Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Over the mountains and through the woods... my folks house we go. First stage is done. We're in the Seattle area until our flight to San Diego. I'm going to be mostly off the grid until then.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yes, All Lives Matter...

But if your kneejerk response to "Black Lives Matter" is "All Lives Matter" then you are very much missing the point. Thankfully a nice person at Reddit explained it better than I possibly can, so here, read this and see if it changes your mind about the slogan. Apologies for any serious language, this is a serious topic.

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

The problem is that, in practice, the world doesn’t work the way. You see the film Nightcrawler? You know the part where Renee Russo tells Jake Gyllenhal that she doesn’t want footage of a black or latino person dying, she wants news stories about affluent white people being killed? That’s not made up out of whole cloth — there is a news bias toward stories that the majority of the audience (who are white) can identify with. So when a young black man gets killed (prior to the recent police shootings), it’s generally not considered “news”, while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate — young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don’t treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.
I know I'm racist. I was born and raised in a racist society, and I'm absolutely certain that I have internalized things that happen in a way that I don't see the problem as clearly as people who are victims of racists attitudes can. I fight it when I'm aware of it, but I bet I offend people all the time with my racism, and I bet I am blissfully ignorant of some, if not most, of the hurt I cause that way. And I'm sorry about it. I try to get better, I try to recognize the ways my skin color has benefited me, but there are some experiences I will never be able to truly understand. And I will never truly get rid of it, no matter how hard I try. I will do the best I can, but it's so embedded in our society, so pervasive, that I don't know if it'll ever go away in my lifetime. I hope things are getting better, but I have my doubts.

Black Lives Matter. Don't dismiss the slogan out of ignorance or deliberate misunderstanding of what it means. Black Lives Matter.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review - Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

Scout (Jean Louise Finch) returns to Maycomb from New York after the Supreme Court rules to desegregate schools and discovers that the town has changed beyond her comprehension.

For spoilers I will use Rot13, so if you see something that looks like a jumble of letters, find a Rot13 decrypter to read them.

So, I read To Kill a Mockingbird again earlier this year in anticipation of reading this book, which I ordered literally the day it was first available on After the kerfuffle about it possibly being released against her will I considered canceling my order, but the truth is, from the moment I heard it was the book that eventually became To Kill a Mockingbird, I wanted very badly to read and see what the editor had seen. Unlike many people, I did not read Harper Lee's classic until I was an adult. In fact, it's been less than five years since I first read it. So I do not have a deep love of the book earned by reading it in school. In fact, I found it to be a shockingly racist read, both casually and overtly. Now, seeing the source material for it, I understand why.

Let's get this clear right off the bat: Go Set a Watchman is not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, it's the raw source material that book was crafted from. It is not entirely the same universe... the reason Atticus took the case at the heart of To Kill a Mockingbird is different, as is the outcome of the trial. And all that is mentioned only in passing, not as the key events around which the story turns. This is not to be taken as some definitive version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Go Set a Watchman touches on some of the events in the earlier published book, but it is a completely different book with a different aim and perhaps even a different audience.

Lots of people have talked about the racism of Atticus in Go Set a Watchman. I was surprised to hear people complain about it, as it is definitely there, if only between the lines, in To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a man of his times, and there is no possibility that a man of that age born and raised in that place is not racist. The same is true of Scout. Wrna Ybhvfr oryvrirf fur vfa'g enpvfg nsgre yvivat va Arj Lbex, ohg vg'f gurer va ure npgvbaf naq oryvrsf nf jryy. Gur qvssrerapr orgjrra gur enpvfz bs Nggvphf naq gur enpvfz bs fb znal bgure crbcyr va gur Fbhgu vf gung Nggvphf vf njner bs uvf bja snvyvatf, nygubhtu ur fher qbrfa'g frrz nfunzrq bs gurz.

Naq gung'f gur pber bs gur obbx, npghnyyl. Wrna Ybhvfr vf fghaarq ol gur enpvfz fur frrf, ohg guebhtu ure hapyr naq, gb fbzr rkgrag, Nggvphf, fur fgnegf gb frr ubj vg nyy svgf gbtrgure naq jul gurl oryvrir gur jnl gurl qb. Gur obbx vf n wbhearl bs svaqvat bhg jung Fpbhg arire xarj. Naq V nyzbfg rail gur ernqref jub tb ba gung wbhearl jvgu Wrna Ybhvfr. Gur barf jub unir nyjnlf uryq Nggvphf hc nf fbzr fbeg bs vqrny, bayl gb or pehfurq jura gurl svaq bhg ur'f whfg n zna.

Ohg vg'f nyfb vzcbegnag gb erzrzore gung Wrna Ybhvfr, qrfcvgr ure cebgrfgngvbaf bgurejvfr, vf nyfb enpvfg. Fur'f yrff njner bs vg guna ure sngure naq hapyr, ohg V fhfcrpg ol gur raq bs gur obbx fur'f ortha gb frr jurer vg fgnegf naq raqf, naq znlor fur'yy trg gb gur cbvag jurer fur frrf gung "pbybeoyvaq" vf whfg nabgure pbqr jbeq. Fur znl npprcg crbcyr nf gurl ner, ohg fur'f fgvyy irel zhpu n cneg bs ure raivebazrag. Ure qvfphffvba jvgu Urael nobhg ubj fur pna trg njnl jvgu orvat n gbzobl orpnhfr fur'f n Svapu vf cenpgvpnyyl n yrpgher ba juvgr cevivyrtr pbhpurq va rpbabzvp/pynff grezf.

That said, it's clear to me why Lee's original editor suggested taking out the bits about Scout's childhood and forming a book around them. It was a brilliant way to tell about the people and the place without inserting a painful amount of heart-wrenching drama about what was then almost current events. And oddly, thanks to the original book being a classic, Go Set a Watchman has the potential to affect many readers almost as painfully as Jean Louise was affected in the book. Without that years-long set up, there's no way this book would be having the extreme impact it is.

