Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

My Problematic Relationship with Spanish

06 January 2014

I’ve long had a problematic relationship with Spanish and the countries that speak it as a native language.

I’m working on it.

My parents both spoke French. My dad also studied German for his Ph.D., as well as Latin through college. My mother also studied Russian and Chinese.

Knowing more than one language was always expected of me. My parents put me in Spanish classes when I was little. And my friends’ parents put them in French, which sounded way cooler. Plus, the French teacher would give out goodies, including candy, but the Spanish teacher did not.

Meanwhile, I’d go to the library and try to learn Russian out of a book designed for kids. Out of all of that study, I remember one word: молоко (milk).

I wound up resenting having to take Spanish. The first time I got a choice, when I was in 10th grade, I enrolled in German. German because the French classes were full, and thus began another round of linguistic resentment. Though, I tried to console myself, if I went for a Ph.D. (which seemed a given at the time), German would be an acceptable language, so it was all for my long-term good. Right?

I didn’t actually take French until I went to college.

When my parents went (separately, as they were divorced) to Costa Rica and Nicaragua — I didn’t understand why anyone would want to go.

Over time, I’ve studied smatterings of a bunch of different languages: Hawai’ian, Middle Egyptian, Italian, and Yoruba among them. Just not the language next door.

I never again attempted to study Spanish, but I did finally take a course in Spanish literature and cultural history (of Spain, not of other Spanish-speaking countries), and it was a really great class.

That’s kind of when my transition started — from thinking Spanish was largely irrelevant to my life to becoming interested in the history and culture of Spanish-speaking countries.

Rick and I went on a cruise from Barcelona to southern Spain to Morocco (and the Canary Islands and Madeira) in 2011.

Then, in 2012, there was a glitch that allowed certain short-haul one-way award tickets to be booked for 10,000 miles — and the routing was extremely lenient due to a bug. The usual rules allow for 4 hours between flights without counting as a domestic stopover, but it’s 24 hours for international.

Thus, you could fly, say: San Francisco-Los Angeles-Houston-Guatemala City, stay less than 24 hours, and fly Guatemala City-Houston-San Jose (California). That would be 10,000 miles instead of 35,000. So, for a grand total of $27.60 and 10,000 miles each (plus a hotel room we paid for), Rick and I went to Guatemala. I also visited El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica that year.

And I loved each and every one, though I liked Costa Rica the most. Of the four, Nicaragua’s the place I’d most love to go back and spend more time in, partly because of Ometepe.

So we went back to Costa Rica, spending a day in Nicaragua, too. I found that I understood the Costa Rican Spanish pretty well, and I started wondering why I’d ever felt it was intimidating.

Panamanian Spanish and Chilean Spanish are another thing entirely, and it reminded me of my big problem with Spanish: it’s generally spoken intimidatingly quickly for me.

There we were, driving around, wondering what the number twelve was in Spanish when we were trying to speak to our cab driver (who spoke very little English). I come up with French (douze), Middle Egyptian (mḏw sn.wy for masculine form iirc), Yoruba (èjìlá) — the only language I know of that uses subtraction for expressing numbers, and Hawai’ian (`umikūmālua).

But Spanish? I got nothing.

Our cab driver says doce and both Rick and I looked at each other with that look where we clearly had both been searching our brains searching for the word — and failing to find it.

And, thanks to The Offspring, I will always have Spanish numbers go through my head this way: “uno dos tres cuatro cinco cinco seis.” So not helping.

Mount Arenal, Costa Rica

Mount Arenal, Costa Rica.

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Lizard Update

04 January 2014

Since I posted about Lizard’s situation last week (mostly about his wife Beth), thought I’d give another update.

It concerns Beth’s medical situation and Lizard’s not posted publicly, so I’m going to be vague about details he hasn’t shared publicly except for the one positive one.

  1. She is still in the ICU and things are still very touch-and-go. Some of these reasons were made public in the post I linked to. Dialysis is one of them.
  2. On the (very) bright side, “She was able to turn her head, squeeze their hands, and nod in response to some questions.” This is the first sign that she is definitely able to understand and respond to commands. Huge.
  3. “It may be a long time before she’s even able to leave the ICU.” Sigh. Not cheap. Not in the slightest.
  4. She’ll need surgery to fix the original surgery, but it can’t be done now as it’s too risky.

The one thing Lizard’s asked is that people do not call. I completely understand. Dealing with concerned people’s phone calls is very spoon draining, and he has no spoons left. It also poses a very real risk of missing a critical call from the hospital.

It’s just heartbreaking.

