"I am descended from people who fled religious persecution, and from people who murdered and oppressed others for land and power. I don't get to choose who I'm descended from, but I do get to choose whose memories to honor by my actions. I stand with the oppressed." -- Howard Tayler, 2017-01-27
The Game's Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany by Bradley H. Sinor
This is a collection of half a dozen short stories linked by having connections (sometimes tenuous) to the Sherlock Holmes universe. Because they were originally published in a variety of magazines or theme anthologies, the genre elements are variable. In a couple of the stories Holmes himself doesn't even appear, although other characters from the Holmesverse do. There's also one new story written specifically for the collection.
What makes this book worth picking up is the number of side-references and callouts to characters and universes which will be quite familiar to a genre reader. In various stories we encounter John Carter of Mars, Gilbert and Sullivan, and Mark Twain, as well as the Illuminati and more. (None of that is spoilery.) The stories themselves are well-written but not heavyweight, suitable for relaxing with after a long and tiring day. I did catch two typos that an editor should not have missed -- "compliment" used where the word should have been "complement", and someone "clamored" into the back of a vehicle rather than clambering. But those were relatively minor flaws in an otherwise enjoyable book. Rating: Three stars
The Big Kitty by Claire Donally
This is apparently the first book in a new cat mystery series. Sunny Coolidge, having returned from NYC to her small hometown in Maine to take care of her ailing father, finds herself stranded there when her city newspaper job evaporates out from under her. For lack of anything better, she takes an underpaid clerical position in the local Tourist Bureau and tries to make the best of it. When the local Crazy Cat Lady approaches her for help in finding a missing lottery ticket supposedly worth several million dollars, Sunny agrees; what else has she got to do? But the situation turns sinister when the woman is found dead in her house on the day Sunny goes over to help out. After that, you know the drill -- police who won't take her seriously, a suspect so obvious as to be a blatant red herring, people taking potshots at Sunny herself, and of course the handsome town constable who is gradually won over to Sunny both professionally and personally. Oh, and one of the old lady's cats, who has apparently attached himself to Sunny, much to the annoyance of her father. It's a very formulaic cat cozy mystery.
What lifts it above any number of other similar books is the author's non-standard approach to several of the standard facets.
- The cat, Shadow, is written far more realistically than most animal characters. Shadow can't talk, either to other animals or to the humans. He thinks the way a cat would think. He acts the way a cat would act. The human characters anthropomorphize him to a certain extent, but the author does not. There's one scene near the end that struck me as being a bit over the top, but I can No-Prize my way past that with a little rationalization.
- This is definitely not your standard idealized small town. Sunny left for a reason, and would love to go back to NYC if she could; she is far from blind to the disadvantages of small-town life. Snotty people with enough money to consider themselves the Upper Crust (aka the biggest fish in a very small pond), feuding neighbors, no concept of "minding my own business", an old high-school rivalry that heats back up again, petty crooks and people who scrape along by taking advantage of other people -- they're all present and part of the story. The Crazy Cat Lady has several people who seriously dislike her for entirely plausible reasons, and the town has a very seedy side.
- Sunny's father is a piece of work, both in the way he treats his daughter (who, remember, left a promising career to come back and take care of him) and in being determined to ignore every piece of advice from his doctors about medication, exercise, and diet. Plus he hates cats and fights with Sunny about having Shadow around, up to and including shoving him out the door after Sunny has gone to bed. Also, one of his neighbors, a widow of some years' standing, is clearly determined to snag him, and the desperation angle is... not dwelt on, but also not handwaved away.
Overall, a pretty good book, but if the series goes on for very long it's going to fall into the usual problem with small-town mystery series -- it's just not plausible to have that many murders in a population that small. Not to mention that it's one of those books which reminds me very clearly why I would never want to live in the sticks. I may look for the next couple of books in the library and see if they're good enough to carry my interest forward. Rating: Three stars, with a minor downcheck for hitting a couple of my twitchy points.