I think To Kill a Mockingbird is undeniably a better book than Go Set a Watchman. I also think this is a very good time for the release of the original source material. People need to go back and reassess their assumptions - about Atticus, about Scout - about racism and family and what the world expects. I found it well worth reading, but your mileage may vary depending on how you feel about Lee's original work and especially how you feel about Atticus.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Sunday Review

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jun 10th
  • Earth 2 Society #1 - A slightly promising start with some mysteries left unresolved while setting up new ones. I'm a little surprised at how many people survived, and was glad to see the single panel with Atlanteans. I hope we see a little more of them in the future.
  • Arrow: Season 2.5 #9 - This is a nice little set-up of revenge and Oliver's family's past catching up with him. I am still a bit put off by the fact that this series is so out-of-continuity in so many ways, but on the other hand, the pieces all seem to fit together nicely. Only three more issues of this series to go.
  • Secret Wars 2099 #2 - The recap at the beginning of this issue makes Secret Wars sound like Convergence on steroids. Or maybe it was the other way around. Whichever, I don't like this version of Captain America's weakness, and most of the other characters don't interest me, but it's not awful. Mostly.
  • Doctor Who 10th #11 - Retro-regeneration? That's not something I remember seeing before. Anyway, I swear something nasty is going to happen to Gabby's friend before all this is out. And I really am curious who this Cleo person is. Fun start to a story.
  • Rebels #3 - Almost no action in this one, it's basically the fallout from the last event told in conjunction with another story from the main character's youth. I'm not really sure that the story lends itself to the finale, and I'm not sure how it all fits together. I wonder if it'll work better once the rest of the story is published.
  • Spongebob Comics #45 - Very much the usual nonsense. One story is told twice from different points of view, which is nice. No Mermaid Man in this one, so it was just ok, not great.
  • Jun 17th
  • Justice League of America #1 - Well, I'd call it an interesting start to a new story, but I'm not really sure yet. I did like the bits of Aquaman talking to the UN, though I'm less impressed with the rest of the story.
  • Sinestro #12 - As Soranik is my favorite Green Lantern character, this is actually a story I like more than I expected. But I'm not exactly happy to see her wearing the yellow. And, did he put it on her other hand?
  • Harley Quinn & Power Girl #1 - Going into this book, I knew exactly what I was expecting... and that's exactly what I got. Goofiness and bad jokes served with a heaping portion of insanity. All of it both funny and disturbing. Chief Science Cat Groovicus Mellow? Wow.
  • Teen Titans Go #10 - Hypnotic specs, but you would think Beast Boy would know better than to gel gurz ba Enira. The second story was a pathetic twist on the "heroes must fight each other" plotline, but at least the ending was slightly amusing.
  • Infinite Crisis: Fight for the Multiverse #12 - Almost enough Aquaman in this one to make me happy. I enjoyed the fact that his people were able to fight off the mind control a bit like Hawkwoman's. And I have to admit I love the steampunk design of Gaslight Aquaman. Good stuff.
  • Astro City #24 - Well, I wasn't sure there could be a solution to his problem. How do you protect your bandmates and yet be able to play at the same time? I thought the solution was surprisingly elegant, if a little strange. Another fun issue.
  • Doctor Who 9th #2 - Rose is sure lucky, isn't she? Cvpxf hc n oenpryrg ba na nyvra fuvc gung whfg unccraf gb fnir ure yvsr. I really enjoy the cover art on the main covers in this series. Oh, and the story is turning interesting, too. The Squidward joke was amusing, especially how well it fits.
  • Doctor Who 11th #13 - I kind of expected that when/if ARC and the entity finally hooked up, they'd stay together and heal. Apparently that's not how it works.
  • Usagi Yojimbo #146 - Poor Usagi, between two very capable women. Trying to keep them from each others' throats would be a full-time job at the best of times.
  • Fiction #1 - Well, that's different. And yet, very similar to many other types of things. I am curious to see how this one develops and how the parents were involved in causing these events, because that beginning really argues for the parents being the ones at fault.
  • Tales of Honor: Bred to Kill #1 - This is SO MUCH better than the first series, it's not even funny. The first mini was based on the books and tried way too hard to be slavish to the books, crippling its effectiveness as a comic book. It's a different media! Allow it to be different. This comic takes the advantages of the media and uses them. It works. The art is suited to the story, I think, and the humor works. I love the choice of characters... and the decision to limit the people in the story so we can get to know them better. Overall it's very good, and I'm hoping the quality stays high on this book.
  • Spongebob Comics Annual Giant Swimtacular #3 - How brutally unkind, to have Ramona Fradon work on the issue but NOT draw the Mermaid Man story! Ah well, at least there was a Mermaid Man story in this one, even if he was a bit of jerk in it.
Please note, I'm using Rot13 for spoilers. Google it if it isn't obvious to you.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hugo Voting

George R. R. Martin has a post on his Not A Blog about Hugo voting. In short, there's only a week left, and if you plan on voting online, try not to wait until the last day and overload the Sasquan servers.

Here's the ballot. You have to be a registered member of Sasquan with a pin. You can still register at this site, but it takes a few days to get the pin, so if you register now you are really cutting it close.

If you're a member, you can also vote for the 2017 site selection. I voted for Montreal due to personal connections with people running the bid, but I have no problem with any of the locations getting Worldcon. They all look like fairly solid bids to me.

I've voted, and I'm not sure my votes will change any more in the next few days. I've read some more and pondered some voting options and changed a couple of things on my ballot since I posted it, but I think I'm done now. No, I'm not going to list the changes I made. I'd probably have to compare the two to figure out what I changed anyway, and I'm too lazy to do that now.

So... if you are a Sasquan member and haven't voted, go do so now. If you have voted, honestly and after reading the nominations, my thanks to you. If you are slate voter, I hope you are forced to read "Wisdom From My Internet" over and over until your eyes bleed and your brain turns into pulp.

The Week in Review

Busy Saturday

So I started out Saturday with some energy. Not nearly enough, but at least when I headed out to the first event, I wasn't simply trying to stay awake and alert. The first event was a bike rodeo at a local church. The first time they've tried it. While I was there only one family showed, but I got a handful of photos and talked with the pastor and the officer helping out. It was pleasant enough.

After that, I headed up to the north side of town to see if I could get any photos at a carnival a local church was putting on. There was a lot of action, but not a lot of opportunities for photos. Since I hadn't actually been assigned to go to that event, I took what I could and headed off to my second actual assignment of the day, a health fair. Lots of booths, plenty of people to talk with, and some freebies (I always grab a ton of pens since I tend to loan them out and never get them back). I got a very cute photo of a toddler "fishing" for rubber ducks and another photo of somebody spinning a prize wheel. Yay.

Since at that point I'd been working for more than two hours, I headed home for lunch. Thank goodness the weather wasn't as bad as it's been, I was only sweating mildly, not drenched in it. I took a leisurely lunch to cool off, then got directions to my next assignment, which is two towns over at a place I've never been to before. Sadly, I didn't pay quite enough attention to the directions. Getting to the town was easy, then I got lost on a bunch of streets that all looked the same to me. Fortunately, I remembered the actual street name, so when I happened across it I turned... luckily in the correct direction. So I got to the alpaca farm with plenty of time to get photos.

That was by far the most pleasant of my jobs on Saturday. I got to sit in the shade with a bunch of nice ladies spinning yarn out of alpaca wool, chatting about my mom's sewing prowess and her long-arm quilting machine. I always enjoy telling people about my wedding dress, and these ladies truly appreciated the effort my mother went to in order to make it. I got oohs and ahs at the description of the smocked front and handmade lace. And appreciative chuckles about how she was keeping it because it was a completed project.

Oh yeah, and I got to take photos of alpacas, who are essentially giant cats without claws. They are sweet animals and they almost purr when they are happy. I got some good close-up photos when the owner of the farm took me into a paddock, then as I was about to leave, a senior citizen group from my town showed up for a lecture. Great! I was able to get photos of people who live a mile from the newspaper office enjoying the alpacas. Perfect.

