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February 17th, 2015
What's blooming in my yard today? Winter honeysuckle, snowdrops, snow crocus, daffodils (both King Alfred and February Gold), regular crocus, alyssum, anemones, dandelions, those little purple weeds whose name I can never remember, and those little white weeds that I think are called don't-touch-me because they shoot their seeds out in a really satisfying yet irritating way when you do, some weeks from now.
My sympathies to everyone under several feet of snow in the east. It's not far in the back of my mind that we may have a drought this summer because we're not building up snowpack in the mountains now, but I'll enjoy this spring while it happens.
January 8th, 2015
I am/je suis Charlie Hebdo/Ahmed Merabet/Daniel Pearl/Marcela Yarce/Malala Yousafzai/Ali Ferzat
I am Charlie Hebdo. Why am I Charlie Hebdo?
I am Charlie Hebdo because I sometimes say outrageous things, and I have the right -- I believe very strongly that I have the right -- to say those outrageous things. I have the right to say those outrageous things even if they are stupid and offensive, even if I am wrong to say those things.
I am not Charlie Hebdo because I think I should not say those outrageous things. I think I should not offend my neighbors. And yet I believe -- I believe very strongly -- that I have the right to offend my neighbors, and that sometimes I must offend my neighbors.
I am Ahmed Merabet because I defend my right to say outrageous things, and your right to say outrageous things, and everyone's right to say outrageous things. I am Ahmed Merabet because I defend your right to say things that outrage me, and your right to go on living in freedom after you say those things. I am Ahmed Merabet because I am not brave enough to be Ahmed Merabet in truth, but I am brave enough to call out his bravery. It was simple bravery in the course of doing his job, and he died doing that job, which included protecting -- trying to protect -- people who insulted the things in which he believed.
And while I am claiming solidarity with people who were braver than I am and who are now dead, I will also claim to be a slain American journalist and a slain Mexican journalist and a living Pakstani schoolgirl shot in her face and a living Syrian cartoonist with both hands broken. I cannot be as brave as any of them, or at least I have not been called to be as brave as any of them. All I do now is to say that I see their bravery, and I hope that if I should face any of the impossible, horrible conditions they faced, I could face them as bravely as they did, even though I fear that I could not. I witness their lives and their suffering and I claim solidarity with them, knowing that to do so is equal parts pompous and humble.
December 3rd, 2014
Glenn and I have been an item for 29 years today. Twenty-nine years ago, we went to the Old College Inn, ate a pile of nachos, drank a couple Redhooks, and shifted from being co-workers to whatever it is people are who have agreed that they're seeing each other socially, seriously, for the next while.
I'm not bored yet.
November 27th, 2014
Remembering Stu Shiffman
I can't remember meeeting Stu, but it must have happened at the 1976 worldcon in Kansas City. By the 1977 world in Miami Beach, I knew Stu and had a minor crush on him, which he ignored. Stu always sucked at flirtation, but he was fabulous at friendship.
During the late seventies, it was easy to take the train from New Haven to New York City for a weekend and stay on somebody's couch or floor. Stu's floor in Washington Heights was not the most comfortable place to sleep, but I was more flexible then. I didn't go often, because train fare was about eight bucks round-trip, and I didn't have eight bucks to spare. I went often enough that I can remember Stu explaining Indian food to me. "It's really good this way," he'd say, sweat and tears streaming down his face from the five-star hotness. Mine came with one star, because my midwestern taste buds had never experienced curry before, let alone hot curry. Stu also demonstrated the wonderful sauna qualities of Szechuan cuisine for me ("See those dark red things? Don't eat those"). I think we didn't learn about spicy Mexican cuisine until we had both moved to the west coast years later.
Stu was utterly sweet and kind and quietly fierce. If I were completely collected, I'd have an anecdote to go with each of those adjectives, but I'm not, so I don't. I needed a shoulder a lot when we were in our twenties, and his was reliable.
We used to worry that he'd never find a partner -- because he didn't look! because he didn't notice when people exhibited great interest in him! because you would need to whack him upside the head and then quote lines from about fifty old movies before he'd get the point! -- and then Andi Shechter whacked him upside the head and knew which old movie lines to quote. They've been partners now for so long that it's a little weird to remember that they became partners at a point that we thought then was really late in life -- around thirty or so, practically middle-aged. Now, I think it's the stage when you just get going. It was about the same time that I found my partner myself.
