Yesterday I wrote 1,648 words on "Oranges from Africa." And I'd be pleased with that, if I hadn't realized shortly afterwards that I'm not going about this the right way. Now I have to figure out how to take it apart and put it together again so that the problem is solved. And I need to finish it very soon, so I can get it to Vince Locke to illustrate as it will be the new story for Sirenia Digest #95, which I intend to send out on December 31st. Meanwhile, I need to finish a story for ellen_datlow, and Cherry Bomb is on hold until after the New Year (when I know whether I'll be writing a fourth Quinn novel), and The Dinosaurs of Mars languishes.
If I were the sort of person who could write ten or twelve hours a day, well, my whole career would have been different. But I'm not.
Yesterday I also signed the signatures for The Book of Silverberg (Subterranean Press), which includes my story "The Jetsam of Disremembered Mechanics," written way back in December 2009.
There was more cleaning and organizing in my office. Dust, dust, dust.
But today I'm leaving the house. The snow is slowly beginning to melt, and I'll go out and see this dirty old town under a skim of white. It fell much of yesterday afternoon and evening, the snow, but the flakes were fine and wet and amounted to far less than we'd expected. Warmer weather is forecast, so it shouldn't be with us very long.
Last night we watched Herbert Ross' marvelous Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969). It is hard to believe O'Toole lost the best actor Oscar for that role to John Wayne.
I had a party to go to last night, and wanted to make a contribution to the festive board. Looking at the ingredients in the fridge and freezer, I settled on squash and red pepper filo parcels. There was no feta in the fridge, but no matter – I hurtled up to Jacksons to buy a block, to find that the normal budget one had been replaced with an oak-aged one, at over twice the price. Still, time beggars can’t be choosers, so I paid me money.
The squash went in the medium slow cooker for about 5 hours, with a heaped teaspoon of Ras el Hanout, and about half a glass of white wine. A brace of slightly wizened peppers (one red, one yellow), were sliced thinly, together with an onion similarly sliced, and placed in the baby slow cooker for about three hours. I added some olive oil and cumin seeds to these. The filo pastry was removed from the freezer.
At about 5.30, I descended to the frozen wastes of the kitchen to make the things; I mixed the ingredients together, with about half the block of the fairy dust feta cheese, diced into small cubes. I oiled a baking tray, opened the filo, and started. And darlings – a disaster. The pastry had been in the freezer a fair while (understatement), and had completely dried out. Pete hurtled back to Jacksons, but filo had they none. Indeed, ready made shortcrust had they none. By now it was 5.50 – scream.
So into the food processor went 8 oz plain white flour, a good pinch of salt, 2.5oz of baking marg and 1.5oz of Trex (I really do recommend Trex for pastry, it makes a lovely short crumb). Added a tiny dribble of cold water, then summoned Pete to roll it out. as he is much better than I at such things. In the meantime, I beat a couple of eggs and stirred them into the squash mixture, along with some black pepper.
Into the oven (preheated to 180C fan) went about 20 baby quiche, and we watched them with some trepidation. They had about 20 minutes, so I even got time to cool them a bit before our lift arrived. And readers – they were gorgeous. I shall make them, or something similar, again.
Although they weren’t the filo parcels I was hoping for …
Michael Portillo's Great Continental Railway Journey: the section from Ronda, Spain, shows the Puente Nuevo. I want to visit that bridge, and the others across the gorge, but the whole area looks seriously wheelchair-unfriendly. So here is a photo. More information at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronda
Fab Christmas lunch with the IT folk from CUED - some unfamiliar faces in with a lot of old friends. Lovely to see them all, and also to see Matthew having lots of fun! We left a little before the party broke up at he was shattered, and fell straight asleep in the pram - giving me a chance to get the last three Chekzgmas presents before heading for a much better than last week bus home - 40 minutes quicker, and he slept pretty much the whole way. He's been pretty cheerful the rest of the day at home too. Wonderful day.
It's been beautifully crisp and sunny today too, which let me take a few of my favourite sort of snaps, with bright sunshine and vivid blue skies. And on Trumpington Street the almond blossom which I love to see each year is already out. Lots more photos saved up for January, but this one is my choice for today.
