Monday, April 30, 2007

Malware Woes

Every time we thought we had rooted out all the rooted em all out, they would pop up their ugly faces again. My husband and I have been beating our heads against the screen and keyboard since about 3am Saturday morning. Good news is that I am typing this on the laptop. I got back on the desktop after the latest scan and reboot a little over an hour ago. I spent half an hour test driving the IE browser, doing as many of the things that seemed to trigger problems before as I could think of and so far no hint of trouble. I think I may have stymied whatever it was.

Some things I've learned about spyware and adware:

  • They can hide form the scans that know about them.
  • They can block attempts to remove them.
  • They can put themselves back again after they were removed.
  • They hide in folders that are necesary to run the computer.
  • They spread pieces of themselves around so that rooting out one instance of them doesn't solve the problem.
  • They can turn the firewall off.

The nastiest and sneakiest of the ones we were dealing with was UCMore Search Accelerator. That was the one that started the blizzard of popups and popunders Saturday morning shortly after an unwanted popup redirected to a download and downloaded and installed it without allowing any interference from my input. Even forcing a reboot before it finished downloading did not stop it. It resumed as soon as I logged back on to my desktop. I noticed that logging onto the desktop was frequently hanging or taking much longer than it used to.

So this evening when the popups resumed again immediately after a reboot following a scan, for the umpteenth time, I headed to the Startup folder in Documents and Settings and that is where I found it. I deleted it and rebooted. Then before calling up the browser I checked that folder and it was gone. Then I went to Internet options to check the firewall was on. It was. Then I went to set popup tolerance to zero and take a couple of the apparently offending pages off the trusted list. Google pages had seemed to be some of the worst offenders and my husband and I had a fierce um debate over whether Gmail or Google search page or the Google toolbar had been in anyway knowingly responsible.

I stuck up for Google and would not back down. I have been using everything Google for the entire ninteen months I've owned the laptop and never had any issues with it until yesterday when I put my Gmail page on the trusted list for popups so that I could click links inside emails. That was when the problems started up again after my husband and I had test drove the browser for half an hour with no surprises and thought we had licked it. I maintained that it was one of the malware which had not been eliminated and had used the permission for a popup to piggyback. Or possibly one of the advertisers snuck something in, which wouldn't necessarily b

There were about dozen other programs comprising 37 instances of alarm for the AVG scan plus over 400 Tracking cookies.

The weekend before this past one when my power cord gave up the ghost was a wake-up call to me regarding backing up my laptop files. A wake-up call which I did not respond to before this weekend's fiasco really ratcheted up the alarm. I really really really need to address this issue. I have been searching my heart and head for why I keep putting it off. I don't really have to search that far. It has to do with not wanting to save what I deem as a mess. That was the major reason I had not been saving that post draft regularly during the six or eight hours I was working on it Saturday.

Another issue I have with backing up my Document files is that I don't have a floppy drive, which I was used to with previous computers. Instead I have a flash drive port and a writable CD drive. But flash drives cost so much. And I'm not sure how much blank CDs will hold and I hate that they are not rewritable like floppies used to be so I can't save changes to the files I burn onto them. And they also seem so fragile. They break easily if mishandled. They scratch easily and I've also heard that sunlight can compromise them. Though I am not sure how dependable my source was for that last issue.

Anyway, if this latest scare doesn't override my resistance to backing up regardless of how messy my files are... Really, I need to take this seriously. It is about respect for my work. If this malware war had ended in crashing the hard drive instead of just the browser, I could be moaning now about the loss of a couple hundred thousand words of text, who knows how many megabytes in photos and graphics, hundreds of HTML pages created by me, and pages saved off the web that are indispensible to my research. Not to mention my browser favorites which sometime hold the only 'note' I take of something relevant to a research project..


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Serenity #3

I went looking for a video of a waterfall for this week's Sunday Serenity. I had in mind one in which I could watch the water falling. But in the end, I fell in love with this one, which is essentially a slideshow of still pictures, because it is so well put together and the music is such a perfect accompaniment. The visuals of the landscape are so in harmony with the music of Enya.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

It's Either Laugh Or Cry

I can't decide. The last thirty hours have been a roller coaster ride. I just lost the 2000 and some word draft that told the story when the browser on the PC on which I was composing it was forced to close because it encountered a problem. I'd like to tell it about a problem or two...or ten...or 437. Which was the number of suspicious items found on my laptop by the virus and spyware scanner after it had been hit by a blizzard of popups and pop unders and whole browser windows opening to palces I never asked for, never would ask for and opening faster than I could close them.

I am too weary to tell the story again. Suffice it to say, I am back on the laptop and it is better but there are still hints of trouble. But at least it appears to be allowing me to write this post. I don't dare tempt fate by taking too long at it though. Why do I never think to 'save as draft' when I am working in the blogger platform? I get spoiled by Live Writer which saves drafts every couple of minutes.

One note before I close. My laptop encountered the first offending popup just minutes--five at the most--after I posted the previous post, Adapting To Change. Go read it if you haven't already and see if you can guess what I have been contending with over the last thirty odd hours besides the nitty-gritty details of dealing with a cranky computer.

The time stamp is set to just before midnight so I can get the credit for having posted on Saturday and thus not break a 22 day long streak. It seems only fair. I began the first version of this which had the same title and featured the same video and began with the same sentence well before ten Saturday night Besides it is my blog isn't it?


Friday, April 27, 2007

Adapting To Change

Tonight is the third out of the last four nights that I have moved out to the living room with my laptop as my husband and his mother headed to bed. Change is hard for me as I've mentioned here often before. But I knew there would be benefits to making the move. Fewer interruptions of my work from my husband and cat for one. Better place to sit. Just about anything that is not the bed is a better place to sit. Once I get used to it, I should see more productivity. I mean just the time saved from having to wake up my snoozing legs or shake out a cramp should pay off in dividends don't you think?

One of the benefits of moving out did not occur to me until this afternoon though when it suddenly flashed into my consciousness that there was no reason I had to let the PC sit idle just because I had my laptop. I could keep the PC busy surfing for credit. Sometimes with the autosurf version where you don't have to watch to earn the credit and other times with the ones you have to click a number to prove you are human and watching. The autosurf could run while i was working on a post or some other type of writing on the laptop, or researching online with multiple windows already open in my browser and thus not wanting my laptop busy opening autosurf pages every ten to thirty seconds. And then when I wanted to take a short break from what I am working on I could swing around to the other computer and earn some credits by browsing the blogs in one of the other type.

