Apr 7 2016

The dreaded chores of officialdom, federal edition. Plus: Night Vale!

Rosemary

Yep, finished my taxes.   I had assumed it was going to be insane and overwhelming and stress-inducing, and had scheduled extra time to be freaked out about it all.

I had eight different 1099’s for writing income, and another one for unemployment income, and W-2’s for both the day job and about a month of disability pay that I got at the beginning of the year.  And I had started an HSA account.   And I had to do the Schedule C for my business, and self-employment tax, and all the deductions relating to having an office dedicated entirely to my writing work, thus office expenses, not to mention (she mentions, as she mentions it) travel and hotels for business-related events.

Amazingly, it was actually pretty easy.

I had saved most of my receipts.  Good habits win!   Plus, I ran almost everything through my Amex, so my year-end statement helped.   Also, some stuff was bought on Amazon for my business, and for each of those I could reprint all the receipts I hadn’t saved at the time.

Then I ran it all through TurboTax.    Twenty-first century, I love you.

I do remember the Dark Ages, when I (and most people, for that matter) did not even possess a computer.  I was a self-employed programmer consultant, and aspiring singer/songwriter.  Tax time was a nightmare!   Lordy, not even Excel spreadsheets to help me calculate.   And I did not make enough to afford an accountant to do it all for me.   Just me and the forms and sheets of paper and a calculator, and sweat and anguish.

This time, just a few hours on two separate days to sort it all, enter it all, print it out .  I owed the government slightly less than I thought I was going to.   All is well.

In other news: Yes! Sabine and I saw the latest Welcome to Night Vale live show, Ghost Stories.  I did love it.  It went by much too quickly.

No spoilers here.  I’ll just say that Cecil Baldwin (as the Voice of Night Vale, Cecil Palmer) is a treasure.   There were moments when I was completely enthralled, just by this  guy  all alone on a stage, saying words.  I’m still amazed that that can happen.  A lovely script (Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the creators of Night Vale), all eerie and funny and heartbreakingly poignant.

Their live shows change a bit from city to city, traditionally.  They usually have alternate versions so that the different cast members from the podcast can step in for a show or two, and not have to be present for the entire tour.   This time we had Hal Lublin doing his usual great delivery as the much-maligned Steve Carlsberg.   And Meg Bashwiner as Deb the Sentient Patch of Haze.   Meg also does the intro and credits, and is a delight.   The two other walk-on roles were handled by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink themselves, and they were really quite good.   You don’t expect writers to be good actors too, but these guys are pros.

This was only the third time the show had been performed… so, maybe a little rough in spots?  I did not mind.  Also, the Academy of Music, while a lovely venue, is also a small venue.   Sabine and I later wondered if seeing it in a big city at a bigger theater might allow the show to have more guests.  Because, bigger theater=more income?  More $$ to spread around?   Maybe.

If so, what we missed in spectacular-spectacular was made up for with intimacy.  Cecil was right there. He was also right here:

Yo, there , behind the pole. Tall guy with the blue wool cap.

Yo, there , behind the pole. Tall guy with the blue wool cap.

Yeah, okay you can’t tell it’s him unless you saw him walk up to that intersection.

By the way, that snow on the ground?  Yes, it was the horrible snow/sleet/freezing rain event that we had on Monday.  And I was at the wheel.  White-knuckle driving all the way to Massachusetts!   Ten miles an hour, sometimes increasing to a terrifying thirty miles an hour! But I was not going to miss the show.  And once we hit Mass, it all calmed down, amazingly.   Past Springfield, it was a breeze.

And we had a lovely pre-show dinner with Geary Gravel, whom we see all too rarely.  Discussions of Life and writing.  Discussions about self-publication of works now out of print.   How to do it, etc.   And family!  And Life, did I mention that?   I love hanging with Geary.

Sabine was at the wheel on the way home.  When the weather was all done being weather.

 

 


Mar 31 2016

Random updates

Rosemary

Yep, still livin’ the dream.  No day-job.  Lots of time at my writing office.

About to call it a day.

About to call it a day.

Less fortunately, this book is not proving cooperative lately.  So, still a lot of flailing and cursing going on.

Never mind; I’ll get it sorted out.

I’m stepping back and reviewing some of my back-burner projects, just to give my overheated brain a rest.    I’ll give myself a few days of that.

I have three things cooking:

One is related to Book 5, but not in the main line of the series.   An interesting side-excursion…

The other is the fabled Secret Project, which was supposed to be a novella but grew legs and wings and a kick-ass attitude, and had to be set aside so I could go back to the Steerswomen…

The third is an epic poem, somewhat hindered by the fact that I am no kind of poet.  I just sort of shove the words around until I like them.   But it seems like that hasn’t stopped lots of other people who commit poetry, so what the heck.

