“Why do people think writers are capable of anything except sitting in a room and writing, usually without benefit of being completely clothed or especially well-groomed?”
Poppy Z. Brite (Billy Martin)

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

New ink! New ink! Whoo-hoo!
Inks featured: Robert Oster Morning Shine, Diamine Lilac Satin, J. Herbin Stormy Gray
came here to do two things
Thu 2020-06-11 17:13:16 (single post)

The ink I ordered arrived last week. It's glorious. I actually haven't tried much of it out yet, but just looking at all those bottles set out on my desk gives me a happy feeling. The sample bottles are especially lovely, with the jewel tones of the inks shining visibly through the clear sides. (The accompanying photo does not do the sight justice. But then I never claimed to be a good photographer.)

Which isn't to say I haven't tried them out at all. I've dipped into three of the little sample vials so far. I used the De Atramentis Document Red to do my next Morning Pages session--carefully, avoiding spills and stained fingers as much as possible, because that whole Document line of inks is waterproof. (I had to work hard with soap and water to get it off the pen's nib when I wanted to change colors.) The next day's Morning Pages were done with the Jacques Herbin Caroube de Chypre 1670, a lovely red-brown--not very much less red than the Document Red, now that I come to compare them. I didn't actually realize that the 1670 line is all shimmer inks--I didn't notice the flecks of gold in the bottle, and I hadn't read up on the ink until just now--so I didn't shake the bottle before filling my pen. That might be why no significant shimmer made its way onto those three pages.

I darn well did notice that the Robert Oster Morning Shine was a shimmer ink--teal with silver flecks. I used it to write a handful of Postcards To Voters. You can see how that worked out in the accompanying picture. Despite shaking the ink bottle and occasionally rotating my pen, I still managed to get some shimmer clumps, such that none showed up on the page, and then the pen clogged, and then once I cleared the clog I got a bunch of flecks at once. (That's pretty much me with shimmer inks, no matter whose. I have a love-hate relationship with shimmer inks.) Things smoothed out after a while, though. I'll be writing another batch of postcards with that ink soon enough.

Postcards To Voters is one of the political actions I can take when I don't have the wherewithal for political action. It's perfect for a low-energy introvert. I sit at my desk and play with my fountain pen inks, and, not long after, a handful of people get postcards in the mail reminding them to make their voices heard. The pictured postcards were part of a Florida Vote-By-Mail campaign, specifically for Osceola County, whose purpose is twofold: a general GOTV campaign to get more Democrats ready to turn in their ballots, and a specific push to make sure more Democrats are aware of the vote-by-mail option and are taking advantage of it.

Yes, Postcards To Voters absolutely is partisan. In general elections, their campaigns support the Domecratic candidate; in Democratic primaries, they support the more progressive candidate. If any hypothetical reader has a problem with that, I can't help you. I'm not going to pretend that at this point in time that there's some moral equivalence between the two major U.S. parties. I'm not going to pretend that the Republican party has not unequivocally positioned itself as the party of voter suppression, white supremacy, "bathroom bills" pushing trans people out of public spaces, attacks on queer rights and women's rights and reproductive rights and health care rights, corporate interests over individual life and health and well-being, stochastic terrorism, and police violence against people of color.

I'm not here to make you, hypothetical Republican voter inexplicably reading my blog, feel better about voting Republican. You know what you're supporting. Either make your own peace with that or stop doing it.

No, what I'm here to do is 1. play with fountain pen ink, and 2. advocate for the small but meaningful and highly accessible anti-racist, pro-social-justice act that is Postcards To (Democratic) Voters. Having done those things, I count today a small but meaningful success.

And now I'm off to pick up this week's CSA veggies. The end.

because silence is not a solution
Thu 2020-06-04 14:46:41 (single post)

I'm sorry. I've been part of the problem.

I've been angry--furious--but feeling so helpless because it's like every goddamn week someone gets murdered by the police for the "crime" of existing in public while black and people rightly protesting this are being met with excessive police force and there are white assholes destroying shit under cover of the protests because while it is a FACT that "a riot is the language of the unheard" (thank you MLK) it's so goddamn easy for malign actors to coopt riot conditions to do shit like burn down bookstores and then yell "but antifa did it" and, what the hell, does anyone really need me to explain why I'm feeling angry and helpless? Seriously?

And I've been thinking, "I'm a writer, I should goddamn write something, what else am I here for?" But then I think, "I'm a fucking privileged well-off cis white woman, who am I to speak?" And then I think, "Well, leverage the shit out of your privilege and SAY SOMETHING," and then I think, "What the fuck can I say that doesn't sound like cheap token virtue-signalling performative hashtag so-called allyship?"