This project would be good for me in more than one way. As I have mentioned before, I have as much difficulty with self-promotion as I do with change. I don't mean difficulty grasping concepts of methods of promotion. I mean difficulty grasping the concept that self-promotion is a thing to be desired and not despised. This is partly due to the innate shyness I was born with but more substantially due to the fundamentalist Christian principles of the vamily and Church community I was born into. Calling attention to ones self was considered more than bad taste or improper but outright sinful. This was especially true for women and even more so for children.

We were reminded constantly that 'i' was the middle letter--and thus the center-of sIn, prIde, and crIme. Of course most who purported to live by this principle were much better at spotting the I-centered behavior in others than they were in themselves. But that is neither here nor there. Except that it explains why I get so anxious whenever I am confronted with promotional tasks. This includes asking someone to read my work which makes the idea of mailing out manuscripts or query letters nerve wracking. And it also explains why I tended to shy away from doing those things that were essentially designed to call attention to ones blog.

I would ( it is hard even to begin a paragraph with 'I'. Usually I would sit and stew over how to word what I want to say until I could find a way of starting the sentence with a different word. Instead I am adding this parentheses and moving on.)

I would occasionally implement one of those site promotion techniques but even if I managed to work up some enthusiasm at the beginning, I would soon find myself overwhelmed by doubts and feelings of self-disgust. Events like last week's loss of my laptop's power cord were all too easy to interpret as punishments for hubris.

This type of swinging from one pole to the other is not conducive to making a success of any endeavor but especially one where the element of self-promotion is absolutely crucial. Setting aside the issue that writer's can't get an audience without calling attention to their writing....

Without some kind of reaching out there is also no way to take advantage of how well this Internet and computer technology can accommodate my special needs and turn my special talents and skill-set into something marketable and thus allow me to become a contributing member of my family and not just one of the burdens dragging the rest of them down.

Probably the only reason I can occasionally contemplate the necessary promotional tasks is that the dictum to be productive and to pull your own weight was at least as strong as the one against self-promotion. If my husband and I are ever going to get into our own place again, it is going to take more than the single paycheck from a job with seasonal fluctuations in hours.

So taking baby steps once more I am going to practice self-promotion. As I achieve 21 straight days of posting with this post, I will celebrate with the resolve to add the habit of promotion to my daily checklist. One small thing every day. Maybe by the end of another 21 days the harshest edge of the anxiety associated with self-promotion will be blunted. Don't they call that immersion therapy?


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #30

Thirteen Free ebook sources online:

1. Google Books

2. Project Gutenberg

3. Page By Page

4. International Public Library

5. The Professor Sites:
Philosophy Professor
Economics Professor
Politics Professor
Theology Professor
Sociology Professor
Arts Professor

These are all works in process and all but Philosophy Professor are fairly scanty in content at the moment but a look at Philosophy Professor will give you an idea of their potential. They all feature HTML formats of books in the public domain that are classics of the discipline and in conjunction there is a growing glossary of terms as well as biographies of the thinkers in the history of the discipline.

6. Classical Authors Library
these online HTML format books are hyperlinked throughout to terms in the Encyclopedia of the Self which is part of a course based on Abraham H. Maslow's theory of human motivation at Mark Zimmerman's Emotional Literacy Course

7. Read Print

8. World Public Library Association

9. Online Books Page

10. The Literature Network


Bartleby's features basic reference shelves, including dictionaries, thesaurus, quotations etc. But two of the most exciting things fetured here are a searchable Complete Works of Shakespeare and the entire 70 volume Harvard Classics shelf. One of the most exciting things I found here was the abridged version of Frazer's Golden Bough, an in depth look at world myths with a focus on common symbols and motifs.

12. Bibliomania

13. eBooks at Adelaide

Previously featured on Joystory:
Baen Free Library This is the only site featuring contemporary author's and their works online which I have found so far and I wish more publisher's would get on board with this philosophy. Be sure to read Eric Flint's essay about why Baen believes there is nothing contradictory about free access to books and making a profit.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

1. Stone Girl 2. Susan Helene Gottfried 3. Tink 4. Daria Black 5. Rhian / Crowwoman

(leave your link in comments, I'll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Word Widdershins

My head is spinning with words tonight after spending more time than I care to admit to playing a word game my sister introduced me to about 3Am this morning. I was intending to use my session last night to finish getting my TT prepared so that I could post it early for a change. My sister sent me the link to Word Jong at Real Arcade in an IM. She knows I love word games and she knows I love mahjong tile games. This combines the two concepts. I know better than to start playing a word game or a solitaire game when I have urgent tasks to attend to. But the temptation was just too great. I thought it wouldn't hurt to play for an hour. Ha! next thing I knew it was five minutes to five and time to get my laptop workstation packed up to move back to the bedroom. Time to make the coffee for my husband and wake him up.

Once I got settled in the bedroom again, I kept on playing. And kept on playing. And kept on playing. I noticed the room go from dark to dim to bright. My husband came in for his shower supplies at seven. I was still playing. He came back to get dressed. I played on. He left and I played on....and on....and on. I knew I needed to quit but I kept on playing. The last time I let this happen to me was shortly after we got WIFI and I discovered the game Bookworm and got lost in it for most of the next twenty hours with a short nap for a break. Nothing like being able to leave a game that is dependent on being online on indefinitely. Addictive game plus no time limits. Not a good combination for someone with the difficulty in switching gears that I have. I was so afraid of it happening again, I haven't been back to Bookworm since.

Word Jong has two things in common with Bookworm that make it especially conducive to the addition predilection. There are no natural breaks and no time limits. Which means there were no natural boundries. In Bookworm, there was no time limit governing the input of a word and as long as you kept the burning tiles from reaching the bottom you stayed alive. Burning tiles were introduced at the top whenever you made words under five letters long. With Word Jong there was a natural end to a board but clicking the OK on the scoreboard started a new board. Once that new board is in front of my eyes I'm seeing words and I have to make them.

Meanwhile I still don't have my TT put together. I got lost in the research for it for most of the last two weeks. I was intending to have it ready for last Thursday and it was preempted by the loss of my browser bookmarks when my laptop power cord gave up the ghost last Wednesday night right abou this time. The theme of the TT was to be free ebooks online. It isn't that I don't have 13 links. No there are probably three or four times that many but I haven't kept them organized according to most useful and I had hoped to write brief (as in 25-50 words) reviews of each one I listed. I may have to just do a simple linked list and let it go at that. Even so, I'm not sure I can get it posted before I have to sleep. I got only about two hours, if that, this afternoon.

Meanwhile, due to the obsession with hunting for reading resources online over the past two weeks and then that silly word game last night--I have fallen way behind in my effort to match my husband's record for reading all 13 of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events in a single week. I started the first one last Thursday evening. I should be starting book twelve by now but instead have just started book seven after dinner this evening while my husband was using the laptop.

