Oct 19 2014

Bubbles!

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Photo by Betsy Phillips!


Oct 17 2014

Book Reviews: Spirits Abroad, Dragonfield, Wonders of the Invisible World

Spirits Abroad

I have raved about Zen Cho before—quite frankly I think she’s phenomenal, the most exciting new SF/F writer of this generation. And this short fiction collection really showcases her range of talent. These marvelous, fresh, transporting, inventive stories generally include elements drawn from Malaysian folktales and culture, rendered with a global, modern, magical-realist sensibility and a tremendous amount of literary talent. Some of the stories are funny–some are spooky–some are devastating–some are thoughtful. I cannot recommend the collection too highly. I am summarily making up a Book of the Year Award so that I can award it to this book.

Winner! Book of the Year (According to Shannon) Award!

On a five-star scale I give it ten stars. Seriously, so good.

Dragonfield: and other Stories

Well, what can I say—she’s no Zen Cho, but that Jane Yolen lady can spin a rather ripping yarn, can’t she?

I mean, Jane Yolen is a grande dame of fantasy, and if you read in the genre you probably already know whether you like her stuff. I do, very much, so I found this short fiction collection utterly delightful. This is the stuff of traditional fantasy–selkies and king’s sons and river-maidens and, yes, dragons–rendered by a master of the genre who is still writing at the top of her game.

Wonders of the Invisible World

Yep, I’ve had good luck with short story collections lately. This is another strong one. McKillip’s stories skew a bit odder (and sometimes harsher/sadder) than Yolen’s, but her writing is texturally gorgeous, and her characters can win you utterly from the first paragraph. Very good stuff for genre readers.


Oct 2 2014

Recipe: Farro and Kale Salad with Olives

I love farro, and I love olives, and I like kale as much as the next Californian, so I thought I’d throw up a quick link to this recipe from Food & Wine. It makes a terrific lunch.


Sep 30 2014

Training Camp

I just got back yesterday from a “Brownsea” training camp for Scout leaders. It was pretty cool! The idea was to immerse us adults in the same sort of program and environment that the Pathfinder Scouts (ages 11 to 17) will experience, so that we can successfully recreate that for our own troops. Our Oakland group doesn’t have a Pathfinder section yet–our kids are younger–but I’m actively planning for getting that part of the program up and running.

A couple pictures:

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Sep 11 2014

Drive-By Update

Oh my gosh, things have been busy since school started. It turns out that having two kids in two different schools, plus a baby at home, plus the time we put into our Scout troop, adds up to a very busy schedule? Who could have predicted!

Bullet points! I will give you bullet points.

  • Robin is doing great in first grade. He has settled right in and comes home saying his days are “awesome.” Plus he’s burbling about volcanos and the Big Bang and hissing Madagascar cockroaches, so I think they’re even teaching him some stuff.
  • Davy is one of the big kids at our co-op preschool now. I like my work days there: it’s such a happy, good place that even if I show up totally harried and stressed, I’ll end the day feeling serene.
  • Sol the Wrecking Ball continues his rampage of terror. If he’s not transferring the dog’s kibble into her water dish by the fistful, then he’s in the bathroom, unspooling all the toilet paper. Or he’s climbing up the piano, or the bookshelves, or onto the dining room table. Or he’s digging around in the potted plants. The only reasonable thing to do with him is take him to a park, but working around his nap schedule AND the two daily school pick-ups is a challenge. He’s a challenge. I just keep telling myself it will get easier soon. Soon. Surely soon.
  • Our Scout group is rocking along! We’ve had two meetings plus a group hike, and next Sunday we’re doing a “kid’s bike rodeo” as part of the Oaklavia Love Our Lake Day. Look at these cuties (click to embiggen):

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And that is all the bullet points I have!


Aug 25 2014

First Day of First Grade

Look at that big kid!

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Aug 24 2014

Earthquake

Because I’m getting e-mails and phone calls, let me say very quickly: yes, we felt the earthquake, but it was really mild here. I woke up, Sam didn’t. I could tell that it was either quite strong or quite close though, just from the duration of the shaking and the way the windows rattled. My thoughts are definitely with the residents of Napa.

But we are just fine.


Aug 23 2014

Flash Fiction: “Disclaimer”

“Do you ever worry that you’ve got…Earthling B.O.? Our Andromeda Body Spray(Galactic TM) will clear that right up for you! Smell as fresh as a nebula and as heroically well-muscled as a Gnorn! The knack-lings will swoon for you in…Andromeda Body Spray(Galactic TM)!”

Side effects may include but are not limited to: dizziness, drowsiness, weight gain, Terran olfactory syndrome, heart failure, weight loss, being devoured alive by knack-lings. Offer void where prohibited. Andromeda BodySpray(Galactic TM) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Greater Knack-brood Corp.

