“It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.”
Robert Benchley

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

near five thousand words and also some peach pepper pie
Thu 2015-11-19 00:28:50 (single post)
  • 18,471 wds. long

I remain woefully behind the NaNoWriMo curve. But today I found out how many words I can log in two dedicated hours of nanobabbling. As it turns out, that number is 4,865. Yes, I can type really fast! Also, the internal editor is turned entirely off, so it can't butt in and tell me, "You already explained that last scene, you don't need to have your character explain it again," or, "You realize that this bit of dialogue is just an excuse for you to figure out the backstory's timeline, right?" Internal editor doesn't get to say that stuff, so I just keep typing.

As usual, I'm not sure where the story's going to go tomorrow. But I jotted down some questions that occurred to me during today's session, and those will probably help get me pointed in the right direction.

In other news, my sprained wrist/thumb has not prevented me using the typewriter. Turns out, it's pretty painless. I don't even use my left thumb when I type. It just sits there and watches the right thumb do all the space-bar work. So I'm finally getting that October 2015 Fictionette Artifact done for them what's got one coming to 'em. Yay!

Typing on a manual typewriter is weird. It's not just because I've used the Dvorak layout for more than a decade now, and am no longer reliable to touch-type in Qwerty. I'm actually starting to get Qwerty back so long as I'm on the typewriter. It's a context thing. No, what makes the manual typewriter weird is the way I instinctively try to hit ALT-TAB on it when I switch between it and my laptop. You know. ALT-TAB. To get back to the typewriter "window." *facepalm*

In other other news, I organized our freezer. It's the sort that's one big below-fridge drawer in which everything gets dumped, which means it's hard to find stuff, especially if you keep a lot of ice-packs on hand to bring to roller derby practice just in case. So I pulled most everything out in order to put it all back following some semblance of logic. I discovered two things:

  • There are still like five 1-lb packages of breakfast sausage down there. WHATEVER DID I DO TO DESERVE SUCH LARGESS O UNIVERSE I AM NOT WORTHY.
  • There is way too much stuff in there that's been there for way too long and needs to either get used up or thrown away.

The following recipe/experiment arose from an attempt to use up some of that surplus.

Peach-Pepper Pie (muffin form)

  1. Set one sheet of puff pastry out to defrost. I believe I acquired the puff pastry package when a friend moved out of state and I helped her re-home many of the edible contents of her kitchen. The box was still unopened when I pulled it out of the freezer tonight.
  2. Put some peaches on to simmer over medium heat. Some years ago when I not only had a CSA share from Abbondanza Organic Seeds and Produce but also a fruit share add-on from Ela Family Farms, I found myself overrun with peaches. So I sliced up a bunch of them into sandwich bags, and I stuffed the sandwich bags into a gallon-sized freezer bag. This experiment used up one sandwich bag full of frozen peach slices. I was worried they might be freezer-burned after all this time, and it might indeed have been an issue if I was going to eat them plain. But instead...
  3. Stir in a crap-ton of sugar. It came out to two heaping soup spoons of brown sugar and two of plain granulated sugar.
  4. Stir in some pickled chili peppers. About one and a half heaping soup spoons of MMLocal's High Desert Peppers (mild).
  5. Season with black and red pepper, then continue simmering until mixture is thick. I like pepper. I put a bunch in. Anyway, I let the whole mess simmer until the pastry was tolerably defrosted, about 40 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat. Add 1 tbl butter, 1 egg, and some oatmeal. Stir. Four big soup-spoons of McCann's Quick Cooking Irish oatmeal (or whatever kind of quick-cook oatmeal you've got in your pantry), mainly to soak up any liquid that hadn't simmered away.
  7. Apply cooking spray to a 6-hole muffin tin. Line bottom of each hole with pastry. I was going to do a small pie tin, but I was too impatient with the pastry. I tried to unfold it when it wasn't quite defrosted, and it cracked into three strips. So I cut those strips up into twelve squares that fit the muffin holes nicely.
  8. Spoon in pie mixture. Not too much. You want your top crust and bottom crust to meet along the sides.
  9. Layer a piece of roasted chili on top of pie mixture. I also had a sandwich bag of roasted mild pueblo chilis in the freezer, because while I love them on everything, I still never manage to eat a whole package of them before mold sets in. So I've learned to parcel out most of them into small freezer bags and defrost when ready.
  10. Cover with another layer of pastry. Really smoosh it down. Don't be shy. Again, you want this top crust to meet up with the bottom so that the "muffin" doesn't fall apart too much when you go to eat it.
  11. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Let sit to cool for five or ten minutes, then carefully pry them out so you can devour them. Feeds one very greedy cook over the course of one two-hour NaNoWriMo session.