After he gave up the laptop and started getting ready for bed, that was my cue to pack up and leave the room. But because, I am so sleep deprived and feel like I'm going to just zonk out over the keyboard at any second, I thought it wasn't worth it to move out there, that it would be better for me to just sleep now and get up in the morning with my husband and work on TT while doing laundry like I did last week when I was forced to use the PC for it.

So I was about to settle down with Book Seven: A Vile Village to read until sleep overtook me when I remembered that I hadn't done a post for Wednesday yet. I have an unbroken streak of posting every day that is closing in on three straight weeks. 21 days is a benchmark for habit setting. 21-28 days is how long it takes to create a new habit or replace a bad habit with a healthy one. I couldn't let posting slide. But after having been reading for three straight hours it was as difficult to put the book down as it was to stop playing the game.

For TTers looking for my TT: watch for it noonish tomorrow. I have to sleep.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rambling Prose

I don't have anything prepared for today's post so I'm just going to ramble on about what's on my mind for a few minutes and then click publish. If that sounds as boring to you as it does to me, you can scroll down to yesterday's post, which I am quite proud of, which I put a lot of work into yesterday and which seemed to garner hardly a blip of interest. I knew I should have saved the concept for Thursday Thirteen but I didn't want to be constrained by the list format.

Meanwhile, I am discombobulated tonight because I am working in a different environment and I heartily dislike change. For most of the winter, I have remained in the bedroom for my late night (and often all night) work sessions because the temps in the front room would often dip below 50 and be uncomfortable well before then. This past winter was the first time I had that option because of the conjunction of the laptop which I got in the fall of 2005 and the WIFI which we got last fall.

Last Wednesday I lost use of my laptop for three days after my power cord gave up the ghost. I had to come out to the PC in the front room for those three nights. I discovered that the temperatures at night were no longer an issue. It was now only habit keeping me in the bedroom. And disarray. Back when I was moving out each evening, I had the materials I brought out with me regularly fairly well organized. I could pack and unpack them in just a few minutes. Even so the daily commute would take me over ten minutes each way. Plus the time it took to get settled again in body, mind and spirit.

Well last week my husband discovered the he slept soooo much better with me out of the room and I averred that I got more done than I expected to in spite of the clunky keyboard the unfamiliar desktop and browser features and my inaccessible files. This was partly due to not being interrupted frequently by his restless stirring in the bed which jostled the screen as I tried to read it, jostled my elbow as I tried to type or use the touchpad and his multiple requests each night for a snack, a refill of his water bottle or a request for a time check. Often his time check would be to reach up and move my head so he could see past it to the clock. I can't tell you how irritating that was. I admitted that I was already thinking about making a habit of moving out to the front room for my sessions and was just trying to work out what it would take to get organized.

I had to list the things that needed to go with me. The musts. The shoulds. The wants. The maybes. I had to think of the portability issue. How many trips back and forth were reasonable? How to insure that returning before 5AM could be done with the least amount of disturbance for him in the rare case that I would want to. So tonight I spent the two hours between finishing with the dishes and the moment my mother-in-law shut the hall door on her way back to her room gathering together the things I wanted for tonight's session. Among those things were the adapter plug that turns a three-prong plug into a two-prong plug because the only place to plug the laptop in out here which does not entail stringing the cord across a major pathway is a two-prong extension cord next to the PC. I hadn't needed it for months and had lost track of it.

I also needed to get the new power cord ready by making sure it was free of all entanglements. I needed certain notes and note-taking paraphernalia; certain books, including my Rodale Synonym Finder. which is my constant companion though I use it much less than I used to, I would be sure to find I needed it the first time I left it behind. I needed my reading glasses, my magnifying glass (Oops, I think I forgot that and I can't read the Rodale's without it. Especially in poor light like this.... Well that was convenient. Just as that issue came up, my husband came out to fill his water bottle and make peanut butter sandwiches. So much for the theory that his restlessness was entirely due to the disturbances related to my working--jostling bed, clicking keyboard, light from my reading lamp etc. Maybe he misses me?)

Don't get me wrong here. I don't mean to sound like I am complaining. After last week's scare re the power cord, I am grateful beyond words that the issue exercising me tonight is this minor. As I have made clear here before both explicitly and implicitly, I have major issues with change. I have great difficulty readjusting to new conditions. I have even more difficulty unfocusing my attention and then refocusing it. This is exacerbated by changes in environment that entail changes in behavior. Even such a minor thing as having to reach for the magnifying glass with my right hand instead of my left is enough to disrupt my train of thought and once disrupted it is a crap shoot whether I will ever get back to what I was thinking about or working on.

My sister sees evidence of the ADD that she and her son were diagnosed with several years ago. I've done some reading about it and I see why she thinks that, but if I were ever to be screened for that, I would want it to be by technologies that scan brain activity and not just by a questionnaire. And my several nasty experiences with depression and anxiety meds makes me very wary of chemical solutions, especially in isolation.

And by isolation, I mean in the absence of close supervision by a doctor who specializes in the effects of brain altering substances and their interactions. A fifteen minute office call every four to six weeks is not sufficient. I also mean, in the absence of cognitive therapy counseling and the application of environmental and behavioral changes that are proven to ameliorate the most aggravating of the overt behavioral symptoms, taking advantage of the sensitive feed-back loop nature of the mind.

I have some fairly strong opinions about these issues. Some of which are based on personal experience and observation and others on the research. But enough said for now.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Water Babies Swim in My Dreams

I haven't just been surfing the web this week. I have been deep-diving for pearls. Pears otherwise known as free electronic format books to either read online or download. It began as part of my project to find substitutes for at least some of the resources I lost when our libraries closed earlier this month. Then the search itself became fascinating in its own right. I will be sharing some of my finds either in posts or in my sidebar.

I'm going to begin with a book that I stumbled upon which sent me into a nostalgia daze. That is The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. I have vivid memories of this book from childhood. It wasn't mine but a cousin's and I remember not only being in awe of the story and its illustrations but in awe of the privilege of borrowing such a treasure from an older cousin whom I adored.

I remembered the story of a little boy covered in soot because he worked cleaning out rich peoples chimneys all day for a boss who was a bully. Then one day he fell in a river and became a water baby--naked, having "nothing on but himself" and about the size of an adult's hand He proceeded to have adventures with talking animals and fairy godmothers and a very special little friend.

I stumbled on these ebook editions first at Project Gutenberg. There is a choice between HTML and plain text downloads. I was thrilled and a tad sad at the same time. It just wasn't the same without those dreamy illustrations I remembered. I immediately thought of the Google full view books I had discovered several weeks ago in my search for online reading when I was preparing that TT about substitutions for library resources. I knew that Google Books was in the process of providing both online reading and PDF downloads of a great deal of public domain literature. So I headed over there and soon found this version, which said it was illustrated. I was quite pleased with this one once it was open, but not completely charmed as the illustrations were not one bit familiar to me and I was just yearning to gaze on those ones once more.

