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    Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
    One week later.
    I find myself sort of halfway in the mood to make an entry. Besides, I have photographs. Spring is slowly, slowly rearing its head here in Providence, and yesterday we went out searching for it. The weather wasn't as warm as we'd been promised, because clouds began moving in, and there was a breeze. The slightest breeze is ice here. We visited bookshops at Wayland Square, had breakfast at the Classic Cafe on Westminster, and ended up at Swan Point Cemetery, where we did, in fact, see a flock of swans in the choppy waters of the dirty Seekonk River. The temperature was probably somewhere in the mid sixties for most of the day. It was warmer the day before, but I was working.

    The "day off" came after several days of tedious work compiling the raw manuscript for Beneath An Oil-Dark Sea: The Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan (Volume Two). I'm calling it Boads, for short. It probably would not be possible for me to exaggerate the tedium. But now I have a ms. to work with, 216,556 words long, 718 pages. At some point, I actually have to print this beast.

    Here are the photographs, behind the cut.

    22 August 2014Collapse )

    Until the Next Time, Infrequently,
    Aunt Beast

    Current Mood: glum
    Up All Night To get Bucky
    the cut is for those that haven't seen Winter Soldier yet Read more...Collapse )

    Current Mood: exanimate
    The fancy cherry is nearly over, the normal cherry is still going strong, the eating apples are only just getting started, but the crab apple....

    I just went to fill the bird feeders, and the bumble bees are scarily loud under there!

    This entry was originally posted at, where it has comment count unavailable comment(s). Add comments here or there, if you feel like it.
    Wednesday: Basic Instructions

    Another night of insomnia. Cutting drastically back on caffeine did not help, in fact Sunday I managed to abstain completely. So grabbed a LARGE Mocha from Jack-In-The-Box. No point in skipping it anymore.

    Storms are due to hit tonight after midnight so I think I'd better take a pill and change out my sheets (since these feel scratchy).

    Last night's dinner experiment made up for Monday's dinner fiasco. Not talking about it.

    We have a tech that is becoming poisonous on the account. He throws temper tantrums. He badmouths other levels of support IN HIS TICKET WHERE THE CUSTOMER CAN SEE and has to reply to everything said by everyone in the main chat room. He once mocked a Brazilian tech for transposing letters when they were asking for help - I verbally knocked him down for that. "I don't know you mean by account ligon".
    And last Monday, he announced in chat before 8am that he felt harassed and therefore would be calling sick - and did. How this guy is not fired is beyond me. When he didn't come in Friday, there was a spring in my step, I won't lie. I've asked management twice if we could trade him in for a puppy.
    Writers Blog Tour
    I was tagged by Claire Weaver ( so do go and read her posts, too.

    1. What am I working on?

    I’m currently writing a number of short stories, both for private subscriptions and for magazine consideration. The final (for now) Chen novel will be announced shortly and I’m also working on a new book, which is a sort-of fantasy, set here in Somerset. I rarely write so close to home and using the folklore of my current county is proving interesting.

    2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?

    I’m not sure what my genre is. I mix and match a lot: I’d say that a lot of of what I write is old school science fantasy. I don’t like using standard tropes, and I try to take a hard look into the forms that societal change would actually take (whilst I understand where a lot of 1970s matriarchal utopian writing came from, for instance, I’m by no means convinced that an all-female society would be any kinder or less corrupt than its male equivalent, hence the Mars of Banner of Souls and Winterstrike). My writing is sometimes described as ‘difficult’ and I think people have a hard time figuring out my agenda: story, worldbuilding, prose and ideas are important to me. If it helps, I’m more likely to criticise my own politics than other people’s, and quite frequently won’t do either. Both novels and short fiction are varied. Ghost Sister was a critique of the extremist end of the environmental movement; Empire of Bones was written as an attempt to address first contact stories that are always set in the West, and Nine Layers of Sky was based on living and working in Central Asia.

    3. Why do I write what I do?

    I like telling stories and exploring ideas. Gender has often been an aspect of my work, but it’s irritating to expect female writers to be solely concerned with gender. When I first started reading – Bradbury, Vance, LeGuin, and fantasy writers such as Julian May and Lloyd Alexander – my primary concern was worldbuilding rather than gender. I’ve never particularly been concerned with whether ‘I’ was represented in fiction, because the point of reading, to me, was to have the experience of becoming someone else. I read a lot of William Burroughs at one point, and his concerns are very much not my own, but I learned a great deal from what was to me a very alien point of view. For me, the purpose of reading SF is not to learn about myself, but to learn about others (that’s obviously problematic if the genre becomes too uniform in who it depicts and I do think that it would benefit from increasing its diversity as much as possible). I’ve always been more interested in reading about aliens rather than humans: I think it increases the scope and depth of understanding, and it’s a great challenge for the writer. The work of Gwyneth Jones, Hal Clements, Mary Gentle, C J Cherryh, and Jack Vance, to select but a few, are cases in point.

