I got the blues

Title pageI have a sad case of postpartum blues. No, I haven’t given birth to a squalling, pooping little bundle of joy, but I did send my manuscript — supposedly the final edit — off to my professional editor. Now I wait till she goes through it and (hopefully) tells me it’s good to go.

I thought I’d be bouncing around today with a big weight off my shoulders. Last night I couldn’t sleep for going through all the things I’d be free to do today now that I wasn’t shackled to my manuscript. My house looks like a crash pad. And why not? That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the past few months while I focused on this book.

Envelopes are piled up on my desk. I shudder to think what might be in them that I’ve been ignoring. Dirty clothes are spilling out of the laundry baskets. When was the last time I changed the bed sheets? Stacks of books I’ve used as references, or read in the evenings and never reshelved, or borrowed and never returned are on top of my sewing table. One the rare days when I felt like I had to swamp out the house but didn’t want to take the time, I just put things in empty Amazon boxes. Who knows what might lurk in them.

Ick, the cat boxes need emptying. No point in scooping. They’re beyond that – gotta just dump the contents and replace with fresh… um… I do have more kitty litter somewhere, don’t I? I did do dishes almost every day, but the clean ones are piled high in the dish drain.  Why bother putting them away? I just kept using the same ones over and over.  Other than baking a few loaves of bread, I haven’t cooked much of anything since Christmas. I can go a long time on peanut butter sandwiches, salads, and wine.
Fabric
I look around the house and there is stuff everywhere! Not only stuff that needs to be put away, but projects that need to be completed. Fabric that I’ve purchased but not stored for the wall hangings I’ve started but abandoned. Houseplants that need repotting sit on windowsills and on the kitchen counter and on the floor. Tools that I’ve used to band-aide things that broke that I had no time to fix while I’ve been living in the dream world of writing need to be put away. And of course, the interior walls of my tiny little straw bale house still have not been plastered.

I have so much to do and now I’m free to do it.

But no. I’m sitting here feeling no motivation at all. I’ve got postpartum depression. I’ve had my creative baby, so to speak. The creation process took all my psychic energy and now I’ve hit the post-creation let-down.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it’s just the massive amount of work that I need to do to get my house back in order that is off-putting.

Maybe I should write about it instead of doing it.

Hey – I feel better already!

Still coming to a bookstore near you…

Last May I wrote on my Mage Music blog about a book I’ve been wrestling with since 2009, Evolution Device.   It is vaguely inspired by Jimmy Page — but it’s absolutely not about him at all, as you will see when you read the book.

I had hoped to get at least a digital version online before now, or preferably find a publisher, but that hasn’t happened.  What happened instead was a professional editor.

Bwahahahaha!  Read more

One of the book covers I dreamed up.

I’ll have some science with that, please

A December 28, 2017 Albuquerque Journal editorial about the new Mexican wolf plan states “The state commission last week also approved Fish and Wildlife permits to allow the cross-fostering of up to 12 pups in New Mexico in 2018 and for some pups to be moved into captivity in New Mexico from Arizona to promote genetic diversity of the wolf.”

Um.  I don’t think that’s going to work, buttercup.  You can’t create something from nothing.  It would be like saying you were going to segregate all the red and white molecules from a bucket of pink paint so now you have more colors, and then expect you can paint your wall blue with what you’ve created.  Not gonna happen.

Image illustrating how breeding two horses together won't end up with a unicorn

Breeds ≠ species genetic diversity

Mexican wolves in the US have all been bred from just a few ancestors, all captured in Mexico in the 1970s.  There are now many hundreds of Mexican wolves in the wild and in captive facilities in the US, and they all are descendants of those few ancestors.  So what I want to see is some science that explains how there could be genetic diversity created from that limited gene pool.  Where, exactly, are the new, diverse genes supposed to come from when all Mexican wolves in the US are descended from only a couple handfuls of ancestors?

12,000 years is a blink of the evolutionary eye

Cheetahs were nearly wiped out in the recent past, evolution-wise (about 12,000 years ago). All of today’s cheetahs are descended from probably more ancestors than the  captured US Mexican wolf population’s are, and yet today there is no more genetic diversity in the cheetah gene pool than there was 11,999 years ago — even though cheetahs have bred freely for all that time. So if over a span of 12,000 years diversity has not miraculously developed in one species, how could diversity develop in another over just a few decades’ time, even with human oversight?