And so the anger turns inward and the helplessness overwhelms and it turns out my natural instinct is to turtle down. Just hide away in my own petty personal triumphs and tragedies, keep my mouth shut on anything substantial, and wait for the storm to pass.

And, wow, isn't that a big ol' sign of my white privilege all blindingly strobing neon? "I'm overwhelmed, so I won't think about it." White privilege is what allows me to go through life only thinking about issues facing people of color when I choose to, when I'm strong enough to, when I feel it would be useful. POC don't get to choose not to think about it, any more than I get to choose not to think about issues facing women. You don't get to choose not to think about the issues you're living. The world tends to shove those issues down your throat at every opportunity.

And it turns out that while anti-racism can't begin and end with a hashtag, and performative allyship is deadly, silence isn't any better.

Here's a thing--here is a huge stonking hypocritical thing:

I've recently been dealing with an emotional upset regarding a small online gaming community I've been part of. The member who said something misogynist and then doubled down when called on it was only the inciting incident, upsetting enough in the moment but not in itself the thing that's caused me to go on hiatus from that group's activities. No, the sustaining emotional upset came from the way the rest of the community handled it. A few community members moved very quickly into Missing Stair Defense mode--oh, I know them personally, they don't mean anything by it, they're going through some personal stuff, I promise this is totally unlike them--and that's a huge red flag. An individual asshole can stop being an asshole, or they can leave the community; but a community with a pattern of Asshole Advocacy has a serious problem with how it enacts community.

But worse than the Asshole Advocacy is the utter silence with which the whole group initially responded to my protest. Me, out loud in voice chat: "Hey, I'm not comfortable with [person] tossing misogynist slurs around casually like that." Them: CRICKETS. The Asshole Advocacy only came after I pushed back by repeating myself into the deafening silence--and that wasn't easy, let me tell you. And that's the major reason I continue to be on hiatus from that group despite certain members reaching out to me and telling me they've talked to the offender who feels super bad about it and promises it won't happen again. Because silence like that tells a body, "They don't have your back. You can't trust them. It will happen again, and this is how they will respond."

Yeah, so. Flash forward to today. Me, checking in with another social group's online communications hub for the first time in about a week. And reading post after post of people, primarily POC, saying, "I'm out, y'all. I've been waiting for someone to say something about George Floyd and the protests and #blacklivesmatter, but the silence has been deafening and I no longer feel safe here."

I'm ashamed. I'm a goddamned hypocrite and I'm ashamed.

So I'm not going to be silent anymore. Maybe I feel helpless and overwhelmed, but I can't let that be a reason to stay silent, when other people maybe also feel even more helpless and overwhelmed and also in fear of their lives. I've been proceeding from the somewhat unconscious assumption that these are issues affecting other communities, not mine; events happening in other states, not the one I live in; stuff going on outside my door, which I can close and lock while I hunker down inside the house and ignore the world. And I need to stop doing that. I needed to stop doing that yesterday, or more like two weeks ago.

I still don't know what, effectively, I should say, what I can do, but I'm going to move forward with the intent to fucking learn. Seek, learn, implement. There are quiet things a person can do: donate money to activist organizations, write Postcards to Voters, send letters to government officials. There a personal things a person can do: check in with friends who are directly affected, offer help.

And there are public things a person can do, like write a blog post like this one, admitting fault and asserting the intent to get better. Yeah, maybe it's still a species of performative allyship and hashtag activism, maybe it makes me look like yet another self-centered white person exercising my guilt and making it all about me. I don't know. I have to risk that, because silence is worse. Silence tells my friends that I don't have their backs and they can't trust me. Speaking, I might fuck up, but if I fuck up, at least I can learn from the fuck-up and do better.

#BlackLivesMatter is very easy to say, and yes, a lot of (predominately white) people consider their job done once they've said it. But it's even easier not to say it at all. Activism can't end there, sure. But it's a place to start.

So I'm speaking. And I'm sorry.

This blog isn't going to stop being my actually writing blog, primarily concerned with those personal and petty triumphs and travails to do with one woman's writing life. I also reserve the right to squee about fountain pens, geek out over video games and books and TV shows, and whine about first world problems. But this blog is going to stop totally avoiding matters of substance, because that's no way to live.

Friends: Stay safe out there. Or don't. Take big risks in the name of justice. Know that I love you. And I've got your back.

if you need permission you have my permission
Mon 2020-06-01 17:16:32 (single post)

I have a thing to say. Kind of a manifesto. Mostly it's something I wanted to say in reply to someone else on Twitter, only I do not have the energy or free time to pursue a Twitter feud, and also 280 characters is insufficient.

