Category Archives: The Dog Ate My Homework

This week started early

Normally I hate writing on the weekend. However, due to our late night vet visit on June 13th, I was too zonked to get any Leaf done the next day (not to mention Plushie’s cone of shame kept banging into my lap desk). As the two Leaf articles I had in my queue would have expired Sunday, and they were paying extra (an incentive to get everything completed before the project expires), I worked on them Sunday afternoon. Not the best use of downtime, but hey, it’s money.

To claim as many of the remaining bonus-price articles, and a few that were regular price but easy (articles about liquor licensing are surprisingly easy. Liquor boards have good websites), I bulked up on Leaf through Wednesday, completing 12 total (I also did an extra bonus one today). It was easier because (I think) the pressure to get them all done got in the way of sleep so I was up early Monday and Tuesday. As a result, I was able to get the Leaf done and a good chunk of Undead Sexist Cliches.

I’m feeling much better about the book after this week. The division of two and three finally makes sense. Chapter Two is sexist explanations why feminism is unnecessary and why women don’t deserve equality (because evolution made men superior). Chapter Three is the sexist rationalizations why feminism is actively destructive. I also took a lot of discussions of antifeminism and made one small chapter out of them.

I also inserted a lot of notes I’d taken on various books and websites into the post, and added examples for several points I was making, such as some Fox News hosts discussing why men get the blame if they rape drunk women: “the point is that the drunk woman is — she’s just not held accountable for anything. The drunk guy, however, is supposed to make all these amazingly perfect decisions, and not make any mistakes.” As if not raping someone who says no was like performing brain surgery while drunk (I’ll have a blog post on this topic soon).

The additions will require I make another pass to incorporate the new material better. Then I’ll sit down with all the critiques my beta-readers gave me and incorporate them. Then comes writing the finished draft including footnoting everything and indexing everything. Then to publication.

I made the book a priority this week but I found time to start redrafting a story I finished a couple of weeks back, tentatively titled Death is Like a Box of Chocolates. Tentative because much as I like the title, I don’t think there’ll be a box of chocolates in the tale when I’m finished.

Plushie’s eye infection (the one that necessitated that vet visit) has cleared up. We were even able to take the cone off after the first day. We do have a couple of worries about the dogs (nothing serious) but we’ll be talking to the vet about them tomorrow when we go in for booster shots.

All in all, a productive week.

For no reason other than my love of showing cool art, I’ll close with what I think is a neat Ghost Rider cover (the Western one) by Dick Ayers:

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Caffeine couldn’t stop me but canines did!

So after last week’s insomnia-fest I stopped using my decaf tea in the afternoons and sure enough, I slept better Sunday and Wednesday night. The other nights? Pull up a chair, I’ve got a story …

So Monday night, Trixie had this very loud hacking cough for a few minutes, loud enough to wake me up (admittedly it doesn’t take much to do that). By the time I’d checked whether she was okay, I was wide awake and couldn’t get back to sleep. Tuesday night, first Trixie demanded to go out and poop after we’d all settled into bed. Even after that she was fidgeting, or lying against me while chewing on her feet, which didn’t lend itself to sleep. So another night down.

Last night, it felt like everything would be fine. But just as I was drifting off, TYG noticed Plushie was getting restless and checked him out closely. Turns out he had some sort of swelling in his eye, so it was up and off to the 24-hour emergency vet. We brought Trixie along rather than leave her alone but oh, the alarmed whimpers when she saw them taking Plushie away without her! She did not like it at all. We finally got back a little after midnight, with medicine for the eye (it was just an inflammation). To my surprise, I slept soundly after that, but the window before I got up again was … small.

Turns out gettting up at my regular hour was a wasted effort. Plushie’s in the cone of shame and not happy about it. Dealing with him and working proved … impractical shall we say? For example I can’t use my lap desk because it bumps into his cone too easily when he’s in the lap. Fortunately the two nights of insomnia meant I’d put in some extra hours, so I only lost a little writing time.

