Thursday, November 29, 2012

Post Small God: Open Source

November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo.  It's too late to play this year, but check it out to see if you'd be interested next year. 

Many cities have local meet-ups, where you can talk with others who are writing and maybe write with them.  You look for a local meeting on the NaNoWriMo forums.  You can find other support there, too.  One form of support available is a series of Adopt A . . . threads.  The following is something that I posted to an Adopt a god thread. 

If you are writing urban fantasy, I give you Dead Yans Puy. He appears as a very cheerful eight inch tall zombie, with his zombie-tude ranging from just a little dead looking to nearly skeletal, depending on how revered he has been lately. He hides behind things on your desk and chuckles.

For Dead Yans Puy (pronounced: poo-ee) is the god of really good webcomics that update erratically and not nearly often enough. You know the ones. You know there's not going to be an update this week. There hasn't been an update in months, now. But the comic is just sooo good, and the link is right there in your bookmarks. And you'd feel like you had betrayed yourself if you waited and found out later that it had unexpectedly updated.

So you click every day. When you see that un-updated home page, then is the time to worship Dead Yans Puy in the manner that he craves. You must shake both fists over your head, arch your back, screw shut your eyes, and yell heavenward, "Damn you, Dead Yans Puy!" This is music to the giggling little freak's ears.

I know this is going to sound like a chain letter. But the first group that I preached to were skeptical, and drug their feet. But within a month of the Great Call becoming a habit among them (as a joke, I assume- Yans does not care about belief) Erfworld had returned to twice weekly updates. The artist and writer are still limping a bit, but the text fillers are well written and my now-converted worshippers are not going to slide into apostasy. We will get there.

More recently, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage has begun updating three times a week. It's never updated three times a week. And I would have been willing to click daily on that comic for years in the hopes of seeing more of it. I thought our frustration-devouring little deviant (insulting him is also taken as praise - go figure) would never let that one go. It was an unexpected triumph and a shining proof to believers.

Now for the stick part of the chain letter analogy. My little group may have been bellowing benedictions to the malignant and mangy manikin, but the rest of you haven't been. He's getting a little annoyed with how slowly his worship is spreading. He's taken to cutting artists' hands. Both Order of the Stick and Questionable Content have had hiatuses due to hand injuries. Although Questionable Content may have been the work of a mimic deity. I suspect the Shouting Bird.

Please. I beg you. Take up the cry. We had gotten Goblins back up to twice weekly, and last week Thunt's connection refused to upload. I'm scared. I know he's a miniscule jerk of a god, but these are great webcomics. They brighten the day and gladden the heart and uplift the mind. (Fortunately, XKCD seems to be immune. I suspect that's because Randall Munroe is a physicist. They're resistant to small gods.) Don't risk sending more good webcomics into stuttering delay! Curse him today! Curse him often!

We're all counting on you.

(Sorry if I got a little personally involved. This hits me close to home.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Another word war.  Fifteen minutes and how many words can you get into your device within them.  I,m unfettered by subject, since I don' have to connect this to anything else I've written.  It's one of the benefits of a deliberately disjunctive writing style.
On the other hand, since I don't have a story to continue or a subject to follow, I have to make decisions about what I'm writing that the folks with more traditional modes operandi.  Oh, well, I wasn't going to win this anyway.  The last time we did this, I was at half the average word count and much further behind the winner.

So, what can I say?  I Got Dear Son, or rather, Devoted Girlfriend, to wrap and mail a package that had to be mailed today.  I included both of them, in the manner I did, because I'm pretty sure that DS made sure that the errand got done, after I sent them both the email, asking, and he did it by getting DG to actually do it.  Kind of a two-step thing, three if you count my step in asking.

I don't feel bad about asking.  It's a gift that we all three went in on, and there was no particular reason to think of the wrapping and mailing as mine, besides the fact that DS mentioned a few days ago that it was getting to be nearly too late to send it, as if, of course, I was the one who would be doing that and wasn't he responsible and organized for reminding me.

The reason it was getting late is that it's an advent calendar. . . A Lego advent calendar.  So they need to get it before December starts, or they start out behind.  They being his brother, S-2, and his wife.  I didn't take his hint/recommendation/order quickly enough for parcel post, so today I emailed him (and DG) from work and volunteered to spring for priority shipping if they took care of the wrapping and mailing.  As if I wasn't going to be paying for shipping anyway.  This way it sounded like I was making a generous offer instead of fobbing off a chore.  Nifty.  Also appropriate, considering it was turn-about.

So that's one thing done.  And I got three things done at work, and a few other things set up. (Time up at 396 words) So I don't feel too bad.  By which I mean I feel bad, but not about the things done.  I could have gotten more done. 

Since this seems to be current events, what else has happened.  Going from work to Empressa and a nanowirmo meetup leaves me a bit disjointed.  It's hard to remember things from one situation while I'm in another.  It doesn't help that my work computer and work note are at work and therefore not here.  It also doesn't help that I want to relax and not think of work right now.  Also that nothing not work related has happened today . . . Except for getting the package mailed. 

That's why I started the exercise with the package.  If I stretch, I can say that when I cleared my desk at work today, I uncovered some personal printouts that I'm in the process of taking home.  They're in my big, solid basket, which I sometimes half think of as my purse.  But I really and truly think of my van as my purse.  The basket is, figuratively, an insert that I use to transfer things between my purse (van) and other places, mostly the office and home.

I've mentioned having a bad memory, right?  I've set up the van to hold the things that I'm likely to need when out and about, and those things just by default live in the van.

Let's see if I can remember them.  My hairbrush is there, in the glove compartment. The security card to trigger the gate into the parking structure at work (for which I pay $75/mo) is tucked into the corner of the glove compartment with its lanyard hanging out of the compartment door.  There are spare bifocals in the sunglasses compartment on the roof, just above the center rear view mirror.  Even if they are the old prescription, it beats forgetting and not having any glasses at work all hollow. 

