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Oct. 27th, 2014


Safe Home

I had a wonderful OVFF, despite being robbed of most of my voice by a very poorly-timed cold. Mary Bertke courageously took over singing lead on Outward Bound at the Pegasus Concert, (all of which was really rocking, by the way--including the generous souls who took over for Tom Smith's two nominated songs on short notice when Tom couldn't find his keys to drive to the con) and with me chiming in just enough to look like I was involved, and playing the octave mandolin as a countermelody, and the whole audience sang along, which was very encouraging and helpful.
That used up most of my voice for the rest of the con, and I had to sit out the Saturday song contest, in spite of having written a cool song for it. However that made it less of a logistical hassle to host the Shallow End circle for new filkers, which was a lot of fun. I ran two workshops, one for playing countermelody while singing, which worked out very well, and one on writing melody using common "building blocks" when the Muse has stood you up, which went okay considering I could hardly talk at that point, but which has worked better in the past when I had more voice.
My instrument case was the belle of the ball and also worked great for carrying and protecting Pearl, so she (and her case) will be making more appearances in the future.

Being sick and going to workshops meant I missed more of the action than usual, but did get to hear as Copy Red Leader and Debs and Errol gave great concerts, and I got to hear the Iron Filker contest also, whose theme turned out to be apologies. Just a wonderful time all around and I am so glad I went.

Oct. 22nd, 2014


Instrument case

Boy, have I been making progress!

I put in the ring-posts to allow me to snap straps on the case and carry it like a backpack. This meant varnishing would have to happen around the ring posts, which was not ideal, but once the kit-box was in, access to the inside would be pretty restricted, and I figured it would be easier to install the ringposts first.

I fitted the two uprights to make the under-neck kit box. That took me like two weeks, and I was feeling like I wouldn't be able to finish in time for OVFF but once I got them glued in things went much faster. Fitting the lid was a pain because the sides of the box aren't straight at that point, and I knew one of the handle attachment points was going to have to go in there also. I ended up making the hinges of the box and its pull tab out of leather, which matches what I used to pad the edges of the neck supports, (which fit Pearl's neck quite closely, and thus had to be softened so they wouldn't leave marks which meant more time fitting because I needed extra space to account for the leather.) The leather hinges let the box lid shift around a little more than metal hinges would, which I think makes the tolerances for opening a bit less stringent. I'm very pleased with the lid--it fits tightly enough to stay closed on its own, but opens with a tug on the pull tab. Having fit everything, I cut the lid loose again temporarily.

I bought a different handle for the case, which didn't require a shim to install (saving me a week, easily,) and which looks very nice. It was 25$ instead of 8, but I think it was worth it. I spend a lot of time with Pearl wedged in temporarily with padding and all the kit I expected to carry in the under-neck box put in, to find the center of gravity of the whole thing as closely as I could. The handle needed to be mounted perpendicular to the line extending from the center of the handle through the center of gravity of the case, so that the case would hang evenly. The major reason I wanted a new case is that the old case doesn't hang right when full and the hinges of the handle chew on my fingers.

That did, as expected, put the attachment points of one end of the handle at the same level as the lid of the box. I carefully cut out two notches in the lid of the box to accommodate the attachment points. It looks a little odd, but it is functional, and as neat as I can make it, fitting closely enough that even small stuff shouldn't be able to fall out of the kit box shouldn't be able to fall out.

The instrument case has four coats of varnish (though only 2 in some places, because in an effort to get its surfaces more level and less ripply I sanded all the way through those first two coats in some places--which is easier than you would think, even wet sanding with 400 grit sandpaper, because in my desire to avoid drips and runs I try to put on a brushful and then pull it out as thin as I can and cover as much surface as possible with it before it dries, which makes for a thin coat.)

The last coats of varnish are very matte--I bought semi-gloss varnish but failed to read the directions until I was halfway through. Thus I was using it without stirring and wondering why it was so glossy. I think the stuff that makes it semigloss is some kind of particulate suspension that sinks to the bottom of the can over time, so when I started stirring it I got a full can's dose in a half can's volume of varnish. This is okay, though; lesson learned, and in the meantime the very matte surface disguises the unevennesses fairly well, and the lack of a gleam makes the whole surface seem to have a soft glow.

The case and all its shims varnished, I drilled holes to install the feet. The plan was to have three on the bottom, to protect the varnished bottom from damage if it was set on a gritty floor or something and two on the hinge side to match the hinges plus hinge shims so the case wouldn't topple over if I set it down for a minute to open a door or something. The two on the hinge side required wood shims so shim-plus-foot matched shim-plus-hinge.

Now the place I ordered the feet send me the wrong size backing pins. (I asked for 4 of length X and 2 of length Y and got 2 of length X and 4 of length Y.) I thought at the time it didn't matter because the instructions for installation specified a minimum length the pin must protrude from the mounting surface, but not a maximum length, so I thought an extra 1/16th wouldn't matter; I'd just pound it down a bit more. I'm here to tell you that Buckleguy backing pin 1414 has an iron shaft, even if you can order them in brass, and you can pound on them *quite a bit* without mashing them down any farther. I discovered this while setting the length Y pins in the shims for the hinge-side feet, so it wasn't a tragedy because I had to drill out the underside of the shim anyway because Y wasn't long enough to go all the way through the shim, so the dookie schmutz should have packed into that cavity to glue the foot sufficiently in place so it can't "extend" and "retract" anymore.

But this was going to be more of a problem for the one foot on the bottom side that got a too-long pin. So I called up Buckleguy. Now I'd already had to call them about that particular order because I got hardware for straps to carry the instrument case like a backpack and one of the trigger snaps hadn't worked properly, and they sent me a new one, so I was pretty apologetic about not having straightened out the pin issue at the same time, which would have been easier for them. But their returns guy understood and said it was their job to get the order right in the first place, and furthermore he sent the stuff out second-day express to get it to me in time to mount the third foot before I go to the con. I should receive it today and I trusted them enough that I have already installed the other two bottom feet. If worst comes to worst and it doesn't arrive in time, the case will be a little tilted at OVFF, but still useable.

So I've got to say, if you need brass hardware, Buckleguy has quality stuff, and very nice customer service if you have any problems.

And the hinge side feet are on, and two of the bottom side feet are on, and all the hardware and its assorted shims have been re-bolted on. Someday I will glue the shims but that day was not yesterday because it's useable this way and I would really like to bring it to OVFF and I might not have time if I try gluing the shims.

