Jan 13 2019

Internet fast cancelled. Just internetting as always.


Due to the flu! I thought I escaped this year, but here it is. A whole new animal, apparently.

As I am good for nothing but staring blearily at screens and taking naps, and cannot currently think my way out of a paper bag, any plans to be actually productive are laughable. Even reading is too demanding. I plan to snuggle up to Netflix and Amazon Prime, plus any audiobooks that I don’t mind falling asleep in the middle of.

I was going to write a blog post today! Ha ha, she laughs: Ha ha.

Oh, wait, I just did. Okay.

Not pictured: Nyquil, Dayquil, chicken soup.

Catch you on the flip side.

Dec 31 2018

Plunged into darkness!




Real candle plus fake candle.

Gosh, thought I, I have a great idea.  I’ll clean my office!

It was starting to get sort of random, with books and papers in places that books and papers should not be hanging out, largely because those particular books and papers have not been assigned proper homes, so they are loitering in random corners, muttering to each other, and generally wasting their time.   I knew that if I didn’t take care of them, they’d soon be pitching pennies, sassing passers-by and smoking cigarettes.

No one wants to see books and papers go bad.  Get this in hand before it’s too late!

Fortunately  I had a couple of hours free before settling down to my night’s work.  And what better day to do it?  I would come back on New Year’s Day with my office already in order, and be ready to attack my work with vigor and alacrity, with nothing else hanging over my head, and only pleasing vistas and comfort all around.

Also, I could make some tea.  My fave Lapsang Souchong, which I haven’t had lately, as I’ve been trying to do more green tea instead.  Also, hey!  Susan Forbes Hansen’s show, Sunday Night Folk Festival,  on the radio — I can’t tune it in, because we’re in sort of a reception sinkhole, but live streaming on the computer works just fine!  Just the thing to keep me entertained while sorting and cleaning.

Excellent plan.

Step one: take all those recalcitrant books and papers, and put them out into stacks in the corridor. Done.

Step two: take every object off every surface and put them in corridor, too, so I can dust every surface. Done.

Step three: What’s that beeping noise?

And why is it so dark?

The beeping noise my computer’s emergency UPS, doing its job and keeping that computer running so I could save any files and shut it down properly.   Because we suddenly had no power.

It took some doing to find out that it was only this office/business/warehouse complex that had no power, and that the rest of the town was fine. I had to climb on the roof, to look around.

But this is very a big old collection of former mills and factories, and it wasn’t just my building. The whole vast thing was dark.  Nothing here had power.

I saw a police car cruising along, doing a full circle of the whole complex, which was reassuring.  Probably an emergency alarm went off because of the power being out.  Glad they were on the job.

But I had no electricity.

There were emergency floodlights in the stairwells, where they were doing me no good at all — all my stuff, as you may recall, being now out in the corridor.   In the dark.

So I contemplated my situation, found it inexpressibly amusing, threw up my hands, turned on the flashlight function on my phone, and hauled it all back into my office.  I couldn’t listen to Sunday Night Folk Festival while I worked, so I whistled some tunes instead.

I put my tea in a thermos, and then threw everything out of the mini-fridge that I thought might go bad in three days — because, hey, with New Year’s Eve tomorrow, and New Year’s Day the next day, who the heck would be working to fix this?  Could I even try to contact the building owners?  The management office was certainly closed, but would they even check their messages until after the holiday?

With that all settled, I gathered my laptop, some books, the tea, the trash, and hauled it all down to my car, and headed out.  Plans gang agly, as the poet says.

But… just in case, I thought I’d circumnavigate the whole complex.

And around the back, I came across these guys:

“Ah,”  I said to the dudes at work, “this explains it!”

“What, didn’t anyone tell you?” they asked.

“Tell me… what?”

This had been planned for months. They could not believe that no one had bothered to tell me about it!  They were making repairs, had to turn off the power to do it, all scheduled ahead of time!  How could I not have been told?