Please consult your doctor before applying Andromeda Body Spray(Galactic TM). Contents not manufactured within the Andromeda Galaxy. Sentient beings reading this disclaimer are required to note that this communication and all related promotional materials are governed by the Gnorn/Knack-brood Peace Treaty of SSY 540 Million. Any Gnorn reading this communication is required to submit itself at once to the nearest Peace Center for immediate incubation. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. In the event that no Peace Center is available within the nearest 125 light years, Gnorn are required to self-incubate with a mixture of organic brain slurry and the nearest knack-lings to hand.

Please further note: as per Her All-Devouring Majesty’s decree of SSY 539.999 Million, knack-lings are ALWAYS to hand, in all parts of the multiverse heretofore or yet to be discovered. Knack-lings may be described in local lingo by such common terms as “ktashvish,” “pluuuarrrrghemon,” or “ear-wigs.” You may proceed to self-incubate.

Any sentient and sapient being continuing to read this disclaimer has failed to submit to the Sub-Neural Protocol of SSY 539.9998 Million. In the likely event that your species has yet to be contacted by the Knack-Brood Dominion (may the stars never set upon it) please have your law-grubs contact our law-grubs at your earliest convenience. Mutually beneficial trade networks and many free samples await your communique. You may already be a winner. Let’s do lunch.


Aug 19 2014

On the Sonoma Coast

We are just back from a long weekend at a beach house with Nanita, Markie, and Aunt Judy! The kids enjoyed hiking, tide-pool investigating, and a visit to historic Fort Ross. I enjoyed all those things as well, plus the luxury of having my extended family around to help out with the children. For once the adults actually had the kids outnumbered! There was always someone to rock a fussy baby to sleep, or read stories to the bigger kids, or just to keep a watchful eye out while they all ran around. I reflected (and not for the first time) that humans really aren’t meant to raise kids in these isolated nuclear-family units: my mother the anthropologist told me that in some societies the word for “mother” and “aunt” is the same, because traditionally all the women of the family would be living and raising their kids together. We love our home in Oakland, but the one enduring regret I have is that we weren’t able to arrange things so that we ended up living closer to our families.

It was a great vacation though. Robin befriended a seagull, who he named Dread Pirate Seagull. This is not the Dread Pirate Seagull, but sometimes he would come and perch on the carving:

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The coast was rocky and the surf very cold, so there was no swimming, but the kids enjoyed the beach anyway:

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And Sol took command of Fort Ross:

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(Which is a very interesting place by the way, although its history is laced with pain. It was a Russian outpost until 1842, first as a base for sea otter hunting and fur trading, and then—after the otters had been hunted almost to extinction—as an agricultural base meant to supply the Russian colonies in Alaska. The Russians brought down Aleuts from Alaska to help with the otter hunting, and many of these ended up marrying Native Californian women: but the Indian laborers were cruelly exploited, a practice that continued even after the Russians sold the fort to John Sutter and the site was turned to a lumber operation.)

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I took tons of pictures but most of them were of lichen or fenceposts or little wildflowers. Or all three:

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Anyway, we had a great time and we’re glad to be home!


Aug 7 2014

Daily Science Fiction: Totally Recommended

So I recently signed up for the Daily Science Fiction mailing list, where they e-mail you a short (usually 1500 words or less) science-fiction story every morning. It is free! I don’t know why I didn’t do this ages ago!

Here’s an excerpt from today’s story, “A Note to Parents Regarding the Beginning and End of Time Diorama Presentations for Ms. Miller’s Third Grade Class”:

Dear Parents,

It’s diorama time again, and I thought I would send home a few notes for parents about this annual project. While your child is encouraged to approach this project creatively, there are a few ground rules that will help ensure success—as well as the safety of the class.

Time:

If your child chooses Eternalism or “brick time” he or she may not use marshmallows, M&Ms, or any other food item to illustrate the discrete blocks of time. Also, while space-time may be infinite, the dioramas are meant to be a representation to demonstrate your child’s knowledge of the beginning and end of time. Keep in mind that we have sixteen students in the class and all their dioramas must fit on two tables.

Any dioramas depicting N-dimensional space-time, or “time foam,” must not infinitely generate soap bubbles (it creates a terrible mess).

I would recommend restricting any diorama to 6 to 8 dimensions, even if standard string theory’s 12 dimensions are achievable, the results are both difficult to view and, in reality, cannot be contained within the confines of the class. Although it has never happened, we would hate to lose a child to another dimension on diorama day.

I don’t know how they make enough money to pay their authors (because they do pay their authors, which is awesome), but I hope they keep it up, as the stories are fun and just the right length to be a quick daily dose of imagination and possibility.