Power to the people and the responsibility that goes with it.

It’s been a hell of a week for me and my head is crammed with so many thoughts that they’re jumbling up in a giant, twisted spaghetti knot that I need to untangle and separate.

Like all roads to hell, this one started with good intentions.  As a car guy, I am a member of a few automobile based forums.  Well one of these forums has been around for a long time, but has been declining for over a year now.  All the “old-timers” noticed it and had complained to the management for the past year.  Nothing ever happened.

The moderators, all two of them for a site that has over 1050 pages of listed members, are frustrated as well.  They don’t have the manpower or the abilities to really make a difference.

Sunday was the last straw.  This site posted a big pat on the back to itself for “doing so well” without addressing any of the problems brought to them or addressing the members who asked to have these issues fixed.

Wanting to help, I told the guys that if they wanted, I could set up a new forum site for them.  It would be their site and they would run it.  There also would be many moderators and administrators so that there would always be someone there to keep things running smooth.

They did so I did.

It took me a few hours Tuesday to set up the majority of it, and a couple hours yesterday and today to get some bugs out.  (I also had a good amount of help today from one of the fellow administrators.)

Members from the other site were already jumping over to the new one.  Before I knew it, all the “elders” had moved over; including one of the moderators.

I’m not bothered by the move, but I am bothered by the circumstance.  That old site was once a good site.  It was the administrator over there that let it slide.  People had complained for a year about problems and nothing happened.  It took a post on the guy’s facebook page to even get a response about the frustration of the members and his solution was to have a chat with the moderators.

That chat probably won’t happen and it should’ve been with the members. We might have learned what his point of view was coming into this and what limits were placed on him by his bosses.

We’ll never know that now.

So I’m upset about this missed opportunity.

But I’m angry too.  I’m angry at the fact that this administrator is an experienced editor who ran a magazine for many years and yet did not realize the importance of his membership!  Web hosts, bloggers, writers, anyone who is in the information/entertainment field knows how important your core members are!  You don’t ignore or dismiss them!  He has far too much experience to make such a bone-headed mistake.

Hell, I run a tiny blog and I whole heartily appreciate everyone that takes the time to read my post, reply to it, or check out my Facebook page.  It means a hell of a lot to me.

How can you be so stupid as to forget the people who make the place what it is?

But then I looked at the list of new members at the new site and got sad and angry at the same time.

All those collective years of experience.  All the knowledge.  All the passion, commitment, and heart these people have was lost from that old site.  These people could’ve done so much to make that old site a better place.  They considered it their home for so many years.  They were part of the community but felt left out on the front porch of an empty house.

They could’ve done so much if only they were given the chance.

What a waste for the old place.

I’m glad I helped build them a new one.

Getting real with The Urban Realist.

I want to give a shout out to Danasia over at Born at Twenty Five.  Danasia had vowed to begin her true life when she hit twenty-five, and she did so with a vengeance!

Through her blog, she traveled, explored, delved into fashion, offered great personal advice, looked back on life, looked forward to future events, posted photos and videos.

The showed us the world through her eyes with her wonderful personality.

After being born at twenty-five, Danasia decided it wasn’t enough.  Wanting more, she has just launched, The Urban Realist.

The Urban Realist is an E-Magazine that features inspiration, fitness, fashion, humor, entertainment, editorials, and fiscal well-being all written by a team of fantastic scribes who believe in The Urban Realist as much they do in Danasia.

The Urban Realist is entertaining, thoughtful and enjoyable.  It is a great step forward in Danasia’s journey.

Check it out.

Food hedges, an addition to veggie gardening.

With winter going on strong, I thought it’d be a good idea to talk about gardens and food hedges.

No.  I’m not out of my mind.  I know there’s tons of snow out there, but now is a great time to get planning on your spring garden.   Even if you don’t start planting until late March to mid-April, planning your garden now will help push the cold away; even if for just a little while.

The one think I’ve found with my every changing garden is that I prefer perennials over annuals when it comes to plants.  I do enjoy planting tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beans and the like for my veggie garden; but I also like to incorporate plants that only need to be planted once that will bring me years of food without all the work involved that annual planting brings.  In short, I love the plants but hate the digging.

One way of doing this is a food hedge or “Fedge”.  A food hedge is nothing more than a row of bushes that produce either a fruit or a nut.  The fruit versions are easy enough.  Blue berry, black berry, or raspberry plants all make great hedges.  You could even mix the latter two up without changing the texture of the hedge.  If you live in the seep south or Florida like I do, you can plant different plants like Surinam Cherry or even Sea Grape.  Both produce fruit and will make for a great hedge.  (I’ve made three hedges out of Surinam Cherry and it holds up very well to shaping and continuous trimming.)

Nuts are a little trickier.   Yes you can make hedges out of what would normally be a nut tree.   What you have to do is first find the nut trees that grow best in your area and then buy small saplings of them.  When the start getting roughly ¾ the size you want, cut out the central leader (The main branch in the middle) so that the side branches take over.  You’ll probably have to “train” your new “bush” for the next five years, but it will grow into a hedge if you do your part.

If you think you’ll get more berries or nuts than you’ll ever use, don’t worry, the birds and squirrels will help you with that.  Come harvest time, those critters will be more than happy to help you with any extras.  (They’ll also inspire you to harvest the fruit or nuts when it’s time as well.)

