Category Archives: Cyberspace & Technology

General Recent Recap

Not thrilling reading, but I’d like to get back into at least noting down what’s been going on in my life, since the whole point of this being here is for my own records. Read it, or skip it.

My back has gotten screwed up again somehow. Driving? Knitting in the chair at my inlaws’ place? Sleeping in the same bed that has been fine till this flareup? Walking on snow in winter boots, which tends to engage muscles differently? No clue. I’m back on the prescription naproxen my GP prescribed me last year when this occurred. (Which was… January. Hmm. Maybe that snow thing is a contributing factor after all.)

I acquired a secondhand 3DS for myself last week (thanks Blade!) and surprised Sparky with it on Friday, when we went out for a post-report-card ped day treat. I was sorting through the secondhand games at EB Games and had him hold a copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf while I kept looking, and he asked why, understandably confused since he already had a copy. I casually pulled my DS out of my bag and said “So I can play it, too, and we can visit each other’s towns,” and he was absolutely thrilled. (Then we both got the Pokemon 20th anniversary code for a Mew download, and battled when we got home, since I also acquired Blade’s old copy of Pokemon Y along with the DS. My Cool Mum points have gone through the roof, I tell you.) We’ve been playing New Leaf together and trading stuff all weekend. Owlet is fascinated and loves the game, and is already making plans for playing it when she has bought her own DS once she turns eight (yes, same rules apply to her as applied to Sparky; we’ll pay for half, but she needs to save up the rest on her own). For now she sits next to me and asks to watch me go into all the little houses, chooses different clothes for my character to wear, run on the beaches, and catch fish. Playing it is surprisingly relaxing.

I’m fighting my usual beginning-of-the-year malaise and lack of energy, which compounds the back issues. I seem to be sleeping decently, which is a pleasant surprise. But I’m having trouble focusing on things and working through the fibro fog, which is frustrating, since I do actually have work. Lots of it, too. I’ve been editing a self-pub non-fic title from a charming repeat customer, which is fun but lots of work, and handling copyedit projects for the publisher as well. Not much down time, lots of energy-draining stuff.

Speaking of work, at the end of last week I got a very exciting e-mail from the large corp I worked for last year, with some very intriguing news and an invitation to work on a new, very different kind of project. Different for them, that is; it’s completely my skillset and toolbox and wheelhouse and other metaphors, and I am super, super excited. I hope it works out.

Back messed up, new DS and games, work. There. I’m behind on Owlet’s monthly posts again, and there are more spinning pics to post. Another day.

Ten Years

It’s been ten years this month since my first book came out. It seems only right that I use the icon that HRH drew of me taking a bow after a G&S show for this post, yes? I probably don’t take enough bows. I’m shy like that.

It’s been an interesting ride these past ten years, and I like where my career has gone along the way.

I’ve worked in the book business since my very first part-time job at the local children’s bookstore. I went from there to working at (and then managing) the local F/SF bookstore, then working in the local metaphysical bookstore. I ‘retired’ from the retail aspect and did writing, data entry, and ordering for the metaphysical store, until the owner forwarded me a letter from one of the large publishing companies we purchased from. They were looking for someone with an English degree who was experienced in writing, the book business, and the new age market. “They’re looking for YOU!” she told me with excitement, and encouraged me to send in my CV and an introductory letter. The publisher was astonished that someone out there actually existed who matched their criteria perfectly, and invited me to sign on as a consultant as they established a new age imprint. I got to help define the imprint’s mission statement, help develop a plan and schedule, help vet proposals, and do tech reviews of the finished manuscripts. After rescuing an unfinished manuscript that also featured plagiarism (longtime readers know how I feel about that particular subject), the editor in charge of the imprint asked me to write the next book in the series. I did, and then I wrote another right on its heels at their request.

I was pregnant when that first book came out, unknowingly only a couple of weeks away from giving birth to Sparky. (Ahead of schedule… gosh, a lot happened in those four weeks; we moved a week after it came out, too. I corrected the page proofs for the second book in the hospital. And I had a delivery deadline for my third book the next month, as well. Good grief.) I remember walking into the new age store after they’d called to tell me it had arrived, and seeing a full-sized poster of the front cover mounted on foam board proudly displayed on a table among piles of that first book. It was slightly surreal to see my name that large on anything. And then the second one came out only four months later.

