Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 10:09 am
Just read a lovely column called [Your Three Feet of Influence]. The author suggests that while we cannot control the world, we can choose what we do with the three feet directly around us, and whether we bring to that three feet justice, calm, and kindness or not. Great reading for this Sunday!
Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 08:49 am
My nieces (4, 10) have been watching The Great British Baking Show, and decided that yesterday afternoon should be all baking, all the time. So I went over and helped out, and we made the FUSSIEST BAKED GOODS IMAGINABLE. First came the Banana Bread from America's Test Kitchen. What a pain in the ass that recipe is. And yet it made the best banana bread I have ever tasted, so I can do little but shake my fist and do what they say.

Then we made Blackberry Scones, which had the best-tasting scone mix imaginable, and which took forever to make. I think I'd like them better with blueberries or raspberries, but they're very tasty (no doubt from all the butter). Again, very fussy recipe, but the end product felt worth it.

At the end of the afternoon, niece C made brownies out of a box, and lo, we were glad for it :D

Woke up this morning stiff in every place imaginable, so I'll need to do a bit of gentle yoga to loosen back up after I finish this cup of tea. I feel like Andy in Parks and Recreation - working out is great and all but at what cost? :D
Saturday, July 22nd, 2017 12:36 pm
Today I told my yoga instructor about my ankles and calves, and what we were doing in PT. It's always good to let her know what's going on, and we had a long conversation about how hamstrings and calf muscles can pull on ankles and plantar fascia and so on.

And then she proceeded to make the entire class about stretching out hamstrings, calves, and plantar fascia. Oh my god.

It was great for me. My PT exercises don't last a whole hour, and aren't as dedicated to holistic work, so I felt great when I was done. But mid-class I was silently cursing :D At one point she had us get into downward dog, then lower our knees almost to the floor, hold it, and then come slowly back up. She then had us shorten the distance between our hands and feet and do it again. And again. And I wanted to vocalize my feelings as "AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I did not, however, and it was all for the good.

Yesterday at 3pm it was 94F, felt like 110F. Holy moley. Today is better so far, tomorrow will be a little better again, and Monday we've been promised a balmy 80F. The main result of all of this is that all my everyday bras are in the wash right now, as they were treated very badly by the heat, leaving me with only demi-cup lacy bras to wear today. My girls have not been this perky or fancy on a weekend in a very long time. I keep expecting to be going somewhere, but nope, I'm just the perkiest and fanciest in my house.
Friday, July 21st, 2017 01:30 pm
I'm thinking a lot about being left and leaving today. I've felt so low since my brother went home - lowness that is grief, Jan suggested, because whenever someone leaves for an extended period of time we grieve their absence. That I only get to see him once a year, and that those circumstances are not entirely of my creating compounds that. She reminded me that we do not expect a lot of people who are grieving when we clearly see the cause, and so I should not expect too much of myself while I'm working through all these feelings.

Having the feelings in the first place is a wondrous and hard-fought thing, and I'm keeping my eye on that as I process.

There's been a lot of left and leaving recently. Three people left their jobs at my place of work and left a vacuum that has still not been filled. Their leaving increased the amount of work on my plate to such a degree that when it's time for the creative part of my job I'm already depleted from the administrivia I'm doing, and my creativity feels forced and lacking. The hard conversations I had with colleagues last week happened while two of my closest local friends were away on vacation, so I felt their absence keenly, too. Then my brother. This all twists up with the bigger narratives of my life about leaving - especially about leaving England - in ways I haven't quite fully pinned down. But at least I see the patterns, or the patterns that my brain finds important, at least.

Leaving things has been my path to freedom. I wonder if, because that leaving was so big and important, I used up my share of goodwill where leaving is concerned, and now I just fear it. Lots to think about.
Friday, July 21st, 2017 02:58 pm
I still have to review Extra Virginity as well, but I actually liked that one, so it will take longer to compose….