Pretty much everything I got done was either Leaf articles or work on Undead Sexist Cliches. I’ve almost completed this draft (two or three more yet to come) and I figured out the right breakdown to chapters two and three. Chapter two will cover antifeminist arguments about why giving women equality is pointless (they don’t need it, and they aren’t actually equal) while chapter three will focus on claims feminism is not only pointless, it’s destructive. I can feel how much better it flows now.

One reason I didn’t get more done is that I took Thursday off to deal with the mundane matters. North Carolina’s Department of Revenue had sent our return back (for what I found absurdly technical reasons) so I had to print out a fresh copy of the paperwork, then redo the whole thing. Plus get my estimated taxes for the year to date in.  Plus a few minor tasks including getting a free credit report from the Annual Credit Report website (it’s legit. And actually free), an electrician appointment, bicycling for one hour (highlight of the day) and going over our emergency kit in case we have evacuate fast (not that I expect it, but it’s possible). That took up the day nicely.

Today? Work just didn’t happen.

However I did find a dead shrew in the driveway —

And removed it before Trixie or Plushie could rub themselves on its gloriously stink flesh.

So that’s something accomplished, right?

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Writing, sleep, dogs and other matters

First off, dogs, because Trixie’s butterfly ears after her Monday grooming are just too adorable not to lead with.

Here’s a picture of them both newly shorn.

They were surprisingly calm while the opossum was on the deck. Trixie has been exceptionally needy this week, wanting lots of pets (I comply as much as work allows), but otherwise the pups are as usual.

Staying off caffeine after noon was a little less effective this week — two nights of little sleep, two solid sleeps and one that was solid due to Ambien. I’m wondering if the decaffeinated tea I picked up has too much caffeine (decaffeinating tea leaves doesn’t completely eliminate it ) so I’ll skip it next week. I still drink decaf chai in the afternoon but there’s a lot less caffeine in it (among other things, because I make it half milk so the volume of actual tea is lower).

That said, things went well. I got 10 Leaf articles in for the first time in a while. And I rewrote slightly more of Undead Sexist Cliches than I’d expected. I know see that what slowed me down earlier is that Chapters two and three are badly organized — they’re both about “why feminism is bad” cliches, but the division into chapters doesn’t really make sense. Next week I’ll look at rearranging the material and maybe cutting them into three smaller chapters.

I rewrote Impossible Things Before Breakfast and I think it’s ready for one final revision. I’ll get to that at the end of the month so my mind has a little time to clear. I went over both Bleeding Blue and Only The Lonely Can Slay trying to figure out how to improve them on the next draft. I think I see a way, but I’m not sure — I had to do the work today while I was still groggy from lack of sleep.

And I finished an as yet untitled story, basically by deciding “okay, I’m ready to finish this today … guess this is the ending!” and pulling what’s close to a deus ex machina. But I’ve done that before and for some stories it works. Even a nonsensical ending frees my mind up to start redrafting and improving.

The best week in a while, I think.

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It’s the Wild Kingdom around here this week

Once again, TYG is growing some basil in planters on our deck. The herbs in one planter are doing absolutely awful, which puzzled us. However I think I’ve found the answer—they’re being crushed under several pounds of cat!

Wisp is definitely comfortable out on the deck. She’s also trying to get closer to Trixie. A couple of times she’s come in and nuzzled Trixie before being distracted by food. Trixie’s reaction the second time was to spin wildly around.

Unfortunately we’ve had to postpone further experiments along this line. Wisp has a wound on her side, probably from one of her catfights, and we don’t want to risk exposing the dogs to whatever germs might be in it. We’ve been trying to gauge whether it’s getting worse or better the past week, but she doesn’t stay still long enough for us to really tell. It might be scabbing over; it might be getting worse. Though she’s still as lively as ever when she moves, so it can’t be too bad.

