Friday, June 30, 2006

Another record, another sign of success

I have good news to report! Tallying up my income for the month, I realized that I set a new monthly record. I beat my last record by 50%!

After a phenomenal month of March, my income had dipped slightly in April and May. April's lack of income I attributed to the time that I put into getting the new house ready and moving in. I think May's income - which was less, but not as bad as April - I think was partly recovery, and partly just a slow month.

June, however, has been downright busy, and my income reflects that. It's not likely to end anytime soon, either - I have acquired several regular jobs that will keep the cash flowing in. It's certainly a good feeling, to know that I'm making it as a writer!

Monday, June 26, 2006


It should be a law of physics: whenever you are down to the wire, and need every minute you have in order to meet a deadline, something happens.

That's what my weekend was like. As I was going to bed Friday night, I discovered that the hot on our antique claw-foot tub was leaking. It was dripping, but pretty steadily, so I tried to tighten the knob down to stop the drip until I could do something about it. Suddenly, the knob came loose in my hand, and the faucet began pouring out hot water.

Thankfully, claw-foot tubs usually have emergency shut-off valves behind the tub. I shut off the hot water line to stop the water flow. I was going to go straight to bed, but being a do-it-yourselfer by nature, I instead decided to take the knob off the fixture.

Now, you have to realize that although I like to do things myself, I have not had any plumbing experience. Quite the contrary - I learned to be like this by working on my car, an early eighties Nissan 280ZX. In other words, I know nothing about plumbing except from our drainage problems shortly after moving into the house.

After getting the knob off, I realized I had no clue what else to do, so I wrote Michael a note explaining the situation, and went to bed.

I intended to get the job done quickly first thing Saturday, and get to work on my writing projects; but naturally, that didn't happen. Although we don't think the fixtures on the tub are original, they are still considerably older. As a result, it took three trips to Home Depot - and a lot of trial-and-error - before we got everything we needed and got the tub fixed.

The stem (the piece that turns back and forth to open and shut the valve, allowing the water to turn on and off) came off easily. Apparently when I tried to tighten the knob, I actually unscrewed the stem.

The first trip to Home Depot, we bought a new stem and seat, because the stem that we had seemed kind of stiff, and because both my dad and a Home Depot employee recommended replacing the seat. After struggling and cursing and talking to my dad for quite a while, I finally got the seat out - only to find out that the new one was the wrong thread and wouldn't work.

So, back to Home Depot to get the right seat. We found one that was close enough to work, and headed home. Next, the replacement stem turned out to be too long - we couldn't open the valve and turn on the water!

We went to Home Depot one last time, and finally got it right: we just got a replacement seal, went home, and put the old stem back in. And it all works perfectly.

Unfortunately, that was easier told than done, and it pretty much took my entire day. I had to beg mercy on a couple of deadlines, which I hate doing. However, it was indescribably satisfying to know that I had successfully made my first home repair.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Are these new drugs for diabetes as wonderful as they seem?

As a type 1 diabetic, I'm always keen to read - and comment on - articles about diabetes, such as this one.

My first complaint is the way that the article portrays type 2 diabetes. It's common for diabetes-related news to talk about the epidemic proportions of type 2 diabetes, but frequently they blur the differences between the two diseases.

Type 1 diabetes is an inability to produce insulin. Usually type 1 is caused by an inherited autoimmune response, which means that the person's immune system decided - for some unknown reason - to kill its own pancreas. Type 1 is treated by injecting insulin to replace what the body doesn't make.

Type 2 diabetes is an inability to use one's own insulin, even though the pancreas may produce more than it should be, in an attempt to compensate. This version of diabetes is a completely different disease, just with the same effect of high blood sugar: obesity from poor diet and lack of exercise decrease the body's ability to use insulin. Type 2 is often seen as genetic, but truthfully, it's not known which part is genetic: the weight issues, or the diabetes. Type 2 is treated by taking pills to resensitize the body to medication, and by modifying the person's exercise and diet.

