Thursday, June 26, 2014

My new obsession: Royale

Today is a big day for me: I've given in to vanity. I've never owned a flat iron. Ever. One of my friends used one on my hair once and I thought it was pretty neat, but I never got around to buying one. Why would I? My hair is so straight I struggle with it every morning to get some volume. Why would I want to get it straighter?

If you're rolling on the floor laughing right now, all I can say to my defense is that I was a teenager in the 1980s. Back then, hair was supposed to be large and curly. Mine succumbed to perms and excessive amounts of hairspray, and still insisted on being straight.

Yes, I've lived under a rock since then. I'm a writer. I don't know what goes on in the real world around me. LOL!

Anyway, a few weeks ago I visited a company not far from here that makes hair straighteners, curlers, hair dryers, and other fun stuff. As I waited in the lobby, I couldn't help but watching the commercial video; the TV was right there.

I had no idea hair straighteners could curl hair, or that a flat iron would make it softer and shinier. To make the temptation worse, they come in all forms of fun colors and patterns. I wanted one. Seeing the price of $350, not so much. Not even Santa would bring me one of those, and it's half a year until Christmas, lol.

Last week a little bird told me about the site ceramicflatiron.com. All of a sudden, one of these miracle inventions could be bought for $30 instead of over $300. I think the computer clicked on "add to cart" on its own.

Today, the FedEx truck arrived with a box. My photo doesn't do it justice; this is a very nice box.


I was a little concerned that it says "classic green" because I ordered the bright and happy summer green, but it's okay, because it held the right color.


This flat iron has completely ceramic plates, on/off button, and temperature setting from 176 F to 450 F. It also runs on both 110 and 240 V, so if I ever go back home it will still work.

In the box came a DVD with instruction video, and some brochures. They have curling irons with zebra and giraffe print. These are also for sale on ceramicflatiron.com, and I might have to get one. Yes, I'm like a magpie, and these are shiny objects!


Naturally, I ripped it out of the box and scurried to the bathroom to try. Since I never used a flat iron before I was a bit clumsy, but I love it.

My hair is so stubborn that I can't curl it with a regular hair curler, even on max heat. It remains straight. I went to the salon and got a perm once. Could just as well have thrown the money in the river; my hair was curly for about a week, and after that it was back to straight.

I tried the flat iron on about 300 F, and it worked. I can curl my hair with it, and make the edges bend the way I want - which is the opposite way of what the hair wants.

Now I want a flat iron holder and/or a heat mat, so I have somewhere to put the thing when I'm done playing. They have a pink leopard heat mat. I know it wouldn't match green, but I like it, and I'm eccentric, so who cares. Right!

I also want a purple leopard hair curler and a red hairdryer. Hubs used my hairdryer for something a couple of years ago and broke it, so we haven't had one for ages. Hmm, I'd better get to work to finance this shopping spree.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

This TV commercial changed my life

After reading a headline like that you might think it's about a new diet, a miracle skin cure, or a new and previously undiscovered way to make money. Nope.

The commercial shows an elderly woman who proudly shares her photos on her wall - her living room wall - and the part that has etched its way into my memory comes right at the end.

The older woman says, "I unfriend you."

Her friend says, "That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works."


When I first saw it I thought it was kind of funny. They've been playing it a lot on the TV channels we watch, and it's still funny.

The thing is, every time someone says something really strange to me now I hear, "That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works" in my head. You'd be surprised at how many times it happens every day.

I tend to assume that my measurement for what's self-evident or common sense applies to everyone, but that's not true. Something that comes easy to me can be difficult to someone else, and something that's easy to that person can be impossible for me.

My brain knows this, but emotionally it's still easy to fall into a line of thinking where, "it's so easy, doesn't everyone know this?"

Of course they don't.

People aren't born with the knowledge of how a website works, how to use social media, how to edit images or video, or the importance of building a brand. I'm certainly not born with the knowledge of how to fix my drain, or how to repair hub's car.

