Fall is the Time of Change

No, it isn’t quite fall. It’s close enough, though.

Today, I gave my notice to my employer. In two weeks, I’ll no longer be a full-time programmer… or, really, in the view of our society, a full-time job holder.

Since this past February, my wife and I have both been working full-time and doing full-time child-care ourselves, with the help of my wife’s mother as she’s bee able. And given that my father-in-law passed away in May, it’s been a lot for all of us to manage.

We expected our youngest daughter, who turns five in September, to go into pre-school this October. Instead, she got wait-listed due to an abundance of children of sufficient age for pre-school (all of whom were older than our daughter).

In my therapy, I’ve been doing a lot of work untangling me from my father’s vision of me. One of those things that came up was that I saw me having an interest in technology (which includes programming). Interest, like a hobby. My father saw it as a career. A younger me, wanting to please my father and win his approval, fell into a technology career in hopes of winning his approval and attention.

Wrapping those two points together, my wife and I discussed our situation at length and decided it was a good time for me to pursue being a stay-at-home parent — rather than us going through the rigmarole of hiring a new nanny — and working on my writing career.

I feel great about this. And sad. And nervous. Sad that I’m moving away from working with some great people and friends. Nervous that my family and I are going into uncharted territory and may not be as financially secure as we were before. But, overall, I feel great that I’m focusing on spending time with my kids and I’m giving myself space to write.

Breaking A Bad Habit

I have a bad habit. It’s called the Amazon Buy Now button.

Particularly when it comes to books, I have a bad habit of just hitting that pesky little button, waiting a couple of days, and then frolicking about with piles and piles of books. (This doesn’t get into how I also hit low points in my depression and shamble, zombie-like, through the labyrinth of Amazon, purchasing books and other goodies as a way of trying to climb out of the doldrums.)

Then reality strikes when I sit down on payday with my budget in one hand, coffee in the other. Cue spit-take when I realize just how much money I’ve spent at ye ‘Ol Amazon that should’ve been going elsewhere.

Today, I’ve used my geekery to help solve this problem. Usually, when I’m trolling (used in this case in the fishing terminology, not Internet slang) the Internet, I come across a new book someone is raving about on Twitter, or news about a book from a favorite author. I add it to my Amazon cart, along with a few others. I checkout.

Rinse. Repeat. Goodbye money.

Now, when I do this, when I try to go to Amazon, I’ll be greeted with a friendly message:

Wait! Stop!

Go write a wishlist. You don’t need to purchase anything on Amazon.com right now.

This is achieved through setting up a simple HTML page on my Web server, then using my computer’s hosts file to tell it to look at my Web server every time I click a link including “amazon.com” or type a URL containing “amazon.com.”

This is not trivial to set up, though not complex either. It provides just enough of an inconvenience that, when I’m just trolling the ‘net, I’m unlikely to take the time to undo it (especially if I’m in a funk or depressed already).

Now let’s see if I save any money over the next pay period…

Project UROK

I just heard of Project UROK today, via this post on Boing Boing. I identify with much of what Wil has to say here, especially the parts about “existing” rather than “living.” I suffer from depression and anxiety, and have for a couple of decades. It took me until after my first child was born to realize I needed help, in order to be a good parent.

Click here to see Wil’s video.

Things That Bother Me When Reading A Book

I read quite a lot, usually about two novels a week, plus short fiction, news, and tech documentation. Unless my stress and anxiety is too high, I always have a book at hand.

When I’m reading, I like to lose myself in the story. For me, reading is an escape to another world, a chance to get away from all of the things about the real world that are bothering me, causing anxiety, frustration, panic, etc. When I pick up a book (I’m a science fiction and fantasy reader, primarily) I’m primarily looking to get away from my world.

Given that and the fact that I’m a writer and editor, there are a number of things that I actively ignore. Spelling, grammar, and typographical errors, which are not always the author’s fault (they are often introduced during printing). Word choices that make no sense to me (sometimes it is lingo or dialect I don’t understand). The choice to data dump at the beginning of a book, rather than spread it out (authorial choice–sometimes it works, sometimes not).

In any case, these are the things I actively ignore. One of the things I’ve noticed over the last couple of years is lazy world building, or maybe it’s bad jacket or back cover copy. For me, as a reader, I pick up a fantasy novel and the contract I make with that novel is, “I suspend all my real world beliefs and submit to the belief structures set down in this fantasy world.” It makes it easier to be transported to that world, to get to know the characters, to be part of the world.

So what happens when the author of said fantasy novel takes a real world religion or country, changes one letter of its name, and recasts it as something “new”?