But. By way of preamble, let me recommend you a Patreon creator to follow. My colleague Jason Sanford, a prolific writer of short speculative fiction, follows the SF publishing world closely and shares his findings in a regular newsletter, the Genre Grapevine. Those posts are free to the public, but they represent a huge outlay of effort and energy on his part, so if you find them useful, it'd be keen of you to send him a few bucks each month.

The Genre Grapevine covers a wide breadth of items, from the super-serious and important to the humorous yet arguably just as important. What I'm reacting to here falls into the latter category. In the most recent newsletter, there's a link to a tweet highlighting an egregious and highly facepalm-worthy specimen of Men Writing Woman badly. In case you have any trouble reading the text in the photo, or you'd just prefer not to click through to the original tweet, I quote the relevant excerpt here. (There will be a brief pause afterward, in which I will attempt to clean the slime off my keyboard. You're welcome.)

...cuffed, strangled with a bathrobe belt. A troubled young woman walking toward the abyss of destruction. She had had beautiful breasts as well.

Aomame mourned the deaths of these two friends deeply. It saddened her to think that these women were forever gone from the world. And she mourned their lovely breasts--breasts that had vanished without a trace.

This is an excerpt from 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. It is not a parody. Judging by some of the links tweeted in reply, it's also not the only book in which his female characters are totally, unrealistically, and laughably obsessed with breasts.

But I am not here to critique Murakami's novels. I have not read Murakami's novels; nor do I plan to. I am here, instead, to critique a very specific phenomenon that occurs in connection to negative critiques of novels. Let me pull a couple tweets out of the reply thread for you to give an example of what I mean...

@CodaReadsalot (10:21 AM May 27) This book is on my “to read” shelf and I am concerned now. I have not read any of his work because it struck me that he does not understand women at all. This is not helping.

@RobinCorrigan84 (12:52 PM May 27) How will you ever know, if you don't read any of his work?

My instinctive response, which I valiantly refrained from posting on Twitter, is this: I won't know. I will go on in ignorance. And somehow I will survive. Mostly by reading books I actually enjoy.

Here's the deal: There are a lot of books in this world. There are more books than you can read in your lifetime. Every book you choose to read represents a book you won't get to read. Ever.

So why should anyone other than you get to choose how you spend your finite reading time?

You get to make that decision, based on whatever the hell you want. You can decide, if you want, never to read another book by an author whose last name ends in a Y. Or even an F! (I'll be sad, but I will support your decision, because it is yours.) You can certainly decide not to read a book based on an excerpt such as the above. However out of context that excerpt might be, it exists! In that book! If you would rather take the time you would have spent reading that book, and instead read a book in which such excerpts do not exist--books by men who don't insert weirdly male-gaze-a-licious boob-fetishization into their female characters' inner narratives--you can do that! The world does not lack for such books! Nor indeed does it lack for books written by women! You could so easily spend an entire reading career never reading a single book with an "also she mourned their boobs" moment. It's easy!

It's your life. You only get so many hours on this Earth. Regarding those you spend reading for pleasure, you have the unilateral right to decide which books are worthy of those hours, and which are not. No other human being on this planet has the right to browbeat you into reading something you don't enjoy by mealy-mouthing some smarm about "what a shame to deprive yourself of such a work of genius for no better reason than petty identity politics" or other high-handed nonsense. If you need a counter argument, here's mine: What a shame to deprive yourself of books you might enjoy, because you spent that time instead reading works you didn't enjoy out of some sense of duty toward someone else's literary opinions?

I mean, this is why I'm not wasting time getting into fights with smarmy, mealy-mouthed, high-handed bullies on Twitter. Also not wasting my time reading Murakami's novels. And if by doing so I am depriving myself of an important experience, that's OK. I'll be over here having other important experiences, thanks.

(For instance, I still haven't read N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy. WHY?! Talk about depriving myself! And I'm still working my way simultaneously through Martha Well's Books of the Raksura AND ALSO her Murderbot Diaries. And Ann Leckie's Provenance is still sitting on the shelf, mocking me. TOO MANY BOOKS TOO LITTLE TIME AAAAAAAGH!)

So it turns out this pen writes on BOTH these paper products equally well after all. Who know?
fountain pen NRE
Fri 2020-05-29 20:26:05 (single post)

So the Platinum Curidas arrived last week to much fanfare and excitement! It actually arrived two days earlier than the USPS Tracking widget predicted. I've spent the last week on and off putting it through its paces, and I think I'm ready to make a report.

