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Off into the wilderness for a few days, Cara Sposa and I. And a canoe. And a lack of baudrate.

Bin Freund, Und Komme Nicht Zu Strafen

I've been busy and staying away from online things.
Not true. I've been very much involved in online things.
But they're things I've been building.

A new website for ChiZine Publications
A turnaround for the Kingston Archery Club
The voting process for the Copper Cylinder Award

It's all coming to an end this week.
And I can get back to writing as my main creative outlet.
Which I've been missing.

But a lot of things are coming to an end.
I'm actively pursuing the process of closing down the NGO consultancy.
And moving on to other things.
As soon as I find them.

Death is a kindly tarot card; Not Euminides kindly,
Like a terror you call kindly out of fear
But kindly all the same. It's the card of natural change:
All goodbyes are long ones.
Husks need husking, fields need clearing.
That's what the reaper is for.

Sudden death is the terrifying one; unnatural death
The Tower is the card that signifies that, and its symbol
Is a tower falling from lightning:
Fire from the sky.

Death used to be with us more often;
Stalked the wee hours, wandered around outside,
Hacking and spitting,
Showing up in a stranger's face like a promise,
Walking arm-in-arm with your grandmother.

We were more used to him, then,
I think, and it reminded us of how short and precious life is.

People think children shouldn't know about death. I had beers
With a friend of ours yesterday, and she said how one child,
Whenever a pet died—a mouse, a hamster, a cat, etc...
He would be taken to the pet cemetery and on returning:
There was a new pet waiting!
And later, even though he was ten or something like that
When his mother died, he expected to find a new one
At home after the funeral.

We value children in a perverse way like that, I find.
I remember being one, and they're not so special.
Definitely not innocent, or kind, or pure...
But not the opposite either. Just more ignorant.

Death is a good teacher of children.
Because just as we need youthful exuberance to buoy life along,
We need to temper it when it pushes too hard.

I notice, emerging at last from my basement,
That the three great colonial powers of the Levant
After two years of ignoring the Syrian civil war
Have started to flood their news channels
With imagery of what is happening to the CHILDREN.
Because somehow, because CHILDREN are suffering,
The war is more real, more brutal.
As if they weren't suffering before.

Someone wants this war.
I don't know who.
But I know that it's someone who does not dance with death.
Who is unfamiliar with death.
Someone who doesn't know the difference between Death and the Tower.
I suspect that someone is most of us.
It's how we were raised.

In Boston, one of the few of you I met in person was asakiyume.
Following up to that, she sent the most marvellous card.
Let me show it to you:

Isn't it marvellous? It's the angel of death on TV.
Driving a car.
Taking out the garbage.

It's a familiar death, and
When I say familiar, I mean in the same way as "family".
Death walks among families on the good days.
Death comes from above on the bad days.
Both to children and old ladies.

There's a man called McCain who wants this war.
He trained long and hard to deliver death from above.
Apparently he was good at it.
And thinks we should continue to deliver death that way.

Where it is far away from what we see.
Just a dot on a TV screen, blurry in infrared.

I haven't followed up on the trip to Boston.
Partly because we had one of those small deaths from above
And have probably lost our chance to have a family at this point.
But it was a small death. Not unexpected, and far from the first.

But it stings in a place where I can't even reach consciously,
Because I have no idea of what it's like to be a parent.
And probably never will.

But better this than to have a child and lose it.
By someone who thinks they are delivering justice
To someone you have never met.

Think on that before supporting "justice" from the sky, please.
Yes, you, too, John.

20130811 (Sheepdog Trials)

Sheepdog lifting Sheep

20130808 (Corpse Flower)

Corpse Flower (Indian Pipes)

20130807 (Sharbot Lake)

Sharbot Lake

20130806 (Sapsucker Holes)

Sapsucker holes on fallen birch

20130807 (Mr. Ed on Tang)

Tourist-Tang Horse

20130802 (Teak Tripod)

Teak Tripod

20130801 (Innsmouth)

Fish Jug

20130730 (Lavender Waves)

Lavender Farm

Things I Managed Not to Say for a Change

Got my bicycle repaired. I don't take gentle care of my bicycle. It's a steel-framed Raleigh, about eight years old, that I picked up new for around $100. I'm heavier than I look (and I look pretty heavy) and I always get up on the pedals to start from stop and I have a habit of going off the edge of curbs without slowing down, and cranking hard in high gear. So I ground down the rear wheel axle and bearings. This a couple of days after breaking the bearings on the right pedal and having it fall apart in the middle of a tricky crossroad (the pedal-standing start from stop that broke the pedal's bearing).

