- Sun, 14:53: Happiest of birthdays, @michaeldthomas :)
- Sun, 16:20: RT @12thPlanetPress: We're giving away 3 copies of Trucksong by @acidic over at Goodreads. Enter by Dec 31 to win https://t.co/piFTUZQfFo
- Sun, 18:37: Parenting trick: tell kids they aren't allowed to eat the raw vegetables cut up for dinner. Then they'll want to. #win
- Mon, 09:04: Do we not have Frozen in Australia yet?
- Mon, 09:12: Today I have learned that details on birth certificates can be changed several years later & unless you ask, you would never know.
- Mon, 09:28: Just saw a Keep Calm and Don't Blink shirt on a lady in Launceston! #geekjoy #DoctorWho
- Mon, 10:04: Author acknowledges story doesn't fit guidelines. Sends anyway. #wha?
- Mon, 10:06: Next author clearly hasn't researched his market and offends in his cover letter.
- Mon, 11:03: Don't forget, "Splashdance Silver" ebook by @tansyrr is just 99 cents at all e-tailers until December 31! Start Mocklore at the beginning…
- Mon, 11:22: If you're looking for a good online reference generator, I recommend http://t.co/AaToUYEvzI – accurate and useful (am using APA 6th).
December 9th, 2013
December 8th, 2013
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz -- Oscar De León’s family came to the United States from the Dominican Republic, and is possibly under some sort of curse (called a fukú, “the Curse and Doom of the New World”) for angering the Dominican dictator Trujillo. Oscar himself is fat geek who falls in love hopelessly and without reservation, and all these things together seem to mean that his life is almost a complete tragedy, a sentiment foreshadowed in the “brief” part of the title. Still, the novel’s very funny, with an idiosyncratic style that bounces into both Dominican Spanish and Elvish. There are almost as many genre references here as in Jo Walton’s Among Others, though the books are otherwise very different. Trujillo is compared throughout to Sauron; one of his agents is called the Witchking of Angmar. Oscar’s college roommate Yunior writes:
“Do you know what sign fool put up on our dorm door? Speak, friend, and enter. In fucking Elvish! (Please don’t ask me how I know this. Please.) When I saw that I said: De León, you gotta be kidding. Elvish?
“Actually, he coughed, it’s Sindarin.”
(I couldn’t help but wonder, though I know a reader can’t really ask these questions, why poor Oscar just didn’t go to science fiction conventions to find like-minded women.)
Hild, by Nicola Griffith -- Hild is an actual seventh-century woman who begins the novel as the powerless daughter of a widow and becomes seer and adviser to Edwin, the overlord of the Anglisc. As I said here, I loved the character, and the close attention both Hild and Griffith pay to the world around them, and the poetic nature of the prose. And it was published in 2013 -- yay!
Dead Lions, by Mick Herron -- Dead Lions (also published in 2013) led me to Herron’s previous book, Slow Horses, and that led me to all his other novels, including a series about a detective named Zoë Boehm. Male authors generally have a hard time writing female characters who do things -- either they can’t get away from the stereotype of the passive, timid woman who brightens up when a man steps in to help her, or they go to the opposite extreme, where the woman occupies too much space and talks in sports metaphors. But I liked Zoë a lot, and more importantly I believed in her: she’s smart, cynical, funny, doesn’t like people much but wants to help them anyway. She’d be a good person to turn to if you needed help. And I like it that she’s Jewish, which is also unusual. In one of the books someone asks her if she’s a practicing Jew and she says, “This is about the pork thing, isn’t it?”
Herron is a terrific stylist; his prose makes you pay close attention so you don’t miss a turn of phrase. “Carefully, Tim stood, and managed to leave the bar without incident. Then, a resident, he retired to his room, to set about the tiresome chore of suicide.” (Why We Die) “She’d started to run, but the ground was slick and treacherous, and next thing she’d been in the drainage ditch, her leg broken, and the rain coming down like God never promised a thing.” (The Last Voice You Hear) Or the beginning of Reconstruction: “In cartoons, when the alarm rings, the cat, mouse, dog, whatever, hauls out a mallet from under the pillow and BAM! -- cogs, levers and coils go everywhere; the clock face drops from its casing like a cuckoo on a spring ... Morning is broken.”
The Unreal and the Real, by Ursula Le Guin -- A collection in two volumes (Where on Earth and Outer Space, Inner Lands) containing a whole lot of good stories, science fiction, fantasy, surreal, real, unreal... As I said here, “I’m old enough to remember when Ursula Le Guin came to prominence. It was a different time, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and said that women couldn’t write science fiction. And I remember how thrilled I was to discover Le Guin, who not only played with the tropes of science fiction but was better at the game than just about everyone.”
