user fail
applewoman
I screwed up the Agent Carter season pass on my TiVo and it is NOT RECORDING.

WOE.

Please tell me it will be available on iTunes tomorrow? I looked and it's not listed for purchase yet, but they have all of Agents of SHIELD, so surely they're going to have this one, too?

The one TV show that I actually MADE PLANS to watch. Aaaaargh.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/15598.html.
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reading habits
applewoman
I finished only 24 published books in 2014, but I read unbelievable amounts of fanfic. So much original fiction released this year intrigued me, but I was unable to commit to much. A friend who gave birth to her firstborn in July mentioned that she could only empathize with so many new people's stories before she was just too weary to engage, and I realized that was exactly my issue.

Reading is my primary method of relaxation, the way TV is for many people, so I'm glad fanfic let me have that still. (I don't watch TV very much. It makes me hyperaroused: jittery, anxious, and unsettled.)

I'm sad that I couldn't plunge into all these amazing authors' worlds as easily as when I was younger. But then I remember the great writers I first encountered in the last few years—Rosemary Kirstein and Laurie J. Marks, among others—and I think maybe I'm still having new reading experiences. Just not at the breakneck pace I did when I was a pre-teen browsing the SF/Fantasy section. And it helps to remember I'm in the thick of it right now—I work full-time, parent a four-year-old and a fourteen-year-old, and have some weird health issues to deal with, among other energy-sucking things.

Still, in 2015 I would really like to read more original fiction. If I made New Year's resolutions, I suppose that would be one.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/15132.html.
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Clean ALL the things!
applewoman
So much socializing with extended family over the past five days! Intensely emotional interludes with both my dad and his wife, not negative but still exhausting. My dad is so DRAMA. I love him and I enjoy seeing him, but everything goes to eleven when he's around. It's like being in a Hallmark movie of the week; people hold hands in restaurants and say heartfelt things while music swells. I'm usually vibrating like a tuning fork by the time he leaves.

Which is probably why I turned to decluttering my house on Sunday, one of my favorite methods of (not)dealing with things. (Though it does help lessen my anxiety if I don't get too perfectionist about it.) I was inspired by a book my sister-in-law bought from my wishlist, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Wow, the author is my soulmate. I'm pretty sure someone on my reading list recommended this book initially, so thank you, whoever you are!

One very helpful suggestion: Decide what you want to keep, not what you want to discard. A positive way of looking at the process! I like it. And ask yourself what "sparks joy" when you touch it, and then keep those things.

The author also suggests thanking an item for serving its purpose in your life as you let it go, even if all it did was provide a moment of pleasure when you first bought it. I like the spiritual element that practice brings. Working with the emotions around decluttering seems to work better for me than trying to be completely rational about it. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to work through her book and make a real change in my surroundings. Which, honestly, are not that cluttered to begin with! I'm a fairly organized person. It's just that owning so many things I'm not using feels immoral, and it bothers me that I can't even remember everything I own. And yet it's so easy to accumulate an obscene amount of stuff.

One of my husband's and my dreams is to retire to a condo or apartment in downtown Minneapolis. We could wander through the skyways all winter and walk along the river all summer. So I might as well begin reducing my possessions now!

I love the Minneapolis skyway system. It's like gerbil tunnels crossing over the streets from one building to another, and you can walk practically all over downtown without going out into sub-zero weather. Pretty soon they'll be hooking up the public library to the skyway system and opening up a Trader Joe's downtown, so I really would have everything I need in my old age.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/14892.html.
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year in music
applewoman
It's nearly time to make the year-in-music mix I give my Dad every Christmas Eve. I didn't listen to a lot of new music in 2014, and most of it came from my husband adding songs to our shared iTunes library. His workplace has music piped in, so he hears a lot more of the popular songs than I do.

One song that really stuck to me this year was Hozier's "Take Me to Church." My daughter made up her own version that she sings along to the actual song, but with lyrics almost entirely of her own creation. They're mostly sort of phonetic, made-up words that resemble the actual lyrics, with some real words mixed in.

