Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Archive of posts with tag 'reviews'

: How a Book Can Change Your Life

In Summer 1995, I picked up a book in a bookstore in Keene, New Hampshire where I worked before heading home for the weekend.
I was enticed by the Stephen King blurb.
I lived nearly 180 miles north in North Troy, Vermont.
Now, I didn’t always start books right away, but this one I was really looking forward to. In its own weird way, it changed the course of my life. Two years later, I’d be working as an immunology software engineer, though I ultimately decided not to pursue the additional degree(s) needed for more work in that particular field.
The blurb?

“The first chapter of The Hot Zone is one of the most horrifying things I’ve read in my whole life—and then it gets worse. That’s what I keep marveling over: it keeps getting worse. What a remarkable piece of work.” —Stephen King

Richard, then my partner and later my husband (not to be confused with Rick, my husband of 14 years) marveled that I was able to read the book in bed, turn off the light, and go to sleep. And stay asleep.
It’s not that I didn’t find the book terrifying. I did. It’s just that, for me, those horrors were so much worse than what I’d imagined, my own fears began to subside.
Before reading The Hot Zone, The Coming Plague, A Dancing Matrix, and other related works, I was always very fearful and squeamish about things medical. I was the kid who ran and hid under the doctor’s desk when it was time to get a shot.
I couldn’t watch a surgery scene on TV or in a movie. Just couldn’t.
After Richard died, I found myself watching a show about organ transplantation, showing transplant surgery, less than a week after I’d donated his organs. My neighbor wanted to make sure I was really okay with it. I was, which surprised me. I still avoid surgery scenes in movies and TV, but I’m not as horrified by them as I used to be.
I’d taken astronomy and geology rather than biology so I wouldn’t have to dissect anything. In Vermont, I finally took biology and the only things they made us dissect that first term were black flies. I hated them so much by that point (nasty, painful welts from bites if you didn’t know), I looked forward to stabbing them.
Eventually, I realized it would be a really long time before I could get through a Ph.D. or an M.D./Ph.D. program, so I decided to focus on the Master’s degrees I wanted.
But still, that book changed the course of my life.

: New Adult Romance: A Few Books

I’ve had this post sitting around for six weeks or so since I last modified it. About time to publish it, right? I was talking with a friend at dinner, then realized, “Gosh, if I’d published this post, she’d already know.”
I really think New Adult Romance is the killer category for indie publishing. It’s certainly one in which I’ve found a some great books, though several of those have been picked up by mainstream publishers after initial publication.
The basic romance formula is simple: two people (or, sometimes, more than two people) who have various obstacles that prevent them from having the One Great Relationship, who overcome those obstacles because the other person (or people) change them enough.
Not so easy to write, though.
Here’s some I’ve loved.

Sarina Bowen, The Year We Fell Down

Linky link.
I picked this one up based on the DA review.
She’s a varsity hockey player who’s had a career-ending injury. He’s a hockey player who fell off a climbing wall while he was drunk off his ass, and he’s taking the year off to recover.

“Instead, we went into the hallway together in silence. But there, my reverie was broken by the sight of a guy hanging up a white board on the wall outside of his door. My first glimpse was of a very tight backside and muscled arms. He was attempting to tap a nail into the wall without letting his crutches fall to the ground. “Damn,” he said under his breath as one of them toppled anyway.
And when he turned around, it was as if the sun had come out after a rainy day.

I really felt her frustrations, being that person who’s often sitting in a corner at parties because I can’t stand for very long. And yet, she doesn’t let you feel sorry for her, because she mostly doesn’t feel sorry for herself.
Most importantly, she never feels that she’s not good enough for the guy in question (which is one of my pet peeve romance tropes). Meanwhile, he’s still got this sucktastic relationship with a woman who needs a man with an expense account, and he knows he’s not “good enough” for her. In fact, the reverse is true.
This one’s still an indie book, and I want to add: it’s one of the cleanest (copyediting-wise) I’ve seen from any publisher. Kudos.

Sarina Bowen, The Understatement of the Year

Linky link.
This is the third novel (fourth book) in the Ivy Years series. I really loved the second book also. The novella’s fine, but this book is what really stands out of the later books in the series.
I’ll just let her tell it:

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexual preference from everyone. Including himself.
So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

This book brought back what it was like to be the straight best friend of a young, closeted gay guy who was trying to navigate his sexual preference for the first time.
If I had to pick my favorite book of the year, so far the above two are tied. I’ve got quite a few on my shortlist, though.

Katy Evans, Real

Linky, link.
This one I found on the iBooks bestseller charts and downloaded a sample, and it’s one of those that was picked up by a big publisher.
I don’t normally like books about fighters because I’m really seriously not into the alpha men who fight for a living. Except in books, apparently.

“I dare you to look at him and tell me you wouldn’t do anything for that man.”
“I wouldn’t do anything for that man,” I instantly repeat, just to win.
“You’re not looking!” she squeals. “Look at him. Look.”
She grabs my face and swings my gaze in the direction of the ring, but I start laughing instead. Melanie loves men. Loves to sleep with them, stalk them, drool about them, and yet when she catches them, she can never really hold onto them. I, on the other hand, am not interested in getting involved with anyone.
Not when my romantic little sister, Nora, has had enough boyfriends, and drama, for both of us.
I stare up at the stage as the guy whips off the satin red robe with the word RIPTIDE on the back, and the spectators stand screaming and cheering as he slowly turns to acknowledge them all. His face is suddenly before me, illuminated by the lights, and I just stare like an idiot from my place. My god.
Dark scruffy jaw.
Boyish smile. Man’s body.
Killer tan.
A shiver shoots down my spine as I helplessly drink in the entire package everyone else seems to be gaping at.

Remy’s not neurotypical, and I loved the descriptions of the nuances of his character. I think once she labels it, it feels less real, so I’m glad that is very minimized. It’s not “he’s got X,” it’s all in his behavior.
There are aspects of this relationship that are troubling. Sure, she’s got her dream job and he’s got his, but the relationship is so tightly interwoven that it just feels like it can’t help but being unhealthy. And yet, it shifts in the second book, which I’m now reading.
What I love, though, is that no one is giving up their careers. Unlike a lot of other romance books, their particular careers mesh.
After having read all the books now out, I’ll add: they all three work, and the book from his POV (Remy) helps fill in the cracks.
Dear Author review.

Jay Crownover, Rule

Linky link.
I loved the first book, not as crazy about the subsequent books. Also wish there were a stronger command of language or, failing that, copyediting. Now that she’s got a major publisher, one would hope there’d be a larger budget for that. (Update: I just read the fish book, Rowdy, and it didn’t have the same problems.)
The characters, however, are broken in just the right ways. It’s told from alternating first POV, which I personally like a lot when it’s done well.
She’s always been in love with him, but he goes through women the way some women go through Kleenex. He’s always been interested in her, but believes she was the girlfriend of his twin who committed suicide—and therefore off limits.

“You’re going to get all that junk that’s in your hair all over my window.” Her voice—all cigarettes and whiskey—didn’t match the rest of her, which was all champagne and silk. I had always liked her voice; when we got along I could listen to her talk for hours.
“I’ll get it detailed.”
She snorted. I closed my eyes and crossed my arms over my chest. I was all set for a silent ride, but apparently she had things to say today, because as soon as she pulled the car onto the highway she turned the radio down and said my name. “Rule.”
I turned my head slightly to the side and cracked open an eye. “Shaw.” Her name was just as fancy as the rest of her.

Despite the fact that this is weaker in some respects than other books I’m listing, it was my gateway drug into new adult romance.

Kylie Scott, Lick

Linky link.
One of my sweet spots is a reader is rock ‘n roll heroes.
It’s a variant on the old “secret wedding” theme: in the book’s opening, the heroine wakes up married. Hilarity ensues.

