A year in my shoes.

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This was supposed to be easy.  Throw a picture up, toss out some words and poof!  Instant post.  Instead it’s over four days past my plan of posting and I’m still struggling.

I fell into the trap of overthinking. I needed new work boots and wanted to explain why I picked those originally and why I switched to something else.  The idea was good, but the words that came were so sterile and analytical.  Completely uninspiring and off-putting for me. I wanted something else, something better.

Kinda like my boots.

The boots I had were so disappointing this time.  They were Wolverines.  I’ve owned four pair of Wolverines in my life and three of them were this style. This pair just did not work.

You see the toes?  It took just one day for the leather covering the steel safety caps to wear off.  I was weeding and the shuffling of my feet against the asphalt wore the leather off by the time I was done.  The boots were one week old at that time.  I’ve had that happen with $30 boots, but never Wolverines.  There was no way I could explain this as normal wear and tear either, so I didn’t bother to call or write about warranty work.

The rest of the boot was fine.  They still were comfortable and supportive.  Together, we dug, moved, pushed, hiked, crawled, and even kicked through our work time.  I had noticed that this set of boots wasn’t as flexible as the earlier ones.  It took more effort to flex on the balls of my feet.  Still they did their work, but the stress was showing.

Then the rains hit.

Florida is known for its torrential rains, but this one was impressive.  It wasn’t tropical in nature, but the results were the same.  Roads closed, traffic diverted, trees fallen, electrics under water, and hundreds of fire-ants huddled together in a ball, just waiting for some poor soul to latch on to.   The last time I saw flooding like this was after tropical storm Gabriel.  The water was so high that the utility vehicles stalled from the strain.  I pushed mine off to the side.  It took three days for my boots to dry completely.  The leather never fully recovered.

The final straw came when the left sole split completely through.  I hadn’t noticed it until the day I had to clean brush out of a drained canal.  The area was drained, but not dry.  Its mud was slick and water seeped up with every step.  My soaked sock alerted me to the crack the boot’s sole.

It was time for a change.

But to what?  I sifted the search engines, read articles, and waded through the horribly arranged Amazon filters.  (It was easier pushing the utility vehicle through the flood than it was trying to find decent work boots with specific requirements on Amazon.)  Given the events of the year, I came up with an unusual result.  Jungle boots.  What other style would handle the abundance of water, humidity, and mud?

Jungle boots are not the easiest things to find.  Rack Room Shoes, Sears, and all the other usual stores were out and while I will buy some things online, boots aren’t one of them.  You have to go to an army surplus store.

Army surplus stores are very interesting to visit.  Tucked in the corner of a strip mall, they can be as bright and organized as Dick’s Sporting goods, or as dark and cluttered as a Hollister’s run by teenage boys.  The store I found was a mix of both.  The lights were low, but everything was organized.  Unfortunately they didn’t have any Jungle boots.  They did have other choices.  Desert boots, training boots, combat boots, parade boots, boots for almost anything.  I had no idea what to look for at this point.

So I asked for help.

The lady listened to what I wanted as well as the price I was willing to pay.  She offered a pair that is light, flexible, durable, and well-constructed.  They aren’t water proof, but they are good against high humidity and dry quickly.  They also are bought by police and fire fighters who are used to standing in their boots for long hours at a time.

I’ve had them for a week and they have handled having the toes scraped against the concrete, heavy mud, miles of walking and flexing of the soles.  So far I’m impressed.  Only time will tell if they last they year.  A future review will be coming.

In the end, this article is similar to my journey into new boots.  I struggled with it at the beginning and took many unexpected turns along the way before ending in an upnote.

With the creative damn broke, I look forward to the journey ahead.

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The truth about men and shopping.

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It’s the most horrible time of the year.  No, not the holidays, shopping season.  The time of the year that man will go all out to avoid. Don’t believe me?  Then why is hunting season happening at the same time?  Do you really think men everywhere are trudging through the rain, mud, or snow for a chance to bring home an animal strapped to their fender?  Heck no.  They could easily accomplish the same feat by stopping by a frat house on any given weekend.  Sure, there are some dyed in the wool hunters out there (the 1%) but most are sitting snugly in their cabins, watching TV while chugging a beer and congratulating themselves on successfully avoiding holiday shopping.