One of the things I did get done yesterday between work, the ball game, and the Epic Sunburn, was finish a slim book of short stories called A City Equal to My Desire by James Sallis. This wasn’t a book that was recommended to me, which means I don’t have to feel bad about truly disliking it. I found it in a keyword search on the library website for books about ukuleles, and it has a short story called Ukulele And The World’s Pain, which admittedly was one of the better stories in the book despite still not being very good.

From what I can tell, he did pick the best story out of the book to develop into a novel, “Drive”, but it is very obviously unfinished in short-story form. Sallis has a couple of ongoing problems in the short story collection, one of which is that he tends to skip the vital information you need in order to know what the fuck is going on. And not in a “the blanks slowly get filled in” way, or in a “your imagination is more terrible” way (though there is a little of that) but just in a way where like…he says something that you understand to be vital to the story but which is missing context, then spends like a page describing the fucking diner someone’s sitting in, and by then any context forthcoming doesn’t get linked back. It’s like being in the middle of a paragraph when you hit the photo plates in an older book – yes the photos are very interesting thank you but I need to finish the thought you were sharing with me before I go back and look at them. I think maybe he thinks this is challenging the reader but it’s not, it’s just annoying and makes what are otherwise interesting premises totally opaque. I shouldn’t need to work this hard for a story about a hit man who decides not to kill a politician. 

If the book had a more cohesive theme in terms of the stories, it might be more readable – he clearly enjoys building worlds and then doesn’t quite know what to do with them once he’s built them, so if this was an entire book of “weird and different worlds” ala Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, I would buy in more fully and I think he would have put a little more elbow in. But it’s not. It’s mostly “here’s a really interesting world and a person living in squalor in it does something while being in it”. Also he appears to be fascinated by describing things that are shaped like pi. And a lot of times it feels like he read a wikipedia article on something and wanted to share some knowledge, so he just kind of built a half-assed story around his wikiwander. 

And all of this I would probably let go if say, it was something I was noticing in a fanfic writer, or someone who was just starting out, or someone I felt was genuinely trying to get a point across. But there’s this inexplicable sense of arrogance to the collection, a sort of smugness to it that in professional writers drives me up the goddamn wall. Stephen King sometimes falls into the same trap, where it feels like the author believes they don’t have to respect their readers because they are The Writer. 

The thing about volumes of short stories is that you keep reading it because sometimes there is a real gem. And there are one or two good stories in the volume, but I don’t know if they’re worth the rest of it. 

So my review I guess is mostly me being annoyed, but it boils down to “If you like short stories in the SFF Noir genre, give it a whirl, but if you’re bored with a story none of them get better, so feel free to skip to the next one.” 

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Thursday, July 20th, 2017 01:24 am
Should I get a Goodreads account?

I mean, if nothing else it might be a good way to organize lists of "things I want to read" on my e-reader, since the e-reader's library functionality is terrible.

It might also help me to not purchase the same book four times.
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 12:28 am
I am like….90% sure I’m going camping this Friday. 

It depends a bit on the weather, but I’m mostly packed, I’ve cooked food that’s currently waiting in the freezer, and I have acquired the third Diane Mott Davidson book to read. 

The plan is to leave work early, catch the train to the campground, camp overnight, and in the morning hike out to a different train station further down the line, about a seven-mile trek, to do a longer endurance test than last weekend’s. Then I’ll catch the train home around noon on Saturday.

If something goes wrong, I can catch an evening train home on Friday until eight o’clock, or starting in the morning at 5:30, with little to no exertion. It’s pretty low-risk and I’m well stocked. I don’t have a sleeping pad, but my backpack has a partial one built-in, and I have one arriving tomorrow (though it might be too bulky, we’ll see). And honestly in this heat, I might just sleep on top of my sleeping bag in any case. 

Worst case scenario, the campground has heated, lockable shower cubicles with nice big floors. I’ve slept on worse. 