End of story.

When both conditions occur, it is not really bad type 2. A person can have type 1 and type 2 diabetes simultaneously. However, a type 2 diabetic that doesn't take care of themselves may have to inject insulin - not because their bodies lose the abilities to produce it, as the article suggests, but because they have type 2 so bad that the pills are unable to fully resensitize their bodies to insulin.

Now, here's my other beef with this article. The article talks about the ability of this new drug, Byetta, to cause weight loss in patients. That makes me nervous. I can just see the drug being abused by people who are obsessed about their weight. The article talks about the high demand for the drug - yeah, ya think?! As overweight people in a society obsessed with slimness, diabetes is not their only concern.

I suppose I should mention that type 2 diabetes is not the "life sentence" that type 1 is - that is to say, type 2 diabetes can often be completely reversed with proper diet and exercise. To translate again, diabetes 2 is an end result of people getting fat and not taking care of themselves - which is why we've seen a tremendous rise in the number of cases, especially in the United States, where eating has almost become a sport.

With this in mind, it seems to me that losing the weight via Byetta is an "easy way out" that will fail to teach these people the importance of diet and exercise in controlling their condition; instead, they'll become dependent on the drug to control their weight for them - which is probably what the drug companies want, come to think of it. Anyway, my point is that this drug could easily become a crutch, instead of a solution.

Also, I don't know if the drug companies have tested the effects of losing weight via Byetta - an unnatural method. Chemically induced weight loss has never seemed to be very healthy - or very effective.

As a side note about the other drugs they mention in the article - I've heard about the inhaled insulin before, and personally I'm not crazy about the idea. I don't like sniffing things, and I'm not at all surprised that the drug causes less effective breathing. And personally, I don't think giving myself injections is that bad - the needles are about 35 gauge, for heaven's sake, and less than half an inch long. Most of the time I can't even feel them!

A writer's dream and then some: Finding TOO much work

When I started freelancing full time about eight months ago, I never thought that one of my problems would be finding too much work... But that's precisely the predicament I find myself in right now. I'm constantly scouring the job boards for freelance work, and now it looks like it's caught up with me - what was intended to maintain a steady flow of freelance work has instead triggered an avalanche.

Which is, of course, why I've been "burning the midnight oil" lately - and it doesn't look like tonight will be any different, despite my early day tomorrow. I get tired just thinking about it.

I decided to take a quick break to blog about my thoughts, partly because I've been neglecting my blogs lately and partly because I just needed a breather. However, now it's back to the grinding wheel!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Burning the midnight oil

About a week ago, I got onto a much later schedule when I stayed up late to meet a deadline. Since then, I've been staying up until about 4 or 5 a.m., and waking up around noon or 1:00. One day I actually slept until 3:00!

My schedule has gone a little like this:

Get up around noon. Work until Michael gets home, around 4:30 or 5:00 most of the days in question.

Spend time with Michael: eat dinner, chat, watch a movie.

After Michael goes to bed (roughly 11 p.m. or midnight), work until 4 or 5 a.m.

Start over again with a wakeup time of noon!

It's actually been a very efficient schedule for me. I'm able to spend time with Michael, and get a good amount of work done. I feel like working late at night suits me, first of all because there is nothing to distract me from my work, and second of all because I don't have to deal with the heat of a non-air conditioned house.

However, the schedule doesn't coincide with the babysitting job I have on Friday: I have to work from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.

Not only does that mean I have to adjust to an earlier schedule - all at once, I might add - it also takes time away from some work I'm doing right now, with several very important deadlines looming over my head. In some ways I think it's good that I get on an earlier schedule - it seems like a good idea to be on the same schedule as the majority of the world, at any rate - but in other ways I feel like it's putting a kink in a very good routine I had going here.

Well, at any rate - I am just about to go to bed, a little earlier than usual, which will hopefully prepare me for the schedule adjustment I must make on Friday!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Have we forgotten...or did we just never realize?