Yes it’s that bad!

The last thing a man wants to do is walk for hours going to stores and seeing nothing that interests them.  Having to pick out gifts for the kids, parents, in laws, out laws, Dave and Darla, Mike and Tim, and Benny and Joon is bad enough, but there is nothing in these stores to distract us or, more importantly, get us to buy something.

Have you looked at the “Men’s section” in any given store?  Can you even find it?  Usually it’s this postage stamp sized square tucked away in a dark corner.  The choices are so limited that the men look at the kids section with envy.  And why not?  It’s five times the size!

The marketing department of these stores will tell you that men just don’t like to shop.  They are “Hunters” that like to get in, “kill their prey”, and get out.  Men don’t want to be in the store for more than five minutes.

Women, on the other hand, love to shop.  They stroll from aisle to aisle, flitting to and fro from jewelry to shoes to clothing to housewares.  Women will spend hours browsing the wares.  (It was stated that the average female shopper at one home goods store spent, on average, four hours shopping around.)

This is complete garbage.  My case in point?  BASS Pro, REI, and Cabellas.  Turn a man loose in one of these and watch.  You will be amazed at how the person who would almost chew his arm off to get out of a store will now buzz around like a bee and hit every section and stand in that building.

T-Shirts?  Check

Flannels?  Check

Hats, jackets, gloves?  Check

Shoes and boots?  Look at them go!  (Sorry, no “cute”.  No shoes are cute.)

Fishing, camping, bar b que?  Definitely!

Guns and knives?  View from afar and I bet they go there.  “Hey, that’s the gun from ‘Avengers’.” Or “Now that’s a knife!”

Boats and ATVs?  “Honey it’s time to go.  They’re closing the store.  Get off!”

Getting a man to shop is not hard.  You just have to have things they want.  Just like they do for women.

My advice for any woman out there that has a man that hates shopping, find a store they like (outdoors, shaving, hardware, electronic, whatever) and take them there during the trip.  They’re spending pretty much the entire day looking at things not catered for them.  They’ve earned it.

How to make the used family sedan cool

Photo by Edmunds.com

They drone silently along, dutifully performing their tasks with little to no fanfare.  Filling our roads, they perform flawlessly with all the romance of a toaster.  They are the family sedan.

Emblazed in colors of grey, white, or beige, these four door sedans are the wallflowers of the car culture.  Steady, secure, reliable, they are always there but stand in the garage when the dance of the road calls.

When it comes time to sell them, they are often the last choice, relegated to the crowds of minivans and grandpa mobiles.

Clearly the family sedan is in desperate need of a cultural makeover, but what to do?  There’s no throaty V-8 or high revving turbo to bring out the gear heads.  The street racer/drifter crowds have already picked out the econohatches as the build material of choice.  Autocrosses often feature two seat sports cars.  What niche can the sturdy family sedan stand out in?

Can anyone say rally?

photo by autoconception.com

Rally racing is that wonderfully hyper sport where drivers hurl their cars along at blinding speeds while the navigator yells out what blind turn is coming up next.

 

photo by hemmings.com

 

Here is a chance for the family sedan to finally shine.  These empty logging and mining roads can provide the stage to flaunt the abilities of both driver and machine.

The buildup can be affordable, too.  Just rip out the rear seat, throw in a roll cage and safety fuel cell, wear the standard racing helmet and suit, and you are ready to go!  The cost of the cars themselves is relatively cheap.  I’ve seen an incredible variety of cars in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.  (To help insure an entry level into this sport once it explodes into the mainstream, a stock class would be institutionalized that would limit the upper purchase price of the car and also limit the modifications to standard oem size shocks, brakes, fog lights, and mud and snow tires.  No engine, transmission, or drive train modifications allowed.  (No turning a front wheel drive car into a four wheeled drive car now.)

 

All cars must be street legal.  You have to be able to show off your race creds on the way to work now.

The classes are simple:

Stock or modified.

