February, 2008

It’s a leap year. I should say or do something special, right? Hmm, how about some more pictures? We’ll get through the backlog eventually.

February 2, 2008:
Always Winter, Never Christmas

View of the backyard, with deeper snow than usual.

February 3, 2008:
He's a jukebox hero

Grandpa’s a guitar hero.

February 4, 2008:
Gruesome Wound

My hand, gruesomely wounded and swollen. Actually, the swelling was much diminished by this point, and the wound no longer as painfully infected, but my hand still hurt quite a bit and was basically useless.

February 5, 2008:
Delicious King Cake

And it only took me four years to find a place with a decent King Cake.

February 8, 2008:
Another Morning Sky

Another early morning sky. I am going to try and take one of these every few weeks at roughly the same time, to see if I can get a composite at the end of the year.

February 10, 2008:
Valentine Cookie Baking

Cute kid making cookies at our annual Valentine’s cookie making extravaganza.

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  • I like that he voted in favor of the land mine ban treaty (some longtime readers will remember that opposition to the land mine ban has been a particular sticking point of mine with numerous recent democratic candidates). Read what the GYWO guy says about it, and know that I mostly agree with him.
  • I like that his words and delivery are so pitch perfect that they practically make a song, and that someone thought of putting his words to music, and that the song is not half bad, and that it’s hopeful, and that it’s available on youtube. (Yeah, I like it on a lot of levels).
  • I like that no matter whether we get Hillary or Obama as a democratic candidate, that either one will be history making and ground breaking in their own ways. I like standing on the cusp of history, and not due to war or to unrest, but due to human progress. As slacktivist so eloquently phrased it: “For myself, I’d be more than satisfied with either Obama or Clinton as my party’s nominee. I understand that Magic Johnson is supporting Hillary Clinton. Kareem Abdul Jabaar, meanwhile, is supporting Barack Obama. That’s the choice: Magic or Kareem. It’s an understandably tough call, but I’m not complaining about the options.” Ever since reading this, I go around with a little smile, muttering “Magic or Kareem”. It’s not my party, but it’s making me smile anyway. It’s making me hopeful.

As an aside, if you are interested in helping take care of our war detritus (and by that I mean the land mines we leave everywhere we send our armed forces), my charity of choice is Adopt-A-Minefield.

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Well, I’m having intermittent networking issues, which has made me reluctant to post pictures, because they crash more often than post, being substantially bigger than a standard text post.

Still, I’m getting way, way, way behind, and I don’t have a good handle on how many days I’ve missed pictures for because I haven’t been posting them.

Here begins a small remedy.

January 22, 2008:
Light Footprints

Can you see the little squirrel (I’m guessing) footprints on the fine layer of snow? I’m not sure anyone can tell what they are from the picture.

January 23, 2008:
Frost on Windshield

I cannot tell you how surprised I am that this picture worked. I didn’t expect it to, but the fine detail of the ice crystals is clearly visible. It’s the sort of picture I might have told myself not even to bother trying in the past.

January 26, 2008:
Bunny Ears

Everyone has bunny ears! Well, except Jason, and I don’t know why Jason manages to avoid bunny ears. Out of town friends visiting. Taken in my ugly-colored living room, the one that everyone comes into and says “My, I love this color,” which makes me feel bad about wanting to paint it. I hate that color.

January 27, 2008:
Ice Blocks

Remnants of the Loop Ice Carnival, a week old. Next year maybe I’ll get pictures of the actual sculptures!

January 28, 2007:

Empanadas, ready to be fried.

January 29, 2008:
Sergei in the car

There has never been a dog in the history of all mankind who loves rides as much as Sergei does. Here he is, in his usual attentive to surroundings while riding posture.

January 30, 2008:
Elementary Montessori Classroom

A kid in Sophia’s class doing work. I had stayed a few minutes to talk to the office and when I walked through the classroom the light level was awesome and all the kids were hard at work, so I took a few pictures.

February 1, 2008:
Kids with Snowman

A big snowfall and a walk down to a nearby park with a good sledding hill led to a ton of pictures. Here’s one of Sophia and a neighborhood friend next to the snowman they built (with help from the friend’s father).

