Saturday, May 31, 2008

Isn't this the truth?

I have the most amazing dreams. Very complicated with incredible plots. Often set in post apocalyptic worlds where I am shepherding children across these desert wastelands to a place of presumed safety. I also dream about astonishing architecture. I could write dozens of books per year just from my dreams if I could only remember them in enough detail.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 30, 2008

A new plan for Peter S. Beagle

I went to a panel while at Con, on writing screenplays for animation and live action. Peter S. Beagle was one of the panelists, which is why I went. I've seen him before but this time I was in the front row of a very small room and I was struck by what a beautiful voice he has. It's incredibly soothing and gentle.

When the boys were small they had a lot of trouble sleeping and I used to get them these relaxation/guided imagery tapes to help them fall asleep. I remember one in particular where you imagined a bouncing ball, which turned into a bird and flew away over the sea.

I was thinking if Peter Beagle recorded a few of those, and of course he could write his own scripts, he could make an absolute fortune. Any listener would feel soothed, relaxed and safe and fall asleep easily.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More credit union news

I'm behind on posting interesting CU news, via Credit Union Journal Daily Briefing.

A credit union in Massachusetts donated forty grand to a state college.

Another CU in Greensboro, North Carolina raised forty-seven thousand dollars which was donated to the family of a toddler with leukemia. The three-year-old had no health insurance.

Someone robbed Fibre Federal Credit Union and also pepper sprayed everyone, customers and employees alike. What the hell? You can kill an asthmatic with pepper spray.

Someone robbed Navy Federal six times, nabbing around one hundred grand. These robberies are local to us, taking place in Maryland and Virginia.

El Paso Employees FCU gave out about twenty grand in scholarships. I'm always really happy to see these sorts of programs.

Ohio is limiting the interest on payroll loans to 28 percent. I've seen other legislation that is calling for 36 percent. It's terrifying that these are suggested reductions. Only the poorest or most desperate people take these loans out. I've been appalled to see auto title loan commercials showing up on television lately.

And in my own personal health news, I went to see my hematologist today and I ran out of iron again. I'm going to start iron infusion again next week and will have another PICC line installed sometime before then. I'm not thrilled but I'm hoping to feel better afterwards, which will make it all worthwhile. Started back up on warfarin today. So frustrating.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Back home

I was away on vacation. Went to Balticon but had a bajillion things to do first. Cullen and I got our haircut; I got a stacked bob and he donated three years worth of hair to Locks of Love. A bit traumatic for both of us. His is short all over and mine is quite short in the back.

Connie Willis was Guest of Honor and a friend that I see at cons was kind enough to introduce us on Friday night. She sat with us in the con suite with a few other people talking about writing and politics until it was time to go to bed. She is amazing, very smart, classy and kind. I am thrilled we had the opportunity and our friend said she had a blast so that was extra nice.

I saw Jeri Smith-Ready read from her new book Wicked Game on Sunday (I think it was Sunday) and it sounds terrific. It's a vampire novel where the vampires become dj's to keep from being completely locked into the time they changed, unable to grow. That was also a lot of fun. I'm always super pleased to see her on panels.

We saw Dr. Holtz give two panels, one his yearly dino update and one called living in Darwin's universe that was a bit depressing. I was completely flummoxed by a throwaway comment he made about the ice being three miles thick over northern Europe 18,000 years ago so Chris and I got the name of a book he thought we might like that tells the entire history of North America.

The only real drawback is that my blood is still wonky (elevated PT/INR) and my thyroid (which has been being slowly destroyed by antibodies - this is called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis) is giving up the ghost, which is slowing down my heartbeat, which means that my heart can't pump very well, so the circulation in my legs, bad to start with because of the damage of five major blood clots, is now awful. I am barely mobile and had to spend hours every day with my feet up, but I picked places to hang out where there was a lot of traffic and ended up talking to dozens of people about the book I was reading, Brian Sanderson's The Well of Ascension, sequel to Mistborn. Golly, love it or hate it, this book stirs up strong feelings. Really, if you have to be half crippled, the hallway of a busy con is a nice place to do it in.

Overall it was a super con, one of the best I've been to. Cam came in second in the LARP and John Jude Palencar's art was incredible. Just that would have been worth the price of admission.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A class for zombies

I'm busily researching state parks for this week's column (places to go for Memorial Day that don't involve parades), rather frantic because I need to turn it in early this week as Balticon starts Friday and I'm taking vacation from Friday to Tuesday, which means I have to turn both my columns and get the entire BrokerUniverse newsletter ready to go by tomorrow night. I also have to take Cam to get his allergy shot and Cullen is donating more than a foot of hair to Locks of Love, so all that is scheduled starting at six. And I completely forgot about the Smörgåsbord column so I've still got that to do. Anyway, writing like mad all evening, since I got home from buying things to keep the rats busy for the weekend anyway, and I find this class.