Caaaaaaamping! *jazz hands*

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Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 07:36 am
My brother's visit last weekend was really lovely. We hung out, I took him to the outlet mall for jeans (501s, on sale, are about $80 in England right now. He got two pairs, plus a shirt and some boxers, for $116 here), we cooked together, we took a walk around the local lake, and we had a good time with friends. It was so much fun, and Monday I was horribly sad after I dropped him off at the airport. In the past I would have simply quashed those feelings instead of feeling them, but on Monday I kept thinking, "I am so sad," and told myself, "just feel it." It made for an uncomfortable day, but it was honest. There's something I can feel good about in that.

I got new glasses yesterday, and while my eyes are still adjusting some, they're pretty revolutionary for me. For the last two years my reading vision out of my right eye has been blurry - not because of my eye, but because of the lenses in my glasses. We replaced them three times last time and eventually they told me that was the best that they could do. It's made reading difficult and frustrating when it used to be a real joy. Now, with the new glasses, I can see to read again, and OH it is amazing. I keep looking at pages of books and the computer and noting that I can see and just reveling in it. Yay new glasses! (And yay for a FSA that made it possible.)

I have a bunch of deadlines at work coming up and I feel singularly uninterested in everything I have to do to meet them. I will meet them, but eh. Sometimes it's just not that satisfying. But that said we're about to enter a heat warning that will last until Saturday night - real temps of 95 and above, heat indexes into the 110s, so work will be delicious because it is air-conditioned, as opposed to my house which has floor units that at best keep things at about 80F. So I am prepared to find work much more interesting as of today so that I can soak up the cool.

I hope, wherever you are, you are not about to enter a heat warning, and that you can soak up some delicious cool wherever you are (or, if you're in the global south, you're not utterly miserable with cold!) ♥
Monday, July 17th, 2017 11:56 pm
New Game of Thrones! It's epic and it checks in with all our favorites and that's just what I wanted! Specifics under here )

I've been continuing to watch Critical Role, I'm on Episode 62 (the second live one), and I'm about ready for them to get out of the Feywild. I mean, I think my least favorite thing for the gang to do is bluff social scenes as a group, and there's been a lot of that. They're not very good at it and especially Percy/Talesin is much less good at it than he thinks he is. (I don't know if that's an IC thing or a player thing. I feel like it's a player thing.) There's just a lot of embarrassment squick going on there.

So I was working on grading today and then I couldn't find several of my students' papers, which was bad. Now I have them, which is good. But grading isn't done, which is really bad, since all the grading for the course is due at the end of the week, and ugh ugh ugh. I'm too tired for this.
Monday, July 17th, 2017 08:48 am
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Radio Free Monday!

Ways to Give:

[tumblr.com profile] readera's partner, J, has been in the ER multiple times in the past three months, and their finances are very strained because of it. They're raising $300-$500 for transportation costs and medicine; you can read more and reblog here or give directly here.

[tumblr.com profile] sleepyheathen needs to make next month's rent and is selling items, offering commissions, accepting donations, and has an Amazon wishlist up. You can read more, purchase, or reblog here, or donate via paypal here.

[tumblr.com profile] tony-in-distress is trying to escape an abusive situation and hoping to take her siblings with her. She needs to raise enough money for a deposit on a safe house for her and her siblings to live in. You can read more and help out here.

Anon is raising funds to help a friend cover debt and pay for legal bills after her abusive husband took custody of their youngest son. You can read more and give here; unfortunately due to Australian law apparently they can't provide much information.

Sarah Sadat had to leave her job recently due to stress and is facing mounting medical bills for a failing kidney and previous hospitalization; she has surgery scheduled for next month, and is fundraising to help cover medical and other bills. You can read more and give to the fundraiser here.

[tumblr.com profile] ohstephyy was let go from a job three months ago and hasn't been able to get another one; there are also other costs coming up to cover. You can read more and reblog here; a paypal address is available at the post.

[personal profile] laurashapiro linked to a fundraiser for [personal profile] kuwdora, a talented vidder who is trying to become a professional editor. She has an opportunity for professional coaching from the editor of Burn Notice and Empire, but can't afford the expenses on her own. You can read more and help out here.

