Sunday, December 22, 2013

StorifyHelp replies, I click "Publish" again, and it works

So I returned to my Storify account, found the story at the bottom of the Profile window (Zoe had to show me yesterday that it was down there.) and didn't see a "Publish" button. But I found an Edit button and reasoned that I could Edit and then try Publish again. That worked, though before clicking "Publish" I checked, just in case there were more Jeffrey tweets. I was glad I checked, because there were two more, which leaves the story with two more interesting tweets than had ended it last night.
I had added " - 1" after the title, just in case Storify does not permit additions after "Publish", but now it looks like it wasn't needed.
I spent time yesterday trying to find the answer to whether I could edit after Publish. This resulted in Storify tweeting that question to my regular Twitter stream. I had thought I was was just adding the question to the comments section of their support blog, which was the only way I had found to ask a question. I deleted the tweet when I saw it in my regular stream because it looked stupid out of context: "Can I edit a story after I Publish it?"
So, bad automated interface, but how nice that they have Storifyhelp humans working on the weekend to answer questions.

Collecting Philip Pullman's Tweets on Jeffrey the House Fly using Storify

Phillip Pullman was tweeting about a fly in his house. It reminded me of when I was blogging about a spider web I was seeing in the ladies room at work, only I look back at those blog entries as possibly a sick manifestation of the creative desperation of my life at that time, whereas Pullman's tweets about Jeffrey the housefly and all that follows are charming, intriguing, and delightfully written. I set up an account on Storify to collect the Jeffrey Tweets, because it's more pleasant to read the story in chronological order. When you read Tweets directly from Twitter, they are all reverse chronological because it's more natural to read from the top down.

I'm hoping my daughter or husband might draw some pictures to illustrate it.

I had some difficulty with the Storify User Interface, and ended up having to re-insert half the Tweets after they were lost. I finally finished a 2nd time late tonight. I had thought I'd finished it around noon today and had to make pancakes in penance for ignoring children while I was trying to put it together..

And the link is still not working. Not a good GUI for Storify.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yankee Candle Fundraiser Magazine Subscription Wastes Trees and Time

My daughter's school was having a Yankee Candle Fundraiser. I didn't want any of the Yankee Candles, but the fundraising catalog also included magazine subscriptions. So I ordered a magazine subscription. Weeks later, the order arrives in a box. My daughter is excited: What's in the box?

Inside the box is a piece of paper with a postcard and a website address and an activation code. I need to either send in the postcard or go to the website in order to get the magazine subscription.

Could they have saved 2 or 3 bucks off the subscription price by not sending this information in a box? How about an envelope? Or an email? Or just signing me up for the subscription, as I expected would happen?

Maybe they save enough money from people losing the coupons to make it worth it.

Not wanting to waste my $15, I log onto the website and fill in the information and the name of what magazine I want, again.

They send me a confirmation email:
Dear Margery,

Thank you for ordering from and supporting our fundraiser!
Please review the details for order #12345 below. ...
Please remember it takes between 8 and 10 weeks for your magazine subscription(s) to begin.
8 to 10 weeks. The irony is, my order is for a subscription to Fast Company.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Complaint about a 1953 Philip K Dick story - Imposter

With spoilers, of course:

OK, so it's in this robot anthology: Souls in Metal, published in 1978. It was in the bookcase at home. It reprinted robot stories written between 1938 to 1974.

Imposter, by Philip K Dick, is a very dramatic story. The narrative is in the third person, but the point of view is limited to one character--a man, or so we think, who's working on an important military project. His name in Olham. He seems like just a normal guy, with a wife, a love of the outdoors, and a longing to take a break, a camping trip, in the woods outside of town.

But, no, we find out he's suspected of being a robot--a spy robot--sent by the alien enemy. The robot has landed in a spaceship in the woods outside of town, and murdered the main character after first copying out the man's memories and impersonating him. The robot contains a bomb, that will be set off the moment the man utters a triggering phrase. The danger is that the robot will carry the bomb into the heart of the Secret Military Project and set it off.

The main character knows they must be wrong, and does his best to prove who he really is. After clever plot twists, he escapes and makes his way to the spaceship where the robot landed. He wants to prove the robot failed his mission. Instead, he finds his own dead body. In despair, he says, "But if that's Olham, then I must be---"

Oh no! That was the triggering phase. The story ends with:

The blast was visible all the way to Alpha Centauri.

And I thought, "Wow," and then, "Huh?"

Because the triggering phrase was obviously the result of seeing his own dead body, that is, he was set up to explode exactly where the robot found him in the first place.

Which made me wonder, why would the aliens bother with the whole robot thing, if the blast from exactly where their spaceship landed would be seen all the way to Alpha Centauri? All they needed was to set off the bomb immediately. What happened to the purpose of the robot to take the bomb into the heart of the Project? Did the aliens then fail? That wasn't the implication. The implication was that blast blew up all of Earth, kabloom. So, anyway, it doesn't make sense. Did I miss something? If not, then,

How did Dick get away with it?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Playing with clay at Castle Hill

So, looking back at my wish list from earlier this year, one of the items was "I want to play with clay." I had a week's vacation to take this summer. I did web-searches for short writing and art classes that would meet the week I had off. I found the Castle Hill Art Center in Truro MA, Cape Cod. 