The handicapped parking plackard hangs from the center rear view mirror. That's not technically legal, but I know for a fact that if I stowed it, I'd end up forgetting to put it back in place, and the ticket I'd get would not inspire a good time.

I've regained enough mobility that I sometime feel guilty about using the plackard.  When that happens, I'll park normally, rather than in a handicapped slot.  And I'll often do that even when I'm feeling gimpy, if there's only one left.  Truly handicapped trumps gimpy.

What else?  My wallet lives in the slot in the driver's side door.  Well, mostly a wallet.  it's halfway between a wallet and a clutch.  For years I didn't have a purse at all.  I had a wallet and never wore anything but pants with a back pocket or a suit with a jacket with pockets. 

Well, not precisely anything.  I would occasionally wear something pocketless and then I'd have to juggle my wallet and keys and pen or brush or whatever.  It wasn't pretty.

Now I have the clutch and I keep it in the van so that I won't forget to bring it, or to bring it back.  I still have to have a pocket for the keys, and I've recently added a cell phone to the pockets, so I still mostly wear things with pockets.  Although now I keep the pocket stuff in front pockets. 

I once had to return a pair of pants that I'd been given for Christmas because they only had front pockets.  That was back in the late 80s, when I was driving pizzas and really needed to keep the wallet in the back.  The counter woman looked at me like I was growing antlers when I said that I couldn't do a swap, because I had checked and none of their pants had back pockets.  I could tell that she'd never in her life considered, not only that a woman might want to use back pockets, but that anyone could possibly think about clothing as functional, as opposed to decorative.

I got the refund with no argument, though, so no problem.

What else?  See, this is why I don't like people borrowing my van.  It's not that I care about them using the car.  Usually the person asking is DS or DG, and they're offering to leave their own car.  They just want the carrying capacity for something.  But I have the van set up to support my life and mobility and I just know that I won't remember everything that I need to take out of it.  And even if I do, I'm risking not remembering to get it all back.  And as soon as they're gone, I'll remember something that I need to do or was wanting to do, that needs something that I didn't remember to take out of the van.

...second word war....

Oh, yeah.  My gym bag.  One of the reasons I didn't remember that is that it got taken out of the van weeks ago when someone borrowed it and it hasn't been put back yet.  You know that they're not going to remember to put anything back.  Sometimes they take out the back seats and it's weeks before they're put back. 

Don't tell me to be forceful.  You can't be forceful with people when you're forgetful.  It comes too late, for one thing, and sounds like you're being suddenly arbitrary. I mean, if it wasn't important enough for me to remember for half a week, why does it suddenly have to happen now? 

I try to have a book to read or a book on tape or CD to listen to.  I stage errands in the van.  Library books that should go back, bags or boxes of stuff for the thrift store.

I could go through the basket and see what's built up in there.  There's a journal (not up to date, of course) and pens and a to do list or two.  Sodas (the kind I drink are diet and no caffeine, which isn't typically available out and about); a baseball hat, to cut down on glare; one of each morning pill, in case I forget when I leave the house; and a container of baby tomatoes, for healthy snacking.

There's usually a sweater or jacket in the back of the van, in case the weather turns.  There's the sort of music I want to listen to.  There used to be reusable bags for grocery shopping.  I probably ought to restock those.  They kind of shifted slowly to the house when DS&G slowly took over grocery shopping. 

If I was forward thinking, I'd use this entry to make a list of things that (end of second word war - 306 words) I have stationed in the van and then put it in the glove compartment so that I can refer to it when someone wants to borrow the van and I don't have much time to think about it.

The odd thing was that I would always feel put upon when someone asked to borrow the van.  And they'd wonder why getting my stuff out of it was a big deal.  And I'd sulk while they were gone and fume when I didn't get everything switched back from their car.

Then I got diagnosed with ADHD-PI and I started looking at myself differently.  The bad memory and lack of focus was something that I needed to deliberately work around, rather than something to beat myself up over.  And it was ok to ask for help and to explain.  So I sat down and thought it through, then I sat down with DS and DG and explained to them that the van wasn't just a car.  It was my purse and my security blanket and my staging area.  I had explained about the ADHD-PI before, and they had been supportive.  So I explained that it made me really anxious to mess with my support setup and that I was never going to be confident that I had remembered either to get what I needed out, or would remember to get everything back in.

So if they wanted to borrow what was, essentially, my life, they were going to have to help me organize what had to come out and help me remember what had to get back in.    It seemed reasonable to them, and they've been helping. 

Recent times have strained all of our organizational skills.  I may tell you about that and I may not.  This is supposed to be free form.  I may organize it later.  More likely, I'll read through later and add connecting thoughts and hyperlinks.  Maybe some day when it's raining. 

When I bought my house I was planning to make the front room into a library.  There was a fireplace and I though it would be great to have a few shelves full of books and overstuffed furniture and read and write by the fire on cold, rainy days.  

I also planned to live there alone.  It was the smallest house on the market at the time and looked too small for one of my sons to move in.  If i'd been able to find a one bedroom house, i'd have bought that, but they don't make those, i guess.

Still, the two bedrooms were small, and the boys lived with lots of gear.  At about 900 square feet, I though my solitary splendor was assured.  Just me and two cats. Boy, did I get fooled. 

S-2 and his wife were my first sudden roomies.  I had a dog by then, thinking I had enough room for that.  They had a dog and two cats.  And their own furniture.  Fortunately, they also had a determination to move out as soon as possible.  That was a very good thing, because it was tight and the animals didn't get along. 

The dogs were fine with each other, but the cats got into a turf war.  They didn't fight, they just marked things competitively.  The dominant cats from each pair, especially, took to peeing on anything plastic that they could slink on top of.  S-2 lost a couple of jet printers that way.

