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So I got a book of tunes for Contra Dancing, called The Portland Collection (who knew that Portland was such a hotbed of Contra Dancing?).
And while I was paging through it I found a tune called "Old Grey Cat". Well, with a name like that, I had to try it. It is in E Dorian, oddly enough, and I really like it so I am in the process of learning it. Here are a couple of people playing it on youtube (much faster than I can right now).
When I started seriously working with the mandolin, gosh about twelve years ago now, it used to take me ages to learn a tune. Now I can pick it up in a couple of days.
I was expecting practicing to make me better at playing the tunes I knew. I wasn't expecting it to make me better at learning tunes.
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Okay it has been way too long since I posted but I'll just start again like nothing happened.

I've been having trouble unvacationing and getting back into the rhythm of normal life--or as normal as it gets before college starts up again.

I had a wonderful cross-country trip, driving with Kip to see his parents in Oklahoma, then detouring to see the Devil's Tower in Wyoming (very striking--we walked all the way around it and I have many shots from all sides) then spending a bit over a week with my dad and my brother in Oregon, then taking another detour to see Mesa Verde and the cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblans, stopping another night with Kip's parents and driving back home.

While we were in Oregon we picked up a stained glass window that we had commissioned. It is currently residing in a carefully padded box but I intend to hang it in the window in the next few days.

I also bought a new, larger iPad, which is just great for displaying sheet music. I can show two pages side by side and they are a bit smaller than they would be printed out, but only a bit. That is going to make it so much easier to work from sheet music. And yet the iPad is only a bit larger than a standard sheet of paper. I'm very pleased about this.

I also made a cool steampunk bag to carry my music stuff--the new iPad but also things like the instrument stands and so on. Amazon had let me know that I was getting a $35 credit for some e-book settlement thing, and I happened to notice a leather briefcase/satchel type bag for $50 and thought--that was almost exactly what I was thinking about making myself as a base for my airship passenger's bag, and I couldn't lay hands on the leather to make that for $50, and then I'd have to put a whole lot of work in it to get it to that stage. So I bought it. When I got it home I laid out the instruments on it (thermometer, hygrometer and barometer, and a plasma disc--excuse me, I meant my ectoplasmic interference detector) and figured out where they could go. To help hold them in place I made molded leather rings (if you get vegetable tanned leather thoroughly wet and then clamp it over a form you can get it to take on some fairly impressive molded shapes). Making the form for that was a bit of a pain, but worth the time. I cut holes in the bag to put the body of the instruments through, then sewed the molded leather rings over the rims of the instrument faces. It came out pretty well. If I do say so myself, which I seem to be doing. It holds my new big iPad and both instrument stands and a bottle of water, and while it won't hold the yellow sheet music stand, I can slip the handles of the sheet music stand's bag over the strap of the steampunk bag and carry them both in one go. So I'm psyched about that.

I am feeling a bit odd about whether the rest of my outfit will properly live up to the steampunk bag. We will see if I have time to do anything about that, though.

I haven't done Dutch in over a month, because I couldn't while I was on the trip and now I am back Dad has been having guests over (from the Netherlands, as it happens) and has been too busy to skype. But that will probably change any day now.

I did actually speak Dutch with a couple that I met at Mesa Verde, Caroline and Hans, who were from the Netherlands. Caroline kindly let me practice my Dutch on her and said very nice things about how well I did.

But it isn't quite the same as skyping three hours a week.

I'm also practicing a lot the last week or so trying to get my set list practiced up for my WorldCon concert and the songs I would like to do in circles there. I promised to anchor an Old Time / Celtic circle, so I've been running through all the pieces I know, working on remembering how they go. :-). And I'm working up my four cat songs for the Cat circle.

In addition I promised to make music happen for the Rural Clinic's fundraising dinner the Friday after WorldCon; they want 45 minutes of instrumental music, so the Celtic/Old Time stuff does double duty.

But I really need to get back to work on the guitar case!

So that's what is up with me. How about you?
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So I hear they're moving Andrew Jackson from the front of the US $20 bill to the back, and putting a picture of Harriet Tubman on the front.

In general I think this is a fine thing though really they could have removed Andy entirely. Harriet Tubman, as people have noted, was seriously admirable in many ways.

When the conservative screaming died down a touch, a meme popped up about how Harriet Tubman was a Second Amendment supporting Republican.

Come on, people. Harriet Tubman couldn't vote. She was a woman.

Had she been allowed to vote, yes, she would probably have voted Republican because the Republican Party, way back when it started, was actually in favor of Abolition. It was the party of Abraham Lincoln. My how times change, right?

Next, it turns out that Harriet Tubman did in fact carry a gun. The mentions I could find of her using it was when slaves she was helping escape became too frightened or too tired and wanted to turn back. Then she would threaten them with her gun to make them keep going. Arguably necessary in this terrible time, yes, but maybe not something to strut about, at least in my opinion.

However the Second Amendment was not what allowed her to carry a gun. She, like every slave, but more, every single person of color in the south, was forbidden by law to have weapons of any kind, and the Second Amendment made no difference to that.

The Second Amendment existed so that the slave owners could have guns. The Second Amendment ensured that the people persuing her and her fellow escapees would be armed.

The meme is fundamentally pretty dishonest, but it is great that it brings so many social issues to light.


Apr. 4th, 2016 07:09 am
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Kip and I planted three trees over the weekend.

We have been planting about a tree a year since we got this house, because the lawn started very sad and bare (and with odd dips in it where a previous owner had eradicated most non-lawn things, I suspect.). We wanted to beautify the yard, to shade the grass in hopes of stunning it a little to make mowing easier, and to have our own supply of favorite fruits. So we started with a peach tree.