May 2008

18 In Their Footsteps Lecture Series - "For the Want of Branes," Hide Tanning and Sewing by Bob and Gayle Kitch, Primitive Skills Specialists - 1:00 PM in The Visitor Center in the Netul River Room. Free Admission!

Wow!! That sounds kuru-licous!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Windy days

We've been having quite a few storms the past couple of weeks, witness the flooding post of recent days. The cable has been in and out, which is annoying since that's how I connect to the internet and I work from home so I've had to dialup, which is not that big a deal, except somehow it is. We've been lucky in that our power has stayed on. But there's been damage to trees in the neighborhood, the one across the street was dismantled by a team and carried away earlier in the week, and the little animals that live in trees are in rough shape.

The robin's nest on the way to Cam's school, which had two eggs in it recently, was blown apart and one of the fledglings died. He found the other on the ground and dispaired of getting it back into the ruined nest and brought it home, tucked safely into a corner of his homework folder all filled with grass.

We followed the directions of a local wildlife rescue center and fed it some worms (three!!) which was interesting because it would open its enormous mouth when Cam cheeped at it, then Cam rebuilt its nest and tucked it away and came home. The lady who owns the house where the tree is was going through her "you kids stay off my lawn" routine but was kinder when she saw what he was doing.

He went back a couple of hours later to check on it, during a lot of wind, and it was back on the ground. He could hear birds in the bushes that he hoped were the parents so he tried again, building up the nest again, but in the morning the nest was in tatters and something had been at the baby, which was in pieces.

So I have to wonder if we should have tried to keep it in the house overnight but we've got cats and baby birds are awfully hard to take care of. It barely had pinfeathers, so was quite young. None of the rescues were open or answering voicemail so we did what we could. The whole thing is depressing.

In blood news my PT/INR is too high again, with my PT being 45. It's bizarre that I have blood that is too thin and a little blood clot. Not at all anxious making... So now no coumadin and retest on Friday. Then of course the three day weekend so I probably will not get any followup until Tuesday, at which point I'll have a giant clot after being off the coumadin for a week. That's depressing too.

But on the positive side Cam has a 99.1 in his world history class. That's pretty happy making.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Looks familiar

Someone imed me today with links to an org called Northwest Youth Corps, which is hiring for the summer. As far as he can tell it's 12 yr olds doing hard labor chopping down trees in the name of conservation. And they appear to pay for at least some of these summer programs.

What I find disconcerting is the quote on the right side of the page.

I learned that hard work can be a lot of fun or a real torturing experience depending on your attittude - Gabe Youngblood

I'm just wondering if these kids have read Holes by Louis Sacher. If they haven't, they should. And so should their parents. And if you haven't, you should. It is wonderful.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Colin Murdoch: Totally Fawesome

Here is the obituary of an amazing man, Mr. Colin Murdoch, who invented a great many little things that add up to a huge increase in general safety.

A partial list:

The childproof cap for medicine.

An animal tranquilizer dart.

The disposable syringe. (This alone is a huge boon, esp for rural or remote areas that have trouble sterilizing)

The silent burglar and fire alarm. (At the time of his invention the phone companies protested so he was never able to market it.)

This link
is also interesting. He was a fascinating man who did tremendous good.


Sunday, May 18, 2008


I went to the lab on Friday for a blood draw, to get my PT/INR checked, and walked out with a stinging pain in my arm like a bee sting.

Later in the day one of my kids pointed out that I had a pretty nasty bruise, which isn't too surprising given that I take medicine to slow my clotting times. Bruises are kind of a fact of life. But this one was different; it was three dimensional with an odd raised part that was shaped like a worm. By the time I went to bed it was looking super creepy, white in the middle surrounded by a black square, the whole thing a big lump with this squirmy thing through the middle.

Saturday when I woke up the squirmy part was hard to the touch so I called the lab and spoke to a singularly unhelpful person who said I could leave a message on the complaint line.

I finally went to the urgent care clinic last night and the doctor told me I have a blood clot from the blood draw, which I got done because I take medicine to prevent blood clots. Amusing I suppose. Then he told me to take ibuprofen to bring down inflammation but I can't because it is a blood thinner so I just came home thirty bucks poorer and slightly aggravated.

The doctor did draw a picture of a vein for me but it wasn't worth keeping, either from a scientific or artistic perspective.