Monday we tried setting out the cat trap again, figuring that if she went into it we’d take her to our vet and let her check out the wound (TYG’s idea. I think it’s very sweet of her). Unfortunately she seems to remember this didn’t go well last time: even with a small bowl of tuna beyond the pressure plate that closes the trap, she wouldn’t go in. After a day without her eating, we compromised: Tuesday morning I set her food out inside the trap, but close to the entrance. Hopefully we can get her used to going inside until … gotcha (too bad she’s not as dumb as Plushie. He never thinks twice where food is involved).

This will probably not be fast enough to treat her wounds, but it’s coming up on time for her to get booster shots (we got her initial round last year when we had her fixed), so we’ll need to do it eventually.

Fortunately none of our new behaviors are freaking her out enough to stay away. She is, after all, our cat now, sort of.

Not so fortunately, when I opened the blinds this morning to see if she was waiting for breakfast, I found the trap had been sprung. But not by her.

This guy (female?) wandered in to lick out the plates, I guess. And wandered all the way back and triggered the pressure plate. I lifted up the gate (with a stick, I wasn’t sure I should get close), but he just stayed still until we were gone, and then for a while afterwards. He was remarkably chill about the whole thing.

Oh, and to round out the week, Wednesday morning TYG and a woman dropping her kid off at the bus stop spotted a hornet’s nest in our magnolia tree.

Hornets being aggressive, and Plushie liking to poop under the tree — not to mention it’s right near a bus stop — we decided to call Orkin, who took care of it. If it had been in a better place, we might have tried coexistence.

Quite a lively week.

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Bedevilled by batteries!

First tech problem: some glitch with our alarm made it go off randomly early Wednesday morning. Freaked the dogs out, woke us out of sleep and wasted time searching for possible intruders and then on the phone with the alarm people. Who gave us two contradictory explanations, which didn’t help things.

Early Thursday morning, a different window went off. Early Friday, it was the other window again. Fortunately we were savvy enough that TYG was able to go back to bed and let me deal with it the second and third nights. Unfortunately that meant I got no sleep; I was useless Thursday and worse today. Fortunately the company sent a tech; turns out the batteries are way overdue for replacement. We’ll replace them on the other windows and doors before those go haywire too.

Second, my Mac’s battery is losing power fast and I’m getting the “service battery” warning. So, Thursday I took it into the Apple Store. Yep, battery’s dying (after two and a half years, not that shocking). They’re ordering in a replacement so I’ll have to give up some writing time in the next few days to take it in and get it repaired.

Before the alarms reduced my brain to mush. I redrafted Impossible Things Before Breakfast based on the writing group’s feedback and it looks good. Maybe one more pass (and a review by one more beta-reader) and I’ll print it out for a final reading.

I got part way through another chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. Would have been more productive but lack of sleep Wednesday and having no computer today…

On the plus side, Wisp hasn’t been fazed by the cage around the tomatoes. And two of my writing group friends who know cats say her purring around us and rubbing against us means she really does like us. Cool!

She’s also defended the little shelter against an intruding cat, though she seems comfortable with cats eating on the deck as long as she’s fed.

And that’s about it. Computer’ll be back next week.

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Sleep, car repairs and work: my week

This wasn’t as successful a week as last week, but it was productive enough to feel content.

And my doctor’s recommendation to avoid caffeine after noon is really paying off. I got a full night of sleep most nights this week, and I’ve adapted to it. It was hard the first week not having that extra time in the morning, but the feeling of being fully rested more than makes up for it.

I did have to sacrifice part of two mornings to take the car in. Wednesday we had a combination appointment to take care of a recall issue, a minor unrelated problem and a Check Engine light that randomly comes on and off. Finally they found the problem, a throttle issue, but they had to order the replacement. This morning I went in again and got it done. I was able to get a fair amount done at the dealer’s office, but I also tend to give in and scarf snacks from the vending machines. Bad me!

