Monday, March 20, 2017

Yet again sick

Another week, another post about being sick. Well, I still am sick, and there's no point living in denial. It's not very bad anymore. A little more coughing, a little less phlegm. I can do stuff without collapsing when I'm done. I only medicate once or maybe twice a day. All of this is good, and improvement, but I wish to be well.

Yesterday I went to see a play called Tribes at ACT. It was astonishing. The play is about a bitterly funny family of academics and creatives. The younger son is deaf but as raised to be "hearing" in that he had hearing aids that vaguely work, reads lips very well, and can speak. When he meets a woman at a party of mostly deaf people who signs at him, and reveals he can't sign, he enters into a steep learning curve about being Deaf (the culture) because the woman is hearing but raised by deaf parents. She is now, however, going deaf. They meet cute (so cute) and are dating very soon, and the son leaves his family to move in with her, which shatters the family entirely: they can't accept he's going, they can't accept he's becoming Deaf instead of just deaf, they can't accept his anger at how they cut him off from being Deaf all his life. It's brutal and sad and funny and incredibly human. As a person with significant hearing loss, I was deeply touched by the story of Sylvia, the going-deaf woman, who has lost high tones, and then music, and then her own voice. It's too sad for me to think about, really, because I'm half-way there (and fortunately going no further at any time soon, I think.)

I also saw the good but not great Get Out, which failed to hit me as hard as I think it probably should have. The main character is just too horror movie requisite in that he doesn't Get Out when the danger is evident and clear. It's necessary for the plot, but plot stupidity, even if slightly explicable because of circumstance, is still bothersome.

I'm writing and reading a lot, so that's good. Many words on the page, and many pages consumed, though it's pretty much all RPG books now: more of Esoterrorists; and also Red Aegis, Eyes of the Stone Thief, Fear Itself and Trail of Cthulhu in rapid succession. Tearing through the Pelgrane Press oeuvre is pretty much what I'm saying.

Warming up but still so much rain. We had a day of sun. Everyone went mad for a while. It's All Summer In A Day whenever that happens now. Ray Bradbury saw clearly this winter and how it would affect Seattle.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Still sick

Day 9 of my cold. It's less bad now than it was. I spent five days in bed, head so congested I couldn't hardly function. Now, I'm just sort of congested, and cough every so often, and it's a lot better. I wish I was fully well, but it's not the case, not yet.

The one thing that's gone well during this period is that I've been writing. I'm more than forty pages into something, and it's not the first time I've been more than forty pages into this particular something but it's the most successful version, to my thinking, that I've yet managed. So that's great.

Not much reaching has been done either, except on some tabletop game books. I'm digging into Pelgrane Press books; they do Dying Earth which I've owned for years and ran twice, I think, and wish I could have done more. It's based on Jack Vance's stories and novellas about a far future Earth of magic and decadence. They do 13th Age, which is delightful and I've run for a longish campaign, and will run again further. That's a D&D varient that combines the best parts of 3rd and 4th Editions with some new spins on things. And now I have Hillfolk--an Iron Age setting that focuses on interpersonal conflicts and the drama that come from such--and Owl Hoot Trail--a Western version of D&D, sort of?--and The Esoterrorists, which lets you play skilled investigators looking into esoteric demonologists, foiling them at every turn if you can. And I just ordered a couple more that look promising. I think I'm going in for the whole company, pretty much? (Not true, there's some stinkers there, but mostly it's good.)

Weather is warmer and wetter and continuing that way. Daylight Savings Time means that we've got late evenings starting again, but the mornings have gone dark once more.

Maybe next time I write, I'll be well again?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Head Cold, Day 2

Finally got a two day weekend, which began yesterday with me being full of phlegm, and ends tonight with me being...full of phlegm. I am not thrilled with this turn of events and hope it passes soon.

Writing is going well, I should note. Less these last couple days because I have been sick, but I'm still writing each day, and that is wonderful. And still on the same piece, which is great.

The news (CNN) is not bothering with both sides any longer. Instead of having a panel of four with two and two for each side, or at least one and three, it's now six people, all to one degree or another against Trump including the host, and they're just tearing at him full time. Question: why the fuck didn't they do this six months ago? Oh, right. They weren't threatened then, and somehow imagined they wouldn't be. Slightly better late than never, but only slightly.