We rented a cottage. The weather was beautiful. We even managed to avoid the bad traffic, somehow, renting Sunday to Sunday. If only Zubie hadn't had a major bad-back episode for the entire time, culminating in a Wednesday afternoon (perfect beach weather) ambulance ride to Cape Cod hospital in Hyannis (thank you Kennedys), it would have been a glorious vacation. 

The sculpture class reminded me how much I like sculpture. I've been working on wire mermaids since then. I've been neglecting story-writing, and that feels bad. The mermaid-sculpting is fun. Maybe I'll have stuff ready for Arisia this year.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tonight's quick miso soup

Filled & started electric tea kettle.
In the meantime diced up some onions and carrot, about :
  • diced quarter of a large red onion
  • diced small carrot
Saute'ed in a few tablespoons oil.
Added a chunk of miso. About
  • 3 tablespoons? miso
Stirred in the hot water, with about 2 tablespoons of leftover tomato-basil sauce to use it up from the jar.
Added about
  • 3/4 cup frozen spinach
Sprinkled in the following spices:
  • ginger (very little)
  • sage (tiny bit)
  • cumin
  • coriander 
  • garlic powder
  • a bit of black pepper
It's not great, but not as terrible as experimentation might warrant. Rather warm and soothing.
Just recording the ingredients for improvement later.
I think the ginger is important, even though in a small quantity.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Last Sunday's Fish Chowder


  • About 5 or 6 large red potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (leave some slivers of red peel).
  • less than a pound or so of fish chunks (I used the Trader Joe's frozen cod pieces, inexpensive fish)
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into disks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • red onion diced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • spice to taste:
    • dill (optional)
    • tarragon (optional)
    • basil (optional)
    • ground bay leaf (or add a whole bay leaf before adding the carrots)
    • parsley
    • paprika
    • fresh ground pepper
    • salt


Peel and slice potatoes, add to soup pot until they fill about 1/2 way up.
Rinse, discard rinse water, and then fill with enough water to cook the potatoes.
When they are close to cooked, add the carrots.

In a saucepan, saute the diced red onion in olive oil and butter. Add flour, stir it around and let it brown. Gradually add in about 3/4 cup milk until you have a cream sauce.

Add the fish pieces to the potatoes in the soup pot, then stir in the cream sauce. Thin the chowder out with more milk.

Spice to taste.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I don't know Spanish, but my husband is from Chile. From his dad, we learned a great thing to yell at kids when you want to get them out of bed in the morning:
Alza arriba!
Trinca el coy!
Coy a la batayola!

Here's his translation/pronunciation guide:

Alza arriba! - AL-sa  a-RRI-bha (literally loft upwards)
[RR meaning hard R like Rabbit]

Trinca el coy! - TRIN-ca El COy (tie up your hammock, which is otherwise known as "hamaca". "Trincar" in general parlance means to bind up or corner in)
[R meaning soft R like train]

Coy a la batayola! - COy  A LAH   BAH-tah-yoeh-lah (Put the hammock away on the batayola which I think means bulkhead stringer, some sort of shelf structure along the hull or bulkhead)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ready for a Red Wedding?

I watched the first season of Game of Thrones this weekend. Unlike those who watched it before June 7 of this year, I think I may have benefited from the protection of all of those Red Wedding Tweets and news stories. As I watched the story unfold, I thought:
"What a nice family. They're all going to DIE." 
I didn't fall in love, though I have to admit I particularly like the younger daughter. She's fun.

I was even annoyed at the dad's honorable stubbornness. Didn't he know what story he's in?

Of course, do any of us?

What kind of story are you in?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Yes, I did finish

Not to leave my non-existent readers hanging, I thought I should post that I did indeed finish The Casual Vacancy. I also finished building the garden and moving in the tomatoes and cucumber plants. I'll post a photo of the garden if I'm ever home when the sun is out.

I did like the book. It did make me wonder if J. K. Rowling will always be bursting full of characters. I liked that all the characters were understandable--none were entirely good or bad. Unlike in the Potter volumes, there was no obvious main character. At the end of the book, I realized there probably had been a main character, and it wasn't whom I would have expected it to be from the beginning. That was fitting, because the novel illustrated the error in judging and dismissing a person. 

You could derive this moral from the novel:  
Pay attention to your kids, and pay attention to other people's kids too. 
 Spoiler alert: Very sad things happen.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

