(no subject)

To get this ball rolling, since I seem to have started slow. This is a collection of a series of things I posted on facebook, collected (And re-ordered, the formatting made more uniform, and edited) partly so I can find them again. I may also slightly amend final scores as I think my early and later calibrations were slightly different.

As well as the packages I picked up while in Abbotsford, I came home to a seemingly giant box of David's Tea. Seemingly giant because they packed it in something much huger than I would think strictly necessary.

This is because one thing I got was a 60% off one of their winter samplers, itself a slightly unwieldy box for the quantity of tea therein. To get this out of my kitchen at maximal speed, I made the personal ruling that I have to try, and ideally finish, all the samplers (or, if I genuinely HATE one, at least give it a fair try) before I go on to any other tea. This adds up to 13 teas - 10 from the sampler (Which started as 12, but two I owned already, know what they taste like, and melded the samplers with my other containers) and three of the freebies David's throws in. There's enough of each from the big box for 2 pots, more in some cases, and enough in the freebies for one.

Ratings Reference:

F= Did not finish the cup.
D= Finished the cup, will not ever make more or willingly drink
D+= lowest possible passing grade. Would drink if I was desperate and it was all a restaurant had. Think Lipton, or maybe cheap Chinese restaurant green tea when the pot has steeped too long and it's gone bitter.
C= Bare bones tea, drinkable but not a top choice.
C+= Red Rose or cheap Chinese restaurant green tea when fresh. Staple teas, enjoyable but not ones that thrill.
B= Enjoyable, might need to be in the right mood. GOOD Chinese restaurant green tea, or the sort of brands higher end non-Asian restaurants might pick up and bring a selection to your table in a wooden box.
B+ and up: Varying shades of "Would drink again or put in my tea cupboard."

Apple cider (herbal): (not to be confused with the also included spiced apple.) When hot, the flavour is smooth, and very like apple cider - the powder kind, not the real apple kind - if a touch less sweet (Less sweet is good). It roughens up fast as it cools. B, maybe even B+, while hot, C or lower cooled down.

Chocolate orange (pu'erh): Solid B. Not as good as the hot chocolate pu'erh, might be better if the orange were a tad more pronounced so it didn't feel quite so much like "the same thing but not as good". Still, it hit the spot on the day I tried it. Made a second pot teh very next day (And used only 2/3 of the tea so far).

North African Mint (green): A green tea that's closer to chai than mint. The firstr pot was made during an RPG, and my immediate impression when drinking distracted was C+ to B range, but I tend to be harsh on green teas.

The second pot - a couple of weeks and several other teas later: I definitely felt it earned itself a raise. The mint softens the spice burn a little, keeps it smooth -- but I kept getting a strong aftertaste that was familiar, and sweeter than the tea proper, slick but pleasant and I was having trouble placing it. I reread the ingredients list to see if it was artificially sweetened (though that's usually an *un*pleasant aftertaste). Nope. But it does contain licorice root, which is what I was getting, and strong enough to make me wonder why mint is the ingredient they emphasize. So if you like licorice or licorice spice, this is a good tea. I do, so it ended up nudging into a B/B+ rating. (It probably won't quite become a staple.)

Spiced Apple (herbal): Also tried during the same RPG, but retried the very next day. Exactly what the label implies. Not as applish as the apple cider, and the other spices don't jump out enough to make it much more exciting than an apple cinnamon herbal, though it IS better than the standard restaurant teabags thereof. Drinkable, inoffensive, would make again, not excited. C+

Nutty and Spicy (Oolong): I sipped this, and thought, "Ooh, I like this!" And kept thinking it through 2 pots. It's a little sweet, though well within my taste parameters. Pretty firmly A.

Also a reminder that I have had pretty good luck with Oolong; it feels like the same niche as green tea, but I enjoy it much much more consistently (flavoured or straight). I thought it was a bit pickier about steeping duration, but it didn't seem an issue when I left the leaves in the pot or did a second steeping with just a few fresh leaves added for support.

