cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (park)

It feels like this week has been full of socializing, although that's partly because any week where I see friends more than once feels crazy-busy!

It also feels like this week has been horrible for productivity, and that is true for a couple of reasons. Primary among them is that I have been a bit stuck in the two novels that I'm writing in parallel. Not stuck as in I-don't-know-what-to-do-next, but stuck as in I-need-to-plot-the-next-bit (side project Codename Dragon Succubus) and I-need-to-do-lots-of-research-first-and-I-don't-wanna (main project Real Name Scorpion Dance). And I've been feeling somewhat stressed and responding to it in my usual unhelpful avoidance way. Grr.

Speaking of which, notice how I'm writing a journal entry now instead of writing? Sure, my goal is to write a journal entry every week and it's been over a month since my last one, but that doesn't mean it isn't avoidance. It just means I am super-well-supplied with other things to do. Like sort through the thousand-plus emails in my inbox, which is next on my avoidance plan for the day. Oops, sorry, this is my Mother's Day Away. Make that my "Relaxation Plan." There, that sounds better.

I've started using my gym membership to the YMCA, which is going pretty well. During the week, when Cassius is in preschool, timing doesn't work out so well for me being able to go and take a full class and use whatever's left of the 2 hours of free babysitting to write, so I usually just hit the machines for a while, shower, and then edit for a half-hour before I have to pick up the kids and get on a bus to take Cassius to preschool (his preschool is in the afternoon). I do like the working out part, though, even if I wish I could make my time usage there more efficient to take advantage.

Also, annoyingly, even though we won a month of "Whole Family" membership, that doesn't mean I can get the member rate for Cassius' swim lessons. You have to register about a month in advance for that, and you have to have the child be a full member both IN ADVANCE when you register, and AT the time of the lessons. Grr. Ripoff. Still getting him lessons, though. Just not sure if family membership is going to be worth anything more than my individual membership, because it doesn't really get us anything extra.

Our poor girl kitty is slowly improving. We found out a couple of months ago that she had kidney failure, which led to near-lethal high blood pressure, which led to lethargy, refusal to eat, and one of her eyes having blood vessels rupture inside of it. She already had cataracts and so was mostly blind, but with that, she became completely blind on that side. I don't know if her sight will come back (even slightly) once the blood has all left the eye. It was totally black, filled with blood. Now I can see the rim of her iris again and there's a pale pink cloud in the center of her eye where the blood is slowly being reabsorbed. Her blood pressure is under control with 2x daily medication. And apparently cats can live with kidney failure for several years, although it's best if they eat a special diet for animals with kidney failure, and she's picky.

Lots of fun with socializing lately.

A pack of Phil's female relatives came up from Wisconsin to visit. We drove through downtown looking at all the lights that turned purple in memory of Prince. We went bra shopping at the Mall of America (so much not fun, but necessary). We ate at IKEA and they went shopping while I lounged on a couch and fiddled with edits. We went to Surly Brewery, where they were sad that they could not purchase growlers and I learned why they have so many glasses from drinking establishments they've visited on "girls weekends." Then we went to Betty Danger's Country Club (by the owner of Psycho Suzi's), enjoyed the ferris wheel tremendously, ate the delicious foods, and utterly failed in our attempt to visit her other two establishments, partly because the designated driver doesn't parallel park ... and this is the city.

Dave had a biking pub crawl birthday party where he asked the guests to be made up as "subtle" clowns. I was able to make it to the Eastlake portion of the night. Our whole family went to the Sabathani Prince block party earlier in the afternoon, where we mostly watched the kids go down bouncy house slides and bounce around in the bouncy maze. Total madhouse. Cassius also asked for a snowplow balloon animal, which was a real challenge for the balloon clown. I asked for a snake with pop eyes, which I gave to the birthday boy later. Also managed to get face paint done for the clown birthday party at the prince block party. Multitasking!

The rest of the week(ish) in brief:

May in Minneapolis means the May Day Parade. Thanks to Drew's friend Anna for letting us join the house-and-lawn party that she throws during the parade. I took many pictures.

Cassius brought home baby chicks from preschool, and we successfully kept the cats from eating them during their overnight visit. Cassius is good and gentle with chicks. Theia not so much.

Cassius lost Theia and I in the library, freaked out, and ran out of the building, only to be caught a block later. So scary. Spouse yelled at me a lot. Full story from Fb: We were at the library in Uptown. I took Theia into the bathroom to change her, and when I came back out, Cassius was GONE. Not in the kids' play area, not among the book shelves, not in the sitting area. Turns out, he didn't hear me tell him where we were going, freaked out when he didn't see us, and RAN OUT OF THE LIBRARY (after us, he thought). Thank God for the concerned stranger who came back to find me, the ones who pointed which direction he'd gone, and the ones who stopped him and helped. He made it about a block away, in the direction of his preschool (also in Uptown). Most of us have that "I lost my parents" (in the grocery store, etc.) memory. I think this is going to be the one that sticks for him.