four tomato plants, forty dollars and four hours later

    You see, the best luck I ever had growing tomatoes was when I was living in the middle floor of a triple-decker in Medford MA. I bought some cherry tomato plants on impulse outside at the local Rite Aid, (the one we could walk to, on the corner of Rt 60 & Rt 28, on the border with Malden).
    I put the tomato plants in giant plastic flower pots on the back porch and they produced wonderful tomatoes. The only plant that didn't produce tomatoes was in the smallest of the big pots, so I reasoned that you need big pots to produce tomatoes.
    Fast forward thirteen years and on impulse I buy a 4-pack of cherry tomato plants from the Farm and Flower Market in Manchester NH. I planted them in the only surviving pot on the back porch but I knew it was just a temporary tomato home. Weeks have gone by. The tomatoes are too big and one is toppling over. My husband has suggested the idea that he might build a "raised bed" garden for them at the end of the driveway, but that has not happened.
    Today I take one of the kids and we go to Devrient Farm to get a bag of potting soil. They're out, but I leave with a flower pot containing a 'pickling' cucumber plant, and some fresh off-the-truck strawberries to just eat. They suggest Goffstown Hardware for the potting soil.
    I look in Big Lots for big pots but don't want to pay $14 for an ugly one. I try Goffstown Hardware store and the hardware guy sells me a 'kit' for building a raised garden bed ("These were on sale last week, but today I'll still give you the sale rate of $29.99." "Will it fit all four tomato plants?" "Oh, yes.") and a bag of garden soil that the guy says will be big enough but I don't think so. It remains to be seen.
    I spend an hour searching the house for a screwdriver with the right bit and my electric drill ("Before I married, I had an electric drill with all the bits in the package. Where is it? And where's the case for my profile sander? Why is it out of its case? And how do I know the missing drill bits aren't buried in this sawdust? Can't you clean the sawdust.." most of which was said downstairs while my husband the target of all this was upstairs. Probably a good thing.) and then trying to figure out the relatively simple directions for putting together the 4x4 raised bed kit: four posts, eight boards, 20 screws, and 4 square caps for the posts.
    I dig out the section near the front door where we've decided to put it. Not as sunny as it ought to be, but the underlying soil is good there, unlike near the driveway where it's not. It's also a pretty spot to add a 4x4 mini-corral, so we could always plant shade-loving flowers if the tomatoes don't work out. For this season, it's also a good spot because we'll see the tomatoes as we walk in and out and remember to take care of them.
    I cut up the grass by stepping on the shovel. I find lots of small rocks and four very large flat-ish rocks, three of which I pull out of the square. With all those rocks out, it is now a sunken garden bed. After pulling out the third rock and standing it up against the 'raised bed' fence I was just too tired to do any more.
    Shower and supper. To be continued tomorrow.
    Tomatoes and their new cuke pal are still on the back porch.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I just started reading The Casual Vacancy

It's great to read JK Rowling freed from Potter: her wicked observations of character allowed to be from a grown-up point of view, and her characters with access to modern technology such as mobile phones and websites.

I've got a library-booksale tape cassette version of the first Harry Potter book playing in my '97 Corolla. In a recent crisis, "there wasn't enough time to get an owl to Charlie" to modify a plan to collect an illicit dragon. Too bad Charlie and the kids didn't have access to telephones. What magic.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Cold Potato-Dill Soup : Instant

I threw this together the other night and it came out pretty good, considering the level of effort. Decent comfort food. Fat-free, if made with skim milk.

Ingredient list with approximate amounts:
  • 1/4 C Potato Flakes (We use "Idaho" brand)
  • 1/4 C Hot Water
  • 1/2 C Milk
  • 2 or 3 ice cubes
Spices shaken in from their bottles. Very rough guess as to amount. Add "to taste":
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Directions (Serves 1):
Fill the electric tea kettle to its minimum amount and turn it on.
Pour the instant mashed potato flakes into the bottom of a deep soup bowl.
Stir in the dill flakes so that it's a nice-looking mixture with the green mixed into the white.
Also stir in the garlic and salt, so that it can all dissolve when you
Add the hot water and stir it until it dissolves and is smoothly mixed in.
Stir in milk until smooth.
At this point, it's not cold enough, so add the 2 or 3 ice cubes and keep stirring until they melt.
Sprinkle some paprika on top.

Nice cold summer soup, with minimum effort. I hope you like it.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Oz the Great And Powerful - Comments, with Spoilers

There was a lot that was good in the movie but it had two major flaws.

The biggest flaw is that if you're going to set up the story at the beginning with a lot of real-life issues that need to be resolved, then he needs to go back to Kansas at the end to resolve them. I'm all in favor of Oz being a real place, so he has to stay in Oz because Dorothy has to meet him there later, but if that's the ending you're going to have then you need a beginning that allows for that. The ending set up was one where he apologizes to his friend and proposes to the woman he loves. Smooching her avatar at the end does not provide the necessary closure.

There was a marvelous moral closure from the setup where Oscar tells the woman he loves that he doesn't want to be a good man like his father, he wants to be great. Then at the end of the film Glinda points out that through his experience he has learned that goodness is better than greatness. Lesson learned, but we needed to see it acted upon.

The other flaw was the actor playing the future Wicked Witch of the West (Mila Kunis as "Theodora"). Yes, it was a cartoon role with simple lines, but a better actor would have given it the range it needed, and the range that would have made it enjoyable to watch.

Her sister "Evanora" was better, but she kind of suffered from lack of plot. She didn't have enough backstory or motivation. Something missing.
There are parts of the story that just seem inadequate, like it was created without enough love.

Nothing was missing in the opening sequences. The movie was great and moved wonderfully for the entire in-Kansas part. Although you had to question whether the magician's audience really were so unsophisticated that he couldn't have just said said to the little girl something along the lines of "I'm an illusionist, sweetie. I don't perform miracles. I'm sorry." People nowadays don't expect magicians to be actually performing magic, but we love to watch them anyway. Was the 1890's audience that much different? But, OK, the action flowed through the Kansas sequences, so questions like that really weren't a problem.

The tornado scene was a lot of fun.

I liked the mechanical creation of magic as a solution to what seemed to be an impossible task. That was a great piece of the plot. The fog and mechanical robots to trap the evil flying baboons was a great idea. The projection of Oz in the cloud of smoke was a wonderful effect and fairly set up.

I loved the beginning with Kansas being both black and white and also a smaller square screen. Then Oz opens out as wide and colorful.

I did find the colors kind of not quite right. The look worked for the Alice in Wonderland movie, but it didn't please me as Oz. Of course, that's the set designer's prerogative. I did like the dramatic landscape, cliffs and trees.

