Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Moving Time

This blog has always been a work in progress, and now it's progressing some more.

It started in 2008 as Island Time, relating the story of our family's move from Oregon to the U.S. Virgin Islands and the adventure of making our home in a Caribbean paradise. Then, when the island's economy tanked in 2012, the blog became Bayou Time, and told of us moving back to the states and making our home in New Orleans. In the meantime, I started a second blog, The Write Pirate, in which I followed my writing progress.

But things are changing again, and we (me and Tori) have decided to try to do a little more with the blog. So it's changing again – and this time it's moving.

You can find our new blog at BaurLife.com. It's even more a work in progress, the new platform has a lot more bells and whistles to learn – or learn to ignore. But I'm ready for a new challenge.

And speaking of new challenges, that's what the first post on BaurLife.com is about. This summer we're going to self-publish my first novel, "Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter. So you'll want to follow that in the new blog (and order the book when the time comes! Yeah, definitely that!)

So click the link and join us at the new blog, and watch us grow.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Odds and Ends from a Busy Week

Tori's chicken enchiladas are in the oven, and while I'm waiting impatiently for them to come out and get in my belly, I'll catch up on a busy week.

Saturday we went to Jazz Fest and had a great time. Saw Elton John and Jerry Lee Lewis. I will write a LOT more about this tomorrow. Great, great time. Good show.

Max is taking up violin. In fact, he started Monday. Wednesday he will play with the string group in the music department's end-of-year concert. He's picking it up quickly.

Been working on a couple of projects which will be ready for the light of day soon. One is a video that I think ought to be funny. Maybe very funny. Another is a lot chancier, but it's time. I'm getting ready to take a gamble on myself.

I've become obsessed with the "health" app on my phone, constantly checking the number of steps I take each day. It's harder for me because I work from home and this is NOT a large house.

My old camera is giving up the ghost and we're now looking for a new one. Anyone who knows of one that takes still and video AND has good sound, by all means let me know. I've had the old one more than ten years and it's been a good one. It'd still be a good one if there weren't a couple of shorts inside that make it difficult to charge and to get photos off of. When I got it, it was the first eight megapixel camera out there. Now my phone has a higher resolution.

Getting excited about our trip to Florida in June for the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival. I'll have plenty more to say about that in the weeks ahead.

That was the timer. Enchiladas are on! Anyone who has had Tori's chicken enchiladas knows why I will not dawdle, but post this and get to the table.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

So Much Weather, All at Once

Amazing storm blew in out of Texas Monday. (Damn you Texas!) The forecast had called for rain, but when I stepped outside at around 10 a.m. it was so dark I had to turn on the porch light. Across the river, Tori was in her classroom and saw the sky turn green. The school told them there were tornado warnings, so keep the kids away from the windows. The kids, of course, immediately freaked out, and every time there was a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder they all screamed.

There was a LOT of lightning and thunder, and the wind swept in with a fury. This is how strong it was – the wind blew a train off a trestle! I'm not kidding, check out the video here. I would have bet that wasn't possible, but looking at the video, I get it. All those box cars made a big sail for the wind barreling down the river, and as they went over, they took the locomotive with them.

That's the train trestle that's part of the Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi, the same bridge Tori crosses twice a day to and from work. When she headed home, the four-lane roadway was reduced to one lane because of all the emergency vehicles.

In our neighborhood, we got a lot of wind and rain, but the power stayed on, at least here. But it wasn't all sweetness and light. Right around the corner a power pole blew completely over. A swath of houses and stores a couple of blocks wide and almost a mile long were blacked out south of the downed line. This is why I'm glad I'm a northerner. We were fine. When I drove by the morning to take the kids to school, the pole was still lying across the road.

See, this is what happens when you build a housing development on what used to be a swamp. Sure, you can put in a bunch of fill, and you can put in a drainage system, but when you get that much rain that fast, some of the stuff you stuck in the ground doesn't stay.

We've been waiting for more today, but apparently it's mostly move on east. (Sorry Florida.)

But boy, it can change fast, can't it? It's not that we have different weather than we had back in Oregon. It's just that we've got so much weather. Often all at once.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'Suck the Heads, Eat the Tails"


Suck the head ...

We recently attended our first crawfish boil – a Louisiana tradition heartily embraced by our neighbor Eddie. This winter Eddie moved into the house next door, a house that had been vacant for two years. He's a great guy, one of those guys who is always working on a project, always has a story. And he loves holding crawfish boils. In fact, next month is his annual competition – at which a half dozen people compete for the title.

