Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Marvelous Day: Mission Accomplished

It isn't that I suddenly have a new ambition to become Suzie Homemaker (Like that's even a possibility!), it's more a part of the ongoing healing process from the health problems I experienced last fall. The physical part of that healing was difficult enough, but coming so close to death made me aware of things that I have taken for granted and I decided then, that if I survived, I wouldn't do that any more. And so, I am not.

I made a promise to myself that if and when I was able, I would make a point of finding new friends in my new home, instead of burying myself in "work" – no matter how important I or anyone said that work was – because work is never as important as having and making friends. Work IS important; money is important, but not at the expense of friendships.

The same thing goes for cooking. I have let my husband cook for me for so many years because I am a terrible cook. It isn't intentional; I just am. DH, on the other hand, is a great cook, and he generally enjoys it. But still, even if I make terrible meals, it's only right that I make the effort, even if it always sucks. And so, I am doing that too. His birthday is this week, and I intend to make him a cake from scratch. I have no doubt that it will likely suck, but what the heck? He's worth the effort.

I suppose being so ill has been good for me in one way because it has given me an important reminder of how short life is and how important it is not to waste it by being too busy all the time. Marvelous days only come when you make them.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Vasty Deep

=== Begin Whinge Here ===

Lately, I feel as if I'm walking through deep water. You know how it feels to walk through deep water. It's difficult. Sometimes a current pulls at your feet and you feel as if you'll be swept away at any moment. Waves lap at your chest and you know that a bigger one might come along and go right over the top of your head. That's how life has been recently. Something is either going to pull me down, or go over my head! Not a good feeling.

There are a number of reasons for my water-imagery. I've nearly completed my latest book, but a multiplicity of technical issues has arisen: repeated software failures, a broken printer, stuff like that. Getting to the finish line is like trudging through a swamp. There are times when I want to just throw in the towel. I won't, but I sure do want to.

The back-drop to all of this is getting used to another new place, and the constant bad news about the economy. I am so happy to be in Texas, where the sun shines while I'm dealing with these problems because, right now, that sun is one of the few saving graces of my life, and you'd better believe I am thankful for it. I'm also grateful for my DH and my animals, and many other things too numerous to mention here, and I know my little setbacks are petty. But there have been so many of them; they are really beginning to stack up!

I need to unstack them. This is one of the times when I really miss my grandmother because talking to her was always such an excellent way of gaining perspective on things. I never went to her with a big problem dump, but she was just so good at making me see the value in things, without actually spelling it out.

She's not here, so I suppose I have to find my way out of my mess all on my own. C'est la vie.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shame on the Authors Guild!

With the exception of the Friday night dining and dancing that DH and I did to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of our Friday the 13th meeting in February 1987, I haven't had a particularly good week. It wasn't particularly bad -- we did get the new carpet installed in our guest room, but it wasn't really stellar either. It was just a random garden-variety week.

Today, however, I saw something that really irked me: the Authors Guild, a group I normally hold in high regard, has decided to slam the blind. I cannot believe it.

I don't think they intentionally set out to slam the blind; I think they intentionally set out to hate on Amazon and the new Kindle 2. They (the AG) issued a statement reminding members that audio-book sales surpassed $1 billion in 2007 and recommending that members not grant e-books rights to Amazon until they can work out ways to get more money from them, but in a noxious way:

In the meantime, we recommend that if you haven't yet granted your e-book rights to backlist or other titles, this isn't the time to start. If you have a new book contract and are negotiating your e-book rights, make sure Amazon's use of those rights is part of the dialog. Publishers certainly could contractually prohibit Amazon from adding audio functionality to its e-books without authorization, and Amazon could comply by adding a software tag that would prohibit its machine from creating an audio version of a book unless Amazon has acquired the appropriate rights.

That's right. The Authors Guild wants to make extra money from blind and low-vision people. I'm sorry but that is disgusting. If a person PAYS for a book and wants or NEEDS to listen to it instead of reading it with their eyes, then by golly they should be able to do it. What is the loss to the author? They still receive a royalty on the book purchase.

The National Federation for the Blind has issued a response to the Authors Guild:

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind supports all technologies that allow blind people to have better access to the printed word, including the ability of devices like the Kindle 2 to read commercial e-books aloud using text-to-speech technology. Although the Authors Guild claims that it supports making books accessible to the blind, its position on the inclusion of text-to-speech technology in the Kindle 2 is harmful to blind people. The Authors Guild says that having a book read aloud by a machine in the privacy of one’s home or vehicle is a copyright infringement. But blind people routinely use readers, either human or machine, to access books that are not available in alternative formats like Braille or audio. Up until now, no one has argued that this is illegal, but now the Authors Guild says that it is. This is absolutely wrong. The blind and other readers have the right for books to be presented to us in the format that is most useful to us, and we are not violating copyright law as long as we use readers, either human or machine, for private rather than public listening. The key point is that reading aloud in private is the same whether done by a person or a machine, and reading aloud in private is never an infringement of copyright.