Rear – Front – All wheel drive

Four cylinder or six

Station wagons can compete alongside sedans in their perspective class unless there are enough entered to form their own class.  (Roughly five or more)

The cars allowed into this new racing:

Honda Accord

Chevrolet Malibu

Toyota Camry

Ford Contour

Dodge Stratus

Mazda 626

Nissan Altima

Subaru Legacy   (The Outback models should be in their own class or up against anyone who finds a Volvo Crosstrek or Audi in that price range.  [Verifiable proof of price will be needed.])

Hyundai, Kia, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac, any car within that general size is allowed to race.  (The first person to rally a Jaguar X type will become my personal hero.)

photo from road and track magazine

No longer are these cars chained to the dull daily driving on the timid tarmac.  They are now free to leap in the crisp air as they bound through countryside, singing their engines as loud as their mufflers allow.  (Well, at least until an errant rock or hard landing jettisons it.)

This class of rally car (AS for class A – Sedan) will pull the family sedan off the wall and into the spotlight.

Tell anyone who’s curious that it kicks.

Summer Night

The night air was thick and perfumed with the scent of coco-butter.  Music and laughter spilled out of open doorways while lover’s held hands as they strolled down the curved concrete.

There was a feeling of familiarity that only the summer season could bring.

No crowds, no heavy traffic, no tourists.

The bars, shops, beaches, and parlors once again belonged to the natives that lived there.

A moment to breath, a moment to dance.  The sweetness of summer, shining in the night.

 

Offered to you for SethSnap’s “Your Story” challenge.

The E-Book Challenge

The E-Book Challenge

Picture provided by Jette Harthimmer

“Why don’t you do a plant book?  You’d be good at it.”

This phrase has been tossed at me since I posted the Hibiscus blog roughly a year ago. My father was the first one to suggest this idea, and it’s been encouraged/echoed heavily by my wife ever since.  (To argue their point, I am a landscaper, and the hibiscus blog post is very popular.  It ranks in the top five every week.)

I did dabble with the idea of a gardening book.  I added a garden section to the menu and typed up a few posts about the basics of gardening.  They never got the same amount of traffic or comments that Hibiscus does, so I figured it had to be the pictures that pushed the post and kinda let it slide.

But every week, I always get questions about plants and gardening from the residents that I work for.  (Usually about insects, and the general health of the plant.)

So maybe, just maybe, I’m looking at this the wrong way.  Like every blogger out there, I have a huge range of viewers.  It’s global.  Plus I love to change things up and have a variety of posts for you to read about.  (Plus I feel it helps hone my writing skills by having to write in different styles about different subjects.)  So basing what would be an item for a local region on such a large geographic audience isn’t a good gage for desirability.

I need to think “niche market”.  There are roughly 1,578,000 people in the Southwest Florida region, according to the 2010 census, and some of them could really use a simple guide on how to garden in this region.

Enter the E-Book.

The E-Book I have in mind should be simple:  Basics on the soil of the area, the fertilizers that work the best, where plants will do best in a given area, what are the positives and negatives of each type of mulch, and some common plants that people can buy and install without worrying that they got the wrong plant for the wrong place.  – That last one happens all the time!

It sounds like a fun project, but I have some strong concerns and questions.

The first two are neck and neck in my worry column:  Copyright infringement and liability.  This book is going to need many pictures and those that I don’t take; I usually get from web searches.  I need to find a way to make sure they are not copyrighted.  I also need to find a way to protect myself from being sued from a misinterpretation of what I suggested in the book.

“He wrote that I should plant these plants in a separate bed for better unity.  He never told me there was an irrigation line running under my lawn.  That cost me money!”

Then there’s the concern about what licenses, permits, and tax forms I’m going to need to do this correctly.  To sell this through self-publishing means I’ve created a small business.  So have I created a web based publishing company?  Will I need a fictitious name form?  What about tax collection?  Do I need to add that to the price?  Is the government going to consider my computer a “taxable business expense” even though I use it for other things?”  What forms am I going to have to use when tax time rolls around?  Does this need to be recorded quarterly or just once a year?

Yeesh!

Just thinking about all this makes me want to just run out the door and forget the whole thing.

But I have another dilemma:  How will this affect my other book?

