Monday, April 17, 2017
Nearly finished with school...
I have less than a month remaining in the completion of my undergrad degree. It is dazzling to consider, because it's been so long since I half-heartedly enrolled in a few courses at NTSU for the Fall of 1987. I have a raft of papers to write, but I expect only one to be difficult. I only have two tests remaining, but I expect them both-- in Spanish-- to be difficult. I feel confident of passing Spanish, but it is still stressful. I will get my campus work done early tomorrow so I can come home with a free afternoon to knock out much of the remaining assignments for the semester, as well as complete a job application.

Of late, I have engaged in some therapeutic gardening, and things are bursting into bloom here and there in the yard. I have chosen plants that complement the native perennials that are established, and I have chosen plants that particularly appeal to hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. I expect that everything will be hog-wild by this time next year. It's odd to cast ahead to a year from now when my commencement will be rapidly shrinking in the rearview mirror. Odd, but good.
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Thursday, April 13, 2017
Speaking of good reading...
I have blogged so infrequently in the past year that I am remiss in spreading news on some good books that have come out.

My dear friend JL Curtis published a good book not quite a year ago. Rimworld is available on Kindle, and is a fun new take on the Sci-Fi adventure.  He populates his work with capable people who have the skills and intelligence to troubleshoot and come out on top in otherworldly situations. There's something to be said for people who can get things done, and who wants to read about a one dimensional character who never got axle grease under their fingernails?  Good stuff. His Grey Man series is worth checking out, too, even if Mom was a little peeved at Curtis for giving one character a more difficult row to hoe than Mom thought she deserved. ;)

I've read a bit of more stuff that he has in the hopper, and it's just getting better and better. I'll try to be a little more on the ball and let you know as soon as his next book is published.
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Monday, April 10, 2017
Monday, Puppy Monday.
Y'all is owed a puppy photo.  Here we have the butts of the elder pooches, while Mochi's head is sticking out. Yes, Chuy's claws are long and evil. It's hard to get out of bed, though. they are such sweethearts.
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Sorry for my silence!
I can't believe it's been more than two months since I posted. In my defense, this is my final undergrad semester, and I'll be graduating in mid-May, so things have been brutally hectic. Considering that I first enrolled in a college course in August 1987, approaching 30 years to obtain a degree is perhaps stretching it, a bit. Call me a late bloomer.

Things have mostly gone swimmingly well this semester. I sang a couple of small roles in an opera workshop performance, and it was great fun, and the second night of the show was a personal breathrough, of sorts. There's a regional opera workshop I've been asked to participate in, but I don't think the timing will be right with all my other commitments this summer. It's good to be singing again, in any case. Most likely, nothing more will come of it, but it feels good knowing I broke through some old challenges. :)

In this area of Texas we've really not even had a winter, so I have managed to eke out a little time to work on gardening around the house, and it's starting to look better. To my dismay, though, my rock rose (labdanum) seems finally to have given up the ghost. It has thrived on my neglect for years, but I think I finally let it get too dry for too long last fall. In any case, it's gone, and I need to track down another specimen.  Even though it's been a warm winter, I was surprised to see a big black swallowtail butterfly in the area on Monday. They are my favorites, and I've already potted a bronze fennel for them, but I thought it would have time to get up to size before the swallowtails sailed through. I need to get a few more of those and put them in various places and see if I can't lure more of those lovely creatures.  The butterflies love that type of fennel, and they lay their eggs on the plant, and they look like tiny bright yellow grapes on the stems.  The caterpillars eat the ferny foliage all the way to the stems, often, and then there are more butterflies. It's a fun cycle to watch. I am thrilled to see many new shoots of a tall, sky-blue salvia I love, as well as about a dozen shoots coming up from my Texas Star hibiscus, and they'll get to be about 6 feet tall, or more. :) It's odd, though, seeing perennials appearing that I normally wouldn't see growing until April or May. I hope this summer is not too brutally hot, but I'm not holding my breath, either.

