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Blatant exhibitionism [17 Apr 2015|06:15pm]
The problem, the outrage, the appalling injustice of my new bike? Is that it steals all my steps. My cycling registers barely at all on my Fitbit (tho' Karen gets plenty of credit for hers). All the while I am becoming lean & fit & healthy, all my friends will be condemning me as a couch potato, and I shall have no answer.

Still: for those of you who haven't seen it over on Facebook, here it is, courtesy - if that's the word - of m'wife:


- and here is a box of duck eggs, from the farmers' market. Aren't they pretty? I have no idea why they come out mottled in these monochrome tones, whether that's breed or diet or what; but whatever they're doing, those ducks, I think they should go on doing it:

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Toys, new, Chaz for the playing with [17 Apr 2015|11:30am]
I had forsworn and quite forgone riding my bike to the library of a morning, purely because a two-mile walk gives me space and time to think, where a two-mile bike ride calls for concentration (did you know they drive on the wrong side of the road here? still? despite my having pointed it out several times?). Ever since we had dogs, back in my teenage living-at-home times (they were my sisters' dogs, and it was somehow always my task to walk them), my whole writing process has been predicated on lots of walking; when I tried library-biking, I lost the thread of my work almost entirely.

That being said: yes, of course I biked to the library this morning. I know where I am, in each of the stories I'm working on; what I need above all is to find where I am with this bike, and what I need. I now have an injury and everything (I may have skinned my Achilles tendon, with a particularly awkward dismount. Still not quite used to how high the saddle is. I love this bike, but it is the Great Green Beast $666 of Elevation).

And now I have to bike to the bike shop, to talk about accessories...
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Turtles: apparently they're zombies in a crispy coating [17 Apr 2015|10:25am]
So I was just innocently poaching me some pig's brains for m'lunch, when Dymphna came stomping across the kitchen floor looking for breakfast.

I cast about hastily, because she's a sour creature if she doesn't get her brekkie on demand; and I was speedily slicing a tomato when my own brain finally caught up with my fingers. Turtles like a bit of protein on occasion. They go crazy for catfood, eg. So...

So Dymphna got brains-on-tomato for breakfast. And is devouring it with gusto. Good turtle.
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The bike is not a lie [16 Apr 2015|06:11pm]
M'wife may have posted a picture to Facebook, of me with a new bike. I am regarding it as a measure of how much California (or possibly m'wife) has changed me: because the other choice of colour was a gorgeous deep matt black, and I picked the vicious green. (I might've told Karen that was for safety reasons, for visibility. It certainly is very visible, I am just sayin'.)

It's also very light, compared to the previous chunky thing; it feels positively skittish beneath me. Tho' that's partly because the saddle is higher than I'm used to, and even then lower than the guy in the bike shop really wanted. I am leaving it as is for now, to see how I adjust.

It also has yet three more gears that I shall never use... (The old one has twenty-four, of which I use perhaps three. This has twenty-seven. It's just gear inflation for its own sake; around here, there really is no need.)

New bike! I'm very excited. And expect to be biking everywhere for a while, till the whee! wears off.
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Time, considered as a helix or Archimedes' screw [15 Apr 2015|12:04pm]
I have to wait in for a delivery, and you-all know how good I am at this. Grr. It's noon already, which means half my day has been slurruped up in packets which are not to be recalled. (I don't actually know if you can reverse an Archimedes' screw to have it bring the water back down again, but no one ever does.)

I have not been idle, exactly - I have a story (Oscar Wilde! on Mars!) which needs a little delicate redrafting, and I'm halfway through - but I could so have been doing other things. I could have gone to the bike shop and considered my acid-green new love object; I could have gone to the stores and considered what to cook for eight hungry people tonight. But no. I daren't even go out into the back yard and dig up my unproductive fava beans, ready for this weekend's major planting of the spring garden, for fear of missing a ring at the doorbell or a knock on the door. (It's weird, how many people - professionals included - ignore the bell and just knock.)

