Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Evening in Front of the Vast Waste of TV Land

"You know what movie this is?"
"Yes, it's Conan the Destroyer. I saw it when you had the info on."
"But do you know which one it is?"
"Is it the annoying one with the girl and the island?"
"I don't know why everyone disses this movie. It has Grace Jones in it."
"Grace Jones is the best part of this movie."
A short discussion ensues about the annoying and not so annoying characters in the movie as the heroes move to rescue the magical Asian character from being roasted alive.
"How is this different from The 13th Warrior?
"You're kidding, right?"
"Other than Grace Jones, of course... They both have sword fighting."
On TV, the bad guys are riding across a vast plain.
"Well, they both have villains on horseback dressed in black with skulls on their heads. And, the main characters have accents."
"They're both taciturn."
"Yes, both have taciturn main characters with accents."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

For the past five weeks, I've been obsessively plowing through Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books. I first encountered Sharpe through our local PBS station's airing of the Briitish series of TV movies which also inspired a long-term crush on Sean Bean. I'm a voracious reader but I don't think I've ever been so obsessed with a series of books and certainly not sustained an obsession through this many different books in a series. [I pooped out after initial obsessions with Stephen King's Dark Tower series, David Weber's Honor Harrington books, and Anita Hamilton's Anita Blake series.] The great thing about starting to read these books now is that I am able to read them almost completely in timeline order versus the order in which they were published. In some cases, I have pursued this order by maximizing my use of the Washington County Library interlibrary loan system. In other cases, I have driven from one library branch to another library branch and visited the adjacent St. Paul Library system to feed my habit. Internet library search is a wonderful thing. During lulls between copies of the book, I've finished a few other books. One, The Requiem Shark by Nicholas Griffin is a novel about the pirate Black Bart which I highly recommend. There's a good review of it up at Salon. Pirates - yay! Sam Enthoven's Black Tatoo, a YA dark fantasy, was next and was one of the freebies from World Fantasy. While there were a few times I looked up from the book to frown in consternation, I was nicely pulled through the book by interesting characters, surprising world building and sword fighting. Sword fighting - yay! I am awaiting the last three Sharpe novels and have to content myself with my new obsession, watching the Sharpe's movies through Alan's B-day subscription to Netflicks. Because it is his birthday gift, I am limiting myself to one of his two movies at a time which he puts up with since he knows the movie will be probably be watched and returned within 24 hours. I will plow through the whole series of movies in just a few weeks. Interspersed amongst these, we'll have our usual Alan's obscure foreign movie picks coming in at a regular pace, too. I was a little disappointed by the first two films in the Sharpe series (the Wellington character made me want to barf) but I've been told things pick up with this next one, Sharpe's Company. [I would be watching it RIGHT NOW but someone is playing something on the Gamecube. The dog is between us destroying his new rawhide bone. We all have our obsessions, I guess.] I currenlty am reading John Scalzi's The Ghost Brigades which like his previous novel, Old Man's War, has soldiers, aliens, intrigue and bloody battles. Bloody battles - yay! Unlike the first book, which I did really enjoy, the main character isn't annoyingly perfect and brilliant and always saving the day. On my bedside table waiting to be read, I have Partick O'Brian's Master and Commander and Sabatini's Scaramouche. So everything I've been reading the past few weeks has conveniently though not intentionally had battles or swashbuckling in it. I've been trying to figure out my obsession with the Sharpe books and this focus on warfare. The Sharpe books aren't as well written as some in the genre (?) but I've always been a forgiving reader if the story is compelling, the characters interesting and the writing not so bad it throws me out of the story. I think that Cornwell has hit on the right mixture of romance, intrigue and adventure for my taste and it probably doesn't hurt that I still picture Sean Bean as the main character. Another time, we'll have to have a discussion about why Sean Bean has to always play bad guys in American movies.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I was supposed to be working from home this morning but the website I need is temporarily down, so I thought I'd take some time to do a quick post-WFC rundown.

This is what we brought home:
A cold - despite getting plenty of sleep and no drinking
A burned mouth from hot cheese in excellent Austin Tex Mex food that has turned into a killer toothache

Two awesome freebie bags. We could actually check these bags which allowed us to bring more home than we thought we'd be able to.
From the freebie bags:
Night Wars - Graham Masterton
Pandora Drive - Tim Waggoner
Shadowmarch - Tad Williams
From Black Rooms - Stephen Woodworth
The Mount - Carol Emshwiller - this will be a great Christmas gift for someone
Some recent F & SFs
George and the Angels - Glenn Maganek
The Fair Folk anthology
Best Short Novels 2006 - Jonathan Strahan's SFBC anthology
The Black Tattoo - Sam Enthoven - an ARC - beautiful cover
A Princess of Roumania - Paul Park - nice to see this promoted so much - another gift
Cross Plains Universe: Texans Celebrate Robert E. Howard anthology
Genetopia - Keith Brooke

We also came home with:
(Hot off the presses)
Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet #19
Electric Velocipede #11
The Sense of Falling - Ezra Pines chapbook with illustrations by Mark Rich
(as well as)
The Ephemera - Neil Williamson
Summer of the Apocolypse - James Van Pelt

We were lucky to score the Neil Williamson since none of the book dealers had copies and we got one of the few Neil brought with him. Reading the first few stories on the plane going home reminded me all over again why I was so excited when I first found his writing. This collection is highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Much more busyness so no posting lately. A couple of things making me insanely angry. The last straw was this interview of ignorant homophobe Paul Weyrich from the Free Congress Foundation by Michele Norris on NPR this afternoon. I almost slammed on the breaks in the middle of traffic, it made me so angry. It happens right away so you don't have to listen to the whole thing.