I will try to write more before I graduate in May, but no promises. I have tons of papers to write, and a few huge final projects for various classes. They are largely pleasant tasks, but there are so many, and miles to go before I sleep. All best to all of you, if anyone is still reading.
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A new western novel from Peter Grant
My friend Peter has just published his second in a series of western novels. Rocky Mountain Retribution is out on Amazon now, and it's already had a handful of nice reviews. :)
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Thursday, January 12, 2017
Glorious music for a new year
I'm sorry for yet another grand pause in blogging.  The holidays were a bit rocky, and I'm learning a couple of parts for Opera scenes at school for my final semester.  I'll be singing Dorabella in Soave sia il vento from Cosi fan tutte, and I'll sing a nice role (not the ingenue, thankfully) from Rossini's Le Comte Ory.  Should be fun, and it's wonderful to sink my teeth into singing these days. I am studying with a superb teacher who was a student of Cornelius Reid for more than 25 years.  I feel like nearly every lesson is a breakthrough, and I daily feel closer to singing with my true voice. These three final semesters of school have been a real gift for me as a singer, and they have come in the nick of time, or at least right when I had decided I'd never sing again.

In opera, I'm generally more fond of the baritone or bass singer in any opera ensemble, but I came across a glorious recording of an opera today on a long-time favorite opera site.  This is a 1959 recording of Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles, and the role of Nadir is played beautifully by Alain Vanzo, a tenor of whom I was sadly unaware.  His voice is like satin.  In truth, the tenor can be impossible to escape or ignore, and often feels like audio trepanning, but Vanzo is magnificent, truly.  You can read more on the link about his performance career, of which there are too few recordings.  Do yourself a favor and click here to listen, scrolling down to the audio file and click on the green play arrow.  It's not a long opera- under 1.5 hours, but the music is outstanding, and is at its finest in this recording.  If you have something to do around the house, crank this up and listen while you do chores.  I think you'll find yourself pausing simply to listen.  This recording is impeccable.  If you listen, please let me know what you think.  I am so delighted to learn about Vanzo, and I hope he will be a happy discovery for you, too.

If you happen to be a fan of opera, or of classical voice, the authors and commenters on that site, Parterre Box, are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate fans of the art, and the discussions are lively and entertaining. Indeed, their enthusiasm gives me hope that the art of opera will endure for centuries to come. 
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Sunday, December 11, 2016
Howdy, folks!
Life continues apace.

Sorry for my long absence, but this semester has been hectic.  I applied for May graduation in early October, and although I await confirmation from the Registrar, I am reasonably confident of that date for finally finishing this degree.  I'm sure I'll have more to say on that subject as the time draws nigh.  I worry that I shan't sleep for the months of April or May-- I will be in full terrier mode at that point, I expect.  I'll sleep-- lightly, occasionally-- on top of the covers with Praline, ready to spring into action at any moment.  That, or I'll be wrung out and simply too tired to spaz.  At least I have no 8 or 9 AM classes in the Spring, which makes me more happy than I can convey.  I am more the type to get up at the crack of noon, so 8:00, 9:00 and 10:00 AM classes this semester have been major factors in how tiring this session has been.

My music minor is going well.  It's good to sing classical repertoire again, and I happened into the most superb voice teacher.  I've made so many startling breakthroughs vocally, with his brilliant guidance.  It's a sort of alchemy, finding the teacher who can unravel the intricacies of how you produce sound, then strip away the unnecessary and the bits that are just plain wrong.  Singing is much easier than ever before, actually, but I'm battling decades-old bad habits.  I will participate in some opera scenes in the Spring, so that should be interesting.

I have two finals to take this week, and then the semester is completed.  I expect to finish with my highest grade tally in many years, which will be a robust boost for my GPA. 

In early October, I broke my phone, and a friend generously gave me an older phone they no longer use. One reason I haven't posted as frequently-- particularly the puppy posts-- is that the new old phone does not let me post onto blogger, for some reason.  I hope to remedy this situation within the next month.

Other news: wow, the big election happened.  Frankly, I was so sick of the news cycles and the constant blaring about Trump, and most of the media's perpetual fawning over HRC.  I remember being sick of the election a full year before it even happened.  I'm still surprised at the outcome.  I haven't been a fan of Trump, but I think he will make a better president than she would have done.  It's ironic how most of the establishment politicos and media were in lockstep to oppose him-- that was probably the best thing they could have done for his campaign.  I looked at all the negative press he received, and saw their hand-fast with political leaders present and past, and I wondered how's come they can all agree to oppose Trump down to the point that they use identical criticisms for him, but they can't be bothered to do what we hire them to do and balance the budget, or something?  I wish all the best for our country, and I hope that Trump wins some people over by doing a splendid job as president.  I am impressed with some of the early news about cabinet choices, and I think his thank you tour has shown him to be a classier act than he was credited by his opponents.  He seems presidential and dignified, and I am pleased by that.

