Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

© 2006-2017 All rights reserved

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, June 12, 2017

CenturyLink Scam

On June 1, the following email arrived in my inbox:

I thought it sounded a bit odd. It didn't address me—the customer—by name. Had it been sent to a group, it should have been sent to "customers."  The syntax didn't quite sound like English was Jobidd's native language. Also, I'm pretty sure that CenturyLink, being an internet provider, would use a email addy, not a zoom Naturally, I didn't click on the page.

A few days later, I received a warning from "CenturyLink" about my mailbox being almost full. But they'll give me a free upgrade if I click my email address and re-login. Uh-oh.

Plus now the alleged CenturyLink rep is using a email addy. I'm pretty sure CL wouldn't do that. Then came another one—a final warning—from a different sender at the addy:

This time I hovered the cursor over my email addy that the scammer wanted me to click. It wasn't a link to CenturyLink at all (Are we surprised?) but a link to doitalwaysshhn (dot) com/ verified/ centurylink/ (. . .some more stuff. . . ) and ending in login (dot) htm. No way was I going to click to see where that went.

I'm also puzzled by the copyright notice on the bottoms of all three emails. Why would they be copyrighted? Would they sue me if I copied them?

Well, I didn't actually copy, did I? I just did 3 screen grabs that I exported as jpegs after altering my addy. 

I doubt I'm the only one being sent these scam emails. Y'all be careful what you click.


Friday, June 09, 2017

Scummy Writing Services

This post has nothing to do with cute kitties washing each other, but I'll post a picture anyhow:

This post does have to do with some scummy "writing service" providers who have attempted to infiltrate this blog.  Recently I received this as a comment to a 2008 blog post (note that I have smudged the contact info a bit):

The blog post commented upon had nothing to do with essay writing, so I don't know why this disreputable company chose it for a spam attempt. As a former college English instructor, I despise companies that provide cheating services for students. Naturally, I didn't approve the comment for publication. But I have no qualms about holding it up to ridicule.

I do appreciated the irony of "100% Plagiarism Free Content." Aren't they providing an essay for a student to plagiarize? (Or, if the essay has been paid for, maybe it's not really plagiarism?) And do they mean free content that is 100% plagiarism? Or do they mean "100% Plagiarism-Free Content"?

They don't seem to know that the presentation PowerPoint is one word. Or perhaps their "Power Point" is something that's done with a strong index finger and not the Microsoft program at all. That "Help on AdmissioDissertationn Essays" is a puzzler, too. Perhaps they need some help with their "Proofreading and Editing."

This is a good place to take a time-out with a cute kitty picture:

Now back to scummy writing services: Two days after that comment appeared in my email, I received an email from someone who wanted to do a guest post on my blog (I've smudged the company name and removed the email addy):

I couldn't imagine why this person wanted to do a guest post. (And on which blog? I have a few others besides this one.) Naturally, I checked the website—it's a "Legit & Cheap Essay Writing Service." Wow! both legit AND cheap! They're only $12 a page unless you have a short deadline—then there's a "rush charge." But  they're offering a 20% discount! Right smack dab on their website, they say:

If you need a professional essay writer to help you 
out with an ultra urgent college paper, use our
fast, completely legit, and cheap essay writing
 service NOW!

I wasn't impressed with the creative spacing for the above, nor was I impressed with the sentence structure of this claim:

Our essay writing service is equally popular with native USA students
as well as international students, another reason that proves our affordability and reliability

Like the other scammer, this one also offered papers that were "100% Plagiarism Free." But this one also claimed one of their "awesome features" was that their essays were "100% Turnitin Proof." If you're not familiar with Turnitin,  here's a link: A lot of colleges use Turnitin to check student writing for plagiarism.

If you're a student, you'd be stupid to use one of these scummy "services." If you fall prey to these "services," you might be too stupid to even go to college.

If you represent one of these "services," you are indeed stupid if you think I will approve your comment on this blog or allow you to make a guest blog-post. But I will use your email or website to shine a bit of light on your dubious "services."