So I did a Google search for The Water Babies and somewhere on the first page or two of it, there was this link to some pages on the Library of Congress site, purporting to celebrate an exhibition of the twelve "lavish drawings Jessie Willcox Smith produced as color plates for The Water-Babies in 1916." That sounded very promising so I headed on over there and as soon as I was on the first page, I knew I was in the right place. The pages had been created to promote a 1999 exhibition of the original drawings at the Swan Gallery. Moments later I had found this page, displaying all twelve of the drawings in JPG format. I checked carefully for any warning that they were copyrighted in anyway or forbidden for download and found this page clarifying the law and etiquette of use of the pictures found on the LOC site. So I think I am safe to post a couple here.

This is the one I remember the clearest:

I just couldn't get over how tickled I was to be gazing upon them once again. Ah, the power of nostalgia. But it is more. It is the power of nostalgia coupled with the power of story and imagination. It is the memory of the way a book like this could take me out of this world. I am a bit afraid that the cloying, Victorian morality ambience of this story is going to rub the adult me a bit wrong but I have determined not to let that stop me from enjoying emersing myself in the water baby world again.

As I look at these pictures I am left wondering just how much influence this book and these illustrations had on the strong baby motif infiltrating my dreams from those early days. I cannot remember a time when I was not remembering vivid dreams nearly every night of my life. One of the strongest themes running in my dreams was that of infants and baby dolls. They can range in size from as small as my thumb to as big as a large watermelon. But the two most common sizes are that of a typical newborn and that of my hand. Oddly enough these are the sizes of my two most favorite dolls in childhood. I had the newborn sized doll from about age three so it is hard to know whether the doll or the dreams came first. But I know that I had been having the dreams for years before I ever got my Cheerful Tearful doll in the late sixties.

Babies about that size, swimming in water, speaking with import if not wisdom, needing rescue, offering comfort, have proliferated in my dreams for decades. I don't know which came first--the dreams of babies or my fascination with them. But my mom tells me that I exhibited an extremely strong fascination with my newborn baby brother at 22 months, pulling him off the couch onto his head in an attempt to kiss him and another time nearly tipping the buggy over by pulling down on the handle until I could get a good view of him inside. I know I was still in a crib when I began having dreams of babies and living baby dolls but I suspect I was already sharing my nursery with my baby brother.

For a bonus: In my explorations of Jessica Wilcox Smith's work, I ran across these pages offering prints and posters for sale. Here. Here. And here. From them I discovered that I had seen Ms. Smith's illustrations in many more of my favorite childhood books. Many of you may recognize some of them yourselves.

This could have been me except that this 1920 Good Housekeeping cover was published about forty years before I was old enough to hold a book that size by myself.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Serenity #2

Was feeling a bit lazy today and didn't want to post but also didn't want to break my streak of daily posts now fifteen days long. Then I remembered that last Sunday I posted that cool music video of The Thousand-Hand Guan Yin and titled my post Sunday Serenity. I remembered thinking at the time that would make a cool meme. I am not sure how to go about creating a meme community but I like the idea of doing something with the serenity theme every Sunday even if I am the only one doing it.

After the week I just had, what could be better than the famous Serenity Prayer. You can learn the history of the prayer and its different versions at Wikipedia.

I created the graphic myself with Draw which is a free and open source graphic program and part of a suite that includes a word processor that can create PDF and HTML files, database, spreadsheet, slide presenter and more. The capabilities equal if not excel Microsoft Office. Be sure and check them out if you are in need of a comprehensive office suite of applications but don't have hundreds of dollars to invest.

Feel free to use the graphic for any non-commercial purpose.

Fiddling with my suite in an unhurried, relaxed and playful manner was one of the ways I chose to court serenity on this Sunday. I also played Bejeweled 2 and Text Twist online, read another volume in A Series of Unfortunate Events, IMed with my sister, daydreamed and took a nap.

My concept for Sunday Serenity is to post something on the theme each Sunday. It might be a video, music video or audio, a picture, a poem, a personal essay, a short story, or even some combination of two or more. Anyone who is interested in playing along, post something that evokes serenity for you and leave a link to your post in comments and I will come visit you.

I will try not to wait until Sunday is almost over next week. lol


Saturday, April 21, 2007


Am back on my laptop. My husband had it powered up again by noon. I didn't claim it again until after four though. Between the need for more sleep and wanting to reward him for his efforts with a few hours of its use, I rolled back over and went back to sleep after witnessing the power light on the front light back up again.

I am so grateful to be back on the familiar territory of my keyboard and files and desktop preferences. The PC was once familiar territory and I could have once again gotten used to the clunky, oversized keyboard. I could have moved all my files, including my browser bookmarks and reconfigured my old personal desktop on the PC to accommodate my visual impairment with larger fonts and higher contrasting colors than the family uses on its desktop. I could have and I was prepared to if it had become necessary.

I had talked myself out of the initial urge to roll over and play dead for the seeming inexorable series of misfortunes--loosing my fur baby, Gremlin, companion of fourteen years; loss of access to the library; my husband's grandmother's fast failing health; severe money stresses; a number of health issues, including vision, which have taken slides recently; breaking the ear piece off my reading glasses and damaging their lenses somehow which permanently fogged them--I could go on. Suffice it to say that it has been a daily struggle to stay committed to the vision I have for my writing and the web presence intended to give it an audience. The loss of the power cord Wednesday night was especially frustrating as at first it seemed insurmountable. My first reaction had been panic followed by temptation to despair. But I managed to resist the the lure of despair, a once too familiar companion.

I had developed contingency plans and begun to envision adapting to the new situation. It was heartening to discover that the habits of commitment to my writing which I had been developing since January 2004 had taken strong enough root to resist the old tendency to fold at the first sign of adversity.


The Perfect Story For Imperfect Moments

I'm past half done with the forth book in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I am thoroughly enjoying them. Which must sound like a strange thing to say of a series of books that tout themselves as depressing and sad and miserable. And yes one depressing, sad, miserable thing after another happens to the three protagonist orphans and you are forewarned repeatedly that things are never going to reach the 'happy ever after' place. And yet, the story is uplifting. And I am mystified.

As a storyteller who likes to figure out why stories that work work, I am curiously playing with explanations for this all the while I keep on reading. You would think that I would have been better off choosing a more pleasant story to occupy myself with during these days I am feeling rather picked on by events in my own life. But, oddly, I rather doubt that would have helped. I even doubt a pleasant story could have captured and kept my attention. Maybe it has something to do with helping to put things in perspective. Just a thought.

