“I don't take much notice of critics, except when they praise me extravagantly.”
Philip Pullman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

situation update: computers and cooking
Thu 2016-09-08 22:43:37 (single post)

First off: The new new computer has arrived. Which is to say, the computer Asus sent me to replace the new computer that I sent them for repair. After they'd had that computer for two weeks, they emailed me to say that the motherboard needed replacing, but the part was all out of stock, so they proposed to replace the whole computer instead. I had a fleeting wistful thought for the stickers already affixed to the X540L. Some of them can't be replaced. But then I compared stats. The replacement unit would be an X544L with an Intel Core i7 on board. The X540L, which I'd purchased through Best Buy for about $360, had a Core i3. That's a bit of an upgrade. I said yes.

Then I waited and waited and waited and finally emailed Asus Support with, "Is it on its way, and if so, what's the tracking number?" Then I waited and waited some more, and finally they emailed me back yesterday with "Here's the tracking number and it's expected to arrive TODAY." So I scrambled over to the FedEx website, pulled up the tracking info ("On vehicle for delivery" since the wee hours) and requested they hold it at the Boulder location because I had plans to be out all afternoon. They immediately added "Delivery option requested" to the tracking information, but--and this is critical--with no guarantee that the request would be honored.

And of course it wasn't. And of course this info got added to the tracking data where I could read it about two hours later than when it actually was delivered ("Left on doorstep / Signature not required"). And of course the next bus home from Longmont wasn't for another 45 minutes. Of course.

But when I got home, there it was, sitting in its box right under the porch light, safe and sound. And today I started moving everything onto it. Even as I type these words, my entire My Documents folder is whisking its way across the local area network, one file at a time. Next up will be my Thunderbird profile.

Secondly! Operation Pseudo-Medieval Chicken is a success. It's not very medieval, pseudo or otherwise, but it's delicious. Here's what I did, in case you want to play along at home:

  1. Caramelize onions in basalmic vinegar. Basically followed the step #1 of this recipe, only not exactly. For one thing, I stopped slicing onions after two because holy scallion, that's a lotta onion. I think their idea of "medium" and mine may possibly differ. For another, I substituted basalmic vinegar for honey because that's what my mouth wanted. (Also because this looked amazing.) But otherwise, it's totally just step #1 of that recipe.
  2. Begin pear, pepper, chicken proceedings in crock pot. While onions were caramelizing, I sliced up the pepper and peeled, cored, and cubed the pear. (I don't remember what kind of pepper; it was shaped like a bell pepper, but its green was much paler, and it had a little bit more heat, just enough to go with the sweet.) Pepper slices went in the crock pot first, a nice even layer, and then a nice even layer of pear cubes. Finally, the two boneless, skinless chicken breasts on top. Close lid, plug it in, turn the dial to HIGH.
  3. Combine. When the onions had cooked for about 30 minutes, into the crock pot they went, just right on top of everything else. Don't even bother stirring. Then I waited and waited and waited until a thermometer told me that the chicken had reached a safe 165 degrees F.
  4. Quality assurance. After devouring half the contents of the crock pot, I decided the chicken could stand to pick up more flavor, and that the pear should be better integrated with the sauce. So I hacked up the chicken until it was chunks and shreds, and I mashed up the pear beyond recognition. All components were combined thoroughly and returned to the crock pot on LOW for another hour or so, then allowed to cool, then packed away into the fridge for the best possible leftovers ever.

Dang, the Thunderbird profile is already done transferring. Guess I'll send my Firefox profile over next, right after I upload this post. AND THEN ALL THINGS WRITING.

Cover art incorporates original photography by the author, who finally found a use for that crumpled up arts-n-crafts tissue paper in her bottom desk drawer.
fall down in surprise, get up again and move forward on the right track
Fri 2016-09-02 23:59:59 (single post)

Ah-ha! Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha! And other varieties of triumphant laughter. The Friday Fictionette for September 2 is out, published, posted, uploaded, on Friday, September 2! The month is off to a great start. Also, turns out I can do the whole thing, from "Which freewriting session was going to be the basis for this week's Fictionette again?" to "DONE! Mwahahahahaaaa!" in a single day, so there. It would not be a day in which I got much of anything else done, writing-wise, but it's clearly possible.

Anyway, it's "By Moonlight, a Dream of Vengeance," which started out farcical but wound up sort of tragic and sweet. And, um, it kinda made me cry while narrating the audiobook edition. I cry easily at fiction in general, so it's not that much of a surprise and certainly not a brag. When it's my own stuff, I generally take it as a sign that I'm done, this is the final draft, stop messing with it and let it go out into the world. When it's someone else's stuff and I'm reading aloud to John, I don't worry about it; he understands this sort of thing. But when I'm trying to record an audiobook, it's a nuisance. I am sure that somewhere out there, as part of a larger guide to recording audiobooks, someone has written tips on how to reclaim control of your voice when that happens. (Without Googling, I'm almost willing to bet real money that if this exists, it's written by Mary Robinette Kowal. OK, maybe not as part of that linked guide, but I just about bet she's written something about it somewhere.)

