pameladean: (Libellula julia)
I'm thinking of starting a Patreon. I know, all the cool kids have done so already, but I am still thinking about it. For good or ill, that is how I roll.

David has supported my writing career since 1981. I have in fact made money from writing, and it came in very handy for any number of things. But after Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary was published in 1998, I didn't sell any more novels. I wrote a synopsis and the first few chapters of a Liavek novel and submitted it to Tor, which rejected it. Then Harry Potter became a sensation, and Sharyn November started the Firebird line at Viking/Penguin and bought up and reissued much of my backlist. She also bought a new novel called Going North. Briefly, I turned the book in late and too long. It was suggested that I expand it into two volumes, which I did; but at that point two-volume fantasy novels were not doing well, so I was asked, and perhaps unwisely agreed, to try and shrink the even-longer revision back down to 100,000 words. This did not go well at all.

Going North was cancelled in 2012, and then took a very long time to be pried loose from the publisher that no longer wanted it. In the meantime, I worked on the Liavek novel and on a number of pieces of short fiction, none of which is as yet finished. I don't work fast, but I have been working. Last year, Patricia Wrede and I put together a collection of our Liavek stories from the original anthologies, added a story Pat had written that never got into any of the anthologies, newly-revised; and also added a brand-new collaborative story about some of the background of our characters and their ancestral connection. This was published by Diversion Books as Points of Departure. Diversion Books did a lovely job on the cover and editing and the entire project was very gratifying. Unsurprisingly, however, it did not really solve our financial problems.

In the meantime, the market for the kind of work David does has been evolving; and we've been limping from crisis to crisis and having a hard time making ends meet. The house has accumulated a lot of deferred maintenance. Once I got the rights to Going North back, I approached various agents with it, but none of them wanted to represent it. I am also, honestly, a bit out of patience with conventional publishing.

In response to this lack of patience, David and I recently started Blaisdell Press and reissued Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary and The Dubious Hills. We are also going to reissue "Owlswater," a Secret Country novella originally published in Jane Yolen's Xanadu series. But reissues aren't enough. We fully plan to publish the new novel. However, it needs to be revised and expanded again from the state I got it into trying to reduce it to the contractually mandated 100,0000 words; and I haven't been able to settle to this properly because I am so worried about money and the state of the house. Also, with timing I will not dignify by describing it, I was just diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This is stressful, time-consuming, and, even with insurance, expensive.

I am having a very hard time working. If I could generate some income, it would be much easier for me to concentrate as I need to, and we might be able to begin fixing things that need fixing, as well as continuing to pay our share of the mortgage and our health insurance premiums, buy groceries, and so on.

I know that many people write far more than I do while they too are dealing with chronic illness, day jobs, and other very pressing problems. But I write as fast as I write. What I have is this: these are my stories. Nobody else can tell them.

David continues to look for work and to do it when he gets it. He'll be teaching a course this fall, but that doesn't pay as much as it ought to.

I haven't thought through the levels yet, but among the things I am considering offering are such diverse elements as:

Scenes from the short stories I'm working on. These include one about wish-granting merpeople and one about astronomical werewolves. The latter is a result of having removed entire characters wholesale from Going North. There are several others too inchoate for an easy description.

Chapters from the Liavek novel. This takes place after the events of the last Liavek collection, and is about the theater.

Videos of me reading snippets of the offered passages.

Videos of me answering questions that supporters of the Patreon send in.

Cat pictures, of course. Possibly cat videos, though this depends more than photos do on the actual cooperation of the cats.

Chapters of the original very long and extremely opaque Going North.

Chapters of the even longer and still somewhat opaque two-volume version of Going North.

Posts about the process of revising the latest version of Going North, which will be sometimes subtle, but not actually opaque.

If there's actual interest, vegan and veganizable recipes I have made, with commentary. (I eat a diet that is mostly vegan but does encompass fish and occasionally sheep- or goats-milk cheese, but I have recipes for cheese substitutes, and some fish recipes work nicely with tofu.)

I'd like to say garden photos and essays, but the yard is one of the things that needs fixing. Well, there's certainly a lot of it and it does have a lot of things growing in it, as well as birds and dragonflies and bees and so on. So, I suppose, if there was interest in an ex-garden, or a garden that needs to be rehabilitated, it would be fairly easy to write about what's out there.

I know that some of you don't like dealing with unfinished work, or waiting a long time for something you've had a taste of. I will do the best I can not to be more dilatory than necessary.

What do you guys think? Is there anything else you'd like to see, in addition or instead?

Thanks very much.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
On April 26th I went to the doctor for a regular checkup and lab work. My blood sugar came back elevated to the point where I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This diagnosis triggered a huge number of Get this test, Get that exam, Here have a glucometer, No you don't have to start on metformin right away but you might need it so get ready, Take these four three-hour diabetes education classes, Talk with a diabetes education nurse (she was fabulous), Check your blood sugar first thing in the morning and two hours after beginning to eat your largest meal of the day, Hmmm given those numbers try exercising for 15 minutes an hour after eating dinner. I haven't seen a nutritionist yet but it's on the list.

I am not exactly surprised. Numbers have been creeping up for years despite periodic attempts to expel added sugars from my diet or at least be mindful of where they were and approach them with caution; both my grandfathers were diabetic. However, I am considerably more thrown for a loop than I would have expected.

In 2002 I was diagnosed with hypertension in the ER. Those numbers made everybody's eyes very large and caused them to rush around with heart monitors and ask me a lot of questions. Eventually they ruled out things that would kill me at once and sent me off with a prescription for a beta blocker and instructions to go find a primary care practitioner at the clinic. Nine months later, after trying about twenty drugs in various combinations, my PCP sent me off to a nephrologist to make sure my kidneys weren't turning the wrong kinds of cartwheels. In the regular clinic, my BP numbers made everybody get very quiet and look at me as if I were about to keel over. In the nephrologist's office, the nurse assigned to handle me addressed me as "young lady" (I was 49) and said, "We have patients with much worse numbers than that, and on more medications. We'll fix you up." They did, too; there was nothing wrong with my kidneys and they found a combination of meds that worked.

Similarly, while my blood sugar was sneaking up on the scary invisible line, everybody was very sober. Once it leapt over, suddenly my doctor was very cheery. "Oh, I've got patients with much worse numbers than that, and those are very hard to get down. You can get yours down."

I'm not sure if this is more reassuring or unnerving. Anyway, I've been sulking and dithering and sitting on the news, and I decided that it was time to stop that. Plenty of people live with diabetes. The new regimen and the knowledge that there are more changes to come are making it hard for me to work, but I will try to get over myself.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
I've donated one first-edition hardcover copy of each of The Dubious Hills and Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary to the Con or Bust auction. Bidding opens on May 25th. Even if you don't need a copy of either book, there is the usual amazing variety of other things to bid on -- dozens of books, of course, some signed, some not yet released by publishers; and everything else from custom-made chocolates and lovely jewellery, to novel and short-story critiques by people who know what they're doing

Here are the links to my books:

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
On Wednesday, Raphael and I went for our first expedition of the year, to see the ephemerals at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. To see the early ones at their peak we ought to have gone last week, but the weather didn't cooperate.

We got a reasonably expeditious start, especially for the first hike of the year, and even though we had to stop at my clinic so I could pick up my medication. We usually get off the freeway at the Northfield exit and go through town to pick up Highway 246, thus giving me a glimpse of Carleton and the Cannon River. But the GPS suggested staying on the freeway til the next exit, going instead through Dundas, and picking up 246 somewhat further along its length. Dundas is not Northfield, but I had fond -- mostly -- recollections of biking there from Carleton for a huge annual used-book sale. I didn't like biking along the shoulder of the road in the dust, but the books were excellent.

