inasmuch as it concerns Status Report:
This is Where I'm At, in case you were wondering.
looking for empowerment in an out-of-control world
So, my brain's a mess. It's a mess for a lot of reasons. At least one of them has made the national news--though I am fortunate to be only indirectly affected, which is to say, I live in Boulder, so it hit close to home, but I wasn't in or near the store at the time, and the only person who was there with whom I am acquainted got out unharmed. (Physically, at least. "Shaken up" doesn't begin to describe their state of mind.) So... I've been able to slowly piece my brain back together over the course of the week, enough to at least pretend to be an adult.
Part the brain-mess is more personal; I've had several medical appointments this week and they haven't yielded the uniform lack of news I'd been expected. There were several small unpleasant surprises I won't go into here. There was also one big discovery that has simultaneously shaken my concept of self and also explains quite a lot, which is this: my hips are out to get me. They have been plotting against me all my life, but the signs of their scheming only became impossible to ignore this week. (Honestly, the thing where my adductors were screaming at the end of roller derby practice late in 2019 was probably related. But I was led to believe by an unfortunately dismissive physical therapist that I just needed to do more leg lifts.)
Anyway. You know how we say "temporarily able-bodied"? Yeah, well, the end of that temporary period is suddenly looking a lot more real and tangible. It's still a ways off, but to keep it that way as much as possible I've got a new prescription to pick up and a new series of physical therapy to begin. (Not with the unfortunately dismissive PT, thank you very much. I want someone who'll take my aspirations to remain competitively athletic seriously, and not tell me, "Well, you are getting older, you have to realize it's normal to start losing some of your physical ability and mobility range..." The orthopedist I saw yesterday was very much not about that; nor, he assured me, are any of the PTs at the center he referred me to. He also told me to stop calling myself "an older athlete.")
Anyway, so, this week has been a mess and my brain has been a mess. Just as I started piecing my thoughts back together and wrestling myself through the motions, I had the ortho consult Wednesday and got super despondent about this whole deteriorating hips thing. Today's been OK. Slow, but OK. Still, it was important to remember that "write every day" isn't an ironclad rule, and for many of us isn't even a healthy aspiration.
My brain is also spattered with guilt over having submitted nothing whatsoever to Nightmare Magazine. After that defiant declaration last week, too! (That's the problem with keeping an actually writing blog for the sake of accountability. Sometimes I tell the world "I will do X!" and then I have to come back and tell the world, "I, er, didn't do X after all.")
I'd like to say it was because I looked soberly at my progress thus far and said to myself, "Self, if you're going to submit something to the Big Leagues, you need to be happy with where it's at, and you ain't happy about where these two pieces are at yet." I probably would have come to that conclusion, had I sat down to work on them Saturday. But I did not. I sat down to work on them Sunday afternoon instead, and discovered the point was moot because the submission period had closed at 12:01 AM.
Lesson learned: If you're going to work right up to the moment of deadline, it's vitally important to know when that moment is.
And, well, that's pretty much all I came here to say. This week has sucked on every level, and I am not feeling very accomplished. BUT. I have gotten some writing accomplished this week. It's not nothing. I am going to focus on that.
Also I have my first physical therapy appointment tomorrow morning bright and early, and that's almost sure to cheer me up. I mean, injuries both acute and chronic suck, but having an active role to play in the healing (or, in this case, the slowing of the inevitable deterioration) can feel remarkably empowering. So I'm looking forward to that.
in which we reestablish communications with a winter edition pandemic variant status update
Hello, neglected blog! I haven't posted to you since, what, early November? And we've still got a pandemic on. Even with a vaccine just around the corner, we're gonna be in pandemic mode for a while. So let's talk a little about how this whole pandemic thing has changed winter in Chez LeBoeuf-Little.
