Monday, February 27, 2006

Calamity, Adversity, and Plan D

Monday Photo Shoot: Got something that screams the 1980s? Get it in picture form! This can include things you currently have around the house that are from the 80s era, or alternately, is a picture that is so very obviously from the 80s itself.

Fair warning: most of this entry is NOT about the 1980s.
When I read this Photo Shoot assignment earlier today, I immediately thought of our comic book collection, of all things. That probably doesn't scream 1980s to you, but probably over half of our extensive comic book collection was bought new during the 1980s. That was the era of the comic book explosion - an expansion beyond just DC and Marvel (and yes, all right, Archie and Gold Key) to a whole bunch of new publishers, small and largish, putting out comics of new and different heroes and antiheroes in black and white, or, in some cases, color. It was also the era of the comics implosion, as the market got saturated with low quality independent titles, and Marvel and DC fought back with the Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths and four collectible covers for the same issue of the same comic. During the 1980s, John wrote a couple of comic book titles himself, none of which ever saw the light of day. But they were good, trust me.

(Photo added Tuesday at work.)

Anyway, John's been sorting through comic book boxes for two weeks, trying to weed out stuff we don't really care about - Cerebus and Concrete and Spider-Woman and the fifth or sixth X-Men spin-off, written by someone other than Chris Claremont. So I came home tonight, retrieved my Canon S410 camera from my purse, turned it on -

- and it beeped at me, made a motor noise, displayed the error code "E18," and turned itself off.

A quick Google search told me the awful truth. Canon digital cameras have a bad habit of succumbing to the E18 error the moment they're out of warranty. It means that the retracting lens barrel has become misaligned, and is now hopelessly stuck. Online sources suggest cleaning the camera, and blowing it with compressed air, and tapping it against a desk. But the bottom line is, in most cases the camera is dead. There's a class action suit going on about it, according to one site, because Canon refuses to acknowledge there might be a design flaw causing this extremely common problem with their line of digital cameras.

So I blew on it with canned air. And I tapped it on the desk. It didn't help. Then I opened it up partway and cleaned it a little. I lost two tiny screws under my desk, and several were already missing. When I was done, the camera was quite a bit cleaner, and even less willing to be turned on at all. John got home, and once I worked up the nerve to tell him of the calamity, he decided to try cleaning it himself. He didn't even manage to get it back together again.

Here's the sad sight, as recorded on my scanner:

I think it's safe to say the camera is dead. I'm not sure it was ever under warranty, because it was a display model, but if it was we probably invalidated it tonight. So that's it. It's an ex-camera, 11 1/2 months and 5,114 pictures after I got it. And one night before the Round Robin Photo Challenge, too!

Listen, I'm rather upset about that.

Oh, well. Plan B. I can still take a picture with the old Mavica.

Sure I can. If I can find it.

Only I had no idea where the Mavica was. Neither did John, beyond a vague recollection that he'd seen it fairly recently, and decided to keep it out as a backup camera. He looked for it. He didn't find it. He looked some more.

He found it.

I went to take the picture. Dead battery. I charged the battery. I took the picture. A few of them, actually. While I was at it, I took a picture of one display tray of our 1980s button collection.

Then I went to transfer the files to the computer. The Mavica stores the pictures on floppies. I remembered belatedly that the floppy drive was dead on my Compaq, which was why I bought an external floppy drive a year and a half ago. Then I realized happily that I've replaced my computer since then. The (relatively) new computer tends to not type the letters e, d, l, or a space, but I haven't broken the floppy drive on it. I haven't even used the floppy drive on it.

Oh. It doesn't have a floppy drive. And I can't find my external one anywhere. I've been looking for hours for it. My memory is that it's in a bag of some kind. Maybe. Somewhere. I used it a lot when I was in school and taking pictures with the Mavica, but not at all since March, 2005 when school ended and I got the Canon.

None of the computers in the entire house have a working floppy drive. Most of them have no floppy drive at all.

Well, I could go to the office, and see whether my computer at work has a floppy drive. But that way madness lies.

So I scanned some of the buttons instead, placing them directly on the scanner. Does that count as a photo? It darn well better, after all the trouble I've gone to. You can see Bob & Doug here, several Clash buttons, Devo, a couple of ska-related buttons and more. Eighties icons, all of them.

While I'm at it, I also scanned in an old photo from Buzzard's Nest, since I couldn't find my Rockarama photos. Buzzard's Nest is where I worked after we closed down Rockarama. While managing the store on 161 (without a promotion, even to shift supervisor), I took second place in a contest with this Springsteen display, back in 1984 or 1985.

So anyway, I edited the files from my three scans, and uploaded them to this blog entry. Blogger said "DONE. Your pictures have been uploaded." I clicked the button.

The pictures did not appear.

I looked at the HTML. There was no sign of the code for the images.

I uploaded them again. Again it said they were uploaded. Again they did not appear.

So I closed old Yahoo windows for, and reopened them in case the login had timed out. It hadn't. I noticed that I already had a "bornusa.jpg" uploaded from the same source photo. It's a rerun. Too bad. You'll have to put up with a rerun, then. I uploaded the buttons scan and the dead camera scan.

My files have been uploaded. Go to File Manager.

Didn't work. Now my login has timed out.

So what am I up to? Plan C? Plan D? Plan F? In refusing to be defeated by this, I've gone from Plan A - just take a picture with the Canon, to trying to fix it,to letting John try to fix it, to trying to take a picture with the Mavica, to scanning a photo and other objects and trying to upload and display the result. I'm tired now, and getting past determination and frustration and into depression.

But here goes. I'm going to type the img code directly into the HTML for the three scans.

Hey, they're loading. Yay. Finally. Something worked.

That'll have to do.

Good night.



Well, obviously the Gateway at work had a floppy, 'cause check it out: I managed to upload one of the comic book photos.

And it occurs to me that the 1980s relate to my camera woes in two important ways. One, they're a reminder that all this stuff - digital photography, blogs, even the Web - didn't exist in any popular sense when I was selling Devo buttons or Springsteen LPs or reading Ambush Bug all those years ago. So when did all these things become so indispensible to my life? And two, it was in 1987 that our hand-me-down 35mm SLR camera, a gift from my brother Steve, was stolen out of our van overnight.

Yes, it was a Canon.


Excessively Sleepy

I left the office around midnight, and it's 12:20 AM now. One of the many things I like about working Saturday or Sunday night is that I can park right next to the employee entrance instead of across the street from the other end of the building. Cuts my commute by nearly 2/3rds.

My total stint at the office was about 6 1/2 hours, maybe a little longer, but not all that time was spent working. First I ate my tuna sub, and at the end I caught up with my FeedBlitz blogs, clicking directly from the links in the emails instead of from Outpost as I usually do. This is because clicking from the email at home opens the blogs in AOL, and I'd reather read them in Netscape or real IE, instead of AOL's IE Lite. But from work I was clicking from emails in the AOL email web client, and with the T1 line (or whatever it is), each page loaded in a fraction of the time it would have taken using my dial-up at home. Until tonight, I didn't even know that Jod(i) had music on her blog.

In between the sandwich and the FeedBlitz, I was less productive than I wanted to be. I was so sleepy, especially early in the evening, that I spent an hour or two proving to myself that a correction someone asked for was valid. It shouldn't have taken half that long. After that, I worked on spreadsheets for 1/5 and 1/20 - and two hours in, caught myself having copied numbers from 1/20 into the 1/5 one. So of course I had to go back and check every item in both spreadsheets against the source files.

All this means that I didn't get to the other three tasks I was hoping to have done by tomorrow morning. Fortunately, one of those is a five-minute job, when I'm awake. The others can be done a little later, if absolutely necessary, but I hope it won't come to that.