Wonders of the Invisible World, by Patricia McKillip -- Another collection, published in 2013 and so eligible for many awards -- I’m looking at you, World Fantasy judges! McKillip writes beautiful, strange, fantastic tales that read like myths from cultures we haven’t discovered yet. This book has plenty of those, but I was interested to find stories that take place in other times and places as well, about Cotton Mather, a Christmas cruise, an artists’ colony. Turns out McKillip can write pretty much anything she turns her hand to.
Two science fiction/fantasy collections, one mystery, one lit-fic, and one historical novel. Three women, two men. One person of color. (I generally read as many books by women as by men, but my score this year for books by PoC wasn’t as good. Hope to improve on that in the new year -- and, once again, recommendations?) All featuring great writing, though the styles are very different from one another.
I’m always surprised by how many of my students want advice on majors and careers from me, a guy with thirty-odd short story sales, two collections beloved by about fifty people on Earth, 95% of a novel, and an exciting day job in the insurance industry.
Mostly, I think I’m a cautionary tale but they seem to think differently. This year, I decided to share some of my regrets with them, like the Wedding Guest in the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
Here’s what I fucked up:
- Not establishing a habit of writing every day (or nearly every day) much earlier than I did.
- Not working on a novel much earlier than I did.
- Spending too much time worrying if I was “meant” to be a writer.
- Wasting so much time trying to secure a “stable” career to support writing before actually doing the writing.
- Pursuing a critical academic path instead of a creative writing one.
- Allowing myself to be tempted by false ambitions (money, reputation) and a middle-class lifestyle.
- Worrying so much about being part of the genre community.
- Searching for my specific voice like it was something fixed and discoverable.
- Tolerating people in my life who dismissed my ambition to be a writer, who expected me to “grow up.”
- Reading too many how-to books and trying to find the one right way to write.
- Promoting myself and my work before I had enough work to be worth it.
- Selling mediocre stories to mediocre places instead of just accepting the rejections and moving on.
It’s less depressing than it seems, and tomorrow I’ll post the other half of my lecture, on the things that actually helped!
Low-key day today after yesterday's roaming about the wilds of southwestern Iowa. I think we're catching a movie this afternoon, and an early dinner. Another friend may pop by the hotel to visit a little while this evening, weather and schedule permitting.
Last night I had, as usual, complex dreams. The part where my house was flooding to the window sashes in clear, warm water wasn't hard to understand. My bladder has a sharp voice in my nighttime wanderings. The part where Zachary Quinto leapt out of a wrecked VW bus to attack me with a badminton racquet was a little harder to interpret, but I went with it. After fighting Mr. Quinto off, of course.
That last part is odd. While I often dream about real people, either directly or in the form of a dream avatar, I quite rarely dream about people I do not actually know personally.
I've spent time with the folks from my prior Day Jobbe. That was good but also sobering. I went on disability there just shortly after my tenth anniversary of service. That makes the Day Jobbe my longest-tenured employment in 26 years of working professionally across three related industries, by a fairly substantial margin. A big part of my life. It was work I enjoyed, with people I (mostly) liked, in a field where, while I wasn't exactly working for the betterment of mankind, neither was I helping make anyone's life worse. It was also work which enabled me to have a writing career through a good work-life balance and a decent paycheck. And, later it on, it was work of a sort that allowed me to segue into the deeper phases of my illness without an abrupt economic disruption, both through disability-friendly management and workplace policies, as well as a very good benefits package that turned out to make a critical difference in my life in at least three different ways.
So a lot to reflect on here in Omaha. Plus, well, Zachary Quinto. And snow.
I flew there, of course
Hanging with the pooches
A friendly meighborhood duck
Yesterday we set out in the car of
As always in life, we drove down uncertain roads
Until we came to my joint in Shenandoah, Iowa
A slightly more sobering neighbor
Me and my namesake (or vice versa)
The store was full of cool old things, like those sliding ladders, and the manager was very kind about us wandering around gawping and photographing
We then looked at interesting old buildings in Shenandoah, which reminded me of my grandparents' town in north Texas when I was a small boy in the late 1960s
Including a dry-docked caboose
As usual, more at the Flickr set.
Photos © 2012, 2013, Joseph E. Lake, Jr. and M. Jones.
This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. and M. Jones is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
The Palin twins, Star Wars Shop in Aberdeen, WA.
Photo © 2012, 2013, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.
This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
From Tudors to Turducken: An Engastration Tale — Engastration? (Via Daily Idioms, Annotated.)