I didn't know that the Columbine memorial has finally become a reality until I read the news online this evening. It was something of a shock to realize that this was going on this afternoon while I was tucked up in a blanket on my couch, my laptop on my lap, listening to the rain...perhaps a 15 minute drive from Columbine.

It seems appropriate that the weather for the groundbreaking ceremony was a full 20 degrees cooler than it has been the rest of the week, and that it rained on and off all afternoon. Mother Nature was crying for this tragedy, I'm sure.

I grew up in Unincorporated Jefferson County (the area loosely known as "Littleton"); I went to Columbine's sister school, Chatfield; and I had many friends and co-workers affected by the shooting seven years ago. After the shooting, Littleton seemed to stand still for about a week, as though everyone were holding their breath. Eventually, even the students of Columbine had to return to everyday life, and Chatfield opened her doors wide to the now-homeless students while committees and school boards tried to decide what to do with the tainted school.

Stickers that featured a columbine and the words "Never forget..." were very popular for several years following the shooting. Being young at the time, it never occurred to me to wonder what, exactly, people wanted to remember.

The plans for the memorial made me realize the truth.

The memorial recognizes the 12 students and 1 teacher that were killed on that day, as well as twenty-some others who were wounded. It is glaringly obvious that the community is doing its best to forget the two teens responsible for the shootings.

"Never forget" is not about remembering the people who died that day, or even about remembering that these kinds of tragedies can happen. It's about remembering blame and harboring hate.

Although this appears to be a very controversial topic, I strongly believe that Harris and Klebold were victims, albeit in a very different way than the rest of those who suffered as a result of the Columbine shooting. Harris and Klebold were very troubled individuals, yes, but their problems were also very much overlooked by society, the school system, even their own parents. Moreover, their problems may very well have been exacerbated by this ignorance.

Tolerance for bullying is a major problem, not just in our school systems, but in our society at large. To me, that's what "Never forget" should have meant. It should have been a wake-up call that there is something fundamentally wrong with how we socialize our children.

And that is why I believe Harris and Klebold deserve a spot on that memorial - or at the very least, a memorial of their own. We need a reminder of the responsibility that we bear to all of society's children - and what happens when we forsake them.

Hate led Harris and Klebold astray, just as surely as it took the 15 lives lost at Columbine. Isn't it time we forgot and learned to let go of hate?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

News about Panama

I thought I should share the updates I am getting about Panama, my colt. He is showing a lot of spirit, by occasionally kicking whoever is cleaning the wounds on his ankles. Michael's brother has trained him to walk on a lead rope, and he says the little guy is very vocal.

We have also begun to wonder if Panama is really 11 months old, like we were lead to believe. We're guessing more like eight or nine months. Most likely the bastard who was selling the colt and his mother had lied about how old the colt is and when the mare was due. It's not inconceivable, since the guy obviously wasn't honest, and Panama is obviously so small.

Being away from Panama is difficult. When I hear about him getting halter-broke, I want to be the one whose step he learns to shadow, whose voice he learns to recognize. And when I hear about how vocal he is, I want it to be me he's talking to.

Eventually we will need to find a solution, as I am determined to be the one who trains him to be ridden in two or three years. And I don't want him to be a stranger to him then, either.

For the moment, though, there's little we can do. We'll go visit again soon, and I'll just have to wait until then to get to know my colt.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A happy ending to the horse story

You may remember my post that described the fate of the poor pregnant mare we saw in Kansas City. It seems there may be a happy ending to the story, after all - at least for her eleven-month-old colt.

I don't know how else to share the news, except by blurting it out, so here goes: the colt is mine now! It turned out neither the neighbor nor the seller (the guy who was really responsible for the damage to both animals) could (or would) pay the vet's bill. So Michael - all the while keeping it a secret from me - paid the bill and assumed ownership of the colt. His brother picked the colt up and brought it back to his place, and that's where the colt will stay. Michael and I will pay for food and any other expenses for the little guy.

