And through the fog shone a blinking red beacon of hope…

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The crisp air of early morning wafts through a window that was carelessly left open, carrying with it the sweet tang of ripening apples, reminders that summer is always fleeting. Somewhere in the house a teenager stirs, glances at the glaring red numbers hovering on the desk near his bed. He shivers in the chill, groans at the time, and pulls the covers over his face to close his eyes and try to escape his fate.

But, there can be no escape. And as his mother sweetly calls to him to get his ass out of bed right now before she has to come in there and do it herself, he sighs heavily and resigns himself to his fate while his mother does her best to hold in her cackles of unmitigated glee.

Mornin’ all!

This is the scene that will play out in just a few minutes. Times three, that is. Why?

BECAUSE IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL FOR THE TEENAGERS!!! WOOT WOOT PARTY PARTY WOOT!!

…not for the little cub, though. For some reason, he doesn’t start until next week. However, 3/4 is still a majority. I feel that’s celebration-worthy.

This year, I’ve got a senior in high school. It hit me the other day that this is a thing that’s really happening. *sniff* Teen prime is a senior. How is this possible? Look at me. Do I look old enough to have a high school senior? Uh, ignore the gray hair. Oh, and if you could overlook the wrinkles, that’d be great too. But other than that, I look fresh as a daisy. I’m a spring chicken. I shouldn’t be old enough to have an almost adult!

A senior and not one, but two juniors. I give it a week before upper classmanitis sets in. Add to that the growing miasma of cockiness the testosterone is creating, and I have a feeling September will be insufferable around here.

Anyone want a month long house guest? Full disclosure before you decide: I don’t do windows, I suck at laundry, and I snore so loud I wake mySELF up.

But, I make cookies.

Lots and lots of delicious cookies.

Seems like a fair trade off to me.

The cub is so excited that he doesn’t start until next week. Teens pointed out that just means he’ll get out later next summer, but he’s 9. Like he cares about “next” anything! We’re supposed to clean his room today so I can get to the closet that contains school clothes. See, he had an idea, and I foolishly let him run with it.

“Oh, Bethie.”

Yeah, yeah. I know. See, I was doing a car repair, and the clever little imp knew I was too distracted to really pay much attention to what he was saying. He said he had a great idea for his room, asked me permission to “just do something real quick.” I waved it off with a “sure, whatever, I’m just inside looking for the damn 14 mm wrench because some sick maniac at Mercedes decided to be the only person ever to incorporate a 14 mm bolt in a system that clearly should either be 13 or 15 like every other thing in the engine…” He saw his moment. He seized his moment. And I…I let him.

“Newb.”

*hangs head in shame*

What he did was set up a tent. Quite impressive, actually, because he not only managed to fit a tent in his room, but filled it with accouterments of comfort. He had a little table, a fan, his water bottle, sleeping bag…he even fashioned a couch out of extra pillows and a sheet. The kid made his own little apartment.

Now, my teens are very smart boys, so don’t take this the wrong way. But if the zombie apocalypse happened, the only kid of mine I don’t have to worry about is the cub.

Unfortunately to make the tent fit, everything got pushed to the side. Since a bed takes up one corner, and another bed takes up the large wall, that leaves the closet. Mounds, folks. We’ve got to dig through mounds and heaps and piles to get to that damn closet.

Oh! OH OH OH!!! Hang on a minute. I just glanced down at the clock and guess what? It’s that magic time! I must go do my duty and wake up my teens for the first day of school. How should I play this? Sweet and annoying? Snarky and annoying? Maybe I’ll sing a little ditty…

You know what? I’m over-thinking this. I’ll just go in there and wing it. I feel confident that I can play it by ear and get the desired results. I’ll be right back and let you know how it went. *chugs coffee for fortification* *takes a deep breath* Unto the breech!

….aaaand nailed it.

I went with, “Boys, time to get up! It’s a school day. Or should I say, COOL day!?”

Their groans of appreciation for my early morning wit are really all the recognition I need.

I hear them stumbling around their rooms in various states of denial. One is already getting dressed. One sounds like he’s throwing every bit of clothing he owns out of his dresser. The upstairs one is no longer moving. Shhhh. Let me listen.

No, he’s definitely not moving. Hang on.

Damnit he fell back asleep! No way. Not happening, bucko. NOT ON MY WATCH.

I told my man this morning that it would be miraculous if I got all the teens out the door dressed, fed, clean and groomed with all of their backpacks and school supplies. Odds are very good that one or more will forget to do one or more of these things. That’s okay. As a seasoned pro in the first day of school biz, I know that some of that list is optional. Not a lot, but some.

All I need to do is to make sure three kids get on the bus with enough clothing to not get sent back home. The rest can sort itself out later.

Now that they’re up, they’re actually getting along. As any mum of a herd will tell you, the hardest thing about summer vacation is that the pups have to look at each other’s faces for months. While my boys get along way better than most siblings, there are limits, especially in the heat.

A half hour, folks. That’s all I have left before I send them off to catch their bus.

It’s a foggy morning. It’s been hot here, but that cleared out with a powerful storm system the other day. Last night got chilly, and turned the leftover humidity to thick fog. I love fog. It feels close and comforting. Sure, it hides the world from view. However, it also hides me from the view of the world. I like that.

And I think if the drone policing trend continues, others are really going to start liking the fog, too.

Have you read about this? North Dakota (of all places) just okayed the use of armed police drones.

Now wait a sec. Put those pitchforks and torches down. Let’s look at the details before we storm the castle.

…or fort? I mean, it’s North Dakota. It might be prejudicial to assume, but I just don’t picture many castles there.

Either way, let’s chill and look at the situation rationally before acting on our gut impulses to revolt and tamp down our future robot overlords.

Everyone knows that police around the nation have been using drones to spy for awhile. More and more, drone camera footage is used in courts to help convict ne’er do well jaywalkers. While the nation is not at all comfortable with those drones, it feels like we’ve kind of accepted them.

However, North Dakota just kicked it up a notch. They are the first state in the nation to okay the use of weaponized drones. At the moment, the drones are authorized to be equipped with pepper spray, tasers, and “other non-lethal weapons.” They’re not loading them with bullets, though that level of ambiguity in the last clause certainly leaves the door open. As long as a drone is trained to shoot at the foot, a bullet could technically be considered non-lethal. Right? I mean, that’s what I’m reading into this.

This…this is a hard one for me, folks.

On one hand, I’m a firm believer that robots have the potential to be our downfall. Call it too many sci-fis with my dad when I was in my formative years, but I just don’t like the idea of artificial intelligence, of putting robots in a position to make decisions for humans. I have a deep distrust of inorganic walking, talking, moving, shooting things. If a human made it, it will not be an infallible system. And if A.I. truly advances to the self-logic stage, we’re screwed. From a purely logical standpoint, humanity is a no win scenario. We’re bad for the environment, we’re bad for other species, we’re terrible to each other. I believe in humanity because I’ve got the part of A.I. that cannot be programmed…emotion. Will a robot? ANY robot?

The other hand contains a few arguments I just can’t seem to shake.

First, there’s the fact that drones are not A.I. units. They are drones. They…drone. Someone programs them. Someone watches through a camera and makes the drone change actions through a series of human controlled inputs. Someone, a person, a living, breathing, thinking being makes that drone perform every single duty.

…right now.

At the moment, it’s a failsafe. But will that always be true?

Another point is that real human police are the ones that are trained to shoot to kill. Many of them have the non-lethal options that the drones will have, yet in the time of crisis, when there’s a choice between killing or simply disabling, they act like humans.

Now don’t get it twisted here. I’m definitely pro-cop overall. I just realize that humans have a very strong survival instinct. We didn’t get to be the alpha species without it! And that survival instinct is what overrides the brain in a split second situation. That instinct makes the hand go to the weapon that is going to make certain the threat is eliminated, not just stopped in the moment. That instinct says, “Kill it and don’t let it have the chance to kill you ever again.”

Is this bad?

No. It’s simply human. It’s just part of being a self-aware meat lump that doesn’t want to die.

People can override this instinct. There are plenty of officers who will do everything in their power to choose the non-lethal option. However, there are also plenty who haven’t had the training or the personal discipline to be able to choose calm, rational thought over the gut instinct of survival at all costs. It’s not a failing on the cop’s part. It’s a failing because of the way we train our officers. We train them to eliminate the threat, put a gun in their hands, then casually mention “Oh, yeah, there’s some other shit there you could use, I suppose.”

A drone won’t be like that. If all the drone can do is act in a non-lethal fashion, then we’ve successfully found a way to take out human emotion in the moment and act with logic. If a criminal is brandishing a knife, and a drone tases that person, the person will most likely drop the knife and real officers can safely move in to slap on the handcuffs.

When viewed in this light, I can actually see the benefits of sending a non-lethal drone to take care of a dangerous situation.

“Ah, but what happens when the guy at the control end gets a God complex?”