Here are the pictures I took of it when it arrived. You can see what an elegant piece of work it is, especially in the photo where it's all disassembled. And don't miss the close-up of the nib retracting behind the little turtle flap! It's very impressive. It's relatively slim, which me and my wee little hands prefer. At 27 grams, it handles like the heavier sort of ballpoint--you know, the fancy-schmancy showoff sort. But without the cigar-shaped barrel (thank goodness).

The clicking action of deploying and retracting the nib is a little jolting; after filling it, I expect it will be more important than usual to blot the nib a bit to avoid spattering.

I had a real disappointment, though, when I used it for last week Friday's morning pages session. I assumed this had to do with my poor choice of notebook. I really like the BioBased "environotes" notebooks, both for being made of ecologically sustainable fiber and also just for their heft. But their paper is super absorbant and, frankly, terrible for fountain pens. Which hasn't stopped me from writing in them with my Sheaffer student demonstrator, my Sheaffer Agio, and John's Lamy Safari. All of the above have fine-tipped nibs, though what that means varies between manufacturer and even between models by the same manufacturer; the Agio's nib feels more like a medium while the student feels extra-fine. In all cases, the ink bleeds dramatically through this notebook's pages, making it hard to read what I've written once I've written on both sides. But morning pages mostly aren't meant to be read ever again, and besides, my handwriting is atrocious.

But I couldn't get through three lines on that paper with the Platinum Curidas. It simply shut down, nib dry as dust. I was able to finish my session by treating it like a dip pen, and each dip got me another five or six lines before, again, the flow just stopped. My suspicion was that the nib's feed must be exceptionally narrow, and the absorbent paper was wicking the ink out of it faster than it could refill itself.

This suspicion, happily, turned out to be wrong. But I didn't find that out until just now.

So earlier today, I joined a Nebula Conference panel on fountain pens (because of course there was a panel on fountain pens), and while I listened to people geeking out about their favorite pens and ink and paper, I took the time to experiment further with the Platinum Curidas by writing out a handful of Postcards to Voters. I had to dip the pen once to restart its flow, but it flowed very well after that, gamely working its way through four postcards without a hitch. (One of the panel attendees, in response to my mentioning this pen in the text chat, warned me that there have been incidences of hairline cracks discovered in the feed and that I might want to examine mine closely. If the linked blog post is representative of what she was talking about, then so far so good. But I'll keep an eye on it going forward.)

So now that the ink was flowing nicely, I thought I'd experiment again with the Biobased environotebook. Hot damn! It worked great. Wrote my way down a quarter of the page, and nary a hiccup. Nary any visible "spread" in the stroke, either, despite how absorbent the paper is, and ridiculously minimal bleedthrough, too. So I guess the problem was temporary, or its long-term nature has yet to be determined, and in any case I can incorporate the Platinum Curidas into my morning pages rotation after all, at least for now. Yay?

tl;dr: DID I MENTION FOUNTAIN PENS ARE GREAT? THEY ARE GREAT.

63rd St. Farm gets Gemma's stamp of approval.
salad days are here
Thu 2020-05-28 17:49:31 (single post)

Speaking of annual events that have been affected by the pandemic, today was the first veggie pick-up of 63rd St. Farm's 2020 CSA season. I was both excited about it and dreading it. Excited because, obviously, yay! farm-fresh produce! Also extra variety in greens for the bunnies. But I was kinda dreading submitting myself to yet another errand that had been made more arduous by contagion-suppression processes.

There were three processes each member could choose from, but only one gave me the option to be picky about my veggies and therefore probably not take home an unwanted bunch of cilantro. There are very few things I will not eat, and cilantro isn't precisely one of them--it's omnipresent in Colorado and in many of the cultural cuisines I enjoy, so I've worked up a tolerance more or less out of self-defense--but it's certainly something I will choose not to eat it if I get that choice without causing others too much inconvenience. Although, John points out, if I did wind up with a bunch of cilantro, the bunnies would most certainly eat it for us. But I'd still have to handle it, get the smell all over my hands, and, well, if at all possible, no thanks. (No, it's not that I think cilantro tastes like soap. I think marjoram tastes like soap. I think cilantro tastes like cilantro. And I don't like the taste of cilantro. It is a preference that reasonable people can have, as it happens.) So although I was wistfully tempted by the convenience of the two options involving prepackaged shares, I opted to come on out and select my veggies myself under the farm's strict sanitation and separation rules.