The Midnight, Texas books by Charlaine Harris
This is a trilogy, and I don't think she's planning to extend it -- which is a shame. This is Harris having a little fun by mashing together minor characters from several of her other series, and it's very enjoyable.
Book 1: Midnight Crossroad
The protagonist in these books is Manfred Bernardo, who was my favorite minor character from the Harper Connelly series, so that automatically gives it a boost right from the start. Manfred, at loose ends after the death of his beloved grandmother Xylda, is looking for a place to settle in and maintain his business as an online psychic consultant, and a house for rent in the sleepy little town of Midnight seems like just the thing. Unlike many small West Texas towns, the Internet access in Midnight is excellent because there's a branch of an online-game company in the next town over. The next town over is also where you go to buy things like groceries, because the nearest thing to a grocery store in Midnight is the convenience store at the corner where the town's one traffic light hangs.
We get to meet the town and its inhabitants right along with Manfred. His landlord is Bobo Winthrop (one of my favorite minor characters from the Shakespeare series), and across the street is Fiji Cavanaugh, a practicing witch who runs a metaphysical shop with feminist workshops on the side. There's the usual assortment of other colorful characters, and Manfred quickly notices something: people in Midnight, unlike those in your average small town, don't pry into your personal business and side-eye you if they think you're prying into theirs. This suits him fine.
There's a nice slow buildup in the book which fits well with the lazy pace of the town, but to make a long story short, yes, everyone in town has a secret of some type, many (but not all) of which are revealed in the course of the story. And then the body of Bobo's fiancee, who had disappeared mysteriously a while ago, turns up at what was supposed to be a town picnic, which rather puts a crimp in the festivities. Things get hairier from there, and it will not be a spoiler to say that the Big Bads in this story are a bunch of white supremacist terrorists, who are stalking Bobo because of some weird shit in his own past (which readers of the Shakespeare series may recall). And even with all that, there's an unexpected twist or two at the end. Overall, a very satisfactory book because it draws you in and makes you care about the characters right from the start. Rating: Three stars
Book 2: Day Shift
The dilapidated old Midnight Hotel is getting a serious renovation, and everyone is wondering where the catch is. In the meantime, Manfred goes to Dallas to do some face-to-face readings, and one of his clients collapses and dies during their session. This client proves to have two things that cause a great deal of trouble for Manfred: a significant (and now missing) collection of expensive jewelry, and a ne'er-do-well son who is convinced that Manfred stole it from his mother's body.
This book is more difficult to summarize than the first one, because there are three interlocking plots. In addition to Manfred's troubles over his dead client, there is also the mystery of what's going on with the hotel, and a secondary mystery involving Olivia Charity, one of the other residents of Midnight. And then there's the Reverend Emilio Sheehan, a dour but devout man who has a couple of secrets of his own... There's also a brief appearance by someone who I think must be a side character from the Sookie Stackhouse books, but I haven't read those. Overall, it's a fairly dense and interesting story with all sorts of Shenanigans that Manfred (and Olivia and Fiji and Bobo) have to sort out. Rating: Three stars
Book 3: Night Shift
People are killing themselves in the intersection of Midnight's two main streets, for no apparent reason. The secrets from Olivia's past are starting to catch up with her. And Fiji's largely-estranged sister Waikiki (Kiki for short) (their parents loved to travel) invites herself for an extended visit and promptly sets her sights on Bobo. This book is a nice mix of lightweight and serious plot arcs, with just a bit of Lovecraftian horror for spice, and it neatly wraps up several loose ends and character arcs (which is probably why there aren't going to be any more books). Rating: Three stars.
I recommend the whole series highly if you like Harris' other books, or if you like urban fantasy with interesting plots and well-rounded characters -- they're all quirky, but they're far more than a collection of quirks glued to cardboard cutouts. The fact that Midnight survives as a town with as few residents and as little traffic as it has... well, I'm willing to take that as the author's One Big Assumption and ride with it. And it's a fun ride.