If you can spare some thoughts, prayers, or some extra $ for the gofundme, he’d appreciate whatever. So long as it’s not a phone call.

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Cue Globetrekker Theme Song

04 January 2014

  1. Valparaiso, Chile to Papeete, Tahiti with Easter Island, Pitcairn, and Moorea as intermediate stops.
  2. Worldcon in London and Eurocon in Dublin with Wales in the middle.
  3. Lisbon to Rome via Gibraltar, southern Spain, the Balaeric islands, Sardinia, and Corsica.
  4. Barbados to Barbados via Martinique, St. Lucia, Grenadines, and Tobago. I still dream about this hotel in St. Lucia.
  5. Hawaii. Four islands. One ship.
  6. Rome to Venice with intermediate stops in Sicily, Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia.

Globetrekker clip:

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Going on a Twitter Diet

03 January 2014

No, I’m not going to be less active on Twitter.

Here’s the problem: when I wake up in the morning and open my Twitter client, I can see 31 minutes of tweets. A few weeks ago, that was 47 minutes, but then I added a couple of people.

I want to get that back to where I saw all the tweets since I went to bed.

That’s going to mean I’m going to unfollow some prolific tweeters. I’m going to follow people whose news I can get elsewhere. Etc.

What this will mean is that I’ll be far more likely to read that tweet posted by a friend in a distant time zone.

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Just So You Think It's Not All Glory

02 January 2014

  1. Rebooked airline reservations for different date.
  2. Dug into why a cruise reservation was borked. Oops.
  3. Refactored some jQuery stuff. Not yet done.
  4. Used a bunch of graphics tools, finishing with Photoshop, for a site revamp I’m working on. Why is it I want to enhance detail on a photo I’m going to blur into oblivion? Contrary design goals.
  5. Worked on logo design for same.
  6. Wrote someone for graphics permissions.
  7. Finally got the back-and-forth convo that needed to happen about some money stuff. Ugh.
  8. Had a great idea for something I should have done at Thanksgiving. Anyone have a time machine handy?
  9. Made a note about #8 for next Thanksgiving. Go, me. (I always feel extra virtuous scheduling things this far in advance.)
  10. #1 made one item on my ToDo list moot, so I got to cross it off without spending the time to do it. Go, me!
  11. Finished another half-dozen outstanding items on my ToDo list.
  12. Wrote some Python code.
  13. Wrote some Ruby code.
  14. Wrote on three of my four active book projects. Before noon.
  15. Looked at ISBN prices. Closed tab. Ugh. (Every indie publisher will understand this one.)
  16. Made hotel reservations for Loncon3.
  17. Made sure I had iMovie on my iPad for a workshop I’m going to next week.
  18. Made appointment for portrait photography. Author photos, y’know.
  19. Got my T-Mobile iPad account set up to have international data. I hope. FYI, they can convert the account if yours is set up wrong. It just requires someone with root privileges (practically).
  20. Discovered that, by changing flight dates in #1, that my hotel’s no longer available. ::bangs head on desk::
  21. Found a new hotel.. It has no stairs.
  22. …and the reservation wouldn’t attach to my account…
  23. Banged on more Ruby code while on hold listening to the GoGos. Their choice, not mine.
  24. Turns out the reservation did attach. Bueno.
  25. Went to Draeger’s (aka “Two Whole Paychecks”) for some groceries. We bought some of their amazingly wonderful mashed potatoes, aka “crack.”
  26. Dropped the mashed potatoes in the parking lot. Sigh. Yes, onto the asphalt.

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Pen Posse: Join Us!

02 January 2014

In 2008, a fountain pen enthusiast from Australia was visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, and Ethernautrix, ever the charismatic one, started and named the Pen Posse.

Initially, we were all on Fountain Pen Network, but as the field diversified into different boards, it got complicated coordinating meetings.

Eventually, I started a Facebook group for Pen Posse, which made it much easier for people to get notified of meetings. We don’t have a formal leadership, though AltecGreen (Ricky Chau) starts most of the meeting requests.

Some of us use fountain pens to write with. Some are more into drawing. Or calligraphy. Some just like them. Whatever. It doesn’t matter why you like them.

Some only use old pens. Some only use new pens.

Some only like off-brand cheapie vintage pens they can repair. Some like the uber slick expensive pens.

We welcome all.

Sometimes we do fun things like visit SF MOMA. Or go out to restaurants. Or visit wineries. Or do karaoke. Or comedy clubs.

We’ll still love you if you use a ballpoint most of the time. Or a rollerball.

You don’t even have to be on Facebook, but it’s much easier if you are.

