zanzjan: (manuscript)
My schedule, as it stands, for Arisia:

Saturday 10:00am:
Critiquing Someone Else's Work (Bullfinch)

Saturday 2:30pm:
Killing Characters (Bullfinch)

Saturday 8:30pm
Are Rules Meant To Be Broken? (Bullfinch)

Sunday 4:00pm
Reading (Hale)
No idea what I'm reading yet. It's four of us in a 1:15 slot, so it'll either be something short or something you'll only get to hear part of. It'll definitely be something new, though.
zanzjan: (manuscript)
Yeah, I'm bad about posting. LJ still won't load from my house, because yes, I'm still stuck on dialup. No better future in sight. But I'm here right now, right? That counts. I was pretty bad about the not-writing pledge thing, because it turns out not writing is really depressing. But I don't want to talk about that.

Here's what I want to talk about: Weight Watchers tried to kill me last week.

Yeah, I know, right? Unbelievable.

Over the last year, my sensitivity to peppers has increased substantially. It is now bad enough that if I can smell the peppers, I have an immediate adrenalin/anxiety/asthma reaction. This means that I spend a LOT of time standing in grocery stores reading the damned ingredients lists on things, and you'd be really surprised at how many foods have bell peppers in them. Anyway, so I bought a Weight Watchers Smart Ones Thai Noodle thing for my lunch, and nowhere, anywhere in the ingredients, were peppers listed. So I bought it, ate it, and my face swelled up like a fucking balloon. Three benadryl later (yes, I have an epi-pen; no, I really don't want to have to use it) I called WW's customer service line to confirm if, indeed, it had peppers in it that weren't listed. I mean, I knew it had peppers in it, because GIANT HEAD. But the question was, was it bells, or has my sensitivity expanded (as predicted) to include other peppers? That's kind of important to know. But they couldn't tell me. On the ingredients list was the item "spice", and they had no idea what that was. Because that's really comforting, knowing that they can't even tell you what they put in their own food, even when they just nearly killed you with it.*

So, fuck Weight Watchers. I can't trust their ingredients lists. But now I'm thinking, can I trust anybody's? Anyone who uses catchall crap descriptors like "spice", at any rate? And that's a lot of packaged food makers. And that's really depressing. )-:

What I think this means is that, inevitably, I am drawing nearer to the point where I need to start cooking the vast majority of my own food, because it's the only way I can trust I know what's in it. I like cooking. I'm pretty good at cooking. But you know what? Cooking takes time, and time is one of my scarcest resources. As it is, writing time comes out of sleep time. If I start cooking a lot, what gives? I have some good crockpot recipes that have the advantage of being mostly hands-off, as long a I can get in the habit of planning enough in advance, but not enough that they won't get dull fast.

All of which is my longwinded way of saying, hey, I think I need some new recipes. Reasonably healthy. Not too complicated. Not involving peppers. Got one? Want to share? Please do!

---
(* but they did offer me coupons so I could buy more of their food, because when playing russian roulette, why pull the trigger only once?)
zanzjan: (manuscript)
Turns out I'm really not-good at the not-writing thing.

NaNoMoNoMo

Oct. 28th, 2013 11:35 am
zanzjan: (manuscript)
November 1st is right around the corner, and with it comes the annual exercise in mass sleep-deprivation called National Novel-Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. I first did NaNo in 2001, pretty much on a dare from my best friend and as a one-off lark, and I've pretty much been writing ever since.

In fact, I've reached the point where writing consumes almost all of my spare time, and I'm not convinced that's entirely healthy for me. I decided that this year I'm going to do the anti-NaNo. I finished the first draft of my novel in the wee hours of Sunday morning this past weekend, and I want some distance from it before I leap into revisions, and I really need to get some things done around the house, and, dammit, I'd really like to READ some books, so I have declared November my own personal No More Novel / NaNoMoNoCleaMyHouMo.

Here are the things I hope to accomplish:
* get actual sleep
* clean my house
* read some books
* finish redecorating the downstairs bathroom
* spend some sustained quality time with my kids
* make curtains for the living room and fix all the uneven curtain rods installed by the previous owners
* attempt to learn a musical instrument
* watch some TV and movies
* slack
* think about all the great things I can write in December.

Elder child thinks I should paint some paintings too.

I have left the possibility open of working on a short or two during November, but only if I can't resist.

