“Some days you battle yourself and other monsters. Some days you just make soup.”
Patricia McKillip

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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!

That's actually my photo of an actual deer that likes to hang out under our linden tree and flatten the lawn. Hooligan!
this fictionette knows how to bide its time
Mon 2015-09-28 22:07:47 (single post)
  • 962 words (if poetry, lines) long

Well, last week's Friday Fictionette didn't make it up on time either, but it went up Saturday, and I'm-a gonna tell you about it. It's called "The New Criminal Element," and it's about deer. And hooligans! Deer who are hooligans. Just as you always suspected they probably were.

That link goes to an excerpt hosted on Patreon. If you're already a subscriber/Patron and you're all like, "To hell with this 'excerpt' foolishment! Give me the Real Deal," why then, the link you want is either to the full-length PDF or to the MP3 audiofictionette, or both. And if you aren't yet a subscriber and you would like to be, because a buck a month for about 4000 to 5000 words of fresh new story-like objects sounds like a great deal, any of those links will do ya. Just follow the instructions under "Become a Patron" to chose your goodies.

I don't actually have much more to say than that, really. I could say that THIS will be the week when I really Get Shit Done. That's certainly my intention. But I also said the Fictionette would be up on Friday, and you see how that went. So I think I'm just going to keep my mouth shut for the moment.

YPP Weekend Blockade Roundup for Sept 26-27
Sat 2015-09-26 13:39:16 (single post)

Today is an exciting day in blockades: On the Jade Ocean, uninhabited Isla Ventress is being blockaded.

Unlike the Emerald Ocean version, which is of course more populated, Jade's Pelican Archipelago only features three islands you can get to by Free Ferry: Isla Descartes, Isla Greenwich, and Isla Spaniel. But today, Isla Ventress is being blockaded--and presumably the winner of that contest will take control of the island.

This is not the first time Isla Ventress has been blockaded. Yppedia tells us the island was first opened up to blockades on May 7, 2010. It was contested throughout that summer and fall. And apparently there was going to be a contest for the island in the summer of 2012--but that fell through somehow. The island has at some time since reverted to unclaimed status and all buildings thereon have crumbled to dust. If you whisk there today, you can see that there's a notice board but no buildings at all, and the island in currently unclaimed.

So that would partially explain why we've got a blockade on Isla Ventress with three attackers and no defenders.

So that's all the news I've got on that. Meanwhile, the rest of the blockade schedule proceeds as indicated on the other four oceans. Enjoy!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, September 26 ***

10:08 a.m. - Accompong-Insel, Opal Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Das Jadeimperium (1)
Attacker: Forcas Armadas

12:00 p.m. - Ix Chel, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Order of the Jolly Roger
Attacker: Black Veil (6)

12:01 p.m. - Isla Spaniel, Jade Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: CORSARIOS DE POSEIDÓN
Attacker: Flota de su Escamada Alteza Imperial (1)

2:20 p.m. - Isla Ventress, Jade Ocean
Attacker: CORSARIOS DE POSEIDÓN
Attacker: Tsunami
Attacker: Courage

5:00 p.m. - Dendrite Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Blood Sweat and Beers
Attacker: Radioactive

9:30 p.m. - Duat Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Devil's Advocates
Attacker: Cannabis Nation

10:13 p.m. - Basset Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Midknight Sun
Attacker: Roman Empire

10:47 p.m. - Amity Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Loose Lips Sink Ships
Attacker: Roman Empire

10:49 p.m. - Penobscot Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Keep the Peace
Attacker: Roman Empire

*** Sunday, September 27 ***

11:58 a.m. - Kasidim Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Keep the Peace
Attacker: Hysteria

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Sunday, September 27 ***

11:58 a.m. - Namath Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Black Flag Inc
Attacker: Sushicide

Cover art features a public domain photo of a courtroom--not in Clackamas County, alas--and a Creative Commons licensed photo of a report card.
here is a fictionette, tomorrow you get another
Thu 2015-09-24 23:29:48 (single post)
  • 1,026 words (if poetry, lines) long

So I didn't get it done Sunday. And I didn't get it done Monday. I got it done yesterday, and today you get the blog post about it:

"The Celebrated Frog Forger of Clackamas County" is your Friday Fictionette for September 18, 2015. So there. Why a frog? Because apparently I was on a talking frog kick last month, and went there on the least provocation. Why Clackamas County? I dunno; it scans right, I guess. And I lived in Oregon for a little while, so what the heck.