The colt's name is Panama. I named him while we were in Kansas City, although I had no way of knowing if he'd get to keep the name or not. Now he does, for sure! It's a perfect name for him, don't you think?

Supposedly, Panama is a paint pinto. I need to find out more about his breeding. I think his mother was part Arabian and part draft, so the paint pinto must be on his dad's side. He's small, and although he still has some growing to do, he'll probably always be a small horse - but after all, I'm small too. :o)

I was so touched by what Michael did for me, not only because I really liked Panama, but because I felt a responsibility to him since I wasn't able to save his mother. It's like being able to keep an unspoken promise to the mare.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Signs that a writing gig will be more grief than it's worth

If you are a part of freelancing communities like Writers Weekly, you've no doubt heard the warnings: Never write for a start-up publication! Many writers feel that start-up publications are the most likely to not pay.

However, I have a different take on it. I have written for many start-ups without problems, yet I have recently finished (I hope!) my first bad experience with one such publication. As far as I can tell, it's a lack of professionalism that should sound your alarms, not the fact that a publication is brand-new.

My long-term readers might remember that a while back, I said I was finally getting some fiction published. (This was probably two or three months ago, so don't worry if you don't remember.) Although I got a different piece of fiction published around the same time, the piece I'd initially spoken of wasn't published when I thought, and I simply never posted another blog entry on the subject.

Basically, I wanted to wait until the problems were over before publishing my experiences with this paper. However, now that I've been paid for my story (at last!), I want to pass on what I've learned. Here are a few signs that a publication - whether start-up or established - is probably going to be more grief than any amount of money is worth:

They don't - or rarely - respond to your emails. Poor communication is probably the biggest red flag I can think of. If multiple emails go unanswered - particularly those with direct questions about payment or other terms - I recommend running in the other direction, as fast and as far as you can go!

Early on, my problem publication started ignoring repeated requests for terms and payment information. At first, the excuses seemed reasonable... But then, there was already an excuse.

The bottom line: a publication should get all the organizational kinks worked out before they launch. If they haven't done this yet, don't trust them. If they can't keep up on their emails, who knows if they're keeping up on their accounting?

They miss deadlines. There is nothing so aggravating as being expected to meet deadlines, only to find that the publication doesn't. However, it comes down to more than just a nuisance. A publication that chronically misses its own deadlines is acting very unprofessional, and should be avoided at all costs.

The publication I was working with started missing deadlines - by weeks, not days. To date, they've only published two issues, and both were weeks behind schedule. Not only does that reflect badly on them, it also meant that their writers were getting paid late. Not a good situation for a professional who depends on these writing gigs as a sole source of income.

They have a high turnover. It's a bad sign if the editor you were dealing with suddenly up and leaves - particularly if the publication is fairly new. Not only is it desirable to work with the same person for consistency reasons, but if the editor doesn't like working with the publication, it may be a sign that you won't, either.

While I was dealing with the lack of communication from the publication, the editor emailed me from her personal email account to say she was no longer working with the publication. Not too long after, the owner of the paper sent around an email asking volunteers to help with editing in exchange for free food and drink. Need I say more???

They continually make mistakes. When a publication continually makes errors - misplaces your submission, gets your name wrong, forgets how much they owe you, etc. - you might want to start reconsidering your relationship with them. Now, this isn't to say that at the first mistake you should bail on them - but we all know there is a line between reasonable mistakes, and just plain unprofessionalism.

After everything I dealt with, this publication didn't even manage to get my byline right. They used my full name instead of my pen name, and they misspelled everything. In the table of contents, my name is spelled "Katerhin Swann Leppert," and the byline itself reads "Katherin Swann Leppert." Really, is it that difficult to check proofread for these things? My full name was on my submission, and my pen name was in my byline!

Needless to say, I'm glad that I'm done dealing with these guys, and I hope that these tips will help others avoid similar nightmares.


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