After a few years it began bearing peaches. Copiously. I had expected this--I knew that the problem you have with fruit trees is that the first week in June you have no ripe fruit and the second week in June you have 250 ripe fruit that will only be good for a few days. I had a plan for coping with this--my dehydrators.

Alas, what I didn't realize was that the peach tree we originally planted was a clingstone peach. Peaches come in two varieties of interest at the moment--freestone, where the pit is kind of loose in a middle pocket, surrounded by the flesh of the peach but not attached to it, and clingstone, where the pit is an integral part of the fruit and the flesh of the peach must be gnawed away with patience and persistence.

Either kind works for eating (clingstone is messier, but peaches are generally messy if they're any good.). But it is nearly impossible to cut a clingstone peach off its pit without turning it into peach mush. So drying them wasn't going to work.

Peaches went bad right and left; it was sad. I looked at our lovely tree and I looked at Kip and I said "cutting it down and replacing it won't get any easier if we wait." Kip and I are now at the age where a four year wait to get more fruit doesn't seem like forever, though it is still an investment.

At the nursery the person helping us seemed very vague on the distinction between freestone and clingstone peaches (perhaps he was just very inexperienced--I can't imagine that very many peach planters make the same mistake we did more than once.). We had to call in a more senior person, and then he listed the varieties available and I looked them up on the web to double check because four years is do-able, but eight years would be rather a long time. We are the proud owners of two Elberta peach trees, because apparently they bear better if you have more than one and also we needed an extra to keep our yearly average up seeing as we had just cut one down.

While we were at it, the large shade tree in back is dropping branches, so we also got a shade tree, and since I'm a sucker for autumn foliage, we got an October glory maple tree. The obvious place for it is a non-starter this year because our old metal shed that was holding our mower and bikes died in an early spring windstorm and while we finally found someone to tear down the old shed and take it away, we are going to need a new shed because the bikes are living on the back porch which means the canoes are living in my boat shop, which makes it hard to work in there. And *that* means we need trailer access to the concrete pad in the back where the shed will go, and the obvious place for a shade tree was smack in the middle of the trailer access.

So we planted the shade tree on the east side of the house a bit north of the back porch, in hopes of a pool of shade that will extend the shade pattern of the porch.

And Kip did the lion's share of the digging and dirt moving, but I didn't feel right about making him do it all, so I helped, and now my back is not happy. I have dug out the anti-inflammatories and hopefully will be better in a few days.
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I just got back from Deborah's Birthday Housefilk at Larry and Deborah's house.

Lauren and I drove up together through the beautiful Smokey Mountains along I-40 to I-26. It is a beautiful area and the redbuds and pear trees were just blossoming out at the time. Saturday was a lovely sunny day, and Sunday was nice and cool and spring-damp, with the rain keeping the pollen out of the air. The Kirby house is out in a very rural area, surrounded by pine woods with a huge blossoming tree next to a porch that hosts a wealth of tiny brown birds that rustle and chirp at the birdfeeder.
There were ten or twelve people there for the housefilk, and I am beginning to learn people's names (I am extremely slow at this) so I felt even more at home than previous times. Moss came from my neck of the woods, and Myra and Harry came from the Atlanta area, and Terry and Barbara were there, and a couple of people I should know but whose names I can't remember and one quiet woman with long hair who did some cool songs about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.
I was a bit worried I wouldn't have anything in good shape to do, but I had been working hard on Dr. Faber's Medicine Show (the song), because my new book of Mandolin Exercises made me think that perhaps what was wrong with it before was that I hadn't been using the proper pick direction for everything.
When someone is slow, like me, one secret to playing mandolin pieces faster is to work out the proper pick direction for every note. I think the secret is to playing on-beat notes on a downstroke and off-beat notes on an up stroke, even if you have to skip over a string or two to do it. That way your picking hand swings up and down at the same rate all the time and you don't have to start and stop.
So anyway I had printed out the music for the mandolin part for that song, which I had always found extremely difficult to play at the speed I heard it in my head, and I wrote out above the notes which were down strokes and which up strokes and then spent a couple of days of dedicated practice trying to do it the right way.

And whether it is the two days of dedicated practice or whether it is untangling the up and down strokes, I did a much better job on it in the circle than I would have done a few days before. Also the filk I wrote of Cindy Cindy went over well, and at various times when the turn came around to me I did The Silver Snail and Hydrogen And Time (I got asked if that one was on a CD yet) and Lauren requested Neil Armstrong and I debuted Pyrtanian Love Song, and Lauren and I did The Golden Door.

Lauren did her McGonnagle and Umbrage song and her song about Steven Moffat and a song she had written on the way up about her cat, Titan (which is so beautiful and sad), and we did Ten Penny Bit together, and she and I finished with a duet on The Parting Glass. She was a big hit; I am looking forward to introducing her to FilkOntario--heads up Canadian Filk; you've got yet another new filker incoming!

And I have decided that I must learn A Chat With Your Mother for the Pick And Grin because I think they would love it. And there was another that song that went by that evening which I think would also go over very well there and now I can't remember what it was, dang it.

And we trailed off to bed about 1am, and about 8:30am I woke up and chatted with Terry and Barbara and Deborah and Larry until about 11:20 at which point I woke Lauren up (this took some doing) and we packed up (with a certain amount of tetrising) and left. And Lauren wrote another filk on the way home, which was wetter than the drive out but beautiful in a foggy way instead of a sunny one.
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It is March 14th, and even more interesting, March 14th of 2016 which works out to 3/14/16 which makes it Pi Day. (if you are using dates with the day first I don't think you ever have pi day, because April only has 30 days, so perhaps Pi day is a purely US thing. Are there other countries that write their dates with the month first?)