“Something winked at me from my left hand, snagging my attention. A ring, but not just any ring. An amazing ring, a stupendous one.
“Holy shit,” I whispered.
It couldn’t be real. It was so big it bordered on obscene. A stone that size would cost a fortune. I stared, bemused, turning my hand to catch the light. The band beneath was thick, solid, and the rock sure shone and sparkled like the real deal.
As if.
“Ah, yeah. About that …” he said, dark brows drawn down. He looked vaguely embarrassed by the ice rink on my finger. “If you still wanna change it for something smaller, that’s okay with me. It is kinda big. I do get your point about that.”
I couldn’t shake the feeling I knew him from somewhere. Somewhere that wasn’t last night or this morning or anything to do with the ridiculous beautiful ring on my finger.
“You bought me this?” I asked.
He nodded. “Last night at Cartier.”
“Cartier?” My voice dropped to a whisper. “Huh.”

Unlike many of the others, this one started out with a major publisher and was never self-published.
Dear Author review.

H. M. Ward, a metric ton of books

Linky link.
There’s no easy way to say this other than be truthful: H. M. Ward writes my kind of crack. She could use a proofreader, though not as much as Crownover.
Ward’s best known for the (currently) 16-volume (each novella length) Arrangement series, but there are side series that are related, too.

The Arrangement

Avery’s a college student with an impossible work/courseload and too little money whose parents died in a car crash. She only has herself to rely on.
Sean’s an incredibly rich (of course) guy who wants a certain kind of relationship. In the opening, someone steals Avery’s car as she’s trying to spray-start it. He helps her go after the thief, which is how they meet.

“Does your car always do that?” A pair of blue eyes meets mine and the floor of my stomach gives way. Damn, he’s cute. No, not cute—he’s hot.
“Get jacked? No, not always.”
He smiles. There’s a dusting of stubble on his cheeks. I can barely see it because of the helmet. He raises an eyebrow at me and asks, “This has happened before, hasn’t it?”
More times than you’d think. Criminals are really stupid. “Let’s just say, this isn’t the first time I had to chase after the car.”

Melony, Avery’s closest friend, takes her for a job interview. Avery thinks it’ll be for something like hotel clerk, but no, it’s for becoming a call girl. The interviewer, Miss Black, shows Avery the photo of a new client. It’s Sean.
Just one problem: Avery’s still got her v-card. Will she? Won’t she?
This series takes some incredibly wild-ass turns, and I loved it. Some of them I saw wind up like clockwork, and some surprised me. I can’t wait until the whole thing’s finished and I can re-read it from scratch.

The Secret Life of Trystan Scott

This is a five-part young adult story of Trystan Scott’s high school years. It’s set three years before The Arrangement. He has a pretty awful home life, but no one quite understands how broken he is. Fortunately, things improve for him. Eventually.
Trystan isn’t a Ferro, but he later becomes a good friend of the family and appears in the later Arrangement books.
There will be a later Trystan Scott series contemporary with The Arrangement; the first volume is due out soon.


Scandalous is a two-volume book that’s not Ferro, but is mentioned in the Ferro series. He’s an artist who paints nudes. She got away from him and has been a preacher. She becomes his muse. Nice inherent conflict. Really loved it.

The Proposition

After her father dies suddenly, college student Hallie writes a torrid erotic novel about the love she lost: Bryan Ferro, the man she loved, lost, and never told anyone about. Catch is, she’s now with Neil, who’s just Mr. Blah, and fears that other people will think the novel’s about his relationship with Hallie.
The novel has attracted enough buzz that seven-figure offers are coming in, so Neil’s tune starts to change.
Bryan, however, hasn’t forgotten Hallie, and shows up in her life. Only he’s got secrets of his own.

Secrets & Lies

The first of this seven-part series is out.
Kerry’s luck is hilariously bad, from accidentally winding up with a school bus to having her possessions shipped accidentally to Guam. She’s also wound up suckered into nude modeling, and, well, her one-night stand blows her off.
Until he doesn’t.

Nathan is trailing me and smiling that cocky grin that guys wear when a woman shoots them down. He mirrors my pose, which makes his arms look lickable. “Exactly what part of Hell has to freeze over before you give me another try? The foyer? The basement?”
I don’t want to laugh, but the idea of Hell having a basement is funny. I get a picture in my head of an old guy burying bodies at the bottom of a staircase, next to a creepy furnace. It amuses me. “Level nine, ya know, the basement.”
He presses his hand to his heart. “That’s a long ways down.”
“Yes, but the fall was fast. I bet you hit your ass on the way down.”


Sean’s younger brother Peter has given up the Ferro family fortune and the strings that attach it, and gone and gotten himself a professorship. Sidney has been a grad student and finally agrees to a blind date set up by a friend, only she sees Peter on the way in and thinks that’s her blind date.
Her actual blind date is an amazing jerk, so Sidney dumps him. She heads to the parking lot, and hot guy is out there. His car won’t start.

“He watches me as I try to crank the engine. It doesn’t start. I look at the little gauges and notice the battery. He’s standing next to me now. “So, you’re a mechanic?”
I shake my head, “I just pretend to be. It makes for more interesting evenings.” I grin at him, not sure what’s come over me.

One of the things I like about H. M. Ward’s women: they’re not stereotypical.


Black sheep of the Ferro family Jon—who until now has been known for banging his father’s endless series of younger mistresses—discovers that his long-lost love is working in a strip club. The one who got away was Cassie. The story slips between the narrative past, when they met, and the narrative present, when they meet again.

Jonathan trails behind me. “You’re the first chick who’s shot me down.”
“Good, then maybe you’ll learn something.”
Jonathan stops walking for a second and then races after me. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were trying to teach me a lesson.” The infuriating smirk on his lips is still there, bright and beautiful. “You see, I was distracted by your perfectly sinful body. My brain actually exploded back there when you said you only use it for good, which isn’t good at all, since that makes you off limits.”
I’m smiling, and trying to suppress the grin, but I can’t help it. I reach into my purse and pull out a Kleenex. I hold it over my shoulder for him. “Here’s a tissue, go clean it up.”

The Wedding Contract

The rare one-volume piece from Ward. It’s a fun read about rival wedding photographers Nick Ferro and Sky, and draws from Ward’s time in the trenches in the wedding industry.

Suggested Reading Order for Ferro Books

Courtesy of the Ferroholics on facebook.
Scandalous 1 & 2 (not Ferro : mentioned in Stripped)
The Secret Life of Trystan Scott 1 – 5 (Not Ferro: becomes character in Ferro books)
The Arrangement 1 – 6
Damaged 1 & 2
The Arrangement 7 – 11
The Proposition 1 – 4
The Arrangement 12 – 14
The Proposition 5
The Arrangement 15 -16
The Wedding Contract
Secrets and Lies 1
Second Chances (Not Ferro: there’s a brief Ferro cameo)


Five-book set that’s finished. Anna’s a photographer who plans to deliberately blow a job interview with Cole so she can work at a different studio instead. He’s cleverer than she is and hires her anyway.

: On Reviews and Critiques

The single pull quote that has stuck with me the most from the Algonkian Conference I went to last November is this one:

A one-star review means that the wrong reader has found your book. —David Cole.

