Of Cats and Computers

I’m not sure which I’m disliking more at the moment – my cat or my computer. Both have, in different ways, annoyed me deeply this week. Since the computer didn’t decide to hork up a hairball at 4:20am this morning (fortunately NOT in the bed this time*), I think the cat may be winning.

On the other hand, every time I turned my computer on it had another round of updates to do which meant that none of what I had planned for last weekend got done.

I can report that there are some decent looking photos in my collection – I’m just not sure how many because the computer kept freezing thanks to Microsoft, AVG and Chrome all deciding to update at the same time…

I’ll have another go at that this weekend – hopefully, things have now finished updating. If not…well let’s just say it’s a good thing I’ve long since discovered the wonders of Baileys and Jack Daniels!

Oh, and just for another piece of icing on a fairly shitty sort of week, my boss is back on vacation**.

*Yes, he has done this in the bed, so he gets points for better aim this time – unfortunately, he loses all those points for doing it pretty much exactly where I was going to have to put my foot…

**Yes, really – my boss really does take a lot of vacation!

A Most Excellent Break

I know I said I’d be posting last week, but, honestly between the travel-induced tiredness* and the con crud, which descended rather unpleasantly, I was actually in bed and asleep before 9pm last Thursday. However, the crud has cleared up and I’m back to normal now.

Well, what passes for normal, at any rate!

That said it was an excellent break, spent catching up with old friends and making some new ones. As the con crud might imply, some of the time was spent at a sci-fi convention, which was a lot of fun, although a bit overwhelming in patches. And slightly disconcerting, at times, given the sheer amount of cosplay. (There’s something very wrong with watching Q and a lady Klingon eating french fries together…)

I didn’t collect any autographs or even, really, any photos of the con guests (my assigned seat was right at the back of the hall – which did at least mean I could discreetly enter and exit), but I did get to hear George Takei, William Shatner and Walter Koenig talk and tell stories which was enormously entertaining. And if they were perhaps the banner guests, the other guests were just as entertaining (just probably not as well known).

Apart from the con, the chief feature of the break was walking. Thanks to my FitBit, I know that we walked somewhere in the region of 15 miles, between visiting the Landshaftspark**, revisiting the zoo and getting to see how things have changed since my last visit. It’s not often you can say “I went on vacation and I lost weight” – but it’s true!

I have a stack of photos from the Landshaftspark and the zoo, so sooner or later (sooner, probably) there’ll be a facebook post to inflictshare the best of the bunch. If there’s any REALLY good ones, there might even be a blog post with them…

The one thing that didn’t really happen (not that I expected it to, to be fair) was writing. I did noodle around a couple of scenes of original fiction (for those keeping track, yes, this was the NaNo universe), and I did do quite a bit of thinking on various projects, but nothing really got committed to the page. Still, it’s a long weekend up-coming, and I think I might just have resolved one of my major stumbling blocks (literally, as I was typing this paragraph!), so I’m thinking this weekend might just be nicely productive.

Here’s hoping, at least!

*it wasn’t jet lag – I was only in Germany! – it was the fact that I had to be up at 6am BST [7am local time] and didn’t get home until nearly 9pm BST, and spent a chunk of the day lugging a large and heavy bag around Köln Hbf and Brussels Zuid, to say nothing of making myself REALLY popular in the London rush hour!

**It used to be a steel works – the works closed sometime in the late 80s (I think) and rather than demolish the whole lot, it was turned into a quite lovely public park. I didn’t get to see the best bit (which is a panoramic view of the park and surrounds – me and high places are very non-mixy things), but the parts that I did see were pretty darn spectacular all the same.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I could insert a whine about how unproductive the long weekend was. I could bitch just that little bit more about the utter failure the client meeting was (short form: it got cancelled, but only after I’d left for it). But you’ve heard a tonne of the former, while the latter got hashed out on Twitter and Facebook at the time.

