them to download (which is easier to do than with a cloud, which I have set to Private). For that I use Filezilla. DreamHost use to allow us to keep non-webfiles on a server but they stopped that. It is where I kept a sync so I could access it quickly. Now I use Filezilla to maintain my websites and files for the sites. It is extremely easy to use.

On my tablet and phone (both Android), I use AndFTP for FTP stuff and S3Anywhere Pro for cloud access. S3Anywhere was a godsend when I found it and finally got it to work. Extremely simple to use and very easy to set up IF you understand what needs to be put into each blank. I think it may be the only one available for accessing DreamObjects on Android. If you use a Big Name Cloud like Drive, then your options are much better.

As for Drive and the others, I once used one. Which one is Google’s? Anyway, used it for a few months for a few files because I was writing between my laptop and my desktop and then we were editing that document. The cloud service corrupted the file. We found a spam phone number in the document. And twice it only had half the document. So I don’t use them. Somethings I try twice to give them a second chance. But this? Nope. Don’t go messing with my writing files!

New Gadetry

So Lorna got a Samsung Galaxy S7 yesterday. She wants to be the one to do all the work on it. Like, remove the bloatware, figure out how everything works, all that. I’ve walked her through a lot of stuff and let her do it all herself. She was really hands-off with her S3. And I do mean really really hands-off. I’ve had to do a few things, though, because I had to look them up and fiddle with it for a while. Like get rid of that blanketyblank visual voicemail thing (fancy name for voicemail to text on the screen because we are too damn lazy to dial 1 and listen). I wouldn’t want it if it were free so why the heck would I want to pay for it? The app is annoying because the notification won’t go away and keeps insisting you pay attention to it. So I did. And I told it…well, you can imagine the colorful terminology I used as I used my Google Foo (to no avail) then figured it out myself how to turn the notifications from the app off. You can’t turn it all the way off or you aren’t notified AT ALL that you have voice mail. Pain. In. The Ass.

Anyway…

When I started looking for her a new phone, I was hesitant to get the S6, even with as few apps as she has. The S6 was teh stoopid because it did not have the expandable memory. I wince at the non-changeable battery concept (if I wanted an iPhone, I would have gotten one!) but I draw the line at the lack of memory (again, didn’t want an iPhone). I also knew I didn’t want the S5 (poorly designed), and knew I didn’t want to go all the way back to the S4. When I read the S7 brought back the expandable memory (but not the interchangeable battery, dammit), I was hoping I could talk her into it. Lorna’s not a technophobe but she’s not all that friendly with them either. So a brand new, made this year phone? Good luck, I thought. It actually wasn’t that hard. She was so tired of her S3 and it’s crankiness.

The S7 is brand spankin’ new (just came out in early March) but that newness comes with both good and bad. Good ’cause freebies! We got a free wireless charging dock thingybob whatsit. And a big discount from Sprint. And because we had to upgrade her half of the plan (Sprint was so weird a few years ago: we have two lines on the same plan but we each had different “plans” within that plan), we actually are now going to be paying LESS each month! That doesn’t happen often.

The bad is there’s some weird quirks with the S7. Heat issues have been reported. It did get hot as it was charging and updating but that’s expected. It is something she will have to watch for this summer when she is on the mail route. Her S3 overheated a few times and turned itself off just sitting there in the car, out of the sun. The other weird thing about it makes me glad this is not my phone. For example, let’s say you have 5 pages/screens. With our other Samsung phones, you swipe from 1 through 5, you then swipe again, and you are back at 1. It was like a loop. As someone who has the max pages/screens allowed, I loooove that. You could do it in the Apps and in the Widgets, too. Lorna’s new S7 wouldn’t do it and I thought it was a setting. I couldn’t find it so I went to the wonderful peeps at Android Central and asked about it. It’s a Samsung thing and they done took it away. I’ll be keeping my Note 4 for a while!

The other gadget I talked her into (and have been for probably two years now) is another tablet. She’s been using her Nook that I got her for her birthday 4 years ago. Then Barnes and Noble stuck their heads up their ass, said it was dark, and began messing up a good thing. I have downloaded all her books from their website (they took away the download buttons and links so I cheated) and removed the DRM via Calibre (which I heart muchly). Now we can put her “Nook books” on any device and read them there. So when her Nook finally died (and no, I didn’t help it along although I was tempted) she finally agreed to getting a tablet.

We got a Galaxy Tab 2 (8″) and I think she likes it more than her phone! Setting it up was a little trickier so she let me do a lot of it. I got it updated, installed a bunch of apps I use on my tablet, and then gave it back so she can arrange it the way she wants. And what is she doing? Not reading ebooks, nope. Watching Netflix. Sigh.

I like her little Tab but it is too small for me I think. And I like the pen function of my Note 10.1 (2013 edition). But she’s loving the small size and the light weight. She is also loving her new phone. They didn’t have the screen protectors in stock so I got a “folio” case for now. She didn’t like the idea but, HA, she actually likes it! She likes that it is also “grippier” than her Otterbox case she had on the S3. And as we all know, as long as she’s happy, that’s all that matters!

Riding the Waves

Because my muscles are always tense, when I hurt myself, it is always a bucket of fun. The spasms and pain wash over me like waves. Sometimes they go fast like small ripples. Other times they hit like white capped breakers, eroding me away as they slowly pound their way over me.

Today my guardian angel earned its wings.

Today I had picked up Whisper from the vet and we were on our way home. We were coming down Monticello, a curvy road connecting Weaverville to the river. Another road, New Stock, intersects it not too far down. It was a busy time of day and there were several cars lined up to make a right from New Stock onto Monticello (which would put them coming toward me). And there was one car that wanted to make a left. I saw him. He should have waited until he could see around the other cars but I knew he would not. I knew, I knew! I knew he was going to pull out so I slowed down. I thought he was going to prove me wrong but, alas, he did pull out in front of me but he waited until the last second to do so.

