Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Blind Date

I signed up for Kameron Hurley's newsletter because I've been following her on Twitter, and I like the essays that she's written. I'm interested in reading Mirror Empire, but haven't gotten to buying it yet. One of the most interesting things about the newsletter was the offer of a book blind date. I wasn't quite sure what that meant.

I mean, it seemed to mean that she would send me a book, if I asked. A random book, in a loose genre category. I love books. I love free things. So I signed up.

And, mid-June, pictures started showing up on her Twitter of books that other newsletter receivers had gotten in the mail. They were even wrapped, just like a present.

I began to be anxious, because mine hadn't arrived yet. Had I messed up in submitting the form? Put a typo in my mailing address?

I texted my husband each day, asking whether my package had arrived in the mail.

And on the day it arrived, what did he do? He tore open my package and opened my book blind date present.

I had a momentary sad face. Because, of course, I wanted to open it!

And once I saw it, I was perplexed. I had received Adrian Tchaikovsky's Empire in Black and Gold . This is the first book in the Shadows of the Apt series. The cover, to me, evokes an ancient Greek battle, and the rear cover copy also brought the comparison to mind.

If this had been a blind date, then I wouldn't have had a second date. But this, for me, was more like living in an apartment building when a new tenant moves in across the hall. You might smile at each other in the hallway a few times before you even know each other's names. And once you do, you find yourselves talking every time you meet. It becomes something that you look forward to.

I'm reading this book in pieces. It isn't sucking me in as some books have. But I want to keep reading it. I'm not sure if I have it in me to commit to the next nine books in the series... at least, not right now. But it might be something that I continue to read.

This series will be like the neighbor that moves away, that you keep in touch with on an irregular basis, always having great conversation whenever you meet.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Accidental Poetry

Recently, the voicemail app on my phone updated. Voice to text used to be a premium service, but it appeared after the last update. I have quite a few messages from my mother that I haven't listened to, sitting in my voicemail box because when I see a message longer than 2 minutes, I blanch. And when I see a 5 minute message, I lose the will to continue to listen.

Besides, my mother will most likely not remember that she left me a message and will repeat whatever it was that she took 5 minutes to say the next time we speak.

But now, I can read the messages she leaves instead of listening.

And there's just something wonderfully poetic about the app's interpretation of her words.

I'm seriously considering never answering the phone when she calls again. I mean, I'll call her back, but I'm just getting so much entertainment value from this:
Hey Ambrose and Jeanne.
I guess you're not there now.
Sorry I'm still waiting for Connie which-i-think-she's coming.
I'm not getting my cell phone.
I told Peter I need it in writing.
I know how to do it the same thing happened-when we were trying to reach you in the computer and they give me the written paper that ready-whenever you get computer is.
Anyway thanks.
Love you.
Bye bye. 
*snap* *snap* *snap*

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

They Might Be Giants Doesn't Ruin My Day

Today someone in my office sent around a youtube video. On a semi-regular basis, such a "jam" gets included with the daily announcements. Today's was a song by They Might Be Giants, chosen by the sender's son. (So, I'm guessing off one of their children's albums.)

I've loved They Might Be Giants for a long time. They were my first concert and I actually went to see them several times in my teenage years. Though I owned most of their albums through Severe Tire Damage, I no longer have most of them.

So today, I listened to the new to me "Seven Days of the Week," and then went on a youtube cruise finding old favorites like "Ana Ng," "Don't Lets Start" and "They'll Need a Crane." I may have tortured my co-workers just a tiny bit by singing along to these nostalgic airs. Though most likely I wasn't loud enough to be heard through their headphones.

I still know most of the words, and I still love the music. But I can't listen to them without thinking of one of my cousins. He took me to that first concert, and we shared the passion for TMBG for a few years, building a tenuous bridge over the distance in our ages and worldviews. And then he accused me of instigating family drama and cut off all contact unless I apologized for something I didn't do.

I held to truth over family. I knew I was right. I knew I was being falsely accused, a pawn in a larger picture. I felt echoes of being blamed for other things that I hadn't done, and I haven't spoken to him since.