The people traveling in bubbles was from one of the books. It was fun to recognize that.

When the movie came out I was afraid it would be Gregory Maguire's blood-soaked Oz. It was a relief that it wasn't.

The opening credits were great. The closing credits dragged, and the song changed before the credits were over from the waltz that fit the grand-retro mood into a contemporary sort of thing that didn't go with the mood at all.

Another thing that felt unresolved was that the Wizard had an entire bottle of glue. Why not look through the china town and see if there's anyone else they could glue together? I kept expecting them to get around to it and they didn't. They seemed to be setting it up with the china girl asking for him to grant the wish of restoring her family. But then they didn't do it. It seemed wrong.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

the key to happiness

My boss said that the key to happiness is having reasonable expectations. People are often unhappy because they want too much--they want what they can't have. 

I agreed with him. Sincerely. I thought, I have great kids, a loving husband. We're healthy. We live within our means and don't try to own more. I'm happy. 

Though of course, not wanting is not a complete philosophy. If we're all content with only what is reasonable to expect, the society would stagnate. Businesses would fail. We need to want what we maybe can't have in order to write novels or invent things. Creativity requires a certain amount of desperation.

I went back to my desk. And found myself thinking:

I want chocolate.
I want music.
I want to draw pictures.
I want sleep. Now.
I want to go outside.
I want sex way more often.
I want a Coke Zero. I don't want to pay vending machine prices.
I want to play with clay.

Driving home tonight, I kept thinking:  I want a new car, but I know it won't make my commute any less long.

When I got home, my husband had set up the new TV I'd bought last week. He'd finally decided we should keep it, even thought it didn't have the VGA connection that the salesman at Best Buy had told me it did have. It was still a good price. Not too large. Reasonable. It doesn't squeak like the old one. It will make us happy. For a reasonable length of time.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I hate the submission process

I totally hate it.

I love writing. I love my stories, writing, in my own little world. My own world.

I'm even OK with people in my writing group reading and not liking or understanding my stuff. I'm used to that. I've had lots of experience with a range of reactions from people I know who've read things I've written.

But this sending the story off to a total stranger to be rejected, it's really hard. It makes me very nervous.
I hate the rejection. I hate being lumped with all the weirdos sending in their stuff, and not knowing how to phrase a cover letter correctly. Being just plain nervous.

Yeah, the trick I suppose is to get so used to the sending them off and being rejected that it's like the regular people reading my stuff experience.

Yeah. Fine.

I hate this.
I hate it.

Best story from the slush pile: When I was reading slush for Aboriginal years ago. I read one of the best sf stories I've ever read. I think of it now and then. The editor rejected it. I always remember. I always relate this anecdote to remind hopeful authors: a rejection means that one person didn't like your story.

And I always think of that writer of that story, wish I remembered his name. And hope so bad that being rejected by Aboriginal, not the top of the science fiction market at the time, hoping so much that rejection didn't discourage him. Because he was really good. At least his story was.

And don't tell me there's a difference. We don't feel it, though we tell ourselves we should. We should say "rejected the story I sent in" not "they rejected me." I try to. I don't feel it.

That's just how it goes.


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

I saw violets last weekend

Roses are red.
Violets are purple.
Nothing rhymes with purple,
So poets call them blue.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

I heard a new song today, by someone I never heard of before

"Two fingers" by Jake Bugg. Here's the YouTube link to the video.

Thank you radio station 92.5, the River. You played the song on my drive to work and then again on my drive home. In the morning you told me his last name used to be Kennedy. At night, you told me that 2 fingers in Britain is a gesture that is rude or one of defiance. Thank you for the educational liner notes.

(And, by the way, River, you don't have to bracket every new song you introduce with two very old ones. It's true, I do call you "the station for people who listened to WFNX in the 1980's", but that was when WFNX was "Your new music source", and we still like new music. But that's OK, I like your selection of old music. Could you play Supertramp? How about Sting's Lute music?)

Anyway, Jake Bugg is so young, I think we can look forward to lots of good music from him in the future.

What a pleasure for a Tuesday.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

your Warriors name

So my daughter is really into this feral-cat book series called Warriors. Today she dragged me over to the computer so I could generate my Warriors name from an app on their website. You enter your first name and your hometown, and it will generate your cat Warrior name.

"What's my hometown?" I asked. "Where I live? Where I grew up?"

My other daughter showed up at that point.

"We used where we were born, so it would be different," they answered.

We started playing with it and found that it is a very simple mapping. It only looks at the first letter of name and hometown.





Thus Amelia from Dover would be called Hawkeyes










Max from Hudson would be "Scarface".








This isn't a good way to do it. Sisters often share first initials. Tammy and Tracy from Newton would both be "Rockheart".







I mean, they have a computer. Why not assign a number to each letter of the name and map from the totals divided-remaindered (%) to the number of choices?

Anyway, use the chart above to find your Warrior name. Is that fun?

Friday, March 29, 2013

buttermilk matzoh brei

Postscript to previous post: Buttermilk does give fried matzoh quite a unique flavor.

If recipe needed:

Crumble up 5-6 sheets of matzoh, add buttermilk and milk until enough to soak through. Give it time to soak through. Then add 2-3 eggs, stir it all up and fry on both sides in fresh-churned butter (with a bit of olive oil if the butter is too salty).