I slammed on my brakes, my tires screaming, and stopped with the hood of my truck right at his passenger door. Did he stop? Nope. Did he wave an “oops, sorry” wave? Nope. Did I shit my pants? Nope, but I think Whisper did! I was furious. Absolutely furious. Had I not been able to stop, I would have hit him hard. I was doing the speed limit, but that doesn’t matter, not at that angle. I checked on Whisper (she had flown forward to hit me in the shoulder) and we continued on. Just a short bit down the road (as in almost within sight of the intersection) he makes a left and I laid into the horn again, just for spite. Yeah, I’m a meanie.

That’s when I realized I had trouble raising my arm to hit the horn. The arm that Whisper had hit. When I saw him coming out, I had both hands on the wheel and was turning to the right to avoid him if I could. But when I heard Whisper skidding forward, I had put my arm out to catch her. Her body had impacted my shoulder and upper arm fairly hard. And now that arm was not happy. Neither was my neck.

I felt the waves start now that the initial anger and shock were over.

Luckily my phone was within sight on the floor. I couldn’t reach it but I could see it was face up. I was able to get Dragon (a voice activation app) to text Lorna and tell her I was in trouble. She was already on her way home. I heart Dragon!

By the time I was home, my right arm was useless. My right foot, the one that had slammed on the brake, was feeling sprained. My back was burning, my hip was in spasm. And Whisper was happy to be home! Lorna let her run around a bit, watching to make sure she was fine (she is, other than a cold belly from being shaved).

It’s been almost 6hrs now and the spasms have stopped. Just my neck and the right side of my upper back are still pissy. Vicodin and Baclofen are my friends.

Don’t Ever Break Your Neck

This turned out to be longer than I thought it would be so I just made it another blog post.

“Don’t ever break your neck.” That line was said many, many times by Russell Reno, my maternal grandfather. When he was in the military (Army-Air Force), another Private pulled a practical joke. He jerked down and back on Papaw’s helmet, breaking his neck. He wasn’t paralyzed or anything, just broken bones. It limited his career in the military, though. He was stuck in the states and grounded. When he got older, he would rub his neck and say “Don’t every break your neck”. He said it so often, it became a family slogan.

And no, I’ve not broken my neck. I’ve had “issues” with it for eons and it has finally degraded to the point that surgery is the next step. I am partly relieved because FINALLY something is getting done. And I am partly freaked out because ew, gross, surgery!

But let’s back up a bit. A bunch of fine, beautiful, wonderful, giving folks donated toward my goal of getting another dog to train as a Service Dog. But nothing has come from it yet. Getting that puppy has been a rocky ass road and I thought I had reached the destination at last. But, nope. Rebekah James (Redyre Rottweilers) has a beautiful female Rottie named Giggles. Giggles was to do the deed and produce her first litter. Except she came into season sooner than expected (before all her exams were done) so it was put off. Meanwhile, a litter Redyre had by another female (KK) was born and was thriving. Then they got parvo from a neighborhood dog. Rebekah lost one of the pups and went deeply into debt. She swore she was not going to produce any more litters. She’d had her heart broken enough. So I went looking elsewhere while waiting to see if she was serious. I found Cathy Ruben at Silverhill. Another excellent breeder who has quite a few of her pet quality dogs out there being therapy dogs and service dogs.

Which brings me to about four or 5 weeks ago. Silverhill was about to have a litter born. I was about to send her a money order. And then my arm got heavy. And my hand went numb. And my forearm. I couldn’t type very well with my left hand. I had yet another MRI done. Now there were bone spurs along with the everything else wrong with my cervical spine. I went to see the orthopedist again. He recommended I have an epidural injection done. That’s when we realized that this time was serious. This was not a “go to the PT again” fix like all the other times. There was no way I could handle an 8 week old pup. I called Cathy Ruben and cancelled my request for one of her pups. That’s when she told me they had been born just a few hours before.

Dammit to heck.

I was this close to getting a puppy finally. This close!

Back to the neck. I had the injection and it didn’t work. It actually made things worse and brought back older symptoms that I’d not experienced in years. Like, my face went numb. Now that’s a lot of fun! Try it some time! And today (12/17), I saw the orthopedist again. I don’t like him very much but he’s supposed to be a good surgeon. His people skills stink. Anyway, it is time for surgery. Some time in January I will have an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). I could wait, let more symptoms appear or these get worse then do the surgery. The worsening or increase would definitely show the source. Or I could see if they go away on their own. I’ll hold my breath if you hold yours. Didn’t think so. As for the surgery, there is a high success rate that the symptoms will be alleviated. Not so high a success rate the neck pain and headaches will. By going through the front, there is little cutting and a lot of moving stuff out of the way. Gross but there it is.

As for the puppy, Silverhill hopes to have another litter in the spring and…Rebekah and Redyre has decided to breed Giggles after all. As soon as I heard it, I sent her an email immediately, demanding (yes, demanding) to be put on the list. I even said I would take a nasty male dog if there were no females. I was disappointed (such a mild word for what I felt) I had to put off getting a pup again. Finding a good breeder is extremely difficult. I was even looking at one in Canada and one in Berkeley California. But there is no way I could have a puppy right now, not with the surgery coming up. I should be recovered about the time Giggles’ litter is born (that is if she even gets pregnant).

So we will start getting the house ready for my recuperation. Maybe even get a 2nd opinion on a few questions I have about the surgery itself. It feels good to be FINALLY moving toward getting this neck fixed. We’ve been going to Carolina Spine for over 15yrs now, just for that.