CenterPoint repair guy actually had the part required to make our dishwasher mostly functional again. Amazing.

Thursday, I made it to Electra's graduating senior art reception, admired the art (hers was sealife-themed), and took lots of pictures that I now need to edit and watermark. Then we went to the Riverview Cafe and chatted over yummy brownies.

Friday, I went to my old friend Jason's birthday party, tasted kava for the first time, and saw it prepared ... burlesque-style. More pictures were taken. The stuff looks like off-colored, watery milk, smells like dirt with an acrid undertone, and tastes like nothing much although the aftertaste is pretty awful. The first effect is a tingling tongue. The effect it had on me seemed to be a sharpening and clarity of sight and sensation. No idea if that's how most people feel, as I had to leave then. Silly buses and their schedules.

Saturday, I was peopled out. Morning, went to the gym. Took a weightlifting/body pump group class. Afternoon, went to coffee shop, plotted/adjusted the plot for the rest of the side project (Dragon Succubus), and wrote some. Spent the night fighting with trying to figure out watermarks and custom brushes and why it wasn't working damn it. Figured it out, eventually, but still need to manage batch watermarks for things I don't edit before uploading (like May Day photos).

Today is Mother's Day. I slept in a lot. Made myself French toast. Left to go to a coffee shop until dinner, which is where I currently am. Cassius being in two preschool classes meant I got two Mother's Day presents from him! I got a shiny bead-and-button bracelet that has a whole lot of gold buttons and some red and green flower beads, and a bar of soap that he felted with sheep's wool during their field trip to Gale Woods (which he loved--he says he likes spinach now).

Oh, and also the car died in the middle of the highway and Phil had to get it fixed. So that happened.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (editing)
In New York City, the decade before I have my little aether apocalypse set, they dealt with the Draft Riots. This was some serious shit. Lots of people died, lots more were seriously injured, the police were outnumbered and in some engagements outgunned, and this went on for days. It started out with attacks on police, black people, and the military, and it expanded into all-out riots, looting, and arson. People torn into literal pieces by mobs of thousands. It was that kind of party. There's a good historical account of it here.

And some of the people from the front lines of that would be in power at the time of my story. That would affect how harshly they cracked down on the city, right from day one.

Gah. Way too easy to fall down a research rabbit hole. But it will affect a lot of how after-the-disaster plays out in New York.

::bouncebouncebounce::*


* I actually have an exercise ball that I use as a part-time desk chair. I can bounce for reals. And I am.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
In the 1800s, badges with an "identify me" telegraph code were sold by the Fraternal Protective Association. If you were dead or injured, people could telegraph the code to them and they would respond with a file identifying you.

Alas, the telegraphs are broken in Circus of Brass and Bone, so I can't use this so much, but it's so cool!



Source: http://www.pimall.com/nais/pivintage/rarebadges.html (I stumbled across it while researching Pinkerton badges. Answer: yes, they had them.)

Elefant!

Aug. 4th, 2010 10:21 am
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
 

It’s a 12-meter-high mechanical elephant, made of 45 tons of reclaimed wood and steel. It can carry almost 50 passengers at a time. There’s more pictures (and the original article) over at Inhabitat.

cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
It's harder than you might think to find out what games people gamble on in India and China. Dratted illegality!

"cards" "dice" - those are too vague! Mah-jong is useful.

For India? I've seen people throwing dice and holding cards in the street, but so far as the internet is concerned--nope.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
What province in China has both high levels of industrial pollution and encroaching desertification?

I'm figuring out my remediation/desertification story that I have to write in an incredibly short amount of time because I am an idiot--and I'd like to figure out where it's located. I like the idea of Mongolia, which is good for the desertification but not so good for the industrialization....