a detailed look at the key-forging process as undertaken inside the cell
Tue 2015-10-27 17:01:08 (single post)
  • 4,514 wds. long
  • 1,338 wds. long

I put in two solid hours on the story revision today, and it is almost done. Tantalizingly close. I hope to submit it tomorrow, at which point I shall crow mightly.

I'd like to write a little about the process of turning one draft into another draft. You might not be interested. You might be all, "Feh! I have my own process. I do not need yours. Feh, I say!" in which case you can skip this bit and scroll down to the next bit. But if you're interested, here's my process. Or at least, here's the process I used for this story and for this draft.

To start with, I had a critiqued copy of the previous draft to work from. The response to its submission last year was to invite me to resubmit if I could get it down to between 4,000 and 5,000 words. So I wrote back, tentatively asking if the editor had any thoughts she'd like to share to guide me in that revision; the editor responded with a line-by-line critique, crossing out text that was slowing down the story and highlighting elements that should be foregrounded.

This, by the way, is the sort of unlooked-for gift that writers dream of getting. We get excited just to get a rejection letter with personal comments, so you can imagine the ecstasy occasioned by an unasked for critique and line edit. Accompanying an invitation to resubmit, no less.

So my first step was to import this critique into my Scrivener project. I moved the August 2014 draft out of the Draft folder (where the documents to compile into a manuscript live) and into my custom Previous Drafts folder, to keep a record and to make room. Then I imported the critique, which was handily in RTF already, into a custom Critiques folder. I converted all of the editor's notes and deletions into linked notes. I also inspected the recommended deletions for any content I didn't want to lose, noted those elements, and considered how I might incorporate them into the surviving text.

Next, I began to type up a new draft from blank, using the critiqued copy and my notes as a reference. This is what took me for-frickin'-ever. This is the part of the process where I kept abandoning it for weeks and then needing to reacquaint myself with the project whenever I tried to pick it up again. I was about a third of the way through this step when I finally got my act together last week.

Thursday night I began the next stage of the revision: print it out and scribble on it (line-edit). I had the foolish idea this would take me, oh, maybe an hour. WRONG! This took the remainder of Thursday and all of Friday too. Lots of crossing things out and attempting to rephrase things. Embarrassing typos to be hunted down and destroyed.

Today I picked up that scribbled-on copy and began to implement the line-edit. I scanned through the printed document for scribbles, and I typed into the new draft whatever the scribbles said. Sounds simple, right? Generally it was. But there were a few "bugs" that were more complex; those I put aside for later, creating a linked note for each to make coming back to them easier.

When the simple fixes were done, I went back to those linked notes, which live in Scrivener's Inspector pane under the Comments and Footnotes tab, and began addressing the more complex line-edits. There were four of them. I got through two before my time was up today.

That's it. Tomorrow I hope to address the last two "bugs" on my buglist, and submit the revision that was requested more than a year ago. I continue to feel silly about taking fourteen months to get this done, but the bad-ass joy of getting it done at last rather outweighs that embarrassment.

Also, as I upload this post to my blog, I will be finished with my work day. All finished. By five o'clock in the afternoon. I honestly can't remember the last time I managed that. It will feel so very good to gear up for roller derby practice in the certain, satisfied knowledge that no work awaits me when I come home. Again, I'm embarrassed that it's taken me until now to find my workday rhythm, but I'm too pleased with having found it to notice the embarrassment overmuch.

Oh! Also, today's submission procedures involved preparing "The Rapture of the Santiago Women," whose title I might yet change, for submission to the forthcoming Alien Artifacts anthology from Zombies Need Brains LLC. I will most definitely change the first line, as it was dictated by the market I sent it to first. I've already edited the story a bit today, just cleaning up the text to make it flow more smoothly. A story's always a little rough when I write it to a themed issue's deadline; I like to make sure it's a bit more polished before it heads out to meet the next slush pile.

