March 31, 2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

I’m starting to feel a bit more like myself. I ran my errands in the morning, which included hitting a bookstore to pick up a belated birthday present for a colleague, replacing my atlas that was lost with the car in the flood, and picking up yet another book for myself. I’ve been on a book-buying frenzy lately, and it really needs to stop.

Right.

Came back, ate lunch (major victory), and then packed up the work for the Confidential Job and took it to the beach. I got a little over a third of it done there during the afternoon, which was great. It’s an interesting assignment, which always helps.

It was such a gorgeous day, and lovely to be outside. Very restorative.

I wanted to shake one lady, though. She’s there with her two kids, and all she does is talk to people and tell them what an angel her older son is and what a problem her younger son is, right in front of them. Talk about a way to screw up the kids! My vibe was that the older “angel” just knew how not to get caught, and the younger one bore the brunt of everything. Idiots like that woman are why the issue of licensing parents comes up.

Plenty of dogs playing in the park (they are, after all, the inspiration for the “Dogs on Beach” stories).

Came back and was ravenously hungry, so I made chicken in a wine sauce with mushrooms, rosemary, onion, olives, and tomatoes, based on a Marcella Hazen recipe, but a little different. It turned out pretty well. Along with the baked potatoes.

Also got out three more pitches – but one has an address that’s “undeliverable”. I’ve checked the address three times, and it’s right, so there was a mistake in the ad. Oh, well.

And it’s always the lowest paying gigs with the biggest egos, isn’t it? There’s a little Podunk publication paying below minimum asking for pitches for short articles (200 words). I have the research, it seemed like something relatively painless, maybe even a bit fun. I send them some detailed pitches, and they write back asking me to “develop” the pitches so they get a sense of my voice. All with plenty of exclamation points and smilies in the email, of course. My voice is blatantly obvious in the pitch and cover letter, and you have to be kind of an idiot not to get a sense of it. Or aren’t actually reading what’s in front of you. Uh, any more developed and you’ll have the entire article, and, babycakes, I’m not doing it without a contract, since I’ve never heard of you before and it’s unlikely I will again. Had they asked for samples, no problem. I’ve got a portfolio of samples, ready to go out upon request, which give solid indications of style, voice, and range. But, basically, here, they’re asking me to write on spec, and they’re just not worth it to me. If the article is 200 words, the pitch isn’t going to be 199. Buh-bye.

I’m not going to do a March Wrap-Up because March was basically a lost month, between the flood, the lost car, the new car, and getting sick. So I’m rolling over the bulk of the March GDRs to April and seeing what I can get done. I totally blew a deadline for an anthology, but it was requested, not contracted, so I don’t feel as bad as I might otherwise feel. All the contracted work was completed on time. The rest – take a number and I’ll get to it when I can.

Today I need to do a bunch of admin work, finish the assignment for the Confidential Job, and work on The Project. And maybe do some of that at the beach, if it’s another nice day. I managed about an hour this morning, outlining the Turn of the Century project. I’ve got a strong beginning and a strong ending plotted. As usual, I’m suffering in the middle. I’m also keeping a running list of what I need to research as I plot.

Devon

PS Brandy – thanks for the tip on the dry food. I feed mine Purina Naturals or Purina Indoor formula. I emailed Newman’s Own yesterday, asking them where their food is prepared and how. I received a quick, very nice response that still got on my nerves. They have a “confidentiality agreement” with the plant, and can’t tell me where, but assured me they have their own quality control people checking the site regularly and that the gentleman who responded feeds his animals NOO in clear conscience. My retort was that, if he couldn’t tell me it was NOT prepared at Menu Foods, I wasn’t about to risk it. I ordered a cat food cookbook yesterday, and found another one which I plan to order – and I’m going to go back to preparing their food myself. I’ll ask the vet if I need to add vitamin supplements to the mixes.

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Published in: on March 31, 2007 at 8:54 am  Comments (6)  

March 30, 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

I didn’t do a whole lot yesterday, but it wiped me out. I guess I have to take it slow and deal with it.