Should it be embarrassing to admit to being enthralled by a story written for grade-school children when one is old enough to have grand-children old enough to read them? I think not. These stories are living proof that stories can be told for children and still have enough depth, complexity, and substance to not only capture an adults attention but keep it occupied long past the moment the last page is turned.

I love the way this author does not talk down to kids. I love the way the kids are so self-reliant, inquisitive, persistent, brave, brainy, kind.... all in spite of terrible hardship and little to no support from the adults in their lives who run from the extreme nastiness of Count Olaf the evil plotter of their doom to the incompetent, the selfish, the clueless, the distracted, the helpless.... One of the most frequently recurring unfortunate things that happen to the three siblings is the refusal of adults in their lives to listen to them, take them seriously as people, to believe them, to advocate for them... and that goes doubly for those who think they have the children's best interest at heart. All of the well-intentioned adults are sticklers for rules and manners and etiquette while seeming unable to see the actual life-threatening dangers right in front of them.

Another thing I love about these books is the vocabulary. The author inserts big words into the story and includes their definitions. Sometimes it is the narrator himself--Lemony Snicket. But just as often it is the character who uses the word and then patronizingly defines it for the children, in the case of an adult, or Klaus the middle child who is a widely read twelve year old and can define most words his sister's don't know and many the adults don't know and gets extremely irritated when the adults define words he knows quite well thank you. One might think this tactic would be intrusive and become irritating after a few uses but it continues to entertain me and I love that there is someone out there writing for children 9 and up who thinks they have a perfect right to know such words and does not doubt their ability to learn them.

I think one reason these stories are having such a positive impact on me this week is that they are speaking to my sense of their being a great bias of injustice and unfairness in life but that there remains our duty to persevere.


Friday, April 20, 2007

I'm trying to remember the last time I spent 24 hours without lifting the lid of my laptop. Can't.

Don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Guess it depends on the criteria for judging. At any rate, I was able to follow through on my plan to make the best of the situation. I choose to set my panic on a back burner until Friday evening at least. I should know by then if the hiatus is going to be hours or weeks longer.

Meanwhile, I did get four loads of laundry done and put away Thursday. I lost track of how many TTers I visited. I started and finished The Bad Beginning, Volume 1 of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Then started The Reptile Room and am more than 3/4 done with it as well. Both are re-reads, as I mentioned in my TT 29 below. But I am out to see how fast I can read the entire series. I had finished Volume 3 The Wide Window last September shortly before we got the WIFI. It was about then that my intense affair with the laptop and nearly unlimited web access really took off. By the time I came up for air towards the middle of October it was time to get serious about my NaNoWriMo project so I set aside the Lemony Snicket series, intending to reward myself with them after NaNoWriMo. I was really looking forward to spending most of December bingeing on fiction. My niece was excited about the prospect and was loading me down with books she wanted to share with me.

Then early in December I got the news about the upcoming library closure. Well the rest of that story can be followed via my posts since then. Any regular reader will know I was fairly obsessed about the looming library closure from that point til the day the doors were locked April 6th. The days since then have been about groping toward balance again, as I've posted several times. Not that I don't continue to pine for the library. But was starting to refocus. And now this, with the power cord giving up the ghost. It is hard not to see it as some kind of cosmic joke. Hey I'm not laughting.

Maybe someday I will.

I think I am rambling. Think it is time to go to bed. It is hard to let go of the computer knowing it will be 9pm before I can be back on it. But I have had little sleep in the last twenty-four hours and am going to have to give over the computer to my husband in about fifteen minutes anyway and if I don't get to sleep before six, I tend to get a second wind that will take me past noon even if I have been awake for over twenty-four hours. If I let that happen, I would essentially be giving up tomorrow night's session on the PC in my in-laws front room. It is all coming back to me. This was my life between January 2002 and September 2005.

(my apologies to TTers who left comments and who I have not visited yet or put your links on the front page. I will make that my first priority with tonight's session)


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #29

Thirteen Things about my current situation

1. The power cord/AC adaptor for my laptop quit on me last night just as I was getting started on my TT.

2. It was down to less than an hour of battery power before I quit trying to get it to work again by trying useless things like unplugging and replugging the various connections and jiggling the cord at the various connection points.

3. I powered off then by holding the power button down for twelve seconds not wanting to use any more battery power for the five minute logging off procedure.

4. Sitting there in front of the black screen, I really started to panic. Pieces of every project that matters to me are trapped in there. I feel like I have been climbing a mountain for six years and every time I get near the top something kicks me back down. For awhile last night I let myself wallow in that feeling. I wanted to curl up and cry out to whatever to just keep on kicking me if that makes you happy. All the fundamentalist teaching from my childhood roared back in like a tornado with the voice of that avenging God telling me to sit down and shut up, if you were doing My Will your efforts would be blessed, how many times do I have to say NO before you return to the fold and bow your puny will to ME.

5. I decided that this mood was more the result of extreme fatigue coupled with the emotional roller-coaster I've been on this week while watching the media coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre. And the Iraq war. And.... So I turned out the light and lay down to try to sleep. It took me over an hour to get back to sleep. I say back because I had taken a nap after dinner and had just woken up at ten-thirty.

6. I used that time laying in the dark to make contingency plans. And wallow in a bit of regret. Regrets included having spent so much time this past week researching sources of free ebooks online. That was going to be my TT. But the links are all trapped in my fav folders on the laptop. And if I am going to be without the laptop for very long, I won't be able to read ebooks on it will I?

7. Regrets also included having spent so much time over the last four months devoted to library materials as the day of our library closure approached. If I had know that my laptop was going to be available to me for only ten days longer than the library resources, I think I would have set different priorities.

8. Contingencies included buying a replacement power cord but I had no idea how much it would cost and thus no idea how likely it would be possible any time soon. (my husband researched it online this morning and it is going to cost about $60. We can't afford it. Yet we can't afford not to either. Definitely not before payday tomorrow and that really means Saturday. And it might take a few weeks to save for it. I tell you though that my very gaze could light my husband's cigarettes for him between now and acquiring a new power cord!!!)

9. Contingencies for a longer wait than a few days include using the last forty or fifty minutes of battery power to transfer all my relevant files, including URLs, emails, photos, graphics, text and HTML files, onto a CD-ROM so I can use them on my in-laws PC. Hundreds of files! And in some case I would need to download the applications involved onto the PC as well. Being confined to the PC again means being confined to the night-shift again. Or 9pm to 5am when I need to turn it over to my husband until he needs to leave for work. On the mornings he and his mom both work, I can get back on about 7 until noonish but shouldn't make too much of a habit of it. This was the schedule I was on between 2002 and late 2005. It was workable but very frustrating to be without access to my projects between whatever time I woke up and 9 or 10pm.