Knowing this doesn't change the fact; every time someone says something that's counter-intuitive to my version of reality I hear, "That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works." It's pretty hilarious!


Friday, June 20, 2014

Happy Midsummer!

Today is a big deal for Swedish people; we celebrate the summer solstice. It's done all over the country, but I believe people in my area have taken it to heart the most. People actually travel from other parts of the country to Dalarna to experience a "genuine" midsummer. 

That doesn't sound like a big deal, because Sweden is rather small, right?

It's true if you measure on population, we're just some nine million people. If you measure on area, Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union. It is approximately 978 miles from north to south, and Dalarna is just south of the middle.

In Sweden, the summer solstice always happens on a Friday. This was decided in the 1950s, because we lost too much productivity closing everything down for days if Midsummer happened to be on some other weekday. This way businesses are only closed for one day, and people can celebrate Friday and Saturday, and recuperate on Sunday.

To celebrate properly, you're supposed to pick flowers and make a "midsommarkrans" that you put on your head. Every village with any sense of pride has a "midsommarstång" and this is sort of a flag pole clad with flowers and greenery that is raised at a central spot. Many households put up a little one in their yard, some villages have a smaller one, and some have huge ones. It becomes very heavy, and the raising is a big ceremony.

I would love to put one in my yard here in Florida, just to see if people would react, but we don't have the right kinds of greenery and flowers here, so it wouldn't be the same. LOL.

Anyway, once the midsommarstång is up, dancing commences. There will also be big cook-outs, fancy dinners, and lots of drinking all around the country. 

We believe that Midsummer is the time when the veil between worlds is the thinnest. You're supposed to pick seven kinds of flowers and put under your pillow - which kinds of flowers depends on who you ask - to dream of your true love. If you're lucky, you might see fairies dance on the meadows, but if you walk in the woods and hear someone play violin you'd better watch out. That might be Näcken. He sits naked in a stream playing his violin, hoping to lure maidens in the water so he can grab them and take them to the underworld.

Happy Midsummer! 



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

Sometimes things worth mentioning pile up, but there's not enough of each to justify a full blog post. Does that make sense? Here's a mix of things that have passed my desk lately that might be of interest. And trust me, this is a mix. ;-)


New title to long for


Fabulous Christy Elkins is about to release a new psychological thriller. Swim will be coming to a retailer near you June 25th.

I was fortunate to get to read an early version of the story, and it is fantastic. I will talk more about the book when it is released and you can actually get it. =)

I love Christy Elkins's books, because she keeps me guessing. I can never figure out who-dun-it, and it keeps me turning the pages at record speed, because I have to know what's really going on.




Sale on professional hair styling tools


Yes, this mix-and-match edition of my blog makes abrupt turns. The new website ceramicflatiron.com sells professional flat irons, hair dryers, and curling irons from Royale USA at bargain prices. I'm particularly enthralled with the automatic curler. Put a strand of hair in it, close the handles, and it curls the hair up by itself.

I'm also fascinated with the colors and patterns. I've never owned a flat iron, but I am sorely tempted to get a pink zebra. Normal price $300, now $64.99. It's still a lot of money, but with lifetime warranty...

If I do get one, I'll tell you all about it. If someone here has already tried one, I'd love to hear what you think.

Ooh, they have another super-cool item; wet-to-dry flat irons. I would love to try one of those.


Something for the pet lovers


PlexiDor Pet Doors have a super-fun contest where you can win 1,000 lbs of dog food. I've been trying to visualize 1,000 lbs of dog food, counting the food bags I get for my doggie-gang, and it's hard to imagine. Freight is included in the prize; it will be delivered to your door. Would be a perfect thing to win and donate to a rescue.

To enter, visit http://www.plexidors.com/contest-2014 and post a photo of your dog using a pet door. It can be any pet door, it doesn't have to be a PlexiDor. If you don't have a pet door, get creative.


And, some news from me!