Best I can figure: Hit PAUSE, take a few deep breaths into the diaphragm, take a few deep but narrow breaths that you can feel going up and down the windpipe, then take one more deep diaphragm breath, UNPAUSE, and, as you read the next sentence on the exhale of that breath, gently tighten your core. Also, be willing to take your time. If you have to say the sentence over and over until it has no meaning for you anymore and thus stops triggering the crying process, that's fine too.

OK, enough about that. I've also released the Fictionette Freebie for August 2016. As has become habit lately, I settled on the one with the largest word count. It's "Dr. Green Ascends to the Nether World," which may be freely and fully accessed by all in audio, ebook, and HTML formats. I hope you enjoy it!

We got... Carrots, kohlrabi, chard, kale, cucumber, zucchini, tomatoes, and (not pictured here because it got lost in the folds of my canvas tote bag until later) garlic
tomatoes, wftda watch passes, and the dangers of 12-hour pseudoephedrine
Tue 2016-08-16 23:59:59 (single post)

So, pro-tip about those 12-hour Sudafed tablets. Turns out, it's not such a good idea to take one at 5:00 PM, not if they're the Non-Drowsy Maximum Strength variety. I did not actually get to sleep until... well, almost 5:00 AM, about 12 hours after I took the dratted thing. I really should have also bought a box of the 4-hour tablets, just for scheduling flexibility. Well. I'll know for next time.

Anyway, there's no way I can make it through a work day on only three hours sleep, especially if there's roller derby practice at the end of it. The last roller derby practice before playoffs, in fact. Kind of important. So once I was able to sleep I tried to stay that way for as long as I could. Which meant I wasn't out of bed until after one in the afternoon. Which meant not a lot of things got done other than the absolutely necessary.

One of those absolutely necessary things, of course, was biking up to The Diaz Farm for my CSA share. Yay, pretty pictures of delicious veg! Those two Early Girl tomatoes were the high point of this week's pick-up--the first fresh, ripe tomatoes of the season. I immediately ate one with about half a cucumber, sliced up and dressed with a creamy balsamic vinaigrette. I've been fortunate to have been getting a few small tomatoes here and there from my back porch plants--Sungold cherries, elongated San Marzanos, and little round Brillantes, all of them more orange than red (expected behavior for the Sungolds, not quite so much for the others) and probably a little stunted from their growing conditions. But these plump two tomatoes coming home from the farm today were quite a treat.

I've been thinking about ways to convert some of this bounty into road trip snacks. The carrots are obvious--just bring them like they are. Maybe chop the largest ones into sticks. Zucchini is also tasty raw. I still haven't made those carrot-and-kohlrabi fritters; those would probably transport well. My latest genius idea is sausage-stuffed chard leaves--blanche the chard until tender, put a dollop of ground sausage cooked with onions and garlic into each, then just roll the leaves up into little bundles. Kind of like dolmades, but with chard instead of grape leaves. (Baking may be involved. I forget. I need to check my recipes.) Then stick them in a plastic bag, shove 'em in the ice chest, and eat 'em cold in the car whenever hungry.

Speaking of D2 Playoffs, I've had a request to post ALL THE LINKS here. The link above features our tournament bracket (there's that link again!), showing who plays whom at what time. You can see that we start out in Game 2 against the Chicago Outfit at 10 AM Central (9 AM Mountain) Noon Central (11 AM Mountain) on Friday, August 19. After that, our schedule depends on wins and losses.

Edit: I keep saying our first game is scheduled for 10 AM because for a hot minute it was. But then they changed the schedule, giving us the noon game, and we all breathed a sigh of relief because a lot of us aren't getting into town until midnight that morning. Still, I seem unable to wrap my brain around it for the purposes of telling people when to watch us.

If you want to watch it live--and why wouldn't you? Three days of non-stop derby derby derby featuring some of the best teams internationally!--you can get set up to do just that over at WFTDA.tv. You can buy a watch pass just for this weekend, or you can buy the big ol' humongous package that covers your live derby viewing pleasure for both D2 weekends, all four D1 weekends, and Championships too:

Links will take you to the page on which you'd watch the stream, where you'll be prompted to log in. If you haven't yet bought your "virtual ticket," you'll click the green button with the price tag on it. That will pop up a window in which you'll log onto Cleeng.com, which is the outfit that WFTDA uses to manage the sale of watch passes.