Am I doing too much? Am I not taking care of myself? Yes to the first question, but what choice do I have? I can't give up the work, and I won't give up the blogging. There really isn't anything else I do, aside from church, and the occasional shopping. John and I bought a new couch, to replace the one that's tearing, and which I've been sleeping on because of my snoring. It'll be ready in eight weeks. We picked it out three or four weeks ago, but it took us this long to both have the time and motivation to go back and choose the fabric and pay.

And yes, I'm trying to be good. I drank a lot of water today, in addition to the diet cola and ice tea. It probably isn't enough, but it's more than I've been drinking. I'm trying to eat stuff like Subway and Healthy Choice meals until I work out a real plan for what I should eat. It'll be hard to give up Atkins as the default diet (when I diet), but that worked better when I was younger and had a gall bladder. I'm taking my diuretic and my potassium and magnesium, and using prescription skin cream on my increasingly leathery leg. It mostly isn't hurting now, aside from my banged-up, arthritic knee, but it's still red and itchy and irritated, and nothing works to really calm it down. It's visibly less swollen, and no longer feels like a banana about to pop its skin. That's the best I can say for it. And no, you can't see it. Not tonight.

Time to wash my hair and go to bed. Good night, folks.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Clean Up Time

Well, I don't want to say my day has been wasted, but it sure didn't include much that I wanted to get done today. Having been up most of the night, I slept until early afternoon, had a long phone conversation with my best friend from college, cleared out about a hundred emails from two other screen names, started reading the blogs on my FeedBlitz backlog, and spent the rest of the day on this:

The Tesseract: A Madeleine L'Engle Bibliography in 5 Dimensions

You see, Georganna Hancock of Writer's Edge posted a link to a site for the Forbidden Library, which is about banned books. There I finally found specific details about two incidents in which Madeleine L'Engle's most famous book, A Wrinkle in Time, was banned or challenged. This is extremely helpful to me, because a couple of times a year someone will email me, asking why anyone would want to ban the book, and where and when and why it's happened in the past.

It used to be that anytime someone asked that question, I would dig into old AOL email on what used to be my main screen name, and crib from the answer I gave last time. But that was two computers ago, so I can't do that anymore. It really should be on my L'Engle FAQ pages, since it certainly qualifies as a frequently asked question.

The TesseractSo I opened up my FAQ page in Composer, wrote about the whys and wherefores, ranted a little bit about intolerance, and added the link to Forbidden Library. Then, since my L'Engle bibliography, The Tesseract, has resided on AOL Hometown since before it was even called AOL Hometown, I thought I'd better do some work on moving the thing to That meant changing a zillion links on nine pages - not just to my other L'Engle pages, but to other pages I've been gradually moving off AOL, and to a bunch of images.

I figure it was about eight or nine hours ago that I read about Forbidden Library on Georganna's blog. Since then I've made a brief Safeway run with John, hunted for my Sprint phone (it was in my other pants), IMed with a friend, and posted Heirs of Mâvarin, Chapter Two, Part Seven over on Messages from Mâvarin. The rest of the time, I've been wrestling with HTML on pages written a decade ago in a program that doesn't exist any more. Weird stuff happened - links were blue on a blue background, even after I changed the css and the specific link's properties. Everything was flush left, and way too wide. And when I put the sky_blue.gif in as a background to replace the dark blue, I then had to scramble to change white and yellow text to navy and black. Well, it should be more readable now.

(Darn this entry! Darn Blogger! This is the second night in a row that an entry has been cranky about displaying the accent in the word Mâvarin! If it doesn't work this time, I'm giving up for the night.)

Also, since I last did the research on the actual bibliographic info for Wrinkle and other titles in 2001, I'm undoubtedly incompete in my listings of different editions of the books. But that won't be tonight's problem.

Anyway, this is all just to say that I did get all the L'Engle pages reposted to, or in most cases to If you're at all interested, please take a look, and let me know of any links that still lead back to AOL. Except for the Project Quantum Leap link. That's another whole huge job, which I'm also not tackling tonight. Also please let me know if you find any completely dead links or broken images.

By the way, in case you haven't noticed yet, my sidebar now has several new sections of links, mostly resources for writers, researchers, and well, me. I was going to Musings just to find links to stuff that I use all the time, and that's just silly. So now they're here, handy for everyone who reads (or writes) this blog. I did all that a day or two or three ago, but I've had too many other things to write about, so I didn't mention it until now.

And here's the bit on Frappr, the "friend mapper" site with virtual pushpins nobody could find. I did hear back from them, but the email totally missed what I was asking, and therefore didn't answer it. Still, I eventually figured it out, with a little help from Shelly. See, it used to be that you could easily add a pin to anyone's map, but that's no longer true. Maybe it's because Frappr now belongs to Yahoo. Maybe not. But the key to using it is, you now have to be a member (it's free) and be logged in to add a pin. Even then, you can only add a pin to group maps without getting permission from the map's owner first. For individual maps, you have to go through a "friending" process. Either the map owner invites you using an email widget, and you accept, or you ask to "friend" someone using a similar email widget, and the map owner approves it, or doesn't. So far I've had two strangers and two actual friends try to "friend" me. One of the strangers I said no to, because his map was essentially an advertising site. The other I said yes to. Apparently he's on (or perhaps just slightly off) the west coast of Africa. Cool!

I know that many people will opt out of using Frappr, now that it's more confusing, harder to use and wants you to be a member. But it does have some neat features now - interest groups and galleries and blogs and profiles and stuff. So you may want to check my Frappr page again, and click on a link with the word "Friend" in it. If I know who you are, I'll approve your pushpin toute de suite.

In other news, the leg was looking much better this afternoon, but that's less true tonight. I haven't had much pain today, but it's becoming clear that I've hurt my back a little bit, or else that stress is making my back act as if this is so.

What else can I tell you? Oh, I'm going to New Mexico in April, to see my godson's First Communion. That should be great!


Friday, February 24, 2006

What Beast Within?

Okay, here's the bit, as introduced by the most famous scientist of the 20th Century:

Yes, we're getting close to the March 1st posting date for the latest Round Robin Photo Challenge. Derek of the journal Derek's Picture of the Day and the blog Through My Eyes suggested the topic:

The subject is "The Animal Inside." Let's take a picture of an animal that really explains us, gives our personality or the animal you would want to be if you could choose. No restrictions, be creative. Maybe even tell us what that animal is thinking or saying.

So, what are you thinking? What animal best describes who you are, or what you want to be? How will you express this photographically? It could be as simple as a picture of your pet, and a brief explanation of how you're alike. (After all, isn't it a cliché that people look like their pets?) Or it can be an elaborate work of photographic trickery - or anywhere in between!

For example, it's obvious what animal dear Albert physically resembled:

Albert the Shaggy Dog
So indulge your inner beast, and express your animal side. Take your pictures, play around with them if you like, and post them this coming Wednesday, March 1st, sometime between midnight and midnight.

Oh, and if you're going to do this, please RSVP, if you haven't already, so we can send people your way!

Thanks, John Scalzi, for the link to the Albert Einstein interactive chalkboard. I've got another Einsteinian message posted to my LiveJournal. Check it out!

Health News:

I had more back spasms and leg cramps today, but the leg was better overall. On the other hand, dressing for Rodeo Days today, as encouraged by the head of HR, was not the best thing for me. It involved jeans that barely fit in my present condition, a bolo tie (no problems with that!) and my short boots. I had trouble even getting the left boot on my foot, and was limping before the day was out.

After work I had a long chat with the other Midnight Accountant. She strongly recommended Weight Watchers (hi, Linda!) and, given my situation, low impact exercise options such as Pilates and pool exercises. We'll see, once I get the swelling down.

And yes, I bought bananas on my way home. When I told John about the spasms and the leg cramps, he said, "Yes, I was afraid of that." He gave me a potassium tablet and a magnesium one, and told me to take one of each twice a day.

There are definite advantages to having a spouse who knows his supplements!