My big project this week was the Undead Sexist Cliches book. I didn’t get a lot written because I was digesting the feedback from my beta readers. Among the good points were that I needed to make it clear when I was citing a sexist belief rather than declaring it as my own. And that some other stuff wasn’t clear, too. It was a lot of feedback to take in, but it will help. But it also convinced me to rearrange the topics in Chapter One, which slowed me down from a straight rewrite. It’ll make it flow better though.

My current plan is to redraft, then fill in all the footnotes. Then I can do a final proof and begin the process of publishing it.

And that plus Leaf took up most of my week. I started work on another draft of Impossible Things Before Breakfast but I didn’t get very far. No other short stories either. Oh, I did cut about 300 words from No One Can Slay Her to submit it to a particular market. I succeeded without hurting the story; we’ll see if that helps. I’m also kicking around an idea for finishing some of the stories I have lying around undone. If I write on those in the evening it won’t suck up time from more advanced stories, but I’m not great at writing in the evening. We’ll see.

Wisp is back on a regular feeding schedule and rubbing against my legs when I open the door. We’re going to put a cage around the tomato plants on the deck this weekend; I’m hoping it won’t freak her out. She seems to like napping next to the containers, as you can see here. But we’re done with having the squirrels steal the tomatoes. Hopefully she can adapt.

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A week of sleep and ducks

When I went to my doctor a couple of weeks back, I mentioned my ongoing insomnia. She suggested I stop my tea intake after noon, or switch to decaffeinated brands. I didn’t think much of it, but this week, starting Sunday, I tried it.

Sunday night I slept well. Ditto Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I woke up early as usual. I’ve no idea if that means the first couple of days were a fluke or there were other reasons I woke up in the early A.M. Thursday (last night I took an Ambien so I slept well). Still, it’s been quite a while since I actually slept well for three nights in a row, I’ll try this again next week (the weekend doesn’t count, I almost always sleep well). More data!

Unfortunately I’ve become so used to waking up ultra-early, having a cup of tea, then starting work, that getting up at a normal hour actually threw me off. I could not seem to find my feet this week,  on top of which I had another crop of tasks to distract me (hence the ducks, as in nibbled to death by). Appointment for the car. Arranging for the trapper to set out a trap for the raccoon. Arranging plane travel for an upcoming trip. Hunting dog-training classes because Plushie and Trixie get very excited when they meet new dogs and we worry they might eventually annoy a big dog that bites them. It looks like finding a good trainer will be expensive, possibly prohibitively so, but we’ll think about it.

I did get my Leaf work on, so that’s something. And I redrafted my short story Impossible Things Before Breakfast for reading at the next (or more likely the one after) writer’s group. It still needs work, but it’s definitely a lot closer. Hopefully a good group critique will make me see what else is needed.

I also read Naomi Wolf’s 1990s book The Beauty Myth, which has some great insights and incidents I can use for Undead Sexist Cliches.

And that was it. I took off today, which didn’t help. But hey, at least we live in a world where a Dutch street artist can turn an apartment building wall into a bookshelf.

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I don’t think he’s Rocket Raccoon

Back before we got Wisp her heated shelter, we whipped up a quick one out of a plastic box with some towels in it (actually TYG whipped it up, I just applauded). We never removed it from under the stairs, and as you can see, it has another guest. We saw it Sunday, though it might have been using the box before that.

Yes, it’s a raccoon. A honking big one — when it finally came out, it was a bulky, heaving sucker, almost waddling as it moved. It might have rabies. It might have distemper (I’m not the only one who saw this photo and thought it looked ill). It might be fine, as raccoons apparently do waddle when they walk.

However with two dogs, and Wisp, we didn’t want to take chances. We called the sheriff’s department to try and catch it, but it hid under the shed in our back yard. Monday I called a trapper; the sheriff’s department can’t legally trap the creature and neither can we. It has to be a licensed trapper, which probably explains why they can charge several hundred dollars. However TYG thinks it’s worth it (I’m hoping she’s right) so we went ahead.