I'm guessing that the bundle is divided into a U.S. and a Non-U.S. version because it includes Championships, which is being carried by sports channel ESPN3 for the second year running. When major cable TV gets involved, national borders become a Thing. The pass just for this weekend does not specific U.S. or Non, and the broadcast is just your regular WFTDA.tv livestream, which is essentially an HD Youtube video--it ought to be viewable from anywhere in the world. But I have had one friend in Canada (a flagmate on Puzzle Pirates, of course!) tell me that it wouldn't even let him log on because "it hates Canadians!" I have not yet confirmed that the link above is the link he tried, though, so I'm really not 100% certain about this. I double-checked Cleeng's FAQ, and it had a lot to say about watching from within the EU and so forth; besides, Cleeng is what they're using to sell the Non-U.S. watch pass bundle. (Maybe you should log onto Cleeng via the Non-U.S. bundle, but then back out before actually buying it, and then see if you can buy the watch pass via the D2 Wichita link now that you're successfully logged in?)

Anyway, if you're outside the U.S. and want to watch us skate this weekend, let me know whether the single weekend D2 pass works for you. Inquiring minds etc.

If you don't want to, or aren't able to, watch us live, then keep your eyes on the archives, as all D2 Wichita games will probably show up there early next week. Archived footage at WFTDA.tv is always free to watch.

That's it for me tonight--I'm going to be very good and do my at-home traction, but after that I'm down for the count. I took a 12-hour Sudafed just about 12 hours ago, so with any luck I'll actually get to sleep tonight. Good luck me.

there's a reason these things become cliches
Wed 2016-08-10 23:53:46 (single post)
  • 3,339 wds. long

Two big good things accomplished today: Finished preparing the June and July Fictionette Artifacts for mailing out to my very patient $5/month Patrons and submitted "It's for You" to the next pro-paying market I would like to introduce it to. As I get slowly caught up on All The Things, I'm beginning once more to feel like I can manage to continue pursuing a career in commercial fiction and running a four-times-monthly self-publishing gig simultaneously.

Tomorrow's task in short fiction: Review, and probably revise, an old, old short story of mine (circa 1995) and see if it's appropriate to submit to an anthology I just now today heard about. This temporarily displaces a couple other short fiction tasks because the anthology has a submission deadline of Aug 15.

I might have got even more done today had I not slept in. Last night's practice was exceedingly effortful. (Also exceedingly bruising, but nothing new there. It makes me weirdly happy to look in the mirror and see bruises polka-dotting my shoulders and upper arms. Like ink-stains on my fingers after doing my Morning Pages with a fountain pen, it's proof that I Showed Up.) Last night's sleep was also exceedingly interrupted--like, four visits to the bathroom, something ridiculous like that. And I woke from it with that stuffy almost-headache that I used to get constantly before I went on blood pressure medication, probably because I forgot to take my blood pressure medication last night. Gah. Stop reminding me that I'm getting older, body!

As usually happens when I sleep in, I had vivid dreams. My remembered dreams have possibly been extra vivid and also more numerous due to rereading Jeremy Taylor's book Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill. I have a sizable library of books about dreaming, lucid dreaming, and astral projection. Rereading them tends to have an immediate effect on my dream recall. I value my dream diaries; they go back to my elementary school days and have been the inspiration for a lot of my fiction.

What was unusual was that I continued the same dream from where it had left off each time I went back to sleep. I honestly can't remember ever managing to do that before. Gods alone know why I would want to; it was a terribly frustrating and anxious dream about scrambling to get my things packed up to check out of a hotel room on time. Well, late. In the dream, it was already something like two hours past check-out time when I realized I had a hotel room to check out of, and my car was at the wrong end of the hotel, and the hotel was long and winding and rambly like a monster shopping mall, and as I packed up things I kept finding more things that needed packing up (hiding not only in drawers and stacked on tables but also under the covers of an impeccably made bed) that I couldn't believe actually all fit in my luggage in the first place. And as I frantically grabbed things and stuffed them into containers, two housekeeping staff members stood patiently watching me, waiting to clean up the room when I was done. One was a small woman with a cheerful demeanor who kept telling me "It's OK, no pressure." The other was a tall, solidly-built man who loomed over the proceedings, clearly there in the role of Unspoken Muscular Threat.

I don't think I was actually trying to get back into the dream each time I hit SNOOZE. I think I was just trying to cement it in memory, because I wasn't ready to get up and write it down. But every time I went back to sleep, there I was again, wondering how all these snack items ever fit into one snack bag, or why I thought I'd manage to work on all of these many quilting, needlework, and knitting projects over an 8-hour drive and weekend stay.

I think the dream had us in Wichita, but I don't think it was WFTDA D2 anxiety so much as other anxieties using the next trip I have planned as their setting. This is actually a recurring subset of a recurring category of anxiety nightmare--I had almost exactly the same dream last month, only in that dream, I raced back to my hotel room only to discover it empty because a member of the hotel's maintenance staff had a policy of confiscating anything left in the room after check-out time.