I have also sewn some brown corduroy over the padding for the body--so the major thing I need to do today is finish sewing down the edges of that and figure out how to handle the padding on the inside of the lid that will keep Pearl from dropping on her bridge if the case is, for example, dropped lid-down. I have the foam all cut to size but I have to cover it with corduroy and secure it to the lid, and the padding-gluing glue I bought turns out to have acetone in it and I'm afraid it will damage the expoxy that is a major part of the lid's strength. I may run down to Walmart and buy some sticky-sided and some sew-on velcro as a stopgap.

But really, it's already better than the old case in terms of protectiveness, and I have carried it around by the handle, and the handle is in the right place, and comfortable.

It's almost done; it's almost done! But I spent so much time working on it that I need to spend extra time on my Dutch translation this morning to be ready to skype with Dad this afternoon.

Must run!

Oct. 11th, 2014


Odd Day

So it's raining--again--wasting what would otherwise be a lovely October with weather where I don't want to go hiking or canoeing because I'm getting soft in my old age.

On the other hand, that makes it a lovely day to stay inside and work on my instrument case, because I don't feel bad about missing out on the good weather.

I was planning to clean up the third set of latch shims--sand off all the rasp marks, get the top and bottom edges of the shim lined up better (I have kind of given up hope on "perfectly") chamfer the edges, damp down to raise the grain and sand with fine sandpaper. I have already done the hinge shims and the shims for two of the latches. Sewing the padding together was going to be something I did for a change, when I felt like a rest.

Instead I sewed the padding together. Well okay then. It's not wasted time, or anything. Soon, very soon, it will be time to sew the cloth over the padding, but I figured it would be good to have the padding in one piece first.

Sewing open cell foam is kind of fun. It has a shape to it, and a certain amount of give, and bounce. The stiches can be as big and ugly as I like; they won't show when the cover is on. They don't have to be particularly strong; just strong enough to hold the whole thing in shape while I get the cover on and get the padding installed.

I'm mostly just padding out the belly of the case. I've got 3/4 of an inch of foam around the sides, and 1/4 inch of foam on the bottom, supplemented by a sort of donut of 1/2 inch foam, because the instrument has a domed back and I'm trying to match the curve as well as possible so that any shocks will be spread out over a wider area. This involved a lot of "put a little strip of foam in, put the instrument in, measure the distance from a straightedge across the top edges to the bridge. Take the instrument out, put a narrower, or wider, strip of foam in, lather, rinse repeat" as I figured out what dimensions I could make the various edges of the donut. I have got it mostly right, and have lost patience for messing with it. It will have to be good enough, unless I have more patience to mess with it tomorrow. I am putting in some chunks of padding on the lid to help keep the instrument from falling on its bridge if the case is dropped lid-down; that will probably help.

There is a bit more sewing-of-padding to be done, and then it will be time to make the cover. And I still need to clean up the third latch shim, which I need to do pretty soon to allow time for varnishing.

And in the meantime I have written a song for the OVFF song contest, which I will post after the contest.

Oct. 5th, 2014


Difficult day

I had a difficult day yesterday. My phone had stopped making its key-click noises, which was making typing things in harder, so I called Apple to find out what was wrong. I expected this to be a simple fix. I spent six hours in various chat sessions and phone calls, trying various things in settings, backing up the phone to iTunes, downloading a fresh copy of the OS from Apple, wiping the phone (twice--first the settings, then all the data), reinstalling the OS--nothing fixed it. The fourth support person consulted someone senior and asked me to check the switch that turns off the ringer.
It turns out that turning off the ringer also turns off the keyclicks. And none of the easily available info about the keyclicks mentions that. When I found out I'd wasted six hours and lobotomized Pyewacket for NOTHING I started to cry.
But at least the backup to iTunes worked as advertised and restored Pyewacket properly.
I would feel bad about not thinking to check the ringer switch except that I did fully as well as four out of five trained Apple support people on this. They had to go all the way up to a senior support person to figure this out.

Sep. 29th, 2014


A Cat Can Look At A Book

Or in this case a short story on

I came across Seven Commentaries On An Imperfect Land, by Ruthanna Emrys, while poking through the short stories on the website in search of stuff that I thought I might like to nominate for the Hugos.

This is a story for those days when I look around me with bewilderment and think I must be somehow fundamentally foreign to the people around me--different inside. It might be described more precisely as a concatenation, a chain of seven storylets, related to each other but not sequels. Storylets share characters, but no one character appears in all storylets. There is another country, a reality with porous borders that bleeds over into our own, and there exist people drawn to that reality and at home there, who then have to contend with problems that arise from that reality, strange creatures, not all of whom are friendly, and times of privation that have nothing to do with Earth's rhythms.

I enjoyed it very much.

I wrote a set of lyrics for it but the melody hasn't stablilized yet:

lyrics by Catherine Faber 2014
inspired by Seven Commentaries on An Imperfect Land by Ruthanna Emrys, published at the website

The land of Tikanu was Dinah's to bind
It spread with the mint from the garden behind
Lights in the dusk, with the children abed
And ants that gave gems in exchange for their bread

Mint is invasive, but hard to direct
A border unguarded receives no respect
Warmed by the sunlight, its fragrance will blow
To any domain where the wind wants to go

Miriam's cutting of mint took its due
A tree like a fractal unfurled and grew.
Footprints appeared on the dunes as a guide
And dolphins would visit to squeak at low tide.

The lillim are chaos, you take as your dart
Strong patterns that lie at the galaxy's heart
So they haven't a hope when they meet with a mild
Mathematician defending her child

Tikanu has seasons, at odds with the Earth
Of feast and of famine, of plenty and dearth
To drive out starvation, a feast lies at hand
Given by friends in an alien land.

The folk of Tikanu are scattered like corn
Everywhere settling, everywhere born
Spreading like mint in the soil on the way
Its borders are porous; come visit, come stay

Sep. 19th, 2014


Quick update

I keep thinking I'm going to make a longer post about the short story I mentioned last time--and I am, but this is not that post.