    I’m also a fan of occult fiction, which tends to get neglected when people talk about fantasy, but which has been a domain of female writers since at least the Golden Dawn and the big esoteric societies in the late 19th century: Edith Nesbit, Dion Fortune, Ithell Colquhoun, and Joan Grant, for example, tend to get left out of analyses of fantasy, but are highly regarded by occultists.

    4. How does my writing process work?

    'Process,' eh? I write what I can, when I can. I run a business and teach as well as being a writer, and I can’t afford to be particularly precious about when and how I work. You just have to get on with it!

    Nominated next on the blog tour: Neil Williamson, author of recently released The Moon King, and David Clements (, who has a non-fiction book on Infrared Astronomy coming out near the end of the year.
    Interesting Links for 23-04-2014

    Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
    More FireFux
    Firefox's latest trick is to shit the bed whenever I try to reply to a post here, whether it's on my own post or someone else. FUCKING GRAND, GUYS.
    Wednesday, right?
    These three day weeks are confusing. I can't see the end and I have already forgotten how it started.

    I think this confusion comes about because I slept well last night. Despite the red wine at dinner time - watched Masterchef; agreed with Charlie Brooker - the sleep app tells me the quality of my rest was 100%. A perfect mixture of deep sleep and REM sleep like you might expect from a human being rather than a reptile.

    I feel strange as a result. Drunk on stars. The small dog sitting on the lap of the woman next to me is looking at me as I type. He looks like he expects a tip.

    I miss riding horses. The last time I was on a horse was when we took our last holiday - end of last year - a week in centreparcs with all the other two year olds - I drove off site to some small stable and was put through my paces by a middle aged woman who took no-nonsense from her horses.

    I managed to persuade the horse to go forwards, but he tested me and made me work. I think the muscles that I use for kickboxing are not the same as the ones I used to try and ride. I know in my head what my legs should be doing, but those messages were not making it to the horse.
    So I spent an hour confusing the horse, getting increasingly fed up with myself. We didn't try a canter. For the best, I think, as I'd almost certainly have come off.

    They say you never forget how to ride a horse. They say a lot of things. A large percentage of what they say is patent nonsense; the rest is patent pending. One day I shall meet them.

    It will have occurred to you, those few people who still read LiveJournal, and that glorious minority who are willing to wade through my daily un edited stream of consciousness, that I have nothing much to say.

    I concur, Dear Reader. Beyond memories and hopes there appears to be no real substance to me any more. I have relocated to the cloud; become virtualised; and, coming to the end of my product lifecycle, close to obsolete.

    Reboot! Reboot!
    Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
    China Dolls, by Lisa See. Random House, 2014

    Meeting in 1938 at an audition for places in a chorus line at San Francisco’s soon to open Forbidden City nightclub owned by Charlie Low (the nightclub and Low were real), Grace, Helen, and Ruby quickly become fast friends. American’s of Asian parentage, opportunities are few for them in that era. Orientals weren’t hired as singers or dancers in Caucasian establishments; in a lot of states, intermarriage between Orientals and Occidentals (the old term used for whites that See uses throughout the book) was forbidden.

    Grace is 17 and has run away from her violent father in the mid-West; she has never met another Chinese person other than her parents until she hits San Francisco. Helen has a well to do father who runs the family compound with an iron fist; her brother escorts her to and from work to ensure her virtue. Ruby’s parent’s live in Hawaii; she lives with her aunt and uncle and is a wild child compared to the other two; when she doesn’t make the cut at the nightclub, she joins a revue at the Exposition that has the girls virtually nude. Despite their differences in personality and origin and blow ups that left them not speaking for years at times, their relationship continues for 50 years. All three have secrets, and those secrets are frequently the source of their problems.