Well.  I believe they assumed I was an employee of some business there, and that my bosses would have been told, and they ought to have told me.  I didn’t correct them, and allowed them to be outraged on my behalf, which I feel was very kind of them.

But in fact, it’s pretty easy for the building owners to forget that I exist, and that I work on the weekends.  And that Sunday night 9PM, just before a major holiday would be a time and day that I would be in my office, at work, in need of electricity.

With a bit of trepidation, I asked the dudes how long the repairs would take — would they be done, say, by Wednesday?

The were amused.  “Five AM tomorrow.”

So, all is well after all.  I’ll pop back tomorrow and take care of everything.  I’ll probably see the turn of the year at my desk, in my office, watching the countdown and toasting with some Laphraoig.

Meanwhile, tonight I’ve set up here in my kitchen, and am about to have some popcorn and watch Bandersnatch on Netflix to see if it’s as fun as I’ve been hearing.

Tea, fleurs, laptop

I sure hope 2019 is an improvement on 2018, because damn.

However, I have to say 2018 is ending rather well because — remember that Tor.com mention by James Davis Nicoll?

Well, I got a nice bump in my sales as a result.  A very nice bump.   I won’t get the royalties until the end of February, but this is by far my best sales month in years.  I’ve sold, well, let me check… yep.  As of now, just over 500 books this month.

So, that’s a nice way to end the year!

Possibly your year is ending as positively as mine is!  And possibly, though we might not actually believe in omens, we can pretend to, and view it all as a good omen for the possibilities of 2019.

Yeah, let’s do that.


Dec 24 2018

Found among my mother’s papers


My sister came across this, while sorting through old files.

Christmas long ago.

The Evening before was always the big time, Weihnachtsabend in Germany.  Santa did not bring our presents, but “das Christkindl,” the Christ Child.  It would slip into your house or apartment, left all the gifts under the Tree, lighted the Candles, and when it flew out the window a little bell would jingle.  Then you could come in and be surprised by the beautiful tree and the many presents.

I remember waiting out in the staircase of our Apartmenthaus with the Neighbor’s children for the little bell to ring.  We tried to guess what we  would get, if our gentle hints had brought results.  Sometimes it worked, but mostly it was a surprise. But we were happy about every little thing we received  Oh, the days of Childhood and I wonder, where did they go to.

I’ve corrected some spelling from the handwritten version, to prevent confusion, but I left the odd capitals — in German, all nouns are capitalized, and some of that impulse still moved my mother’s hand.

I have  no idea what year my she wrote this down.  Ingeborg Hilbig was born in 1927, so her childhood memories of Christmas in Germany probably refer to 1930 through about 1938.  Her command of English is fairly good here, but other notes in the same file, from later in her life, show a much more sophisticated command of vocabulary and idiom.  This might have been written as early a 1963, more than ten years after she and her husband and baby Sabine immigrated to the United States.

One thing that unexpectedly moved me — and it’s particularly a writer’s thing, I believe.  It’s in that very last line.

It says, “Oh the days of Childhood and I wonder, where did they go to.”  But look closely:  that “I” is squeezed in there, between “and” and “wonder.”

It’s so clear to me that she originally wrote: “Oh the days of Childhood and wonder, where did they go to.”  It’s a much better line.

But she didn’t trust her command of her new language, wasn’t certain about the turn of phrase, and she put that “I” in there to be safe.  Mom, your first impulse was better!  Don’t overthink your prose!

Sadly, she’s been gone many years now.  So many stories she never told us…

And now it’s 2018, the actual, hardly-dreamed-of 21st Century.   I’m hoping your holidays are as sweet and memorable as my mother’s were.

As for me, I’m cooking up some turkey stew — always a happy event in our house!  The little Christmas tree (incognito as a mere house plant the rest of the year) has new tiny LED lights that do not weigh its  branches down.


Our best to you and everyone you love.