… And that’s all I’ll say here, because (as I’ve said before) I don’t like to over-talk a project.  It drains all the juice out!  Plus: spoilers.

In other news:

Something hit Jupiter!   Probably a comet or an asteroid.   Phil Plait of the Bad Astronomy blog has a nice round-up.

Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted some Wrong Science recently, but the difference between him and Bill Nye was that the statements in question were one-liners (not lengthy explanatory videos), not in his field of expertise, and  posted off the cuff.   In fact, I can’t help wondering if he even posted them himself at all.   Some famous people outsource their tweets.

And: Monday is the day!  We have tickets to Welcome to Night Vale’s live performance in Northampton MA.  SO excited!   Also, looking forward to a pre-show dinner with pal and fellow writer Geary Gravel.   He’s not a Night Vale fan, but we like him anyway.

CeV1N6iWQAEK3R3

Click the poster above to go to their live show tickets website. They might be coming to your town.  You’d hate to miss them, right?

 


Jun 3 2015

Missed NYC one weekend, caught it the following.

Rosemary

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…

 

1-opnav3_barycen_noano-1041

Yo.

 

 

 


Jan 19 2015

Into the Village for an evening in Night Vale

Rosemary

Yes, I was in the audience for their live show on Friday night.

I couldn’t make a whole day of hanging around in New York, unfortunately — I’ll have to save that for another time.  So I hopped the train that would get me there in time for dinner before the show.

I love the ceiling at Grand Central

I love the ceiling at Grand Central

The show was at the Skirball Performing Arts Center, down in the heart of Greenwich Village (where I used to hang in my folkie days). Whenever I visit the Village, I experience a weird sort of double vision. I see what’s there, and my interest and response is to what is really there — but some of the emotional resonance remains of what was there when I was young, when the Village was new to me.  It’s sort of like looking at a person, and also at their shadow, but the shadow does not match the person. Or like standing between two mirrors, and seeing that infinite replication — but somewhere deep in the repeated reflections, the images no longer match the original.

Not in a spooky way (which it certainly would be if that happened in real life).

In fact, there are a couple of places in the Village that I can recall from the very first time I was there, when I was eighteen, and the sidekick of a girl who knew a comics writer, and we went to a party in an apartment off Washington Square.  If I stand in one of those places, I get a triple resonance (what it meant to me at eighteen; what it meant to me in my twenties and thirties; what it means as I look at it now)  that really is quite interesting, and quite odd.

 

This used to be Gerde's Folk City.

This used to be Gerde’s Folk City.  Now the Fat Black Pussy Cat, which is itself a name of long fame, but not at this location.

 

I wanted to wander the streets, take in the sights, but — damn! It was  eighteen degrees (Fahrenheit, that is; -7.77 for you Celsius users).  Way too cold for perambulating.

The show itself — Ah.  Love Night Vale, love the live shows, love the podcasts, love it all.

I won’t say too much about the content of the show — they’re going to be releasing a recording of it.    But I will say that the script was one called “The Librarian”,  versions of which they’ve performed live in the States several times.

An updated version was also used  in their massive tour of Europe last year.   So, even though live shows of Welcome to Night Vale are staged as radio plays, with people standing and talking into microphones while holding their scripts in their hands, mostly they didn’t need to consult the scripts very often.  They’ve done this show a lot.

The show had everything you could want from an episode of Welcome to Night Vale: the eerie; the amusing; the weird-to-you-but-perfectly-normal to us; the romance (with many a squee! from the fangirls); the charm; and the sudden utterance of a deep truth about reality that you did not notice before but which now cannot be denied…

All that stuff.

But it was also the scariest episode I have ever heard.   Edge-of-the-seat, heart-pounding scary.

And at one point, in the middle of the scariest part, I found myself asking: How is this even possible?

I looked around.

One big room.  850 people.

One man in front.  All alone.

Saying… words.

850 people riveted.  Fascinated — and scared.

How does that work?

Of course, we see this every day, don’t we?   We take in words, we put out words.  And the words scare us, comfort us, enlighten us, take us away from some things, put us directly into the true and beating heart of other things.   We escape, we approach.

We can subtract everything else, put ourselves in dark rooms with nothing but a voice (or eyes moving across a page) — and we blossom universes inside.

I feel like “imagination” is not a strong enough word for this.   Because “imagination” seems to imply making stuff up, an apparently frivolous act. But in order to understand anything, you have to also imagine it.   Replicate it, reflect it, model it internally, matching it to reality, but containing it within yourself.