For cooking the matzoh brei, I use a nice heavyweight Berndes teflon pan from the Passover Brigadoon of dishes, that I appreciate yearly.

OK, after you melt the butter with oil, you put the batter (well, half of above at a time will fit in my Berndes pan) into the pan and hope that it sizzles. Then lower the heat to medium to let the pancake cook through. After it is almost dry on top, you can flip it over to cook the other side.

In our family we serve it with cinnamon sugar on the side.

We churn butter for passover

Last year, the Stop & Shop brand butter was marked Kosher For Passover. This year, we checked four grocery stores and couldn't find kosher for passover butter. We did find kosher for passover heavy whipping cream, however. So you're guessing what comes next:

First, I tried the shake-cream-in-a-jar method that was vaguely remembered from elementary school.

That resulted in barely whipped cream before I decided I had better things to do.

Fortunately, we had koshered the Kitchen Aid Mixer. We started with whipped cream, took out two spoonfuls to top two mugs of cocoa, and then kept going.

It whipped and whipped for a very long time.

It was good I looked it up on the Web, for told me to turn the speed of the mixer down.

I sprinkled in some salt (too much, it turned out) kept working on my computer, and left the mixer going, and going, and going.

At some point the mixing became a slosh. I looked inside, and, indeed, as promised, the very-whipped-cream had become clumps of butter inside buttermilk.

Too bad about it being too salty. It is still edible.

The question is whether to whip more of the whipping cream to dilute the saltiness. It probably took a lot of electricity to make that one batch.We'll have a few slices of matzoh-and-butter before we decide whether to bother.

Anyway, was this educational for the kids? I suppose.

It showed them one of the bizarre consequences of playing the Passover game.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Boskone 50 - Saturday - A bit of George R.R. Martin

The Boskone schedule had this item listed as taking place in Dragonslair (the children's corner) at 4pm today:
Something Art-y: Bring your Imagination! Join John Picacio, Official Artist of Boskone 47, for this art project.
That sounded exciting, so I went downstairs to participate in that with my daughter. Some weird conceptual art piece, it sounded like.

Instead there were a few children playing with cardboard and pipe cleaners. John Picacio showed up and asked the head of Dragonslair what he was supposed to do. There wasn't a lot of clear direction. My husband showed up and said hi. I found some construction paper and asked Mr Picacio, Do you want to draw something?

"I don't think the kids would be all that interested," came the reply.

My husband made some folded thing out of a light blue sheet of paper.

"What's that?"

"A mask." He showed me.

Mr. Picacio and the kids started to collaborate on a creation made from strips of paper. My daughter made a pretty cool mask out of pink paper and pipe cleaners.

I went upstairs to a panel. It wasn't very interesting. I left.

I looked at the schedule again.

There was a George RR Martin reading. I haven't read his stuff. We're too cheap to get HBO. But I've always heard good things about him, and it is interesting to hear how successful authors read, so I went in.

He was describing a battle scene. He read with a very good voice. He knew his stuff.

Then came the question period.

Someone asked if his story was a parallel to the War of the Roses. He said he stole from lots of different interesting bits of history. He quoted: "If you steal from 1 source, it's plagiarism. If you steal from many, it's research."

Another question led to him recounting how he has received letters from fans who have tried to explain about the seasons on his planet by complicated descriptions of the planetary orbits. His response:
I've thought not at all about the planetary orbits. It's a fantasy book, not a science fiction book....Obviously, science fiction fans have stumbled into the wrong tent.
Someone asked, "Do you feel guilty when you kill your characters?" He replied,
I do feel guilty. Yes, they're like my children....The red wedding until 3 [is that what he said?] was the hardest thing I ever wrote.....Sometimes I say I don't kill them--the other characters do....Death is a part of life. Part of all our lives. Fiction should treat it...When a character dies, you should feel it as you do when one of your loved ones dies....It is important to show death in the cost of war.
When asked about Metal bands using his motifs he said that Rock music influenced him to write Armageddon Rock when he was younger and that all art interacts. He added that he was more of a Simon and Garfunkel fan.

Someone asked if he felt bad that people were only paying attention to the Thrones books, not his many earlier works and he said yeah, he would like it if he could get his readers to read the other books. He said that Stephen Donaldson discovered after writing other books that he had many more Thomas Covenant fans than Stephen Donaldson fans. He said that J.K.Rowling was finding that her many Harry Potter fans weren't coming over to her new adult book. He added that since she now had "more money than the Queen", she could sit in her castle, be waited upon by "the entire cast of Dowton Abbey", write whatever she wants, and if three people buy the book then that's fine.

OK, so I first heard about George RR Martin while watching the old TV show Beauty and the Beast. My boyfriend at the time saw the credits and said, "Oh, George R.R. Martin, he's a big science fiction writer." Which goes to show how long Mr Martin has been on my I-gotta-get-around-to-reading-him-someday list.

The question I would have liked to ask would have been along the lines of, "What book of yours would you recommend to someone who doesn't want to commit to a long series?" But I don't know, I think it might be rude to say to a famous author that you haven't read any of his books.

So, to change the subject for a second or two off of Game of Thrones, I raised my hand and recounted how that TV show was the only one I can remember where I would watch at the beginning to see who had written the episode, and if it was by George RR Martin or David Peckinpah, then I knew it would be a good episode. If not, well the way I phrased it was that other episodes were often written with a different philosophy. The word I was reaching for was closer to schmaltzy, cloying, icky, overly sentimental. That show skated on the edge of icky and too often fell in. Some of the writers were icky and others were cool.