This is another thing that feels awesome--as the revision on "Caroline's Wake" comes to a close, I've got brain-space for revising other stories for resubmission. It's like I'd been in jail for a year, but with the means to make the key to the prison door. What the eff took me so long to do it? Damn. Well, door's open now. Free!

many of whose hours weren't all that conducive to recovery, as it turns out
Mon 2015-10-26 23:25:09 (single post)

It's Recovery Monday! I had a lovely time at Mile Hi Con, but it was a con after the nature of cons, which is to say, exhausting. I can't swear I got more than 5 hours sleep on either night, and the drive was pretty dang tiring for being "local." Now, I feel like a terrible wimp saying this, because goodness knows John had a convention weekend and a drive between Boulder and Albequerque, but there it is: Just attending a con that's an hour's drive away, or two depending on traffic, wears me out.

The shenanigans involving coordinating auto maintenance and a rental car on either side of the trip didn't exactly help, mind you.

So anyway, long story short (too late!), I slept in this morning.

I've been off skates for a week because of resting the foot/ankle Tuesday, having scrimmage called off due to rain Thursday, and playing truant in order to enjoy Mile Hi Con's Sunday programming, but today I geared up again to take my turn helping to train our Phase 1 training class. Great bunch of skaters, all terrifically determined to master their crossovers and transitions; the improvement and increased confidence just over the course of this one practice was amazing. And of course I did everything right along with them, which means I'm all worn out--a close focus on basic maneuvers for two hours straight is no joke, not even for an experienced skater. This on top of deciding to ride my bike to practice, and I was glad I'd slept in. I may in fact go to bed early tonight.

The bike thing was because I don't quite trust the car not to fail to start. Our usual mechanic discovered a failing ignition control module, which, seeing as how they'd just put that one in less than a year ago, they replaced at no charge under warranty. (This is why it was worth having it towed to the usual mechanic, rather than leaving it in the care of the very nice shop next door to the place I found myself becalmed on Friday.) They put the new part in and the car started up just fine--but when I tried to drive it home today, it wouldn't start for me. They coaxed some life into it, and it hasn't failed me since, but that was only this afternoon. If there's any possibility of it failing to start in the near future, I'd as soon not have that be on a friend's farm, as it seems unkind to inflict a tow truck upon her property and animals and all. So I biked. I thought it would take me 30 minutes; it took about 50. I was able to catch a ride back from a very kind skater who lives up the road from me. She was extraordinarily patient with the whole big production required to get my bike to fit in her car.

So, yeah, that was my recovery day. Not all that "recovery," now that I look back on it.

A quick bit of Puzzle Pirates content, since I once again didn't manage to put any YPP content up on Sunday: Brigand King sightings do not in fact appear to count toward the October Seal o' Piracy. I have hard data on this! Both Oshun/Meridian and Millefleur/Emerald failed to acquire the trophy after travel + BK, then were awarded the Seal upon completing a Buried Treasure expedition. Meanwhile, four of my other pirates got the Seal with travel + Imperial Outpost or travel + shipwreck/treasure haul. So I can only conclude that BK sightings do not count, but buried treasure, shipwrecks, and imperial outposts do. And traveling around the ocean, of course.

I'm still working on my Ice pirate. Perhaps I'll buy her a Viking Raid map that's small enough to be able to win solo (I'm usually the only person logged onto the Ice server, which is no surprise, because Ice) and see if that counts. I keep sailing her up and down the route between Wemadeit and Maelstrom, and all I get are these lousy Kraken Hunt maps. No expeditions and no effin' map to Mini Island, drat the luck.

Update: Teshka on Ice was awarded her Seal o' Piracy upon buying the Viking Raid map. That is weird!

The other YPP news is that apparently there will be changes implemented to a couple scheduling aspects of blockades, but I'll go into that on Saturday when it's next time to blog blockades. If you're curious, the info's here.

And that's all. I will go fall over unconscious now. G'night!