And Beijing is so overdone.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Research resources:
[CindyLynn] 5:48 pm: We spoke about research...do you guys have any
favorite books or sites? I use Kunz's the The Curious Lore of Precious
Stones and Maud Greive's Modern Herbal to base my magic on...
[Sun Wukong, the Monkey King]: Rachael de Vienne has entered at 5:49 pm
    [annathepiper] 5:49 pm: theoi.com is AWESOME for Greek mythos
stuff.
    [MeredithHolmes] 5:50 pm: The Element Encyclopedia series is great
[CindyLynn] 5:50 pm: Also, any final comments before we open the floor
for questions?
    [MeredithHolmes] 5:50 pm: and, oddly, anthropology books. and
pantheon.org
[akashina] 5:50 pm: I use history books on the time period I chose. If I
know nothing at all on the subject, I start with Wikipedia and go in
depth from there.
    [Heather Ingemar] 5:50 pm: I vote for Pantheon.org
    [Heather Ingemar] 5:50 pm: Great, great resource
    [Heather Ingemar] 5:51 pm: Where else could you find out that
vampires were also, once upon a time, allergic to dirty socks?
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (editing iffy)
02/02/2010, Tuesday
* Posted writing log, freewriting, NanoWri.
* Updated market listing with dead markets.
* Typed up more of "Ekaterina and the Firebird," doing research as I went along to fill in some bits. In 1700s Russia, men dressed in coast and waistcoats and breeches and stockings! Women wore no underwear! Kvass, a moderately fermented drink, was the most common "non-alcoholic" drink! (And in modern Russia, kvass is making coca-cola rethink their product line.)
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
02/01/2010, Monday, full day at day job
* Posted writing log, freewriting
* Wrote 2 pages longhand on "Ekaterina and the Firebird"
* Consolidated online and typed-from-notes-so-far "Ekaterina" and typed up several more pages. Tried to do some research.** Swore bitterly at said failed research. Learned to hate cyrillic. Was very happy with Aardvark.


**Trying to find equivalent Russian words, in the English alphabet, is not super-easy. What is black, as in Black Forest^? Chyorniy. How do you say good morning? Dobraye utro. What's a Russian songbird that would be in a deciduous forest in late autumn? Shegol (goldfinch)--that one required Aardvark. What's Russian for "Dad"? Papa. Okay, that last is pretty neat.

^ Black forest was the widespread folk name for oak, birch, aspen and other deciduous forests, especially in the southern and southwestern part of the country. This name arose from the sharp contrast of the black silhouettes of the leafless trees in winter against the white snow. There is also the concept of the red forest, which is applied mainly to light coniferous forests of pines which have a reddish bark. It is also often associated with coniferous forests in general because of their beauty in all seasons of the year (the Russian word krasniy, which means red, is used here in its old meaning of beautiful, like Red Square in Moscow). In contemporary forestry literature these terms are no longer used, but they were widely applied in earlier times.
- http://www.forest.ru/eng/publications/history/02.html (and isn't that just the most evocative thing?)
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (editing despair)
01/06/2010, Wednesday, full day at job
* Read WritersWeekly newsletter.
* Posted writing logs.
* Penthius freewriting.
* "Ekaterina and the Firebird," 1 pg. on the bus.
* Drowned in researching 18th century Tsarist Russia. Not easy.

I am irked at the difficulties I had with researching Tsarist Russia online. I'm looking for everyday sort of of info on the upper class--how they lived, what they wore, ate, and did for entertainment. Of course, to be fair, initially I just thought "Tsarist Russia,"--it took me a bit to narrow that to 1700s Russia and a bit longer to try alternating the wording to 18th century Russia. Aardvark was not helpful--"Try Google" is not a useful suggestion. Of course I tried Google first. And Wikipedia, which frequently has good reference links. Not so much this time. And then my lovely research librarian friend [livejournal.com profile] da_wyf takes 10 minutes and finds better researchy goodness for me to look at. ::facepalm::

...I need a research assistant. Ah well, it's on the list for if I ever become a professional at this whole "writing" thing.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
  • Spam: "Tired of being a man with delicate sphere problems?" Wow, I think they emailed that from another dimension.
  • Mgr re personalities of paralegal + assistant: "Those two are married in darkness."
  • Why you should care about preserving other species: ping.fm/vakgU
  • Help! I've fallen into a Tsarist Russia research pit and can't escape!
  • Have narrowed research pit from Tsarist Russia to 1700s Russia. Still hating the internets.
.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
  • 21:58 Phil (via Warren Ellis) points me to this interesting website of full-text sciencey reports: www.nap.edu/
  • 22:17 Phil: "I feel bloated." Me: "I can tell by the way you keep burping and looking miserable." Him: ::buuuuurrrp::
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Now that's what I call a subject line!

This is to follow up on a couple of conversations I had at [livejournal.com profile] xcorvis's wine tasting. Alas, I cannot remember who wanted to know what, and I forgot to include that in my reQall note-to-self.

Jigai
Ladies in samurai-era Japan had their own female version of seppuku, called jigai. Like seppuku, jigai could be done as a way to regain honor after dishonor or as a protest, but it was also frequently used preemptively to prevent her from being dishonored. The notable points of the ritual include binding one's legs to keep them from sprawling in an immodest manner during the death throes. The lady would then slash her jugular vein with her knife. (And while looking up the details, I came across this post about seppuku.)

