perennials, satire, fiction and humor

I’m Doing Gladiolas Wrong

Don’t tell mine.

Gladioli, aka “sword lilies,” are delightfully showy bulb plants that take over my garden and wow my neighbors every late summer and fall. Despite the name, they’re more closely related to irises than lilies. My parents planted mine here about fifteen years ago, and they’ve been going strong ever since.

Turns out we’ve been growing them wrong the entire time.

Image: Blog title image, featuring pink flowers and the title of the post.

According to every book on perennials I own, gladioli are hardy to USDA Zone 8. Maybe Zone 7, if you’re heavy-handed with the mulch. In these zones, you can leave their roots (known as “corms”) in the ground year-round. If you live in Zone 6 or aren’t hot on mulching in Zone 7, however, all the experts warn that your gladioli corms will die of freezation if you don’t dig them, clean them, and store them in a non-freezing garage or basement over the winter.

I have never dug a gladiolus corm in my life.

That’s not actually true; I dug a few to thin them this fall.

Image: a brown bulbous plant corm sitting on a pile of soil.

(A “corm” is a swollen stem used to store plant sustenance. This makes it technically different from a “bulb,” which is a swollen root used to store plant sustenance. Now you know.)

I also learned from The Experts(TM) that plants that grow from corms, like gladioli, crocuses, and windflowers, don’t keep the same corm year to year. They grow one or more new corms and shed the old ones. While digging gladiolus corms to store them, one is supposed to remove the old corm.

Image: A reddish new gladiolus corm, sitting on top of its dark brown, somewhat rotted-looking old corm.

I have never done this either.

What I have done is watched my gladioli bloom profusely each year, deadheaded them daily in August and September, and occasionally thinned them when they’ve gotten extra hot on making baby corms. What I was supposed to have done, apparently, is to dig them up, give them a nice mani-pedi, and put them up in a luxury hotel for six months.

Oops.

Don’t tell my gladioli.


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satire, fiction and humor, writing

How to Tell if an Editor is About to Steal Your Book

One of the most common questions I see new or aspiring writers ask is “How do I show my manuscript to an editor/publisher while also preventing them from stealing it?”

The conventional answer to this question–the one you’ll hear from most writers–is “Don’t be silly; no editor is going to steal your book.” To convince you their answer is realistic, these writers will cite all sorts of silly facts, like “A publisher that gets known for stealing manuscripts will never receive another submission” or “It would be far too easy for you to prove you actually wrote the book” or even “Editing pays far better than writing books does.”

But what if all those writers are just throwing you off the scent? What if they’re lying to you in order to cut down on the competition, so their own books can get stolen–I mean, sold–more efficiently?

Some editors, like mine, are the nicest people in the world. Some editors, also like mine, are dastardly supervillains just waiting for heroes like me to slip up so they can steal my book and pretend to have written it themselves, in my notebooks, in my handwriting, in my house three thousand miles from their office. *shakes fist* I’ll get you for this, Dr. Nick!

Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer the same fate. There are several “tells” that can clue you in as to whether the editor really wants to help you, or just wants to steal your book.

Image: Blog post title image with title, URL and stacks of books.
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satire, fiction and humor

The Worst Thing I Ever Did In a Video Game (So Far)

Everyone has a story. A “this is the worst thing I ever did in a video game” story. A “I think this proves what a horrible person I really am inside” story. A “really, it’s the game’s fault for even making this an option” story.

Here’s mine.

This is the worst thing I’ve ever done in any video game….so far.

Image: Blog post title image with the title, URL, and a screenshot of an extremely sad Sim.

Aspiring to Greatness

In late 2017, I finally bought The Sims 4. I’ve been a fan of the Sims franchise since 2000, but I’ve always been notoriously late getting on board with new releases.

One of the first things I pounced on, when I got The Sims 4, were lifetime aspirations. The Sims 3 had a lifetime aspiration system, but it wasn’t as nuanced as 4’s, and I really liked the opportunity to complete specific tasks and to switch lifetime aspirations.

Because I’m definitely a more horrible person than I pretend to be, the very first lifetime aspiration I ever gave a Sim was the Public Enemy aspiration.