Pick-up hours were from 3:00 to 7:00. I arrived right at 3. And the line of cars was already well out the entrance driveway and damn near sticking out into 63rd street. There was just room for me to squeeze in at the end of the line without blocking traffic. And that was with every driver conscientiously inching up to compress the line just as much as they possibly could. Then the line moved slowly, slowly, slowly along the driveway (I'd brought a book to read, it was cool) toward the check-in station, where the farmers would check off that you'd arrived, give you your instructions, and, if you wanted to buy something extra, like honey or eggs or herbal products, sell you something extra. (I bought a dozen eggs).

After the check-in station, everything smoothed out. I hung a right into their Brand! New! Parking lot! (it wasn't technically much bigger than the old one, but it had a better traffic flow, and that made it feel HUGE) and got myself parked. My next stop was the hand-washing station, which was equipped with liquid soap and running water and paper towels and also a sign reminding you to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Then I took a plastic bag from the box of Brand! New! Plastic bags! (we were asked not to bring any from home, and also to save these for use in future, less complicated times) and headed over to the veggie cart.

"Cart" feels like an understatement; the word makes me think of shopping carts and bike trailers and, at most, small horse-drawn conveyances. This was more like a large horse-drawn conveyance, maybe 20 feet long by 6 feet wide, with vegetables arranged along its circumference on a shelf like a grocery store's produce display. Four people were allowed to be at the cart at once; more than that and you waited in line with 10-foot separation. Vegetables were pre-bagged in amounts labeled according to share size (I have a half-share, which is less than a full but more than a small). All you had to do was grab the bags that corresponded with your share size, make that tough choice between chard or kale or collard greens (I've got okra and mirliton at home, of course I chose collards), and maybe sometimes ask for supplies of this or that to be replenished. Which they would be from the prepackaging station where a number of farm staff were very busy not only keeping the cart supplied but also putting together the drive-up shares for those who chose Option #2.

So it all went very smoothly. Everyone, members and farm staff alike, was cheerful and polite and wore their face masks like responsible and caring community members do. The whole experience was much more pleasant than I'd anticipated. And as I left, I saw that the line of cars had now entirely outgrown the driveway and extended for several hundred feet along the shoulder of north-bound 63rd Street, so clearly I'd done well to get there right at 3. In fact, I might try for 2:45 next week. Maybe also budget time to order some pizza to take home. The smells coming from the brick oven were hugely tempting.

Anyway, I got home with fresh veg, made up a plate for the bunnies, and then made up a salad for myself. All in all, it was a successful outing.

to do this weekend: attend the nebulas
Wed 2020-05-27 17:28:07 (single post)

Like every year, this weekend SFWA will announce the recipients of this year's Nebula Awards. And, like every year, there will be a weekend-long conference centered on the award ceremony.

What's different, obviously, is the COVID-19 pandemic. So for the first time, this year's Nebula Conference will be entirely online. And while it's a bummer not to get to hang out with people in person, the truth is, I wouldn't ordinarily have been there in person. A lot of people wouldn't. Travel is a non-trivial expense in more ways than the monetary. But now travel is not a factor at all. All you need is an up-to-date computer, an internet connection, and the $150 membership fee.

So I signed up and I'm very much looking forward to this weekend. But the first official activities were this past weekend. There was a reception on Saturday evening, May 23rd, to celebrate all the Nebula Award finalists (two hours of awesome audiobook narrators reading excerpts of awesome stuff!) and to give conference attendees a chance to say hi to each other, first via text chat during the reception and later during the room parties.

I went to a room party. I connected to the main Zoom room, and the hosts there redirected me, at my request, to the karaoke party. I'd never done online karaoke before. It was pretty chill. I understand there was also a bar room, where a bartender would assist you with drink-mixing instructions. I may try that one of the evenings this weekend. And of course there will be All! The! Panels! to attend. I've very excited about this.

But first I have another frustrating session of juggling sound drivers ahead of me. That's right--the sound lag static bug is back. ARGH. I discovered this during last night's Spiral Knights session (just a relaxing hour or so soloing the Shroud of the Aprocrea prestige mission and listening to the soothing sounds of the Apocrean Harvester stalking me through the graveyard) which was intolerable over the computer's speakers. Today I experimented with voice recording, and the distortion was there too. Either I get this settled, or I'm going to have to connect to the Nebula Conference on the aging Asus, and I'm not looking forward to that.

But that is not your concern. What concerns you is whether you wish to attend the Nebula Conference, attend all the panels, enjoy all the room parties, sing all the karaoke, and mix all the drinks; or simply watch the award ceremony on Facebook, which you can do for free.

