Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Sunday Review

The Fifth Season
My book this week was The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin.

Another recommended book, another hit. I am running a pretty good record following the advice of various folks. This is another book that is the first in a series, but it didn't feel like it ended as abruptly as Beasts of Tabat, which I reviewed last week. This one felt like it came to some conclusions before it ended, which means I feel satisfied.

First up: the completely non-spoiler review. This is a solid book with an interesting scientific premise that, once you catch on makes such perfect sense it's hard not to read the whole thing in one sitting. At least, that was the situation for me. The fifth seasons were fascinating to read about, seeing as I live near a volcano and was around when it blew up in 1980, and vividly remember quite a bit about it - including the faces wrapped in whatever fabric handy to keep out the ash. The book is the first of a series, but doesn't quite end on a cliffhanger. There's a beginning, middle and end to this telling - but also an opening for the next phase. There are quests unfulfilled, events yet to meet - but there's also a sense of ending. Definitely a contender for my Hugo ballot.

Ok, Spoilers ahead (use rot13 to read). V erpbtavmrq evtug njnl gung gur guerr punenpgref jrer nyy gur fnzr crefba ng qvssrerag cbvagf va ure yvsr, nygubhtu gur aneengbe jnfa'g pyrne gb zr ng nyy. Gur frpbaq-crefba zrgubq bs gryyvat Rffha'f fgbel znqr vg qenzngvp naq vzzrqvngr, juvpu urvtugrarq gur grafvba. V jbaqre vs fur'yy rire svaq ure qnhtugre, be vs gur birenyy nep jvyy or zber vzcbegnag. Guvf vf n jbzna jub unf orra guebhtu n ybg, V trg jul fur sryy ncneg jura ure fba jnf zheqrerq.

Nynonfgre vf bar urpx bs n anfgl cvrpr bs jbex. Ohg pbafvqrevat uvf bevtva naq jung ur'q orra chg guebhtu ol uvf inevbhf znfgref, vg jnf nznmvat ur unq gur jvyy gb yvir ng nyy. V ernyyl jnagrq gb ernq zber bs gur frperg uvfgbel bs Fnamr nf gbyq ol Nynonfgre, ohg jr qvqa'g trg arneyl rabhtu.

V ybirq gur zvk bs arj naq byq grpuabybtl. Guvf vf n jbeyq gbea ncneg ol trbybtvpny sbeprf, univat vafgehpgvbaf sbe fheiviny jevggra va fgbar vf n terng vqrn. Gur snpg gung zrgny qbrfa'g ynfg jbhyq arire unir bppheerq gb zr, fb V'z ybivat gur jnl vg vf cbegenlrq nf n sbbyvfu guvat. Gur bofvqvna xavirf ner nyfb arng gb ernq nobhg. Gur jubyr jbeyq bs guvf obbx vf whfg nznmvat.

Gur fgbar rngref ner rkgerzryl perrcl. Cneg bs zr xrrcf frrvat gurz nf jrrcvat natryf. Cneg bs zr nf Terrx tbqf. Va nal pnfr, gurl ner n phevbfvgl. Jurer qvq gurl pbzr sebz? Jrer gurl znqr? Sbe gung znggre, ubj qvq gur bebtrar qrirybc? Gurer'f n ybg bs hanafjrerq dhrfgvbaf va guvf obbx, bayl znqr rnfl gb orne orpnhfr gurer'f zber pbzvat riraghnyyl. V'z ernyyl phevbhf nobhg gur boryvfxf naq gurve bevtva, nybat jvgu gurve ebyr va gur qrfgehpgvba bs gur zbba. Naq lrg V'z irel cyrnfrq jvgu gur fgbel fb sne, naq vs V arire trg n punapr gb ernq gur frdhry, V'z unccl rabhtu jvgu gur obbx. Gung'f n ernyyl tbbq guvat. Guvf obbx jbjrq zr, juvpu qbrfa'g unccra arneyl bsgra rabhtu.

In summary, this is one that is definitely in contention to be on my Hugo ballot, though I have to see what else I can read in the next few months before the nominating starts. I can recommend it without hesitation, with the warning that it is the first in a series and you will want to find out what happens next.



I also read a novelette this week:
  • "Ether" by Zhang Ran, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan and Ken Liu, this week. I had already figured out most of the twist long before it was explained in the story. Unfortunately, the way it was finally explained was a bit of a clumsy info-dump, not as good as the previous plot. This one is kind of an "eh" for me - the ideas were good but the execution could have been better. Probably not on my Hugo ballot.



I've also read short stories:
  • "Headwater LLC" by Sequoia Nagamatsu takes an ancient myth and brings it into the modern world. It's also a good story about youth and the mistakes made in it. I liked it a lot, but I was fairly depressed at the ending. I need more happy stories in my life! Despite how depressing it is, I enjoyed the use of folklore and the modern twists, and this one has a decent chance at my Hugo nomination ballot.

  • "Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Two Weeks Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind" by Erica L. Satifka is a frivolous story on the surface, but there's a lot of hints and terror in there. In fact, reading between the lines, I think this might be one of the scariest stories I've read in quite some time. There's also some interesting questions raised by it. Who found the list? What really happened to all mankind? I don't hate the story and maybe it'll go on my Hugo list... but it's not a happy story, and I'm beginning to get a little desperate for a happy story of some sort.



My Hugo Suggestions were likely recommended in the comment sections on File 770, Renay's Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom, or the Hugo 2016 Wikia. For my current list of Hugo 2016 readings, check out my Hugo 2016 Posts page.



DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jul 22nd
  • Aquaman #42 - I hate to say it, but the book is moving too slowly. We should have already gotten the full backstory by now and be moving on into possible resolutions. Instead, this gave us a tiny piece we already could have gotten from context in the last issue, then introduced a handful of characters. Not a sterling start. I'm also less than impressed with the new design of Aquaman and his now perpetual five-o'clock shadow. It doesn't make him look tough, sorry.
  • Harley Quinn & Power Girl #2 - I never thought I'd be agreeing with Harley, but yeah, who NAMES those places?!? Anyhow, this is a hilarious and not at all serious book that twists from moment to moment to make something that's somehow incredible and odd. I love it.
  • Sinestro #13 - If you do something good for the wrong reasons... well, Sinestro is still a nasty villain and Soranik is not in a good place at all. But I'll keep reading just for Soranik, the only character worth reading about in this book. She's enough to make the rest of it just barely tolerable.
  • Batman '66 #25 - Um. Wow. Ok, so we start with the official intro of Harlequin, who is considerably better in many ways than the Joker. I was happy to see an appearance of Matches Malone in there. Then we get a story with Barbara Gordon, who gives us the reason supervillain team-ups often don't work. Overall a fun issue, with the Harlequin story a significant bit better.
  • Fables TP #150/Vol 22 - The final issue of the series is its own trade paperback, and most of the pages were definitely needed to get all the stories packed into this. There are a lot of characters in the series and many of them finally get their "final" tales related in this book. Personally, I enjoyed it. It was a nice final issue, and yes, I'm going to consider it for the Hugo. Is fantasy allowed in the Hugo Awards? Should I nominate the series as a whole, or just the final volume?



Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Week in Review

Watching the Hugos

After convincing myself that it was a very bad idea to drive to Spokane on Saturday, I settled in to get a bunch of stuff done at home. Nothing major, I'm still enjoying Eric's summer break, but I got caught up on a few things and even got some reading in before Eric and I watched the Hugo Awards Ceremony live. I stayed up to watch the whole thing, but didn't bother with the after-show, since I'd watched enough of the pre-show to know that the folks presenting it were annoying to me. I also didn't stay up long enough to get the detailed results; that was actually the first thing I looked at on Sunday morning.

Indeed, I spent a great deal of time on Sunday reviewing the full report and writing up a couple of blog posts analyzing it and collecting my thoughts on the whole thing. I scheduled those for Monday and Tuesday so I'd have time to review them again if I came to other conclusions. But in the end, that was pretty much how I spent my Sunday: staying out of the smoke from the wildfires and reviewing the Hugo stats. I can't say it was a bad way to spend a day.

Traffic Annoyances

Monday morning I woke up with Hugo hangover, and had to pop some painkiller to just get going. Driving to work Monday morning was a nightmare. First, keep in mind that I go to work at 6:30 a.m. My commute is short, about a mile. The streets are normally deserted. But Monday... oh dear. First, as I turned off my street onto a slightly more busy street that doesn't have any lane markings, I was confronted by an approaching truck that was driving in the center of the road. It took him far too long to move over to allow me to go past him. He can't use the excuse of sun in his eyes: the sky was too smoky.