Breeds ≠ species genetic diversity

All the Mexican wolf program is doing is inbreeding — mixing and matching the same genes to create  artificial diversity,  akin to breeds in domestic animals. The artificial diversity of inbreeding, of course, simply disappears as soon as animals cross-breed.  Breed two purebred dogs together, for example, and you can be pretty sure the offspring will be like the sire and dam.  But throw a bunch of different breed dogs together and let them have at, and after a while all the pups will be… mutts.

Thus all the human-bred genetic “diversity” of wolves released into the wild will simply breed out because the resulting offspring will have the same genetics as the original wolves they came from back in the beginning of the Mexican wolf program.  When all the Mexican wolves in the US are related, what one is vulnerable to all of them are vulnerable to.  That’s what a limited gene pool gets you.

It might be a noble thing that Americans are doing, trying to “save” the Mexican wolf.  Unfortunately, real science indicates that all that we’re doing is creating a sort of outdoor zoo for a subspecies that may never be genetically viable enough to thrive on their own.

 

 

Great Expectations. Not.

Today was the winter solstice, that is, the first day of winter.  Here in my part of New Mexico it was all gale force winds and, well, wintery.  I was chilly all day long.  So naturally my thoughts turned to warmth:  Warm layers, cozy fire, and a nice hot toddy.

Accordingly, on the way home from town I stopped in Western Drug and General Store, which really is an amazing place that sells just about anything a human being could want.  My pretense was that I needed to pick up a birthday card (and I did do that, got a nice one) but I also wanted to get some whiskey because it seemed to me whiskey would make a proper hot toddy.

Now here’s the thing:  While I don’t like the stuff, I feel like I should.  Every damn mystery and science fiction book these days seems to have characters who drink single malt and double malt and hey — I love chocolate malts so shouldn’t I like whiskey?

So far, I never have.  It tastes like paint thinner.  Nasty, nasty stuff, no matter how aged it is and how many malts it is.  Whatever that means anyway.  But I had noticed a while back that Western had whiskey in little metal flasks (375 ml to be precise, but as a die-hard non-metricentric, it is little to me) and it was labeled Apple Crisp Whiskey.

Oh wow!  I like apples!  I like apple crisp (that is a dessert, isn’t it?).  How bad could whiskey be if it was Apple Crisp Whiskey?  And on top of that, the label also said America’s Finest.  And a cute, candy-apple red metal flask!

Well, I had to have it.  I had visions of an incredible hot toddy after the evening’s chores were done, the cozy fire blazing in the wood stove, me bundled up in my jammies and bathrobe. But no.

You knew that, right?

First hint:  I could have sworn on the way home I smelled whiskey in the cab of the truck.  And, well, yes, when I picked that flask up in the store, it did stick to the shelf it was on.  But such a cute, candy-apple red metal flask it was, I had to have it!  Probably some other flask had leaked, right?

The seal was still intact on the little tiny cap (so cute!).  And maybe there were some kind of sticky droplets on the side of the pretty candy-apple red side of the flask, but that could have come from anywhere.  At home I gave a moment’s thought to returning the flask unopened, since it seemed that maybe the flask wasn’t quite as full as it might have been but… no.  I was determined to have that damn toddy.  Tonight.  The fire was roaring, I was warming on the outside and I wanted that hot comforting drink to warm my innards.

I opened it.  I sniffed it.  Kind of.. ewww.  Paint thinner with a hint of rotten apple, overlaid with the tang of metal.  I poured some hot water into a cup, added a big tablespoon of honey, and a slug or two of Apple Crisp Whiskey.  Stirred well.  Tasted.

Have I said ewww yet?  I thought maybe I was mistaken.  I mean, I never have liked whiskey or any of its relatives.  So I took another sip to be fair.

But that metal taste.  Really.  Bad.  In the lingering aftertaste I was sure it was less apple and more compost that coated my tongue, compost liberally tainted with steel.  Was this the normal taste for something that claimed to be America’s Finest?

