Friday, March 15, 2013

Yes, I was serious

New blog address:

I suspect the design will be a work in progress for a while. Learning how to use WordPress is going to take some time.

Ironically, I wrote a lengthy post over there and when I went to post it, it disappeared. Turns out that it was a Google Chrome problem. Considering that it was all about how angry I am at Google, I thought the software was probably reading my mind. I've now switched to Firefox and I know it's silly, but I miss the curvy tabs. Firefox just isn't as pretty as Chrome. But pretty is as pretty does, and since Google hates me, I hate it, too.

Anyway, please, come join me over at my new site. I promise I'll be making it prettier as soon as I can -- plus, very exciting, once I learn how, I think I can set it up so that I can post stories and stuff directly on my site, which would be very cool, IMO. Not that I'm opposed to people paying me for stories, but I'm trying to cut back on my coffee consumption anyway. Also, it looks like I might be able to set it up so that my entire RSS feed can show up in a page on my site, so you could see all the random stuff I read. I'm not totally sure that will work yet, so don't consider that a promise, it's just an idea. But it would be kind of cool if it works -- like having a continually updating blogroll.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Reader and Maps

Woke up to today to discover that Google is killing Reader. I'm shocked, dismayed, horrified -- and a little bit furious. 

Google Reader, if you don't know, is an RSS reader. I use it to follow (as of today) 137 blogs. My bookmarks toolbar has a Subscribe button, which is a javascript. Every time I stumble across a blog that looks interesting, I click the Subscribe button. When I want to read blogs, I use the Next button, also in my bookmarks toolbar, and it takes me to the next item in my feed. My internet experience isn't that I check out a few news sites in the morning and randomly look up a few bookmarked sites. Instead I look at information that is exactly tailored to my interests, blogs on writing and cooking, self-publishing and book reviews, some games and fan sites, mommy blogs and people that I just think are interesting. 

I used to use iGoogle for that purpose. I had a home page that was exactly what I wanted. And then Google decided to kill iGoogle. It took me months to get my web experience back to a place where it was comfortable. Losing iGoogle was like losing television -- or even more, like losing access to a telephone. I'd turn to a thing I needed, a basic tool that I took for granted, and it wasn't there anymore. Finally, finally, after months, I got settled into this new system with Reader. And now Google is killing Reader? 

Well, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? Not going to happen. As far as I'm concerned, Google is now officially untrustworthy

Google's killing Reader?  Fine, I'm going to kill Google -- at least from my computer. 

That means saying goodbye to Google Chrome. Okay, I can use Firefox. Saying goodbye to Google Drive. No problem, I'll go back to Microsoft. Moving my blog -- that's okay, lots of people say that WordPress is better than blogger anyway. Giving up gmail means changing my email address in lots of places, but that's okay, too. Maybe I'll get my own domain with an email address or two included. I'm fine with giving up Google shopping: I usually wind up on Amazon in the end anyway, so no regrets there. I use Google Talk, but I've used other chat options, I can live without it. I've never liked Google + at all, so giving that up is not a problem.

Google, of course, has an assortment of other tools, but I can live without them, too. Google is not essential for anything, even search, except .... Google Maps. 

Which brings me back to the point of this post. I will be purging Google from my life in April. It's going to be a big project and I won't have time to tackle it until then. But when I do, how do I replace Google Maps? It's the one Google tool for which I can think of no substitute. Any ideas? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three times in my life I have been ridiculously sick. Not sick like major illness, scary life-threatening disease sick. Sick like ridiculous.

The first time was twenty years ago. I got sick over Thanksgiving and I stayed sick until February. It was the first Christmas after my grandfather died. We spent it in Florida, and I can remember being absolutely miserable, trying to be a good tourist, visiting Disneyworld, shopping at flea markets and so on, but with the energy of a sloth. I went to the doctor when I got back home with a fever of 103. She told me I had the flu. I said, "but you don't understand, I've been sick for six weeks." She said, "you've probably caught every flu going around." Gee, that's helpful.

