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Step away from the keyboard [25 Aug 2015|06:10pm]
Aaand that's Chapter Two. Tomorrow I take a closer look at Patreon, and maybe play with Scrivener, and do not start Chapter Three, oh no, not at all, no way, I am not ready...

Aaand now, a glass of wine because I haven't even started drinking yet, what's with that?
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Straw, allow me to introduce you to the camelback... [25 Aug 2015|11:14am]
So I come into the library this morning, all abuzz to finish chapter two; and I head to my favourite little quartet of tables - and they are not there. They are gone. Emptiness abides.

I have fines to pay, so I go to make enquiries; and this is a permanent change. Paperback racks will be occupying my space, to promote flexibility elsewhere.

I am idiotically distressed. There are many tables all through the library, but that was the corner that I liked: the lighting was right, the chairs were right. Nothing else is any good.

So: virtue, meet necessity. I need to find another venue. Our regular coffeeshop kinda works, but I really want the window seat and that's seldom available. How did I ever learn to be so fussy...? (Actually, I know the answer to that: the Lit & Phil taught me. It was my perfect space.* Nothing else will ever measure up.)

*So long as I could get my own table, obviously. And nobody spoke in the Silence Room. And, and, and...
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A handful of brief mentions make a post [24 Aug 2015|10:33am]
I am back from WorldCon. People were there, stuff happened. It was good.

My equal-favourite cover artist Elizabeth Leggett won a Hugo. And namechecked me in her acceptance speech. And is as awesome in person as in print. All of that was excellent.

Also, Ken Scholes. Also excellent.

In my absence, nobody has apparently made a virtual globe of Old Mars and its canals for the internet. This is less than good. The internet needs it, because the internet's favourite Chaz cannot afford a real one. C'mon, people, get on that, will you?

It occurs to me that this whole Crater School project is about writing a kids' book for adults. Which is kinda weird, but hey.
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"That's the way to do it!"* [16 Aug 2015|06:14pm]
Yesterday we had a party here. I kinda cleaned the house, but didn't have to do a thing else; it wasn't our party, so other people just took over our space and ran it. Perfect. (Well, all right, I may have zoned in on the grill, but hey. Food, in my space, without my interference...? Unthinkable!)

And today it was 105F in the car, 100F in reality, and I pretty much didn't leave the house. This afternoon, Karen napped with the fan on; me, I wrote the first chapter of Three Twins at the Chalet School. And turned leftover party strawberries into jam.

Hey, when was the last time I wrote 2500 words in a day? And made jam? I may be awesome.

So at the moment, I'm thinking that I put the first chapter up for free, so people can see what they're getting. After that, we move to Patreon and for $3 a month you get two chapters a month as I write them, for probably ten months or so, 65-70K all told; for $5 a month you get the above plus the revised and edited e-book at the end of the year, with a pretty cover and everything; for $10 a month you get to name a Crater girl, and maybe get the hard copy physical edition. That may be $15; I haven't done the math yet, but I am told that mailing costs run high. Whatever. Maybe I'll separate the hard copy out altogether, and it's just something you can order at the end.

Anyway. This thing does seem to be happening, I am just sayin'. If the wife approves the chapter, that is. No pressure.

*Does Punch & Judy still play any part in an English childhood? I should not be either surprised or disturbed to discover that it does not; brutal & serial murders of wife, baby and officers of the law are no kind of example to hold up to the flower of our youth. Nor avenging crocodiles (tho' see Peter Pan, obviously). And I have spoken to lamenting Americans who have never had the chance to see it, and it struck me suddenly that I have no idea whether it has been a casualty of more anxious times in the UK. I think I should be sorry, if so: its loss would be, well, a loss. The Punch & Judy man - the professor - is a particular breed of performer, and not to be replaced by something more acceptable. Is the swazzle lost for ever? Someone tell me no...
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Adventitious [15 Aug 2015|12:19pm]
A week ago, someone somewhere on the internets was asking about Scrivener, how people felt, how they used it, was it worth the learning-curve, etc; and I was poised on the verge of my regular response, which basically comes down to "I love that it exists, I love everything about it - and I would never use it, because its mindset is so entirely antithetical to the way I work."

Only I never actually made the comment, because All About Me and not actually helpful in context; but then I thought I might actually expand on that for a regular blog post, because thoughts about process are always interesting (for the thinker, at least, as well as hopefully some in the audience); and I have been thinking so much about Mars, and honestly this is such a tentacular project it really would be so helpful if I were the kind of writer who could usefully employ Scrivener, because really. Notes and short stories and novels shooting off in all directions, and background matter and a whole damn planet - nay, three planets and their moons - and a history at odds with our own and a calendar and...