It was actually Josephine County that I lived in for the last couple years of the '90s. During that time, my mail kept getting randomly sent up to Marion County because multiple people saw envelopes and packages addressed to Selma, OR and "helpfully" corrected the obvious misspelling to Salem.

My goal is to have tomorrow's fictionette done on time. My goal is always to have them done on time, of course--at least, right up until the time I give up on it because I fail again. But this time I know ahead of time that my Friday the 25th will be packed with time-consuming things, so I have done a good bit of work on it early.

It will be about deer. Maybe talking deer. Deer that are capable of spray-painting graffiti slogans in English, anyway. I guess I've just been on a talking animal kick. This post-Spreading Sentience Syndrome setting may wind up in a pro-publishable story one of these days, seeing as how it keeps working its way into the fictionettes.

Anyway, here it is. And also, sorry for the long silence. I promise it's not because I got broken in Saturday's tournament. Nobody got broken! I just got bruised, and some of those bruises were from delivering righteous hits. But I did need more time to recover than I thought I would. Apparently, recovery involved two days spent more or less flat on my back with books. Or maybe it's just that I need days-in-bed-with-books from time to time, and derby recovery was a good excuse.

What I've been rereading is Sheri S. Tepper's True Game series, which is kind of like a cross between Xanth and Pern in its world-building, but its squick derives from aggressive pro-eugenics politicizing rather than from sexist rapey crap. I'm... not exactly selling it here, am I? Rereading Tepper is always a guilty pleasure. Her worldbuilding and her protagonists' development are fantastic. And even if I can't quite buy into the chess-like framework for the duels in The True Game, I kind of dig the attempt. But her politics are monstrous, the sort of stuff that gives feminism and environmentalism a bad name. She seems to think the solution to all societal problems is to have aliens or gods or sentient trees or whatnot kill off most of the population. It comes up in most of her novels. In the True Game books, she explicitly posits that physical "deformity" leads to moral deficiency because, what, living in a crippled/deformed/stunted body that's constantly in pain squeezes the soul out of shape? Somebody please find me a way to read the whole "Dupey" encounter in a more generous light? Because I can't. And it gets worse, because there are characters called Midwives (capitalized to indicate magical Talent), whom all good characters want at their side during childbirth (refusing a Midwife is an indication that you're corrupt and evil and selfish), whose future vision allows them to see which newborns will never "grow a soul" and therefore may be exterminated. Put those two bits together, and, well, way to tell a good portion of your readers that, due to whatever condition they were born with, they're congenitally evil and you'd prefer they'd never been born. And that's before we get into her conveniently subjecting two of her villains to misadventure resulting in dramatic facial wounds that make our sensitive protagonist want to throw up every time he lays eyes on them, but at the same time condemns these characters for vanity because they tried to magically hide their scars (shock!)... Argh. This is not your go-to author for handling disabilities and issues of physical appearance with compassion, is what I'm saying. And her villains tend to be two-dimensional strawmen, and half the time I think she uses a thesaurus written in baby-speak to come up with names for people and places, and she uses way too many exclamation marks.

...And I still turn to her novels for comfort reading. Some of them, anyway. (Any of the ones I read before throwing The Fresco at the wall, anyway. I stopped seeking out new stuff of hers to read after that.)

I seem to have gone off in a rant. Well, I'm now well into rereading the fifth book of the novena, so it's been building up. Remember, though, I'm choosing to reread them, so they've got to have something going for them, right? But they are decidedly not for everyone.

Well and so but anyway, see you tomorrow with a new Fictionette. Promise. (Double dog promise! Pinky swear!)

sunday is the new WAIT we've heard this before...
Fri 2015-09-18 23:46:18 (single post)

Sorry, y'all. The Friday Fictionette will have to come out on Sunday. Most of this work week got nibbled away by various preparations for tomorrow's tournament--extra practices, yes, but also repairing gear, printing signs, cleaning wheels and bearings, setting up the venue--and I'm still not quite done.