George RR Martin's face seemed to freeze in a way that made me think the subtext was "I am responding in a diplomatic fashion to your question because it would not be good to repeat anything nasty about my friends in television." That could just be my imagination, of course.  I may have made a mistake in praising Peckinpah. Martin said that his own stories were more of the fantasy mystical magical bent, while Peckinpah was more into gritty urban tales. He said that it was a great show to write for because the writers were given a lot of freedom.

When asked about his attitude towards his works being adapted, he mentioned the "truckloads of money" that writers are offered for such adaptations, and that the time to negotiate what happens to your work is before you take the truckloads of money. He said J.K.Rowling could negotiate very good terms because there were many who wanted to make movies from her books. He said that he turned down the first truckload of money that backed up in front of his door, because it was an offer to make a single movie out of his hours and hours of stories. He said that the current deal allows him certain amounts of creative control and that he is satisfied with it. He said that complaining about what happens to your work after you have accepted the truckloads of money is like after you've sold your house complaining about the furniture that the people who bought your house are using.

He talked about how Ireland was a great place to film the show because it saves them money, Ireland even gives them money (and they generate a great deal of money for them in return) and also that it gives them access to an excellent cast of classically trained Irish and British actors.

In response to another question he said that the character Osha was rather colorless in the book, but that  Natalia Tena, who plays her, gives a mesmerizing performance, that would likely influence him if he writes more about Osha in future work. He said her performance was mesmerizing even before she took off her clothes for the role, and even more mesmerizing after.

Someone asked if the plot ever had to change because, for example, an actor wanted to leave the show. He said absolutely, when Linda Hamilton decided to quit Beauty and the Beast they had to write her out. They decided to kill her, but then it was Beauty and the Beast without a beauty. So they introduced another Beauty, but the show only lasted for 6 months after that. He said it was because they had built up the love between the two characters as being such a Great Romance that the audience wouldn't accept a substitute. You can't have Romeo and Juliet and then say, oh no, what I meant was Romeo and Harriet.

That is not what I remember as going wrong with the show. As I said, the show was always on the edge of ickiness. The way they killed off Hamilton's character was kind of icky, but actually, I didn't really like Hamilton's character very much. I liked the new character they brought in to replace her much better. One of the mistakes they made in the writing was to have the boss of the killed character retroactively have been in love with her. They had to give him an icky love motivation instead of just a righteous wanting to find the killer of his respected employee and friend.

It reminded me of the Remington Steele mistake made way too early in the show where they take the character who is supposed to be the female lead's male best friend and reliable brother type character and have him fall in love with her. It is not our fantasy to have our friends in love with us, because then we can't rely on them as friends, and also we feel sorry for them and guilty and pressured and just, ick.

Right. So I was feeling a little guilty about bringing up Beauty and the Beast, wondering if Mr Martin would have mentioned a Thrones example otherwise, for that would have made the audience much happier.

He did complain about how there can be loads of different James Bonds and Charlie Chans etc, but that  TV audiences just won't accept the re-casting for a TV character. He said it does make him want to shake the TV audiences and tell them, "You know these people are f-ing actors. They're not the real people."

When asked whether he had favorites for the Hugos he recommended The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham for Fantasy, and Caliban's War for Science Fiction. He also mentioned books and artists related to his show, for example, a cookbook written by some people from Boston. He said,
I don't think a cookbook has ever won a Hugo before, but it's certainly eligible for it.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Boskone 50 - Friday night - Lost phone and Heather Dale Singing Workshop

First off, why do they start on Friday and have so many interesting panels before we can ever show up? It is a three-day weekend. Most of us have Monday off. Why not start on Saturday and spill into Monday?

Anyway, we missed the space panels Friday afternoon. My husband was collecting children and couldn't make it at all. I got a ride to a T station from a kind coworker who lives in the Fenway, but I left my phone in his car. At least I hope it's in his car. It could be on the streets of Boston or picked up by someone nefarious, but anyway, my watch battery was dead and the phone was gone so I didn't know the time and there are no public clocks in the hotel, at least not on the second floor where the panels are being held. After I picked up my badge I guessed that it was some time after 8, so wandered and saw an open door, which helped me decide between two options. It turned out to be an interesting voice workshop given by Heather Dale.

First we learned to stand with our knees "not locked" and take deep breaths and not worry about yawning. We learned about the importance of breathing. We learned about the adrenaline affects and fight-or-flight response that can occur with stage fright. We practiced pushing against a wall to burn off some of the need for a flight response.

Heather said that we could mark a score with where we needed to breathe and practice the breaths along with the song.

She talked about interval training. I had heard about ear-training for intervals when I took a music theory class some years back. Now I learned that singers train themselves to sing intervals. This training was a solution to a problem that one of the filk singers in the workshop brought up early on when he said that he had a tendency to start the second verse in a slightly different key than the first. The solution to this is to learn the interval from the last note of the previous verse to the first note of the next verse and practice it.

Heather said there were many resources for interval training and that we could Google to find them. One interesting mnemonic method is to use known intervals in songs that we all know quite well.
For example, in  My Bonnie lies over the ocean, the interval between "my" and "bon" is a sixth. The interval between "Oh" and "Tan" in "Oh Tannenbaum.." is a 4th. Heather said we could Google to find lists of songs and their intervals, both standard and with sharps and flats.