Anyway, in honor of Pi day, Kip and I went to the store and got pie (chocolate cream pie.) It was tasty. Pi day is a good holiday.

I bought a book of mandolin exercises ("Mandolin Exercises for Dummies") and have been doing them semi-regularly. I am only on the first few pages but I think they are making a difference. I am learning closed scales and bidding fair to develop a mandolin callus on my little finger. (The other three fingers already have pretty thick calluses.) Also the string skipping exercises have me thinking that one way to get faster might be to review my picking directions on all my fast pieces.

I am learning Billy In The Low Ground, which is a fun old-time fiddle piece that seems to derive from a Scottish Celtic tune. I can learn a piece much more quickly than I used to. And Thursday before last I got waved up to the mike at the Pick And Grin (Thursday night jam circle at local deli--musicians get fed free) to take my first instrumental break, on a tune I didn't even know. I've been figuring out how to play harmonies that work with the chord progressions so it went okay anyway (room for improvement, but I didn't crash and burn), and I was very pleased about that. (It helps that the Pick And Grin is very attached to G major--about half the songs are in G major, with the next most common keys being D A and E but after that it might be anything; Gflat major is not off the table here, which is why I am working on closed scales.)

I am just about finished with the outside fiberglassing on the instrument case and the next step will be to smooth out and fiberglass the inside.

And regarding my progress on Dutch, I finished translating the last page of Wee Free Men a couple of weeks ago (I translated a whole book!) and have moved on to A Hatful of Sky, and Dad and I finished reading De Koning Van Katoren and have begun on De Kunstrijder.

And I forgot to mention it but our little city has a New Library and the New Library has a meeting room that is separate from the library proper and groups can reserve it to use during library hours. And back, wow, I guess last summer, I met a fiddler named Joyce and I already knew Ed from the Barbershop music group and Ed knew Lauren (who is now a new filker and coming to conventions) and I suggested we move to the library meeting room because people smoke in the barbershop and that's a bit hard to sit in for an hour at a time.

And so we reserved the library meeting room for Tuesday mornings, and Joyce's husband Rex has since retired and can come play his flute with us, and we picked up a guitar player named Ralph, and Ed and Lauren had a friend named Lindsay who also plays the violin and we have a couple of people who have been coming to listen and we're up to six musicians and working up repertoire. If we get enough songs worked up well enough maybe we'll play gigs but right now we're just playing together for fun.

Which means I need to go to bed because I have to get up early tomorrow. Good night!
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So recently it started warming up and I got back to work on the guitar case.

I'm not claiming this is a cause and effect scenario--but I can't help but notice that having the workshop be slightly warmer has coincided with my being willing to spend more time out there.  And once I started standing around looking thoughtfully at the guitar case, it occurred to me that there might be an easier way to get the jig out.

Last time, I built the entire bottom of the octave mandolin case around the jig I used to hold the side strips in place while I glued them together.  Removing the jig was quite difficult because while whacking the jig into the case broke the hot glue bonds, the jig became wedged in place.  This time I attempted to make jig removal easier by only hotgluing every other strip to the jig and relying on friction to hold the strips between them in place while the glue dried.  This worked fairly well in the gluing stage, and I figured breaking half as many hot glue bonds would be about half as hard.

But it occurred to me--maybe I could sand the sides smooth on the outside -- and then fiberglass the sides before I glued the bottom on.  So I pulled the screws out (the ones that ran into the columns so I could support the jig on the soup cans while I whacked the top off, remember?) drilled the holes out with a forstner bit, patched them, did the epoxy seal coat, and fiberglassed the sides.

Then I carefully sanded away any fiberglass sticking out from the sides, laid the whole thing flat, and whacked all around the jig with a mallet (and a short piece of 2x2 to direct the mallet's force exactly where I wanted it--think mallet and really blunt chisel).  Once the hot glue bonds were broken I simply pushed the whole thing out the open side.

Last time removing the jig took me two hours.  This time?  Six minutes. As a bonus I can re-use this jig if I want; I did not have to saw large chunks out of it.  As a second bonus I went around what will become the bottom half of the sides and removed the blobs of hot glue through the open space where the bottom will go.  Much quicker than trying to remove them once the bottom is in place.

I was worried I would tear the fiberglass, but it looks fine.  I was worried the sides would be too floppy to glue to the bottom in their proper configuration without the jig.  They were definitely a bit floppy.  I stabilized them somewhat by laying the lid, open side up, on the workbench, laying a layer of wax paper over the lid (I did NOT want to end up gluing the sides to the lid with a stray drop of epoxy or dookie shmutz (epoxy plus sawdust)) and then fitting the sides into the lid.  In one place I used a short stick to brace the sides out where they were trying to squeeze in more narrow than the lid.

That seemed to stabilize the sides properly so I went ahead and glued the bottom on, and spent my work time today sanding the bottom back to match the sides exactly.  With a bit of luck I should be done with the outside fiberglassing by the end of next week.
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GaFilk is really due a longer con report but for now I'll just say that one of the highlights of the weekend was getting to perform my new song The Golden Door with my friend Lauren (a new filker; this was her first con) onstage, with the lovely and talented Judi Miller providing ASL interpretation on the fly in the inimitable fashion that won her a well deserved Best Performer Pegasus Award.

It is well known among filkers that you will forget what you are doing if you watch Judi during your performance, so I am very glad that Alice kindly recorded it on Lauren's phone, and Lauren uploaded it to YouTube so that I could watch it now.