I suppose we have a certain stubbornness in common. Must be a family trait.

I no longer feel that burning injustice when I consider that incident in my life. But I don't really care to apologize either. It is just one of those things in my life that I don't often consider, until music draws me into reflecting on the past.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Side of History

After a three day backpacking trip over the 4th of July weekend, my husband and I took a break from the traffic to eat a well-earned meal at the Route 55 Cafe in Cascade, ID. Ambrose had eyes only for the biscuits and gravy, but I had to take some time to decide what I would want to eat. We don't go here regularly enough to have a table that we typically sit at, but I don't believe we ever sat in the corner we chose before.

And while I might have noticed the old photographs on the wall in the past, they were never all that interesting to me. Sure, old photographs are neat, but there was nothing to connect me to them.

A waitress took out order (I decided on fried fish and french fries), and I read the captions on the picture without really thinking about it. I read things automatically. I'm one of those people who would read shampoo bottles in the bath if I finished my book before I wanted to get out. So the words didn't register for a moment.

I've been reading Dean Wesley Smith's blog for a couple years now, and he writes a series of books set in Idaho called Thunder Mountain. Here I was, sitting under photographs of the actual Thunder Mountain settlement, and even the town of Roosevelt before the flood.

I didn't grow up in Idaho, and I don't know much about its history. But seeing those photographs and knowing more about them than the bare minimum revealed by the captions really caught my interest. A whole town swallowed by a flood. A mine. And such an iconic name. Thunder Mountain.

So I took pictures of the pictures.

"Thunder Mountain Founded by L. G. and A. B. Caswell"

"Ben, Lu and Dan Caswell in Thunder Mtn cabin"

"Town of Roosevelt before the flood"

"Dewey Mine, site of the original Caswell golden reef mine"
"Dan Caswell working the mysterious slide claim with hydro sluice"

"Dan, Ben & Lu Caswell at Thunder Mountain Sawmill"

"Thunder Mountain Map Cir 1901"

Close up of Thunder Mtn from above map. 
Now I'm just might have to crack a history book to satisfy my curiosity... Or just read the Thunder Mountain series and see if I might like some Westerns after all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hefafu, or, Why Won't Men Just Ask for Directions?

When Ambrose and I were hiking to the start of the trail to Scenic Lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness, we stuck together for most of the morning. But after the second stream crossing I went on ahead of him. I was feeling warmed up and ready to go. I zoomed off, and soon reached the cairn and sign that marked the turnoff to Scenic Lake.

I decided to wait for Ambrose there. The sign was fastened to a tree, and I dumped my pack near the trunk and pulled out my birdseed bag to sit on. Then I spent some time being quiet and listening to the birds.

Then I heard voices. I didn't think it would be Ambrose so I sat up and looked around. Two male hikers were coming down the trail from the other direction. I stayed sitting up and watched them approach.

When they were close, I said hello. The guys didn't seem interested in talking to me. They were intent. As they walked past me, I heard, "It should be right here."

I almost spoke up. I almost asked them if they were looking for the turnoff to Scenic, but they walked past very quickly, not turning.

If they had turned, they would have seen the sign.

When Ambrose caught up to me a few minutes later, he revealed that the guys had indeed been looking for Scenic.

How did he know this? Because they asked him.

I was highly amused by this. I was sitting practically on the junction and they didn't have a word for me. But they run into another man and ask for directions.

Now, Ambrose contends that they may have just been tired, hungry, thirsty or in a hurry. And that's why they didn't ask me. I don't know. It seemed a bit sexist to me. But it didn't hurt me in the slightest.

It would have served them right if I were hiking alone and they'd gone all the way back to the trailhead.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nominee Project Cancelled

In an effort to read more contemporary science fiction, I tried reading the Hugo award nominees for the last two years, and the Nebulas as well. It was a fun project, and I found several new authors to read.

I read books that I wouldn't ordinarily have read, and that's a good thing. But, I'm one of those readers who refuses to put down a book once it's started. No matter how much I find myself despising the book, or being bored by it.