Look. Let me show you the calendar.

The point is, the British Empire on Mars will follow its traditional Gregorian calendar, because Church of England, saints' days, everything traditional is built into that 365-day cycle. The Martian day is out of sync with the Terran day, but that doesn't matter so much; there's no simultaneous communication between planets, so no real sense of dislocation. The Martian year, though, is almost-but-not-quite twice as long as an Earth year; which means, as you will clearly see, that there are two Christmases most years.

Which led, of course, to Bishop Umber's infamous rhyme:

Christmas comes but twice a year
Once with ice and once with fire
God's blessing offers double grace
Once with fire and once with ice

There are, inevitably, alternative wordings and alternative readings; just as there are, inevitably, years - once in every child's life, if childhood is reckoned from birth to puberty - when First Christmas falls in the spring thaw and Second Christmas before the first frost.

And, yes, I can prove that. I did the math. I'm guessing that most writers these days would draw up a spreadsheet, but I still like to do sums with pen and paper (tho' I hate taking written notes, go figure), so behold, my traditional back-of-an-envelope:


Thus do we see how Christmases fall during the first 4K days of a child's life: Earth on the left, Mars on the right. Ignoring leap-years, because oy.

And I thought that was all I needed, because proof-of-concept was surely enough; but now suddenly I have this whole Crater School thing buzzing in my head, and I am actually going to need a proper Martian calendar, because I need to see how three terms - Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity, aye: and did you know all three are derived from the centre, from the feast-day of St Hilary? - will fit into an Anglican calendar in Martian seasons, and maybe I'll make that spreadsheet after all.

And yes, suddenly I am wondering whether it's actually time to change my process: whether one aspect of the Crater School project might not be learning to assemble and work with my material in a wholly different and less haphazard way, like f'rexample oh hullo Scrivener. I don't know, but I am seriously starting to wonder. Maybe I'll actually sit down and work my way through the tutorial in my, y'know, copious free time, just to see how it might feel. Maybe.
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Elinor M Brent-Dyer. On Mars. [14 Aug 2015|01:04pm]
Oh people, my people: it struck me today as I walked home from the library, that while all my Mars fiction thus far has proved tolerably serious, I do have another area of interest; it needn't all be about redeeming unhappy Edwardians.

The driving force of this series of works thus far has been, "If Mars were a province of the British Empire, of course [X] would have gone there" - but today I am feeling a terrible temptation. I want to say "If Mars were a province of the British Empire, of course the Chalet School would have had a sister foundation there..."*

It would - of course! - be called the Crater School. And it would sit on the rim of a crater lake, where the girls would go boating in summer and skating in winter; and the sanatorium for tubercular parents would be a couple of hours' march around the rim; and there would be girls - and staff - from all over the Empire and beyond, because diversity is already built into the Martian population; and, and, and.

And the first book (possibly the only book; this might be a one-off, because there is a limit to fun) would be called Three Twins at the Crater School, and I really, really want to do this.

It's not a project for a traditional publisher. I'm thinking Kickstarter, or more likely Patreon: a chapter a month, maybe, with a volume to follow via Book View Cafe, perhaps...

Or is this rank idiocy, would nobody care? I dunno. I will stop giggling soon, and let the idea settle, and see...

*Context for the bewildered: here's the Wiki article about the Chalet School, but it gives no sense at all of the charm of these books. They're built on 1920s attitudes to class and sex and so forth, and are thoroughly unsound in many ways - but on the other hand the author (and her girls!) were firmly anti-Nazi well before the war, and the general conservative/religious tone doesn't harm the sheer delight of the series. Which still has fans in many unexpected places. I'm not the only left-wing novelist, f'rexample, with a special place in my heart for the Chalet School. And I'm very far from the only SF fan: Farah Mendlesohn and I talked about the series at a convention once, and had a knowledgeable roomful of audience.
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The only news of the night [09 Aug 2015|10:46pm]
So we went up to the city today, to see Jo Walton be celebrated by the Tiptree Award people at Borderlands; and that duly happened, and her work of art was made by our good friend Mark Ferrari, so he and Shannon were there, and everything was lovely and we got to hang out a bit with a lot of people we like a lot, and and and. And we may have bought some books, too.