Oh, and if you don’t live in the bay area, but you’re coming to visit? We’d love to meet you. We even meet conveniently close to SFO most of the time. Heck, I’ve gotten off a plane only to drive straight to Pen Posse. More than once.

We’ve had visitors from: Philippines, Australia, Singapore — and other places, too.

You know where we are. Join us.

Note: there’s also a local group that meets quarterly, the Pan Pacific Pen Club. Pen Posse meets far more frequently (and far more irregularly).

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2013: Year in Review

31 December 2013



I mostly consider myself an alternative listener, but when I’m writing, I prefer electronica.
The most surreal music moment for me was being driven around in a taxi in Istanbul and hearing the background music for the opening scene for Fairly Legal, Season 2 (Episode 1, Satisfaction). I used SoundHound to find out what tune it was: Yachts (A Man Called Adam Mix) – Hôtel Costes – Etage 3 (Mixed By Stéphane Pompougnac). Tasty bossa nova. You can hear it in the background in this Fairly Legal clip.
Favorite album is sort of related in its own weird way. Ryan Johnson, actor in the above clip, shouted out an album he liked: …Like Clockwork – Queens of the Stone Age. Loved it. I generally listen to people’s music recommendations, and his taste and mine have a fair amount of overlap. I’ve liked Queens of the Stone Age for a long time, they’d just fallen off my radar.
Favorite new song is from the Air Tahiti Nui video below: Daybreak by Overwerk.
“Let me tell you ’bout the funky dolphins.” I was listening to Overwerk’s new album clips on Beatport when I started clicking into random other songs and discovered Pyramyth’s Dolphin Talk. I don’t normally like glitch hop, but this is fun and catchy and actually sounds like it’s using dolphin sounds in there.
For something more typical of my tastes (as I really like trip hop), picked up some back catalog Zero 7 and am really fond of the song In the Waiting Line. This particular song’s slower than I generally prefer and not suited for writing (too much vocal emphasis), but I like it a lot.
One of the songs of the year, for reasons that will become more obvious below, is Moscow Nights by The Red Army Choir, genuine Cold War era classic.

Movies & TV

I haven’t watched either as many movies or as much TV as in prior years. I do have five favorites, though:
Gravity – Amazing performance by Sandra Bullock, who remains one of my favorite actors.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – Yes I know you were told it’s a terrible movie. It’s not a great movie, but it is great fun. I enjoyed the hell out of it. More than once.
Sharknado – This movie was way smarter than it had to be.
In the short film category, there are two contenders for me this year.
The University of Bath produced this film about the Leidenfrost effect called The Leidenfrost Maze.
Air Tahiti Nui’s video made by Matthieu Courtois and Ludovic Allain has enough of a narrative structure to it that I’d argue it’s Hugo BDP worthy. Inside the turbines with them running? Hardcore.


I read — a fuck of a lot of books. I don’t want to know how many, but it was hundreds. Four in particular stand out.
Lauren Gallagher’s The Princess and the Porn Star is about a rock star trying to hang on to her career with a record label that’s sending mixed messages. One of the reasons I love it so much is that it’s the most “me” book I’ve read this year. I relate to every single one of her fears, which is part of the reason I didn’t pursue rock as my career. (I will actually write that story this coming year.)
Vivi Andrews’s Naughty Karma is one of those hate-to-love books that are hard to pull off, but this one works for me. It’s the capstone book in the series, though. Rarely do I like the final book in the series as much.
Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren is an incredible book, but I was less enamored with the sequels to it. Each was really different from the others, which is fine. The problem for me is that I felt that the subplots in The Mistress (aka book 4) were not really adequately set up in books 1 through 3, so it felt kind of last minute, and one of them was frankly unbelievable. Additionally, the book 4 antagonist is nowhere near as nuanced as the other characters. But: book 1 is extremely well written. What’s really interesting about it is that the out-there sex scenes? Aren’t in the narrative present of the book.
Jay Crownover’s Rule is the book that made me finally get what the New Adult category is about. The titular character isn’t very sympathetic at the opening, but in understandable ways.
Also see my Some Self-Published Love post for more recs.

Short Stories

I didn’t read a lot of short stories this year (apart from ones I read as an editor). ::hangs head in shame:: I either seem to read a lot of shorts or a lot of novels in a given year. I never seem to manage a good balance.
One recommendation: “The Slow Winter” by James Mickens. Link is to my blog post about it from earlier this year.


I want to express my undying love for Jenny Trout’s 50 Shades Recap, which, at points, had me laughing so hard I hurt myself. She calls it a “sporknalysis.” Also, her books, indie published under the pseudonym Abigail Barnette, are really good if they’re your cuppa.
Made a fan site for my favorite actor, Ryan Johnson. Who was flattered. And then, adorkably, bought an iPad. (He knew I was an Apple engineer.)