I had to run an errand in CT, and then go the other way to Larchmont to return the cat food to Trader Joe’s. They were good about it, and I picked up a few things I needed, and then to Pathmark for a bit more, and then home – where I actually ate a little.

I caught up on some computer stuff and even managed to get out a pitch for a fun gig. It’s all about if my personality meshes with the client, because it’s a speechwriting thing, and that’s about personal compatibility.

Got back my column from an editor friend who went over it before I sent it to my editor, because I just haven’t felt well enough to polish it. It’s much shorter than the last few columns, but, hopefully, all it needs is a copyedit by my editor. It is late, but at least it’s not never.

I caught up on episode recaps of Lost, and I don’t feel I missed much. Can I just say I’m starting to like the smoke monster more and more and hope it destroys every one of these frigging “Others”? I really hate this whole experimental/manipulation b.s. and I want the mystical island to win out and crush ‘em all.

I was furious this morning at the TODAY show. They ran a segment advertised as “what’s safe to feed your pet” in light of all the recalls. In reality, all it was was a commercial to encourage people to buy the expensive brands – no actual information, no brands guaranteed to be safe. I wonder how much the pet food industry paid them to run that piece of inexcusable crap? I expect researched information from these pieces, not advertising masquerading as journalism.

I’ve got some errands to run in White Plains, and then work on both The Confidential Job and The Project. Maybe I can get out another pitch or two. But I’m not going to set lofty goals for the next few days. I’ll simply consider each completed task a victory.

The Confidential Job sent me a bunch of new instructions on how to get paid which make absolutely no sense, so I’ll have to talk to my direct supervisor today or Monday and ask what the heck it all means and where I’m supposed to find (or make up) these little numbers they expect on their forms. Urgh.

I have some lovely yellow jonquils and deep purple tulips in a vase on the kitchen table – just looking at them makes me cheerful!

Devon

Published in: on March 30, 2007 at 8:10 am  Comments (5)  

March 29, 2007

Thursday, March 29, 2007
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cool

I’m a little better. Usually, I have 24-36 hours where I know I’m not going to die, but I wish I would so I’d feel better, and then a few days of weakness. This time, the sickness is just not letting go. I’m finally sort of up and I have to meet a few deadlines – one, in particular, needs to be met today. Part of it, I think, is because I was still trying to get my energy back from being sick in February, and then dealing with the flood and the car and all that, just wore down my resistance.

But I’m well enough to be cranky, so I must be on the road to recovery! 😉

A shame, really, because on Sunday, I’d gotten some work done on an idea which really excites me.

I didn’t work on what I was supposed to work on; instead, I did an outline for a new piece, set around the turn of the 20th century. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start it in 1902 or in 1906. I did some research, and decided that it would start in 1903 – there are a few things that happened in 1902, according to a timeline I found (which I will double-check with other sources) that I need to have already happened when the story starts. Among them are the beginning of the Twentieth Century Limited and Broadway Express luxury train lines between New York and Chicago, the opening of the Algonquin Hotel in New York, and both the first Model T rolling off the line and the creation of the Studebaker. I’ve got about the first third outlined, practically scene-by-scene. I think I will change my process yet again for this and research as I write each section.

If the time frame of the book stretches as far as 1911, I will, of course, work the Triangle Factory Fire into it, as I do with anything set in that year. I don’t think one can revisit that tragedy often enough, especially not if you’re a woman or, basically, care about human beings. My own Triangle Factory Fire book has been percolating for several years – I have a feeling I will have to actually write it on a retreat one of these years. I will need completely uninterrupted work time to do it. And the writing of it will take a huge toll.

It felt good to start work again – even with other deadlines hovering over me. I’ve now got three strong outlines for pieces, dealing with both human psychology and social issues – hopefully not hitting the audience over the head with the latter. It needs to be woven it so it’s intricate to the stories, not a club brought in to whack the reader upside the head. The shriller the tone, the fewer who will listen.