Ay, that’s the rub, eh? The person controlling the drone is not there. They aren’t just steps away from the real human being at the other end of the weapon. There’s a disconnect. Without being the one to view the person involved, to get the sense of humanity you simply cannot feel through the lens of a camera, it would be so very easy to keep hitting the zappy button. Or to go on the attack when it might not be necessary.

The very same system that is designed to remove one dangerous human trait makes the world vulnerable to another.

And last, but certainly not least, is the aspect of officer safety. Like cops or hate them, they’re people. Real people with mothers and fathers, wives, husbands, children… In 2014, there were 133 “line of duty” deaths for officers in the US. 49 of those officers were shot or attacked by a suspect. It’s sad when an officer shoots to kill. It’s also sad when an officer GETS shot and killed. It’s a broken system with victims on BOTH sides. It’s easy to forget that when you read the news. These drones would definitely remove more officers from dangerous situations.

This one’s a real poser for me, folks. On paper, the pros of using non-lethally weaponized drones clearly outweigh the cons. On paper, it’s a no-brainer. Use drones. Save lives.

But we don’t make decisions on paper, do we? That’s exactly what makes us flawed, wonderful, impulsive, illogical humans and not simply machines. We AREN’T drones. So should we really let the drones do our dirty work? Or should we instead start recognizing the fact that we’ve gone so far off the rails that MACHINES seem like the only way out, and start really making some hard changes?

The moment a species lets another one take over, they are no longer the alphas. We’re sending in drones because we are too lazy to fix ourselves. I honestly don’t know how that could possibly sit well with anyone.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! I just watched the bus ferry the teens off to start another year of learning and growing. They were slumped down, heads hanging, the loss of summer manifesting itself in a physical cloud of disappointment that surrounded them. *sniff* Warmed this mama’s heart.

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Cabbage and spice and everything nice…

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Mornin’ all.

Welp, it’s 4:12 a.m. I’m halfway through a double dose of morning rotgut, and three songs into a dubstep phase I’m flat out refusing to apologize for.

I woke up highly alert about an hour ago, spiced pickled cabbage on my mind. I could not stop thinking about it. Obviously I couldn’t possibly get back to sleep after that.

It’s my own fault, really. Last night I made a batch of sweet onions to put on hot dogs because…well, they’re hot dogs. I’d never besmirch our national tube meat, but I think everyone will agree hot dogs need SOMEthing to make them taste like they aren’t just lips and assholes we crammed into a bun-friendly shape.

Now hang on. I’ve got nothing against lips and assholes. I think we should use all we can of an animal. Well, maybe not the eyes. Especially if they’re shoved up rectums to be smuggled out of a meat packing plant…

sidebar: That story is definitely a front runner for best of the worst news of 2015 in my book. Butt eyeball soup. Yeah. Still gross.

…or livers and kidneys. I know they have great protein blah blah. But when you think of their bodily function…ew. I’m not starving. If I was starving, I bet they’d look pretty damn appealing. And if that’s what I had to do, that’s how I’d roll. I’m not there yet in life *knock wood*. Lips and assholes are fine, though.

Oh, wait…I also can’t do brains. There have been many cultures through history that would eat the brain specifically to absorb the knowledge and experience and essence of the animal. I think that’s why I WON’T eat brains. I do not want to risk sampling calf brain only to wake up the next morning with an overwhelming urge to graze in the dewy lea.

Nope. I’d much rather wake up the next morning with an overwhelming craving for spiced pickled cabbage.

My dad used to make pickled items from time to time. His mum was Polish, and she liked to feature many pickled selections at large dinners. My mum’s family is not polish, but my grandparents on her side had an enormous garden when we were young and also used to pickle veggies, too. The two pickling camps were very different. The Polish pickled foods often had a mulled spice element to them, even the ones that were savory and not sweet, while the British camp offered crisp flavors, like classic dill and mustard.

I’m guessing a fair amount of you reading this have only had straight up cucumber pickles before. At least when I was in school, that was the case among my friends. Pickling seemed to be passe in the 80’s and 90’s. It was almost a lost art.

However, pickling looks to be making a comeback. Several judges on many cooking shows now get giddy when someone pickles something. I don’t know if pickling will ever enjoy the rockstar hype that mango salsa got in the early 2000’s, but it should. Pickled anything is better than mango salsa.

…er, maybe not pigs feet.

We don’t do much pickling in classic American cooking, do we? I think our ancestors pretty much tended to view pickling as a necessary evil for food preservation. I think pickling fell out of favor when refrigerators and freezers became every-household items. There’s no “need” to pickle when you can just deep freeze your food.

Other cultures use pickling as a preservative method, too, of course. However, I think that the pickled foods of other cultures endured through the introduction of modern methods of preservation (and will continue to endure) for the simple fact that they taste much better.

Over here, we Yanks pickle with salt brine and vinegar. That’s about it. That’s the classic “American” style of pickling. Add salt, drown in vinegar, let that shit sit for a couple months. Won’t kill ya, will it? So what the hell are you complaining about? Eat yer vittles.

Other cultures were far smarter. They didn’t want to die from their food, true. But unlike we yokels, they wanted their food to actually taste good in the end. Peppers and garlic, anise and allspice, ginger and lime and radish and all sorts of yummy flavors were added to the brines of the world. Dill is about as wild as we got over here. Is it any wonder pickling fell out of favor in the average American home?

Or really any surprise that with our now incredibly global food culture, these flavorful types of pickled cuisine are impressing food contest judges?

Spiced pickled cabbage would impress the food judges. One taste, and I guarantee they’d be outright embarrassed that they ever touted mango salsa as THE thing. I mean, they should be embarrassed anyway…

My dad would take cabbage and onions and slice them very, very thin. He’d make a brine of apple cider vinegar, salt, and sugar, then add allspice, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and celery seed. He’d steep that together until the brine browned from the dark spices, then pour it over the cabbage and onions in canning jars. The jars would be processed, and after the lids were carefully checked, he’d declare the canning a success and let us know we could eat the delicious treat!

…in six weeks. *sigh*

I hated the waiting. It’s probably why I mostly just stick with refrigerator pickling now. It’s much faster, though not quite the same. Still, I get my spiced pickled cabbage sooner, and if there’s one thing I’m truly a fan of, it’s instant gratification.

I craved this cabbage, folks. When I was pregnant with my second progeny, I begged my dad to make me a batch. He did, and sent over four pints of it with the strict instruction that I wait the FULL six weeks, young lady. He didn’t work that hard to have me rip into it and eat it before it ripened, you know.

It was all gone less than a week later.

My craving, however, persisted. Hat in hand, I went begging for more. At that point in my life, spiced pickled cabbage was my crack. I was pregnant with his grandkid, so that kept him from getting too annoyed that I hadn’t waited and couldn’t possibly have enjoyed the cabbage to the fullest. Still, I only got one additional jar, and that had to last me. Another grandson only went so far, I suppose.

Coincidentally, that bun in the oven is now one of the teens and loves pickled items. He’s my adventurous buddy in culinary escapades. Odd, too, since he’s my Aspergian who went through a very long phase of only eating spherical foods when he was young. I got incredibly good at rolling grilled cheese sandwiches into balls.

True story.

Anyway, I went to the local store here in town for the onions yesterday. Maybe my hankering for spiced pickled cabbage began before the sweet onions, now that I think about it, since I wandered slightly to the left of the onions to look at the cabbages in the produce aisle.

Local produce is finally starting to trickle in. Really, it’s a crap year for gardening around here. They were offering the tiniest heads of cabbage I have ever seen. They looked like no more than jacked up Brussels sprouts. I just couldn’t justify spending sixty cents a pound on what would no doubt be mostly stem and heart.

And don’t EVEN get me started on what they want for local tomatoes!

I suppose my spiced pickled cabbage will have to wait, though this hankering is something fierce. It woke me up, folks.

“Uh oh, Bethie! Is it possible that you’re pre…”

GAH NO! Don’t even bother finishing that thought. No, it’s not possible. I’m just an aging Polak gripped by a fit of nostalgia.

My dad was funny on pickling days. He was an engineer, not just in trade but by genetics. He approached any project with a high degree of planning. In fact, we used to joke about it. He did this thing when he had a blank piece of paper before a project. He’d hold a pencil, as if poised to write, but he wouldn’t write anything. He’d stare at the blank page for a minute, then flick his pinkie over the paper, like you might do if you were clearing eraser bits off after a mistake. He’d then flex his hand, position it to write, and flick with his pinkie again.

There were times when he’d do this a dozen times or more before actually beginning to write. I guess that was his process. I have odd things I do when I’m thinking, too. I suppose everyone does. Me, I’ll tap my nails on my coffee cup in an incredibly annoying manner, or stare blankly at a child until they squirm with discomfort.

Don’t worry. I stare at one of my children, not someone else’s. Jeez. What kind of monster do you think I am? I only give my OWN children complexes.

Anyway, Dad approached pickling in the same overly-designed manner in which he approached pretty much everything else. He’d start at dawn and wouldn’t be done until afternoon. The slicing of the veggies was done just so. The measuring of the spices was absolute. The sterilization of the canning jars would have made any high tech lab take notes.