My next job wasn't for a few more hours, so I went home to have dinner. I must say, it's hard to leave the house three times to go to work, but it's a problem with my job description. My editor usually tries to minimize the number of times we have to go out, clustering assignments whenever possible. But we had a substitute editor who gave out these assignments.

After a quick dinner with hubby I was back on the road to the next town over to take a couple of photos at a fundraiser for a couple of girls with medical issues. It was a nice enough event, and actually inside, unlike all the rest, but it was still tiring and difficult after an already full day. I got my shots, made sure I had some good info to work with, then went home.

Mud and Plums

I took a little time to plant some more catgrass for Inkwell on Saturday. I've worked out that if I plant two mugs of catgrass every weekend, throwing the old dying ones out as they die, I can keep him in catgrass steadily. He loves it, it makes me do planting, and generally just works out. So I took out some old dying grass to dump in the backyard where it'll annoy the neighbor's chihuahuas. While I was doing that, I remembered that Eric told me our irrigation valve was completely filled with mud, making it impossible to water our yard. So I went over to look at the problem. I appeared to me that it might just be a shell of dirt, so I went into the house and got some plastic gloves to see how hard it would be to dig it out.

Ha. I was completely wrong about it being a shell. The entire box that holds the valve was completely filled with dirt. I can't quite figure out where it came from, since the box has solid sides. Maybe it was pushed up from below? I don't know. What I do know is that it took some effort to dig it all out with my hands, but I cleared out enough that we can use the valve. I want to water the plum stick a bit at the end of the season so it stands a chance to survive the winter.

Once the valve was clear, I helped Eric hook up the hose for the sprinkler, then went inside to rest. It became immediately obvious that I'd overdone it. My fibro pain flared up big time and I could barely sit up in my chair, much less do anything. I couldn't read, because I would go over a sentence and I would immediately forget what it said. After reading a paragraph six or seven times and having it make no sense, I stopped trying.

I went to bed as early as I could and slept soundly until about 6 a.m. Then I slept less soundly for another three hours. I wanted to get up earlier to help Eric, but wasn't able to. Sunday was fairly lazy. While the temporary editor wanted me to drop off my photos ahead of time, aka on Sunday, so the production department could get a jump on them, I recognized that I would be in at the same time or slightly sooner than the production person who has just moved into the position of "photo editor" since the other photo guy left the newspaper (again). Instead of trying to get my photos in early, I just used my home computer to check them and picked out my favorites. I listed them in Evernote so I could quickly access them and give the new photo gal the list as soon as she came in on Monday.

Other than that, I really didn't accomplish anything on Sunday except whining about how much I hurt. I went to bed early Sunday night and slept fairly well.

Monday Education

It was difficult to get up on Monday, as it often is. I pushed through the fatigue and aches and got to work on time. I quickly wrote up my photo requests and *almost* had them on her desk before she arrived. She beat me by a couple of minutes. Still, since I only had three of the five events to get photos from, it wasn't too bad. For her. I struggled to get my brain in gear enough to write my stories and cutlines (captions) but somehow pulled it together in time for deadline. It was very nice to have the regular editor back again. You always appreciate someone more when they are gone.

After deadline I headed down to a class for ag teachers two towns away that was going to get a visit from our U.S. Representative. I found the school easily enough, but had to get a little help finding the classroom. Then, as I walked up, the executive director of the Washington State FFA Foundation arrived and he started answering my questions before the rep arrived. It was great. See, I'd done a story about how a local school district had to shuffle teachers due to their ag teacher leaving, and while writing that story I learned there was a shortage. The FFA guy confirmed there is an ag teacher shortage, which I found fascinating. That led me to find out that vocational training (aka CTE - Career Technical Education) is kind of suffering since STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) became a push in the standards. Although CTE is STEM in action, for some reason most districts don't consider it as part of the STEM standards and kids aren't being encouraged to try CTE. It's pretty sad. Anyway, I could probably write a lot on the subject, but since I still need to figure out if I've got all my facts straight, I ought not to expound on it too much.

In any case, I loved the topic the teachers were covering when I got into the room. They were talking about animal products and by-products and what they are used in, and talked about how to bring up the topic in the classroom. One of the teachers laughed and said he had a girl who stopped wearing make-up when she learned that animal products are involved in making them. It was intriguing to hear ag teachers talking about the subject. It was also slightly frightening to hear how many everyday things require animal products.

The rep arrived slightly late, which is absolutely normal. It's hard to be punctual when everyone wants your attention. He gave a short speech, then started a discussion with the teachers that was just great. I got a few pictures, some good, some not-so good. As he is a staunch Republican, I resisted the urge to get a photo of him in front of the FFA poster of a donkey. Despite his politics not aligning closely with mine, I like the guy and appreciate his honesty. The teachers let him have it with all barrels, educating him on where the CTE/ag money comes from and how it ends up being played with on the national stage. They talked about the teacher shortage, which he had been unaware of, and recommended some ways to help. They also asked him what they could do to make his job easier... he told them to be engaged in politics and write letters informing their elected officials of things like the funding that he hadn't known about and the teacher shortage and such. It was productive. I don't know how much one man can do, he's a cog in a very large and obnoxious machine, but I trust him to do what he can. Short of complete political reform in the U.S., that's all I can hope for.

Once that was done I headed home to lunch before going back to the office. I rested ok, but it was very hard to get back up again and go to work. I had too much to do to not go back, though. Back at the office, people were odd. Perhaps I was just odd. Either way, it took me far longer than it should have to get into writing my pieces. But once I was writing, wow, it pulled together nicely. I finished everything I thought I had to do for Tuesday with about a half-hour left in the day. Just enough time to head over to city hall to talk with the city manager and set up an appointment for my big happy feature story on him.

To my relief, he was in the office when I got to city hall. We chatted for a bit, set up an appointment for Wednesday morning, then discussed the city hall renovation story I was writing for Wednesday's paper. It was pleasant, because city hall is a pretty cool place right now. The right leadership seems to make a big difference. I got my information, and then headed home to really rest for the evening.

I got some reading done, and a little on-line stuff. I played around with the Aquaman wiki for awhile, which was nice and relaxing. It's been needing some TLC. Then I went to bed early. I woke up when Eric came to bed and decided to read, turning on a light that was aimed directly at my face. I wish there was a way to block his light from my side of the bed at night. Despite that, I feel asleep again quickly enough and woke up before my alarm feeling fairly refreshed. In fact, almost hyper.

Hyper Tuesday

I had three corrected stories on my desk for Tuesday in the morning, but my little tally sheet said I should have four. I realized that I'd forgotten a cut n paste of a press release, but that was easy to pull together. The rest was minor corrections, then I was mostly done with deadline. I only had to wait a bit for the county sheriff's report.

