Coffee heat rising

Of iPhones and Spinning Wheels and Ella’s Story

Ever have one of those days when your wheels are spinning nonstop for about 18 hours? Or you feel like your nose has been pressed to the grindstone all day but it comes off not sharpened but duller than when you started?

I feel like I’ve been working steadily but have accomplished almost nothing. But really, that’s not true. By the end of the day, this week’s installment of Ella’s Story managed, somehow, to get finished and posted. As of yesterday evening, I had an idea where it was going but no idea how to get there.

LOL! Is this what one of my late, great editors used to call, crabbily, “backing into the story”? Maybe I need one of those guys back today, to snap the whip! 😀

Cranking fiction on a deadline is not easy. Nonfiction? A magazine or newspaper article? Nooo problem. You start with all the facts and you know how to tie them into the who-what-when-where-why-and-how rope. Your only hold-up is landing interviews. But fiction…you may have a vague idea where you’re going with it, but often — make that usually — you don’t have the specifics. You have to make them up. And that, heaven help you, is actual work.


Oh, but sooo many opportunities to procrastinate! What? Me, work?

§ The big potted ficus plant — a six-foot-high tree, really — the one that fell over in the most recent storm, was so traumatized that now it’s dropping its leaves. At first I thought it had dessicated somehow. Maybe the irrigation dripper that goes to its pot broke somehow when the thing crashed to the ground and got bashed by the downpour? But I don’t think so. So: four possibilities:

a) Somehow it actually did get dried out and, of course, in this crazy heat, could not survive any degree of dehydration.
b) Somehow it got overwatered. Ficus hates to be overwatered.
c) It got shocked when it fell over and whacked on the paving. Ficus will drop their leaves if you move them into a new room. Slamming it on the ground have unnerved the thing.
d) It has a disease or fungus.

The first three events, it can survive. The fourth: not so much. All one can do, though, is watch it and see what happens. This is not a good time for it to lose its leaves, since it the shade it provides shelters a roomful of cherry furniture from the morning sun glaring in through an east-facing Arcadia door.

§ Amazing article in The New Yorker…reminiscent of a friend’s life story. Had to read the whole, very long thing…then send it along to her. Took half the morning. But I drank a lot of good coffee and munched a lot of good chocolate in the process…

§ Credit union has informed us that it’s revamping its online presence. This warning, of course, is the equivalent of screaming DUCK FOR COVER! in a crowded room. The alarm is heightened by their telling us that we’d better download and save six months’ worth of transactions. Just in case.

Well. Of course that took for-freaking-EVER. God, how I hate messing with that kind of digital ditz! In the course of it, I discovered about $600 in the medical savings account, which either was transferred there by accident during the last C.U. fuck-up or, for reasons unknown, did not get applied to debt to the Mayo. Probably the latter: chances are I paid it out of cash flow without remembering to replenish the checking account from that savings account. And that would explain why I ran out of money two months early this year…

§ Cleaning! Pick up the mess. Wash the dog blankets. Clean the kitchen. If I use the leaf blower to blower the loose dog hair out of the garage, will the dog hair actually get ejected and blown down the driveway to the street, or will it just go airborne, float around in there, and then settle back to the floor?

§ And, totally NOT least, the cell phone issue.

I’ve decided that I probably want to buy an iPhone and feed it with TracFone minutes. Supposedly, the iPhone is relatively easy for old people to learn to use. And TracFone’s by-the-minute plan has worked well with the cheapo model I’ve been carrying around for automotive emergencies. And the price: enormously right.

TracFone is selling four iPhones for relatively reasonable prices. Apparently if you’re willing to settle for an older model, you do NOT have to pay a grand to get your hands on one.

If you don’t use the phone a lot, TracFone has a lot to recommend it. No monthly payments, and pretty much what you see is what you get: no little surprises to blindside you. I’ve been using it for the throw-away phone for a couple years now: totally hassle-free, as opposed to the endlessly annoying T-Mobile. You only need to pay for as much service as you’re likely to use. TrackFone’s current “bargain” iPhone comes with 750 minutes and 1,000 texts to use over 60 days. Well, that’s about ten times as much of either of those things as I would need.