In Miami, it's 76˚F, and the heat index is 81˚F. I'll trade.
There this no reason in the world that could have all been one paragraph. Oh, well. At least there was French toast and bacon for breakfast.
Yesterday I wrote another measly 622 words on "Oranges from Africa." This piece is determined to come very slowly, if it comes at all. I have at least begun to see what it is, or, in the vulgar argot, what "happens" Rather, what has happened that is the subject of a conversation in a café on a December day. The rest of yesterday's energy was spent on the office, getting it in new working order now that almost all of the books I'm discarding are out of it. Spooky braved the ice and hauled four more boxes to Paper Nautilus yesterday, and they took all but eight volumes. We now have in excess of five hundred dollars in credit with the shop. Likely, another couple or three boxes will be headed their way after the holidays. Yesterday I also read over the galley pages of "Love is Forbidden, We Croak and Howl," which will be appearing in Ellen Datlow's Lovecraft's Monster's (Tachyon, April 15th).
Last night we began a Peter O'Toole binge with a couple of oddities. First, Richard Benjamin's My Favorite Year (1982), which I think can accurately be described as Mad Men crossed with The Carol Burnett Show. But it's a charming film, and it's funny. However, we had the misfortune of following it with Ivan Passer's Creator (1985), which I wish I could say is the worst film Peter O'Toole ever agreed to act in, but I'm quite certain that isn't true. After all, there's Phantoms. Tonight we will watch a good – or even excellent – Peter O'Toole film. Or films.
Sheep get a bad rap, culturally. All the stereotypes are about them being stupid creatures who mindlessly follow the flock and have no thoughts more interesting than cud and crud. How does the cheery gambolling lamb image dwindle so fast into witless wool-wearer? Lambs seem to get more credit for having minds of their own. Perhaps the ones who don't knuckle down to the flock mentality quickly fall prey to foxes or something. Natural selection.
Sheep also feature prominently in Australia's international image. Sheep-shagging jokes and the like. All part and parcel of the bizarre but persistent image of Australia as beaches of perpetual sun and surf around the edges and sheep station hicksville everywhere else. Yeah, sheep do outnumber people here, I'm told, but suburbanites vastly, *vastly* outnumber Salt Of The Earth sheep-shearing country folk. The vast majority of Australians lay eyes on a sheep only on the rare occasions when they venture beyond the vast suburban wastelands onto a highway between towns that passes through pasture. Terribly unromantic stuff. In the manner of a small nation with pretences to being a large, significant one, Australians pass the (jum)buck to New Zealand and direct their sheep jokes there.
Wool garments are stupidly expensive in Australia, despite us being the world's biggest wool producer (I think: can't be bothered to check). This wouldn't have bothered me in the days of itchy jumperdom, but these days wool seems to have lifted its texture game. I hardly ever find woollen garments itchy against my skin any more. What's up with that? Have they found some new way to process the stuff which renders it itch-free, or are they breeding sheep with itch-free wool, or what? I'm glad of whatever it is, because wool *is* warm, and merino makes a great underlayer in winter. Speaking of merino, what's going on there? The fabric seemed to appear out of nowhere some time in the last ten years. I'm all for thin, non-itchy woolen garments that drape like T-shirt cotton, but I do wonder how it was developed. I presume the name refers to the breed of sheep the wool comes from, but otherwise I can only assume that it's wool like any other, just spun to a fine enough thread that it's soft to touch.
When I see a picture of a huge, fleecy merino ram (which happens often enough, as various companies use one as their mascot), I can't help but twinge a little. The selective breeding which has created a sheep that grows so magnificent and commercially useful a fleece has also rendered the beasts dependent on their human masters. Left to their own shearing- and shed-free devices, merino sheep grow so massive a fleece they die of heat exhaustion come warm weather. I've never heard of a feral sheep (having said that, some phantom memory says there was a sheep at large a few years ago... am I imagining this?), and maybe that's why. Domestication: a hazardous business.
splodgenoodles @ 06:38 pm: My Livejournal Year In Second Lines.
The second line of the first post of each month. I didn't include private posts, but I included friendslocked ones because I do so many of them now. Although I was tempted not to, because the first public post of the year was last year in first lines and I'm all about the meta humour of it all.