I don't know how to imbed it, so I'll just put a link to it here: YouTube video of The Golden Door.

The Golden Door
lyrics by Catherine Faber and Emma Lazarus
melody by Catherine Faber 2015

My parents came from Holland, a better life to find,
Full of hope, as many came before.
In the flower of their youth they left their families behind
To make a new together on this shore.
Two among the thousands who sought a wider sky
Where Liberty has made a welcome here;
She stands in New York Harbor and holds this message high
Its meaning somewhat tarnished, but still clear:

Give me your tired your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teaming shore
Send these the homeless tempest tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Some came here for adventure, and some to look for gold
And some in chains, with all that that entails.
From all our imperfections, a nation did unfold,
For home is where the heart at last prevails.
Words in every language, skin of every hue
Where these got slender welcome, that's our shame,
For folk of every country gave Liberty her due
Each brought their dish to potluck as they came

America is mighty, too strong to yield to fear
Too strong to bow beneath some bloodstained thumb.
People fleeing carnage should find safe harbor here
Their children strengthen what we will become.
Let voice on voice be lifted in welcome and in song
Immigrants have built this country's crown.
We still proclaim the message that stood so high so long.
Nor will Liberty's proud tablet tumble down.

Give me your tired your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teaming shore
Send these the homeless tempest tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
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So I've been working on making a guitar case (it's a commission) using pretty much the same techniques I used to build my Octave Mandolin case last year.

Now part of my build process was building a lid that would fit exactly over the case by building the lid actually *on* the case--using the rest of the case as the form I glued the lid together over. Since I'm using the hot glue method of holding the planks together while the glue between the strips dries, this means that once the lid is fiberglassed it is still held to the body of the case by multiple dots of hot glue. Last time I did successfully whack the lid off but it took quite a while and tore the lid a bit in the process.

Okay so this time I made a couple of modifications. Modification one was that the columns that held the two layers of the jig apart actually touch the outside of the jig, which made it easy to drill small holes through the sides of the case and into the columns. I screwed long screws into these so that they poked out of the sides. By propping up the case (soup cans under each screw,) with the lid on the bottom side, suspended over the workbench, I now had a way to support and secure the case while whacking down on edge of the lid.

Modification two was that while gluing the strips together, both for the sides of the case and for the lip, I used dots of hot glue on every other strip, instead of on every strip. This meant half as many glue dots to break to get things lose.

Yesterday was the moment of truth. I set up the jig as I'd imagined. I have a picture of it at my flickr, but flickr no longer gives me code I can imbed in this page. If you'd like to see it, it's here:

And it worked fine! Balanced on three soup cans (with plastic underneath in case the cans didn't stand up to the pounding) it was stable enough and held the lid nicely suspended so that I could use a wood mallet and a short straight piece of 2x2 to whack the lid off. It took me less than five minutes all told. The cans were fine and I put them back in the kitchen cabinet. It was sooo much easier than the last time I took a lid off.

With a little luck it will be that much easier to get the jig out also; we'll see when the time comes.

On the down side I still tore the fiberglass in a couple of places. I wonder if it would be better to cut the lip strips 1 and 1/4 inch long instead of 1 inch. Maybe that would give a little more space to let the strength of the fiberglass distribute the force of the blow.

But I can fix those little tears so you won't be able to tell where they happened.

In the meantime using half as much hot glue has really sped up the cleanup on the inside also. I've put in about an hour on it and I think I'm about half done. It looks like I'm nearly done but I always end up cleaning up little fiddly details that take longer than you would think. I bought a dremel tool that has sped up that clean up a lot also--it doesn't mind sanding hardened dookie shmutz (expoxy mixed with sawdust, used to fill gaps between the top and the lip before fiberglassing.) It has the texture of peanut butter until it hardens so it can droop and run and need to be sanded smooth, and the inside of the lip is hard to get to so my other alternative is hand sanding which takes quite a bit of time.

So that's where I am on that. The next stage on the lid will be fixing the tears/finishing smoothing the inside, fiberglassing the inside, and the next stage on the body of the case will be removing the screws, and drilling out and plugging the holes they left.

In other news I have my good bodhran back and have been working on playing it a bit, trying to work out ways to make the techniques Brenda showed me work on my comparatively tiny little drum. I can't help but notice that Amazon has actual Irish bodhrans for sale, with the cutout so you can snug them. "The cutout" means part of the rim is cut away so that you can trap the drum between your forearm and your ribs (called snugging it) to hold it steady while you let go of the handle and damp the drumhead in various ways with your left hand from the back of the drum while holding the beater in your right hand to strike the front of the drum. This lets you get different tones out of it. I can't snug my drum very well--partly because it has no cutout and partly because its diameter is about 4" smaller than a regular bodhran and also I am tall with long forearms which doesn't help--and have been using different combinations of free fingers to touch the drumhead while holding the drum handle, but that changes the tone in a more limited way.

Maybe I'll ask for an Irish bodhran for Christmas.

Also I have poked google repeatedly looking for a bodhran beater with rubber balls on the ends like Brenda has because that one was very bouncy and fun, but I can't find one so far. They don't seem to be a regular thing. The shopsmith can be a lathe, though I haven't set that up yet, so maybe I could make my own beaters, but I'm not sure how I'd go about attaching rubber balls...
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I am home from OVFF and starting to get my sleep debt under control. I had the good fortune to be reasonably well-slept before the con (probably due to having mostly given up caffeine) which helped, but I never sleep as well at cons and tend to resort to caffeine during them to be able to function which means the problem gets a bit worse and a bit worse till I had to have almost 3 cans of diet Mountain Dew for the drive back.