Apple offers classes in the use of the iPhone, so my plan is to go over there tomorrow, study the phones and the prices there, ask if you HAVE to have bought the phone from Apple directly to get into their classes, and then make a decision.

Cox is gouging me $117 a month for land-line service that is questionably reliable and guaranteed to go down when the power’s out. And with their damned modem, I can’t attach my fancy call blocker that was working so amazingly well. And of course, Cox is resisting NoMoRobo with all its corporate strength: they simply refuse to provide it. As for the iPhone? There’s a NoMoRobo app!

Said app is not well liked by Fanboys. However, Apple also has an app called “RoboKiller,” which IS very well reviewed. Actually, it’s more than just well reviewed…it sounds delicious. Check out this one:

This is an awesome service.
Nov 9, 2017

I forwarded my calls a while back to the service when I first signed up because I was having a real issue with getting a lot of spam phone calls. I said it and basically forgot about it. Recently I had reason to go to the application to look it up because I had a question about something and I came across all of the phone calls that were blocked and many of them with a voicemail messages. When I listened to the voicemail messages, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Some of the recorded voicemail messages that were saved or absolutely hilarious. Since these spam callers call me and waste my time every time they get me on the phone, I have to admit I took a little bit of pleasure and wasting their time right back. They were actually trying to have conversations with the bots and they weren’t giving up. Meaning the spam callers. And I could hear the uncertainty in their voices and some of the conversations and it was friggin hilarious. When I listened to all the voicemails, I swear I just wanted to throw my arms around these guys at RoboKiller and give them a big hug. Best freaking service I’ve come across in a long time and well worth the money and the results are literally hilarious. If you were having problems getting a lot of unwanted phone calls, I absolutely and wholeheartedly recommend this service. You seriously need to check this out. These guys are geniuses. Some of those voicemails just had me rolling in tears.

THE must have app!
May 19, 2018

Without a doubt, Robokiller is the most invaluable, user-friendly and entertaining app available today. I was inundated with daily calls me from companies I ordered something from a decade ago. I couldn’t block them because they always called from a different number. Now, thanks to Robokiller, not only am I not bothered by these calls, I get a taste of sweet revenge. Unsolicited calls are automatically answered by any one of the 43 (and growing) “people” you select to take the call; from someone hard of hearing to someone in the midst of a crisis. All the pre-recorded performances are spot on and truly funny. Every time a solicitor tries, hopelessly, to communicate with one of the recordings, you can play it back, save it, even share it with friends. You can also record your self answering the phone, and, after years of hearing the same sales pitch, I’ve made recordings of myself so in synch with their pitch, I can have them going in circles for five minutes and thinking they’re talking to someone. Really, I cannot say enough about this brilliantly conceived and well designed app.

Hee HEEE! If that’s any indication, the app alone may be worth the phone’s price!

I’m now spending $1400/year on the land line that is no longer a land line and that goes out when the power’s down (i.e., when you’re most likely to need to make an emergency call!). Once the phone is paid for (and the business can afford it, no problem), TracFone costs between $7 and $30 a month, depending on the number of minutes you choose to buy over time. Seven bucks will get you 60 minutes’ worth for 90 days. And $25 buys 500 minutes for 60 days. I would be very surprised if I spend an hour on the phone over the course of a month. My son hates talking on the phone, and most people stay in touch through email.

That’s a far cry from $117 a month!

My plan is to get the proposed iPhone. Keep the clamshell phone I use for car emergencies, which is absurdly cheap, but have “minutes” only for the iPhone. Then buy several more of the cheapo clamshell phones, keep them charged, and set the cheapies in strategic places around the house for emergency use only. By law all phones have to be able to call 911, whether they’re connected to a “plan” or not. So…given the concern that I might fall and bust my hip, my idea is to set a cheapie phone on or near the floor in every room in the house. Most of the rooms have cabinets that have shelves or drawers near the floor. Those that don’t…I can just set one of these things unobtrusively under piece of furniture, or in pot of fake flowers. There are a ton of places to set these things where no one would notice them but I would know where they are.

And then… Good-bye land line!

She breathes…she moves…she…writes?

