computer frustrations

Falling Flat Like my Popovers: New Year’s Resolve

Guayaba-Manchego popover muffin things

Guayaba-Manchego popover muffin things

In my defense, they still taste delicious.  I’ve been working on this recipe, trying to figure out how to get them to hold their shape and not collapse.  They’re like a Caribbean flavored popover.  Honestly, I’ve never been able to get a regular popover to hold its dome either.  I’ve tried preheating the pans, pre-cooling the pans, increasing/decreasing salt, warming the milk–but not totally hot, I don’t understand how people do that without immediately cooking the eggs before the batter is mixed.  Nothing has made a difference.  One day I’ll find actual popover pans in one of the discount places and see if the shape make a difference.  I suspect it won’t.

Here we are, a new year.  Once again I considered making resolutions, but didn’t.  Funny, I don’t think I ever really considered making New Year’s resolutions until I began blogging.  Something about it makes me feel like I should be making grand-yet-attainable declarations of intent.  Hmmm. I’m still doing my yoga, albeit less frequently, with shortened sessions.  I could make a resolution to blog more regularly, but that would suck the joy out of blogging for me.  I’m perfectly content with my sporadic blogging non-schedule.  I could resolve to get back to fiction, open that file I started and work on it, but I’m still not sure I want to.  I’m a regular cranky old gal living a regular cranky old life.  I could resolve to be less cranky, but less cranky = less snarky, where’s the fun in that?

I know!  I resolve to figure out how to access and re-import the thousands of photographs that were on my laptop until three days ago, but are now trapped in this little silver rectangular thing that I’m told is an external hard drive.  For some bizarre reason, I’m supposed to be happy about this–my laptop is now faster than a speeding bullet! more powerful than a locomotive! able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! well, maybe not that last one.  Very nice and all, but I want my pictures back.

For now I offer this Gary Clark Jr video, because we all need great blues to ring in the new year.


Comfort and Screw Ups

Fire shrimp

Fire shrimp

New tank occupant, I’ll call her Celia because I like that name.  Shy and nervous, she spends her days upside down behind a rock.  I asked her to make room for me this morning, but she ignored me, didn’t so much as wave her antennae in my direction.

In my mind, I’ve been working on a blog post about Ferguson, the need to keep this conversation going.  I thought I would sit and write it today, but then this morning I went over my files for Astonishing, to see if there’s anything/one I should be following up with.  Yah. Don’t know if I mentioned it here, but in a moment of I have to try something, I sent a query to a small press a few months ago.  This small press promises a fast response, I hadn’t heard anything, so I pulled up my original email/query to them and found…

…a request for a full from the editor.  In my “junk” folder.  From a month ago.

“You screwed it up, Bobby Terry!”  Does anyone else have random quotes from novels that have stayed with them forever?  That one is from Stephen King’s The Stand, right before Bobby Terry is flayed and flambeed by Randall Flagg– the Dark Man.

Get a grip, Mrs Fringe.  No evil being is waiting to fly across the desert and eat me because I missed an email that was caught in my spam filter.  If any one of my writer friends came to me melting down about this, I’d reassure them that it happens, in the world of publishing a month’s lapse is not even a blink, any editor/agent/professional will understand. This is nothing in the days of being a wannabe.  This is less than nothing in the face of Ferguson, what the verdict represents and the false focus of so much of our media.

Still, I decided comfort food was in order.  How about if I make grilled cheese for dinner, kiddos?  This, of course, meant I went to Whole Foods on Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend.  Clearly I was punishing myself for not checking that fucking junk mail folder regularly enough.  And why buy 10 items when you can buy 11 and stand on the slower line?

I will be drowning my whining in chocolate pudding this evening. Care to join me?

I will be drowning my whining in chocolate pudding this evening. Care to join me?

Judgement Day

Judgement Day

Judgement Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

is every day, here on the www.

I’ve talked before about how much I love the internet, the people I’ve met through it, blah blah yawn.  It’s a funny thing, though.  I continue to get lulled into a false sense of happy happy joy joy free love and learning, and then get biffed upside the head.

Not everyone you meet online is someone you’d want to sit and have a beer with.  So what?  Just like the offline world, smile, nod, and move on.

Except, online there seem to be a lot more people who don’t want to move along.  You know who I mean, the ones who paint themselves as experts in X, and believe it is their great duty and privilege, perhaps even an obligation, to engage in argument.   It took a bit for me to catch on to how this works for these cyber types.  When I first became engaged with online communities where you saw this type of action, I took the bait.  Argued back to explain my position, and proclaim my rights to my opinion.  Then I learned a bit more about how socializing through a screen works/can work, and would attempt to steer the discussion with a more civil tone.  Yah, done with that, too.

Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology

Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From there you find the people you enjoy spending online time with, and figure out how to narrow your interactions with others while still remaining engaged in the greater community.

Or not.  I no longer visit most of the forums I’ve joined over the years, because I found my “peeps” and we now interact in smaller groups through Facebook, email, sometimes even *gasp* face to face.  Let’s be honest, here, do I need to post questions and have discussions with 8000 other navel gazers?  Thirty, twenty, even ten can be sufficient for a lively debate and interesting discussion.  Every so often someone new gets brought in for fresh air and new perspectives.  Not only does everyone involved not have to agree, it’s a more productive discussion when they don’t.  I learn other people’s opinions, new facts, and my mind gets opened a bit wider.  As long as it’s all conducted with respect and basic courtesy, it’s all good.

Let’s look at that word again.  Respect.  It doesn’t matter if the poster is 14, 40, or 80 (and often you don’t know).  It isn’t my job to slam anyone else in a personal way.  I’m not talking about engaging in debate, but attacks that can/will be interpreted as personal.  You know what I find to be one of the best parts of being a grown up?  Understanding that not everyone will like me, and I won’t like everyone, and that is just fine.  In person or online, still fine.  Remember, I live in a small space.  I can’t fit an entire forum around my dinner table.  My laptop is old and cranky.  A reflection of me, it stops and freezes every time I click on a new post or thread.  It can easily take me 30 minutes to read two short threads, 45 if I want to reply.  In many ways that’s ok, it forces me to choose carefully before clicking.

There are internet trolls who are obvious trolls.  Fine.  Some are annoying, some are amusing.  But the tricky kind are those who don’t seem to understand

English: "Wikipedia troll at play" s...

English: “Wikipedia troll at play” sign, based on a yellow “Children at Play” sign that symbolizes a child kicking a ball. The ball was replaced by a Wikipedia globe, and the child’s head was decorated with unruly “hair” reminiscent of troll dolls. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

they’re trolling, and are passionate about their way/belief being THE way.  The ONLY way, for everyone, and they must “correct” any and all who question a different path.  Personally, I’m a silly, flighty gal.  Know what I do when I see a question/thread/post that seems pointless to me?  I don’t click on it.  Forgive me, I’m such a radical.

Mmm hmm.  Would you and your hand like a room, buddy?<< phrased respectfully, of course.


Homestead-Nowhere-Motel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Technical Difficulties

If you haven’t noticed, Mrs Fringe’s blog decided to redecorate–without me.  Hrmph.  I’m not loving this minimalist look.

My widgets and sidebars have disappeared, and the alignment of posts is off.  Apparently there are new “visibility” settings that need to be set and saved in this theme, but I can’t get them to save.  It’s been a busy and soul sucking week off the blog, so I haven’t been able to put too much time into figuring it out.  Please bear with me, I hope to figure it out over the course of the weekend.

If I can’t, I’ll try changing the theme.  I can handle change.  Really.  It won’t bother me at all.  Sort of.  Maybe a little.

Minimalist Mac OS X Desktop

Minimalist Mac OS X Desktop (Photo credit: DavidTurnbull)

Battle of the Printer: I Win!

Chiseling for dummies

Chiseling for dummies (Photo credit: quinn.anya)

Not the war, though, the printer will win that one.  More accurately, the company that makes the printer wins the war.

I’m very proud of myself for the progress I’ve made over the last ten years, getting used to the computer and technology.  Honestly, I never thought I’d be able to “think” straight onto a keyboard.  I wrote longhand for years, only typing once I had my work exactly as I wanted it.  Even once I began writing with the computer, I did a lot of printing.  Every time I wanted to proofread, revise, edit, or just generally obsess over my suckage, I had to print the pages and hold them in my hands.  I feel so terribly, horribly guilty when I think of how much paper I wasted for a few years, even with recycling old pages.

Lots of progress for Mrs Fringe.  But there are still a couple of points in editing and revising where I need to hold the hardcopy in my hands and use a pencil to make notes.   This is one of those points.  Today I needed two copies of the WIP; one for my greasy mitts and red pen, and one for Husband, so I can keep an eye out to make note of the points where he falls asleep.  I have a workhorse of a basic laser printer, cutting edge when I got it 9 years ago.  Sure, it’s a little “touchy,” and God help you if you don’t fan the papers just so before loading, but it still works.  Sadly, this is the end of the road.  The last time I needed “ink” I was told the printer was discontinued, and there were no more cartridges available.  I begged the guy to search his storeroom, and he found one.  I was thrilled, until I heard the cost.  It literally cost me the same for that toner as it would cost for a new printer.