(I think I have the attribution correct.)
If you think about it, it’s quite profound.
With a book, you signal expectations with:

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Any other copy on the front
  4. Blurb on the back if it’s a physical book
  5. The book’s opening or sample

If someone hasn’t figured out what to expect from the book by that point and they get something different than what they expected, they will be disappointed. And, at its heart, a one-star review is a failure to meet expectations. (Save the “I read 50 Shades knowing I’d hate it because everyone else read it” sort of reviewer.)
So, working backwards:

  1. Does the cover correctly lead the reader to grasp the genre and feel of your book?
  2. Does your title signify the wrong genre and prose expectations? Look, if I’m going to pick up Cum for Bigfoot (which I have not read), I’m not going to expect scintillating prose. If I get scintillating prose on top, I’ll give it a better review.
  3. Does any other front/back copy support same?
  4. Does the book’s sample actually lead the reader to expect how the book resolves? Or is it, like Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio was for me, which I would give a one-star review to? As one of my grad school colleagues put it, “It’s like a hard SF novel and a romance novel had a violent accident.” That. So much. Look, I like most of Greg’s books (haven’t read them all) and like him as a person, I just hated that book. It happens. But, hey, it won the Hugo award and the Nebula award. Clearly I’m in the minority. (At the time I read it, no sequel had been announced, and it was my understanding that it was intended to stand alone. I still would have disliked it, but if I’d known it wasn’t the whole intended story, I’d have felt differently.)


It must be “ask Deirdre advice” month, as several people have asked me similar questions about getting a critique from a better-known author in their genre. I’ve been to a fuckton of workshops where I’ve gotten that, so I’m going to tell a tale first.
When I was at Clarion, there were a few days when we had two writers (the anchor team) and an editor giving critiques along with the sixteen of us plus the author being critiqued. For this particular story, the writers-in-residence were Tim Powers and Karen Joy Fowler and the editor was Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor.
So the story being critiqued was, at its heart, a black Conan pastiche. And, well, I hadn’t read Conan because it really isn’t my thing. As a group, we were pretty horrible about the critiques.
Then it got to PNH, who said he liked the idea, pointed out that Tor published (at least some) Conan books, and I remember him particularly admiring the “strenuously operatic dialogue.”
I remember a particular line of Karen Joy Fowler’s about this piece. Or maybe it was about my own attempt to branch out. “An interesting failure is much to be admired.”
I’ve secretly wondered since then if Greg wasn’t smarter than all of us. Sure, the piece wasn’t ready, but he was trying something really different.
Point is: a writer knows how to make their writing their writing, only better (via self-editing). An editor’s job is to know how to make your writing your writing, only better. These are not the same thing.
Does that mean that paying a writer for a critique of your work is a bad idea? No, it does not.
If you’re going to pick someone like that, you want to know that the writer you pick likes the same kinds of things you like. Just because you like their writing doesn’t mean the opposite is true. Don’t expect them to love your book. Don’t expect them to blurb your book when you do sell it, though they might.
So, my advice is: choose wisely.

Overworking Your Piece After Critique

When I read slush, I saw a lot of pieces where the prose had simply had been overworked after critique. That’s particularly true of openings, where critiquers are likely to say things like, “I can’t see this.” So the writer tends to counteract by overexplaining, slowing the opening down.
First, you should read this entire piece by David Mamet even though it’s in all caps. I’ll spare you the caps in the section I’m requoting below.

Yes but yes but yes but, you say: What about the necessity of writing in all that “information?”
And I respond “Figure it out” any dickhead with a bluesuit can be (and is) taught to say “make it clearer”, and “I want to know more about him”.
When you’ve made it so clear that even this bluesuited penguin is happy, both you and he or she will be out of a job.
The job of the dramatist is to make the audience wonder what happens next. Not to explain to them what just happened, or to suggest to them what happens next.
Any dickhead, as above, can write, “But, Jim, if we don’t assassinate the prime minister in the next scene, all europe will be engulfed in flame”
We are not getting paid to realize that the audience needs this information to understand the next scene, but to figure out how to write the scene before us such that the audience will be interested in what happens next.

So when you get your critique, remember that it’s an opinion about your work. You get to decide what to do about that opinion. Up to a point, a reader wanting to know more about a character than is on the page is a good thing.
Also remember that you can bend reality good and hard. Nalo Hopkinson was talking about one of her pieces, “Whose Upward Flight I Love,” once. She said, “In this story, trees fly. Deal with it.” She never explained why trees flew. It wasn’t important to the story.

: Ahh, Book Reviews

Once upon a time, I thought I’d actually find new books by joining up on Goodreads and adding a handful of people whose taste I liked and — I’d find new books that way.
Then my friend Kathryn, got sick (and has since died) and wasn’t reviewing as much, and hers was the only taste I knew relative to mine well enough that I could tell whether I’d like a book or not.
What I discovered fairly quickly was that I became profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of reviewing books. These were my colleagues, even if I happened to be the junior leaguer of the bunch. The other thing is that I feel there’s an inherent narrative if I tell you what I am (or am not) reading, and that’s my bigger problem with Goodreads. I feel like there’s some accountability for my taste. Why am I not reading X? Why did I not like Y? I find the mere thought of that kind of meta-narrative paralyzing.
Oh, and “You should read Z.” That goes over really well with me. Not.
Whenever anyone asks me to write a review, my inner snark comes out. Spare us both and don’t ask.
Over the weekend, I heard the following line: “A one-star review means the wrong reader found your book.” The reader is someone who wanted to like your book.
The truth is, I happen to pick up a particular book to read it because it feels like the book that would appeal to me most in the moment. That’s all there is to it.
I think I’m going to just do it this way from now on: I’m going to occasionally post reviews on Goodreads (even though this author probably wishes I didn’t) that are primarily “I really loved this particular book” reviews. That means I’m not going to review, or attempt to review, most of the books I read. I’m removing all my shelves soon.
While I’m on the subject of reviews, congrats to all the people I know on the RT list, including Susan Mallery (whom I went to grad school with) and Vivi Andrews and Kelly Jamieson, who wrote two of my favorite books this year, and Lauren Beukes, who’s up for the big prize. Sadly, Lauren Gallagher, who wrote my so-far-favorite of the year, didn’t make the list. And I’ve added a few books to my to-read pile off that list….

: Recent Book Samples Read

I rarely review books for various reasons, though I do keep some notes about which ones did and didn’t work for me in various ways. However, these are more the notes of a writer than a reader and are specific to what I’m trying to work on at the time.
So, with that in mind, here’s two samples I’ve read recently, and I’ll try to make this a semi-regular feature after I polish off a few. With each one, I’ll include a quotation.
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee is a book about cancer, as one might guess from the title. I heard Mukherjee speak and decided to check his book out, it just took me a while to get around to it.

Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells—cancer in one of its most explosive, violent, incarnations As one nurse on the wards often liked to remind her patients, with this disease, “even a paper cut is an emergency.”
For an oncologist in training, too, leukemia represents a special incarnation of cancer. Its pace, its acuity, its breathtaking, inexorable arc of growth forces rapid, often drastic decisions; it is terrifying to experience, terrifying to observe, and terrifying to treat.

I’m definitely buying this one.
Kook by Peter Heller is a non-fiction by a man who, coming back from writing a book about Tibet’s deepest gorge, has a crisis of what to do next and so decides to take up surfing.

Most sports, at first entry, balance the initial strangeness and difficulty with immediate rewards. In kayaking, you launch down your first riffling whitewater, take the first little waves over your bow, feel the speed like a revelation as the current tongues into a smooth V between rocks. You may dump and swim but you’ve had that rush. Skiing is the same; the bunny slope gives you that first alien and wonderful sense of slide and acceleration, though you may not know how to stop or turn.
Everything works this way except surfing.
Surfing is one of the only pursuits on earth that can drub you into numb exhaustion and blunt trauma time and time again and give you nothing in return; nothing but sand in your crotch, salt-stung eyes, banged temple, chipped tooth, screaming back, and sunburned ears—gives you all of this and not a single stand-up ride. Time and again. Day after day. Gives you nothing back but tumbles, wipeouts, thumpings, scares. And you return. You are glad to do it. In fact, you can think of nothing you’d rather do.

I’ll also be picking this one up, but this quotation did remind me why I gave up surfing.

: Pantheacon

I’m sort of torn between sites these days, but for those of you who are interested in such subjects, my notes about Pantheacon can be found on my LJ.