P.S. I owe emails to a few good friends, and I'm a couple days behind in my blog reading again. But I'll catch up over the weekend. I'm not ignoring you, honest!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

An Interview with Future Karen

Weekend Assignment #100: Share 10 facts about yourself -- from the next five years. Imagine what you see happening over the next half decade and then tell us about it, in interesting fact form. You can be serious, or silly, or somewhere in between. But give it some real thought and then take a stab at your future facts. If you find 10 facts too much, just do five. Either way it'll be fun.

Extra Credit: So, who's president in 2011?

When the other Karen walked into my office here at home, smiled a greeting and grimaced at the mess, I took a moment to search my recent memories for any sign that I was demented or hallucinating or dreaming. Finding none, I smiled back at her.

"Hi. I'm glad to see you. Future, alternate reality or both?"

"Hi yourself. From your point of view, a possible future."

star field in the vortex I nodded. "That makes sense. So. How did you get back to 2006?"

Karen shook her head. "You know I can't tell you that."

I was annoyed, but not all that surprised. "What's the point of letting me know you're here, if you won't tell me anything?"

Karen shook her head again. "I didn't say I couldn't tell you anything. But that answer's definitely on the forbidden list."

"Double-starred, no doubt," I said, quoting from Quantum Leap.

Karen chuckled. "Yes. Double-starred."

"Forbidden by whom?" I asked.

"Can't tell you the answer to that one, either," Karen said.

"Then what can you tell me?" I asked. I was quoting from the Quantum Leap pilot again, and Karen knew it. She smiled.

"Basically what you already know," Karen said, quoting back at me. "I can tell you the answers to ten questions about your future in the next five years. But they have to be answers you could have predicted yourself. That way, there's no evidence that I was here for sure. This could be a fictional visit, as far as the digital record is concerned. And because I'm from just one of your possible futures, there's no guarantee that your future will match my past."

The Seventh Doctor"So what you're saying is, you remember about Weekend Assignment #100, and you're here to help me with it? But everyone's supposed to think I'm making all this up about your visit? And you could be wrong, anyway, depending on whether or not I make your version of the future my own?"

Karen nodded. "That's right. And no, you can't take a picture of me, either."

I shook my head. "That's not very satisfactory," I said.

"Yes, I remember," Karen said. "But I know you have some pretty good questions, because I'm the one who asked them orginally. So get on with it, all right?"

I nodded. "Yeah. All right. Sorry to be so cranky."

"I understand," Karen said. "You're stressed out, your leg is just so-so and your back hurts. So what's the obvious first question?"

"Well, my health, obviously. And you look pretty healthy to me. Are you? You're thinner than I've been in years and years."

Karen smiled. "Yeah. I am, both reasonably thin and reasonably healthy. There's nothing seriously wrong on the heart front, the diabetes you think you may have is under control, and I hardly ever have a backache or an attack of IBS any more. Except in February, of course."

I nodded. "Of course. And you just gave me a hint toward my second question. Are you still with the same employer?"

"I was as of 2011," Karen said. "Don't ask me what year I'm from. I can only answer through 2011 anyway."

"Have I been promoted?"

"Of course. That's three questions down. Seven to go."

"Am I a CPA?"

Karen shook her head. "Nope. Sorry. Four down."

"Have my books been published?"

Karen smiled. "That's the main thing I want you to know. You have both Heirs and Mages out, plus Meet Joshua Wander, and another book on the way. At least, those are your names for the books. The publisher changed a couple of the titles. Five down."

I absorbed this. "Well, I don't really mind that," I decided, "as long as they came out. Have they been selling?"

"Moderately well, especially once the second book appeared. Six down."

"How about a movie deal?"

Karen shook her head. "Not so far. Seven down. Haven't you anything better to ask? Get on with it."

"All right, then. How is my family doing - you know, John, Dad, Steve and Ruth?"

"It's about time you got around to them. They're older, but still alive, talking care of themselves as best they can. Your dad's preplanning for health care arrangements is starting to pay off. Eight down."

"Has John finished his mystery or his vampire screenplay?"

"He has a version of the screenplay done, but I don't think it's going to get picked up. But he has two volumes out of his mystery series out, and the first one is under option at Castle Rock. Rob Reiner's interested in directing."

"Cool!" I said, even though I was a little jealous of John's success.

"You're down to your last question. Make it a good one. And no wishing for more wishes gambit, either."

"Since you're not a genie, I wouldn't bother. Okay, then. Are we doing better, financially?"

Karen smiled. "Better. You finally have adequate storage, and can even pay someone to clean up after you."

I laughed. "That's exactly what I wanted to know."

"Of course it is. Aren't you forgetting something?"

"Well, I've used up my questions."

"We're done with the ten questions, Scalzi's ten future facts. But there's still the Extra Credit."

"Oh, yeah. I'm almost afraid to ask, but who is the President of the U.S. in 2011?"

"John McCain. Second term. He's surprisingly good - for a Republican."

The TARDIS "I was hoping he would be, if he got elected at all. So what happens now? Do you turn into a pumpkin, climb into a blue box, or disappear in a flash of blue light?"

Karen chuckled. "I don't have to answer that. And I won't. But I will tell you this. In my version of your future, good things are coming, not just for you, but for many of your online and offline friends. But you all have to work at making them happen, as Fayubi does in the books. Will you do that?"

I nodded. "I will. I promise. And I'll ask my friends to do the same."

"Good. Well, I'm off. Just remember what Doc Brown said."

"Right. 'The future is whatever you make it - so make it a good one!'"

Karen smiled. "You've got it. See ya." She turned and walked away. By the time I got to the next room myself, she was gone.

(Screen captures from the Doctor Who serial "Remembrance of the Daleks," copyright BBC 1989. I'd love to believe Future Karen came by TARDIS to see me, especially with that version of The Doctor. But who knows how she really got here?)


Health Update:

How shall I put this delicately? The most obvious evidence that the diuretic is working has hardly happened at all. The leg has been hurting less today, though, feels slightly less swollen, and is less tender to the touch. It pretty much looks the same as it did, but I think I can sorta kinda see a small improvement.

I had a wicked charlie horse in my right leg when I woke up this morning, and I had a minor one in my left leg about a few minutes ago, that lasted for at least a minute. I've also had back spasms. Phooey. I think the back thing can be attributed to stress, but I'll continue to do some stretching, and see how it does. If it's not better by the time Dr. L. calls about the blood work, I'll mention it to her.

Nat, Paul, Carly and JLand.

Natalie (lurkynat) posted a nice tribute today to Carly, a.k.a. OndineMonet of Ellipsis...Suddenly Carly. Paul (plittle) has chimed in with his own thoughts. Can I do any less?

Carly is one of the two founders of the Round Robin Photo Challenge, an excellent writer, and a gifted photographer. She's a warm, funny, giving and insightful person, and my friend. Although she's had significant health problems, she doesn't let that stop her. Why, she posts even more often than I do! Her blog is always worth a visit. If you lost track of her after the Exodus, or just haven't been over there lately, now's a great time to stop by and say hello!

(Oh, and Carly, I know I haven't posted a Round Robin promo this week. I'll get to it tomorrow night - I promise!)


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My Turn (But Where's Dr. House?)

It seems as though an awful lot of online friends and acquaintances have had health issues recently, either their own medical problems or those of close relatives.

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about my brother Steve's health problems. Today it was my turn.

Basically it's all about my left leg, although the right one isn't all that much better. The left is terribly swollen, to the point of significant pain. (The right is slightly less swollen, and doesn't actually hurt.) I think it started weeks ago, but it didn't get really bad until after I fell last week. Since then it's been a little worse each day.

As you look at the awful picture here, bear in mind that this is not the ankle I twisted the other day. Please also notice the visible knot/bulge in my lower leg. That's all fluid.

John will hate that I posted this photo. Not very flattering, is it? But it should start to look better soon. The leg and foot I mean. Not the photo.