Since I just this week moved all my data back over to an aging laptop with a noisy sub-performing fan, my immediate interpretation is that I'm anxious about getting all my data backed up NOW before it gets "confiscated" at "check-out time," i.e. before the old Asus tanks and takes my files with it. I've already burned the most immediately necessary writing projects to R/W DVD, along with my Thunderbird and Firefox profiles, but it feels like a drop in the bucket. Another option that occurs to me is the lifelong anxiety about needing to get all the stories in my head written and published NOW NOW NOW because you never know when you're gonna DIE. This is a thought that regularly inspires me to close my eyes, cover my ears, and sing LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU.

The nice thing about both those anxieties is, there's positive action I can take to ease them. I can't get everything done in a day, but I can do a little bit to address each issue daily. I can, say, finally activate my Dropbox account tomorrow, archive the next chunk of data to disk, and, as mentioned above, get the next story ready to submit for publication.

If there is a moral to this story, that's about it: Don't panic because you can't get everything done at once. Just try to do a little every day. Not very deep, I grant you, not exactly innovative, but it's surprising how practical a cliche can be. (I guess there's a reason they're cliches.)

Once again, fresh deliciousness courtesy of a small CSA share with The Diaz Farm
close only counts in horseshoes and i am declaring this a game of horseshoes
Tue 2016-08-09 23:01:46 (single post)

Another Tuesday, another pile of gorgeous edibles coming home with me from the farm. We have cucumber, zucchini, garlic, kohlrabi, rainbow chard, rainbow carrots, mixed salad greens, and bread. I'm thinking tomorrow I'm finally going to try the kohlrabi carrot fritters recipe I came across the other day.

Heavy duty cooking was out of the question today. Today I had to use my lunch break to package the Asus X540 and bring it to FedEx for shipping. That was fun. And by "fun," I mean unnecessarily worrying. I was filling out the checklist, writing up a description of the problem, and I thought, "Hey, let's just double-check that it's still happening." AND IT WASN'T. I had the laptop unplugged and sitting next to the box I was going to put it in, and just for fun I pressed the power button, AND THE DAMN THING STARTED RIGHT UP. Stayed on, too, until I shut it down some forty-five minutes later. Didn't matter what I did--opened and closed the lid, picked it up and swung it around, tilted it this end up or that end up, carried it around the house--the dratted thing acted like it had never had a battery problem in its life. Like it had never refused to turn on while I was at lunch with no AC power. Like it had never crashed and died upon my unplugging it for travel, then cheerfully reported a 98% charge when I next plugged it in and turned it on.

I wrote up an addendum. "Problem is sporadic. Please investigate battery stability regardless of whether problem replicates." Also, "Problem may be with battery incorrectly reporting a full charge. After notebook had been plugged in for several days, I was unable to recreate the problem."

Then I biked the package to FedEx and sent it on its way. Then I spent an hour or so illustrating Fictionette Artifacts over pho and spring rolls. Almost done, y'all!

I still haven't submitted the story I've been meaning to submit, which feels kind of stupid. I should do it tonight, except I'm a little worried about my ability to assemble a respectable submission in Standard Manuscript Format with post-derby brain. Maybe I should just keep typing up and illustrating that last Artifact. Only, again, there's the post-derby brain problem. Typos! And there's only so much you can do with correction ribbon, especially when you've been back and forth over that ribbon about four times. (I really should order a new typewriter ribbon.)

Things are mostly on track. It hasn't exactly been the Tuesday I was planning on, but, y'know, close enough for horseshoes and rock 'n roll.

Cover art incorporates public domain (CC0) stock photo from Pixabay
this fictionette is on time (for once) and unspecifically apocalyptic
Fri 2016-08-05 23:32:02 (single post)
  • 1,113 wds. long

Today is Friday, August 5th, 2016. The Friday Fictionette for August 5 is up on time, y'all. Please do not drop unconscious in shock or, from sheer surprise, behave in any untoward manner. The apocalypse is not upon us. Do not panic. Please leave the panicking and prediction of events of an apocalyptic nature to the characters in "Something Wicked." They are professionals and they know what they are doing.

With this blog post, I have indeed reached the 5-hour mark, which is great, but most of my writing hours were taken up with getting today's Fictionette ready to go. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to get Audacity and Equalizer APO to do what I wanted them to do (pre-amplifying and noise reduction), then trying to get GIMP to do what I wanted it to do (set text along a circular path in the correct orientation and position, dammit), then trying to get Sigil to do what I wanted it to do with Scrivener's epub output (make the fonts look marginally less amateur, pretty please?). Some of those were one-time things, and some were just-this-time things. As for the rest--well, if I get better about sticking to my plan of putting in a half hour on that week's Fictionette every day, I won't have so very much left to do Friday, will I? This "perfect day" thing really is its own reward. Or it will be. I am DETERMINED that it will be.

("DETERMINED" is the word for the week. All in caps, just like that.)