Why and how have printers become disposable?  Once this cartridge runs out of toner, the cost to find and purchase a replacement will be well over the cost of a new, equivalent printer.  It feels wrong to me,  this must be on the list of venial sins.


Rosary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously, now, I’m trying to nurse this cartridge along, and make it last as long as possible.  I printed one copy of the manuscript, and brought it to the copy place to have the second copy made.  Remember, this is the first draft.  I tend to write “short” so the end product will likely be an additional 5-10,000 words from where the word count sits now.  I haven’t brought anything in to be copied for me in a few years.  Holy cannoli, prices have risen!  $38. for one complete copy.

As I was printing here at home and listening to the click and stutter of rollers inside the machine, I experienced a strong sense memory of standing in the office of my elementary school, waiting for mimeo copies to bring to the teacher.  Anyone else remember them?  The copies always had a smell like Elmer’s glue and the ink was barely deeper than lavender.  Not cutting edge at the time, but the machine still worked, so it was used.  I think I’m going to look for a mimeograph on eBay.

English: Jackson & O'Sullivan "The NATION...

English: Jackson & O’Sullivan “The NATIONAL” Duplicator. Made in Brisbane, Queensland during World War II. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Mrs Fringe Learns to Internetz

Not really.  It’s magically working again, much the way it magically stopped working.  And then started.  And then stopped.


Internet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Come to think of it, this is just like the early spring we’re not having.  Someone find me that damned woodchuck groundhog, Imma make a stew.

I’ve been dreaming about moving to the country.  Husband thinks I’m kidding, but I decided I need a dream that could possibly eventually happen, not just the fantasy of a beach house. This would mean going north, colder but less expensive.  I feel the past weeks have been training for a rural life.  Internet out, multiple snowfalls in March…yup, I’m ready.

Since we started to have spring, the critters are here.  But now it’s cold again, and they’re more pissed than I am.  Even the rats are confused, I’ve seen at least three smooshed rats on my block over the past couple of days.  They’re usually pretty good at avoiding cars. Let’s be honest, though, better a smooshed rat than a live one.

In the park, lots of screaming birds.  I assume they’re protesting the lack of soft earth and worms.  But maybe not.  Maybe they’re screaming in fear.  We seem to have a new predator bird in the neighborhood.  (And when I say a new one, I mean new to me, they could well have lived here for fifty years without my noticing.  I also don’t know if there’s one or a dozen).  In any case, the other afternoon I was walking a dog along a path in Central Park when something whooshed overhead.  It was the coolest freaking bird I’ve ever seen outside of the colorful ones that live on people’s shoulders.  Cool enough for me to forget to be afraid.  I only saw it from underneath, beige, tan, and brown with an awesome, almost diamond pattern across its feathers.  Sort of the colors of the piebald pigeons, only not ugly.   The wingspan had to have been five feet across.  In between the internet being down, I googled, trying to figure out what this bird is. Almost a falcon, but no.

Another sign that it should be spring, Nerd Child is home for Spring Break!  Yay!!!!!!  I’m thrilled, Flower Child is thrilled, we miss the boys when they’re away.

What to do with your first day of spring break when you’re *almost* fifteen, home from boarding school and just finished finals?  Get up early, meet the priest who runs the middle school you attended, and go to the St Patrick’s Day parade, of course.

Green Bagel!

Green Bagel! (Photo credit: pirate johnny)

Nothing a Latino teen likes better than corned beef and green bagels.  My mother in law will take care of the obligatory flan this evening.  Why yes, flan is a necessary component to St Patrick’s Day.  Ask Nerd Child, he’ll happily explain flan is a necessary component to any and every celebration.

Apparently, while chatting, the priest mentioned ospreys have been taking out pigeons by the church.  Nerd Child came home and told me this, and I looked up ospreys.  YES!!!  That’s exactly the bird I saw in the park.  Already super impressive, and now I find out they eat pigeons?  Mrs Fringe has a new favorite critter.  I wonder if I can keep one on my terrace?


Osprey (Photo credit: Gregory Jordan)

That Lady Has A Biiiig Belly

If you’re a parent, this is a familiar moment. In the elevator, sixteen years ago, no mistaking it was heard by the “lady” in question. Children make observations. Out loud. Sometimes, really loud. I have a friend who used to call these moments “beyond embarrassing.” True, but these are also necessary, so we can teach our children about courtesy, manners, and develop their filters.