10. Contingencies also included using some of that time while denied access to the laptop to address some of those issues of serious neglect which I listed in a TT last month. You can find it by clicking on the label 'balance' if I don't manage to link to it here. I have started this morning by addressing the dire state of our laundry. Second of six loads has finished in the washer and awaits the dryer finishing with the first. That isn't counting the bedding which is another two or three loads but was recently done and can wait. Finding time to use the laundry facilities when it isn't going to interfere with my MIL use or some one's shower or my MIL sleep has been an issue. Being a night owl I still gravitate to the night shift for my computer and Internet projects so I tend to use the time my MIL is at work to sleep. Which is why I tend to get so behind with it.

11. I will also be tackling cleaning chores in our room in the next few days. I had already begun to address the clutter by tackling little projects that I could do while watching TV or in five to fifteen minutes. I was making progress in small increments.

12. I will also be picking up books again. I haven't picked up any fiction since I returned the last library book. I have been holding out as a reward for getting certain important tasks done. My priority since the library closure on April 6th had been to develop the habit of posting every day, research for resources to substitute for the library, sleep and self-care. This post will make thirteen consecutive days. I think that deserves a reward. I plan to pick up the Lemony Snicket novels my niece loaned me this afternoon. I read the first three last fall but I think I will start over. My husband read all thirteen inside of one week and I want to see if I can match or beat that. Yeah, silly little competition.

13. Other things I can do when neither the PC or laptop is available: Taking photos with my new digital camera, needlework, walks, listen to music, meditate, pray, daydream.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

1. L^2 2.christina 3. Susan Helene Gottfried 4. FRIGGA 5. Di 6. Laughing Muse 7. The Rock Chick 8. amy 9. Mensch71 10. Jamie 11. Tink 12.Kathy

(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mencken: Politics Promotes the Devious and Mediocre

H. L. Mencken on how political campaigns for national office tends to filter out the good and competent:

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small
electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Baltimore Evening Sun
July 26, 1920

Mencken would have taken to the blogosphere like fleas to fur.. He could do snark with the snarkiest.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Baen Books Free Online Library

Baen Books has been putting up free ebooks of a selection of titles from their catalog for the last several years. The philosophy underpinning their motivation is ably explained by Eric Flint, one of their authors and the one who proposed the idea and who then received the scepter of First Librarian for his trouble. Flint's contention is that the usual result of free access to a writer's work, whether by lending between friends, promotional copies or libraries, is always more demand for the product--in this case, the writer's stories. Please go read his essay. It is impassioned and well reasoned and says exactly what I've been thinking but unable to articulate so well. This theory applies to other intellectual property as well.

I found the Baen Free Library in the course of exploring the online resources with potential to substitute for loss of library access during our current crisis here in Southern Oregon. It is one of the few places providing free electronic formatted publications whose copyrights have not reverted to the public domain. In other words whose publication originated after 1923.

I was especially excited at the discovery because so many of the Baen authors are on my husband's fav list and I was pleased to be able to email him the link in the middle of the night so it would greet him over his morning coffee after I was asleep. I didn't bother to bookmark it myself because I had, over the last three days, collected so many fiction titles available for free, I knew I was set for months if not a year or two. I mean think of it: all the titles of Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Henry James, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Proust, James Joyce, the three Bronte sisters, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Louisa May Alcott....

I was unprepared for one aspect of my husband's enthusiasm: his hope that he would finally be able to convince me to try one of these author's he has grown to love over the last couple of decades. Then when I was grousing this evening that I needed to come up with something to write my post about today or I was going to break my streak of daily posts now ten days long, he suggested I write about the Baen Free Library. I had to go into my email account to get the link out of the email I had sent him. I was a bit desultory about it at first. Until I came across Flint's essay. By the time I had finished reading it, I knew I would be posting about it.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Phoenix Feather #3: Electronic Frontier Foundation

This post accomplishes two things I've been meaning to do for a long time:
1. Plug the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the great work they are doing in monitoring Government and Corporate infringement of the people's rights and freedoms in the digital arenas.

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming
our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990 — well before the Internet was on most people's radar — and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has
championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital

Free speech and privacy are two issues I've a strong affinity for. Which is why I have added EFF's blue ribbon to my sidebar. I am especially impressed with the work they have done to protect the rights of bloggers. The blogosphere would be a much different place, if it existed at all, without their foresight, dedication and courage. Check out the work they have done on behalf of bloggers, read the litany of blogger rights they have helped establish and protect and if you haven't already, pick up a blue ribbon for your own sidebar.

2. The second thing this post accomplishes is to revive my Phoenix Feathers Project which I'd hoped, when I began it two years ago, to make a regular feature of Joystory. You will find in the sidebar a link list titled Phoenix Feathers. There are now three links where there have only been two for a very long time. I hope there will soon be many more. I have been collecting them all along but have not gotten around to writing the posts and adding the links.

One of the things hindering me was intimidation with working with the HTML in the side bar after one of my early attempts had resulted in making a mess of it. But I rectified that over the weekend by switching my new blogger platform over to the layout option and getting comfortable with using its features.

The Phoenix Feather list is meant to feature links to organizations which are doing work that support progressive visions for communities from the local to the global and champion the interests of the vulnerable against the oppressor. This definition leaves room for the fact that sometimes the 'vulnerable' one is the community while the 'oppressor' could be a sociopathic, egomaniacal or a just simply selfish individual. Which fits with my conviction that the needs and rights of the one and of the many must be like finely tuned musical instruments in order for the individual notes to contribute to harmonious melodies and the melodies to an exquisite symphony that in turn inspires its members to remember that they are a part of something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

A phoenix feather is a symbol of hope and courage and resurrection from the ashes of the refining fire.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday Serenity

This is simply ineffable. Words fail. And you know me and words.

The Thousand-Hand Guan Yin

Hat Tip: Lexicon Indigo


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Imagini Me

I've been spotting this widget all over the blogosphere in the last several months. I thought it was a slide show of people's own pics at first but eventually noticed that the same pics were showing up in different people's slide shows. I kept promising myself that as soon as the library closure was behind me, I would see what it was all about.

Turns out it is a personality test of a sort. And it sure seems to have my number.

Your results are also compared to the results of other participants so you can see how your choices in each question compares to the choices of others. In terms of the percentage of others selecting the same pic for the prompt.

Out of thirteen questions only three of my picks ranked in double digits and eight of the remaining ten were in the fifth position and I suspect in a few cases, when my choice was at 4% or 2%, that there must have been one or two pics besides the other four shown that were selected more often than mine.