Can’t argue with his results, though. Er, as long as he pickled anything but cucumbers. He made a very tasty brine for classic pickles, but he could never figure out the trick to keeping them crunchy. It came down to processing time and not removing the bud end from the cuke, though I never said, and he wouldn’t have listened even if I had. So cukes weren’t my dad’s specialty.

But boy, could he pickle the hell out of a cabbage.

Refrigerator-method Spiced Pickled Cabbage

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup white sugar

3 T salt (I use sea or kosher salt when I’m pickling, but you can use whatever salt you like)

1/4 tsp alum

1 T whole cloves

1 T celery seed

1 palm full whole allspice

4 cinnamon sticks

1 large head of cabbage

2 large onions

1. Slice cabbage and onions very, very thin. No half-assing this step. We want thin ribbons, folks, not band aid sized strips of laziness. No one wants to think of a band aid while eating. No one.

2. Find a plastic or glass container that looks to be just big enough to hold the sliced cabbage and onions fairly tightly. The veg will wilt and pack down while pickling, and a tight start will ensure that the brine covers the veg. NEVER use a metal container when pickling. Like, ever. It makes your hard work taste like gross, tinny dirt. You can either use a tall, skinny bowl (that’s my go-to) that you cover in plastic wrap (NOT foil!!), or Tupperware or Ziploc containers. I’d definitely use a more secure container if you plan on keeping the cabbage around for a few weeks. A saran wrapped bowl works if you’re like me, and can’t stop eating it.

3. “Pack the cabbage and onions in alternating layers in the storage container or jar.” That’s how the original recipe says to do, but the only purpose of making layers is to ensure an even mix of onions and cabbage. You don’t have to layer them. The layers are going to get screwed up a few steps from now anyway. Maybe you don’t want to have a perfect blend. Maybe you’re a roll-the-dice kinda person and are willing to risk getting a higher ratio of cabbage to onions than the recipe writer intended. Did that dude know you? Know your tastes? Awful presumptuous, don’t you think? You do what you want with the mixture. Layer, don’t layer…let your inner hippie free and see what happens.

4. In a saucepan, bring the vinegars, sugar, salt, alum and spices to a boil. Turn it to low and simmer for five minutes. At this point, you’ll see that the mix has turned from light amber to a dark, chocolaty color and the smell in your house will be incredible.

5. Remove the brine from the heat and immediately pour over the cabbage and onions. Notice that I did NOT tell you to strain out the whole allspice, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. They won’t soften much as they sit, and you can’t eat them. Well, I suppose technically you *could*…but trust me, you don’t want to. However, they have not given their all yet. Leave them in during pickling and pick them out before eating once all is said and done. Any dinner guests can pick them out as well. You don’t have to hold your friends’ hands through life. What, are you going to cut their steak for them, too? Pfft. Your dinner table should not be a nanny state.

6. Once you pour the hot brine over the cabbage, don’t stir it yet. I’m not sure why. That’s what the recipe says, and it’s easier, so that’s what I always do. Now I’m curious, though. If you buck the system and stir at this point, drop me a line and let me know the results of your rebellion. Otherwise, stick with the status quo and let the concoction sit on the counter undisturbed for two hours. You can loosely cover your container with plastic wrap or a paper towel if you’re that afraid of flies, but do NOT snap a lid on yet or secure the plastic wrap tightly. There has to be room for the steam to escape.

7. After two hours, carefully stir the mixture. You should see a great deal of wilting now. I told you it would wilt down. You doubted me, didn’t you? It’s okay to be honest and admit your doubt. It’s our first recipe share and I’m an unknown entity. But as you can see, it wilted. I think we’ve established trust here. Now, if you didn’t know it, wilted cabbage and onions are hard to stir. The thin ribbons of increasing deliciousness want to clump together. The best method is to use a large fork and turn the mixture, more than “stir” it, like you sauce spaghetti. You are basically trying to accomplish two things here. First, you want to give the cabbage and onions that have been at the top and might not have been completely submerged a chance to be thoroughly drenched in brine. And second, you need to get those yummy spices that stayed on the top when you poured distributed through the cabbage. Forks are the best method, but as long as you get it mixed, any way you accomplish this is up to you.

8. At this point, you *could* eat the cabbage. It won’t be as flavorful as it will be if you wait a few days, but it will be pretty damn tasty. Go on. Try it.

9. Now, stop eating it, because waiting will yield an even better reward. I promise it will be worth it. Now is the time to properly cover your container. It’s safe to snap a lid on tight if you’re using Tupperware or Ziploc containers, or to tightly wrap it in plastic wrap. Put it in the fridge and let it sit to cold pickle, stirring it once a day for the next three days. After that, it’s fully brined. It’s as pickled as it’s going to get. In this state, it’ll stay edible for months. As long as there’s no mold on top, it’s good to go.

I know we don’t usually do recipes here. And I’m not going to make it a habit. I was hoping that maybe writing it out would be enough to quell the craving since I am currently sans cabbage. Alas, the hankering grew. Perhaps I will venture to the big city to find a cabbagener with better wares than the local grocer has to offer. Or suck it up and pay the highway robbery prices for the sprouts on steroids.

Either way, you can bet your sweet bippy that by the end of the day, the House of Bethie will smell like mulled spices and anticipation. Hope yours does, too.

Thus concludes my cooking lesson for Thursday, August 21, 2015. In the course of typing this ramble, I got so jacked up on coffee that my jittery hands spilled said coffee all over my keyboard. I can’t help but tip my hat to the cosmos for that prank. Well played, cosmos. Well played indeed.

I didn’t wanna, but I had no choice….

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Mornin’ all.

I wasn’t going to do this today.

This was my intended morning agenda:

1. Get up.

2. Get coffee.

3. Remove cat from keyboard.

4. Sip coffee while glancing idly at the news and emails.

5. Finish coffee, then turn on “Escape Pod” podcast and art the morning away.

I got to #4 on the list, then read something so ridiculous, so stupid, so insane that it made me scratch #5 off my mental list and madly scribble a new To Do entry.

Here it is.

5. Get so annoyed with stupid headlines that it becomes necessary to share them with a readership of like-minded people.

Since it was such an abrupt decision, I don’t have the go-go dancers scheduled. I think they’re in Guam tanning on the beach at the moment. Maybe they’ll bring me back a Guamilian necklace or some other Guamling chatchki.

So I don’t have the girls. I also don’t have the band to play the catchy theme music. The head yodeler had mentioned a desire to head up to Wildcat for a gondola ride and a stop over to Clark’s to protest the bears, but ride on the train anyway…

*NH FIST BUMP! 603 4LYFE!!!*

…and I don’t want to interrupt if that’s what they were going to do. It’s cooler up north, and the yodelers tend to get snippy in this heat. Might as well leave them alone until the front breaks. We can do without music and dancers just this once, right?

Right!

I suppose in that case, I’ll just clear my throat… *achem**mememe**loolooloo**bah bo bah* *achem* …and, using my best announcer voice, tell you all that it’s time for a…

*** HEADLINE ROUNDUP ***

*fingers tapping the catchy theme music beat out on the computer desk*

*jazz hands for finishing flourish*

…*crickets**crickets*

Okay, that was lame. Oh well. Nothing to be done for it. It’s what we had to work with on such short notice and it’ll just have to do. God I hope the dancers and band get back before next time. Let’s hope the headlines make up for the bland intro, shall we? I said there were some goodies, and I wasn’t kidding. As always, the headlines I am about to present are legit…I just supply the jokes at their expense. Here goes!

– Landlord Charged In Cecil’s Killing

Wait. I thought Cecil owned his home? Boy, the layers of this story just don’t end.

…and no, that’s not the headline that started this all. I’m working up to it.

– First Almost Fully-Formed Human Brain Grown in Lab, Researchers Claim

Did you know that we share 97.5% of our DNA with mice? “Almost” leaves a pretty wide range of possibilities here, folks.

– US Postal Service Tries its Hand at the Grocery Biz

“After much research, we’ve determined that people like cookies and hate bills. Really, when you get right down to it, it’s a no-brainer.”

Second Yosemite Tourist Diagnosed with Plague

Man. I wish there was something someone could do to stop the plague. I mean, you know, aside from practicing the most basic acts of personal hygiene on a regular basis…

Women Pass Ranger School, but Debate Goes On

Fucking men. No, hang on. I’m not a “feminazi,” and folks are often too quick to wave that particular flag. But COME the HELL ON. The women passed the test! LET THEM BE RANGERS. Unless you’re afraid someone without a penis will do a better job. Is that it? Sad little boys playing big men with guns. That’s all this is about.

– Lobster Population Shifting North; Ocean Warming Blamed

Is it the ocean warming, or are lobsters just getting smarter? “Jeez, Bahb, them fahckers down ta the cape are chappin’ my ass with them wicked stupid traps. They got Linda week before last. What say we go up the way ta Canada? They ain’t settin’ traps up there yet.” “You bet.” “Bitchin’. Let’s go.”

