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aaaaaaaaaaaa two sleeps till Wiscon aaaaaaaaaa!

garden pictures )
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This is my pumpkin patch today:Read more... )
I have to drive up into the foothills to feed the horses now. My old man is in California, learning to surf. Wish me luck!
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• What are you reading?

Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson, for economics in SF panel. I've written to my other panelist a couple times, but he doesn't answer. I hope we manage to pull this off.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older. Vivid depiction of New York City, of music, dancing, painting, and the ways people talk. Interesting magic. The plot has the flaws of its genre: you are in mortal danger, your city is in danger, you have powers you don't understand that could protect yourself and your world, other people know things you don't and no one will explain anything! Fortunately, a song you have always known holds the key to the secret, and you manage to figure it out just in time.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, for library book group. I did decide to skip the book group for Laura Pritchett's The Blue Hour.
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What I have checked out of the library at this moment: )

31 things, even though what little time I am spending reading right now is all for my economics in SF panel. 53 years old and I am as bad at managing my time and attention as ever.
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Some pictures of planting in my new raised bed.
large images of gardening )
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• What are you reading?

Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older, for SF book group.

• What did you recently finish reading?

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for classics book group. Maybe I'm reading too extrinsicly-motivatedly lately, but I didn't appreciate this. I enjoyed the discussion, though.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson, for economics in SF panel.
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So, I have high blood pressure. I take a high dose ACE inhibitor and diuretic twice a day. I also take prescription potassium, to counteract the effects of the diuretic. Everything to do with doctors fills me with a surly and powerful Idonwanna, but I got a new doctor in January, who wrote my prescriptions and told me to come back in six months for a physical.

Also in January, the grocery store near me, where I had been getting prescriptions filled, closed, but not before I got a 90-supply of both drugs.

Monday, I realize that I am almost out. I call another pharmacy and ask if they can transfer the prescription from the defunct grocery store pharmacy. He assures me that they can. I tell him the names and dosages of the drugs. He tells me that they got swamped with a whole bunch of orders, so he might not get to mine today, but they will be filled in the order they were received.

Tuesday, nothing.

Wednesday, I call the pharmacy to ask if my prescriptions are in. The potassium is in, she says, but they are waiting for doctor authorization on the other. The thought does cross my mind that it is odd that only one of the prescriptions, written by the same person at the same time, needs to be reauthorized. Apparently my Idonwanna covers not only talking to doctors, pharmacists, and insurance companies, but also thinking about them, because the though crosses my mind and immediately vanishes.

Thursday, I call the pharmacy to ask if my prescriptions are in. The potassium is in, he says, but they are waiting for doctor authorization on the other. I decide to call the doctor and beg. I get my prescription vial. It says I have one more refill. I call the pharmacy back. "Can I just check what doctor you are requesting a prescription authorization from?" I ask. "Because my bottle says I have one more refill." He reads me the name of a doctor who left town more than two years ago. That office is never going to call him back, because the whole office shut down more than two years ago. "That is an old prescription. Can you get the prescription from Dr. [Current-doctor]?" He assures me cheerily that they can.

Friday, I get an automated message from the pharmacy alerting my that my prescription is ready for pickup. I drive there. I ask for my prescriptions. The potassium is in, he says, but they can't get the other until Wednesday. I stare at him for a while. He says they don't have enough to fill the prescription, but offers to check whether they have any at all. "Please do," I say. They don't. I don't have enough pills to take me to Wednesday. He offers to call the other stores in his chain in the area, to see if they can get me enough to tide me over until Wednesday. "Yes, please do that," I say.

I did eventually get a six-day supply of my ACE inhibitor/diuretic from another store without incident, except that when the second pharmacist said that I had to come back to his store on Wednesday to get the rest, I asked him to confirm that, because the first guy was certain that I had to get the rest from the first store. "Let me finish," said the second guy. "We don't have enough pills to fill your prescription. We will get them in Wednesday. This is a loaner. We are loaning you six days' worth of pills. Since we are the ones billing your insurance company, you have to complete the transaction here." I said that made perfect sense. He apologized for the inconvenience. I assured him that I did not mind never ever going back to the first store.

Does this kind of thing happen to everybody? Is it me?
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• What are you reading?

Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow, for economics in SF panel. I'm enjoying it, even though it is very talky. It's not that Doctorow is bad at describing actions or sensations; it's just that they don't seem to interest him as much as the conversations about how things ought to be. I'm also reading the essays about Walkaway that are being posted at Crooked Timber, starting here:

• What did you recently finish reading?