I had said to Raphael as I put on my fleece sweater and picked up my raincoat that I expected to be alternately too warm and not warm enough, and this prophecy was amply fulfilled. It was very sunny and intermittently very windy. Up in the picnic ground it was quite chilly. Down by Hidden Falls the air was almost still and the sun really beat down.

One of the pleasant things about Nerstrand is that there are ephemerals even in the picnic grounds and the campground. Anywhere the grass is not mown are trout lilies and false rue anemone and occasional other native wildflowers. You can see the tiny trout lily leaves spreading out through the mown grass. If Nerstrand ceases to be able to afford to mow its lawns, or civilization falls, the trout lilies will fill up all that mown space now occupied by grass, dandelions, and creeping charlie.

The Park Office was closed, so I sat on the bench they have on their west-facing porch and watched for birds while Raphael filled out the form for an annual park pass. One downy woodpecker and three or four little delicate sparrows with a rufous crown and a black eye line, were scratching around in the leaf litter under the bird feeder. And there was one white-throated sparrow, or what I took for one, though we didn't get a good identification until later. We had a sandwich at a very windy picnic table.

Then we walked through the campground, keeping an eye out for red-headed woodpeckers, but we'd arrived at the height of the afternoon and most birds were silent and absent. We went along the short gravel trail pointing out false rue anemone, purple and yellow violets, swamp buttercup, and the leaves of wild geranium to one another. Then we took the very steep path down to Hidden Falls. Larger patches of false rue anemone, clumps of wild ginger, nodding trillium, a few blossoms of cut-leaf toothwort; and as we got down to the damper areas, dark-green horsetail ferns and, below where a stream went down to join Prairie Creek, some marsh marigold blooming away. Things were intensely green and there were many flowers, but it looked strange to me. I finally realized that, while the false rue anemone was more or less on schedule, it would ordinarily bloom in a much emptier landscape where the understory plants were not leafed out, nor the wild geraniums so far along in their own growth. The trees would usually show just a hint, a mist of green, and you could see quite far into the woods because only the trunks and branches of trees and shrubs impeded your view. The view was much shorter and more cluttered this time. In some years there would hardly even be any violets yet, but they were thick along most of the damper trails that we took. And the spring beauty, while we did find some eventually, was not nearly as widespread as you would expect. We had also missed most of the Dutchman's breeches, though we did find a stalk or two here and there.

We went down the wooden steps to the rocky shore below the waterfall, and sat on a bench in the sun for a while. Clouds of tiny insects were dancing in the sun, coming together in a dense ball like a globular cluster and then bursting apart only to coalesce again. I was just about to point out to Raphael that they were a dragonfly's dinner without the dragonfly, when a green darner darted into their midst and started snapping them up. I made sure I had remembered to tell Raphael that Eric and I had seen darners at Eloise Butler, and Raphael told me there had actually been one in the back yard.

Eventually we got up and went back up the other side of the trail, the steeper side with steps. Last year we got to see the Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily in bloom, but it was done this year. There was plenty of false rue anemone, newly-opening ferns, early meadow rue with its flowers like little fringed lampshades, more violets, a little spring beauty, one or two blooming wild geraniums, fantastical ash buds, and hundreds of trout lily leaves, with here and there a patch of blossom in a shadier or cooler spot. At one point Raphael asked me what pollinated trout lilies; we thought it was bees but weren't sure. A little further along the trail, Raphael saw a bumblebee taking a good long time inside a trout lily flower, so that seemed to be that. We saw a number of bumblebees zipping around in the course of the day.

We climbed the trail and sat down on the bench that the park has kindly put just before the really steep part. The wind was fitful. All the green was fresh as fresh. The sky was almost autumnal in the intensity of its blue -- we thought this might be because the humidity was low, but we didn't know. It was hard to get up and go on up the hill, but we did. We came almost immediately upon a large number of extremely weird plants that we were fairly sure we had looked up before but failed to retain the name of. I think, having poked around online, that they were wood betony.

Once back at the top of the hill, we had a hunt for the yellow lady-slipper orchids we'd seen there just once, and then went back to the picnic ground and had another sandwich and took a different trail that crossed Prairie Creek and then gave us a choice of which way to go. We decided to take the White Oak Trail back downhill to the water, since it was such a dry spring; sometimes it's too wet to take the lower trail by the creek at all. The upper part of the trail was full of trout lilies, violets, and false rue anemone, with the occasional Jack-in-the-Pulpit or trillium. As we came down into lower and damper levels again, the false rue anemone came into its own. Along the creek banks it grew lushly with ferns and reeds and violets and some lovely clumps of blue wood phlox, which I think of as blooming much later. We stood on the bridge admiring the phlox on the other side for a while, and then walked on to the where the Beaver Trail intersects the White Oak, and sat down on yet another bench. The light was starting to mellow out, and everything was still the tenderest green imaginable, starred with flowers and yet-emerging leaves and dancing small insects. Several times we saw the shadow of a butterfly -- or maybe just of a blowing leaf.

At last we began the walk back along the creek to the steep trail with the steps. The flowers were still very lush and intermingled, but there were fewer ferns and grasses or reeds. At some point something in the soil or light changed, and the understory thinned out, and there was a bit of what I'd been missing: mostly bare shrubs arching over patch after patch after patch of false rue anemone. "So many windflowers!" said Raphael, and I looked at them closely. The air seemed quite still, but they were still moving just a little on their flexible stems.

Raphael suggested that we climb the half of the Hidden Falls trail that we had previously come down. The light was much better for seeing small things by then, and that half of the trail isn't quite so steep. The main discovery was a single hepatica blossom still hanging on in its nest of three-lobed leaves. The last third of the trail was a bit of a slog, and we sat on the bench at the top of the hill when we got there. The light was mellower yet. Through the green and gray of the woods a barred owl called, and again, and again, and then after a pause yet again. Eventually we went and sat on the porch of the park office. The tiny sparrows with the rufous caps, downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, white-throated sparrows (we saw the white throat this time), and a single chipmunk, flew down to get seeds or suet, or kicked up the litter on the ground. You could hear the whoosh and ruffle of their wings as the birds came and went, and the scratch and rustle of the chipmunk's feet. There was some squabbling amongst the sparrows, and two nuthatches had a battle over the suet feeder. More distantly, we saw an elusive woodpecker that could have been a flicker or a red-bellied woodpecker; and finally we saw a flash of black and white and red as a red-headed woodpecker appeared briefly and then provided a glimpse, a longer look, another glimpse, always moving around to the other side of the tree or flying across the road to hide in trees with too much foliage. On our walk back to the car, a flash of black and red and white showed amongst the plants by the path. "It's a towhee," breathed Raphael, and it was, kicking up the litter much more violently than the sparrows had.

We had our last sandwich at a now really chilly picnic table, and Raphael got me to take the Sibley out of my backpack, and looked up the sparrows. Like the wood betony, they had been looked up before but we'd forgotten. They were chipping sparrows, and the first elusive woodpecker was indeed a red-bellied one.

We drove home in sunset and twilight. Then we had to come back to earth and do the year's first tick check, but that's just part of going hiking.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Last Saturday Eric and I borrowed Lydy's car, since she had plans that did not require it, and went to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. We'd missed the previous week because Eric was out of town. It was a chilly, cloudy day, but we'd decided not to try to cram the garden into Sunday along with grocery shopping and hearing Sister Tree at the Powderhorn May Day celebration.