As a result, I've done some hate reading, which isn't my favorite thing to do. And, in light of the strange turn of events involving the Hugo nominations (not going into it, check here for a run down or search sad puppies or rabid puppies if you want to live dangerously), I've decided not to do the project this year.

I am prejudging that there are works on the Hugo ballot that I won't particularly want to read. I'm also prejudging that the Nebulas nominees will likewise not be my cup of tea. I just haven't had much luck with getting into the Nebula nominees or enjoying them. And I want to find books that I enjoy.

I avidly reread books that I like. And I am going to go with the premise that I will learn more about how to write stories I like if I reread and analyze books that I like. Reading books I don't like is an interesting exercise, but not a productive one. I mean, I can point out why I'm stopping a read, but to continue past that point only gets me a larger list of negatives.

I want to find some positives. To examine what an author does well and try to see if I can make it work too. This is definitely something that I have seen floated as advice here and there through the years, but I have to credit Dean Wesley Smith (again) with giving the final push to this iteration.

I think that reading those award nominees, regardless of whether I like them or not, only gives me a sense of what is being published currently by publishing houses. If I'm not even going to try that route, then there's no sense in figuring that out. I only need to write what I like, publish it, and write the next thing better.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Blackhawks Win! But Who Was Watching?

First, congratulations Blackhawks, 2015 Stanley Cup Champions and Bettman dubbed Dynasty.

Now to business: as my Blackhawks have progressed this year in the playoffs, I have kept in touch with hockey. I read articles on and on Yahoo's Puck Daddy. As long as my team is in it, striving for the Cup, I'm invested. I'm watching, reading, listening.

But last year, when the LA Kings got a lucky bounce in overtime and eliminated the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, I stopped watching, reading and listening. I couldn't bear to watch the Kings beat up the Rangers. It should have been us beating up the Rangers! My hatred for the Kings outweighed my desire to watch playoff hockey, especially with such fine summer weather outside.

On Puck Daddy, there was an article lamenting the fact that hockey playoffs simply don't draw the kind of national audiences that even the least watched basketball or baseball playoffs do. The author suggests that the NHL needs to cultivate its star players in such a way that hockey fans are interested in them the way basketball fans are interested in LeBron James. Hockey interest in neutral markets could be raised by such a star player.

But I think the more important point in the article is the "tribalism" of hockey fans.
Internal research from the NHL suggests that hockey fans are “the most tribal” when it comes to postseason viewership. Hockey fans aren’t as engaged in the championship round as the “Big Four” if their team isn’t involved, or if they don’t have a rooting interest.
And I get it. I checked out when my team was defeated last year, not because I'm not interested in watching playoff hockey, but because I was bitter. I didn't want to hear calm, unbiased sports broadcasting about how the damn Kings were doing. I didn't want to hear the excitement of a goal by that team. Or even their opponents.

Petty, yes. Childish, yes. True, hell yes.

And it's really all the fault of the handshake line. Hockey players must be good sportsmen after the end of the series, unlike other sports teams that may slink away after a devastating loss and only face the press rather than their triumphant opponents. Because of this, we, the fans, must bear the bitterness for our teams by turning away from the playoffs themselves to honor the petty, childish behavior that our players cannot openly embody.

But I'm here to offer a solution. It is rare for an NHL game to be broadcast in Spanish (no matter how awesomely they call the goals). That means the SAP is wide open for NBC to hire some funny broadcasters or comedians who like hockey to call the game in a way that the fans of the teams that have been eliminated, or never made it to the post-season, can appreciate without feeling that we've betrayed our teams.

I mean, when you're team loses, you kind of owe it to them not to rejoice when some other (clearly less worthy) team hoists the cup. You turn your back on the entire sport, because you love your team and you hate the other teams.

So, give us a mock-filled hatecast NBC. One that would allow the fans of the unlucky and the almost-rans a chance to embrace the hate-watch that the playoffs must become when your team is gone. One that plays up every mistake and hardly notices a goal. One that would have spent the entire intermission talking about Hedman and Bishop running into each other - but without mentioning Sharp's goal.

Start by getting the rest of hockey fandom on board with watching the playoffs after their teams have been eliminated and the neutral markets will come.