Anyway, here's wishing everyone participating in NaNo luck with their 50k words, and I'll be thinking of you while I'm busy with my 50k chores and distractions. :)
zanzjan: (manuscript)
Going, it seems.
zanzjan: (manuscript)
I was speculating across a couple different social media venues last night about what would happen if you made (and ate) sausages made out of zombies, and a tweet of mine to that effect was auto-RT'd by a sausage company.

Um.
zanzjan: (manuscript)
Re: the SFWA election results just announced.

Steven Gould won handily to be president, 444 votes to 46 for his opponent.

Now, it happens that I know Steven Gould, and he's a really good guy. He'll make a fine president. He's intelligent, engaged in the community, and funny. (Also, his wife is one of the most awesome people I know.) There's nothing about him, as far as I know, that would give someone pause in voting for him. It seems, therefore, fairly reasonable to conclude that the 46 votes for his opponent were votes FOR the opponent, rather than votes against Gould.

Which would be okay -- that's how democracy works -- if the other guy wasn't THIS GUY. ("Beale suggested that honor killings, throwing acid in women's faces and even genital mutilation benefited women because they prevent female independence and promiscuity, which he repeatedly referred to as social ills") This is the guy who publicly stated, when he was first considering a run for President, that his platform was "going to involve disenfranchising all of the female members".

And this is important, especially in this week when an established Hard SF short story writer was told by a major publisher that they weren't interested in looking at her work because she's a woman.

The idea that 10% of SFWA professionals supported this guy, in 2013, is frankly very depressing. 2%? I could have lived with that. There's always a couple of those burnt, fucked-up little mutant potato chips at the bottom of every bag, after all. But 10%? Really?

For a group that prides itself on envisioning and embracing the future, sure feels like the 1950's around here sometimes.
zanzjan: (manuscript)
Eldest Child likes to pose "Would you rather?" questions. I hereby pass them on to you.

Would you rather:
A. Every time you spoke, and finished a sentence, you would loudly go "MEEP!" and actually have the hair on the top of your head leap up and down, OR:
B. Whenever you are not speaking, the entire time you are not speaking, you (in a low voice) drone on "humminahuminahumminahummina".

hurm.

Mar. 4th, 2013 03:13 pm
zanzjan: (manuscript)
So, I've let my paid LJ account lapse, mostly because I can't even get it to load from home, which is in the Land of No High-Speed Internet. That's pretty much why I haven't been posting much either. I'm mulling around the idea of renewing, but I just don't know. Would anyone actually miss me if I didn't?
zanzjan: (Default)
Four months in dialup Hell and I still feel it was a better choice than doing business with HughesNet.
zanzjan: (bent nail)
(No, I haven't sunk low enough to call HughesNet again. I am comfortable with my decision to pretend they don't exist, mingled with the occasional desire to start my own satellite internet company just to put them out of business.)

This time, the Culprit of Callous Calamity is Sears. more suckage, during which Suzanne falls apart )
zanzjan: (Default)
Or, why I don't & won't have satellite internet.

So, recently, I bought a house and moved to another town. The new town is wonderful in all possible ways, with a fantastic school system, and the new house has enough rooms for the twins to each have their own, thus ending the bedtime fisticuffs. The yard is bigger -- big enough for a small orchard and a huge strawberry patch, only dwarfed by the size of the raspberry & blackberry patch. There are wild turkeys in the yard:


Is it paradise? Indeed it would be, if it were not for a simple, sad, almost unbelievable fact: there is no high-speed internet service, cable, DSL, or cell signal. It really is camping in the woods. My only choices are satellite internet, or dialup.

The previous owners had satellite internet. They left their dish and the modem for me. Ah, said I, I can use this!. It's not ideal -- I have coworkers using their service and they tell me it's almost as slow as dialup, and there's a download limit per day, and their customer service isn't well-regarded -- but it's better than nothing, and better than dial-up, right?

So the day after I close on the new house, I call the satellite co. I try to sign up for service, but they tell me I can't use the old equipment, and have to get new equipment ($400 out of pocket, or lease for $9/mo and at the end of my service I have to climb up on my roof, disconnect everything, and return it.) I don't like this answer, but I want internet, so I say okay. I sign up for the basic plan ($39.99/mo) and they schedule me for installation on 7/5.

On 7/3, the (independent) installer calls me to tell me that the satellite co. double-booked him, and he can't come out until 7/14.

On 7/14, I get a message from the installer that he "ran out of equipment" and had to re-order and will need to reschedule me for when he has more.

