August 21st, 2004

So it’s Saturday again, and I’m working again. It’s gloomy and dark outside. Rain falls intermittently. There’s thunder and lightning. These dark and stormy days remind me a lot of Simone, since it rained almost every afternoon during her short life, and then, when she died, stopped raining and became parched and dry and insufferably hot, a perfect imitation of hell. Everything dried up and tried to die and we had to actually water our lawn and bushes and trees. Still, I like this type of weather and have always like it, even if it now makes me a little sad. The reading room is deserted. We have exactly one patron and she knows exactly what she is doing and doesn’t seem to need any help.

Windows sucks. As does wretched, wretched IE. I had written three paragraphs, and the page somehow refreshed on me, and I lost two. One I had backed up, but I had gotten on a roll and typed my little heart out and had just thought about backing up the other two when they vanished.

So, to reconstruct : the upgrade went well. I need to fix several things and implement several more. I had made a list, which I shall make again. You will probably want to skip this part, as it’s just notes to myself and reminders of what to fix.

  • Some images are not showing up within articles on IE (like the Zagunis pics)
  • Need to re-validate html and css for Sophia’s page and my page
  • Sophia’s css looks particularly bad in IE and may merit some tinkering
  • Adding comments redirects to a URL with a trailing slash and this breaks the css
  • Add rss feed and category numbering plugins to Sophia’s site
  • modify css to 800 x 600 screen res

Hah. That’s all safely copied to nice trusty Vim file. Try erasing it now, IE.

At any rate, I was talking about some of the things I’d planned to do here, including reviving the book log. Ah, yes, you’re asking me what book log. “I never saw a book log here!” you exclaim. Well, that’s because I was storing all the stuff I scrolled off currents into one big file that I was eventually going to post but I never quite got around to putting it out there before the demise of White Star. And so, it was lost, along with many, many other things. Which reminds me, I still need to set up an appropriate backup system for Tuzanor. Let me make a note of that. Anyways, I’ve been thinking about whether to create a new category for books, or whether to just jot down the finished books in the entertainment category. What brings this all up is the book I’m currently reading Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy edited by Al Sarrantonio. I love reading short stories, because it’s such a good way to get a little taste of new authors, or commune with much beloved ones. I intend to give the stories a thorough review here when I’ve finished with it, as they merit. I’ve only read seven or so of the almost thirty stories in the volume, so it’s a bit early to say too much, but I will say that all the stories seem to be good, although the ones that are superb make the merely good ones read more insipidly than they might otherwise.

<%image(20040821-flightscover.jpg|316|475|cover of Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy edited by Al Sarrantonio)%>

This entry is a little bit all over the map, I realize that. I’m kind of taking the opportunity to core dump a lot of little giblets that have been on my mind in the last week or so. I have pauses between writing this while I help a patron here or there or do something work related or reconstruct parts of this post that were eaten and I remember stuff I wanted to record. So while I’m speaking of “all over the map”, I should mention that this is the latest of Sophia’s expressions that we can blame on no one but ourselves. She uttered it a couple of weeks ago when we were out for a walk. “We’re going everywhere! We’re all over the map!” It’s charming, sweet and alarming all at once when you realize how much they absorb from you and how much you mold them into the creatures that they will be. I have often talked about how Sophia (and Simone too) came into the world as full beings, with complete personalities, and not some kind of blank slate that was shaped into a person by their environs. However, even though this is true to my experience of my children and I firmly believe it, it is also true that they are like little sponges, and that you affect them in a thousand ways every single minute and thus, shape them. It’s terrifying and gratifying.

One morning this week as I was walking Sergei, I was thinking about Simone, as I often do, and I was thinking about the things I loved most about her : her expressive eyes, her dark hair and her engaging smile. I became aware of myself suddenly smiling, smiling back at that remembered smile, and realized that it was the first time I had been able to think about her without feeling completely miserable. Of course, moments after I realized that I hadn’t been desperately unhappy I became desperately unhappy, but it’s still a step in the right direction, I think. Many things still make me cry. Sometimes things sneak up on me, and I’m surprised that I am crying. There is still a chasm inside me, a dark and keening place, that opens up without warning to engulf me. Lo, it is with me always. However, I know that it is a thing I can live with. And this is a truth of life, I think, that we all live with terrible things inside of us.

How’s that for introspection? Now, I’m going to completely switch gears and talk about something inconsequential. As you know from the handy dandy reading links on the left there, I read several blogs written by authors. I fell into this mostly through trying to suss out what the experience of being a published writer is really like. I’m not sure it’s a direction I wish to go in for myself (though you’ll notice, if you’re a long-time reader, that I’m now a step closer to it, having abdicated my “no, never, not for me, not in a million years position”). At any rate, I’ve noticed in the author blogs I read regularly as well as in many of the author blogs I don’t list because I read them only sporadically, that authors tend to hate Their hatred in fact, tends to be terribly virulent and all out of proportion with reason to outsider eyes. Most of the complaints that I have read seem to stem from the reviewing system. Ignorant fools read the books and then make stupid and untrue comments about the books. Obviously I don’t know what it’s like to have my book trashed by a barely literate reviewer on amazon, so I have no real right to say that the bile of authors is unwarranted or unnecessarily vicious. Still. I think the bile of authors towards amazon for letting any yahoo review a book is unwarranted and unnecessarily vicious. I find it insulting, actually. Why don’t authors assume I can discard or accept an idiot amazon review as easily as I discard or accept reviews in the New York Times Book Review? In fact, I find it incredibly useful to rank by lowest review, read something that says “I hate books that…” (have a plot, have ambiguous endings, “waste time” on character development, whatever) and find in this sort of contrary way books that would exactly suit me. Nowhere else can I use a negative approach to zero in on what I would like and often this approach is much more useful than the meaningless fawning of professional and amateur critics alike. You can find useful information in amateur reviews. Even if it’s not the information the reviewer intends to convey. If they can’t spell and can’t put their sentence together, it doesn’t reflect poorly on the author of the book, merely on their own review. I have the ability to discern wheat from chaff, thank you very much, and I find the insecurity of authors who think I can’t just a little bit irritating (which is why I’m allowing myself to vent about it here). Of course, I’m sure it feels terrible to have someone sling mud at your carefully crafted work, especially if the words slung are incoherent and false. Still, as a reader, I appreciate the review system. I don’t want it ejected or redone or watered down. I think the authors who so roundly condemn the system might be better off not reading the reviews at all instead of getting all worked up about them and railing against

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