Also, it looks as though they're capitalizing on the success of True Blood by making a TV show out of Midnight as well:
Aside from (1) none of the characters look anything like their descriptions in the books and (2) it appears that they're really ramping up the horror angle, which is relatively low-key in the books, it might be interesting to watch.
Other Days, Other Eyes by Bob Shaw
If you're a fan of a certain age, you probably remember a short story called "Light of Other Days" -- or at least the term "slow glass". If you don't remember, suffice it to say that "slow glass" is a type of material, not really glass at all, which has the property of transmitting light extremely slowly -- a sheet of it 1/4" thick can take up to 5 years to start showing an image on the other side. Well, it appears that Shaw wrote a couple of other slow-glass stories, and then patched them together with a framing story to make a novel, and you can still find used copies of said novel. (It's a short novel of the type you used to get in the 60s and 70s, not one of today's 300-pagers.)
I am pleased to report that the book holds up reasonably well. There are some dated stereotypes, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's had a visit from the Suck Fairy, and the framing story is still very relevant in concept if not in detail -- it's about the rise of technology that promotes government surveillance. The characterization is fairly good, with both main characters having noticeable flaws (which help explain some of the stereotypes). The protagonist's arc is... well, let's just say that I was expecting something less predictable after a couple of things that happened, but oh well. The three short stories are presented as "interludes", but the relevant details in them are woven into the framing story very nicely. The one downcheck is the third short story, which I think is too closely tied to its period to hold up well -- it's about an American POW in Vietnam. The other two are more universally applicable; one is about grief, and the other about justice. Rating: Three stars
In general, life is still good, except for the "lack of steady income" thing. Last week (two Mondays ago) I actually had a phone interview for an editing job at a software company in Beltsville. One of the other dancers in the Lithuanian dance group works there and said I should use her name. I *thought* it went well, but then late Friday afternoon I got one of those emails that said "thanks but no thanks, we went in a different direction." Wanna bet that that "direction" involves someone 20 years younger than yours truly?
What else happened this month? The boy toy and I checked out downtown Ellicott City to see how it is recovering from last year's disastrous flood, and we also went to Mount Vernon on Feb. 22, when admission was free. I even saw General Washington posing with kids and families. He looked pretty good for a 285-year-old. :-D :-D
Last week the boy toy and I finally got to see Rogue One. Probably we were among the last Americans to see it on the silver screen. But, hey, money had been tight for a while. And it will be again. It's amazing how fast I can blow through a big freelance paycheck -- when that involves catching up on the mortgage, utilities, and other bills.
Perhaps most wonderfully, I went to *two* SCA events: Bright Hills Baronial Birthday and Storvik Performers' Revel. I did some things that I haven't done for a while: at the former I shot three arrows (with borrowed equipment) and at the latter I played my bowed psaltery for a bit. Both events featured scrumptious feasts. I feel "back in the SCA" again, even though I obviously never left.
Speaking of the SCA, today I bought a twin bed -- for camping use -- at IKEA. I just happened to notice that today was the last day of a bed sale, and the cheapest, simplest wood bed frame was 15 percent off. Even with the slats, it's still cheaper than most of the heavyweight-capacity cots I've seen (yes, I am heavy). And it will fit inside Draco (the new-to-me car) if I put the back seat down and lay the side rails on the diagonal. FINALLY I will be up off the ground at long camping events!!!
Content Warning: Depression
Everything came to a head and I skipped dance in favour of hiding in the basement and curling into a little tight Katball1 Eventually I started sobbing, probably not as quietly as I thought, because I managed to summon my sir in about a minute and a half.
It's been almost seven years formal and more'n nine informal and I really really hate that I'm still so messed up that I need to sob blankly on his shoulder and I am still flabbergastedly lucky that he loves me so much and cares for me so much and is the one person in all the world I can consistently count on to come find me when I cry.
I used to dream of someone noticing I was missing and coming to find me. I can only take help if it's offered, and I dreamed for years and _years_ of someone actually doing so and suddenly it was NEFFA and being dragged out into the sunshine and given a hug and actually genuinely cared about and suddenly eight years of wanting something became true and...