I want to talk about my instrument case for a few minutes. I have got all the latch shims finished and attached the latches and made sure they all close properly. I gave up on cutting down the 1 inch thick open celled foam (foam dulls a cutting edge fairly quickly, by the way) and discovered that, if it is possible to find local open celled foam in sheets using google, my google-fu isn't up to it. I stepped down the tech to a five year old yellow pages, and found a company that sells upholstery supplies, and made a special trip into town for 1/2 inch foam and 1/4 inch foam. They sell it by the running foot, but the roll is five or six feet wide, so now I have quite a bit more foam than I need but the total was $4.50 so I can't complain--anybody need some foam?

I wanted uprights to cradle the neck in two places, which I would then put a lid between to make a little box under the neck to hold things like a capo and a tuner and picks and such. And also eventually straps, because I want detachable straps so I can carry the case like a backpack when that is convenient.

So I made cardboard fakes of the uprights, and fitted them, while the belly of the case, padded out at the sides with 3/4 inch of foam, held the instrument in the proper position. I constructed small blanks of fitted white pine strips (some with a boxwood or cedar stripe) epoxied and fiberglassed on both sides. I used the cardboard fakes to cut the uprights and discovered I had let myself in for a lot of fitting and trimming and fitting but eventually got them fitted to the case. Then I discovered that they also had to be fitted to the neck at the two places they were going to hold the neck, so there was a certain amount of filing to do. Then I decided that I had better pad them, and cut up a retired SCA belt pouch to provide a little leather. I figure this will provide enough padding to prevent the cradles from scarring the neck, but still be firm enough to keep the instrument from rattling around in the box. So now I need enough clearance for the leather, and that was more filing.

Also, I mentioned that I want to be able to carry the case like a backpack. I don't want straps permanently installed; they would flop around and be annoying. I want something installed on the case that I can clip straps to when I want them. So far the best thing I've found that I could actually track down and order was a ring post from Hardware Elf. So I got five of those--the extra so I could install it in one of the blanks (in a part that was going to be cut off to make the cradle) and test it to see if it would be strong enough to do the job.

I clamped the blank to my bench, put a rope through the ring, and started hanging weight off it. Three full 2 liter bottles, no problem. But that filled up my hanging space so I took them out, and started hanging Kip's hand weights off it. I got up to 35 pounds, both perpendicular to the blank and parallel to it. (I clamped it two different ways for two different tests.) The ring post showed no visible strain, and neither did the blank. Since case plus instrument weighs 10 pounds at this point, I decided that was probably going to be good enough.

So ring posts it is, but they come in two parts, one placed on the outside and one forced through a hole from the inside. Alas they don't screw together; they have to be pounded, so I don't want to install the uprights until I have the ring posts installed, so that I will have a little more room to work on the inside of the case.

But, when I did the fiberglassing, I was running out of epoxy. So I didn't fill the weave of the fiberglass, because that doesn't add much to the strength anyway, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to finish the fiberglassing on the inside if I filled the weave on the outside. I bought more epoxy, but had been putting off filling the weave--but now was the time, so I removed all the hardware and shims (need to epoxy the shims on, but I may not be able to do it without permanently installing the hardware, so that may be a late step) sanded the outside with 80 grit, and put the second, weave-filling, layer of epoxy on last night.

So now I have a bunch of interlocking jobs to do. Still hoping to get this done by OVFF but it may be closer than I thought.

Sep. 10th, 2014


Learning Dutch

You may recall that Dad and I were reading _De Eeuw Van Mijn Vader_ (My Father's Century) together in Dutch, via regular skype sessions. Last week we decided that _De Eeuw Van Mijn Vader_, while an excellent book, features a really large vocabulary of sometimes archaic terms, that made it perhaps not ideal for this activity. Even my father, who is a native Dutch speaker, regularly has to look up words that appear in it in his regular Dutch dictionary in order to find out what they mean so he can come up with the closest English word or phrase.

As it happened, we also each had a copy of _Gezonde Twijfel_ (Healthy Doubt), because my uncle Piet (Dad's brother-in-law) wrote it--it is a compilation of columns he wrote for a Dutch newspaper, on the subjects of medicine, science, superstition and quackery. (Yes, skepticism runs in my family.) And it is particularly interesting to me because it was written by a family member. So we started using that instead. It is still fairly slow going, but seems quite a bit easier than _De Eeuw Van Mijn Vader_. Perhaps part of that is that for since the beginning of the last week of working on _De Eeuw..._ I have been writing all the words I had to look up on flash cards, with the English translation on the back, and have been running them every day, working on memorizing them. It adds to the time I spend working on Dutch (which is seriously a couple of hours a day at the moment) but it seems to be helping.

Skype choked and died on Monday for some reason and we had to resort to FaceTime (and thank goodness we both have iThings and *could* do that, and FaceTime is so simple I could talk Dad through setting it up over the phone. (Basically he had never used his contacts so he had to enter my name and my e-mail address in that and then we were good to go.) But FaceTime is working fine, and today's session went very well, and not only did I pronounce all the Dutch on the two pages of the book with only occasional corrections (and Dad says it's not that people wouldn't be able to understand me, it's just that he's now trying to make it sound like proper Dutch) and translate it pretty much all, but Dad actually has started speaking in Dutch now and then, like what time we would meet on Friday, and I mostly understood him.

So that was cool.

Sep. 6th, 2014


A Cat Can Look At A Book--Review 1: Storm Siren by Mary Weber

I saw Storm Siren pop up on the Big Idea series that John Scalzi does on Whatever. New book, by a woman author I'd never read before--I had just decided to read two of these a month, so I surfed over to Amazon and bought it for my Kindle (note to self--can't keep doing this; have spent too much money on books this month.)

It's a story set on another world, with a medieval or renaissance tech level, where the protagonist is a slave, from a hated magical race. Sold (for the fourteenth time in two years)--this time to a noblewoman with grand plans, she will be trained to use her powers in war to save a country that mistreats her. But killing is the last thing she wants to do, something she will put everything at risk to avoid.

It makes me sad to say that this one didn't do it for me.

Part of my problem lay with the language, which was sometimes novel enough to be clunky. The whole story is written in first person present tense, which is unusual but can be made to work. But periodic phrases would just ring false in my ear. Like "Those, my dear, are the golden-egged questions, aren't they?..." And "When he strides over, his snarled expression does nothing to hide his intrigue." I just... I found myself falling out of the story trying to picture the sort of face that could become snarled. Cthulhu pops to mind.