Cover art features original photography by the author of something that's actually, despite my efforts, not bubbly.
this fictionette went shopping for mead, and hijinks ensued
Fri 2015-10-23 23:23:32 (single post)
  • 1,451 wds. long
  • 4,668 wds. long

Compared to my usual eleventh hour stunts, this week's Fictionette got done ridiculously early. Par for this week's course, happily. I got up early to see John off--he hit the road for New Mexicon--and then I got right to work so that I'd be able to go to a convention myself. MileHiCon's programming started at 2:00 PM, and I planned to be there.

So, yeah, I pretty much did my morning shift right away and straight through, and when I was done, "I Didn't Ask for Champagne" was up at Patreon and it had only gone twenty past noon. Go me!

But I still didn't make it to the con in time to catch the two o'clock panel. This is because, in the parking lot of Redstone Meadery, just when I'd finished purchasing gifts for a friend and was ready to make the hour-long drive to the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, the car died. The engine simply died before I'd even put the car in reverse, and it would not start again. It was 1:00 PM.

What followed was a long call to AAA from the tasting room of Redstone Meadery, and a short wait therein, which was followed by my car being towed to its usual mechanic and myself at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Mirage rented from the nearby Hertz. When I at last began my drive out of Boulder, it was 2:30 PM. Pretty slick, I have to admit. What could have wrecked my weekend plans was reduced to mere inconvenience, and not even that much expense. Gods of travel, bless the Triple A.

(Not that much expense so far. The rental was under $35 for the whole weekend, but we'll see what the bill comes to when the Saturn gets diagnosed.)

The next hour was taken up with construction traffic on Highway 36 which began very early on the Foothills on-ramp. The hour after that, with normal traffic on I-25. But I had Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap to keep me company, so I laughed a lot instead of raging at the road.

Then I finally made it to the hotel around 4:30 PM and was in the audience by 5:00 to hear Kevin and Ursula live--Ursula Vernon is the artist guest of honor, and Kevin Sonney was not shy about contributing to her GoH hour, to everyone's enjoyment. Connie Willis took over at 6:00 to talk to us about foreshadowing and which movies do it well (or poorly), opening ceremonies were at 7:00, dinner was overpriced but delicious salmon at the hotel restaurant, and at 9:00 Carrie Vaughn interviewed Kevin Hearne in the style of her series heroine's "Midnight Hour" radio show on KNOB. There was ranting about conspiracy theorists and speculation about Bigfoot. Everything was splendid. We lived happily after ever. The end.

Oh, except I still had two more hours of workday to live up to, and a short story to line-edit. Well. I'm finishing that up now, aren't I?

The story has not yet been submitted, despite my hopes. That's OK. It wasn't for lack of working on it. Line edits are simply taking longer than expected. My bad for expecting them to be so quick! This is the stage where I do get to bring out my inner perfectionist and let her try to get every sentence in every paragraph right. Within reason, anyway. I expect I'll be all, "That's FINE, let it GO, just SUBMIT the dang thing" by about Wednesday.

Tomorrow: Breakfast off-site! And then at 9:30 AM I will have a dilemma: Do I go to the SFWA business meeting, or do I throw in my lot with a Wreckin' Roller Rebels skater who's giving the kids a sock-footed lesson in roller derby? THIS IS A HARD CHOICE no, I'm serious, it actually is. I mean it. Don't laugh!

Cool story, sis, but you could have told it in half the time...
(YPP) The Olympian Class Sloop: Sacrificing convenience for cool
Mon 2015-10-19 11:20:11 (single post)

I have been meaning for some time to blog about the Olympian Class Sloop that was available for shipyard purchase in July and August. But I keep trying to do this on Sunday, and the problem with Sunday is that it starts with roller derby practice, and I don't generally manage much that's productive after roller derby practice. Generally I wind up flat in bed for the rest of the day. (That especially goes for Sunday practices where I manage to roll my ankle and inflame some sort of tendon in my foot. Stoopid foot.) Next thing I know, it's Monday morning, and I missed another Sunday, and the sloop I want to blog about came out three months ago, and when am I going to blog about this month's limited edition sloop (the Undead Class Sloop, available through November 1), huh?

So, whatever, here's a Puzzle Pirates blog post on Monday morning. You can pretend it's still Sunday if you want to.