The big change is, we don't get to host our annual Winter Solstice All-Night Open House & Yule Log Vigil. Which admittedly isn't the blow felt by, say, Average American Household not getting to hold Extended Family Christmas. But it's still a shame. I like cooking metric tons of seasonal food and then getting surprised by who winds up coming over at three in the morning. I like sharing my eclectic Pagan traditions with my friends and neighbors. I would have enjoyed the heck out of introducing Holland to our guests (although Holland may not have enjoyed it; he can be skittish around new people.) It's a sad thing. But it's a necessary thing. I accept the necessary sad thing.
And it's not like I can't fix myself midwinter pie, tomato-orange soup, and a pitcher of the world's best egg nog ("world's best" because my friend's recipe is amazing, not because I'm particularly good at making egg nog). But there'll be no one but me in the house to consume them (none of the above are to John's taste), so I'll have to make somewhat less than a metric ton.
On that note, there won't be a fruitcake this year. That, too, seemed like a lot of food to make for only myself to eat. Usually about half the cake gets sliced up and mailed to friends and family around the country and a couple outside the country, but again, pandemic. I'm just not sure about the wisdom of producing foodstuffs with my unverified and unprofessional bare hands to be sent out into the world for others to eat at this particular juncture. Maybe I'm overthinking it; there are no known cases of anyone catching the novel coronavirus via food. But wouldn't it suck to be the first? More realistically, shopping for bulk dried fruits and nuts is kind of fraught right now. Whole Foods shut down its bulk food zone and replaced it with an Amazon Prime delivery staging area. Lucky's North reopened their bulk aisle, and they made gloves and hand sanitizer available to shoppers in that aisle, and no one uses them but me. Possibly an exaggeration, but after the third time cheerfully chirping at a random fellow customer, "Oh, they want us to use gloves! They're over there," I get this strong impression.
So. No fruitcake. No party. But hey, no superspreader behavior, either, so ultimately it's a win.
One nice change was that John was able to come with me to Avon this year. Usually he can't; it would mean time off from work, and generally he's used up most of his vacation time with gaming conventions by now. But this year 1. no gaming conventions, and 2. he's working from home every day. So there was no reason he couldn't work out of our room at the Sheraton Mountain Vista.
So we went. We bundled ourselves into the moving bubble that is our Chevrolet Volt, we wore our masks and used hand sanitizer on our way to check into the hotel, we used sanitizer wipes to extra-special sterilize the luggage cart that hotel staff had probably already sterilized, and we brought enough food from home that we didn't need to visit the grocery but once late in the week. And then we proceeded to work and play more or less like we do at home, in isolation but with a different selection of scenic views.
It was great. We cooked each other meals and also explored our take-out and delivery options. We watched some good TV. We read some good books. I skated around Lake Nottingham a few times because the weather was amazing. Meanwhile, Avedan sent us pictures of Holland being adorable for her. (Avedan apparently does not count as new people. Holland was comfortable enough around her to entertain himself by giving her sass with both barrels. He was glad to see us when we got home, but I suspect he did not miss us.)
"But Niki," I hear you say, "this is the actually writing blog. After a hiatus of more than a month, aren't you going to blog about the actually writing?" Yes! I shall. Writing has been Actually Happening. It's glorious. But about that, more tomorrow. This post is long enough already!
shilling for September
- 979 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,357 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,038 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,380 words (if poetry, lines) long
Check it out: it's a Friday Fictionette roundup, two weeks late. Obviously I couldn't post a roundup until all the fictionettes it was rounding up went live; the fourth didn't go live until Monday. In related news, the Friday Fictionette for October 2 will be going live tomorrow. Everything's two weeks late.
I can't entirely blame this on the awful, rotten week in September when Gemma died. I mean, that didn't help. It happened on a Wednesday, and it shut me down entirely until the following week. But I was already a few days behind and scrambling to catch up when it happened. And it turns out that not writing, even for the very best of reasons, is habit-forming.
So here we are.
The good news is, October is a month with a fifth Friday. That's a week when time stands still, at least for fictionette purposes, and I'll have extra time to catch up.
Here, then, is the list of Friday Fictionettes
posted in scheduled for September.
