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It’s summer and I’m enjoying a bit of vacation time (yay!) and what do I spot on my new Asclepias tuberosa? A monarch butterfly caterpillar!

 

I’ve seen a monarch or two in the neighborhood this year but not many. (Not like during my childhood down south, when my mother used to pull the car over just about anywhere to find caterpillar-rich milkweed by the side of the road.) There’s a reason why these butterflies are listed as at endangered in Ontario:(

That said, awareness of the issues around butterflies and their disappearing habitat is rising, and it’s not all bad news. I’m happy to see milkweed left to grow by the roadside, to find native milkweed varietals at the garden center, and to watch butterflies flitting in the park. If we had more sun and space I’d plant a butterfly meadow, but for now, we went with butterfly weed. Glad we did:)

As an added bonus, I also saw fireflies in the yard a couple of weeks ago for the first time north of the border:) Here’s wishing you a happy and constructive summer!

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(This is me, willfully ignoring the many, many feet of snow still camped out on my front lawn.)

Happy Spring!

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It’s #TravelTuesday! Today the team at @montreal is joining us to answer your questions about Canada’s second largest city. What foods must you try? What are the festival events not to miss this year? Where are the best places to stay? Ask away and the locals will answer! #ExploreCanada 📷: @ericbranover 📍: @montreal, @tourismequebec . C’est #MardiVoyage! Aujourd’hui, l’équipe de @montreal se joint à nous afin de répondre à vos questions sur la deuxième plus grande ville du Canada. Quels sont les mets à essayer? Les festivals à voir absolument cette année? Les meilleures adresses où loger? Demandez aux gens du coin; ils se feront un plaisir de vous répondre! #ExploreCanada 📷 @ericbranover 📍 @montreal, @tourismequebec . #MTLmoments #Montreal #QuebecOriginal #Spring #Travel #CherryBlossoms #Voyage

A post shared by Explore Canada (@explorecanada) on

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Looking for new reading material? Good news! The Nebula Award finalists have been announced, so it’s time to pad those To Read lists, people. Here is the complete list, some with links to reviews, previews, and full text where available (and I felt like it:).

What looks interesting to you?

***

2018 Nebula Award Finalists
Novel
The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor) [review]
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Blackfish City, Sam J. Miller (Ecco; Orbit UK)
Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Witchmark, C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing)
Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga) [review]

Novella
Fire Ant, Jonathan P. Brazee (Semper Fi) [preview]
The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing) [review]
The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean) [preview and review]
Alice Payne Arrives, Kate Heartfield (Tor.com Publishing) [excerpt]
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing) [review and review]
Artificial Condition, Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing) [excerpt]

Novelette
“The Only Harmless Great Thing”, Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections”, Tina Connolly (Tor.com 7/11/18)
“An Agent of Utopia”, Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births”, José Pablo Iriarte (Lightspeed 1/18)
The Rule of Three”, Lawrence M. Schoen (Future Science Fiction Digest 12/18)
“Messenger”, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi (Expanding Universe, Volume 4)

Short Story
“Interview for the End of the World”, Rhett C. Bruno (Bridge Across the Stars)
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”, Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside 2/18)
“Going Dark”, Richard Fox (Backblast Area Clear)
“And Yet”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 3-4/18)
A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies”, Alix E. Harrow (Apex 2/6/18)
The Court Magician”, Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed 1/18)

Game Writing
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Charlie Brooker (House of Tomorrow & Netflix)
The Road to Canterbury, Kate Heartfield (Choice of Games)
God of War, Matt Sophos, Richard Zangrande Gaubert, Cory Barlog, Orion Walker, and Adam Dolin (Santa Monica Studio/Sony/Interactive Entertainment)
Rent-A-Vice, Natalia Theodoridou (Choice of Games)
The Martian Job, M. Darusha Wehm (Choice of Games)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy”, Written by: Megan Amram
Black Panther, Written by: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
A Quiet Place, Screenplay by: John Krasinski and Bryan Woods & Scott Beck
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Screenplay by: Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman
Dirty Computer, Written by: Janelle Monáe and Chuck Lightning
Sorry to Bother You, Written by: Boots Riley