But nevertheless: the priceless moment of the day? Is provided you by Mac. Who was dashing about this evening like a cat-thing, and Karen was in her study and I in mine, and there was this godawful crash somewhere between us, and we both went to investigate.

And met at the scene of the crime, where - well. Can you guess where the bowl of onions should have been, and the cat not?

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The mighty, how they are fallen into the disrepute of age [07 Aug 2015|06:02pm]
I am not entirely clear when I became this kind of person, but right now I am thinking that every construction site should be required by law to post an address to which one could send irate and anonymous notices, such as "You are not allowed to continue work in this neighbourhood past six o'clock at night." Thus putting them on notice, but staying shy of actually officially complaining. Passive-aggressive for the win, say I; how did it ever acquire such a poor reputation?

And oh yes, aren't I supposed to be working or something? On account of not needing to cook? These hours are precious, and not to be frittered away. "Come in under the shadow of this red rock" - I suppose Lawrence might have read Eliot, tho' I don't think he'd have approved. But it's probably more fun not to have him say it. I like leaving stuff just lying there, for readers to pick up if they're quick. (My first fantasy series has a character called Marron; if you pay attention, you'll find instances of sweet chestnut and horse chestnut and marron glacé in there, purely for the grin of it, though I don't suppose anyone else has ever noticed.)
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Domesticity: the costly therapeusis [07 Aug 2015|03:26pm]
So we had nine for dinner yesterday, which is pretty much average for a Thursday. And I got all stressy in my kitchen, ditto ditto; and the man'oushe need practice but that's okay, I'm happy to put the work in, and the baked kibbeh stuffed with househ was something of a triumph (and immediately dubbed "meatcake" on sight, which is a darn sight easier than "baked kibbeh stuffed with househ", so meatcake it shall be hereafter).

There was a chicken/potato/olive salad too, which could only have gone better if the bloody mini food processor had actually worked, in the matter of reducing a bunch of parsley to little green flecks. I coulda done it with a knife, natch, but I thought the machine would be quicker and I was under time-stress as well as everything-else-stress. Ha. The bloody mini food processor is now in the bin where it belongs. Chopping herbs seems like an absolute minimum, to be frank.

But today, today is all about cleaning and shopping, apparently. I have loaded, run and emptied the dishwasher twice and am working towards a third load (see above, under average Thursdays; nine people make for many dishes, in every sense); and I know we are supposed to deprecate the monopolistic practices of $BigRiverCo, but free same-day delivery is actually kinda awesome (is this just because Bay Area, or do they do this all over?), so a new more serious-minded mini food processor is on its way, because useful; and there's a new colander coming with, because it's a shame to travel alone. And my twelve-inch handy big not-quite-a-wok pan thing is losing its nonstickery at a rate of knots, so I've a new Analon not-quite-a-wok coming to replace it; and I may try packaging up the old one and sending it back to Calphalon, just to see if they're willing to honour their lifetime warranty or not. I suspect not, but it might be worth enquiring.

So yeah, the spending of moneys. If retail therapy makes me feel better, I must've been feeling pretty bad before. And I'm not sure when or whether cleaning became another kind of therapy, but I even found myself considering the kitchen floor this morning. Which I have already dealt with that twice this week, once for the appraiser on Monday and once for the shattered bottle of ginger ale on Wednesday, and a third time would be, well. Overkill, surely? But I might give it a sweep-over, that at least. After I've finished with the countertops and the cooker.

Tonight, as is traditional, is pizza night. Making the man'oushe last night was a reminder that really, I ought to be making my own pizze, if only for the fun of eccentric toppings; but half the point of pizza night is not actually the pizza, it's the not having to cook. After Thursdays, it's nice to have a day off.

Which reminds me, I need to make chicken stock today. I should go and do that now, indeed.

In tangentially related news, I found a dying dragonfly on the sidewalk this morning; and now I know what my current Mars story is actually about, apart from T E Lawrence and maps. Yay me? After 15K words, you'd kind of hope to have some grasp of theme, I think. Honestly, sometimes I look at what I'm doing and despair. Mostly, of course, I look at what I'm not doing and ditto ditto.