Obligatory explanation, for those just tuning in: The Friday Fictionette Project is a Patreon-powered minifiction subscription service. Patrons at the $1/month level get a new short-short story-like object every first through fourth Friday in any of several homebrew ebook editions (html, pdf, epub, mobi); Patrons at the $3/month level also get the joy of having me read it aloud to them while my Dell Inspiron so-called gaming laptop's fan whines in the background. (Audacity's noise reduction filter is miraculous.)
There are a couple tiers after that which involve a physical object in your mailbox, but they are (1) limited edition such that only one more slot remains in each tier, and (2) even more behind schedule than the ebook and audio releases. (I just typed out and illustrated Page 1 of one of the December 2019 Fictionette Artifacts, to be perfectly honest with you. My two Patrons at the $5 level are exceedingly patient, and I appreciate it.)
Meanwhile, one fictionette per month gets released as a Fictionette Freebie;"Hardly St. Francis" is the Fictionette Freebie for September 2020. Also free are the Monday Muse posts, where I share the writing prompt associated with the upcoming fictionette (they all start as freewriting from a prompt) and also some random news from my life, writing and otherwise. (By popular demand, rabbit news predominates.)
So that's the September 2020 Friday Fictionette Roundup. If intrigued, do click through and check it out.
In other news, which I will babble about thoroughly in upcoming posts:
- I'm taking a Carnegie Center remote writing class, because the pandemic is why we can have nice things;
- Thinking about writing is too writing, and so are long walks;
- What with NaNoWriMo coming up, I'll be diving back into the godawful novel draft in an attempt to make it a wee bit less awful, or, failing that, make its awfulness somewhat less godly;
- Holland continues in good health and is currently licking the sofa cushions.
my heart has joined the thousand
I've been putting off writing this post. Partly that's because I didn't want my first post in two weeks to be a total downer. But mostly because I know I'm going to cry while writing it, and I'm tired of crying.
Gemma passed away last week, and it hurts.
The course of oral meds and sub-q fluids slowed but did not reverse her trend of losing weight. Or maybe it wasn't the treatment that slowed her rate of weight loss but rather the fact that she just didn't have that much left to lose. She was positively skeletal when she went in Wednesday morning for a cecal transplant. (That's basically an enema made out of healthy cecotropes from a donor rabbit.) Gemma tolerated the process really well. Everything that went in stayed in. We entertained hopes that she would benefit from the healthy bacterial culture and the nutritional content of the donor cecotropes, and that with subsequent transplants over the next week or more we might turn things around. But I guess it was just too late.
I hung out with her all the rest of the day in the living room, watching her eat hay and amble around, cheerful and curious as always. But then, around 4:45 PM, she began subsiding, as though falling asleep sitting up. She'd sink a little ways, then take a step to recover her stance, then sink some more. I took her temperature: it was low.
I put her on a towel-covered electric heating pad, where she sprawled in an awkward froggie posture, back legs splayed, unable even to hold her head up. Then I called the vet. They said to keep her warm through the night, continue with her medication and fluids as scheduled, and they'd see her first thing in the morning. In case she needed care more urgently, they made sure I had the number of the nearest emergency vet hospital that (very importantly) knew their way around rabbits. That would be the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU, up in Fort Collins, an hour's drive away.
Not being an emergency clinic themselves, there was nothing more they could do. Even if they had been able to see her after hours, she wouldn't have made it there in time. It would have taken us half an hour to get there. We realized she was dead not a mile into the drive to CSU; she may have already been dead by the time we got in the car at all.
We made the decision to keep going and bring her body to CSU. I'm glad we did. They were able to perform a necropsy that confirmed her regular vet's diagnosis to be correct and her treatment to have been appropriate. The death of a pet brings so much guilt and regret, so much self-recrimination, so much painful second-guessing. It was consoling to learn that yes, we were doing all the things we should have done for the condition she was in, and we gave her the best chance of recovery she could possibly have had.