OK time to read the fine print.  Proprietary all-natural recipe.  Estate-grown corn.

Corn?  Where are the apples?

Traditional copper still.  I sipped a bit more.  No, definitely not pennies I was tasting, but steel.  Remarkably mellow flavor and smooth finish… wait, what about the apples?  I read the other side.  Aha!  Corn whiskey infused with apple crisp liqueur.  Whatever that is.

Maybe I’m too picky.  Or maybe I simply have an uneducated palate.  But I think that maybe somebody accidentally put some kind of solvent in that flask and it’s dissolving the welds.  Because I swear, I rinsed the outside off and dried it and there are sticky droplets along the seam again.

So… happy solstice.  Winter has come.  Meanwhile, I’m drinking Merlot, the fire is cozy, and after I recover from the toddy I’ll get my jammies on.

 

 

Do what you love and love what you do

“You’ll do what you have to do to be able to do what you want to do.”

This is what a friend of mine said to me in an email this morning. Not only is it catchy but it’s true.  Except that it’s kind of grim.  Happily, for me what I have to do to be able to do what I want to do is already what I want to do.

Too convoluted? Well, let me give an example.  This morning, for instance…

This morning my eyes opened before the sun popped over the horizon. I have no idea why so early, but it was OK.  The room was chilly but I was toasty under oh, five or six layers of flannel blankets and quilts.  If I didn’t go back to sleep I could just laze around and let my mind wander.  I very much enjoy that luxury, because I’m not a morning person.  Oh, I get up at what seems like the crack of dawn, but a real morning person would sneer at the thought.

So I let some writing and art issues bubble up through the murk of sleep, not trying to guide them or even capture them. What came up might or might not be useful, but the luxury part of what I was doing involved just letting my subconscious do whatever it wanted. Of course, because I was half asleep I forgot most of it, but I figure that if the ideas got that far they really want to come out. Eventually they’ll pop to the surface while I’m awake and and I will capture them.

It wasn’t all that long, though, before my bladder and the cats demanded that I roll out of bed.  First thing after that was to shuck my PJs and get dressed. Why no lounging around with a cup of coffee? Well, for one thing, this morning it was 38°. Inside the house.

Obviously my immediate concern was to get the fire going in the wood stove. That meant clearing out ashes, and that means an ash bucket had to be nearby, so that I don’t have to go outside to get one. It might have been cold inside, but outside it was in single digits. It’s December in the high country, after all.

Once the ashes were removed I piled up the glowing embers and stacked wood around them so they’d ignite. That means that there had to be wood available, mind you, and there was (see ash bucket, above).

OK, fire going, coffee water heating on the kitchen stove while I fed the cats before they drove me crazy. By the time I was ready to enjoy my first sip of life-giving java, the wood stove had heated my little house to a reasonable temperature so that I could remove layers as I checked email.

Whoa! A patron signed up (the friend I quoted at the beginning of this post). Wow! Way to start the day!  (Reminder — support your friendly creator!  Thank you if you already have, and don’t be shy if you haven’t.  Any support is fantastic support.)




I feed the horses around 9 a.m. because generally it has warmed up some by that point. I’m not a fan of doing chores when it’s so cold my nostrils stick together when I breathe. In the summer I feed around 8 a.m. because it’s cooler. Due to Daylight Savings nonsense, from the horses’ point of view they’re being fed around the same time.  This is important because even though they’ve got grass hay available all the time, it’s not the same as those delectable flakes of alfalfa for breakfast.  My stallion, Koko, also gets pellets with probiotics in them, plus any fruit or veggie parts that are left over from my kitchen. He eats it all. You’d be amazed.

So as long as I’m outside, I’ve got other chores to do. First is breaking ice on the water troughs. Koko is always thirsty in the mornings, so I do his trough first. Then it’s time for some exercises — stuff left over from physical therapy for my hips that help keep me limber — and after that a short walk, about a half mile loop.

The walk lets me look out away from myself into the distance.  It reminds me I’m part of a much bigger system. It puts my own problems in perspective for a while. I stay on my own property and that walk also reminds me how wonderful it is that I get to live here, on this land. Each day there is something new to see. Coyote poop (full of barely-digested juniper berries right now), elk poop, horse poop, occasionally cow poop. Tracks of many kinds in the dust of the trail. If I’m lucky — and why I think it’s good luck I don’t know — I’ll see the resident roadrunner, who is a bold bird that is used to me by now. He will move away but not far.