Please feel entirely welcome to come to the tournament specifically to chastise me. Or to watch four fantastic Colorado roller derby teams skate their hearts out. Whatever floats your boat!

look here is the ON switch you can even flip it
Tue 2015-09-15 23:51:30 (single post)

I've bemoaned this before: I have "on" days and "off" days. On my "on" days, I'm so on. I have energy and boundless well-being and I Get Stuff Done. On my "off" days I'm lucky if I can get out of bed. I get whatever day I get--I don't get a say, they just happen to me.

Except that's not quite the case. Careful observation yields useful discoveries.

Such as: If I get some serious writing time in, if I just do it even I don't feel up to it (even if it's shaping up to be an "off" day), I'll have a reason to feel good about myself. I might feel sick and lethargic, but I won't also be feeling ashamed.

Such as: If I get my morning cup of strong Assam tea, it not only wards off withdrawal headaches (hello, mild caffeine addiction), but it makes me feel pampered and cared for. In conjunction with the rest of my wake-up ritual--morning pages scribbled at the front patio table--it makes me feel like "someone thinks I'm worth it." That someone is me, but that counts.

Such as: If I get some exercise early in the day, sometimes I stay energized for a long time afterwards.

Such as: Skating just makes me happy.

As to that last--it's a roller derby thing. Or it may be more accurate to say, roller derby (and, presumably, other roller sports) attracts people who find that, no matter how bad the day has been so far, strapping on skates makes everything at least a little better. Like, I'm on eight wheels now, I'm flying, how bad can it be?

I had cause to reflect on this Saturday. It was a very "on" day, Saturday. And there was every reason for it to have been an "off" day. It was stuffed to the gills with scheduling, it started stupid-early in the morning, and I didn't get to sleep until 2:00 AM the night before. And what sleep I got wasn't solid. And yet I had that boundless well-being and do-stuff energy and I just felt good.

The reason I had to get up early was, I had to be in Longmont for 9:00 AM and in my skate gear at the rendezvous point for 9:15. I'd volunteered to skate in a parade. I got up at 7:00 AM, managed to drag through my Saturday morning stuff in time to leave the house by 8:45, drove all squinty-eyed with sleepiness up the Diagonal Highway, found a parking spot near the parade route in downtown Longmont, sat on the car's back bumper and tugged on my skate gear, launched myself down Terry toward 5th Street...

...and suddenly realized I was feeling good. Awake. Vibrant. Cheerful and optimistic. Pain-free. Energetic. Spirits lifted. Just physically and emotionally well.

The feeling lasted all day. And this despite adding a surprise trip to the car mechanic to my already overflowing agenda. I just kept feeling good all day.

So I thought, maybe "on" days are a thing I can cause to happen. On purpose!

Today I got up and had my morning ritual of tea and scribbles out on the patio. Then I put on my skate gear and I rolled around the neighborhood for about fifteen minutes.

Then I came back to the house, had breakfast, and just dove into the work day. Bam. Got a bunch of stuff I'd been putting off for a while done, too.

Morning skate. Huh. Might have to make a habit of this.

Can't hear... ears still ringing...
YPP Weekend Blockade Roundup for Sept 12-13
Sat 2015-09-12 13:35:55 (single post)

In the last minutes before high noon, the Emerald Ocean was deafened with the clang, thump and clatter of A THOUSAND WAR CHESTS DROPPING SIMULTANEOUSLY. Well, maybe not a thousand. More like... *counts* ...seven. Seven declarations to blockade. All by different (though varyingly allied) flags. And all on Bacon Strips. Because they don't bring nobody flowers anymore.

Seriously, watching these blockade declarations come down the chat screen while I was playing the Shipwrightery puzzle was kind of jaw-dropping.

On the Meridian Ocean, Legacy (currently of Life but this has been known to change) is reopening the Blockade Pond. What's that, you ask? Heck if I know. Click the link, read the forum post, you'll know as much as I do. In any case, the first "pond island" will be Havoc, which means the first ~victim~ student flag will be The Warriors.

Also on Meridian, Peanut Butter Jelly Flag wants you to know that they're back, and they're coming for Lilac. Dunh dunh dunnnnnnh!