Phonebooks
YellowPagesGoesGreen is a central online place where you can try to notify the distributors to stop sending you phone books. This is still in the early stages and it's not a national registry, so your mileage may vary. Via Lifehacker.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
  • 09:43 ++ The scent of pink and white flowering trees that line the streets. #
  • 10:10 GOP's new slogan, "The Change You Deserve," also slogan for anti-depressant? Hilarious! #
  • 12:14 ++ Leftover chicken piccata for lunch. That may be my new favorite. #
  • 12:15 --Will probably have to work this weekend, poss. both days. ::snarl:: #
  • 13:40 From CSA email: sunchokes have almost as much iron as red meat, & the Scotts make "nettle pudding." #
  • 14:26 Don't forget potluck next week! cloudscudding.livejournal.com/610065.html #
  • 14:33 Nggg...research. How did I forget the painfulness of this stage? I think spaceships are neat, and it's *still* painful. #
  • 15:37 Gardening in the sun for a few minutes is disproportionally good for the soul. Try it! #
  • 15:53 FTL? Shit, I have to come up with a plausible FTL spaceship? Alcubierre has possibilities: tinyurl.com/67u9h3 #
  • 17:27 Science research makes my brain bounce around in my skull. Strange ideas result: taking math and physics classes recreationally! #
  • 18:51 Ice cream truck drove by, and the tune it's playing made all the neighborhood dogs start howling! #
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No, I will not be clicking on the link to "furtopia" that a research search brought up. Nuh-uh.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Two of my best research sources--Wikipedia and Ebsco Megafile--are both dead right now.

GAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
Ok, swarming as a battle technique sounds rather interesting, but it really isn't what I'm looking for. This is a bit sad, but not much. It just means that I'll have to read Modeling Robot Swarms Using Agent-Based Simulation by Alistair Dickie during my free time, instead of my research time.

Swarming as a way of war fighting has been characterized as “a seemingly
amorphous, but deliberately structured, coordinated, strategic way to strike from all
directions, by means of a sustainable pulsing of force and/or fire”. [Arquilla and Ronfeldt
2000] Swarming involves distributing autonomous, or semi-autonomous forces about the
battlefield that come together, either in force or by fire, to strike at targets before
dissolving and redistributing themselves. Many examples of swarming can be found
throughout history and in nature. With the recent advent of network centric warfare has it
emerged as a contender to maneuver warfare for modern military forces.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)

Cool thing about being a science fiction writer: I can read "How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion" by Daniel H. Wilson and honestly say that I'm doing essential story research. This book is hilarious to read, and it's based on very good science that is explained in detail by a robotics expert. I've found good source material that I'll be using in the story, not to mention gaining valuable advice for surviving the future.

I mean, now I know what to look for when my future robotic smart house turns against me!
* Lost messages, dropped phone calls, etc.
* Hesitation to carry out commands.
* Doors that mysteriously close on your fingers.
* A kitchen that refuses to cook dinner until you "inspect oven."
* Alarm system that warmly invites burglars inside.
* Drawn-out philosophical conversations on the meaning of life and death.
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
The beginning of the thesis that I'm reading:

The major problem of robotics research today is that there is a barrier to entry into
robotics research. Robot system software is complex and a researcher that wishes to
concentrate on one particular problem often needs to learn about details, dependencies
and intricacies of the complete system. This is because a robot system needs several
different modules that need to communicate and execute in parallel.

Today there is not much controlled comparisons of algorithms and solutions for a
given task, which is the standard scientific method of other sciences. There is also very
little sharing between groups and projects, requiring code to be written from scratch
over and over again.


Yup, that's pretty much what I'm picking up from my research. Everybody's grabbed a corner and they're all pulling in different directions, with very little communication about it. To be expected, I'm sure, in a free market situation, but it's frustrating to see. It's particularly irritating when they're all groups working for DARPA.

We totally are not going to be the first ones with really effective military/police-use robots. I mean, c'mon! One of the fairly recent research projects funded by DARPA to assess the viability of various types of robots is a prime example. One of the models they tried? Essentially, a giant rolling beachball. The problem with it, translated out of scientific-ese? It blew away. The most successful model? Was built around a commercially-purchased toy car. Kicker? The parts that they added on didn't really work, but the car did.

Gah!
cloudscudding: Photo of Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Default)
A front-page article on Feb. 16 about the military's efforts to build robot soldiers misstated the third rule for robots from ''I, Robot,'' by the science-fiction author Isaac Asimov, a guideline for their coexistence with humans. (Asimov's first two rules were ''Do not hurt humans'' and ''Obey humans unless that violates Rule 1.'') His third rule was, ''Defend yourself unless that violates Rule 1 OR Rule 2'' -- not ''Rule 1 AND Rule 2.''

Source Citation: "Corrections." (Metropolitan Desk)(Corrections)(Correction Notice) The New York Times, Feb 25, 2005 pA2(L) col 04 (2 col in). Science Resource Center. Thomson Gale. 09 June 2006 <http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/scirc?ste=1&docnum=a129223465>

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