In ten years I wrote about alternative spirituality, practicing nature-based spirituality in urban areas, home and hearth-based practice, edited an anthology of firsthand experiences of discovering alternative spirituality, approaching pregnancy from the point of view of earth-based spirituality, and the spiritual associations of birds. I oversaw the development and editing of two new age series. I worked with some wonderful, wonderful editors, one of whom introduced me to other departments within the publishing company who gave me rewriting/repurposing work, and, ultimately, my current position as a copy editor.

People ask me sometimes when my next book is coming out, and honestly… I like what I’m doing right now. Writing a book takes an tremendous amount of energy and time, and because when I do something I want to do it right, the per-hour fee ends up being below minimum wage when I take into account the number of hours it takes to produce a manuscript I am satisfied with. Copy editing is more lucrative, frankly, and more immediately gratifying. I am one of those weird people who adores copy editing. I like knowing why a comma is necessary, or why it should be taken out. I like being able to tweak the punctuation or syntax in a sentence to clarify its meaning. I take a stupid amount of pride in being able to use a hyphen, en dash, or em dash correctly. I love finessing a paragraph to focus the author’s point, querying to make sure I grasped what they were trying to say. (The answer is almost invariably yes, oh yes, and thank you.) I have the kind of mind that remembers how an author phrased or formatted something seventy pages ago, and I can make sure every instance of a phrase or instruction is presented the same way each time. I have a sixth sense for a wonky fact that needs to be checked. I have a not-so-secret crush on the sixteenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. And I really like being able to put it all out of my mind when I’ve closed the document and walked away to pick the kids up from school, which I was never able to successfully do while writing on a book contract, and that stressed me out a lot. Add to this the fact that the new age market really shrank about four or five years ago, and, well… at this point in time, I’ve said everything I want to say in a book. (Would I like to produce a book on parenting from an earth-based spirituality POV? Absolutely, but while I like how my kids are turning out, I still feel like I’m flailing around when it comes to parenting, and I couldn’t do it with enough confidence.)

I still get messages from people thanking me for being their introduction to alternative spirituality, for giving them a name to what they felt or believed, for letting them know they’re not alone, and they all mean a lot. I’m proud of what I’ve done. But I love what I’m doing right now, and I wouldn’t chose to do anything else at the moment.

This does not preclude writing on the side, of course. I almost had a new book gig this spring, actually, except they wanted me to write it on a crazy deadline, and my current contract with the game studio takes precedence. Not knowing how much work would be coming or precisely when, I couldn’t take on a book contract in good faith. I do have almost-finished novels lying about that I would like to poke at, finished ones that need rewrites, and I have started a new one for the first time in a few years, writing longhand with a fountain pen in a notebook. (It just felt wrong to try to start it on the computer, and if a story will cooperate in another easily accomplished way… well then, story, here is a Parker fountain pen and some J Herbin ink; come and play.)

Ten years. The traditional gift material for a tenth anniversary is tin; maybe I should buy a new fountain pen to celebrate. (I also see that the modern equivalent is diamond jewellery, which just makes me laugh a lot. Seriously? I’d prefer a new fountain pen.)

Thank you to everyone who has been around for this ride so far. To single a few people out (which is always dangerous because one feels dreadful if one misses someone important), I will name Ron, of course; Ceri, who kept me company on writing jams while I wrote that first book, and provided tea and sanity checks; Debra, who gave me the publisher’s contact request for the consultant in the first place; Silver, who told me I could do it, and to stick to my guns when negotiating for future titles and deadlines; Scarlet and Robyn and all the Melange Magique staff who were excited for me, stocked the book, and hand sold it; and all my lovely editors, especially Andrea, who fought long and hard on my behalf during her time as my last editor. Thank you to booksellers and readers, to reviewers and interviewers, and all my friends who encouraged me, came to book launches, and have my books on their shelves, even if they’ve never read them and never intend to. You are all wonderful, and there would be no point in doing this, if not for you all.

Meet the Mazurka

Among the work, and the starting school, and the work, and the preschool stuff, and the work…

I got a new wheel.

But you just SOLD one! I hear some of you cry. Yes, I did. I sold the Baynes castle wheel I got in May 2013 to Cats this past Easter. And then I discovered that I really missed having a small upright I could move around with me. This was painfully obvious in August when I had the kids home full-time and had to be downstairs with Owlet if she was watching a movie and Sparky didn’t want to. I have to be doing something with my hands, apparently, and knitting doesn’t fully work in that respect because I need undivided attention to knit. And this summer also demonstrated to me that spindles are nice, but frustrating in their slowness and their physical requirements. (I’m looking into supported spindles to combat that latter issue; we’ll see what happens.)