But I had a great time. I was joyfully reunited with my best bodhran (or bodhran-substitute) which I had left in Canada by mistake on my trip this summer, and which Tom and Sue Jeffers kindly retrieved and drove to the con for me, in time to take it to my rehearsal with Andrew. I played bodhran on The Dolls in the Pegasus Concert, as part of Andrew's little ad hoc band, and I think we did a pretty damn good job. The Pegasus Concert as a whole was excellent and I had a very hard time making my choices on the ballot--there were a couple of categories where I just didn't choose at all, and left it up to the other Pegasus voters.

The next morning I went to the Taking Your Music On The Road workshop/panel and the Spice Up Your Strumming workshop, both of which were very interesting. The latter was unfortunately scheduled against Alexa Klettner's concert so I only caught the last half of it, but I enjoyed that very much. Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps gave a concert to celebrate the release of their new CD, which was also lots of fun. I had a lovely dinner with good company, including a couple of kids who have grown to the point where they have interesting contributions to make to the conversation, which was sufficiently informed, friendly and wide-ranging that it didn't occur to me to worry about the Pegasus Awards.

In general it seemed like there were more young fen at this con than at previous ones--both in the sense of kids and in the sense of younger grownups. This trend makes me happy.

After dinner I hung out around the raised area where the Pegasus Banquet occurs, to hear the results. My choices had been: Best Time Related--Gabriel Gray's Song, Best Adapted--Threes Rev 1.1, Best Classic Filk Song--Ship of Stone and Best Filk Song--Somebody Will. In Best Performer I couldn't decide and in Best Songwriter--well, I was up for that and I felt like I had a conflict of interest, so I left that in the lap of the Hugo Pegasus voters (thank you, Gary), prepared to accept their verdict and be happy for whoever they chose. Because, really, when the competition is Barry, Randy, Kari, and Eva, it's an honor to be considered their peer.

By now you probably know who won. Precious Moments by Phil Allcock, Grabthar's Silver Hammer by Steve MacDonald (Steve got all wordless; it was so cute) Jeff and Maya Bonhoff for Best Performer, Captain Jack And The Mermaid by Meg Davis, and My Story Is Not Done by Seannan McGuire. All very worthy winners and congratulations to each and every one.

And me. I walked up the steps to accept, and remembered something someone had said in the Mark Bernstein's Powderfilk Biscuits (give shy filkers the courage to stand up and sing) workshop, "it's about what you come to the filk circle for?" and Mark saying something like "I'm an atheist; for me the circle is sacred space."

So I said something rather disorganized about I come to the filk circle for communion; and thank you very much I'm deeply honored.

And spent the rest of the con wandering around in a glow while many people congratulated me and said kind things. I attended the Shallow End Filk which went swimmingly--I'm always glad to hear new filkers, and we had a good batch this year. That meant missing the song contest, which was a pity, but so it goes. I then went off to the Fiend Filk because I knew Peter would be at that and I wanted to meet him so we could jam, and had a lovely time there, including singing Least of My Kind because I had the bodhran handy and had been practicing on bodhran for a month for the concert, and thus could do a decent job of it.

Then Peter and I repaired to an empty room to jam properly, picking up Mary Bertke and Alexa on the way and discovering a bass player (whose name I have forgotten but I would like to play with him again; he was fun) already there when we arrived and Yehuda (from Israel--and he bought a couple of CDs--my first sale to an Israeli fan that I know of!) and Mary Crowell showed up shortly after. We jammed for a little bit--I felt like I wasn't doing a very good job on the mando, perhaps because I had spent most of my practice time on other things for the past month--but hopefully everyone had fun and then we switched to a more conventional circle and I got Alexa to do My Berlin again, because I heard it in her concert and loved it. It was originally written by someone else in German but she translated it to English, which is no simple job even with prose, and I'm very impressed she made such beautiful lyrics.

Sunday I declared myself an honorary kid and went to Stone Dragons' kid concert. About halfway through I was apparently declared an honorary Stone Dragon and summoned to perform, which was fun. Then I went to the dealers room, and bought CDs from Bill Roper and Barry Childs-Helton, and a couple of books from Larry Smith, who I was happy to see there, since I knew he'd been in a car crash. I got California Bones and Updraft.

I went to Jodi Krangle's concert but had to duck out of the Farewell Jam halfway through because it was just too loud. I enjoy trying to play along but my ears can only handle so much. Maybe next time I'll try sitting on the opposite side of the room from the drum kit and the PA system.

Alexa had been very friendly so I had put myself forward enough to ask her to dinner Sunday evening and she said yes, so she, I, Alice, and Peter went early to the Mongolian Barbecue. Donald was supposed to come too but we had enough people I kind of overlooked that he was missing when he wasn't in the group by the door; my bad. He called me when he got back from shopping and came out to the restaurant to join us, though.

Alexa was very curious about the fried oreos, which I had never had either, so we got a plate of them for dessert to share out among everyone. It was sort of like a hot donut with an oreo filling, with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup on the side. Tasty but I wasn't sorry to be sharing it with so many people.

After that we came back for the Dead Dog Filk. I noticed that signals were getting crossed and a few people seemed to be getting frustrated, so I took it on myself to direct traffic as much as possible when I saw people trying to get in, though I faded pretty early, sang my swansong and took myself off to bed.

And Monday was driving. But hitting the road early monday meant the traffic was very light, and we could enjoy the autumn foliage in daylight all the way south to my place.

And I have a nice new idea for a song which I'm working on. We'll see what comes of it.

