Lost Connections

broken computer

We were without the Internet for about five days. It’s back now and my social justice warrior spouse is pounding so furiously on her keys down the hall it sounds an invading cadre of storm troopers. I’m busy catching up as well but the epiphany of being disconnected is not lost on me. For one thing, I got some things down. I wrote a ton, I finished one book and started another, got a couple projects done around the house, had everything on the laptop and our two PCs backed up on external drives, played more guitar, watched baseball on TV… So while I missed being out of touch online it was a glorious freedom and makes me wonder about the time I spend on the Interwebs.

Near the end of May my WordPress premium account comes up for renewal. I may not renew it this time around. This blog does get some traffic but it takes time and energy to keep posting five or six days a week. That’s time and energy that could be spent elsewhere. So I’m going to think about either letting the blog die, or see if there’s a free way to blog online. I’m not going back to LiveJournal but I will be considering my options. Maybe I’ll move to Tumblr. Even if I do decide to stick around here my posting activity is going to decrease, as is my time spent on other social media. I smile at the thought of a surge in productivity…

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50 Great Genre-Bending Books Everyone Should Read

jeroljohnson:

Some I have read, some I have heard of, some I absolutely have to throw on my ever-growing Amazon wish list. I need money. There is not enough money to pay for all the books I want to read. There probably is not enough time left in my life to read all the books I want to read either.

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

Sometimes, it seems as though the arguments about genre — be it poetry vs. fiction, fiction vs. nonfiction, literary fiction vs. SF vs. fantasy vs. mystery vs. vs. vs. — will never end. So why not just take yourself off the board entirely? After all, marketing professionals aside, does anyone really care what genre they’re reading if the book is good? After the jump, 50 genre-bending novels guaranteed to enthrall you, whether you’re a literary fiction snob or a die-hard fantasy nerd. Enjoy without judgements!

View original 2,286 more words

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Goin’ to be Rainin’ I Know

Robert-Johnson-poses-with-011

That’s Robert Johnson on the left, Johnny Shines on the right. If you don’t know who Robert Johnson was, well I have to wonder about you. Anyway, this photograph surfaced a ten years ago and was confirmed indeed to be the legendary bluesman in 2013. Only two other photos of Johnson exist. And of course a small but significant body of work.

I’m not one for acoustic blues, preferring it filtered through an amplifier. I play straight blues fairly often and it’s usually Muddy, BB, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy, or Albert. But there’s no denying the electricity in Johnson’s voice and playing. He may not of sold his soul to the devil but here’s a man dealing with some serious demons.

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The Best Laid Plans of Writers Often Go Awry

You should be writing

Well, I’m trying. Too much outside crap has been getting in the way again but I keep pushing the stone up the hill. But some of the impediments of the past several weeks are finally at bay so I can get rolling again. The short story has gotten a final look and I’m setting it aside. I’ll submit it to TOR at the end of the month and then will pray to the dark gods of authors that it finds some traction there. TOR wants exclusive submissions so I won’t cast a wider net until after I get a rejection, or figure out that I’m just never getting an answer.

Today I’m just working my way through Book One, tidying up some clunky dialog in an early chapter. I had one of those brainstorms that only occur in the middle of doing something else and it vanished before I could remember to write it down. That’s typical of me though. The combination of ADHD and my brain being over fifty years old often results in bright ideas and important notions swirling down the drain. It’s frustrating but I live with it.

Anyway, working through Book One is getting my fingers and brain back in sync. Later today or tomorrow morning I’ll be back in Book Two, pounding the keys like my life depends on it. There is a nagging idea in my head that if Book One snares a deal, then I’d have a publisher eager for progress on Books Two and then Three. The further along I get the better it is. It’s always good to have a bit of fear as a motivator, even if it is an imagined one.

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A New Easter Tradition

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Yesterday afternoon we did something we had never attempted before. That’s right, we made caramel rolls. North Dakota-style caramel rolls. That is pronounced car-mel. Not that southern-fried CARE-ah-mell pronunciation. And no nuts. We don’t do that here. Putting nuts on caramel rolls is just sick and wrong. When I run the zoo this will become part of the United States Code Annotated.

My mother, my aunt, and one of their best friends made incredible caramel rolls. My mom never parted with her recipe (part of her insane dislike for her daughter-in-laws), one of my cousins has my aunt’s recipe, and I would assume that the friend’s recipe is in the hands of her daughters. So we didn’t have a recipe. My wife is a spectacular cook and loves baking, but she dislikes working with dough or anything she has to roll out. So we’ve never attempted this before.