While that was slightly annoying, it happened again when I turned off that road and faced yet another truck. This one was going too fast and, again, hogging the road. Yes, folks, I know it's 6:30 in the morning, but do you have to drive all over the road?

By then I was feeling paranoid about drivers, but my next couple of roads were mostly fine, until I stopped at the first traffic light of my drive. It's a quiet morning, not a lot of traffic... but a car comes up behind me and decides that I shouldn't be stopped at the red light. Since I don't have a turn signal on and he does, he pulls around me into the oncoming lane, ignoring the fact that the light is red, and makes his turn while I watch him in shock.

Intellectually I get that at 6:30 in the morning having to stop for a traffic light when there's no traffic is a little silly. But that guy is still an idiot for pulling around me like that to take the turn. The reason there's a traffic light at that corner is because visibility is sometimes surprisingly bad - you think you can see, but you really can't. The only possible reason I can think for the guy to go around me is if he thought the lights were still flashing red, which they do overnight... but he'd have to be an inattentive idiot to have thought that, so I just don't know.

That was it for the bad driving. Oh, there was a driver who pulled around in the coffee stand and ended up facing my car while I pulled into the parking lot at work, but there was plenty of room. It was the first three incidents that made me jumpy. Not a good way to start a Monday morning.

Crazy Police Weekend

Fortunately, the police logs were extremely interesting and therefore kept me busy enough to not dwell on it too long. An old abandoned high school the next town south is a popular place for ghost hunters to illegally enter, and apparently two different groups headed there the same night and ended up clashing. That was kind of the top story on all the police logs because everybody got called in to help. I ended up not writing that one, but my own police log was pretty thrilling - a would-be burglar apparently cut himself while breaking the glass door of the business he intended to steal from, ending up with a cut so bad that he had to be taken to the specialist hospital across the mountains. Yikes. And there was also a high speed chase.

Then there was the fire that did a whole bunch of damage to a student center used for after-school tutoring and activities. That brought in all the local firefighters that could respond. Of course, many of our local firefighters have gone out to help fight the various wildfires in the state, leaving us with minimal coverage if anything truly huge happens down here. Add in a few idiots burning agricultural detritus - despite a burn ban, incredibly smoky conditions from the wildfires, extremely dry flora and a high wind - and it was entirely too exciting a weekend for all the local emergency services personnel.

Lunch was fairly calm, with me giving the cat his meal. He's going to have to get used to me being the main food provider during the day again, since school is starting. Back at work, I finished up a few things and then went home, since I had a council meeting to attend.

Gas Leak Scare

When I pulled into the garage and got out of my car, I smelled a very strong scent of rotten eggs. Not just a little scent, a strong scent. I wondered about it for a moment as I went into the house, then I suddenly realized what it might mean. I called up to Eric and asked him if it might mean we have a gas leak. He ran downstairs and went in to the garage, and smelled it as well, and said it could be. He turned off the gas to the water heater while I called the gas company, and a nice lady told me to leave the house immediately and leave the door open when I left. Eric and I grabbed a very unhappy Inkwell, piled into my car and parked a little down the street, leaving the garage door open. We then waited for the gas man.

He checked and checked, but didn't find any evidence of a leak. He started up our water heater again, and we gingerly went back into the house. I was still very nervous. When I went out to my car later to go to the council meeting, I was a bundle of nerves. But I didn't smell anything, so I tried to calm down.

The council meeting was ok, nothing major. Not like some of the meetings I've had the luck to cover. Everyone had their ideas, got them stated and got on with it, which is all I want from a meeting like that. I actually went to a finance meeting right before the council meeting, and I ended up writing one of my two stories based more on that meeting.

I got home at an almost decent hour for me and sniffed long and hard in the garage. Still no gas smell. I then collapsed into bed, glad that I didn't have any blogging to do. Ha. When it becomes a chore, that's when you have to stop worrying about blogging for awhile. And so it goes.

Multiple Columns to Write

Tuesday morning wasn't as difficult, but my alarm didn't go off, so Eric had to wake me. My phone decided to turn itself off. No idea why. But despite getting up 15 minutes late, I managed to get through my morning routine with some ease and got to work on time. My stories weren't too hard to write, although I won't say it was simple. More fun at the abandoned high school, which was unexpected. Unfortunately, I couldn't get details. I wasn't too worried about it, though, since I was headed down to that town for council Tuesday night. I could get details then, if it was still something I was interested in getting.

After deadline I needed to write a column for Wednesday. I had two ideas, so I ran them past a couple of the front desk/back office workers. "D" told me to write about the burn ban while "O" told me to write about the abandoned high school. Since I couldn't make up my own mind, I went ahead and wrote them both. It was one of those rare writing exercises where the words come effortlessly, for both of them. It actually felt really good to get them down and then start hammering the edges to make them a little more smooth.

I turned those in early, got more stuff done, and eventually left a bit early due to the council meeting that night. The editor picked the burn ban column to run on Wednesday. The High School column ran on Friday.

Tuesday night I drove down to the neighboring town a little early and went to the old abandoned high school to check it out. There's a tall chain-link fence entirely around the building. The grounds have been cleared completely maybe 20 feet all around it so you can see anyone who might have climbed that fence. The building itself is boarded up at every entrance and window. Apparently the "ghost hunters" who were there over the weekend broke a board to get in.

After my visit to the high school, I headed over to city hall and chatted a bit with people before the meeting. I learned they'd installed some new lights at the high school to try to prevent people from hanging out there. I still think the best solution would be to rent it out for ghost hunters with a liability form that covers every contingency, and let the idiots go nuts looking for something that isn't there (I believe in "ghosts" in the sense that I believe there is some sort of genuine phenomena that people experience that we interpret as people who have died. I do not believe the old high school is a likely spot for such things).

Council

The council workshop and meeting were not only pretty tame, they were genuinely difficult for me. There just wasn't much meat for a story there. The discussions might make for interesting stories in the future, but there wasn't enough actions taken to do more than a summary of one of them that I felt was pretty much nothing.

However, that's not to say the meeting was boring. The police chief, who was sworn in at the last meeting, had another swearing in. The last swearing in was sort of an emergency swearing in because they really needed him to have the title of chief right then and there due to the only other full-time officer leaving town. So this one was the swearing in that would allow friends and family to attend. And they showed up in droves. There is audience seating for about a dozen people in the council chambers. It was standing room only because at least two dozen showed up. After the chief was "sworn in" again, the crowd headed next door to the police station for donuts while the rest of us got on with council business. The police clerk brought two boxes of donuts for the council, and when the council finally went into executive session to discuss the police chief's contract, everyone snagged a donut.

I headed outside with the rest of the rabble and ate a donut while mosquitos chowed down on me, and chatted with the city clerk and the police chief. It was a nice enough night, except for the tiny flying vampires. I asked the chief about the high school, and he groaned and told me it was a pain in the butt for the city, but the folks that live near it are now reporting everything they see that's suspicious. I wonder if they reported me stopping to look at it? The owners at one point wanted to turn it into a bed and breakfast with tours of all the wineries, but for whatever reason that idea fell through.

About 20 minutes later we were called back in, the contract was approved and the meeting adjourned. My drive back home was held up by a person who believed driving 30 mph in a 55 zone is a good thing, along with about five other cars who didn't want to pass that person. It was not a tractor... that I could have understood.

Sick in the Morning

Wednesday morning was stressful for a variety of reasons, the worst of which for me was that I was having massive stomach cramps. With one of the reporters on vacation, the rest of us were filling in, and as it turned out, we all had morning meetings of some sort. I got through my deadline stuff quickly then headed out to my meeting, with a gal who is starting a pie shop in town. When I got back the editor was very upset because an assignment from one of my co-workers was missing. I looked in her email and found that she hadn't even seen it, so I forwarded it to myself and quickly wrote it up (cut and pasted, really) and turned it in. The editor got it into the paper and we managed to make the deadline for sending the pages to the printer. Yay.

Once deadline was over, Wednesday was relatively pleasant, except I was getting more and more sick. The stomach pains just would not go away. I went home to lunch and almost couldn't get up to get back to work. Once back at work I did everything I could before I gave up and headed home. At home Eric helped me up the stairs to bed, and I slept for several hours, finally feeling well enough to eat dinner before heading back to bed.