Or none of the above, I guess, but that's not the fun option.

Behold! (Click through to see more gorgeous pictures in the slideshow on the product page.)
did i mention i love fountain pens i may have mentioned this once or twice
Wed 2020-05-20 19:10:10 (single post)

I am very excited! The Goulet Pen Company has at long last resumed shipping orders, and the pen I ordered is scheduled to arrive SATURDAY! Eeeeeee.... This is it: the Platinum Curidas retractable fountain pen. I've never owned a retractable fountain pen before. I hope it's as pleasant to write with as it is to look at.

I ordered it because April had begun, which meant my birthday was coming up, which meant I should give myself a treat. Well. Turns out I should have waited until the actual date of my birthday, because that's when Goulet sent me a Happy Birthday email with a coupon code for a free random 8-pack of ink samples. And of course then it was way too late to add that coupon and item to my fancy pen order! *facepalm* And, what with the pandemic and all, all Goulet shipments were on hold while all Goulet staff were working remote. Shipments would resume when it was safe to return to the building, whenever that would be. I didn't want to have two orders sitting in limbo.

But then I got the email saying that my pen was on its way! Also, I'd just run two of my J. Herbin bottles dry. So, what the heck, how about I order some replacements in the blue-to-turquoise range, maybe try out a couple Noodler's inks just to shake things up? And then thwack the free samples on top, since the coupon code was good for up to 30 days past my birthday?

But Goulet's free shipping offer only applies to orders of $50 or more. Two bottles of ink comes only up to about half that...

So I ended up ordering four Noodler's bottles. Coupla turquoisy blues (Liberty's Elysium, Blue Nose Bear) and a couple of excitingly heirloomish reds (Red Black, Black Swan). And the "Surprise me!" 8-pack of samplers free with birthday coupon code, of course. WELL PLAYED, GOULET.

No idea when that will ship--Goulet's got quite a backlog to work through--but I'm sure it will be a delightful surprise in more than one way when it arrives.

In summary: SQUEE! FOUNTAIN PENS!

Food goes in here.
the more skating but also more eating take-out diet
Thu 2020-05-14 18:18:22 (single post)

My roller derby league is challenging its members to skate an ULTRAMARATHON IN MAY. There are sponsors, there will be prizes, there is certainly competition. And I can tell you right now, I am not likely to complete even Tier 1. I'll keep track of my miles, but I have pretty much zero ambition about it.

But now I'm curious. I have been doing a fair amount of street skating recently (if somewhat less over the past couple weeks since it's been raining off and on). How much of it am I doing? At the rate I'm doing it, how long will take me to accumulate 26.2 miles of skating?

What if all the skating I was doing was to pick up take-out meals?

(Could I stop using GrubHub entirely? There are so many reasons.)

Could I SKATE A TAKE-OUT MARATHON?

Last week Tuesday, the day that I and my computer received a visit from that onsite tech who was a total tool, I got it in my head to skate to My Ramen & Izakaya. I began placing the order online on the backup laptop while the tech finished up with my Dell Inspiron and prepared to leave. I hadn't quite finished placing the order when the computer stalled out in its attempt to load Windows. While the tech yelled at Dispatch over the phone, I stared longingly at the computer screen. Then I put on my gear and rolled around the house gathering facemask, bluetooth headphones, and wallet. The instant the tech left, I hit SUBMIT on my take-out order and rolled the heck out of there. I figured, by now, between the tech visit gone wrong and the exercise I was currently getting, I would deserve my tantanmen ramen and Japanese pancakes. And yes, I did deserve those tasty treats, even if I probably shouldn't have eaten them all in one sitting. I went to bed painfully full but very happy. Or, at least, considering the loss of the use of my good laptop, more happy than I would have been otherwise.

Distance skated: 1.58 miles.

That worked out so well, I thought I'd do it again yesterday. Only this time I was in the mood for Buddha Thai. John was game--I could put him down for medium-spicy tofu pad thai any old evening. Me, I got the drunken noodles with seafood combo. I skated there mostly along the streets, taking advantage of bike lanes and multi-use sidewalks. At the restaurant, I took off my wrist guards and donned the disposable gloves that the restaurant had made available on a table outside the door. I put the entrees into my old Rock Boat soft-side thermal tote and poured the Thai iced tea into my old Einstein Bros. to-go mug with lid. Then there was a minimal amount of cross-stepping across a corner of lawn after skating over to the nearest trash receptacle to dispose of the gloves and the plastic cup and straw. Then, back home to stuff myself silly!

