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All the Masq news that's fit to print

Welcome, September. I for one will be glad to see summer go. It's going out like a lion rather than a lamb--the monsoons--but "bye bye."

I tend to hibernate in summer, and this one was no different in that respect. We also got mega busy at work in the past month or so, and I have veered between long days at work and sleep. OTOH, I found out recently I will lose a week's accumulated vacation if I don't take it before mid-November. So I will have 5-6 three-day weekends in the next month and a half. Can't say I mind. I was saving up days for next year's Australia trip and possible days off due to my back procedures, and have not nearly had enough days off.

Watched Season 4 of OUAT when it came to Netflix. Still poorly executed, but it makes more sense the second time through when you know they aren't throwing free will off the table.

Anyone seen the new Star Trek online movie, Renegades? I just started it. Planet and ship special effects are much better than 90's series, but the ship interiors and some of the characters look like amateur YouTube Trek. This despite it being a collaborative project of several Trek veteran actors.


GF and I are watching Farscape. First time for her, second time for me. Enjoying it more the second time around. I guess seeing it before changes my expectations for it.

In writing news, I sidelined the novel I've been working on for the past few years because it was spinning out of control and not getting finished. Started a short story in a writing class that has now turned into a novella. How does this happen to me? Plan: learn the art of plotting for brevity.


Hablas espanol?

I am working on a short story with a main character who is Spanish (as in, from Spain). I would like to have her thinking in Spanish at some key moments in the story, but I do not trust online translators.

Anyone willing/able to translate a few English phrases into Spanish (bonus points if it sounds genuinely from Spain)?


The solar system is a much more interesting, complicated place if we throw out the classical "Solar System has 9 planets" model we learned in grade school. And Pluto is just as special.

 photo 20150714_pluto-nh-ehealth1_zpsudf2x5i3.png

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So apparently today was a big news day. Something about the Supremes and a Potus that sings.

Meanwhile, I'm all, OMG, the Principal Investigator of New Horizons liked my Tweet!

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In other news, this. <3 <3 <3

Outer space!

So D and I had a good time in Northern Arizona last weekend. Drove up Sunday afternoon and spent Sunday evening and most of Monday lazing around our hotel. Monday afternoon, we went over to Lowell Observatory. They actually have a lot of things to do during daylight hours. Solar observation (which we didn't do), hiking trails that show you the relative distances of the planets, solar systems, and galaxies, and the busts of famous astronomers and mathematicians.

They also have a display of the history of humankind's interactions with Pluto. Lowell Observatory is where Pluto was discovered, and they let you fondle the no-longer used Pluto telescope, still berthed in the tiny stone observatory where Lowell did his observations.

Tuesday, we drove up to the Grand Canyon. We had three hours to kill until they'd let us into our hotel room, so we had lunch, then went to see the IMAX show that I missed five years ago. Not sure that was worth whacking my back out on those uncomfortable theater seats.

After we checked into our hotel room and dragged all our stuff indoors, we headed up to the canyon rim. We had about four hours until sunset, so we tooled around the rim and made friends with a hungry mamma squirrel.

The Grand Canyon star party is awesome: several dozen amateur astronomers who love nothing better than telling you the brand, size, and capabilities of their telescopes. D and I want to pool our $$ and buy our own telescope for Christmas, so this was a good place to do research. Among the things we saw through the telescopes: the stripes on Jupiter and three of its moons, Saturn's rings and three of its moons, a crescent Venus, half a dozen galaxies, such as Needle Galaxy and the Sombrero galaxy, the International Space Station (OMG geek out!), the Cigar Nebula, Butterfly Nebula, and Ring Nebula, M15, M4, and M5.

Sitting in a car for all that travel was not fun for my back, but I survived it with lots of memory foam.


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Ugh, it's like the weather gods glanced at the calendar and decided today was the day to turn the temperature up to "furnace." After eight years of this, yes, I am used to it, but it's become my daily habit to take a walk at work to exercise my gimp knee and give my back a break from all the sitting. My walk has been pushed back earlier and earlier in the day. Soon, it may not be possible at all, except before dawn, before aforementioned knee and back actually need it.

The up part of the summer is Pluto, Ceres, and Light Sail, among other things. I am on vacation (yay!) in a couple weeks, and D and I plan to drive up to Flagstaff to visit Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was originally discovered, then perhaps venture up to the Grand Canyon where the yearly amateur telescope festival will be going on at the rim. Haven't been to either place (Flagstaff or the GC) since I was up there for our burnin' Buffy ATPo weekend--when? 2010? Eesh.

This is all assuming my back can put up with hours of car travel. Dry run trip to Prescott this weekend to deliver my nephew to summer camp.

Also, there will be writing this summer. I have about three short story WIPs in process, and it's indoor weather from here on out.

Here's some stories I wrote recently:

The Beast
The Book of Barry

What is 'play'?

I am reading a book that's been on the back shelf for years and years, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. This book has its pros and cons, but one of the most vexing-though-valid concepts in it for me is the notion of the "Artist's Date." This is an hour a week you set aside to let your inner child out and give it freewheel. The idea is, soundly enough, to feed that creative part of you without goal or expectation. To simply play.

But what, for me, is "play"? It's a bit of a family joke that I was born 40 years old. It just took a while for my body to catch up to my intellectually-inclined mind and serious personality. But looking back now, I can see ways that wasn't true. I was a kid, once. I did kid things. I "played" in a way that's difficult to do now.

Is writing "play"? It's my favorite activity, but a lot of time, it feels like work. Cameron's "Morning pages," for example--free writing every day for 15-20 minutes--still falls in the "wait and see obligation" category, and so feels like work. God knows composing a story or essay, or editing same can be a LOT of work. Is "I pretend I'm writing even though what I'm actually doing is looking at pretty pictures on the internet and calling it research" play or work?