I am a huge, huge reader, and so many books are never published as audio-books. I have a genetic eye condition that is likely to leave me relying on text-to-speech technology at some point in the future and this issue is incredibly important to me. In fact, the primary reason I like my Kindle is because I can use it to alter the text size to make it easier to read things without having to be stuck with large-print books. I have always supported an author's right to be paid for his or her work, but I don't see how text-to-speech violates copyright because the text would be paid for. The only logic in the Authors Guild's stance is that audio books are so much more expensive than paper texts (and they are, sometimes more than double); they really don't mind that they would be exploiting people who are already at a disadvantage.

Shame on you, Authors Guild!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Keeping Up With the Joneses

The weather here has been amazing this week and I've been itching to get outside and start playing in my new garden. Every time I think about it, though, I get a little twinge of sadness because I know that whatever we do to our garden here will never be as wonderful as the garden we had in Washington. In fact, it's daunting to do anything here in the land of perfection because it's all so ... well ... perfect. Are we're so ... well ... not!

Other than a brief sojourn in a townhouse many years ago, we've steered clear of neighborhoods with Homeowner Associations (HOAs) because we've always been leery of the arbitrary rules they seem to impose like what kind of plants you can have, and how tall your grass is allowed to be, and things like that. We live in one of those neighborhoods now and they send out a little newsletter each month that bugs me so much that I actually miss the guy next door in Washington who had the lemon yellow El Camino on blocks in his yard.

For example, the last newsletter politely scolded some rude unnamed lowlifes for forgetting to take in their trash can on the day trash was picked up. My God! They left it out until the middle of the next day. That rendered the neighborhood into an immediate ghetto! Shock! Horror! And you know who did this, right? Yes; it was me. DH took out the trash, and left to go out of town and I forgot that he'd done so, and it only occurred to me the next day. We are pigs. We might as well just put out a junked car on blocks in our front yard and be done with it.

The newsletter also informed us that it was the week for our once-a-year "big brush" trash day. Now, of course, I had no idea what this was and I didn't think about it again. Until I saw trucks parked all up and down the street disgorging workers who were cutting massive swathes of stuff from the trees and bushes in my neighbors' lawns. OK. So this is how you get a perfect neighborhood. Wow. In front of each house, there was a HUGE pile of brush, each one big enough for a giant bonfire. Well, in front of each house except ours. Oh noes! We were already in trouble with the HOA for not bringing in the damn trash can and now we haven't done the proper grooming of our brush.

Oh but it wasn't too late after all. We were eating dinner on Friday night, and a helpful tree-trimming person came and said he could still do our house in time for the big brush pickup. I could tell DH was thinking he'd rather use that money to go skiing, but we looked at those tidy piles of brush in front of all our neighbors' houses and caved. So treetrimmer guy (TTG) agreed to come back on Saturday morning with his team.

TTG proposed to do a radical whack job to our stuff as he'd done to our neighbors' lawns, but I nixed that right away. "No. No. NO. I do not want to top the crepe myrtles. Only dead and diseased limbs."



So we got our lawn groomed, very gently, but still done. We also got a dead shrub removed from the front of the house. And we had a big overhanging limb removed from the ancient live oak in the back yard. That was the one I was really concerned about because it hung right over the bedroom and I was worried about the potential for it to come down on our heads in a wind storm.

TTG turned out to be a really nice guy, and so did the neighbor across the street because during all the cutting and sawing, the sprinkler pipe in the front yard sprang a leak. This is not a sprinkler like you use with a hose; it's a permanent water pipe that affects the water to the house. San Antonio is experiencing a terrible drought, so it's imperative not to waste water -- we can't have a pipe draining water out into the lawn. So TTG came back on Sunday and he and the neighbor helped DH try to fix the stupid pipe all day long. TTG refused to take extra money, so we gave him the martin birdhouse that had been on the limb that was removed from the live oak tree because he'd admired it. We haven't given the neighbor anything yet, but I believe cookies are in his future. It's a pity that even after all that work, they weren't able to fix the pipe and we had to have a sprinkler service out on Monday, but it was nice of them to try.

And brush day was today and I was able to hold my head up because I, too, had a nice neat pile of brush that was nearly as large as the ones in front of my neighbors' houses. All I can say is it's a very weird way of Keeping Up With the Joneses...