I have to run some errands today, including returning the wet food to Trader Joe’s. According to vets, the problem with food made by Menu Foods is much more far-reaching than the FDA statistics, and I just can’t risk it. The cats are having a fit about the lack of wet food – so I’m giving them baby food in place of wet food in the morning and their usual dry food later in the day in the interim. I tried dry food twice a day and they are NOT amused, NOT having it, and screamed the house down. THE NEW NATURAL CAT arrived – and it’s not the wonderful book I remembered. So I wonder if the book with all the great recipes in it was something else, and I only remembered it as THE NATURAL CAT. This book is downright scary! So I’m off in search of home-made, nutritious, and SAFE cat food recipes.

This weekend, I have to work on my taxes, do the next assignment for the Confidential Job, work on The Project, and catch up on everything else that’s fallen by the wayside over the past few weeks. I’m just going to do as much as I can each day without making myself crazy. April’s already shaping up to be a busy, active month. I need to have some energy put aside for it.

And, because I haven’t hustled for work for the past week and change, I have to get back to that, too. I have a stack of queries that need to go out, and some other submissions as well. But all I can do is as much as I can do – if I push too hard too soon, I’ll just have a relapse, and it’ll take longer to get back to what passes for normal.

Devon

Published in: on March 29, 2007 at 8:39 am  Comments (13)  

March 26, 2007

Now I’ve got the stomach flu . . .:(

Published in: on March 26, 2007 at 8:35 am  Comments (17)  

March 25, 2007

Sunday, March 25, 2007
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Yesterday was difficult. As anyone who’s cared for an ill, elderly parent knows, it’s not easy. Things looked pretty grim until about mid-afternoon, when everything took a turn for the better, and she finally got some sleep. Elsa was great, staying right there all the time. She (my mom, not the cat) is better today, but still a little wobbly.

In between taking care of my mom, I worked on the various letters in reference to the pet food recall. Let me just say that the more research I did, the more appalled I am by the entire industry. And I didn’t like what I heard from Trader Joe’s – although I’m grateful they got back to me so quickly. Although their food is NOT on the recall list, it IS prepared at Menu Foods, and they’ve pulled it all to run their own tests. They suggested I return everything I have to the local store for a refund. Which I will definitely do.

According to Amelia’s comment yesterday, she’d heard from CNN that the additional animals who died did so at the same time while they were testing foods at Menu; the information I had from NBC was that they tested the tainted food on animals when the complaints began coming in. I’ve asked NBC to clarify.

Purina only outsourced one brand of pouched dog food in the recall – the rest is manufactured at their own plants, so it seems (I’m waiting for a confirmation). However, I don’t know if I entirely trust their wet food, either.

None of the pet stores or book stores around here carry THE NATURAL CAT, and most of them claim they can’t even order it (hey, it’s on Amazon, why can’t they order it?). I ordered a copy through Strand (hopefully they’ll pull it before someone gets to it) and I’m giving the girls baby food for the next few days until I decide what to do. Yes, I could JUST give them dry food, but they’ll tear the house down. Their routine is wet food in the morning, dry food later on. And you don’t mess with their routine! Not without serious consequences, anyway!

If you ever read the wonderful book by a New York City vet called ALL OF MY PATIENTS ARE UNDER THE BED, he states that baby beef is perfectly all right to feed cats. Of course, I also give mine baby turkey, baby ham, etc. And it has to be Gerber’s Stage 2. They hate all other brands, and Stage 1 is too mushy. I have a few jars, but I’ll get some more tomorrow when I pick up the newspaper. Generally, I only give them baby food if they have an upset stomach, but in the circumstances, I think it’s safer than anything else out there, at least in the short term.

Just in case, I checked the Gerber site to see if there were any recalls.

And you really want to get angry? Check out www.iamscruelty.com.

By the way, Iams and Eukanuba are basically the same company, under two different brand names.