So… this is an act of creation undertaken by 850 people simultaneously, using the cues, clues, raw material and enacted example provided by the man in front.

Well, that’s the phenomenon; then there’s the skill involved.

Crappy, ham-fisted writing would have made the shared creation impossible.  But Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink are very, very good writers indeed.  Every word uttered on that stage, every concept, every emotion,  was put there by them: all the movement of story, and the orchestration of emotion, set up by them.

And a lousy actor would have destroyed it all.  But Cecil Baldwin was almost impossibly brilliant in his role.  Maybe there are other people who could have delivered those words, and done it well; but it would have been a different story, it wouldn’t have been this story.  I can’t say enough good things about him.  The man is a treasure.

And there was the skill of the audience.  There exist many, many people who cannot do this thing —  this taking in of words and making them real inside.  People of that type, placed in that audience, would experience nothing but, perhaps, perplexity.  But I believe that the audience that night was composed of people with great talent in turning the seen and heard into the experience of Art.

Well.   That’s rather a lot of philosophizing about a live episode of a very popular podcast…

But, see, that’s another thing I love about Welcome to Night Vale; it makes me think about this stuff.   I get not only the pleasure of the episode, but the meta-pleasure of watching something done well.

After the show, I wanted to hang out at a coffee shop and sip coffee contemplatively while writing in my journal.  Unfortunately it was so cold that every human being was driven indoors, and every restaurant and coffee shop was packed with people elbow-to-elbow with no room for even one more person with a pen and some paper.   So I took the subway uptown and caught the train home.


Oct 18 2014

What’s up. Plus: Score!

Rosemary

What’s up: Day Job. Same old. Going to increase the hours in the weeks to come. I’m planning to keep it to three days a week through November, and then hit 32 in December.

Trying VERY HARD to keep writing despite the return to the Day Job, which has always been a difficult combination.   Day Job plus Writing equals Day Job Not Writing.  Fighting the math.  Trying Very Hard.

And I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo, as mentioned before. If I can get the day before Thanksgiving off from the Day Job, I can do my tradtional escape-to-undisclosed-location and have a good block of time in which to write — as well as the typical NaNoWriMo deal of dropping everything else in one’s life that one possibly can, for the space of one month, and cranking out a novel-length work, start to finish.   The rules call for starting something new, not continuing a work you’ve already been doing.  So, yes, I will step away from Book 5 for one month, but fear not!  Because it will still be a Steerswoman book:  A parallel YA novel dealing with the Steerswomen’s Academy, taking place during the same time as Book 5.

I’m hoping that the drop-everything-else approach will clear my head, revitalize my subconscious, and help me keep  on track when I return to Book 5.    I have good reason to think it will.

Plus, of interest only to fans of Welcome to Night Vale:  Ha!  I managed to score tickets to their next live show in New York in January.   This was not easy.

The tickets went on sale noon Friday.  Thirty seconds after noon, the website was completely swamped, and it rolled over, put its paws in the air, and only displayed messages amounting to:  GO AWAY I DED NOW K THX BAI.

Sabine was at home that day, on the internet trying to get through, and declared that she’d keep it up for a half hour, and then stop because she had Things to Do!  And Why Weren’t They Prepared for This?  And They Should Know By Now!

I was at the Day Job, but slyly put up a browser window in the background and poked away at it when I could,   Eventually I realized that everyone in the universe was using the exact same link to get to the box office (provided by Night Vale,) — but the venue had its own separate previous existence, so there must be other ways to get to its box office…

And she scores!

The show they’ll do in January is the one called “The Librarian,” versions of which they’ve performed before in the States, and some version of which they are now playing in their first-ever European tour.  And I just now heard that Dublin, their first stop, gave them a standing ovation.

So, happy about that.

Also: currently visiting pals in New Hampshire.  So, must stop doing this at some point, in order to be social.  And possibly go kayaking.

Also also: still walking every day….

 

Wha --? There it is again!  Another sighting of that mysterious creature...

Wha –? There it is again! Another sighting of that mysterious creature…

 

 

 


Sep 7 2014

Inching my way back into the Day Job

Rosemary

Yep, it’s that time.   Time to start going back to the Day Job.

Back when this whole cancer business started, I managed to stay on the job for the first two months, until the chemo side-effect got the better of me.

Coming out the other side, I’ll be doing about 15 hours a week at first, and we’ll see if I can work my way up to 32.   We have no particular time-line on this, and it’s going to take a while to build up my stamina.   My boss is fine with that.

I worked two days this week, five hours a day, and it pretty much knocked me flat.  But you know: radiation therapy is over, the burns are mostly healed, and need to work on getting stronger.  So, here I am, slowly clambering back into the workforce out there in Mundania.