– General Mayhem! Retired 4-Star Army General Slams Chinese Food Delivery Man Against Fridge for Not Taking Check: Cops

Reader’s choice:

You don’t get to be a 4-star general without gettin’ a little mu on your shu.

…or…

Anyone else really, really hope his last name is Tso?

– Dramatic Video Shows Great White Shark Leaping Out of Water to Catch Seal

Hold the phone… Seals can FLY?!

– Stuffed Pig Having Time of its Life While Looking for Owner

No. No it is not. It is a stuffed animal. It has no life and it is enjoying nothing.

– Putin Dives in Mini-Sub to Shipwreck Off Crimea

If this doesn’t put a comical Spy vs. Spy image in your head, then I don’t even know why we’re friends.

– Muslim Leaders Sign Sweeping Climate Change Declaration

Sure people might be losing their heads left and right in middle eastern nations, but they’ll be losing them AFTER they properly sort their recycling. #priorities

– Russian Police Get Tough on Illicit Cheese

“I am KGB. I grill you until you talk.”

…stop groaning. You know you love it.

– For Mexicans, Trump’s Bid is Getting Scarier

For AMERICANS, Trumps bid is getting scarier!

– Name Company For Workers Online Contract

Dennis. I name it Dennis.

– Hamas: We Captured Dolphin Spying for Israel!

Enlightened lobsters. Flying seals. Spying dolphins. What the HELL is going on in our oceans?! Scientists, put down your pet brains and figure this shit out before we’re forced to serve our orca overlords.

– Saudi Arabia and Iran: Volatile Political Geography of Oil and Minorities, Analysis

I have to admit that I *do* feel better about America when I read that other regions waste money on bullshit, no brainer studies, too. It’s not just us. It’s a small comfort, but a comfort nonetheless.

– Man Who Climbed Brooklyn Bridge, Took Selfie is Arrested

I think we can all rest easier knowing that this sick bastard is locked up. The streets will be a little less mean tonight. Thanks, NYPD! #priorities

– Finkbeiner Says Merging Government Makes Sense

Can we just stop and appreciate the fact that somewhere in this nation, a politician has the last name “Finkbeiner?”

– Police: Man With Explosive Device had No Anti-abortion Aim

He didn’t seem to care much about animal rights, nationalized health care, or the global effects of longterm drought conditions in central Asian nations, either. Go figure.

– Why Ted Cruz Has the Best Chance of Becoming the GOP Nominee

*can’t type comment…too busy laughing hysterically…*

– Researchers Say “Tree of Life” Actually a “Bush”

The tag line is the real scoop here: The idea is that when incidents of rapid speciation arise, evolution moves so quickly that the genome doesn’t diverge neatly. I have no idea why they didn’t lead off with that in the first place. Talk about a catchy hook, eh?

– Real Flying Saucers: Why Manhole Covers Take Flight in Summer

Because they must obey the call of their people. Fly, little manhole covers. Fly to the mother ship.

– Man in Bear Costume Harasses Bears In Alaska

The authorities intervened. I don’t think they should have. This is one problem that would have sorted itself out.

– Black Bear Destroys Interior of Teacher’s Car

See? Bears deliver their own swift justice. Sometimes the all natural approach is best.

– Buffet Fans Scolded for Leaving Homemade Toilets At Show

If you can sit through the fishbowl at a Buffet concert and be coherent enough to make your own toilet instead of pissing yours pants, you should get a medal, not a scolding. Real talk.

– Taiwan Will Preserve Adorable, Typhoon-damaged Mailboxes

Is it me, or is Taiwan swiftly replacing Japan on the WTF meter?

– Official Wheaties Beer Coming to Minnesota

Wait. I thought the entire point of Wheaties was to provide a healthful start to a healthy day? This is madness. I suppose next you’re going to tell me that Cap’n Crunch is launching a rum line in Florida, or that the Lucky Charm Leprechaun will soon be pimping whiskey in Boston? #funnybutnotfunnybecauseit’sprobablytrue

– The Tallest Building Never Built

Nuh uh. I thought of the tallest building never built. It went a bazillion miles high to Saturn. I win.

– I Am Not An “Alien”

Nope. No way. No aliens here. *gulps* *tugs at collar* Is it getting hot as a glarplunx flardahp in here, or is it just me?

– Maybe Clinton Just Isn’t A Very Good Candidate?

Maybe not…

– Jeb Bush: NSA Needs Broader Powers to Combat ‘Evil Doers’

…but she’s sure as hell better than him!

– Americans Back Federal Funds to Planned Parenthood for Health Services, According to Poll

OF FUCKING COURSE WE DO. It’s an organization that spends the overwhelming majority of its time proving necessary health care of all the naughty bits people don’t like to talk about to folks who desperately need it. It’s 2015. THIS SHOULDN’T EVEN BE AN ISSUE!!!

– Sanders Outpaces Dean’s 2004 Run

Now, if he can only keep from making a funny “blearrrrah yeah” noise on camera… #maplesyrup4lyfehag

– The Meaning of Trump

I honestly, truly, 100%, deep in my heart of hearts believe that Donald Trump is actually just an irradiated pile of silicone with hair.

– Navy Seeks Better Sub-Hunting Technology to Counter Putin

Anyone else getting an image of Putin cackling maniacally while ineptly zipping around the bottom of the ocean in his mini-sub to the Benny Hill theme song? #funnybutnotfunnybecauseit’sprobablytrue

– Second Bangkok Bomb Puts City on Edge

…it took two to raise concern?!

– California Teenager Dies at Rave, Following Two Similar Deaths This Month

But, it’s, like, totally safe. PLUR ‘n angels ‘n shit.

– Africa Could Fit China and the U.S., With Room to Spare

Fifth grade geography is now breaking news. No Shit Gazette contribution for today?

– Idaho Replaces Mile Marker 420 with 419.9 to Thwart Stoners

Okay then. I guess it truly IS a geography-news day. Apologies for the previous snarkery. My bad.

– Probe of Clinton’s Server Could Find More than Just Emails

Let’s just be honest: Porn. That’s what everyone’s hoping to find.

– Bad-boy Kygrios Goes Out After Gasquet Spanking

I see they already found something juicy on Hillary’s PC…
OH COME ON. Don’t act like you weren’t in the gutter with me when you read that. Pfft.

And the headline that started it all today…

– NYC Mayor Signs Anti-Legionaires’ Bill

Wait a minute. Humanity is how old? We’ve had how many deadly viral outbreaks in our history? Untold millions have been wiped off the face of the earth… And no one thought to simply ban a virus before? Sometimes we just make things so hard on ourselves.

Thus concludes a Roundup for Wednesday, August 19, 2015. NOW I’m going to art. Or screw around online. …yeah, ‘prolly that last one.

I might be a Hampster, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have taste…

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Mornin’ all.

“Uh, Bethie? You just talked to us yesterday.”

What? A gal can’t have another shitty night of sleep, dip into the coffee waaaaay too early, and have to choose between talking to online pals or waking up her kids for company?

Besides, I read an article that I felt MUST be discussed IMMEDIATELY.

“Oh. Well, then, I suppose I’ll allow it. Proceed.”

On MSN…

“*groan*”

Hey, I just looked so that we’d have chit chat fodder, okay? I’m not expecting to get real news on that news site. My eyes are open. I know what I’m in for. It’s not like I’m some internet newb or something. Sheesh.

ANYWAY, they had a cooking article that I clicked on simply because of the title. “How Chicken Breasts Are Stuffed in Every State.”

C’mon. How could I pass that up? Not only are they implying that a chicken breast stuffing craze is sweeping the nation (and you know I try my best to be ahead of the curve on all fabricated crazes), but I have been living my whole life in the dark on how my most beloved state stuffs chicken breasts. Clearly I had to look posthaste.

So, how do we Hampsters stuff our chicken breasts?

I don’t know. As disappointing as it will no doubt be to you, the article was not a “how to”, but a “what with.” Bummer, eh? I, personally, was hoping for some cool instructions, like, “Sneak up on the chicken breast, bowie knife tucked carefully in your belt while whistling the state anthem to lull the chicken breast into a false sense of comforted ease before you strike.”

Alas, it was not to be.

It seems that folks all around the nation actually stuff them the same way. Cut the chicken breast open with zero subterfuge, and shove shit inside. Blah. How boring is that? At least Julia Child would have said to jazz up the experience with a few nips of sherry.

What the article was *really* about was what ingredients folks shove in the filleted breasts. Not as thrilling as ninja kitchen tactics, but I admit curiosity beat out disappointment and I just had to know what we Hampsters like in our chicken breasts.

MSN believes that in New Hampshire, we stuff our chicken breasts with mashed butternut squash and maple syrup.

*blurrrffpph*

That sound was pretty much exactly what you think it was.

Butternut squash and maple syrup…in a CHICKEN BREAST?? Seriously, MSN. WTF. Just because we have those things here doesn’t mean we’re dumb enough to shove them together. Would YOU eat butternut squash and maple syrup CHICKEN? No. No you wouldn’t. And neither do we.