Olympian Class Sloop: Gorgeous and Terribly Inconvenient

It is shiny and pretty in every way. But I have discovered that I'm less than happy with its layout.

Puzzle Pirates has many good things going for it, but movement around a scene is not one of them. Which is usually OK. Almost all of the action takes place in chat and in mini-games, after all. Your pirate avatar mostly serves the purpose of playing dress-up and showing off the results. So it's understandable that, of all the things the game designers could focus on, the user experience of walking around isn't a high priority.

It only becomes a problem in two areas. One of those is walking around a large, uninhabited island; since you can't "teleport" to various areas via the buildings on the Dock map, you really do have to walk in order to find the horde of monsters waiting to be defeated or the island creator's inscription or whatever. And walking is nail-bitingly, knuckle-whiteningly slow. You click where you want to go, and then you wait for your pirate to get there, and then you right-click to shift the camera to the new area, and then you wait for the camera motion to finish, then you do it all over again. And again. And again.

The other problem area is walking around a ship, especially one with a lot of stairs and extraneous scenes. And in order to reach the booty chest an Olympian Class Sloop, you must navigate both.

Assuming that you've been performing the duty navigation puzzle (I always do), you start at the navigation wheel, up top the aft platform of the main deck. So first you've got to come down the stairs. I hate in-scene stairs. If you're already standing on the yellow arrow, you'll have to walk off it and walk back. And sometimes even then it doesn't work--instead of going down the stairs, your pirate simply stops at the top of the stairs. At this point, I'd usually click the other downstairs arrow--but on the Olympian Class Sloop there is only one set of stairs between the aft deck and the main deck. Arrgh! So I have to walk off the arrow and try it again.

Or I just skip the damn stairs. Right-clicking moves the camera over and brings the hatch into view. So I click on its little yellow arrow, and go downstairs into the main hold. Arrows that change scenes don't seem to fail at the rate that arrows for descending/ascending in-scene stairs do.

So now you are in the main hold, which is where most sloops keep the booty. But not this sloop. Oh, no. You must go down another level into the "Gorgon Den". And then you have to walk all the way to the other side of the Den, because the scene is too long to reach it by shifting the camera.

Now you can divide the booty. Finally. But then you'll have to go back up to the main hold if you want to then access the money and goods now aboard the ship. Arrrgh.

It's a cute narrative premise: The booty chest is buried deep in a stone labyrinth and watched over by the head of Medusa. Thus would-be thieves either get lost or turned to stone. Honestly, if the developers had seen fit to bring this narrative to life in a game-affecting way--say, giving the ship a modest functional bonus against gem thieves and the like--I'd complain less. But as things stand, it's purely a cosmetic thing which affects game play only by making booty divisions more of a pain in my butt.

Honestly, I'd prefer it if you could get to a ship's hold and booty via commands on the sidebar, just like you already do with the port/deport and sail/turn about buttons. But if they must be dependent on interacting with "physical" stations, can't those stations be made less inconvenient to get to?

It's not just the officer in command who has to deal with it. The Gorgon Den also houses the ship's two bilge stations and one of its carpentry/patching stations. So if you're a jobber switching from sails to something else, you risk getting yelled at to "station up, lazer!" when you're genuinely trying to do just that. If you're an officer moving your swabbies about, you have a long wait during which you might wonder if the swabbie will restation at all.

Pretty as it is, I'd as soon do away with the Olympian Class Sloop's main hold entirely--it's not particularly functional--and replace it with the Gorgon Den. Or just move all the functional parts of the Gorgon Den up onto the main hold, so that the room that's the hardest to get to is also the room that you need the least. Compare with the Red Room on the Dream Class Sloop. Clever hidden rooms and sub-basements are fun to look at and maybe throw parties in, but let's keep them strictly optional, yeah?

So there you go. It's a beautiful ship with a clever story behind it, and PixelPixie of the Cerulean Ocean deserves all the kudos for their contest-winning design. But the game developers have made it enough of a pain to interact with that I'd rather just leave ported at some island with an active market and just use it for executing shore trade.