Distance skated: 1.20 miles.

At this rate, I will probably not skate a take-out marathon in May. But if I do this instead of ordering delivery more often, I will certainly be getting good exercise to go along with my tasty food!

a long road to nowhere but with some interesting stops along the way
Tue 2020-05-12 23:45:53 (single post)
  • 22 words (if poetry, lines) long

Item the first: I want to make sure I've linked y'all to the correct version of the Dreams and Nightmares website, which is here: https://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/. That's kind of important, since the place I linked you before is out of date; I hadn't realized that where it said the May issue had just been released, it was referring to May 2011. Whoops. Sometimes I am not a very careful reader.

It's early days yet. The issue featuring my poem "The Ascent of Inanna" won't be out until September. But why not get a head-start on bookmarking the webpage and maybe subscribing? (I will point out again that for $90, the same price as a three years' subscription outside the US, you can get yourself subscribed for life.) Meanwhile, the editor is posting a new poem every day on the magazine's blog (the page you'll land on when you click the link above), so you might as well make a habit of checking back every day, maybe over your lunch break. Doesn't lunch go down better with poetry? I certainly think it does.

Item the second: The Laptop Saga appears to have arrived at a satisfying conclusion, if by a long and twisty route. No, Thursday's replacement replacement motherboard did not resolve matters. But it got the ball rolling in the right direction.

Also, the onsite technician who visited on Thursday? He was a lot more pleasant than Tuesday's guy.

Tuesday's guy--I won’t sugarcoat this--he was a tool. Rather a jerk, is what I'm saying. He was the kind of guy who shows up during a pandemic under Colorado's "Safer at Home" phase of restrictions with no mask and no gloves (which I was cautiously OK with) and a snide attitude about how "everyone's getting paranoid these days" (which made me less OK about the no mask or gloves thing). The kind of guy who asks you what's going on with your computer, and when you try to answer, he talks over you. The kind of guy who says "I've been doing this thirty years, trust me, I know what I'm talking about" multiple times in a conversation. The kind of guy who, when the planned hardware replacement results in unplanned problems (the aforementioned failure to load Windows), calls up Dell Dispatch and straight-up abuses the dispatch tech. "Do you even know what you're doing? Look, I've been doing this 30 years, I am telling you, this motherboard is glitchy! It needs to be replaced!" The kind of guy who then, after hanging up the phone, starts explaining to you, his captive audience, why it was justified for him to yell at the dispatch tech like that, that dispatch tech doesn't know what he's doing, dealing with people like that dispatch tech is so hard. Also, the onsite tech was white and the dispatch tech was not, but that couldn't possibly have factored into the situation, could it? (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

So Tuesday's onsite tech made everything extremely uncomfortable. But a different technician showed up Thursday to install the replacement motherboard, and the difference was like night and day.

Thursday's tech was not a tool. Thursday's tech was entirely pleasant. Thursday's tech I would quite happily go out for beers with, or coffee, once we're allowed to go out to bars and cafes again, and talk tech and play board games.

To start with, he had no snide attitude about the pandemic; on the contrary, he arrived in facemask and gloves, and he opted to do the repair out on the front patio, "to minimize contact." So I, too, donned a facemask and helped him get set up on the folding table and chair out there. I pried open the screen on the office window so we could pass the laptop's charger cable through. Then I hung out at my desk in the office so we could easily communicate through the window while practicing responsible social distancing.

When he asked me questions about the computer, he listened when I answered. When I had questions, he took them seriously.

When he found the screws that the previous tech had stripped, he replaced them. (Seriously. Tuesday's awful toolish, jerkish tech stripped the screws. I suppose that, when he said, for the tenth or twentieth time, "I've been doing this 30 years," I should have asked, "Doing what?")

And then, after Thursday's entirely pleasant and professionally cautious tech put my computer together again, and it booted up successfully, he said, "I've got a couple other appointments in the area; when I'm done with those, I'll give you a call to see how it's doing and whether you need me to come back." That's how awesome Thursday's tech was.

And indeed, when we spoke again, the computer was not doing so great. Again, on the second or maybe third reboot, right after I installed all the drivers Dell's SupportAssist app told me to install, it choked. Black screen, Dell logo, infinitely revolving wheel of dots forever. Alas.

So the tech set me up another dispatch, one where they ship me a box for me to ship the computer back to the Repair Depot, and that was that.

Only, over the weekend, I got to thinking--am I really helpless here? Does my laptop have to be a paperweight? Must I limp along on the backup ASUS, afraid of running two programs at the same time for fear of bringing the whole machine to a grinding halt? So I booted up the Dell, tapped F8 until the advanced startup options menu appeared, and I invoked Windows Startup Repair.