I finished Susan Cheever’s lovely book American Bloomsbury, about Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, and Hawthorne. It’s a personal book as well as an historical one. I highly recommend it. I also recently read Mary Poppins, She Wrote, which an excellent biography of PL Travers, and Mia King’s Good Things.

I loved Good Things. You can visit Mia’s blog on my list to the right (Mia Musings) to find out more about the book. Her main character is someone I feel I could be friends with, and she avoids the genre traps of overly neurotic protagonists. It’s a warm, lovely book which has enough surprises so the reader never gets complacent. Go read it.

Once I finished American Bloomsbury, I started on the first volume of LM Montgomery’s Journals. They are fascinating. I love her books anyway, above and beyond the Anne of Green Gables books. And her journals! I also love the way she refers to herself as a “book drunkard”. I know exactly what she means.

Hopefully, my mom will continue to improve today AND I’ll be a bit more all-around productive. The less time I make to write, the more fractured I feel. Now that I’ve tasted the non-writing life for a few weeks – it’s not for me.

Devon

March 24, 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and warm

The plan today was to work on recipes; however, my mother came down with a terrible flu in the night, so I’m going to take care of her instead. I went to the local 24-hour store and got in supplies: Powerade, water, saltines, the kind of soup we always have for a stomach problem – and I’ve been giving her ginger tea and water, and letting her doze on and off all morning while I did the laundry, the cleaning, etc.

I might get a little writing done, but I’m not going to count on it. I’ll just take the day as it comes.

Elsa is the best cat to have around when not feeling well – she stays right with you, purring and being quiet and loving. She’s such a sweetheart. The twins get anxious, but they’ve calmed down a bit.

Spooky came up to have his breakfast this morning and visit. He decided he really likes a bright pink catnip mouse, so now that’s “his”. I’ve put it in a bag separate from the girls’ toys until I know everyone’s shots are all updated. I’ll have to buy the girls a new pink catnip mouse, but that’s the way it goes.

There are several things about the Pet Food recall that infuriate me. That it happened in the first place is completely unacceptable. That Menu Foods tested it on animals when the complaints started coming in is also unacceptable, and that those animals suffered and died. What did they do? Get them from shelters and murder them? If they were going to test it on a living thing, it should have been on their damn executives who switched suppliers without checking quality control first. AND, since it was the NY State Agriculture Department who managed to isolate and find out that it was rat poison, there was no need to kill even more animals with their “testing.”

Also, the brands are just as culpable as Menu Foods. If I’m paying the premium price for Iams or Eukenuba, I expect and DEMAND that they have their own plants and strict quality controls. That’s what I’m paying for. To discover that it’s the same stuff as Wal-Mart brand – or any other store brand – is a slap in the face to consumers. And the brand companies are just as responsible for this as Menu Foods. Why are they allowing their supposedly top-line food to be processed without keeping their own quality controls? This is NOT acceptable.

You’ll notice the brand companies have said nothing, but both Iams and Eukenuba have pulled their advertising, as well they should. They should also issue apologies and try to help Menu Foods make it right. No wonder my girls always hated Iams! THEY knew. And wouldn’t eat it.

They eat the Trader Joe’s organic wet food – I switched because it has 0% ash content, and if you use a food with the usual ash content, which is 4%, you are setting your animal up for problems later in life – and no wheat gluten. But I still contacted them wanting to know where the food is prepared and what quality controls they use. I will let you know what they tell me.

I may well go out and buy another copy of The Natural Cat (my copy’s in storage) and start making their food from scratch again.

Unless each and every one of us who is angry about this makes our displeasure known to these companies – not just Menu Foods, but the brand names – this will continue. What are YOU willing to do to keep your pets safe? Apathy = condonement. If you do nothing, you condone what happened.

Devon

March 23, 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

Yes, I’m back. I don’t know where to start, but starting somewhere seemed better than just paddling along like a dog in floodwaters.