... and eat the tail.
This first one was a test run, his first crawfish boil in his new home. And it was great. Eddie has a custom-designed table, stainless steel with an opening in the middle for the trash. He boiled 70 pounds of crawfish which he poured around the table and everyone dug in.

If you've never eaten crawfish, here's how you do it, if you've never eaten crawfish. Grab the crawfish at the base of the tail and break it in half. Suck the head. That's what I said. Suck the head, because apparently that's where a lot of the flavor is. I'm not sure about that, but it's what you do. Then you peel the shell off the tail and eat the meat inside. 

It's good. No question about that. Eddie prides himself on his culinary ability, and rightly so. He cooked in two batches and the second was a lot spicier than the first. He also made jambalaya. It goes without saying that his jambalaya was WAY better than the pot I had put together a few months ago. Although I've gotta say, mine wasn't completely out of line, and eating Eddie's was educational, almost a revelation. I learned a lot, and my next will be better.

On the one hand, even the bigger crawfish are kind of small, and the whole process of eating one is a lot of effort for a small bite. In that sense they're sort of the artichokes of the seafood world. But that misses the point. They are delicious, and more importantly, it's a whole social thing. We met a lot of people, stood around talking, learned more of the culture. It was a lot of fun.
Eddie's guests gather 'round his crawfish table, where mounds
of the seafood awat. Eddie is the guy in the white T-shirt





Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Week, a Coincidence, A Deal and a Visit

Good week, with an amazing deal and a visit and some good work. But before I get to that, file this one under karma, or at least under Interesting Coincidences.

Last week I wrote about getting more organized in my work – and I've been doing pretty well, except for the last few days, about which more later – and about how it's fine to have a dream, but you need to plan for how you're going to achieve that dream.

And then I got this in a fortune cookie.

"Acting on a good idea is better than just having a good idea."

A coincidence, sure. But still, the kind that makes you go, "Hmmmmm."

Spent a few hours Saturday at an estate sale in Old Metairie. The house belong to a guy who recently turned 100. His wife had died years ago and his family was moving him up to where they could help him out. It was a big house

Anyway, there was decades and decades of "things." The owner and his wife had obviously traveled everywhere, he appeared to have been a sailor, he had been active in several carnival groups. As a fellow reporter once said after coming back from an interview with a little old lady who had been collecting for decades, "The Knick knack shelves where chockablock with bric a brac."

We picked up some interesting items, including a small Chinese vase that might be worth exactly what we paid for it – $15 – or around $250. Doesn't matter. We got it because we liked it. Same with the Scandinavian pitcher. A couple of vases. And we got a tuxedo that almost fits Max – whole thing, jacket, ruffled shirt, cummerbund, bow tie and pants. Well, the pants will never fit him. The previous owner was a tall man. But Max will grow into the jacket soon and the shirt already fits. Ten bucks for the whole outfit.

But the big thing was a set of Noritake China. There was a big stack of dinner plates – 14 I think – small plates, saucers, a tea ... there were a LOT of pieces. The only thing missing was most of the cups. There were only three left. Cups break, ya know.

And they were asking $65.

I don't know a lot about China, but I know that's not a much for that much dinnerware. Hell, that much Melmac plastic would have cost more than that. I looked the pattern up online. It''s a discontinued design, but it's by no means worthless. Plates were going for $10 a piece. The creamer was listed at about $35. The sugar bowl was listed at $15. And on and on.

They wanted cash, so I had to run to a nearby bank ATM. When I got back Tori was wrapping it in paper and packing it into a plastic bin, with a bemused look on her face. She had approached the women running the sale and said she wanted to buy the China. One of the woman said, "Great. How about $40?" Tori said, "Sure." They even threw in the plastic bin and paper.

As a writer I don't do a lot of bargaining and haggling, but it seems that's backwards. When you're negotiating a sale, you don't lower the price after you've made the sale, do you? We were prepared to pay the listed price. Tori said we were going to buy it. I would have thought that was a done deal. I guess they just like bargaining.

Anyway, we've got several hundred dollars (at least) worth of China. Not sure what we're going to do with it. Maybe give it to one of the kids, maybe sell it online. But even if we just use it to replace the department store stuff we use now, we're way ahead of the game.