Lady Victoria Marjorie Harriet Manners (1883–1...

Lady Victoria Marjorie Harriet Manners (1883–1946), wife of Charles Paget, 6th Marquess of Anglesey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am no Miss Manners, nor do I long for the days of yesteryear when everyone filtered everything and a mention of indigestion caused a nervous titter among those seated at the dinner table. But basic courtesy, stopping to think about what how a comment might be received before letting it pass your lips–or fingers, I’m all for it.

I’m pretty sure each generation tweaks what they consider appropriate in polite company. Ok. I’m a product of my generation; I love jeans, casual conversations, political debates, no holds barred comics, and colorful language.  I’m also pretty sure I could raise my blood pressure and feel myself turn bright red if I began to catalogue all the times I’ve put my foot in my mouth. I don’t see these things as the antithesis to courtesy and civility.

But Houston, I do believe we, as a generation, have a problem.

rocket crash

rocket crash (Photo credit: shellorz)

There seems to be a collective loss of our filter. Keyboard warriors are running amok on our internet forums, Facebook, and the comment section of every cyberboard I visit.

The internet has become a huge part of how we connect and communicate with each other.  As I’ve said previously, I love the internet, the ways it has opened my mind and my world, the friends it has brought me. I think it’s made me a more thoughtful person. Maybe because I’m a writer, but the need to think about how each comment will be read and interpreted has been front and center in my mind from the very first forum I participated in. Am I always successful at making myself understood, and avoiding bruised feelings? No, but I try, and I’m aware. Emoticons are helpful, but they don’t take the place of real life facial expressions, body language, and tonal inflections.

Yesterday, I was following a political discussion on Facebook. We all know those can get acrimonious. But this discussion turned a bit frightening. A not so vague  threat was made.  This is an extreme example, but not uncommon enough, either. In this day and age, predatory behavior  feels more threatening than ever, because the magical internets can make someone three thousand miles away uncomfortably close, and bring them to your door with a few clicks. Not just figuratively, but literally, because it’s all to easy for someone with malicious intentions to find out where you live,work, etc. Without hesitation, this conversation, and this person, raised the hairs on my neck more than the the guy I saw growling to himself as he systematically rooted through the garbage bags when I was walking the beasts last night.

Google, and you’ll find countless quotes on civility, manners, basic courtesies, and the importance of these to a successful society. My question is this; am I just old, noting a societal shift into more casual behaviors and speech patterns becoming acceptable, thinking this represents more than it does? Or are we truly losing our filter, losing our ability to care about someone else’s feelings more than our own need to project our opinions and thoughts?

Chicken Little (2005 film)

Chicken Little (2005 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Sexies,

Thor amboinensis/Sexy Shrimp

So cute, so delicate, seeing you both dance, wiggling your tails in time with the wave maker. I love to watch you, not so much swimmers as graceful leapers, like watching a dancer sail across the stage. The natural symbiotic relationship between you and the mini carpet anemone always in evidence, as you each grab for a pellet or a juicy piece of cyclopeeze, bringing it back to the your nem to feed host and hostess. I keep you well fed, so you don’t pick at the skirts of my zoas, or annoy the yumas until they expose their guts.

At this moment, I want to plunge my hand in the tank and let my fingers press into your little exoskeletons until you pop, sexy shrimp guts to feed the nem instead of mysis shrimp. Why? Because you keep grabbing for my new kenya tree frags, trying to bring them to the anemone.

Kenya Tree Frag

The internets gods were frowning at me this morning, it took three hours to get a connection to come online. Fine, I figured I could use some time to stare into the tank and center my thoughts. Frags are not food for you, Mr and Mrs Sexy!

Hey Artist, Got A Dollar?

Series 1923 U.S. 1$ Silver Certificate, Friedb...

Series 1923 U.S. 1$ Silver Certificate, Friedberg #237, S/N R91110043B (Photo credit: LostBob Photos)

I love Rent. The lyrics, the music, the message, the whole package. Me and eleventy billion other people.  But this line, the title of today’s post, always resonates.

