Monday, March 27, 2023

Episode #165: Did You Buy Something Good Or Fugly?

I subscribe to a bucket load of YouTube channels, 58 to be exact, and out of those 58 channels about 90% are active in a given week.

One of the channels that I subscribe to is called The TRY Channel, which is based in Dublin, and it's basically where they have a panel of 6 trying all kinds of foods, wine, liquor and everything else that covers the edible spectrum across this Big Blue Marble.

Any ways, I was watching an episode that was called "10 shots and 10 questions", which is basically self-explanatory, when one of the questions they asked piqued my curiosity:

"What was the best purchase that you made and what was the worst purchase that you made?"

I immediately thought to myself, "this would make a good post topic." So without further ado, here are my answers to those two questions.

Best purchase ever made: This one actually happened to me last summer, and it was the proverbial "taking one for the team." As most of you may or may not know, I am a moderately severe diabetic, who takes all kinds of insulin and pills to keep it under control.

So while I was finishing up my walk one hot summer day, I walked by a house on my street that had three kids selling lemonade for 50 cents a glass. Now normally, I would say no thank you and finish my walk. But here's the thing about my street, it goes through cycles of having lots of children, and in this particular year, children were in the valley of the cycle. Plus, no traffic whatsoever to speak of. But this time, I said, "yes please," to the question of "do I want some?"

So I paid my 50 cents and received a wonderfully cold and sweetened cup of lemonade. I also had a short chat with the mother who was chilling in the shade feeding her baby. Being a diabetic and not wanting to insult the young children, I only sipped on the lemonade and nursed that cup on the last twenty-five yards or so to my house. Once inside, that bad boy got pitched and it took me about a day to recover, but overall it was my best purchase ever. Nothing like making little childrens smile on a hot day.

Now we have.....our worst purchase made: Now this would cover the spectrum of a boatload of very bad purchases across a multitude of things, music household stuff, stationary supplies, etc. But for this post, we'll just do a catch-all and say my worst purchases have been food. Not so much as the stuff you buy in the supermarket, although I did have one very recently that was very much a mistake, but mainly fast food.

There have been times where I have gone to local fast-casual places to buy/try a particular item, let's say hamburgers for example. Not the commercial burgers from the major fast food places, but more from the local places/regional chains. I cannot tell you the amount of times that I've purchased a gourmet burger (that's a burger where the price point starts at $7), brought it home, and was severely disappointed that it didn't live up to whatever I was charged for the burger. I mean, if I'm going to drop a total of $15 for a combo meal (yes, I did just that a month ago at a small local chain), I want to get my money's worth.

Or say I went to a local deli, one that is well known in our state. I want the product to live up to the expectation/hoopla that I expect it to. I don't want to drop money on a product that I can make at home and have it come out slightly better than the product I'd bought. Your personal cooking shouldn't be better than a place where you drop $20 for a lunch.

So yeah, a small chunk of my worst purchases have involved food, all of which had left me severely disappointed and not wanting to try the offending place again.

So my friends, what say you? What have some of your best and worst purchases that you have made over the years?

{c} 2023 by G.B. Miller. All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 20, 2023

Episode #164: l'm Gonna Shelve That Shelf

The last rainstorm we had {early March} managed to fill the upper pond in Cedar Mountain to the point that the babbling brook you see here had come back to life. The rainstorm was so intense that it actually brought back to life two other rivulets that are normally drier than my skin.

One of the more stranger review requests that I've received over the years/decades, was a request to review a shelving unit that I had purchased from Amazon. Even though I decided to give it a review (boredom I think), I look back on it now and I'm thinking, "how in the world can someone intelligently review a shelving unit?"

Well, it turns out, you can't. I mean in this case, even though you store either c.d.s (yay!) or dvds (boo!), what else can you say about a shelving unit?

"Well Bob, you see, you can store a lot of things on this here shelving unit."
"Ted, the shelving unit is made out of wire. You know, the kind of wire used to make in-boxes for your desk. What else can you store on those shelves, hmmm?"

Ted is kind of lost right now, since his brain is tiny and as a member of upper management, it gets full quite easily. Bob knows this, shoot everyone in the office knows this, but as you well know, any underling that shows a smattering of smarts is not long for the corporate world.