Also last week, we had a visit from Robyn, one of Tori's closest friends and of all our Oregon friends the one she's known longest. We hadn't seen her in two and a half years, when she came out to New Orleans to help us through the firstAlex birthday since she died. Before that, while we were in the V.I. she was in Australia. Then she moved to L.A., which she hated, and now she and Daniel have moved to Knoxville, Tenn. (Long story not to be repeated here.)

Robyn had loaded up their stuff and was driving across country in a Ford pickup with a 4-cylinder engine, so progress was slow. But she got here earlier than expected. We expected her late Thursday, but after a short stop at an extremely noisy motel on the Texas/Louisiana border, she decided to hit the road and arrived in our driveway at 3 a.m. Instead of knocking on the door or window, she and her cat Owen slept in the front seat. So when I got up at 6, there they were. I knocked on the driver's side window and she jumped about as far as you can jump in the cab of a pickup.

So she and Tori had a good day together, then she had a "bonus day" when she slept in until almost 11 a.m. – which she never does. The road had taken its toll and she needed the extra day. She and Tori got extra time together, and Robyn made it to Tennessee on Saturday after a grand motor tour of the deep South – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spreading Out as a Writer


Starting to get back in the writing swing, which I have let trail off a bit the last couple of months. Between various family errands and day-job work, it's easy to let that slide. But a couple of things have popped up the last few days to give me that kick in the pants I need to keep going.

The first was this quote from a literary agent's blog. She was writing about how not to give your "power" away. This line rang true to me.

"Everyone, no matter their career or chosen field, must do the hard work of becoming good at what they do. That’s where a great deal of your power lies – in your ability to study, learn, research, practice, whatever it takes to become the best. Don’t give up this key element of control over your future." Rachel Gardner

And this one even more so. It came from The Writer magazine, in an interview with notoriously obsessive, nit-picky Broadway playwright Doug Wright.

"If the subject isn't sufficiently compelling to occupy your time and attention for the three to five year time span it takes to write and rewrite a good play, then why should an audience give you 120 minutes out of their lives?"

Three to five years. Did you see that? It's a rebuke to those who think, for some reason, that writing is or should be easy. We've all heard them say it. "Oh, when I leave this job I'm going to write." Like it's just something you decide to do. You wouldn't say, "Maybe I'll try my hand at brain surgery," or "I'll tear down my car's engine this weekend." Not if you have no experience at medicine or mechanics. But people think they can start writing, because how hard could it be?

Someone said that to me just last week. Seriously. "I'm retiring next year, and then I'm going to start writing." And maybe she will. But I always want to ask, "OK, but what are you doing RIGHT NOW to get ready for that?"

Because you don't just say, "Now I'm a writer" and money starts rolling in. Even if you're good, some savant with all this raw talent, it just doesn't work that way. From the day you decide to start writing a story, with luck and hard work, you might start to see some return three or four years down the road.

And that was where the third kick in the pants came in. Mystery writer James Scott Bell is one of a dozen mystery writers/editors who contribute to the Kill Zone blog, and he's far and away the most helpful. The blog is not specifically or only for mystery writers, although of course that's their forte, but 95 percent of it is generally applicable to writing.

In his column Sunday (which I highly recommend you read here) Bell looks at an article on the habits of wealthy people, and applies those habits to writing. I think they really are applicable to just about any endeavor, but he's a writer, I'm a writer. We're talking about writing.

What it boils down to is asking yourself, on a daily basis, "What am I doing today that will lead me to become better in my field, and improve my chances of success." What am I reading, what am I studying, what am I doing today that will help me ultimately succeed?

He also draws an important distinction between having dreams and having a plan. "I'm going to be a New York Times best-selling author" is a dream. So is, "I'm going to make enough money on my writing to buy a six-pack of beer every other week." It's nice to have dreams like that, but just having dreams doesn't get you very far.

It's your plan that gets you there. In an earlier post, Bell once wrote, "Plans are what put running shoes on your dreams." A dream is something you hope will happen. A plan is what you do to increase the odds in your favor.

And here's maybe the most important thing Bell said. (Seriously, read the column.) A plan has to be measurable. You have to be able to count the steps, you have to be able to gauge your progress. If you can't, it's just a dream, just wishful thinking.

And part of what Bell does to achieve that really opened my eyes.

"Since 2001 I have kept track of my writing on a spreadsheet. I can tell you how many words I wrote, and on what projects, day by week by month by year. I prioritize my projects and know each day which one I want to work on."

