Thursday, April 30, 2009


Today I get to write about Hemangiosarcoma. It wasn't a topic I set out to write on, but yesterday our 13 yr old wolf hybrid was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and he's only been given a couple of months at best. Hemangiosarcoma is a form of bone cancer that also involves the blood vessel system and spleen, often completely destroying it. In some cases it manifests in one or more limbs, and an amputation of the affected limb followed by chemotherapy can sometimes add months of life for a survivor.

However in Kodiak's case it has spread throughout his entire system. Cancer is often the silent killer, and symptoms don't always present themselves until the cancer has well advanced. Kodiak's symptoms didn't manifest until about three weeks ago, and the vet's first diagnosis was simply severe arthritis. At the follow-up appointment Kodiak had to undergo a biopsy and blood tests to get a definite determination, and the news wasn't good. His case is inoperable.

I try to tell myself that he's had a good 13 years on this planet, but it doesn't make it any easier. We're making him as comfortable as we can through the final days, and will make that final painful decision if his quality of life becomes such that he isn't finding relief from his medications. For now he gets salmon fillets or steak for dinner and seems quite pleased with the new menu.

Prior to his decline Kodiak regularly engaged in daily walks, sometimes logging as much as 6 miles or more per day. He stayed active and received regular dietary supplements in his meals including glucosamine tablets, omega-3 caplets, yogurt and flax seed oil. Sometimes it happens despite whatever preventative measures are taken.

We will remember him fondly and tell his stories. He has many friends and visitors stopping by in these last few days to wish him well. A small prodigy waits in the wings (no relation) to fill his very large footprints. We can't complain... he picked her out himself.

Kodiak passed away just three days after this post. He left this world at 9 a.m. May 3rd. He will be missed.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Camping by Hammock

I took a camping trip this past weekend in order to try out my new hammock tent before hitting the Appalachian Trail next month and I'm already sold on the versatility of this lightweight wonder. Weighing under two pounds, the hammock tent, complete with mosquito netting and rain fly, sets up in just a couple of minutes, allowing you to recline in comfort in places where conventional tents can't be put up. The hammock tent worked so well, that later that evening as I lay watching stars, I was able to glance a shooting star traversing the heavens, and all without enduring a single bug bite.

The hammock tent packs down into its own built in carry pouch so there's no chance of ever losing one or the other. It takes up very little space in a backpack and is so lightweight that I'm kicking myself for not knowing about it sooner. I'm leaving the 7 lb tent with its cumbersome poles at home for the next hike and I'm just taking my hammock tent. It won't be long before I've got the ultralight backpacking thing figured out. I've already ditched the camp stove for a super lightweight alcohol stove. The heaviest thing in my pack is my must-have water bladder.

It was very relaxing to sway gently with the trees and just listen to the night sounds. I slept so comfortably that I didn't want to crawl out in the morning, but finally I did. The hammock tent packs down just as quickly as it sets up, allowing you to be on the move in no time. I can tell you this, I won't be leaving home without it on anymore hiking trips, and now that I've got it, I'm going to be doing quite a bit more combination hiking/camping trips.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Earth Friendly Green Living

As I write this, Earth Day is just a few days away. I've always tried to be Earth friendly, and for the last two weekends I've been setting up a lush green area complete with a recirculating waterfall on the back porch in the hopes of enticing my favorite amphibian, the American Green Tree Frog, to take up residence there and help control insects naturally. I'm happy to report that just a few minutes ago I spied a large tree frog sitting happily on top of the waterfall. My plan appears to be working perfectly.

Combating insects without the use of pesticides is just one way we can learn to be more earth friendly. During my research on green living, I found quite a few interesting facts that opened my eyes to even more ways to live green, such as changing out all standard light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs, composting, and growing your own garden. Recycling is also a good idea, as well as ditching plastic bags for reusable cloth bags, hybrid cars, and reading the newspaper and magazines online. You probably already pay all your bills online, so why not make the switch to e-billing and keep the paper clutter out of the mailbox?