Conservative Groups Call for Accountability on Foley

If you don't want to listen to it (and I don't recommend it if you are trying for a low stress day) he said that Foley shouldn't have been in charge of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus because the Republican leadership knew he was gay and as we all know "gay men are preoccupied by sex."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Busy, busy week. I feel like I'm juggling about a million things right now. I posted at One Tough Puppy about the new job a little bit and the money-pit but lovable dog. The job is going well. I love working around animals and the people who volunteer are great. I spend a lot of my time on the phone since we're starting our annual phonathon. It is probably the hardest thing to recruit people to help with but is also our largest fundraiser so we have to keep trying. At home, I've been plowing my way through all the Diversicon books and only have two left. Alan brought me more library books today. I love how he helps feed my habit. Work prevented us from a more formal 3rd anniversary celebration tonight. We'll be doing something this weekend when we are both available and have time to relax. Tonight, we opted for pizza and a quiet night on the couch bookended by pets. Life is good.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Last weekend, we headed up to my parent's cabin in northwestern Minnesota for Friday night. The next day, while my parent's took care of the dog, we headed up to Duluth to the Northern Lights bookstore for Alan's book signing. The drive is beautiful with lakes and mixed pine and deciduous forest. We found the bookstore right on Canal Street in the peak downtown tourist area near the lift bridge and the lake walk. For a small store, it packed a lot books in and had a great selection of Great Lakes related and regional materials. I decided to treat myself to a book, although we'd recently hauled two books full from Diversicon, and went around browsing and trading through books. I found the winner, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Rufiz Zafon translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves, on their Booksense Picks shelves. It was a pick back in February when it came out. Despite its satisfying thickness, I blew through it this week. I'm still gathering my thoughts about it and will write more but I highly recommend it. It was kind of a literary mystery set in Barcelona during the 40s and 50s with a great gothic feel and compelling characters.

It was Alan's first visit to Duluth and long overdue. We poked around Duluth a bit before doing part of the North Shore Scenic Drive up to Gooseberry Falls State Park. On the recommendation of one of Alan's co-workers, we stopped for pie at the New Scenic Cafe and, tempted by the menu, ended up eating an early dinner and taking the pie with us. At Gooseberry, we toured the falls and then took the Gooseberry River trail to the lake and Agate Beach. Alan grew up next to Lake Erie, so it was nice to finally be able to show him Lake Superior, which has a quite different feel to it. We headed back in the dark to the cabin and cool sleeping temperatures. The next day we swam, read, ate good food and played with the dog until it was time to go home. After chasing squirrels and chipmunks all weekend, as well as swimming and playing fetch, he was a very tired dog on the drive home.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Very busy, very social couple of weeks passed.

We had a last minute weekend with the families of Haddayr and Karen. Wonderful people. Great discussions. Nice relaxation. Some birthday, ice cream cake goodness for Alan. What more can I say?

Alan got Netflicks from my parents for his birthday. Yay!! Now instead of checking the mail for rejection letters we look for movies. So far we've seen:

Irma Vep which was a strange but compelling movie by the director of the very twisted Demonlover. While both movies had unsatisfying endings, they were worth the trip.
Dog Soldiers which was an interesting twist on the traditional werewolf movie by the writer/director of The Descent. The werewolves were cheesy but the acting was strong (including Kevin McKidd from Rome) and the characters sympathetic.

Up next are Dave Chappelle's Block Party and Walk the Line. Suggestions for movies to add to the queue would be very welcome.

Diversicon was last weekend. We've only been once before two years ago when SP Somtow was guest of honor and Mark Rich was special guest. We missed it last year because we were out of town. This year we had the magnificent Kelly Link as guest of honor and very cool Bryan Thao Worra as special guest. I missed most of the panels due to absent mindedness but also because I was helping out or gabbing with Gavin at the Small Beer Press table. It's a small convention but packs a punch with programming, lots of time to meet and visit with the highlighted guests, and lots of other interesting attendees. Highlights included seeing Lyda glammed up as Tate; stocking up to feed my reading habit with two bags of used books from the dealers room; an affordable live auction with booty including more books and original Mark Rich artwork; a long chat with Eleanor Arnason (check out her new blog here); Bryan Thao Worra's awesome presentation on Laotian mysterious places (see Dark Wisdom #9 for his article on the Plain of Jars) and mythic creatures (toe sucking forest spirits!), music from Mark and Martha as Keg Salad, and a great film discussion with Andrea Hairston that included one of my favorite films, Lonestar, and a new, eye-opening take (to me) on Rush Hour. Andrea will be guest of honor next year, so you'll have to come and ask her about it.

Once again, the past two weeks reminded me how blessed we have been with such a great group of friends and writing/SF community around us. As one of my new co-workers said on the way out the door today, "Peace out, y'all!"