As of today, he’s yet to be caught. Perhaps he’s gone. Perhaps he’ll be back (the trap stays out for 10 days).

Minor inconveniences were that we have to be more careful about feeding Wisp so the raccoon doesn’t get her leftovers. And I’m not feeding the birds because they spit out seeds, and we don’t want the raccoon distracted from the bait in the trap by competing food sources.

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Wisp returns!

Since last week, Wisp has resumed her regular schedule, showing up for morning and evening feedings. The similar-looking cat that was swiping her meals has only showed up a couple of times since then. Last night she and Wisp had a snarl-off audible inside the house; when I checked on the deck, Wisp was sitting calmly near our door and the other cat was squatting back on the railing before disappearing into the night. It doesn’t look like the stranger can scare her off, so did Wisp stop showing up because the other cat ate her food? Was someone else feeding her for a while?

Either way, it’s nice to have “our” cat back. We’ve adjusted our schedule slightly, waiting until we actually see Wisp to put out the food, rather than risk her rival getting to it.

Here’s Wisp staring in at us from the table over her little heated enclosure (it’s not waterproof, the table keeps the rain off)>

She’s still very keen to meet our dogs. We haven’t let that happen yet.

For a bonus, here’s a shot of Trixie, because who doesn’t need to see things like this on a Friday?

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The taxman cometh! And so did the pollen!

Durham has heavy pollen this time every year. This year it got really heavy.Running down the gutters after a rain.

Washing off the driveway.

Even turning our dogs’ leashes yellow.

It got so bad that even though I’m on Claritin (to avoid rashes from all the grass pollen carried on the pups’ coats), allergies laid me low mid-week. This was a regular problem a couple of times a year back in Florida but I’ve never had it here before. No sneezing, just this insane draggy feeling that nothing in the world would be better than lying down and watching television all day (trust me, that’s not normally a thing I say). So that cost me a day and a half.

And then about two days went to taxes. I had almost everything figured out, but the state income tax form wouldn’t let me enter data on the computer so I had to print it up, then write it out. Then print it out again to fix my mistakes. I suspect it will come back to me: the NC Department of Revenue scanning system is much stricter in how it’ll take data than the IRS, so most years I’ve had to re-enter my return because of some technicality. But it’s done, so that’s good. We’re paying in this year, but that’s primarily because I made more money than I expected and didn’t have to pay estimated taxes, so we got socked with a bigger bill than usual. Ouch. And our printer is slow, which drew the process of printing the forms out longer than it should have. Next year I shall take steps to avoid that.

In the remaining time, I did some research reading for the Undead Sexist Cliches book and got some useful feedback from beta readers (one yet to come). I got a lot of work done on a redraft of Impossible Things Before Breakfast, though I still lack a good finish. And that was pretty much it. But taxes needed doing before Monday, like it or not.

Wisp has been an erratic presence on the deck. She’s still not showing up regularly for her meals the way she used to, and there’s another cat we caught eating at least one of the meals we put out. As Wisp has fought to drive off strange cats before, I’m guessing she’s getting food at someone else’s house and so can afford to turn up her nose at ours. Even though someone else might be better situated to take her in, I do feel a twinge of jealousy at the thought.

Trixie has had a hacking cough the past couple of weeks. It’s mostly faded, but we kept her home from Suite Paws day care this week just in case. Much as I enjoy a dog-free day, she’s pretty easy to handle when she’s by herself. But if the hack doesn’t go away, we’ll call the vet next week (I’m wondering if it’s pollen-based).

I’ve also realized that one reason I have trouble focusing after lunch is that Plushie likes to settle into my lap, then stretch out, rather than curling into a ball. This usually puts me in a position that, while not exactly uncomfortable, it strains my body enough that I have a hard time focusing (Trixie’s position on either side of me sometimes makes it worse). I like Plushie curling up in my lap, but I’ll have to position my legs so he can’t expand out.

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