Toasted Walnut (Green): Decent. A flavour profile I like, but the tea is overwhelmed by the flavours, making it feel to me like what a friend has described as "hollow". B.

I also have a green and black blend "Maple Walnut" tea I got from a different vendor, which is highly similar but stands up better. Following on the review above, and based on the other tea, my feeling is that this should have been an oolong or a mix of more than one kind of tea.

Alpine Punch (rooibus): So I drank this on three separate occasions to the equivalent of two pots ... and I still can't clearly formulate what it tasted like. A bit fruity, a bit coconutty, sweetish. The rooibus came through well. C, maybe C+, but clearly just not memorable.

I will say this was better than feared; I had gone off rooibus for a while there. I'm thinking maybe it's just rooibus and apple (or orange) or rooibus and spice (and the stuff plain.) I gave my Mom several rooibus samplers I hadn't even quite been able to bring myself to try, based on their smell. I knew I still liked it with apricot, but then I like apricot. A lot.

At this point, I took a day as a palate cleanser and drank a bunch of two different plain black teas.

After which, I decided that since the first rooibus went better than feared, I'd try the less likely winner -

Cinnamon Rooibus chai. Less likely because, see my last post re rooibus and spices.

I'm not sure how this justifies the chai rating: "Chai" as a word means tea as in the tea plant, which rooibus isn't, and in North America is specifically associated with tea (or tisane) mixed with multiple spices, cinnamon and ginger most often, cardamom and pepper close behind. This rooibus is mixed with some apple and cinnamon and cinnamon flavouring and NO other spices.

But that being said ... WOAH, cinnamon! A LOT Of cinnamon. The artificial cinnamon flavouring tips it closer to cinnamon heart territory than cinnamon pure, with extra heat. With no listed sweetener I have to assume the apple is the source of the sweetness. It barely tastes of apple, especially compared to either of the apply herbals.

I kinda like it. More than I recall doing on a previous try, but that could have been self-sabotage -- I had found another spicy rooibus actually took to being drunk with a splash of milk (not something I normally try with rooibus but my association with chai is with milk tea).

If I was in the mood for burny cinnamon drink (Not that unlikely, I suppose), this is the place to go. B+, though it's maybe too specialized a drink for a staple.

An observation I realised at this point: Almost every tea sampled to this point strongly pinged on the sweet scale.

I associate Teavana with the "every flavoured tea is sweet even if there's no justifying it" school of flavouring, and David's usually with a more balanced mix of sweets and others (Le digestif, a ginger/fennel herbal mix, is NOT sweet, for example). I have a sweet tooth, and so far most of them have seemed to justify and support it, but it might be altering my view of David's. Or maybe they're shifting that way in response to customer demand or competition from Teavana. or maybe it's just a Christmas tea thing.

The Spice is Right (green tea): Another cinnamon based mix (cinnamon is the first ingredient before tea). Less sweet than the cinnamon rooibus, and without the cinnamon heart burn both (there's a tiny bit of spicy burn -- but chili pepper is another ingredient.) The spice mix underneath is nice enough. Not a strong sense of the tea, but it's not *absent*. Did not like this as much as the cinnamon rooibus chai (to my surprise) or the nutty and spicy oolong, it's about even with the North African mint depending on your relative opinions of licorice and cinnamon.

Notably the least sweet tea so far. In a good way. B for me.

Chocolate covered almond (black): The almond is actual nut bits so works pretty well. (My family includes people for whom artificial almond flavouring is a killer.) A decent chocolatey tea but not a fabulous one. I had a cup of the hot chocolate to compare, and the difference really is as boring as remove the earthy strength of the pu'erh, replace with a lighter nuttiness. There's yerba mate in it but I don't feel I noticed it much.

Steeps weak, so be generous scooping into the pot, but even the weak-for-me tea had flavour.