Friday, July 28, 2006

Discussing musical taste, that is whether someone has good musical taste or not, led to a slight disagreement this evening. I would tend to be more inclusive in defining someone's musical taste. For instance, in addition to such obvious things such as music purchased, music played and music shared with friends, I believe that songs one chooses to sing at home, out of the view of the public but in the presence of roommates or family, should also be included. The manner of such singing, and if there is also dancing, could also be considered. What do you think?
*WARNING - Hex Spoiler*

Last night I tuned BBC America for Hex and found out Cassie had died. I swear I caught the episode last week but did not remember losing the main character. I immediately zapped into on demand just be sure, and yes, the last episode showing up was #6, the one I'd watched. I sulked a bit and decided I must have missed it and they were just slow to put up the next episode. I checked back later and found out they'd put up last night's episode, #8. Same thing today, episodes #6 and #8. I feel so betrayed. I haven't felt like this since I was a kid and somehow skipped the whole Gandalf dying in Moria scene and found out he was dead when I opened the next book. I cried that time. This time I wasn't sad (she could be so mean to Thelma) just angry with Comcast or BBC America or whoever blew the surprise for me. I expected some commiseration from Alan but he already knew she was going to die having read all the episode summaries on some website or other. What's the fun of that? And why the hell am I getting so hyped up about a consistently inconsistent show I know is already cancelled without a nice series wrap up at the end?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

This new job is going to do wonders for my writing discipline. With the way my schedule is structured, I need to lose a few hours each week during the day and have been alternating camping out at the two nearby coffee houses. And, in case I ever entertain the unproductive idea that I will work at my desk (not just catch up on blogs and news), overcrowding has someone needing to use my computer, desk or chair any time I'm away from my desk for more than ten minutes. I've been avoiding the heat by heading out early to make use of their free air conditioning, too. This week has taught me that although I think I can get writing done at home, I'm really just treading water since they're too many distractions.

About the new job... I'm about one week into it and am loving the work. I'm coordinating volunteers part-time for the local humane society shelter, a position that draws on my weird assortment of past volunteer and work experiences. It's amazingly close to home and I can keep my low paid but promising job with the start up company while having a steady paycheck during our slow season. Best of all, it's so good to be working in an animal shelter again.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

We're back from Readercon and post Readercon activities. The air is hot and dry, our house is almost unbearable and all the lawns are getting crispy, a very different situation from water-logged Massachusetts. We lost a kitchen chair and one of my sandals which is pretty good considering I didn't have as much time to puppy proof things as I would have liked. The sandal must have been hiding deep underneath a chair or the couch. The poor chair broke at some point, then was yanked apart and then chewed. We think the dog jumped on it to get to a cat although the pulling apart could have happened first. It was the chair facing out into the room under the table and thus more accessible than the others. I did also get the good news that I have a second interview for an interesting job tomorrow morning.

Readercon was fun and mellow with lots of interesting people. It suffered a little from its lack of parties, although that didn't stop us from making use of the Irish pub in the hotel. Oh yes, we spent way too much time in that bar. A desperate search for brunch one morning led a mtoley crew of us to a strange meal amidst birthday partying kids and jungle noises in the nearby mall's Rainforest Cafe. I enjoyed readings by Brett Cox, Paul Park, Patrick O'Leary, Jeff Ford and others. I'm still a little brain dead, so you'll have to excuse me if I forgot yours. The most memorable reading was for Twenty Epics which my husband hijacked to read an excerpt from the stories of everyone who wasn't present. I almost died during his rendition of David Schwartz's story because at times he sounded more like my Aunt Joyce than David doing his great uncle's accent. If you'd like to hear it for yourself, you just need to buy him a shot and hand him a copy of the book. Although I hit more programming than I ever have since my first convention, I only caught one half of two different panels because I had to sneak out to readings I promised I'd attend. I missed guest of honor James Morrow completely and only heard a few words from China Mieville one of them being, "tentacular" a great, great word. Sometime during one of "let's do shots" periods in the bar (I stayed with beer) we started up the "which SF author would you do" thing that was first played during the DC World Fantasy, I think. I had to pull in Lauren, who had just been voted onto the island, to balance out the mostly male, mostly gay panel because they kept vetoing the inclusion of guys with pony tails. If you want more details than that, you'll have to buy me a cider.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

We're back from my parent's cabin a day early so we can do some work around the house. It was a glorious, long weekend and Gambit's first visit. He got to explore the woods, swim as much as he wanted to and take his first boat ride. He was very well behaved and we're pleased to have a dog we can actually swim with instead of having to watch for claws and fend off attempts to climb onto us. He's very fast and can beat me in a flat out race, although he has a tendency to keep circling back to cut me off and make my front crawl into a much slower breaststroke. There was very little barking, which with the swimming, helped win my dad over. The last few years with our old dog had involved lots of senile barking at anything that moved including every boat passing on a busy lake. Gambit's passed out next to me on the couch right now and the cats are having a little peace because he's so tired.

Being Wisconsin, where these things are legal, we had lots of fireworks. They've done amazing things for the home market and we had couple nights of professional quality shows from different cabins. It was a beautiful sight from the boat after dark and at one point there were alternating explosions from both sides of the lake. I was going to bring Mentos and Diet Coke to duplicate Greg's experiment for our fireworks but didn't need to and will save that for a weekend when we have kids at the cabin.