    This was the most gripping book I’ve read in some time; it sucked me right in and didn’t let go until I’d finished it, which I did in one day. It’s women’s literature, it’s Asian-American literature, it’s historical fiction. See has, as always, put a huge amount of research into her book. Some of the Chinese-American entertainers from the era are still alive and See was able to interview them and get first hand information about what it was like: the prejudice; the cringe-worthy, self deprecating acts that made the Occidentals laugh; the Japanese-Americans were all treated as traitors after Pearl Harbor. I love this book.
    I used my new insurance the first time today. I got a physical, an hours worth of time with the doctor, for zero dollars. My labs are good- my A1c was higher than I like but he said it was ‘acceptable’ but was glad I was working on it. Kidneys, cholesterol, liver, blood counts all good. I got a prescription for a new wrist brace (the style is called a ‘cock-up brace’ which made me giggle immaturely) and one for to see a physical therapist about my back, neck and shoulder, which is about like telling me I’m going to Disneyland. It’s something I’ve really, really wanted and I think it’ll help me a lot. It’ll mean exercising, and dealing with the fibro problems I have with that, but it could really help my back pain. Sadly, he thinks my knee will probably need surgery- meniscus tear- but we agreed that I try some bicycling this summer before I go to an orthopedist about scoping it. If I have it worked it, I’d be unable to kneel and squat and crawl on gravel for a couple of weeks, so I wouldn’t be able to do it until late fall anyway. It hurts so badly all the time I’ve been afraid to do any exercises for fear of injuring it worse. Also, I stopped at the drugstore after the doctor visit to ask about the discrepancy in what I was charged last time and what the Blue Cross book said I should be paying. Turned out that even though they put my insurance info into the computer, it hadn’t been applied to my purchase. So, even though I bought another bottle of pills today, I ended up getting $18 *back*.

    I can haz healthcare.
    Arthur Dent Baggins: So your master plan was to make a big dwarf out of gold and then pour it on him.

    Thorin: That was the gist of it, yes.

    Arthur Dent Baggins: Your plan. Was to make a big dwarf. Out of gold. And then pour it on him.

    Thorin: Look, in my defence, and contrary to every single rational expectation, we actually got it made, we got the dragon to come to it, and we even managed to pour it on him.

    Arthur Dent Baggins: A big dwarf. Made out of gold.

    Thorin: Jeez, what do you want me to say? I'm sorry, alright?

    This makes that movie sound way better than it actually was.
    Tuesday night feels like Thursday
    Trying this tonight because cornish hens are wicked cheap.

    Kevin is hopefully having allergies. Otherwise, he's sick again. I made him tea but he'd rather sleep than drink it.

    Hope these turns out good, my fingers stink of onions.

    edit: WORKED!
    That's that (in two parts)
    So, I'm done needing to see the chiropractor for a while.

    Physical Therapist: "We're all getting older, you know."
    Me: "There's no call for that kind of language, lady."
    PT: "We're all stronger today than we will be tomorrow, and weaker today than we were ten years ago, unless you were a couch potato."
    Me: "As a matter of fact, I was, and I have every intention of being stronger next year than I am right now."

    Chiropractor: "You might be the strongest person I've ever had on that machine[1]. Keep doing what you're doing, you've had about the best results of anyone in my practice."
    Me: "Taking it easy? Uh, no thank you. I want to get back to work."
    Him: "Well, you're going on maintenance. Come back in a month unless something happens."

    * * * *

    It took exactly one day to litter-train the catgrubs, at 37 days old. They were wetting on the towel/puppy pad combo for the last few days, and pooped on the puppy pad yesterday; I put a box with a small amount of litter in it today, they used it for everything, as far as I can tell. They may or may not be inheriting Tiny's, uh, vigorous burial technique (she flings litter *everywhere* which is why the box she uses is in the bathtub), but I can hope they'll be more measured.

    * * * *

    [1] Isometric back extension, at twelve-degree increments, from 72 degrees of flexion to none whatsoever; I managed 517 lb-feet of torque at maximal flexion (up from 486 on 3/27), and about 350 at full extension - both are about double the standard deviation above average (which is apparently a more or less straight line from max flexion to max extension, with the latter being about half of the former; mine is shaped like the back of a horse - more or less flat from 24 to 48 degrees, with a spike upwards at 60 and 72 degrees of flexion and a slight (relative) drop-off at max extension).

    Hilarity ensued while I tried to break the machine conducting the test:

    PT: "You're stronger than half the pro football players we have in here, even Mike Alstott."
    Me: "Good. But I want to be stronger than all of them."

    Coworker (C___) was in the testing room, warming up on the exercise bike, and got curious: "So, what would that look like with my graph on there (comparison between my current and previous test plots vs average guys my age/size +/- 1std dev)?"
    PT: "Oh, honey, you don't want to do that." (Polite way of saying, "HIPA says, 'go fuck yourself'.")
    Me: "I spend all day making you look bad at the office; you don't want to see how much worse I make you look here."
    Fifty Species Goal: #24-49

    Holy mackerel, we are blowin' this thing out of the water! While I was off in Texas, two old sightings finally got an ID (and damnit, I'm counting them!) plus a whole bunch of new ones showed up.