I really like the guy who maintains it. He's young; early twenties. Took over the business from the guy who held it for thirtysomething years. Always does excellent service. I take my bike into him every year for a tune-up, and it goes in wheezing, creaking and complaining and comes out clean and smooth and can't stand still. I've put at least five times the money into the bike as I paid for it with no regrets or complaints. There's little on it that's original equipment other than the frame.

When I came in with the pedal, he was really busy, but stopped for the three minutes it took to grab a used pedal out of the trash and screw it on so I could keep going and went back to his other customers who were haggling prices and picking and choosing gear. "We can settle up later" he says. See what I mean? Level head and deserves loyalty.

So I get a note from Cara Sposa saying that the bike's ready, half a day early, and if I come back soon maybe we can have a swim together. That sounds good to me, so I'm walking from the bottom of Princess (main) Street to the top, and up ahead I see this young woman bending over. She's showing a lot of attractive leg, which admittedly is what got my attention, but she's also incongruously wrapped around the middle in an Afghan shawl and has some kind of traffic-warden's vest on. I'm wondering what's going on, when she straightens up, notices me noticing her, and smiles. She's got a number of "ethnic" touches to her wardrobe, and the vest is printed with some logo and slogan. Then I also notice that she's one of a similar group of young women in similar blue vests, and I realize she's a canvasser and I smile "politely" (in that way which isn't really polite, but it's about as polite as it's going to get) while speeding up.

And there's that telltale blink which means she's got a statement prepared. I groan to myself. Trapped.

She smiles broadly and says "Hi, how are you?" with hints of Watchtower, and extends a hand. Just as I'm shaking it (I kid you not) she says "Don't worry. You're invited to the party, too." The hand is cool, and kind of clammy, and she holds on to mine just a little too long. I'm getting really uncomfortable at this point, and I let it show with a slight grimace and "What's this about?" I look at the ID card she has draped around her neck while asking, but she finally lets go of my hand to pull the vest over it because, well, there's a creepy heavyset guy looking at her cleavage, and because she's going to tell me exactly what it's all about... this party I'm invited to.


It's about PLAN, and I've not heard of PLAN, no. And they spend years breaking the cycle of poverty in less developed countries. And I hear the same words I've been hearing for years and years and years about every well-meaning NGO that takes young people and sends them out into the world like fertilized fish-eggs to do good and justice while still living on their parent's dole between college and getting a job, and I'm thinking of interns and thin staff budgets and high advertising budgets and then she asks "So, do you know what child sponsorship is?"

I say "Yes," so she prepares the next part of the speil, by crossing her arms and tilting her head to one side, just daring me to tell her what it is, and I rattle off: "It's a popular fundraising method for programs or sets of programs to offer personal investment in an NGO's mission by offering a personally-branded connection with a token member of the program's intended recipients."

She's startled by the answer, and while she's processing and talking about "all that stuff about programs and..." I interrupt and say that "Yes, I work with NGOs all the time," and this gives me the opportunity to get away. The unspoken agreement is that "I've paid my dues, so you don't need to target me for raised awareness, thank you." She asks which ones, and I mention two of the ones I spent the most time with.

What I don't say is... "and several others and every one of them condemn child sponsorship as a shameless, deceptive marketing gimmick that adds a burden of inefficiency to programs that are usually already disorganized and prone to manipulation by promotors of a proselytizing or political agenda. It's a continuation of the myth of "white man's burden", and I've had the bad luck of working for organizations where some of the people who came up with the idea in the first place were on the board of directors, and I wasn't very impressed with them or their leadership, either, and they've made fundraising for really effective, efficient organizations much harder by getting the public to expect some kind of personal service for their contributions." No, I didn't say that because, well, I'm classy that way....