I am alive

Oct. 3rd, 2015 04:39 pm
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Yeah, I haven't posted in ages. I'm hoping to get back into the habit. I'm going to ease back in by not telling you all the stuff since last time because that would take a long time and makes the kind of barrier that keeps me putting things off.

So today I joined the Friends of the Library, and also helped mind the booth that the Friends have at Old Time Saturday, which is a regular thing in my small town, the first Saturday of October.

Now October is usually lovely weather--comfortable temperatures, dry, with that wonderful blue blue sky we only get when the summer haze is gone. The trees are turning, the mosquitoes have died, if you're only going to come to Tennessee one month in your life, make it October.

Unfortunately we caught the backwash of Hurricane Joaquin (I think that's how it's spelled) and so it has been raining for two days solid. I wore jeans, hiking boots, my leather jacket, my winter hat with the brim and the earflaps that tuck inside and took the extra large umbrella to go to mind the booth.

I needed them all. A scarf and wool socks wouldn't have gone amiss either and really the hiking boots need new soles. If anybody had been selling hot chocolate instead of popcorn and snow cones, they'd have made a killing, except that the attendance was way down this year--it wouldn't surprise me if half the people present were minding a booth or associated with someone who was. Some of the booth-minders didn't even come.

In other news I have decided to try to learn tremolo. I hate it--I've only ever heard one mandolinist who could do it without sounding obnoxious and they were a professional who played classical music--but it appears to be key to developing other techniques that I do want to be able to do. So I found a youtube video by someone called "hardrockgrrl" who appears to know what she's doing and have a systematic approach I think I can copy. It looks like it will take a couple of months of daily practice to get out of the obnoxious zone but I think I can do that.

And in other other news I'll be playing bodhran at OVFF, which wouldn't be any biggie but I want to be able to hit a particular tempo and then change it to another particular tempo and do that several times, so I have a fair amount of bodhran practicing before me also.

So that's what is up with me.
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You know, I haven't posted in just about forever. And at some point I'll get back to what I was doing but for now I just want to observe that I am cutting and sanding wood strips (white pine) for a new project. I used a bandsaw to do the cutting, which worked...okay and now I'm using a conical sanding wheel (very shallow cone, but this lets you sand the edge of a board, or the side of a strip 1) smooth and flat and 2) to a desired width) to sand them all.

And let me tell you, there is an astonishing amount of sawdust involved. I'm only about half done and I have completely filled a shopvac vacuum bag. When I quit work today I was sawdust to the elbows; I had safety glasses over my glasses and my glasses were still hazed with sawdust. I had sawdust dusted on my hair and caked in the sweat on my neck. I vacuumed myself off and then went outside and brushed myself off with the little brush for the dust pan and I still made Kip cough when I walked through the kitchen.

Hopefully I can finish up the sanding by Thursday.
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I've been kind of busy with studying Dutch, and cleaning house, but I just finished another Puppy Pick and I'm ready to talk about that.

Championship B'tok.

This is a chunk of a novel. It looks as if someone picked out chapters, say, four through six, labeled them "novelette" and mailed it off. I can only hope that Analog is publishing it as a serial or something. The backstory is filled in to some extent, but the business end has been haggled off and the raveled ends haven't even been woven back into the story. I thought a puppy had chewed off the ending for _Flow_ but this is worse.

The character(s) we start out with is left on a cliffhanger two pages in. We never find out what happened. Another major character disappears a few pages before the end. We never find out what happened there either. The story also ends with one group about to ambush another. Repeat after me: and we never find out what happened.

Closure? What is closure?

For the record, B'tok is a chess-like game that some aliens play and also a metaphor for political maneuvering and espionage.

And I think I know what the Pups liked about it (well, they liked that it was on a slate, but I think I know why the slate-makers, whoever they are, chose it): it has two explosions.

If it had been a whole story there would have been some point to this; the characters are cardboardy but since they don't try to have any serious relationships their 2D status does not get in the way, and I liked what he did with the alien language. (The aliens don't have verbs--which is pretty damn alien, I agree--and in their conversations with each other this is pretty faithfully followed, and yet you can still tell exactly what they mean. Not bad.)

However it is meant to be judged as it stands and my answer is that is not a story; a story has an end.
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So a whole novella of Puppy material is a bit indigestible, so I took a rest by just reading a novelette: _ The Journeyman In The Stone House_ by Michael F. Flynn, published in Analog, (I'm guessing Brad has a subscription to Analog, maybe?)

This one was a bit better. There is one woman character, even if she isn't present for much of the story, who actually merits a name and has a few lines, so go Mr. Flynn. While nothing like parity, it is a significant step up from _Flow_. The main characters, Teodorq and Sammi are reasonably fun, even if the main conflict and means of resolving it are stereotypical dominance issues. The hints of multiple cultures meeting at a single stress point were also kind of interesting.

I suspect this of being a part cut out of a larger story, (Teodorq and Sammi met a stranded AI which has commissioned them to find its people, I think) and pretty much zero progress is made on that, nor do the main characters seem to care either way. There is some joking around with a door that might be either very funny or rather childish depending on your personal inclinations.

This is apparently a story within a series, which hurts its ability to stand alone, in my opinion, especially at the end, but I suppose if you have to choose so much of your short fiction from a single magazine, that's going to leave you making some tradeoffs.

Verdict: one of the better Puppy Picks so far. It really couldn't hold a candle to any of my choices, in my opinion, but I'm grateful for the respite.
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So I have been working my way through the Hugo Ballot, since some of it is available free on the Web. As people who have been paying attention to the Hugos know, most of the nominees were chosen by Brad Torgersen and Vox Day (and possibly Larry Corriea, John C. Wright, and Sarah Hoyt helping them.)