So instead, I thought I’d do a bit of waffling about books wot I have read and films and tv shows wot I have seen in the last few weeks. I’m not going to do full-on reviews or anything of that kind – I just really want to throw out some recommendations.

  1. The Celts – Alice Roberts
    This is the book that goes with the BBC documentary series she and Neil Oliver did which aired in the latter part of last year, though you don’t have to have seen that to enjoy this, and enjoy it, I have. Non-fiction books can be quite dry, but this has a lovely style to it – I think I read it in less than a week – and it covers some fascinating history and even more fascinating theories. It’s also got a really good list of further reading which, as time (and money) allow, I’m going to be delving into. Just one question: what did the Isle of Man and Manx do to get repeatedly left out of the list of remaining celtic areas/languages?!
  2. Dynasty – Tom Holland
    More history; this time of the classical variety. It’s not as easy to read as The Celts – but that’s more to do with the subject material (reading about Caligula’s Gaius’s excesses is never easy, Nero’s worse and let’s not even mention Tiberius’s activities in Capri!). In so far as a non-fiction book can be a sequel, this is – Tom Holland’s first book was called Rubicon and covered the period of Roman history that led up to Julius Caesar taking control of the Roman Republic. Dynasty, then, deals with what happened next, upto and including the death of Nero. You need a scorecard to keep track of who is married to who (Roman patronims will be the death of me someday, I’m sure), but there are family trees to help out, and it is absolutely fascinating to see that political maneuvering really hasn’t changed much in 2000 years. (Okay, there’s a lot fewer literal executions these days – but there’s still plenty of metaphorical ones!)
  3. Orientalism – Edward Said
    Speaking of dry non-fiction, this book is practically the poster child for it. The first two thirds of it are a slog (and if your academic French is a bit non est, you may struggle with the quotes), but I found the last third was worth the effort because – to me – it really rather highlighted and explained a considerable number of reasons why the situation is what it is in the Middle East. (That said, this is not a book that’s gone onto my re-read pile. As interesting as I found that last third, I routinely used the rest of the book as an insomnia cure!)
  4. Beowulf – Return to the Shieldlands
    Let me get one thing off my chest about this: how is there no storm of complaint that this is a Game of Thrones knockoff?! (I would suspect that, like a lot of fantasy writers, George RR Martin was at least slightly inspired by the original Anglo-Saxon poem, but this is not the poem!) I mean, even the theme music and opening credits are at least “inspired by” the theme/credits for GoT although there’s rather less nudity/sex/violence (mostly because it was broadcast at 7pm on a Sunday evening on free-to-air TV!). Let me get a second thing off my chest: the casting is another thing I’m surprised no-one has commented on. In this case, though, the casting is a good thing. I don’t think I’ve seen a British production with so many non-white cast members in before (which is, when you think about it, a pretty terrible indictment on British productions). There are also vastly more women in this than I was expecting – and they’re not just reduced to minor roles and damsels in distress either. And a third thing: are all the characters in this just screamingly dumb or what?! (And herein lies the real issue with this show.) Some of the characters get away with it by virtue of being young/inexperienced, but how does the well-trained healer not spot the very obvious poisoning case? How does a woman smart enough to be left in charge by her dead husband not realise her brother’s out to get her when he’s being as unsubtle about it as Elliot Cowan’s playing it?! And why for all the love of sweet monkey fritters did no-one suspect the guy with the funny accent and natty beard of not being who he said he was?!! Gosh darn it, he was claiming he’d been held captive for ten days or more and yet he looked like he was freshly bathed and shaved when they found him! (While we’re at it, whose decision was it to give Elliot Cowan that wig? He just looks silly. Oh, and the over use of pleather is rather troubling, too…) All in all, it is quite entertaining – the dialogue is snappy, the fight sequences are good, the locations (all in County Durham/Northumberland) are absolutely stunning and the overarching plot is interesting – it’s just badly let down by the use of the idiot ball. Lastly, am I the only person who thinks Elliot Cowan and Tim McInnerary look really rather similar? It took me three episodes to convince myself that, no, Abrecan was not about to start complaining about lorry loads of paperclips or behave like Lord Percy. (What’s really weird about this is that I didn’t have this problem with Elliot Cowan in Davinci’s Demons – don’t get me wrong; I noticed the resemblance, but Lorenzo Medici was never as outright cartoonish as Abrecan. I think that’s what does it.)
  5. CSI:NY
    Why yes, that would be genre whiplash you’re feeling – sorry! I bought myself the box set of the whole series for an early Christmas present last year and I’ve been steadily doing a rewatch since. I’ve now reached the end of season eight and I can’t help feeling that season eight would have been the perfect place for the show to end. The last episode of s8 is just a perfect ending – it’s almost a shame they got a reprieve and had a ninth season (which is not to say season nine is bad – just that season eight was a better finish). My only other comment (which is possibly tantamount to herasy in the fandom but *shrug*) is: I like Jo better than I like Stella.
  6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
    I need to rewatch this again, but when I’m not arguing with my computer equipment so I can give it the concentration it deserves. That said, it was still really enjoyable even under those distracting circumstances, although I’m not entirely sure I’m exactly sold on Kylo Ren or Poe Dameron – the former just sounds like a teenager in a snit most of the time; the latter comes across as the used-car-salesman C3PO was supposed to be. I’d have been quite happy if the latter had just stayed dead. (Then again, I could just be a bitter Rogue Squadron fan there – and I may also be just a touch miffed that Denis Lawson turned down a cameo role) Have to wait and see what episode VIII brings as far as he’s concerned.