Why are creative types, artists, writers, musicians, etc, expected to be poor but happy? The scene in my head is old and familiar, a talisman and a warning sign spooning together; the gaunt, pale writer pounding away at a dinged up typewriter in a rat infested garret in Paris, overflowing ashtray on either side of her. Mmm, yeah, that was the romanticized image I had at 15.  Not working for me anymore.  Never got to France, more broke than I was at 15, a dinged up laptop, but still, I write. What I don’t do is romanticize an unsuccessful creative life. Great if you lived at the turn of the 20th century with a zillion lovers and a wealthy patron who bought your meals, paid your rent, and you didn’t mind dying of syphilis. Today, as a married mother of three who’s never known anyone to have a patron? Not so much.

Poor but happy is bullshit. Wealthy may not mean happy, but no one is happy when they’re hungry, or worried about paying the rent.

Writing, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, journalism, or blogging, is interactive. I write, you (hopefully) read. More hope, you get on the phone and tell a couple of friends about this fun or moving piece you read, and they read.

PFC Gladys Bellon, Basile, Louisiana, one of t...

PFC Gladys Bellon, Basile, Louisiana, one of the 27 WAC switchboard operators flown from Paris for the Potsdam… – NARA – 199010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so on.  Until…more hope…I make a dollar. Ah, I’ve changed the equation, made it dirty. Because  I’m not supposed to care about how many people want to read what I’ve written, or earning money. Why? My kids get hungry. This may be shocking, but they want to eat multiple times a day. And whether I like all aspects of today’s American society or not, I was raised in it, I live in it. And in our society, money is necessary, and it’s validation. Most published authors don’t earn enough to support themselves through their writing, but it makes a difference in how writers view themselves, and how others view them.

True, there are a few writers, artists, singers, and the like who don’t care about an audience.  But the dirty truth is, most of us do. That’s why, for as many books as you’ll find on the shelf about how to write, there are an equal number on how to catch an agent’s attention, how to craft a query letter, how to get published. Lots of opinions on those who are published, and God forbid, successful.  He’s a hack. She’s a sell out. She’s a tramp. Oh wait.

A real woman will die a virginal death, and a real writer will die with 6 Pulitzer-worthy manuscripts under the bed.  Both, of course, will die at the age of 27 by their own hand, because despair and depression befitting their station in life will have set in.  That or consumption.  But, they were both pure.

On the other hand, go to a party or a PTA meeting and tell people you’re a writer. Then they ask what you write and where they can find your work. Unpublished. Sneer. You’re a wannabe. Then they tell you about their prize winning 5th grade essay. Which is it? Am I pure or a wannabe? Unsuccessful? Plain old delusional? Trade secret, I’m breaking the rules here. If you are really working on, or going to pursue, publication, don’t blog or write about not having been published, the agents and editors will be scared off. Well, I’m forty thousand and I’m cranky, so I’m breaking the rules.

Yes, there are rules and guidelines. Because the publishing world is a business.  A business that likes to make money.  Yes, if you’re good enough, or successful enough, you can break those rules. But good and successful are often synonyms for profitable. Because (reputable) agents don’t earn any money if their writers don’t. And editors don’t keep their jobs if they only get behind books that don’t earn out. Those in the publishing world want writers who have talent, dedication, an ability to absorb and apply critiques and edits, and look respectable at writing conferences.

Cocktail Party At The Imperial Hotel: March 13...

Cocktail Party At The Imperial Hotel: March 13, 1961 (Tokyo, Japan) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back to that party and the elegantly coiffed woman in the classic little black dress. What you write will effect the curl of her lip. Literary fiction? A delicate raise. Romance, sci fi, or other genre fiction? You’ll get the lip, the nostril, and the eyebrow.  Readers, writers, even some who are functionally illiterate, feel free to dis genre fiction. Trash, bodice rippers, pulp fiction.  Not only would this lovely lady not admit to reading any of this, she believes her chihuahua could dance across the keys of her laptop, produce one of these manuscripts and have it be publishable.  No. Writing is an art, writing is work, and marketable, popular fiction is deceptive in its “simplicity.” There’s a reason genre fiction is also called popular fiction. Quality literary fiction; also an art, also work.

Good writing produces work that people want to read. They want to read it because it has a message that hits home, a universal truth wrapped inside a character you’d like to be, saying the words you wish you’d said. It breaks your heart and performs an angioplasty because it tells the story of a pain you’ve lived, and lets you know others have lived it too. It takes you to another world, lets you be a hero, allows you to experience that first love, again.

Not all good writing gets published, but if it isn’t sold or published, it isn’t because it was too good or too pure.

One day, when a homeless woman calls out to me from her blanket nest on a cold sidewalk, “Got a dollar?” I’d like to say yes, and I earned it from my art.

Homeless NYC

Homeless NYC (Photo credit: Delusion Productions)