I am immensely grateful to the Colorado House Rabbit Society's post-adoption "bunny tune-up" class, and would recommend it to any prospective rabbit household. A rabbit's health is too potentially volatile to rely solely on annual check-ups, so the idea is to check them out thoroughly at home once every two months in order to establish a baseline and to stand a better chance recognizing crises while it's early enough to act on them. Some items on the checklist are easy, like checking if their poop looks healthy. Some are more daunting, like taking their temperature. There's also some maintenance they taught us how to perform: clipping claws, cleaning out their scent folds, etc. And all of this after like an hour of nothing but "Here's how you pick up a bunny when they are facing you. Here is how you pick up a bunny when they are facing away from you. Now you try. Do it again. You MUST get comfortable doing this, even if they don't like it." It was absolutely thanks to their instruction that we were keeping tabs on Gemma's weight and other symptoms, and therefore knew to get the vet involved as early as we did. I will probably never stop regretting that we didn't get the vet involved earlier, but I do know that we did a lot better than we might have done, had we not had such good training.
She was the absolute sweetest of bunns. Possibly because she had required vet intervention frequently over the course of her nineteen months of life, she was extremely amenable to being held and handled. She enjoyed sitting on my lap while I watched TV. On her very last night, as I was stalking Holland for donor cecotropes, she started coming over to me from across the room, "weeping angels" style. (For those of you not familiar with that particular Doctor Who monster, that means I'd look away, then look back and see that she was slightly closer to me than last time I looked.) I called to her, "Come here, Gemma," and made kissy noises and patted the floor, and she bounded over. It was a very low-energy bounding, but she gave it all the bound she had to give. I gave her a treat, let her "high-five" my palm with her nose, and then she cuddled up next to my leg.
I had expected to enjoy such closeness with her for at least a couple more years. I feel cheated.
Holland, by the way, never did produce cecotropes for me. After sitting by his habitat until nearly three in the morning, darting in to interrupt him the moment his nose dipped toward his belly, I came to the conclusion that he produces only the one kind of dropping, to all appearances a normal fecal dropping, some of which he will eat. And it's not like he sorts through them as though some were edible and some weren't. More than once, after shooing him off the latest batch of pellets and examining them to my satisfaction, I'd offer them back to him one by one, in whatever order, and he would eat them. "Holland apparently hasn't read the script," the vet said. "Some rabbits don't." The donor cecotropes used in Gemma's transplant were provided by the Colorado House Rabbit Society, courtesy of their medical staff and residents of their Bunny Barn.
Holland is obviously affected by Gemma's loss. He spent the first few days after her death being a little bit quieter, a tad more more nervous around sudden noises or changes in his environment (I ran the blender Sunday night, I am a monster), a touch more reluctant to leave his habitat and somewhat slower to rev up to his usual zooming and binking routine. He was always casually intimate with Gemma, grooming her frequently, nosing up under her chin to flop comfortably at her side. On Gemma's last day, after a night and a morning separated from her, he demonstrated how happy he was to have her back by binking around her in tight, light-speed circles, at times propelling himself off the actual wall. (Gemma more or less ignored him and ate her hay.) Most bunnies benefit from being pair-bonded, and Holland is clearly no exception. So yes, eventually we will adopt a new roommate for him. But pair-bonding bunnies is non-trivial, and we're just not ready to start the process. All I can say for sure is, it'll be "eventually soonish."
That's all. That's plenty, actually. There's writing news, but it can wait for tomorrow. For now, I just want to give Gemma a little memorial space. She was loved. She was a good bunn. She'll be missed.
post nubila ph...ictionette
- 1,105 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,307 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,142 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,145 words (if poetry, lines) long
Ahoy! Well. It's been a week. We've had a slow-moving bunny crisis which we only realized was a crisis this weekend. Gemma had been steadily losing weight all month, but at first we weren't tracking it closely, and then we thought it would get better--I mean, bunn's got an appetite like a raging bonfire!--and next thing we know she's down some 600 grams since August 5 and it's really time to get the vet involved.