I've addressed similar scumbag services before. See the following

And now for another cute kitty pic:


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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Kroger Buggy Update

Last month, I blogged about the problems of shopping at Kroger On Senior Day. I mentioned how hard if was for those of us who are mobility-impaired to get around the Rocky Mount store in handicapped buggies because many aisles were blocked by restockers and their huge carts. Those buggies are sometimes difficult to access, too.

Every time I fill out the "Kroger Feedback" online questionnaire to get more fuel points, I mention the problems that handicapped folks have. Last time I even included a link to the blog-post about them. The aisles are a bit better now, but there's still a problem with buggy access—BIG SIGNS that prevent those who need a handicapped buggy from getting one. About two weeks ago, when I told the manager about the new big red signs  blocking the buggies, he said those signs were a corporate decision and they concealed a monitor that detected stolen items. He said he couldn't remove them.

Ths past Monday, I found that another sign had been added to further block the buggies.  See—it blocks the entry area into the buggy's seat.

Notice that the buggies are lined up so close together that even someone who isn't old or crippled would have trouble getting one. Notice the big box blocking the far end—so the buggies aren't accessible from either end.

Luckily I had found a buggy outside and didn't have to try to get one out of the line. But there were no doubt others who weren't so lucky.

Why is Kroger so handicapped-unfriendly? How 'bout moving those signs? 

UPDATE: On June 13, the smaller sign had been removed and the buggies were more accessible.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

An Ill Wind Shear

"But it's an ill wind that blaws nobody gude."
—Sir Walter Scott, Rob Roy

An ill wind indeed stuck the northeastern part on Union Hall on Sunday night, and indeed it blew ill. A rainbow in the evening hinted that the storms were ending.

But Sunday night brought high winds to a narrow strip of the county. The wind shear did considerable damage to trees and a few buildings. A neighbor to our farm in the area called early Monday to tell us what happened. He'd lost a bunch of trees as well as half the roof off a barn his grandfather had built in the late 1800s.

By the time wew went out to look, VDOT crews were cleaning up.

As we neared our farm, we saw this:

And then one of our trees—a big red oak that must be a hundred years old.

We had some smaller trees damaged, too. Plus some of our hay was flattened (it'll spring back) and the roof was blown off an ancient chicken house. The following pictures are on our neighbor's side of the road.

More scenes of the clean-up:

On Monday afternoon, another unusual event happened in Union Hall—a boat ran aground on Rt. 40.

OK—what really happened is that a big truck hauling a big boat on a low flatbed tried to turn onto Kemp Ford Road and didn't quite make it.

The turn is kind of tight and vehicles have to go over a hump. The trailer caught on the hump and wasn't going anywhere. An unmarked police car soon arrived (see the blue light?). At that point we left, so I don't know how they got the boat unstuck. 

I wonder if it got stuck again on some of the narrow roads to the numerous coves at the lake. I wonder if it encountered any downed trees. . . .

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Kitty Tale

by Arlo, second-in-command house-cat to Tanner

My mommy went to the Read Local event at the Salem Museum a week ago where she and a bunch of other people were selling their books. (You might remember that I have helped Mommy promote her books before, but she didn't take me with her to help. Which was fine with me because being outside scares me. But that's another story.) Here is what her table looked like:

Anyhow, she came home with a book just for me! It is a book about a rescue kitty.  See— it's called Cat's Tale of a Rescued Kitty! A cat named TC Eichelman wrote it.

 I was a rescue kitty myself. Mommy rescued me in 2015, and you can read about it in this blog-post: "Refugee Kitty." She also also rescued a bunch of other cats besides me—Olivia (Chloe and Jim-Bob's mama) in 2009 ("A Cat Tale"), Tanner ("Latest Addition") in 2013, and Alfreda ("November SOTK") last fall—and a lot of others, too. Since so many of us in the household are rescue kitties, stories about rescue cats interest me.

I liked it that the cat on the cover is a tuxedo cat just like me. I think tuxedo cats are the best! In his book, TC told about he was thrown out of a car window and how he was rescued. He went on to have a good life (just like I did!). I like books where kitties have happy endings.