Nothing wrong with it, but I don't see what this is bringing to the table that I personally want and it loses out to at least two other chocolate based teas from David's alone. But this is the weakness AND the strength of the "hundred flavours" model; there are teas with very similar profiles and relatively subtle differences so everyone can have their exact perfect ideal. And I never mind giving it a try just in case this small variation is the one for me.

I did slightly regret not trying it in the vicinity of the chocolate orange because of that; they're both in B-land but no idea which would win.

Moroccan Mint (green): Despite the geographic location of Morocco, this bears little resemblance to the North African Mint green tea, being purely mint and tea. Alas, I oversteeped it, putting it firmly on the bottom of the teas tried. And it was one of the mini samples, so only one pot's worth, so I can't retry. But it contained no surprises as far as the basic tea-and-mint goes. So: experienced as a D+, could just barely drink, but steeped right I would guess a C+ if you like green minty. Also, not sweet.

Cocoa Boost (pu'erh): another mini sampler, though i then proceeded to get a 50g freebie. Cocoa and chicory. I half expected another "Yawn, Hot chocolate does it better but it's the same thing" reaction - but actually, the chicory makes it stand out nicely. Also, the pu'erh isn't mellowed with any plain black tea, and it's a bit more cocoa than chocolate - despite the addition of stevia as a sweetener, it's not as sweet. This may duke it out with the hot chocolate tea for which one stays long term on my shelf. A. (A second pot, steeped long and very strong even for my tastes, tipped the scales towards Hot Chocolate but was still eminently drinkable.)

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait (herbal): The last multi-pot sampler. A cheater of sorts, as I have had this in the house before. It's pleasant; as with the pies, the flavours complement well, the rhubarb cutting the implied sweet of the strawberry. In fact, it's less sweet than most of these. I was actually advised when first introduced to it that it works better with just a hint of honey or sugar added to counter the astringency, and that's true for me. B+


As a passing note, the two teas I got in the sampler and didn't sample because I already own them are Cardamom French Toast (black tea, sweet and heavy with spices but not spicy per se, strong emphasis on the cardamom as you'd expect - C+ when oversteeped, A when steeped right) and Santa's Secret (black tea and candy canes, basically - *sugary* minty, B+ to A)

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)

(no subject)

Well. I didn't intend to take months of hiatus. I'm hoping to revive this in the next while. Again.

The last few months have been waaay too busy to sum up. Joseph's school went much better than the last couple of posts might suggest, but I still have struggles - not so much with the school program or with St. Amant, but I literally could not find a tutor. EVERY person who might have been a possibility changed their mind in the last minute, before they even got interviewed. We finally have someone who might be willing, but she'll need training.

Alex is... a bundle of energy and wants much more attention specifically from me than I entirely think is healthy; and yet I've also been struggling with providing actual focused attention to him, so he gets a lot of Mommy time, but it's distracted time. I've been spending my time off work January and February trying to undo a few of my own bad habits. A small bit at a time.

I'm not working, again, for the same company. It's all about their budget timing, not any failing on my work, but I was hoping I would have heard from them by now. It's my plan to call Tuesday, but we'll see if I can get myself to do it. It's the WORST kind of having to phone people.

Everyone know what's been happening politically. I refuse to give in to it. I'm not in a position to protest much in the US, but I can stay active up here, I can comment and repost news. I can find ways to make it clear I meant to stand for the less enfranchised.

My next couple of posts will be mostly stuff posted before at facebook or the like amalgamated into one mega-post, but I expect to get into trying to write my thoughts at length as well.

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)
  • Current Music
    Hamilton Mixtape

Further to

Yesterday's aggravation with Joseph's school.

Today, we found a letter from the school in our mailbox (Technically this probably means yesterday's mail). This is the one we should have had last week, and whose absence cause d me to call int he first place, but at least it showed, and it could as easily be the postal system as anything the school did.