"Ted, is everything alright?"
"Well Bob, you see, you can store lots of things on this here shelving unit."
"Bob, give me your hand."

Ted doesn't answer. Instead, he takes Bob's hand and quickly snips off a pinky. Bob screams in pain, while Ted holds up the bloody digit like it was a prized trout, then places it on the shelf.

"See Bob, it holds that pinky as pretty as you please. Here, let me demonstrate again."
"Ted, no! Ted, please, I need those parts!"

Bob's words fall on deaf ears, so to speak, as it takes Ted roughly four minutes to reduce Bob to the minus of all his part. Once the screaming dies down, Ted walks back to his computer and wipes his hands dry on Bob's tweed jacket before sitting down.

He brings up the item in question on the world's second most popular website and writes the following review.

"I have a myriad of other uses for this combo c.d./dvd wire shelving unit, of which one was to house all of my knick-knacks and a few of my participation trophies. It held everything in place, with only a minimal use of twine needed to hold some of the larger knick-knacks in place. If you need a nice decorative, yet highly functional shelving unit to store your personal property, this unit is for you.

"Highly durable and quite adjustable, it's a must if you want to showcase your various collections. I give this a very hearty five star rating."

In short, don't be like Bob, who questioned his superior about his opinion on a particular piece of office furniture. Bob got a very negative quarterly performance review later on for his inappropriate behavior.

{c} 2023 by G.B. Miller. All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 13, 2023

Episode #163: You Must Challenge Yourself To Win

Yello Bear knows good eats when he sees them. If you like good burgers and dogs (and anything else for that matter), take some time to visit your local hole-in-the-wall to partake in some fantastic eats, no matter what the cuisine may be.

Today's post will be a mish-mosh of writing related topics, and we'll try our best to keep the political snarkiness out of it. It won't be easy, since today's political environment offers so much cannon fodder for me that I simply don't know where to begin {note: I'm an equal opportunist here}

On the current writing project front, my trilogy with the generic tag of Hot Mess, is now in a temporary holding pattern. Having finished volume 2, I have put it on the back-burner for three reasons: tax season, wanting to work on a re-written manuscript in order to have it republished, and needing to thinking about how best to complete the trilogy, as I have roughly a minimum four plot-lines that need to be brought together for satisfactory conclusion.

I won't elaborate on either the first or third reasons, since those are very self-explanatory, but the second reason is this basis for this post.

I have basically challenged myself as a writer almost from the very beginning. When I'd first started dabbling around with the written word, I had basically decided from the get go to write what I thought would everyone would want: sex and violence.

That quickly became an epic fail as I quickly became the caricature of what every bad writer who had an over inflated opinion of themselves. The only other lesson learned in the long run, besides being applying more restraint and selectivity when using those tropes, was that if my writing career failed, I could easily switch to writing scripts for adult movies.

Having realized that I needed more realistic ways to challenge my writing self, I buckled down to do just that.

Serious personal note: Throughout my entire life, I've always challenged myself in some particular way to stave off serious boredom of whatever topic I was engaged in. Currently, it's listening to podcasts. I will elaborate in a future blog post, but you get the idea.

Challenging myself with my writing would soon prove to be a very interesting, and sometimes problematic, pastime. Example #1: writing a clean G-rated story.

Since my preferred writing preference was and still is adult fiction with very adult themes, this was going to be quite the mountain to conquer. But I did manage to pull it off. I started off by using as a base my burgeoning descriptive writing skills, by writing a story about my local mountain, Cedar Mountain, and wrapping the four seasons around it. After about a couple of days of intense writing, I wound up with a story roughly 1,500 words in length, about a person who experienced the four stages of life with the four seasons on the mountain. The story itself, aptly titled Cedar Mountain, can be found in my short story collection entitled, What Is Life? (clinking the link will give you all the details).

After conquering that mountain, and to date that is my only clean G-rated story written, I started looking for other challenges. One day I was going through a bunch of short stories, when I started thinking about how I could tie them all together. I thought about writing a few short intros to tie them together (I had seen this done in a few romances that I had the great fortune in reading), so I decided, let's do this with a seldom used point of view called 2nd person.