I haven't accomplished much along the lines of fiction this year, but I did write something. Conversion is a novella that will be published in the anthology "Futuristic in Nature" later this year together with stories by L.R. Currell and Dave Chattaway. It is also available as a free-standing book.

Blurb:

Rhodesia runs through the forest, hunted by creatures wearing the faces of people she loves. They plead to her to wait in the voices of her family, and the sound sends chills down her back. What is worse? Succumbing, and becoming a mindless drone with the others, or perishing in the forest, alone?

Roy Planter is a man with a mission, and he has no intention of staying on a plague-ridden planet where more humans turn into mindless drones every day. Being stuck in a city, grouped with a sword-wielding stick insect of a man and a busty blonde with a too vivid sense of humor are only temporary setbacks. He's leaving, first chance he gets. At least that's what he thinks until Rhodesia arrives.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

If I were... Subjunctive mood.

When you grow up with a language you just know some things, without having to think about it. When you learn a new language, it's different. 

My English teachers way back when drilled me with tables like:

I  am
You  are
He, She, It  is
We  are
You  are
They  are

And

I  was
You  were
He, She, It  was
We  were
You  were
They  were


After a while it sticks and becomes natural.

So, why do I have such an urge to say, "If I were" or, "If she were?" According to the tables it should clearly be was, not were. Right?

Wrong.

My "were" in these types of sentences have been corrected by many editors in different situations. When it comes to fiction I generally go along with it. It's not that big a deal. However, the word were is the right form to use together with if. 

It shows a wish or thought that isn't true; a statement that doesn't form an established fact. It can also be about someone's state of mind, opinion, purpose, belief, desire, or intention. This is called subjunctive form.

For example, saying, "If he were a blue elephant" is correct, because the were indicates that something is out of the ordinary and not true.

Here are a couple of examples in present and past form.

Present indicative Present subjunctive
I own I own
You own You own
He, She, It owns He, She, It own
We own We own
You own You own
They own They own
Past indicative Past subjunctive
I was I were
You were You were
He, She, It was He, She, It were
We were We were
You were You were
They were They were

If you want to delve into this, here are some great resources:

  • The Oxford Dictionaries have a great explanation.
  • The Language Log elaborates on, "The 'were' form is often wrongly called a past subjunctive, but of course 'it were done' is not a past tense of 'it be done'.
  • Englishclub.com also elaborates on the subjunctive.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

CVS: Customer service fail.

I've never had problems with American pharmacies before. I find it peculiar that pharmacies sell coffee, snacks, toys, and electronics, but once I find the pharmacy section tucked away at the back of the store I haven't had problems with them.

This week, our local CVS has annoyed me to the point where I wanted to tell them what I really feel. That is a bad thing.

Let's back up for a moment. I need to give some personal background for all this to make sense.

I am personally between health insurances right now. For some reason I can't figure out, the insurance companies refused to give me coverage that started when my coverage from my previous employer ended, so I'm spending June sad and uninsured.

I tried to get an interim insurance for this month, but they wouldn't sign me up because I had a pre-existing problem; high blood pressure.

That shouldn't have had to be a disaster. I thought I could re-fill my own prescriptions late May and get by through June, but Florida Blue only let me have the cheap cholesterol pills that I could live without for a month, or pay for. They refused to pay for the last refill of my expensive blood pressure pills.

That pretty much determined that I wouldn't get a new policy with them. Anyway, my blood pressure is a disaster. I can't afford to buy the medicine without insurance, and I'm allergic to the cheaper versions. Thus, I feel awful. I have headaches, I can barely keep my eyes open, and some days I see funny patterns in front of my eyes.

Thank you Florida Blue, insensitive bastards. *glares*

None of this is the fault of CVS. I just need to man up and push through the entire month until my new coverage with Aetna starts.

Now, I don't mean to whine, but since I don't feel well at all, I have a low tolerance level for bs. Right now, I have enough on my plate surviving, providing for us, caring for hubs and his cancer, caring for the dogs, taking care of the yard and the house...