Specifically, we found the letter at 10 AM. One of the things it said is that for Kindergarten, they do a meeting with the teacher this week and proper classes start next Monday.

Our scheduled meeting time? 10:45 today.

There was time enough, just, for me to shower, and because Joseph got excited to be out and about and ran most of the way there, we even arrived early.

I decided I both like and trust his teacher and the EA to handle him right. he started off resistant to going in at all, such that i didn't trust to leave him in the hallway, and I thus invaded her room and found a puzzle I knew would calm and distract him until she arrived. This didn't overly perturb her to discover, or at least she didn't indicate so, and she found him even better distractions in her designated quiet area, and they did all the right things in dealing with him (sometimes well more than I can do). Listened when I talked about his plusses and minuses, including a few quick notes.

I'm a little sad Kindergarten is only 9-11:30, though; he's done 3 hours in the Montessori he was originally at and 4 hours at his pre-K prep. I didn't want to schedule him for all day kindergarten, but I do feel he could handle an hour or so more -- well, it will be roughly twice the kids he's ever been in class with, though, and near 4 times his regular, which could make a difference. (Both Montessori and pre-K maxed out at 8, and most of this time in the latter was with 3 other kids).

(It did mean I pretty much jumped to hear from another source that his music classes can resume, now on Saturdays.)

When we were done meeting the teacher and EA, we went out to the playground for a while. Colin and Alex went home, as this playground isn't as toddler friendly as the others we visit.

A good sign; when I declared us done in the playground, Joseph tried to take me back into the school to the kindergarten room.

I took advantage to talk to the principal and the counsellor (the latter is the clueless person I spoke to on the phone yesterday) for a while, and to pretty much make sure we're all on the same page and all is well for starting him on Monday. And it is, though I still think the counsellor is at best less familiar with things under his purview than he ought to be. (I think the principal's chief crime was delegation to the person who should know his job, which I usually approve of. And she seemed fairly sensible at least.)

Anyhow, it all worked out.

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)

(no subject)

Twice within the last week, my world seems to be being turned upside down because someone made an incorrect assumption and never actually asked or cleared it up. in the first case, i can say with my own experience the person is someone competent and capable in other circumstances, in the latter, I have no idea.

Event number one:

I've been working full time for the last several weeks on a temporary contract (basically as a file clerk, but with a particular file reorganization project in mind). I am at best partway through the project I'm supposed to be working on (partly due to a snafu with supplies but also because two other departments have borrowed me for their own projects, to the tune of roughly 3 weeks' work.) and my immediate manager had made it clear in casual conversation that she assumed I'd be around for a while yet.

Well, my contract was up September 2nd, and while all the unofficial conversation assumed I was still going to be there, I had seen nothing from the temp agency or the company that officially extended my contract. So, since I tend to let things lie until they're almost due (that part of both snafus I will happily own), I pointed this out to my manager on Thursday.

Because the other two temps working there (at another location) had contracts that run to September 30th, she'd believed mine did, too.

But normally, one day's notice is still time enough to extend a contract. It's happened to me before, and not just once.

Turns out, though, that the CEO of the company, somewhere down in the US, had put out word of an hiring freeze WITHIN THE WEEK. So they literally could not extend my contract despite pretty much everyone involved on the ground really really wanting to. (Me included. Despite this incident, it's a lovely place to work, I really liked it.)

There's some hope that my manager can eventually get some kind of a special permission, or something, and summon me back, and I have made it clear to both the temp agency and everyone involved with me directly that I'll show up as soon as I'm called. But I'm at best on unpaid leave again for a couple of weeks.

Just in time for the first week Joseph goes to real school.

Which leads directly to Event number two.

I hadn't heard anything from the school (which had my application since just after last year's spring break), but when I called the School Division's Special Needs Support person (Not her title but I am too tired to look it up), she'd said I probably wouldn't hear anything from them until right before Joseph is due to go to class.