I call back the installer on 7/14 (a Saturday), and express that it's frustrating to have been rescheduled twice, esp. because he ran out of equipment, when I have perfectly good equipment already installed in my house that the satellite co. says I can't use. He tells me that's not true, and to call them back and tell them I want to use my existing equipment, get a SAN number and PIN, and he can come hook me up on Monday afternoon. Because I can't look up any numbers from my house (no internet, no cell) I go to my old house, look up the number for the satellite co., and call them. I am put in the call queue, with overly perky music that's on a very short loop, and a voice that interrupts approximately once every minute fifteen seconds to tell me that my call is very important to them.

After being on hold for an hour, I use my cellphone to open up a chat window with the satellite co. My landline is still perkily chirping hold music at me. Chat agent tells me she can't do anything but gives me a different number to call. I end the chat, hang up the phone on hold (after 1 hour 25 minutes, without being answered), call the new number, and find out their office is now closed and won't reopen until Monday.

Sunday night (7/15) the installer calls me and I explain what's happening, and he gives me a new number to try. I call that number, and someone picks up, listens to my explanation of what's happening, puts me on hold for a few minutes, then tells me someone from "the main office" will call me right back ("in a couple of minutes") with the numbers I need for the installer.

Two hours pass and no one calls me back. I call again, and am told the main office is closed and to call on Monday. I call the installer and tell him I'm going to have to try to get the numbers on Monday.

Monday morning (today) arrives. I go to work (because, yanno, it's Monday morning) and call the same number I'd called Sunday night, explain things again, and when the agent finds out it's not new equipment tells me "no one here will help you with that" and hangs up on me. So I call the satellite co. directly. I explain things again. I am told I need the serial number off the modem, but I'm not at home anymore.
"Can't you just look it up from the previous owner's account?" I ask.
"No, because we have no way of knowing where the equipment came from," Agent #1 tells me.
"But it's the same street address, it's exactly the same equipment in exactly the same place," says I.
Agent: "We have no way of knowing that that's really where you got the equipment."
Me: "What do you mean? It's the same equipment in the same place. What's not to know?"
Agent: "I haven't accused you of being dishonest yet."
Me: "What do you mean 'yet'? Are you going to accuse me of being dishonest later?"
Agent: "Don't put words in my mouth." (starts yelling at me, and talking over me as I try to find out what the fuck the problem is that she can't just look it up.) Finally, realizing I wasn't getting anywhere, I decided screw them. Dialup was looking better.

Then my daycare calls: Son of Mine is running a fever. So I leave work, pick up Son, and head home. It occurs to me that I now have the opportunity to get the serial number off the modem. I decide to give the satellite co. one more chance.

I call the satellite co. from home. I explain it's used equipment, I've got the serial number, and I just need the SAN# and PIN#. They look up the modem, it's a good number, everything's all set...

...except it's been less than 45 days since the previous owners closed their account, and they have a window where they can reactivate, and until then they can't set it up for someone else. I explain as how the previous owners SOLD me their house, and their equipment in it, and have moved to the other coast, and if through some sudden insanity they flew back across the country, tried to come back into my house, and set up satellite service for themselves in my own home, that I'd have them arrested for breaking and entering. The equipment was legally mine. "Call us back when the 45 days are up," they say. "We can't help you until then." For the second time, I decide to hell with them.

I leave the Son curled up with Elder Child on the sofa watching Scooby Doo and go back to work and start looking up dialup providers. My installer calls. I explain what's happened, and in response to a direct question, agrees that the satellite co. are the biggest fucktards on the planet, except that apparently the other big satellite co. is even worse. He offers to swap modems with me, as he has several of the exact same model, so it gets around the 45 day problem.

I have already decided that the idea of giving money to the satellite co. is about as attractive a prospect as sucking bile out of a leprous camel's behind, but, after staring at my phone for a good hour trying and failing to get myself to dial, I call the satellite co. again.

This time -- the only time -- I actually get an agent who is pleasant, seems to know what she's talking about, and is willing to work through the whole complicated mess to get me the info I needed. My blood pressure drops from nuclear to simmering magma. I give her the serial number, she looks it up, it's a good number, I can use it, there's no warranty or anything, etc. Phew, says I, let's do it. She explains that there's an activation fee, plus the monthly service fee of $79.99.
"No," I say, "I want the $39.99/mo plan."
"That's not available for used equipment," she says. "You can only sign up for the Home Premium plan." To her credit, she then sees if there's any way she can get around that, but there isn't.