So when I got home, it had started to rain, so no swim with Cara Sposa. Poop.

Which gave me some time to think. I've been thinking about ending this work for NGOs, and have never quite kicked the habit for a variety of personal reasons that I'm consciously questioning. I can attest that there's nothing wonderful about NGOs that can't be done by other, less "selfless" organizations. And then I read this article on LJ about Sick Systems. And I realized that I was reading a summary of my first NGO job, where I, like that young woman yesterday, was doing my utmost to make the world a better place, but I didn't realize until years later that what I was actually doing was working to support the personal careers of one man and his cronies. And their agenda and my own only intersected marginally. And then I ended the evening watching Argo which got my blood boiling in a whole new direction.

One of the reasons I have for ending this dysfunctional relationship with NGOs is because I need to do something that isn't driven primarily by anger.

But I also need to recognize that this young woman had probably still been in nappies when I was up late at night faxing around situation reports from Rwanda and Bosnia. Loyalty is important. But it's also important to know who you're being loyal to and why. So, perhaps, in a vague way, I need to recognize that some of this younger NGO crowd deserve loyalty, too. Not just marvellous bicycle repairmen.... I need to be loyal to the gullible idiots out there like myself-at-that-age, and warn them about the real creeps out there in the NGO world.

But that's a rant for another day. Today, I have neglected the vegetable plot for far too long and must go with Cara Sposa to weed it before my regular work begins.

20130729 (Space Monkey)

Chimpanzee wood carving from Bali

20130726 (Northern Yellowjacket)

Dolichovespula norvegicoides

20130724 (Lemon Twist)

Lemon Leaf

Shortest story, or so I am told: "Baby shoes for sale. Never used."

20130717 (the fireflies return)

On getting back from ReaderCon, we discovered that the fireflies have returned. They've been pretty much gone since the Winter of 2004, where the temperature dropped for one week to -30°. We haven't seen them out in any numbers (I can recall two of them flashing feebly at each other a couple of years ago), but the week has been over 30°; and very wet and humid all spring, so, now, in the Backdoor Wildlife Preserve®, there were dozens. The video is, of course, very poor, but I hope you can see some of them.

Fireflies Return

And in further raccoon news, mama has joined the little ones. We saw them the night before last. All three, climbing the tall elm tree, cleaning all the nests of their chicks and eggs. Then they came for the three ripe tomatoes we had and kicked over a strawberry plant in the process. Gotta love 'em, them and their wringy little necks.

Readercon was conned, and we spent an extra night to take an elderly relative out for dinner with his SO and Son (Legal Seafood in the Burlington Mall), and very glad we did for the company. And the food. Legal Seafood is kind of an institution. They don't have much on the menu, but the fish is always very high quality and very well prepared. One of the joys of flying through National Airport in DC was having a bowl of LS Chowder in between flights. Odd bit of local custom: I Discovered that in Boston, they have the mix backwards from what I'm used to with large food portions (groaning plates of food) and small drink ones (a "Pint" can't be more than 12 fluid Ounces, it would seem from the glass size. U.S. Pints are supposed to be 16 fluid ounces, and a EU "pint" is really a 1/2 Litre, so Canadians go to 20oz to have nearly round "pints" in both measurement systems, but that means a squeeze more beer, too, don't mind if I do, thank you), but when in Boston....

I'm not sure what to think of ReaderCon. Partly because I have never entirely warmed to cons to begin with, and I found this one really challenging for being social, since the schedule is so packed and the gaps so few. Not even decent gaps for dinner, and scant parties. With Cara Sposa not feeling 100% and wanting to bow out to read in our hotel fifteen minutes away, I found I was spending a lot of my time in commute instead of conversation, and what conversations I managed were constantly cut short by interruptions and the lure of yet another panel. And the fact that I am learning to listen when my body says sleep, which nowadays happens around 10PM.

Also, there's the fact that I "know" so many of the attendees by trolling the online venues. This invokes an awkwardness that is similar to the awkwardness of office parties, wherein people who normally "work together" suddenly together in a common space, with the opportunity to talk about.... well, pretty much what they've talked about all the time. The accessibility granted to us by the InterNet also means that the anticipation of meeting is damped a bit by familiarity. But it was pleasant to see actual faces and read body language to fill in the details that are missed online.