So that's my rant. Meanwhile, I have just bought this month's Undead Class Sloop, which again is only available through November 1. Hopefully it turns out to be both really cool-looking and a pleasure to sail.

buyin' my lottery tickets
Tue 2015-10-13 23:22:34 (single post)

Which is not, admittedly, the best analogy for submitting fiction to paying markets. It's not purely a numbers game. But it's partially a numbers game. Given a story that's publishable, as you continue sending it out to markets that are a reasonably good fit, the probability of its achieving publication approaches 1. No guarantees it'll reach 1, but it gets closer every time.

(Actually, if you want to be precise, the asymptote graph never reaches 1, but only gets infinitely closer and closer to 1. But forget that, I'm trying to sort of reference Godwin's Law and any number of internet memes that riff on it, and no one worries in that context that "approaching 1" isn't the same as "reaching 1," so shut up.)

But by far the strongest point of similarity between fiction submissions and lotteries is, you can't win if you don't play. Thus "submissions procedures" is one of the gotta-dos in my morning shift. Thus the stories go back out in the mail.

It does me no favors that most of the acceptance letters I've received have been in response to a story's first time in the mail. No one should consider that to be the norm. It's got me badly calibrated. It primes me to think that if a story accumulates two, five, fifteen rejections, then clearly it's not ready for prime time and I shouldn't even be sending it out. Which is bullshit, as any number of rejectomancy anecdotes will attest, but that's the writerly version of weasel-brain for you. It's such a seductive utterance of the weasel-brain, too, especially when the rejection letters come back so very quickly. I start getting self-conscious about particular stories--I start thinking, "Do I seriously believe an editor will want to pay me money for the opportunity to consume one of their precious story slots with this? NO ONE wants this." And also, "Why do I keep sending this story out, instead of writing new ones? Am I trying to rest on my laurels? Before they are even grown?"

That last one's a special grade of bovine feces, because I have sent new stories out. In fact, the story I've been trying to query status on is sitting in its very first slush pile as we speak. Unfortunately, the market that slush pile belongs to uses SPF filtering on their email, and apparently something's borked in my SPF record. I've got a support ticket to my domain host about it.

Weird thing is, though, the weasel-brain only has its say before I send the story out. Once I actually send the story, weasel-brain shuts up and lets me enjoy the fresh glow of "I submitted a story! Professionally! To a paying market! Just like real writers do!" Which only goes to show you that yet again, the only way out is through.

Anyway, I bought a lottery ticket today, and I bought one Thursday too. Metaphorically speaking.

dealing with wheels and dealers
Tue 2015-09-29 23:59:59 (single post)

I brought my bike in for maintenance today. Actually, I brought it in for maintenance last week, but after evaluating all the work the bike needed, it was determined that we'd need to order a part before work could be done. Today I got the call that the part was in, so today I brought my bike in.

And here is the difference between bike maintenance and car maintenance:

Twice--both last week and today--the technicians tried to talk me out of getting service done. It started out as an attempt to lower the cost estimate by leaving out certain services that were deemed not strictly necessary. I thought about it, thanked them, and said I'd rather do all the things. I'm in it for the long haul on this bike. I'd like to care for it accordingly.

After that there were multiple attempts--first from the tech who first gave me the estimate last year, then from the tech who checked my bike in today--to convince me that, considering the age of my bike and the shape it's in, wouldn't I be better off just buying a new bike?

No, I said, I like this bike. No, I don't mean just the basket, awesome as it is. I don't just mean the seat that my butt's so accustomed to. I mean the bike. I have been riding it for more than twenty years. In that time, it's become almost an extension of myself. I don't care that at this point the only original parts on it are the handlebars and the frame. I don't care if the frame is a little dinged. It's my bike. I would like it to remain my bike. Thank you.

It's sentimental. It's probably not economical. It's certainly not 100% rational. But that's where I'm at.

Anyway, come to think of it, this is not really so much about the difference between bike maintenance and car maintenance. It's more like the difference between a vehicle maintenance and repair shop that's also a new vehicle dealer, and one that isn't. The place I took my bike sells bikes. The place I take my car does not sell cars.

OK, and the bike place probably caters to more students on tight budgets than the car place does. I do give them credit for honestly trying to save me money. But I'm pretty sure they were also, quite honestly, trying to sell me a bike.