I will be voting everything that appeared on a slate below No Award this year. Those who don't understand why are free to check out my posts on how slates distort the nomination process, Part 1, as well as Part 2 and Part 3. I make no promises about how I will handle slates next year as the Puppies logical next step next year is to slate people and works they hate that they believe have a chance at the Hugos.

However I said I would read the Puppy picks, and I will. There are two reasons for this, first, what if Puppies are right and they actually have a line on good works and authors I have overlooked? Second, I expect the fight for sixth place to be hard and bitter, and how will I know which works to put there if I haven't read them?

So, one of the Novellas that the Puppies picked for the best of the best of conservative science fiction (or whatever they're calling it these days) is _Flow_ by Arlan Andrews Sr.

This is a story about a man, who joins the men who take icebergs downriver (never mind how difficult it would be to ride an iceberg down a wild river without overturning it and killing yourself) to sell them to the men in the warmlands city below, who have wild and mysterious things like sunshine and mirrors and ancient artifacts that the men use to catch icebergs. If you're noticing a lot of men in this recounting and a paucity of women, let me assure you that there are women; they are there for the real people to have sex with them. One of the women even has a name, but I'm not sure if she counts since she's the main character's mother. She doesn't actually appear, or do anything, or say anything to anyone. The unforgettable (unforgettable because, unlike the women the main character is used to, she has breasts) woman the main character has sex with (twice, yet!) in the warmlands city does not actually merit a name, as I recall. Nor does she do anything else.

If you easily accept the idea that the only thing women in the city are doing that is worth mentioning is having sex, the rest of the story is . . . a little lacking in the end department, as the character does rappels off a cliff toward an unknown but apparently higher tech land below as an ending to the story. Aside from that it's not particularly bad, which makes it a standout among Puppy picks so far.

The "women only having sex" thing made me wonder was Mr. Andrews was like, so I went and had a look at his interview with Brad Torgersen. (For those who understandably don't follow Mr. Torgersen's blog, he has been writing puff pieces for the various successful Puppy Nominees.) In this interview Mr Andrews mentions "I still look for new ideas, new concepts, things I would never have thought of, cool technologies, new kinds of human relationships."

Women as only entities for having sex... does not really strike me as a new kind of human relationship but there wasn't really anything else in this story that seemed to fit that bill either, so perhaps it seems new to Mr. Andrews.
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I spent most of last week pretty sick. Coughing like crazy, and a snot monster took up residence in my nose and for several days I was also nauseated so I wasn't eating much, though I did manage to stay hydrated this time, go me.

Now I am only garden-variety sick, but the chores have piled up while I wasn't able to get to them.

On the other hand, the Hugo Voting opened, so I have put in my preliminary votes. The way the Hugo voting works I can change my votes right up to the last minute, as I read and ponder more of the things. But I wanted to make sure my anti-slate protest would register even if I got hit by a car tomorrow (not that it's very likely, but still) so I put No Award first in all the Puppy-locked categories, and the non-Puppy contenders (if necessary in a random order, since in some cases I haven't read everything yet) and No Award in Puppy infested categories.

Thinking about the Graphic Novel category was fun: there was only one Puppy in that category, and I bought all the nonPuppy nominees to kind of make it up to myself about the Puppies, so I'm going to discuss that one in more detail here.

They were all fun. I don't read graphic novels much, mostly because they are so expensive they are just out of my price range as a regular thing. This is kind of a pity, as I wouldn't mind reading more of this kind of thing.

4) Sex Criminals. This one starts with a strange premise. For one young woman, time stops when she has an orgasm. She can walk around and do things and everyone else is just frozen in time. It turns out she's not alone in this capacity, and one day she meets a compatible partner--with a penchant for transgressing against societal norms during this period of frozen time. He talks her into committing a crime and things go from there.

3) Rat Queens. An all-woman D&D party. Fighter and cleric, magic user and rogue. But the town they live in is having a hard time living with their increasing destructiveness and contempt for the local community norms, and someone is sending them into situations that are getting harder and harder to survive. I haven't quite finished this one yet.

2) Saga Volume 3 I have read the background on this one, because Volume 2 was nominated last year. This is an interesting saga that follows the fortunes of two star-crossed lovers--soldiers on opposite sides of an inter-planetary war who loved, and accidentally started a family. Higher ups (on both sides, I think) want this inconvenient Romeo and Juliette pair--and especially their abomination of a baby--dead, and the killer for hire on their trail turns out to be easier for the reader to sympathize with than one might think.

1) Ms. Marvel. The new Ms. Marvel is a Muslim girl from New Jersey, trying to balance her family's expectations of a good girl's place with her own belief, inculcated by her father, that to save one life is to save the world entire. On her side, weird shape-shifting powers granted by a passing night mist, and a good friend with a knack for inventing. Ranged against her, a supervillian who is apparently running a drug ring, if I understand this right.

So that has been cool.

I have also read (most of) the short stories. These are all Puppy noms, and are going after No Award in any case, but I am reading them to find out what the Puppies think is so great they are willing to resort to a slate to shove it on the rest of us. However one of the short stories is not available on the internet, so I will have to wait for the voter's packet.

Note that any Puppy nom that doesn't get into the voter's packet or isn't otherwise available free just doesn't get read as far as I am concerned. I will be God damned if I will give a penny to someone who used a slate. I will read them, and that out of the goodness of my heart, but if you used a slate to wreck the Hugo nominations to make money you can just go to Hell.
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I had a wonderful time at FKO (and bought a new instrument, a single course mandola, which I have named Duckling.) It was so *nice* to be around people who understood what was going on with the Sad Puppies! I debuted a new song (about the Puppies) but not the angry one.