My favorite lyric she's ever made up was to Katy Perry's "Roar." The line that goes, "'Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar," my daughter sings "'Cause I am a genius..." which cracks me up every time.

What's the song (or songs) you couldn't live without in 2014?

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/14639.html.
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it'll save every one of us!
applewoman
My three-year-old in the car this morning, reaching an apex of frustration: "I don't like ANYTHING!" Yeah, kid, sometimes we all feel that way.

In winter I get a static shock whenever I sit at my desk. Sometimes it shorts out the mouse, which starts tracking veeeeery sloooowly, but I know what to click to make it work again. It's just one of those tiny repeating annoyances. I want a JARVIS of my own so I don't have to hunch over a mouse and keyboard all day.

A few people have written about their fandom roots recently, so I've been thinking about The X-Files. It was my first Internet-based fandom, and I was totally a Mulder/Scully shipper. Oh, the days of plaintext files, when italics were indicated with asterisks! The sound of a dial-up modem connecting is inextricably linked in my brain with all those massive Mulder/Scully epics.

Then Smallville introduced me to slash, and that's what opened up a wider world of fic to me. I didn't know how to feel about slash at first. I thought there must be something wrong with me, that I liked to read it. Wasn't it terribly sinful to enjoy this stuff? I wrestled with these feelings a lot. It led me to examine the guilt and shame I was carrying from other things, and it helped me heal in a lot of ways.

(And now I have "Slash! AAAAH AAAAAAAH—it'll save every one of us!" running through my head, thanks to my husband's recent showing of Flash Gordon to our kids. The brain is a funny thing.)

I actually wrote a slash story when I was in my early teens, though I didn't know to call it that. It was a Pern story for my younger sister's fanzine. A boy fell in love with another boy on the day they both became dragonriders. If I remember correctly, all they did was gaze longingly at each other.

I probably still have that file floating around on my computer somewhere, along with bits of a Mercedes Lackey Valdemar story that I never finished, which had a main character who was a healer and a Herald and a refugee from Hardorn whose entire family had been killed by Ancar. Very angsty!

You know, there are so many things I learned about from sf/fantasy novels that were never discussed in a typical Midwestern upbringing in a small town. Thank God for the power of books in that pre-Internet age.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/14427.html.
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book design
applewoman
I really like the sound of my dishwasher. The swooshing of the water is soothing, and I wait till I get home at night to start it up, even if it’s full when I leave for the day. It’s silly, but it’s a small thing I enjoy.

I’ve been sick for the past three weeks. Finally dragged myself to the doctor on Monday and got antibiotics, which seem to be helping. I’m also riding a pre-holiday depression, though. No easy fix for that. I always hope that this is the year November/December will be easier—and I guess it has gotten easier, over the years—but I’ll probably never love this time of year the way all the Christmas carols say you should. I wish I could love Christmas, but I don’t.

My three-year-old and I have been coloring mandalas. (Before that it was a Hello Kitty coloring book, who she calls Meow Meow Kitty.) We have a shoebox full of crayons we’ve been adding to since my son was born 14 years ago, and I really like the color names: Granny Smith Apple, Macaroni and Cheese, Mauvelous. My daughter advises me on color choices, and it feels good to let go of my perfectionism and use her radical color combos. I just have to go with it. We’re just coloring for fun.

I'm reading a lot of fanfic on my Kindle in my free time. I was all set to buy the Kindle Voyage when it came out, but after reading a bunch of review, I’m going to stick with my beloved old Kindle with the built-in hardware buttons and no touch screen. It does exactly what I want. What I’d really like is my current Kindle with the Kindle Voyage’s screen resolution, but that’s not an option. It might be time to research alternative ebook readers, but I don’t have the energy right now.