Well I always knew I was different, eccentric, unique, weird; that I never fit in. Teachers, classmates, parents, siblings, friends, preachers, cousins etc. spent the first thirty years of my life pointing this out to me and I spent those same years either helplessly shamed or struggling for at least the appearance of conformity.

The best thing that ever happened to me was to discover that conformity was not the holy grail nor was 'fitting in' the same thing as belonging.

I finally got it that I belong right here--smack dab in the middle of my very own story


Friday, April 13, 2007

Attention Jackson County Oregon

Attention Jackson County Oregon

Save Our Libraries

Yes on 15-75

The caption under the picture is a link to the local PAC set up to promote the levy measure on the May ballot for funding Jackson County Oregon's 15 branch library system for another three years.

Ballots will be mailed on April 28 and must be turned in by 8PM May 15. (Note: if mailing your ballot, be sure to mail in plenty of time. For those who have been used to dropping your ballots into the locked ballot boxes at your local library branch in past elections, here is the list of official drop sites established for this election.)

Final day new voter registration will be accepted for this election is April 24.

Here is a PDF of the voter pamplet.

Please Jackson County, Save our library system!

You can bet I'm going to have more to say about this over the next month.

So this evening marks one full week since the library doors were locked. I can still barely believe it. Meanwhile I am tending to the promise I made to myself the day I posted this Thursday Thirteen regarding the things in my life I have neglected in the four months between learning of the impending closure and the day the doors were locked. I am groping my way toward balance. Sleep and writing are the two things that have gotten the most attention this past week. With this post I congratulate myself for having posted every day for a week.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #28

Thirteen Things I Will Not Miss About the Weekly Walk to the Library

1. These steps both coming and going. You can see they were measured by their builder with a ruler borrowed from Alice in Wonderland between her sips from the 'Drink me' bottles. Dragging a wheeled bag up or down them is an adventure in Wonderland. It's a wonder I still have an intact face.

2. This speed bump at the bottom of the hill at the entrance to the trailer park often catches me unawares. To my undoing. The hill itself is a daunting climb in the aftermath of a virus. Which occurred at least six times this winter.

3. At the top of the hill, turning onto Fern Valley Road, the two lane track that siphons traffic between I5 and Highway 99, I must squeeze myself and rolling book bag between a power pole and a chain link fence.

4. this is the stretch of Fern Valley Road looking back at the same power pole. As you can see there is no sidewalk. Mud and gravel is always clogging my book bag's wheels. Traffic is often bumper to bumper through here and on rainy days the unpaved area is usually a big mud puddle.

5. Still on Fern Valley Road, approaching the gas station on the corner. When the refueling truck is there it's back bumper is flush against the white line, forcing me to wait for a lull in traffic so I can get around it. The fumes leave me disoriented and dizzy if not outright gagging.

6. At the far side of the gas station after traversing the length of its lot whose edge is essentially one wide driveway bordering on Fern Valley Road which cars can enter or exit at any angle or speed that suits them. Now I must lift my rolling book bag over this curb and over the expanse of gravel to reach the wheelchair accessible ramp that surely can't be accessed by a wheelchair bound person coming from anywhere but the crosswalks themselves. Go figure. It is at this intersection that I am often forced to contend with a car stopped for the light with its bumper half into the crosswalk. I kept hoping it would happen on one of the three trips I took with the camera in the last two weeks so that I could get a picture of one and then make a dramatic point of taking another pic of its license plate. Beats giving their paint job the white cane treatment.

7. This is the corner cat-a-corner from the gas station after I've crossed both Hwy 99 and the shopping center driveway. Here I have just had to maneuver myself with bag and cane past this sign which has been placed across three quarters of the sidewalk, leaving maybe two feet between it and the curb. I've caught my cane on the struts or that brick weighting it down more than a few times, which jars my wrist and occasionally yanks it out of my hand. Again, wheelchair accessible ramps which hardly look accessible. Makes you want to find the persons with the bright idea and ask: What were you thinking?

8. I turned on a dime after taking the last pic to get this one. Now I'm headed down Hwy 99. This stretch is also know as the Main Street of Phoenix. This is one of the worst obstacle courses of the entire route and it's never the same twice. I will never understand why, with every other slot empty, someone insists on using the slot directly in front of the power pole and then hanging their bumper over the sidewalk. After getting past this, I must pass the bus stop. Though empty when this pic was taken, there can be a crowd there, along with their bikes, scooters and strollers. On the far side of the shelter is a trashcan which is never quite in exactly the same spot. A major nemesis for the visually impaired.

9. Two blocks beyond that bus stop is this street. On rainy days it is an archipelago of puddles, the largest in the gutter on this side is often several inches up the wheelchair ramp. There is a power pole just to my left which narrows the path. There is no signal. I keep forgetting that I need to stop and look behind me to check for any vehicles signaling a right-hand turn. A turn they can make without coming to a complete stop. That power pole can block our view of each other. I can't tell you how many times I've stepped off that curb only to feel the breeze made by a turning car directly in front or behind me. I wonder if any of them were as startled as I was. If they even saw me.

10. Directly across that street is this power pole sprouting, as they all do, from the middle of the sidewalk. This one is extra large and blocks the view of the sidewalk beyond. You never know what could be coming around it or from which side--bikes, scooters, wheelchairs, strollers, shopping carts, a clump of high-school kids under a haze of funky smoke. Directly on the other side is a large green metal box. To the right, that white curved shape you see is the edge of a propane tank. Beyond it is a driveway leading from the post office about half a block to the right, which is often used by delivery vans and patrons of the post office or that little shop visible there.

11. This is a couple of blocks further on but looking back the way I just came. This is one of three sets of these benches in a two block stretch. They are not bus stops. I guess they are intended as a place to rest. I never see anyone sitting on them. I don't wonder, what with the noise and fumes of the traffic whizzing by just a foot or two away. I have sat on them a few times when I was hard up for a rest but it is far from relaxing. They are an especially insidious obstacle, being of a color that blends with the cement and a height to sock me good in the gut if I walk into them full speed ahead. The loss of my peripheral vision is much worse on the bottom than the top or either side.

12. My white cane was made to fold up. But the elastic cord strung through its hollow sections has long since died, forcing me to tape the sections together. Which makes getting in and out of vehicles interesting unless I untape the middle section so I can fold it in half. Which weakens the tape. Which leads to this annoying tendency to come apart and go limp as a wet noodle on me at the worst possible moment. Like in the middle of a crosswalk? Or when testing the distance of pole or curb? It takes two hands to put it back together. But my other hand is almost always pulling a bag. In Snoopy's immortal words: Arrrgghh!!