1. I'm saying "acquaintance" since I will not feel right accepting any condolences for my loss - there are many people who will be grieving, and deeply, rather than pondering and extemporising.
2. It's strange to be waiting for something that's actually *good*.
4. (And why yes, I do have my period now).
5. Today I had a taxi driver who kept dozing off.
6. Or maybe it's just clever manipulation.
7. Without any chemical help too (at least, nothing beyond the regular RLS stuff).
8. She has surgery on Monday and she's afraid.
9. I have an overly busy week ahead of me, I'm cranky about that.
10. In between all of these activities I need to veg out so I *can* go out this afternoon.
11. And I got to see a lovely big cock.
12. Towels that have been line-dried on a hot, windy, sunny day.
splodgenoodles @ 06:12 pm:
The trouble with pinching pennies is that when you have cash available (even if it isn't really), it's too much fun to spend. I now own a wooden pig. And I'm wishing I'd bought its twin as well. And a wooden tortoise.
Also, if I could predict the ups and downs of my moods in advance, would it change them? Sometimes I think Schrodinger's Cat lives in my brain. Or doesn't live, because I don't know until he appears, or fails to do so.
It does explain my down times. How can you be cheerful when you find a dead cat in your head?
(But I have, incidentally, been quite chipper today).
baratron @ 02:43 am: Christmas card reminder.
Just a reminder about my Christmas card list for 2013. There's a few people who I usually send cards to who haven't replied to say if they want one this year. I don't want to send cards to empty flats if people will be elsewhere over the festive season. I'd rather save the card and send it in the New Year when you'll be there to enjoy it.
It's a great game. It may be a uniquely beautiful one. But the vast international commercial operation of Big Soccer is so offensive and vile and oppressive that I can't give it any of my time anymore without feeling really gross.
My boycotts are like that: usually visceral. I boycott when I can't take it anymore.
I'm not going to say today's violent crushing (for the second time this year) of the 30-year-old indigenous people's occupation near the Maracanã Stadium in Rio is the final straw, because I've been feeling like this for a while. That is what's made me want to write about it, though.
Every World Cup gets a little bit more obscene, a little bit more a neoliberal circus. The World Cup in South Africa was disgusting because of the ripoff it represented to an immiserated population. Now Brazil is throwing good billions down the same shithole, and has been crushing anti-FIFA dissent for three years just because FIFA's marketing partners want it that way. Marches against waste and the diminution of national sovereignty represented by the FIFA agreements - hardly an existential threat to the Brazilian state. But it looks bad, so it gets the full police-state treatment. Gotta get it well and truly stomped on by the time the camera crews roll into town.
Now the indigenous peoples who've been occupying their own empty, shattered, abandoned museum in the shadow of the Maracanã have been beaten and hustled out. They need that space for a press kiosk or something. The indigenous people can go back to the rain forest, where the oil pipeline paramilitaries will continue to take potshots at them.
The next two world cups are in Russia and Qatar. Keep that in mind. Russia's human-rights record we know. And Qatar 2022 has been embroiled in an actual slave-labor controversy - those beautiful stadiums, like that Zaha Hadid cat's-eye thing, which the Qataris could afford to have built at any standard they like, are being built by bona-fide 100% slave labor.
There's still a lot of soccer that's not at that level of awful. I think I'll watch that instead.