Like me, TC doesn't like to go outside and he likes boxes. Like me, he also has some toys he likes to play with. However, he doesn't live with any other cats the way I do, so he didn't have another cat  raise him like Tanner did me. Like me, I don't think he remembers where he came from (Tanner once tried to tell me about where I came from in this blog-post: "Arlo's Origin." Tanner could probably have wrote that as a book, but he is kind of lazy and prefers to hi-jack Mommy's blog instead.)

Anyhow, I really enjoyed reading TC's story, but I hadn't quite finished when Tanner and Chloe decided they wanted to read it. So they took it with them, and I will have to sneak it back when they aren't looking.

If you have a kitty who wants something to read, you might get him this book. TC's mommy and daddy want to make people aware that rescuing cats is a good idea, and this book might help.

And, if you are interested, you can see pictures from the Read Local event at Mommy's friend's Blue Country Magic blog.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

The Greenbrier Ghost

I've always liked a good ghost story—especially if it's a true one. Last year, I self-published a novel, Them That Go, which had several ghost stories in it, including a true one: the Greenbrier ghost.

In one scene, a high school student relates the story of the Greenbrier ghost to her English class. If you're not familiar with the story, there are several versions of it online, and even a couple of videos. Here's one that summarizes the story:

In a chapter of Them That Go, the English class has been studying Hamlet, in which the ghost of Hamlet's father tells Hamlet about how he was murdered. The teacher asks if the students have heard any ghost stories, and—on pages 99-100— this is what Lizzie says her aunt told her:

“Well, Aunt Sarah said back in the 1890s a woman named Zona married a good-looking stranger who come to town. He worked as a blacksmith, so he was real strong. But he was real mean, too, and Zona’s mama didn’t much like him. One winter day, the blacksmith sent a boy to his house for some reason or other, and the boy found Zona dead at the foot of the steps. The boy run back and told everybody, and the doctor was fetched to see about Zona. But the blacksmith got there before the doctor and was carrying on something awful about his wife being dead. He’d even took her and put her to bed and had her all cleaned up and dressed, even though other womenfolk are supposed to do that for a woman, not the husband.”

Several girls nodded. Likely they had witnessed some home burials. A lot of folks in the county can’t afford a funeral home and have to make do the old way.

“Anyhow, the doctor didn’t get to examine her real good, what with the blacksmith carrying on and crying and hanging onto her. When somebody rode out to fetch Zona’s mama, she said that no doubt that devil had done killed her daughter hisself.”

Nobody was saying a word while Lizzie told this. It wasn’t like some of the boys to be so quiet.

“Well,” Lizzie continued, “next day, they carried Zona in her coffin out to her parents’ farm to get buried. The blacksmith stuck pretty tight to that coffin even during the wake. He put a pillow on one side of her head and a rolled up sheet on the other, which struck her family as odd, but he said it seemed like to him it made Zona more comfortable, so they didn’t mess with what he was doing. He tied a scarf around her neck, too, and said it was her favorite so she ought to be buried with it.

“Right before they closed up the coffin, Zona’s mama slipped that sheet out of the coffin. After Zona was buried and folks had left, Zona’s mama washed the sheet but couldn’t get a stain out of it no matter how hard she tried. She took it as a sign that Zona didn’t die no natural death.

“Meanwhile, she started to pray that her daughter would come to her and tell what happened. She prayed and prayed every night for nigh onto a month until Zona’s ghost appeared and said her husband had got mad and killed her. He beat her some and choked her and broke her neck.

“Zona’s mama went to a lawyer who listened to what she said and got the doctor and some deputies to look into what had gone on. They dug up Zona and examined her real good this time.” Lizzie paused to take a breath. This was the longest I—and likely everyone else—had ever heard her talk.

“What did they find out?” Susan Collins asked.

“Found out that her neck was indeed broke and her windpipe was mashed and her neck was bruised up like somebody had got a’holt of it, so they arrested the blacksmith, and he was tried for murder and sent to prison. Turns out he’d been married twice before and his second wife had died mysterious too. 

“At least that’s the story my aunt told me,” Lizzie said. “I thought it’s kind of like in Hamlet. A ghost appears and tells about a murder.”
* * *
How did I happen to include this particular ghost story in Them That Go? In late summer 2015, when I was midway through Them That Go, I asked on FaceBook if anyone knew of an Appalachian ghost story in which a ghost gave information about his or her own death. A couple of people suggested the Greenbrier Ghost. One was best-selling Appalachian novelist, Sharyn McCrumb, who'd been researching and writing her new novel—a novel, that I was later to learn, based on the Greenbier ghost. 