There were all these new buoys around the lake which my dad said were marking Eurasian milfoil outbreaks. People raced right by them ignoring the problem and chewing up the plants to spread them to other places. Lake residents formed a lake district over the last two years and have gotten funding to work on the problem, but it's going to be an ongoing thing. Once it's in the lake, it's there for good, I guess, and it still might get completely out of control ending up stifling all the native life. The other big topic was the number of large muskie on the lake and the lack of the smaller northerns. Muskie don't bite very often while northerns do so the fishing has changed. We had a number of boats just off the point by our dock saying they were tracking some huge fish on their radars there. The water gets really deep fast and a couple times I wondered what was sharing the water with me. Muskies were always the monsters of legend on our lake.

Friday, June 30, 2006

A little depressed today -- I've not been sleeping well, plus it is so damn hot. The house managed to stay fairly cool all week but it's starting to heat up and I'm sweating just sitting here. Like they tell you to do in all of the job search books and trainings, I did my follow up calls for a couple of part-time jobs I sent in resumes for earlier in the week. I really thought one was a great fit, although I could see them thinking I was over qualified. Both are in the interviewing stage of things. While I still might get a call, it's not as likely, I guess. In small breaks between loads of laundry and washing wood floors, I've been watching soccer and then a Gina Lollobrigida and Rock Hudson movie, Come September, a little confection of a movie. I've enjoyed looking at the clothes and beautiful scenery and dreaming about being Lollobrigida and having her clothes. I have a very stinky dog dreaming beside me on the couch and sleeping kitties at various elevations throughout the living room. I can't give the dog a bath for a few days because I just gave him his monthly dose of anti-tick stuff. Next time, I'll remember: bath first, then medicine. We're headed up to my parent's cabin for the first time with Gambit along. Between the woods and the lake, he'll be in dog heaven. In the past, it's been the only time my dogs have been able to run around off-leash outside of a fenced in yard. With the dog park so close by, the off-leash part won't be as big a deal but the never-endingness of the off-leashness will be novel. If he's like other dogs we've had, he'll run and swim his butt off the first day and crash the rest of the weekend. Eventually, he'll learn to pace himself so the wiped out part comes after we get home.

Being only partially employed is not the end of the world. A friend called today to say they have surgery scheduled after a quick diagnosis of breast cancer. It looks to be an easy tumor to remove and we're hoping that's what they find. It kind of puts things into perspective, though.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I've been busy sending out resumes and doing a few interviews. Ever since my hours were cut because of seasonal slow down, I've been trying to decide whether to get a part-time job or full-time job. I've been applying for both and I guess I'll wait to see what comes up. I was feeling so lost that last week that I attended a three day job search boot camp at the Workforce Center. It was overwhelming but incredibly helpful. I've retooled my resume and started looking at my "portfolio." They really stressed that I needed a navy blue or black suit for interviewing. I'd been at my old nonprofit for so long that I didn't have anything that fit the bill. After buying and returning two different suits, I finally found one on sale yesterday at Marshall Fields that I love and that fits like glove. I also scored matching designer shoes on sale for cheap, cheap, cheap. (They said plain pumps would be best for interviewing but really, they're just shoes, right? Can't I have a little style?) I usually try on suits with skirts since they tend to fit better than suits with pants -- unless I can mix and match sizes. Last night, I tried it on for Alan and he got a strange look in his eyes and said it made me look very tall. I have to admit that it made me feel powerful. I guess that's where the whole power suit thing came from.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Jumping off from Gwenda and Jackie's comments to the post below, I've put up our first topic of conversation on 1 Tough Puppy: Cost of Pet Ownership.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

We've officially joined Gwenda in the "leave your pet behind with the pet sitter guilt club." Our fabulous pet sitter, Lynn, left us a note saying that hyper puppy Gambit had caught his dew claw on the couch cover that day and it had bled a bit. She recommended checking it and seeing if it warranted a vet visit to have the nail clipped or removed. I checked it that night and the next day and it seemed to be getting better and wasn't causing him any discomfort. Then we went to the dog park yesterday. A pained yelp and a little blood later I decided it was time to head home and make that vet appointment. Another pet owner warned that the toe could be broken, which was quite painful, and recommended that I keep some pain stuff like Demerol on hand for pet emergencies. Luckily, the pain wasn't bad once he settled in and they got us in this morning - thank goodness for Saturday morning office hours. I was hoping for just a nail trim and bandage. It was that but also a sedative, local anesthesia, antibiotics and three days of E. collar. $200 worth of stuff. Ouch, especially so close on the heels of Wiscon. Of course, I hadn't gotten around to completing the pet insurance policy, yet.

So, we've instituted the BIG PLAN - 1 Tough Puppy - a blog dedicated to pet issues of all kinds. I'm hoping to provide a forum for advice and discussion and a place for recommendations and reviews of pet products. I'm hoping it will generate a little bit of Adsense revenue to help us pay down the surgery debt. It will definitely keep me from posting my long pet rants on this blog. If you are interested in joining in, let me know. Some of you have been so helpful here with support and advice and I know others would benefit from your wisdom, too.
Thanks everyone for your support. I thought I'd lighten things up a bit with the best news I've heard all week (other than personal visits by bears.)