The second time was the summer of 2000. We lived in a second-floor apartment. The laundry room was down the stairs, across the parking lot, and down another flight of stairs. I sat on the steps and tried not to cry between loads because I was so tired that the walk felt like a marathon. At one point during that summer, I called to make a doctor's appointment. I wound up spending an hour on the phone with the nurse, because she was very committed to the idea that I should go to the emergency room right away, and I was very committed to the idea that I was much, much, much too sick to go to an emergency room. After about two months of being miserable, I was watching television and saw a commercial for my allergy medication that said "side effects can  include flu-like symptoms." I promptly stopped taking it. I promptly got better.

The last time was in Santa Cruz, right before we moved to Florida. I got sick in March. I went away on a business trip. I got better. I came home, I got sick again. After about a month, I went to the doctor, was diagnosed with a sinus infection, started antibiotics, went on another business trip, got better. Came home. Got sick again. More antibiotics. Went on vacation, got better. Came home. Got sick again. Then got seriously sick with shingles.

Some people apparently have mild cases of shingles. I was not one of them. The pain from shingles felt like bolts of electricity zapping my side. It was ... well, I did natural childbirth. I've got a pretty good pain tolerance. One time, I twisted my ankle and four days later a friend -- a former professional biker who'd quit because he'd injured himself so badly -- told me it was the worst-looking sprained ankle he'd ever seen and he couldn't believe I hadn't gone to the doctor. (I did after that; it was just a sprain.) I'm not really tough -- I hate pain, I do my best to avoid it. But I'm reasonably stoic while experiencing it. Not with shingles. Shingles was hell.

After that, I put two and two together and figured out that my house was making me sick. We had a mold problem, I have allergies, it was a bad combo. We moved out, and I got better.

All of this leads us to now. R and I have both been sick -- with ups and downs, but more lows than highs -- since he came home on New Year's Day with a cold. I am very, very tired of it. I'll be better for three days, start to feel like life is in my control again, and then, pow, back down. I'll have a day or two where I think, eh, I'm just a little allergic and then I try to get something done and have to take a nap halfway through. But it's most frustrating not to know for sure what the problem is. Is it 1) flu leading to colds leading to flu and back again, the viruses simply winning or 2) a reaction to my current allergy pills or 3) allergies or 4) something else entirely?

We are both on antibiotics now. I have a horrible history with antibiotics, absolutely horrible. Emergency room visits and side effects that lingered for months. And yet I'm desperate enough to take the chance because in nine days, we are getting on an airplane and going to Belize. And damn it, I am not going to be sick.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Long story, but I posted a bad link on and it's going to take me a while to fix it and post a better one there. So in the meantime, just in case: Menus at the New York Public Library (This is an incredibly fun site to browse if you're interested in food and history.)

I'm having far too entertaining a time writing Doctor Who fanfiction. I suppose it's good that I'm enjoying writing in any way, shape, or form, and I should just be happy about that. But it does mean that I ought to start looking for a serious job. If what I need to write needs to be free, then I need to also figure out some way to eat. In three months, R finishes school and both of us are set free. In my case, for the first time in decades, my job doesn't need to be boundaried by his school being my first and foremost responsibility. In his case, the future awaits. Whee. Sort of. Change is always both exciting and scary, and this sort of change is about the biggest there is. I think it'll be ... interesting ... for both of us. Also, I think I'll pour myself another glass of wine before thinking any more about it.

Random other note: Amanda Palmer's TED talk? Crazy beautiful. Also scary. I am not that brave. Just...not.

Edit: It amuses me that I used "free" to mean both without cost and without responsibility. They're both different and yet not.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Rational Harry Potter

If you like Harry Potter and if you also like science, then you absolutely must read this: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

It is brilliant. No, really -- incredibly, amazingly, scarily brilliant. It takes some of the history and most of the world of the Harry Potter series (the settings, the politics, the wizarding war) and gives them a twist, resulting in a totally different story. It's Harry Potter as if Ender Wiggins from Ender's Game was the hero.

It is also incredibly funny. I laughed out loud, literally, more than once and a couple times so hard there were tears in my eyes. It's over 500,000 words long so a serious investment of time, but worth every single minute. It's the best thing I've read in...I don't know how long.