So there you go.

There won’t be a post this time next week because *drumroll* I’m on vacation, but normal service will resume on my return.

Brain Out Of Order – Please Use Stairs

First full week of boss vacation down; one more to go.

My to do list has at least shrunk to manageable proportions (I started the week with over 50 items on it – which is, by definition, not counting the extra stuff that got done but never made it onto the list – and I’ve got that down to just 5 and I’m half way through two of them), but the amount of rank stupidity I’ve been dealing with this week has exhausted my capacity to process stuff and left me at the point of fire bad, tree pretty.

And just to crown my joy, I have a client meeting to attend on Tuesday morning, so I get to have that hanging over me through the long weekend.

Still, it is a long weekend coming up and, apart from a shopping trip to try and locate a corporate-meeting-appropriate skirt (because of COURSE the client I’m going to see would have to be one of the really big scary corporate ones that requires dressing like I’m not actually a computer programmer [never mind the part where that’s kinda actually what I am]), I don’t have anything planned so I should be able to get some writing done. As with the last long weekend, the aim is to finish something.

Anything.

Hell, I’ll even take concluding a paragraph – even that would be progress on some of my stuff at this point!

New Story Announcement: Fitting the Pieces

I’m assuming no-one reading this blog will not be surprised to learn that this week has not gone entirely to plan. (Note that I’m assuming there are people out there reading this – if there aren’t, well, just let me keep my illusions, eh!)

Which is not to say that it wasn’t productive – assuming productive can be translated to “spent her day off walking 7 miles and arguing with five different pieces of computer technology”. The 7 miles part I knew I’d be doing (by personal policy, I do not drive to the dental hospital – that way I don’t have to deal with the hell that is the M32 in rush hour and nor do I have to give NCP large quantities of money! – and since I haven’t yet figured out personal teleportation, I take the train to Temple Meads and walk!). The arguing with technology part was not planned. The only upside was that I used the ‘down’ time to give the Force Awakens a second watch. (I suppose, technically, I could have been writing, but as my Netbook was one of the recalcitrant pieces of technology that ended up needing two reboots before it would behave, I wouldn’t have got far!)