As witness, inspiration doesn't always lead to fresh endeavour. I was on my way to the library to write lots, only when I was nearly there I remembered that the lens had popped out of my reading glasses one more time; so I walked half home again to bother the local optician, who fixed it for me because he's a nice boy. So of course I felt obliged to browse his frames, and we had a lovely conversation about rimless specs, and he's bolder than our official glassesfolk and perfectly willing to take on my prescription, so. I coulda spent a lot more money yet. But I didn't. Again I say, yay me? Only then I only got as far as the coffeeshop and hardly wrote a thing, so I am not deserving of your yays. Cleaning and shopping, I told you. Enough to fill a day, if not make a day's actual work.
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I shoulda stayed home [06 Aug 2015|12:16pm]
I was late leaving the house this morning, on account of the imperative necessity of staying home to follow the cricket through to close of play (oh dear, those poor Australians - and that's even before we send them Jeannie...); and my neck's all sore and it hurt even when I was walking, which is normally curative; and the library is full of whisperers and foot-wagglers and pacers-about and I am getting nothing done tho' I'd had a good week up to now. I guess I haven't been feeling sufficiently sorry for myself. I shall make up for that this afternoon, and get all stressy about dinner and wish I was just lying on the sofa instead of dashing about'n'stuff.

...Ah, sod it. Work can wait; I'm going shopping.
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Not so much earwormed as woodwormed [05 Aug 2015|11:49am]
I really do feel like the subject line sometimes: as though certain rhythms, pulses, patterns have been bored through the trunk of my retained experience, the whole 3-D trail of my life as defined in words and music: so that I was actually singing to the boys this morning (well, hell, they were singing to me, for it was breakfast time), and the burthen of my song went

O the brewing of the coffee
And the breakfast of the boys:
Of all the hours we spend in the kitchen
The first one matters most

- and it was only then that I went all "Wait, what? What was that? Something Christmas - carol - oh, right, The Holly and the Ivy. Maybe that's because I keep thinking about the Christmas Mars story - but no, wait, I do this all the time, don't I? That's one of my embedded metres..."

Anyway, there it was. And I did briefly think it might be the most creative thing I produced all day, because I got to the library and all my tables were occupied, and I hate that so much, I was this close to just giving up and going home. But instead here I am, sitting at the wrong table and noodling with a different Mars story while I download and install Firefox, for yes, I am playing with Windows 10 because it's got to be better than 8.1 (indeed, the last thing 8.1 did was fail completely to offer me the automatic download and upgrade for 10, so I took that as a sign and did it manually instead). I'd still rather be in Linux, but it's problematic on this machine and in honesty it does me no actual harm to keep tolerably current in Windows, against those days when I am far from home and using other people's equipment. Of course I could play Supergeek and carry Ubuntu and my chosen software around on a thumb drive, and hack other people's hardware to amaze and instruct - but that's just annoying.

Other people are also annoying, mind. This is not a quiet day at the library, and I'm still not getting any work done worth speaking of. Snarl.
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Notes to self [04 Aug 2015|07:35pm]
If you try to do too many things at once, they will all conspire against you and nothing will turn out well. Or at all. You know this, self; and yet you persist in this folly. Desist. One thing at a time, whenever possible. When not possible, prioritise. *nods*

Second note: grape leaves submerged in a boiling brine will shrink and tighten up quite remarkably. This should never be a surprise, and yet somehow it always is.

Third note: I have apparently sizzled so many chillies in my small frying-pan, the native seasoning is imbued with heat and pepper-flavour. I approve of this. Next step: make it inherent to the iron.
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Sesame seed rolls, aka Chaz'z Bunz [04 Aug 2015|04:34pm]
For some inexplicable reason, our local acquaintance (m'wife included) continue to find my buns hilarious.

As everyone knows, explaining the joke kills the humour.

Therefore, and for no reason else, here is how I make them:

650g bread flour
25g sugar
6g kosher salt
8g instant yeast
350g buttermilk
50g melted butter
1 beaten egg

Mix the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the wet ingredients and let the dough hook at ’em. Keep it to a low speed - 2 is just fine on my KitchenAid - and let it work everything into a dough, then give it another six minutes.

Take the bowl out of the machine, lift the dough ball out of the bowl and dribble in a little olive oil; roll the dough in the oil until it’s coated, then let it sit covered in the bowl until well risen, an hour or two depending on environmental factors and the freshness of your yeast.

Dump the risen dough onto a counter or butcher’s block, divide in half with a dough scraper and then in half again. Roll each quarter into a tube, and divide into three or four pieces, depending whether you want big buns or dinner rolls.