There were some interesting ideas about magic, but some weird ones also. Magic runs in family lines, appearing sporadically, and manifesting as control over different elements--in the earth water air fire sense. These "elementals" are physically different from ordinary people, the most obvious trait being white hair.

However, there is one character whose talent is to block magic. Oddly, as far as I'm concerned, he seems to nullify what I would have thought of as the non-magical physical results of using magic, (Imagine someone with fire talent sets the house on fire. It sets fire to the neighbor's house. This character would probably be able to part the flames at the neighbor's house. That kind of thing.) I'm one of those rotten people who likes magic to *make sense* and I had a hard time accepting this.

Some characters have good reason to be emotionally volatile, but their volatility seems just a bit too convenient. The supposedly suave and sophisticated courtiers seem to have little control over their emotions and let damaging information slip so easily one wonders how they have avoided discovery to this point. The main character is admittedly young, but the attempts to manipulate her are so transparent to the reader that one would expect her to realize she's being played also, at least some of the time.

In the end I just couldn't get into this one. I finished it, and won't spoil the ending for you, but I have not written a song for it, and don't think that's going to happen.

Next up--I usually intend to do books for this series, but I found a great short story I can't resist. If you would like to read along it's posted for free at; it's called Seven Commentaries On An Imperfect Land by Ruthanna Emrys.

Coming Soon: Lock-in, The Winter Long.

And, as before, if you have found great books or long or short stories published this year that you think I should look at, let me know.

Aug. 26th, 2014


Kameron Hurley's new book is out, and there's a special promotion

Kameron Hurley's new book, _Mirror Empire_ is coming out today. No, I didn't provide a link (though if you want to buy it in E-form a moment's googling will pop it right up for you) and here's why--

There is also a special promotion. If you buy the book from Barnes & Noble before September 8th, (it looks like it will cost about $12--trade paperback, probably) and e-mail Kameron a photo or scan or your receipt, you have a chance at a free e-ARC (electronic Advance Reader Copy) of the sequel. There are 250 e-ARCs to go out, so it seems to me if you do it in the next few days, you have a good chance.

Purchases and orders in the first week of sales are what determine which books have more copies ordered, what will be available on store shelves, and thus a chunk of future sales.

What's it like? I honestly have no idea: I've read "We Have Always Fought" and found it well-reasoned, interesting and vivid, and pre-ordered _Mirror Empire_ (from Amazon, alas) on the strength of it. I'm giving serious thought to driving 45 minutes into town to buy a physical copy, though.

Aug. 25th, 2014


This popped up in my FB feed

Here is a careful breakdown of the Hugo voting, with some point by point explanations of how the instant runoff voting functioned in many cases.

The takehome lesson is that the Sad Puppies appear to have brought about 70 nominating ballots to the table, that Larry Correia and Toni Weiskopf would probably have been nominated without them, and that the Puppies had no effect on the final winners aside from keeping some pieces off the ballot entirely.

I expect Larry and Toni would actually have done better in the voting if the Sad Puppies hadn't been running around pissing in everyone's post-toasties. But done is done, and we'll never know now.

This piece also notes that we need more nominations at the nominating stage and I agree--though I think Seannan writes wonderfully and her fans have every right to nominate what they love, I would be psyched to see lots of variety on next year's Hugo ballots. There are twenty fiction pieces that can go on the ballot and I for one would be quite happy to make the acquaintance of twenty different authors during the Hugo reading.

Remember if you voted on the Hugos this year you are eligible to nominate (but not vote unless you buy another supporting membership) next year. Nominations will likely be open from Jan 1 to March 10. Other ways to be eligible to nominate are to buy an attending or supporting membership to WorldCon 2015 (SpoCon Sasquan) before Jan 31 2015. SpoCon Sasquan is in Spokane Washington, which I lived in for a year, and which is a beautiful place, with a whitewater river running right through downtown. If I could afford a WorldCon I would totally go.

I intend to read as widely as I have time for, and nominate a full slate. I encourage you to do likewise, and as you come across pieces you like, drop me a note--perhaps our tastes will align. Don't be shy about pointing out good related works, or fan writing, or other categories; I will read and nominate in as many as I can manage. However I don't have a TV, so while I will happily listen and smile if you want to tell me your favorite TV show, I won't be able to see it for myself.

Aug. 23rd, 2014


Subclass of Poe's Law?

Let me explain. No, it's too long; let me sum up.

Last year or the year before the Science Fiction Writer's Association (SFWA) took the unusual step of expelling a member. If I recall correctly the member in question was tossed out for misusing the official SFWA Twitter Feed by using it to promote racist sexist material that SFWA understandably didn't want to be associated with. (Imagine a Coke executive using the Coke Twitter feed to link to a post extolling the eating of babies, and giving recipes--you can guess they wouldn't be working for Coke for very much longer.)

This led to many conservative cries of Free Speech--and accusations that SFWA only allowed liberal writers, and at this point I've seen several conservative writers talking about SFWA in terms that sound like a report from the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. These rants have become so extreme that they seem, to a liberal eye like mine, to be self-satires.

I just came across (late, I know) a post that indicates the conservative writers themselves are having trouble distinguishing them from deliberate satire.

The satire is here.

I will say Larry took it better than I expected when he found out what he'd done.

So is this simply Poe's Law in action? Or is it some sort of super Poe when the person mistaking the satire for reality is part of the satirized group?

Aug. 20th, 2014


Women Writer Challenge and Hugo Reading (and Dutch)

I've been finding that there are *lots* of women SF/F writers I knew nothing about and new ones entering the field all the time. And I don't have time to become a full-time reviewer or anything, but I'd like to read more of them.

So I'm going to try to read at least two books by women every month, starting in September, at least one both new this year and by a woman author I've never read before. And review them and write songs for them. I am also putting this under "Hugo Reading" because I am now reading SF/F with an eye to nominating for next year's Hugos--gotta start early so I'm not staring blankly at the page next February, trying to think what to nominate. There were only about 1,500 nominating ballots last year, and next year I darn well aim to be one of them.

If anyone has suggestions, btw, I will cheerfully consider them. I am not *only* reading women authors--I'm just making a point of reading *some* women authors--so suggesting books by men authors is also okay. Also short stories / novellas / novelettes and related works.

The first will be _Storm Siren_ by Mary Weber, if anyone wants to read along. I happened to see it on a Big Idea post at Whatever, and the Kindle version is only $5, and my book buying budget is not large, but I can't reasonably expect to be able to get a lot of new-this-year books from the library. It's a complete mystery to me whether it will be my kind of thing, so we'll see.