: Theft: One Palm Tree

My mother wanted one thing for her birthday: a palm tree. A very specific palm tree.

She didn’t actually get it on her birthday, which fell on a Thursday, but we did get it to her shortly thereafter. A good thing, because mom was told she had cancer on her birthday.

She’d put it out in one area of the front yard, one that people come and steal plums from (because no one’s really known who the land belonged to).

Naturally, with cancer surgery and recovery and then the rainy season setting in, it was still in its pot, though put in its appointed place.

She last remembers seeing it this weekend, but noticed today that it had gone. Lacking locomotion of its own, that means someone nipped our palm tree.

: Cancer: Symptom to Cure in 19 days

My mother recently discovered she had cancer.

It went like this:

October 19, she called the Kaiser advice nurse.

October 20, she had an appointment to see her Ob-Gyn.

October 26 (her birthday, unfortunately), she gets the news she’s got endometrial cancer.

Nov 1, she has an appointment with the gynecologic oncologist.

Nov 7, she has surgery.

Later that week, it’s confirmed by the pathologist that they got all the cancer.

Nov 20, she returns to work.

There’s so many bad stories about cancer out there, I figured someone could use a good one.

: Things to Do After Watching Project Runway Season Finale

  1. Delete all NBC channels, including Bravo, from the TiVos’ channel lineups.
  2. Join NOW.
  3. Subscribe to Ms. Magazine.
  4. Dump all Tresemmé hair care products in the trash and write them a letter explaining why you’ve done it and why you’re not buying more.
  5. Dump all L’Oreal Paris products in the trash and write them a letter explaining why you’ve done it and why you’re not buying more.
  6. Write a letter to Macy’s.
  7. Write a letter to Saturn, pointing out that 2/3 of the household cars are Saturns, but it’s oh so unfortunate that they decided to sponsor this show.
  8. Write Corelle, saying you loved their incredibly funny runway ad, however….
  9. Continue ad nauseum with each and every other sponsor.
  10. Send copies of all letters to Bravo and NBC, with another set to the Magical Elves (PR’s production company). Point out that giving someone $100,000 after using the word “feminazi” to describe another contestant just doesn’t meet with some people’s reality.
  11. Send apologetic letter to Tim Gunn about how the judges simply failed to “Make it Work” when it came to the final runway judging.

This wasn’t a fashion show, it was Jerry Springer. The show jumped the shark so hard it left orbit.

Or, as Marion Zimmer Bradley put it, “I want my disbelief to be suspended, not hung by the neck until dead.” Or words to that effect.

The only redemption edit Jeffrey could have gotten would have involved a hot poker, his tongue cut out with a knife, and a permanent vow of silence. Even that wouldn’t have been enough.

: Miss Snark: 110 Slush Entries Critiqued

I don’t know why I hadn’t heard of Miss Snark before, but one of the coolest things a budding writer can read are the 110 reactions to cover letter and first page she’s posted.

One critique I particularly liked, where the story starts with the character asleep. So many new writers start with their character waking up (or asleep), forgetting that the beginning of their story needs to match the ending of the story, and there’s not a lot of time to waste. Don’t make it start the way the reader starts their day or it’ll be mundane. (And yes, I’m giving this critique almost exactly in Critters this week.

Look at each entry, and then her comments. You may not agree with her, but maybe you’ll learn something. I did.

: Bawls

Somehow, the household wound up with a case of Bawls. I’m not normally one for hyper-caffeination, but I have to admit I really, really, really love the bottles themselves. I’ve always had a weakness for cobalt blue, so we have cobalt blue dishes and bowls. And now I have several mini-vases in waiting.

: Project Runway: Miss USA

I’m going to join the throngs of people who are sad about Malan being out. He not only has some good ideas of design, he also has heart. Unlike Vincent, he also had the grace to point out that of his team, he should be the one who would be out because it was his vision.

Last year, the judges called Santino a coward when he was team lead and suggested one of his teammates be the one eliminated. But this year Vincent gets a pass? What’s up with that?

The only thing that should have saved Vincent was the fact that Tara Conner happened to like his Joan Jetson knockoff dress. His dissing of Angela was not only unprofessional, it showed that he didn’t do his job as team lead. True, Angela was ineffective, but she did try to collaborate, which is more than Vincent did.

In the end, Vincent had a badly-constructed garment, a horrible experience (“worst day of my life” unbelievable), and no one but himself to blame for it. It’s obvious why Vincent had to leave fashion before: he can’t get along with people, and he hasn’t learned.

A lot of people disagree with the winner, but it really wasn’t about the best dress, it was about the most appropriate dress for Tara, and I think Kayne and Robert really nailed it.

Edited to add:

Thanks to Vincent’s commentary on Blogging Project Runway, I’m going to retract my criticism of Vincent above. Also, at the time I wrote the above post, there were a few bits of the episode I missed because I was out of the room (like where Angela was lobbying Kayne), nor had I seen the first episode yet.

Given that, I’m with 60+% of the other Project Runway fans that Angela should have been the one axed (about 20+% think it should have been Vincent, and 5% Malan, but Malan has shown himself to be a surprising fan favorite). The presentation of a design was also a part of the challenge, and she didn’t present one too. While neither Vincent nor Angela were shown as being good at teamwork, I think the episode’s editing was unfairly harsh on Vincent. That said, it’s a show, you know? Editing must go on.

Having looked at Angela’s web site, and read up a bit more, I genuinely think that Angela is insufficiently talented for PR. It’s possible that she may surprise me — it’s happened before.

Thanks for the corrections, Vincent.

As Tim would say, carry on.

: Some Comments About Shopify

Shopify has been touted as one of those Rails apps that’s going to change the face of the web. I don’t think so, and my comments about why it wasn’t appropriate for me (for went completely unanswered.

Since others may be considering shopify, here’s my critique:

  1. There’s no easy way to charge tax only in one vicinity, but not others. In the US, if you charge tax in your state, you may not charge it in others. Canada, where Shopify was developed, has both a national GST and a provincial one, so its tax structure is fundamentally different.
  2. There’s no practical way to charge actual cost for shipping. But that’s what I do already (though I ship priority mail and charge for the median zone price for that weight with an estimate of box and packing material weight). In shopify, shipping rates are a function of state. Priority mail rates do not break down by state, but rather by zip code ranges. Frequently, these do not follow state boundaries. Yet, with web services, calculating actual cost should be easy, right?
  3. Most e-commerce sites are poorly designed for people selling one-offs. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a lot (because it is fairly unusual), but sometimes a store consists entirely of one-offs. Like mine.
  4. No API, thus no easy way to develop add-on tools, e.g. bulk info uploaders, especially handy for those of us selling one-offs.

: Karaoke for the Deaf

As Rick would say, “Conceptual humour at its finest.”

: Chloe Wins It

My mother is a huge fan of Project Runway, despite not really being a fashion afficianado (though she does have a humongous wardrobe).

As a teenager, I took several classes in tailoring because, at that time, there really weren’t as many options for someone large (especially not someone who was just big, not fat).

Anyhow, one of the things I’ve learned over the years of sewing and knitting is that the fit of a shoulder is critical. For example, one of the typical problems of a blouse (or shirt) from today’s ready-to-wear is that if one lifts one’s arms, the sides of the blouse/shirt lifts. This is bad fit.

So, getting back to Project Runway.

Santino has no idea how to make a garment’s shoulders. Therefore, sleeves also elude him. Some people have said they didn’t understand the comments about Santino’s outfits being poorly made (or poorly fitting). Well, go back and look at all the garments he did — and how he (failed to) managed shoulders and/or sleeves. Now, granted, he designs around this limitation, but I’d like to believe that the next Great American Designer could actually make a suit that didn’t require being pinned to another designer. Ugh.

I’m really glad Chloe won. You did good, girl. Some people didn’t like the first dress. I thought it was stunning.