The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book
Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan)
Aru Shah and the End of Time, Roshani Chokshi (Rick Riordan Presents)
A Light in the Dark, A.K. DuBoff (BDL)
Tess of the Road, Rachel Hartman (Random House)
Dread Nation, Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, Henry Lien (Henry Holt)

***

Let’s see if embedding my Goodreads list works here… Why yes, I believe it does. If the list isn’t showing for you, find it here.

***

2018 Nebula Finalists (Many, Anyway!)

The Rule of Three
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
A Light in the Dark
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Fire Ant
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
And Yet
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Alice Payne Arrives
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
The Only Harmless Great Thing
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Tess of the Road
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Children of Blood and Bone
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach
tagged:
to-read and 2018-nebula-finalists
Aru Shah and the End of Time
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
The Tea Master and the Detective
tagged:
to-read, in-progress, on-hiatus, and 2018-nebula-finalists
Dread Nation
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Blackfish City
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
The Poppy War
tagged:
to-read and 2018-nebula-finalists
Artificial Condition
it was amazing
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists
Witchmark
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists

 

goodreads.com

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What I’m reading today:

Pretend It’s Aliens
A neat mental trick to understand the climate battle ahead.
By Farhad Manjoo

It’s Valentine’s Day today, and I love this essay! (Also Mr. Man and my family and unicorns, but this I can share:) It’s a genius way of identifying one of humanity’s main flaws when it comes to making change, and then (here’s the good bit) finding a way around it.

…climate change is not war. There is no enemy, other than ourselves. And we are very bad, as individuals or collectively, at fighting ourselves over anything.

This thought chilled me.

Then, one late night after taking a dose of a kind of sleep medicine that is now widely available in California, I had an epiphany:

Pretend it’s aliens.

For years I’ve been saying that if aliens invaded, we’d get over our internecine squabbles pretty damn quick. Sadly, it would also require an actual alien invasion. And while movies of same tend to end with triumphant human victories, they generally don’t show the part where we have to bury all the bodies.

Unless it’s not pretend at all?

Just, you know, saying!

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From the Library of Congress:

Today in History – February 7
On February 7, 1867, Laura Elizabeth Ingalls, the author of the beloved semi-autobiographical Little House series, was born in Wisconsin, the second daughter of Charles and Caroline Ingalls.

Little House on the Prairie etc. were some of the first real books I read.* They were also where I learned (among many other things) to make candy from maple syrup and snow, twist straw into logs, cast bullets, make candles, that nails were once a precious commodity, and that life before modern medicine was often hard and sometimes deadly.
***
Speaking of modern medicine, I’ve been following the new measles outbreaks. Here’s a little public service announcement:

“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.
“I feel all sleepy,” she said.
In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
— Roald Dahl, on his daughter Olivia and Measles

 

Now, some people can’t be vaccinated.** That’s why the rest of us should. “You are a human shield”! (I love that, and I love being a real-life superhero and all-around good neighbor.) Thank you to the researchers who made vaccines possible, to the public policies making it a requirement, and to my parental units for helping me be part of a healthy community by keeping my vaccinations up to date!

***

* Ok, Hop on Pop and other such books are real too, but these had chapters and everything! Also Little House was only semi-autobiographical and had some race issues, but acknowledging that lets us know how far we’ve come.

** For more on the “don’t” rather than the “can’t,” check out this TED Talk: Why (Some) Parents Don’t Vaccinate.

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So, November.
/vroom!

Yeah. Like that.