Okay, ready for the long story of my day today? Here goes. All times are approximate:

8:15 AM. Arrive a little late at work, because I had a hard time getting up this morning. I'm working on something I should have finished yesterday when one of the outside auditors arrives at my cubicle, politely requesting a list of items for testing, and other stuff.

10:20 AM. I give the auditor part of what she wanted and walk to Dr. L.'s office, three parking lots away.

10:45 AM. The blood pressure cuff hurts, a lot, and it takes the nurse two tries to use it unsuccessfully. Blood pressure is 147 over 88 - probably the highest ever recorded for me, but only mildly hypertensive overall. Dr. L. takes one look at my legs, especially the extra-swollen, painful, bruised, visibly bulging left one, and springs into action! Metaphorically speaking, of course. She both says and writes down the words "severe edema," orders an EKG, blood work, and a Doppler ultrasound of my left leg to check for a clot. She also prescribes a diuretic that the pharmacist later refers to as blood pressure medicine. "There are diuretics so strong they can get water from a stone," Dr. L. says. "This isn't one of those."

I explain about Steve, and the seeming parallels between his condition and mine. She totally takes it seriously, including the possibility of sleep apnea. Steve has that for sure, and I snore. John says it's been getting worse. He hasn't caught me not breathing, though. There may be a sleep study in my future.

I think about whether Dr. House would find my case at all interesting. Probably not, I decide. Dr. L. seems to be managing fine on her own. But there's no word on causes yet. There's also no lecture about losing weight. She knows that I know that already.

11:10 AM. Nurse runs the EKG twice, because there's a problem with one of the diodes (or whatever they are these days).

11:20 AM. Dr. L. sees one little dip in the top line of the second EKG. She decides that because of the edema and Steve, she's not going to assume it's nothing. She asks me whether I'm willing to schedule a stress test. I agree. (Stress? My life lately is all about stress!)

11:30-11:45 AM. Dr. L's nurse tries in vain to get blood out of me.

11:45 AM-12 Noon. Dr. L. tries in vain to get blood out of me, and then writes orders for blood work elsewhere. And, at my request, a mammogram. I've overdue.

12:05 PM. I walk back to the office, check in with my boss, walk back downstairs and across the street to my car, and drive to Sonora Quest labs. The nurse eventually gets blood from the arm the Red Cross doesn't normally use.

12:40 PM. Quarter dark with veggies at Boston Market.

1:10 PM. I arrive back at work. Email stuff to the auditor. She finds it helpful. Still can't lay my hands on some of what she wants. My boss's boss wants a report, just as I'm about to leave to the imaging lab. The software doesn't cooperate. I leave anyway.

3:15 PM. Arrive at the lab, do the paperwork.

3:30 PM. Spend 20 minutes lying in the dark while a nice man puts goo on my leg and pokes me with the whatever-it's-called, sometimes painfully. By this time the leg is really hurting anyway.

4:10 PM. Back at work, I finish my boss's report, research a couple of items for HR, and fail to get anything else done.

4:50 PM. Dr. L's nurse calls. No clot.

5:15 PM. Still haven't completed a single task at work. I leave anyway.

5:40-6:30 PM. I hang around Walgreen's, waiting for my triamterene and canalog cream. When I finally get it, I call John. He wants Subway for dinner.

6:45 PM. I'm at Subway.

7:00 PM. I eat in front of a Third Rock ep on DVD. John says that Dr. House "would have found a blood clot anyway."

"Yeah. In my brain," I say.

7:15 PM. My dad returns my call from earlier in the day. That's when I realize I missed his birthday yesterday. He gives me further info about Steve, and expresses concern about my health in a typical Dad way - with a mild lecture about taking care of myself.

I've taken the medication, plus some ibuprofen, hours ago. I'm still waiting for relief from the leg pain. Well, it may be a little better.


I know this isn't that big a deal - at least, I assume not. I fully expect the stress test to show my heart is fine. But if I hear the words "wake-up call" one more time, I'm going to scream!


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Deed Is Done. Now What?

The sun has set on the era of Karen crushed, sulking, hiding, endlessly rewriting and re-editing Heirs of Mâvarin, making excuses not to send it out again because what if it's rejected again?

Okay, yes, it's a corny metaphor, this sunset thing. But I took these sunset pictures as I left the Cherrybell post office tonight, having finally mailed three-chapters-plus-synopsis to Tor. So it's kind of an appropriate metaphor anyway.

It's been eight and a half years since I last sent this thing out, also to Tor. The only marketing attempts I've made in recent years were five queries I sent to agents in 2002. I got three form rejections of my book, one form letter that said the agency wasn't currently looking at screenplays, and no reply at all from the fifth agency. I don't quite know which agencies they were, because the info was stored on a Writer's Market Online page I can't get to.

Oh, please, please, please like what you see, Nielsen Haydens! Look! The envelope has real, printed labels! And no hair!


I'm Coveting Stars

Your Monday Photos Shoot: Take a picture (or find a picture) of something with stars -- the "twinkle, twinkle" kind, not the "famous people" kind. However, they don't have to be real stars: Fake stars -- like the ones on Christmas trees, on neon signs or on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are just fine, too.

Okay, here's a picture of stuff with stars on it.

See the stars? No?

Look again. I'll wait.

If you've found them, you've probably figured out what I'm writing about tonight.

Okay, I'm guessing that some of you have found the stars, and some haven't.

Perhaps you need a close-up:

Yes, the stars are on the spines of these two Tor novels by Piers Anthony (and Robert E Margroff, in one case). They are part of the Tor Fantasy logo. At least, they used to be. I gather that the separate logo for fantasy is being phased out, at least on the hardcover dust jackets.

And oh, yes, that is indeed John Scalzi's first novel sitting next to the two Anthony books. It's also from Tor, of course, but there are no stars in the logo on that one. That's because it's science fiction, not fantasy. The Tor Science Fiction logo doesn't have stars on it. Am I the only one who thinks that's a backwards bit of labeling? I mean, I haven't actually read it yet (I will; I promise!), but I'm willing to bet there are many more references to stars in the text of Old Man's War than in Demons Don't Dream (which I haven't read either, yet).

But no matter. The dust jacket artist on Old Man's War, Donato, put stars all over the front cover. If you look closely, you can even see them in the lettering of the title.

Okay, maybe you can't, because the picture's too small to see it properly. If you click on the photo, you can see it a bit larger. If that doesn't do the trick, go look at your own copy of the book.

Don't you have a copy of the book? Hadn't you better buy one, then? I mean, if you like science fiction, and/or Scalzi's other writing, you probably should.

Okay, maybe I am sucking up to you, John. A little.

If you read last night's marathon entry, you probably know why I'm going on and on about the Tor logo. At this very moment I'm printing out Chapter Three of Heirs of Mâvarin, to send to Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor. (Slight pause while I check the spelling of his name. Again.) Yes, it's true. I'm finally doing it. All it took was 32 years, a million drafts and edits, eight beta readers, lots of book and online research to determine that my sentimental choice was the right one, and last-minute counseling from two very good friends to help me overcome my insecurity about sending this out again, especially to Tor.

Why is that? Well, I'll tell you.

I finally got to the end of a complete draft of Heirs of Mâvarin in 1989. I started actually submitting it places around 1992 or 1993. It wasn't ready then, but I didn't know that. I hadn't yet started writing the sequel, Mages of Mâvarin. It was in writing Mages that I discovered that my treatment of tengremen, especially Rani, had been shallow and dull. Rani worried about hurting people, about losing control, but his behavior seemed to show that these fears were entirely unfounded.

Scalzi's bookThat was a mistake. Rani needed to truly become an animal at times, mentally rather than just physically. Once I learned that, I wrote the fox-killing scene for Heirs, and lots of other stuff. It made the book much better. Eventually, the book was actually good enough for publication. I hope!