Thursday's schedule was horrible. I started out going to a local middle school to get photos of kids "making the transition back to school." Unfortunately for me, local kids are really very good about heading to school, and trying to find a child still in summer-mode wasn't easy. I eventually settled on several kids playing pick-up basketball outside the school while waiting for classes to start.

I got back and got the police logs done, with difficulty due to a lack of communication with one of my contacts. The rest of the day was a full schedule. I had to be in the office to meet someone at 1 p.m., and then over to meet some kids who had gone to Ecuador over the summer, then the School Board meeting that night, preceeded by the budget meeting. Ug. Lots of stuff and nonsense.

Disturbing Friday

When I got to work Friday morning, the editor was in his office but made it clear he was leaving. He said he was sick. He gave me some instructions, then talked with another reporter coming in, and left us on our own. It was... unpleasant. Still, we're professionals, we got through it.

Friday for lunch we headed over to Cactus Juice, since it was the last day they were open. I got the very last slice of spinach and bacon quiche and a cactus juice to drink (a fizzy combo of several fruit flavors). I also got a brownie cheesecake for dessert. It was a fine final meal at a great little restaurant that people are going to miss. Most of the decorations had already been removed from the walls, and the tables had the names of people who had bought them stuck on them with labels. Leaving felt strange, like a sad good-bye.

I stuck around Friday afternoon to write up my story on the Ecuador kids, having some difficulties while I was at it. When I finished I headed home and collapsed into bed. I seem to do that a lot, actually. I got up for dinner, read a bit, then got back to bed.

This morning I had to head down to Mabton for a budget meeting, and spent about three hours with them as they went over the priorities and ten-year goals. I'm not entirely sure what I'll be writing about it, but I'm thinking it through. Right now? I think I'm going to go back to bed. I'm tired.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Being an Introvert...

I absolutely HATE #10 and I try to arrange it so that #6 doesn't happen to me. #9 happens after every convention for me. #18 has caused actual fights between my husband and me. I can deal wtih #23 as long as I've got somewhere to retreat to. And #28 is very true, as well.

30 Problems That Only Introverts Will Understand

1. Practicing conversations with people you’ll never talk to.

2. When you want to cut all ties to civilization but still be on the internet.

3. When your friend wants to invite more people over, and you don’t want to sound like a bad person by saying no.

4. When spending a heavenly weekend alone means that you’re missing out on time with friends.

5. And you fear that by doing so, you are nearing ‘hermit’ status.

6. When your ride at a party doesn’t want to leave early, and no one seems to understand your distress.

7. Trying to be extra outgoing when you flirt so your crush doesn’t think you hate them.

8. That feeling of dread that washes over you when the phone rings and you’re not mentally prepared to chat.

9. When you have an awesome night out, but have to deal with feeling exhausted for days after the fact.

10. People saying “Just be more social.”

11. When you’re able to enjoy parties and meetings, but after a short amount of time wish you were home in your pajamas.

12. Staying up late every night because it’s the only time that you can actually be alone.

13. People making you feel weird for wanting to do things by yourself.

14. Having more conversations in your head than you do in real life.

15. The need to recharge after social situations.

16. People calling you out for day dreaming too much.

17. Carrying a book to a public place so no one will bug you, but other people take that as a conversation starter.

18. People interrupting your thoughts, and you get irrationally angry.

19. Having to say “I kind of want to spend some time by myself” when you have to deal with that friend that always wants to hang out.

20. When you’re asked to do a group project, and know that you’re going to hate every minute of it.

21. When you hear the question “Wanna hang out?”, and your palms start to sweat with anxiety.

22. When you hear, “Are you OK?” or “Why are you so quiet?” for the umpteenth time.

23. Having visitors stay with you is a nightmare, because it means you have to be on at ALL TIMES.

24. When people stop inviting you places because you’re the one that keeps canceling plans.

25. Being horrified of small talk, but enjoying deep discussions.

26. When you need to take breaks and recharge after socializing for too long.

27. The requirement to think introspectively rather than go to someone else with your problems.

28. Not wanting to be alone, just wanting to be left alone. And people not understanding that.

29. When people mistake your thoughtful look for being shy, or worse, moody.

30. That people need to know that you aren’t mad, depressed or anti-social. You just need to not talk to anyone for a while. And that’s okay.

Originally from http://www.tickld.com/t/773846

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Got Nothing

The stress has caught up with me, and I can't think of anything at all to write. So I'm just going to head to bed and not worry about it. My schedule tomorrow is incredibly full, so I may not blog at all tomorrow. I hope you all can endure a day or two without my scribblings.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hugo Post-mortem (part 2)

So, yesterday I posted a big long post about the rankings of the Hugo nominees. In the same document, we find out what else got more than a handful of nominees and therefore, we learn what the puppies pushed off the ballot.

More possible math, and possibly a long post, so after the cut it goes...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hugo Post-mortem (part 1)

In case you didn't already figure it out, Eric and I watched the Hugo Awards live together Saturday night. We had only one technical glitch during the stream, when they announced the winner of the Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form, so I had to find out who won from comments on File 770.

The full results have been announced, including how the voting went. The first pages of the Hugo Final Report list how the actual voting went. The more disturbing information is later in the report, where we learn what the puppy slates pushed off the ballot (and also get an idea of how many puppies there actually were nominating).

The business meeting Sunday morning tackled the problem head-on with the elegant but poorly understood E Pluribus Hugo proposal. It passed the first vote 186-62 after much discussion, and will have to be voted on and pass again next year before taking effect in 2017. This makes me wish I could get to MidAmeriCon II even more, now, so I can vote for it in the business meeting (I'm listed in the Aug. 6 Member List as an Attending Adult, which is not the case. I bought a supporting membership. I'm going to have to contact them to correct it.). Another proposal aimed at reducing the effect of slates, 4/6, also passed. This proposal would ask nominees to list only four choices, then there would be six nominees on the final ballot.

Let's see... Ursula Vernon has been incredibly gracious about losing out a nomination to the slates. The excellent "Jackalope Wives" would have made the ballot if not for the slates. Many people, seeing the works the slates pushed off the ballot, are furious all over again at the slate-movement and the slate leadership's dubious tastes.

Next up, I'm going to do math and speculate and think about things that probably would be better off left alone. I'm putting it all after the cut so you don't have to slog through it.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Sunday Review

Beasts of Tabat
My book this week was Beasts of Tabat by Cat Rambo.

This book was recommended in the comment sections on File 770 and in Renay's Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom.

Again, I came to this book completely cold... like I have all the books I've reviewed from the Spreadsheet of Doom. Sadly, this time I would call a strike instead of a homerun. It's ok, but this book has a fatal flaw that I did not know about when I started it: It's the first book of a planned series of four. Oops.

First up: the completely non-spoiler review. I found myself enjoying the main characters, but both of them are somewhat one-dimensional if looked at too closely. I also liked the narrative structure that told Bella's story from a first-person perspective while Teo's tale is omnipresent third person. It was always easy to figure out which character was the focus at any given time. What I didn't like was the confusion in the way time passes. It sometimes seemed like months had passed - only to find out it couldn't have been more than a week. I also didn't like the ending, which was abrupt and cliffhangery.

Ok, Spoilers ahead (use rot13 to read). Gur obbx sbphfrf ba gjb punenpgref: Grb, n lbhat zna sebz n fznyy ivyyntr uvqvat qnex frpergf gung pbhyq trg uvz xvyyrq naq Oryyn, n tynqvngbe va gur ovt pvgl jub vf shyy bs pbasvqrapr va urefrys naq zntvp. Gur gjb ner frg ba n pbyyvfvba pbhefr, naq riraghnyyl zrrg jura Grb pbzrf gb gur pvgl ohg ehaf njnl sebz uvf sngr.

V yvxrq Grb ng svefg. Ur'f pbzcrgrag naq gubhtugshy, ohg fgvyy erfcbafvoyr. Ohg ur fgnlf cerggl zhpu gur fnzr srneshy punenpgre sebz fgneg hagvy gur raq bs gur obbx. V'z abg ernyyl fher ubj zhpu gvzr jnf fhccbfrq gb unir cnffrq orgjrra jura ur neevirq naq jura gur svany puncgre uvgf, ohg V sryg yvxr ur bhtug gb unir tebja hc n ovg zber guna ur qvq. Gung fnvq, uvf zntvpny nggevohgrf ner snfpvangvat, naq V jnf ybbxvat sbejneq gb yrneavat zber nobhg gurz... ohg gura gur obbx raqrq ba n pyvssunatre. Netu.