Daniel V. may have a job, since Michael Kors offered one. I’m sure we’ll see more of his work — his white coat was, imho, stunning.

: Chicago, Saturday: T. Sue

By the time I woke up, Strata had caught her flight back home.

I got up, ate a Luna bar, then headed to the Field Museum for two things: to see Sue and to see the Pompeii exhibit.

When I first walked in the building, I’d started to pass one of the dinosaurs before I looked up, realizing what an incredibly long neck it had. How long? I was unable to get the neck completely in my camera’s view (I didn’t think to try from the upper level, darn it).

Even though I’d arrived just in time for my Pompeii exhibit, I decided that Sue was a bigger priority. I went over to see her, stunned both by how large (and how small) she was. Her pelvis bone was much larger than I’d expected — it had also suffered some damage, including a missing tip. One of the museum staff was there answering questions about Sue, and generally joking.

“We’ve been going out for seven years,” he said. “I like older women.”

When I asked him about the pubic bone, he said that the leading theory about why the bone a) was so large and b) had suffered so much wear and tear was likely due to the fact that a T. Rex, like a chicken, slept in a squatting position, resting on the pubic bone.

The image that went through my head went something like: Chicken Run, only with T. Rexes. Hrm.

I was also surprised at how much characteristics one could see in the bone, including breaks and mends, as well as some of the attachment points. In all, Sue is an extremely well-preserved (and prepared) skeleton.

After visiting with Sue, I went to have my morning coffee and some soup, then headed over to the Pompeii exhibit, where I had to wait in line. Frankly, it was a much bigger exhibit than I was expecting. While there was the usual jewelry, and so on, I was quite stunned to see entire frescoed walls (three walls of one room, actually) and the variety of goods displayed.

I also felt quite humbled to see a statue believed to be from Julius Caesar’s father-in-law’s place in Herculaneum. Quite amazing.

There were precious few places to sit; the place was also quite packed. By the end, my feet were quite sore, but I managed. After that, I bought a t-shirt (for Rick) and an Octopus plate for myself.

I rested for a bit, then re-visited Sue again before going upstairs to see Sue’s real head (the real head is too heavy for the model of the body, thus it’s upstairs with a replica on Sue’s skeleton).

I wandered around through several other exhibits, including one about Tibet and another about the Southwest Pacific before heading back to my hotel.

: Chicago, Thursday

I arrived in Chicago for the 37 Signals “Getting Real” workshop Thursday night. Boss lady Strata Chalup and I decided to go out for Brazilian food, where they bring slabs o’ meat to your table. We’d both been feeling a bit protein-starved, and I’d never had Brazilian cuisine before.

OMG, it was fabulous. They kept bringing by pieces of meat prepared different ways to the table. While I’m not usually a beef person, I liked their rump roast the best, though absolutely none of it was bad. They also brought side dishes of fried bananas (yumm!), mashed potatoes and fried polenta in french fry shapes.

As Strata put it, “This is the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of meat on a stick.”

If you’re ever in Chicago, highly recommended.

: Why I love TextDrive

For seven years, was hosted at Hurricane Electric. However, even though they were across the bay, I never really felt like I “belonged” there.

At BayCon this year, I talked to Matt Mullenweg, who suggested I look into TextDrive. I’d already heard of them, of course, but it took me a couple of days to sign up.

Turns out I signed up on their first anniversary, moving my site a few days later.

When I went to RubyConf, I had a whole bunch of fun hanging with the TextDrive staff and customers, coming back with my head reeling. This is the most fun company I’ve seen since Be. Everyone’s there because they really want to be. Imagine that.

The kinds of things that impress me aren’t the little things so much, but rather the openness.

Best move I ever made.

Thanks Matt, I owe you a beer. Good luck in your new venture.

: "Yes, I've read a poem. Try not to faint."

So said Mal in the movie of the evening, Serenity. I’m not going to spoiler it except to say it was great fun, 24 episodes too short and, as the guy in the row behind me said, “The best movie I’ve seen with a space ship in it. Ever.”

We went to the Metreon showing, which was only half-organized — and what organization there was came from the Browncoats. Rick showed off his amazing park-fu by getting a parking space on the street only a few cars from the corner of the Metreon — and this was after literally getting a parking space in front of the restaurant we went to in the outer Mission (which was very good). Carnitas and Jarritos, mmmm.

: Lost Wins

As a fan of the show Lost, I’m glad it won an Emmy for best drama.

Alas, it’s up against Veronica Mars, also a household favorite, starting this next week. 🙁

: CocoaHeads

Thursday night, I went to the first meeting of the Silicon Valley Cocoa Heads, which was a lot of fun. Unusual for a first meeting, there were 24 people there, including long-time Mac writer Scott Knaster. He showed off his latest book, and people introduced themselves and talked about their current projects.

Of those there, almost half either currently worked for Apple or had worked for Apple. I don’t suppose that’s surprising, it’s just that BaNG! rarely got that sort of a crowd.

Anyhow, great fun.

Updated to add: Ah, found my notes. Knaster talked about his experience working on the Longhorn project, during which time he spoke with approximately a thousand Microsoft engineers, each of whom had a different view of what Longhorn was going to entail. When it was pointed out that Longhorn still hadn’t shipped and that Microsoft hadn’t had a major OS release in some time, Knaster quipped: “Microsoft has become the company that has forgotten how to ship software.”

: Linux Picnic

Sunday was the annual Linux Picnic, aka picnix14, celebrating the 14th anniversary of Linux. Overall, it was less well-organized than prior years, despite increasing support from corporations.

For example, there was a long line for registration, which got one a name badge, a free t-shirt, and a raffle ticket for some stuff. I figured that since I don’t wear t-shirts, didn’t care about anything being raffled, and that most of the people already knew my name, I was antisocial and didn’t stand in a line in the hot sun. Not my idea of fun.

Examples of poorer organization: this year (in contrast to prior years), grill essentials weren’t provided to each cooking station (e.g. utensils, charcoal, starter fluid, etc.), power wasn’t provided to tables, and no one put tarps over the perforated metal roofs. Had I known that would happen, I would have stayed home. Even with SPF-30, a hat, and sitting under one of said roofs, I got sunburned.

The other aspect that was quite disheartening: people were much more inclined to “lift” stuff than prior years. For example, a friend pulled up, unloaded some of his stuff, then went to park. When he returned, all but one bottle of his beer had vanished. The server that was to be raffled walked off; while the guy who’d taken it said he’d misunderstood the sign, I dunno. Rick had glass dishes and food that he’d left out for a minute and someone took them (we did get them back, including our utensils that we’d brought).

There also seemed to be a lot of people who roamed through in search of food, but weren’t part of the linux community at all.

In all, I think I’ll skip it next year.

: Defensive Design for the Web

Oh, one quick review. Yesterday, I received my copy of “Defensive Design for the Web,” written by the 37 signals guys.

Man, it covers most of my pet peeves about poor web design, complete with examples of a site that violated the rule and one that did a better job.

Damn useful little book.

: These Shoes Are Made For…?

Yesterday, mom happened to pick up a cool pair of shoes, telling me that the store carried wide sizes. And, if we had time, maybe we could go back today and see if there were any shoes for me.

So we trundled off to The Walking Company, which claims to have “The Best Brands from Around the World.” I picked up a couple of variants on the style I was looking for and sat down. The lady asked what size I needed, and I said 10 wide.

Now granted, it’s not an easy shoe size to find — even stores that sell wide shoes often stop at 9 wide. However, I had this expectation that a company specializing in walking shoes would sell shoes that actually fit people — including, perhaps, myself.

“Oh, we don’t carry wide shoes,” the clerk replied. She suggested I try Nordstrom (which doesn’t carry that type of shoe, and usually stops at 9 wide) or Easy Spirit (same issue).