Aspirations have about four tiers each. Each tier has various tasks a Sim has to complete. Some of these tasks can take quite a while – in some cases, a Sim’s entire life (“have a child or grandchild reach the top of a career”). Others are fairly easy to knock off (“talk about grilled cheese with 5 Sims”). And some are pretty rare on their own, but can be made to happen by a particularly diabolical player.

“Witness another Sim’s death,” in the Public Enemy aspiration, is one of the third kind.

Normally, it takes a while for a Sim to die in front of you. But as every Sims player knows, the game gives you plenty of ways to speed up the process.

One of the most beloved ways to kill Sims these last 20+ years has been to have them jump in a swimming pool, then delete the ladder. The Sims 4 stole this option from us, however, by simply allowing the Sims to climb out the side of the pool. Like normal humans. Boring, self-sufficient normal humans.

Sims in 4 can’t get out of the pool, however, if you build a fence around it. So that’s what I did. The “death” half of “witness another Sim’s death”: Check.

But I also had to contend with the whole “witness” part. As a newcomer to The Sims 4, I wasn’t sure what it meant. Did “witness another Sim’s death” mean my Sim need only to be present on the lot when another Sim died? Or did my Sim have to watch the entire process?

Sims have notoriously short attention spans, and they take a notoriously long time to die of exertion in a swimming pool. There was no way my Sim would stand at the side of the pool for the entire time it took her party guests to drown.

Not unless I made her.

I bought a comedy microphone and set it at the poolside, facing so that my Sim was facing an audience of doomed swimmers. Then I had her stand there and tell jokes. Until someone died.

It Gets Worse

Honestly, I thought that making my Sim tell jokes to a pool full of her neighbors until they drowned was the worst possible thing that could have happened.

I mean, that I could have done.

I mean, that I did.

But no. As if to punish me for this horrible digital life choice, things in my game got infinitely worse.

First, the Grim Reaper showed up. This isn’t, in itself, all that bad. The Grim Reaper has shown up in every Sims installment whenever a Sim dies. We all kind of like Grim by now.

Except Grim couldn’t actually get into the pool to reap anyone’s souls, because of that fence I put up to keep the victims from saving themselves from death by drowning.

When Grim found he couldn’t actually do his job, he ended up wandering into the house. He helped himself to some snacks and then decided to watch television.

Turns out the Grim Reaper likes rom-coms. They make him…flirty.

And that’s how my Sim ended her day of comedy and death by making out with the Grim Reaper.

It Gets Even Worse

The Sims 4 has by far the most nuanced mood system of any Sims game so far. Sims have access to a wide range of moods, and can even die of extreme moods, like excessive anger or hilarity.

The vanilla mood system is weird and sometimes difficult to manipulate. As a brand new Sims 4 player, I certainly wasn’t ready for what happens when a Sim jokes a half-dozen of her neighbors to death and then gets smoochy with the Grim Reaper:

She got “Very Sad.”

All the time.

I tried removing all the dead bodies, the comedy microphone, and eventually the entire pool. I kicked Grim off the lot. I sent my Sim for a jog, for a nice hot bath, for a cup of mood-changing tea. I cranked her mood-changing paintings to high.

Nothing I did made her feel better. Nothing.

My Sim just kept crying. And making her spouse sad. And pissing off their toddler by being too sad to read books or play dolls. Her work performance tanked. She just kept painting the same crying rabbit over and over. She wouldn’t even fight her declared enemy anymore!

Since my Sim clearly no longer had anything to live for, I decided to embrace the depression lifestyle. Every time her interaction menu gave me the option to do a Sad activity, I did it.

Crying in bed. Watching sad movies. Sobbing at the graves of her deceased neighbors.

That last one…actually perked her up a bit. Enough that the interaction menu gave her the option to “Make Fun of” the dead.

My Sim found this hilarious. She began telling jokes again.

At the grave.

To her toddler.

And that’s how I learned exactly how horrible a human being I really am.

…So Far

To date, this remains the worst thing I have ever done in a video game. But even as we speak, I am working on an even more dastardly plan.

This one is in Skyrim, on the Xbox – no mods, no console commands. Nothing except exploiting things the game will already let me do. (Really, the developers should have seen this one coming).

That’s all I’m going to say, in case it fails. If it doesn’t, I’ll be back, confessing the new worst thing I ever did in a video game. Stay tuned.


Help me be awful to video game characters: buy me a coffee or share this post with your awful gamer friends. You know the one.

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