Oryyn jnf veevgngvat sebz gur fgneg, ohg V guvax fur jnf zrnag gb or gung jnl. Ure vagreany qvnybthr znxrf vg pyrne gung fur'f svtugvat gb or funyybj, juvpu vfa'g tbbq sbe ure, ohg snfpvangvat sbe gur ernqre. Gur ceboyrz vf gung fur arire znxrf gur arprffnel pbaarpgvba jvgu ure qrrcre fvqr va guvf obbx, naq fb vg whfg pbagvahrf gb veevgngr vafgrnq bs gheavat vagb n fngvfslvat zbzrag bs eriryngvba. V shyyl rkcrpgrq ure gb npghnyyl ybbx ng gur obbx ng fbzr cbvag naq V rkcrpgrq gung gb or gur zbzrag. Ohg fur arire qvq.

V'z abg ragveryl fher ubj ovt gur pvgl vf fhccbfrq gb or, ohg Grb fher qbrf frrz gb eha vagb gur fnzr crbcyr n ybg gurer. Abg gb zragvba gur pbvapvqrapr bs orvat urycrq ol Oryyn (gubhtu gur snpg gung ur'f orra fgnyxvat ure znxrf gung rnfvre gb ohl). Oryyn'f ynaqynql vf creuncf zl snibevgr bs gur obbx, naq jura gur svg fgnegrq gb uvg gur funa ng gur raq, V shyyl rkcrpgrq ure gb qvr. Tynq fur znqr vg.

Fcrnxvat bs svg uvggvat funaf, Oryyn jnf erznexnoyl hazbirq ol ure svtug naq gur qrngu bs ure fghqrag. Lrf, fur unq zbzragf bs tevrs, ohg vg qvqa'g frrz va gur fyvtugrfg ovg erny gb zr. Vg nyy frrzrq yvxr fur jnf tbvat guebhtu gur zbgvbaf. Juvyr V jnf fgvyy guvaxvat guvf jnf n fvatyr abiry naq abg gur svefg dhnegre bs n ovttre obbx, V rkcrpgrq gur fghqrag gb qrsrng Oryyn naq rirelbar gb yvir unccvyl rire nsgre, be fbzr inevnag gurerbs. Fb gur qrngu jnf n fubpx gb zr, ohg zl fubpx jnf haqrezvarq ol Oryyn'f ynpx.

All told, I was annoyed to get to the end of this and find out it was a "to be continued..." instead of wrapping up. I'm not sure if I'll seek out the remaining bits, although I'm not going to blame the author for my ignorance. It was well written and compelling... but it will not be on my Hugo list.



I've also read short stories:
  • "The Sixth Day" by Sylvia Anna HivĂ©n is a post-apocalyptic tale of a magic and the perils of seeing the future. It gave me chills when I finished it. I can't say I liked it in the sense that it didn't make me feel good or give me hope or anyt of that. It was well-written and made sense, but it was painful. It's a good story, but I'll have to think long and hard about whether or not to nominate it.

  • "The Walking Thing" by Marlee Jane Ward is a story of how one teenaged girl deals with the apocalypse. Nita is unaffected by a disease that wipes out her town, and the story is about how she handles people dying around her, and how she comes to terms with her own life. It's grim and more than a little depressing, but I also found some hope in there. It might make my nomination list.

  • "The Universe, Sung in Stars" by Kat Howard is a strange little poem of a tale about people who give support to pocket universes. I'm honestly not sure what to think of it. It might stick with me for a bit because of the language and the ideas, but I didn't really like it much as a story. I think it won't be on my nomination list.



For my current list of Hugo 2016 readings, check out my Hugo 2016 Posts page.



DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jul 15th
  • Justice League #42 - Aquaman's only appearance in this is on the Teen Titans Go variant cover. Not hide nor hair of him elsewhere. He was barely in the previous issue. This is mostly Darkseid and that sort of nonsense. Not my cuppa. I'm ready for a new storyline.
  • Green Lantern: The Lost Army #2 - This book may be relying too much on the readers' knowledge of Green Lantern history. I don't know. I find it to be slightly frustrating and annoying, and maybe even a bit over the top. People lost in a strange universe isn't bad... but why bring one of the most boring and irritating recent bad guys into it?
  • Astro City #25 - Wow. Another great issue of the best superhero comic book around. A fascinating origin story of a character who seems very different from most. I love this book, and I'm looking forward to the next issue, featuring Samaritan again.
  • Fiction #2 - I'm not really sure what is happening here. I mean, they've entered the Narnia/Oz/Fantasyland to look for the lost friend, but there's a generational thing and ... Yeah, I'm intrigued enough to keep reading. I'm just a bit confused still.
  • Rivers of London #1 - Very interesting start... for me, obviously, I'm curious about the daughter of the river goddess. The set-up is good, and the mini-comic and articles in the back added to the package. I'm interested. Definitely.
  • Usagi Yojimbo #147 - Kitsune is a crack-up, but she really was in over her head in this adventure. Good thing she had somebody to protect her. Mostly.



Fortean Times #328
Fortean Times #328 (June 2015). The cover shows a transparent person with a thumb out on a dark road, looking for a lift from a car approaching with its headlights on. The cover story links to reports of a phantom hitchhiker in a general area, including at least six first-hand reports (these are usually friend-of-a-friend reports). There's some interesting stuff in these, and an interesting analysis of the possible causes. Who knows what's causing all this, but it's fascinating to see the research done on it.

Moving on Strangedays covers the possible recovery of Captain Kidd's treasure, a giant human figure in volcanic ash, a kid who recognized himself as a minor Hollywood celebrity, a story about possession, worms falling from the sky, medical oddities, ghostly boots, and unusual survival stories. The Conspirasphere has a story I find depressing about some idiot who thinks the Challenger explosion was faked and claims to have found the astronauts alive and, get this, living under the same names 30 years later. *headdesk*

Science tackles new puzzles scientists are finding as we get more and more pictures and data from Mars. Frankly, pretty cool stuff, and what science is made for. Archaeology visits a lost city in Honduras, another hoard of coins found in Britain, very old beer, and evidence of what people ate 8,000 years ago (wheat?). Classical Corner looks at early attempts to prevent pregnancy.

Ghostwatch tells of an exorcism of a roadway in a larger story about haunted roads. Alien Zoo points out a photo of a dead bigfoot is an altered photo of a dead bear. Fairies, Folklore and Forteana notes a late of fairies in Kent. The UFO files finishes its examination of the Godfrey UFO sighting with information about the possible causes of what people saw. The Illustrated Police News introduces people to a giantess who topped seven feet at age 12. The Fortean Traveller visits Lycia, Turkey. Phenomenomix is the second part on Dion Fortune.

There's a main article about Malcolm Lowry, who wrote Under the Volcano, which is said to be a very Fortean book. It's actually a depressing story in many ways due to the sadness of his life, but it's also fascinating.

Another article chronicles the fate of certain famous corpses, including those of Mussolini and Eva Peron. Another piece looks at "Strange Statemen" and visits Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, whose more than a little looney from the reports.

The Forum has an interesting tale of smashes pottery and how the tradition seems to go back to Neolithic times. Another article looks at the death of T.E. Lawrence and concludes it really was most likely an accident and not an assassination.

The Reviews are great, as usual, and there's a couple of books that might make it onto my ever-growing "to read" list. Nothing in the movies is must-see. The letters were lovely. Always lovely. There's even a reference to "Pyramids of Mars" from Doctor Who, as people are looking for references of pyramids connected with Mars thanks to a request by Paul Cornell. Fun stuff.

As usual, lots of good stories and fun information. As always, read at your own risk with an open mind but healthy dose of skepticism.



Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hugo Awards...

So... How am I doing?

The Campbell - I voted for Chu. He won.

1-0

Fan Artist - I put Schoenhuth first and Leggett second, Leggett won.

1-1

Fan Writer - I put No Award first, then Mixon. Mixon won.

1-2

Fancast - I put Tea and Jeopardy first, then Galactic Suburbia Podcast. Galactic Suburbia Podcast won.

1-3

Fanzine - I put Journey Planet first. It won.

2-3

Semiprozine - I put Lightspeed first. It won.