Well, that's now, and I still had nothing. So, being off work, and with a husband who HATES doing phone calls more than I do, I finally called today to find out how exactly they arrange Kindergarten.

The school said they thought he was going to another school.

A couple of phone calls more, and I finally twig to what happened.

St. Amant is a private organization that does (among many other things) a whole lot of programs for autistic children, including a full blown home tutoring for preschool children (which Joseph never got due to being diagnosed late enough he aged out before the waiting list hit the end), a pre-Kindergarten preparatory class (Which he has been doing, and thriving in, and which ended last week), and sending tutors to schools to help support children whose needs they feel the school division support system alone can't handle. (school divisions vary in both budget and staff, though not as drastically as in some places.)

We got our acceptance letter for St. Amant's School Age program within the last 2 weeks.

So did the school. But they thought it meant J. would be going *to* St. Amant and not to the school division, not that they would get additional support.

When, after calling the school, having the school staff member in charge of special needs (not the principal as I was told to expect) call me, calling St. Amant, and calling the school back, I finally figure this out. It took that long partly because the guy talks in buzzwords a bit, and partly because I had assumed that someone working for a school would, well, know how this works better than a first-kid-in-school mom.

I pointed this out to the person I was talking to, and he went to call the person in charge at St. Amant to clear things up. I hoped to hear back before the end of the day, but nobody called me today.

If they don't call tomorrow AM, I'm debating whether it's better to walk in and deal with this in person, or phone again.

HOW DOES A SCHOOL NOT KNOW THIS? I was told when I applied that another child with autism will be in Kindergarten, so they can't have never had this support before, can they?

All in all, though, not exactly the way to impress a nervous mom that your school will be remotely aware of what inclusion and integration actually entail, or that he'll get the support he needs from them.

The first of these two has me sad and a bit frustrated more than anything. The second one has me simmering.

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)

Last week...

So; this is how the week has been:


- I turn 40. Celebrating with family is put off until next day because Mom is sick, and we all suspect that won't be long enough.

- Nice church service. Family celebration put off again until Tuesday. Not surprising. Alex is a bit fussy from a long-running running nose, and Wilma asks a couple of times if he feels warm to me, and he doesn't, any more than usual, I think.

- First day at my new job, a few weeks' term position for a company that makes pharmaceuticals. ("All" I'm doing is sorting and documenting and other paperwork tasks). This day is pretty much all training meetings: First an intro to the company and its vision, then health and safety, then Good Manufacturing Practices (And why they exist; the long history of how and why the regulations for pharmaceuticals exist, including everything from snake oil up to the person who tainted Tylenol on store shelves). Then good documentation practices, the only part directly relevant to me, I hope, health and safety being the sort of thing you need to know but where you don't want to have to use the knowledge.
- I get home to learn Alex has been feverish, very fussy and altogether not well. He throws up a bit in the evening before supper.
- Regardless, I get to go out and do the planned birthday thing with some friends, which is essentially go to Baked Expectations for dessert. I bypass my entire general favourite category of dessert (cheesecake!) of which they have many excellent ones, in favour of a hazelnut meringue torte. The hazelnut meringue part is amazing. The hazelnut buttercream filling is excellent but starts feeling very heavy at the end. I give it 8/10, would order again, but maybe to split a piece with someone.

Monday Night/Tuesday Morning:
- Alex is very fussy and ends up sleeping with me in bed from midnight or so on. Around 3, he starts wriggling and kicking and being very awake, so I move him from where he's kicking Colin to the other side of me (Also so he can try to nurse a new side) ... and he promptly throws up instead. Clean up, temperature taking, anti-fever meds, and a long slog to convince him to go back to sleep ensue. He falls asleep after 4:30, but before 5.
- Fever was 103.1, enough we know he's going to the doctor in the morning, not enough to run him to Emergency on the spot.