A little tiny sample:

"I... see," Professor McGonagall said. "And if, perhaps, you were to discover the entrance to Salazar Slytherin's legendary Chamber of Secrets, an entrance that you and you alone could open..."

"I would close the entrance and report to you at once so that a team of experienced magical archaeologists could be assembled," Harry said promptly. "Then I would open up the entrance again and they would go in very carefully to make sure that there was nothing dangerous. I might go in later to look around, or if they needed me to open up something else, but it would be after the area had been declared clear and they had photographs of how everything looked before people started tromping around their priceless historical site."

Professor McGonagall sat there with her mouth open, staring at him like he'd just turned into a cat.

"It's obvious if you're not a Gryffindor," Harry said kindly."

Yes, it's a Ravenclaw version of Harry. He calculates the odds, he thinks ahead, he uses reason and Bayesian probability and ...  really, you should just go read it right now, because it is that good. No, even better than that. Really.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Implicit memory

Have you ever tried to teach someone else to tie their shoelaces?

Tying shoelaces isn't hard. Until you explain it. And then the whole thing falls apart. I never managed to teach R to tie his shoes. In fact, what happened was pretty much that I lost the ability to tie my own. He finally fumbled his way through figuring it out himself when he was about ten or so, and meanwhile I haven't tried to tie a shoelace in about a decade.

I had the same experience with teaching him to drive, aka failing to teach him to drive. The more I thought about how to shift smoothly from one gear to the next, the more I couldn't remember how to do it myself. I finally made my dad give him a lesson and Chris an explanation of what was happening, and he worked the skill out on his own.

I think the same thing is happening to my writing ability. I read a story last night that I wrote a year ago. I remember writing it. It took me about an hour. I didn't agonize, I didn't think. I just had an idea and I wrote it. I never revised it or even edited it. It's a darn good little story (although if you've never seen Eureka you won't get the context.)

All the reading about writing, learning about writing, thinking about writing, that I've been doing is just making it harder to write. Sure, I understand filter words and point-of-view now, I see repetitions and cliches -- but I used to just be able to tell a damn story and everything I'm learning about writing is getting in the way of *that*.

Writing was an implicit memory skill for me. I need to stop paying attention to how I'm doing it and just get back to doing it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The mom, getting madder and madder

I am now the mom, sitting at home, getting madder and madder. I'm not quite pacing the floor, but I've definitely wandered around a little more than usual, and I'm having to fight the urge to grit my teeth.

R is an hour late getting home from school. He is not answering his phone and he has my car. He does NOT have my permission to be keeping my car.

He called from a friend's house and wanted to discuss dropping economics. Um, no. No. That's not a discussion to have over the phone. That's not a decision to make because you don't feel like working for one afternoon. He's going away for the weekend, and he's behind in economics, so the simplest solution to him is to quit. Yeah, no.

We're busy making all sorts of interesting plans: he's going away this weekend to visit a friend, we're going away together in March, he's making summer plans, and next year if I can get all the stupid paperwork arranged, he's going to have a hugely fun and exciting year, so I think he's suffering from an acute case of senior-itis. Unfortunately for him, he's a junior.

I don't want to be the authoritarian dictator saying 'if you're not getting As, you're not going out,' (for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that I believe the right time to screw up is now, not later) but at the same time, I'm frustrated when I see him making decisions that seem short-sighted. I suppose that every parent goes through this.

Hmm, I just realized that part of my frustration is because I'm getting over-invested due to dealing with all this complicated paperwork. Maybe I should be making him do that. It's his year, after all. But I don't think he even can: it all calls for my signatures.

If we were birds, he'd be the baby bird sitting on the side of the nest and I'd be the momma bird screeching, "flap harder, flap harder, you're not flapping hard enough" while simultaneously trying to decide whether to give him the big kick out or grab on because he's just not flapping hard enough. Metaphorical birds, of course. I'm pretty sure real momma birds just fly away and leave the babies to figure it out on their own when they're ready.