I salute their independence and motivation.  They live more than halfway across the country, now.  Not that they were trying to put distance between us.  Their first move was twenty minutes up the road. 

Dear Son is more comfortable here, so he's stayed longer.  And he's boomeranged once.  I need to prod the last two credits out of him in 2013.  We would both benefit from that.   

He doesn't think I'd do well on my own, but that's a separate topic.  I may or may not get to it this month.

Speaking of months, last night I bought plane tickets to visit S-2 and wife in December.  I'm pleased with putting that together as far as I have. Further planning and scheduling is necessary.  I'll deal with it. 

Friday, November 23, 2012


There are several books that I've read just because the title caught my fancy.  Two that spring to mind are Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett, and Elvis, Jesus, and Coca Cola by Kinky Friedman.  In both cases I had never heard of the author before, but just had to find out what the mind that came up with that title would come up with to fill the book.
There's only one movie that I watched for a similar reason. The title, Inhaling the Spore, caught my eye in a Netflix search for documentaries about museums.  Calling up the blurb, I saw:

A fascinating look into an obscure institution, this documentary visits the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, Calif.
 The Museum of Jurassic Technology.  How wonderfully impossible.  I watched it.  Then I watched it again.  I was entranced.

The prolog takes us through plain LA area streets.  I grew up near similar streets, so this looks familiar to me. Then and accordion starts playing and soon we see a shopfront with that odd name.

If this isn't the first time you've watched, you know that the name gives it all away. The name, like the museum, is impossible and intreaguing. It is a deliberate lie and an invitation to whimsy.

The title of one section of the museum is Tell the Bees, and even at first watching I knew what that meant.  That display is in a section displaying a collection of "vulgar knowledge" or superstitions. Having read Sharyn McCrumb, I know that the bees are supposed to be told when their owner has died to prevent them from thinking themselves abandoned and leaving.
Dark corridors and glass cabinets hold the collections of those who were never rich or famous, but who collected marvels. In one corner phones on the wall explain an arrangement of objects. One tells the story of the natural philosopher who trapped a bat that could pass through solid objects, magnetically freezing it within a rectangular mass of lead as it attempted to flit through.
The Garden of Eden on Wheels display gave me an urge to find something to collect. Perhaps the recorded sounds of dogs that can warble, to match the film of the barking man that was playing.
A display of old nitrocellulose dice, misshapen with age, made me wonder whether there is a Dungeons & Dragons museum somewhere. And I was touched by the curator's story of the crying man who said that the museum was like a church.
I wonder how often the displays change. I would like to study the display titled Obliscence: Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter.  Thoughts that the documentary was about a museum that only existed in the documentary were soothed when I looked and found a wiki page and the museums website. 
I'll be watching Inhaling the Spore again.  It's like a poem.  A trip to the museum, itself, is on my geek vacation list. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Post Walk Against Hunger - Thanksgiving Dinner

It's Thanksgiving and things are the same as ever and things are wonderfully different.  As always the day started with Dear Son and Devoted Girlfriend going to the Run & Walk Against Hunger event.  Three things were different this year.  For one, the weather was nice.  Even early in the morning, it wasn't that cold and it wasn't windy at all.  For another, I was entered into the 5k Walk.  This is a sign that the knee replacement has made a big improvement in my mobility and quality of life.  And, finally, Friend Stephen came along on the Walk.   

Stephen may have been the reason that I finished with no problem.  Maybe not the only reason.  Since we had three things listed in the previous paragraph, let's see if I can list three reasons.  For symmetry.  One is Stephen.  He kept me talking all through the Walk and lifted my spirits, which took my mind off of the discomfort.   

Two is the scenery.  The Walk circumnavigated the Stockton Channel Promenade, and with the fine weather the view was nice.  Third is the fact that I was pretty close to ready to walk that far.  I've walked slightly more than two miles two or three times in the two months before the race.  No, I didn't walk the exact distance of the race, but I had a long weekend and the Wednesday before the race off, so I was nice and rested.  I was pretty much ready. 

There was stiffness after the Walk, and the muscles that hadn't been used much back when I was limping and not walking much started to complain at about the end of the first block.  That would be in the back of my calves (the right one especially) and the back muscles just above, or at the top of, my butt.  But then they loosened up a bit and only grumbled a bit from then on in. 

Come to think of it, I was never winded or even near it.  That's cool.  And, really, the calves and muscles around the knee were almost as grumpy while standing around in the cold before the Event.   

During the Event, I got to see the area in Weber Point and around the promenade again for the first time in awhile.  I used to walk the area fairly regularly, back when I was on the Water Quality Project, which wasn't about water quality.  But never mind that for now.    There were a couple of new memorial statues on the northern promenade, between City Hall and the old Visitor's Center, now closed.  I don't know what's in that little building now. 

There were new artsy benches at the end of the southern promenade, near Morelli Park, under I-5.  I almost didn't look up and see the cool mobiles on the poles in the landscaping near them.  Stephen saw them, though, and exclaimed. 

The big raft of water hyacinth in the souther fork of the downtown end of the channel is starting to blacken, I presume due to the cold.  The guys with the contract with the City to remove trash from the water took a shot at removing the floating plants, but I assume they concluded that it was outside of the scope of the contract.  They were at it for days before they gave up.  I'm guessing the City is waiting to see if the raft will eventually float back out if they mumble about being out of money long enough. 

It probably will.  This isn't the first raft that's wandered down the channel from the San Joaquin River.  I got to tell Stephen all about the channel's history with water hyacinth and its history with algae overgrowth.  I didn't get too technical with the algae explanation because most people aren't interested.  But I told him that the Water Quality Project did an experiment to produce the background information needed to design a system to keep the algae mats from forming during the summer.  And I told him that those lines of disturbed water indicated the location of the bubbler system that was eventually designed with the information we collected. 