Sometimes I’ll surprise an owl or hawk or a flock of larks or piñon jays.  Sometimes a raven will circle me, speaking to me in raven talk that I can’t quite understand.

This time of year the weeds are brittle and dry. Even though I stick to the trail I’ve made, it seems like every plant has burrs or needles or hooks on them so they can hitch a ride on a passing sock. Gaiters keep the nasty little things out of my shoes.  When it snows I’ll wear the gaiters to keep warm.

Some mornings after I’ve walked I’ll work with one of my young mares, Sonny, Koko’s daughter. She has had very little training even though she’s going to be seven years old next month. Now that I have new hips, working with her is fun.  I think we both enjoy it.

My training is hardly worth the word. Maybe ten minutes at a time. My method now that I’m not a young woman and am perhaps more breakable than I used to be, is to not use any restraints and to not pursue if she leaves me. No stress for her, no stress for me.  How I do this is a whole other story, but the end result is a horse that is a partner, not a slave. Given the kind of riding I do, I need that kind of a horse.

Back to the chores. Once a week I prepare the buckets with Koko’s pellets.  That would be today.  I stacked tonight’s hay in the wheelbarrow and stashed it under the tarp. I like to keep tools out of the sun as much as possible, because at this altitude the sun eats everything up. This particular wheelbarrow is only a year old and so far so good, but I have another that has broken apart to the point where it’s pretty useless now. I’m going to fix it one of these days.  It’s low on the To Do list, though.

A brief break to pet Tux, a stray tomcat that’s been living here for a couple years now. He knows my routines so well that he leads me rather than follows.

It being Sunday, it was time to pump water. I topped off the gas in the generator, then pulled the wagon the generator lives in down to the well. I’ll leave it running till this afternoon. After that, I hiked up to the water storage tanks to see how much had been used this week.

Then it was time to get a load of wood for tonight (see above). I need to order another cord soon, but that depends on my wood guy and my finances. I’m good for a month if it doesn’t get too cold. I’ll bring armfuls of wood in the house during the course of the day, when I’m coming in and out anyway. No point in taking the time this morning when I have other stuff to do.

My last chore of the morning was to add some water to the pans I have out for the birds and other small critters, and then I got to come back in the house and have another cup of coffee and think about getting something to eat and then… finally… writing. Or processing photos. Or sewing.

All those things were, as my friend suggested, what I have to do to be able to do what I want to do. My chores would be a drag, except that I want to do them. I like doing them.  Oh sure, I moan and groan.  But sometimes, weirdly, I find myself giggling while I’m wrestling with a tarp… right after I have screamed curses into the wind. Sometimes I snarl and want to feel sorry for myself when I realize I haven’t finished bringing in the wood and I’m exhausted and it’s already dark, but I shrug and I do it. Then there’s been a couple mornings when I was confronted with a fountain spouting from the frost-free hydrant because I forgot to close it the night before. It froze and cracked the pipe and there was nobody to blame but me. But I fixed it. And I was proud that I could do so.

This lifestyle, this responsibility for my own comfort and safety and for that of my critters, is what I have chosen, not what I am forced to. I could move to a house in town, with a regular job to pay for the easier lifestyle, but I would lose much, much more than I would gain in doing so.

There is a joy for me in living this way. Everything I do matters. Everything I do is fodder for my art — whether it’s writing, photography, quilting, or… whatever occurs to me. When, by 11 a.m., I finally come to the part of my day that others would consider (finally) the creative time,  I’ve already been experiencing hours of a world I want to share with others. I’ve been recording some of it with a camera, I’ve been testing out narrative in my head, I’ve been seeing patterns that would make beautiful art.

It’s all there.

It’s all one big creative act for me.

It’s all what I want to do.

Lori and Jimmy and sex, oh my

Author and journalist George Case has written an interesting blog post, Sick Again, which I felt I had to reply to.  I decided that because my thoughts are really way too long for a comment, I’d post them here.  Please read George’s article so you’ll have the context for what I’ve written below.