Today she saw the doctor and the doctor said... no more bunnies jumping on the bed! ...no. He said, "The password is... mega cecum." Well, words to that effect, anyway. Basically, she's genetically inclined toward this particular category of GI disorder in which the cecum doesn't do what it should, which is bad. She'll probably need treatment of some sort for this all her life. For this week, we've got oral meds and subcutaneous fluids to give her, and if that's successful in "jump-starting" her cecum and helping her get back up to a healthy weight, I assume we'll then talk long-term maintenance.
Anyway, I didn't think I'd be back to administering sub-q to a pet so soon after Uno and Null's end-of-life care, but she takes it like a champ. Honestly, I'm just grateful it's Gemma and not Holland. Holland is a nightmare patient. Holland barely tolerates being picked up. Holland is a work in progress. Please may the universe not bestow any high-maintenance medical situations on him until that work has progressed quite a ways.
On a happier note, we had a dear long-distance friend spending last week in the Boulder area. There was much rejoicing. Also homemade pizza and beer and video games and coworking and actual hugs.
(Speaking of homemade pizza: Homemade eggplant parmesan pizza. It's easy. You take everything you'd normally put into eggplant parmesan, plus maybe that egg-and-ricotta mixture that goes so well in lasagna--basically my eggplant parmesan is a lasagna that substitutes breaded baked eggplant disks for pasta--but instead of layering it in a casserole dish you put one layer of it on a pizza crust. It's good.)
Excuses, excuses. Well. Better late than never: Here's the promised Friday Fictionette Round-up for August 2020.
The Fictionette Freebie for August 2020 is "On Dirkmere." You can click on over and access it in any of the several formats I've posted it in. The other three are available according to the usual rewards tier structure: $1/month for the ebook (html, PDF, epub, and/or mobi) and $3/month for the audiobook (mp3).
Next time: Probably back to whining about the novel, I think. You've been warned.
odds and ends on a Monday afternoon
So I finished a new story and submitted it last week. It's an expansion on the 500-word story I submitted to Escape Pod's flash fiction contest a couple months ago. At its new 1,300-word length, there's a bit more room to flesh out the characters, the setting, and the resolution. I really like it now and I'm feeling an unwise amount of hope regarding its chances. If that hope founders, ah well. I know precisely where the next two places I'm going to send it will be.
Thanks to this July push to include a revision session in every work day, I proceeded at a somewhat healthier pace than I did during production of the previous story. Because of that, and probably also because this story was only about a quarter of the previous story's length, it was a fairly stress-free procedure. There were still a good two hours of last-minute revision on deadline day, but 1) that's within the bounds of a normal revision session, and 2) it really was revision, and not a race to write the last two thirds of the story from scratch.
And then I did one more copyediting read-through, this one aloud to catch typos and misplaced modifiers and other awkward things, and totally choked up during the last two paragraphs. With the story having unexpectedly passed the "made its own author cry" test, I felt pretty good about sending it out.
One pleasant side-effect of all this social distancing, partial isolation, and public activity shut-down is that in addition to not having contracted COVID-19 (cross fingers, knock on wood, turn three times and curse and spit on the ground), I haven't suffered a cold or flu since well before things got real. And sure, it's summer now, but since when has that stopped me from developing sniffles and coughing and post-nasal drip?
Undoubtedly this has to do with keeping myself well out of range, as best I can, of everyone else, and--because Boulder County is thankfully a place where mask-wearing and social-distancing compliance is relatively high--everyone else is keeping themselves well out of range of me. Your common cold transmits over similar vectors to the current plague (minus the ability for the virus to survive for days on non-porous surfaces *wibble*), so if you successfully keep yourself safe from the novel coronovirus you're probably safe from the less novel sort. Additionally, during normal times I probably catch colds more frequently than I might otherwise because I play roller derby. If one skater's got something, the rest of the league's going to get it pretty soon. I haven't been smearing my body up against other skaters' bodies since early March. Much as I love my sport, I have to admit it makes a difference.