His appreciation of the color of the fall leaves gave me an opening to talk about my time at GMI and the road trips to Frankenmuth for chicken dinners.  He asked and I confirmed that California didn't do Fall Color! the way that the states in the northeast of the country do.  There were other reminiscences about the GM coop college in Michigan and some talk of the SATs and the Campbell Strong Interest Inventory. 

He talked about writing and wanting to do YouTube videos and he asked if I was interested in fewer topics of study now that I'm older.  That answer was pretty much no.  It would be harder to go in a new career-type direction, but I'm still pretty much interested in a boatload of things.
There was some discussion of hats.  Some of the people running or walking come with Thanksgiving themed hats.  Most of them are some kind of stuffed turkey.  Devoted Girlfriend said she'd crochet turkey hats for all of us if he would really eat them.  I suggested a zombie turkey hat for him, since he really likes zombie stories, movies, and video games.  His eyes lit up.  Then he looked down and said 'maybe' sheepishly.  It was cute.

I offered to copy the turkey-plastered logo of next year's Event t-shirt, re-draw it as zombie turkeys, print it on iron-on paper, and iron it on a look-alike shirt.  Dear Son and Devoted Girlfriend said that wasn't possible.  The shirts only come out a few days before the event.  I think I should take that as a challenge.  Provided I remember it this time next year.  If I have the day before Thanksgiving off again, that's plenty of time.  Provided I'm mentally ready for it.

But, you know.  Mind like a steel sieve.  (Stephen says he's started to use the phrase.  Heh.)

On the way back to the car, Stephen was checking out people's porches.  He said he was writing a story with a homeless person who lived under someone's porch.  I told him to ask Dear Son, who used to sneak away from the summer recreation program at the park and go hang out with the panhandlers.  Son S-2 did as well.  He's the one who told the the stories of it later, when he was safely grown.  I just assumed that Dear Son was along with him.  He confirmed that as true when we got back to the car.

In the car, I talked about Dr.P, who introduced himself to one of the homeless guys that he was always driving past.  The guy said that the reason he was homeless was that he had an IQ of 152.  He was too intelligent to buy into the bullshit that the world expected you to buy to get along, but he wasn't intelligent enough to transcend the bullshit.

P came home and told his wife the story, seriously considering that that might be an accurate statement.  She said it was bullshit because 152 was her IQ and she had never had trouble finding a job and keeping it.  

I wrote the above at the dinner table after the Thanksgiving dinner plates had been cleared away at Devoted Girlfriend’s family’s place.  Dear Son was writing beside me.  One of Her cousins-in-law twitted him for using an ipad with a keyboard attached.  We were both sitting together writing along with the same basic equipment, but he was a younger guy, and a guy could give him a hard time and I’m an older woman that the family doesn’t know that well yet.  So I just typed along and DS got to twit him back. 

Then there was pie.  I think it’s good for a post to end with pie.  If this one didn’t end in pie, it would have to end when, after we drove home, I made DG take my picture holding up The Event T-Shirt and then posted the picture on Facebook.

Pie is better.


Post had a mention of my Grandma L and "Uncle L and the laying on of hands."  This is a story she told.  She was proud of it.

My Uncle L, Grandma L's son, owned property in southern and northern California.  He still drives up and down the state, keeping up with them.  They're small houses, for the most part, that he rents out.  Over the years, the rents have paid off the mortgages.

Grandma lived in southern California.  Sometimes she'd ride along with Uncle when he went north.  It was a nice little trip and a way to spend time with him.

During one trip, her intuition triggered.  While at a highway rest stop, she became sure that his car was about to have big engine trouble.  It was going to happen far away from any town and would be a severe inconvenience and possibly leave them in an unsafe condition. 

She had, as mentioned in the previous post, "learned to pay attention" to her sudden intuitions.  She told Uncle and told him they should find a mechanic at the next town to look the car over and find out what was about to go.  Uncle just smiled and shook his head.  It was a long drive.  It was tiring even if you didn't slow it down further with crazy side trips. 

There wasn't anything that the car was doing that she could reasonably interpret as a sign that it was having trouble.  He wasn't about to go to a strange mechanic and tell him to find something wrong with the car to fix, when he didn't have anything he could tell him wasn't working. 

Grandma fretted.  Grandma was in a quandary, but she didn't put it like that.  That's my interpretation after listening to the story.  In the story as she told it, she was worried.  She could feel this mechanical failure coming with a sureness that could not be questioned.  But her warnings were being ignored.  What could she do to protect this person that she loved, who was going to have such trouble so soon?

Finally, she thought to pray about it, and it came to her.  Things could be healed by laying on hands.  She had heard that.  So that was what she'd do.  She gathered her certainty and her faith in healing by touch, and she laid her hands on the hood of the car.

She said she could feel the looming breakage, about to happen, just fade away in a glow of love and power.  Now she could relax.  Things would be all right.

And she told the story to show that she could bring that kind of power to bear.  She had saved Uncle L from that breakdown.  She was generous enough with her loved ones, that even though he had pooh-poohed her forecast, and hadn't been willing to do what it took to save himself from the failure, which could have caused an accident, you never knew.  Even then, she would go the extra mile and save him when he wouldn't save himself. 

She quite frankly told the story as evidence that her intuitions were right.  The story was proof.  She had had to call down the power of God to keep that car running.  And she had been beside herself before she had thought of it.  Proof positive.

We didn't know what to say.  Us kids kept quiet and I think Mom said something about being glad that they had had a safe trip.  We didn't hurry to leave.  My sister and I talked about it a little bit later. 

Oh, and the quandary comment I made earlier.  Even when I was hearing the story, I was thinking that the laying on hands bit was meant to be a clever way to keep from being proved wrong.  And once Uncle L refused to get the car looked at, she was going to be proved wrong.

Looking back now, I wonder if she was trying to get her story in before Uncle had a chance to say anything.  He never commented on it, though, unless he was there when she was repeating it.  His only comment even then was "Mom gets these ideas."  So if she had made up the 'healing,' after the trip in order to protect the sanctity of her intuition, it was unnecessary. 