But I didn't quite realize that Heirs had any deficiencies when I last submitted the book for publication, back in 1997. I had started writing Mages by then, but I hadn't gotten far enough with it to learn that I needed to fix Heirs, and how to do it. So I printed out the Tor address and my own on a piece of paper, grabbed my printout, a roll of Scotch tape and a couple of envelopes, and headed for the main post office on Cherrybell. I taped the address onto my envelope, noting with dismay that I got one of my hairs caught under one of the pieces of tape. How unprofessional! But I couldn't get it out, and made the tape look worse for trying.

Exactly one week after the Hair Incident, the rejection letter was in my mailbox at home. It was not personalized. Such was my dismay and confusion (and a fair amount of denial), that I entertained the idea that someone at Tor saw the hair, dismissed the submission as unprofessional, and didn't even read beyond the cover letter. I'm sure now that this is not what happened, but that was the theory that let me off the hook for having a book that wasn't good enough yet.

Now, I did a very foolish thing in June, 2004. I posted a comment to Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blog, Making Light, referencing the Hair Incident and the quick turnaround. I didn't actually criticise Tor about this, but I've been embarrassed about the comment ever since. Did Patrick (Teresa's colleague and spouse) think I was accusing him and his staff of failing to give my beloved novel due consideration? That would be highly unfortunate. By all accounts, Patrick and Teresa are one of the class acts in all of publishing, and pay more attention to the slush pile than most of their peers. the submission package, Feb 2006I certainly don't want to alienate them!

This is especially true now. The printout is on my desk, done. Tomorrow I'll go to Cherrybell Station, and send it to Tor, along with the return envelope, labeled and with sufficient postage.

And no hair.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pas Trop de Tropes

Fair warning: this is a long one.

Okay, so I got sidetracked. Instead of reposting more of my Musings archive, or putting away the stack of laundry I missed yesterday, I spent the day...

  1. At church (that was always on the schedule);
  2. Researching fantasy book imprints at Barnes & Noble;
  3. Exploring the pros and cons of FeedBlitz vs. Bloglet;
  4. Fiddling with Frappr;
  5. Marveling at a friend's worldbuilding; and mostly
  6. Reading about the fantasy genre, editors (and predators), agents, etc. online.
I'll explain all of these. Yes, it's another one of those entries.

Church. The two unusual things about church today were 1) my need not to kneel on my injured knee and 2) a thank you meal afterwards, ostensibly for church volunteers. The first situation was a tricky one, because I was scheduled to "torch" at Mass today. This means I was to carry a candle on a pole, instead of my usual task of carrying a cross on a much longer pole as crucifer. The problem was this: the two torches must kneel on the carpet in front of the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. And I knew my knee wasn't up to it.

So we played a fairly intensive game of musical acolytes. Colby, filling in, was crucifer, but during the Eucharistic Prayer he would torch. Annie would torch, and then serve (help the celebrant before the Eucharistic Prayer by handing him stuff), and then torch some more. I don't think she realized that third part was the plan until Colby proffered the candle at her. If she hadn't taken it, I'd have knelt on the carpet myself. Ow! Ow! Ow! As it was, I cushioned my knee with three pillows, off to the side where the crucifer normally kneels (on one pillow) during that prayer.

It still hurt.

Afterward, we had the catered meal for volunteers in the Parish Center. As I'd suspected, the whole parish turned up to eat it - at least, everyone who normally attends Coffee Hour after the 10 o'clock, plus a few more. There were blitzes and French toast with strawberries, fresh fruit and heart-shaped sausage, and spiked and unspiked cranberry drinks. A good time was had by all--except the caterer, of course, who ran out of blintzes.

Tor, and Baen, Wizards and Vampires. Then Kevin, Jan (another sf/fantasy-reading parishioner) and I went to Barnes & Noble. I was there to look at the spines of lots and lots of books in the fantasy and science fiction section, and again in the Young Adult (or Teen) section. I was leaning toward Baen as the publisher I'd try next with my Heirs of Mâvarin submission, but the vast majority of Baen books I saw were sf. The Baen fantasy titles were mostly by big names in the field. Tor, on the other hand, had lots and lots of both sf and fantasy titles. So did DAW. Ace, Spectra, and Del Rey don't take unagented submissions, so I didn't look at those as much.

The trends I saw included lots of humorous fantasy, urban fantasy, many vampires and vampire hunters (especially female ones), and the usual dark destiny of the young king/ princess/ wizard/scullery maid who must save the world from the last of the Old Ones. I did see one or two titles that were still deeply derivative of Tolkien, but most were not. Then I checked out the YA/Teen section, and found lots of teenaged magicians and a few warriors, ghosts and friends of ghosts. I didn't see any YA Baen titles, but I did find the Tor Teen imprint. Hmm, my survey definitely was swinging me back toward Tor instead of Baen.

FeedBlitz and Bloglet. As I believe I mentioned last night, I've added a Bloglet alert subscription thingy to my sidebar here, right under the FeedBlitz one. I initially messed up my Bloglet feeds, by believing a help screen when it said I didn't have to enter my Blogger password. I did. It's fixed now.

Meanwhile, one person that I know about was utterly unable to get FeedBlitz to work for her. Carly and I both tried and failed to help with this, so ultimately the person went with Bloglet instead. We still don't know what went wrong, but a step-by-step explanation my be helpful:

For FeedBlitz: if you put your email address in the little box:

Receive new entries by email:
Enter your Email

Powered by FeedBlitz'll be taken to a screen that seems to promise that you only need "one last step," namely entering the letter salad into a word verification box. However, if you're not already a FeedBlitz registered user, this does not appear to work when you try it. You need to register in the upperrighthandd corner of the screen. You'll set up a password to go with your email address, after which you can subscribe to anything that has a feed, including Blogger, AOL, and pretty much any other blog in existence. (National Weather Service pages don't seem to work, though.) The blog owner doesn't even have to register for this to work.

Once you subscribe, you get an email every night that looks something like this:

Here Are Your FeedBlitz Blog Updates

Here are the FeedBlitz updates for

There is 1 new entry in "Judith HeartSong"

...followed by that new entry, and any other entries posted that day to your chosen blogs.

One thing to note: if I re-edit an entry five times, as I often do, FeedBlitz doesn't send you five versions of it. You get one - probably the version it finds when it polls the blogs for its nightly email.


Enter your email address below to subscribe to Outpost Mâvarin!

powered by Bloglet

This work similarly to the FeedBlitz, but some find it easier to follow. There is some question whether you can subscribe to something a blog owner hasn't specifically made available. Also, I'm waiting to find out whether Bloglet sends you a second version of an entry if it gets updated on a later date. If it does, this is a useful feature for people who want to keep track of the Round Robin Photo Challenges blog. The RRPC entries are only posted once every two weeks, but are repeatedly updated around the Challenge date.

Frappr. I got an email today from Frappr, telling me that someone with a screen name I'd never heard of "would like to be your friend and join your Friend Map." I checked out the profile. It appears to be a commercial concern, with products I wouldn't buy. The profile mentioned time travel, as does mine; that's how the person probably found me. It also mentioned porn, which mine decidedly does not! So I rejected the request. If you're the person who tried to do this, and you legitimately read and enjoy this blog, contact me directly and I'll reconsider.

Meanwhile, though, I have this Frappr profile, which I set up weeks ago while trying in vain to get a virtual push pin onto someone else's map. Nobody's been there except me, and possibly this Down person. But it's got pictures, preferences, a quote from Heirs, and a map with only one pin in it. But you won't let me languish alone for long, will you? Please say you'll be my friend, or at least a pin on my map!

Add yourself to my Frappr map!

(Note: this doesn't work right for some reason.)

I also added my pin to a Whedonverse group.