November is (of course!) National Novel Writing Month. I’ve taken part for the past however many years, and it has been fun. I laugh, I write, I cry, I win. Then I collapse in a mostly useless heap for the next many weeks. The holidays don’t help post-NaNo productivity, of course, but I don’t know that a draining push to write write write write does either. I’m looking for sustainable output.

I’m also distracted this year. As mentioned, I’ve taken up woodworking and it’s fun. I like the challenge, I like the creativity and idea generation, the inevitable roadblocks, problem-solving, and the triumphant conclusion.

It’s a lot like writing, actually, only with more finished product and results that don’t depend on the vagaries of editorial preference.

So this November, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of NaNoWriMo, I opted for NaNoMakeMo.

Me, one month, making stuff, with the definition of “stuff” being flexible. Words, wood, whatever. I’m one of those people who can be well and truly stuck on one project but super productive on another. As long as I’m working on whatever my secret brain wants to pay attention to, much gets done.

I decided to use this quirk to my advantage. It’s a classic productivity trick called structured procrastination. I may have mentioned it here before.

The first rule is there are no rules.

Write, turn, bake, sew, whatever. The goal is what’s important, not how to get there, and for November the goal was simple: Make more stuff.

I pulled on my big girl work clothes and got to it.

/insert 30 days of work work work work work.
/ok, fine, I didn’t work all 30 days
/some days I sat inside by the fire and read, because winter and cold and snow, people!

* * *

So how did the first inaugural NaNoMakeMo go?

My original plan was to post updates (with photos and witty commentary even!) as I went along, sharing each and every project through the twists and turns of the creative process. When that didn’t happen, I decided to make an awesome advent calendar-style image map linking all of the awesome into one aesthetically-pleasing package.

Yeah, that didn’t work out. Images and updates take time. Thinking about how to frame a project takes time. Stepping back from the desk or workbench or computer takes time and also the sort of mental space I don’t always have when I’m mid-stream. And the interweb informs me that image maps have been out of style Like For Ever.

Too bad, I was going to use this fun image. It pretty much sums up my month.

Instead you get this uber post. Also, I made this list.

(Yes, that’s my list handwriting. It is both teeny tiny and impossible to read, or so I’ve been told. I have no trouble with it at all. Let me just get a magnifying glass;)*

* * *

So how did it go? Pretty well, actually.

I got a lot done on a lot of different projects, which I find very satisfying. Rather than feel I’ve ignored much of life in order to focus on one dimension, writing, I’ve made progress on multiple fronts.

For evidence of same, please see Exhibit A (note: some projects have been excluded in the interest of maintaining holiday-related surprises;)

I made things, I broke things, I learned more about what to do and what not. Yay:)

* * *

What would I change? Next time I might plan a bit more. Fifty thousand words is a little nuts but having a target helps your aim, you know? Goals and also alternatives, for when the old attention span is minimal and absolutely everything looks interesting except the work on the desk. Maybe I’ll list the different possibilities on little pieces of paper and keep them in a jar for when I need to pull out a new project.

(Teeny tiny lists on teeny tiny scraps of paper, in a Swedish glass jar. Because that’s how I roll, and if there’s one benefit to the passing years, it’s figuring out new ways to work around my own crazy:)

In sum: NaNoMakeMo may be a less dramatic way to approach creativity than NaNoWriMo but it’s also, at least for me, more sustainable. And in the end, a productive, constructive life is the true goal.

And so I declare the inaugural NaNoMakeMo a pretty not-bad success. Here’s hoping you enjoyed your month too!

* * *

* The point usually isn’t the reading. It’s about thinking, and the process of sketching out an idea or problem helps me think it through. I find that works best when I’m scribbling on the back of some envelope, or a scrap bit of paper or the corner of a random flyer. Who says no one uses the mail anymore?

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It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon and I’m in the mood for a little fun. If you are too, check out this trick over at NPR. Mr. Man and I just tried it and it is exactly as cool as it looks.

Mwahahahaha! Oh, and the idea to use this technique to ease childbirth is fascinating too.

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