bird feeder adventures

June 29, 2020

I think there must have been a chickadee nest in my yard somewhere, and I think the chicks must have fledged recently, because I’ve suddenly got like 5-6 chickadees absolutely swarming my feeders. They’re loud, busy, aggressive, and not totally coordinated.

Teenage chickadees, if you will.

I like them.

 

I’ve found over the last couple of months it’s really important to have things to look forward to. Even if it’s something simple like getting to see Hiddleston’s Coriolanus next week, planning a walk in my favorite park, getting takeout from a favorite restaurant, or opening a nice bottle of wine. Since my usual events I really look forward to — concerts, movies, trips — are not happening at the moment (Bubonicon has officially been cancelled, so that’s off the list), I need to find other things to fill that gap. And it helps. Something to break up the days a little and make me smile in the morning.

I got this idea from my niece and her family:  a Future Joy Jar. If there’s something I can’t do now, but can maybe do later, I write it down and put it in the jar. At some point I’ll be able to empty the jar and make bigger plans. Go to the symphony, reschedule my dive trip, that sort of thing.

I’m just not sure when it’ll be the right time to open the jar. Not yet, I don’t think.

Until then, I will look forward to little things, like walks and new books and the next project.

 

masks

April 27, 2020

Like lots of cosplayers and historical recreationists, I have been sewing masks. It takes me a long time to sew them, so I haven’t been making a lot. But I managed to get my whole family masked up, and now I’m making them for donation.

I haven’t had to buy new supplies to do this. It’s all from the pre-existing stash. I might finally be making a dent in it! Which feels pretty good, especially for such a good purpose. I’m making my own bias tape, which is tedious (even with the tricks I’ve been learning, and the bias-tape gadget a friend 3-D printed for me), but it’s saving me from having to order or track it down elsewhere.

I’ll probably keep making them, a few at a time, since we’ll likely be at this for awhile.

retail therapy

April 10, 2020

Hey there. Today I’d like to talk about SHOPPING.

Like a lot of folks, I’m worried about my favorite small local shops and restaurants who are having to shut down during this crisis. I’m also REALLY worried about my favorite convention, SCA, and Ren Faire vendors, who’ve basically had all their events and income streams vanish.

Fortunately, we live in the internet age and shipping is a thing. If you are able and feel inclined, you might seek out some of your favorites and see what deals they’re offering online shoppers. Here are a few I’ve visited.

Dryad Tea and Pottery has lots of good tea and geek-themed accessories. She mostly sells at conventions and so could really use some online traffic right now. My favorite blends of hers are Maid in Bedlam, Selkie (really good with honey for colds), and We Are Shangri-la.

Old Firehouse Books in Ft. Collins has hosted events of mine, and they’re great folks. They’re offering free shipping on orders over $20. Nina at Broadway Book Mall will also ship — you’ll need to call, but she very likely has some signed books of mine still in stock from the last convention.

We have this great little gift shop here, the Magic Fairy Candle Shop, and I ordered a gift card so I could go get myself a nice candle when this is over. While on the site I found a super cute headband, and decided I just needed something pretty and frivolous, so I ordered that too. Owner Nichole delivered it to my doorstep that afternoon and it made me so happy I just cried for a little bit. (Because it turns out when you’re stressed and things are weird, crying over little things happens a lot.) You can see the candle side of their business here.

The ladies at the Clockwork Cabaret podcast taught me everything I know about steampunk music, and here’s their Patreon.

In fact, lots of your favorite artists, authors, and musicians probably have Patreons and can use your support right now.

If you check convention websites, they’ll usually have lists of dealers. Same with Ren Faires. If like me you’re sad that we’re not going to be able to go to our favorite events and do that shopping we’ve been thinking about… you can still do the shopping. I know it’s not quite the same, but it’s something. And I want all these people to still be around NEXT year, when we can (I hope) go back to doing all the things we love.

Stay safe.

 

still we march

January 20, 2020

I spent Saturday at the Denver Women’s March.

Not as big as the first one, but those gathered are just as passionate and just as determined to hold whatever line we can against hate and corruption.

We can do this all day.

adventure ho!

January 16, 2020

Check another thing off the bucket list:  I’ve been snowshoeing. Twice, even.

I should have done this ages ago, because I really like it. Hiking, in snow. Generally, I don’t like the cold, but the snowy world is so beautiful and engaging it’s totally worth the extra prep and attention. Rocky Mountain National Park, one of my favorite places, is different in winter:

Bonus:  The first trip up was right after I finished watching The Terror, which added a certain zing to the adventure. This is up at Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park. This picture is me actually on the lake, which is very frozen right now. How cool is that?

Seriously, I look like I’m about to dive into a James Bond adventure.

Neolithic research

September 3, 2019

This trip, I spent about five days driving around and looking at piles of stones.

They’re really great piles of stones.  This one is Pulnabrone, probably the most famous of the Irish portal tombs and the one most tourists see.

Longtime readers of the blog will remember when I visited Newgrange five years ago and it kind of took over my brain. This is an era and culture we know very little about, but their ruins are everywhere. These structures hint at a complex, well-organized society. You need free time and abundant resources and intricate knowledge of things like astronomy and physics to build megalithic tombs and monuments. I’ve spent a lot of time imagining what such a society might be like, and why so few stories — even entirely fictionalized stories — get told about it, given how interesting it must have been. I wrote a short story, “Sun, Stone, Spear,” my first delving into what that fiction might look like.