My arm is still very tender, all the way up to my shoulder. Here's hoping it feels better by the weekend when I head off to con.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Things I learned recently

I've known people who look up every new word they learn in the dictionary but I've learned mostly by context, only really looking things up when someone asked me what something means as part of their homework or whatever. When I was learning to read my mother was pretty busy (I have nine brothers and sisters, although seven of them are younger than I am) and didn't have time to tell me what every word meant. So I would try and figure them out on my own and I did a pretty good job, although often I'll find my pronunciation sucks.

Several years ago I looked up the meaning of the word bohunk, an insult I particularly liked because it's fun to say and is rarely used, and was astonished to see it was a specific ethnic insult aimed at Hungarians. Now I don't mind friendly insults, for instance I had a friend who used to call me a blatant bonehead when I made a mistake, but calling someone names based on ethniticy or religion, etc. is off limits.

So imagine my shock when I found out that "gypped" is to gypsies as "jewed" is to Jewish people, and apparently "welsh" is to the Welsh. Yikes.

A few months ago Chris and I were talking about the Dutch have it pretty bad in popular culture. Dutch treat isn't much of a treat, Dutch courage is false courage and Dutch uncle, well I've actually forgotten what that means but you get the point.

The thing that worries me the most about these sorts of discoveries is how easy it is to hurt someone without any intent whatsoever. Hopefully the hurt person would point out the insult and then I could apologize but I think in general most people wouldn't say anything but would store it away in the "things I don't like about you file." And I think we all know what happens when that file gets full.

And on a lighter note:


Thursday, May 15, 2008

David Tennant

I really like David Tennant. He's got this quality that makes me smile. I saw him on the Graham Norton show a couple of weeks ago and he was hilarious (as is Graham Norton.) He said he was in Casanova and he had so many scenes with random actors that he would just walk up to them and say, "Hi, I'm David, I'm going to take you from behind." So Graham runs a personal ad with those very words and calls the respondent on the show. I like how offended David gets at one point. He's so cute. The whole thing appears to be up on youtube, at least temporarily.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

False security

This week I'm writing about Jo Walton's Farthing and Cory Doctorow's Little Brother so with that in mind here are a couple of interesting tidbits.

Someone who lives in Fairfax County, Virginia told me his recycling will now have RFID attached. The idea for him will be that he recycles and gets some points which he can redeem for dollars off at the pizza parlor or whatever. But of course it also means recycling can be tracked and you could theoretically figure out who put what in the bins.

A new Maryland law passed that means every person charged with a violent crime will have a dna sample taken. The sample is meant to be destroyed if they are found innocent but we all how things like that actually work. A delegate interviewed for last night's news said not only is it an invasion of privacy but it's a useless waste of resources and money because there is nothing to connect the samples to actual crimes waiting to be solved. Cory talks about the false sense of security you get from these sorts of meaningless invasions of privacy in his book.

Dep Comm Anthony Barksdale of the Baltimore Police was quoted as saying, "It's not an invasion of rights. It's an evolution of policing."


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What was I trying to say?

I'm doing the rewrite for the Stork Solution, the thing I finished in February. Sometimes I find these weird artifacts where I started to say one thing then changed my mind and said something else. Other times I use the wrong word (something I do a lot when I speak) or I'll leave words out. Sometimes I just don't know what I was trying to do. Example:

After a bit Lili glanced at her out of his face.

Which means what exactly? It's not just a mess, it's awful writing. Which is why we rewrite, I suppose.


Monday, May 12, 2008


Friday I took Cam to Annapolis and came back via Crofton because I had a couple of books on hold at the Crofton library (Connie Willis and Frederik Pohl). It was raining pretty hard on our way to Annapolis and on the way home it was raining a little. The main road we take was closed for flooding. I went down it as far as we could and turned off onto a back road that I know will take me pretty near the library and was almost there when we came to a spot where the road was flooded. We made it past by kind of going around, up on the shoulder where the road was a little higher and eventually made it all the way home.

It's been raining pretty steadily ever since. School was two hours late with several schools closed because of power outages.

I was watching the news tonight and the street by our post office is completely underwater. They said it was six or eight feet in some places!!! The last time we had this much trouble with flooding was Ernesto, which ripped our front door off and the time before that was Isabelle, which totally flooded out downtown Annapolis and damaged quite a few homes. My sister's mother in law's house flooded.

I've got library books due tonight but I'm not going out to take them back. I'll just pay the fine, thank you very much. Maybe tomorrow if the rain lets up.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Prophet's ponies

I was intrigued by a sentence in Michael Chabon's Gentleman of the Road which says something about Hillel, whose mother's blood runs all the way back to one of the five mares of the Prophet. I was curious if Arabian horses really do go back to mares owned by the Prophet so today I asked a Muslim friend of mine, who unfortunately isn't really up on horse knowledge, so next I tried Uncle Google.