I also want to read some of the published books waiting on my shelves, but it takes so much emotional energy for me to invest in characters I don’t already know, and I’m short on energy all around. But I was still excited to get my copy of A Hero at the End of the World, and wow, I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m so impressed by its design and layout! Big Bang Press did it right. I’m so glad I bought the paperback rather than the ebook. I spent some time admiring the art, the slightly rubbery texture of the cover, the interior paper stock, the typeface for the body text. (I’m a book design geek. I don’t get to work on many books in my current job, but I’ve worked on enough of them in the past to appreciate when they’re done well.)

You know who’s making gorgeous books right now? Cookbook publishers. Some of them are truly works of art, especially when they marry form and function so seamlessly that they’re both easy to use and beautiful. I really admire that.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/14102.html.
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enough time to read
applewoman
People descend like locusts upon our public library’s used book sale. They line up at the doors at least 15 minutes early (I was number twelve or so at the back door). But once the doors open, people are SO Minnesotan about it all. We’re packed in like sardines, trying to browse the books stacked on (and under!) tables, and it’s all, “Sorry, am I in your way?” “Do you need to get in here?” “Want to switch places?” “Sorry, didn’t mean to bump into you!” “Want me to hand you that one?” “Can you reach over me?” It’s “Minnesota Nice” in action! (Minnesota Nice is a real thing. It can be great, but it also has its dark side. Read more about it here.)

I bought about thirty books in almost-new condition for about $25, and it was supremely satisfying. Some of them might end up at our local used bookstore, but the rest I’m very pleased to own. I stock my daughter’s bookshelves from the library used book sales, and we’ve found some great authors for her that way.

I had unexpected oral surgery on Halloween. Showed up for a quick eval and stayed for on-the-spot novocaine, nitrous oxide, and ultimately stitches—UNDER MY TONGUE. When I got home and the novocaine wore off it was REALLY painful, but I ate some nice cold yogurt, took some Advil, and parked on the couch with a blanket and my Kindle. I emailed my boss, and he said, "Stay home today, the work will be here on Monday," which is the best response one could hope for from one’s boss, I think. But my daughter was displeased with me because I didn’t want to talk very much, and I couldn’t sing to her. She kept saying, "But I WANT you to talk. Why CAN'T you talk?" "Because it hurts to talk" is not a good enough reason for a three-year-old! But a week later, it’s healing well, and the biopsy came back benign, so that’s a weight off. I didn’t realize I was so worried about it until I didn’t have to be anymore.

I did enjoy the quiet day on the couch, despite the pain. I don’t have enough time to read as much as I want to. This is not a new feeling, but I’m still not resigned to it. When I was a child I felt as if everything I could ever want to read was within my grasp. I certainly had a lot more free time. And there was no Internet yet, of course. I had three main sources of books: our little rural-Illinois public library, the school’s library (surprisingly good, looking back on it—that must have been due to Mrs. Johnson, the amazing librarian at the junior high), or the B Dalton’s bookstore in the Jewel-Osco parking lot (I spent a lot of time in that bookstore, browsing the adult SF/Fantasy section). But now I feel as if there is no earthly way I could EVER read everything that I want to. And I’m not okay with that! But I’m also grateful. I didn’t dare dream of these riches when I was a kid.

I’ve asked God if I might have a position in God’s library after I die. I think I could be happy for an eternity there.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/13948.html.
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apple season
applewoman
I had many plans for this weekend, mostly things I was going to accomplish around the house, but I spent most of it on the couch with a cup of tea, a blanket, and my Kindle. I seem to be in a low ebb of some sort; I felt barely one level up from staring blankly at the wall. We skipped Sunday school and church, because I didn’t have the cope available to deal with that sort of social situation, and instead drove out to our favorite apple orchard in White Bear Lake. It was exactly what I needed. My kids raced gleefully through a pumpkin patch, we ate ice cream and apples and caramel, and I took lots of pictures of cornfields, pumpkins, and the glorious autumn sky.

We bought two bags of McIntosh apples—my favorite. I look forward to McIntosh season every year. (Do they show up in other areas of the country, I wonder, or are they only in the Midwest?) They’re gradually being crowded out on the grocery shelves by new varieties, especially Honeycrisp and Zestar, both of which are very popular around here. But the McIntosh holds the taste of fall for me and probably always will.