This trip, I was determined to immerse myself. There are hundreds and hundreds of these sites in Ireland. I didn’t even scratch the surface.

This is Lough Gur Wedge Tomb. There is a story that two hundred years ago a local woman lived here. There’s a bit of shelter inside, but not much, so I can’t imagine what that must have been like. It must have felt solid and isolated. I bet people left her alone.

A lot of researchers who work on these sites feel that the traditional Irish stories of fairies and underhill and ancient dangers helped protect these sites. Cairns were left undisturbed, the tombs remained intact, because everyone stayed away from them. Even now, only a tiny percentage have been excavated and studied.

Archeologists are pretty sure how these got built, that isn’t really a mystery:  ropes and rollers, earthen mounds and basic man power. What I’m interested in is how these sites must have looked five thousand years ago, when they were new. Or not new, but maybe a hundred or two hundred years old, when they would have become part of the landscape and the fabric of society, when the culture that built them was still at its peak but had been around long enough that its own history was no longer part of memory. Ireland was mostly forested then, so the landscape would have looked very different than it does now and I tried to image that. Many of these tombs would have had cairns covering them. One site, Carrowmore, is a complex of a dozen or so tombs in a shallow valley. The hilltops surrounding it all have tombs on them, and once you know what to look for, you can see them, the symmetrical lumps of the cairns.

Imagine what that must have looked like, what it meant to the people for whom this was part of their lives, to stand there and be part of this landscape.

I was on a couple of “post-apocalyptic technology” panels at Worldcon — i.e., what would survive after an apocalypse, how would society function, etc. See, this is what happens when you write a couple of post-apocalyptic novels. On one of them, another panelist said something about technology regressing to a really primitive level, “with nothing but stone tools,” or something along those lines.

And I pointed out:  people with stone tools built Newgrange. People with stone tools had a complex, symbolically rich society where they spent a lot of time thinking about the past, the future, and their place in the world.

I managed to pack my brain full of stuff this trip. It’s going to take awhile to process it, and even longer for the stories to come out I’m afraid. I’m a bit daunted. It’s a big idea, and I want to do it right.

 

First off, this is an old, old emergency room story, almost 30 years old at this point.  I was reminded of it recently and wanted to tell it.  So, do not worry for me.  I am fine.  My loved ones are fine.  Nothing to see here, move along…

When I was sixteen, I fell off the horse I was riding.  Landed on my shoulder.  And something went crack.  So there I was, an hour later, in the Air Force Academy Hospital emergency room.  Observation #1:  In my experience, military emergency rooms are extremely efficient.  Very capable folks there.  Observation #2:  In this particular emergency room, on a weekday afternoon, it was a very slow day.  I was the only patient.

I got x-rays, came back to the emergency room so the doctor could look at them.  I was sitting on an exam bed looking bedraggled and forlorn.  Across the room, the doctor took the x-rays into a little dark side room so he could look at them on the light box. (Ah, the days before digital…) He looked at them.  Then he looked over at me.  Then he looked at the x-rays.  Then he looked at me.  Pretty soon, every other doctor in the place crammed into the room to look at the x-rays.  Did I mention it was a slow day?  Then, all the nurses crammed into the room.  Then, all the orderlies.  So at this point there were like 8-10 people crowded around looking at this x-ray.  And glancing out at me.  And shaking their heads.  Finally, this young orderly in the back pipes up, “Wow, even I can see that one.”

We had to ask to see the x-ray ourselves. The collarbone was snapped in half a like a pencil. It was hideous. A month later the orthopedist was impressed at how well it had healed, but to this day the bone isn’t quite straight and has a big calcified lump on it. I’m very proud of it. It’s my best scar.

Observation #3:  Military emergency rooms are efficient but the bedside manner with dependent children isn’t always ideal. At least it wasn’t 30 years ago…

 

latest research trip

June 24, 2019

A bit of silence there, I forgot to post on the road. Because what’s the point of being self-employed if you can’t drop everything and drive 400 miles to check on some things for a story? The story is a Cormac and Amelia adventure. We’ll see if I can pull it all together.

The trip was to the Black Hills area of South Dakota, with a bit of a detour to the Badlands. I packed a lot into a few days, did some hiking even though the weather was cool and cloudy and I could have used a bit of sun. Visited Deadwood, and the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Swung by Sturgis just to say I did. Did not go to Mt. Rushmore, believe it or not. I saw it as a kid and I just didn’t want to deal with the crowds this time. The region is beautiful, but very touristy. Deadwood is all casinos, and I had to hunt for the Old West bones of the place. But I saw lots of deer, pronghorns, the bison herd at Custer State Park, and did some birdwatching (I got a lifer:  vesper sparrow). Wore myself out a bit.

Now I’m home, and it’s time to work on this story.

 

intermediate yoga

March 12, 2018

One of the things I’ve done this year in an effort to push myself is to start going to the intermediate yoga class. The basic one was starting to get a bit boring, which was a really good sign that I was ready to move up. The intermediate class is not boring. No, it’s more like, “Holy cow slow down just a sec wait a minute how are you doing that?!”

Which was what I thought when I first started the basic class, so there ya go.

Today, I had one of those moments where I did a pose that I didn’t think I would ever be able to do. Standing, holding one’s leg straight to the side. I didn’t get it quite straight, but I also didn’t fall over. That felt really good.

There’s an advanced class. I’m not too sure about that. Yet.