Dec 17 2018

And speaking of Tor.com…


Quick note: reviewer James Davis Nicoll  mentioned the series in an article on Tor.com today!  “Five Works of Hard Science Fiction that Bypass the Gatekeepers.”

“Of course, the best example of hard science fiction to date is Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series (The Steerswoman, The Outskirters’ Secret, The Lost Steerman, and The Language of Power). What at first appears to be a straightforward fantasy setting, in which wise-woman Rowan finds herself pitted against a community of (generally quite disagreeable) wizards, is soon revealed to be nothing of the sort. In fact, Rowan’s world is far more alien and interesting than most secondary-world fantasies. Rather than a Tolkienian struggle between good and evil as such, the heart of the series is science itself, the process of unravelling the true nature of the world despite all the barriers placed in our way.”

I could not ask for a better recommendation than that.   And including me with Mary Robinette Kowal, Linda Nagata, Maureen McHugh, and Lee Killough — that’s some good company.


Dec 15 2018

Random mid-December musings.


I’m two weeks past my November internet fast and… I kind of miss it.  It was very peaceful.

It’s easy to say that you’re not going to waste time on unnecessary media browsing; and it’s even possible to stick to that goal.  But there’s something about being literally unable to cheat on your plan.  In a weird way, the pressure is off.  You don’t have to exert willpower to stay away, because there just is no access available.   And willpower is not an infinite resource, as so many self-help books will tell you nowadays.  You don’t want to spend it all on trivialities and have it depleted when you really need it!

So, I might repeat the regimen in January.  I’ll still have (as I had last month) the really necessary access available via my phone — email, mainly, in case something comes in that needs immediate urgent response.  I’ll just have to make sure that any research I need done for the work I have planned in January is located, accessed, printed and/or acquired, and if possible read and integrated ahead of time, before pulling the plug.  Or, declining to connect the plug, in my case.  I don’t have wired-in internet, and just buy a month’s access at a time through a nearby hotspot.

And should I really need access, and can’t wait until the end of the day — well, home is exactly two miles from my office, and the library just over one mile away.

News about people who are not me:

Physicist Chad Orzel’s latest science book is out:  Breakfast with Einstein It showed up on my Kindle a couple of days ago, because I wisely pre-ordered  it.  I haven’t had a chance to dig in to it yet, but Professor Orzel is a favorite of mine, and always illuminating, so I feel secure in recommending it.

Breakfast with Einstein: The Exotic Physics of Everyday Objects by [Orzel, Chad]

Apparently John Scalzi, who has read it, agrees with me.  He’s blurbed the book .  Right there on the cover.  And featured it with a guest-post by Chad himself, which you can read right now on Scalzi’s Whatever blog.

Another thing about our Mr. Scalzi: every December he generously allows writers, artists and other creators to talk about their own work in his Holiday Gift Guide series — and he has a very big readership.  This year I tried to be right on the spot to see if I could grab a position as near as possible to the beginning of the listing.  It’s first-come, first-serve, but I didn’t know what time the blog would open up for submissions.  And my sleeplessness paid off: I nabbed third place.  So… should you need an idea for a holiday gift, well, the books are out there.  And in paperback ,now, too!  I would be remiss not to remind you of this. For formality’s sake.


But here’s something I noticed:

The Lord of the Rings: One Volume

Inexplicably, the all-in-one Kindle version of Lord of the Rings is currently priced at $2.99.

I knew it was on sale a while back, and nabbed it for myself then, thinking the price would go back up very quickly.  But apparently it’s back down again.  I have no idea how long this will last.

I really do prefer reading on paper… but LOTR is a lot of paper!  It’s much easier to travel with the ebook edition.  And when cash is tight, and you love books — well, it’s a solution for the literature-greedy people like me.

Of course, there’s the library.  But you have to give those back!  Eventually.  (I currently owe $1.20 in overdue book fees.)

Oh, and one more not-me thing:


No, you can’t buy this, yet!  But Laurie J. Marks’ Air Logic has a cover and a publication date!  It’ll hit the stands, bookstores and online sites in July.

