Jul 4 2015

On the Fourth


I absolutely love fireworks, and there actually are no less than four simultaneous fireworks shows going on right now. I went up on the roof at my office, but alas: every one of them was just exactly too low behind the surrounding hills and trees for me to actually see. So there’s a lot of banging and whistling going on all around me, but I only occasionally see the tops of especially high displays.

Still, I stayed up there for a while, just listening and smiling to myself. Stars above, this odd little complex of old factories and warehouses around, and booms and whistles echoing off the hills.

You know, I do love this country. I’m not a knee-jerk flag-waver, to say everything is perfect by definition because USA. But I’m also not the other extreme, where the things that are wrong mean that everything is wrong because Evil.

It seems to me that everything right with this country came about because of people thinking intelligently; and everything wrong persists because of people not thinking intelligently.

We need to be smart. That’ll fix it. Let’s do that.

Random other news:

I just signed on as a Patreon Patron for Mary Alexandra Agner’s monthly poem based on science in the news.    For a buck a month, how can you lose?  She needs 9 more $1 patrons to hit $25 (but you can pledge more!)… Looking at you, science-lovers.  Here’s a poem she wrote about the Mars Rover Curiosity.

Also: Ophidiphobes, look away!  Here’s a snake:


Tasting the air.

Tasting the air.

I found this jolly fellow just hanging out on top of the bush next to our front door as I left to go to my office. He seemed remarkably unworried about me. I guess he was depending on his snaky scariness to protect him. So he hung out long enough for me to fully admire him. I’m especially fond of snakes (when I know they’re not the poisonous ones!). They’re so extremely alien.

And here’s my local great blue heron:

Fleeing the paparazzi.

A mere speck, due to iPhone instead of my better actual camera.

This was shot next to the bridge over the local river (the mighty Quinnipiac).  Now that I know he’s there, I see him a lot,  often when my car is stopped at the light near the bridge; previously, I simply never thought to look.

I’ve also seen him from the footbridge next to my office.

He's not in this picture.  It's just a nice picture.

He’s not in this picture. It’s just a nice picture.

Sabine, meanwhile, is in the Land of Herons — hanging out at the home of our pals in New Hampshire.  By the time she starts heading back, I’ll be heading out to Readercon.  We might not even see each other in passing!

Well.  Back to the tasks at hand.  I had yesterday off from the Day Job; with my usual Monday off, that’s a nice 4-day run.

More later…



Jun 27 2015

What happens when you don’t check the news for a couple of days


Or Facebook or Twitter, for that matter.

There was some crap going on at the Day Job, involving me covering the duties of the Human Resources person while she went on a long-overdue vacation… and I nervous and angst-y about it. Failing to do things correctly might have caused big problems! So, I was, shall we say, hyper-focused on it.

Along about Friday, when it was evident I did everything perfectly (takes a bow), at a quiet moment at work I took a glance at Facebook on my phone. And I went:

Wait, what?

THAT happened?


I hadn’t even noticed that it was a possible thing that possibly might have been about to happen. And then it happened!

It took me a bit to get over my astonishment — it seemed to come out of the blue!

And then: I was glad.

And then: I thought about all my LGBTQ friends, acquaintances and artistic heroes, who have struggled so long to be treated by the rest of society simply as fellow human beings…

Yeah, and then the tears came. Then.

Love wins.

Jun 26 2015

Possible mystery deletion!


I have the weirdest sense that when I cleaned out some spam, I accidentally deleted a real comment from a real person, out of the comment queue.

Was it yours? Has your brilliant comment mysteriously vanished? Let me know!

Or post a new comment. Your choice. Always glad to hear from you.

Jun 18 2015

I’ll be AT Readercon, although not IN Readercon…


That is, I’ll be attending as an attendee… but won’t be on any panels or other events.

Somewhere along the line, either my invitation to participate got lost and never reached me, or my reply to the first request for confirmation of interest never reached them.  Alas, but hey, bonus!  I can take it easy at the convention.

I don’t mind… I’m kinda tired lately.  Not being in extrovert mode sounds rather attractive.   I’m a natural introvert, but I can function as an extrovert when I need to (or just want to).   It’s a skill that helps with marketing, social interaction and occasionally survival in the workplace.   But if I have to do it for too long, I just get weary; and if I’m already weary, it gets harder.