Irony moment: HRC campaign and DNC conspired to keep Bernie Sanders from getting the Dem nomination.  Bernie had a better chance of beating Trump than HRC ever did.  I hope the DNC savor the irony for a long while to come.  In the space of about 72 hours, the news cycle turned from crowing about the end of the Republican party, to a pants-soiling lament about the end of the Democratic party.  I think the takeaway from all of this is that it's hogwash, and that we need to mine the internet for news from a variety of sources, and throw out the incumbent in pretty much every election.  

As for people who say that we are a laughing stock around the world for our choice of Trump: I am unmoved, and un-intimidated.  We are Americans: people expect us to be a little wackadoodle.  Why change now?   There's a reason for the double- or triple-meaning in the name and term "Mickey Mouse."  I'll leave that there, for now.

I entered a short fiction competition this year and did quite well, though I did not make the finals.  There were about 2200 people in the competition, initially, and I made the semi-finals of 300.  I am satisfied with the final story I submitted, and the feedback I got in every round from judges was quite useful.  I learned this week that I didn't make the final of 40 writers, and I am glad that I don't have to write a story this weekend, in addition to studying for finals.

I'll try not to be so scarce around here.  I do expect the Spring semester will be hectic, but I hope it will be enjoyable, as well.  I have two classes with favorite faculty members, so I want to do well, and I know I will learn. 
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Saturday, October 22, 2016
Gonna throw out a link with some important content:
Here's a link to Old NFO's Wordless Wednesday post. 

If a high ranking pol from any political party but the DNC were videotaped laughing about the prevalence of their election fraud, do you think it would be all over the mainstream media?  It would be, but this story is not.  Further, the running-scared media are lying to their audience, saying things like it's "illegal to read wikileaks" that prove how they(major "news" companies) have acted to affect outcomes in politics, business, and and international relations.  CNN wants you to feel guilty about looking at information their anointed politicians casually tossed off from unsecure servers with no concern for security, national- or otherwise.

How is the average American to feel, other than betrayed by these news organizations who do not report without bias, just the facts.  They tap dance double-time to shield the facts in some cases, and to mis-frame issues, altogether.

No linkey love for Michael Moore, but various outlets are reporting that in his new film, he states that he hopes that Hillary Clinton DID have Vince Foster killed.  "That's bad ass," he is reported to have said. 

Think of how horrible a person it takes to kill another person who knows too much about their shady business dealings.  Think of the scale of vileness their dealings have to have reached to necessitate the murder of people who know what they are all about: how can anyone want a person of that character for the leader of our nation?  Even joking about that telegraphs a dark cynicism about values and ideals on which our nation was founded.    Not funny.  I'm not laughing.

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Sunday, October 09, 2016
Holding our noses as we go.
2016 has been rough in many ways, and the current presidential election rotation is prime among the unpleasantries this year has afforded.  Trying to decide which reprobate to reward with the U.S. Executive Branch is like trying to pick up a turd by the clean end. 

If I were a campaign strategist for a presidential candidate, I'd select the four or five worst bits of little-known dirt I could find on the opponent.  I would study the first debate meticulously, analyzing the opponent's performance from every angle.  Then, about a month before election and a couple of days prior to the second debate, I'd release one of the bits of dirt, preferably salacious detail that did not include real data related to policy-- one wouldn't want to bog down on details related to actual job performance.  This bit of dirt would need to push the buttons I've already had in overdrive for the entire campaign.  A well-primed public then would erupt with rancor over sexism or racism or whatever detail on which the dirt centered.  

Thus unbalanced by the undeniable embarrassment of the situation, the opposing candidate would face my candidate in the debate at a distinct disadvantage.  My candidate would enter the second debate well-poised to deliver a death of a thousand cuts with verbal barbs engineered to prod at tender fresh wounds.  The opponent may recover, but the seed of doubt has been planted in many of his supporters.  I would then use the coming weeks to deploy the remaining bits of dirt, releasing them to throw the opponent off-balance every time they seem to be regaining their equilibrium.  I would time the most devastating bit of dirt to release the Friday before the election, when it would be hardest to recover, and when the voting public will have the entire weekend to seethe and marinate over the new outrage.