At the Franklin County Library in spring 2016, when I heard her speak about her then-new novel, Prayers the Devil Answers, Sharyn gave a bit of a preview of her next book: The Unquiet Grave. When it comes out in September 2017, the cover will look like this:

Meanwhile, I just finished reading an advance reader copy that her publicist sent me. 

I'll do an "official review" on this blog in August, but I can tell you now that I really enjoyed the book. Even though I was familiar the basics of the story, Sharyn McCrumb's novelization of what happened in Greenbrier County back in the 1890s was compelling. It kept me reading way past my bedtime two nights running.

I always enjoy a good ghost story, and The Unquiet Grave was indeed a good 'un.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Senior Day at Kroger

For nearly two decades, I've been enjoying Senior Citizen Day at Kroger, when those of us over 55 get a 5% discount every Tuesday. However this senior perk ends next week. A lot of us seniors are angry about this.

I'm angry about something else Kroger does—or doesn't do: make the store where I shop handicapped accessible. Those of us with mobility problems have to use the handicapped buggies. To get to a buggy, I've often had to push aside one or two signs that block easy access. Yesterday, after I'd pushed the signs away, and gotten into a buggy, I remembered I had my camera. You can see that the other end of the buggy row is blocked by a box and a sign:

A lot of aisles were blocked, too. I wanted to go down this one to get some organic sweet potato chips, but there was no way—between the pole and the stacks of boxes—that I could do it.

I thought maybe I could get into the other end of the organic section. But when I tried to make the turn, there wasn't quite enough room.

Finally, by taking a long way around, I got to the other end of the organic aisle. Nope, that was also blocked. 

 Later, a sales associate did go down the aisle for me, but there weren't any organic sweet potato chips. Meanwhile, I headed for the produce section. Again, there were places where the handicapped buggy wouldn't fit. I couldn't quite make the turn here, and had to back up and take the long way. . . .

. . . only to find the section where I wanted to get mushrooms was blocked.

I went back several minutes later, but the aisle was still blocked. I asked the guy if I could get through, and he pushed the big black cart to the side so I could squeeze through and get the mushrooms. In another part of produce, I had to ask another employee who'd blocked the aisle if he'd hand me a cauliflower, which he did. There was no way I could maneuver the cart close enough to select one myself. 

In the meat department, I couldn't get close enough to the case where the bacon was on special. I couldn't even get through what is normally a very wide aisle. Totally blocked! (Do you see any sales associates here? Neither do I.)

At that point, about a third of my journey through the store,  I stopped taking pictures, I did encounter several more blocked aisles, though. And there were a few things I didn't buy because I couldn't get to them.

I wonder about all these blocked aisles. Would they be a problem if a fire broke out? Are they just blocked on Senior Citizen Day, or are they blocked at other times? Why is it necessary for so many boxes to be brought out at once? Do all the Kroger stores do this, or is it just the one where I shop?

Anyhow, for those of us who are old and gimpy, these obstacles don't make for a pleasant shopping experience.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Whistling Woman

I'm a big fan of Appalachian novels—both to read and to write. When I ran across a free Amazon download (free at least for Prime members; 99¢ for others), I figured I'd take a chance. I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed CC Tillery's Whistling Woman.

A plot description is on the back of the paperback version:

The back-cover description covers the basics but hardly does the book justice. It doesn't let the reader know that the book has such a rich texture. I was impressed by the details that make this book truly Appalachian—a sense of place (rural Kentucky setting), time (late 19th century), daily life, the sense of family, traditions, and superstitions.

Some of Whistling Woman echoes my self-published novel, Them That Go, but with a different setting and situation. I'm pretty sure that those who like my book will like this one, too. And there's some "going" in Whistling Woman, too.

While Whistling Woman reads like a novel, it's actually creative non-fiction by sisters Cyndi Tillery Hodges and Christy Tillery French, who use the name CC Tillery to write about the life of their great-aunt Bessie. You can read more about the authors and book here.