So: I’ll be there, absorbing the content and generally goofing off, just like any other happy fan.

But in lieu of a Kaffeeklatsch, if any of you are interested in hanging out and drinking coffee, say so in the comments!  I can try to arrange to be somewhere with coffee at a specified time and day, and we could do that.

Same cup I used when I was first writing The Steerswoman

Same cup I used when I was first writing The Steerswoman

Jun 15 2015

Stealth sale.


For secret marketing reasons, I needed to find out how quickly Amazon’s Kindle store and the other ebook outlets respond when a book’s price is changed.

So, I did a test, and changed the price on The Lost Steersman and The Language of Power.

Answer: Amazon posted the new price immediately, as did Smashword’s own site.  The iBooks store and Kobo both had the change within 14 hours later.  Barnes and Noble took about 48 hours.

Good to know.

But hey, happy side effect:  those two books now cost a dollar less than they did before!


TLS cover small

This one



Four out of four.

Also this one


So, for anyone who was on the fence about buying the third and fourth books in the series —

Well.  Just thought I’d mention it…


Jun 13 2015

The good news is: there’s no bad news.


Everything’s fine.  Let’s say that up front.

Short version with spoilers: I had a test, it spooked me, but I was fine in the end.  Hooray, happy ending!


Two weeks ago, at my 3-month follow-up visit with my oncologist, my blood work showed an unusually high level of calcium, which is one of those things that can be a big warning sign.   When she got the results, my doc called to tell me that she wanted to get a bone scan, “to see if anything’s happening in your bones that would cause them to push out calcium.”  (Unsaid: like, you know, bone cancer.)

With cancer, there’s always the possibility of it returning, and breast cancer in particular has a number of favorite places to come back, one of which is your bones.

Now, sometimes my emotional reactions seem to work on a sort of tape-delay.  So, I was all: Sure, bone scan, I’ve had one of those before.  Piece of cake.

For this type of scan, they inject you with a radioactive tracer, then send you away for a couple of hours while the stuff permeates into your bones.   Then you come back, and lie down in what looks like an x-ray or MRI scanner except: No x-rays needed!  No radiation shot at you at all!

Because — yep —  you’re sending out your very own rays, and all they have to do is catch ’em to create an image of yer very bones.   Fun science fact!  But deeply tedious, as the scan is slow, slow, slow.  And it’s not like you can read a book while you’re lying there.  Fortunately, I’m good at entertaining myself with no external input whatsoever.

When it was over, as I was leaving the scanning room, my own bones were up on the monitor.    I peered at them with open curiosity.  “Pretty cool,”  I said to the tech.

“Sure is,” she said.  Making no attempt to, say, hide them from me lest I see some shocking image – -which I took as a good sign.  I went whistling on my way, back to the day job.

And at some point that afternoon, the tape-delay caught up, and I started thinking:  So… High calcium, bone scan done RIGHT AWAY no delay, do the math…

And my doc is very good about getting back to me about test results, so when I didn’t hear by the next day I started  working through all the possibilities.

I eventually called my doc’s office on Thursday, and they were quite surprised that a follow-up had not already been scheduled, and could I come in the very next day?  Which of course did nothing to reassure me.

But when Sabine and I  finally saw my oncologist (I asked Sabine to come with me just in case…), the news was good!  My bones were fine!  My doc just wanted to take some more blood for another test, to see if  the calcium was still high, and see if there were any endocrine-system reasons behind it.

I was sort of giddy with relief, and then went home and slept for pretty much  the rest of the day (so did Sabine, but she works nights)…

Well.  Imaginary re-visit to Cancer Treatment Carnival all done.  Scary clowns can go home.

Made me think, though.

It’s when I don’t know stuff, that I get scared.  When you know stuff, you deal with the stuff.

Also reminded me that I am SO LUCKY to have my sister.  She’s the best, ever.




Jun 3 2015

Missed NYC one weekend, caught it the following.