Worldbuilding. A friend of mine is now over 84,000 words, if memory serves, into a fantasy novel she's been writing since about November, based on notes she made for an idea she had years ago. Tonight she was IMing me lots and lots of detail about the history and species of the world of her novels. She also has a bunch of maps she drew for reference. Honestly, the worldbuilding she's done for her books is much more extensive than mine. In a way I need less, because she's got many magical creatures and humanoids to track, whereas I just have the species found in our reality, plus tengremen, and maybe a plant or two. But "worldbuilding" is an important past of the fantasy and science fiction writing process. Someone said at Clarion that in any fiction, you have to either create your own world or, at the very least, some fictional space inside the mostly real one. Even if your lead character lives in a New York City apartment, he or she lives in a fictional apartment, probably with a fictional neighbor across the hall, and a fictional doorman downstairs.

But we probably know what that fictional apartment would be like, so the work in creating it is fairly minimal. Even a western will probably pass muster if you don't make any major errors, such as having someone ride a horse from Tombstone to Tucumcari in a day. But if you've got a fantasy realm for your characters to live in, worldbuilding is crucial, because your readers don't know what the place is like unless you tell them. Is there magic? Who can use it, and how does it work? Is it a resource that gets used up? Does the magician need to rest after expending energy on a spell? What are the major religions? What is the climate? How many continents are there, and how many moons in the sky? There are tons of questions like this to be answered, even if some of it never gets onto the page. Here's a good resource on the subject:

Patricia C. Wrede's Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions

Patricia is a (mostly YA) fantasy writer with great sense of humor and excellent advice about the craft of writing. She used to hang out on the SF/F writers' boards on AOL, but those days are long gone.

Other Fantasy Writers' Resources Online. I haven't actually looked Patricia's's questions today, but I've been on lots of other sites that had to do with fantasy writing, sf and fantasy publishing, agents and scams. The Tor FAQ actually had me giggling, repeatedly. It's also full of great information about publishing in general. It was written by Patrick and/or Teresa Nielsen Hayden, of Tor Books and Making Light fame. I'm guessing the funny bits are mostly Teresa. Here's a sample:

Production schedules

From manuscript to hardcover normally takes about nine months. This process can be speeded up under special circumstances, but it's hard on our dilithium crystals.

One thing that cheered me up considerably was a paragraph about Epic Fantasy, which seems to correspond to the term High Fantasy:

Epic Fantasy

Some of you have noticed certain points of similarity between one and another epic fantasy series -- some that we've published, some published by other houses, and some that first saw light of print a half-century ago. They wonder what's going on.

Here's one of the many possible answers: writers of epic fantasy are frequently drawing on similar bodies of myth, legend, and antecedent literature. This means you can find echoes and similarities in their works, if you set yourself to look for them. But that's not the point. Epic fantasy characteristically produces its effects not so much by the novelty of its invention as by its depth of insight and strength of execution.

Your answers may vary.

The reason I am heartened by this is that Heirs of Mâvarin uses a very common trope in fantasy fiction, "hidden royalty." If you've read or watched much fantasy at all, you've seen this before. Brier Rose (Sleeping Beauty) grows up with three kindly but eccentric ladies, unaware that she's the only child of the king and queen. That scruffy ranger in the corner, Strider, will someday be crowned King Aragorn of Gondor. An Assistant Pig-Keeper, Taran, will someday be High King. The poor boy who's befriended by a talking horse is the lost heir to the throne of Archenland. And yes, a couple of teenagers who work in a Liftlabeth stable will soon learn they're Princess Cathma and Prince Carli of Mâvarin.

I'm so embarrassed!

You see, a major problem with the fantasy genre is that virtually all fantasy writers grew up reading Tolkien and Lewis. There is older fantasy than The Lord of the Rings, but that's the book that really got the ball rolling for this kind of story. In the 1970s, most fantasy novels seemed to involve a young person of mysterious parentage whose destiny is to undertake a quest with a diverse group of friends and allies, and save the entire world from an ancient, overpowering evil. Along the way they were almost sure to encounter unicorns, elves, dwarfs and dragons.

But people got tired of reading third-rate Tolkien clones, and the genre diversified. For a while in the 1980s and early 1990s, postmodern fantasy, which cynically made fun of fantasy clichés, was more common than the sincere stuff. There was urban (contemporary) fantasy, which involved elves and dragons and such in something like our modern world; and there were pun-filled romps, set in a fantasy realm but with sly references to modern life.

And then things changed again, and we got more diversity. There's still urban fantasy, and humorous fantasy, and high fantasy in the Tolkien tradition, but it shares the shelves with vampire stories and stories based on the folklore or China or India or Africa, and books that have no identifiable dragons or elves at all. The idea these days is to avoid the worn-out fantasy conventions as much as possible. The other night, I saw a website that gave a failing grade to anything that had even one element on a long list of fantasy clichés. By that standard, Heirs fails. It has not only hidden royalty, but also a young person who comes from humble circumstances, undertakes a quest and ends up wielding great power. Well, actually, that's just one of the hidden royalty kids again.

But as Wikipedia points out,

"the use of such particular themes and ideas is the very thing that distinguishes high fantasy from its fellow subgenres, and that a sufficiently unique example of high fantasy would be more likely to be placed in a different subgenre altogether, thus rendering accusations of unoriginality somewhat circular."

Art by SherlockSo how is a fantasy writer supposed to proceed? If there are too many fantasy tropes (elements characteristic of the fantasy genre), then it's unoriginal hack work. If it hasn't any, then it's not fantasy at all - or, at least, not High Fantasy. So is my use of the hidden royalty trope good or bad, or neither? Does it make the whole book derivative, or is it merely a feature that marks it as part of the genre, a type of storytelling that draws heavily on archetypal and mythic themes?

Judging from what I've read over the past week, most people who write about the genre seem to agree that too much aping of Tolkien or European folktales is probably a bad thing, but that it's virtually impossible to have fantasy without any traditional fantasy elements whatsoever. The key seems to be to avoid filling your book with stock characters and situations, select a few fantasy elements that are integral to the story you want to tell, and tell that story as well as possible, incorporating other elements that readers haven't seen before - or, at least, not often. In his Submission Guidelines, Jim Baen acknowledges this when he says, "overall the work must at least strive for originality."

Oh, I'm striving, all right. Have been all along.

But I still have hidden royalty. That's one of the key elements of the book. I wanted the news that they're not who they thought they were to actually make a difference in who these characters are, rather than be a tacked-on reward at the end of the story. It's a fairly original treatment of the hidden royalty trope. I hope.

Maybe Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden won't mind that part so much, once they get a look at Rani.

'Cause I think my three-chapters-and-synopsis are going to Tor.



Nobody can get to a page that lets you add pushpins to my map. Frapper won't even let me get to the email invitation page. I sent them a support request.

I have yet to receive a single email from Bloglet.

And I have to struggle to force spaces between words. Half the time when I use the spacebar, the computer either hesitates or ignores it.

Sometimes technology sucks.

I'm rebooting. For whatever good it will do.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Fresh Start

Now that I have a few days off for the first time in weeks, I'm working on a number of things that I couldn't do while under time pressures at home and at work. It's been a doing-everything-at-once kind of day, but I have accomplished some things:

Housework. You probably won't care about this, but John does. I finally got caught up with the dishes, and put laundry away, and emptied some trashes. I was way behind on such things while I was working so much. When I was home, the last thing I wanted to do was clean.

Archiving. I was sure I would get a bunch of Musings entries archived on Outpost today, but all I actually got done was to make an HTML table of my entries from March through May, 2004, with links to the Blogspot versions of those postings. Actually, the May part isn't even in Outpost yet, but the fiction entries are already in Messages. They've been there all along. Still, I've made a start, and I've got Sunday and Monday to do more.

Anemia? What, still? The Red Cross rejected my blood again today, and for the same reason as last time: there's not enough iron in it. I was surprised, but I shouldn't have been. I've mostly been eating out of vending machines for a week and a half. Well, I figured this was as good an excuse as any to go eat steak! So I made my first visit ever to Texas Roadhouse - that is, unless you count my photo shoot for the third-ever Round Robin Photo Challenge, "Construction" (right). The place has been open for quite a while now, but there's always a wait to get in, at least at dinnertime. Going at lunchtime on a Saturday afternoon, I got right in!

