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.

Here’s 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:

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.

Why?

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.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today would’ve been my mother’s 55th birthday. She was born on September 30th, 1959. She passed away on February 23rd, 1994, from cancer.

I miss her every day.

Mom, I hope when you look down from on high, you approve of what you see. I love you, I miss you, and I hope I make you proud.

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.

New Site

I’m working on a new web site and had some inspiration last night (my insomnia kicked in, then my brain filled up the time generating ideas). I’ve got quite a bit done on it; it’s WordPress-based, several custom post types, still needs a few more extras and some theme work to finish.

I’m hoping to have something together by mid to late August.

I also got to thinking about starting a hosted WordPress network for writers. A lot of these things exist in other capacities, so I’m not sure how much interest there would be in it.

New Fiction: “Wolfe Hunt”

I posted a piece of fiction today. I say “new” because it is new to the world, but not to me. I wrote the original piece of this about a decade ago for a creative writing seminar. I continued working on it over the following two years, then left it.

Today I’ve shaken the dust and cobwebs off to share it here.

It isn’t my best; it is the thing I’ve spent the longest on, though.

The piece is set in the near future, when the world has taken extreme measures to control childbirth and protect children. In this setting, the main character is a renegade agent of the agency responsible for protecting children. He has seen the devastation this “protection” causes to families and now fights to save families.

The idea for this piece springs from many of the laws that have cropped up around what parents can and can’t do around or with their children. Some of these laws are common sense, and thus shouldn’t be necessary as laws. Others are far-reaching and do too much. I am to explore what happens when we go too far with our desire to protect our children.

Read the story here.

Family, Cooking, a Chili Recipe

One of the things I’ve been doing a lot more is cooking at home. I used to use my pain disorder as an excuse to not cook, and since I’m the primary cook in the house, that would mean we would end up ordering or eating out often.

As you may imagine, this can be expensive, in both financial and health ways.

Over the last few months, we’ve been eating in, at home, and experimenting with different recipes to find a variety of things that we like. And, not only are we finding awesome, cheap things, that we like to eat, but we are all healthier. Both Caroline and I are losing weight and we get to spend more time as a family around the dinner table.

Long story short, I want to share one of our favorite recipes with you. This is my slow cooker chili recipe:

Ingredients

2 cups tomato juice
15 ounce can tomato sauce
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
27 ounce can dark red kidney beans
26.5 ounce can black beans
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 lb ground beef or turkey, browned
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar

Directions

Sauté onion and green pepper in skillet for 2 minutes. Add ground beef or turkey to skillet and cook until browned.

Mix all ingredients in 4 or 6 quart crock pot.

Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.

I hope you try this recipe and enjoy it!