Meerkat Manor

Oh Yeah! (Picture Alan's falsetto here.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

I won't be able to fly out to California for my uncle's funeral, although it sounds like we will probably have a memorial service here in the Twin Cities, too. I didn't get to see my uncle very often when I was growing up but I have great memories from two family trips out to Davis to see him. My uncle, Robert Price, was a marine biologist who taught for years at UC Davis and specialized in seafood technology. When I was ten, we borrowed my aunt's parent's RV and drove down the coast on Highway 1 ending up at Disneyland. We spent an amazing, magical time on that trip exploring the tide pools on one of the rocky, northern beaches. I remember looking into a tidepool and seeing nothing. Then, my uncle brought me closer and it was teeming with life. It was just like Pagoo and, at that moment, I couldn't think of anything better than having an uncle who was a marine biologist.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

This was going to be a kind of Wiscon post but I don't have the energy right now. I just got bad news about my uncle. His lung cancer has progressed to the point where they're saying good-bye. One of my cousins was able to fly out to be with him and his wife. Everyone else is so far away.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wiscon's over. The drive home was fairly uneventful once we got some caffeine into Alan. He started the drive and promptly crashed. I took over and, while falling asleep wasn't an issue, noticing something off to the side and finding the car swerving off into that direction was. He was supposed to keep me awake and, instead, I was throwing questions out to him in panic. "Who was your favorite new person? What was your best conversation? What gossip haven't you shared?" There was also some poking. "You have to stay awake!" One can of coffee drink later we were just fine. No storms. No traffic. Everyone else seems to have had a much harder time getting home.

We arrived home to a sweltering house, smelling of cat and dog. The puppy promptly peed on my sandaled foot. We had a cryptic message about our mortgage needing payment but couldn't get more information because both the bank and the mortgage offices were closed. I realized I'd lost my debit card and had to call to cancel it. Thank goodness that bank still had staff on duty. (She was probably in a country that doesn't have Memorial Day.)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I had a nice break from the stress yesterday when I drove up with the Hegge side of the family to Fargo/Moorhead for a wedding. Dad drove over from Brainerd and fishing opener for the night. Much fun was had by all. I was so tired, I only danced to one song, Love Shack. Very sad.

Publisher's Weekly has a mixed, mostly positive review of Alan's upcoming short story collection. (Of course, I think they are way off in the "self-conscious blandness" comment. I can think of a lot of words to describe Alan's stories but "bland" is not one of them!)

I am about 5/6 of the way through Hal Duncan's Vellum and am absolutely loving it. I can't wait to get to WisCon to discuss it and congratulate Hal.
I got the fifth installment of Rabid Transit to the printer on Thursday. We'll have it time for WisCon. The title is from an old Italian saying and fits well with our stories this year. Here's the text Chris wrote for the back cover:

"The stories in Long Journeys, Great Lies—the newest installment in the acclaimed Rabid Transit series—are meditations on travel, voyages, exile and escape. Some are adventurous, others politically charged. Some will take you to far-off lands while others will bring you back to a strange place called home. No matter what, they will excite, soothe, thrill, frighten and provoke."

This month has been crazy with WisCon stuff. I finished up as best I could with readings scheduling. I had no idea how much work goes into planning the convention until I started helping out a couple of years ago. My appreciation has grown over time. I'm talking about work that doesn't end with the convention and continues pretty much the entire year to bring together all the wonderful details we mostly take for granted. Readings is a very, very small part of things but to many who attend, an important part. There is a certain sense of entitlement for some writers for panels and readings. Not enough of us are helping out with other parts of the convention. I worry sometimes when I see how long the core group of volunteers has been doing this and don't see enough other people stepping in to help out. We're all really busy during the convention but stopping by to see what needs to be done for an hour or so when you have a lull once during the weekend would be really helpful. Childcare, consuite, greenroom, registration: there are a lot of different choices of places to help.

By the way, I really could use some help next year with readings. Feel free to e-mail me or talk to me at the convention, if you think you might be interested.

Friday, April 14, 2006

All in all the past two weeks have been very good.

There was Barth's reading at Dreamhaven last week.

Alan and I saw V is for Vendetta last weekend. Awesome movie! Why aren't more people talking about it?

We finished the readings schedule for Wiscon this week and while there are problems that need to be fixed, no one has threatened to kill me, yet.

We learned that we will most likely have a karaoke DJ at our annual Wiscon Ratbastard party. Yay!

I got to spend a couple of hours at the Battle Creek dog park four out of five afternoons this week with Gambit enjoying the beautiful summer-like weather and their multiple ponds/lakes. Over the course of four days, he went from playing in the mud and stepping into the water to stepping out into the water to going out as far as he could walk to swimming out to fetch sticks and balls and bringing them back to me. Two things learned in one activity: fetching and swimming! We have a water dog after all!