I’m so looking forward to having a copy of this.  As a member of Laurie’s writer’s group,  I got to watch it grow up!  And soon it will go out into the world all alone. (Brushes away a sentimental tear.)

Okay, I feel like I’ve been talking about things you can spend money on for long enough.  So here’s something completely free:

Tor.com is one of the absolutely best sources for new short fiction.  They put great new stories by great new writers on their website, and you can read them for free.  (Don’t worry; the writers themselves are well-paid.)

I can’t say enough good things about Tor.com.  They’re an outstanding source of information about new books, new SF/F ideas, reviews of books and films and TV, current and vintage.  And general SF/F news.  And interviews with authors.  And thoughtful essays… If any of these things are of any interest to you, Tor.com really is the place to go.

Well.  Must call it a night.  I blogged straight through my guitar practice time!  No, I can’t do it now, I have to go home and get some sleep.  Okay, just one song…


Dec 1 2018

Back from the land of limited Internet access


Yes, December 1, and my self-imposed fast is over.  It was… interesting.

I had considered the possibility of extending it through December, but it’s really become too inconvenient.  Since I spend most of my time at my office,  the things that one must do but can only do online started piling up.  I was able to take care of the urgent tasks for the duration, by doing them at home instead of here; but that had its own extra inconvenience, because all my supporting documents and paperwork and notes are here, too.

I’m very glad I did it, however, and I’ll certainly do it again.  For shorter periods, perhaps.  A month was pushing it; as soon as I logged on again, it was with a great flurry of bill-paying and finance tracking.

The experience helped me get a better perspective on how one’s day can be used to best effect.  I did some good stuff, and I’m rather pleased with myself!

I allowed myself to become bored, as well, and saw again how very useful that is.  A lot of what one perceives as the frantic pace of modern life is actually self-imposed.  Good to know…

I found that did a lot more reading than I had been doing lately, from feeling too stressed and time-pressed to give it the attention it takes. That was a great relief — I became a writer because I love the whole amazing mystery of words on a page turning into worlds in the mind.

And in aid of that, I checked out from the library (but have not yet got very far into) Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid: the Story and Science of the Reading Brain.



I was inspired to get it in the first place, from hearing about Wolf’s latest book, Reader Come Home.


I had nabbed this because of its title and description — it seemed on-topic with my internet-fast experiment.  But once I started it, I realized that it would be a good idea to do Proust and the Squid first, since that one was more nuts-and-bolts.  Reader, Come Home seemed a more personal exploration and expansion of the repercussions of the information in the previous book.  So, I paused and backed up.  I’ll report back when I’ve read more.

As for fiction: the other day I decided I needed a breather (it’s sometimes very distracting to read fiction while I’m writing other fiction), and wanted something that I knew I could blast through — but would still have some real grace and strength.  YA, I thought, I want some YA — But good YA…

I have two reliable choices when it comes to that: Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series; and anything by Scott Westerfeld.


I confess that I had originally avoided reading this, because I knew that it involved a teenage girl who wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo, sold it to a big-league publisher, and got vaulted into the publishing world and New York City, and the idea just made me jealous.  I freely admit this!  They didn’t have NaNoWriMo when I was in my teens — they didn’t even have the Internet. My buried seventeen-year-old me was grumpy and envious of the publishing career of a fictional character.

Well, but I could not leave it unread for long, because: hey, Scott Westerfeld.  I don’t think he’s ever disappointed me. So, this seemed a good time to give it a go.

Well worth the wait.  I swallowed it in two big gulps.  It has everything I could ask for in a YA.  And I even did not mind that it had a romance — two, actually.  I generally can’t stand books that center on romances, but one thing my favorite authors are able to do is make me like a book of categories that I generally do not like at all.

But I must say… if the protagonist’s first-novel advance is typical for YA writers, then I definitely am in the wrong genre! Ouch.