In other news I have gone back to working on my Dutch. You may remember that when Dad and Jake were over, I read a couple of pages of De Boerderij (The Farm) with Dad every day. That is, I would spend an hour or so figuring out what each page said, and then I'd go over it with Dad. We both enjoyed it very much and I felt like it did a lot for my Dutch pronunciation, and helped with my reading skills, but we finished the book before Dad left, so we needed something else.

Dad has an iPad mini, and I demonstrated FaceTime for him before he left, and told him that if he preferred Skype, that was also available as an app, and I used it all the time, and perhaps we could read together on that. Jake got him set up with Skype at home, and he, in what I think was a happy accident, received two copies of _De Eeuw Van Mijn Vader_ (_My Father's Century_) from two different relatives at about the same time, so he sent one to me, and we'll be using that. It may keep us a while--it's a 500 page book, and it takes me about an hour to work my way through a page, sometimes more.

So far it is ... well, I'll translate a bit of it for you:

My Father's Century
by Geert Mak

Odors. Tar and rope, that must almost certainly have been the first odors that my father smelled. Fresh, new rope, sailcloth and tar. Then there was the smell of salt and waves, of the mainsails, schooner sails, jibs, royals, square sails and storm jibs that hung in the workshop to dry. There was a kitchen, that smelled of milk and bread, and later in the day of cracklings and baked fish. Finally there was a faint smell of wood and the coolness of steel.
The first sounds. Within the house came now and then the rattle of a pulley or the dragging of a roll of sail. Sometimes the voices of my grandfather and his two oldest sons, Koos and Arie. Outside were footsteps, the carts on the street, the tinkle of the horse tram.
And then there were all the people at work nearby, in the smithery, or the pulley maker's shop even farther along, where my grandfather's brother made masts and pulleys, often outside, on the quay, because his workshop was too small.
In the evenings there were the steps of a few late walkers, the voice of the pully maker, who still came talking, the wind in the chestnuts, the grinding of the schooners and cutters at the quay, the blows of a heavy ship's horn, twice, in the distance the whisper of wakes and steam engines, a strange, distant, shining illuminated palace that sailed past, away to another world.

It took me about an hour yesterday, to translate that. It is about two thirds of a page.

I am now on to the fourth page, and will try to get another page done before I skype Dad tomorrow. He thinks I will be fluent in Dutch by the time I finish; I am not so sure. I look up a lot of words, yes, but how long will I remember them? We will see. I will say that I am getting better at figuring out Dutch syntax, though. I don't know if I can produce it, but I can wring the English from it, if I know what all the words mean. So that's progress.

Let me know if you think of great books / stories published this year to add to my Hugo reading, or relatively new books by women writers you think might be good for the Women Writers Challenge!

Aug. 19th, 2014


Well said..

Elizabeth Moon has something powerful and moving to say about the shooting of Michael Brown.

She has turned comments off there, so I just wanted to share this and say--well said.

So, will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?

The standard response is "I will, with God's help." For my part, I'll just say "I will do my best, and listen to those who try to help me."

Aug. 12th, 2014


A Happy Announcement

The Pegasus website went live as of 50 minutes ago, so I am happy to announce that my song "Outward Bound" has been nominated for a Pegasus Award in the "Best Song Of Passage" category. I am very pleased to see both long time filkers and new faces on the ballot, and honored to be included among their number!

I encourage you to check out the website; there are many fine songs, songwriters, and performers listed here. I know I will have a hard time choosing. Each song is represented by its lyrics page and a short mp3; usually one verse and one chorus of the song, so you can hear how the melody goes. It is worth your time to read and listen to them all, even if you have to come back a few times to find time for it all.

Once you have made up your mind you can vote at OVFF (There will be a Pegasus Concert where all the songs will be played, and all the Best Performer nominees who can attend will be playing) or or use this handy online ballot. Everyone in the filk community is eligible to vote, whether you can make it to OVFF or not.

Aug. 11th, 2014


Thinking about reading

So I've just run into an article about seven black women SF/F authors, five of whom I'd never heard of. My problem is now I have even *more* books that I want to read! AAaagh!

On the other hand, this may lead to finding even *more* authors that I love and whose books I stalk on amazon or in the library. So I guess this is rather a good problem to have.

For those who are interested I plan to look into Nalo Hopkinson, Nisi Shawl, Tanarive Due and Nnedi Okrafor, in addition to looking for more by N.K. Jemisin and Octavia Butler. Plus I want to check out Corinne Duyvis, A.M. Dellamonica, Beth Cato, and Rachel Aaron.

I'm thinking I might try a year long project in which I read, review, and filk one [book by a woman author I've never read before] per month in addition to my regular reading. Would people be interested?

Aug. 8th, 2014



I have been working on an Octave Mandolin part for Outward Bound, beyond simple chords. I have come up with something I like and have been trying to memorize it. I think I'm getting a lot quicker at learning new things.

I have been working on some new words for Cripple Creek, as Carole (new banjo player) and Ed (excellent banjo player) at the barbershop both know how to play it. Ed isn't comfortable singing it (banjos really only like to play in G and in G the song is either too high or too low for him. I have the same problem. But I figured out that I could take the first and third lines and give Ed the second and fourth lines and together we could sing it.

But I wasn't happy with the words which are kind of boring and sexist, so I did a little revamping. Ed wasn't there today and I won't be able to go next week because I will be out of town returning dulcimers but week after next we can get together and see if we can make it go. Carole and I worked on Cripple Creek, I'll Fly Away, Blackberry Blossom and ... something else that escapes me at the moment. Oh, I think we kind of worked on Cripple Creek twice because we tried out my new verses and then we tried it out with me playing melody along with the banjo, which I hadn't practiced at all. Carole was impressed with how fast I went from picking out I'll Fly Away to playing the melody along with her (not that I was playing it perfectly, and not that it's very fast or complicated, but you know--it's that the bear can dance at all.) So that's another point of view on me getting faster at learning things; maybe it's real.