Jimmy Page & Lori Mattix

You ask: What would a fourteen-year-old and a twenty-eight-year old see in each other, and who around them could have imagined their liaison was a healthy one?

The answer: The two would see opportunity for friendship. Companionship. Excitement. Stimulation. Fun. Love. Sex. Great food and drink. Great drugs. Travel. New experiences. Interesting conversation. Comfort. Great parties.

The people around them would see two people who are attracted to each other, just like any other two people, give or take a bit of fame and fortune. Why would anyone think it was unhealthy?  If two people experience these things together, then they are lucky.  They might be envied, even.

But okay, maybe a few would see sexual exploitation in the relationship.  Um.  Which one would be the exploiter?

Remember, back then there was also this going on: The burning desire for freedom to think for oneself, to each forge our own way, to toss off the shackles of establishment that had only led the world to racism, war, and repression.

Back in the days of flower power, many of us believed strongly in a world vision of freedom and peace. It was a sexual, moral, and ethical revolution created by living it. We pushed the envelope, we lived that pushing.

Excess? That is a view from outside, not inside.

Back then we resented the establishment that tried to impose a morality on us that we didn’t believe in. Who cared what the law was when it was so clearly outdated and wrong.

I still feel that way. Many of us of a certain age still do.

All of the young women the establishment said back then (and are still saying now) were too young were in fact quite old enough, thank you very much. We knew what we were doing. We knew a lot more than many who were a decade or two older than us. Young women like Lori were not being exploited, they were taking advantage of the only avenues open to them at that age to climb the ladder to where they wanted to go. They were having an incredible time doing it, too.

They aren’t the ones who were wounded and scarred by sexual predators.

Young women are not children just because they are under some arbitrary legal age according to criminal law. Women who are 14 years old do not need protecting from using their bodies to get what they want in life. Women of all ages should have the unquestioned right to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives.

Women of all ages should have the unquestioned right to say NO for themselves, not permission from others to say yes to what they want in life.

The first

It’s hard to be an innovator, a creator, the first person to do something.  It’s easy to copy what others have done and go where others have already broken trail.  It’s also easy to forget how tough it is to be the first, the one to break through to the new.

This is true of so many things.  Of pretty much everything, in fact.  It’s hard work to be the first and it’s sometimes downright risky.  You know this to be true even if you’ve never dared to break out of the fold.  Or maybe you have dreamed but haven’t dared to act, because you innately understand how tough it would be.

If being the first was easy, everybody would be doing it.
Sailor tattoos

Tattoos used to be a way of signifying identification with and belonging to groups that outsiders couldn’t hope to be part of.  Sailors and Hell’s Angels and tribes.  The tattoos were meant to show that those so marked were special, with powers that others couldn’t have. In turn, people who flaunted tattoos were looked down on or feared.

Now everybody’s grandmother — and great grandmother and great grandfather and the next door neighbor’s new-born — has tattoos.  Now a tattoo shows you’re part of a group — the one that’s become the norm rather than of outliers.

Even so.  Even in the 21st century.Megan Fox tattoo

Being the first is still to be the one who breaks the barrier of conformity, a place that is safe and comfortable.  And that means that it still isn’t so easy.  Many try, many fail.  Those who persevere have a hard time daring to go where no man — or woman — has gone before.

Touchers, gropers, and rapists

Which brings me to the accusations of sexual misconduct.  First it was a trickle, then it became a streamlet. If you think it’s starting to look like a flood now, let me tell you pretty soon it’s going to become a tsunami.  People may believe that this is a sudden thing that men are doing (because it’s mostly men who are being accused), but that’s not the case.  What is the case is that women (because it’s mostly women who do the accusing) have been groped and worse by men probably since Adam.

Then what’s happening now?

Being the first to complain about sexual misconduct….  oh forget that.  It’s not “misconduct”, it’s wrong, it’s bad, it is evil , abusive, crappy behavior.  Anyway, complaining has never been a good idea for women.  Here we are in 2017 when presumably women have “equal rights” but even now a woman’s accusations are doubted .  Even now a woman is blamed for the inappropriate behavior for men.  Even now it just isn’t considered something a woman should complain about in the first place.