Not reading much, because I'm watching tv while I'm sick instead of reading. This is sad making in a slight way, but I'm sick, so that's how I'm doing it.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

March marches in

Garden show ended, which was good. It was full of small problems that will be easier to deal with next week, but for now have caused nothing but headaches. Still went fine, though.

Jeff Sessions spent his confirmation hearing lying blatantly and having his Republican colleagues obfuscate his lies (mostly about civil rights.) But now we know he lied about something else: having contact with the Russian government. No contact, he said, no dealings, nothing. Under oath, with direct questioning. Except he did meet with the Russian Ambassador, twice, during the campaign. So...that's lying under oath to Congress, or perjury, the same crime for which Bill Clinton faced impeachment hearings. And that was just about a blowjob, while this is colluding with a foreign nation. Jeff Sessions was in congress in those days (of course he was, because these villainous slugs all have been around since buggy whip times) and he was Very Seriously Concerned that Clinton lied under oath, and did interviews about how necessary it was to impeach him.

Resign, Secretary Sessions; that's the only sound conclusion, and it's likely what will happen. Flynn went down for less. Well, not precisely less. Essentially the same thing. Just this time with bonus oath breaking.

The sun is rising earlier every day. We're not far from the Equinox, three weeks essentially. Twelve hours of daylight is just around the corner. I am made so excited by that thought more than I probably should be. In three months I'll be slightly irritated that the sun is coming up at 5 in the morning, and waking my cat up even earlier than that (like 3 in the morning) and in four months I'll be fussing about the heat, but that light, that glorious light, is what I crave. I've often dreamed of having residences in the northern and southern hemispheres to gain those long days almost all the year round. Never going to happen, but it's a nice dream.

What are you reading? A history of the English Reformation, which is trying to be dry, and maybe succeeding. It's slow going. I re-read Was by Geoff Ryman, and it's less good than I remember. But it's the sort of book that has a huge impact on first reading it; something fascinating and unexpected that succeeds by being just that, but which cannot hold up the spell fully when examined again. The surprise of it is gone. It's still a good book.

Writing? Maybe. Five pages yesterday. It's progress of a sort. I may keep it going. I will try.

Weather, what it's like? Irregular bouts of snow once a week or so; cloudy; cool but not frigid. There was a lot of wind early yesterday, enough to send the trees into wild contortions and to howl against the sides of the building. It didn't stick around.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Garden Show 2017

I'm at the NW Flower & Garden Show all week, which consumed my days off and leaves me working seemingly all the days in a row. As a result, I barely have time to sleep, let alone post here. So this short message will suffice.

It's my 13th year there, I think? I didn't do last year, and then I think I did every year back to 2005 but maybe 2004, and then I worked one shift in 2001, I believe it was? The book store has a booth there every year, so down I have gone. It's nice and relaxing, except this year it overlapped with our annual inventory, and also with an intense period of preparing things for the adoption of a new inventory and POS system at the store, so the Garden Show got less attention than it normally would, and while it's still going well, it's more fraught, and as this year I'm in charge, I'm really feeling it.

I've got only three more days to get through and then we go back to relatively normal for a month and change, so there's that.

What are you reading? The Adventures of Alyx, by Joanna Russ, who was my teacher for Introductory Short Story Writing in college. I had no idea who she was, and didn't do what she advised me in regard to a story I wrote that she rather liked. What can I say? It was before Google, so I just didn't know.

The weather? Some snow yesterday, that amounted to nothing really, but there's more coming. Winter is lingering.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thoughts on Presidents

It's President's Day, which means it is also load in day for the Garden Show as it has been for some years. In a couple of hours I go to build a mini book store inside the Washington State Convention Center, which I'll then run for a few days before we break it down and move on.

But it's also a day to think on the Presidents. When I was little, we still had Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday as distinct holidays a week or sometimes two weeks apart from one another. Sometime in the 90s, I think, we switched over to President's Day, taking the place of Washington's Birthday and banishing Lincoln's Birthday into the void. I feel bad for modern children, not having those two February holidays any longer, but then, they now get a midwinter break that lasts this entire week, so my sympathy is misplaced.