I actually wrote 3 intros before deciding that pulling my hair out with a pair of tweezers was a much better use of my time and promptly called it quits. Epically spectacular fail.

Which brings us to yet another challenge that I have no choice but to make stick.

I figure with this chapbook/novella, I have the perfect opportunity to experiment with this particular form of writing. Granted, after reading the definition on what kind of fiction it's used in, it's not gonna be something that I will use going forward, but it should be fun to write just the same.

As a matter of point, after reading the first few pages, I will have to rewrite at least 50% of the story. Don't get me wrong, I love me a good challenge, but this particular challenge is going to test my current skill set. As a matter of record, I am not, nor ever will I be, a member of the Grammar Policia. But I will have to be a temporary member just the same.

Trying to re-write the story so that it makes logical sense to the reader is also another challenge that I will have to step up to as well. On the plus side, when I decided to do this back in 2021, I was part of the way there, as I had large swathes written in the present tense sprinkled in with tinier patches of the way that most people write.

In any event, the path to success is often paved with challenges that were met and conquered, or met and partially conquered. This will be a challenge that I must meet and conquer, especially since my 1st draft has blue ink pasted over all 48 pages with notes galore, the most popular being "redo this sentence."

I'll keep everyone updated on my progress, but should you hear the very faint sound of Charlie Brown screaming in frustration, it's just me doing my very best interpretation of said cartoon idol.

Have a great rest of your week!

{c} 2023 by G.B. Miller. All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 6, 2023

Episode #162: Writing To The Government Taxes Me

Fundraising this past winter at WestFarms Mall, one of the few remaining malls in Connecticut that has actually changed and pivoted quite well with the times in the past 4 1/2 decades.

Note: this 2nd consecutive post where snide/smarmy political jabs are foisted on to the reading public. I think this will become an ongoing thing.

As a writer, you never really want to have a lull in your writing day, simply because you can possibly find yourself thinking about what you need to do next. It's especially bad when you purposely create a lull in your writing day because of a real world issue that simply needs your attention.

In the U.S., the time period from Jan 1st through April 15th, extended three days, usually due to Patriots Day in Massachusetts for those who have to send their returns to Andover, MA but now extended due to a new holiday in DC, is tax season, where you have to pay money to a government that you probably dislike, depending on what side of the aisle you're on (go on, if you're a Democrat, I double dog dare you with a can of Iams Dog food, to say with a straight face that you love your President), for programs that don't benefit you because you're not special enough.

{Okay, rant over. I promise I will try to tone down my political snarkiness and place nice with the friendly men with their clean white coats}

Anywho, because it's TAX SEASON, I have three tax returns to do: mine, daughter's and BiL. Which means that my writing life is on hold. I did try to delay the inevitable after finishing book #2 of my trilogy by writing a 13 page synopsis of all 49 chapters as a much needed reference guide for when I start of book #3.

So the problem right now, besides doing 3 TAX RETURNS, is that I need to switch gears to a book that I rewrote, that I want to republish this year. But apparently my brain don't want to go there yet, It's still working on a power-point program for that last novel of the trilogy.

Pretty soon, I'll start smashing two bricks against my head to get my brain to toe the line about my writing, because it's TAX RETURN TIME, and I need to get MY TAX RETURNS COMPLETED.

So....yeah, I have a manually built in lull to my writing life, and it's driving me nutz. 'Cause you kw, pro as opposed to amateur, crastination can often be the ban of my existence. Which is whee we're cuaght in the  throes of. I really don't want to do my taxes or even my daughter's taxes, but it's something that i really need to do.

I would rather be working on republishing a previously book, A Taste Of Pain for those of you who are curious, than sitting in front of my computer figuring out my 1040, schedule C, schedule 1 & 3, contributions to an IRA, and deducting interest on a student loan. I might get a refund this year, but we won't know until we do our Fed.

And don't get me started on the fiasco known as the state of CT income tax return.

Sigh...I rather be writing, because one's writing is never written rotten, than doing my taxes. How do I know my writing isn't rotten? Apparently my reviews on my local Google maps have received over 200 views.

Go figure.

I leave you with The Beatles: "Taxman".

{c} 2023 by G.B. Miller. All Rights Reserved