Monday this week, hubs went his round to the doctors and his general physician gave him new prescriptions. After seeing the general physician, we went to the cancer center, and the doctor there wanted to adjust one of the prescriptions from doctor number one.

We arrived to CVS with one prescription from doctor one to cancel, one prescription from doctor one to fill, and one prescription from doctor two to fill.

They looked at the papers and said, "Why are these from two different doctors?"

We explained the situation, and they looked in their computer. Hubs has so many pills. There are pain pills, prescription vitamins, anti-nausea pills, steroids, medicine to increase his appetite, I can't keep track of them all. Furthermore, he's 5'10" and weighs 115 lbs. Strangers ask him if he's okay. When a person like that shows up with a prescription from a cancer center you'd think they'd be able to realize he's really sick and try to make things easy. Right?

Wrong.

Three pharmacists stood there looking at the papers, looking at him, and looking at the computer. One guy said, "We can't fill this. I'll have to call the doctors."

I said, "Well, then, call the cancer center who made the corrections. They will explain everything to you."

He said, "No, I'll have to call them both."

Hubs headed for the chairs to sit down and wait, and I said, "Wait, how long is this going to take?"

The guy behind the counter made a dismissive gesture. "I have many other calls to make."

It was clear that he had no intention of calling anyone. We had already spent four hours waiting at different doctor's offices and I had to get back to trying to make money for us to pay the bills, so I said, "Will you call him when you're done?"

"Sure."

It didn't sound reassuring, but we left for home.

Hubs waited all day. Nothing.

Yesterday morning, he started calling himself. The pharmacy hadn't even tried calling the doctors. When hubs started calling, the cancer center first got angry with the pharmacy, and then told us to come down to sign a release form that would get him his medicine for sure.

That was the start of bouncing between doctor's offices and the pharmacy for two hours.

Two hours of doctor's notes, phone calls, re-written prescriptions, and CVS still refused to give him his medicine. 

How do you refuse a cancer patient medicine after talking to a doctor who says it's necessary? The cancer center said, "Of all our patients right now, he is the one who needs this the most."

What really made me mad was when the pharmacy people all stood behind the counter, refusing to pick up the phone to call the doctors and double-check the dang prescriptions themselves. Hubs called on the cell phone, got hold of the right person, and the pharmacists shied away saying, "No, we don't talk on cell phones."

I get it, he could have called anyone, but if you refuse to call yourselves, tell him to do it and don't let him use the pharmacy phone, how can he get hold on anyone besides on his cell phone? Drop the attitude, pick up the phone, and call yourself. It's your job!

At this point, after dealing with this for two days, my patience was gone. I wanted to growl and show my teeth, like a dog would have done. On the other end of my computer at home was a company waiting for urgent material for me, I felt like shit, I wanted my husband to have his medicine, we were both hungry, and so on.

Hubs said, "You're starting to be really mean to people."

I said, "I'm sorry. There's a certain level of idiocy I can accept, and these people have gone far beyond that."

When all this was finally settled, they had somehow lost one of his previous prescriptions for anti-nausea pills. It's just gone. It was in their computer yesterday, but it's not there anymore. Luckily, he doesn't feel all that nauseous right now, because neither of us have the strength to enter the battle to get them.

On the bright side, the doctors think hubs will feel much better in a couple of months. In four weeks or so I will be covered again, so I can get my medicine and feel better again, if these people don't give me a stroke before that. I'm supposed to stay away from stress in order to survive this month. CVS are not helping! We only have to push through a little further...

Have you had problems with pharmacies? I'm thinking of sending a letter to CVS corporate. A part of the job of being a pharmacist is caring for people and helping people. I think the pharmacists should have been all over him, helping him, making sure he had somewhere to sit and was comfortable with a glass of water while they sorted their own problems out. What do you think?

Monday, June 9, 2014

What's the most annoying thing people say to you?