Bonus picture for February 1 of sledding hill:
Deer Creek Sledding Hill

I have more, but I don’t like to cram all the pictures into one post, so expect more picture posts later. If this one goes through, that is.

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So I sent a sub to an online magazine back in September, and Duotrope made it red some time ago, before Christmas and I said to myself, “Self, you can wait to query because hello, who wants a rejection at Christmas. Also you’ve never queried anything before and you have no idea what you’re doing and sometimes these things fix themselves if you just wait.”

Thus I waited. I heard nothing. And January passed, and I subbed some more stuff (well really the same stuff, which had now been rejected and gone out again while this other sub failed to garner its rejection) and Duotrope told me again this sub had really been out there WAY too long.

“Fine,” said I, “Write query. You need the practice.” I consulted writer friends. How do I write a query? I got some advice. I tried to follow it.

I wrote a succinct query, which I took too long to phrase and was self-conscious about, then emailed it to the address listed as for queries on the magazine’s site.

I figured queries might get answered pretty quickly, specially if the answer was “oh right, we’ve been meaning to tell you no thanks.” or “uhm…we lost it, send again?” Like maybe within a week or two (which it has now been). Am I wrong on this? I mean to wait six weeks, I guess, which puts me to mid-March and then re-query. Can you re-query or is that bad form? Do I need to wait as long on the query about the sub as I did on the original sub before I do anything else (which would be about sixty days or so for this market, more like eight weeks than the six I plan on waiting)? Do I just cut my losses after six weeks and sub elsewhere and send along a note withdrawing (and how do you write a polite withdrawal note)? What’s the etiquette here? Help me out here, I’m flailing in ignorance.

ETA – I hope it’s not rude of me to mention the market by name. In general, I believe in openness, and non-response to me should not be taken as indicative of anything about the market generally. I realize from Merrie’s comment that my coyness makes it hard for people like me to track problems with specific markets using search engines, so I officially uncoy: Coyote Wild, which just put out a new issue and seems to be alive and kicking marketwise has been hanging on to one of my subs for a while now. I get nothing suspicious about them on Duotrope (responses to things submitted as recently as Feb 5!) though black holes shows a withdrawal that’s about as old as my sub. As for Speculations, I’m never quite convinced I’ve looked in all the right places to get market info, but near as I can tell, there’s nothing there about Coyote Wild. Who knows?

I am probably supposed to be learning patience from this. Patience, young grasshopper.

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Apparently comments have been broken since sometime in June. June 2007! Why didn’t anyone tell me! Well, I believe they are fixed now, retroactively, all the way back to October. Ecto was the culprit, starting when I upgraded it and installed it on my new laptop (Sinclair!) back in June. At any rate, comments should be fixed for future posts. I figure no one wants to comment on anything older than October so I’ll leave those older entries broken. Apologies to all my readers. Here I thought I was being too boring and sporadic for you. I kept asking questions no one answered, and I love comments, and I didn’t know you couldn’t answer. Please say something! Anything! It’s like an echo chamber in here without you.

So if you wanted to tell me the results of your political compass test, say, you could now do so on the entry where I asked about it. Or on this one. Or anywhere really!

Now to go to bed. My hand hurts. Tomorrow I vote in Missouri’s open primaries. Yay open primaries. If you are in the U.S. and a citizen, don’t forget to vote!

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So, last you saw was January 10, right? The picture of my not dead oregano.

January 11, 2008:
Swimming Lessons

I drove my daughter to her swimming lessons and went on the pool deck with my camera. I took a ton of pictures and this is one of my favorites.

January 12, 2008:
Sophia with UV bead braceletSophia with Railroad Spikes

First is a picture of a UV bead bracelet. The beads change the intensity of their color depending on how much UV light hits them. Inside they are often white. Outside they turn colors, from soft pastel to more intense hues, as they absorb light. Second is a picture of my daughter playing with railroad spikes.

January 13, 2008:
Detail of Relief at the Art Museum

We spent some time at the art museum on Sunday the 13th. Most of the pictures of stuff I took didn’t turn out well (flash is forbidden and I haven’t yet learned how to compensate for that), but this one was decent, I thought.

January 14, 2008:
Tea Box

Tea box I got for Christmas, filled with some of my very favorite teas and tisanes. Makes you want to have a cup, doesn’t it? C’mon over, I have types to please every palate.