A day late and a whole lotta dollars short…finally got around to typing up and posting this week’s chapter of Ella’s Story.

The other two books I’ve been giving away as * FREE READS * at Plain & Simple Press — If You’d Asked Me and The Complete Writer — were finished long before I dreamed up this idea. But Ella’s Story was a work in progress. A lot of progress: quite a few chapters were in hand at the time I started this project.

But a few weeks ago the completed chapters ran out, leaving me to keep up with the publishing schedule by writing a new chapter a week. Talk about draftig!

So now we know how if felt to be Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Fyodor Dostoyevski and Alexandre Dumas and Herman Melville Henry James and Gustave Flaubert and Harriet Beecher Stowe and … if only we were one of them! 😀

The blog format, it seems to me, naturally lends itself to serializing novels. But…

How exactly you would make any money on it escapes me. I suppose you could sell advertising around such a thing. Or ask people to pay to subscribe. Or donate to your cause.

I knew writing a chapter a week would be a challenge. When you study late 19th- and early 20th-century lit, you occasionally come across some writer’s complaint about what a struggle it was to crank out fiction, week in and week out, for serial publication. Alas, though…I’ve never anything but overconfident.

Ella’s Story, Chapter 17…

…is online! Became distracted with a tsunami of ditz today, so only just got around to posting this week’s installment of Ella’s Story. Check it out over at P&S Press.

Since I’m now persona non grata at Facebook, about the only places to announce the ongoing publication of Ella, If You Asked, and Complete Writer are here and on Twitter. I have no idea who follows me on Twitter, if anyone. But today I managed to compile a halfway decent mailing list from FaM, P&S Press, the Mac’s Contacts list, plus a couple of organizations I belong to. MailChimp, ever annoying, refuses to disgorge a download of its (lengthy!) list in a Mac-compatible form. So unless I want to sit here and copy/paste/copy/paste/copy/paste/copy/paste/ line after line after line, yea verily unto the end of the universe, I guess most of that data is lost.

Decided to abandon MailChimp some time ago, mostly because its page layout formats, while potentially kewl, are clunky and ditzy to work with. And it’s not at all clear what the result looks like when it arrives in the victim’s…uhm, the correspondent’s in-box. I think it would be better to send out informal e-mails from a Gmail account to announce weekly installments and to make up for the loss of whatever marketing potential Facebook had.

Part of the plan is to develop a site at Medium to hold these emanations and possibly also those of select fellow scribblers. And maybe some artwork from artiste friends. This idea is still pretty inchoate: first I need to establish a site there, learn how to operate it, and figure out the possibilities. Ideally, I’ll move the serializations to Medium and leave teasers at P&S Press.

Naturally, too, I’ll plug this stuff at LinkedIn.

This was an expensive day in the Funny Farm environs.

M’hijito called from Costco to say he had just dropped some staggering amount of money on four new tires for his vehicle. One of the original-equipment tires was leaking. He said he was indulging in some shopping therapy there in Impulse Buy Hell, thereby running up the tab a little higher. Invited me to dinner, but since I’d already eaten, I put him off till tomorrow. {sigh}

Meanwhile, at Chuck’s this morning, the boys discovered the fine battery Bell Road Toyota (is that actually “Hell’s Road Toyota”?) installed in the vehicle they’d sold me has been leaking for awhile. Long enough to completely corrode away one of the battery terminals. They were amazed that the car would start at all.

Haven’t had any problem with it…but was mighty glad they found it, because it is NO fun to be stuck on Phoenix’s fuckin’ homicidal roads in 110-degree heat.

They put in a brand of battery they believe to be higher quality and longer-lasting than most. Made by Interstate. It has a five-year warranty, which in these parts means it will last three, maybe four years. Pete said one of their customers had an Interstate battery that survived a brain-boggling eight years.

One can hope. By then I’ll be in the nursing home. Or six feet under, with any luck.

At any rate, the battery, the oil change, and the general prophylactic farting around came to $258.

Which, considering that I’m running out of cash and my checking account will hit Empty well before the end of 2018, is a bit brain-banging. God. I hope the cheap tires those bastards put on the thing last until 2019. Guess I’ll have to do my best to stay off the roads.