I was definitely feeling good Tuesday morning, bouncing around the office getting stuff done quickly and efficiently. I wish I felt like that more often. I could get so much more done if I did. I felt like I was almost caught up with everything I needed to do by the end of deadline, which was nice. After being sick for so long, it was good to feel good.

The day went by pretty fast, and the hyperactivity lost its edge toward the afternoon, but I still felt good. I had an evening assignment at the pool, covering the local meet. I got a lot of photos and spent about an hour there. The teams competing are two of the largest in the area, so the events took awhile, even though they were well-run. I learned later that the meet lasted well into the night and wasn't finished until about 11 p.m. Yikes.

I was greeted by a lot of different people at the meet. Apparently I know a lot of folks in town now. I don't know what they think of me, but I think we have a pretty good bunch overall. I was just surprised at how many people I actually know by name.

The kids from the other team were writing stuff on their arms, legs and backs. One girl with an open-backed swimsuit had "eat my bubbles" written on her back. I was mildly amused. The temperature was very nice for people not in the pool, warm but not hot and sticky. The kids, on the other hand, looked all shivery between their swims.

After getting home, I did more personal stuff... I even read comic books for enjoyment and not because I "had" to read them to get reviews written. And I played with the wiki and websites more. It was really nice.

Busy Morning

Wednesday morning I faced a tough schedule, with a Rotary meeting at 7, during deadline, and the story to be written by 9 a.m. Then I had my appointment with the city manager at 10 a.m.

Well, I took off for the Rotary meeting just a few minutes before 7 because I was trying to get as much other stuff done as possible before I left. I walked in and almost immediately they started the meeting. There was the usual fun, including a story from one of the guys that his truck had been squeaking, and he took it to a local shop (run by the former mayor) who sprayed Lemon Pledge on the squeaking plastic bits. It worked. The truck stopped squeaking. I want to try it on Eric's car.

The talk was from a local insurance agent who is also an old hand at rodeo and has been raising cutting horses. Those are horses trained to cut a cow from a herd and keep it away for a bit. The technique was useful in the cowboy days for taking care of individual animals... probably still is used in many places. In any case, he talked about competitive cow cutting. When I got back, I had less than an hour to write the story, and I couldn't fit in some of the funnier stories he told because they really didn't fit the topic. So I'll mention them here.

Sweet Revenge

The first was a tale about a friend he had growing up, call him Sam. The guy used to keep two pocket knives in his jeans, one in each pocket. The speaker said Sam would ask to trade knives with you. But you'd always end up with a broken knife in return for your nice pocket knife. So Sam's friends learned to keep two knives of their own so they could trade crappy knives with crappy. Sam also would lead people down trails while they were trail riding and yell back, "watch out for that branch!" when there was no branch, making all the guys behind him duck and check. In short, he was a prankster and all the fellows burned to get back at him.

The speaker got his chance many years later while working on the chuckwagon at a rodeo. He spotted Sam drive up and get out of his car, leaving the keys in the seat. The speaker sauntered over and removed the keys, then blended back into the crowd with the remote lock and starter in his hands. When Sam got back to his car a few minutes later and reached for the door, the speaker clicked the lock, so Sam couldn't get in. As Sam started to walk away to get help, he unlocked the door and Sam turned around to try to get back in... but the door locked again. Sam looked around but couldn't see anyone he knew, so he tried to break in. The speaker set off the car alarm. Then turned it off. Then walked out to Sam and said, "looks like you're having some car trouble." At which point the two had a reunion, as they hadn't seen each other in 25 years. Ha.

Buffalo Guys

The other story came after a question about someone seeing buffalo on the property the speaker owns. He laughed and said, yes, they sometimes have buffalo to practice cutting with. After the cows have been in the practice ring for awhile, they get "sour" and either refuse to move when separated or run back and forth so fast they are impossible to work with. Buffalo, on the other hand, think of cutting as a game and like to tease the horses. He described the buffalo as "prancing away" if they manage to fool the horse.

He also said buffalo are pretty smart and can be very difficult to wrangle if they escape. Then he told about a friend whose buffalo escaped into a yard next door and asked him for help. As it was late in the afternoon, the speaker told his friend they had to wait until the next day because there wasn't enough time left to wrangle them. Sure enough, they were able to get one of the two escapees captured easily enough, but the other one watched the first capture and "she decided she wanted no part in it!" It took several hours to get the second one safely captured and returned home.

In any case, the speaker said he didn't use buffalo anymore because a local feedlot lends them cows to chase, so they when they sour they just go home. And he said buffalo will charge a horse and attack, and getting rid of the large buffalo can be a challenge, since they will take down a horse.

The speech was great, even if I couldn't use it all, but my story was not nearly as good. I was not satisfied with it, but turned it in to the editor anyway because it was deadline. He ok'ed it, which disturbed me. After deadline I got to work on Thursday stuff and actually got quite a bit done before heading off to my appointment at city hall.

Storming City Hall

Driving to city hall I noticed a military vehicle, looked like a Hummer, driving up the street. It looked like they didn't know where they were going. I parked at city hall and they drove up practically behind me and parked as well. I headed in, trying not to glance at the four guys getting out of the truck. Once inside, I told the clerks I was there to see the city manager and waited for him to come out. Then the four guys from the Hummer came in and announced they were there to see the city manager. Um, oops?

The HR person took them back to the conference room and the city manager came out to see me. He said their appointment had been at nine, could I wait? Sure, I have no problem waiting. I have books on my smart phone for instances like this. It wasn't really worth the effort to go back to work, so I talked with the clerks for a little bit, warning the new girl that she would be in the paper soon (new city employees always seem to get an introductory article in the paper). While I was sitting there waiting, she got the call from my co-worker. Ha!

I read a little more of "Go Set A Watchman" and listened to the business of city hall. Sometimes just listening you can pick up something that may turn into a story later. Thus I was listening when one of the clerks moaned that a particular citizen was approaching. The citizen had some complaints and apparently is one of those people that is difficult to deal with at the best of times. So the clerks made the new girl handle her. Ouch. While she was still at the counter, the four military guys came out and left the building. I debated whether to go hunt for the city manager or wait for him... I decided to wait. A minute or two later he poked his head around the doorway and waved me to the back offices. The difficult woman was still making angry noises when I went back to the city manager's office.

My interview went well. I learned that the military guys were there on some sort of research thing where they are talking with local small governments about how they handle governing cities and dealing with emergencies. The goal, and I'm hearing this second-hand through the city manager, is to help soldiers provide practical advice to local leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems to me that it's more than a decade too late to start that sort of training, but I applaud the military for thinking of it, if that's really what was going on. Maybe they've been doing it for years and this is just a crew getting field experience in talking to local leaders.

Wednesday afternoon didn't go nearly as well, although I got my work done and got started on other work. It was just a slog all the way through. I started more stories, but had more problems as I went. It was an afternoon of heavy rewriting. Eventually I went home and ended up rewriting some of the work I'd put into Evernote because it just needed another round of editing. I was able to relax most of Wednesday evening again. Relaxing without being sick! It's amazing how much more restful it is.