Perhaps the category 5 should be things I've thought about doing but haven't done.  That will include things I've started but haven't finished. 

Once upon a time, having read the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, I went through all of the Spenser novels written at the time and copied all of the references to food.  I've been through:

The Godwulf Manuscript (1973)
God Save the Child (1974)
Mortal Stakes (1975)
Promised Land (1976)
The Judas Goat (1978)
Looking for Rachel Wallace (1980)
Early Autumn (1981)
A Savage Place (1981)
Ceremony (1982)
The Widening Gyre (1983)
Valediction (1984)
A Catskill Eagle (1985)
Taming a Sea-Horse (1986)
Pale Kings and Princes (1987)
Crimson Joy (1988)
Playmates (1989)
Stardust (1990)
Pastime (1991)
Double Deuce (1992)
Paper Doll (1993)
Walking Shadow (1994)
Thin Air (1995)
Chance (1996)
Small Vices (1997)
Sudden Mischief (1998)
Hush Money (1999)
Hugger Mugger (2000)
Potshot (2001)
Widow's Walk (2002)
Back Story (2003)
Bad Business (2004)
Cold Service (2005)
School Days (2005)
Hundred-Dollar Baby (2006)

I haven't read:

Now and Then (2007)
Rough Weather (2008)
The Professional (2009)

I still have a three-ring binder filled with the copies.  There are also copies of bits that seemed typical of the main characters.  I don't think I so much as cooked one meal.  I tried to get one of my kids interested in helping with the project, but they just weren't. 

I've learned there is a website called The Unofficial Spenser Cookbook, that is collecting recipes.  Part of me wants to jump in and play along.  It would be doing part of what I had wanted to do.  Another part of me wants to hold on for doing the book.

I haven't flipped through that binder in years, now.  I'd do it now, but everyone in the house is on a different diet.  That may be an excuse to put it off.  Maybe over the holidays. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


When we were little, if my Father was home when we went to bed, he'd sing us to sleep.  He wasn't always there because he worked swing shift, so that on a work night he wouldn't come home until after midnight.  There was no thought of us staying up that late, it wasn't to be considered.

When he was there, we each got one song, which we could pick.  I'm sure that at one point we were too young to choose, because by the time I remember choosing, we knew all of the songs that he knew.

I was kind of surprised to discover that they had mostly been pop tunes from when he was a teenager.  It seemed like such a family thing to do.  I just assumed that the songs were older than that.  And by the time I was a teenager and listening to the radio, he was ranting about That Damned Music.  It was hard to get my head around him approving of popular music when he was younger.

We had little family fads for which songs we'd request.  Sometimes we'd all want to hear the same one, night after night, and there was jockeying to see who got to request it. 

This was important.  The person who requested the song would be the one held and walked in a kind of broken, back and forth, while he was singing.  If it was your request, you got the song up close and personal, instead of just hearing it while laying in your bed while your sister got walked.  It was partly walking and partly rocking and a little bit like waltzing, although we had no idea what waltzing was at the time.

In the summer before I entered junior high (seventh grade), we moved across town to a bigger house.  No more three beds in one small room.  All of us girls had our own room, upstairs. 

Dad may have tried to maintain the tradition.  My sister, S-3, was five years younger than me and would have missed it particularly.  But between our increasing weight and the added stairs and the fact that it wasn't all of us together in one room any more, it slowly stopped happening.

He still played his harmonica from time to time.  But that was different. 

Post Musings on a Buick memory, Zoning out

In Post, I state that I have a mind like a steel sieve.  In Post, I mention riding in the back seat of the family station wagon as a child and asking "OK, where is it we're going?"

The question got a round of laughter from my parents and sisters.  It was another case of me not paying attention again.  I was only mildly annoyed that they were amused. 

Here's what I remember.  We had been at Grandma D's.  When we got into the car, I assumed we were going home.  Car rides aren't anything to pay particular attention to, so I just thought my own thoughts and waited until it was over.

I looked up and we were driving west on Pacific Coast Highway, paralleling the Torrance Airport.  I could see the strip of strawberry field that ran along it, although it wasn't the right season for the stand to be open, and strawberries were an expensive treat anyway, so I wasn't even considering hoping that we'd be stopping for strawberries.

The location and direction meant that we had gone past our house and must be going somewhere else.  Before we went to Grandma's, we hadn't talked about going anywhere else.  And if they had talked about going somewhere while we were at Grandma's, I had missed it.

The fact that my sister's giggled makes me think I had missed something said during the goodbyes or that they had mentioned it after we were in the car.  They never explained.  They may not have explained were we were going, either, but that's less likely.  I probably just don't remember now because where we were going wasn't the important part of that memory. 

Zoning out during the adults saying goodbye is not something I would ever apologize for.  The adults in our family said long goodbyes, long relocating goodbyes. At Grandma's house, they would often start in the living room.  Then they'd do a final chat and after a few minutes say they really had to go and relocate to near the kitchen door.

Someone would think of something else, and the chatting would continue at the kitchen door, with the door at least partway open.  By then, us kids would have been shepherded into motion and we didn't have anything to chat about, so we'd go stand by the locked car while they drifted out onto the porch and continued chatting.

In fairness, some of the chatting was a leaving kind of chatting.  They swapped their intentions of things they would do soon and before we would all meet again.  They swapped information about what other relatives might be doing in the near future and that might happen during the time we were gone.

By the time everyone got to the car, I was well and truly into my own thoughts out of self-preservation.  Then the car would be unlocked and us kids would get in, because getting us in was keeping control of the departure.  Then one or more adults would stand with the against an open car door and they'd all keep talking.

It wasn't continuous talking, now that I think about it.  They'd hold still while they chatted, but then the topic would peter out and they'd make goodbye noises and start moving to the next Station of the Departure.  But at the next Station, they'd think of something else, and the conversation would well up again on the new topic.