Work each piece into a sphere (ish), and set on a floured reliable baking tray (I use a Silpat sheet on a regular tray; baking parchment is also excellent; natively nonstickerised will do too, or simply well-seasoned will be fine - I could use my trays without the Silpat, but hey, I’ve got it, so why not?).

When you have set out between a dozen and sixteen buns or rolls, you will have no dough left and are done. Cover ’em with plastic wrap and let them rise 45 minutes to an hour - you want a little resistant spring in ’em, so that they’ll rise more in the oven. If they’re over-risen, the most they will do is collapse.

With a pastry-brush, coat the exposed surface of each bun with beaten eggwash, and scatter sesame seeds generously over all.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400F, 200C, gas mark 6 for 15 minutes. Have a look; they might want a couple of minutes more, depending on your oven. When they’re golden brown and hollow-sounding, take ’em out and slide ’em onto a rack to cool. Fight your wife & guests off for at least fifteen minutes, to let the texture set; it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Squishy rolls are nobody’s friend.
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Fortuity, thy name is Happenstance [01 Aug 2015|06:51pm]
I have leftovers in the fridge: some coconut milk, and a few grilled koftas. I thought I might curry them together, but I went poking about in the freezer to see if there was any kind of lamb curry there that I could use as a base.

What I found is labelled "Kofta Coconut Curry: Wants Koftas".

Oh. Okay, then.

It's kinda weird, finding Past-Me suddenly at my elbow with offerings to what was Future-Me back then.
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I go, you go, we all go where Hugo [29 Jul 2015|09:01pm]
There. I have done my duty by the Party, and recorded my Hugo votes. Or in many cases my non-votes, but there you have it. At least I had one friend to vote for (because she's awesome, not because she's my friend), and a few other people I admire.

(Karen's on the phone, which is why I allowed Hugo voting to interrupt our evening. I processed a couple of loads of laundry also. 'Tis all one.)
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Not only in Mexican, but in Mexico... [28 Jul 2015|05:42pm]
I just scanned my passport and sent that, plus a story - "Live at Maly's", for those of you playing along - to a nice lady in Mexico City.

And why would I do this, you ask? Because those nice people who are translating another story of mine - "Going the Jerusalem Mile", for those of you playing along - into Mexican and publishing it therefrom have decided that they want me there in person for the launch, at the Zocalo International Book Fair, from the 8th to the 13th October. Apparently a million people are expected to turn out to see me. I'm quite excited.
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Once a crime writer... [28 Jul 2015|03:20pm]
I wonder if it has yet happened, that a dead body has been discovered because the deceased's Fitbit was recording no steps, and their connected friends grew worried?

[This post brought to you by the guy who just discovered that he's left his own Fitbit in the charger for the last several days, which according to this scenario should have had police knocking on his door by now.]
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A blank look and a sharp sarcastic eye [27 Jul 2015|10:43am]
People. You know how I'm always telling you that I'm a minimalist at heart, if only I wasn't also a hoarder?

Well, look at this pretty thing. I had to clean off all my desk in tribute, the wood swept as clear as the keys:


Why yes, it really is entirely blank of key. And clicky.


I've been typing for, um. Forty-two years now. I taught myself one Easter holiday, on a mechanical typewriter, the big office Imperial my sister had borrowed from a friend of our mother's. It was a rare case of doing the groundwork against a future need: I was going to be a writer, and therefore I should know how to type, and that was worth three weeks' investment.

I didn't need to touch-type, though. I was going to be a writer, not a copy-typist; everything would be new, original creation, so I could look at the keyboard as much as I liked.*

So I learned to type, and banked the skill; and a couple of years later acquired a portable typewriter, and wrote stories and poetry and plays alongside school essays, and started novels I could never finish, and like that. Somewhere in there, I touch-typed my first word, entirely by accident; it was "the", and it just happened. I was looking at the paper, reading what I'd just typed and working out what came next, and my fingers simply did what my mind foresaw. It was like magic; I was enchanted.

And then I sold my first stories, and started to build a career in parallel with a life; and bought a secondhand electric typewriter. It was never beautiful, but it did what I needed for a couple of years and would have gone on a lot longer if I hadn't walked past a typewriter shop in town and glanced through the window and fallen in love.

I had never seen such a thing. It was vast and angular and black, more like a spaceship console than a typewriter; and it was electronic, which was clearly a vastly superior thing; and it had a one-line screen so that you could see what you'd typed before committing it to paper. And it would do centring and right-justifying and all sorts of fancy stuff. And it cost six hundred quid (as against its list price of twelve hundred, so it was a bargain as well as being the most expensive thing I'd ever dreamed of buying), and thus the first (and not the last) opportunity for a bank manager to suck air through his teeth and shake his head and say "On paper, you're a very bad risk, but..."