So unfortunately I didn't have time to do a couple other things I wanted to do today: finish typing up and illustrating and mailing the Fictionette Artifacts, for one, and, for my next trick, submit a recently returned short story to a new-to-it paying market. Yes! It's like I have other writing things to do besides Friday Fictionettes! I know, it's kind of hard to tell from what pops up in my blog. I tend to get preoccupied with whatever I'm TWO TO FOUR WEEKS LATE with.

Would you believe I have yet more overdue things to catch up on? Why yes. They just aren't writing things. (Well, one of them is, but it's not a writing fiction thing.) So I try not to babble about them too much here. Unless they're interesting, of course. But things like doctor appointments and meeting minutes aren't all that interesting.

On that note, I am off to spend the last hour of my night on other uninteresting yet terribly vital activities. See you Monday. (Or tomorrow, I suppose, when I post the weekly Puzzle Pirates blockade report. Whether that is interesting is up to you.)

they are ALMOST ready!!!
you ain't getting it right if you ain't getting it at all
Thu 2016-08-04 23:59:40 (single post)

This is a story about perfectionism, and how it is the enemy of all that is good and healthy in a writer's life. Well, this writer here anyway.

BUT FIRST! Attached please find a picture of the prophesied TYPEWRITER FRENZY. See? See how close the June and July Fictionette Artifacts are to being ready to mail? SO CLOSE.

*ahem* Yes. Right. Perfectionism. This is a story about perfectionism. Also about hardware failure under warranty.

See, my brand new Asus laptop--well, brand new as of April--it developed a problem. At first it was just a couple of times that the computer shut down when I knew I'd told it to hibernate. Then it was the computer failing to turn on the first time I pushed the button. Then it was the computer utterly dying when I unplugged it from AC power, and refusing to turn on at all until I plugged it in again.

The battery is, for some reason, not powering the system. Its icon indicates it's at a near-full charge, but the computer won't pull power from it at all. Alas. Remember me griping about spending a week just moving all my files from the old Asus to the new? Guess what I've got to do now before I ship the machine back for warranty service?

*Sigh.*

So I went to Goodfellas in Longmont for a working lunch after my chiro appointment, but alas, they could not seat me near a plug. So no work got done during lunch. Instead, I pulled out The Artist's Way and read the next chapter I was due to work on.

I have been doing a very slow and thorough reread of The Artist's Way. Instead of doing one chapter a week, as the book is designed, I'm sticking with each chapter for however long it takes me to do all of its exercises.

The chapter I was moving on to was Chapter 7: "Recovering a Sense of Connection." In it, Julia Cameron addresses the problem of perfectionism. She writes, "Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right... Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead." This is very wise and also relevant to my interests because last night, regardless of my DETERMINATION, I failed to log a perfect day in Habitica.

It hurt, y'all. It hurt and it was embarrassing. "Let's see how far into August I can keep this perfect day streak going!" Two days. That's how far. Two days. Defeated before I'd hardly begun! But no matter how determined I was not to lose, no matter how much I bragged in yesterday's blog post that I CAN DO THIS, my brain had devolved into mush and I could do nothing further with it.

This is where the topic of perfectionism comes in. Perfectionism says, "Ha, you failed your goal three days into the month. You're done! Loser." As though the rest of August didn't matter. As though I might as well not try to get my work done faithfully for the rest of the month because I had already failed to be perfect for the whole month.

This is actually a problem I had when I began using Habitica, then called HabitRPG. Every time I failed to complete any one of my dailies, the self-destructive voice in my brain said, "Well, you failed to get a perfect day again. Game over." And I'd find it hard to push myself to complete the rest of the dailies. Not going to be able to log five hours writing? Guess there's no point in posting to the blog, brushing my teeth, or checking my email. Sounds stupid, I know, but the self-destructive voice can be very convincing.

So of course now it's trying to convince me that I might as well consider August a failure and a loss.

Here is what I'm telling it: Game over, indeed. You know what that means? Start a new game! The object of the new game is, How many "perfect days" can I log in August, total?

Answer: At least three! Because by the time I'm done with this blog post, I do believe I'll have logged five hours of writing today. And that's despite having started the tedious and time-consuming procedure of invoking my warranty with Asus and prepping the new laptop for shipping.

Let's see if I can log a fourth tomorrow.

being the tragic comedy and comic tragedy of the death and resurrection of the 1997 Saturn SW2
Tue 2016-07-12 23:29:25 (single post)

Oh, my goodness, it's been a normal day at last. A normal day, with normal workday expectations, with the normal workday rituals, and with the normal battle between me and the short story currently under revision. (There are things I want said in the first scene, and there seems to be no good way to say them.) A normal Tuesday also with its normally scheduled roller derby beat-down because what doesn't kill us makes us strong. A normal day. Bliss.

So. Now that things have returned to normal, I will very briefly (Ha!) recount for you the tale of woe known as The Death and Resurrection of the 1997 Saturn SW2.