And yet you ask any woman and the high probability is that sometime during her life, no matter how old — or young — she is, she will have been the recipient of unwanted advances by men.

That’s just plain crap.

Understand: this isn’t a diatribe about men.  This is about being the first, and how hard it is to do that.  Humans mistrust people who step outside area of The Way Things Have Always Been Done.  Safety is in numbers.  But…

The first women have spoken.  More will speak up.  Suddenly it will happen that the complainers aren’t outliers.  Maybe finally those who  have always had their way will find themselves in the minority, not the majority, and things will change.

 

Lif C Strand

Quemado NM USA

Dear USFS

Smoke from AZ forest fires spreading into New Mexico

Dear Forest Service: I have a few questions for you. They arise from my state of confusion about what the purpose of a Forest Service actually is. I thought you were a federal agency that managed our forests for multiple uses. But I seem to be mistaken. Nowadays people are being blocked from using forest resources as they traditionally have plus all you do is encourage fires so even wildlife doesn’t get the use of our forests. So rather than speculate, I thought I’d ask and maybe you could clear a few things up for me.

1) When did “management” and “burning” become synonymous? I get the concept of the occasional naturally started fire being allowed to burn, because that clears brush and adds nutrients to the soil, but I also understand that trick only works in a healthy forest.

But we don’t have healthy forests. The forests are bug-ridden, drought stressed, and overgrown.  So why are you not only burning, burning, burning, but you’re also igniting fires in the name of management?

How come you’ve got the budget to pay firefighters to manage all that burning, but you never have the budget to pay for NEPA studies that would allow logging, forest restoration, and mechanical hazardous fuels reduction? You know, stuff that would not only benefit the forests, but benefit local economies?

Sorry, that was more than one question, but let’s move on.

2) When you burn all the brush and grass in the fall, what does the wildlife that browses and grazes, or lives on plant seeds, etc. eat during the winter, before there’s any growth in the spring?

3) When you burn, how many small animals that can’t flee the fires do you kill? How many large animals that than can run get burned by your fires and are crippled or die slow deaths?

4) What impact does all this smoke have on tourism, I wonder?

5) Just how much carbon and particulates gets added to our polluted atmosphere by all this burning? How does breathing the smoke day after day impact human health, and the health of any critter that has lungs? How does the smoke you generate with all your burning contribute to global warming or climate change?

6) Do we ever get a break? Or are you planning to just burn, burn, burn all year long?

Thanks for any answers that you could provide. I am sure everything I’m asking is public information you have made available somewhere, but darned if I can find it.

Sincerely,
Lif Strand

PS: I’d appreciate it if you didn’t just give me the party line, but for once just answered the questions.
PS: Sorry for my bad attitude. But month after month of headache, burning eyes, sore throat, and congested lungs from YOUR FIRES tends to make me crabby.

@USFSSouthwest

Apple Attitude

Apple Attitude (c) 2017 Lif StrandRANT ALERT.  iLovers just keep quiet for once.

If you’re a PC/Android person, you’ll know just what I mean when I talk about Apple attitude.  It’s that feeling we get when Mac users (even more than other Apple product users) condescend to us.

It pisses me off.  I’ve used Apple products.  I’ve had a Mac Book  (I think that’s what it was called.  It didn’t live with me long enough for me to get to know it’s name.  And really, doesn’t it sound like someone should be asking you if you want fries with that?).

I’ve got an iPad.  Don’t use it.  I’ve got an iPhone.  It works.

So it’s not like I’m not unfamiliar with the products.  It’s just that they aren’t all that hot.

Seriously.  Apple products are simply other options.  They aren’t necessarily better options.  Too many iLovers are like vegans: They act like the rest of us are scum because we aren’t following The Path.

It’s not just Mac users.  It’s Apple Inc., too (I’m sure they encourage the iLovers.  And the vegans).  Heaven forbid you should want to install Apple products adapted for PC/Android devices and then expect they’re going to work.  No, no.  First you must be beaten to your knees.

And my Mac friends wonder why I gnash my teeth and have to restrain myself from throttling them when they tell me “get a Mac” as a solution to my tech problems.