This summer my fellow spinners and I in the Kromski group at Ravelry got into discussing the very first spinning wheel produced by Kromski, pre-1999. We tend to call it the Mazurka prototype, because the design was overhauled and then presented as their first mass-production spinning wheel, the Mazurka. It’s a single-treadle, double-drive castle wheel. The prototype has a different flyer and bobbin, but it’s fully operational. You just can’t use the modern bobbins. (FWIW, the redesigned Mazurka was retired in 2011 and is out of production.)

We were trying to problem solve for a spinner who owned one, and whose flyer had broken in two. Now, it’s not generally a good idea to repair a broken flyer; a repaired wooden unit revolving at high speed under tension runs the risk of becoming a dangerous high-speed projectile (with pointy hooks made from nails sticking out!). We started trying to figure out the differences between the old and the new Mazurkas, and got measurements of the new flyers, trying to figure out if they’d fit on the prototype’s mother-of-all (for reference, if you’re a collector looking to upgrade your prototype: they won’t fit at all; the new flyers are almost two inches longer than the prototype’s flyer, and the clearance between the shaft and the arms is different, too. Also, modern whorls won’t fit because the threaded part on the prototype’s shaft is too short to allow the modern double whorls to screw fully on. You’re welcome.) And as we asked questions of one another, someone in the Netherlands popped up and said she had a prototype, and didn’t use it; she was willing to sell it, and at a ridiculously low price.

Well, yes, of course I was interested. I gave someone in the UK first rights of refusal, and then started negotiating. We were both busy, and I was waiting on one of the freelance cheques for a crazy project I’d done in late spring. She was worried I’d balk at the cost of shipping, but as others in the group agreed, her price for the wheel was so low that even taking international shipping of a spinning-wheel-shaped object into account, it was an awesome deal.

So then my cheque was late, and the safest and cheapest way to pay her was by bank transfer so I did an international money transfer via my bank to her bank, and then there was no news about the transfer resolving at the other end, and there were health issues… but it all worked out. Then I got to track my parcel from NL to CAN, which was very exciting. And then, a day or two before I expected it, my friendly parcel guy rang my doorbell at ten in the morning and gave me this:

I couldn’t let myself open it right away, because I had so much work to do that day! I let myself open it half an hour before I had to go get the kids. So I unpacked and assembled it into this:

The first couple of days were frustrating. A couple of the hooks are a bit rough and the single would break on them. It only runs in double drive, and the difference in circumference between the bobbin groove and the whorl/pulley isn’t very big, so the take-up/draw-in wasn’t as strong as I like for the spinning I do. On a double-drive wheel, that’s adjusted via raising or lowering the entire MOA assembly to put more tension on the doubled drive band, and even moving it incrementally I couldn’t get a setting I liked. I rigged a weighted line scotch brake to run over the bobbin groove to spin in single drive/scotch tension, but even that ended up being frustrating. I finally changed the drive band from the fuzzy hemp to the nice waxed cotton I bought to replace the drive band on my Symphony, and everything clicked.

She doesn’t have a maker’s mark, which is a bit disappointing, but not unexpected; in the five-ish wheels from our discussion board sample, only one does. She has a distaff, which is exciting; I’ve never had a wheel with a distaff before. I was excited for one afternoon, after which I took it off, since it was in the way of replacing drive and brake bands and going up and down stairs with it. And it’s so light! I can carry it around with a couple of fingers of one hand! The Baynes was much heavier.

Now, having been deep in discussion about other people’s Mazurka prototypes, I was already in the right headspace to carry on thinking about updating this one so that I could switch bobbins between the two Kromski wheels. HRH took a good look at the mother of all, and comparing my modern flyer from the Symphony with it, we could see that it would be too short. So I’ve ordered a modern unfinished flyer and front maiden, and HRH is working on a cap for the current MOA to extend it. It would be difficult to replace it entirely, because the MOA has a threaded hole at the back for the wooden tension screw that raises or lowers it. Reproducing that threaded wooden hole to match the screw would be harder to do, and HRH doesn’t have the tools to do it. And since it will accept the new double flyer whorls, I can use my extra Symphony ones. I’ll put in some eye hooks for a proper scotch tension brake, too.

She is quite charming, and I like her very much, even before the upgrade. I’m currently spinning dark green Corriedale top on her to make a worsted yarn to knit Sparky a Link hat.

General Update

Let’s use a numbered list! Those are fun!