What happens is I immediately put the book down and pick up a different one.
Inevitably, there’s one of two possible things going on: the author isn’t spending enough time world building (“I’m more interested in the characters!”), which to me is a crime, because the world is one of the most important characters in a fantasy novel. Or the jacket/back cover copy is written poorly.

I’ve read books where both cases happened. In one case, I started reading a book, thinking it was pure fantasy, and discovered that the languages the main character was being taught were Latin and English. I put the book down, though I did eventually go back and read it. It turned out, the jacket copy was bad. It had been described as pure fantasy, and was really post-apocalypse fantasy.

In other cases, I’ve never gone back. These end up being lazy world building, and I just can’t bring myself to watch one of the largest, most present characters in the book be glossed over so entirely.

Sometimes (though rarely) I can forgive lazy world building, if there are other story elements that make up for it. Is the story so focused on one location that the rest of the world doesn’t matter?

In the end, we all have our preferences. What are yours?


The Problem With Digital ID Cards

I’ve seen the commercials for them around the ‘Net and on television. For example, this Geico commercial.

If you’ve read much about privacy issues, either in fiction or what’s going on in the world (might I suggest Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother?), you might be as suspicious of these as I am.


Where I’m from (Maine), typically if you get stopped or get in an accident, you’re required to give the law enforcement officer (L.E.O.) your driver’s identification, insurance card, and vehicle registration. Therefore, if your insurance card is digital on your mobile device, you’d need to give the L.E.O. your mobile device (presumably unlocked, unless Apple’s Passport or similar on Andriod works with your device passcode-locked).

Then the L.E.O. takes all of this away from you, back to their car to run checks through their computer.

Suppose your device is passcode-unlocked when you give the L.E.O. your device. What’s to stop them from taking a peek at your pictures for something incriminating? Or at your social media apps? E-mail?

Humans are curious by nature, and given the xenophobia and religious phobias, it wouldn’t surprise me–though it does anger me that this would happen–that an Other (i.e. someone who is not like you, either in race or sexual orientation) would be subjected to such an invasion of privacy.

So, be careful with your devices. Yes, digitizing things are more convenient because most everyone knows where there phone is, but can barely remember where that piece of paper containing their car insurance is right now. At the same time, don’t forget that you are responsible for your own privacy.

Privacy is not always convenient, but it is our right, as given to us in the Bill of Rights.

Defend it.

Stress Relief

I’m working my way through some tough depression, stress, and anxiety. Right now, I have a lot of triggers: my career choice (thanks to my father), some OCD-type things, and a number of PTSD-related issues.

Usually, I get so wound up after getting triggered that I can’t do anything. I sit staring at a wall, not doing a thing. And that’s all I’m capable of.

To try to get past that, I’m focusing small, working on one thing at a time. The first thing I’m trying is to work on my career issues. The root of the issue is huge, but can be summed up as: my father wanted me in a technical career, which is where I am. While I enjoy what I do now, I had always planned on being a writer (novelist, journalist, etc.) and an editor.

One thing I’ve realized recently is that I’ve spent too long listening to that voice of my father saying, “Writing isn’t good enough.” And waiting for someone else to come along and tell me that it is good enough. Others have told me that writing is good, that I’m a good writer, but none of it has made a difference.

So I need to change myself. I can’t rely on others to do it for me.

Today, I spent some time getting my computers situated. Rather than going with a “simple” set up of having everything on one computer, I’ve now separated things out: I have one computer that is dedicated to my WordPress development work, and another that is devoted to writing and editing. My personal computer doesn’t have any of the data or apps I’d need for work, so it eliminates the usual temptation I have when I sit down to write to, instead, do something for work.

Now I can truly take a computer, with the tools I need, and sit down to write. I’ve dropped my social networking profiles, which has saved me a lot of time already. With this additional change, I feel good. I feel like I’ll get more writing done.

Hell, I’ve already written an almost 400-word blog post, which I normally don’t do.

Strange Horizons Fund Drive

The magazine I volunteer for, Strange Horizons, is running an annual fund drive right now. Details:

This year’s fund drive is underway! We’re aiming to raise $11,000 to fund the next year of Strange Horizons. You can read more and donate here, see the list of donor prizes here and read bonus content as it is published here. We just published Maureen Kincaid Speller’s review of Ben Aaronovitch’s Moon Over Soho. Help us get to $3,000 to read our next piece of bonus content: “Teffeu: From a Library at Taarona”, a new story by Rose Lemberg, with podcast reading by Anaea Lay!

Please, go donate now and spread the word! You can see our progress below, or on the Strange Horizons site.