I thank her for being the only person I'd spoken to at the satellite co. who was courteous and who actually tried to help me, cancelled all open tickets, and hung up the phone.

Fifteen minutes later, after a very pleasant conversation with a local dial-up provider, I now have a dialup account, for slightly over 1/6th the cost of the satellite co.'s Home Premium plan. It'll stink being at dial-up speeds, but man, I think it's going to take a long time for the pleasure of knowing I'm not paying the satellite co. a dime for any of it to wear off.

The satellite co. customer service, with the exception of the last agent, were consistently rude. They were willing to lie to me (telling me I couldn't use old equipment) and then, later, willing to accuse me of dishonesty in order to avoid actually being helpful. They shouted at me. They talked over me on the phone. They have stupid policies that make zero sense, and no ability or willingness to adapt around them. They charge way too much for what access they provide. And for a lot of people, they are the only game in town.

---
(I called my old dialup provider, but they were out of the dialup business. They offered me a fractional T1 for $249/mo. Was it tempting, even at that price? Ask me again after a few months on regular dialup.)
zanzjan: (Default)
Hughesnet is the shittiest, least-competent, least customer-service oriented company I have ever had the misfortune to try to deal with. They are also rude, shout over you, and are condescending and unpleasant. I mean they make Comcast look brilliant and wonderful, that's how bad they are.

Bad enough that I'm thinking dial-up is a better deal than these assholes.

Wow

Jun. 28th, 2012 11:24 pm
zanzjan: (Default)
Just spent more than half an hour talking to DirectTV, and I feel like I need to go shower from the scuzziness.

Oh, sure, you can qualify for a free DVR, but you have to pay $8/mo for it to actually work.

Oh, sure, they'll give you a (mediocre) price break, but it's only for a year, and you have to sign a 2-year agreement, and the price goes up more than 50%.

I don't give a crap how much other people enjoy all their channels. Paying almost $60/mo for 150 channels where I might watch three or four of them, three or four times a month (combined) is NOT a good deal. Bah! Even Comcast does better than that.

I'd rather have no TV. Poor sell, guys.
zanzjan: (Default)
Hey, it was a twitter challenge (#1ss) and I needed to procrastinate a bit from packing.

The Ghost and the Machine

So, if you don't mind hanging out while I get another pot of coffee started, I'll tell you my story, but it's long and probably not very interesting and it all starts with when I met this girl named Nell, who showed up at my house one sunny, Saturday afternoon when I was just a kid and rang the doorbell bold as you please and introduced herself and asked for the lady of the house and my mom thought that was the sweetest thing ever and invited her in while my brothers and I were just sitting down to lunch and she just plunked herself down right next to me on the end of the bench and while I was distracted doing math doodles on my napkin she picked up half my sandwich off the plate and started eating it as if it was hers all along and I stared at her while my brothers snickered and Jasper kicked me under the table; she said she had just moved into the house next door and heard it was haunted and had come by to see if we knew anything about what might have brought that about, and you could see she liked the idea of living in a haunted house immensely, but my mom told her right off that we'd only moved in a few months back ourselves and didn't really know anything about the neighborhood yet and she was in fact the first of our ("delightful", was how Ma put it) neighbors to have introduced themselves at all, but she would sure keep an ear out and let her know if we found out anything, and that in the meantime she was welcome to come play with us, especially me because I had way too much energy as always, as long as she got permission from her own mom, and Nell got up and took a big gulping sip right out of my glass of milk before she thanked my mom and said she might and ran right back out of the door, and of course my leg smarted where Jasper had kicked me so I got up and ran after her thinking maybe I'd get the rest of my sandwich back and save some face and she saw and laughed at me, so I chased her, and she ran across the street to this old cottage half-hidden behind overgrown sumac and brambles and, as she reached it, she turned and stuffed the last of the sandwich in her mouth in one great big wad, thumbed her nose at me, and then just walked through the front door as if it weren't even there, or was made of air instead of a great big solid piece of wood -- which I know because I went up and tried the handle and banged on it and even tried to break it in with my shoulder because I could hear her laughing at me from somewhere inside, and it wouldn't budge at all -- so I sat cross-legged in the weeds on her lawn and stared at the house and thought about ghosts and that's when I had the very first idea for my invention, that very one you see right there-- oh, coffee's done, would you like a cup?