Slowing Down at the End of the Week

Thursday morning was one of those "there is nothing to do until I get the police logs" days, so I wrote my stories for the special sections. I got a ton done, nearly finishing one story before the first police log arrived. I finished that one after deadline, then pulled together several other pieces and stories over the course of the morning. Lunch was quick, then to the doctor for an appointment that I scheduled ages ago and didn't remember why. Then back to work. I finished another special section story and made progress on other stuff. Then it was time to head home.

Once at home I crashed. I thought, "I'll just lay down on the bed for a moment" and the next thing I knew Eric was waking me up for dinner several hours later. I tried to enjoy myself and relax, but in the end I was back in bed at my usual time and slept soundly. Apparently being well requires more sleep for me. *sigh*

I was slow getting up on Friday, so missed out on some of my online time. I actually got to work a minute or two before my coworkers, which surprised me. I thought I was moving slower than I was, but cutting my online time caught me up, I guess. My concern that my writing has been a little weak was confirmed by one of the corrected assignments on my desk... I had to do significant rewrites to make it work. I need to read some really good prose soon to get my writing back in gear (writers tend to subconsciously ape the style of their most recent readings, so it's important to read intelligently written stuff whenever possible. It's one reason I usually start out the morning re-reading the previous day's work, so I'm in "newswriter" mode when I start tapping on the keyboard.).

Deadline was normal, then I started working ahead so I had less to worry about next week when my vacation starts. Again, the afternoon was a slog when I was writing. I went out to get some interviews, which I apparently do better in the afternoons than the mornings. I should really arrange my schedule so I write in the morning and do interviews and photos in the afternoon. Again, once I got home I decided to take a quick nap and... yeah, several hours later Eric woke me up for dinner. I still feel that I'm much healthier than I've been, but clearly I still need more sleep than I've been getting.

So, today I have a couple of assignments that should be easy enough to do. I'm headed to a cribbage tournament in about an hour, then a Farmers Market after I'm done with that. Next week I may not post. It depends on what I'm doing at the convention.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Convention Business Meeting Video

One of the big things expected to happen at the Hugo Business Meeting this year is that people will be proposing a method to prevent slates from taking over the Hugos in future years. For the Hugos, it takes two years for a proposal like this to pass, so if it passes, it won't be effective until the 2017 Hugo nominations.

Because of this, the business meeting might be interesting this year. To introduce people who may have never participated in a business meeting before to the concept, Kevin Standlee made the following video that describes the procedures used in the meeting. This is mostly old hat for me, since I cover city council and school board meetings for the newspaper, but some people may find this eight-minute video enlightening. Even with my experience, I found a couple of things about convention business meetings to be different to the kind I usually attend.

If you have any intention of going to the Hugo business meeting, or if you might want to get involved in other conventions' meetings, this video might be useful to you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I Am Here

This is the first photo of the entire Earth taken in 43 years. I can see my house!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


There are some amazing costumes on this San Diego Cosplay photo set. I particularly like the Frozen/Mad Max crossover. The body art Green Lantern and Batman were also... interesting. And there's even a Mayor McCheese - wow. Anyway, lots of cosplay: IGN's 17 best, massive gallery, Bleeding cool outside the convention center, more from Friday, day two, Blastr Day 1, Blastr Day 2 and Blastr Day 3.

Just in case you ever wanted to, The Guardian has a post on how to draw a horse.

Dr. Science explains How to vote in the Hugo Awards, with a focus on this year. I did not read this until I finished my own voting, but there's some interesting stuff in there.

Just as a reminder, you can go to Renay's Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom or the Hugo Nominees 2016 Wikia to look for works that will eligible for a Hugo in 2016 so you can read them for possible nomination. Both the spreadsheet and wiki allow submissions, as well, so add your own favorites to get them a little more widespread attention.

Monday, July 20, 2015


The blob is causing the strange weather in Washington state. Also, it's NOT simply global warming run rampant.

Aquaman? Seriously, copy-editing is an important skill. I feel sorry for the writer, who probably had little to do with the headline.

Yes, I admit it. I bought the new Lois McMaster Bujold novella literally the first day it was available. And yes, I've read it. I will read it again soon. It's very good. It will be on my Hugo nominees list.

I'd like to get my hubby a copy of this role playing game. Sadly, I can't get to Sasquan.

Ah, the infamous Max Headroom hack, right in the middle of one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who, The Horror of Fang Rock.

I'm delighted by the Eisner Award Winners, particularly Beasts of Burden and Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland. Generally speaking, the list of nominees is a good "recommended reading" list, as well.

I must say, I'm looking forward to this crossover, and I really hope Jeff Parker gets to write it.

The reaction of Ursula Vernon to being put on the World Fantasy shortlist is lovely, but the best line is definitely "three times--there had been rum". Congrats Ursula! Jackalope Wives deserves the nomination!

Adam Savage had a special guest cosplayer with him at San Diego this year:

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Sunday Review

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jun 3rd
  • Justice League #41 - I find Darkseid to be one of the most boring evil dudes in the entire DCU, and I really hate the whole "New Gods" thing. That means I probably am going to have a really tough time with this whole storyline, which looks to be infested with Darkseid, new gods and cosmic flimflam. *yawn* Give me something a little less cosmic.
  • Green Lantern #41 - That's supposed to be Hal? Ha. Right. More cosmic stuff. I'm not sure what to make of it, but so far I'm not impressed with this DCU.
  • Batman Beyond #1 - Joker cosplay. I love it. Ahem. This isn't the Batman Beyond I know and love, and I'm not all that keen on seeing Terry's brother jealous of Tim. I'll give it a few issues, but I'm not really liking it so far.
  • Flash: Season Zero #9 - And there ends the tale of a character we are very unlikely to see on the show. King Shark is cool, but I just can't see him working on the television screen. This is more of Barry going too fast, messing up because he's not working out the situation before he jumps into action.
  • Doctor Who 12th #8 - I like how the Doctor points out to the bad guys that their actions are even worse than the initial problem. And I'm glad the victims survived.
  • Big Game Hunters #1 - Steampunk monster hunting seems to be a genre all itself anymore. This is a decent addition to the oeuvre. The art is a little cluttered for my tastes, but the story is somewhat intriguing and the characters are strange enough that I'm looking forward to the next issue.
  • Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen #2 - More on Dorothy's history, including the fact that her dad liked to expose his chest, too. Clearly the desire to remove clothing runs in the family. How many more issues of this thing are there? Will the characters ever start wearing real clothing? Will the plot start to make sense? Find out in another few months...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

My Hugo Ballot

So, below the cut is the "rough draft" of my Hugo ballot. I will continue to read and consider right up until the deadline, and I reserve the right to change my mind. I will not be posting another version of this, since I suspect this is close enough. There are two categories in which I haven't quite decided yet... those are my focus for the next few days. Again, I won't be updating you on how I decide. There must remain some mystery in the world.