...and it hasn't stopped being true. Crying alone in the bathroom in fifth grade was over a decade and a half ago.
Anyways, "why now" and "why today" are what my mind is wondering, what caused the stress and anxiety and eight hundred things I have not done to finally bubble over. I think I know: it's because I let myself read. And I think my brain knows reading books --reading randomly and joyously and spontaneous things I picked up off the shelf for no one but myself-- is a selfish act and a leisure act and not something I can justify in any way as being good for me.
(Even PokeGo at least gets the excuse that I was outside and walking)
I read five Clementine books (where was she when I was a child, I have always needed these books.) and I need to buy copies of all of them someday, I love them so very much in no small part because they feel so familiar. And then I read a book called the Book Scavenger, which is excellent and has my new favourite geogame and also some ciphers (<3 <3 <3!!!). I enjoyed all of it.
None of them were books that I checked out from the library and therefore need to read. Nor the ARC of Magic for Nothing that I won from Seanan McGuire (and I am really truly absolutely thrilled to have won it and I hate how scared I am that I'm not even going to manage to read it in a remotely timely manner.)
They were just...frivolous, but worse, JOYFUL frivolous, not like the usual depressive mind rot of quietly playing video games.
1: Katball is never actually a good thing. If I tell you on IM that's what I'm doing, it's because I want attention and affection and distraction amd anything to make me feel like less of a colossal fuckup.
...and that's as far as I got last night. I fell very asleep while trying to work out how much life I was about to lose in Habitica and whether I could mitigate it at all. (Woke up at about 1:30, which was enough time to brush my teeth and double-check my alarm being set and the like).
Today has been better, but largely and only because I've been looking dedicatedly forward to having a Getting Things Done night with Kate Monster2.
Okay, and also today has been better because I found a dead rabbit in pretty good condition and ruthfully convinced [Unknown site tag] to put it in his freezer for me (ie: I asked if I could store it there and he offered to grab it for me) and now I have brought it to Kate as a friendship offering3. Yay! ((Yes, I texted Kate first to make sure she was actually still into taxidermy and dead things, I am not that much of an asshole. Alsoyes, all the Kates I know are into taxidermy. It's pretty cool.))
Soyeah. I'm gonna go and try and deal with the fucking *weeks* of email backlog that I've been ignoring. Especially important since a majority of it is relatively simple input to IMPORTANT DANCE STUFF and arrrgaggggggagagg. Other goals for tonight potentially involve editing and sending out three months backlog of TMC minutes, and mebbe drawing an Artbook4 for Sexy Self Comics Day tomorrow.
((Terminal optimism is how I fight Depression, and virtually everything else wrong with my brain.))
2: Kate Monster is a friend from college! No really, I met her at like...the pre-college orientation and then again on the very first day and found out she's into rpgs and cool shit like that. Alas, she was an AiB kid, so we never had any classes together, and mostly didn't get a chance to hang when actually in college.
But we've been Facebook friends all this time, and a couple weeks ago when I posted "anyone wanna do a Diesel Work-in-Company" she jumped. We closed out Diesel, and then spent ninety minutes in sub-freezing temperatures chatting about pokemon, the internet, friends, and our respective lives. It was really good!
She texted me on Friday asking if I wanted to do another one, so that's why we're hanging out at the Harvard Sq Starbucks tonight. :3
3: I have "Red Roses and Dead Things" stuck in my head and it's totally making me wish I was romantically interested in Kate in the slightest (even separate from her presumed-mono boyfriend, I'm just...not?) Like she's cool as hell and I want to be her friend and for her to think I'm neato, but I have brought dead things to someone just as a friend and I am a little sad at the missed opportunity.
4: Artbooks are my little eight (well, okay, six and a front cover and a very minimal back cover) page sketchbooks that I make for random occasions such as "have some time, paper, and a pencil". I have like, two incomplete ones right now that I really ought to do, SIGH. But I also tend to do one every other year or so for SSCD.
"Fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the good Samaritan, who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him." -- Pope Francis
[Yesterday was the start of Great Lent in the Orthodox churches, and tomorrow starts Lent in Western churches. To all my family and friends who are celebrating Lent either way, may you have a moving and spiritually productive Lenten season as the calendar marches toward Easter!]
The badge lottery system isn't all bad. There's a certain feel of "let the cards fall where they may" ♥
*Knocking Over the Table, by astolat
(One year I participated in the badge lottery just for the hell of it. I already had a badge, but I joined the sale anyway because it's so exciting. I'm sure they love people like me.)
*Andrea: Still no badges. The internet is freaking out.
Aaron: People can make plans without badges. Flights, hotel rooms… you can make reservations and cancel them later.
*Andrea: Not in San Diego during Comic-Con, you can't.
Writing things as fictional accounts - or writing them as ::handwaving:: meditations on a specific incident or theme? whatever this is that I do here - adds a very happy filter* that makes the sensory input involved in reliving experiences more tolerable and even pleasant.
Yay happy filters!
*ETA: Which I believe means the answer to this question, "it makes me wonder what I would learn about myself if I read something I'd written that wasn't obscured by another story," is "I'd rather not know, after all."
I swear I've tried to google this before, twice with some amount of seriousness: the first time I was like, okay, is it really dehydration or nothing? Dehydration was also what my personal trainer said at the time (followed by "I've never heard of that, it could be something serious"). I drank more water but it didn't help, so I backed off the weight training and started taking Advil before long races.
The second time I searched I was long convinced it's not dehydration, and also pretty sure it's not something serious. I determined that many people experience the same frustration ("it's not dehydration, dammit!") and many other people genuinely have no idea what we're talking about. Basically you either get exertion headaches, in which case you're like, "yeah, it sucks, but no one knows a damn thing about it," or you don't get exertion headaches, in which case you're like, "you get headaches when you exercise? that sounds fake, but okay."
Well, the running headaches have mostly gone away in the past couple years, so I didn't think much about it until I started weight training again. Last Friday, bam, intense head pain while I was doing chinups. Like if pain was lightning it just lights up the nerve endings in my brain for no reason.
Right, I thought, this happens when I push too hard. I should have taken two days off instead of one, I should have lowered the weight as soon as my head started hurting, etc. (The intense pain goes away when I stop exercising, but a dull ache lingers for days, and Advil is only partially effective.)
I took two days off over the weekend - just enough time for my headache to go away! - and when I went back to chinups today I forgot that I had been setting the weight to 120 (easier) instead of 100 (harder). I did six chinups at 100 before the stabbing pain returned. (It's that fast; it doesn't come on slowly, it just lances through my head and then stays until I stop exerting myself. It's awesome.)
So back to google with me. The first results were again, blah blah dehydration, low blood sugar, is it possible there's something seriously wrong with your head... Okay, one, I am super hydrated. Two, I am super conscious of my blood sugar all the time. Three, I started noticing this problem five years ago, so if there were something that wrong with my brain I'm pretty sure I'd be dead by now.
My point is, exertion headaches! Totally a thing!
"Exertion headaches usually strike in younger people, from adolescence through age 50. This type of headache usually occurs with lengthy exercise sessions. The headache usually pops up at the height of exercise and the pain typically fades when the exercise stops. However, in certain cases the exertion headaches can last up to two days."
A pulsing or throbbing headache, lasting 5 minutes to 48 hours, that only happens during or after physical exercise. Typical triggers include - you guessed it - weight lifting and running long distances. Sweet!
I assume that since they eventually went away on long runs, they'll eventually go away with the weights, too. In the meantime, for crying out loud, *Andrea. Take it easy. Supposedly caused by increased blood pressure in the brain, which can be alleviated by lowering the weight to decrease stress. As you know.
Good luck to squeaky with the recovery!