When I still had a daytime job and mostly wrote fiction at home, people saying things like, "But you're only playing on the computer" would drive me crazy. Phrases like that convey that whatever is being done isn't important. 

I think everyone with a creative job encounters comments that push their buttons at some time. I base that assumption on finding innumerable images like the below on the Internet. ;-) Most of the points in the image don't annoy me, actually. People mean well, and it's a good thing that they show interest.

I mean, I don't walk up to people and say, "Oh, you're a plumber/carpenter/teacher? Is it hard? I've thought of doing some plumbing at some point in time." Writing is interesting enough to engage people's imagination even when they're not reading.


Anyway, since my husband fell ill and I started my little Sadowski Media to be able to be home with him, I've encountered a similar problem.

This time it's not just annoying; it's serious.

My husband told his doctor's office that I have my office in the back of the house. It's true, and this room is one of the reasons I really wanted this house. My office is bright with four windows, has a door to the outside, and can be shut off from the rest of the house. It's awesome!

Anyway, it took them about 0.2 seconds to reach the conclusion that if I work from home I don't do anything, and I have all the time in the world.


They think it's okay to call at all weird hours to reschedule appointments, create new and unexpected appointments, and let us wait forever, because I work from home so they can't possibly be disturbing something. I have a hard time appreciating the attitude of, "at least you guys aren't in a hurry anywhere."

This week they even took upon themselves to call and reschedule his appointments with other doctors, so they could get a time that fits them better than the one they originally gave him. Happy surprise, we've changed your day around.

It could still be okay if he would go to the appointments on his own, but if I don't follow him, he won't go.

There's only one of me and I have to plan my time. I work seven days a week, usually from morning until night. I need to provide for us, spend days every week in doctors' offices, take care of the dogs, cook, shop for groceries, fetch lunch for hubs, do laundry, do dishes, clean the house, care for the yard, and so on. There isn't enough Maria to cover everything, especially when people keep messing up the schedule.

Replace the baby with a dog, and the image below becomes pretty accurate. (That, of course, doesn't stop people from wanting to pile more stuff on me.)


The funny thing is, if I went away from the house to work for someone else every day, people would get it. There's something magical about the phrase, "I have to go to work" that implies, "Leave me alone."

I'm pretty good at what I do. I have an ample supply of work, but in order to get paid I have to actually do it. Every day. If I move too many of my appointments people will think I'm difficult and find someone more reliable and easier to work with. Worst case scenario, well...


I'm frustrated and exhausted, and thus far, saying no has accomplished nothing. We'll be going in to the doctor's office soon, because naturally today's appointments were moved, and I will have to explain all this again. If they don't stop screwing with my time I won't be able to pay his health insurance, and then they won't get paid. Maybe that's a line of thought they can understand...

For all you writers, artists, and small company owners out there, have you experienced something similar? What is the most annoying thing people say to you?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Anthology coming soon

I haven't written a lot of fiction this year, real life has been too intense to allow me to disappear off into a world of my own, but I am participating in an anthology of short science fiction stories. The name is Futuristic in Nature and it will be released late July.

My story is called "Conversion" - at least for now - and it is set in the future on a planet colonized by mankind. I will probably release it on its own as a short novella as well, the other writers are doing that with theirs and it's a good idea, but I have yet to come up with a blurb.

Anyway, I wanted to share an excerpt:



The great escape stopped just minutes later. She threw herself down on her stomach and took in glimpses of a large road. The pavement looked golden in the sun, and it stretched out with no interruptions as far as she could see. Days earlier it would have been crowded with traffic both on wheels and in the air. Now it lay deserted.
Walking on the road would be easier than trekking through the forest. It would also make her an easy target.
It led to New London. She had been there a few times. It was a nice city. Crowded, but pleasant. People were polite.
Cities had clean clothes, water, and food.
It was just an illusion. New London would be in no better shape than New Tampa, and getting out of there almost killed her. Mankind was overrun by its own creations, and any city would be a deathtrap.
Maybe she should cross the road and resume her trek through the terrain on the other side?
It was just an excuse to feel the pavement under her feet, and once she stepped onto it the call of civilization might be too strong. She might not be willing to step off. She’d keep walking, comforted by a remains of her lost world, and it would lead her to her death.
On the other hand, did she stand a chance alone in the woods? She could hold out for a few days, but what were the odds of someone solving the world’s problem before she succumbed to starvation and fatigue?
What if I’m the only human left on the planet?
She would need a ride off-world. The elders had placed the planet in quarantine and there were surely beacons transmitting gloomy messages of death and destruction, but there might still be ships able to fly. She had never left the planet, but how hard could it be?
The spaceport couldn’t be far, and to get to it she’d have to cross the road.
She climbed the short but slippery bank on all fours, determined to get to the other side before she changed her mind again. Minds were such fickle things.
The deserted road was eerie. Alone in the forest she had been able to pretend the world still functioned, but roads were never empty.
She reached down to press her palm against the smooth surface. It was cool and smooth. At least buildings and roads were still reliable. For now.
“We accomplished this. We built this.”
Her words were too loud. Now would be a good time to run, stay out of sight, and hopefully be forgotten.
Get off the road.
As much as she told herself to hurry, she dragged her feet. New London had a thick wall and it looked safe. Tempting.
“Doesn’t matter when the danger comes from within.”
Her voice sounded spooky in the thick silence, but talking to herself helped her move forward.
Getting up on the road hadn’t been difficult, but seen from above the bank of gravel slanting down to the forest seemed steep. She crouched and squinted, attempting to make out a safe way down. Falling would be bad.
Was that movement?
No. Imagination. Or maybe an animal.
She kept her eyes on the spot, just in case the leaves would separate and show a human face. This was the end of the world and her instincts might be reliable.
At first nothing moved, but then the greenery parted and a man looked out. He stared at her and held out a hand.
“Come with us. You will be safe.”
Right. Sure I will.
She got to her feet slowly. He might still be human, but odds were against it. Even if he were human, he might also be a crazy cannibal rapist.
“You will be safe.”
The slow repeating of words and the lack of expression on his face convinced her.
Not human.
Where there was one, there might be more.
Had he come from the city?
She nodded, pretending to consider the offer, and glanced to the side. A group of five advanced in an eerie, synchronized manner.
The man said, “You will be safe” one more time, and the others repeated the words. An eerie choir of human voices void of emotion.
The only way clear led to the city.


Preliminary release, late July. I'll keep you updated. =)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Exercising my freedom of speech: Makers of pet treats create $6.5 million fund to compensate dog owners

I have been informed that reporting on news regarding certain big companies is bad form, even when they kill tens of thousands of pets. Luckily we have freedom of speech, so I'll just do it on my own blog instead of on the pet-related one. I'm pretty angry right now, so imagine a raving mad smiley here, LOL

The news are as follows:

There has been warnings about pet jerky treats from China since 2007, and with 10,000 pet deaths, almost 5,000 complaints of animals severely sick, and even three humans affected, it is hard to disregard the problem.

Pet treat makers Nestle Purina Pet-Care Co and Waggin' Train LLC both claim there's nothing wrong with the treats, but in settling a recent class action lawsuit in the matter, the two companies have agreed to create a $6.5 million fund to compensate dog owners who believe their animals were harmed.

Money can never erase the pain of losing a furry friend, especially not after wanting to make them happy through a tasty treat, but the settlement is a step in the right direction. If approved, it will also require enhanced quality measures when it comes to treats made in China, and modifications of the text on treat packages.

PetCo and PetSmart have already announced that they will no longer sell pet treats made in China. These companies do a great thing taking the dangerous treats off the shelves. Despite extensive testing, no direct cause have been found for the deaths and illnesses, but the treats are the only common denominator.


My curious question: after reading the above, do you find reporting on it offensive? I think that killing ten thousand pets is pretty damned offensive, excuse the language. Even the FDA has issued warnings about these treats.