Three days in January at a boutique hotel in Madrid to go to my nephew's first birthday party
A night on a plane Heathrow -> Buenos Aires
Four nights in the rather fancy Hotel Lancaster in Buenos Aires
Two nights in a slightly less fancy hostel in Buenos Aires
A night on a long-distance bus Buenos Aires -> Cordoba
A night in a hotel in Cordoba
A night on a long-distance bus Cordoba -> Mendoza
A night in a hotel in Mendoza
A night on a super-long-distance bus Mendoza -> Buenos Aires
A night on a plane Buenos Aires -> Heathrow
Four nights in the Istanbul Hostel (it's a hostel. In Istanbul) on a trip with rezendi
One night in a hostel in Split, entirely sleepless owing to a profound disagreement with a fish
One night in an unplanned hostel in Zagreb because the hostel I'd booked at was inaccessible due to the policing for the EU Accession celebrations
Two nights in a planned hostel in Zagreb
One night at the far-too-hippyish Celica Art Hostel in Ljubljana
Three nights at Wombats City Hostel in Munich
Five nights at Hotel Gouverneur, Montreal attending papersky's convention
Four nights at Herald Square Hotel, 31st & Broadway, NYC with aardvark179
Two nights at Loews Hotel, centre of Philadelphia with aardvark179
A night on the red-eye from Dulles to London
Two nights at the Halfway House Country Lodge outside Yeovil, with my family for my cousin Sarah's wedding
Two nights at the Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas
Four nights at the Holiday Inn, Town Lake, Austin
A night on the quite civilised plane that leaves Houston at 9pm and gets into London at 10am
A bagatelle compared to rezendi or autopope's travels, but it'll do. Eight countries, three of which I was visiting for the first time. Argentine long-distance buses are very comfortable by the standards of long-distance buses, but are still too hot and too bus-like to get a good sleep.
venta @ 09:04 pm: If the wine stains you lips red then tonight you might forget
On account of, since Thursday night, a work Christmas party (cava, cocktails, wine, cocktails), a friend's party (champagne, champagne, champagne), a pre-Christmas dinner with friends (prosecco, red wine, port) and a pub quiz (beer), I feel like I ought to let my liver have a little rest.
On the other hand, the pre-Christmas dinner has left me with half a bottle of quite nice red wine that it would be a shame to waste. And the dinner has also left me with enough leftovers that I won't be cooking again for a while, and there is no space in the freezer to put the nice stew or something I could make with the wine.
I hate waste. Then again, I'd probably hate liver damage as well.
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 19
venta @ 08:58 pm: Did you know they pulled the town hall down?
I'm now just starting my fourth week in the new job. And despite the idea of a 45-minute Tube journey every morning being some people's idea of hell, I'm loving working in central London.
Our tree arrived today! Having bought a real one for the first time in many years it was time to buy some more decorations, particularly as my existing ones were all pale purple and silver. I much prefer a multicoloured tree, but it seems monochrome is very in, so to get red, blue and gold I had to buy three packs of baubles! 33 bits of thread later they now all have strings, and many of them are now on the tree. Only two broken in the process - oops! Matthew was fascinated watching us start the decorating (which may not have helped Mike get him to sleep). Overall I'm pretty happy with it, and it smells lovely.
qatsi @ 08:26 pm: Book Review: AspectJ in Action (1st edition), by Ramnivas Laddad I picked up this old edition second hand, on purpose, because I didn't want to know specifically about AspectJ, but rather because I wanted to get information about the concepts in aspect-oriented programming to apply in a slightly different context at work. It came quite high up the search results and all the examples would be in Java, which would be a help for me.
In fact it has been a very good read and I'm slightly disappointed not to have bothered with the more current edition, as the syntax in this edition predates Java 5 annotations, which provide a more transparent programming style, and load-time weaving is only mentioned as a future possibility. This is the downside to AspectJ in the version at the time of this edition - it is effectively a static language extension to Java, so you require a different compiler and an IDE that will understand it. Some of the features seem a little dissociated from each other - on the face of it, method interception doesn't tie in with member introduction or exception softening. The examples are well presented; I understood those on security and transactions better than those on object pooling and "business rules". The chapter on design patterns and idioms is very useful, although there are quirks in the "participant" pattern that could be overcome using reflection.
"Well, that's my opinion," has never been an acceptable excuse for being an asshole or an idiot. Or both.
Spooky's on her way back to Paper Nautilus with another four boxes of books. We can almost see the floor of the middle parlour again. It's not easy, divesting myself of hundreds of books, but it's necessary. Never mind the clutter and issues of quality of life, I have begun to worry that I cannot take care off the objects that are truly precious and precious to me (some of which are books). I need to focus on only a few things and stop thinking I have any business with a goddamn library. Better I take care of my 1973 World Book encyclopedias than, say, all those books on James Joyce or the volumes of Arthuriad scholarship.