So, altogether, I'm glad I came if only to meet some of these people I know only by distance. Had brief but pleasantly relaxing dinner with asakiyume, spending most of the time discussing political and living-memory-historical changes with her dad. Occasionally ran by acwise in between panels, and 1/2 minute conversations with handful_ofdust (who did a splendid job on her shared-teaching litreactor class, I can attest mightily, along with John Langan, and the two Shirley Jackson winners from this year's ReaderCon: Jeffrey Ford and Kaaron Warren). If she does teach another class, I'd give it a strong recommendation. And I enjoyed spending some short quality bits with old friends. But ultimately, I wasn't feeling much like pushing myself on other people whom I'd barely met or only talked to online. So sorry if I didn't introduce myself. It's nothing personal.

Readercon was also a con of panels. Lots of panels. The panels themselves were of a mixed lot, but on the whole more intelligent than your average panel, and there was plenty of local colour. But altogether, I don't get a lot out of cons anymore, just like I don't get all that much out of workshopping. I think these four-ish years of getting to know the ropes is coming to a close, and I'm due to concentrate on simply writing and making things go. Like those websites crying out for my attention, and that novel that needs finishing. Oh, and those half-dozen short stories begun but not finished.

A big thank you to everyone who helped make Readercon work, though, and to everyone who took the time to point me in the right direction. That's what I'm taking away from the weekend: this is a great community and it's trying really hard to do what's right and to lift everybody up. But it's also the end of an era. I feel the birds are growing restless, and perhaps they need to be a bit more audacious, a bit more daring. The world needs birds like that.

20130710 (Fading Lily)

Daylily, fading

Um... I'm not boycotting Ender's Game. There's an important reason, and there's a less important reason. Important reason first:

1. I can't boycott a movie I'm not going to see. Ender's Game is an artificial story. It's a story that begins with "what if..." when the "what if" is incredibly stupid. "What if..." you had to negotiate with a train out of control speeding at you and you can't get out of the way? Yes, well. You can't. Dumb story. You blow up the train. Or don't. I don't really care.


There simply isn't a war in human history, present or future, where negotiation can't happen. The problem with Ender's Game is that it's an artificial logical construct for no other purpose than to justify laziness. Laziness in terms of "these people aren't worth understanding, and they hate us anyway. Let's kill them before they kill us." To which, Card adds, out of some Judeo-Christian urge, "But killing is bad, so let's feel guilty about it, but never be unsure of the fact that we had to kill them."

It's easy to have a conscience when it's too late to reverse your decision. The problem with a conscience is that if you don't listen to it when you're doing something, you might as well not have one. I was going to say that the sequals to Ender's Game kind of reminds me of the fine people of Namering being taken on a forced tour of a concentration camps after the liberation. But no. They aren't worth commenting on. The problem with Card's story is the hysteria.

Hysteria about the enemy is the very mechanism by which great evils are done with the conscience on hold. Demonize the enemy long enough to kill him. It doesn't matter what happens afterwards, because he's dead.

So, are you really surprised that Orson Scott Card is the kind of person who is perfectly happy to demonize whole swaths of people he has trouble understanding?

But hey—If you're like me, you kind of liked the book. It was a great build-up. It had the heroic child. It had the paean to dedication and duty, and it had (most importantly) the absolution of the child-genocider who didn't really know what he was doing, but made the RIGHT decision. God love him.

I also admit that there is a lot of blood-stirring pomp and circumstance in those Nuremberg rallies. I had a teacher once who actually attended them as a little girl. She admits that it was one of the most inspiring things she ever attended. If I had attended them, too, when everyone around me told me how wonderful it was... I'd probably have loved them, too.

That doesn't make them good, "right" or excusable.

Any more that destroying a country because... well... all those A-Rabs are in cahoots with each other, and I'll just bet that if Saddam Hussein didn't help the 9/11 hijackers, I'll bet he WANTED to. [Even though, of course, there could not be two more unlikely bedfellows that Osama and Saddam. Even though the SLIGHTEST attempt to actually understand what was going on would have shown how idiotic the notion was. And I see very precious little actual understanding of the political situation STILL.]