We practiced singing "do ray me fa soh" up and down and back and jumping from "do" to "son" to learn 4ths. She suggested that this was something we could practice in the car or in the shower. I have a long commute and I'm always looking for something to practice in the car, so it was good to know.

Someone said that she used her piano to help her with interval training. I said mine was too out of tune to trust. Someone else said electric pianos or piano apps would work. I thought, finally, some use for that tiny piano app I downloaded for my Android phone. Assuming I get my Android phone back, of course.

Someone else said that she knows someone who marks her scores with different colors on each line so that she doesn't get lost. That's a good tip.

Heather quoted a Toastmasters saying about performance jitters, which goes as follows:
It's not about banishing the butterflies in your stomach. It's about learning to make them fly in formation.
After that, I went downstairs to the "Art Reception". There was a very long line for food. The food looked appealing but not worth waiting in line, so I grabbed a slice of bread from the line-free Con Suite area and then walked around the art exhibit. After the line went away, I grabbed some desert. Not worth waiting in line for, so just as well. A jazz band was set up in a corner. Around when I was ready to leave, the trumpeter was playing a great solo. I stood there with my coat on but couldn't leave while the trumpeter was playing. He finally did finish, thank goodness. I had no trouble walking out on the electric guitar.

I strolled over to the World Trade Center Silver Line T Station, caught the Silver bus not too long after, caught the subway to Park Street without a very long wait, and read one of the SF books I'd picked up on the freebies table. Stephen Donaldson's The Real Story. I read that to the Newton Highlands stop then walked around snowbanks over to where we were staying. My husband was there. He'd called my cell phone earlier. I could have gotten a ride if I'd had the phone.

Oh well.

It was an interestingly amusingly told story. At least the beginning.

Do you know there's a prejudice against adverbs? I love using them because of that. So there.

Amazon won't just let me give it 5 stars

First they send me an email asking how many stars I'd give my recent purchase. After I click on the link, they error out telling me that I need to enter words as well.

I'm not a music critic. Different people like different music. That's what I've noticed in life. I did like this MP3 CD.

So, what can I write in their box?

The last time I bought music for myself was when we drove down to Nashua for the Borders going-out-of-business sale. I bought the Ziggy Stardust CD.

I'm generally a radio person. I like the spontaneity, the happiness when an unexpected song I like comes on.

Last summer, whenever the Avett Brothers' Live or Die came on it made me happy. It is hard to be sad when a banjo starts to play. This song I liked a lot. I liked its ability to cheer me up. I would sing it in the car along with the radio. I would come home and look it up on YouTube. My daughters liked it too; we would dance to it in the kitchen. I thought it would be a great CD to send to my sister, who was in the dark recovering from eye-surgery, but the CD wasn't out yet. I bought her another CD, and Amazon gave me a $1 credit towards the purchase of any MP3.

I spent months wondering which of my favorite songs to spend it on. Should I get the Avett Brothers song I like? Or spend the dollar credit on Tangled Up In Blue, and buy the entire Avett Brothers CD?
When the credit was about to expire I looked on the Amazon MP3 store and came to the obvious conclusion that the $1 could just be a dollar off on the album price.

The only thing I've done with the last physical CD I bought was put in into our old iMac to generate the MP3, which I then copied to my iPod and to other computers used to listen to music. The CD player in the Subaru and in the living room has broken. So there was no reason to buy another CD when I'm only going to turn it into an MP3s.

Still the question as to whether to buy the song or the CD's collection of songs. Purchased individually they would cost more than the collection. I listened to the excerpts on Amazon and decided that I would  like the whole album, so bought the collection.

I have been listening to the album over and over on my iPod at work. It has improved my mood at work, and likely saved me from some instances when I would have reached for chocolate.
There is sufficient variety of music in the different songs. One of them has a catchy chorus with the clever line, "You say you wouldn't know me now, but I didn't even know you then."

Still, all five stars? Originally, I thought yes, because I'm very happy with it. But now I think that five should be perfection, or at least reserved for the greats--the albums for the ages, that withstand the test of time. So David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust is five stars, and this wonderful Avett Brothers album a proud four. Let's wait a decade to see how they progress. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Who to follow on Twitter?

A friend of mine posted this question on facebook:
I just joined Twitter. It's bizarre. Anyone have any good suggestions for people to follow?
Do I?! While I'm collecting them, I may as well save them here. My main reason for Twitter is laughter. Thus:

Most Reliably Funny:


  • @GeneHunt
  • @RexHuppke
  • @JerryThomas
  • @adamisacson
  • @BestAt
  • @pourmecoffee
  • @comediansaransh
  • @bobfish1973
  • @duplicitron
  • @TheOnion
  • @BorowitzReport
  • @StephenAtHome (Stephen Colbert)
  • @snarkmonger
  • @JRehling
  • @missingblakes
  • @sixthformpoet
  • @rayadverb
  • @SoVeryBritish



  • @onthemedia
  • @NickKristof

Good for Links:

Mars Guys etc

Oh yes, and me! @pargery.
Sorry I didn't finish adding all the links. It's tedious.
One way to find out who to follow is to see who other people you like are following.
Another way is to click on the profile of a re-tweeted tweet that you liked, and read the other tweets that person tweeted. If those tweets are something you'd like to see more of, then you have found someone else to follow. I have followed people found through a chain of two or three or more retweets. That is, an interesting tweet, followed to a profile of tweets, among which I found another interesting tweet, so clicked on that profile, etc.
And then you can start playing hash tag games...