- Work starts giving me real work. Yay! Also, there's a lot of what's effectively self-directed on computer training to do. I am closer to zombie-like than I would like to be on my second day, but it seems alright.
- Colin takes Alex to the doctor around lunch; the doctor sends him for blood tests and asks for a urine sample to be dropped off next day. I contemplate the logistics of getting such a sample from a 15 month old; my best suggestions is tell him we're going to give him a bath, and stand him naked in the bathtub for about 30 seconds (water in tub optional).
- Later, the doctor calls back, and says that the fever (103.6) plus the elevated white blood cell count means Alex should be seen by emergency. Which Colin has to do, me being at work at the time.
- At least this means I can go for my usual run with Joseph... although Joseph does in fact make this a bit less fun when he both tries to run down to the river in the park without me, AND has a minor accident (The kind that means he needs to change his pants, not the kind that means he's hurt or upset). While the fire pit near the river is a frequents spot for some of the transitory and homeless populations and that meant that this time he was being watched before I got there, "Down to the river" is really a place I do NOT want a 4-year-old with a tendency to run off to ever get the idea it's safe or permissible to go alone.
- Colin and Alex stay at the hospital until past 1 AM. this at least means I get 4 hours of unbroken sleep first, before they get home and I nurse and settle the baby in bed.
- Alex, alas, had been catheterized and given a battery of tests (as Colin put, it, probably the worst day of his life to date) while they tried to find out what was wrong. They eliminated many possibilities but didn't yet have a concrete diagnosis; some tests take longer to resolve. They're expected back the next day.

- More work. I'm more awake and getting the hang of the general idea, though there are a lot of things about how a typical day will go that aren't gelled yet. I also chose an earlier start (eek) and end time, because the earlier end time works better for seeing the boys.
- Colin takes Alex back to the hospital. More tests, more items eliminated. Alex is home before I am.
- Alex seems on an upswing; lower fever, and some cheerful play. Right up until bedtime, when he gets warm, gets fussy, and is up late. And up a LOT. Basically it feels like a reoccurrance of the worst of things, though he does not, in fact, throw up in the bed this time.

- Would have been an employee appreciation day, over at Investors Group Field (The football stadium), except I call in "Baby sick". The manager's remark was, "If you're going to miss a day, this is the day to miss."
- This means when the doctor calls and says Alex has signs of bacteria in his blood, and we should go to the hospital, it's my turn.
- The good news is, this also means they can start giving in an antibiotic because they know antibiotics as a genre are the thing to do. Details about whether the antibiotic is a resistant strain left as guesswork. Less good; the IV comes loose in the last few moments (while flushing out) so it can't stay in to the next day. Which means more needles for the repeat dose, hurrah.
- Alex seems to start feeling better, but also he and I get a nap in the afternoon. His fever by nightfall is borderline maybe-still-there maybe-not.
- and as a minor insult-to-injury, my brother has been sick a couple of days by this time, so even if we'd wanted to push Alex, we couldn't do the family gathering.

- Canada Day!
- Starts off with ANOTHER trip to the hospital and another shot of antibiotic. On the plus side, his fever seems to be gone at last, and this was more like a routine doctor's visit, even if it happens in the emergency ward. And the IV stayed in.
- Taking Joseph on his usual run is not nearly so usual, as it weaves us in and out of the Osborne Canada Day stuff. He really doesn't like the crowds but did seem to like his ice cream sandwich. He tried some bouncy castle type stuff (Even said an explicit yes to trying one. Explicit yesses are less than 3 weeks old at this point and usually meant), but was less than wholly delighted after all.
- the fireworks go off shortly after Alex woke and fussed anyhow, so he fell asleep not long after they ceased without being overly troubled.

- the LAST shot. The last hospital visit. We go home with a prescription for more antibiotics. (And they call to confirm Sunday that it's not going to be resistant to the change in medication.)
- I get to do a get-together with my brother and some friends for my birthday. Not quite the long since cancelled family gathering but great anyhow. Alas, the Indian place we wanted to go for dinner was closed for some event (My first thought seeing the saris through the window was a wedding but it could have been any kind of banquet) so we had to make do with good burgers. Nice but not the same...