3-3

Related Work - I put No Award. It won.

4-3

Graphic Story - I put Saga first. Ms. Marvel won.

4-4

Editor: Short Form - I put Brozek first, then Resnick. No Award won.

4-5

Editor: Long Form - I put Gilbert first, then Sowards. No Award won.

4-6

Professional Artist - I put Dillon first. She won.

5-6

So far this has been a complete rejection of the slate nominees.

A dalek comes out to present the dramatic presentation awards... I think it's Clara, but I'm not sure. Dalek Rainier?

Dramatic Short Form - I put Doctor Who first. Orphan Black won.
Video blanked out during the announcement, so Eric and I missed it.

5-7

Dramatic Long Form - I put Edge of Tomorrow first, LEGO movie second. Guardians of the Galaxy won.
This is the first win for anything that was on a slate.

5-8

Short Story - I put No Award first. No Award won.

6-8

Novelette - I put No Award first. The Day The World Turned Upside-Down won.

6-9

Novella - I put No Award first. No Award won.

7-9

Novel - I put The Goblin Emperor first, then Ancillary Sword. The Three-Body Problem won.
The award was announced from the space station.

7-10

Well, dang. I am really no good at this.

The Week in Review

All-Day Meeting

Saturday started with an all-day meeting at a local restaurant. The city council was starting the budget process with a visioning meeting, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I got to spend the entire day with them, instead of with the Oz houseguests at home.

The meeting started a little after 9 with six of the seven council members present. The deputy mayor had said she might have a problem making the meeting due to having a shortage of employees at her business, and sure enough, she missed the entire thing. Three members of the city staff were present, including Jackie (who was taking notes), the city manager (who directed the meeting) and the city finance director. Also present was my co-worker Julia, who happens to be a councilwoman-elect and Larry, a local who attends every council meeting. He left at lunchtime.

The meeting was interesting enough most of the time to keep me occupied writing notes. I brought my laptop and used the restaurant's wifi, which was nice. I was able to type everything up as it happened in Evernote, making writing the story later that much easier. I type far faster than I write, so that also helped me catch bits I may have not gotten word-for-word if I'd been trying to keep up with pen and paper.

About noon I ordered lunch when the council did. The city wasn't paying for my meal, which was fine (in fact, I approve!) and so I just got myself a cheeseburger and onion rings. A tad overpriced, but with this particular restaurant you are paying for the atmosphere as well as the food. It was good enough, certainly. And the waitress who was serving the meeting room (who also is one of the co-owners at Cactus Juice) kept me well-plied with water, so I was happy.

The council didn't make many waves with their opinions. The visioning exercises were pretty solid and there was only a single point of contention, when one council member said "diversity" is a codeword for "non-white", which is ridiculous on enough levels that I searched for it in Google and was disgusted at what I found. Frankly, the kind of people who are stupid enough to think diversity is a codeword are the kind of people I don't want living anywhere near me. I was offended by that council member's remark and I'm glad he won't be on the council starting next year.

They came up with a decent vision statement, then after lunch worked up a set of concrete(ish) goals for the next year. The budgeting process will now be based on the vision and the goals. I'm sure I'm in for another budget meeting or two or five before this is all over.

The meeting, joy of joys, ended a full three hours short, at 2 p.m. I was delighted and made my way home to rest and entertain visitors.

Quick Week

That night we played Exploding Kittens and enjoyed ourselves. I spent a bit of time upstairs reading and playing on the computer, making it all the easier for Eric and his friends to talk/watch/enjoy Oz stuff.

Sunday was the same sort of thing... quiet morning with guests. Eric made pancakes, which I enhanced with chocolate chips much to Eric's annoyance (because I did it without him asking, mostly). Eventually the guests left and we cleaned up and Inkwell said, "ok, any MORE surprises?" (aka "Me-roro-rowwwl!"). I didn't get as much rest as I apparently needed, because I was still tired upon waking on Monday morning.

The write up of the council meeting didn't take too long. I also had my special section stories to finish. They mostly needed cleaning up, not actual heavy-duty work, so I got through them, did an interview for one of our filler features, then headed home. I ended up last-minute with a school board meeting in the evening, which spoiled some plans I had made, but I lived.

The school board meeting was strange. It was in the next town over and I've covered the meeting many times before. But when I came in this time, there were two new board members. Now, I knew that both of the people who were sitting unexpectedly on the board were running unopposed for their seats in the November election, but I hadn't realized the people they were replacing had already stepped down and they'd both been appointed to fill out the remainder of the terms. So I was befuddled because I hadn't checked the make-up of the board within the last month.

Still, it was a quick meeting. Grandview has some folks who actually know how to make a meeting move along. There were a couple of pieces I needed to write for it, so I got in early on Tuesday and got those done. Everything else was in the can, but I also learned about another potential story, the city mentioned in a recently published book, so I contacted the publisher to get more information.

We were also informed on Tuesday to be in the office between 12:30 and 1:30 on Thursday for an announcement.

Tuesday was actually a pretty calm day. I finished up my work and headed home just a bit early to cut hours, due to the long meeting on Saturday. I didn't sleep well Tuesday night, possibly due to the dust in the air. Wednesday was another one of those strange days. I had to cover the morning Rotary club, and the editor expects a same-day story from them. I managed, but then we didn't publish the story that day, which is also normal.

I stayed late in the office on Wednesday working on a piece that just didn't come together the way I wanted. Once home I was zombied most of the evening. Eric took care of me, I went to bed early, and actually felt pretty good Thursday morning, and got through deadline easily. Thursday was actually a great day for me.

Changes... Again

Except for the unknown of the announcement at work. Well, the not-quite-unknown. We all had an idea of what was going to be said... another case of things changing in my workplace. As it's not been officially announced outside of my workplace, the only thing I can say is: It wasn't exactly what I expected.

Change is good. Change means growing and learning. But change is also scary, especially when it's a big change. The closing down of the press was a big change and has led to a lot of early mornings that have, frankly, been very difficult. Coming to work at 6:30 a.m. then going to a three-hour meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m. kinda limits your day, even if you are technically only supposed to work 40 hours a week. It's actually amazing how much difference that one and a half hours makes in my life. I'm not adjusted to it yet.

That said, I have absolutely no clue, not even the slightest idea, how this new change will affect my day or my hours. I can make guesses, but they aren't based in any sort of reasonable reality. So the fear remains, and will continue until either the other shoe drops and life becomes intolerable, or things get better. Hard to say which, if either, is more likely.

I do know this. I love to write. I adore writing. Newswriting is, to me, enjoyable work. I find it slightly challenging and wonderfully satisfying. I have a bit of an equation. I balance my joy in writing divided by the irritation of certain things I'm reporting on (such as long and pointless meetings), plus or minus the compensation and workplace environment, against my general feeling of well-being. If the joy side of the equation gets too low, I try to supplement it with other writing, outside writing (including this blog). But if I can't keep that side high enough... for my own sake, I hope I'll have the courage to walk away.

Not Much Else

Friday was another fairly calm day. I've been able to keep up with my work, sometimes with difficulty but always just managing it. On Friday my fellow female reporters and I went to Cactus Juice, which will be closing at the end of next week, for a lunch meeting and discussion of the changes. The place was packed, and we got there early. The co-owner said it's been extremely busy since they announced the closure.

Friday afternoon was moderately calm. Looking at my schedule for next week, I left a bit early. I have three night meetings and next Saturday is a budget retreat for a different city council, so I'm not going to have any trouble getting my 40+ hours in.

Once home I collapsed into bed and slept for about four hours before getting up for dinner. I hit the bed again earlier than usual and slept late today. And today has been nicely calm, although the wildfire smoke has settled over the valley here and we've got the scary red sun and smell of burnt paper in the air that Spokane has been suffering through the last couple of days.

I'm getting ready to watch the Hugo awards live tonight, but otherwise I have no real plans. I could, conceivably, drive up to Spokane in time to see the Hugos live. But the thought of a three-hour drive along smoke-shrouded roads, followed by a long ceremony then a trip back... no. Can't justify it. I'm too tired from the past five weekends.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sasquan! In! Space!


I love how his badge floats around while he's talking...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Smokecane!

So the reports are coming in from Sasquan 2015, aka Worldcon in Spokane. The biggest initial impression made by the location was the smoky skies due to the numerous wildfires in the area. I can categorically state that my corner of the state is in better condition. Yeah, we're getting smoke here, but it's not nearly as bad as what I'm seeing in those photos. Fortunately, most of the wildfires near here have been put out or are at least contained.