Overall I found the experience to be fun and interesting, although there were enough works that were just plain bad to make it painful at times as well. I approve of trying to get more people to vote and nominate in the Hugo awards, but slates are for losers. The puppies managed to prove how bad slates are this year by nominating stuff that was just awful. Fortunately, some decent works got in despite the slate-mongering morons.

Of particular joy for me was The Goblin Emperor and Ancillary Sword. Goblin was like a comfort read while Ancillary was a mind-twist that I very much enjoyed. I'm looking forward to reading the first novel. I was also delighted to see Edge of Tomorrow, a movie I would not have picked up if it were not on the Hugo ballot. It's become one of my favorites in recent years. I also enjoyed the look into the world of 'zines, and I may end up picking up more of them to look for likely nominees for next year. And lastly, Wesley Chu was a nice find. I'm looking forward to reading more of his works.

In addition, the controversy introduced me to Mike Glyer's File 770 and the fantastic comment sections there. Unfortunately, I've gotten so many book and story recommendations from those threads it may take me a year just to get through them all. What a fine problem to have!

The Week in Review

The week started out calmly enough... well, if by calm you mean a bunch of Doctor Who fans taking over my house and watching British television until all hours of the night. I spent a lot of the time upstairs hiding with Inkwell, reading Hugo nominees. I got through a ton of them, wrote up most of my reviews and tried to rest.

Sick Daze

Unfortunately, whatever was simmering and has been making me sick decided it couldn't wait any longer. I felt absolutely miserable Monday morning, but dragged myself to work because, frankly, with the editor out I didn't want to burden my co-workers with the extra effort it would take if I was gone. Once I got to work I realized immediately what a mistake I'd made. I spent the entirety of deadline racing to the bathroom every few minutes to either throw up or have horrible gagging reflexes. Please note: I do not drink alcohol. This was not a result of too much partying. I didn't even eat all that much over the weekend, which is unusual for me when the Doctor Who fans come over.

After the third or fourth dry heave, I decided I'd had enough of the office and went home sick. I was able to get some water down, although it didn't always stay down. I also tried to sleep, although that was also not really working well.

I let Inkwell nibble on some catgrass while I was busy worshipping the porcelain god, but apparently he was feeling left out and found a nice spot on the carpet to do his own heaving on. I almost managed to get him into the bathroom in time, but he left a little splash on the carpet. Eric came up to clean it up; Inky then threw up again, this time on a towel I'd spread out for him. That almost triggered another round in me, but luckily I was able to settle my stomach. Poor Eric had to deal with a sick cat and sick wife, which could not have been pleasant for him.

I finally managed to fall asleep, with a great deal of difficulty. As near as I can figure, and this might be completely wrong, I think my body was reacting to my recent bouts of heat exhaustion (caused by our hot spell of temperatures over 100F for several days), stress, and possibly a nasty little thunderstorm that zipped through. The storms sometimes trigger a fibromyalgia flare-up, which was definitely part of this illness. But the fibro alone doesn't account for all the symptoms. I generally don't throw up during flare-ups. In any case, I definitely had the fibro fog and was pretty much useless for a couple of days. I was really happy I'd already written and scheduled my Hugo posts, since I couldn't have written them while I was sick.

I woke up, ate a little, tried to read a little, then went back to bed. This pattern continued most of Monday and throughout Tuesday. I watched some TV, but don't remember much of it. Eric and I headed down to get my car and I nearly got sick on the very bumpy state route 22 between Granger and Toppenish. Driving home was a nightmare I don't even want to think about. Tuesday night my folks and sister spent the night on their way back from my nephew's wedding. I wasn't much of a hostess, but Inkwell surprised me by being absolutely cool with my family and not hiding upstairs under my chair for the duration.

Back to Work

Wednesday morning was odd. I was still not well, but I wasn't nearly as sick as before. I got up to see my family leave, then slept again for a bit in my chair with Inkwell next to me. I got up again before 8 a.m. and tried to decide whether to go to the clinic and have them tell me they couldn't determine what was wrong with me, or just go to work. I eventually made the decision to go to work.

It felt like I'd been gone a month, not a day and a half. I started to line up my ducks to make sure I had my assignments in place and knew what I was doing. I had several assignments to complete and two appointments scheduled for Thursday, including a swim meet. I churned through what I could do, trying to get as much in place as possible for Thursday, and went home still sick a bit early after a little less than a half-day of work. Wednesday evening I started to feel better, enough that I was able to write up some blogs and even work on my much neglected wiki.

Happy Anniversary!

Thursday morning came very early, but my hubby happily woke me with the words, "Our marriage is now old enough to legally drink!" Happy anniversary, Eric.

Back in the Swing of Things

Thursday was all about getting back into my routine. Up in the morning, shower, a little bit of online browsing with breakfast, then off to work. Deadline was more difficult than it ought to have been due to some dithering. Then I started to work on Friday's stuff before heading off to the morning meeting of the group trying to use the resources of the town to help local children avoid the pitfalls of gangs and drugs.

The meeting was nicely casual. Although I felt relaxed, I was a little concerned about finding something in the meeting to write about. After the meeting I stuck around to chat with a person who works for the Educational Service District about how the local high school has turned around its graduation rate.

I then went home for lunch. My Windows 10 computer said it wanted to upgrade, so I told it to go ahead... and it took its dear sweet time. As I was waiting I started to get a bit sleepy, so I set my phone alarm to wake me up before 1 p.m. so I wouldn't be late back to work. Good thing I did, as I fell pretty soundly asleep. When the alarm went off I pulled myself together and headed out the door, pausing to pick some plums from my plum stick. The Windows upgrade was not yet done.

Back to work, and actually somewhat productive for an afternoon. I got four stories churned out and the foundation laid for another story. I headed home a little early to cut hours for the evening swim meet. Then back home to rest for a bit before heading out again. It's always difficult to leave once you've gone back home, but with three hours until the meet, I wasn't going to stay at work. Eric and I had a spaghetti dinner together for our 21st anniversary and joked about how wild and crazy we were, spending the special day cleaning house and going to take photos at swim meets.

I headed out to the swim meet a little early, and arrived just in time for the start of the medley relay, which is the event I most wanted to be around for. It means you can get all the different strokes in a single event. I'm always amazed at how chaotic swim meets are, and yet the children seem to be able to get on the blocks at the right time and the timers seem to be able to figure out what kids they are tracking. I try to approach the kids I've just got a picture of after they come out of the water to get their name, though sometimes I'll ask the timekeepers if they don't look too flustered. It can be very difficult to make sure I get all the names and get them right.

I stayed for almost an hour before deciding I probably had enough photos, since I was trying to get one each of both teams and both genders. Once home I started to work on my wiki again, which was refreshing and relaxing. I stayed up a little late getting stuff on it done, then slept soundly.