    In fact--a mere three months and some change after starting--we've nearly hit the 50 species goal! One species away!

    Dude! Dude! I know I'm the one who's really excited by this--I mean, it's my garden and everybody else probably thinks I'm nuts--but how amazing is that!? We're almost there already! Some of those months were mid-winter and nothing much was showing up!

    I sorta feel like this proves--at least to me--that if you just LOOK, there's an insane amount of biodiversity just lurking everywhere. Yes, my garden is particularly buggy, owing to my crazed planting and lack of pesticides, but it's not anything that anybody else couldn't do, given a patch of dirt and a cel phone camera and a really weird hobby.

    So, without further ado, the new bugs!

    Read more...Collapse )
    hahaha, i'll take them all ...
    Well this is just ridiculous, are we supposed to beleive cat-thor and cat-hawkeye have opposable thumbs? my credulity can only stretch so far.

     photo lolcats_zpsfdafeaf4.jpg

    (lol cat-hulk)

    Current Mood: nerdy
    When a cookbook says it's 'for active families', does that mean the meals are fast and easy to prepare, or that you'll have to exercise your ass off to work off the calories in the recipes?
    2014 books: 9-12
    books about peopleCollapse )

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    One swallow does not...

    We're less sure on the meaning of this little chap, though. Best guess is that he's had to stop and have a rest, as walking with only one leg is tricky!

    As we were about to go for our walk, Mike reported that GB was lying down in the field, which he very rarely does. He was still lying down, watching the world go by, when we started up the hill. "He probably didn't like the idea of lying in a wet bed overnight and is just having a nap. As long as he's not flat out on the floor, I'm not worried," I said, as he flopped over and lay flat on the floor....

    (He was up and wandering around again by the time we got back, though!)

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    Just a little Game of Thrones musing
    It was actually quite excellent they picked Dame Diana Rigg to play the grandmother to Natalie Dormer. They really resembled each other in the same age brackett.

    There were even better pics but they were frigging huge.
    We have Eastercon'd, and now we are home.

    There was a deal on Business Parking at Heathrow, so we got to use the Pods. Very cool, if deadly:

    We had a nice time at the con, though, even with the frequent outbreaks of smoffing, and there was barely *any* drama at all, which was just peculiar.

    Glasgow was bizarrely warm and sunny all weekend. It was terribly disconcerting, especially in the period of time before we'd figure out how to work the Newsletter Office AC. It was only as we came home that this started to happen:

    and it was raining by the time we got off the plane. Still, good for the grass....

    Jodie was very pleased to see us, which was nice. The sitters seem to have had a lovely time with her and the boys, and were very pleased that we'd marked the good wildflower patches on their map. On the down side, GB's (and, to a lesser extent, Baby's) feet were full of bloody rocks gravel (they're obviously not used to barefoot horses, which wasn't an issue last time as they didn't take them hacking), and GB's bed was nasty where he'd kicked dry stuff over his wet patches and they'd not seen them. We'll have to have a couple of little demonstrations next time they come, in August. Plus, with both written and verbal instructions about which rugs to use, they had them both wrapped up too warm overnight. And who knows what possible reason they had for using GB's warm raincoat....

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    Interesting Links for 22-04-2014

    Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
    Learning curves and business models.
    Thanks to my computer going bang recently, I've been replaying a bunch of old games from way back when - I've got out Doom 2 and Jedi Academy and I've been slaughtering my way through them in a manner which would have been unthinkable to me the first time I played them. Demons and dark jedi are falling like wheat before the scythe before my wrath.
    It got me wondering whether this is a result of my vaguely remembering the patterns of the games - "Oh, this is the scene with the cacodemon, I'll be needing the rocket launcher here", or whether the learning curve of computer games has got progressively harder over time meaning that my skills have been honed to the point where old games just don't challenge. I suspect a mixture of the two, as when I replayed Call of Pripyat a few months ago I found it easier but still got shot in the head by zombies on a reasonably regular basis.*