The past few weeks have been hectic, stressful, and all the rest of it. The flood, losing the car, the aftermath, dealing with insurance, getting the new car, working full time on the show, the trip over my birthday weekend, the trip yesterday, and so on and so forth. I’m kind of tired.

I’m behind on many writing things, although I managed to keep up the paying, contracted deadlines. I have to finish up my column (that I was working on when the flood hit) and get it off to SDR and get back to Circadian and a few other things, but, for the most part, I kept up so there wasn’t a huge gap in money coming in (plus, working on the show helped fill the gap that opened).

Chasing the Changeling has been put aside while I get everything else sorted out. I haven’t completely given up the creative writing in the interim – I had a few ideas which I sketched out, but we’ll see what comes to fruition and when.

I was also hired for a freelance gig by a company that’s a big power in the industry – but I had to sign a confidentiality agreement, so in here, it will only be referred to as the Confidential Job, or CJ. I’m thrilled that they thought I was the right person for the job, and, so far, I’m loving it. The very first materials arrived on the day of the flood – the DHL guy waded through thigh-high sludge in order to get it to me. Too funny! I turned around that material, and, on Wednesday, I got my next assignment, which is due April 3.

Every time it so much as drizzles, I’m going to move the new car, because I don’t trust that the city will get the warnings out in time. I understand that the manpower had to immediately go out into the street to keep people from drowning in their cars, but the Reverse 911 failed (as in, it never happened because there was no one to do it ), and the sirens used in the past never failed. So re-instate the sirens as back-up already, right? That’s the LOGICAL thing to do. Which is why it probably won’t happen.

I already told the mayor that if I move the car and get a ticket, I’m not paying it.

The car drives like a dream. It drives like a terrific sports car and picks up on the entrance ramp of the highway as well as the stick shift did. I got automatic transmission because of all the traffic here – if I lived in a rural district, I would have gone back to standard. But this one drives just as much in partnership with me as the standard. Usually, I’m always fighting with automatic cars – they tend to wander off. This car feels like we’re working together. Love it.

The rental from the insurance company, a Chevy Cobalt, had two big disadvantages. The first was that it drank up gas like I’ve never seen (and it’s a small car)! I had to stop on the way to Vermont FOUR TIMES to refill the tank. Meanwhile, with the Rabbit, I can drive over 400 miles on one tank. The second big drawback to the Cobalt was that the entire driver’s side is a blind spot. You can’t tell a car is on your left side unless you’re eyeballing the driver. It was terrifying. The mirrors didn’t help, the frame of the door and the back window were such so that if you looked over your shoulder, the entire driver’s side was a blank. It was awful. In the Rabbit, I can see everything. Plus, the seats warm up, it has anti-skid and anti-roll features, it has so many airbags I’m basically driving a padded cell (appropriate, don’t you think?), and a good sound system. It’ll take me months to learn how to do everything it does.

I never thought I’d have a good thing to say about an insurance company, but AllState did right by us. They were not only efficient, but they made the entire process as smooth and stress-free as possible in a situation like this. I was surprised, pleased, and impressed by them. They’re not kidding – comprehensive coverage actually means “comprehensive” in their terms.

I have a stack of notes that need to be turned into article proposals, and I’m in my Spring Cleaning frenzy – especially since, even though no water got into my actual apartment, there’s still that sludgy, mildewy smell everywhere. Since chemical cleaners only stink up the place temporarily, hurt the environment, and then the stench comes back worse than ever, I’m using baking soda, vinegar, and lemon. The place smells fresh and clean, and it STAYS that way. There’s a reason our great-grandmothers used certain natural products (besides the fact they are all that were available). They WORK.

When the tenants were running power lines to the generators and trying to pump the water out (the usual five of us who end up always doing everything, with the self-appointed head of the group nowhere to be found when there’s any actual work to be done, as usual), the owner’s only contribution was to show up with a 9 foot length of garden hose. And that would do what, exactly, when there was 5 feet of water in the basement? Fortunately, the people negotiating to buy the building forced him to hire a clean-up crew – not only did they clean the basement, but they stripped all the walls down there to dry up – something that’s never been done in all the floods through which I’ve lived through in this building since 1972. It’s about damn time.