Here's the thing about a 20-year-old car: We knew quite well it needed replacing. We'd been talking about it all year. The problem is, we hadn't managed to find time to go car shopping, or even to think about what we might want in a new car. "After Boise," we kept saying to each other, referring to the last roller derby bout in a series of bouts each placed uncomfortably soon after the previous. "We'll have a little room to breathe after Boise."

We also knew quite well that, the car being 20 years old, it should get a check-up before we entrusted it with our trip to Salt Lake City. So on Thursday morning, June 23, I took it to the shop. The shop recommended some work be done. We did that work. The car was then proclaimed fit for the drive.

I am telling you this so that you will know that we did our due diligence.

On June 24, six hours into the eight-hour drive, 90 miles short of our destination, our transmission went out. Just died. By flooring the gas pedal, we managed to limp into the Pilot Travel Center in Evanston, Wyoming, exit 6 on I-80 west, at about 25 miles per hour and with our hazard lights blinking. We pulled into a parking space in a cloud of steam and a waterfall of bubbling-over coolant fluid. Things looked grim.

Thanks to the magic of Triple A Plus and the miracle of having made it just close enough, we were towed at no charge the whole rest of the way to our hotel. So at least we were there, more or less on time, and ready to participate in the Wasatch Roller Derby Great Salt Skate as planned. We'd be relying on our teammates' good graces and the remaining empty spaces in their cars to ferry us between the hotel and the venue, but our ability to skate or coach (depending on who you're talking about) at the event remained unimpaired.

The next day, the mechanic around the corner from the hotel (recommended to us glowingly by the Triple A agent) gave us the bad news. Why did the transmission go out? Because all the transmission fluid had leaked away. Why was there a leak in the transmission? Because the transmission was one of the few things remaining in that car that was actually still 20 years and 285,000 miles old. (The chassis is one of the few other things. The engine is not.) There was no sign of impact. It wasn't an accident. It was simple wear and tear--and nothing we could have expected our usual mechanic to have discovered, because it hadn't developed that leak until midway through our drive. It was just rotten luck and terrible, terrible timing. And our transmission, due no doubt to having been driven without fluid, fried its little self to a crisp. The only way that Saturn was riding again was with a new transmission--which the mechanic wasn't 100% certain he could source, it being for a car that not only was 20 years old but also whose manufacturer was no longer around to make parts for a Saturn SW2.

I got this news during half time of our first bout of the weekend. Imagine me geared up, phone at ear, rolling back and forth behind the short bank of spectator bleachers. Pacing. On roller skates. "Fleur? Is your head in the game?" Yes. Well. It will be.

John, that is to say Papa Whiskey, was in full-on coach mode, having just given the half-time pep talk when I got off the phone and told him what I'd learned. He put his arm around me and he said, "Whatever happens, we will figure this out, and we will handle it together." It was just what I needed to hear, and, weirdly, just the way I needed to hear it. A reminder that I wasn't alone. And that we weren't there alone. It wasn't just the Niki-and-John team, which is a pretty valiant team in its own right. The two of us had the rest of the BCB All Stars team with us, and we were part of that team, and just knowing that, I think, made both of us feel more capable. Indomitable. Up to whatever challenge life threw at us. Strong, Smart, Together. You hate for crisis to hit, but if it must, let it hit while you've got your roller derby team surrounding you.

We pause while the author composes herself. *ahem.*

So we had several decisions to make, some more urgent than others. The big one was, if the mechanic can source a replacement transmission, do we have them put it in? Into--I repeat--a 20-year-old car? The urgent decision was, how are we getting back to Boulder so that people can go to work on Monday? The answers transpiring on Saturday the 25th were "Maybe? Depending on the price?" and "Probably Niki will stay in SLC with her friend, and the rest of the carpool will find room in other carpools. We hope? And then maybe Niki will wish she had just gone home if it turns out the mechanic can't source a new transmission and/or we decide to abandon the vehicle? But at least she'll get a nice visit with her friend out of it?"

Then on Sunday morning we remembered that rental cars existed. The original carpool could go home Sunday afternoon/evening as planned, just in a 2016 Dodge rather than in a 1997 Saturn. Don't think we didn't notice the difference in the ride. (We were, in the course of things, reminded how expensive one-way out-of-state rentals can be, especially if you pick the car up at an airport but do not return it to an airport. What price peace of mind, right?) And I'd return to SLC alone if need be. So. We finished out the tournament, checked out of the hotel, and drove back to Boulder without incident.

That's Part 1 of the story.