Seams Geeky | Items Sewn with Love for the Chic Geek — A Kickstarter for some high quality embroidered geek gear. Me, I’m down for the Schlock Mercenary stuff.
Google Glass prescription frames spotted but concerns linger — Yay for this. If I were not so sick as to make the project more or less pointless, I’d be very actively pursuing a prescription version of Google Glass.
Nymi Is A Heartwave-Sensing Wristband That Wants To Replace All Your Passwords & Keys — And more than that. From the department of weird future tech. (Via David Goldman.)
Microsoft designs smart bra to combat emotional eating — What happens when your smart bra has a blue screen of death? I guess that would be the ultimate Nerd World problem.
Wafer-scale production of graphene devices to become a reality
NASA May Test Its Lunar Green Thumb
Everest Panorama from Mars — Mars!
Solar would be Cheaper: US Pentagon has spent $8 Trillion to Guard Gulf Oil — Imagine what we could have done in alternative energy with an eight trillion dollar research budget. Instead of warring for oil, destroying whole countries, and slaughtering people wholesale.
Top 25 Censored Stories from 2012-2013 — (Via
The Mandela Problem of the Angry White Male Wing of the GOP — Wing? That’s the whole GOP. Duh.
?otD: How deep is your slush?
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.0 hours (restless)
Body movement: n/a (traveling)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block forging presidential birth certificates: 0
Currently reading: n/a (chemo brain)
A wise woman I know named Ellen Kushner once said this in an interview in Locus magazine: "Now my generation, we're all hitting late-thirties to late-forties. Our concerns are different. If we stick to fantasy, what are we going to do? Traditionally, there's been the coming-of-age [novel] and the quest which is the finding of self. We're past the early stages of that. I can't wait to see what people do with the issues of middle age in fantasy. Does fantasy demand that you stay in your adolescence forever? I don't think so. Tolkien is not juvenile. It's a book about losing things you loved, which is a very middle–aged concern. Frodo's quest is a middle–aged man's quest, to lose something and to give something up, which is what you start to realize in your thirties is going to happen to you. Part of the rest of your life is learning to give things up."
I like to quote my sources, so: Thank you, Michael.
Fortunately, Mr. Swanwick wrote up his thoughts on Tolkien in a gorgeous essay for Karen Haber's Meditations on Middle Earth. I invited him to speak about them on my public radio show, Sound & Spirit, for one of the last shows I did, The Lord of the Rings - and, Lo!, someone has transcribed his words and put them up on The One Ring Forum, here!* (You can also listen to the entire 1-hour radio show - including the Swanwick interview - here.)
Oddly enough, speaking of the LOTR S&S show, I just got FB Friended by a guy in Poland with the rather elegant name of Ryszard Viajante Derdzinski who says, "Your broadcasts are famous among the Polish fans of JRR Tolkien. Thanks to you I discovered The Tolkien Ensemble and Varttina."
Wow. What goes around . . . certainly goes around! And Finnish women's neo-trad singers Värttinä can't have too many fans.
*Swanwick quote from Sound & Spirit: The Lord of the Rings:
Still, I have them and they might be of interest to competitors or someone :)
The Masters event, one of the prelude races to the "big event" later in the evening, is run over 30 minutes. (They ride around and around for 30 minutes and then for another 2 laps.)
( Read more...Collapse )
1 large Chinese white radish
1 large cucumber
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
4 sticks celery
4 inch piece fresh green ginger
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups water
Method for liquid:
Combine all pickling liquid ingredients in saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar is fully dissolved, then bring to boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
Method for vegetables.
1. Wash all vegetables. Peel carrots and radish and cut into thin strips. Cut cucumber lengthwise, removing seeds (if it's a cucumber with large seeds) and then cut into strips. Wash and seed peppers and cut peppers into 1 inch cubes. Slice celery diagonally. Peel ginger and slice thinly. Slice shallots diagonally. There are two aims with the cutting: make each vegetable thin enough to pickle quickly; make sure the shapes are varied and interesting to look at.
2. Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Add prepared vegetables, then immediately remove pot from heat. Leave vegetables in water for two minutes.
3. Drain vegetables. Spread on absorbent paper over wire rack. Let dry for several hours.
4. Pack vegetables firmly into large preserving jar/s. Pour cold pickling liquid carefully into jar, making sure vegetables are completely covered. Seal. Store in refrigerator. Stand one week before using.
These used to be my lazy meal for summer. Rice and a soft-boiled egg and some of these pickles.
PS There's apparently a Perth restaurant that serves these. They got the recipe from Les (my stepfather). These things get around.