I'm reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose now; it's about President Jefferson, who is probably more consequential than Washington. It's hard to say though, with major presidents. Washington did one enormous thing: he stepped down. There was strong interest in having him as a lifetime ruler, and he could have done it, either as life president or as King; he did neither, and after two terms, he was done, which set a precedent unbroken until FDR, and now unbreakable due to amendment. But of Washington's other accomplishments, not much stands out. He did a fine job of steadying and uniting, and that is admirable, but it's subtle work, hard to measure. Lincoln, another great man, was made great by circumstance. He might have been a nobody of a president but for the Civil War, which gave him a chance to show his mettle, and his assassination, which gave him depth and pathos that forever make him "great". Jefferson, on the other hand, is great no matter how you look at him (with one exception, soon to be discussed.) He was brilliant and clever, he was educated and creative, he was driven and determined, he could be ruthless at need, he adapted well, he was charming and gracious. A driving force behind the creation of the country as it came to be, he orchestrated the expansion of the states and the purchase of a third of the country.

But of course as with all things of the early Union, there is slavery.

Washington was a slave owner, of hundreds of humans during his life time from the age of 11 onward. He was strict with them, meaning he was a terrible human being by any standard. The lash and other physical punishments, and the selling of slaves into the Indies, was common. He manumitted his slaves in his will, with a delay to wait upon his wife's death; she freed them before her death out of fear they might murder her. There isn't any real indication Washington wanted to do away with slavery, despite his long fight for liberty for white propertied Americans.
Lincoln was conflicted about slavery, generally wishing it abolished, but not committing to the fact until the Civil War had gone on more than a year, and even then only hesitantly. In the end, he did what was necessary to free them, and he had never owned slaves, but his commitment to the cause of Abolition was not until the crisis complete.
Jefferson, though. He owned slaves, masses of them; he perhaps never himself lashed them, but he certainly had them lashed; he sold them to the deep South cotton states; he took at least one as his mistress (and probably more) and had children with her, a thing that is occasionally romanticized but is nothing but a long and extended rape; he wished dearly that slavery would end for the corrupting influence it had on white men, but did nothing to make it happen in his life. And despite training up folk all about him to be slave owners, and never much speaking to them about Abolition, he assumed the next generation after his would eliminate slavery for some reason which cannot be fathomed.

Well. Presidents are, after all, human. They are far from angels, and have dark sides, perhaps more than those who are never driven by that level of ambition. Willful cruelty might serve well in a national leader, carefully shaped and aimed.

We have of course the lowest and most wretched man ever to occupy the office (not that we have a large sample) squatting in the White House even now. He is cruel, but it's not a shaped cruelty and serves no purpose. You can be certain he would own slaves, if they were legal; you can be certain he'd mumble a few pious words about how it's a terrible institution, and God willing, one day it would end, but not now, what could you do, anyway, they're not ready, the slaves, to be free. In that, he'd not be any worse than Jefferson, so there's a nice comparison for him to brag about: he's no worse than Thomas Jefferson, the man with the greatest claim to be the father of our country out of all our fathers.

I'm going to pick and choose with Presidents to honor today: yes to the first 5, yes to Lincoln, yes to both Roosevelts and to Eisenhower and to Carter (a man too good to be president) and LBJ and Grant and Polk. No to Jackson because fuck him; no to Buchanan and Pierce and both Bushes and Harding. I will grant Nixon the praise he deserved and the rasher of scorn he earns; I will damn Reagan for the multitude of sins while recognizing it could have been even worse, and admitting there were one or two things he did right. I will lament that I am honoring Barack Obama in his absence for the first time (I will lament that for many years, I suspect) as he is likely to be the greatest president of my lifetime. And the current incumbent, well, I hope he enjoys what one can hope will be his only year to be honored as the incumbent on this day. He's a shitstain on the office, and may he vanish from it before the next chance to ruminate upon the collection of men who have held it.

What are you reading? Are you daft? I said I'm reading Undaunted Courage. It's 21 years old now, so I'm a bit late to the party. Only in the early stages. It's a good read, though: brisk and with the right balance of factoid to action, hagiography to gritty detail.

How's the weather? Mild. Damp. It's normal Seattle. We're in that weird span of February, so common here, where the highs for a week or so approach 60 degrees. It's often followed by a few days of freezing weather, sometimes with snow. We don't need more snow. I hope we give that a pass this year.

How do you feel? My left knee is troublesome off and on; it aches a bit here and there but not in any way that seems particularly consistent. My pills do their job still. I don't need to mention that after this, I don't think, as I'm more than a month in and they seem to be steady. I haven't gotten bronchitis, which has afflicted at least three people at my work; this is about the sickest winter I can recall at the book store, full of affliction on all fronts.