Ever.

It just has not been a thing that has happened.

*gak* *shudder*

Hey. Could be worse. I could live in Hawaii where they have to stuff their chicken breasts with pineapple and Spam. I think it’s a law. Or in Maine, where they fill a delicious, savory chicken breast with wild blueberry jam and shallots. Just think about THAT staring up at you from the plate.

According to MSN, Delaware stuffs theirs with crab and artichoke dip. They just take the bowl of dip, dump it in the chicken, and then bake it, because nothing is tastier than hot artichoke and crab and mayonnaise sadly seeping out the side of chicken breast. If you ever find yourself in Delaware, make sure to try it! I think the locals call this dish, “Resignation.”

Sounds delish.

Indiana gets very specific. Those zany Indianians like to fill their perfectly good chicken with pork and beans.

“Will any old pork and beans do?”

No, silly! It’s got to be canned, and it’s got to be Van Camp’s. You know, the high end stuff that sells for $1.05/can, not the cheap shit you get at the dollar store. Open the can, fit as much of it as possible in the raw chicken purse, then ruin it in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees. Hell, why stop there? Once it’s out, just dump the rest of the can on top. That’s what we fancy ones call “presentation.” Don’t forget to pick up a second can to serve as a side dish!

You think THAT’S special? In the high brow state of Kentucky, they serve their chicken like they serve their tea sandwiches. Nope, I did not make that up. It should have had quotes. The article says, “The traditional tea sandwich flavors of cream cheese and cucumbers…” Cream cheese and cucumbers. Because I guess high tea is a thing in Kentucky? So popular that they MUST carry over the “traditional” flavors in their chicken…? I guess?

In Wyoming, they don’t believe that chicken is real meat. And who can blame them, right? There’s no wrangling involved in chicken-ing. No branding. No roping. There isn’t even a need to cut off the balls of the young. Hell, when you really think about it, chickens are just a few feathers away from being cabbages. Pfft. PA-THETIC.

No, what true Wyomingites want is MEAT. REAL meat. Legit meat. Meat that meant something, that tried to be somebody. Meat that put up a fight and had to be wrassled and roped and rounded up. So they take what is really just a floppy taco shell, if we’re being honest, and cram it with cooked ground bison.

“But Bethie, won’t the crumbly ground bison just fall out?”

That’s what the chokecherry jam is for!

“Oh. Oh god.”

For the Minnesota entry, where they supposedly eat their chicken filled with wild rice, mushrooms, and sour cream, the article makes sure to say, “Optional: Tater tots on the side.” Perhaps the ONLY truly high end recipe in the entire list, and it’s paired with…tater tots. Now, I myself am of the opinion that tater tots should be the side dish of every meal. However, they aren’t really a high class side and don’t belong with what is the only good suggestion in this article. So close, MSN. Soooo close.

I’m going to tell you verbatim what they list for Mississippi. It’s a bit wordy, so bear with me. Here goes.

“Pimento cheese.”

That’s it. That’s the entirety of the entry. No suggested sides, no links to the recipe, no recommended garnishes. Just “pimento cheese.” I guess if you live in Mississippi, you know how you do chicken. Just keep doing it.

I think the winner here…

…hang on. With all you’ve seen and imagined on the plates of these Americans, is there really a “winner” here? Is there?

I think the most cringe-worthy recipe has to be the one for Utah. Why? Because apparently they eat their chicken stuffed with something called “funeral potatoes.”

I’m going to get real with you: If you intentionally eat something called “funeral potatoes,” you forgo any right you may have had to complain after the meal. Funeral is right there in the name of the dish. If you eat it anyway, that’s on you.

Real talk.

Look, I know how these articles are written. I get it. Some writer for MSN Food had to come up with an article for the deadline, but was too busy partying his face off all week to actually do any research and had to struggle through his hangover to come up with SOMEthing his editor would publish. He had a few things in his favor, though. First, he’s eaten food before. He also heard some things about most of the states, and had Google for the ones he was a bit hazy on. And the best thing going for Mr. Hangover was the fact that he works for MSN, where he could pretty much wipe his ass, sign his name on the toilet paper, and get paid for his “work.”

People who write these articles have absolutely no idea about regional foods. None. Zero. Zip.

In NH, we do grow squash. We do sap trees. We do not then take the products of those two completely separate endeavors and smash them together inside chicken. We just don’t. In fact, the only stuffed chicken breasts we tend to eat around here are stuffed with, well, stuffing. It think that’s why they call it “stuffing,” because you, ya know, they stuff it inside things.

Restaurants stuff chicken breasts with other things around here from time to time. I think there’s a place a few miles up the way that actually still serves Cordon Bleu. I know, right? Hello ’70s!

So “can” you get different types of stuffing inside your chicken in New Hampshire? Yeah. But is that the norm as MSN would have you believe? Absolutely not.

I have to hope it’s the same for the other states. I have to hope this is simply a matter of a hungover, poor excuse for a “writer” trying to cram together what little he knows about the states and hoping it’ll fly as a plausible article. I have to hope that they are not really eating crab and artichoke filled chicken in Delaware, or suffering through the terror of “funeral potato” stuffed chicken in Utah. I’ve got to believe that people around the country have a shred of common sense and don’t really torture themselves in such ways.

I’ve got to believe that, because one day I might just visit some of the other states in this fine nation, and I’m going to be honest: If I get to Taos all jacked up for art and hippies, and a restaurant serves me ground beef and Frito filled chicken breasts, someone’s not gonna have a good day.

Thus concludes a rambling little Musing for Sunday, August 16, 2015. Oddly enough, we’re having chicken for dinner tonight in the House of Bethie. Maybe I’ll get wild and crazy and use one of the suggestions. Now, should I go with limp, hot coleslaw like they do in Kansas, or should I really give my kiddos an exotic treat and fill them Georgia style, with peaches and thyme? Hmmm…decisions decisions….

“Uh, Bethie? I know you hate it when I interrupt your closing, but I feel like as your friend, I should point out that serving either of those recipes might just be considered child abuse.”

Oh. Shit. You’re probably right. Then unstuffed BBQ chicken it is! Thanks for lookin’ out for me.

I’mma need you to stop kicking me in the balls, m’kay?

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Mornin’ all.

So I’m sitting here trying to mainline my coffee like a champ and the cat is perched on top of the computer tower staring at me. She’s been there staring at me for a good ten minutes now. Once in awhile, she licks her chops. Other than that one, repeatedly creepy movement, she’s unwaivering in her stoicism.

I’m a bit wigged out, if you wanna know the truth.

Why is she sitting there? What does she want? She’s got food. I just cleaned the litter. Her coffee mug is full of water…

“What?”

Oh, yeah. She won’t drink out of a water dish. She uses a coffee mug that she commandeered right after we got her a few years back. It’s on the living room table, too, because why drink water that’s placed by a food dish? She’s not an uncultured swine, you know.

I thought maybe she wanted me to pet or snuggle her. I thought wrong.

Why is she doing it? She is my first cat, and even though we’ve had her for a couple years, she still flummoxes me. It feels like she’s looking at me like one of those stranded cartoon characters who starts to see his buddy as a hamburger. Think she’s preparing to chase me around the deserted island?

Somewhere out there is a kitty owner who knows what’s going on. Do me a solid and let me know if I should start booking it around the palm tree, k? Thanks.

Today is for finishing up projects. I’ve got a couple that are in states of partial completion. I’ve got to buckle down and get them done so I can make myself sick with nervous worry by putting them up for sale. I would have had them done on Monday if it weren’t for a fantastic game I made the mistake of popping into the life-draining machine.

“So you could have made some money, yet instead you let some aliens kill you over and over, is that what you’re saying?”

GAH no! First off, they were zombies, not aliens. Duh. And second, kill me over and over? Bitch, please. You have no faith in my gaming ability.

“…*blink**blink*…”

Oh.

Oh, I see. I was ‘sposta get the message and I totally missed it and you weren’t really looking for details and… *sigh* You’re right. You are completely correct. I *should* have buckled down and pushed through the creative blocks. One project is being held up by math that’s been hovering just outside my scope of comprehension (angles are a bitch, man. A real bitch.), one is waiting for framing inspiration to hit, and one is just full of fiddly details that have many steps.

In fairness, I have been working on that last one all week. It’s a series of airbrushing, then waiting for that layer to dry before putting on the next. I did not understand just how time consuming that one was going to be when I saw the crappy bookshelf in the free pile of the junk shop across the way and thought, “There’s a decent piece of kitsch somewhere under that coffee-cup-ring crusted paint.”

I have also made a sword this week, if that counts. A wooden one my nine year old designed. Oh! And I wrote fifteen pages of a book.

“Well. That’s something.”

I actually did a lot last weekend and the beginning of this week. Then I had to play my game and watch YouTube videos and make swords with my son and get another damn sunburn somehow. Just needed a break I suppose. A reset. And boy, does bashing in a zombie brain with a modified M.C. Hammer (not kidding…that’s the name of the weapon in my game…heh heh…jokes) make for a remarkable reset.