Mom and I walked out of the store.

On the way home, we happened to visit Footwear, Etc., which is a great local chain. I picked up a similar shoe (same brand that mom had bought the day before) and asked if they came in a 10 wide.

“No, I’m sorry, they don’t.”

“So, do you have any men’s styles like this that aren’t in black or brown?”

And voila, they did, but in navy (one of my favorite colors). And they were on sale and they had the size that fit me.

Was that so freakin’ hard?

That’s why I keep winding up at Footwear, Etc. — I’ve been buying my shoes there ever since I started working at Kepler’s and needed good walking shoes for my daily work.

: Alias season closer

This season, Alias seemed like it had jumped the shark — or, if not actually jumped, had practiced a few leaps.

The season closer, though, shows that the form is back — the pacing was more J. J. Adams than it has been all year. Of course, he’s been rather busy with another household favorite, Lost.

The kicker was the final scene, with Sydney and Vaughn. As Rick said (and he’s not especially an Alias fan), “That was worth staying up for.”

: Gmail outages

I’ve been getting gmail “oops” alerts constantly tonight — like 90% of the time I’m trying to do something. Naturally, my BayCon email box is on gmail, which only means that mission-critical stuff that I need to do isn’t getting done.

I knew there was a reason I ran my own mail server.


: Ruby on Rails: First Glance

A lot of Pythonistas dislike ruby because it’s too perl-like. I can see what they’re saying. However, the ruby code I’ve read is all organized very cleanly. I don’t know if it’s possible to be as ugly in ruby as it is in perl, but I haven’t seen any evidence yet.

In concept, Ruby on Rails does kick ass. The ten-minute demo took me about an hour to run, in part because some of the rails syntax has changed since the video was shot. Since some of the people writing the wiki have killed questions related to some of those differences, which only made it harder. Add to that the fact that script/generate doesn’t have the cool documentation that its predecessors did, and, well, it took an hour instead of ten minutes.

However, it is very, very cool.

: Veronica Mars

I have just one thing to say about the closing scene of the season finale of Veronica Mars.



I mean that in the nicest possible way — they’re so good about luring you in. I hope it doesn’t do the Twin Peaks Season Two thing on us, though.

: Now it Can Be Told

Waterfield has a Mac Mini bag. Undoubtedly as wonderful as their other bags.

: Waterfield bags

After getting a case of bag envy last week seeing someone else’s Waterfield case, I again realized that my own computer bag — the second from same manufacturer — was falling apart. Grr.

So I went rummaging through the Waterfield site, looking for what I could afford. These are locally-made bags, but extremely well-made ones. Buying locally, especially in this day of outsourcing, is important to me. I like my neighbors to have jobs.

Eventually, I decided on a notebook sleeve, in part because I also had a working messenger bag that I could use to contain it. I opted for the flap. The decription doesn’t say it, but the flap is padded. I figured if I dropped it on that side, I’d appreciate any extra help the bag could offer.

I also opted for one of their iPod Gear Pouches in blue.

When I got the Gear Pouch and looked at it, I was amazed. There’s about as many pieces to it as to the typical jacket pattern, but it’s extremely well-made. The outside zip pocket also has two compartments, just exactly the size for my small (paper) notebooks. Inside, there’s enough room for my iPod, charger, my rather large cell phone (Nokia 3660), and my Plantronics Bluetooth headset. In fact, if I wanted to just take off for the day without a bunch of stuff, I could easily put my wallet in it and use it instead of a purse. Just me, my iPod, my phone, and proof that I exist.

I also haven’t yet mentioned the great emails letting me know that my order was on the way and asking me how I’d heard about them. And, you know, Gary answered. At 10:30 at night.

So, they’ve got my vote, but I’d rather the bags had less black. So far, that’s my only complaint, mitigated by the other color on the bags. But if they ever do a limited run in red or blue or something, I’ll buy everything all over again.

Review of the Cargo bag I’d like to have.

Review of the sleeve I bought.

: Smofcon, License to Smof

So, normally, I wouldn’t bother putting some of this in at all, but I was required to provide a trip report. Under the Toyota principle (“you asked for it, you got it”), here’s The Rest of the Story.

First, a disclaimer: there are many genuinely polite and kind people who attend Smofcon. Sure, we’re all flawed human beings, but I think most of us at least have good intentions and try to act with civility.

However, there are also a few (and I hope that it was only a few) who act otherwise.

SPFII, one of the SF Bay Area convention corporations, put forth a bid to hold the next Smofcon in San Francisco next year. While I am a non-board member of SPFII, I wasn’t there specifically to promote the bid. Instead, I’d been sent by SFSFC, the parent corporation for ConJosé, the 2002 Worldcon, on a scholarship they offered to two Bay Area fans. The board and other members of SPFII, which is a non-profit, also work on BayCon, which is run by Artistic Solutions, Inc., a for-profit corporation. Additionally, a bunch of bay area fans, including myself, are also members of BASFA, which does not itself run conventions.

Another fannish group in the western region was bidding to hold the Smofcon in Portland, Oregon.

At the Smofcon I just attended, held in Washington, D.C., the con suite had a flyer table where a bunch of convention flyers were available for people to take. Most notable among these, of course, were the flyers for the upcoming Smofcons.

Someone removed all the flyers for the San Francisco bid, putting them across the room on the floor behind a skirted table. While one could see the flyers from the right angle, they were not available for Smofcon members to peruse.

Edited to add:


Aside from the childish passive aggressive stunt this is, there’s several problems with it, specifically:

  1. It makes it appear that Portland was running a dirty bid and not being sportsmanlike. Now, I personally have no reason to believe that it was Portland’s bid committee that moved the flyers and I’m not accusing them of anything. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be difficult to come to that conclusion, quite possibly causing one to bear a grudge against an innocent party.
  2. From a strategic perspective, the only reason to remove one’s competitor’s flyers is because one believes that one needs that advantage in order to win. This also gives the apparency that Portland felt they needed unfair advantage to win.
  3. From a non-strategic perspective, the only reason to remove a bid’s flyers is simple spite. In this case, however, they have injured the Portland bid’s reputation as well as harmed the San Francisco bid.

In a weird way, it’s back-handed flattery: if the San Francisco bid were truly irrelevant, no one would bother with such a childish stunt.

However, someone needs to have their License to Smof revoked.

As if that weren’t enough, during one of the panels I attended, two of the attendees made spiteful comments about the head of the San Francisco bid, who was not present at the con (he had to work some brutal overtime to get a software project out). Ironically, they accused said person of malice. I don’t mind if hostile things are said about a person to their face, but saying that someone did something out of malice when they’re not there is, well, brilliantly ironic.

I felt extremely unwelcome despite Kevin Standlee’s and Bobbie Du Fault’s trying to calm things down. Prior to the blowup, Kevin quite artfully talked about Bay Area fandom while being diplomatic about everything. I quite admired his skill, frankly.

However, given the incidents above, is it any surprise that the panel on dealing with difficult people was standing room only?


: Restaurant Gar

It’s tiring having to tell people all the time, “No, I can’t have that, it’s probably got wheat in it.” Bread they understand, pasta they sometimes do, but items such as Rice Dream (a rice milk), they’re less likely to. Nor do most people have any clue that soy sauce almost invariably contains wheat.

Friday night, I went to a restaurant and, after looking at the menu, asked if I could have lobster scampi served on potatoes. He said they only had french fries. I asked them if they cooked the fries separately from the fish and seafood they also served — they did. What else did they cook in that fryer? Only fries.

Fine, I said, I’ll take the scampi over fries.

“The chef said it wouldn’t be very good,” the waiter offered. “We could put it over pasta.”

“Look,” I said, “eating wheat causes internal bleeding and destroys my intestines. I’ll take it over fries.”

Waiter said OK, then went on to take the rest of the table’s order.