This week, incidentally, is no better for busy-ness, even if it's much more cheerful and much less fretful - work is settling in nicely, and the real project is starting to take over, but also, it's Folk Fest time. I was on shift at the fest today, I'll be at work tomorrow, and on shift volunteering again on Friday at the crack of seven AM.

This will be the first time EVER I have been working but not had the opportunity to take the Monday off.

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)

Sometimes doing the right thing is really damn easy

The other day I got a call from Conner Cochran of Conlan Press, mentioning that I had won his monthly draw from all the fans who were at the Last Unicorn tour; any one item from the tour page including expensive prints, etc.

Some of the stuff is really pretty, as I recall from buying during the tour.

I said no thanks. And that was that.

It's notable that he basically said Ok and that he'd draw another name until someone said yes. Notable because it means he gets a lot of people saying No, with or without thanks.

An honest business doesn't get a lot of people who went out of their way to get to a special event, purchased stuff there, and squeed all over a longtime favourite author, to later end up turning down lovely and sometimes fairly costly free stuff.

I wish I'd known about just how skeevy his operation was then; it's soured an event I quite enjoyed at the time, and a meeting with Beagle that I felt was nice.

Some people said they found the way Cochran pushed himself forward creepy and felt like Beagle was squished a bit out of his own event. I have to say I was not one of them.

I was clueless. I thought it was the natural way things fall in the teamwork of a born salesman and an introvert, and Cochran didn't give me quite the crawly feeling some aggressive salespeople do. I could see myself and someone with a bit of showmanship striking a similar balance. Beagle was charming and erudite and talked to fans with some pleasure.

I had no idea Beagle was basically being pushed to exhaustion, all the money from the lovely things there filtered away from him and into Cochran's pocket, and that anyone Beagle tried to talk to alone would get Cochran telling them how old and confused he was -- including cutting Beagle off from his own family.

That Cochran, after getting Beagle out from under a predatory contract, turned around and preyed on him all over again.

I had no idea, since I wasn't planning to buy anything that wasn't on the table at the time, that many, if not all, of the people who did sign up to pre-pay for special packages have never received them, that Cochran keeps promising late and later dates. Up to 12 years. (I did sign up to be notified when the tour book comes out, but wasn't going to pre-pay.)

I did find it unfortunate that the e-mail I sent requesting a copy of the photo taken with me and Beagle never got a reply, but I assumed it was because the tour was busy.

Not until the lawsuit against Cochran and Conlan Press was filed last year, alleging fraud and elder abuse.

It's soured me also on some of the stuff I bought there - not that I would lose one word of the books, and the art is lovely. But now I know Beagle, who was right in front of me, never saw a dime. I'd almost like to pay again, cash straight into his hand - and my only hesitation would be the awkwardness of it. (I wonder if the artists get their payments on time, or demand payment upfront before releasing stock? I hope so, but I have no idea. Fans Against Fraud has a reference to one of the artists not having been paid in full, but it's not one of the ones whose work I paid for.)

This isn't hearsay:

Beagle's legal Complaint

Another legal complaint, from a company that invested in the tour.

Fans Against Fraud (Collects a LOT of pull quotes. gets repetitive, but lays it all out.)


One of the things I got, and it wasn't purchased but won, was a shirt that reads "Damn you, Peter S. Beagle, it's all your fault". It's meant to be referring to the Last Unicorn, and the fact that she's supposedly the first known reference to a female unicorn and unicorns as a feminine thing.

It feels a bit sour now, and I can't wear it.

I have considered marking it with editor's corrections in some form, some red pen to make it better. (The only one I am completely certain about, though, is to strike "damn" and put in "Thank".)

Even then, though, I'm still not positive I could wear it in comfort, and not ever in front of Beagle.