The steps down to the front gate were lined with the spotty leaves of Virginia waterleaf, which blooms somewhat later than now. But off a few feet in the woods was a glimmer of rue anemone, all pale pink, with their varying numbers of flower petals and their three-lobed leaves. Just outside the gate, the wild ginger leaves were big and all unfurled. Inside the gate the vivid gold of wood poppies and a patch of false rue anemone, five-petalled white flowers and little clutches of three leaflets, waved in the wind. A patch of white trout lilies was blooming on the upper part of the path that leads down to the shelter. After dithering a moment, we went downhill past the shelter and through the woods to the far side of the garden, overlooking the swamp. Virginia blubells were blooming richly, looking ethereal in the strange overcast light. There were more wood poppies. Elderberry bushes were blooming. All the trillium that had been in bud was blooming. The trout lilies that had been blooming two weeks ago were mostly done. Their gray-green, spotted leaves lay in overlapping layers as if someone had raked them all in one direction; maybe borne down by the ample rains of the last week or so. There were brilliant patches of moss hopefully holding up its fruiting bodies.

The heptatica was done, but white, purple, purple-and-white, and the tiny yellow violets bloomed along the same path. Two weeks ago I told Eric that certain plants were either tall meadow rue or early meadow rue; now I could say that they were definitely the former. We had avoided the marsh last time because it had been so wet, but now we decided to go at least as far as the fine new boardwalk, raised some feet above shallow water and mud scattered with the now-huge green leaves of skunk cabbage, would take us. More Virginia bluebells, the leaves of flag iris, the first pale soft new needles of the tamaracks, and a wide swath of marsh marigold, with smack in its center a sign saying, "Swamp Saxifrage." We discussed, as we went past the end of the new boardwalk, admiring the new red-banded green horsetail ferns, whether the name of the marsh marigold had been changed. I eventually looked up swamp saxifrage, and it's something entirely different that clearly blooms later in the year, since there was no sign of it now. We came around the bend of the path and saw a tom turkey. Around him here and there, tearing up grass and shoots and resolutely ignoring him, were four hen turkeys. We admired their green and bronze, and the general magnificence of the tom. He ruffled up his dark back feathers once or twice, but decided not to actually go to the trouble of spreading his tail.

We went on up the hill, looking at fern fiddleheads, some covered with fine hairs that made them look gray, some growing tidily in the circle of the rust- or cinnamon-colored fronds of last year's greenery, some still reddish with just a hint of green. We came back to the area around the shelter and decided to go left past the huge patch of periwinkle and up the steep hill to the meadow. On our left as we went ferns were coming up all over; on the right were wood poppy and false rue anemone and finally the periwinkle, blooming happily away. We sat down on a bench for a few moments. We had been hearing a pileated woodpecker laughing in the distance, and as we sat it flew over our heads, landed on a tree halfway up the hill, let us see it for a few seconds, and ran around behind the tree trunk. Then it flew on up the hill and disappeared.

We went up the steep hill to the meadow and found that they had burned most of the near side since we were last there. There was not much going on in the meadow yet even where it had not been burned, but we went up the hill past the juniper tree to look for prairie smoke. The wind hit us with a huge gust as we labored up the slope, and almost blew my hat away. We did see a patch of prairie smoke, not yet open; and standing on the hill briefly we turned to admire the grove of paper birches, now in small green leaves, and saw a little redbud in full bloom at their feet. We went under the arch of the wild plum that frames the entrance to the meadow. It was blooming but past the best. We did see another wild plum in full bloom on the other side of the garden, but I can't recall quite where now. It had a lovely scent.

We decided that it was chilly and getting dark, and we had had a fine time, so we went on down through the white pines and out the front gate and so back to the car and dinner at Pho Tau Bay.



Apr. 28th, 2016 02:18 pm
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
So there are a lot of ways to talk about narrative and fictional structure generally, a lot of ways of mapping it all: scene and sequel, rising and falling action, hysteron proteron, many more. I used to read about them avidly. Long ago when I was in college and struggling with short stories, one of my English professors suggested that I write a play, because the structure was predetermined and you could just plug elements into the template.

None of this has ever been of the slightest use to me except as an intellectual exercise. Well, that's not quite true. It's very useful for enhancing the experience of reading other people's finished works. It took me years to be even moderately good at using theories of structure for that purpose because my brain does not do that and in fact tends to dig in its heels and specifically refuse to do that, but I did manage it after the fact with other people's work.

I can't write that way, though. It will not happen. Everything just turns to water and runs away. I've stolen plots from ballads and Shakespeare, but even then, they warp and twist, and I write what I can write and then move it around and try to make it approximate the structure I thought I was using. I can more or less do thematic structure or emotional structure, but actual plot structure, the arrangement of the incidents, as Aristotle called it, is still opaque to me. It has to proceed from character, setting, theme, and mood and then get nudged around until, if you stand at the right angle, there is a plotlike arrangement of things that happened.

I know a lot of people who can see structure and write with it initially set up like the skeleton of a new building, but I cannot do it.

I'm not exactly asking for advice, though I wouldn't mind it. You'd have to be prepared for me to say, "Nope, won't work" or a more polite equivalent. But I'm curious about how other people, readers or writers, perceive or create structure in stories.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
When we adopted Saffron, the people who had been fostering her brought her over to our house so she'd know that they thought we were okay. They were telling us about some of her quirks, and I asked if they had any tricks for getting her into the cat carrier. After a blank pause, one of the fosters said, "She usually just goes in." I assumed that this meant that if you picked the cat up and headed her into the carrier, she would feel that her dignity required going in meekly rather than struggling.

The first time we took her to the vet, I got out the carrier and put a fresh discarded T-shirt into it, and Raphael dusted it a bit. Cassie hid as soon as she heard the door squeak; Saffron came sauntering along to see what was up, and walked right into the carrier and lay down. It was much too early to go to the vet, and she eventually got out again, but when it was time to corral her, she was back in the carrier and all I had to do was to shut the door. Every time we've taken her to the vet, she's just gotten into the carrier on her own. She doesn't like the vet and is an uncooperative patient, but the carrier is awesome.

Today Cassie was due for shots, so Raphael got out her carrier and dusted it and put a nice thick sweater in the bottom. Cass tends to hide at first, but eventually get over herself -- after all, the carrier might be for Saffron. I had just gotten home from looking after Toliman when Raphael arrived in a rush from a trip to the post office, checked the time, and in a few minutes scooped up Cassie and took her to the carrier. Saffron appeared from nowhere and walked into the carrier just ahead of Raphael's attempt to put Cassie in. I ran out of my office and tried to dump her out, but she wouldn't go, instead retreating to the back of the carrier. I tried to pull her out on the sweater, but she removed herself from it. Cassie does not like to be picked up or held, does not like the carrier, and does not like the vet, so she was struggling a lot. I finally got Saffron to come out, probably because she didn't like the fuss in her place of rest; and she ran off with a kind of flounce of her shoulders, only to return ten seconds later, talking furiously and demanding treats, which we had decided to postpone til Cass was back from the vet.

She forgave us for being weird, but she certainly had no idea that she was doing anything untoward.

Once we had Cassie where she belonged, we started to laugh, and I suggested that Raphael could either have taken both cats to the vet, or taken Saffron "because this is the one I could catch."

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
So some bit of Windows 10, which installed myself on my laptop a while back because I failed to tell it not to emphatically enough, wants to show me different background photos when I first wake the computer up. There's a link in the upper right-hand corner that says "Like what you see?" and you can say either "Not a fan" or "I want more!" I have dutifully been clicking on whichever of those is nearest my preference. This is supposed to be collaborative communication, but it's often felt more like a battle.

I had approved of a number of nature shots with interesting light effects. At some point, I kept being shown photos with similar lighting effects, but either the scene was fantasticated in a way that I didn't like, or the lighting was showing tools or buildings. It took a very long time of repeatedly disavowing such photos before Windows 10 decided that it was tired of this unappreciative nonsense and would just start showing me scenes from national parks.

So it's all worked out, but I did a lot of muttering in the meantime. "No, I told you, I don't really want to see broken-down cars, artfully-arranged garden tools all in sepia, or strangely-distorted castles first thing in the morning." I couldn't help feeling that the software involved was muttering things back at me. "Oh, come on, in essential ways this is just like that forest one you liked. Give me a break!"