I hate spreadsheets. I can see how they're handy for accountants and people who need to count large numbers of things, but I hate when I have to use them. Still, I can see how this is a good idea.

I have a target when I sit down to write. I always aim for 1,000 words a day. If I go over, that's gravy, and I usually do (my best day I got on a roll and knocked out almost 5,000 words. It felt amazing.) But it's very easy to say, I've got to do this, that or the other thing today, and not get around to writing on my WIP (work in progress.) That's a dangerous. It's easy to get out of the swing. Which is what I did.

But now I've got a spread sheet going, and I will mark my progress every day – every day – not just for my WIP, but for all the writing I do for the Source and for this blog. It's harder to ignore. I know that if I skip a day, that blank space is going to be in my word-count log forever. Or until I die, whichever comes first. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why Must He Be So Reasonable?



Had my follow up visit with the doctor Thursday. It went fine, but it would probably have been more helpful if he hadn't kept being all reasonable.

We went over the results of all the tests and it was all pretty much what I'd told him six weeks ago – high cholesterol, a little too much weight. Turns out I don't have gout, just a sore toe. And my heart is fine, that's always good news.

So I'll be going back to see him in six months – and in the meantime I'll have lost some weight and lowered my cholesterol. I'll do the latter in part through a statin drug he's prescribed – which means no more grapefruit juice for me! Damn! I love grapefruit juice. There's half a bottle in the refrigerator. Ah well. The things we do simply to live longer.

As to the former, lose weight. Well, there ain't no secrets or surprises there. Eat less, and eat smarter, and exercise more. The plan is, I'll take the statin and restructure my eating and workout habits. Then at the end of the six months we'll check the cholesterol level again. If it's down enough (and by "enough" I mean roughly in half) then I'll go off the statins and see if the new, smart-eating me can keep it down.

I've already dropped six pounds since my first meeting with the doc Feb. 2, so I'm on my way but have a ways to go. It is a not inconsequential percentage of my current body mass. Biggest thing I've done is stop drinking milk. I was raised with milk, to me it doesn't feel like a meal without a glass of milk, or two. But milk, of course, is a liquid devised by mother nature to turn calves into 500 pound steers quickly and efficiently. So now my only milk comes on my morning Cheerios.

The doctor gave me – not a diet, but a sheet on how to eat more sensibly. First, do most of your own cooking. People who prepare their own meals tend to be healthier and have less weight problems than people who eat out a lot. Check. Already do that. I probably do 70 percent of the cooking in the house. Second, do the bulk of your shopping on the periphery of the supermarket – shop the outer walls first. That's where the produce, meat, seafood departments tend to be. As the doc said, "Buy food that looks like food." As much as possible, refrain from stuff in boxes or cans.

(Of course, the bakery often also is on the store's periphery, but I didn't point that out. It'll be our little secret.)  

Again - check. I already buy very little of the processed foods. I don't understand why, for instance, a person would buy a jar of spaghetti sauce loaded with sugar, dyes and preservatives, when it's so easy to make, and tastes so much better.

So as we talked about healthy choices (At dinner the contents of plate should be half plant – salad, vegetables, fruit, that kind of thing.) Starch – rice or potatoes – should be the smallest portion.

And this is where his reasonableness became a problem. I'd heave a sigh and say something like, "Goodbye red meat," and he'd say, "Oh no, a little red meat is fine, in fact ..." and he'd reel off several reasons why a little beef – grass fed, not corn fed – would be just fine. Or how I have to have a regular "cheat day" when I'm allowed to break the rules. We even had a spirited discussion about the awesomeness of bacon! How is that supposed to help me?

That's not what I need. I need a task master. I need someone to get all in my face and shout, "No more white rice! Step away from the cookies! Eat this quinoa, then drop and give me 10!"

No, I've gotta be the grownup here. Any yelling at me will have to be done by me. The grown up.

Speaking of quinoa, I have now tried it and don't plan to again. When we were at the Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago we picked some up. As the girl at the register rang us up we mentioned we didn't know how to cook it yet. She gave us some tips.

"So you eat it?"

"Yeah."

"Is it any good?"

"Oh no," she said without hesitation. "But I eat it."

Well, good for her. We tried it. It's supposed to be very good for you, but cooking it made kind of a mess and it tasted sort of vile. In fairness maybe if we were better at cooking it, it might not have been completely vile. But I don't care.

It's no longer on our diet. I don't eat quinoa. You may quote me.

And I don't think that's being unreasonable.