There is probably a metaphor about writing in here, something about making the decision to throw more hours of revision at a beloved story rather than just trunking it and moving on to a new one. I am not prepared to follow this metaphor to its logical conclusions, not least because I think there are too many logical conclusions to keep track of. In any case, I didn't manage to get to the story revision today.

But I did take my bike in for maintenance!

Original photography by me. No bicycles were ridden on this nature path.
this fictionette is watching your tv
Fri 2015-09-11 23:55:34 (single post)
  • 1,030 wds. long

This week's Friday Fictionette is about a frog with a fantastic opening line, and the change in the world that allowed him to utter it. It's called "The Spy Who Croaked."

As for the experiment with Viggle and the worries about whether it will be a terrible distraction that will kill my productivity--worry not, for as it turns out I'm not allowed to use it. I hear from Various Sources Online that the app's terms and conditions consider emulators a banning offense, and of course Bluestacks is an emulator. And there is no non-smartphone version of the functionality. Besides, it was absolutely failing to credit my music check-ins.

On the other hand, TV check-in appears to work. And football season is upon us...

No! No, I will be strong.

No, actually, I'm not...
click the music
Wed 2015-09-09 23:29:08 (single post)

Heavens help me. Some scurvy arglebargler made me aware of the Viggle app. Click... click... click...

It is, they say, an app that lets you earn points for the media you consume (say, music and TV shows), then redeem those points for free media (say, ebooks and audiobooks). I like free, and I'm not above a bit of mindless clicking. Therefore, I'm doomed.

Now, as I've probably mentioned before, I am not yet smartphone-enabled. I have a flip phone--it makes phone calls, and for a bonus it sends and receives texts. It will take a picture, and if it is feeling very generous, it will allow me to send the picture somewhere. That's pretty much it. Oh, it's also my alarm clock.

But I have the Bluestacks Android emulator installed on my computer, and so I installed the Viggle app thereon.

There was a bit of a hitch at first. I'm told there's a way to manually tell the app what you're watching/listening to, but darned if I can find it. All I get is the screen that says "Listening..." And then it says, "Viggle can't quite hear your audio. Turn up the volume or try a different show or song."

And then that was it, until I finally went into the Windows Recording Devices interface, and disabled Acoustic Echo Cancellation and disallowed applications taking exclusive control of this device. They seemed like likely culprits.

Shortly after I did this, Viggle said, "Got it!" and told me to click the little bouncy V bubble. Click. It made thinky animations at me for a few seconds, and then it said, "You're listening to 'The Big Money' by Rush," and I said, "I sure am!" Then I clicked the "get your points" bar, and it took me back to the "Listening..." screen.

Then it told me to click again. "You're still listening to 'The Big Money' by Rush!" Why yes, little device, I am, and will be for roughly the next four minutes. But it gave me more points just for not turning off the song partway through and for being willing to click some more.

And so it went throughout the album, until we got to track four, "Marathon," and Viggle identified it as "Cosmic Breath" by Ansatheus. Perhaps Viggle's mistakes can function as a sort of "if you liked this, then try that" recommendation engine. Perhaps I'd really dig Ansatheus. I don't know. I clicked anyway.

This could be a terrible distraction during writing time. The good news is, Viggle has been telling me, "Viggle can't quite hear your audio" ever since I started up the Pomodoro Challenge Timer app. Maybe somehow the timer app is messing with Viggle's microphone access--

Wait, I spoke too soon. Viggle just got something. It says I'm listening to... "Legs In Tha Air (Dope Solution Remix)" by Yung Sheikh.

That doesn't sound remotely close to "Mystic Rhythms."

No, Viggle, it's not "Dub the Witch" by need2reason, either.

*sigh* Click.

Here's hoping I get some phat digital reading out of this experiment. Hugo Award nomination season is getting closer every day, yo.

A picture that does not quite do justice to the deliciousness. Blame my phone.
curry for crawfish monday
Mon 2015-08-24 22:32:31 (single post)

Today was crawfish Monday. I made sure of that, because next week I'll be in Avon, CO and unlikely to do any crawfishing. Not just because I don't know where the good crawfishing spots thereabouts might be, and not just because the water might already have gotten too cold for crawfishing at that altitude, but also because crawfish caught west of the continental divide are subject to certain restrictions to do with preventing the spread of an invasive species. (More here.) So I set the traps last night, and went out for a morning and an afternoon session of fishing with bacon-baited twine.