Friday morning I was already back in my routine, and up and going in plenty of time. I got to work slightly early and started to sort through my photos... there were a couple decent ones I could use. There were a few that looked too similar to previous photos, so I passed on those to go after what I thought were better shots.

Deadline was easy enough, then I was mostly prepping for Monday. I have a full schedule today, including a bike rodeo, health fair, fiber fair and a fundraiser. I'm hoping to write a little more about those next week. In the meantime, I'm going to be late if I don't get ready, so off I go.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Plum stick update

Hey, my plum stick has become a little bit more of a tree:

And it's even grown some fruit:

Hugos: How Did I Do?

Let's work out for this week what puppy works there were in my reviewed categories and what I thought of them for the Hugo ballot.

The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo)

I was not surprised to discover that four of the five nominees for this award are on the puppy slates. Cordova, English and Raymond are all on both slates while Nelson is only on the Rabid slate.

No surprise, Chu, who was far and away the absolute best choice in the category, was not a slate nominee. I wish he'd had worthy competition.

Professional Editor (Short Form)

I knew that VD was a slate nominee, but I was surprised to find out that all the nominees were on slates. That just makes me wonder how much better/different the nominees would have been if the puppies hadn't dishonestly gamed the nomination system. In any case, VD was only on the Rabid slate while all the others were on both slates.

Brozek was my top pick and Resnick second, though I could have just as easily gone the other way with them.

Professional Editor (Long Form)

This was another category that only had slate nominees. Again, VD was only on the Rabid slate and all the others were on both slates. Again, I wonder how different the slate would have been without scumbags gaming the system. Honestly, it makes me want to go and put "No Award" at the top for both editor categories and list my picks below, especially after having read the so-called Related Works category.

Anyway, Gilbert took the top spot in part due to her absolutely brilliant contribution to the packet that I hope and fear every long form editor in the future will follow, while Sowards got the second spot.

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

The Lego Movie, Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy were all slate nominees on both slates. Edge of Tomorrow and Captain America were not on slates. Edge of Tomorrow is one of my top choices while Captain America is at the bottom. I'm still not sure which movie will get the top spot on my ballot, Edge of Tomorrow or The Lego Movie. That's going to be a tough choice for me.


I almost wish I hadn't bothered with the editor categories. Almost. If I'd known/remembered that they were all puppies, I probably wouldn't have bothered. They were really tough to decide, and would be in any year. Knowing that both categories were entirely tainted makes all that effort seem pointless.

I'm very glad I watched Edge of Tomorrow, and it was nice to have some extra movie nights with my hubby. I really did enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy and Interstellar, though I'm really glad I had the ability to pause Interstellar and take a break. The movie watching was probably the easiest and the most stressful of the categories, but the library came through for me and I ended up watching pretty much all the movies without any problems.

Lastly, I've set up a page on the blog that lists all my Hugo posts and has some useful links to other resources. I'll try to keep it updated, but no promises.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hugo Viewing - Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

This is probably the most fun category for me, since I don't usually see a lot of movies in a year. Because I'm trying to vote on the category, my husband decided that he would help me hunt down and watch each of these movies. Four extra movie nights with hubby! That's a good thing. Only four because I have seen one of the movies before. In fact, I have one of these movies on DVD. So let's start with that one.

  • The Lego Movie
    This was the only movie of the lot that I had already seen, and I loved it so much that I bought a copy for myself. Is it Hugo-worthy? I think it had a deep lesson about imagination and some great homages to science fiction... it was also filled with fantasy tropes like the wise mentor, most of which got turned on their heads in an often hilarious way. In short, I have no problem with this being on the list, and I clearly love it as well. To decide whether or not it's my top pick, though, I've got to see the other movies.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    Well, this is a comic book in movie form, obviously. I enjoyed it for what it is, but I don't consider it the most excellent movie I've seen from last year. I mean, it does what it says on the tin, it's a good comic book movie, but... it's a comic book movie. It's almost as two dimensional as a comic book. There's no powerful twist at the end, it's all fairly straightforward in a comic book way. Is it worthy of the Hugo? No, I don't really think so.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
    I have never been a fan of the interstellar type of comics. Kree and stuff don't interest me. But honestly, this one is fun. It starts out with a major downer and turns into a bit of a romp as it goes along. However, in the end, it's just a popcorn movie. It's fun and I think it's slightly better than Captain America at what it does, but it's not something I would give a Hugo.
  • Edge of Tomorrow
    I was not expecting much from this movie. I'm not a big fan of Tom Cruise, and that was literally all I knew about it going in. But it quickly became interesting with the five-minute recap of the situation on earth and the stakes in the coming battle. Cruise was understated enough to be watchable, and the action moved along at a nice clip, never going over the same ground too often despite being a movie entirely about going over the same ground over and over. The movie didn't underestimate the audience, either, sometimes covering ground that hadn't been covered and expecting the audience to pick up on the nuances. In short, this was actually a really good movie. It was also seriously milSF, with awesome mech fights that only sometimes got long enough to become boring. This is going to give the Lego Movie a run for the top spot on my ballot. I'm actually going to have a tough choice for the top position!
  • Interstellar
    Coming in at almost three hours long, this was not a movie I could have sat through in the theater. Some of the scenes definitely would have benefited from being on the big screen, though, so it's slightly sad that I can no longer handle the horrible theater seats long enough to watch a movie like this. There wasn't a lot of wasted scenes in this, either. The scenes that I thought, why are they showing this? generally had a callback later on in the movie. I have some serious problems with some of the science, but I'm fine skipping over it. I think the biggest issue I had was in the resolution. I groaned when I realized (spoiler-rot13) ur jnf urnqrq vagb gur oynpx ubyr. And then there was the very final bit. If you're going to make it a happy ending, finish the job and show us the freakin' happy ending, darn it.
Well, it's down to The Lego Movie and Edge of Tomorrow for the top spot on the ballot. I adore the Lego Movie, but in the end there is a lot of fluff there compared to Edge of Tomorrow, which was smartly written, funny and explored a serious SF concept in ways that were not quite mind-blowing. Still... Lego Movie. Everything is Awesome. But... mechs! Time travel done right! I may go right up to the deadline, switching my votes on those two.

The third spot is Interstellar. I may be a comic book fan, but neither of the comic book movies were quite as good as the other options. Guardians gets the fourth spot and, sorry, Cap, but The Winter Soldier will take up the rearguard for me.

And with that, my viewing/reading is technically done. I've got another two weeks to read further and possibly change my mind on some of these, but my initial review of the material is done. I wish I'd had another month or two to do it in, because I really do feel like I'm going to have to go back over some of these works to make sure I've given them a fair shake.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A note on blogging

I sometimes use the scheduling function in Blogger to schedule my posts. This has come in handy a variety of times. For instance, I didn't want to dump all my Hugo reviews on people at once, so whenever I finished one ahead of time I would schedule it out a day or two. In this week's case, I scheduled pretty much all week on Saturday, which was good, since I've been sick the beginning of this week.