The roads. The damnable roads.

It took half an hour to make the 10-minute drive down to Chuck’s, as described in this morning’s whinge. A guy almost hit me as I was turning onto Conduit of Blight. Since there was plenty of room, he either sped up in an attempt to scare me (this is typical Phoenix driver behavior) or was driving a lot faster than he appeared to be going. Pretty sure it was the latter — truly, there was more than enough room for me to turn into the lane: he was a good three blocks down the road.

Then we got stuck at the damn high school. We stood in line there for over ten minutes while kids wandered across the road at the light that holds up traffic when a pedestrian pushes the button, and at the exit to the drop-off lane where scores and scores and scores of parents bring their kids.

This is the only decent public high school remaining in North Central. In response to a great deal of voter restiveness and to the demise of federally enforced racial integration, the district now allows parents to choose to put their kids in schools outside their districts. But if your kids go to an out-of-district school, you have to drive them there — school buses, obviously do not apply in that case. So that means drop-off and pick-up at this particular high-school are as hectic as at a private school: scores of cars pulling up in front to let the kids out and then shoving their way back onto the road.

You wonder why Phoenix drivers’ tempers are so short?


Correct position behind steering wheel for driving on Phoenix roads.




So much for best-laid plans…

LOL! Really, don’t you know this to be true? IT NEVER FAILS.

And yes, damn straight: Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.


So you’ll recall I had this Grand Plan to get marginally in shape before tomorrow’s stress test at the Mayo. The 10-day lead time gave me eight or nine days in which to get out into the Phoenix Mountain parks and build up at least a marginal degree of stamina.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Lovely spring weather. Old lady who loves to hike. Good way to run off ginger and orneriness. And maybe even fake out a cardiodoc. Dontcha love it?

As an idea, it is lovable.

As reality? Well…

So I got several two-hour-long walks in, three times up Shaw Butte (about four miles in a fairly steep round trip) and a couple times around the back of North Mountain, on the flat (a little under four miles RT).

Then it rained. Used that as an excuse not to go out: very convenient.

One day down.

Then I realized I had to get off the dime and write the next chapter of Ella’s Story if I’m gonna keep posting stuff in the current long-term give-away scheme. This is a time-consuming proposition. Unlike journalism, unlike blogging, copy for works of fiction does NOT just pour out of the ends of your fingers.

Two days down.

Saturday, I eat something that I should have known better than to eat. Not surprisingly, it inflicts a roaring case of Montezuma’s revenge. Not only am I enjoying the collywobbles, but before long I’m in a LOT of pain. Like…should I go to the ER??? type pain.

After the fun surgery for the intestinal obstruction (kindly occasioned by scarring from an old appendectomy), the surgeon’s PA informed me that sooner or later the obstruction would recur. And the next time, fixing it will be a lot more involved and will not lend itself to laparoscopy.

Welp: several considerations:

  1. First, I would rather die than go through that again.
  2. Second, when you have the collywobbles, your innards are moving, indicating they’re not blocked.
  3. Third, I would rather die than go through that again.
  4. Fourth, the pain is not the same kind of pain evinced by the adhesive blockage. It’s all over the place instead of localized in one spot.
  5. Fifth, I would rather die than go through that again.

With this calculus in mind, I drop an Imodium. Then (it’s always then with me, dammit!) I reflect that might not have been the best of all possible ideas. Ohhh well.

The diarrhea ceases, not surprisingly. The pain continues. I crawl into the sack with the two annoyed dogs.

Three days down.

Next thing I know, it’s Sunday morning.

Our pastor has cooked up a tradition that he calls “Switch Sunday,” in which once a month the 9 a.m. service is a full Bells & Smells performance. The early service, which caters to families with kids, is the usual much more boring modern version…and it engages the services of the volunteer choir, which on other weekends  sings at the later service.

I feel slightly better (though the gut still hurts) and decide to chance showing up at choir. If worst comes to worst, I can always leave.

This means it’s out of the sack at the crack of dawn, feed the dawgs, bolt down breakfast, get washed up, paint face, throw on clothes, and fly out the door. I’m not happy, but neither am I terminal: manage to get there and stick out the whole shindig.