One last tip: Lay off of the bottled water. Instead, invest in a faucet filter or filter for the refrigerator and use the water that you already pay for every month. Think of all the plastic bottles that you can keep out of the landfill. The Earth will thank you.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How to Get Started in Writing

Writers. There are a lot of very talented individuals out there. Some of us are published, while others are still trying to break into the business. Not so long ago, I was still in the latter group. Sure, I had a couple of small things published in a collection or magazine, but I'd never pursued it the way that I should have. Instead, I wasted valuable time working at an uninspiring 8 to 5 job when I should have been exercising my creative side and focusing on writing instead. This article is for those people that feel that they're in a similar situation.

There are several ways to break into the writing. Trying to submit articles to print magazines is one way, although it can be very time consuming and may not pay very well. You might also choose to try and find an agent that can promote your manuscript to an editor in the hopes that it will find its way into print, but be ready for a lot of rejection letters. And then there's self-publishing, which may or may not put you on the road to fame.

Online writing is another way to get started, and is the route that I took. I started with and I am thankful everyday for this wonderful online publishing company. After writing for Suite101 for a year, I recently took on the position as Feature Writer for Hobbies and I've found it to be very rewarding. One of the things that I love about Suite101 (besides being paid to write) is the incredible feedback and tools that are provided for new writers. Editors regularly review articles and give advice and critiques to the writers to help them improve their craft. In addition to this, they provide educational resources for writers to access, and in the Suite101 forum, writers can connect with other writers and ask questions or provide insights to help others along. I really prefer online sites that offer feedback to their writers. Especially from an SEO standpoint, the better your writers are, the better your site is, both in content and ad revenue.

What about the pay, you ask? While it usually starts out a bit small, the more time and effort that you put into your craft, the more money you stand to make. It took me a couple of months before I really started to see how it works. Now I focus on good content and SEO techniques that increase my earning potential and I get a paycheck from Suite101 every month. I'm working toward the day where I can leave my day job behind and focus entirely on writing.

In addition to, I write at HubPages, Bukisa, Squidoo, and Xomba. I also maintain an account with for when I want to pick up freelance jobs. Writing translates into experience and also allows you to hone your skill. When you're writing, focus on the quality and not quantity of your work. I have learned that the more that I am able to write, the better and faster the ideas come. It is very rare for me to have writer's block anymore.

Another thing to look out for is writing scams. These generally fall under the category of contests, but they can also take the form of fake websites that lure a new writer in by asking for 3 or 4 sample pieces "to see if it meets the criteria of what they are looking for." They then proceed to steal the content and market it as their own. It's a good idea to build a portfolio of your copyrighted material somewhere online that you can point them to for an example. If they can't decide whether or not your skills are what they are looking for by looking at your portfolio, then it's better to pass them by protect your own interests.

Another good tip for new writers is to attend a writers conference. It's a great place to learn valuable tips from the pros. You can attend workshops, ask questions, network with other writers, and speak with agents and publishers in order to find out exactly what they're looking for. I recently attended a conference and was able to get past a hurdle I encountered on the novel I've been working on. Hopefully now I'll be able to wrap it up and get it out there where it needs to be.

I hope you've found this article helpful. I've included links to particularly helpful articles and a couple of links to my sign up pages. Feed your writing bug and nourish it and perhaps one day it will do you proud with a best seller. Dare to dream.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Welcome to The Eclectic Muse

Over the years various people have asked me why I have so many hobbies and interests. No, it's not due to a short attention span. I believe it's the combined result of being raised as an only child and not having the opportunity to do much traveling, not "even to Grandma's house." In return I had plenty of time to explore many different hobbies and activities. I bicycle, kayak, hike, maintain a reptile and amphibian collection, play computer games (occasionally--not much time anymore), still play AD&D with some friends on the odd weekend, explore different aspects of spirituality, and still have a multitude of other interests. In fact, I've collected so many hobbies that I recently became a Feature Writer for Hobbies at You can read some of my articles here at Hobbies.

It's the hope that during the course of my writings that I'll be able to introduce others to new activities or explore ones they'd always wondered about. Feel free to ask questions, and I'll answer if I'm able. If not I'll try to point you in the right direction.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you check back soon.