I do so hate being penned to the house this way. It has to be done - they also serve, who only twitch and wait - but oh, I am so very bad at waiting.
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That's what Bilbo Baggins hates [13 Apr 2015|06:44pm]
...aaand now the oven is working again. And the repair guy is coming tomorrow. And we're not going to cancel him; instead I am going to have all the pleasure of "Well, it hasn't worked for two weeks, but it started working again last night, so could you just have a look and see what's what...?"


In happier news, the boys know exactly - from the other end of the house - the sound of their food-dispenser being opened at not-meal times. With all that that implies.
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Back is what we are [13 Apr 2015|05:14pm]
,,,and in other news, Karen and I have come home. I was on Orcas Island! We were both in Seattle! Orcas and bald eagles and meerkats and trolls were seen, actual cats were introduced (CatOfSize and KittenOfThursday, since you ask). Vast engineering projects were visited. (Oh, come: how can a system of ship-sized canal locks not be relevant to Mars? This was totally research.) Foods were eaten, friends were visited, wines consumed. I even did some work, perhaps.

And now we are home, and I am fallen instantly into the classic trap of the man who wants more than his resources should allow. I virtuously dropped into the bike shop to ask about procedures for getting the machine thoroughly serviced; the nice man asked what it needed, and sucked air through his teeth, and allowed as how it might be that a new bike would prove more economical. And then he showed me some new bikes, and of course I fell in love with one that's twice the price I really need to pay. Hey-ho.
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221: not all it's cracked up to be? [13 Apr 2015|05:08pm]
Science may not after all be the reliable guide I was looking for. This is disappointing to me; I may be obliged after all to fall back on craft.

In January, I made my regular Seville orange marmalade; this week, I made kumquat marmalade, because kumquats.

In January, I trusted to science and boiled it to 221 degrees F, and bottled it up - and did it set? Hah! I laugh at your naive questioning, O Internet! I poured it out of the jars and boiled it again, and had to take it to 226 before achieving a decent set.

This week? I boiled it barely to 221 - and it's setting hard as rubber.

Presumably there is different levels of pectin somewhat to blame here (American Sevilles, I find, are very light on pips), but even so, I am disappoint. I wanted to be able to watch numbers. I like numbers. I don't like faffing about with cold saucers and dribbles and is-it-wrinkly-yet?
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Orcas! [08 Apr 2015|11:51am]
Yesterday I travelled most of the length of America, from not-that-far-from-Mexico to very-nearly-in-Canada. I travelled by car and plane and bus and shorter bus and ferry; and the greatest of these was ferry.

And as we came nosing into Orcas harbour, there was a flurry and a rush of passengers to the starboard rail, because out there in the water, just cruisin' the shoreline, a-huffing and a-blowing, was a pod of lower-case orcas, I am just sayin'. We may have whalewatched.
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A kumquat. Or more than one, actually. [06 Apr 2015|05:15pm]
Interesting fact of the day: the kumquat is no longer a citrus fruit. It's been reclassified, as Fortunella.

That being said, it does remain a very roly fruit. Theresa brought around a vasty bagful, gleaned from her productive bush. Unfortunately - most unfortunately - they were obliged to be left in their paper bag a day or two too long. When I went to lift it, the bottom of the bag remained on the freezer while the walls merely tore damply asunder. The kumquats, thus liberated, went naturally everywhere. I had to grovel about on hands and knees for some considerable time to recover them.

Oblige me by imagining just how much fun that was, in my current condition.

Thank you. I am obliged.

And now I have two and a half kilos of kumquats to slice, deseed and convert into marmalade. Tonight. 'Scuse me...
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Pain, I am in you [06 Apr 2015|10:53am]
Dammit, I had not budgeted for this. I am as unexpectedly and thoroughly broken as my oven.

We had Bryn & Kyle over for dinner and photography lessons last night, and - as I foretold thee - I cooked Spanish, and all was going well - and I put a dish of olives down on the coffee-table, and my back went sproing! and suddenly nothing was any good at all.