Andi made Stu so happy. Stu made Andi so happy. She got his jokes; he got her jokes. Their interests weren't all the same, but they overlapped in a way that worked well for both of them. They lived together in Boston for a while, then moved to Seattle, where they lived in our basement for a few weeks before moving into the ground floor apartment in Greenwood where they lived until very recently. It was downstairs from Jerry and Suzle's apartment, a continuation in a way of the New York neighborhood where Jerry and Stu had shared an apartment.
They had some serious stuff to deal with over the years. Complicated health, job, family, finance: the things everyone has to deal with, only more so, much more so. They supported each other throughout. The last two years, since Stu's stroke, have been exceptionally hard. Their wedding in July, after so many years, was a joyous occasion, one of the best parties I've ever attended.
Oh, there's more I want to write, much more, but for now I'll stop. Goodbye, Stu.
June 15th, 2014
You know where I live sometimes? I live in databases. It was my job, when I had a job, and it's what I do as a volunteer. Today I ticked a box in a database to mark Jay Lake as deceased, and it hit me, as it hadn't really hit me until now, that Jay is really dead. It's not that I hadn't known it before, and it's not that I hadn't been sad about it before, but it hadn't gut-punched me before. Jay's dead, and today I had to do something minor and official about that, and I sat down on the floor and sobbed for a few moments.
Jay Lake was my cancer buddy. He was probably your cancer buddy, too. He was cancer buddies with a lot of people, people he knew, people he'd never meet, and probably people who will find his words years from now and take comfort and courage from them.
Jay was my buddy in real life before he was my cancer buddy, but in a much more casual way. I saw him at Orycons and at Clarion West parties; we talked about writing and about how Clarion West had missed the boat, turning him down years before. Jay was always a colorful presence in his Hawai'ian shirts; hell, he'd have been colorful in white shirts and black suits. He dueled with pool noodles instead of swords, sold manuscripts at auction like a pro selling cattle, could double an entendre in several languages, classical and modern.
We started corresponding and talking about cancer after his first dramatic diagnosis. At that point, my sister was a several-year survivor of colon cancer, and I could say to Jay, been there with someone I loved, she made it, you can, too, and these were the things she did that made chemo less horrible. A while later, Jay was doing well, but my sister had colon cancer again, and Jay could say to me, hang in there, how's your sister, these are the things I learned my first time around. He helped me get through that fear of losing her, a fear which was stronger the second time through.
And then Jay had cancer again. My sister and Jay would pass messages via me to each other about their chemo ports and dealing with various gastrointestinal issues. They never met; they never spoke; I'm not sure I ever told Jay my sister's name (her name is Gini). Maybe they had a camaraderie of illness, or maybe they had just learned that their support system got stronger when it functioned as more of a network of people supporting multiple sick people.
Gini's doing well now; every day of her life is a bonus. We've lost Jay, and I expect I'll miss him at random points for the rest of my life, just as I miss my other deceased friends and relations at random points already. I got no great philosophical wrapup for this entry. Get on with living your life; Jay lived his thoroughly while he was alive.
March 17th, 2014
In praise of the somewhat good humble text editor
Most of you won't care about this, but if you need to edit some messy data in text format or look closely at some long, tangled lines of code, Ian Mead's UltraEdit is the best. It's been a while since I've had to use it, but it's still the best.
And now, back to that messy data.
February 7th, 2014
Asimov's table of contents
A few days ago, I got my copy of the March 2014 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction
, with a story by Cat Rambo on the cover. Opposite the table of contents, there's an ad for this summer's Clarion West Writers Workshop
, with instructors Paul Park, Kij Johnson, Ian McDonald, Hiromi Goto, Charlie Jane Anders, and John Crowley. It's a fine line-up.
And then in the table of contents, there's that cover novelette by Cat Rambo, Clarion West 2005, and short stories by Jay O'Connell, Clarion West 1994, Genevieve Williams, Clarion West 2002, and Dominica Phetteplace, Clarion West 2007. I think, yeah, this is why I volunteer for this workshop.
My smug feeling lasts long enough for me to flip through the contents of the previous issue, which had only one CW alumnus in it (Greg Beatty, CW 2000). Well, the hell with smugness. If you're a beginning science fiction or fantasy writer and you're interested in going to a challenging six-week summer workshop, Clarion West might be the place for you. Apply by midnight Pacific Time on March 1; apply by midnight on February 10 to get $10 off on the application fee.
December 29th, 2013
If you have ever made your own lined drapes with formal headers, I now know that no one can possibly have properly appreciated your work. I applaud you. I don't even need to see the drapes you made in order to know that you deserve applause.