Where are we, now?  My parents are sitting in the front seat and they've clasped their seat belts.  They've rolled down the windows (no automatic windows - even when automatic windows become standard, they'll resist getting them on the grounds that they'll break long before they'd want to sell the car, and broken window switches would leave everyone sweltering), rested their arms on the window ledge, and leaned out to continue talking.

I do not blame me for not listening to all of that.  It was never anything that was interesting to a kid, that they talked about.  Maybe if they'd talked about dismembering me, I'd have heard that, but it would have taken something out of the ordinary to seep through whatever more interesting conversation I had going in my head. 

It was just a little off-putting to look up and not know where we were going.  And it was just a little annoying that everyone chuckled.  I can remember thinking that I didn't want to lose track like that again.  I guess that's why I remember the incident, even if I don't remember all the details.

I can't say I learned not to zone out.  But I might have learned to check back in more often.  And I definitely learned not to ask directly about anything that I obviously missed. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Stylized greetings and perfunctory generalized wishes of well-being to you.

In Post, I mentioned that I use the tag Yllaria, a variation of the name Hillary, that it's relation to the name Hillary is not the reason I started using it, and that it has a slight relationship to my name.

You see, once upon a time, I played with the Society for Creative Anachronism.  It is customary, when doing so, to develop a medieval persona, and I named mine Yllaria.  When one develops a medieval persona, one reads through lists and lists of medieval names to find a name that was used "in period". 

While I was looking through lists and lists and thinking about how I might go about choosing a name, I heard a comment.  The comment was that there were too many people in the SCA with first names starting with A.  The proposed reason for that was that people start reading the lists of names and stop at the first one that sounds good to them.

I have absolutely no idea if the person opining the above had an accurate take on names in the SCA, but from then on I started at the other end of the lists I was perusing.  Also, I thought that it would probably be hard to learn to answer to a different name and considered that it might be easier to do if the name sounded something like my actual name.  It wasn't, but I didn't know that at the time.

My actual name has an L in it (not at the beginning) and ends with an 'uh' sound.  Heck, let's not be coy.  The L is just before the 'uh'.  So Yllaria was a name from the end of the alphabet that sounded vaguely like my actual name.  The list said that it (and Hillary) were references to laughing. 

That clinched it.  I like laughing.  Yllaria it was.

Then I had to find a surname.  That took longer.


There is a homophobic pink squirrel on the table. A stuffed squirrel, of course. We're not getting into weirdness or urban fantasy, here. Although I've been told that it's not homophobia, so much, he's just nervous because the stuffed fox is gay and he needs to just suck it up and be a little more comfortable with his own sexuality. . . . Perhaps suck it up was not the best way to say that, under the circumstances.

The fox is orange, and is comfortable with himself. He doesn't suffer from the burden of being pink, though, so maybe we should cut the squirrel some slack. I haven't heard the stuffed skunk's story, yet. ===

Word Wars Beginning
I've been updating A Thousand Beginnings in a pretty regular manner.  I'm proud of that and nervous at the same time.  Which is a little foolish.  There's maybe one or two people from The Straight Dope following it. 

Logging in and finding that I've had page views is exhilarating and a little nervous making.  Mostly exhilarating, though.  I've been posting excerpts from the 2005 nano novel.  By excerpts, I mean a few pages a day.  The novel is divided into sections, swapping POV between two groups, who are traveling toward each other.  So I post one section from each POV and I try to update evert day.

As I say, I read it through to the end last night. Mi was inspired by nervousness and guilt.  You see, I know that I didn't end the novel, back in 2005, and I haven't looked at it since.  But i have a week or two of fully written sections still to post.  And after that, I still explain whole sections, only slowly getting a bit stream of consciousness and then very curt.  The summaries to all the way to what would be the logical end of a novel. 

When I rediscovered the 2005 nano (titled Worldshore), I was impressed at the quality of the writing, of the dialog, particularly.  Great sections of the story is put forward by dialog.  I enjoyed reading it. 

Then, last night, I discovered that I had plotted it out completely.  Not that it won't be changed if I start writing it again, just that I'm surprised that I got that far. Pity I couldn't continue it, but (picture a shrug here).  There's a whole plot line waiting.  If I started writing again, I'd be writing with a net. Cool.

I like the characters, too.  They're fun to be with.  And it was nice that I could read it and have it be a surprise, in places.  One of the advantages of a bad memory.  (Mind like a steel sieve.  You're going to hear that a few more times.  Brace yourself.)

We're having a writing challenge at the moment.  A writing slam.  (Corrected later - Word Wars) Fifteen minutes of timed writing to see who can write the most words.  The time was up just as I wrote fifteen, above, for a total of 355 words.  I came in last.  I'm enjoying myself, though.  The blogs are accomplishing some of the things I wanted them to do. I can feel things unclenching.  It gives me more energy for other things.
End Word Wars
The stuffed animals are mascots brought by two of the other writers.  They make up stories about them as a hobby and as practice.  That's where the personal information about them came from. 
I don't have any real evidence of the stuffed animals' relative conficence and sexual orientation.  I'm willing to take their owner's word for all statements made.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Post Theory of Geezer Memory Ratio

I have a theory. It's not a serious theory, but it amuses me. I tinker with it from time to time. For now, I'll pick a number. Let's say 24.

As people age, they tend to repeat themselves. What they're left with near the end is 24 narrative patterns. Those 24 are divided between anecdotes (stories or jokes), complaints, and reminiscences (vignettes about people or things). What kind of person you are determines the ratio. You get any number of songs.

I'm determined to be a low complaint person. This is probably because my dad was a
3/19/2 person.

Quite often, I think that I don't have the categories right. Any suggestions on categories will be welcomed. The number is a CBS number (clear blue sky - as in pulled out of the). I really doubt that anyone will ever do a study to determine the number. You can speculate about the number, if you like. It's the ratio that matters.