I would rely on the short memory of the voting public.  I would bank on the fact that most of the voting public is not politically astute, doesn't pay attention, and has a short memory, anyway.  I would rely on the fact that the voting public has no recollection of my candidate's spouse doing the very thing for which the opponent is being vilified.  I would rely on the public not remembering that my candidate's husband grabbed women by the pudenda in the Oval Office, and that this predator will be the first Mr. First Lady.  I would also rely on the pat option of claiming gender- or race- biases against my candidate.  Use all the tools in the shed, yes?

If you are a Trump supporter, you really should brace yourself for much worse to come in the next month.  This is not over by a long shot, but I also think the release of the secret taping of Donald Trump may have been a strategic mis-fire on the part of the Clinton campaign:  they have unleashed a can of worms wherein secret recordings will be taken as gospel, and what do you think are the odds of either Clinton having been secretly recorded saying outrageous things?  (Funny note: I just typed in "bill clinton" on Google, and the first search term auto-filled "bill clinton cigar."  I wonder what that's about???)  Particularly  given Bill's friendship with the problematic Jeffrey Epstein. *shudder*

More to come, folks.  It's all ugly, all the time, in this campaign.  I expect both sides to play dirty, and to come out swinging.  And the sad thing is the net effect is that we will have difficulty respecting whoever wins the contest, because the whole problem was that we were already sick of politics as usual, and the policies they beget. 

I haven't written much about politics in years, here, because what is the point?  I may not write any more about politics, particularly this election cycle, because what's the point?  At least it will be over, soon, except that this election has actually made time seem to slow down.  Heaven help us.
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Saturday, October 08, 2016
Rodent tartare
The morning ritual is the first thing out of bed, the pups go to the backyard for the necessaries, and then back into the house for Kibble Time™.  This is the time of year when pecans are falling en masse in the back yard, and Mochi loves to supplement her diet with pecans.  The usual routine is the pups run out, do their business, Mochi has a quick pre-breakfast nut snack, and then back in for the morning meal.  Mochi often enters the house carrying a pecan she hopes she'll be able to secret in the house somewhere with Mommy unawares, but when the Sacred Kibble is in the offing, she's pretty good about giving up the pecan in her mouth to me, which I quickly dispose of properly.  I let the pups out back this morning, and at most, they were in the yard for two minutes.  When they came in, I saw Mochi throw back her head to get a better purchase on the nut she was carrying.  ONce in the house, I told her to spit it out, and I was surprised when she did so quite easily.  Without focusing on the nut,  I reached down to pick it up, surprised to find it quite warm.  Um.  And moist.  And furry. 

In my hand I was holding most of the head and neck area of a small rodent.  The eyes looked peacefully closed, as if in sleep.  There was red meat aplenty, and I could see the heart and other viscera, but most of him was gone.  The black whiskers were so short and tidy.  He was a lovely little marvel of a creature.  Poor little devil. 

Somewhere, little rats sit at the kid's table at clan gatherings, and they whisper tales of the three giant, slavering beasts who come out randomly to strike terror and fear in the hearts of hapless rodents, killing all they see and eating their corpses as they scan the horizon for movement.  Woe betide the little rat who strays too close to the nomnivorous fanged beasts who rove my yard. 

The morning is bright, and full of terrors.

This has me re-thinking puppy kisses.  Yuck.
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Sunday, October 02, 2016
Sunday, Puppy Sunday: it's laundry, and I helped!

Mochi is a good and supportive helper around the house.  Whatever is going on, she wants to get her paws into it!
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Fall in full swing.
My penultimate (hopefully) undergrad semester started at the end of August, and I'm now about a third of the way through.  I managed to swing a class schedule of MWF this semester, so I have two full days for study and other things.  It's a relief to not have to be on campus at 8:00 AM every day.  Thursdays I still spend most of the day on campus, but Tuesday is free for working at home and studying there, plus the prospect of sleeping in a wee bit.  Unfortunately, I tend to wake up pretty early on the days I don't have to, it seems. 

I participated in a large short fiction writing competition this summer, and two weeks ago I found I'd placed well in my group.  The second heat has happened, and I should get feedback on my second story in about a month. I hope to place again, and to advance to the third heat.  It's good to get feedback that helps tighten up my writing. 