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
The new medication seems to be settling down. I did take it separately from the blood pressure medications, but now of course I don't know if it would have settled down anyway or whether I need to continue to eat two small breakfasts half an hour apart. Oh, well.

I went over to [ profile] arkuat's to look after Toliman. He was very purry. He sniffed the air when I opened the window, but didn't want to go out on the porch. The neighbors' dog was barking in a desultory way, so maybe that was why. I unpacked some books, with a lot of underfoot supervision.

I am having terrific difficulty getting the direction and timing of the 9 bus right, so after missing one and having the next one drive right by me as if I were invisible, I just walked up to Lake Street and waited for a 21. It is probably just as well, because the transfer point between the 9 and the 23 is at the same intersection as Mother Earth Gardens. I wouldn't buy plants on the way over to cat-sit because it would be too cumbersome, but on the way home I would have no such defenses. The fact that I haven't cleaned the hairy bellflower and motherwort out of the places that I might plant things is no deterrent.

The stop I use to get the 21 is right across the street from Merlin's Rest. The sidewalk outside the pub was full of Morris dancers, people in kilts, people in fancy dress of other sorts, and a leavening of people in jeans and T-shirts. As I crossed 36th Avenue I saw half the Morris dancers staring at me, or maybe over my shoulder, so when I gained the curb, I looked back. A young man dressed like Prince (purple coat, frothy white shirt, the right hair) was just crossing Lake Street.

While I waited for my bus, one of the men in kilts played three tunes on the bagpipes, and some of the other people danced line dances. The bus was full of congenial people doing Saturday things. But when I got off to transfer to the 18, there was a police van parked just beyond the intersection, a man lying in one of the shrubbery beds belonging to the White Castle, and two police officers. Eventually an ambulance came and they put him into it and took him away. My thoughts of what might have happened were perhaps somewhat biased by many recent events.

The Norway maples are still blooming, but the silver ones have small leaves. I heard house finches singing extempore every time I listened hard.

ETA: I checked Merlin's Rest's website. April 23rd is their ninth anniversary, and that is why they had Morris dancers and bagpipers. It is also, they informed me, St. George's Day.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
So I had a doctor's appointment last Wednesday, with a new doctor, who frowned at the computer screen and said, "You've been taking omeprazole since 2013? We don't really recommend it for long-term use. It can lower your calcium levels."

My patient-information sheet says that multiple daily doses, which I am not taking, can do that; but apparently they are getting more cautious because there is more information.

I accordingly stopped taking the omeprazole this morning and took a Zantac pill instead.

Urgh. Two hours of nausea. No actual barfing, but still, urgh. When that abated, I went out somewhat belatedly to take a bus over to [ profile] arkuat's place to look after his cat. As I arrived at the bus stop, I felt so weird that I thought, "I'm going to have to go home again. I can't get on a bus like this." I found myself hanging onto the bench as if I might fall if I let go. Vertigo? Dizziness? No, actually. I could stand up perfectly well on my own. Things were not describing slow repeating arcs across my vision. Everything was fine and stable. Only something felt extremely weird in my head, and my brain kept deciding it was dizziness. "Woogly" is the term that I use for this feeling; it sometimes precedes a migraine. However, I had no other symptoms.

I did get on the bus, and bus and walk to Eric's, and hang out with a very loudly purring elderly orange cat, and walk a bit more and take two buses home again without untoward incident. I had a late lunch and a small dinner without incident. I even made some banana bread later in the evening. The woogliness persisted in a mild form and finally went away about an hour before I had to take my evening dose.

I had suspected that the nausea wasn't just caused by the new drug, but by my having taken it with all of my blood pressure medication, most of which also wants to be taken with food, without increasing the amount of food that I provided. I don't like eating in the morning. I took the evening dose 45 minutes ago on its own, with a substantial snack, and am not having nearly the same kind of problem. So I'll have to have a larger breakfast; or, since that's generally unpleasant, maybe take the Zantac first with some food, and follow up half an hour or so later with all the BP stuff and some more food. This makes for a more cumbersome morning, but there's no relation between the ranitidine and the BP meds, so I don't have to bolt them all at once. It's supposed to be so very healthy to eat a good breakfast, but this isn't the way I'd have chosen to do that. I also suspect that it's healthy enough for the people who like doing it but am dubious about the rest of us.

Has anybody else had this kind of experience with ranitidine? If so, how did it work out in the end?

It does seem to be controlling the acid reflux all right, but I'm not sure that I care for the trade-off if the morning effects persist.

It was a glorious spring day: forsythia and magnolia are on their way out, but flowering plum and cherry are in; tulips are in colorful bud, or blooming in warm places; there are purple and white violets in the grass. The maples are blooming so hard that they look as if they have come out in leaves. Lilac and spirea and honeysuckle really have come out in leaves. Raphael saw a juvenile yellow-bellied sapsucker in the neighbors' yard. So this medication nonsense needs to settle itself.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Eric and I visited the garden briefly last weekend; we were having a discussion of different driving routes for his old and new apartments, and he mentioned that we hadn't taken this bit of 394 in quite some time, but used to use it as a fast way to get to Eloise Butler from my house. "Eloise Butler," I said reflectively, meaning, hey, the garden is open and it's not a horrible day in terms of weather. So we dropped by quickly, postponing our grocery shopping.

It was classic very early spring in the garden. No overall mist of greening leaves, but the occasional fantastical bud, sticky-tight, or half-open, or frothing out its small leaves in unrecognizable shapes. We heard red-bellied woodpeckers saying Quirrrr quirrr quirrr. Here and there the little white candles of bloodroot stood about, wrapped in their gray-green fringed leaves. On the slope where they surprise us every time, clump after clump of sharp-lobed hepatica bloomed in pink and blue and white, bowing and shaking on their thin stems in the spring breeze. Trout lily leaves were up in abundance. The false rue anemone was up here and there, many of its leaves still reddish. Skunk cabbage was red and redolent in the marsh.

The little snow trillium was blooming furiously just up the hill from the swamp boardwalk.

So that was our first visit, and we were very glad to have made it. We went back with forethought yesterday. It was a hot day. I resent hot days in April more than I can say. It should not be hot before the leaves are out. It should not be hot in April at all.

That said, by the time we had left the steep driveway and taken the little gravel trail that leads down the hill to the front gate of the garden, I had become resigned to the weather. Before we were halfway up the drive, Eric pointed out a deer crossing it, in a very leisurely manner. We were able to spot her again, standing in the brush on the righthand side of the drive and looking at us, ears alert. She was mostly able to blend into the thin wavery brush, but the ears gave her away.

We were hearing a lot of red-bellied woodpeckers, and one flew past and gave us a couple of good quick views in between its trips behind whatever tree we were looking at it in. Then we heard a Woody the Woodpecker laugh, and Eric said, "That's not quite big enough to be a pileated -- no, wait, it is a pileated." Sure enough, that crazy hammer-head with its stripes, and the remarkably huge body of the woodpecker showed briefly before this one too, in the manner of all woodpeckers, moved around behind the tree so that we couldn't see it any longer. We were enormously pleased, feeling that anything after this would just be extra-fancy icing.

We decided to go up to the meadow first. We had left it unvisited the last time because not much in terms of flora happens there early in the year; but I'd recalled that there is a little prairie smoke and some pasque flower up there and we thought we would look for them. There were some nice clumps of bloodroot along the trail under the white pines, and then many leaves of Virginia waterleaf, and some thistle and aster rosettes, pushing up through the few remaining fallen stems of last year's prairie. When we came around the bend and saw the first part of the meadow, everything seemed very open and empty; in summer and fall, the plants and grasses are shoulder-high on me, but now nothing more than a few inches high was visible. It looked as if they might have burned the slope of meadow visible from the approach, not recently but maybe last fall sometime: the thick layers of fallen grasses and prairie flowers were missing. We'd seen plum trees blooming in people's yards as we rode the bus to the park, but the little arch of wild plum that leads to the meadow proper was just coming into bud.