On Cerulean, A Song for the Deaf intends to transfer ownership of Winter Solstice to Babylon at the earliest opportunity. However, they can't do that if Dies Irae take it from them this weekend! Here's their intent to defend, plus jobber raffle details. Meanwhile, Hephaestus' Forge is under attack, and Midnight Yacht Club find themselves unable to defend. They encourage you to join in the sinky-sinky fun and "job for anyone that's not Babylon." Of course, the latest from Babylon is that they're not going to be blockading at all, no way, no how. So they say. For now. Which isn't going to stop Dies Irae from moving in on Nu Island, mind you.

OK, that was a lot of forum babble. Time to get this post up and run away to sea! (pew pew)

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, September 12 ***

12:00 p.m. - Wissahickon Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Hysteria
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (3)

2:00 p.m. - Stormy Fell, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Sink or Swim
Attacker: Barely Dressed

4:00 p.m. - Penobscot Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Pirate King
Attacker: Keep the Peace

11:14 p.m. - Maia-Insel, Opal Ocean
Defender: Ursa Major
Attacker: Glare

*** Sunday, September 13 ***

12:00 a.m. - Havoc Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: The Warriors
Attacker: Legacy of Life

9:17 a.m. - Raven's Roost, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Imperial Coalition
Attacker: The Forums

9:55 a.m. - Arco Ascalón, Jade Ocean
Defender: HIPOCAMPOS
Attacker: Courage

11:22 a.m. - Isla Spaniel, Jade Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Sortilegio (1)
Attacker: CORSARIOS DE POSEIDÓN

11:54 a.m. - Sayers Rock, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: Illuminatti

11:54 a.m. - The Lowland Hundred, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: This Means War

11:54 a.m. - Bowditch Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: Loose Lips Sink Ships

11:55 a.m. - Alkaid Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: This Means War

11:55 a.m. - Armstrong Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: The Crazy Department

11:58 a.m. - Kasidim Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: The Crazy Department

11:58 a.m. - Aimuari Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Bacon Strips
Attacker: Illuminatti

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, September 12 ***

1:02 p.m. - Hephaestus' Forge, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Midnight Yacht Club
Attacker: Babylon

1:13 p.m. - Winter Solstice, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: A Song For The Deaf
Attacker: Dies Irae

2:00 p.m. - Nu Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Babylon
Attacker: Dies Irae

2:00 p.m. - Jorvik Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Resurgence
Defender: Dies Irae

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 words (if poetry, lines) 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.

visual demonstrations and reverse engineering
Tue 2015-09-08 23:58:36 (single post)

We have a working washing machine again! I'm going to wash all of the clothes tomorrow. And the towels. And my exercise pants. And etcetera.

It was, as suspected, just a matter of replacing the lid sensor switch. Very simple--only, like I said before, I wasn't going to mess with it and maybe mess things up with either it or our home warranty policy or both. So today we had a visit from an appliance technician who opened things up, confirmed that it really was just the lid sensor switch and nothing else, and replaced that switch for us. And we gave him a check for the amount of the warranty co-pay.

And life was once more that particular sort of good that you get when you can wash your clothes without leaving the house, paying attention to business hours, and/or scrounging quarters.

The fun part was getting to see what the washing machine looked like under the hood. Our model requires one to pop off the end-caps of the front panel in order to reveal the access screws, then unscrew those screws to flip up the front panel, then simply walk off the entire chassis and lid. I didn't realize how little solid machine there was inside the big white aluminum rectangle--it's just a big flimsy metal box that gives the washtub somewhere to live. And also the lid sensor; the bit the technician replaced seemed to be attached to the inside of the chassis there.

It's OK if you're not getting a perfect visualization of the machine's innards from that abomination of a paragraph. Point is--OK, so, I'm thinking of one of John's T-shirts. The one with the slogan, "The insides of things are beautiful. Let's see what they look like." I'm feeling that slogan so very much right now.

There is probably a metaphor for writing in there somewhere. Something about the literary equivalent of taking it apart and finding out what the insides look like: examining the author's choices on a line-by-line level, or watching how they make two themes interact, or spotting that clever bit of foreshadowing on the reread. And sometimes you can't quite figure out how to take the story apart until you've had a chance to discuss it with someone else, or read an insightful review, and then you go, "Oh! So that's how you open it up and get at the lid sensor switch!" Something like that, anyway.

It's not "overthinking it." It's reverse engineering.

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