Related post: #tweet-types

Saturday, February 09, 2013

I miss you dad

It was my first year at McGill. My sisters had chipped in to buy me a huge red parka. We lived in Massachusetts, but I was going way up North. After all, a cold winter wind in Boston is known as the Montreal Express.
One morning, my dad calls me on the phone. I tell him about this huge snowstorm we're having up in Canada. I rave on and on.
My father's description of the Blizzard of '78 were these four words:
We had snow too.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hard wired Gender differences?

Aline commented on the previous entry that she believes the difference between men and woman are hard-wired. I have found some evidence for that with small children--at my daughters' preschool playground, it did seem that the most persistently and noticeably wild and energetic were more often boys than girls.

I also am perhaps imagining it, but I think baby boys seem more frustrated at their inability to move around, and cheer up quite a bit once they're able to crawl around.

My favorite story that relates to this was when I was pregnant with our second daughter. We were at a family gathering with my two sisters, who had each a boy and a girl. The grownups were lingering over tea and noticed that all the children had dispersed.

"Where are the kids?"

"The girls are upstairs, playing with dolls," came one reply.

"Then where are the boys?"

"Outside. They found a dead rat in the gutter. They're poking it with a stick."

My husband and I looked at each other smugly.  "We're having another girl," we said.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Baffled by Gender

At Arisia this weekend I went to two panels where the topic of Gender was discussed.

I admit I bailed on the first one:  I was feeling guilty because I wasn't at the reading for someone in my Writers' Group. When I found the panel was not very informative, I ducked out to go to the reading.

I went to the second panel in part because Cecilia Tan would be on it. I've read some of her work, and have attended her panels and readings at past sf conventions. I have a lot of respect for her.

Here is the panel description, provided as a quote in case the link disappears:
Beyond Binary: Exploring Gender Via SF/Fantasy — Literature, Panel — 1hr 15min — Paine (2)
When words can take you to the outer limits of space and far-flung fantastic lands, why should so many cultures share the same gender definitions (and oppressions) as we have in the present-day US? How has SF/F given us a different (and hopefully better) perspective on defining gender, and where is it falling short? What are some examples of literature that do a good job in exploring or addressing gender issues of our real world? What are some things we haven't seen yet but would like to?
Dash, Greer Gilman, Julia Rios (m), Cecilia Tan
I could think of two science fiction books that I read in the 1980's that would apply to this topic. The first was the genderless humanoids in Ursula K.LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness. The second was a set of stories by John Varley. One of the stories started with a boy meeting a woman on a train. Later he calls his mother and tells her he doesn't want to go through with previous plans. I remember the mother's response was something like, "After I stayed up all night convincing myself it would be nice to have my daughter back, you tell me that now you don't want to go back to being female?"

I was used to stories about people being able to change gender willy-nilly. That is not at all new. I do think that Varley's characters had the advantage of more advanced medicine to accomplish this than people do currently.

Back in the 1990's, a coworker of mine was in a weekly role-playing game. He told me about a character who had ended up inside a body of the opposite sex. He then had to explain that it was a bad thing, because I couldn't understand that.

There may be something lacking in my imagination, because when I imagine waking up one day as a man, I imagine myself thinking, "Oh, this is fun." Being a woman is fun too. I don't see much importance either way. Use what you've got.

On the other hand, Greer Gilman admired that response in Virginia Wolf's character Orlando, so maybe they don't disapprove of that attitude.

I raised my hand and asked the panel what they thought of The Left Hand of Darkness and of the John Varley stories. They forgot about the John Varley, which would have been a lot more apropos, and talked about the LeGuin. Greer Gilman gave a useful summary of the story and the mechanics of the gender/sexual functioning of the aliens, most of which I had forgotten. One audience member provided the information that LeGuin has revised her thinking on the issue and updated it in another work.

Years ago, I remember my father commenting on Virginia Wolf's writing, saying that he thought her characterizations of men were like a little girl's conception of men and not what men were really like. He said there wasn't any difference between men and women, and I believed him. Since then, people have told me that's not true.

After it was over, I still didn't understand what they were talking about.

My trouble with this panel and with the one previously is that there was a discussion of Gender without a definition of what they meant by "Gender".

I was reminded of Groucho Marx describing an early caveman's discovery: After a lot of observation, he noticed a difference between boys and girls:  The girls were wearing skirts and the boys were wearing pants. I heard no better definition than this at the panels, so it is all I have to go by.

If you reject defining Gender based on your physical form, or your function in sex or reproduction, and you reject the much weaker means of defining it based on roles you tend to take in society or areas of interest, or emotional vulnerability, then what are you talking about when you use the word?

If there really isn't anything fixed about gender then why do you care about it?

I don't care about it, so I have a hard time understanding people who do.

Why is it so important that you need to define yourself in terms of being a particular gender, or no gender or as being "non-binary gendered"?

The panelists spoke of a person they knew, with first name "An" or "Ohn". That's how it was pronounced. They didn't spell it. Anyway, "Ohn" rejected all pronouns and wanted to be referred to as simply as "Ohn". As in "Ohn is going to Ohn's house to get Ohn's cat to play with Ohn's friends..." etc.  They were very respectful of this.

I don't get it. I think that Ohn and those like Ohn are being a pain in the neck to all who have to refer to Ohn.  But I'm open to being convinced otherwise.

So please, un-Baffle me.