Anyway, because I'm not at the con, I'm relying on Twitter and blogs to keep me up-to-date with the events at Sasquan. Here's some of the fun stuff I've culled from the maddening crowd so far (most of it will be after the cut so people who don't want to read a whole ton of links can just skip this post).

We'll start with my favorite photo of the red sun so far, taken by Alan Boyle and posted to Twitter with the caption: "Super-spooky sun over Spokane in a smoky sky setting for #Sasquan".


To me it looks like the Eye of Sauron, Spokane-style.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Black Cat


He's still in a bad mood after his vet visit yesterday morning.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Oooh.... scamspam....

So, I just got an email from "iTunes Store" thanking me for buying a product I most definitely did not buy. There were some tell-tale signs of phishing, so I did not follow any of the links. Here's what I noticed:

  1. The return address seemed valid enough, going to an ID number @store.apple.com, but there was nothing in the "to" field. In other words, this was a receipt that apparently wasn't sent to me directly. Hmmmm.... that's a pretty strong clue there that it isn't valid.

  2. The dates are in European format and the amount is in Euros. I would have remembered purchasing anything in Euros.

  3. The option to cancel the order is up-front and center, with a big ol' link - to a bit.ly address. Genuine businesses do not use bit.ly in this way, period, full-stop, end of sentence. Bit.ly is a useful tool, but no legitimate business will use it for an order cancellation link in a receipt.
Adding it up, it's clear I'm being phished. Nope, not playing along. However, at first glance it really looked legitimate, and if I had recently ordered something there's a decent chance I would not have looked twice at it and been fooled. Heck, even if I wasn't being careful there is a chance it could have caught me even if I hadn't recently ordered something.

It's a scammer's world out there. It's way too easy to be caught, anymore. I hope this post might help somebody avoid whatever fate was lurking at the end of that link.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Exploding Kittens

Over the weekend, we had guests at our house. We played Exploding Kittens and I was the second to explode. Eric was the third, and his co-author Karyl was the survivor of the match.

It is a very funny game, especially if you watch the videos on how to play before you play and imagine your competitors exploding like in the videos. The cards are so incredibly crazy that everyone spent a little bit of time just reading them and saying, "What?!" as they read. The rules are pretty simple... don't draw an exploding kitten and if you do, have a defuse card. The oddest thing about the game is that you draw a card at the end of your turn, which took some serious getting-used-to.



In any case, I promised to link to the game here, so anyone interested can go to the Exploding Kittens website to find out how to get their own copy and start avoiding exploding.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Sunday Review

Karen Memory
My book this week was Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear.

This book was recommended in the comment sections on File 770 and in Renay's Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom.

Like last week's book, I came to this one completely cold. I didn't even know it was steampunk until I got a few pages in. I haven't been in the habit of simply trying books without finding out it they are "my type", but with a desire to nominate for the 2016 Hugos, I feel like I just have to try some new stuff out. So far, I feel I'm doing ok taking other people's suggestions.

First up: the completely non-spoiler review. If you don't like steampunk, you may have some issues with this. I, personally, love well-done steampunk and found this to be a great read. In addition, if you have any hang-ups about sexual issues, you'll probably want to avoid this book, as it's set in a *ahem* seamstress's shop in a frontier town. A shop with a nice parlor downstairs and a lot of men who visit regularly. It took me som time to get into the book, as the first-person voice is idiosyncratic and the word usage is intentionally wrong in places to convey it. But I came to really enjoy the main character the more I read, although my writer instincts sometimes flinched at the use of language.

Ok, Spoilers ahead (use rot13 to read). Bx, gur svefg guvat V bhtug gb zragvba vf gung V irel zhpu rawbl fgbevrf frg va sebagvre Frnggyr. V qba'g xabj jul, V whfg qb. Naq juvyr Encvq Pvgl vf abg, grpuavpnyyl, Frnggyr, gurer vf ab bgure cynpr vg pna ernyvfgvpnyyl or. Vg'f tbg gur Nynfxna Tbyq Ehfu, vg'f tbg gur Fbhaq, vg'f tbg fxvq ebj, vg'f tbg gur envfvat bs qbjagbja naq vg'f whfg irel zhpu Frnggyr. Fb gur frggvat fhpxrq zr vg irel dhvpxyl, rira vs V unq n uneq gvzr trggvat vagb gur fgbel vgfrys. V'yy abgr gung Obarfunxre jnf nyfb frg va n fgrnzchax Frnggyr, juvpu znqr zr yvxr vg rira zber guna V zvtug unir bgurejvfr. Frnggyr naq fgrnzchax frrz gb jbex jryy gbtrgure, sbe zr. V erpbtavmr gung bgure crbcyr qba'g unir gur fnzr srgvfu, ohg guvf vf qrsvavgryl bar bs zvar.

Frpbaq, V qba'g zhpu pner nobhg gur frkhnyvgl bs punenpgref nf ybat nf gurl ner cbegenlrq nf erny crbcyr. Guvf obbx qbrfa'g, gb zr, znxr n ovt nqb nobhg gur punenpgref' cersreraprf, vg whfg gnyxf nobhg vg naq zbirf ba. Naq gur ybir orgjrra Xnera naq Cevln vf angheny naq, V gubhtug, jryy-qrirybcrq. Lrf, gurer'f ybir ng svefg fvtug, gur byq pyvpur, ohg Xnera jbexf cnfg vg. V yvxr gung.

Gurer'f fbzrguvat greevoyr naq terng nobhg n obbx gung pna znxr lbh srry fb fgebatyl sbe n zvabe punenpgre gung lbh trahvaryl uheg jura gung punenpgre qvrf. Guvf obbx znantrq gung. V jnf ebbgvat sbe gur tbbq thlf orsber gura, ohg nsgre gung? V jnf pynzbevat sbe n fbyvq cnlonpx jvgu xnezn gnxvat vgf gbyy.

Hagvy V tbg gb gur Nhgube'f Abgr ng gur raq, V jnf abg njner bs gur fgbel bs Zbgure Qnzanoyr, naq abj V'z tbvat gb or fcraqvat ragveryl gbb zhpu gvzr ybbxvat hc Znel Naa Pbaxyva gb svaq bhg jub fur jnf.

This book has a decent chance to make my Hugo nomination list. I feel it was a pretty slow read, which counts against it. However, it was nicely goofy, very well told and fun in a way that only steampunk is truly capable of being. I'll be thinking on it for awhile, I can tell.



A novella I read recently but haven't yet reviewed is "Penric's Demon" by Lois McMaster Bujold. I bought it as soon as it was available and read it as soon as I was able. Bujold is, at the moment, the only author I would buy a work from by the strength of her name alone. I learned about this novella from Bujold's Goodreads Blog.

Did I like it? Oh yeah. Penric is a good character who is, like many of Bujold's characters, hemmed in by other people's expectations. He's able to break out of it entirely by the unhappy/happy accident. In short, it's a typical Bujold story in a lot of ways. I found the story to be the perfect length, covering just what we need to know about both Penric and his new guest. The promise of potential untold stories is often the most frustrating part of Bujold's work... this is no different. I'd love to revist Penric in the future in some manner, but I know that this is the story the author chose to focus on, so it's probably the best one in Penric's life. This will be on my Hugo nomination form.



And here's a novelette I read:
  • "Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfang. It is in the nature of science fiction to be fantastical, but I really found this one hard to swallow. The world, as presented, just doesn't make physical sense to me. The whole "folding" of space just doesn't work for me. The rest... well, I have mixed feelings. The main character is a bit of a cipher until the end, while the others are all cardboard cutouts he's just dealing with. Yeah, it's a novelette, not a novel, and there's little time to develop characters - but I didn't feel much of a connection with any of them. And the political situation as described, which leads to the folding city, also doesn't seem realistic or believable to me. I can suspend my disbelief as well as anyone else, but this particular story did not work for me. No, it won't make my Hugo nomination form.