Anon linked to [tumblr.com profile] tiarasnteakettles who is looking for work as a harpist, including attempting to purchase a harp that would be a massive upgrade from her current instrument and allow her more freedom in performance. You can read more about her situation and reblog here, including links to her Patreon and online store and Paypal donation address.

[tumblr.com profile] rilee16 is struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and has a fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.

News To Know:

Anon linked to [tumblr.com profile] wanderlust-anthology, an upcoming anthology of reimagined myths, legends, and folklore based on the theme Quests and Journeys. They are looking for creators for this anthology, which will be a full-color printed book with stories, comics, and artwork. You can read more at their tumblr or at the FAQ here; sign-ups close July 30th.

Housing:

Riel is looking for a roommate in Austin, TX to share a townhouse; she and the other roommate (male) are both grad students, and they do have a cat. Riel is very fandom-friendly. Lease starts in August. You can check out the townhouse here and get in touch at ariellayendler at gmail.com.

And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
Sunday, July 16th, 2017 08:50 pm
What Football Will Look Like in the Future (17776 Football) is complete, now, and y'all should read it if you like stories about robots, combating loneliness, knowing your terrain, things ending, ambivalence about change, and games.
Sunday, July 16th, 2017 06:49 pm
So I had a cooking moderate success yesterday, in that I managed to pan-fry a steak to edibleness and roast asparagus (which tasted divine), but I also managed to set off the smoke alarm and today I left my cookies in the oven for too long, meaning they're over-crispy (but still chewy on the inside, thankfully.)

I've also been brain-staticky the last few days, and feeling like I'm finally coming out of it? I'm still behind on things, but at least I feel like I might be able to cope.
Monday, July 17th, 2017 01:39 am
Still not great, but better than last week! 

WIPs currently active: 5

Words written this week: 3,259

WIPs that got no words this week: 0

WIPs that did get words this week:

Codename: Aluminum Bastard (aka broken dick epic): 104, still inching along. I probably just need to hit a scene break soon, but then I’m going to have to figure out what happens next, so…?

Born in the Blood: 821, and it is distinctly possible that every one of them is terrible, but I haven’t figured out how to make them less terrible so for now I’m just going with it.

Dragon!Bucky/tribute!Steve and Learning to Be a Good Citizen: 490, including realizing that I needed to insert an entire chapter before where I initially started writing. 

All Eternals Deck #2: 598, possibly all getting deleted when I redo the beginning because i figured out that I was doing it wrong…

Slavefic #6: 1,246, DIRELY in need of a POV change. Soon. Yes. 

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Saturday, July 15th, 2017 10:12 am
This week has been a doozy. First came the workplace politics, where I discovered someone believes I have been bullying a close friend of mine into doing things she doesn't want to do. It's such an astonishing mis-read of the situation that I was actually rendered speechless when I heard, and not only is it a horrible thing to think about me, it's a horrible thing to think about my friend. I have no idea what has prompted this interpretation of events, except to say that last night I remembered that the person who believes this is firm and fast friends with a former supervisor of mine, who famously remarked in a work evaluation of me that I wasn't nice enough. (Which - what? And second - can you imagine a man ever getting that in an eval? Me either.) I have no idea if their friendship is at play in this, but the last time I was so fundamentally misunderstood was that eval. For whatever that's worth.

Learning this was unbelievably painful, especially as it has repercussions for the department in which I serve, and I spent a lot of this week feeling very low about it all.

And then there was a situation where I did every last thing right, and ended up without a reimbursement on Wednesday as I'd been promised, and so things bounced at the bank, and I ended up with fees, and then I ended up in a mad scramble to make sure my water wasn't turned off. And then there was the letter about a loan from my retirement account that has been declared in default, which means I will owe taxes on it next spring, despite the bankruptcy proceedings. *HANDS* As I remarked to Rachel, I am the opposite of King Midas. Everything I touch turns to NOT gold.