So to the person who was wondering if I really get up at five a.m. and write my review and post it... no. I generally have it done the night before or earlier and schedule it so there will be something on the blog every day.

I also tend to schedule posts when I'm going out of town or to a convention. It makes it easier to make sure there is something for people to read. But hey, blogging about blogging is a sin, so I'm just going to leave it at that.

Edited to add: If I had been blogging live earlier this week, I think I would have bored you with lots of stuff from San Diego. Instead, those will have to wait until I have some time to look through and find stuff I really want to share. Here, here's something I found clever:

We've rediscovered Pluto, apparently.

Hugo Reading - Editor, Long Form

Editing is not something that is easy to judge if you aren't a writer being edited. But my general notion is that bad editing sticks out like a sore thumb while good editing is totally invisible. Long form editing is even harder to judge than short form... with short form you can look at a variety of stories and say, "these are all competent" and sometimes even be able to tell if the same issues run from story to story. But long form requires more effort to read and figure out what contribution the editor likely made.

  • Vox Day
    This person did not submit anything to the Hugo packet, and I'm not willing to go looking at the cesspool of misogyny and racism on his website for more information. He's off my ballot.
  • Toni Weisskopf
    The packet notes say to check out this editor's work at Baen Books. However, once on that website, there is no clear indication which of the many books published by Baen she has personally edited. Apparently she's the publisher of Baen now, which is fine and dandy, but I'm not judging publishing. I'm judging editing. And without a list of works, it's pointless to try. She's off the ballot.
  • Jim Minz
    Same as Weisskopf, except there is nothing in the packet notes at all about this nominee. In short, he's a big blank. So I looked him up online and found that he's also a Baen editor. Again, there is no information that can be easily accessed about what novels he worked on in 2014, so he's off the ballot. I don't see any reason to give him a chance if he can't be bothered to give the very minimum needed to judge his work.
  • Anne Sowards
    The packet has a list of works she edited in 2014, including Skin Game by Jim Butcher (I've already read the excerpt in the packet) and Maplecroft by Cherie Priest which immediately moved up on my to-read pile. I liked Skin Game, although there were placed it could have been tighter. Maplecroft was fun, but again, there were places it needed just a nip and a tuck to make it read better. Still, both were excellent and I can't fault this editor for her work.
  • Sheila Gilbert
    This editor is pure evil. She put together a sampler with the first chapter each of a ton of books she's edited. Yes, teasers. Yes, they draw you in. I like the way she thinks. THIS is how you do a Hugo packet as a long form editor. I feel like I ought to put her at the top of the ballot just for this lovely trick, since it's almost certainly going to lead to me buying more books. Yes, there were a few really good first chapters in there, enough to make me nod my head and think, this person is deserving.
Even with the field narrowed to two, I almost can't make up my mind. At the moment, Gilbert is just a little higher than Sowards on my ballot. As I read a bit more and seek out other works (or finish some of those books I got samples of) I might change my mind. But they will both be on the ballot, certainly. "No Award" will also be on the ballot. Again, I'm not sure where it will fall in relation to the people who get on my ballot, but it'll be there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hugo Reading - Editor, Short Form

The editor categories are going to be incredibly difficult to judge. A good editor fades into the background. If the editing is excellent, the reader will hardly be aware of it. If the editing is bad, however, it's painfully obvious.

As a professional writer, although not of fiction, I have learned a lot from my editor. He's grumpy and gruff and really good at what he does. My first six months on the job I simply made the changes he suggested, and learned from each one. By the end of the first year I was making my own changes based on what he'd found. Sometimes things that were perfectly clear to me made no sense to him. Seeing my work through another person's eyes was invaluable. The experience has been constantly educational and often embarassing. However, I would be a far poorer writer without his editing. My blog is not edited, and sometimes the most horrible mistakes get through.

So I feel slightly qualified to judge editing. The problem will be whether or not the nominees have given me enough information to judge by. The absolute ideal, and absolute most unlikely, would be to get a story in rough and final forms. The next best would be a couple of stories or a single long work to read. The least best is just a list of stories to read, Which I can hopefully find and then make some judgements on the quality of the editing. For short form, this should not be too difficult. So... into the fray I go.

  • Vox Day
    This is the person who approved those awful Wright stories. That alone, ignoring everything else I know about him, is enough to keep him off my ballot. Add in the other works he claims to have edited from "Riding the Red Horse" and this guy is what I would call a useless editor. Every one of those pieces needed a lot of work to make them good enough for publication, much less good enough to be considered for an award.
  • Jennifer Brozek
    There's an entire collection edited by this nominee in the Hugo Packet. Even more amusing, she lives in a town I lived in 10 years. Hopefully that tidbit won't influence me too much. The theme of the stories in the anthology are robots, and I actually like the majority of them. As with any anthology, there's a couple that don't ring with me, but mostly it's an excellent collection with some interesting ideas explored. I didn't see any evidence of poor editing, most of the works were tightly written and ended at the right moment. Brozek will be high on my ballot.
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt
    There's an anthology in the packet, but it's a co-editing job with Brozek. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to figure out which editor did the bulk of the work on any given story. I definitely would have preferred something he claimed sole editorship on, if he had any such works in 2014. Still, this is what he gave me, this is what I'm going to go by. The stories are all war stories, and many of them are not very interesting to me. In fact, I had to struggle to get through a lot of them. They didn't seem as tight as the stories in Brozek's solo effort, with a few going on too long and many rambling a little in the middle. Very few of them touched me or made me say, "wow" as I finished them. I don't know if that's a problem with Schmidt's editing, a symptom that Brozek isn't as great when working on a different theme, or just me not being fond of the subject matter. Whatever it is, Schmidt's further down on the ballot than Brozek.
  • Mike Resnick
    This is a name that is very familiar to me from dozens of anthologies I've read and enjoyed throughout the years. I'm delighted to read more. The Hugo Packet had a list issues of Galaxy's Edge from 2014, so I searched a bit and found a "Best of Galaxy's Edge 2013-14" collection that contains many of the stories. I read the 15 or so stories that were in the book and on his list, and they are good. Admittedly, there were a couple of stories that could have used another once over, but it was a fun selection. It was nice to not have a theme, as well. In short, I'm pleased with the offerings here.
I'm going to have to give Brozek a slight edge here. While I didn't love every story, all of them seemed very solidly constructed and clean. Resnick gets the second spot. The stories were uniformly fun and interesting, but I felt some of them needed one last edit. Schmidt will get the third spot. Nothing in that collection jumped out and really stunned me. They weren't bad, but some of them definitely could have been better. VD isn't on my ballot, but "No Award" will be. I'm not entirely sure where I'll rank "No Award" in relation to the other entries, but I certainly believe both Brozek and Resnick deserve honors for their work.

There was a fifth nominee, Edmund R. Schubert, but he withdrew from consideration due to the slates. I respect him for that, and hope he gets a serious look from nominators in a year when no idiots are running slates.