Coffee, critique and lots of chatting with Haddayr yesterday.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dang, it's hard to concentrate on posting when you have three cats waiting for dinner looking down on you like vultures. I tell them they still have fifteen minutes left to go but it doesn't matter. I'll have to make this fast. We ended up taking Gambit's E. collar off a couple of days early after he managed to pry a corner up and start chewing it. He started squealing one evening and I found he'd bent it perpendicular until it was poking into his face. No harm done. Since Wednesday, we've had three trips to the dog park and Alan has him out on a walk now. He's still not making it through the night without waking us up with whining to go out but I have hopes of sleep in the near future. Just in case we can't break him off the whining habit soon, I've invested in some ear plugs.

My new favorite cooking ingredient is roasted sweet red peppers from a jar. I've tried them the past couple of weeks in stir fry, stew, soup, and couscous, and sauteed with chicken breast. Anyone have suggestions for other uses?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Really no excuse for not posting for this long. Things have been busy with a new job, two pets and three surgeries, lots of volunteer type stuff and some Rabid Transit work. I can give a quick run down and then do my best not to get so far behind.

Tora, our cat, had a tumor removed that was cancerous but the Vet thinks he got it all and the surrounding tissue was cancer free. The cat had to wear his e-collar for two weeks after the surgery which meant we had to keep him separated from the puppy and by default the other two cats. He never really adjusted to the collar this time, maybe because he's a senior now and less adaptable. He was always getting stuck on things and we were all very happy when it came off. Despite having a fairly large chunk out of his leg the wound has healed nicely and the fur is growing back in. In retrospect the surgery was amazingly cheap at $600 even considering it was about $425 more than I thought it was going to be because the estimate was totalled incorrectly. (I should have paid more attention to the details!)

Alan has posted some of this, so I apologize for repeating. The high amount of detail is more for me than readers -- who will probably be bored -- as I find I'm still processing the whole thing. Gambit, the Katrina dog, turned 6 months during the whole Tora thing, so he was next in line for surgery. We had him neutured on a Friday a few weeks ago. It was little more expensive than usual because one of his testicles never descended and they had to go up into his body to get to it. He wasn't doing well the next morning, so Alan took him back in. He got an anti-nausea shot and some antibiotics and seemed to be doing much better. The total for all of that was about $650. After our three day weekend, I came home from work the next Tuesday to find Gambit dribbling blood-tinged urine. The Vet's office was closed so I called the very close-by emergency clinic and they said I'd better bring it in. As the woman said on the phone, "Blood in urine is never a good sign." (I was having flashbacks to what we went through a couple years ago with my big, old dog, Burt who at the end was leaky, and at the very end when we finally learned it was cancer and not thyroid, a little bloody, too. But, at this point, I thought it had to be related to the surgery.) Gambit and I was shown into an exam room and he proceeded to spend the next few hours painting the floor redder and redder. They moved us once to get him away from the mess. In the meantime, they did tests, a series of x-rays and an ultrasound. They found a huge amount of urine just loose inside his body cavity which led them to suspect his kidney(s). We'd noticed the liquid before. When he lay down, part of his tummy would roll a little bit. I always thought it was just a full bladder or would encourage him to take a trip outside. The x-ray showed one of his kidneys wasn't functioning. There seemed to be three or four possibilities: a misplaced nick from the surgery, a parasite he picked up during Katrina, or a virus or infection that had attacked his kidney. We had to pay a deposit on what they thought the final total would be early on in the evening. The clinic staff were wonderful and always checked in with me before doing anything, quoting me the price as well. At that point it seemed we had two options, dead puppy or try to find out what was wrong. The total from the emergency clinic visit was $1,800.

Now, I should say that while Gambit was shortly to become our dog, he was still just a foster dog until March. I could have waited until the next day to bring him back to the animal shelter and have them take care of at least some of it. They don't open until noon and I still can't imagine waiting 16 hours with an internally bleeding puppy. Back when he developed a respiratory infection shortly after we got him, I decided to take him into our Vet instead of waiting four hours to get through to the shelter. He was hacking and I thought he was choking on something. The Vet found a parasite in his system that the shelter had missed, so I think I made the right decision and don't regret paying for the visit and meds.

The Vet on duty at the emergency clinic recommended taking him into the emergency clinic at the small animal hospital at the University of Minnesota the next day as this was beyond what she or a normal Vet's office could handle. They kept him the rest of the night and I went home, thankfully just a few blocks away, to try to sleep a few hours. I picked him and his x-rays up at 6 the next morning and we headed over to St. Paul. I love the St. Paul campus. All of my Chemical Dependency Counselling classes were there and offered only at night. I'd park right by the cow barn and as I walk to class, I'd pass by all these people walking dogs because the Vet school and hospital was right there, too. Just driving him through campus made me relax a little.