13. And finally we reach the destination itself. You might be surprised to see the library pictured in a list of things I won't miss. Well, it is not the library per se. It is this old, musty building which has been our temporary quarters for the last ten months. The odor of mold is nasty strong on warm days. I tend to spend several days with a sore throat and sinus headache after exposure to it.

Does the fact that I was willing to put up with all this and more nearly once a week for nearly six years give you an idea of how important having library access is to me?

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

1. amy 2. PresentStorm 3. Susan Helene Gottfried 4. Nancy J. Bond 5. Raggedy 6. Donna 7. L^2 8. Gattina 9. Jamie 10. Mercy's Maid 11. Daria

(leave your link in comments, I'll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dancing With a Morning Breeze

This is my contribution to the April Write Stuff Creative Carnival. The prompt was luck.

Some Thursday Thirteen participants may recognize the characters from my Fruits of the Spirit storyworld which I featured in TT #13. The following was a scene extracted from Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes. a story some 16,000 words long. I can't really call it an excerpt as I completely rewrote a 2000 word section in order to bring it in under the 1000 word limit, to excise stuff that made no sense without previous or future scenes, to add clarification when excising would do violence to this story and to emphasise the theme. I hope that what is left can stand alone, even if only like a brick of Swiss Cheese.

At the very least, it was an interesting exercise.


Dancing With a Morning Breeze
by Joy Renee

Faye paces under the jaundiced glow of the sodium vapor lamp. Wilma and Julia cast nervous glances her way from the bus stop bench, but neither ventures to reprove her. The three have waited in tense silence since calling the police. Faye goes to the gate to peer up the driveway that slithered into the cavernous dark, gravid with threats to small girls and from there to the road to peer into the black maw of the highway as though her anxious peering into the night might materialize Briana out of the fulvous shadows.

She clutched the foamy body of Dollbaby to her breast, breathing incoherent words that seemed to be both prayer and incantation. “Let her be alive. Let her be safe.” Her eyes groped among undulating shadows for the form of a small child agile with joy, swinging on the gate, dancing with the morning breeze.

The lights came like sudden ice freezing Faye in place to stare at the coils of light drawn on the dark, at the vaguely ambulance shaped nimbus, with time to think, Not the police, before it spawned a light bedizened apparition that came to her limbs all akimbo screeching, “My baby. My baby.”

Faye stood in feeble-fingered confusion as two arms snake out, encircle Dollbaby and pry her from her grasp.

“Dollbaby!” The voice scolded. “Where’s your sister?”

In a sudden flood of scalding light Faye witnessed a Medusa-headed pixie smothering Dollbaby in hugs and kisses. The light, held aloft by a gnarl-browed man who snugged a mini-cam between cheek and shoulder, enwombed Faye and the pixie, raising shadows like blisters on every surface.

A shadow tucked under an elbow of the tree-tall man detached itself, gliding with elfin grace into the circle of light.

“Jerrica Holms, KWMB.” The voice held the crisp musicality of wind-chimes nudged by a whimsical breeze.

“Faith Fairchild Gardner.”

“Troll and I,” she motioned toward the cameraman. “were supposed to interview Fancy and Cassie about the Rag Dolls.”

“The Rag Dolls?” Faye forced words past lips numb with bewilderment. Julia joined them in the circle of light.
“The Rag Dolls won a state high-school talent contest last week.”

“Yeah.” Fancy added. “Cassie and me, we were jamming in costume--you know, just waiting for Ms. Holms to show--when Breezy come up missing.”

“So.” Jerrica cut in. “We’ve been with Fancy all day. Troll heard over our scanner a car being dispatched here to ‘See the lady regarding missing child.’”

“I made the call.” Julia said. “But Faye may have seen, Briana is it?-- This morning, swinging on the gate as her bus pulled away.”

“Where was the doll?” Jerrica asked.

“Hanging on the gate where Briana put her.” Faye said.

Fancy returned Dollbaby to her perch atop the gate as Troll trained camera and spotlight on it.

There came a sound part chuckle, part sob. Faye turned, recognizing Mae Bea Morgan by her head full of riotous curls, who spoke through lips thin and motionless with the habit of holding a line of straight pins at the ready. “You might think that was the babe herself hanging there.”

A figure near twin to Fancy shivered and clutched her chest. Mae Bea reached an arm around the girl. “No sense borrowing trouble. Soon as Brick Travis gets here with Snoopy we’ll have Breezy back safe as pennies in a wishing well. Nothing bad can befall us Morgan girls. We lead charmed lives.”

Cassie ducked her head as Fancy too slung an arm over her friend’s shoulder. “Like the time Mae lost me in Freddy’s. She went to try on a swimsuit and when she came out, I was nowhere in sight. She ran up and down aisles in every department but grocery, still wearing that swimsuit, mind you.” A fit of giggles set her yarn pigtails aquiver.

“I was headed into grocery when I saw a clerk waving Babydoll over her head requesting a price check. I almost gave some poor ole Gramma a heart attack when I rushed over screaming, ‘My baby, my baby’ Ole Gramma took us to the toy department where she’d found Babydoll and there Fancy was curled up on the shelf, fast asleep between Orphan Annie and Mrs. Beasley. When Granny heard I’d made Babydoll myself she commissioned me to make another and that’s how Rag Doll Babies got started.”

“Yeah.” Fancy said, flipping Dollbaby off the gate and tumbling into her arms. “And where would we be without Rag Doll Babies?’

“The proverbial silver lining.” Faye smiled.

“Or plain dumb luck.” Julia scoffed. “But there’s much to be said for dumb luck. Some people do seem to have it in abundance. It’s enough to make you wonder if we‘re the game pieces of providence..”

“Must you subject us to your inane amphigories?” Wilma snapped.
“Oh, figgeries, chiggeries. You and your lame sniggeries.” Julia taunted.

“Girls!” Faye shamed them and to her amazement, they both hushed.

No one spoke and no one seemed about to. Fancy swayed, humming a mournful lullaby to Dollbaby. Faye recognized “Tears of a Clown.” and meeting her eyes saw irony and self-scorn blooming in them. These were no more the eyes of a child than were her own. Faye knew she was witnessing a cataclysmic event taking place in the soul of this girl who, having managed to conceive, bear, and raise a child to nearly five years of age while never relinquishing her own claims to childhood, was, with the threat of that child’s loss, laying claim to motherhood.

Faye was caught in a moment that seemed to stretch into infinity--a time-slip that held all possible outcomes within its grasp. Briana was out there somewhere and like Schrodinger’s cat she was both alive and dead, both harmed and unharmed. They would either find her or not. Both the grief of her loss and the joy of her recovery were caught in a dynamic dance in the hearts of those who loved her.


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