I had to skip a trip to New York that I really wanted — meeting an email acquaintance in the city for coffee and conversation.   The only date we could both make it was May 23rd… but frustratingly, my plan to build up my strength hit a snag, and I ended up the opposite of built-up.   Instead of hitting the Big City, I had to cancel out and basically sleep all day.  And then all night.

(I saw my doc on Monday, and we’re going to be doing some tests.  I’ll keep you posted.)

But did get some energy back and actually made it to the city the following weekend, when I had tickets to three events in the World Science Festival.  Luckily, I had crash space in town, courtesy of Ellen Kushner, which made it a bit easier — I could sack out when I needed to.  Even so, I fear I was not at my sharpest…

So, I skipped one presentation (on probability), and caught two others.  One of those was on Free Will, for which I had high hopes.   But rather than discuss whether or not free will existed (which is what the blurb implied!),  it just dealt with the repercussions of believing or not believing in free will.  Which, while interesting, was more social than hard science.

The other was on Time, and that was the one I was determined to see, come what may. Lee Smolin was one of the panelists and I’ve been working my way through his book, Time Reborn, and I was very interested in what he would say… unfortunately, he sort of muttered a lot.   But, good news: they’ve put up a video of the entire discussion , which you may view at your leisure, and I will review, to see what Smolin actually said.

However, the video does not include the amazing modern dance piece that preceded the discussion.

I know: interpretive dance?  About time?   It seemed like that was what it was about to be, and the entire audience was one big knot of dubiousness…

But unbeknownst to me (and I think, most of the audience) it was a very famous dance created by choreographer David Parsons, called “Caught.”

I did not catch the name of the dancer — his last name was Spring, I think.   The dance is performed partly under strobe light, and the steps are so designed that the strobe catches the dancer mid-leap.   And because our brains work the way they do, we automatically assemble the images into single sweep, even though the gaps are quite large.

Result: man flying.

We were stunned, cheering, applauding.

I searched and searched for good videos of this dance.  There were several, but none particularly great —  the best I could find was the one accompanying this NYTimes article about the American Dance Theater, which does not entirely catch it, I think…  The screen does not do the movement in three dimensions justice.  And the image is screen-sized, not stage-sized.  Still, it gives you a sense of what it’s trying to do — just assume that, live, it actually accomplishes what it promises.

In other news: Sabine and I saw Welcome to Night Vale’s live show, “The Investigators.”   Lots of fun, and here’s a link to the cosplayers out in front of the theater in Northampton. I’m not going to say much about it (not yet!) because they’re going to release a recording of the show, and I don’t want to commit any spoilage before people get a chance to hear it.  I may post some stuff about it later.

FLASH! updated with photos I forgot I took!


wtnv northampton figures

Wise words.



Can’t keep a good cat down…



And meanwhile:  the New Horizons probe is closing in on Pluto…







May 22 2015

Alas, I cannot be at Wiscon…


Gosh, all the cool kids are going…

There’s Ellen Kushner, and Delia Sherman.

Charlie Jane Anders, whose posts I enjoy over at io9.  Suzy McKee Charnas.

 Karen Joy Fowler.  Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press (who publish Laurie J. Marks and Delia, among others).

Oh, lots of writers, and editors, and publishers, and related personages.   If you’re not already there —  well, there’s still time to get there.   It’s in Madison, Wisconsin; maybe that’s a day-trip for you.

I’ve been to Wiscon  a couple of times, and had thoroughly enjoyed myself there — but not this year.  My travel budget’s kind of used up with Readercon (July 9-12) in Burlington MA, the Schrodinger Sessions (July 30-August 1) in Maryland, and the big one: Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention (August 19-23 ), all the way on the other side of the North American continent in Spokane, WA.

Also, I seem to have acquired tickets to three events in the World Science Festival on May 30th and 31st, which, while merely a train ride away in New York City, cost some bucks, to be sure.

Add in some non-SF related travel and hotel in December, and that’s basically it for expensive places to go this year.

Actually, looking at that list, it seems rather daunting…

I’m still working on getting my strength up to full power, so it’s good I have some time to work up to the bigger trips.

Speaking of which, I must get home and get a good night’s sleep, as I’m hopping the train for a day-trip to the big city tomorrow.

Meanwhile, just because it’s cool,  here’s a link to the Dawn spacecraft’s animated views of those mysterious bright spots on the surface of Ceres….