Personal Embarrassment

Tale of a pitch session at a writer’s conference. It turned out well, at least.


You’ve been waiting for this one, I can tell.
In order:

  • Visited Japan for the first time. Didn’t manage to leave the airport before I had my first culture shock meltdown.
  • In related news, had my first meltdown in Tokyo station. Repeat N times.
  • Almost missed my flight from Tokyo to Bangkok.
  • Visited Vietnam, where my uncle served in the military only to come home broken. Surreal, but a great place. They have immense pride in their produce regions. And they should.
  • Visited Federated States of Micronesia and stayed in a thatched hut in Pohnpei.
  • On Pohnpei, visited Nan Madol, which is a super impressive pre-historic city.
  • Had green tangerines in Kosrae. Apparently, oranges and tangerines never develop their eponymous colors in that part of the world.
  • Landed on Kwajalein.
  • Visited Canada to buy banned substances. Quizzed at land crossing border by Canadian immigration who (possibly justifiably) felt my visit was suspicious. My contraband? The best sugar substitute there is, banned in the US since 1969. It’s the one sugar substitute I can use.
  • Visited Sri Lanka, and loved it.
  • Visited the Maldives and was just amazed by them. I love small island countries, but this is a diverse country of many islands.
  • Saw an octopus while snorkeling in the Maldives.
  • Visited Myanmar on what could be the mistake fare of the century. Flight home, business class, from Myanmar to Seattle was €65.02.
  • I will always now associate the song Gangsta’s Paradise with Yangon, Myanmar. Thank you, night club across the street from my hotel. You broke my brain.
  • Had a rather awful trip to Puerto Rico. Nothing went right. Flights were awful. Car rental company accidentally charged me for someone else’s three-week rental, and my hotel stay was bad enough that my rant to Conrad got the hotel deflagged down to a Hilton.
  • Rather horrified about the rioting in Istanbul, especially since it started not far from where our hotel was and a couple of days after we set sail from there.
  • Charmed by Bulgaria.
  • Romania was oddly depressing, but I loved seeing the Roma houses, and I loved seeing the Danube river delta.
  • Didn’t expect to like the Ukraine so much. Probably liked Yalta the best.
  • Except for that one tour guide that was so horrible we actually bailed mid-tour. Never done that before.
  • I know you don’t want to hear it, but I’m going to say it as it was my reaction at the time: I loved seeing Sochi. It’s one of the few times where I felt like I was seeing more of the future of a city than the past. It’s also a really great spot on the map and I’d love to go back. Pity about Russia’s attitude towards QUILTBAG, so I guess it may be a while before I’d feel okay about going back.
  • Visited Novorossiysk, where there was just overwhelming loss of life, and you could still feel it all around despite the beautiful day.
  • Saw the Crimean war locations around Balaclava, then saw the ex-Soviet secret submarine base. Awesome and chilling.
  • Visited Alaska and got taken around Anchorage by my friend Bri. Had a great time.
  • On our way back, we missed the approach and flew around, eerily about three weeks before the Asiana crash, and I believe on the same runway. Surreal.
  • Rick and I went to Portland, Oregon for JayCon and JayWake.
  • Flew to New Zealand on my birthday. We hung out with friends and went to a con (Au Contraire).
  • Then flew to Melbourne to visit another friend from the fountain pen community: Nicholas.
  • Then flew to Cape Town, South Africa (via Bangkok and Johannesburg) to see one of my oldest Internet friends, and someone I helped get out of Scientology.
  • Flew to London (from South Africa) solely because I wanted to see Lloyd Owen (also a Fairly Legal actor) perform in The Bodyguard. Granted, I had to get home somehow, and this was as good a route as any.
  • In related news, bailed on two trips to South America this year, which meant I visited five continents instead of six. Before I switched to London, I’d planned to leave South Africa via Buenos Aires.
  • I also had a paid ticket to Rio de Janeiro, a deep discount fare that had an incredibly stupid amount of flying involved: Los Angeles to Orlando to Houston to Rio to Houston to Orlando to Houston to Los Angeles. When I was accepted into Milford, I switched that ticket to get me to Milford.
  • Was invited to go to, and went to, the annual SP (suppressive person) party of ex-Scientologists and critics. Got to meet Tony Ortega and Steve Hassan, among others.
  • Visited Las Vegas for a friend’s party. What a house! Master bath backdrop.
  • Finally got to go through the Nuclear Testing Museum in Vegas with more time than the last time we visited. (That’s where the Ground Zero Theatre image comes from.)
  • Visited San Antonio finally, a city I’d been wanting to visit since I was a kid. Yes, because of the song.
  • Went to Milford! It was amazing.
  • Visited the Isle of Man, which was a lot different than I was expecting, somehow. Loved it, especially the broad promenade in Douglas.
  • Our trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was amazing.
  • Still not king: haven’t flown on a Boeing B787 yet. Sniff.