Now – the black cat. His name is Spooky and he was abandoned in the building several years ago when his people moved and left him. He’s mostly an outdoor cat – he can hunt and fend for himself. He’s gorgeous – big eyes, beautiful, shiny coat, very fastidious. He can be outside for hours and there’s never a speck of dirt on him. He’s hardly feral – he asks me to pick him up and then starts purring. He has the building at his beck and call – there are at least six people who feed him regularly and open doors for him when he so demands, etc., etc. The super is pleased to have him around, because it means no rodents, and almost every one is fond of him. There are several people who are convinced they’re his favorite, and he knows how to play it to the max.

However, he got trapped in one of the basement apartments during the flood. We saw him floating on a mattress, looking very freaked out, as the water rose, but we couldn’t get into the apartment to get to him. Finally, as the waters were pumped down, the super broke in and got him. When I finally got him in my arms, I couldn’t believe him. He’s sitting there, purring – not a drop of water or a speck of mud on him, after twelve hours in a flooded apartment! And here I was, waist high in sludge, hair plastered to my skull from the rain, and I was only out for a half hour!

I have food and water for him outside my door, and we have play time every day. Several others in my section are also leaving him food – basically, my section is now the cat’s smorgasbord – he goes from door to door and feasts.

I’m trying to integrate him into the household slowly – I’ll take him to the vet and make sure his shots are updated, etc. I don’t want to rush him – or my girls. He comes in and out of the apartment, occasionally, and the girls have drawn boundaries. There’s no fighting – but a bit of hissing on the twins’ parts, and many flicking tails. Whenever they take a stand, he backs right out (I leave the door open so no one feels trapped). I find it highly amusing that this is a cat who can stand down any wild animal in our region – but my spoiled, tiny housecats intimidate him! He’s very much a gentleman with them (he’s been neutered and mine are all spayed, so no worries there).

So we’ll see.

There’s much more, but that’s the short version. I’ll try to keep up the daily details, soon, and, hopefully, I’ll have more writing stuff to talk about shortly. Basically, this month’s GDRs are shot, so most of them are just going to roll over into April. I’m not going to stress about it. I’m going to do what needs to be done and re-assess. The GDRs are supposed to be guidelines, not prisons.

Back to work.

The new car

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Published in: on March 19, 2007 at 10:31 pm  Comments (15)  

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Published in: on March 19, 2007 at 10:29 pm  Comments (1)  

Snow, Etc.

We got about eight inches of snow yesterday, so I opted to leave my new car at the safe dealership until Monday.

Published in: on March 17, 2007 at 8:04 am  Comments (10)  

Will write more soon

It’s just been busy, what with 14 hour working days on the show, 3 hour commutes, dealing with insurance, buying the car — if all goes well, I can pick it up tomorrow, will take photos and post early next week.

Expect some LOOOOONG posts next week — I’ll probably break down the past two weeks by category or something.

Since I’m on the show through Sunday, I won’t be online much.

And I really should be busting my ass getting more queries out for next week, when I’m NOT on the show.

I also have a bunch of press releases to get out.

And there are lots of stories about the rescued cat.

Published in: on March 15, 2007 at 7:32 am  Comments (7)  

Happy Birthday to Me!

I bought a car today. To replace the one lost in the flood.

New.

2007 Rabbit.

Blue.

The nice, DARK blue.

Because I don’t feel like waiting around for the insurance settlement offer and then have to scramble.

Happy Birthday to me!

Published in: on March 12, 2007 at 5:19 pm  Comments (24)  

Offline

Just a reminder that I’ll be offline until Monday, March 12 (planned, for good stuff).

I’ll return with stories of the flood, with backstage stories (we’ve had some, um, interesting times back there this week), and stories of the weekend.

Thanks for all your support!

Devon

Published in: on March 8, 2007 at 8:22 am  Comments (10)