And it worked. Dang thing rolled back the driver installs and booted up like a charm.

After that, I installed the recommended drivers one by one until I hit the one that caused Windows to fail to load. Turned out to be one of the optional drivers. Easy enough to just refrain from reinstalling it. Meanwhile, replacing the motherboard did seem to have resolved my webcam flicker issue. Sound out the speakers was worse than ever, but after some hours spent juggling Realtek drivers I apparently hit a winning combination; the stutter-lag-static is more or less gone now. I was able join in yesterday’s co-writing session over Zoom and my writing group’s critique session today over Discord without any problems.

The only real issue of note is that the power button will only power the computer on; any attempts to perform a hard shut-down by depressing the power button fail. Which is weird, but hardly worth shipping my computer away for a week. If the computer stops responding and I need a hard shut-down option, I know how to detach the battery.

So, as far as I'm concerned, the computer's fine now.

The box for shipping the computer to Dell arrived yesterday. I emailed the Repair Center to let them know I won't be using it. And they're cool with that.

The Fictionette Freebie for April 2020. Cover image incorporates and modifies photo sourced from Pixabay.
surfacing in between crises to bring you all sorts of flash fiction (not all of it is mine)
Tue 2020-05-05 23:21:31 (single post)
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I'm still catching up on last week, and this week isn't helping. The bunnies are settling in nicely, and the water-from-the-ceiling crisis is resolved with the exception of needing to replace the vent fan--an irritation, but hardly an emergency. However, the laptop warranty repair situation is blowing up again.

The Onsite Technician came to visit today and replaced the motherboard and speakers, and for a few lovely minutes everything worked. We played and recorded sound, and there was no static. We tested the webcam, and there was no flicker. Hooray! So I signed the paperwork that said "All is resolved," the tech walked out the door... and I noticed the laptop's latest reboot cycle hadn't finished. I ran out to grab the tech before he could disappear, and he took a look. The reboot still never finished. Also it wouldn't respond to holding down the power button; the only way to turn it off was to unplug it and detach the battery.

So Thursday I get another visit from another tech with another new motherboard and maybe a hard drive too. And I'm using the backup Asus laptop because I can't even boot up the Dell in Safe Mode, with or without networking. The tech managed it once, but damn if I can figure out how. Good thing I backed every little thing up that changed since the last time I backed every little thing up, because I don't think I'm getting into that computer again without another Windows reinstall.

Nevertheless, I have been working diligently in between all these interruptions, and have at last arrived at the point where I can bring you the April 2020 Friday Fictionette Roundup!

Friday, April 3, 2020: "Real Friends" (ebook, audiobook) In which the protagonist discovers her origin story and determines to get real--and to take her best friend Samantha with her.

Friday, April 10, 2020: "Marla in Two Rooms" (ebook, audiobook) In which Marla endeavors to be a model citizen, unlike her parents and big sister.

Friday, April 17, 2020: "Human Capital" (ebook, audiobook) In which euphemisms aren't.

Friday, April 24, 2020: "She Danced for the Queen" (ebook, audiobook) In which the curse on the Beast and his castle turns out to be transferable. Now the Fictionette Freebie for April 2020!

The Friday Fictionette Project is short-short stories by subscription, a new one every first through fourth Friday (or, as we see from last weeks, a near facsimile thereof), which you can access as an ebook (HTML, PDF, epub, Kindle mobi) for $1/month and as an audiobook (mp3) for $3/month. Powered by Patreon. At the end of each month, one of that month's releases gets to fly and be freeeeeeee! to subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

All right! So. That done, my next task is to make sure not to be late with the Friday Fictionette scheduled for May 8, or at least endeavor to be less late. Thankfully, there is a fifth Friday at the end of this month, which I hope to use to get a week ahead of schedule so that weeks bearing multiple crises (or, hey, weeks with a roller derby bout at the end, assuming we get to have roller derby bouts again someday!) don't throw the whole schedule off.

Also I am participating in the latest Escape Artists flash fiction contest, which means I have a lot of very short stories to read and vote on. You, too, can participate as a reader and a voter, even without entering a story! Just point your browser at the Escape Artists Forum, register yourself an account, then go find the "Flash Fiction Contest VI - Escape Pod" in The Arcade. (As a new forum user, pay especial attention to the thread "Can't see the story groups? Post here!")

It is an anonymous contest, so I can neither confirm nor deny any guesses as to which story might be my story. I guess you'll just have to read them all!

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