I was so happy to find out this morning that a new Maisie Dobbs book is being published in March—something to look forward to in that vast grey expanse of late winter/early spring. Speaking of winter, the next book I’m going to read is Seanan McGuire’s The Winter Long. I’ve successfully avoided spoilers, hooray! but I did hear that big things happen in this book. I’m looking forward to finding out what they are.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/13731.html.
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take a deep breath
applewoman
My three-year-old daughter did an amazing thing a couple nights ago. I was sitting at my computer, feeling very angry because I’d accidentally deleted all my bookmarks and was afraid I couldn’t recover them. I was talking out loud at the computer screen, and my husband asked with concern what was wrong. I snarled, “NOTHING, just, nobody TALK to me right now.” He got up and left the room.

I rarely react like that, and I immediately felt sorry. (I was not really angry with my computer or anyone actually present. We’d just had a weekend visit from my father and his wife, and that messes with my equilibrium.)

There was a little silence, and then my three-year-old, who had been sitting on a chair near me playing with some toys, said with authority, “Mommy, you need to take a deep breath.” Without even thinking about it, I did. She came over behind me and gently stroked my hair a few times.

I said, “Honey, you’re absolutely right. Thank you for saying that. I DID need to take a deep breath.” And I felt better! I gave her a hug, and then I went to apologize to my husband.

It’s amazing to me that she knows how to do that at her age. I am so grateful she feels safe and loved enough that she knew she could say something like that to me when I was visibly upset and had just snapped at her dad.

***

Are long-running comics series basically fan fiction? (Aside from the whole “getting paid for it” thing, of course.) It sounds like the writers/artists often throw out the previous continuity and start something new. If they’re using the same characters, their backstories can be completely different from what came before. New storylines might be informed by previous canon, but the writers deviate however they wish. So, basically: fan fiction.

It helps me to think of comics this way. Otherwise I cannot handle the idea of having to learn SO MUCH CANON before picking up the latest issue of something. DECADES of canon. Not gonna happen.

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/13553.html.
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so many books
applewoman
I have 49 unread library books on my Kindle. I never take it out of airplane mode, so they continue to pile up, even though they've already been "returned" to the library. Even considering how fast I read—say it would take three days each—that's still 147 DAYS of reading. At least when I check out physical books I'm required to return them eventually, which lets me off the hook.

The list, in case anyone's curiousCollapse )

I also have a stack of physical books checked out, too. IT'S A PROBLEM. Albeit a nice problem. I'm not complaining.

***

I like buying most of my clothes from consignment and thrift stores. This works pretty well usually—quality clothes at a fraction of the retail price—but for one huge irritation: Disgusting perfumey detergent smells embedded in the fabric. I’ve tried lots of methods to get rid of the fumes, but the best way I’ve found is to actually wear the item a few times. The jeans I wore this morning made my eyes smart and my nose itch, so I sneezed all the way to work. But the fumes have decreased substantially after 8 hours of wear.

I loathe the smell of most laundry detergents. I don't understand how people can smell anything else when they're walking around in a cloud of perfume outgassing from their clothing. If my kids leave an item of clothing at my mother-in-law's house, she'll usually return it to me washed, but she uses something horrible like Tide, so if they wear that item of clothing they don't smell like my kid (and it gives me a headache and makes me sneeze).

I would love a Febreze-type spray that actually sucks out offending smells without leaving behind a perfume of its own. I’ve heard of a product called Nok-Out, but it's expensive and only available by mail-order. And for clothing you have to soak the thing in Nok-Out, let it air-dry, then launder and repeat until the smell is gone. It’s just not worth the work and the expense. So I wash and wear, and eventually the smells wear out.

Sadly, the world is full of horrible chemical perfume smells and loud, intrusive music almost everywhere people congregate. Why so much noise and smell pollution, people?

Also posted at http://applewoman.dreamwidth.org/13246.html.
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