Look, Apple:  we are perfectly happy with our PC oriented life.  We don’t want to worship at the alter, we just want a tool to do the job.

Like this:

I bought a digital book in 2013 (yes, friends, four — that’s 4 — years ago!)  It was only available from iTunes store.  Probably still is.  The alternative was to spend mega bucks on a hard copy because it was a book of photographs.

Never once have I been able to actually see the contents of the book.  Oh, yes, of course I can access it on my iPhone.  Viewing a large format coffee table book on a teensy tiny screen is such a wonderful experience that of course I want to do it all the time.

Not.

But I have iTunes on my PC.  I don’t like iTunes.  Like other Apple products, it assumes that if I downloaded it, then I must want it to rule my life.

Not so, Apple.  Keep your grubby fingers off my music.

I’ve learned bypasses around iTunes sticky fingers – because, hey, I actually buy CDs and rip them.  I don’t need the iTunes Store to purchase my music, thank you very much.  Plus if I wanted to buy digital music to download, Amazon is much more user friendly.  I mean, is there some actual reason — other than that I’m using a PC — for all these extra steps that Apple forces us non-Apple people through?

Probably not.

At any rate, I decided the other day I really really wanted to be able to access that book.  Now I admit, I’m not great at following directions.  At least, not before I’ve tried winging it and failed sufficient times to cry uncle.  (And hello?  Tech people?  I don’t do videos for instructions.  Please learn to write.  Because sometimes I don’t want to fast forward and back, I just want to read the damn instructions I need.  I know, how strange.)

So okay, I wait till iTunes for PC loads up.  I poke around, look for a way to read a book via iTunes but don’t find anything.  Surprise surprise.  But okay, there is an audiobook link.

I click on that and get nothing.  Because I don’t have any iTunes audiobooks.  I just have that one regular book.

I go to my purchase history and yup, there’s my book.  Unfortunately there’s no way, zero way, absolutely zippo nada way to download a purchase from your purchase history.  I mean, why be like every single other merchant on the planet?

No.  If I want to download a book I bought via iTunes, I have to download it not to my computer, not even directly to my iPhone.  No, I have to get an iBook app for my iPhone first.  Not for my computer, but for my iPhone.

Because Apple.  Not sacriligeous PC.

So okay, I’m going to download it to my iPhone and then I will transfer it from the phone to my computer, which is the stupid way that Apple makes me do things.  But no.

I can view the book on my iPhone but I cannot download it because it’s too large.  Hey, don’t ask me, it’s just the error message I got on the phone.

So after Googling it and wading through all the stupid forums and tech sites that don’t care if a PC person wants to use a PC to access precious Apple stuff, I break down and contact Apple.

Yes, I did.  I contacted tech support.

iTunes support.  Not Apple support.  I wanted to download to iTunes because that’s what the help pages all said I should do for this book I purchased from iTunes.

Me:  I provided the Windows version and the iTunes version.  The order number.  The book name.  The date.  The fact that I had already used Help and followed the directions.  I pointed out I couldn’t even see the book title in iTunes although I could see it in my purchase history.

iTunes support:  “I understand that you’re unable to re-download your previously purchased audiobook. I’m happy to help you with this today.  I would like to inform you that you can re-download it from your past purchases. To download past purchases from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, computer, or Apple TV, see this page…”

You do see there the word “computer” in the response.  Not Mac computer.  Not Apple computer.  Just computer.  Okay!

But that word “audiobook”.  No.

So I replied and support responded.

iTunes support: “I once again reviewed your case and see that the item you purchased is a book and not an audiobook. So, you can access the book from iBooks.”

Oh really?  Would that be iBooks for PC?  Hah.  Not.  Turns out that while you can purchase a book using iTunes on a PC, you CAN NEVER READ THE BOOK with iTunes.

Because in the latest iTunes versions, iBooks has been removed by Apple.  Not just iTunes for PC — iTunes for everybody.  You have to have a separate iBook app.

Which is not available in any way shape or form for PC.

No. NO! NOOOOooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

It just… just… well, makes me want to weep.  It makes me want to wrap a baseball bat with barbed wire and wipe that attitude right off some faces.

Not really.  That would be sign of a bad attitude on my part.