A few minutes later, he comes out, apologetic. Chef has refused to make said order because it “wouldn’t be any good.” Waiter says there’s a lot of other seafood they serve with fries, I could have some of that.

“It’s all battered in wheat. Eating wheat causes internal bleeding and destroys my intestines.” Repetition is sometimes necessary.

“Well, you could have steak tips.”

Right, at a seafood place. Not. (I’m glad I didn’t, it looked incredibly dull)

Instead, I had a shrimp appetizer after verifying that it wouldn’t contain any flour of any kind. I also ordered potato skins.

Despite the chef’s assertion about “it wouldn’t be any good,” the two of us who ordered potato skins found ours to be BLACK they were burned so badly.


But it took three go-arounds and about 5 minutes of interaction with the waitroid to even get that far. I’ve literally been brought to tears because I’ve been so frustrated about food (and so embarrassed by the problems food causes me).

If someone says they can’t have wheat: believe them. It doesn’t matter if they’re imagining it, chances are they’re not.

: Chris Moriarty's Spin State

I thought we had a copy of Chris Moriarty’s novel [popup_product]Spin State[/popup_product] around the house, but apparently we don’t.
I trundled over to Chris’s web site to read the first chapter. I love the opening:

They cold-shipped her out, flash-frozen, body still bruised from last minute upgrades.
Later she remembered only pieces of the raid. The touch of a hand. The crack of rifle fire. A face flashing bright as a fish’s rise in dark water. And what she did remember she couldn’t talk about, or the psychtechs would know she’d been hacking her own memory.

: Most Surreal Noreascon4 Moment

At the end of my hall, several parties were held. On Sunday night, I hadn’t looked at the party list at all, so I just trundled down the hall, not expecting anything in particular.

All the people were facing the same way, which was unusual for a party. And then the audio started and everyone started singing: Bohemian Polka from Weird Al, which is of course set to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen (with all the original lyrics, just done polka-style).

During the song, a woman came over holding a tray and asked, “Twinkie Wiener?” The tray contained hot dogs surrounded by bisected twinkies, as seen in the Weird Al movie UHF. If I hadn’t been allergic to wheat, I’d have had one.

: Bluetooth!

Got my used Sony Ericsson t68i today, a tri-band GSM bluetooth phone. With Bluetooth.

Go, me!

Oops, stealing from the cat’s lingo again.

Naturally, I had to get a couple of el cheapo Bluetooth adaptors too.

Catch is, even though I have a Canon i80 printer, seems I forgot that printers use a variant form of the USB connector. Bad me. I realized it at 9:02 p.m., two minutes after Fry’s closed. Hrm.

: Récife Resin Fountain Pen

Recently, I bought a Récife pen from Swisher Pens.

In terms of bang for the bucks, this is probably my single best pen purchase. It holds about eight cartridges worth of ink, though it has no formal feed mechanism. In terms of mechanics, it’s a very old-style fountain pen.

The gold-plated steel nib is much more flexible than I’d expected, too.

Very happy. Want more colors.

![pen picture](/images/Resine_Crystal_green_med1.jpg)

: What Maroons!

So, a month after my birthday, I get a “happy birthday” email from GNC. With a coupon.

What’s wrong with this picture?

![silly coupon](/images/coupon.jpg)

: Luggage Porn

A friend of mine says that she’s into luggage porn, which means she keeps the Levenger catalog in the bathroom.

Preparing for some upcoming trips, I was looking for a large suitcase, one that would hold everything I needed for a long trip. Normally, I carry a 22″ carryon and that’s it, but that’s not suitable for trips where you need business, formal, and tourist attire for an extended period.

I have two pieces of luggage, a Samsonite Silhouette series satchel, which is an older, slightly different model than the ones currently made. It was my first good piece of luggage, good enough that it’s spoiled me off the cheap stuff forever. After having it for four years, it looks new. All the zipper pulls are intact. However, the 26″ piece would have run $180, which was more than I’d prefer to spend.

The other piece I had, which is definitely better than the piece it replaced, is an L. L. Bean Carryall rolling pullman. I’ve had it about two years and all its zipper pulls have broken off because they were substandard. This annoys me greatly. Nevertheless, it’s a bright royal blue (sadly discontinued), so it’s easy to see on the luggage carousel. However, it has no interior organization at all. Oh, and it was $169. For that, I’d spend the extra and get the Samsonite, you know?

My mother asked me for some advice about luggage, and got some Skyway pieces in a discontinued line that’s better than the current offerings. So I couldn’t just buy a piece in that line.

After considering several other options, I finally settled for the Ricardo Del Mar 3100 for several reasons.

  1. It comes in distinctive colors. When I did a luggage survey, 2/3 of all luggage was black. Of the remaining 1/3, 2/3 of those were some dark neutral shade of grey, green, or blue. I wanted something easy to see.
  2. The bag has wonderful organization including a separately zippered suiter.
  3. I didn’t want an expanding suitcase, because the expansion is commonly a point of failure.
  4. It was at a price point I was more comfortable with. I bought it on sale.

So, all that said, the luggage inspector has pronounced it fit for duty.

![luggage inspection](

: Storage for those Manuscripts

Yeah, sure, of course you can just store the files, but it’s never a bad idea to keep a paper copy of a book. Right?

In fact, due to various file format conversion issues plus the problems of way too many moves, my old paper copy of my very first novel (circa 1988) is the only copy I still have.

So, I’ve been looking for good (and reasonably affordable) storage for a novel. Now, I *do* recommend that you put in a copy of a CD with the electronic text on it, in whatever format you like plus one other (like RTF).

Today’s email offered sale info from The Container Store, which has some really spiff solutions. Here they are:

  1. Budget price leader: Plastic snap-top boxes in four colors. 3-1/4″ high, but probably useful depth is less, so probably good for 1 ream (125,000 words). $4.99 each.
  2. Need a deeper one? Plastic snap-top boxes in four colors. 5-1/2″ high, but probably useful depth is less, so probably good for 1-1/2 ream (180,000 words). Might also work for filing a flipping lot of short stories. $5.99 each.
  3. Personal favorite bang-for-bucks: Translucent Storage Boxes, rather a simple, translucent (white) box. Currently $5.99 each, normally $7.99.
  4. Storage boxes in white, grey, black, or natural. White and Grey are 2-3/4″ deep, natural and black are 3-3/4″ deep. Each are $6.99.
  5. Boxes in four bright colors, which I rather like. Each is 3-1/2″ high, good for about 145,000 words, and runs $6.99.
  6. For those wanting something more upscale, there’s two other options. First is the Shantung box in four colors, 3-3/4″ high, good for about 155,000 words, and run (eep!) $14.99 each. Collect the whole set? Hrm.
  7. This leather-texture box is almost twice as expensive, though, at $29.99 each, in four subtler colors, including my everlasting favorite, navy. ::sigh::
  8. Even Levenger’s Document storage isn’t that pricey.

: ActionItems

I haven’t really been able to use any PIM to get organized, much to my chagrin (especially since I wrote features for one).

On the Apple site, I saw a link to ActionItems, which seems pretty spiffy. It’s more complex than I need (really!), but it seems like perfect manager software. They offer a free 30-day trial.

When all was said and done, I had two conventions, six software engineering projects, and more writing projects than I care to admit to.

Yeesh, no wonder my brain was full!

Anyhow, I don’t know how it’ll work out for the long term, but I’m going to try it out for another three weeks before making any commitment to it.

While the software does export, it doesn’t export to any XML format (I’d especially be interested in OPML import/export, as that would make me able to import data from OmniOutliner without too much pain).

: Fun Talk

Tonight, I’m at BayLISA listening to a talk on covert communications, which is great fun. If you’re a BayLISA member, you can even borrow the audiotape.

: Queen Isabel, Where Are You Now?

I’ve been listening to Queen Isabella off the album I bought recently. It’s really grown on me.