My Dear Son has been suggesting that we get out of the house and write, so that we can catch up on our word count for NaNoWriMo.  While I appreciate this, because it is supportive of me wanting to write and because it is working, it does make writing kind of expensive, what with 'get out of the house' being a euphemism for going to a restaurant to eat and writing while and after we do that.
Dear Son is writing horror and I'm writing urban fantasy. Well, DS may be writing horror.  He doesn't read horror novels, so he's not sure if he's writing horror or if he's just writing an adventure story with zombies.
We went to Sizzler earlier and he got mostly caught up.  He's not completely happy with what he wrote.  From his complaints I don't think that means that he's not happy with the story so much as he's annoyed that it was so hard to get started and stay started and so it took more hours for that particular section.
I ran across some notes I made at a previous writing meetup, one of the ones at Empressa with everyone, and by the way, the last meetup had seven of us meeting, which may be a local record. 
The note reads: "Discussion of a book where the pov is the pets of the people in the story, one of which is jack the ripper."  I remember writing that and where my thoughts went after writing it, but I don't know if the idea, the reference to the book, came from something that somebody said or from something that I had read online earlier in the day.
However it started, I remember thinking of a possible story written from the pov of inanimate objects that are starting to accrete awareness after being in the proximity of a Mage to two. This is an expectable segue for someone who reads a lot of fantasy.
My thoughts went to to speculate that the thing coming to awareness fastest might be an altar, table, chair or whatever that one Mage tortures people to death on. It doesn't understand much, yet, and it can feel him feeding him in a way that brings it closer to life.  It feels a puppy gratitude to him. 
I don't know if it's the kind of thing that I'll ever try writing, but I think that if I do, it had better be a very short story. 



Odd things happen in dreams.  When people talk in their sleep, they can share the oddness.  When my oldest son, K, was in the fifth or sixth grade, he had an argument in his dream.

There wasn’t any way for me to tell who he was arguing with.  I was up late doing homework in the living room and he was down the hall with his bedroom door open.  The sound came without words, like the voices of adults in a Peanuts special.  It was only by the intonation that I could tell he was arguing.  The ending was surprising and cracked me up.

The argument went:

Mrrrwaaah  waa rmmwaa

Waa waa mraah maaah

MRRRAAAMMM mwaaa aaaaa


Oh all right!

It’s still amusing when I think of it although it’s a little sad.  I really don’t want anyone that I care about to be losing arguments in their dreams. 

Post Sexing Aphids and Fuzz Pluckers

I mentioned in a previous post that my middle son, D, is a mutant. It was a reference to his pancreas and, unfortunately for continuity, I'm not going to explain that here. I may mention that the reason that the comment stuck is because D is an extrovert in a family of introverts. We sort of drove him nuts and he definitely returned the favor. Once he grew up enough to be able to be around normal people as much as he needed things settled down a lot.

But this isn't about that either. This is about a couple of temp jobs that he worked. I find odd jobs interesting, so they're something I remember (see steel sieve).

For instance, I once met a grad student who had spent one summer sexing aphids. Someone else had collected them, he only had to sex them. Don't ask me how to tell a girl aphid from a boy one. He didn't explain that.

The reason for sexing aphids is that when food is plentiful and times are good, aphids reproduce by parthenogenesis, creating daughter clones who have daughter clones who have daughter clones. It's only when things are tight and competition is painful that aphids start mating with and producing males. Or is it the other way around?

Whichever way round that is, the ratio of female to male aphids is one measure of how stressful the environment is to aphids. I suspect that if you're doing research at an ag college, you'd prefer that the thing you're studying leaves the aphids stressed.

I met another grad student who was paid for a few months to simulate sheep grazing with a weed whacker. What does that have to do with coyotes, you ask? Nothing directly. The coyotes are an illustration of the secondary environmental effects of islanding. Let me tell you about the coyotes.

The coyotes lived where the greater sprawl of Los Angeles is now. Other things lived there, too, in an interconnected web. Larger things were driven off long ago. At least long ago in the memory of current LA residents. The coyotes slink around in the cracks of LA and have also been pushed out to the surrounding deserts.

Once LA was pretty much built out, development started pushing out into the nearby deserts. The developments would take over the central, flat areas, leaving steeper valleys undeveloped. People would point at the untouched (relatively) valleys and say "see - we've preserved the ecosystem." Unfortunately, those valleys, which used to be connected to a central ecosystem that critters could enter and leave and travel along, were now cut off into small disconnected islands.

Those who had been tasked with preserving ecosystems now had to make decisions knowing that islanding affected ecosystems, but not knowing exactly how. Therefore research started on the effects of islanding. One effect discovered early on was that desert valleys that were too small couldn't support coyotes. And when the coyotes were gone, suddenly most of the native birds were gone as well.

Why would a lack of coyotes kill off birds? They certainly aren't doing anything that helps birds directly. The theory is that coyotes keep down the population of smaller predators. When the coyotes aren't there to keep them in check, these small predators thrive and their growing numbers wipe out the birds. If you want your desert ecosystem islands to include native birds, you have to make them big enough to support coyotes.

UC Davis is located in the north of California's central valley. Different location, different ecosystem, same problem. Davis was originally a ag college. It's expanded its curriculum over the decades, but it's still skewed toward applied biology type subject areas. The student with the weed whacker was working for an ecology prof who was studying the effect of islanding on small scale riparian and near riparian ecologies.

The Eco prof was piggybacking the regular ag research by fencing in small areas in the sheep pastures. The enclosed areas reverted to natural habitat while the sheep kept the unenclosed area grazed flat, turning the enclosures into islands. How small could the islands get, and how far apart could they get before there was no interaction between them? Was there a way to manage separated ecosystems so that they were still a part of a larger ecosystem and at what point would they become completely islanded?