But! I started bouncing back from all this junk on Thursday, and then my brother arrived yesterday for a weekend visit. It's so fun to have him here, and it's so easy to hang out with him. Today we're headed to the farmer's market and an art pop-up market and to hopefully have lunch with some friends. The weather has miraculously agreed to stay fairly cool while he's here, too, which is nice, since the last two times he's visited it's been above 90 his whole stay. We can get out and about much more pleasantly now! I feel really lucky that we've remade a relationship as adults, and that we've both turned out as good, fun people despite the odds. It's not true for everyone's situation, and I will count myself lucky to have this good thing come out of the ashes of the old.

Off to find green beans and corn and flowers ♥
Friday, July 14th, 2017 03:05 pm
Not books. And not articles that I ought to have been reading, nah.

I have been suffering from acute burnout brought on by having to interact with way too many people with not enough downtime for the last couple weeks. I thought I was doing okay, since TAing doesn't actually take up too much time--but I have to be ON, 100% when I'm around students, there's no half-assing it. And a bunch of students were super upset at their first assignment grades and started freaking out at me about it. I really need to get their next assignment graded (if not both of the ones they've handed in this week) so we can start talking about trends rather than having them endlessly angst over their performance.

I mean, that's what happens when you take a class in a condensed summer session, guys! Instead of ten weeks it's four!

I have had literally no brains available for my own research, though at least my PI is the nicest guy in the world and we chatted about giving my work this summer a focus, which is nice since otherwise it's like, "Read papers and think about things!" which is, er... broad.

Instead, I delved into NPR's list of 100 reader favorite comics and graphic novels and decided to pick up some webcomics. Like you do.

(Though: everyone's going to have their list of things that didn't make the list that are their particular favorites, and I'd like to throw out Super Indian by Arigon Starr, Digger by Ursula Vernon, and Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson (who also did the amazing and seminal Ozy and Millie.) End aside.)

I finally got around to reading Gunnerkrigg Court, which is just as wonderful as you have probably already heard. It's doing some interesting things with the MAGIC!/SCIENCE! divide, the characters are charming and the main character, Antimony, has been wrestling with real flaws throughout the comic and has gone through significant change. And her dramatic shift in the most recent arc was really well foreshadowed. Also, the creepy robot religious cult(s) is interesting and weird and I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops.

I also devoured Stand Still, Stay Silent which is GUH-AMAZING. The art is beautiful, the plot has been fun when it hasn't been rollercoaster-terrifying, and the characters are charming, adorable, and delightful. It's very much post-apocalyptic adventure-horror but at the same time the author describes it as "fluffy", which is kind of is! The last arc got sad.

So now I have what, a billion webcomics I'm following? Something like that.
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Friday, July 14th, 2017 09:15 pm
A mango mixed jelly freeze from Chinatown is the best decision I have made all week.

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Thursday, July 13th, 2017 10:02 pm
I really need to work on gratitude.

1. New medication for the dog, which means she no longer pees in her sleep. (Yes, it's a thing.)

2. Talking my oldest niece into reading the Montmaray novels. Which I then re-read over the weekend, and yes, I cried at that one point. (Oh, Carlos.)

3. Finally getting through to the VA about Dad's life insurance policy.

4. Making my awesome "Oceanside salad" and eating two bowls of it for dinner. [recipe below]

5. Borrowing ebooks from the local library.

*

Oceanside salad )

In other news, I really enjoyed the final Raksura novel by Martha Wells, enough to want to reread them all, except the last Court of Fives novel by Kate Elliott is coming out soon, so I want to reread all of those, but I really shouldn't.

Also, the Narnia fic exchange is up for signups this week, and I cannot decide...
Thursday, July 13th, 2017 01:00 am
My parents signed me up for Nextdoor, which is like some kind of community-based mini facebook, and I am signed up in their neighborhood, which is (as we have established) The Boondocks.

I don’t mind belonging to their Nextdoor, it means that I will be kept abreast of local news, but also the local news is hilarious. 