Yesterday I made a sort of rough beginning to "Oranges from Africa." A little better than 600 words of a projected 2,500. I'm hoping to have it done by tomorrow. Another vignette. Another trifle. Another issue of the Digest. Trifle is not, by the by, a dirty word. I adore trifles. I wish more authors were not afraid of turning their backs on the tyranny of "what happens next." Story is all fine and good, but sometimes a scene suffices. Sometimes just an image is enough. Which is one reason that the Digest exists. There are often things I want to write – as much as I want to write anything – that cannot find a home in the Sovereignty of Plot that we call the literary marketplace, bless its heart.
splodgenoodles @ 06:04 pm:
In cheerier news, today I went into a very inconspicuous bakery near here, and discovered they make a damn good meat pie. Just minced steak, but good quality minced steak with a fair slug of pepper. They also do their own hedgehog slice and whatchamacallit pastry. (The one that's just sticks of pastry with sugar sprinkled over. Italian). I get the impression it's a bakery that distributes elsewhere and just has a little shopfront for lucky locals and people in the know.
Yet another shop assistant called me 'darling' today. The bloke was half my age and I don't think he was being flirtatious, just making me feel old. I may start responding in kind. 'Babe'. I think I'll go with 'babe'. Seems appropriate.
venta @ 11:42 pm: Shot by both sides
In my family, there's a bit of a tradition of giving lots of small Christmas presents rather than one big one. I like it; unless there happens to be a large and obvious present that someone actually wants, of course, a mixed bag of parcels always seems far more exciting.
The obvious problem, though, is that buying stocking fillers is tricky. You don't want anything terribly pricey, which risks meaning cheap tat that no one wants. And which may well have been made in dubious working conditions and sent halfway round the world. I hate giving the sort of presents which I fear will either be chucked out after a few days, or end up gathering dust in a corner somewhere because someone feels guilty chucking them out.
However! I have what I consider to be a fail-safe stocking-filler idea, which works for almost everyone.
davefish @ 08:34 pm: Barb Wire Dolls in Nuneaton.
Back to the Queens Hall in Nuneaton again about 10 days ago, and again it is to see some punk. It was an unexpectedly free gig, as the singer of the main band, Isis, had hurt her arm at their Norich gig. It made it a bit more subdued than they normally would me, but a subdued Barb Wire Dolls gig is still quite some way off tea with vicar.
The most that can be said for Friday is that Spooky stepped on my glasses. Fortunately, I have two pairs, and, in all fairness, I'm the idiot who left her glasses on the floor. We did watch the absolutely awful Fright Night 2: New Blood (2011). In fact, I'd be pretty pissed at myself for spending 88 minutes on this film, except it was Kid Night. We are allowed to do dumb shit on Kid Night. If you are old, like me, you may recall the original Fright Night 2 (1988). It too was a piece of crap, but the remake is even crappier. Also, we had tiny cupcakes for Kid Night, along with the traditional pepperoni and mushroom pizza. Also also, I discovered that there's a Mac beta for Guild Wars 2, so now I can run it on Lúthien, instead of dragging the Asus out every night. It's even free to anyone who's bought the PC version.
I have been wanting to write a gaming post for some time, since I finally left The Secret World and joined Spooky in Guild Wars 2. But I never seem to be quite up to the task. Mostly, I'd had enough the unrealized potential of TSW, a brilliantly conceived and written (and voiced acted) game that is about as poorly executed as possible. And there were the furries. The furries very much did not help. As I have said many, many times, the worst thing about gaming is the gamers. But, yeah. Maybe one day I'll actually sit down and write that post. But, the short and long of it is that I went to GW2 because the game actually works, and it's fun, and I can play with Spooky. I don't RP there. I do not presently RP anywhere.
No writing to speak of, though I have been diligently sitting here staring at the walls.
Last night there was snow. I waited all day long for it, thinking it might never materialize. Most of it's still here this afternoon, though most of the beauty's gone. There are photos behind the cut:
A quiet day today - bath time fun with Matthew, getting my flexible working application finished and both posted and emailed. Just cooking the dinner now, and with no decent photos yet I've brought the iPad into the kitchen to snap the orchid on the windowsill. Just four flowers left now on two of the three spikes, but it's been lovely since March when Mike's parents gave it to us to congratulate us on Matthew's safe arrival. Hopefully we'll get some fresh flower spikes next year. Wasn't half hard to get a shot without an accidentally selfie in the kitchen window though.