I slipped a disk fifteen years ago, and I'm fairly sure I have just done the same again. The pain-levels are familiar. I would resent it more - a dish of olives, for cryin' out loud! at least last time it was a stupidly large sack of compost I was swinging around - but actually I wonder if I'd already done the damage hauling a massive bucket of water around the back yard, and the disk was poised and prepared to slip at any moment. (I had no idea whether that's actually the way these things work, but it seems more likely, somehow.)

Anyway, there it is. I have an abundance of ouchie, and am shuffling about the house like a very sorry thing. Ray of the magic fingers is coming in a few minutes, and I am in hopes - but I doubt even the world's finest massage therapist can fix a slipped disk just like that. And tomorrow I have to be travelling all day, by aeroplane and bus and ferry too. That's going to be half a world of hurt, oh joy.
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Hunh [05 Apr 2015|12:44pm]
The kitchen flue just pinged at me. Good lord, I thought, can that be...?

Yup. Rain. Waterlets, falling from the skything. It's not going to be heavy and it's not going to last, but nevertheless. We'll take what we can get, this drouthy season.

And in other news, I have peeled the skin off my hunk o' pork, slathered it in a mix of spices - garlic and smoked paprika and cardamom and star anise and fennel and like that - and dumped it in the slow cooker. I have no idea what that's going to do, but it's got six hours to do it in.
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He's walking Spanish down the hall [05 Apr 2015|11:49am]
So as I may have mentioned, the oven died last night. Kiboshes were put on many a plan. Friends did a mercy dash with me and my pan of risen hot cross bun dough, whisking us across town to a functioning oven; things didn't come out quite as intended, but I do have a tear-apart slab of seasonal spiced bread. (I neglected to put the crosses on 'em, okay? And they spread sideways more than rose, so they didn't exactly bun.)

And I have traded half of that for a bag of kumquats, with a notion of marmalade tomorrow; and I have broken out Karen's old tiny slow-cooker to make confit of gizzards, because they were already in the salt last night when I found that the oven was dead; and now I have maybe figured out how to cater a dinner-party without an oven. Everything is still subject to revision, but right now I think we're going Spanish: not quite tapas-like, but patatas bravas and cabbage-with-chestnuts and a risotto of paella rice with spring veggies and a pot-roast hunk of pork. All of that can happen on top of the stove.

And every time a wave of stress or frustration or anxiety washes over me (how much is a new stove, anyway? This is the third time in three years we will've paid out for repairs on this one, grr), I remind myself that I get to run away next week to Seattle and points wetter, so I don't need to think about repair people for a while yet; and I saw two hummingbirds sharing the same feeder yesterday, and when I got too close they flew off together. Dare we anticipate the flutter of tiny wings...?
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Well, fuckety-fuck [04 Apr 2015|06:55pm]
I made sourdough hot cross buns - and I cannot bake them, because the fucking stove won't light. And we have guests for dinner tomorrow. Which is Easter Sunday. Likelihood of repair, 'twixt now and then? Yeah, right...
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Quis hic locus?* [01 Apr 2015|10:27am]
Well, here's a lovely thing: the Genius Loci kickstarter has kicked through $22,000 - which means we get a really fancy printed version. With deckled edges and everything. You have less than a full day to join the rumpus, I am just sayin', should you like to do that...

