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Reminders to self: what not to do: Christmas wrap

Dear self:

You tend to forget these things. Here is a list of what to remember. Not necessarily applicable to other people. Just you, self. Just you.

1. Make people who give you things in Christmas bags take the Christmas bags back again after you have opened them if at all possible. They like using them! You have no objection to getting them but hate using them! Win win! (1a. Find something to do with the stack of Christmas bags in the closet.)

2. Do not buy green wrapping paper. Really. You love green. I know. And some of the Christmas stuff is a beautiful deep dark green that looks great in the store. But when you, yes, you, self, imagine it under the green Christmas tree, you will invariably be disappointed at how it blends in rather than lending a festive hue. You will not reach for the green wrapping paper. The green wrapping paper will be with you always. Do not buy more.

3. Do not buy the giant rolls of wrapping paper. I know, they are economical, and you feel thrifty and pleased, and sometimes they have quite lovely patterns. But I know you. After the fourth year of taking out the same roll of quite lovely dark red with white snowflakes, it will appear dingy and sad from its sojourn in the closet, and you will feel dingy and sad. Don’t do it. Wrap in brown paper if you want to be economical; it will make you feel old-fashioned as well as thrifty. But mostly economize elsewhere and buy the only moderately giant rolls of wrapping paper.

4. There is a reason that toddler-Moo thought that “sparkly” and “sprinkly” were the same word. The shiny sparkly paper will give you sparkly carpet, sparkly sweaters, sparkly smudges on your forehead. Leave it in the store to sparkle there.

5. Make sure–no, really really sure–no, check again–that the shiny paper you have selected is not made of mylar. Even your mother, who objects pretty firmly to religiously-based swearing on religious grounds, has been heard to refer softly to the one remaining roll as “that damned mylar.” It is damned stuff, it is damnable stuff, and you are wrapping presents, not filling balloons. Check again to make sure. They may not have to tell the truth about whether things actually contain blueberries in this country, but they are not allowed to lie about mylar wrapping paper, so Upton Sinclair did not live and die in vain.

Just trying to look out for you, self.


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Thanksgiving weekend: promotional report

Now that gmail divides my email into three main tabs plus spam, I decided it was a good time to keep track of what I was getting over the course of Thanksgiving weekend. It’s the biggest advertising time of the season. So from Wednesday through Monday, I didn’t clear out my promotional tab or my spam folder.

The final tally: 89 promotional pieces of email. 108 pieces of spam, most of which were also from companies I have at some point done business with.

Out of the promotional tab, two of the items were of any interest or use to me. Yes, two. (Neither was selling anything, either, and neither was time-sensitive.)

That’s nearly two hundred useless messages. Wheeeee.

I think the moral of the story is that I can let stuff pile up in the promotions tab all I want, because seriously, the percentages are incredibly low.

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Books read, late November

Maurice Druon, The Iron King. French historical fiction. Very much of the Batman Villain school of historical fiction (you know: the good guys are physically apparent, and so are the bad guys), but still adventurous and fun.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. This was a quite long book, and yet I still felt like it needed to be longer in order to address its subject properly. The stuff about early 20th century journalism was much better covered in the beginning of the book than at the end, and the lives and interactions of Roosevelt and Taft after their falling out were not really very well covered. There was still a lot of interest in this book, though, and one of its chief results was making me a huge Nellie Herron Taft fan. I am firmly convinced that if not for her stroke, we would remember the Taft presidency radically differently. Fascinating, awesome woman.

Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. This was another gigantic piece of nonfiction from the library, and I loved it. I gnashed my teeth a great deal, but not at the historian. It was full of all sorts of tidbits about different aspects of life, not just a “presidents and great landowners” sort of history, and also Howe is clear about the difference between “Americans” doing x, y, or z and a particular demographic of Americans doing x, y, or z. Oh, but don’t believe They Might Be Giants: Martin Van Buren was in no sense an abolitionist. I don’t know why they said that. Scansion is no excuse. (James K. Polk did a bunch of the stuff in the song. But Van Buren, no.)

Ross King, The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism. If you already know a bit about 19th century French art–which apparently I do–this will not be very edifying. If not, it covers the lead-in to Impressionism, which is an interesting bit of art history. I had hoped it would be a bit deeper, though.

Alethea Kontis, Hero. Yep, it’s settled: I will keep reading these fairy-tale mashups as long as Alethea wants to keep writing them. The Woodcutter family is fun.

Eve LaPlante, Marmee and Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother. I did not actually need to despise Bronson Alcott more than I previously did, and yet oh. OH. WHAT AN UTTER HEEL. Most things written about him are written by people who sympathize with him at least enough to write about him. LaPlante, on the other hand, was writing about the wife he mistreated. Abba Alcott was a fascinating person, influential and connected in her own right, and despite the angrification at Bronson, this was a really cool book.

George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, eds., Dangerous Women. Discussed elsewhere.

Kenneth Oppel, This Dark Endeavor. I should not have liked this book. It was in several key ways eye-rollingly awful. It’s a prequel to Frankenstein, and it’s from the perspective of a teenage Victor, who is not, it turns out, improved by pubescent thinking. And there are bits and pieces of shout-outs to the original that fall completely flat. And nonetheless I found myself continuing with reading it, enjoying it, and even planning to read the sequel. Go figure.

Emily Pohl-Weary, Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl. This ended abruptly, like the first two-thirds of a novel, and also the plot followed pretty standard werewolf narratives, so…the title felt particularly unfortunate. I enjoyed reading it, though, and it looks to me like a promising sign about Pohl-Weary’s later work.

Ruth Rendell, No Man’s Nightingale. Latest Wexford mystery, and I really like how the retired Inspector continues to age, how he has different strengths and weaknesses than the younger characters. I would not recommend starting here, though, as most libraries will have some earlier volumes that will give more context to the characters.

Ian Tregillis, Something More Than Night. Discussed elsewhere.

Gene Luen Yang, Boxers and Saints. A pair of graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion, from opposing and overlapping Chinese perspectives. The sort of thing I look at and think, “When I was my godkids’ age, they just plain didn’t have anything like this.” Neither of the two comes first; they are companions rather than one a sequel.

Roger Zelazny, A Dark Traveling. Novelette. If you’re in the mood for Zelazny and not so much for First Person Asshole, this fits the bill admirably. Teenage cross-world traveling with enough mythical/legendary elements to fill an entire trilogy of modern urban fantasy/paranormal romance; very much a precursor to that sort of thing.

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Angry teenage time travelers, unite!

This morning I sold a story, “The Stuff We Don’t Do,” to the Futures department at Nature Physics. I am always pleased to be in Nature Physics because it reaches the professors who did so much for me in college.

This story has two positive inspirations and one negative one, among authors whose work I enjoyed in my teens and early twenties. We’ll see if anybody recognizes the other two when the story comes out, but the positive one I want to call out specifically today is Diane Duane. Her Wizard books remain humane as well as clever; she armored them against the suck fairy, and I am as grateful for them now as I was in younger days. (And if you’re puzzled at how a fantasy series could help inspire something SF enough to make it into Nature Physics, possibly it’s time for you to give the Wizard books a look.)

Of course, I have counted wrong; Timprov is an author whose work I enjoyed in that period, and he was at least as much an inspiration for this story (also positive). I wrote it for him, sparked by a conversation we had in the car once. Sometimes it still amazes me that not only do I get to tell stories inspired by crazy conversations I have with the Prov, but I get to do it as my job.