All in all, then, it’s another week with not a lot to show for it. And yet, I actually think this week’s been one of my better ones. I mean, sure, the word count of my various projects hasn’t increased by much, but I have done some incredibly useful thinking. I’ve finally nailed down the motivation for why my bad guy hates my protagonist. I’ve finally figured out why my protagonist is the way she is. Heck, I’ve finally, once and for all, worked out that my protagonist is a she. (Admittedly, that does open up another set of questions, but I think they can mostly be answered with “Thou shalt not attempt to screw with a trained assassin or she will break your kneecaps”. It’s not a perfect answer, or a complete answer, but it’s enough of an answer to let me finish this story!)

So that’s where I’m at.

A whole lotta plot and currently not enough words.

One other upside to Monday’s technology shenanigans is that I got to do a bit of house keeping on my assorted file stashes. Some of what I found was a nice selection of wtf’ery; some of it was comedy gold; some of it surprised me for actually being good. And one item is a brand new story (and the subject line of this post – assuming people are still reading by this point!)

The story is called Fitting the Pieces and it’s a companion piece to something I wrote for Yuletide in 2008 (!). They’re both set in the Jason Bourne film universe and both set at the end of Ultimatum/Legacy (you do have to have seen the former; you don’t have to have seen the latter).

You can read Fitting the Pieces here
Y
ou can read 3am here

 

Not Enough Hours In The Day

About the only good part of this week is that after tomorrow I have a long weekend. Then again, the reason I have said long weekend is because I’m at the dental hospital on Monday so…maybe not so much of a good thing.

Work is continuing to be insane (quite literally, yesterday, I had seven urgent projects on my desk which all needed to be dealt with at once – yeah, that didn’t happen!) but despite that, I have actually applied finger-to-keyboard in a creative fashion (and I don’t just mean my spelling!). Nothing really to show for it yet, but things are taking shape.

With the (pseudo) long weekend ahead of me, I’m hoping that I’ll get a good amount of stuff done – at this point, I have six stories in-progress and it would be nice if I could wrap up at least one of them, and I’m not especially choosy on which one!

Guess we’ll see what happens.

Didja Miss Me?

It’s been a crazy old two weeks. Work’s been mad and exciting in all the wrong ways, while family stuff has been mad and exciting in all the right ways (short explanation: there’s now a brand new member of the family). General result is that I’ve spent a lot of the last two weeks feeling overwhelmed  and without a lot of spare energy to do anything much.

It also doesn’t help (!) that I’ve now got a short story on the boil in the NaNo universe I’ve been fiddling with for the past two years. Given that that might actually go somewhere, I’m giving myself an hour this evening to see how much of it I can get down. If nothing else, it will get it out of my head and let me get back to the mega project.

We’ll see…

New Story Announcement: Playing Catch Up

Well, it’s nothing to do with the big project. It’s not even in the same fandom. But. But. It is a story, and it’s new.

(Okay, it’s not even new – it’s been languishing on my harddrive for a couple of years – but you guys haven’t seen it so that totally counts as new, right?)

It’s called Playing Catch Up and it’s set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just after the first Avengers film. Read It Here!

In other news, I’m still chugging away on the biggie project – and in fact will be picking that up in a moment, in the hopes of getting something else posted this week. (Though please don’t hold your breath on that one – going by my recent track record, it’s definitely a hope not an expectation!)

33rd Verse, Same as the First

Yeah – this week hasn’t gone my way at all. It has been a typical “boss is on vacation” sort of week, with clients driving me round the twist – one or two of them making a particularly special effort.

I either need a new job or a better class of client.

Or possibly a week off – except that the amount of work stacking up on my desk means that a week off is out of the question.

Hopefully I will have a better week next week, and real progress will be made – this one’s been a thorough going waste.

Well That Wasn’t In The Plan

I was all set to announce I was posting a story (two stories, in fact!) last night when I ran into a great screaming pile of deeply problematic writing. I’d managed to overlook it on my first go-round with the rewrites, but fortunately I caught it on the pre-posting reread.

So this would be me rewriting the rewrite so that it refrains from alluding to something that could be described (at best) as dubious consent.

The other story is fine to post (nothing problematic to it) – but it would be better if things went up in something approaching chronological order, so it waits while I fix my mistakes (hopefully not introducing new ones).