I’ve already written a novel.  In fact, it’s been edited and my agent has sent samples off to multiple publishers.  Are they going to be turned off by the fact that I’m self-publishing an E-book how to guide?  What happens if next month I get signed on and they want the garden guide as part of the package?

I don’t know.

Does anyone out there know the answer to these questions?

Have you written or published an E-Book?  What obstacles did you encounter?  Did it help or hurt your other works?  How bad was the bureaucracy you had to deal with? Any helpful hints?

I am going to try this experiment out.  I gotta see what happens.  If anything, I’ll learn a little more about using Microsoft Word.  (All those plant I.D. pages)  Through it all I’ll keep you informed on my progress.  (It’ll help prod me along when I feel it’s getting a little dry.  It is a guide after all)

For those that are interested, I’ll have a new category on my side bar specifically for this challenge.  That way all the posts will be in one spot for easy viewing and printing.

I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I’ll be writing about it; and don’t be afraid to throw out those comments.  I’d love to hear your thoughts as we go through this together.  There’s a great adventure ahead.

Onward!

Thoughts of: Christmas ideas.

With Christmas shopping in full swing I figured I’d throw out a few items that have inspired me or helped me on my adventures.

First is the Earthsea novels by Ursula K. LeGuin.  Puffin books takes the first four books and puts them in one binding to bring you the meat of the series. Adventure, growth, pain, understanding, knowledge, love, it’s all there.  This is a great series to get your adventure juices flowing.

My second book choice is “Wind Drinker” by Jefferson Spivey.  It’s an autobiography about his idea, and then adventure, of crossing the United States from L.A. to New York on a borrowed horse.

If you’re looking for adventure mixed in with hilarity, check out “Florida Cow Hunter:  The Life and Times of Bone Mizell”.  The book is crammed with unbelievable and outrageous adventures of a cattleman in the wilds of South West… Florida.

Looking for something a little more modern?  Follow Gary and Monica Wescott as they discover Iceland in their modified Ford pickup truck.  Having just finished a winter’s expedition through Siberia, this DVD gives you a great adventure presented in the old National Geographic style.

The last item on my list is Road Runner magazine.  It’s a motorcycle touring magazine, but it is so full of useful information and great destinations that anyone who has the itch to travel needs to look at it.  Every article has all the travel research done for you.  Where to go; what to do, what to see; and where to stay.  There’s even maps on the back and GPS coordinates to make your trip even easier.

So her are some suggestions for you to think about.  I own every one listed nd enjoy them.  If they interest you, great!  Click on the picture and it will send you to their website or Amazon so you can order it.  If you don’t like them, that’s ok.  I’ll be back to my regular posts tomorrow.  Also, don’t think I’m doing this for profit.  I have no monetary gains in this.  There is no affiliate link or any other kickback.  These are just items that I enjoy and felt you might be interested in.  Well all have that someone who is hard to shop for.  Maybe one of these items will be a good choice.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Ketchup with us

A while back Michele and Mel invited me to join in their writing challenge called “Ketchup with us”.  It’s a bimonthly challenge and I’ve finally had the energy to Ketchup to them.  (Although, I am a wee bit late.  Huff-huff.)

The challenge this time is to rant about something I could do without. Hmm.  so many things here.

Ok M&M,here’s my rant:

I could so do without the entire skipping of Thanksgiving when it comes to the freaking department stores!  I mean, really!  Did you notice it?  They went straight from Halloween right to Christmas!  Ugh!  What the hey?  This is America’s holiday.  Let’s do something about it.  You need an excuse to sell stuff?  How about a Thanksgiving sale?  You could make a pilgrimage to the store for the annual turkey shoot of low-priced DVDs, CDs, sweaters, and other stuff.

How about a big sale on boats?  Sure everything is icing over up north, but here’s the chance to get some real good deals on you very own May Flower.  Or, even better, do a cruise!

Kids could go crazy with an airsoft sale.  Not only are the prices lower, but each airsoft sold comes with a free turkey spinner target.

Cartoon network could play Charlie Browns Thanksgiving over and over again for the entire day.

Thanksgiving is a worthwhile Holiday.  Let’s not trip over it on the way to “Black Friday”.

Thanks for the rant M&M.  Nest time I’ll try to keep in the word count limit.

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