1. We are settling in nicely with the Cruze. It is still red. HRH drove it to Pennsylvania and back last weekend for Clan Camping, and apparently it handled like a dream. We’re getting insanely good gas mileage. I think, apart from the trip to PA (where they also filled up a lot less than expected), we have put gas in the car all of twice, neither a full tank.

2. I am currently copyediting a 600-page, 300-recipe French cookbook. This has had three major effects so far: One, I want to slow cook everything (as I said the other day to Daphne and Ceri, “mijoter TOUTES LES VIANDES!”); two, my desire to drink wine has increased proportionally to the direction to pour wine in every second recipe; and three, my desire to cook everything in butter has also increased. It is a pretty tight schedule, since it’s about twice the length of a standard manuscript but I have the same timeframe in which to complete it. HRH is back at work so my daytime work hours are reduced with both kids home, which doesn’t help with the stress levels. But I am in the home stretch, with less than 100 pages to go before my deadline this week.

3. I registered for this year’s Spinzilla, spinning for Team Kromski. This is a week-long event hosted by the TNNA (AKA The National Needlearts Association, specifically the Spinning and Weaving Group) designed “to motivate spinners to learn new skills, take risks, and spin their hearts out. It is also a fundraiser for the NeedleArts Mentoring Program (NAMP). NAMP connects adult mentors with school age children to teach the needle arts — spinning, weaving, knitting, crochet, and stitching.” The basic goal is for teams try to spin as much combined length as they can. Plied yarns count for the length of the singles used to make them. In other words, if you end up with a 300-yard three-ply yarn, it counts for 900 yards of spinning. (Turns out the plied length counts, too, because you ran it through the wheel to ply it! So a 300-yard three-ply yarn would count for 1200 yards!) This is mildly insane because Canadian Thanksgiving happens during that week, but we shall see what kind of game plan I can draw up.

4. I read The Apprentices by Maile Meloy, which is the sequel to The Apothecary. It wasn’t as good, unfortunately. I also recently read Indexing by Seanan McGuire, which was fantastic. I got my copy of Beth Smith’s Spinner’s Book of Fleece book last week, and when this project is handed in I intend to sit down and enjoy it from cover to cover.

5. I will also enjoy trying out my new hand cards after this project is done!

I got paid for a crazy project I did a month and a half ago (recently it has been all huge or crazy projects, which is good for the bank account, not so good for the stress levels) and I took some of that money and bought a pair from Colette at her spinning studio. I also picked up some pink and purple Corriedale that Owlet fell in love with, so I shall practice carding by blending some Tencel with each of them and knitting her wee socks and mittens.

6. I forgot to mention that HRH painted the bathroom at the end of July. I came home from a week with my parents and the shabbiness of it finally made me snap. He scraped off the white paint on the wall soap dish (who paints a soap dish?), replaced the soggy MDF shelf above the sink, and painted the dark grey walls a lovely spring green. I love it so much more.

7. I bought a new computer monitor on sale a week or so ago. It’s a 20″, and it is astonishing. I can easily have three or four documents open on my screen and flip through all of them easily. I have no idea how I survived with a 15″ for so long.

That’s life in a nutshell right about now.

Random List of Updatey Stuff

Last week, we traded our beloved Saturn Vue in for a Chevy Cruze. We were almost convinced (the gas economy on the Vue was worse than abysmal, even taking into account the size of the engine and the age of the vehicle), pending my test drive and agreement, when the Vue’s transmission decided to stop functioning on our trip to southern Ontario. Six hundred kilometers from home is not where you want these things to happen. Fortunately, when we’d taken the loan out on the Vue we’d bought an extra insurance for it via the dealer that covered exactly this kind of thing, so HRH called them, they sent him across Toronto to the garage they dealt with, and they handled it beautifully. We paid the $83 dollar deductible plus the cost of the diagnostic test; the insurer paid absolutely everything else, no fuss, no arguing. We’re so impressed that once the manufacturer’s warranty runs out on the Cruze, we’ll be buying this package again. But the whole experience made us very cranky at the Vue, and also at the timing. It was kind of the final straw; we felt a bit betrayed.

So yes, we have a new car. It is red, which is not among my favourite colours for cars, but of all the reds it could be it is the most acceptable. We have had it for six days and the fuel economy is so awesome that I swear little angels sing to me every time I check the tank gauge. It is lovely to drive, but I miss my Vue terribly.