January 15, 2008:
Oz in basket

Oz curled up in his basket. Rorschach uses it more than Oz, but they both love to curl up in it, especially when it is cold.

I didn’t take pictures on either the 16th or the 17th, so that’s three days I’ve missed so far. The extra leap year day no longer suffices to give me a 365 day streak. Alas. We knew it was bound to happen. Still, the project is working. I’m taking tons of pictures. I’m touching my camera almost every day. I call it good.

January 18, 2008:
Desolate winter garden

I drive by the school garden every day when I drop my daughter off. I’ve been noticing how desolate it looks, and wondered if I could capture that sense with a photograph. I don’t believe it worked.

January 19, 2008:
Red Bird, Blue Sky

I took a half dozen pictures of this cardinal in the leafless honeysuckle, trying to convey how bright it looked against the drab tree. I’m not satisfied with any of the shots. It just doesn’t look the way it looked to my eyes, a strong splash of color in an otherwise dull landscape.

January 20, 2008:
Flag on Tuxedo

On this walk I took directed pictures. That is, I told Sophia to keep her eyes open for interesting things and I would take pictures of them. I didn’t argue with anything she suggested and thus ended up with this pretty awesome picture of a flag, which I would not have photographed on my own.

January 21, 2008:
Sophia with paper doll Natalie

MLK day, so Sophia was off, and we went in to have lunch with Kurt near where he works. This is Sophia sitting at the table with her paper doll, Natalie.

I apologize for the radio silence, and also for the subsequent gumming up of your feed with multiple entries, including a massive photographic entry. I incapacitated my right hand last week, and that, coupled with some laptop issues prevented me from doing anything useful for the better part of two weeks. I’m still recovering, but I am able to type some if I don’t push it, and most of these entries were already mostly typed, just not posted (because of aforementioned laptop issues). I had no idea how many of my daily tasks required fine manual dexterity. I’m glad I didn’t have to get a pirate hook instead of a hand, that totally would have sucked. Meanwhile, I’m still going to try and get pictures done twice a week, which would mean more like three to five pictures per post, instead of ten.

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4 Feb 2008, by


Why didn’t anyone TELL me comments were broken? Geez! I thought you guys just didn’t love me anymore.

I’ll fix when I can, not right this minute, unfortunately.

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Vellum: The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan. (1) [specfic]. I checked this out of the library. I thought it was interesting, but it took me forever to read it. I’m not sure I’m up to the second book of the duology. I don’t care enough to find out what happens next. My central problem with the book is that it’s not a story in the conventional sense. There’s no narrative drive. For all the journeying of the various characters, we’re not really going anywhere. I found it hard to keep reading because of this. It’s extremely beautifully written, the prose level is top notch, but it also came across (to me) as kind of shallow, so the excellence of the prose seemed like dressing up a corpse. Unfortunately, I think this is the result of writing people as mythic incarnations instead of as characters, so there’s no way I can see to solve this and still keep to what Duncan wants to tell about. I had a hard time getting emotionally involved with anyone, especially with Carter and Pechorin, since they are presented in such radically different ways and I don’t think I ever figured out why they were quite so malleable. I think I’m meant to care about the characters because of some of the heartbreaking situations rendered, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to it. Much of what happened to the characters didn’t quite seem real, especially the big tragic moments. The small moments seemed more real: the three guys sitting together on the quad, Jack and Guy lying together in the cold house at Evenfall, Phreedom sharing a beer with Finnan, Phreedom stepping into the tattoo parlor for the first time, Puck painting things purple in the book as they travel along the Vellum. Eh, maybe that was one of Duncan’s points: small is real, big is only archetype. If so, it makes for a strangely unsatisfying reading experience. I also had what I usually call a Miéville issue with this work: whenever anything I was desperately interested in showed up, it turned out to be scene setting and not something I was going to get to find out more about or follow. Meanwhile, stuff I couldn’t have cared less about was treated in excruciating detail for pages and pages. Also. Points off for horribly translated Spanish. Guh. My brother, if you’re going to set things in the Spanish Civil War, make the Spaniards talk right. It was frustratingly anticlimatic to be yelling at the page when supposed death sentences were being pronounced. That’s pretty much cause for a complete breakdown of my suspension of disbelief lately and I think I may put bad Spanish on my list of dealbreakers from now on. There’s no excuse for it, really. It’s not like Spanish is an obscure language. Bonus points for nice scenery, though. And for a gripping opening. I did like the vastness of the times and spaces of the real world we explored (often more than I liked the fantastical bits), and part of the reason I’m so pissed off about the bad Spanish is because it took the air out of scenes I would otherwise have been really interested in. Some of the archetypal linking was a little…blurry. Sometimes when he linked things (usually by name transformations) I said “oh, ok, what a cool connection” but many other times I was like “that’s a bit of a stretch there, isn’t it?”. In rendering down all the different incarnations as aspects of the same archetypes I thought sometimes valuable individual pieces of story were lost. Maybe that’s one of his points too, but I didn’t care for it. Anyway, it gave me some stuff to think about on a meta level, and it was pretty, but it didn’t really get hooks into me, transport me or give me any kind of catharsis or deep satisfaction on completion. In fact, it felt essentially unfinished. Maybe that would all be nicely wrapped up in the second half, but I’m not sure I trust Duncan to pull it off. Finished on 01/12/08.