So does YouTube…probably the very best site on the internet. Hold on. I can see you shaking your head and rolling your eyes, but hear me out. Where else can you look for a silly video clip of a cat with a toilet paper tube on its tail and end up learning about the magnificently moving sound of a Chapman stick because you clicked on one of their suggested vids to the right?

You have an urge to madly search for “Chapman stick” right now, don’t you? You should. Your ears NEED this. I recommend searching for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Chapman Stick” on YouTube. Go on. Do it right now. I’ll wait.

……..

…was I right or what?

If you now share this obsession, welcome aboard!

Anyway, where else can that happen but on YouTube? Where else can I giggle at a kitty one minute, then groove to a completely foreign sound the next? It’s like flipping through the tv channels of every single cable company in the history of ever from anywhere on the planet, all in one spot. YouTube is a modern marvel.

Then there was the sword project. You’ve never seen my nine year old. The summer sun has brought out a smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose and he’s got these crinkles around deep amber eyes when he smiles. How can I say “no” under those circumstances?

It’s a kick ass sword, too. We even cut out a keyhole in the blade, then painted it with gold spray paint. He said, “My brothers are going to be so jelly.”

“Jelly, Bethie? Seriously?”

Hey, he’s a product of modern society. Nothing I can do about it. He’s right, too. The elder larpers will, indeed, be jelly. Totes.

Like I said, I also wrote some this week. I hit a speed bump in plot, then let it mellow for awhile and picked it back up. I’m past the bump, though I know it’ll be a rough transition when I go back and read it over. I’ll have to smooth it out, but at least I’m past that part. You don’t know how long it took for me to be able to produce enough words to push through a sticky scene. For the longest time, I’d hit that road block, and it would totally stop me. I could not make myself just put in a few filler to mark time until my brain kicked back into gear.

Which brings me to an annoying trend I’m seeing with digital books. No, NOT having ANYTHING to do with the authors, so any of my indie friends, take a deep breath. I guarantee you’re going to like this rant.

Writing a book is hard. Even if you’re a fast writer…even if the words flow…even if you nailed NaNoWriMo in the first week, it’s still hard. The process of writing a book is not over once you type “the end.” Or “fin” if you want to feel fancy. In fact, the brutal part of the process has just begun. No matter how quickly you write a story, you still have to edit. You still have to have folks who aren’t in love with the characters that are really just extensions of yourself cut and gut and slash and hack your brainchild in front of your eyes. You still have to rewrite and tweak and reword and rework.

I guess what I’m getting at is every book is work. It’s hard work. It’s work that the majority of the population doesn’t understand because they have never written a book.

Perhaps that’s what’s really responsible for the trend that’s got me pissed. They just don’t know better.

I’m talking about every author’s bane. The review.

Every legit ebook site has a place for user submitted reviews. While authors have a love/hate relationship with this feature, readers rely on it to help guide them in their future purchases. You’ve got the standard reviews of “love this author, have everything they wrote,” which, to be honest, are THE best. You’ve got people who didn’t like the book. Also good, because:

a) A properly written poor review will help you become a better author.

b) If everyone likes everything you write, you’re writing it wrong.

You’ve got illegible reviews written in modern text lingo. Those can be discounted completely, since those readers clearly aren’t literate. You’ve got flame wars for no reason. Those happen whenever a site invites user comments. I saw one over at B&N’s Nook site once that was a 20+ post back and forth about Obama. On a romance book. I feel bad for those authors. Their reviews get hijacked by jackasses and become a turn off for other readers through no fault of the author.

Then you’ve got the reviews I hate. “Great author, but why does she charge for her books?”

Oh! I heard it. The collective sigh, with eye rolls and sympathetic nods from my fellow indies! You’ve gotten this, too, have you? While I’ve yet to have one posted in public, I’ve gotten several emails asking why I charge.

I read one the other day that was particularly offensive. Not on mine, but a book I downloaded and really liked. I went to leave a review and saw this:

“I loved this book! I would definitely read more from this author if they were free. Granted, she only charges like $2.99, so that’s not bad. That’s not the point, though. They should be free. Who’s with me to start a petition to B&N to make all this author’s books free?”

Eye. Twitching.

Why in the hell should that author work for free? NO other artist works for free, they just don’t.

And don’t start with the popular “library” argument. It’s popular, but wrong.

As the daughter of a librarian, I can assure you that libraries definitely pay for the books they lend. People pay for their memberships. Taxes pay for building upkeep… A library is not free. The books you read in the library were not free, not even to you when you get right down to it. They’re a helluva good bargain, to be sure. But the authors are still compensated. They’re still paid for their hard work.

Look, folks. The internet does not entitle you to free shit. It just doesn’t.

“You JUST touted YouTube. That’s free.”

But it’s not. People *can* put up their stuff for free if they choose. They also have the option to sell ad space. To the content creator, there is a way to make money for their work.

That’s not what people want for Nook and Kindle and other eReaders. They want free books. They do not want to join a monthly service, like Netflix. Can you IMAGINE the backlash there would be if ads were coded into the ebooks? Yikes. The kerfuffle a fart in church causes would be mild in comparison. No book lover would tolerate an ad interrupting a good scene, and they shouldn’t. Ads have no place butting into a book, not even a digital one.

So what does that leave?

What it’s always left for authors. People have to buy their books. End of discussion.

“…start a petition to B&N to make all this author’s books free…”

Ya know, if it was just one yahoo saying crap like this, I’d roll my eyes and move on. It’s not, though. It’s a trend I’ve seen over and over, and the popularity of the sentiment seems to be gaining momentum.

Can you go into an art gallery and just take what you like? Or a bakery. Can you tell the baker to make your gorgeous work of art wedding cake for free? You risk going to jail if you download a pirated movie or song, as well you should.

“I loved this book!”

Is that why you think you’re owed more for free? I love it, and I said so, and now you MUST reward me by giving me free shit? Is that the theory you’re working under here?

How about this one?

“Disappointed. Loved this book but the rest in the series you have to pay for. What gives?”

What gives? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the author wants to feed his kids this week? Or pay his bills? Shit, maybe he’s gonna get real freaky deeky and actually replace that broken lawn mower he’s been limping along with all summer?

That wild man.

“hooked me with this, charged for the rest. will not fall for it. don’t bother.”

Fall for it? Fall for WHAT? You got an entire novel you loved for FREE! You got hours of entertainment that you clearly enjoyed and didn’t have to pay a single dime for it!! How DARE you complain about ANYTHING, you selfish asshole!?! It’s not a ploy. The author is not setting some kind of trap. They gave away their hard work. You should be grateful, not spiteful.

“Another author who gives you a free book, then makes you pay for the rest. Can we stop this trend already?”

Yes, can we stop this trend? Please? Let’s all of us indies band together and stop giving away anything for free. That will certainly curtail these moronic reviews.

Because that’s the other option, folks. For all of you out there who are guilty of writing one of these first-world-problem reviews, that’s what you’re going to bring about if you keep this shit up. That’s the only other option. You are going to whine and bitch your way out of ANYTHING for free. Is that really what you want?

Writing a book is hard. Writing a good book that people like is harder. But writing a good book that people like and getting shit for actually wanting to get paid for the work you put in? That’s got to be the biggest kick in the balls of all.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for…shit. What the hell day is it, anyway? It’s so hard to keep track in summer. Oh, right. Saturday, August 15, 2015. I’m done with my politically incorrect rand and am now heading off to finish up at least one project, even if it kills me. And if it’s the one with the math, there’s more than a good chance it honestly will…

Why are you looking at me like you have a secret plan?

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Mornin’ all.

Smug kitty is sitting on top of my computer tower right now looking smug.

She got out last night. In a flash of black and speckled fur, she zipped through the legs of my youngest as he was coming in from a sword fight (LARPing has claimed yet another little geek) and took off under a small, latched fence that’s overgrown with vines and brambles.

After a lot of searching, she was found safely taunting us behind the glass window of Neighbor’s garage. She somehow found a way inside and thought us looking for her was highly amusing. We had to battle to get into the garage through more vines and more bramble, and then even MORE after I scruffed and lectured her and tried to get back out. Apparently Neighbor doesn’t use the garage.

Once inside, she knew she was in deep shit. She’s only gotten out a handful of times. Usually she’s panicked upon her return to the safe indoors and tends to be in defense mode. Not wanting her to lash out at the kids, or wanting them to give her positive reinforcement for her shenanigans, I instructed the boys to shun her. That’s when she knew what she did wasn’t funny.

Naughty kitty.

She got out as we were closing up shop for the evening, so once I got the littlest calmed down and washed up and reassured him again that it wasn’t his fault, we headed to bed. As soon as I sat down, she came meowling into the room looking sad and pathetic and apologetic. She hopped up onto my lap, pressed her face to my cheek, meowed again, and then curled up and started purring. How can you shun THAT? Dirty pool, kitty.