One interesting thing about reading YA is the meta-view, the overview.  It’s easier to see the bones, and appreciate the skill going into the twists of plot an turns of phrase.  In Afterworlds, Westerfeld alternates chapters of his protagonist’s real life as she enters the publishing world with chapters of the YA supernatural romance that the protagonist is completing.  It sounds like a cute gimmick, but its execution is not gimmicky at all, and he keeps both stories rolling along.  It’s a book that’s very intelligently written, while remaining as involving as a YA needs to be.  I’m sorry I waited so long  — and I learned a lot from reading it, I must say.

Plus: It has one of my all-time favorite sentences ever written by a human being.  When it showed up on the page, I was stunned.  I had to put the book down, and just sat there, saying the sentence over and over to myself.

Okay, it won’t hit everyone the way it hit me; but it perfectly articulates a thing that I knew, a thing that matters to me, but that I never articulated.  It is so true, and so simply said, that I cannot help but love it.

It’s a line said by the protagonist’s little sister — just a quip, just a tossed-off half-joke, as she casually explained her love of math:


Westerfeld just tossed that off, and went back to the story.

See, this is what the writers I love do.




Nov 22 2018

Okay, this is hard!


My Internet fast is far more difficult than I thought it would be.

One reason is that I spend so very much time at my office.  It’s not just where I write; it’s where I do pretty much everything, except sleep at night and have breakfast in the morning.  Writing, reading, finances, correspondence, research, phone calls, social media and even general chilling out — all of that gets done at my office.  I keep my guitar there as well, and do most of my practicing there, after normal business hours.  Very useful, given the amount of noise I can generate, including vocal exercises that are no fun for those listening, and the endless repetition necessary when learning a new and demanding guitar lick.  It’s cruel to inflict those on housemates and neighbors.

But being there for so long every day now means being disconnected for that whole long day.

It’s really surprising how often one (or at least this one) generally accesses the internet. Admittedly, I don’t need to look at Facebook or Twitter as often as I had been.  And even though, of course, I do so not merely out of social curiosity, but for legitimate writerly business reasons — well,  it’s still easy to slide from biz to social without even noticing.

And aside from that, there’s a sort of casual info-checking that I do automatically.  You know: how a particular word might be spelled ; where Albania is really located as opposed to where you think it’s located (I actually did need to know that the other day); that news the other day, about the black hole at the center of our galaxy, now where’s that article located again?; and really,  how many calories are there in a cucumber?

It’s a sort of off-site memory storage.

And I find myself a bit dubious about that lately.

I don’t want to sound like Socrates arguing against the usefulness of writing things down; but I sometimes worry that it’s become too easy to look something up instead of, say, learning it.  There’s a significant difference between knowing where to find something, and actually knowing it.  Especially if your intention is to create something new.  You can’t manipulate a fact or a principle in your imagination if it does not reside in your working memory (at least), or your long-term memory (for best result).

But if you’re a nerd like me, you love finding things out.  Every now and then, I’ve caught myself allowing the fun of finding information to replace the satisfaction of acquiring it; like picking flowers, and then tossing them over your shoulder so that you can go pick more flowers.

But despite all the above — damn, the internet is a godsend, isn’t it?   You know: information on your medical condition that your doctor doesn’t have time to explain; research into esoteric subjects; beauty, beauty, beauty;  inspiration; that book you’ve wanted all your life but couldn’t find, oh, there it is!; instant support from your far-flung friends when you’re down in the dumps and no one around you really understands; witticisms and wonders.

Well.  I feel I’m coming to appreciate the internet even more, now that it’s not always available.  As well as recognizing more clearly how easily it can steal time.

And in case you’re wondering: allowing myself to become bored is starting to pay off.

In other news: I mentioned briefly last time that I’d seen the movie First Man, and really enjoyed it.