Also, after skyping with Peggi on Monday, I got all inspired and went back to work on my instrument case which had been kind of languishing since I had family over because the next step was putting on the latches. I had made the shims that mated the curved surface of the case to the flat surface of the latches, but kind of got stuck because drilling the holes through the latches, the shims and the case is scary. It's the sort of work where one little slip puts the hole in the wrong place, and while I could probably fix it, it would be a lot of work I don't want to do. So I was having trouble nerving myself up to do the deed

I finally got myself over the hump by doing some not-scary stuff. I plan to build a box inside the instrument case, under where the neck of the instrument will go, to hold picks and tuners and such. I'm going to put in pair of props, with a u shaped depression in them, to hold the neck of the instrument, and they will define a space that becomes a box, as soon as I install a lid below the level of the neck. But I need thin light board-equivalent to make the props and the lid. I've decided to make more woodstrips/fiberglass to saw into the proper shapes for that. That meant I had to saw a bunch of leftover white pine wood strips to an even length and glue them together, which was a nice amount of non-threatening simple work to do yesterday and this morning.

And once I had cleverly figured out how to clamp them together and clamp a board over them to make them lie flat on the strongback (now pressed into service as an auxillary workbench, so I didn't tie up my workbench for 24 hours) I realized that if I first clamped a bunch of stuff together to make a sort of form to force the top of the latch to line up with the top of the shim and drilled the holes through the shim, I could then put the shim up against the side/lip of the case, and drill the holes the rest of the way through to the inside of the case.

This reduced one very scary step to two moderately scary steps, which made it easier to bring myself to do it.

Then I did the same with the top shim and top part of the latch and now I have one latch installed, and it latches. The upper shim flexes somewhat when it latches. I think the problem is that the heads of the screws I am using are kind of domed, and I think they come up farther than the designer of the latch was thinking, and they interfere with the latch a bit. I'm going to file them flatter and see if that helps. If that doesn't do the trick, gluing the shims on with dookie schmutz will probably take care of it.

I'd really like to have this done in time for OVFF.

Jul. 28th, 2014


Something that is not about the Hugos

Because while I haven't been writing about it every day, most of my last set of posts have been on that subject and I'm starting to feel like I need a break.

I went to Atlanta for the weekend. I had a lovely time visiting Alice and Beth and Marie, and met their foster child M, who was a lot of fun all weekend (at least when I was around.) I went for two walks with her and spent two one-hour sessions playing in the pool with her and Alice and perhaps got a little overtired.

There was a filk circle and Neil and Felissa's house that was a lot of fun, with great food, and good company.

And, not incidentally, Marie pointed out that I really needed a case for my iPhone (which I got for my half-birthday this summer) and gave me one of her spare cases--and otterboxalike (not a real otterbox, apparently, but something similar.)

I am still working out how much of my current arrangements the iPhone is going to take over. It was worth its weight in gold when Jake and Kip and I went to Washington DC--I was constantly checking where things were on the map, or looking up the bus schedules, or what times things were open. It can sort of do the job my Garmin does (and is considerably easier to use.) On the other hand, when I put it on the dash where the Garmin usually sits, it gets quite hot in the sun there, and I'm worried that it will overhead and be damaged. Running the map function makes it get kind of warm anyway, even when it's not sitting in the sun. But it will show where the traffic is bad, and the Garmin won't (it's kind of an old model and it doesn't do that) and knowing whether the budding traffic jam lasts 2 miles or 20 is kind of useful. But taking my eyes off the road to fool with it is dangerous. So there's that.

It did a New Thing yesterday evening as I was driving home. I started in a beautiful sunny day and drove north, and the last hour or so of my trip it clouded up and started raining, sometimes quite hard. About five minutes out from home something started wailing. I pulled off the road to find out what was making that noise. Eventually I clawed my iPhone out of my pocket and discovered it was the source of the sound; it wanted to tell me there was a tornado warning locally.

Well that is a good thing to know, but there were no bridges or overpasses to get under, so I drove home, watching for funnel clouds.

I pulled into the driveway and it was pouring down rain, so I stuffed everything handy (I thought) into my bag, and made a dash for the house. However my iPhone had still been resting on my lap, where I had left it after stopping the horrible noise, and when I leapt out of the car, it fell, unnoticed, onto the pavement in the pouring rain.

Inside I took everything out of my bag and realized I didn't have my iPhone. Perhaps I had just left it in the car but it occurred to me I might have dropped it. I pulled on a jacket, dashed outside, and found it lying by the car, so I picked it up and dashed back inside.

I took a rag and dried off the otterboxalike case, then checked to see if the phone still worked. And it did. I'm not positive the case made the difference, but the pavement it was lying on was awfully wet, so I'm very glad the phone was in the case.

On the downside the case is kind of bulky and has a rubber sort of gasket thing that makes it hard to get into and out of my pocket, especially when I am sitting down. The rubber gasket thing also covers the home button, which means the fingerprint recognition, which I *really* like, doesn't work, unless I pry the gasket thing off every time which kind of destroys the convenience of it. And also, when I took the case apart, there were a few drops of water inside that I had to mop out, so it probably was a good thing I didn't leave the phone in the case for a long time.

Maybe I should go online and look if there are water resistant cases that still let you use the fingerprint recognition of the home button.

Jul. 23rd, 2014


Hugo Reading 6 Campbells

This is kind of a contradiction in terms, since the Campbell award is not a Hugo. But it's given at the same time, the same group of people can nominate and vote, and the Campbell material goes out in the Hugo packet on the same terms (which is to say maybe it does, and maybe it doesn't--something to remember abou the Hugo packet!)

The nominees (and the books/stories provided for each, in no particular order) are:
Ramez Naam, _Nexus_
Wesley Chu, _The Lives Of Tao_
Sophia Samatar, _Stranger in Oolondria_
Max Gladstone _Two Serpents Rise_ and Three Parts Dead_ (novels)
Benjanun Sriduangkaew _The Bees Her Heart The Hive Her Belly_ _Fade To Gold_ and _Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade_ (short stories)

5) _The Lives Of Tao_ I started with a good will, but set aside impatiently when it seemed to me that the protagonist was spontaneously becoming stupid whenever the plot called for it. It had potential otherwise, and it wouldn't be a travesty if it won, but I'll be checking future releases by this author out at the library rather than the bookstore.