So aside from the odd recovery day after an insomniac night (more to do with the summer heat in a house with no air conditioning than with pandemic anxiety), I haven't really had to give myself a day off work. I've had a remarkably healthy and productive pandemic, is what I'm saying.
Yesterday I tried out this fava bean hummus recipe in all its complex and high-maintenance glory. You may ask, was it worth it? To which I would reply, MOST ASSUREDLY. Yes, the recipe could stand to be simplified (why bother wringing out as much of the water from the blanched spinach as you can when you're just going to add water back in the blender? Why go out of your way to use a neutral oil to make your lemon zest tincture when you're going to add a quarter cup olive oil to the final product?). Also clarified (wait, in step 3 you blend the fava beans and the spinach together, but in step 5 you fold the spinach puree into the fava been mixture?). Also it could use a reminder that fava beans require a second shucking after you blanch them (unless they actually wanted that tough outer skin on each bean included in the puree? Really?). But the recipe seems pretty forgiving of mild variations, and in any case the results were amazing.
I think I'm going to have a little more right now on the sourdough discard naan I fried up over lunch...
the new normal includes anxiety but also bunnies
All right. We did it. We made the decision, and no one will be surprised: John and I are adopting the bunnies. Maybe it would have been different if the pandemic had not occurred and our lives had remained busy and full of travel for derby and gaming and whatever, maybe then we would have said, "It's been nice having them, but it's nicer still to bring them back to the Bunny Barn and not be tied down anymore." Maybe. As a wise lion once said, "No one is told would would have happened." What we know is, right now, right here, in this timeline that is actually happening, the joy that Holland and Gemma have brought into this household is worth the responsibility leash.
So they get a forever home, and we get furry hooligans running around the sofa indefinitely. (And also licking it, because it has a flavor.)
Pictured here: Bunny yoga. Holland is doing a low plank. I'm amazed I caught that moment on camera; it's a very transitory thing. He just happened to decided he needed to stretch right as the camera went off. Meanwhile, in the background, I guess Gemma is thinking about child's pose?
It's been more than a week since they got their RHDV2 vaccinations, so they're officially as immune as they'll ever be. That means we no longer have to be so fastidious about separating outdoors from indoors. But after six weeks of slipping on shoes even to water the plants, wandering the neighborhood barefoot feels like a monstrously irresponsible and dangerous thing to do. The emotional habit of caution is a strong one. I suppose it'll take a little while before that feeling downgrades to one of simply breaking a taboo or getting away with something, and then finally fades away to nothing at all.
When I extrapolate that to the pandemic, it's alarming. We have been, and will be, following social distancing protocols for much longer than that. It didn't take but a couple weeks into Colorado's stay-at-home order for me to begin having social distance anxiety dreams, dreams where my main conscious thought was NO! WRONG! THAT IS NOT EVEN CLOSE TO SIX FEET! AND YOU'RE NOT WEARING A MASK! I'm still having them. And yesterday I went out to a Longmont restaurant to see a friend who was in from out of town, and it was nice, but all the consciousness of does my mask fit OK? and are we six feet apart? how about the restaurant server passing behind me to the next-but-one table, are they six feet away? what about those people walking down the sidewalk so damn close to the patio seating? They're not wearing masks! It just shoved my stress levels through the roof. I didn't stay long, and when I came home, I pretty much went right to bed and stayed there for hours, exhausted. Like, that's enough restaurant-going for the month of June, thanks muchly. Next time, let's bring take-out to a park and sit on our separate socially distanced picnic blankets, all right?
(I'm hearing that a local roller rink is open again. I'm also hearing that risk for contagion is highest indoors among groups who are shouting, singing, and/or breathing heavily. I'm also hearing that the roller rink isn't requiring skaters to mask up. I'm thinking trail- and street-skating still sounds like the option that's most compatible with keeping Colorado's COVID-19 case rate on the decline.)