The experiment required continuous sheep grazing and agriculture studies involving sheep tend to be discontinuous. So when one herd had gone to the Cole Facility for grading and the next herd hadn't been installed in the pasture yet, a grad student would be paid to whack down the vegetation growing around the islands. (I assume that it would have been cheaper to have someone from facilities mow the large open areas.) The grad student I met had done a stint one summer. She found it a relaxing break from studying.

But enough about me and my very small collection of odd jobs. This is about D and his temp jobs. He was a teenager when he introduced himself to Kelly Temporaries. For some reason they didn't seem to think that he'd be a good fit for typical office type jobs. It wasn't that he couldn't type. He'd been keyboarding since elementary school. Maybe he'd requested less sedentary work if possible.

However it happened, he seemed to get jobs that were outliers. His first odd one was wearing a Tony the Tiger costume to UCD freshman orientation. He and a clutch of hot girls smiled and waved. The girls handed out Red Bull samples. That was back when it was a new product. It's possible that they gave out coupons for Kellogg cereal, too. The view out of the costume was kind of restricted. He could see the cans. And the girls. The tiger costume covered his hands so that he couldn't hold anything, so he wasn't expected to hand anything out.

If you've wondered what it's like wearing one of those costumes, D reported that 1) it was very hot and sweaty inside, 2) it was very stinky inside (the result of it being hot and sweaty for previous wearers, and 3) girls don't mind skooching up close if it's part of the character goofing around. But even though he was a teenage boy, 3 didn't outweigh 1 & 2. When they offered him another day as a different character in another location he declined it. He didn't want them to think of him as their costume guy.

(I considered asking how it felt to be GRRRRREAT for a day, but the reply he'd have made was too obvious.)

His other odd job was doubly odd for the name that they gave to it. He spent a day as a fuzz plucker. As an official Yolo County fuzz plucker. It was an election day job. Confused? Let me explain.

Back in the days when Departments of Elections were trying to mechanize vote counting, the first change was to make ballots that were punched. The punched ballots would be tallied by machine. So far, so good?

People were used to getting a tear-off from the old manually counted ballots, so each punch card had a tear-off top. Unfortunately, the perforated tops didn't always tear off cleanly. Sometimes there was fuzz along the perforation after the top was torn away. If the fuzz got into the counting machine it could jam it up, slowing the vote count and causing them to pay a repairman to clean out the machine and get it going again.

It was cheaper to hire someone to riffle through the ballots as they came in and hand pluck any fuzz off of the tops before they were batched and fed into the counter. It was a half day job because it's not possible to pluck fuzz from ballots that haven't been collected and sent to the central counting area, yet. Then it turned out to be less than a half day job because it was an off year and the turnout was low. After an hour they decided that they didn't need a dedicated fuzz plucker. The normal crew could perform any plucking that would be called for in between waiting to do their other duties.

So he got to go home early and still got the guaranteed minimum half day. And his brothers and I got to call him a fuzz plucker off and on for the next week. He took it in good humor. If he hadn't thought it was funny, he wouldn't have told us the name. Heh. You're a fuzz plucker, D.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


None of my children have come close to dying.  That means that my life is not like my parent's lives.  They had three children and all three of us took a shot at standing close enough to the line to risk pegging out.

I'm the oldest.  I was young enough when I got it that I don't remember having Scarlet Fever, and Mom always talked about it as if it was significant, but she didn't sound worried when she talked about it, so I don't think it was more than a worry that things might get bad. 

I think the first real shot at the line was when my sister (S-2) turned out to be allergic to penicillin.  Mom sounded really worried when she talked about how the doctor gave her some sort of antidote (childhood memory - very nonspecific), but only gave her one dose when the penicillin shot was a three day one.

That may not make medical sense, but S-2 did have a downturn on the second day and was taken in to the doctor again.  At least Mother reported a downturn and second trip.  I was young enough that my memory of the actual even is very fuzzy.  S-2 alway wore a medical alert bracelet after that.  The repeated family phrase was "her hands swelled up so badly that even with her fingers spread apart, they still touched."  Dad would chime in on the story, and his voice would be worried, too.

Next my sister (S-3) got encephalitis at 18 months old.  The first symptom was a seizure, as she was laying in her prop-up carrier. Mom had just taken her to the doctor for a well baby visit and was visiting her mother.  She looked up, saw the seizure, reached for Grandma's wall phone and dialed the doctor's number.  It was the only time she had ever known the number without looking it up. 

It was very worrying and for the rest of her childhood, when S-3 got sick, she'd run a much higher fever than normal for whichever illness she caught. 

My trip to the line came in the sixth grade, when I fell and hit my head, causing a concussion.  I was in the hospital for three days.  My regular pediatrician was out of town and when he got back and looked at my charts, he said that he was glad he'd been gone while my blood pressure was that low.  I don't remember about a day from the time we reached the elevator in the hospital. 

That's apparently not uncommon.  I wasn't out cold.  I was talking to visitors and making sense.  It's just that the memories weren't going from short term to long term properly. 

So, as far as grave sicknesses and accidents in offspring go, my parents were three for three.  I also had three children and the worst thing I ever had to deal with were a few stitches, a broken wrist, and a possible broken foot.  Well, until D got pancreatitis this year.  But that's because he's a mutant and he's grown.  So I can't claim parity. 


[From a previous stint at the Empressa]
Remind me I need to get gas. I've forgotten three times and I'm running on fumes.

There are four of us in the Empressa coffee bar, writing for national novel writing month. I will remember two of them in another week or so. The third I gave birth to. I wouldn't be here if he wasn't keeping nano on the schedule. He thinks I need to get out of the house more. This is an interest that he can use as leverage.

He's actually interested in participating, himself, so the leverage works. I enjoy having infected him with the nano. I enjoy small evidence that I have an influence on the world. Almost like a normal person.
[My apologies if I've posted this before - mind like a steel sieve]