I've also read short stories:
  • "Pocosin" by Ursula Vernon is a heartbreaking tale about death, second chances and people who know a lot about the world. Like "Jackalope Wives", it's told in a gentle, folksy way. And it has some deeper meaning in it, as well. I'd be lying if I didn't say I wish I could write half as well as Ursula does, but she writes about things I'd never think to write about, so I don't even stand in envy of her so much as happy awe. This one has a very good chance of being on my Hugo nomination list.
  • "You Have Always Lived in the Castle" by Cat Rambo is a chilling little piece. Very short, and frightening in its implications. It's told in second person narrative. For some reason, it reminds me of Doctor Who: Warriors Gate for some reason. Part of me wants to learn more about this universe, most of me thinks of it as a horror tale. I'll think on it a lot more before deciding if it goes on my Hugo list.
  • "The Parliment of Cheese and Curds" by Camestros Felapton is a parody based on one of the awful works nominated for the 2015 Hugos by the puppies. This short story is actually readable, unlike the original, and funny, also unlike the original (which was just a pathetic attempt to be pompous). No, I won't nominate this for a Hugo, but I did find it oddly refreshing, if a bit cheesy.



For my current list of Hugo 2016 readings, check out my Hugo 2016 Posts page.



DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Jul 8th
  • Earth 2 Society #2 - Ah, well, that's why Sloan crashed the ships. But I'm not sure I get all the nitty-gritty about it. I'm guessing we don't know who caused the attack that Sloan was reacting to? And I'm not sure what Sloan's "current" action is going to do to the planet. Ok, I'm interested.
  • Justice League of America #2 - I'm not quite as cynical as Aquaman is portrayed here, but I'm kind of with him on the notion that powerful beings from other worlds who arrive and declare they are gods aren't really the kind of thing you can trust. And, looking at what happened to Wonder Woman, I think he may have dodged a massive bullet there with that cynicism.
  • Justice League United #11 - That is one bizarre team-up. I found the collection of the team to be neat, with each one being pulled in by a different method. That has got to be the most muscular version of Mera I've ever seen. She's clearly been weightlifting. I'm a little confused by some of the other choices, but... well, I'll have to wait and see.
  • Arrow: Season 2.5 #10 - Slade knows far too much. He's like Ollie's dark side. Overall, I'm happy this series is coming to a conclusion soon. With the season after it already over, there are bits that just don't work for me.
  • Star Trek/Green Lantern #1 - The visuals of the crew of the Enterprise really threw me for a loop. I don't know if the regular series has switched to the movie version of the crew, but I sure wasn't ready for it. The rest? Good set up. I'll wait and see how it goes before judging the series.
  • Secret Wars 2099 #3 - I really don't like this version of Miguel. In fact, I'm not sure I like anything about this version of the Marvel Universe, although Sub-Mariner and Hercules going at each other had its moments.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency #2 - Deadly ancient Egyptians, crazed serial killers and Dirk... I don't know which is the most frightening. It's nice to see an Oz reference.
  • Doctor Who 11th #14 - Wait, so is this the end of the Arc arc? Also, nice cliffhanger.
  • Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz: Reign of the Witch Queen #3 - Well, in this issue there's a fairly solid narrative of setting up the trap and battle plans, and some little jokes and call-backs to other events... not too bad. I still find this book hard to follow, but this issue holds together fairly well.
  • Oddly Normal #8 - I want a closet that big. Heck, I think almost anyone wants a closet that big. Inkwell would sure enjoy it. Anyway, another good issue as Oddly learns just how much normal is appreciated.
  • Rebels #4 - I feel like I need to go read the previous issues again because I felt like I'd lost the plot thread in this one. It's a good enough book, and the description of the battle and the famous "whites of their eyes" quote was lovely. But I also felt like I'd skipped an issue or something.
  • Mage Inc. #1 - Keira is an intern at a mage's union and her first assignment is to go out with another mage to collect union dues. This was surprisingly good. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I liked how she handled the mundane tasks without fear and took the less mundane in stride. I'm looking forward to the next issue.
  • Spongebob Comics #46 - Ooooh, a slightly educational issue! And more of the usual stuff. If you like Spongebob, you'll like it. If not, skip it.
  • Extra Review
  • Doctor Who: San Diego Comic Con Exclusive - A friend picked this up for Eric and I and I've finally had the chance to read it. Clara wants to go to Comic Con International, and so the Doctor takes her there... only to find out there's a nasty entity that appears in reflections and photos every 1021 years while trying to get back into reality. Fun stuff, and interesting to see what the Doctor was becoming as the entity affected him.



Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Week in Review

Fair Saturday

Saturday was tough. It was warm, thankfully, and not hot. But even warm is difficult for somebody from the Wetside who is used to cool weather. I headed out in the afternoon to get some photos at the fair along with some photos of the car show. What I didn't realize is that they were giving out the prizes at the car show way earlier than I expected, so when I got there, people were just beginning to pack up to leave. Luckily I got there before that, but whew, it was a close one!

The fair itself was moderately lackluster, being a warm afternoon. Most of the action was at the livestock barns, as the sheep sales were ongoing. I took as many pictures of cute children as I could manage, talking with parents to get names and moving from shady area to shady area to try to keep cool. I finally left, covered in sweat, after a couple of hours taking photos.

I went back later in the evening for the rodeo. Finding parking was a nightmare, but I went up to the back gate and sweet-talked them into letting me take a spot near there. Then I headed over the rodeo and got to work.

It was still very warm and I was still a little overtired from the last couple of weeks. I felt like I couldn't get a thing into focus. I struggled with the camera and the dust and the heat, and generally started to feel crappier and crappier about how I was doing. I enjoyed the bits I stayed for, especially the fellow that rode his bronc for the full eight seconds before the horse reached the edge of the arena and bucked him off into the crowd. The guy won that competition.

After the "halftime show", which involves children "riding" corn stalks in a footrace, I headed home, sweaty and feeling miserable. If I'd had a little more energy, I would have tried to stay for the whole thing to see if I could get my camera to behave. But I was so tired I was no longer certain if it was the camera that wasn't in focus or just my eyes. I was a little worried about the drive home, so I left.

Once home I fell into bed and didn't wake up until late Sunday morning. Luckily, I'd set up my blogging on Saturday and just didn't have to worry about anything. Unfortunately for me, a single day of recovery is never really enough for me, so I was still a bit tired when I got to work on Monday.

Crappy Monday

Monday treated me bad. I was doing fine for quite some time, until it became clear the rodeo results would not get to us in time for deadline. I still worked to get them... I even got the gal who compiles the results on the phone. I learned that her computer had failed, so she read me the key notes and I wrote up a very crappy story without the detail we wanted and turned that in. But the editor was angry, I was frustrated and angry and life sucked pretty bad. I went home for lunch suffering from extreme mental anguish.

As it happened, I had a major depressive episode, possibly triggered by the frustration and anger, but in any case totally uncontrollable and utterly devastating. I was on the edge for awhile there, but Eric stayed by me until I could calm down. I ended up taking a nap, knowing I'd have to go to city council that night, and that helped a bit too. By the time I had to leave the house again for council, I was in control. I wasn't happy, just in control.

Council wasn't too bad, although it went on longer than I'd have liked. The budget season is upon us, and I will be spending all day today in a "retreat" dealing with that. But overall the meeting wasn't too bad. I got home almost in time for a decent night's sleep.

Tuesday was tough mostly because I was trying to make sure I wasn't behind on anything. Because I hadn't returned to work on Monday, two of my assignments were kindly completed by my co-workers (it's not like I don't do that for them frequently). I was down a couple of hours, but I stayed until the last possible minute on Tuesday, then had another council meeting in a different town that night. Between that and Saturday, I more than made up for any hours I didn't work.

Aside: I'm technically an hourly worker. I tend to treat the job as a salaried position in which I take as many hours as required to do the work. This can mean that I'll end up giving time to my company, but I like writing. While I don't get paid nearly enough for what I do, I'm willing to be generous in order to continue writing. I don't know if I will look for another writing gig if I remain underpaid and overworked, but as I have told my husband continually since being hired, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

A co-worker and I started work on a tough story on Tuesday, one that I will write about later in this piece. It was not pleasant.

Long Council Meeting

Tuesday night I went to the Mabton Council meeting. This is an interesting situation. They have a workshop meeting for an hour before the regular meeting. In my experience, the workshop meeting tends to cover issues that will eventually come up in the regular meeting and if you miss the workshop, you will miss a lot of detail that might later come in handy while reporting on the city. However, the person who was on the beat before me (I just took it over) believed that the workshop meetings are a waste of time and didn't go to them.

I went. I'd rather be bored and better informed than miss a major story because I was too lazy to sit another hour. Interestingly, the council and the city clerk seemed very happy to see me there for the workshop.