Click ‘n’ go.




May 17 2015

How many random things does it take to make a post?


Still at loose ends, trying to plow through a collection of largely disconnected chores and tasks and stuff that otherwise need action or decisions on my part…

But!  Need to blog… So, here are some random things I’ve done, read or noticed:

Over at Chad Orzel’s science blog at Forbes online from a couple of weeks ago,  Chad explains why a particle’s momentum will increase when you confine it (contrary to what intuition tells us), by relating it to strings on a guitar, which was THE critical analogy for this finger-pickin’ gal (Emmy the dog’s contributions aside).   When he said that, I went from “WTF?” to “Of course! Makes perfect sense.  Could not be otherwise.”

When you shorten a guitar string, you limit the number of frequencies at which it can vibrate.   Some wavelengths just won’t fit on that string anymore.  The longer wavelengths go away.

On a guitar string, frequency relates to pitch.  You shorten the useable length of the string by putting your finger down on it, pressing it against the fret.  Only the part of the string between your finger and the bridge can now vibrate.  And it’s shorter.  So: you get a higher note.

Obviously —  and absolutely according to my natural intuition as a guitarist.  Makes perfect sense.

And for a quantum particle, wavelength relates to momentum.  Confine it, and the range of possible wavelengths becomes limited — to shorter wavelengths.  So the damn thing is moving faster.

Could not be otherwise, right?  That’s lovely.

Then Chad gives us a video of guitarist Richard Thompson (ALIAS GOD!), so, that’s  a bonus.

Also, speaking of guitars:

Once the crazy chemo finger-pain was gone, and my post-chemo peripheral neuropathy diminished (probably as much as it’s going to), I had wanted to get my playing chops back.  I’m spending tons of time at my new office, and for a lot of the time I’m the only one in the building.  So, why not play guitar there?  But I  didn’t want to be hauling my guitar back and forth every day…

I already owned a “backpacking” guitar: a sturdy guitar with a small body.  I figured I’d just bring that to the office one day and leave it there, handy to grab at odd moments.  Sure, it didn’t sound particularly good, but as long as it stayed in tune, it would keep my fingers exercised.

Except: it was the crappiest instrument ever!   The strings were a mile above the fret board!  The intonation wandered away to the hinterlands by, like, the third fret.  The neck was fat enough to double as a baseball bat!

There are some guitars where you’re just doing yourself damage to play them, and that is definitely one.  I’d forgotten how evil a device it was.   I think it was made by LL Bean.

I’m trying to get myself back to performing level, but playing a guitar that PUNISHES me was not going to encourage me in any way.

So I did a bunch of research and settled on this lovely:

Washburn Rover

Washburn Rover


The Washburn Rover is a  “travel” guitar – essentially a higher-end backpacking guitar.  Absolutely playable,  quality materials, great workmanship.

Key points: A full-length fingerboard, instead of a shortened one.  I’m going to be establishing habits, and I want them to translate directly over to my full-sized instrument.  Of the travel guitars available, this one had the full-sized fingerboard.   Strings not too high off the fingerboard.  Spruce top, mahogany body.   Compensated bridge, which I did not expect! And very, very affordable.

It feels way better in my hands that I’d thought possible for a guitar at that price.   And the tone does not suck!   It doesn’t sound like a full-size guitar, by any means — but it has its own characteristic tone, which I actually like.  I’m thinking that for certain very roots-style songs, I might even prefer the sound.

Last random thing: over at xkcd, Randall Munroe has an Emojic 8-Ball that has to be seen (and used) to be believed.

If you believe in that sort of thing…


May 12 2015

Post in which I am too busy to post.


Too many things needing my attention right exactly now, as in:  now.

So, here’s a fish:



Found in the brook next to my office.   There’s a little branch-off from the mighty Quinnipiac River that wends its way mostly underground beneath the big old factory/warehouse complex where my office is located.  Just before it dives under, there’s a footbridge right outside my office door where I can pause and muse.  This time I saw a fish.  Not a generic carp.  Not a decorative koi.  A honking great all-caps FISH!

Seriously.  Like, a foot and a half (46cm).  And muscular.  A major fish.