Usually when I'm tired at the end of the day and too sore to write, I collapse in front of the TV, or grab my kindle. But many (my momma included!) would say passive absorption of someone else's content, as relaxing as that can be, isn't "play." Play is Active.

When I was a kid, I hated sports and bored easily of bikes and roller skating. I spent oodles of time in my room with the door shut inventing my own planet complete with its own language. That was play for me. Or my brother and I would build entire cities out of blocks and Little People buildings. We'd work hard on our cities, then when bedtime arrived, we played "It's the end of the world!!!1!" and tear it all down.

Nowadays, it would be unthinkable to engage in an imaginative activity that was so light-hearted I'd nonchalantly tear it all down when I was done! No, all imaginative activities must have an end goal! They must be precursors to writing or writing itself. But that makes them work more than play. Letting the imagination run wild for no reason whatsoever….

Sometimes, I tell myself stories without writing them down. I even act them out. That's play, right?

"Play," I guess, is whatever random calming or enjoyable activity I do that makes me feel guilty because "I should be working on something where the goal is productive and obvious." Play may even be all those times I fool around at whim/randomly and even make a record of the results, intending to go back to them and "do something with them," but never do.


Two videos of awesome


Anyone watching Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)? It's a period drama about a team developing what is, in essence, the first laptop computer (I have a feeling it's going to be that clunky brief-case sized box with the pop-up screen). It' no Mad Men, or The Americans, but it's drawn me in.

Maybe it's an '80's computer geek thing.

Life, unbounded

A piece that is neither essay nor fiction nor memoir but all of them and none of them I wrote for a writing class (390 words).

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So was this season of network TV lackluster at best or what? I am enjoying Orphan Black now, though.

Also recently enjoyed the Netflix series Daredevil. Very well written. I would expect no less from Buffverse alum. However, I could never figure out Read more...Collapse )


A Horse with a Name

After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

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Who is that Masqed woman?

It has been a while since I've posted. My bout with back pain last fall has become shoulder pain, and the standing and walking I was doing to relieve it have been complicated by inflammation to my right knee. Bottom line is that sitting and typing can be painful, so I have had to save it for work and my writing class.

I have been experimenting with voice recognition input, which is great for one-liners on Facebook, or for making notes to myself, less good for composing, to say nothing of editing. Any tasks which put me in a similar position as typing (sitting with arms bent at a 90 degree angle), such as driving, are also difficult.

What have I been up to? See above re: work and my writing class. I have another short story finished, although it's probably not something I would submit anywhere. The teacher in this class wanted us to write "literary fiction," which apparently means NO GENRE WRITING OF ANY KIND. Not sci-fi, not mystery, not historical fiction (whut), not anything that's actually interesting. So the story I wrote doesn't particularly inspire me. But there are more writing classes to come. I find it a good motivator, and a way to connect with other writers. Just will have to keep my eye out for profs that are tunnel-vision SNOBS.

I have also been spending time at the gym, which has partly helped and partly contributed to my difficulties (exercise smart, not just hard, kids!) I have also been in and out of the pain clinic, getting various shots and procedures to my various screeching parts.

And for those of you who've friended me on Feeb, I am of course following and echoing the latest Solar System antics of 2015.

Now that my writing class is wrapping up for the semester, I hope to post a bit more.

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...And it will scare the horses

I haven't been much for posting lately, mostly due to busy-ness (work, my novel, my new writing class). But I have been reading on line. And I've noticed a trend lately of dissing e-books in comparison to paper books.

I guess it's the inevitable backlash new technology always brings. In this case, the primary argument I've seen is the Rupert-Giles-esque claim that the visceral experience of holding a book, touching it, smelling it, turning pages, etc, provides a sensory context that allows for greater comprehension and retention of what one reads than with eBooks.

This may be so, I can't say without seeing the scientific evidence. But here's what I know:

(1) For a long time after I got my PhD, I wasn't much interesting in reading recreationally. "Reading burnout" was my excuse for a long time, until I realized it'd been years since I graduated. Then I had to face up to the fact that I just wasn't reading as much anymore. I felt guilty about that. Unintellectual.

My recreational reading has increased dramatically since I started reading eBooks. It's just more convenient. You can take all your books with you anywhere, and have a book on hand to read in the doctor's waiting room, or at work (while looking busy staring intently at the computer screen).

(2) I like being able to "un-highlight." Does this ever happen to anyone else: you're reading, you find a passage you want to remember, you highlight it, and on the next page, the author says the same thing even better, or in more detail, and you highlight that, too? Pretty soon, you're over-highlighted. It's good to be able to just have the parts you really want to return to marked. This goes for bookmarks, too (especially in recipe books).

And who knows? Maybe more precise highlighting leads to greater comprehension and retention.

(3) Reading paper books has become physically challenging for me. With a book-book, you usually are holding it in your lap, or on your knees, or on a table, and looking down. For extended periods of time. This hurts my neck something fierce. Or alternatively, you have to hold the book at or above your line of sight. Ditto, strain on the arms. I have looked into inventions that will hold a book up in your line of sight for you that don't hold the pages so tight you can't change them every minute or so, but such inventions don't work as well as devices that hold computers and tablets up in your line of sight.

I believe the physical ability to read a paper book is something that should be fought for with physical therapy and gumption. But in the meantime, my difficulties is what they is.

Sometimes, I don't have a choice but to read a paper book. Not everything is available in eBook format (like my current class textbook!) And certainly, I worry if I will still "have" my eBooks twenty years from now the way I have my old books from my younger years. What happens when the technology changes, as it will?

Today, though, I'm reading.

Feb. 9th, 2015

Quick, tell me some good (or weird, or aggravating) conversations you've overheard recently.