I found a couple of conflicting stories. The most popular seems to be that the Prophet's herd of horses hadn't had any water in two days (!) and finally scented some and were running towards it when he called them and only five came to him instead of going on to drink. Those five became the foundation mares for the dynasty.

This site,, has a couple of other stories, which are rather old and quite interesting.

Because all Thoroughbreds, or race horses, are descended from one of three founding sires; the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian and the Byerly Turk, does that mean that most Thoroughbreds are descended from the Prophet's mares? Doesn't that just spark your imagination? What stories you could tell based on just that one speculation.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Surprised myself

I was working on the the third installment in the Kitta books today when I realized it was done. I had a very busy week and had a lot of trouble with my column so I guess I wasn't paying that much attention to the big picture, just trying to get my words in and get the next part of the book written. Then I realized I had the perfect solution for one of the characters Kitta adopts in this story, which means this segment is over.

Which also means I've got no idea what I'll be working on tomorrow. Maybe I'll sleep all day. Cam went to NYC for the weekend and Cullen is going to see Speed Racer so theoretically it will be quiet and I can nap to my heart's content...


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fire at Cam's school today

There was a fire in the kitchen at Cam's school today. Details are here in the Baltimore Sun.

It turned out quite well considering. I guess the biggest problem was fistfights when some super hungry kids tried to cut in line when the students finally got to eat several hours late. Growing teens need to be fed on a regular basis.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Answering the important questions since 2003

Today I needed to know which is faster, a human or a badger? Specifically, can a teenage girl wearing two skirts and carrying a bludgeon made out of a pine branch outrun a badger while in a maze? Surprisingly you can't just Google up the answer to that question.

Figuring out the land speed of unladen badger is not that hard.

How fast can a badger run?
Up to 25 to 30 km per hour for short distances

That's pretty straightforward.

But when you get to the humans it's trickier. Quite a few sites insist on giving the data in miles per hour, which makes a comparison a little harder and is kind of annoying.

But what's worse is that they give data for the fastest human, running very short distances. I want to know about the average person. My character is not famous for her sprinting abilities. Now she is scared and motivated by fear and fueled by epinephrine but the badger is fueled by wicked intentions so that kind of balances things out.

This site was the most helpful:

Ask a man to actually run a mile, and the best he can manage is about 16 miles per hour (26 km/h), slower than the slowest dragonfly.

That settles it. Badger certainly can outrun a human, which is bad news for my poor character.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Better than Bond

From a Variety article about accidents plaguing the new Bond film:

On Saturday Aston Martin employee Jonathan Dunn Fraser lost control of the Aston Martin DBS he was delivering to the set and drove into the lake. He was slightly injured when he smashed his way out of the vehicle and swam for safety.

Now that's impressive. Well done.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Some of my favorite books and a pattern

I started keeping track of my favorite books in January of 2005, when I started my weekly column.

For 2004 my favorite book was Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

For 2005 it was Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow

For 2006 it was Old Man's War by John Scalzi

For 2007 it was Territory by Emma Bull

All four of these books have been edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, although the version I read of Jonathan Strange and Mr Morrell is not the one Patrick edited.

I'm just wondering if this means I should try and read more books from this list...


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Jean Valjean for president?


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Whose idea was this?

Cam and I went to see a play tonight. I'm not going to say the name of it because it was really awful and one of the performers is a friend of a friend, but I will say that whoever designed the lighting needs to rethink their objectives.

There was a spotlight onstage that periodically lit up and shone into the audience's eyes. It was aimed right at us. I had to hold my program up before my eyes and block the entire stage every time the thing came on. I've no idea what it was meant to do but I doubt this was its intended purpose.

The show itself was far too long, the first clocking in at more than ninety minutes, and dragged. I would have cut at least half an hour from the first act.

Now Cam has to write a review of it for his theater class.

Next up - picking a good song for him to sing for his final for the class. I'm leaning towards a Howard Ashman song but we may go with Sondheim.


Friday, May 02, 2008

Down low, too slow

The premed student I mentor just instant messaged me to ask a question. When I answered he said I was too slow. He was timing my response against a Google search and he said Google is faster. I've been made redundant. Sniff.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Don't tread on me

I'm watching HBO's miniseries John Adams. George Washington looks weirdly like Bill Clinton.

It's a bit slow in places, especially the first episode where nothing really happens for like eight minutes, but the dialogue is a joy to hear. Every episode there are certain phrases that ring in my ear and I have to hit the rewind and listen again. I thought the writer was spot on when Mrs. Adams says something like "Sometimes I fear this war will never end. Or begin."