We went down the slope and onto the path that goes around the central meadow hill, where we were intercepted by a tall dark-haired young man with a walking staff. He asked if we wanted to see the owlet. Well, yes, we did. He pointed it out to us, but we couldn't see it -- he was much taller than I am, and there was a screen of brush that confused the eye. "I'll walk you down to it," he said, so we followed him down to the lowest part of the meadow, where finally, just the other side of the garden fence, we saw a big cream-colored ball of fluff with an owl's face, clinging very firmly to a short stub of a branch not very far from the ground, blinking from time to time, and looking like any fledgling simultaneously terrified, winsome, and bewildered. We had encountered one of the staff on our way down, and she and the young man were discussing the mother owl, which after quite a lot of work Eric and I managed to see high up in a white pine behind the owlet's tree. "Look for her little white bib and the horns," the young man urged, and they were there, but she was very well camouflaged. So they were great horned owls, which we've hard hooting many times and seen silhouetted against the sky on the other side of the garden. But we had never seen an owlet before, or had a glimpse of an adult that showed the white bib.

After a while we thanked the young man and went on up the next hill, stopping to look down at a little loop path that is packed with ferns during the garden's proper season. The ferns weren't up yet, but there was a good patch of bloodroot down at the bottom of the loop. A cardinal was tuning up from the evergreens, and a few more red-bellied woodpeckers quirred somewhere hidden. We went along the edge of the hill and sat on a bench, marvelling at the view when there were no leaves to block it. The clump of birches at the other end of the meadow had new pale green leaves. The meadow was still brown, but Eric noticed a dragonfly, a migrating green darner; and then another; and then the sun came out from behind the clouds and backlit six or eight darners and the cloud of tiny insects they were hunting.

We finally tore ourselves away and went back to the bottom of the central hill to check for asparagus spears, but it was too early. We went down the steep trail through the woods with its sheets of emerging trout lily leaves, and I saw a single plant of Dutchman's breeches, fine frilly leaves and ridiculous white and pink flowers on their tiny stalk. Further down were more hepatica, a number of clumps of actual rue anemone in pink form for easier identification; and, increasingly as we went downhill, big patches of false rue anemone, in bud and blooming shining white, according to the light they were getting. We decided that we'd see the most flowers if we bypassed the marsh and went along the far side of the woods, so we did that, noting in passing that the marsh marigolds, which had been up last week, now had minute yellow buds. The skunk cabbages had put up bright green leaves and were somewhat less stinky. Eric noticed that the patch of Virginia bluebells on the left side of the path had buds, some still pink and some blue already. The snow trillium was still blooming ferociously, and we started to see first individual trout lily buds and flowers, and then, as we went up the far slope of the woods above the marsh, a patch of yellow trout lily, and another, and another, and then sheets of white ones interrupted by clumps of yellow. I remarked that another name for the yellow trout lily is the dog's-tooth violet.

We passed some people who told us that they had seen four deer and three wild turkeys. We felt smug about our owlet, but when we saw the first wild turkey hen poking around under a fallen tree trunk, we stopped and gaped at her anyway. At some point we sat down on a bench overlooking the marsh, and Eric checked the time and the bus schedule and we realized that we'd have to hurry. We didn't do very well at that, however. There were other hen turkeys; there were flowers and fantastical shrubs budding, the trillium leaves we had seen last week, had their pointy buds well out, and it's a bit of a hilly slog back up towards the Martha Crone Shelter. When we got there, a nice man told us there was a tom turkey displaying, and he was, right on the path that goes past the periwinkle further on; so we watched him for a while. He was missing a tail feather, but still a splendid sight. I've seen a tom turkey displaying his feathers once before, but hadn't really noticed how the rick black feathers of the back get into the act as well, so that he looks as if he is part very upset cat. The hen turkeys stalked stolidly through the dead leaves, poking with their beaks for insects, and at least pretended to ignore him. We got our best view when a woman with a camera made him decide that he should turn back and go into the woods just below the shelter.

We had missed our intended bus by then, but they were about to close the shelter, so we dawdled up the hill and, when one of the staff came to lock up, out the gate and up to the parking lot, where we sat on a bench under the beautiful river birch they have there and watched the quintessential common animals disport themselves in the grass: a robin, a gray squirrel, and an Eastern chipmunk. The disparate birdsong that we'd had as background had changed to chickadees saying, "Cheeseburger," over and over, establishing their nesting territories. Wee went slowly back down the driveway, now lined with robins about twenty feet apart, and found our bus stop, and went home.

pameladean: (Default)
I'll be a guest at Vericon ( this coming weekend. The Guest of Honor is Ann Leckie and I am very much looking forward to meeting her. But the whole lineup of guests is really amazing, to the point where I wonder what I am doing in it.

Here is the schedule. Are these not entirely awesome panelists and topics?


7-8 PM: Writing Fast and Slow
"There are nine and sixty ways of creating tribal lays, and every single one of them is right!" If you look at writing advice books you'd think there was only one true way to do it, but here we have a panel whose writing methods are extremely different from each other.
Greer Gilman, Pamela Dean, Wesley Chu. Moderator: Jo Walton

8-9 PM: Fantasy Worlds that Feel Real
Worlds are complex and fascinating -- how do you integrate the fantastic with imagined history, culture, economics, religion, folklore, and everything else to come up with a world that feels solid and magical at the same time?
Fran Wilde, Pamela Dean, Greer Gilman. Moderator: Seth Dickinson

2:30-3 PM: Book Signing

3:30-4 Reading

4-5 PM: Metaphysics
How do we write about realities that function really differently? When it rains on you when you lie, or when you can't understand what doubt is?
Ada Palmer, Pamela Dean. John Chu. Moderator: Jo Walton

5-6 PM: What can we learn from Shakespeare?
Language, pacing, worldbuilding -- Shakespeare has it all. But Shakespeare is so great, can we find our own ways to be influenced by him and not get swallowed up?
Jo Walton, Pamela Dean, Greer Gilman. Moderator: Ada Palmer


pameladean: (Default)
Hey, you guys, my 1994 novel The Dubious Hills, one of the prequels to the new novel Going North is available for pre-order from Smashwords. There will be a Kindle and a trade paperback edition available as well, but we did the Smashwords editions first this time, since people who wanted those formats had to wait around for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary.

Here's the link:

With regard to my previous post, many thanks to everyone who expressed an opinion. I went with an option I hadn't altogether considered, originally suggested by [ profile] sartorias, I think: I just inserted the single word "now" at the end of a sentence.

I really liked [ profile] bunsen_h's suggestion, even if it may have been tongue-in-cheek, of an academic preface listing all the changes. But where there's only one, I can't be quite that deadpan about it.

pameladean: (Default)
So I'm going over the scanned text of The Dubious Hills to catch errors and to confirm its correspondence with the originally published version. Early on, something reminds Arry of "one of Beldi's paintings." I had forgotten that Beldi ever painted anything, and was considering this in the light of the short stories (all striving to be novels, but I am pretending that that isn't happening until it's the right time to give up) that I'm writing about Arry's family after the end of the book, when I hit a remark in a later chapter. Arry, Con, and Beldi are figuring out what kind of coming-of-age present to give to a friend, and they decide to pass on some old paintbrushes of their mother's, because "None of the three of them painted." Ooops.

I see three choices.