Falling Apart

“I knew my body would fall apart in time,” he said, “but I didn’t know it, you know what I mean?  All those core strength exercises I ignored till my back started hurting and my belly wouldn’t stay in place.  I started them too late.  You shouldn’t put those things off.”

“So you say,” I replied.  “But it’s not like it matters with you.”

“Of course it matters!”

“Only because you’re still so vain.”

“Not so.  You think it’s been easy being me?”

“Well, as a matter of fact… yes.  I do think it’s much easier being you than it is being me.  And I think your vanity has no bounds.”

“For someone who thinks she’s had such a tough time of it, seems to me you’re being rather snarky.”

“And so?  It’s not like you can do anything about it in your condition.”

“I think you’re lacking in sympathy.”

“What if I am?”  I made as if to spit but with no follow-through, of course.  Manners count.

“That’s so petty of you.”

“So I have no sympathy and I’m petty.  At least I’m not falling apart.”

“There is that,” he sighed.

“Besides, you’ve been around a long time.  A long time.  So it’s not like this is some sudden tragedy.”

“Easy for you to say.  You’d feel differently if you were me.”

“But that’s just the point,” I said.  “I’m not you.   You’ve had it all and I haven’t.  So your whining is… just whining.”

He didn’t have much to say about that, though I could tell from his expression I’d pissed him off.  He was used to great masses of people hanging on his every word.

Now it was just one people, me.  Waiting as he fell apart.  A little bit of me that I wasn’t proud of wanted to help him along.  Not help him get better, mind you.  Help him get on with the falling apart business.  I’ve got as much patience as the next person, but the clock was ticking.

“Someday you’ll understand,” he said in a voice thick with phlegm.

“I suppose I will.  But that’ll be a long time from now.”

“You’ll be just as surprised as I am now.”

“Maybe.  Probably.”  I looked at my wrist.  How much longer?

A squishy sound caught my attention.  Another part of him sloughing off, though nothing essential, not yet.

“You’re female, you know,” he said.

“Duh.”

“That makes it harder.”

I shrugged, though he probably couldn’t see subtle movements anymore.  “I’ll manage.”

“I’m sure you will.”

We waited in silence.  More of his flesh oozed off of him.  It was a rather unpleasant sight.  The smell didn’t help.  I’d been at his side for long enough that it shouldn’t bother me anymore.  But it did.

“You remember what to do.”  It wasn’t a question, not anymore.

“How many times have you told me?” I asked.

“A dozen?”

“Hah.  How about once a day for oh, maybe a thousand years?”

“You haven’t known me a thousand days much less a thousand years,” he pointed out.

“A figure of speech, meaning enough times that there’s no way I could possibly forget.”

A slight splash when the tip of his nose fell into the puddle his tissues had melted into.  I stepped back, not wanting the noxious liquid to touch my naked toes, even though that wouldn’t matter in a while.

“It will be very soon,” he said, as if he had read my mind.  For all I knew he could do just that.  Three years was not long enough to have gathered even a crumb of what he knew.  Fortunately I would not have to wait till I was as old as he was now for all to be revealed to me.

Any moment now.  At least I hoped so.  I was getting a chill.

“Get ready, child,” he said.

“I’m no child.”  He snorted in amusement, as I meant him to, but there was nothing behind it.

“Remember to–” he began, but the words became a wheeze as his whole body collapsed on itself and bodily fluids splashed over my legs.  I gritted my teeth and stepped into the steaming muck, kicking at the big bones that were taking too long to dissolve, hunting for…

There.  I forced my fingers into the disgusting mess, snatching the walnut sized lump before it could escape.  The bloody blob burned my fingers as I held it, waiting as the pulse weakened and slowed.

I waited… waited… the timing was precise.  A moment too soon and disaster for me.  A moment too late and true death for the both of us.

And then I felt it quiver: the thrill of a soul on the cusp of fleeing the physical.  I popped the lump into my mouth, my tongue shrinking away from the nastiness.  I gagged it down and cried out as it burned its way to my stomach, where it promptly seared through the muscle and aimed itself at my heart.

I steeled myself for the possibility of death even as I prepared for the agony of metamorphosis.

Thy will be done, Master.  My will be done.