Back at the Funny Farm, I fix lunch/dinner, a halfway decent (read “time-consuming” meal), diddle around, waste time…and eventually realize…holy mackerel! I am really, REALLY sick.

But: the gut (now bound up tight as a drum, thanks to the Imodium) is marginally functioning. That being the case (sort of), I decide against yet another goddamn run on the Mayo’s ER room.

I’ve been up there so often they have a special cubbyhole reserved for me.

Note that during these escapades, no work is getting done. No exercise is getting done. But by about 9 p.m., I do feel enough better to take the hounds on their mile-long circuit. This was not what you’d call one helluva lot of fun, but I figured that if my theory is correct (i.e., I’m not really dying), a walk should help kick-start the innards.

Oh well. At least it doesn’t seem to make things worse.

I crawl back into the sack with the dogs.

Four days down.

Not altogether down. Sunday afternoon whilst I was huddling in the sack, I did manage to draft the last part of the current Ella’s Story chapter, providing a sequel to the chapter that I slapped online this morning. Was kinda pleased with the images that surfaced in a few searches. This great old guy looks a lot like I imagine Dorin the Overseer to look. I’m sure he’s actually an aging Romanian. But what the heck.

This image is yet to be used: the passages I wrote yesterday will describe the exotic landscape of Zaitaf, which sports a methane lake. And what might that look like? Probably somewhat like this:

😀 Can you believe I found that thing?

Now, just think how magical it would be if I could figure out how to make WordPress lose the goddamn fucking extra nonbreaking line spaces!

Oh. Well, that’s the sort of thing that keeps me from doing any creative work: killing time trying to force the code to do what I want it to do.

So, four days of eight were lost to the planned get-fit scheme. Tomorrow morning I will show up that the Mayo fat, flabby, and probably still sporting a bellyache.

Never. Effing. Fails.

More of Ella’s story…the serial adventure

So here we are, one week into the scheme to serialize — online — not one, not two, but three books: If You’d Asked Me, Ella’s Story, and The Complete Writer.

This little adventure seems to be working on one level: Plain & Simple Press’s Facebook site now has something like a hundred “likes,” which I guess is to its credit. It’s kind of amusing to put dollops of these books online — in the case of Ella’s Story, anyway, it gives you an excuse to look for exotic images to decorate with.

Pretty time-consuming, though. The fiction piece is easy to put up, but the two nonfiction bookoids (If You’d Asked and Writer) require some fairly elaborate HTML formatting. I am not fond of coding. And there seems to be no simple shortcut to set up links for the tables of contents. Because I haven’t come up with chapter titles for the novel, I’m not building a TofC for that — at least not yet. Because…I can’t see how to create a ToC without having chapter titles: the code to set up page jumps from a table of contents entry to a title takes the reader to the line below the target text, so you have to have something to link to that’s above the first line you’d like the reader to see. I suppose I could enter some sort of symbol above the chapter numeral. But??? I dunno…let’s figure that out later.

Anyway, I uploaded Chapter 4 of the noveloid today: a flashback to Ella’s first meeting with Bhotil, in which she learns (to her dismay) that she’ll be living and working on one of Varnis’s two moons.

It remains to be seen whether loading a chapter a day, rotating among the three books, is a good idea. It does get something from each book online each week. This week we’ve seen  two chapters from Ella, two from Writer, and one from Asks. Next week two chapters from Asks and Writer and one from Ella are slated to go online.

This may be uploading content too fast, for a serialization scheme. In olden days when real magazines still existed, a publication like Saturday Evening Post came out only once a week. Pulp penny dreadfuls like Argosy came out monthly. So a serial story appeared weekly or monthly, not daily. It’s possible that daily publication is more than the market will bear.

On the other hand, it’s a different market and a different medium. Publish the stuff too slowly, and people may forget about it.

Then there’s the issue of keeping up with the schedule. Writer and Asked are complete, so it’s just a matter of copying and pasting existing copy, some of it already camera-ready, into web pages. But Ella is still in progress. To crank a chapter a week will be a challenge. Especially since I have no idea how Ella gets out of the predicament she gets herself into on Zaitaf.

This should be innaresting…