1. Leave it alone. The book has been out for literally decades. People are used to it. This kind of error is perhaps like the one in Dorothy L. Sayers's Strong Poison, in which a note from Harriet Vane to Philip Boyes is introduced into evidence, and the judge remarks, "It is signed simply, M." This used to drive me wild. Of course, on the first reading of a mystery novel anything might be important, but since the judge ought to have remarked on it, it was probably just a typo. It's in the facsimile hardcover we have and in all paperback editions I've seen. Eventually, I had to just get over it. But I must admit that it still makes me twitch when I get to that part of the book.

2. Change the earlier reference so that Arry is reminded of someone else's paintings; there are at least three possibilities that I can think of offhand that aren't inconsistent with other assertions in the book.

3. Leave in the reference to Beldi's paintings and add a line or so to the scene where they choose to give away the brushes, about how he doesn't paint any more. This is, honestly, probably what I had in mind and lost track of in the lengthy process of writing and rewriting the book. But a larger change isn't necessarily the right thing at this juncture.

I think any of these choices is valid; it depends on the author and the book. But I'd be very much interested in any opinions or similar experiences anyone has or has had.

pameladean: (Default)
David's been blogging the process of reissuing my out-of-print books. Here are the entries:

You can see the subject matter in the links, so I'm not going to try to get fancy.

The Smashwords link for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary is up on the Blaisdell Press page, for people who want one of those formats or who want to avoid Amazon.

David is doing all the heavy lifting for this; I am critiquing the covers if anything occurs to me, and going over the scanned text to make sure it accords with the published version, and also to see if there is anything egregious that I want to change. I'm resisting changing anything -- people have read and reread these books to the point that even errors are canon to them, and I don't really want to be messing with anything that's not incredibly terrible. When Firebird reissued the Secret Country books, I did make a bunch of corrections, mostly to The Hidden Land, which must have gone through production at some hectic moment for the original publisher: it originally emerged into print with the dedication and acknowledgements missing, and a number of errors I had corrected either in copy-edit or on the galleys still extant, most notably a bit where Ellen has a line of dialogue she is no longer present to speak. I was very happy to have a second edition with all of that stuff fixed. But I left many other things alone. In a number of discernible and vital ways, I am no longer the person who wrote those books, and therefore am not, strictly speaking, qualified to be changing them.

pameladean: (Default)
Saffron is prone to inflammation of the gums, so she eats a prescription diet called TD, which is in large hard pieces that have to be crunched up, not bolted whole as is the feline way. She got the hang of it quite quickly. Cassie eats a different food. They each get a small handful of Greenies dental treats every afternoon. These are also hard and crunchy and need to be chewed. Cassie can bolt them whole if she tries and then eject them in a far more repulsive state, so she gets hers fed to her one at a time. If I'm home, I give the treats to the cats. If I'm not, Raphael gives the treats to them. This situation exists because they are more effective at bothering me as treat time approaches. Yesterday afternoon I was at the MinnStf pool party, so Raphael provided the treats to cats.

For complex historical reasons, Saffron gets her evening food at the foot of my bed, while Cass is shut up in another room lest she eat faster and then come steal the remainder of Saffron's food. So last night I turned off the light to the sound of crunching. At some point Saf leapt from the bed and ran off into the kitchen. She's easily distracted, though it's more common in warmer weather when the windows are open and she can, apparently, hear a rabbit hop through the back yard. It does sometimes seem that she can also hear a spider moving across the kitchen floor. I started to drift off to sleep, and then heard more crunching as, I thought, she finished her food. Then she came and burrowed under the quilt and purred madly and kneaded my arm and we went to sleep.

At six a.m., I came slowly and reluctantly awake to the sound of crunching. Had Saffron actually left some of her dinner for a sunrise snack? No. The plate was empty. The crunching turned to rustling, then to crunching again. I got blearily out of bed, found my keychain with its flashlight, and looked around. Saffron had kindly left her tail sticking out from under the bed. She had a badly-mauled bag of treats and was fishing them out one by one and eating them. I took it away from her, and after wandering around for a few moments, stuck it into a cupboard with a door and went back to bed. For some sleep-befuddled reason, putting it back in the cupboard where it belonged didn't appeal to me because it had cat spit on it. A few last crunches came from under the bed, but then she came back and got very purry with me.

At ten a.m., I was once again awakened by crunching, though no rustling. Raphael had let Cassie out at some point, and both cats were under the bed chasing down the last few treats. There did not seem much point in trying to take the scattered treats away from them. At least the treats were meant to be eaten by cats. This has not always been the case with things I have heard them eating.

They were still quite keen for their breakfast an hour later. Raphael said zie must have failed to put the treat bag away -- it's a bit tricky hand-feeding Cassie and making sure Saffron gets a roughly equal number of treats and doesn't end up taking Cassie's away from her. Their internal protocol seems to be that Cassie gets dibs on food, including Saffron's, but Saf gets dibs on all treats, including Cassie's. I had left the bag out myself just a few days ago, when the phone rang as I was giving them their last couple, but they hadn't yet found the bag when I came to my senses and put it back in the cupboard.

This entire adventure was punctuated, once the sun came up, by the tweeting and squawking of the house sparrows that often nest under my window air conditioner, and by the much less welcome rattle and grind of yet another squirrel trying to chew through the accordions so it could make a nest in the spot between the air conditioner and the edge of the window. The previous air conditioner had been installed with much more room on the left than on the right, and we had hoped that putting the new one in the middle and avoiding the creation of a large space would discourage such activity. Sadly, squirrels trying to make a nest in such a spot mostly seem to be young ones, and they have no sense at all.

pameladean: (Default)
David and I have made up Blaisdell Press to reissue some of my backlist and ultimately publish Going North. We are beginning with my 1998 novel Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, which got caught in the collapse of the mass-market distribution system and sold so badly that when Firebird bought up the rest of my backlist, buying this unfortunate book was not something they wanted to undertake.

It is an odd book but I love it a lot. It has astronomy and sisters and true friends and poetry and many female characters and a cat and books and quotations and success and failure and Shakespeare. I don't suppose that last part surprises anybody.

It will be available in a POD trade paperback from CreateSpace, as a Kindle book from Amazon, and as an e-book from Smashwords.

Things are supposed to all go live on March 1, but it looks like you can do pre-orders now. Here's the link:

David will be doing some blog posts about the process of scanning the text and designing the cover and interior, and I'll link to those when they go up.

I am so excited that any attempt at expressing myself other than a level recitation of the facts makes me incoherent, so I'll stop now.

If LJ will permit, here's an image of the cover:

Read more... )
pameladean: (Default)
Alas, we have no blackbird, though there are cedar trees here and there.

Here is a link to an interview with me by Shauna Kosoris, of the Thunder Bay Public Library: We met at Fourth Street, and did the interview much later by email.

Also, I should mention that I'll be a guest at Vericon ( in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 18-20. This is the weekend before Minicon. I don't think that I have ever in my life been to conventions two weekends in a row. Even when I was young and bouncible, that struck me as excessive. However, the stellar lineup of other guests and the general lauding of Vericon made me decide that I really could not say No. David and Lydy should both be accompanying me, if all goes well.

Not much other news, I guess. David and I are are still working on self-publishing my backlist. [ profile] arkuat and I went with [ profile] clindau and Tim who is not on LJ to see Ten Thousand Things' production of "Dear World." I had not read The Madwoman of Chaillot nor seen a more conventional production of the musical. The cast was brilliant, but I had a strong feeling that I was missing a considerable amount of what this production was doing because I was unfamiliar with the background. Still, completely worth the time. On the whole I expect to continue to prefer their productions of Shakespeare, but we have a tentative agreement to see their spring production, which is a new play; that will be a different experience altogether and I look forward to it. And it's always lovely to see Cindy and Tim.

The cats are fine except for Naomi, who has early-stage kidney disease and is eating only intermittently, and usually at strange hours. (I fed her at four a.m. this morning when I foolishly thought I had just gotten up to use the bathroom.) She is the best tortie and I would like her to get with the program and stay around a few more years. She is only fifteen, and would be very good at being venerable.