Permaculture for the rest of us : abundant living on less than an acre, by Jenni Blackmore is a pleasant, chatty little book on permaculture gardening, and producing a significant portion of her family's food, in a really difficult spot: a rocky, windswept island off the coast of Nova Scotia. The book's small size demanded a sharper focus. This isn't going to be anyone's only gardening book, because it doesn't have room for which seeds should be started outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked, and which need to get a good headstart inside first. Really, any information that you can find print on the seed packet could be omitted. Fortunately, Blackmore spends most of the book on details that are particular to her: what difficulties her land presented for a particular permaculture practice, how she approached those difficulties, and what rewards she reaped.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I have more books to read for economics in SF panel than I will be able to get to. I have just remembered that I have never read anything by Ken MacLeod. I also have four book group meetings between now and Wiscon:

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (reread, but from very long ago)
Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older
The Blue Hour, by Laura Pritchett (might skip this one)
The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egsn
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Here is the start of my gardening blog. Let me know if the thumbnail previews are fine, or if you would prefer all pictures behind a cut.

So this spring I put in a new raised bed, which Neal built for me out of 2x4s. It's in the front yard, which has more sun and less exposure to dogs, but the dog deficiency means the feral cats my next-door neighbor feeds think it belongs to them.

I didn't dig up the grass, just put down a thick layer of cardboard,

set the box on top,

soaked the cardboard, to provide all the elements necessary to decomposition,

and filled it with compost.

The white tubes are the bases of a hoop cover. I have some smaller-diameter flexible pipe, bent into half-circles, whose ends go into the white pipes. Then I can put a big piece of UV-resistant polyethelene over the top, and have a mini-greenhouse.

Next step is to mulch. Usually, when you are choosing a mulch, the first consideration is "What do I have lots of?" and then you evaluate how well those things work as mulch:
- Does it shade the soil to suppress germination of weed seeds?
- Does it keep the soil cooler?
- Does it let water get to the soil?
- Does it slow down evaporation?
- How fast does it break down, and what does it add to the soil?
- Will it stay where I put it?
And so on. But for me, the second consideration is, "Will this make my lovely loose soil more or less attractive to the feral cats as a litter box?" So the first mulch I use is a few layers of brown paper that came as packaging material.

Here it is in the rain:

Right now it is covered with snow, but I don't have a picture of that.

More about mulching and planting next time.
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• What are you reading?

The Summer Without Men, by Siri Hustvedt.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars, by Jeff Lemire. A robot who is also an adorable little boy survives terrible and mysterious catastrophes. He may hold the key to understanding and preventing their return. The other characters and the settings are interesting. The art is beautiful. I would have loved this if I had read it when I was young. Now, I have read enough stories to notice when the plot is steered by the Rule of Cool, when the answer to "Why didn't the characters do the smart thing?" is "Because the author wanted a torture scene/a robot gladiator scene/a woman dying, gasping a slogan." Also, I have read enough stories that treat women as people to find the Weasley ratio really annoyingly noticeable. There's one female main character, one female supporting character, a few more who get a line but not a name. And only one of these female characters is human: the robot boy's dead mom.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I've got suggestions to read or reread for my SF economics panel:

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson
Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow
The Peripheral, by William Gibson
The Marq'ssan Cycle books by L. Timmel Duchamp

More suggestions still welcome!
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I myself have a cat sleeping on my head in Habitica. And in real life, a dog the size of a cat who would like to be sitting on my body, whenever he sits.

Another dog who doesn't see why it shouldn't get cat privileges:

Every spring I think about starting a gardening blog. I never do, because I don't have the energy, but every year I think about it. I take a lot of pictures of my garden but they are not the kind of pictures that are interesting to people who don't garden. Still, now that DW has image hosting, I think about how easy it would be to blog about gardening here. Would you be interested?
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We're not actually sure how Starfleet funds anything, but what are some viable, functional alternatives to capitalism that *are* well explained in SF&F? And how do societies using them interact with capitalist societies?

One of the panels I was worried about has acquired other panelists, one has not. So, even though I am just the freelance moderator, I've got to prepare thoroughly for this one. Do you have any suggestions for SF that examines alternatives to capitalism?

Do you think Iain Banks's Culture belongs in this panel, or is it so post-capitalism that doesn't make sense to call it an alternative?

Also, I have five pink and five black "Fight Fascism" stickers, from here: If you are going to Wiscon, and you would like one, call dibs here.
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• What are you reading?

Regency Buck, by Georgette Heyer. Comfort read, as a reward for having done the tax returns. This one has Beau Brummell, Brighton, dueling, racing, cockfighting, a murder plot, a love interest who is so entirely superior to everyone that he treats them as chess pieces, and a young woman who does not care to be controlled, until she kind of does.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue Deconnick. So good! My favorite part was when Penny demonstrates that her ideal self has nothing to do with prioritizing how others see her. Even in this world, that is a mighty feat for a woman.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Don't know! Still have 25 items checked out from the library, and four holds to pick up when I return any of these.
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The days of filling panels that need panelists are here! If you are willing to be on a panel, and confident that you're better than nothing, please go there^ and volunteer!