The traps, by the way, aren't exactly the most labor-saving device. It's not like I wake up to find an extra pound of mudbugs in there. At best, they just give me a small head start. Those four in the mesh trap this morning, and the one in the plastic 2-liter bottle trap, were five crawfish I didn't have to fight with individually nor wait for them to approach my line. Lagniappe!

I tried to do my freewriting out there, but my computer decided to crash. Both times. Not while I was inside reading blogs and eating lunch, no. While I was outside working in Scrivener. The computer just stopped responding and had to be shut down hard. And when I started it up again, the document in my Scrivener project was gone or blank, despite having saved it multiple times.

I suspect this had something to do with my computer wanting a Windows update and then a restart. Windows will let me put off these tasks indefinitely, but I've noticed that in the meantime it will punish me by running slower and glitchier. After the first crash, I came inside and installed the update. The computer took advantage of the second crash to do all the things it has to do after restarting post-update. There have been no crashes since. Just in case, though, when I recreated my freewriting page yet again (the only available back-up I could find was incomplete) I made a new copy of the RTF every five minutes or so and pasted it to my desktop.

The freewriting prompt words were "fingerprint" and "informant". I began sketching in a character who could hear fingerprints, and was convinced anyone could learn to do it if only they put forth the effort.

Meanwhile, I am full and happy on Crawfish Potato Curry, featured in the accompanying photo (taken from my flip phone since my 10-year-old Kodak EasyShare C300 finally died). Because Crawfish Monday means Recipe Monday, I shall now tell you all about it.

The total catch count was 29, most of them on the large side; they weighed in at 1 lb 11.5 oz and yielded 4.7 oz meat from tails and those claws I thought it worthwhile to pick. Actually, that was the weight on only 28 tails; I ate one straight out the boil to test the seasonings. And they did need testing, because I got experimental with those. Instead of doing the usual Cajun Land blend, I went off script and tried for a flavor that would better complement a curry. So:

  • 1/4 C coarse red pepper flakes, like what Maangchi uses for making kimchi
  • 1 T cracked peppercorns
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • maybe 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • maybe 1 T garam masala
  • about 5 cloves, cracked
  • a large "thumb" of fresh ginger, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 bay leaves

Bring to a full boil, add about 5 quartered Yukon Gold potatoes, boil for 20 minutes, add crawfish, boil for 3 minutes, remove from head, add ice, let soak for 30 minutes.

The result wasn't as spicy as the strong hot pepper smell during boiling had led me to expect. Next time, I might go with 1/2 C pepper flakes. Might also skip the cumin seeds as they didn't much come through, and the garam masala because that note seemed unnecessary. The bay, ginger, and cloves carried the day.

Meanwhile, I followed the directions on a packed of red curry paste. It called for 1 tsp. whisked into one can of coconut milk over high heat. I went with 2 tsp. instead because the color looked wimpy. This was to be allowed to simmer and thicken.

In a large frying pan, I heated canola oil and sauteed about a quarter of a big yellow onion. As they got softer, I tossed in the potatoes from the crawfish boil, cubed. When the onions were translucent and the potatoes starting to turn a little golden, I poured in the curry sauce.

Then I processed the crawfish. Tail meat and the meat from the larger claws went in a bowl. The "fat" eggs, and other edible substances from the heads (does anyone know what that creamy layer coating the inside of the shell is? Is that the true fat, as opposed to the yellow stuff that everyone just calls fat but is actually the hepatopancreas? Is it some kind of insulation against colder waters? Why are you giving me that grossed-out look? IT'S DELICIOUS) went straight into the potato-curry sauce while it simmered, for that extra crawfishy flavor.

When I was finally done peeling tails and picking the claws, I turned off the heat under the sauce and stirred in the meat. Then I stuffed my face with crawfish potato curry over microwaved leftover rice. AND IT WAS AMAZING.

And now I have told you about it. The end.

Hey, look! I got through this without the computer crashing on me!