I was given All the Books for Christmas and my following-hard-upon birthday, and am devouring them with such greed that I don't have many sensible reactions. Those generally take me about five years to produce, anyway. However, a list:

Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (translated by Lola Rogers), The Rabbit Back Literature Society. This is a great and very strange book. I was often not sure what was whimsical and funny and what was dark and scary, because I am not Finnish. It is a lovely wintery book full of writers whose behavior rapidly goes right off the rails in ways that seem all too likely to anybody who is or knows a writer. Includes creepy children's book creatures and a seriously terrible yet hilarious answer to the question, "Where do you get your ideas?"

Justine Larbalastier, How to Ditch Your Fairy. When I mentioned on Twitter that I had very much enjoyed the Magic or Madness trilogy but was uncertain what to read next, the author kindly made some suggestions, including this. I really admire Larbalastier's use of first-person narration. Charlie is very unlike Reason, the narrator of the trilogy, but both their voices are persuasive. Fairy is very funny, but the characters and stakes are real and the world, while strange, is also persuasive and multifarious.

Marie Brennan, The Voyage of the Basilisk. The Tropic of Serpents remains my favorite of the books about Lady Isabella Trent thus far, because of the profound and reckless intrepidity of the narrator and the splendid sections in which she lives in the wilderness with people native to it; but she is seriously intrepid in Basilisk as well. There's a bit in Serpents where Isabella says that she assumes the reader would like to hear more about the war and less about her study of dragons, to which I actually said aloud, "NO, Isabella, I would NOT!" There is a satisfying great lot of dragon naturalism in Basilisk, and interesting family and colleague relations as well. Her relationship with the people who live with the dragons is more fraught here and hence more problematic (the author is perfectly well aware of this, the characters not so much).

Yes, fine, give me five years and I might say something intelligent about these books.

pameladean: (Default)
I just took down the 2015 Minnesota Weatherguide Calendar (it does not do to be hasty about these things), the December photograph in which was a lovely one of a snow- and icicle-encrusted evergreen branch in the foreground, with a wave caught breaking in white spray behind it, and snow- and evergreen-encrusted islands on the horizon, somewhere on Lake Superior. The January photo for the 2016 calendar is also of Lake Superior, at Gooseberry Falls State Park, a rocky beach with lumps of ice perched atop the rocks, each one perfectly sized for its perch, as if a wave had come in and instantly frozen. In the background are the lake, looking very cold, and a low but brilliant sun. I read the Phenology section with great pleasure, because it almost always tells you to listen for the "fee-bee" call of chickadees establishing their territories, and the drumming of downy woodpeckers. And even in the middle of the city, I have heard both of these things already, birds not being great devotees of the Gregorian calendar.

Today a lot of house sparrows are yelling their heads off in the neighbors' pea-bush hedge, and occasionally a crow makes a pronouncement about some esoteric matter.

I'm hoping to post more, however mundane the content of the posts is. Here is a bit that I wrote but never posted just before Christmas.

Read more... )

"Today I made vegan cream of mushroom soup, which is quite delicious, if extremely rich; but I didn't make it to be eaten as soup, but rather to be used in a casserole the recipe for which comes from the family of one of my partners. Then I made dinner for Raphael and me (macaroni and goat cheese and steamed broccoli), and now I am roasting some mushrooms, to be followed by green beans and cauliflower. The last-minute roasted vegetables I made for Thanksgiving (turnips, broccoli, and carrots) were so wonderful that I want to have some more at Christmas dinner. Sadly, some people I seem to be related to don't like turnips, so I'm doing these different vegetables. I had more mushrooms than I needed for the soup, and that is how it all arose. I expect these vegetables will still be wonderful, and I also got some turnips to roast later in the week." In the event, the roasted vegetables were very good, and I did roast turnips, carrots, broccoli, and more mushrooms a few days later. Also very good. I was sneaking the leftovers cold out of the fridge as if they were cheesecake.

The day before Christmas was a better day for pie crust than the day before Thanksgiving. All the pies came out fine. David has heroically finished the mince, and both pumpkin pies are still being worked on. I didn't assist the situation much by making two loaves of banana bread and then lugging one all over on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day but never actually getting it out at a party, so now we have to eat all of that too. The horror. It's a good batch. The recipe uses up to six bananas, with enough whole-wheat flour and sugar to hold them together and some rising agents, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon, with optional walnuts. Aside from the quality of the bananas, which is not really under our control, the keys to a good batch of banana bread seem to be increasing the amount of walnuts, toasting them thoroughly, using fresh cinnamon and good vanilla (thanks, [ profile] carbonel!), and not under-baking the result. It's also useful to gauge the level of moisture in the bananas and lower the number used if they seem too gooshy.

Christmas dinner was small this year, but we all had a good time. [ profile] lydy was gallivanting about the East Coast and David's sister couldn't make it, so it was just five of us. We had lots of leftovers, which was very satisfying. I tried to recreate my youngest brother's balsamic-mustard-maple-syrup reduction for the salmon, but it came out too mustardy. Still very tasty, just not sublime. And the oyster casserole was a great success with [ profile] arkuat as a birthday treat. Follow Your Heart vegan cheddar substitute melts like Velveeta and makes a grand cheesy sauce with homemade vegan cream of mushroom soup. I had leftover soup and ended up making more cheesy sauce and putting it over baked potatoes after I'd eaten all the proper leftovers.

This seems to be a very foodish post. I suppose it's the time of year.

David and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary by going to Kyoto All You Can Eat Sushi. My favorite piece was the sweet potato hand roll, but it was all very good. On New Year's Eve Day David had to go deal with a complicated computer project. I made rosemary shortbread that was too dry and crumbly and slightly greasy, and oatmeal shortbread that did not work right at all. The rosemary was demonstrably shortbread, not greasy oatmeal candy like the oatmeal attempt, but it still wasn't right. I think Earth Balance has messed with the formula of their tub margarine so that it doesn't work right for baking, and I will henceforward need to only use the Buttery Sticks for baking. These are sadly no good for just putting on your toast or potato, which is annoying.

On New Year's Eve, David and I went to two parties. I actually hate this, and cherish a useless nostalgia for the comparatively few years when everyone I wanted to see attended the MinnStf party. Even then, when I had first joined MinnStf, there was at least one splinter group that had its own party; I just didn't know those people well and didn't care. The MinnStf party was hosted in a really grand fashion with chicken noodle soup, tacos with a vast array of possible fillings, and, it was rumored, a turkey breast; also huge tubs of hummus, interestingly flavored chips, vegetables (including what looked and tasted like heirloom cherry tomatoes of several varieties), and a plenitude of fruit and candy. The banana bread seemed surplus to requirements, so I didn't get it out. I had several pleasant conversations, and the general conversation upstairs was also nice. I felt guilty leaving, but was very glad, at the second party, to see at least six people I always love to talk to and a number of other congenial sorts, as well as two very self-possessed and fluffy cats. This party was also more than well supplied with edibles, so I didn't bring the banana bread out for it either.

We got home before 2, when I realized that I'd forgotten my knapsack with the lonely loaf of banana bread in it, so we had to drive back to get it, David exhibiting remarkable patience at my fecklessness. I am looking after Lydy's cats while she's gone, so there was half an hour of washing food bowls, parcelling out wet food to the healthy in small doses and to the cat with kidney issues in a larger one, refilling waterers, scooping litter boxes and cleaning up the floor where Naomi, the kidney cat, earnestly pees from inside the box. I don't even, but we love her a lot. Then when I got upstairs, Saffron produced a long fussy lecture about my deficiencies in being gone so much and then clattering around downstairs instead of attending to her. She had been quite adequately looked after by Raphael while I was away, but that was not, I take it, the issue.