I always volunteer as a freelance moderator, so I always get the neediest panels, but this year is worse: two of my panels have one other panelist, which means they have exactly one person who has anything to say on the topic. I always prepare things to say, just in case, but I don't think I can prepare well enough to carry half the panel on two topics I know nothing about.
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I'm hosting it at Jo's house, so I have to make food that is transportable. Jo would not mind if I spent the whole day in her kitchen, but I am enough of an introvert that if I spent the whole day with Jo, I would not be able to hold up my corner in the book group discussion, even though I like Jo a lot.

I'm expecting 6-9 people. Jo can't eat gluten. I'm vegetarian. Two of the maybes are Jo's daughter and her partner; I don't know whether they have dietary restrictions.

For pre-meal snacking I have cheese, crackers (gluten and gluten-free), olives, almonds, hummus, peanut dip, broccoli, carrots, celery, romaine leaves, and corn chips. Neal came over for dinner last night and prepared all the vegetables for me!

Dinner is crustless mini spinach quiches (gluten-free) and a vegan but high-protein salad: mixed greens, chickpeas, tomatoes, olives, pickled artichoke hearts, sunflower seeds. I could put some pumpkin seeds on too.

Dessert is blueberry crisp, made with gluten-free flour, and vanilla ice cream. I'll bake the crisp at Jo's while we're eating.

I have three bottles of wine and a gallon of lemonade.

I'm thinking of running to the store for green beans for dipping, more salad dressings, and a loaf of bread. Just in case.

ETA Oh, and the book! It's Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark.
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The saddest turkey vulture I have ever seen came in to the raptor center last week. They tried twice to do a blood test for lead poisoning, but the machine just said ERROR. So they took another sample and sent it over to CSU. Their machine said, even for a turkey vulture, that is a lethal lead level. For a bald eagle, 0.2 ppm of lead in the blood is toxic, 1 ppm is lethal. Turkey vultures are tougher, but this bird's blood had 11.8 ppm of lead.

For lead poisoning, we do chelation. It takes I think seven weeks. For a level that high, we're definitely going to have to do it more than once. While that's going on, we have to try to keep the bird's organs from shutting down.

As long as the bird keeps telling us I ATEN'T DEAD YET we'll keep working.
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• What are you reading?

The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson. I fell in love with Baru Cormorant immediately: a brilliant little girl, who "cared mostly for arithmetic and birds and her parents, who could show her the stars.... Baru loved her mother and her fathers dearly, but she loved to know things just a small measure more." A great and powerful empire is going to take over her country, destroy her culture, and harm her people, so she decides to join the empire and rise to a position of such power that she can protect everything she loves. Naturally. I know from reviews that it ends so painfully that I probably wouldn't read it if it weren't for SF book group.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. I do not get what makes this book so great. Life is sad, painful, and futile, but you can always make it worse by longing for something else?

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit, for Tawanda book group Sunday.

I also have 26 items checked out of the library, which is way too many. 16 fiction, 9 nonfiction, 1 movie.
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A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler, read for library book group.

Anne Tyler is good at telling family stories. She'll be telling you the story from one person's point of view, and it all makes sense, and then she takes a step to the left, and maybe it's just a new perspective or maybe there is an enormous thing right there, that the previous perspective overlooked, but everything looks different from here. Not that anyone was lying. It makes sense that the thing that looks so big from here seemed insignificant from over there. Everybody's story makes sense, but they each make a different sense.

Tyler also likes telling stories in which there are two kinds of people in the world. In this world, they are the people who set their heart on one thing and never give up, even if it turns out to be a disappointment, and the people who can never settle to any one thing. It's a lot of work to be in relationship with people who are so fundamentally different. Even when everyone is trying to be kind, and fair, and honest, it's a lot of work.

One member of my book group said it was an Oprah's Book Club-type book, which I guess is true; it provides an easy path to talk about questions like, how do you feel about forgiveness? Or, what do you do with an important truth that you know is going to hurt?
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• What are you reading?

Arabella of Mars, by David Levine. It has a very old-fashioned feel. A sort of Golden Age of Science Fiction or Rudyard Kipling adventure. The setting is Age of Sail in spaaaace, because there is breathable atmosphere out past Mars, navigable by ships with balloons, sails, and oars.

Also a permaculture book.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Penric's Demon, by Lois McMaster Bujold. I liked it! I read the Five Gods novels when they came out; as I remember it, the first was good, the second was better, the third was kind of a mess. This novella is a good small story and satisfying look into what it is like to come into possession of one of the Bastard's demons. (Mostly satisfying; I really wanted to know how Penric is going to cope with his shyness and Desdemona's curiosity on sexual subjects, but all Bujold tells us is that it's awkward.)

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I belong to four book groups. In a perfect world, that would mean one meeting every week. In reality, two of them are slightly erratic and one meets only six times a year, so this month I have five book group meetings from 4-10 to 4-18, one of which I am hosting at someone else's house. (The fifth meeting is because someone in my SF book group is also in a graphic novel book group, which is reading Bitch Planet this month, so I'm going to visit.) The books are

A spool of blue thread, by Anne Tyler
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson
Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit (I'm hosting this one)
Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Also I have to do our tax return somewhere in there.


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