*I really only used this quote as a subject line because locus/loci all I've got; but actually it is Deeply Relevant in More Than One Way. When I was but a schoolboy, unvers'd in anything except Eng Lit and pretension, my bestie and I wrote a play together, called Quis Hic Locus? Tragically we failed to persuade the headmaster to let us produce it as the school play that term (tho' we did get it into the printed calendar, before he put his foot down; my being in the Printing Club might've helped there, I honestly don't remember), but it was a splendid piece, deeply philosophical and asking probing questions about Life and Death and suchlike. We might have been sixteen. And how did we come to have a Latin tag at our fingertips, you ask, given that we had no Latin? And had certainly not read Seneca, even in translation? Why, I reply: we had read T S Eliot. Intensively. He was our Thing that term. (Did I mention sixteen?) As a result of which we not only had an occasional Latin tag, we had Greek too. This play, that we called Quis His Locus? Had previously been called Apothanein Thelo, till someone persuaded us that that was too pretentious for words, and besides we didn't have a Greek font in Printing Club.
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Interview! [29 Mar 2015|03:11pm]
I did an interview for The Qwillery, about my share in Genius Loci (still time to support the Kickstarter! Less than $200 from its next stretch goal!), and the interview's gone live. Read, enjoy; gasp at new revelations, or roll your eyes at stories so old they have whiskers.
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Actually it's more like a sour kind of glee [29 Mar 2015|08:03am]
So I was lying in bed this morning reflecting on a dream, and thinking "Schadenfreude is the only joy" - and then I thought how much that sounded like a story title, and then I realised that I was awake enough to be thinking about story titles, and then I got up.

And a little after that I discovered that the mildly resentful sense of superior virtue you feel at being up stupid early on a Sunday morning is not at all harmed by the fact that your wife has got up also. It's pure soap to the last bubble, undiluted by company; all the rest of the idle world is still abed, and we are not, for we have stuff to do.

I am ongoingly entranced by the complexity of feelings. Adulthood is layering, I guess.
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Existential despair, I am in you [27 Mar 2015|10:30am]
The trouble with announcing a new sale, especially within the Mars Imperial sequence, is that all the cheerful chattery that ensues here and on Facebook and no doubt on Twitter when I remember to drop word there as well, all the mention of other stories only waiting to be written - T E Lawrence on Mars! Raffles on Mars! Peter Wimsey on Mars! The YA novel! - just serves to remind me that I have barely broken the ground to dig the first foundation of the edifice this could be. And that I write more slowly than ever I did, and age more quickly too.

I am neither impatient nor lazy, but damn, I wish I were further along than this. Job 19:23, people: aka the Writer's Lament. "Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!"

It is the motto of my life. I should probably wear it as a tattoo. Or at least have it on a coffee mug.
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Sale! [27 Mar 2015|08:27am]
So now it can be told, hurrah: my novelette "The Astrakhan, the Homburg and the Red Red Coal" has been bought by Seanan McGuire for QUEERS DESTROY SCIENCE FICTION, the queer-created special issue of Lightspeed. I am beyond happy about this.

This is the Oscar-Wilde-on-Mars story I may have spoken of before, one of those lightning-bolt notions - if Mars were a province of the British Empire, of course Oscar would have gone there, after Reading Gaol, before Paris could destroy him utterly - that happily found a way to work itself into a proper narrative. It's about names and meanings and identity, and a gay subculture in a colonial outpost, and the interface of authority with what's alien.

This is the second of the Mars Imperial stories (the first, "The Burial of Sir John Mawe at Cassini", first appeared in Subterranean Online, and will be reprinted in Gardner Dozois' YEAR'S BEST SF). There will be more. And then, of course, there's the novel. Kipling on Mars. Just do us all a favour, and don't ask about that?
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Oh the zhug, people. Oh the zhug. [26 Mar 2015|10:32am]
Has it ever happened in life before, I wonder, that I bake a loaf of bread and don't get to taste even a crust of it, even a crumb...?

If it has, I don't remember the instance. But last night: entirely my fault, for I was late with dinner; but I gave them my new-baked loaf and oil to stave off the dreaded pangs of hunger, because I know what they're like. I thought I knew what they're like. I didn't know what they're like. Wolves to the fold, that's what they're like. Every last crumb, I tell you.

I am baking again. And running the second dishwasher load, and thinking "Oh, there's going to be a third."

And resolving once again never to experiment at full-on dinners with dishes that cook rice by the absorption method, because this just never works right for me. I made chicken Zerbian, which is also Yemeni, to go with the zhug, but - well, they ate it. But.

But the zhug, O my beloved 'earers, the zhug. I could go into business with this stuff. I could live on this stuff, I could eat it with everything. Everything, I could eat you. With zhug.
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