The latest messages concern a HEATED DISCUSSION about hoof trimming because someone posted asking if anyone knows a farrier who will trim miniature horse hooves, which apparently most farriers have some kind of BASELESS PREJUDICE against according to this poster. Battle lines are quickly being drawn between the various camps including:

Miniature horses don’t need hoof maintenance the way regular horses do
Miniature horses ABSOLUTELY need hoof maintenance you monsters
Farriers who won’t do miniature horse hooves ain’t shit
Farriers who won’t do miniature horse hooves have their reasons
Miniature horses are some bullshit
Everybody shut up about miniature horses
I Have A Miniature Horse For Sale

I can’t wait to see who wins. I suspect it will be me. 

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Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 11:39 pm
First off: CritRole episode 57: WHAT THE FAAAAAAAAAA--

Read more... )

Okay, so I was going to talk about other things I read.

Lagoon: This was a weird one for me. It's fascinating, but I felt kind of at sea most of the novel, not really feeling what was going on with the plot. It was incredibly atmospheric and rich and interesting and I recommend it, but it was also meandering.

1491: History of Americas before Columbus. Very good, very interesting, very brisk read. A lot more focused on South America than I would have thought (which is a little annoying because I'm mostly interested in civs around where I grew up,) but still really informative and cool.

The Conclave of Shadows trilogy: Okay, my dad has been trying to get me to read this one for a few years, and he was pretty into it. I was... not. I mean, it was kind of cute and fun, and I enjoyed reading it. Tal was kinda neat. But the third book, which had the most interesting initial premise, also was kind of the most of a letdown. And the way the books treated women felt seriously retrograde. On one hand, friendly wenches. On another hand, Evil Schemers. On a third hand, Noble and mostly not saying much. Also, it really felt like he only had one protagonist, and he wasn't nearly as interesting as Zelazny's protagonist.

Like, look, it's charming, it's fine, it's fun, but high fantasy's gotta give me something more if I'm going to get invested in more trilogies and more serieses and tons of backstory and different planes and gods and *skkzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*

Revisioning History: Collection of essays on historical films, and History on Film/Film on History: a book on the same subject by the editor of the first. The argument the author is making is that a movie about a historical subject is a legitimate method of portraying historical information which is subject to a set of biases that are real and that we should be cognizant of, but which are no more delegitimizing than the biases and exceptions/faults of book history. I'm not sure how much I buy the argument, but it certainly gave me a list of movies to check out!

I'm in the middle of Matt Ruff's Lovecraft County (I'm about a tenth of the way in), and it's cool so far but it also really feels like it's written for a white audience, rather than something written by and for a black audience. (This is notable because all the main characters are black and it's set in the 50s--the uncle of the main character writes and produces the Green Book.) I couldn't say how it reads to a black audience, and it's not bad or anything, it's just a little bit more explain-y and obvious about the race stuff than it necessarily needs to be. I'm looking forward to getting further into it.

Ahhhhh, of course, now I'm back at work and TAing and grading and one of my students is being obnoxious, and I'm not going to be able to read anything that isn't chemistry for the next four years.

Ahahahaa.

Ahahahaa.

I'm also in the middle of a book on the election of 1800, it's pretty fun. Mostly it's so far about the politics of the 1790s as backdrop, and by now I'm pretty familiar, but it's always nice to get a refresher.
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Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 11:03 pm
I just got home and the apartment REEKS of burnt toast. Which is weird since a) nothing is on fire (I checked), b) I haven’t even MADE toast in like a week, c) it didn’t smell like that this morning when I got home from running, and d) the smell is most intense when standing on my welcome mat just inside the door. 

I think Ghost is mad at me. They often express themselves with smells near the doorway. But I haven’t even done anything! The designated Ghost Drawer in the card catalogue shelf (under G, for Ghost) is open and everything, I checked. 

I cannot order you a pizza tonight, Ghost, I already have grocery delivery coming and I don’t want the Domino’s guy and the Peapod guy to make it awkward. We’ll have pizza on Thursday. 

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