This is Owlet’s last week of daycare. She will be home through all of August. I can’t help but feel that I should be doing something very productive with my time as it ticks away before this Friday afternoon, but instead I am sort of stumbling around, recovering from my month and a half of going at full speed. I handled two intense work projects back to back, and then I turned around a ten-day project in four days just before we left on our trip. (Possibly insane, but I did it.) My allergies are really, really bad this summer for some reason, too, so bad that they’ve triggered my asthma, which hasn’t happened in years. That’s sucking a lot of my energy. This morning I finally found an old inhaler and used it. Now I can breathe again, but I’d forgotten that Ventolin gives me the shakes. So after coming back from dropping Owlet off and doing half the back-to-school shopping with Sparky, I had to lie down on the chesterfield with a blanket because I couldn’t do much else. Fibro backlash plus a not-so-great reaction to medication; charming.

I am trying not to worry about August, when both kids will be home full time. It’s hard enough to get Sparky to stop whining that he doesn’t know what to do, and to keep my temper when he shoots down every suggestion I have for him. I’m trying to gear up for having them both here, and for the fact that I will have to work nights and weekends if I get a contract. We can go grocery shopping every couple of days, go for walks, find a local playground, and play in the backyard (maybe fill the pools if the temperature gets warm enough again for water play). The age gap makes it problematic at times. Owlet’s idea of a walk is to the end of the street and back, stopping to crouch and examine leaves, bugs, and flowers, or stomp in puddles if it has rained; Sparky gets frustrated because we’re not getting anywhere. She’s not old enough to play Lego with him; he’s not young enough to let her direct the play if they bring out the Thomas trains or the cars or whatever, getting upset if she deviates from the complicated game he sets up. The age difference between nine and three is really big.

Craft stuff is going to be what I turn to a lot of the time, I think. I’d like to have a defined craft time every day. I’ll pick up pads at the dollar store for Owlet, and some canvases for Sparky. I think he may find working with acrylics on canvas interesting. We can do some plasticine, and maybe some homemade air-dry clay that can be painted on a subsequent day. I’ll get a bucket of chalk to draw on the top part of the driveway. Owlet is old enough for bigger beads, as well; we can make necklaces, bracelets, and maybe ornaments for trees. And I’ll certainly make a calendar that we can use to count down the days till school starts again. I know she’ll miss her friends and her educators terribly. Unfortunately, most of them planned to go on vacation for the first half of August, so we can’t even plan playdates till they’re back; but once they are, then that will help, too.

In Which She Takes A Deep Breath

Yesterday morning my blog started displaying php errors at the top of the screen. The last time this happened was in 2008, when my host upgraded their end and my blog software didn’t play nicely with it. I tried to upgrade, we lost the RSS feeds for a while, and the blog was broken in a way I couldn’t fix. It mysteriously fixed itself a year or so later, but having been scarred by previous upgrade attempts (the great mySQL disaster to 2006, anyone?) I resisted upgrading until I absolutely had to. Which was yesterday.

So I did. I backed everything up a billion different ways, and I struggled with an anxiety attack all day. And then after the upgrade… the blog wouldn’t display. Nada. White page. This is so common, I later discovered, that it even has a colloquial term on the boards, “the White Screen of Death.”

Anywhats. I let it go, knowing that the upgrade had worked (mostly) since my dashboard and back end were all functional. I left a note on the support boards asking for help, and Meallanmouse sent me a message with a link to more common fixes and saying she’d try to help if I needed it, which was terribly nice of her. I couldn’t do anything overnight, so I let it go.

That’s huge for me, you know, not obsessing over something I can’t fix right away. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with anxiety lately, which was one of the reasons I’m back on medication. (Which, conveniently enough, addresses my fibro issues, too, so more bang for my buck. Yay for doctors who actually trust that I know what I’m talking about, and yay for being able to admit I need help!)

Anywhats, I delivered children and ran errands this morning (I am now well stocked with tea again, yay), and when I got home, I checked my messages. Someone had answered my board post with specific suggestions, so I ran a couple of those checks and found the error in a misbehaving theme. So voila, now the blog is upgraded, behaving, and displaying, in tidy new clothes. I’m leaving well enough alone for the moment; I’ll play dress-up with it sometime later. (I miss having a photo banner across the top, for example; I’ve missed it for years and years.)

So that’s where the wee blog owlies are at. If you couldn’t see them yesterday, that’s why. But now they’re back in line and hooting softly to themselves about their new digs. We’ll spruce the place up once we’re comfortable painting the walls.