Assuming, as I optimistically do, that one day we will not need masks and social distancing: how long will it take my brain to calm down and be OK with peopling in public again? Will it ever reach the levels of OK it used to have--which were never all that great to begin with--or has my social introversion leveled up permanently?
Which is another compelling argument for adopting these bunnies. Watching them go about their daily bunn business is soothing. And I kinda need all the soothing I can get.
a long road to nowhere but with some interesting stops along the way
- 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.
a day in the life under the new normal
- 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long
When it's been more than a month since my last blog post, writing a new one seems daunting. I feel irrationally obligated to include Every Single Thing That's Happened Since Then, and because that's obviously not feasible nor even possible, the tendency is to just not. And then another day goes by, a day full of More Things to Blog, and the endless spiral descends further.
So today I'm just going to say Hi! and more or less report on the doings of the day.
Today I woke up in the office, which has become my bedroom since coming home from the Berthoud Inn on March 16. That weekend, I'd gone out to a couple bars (in Berthoud), and John had hosted his annual gaming miniconvention (which was why I was holed up in Berthoud), so we've been sorta quasi-isolating ourselves from each other since then to keep what social exposure we'd had as much to ourselves as possible. We joke that the boundary between his space and my space runs right down the center of the kitchen table, where we sit on opposite sides in the evenings to play Spiral Knights. But of course we both use the kitchen. We even cook together sometimes; we made pad thai together Saturday night, for example. So there's only so much we can do. But we're doing it.
First thing I did upon waking up was call to cancel today's appointment at Cafe of Life and tomorrow's at North Boulder Physical Therapy. I guess I'd been kidding myself until recently, or just not thinking about it, but I thought about it over the weekend and realized that these, too, were non-essential as far as medical appointments go. I have my homework, I have my exercises, I can keep myself from losing ground on what both professionals constantly remind me are marathons rather than sprints. It's fine. We'll reconnect after the curve flattens out somewhat.
So then I made myself tea and got to work. Work looked a lot like work on any weekday. Morning Pages followed by breakfast, tooth-brushing, pill-taking, and catching up on news of the day. Freewriting to a prompt. Work on this week's Friday Fictionette offering (have I mentioned my release schedule is back to normal? Yeah! I done caught up). Work on the next very belated Fictionette Artifact for my exceedingly patient $5/month subscribers (obviously still catching up on that). Break for lunch and some admin duties. Then a solid session of Submission Procedures, because it's Monday. Logged the rejection letters my poetry and fiction got over the past week. Resubmitted my latest flash fiction piece. Did a final proofread on my story in the Community of Magic Pens anthology (which I will talk about a whole bunch tomorrow, so stay tuned).
It is a bit unsettling how very little my work and social routine have changed under pandemic lock-down. Under normal circumstances, I can quite easily go days without seeing anyone but my husband and my roller derby teammates. I'm seeing more of John since he's working from home every day rather than some days; I'm seeing my derby friends online for virtual workouts rather than in person for practice. That's pretty much all that's different; otherwise, it's life as usual for this hermit. And, well, wow. I already identified as an introvert, but I guess I didn't realize how much of an introvert I was until I realized how little this sort of social isolation bothers me--and how much social isolation I was already performing by choice before it became the medically necessary and socially responsible thing to do. I feel like maybe I should be a little bothered by that. But I'm not, not really.
Both John and myself continue symptom-free. But of course I get paranoid every time I blow my nose first thing in the morning or have a small wet coughing fit shortly after a meal. Which I've done, and had, every morning and after every meal for years. Is it still hypochondria when the microbes really are out to get you?
I'm powering through the main storyline quests on 4thewords.com, the system that turns writing goals into RPG-style battles. I'm currently in the Gansu Watering Hole chapter. Before I began writing this blog post, I fired up a battle against the Red Witch: 4,000 words in 1,000 minutes. Woo! With my attack and defense stats, it's actually 3,254 words in 1,200 minutes. I have until tomorrow at 1:30 PM to make the required word count. Sounds entirely plausible; by then I should have done tomorrow's freewriting and Fictionette work. Not to mention I'll have finished this blog post.