I would put it up here, but when I came home Kip had a cold... which I promptly caught, and which has the dubious distinction of being the worst cold I have had in a very long time. Somewhere in there it turned into nausea again, which most of the victims of this cold haven't been getting. But. I am feeling better today. Still feel like collapsing into a chair and shutting my eyes now and then, but I am washed and dressed, and played my mandolin a bit. I still can't sing worth a darn but when I'm back in voice I will put up my new song.

The mimmoths are up to something, but they won't say what. *looks suspicious* I have not been keeping proper track of them on account of being sick, drat it.
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So the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies Slate, between them, locked up the nominations and locked everyone else out of a lot of the categories, to the Puppies great glee and celebration.

However a couple of books came out last year that are *right* up the Sad Puppies' alley. They are Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 2, the second part of a comprehensive biography of Heinlein, greatly admired by Sad Puppies (and he used to be on of my favorite authors also, by the way) and The Three-Body Problem, a hardest-of-hard SF novel by Cixin Liu (which I haven't read myself yet, but which I hear is excellent.)

Both are well thought of, including among fans who are not Sad Puppies, and both would have had a very reasonable chance at the Hugo Ballot in a normal year, the Heinlein bio in the Best Related Work section and Three-Body Problem in the Best Novel section.

I saw Larry Correia admit in a comment on his blog that he would have added the Heinlein bio to the Sad Puppies slate if he had known about it. I saw Vox Day admit in a comment at File 770 that he would have added The Three-Body Problem to the Rabid Puppies Slate if he had known about it.

Neither did, however, and the two slates made it impossible for other fans to put either work on the ballot.

Because slates don't just hurt those poopy heads on whatever you have designated the "other side." They hurt every non-slate work--emphatically including works the slate makers would have loved, if they had just permitted the other nominators to put them on the ballot.

This is why slates are so destructive to the normal nomination process that I feel they cannot be tolerated. I will be putting every slate work below No Award on my ballot.
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I went through the post at Torgersen's blog where he solicited suggestions from his readers for what works to put on the Sad Puppy III Slate.

41 people suggested, among them, 35 books (and quite a few other things, but I haven't analyzed the other fields yet.) The most popular books got 3 "nominations" each--there were four of these. Then there were four more books that got 2 nominations each. And the remaining 27 got one nomination each.

So in a group of Sad Puppies--whose tastes might reasonably be expected to overlap--the most popular works were getting less than 10% of the vote. More than two thirds of the works were only getting one vote each.

This is what I mean when I talk about normal nominations being thinly spread over a large group.

Brad curated these into a list of only five books--and those books go from less than 10% of the vote to something close to 100% of the vote.

*That* is what a slate does. It multiplies your nominating power by ten or twelve.

In addition to the Sad Puppies Slate, there was also a Rabid Puppies slate, run by their friend and fellow conservative Vox Day. I disregarded this slate in the past because Vox Day could only drum up about 70 nominations last year even with the Sad Puppies helping, so I assumed since he wasn't on the Sad Puppy slate this year he wouldn't play a big role.

I suspect he thought so too; the rumor is that he invited the Gamergators in. I can tell you for a fact that he claims to be one of their leaders--I saw him do that over at File 770. I thought he was exaggerating to make himself look bigger, but looking at how well the Rabid Puppy slate did in the Hugo Nominations, it's certainly plausible that he invited outsiders in, and the Puppies have a lot in common with GG. Again, voting a slate, you have ten times the voting power; he wouldn't have had to attract more than a couple of hundred people.

This is why, despite the Sad and Rabid Puppies being a relatively small portion of the Hugo Nominating public, they were basically able to shut the rest of us completely out of the nominations for

Best Novella
Best Novelette
Best Short Story
Best Related Work
Best Editor Short Form
Best Editor Long Form

There is only one non-Puppy nominee for

Best Fanzine
Best Fan Writer
Best Professional Artist
Campbell Award (not a Hugo)

and two non-Puppy nominees for

Best Novel
Best Fancast
Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form
Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form

There are three non-Puppy nominees for

Best Semi-Prozine

And four for

Best Graphic Story

The Best Fan Artist category appears to be entirely clean.

I don't know about you, but I was not put on this earth to be a patsy for the Puppies, meekly choosing which of their favorites to crown the "best."

This is the situation that No Award was invented for. I intend to at least start reading everything (I need to decide on that coveted sixth place slot), but anything on a slate will be going below No Award.

I joke about "that perennial scrappy contender "No Award"" but this really might be her year to take home, not one Hugo, but several.

I am too tired to type out all the names. File 770 has several collations; "nominees not on any slate" is the last before the comments

[later edit] For those coming in from nwhyte's journal, there are other parts to this essay. Part 1 is here: "A slate distorts what people read" and Part 3 is here "A slate shuts out works the slate-makers didn't know about." [/later edit]
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One the Sad Puppies was referring to someone as a CHORF. There was no explanation on the page, so I googled for the meaning.

Apparently for the Sad Puppies it means cliquish, holier than thou obnoxious reactionary fanatic. Brad Torgersen coined it to describe non-Puppies. I will leave that irony there for the enjoyment of the reader.

I guess he, and the people who picked it up from him, didn't even bother to check if that acronym was used for anything else first. To find the Sad Puppy meaning, I had to restrict the Google search to the past week. The older, and more widely-used meaning is "Christ on a rabbit farm!" Which is beautifully appropriate.

So when you see someone using it in the Sad Puppy manner, you can say "Chorf! They don't even know how to use Google!"
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