Now, before I get to Part 2, I need to tell you this: I've retold this story several times, and very, very often, well-meaning friends will hear the bit about the transmission being fried and reflexively burst out, "No! A new transmission? No way. And it would cost how much? No. Not worth it. Get a new car. Stupid to put that kind of money into such an old car." And then they hear Part 2, and realize that they pretty much just called us, their friends, stupid. So it goes. Friends do that. They say unfortunate things to each other, they forgive each other, they move on. But, see, I really want to say this:

Everyone's got a right to make the best decision for themselves regarding the use of their particular resources, and, well, respect that, yeah?

Also, unfortunately, I kinda have Daddy Issues in this department. My Dad has many good qualities, don't get me wrong, but no parent is perfect, and, well, he authored a few of my most notable neuroses. Right now what I'm thinking of is the approach he took to Teaching Good Judgment. It goes like this: Any time young Niki had a decision to make, it was a test. Will Niki excercise good judgment? It was an easy test to evaluate. Either young Niki made exactly the decision her Dad would have made, in which case she had exercised good judgment, or she would make ANY OTHER DECISION which was by definition WRONG and STUPID and proof that she did not have good judgment and could not be trusted with responsibilities or privileges.

(Friends who know me well may also see the seeds of my own tendency to just assume that any plan I come up with is Obviously THE Most Logical Way to Do Things. I'm working on it. Sorry, friends.)

So you can see where I struggled with the decision. I knew very well what The Right Decision was. The Right Decision was to abandon the car and redirect the money that would have gone into the new transmission into the down payment on a new car. To do anything else would be WRONG and STUPID and proof that Niki Cannot Be Trusted With Money Or A Car.

The problem was... abandoning the car would leave John and I with no car. We can get by with no car, but not comfortably, and not for long. (For instance: During the week we had no car, there was a day I could not secure a ride to roller derby practice, so I biked it. It's possible! It also takes 45 minutes to an hour each way, there is no street lighting for almost the entire way, and a bike ride of that length requires an expenditure of physical energy that I'd rather save for roller derby practice.) And, remember, we had made no start on new-car-shopping yet, and new-car-decisions need to be made by people who can walk away from the table, not by people who are under the We Have No Car We Need A Car We Must Buy A Car NOW pressure. So we were really deciding between two different "wastes of money"--prolonging the life of the existing car so we could have time to make the right decision for ourselves on a new car later in the year (and enjoy having two cars for a little while), or pressuring ourselves into making a quite possibly poor decision on a replacement car NEXT WEEK.

(That's the logical stuff. There was emotional stuff at play, too, like I'm not ready to let it goooooooo! I'd be lying if I said there wasn't. But it was the logical stuff that won the day.)

The mechanic in Salt Lake called Monday and quoted us a price on a remanufactured transmission with a 100,000-mile/3-year warranty attached. We discussed it, determined that we could afford it, and--after much more discussion, because this was the hard part--decided that it was worth it to us. We told the mechanic to go ahead. Then I reserved train fare for the following weekend.

(I dithered over whether I should ever admit to Dad that this is, in fact, happened. We'd been talking about the car situation on and off for some time; besides, it was roller derby adjacent, and I tell him all my best roller derby stories. In the end, I did tell him the whole Salt Lake City saga. It was like pulling off a Band-Aid. And, as it turned out, he did not say anything about poor judgment. I guess he really has adapted to the idea that his little girl is a grown-up now. Like I said, my Dad has many good qualities.)

Intermission over. We now proceed to Part 2. Part 2 is me returning to SLC to recover the car.

That, by the way, is my first attempt to Storify something. It doesn't tell the whole story, but it gives a good outline. You can see, by the way, why it took me so long to find time to blog about it. I'm not even sure I really had time tonight. But we all make the decisions that seem the best for us with the resources that we do have, and I'm blogging it tonight anyway.

So from the Storify you've got the basics: Sunday, July 3rd, at 5:00 AM, I biked down to Boulder Downtown Station to get on the 6:00 AM bus to Denver Union Station, arriving at 7:00 AM or so. I boarded the Amtrak train to Salt Lake City at 7:45 and began that 15-hour journey at 8:05. Amtrak, you see, was much cheaper than another car rental, since I have a goodly stash of Amtrak Guest Reward points stashed away for just such occasions. Well, mainly I have them stashed away to spend on single-zone one-way sleeper accommodations, but they are also useful for this sort of situation. Amtrak was much cheaper in terms of stress, too; I'd already have to make one 8-hour drive alone, so why make two if I could help it?

It was a super relaxing ride. It was gorgeous. The whole drive up to Salt Lake the first time--well, as far as John and I were driving--I kept exclaiming about the geology, the erosion-sculpted rocks, the colors of the strata, the way the mesas looked like giant children's play-dough sculptures plopped atop a table draped in a flowing tablecloth with crumbs spilling down the folds. "Fleur, you missed your calling," my teammate joked. Don't we all have multiple alternate lives we could have lived, and maybe are living now in some alternate universe somewhere? Anyway, I got to really feast my eyes on it this time through. I also was able to get some writing done, and some reading too. And playing, of course. Computer full of little clicky games, why not?