Setting the Scene. While I was at the restaurant, I pulled an envelope out of my purse, and did what I used to do all the time in restaurants: I started writing a scene for a novel. This is the first time I've done this inat least a year, probably longer. And it was a first in two other ways. It was the first scene I've written for the third Mâvarin novel, tentatively titled The Mâvarin Revolutions. It will also be the first scene in the book. At least, that's the plan.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow. When I worked at Worldwide Travel, I was across the parking lot from a barber college. I wasn't always satisfied with their work, but it sure was convenient! Before that, I was going to a Hair Dynasty at El Con Mall, but that dynasty ended a while ago, after El Con became the mall equivalent of a ghost town. There is at least one hairdresser outlet at Park Place Mall, but they're always too busy to take me. Result: since leaving WWT, I haven't had my hair cut once - until today. The other night I scoped out a new place to get my hair cut, between Safeway and the chicken wing place. Today I actually went in.

"It says on this paper that you're here for a Mohawk," the stylist said as she led me to a chair. "Is that right?"

I laughed. "Do people still get Mohawks?" I asked.

She assured me that someone got one there just yesterday.

Anyway, she advised me to get six inches cut off, which is exactly how much I wanted to get cut off. I explained about one side curling up more than the other, and she compensated, getting it right on the first try. The haircut accentuated my gray hair, somehow, although not as much as the first picture shows with the flash reflecting off it. I kind of like it.

"Don't wait so long next time," the stylist said as I left.

"I won't," I promised.

And I won't.

Marketing Heirs. One of the things I've done tonight, aside from typing up my scene from Revolutions, posting an entry to Inspirations and my Heirs excerpt to Messages, troubleshooting FeedBlitz concerns and adding Bloglet forms to three sidebars, is to research possible markets for Heirs of Mâvarin. Writer's was glitchy, but I found another site that links to publishers' guidelines. This one for Baen Books looks especially promising. My Heirs manuscript exceeds their preferred length by 30,000 words, but that's not a huge problem, I'm guessing. Baen seems more concerned about too short than too long. Plus he actually prefers electronic submissions. Don't be surprised if I work up the nerve to send my reformatted file to Jim Baen and co. before the long weekend's over.

Yeah. New book, new hair, and a new start on sending out my beloved first novel.

I've had a good day.


And So It Ends

Today marked the end of several things. Let me tell you about them.

1. "Sammy." The little white dog is back in his home tonight. It turns out that his real name is Snow. The Humane Society called me back this morning, and got me the owner's phone number to call. The dog (an American Eskimo Dog, they tell me) even has a microchip! He is obviously very much loved and wanted. The owner said she hadn't slept all night, as she prayed and worried and listened for the dog at the door. She and Snow were overjoyed to see each other when I took him to her home at lunchtime. Apparently the husband had been inattentive at the back door for just a moment, and Snow took off. I know what that's like! I recommended our dog trainer to the wife, and she seemed interested in following up.

Snow's injured right rear foot was bleeding a little when John examined it again this morning, but he was all bouncy and happy and favoring it less. He overdid the jumping when he got home, though, and was soon walking on three legs again. The owner said she would try to get a vet appointment for Saturday.

Now that she's the only dog in the house again, Tuffy has stopped coming to see me every five minutes. She must be feeling more secure about her status in the family pack. So it's a happy ending all around!

2. The project. That awful year-end reconciliation that thwarted my efforts and kept me up nights is finally done. Today I made the final adjustments to make the numbers in program A match the numbers in program B. And I'm a little heartened to report that the guy who took over some of my other tasks found them almost as frustrating and confusing as I do, for the same reasons. He still did them more efficiently than I did, but that's a good thing, right?

The other farmed-out task ended up back in my lap once the basic data entry was done. Kind of makes me feel needed after all! I immediately found more than a few errors to clean up. Still, all the important numbers balance. My co-worker spent a lot of time trying to track down the last $9, but I told her not to worry about it. I'm just grateful that I won't have to spend eight hours playing the copy and paste game this time out, and another three looking for my errors.

3. An era - and a transitional period. Okay, my time as an AOL member isn't quite over yet, but something happened last night to hurry me toward the egress. I got one of those official blue emails from AOL. This one announced a price hike of $3 a month, to $25.90. This makes dial-up the same price as broadband. Talk about adding insult to injury! AOL makes the service more annoying, with ads and idle alerts (Do you want to stay online?), gives away most of the same services that AOL members pay for, and then raises its price! What part of the value equation (cost versus benefit) does the AOL brain trust not understand? Fewer benefits + more drawbacks + higher cost = less value = Karen leaves AOL.

Yes, I know I said I would quit in January, and it's now February. But it's not my fault, honest! I just haven't had time to transfer five hundred archived journal entries from Musings to Outpost, although I have made a modest start on the project. Also, it's become abundantly clear that I need a better connection than dialup. I've done the research, and everyone says that a wireless connection to get me on John's Cox cable modem is the only reasonable way to go. I'm all in favor, but that's going to require time and money, and a clean house so we can let the tech in. The last part is a problem, because stuff from the former storage room is currently filling the rest of the house. John is wallpapering that room, after which we're turning it into a library. That's the plan, anyway. So even if I get the postings reposted, I've got to wait for other stuff to happen before I'm actually ready to stop hearing Elijah Wood say "Welcome. You've got mail!"

Incidentally, anyone interested in a lot of 1980s comics, cheap? We're talking DC, Marvel, First, Eclipse, and probably several other publishers. John's in a hurry to cut down on our backlog of stuff we don't really need, which means that we're not going to spend a year selling issues of Teen Titans and Power Pack and Cerebus on eBay.

4. FeedBlitz backlog. I've started reading through about a week's worth of blog entries for which I have FeedBlitz alerts. I haven't commented to everything I read, but I'm definitely less behind than I was.

5. The ankle sprain. The ankle barely bothered me today, although my legs in general are swollen since I fell. The knee looks a bit better, too. I'm still very sore, though.

6. The Week. My hellish week is finally over. Thank God. And I mean that most sincerely.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

What a Day! And What I'm Meant to Do

Weekend Assignment #99: "What do others think they could do to make a difference? It doesn't have to be life-altering, as the smallest conception can bring the biggest results." In addition to things you could do, I'll also add in that if you are currently doing things you think make a difference, you can mention those, too. Extra Credit: Name someone you know who you admire for making a difference.

I've told this story before:

Back in 1990, my childhood best friend graciously allowed me to crash in his L.A. apartment so that I could attend a Quantum Leap screening and Q&A at U.C.L.A. During that visit, I became very uncomfortable about the fact that my main contribution to society was writing fanzines about tv shows. Meanwhile, Joel was actively trying to save people from starvation with his political and charitable activities.

Joel didn't make the comparison. I did. Feeling defensive, I tried to explain that my writings about Quantum Leap and Doctor Who were informative and entertaining, even capable of making people feel a little better, more hopeful about the world. But I felt guilty that I wasn't living up to Joel's standards, really making a difference in the world on a macro scale.

Really, though, I knew perfectly well, even then, that I'm not a save-the-world kind of person. I haven't the nerve, the dedication, or frankly even the interest for it. In a choice between "the bleeding crowd" and "a needing friend," I'm much more likely to help the needing friend. Or, more likely still, I'll blog about it, in the hope that my words will be helpful to someone somewhere.

Maybe tomorrow night, when I'm less sore, less busy and less stressed, I'll repost the original entry about this to this blog's archives.