If you’re just going to plant fruit or nut hedges for the wildlife, I recommend asking for any “white” or alba versions (cultivars).  That way any, um… residue will not stain either your driveway or car.

Food hedges are a great way to expand the “outdoor fridge” of your garden.  Once established, they take little maintenance.  And kids love them.

A synopsis on synopsis

When it comes to submitting your work for publishing approval, you have to have a synopsis.

Very few publishers want your entire manuscript sent to them.  First, it’s very bulky.  Second, they just don’t have time to read the entire piece of work.  There are tons of manuscripts that are sent their way and their job is to wade through them all to find the ones that are right for their company.

Enter the synopsis.

The synopsis tells them about the book without have to read it all.  I have to admit, it felt odd to me to write a synopsis.  After all, I spent a lot of time on the book and want it read.  Writing a synopsis was akin to writing a giant “Spoiler Alert” for the entire book.  It gave the entire plot and hit all the highlights as well as the evolving character developments.

The writing style was different too.  There’s no dialog in a synopsis.  It was more of a description of events.  A “He did this”, “She did that” style of writing.  Writing the synopsis reminded me of how I write these editorials to you.   I never see your face, so I can’t see your reactions, but I try to make it a conversation.  Something both familiar and intimate at the same time.

Some consider a synopsis the writer’s version of a cover letter.  It serves the same purpose, grabbing the publishers/employers attention.  Once you get it, then you can go into the meat and potatoes of your manuscript.

Other people say that the synopsis is another opportunity to show off your writing style.  I say not so much.

The writing style of a synopsis is so different from a manuscript that, to me at least, it seems two entirely different items.

The synopsis is present tense with no character conversations, nor deep descriptions.  It’s very shallow and only skims the surface of the work.

The manuscript on the other hand, is usually past tense, full of character conversations as well as thoughts, describes intense/deep descriptions of events, nature, and surroundings.

It’s like comparing a snack to a four course meal.

Just don’t underestimate the synopsis because of this.  In fact, it is because of its very nature that the synopsis will trick you.

It may skim the surface of the manuscript, but a synopsis is not as short as you think.  Mine was four pages long.  Evidently that’s in the correct range given by the statement in “The Writer’s Guide”.  They state that a synopsis can range anywhere from one to five pages long.  Seasoned veterans boast of being able to prune their synopsis down to two pages.  I’m not a seasoned veteran when it comes to synopsis and don’t want to leave out anything that might cause the publisher to become confused or think that there are huge gaps in the plot of my work.

Given that this is my first foray into the publishing world, I don’t have any seasoned advice to give, but I will say this.  Don’t let the synopsis intimidate you.  Write it like you would tell your best friend about your work.  Keep it present tense and sneak a peek at “The Writer’s Guide”.

You did a lot of work writing that manuscript of yours.  Sneaking a bit of help to get that publisher’s attention isn’t a bad thing.

At worst, it couldn’t hurt.

Last minute Valentine’s Day save

It’s 11:11pm.  Are you ready for Valentine’s day?

What?  You forgot?

Don’t panic!  You’re not a dead man… yet.  I have an idea that just might save you.

This is what you do.  Run over to Wal-Mart, Target, or any store that is open 24 hours.  Go past the mass of men fighting for that last card and bag of crumpled candy.  (Like the cornucopia in “Hunger Games”, it’s a blood bath.)  Walk directly over to the craft aisle and grab an 8×11 piece of green felt.  Grab the biggest sewing needle and a roll/spool of white thread as well.

Got them?  Good.

Now stroll casually over to the cereal aisle.  (You don’t want to tip your hand and start a mob there.)  Discretely pick up a box of Lucky Charms cereal.

If you want to take the chance, you can also check out the toy section to see if there are any stuffed animals at all still in stock.

Pay for everything and get back home.

Now comes the hard part.

Pour the entire box of Lucky Charms into a huge bowl and start separating the pink hearts out from the rest.  (Eat the lucky horseshoes along the way.  You’re gonna need all the luck you can get.) Once you have them separated, cut a good 20 to 24 inch length of threat from the spool and thread the needle.  Take that needle and impale the hearts from side to side, so you can the heart shape when you hold up both ends of thread.  (If all you see is a rectangle, you did it wrong)  Thread all the hearts side by side until you have a row of them 18 to 20 inches long.  (You want to make sure it could fit over your girlfriend’s head.)   Tie the two ends together in a strong knot and cut off the excess.

Lay the heart “necklace” on the square of felt.  (If it looks too small on the felt, fold the felt in half so the necklace looks better.)  If you bought a stuffed animal, put it behind the felt and necklace.

But wait!

What about a card.

Grab some paper (typing, copy, printer, loose leaf, whatever)  Fold it twice. (Top to bottom, left to right)  Write on the cover.  “I love you”

On the inside write, “Simple truth, why complicate it.  Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Have the stuffed animal hold the card or lay it next to the felt.

After she reads the card and holds the marshmallow necklace, suggest she pick out her favorite romantic movie and watch it with her.

Crisis averted.

Now go and program a message on your smart phone for Feb 7th so you don’t forget it next year.

Happy Valentine’s Day!