(534 words)

(ETA: a little bit of tinkering, now 549. I should note that length was part of the challenge.)
zanzjan: (orange)
My story Tangerine, Nectarine, Clementine, Apocalypse is out now in the latest issue of Interzone.
zanzjan: (bookshelf)
There's a little town not very far from me named Shutesbury. It's made of woods and hills, and it has a big, beautiful lake, and not much else. Houses nestle among the trees as if the people are the guests there, not like many places (some not so far from here either) where scrawny trees crouch among buildings like shell-shocked prisoners of war. The town is a wonderful place for children and has an amazing community spirit, and they are always doing all sorts of town-wide things -- bonfires during the summer, farmer's markets, and so forth -- that give me just one more reason to feel like I chose less well than I might have when I picked a town to live in out here.

The town is east of me, so every time I head towards Boston I pass through it, up this very long, winding hill, over the crest, and down down down the far side towards the wilds surrounding the Quabbin Reservoir. Sometimes, coming home, I will put my car in neutral at the top of the hill and see how far I can get before I either roll to a stop or (not so often as you'd think) get someone impatient on my tail. I've come pretty close to the five mile mark.

At the very top of that hill, there is a silly little building, beautiful and cute and unique. And tiny. Very tiny. The first time I drove past it, and saw the sign out front proclaiming it the town library, I could not believe it. I joked once that you could probably count on your fingers the books that'd fit inside.

Town Library it is, though, and aside from being cute and too small, it is also very old, and has no running water, and is otherwise not really sufficient to house a functional town library. The town held a vote on whether or not to fund a new library by raising town property taxes (already a whopping 19.56) and it was an exact tie. It's not that no one wants a new library, it's that folks are poor, and the economy is still tough, especially out in this end of the state, and for some people a few more dollars in taxes means less food on the table. The state has said that if the town can raise 1/3 of the cost to build a new library (a little over $1M) they'll pay the rest, so the town is trying to raise money via donations. They even put a video on youtube:



Since making that video, it appeared on Boing Boing and has been tweeted by Neil Gaiman, among other people. It's getting attention. It may not be getting a lot of donations.

I didn't post about this here to get you to go give money to this cause, although if you do, that's wonderful, and you certainly should if you can. But I read through some of the comments on BoingBoing this weekend, from very supportive to a few idiots (yes, I say, idiots) who don't think libraries are important anymore. One suggested that the entire town should just all get ebook readers instead. Ebook readers are great, sure, but they aren't the same thing; it's not a fungible exchange. Libraries are about communities, about exploration and discovery, about gathering and sharing knowledge and entertainment and wonder. Libraries are about people.

(Also, Shutesbury has no high-speed internet. If one tried downloading all one's ebooks over dialup, one might be less enamored of them as a viable alternative.)

Last night, another friend posted on Facebook about having stumbled across a beautiful old library in the middle of a nearby city struggling with poverty and crime and the quality of education available to their youth, and the library's sign indicated it was open a total of fifteen hours a week, all but an hour of it during working hours. This is not atypical; there are stories like this from all over the state, all over the country, even from Canada.

It's not only sad, it's horrifying that such an important resource, the one resource free to all, no matter how young or old, no matter how poor, is being removed from the collective assets of each of our towns as a community, from each of us as an individual citizen. Now more than ever we should be prioritizing libraries higher than ever, as they serve a vital role for those who would otherwise be marginalized and cut off, as they open a portal to the internet and the world, as they provide a truly egalitarian environment for communities to bond with each other across economic divides, and most importantly as they give children a quiet corner and a stack of books and an afternoon of dreams and wonder and new worlds to visit, so that when they are adults they have the vision to pursue what might otherwise have seemed out of reach, or even worse, unimaginable.

I spent a lot of my childhood in the library of my home town, sitting on a bright blue rug I can still remember vividly, though I have no idea if it's still there. I read every single Tintin book dozens of times each. I read Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and John Christopher and so many other things that are still a part of my inner landscape today, and I am a richer person for it. Today I have the internet, and bookstores, and far, far too many books of my own (and far too little time to read them) but none of it -- none of it -- adds up to that blue rug, the book shelves full of surprises and comforting favorites, friendly librarians, and quiet Saturday afternoons. At times, it saved me.

So this is why I posted this, and I'm sort of hoping someone else out there likes this idea and makes a post of their own. Show us your library -- the one from when you were a kid, or the one dear to you now -- and tell us why it means something to you, or to your own kids. Tell us if it's in trouble, if it is. Tell us whatever you think we need to know, to see it through your eyes, and in your heart. Lend us your library!

If you do post about your library, I'd love it if you'd let me know in the comments.

This is the library I grew up in:

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