One of the staff from the emergency clinic by our house was also on staff there and she was ready to take him right away. I had to wait just a little while in the waiting room and it seemed to be labrador day at the clinic. All of them were older dogs and one was going through chemo and another was having some paralysis in his back legs and I sat there looking at them and the woman who had her cat wrapped in a blanket and the one who had her cat in a carrier and the bulletin board with the pet loss group notice. The young Vet who came out was very apologetic. She was having Gambit admitted to the surgery part of the hospital and another doctor would be taking care of him. He'd be having exploratory surgery sometime that day. She was supposed to come up with an estimate for me to sign and have me pay a deposit so they could go forward, but was nervous about coming up with a surgery estimate, especially when no one knew what was happening, yet. It ended up being pretty accurate. We were looking at another $1,600 - $2,000. In a daze, I signed the paper and went to the accounting office with a credit card and then headed to work. Later that day, a surgeon, not the surgeon, but one on duty, called to go over everything again. He said that it might help to have more x-rays but since he knew how expensive everything was going to be, it wasn't absolutely necessary. Gulping, I said, "Maybe we could go ahead without the x-rays." He said the surgeon would call when he knew something. The whole day went by and I finally called after the front desk had closed for the day. I kept thinking to myself, "How do parents handle this? The not knowing what's wrong. With a child it's got to be a million times worse." Gambit was still in surgery. It had been a very long surgery, I guess, at least a couple of hours. Alan spoke to the surgeon afterwards and they'd found a bizaare birth defect that had his kidney on one side emptying into his prostate instead of his bladder. So, the whole thing was unrelated to his neuturing and have happened eventually. They'd had to remove his kidney and all of his plumbing on that side, but dogs as well as humans can live very well with just one kidney, so he'll be just fine.

He stayed in the hospital for three days and then we got to take him home. We visited him in the hospital and he seemed happy to see us then but when I came to take him home. He ran away from me and did that smiling, showing teeth thing and the vet tech said, "Oh, are you mad at your mommy?" and it just about broke my heart. Once he came near me though, he did his little sag into me thing and everything felt better. All told, he cost us about $4,000 that week, a very expensive little dog. Last weekend, Alan drove down to Hastings to the shelter to sign the adoption papers, so he's all ours now. Some of my family thinks we should have given him back and that we spent too much money on fixing him up. I never felt we had a point that I've had with other dogs where you say, "Here's the time to make a decision - more money or just let the poor dog go." Always before I've faced the decision with an old, cancer ridden dog who was facing suffering. My dad sent me an article on keeping vet bills down and it seemed mainly to emphasize making relationships with a vet and an emergency clinic. With most vets I've used, I've developed a good relationship with them and everything had a set price and I never felt that bargaining was an option. Lord knows, we have a relationship with this vet now after Tora's cancer and kidney stone last fall and all of this. Has anyone tried the pet health insurance? I'd love to hear your experience.

Back to the puppy. Gambit had two weeks with his staples in and the e-collar and then another two weeks of e-collar and reduced (but really meaning no) activity. Even the first week when he had a sedative he was wild. We're heading into the last week and I don't know how they expected us to do it. They said no jumping, no running, no stretching but right away he was jumping on the couch and the bed. Each time, we had a moment of panic picturing internal bleeding. He won't let us sleep more than a few hours because he's so full of energy. He spends a lot of time in his kennel because he gets too wild. When we go outside he has to be on a leash and we're not supposed to even go for a short walk. How do people enforce no activity on a young dog? It doesn't seem right to keep him in the kennel all the time, he's already in there at night and while we're at work. I'd love to hear any suggestions for future reference.

By the way, Alan has photos of Gambit posted on his blog:

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I am typing this accompanied by maniacal laughter coming from the most bizaare video game ever created, Killer 7, currently being played by my S.O. (Gambit is getting fiesty so there are also some "no"s, "bad"s, "don't bite me"s and other interjections interspersed.) The game is seriously twisted, extremely violent and strangely compelling. Disjointed but intriguing world building and highly stylized graphics make the annoying but fitting sound track worth putting up with as I watch Alan wend his way through the game. I thought I was over the flu but it hasn't let up its hold on me, yet. Every time I excerpt myself at all, I end up with swollen lymph nodes and chills. I'm off all day tomorrow, or at this point I am at least, so I plan on resting up. I spent part of the week working on two different Access databases which was fun for a change of pace and will bring in a little money. I spent Tuesday evening learning about and making insluated window inserts with an old childhood neighbor. I might help them out as they build their business. The inserts are a great alternative to window replacement since they... excuse me for a moment as I try to get the dog to release the cat's face for the fourth time in less than ten minutes. He's sitting there with white fur hanging out of his mouth looking at the apple Alan is holding out to him but obviously deciding that the cat is much more interesting. This is what we get for not taking him to the dog park today. It was a busy day, though, with the Access consulting and, more importantly, a vet visit for said cat to have a lump on his leg checked out. While we were there, by the way, another cat was having his bent leg fixed. You guessed it, their puppy did it. The lump on Tora, the cat, was not a puppy related injury and unfortunately not a cyst like I hoped. It is a tumor but the vet said we had a 50% chance of it being benign and even if it's not, it looks like it's still limited to the dermal tissue. So, the cat needs to have it removed and tested, a huge chunk of leg for a marble sized lump, next week. The puppy needs to be fixed in the next three weeks. It's going to be an expensive year for vet bills. I am able to type this because we've allowed the dog to keep the top of a cardboard box he somehow got that I was using for our need-to-be paid bills and he's busy shredding it into confetti. I was going to write about the window inserts which I was going to order for our basement on the advice of my brother and saw they were looking for help and, needing flexible work, offered, etc., but I'm going to have to do a quick walk with the dog, if only for our poor aspirated cat's sake. The website is: Energy $avr in case you're fighting leaky windows and need an affordable but good alternative to replacing all your old windows. Good night!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Via my Digital Divide Mailing List:

Google has an interesting new Firefox extension, Blogger web comments, that allows you to check for blog posts about a website. It gives me a little pop up listing excerpts from the comment sites. It appears to be based on their link: search. This definitely has some research possibilities.