A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. (2) [specfic]. I checked this out of the library. This was a quick read, which I definitely needed after the slog through Vellum. There were some things I really liked about this book a lot. The main character was quite sympathetic, as was the benevolent helpful elf, and (of course) all the wolves. I found the sex scenes neither overly squicky nor hot, hot, hot. They didn’t detract or anything, they were just kind of there. OTOH, I found the main character’s constant passing out and withdrawing inward as a coping mechanism for dealing with trauma too reminiscent of Felix in Melusine and it kind of made my eyes roll, but for all I know that was Bear’s work and not Monette’s. With the exception of long passages that either exclusively used the word ‘estrus’ or ‘heat’, the writing was seamless, afaic. I couldn’t tell which words were whose. The story moved well and the stakes were high and there were hard choices with consequences and fulfilling character arcs – you know, all of those things I expect when I read Bear. I’m not sure I’d read something else set in the same world, necessarily, but I’m not at all sorry I read this. Finished on 01/16/08.

Origami Boxes by Tomoko Fuse. (3) [crafts]. I got this book for Christmas and am delighted to own it. When I say I read it, I mean I made all the boxes, because there’s very little text. However, this is the first of my origami books for which I have made (or attempted) every design within, so I’m pretty pleased. I love this book. There was only box I couldn’t follow the instructions for, though the hexagon box was right to the limit of my folding ability and did not come out very well. I am especially pleased with the triangle boxes. They are easy and gorgeous and I’m going to try to make lots of those in the future. In the middle of this book I embarked on an organizing project of my origami paper (which is not yet finished, but which I have a much better handle on now). Below is a picture of all the boxes I made during the course of “reading” this book. Finished on 01/19/08.
Origami Boxes I made

Ragamuffin by Tobias S. Buckell. (4) [specfic]. I checked this out of the library. Another quick read. This is what I call swashbuckling fun! I love the universe, I liked the characters, the action was non-stop, there were casualties all over the place and the train kept moving. I hope I didn’t ruin anything by reading Ragamuffin before Crystal Rain because after this ride I’m definitely going back to read the first one. There was lots to love here, but I still saw some shortcomings. One was a sort of superficiality to the feelings the characters were purportedly experiencing. Too much of the emotional tenor was overtly declaimed, and not as much as I would have liked subtly telegraphed. It’s as though Buckell is in too much of a hurry with more plot, plot, plot to let me see the characters’ inner worlds. The best I get is told how they’re feeling (usually in sentences that literally start “He felt” and “She felt”). The second major letdown was the terrible proofreading job that was done with this work. Straight characters sometimes spoke in Raga dialect, sentences ended in conjunctions, typos a spellchecker would have caught all over the place (“He swalled” for “He swallowed” frex) and more. This added to the feeling that the work had been rushed, and not received the polish it should have. Still, while I have a word focused eye and sloppy proofing throws me out of the story like a body slam, I still managed to enjoy the thing and sympathize with the broad brush stroke characters. Finished on 01/21/08.

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