"It is alarming that in a series of catastrophic executive policy decisions -- the president's Muslim travel ban, his selection of Steve Bannon as his main political adviser, his short-lived appointment of Michael Flynn as national security adviser, his proposal to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem -- there seems to be a single common element: the stigmatization and provocation of Muslims. In rhetoric and action, the Trump administration has aggrandized 'radical Islamic terror' thus making what Madison called a 'favorable emergency' more likely." -- Timothy Snyder, 2017-02-26, "The Reichstag Warning"
♥ prequel (I don't think it ever had a title)
I don't recommend that anyone read this story, but I have a sentimental attachment to it, so I'm reconstructing it (and backing it up!) for my own entertainment. It has a beginning and an ending, which is exciting, but large pieces of the early middle are missing.
And it's still not the story I was looking for! There's a story after this one, that I wrote before it, but it's possible that I wrote it… by hand. Like, not on a computer. Pretty sure that's going to make it harder to find.
Marci: All of life is a game. That's what I learned from that guy who ran the Rec Room on the Enterprise.
*Andrea: Diane Duane, Spock's World. And The Wounded Sky.
Marci: Ken, or something.
*Andrea: Harb Tanzer.
*Andrea: Because I was ten when I wrote this, and I thought people couldn't help rolling their eyes. Which is true, if you're me.
Marci: I vastly overuse eye-rolling in my stories.
*Andrea: ...Unfortunately I can't remember what you said after that.
Marci: Probably for the best.
Lynn: How do I forward an e-mail?
Marci: I appreciate the fact that your stories are so angst-free. I mean, especially with Andros and his terrible angsty past, but no! A movie night or two and he's fine! Teenagers get over these things.
*Andrea: And if they have friends, they get over things faster. Or their friends cause them more angst they have to get over. Often both.
Marci: This kind of reminds me of when we were audio-taping "Greatest American Hero," and you could hear Mom and Dad setting the table in the background.
*Andrea: It's like those DVD commentaries on TV shows where everyone starts talking about something else while the show keeps playing in the background, and you're like, "You're not even talking about the show anymore!" But it keeps playing. This doesn't keep playing unless I keep copying it. Clearly I should copy more.
Marci: Yes. Also, recommended for people who bought Season 3 of "MacGyver": four emergency blankets.
Marci: So did DECA fly the ship while they were all down on the planet? I never really thought about that.
*Andrea: Well, they were in orbit. How hard is it to keep a ship in orbit?
Marci: Um, I don't know.
*Andrea: Yes. I think DECA flew the ship.
Marci: DECA is awesome. Props for DECA. Ooh, hummingbird!
*Andrea: The funniest thing about this commentary is how it's a massive failure to commentary anything at all.
Marci: But it's good.
*Andrea: That's true.
...It's possible "six" might be generous. There may only be one story that I write over and over again.
From the Quotation of the day mailing list, 2017-01-21:
"It will take some time before the number of people watching on TV is revealed, but some viewers must have had that eerie feeling that a perverse revival of Dynasty was under way. The incoming president gave a speech livid with populist fury, an indictment of "the establishment" and yet, in his person, demeanour and in reality, he confirms that the establishment, the force of true power remains anchored in old white men with a comb-over and decades-younger wife." -- John Doyle, television critic, on the Trump inauguration.
(submitted to the mailing list by Mike Krawchuk)
The prequel to the story I'm looking for was written in AppleWorks 2. Do you know what preceded AppleWorks 2?
Paper and pencil.
(PS, The prequel was on an unlabeled disk. Of course.)
(PPS, That disk now has a label, which is highly descriptive and useful: "important things!")
In any ordinary situation, she reflected, drawing her handblaster, she would have considered that a good thing. But ever since the locals had started randomly trying to raid incoming ships, Teris had become more tolerant of the law. It was incredibly annoying to be shot at before she’d even done anything wrong.
…There are a lot of smugglers in my stories.
ETA: Hah! Her eyes glow AND change color! I love it!
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EDIT 26 Feb noon EST: LJ unblocked and whitelisted us this morning, so all is working again!