Speaking of Firefox extensions, I was just able to update my Web Developer extension for the latest Firefox version. I probably use it more than any of the other extensions. Anyone else have any extensions to recommend?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy belated holidays! I'm behind in everything (e-mails, gifts, thank yous, calls) but hope to be caught up by the end of the week.

Alan spent most of the week leading up to and Christmas ill with a nasty virus. I ended up with it the whole next week. So, we had very mellow holidays this year. When we weren't in bed, we spent lots of time on the couch, watching movies and playing very-little brain needed video and computer games. While the alternating illness was a bummer -- I was sick all of Alan's vacation -- it probably helped keep the dog from destroying the house. (While we were sick, we didn't have enough energy to care -- "What is that thing making the crinkling noise that he's chewy out there? I should get out of bed to check. Blah." -- but we would have payed for it later.) We're both better now, although we continue to feel like we need endless amounts of sleep. How do parents handle it when they're both really sick at the same time? It's got to happen to some families. I don't remember my parents ever being down concurrently. I do remember feeling really tired the week Alan was sick and knowing I was coming down with something but not having the time for it since I was doing all the shopping and sewing and dog sitting. Maybe our continuation as a species is due only to the power of one parent living in denial until the other one recovers.

Alan was able to make the present giving part of Christmas Day but slept all day Christmas Eve. I joined my dad and brother at my brother's house with our two dogs for oil and cheese fondue. Despite a watery, then clumpy cheese fondue (bad recipe - made worse with my attempts to fix it) we had a great time. In a weird sort of coincidence, the next day my brother gave me the huge The New Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated (the America's Test Kitchen people.) No recipes for fondue but that's the only thing I've found missing. I don't think I've spent time alone with just the two of them in years. My brother's sweet chocolate lab, Buck, was pretty tired of Gambit by the end of the evening but I think he still enjoyed the company. Gambit proved that he is not ready for visits to other people's houses by leaving little spots on the carpet even though I kept giving him opportunities to do his business outside. What is family for, though, right? We don't have carpeting, I wonder if that's part of the problem.

Before I got sick, I bought an $80 Singer sewing machine and spent the week before Christmas making some neck warmers and door draft snakes with beans and fabric remnants for some of our gifts. My mom wanted snakes that were taller than the ones you usually buy. I figured I could make ones that were prettier, too. Unfortunately, taller means wider, so they each take a lot of beans. No drafts will be getting by these babies. In a happy coincience, the beans are also often used in the neck warmers. Alan got his early, plus a little square one for laps and feet, and we both used them during the chills phase of the virus. Two minutes in the microwave and they stay toasty forever. I would love to make them for all of you living in colder regions but the shipping costs with the beans would be outrageous. If you'd like one or two, just shoot me an e-mail (with color ideas) and I'll make and send them empty. You can fill them with rice or beans. I used navy, pinto and kidney beans for the draft snakes since they were on sale and the smaller and more comfortable navy beans only for the warmers. I'd been carrying the idea with me that I'd be making curtains for our living room and my basement work area for the past year. After finding out how much it would take to fix up my grandmother's old machine, a new one seemed a better option. The $80 was well spent and I love this machine. It has all the stiches I'll need and has proven itself with denim, fleece and thinner fabrics. My sewing machine skills are not great, though I've been getting pretty good with straight seems. Despite my one required and one optional semester of Home Ec in Junior High, I only remember two things, how to measure Crisco using water and how to wind a bobbin on a sewing machine. I remember a lot more from Shop class. I was one of only two girls during the second, optional semester but my teacher loved me. He inspired in me a love of power tools. (To this day, I crave a drill press even though I'm not sure I'd ever use it.) I've decided a sewing machine is just another power tool but one with a gas pedal. Winding the bobbin is so much fun. I can almost picture myself in an old castle attic, getting ready to prick my finger.

As for the other major focus of my life lately, the puppy has shot up a few inches which seems to put just about everything within his reach. He also discovered that the couch is more comfortable than anywhere he's supposed to be, even the nice new bed I made him for Christmas. We were given the all clear for contact with other dogs, just in time. Almost daily trips to the wonderful nearby dog park at Battle Creek have been necessary for everyone's sanity since he's only gotten more hyper the past few weeks. The park has a main area where the dogs can socialize, lots of trails with a couple of ponds, pine and hardwood forest and a meadow, and very friendly owners. At least twice each trip, Gambit's wanted to take off with someone else but we've learned that a small piece of a chicken jerky dog treat will bring him back. The first visit, people told me to bring "stinky treats" so he figures out who his mommy is. He's starting to get it which makes the trip a lot less stressful for me. Hiking around in snowboots the past weeks has been very good for any of the remaining flab that the virus didn't get.

I've been doing a lot of reading since you can only sleep so long. I need to start doing mini reviews although the books I've just finished are well appreciated already. Thank you to Rick Bowes for his time rangers, Gene Wolfe for his knight, and Paul Park for his princess for getting me through the tough times this holiday season. I owe you all big time.