This recipe was getting passed around on Facebook. One of my classmates posted it and I grabbed it there. It’s a lot of work and though my wife thought we could have done better if we had bread flour, they were incredible. Here’s the original blog post that was linked on Facebook.

http://marriedtoginger.blogspot.com/2014/01/north-dakota-caramel-rolls.html?m=1

So if you’re in the mood for sticky goodness, the kind of comfort food that makes you want to curl up into a carbohydrate-enriched coma, this is a sure ticket to nirvana.

North Dakota Caramel Rolls

1 pkg rapid rise active dry yeast

½ cup sugar

½ cup shortening

2 cups buttermilk

6 cups bread flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of water. In a large standing mixer, cream sugar and shortening. Add buttermilk, yeast mixture, 2 cups flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Beat until smooth. Stir in remaining 4 cups of flour to make a very soft dough (I did this part with my mixer’s bread hook). Turn onto a floured surface and knead 4-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes while you make the caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce 

3 cups brown sugar

2 cups heavy cream

2 Tbs light corn syrup

2-4 Tbs butter unsalted butter, softened or melted

1 tsp cinnamon

3 Tbs white sugar

Combine brown sugar, cream and light corn syrup in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved & sauce is slightly thickened. Pour caramel sauce in equal amounts in the bottom of two 9×13 pans. [I usually get 12-14 rolls out of one batch. In order to avoid crowding, don’t place more than 6-7 rolls in each pan.]

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a large 10×18 inch rectangle. Spread with the softened butter. Sprinkle cinnamon & sugar over the dough. Starting with the long side, roll up and press to seal. Cut into 1″ thick slices.

Place the rolls on top of the caramel sauce in your 2 pans. Cover with a bread cloth & let rise near your warming oven until doubled in size – about 1-2 hours. Bake in preheated 375° oven for 25-30 minutes. Invert onto platter while rolls are still warm.

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Caturday – Sneakers Meditations

P1010271Sneakers is having a fine spring. Right now the sun is shining and the old man is walking around the yard. We’re supposed to get three days of snow starting tomorrow so it is good that our geezer cat is enjoying the sunshine today. Tomorrow he’ll be either in this spot or the foot of our bed, sleeping like a champion and dreaming of warmer days. We’ll be observing our Easter tradition (http://jeroljohnson.org/2014/04/18/and-thats-how-we-roll-on-easter/). We’ll be waiting on warmer days as well.

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Adventures in Soil Conservancy

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I just took a trip out to the farm with my cousin The Singing Farmer. We met with four gentleman tasked with digging up almost half a mile of a shelter belt to make the way for a oil/gas/waste water pipeline. The pipeline is to connect the oil well on the home quarter of the farm to a network of pipes stretched across a few townships. It all goes to a compression station about two miles south of the farm and then into another bigger pipeline. By cleaning out the tree row and putting the pipes where those tree were frees up the land to farm once all the fuss was done.

These tree rows were originally put in by my dad and my uncle. The idea of having these neat rows of tree out here on the prairie is that they stopped the soil and seeds from drifting when the prevailing winds start gusting over thirty miles an hour. I’ve seen entire crops lost because the wind went into overdrive for a few days and the fields had just been seeded. There’s nothing to do then but reseed your land (an expensive proposition). So we had a lot of shelter belts on our farm. But now those trees are quite old and the ones bordering the oil well site were dying out even before they drilled for oil. I’m sure the salt water spill probably killed the ones in the photo above.

My cousin practices no-till farming, which is all the rage here. One advantage to no-till is that we don’t experience losing top soil to those ridiculous winds. So tree rows are becoming a thing of the past. It’s a shame in a way. They broke up the singular nature of the plains and gave habitat to a lot of wildlife. While we have no plans to eliminate any more trees on the farm the ones we’ll be losing in a few weeks are going to give us back some valuable acres.

The temperature today is in the low 40s but that damn west wind was gusting nearly to thirty. It still had plenty of sting to it. I had a heavy hooded sweatshirt over a long sleeve t-shirt and it was slicing through that like I was wearing madras. I noticed that as we stood out on the open the guys we were talking to started angling their backs to the wind and pulling up the hoods on their sweatshirts. “Thought it was supposed to be spring here” one of them said. We all chuckled. You can plant trees, change your farming methods, or turn your back to the wind. The wind gods of the northern plains laugh at it all. They are eternal and they will be raging across this land long after we’re gone, just like they did before we were born.

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