No, I'm sorry. I don't like Orson Scott Card's way of looking at other people. No matter what reason he finds for considering them inhuman. I also don't like superheroes for the same reason. Call me a poo-poo head.

But, anyway, I won't be boycotting Ender's Game. Or watching it either.

Oh, yes, the unimportant reason:

2. Yes, the art and the artist are separate things. I don't like demonizing people. I don't like straw-man arguments or ad-hominem attacks. They are the essence of two wrongs not making a right. A boycott may not be a blacklisting, sure. But the purpose behind this PARTICULAR boycott IS a blacklist. The issue is not Ender's Game for all the reasons I named above. It's all about putting the financial squeeze on Orson Scott Card because he's a narrow-minded dipshit.

Fine. He's a narrow-minded dipshit. Don't spend time with him, then. Make jokes about him. Point out the failings in his logic. Leave associations that he joins and which allow him to voice these views and say "that's why I'm leaving".

But let's be clear: that wouldn't be about Ender's Game. Be honest. You hate what the man says in public. So attack that. There's perfectly good reasons to hate Ender's Game. Don't confuse the two. It's wasted energy.

Personally, I'd concentrate on how this infallible God often makes mistakes on gender in real bodies all the time. So if you're born with an undeterminable sex because of unusual biology... does that mean you can't marry? No matter how much you love another person? Because if you answer "no" to that, you can't answer "no" to any of the other objections from homosexuals to men with really tiny penises, because unusual biology is simply less common, not "wrong". And if you say "yes", then you are calling God an incompetent arbitrary jackass for having let this situation arise. End of story for me. Find something that works for you.

OK -- off the soapbox for me. I've got packing to do.

This Bomb-Blast Lighting Waltz

Calling all you folks residing in the U.S.: Tor.com is holding a giveaway for Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing, chock full as it is, of the wond'rous strange, including excellent things from Livejournal folk domparisien, handful_ofdust, onemoreshadow, tithenai, as well as a bevy of talent from all over Kanuquois Territory.

All you have to do is go to the page and comment to enter.

Oh, and my psychomagical intercultural clash piece, "Arrow", is in there, too.

20130709 (QAL)

Queen Anne's Lace

Lovely synchronicity today. Dawn Albright bought a poem from me a couple of weeks back for Polu Texni, and posted it today. It's called "Rooks".

I showed it to Cara Sposa. She said "You're kidding me! Look at the painting."

I did. I said "yeah?"

She said "I can't believe you don't remember that. You've always said 'what a glum painting'. That's 'The Return of the Rooks'. It's been on my parent's living room wall FOREVER."

I looked again and blew it up. She was right. It was a print of Savrasov's painting, more popularly translated as "The Rooks Have Come Back." They bought a large print of it back in Moscow in 1974 or thereabouts, and it's been up with all the paintings from Vincente Fyffe from Cuba. It was even on their living room wall in Pakistan, when we were kids.

Who knew? Clearly not me!

20130708 (Leopardsbane)


20130706 (Daylily Anthers II)

Daylily Anthers II

To Pay Our Share

Just had an early-morning run-in with the raccoons. They're identical in size, about the size of the largest of housecats, very fluffy, and very healthy.

Which is why I was compelled to chase after them, making "you're not welcome here" grunts. In the manner of all raccoons, they retreated to a safe distance and then tried to work out if I was actually a threat, or a source of food. It is not the first time I have impotently stood by while being mocked from a distance, but not by anyone so young.

I'd have had pictures, but the sun hasn't risen yet, and by twilight, the exposure would have been over a second, so no go there.

They are damned cute, which is the greater part of the problem.

Update: Ten minutes after posting, a short, heavy shower came through. Two very wet raccoons were seen scooting past the casement window, shaking the water from their fur. I think they're here to stay, which means the shed will need to be kept on lockdown all into the winter. Damn. I was hoping to work in there during the worst of the mosquito season, but it'll be too hot without the garage door open.