    Anyway, I'm interested in pop-cultural stuff and the recent stock market flotation of King, the makers of Candy Crush, caught my eye. Candy Crush is a gaming phenomenon with millions of players, and a semi-ironic comment from an analyst on the market launch was that "to maintain their position all King have to do is keep making games as popular as Candy Crush" - a clearly highly unlikely achievement - caught my eye so I downloaded the game to have a play.
    Candy Crush, in case you don't know, is a variant on the old Bejewelled/ "line up three or more of the same shapes to destroy them and progress" style of game, and what very quickly stuck me about it is that the learning curve is very shallow and success at playing it seemed to be more about luck (in getting the right shapes) than any particular skill.
    As I played, I got increasingly interested in how the game is structured. It limits your progression by giving you a set number of lives every day (you can buy more), and whilst most levels you can beat with only a few tries every so often you'll hit a particularly tricky level where it can take days to finally win - if you play enough sooner or later you get lucky, the pieces land right and you can progress. When that happens you tend to go on a bit of a streak where you blast through several levels before you get bogged down again. You feel like you've got the game cracked for a while, and then suddenly you hit the grind once more.
    All the time whilst this is going on, the game is offering you minor advantages easily available for a small sum of money - superpowers, more lives, replays and the like - to make beating that tricky level quicker and easier. Just hit the button to buy another go.
    As I tried to get through a particularly tricky level where the pieces simply refused to fall to my advantage I found myself cursing the programmers. "Why", I thought to myself. "It's almost like it's in their financial interest to make the game not a test of skill, or even luck, but simply to dole out apparent success or failure in a manner designed to annoy me enough to get me to part with some cash".

    And with that thought I immediately deleted Candy Crush from my phone. There's a lot of reasons I'll pay for games. I might think they're good, or enjoyable, or interesting. But because they're specifically designed to annoy me if I don't isn't one of them.

    *Especially the time when I drank 213 bottles of vodka to find out what would happen.
    Kitbags ahoy
    I can't find my kitbag. Or specifically I can't find the black one; it is more suited to a quick jaunt up north than the big green one with X-Mal Deutschland on the side. That one currently has my armour in it and resides in the office in the garden waiting for the day I can afford a sword so I can go back and train with the vikings.

    I'm sort of looking forwards to Friday. I mean I am, but I need to get through the next three days at work (which are likely to be quite fraught) and I need to get up there.

    This will be the first time I am going to Whitby without Juliet. (She has opted to stay in London with Josh.) It will feel strange. But I am breaking one of my cardinal rules and am writing about the future. That is not what my LJ is for.

    A quiet weekend. A trip out to Midsummer to see Roz and Ken (who Jules used to live with when she was at school) so they could meet Josh. He was very well behaved - mainly - and so was I.

    We went to Westfield for sushi. Again, Josh was really good (although he would not try anything new to eat.) Had a bit of a pootle about the place. Bought some books, from a bookshop. Everyone should do that.

    Easter Sunday I spent pacing up and down like a tiger muttering about Garden Centres and the Crucifixion. I think I held forth on the subject at length, concluding that it would make more sense to close DIY shops on Good Friday to signify that the course of history would have changed if the carpenters of Golgotha were unable to source some two by four and a packet of nine inch nails. Jules tells me this is quite disrespectful. I concur.

    The Prime Minister suggests that this is a Christian Country because the bulk of people believe in God. I suggest that more people believe in Cadbury's Chocolate and the denizens of Walford. Katie Beale died for your sins.

    On Monday I did some writing. It was not very good, but it was words on the page. I need to relax more but also edit harder. For the next week I'm planning to take everything I write and cut it in half (word count wise)[1]

    Finished planting the Bee Garden - or at least this stage of it. I think I over did the bedding plants at the front as it looks a little untidy, but they're annuals so I'm not too worried. I still need to get some pots for the fence side of the garden, and some thing to plant in them. I know what I want; just not certain where to source it.

    Probably need one more plant to go behind the apple tree, but want to give the plants that are in a chance to grow a bit before I do anything else. The job now is to keep pulling up the bindweed from next door, keep picking up the unburied cat shit, keep it watered, and find a way to divert the snails away from the marigolds.

    Yesterday evening, as the sun was going down, I could hear the buzzing of many bees as they visited the apple blossom and found there way down to the wallflowers. I am pleased.

    Jules cooked bacon rolls. We watched Game of Thrones[2]. We drank wine. An early night. Slept badly. Awake at 3, up at 4

    I'm currently on a rather messed up Piccadilly Line train. Signal failures galore. Still, at least it is already Tuesday.

    [1] Unless I write a single word. Splitting the infinitive ends up with two words, and is counter productive.
    [2] Featuring a totally unnecessary rape scene that did not feature in the original book and would have been un-called for there as well. WTF HBO?
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