Whistling Woman is Book 1 in the "Appalachian Journey" series. The other three books follow later events in Bessie's  life: Moonfixer, Beloved Woman, and Wise Woman. The e-books are a good bargain at 99¢ each, but they're also available in paperback.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Out and About with Books

Warning: Blatant promo for my books!

When you're a self-published author, there aren't a lot of ways to sell books. Bookstores don't carry self-dubbed books because they (pick one or several): aren't returnable, don't have a distributor, don't have a deep discount, have no quality control, etc. While my books are on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, few people know they're there. Hence, self-pubbed authors usually sell their books in person. That's what I'll be doing for the next month.

This spring, I'll be making a few appearances to promote my books. On Saturday, April 22, from 10 AM until 2 PM, I'll join two dozen other authors at Brewed Awakening in Danville. Because of the weather, I don't know yet if we authors will be inside or outside. I've been to Brewed Awakening author events a couple of times in the past and really enjoyed them. My picture from last summer even appeared in a news article about the event.

On Tuesday, April 25, from 10 AM until 2 PM, I'll be among another couple dozen of authors at Westlake Library's Local Author Expo. Several members of Lake Writers will participate.

On Thursday, May 11, from 4 until 6 PM, Linda Kay Simmons and I will present "Down-Home Writers" at the Moneta/SML Library. Both Linda and I write Appalachian fiction, so our work complements each other. We'll discuss how our homespun stories were woven from scraps of family lore, childhood recollections, regional history, folklore, familiar places, and maybe a few out-right lies. I'll have a Powerpoint presentation showing some of the places and people who have influenced my stories.

On May 20, I'll join another twenty or so local authors who'll sell and sign at the Salem Museum's "Read Local" event. Some are self-published; some are commercially published.

The museum is a neat place and the exhibits are well worth seeing, too.

Meanwhile, if you want to buy my books in advance, click the titles to go to their Amazon page:

I'd like to do a few more events this summer if any opportunities arise. Because I have some mobility issues, I can only accept invitations that are within a hundred miles of home, are handicapped accessible, and don't require a lot of walking.

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Sunday, April 09, 2017

Beowulf Rap

I was going through an old filing cabinet and found something that gave me flashbacks to my English-teaching days—a rap I wrote in 1988 so my 8th graders would understand Beowulf better. Granted some with more literary talent than I possess have done translations, but I figured mine might work for 8th graders. Plus the movie version of Beowulf wouldn't come out until 2007, and even the animated version wasn't available back then:

Anyhow, here's my rap version. If you're an English teacher desperate to get your students more involved, feel free to use it: 

The Beowulf Rap
By Becky Mushko © 1988

Old King Hrothgar built Heorot Hall,
And him and his homeboys had a ball
’Til Grendel came upon the scene.
Man! This dude was big and mean—
Big red eyes, twelve feet tall—
Listen to what I’m tellin’ y’all!
Grendel chowed down on twenty guys—
Only a snack for a dude his size!
Every night he came again
And chomped and crunched up more and more men.
Poor old Hrothgr was reallin illin’
’Cause Grendel really got into killin’.

This went on for twelve years long
Until Mr. Beowulf came along.
Now Beowulf was one cool cat,
And he wondered where old Grendel was at.
A dude named Unferth put him down,
But Beowulf would prove he ain’t no clown.
Hrothgar said, Get it on, Man,
But you got to kill him with your own bare hand!”

They feasted and drank and went to sleep drunk,
And along came Grendel, the ugly punk.
He chomped one dude and slurped his blood
And said to himself, “Mmm-mmm, that’s good!”
But as he reached for another to harm,
Beowulf grabbed him by his arm
And slung him back and forth like a rocket
’Til he ripped his arm right outta its socket.

Grendel ran back to his bloody lake
’Cause he’d had about all that he could take.
Beowulf nailed his arm to the wall,
And they partied and boogied in Heorot Hall.
Hrothgar gave him gold and stuff
’Cause that’s what you get when you’re good and tough.

I hope you understand the poem of Beowulf
’Cause I think I’ve done rapped enough.

I can't guarantee that it'll work, though.

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