I found the style particularly interesting.  The director (Damian Chazelle) made the decision to keep the camera, and thus the viewer, very close to Armstrong’s own perspective.  It’s immediately evident from the opening scene, where Armstrong is test-flying the X-15, and our point of view stays inside the cockpit.   We get to experience the events as  Armstrong did. It’s quite a different approach from other films about the space program.   As much as possible, a close perspective is maintained through the film.  And when it can’t be — say, when portraying events Armstrong did not see for himself — the film still employs a version that close style.  This leads to the sort of understatement that can make some things come across even more powerfully than if they were highlighted and stressed in the usual sort of way.

(Thinking of one scene in particular, but I can’t tell you about it without spoiling the power of the effect.  Yes, I know: it’s impossible to spoil the events because this is history.   Lots of you out there — space-program fanatics like me — will be following along in indelibly-graven memory, word-for-word.  But naming the scene would still spoil the effect.)

And the close-focus effect works particularly well because this is not a film about the space program.

It’s a film about Neil Armstrong.   It’s specifically about his experience, and it’s a portrait of the person he was, and how he lived within the world as it existed at that time.

And you know… I had completely forgotten how really oppressive it was to be a guy in the 1950’s.  We tend to talk about how hard it was for women (and damn, it was), but the guys had it rough in a whole other way.

And sure, things got loose & wild in the 60’s — but not for the mainstream, folks.  For most people, it was basically still the 50’s.

So:  a very good film, in so many ways.  You should see this.  Even people indifferent to the space program should see it, because of the excellent character exploration.   And hey, you’ll probably find yourself with some time this weekend, what with hanging with family for the holiday, and running out of things to do.  A good opportunity to drag ‘em to the movies.  Although, small children would not be able to relate to this, I think; it’s probably too nuanced.  But that’s why multiplexes were invented!

Now, if you want something that is about the space program, that really explores, explicates and celebrates it — you want this:

From the Earth to the Moon

12 hours of brilliant, brilliant presentation.  Great actors, great writing, and it looks at how we got ourselves to the moon, from every possible angle, including angles that you did not know existed.  Produced by Tom Hanks — hey, with Tom Hanks involved, how can you go wrong?  I could write reams and reams about how wonderful this miniseries is.

But I’ve said enough.  Time to post this thing and get back to — well, I’ve actually taken the day off to catch up on home tasks, internet tasks, and general home-style chilling out (including TV — have you seen Netflix’s Bodyguard yet? Wow).

I hope your Thanksgiving was great, and full of good food, good friends, and dear family.  Or equivalent other things that you want to spend time on instead!

Nov 12 2018

Internet Fast!


No, I have not lost all sense of syntax; nor have I, for the sake of brevity, decided to communicate for the immediate future entirely in tabloid-style headlines.

In fact, I’m not attempting to comment on the speed of my wifi connection at all.  The key here is: which word is the adjective, and which is the noun?

That’s right: I’m going on an Internet fast.  For the month of November, I have no wifi access at my office.

You know how easy it is to be enticed away from the task at hand when, right there on your desk, you have instant access to everything currently known so far about entire universe and everything in it, including all the possible opinions on every aspect of it.  And oh, five minutes from now?  There will be more new stuff and opinions that weren’t there before!

Well.  What red-blooded nerdy kid-at-heart could keep away from that bag of Haloween candy?

Of course it’s easy to stay on task when things are running smoothly and are themselves lots of fun.  But when the going gets rough, the frustrated look for diversion.  And that can be counterproductive in more than one way.

It’s not just that random googling, rabbit-hole researching, virtual window-shopping, Facebook-checking, Twitter-quipping, what’s-my-ex-doing-these-days-holy-frakkin-A-he’s-bought-himself-a-Tesla eats up time; it actually can steal from you one of your most valuable creative assets.

That would be: boredom.

I’ve been re-reading Manoush Zomorodi’s book, Bored and Brilliant. Zomorodi is the creator and host of the podcast Note to Self, and the book is a compilation of and expansion on a series of participatory experiments and investigations that Zomorodi ran on the podcast.  That’s where I first encountered the material, and found it all very illuminating.  I was glad to hear that she put it all together in a book.


Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self

Don’t let the cheesy blurb put you off.

The idea is that we’ve become so addicted to immediate diversion and entertainment via our devices and apps that we’ve lost touch with the constructive aspects of boredom.

Basically, when we have nothing to do, we think stuff up.

Our current hyper-connected lifestyle too often doesn’t permit even the briefest empty moment — we fill it immediately with a game, a glance at social media, a swift scan of the news.  And that ability is available to us all the time.  We turn to trivial entertainment, using up time and bandwidth, and eroding our ability to focus.

Zomorodi doesn’t just make assertions and collect opinions on the subject: she’s investigated previous ideas in the area, and checked out the current scientific research on what our brains actually do when we think they’re doing nothing.

Her prose style is not always to my taste… there’s a bit too much fake-casual chumminess, in the modern pop-psychology self-help-book style.  But the content is not pop-psych at all, and I don’t think you’ll find it all gathered in one place anywhere else.  (I preferred the the podcast’s presentation of the info, but I can’t seem to find those episodes any more.)

Now, I won’t (as Zomorodi’s experts suggest) get rid of Facebook and Twitter.  That’s how I stay in contact with far-flung friends, fans, and colleagues.  They’re social tools, but they’re also professional tools.  (That time that Anita Sarkeesian tweeted that she liked my books, my sales went through the roof.)

Plus, they help me understand what’s on people’s minds out in the real world.  But I do not have to look at them so many times in a day!  Honestly.

So: lack of office internet should help to keep the whim-searches under control.  I do have my phone, and I  have access to the Internet through that — but I don’t have an unlimited data plan, so I have to keep my access down.  I’m mainly using it for email, just in case something urgent comes through.

One hardship is the loss of streaming music via Pandora or Amazon Prime Music.  I do have plenty of mp3’s on my computer, and I can set them running.  But sometimes I rather like not knowing what’s going to play next, and the possibility that it might be something that I’ve never before heard in my life.  Alas, what to do?

Then I remember this thing, called — what was it now? Oh, right: Radio.  Turns out I had one in the back of my closet and by golly, it works!  I found a local classical station, and it’s quite lovely.  Also good for the news.

This is an experiment, for the month of November (and if I feel like it, December), and it only holds at my office (where I do spend most of my time).  I still have Internet access at home, and my morning ritual includes breakfast surfing, news sites, and Facebook — rather the way my Dad would read the newspaper over breakfast when I was a kid.

And should I need to do some heavy-duty research or downloading in the middle of the day, the library is just down the street.  Also, Starbucks and Dunkin’.

And as for blogging– well I wrote this offline and uploaded it when I got home.  And my email sends me a notice when anybody posts a comment.  So, we’re covered!

Now, from all this, you might have discerned that I’m planning to be especially focused on the book this month; and in this you are correct.

My tradition has been to head off to some undisclosed location over the Thanksgiving week and weekend, and have a bit of a writing retreat.  Being in an unfamiliar setting can be refreshing and invigorating.  But this year, I can’t afford to actually go away.  So, I have to refresh and invigorate myself by sheer force of will!

An Internet fast can’t hurt.

In other news: Saw the movie First Man. with my sister, and our pals R. and J. (You know who you are.)  Loved it.  I’ll say more later (this is getting too long), but I wanted to say right off that if anyone tells you that the American flag is not shown on the moon, don’t believe them.  It’s right there, in several shots.  What’s not included is the specific moment of planting the flag.  But the flag is there, despite what other people might be telling you.

I’ll say more in a couple of days; I’ve run out of time tonight.

Nov 6 2018

Hey, I voted!


You should, too.

Haven’t done it yet?  Are your polls still open?

Go do it now.  Seriously.

If you don’t vote, you let other people make important decisions for you.  Are you sure you’re going to like those decisions?  Do you think that all those other people, the ones out there voting right now — do you think that you’d agree with them all? Are you okay with the choices they’re making for you?

For you?