I’ll probably be ready to release something to GitHub in early Feb. It’s something I work on in between other things.
Mostly, I’ve been spending time filling in gaps in what I know.


Last, but by no means least.

  1. Wrote a good chunk of four books.
  2. Have more ideas for new books than I’ve ever had.
  3. Milford! Awesome!

The most useful critique is one where the person didn’t like my story, but was articulate enough about why to make me realize it was simply a manifestation of something I’d never realized about my writing. It’s really been making me re-think a lot of my stuck-in-the-drawer work. In several cases, those pieces are easily reworkable. Most will need deeper re-thinking.
Even more interesting, it’s something no one has ever mentioned before.
Fascinating, huh?

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T-Mobile International Data Roaming: Didn't (and Apparently Can't)

30 December 2013

Exercise for the reader

  1. Buy an iPad (or pretend to have) for T-Mobile’s network.
  2. Try to sign up for a plan on T-Mobile’s site that is a Simple Choice plan without buying another device. Hint: start here.
  3. With this non-existent opportunity, you will get free international global data roaming. Isn’t that special?

Exercise 2 for the reader

  1. Buy an iPad configured for T-Mobile from Apple.
  2. Wait extra fucking weeks to get the damn thing because T-Mobile.
  3. Activate your 200MB free data. Woohoo!
  4. Oh. You want to travel. Add a paid plan.

Guess what? Your international plan, even though it costs the same amount of money, will not get you international data, and that is not disclosed.

Leave the country. Visit a capital city of another country. Note that you do not have data roaming. Contact T-Mobile support.

Hello Deirdre, I reviewed your account and I do see it set up correctly with no restrictions. Unfortunately we are not always able to guarantee full functionality while overseas.

Even. Though. The. People. With. T-Mobile. Voice. Plans. Are. Having. No. Issues.

Come home. Contact T-Mobile support before your new trip.

Get the following e-mail.

Our apologies but for Pay in Advance accounts (including your prepaid data plan), international data roaming is not available at this time. We do hope to see this change in the future, but for now, you would be unable to use your iPad internationally on a Pay in Advance plan.

Even. Though. It. Costs. The Same. Amount. Of. Money. As. The. Other. Plan.

This from a company that doesn’t even believe in plans.

And, from another e-mail.

In order to use the tablet while internationally roaming, we would need to have this attached to a postpaid voice line […].

Which — it does not say on the page I linked to, does it. Maybe that’s the way to “patch” the current non-functional plan I have, but, if I bought my device directly from T-Mobile, I’d be able to have, for the same amount of money as the plan I did purchase, a plan that covered international data.

Because the thing I really want to do when I’ve been jerked around by a company is give them more of my business, right?

There’s nothing polite I can possibly say here.

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Coming Soon: Coffee & Canopy

30 December 2013

I’ve been busy as a bee, and hope to have an outline posted for So You Want to Travel the World before we leave for Really Remote Places. But, there’s another free perk for everyone who’s contributed $10 or more: an ebook I’m writing about our recent trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It’s called Coffee & Canopy.

Wanna see the cover? Of course you do.


The book will be free for everyone who contributes (or who already has contributed) $10 or more to the Indiegogo campaign for So You Want to Travel the World. Otherwise, it’ll be $2.99 all by its lonesome through the usual outlets. I’m almost done. Can’t wait.

Every book should feature unexpected venomous sea snakes, right?

The cover photo is one I took in Nicaragua at the Masaya volcano crater rim. The stairs leading up to the cross in the upper right have dissolved enough through years of corrosive volcanic emissions that they are now off-limits due to structural damage.

I’ll let everyone know when it’s available through the usual venues.

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Things I Wish People Said When They Screwed Up

30 December 2013

Rick and I were talking this morning about the Ani DiFranco episode, among other things. I love this sendup of her response here. It links to Ani’s response.

What I really wish people would say when they screwed up things like this?

“Hi. I’m human. I don’t know everything. I missed something important here, and I’m sorry. I will try to do a better job of not missing important things in the future, but I will still, unfortunately, be human.”

And not, you know, flounce (or all the other stuff Ani did in her super-long post).

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