The really depressing thing is that going back to the job reminds me that this was supposed to be the year I stepped away from it entirely!   I had it all planned out!  I was going to be writing full time!

Then: Boom.   Leaving the Day Job?  No longer an option.

And… here I am, back again.

Well.  As I often say, I’m still on the WIN side of the column.   Because: alive.

I’ll probably feel much better about dealing with this when I get my energy and strength back.   And my mental agility, as well.    Really looking forward to that part.

In aid of this, I’ve been walking almost every day, generally for an hour — and generally when the sun has gone down and this incredible humidity we’ve been having lets up a bit.

All I can say is: Thank goodness for iPods!   (Although, I broke down and got an iPhone, so all my iPod functions now reside on my phone, which is delightfully convenient.)  I generally listen to a bit of music, then some audiobook, then an episode of Welcome to Night Vale.  Although the last month or so, it’s been harder to focus on a good audiobook and harder to get myself moving (probably radiation fatigue), so I just listened to Night Vale for the whole time — it’s actually the only time I allow myself to listen to it.  Thus, my love of Night Vale kept me walking when my weary body and sometimes-fuzzy brain would prefer I just chilled out.

But alas, inevitably, I got to the point where I had heard each of the the fifty-plus available episodes multiple times, so I had to search for something else — and just as inevitably ended up with the Thrilling Adventure Hour.  They’re no comparison, of course, and  I’ll never love them as I love Welcome to Night Vale, but they’re quite jolly and diverting.   And there’s LOTS of back-episodes, as they’ve been doing the show for ten years.  I shouldn’t run out anytime soon.

So, at SOME point, all this walking is going to pay off.  Well, it’s probably paying off right now; I’d certainly be worse off if I hadn’t been doing it.

But meanwhile, yeah: Day Job.  I should be writing full time!  But, not yet.  Day Job.

Meanwhile, despite the heat, looks like Autumn is on its way.   The other day, I saw this:

turkey

Not too soon to plan your Thanksgiving Dinner.

 

Gosh,  I thought, right in the back yard!   I’d better get a photo of that!  No telling when I’ll get a chance like this again!

And then this:

 

I hear there’s a fox around, too, but I haven’t seen him.   I’m sure he’s got his sights on these characters….

Well, more later…  Switch now set to OFF.

 

PS: The latest episode of Welcome to Night Vale?  Wow.

I was wondering how they were going to handle the fact that the actor, Cecil Baldwin, was going to be away for the whole month of August, as part of the Neo-futurists acting troupe, performing their show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.   How, I wondered, could they deal with the possibly limited availability of Cecil?

That’s how.  Brilliantly.


Dec 15 2013

Always the last to join the pack…

Rosemary

After being told many times, by many sources, that I should be listening to the podcast “Welcome to Night Vale” I finally decided that I wanted something new, interesting and amusing to listen to, and thought to myself, Hey, what about that Night Vale thing people keep mentioning?

Well. Silly me. I should listen to all those people and sources. Because, see what I’ve been missing?

I spent my entire weekly housecleaning laughing like a loon, with my iPod loaded with Night Vale episodes, and a bluetooth earphone plugged in my ear. I didn’t want to turn on the vacuum cleaner, because I wouldn’t be able to hear over it, and I didn’t want to stop. So I did that part really fast. Then I did some extra housework, just so I could keep listening. Then I cleaned the snow off our cars and shoveled the entrance walk. Still listening.

I finally stopped in order to actually produce some art of my own, instead of merely consuming other people’s art.

If you don’t know about Welcome to Night Vale, you really ought to check it out. Don’t listen to just one episode — stay for the first three (and do them in order). They’re about 20 minutes each, and if you end up liking it you’ll have another glorious 33 episodes waiting for you. One of the advantages of getting to things late — you don’t have to wait 2 weeks for the next episode.

The easiest way to listen is on your computer at SoundCloud’s NightValeRadio page. Or follow the links on their main site to download from various other sources.

For the cautious who want some warning about what they’re getting into, let’s just say it’s a spooky comedy. Here’s their own description:

WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.
Turn on your radio and hide.

I did so love the episodes I’ve heard so far. I’m up to number 6: History Week.

Meanwhile: Snowstorm not as bad as predicted. Yet.

Also meanwhile: Hey, remember how I mentioned how much I enjoyed the audiobook version of Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman’s The Fall of the Kings ?  Well, it was just selected as one of the top ten best audiobooks, by AudioFile magazine. And so I remind you of it again.   Excellent book, lovely performances, not the least of which was by Ellen herself.  This is yet another wonderful thing to listen to on your iPod, iPad, tablet, mp3 player, music device, or actual computer!