Instead of you?

Please.  If you haven’t yet, go do it.  Vote.

and you get a cool sticker.

Oct 21 2018

Montreal other than Scintillation. Plus: inexplicable symbolic architectural embellishments


Aside from the actual Scintillation events, it was nice to be in Montreal.   I’d only been there once before, as a teenager, when the family trekked up to see Expo 67.  Alas, we did not stay for long, as the trip was cut short by one family member who decided not to have good time.  (Hint: that person was not me, nor my sister, nor my mother, and there were only four people in our family.)   We left after not seeing very much at all.

I do recall, however, that one did not need a passport to visit Canada in those days.  I driver’s license would suffice.

This time I spent a lot of pre-trip angst worrying that I’d forget my passport and get turned back at the border!  I put the word PASSPORT! in various locations in my to-do lists, notes and bulletin board.  Just in case.

I had not realized that Quebec was so flat between the border and Montreal.   It was quite flat, for many miles, and very agricultural.

I got all excited when we crossed the St. Lawrence Seaway.  I don’t know why, but ever since reading about it in my Geography book as a kid,  it just seemed to me a very cool thing.  And it was!  Except that the bridge we were using (the Champlain Bridge) was under repair and squeezed down to two lanes.  Meanwhile, what looked like a brand-new bridge was being constructed right next the the one we were on, and it looked like it was going to be absolutely gorgeous: a graceful, modern design.   With plenty of lanes.

Actually, much of Montreal seemed to be undergoing repair — at least the parts that we were driving in.  A lot of stop and go, and we did not complain, as most cities have some of that going on.  New York, for example.  Plenty of repairs.  But it was Sabine who noticed the key difference.

Nobody was honking their horns.  Nobody was running the red-lights, or creeping into the intersections.  No causing gridlock.  And when the traffic cops gave a directing wave, everybody did what they were asked to do.

Whoah, we said.  Canada.

The hotel was very nice (if hard to figure out how to enter), right adjacent to Montreal’s Chinatown.  Loved the koi pond in the lobby, with the stone paths criss-crossing it.

And I took a little time out to wander the area (both alone and with Sabine),  and got some  good exercise and interesting sightseeing.

There seems to be a lot of public art…

This pole was QUITE tall.


Credit where credit is due.


A mural in Chinatown.


And then there was this:

Right to left.

These ladies were up on the third floor of a building — apparently just a random building, with nothing special in it other than old offices and a ground-floor shop of some sort.  They are left over, I assume, from a time when the building was much more important, and when buildings in general were likely to feature Important Patriotic Messages!  Embodied as women.  Carrying meaningful symbols.

I often make a point of looking for  odd architectural embellishments on old buildings, especially statuary.   And when they represent the apotheoses of some presumed elevated principle of a bygone era, even better.

These gals delighted me.  And confused me…

We see here, from right to left:

A Native North American, because hey, Canada. Let’s include the people who were here first!

Next, there’s… well, she doesn’t look very Asian, but that’s Buddha in a lotus position on her shield so…  this was right adjacent to Chinatown, so one can see the connection they’re going for, right?

Then, well: white lady with a good ol’ British lion, hurrah!

But then, on the far left:

Why here?

That’s a stereotype of a pharaoh-style head-dress.  And hieroglyphic-style figures on the shield…

So…  why Egyptians?  Why on the front of a building?  In Montreal?

What’s the message?  I’m baffled!

Can anyone explain this?  Because I just can’t decode this one.

Also: I’d like to give a shout-out to author Su Sokol and her partner Glenn Rubenstein, who made it possible for Sabine and me to not miss the Dead Dog party on Sunday night, when we would have otherwise been driving home.  Su and Glenn let us stay in their guestroom, with zero forewarning, and provided interesting conversation as well!  And breakfast the next day.   It was really kind and generous of them.

On the way home, we stopped off at Lake Champlain, which was lovely, even in the rain.

For some reason, people build cairns along the shore.  I don’t know why.