AND I GOT TO CATCH UP ON SLEEP. If you've been reading along, you know how important that was.

July 4 was a small respite from all the comings and goings. Not only did I get to skate around downtown Salt Lake City for a bit and then relax in my hotel room like someone with nothing better to do (bliss! having nothing better to do!), but there was time also for a long, unhurried evening having dinner with my very dear friend and her family. Even if I didn't already have Sound Logical Reasons for going to all this expense and effort to get our car back, even if those Reasons weren't in and of themselves perfectly sufficient, there was knowing also that if I went back to Salt Lake City, I'd get to see my friend again, and with any luck for more than that very hurried hour in the hotel lobby that was all we got during the first trip. It was worth that whole second trip, Monday the 4th was.

OK, wow, I've been at this blog post for two hours. Two hours after roller derby practice. And this post has exceeded 2,000 words, sez Scrivener. So, um... more later? There will be more later. The Storify has the short version, but I'm not really good at non-verbose. You may have noticed.

Cover art features original photography by the author; this is not the first time one of her hands has modeled for fictionette cover art.
this fictionette is having a secret magical affair
Sat 2016-07-02 01:40:57 (single post)
  • 1,070 wds. long

Hi, y'all. It's stupid-o-clock in the morning and I have to be out of here by 9:30 am, so here we go: The Friday Fictionette for July 1 is "Partners in Crime," which is sort of like Romeo and Juliet except it's more like Romeo and Horatio and it's not a love story. Well, you can read a love story into it if you like. I'm agnostic as to whether there's romance involved. I haven't written about it. Doesn't mean it's not there. But by goshawks and grackles, there's damn well magic involved.

Those of you who are Patrons at the $1/month level and up will notice a difference this time around: The ebook post is now available for download in PDF and .epub formats. I know that many people prefer not to read ebooks as PDFs, and they've got darn good reasons for it. So here you go. I need to go back and clean up the fonts, because Scrivener goes a little overboard with its CSS when you export as-is, and before I can add a .mobi version to the mix I need to figure out why my attempts to convert result in Kindle Previewer losing chunks of text at its soft page breaks, but this is what you get for now.

I think it's pretty snazzy. It has, however, kept me up later than anticipated. (Why? Why won't you stop adding like three blank pages after the cover art? I swear I have removed all the page-break-after crap, where are you getting this from? Is this a calibre thing? Do I need to look at it in Nook for Windows?)

I'll release the Fictionette Freebie for June sometime over the weekend, most likely late Sunday. I'm putting off everything until late Sunday, because on Sunday I will be spending 15 hours on a train passing through gorgeous scenery and I will finally have time to do stuff like that. This would also be why I still haven't blogged about Salt Lake City, Part 1: BCB vs. The World, and the Tragedy of the Saturn's Last Stand

Don't worry, the Saturn gets brought back to life in the sequel. At least, so I was told, over the phone, by a very nice mechanic in Salt Lake City. We will find out for sure during Salt Lake City, Part 2: Independence Day Resurrection. Hence taking the train on Sunday.

In the meantime, I have got to get to sleep. (Can I sleep now? Please? Pretty please? But why not? Too bad, I am going to sleep anyway. Pththbbbp.)

Dad shows us how it's done.
oysters and kimchi on christmas eve
Thu 2015-12-24 23:07:37 (single post)

We shucked the rest of the oysters today. Dad estimates there were 80 pounds of them, total. He borrowed this device that was basically a steel tooth on a hinge with a lot of leverage, with which he popped the oysters open. Then all we had to do was scrape 'em out with oyster knives and put 'em in a container in the fridge.

Well, all except the ones we ate during the process. Privilege of doing the shucking.

At some point during the oyster-shucking session, I remembered that Maangchi's kimchi recipe calls for oysters, and wouldn't it be cool to make kimchi with fresh-shucked oysters instead of frozen? And, hey, there's a Korean grocery store just a few blocks away from the friend who loaned us the oyster-popping device, which we gotta bring back to him anyway. Might as well stop in. And they had everything I needed, up to and including the Korean radish and Asian chives.

("Those don't look like chives," Dad said. "Totally different allium," I admitted, "but it is an allium. Unless I screwed up and bought lemongrass." We both tasted some. It was not lemongrass.)

So now my hands smell like garlic and hot peppers, and fresh kimchi is fermenting in big rectangular bins over by the laundry room. At some point I will have to figure out what to do with it all, because I'm unlikely to be able to eat or give away all of it by New Year's Eve. I suppose maybe package it in dry ice in the fruitcake bin to get it home in checked luggage? And put what's left of the fruitcake in something much smaller? But I don't have to worry about that for a week.

And now I'm rewarding myself with a trip to Hurricane's to hang out with my brother and listen to live music and drink Abita and give my computer a wifi connection it hasn't had a spat with. Seriously.

email