After I read for awhile, I clicked out the light and got comfy. She curled up at my feet. All was happy and well.

…until she decided to play the “So, you think you can actually move your feet around without consequence, do you?” game. My ankles are all scratched to hell this morning and she’s looking very proud of herself.

*gag* Ew! *spit**pleh*

“Coffee that bad today?”

No, actually. Teen Prime got it all set up for me and for once the coffee isn’t peeling the skin from the roof of my mouth. That’s not what’s gross. We ordered some car parts from a different supplier. It was our first time ordering through them, and they sent us a “first time buyer care package” that included some stickers and a little can of Jelly Belly jelly beans! Really cool. As any Jelly Belly eater knows, the beans are all kind of funky flavors and I just accidentally tasted mango.

MANGO.

“Uh, Bethie? Why are you eating jelly beans at 6:30 in the morning?”

Because I have scratched ankles from the cat and scratched arms from the brambles and the coffee’s sorta weak, if you want to know the truth, and the jelly beans were riiiight over there and they were calling to me and…

DON’T JUDGE ME.

I ate a banana, too. Like a real banana. That’s healthy. So the jelly beans were breakfast dessert.

No, wait! It was a super early brunch. You can eat anything you want as long as you call it “brunch,” right?

“I don’t think brunches have jelly beans.”

Hey, I don’t tell you not to slug down champagne mimosas and pretend it’s totally normal to get shitfaced by ten a.m. at YOUR brunch, do I?

“…on second thought, maybe I will put a bowl of jelly beans out at my next brunch. Seems so bright and festive!”

Exactly.

What should we talk about this morning? Oh, I know! The first republican debate was on last night.

“Boo.”

Not into politics this morning? Hm. Okay, then. I read this fascinating op. ed/sorta research piece on Queen Elizabeth I that hypothesized that she was…

“*hiss*”

…did you just HISS at me?

“That’s how strongly I feel about not sitting through your boring recap of a boring subject.”

BORING!!?? QE I was only one of THE most riveting and polarizing…

“…*dramatic snore*…*dramatic snore*…”

*grits teeth* Fine. What do YOU want to talk about today?

“Something fun. Something entertaining. Hey, maybe you could cue the go-go dancers and strike up the band…”

Hold the phone. Are you…are YOU instructing MY staff?!

“Well SOMEone has to make life interesting around here!”

…but…

…I…

*blink**blink*

Girls…get to go-going I suppose…? Let’s do the intro for a…

*** HEADLINE ROUNDUP!!! ***

…but don’t think you can do this all the time. I mean it! No more hijacking my Muse for your own purposes. And wipe that smug look off your face! I’ve dealt with enough smug, furry little creatures today!

“*salutes* Yes, ma’am!”

*defeated sigh*

Okay, so I guess we’re having ourselves a roundup whether I like it or not. I’ll be your amusement lackey and scour the internet news sites for headlines that are odd, misleading, poorly worded, or just strike my fancy. I’ll present them to you, uncut, unedited, and unfiltered, then share my reactions afterwards. Shall we begin?

…*whistles*…*picks lint off sweatshirt*…*taps fingers on desk*…

“Oh. You’re waiting for my permission?”

I mean, you did kinda take over…

“I know you’re being sarcastic, but I’m going to pretend I am in charge anyway. *clap clap* Begin!”

– This Software Checks if You’re Busy Before Interrupting You

OMG. PROTOCOL DROIDS ARE NOW REAL!?!

*C3PO fist bump*

– Why the Fugate Family Has Blue Skin

I’m not sure, but they should probably do their best to avoid Gargamel.

*Smurf fist smurf*

– Teen Subway Employees Thwart Would-be Robber By Ignoring Him

He had the weapon. He covered his beard with a plastic bag so no one would recognize him (no shit, he totally did that). He practiced his scary voice for hours in front of the mirror. The one thing he couldn’t prepare for, though, was the modern American teenager’s ability to ignore the world around them.

– Theater Attacker May Have Planned Explosion

After a couple weeks off, the No Shit Gazette is back in full swing.

– Top 10 Moments from Last Night’s Debate

Can we really…

“HEY! I said NO politics! Nice try, bucko. Move it along.”

*sigh*

– German Man Sets Record for Longest Birthday Ever

Uh, not sure how time works in Germany, but aren’t birthdays kind of capped at 24 hours?

– Neighbors Furious as Pilot Parks Cessna at Home

“I just bought my kid a Honda, and this asshole comes along and gives HIS family a damn plane. How in the hell am I supposed to compete with THAT??”

– A Mysteriously Disappearing Waterfall in Minnesota

Uh…aren’t they experiencing a drought right now? Do they not know what a “drought” is? Someone give Minnesota a dictionary.

– It’s Time to Start Liking Tom Cruise Again

You’re not the boss of me. I don’t hafta like him if I don’t wanna. He’s not my REAL dad. *sniff*

– What’s Really the Best Type of Yoga for You?

I’m personally a fan of “imaginary yoga”. Does imaginary wonders for my imagined health!

– Bus Carrying Special Needs Gets Stuck in Bronx Sinkhole

Now, if this was the age of my childhood, I’d insert a “short bus” joke here. As it is *not* the age of my childhood, and times have changed, I suppose I’ll just go with a brief quip on the Bronx so as not to stir up controversy. Hey, Bronx! What’s with the huge pot holes?

See? Political correctness can be funny, too. *crickets**crickets*

– Not All Netflix Workers Will Get ‘Unlimited Parental Leave’

Oh, so this is another benefit that only actual parents can use, eh? First “maternity leave” now this?! Pfft. SO unfair.

– As Temperatures Rise, Hikers Embrace a Grueling Ascent

Or, you know, they could wait for a cooler day. I mean, no one’s forcing them to be an idiot and climb a mountain in the “grueling” heat.

– Some Who Fled California Wildfires Find Their Home Destroyed

You mean THAT’S what fires do?

– NYPD Uses Clip of Man High on PCP to Illustrate Dangers of Synthetic Weed

Not unlike the time I taught my boys the dangers of misusing their pocket knives by showing them pictures of lepers. I tell you what, those boys are NEVER going to misuse their knives in Kalaupapa!

– Did Slavery Cause the Civil War? Many Americans Don’t Think So, Poll Shows

Fuckin’-A, people. Every state that seceded cited the new ban on slave owning as the main reason for secession. I don’t know what’s ambiguous there. Each and every state that submitted a letter of secession to the government did so because they were furious that outsiders were telling them they could no longer own people. End. Of. Debate.

– Psych Firm that Screens Baltimore Cops Under Review

Yeah, that’s prolly’ a good idea.

– US Teens Tune Into Online Friendships

OMG. Next you’ll be telling me that the young people also like to wear dungarees and eat those pizza pies!

– OKC Teacher Accused of Intoxication on Campus

Um, you’re probably not going to want to do body shots at the frat house if you’re a teacher. Seems like a bad career choice to me.

– Cape Cod Sharks: Scientist, Great Whites Continue to Patrol Coast for Data and Seals

How are the sharks ever supposed to finish their investigation of the seasonal migratory shift of harbor and short-eared seals in relation to the recent temperature fluctuations of coastal waters if the scientists keep devouring the seals in question? Friggin’ savages.

– Ancient Galaxy is Most Distant Ever Found

Fasle. Ancient Galaxy is Most Distant Ever OBSERVED BY HUMANS. If you’re going to try and report on legitimate science, then tighten it up, Space.com.

– NASA Totally Found an Alien Crab on Mars and Didn’t Tell Anybody

Like, legit. For realsies.

– Black Hat Researchers Hack Rifle For Fun

…you don’t get out much, do you, Black Hats?

– Meet the Man Struck By Lightning 7 Times

I’ll meet him, but I hope he’s not offended if I opt out of the hand-shaking…

– Bookstore Refunds Customers who Bought ‘Go Set A Watchman

Ugh. I hate every part of this. No funny comment, because insulting an author when you are supposed to be the first line of SUPPORT is not an amusing matter. I just couldn’t *not* share.

– Miss Piggy and Kermit Break Up Ahead of New Show

NOOOOO!!!! *sniff* Why are they consciously uncoupling muppets?! Piggy and Kermit 4LYFE!!!

– Child Camping In Yosemite National Park Contracts Plague

You might want to leave that tidbit out of the travel brochure…

– Alaska Woman in Good Condition After Bear Mauling

A bear was mauled, and of course the liberal press chooses to focus on the woman. Uh, feminazi much? #bearsmattertoo

– Warming Climate Leaves Alaskans with Fewer Walruses to Hunt

Is that really a negative? Really?

– Bikini Nuclear Refugees Seek US Aid to Leave Marshall Island

…too soon for a “that bikini was da bomb” joke? …Uh…let’s just forget I said that, k?

– Whale Lost in Buenos Aires Nears Ocean

How do you know it was lost? Maybe it was just on vacation. Why you gotta assume the worst, AP?

– Floyd Mayweather Takes a Jab at Ronda Rousey

Not the first lady he’s taken a jab at.