She was very snuggly overnight. When I woke up I glanced at the clock and thought, 11:09, that's not bad at all. However, a closer look showed that it was 1:09, so there was some scrambling around. However, David and I had agreed that we would get to the Hair of the Dog party after three but before five, and we did manage that. This is one of my favorite parties, and it was really lovely. All but two pieces of the inadequate rosemary shortbread did get eaten. There were goat butter and good bread and goat and sheep cheeses and fava bean dip and Thai hummus and taramasalata and sesame brussels sprouts and fancy olives and six kinds of herring and celery and grape tomatoes and carrots and cornichons and a very chunky guacamole and a gingerbread trifle, which was not at all Pamela-safe, but Beth offered me a bite and it was stupendous. I had a nice conversation with Katie and Magenta and got to hear lemur anecdotes from Karen, and Josh let us look at the portable museums he'd contributed to the Kickstarter for. They are small blocks of lucite in which are embedded very small bits of museumy objects, like dinosaur skin and bone and a bit of tape from an Apollo mission's music selection. I liked the Japanese star sand the best (it's microfossils), but it was all well worth looking at and pondering. I also got to talk a bit to Laura Jean, which almost never happens, and to Tamsin, though most of my conversation with her had occurred the evening before. The general conversation around the museums also included Eric and David, and Beth and Barb J. and Bruce. It was not actually alliterative, though.

Eric and I had decided to just have our date continuing on from the party, so we went back to my house around ten, and I did a bunch more cat work. Ninja helped us make the bed, as usual, with an interruption from Lady Jane, who keeps trying to play with him but hasn't persuaded him to return the desire yet. We read our books and didn't stay up terribly late. Lady Jane leapt onto the bed for petting several times, but didn't want to stay. We had most of our date on Saturday, ending with brunch at the Himalayan Restaurant, a brief stop at the new coop on 38th Street, and a stop to fill up the tank of Lydy's car, which she had kindly lent Eric and me in her absence.

Then I came home and caught up on LJ and had many thoughts about people's 2015 roundup posts, about whether I am remotely a working writer any more and other somber musings. It's easy enough to fix this. Well, no, it's not easy at all. But it's very simple.

Saffron had more to say to me about my various absences, but this week will be normal, so perhaps I won't be scolded so much either by my cat or by my brain.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
So last year I blogged at length about a multi-day struggle with the MNSure website, hours spent on hold, and the kindness of the customer and tech support people when one finally got to them.

This year was much easier, but not without minor drama. I got through the application for financial assistance in one go and was promptly informed that we were eligible for a monthly subsidy. Then I went and looked at the plans. I knew that premiums had gone up, but hadn't really assimilated that plans had started to go floppy and were weird and difficult. I ignored co-insurance last year and just got a plan with co-pays and a reasonable deductible. This was through UCare, but unfortunately, I couldn't just renew that plan, because my clinic and pharmacy are no longer among their providers. Next year I might rethink this, but this year I simply refuse to change my clinic because a bunch of revolting corporations are trying to squeeze every penny out of what should be considered a public good rather than a business opportunity.

I spent about eight hours on the computer Friday; the application took less than half an hour, so the rest was expended comparing plans til my eyes started going around in my head, with pauses to rant at whoever happened to come by, whether in person or in email. It's just insane that a plan rated Gold that costs, before subsidies. more than a thousand dollars a month, should have 40% coinsurance. The deductibles are crazy too. I am also very, very tired of being required to predict the future, which is impossible for self-employed people with a patchwork of income, and then sternly warned that there are penalties for not telling the truth. There is no truth! It hasn't happened yet!

I finally, reluctantly, settled on a sucky plan for a price that made my heart sink but that didn't seem completely insane. It's twice what we were paying last year, after the subsidy. I told the website that I wanted to enroll in the plan. I got a rather plaintive page that said that something had gone wrong. I signed out and logged in again, and ended up in the same place I had landed last year: my application was listed as pending and there was no way out of the page where that information was; and yet, since I already had a completed application, there was also no other path to enrollment.

I decided to give them the weekend and see if things settled. In the meantime, for the second time this year, our main landline number died on us. In August this precipitated a nightmare in which CenturyLink was understaffed and couldn't send a technician for a week. When he got there, he didn't fix anything, and they'd given him a wrong version of my cell phone number, so he didn't call either. He also didn't ring the doorbell; he just left, and the website then informed us that our problem had been resolved. That eventually got dealt with by Raphael's explaining the situation in chat with tech support in a way that I don't have the personality to support. The tech people, abashed by Raphael, got hold of the local office manager, and she called and said that somebody would be out about two days later. This person had the right number and was reasonably competent. He said the line from the cross street was bad, and he fixed it. He got a bit muddled over the legacy wiring in the outside box, but David fixed that quite quickly.

This time, I got on the website to request a repair ticket, but they were having technical difficulties. I had to make an appointment in chat; to my relief, it was for two days hence rather than the next week. It was already dark when Raphael informed me that the landline was out, so in the morning I dutifully went out with a telephone and checked for dial tones. We have two lines but only give out one number, and the one everybody knew to call, naturally, was the one that had died on us. There were two dial tones, though one was scratchy. I went in and informed David of this situation, and he told me to cancel the repair appointment, since one will be charged $95 if CenturyLink comes out and discovers that the problem is not with their side of the divide. Over the weekend, while grading finals for the course he taught this semester and going to several parties, David took apart the inside wiring and traced the deadness of the line back to the wall. On Sunday morning he went outside and checked for dial tones. There was now just one. I got on the CenturyLink website, which was working now, and made a repair appointment for this morning, with a 10:15 am to 2:15 pm window. This is a little early for me, but I could manage it.

At 8:51 this morning, my cell phone rang. It was the technician; he was on his way. I lay down for a moment and suddenly the doorbell was ringing and the technician was here. He didn't, as it turned out, need me for anything, but I got dressed blearily, without showering, and went out just in case. Then I went back to bed in my clothes. Then I got up and fed the cats, since they were puzzled and excited by my having dressed and gone downstairs but not fed them. After they ate Saffron came and purred and snuggled with me, but several times the technician's equipment made warbling noises that she interpreted as possible prey outside the window; he also made some banging noises that required her to rush to the window, treading heavily on my stomach as she went. I did sleep for a bit eventually, waking at more or less my usual time at 11:30.

I picked up the phone in my office and checked to see if things were back to normal. One dial tone. After a brief period of despair, I went and asked David if he'd had time to put everything back together yet, and he hadn't. When he did, it all worked fine.

Buoyed up by this news and by a very large cup of tea, I checked the status of my application in its little cul-de-sac -- still Pending, still immured -- and called MNSure customer service. I got through to them handily, but after poking around, the nice lady decided that I needed tech support. This involved being on hold for about an hour and a half. They have the same music as last year, but have varied it with little skits where people fall and hurt themselves but won't let anybody call an ambulance because they don't have health insurance; or they go to the ER but leave because they can't afford treatment and maybe it will heal on its own. I sympathize with these, but the repetition is a bit wearing.

Eventually I got another pleasant, if somewhat brisker, woman who fixed my application in less than fifteen minutes. My application was no longer in a dead end. There was now a link to enroll in health care plans. Before I did, I double-checked that UCare, HealthPartners, and Blue-All-the-Things don't list my clinic and pharmacy. Then I double-checked all the Medica plans (they are plentiful as blackberries). I found another network that included my clinic as other than a chiropractic specialty, but the plans weren't really any better and my eyes were starting to go around again, so I just chose what I hoped was the best plan for our circumstances insofar as we even know what those are, and closed the deal.

This is still better than no health insurance. It's just stupidly worse than giving everybody decent health care and having done with all this nonsense.



pameladean: (Default)

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