To me, "making a difference" is inextricably bound up with who you are and what you're best suited to do. What you're meant to do, even. It's become very clear to me over the years that what I'm meant to do with my life is compile, synthesize and disseminate information. It may be fictional information or trivia, fact or opinion, or even a set of numbers. Doesn't matter. This is how my brain works, and this is what I'm interested in, and this is what I'm good at. Trying to make a difference by working at a soup kitchen instead of by writing would be a mistake. It would waste my talents and make me miserable, and probably do less good in the long run. The parable of the talents is relevant here. Not to use what I have, as best I can, would be a sin and a tragedy.

But that doesn't mean I never contribute in any other way. On Saturday, I'll try again to give blood, and hope I'm not too anemic this time. I was shocked to learn a few weeks ago that my iron count was too low. That's never happened to me before! It's probably a symptom of the way I've been treating my body recently, through all this stress at work. Nevertheless, I'll donate blood when I can. It's a nearly painless way to save a life.

And tonight we rescued a dog.

I don't know his name, but I'm calling him Sammy, because he looks like a miniature Samoyed. He reminds me very strongly of my childhood plan of breeding Pomeranians back up to sled dog size. He reminds me even more strongly of my dead dog Noodle. Noodle was much bigger, though, and had a golden cast to her white fur. Sammy's fur looks a little bluish, but that may be dust.

Noodle used to look almost exactly like this, only bigger and less delicate.

John and I first spotted Sammy in the middle of the westbound lane of Golf Links Road, standing still until a car pulled up beside him, and then sniffing the car door as if expecting a ride. Mind you, this is a busy road, a major artery for this part of Tucson.

John turned onto a side street to circle back to this foolhardy dog, fretting at every right turn that didn't lead back onto Golf Links. By the time we found the dog again, he was on the sidewalk by the street John initially turned into. A car turned in right behind us, but fortunately did not rear-end us as John cursed and stopped anyway. Sammy got right into the car when I opened the door, with virtually no hesitation.

Sammy is too friendly for his own good.

When we got home, John sent me inside for a leash. We soon learned that the dog had a tag. Good news! That means we should be able to find his owner. Nevertheless, I decided to walk the dog back to the area of the intersection where we found him, in case the owner was driving around looking for him. Sammy was all in favor of this.

It was twilight time, though, and my night vision is almost as bad as my coordination and my frequently-injured ankles. I tripped in a pothole half a block from my house, and fell in the middle of the intersection. It was a very minor intersection, but I was hurt, and I had a strange dog with me, and a car was coming! I struggled to my feet, got back onto the sidewalk on my block, and called John for a ride back.

Don't give me that innocent look! John and I agree: you're a trouble dog!

Tuffy is all freaked out, coming to me every ten minutes for reassurance. In their encounters, it's been little Sammy, a smidge smaller than Tuffy, that's done the growling. Mostly they're getting along okay, though.

And somehow, since coming into this house, Sammy has injured his right rear paw. Maybe it's from the doggie door. There's nothing visibly wrong that John could find, and Sammy didn't pull away when John examined it. But he's not putting any weight on it, either.

Meanwhile, I've sprained my right ankle yet again, and scraped my left knee. The right ankle is the better of the two, and it's not a bad sprain. The scrape hurts worse. I'm bruised in a couple of places, and very sore all over.

Ah, that explains it! Sammy is a devil dog! He's even standing on a sermon!

What a day! At work, the discrepancy in my numbers started around $210K, and climbed to $330K before I found the major problem and got it down to around $50K. I was close to tears a few times. And my boss has started giving some of my other tasks to other people to do. That relieves some of my time pressure, but it makes me feel a little guilty, too - especially when the other person does the job in half the time!

I guess those particular tasks aren't what I'm meant to do after all.

Extra Credit: I have to say, I do admire Joel and his brother Michael for trying to make the world better on a grand scale. I also admire Ila Abernathy from the St. Michael's Social Concerns Committee. Every year she spends a couple of months in Guatemala, helping displaced Mayans in remote villages with economic and justice issues, and especially with access to health care. "I don't do all that much compared to other people," she told my friend Eva a couple of weeks ago. "It's just that what I do is high profile." But I say she does plenty.


P.S. The next Round Robin Photo Challenge has been announced! Appropriately, it's "The Animal Inside," as suggested by Derek. Check out the Round Robin blog for details, and don't forget to RSVP!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Okay. 11:21 PM. I've completed my Round Robin obligations for tonight - I hope! - but I'm falling further and further behind on my FeedBlitz blogs. Blame it on my crazy but necessary hours at work recently. I'll catch up. I will. But probably not until the weekend.

Meanwhile I need to get this post in, and the church blog and schedule page updated. I'm half a week late on the church stuff already, so I really can't put it off any longer.

You know that project I've been working on for the past week, the one that kept me up all night Sunday night and half the night on Saturday and Monday nights? No, you don't, because I haven't explained what it actually is. I won't do so tonight, either. Let's just say that it involves using one program to get two extremely long lists of numbers and other details to match each other in two other programs, based on stacks of paper about six feet high. Well, I finally got it done, sort of, a full day after the drop dead deadline. Yes, I finished entering the numbers in one program and making corrections in the other, based on the spreadsheets I spent a week compiling. No, the numbers don't match. In fact, they're worse than before I started! Now I've got to compare a 40-page printout with my spreadsheets,and find the places where they don't match. And fix them, of course. By noon, preferably. Aargh!

Enough of that. I'm not going to think about it any more tonight (it says here). Instead I'm going to fill out this entry with a few odds and ends, as usual.

Item One: A Personality Test Meme for Someone Who Hates Personality Tests.

It's no secret that I don't generally believe in personality tests, except occasionally for amusement value. As diverse as human nature is, both globally and within any one individual, it's not reasonable to try to fit people into a few little boxes, introvert/extrovert, ESFJ or INTP, chunky or creamy, people who divide the world into two groups of people and people who don't. Heck, I'm introverted and extroverted, depending on the situation, a thinker and a feeler, a universe unto myself. I contain multitudes. AND SO DO YOU.

Nevertheless, I'm intrigued by the one John Scalzi set up for himself the other day. The idea is that you pick six words off a list that you think best describe yourself. Then you get other people to pick six words to describe you. It's interesting to see where people agree and disagree about a single person. I like it because as more people participate, the results are less and less limited. I'm more than my six words. I'm my six words, and the words you use about me too. Unless, of course, you're totally wrong! ;) So anyway, I set one up. Please go pick six words that you think fit me. Then you can see what everyone else picked. And finally, you can set one up for yourself if you like. I promise that if you do it for me, I'll do it for you, too. Just ask!

Here's the link:

Item Two: More from Gallifrey One:

I just want to show you a few more pictures. If you've never watched Buffy or Doctor Who, they won't mean much to you, and the old Mavica didn't take very good photos compared to the Canon I use now. Nevertheless, some of these are kind of interesting:

Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor) tells a story.

Buffy co-star Robia LaMorte (Jenny Calendar) is amused by fellow Buffy alumnus Danny Strong (Jonathan Levinson). I wonder if Joss Whedon called the character Calendar because her days were numbered! Both of these actors had their characters killed off, but "Jonathan" the nerd magician lasted quite a bit longer than "Jenny," the technopagan computer teacher.

Janet Fielding (Tehan Jovanka on Doctor Who) tells a story -probably not the same one Sylvester is telling in the other shot. It amuses me to post a picture of her now, because we were unable to publish her likeness in the Doctor Who trading cards in the early 1990s. At the time, she was refusing to participate in anything Who-related, for any money. We had to substitute a picture of a young actress who played Tegan during a temporary de-aging.

The autograph line. I think the wait outside was about 40 minutes, maybe an hour. It was interesting to be surrounded by Paul McGann fans who had met him before, and to watch planes taking off and landing at the airport adjacent to the hotel.

I like Sophie Aldred's expression here. She played Ace, the Seventh Doctor's companion - my favorite Doctor Who compainion ever.

Enough. Much work to do before I sleep! Good night!