4) _Stranger in Oolondria_ I realize I'm in the minority on this, but I strongly disliked this book, mostly because I thought Jissavet was a complete jerk, and I resented that nobody else in the book seemed to be able to see it. I mean, I'm perfectly okay with turning your back and walking away from blood kin who mistreat you, and I understand how it is to feel impatient with someone whose thoughts are slow and plodding, but I do feel like when someone has shown you nothing but kindness and made considerable sacrifices for you, to treat them like dirt in return (the jewelry scene pops to mind) and never notice or care, is unacceptable. But I haven't seen any other reader mention this, so maybe this book will work for other people. And there is no denying that the writing is beautiful.

3) Sriduankaew's stories. These were okay, but I kind of had trouble following what was going on. My Hugo reading has necessarily been somewhat rushed, and I suspect some of the more poetic and evocative writing is at a disadvantage as a result.

1) (formerly 2)) Max Gladstone's books. _Two Serpents Rise_ was okay--_Three Parts Dead_ I thought was really good. I loved the idea of law as a form of magic. I may yet change my mind and put Max first.

2) (formerly 1)) _Nexus_. You know, in some ways, this is popcorn. There are parts of this--like why doesn't the protagonist have a better appreciation of the potential for abuse, and where is the funding for all this coming from--that just don't make sense. But I loved the ideas behind it and the soaring optimism, and I really enjoyed the idea of how the monks dealt with it (I can't really tell you what they did without spoiling it, but I really liked it and it seemed plausible to me at the time.) But now that I think about it, I am going to swap Max and Ramez. Because, really, this is popcorn, and _Three Parts Dead_ I think is better done.

So I guess it's a good thing that I wrote this.

Jul. 20th, 2014


Hugo Reading 5--sort of.

Okay, looking at the fan art to choose best Fan Artist probably doesn't really count as reading, does it?

Oddly enough, my Hugo packet download included only three of the five artists. I don't know if this is because the others were left out of the packet, or because my packet didn't download properly (the folder for this category didn't come through in the first download, and in another category I was minus one finalist, but when I re-downloaded, that finalist's entry appeared and so did the Fan Artist folder.) In any case I found examples of the other two artists work by googling, so I was able to gather some information to evaluate all of them.

5) Steven Stiles. Um. I wonder if he really thought through which images he wanted in the Hugo packet. The first image of his I opened was two aliens comparing genitalia. It was...hmm.... It was ...different. But it didn't impress me in any other way, I'm afraid.

4) Brad W. Foster. I enjoyed his stuff, but it was a bit cartoony for my taste. The brains at the shopping mall was fun. But I don't understand what use brains have for all the stuff they had apparently been buying. But while Webb's work (below) made me want to know the story, these just made me shrug and move on.

3) Spring Schoenhuth. I had to google her. She works in jewelry, which I found hard to compare to the graphic arts nature of the other entries, but I agree that a jeweler is an artist, and can think of no more appropriate category for her. I couldn't find very many pictures of her work, but I liked what I saw, particularly the rocket neclace.

2) Sarah Webb. Oh my. Her paintings all make me want to know the story behind them. I love the girl in the gondola, and the city with the snow on it, and the person climbing up the mountain, and the people riding the mammoths. The mimmoths got especially excited over the last one. I love these with a powerful love that put her in first place in my heart for a while. I love this kind of semi-photograph-like style and the many details in each picture, and I wanted to read the stories that (surely) went with them.

1) Mandie Manzano. I had to google her too. I spent a long time staring at her pictures on the web. I think her mastery of technique is even greater than Webb's, and that is why I put her in first place, but I have to admit I'm a bit distanced by the lack of faces in her work. I think she is working in stained glass, and the constraints of the medium (glass is easier to cut in some directions than in others) make faces very hard to do, but it is hard for me to relate to people whose faces I never see. But the utterly luminous colors entrance me, and the dreamlike settings make that distancing seem more natural.

Manzano and Webb may yet switch places, and there was nothing here that made me say "oh come *on*; you are just trolling me now" but I strongly prefer the first two over the last three.

Jul. 18th, 2014


Hugo Reading, uh, 4, I guess.

Well, I did do a bit of Hugo Reading before Dad and Jake came, and some while they were here, and some more after they left. So I have a few more categories to talk about.

The Graphic Novel category is what I'll talk about tonight. (Need to go to bed soon.)

5) My least favorite was Meathouse Man. Ick. In this world/future, "corpse handlers" use part of their minds to animate dead bodies to do work too dangerous or unpleasant for living people to be willing to do. Including, um, sex work. The story follows a man (for some reason all the corpse handlers we hear about are men) corpse handler who hopes to find true love with a living woman (the only women in the story are potential mates, by the way--everyone else is male) but is repeatedly let down by women who don't love him back or who grow out of loving him. At the end he gets a job running the corpse-gladiators, and has his own personal, um, sex-worker corpse to pretend to love him when he's off duty.

WHUT I DON'T EVEN. What a bleak view of women. And men. Well, there certainly is no accounting for taste.

4) The Girl Who Loved Dr Who.

What a relief. Much more to my taste than the preceding story. The art was okay, the story was okay--it wasn't my favorite but miles better than the previous one. Dr. Who winds up in our world when the TV show Dr. Who is going to be filming nearby. He teams up with one of his young fans to find out how he got there and how to get home.

3) Girl Genius (I forget which book, sorry)

I love this series and periodically go glut myself at the website. I also sponsored the Kickstarter and thus have e-copies of all the books. I loved this book too. (I'm uncomplicated and loyal that way.) That said, there were a couple of entries that I thought were even better.

2) Saga Vol 2

I read Volume 1, which I believe won a Hugo last year, so as to understand the story to this point, before reading Volume 2. (I did the same with Warbound, you'll recall, because I thought I couldn't really experience the work as intended without reading the whole series--and reading the whole series was a possible thing.) Kudos to my friend Donald who had ordered the volumes for himself but kindly had them shipped to my house so I could read them first. If you're reading this, Donald, you should have received them Priority Mail yesterday.

Wow. I really liked this story. I think it was the babysitter character that did it for me. Or no, maybe the main male character's father. There were...gross moments... but not nearly as bad as _Meathouse Man_.

1) Time

I had never seen this before--apparently it was published at the rate of one picture an hour or something like that, so I suppose people must have been going back again and again and again, and often flipping back through several pictures. Now you can see it on the web--it's three thousand some odd pictures long, but there's a playback thingie that plays them at the rate of 10 pictures per second with pauses for the ones with dialog (so you can read them.)