Here’s to Queen Isabella of Spain
Who was more than a little deranged.

It’s a song about the upside of Isabella, who, despite her other quirks, managed to fund Columbus out of her own personal wealth.

Queen Isabella, where are you today?
The new Chris Columbus is wasting away.

The song pointedly discusses some of the things we think are more important than space flight, including building more jails. Man, have we lost perspective or what?

: Colloquy

Colloquy is an IRC client for the Macintosh. Unlike many of them, it’s issued under the GPL, meaning it is free software (not just no-charge). I’d been using X-chat aqua, which hadn’t advanced as quickly as I’d liked — though I admit that I’m partly to blame for that, free software being what it is.

Some folks on #wordpress pointed out that Colloquy was pretty darn cool, so I downloaded a copy. Hey, it really is spiff!

There’s a few features I’d like (but hey, I can help, right?), but one really great one is being able to add an image background to your IRC conversation:

colloquy pic

I’m happy!

: Poles Apart

At Westercon, I asked Mary Creasey what she’d recommend that I buy next. She asked if I wanted to hear various albums, but that would have involved actually making a decision. She recommended Tom Lewis and a Polish chorus singing on Poles Apart. Quite wonderful, but a bit odd to hear the occasional verse in Polish.

You can hear a partial track (of “Get Up Jack”)here. You can buy it here or here.

What can I say? Quite wonderful harmony, sea shanties (if you like that kind of thing, which I do), and just enough Polish to make it really different.

: To Touch the Stars

This is a wonderfully worthwhile album, even if you find yourself, as I do, switching between four tracks (of the five authored by Leslie Fish).

First, you can buy it here or here.

As I’m mostly listening to the Fish songs, I’ll review them.

First up is “Witness’ Waltz,” done in an in Irish bar style, which I happen to love. It just seems perfect for a song about hanging out watching for launches.

Track 5 is one of Leslie’s most-recorded songs, and with a great deal of justification. “Hope Eyrie” is a really wonderful anthem. Julia Ecklar has recorded it several times (as has Leslie), but I really think this version is definitive. It gave me goose bumps.

“Surprise,” Track 6, is a great deal of fun — and this particular recording is just appropriate. It’s a very, very different style than Hope Eyrie. Suffice to say it’s a song about Sputnik, complete with credits for Russian Yells. Go listen.

When I first heard “Queen Isabella,” I knew that I had a recording, but I kept hearing “Queen Bess was Harry’s daughter.” Different song (“The Looking Glass” from Smoked Fish and Friends), but this quite fun too.

Now, my one Fish regret on this album: that they recorded “Dance on the Ceiling” with the, well, peculiar arrangement. Ugh.

Still, there’s enough tasty stuff (even excluding Leslie’s songs) that you should Go Buy This Album. Now.

: The Luck of Madonna 13

All program participants for Conkopelli were handed a hardback copy of this book. Without net access, I can’t verify if it was self-published or simply from a very odd small press.

I’m half-tempted to read it just to see how many more bad metaphors there are, but I figured chapter first sentences was quite enough.

Chapter 1 starts on page 39. This alone should be a clue.

First sentences from the chapters:

1: Hair the color of dusty emeralds sprayed from under the silver-blue sheen of the prayer helmet. (Literally sprayed?)

2: A noise crept into Glendyl’s awareness with the stealth of a puma stalking prey. (Bad metaphor, no biscuit.)

3: The massive pentagon glittered like a highrise ice sculpture in the morning sun. (Not as bad, but I don’t like it when I perceive buildings as melty.)

4: “Stop it Jamis!” grumbled Glendyl, ducking her head inside her sleepsack to escape the nose-licking. (Ah, sleeping characters, always a dynamic way to start a chapter.)

5: Lunch thrust itself into Glendyl’s gullet with reckless velocity, barely chewed: a strip of Diogenes’ jerky, a lank rod of string cheese, and an energy stick. (Give that food a speeding ticket!)

6: Lizbeth’s fingers nervously trolled the ends of her hair; her eyes scrutinized the pyramid of likesteak as if deliverance from the upcoming ordeal was hidden somewhere under the pinkish juices. (1. You troll for something. I don’t expect that her hair was attempting to catch a fish. 2. Calling a rabbit a smeerp again.)

7: Disdain. Awe. Fear. Admiration. Scorn. Five nouns, a flip-flopping teeter-totter pivoting on the word “fear.” (Nouns and verbs, hon. Nouns and verbs.)

8: Dull sounds, blurred by the incessant roar of the Wittwater: a whirring, a gruff metallic rasping, a resounding clang-clunk. (With no one to hear the tree fall.)

9: A dancing white cone pressed against the darkeness: foot by grudging foot dark yielded, but only for a moment. (Don’t you love it when sentences contradict themselves?)

10: Rumors sprang through St. Coriander like bulimic locusts, devouring every tidbit of gossip, regurgitating it and hopping to the next. (Department of Similes Gone Horribly Wrong. This was the first sentence that caused Rick to scream, slam the book closed, and drop it.)

11: Glendyl woke up groggy and unaware that she had missed all the recent excitement in the Infirmary. (POV break.)

12: “What are those little triangle things? And what’s the gooey black stuff with the little round things in it?” inquired Glendyl just a little testily. (Can we have enough modifiers on that dialogue tag?)

13: Darkness absorbed Glendyl’s diving body like a hungry sponge. (Wouldn’t that have been nice?)

14: Glendyl, whispered the faint, distorted voice. It came from both near and far away and nagged at her Princess Glendyl dream like a pea under a hundred goosedown mattresses. (Asleep again!)

15: Dillowy Cavern was not really a cavern: it just looked like one. (Mmmhmmm. Tell us what something is, not what it’s not. It’s incredibly hard to form a negative image.)

16: A hyperactive giant with a tree-sized mallet aimed, swing and delivered another quick stroke. (Can this guy use the serial comma consistently? No.) Better is a couple of sentences later:

Oh no! thought Lizbeth’s head with a tinny cry of distress and another lump. (This parses as a) “a tinny cry of distress” and b) “a tinny cry of another lump.” Does that make sense to you? Many beginners use “and” when they really are looking to create a sense of events occurring in time. However, the word doesn’t work that way. “Then” would have been correct, though that would not have fixed this sentence.)

17: Nothing but nothingness: not even an echo for comfort. (The problem with putting the echo in the picture is then that’s what the reader imagines. Since it’s not there, that’s a problem.)

18: The Eye in the cliff leered, obscene and cyclopic. (Argon?)

19: Lizbeth Marble’s exhaustion hung on her like a five-hundred pound nightgown. (Bad simile. No biscuit.)

20: Castle Ommergard floated into a simmering dawn. (Another unintended ambiguity: literally floated? Because, in sf/f, that is possible.)

21: Three persons are playing Name That Sculpture. (Actually, this one sentence is one I’m half fond of. It doesn’t really say anything, but at least it doesn’t get too much in the way of potential understanding.)

Oh, and the kicker, at the end of the chapter: “Thus ends book one.”

Oh dear.

: Crossing Jordan

Opening bit from the pilot. I loved it for its quick characterization of Jordan and her issues. 🙂

“So, Jordan, what brings you to our anger management workshop today?”

“Well, I was, uh, remanded here by my place of employment. I kicked my boss in the cojones. He kinda found that to be a problem. See, I had this guy’s brain in my hand when my boss asked me one of his patronizing questions — oh, and speaking of, I prefer Dr. Kavanagh — and, like I said, I had this guy’s brain in my hands so I couldn’t very well punch him, right?”

Blank stares from rest of workshop participants.

“I’m uh medical examiner for the county coroner’s office. I cut up dead people for a living. It’s a great way to manage your anger, man.”

“I see. And just what are you angry at, Dr. Kavanagh?”

“Besides inane questions?”