I can't say the topics were groundbreaking, but I did learn quite a bit during the workshop, and now that I'm on the beat regularly, there might be some of it that will be good to know in the future. I wasn't actually bored at all during the workshop meeting, as it was conducted to get through the agenda quickly enough that the regular meeting started on time. There were three main topics, including two I ended up writing up as briefs since I believe the folks in the city ought to know about them. The third topic still needs some action to be taken to make it newsworthy.

The main meeting was different. It started out well enough, but got increasingly slow. The main slog came when the council tried to swear in the new police chief, and one of the council members objected because he thought there was more of a process to go through. Well, it turned out that the position, which had been advertised for more than a month, only got three applicants. How qualified the other two were is impossible to say, but the council decided at its last meeting to pick the guy who's been in town for the job. However, two of the council members were absent during that particular meeting and one of them was never informed of the decision by the mayor. Oops.

The result was a very long conversation about hiring police chiefs and, for that matter, the fact that a newly hired officer the next town over could earn more than their police chief with just a bit of overtime. Which might possibly be why the position only got three applicants. Regardless of the city's problems, that conversation really bogged down the meeting. And about halfway through it, my eyes started to glaze over. I had to concentrate on writing notes to keep from falling asleep. We'd already been through two public hearings, which had a lot of information but not much action. Finally they stopped talking and swore the chief in... thank goodness, because it meant I got to stand up and take photos.

After that, there were a few snappy items, but then it bogged down again as a resident made a claim against the city that was appalling and more than a little terrifying. She also took a very long time.

I figured the council would be ready to adjourn after she was done, but no, ha. They had still more ground to cover, slowly but surely. Eventually they got to the last item on the agenda and... spent another half hour going over information that could have easily been covered in two or three minutes by any normal group of people.

Since I started covering meetings of all stripes for the newspaper, I have learned to really appreciate the masters of Robert's Rules of Order, those who not only understand the procedures and wield them to keep meetings moving along, but also those who have a notion of when further discussion is plain useless. Such people are rare. Some are far better at it than others, while some simply haven't got any skills at running a meeting at all. I don't flatter myself: I suspect I'd be extremely bad at it, personally. But I admire those who are good at it a great deal. It's a skill like any other, and some even have it as a natural talent. Should I ever get in a position where I have to lead meetings, I hope to heaven I can develop the skill. It makes life so much easier for participants.

My Job Gets Annoying

Wednesday morning was tough again. The editor did not like my choice of main story for the paper, and I didn't disagree with him. There were things done and said at the meeting that I wanted more background on before reporting on, and things that weren't enough to fill a story, which left me with the choice to inform about upcoming street projects. So the end result was a very lame lead story and a lot of briefs.

After deadline we had another meeting about the difficult story, then I headed over to the high school to attend Princess School. It was fun. I had to spend a long time to get a wide enough variety of photos, but I also got to talk about the difficult story with someone who was involved in the situation and was willing to give me information off the record. Her on-record statement was tame, but I got an earful of background.

I parked my camera bag away from the little girls and took photos of them. I ended up eating lunch with them and doing a very small amount of directing, as one of only three adults in the room. There were a lot of teenagers and 11 little girls. After two hours of fun, I left the building only to discover that the girls had somehow magically transported glitter onto my camera bag. I'm still not sure how it happened. Fortunately, it wasn't a lot of glitter, just enough to surprise me.

I meant to go to the pet clinic after the princess thing, but forgot. It just completely left my mind. Possibly because I didn't write it down. In any case, I popped by home, kissed Eric and played with Inky a bit, then got back to work. I stayed for several more hours, then ran up to a health fair to get a photo. It was a heavy afternoon.

Wednesday night I headed out to firefighter training. The local firefighters have weekly training sessions, and I got to attend one to learn more about the volunteers and how the system works for a special section story. I interviewed two firefighters and talked with some of the cadets. It turned out to be a quick evening, and I was home with more than enough time to relax before bedtime.

Weary Days

Thursday morning I realized I'd forgotten to write up a story. Fortunately, I'd done all the interviewing and such, I just needed to slap it together. I got it done in short order, feeling dumb that I'd forgotten. Then I wrote up the captions for the princess photo page, and zipped through the police logs. It was a moderately calm day, except for continued work on the tough story.

For lunch, the girls and I went to Cactus Juice, which will be closing at the end of the month for good. I invited Eric along, and we had meatloaf sandwiches, which were really good. I hope to get in there once or twice more before the end on the 28th.

After lunch I worked on the firefighters story for a very long time, struggling with it on every level. Some days the story just doesn't want to come out, so you fight with it until you have something you can edit later. I stayed until about 4 p.m., then it was time to face the unpleasant story head-on.

The local chamber of commerce has run into some tax and financial problems. The problems may have been there for years, but only recently the executive director left and an interim exec discovered the problems. While there's plenty of blame to go around, the tendency is going to be to focus on the previous exec, because it was definitely her job to sort these things out. But there was also a responsibility on the board of directors to be checking her work. And, worse, there is confusion among people who were previously board members about who was responsible for what parts of the organization.

The unpleasantness comes from the fact that I like just about everyone involved. I find it difficult to accept any possibility of malfeasance, but there is a definite likelihood of, at the least, some level of incompetence among all parties involved. And that's a really hard to take. These aren't stupid people. So my heart is breaking just writing about it.

The meeting was a bit over an hour long and there were a lot of questions asked. I took photos while my co-worker took notes for the main story. Between the two of us, we'd also contacted many of the previous board members to get comments, mostly getting "no comment" from them. The attendees were a "Who's Who" of the city, including the city manager, the port executive, the mayor and a few other notable citizens. The group was one shy of being a quorum of council members, as well.

While there were a lot of good questions, there were no spectacular surprises in the meeting. I'm glad I went (a last-minute decision by the editor to send both of us) but it would have been ok if only one had attended, I think.

End of the Week

Thursday night was "get ready for guests" day, including washing Inkwell and lots of laundry. I was pretty slow getting up on Friday, but actually got to work a few minutes early. I did the police logs, checked my co-workers story on the chamber, worked on special section stories and generally got things done. At about 10 a.m. the editor suggested I get out of the office, as I am working all day today (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the council retreat on the budget) and sent me packing. However, I had a couple of more stops, including a trip to the fire station to ask a couple of clarifications, a visit to a local charity that assists women and, after lunch, a trip to follow-up on that story at the Mabton council meeting about a woman whose home was flooded by a back-up of the city's sewage system.

The fire station took five minutes: most of that was parking and walking into and out of the building. The charity took longer, but I spent some time reading children's books in Spanish. Lunch was quick, then I headed down to check out the house.

As I haven't written the story yet, or even determined if there will be a story, I'll keep my summary of it very short. She's lived in the house for 30 years. In 1999, there was a stormwater backup that damaged her basement and the city's insurance made it right. In January there was a major sewage backup in her basement, but the city's insurance denied the claim and she's been living in a nasty, sewer contaminated split-level for seven freaking months. She can't afford the clean-up on her own. Her insurance didn't pay nearly enough to cover the damage. The city said they would clean-up, then stopped when the person helping her left the city. In any case, I went into her house to take pictures and stayed inside for about 25 minutes, taking photos and talking to her. At first I didn't notice anything more than a slight scent, but the longer I stayed, the sicker I felt. The clean-up had been started, it wasn't like there was raw sewage sitting around in the basement, but there was enough remaining that the only thing I was certain of was that I needed to get out of there quickly.

By the time I left I was feeling like I needed to clear my throat. I stepped outside and took a deep breath of Lower Valley air, complete with cow manure smell, and it actually felt better. I had to check the next door building and take some photos of the drains and such, then I headed over to city hall to sort of let them know I was buzzing around and looking at the situation. I still felt nauseous and was coughing a little by the time I finished. Then I headed home.

I felt horrid for several hours after, even as our Oz guests arrived for the weekend. Eventually I got to sleep.

Today I got up slow, spent a bit of time goofing off on the 'net, but have an all-day meeting to attend. So off I go to the budget meeting. See you next week.

Friday, August 14, 2015

It's just Looney

DC Variant covers for November have been announced. It's Looney Tunes crossovers...


Aquaman #46 by Ivan Reis, Brad Anderson and Warner Bros. Animation


Justice League #46 by Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair and Warner Bros. Animation

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I'm getting ready for September 19th


Make your own card.