I finished my first novels on that machine, the commissioned pseudonymous romantic thriller that I wrote in three weeks flat and the serious Chaz Brenchley thriller that took me four years to write and then rewrite before it sold. And then it did sell; and practically my first act after that was to give the bank manager another chance to laugh, before he lent me three grand for my first computer.

Which was an Apricot, and lovely, and its keyboard was only marginally a let-down after the vast Olivetti. The Apricot was stolen three years later, and I bought a Dell; the keyboard was a marginal disappointment after the Apricot, but hey. Compatibility was a great compensation.

And then there was the Gateway, and then another Dell, and and and. And the RSI grew so bad I needed an ergonomic keyboard, and I wanted the Maltron I couldn't afford, and bought Microsoft instead; and I've been through, I don't know, four or five MS Naturals. The cats have killed a couple, and a couple have just died, and I've always just gone back and bought another because they're easy to find and I'm used to them and they do help. And it amuses me to type on something that other people can't use. Despite being a creature of habit, I do have this apparent ability to swap muscle-memory mindmaps of key positions, almost without hesitation; I use a laptop in the library and the desktop here at home, and never worry either way. But of course I never liked the touch of a membrane keyboard, after growing up with mechanical switches; and now - well. Now I have Das Keyboard.

It's not ergonomic (tho' maybe that will come?). What it is, it's heavy on the desk and light under the fingers, it's charmingly clicky and ridiculously cool to look at, an expression of sheer arrogance, "What's that you say? Letters on the keys? Why on earth...?" And it took me about two minutes actually to get used to that, to learn that I do glance down for some key-combinations (HTML commands and the like) but that I don't really need to; and already I am loving this thing. If it's true that a clear desk aids creativity, maybe it's true of a clear keyboard too. If not, pfft. This is worth having just for the fun of it. It makes me grin, and want to type some more.

*Bless my heart.
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The bear went over the mountain, which nobody can deny [27 Jul 2015|10:36am]
One of the joys of clearing and cleaning my desk, apart from the sheer pleasure of throwing away ninety per cent of what was on it, is the discovery of random scraps of note. I am really not a note-taker; I have whole notebooks that I carried about for months or years just in case, and they remain entirely blank; but every now and then I am moved to scribble something crucial on the classic back of an envelope. And then, because I am not a note-taker and have no system, they tend to be left on the desktop until lost under a heap of accumulating papers. And then rediscovered months or years later, and - well.

This one says:

"Don't try to eat what I eat."

They called it the catharsis, mostly because they didn't speak Greek.

People, I have no idea. But isn't it lovely? I should preserve it in imperishable crystal, to be an heirloom of my house.
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What, all my pitted cherries and their jam? [26 Jul 2015|04:39pm]
[Some of you will not have seen what I did there, in the subject line. Others will now be whistling frantically, or performing other superstitious gyrations. So it goes. My inner monologue is not so much informed as earwormed by my teenage obsessions; sometimes that spills over, in a structure or a rhythm or a pun. I remain hopeful that even for those who don't know the original, some hint of layering remains, a suggestion of texture, of currents below the surface, something.]

Anyway: I made sour cherry jam yesterday. The sour cherry season is short, and the fruit is concommitantly expensive; those two pounds will likely be the only sour cherries to come into my hands this year. Which is why I'm barely even tempted by a cherry-pitter; I can pit two pounds with the butt end of a chopstick, and not lose patience. Quite. (That is about my limit, though, so it may be as well that two pounds butts also against my financial limit.)

Anyway, cherry jam: chop the cherries after pitting them, and tip 'em into your new maslin pan with the zest & squeezings of a couple of lemons. Clap a lid on, bring them warmly to the boil to draw the juices out, and then simmer for ten minutes or so. Add a pound of sugar per two pounds of fruit that you started with, and boil until the setting point. Pour into warm jars (you'll get about a pint and a half, per two pounds of fruit), seal according to your local traditions, and you're done. In my case, done for the year, alas. Unless I try making sweet cherry jam for contrast.

In other news, of course I ordered the sexy blank keyboard, so today is all about reorganising the office. Increasing chaos will eventually morph into clarity and order, or I'm an uncle eleven times over. *nods*
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