I really liked this story. I liked the spirit of exploration that the characters showed, and the way they worked together as equals, and the way they didn't just assume that everything was hostile, and the way they dealt with some things that actually *were* hostile. I'm not sure I understand the story but I really liked it and I thought it was a very interesting concept to present it the way the artist originally did.

So that's where I am on that. Also, after some thought (and some discussion with some of my kind commenters) I have moved Wakkulla Springs to the top of the Novella category instead of number 3. That may yet change again, but that's where I am now.

Jul. 13th, 2014


I'm Back; Did You Burn Down The Internet?

Obviously not. Well done!

I had a lovely family visit and also a visit to Washington DC and I may write some about those later, but right now I just want to note four very informative posts about the Sad Puppies (Hugo Edition.)

These are just observations about the political situation in (US) science fiction fandom, and how it arose, historically. It seems quite free of bad-mouthing to me, but you all know what side I'm on, and that might be affecting my judgement, so proceed with what caution you deem appropriate.

However if you have the time and interest, I encourage you to give these a look, and some thought.

Part 1 the origins of science fiction

Part 2 libertarianism

Part 3 the authoritarians

Part 4 where we are now

Jun. 30th, 2014


Latent capabilities: iPod Touch version

So I have an iPod Touch that I really like. I use it for my calendar, complete with binglebonglebeep reminders as Pratchett would put it, and for my contacts and I keep little texts like my shopping list on it, and it plays music for when I want that, and I can check the weather (when I'm hooked up to the wifi) and so on. It's quite cool.

I can call up maps on it, and get directions to places (again, when I'm hooked up to the wifi). But it never occurred to me to try to use it for this when I'm out and about; I thought that was an iPhone thing, that you had to have a cell phone chip and a data connection to do.

Yesterday I pulled it out in Walmart to check my shopping list. And I had just been looking at WeatherRadar before, so that's what popped up when I swiped it open. WeatherRadar has a map on which it displays the radar picture--and while the radar picture doesn't come up if you have no data access, the map did (probably cached data from when I used the app at home, since we were still pretty close to home.) And the blue location dot was in an odd position with respect to the local lake. So I unpinched and unpinched and unpinched, and hey, I was on a different street. And there was 11E.

Now I do not have access to Walmart's wifi. I'm sure it has a password and I don't know it, so my iPod couldn't be on the wifi. But maybe it can tell where the wifi *is*, geographically, without actually being logged on. So later when we were driving home, I brought up the maps app (which I had also been playing with at home) and there was my little blue dot, wandering drunkenly over the map. It has only a general idea where I am (it seems to be accurate to within a block and a half, and sometimes the dot just stops, and then turns grey, and then reappears farther along our route. I suppose this is because this is a rural area and kind of economically depressed, and thus there are plenty of houses that don't have wifi.

I bet this would be fairly useful in the larger cities, where there is probably wifi on every block. I am looking forward to trying it with my iPad, actually.

And in cleaning news, I vacuumed our entire bedroom yesterday, including four bookshelves and also moving the bed to vacuum under it. I think it's cleaner than it has been since we moved in.

And I have finished my reading for the Campbell, I think. _Three Parts Dead_ by Max Gladstone and _Nexus_ by Ramez Naam are currently fighting it out for first place in my mind.

Graphic Novel is probably next.

Jun. 29th, 2014


Mostly Cleaning

So I did my concert at the library yesterday morning. The audience was small, but present. I thought I did a reasonably good job selling the songs. But the audience seemed very ...unresponsive, compared to a filk audience. It was like they were tranquilized or something. I'm not sure whether it's just that I'm not very good, or whether this is general among mundanes. Does anybody out there have experience with both sets of audiences?

Other than that it has been clean clean clean. I am the mistress of a very clean living room (except I need to get all the gaming papers off the coffee table, and vacuum out the last two bookshelves) and yesterday I cleaned out the vast majority of the rumpus room, recycling nearly a bin worth of papers and old magazines, and throwing away two kitchen sized garbage bags of stuff I'd been intending to recycle into projects but never gotten around to using. And vacuuming. And we took another tote-full of discarded books to the used book store.

I still need to clean off my desk in the rumpus room, and the back part around the windows. And I haven't really started on our bedroom or the office. And there's the bathrooms. Though I did scrub out the tub, so one of the hard parts is done.

Jake and Dad have been delayed flying out of Portland because the weather is terrible. I'm looking forward to seeing them, but I also don't mind having a few more days to get ready.

I haven't done anything on the instrument case for a couple of weeks and probably won't until after Dad and Jake leave; working in the wood shop is just not very social, and takes a lot of time I need to use for cleaning. But that's okay, my next con is OVFF and even with taking a month off I can reasonably expect to have it done by then.

Jun. 26th, 2014


Beautiful story here

Ursulav just put up a beautiful story based on an old folk tale

Toad Words

So, I'm seriously considering nominating it for next year's Hugo Awards. And I thought I'd encourage you to read it also, and if you are planning to nominate next year (and anyone who bought a voting membership this year can nominate next year without buying another membership), consider it for your vote.

I will probably post again about this nearer the time, but I thought this was a great story in any case and wanted you to have the chance to go look.

Why I don't have to saw whole rooms off the house and burn them...

My dad and my brother are coming to visit. Normally they come every summer but last summer we went to the Netherlands instead. What this means is that the frantic cleaning that takes place every year before they visit--which is the aforementioned reason I don't have to get rid of whole rooms full of junk and dirt--didn't happen last year.

Plus the weekend before the weekend of their arrival was Contata. This is a very happy reason to be behind on one's cleaning, and not only that but Kip did a bunch of cleaning of the outside of the house while I was gone, but I got up Tuesday morning with quite a bit to do.

Cleaning is heavy work and I can only handle it for a few hours at a time. So I have been going at it a few hours a day since Tuesday. The house is looking decidedly better, which is great. But just cleaning off one flat surface takes a remarkable amount of time, since one has to decide what parts of the clutter can be thrown away and where the rest should go.

Today I plan to wash the couch cover and the two Poang chair seat covers--as well as a load of regular laundry--make the beds in the guest bedroom, and vacuum probably two rooms, including shelves, and replace the livingroom blinds. If I end up with extra energy I will clean off another flat surface. And that will actually be quite a bit.

Also I have been learning a new tune. Today I hope to get to the point where I can remember how it goes without the sheet music. Plus it would be good to practice my library set since that is on Saturday.

I hope all is well with you.

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