What do you feel about The Cherry Orchard? Oh, yeah, I went to see The Cherry Orchard at ACT with the husband yesterday. It's a little goofy in places. I read that Chekhov meant it as a comedy, with elements of farce, and that the first staging of it was as a tragedy, and this conflict has been present every since. And I quite see that: it's ridiculous in many spots, with clear elements of clowning. There is a hint of tragedy, but that could be entirely turned into farce if the characters were played more broadly. Was that Chekhov's intent? We'll never know, as he died about the time the play premiered. They did a great thing, when the party is going on midway through, where all the cast was on stage dancing away while the play went on, and it was incredible: for fifteen minutes there's a string trio playing live music, and 8 to 10 people on stage dancing away, while two or three of them carry on with the dialogue, often while being dancers. The work that went into that must have been intense. I couldn't stop smiling more broadly the longer it went on, and I couldn't help being disappointed when the dance ended.

And with that, I'm off to go set up the Garden Show store booth.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Slow Motion Meltdown

It's like someone threw a bucket of water on the Trump administration, and it's started a slow dissolve. To be honest, there wasn't much there to begin with, but it was a nefarious nothing; callow emptiness has succeeded in the past in doing massive harm (see: The Third Reich) and could easily have done so again. I was genuinely concerned that when the crisis came, Trump and his people would just blithely continue onward, never acknowledging that they were liable to respond to the nation. They would ignore court, refuse to resign, pretend that public opprobrium didn't count for anything. And that would be the truest sign that we were headed to a grim future.

But no. For whatever reason they are vulnerable to outside interference. Flynn resigned. Puzder withdrew. It's descending into greater chaos than already existed. I can't figure out why that's happening--not that I can parse much about this administration. In this case though, I really had assumed that Flynn would stay, defended by Trump and others, and that they'd shout alternate facts--blatant lies--from the rooftops until some other problem loomed large enough that Flynn was forgotten. I assumed that Puzder would stay in the running, and when the vote was called for he'd be rejected but then he'd start doing the job anyway.

None of that, though. A good sign, I think. There is still vestigial responsiveness in the administration, and it seems to be growing. The only thing that seems to be growing. Otherwise, there are leaks and recriminations and people being refused spots on the chat shows and widening interest in Russian connections, and so many problems in less than a month that it is dizzying.

What are you reading? Some of Glen Cook's Garrett Files, which remain choppy, and which, in the latest, feature a fridging. I mean, it's a thematically appropriate fridging--the books are crime stories, and the detective found domestic bliss, and thus the woman must die, as is called for--but it's still bothersome. The book wasn't written in 1980, it was written in 2013. And there's a ton of casual homophobia, poofs and nancies and all that being thrown about, none of which is necessary. It's at least only casual? It fits the mini-genre well enough, and the author was 69 when it came out so I suppose that was what he knew, and there's casual sexism too, so...I don't know. I will have read the entire series when I'm done, and I don't think I'll need to read another if Cook manages to produce more in his last years. They're books for high school/college me to enjoy, and that was a long time ago.

Writing anything? I guess? We'll say yes. It's slow going, but it's going, which is something.

How's the weather? Goddamn there's rain. Inches in the last day or two. I have friends with flooding, sometimes over and over, as all this heavy rain pelts us in waves this winter. But it's getting warmer, and the days are getting longer, so that's nice.

Speak on Eclipse Phase: It's the current tabletop rpg I'm running. Centuries ahead Solar system spanning transhumanist space stuff. Excellent background and world building. Terrible, clunky, finicky rules system. I was warned about it but took a "how bad could it be" attitude. It's bad. Real bad. Piles and piles of crap bad. But we're managing, narrowly. I'm still thinking that I might change the rules but keep the setting, though I'm not sure how that would work at this point. My friend Matt has a Powered By The Apocalypse conversion he runs with, but I tend to hate PBTA games in practice, even if I like them in theory.

Anything big at work? Garden Show next week. Inventory next week. ECCC in two weeks. Independent Bookstore Day in two months. Entirely new inventory, pos and web systems in three months. There's a lot going on. But we have the summer to take it easy, at least at present, so I'm just aiming for that, and keeping it in mind, and trying to keep my goals prioritized and stuff.

That's about all, I guess, right now? Pills are fine, husband is fine, family is generally okay though with some grim happenings that aren't mine to talk about, and the world seems slightly less likely to dissolve into nothingness than was the case three weeks ago.