*drops mic*

*slides on sunglasses*

*moonwalks off stage*

Thus concludes a Roundup for Friday, August 7, 2015. I really needed a laugh today. Thanks for letting me giggle for a bit, even if you did kinda force me into it.

I’m sure it’s absolutely normal for rain to dissolve concrete…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

“Myriad” is a weird word. It’s a thesaurian swap-out for such great words as “multitude” and “horde”. As a noun, it’s used the same way.

A myriad of scarabs scuttered with haste over the rapidly decaying carcass.

Nice word.

However, when it’s used as an adjective, things sound awkward.

There were myriad calculations to be done in order to determine the origin of the alleged alien communication.

See what I mean? You take away the “of”, and that just doesn’t sound right. You don’t take away the “of” from “multitude” unless you spiff up the word.

There were multitudinous calculations…

Doesn’t that sound so much better?

Why do we “multitudinous” but not “myriadinous?” Doesn’t “myriadinous” just sound impressive?

Today shall be a great day of feasting. Myriadinous meats and multitudinous meads shall be consumed by princes and paupers alike!

Why is this not a thing?

Two a.m. thoughts, folks.

Odd night of sleep. I woke up at 2, wide awake. Eyes popped open, brain kicked into gear, and there was not one single comfortable position in my bed. Apparently my mind NEEDED to assess “myriad”. Clearly I couldn’t rest until I had come to terms with the bad side of a good word and reconciled my appreciation in spite of the flaws. When I finally did drift back to sleep, I had a rapid succession of swiftly morphing dreams.

It was like…

…hm. Well, perhaps a drug binge maybe, though I’m not really sure what those feel like. The closest I ever got to anything worse than weed was when doctors shot me with something during the child birth hell of my first kid. The world was blurry, the voices were fuzzy, and I’m fairly certain I took a swing at my mum when her breathing coaching was different than what was going on in my head. If I did, sorry, Mum. Blame whatever it was the doctors shot in my ass.

I just considered whether it was like flipping through tv channels, and no, that’s not right, either. When you flip from channel to channel, there is no in-between. You’re either watching some ridiculous lady try and sell you a kuh-wall-ity Diamel necklace, or listening to some boring dude drone on about finances, or trying to keep up with a riveting telenovela even though your grasp on Spanish is rudimentary at best.

What? Oh come on. Don’t act like you haven’t been there.

Last night wasn’t like flipping channels. There weren’t clear breaks between scenes. One dream would start, then something in the dream itself would be a catalyst to morph the rest into a different dream. In your mind, picture a family barbecue. Auntie Phyllis brings you a hamburger, but as she hands it over, you look at the plate and find that it’s a squirming alien baby. Alarmed, you look up to find that you’re no longer at a family BBQ, but in a delivery room trying desperately to save the offspring of a poor alien that crashed to Earth. Phyllis is gone, replaced by Dr. Carson who is begging you to perform CPR. You look back down, ready to bring the limp alien fetus to your mouth to try and find some orifice you can blow into, only to discover that you’re holding a wrench at the top of a huge building, trying to fix an antenna and save the world…

There must have been fifty short stories in the span of about an hour. Imagine the ones I can’t remember! What a trip.

Instead of waking up tired and groggy this morning, I got up feeling rejuvenated in spite of the brevity of my sleep.

I don’t know if you’re a creative person. I am, and I don’t think that’s any mystery, or something to feign coyness over. I like to make things. The quality is up for debate and personal taste, but I do, in fact, make many things. I like to have weird ideas and bring them to life. I do it in writing, sure, but also crafts, art, music… I just like to take the tangled knitting bag of yarn that is my brain and make something real out of it all.

As anyone who is creative can tell you, sometimes you reach into your knitting bag and find nothing to work with. You pull and pull, hoping to find an interesting snarl or a funky-looking tangle that’ll spark an idea, but all you get is straight, brown, boring yarn.

To anyone who is of a creative mind, this brown, neatly sorted yarn is the kiss of death. If a creative individual can’t create, they feel stifled, stranded, and strangled. Every day without a spark feels beige; like they got up, put on sensible shoes, drove their tan Hondas at a reasonable speed to get to their 9-5 inside a cubicle maze with other beige-y folks who spent the morning staring at the loudly ticking clock looking forward to the watery coffee and stale bran muffins in the break room, the brightest moment in their monotonously lethargic day.

Any day without a creative idea feels so barren and bleak that the anticipation of a stale bran muffin is the highlight.

Pathetic.

So when I have a dream series like last night, no matter what it took to get my brain there, it feels wonderful. It puts a pep in my step and makes my fingers twitch to type, or paint, or burrow into clay, or… It feels like a day of possibility.

No wait! I can do better.

It feels like a day of myriadinous possibilities.

It’s raining, too, so that means I’ll actually get a good chunk of time to work on projects. On my grown up “To Do Before Autumn” list are a bunch of outdoor chores. Boo. Boring. I need to pour a cement stair (just one…it crumbled during a rain burst. The other two in the case are fine. Yeah…I don’t know, either.), mow, trim bushes, prep the apple field…

“Don’t you mean orchard, Bethie?”

Only on days where I want to sound uppity. Those are also the days when I talk of the acreage of my berry patches (er, maybe 1/15th of an acre?) and my vineyard (wild grapes that popped up outta nowhere to cling to my falling down redneck garage). On THOSE days I’ll go on about my orchard.

There are only three trees, though, so anyone who knows me in real life would roll their eyes if I waxed too eloquent. The trees were never properly trimmed and trained when they were young, so they’re far too tall to belong to a proper orchard. I’d say they’re easily thirty feet high. Not exactly idea for pickin’. There are two McIntosh trees and one Cortland, and sometimes they grow respectable sized apples. Sometimes, they grow jack shit. Last year between the three, they grew one. One apple reached ripeness. And a worm got to it first.

This year, the super high branches are positively laden with the biggest apples I’ve ever seen on the trees in the 12 years we’ve lived here. It’s a bumper crop.

….waaaaaayyyyy above my head.

Way up high in the apple tree,

Two little apples smiled at me.

I shook the tree as hard as I could,

Down came the apples; mmm were they good!

My mother used to say that little poem for us. I always remember it when I stare up, up, up into the impossibly high branches trying to figure out how in the hell to get those apples that taunt me.

*sidenote: You know, thinking about that poem now, maybe those apples just wanted to be friendly? “Oh, look! A person! Hello, friend! Here’s a smile to brighten your day!” And then what did the person do? “Are those apples…SMILING at me?! Oh NO they di’int! I’ll show those little bastards! NO ONE smiles at ME and gets away with it!” And then he eats them. He eats them for spreading sunshine and kindness. *sniff* The world is an unjust place.*

I’ve tried everything from using a crossbow to shoot a rope over the branches so I can shake the apples loose, to extending grabby-claws on the end of poles to try and pluck the fruit individually. Getting the apples has become a “thing” here. This year, my man thinks I should weld together a grappling hook. The teens want to pepper the trees with BBs, and can’t understand why I think that’s a monumentally bad idea.

See, I don’t have a tree shaker. I could hire one, but there’s no way it could safely get to the trees. A ladder is positively out of the question. I have too much mass, and as much as I’ve begged my molecules to go quantum, I can’t get said mass to ignore gravity.

Pfft. Traitorous slave to physics.

No matter what I come up with, I’ve got to clear the grass out there. Apples are turning red, and soon the tree will start dropping perfectly good fruit. I’ll cut the grass, maybe set up some tarps, and gather the dropped fruit every morning before Nature can send hordes of animals and bugs to feast. Those apples will be bruised from the fall, but they’ll make great applesauce to freeze. Nothing is better on a cold evening than warming up some homemade applesauce to pour over pork chops. Applesauce cake. Applesauce donuts. Applesauce…applesauce. No need to muck it up. Applesauce is delicious on its own. *sighs thinking about autumn food*

I don’t just want applesauce, though. I also want apples for snacking, so I have to get some before they fall. I will create an apple contraption, and I most certainly will tell you all about it, no matter how much of a failure it is (and let’s face it, we’re all secretly hoping I end up with a few apple-sized lumps on my head because that makes for a much better read than if everything goes to plan). That will be a different story I tell on a different day.

Today is for painting. Today is for writing. Today is for listening to music that inspires, and hearing words written by other creators that will twist and gnarl the strands of yarn in my own head until the threads twine into something beautiful and moving. Or maybe something ugly, yet equally moving.

This burst will not last. This wave of rejuvenating creativity will peter out as it always does. There will be a day in the not so distant future when I wake up to a beige world and stuff my feet into sensible shoes, my eyes and ears hungrily seeking another muse as I go about the drudgery of everyday life.

But today, I sit here stretching my unbound bare feet in the thick, fluffy carpet, surrounded by a world of greens freshened by the shining drops of life that fall from the roiling, riotous clouds.

Today there is no beige.

Thus concludes a Morning Musing for Tuesday, August 4, 2015. I’m off to dip my brush in paint and see what happens. I hope you all have an equally verdant day.