The sun's out, it's vaguely warm, and the sidewalks have dried off since the most recent blizzard, so I went skating. I did about two miles going "around the block", which is to say, all the way to the dead end of my street, then onto the path that follows the southbound highway, turn the corner to follow the westbound highway, then hit the creek path that cuts through the neighborhood and puts me back onto my street. There was also an early detour to a neighborhood park for footwork/individual skate skill practice on the cement basketball court.
Lunch was leftover peanut stew with bacon and okra, a variation on the recipe discussed here. I'd gone to the grocery Friday--that and Boulder Food Rescue combined are the one weekly out-of-the-house errand I'm still running; food delivery to those in need is more important now than ever, and while I'm at the donor grocery, I might as well get my own groceries too--and acquired ingredients for the peanut stew, the aforementioned pad thai, and an attempt at Dragon & Phoenix. In the absence of occasional meals at restaurants, I'm cooking my favorite restaurant meals at home. I got the okra, oyster sauce, stir-fry noodles, and various happy-making snacks for me at the Asian Seafood Market on my way home; they are still open too, and they are wonderful. Neither they nor Sprouts had fresh garlic, but I've got a small supply in addition to a bunch of minced roasted garlic in a jar in the fridge. We'll get by.
And now I'm back in the office writing this blog post. John's at the kitchen table finishing up his own day's work. We'll meet up soon for another dive into the Clockworks (I just made myself Mercurial Mail and I can't wait to level it up!). And that, more or less, is the status report for Monday, March 23, 2020.
Please stay safe and healthy, everyone, and treat yourself well.
rejections += 1 (yay) and so do submissions
- 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,285 words (if poetry, lines) long
I got a rejection letter today! That makes four of the one hundred I want to acquire in 2019, and the first in response to the avalanche of daily manuscript submissions I began sending out mid-April. It's working, it's working!
Meanwhile, Hi. I'm in a hotel room in Eagle, Colorado. Tomorrow I skate with the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" in the Melee in the Mountains tournament. Our first game, against the Chicago Outfit, will be at noon. And I am super tired and ready for bed.
It doesn't help that I just walked down to the Park 'n Ride to retrieve my car from where I left it charging at the free public charging station, only to discover when I got there that I'd left my car keys in the hotel room. So I decided the car can just stay there until tomorrow morning. I'm not unhappy that I went for the extra walk, though. Walks are nice.
But now I'm really tired. Therefore the rest of today's writing update will be super fast and super brief.
- Still way behind on the Friday Fictionettes, but I got a decent nibble in just now on the one for April 19.
- I kept up my daily submitting streak. Over lunch, I sent "First Breath," with its Colorado ski-town setting, to a Denver-centric anthology that might reprint it.
- Over meatloaf at the Eagle Diner, I managed a brief talk-to-myself session on the current short story revision.
- Also at the diner, I did some similarly brief freewriting, resulting in what looks like a solid "zero draft" for a brand new short story.
To be painfully honest, I have to admit to overestimating my submission streak the other day. At the time, Habitica reported a 9-day streak on that particular daily task, but it's very generous in preserving my streak so long as I use my Rogue powers of stealth to avoid damage from uncompleted dailies. Looking at the Submission Grinder, I see that today's submission brings me up to seven days of daily manuscript submissions, one each weekday from April 18-26 inclusive. Also I did one April 16. So it's not like the ongoing achievement loses any impressiveness after the correction. I'm still pretty damn pleased.
So. Today I did a Boulder Food Rescue shift, packed for a weekend trip, and drove three hours from Boulder to Eagle, and I still managed to do all my weekday writing things. That's pretty darn cool. Here's hoping I can do the same Monday despite Saturday's tournament, Sunday's drive home, and Monday's much-needed recovery activities.