To Pay the Rent, Now

The raccoons are back. On Canada Day evening, when the fireworks were going on, they were out in the back, washing themselves in the water, messing about with everything. It's the two kits. Mother isn't there with them, and they seem to haunt our back yard and a few in this block together. I've heard them get separated from each other and then strike up a caterwaul for a half hour or so, trying to find how to get to each other through the fences and the hedges.

Anyway, we went to the window to see if we could catch any of the fireworks. We'd been too tired to make it downtown, since we had an air mattress spring a leak while camping the night before and hadn't gotten much sleep. By the red and green sparkles, we watched them walk around the pool, fall in, get themselves out, grab stuff to eat. Clean it, mess around with the tomato plants.

When I actually went into the back a couple of days later, I saw that they had raided the grackle nest in the honeysuckle vine. The one that was being built when the mallards were causing the grackles worry. There were grackle eggshells all down the walk, all licked clean by the raccoons.

I expect they'll be on their rounds through here more often, now. I'll have to find some way of keeping them off the tomatoes. I've heard bloodmeal helps chase away most critters—we hadn't been able to use it because Dalen would try to eat it. But then again, these are raccoons. Blood meal might even attract them.

In other news, I had a bit of a scare this morning when I checked and realized my U.S. Passport was expired. No worries, though, it seems. I only need my birth certificate for entry, and can travel on my Canadian one. So Readercon is still on.

20130704 (Presquile IV)

Meadow Buttercup

(Note to rose_lemberg: This is a different species, but very similar flower.)

20130703 (Presquile III)

Mayapple Cow Parsnip Forest

20130702 (Presquile II)

Purple-Flowering Raspberry

20130701 (Happy Canada Day Special)

Just got back from an overnight camping trip in Presquile P.P. Only a few photos.

Canada Anemone

20130628 (shadow-patterns)

Hydrangea bud shadow and leaf

His Face Red Like a Rose on a Thorn Bush

It's cloudy and warm today. The roses have opened. I'll be out there later if this rain lets up to take advantage of the light and the drips.

But for now, some writery-updaty things for updating on writing.

  1. Solid short story writing advice in 22 episodes and counting from Doug Smith. If you don't know Doug, you should. He knows the short story craft in and out, and he's giving his advice out for free on Amazing Stories. Go thither.

  2. Am reading a friend's novel and being reminded once again why I don't read high fantasy by choice anymore. Heroic, sometimes. Epic, yes. High... No. If all your action happens in either a throne room, a commander's tent, a temple, or a battle field... Ugh. But I won't say who, because for high fantasy, it's rather good, and there's some original ideas in there I think are definitely worth the effort. But the genre itself is... the vainglorious grand doings of people of privilege. 90210 with sorcery.

  3. Am taking a litreactor course under the tutelage of Jeffery Ford, John Langan, Kaaron Warren (EDIT: who is here on LJ, oddly enough, as kaaronwarren—who knew?), and our own handful_ofdust. Am using it as an attempt to learn how to write to order. My first lesson learned is that you can't force it. Sleep on it some and let it gel. When it comes, it comes. But having deadlines helps if you think ahead. New story is a take on 1984, aimed at a particular anthology with a theme. As usual, I started thinking I should do one based on the upcoming "cryptography" issue of JUE, but it looks like it's veering off towards someone else's anthology again. Damn. Personally, I blame Sting for ending his show on "Fragile".

  4. Still behind on the CZP website. I'm going to have to confer sometime soon with those that make decisions about things.

  5. Am also reading Abercrombie. Why didn't anyone tell me about this guy? Now I'm going to be stuck reading another series of stun-an-ox-thick books. Woe to Hice.

  6. There may be a park in Frank Herbert's Name in Seattle soon, if reason triumphs.

20130620 (The Whale Surfaces)

Unopened Delphinium Blossom


Peony in intense light



Things I Can't Believe I Said #284

Superman? Or any superhero. And Football, WWF, Heavy Metal Hair Bands, and Sports Illustrated... I'm sorry. I've tried to show willing, but I just can't make myself get excited by spandex-all-grabby. Never could.


The God That Marks The Fall Of Every Sap

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