I've been tutoring students with their writing, and I've been pleasantly surprised how that process has helped me to view my own writing critically and objectively.  I also enjoy that process, although thus far it has been a single-serving interaction: students make their corrections and submit their paper, and they don't often come back to share the outcomes for their work.  I find myself wondering at knowing only half of a story.  I felt that way about the patients in nursing school clinicals, too: you do your shift, and do all you can for a patient in a 13 hour period, and you will most likely never see them again.  It's an odd interaction that is intensely personal and then is suddenly no more.

The puppies are well and in fine fettle.  They seem happier with my new and improved schedule, as I am home with them more often.  They are convinced a demon is living under the lawn mower, and they circle and menace it tirelessly.  I tip the mower so they can look and sniff under it. "See? No demon.  No varmint.  Just grass whiskers."  They are not buying it.  They are a perpetual delight.

I am considering my next step after I graduate in May.  I am stepping up the writing, and am currently researching information on East Texas for a work of fiction I began last year.  I wrote a few short stories with a character I placed there, but now I want to do a full-length fiction for her, and I am reading as much as possible on the area.  I've picked up "Tales from the Big Thicket" and a few other books.  I appreciate any books or websites you folks might recommend on East Texas history and lore.  My character lives near a made-up town, but it's in the region south of Tyler. 

I'll try not to let so many weeks elapse between posts, next time, but life continues apace.  I confess that this election year has been vexing, and I will not be sorry to see the back of it.  We've got -- what? -- five weeks to go until election?   Someone accurately said that trying to decide for whom to vote this time is like trying to pick up a turd by the clean end.  Quite.

I'll try to get a Puppy Sunday post up.  Y'all is owed one.  I hope you all are well and thriving and happy.
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Friday, August 12, 2016
Ray of light.
This summer has been a bit rodeo.  I posted here that in late May, the gunblogger community lost a stalwart member, and I lost a personal friend.   Although Ray battled some health challenges, our tribe hoped and prayed he would come through them.   Alas, it was not to be. 

I launched into summer, ready to get much accomplished and to get some rest from school, as well.  I was tired, and the gut-punch of losing Ray sent me into a bit of a tailspin.  I came down with a flu that lasted two full weeks, topped off with a cough that lingered.  The cough hung on until my second annual 50th birthday float on the Guadalupe in late July, but the active time outdoors seemed to clear that up, finally.  Floating on weekdays combined with broody, rainy weather to yield an almost deserted river.  I felt my feathers smoothing out as I glided down a quiet river under ancient cypress trees swagged with long streamers of Spanish moss.  The sun stayed away, mostly, and the temperature remained warm but not hot.  Unmolested by shrieking rednecks, myriad turtles sunned themselves on rocks and driftwood, and all manner of birds were to be seen on the river.  In one golden moment, we floated past a pair of fawns getting their lunch from their mothers on the bank.  It was a moment of pure beauty and happiness.  I thought about things, and I felt myself healing.

Laughing and smiling about Ray is feeling more natural now than despair, although my heart aches with his absence.  He would call at least once a week during his commute home through Seattle traffic, and we had big plans.  We hosted a gathering at the Gingerman in Houston during the NRA convention, and we were looking forward to throwing a soiree at the Dallas NRA in 2018.  I miss our talks, and sometimes the phone ringing during that time of day makes me think it's him, for an instant.  But it won't be.

Last night the Perseid meteor shower peaked, and I stood outside with friends for a bit, looking at the sky.  A bright orange streak burned southward, and thoughts of Ray came rushing to mind.  I saw a few more streaks of light before I went in for the evening.  I awoke this morning at 5:00, put on some shoes and let the pups out, and I went out, too.  I scanned the sky, expecting the meteors to appear at a different point in the sky, when I looked overhead in the same spot of that first orange streak, and there came another orange streak.  The fiery ray made its way with purpose and intensity, but unhurried to the southern horizon.  It felt like a "hello" from Ray.  I was comforted.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Happy birthday, Dad!
I've said it here before and in many ways. I'm humbled to have such a splendid father. I hope your birthday has been wonderful, Dad. I love you and I couldn't be more proud of you. 

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Name: Phlegmfatale
Location: Elsewhere, Texas, USA

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