I still like my unicorn wand. I just really wish I knew for sure that THAT artist got her payment.

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)

(no subject)

I talked about this on facebook, but I have longer thoughts, too.

Joseph and I go for walks after school most days, and sometimes on other days (like Sunday). Well, as I joke, they are more like "runs"; he will run whenever there are cars moving on the street, as if he's trying to keep up with them -- and a bit extra for things like buses or motorcycles or oddities. I usually jog as much as I'm willing, so it goes in bursts of speed-up and slow-down as the waves of traffic pass.

I also let him pick the route *most* of the time, although I may put my foot down on going home once we've been at it a while. My focus has been on teaching him street crossing, reminding him to look for cars, and to wait for lights. I sometimes make him go my chosen way, or make a stop, partly to train him for when I really need him to go with me in a particular direction (like, again, Sunday). But mostly he has his little routes; they almost all start almost always up the alley the same way, down the first street the same way. It varies afterwards, but I can make some pretty good guesses where we're going, and it loops back on itself; we sometimes go right past home, and sometimes come pretty close. He tends to stick to major streets for much of it, because more cars.

He's been, I think, also using it to get a mental map of the area and how it all links up. Some of the repetition is autistic routine, or bits he particularly enjoys (We often make extra repeats of ramps), and some is testing his map, especially when he unexpectedly varies his path.

I kind of enjoy the routine, even if I often come out of one tired and footsore. It's also pretty good exercise, trying to cooperate with a 4 year old's energy level.

I feel even more glad he mostly chooses the routes, and that this means I know his most likely choices.

This is what I posted on Facebook:

Anyone who also has Colin on their news feed knows Joseph ran out of the house earlier today. He was found by a young woman who took his hand and tried to get him to lead her home. He led her instead on one of his walking routes (exactly the wrong way from home, though it would have looped back eventually.) Colin, at home, called the cops while one of the people I (out searching) asked flagged down a pair of paramedics on bicycles, who found her and then let m know she was bringing him my way (meanwhile the police Colin called also ended up intercepting her and brought her and Joseph to me and then me and Joseph safe home.)

We owe thanks to so many people; the woman who took his hand and looked for where he belonged and who, most of all, meant he was travelling safely and not running into traffic, the people who talked to me at River and Osborne who loaned me cell phones (my phone? Are you kidding? I left the house without putting on shoes. Granted, if such an awful thing happens again, I'm taking the phone if I can, but still screw the shoes.) and/or walked/biked the neighbourhood to search, the woman who flagged the paramedics while my panicked mind was still thinking, "but that's the wrong emergency services", the paramedics and police themselves. Even the one person I talked to who remembered a blond boy with a woman going by.

I'm still shaken, though.

It's so easy to second-guess everything.

This has happened now two and a half times for real, and a couple of other close calls. (The half is when he made his escape after leaving the car, not out of the house). The other two involved us being close behind, even in sight, so not quite the same as not being sure exactly how long, how far.

We have a latch on the door to the back hall but we know he figured out what to climb onto to reach it. Should we have moved that thing, so he at least needed to drag a chair over? We have a different fastener on the outside door we know he CAN get at, again with something to climb onto, but again slows him and causes trouble. We even have a windchime set so that opening the door will make it ring, and it's audible on both floors, though probably not in the bathroom with the fan or shower on.

I was upstairs in the shower. Well, except after I finished the shower I sat upstairs alone for a long time, just reading a book. And I mean half an hour or more. (Colin was downstairs, and could speak to his own reasons for not catching on; I will say that while they weren't any better than mine, they weren't worse, either.) I went downstairs, past Colin and into the kitchen, thinking we were overdue to deal with lunch; and saw the door. I don't remember what I said, but enough to get him up and moving, and then I was off, shoeless and purseless, down the alley as I was.

Colin was a bit more active than I make it sound; he made sure Alex was safe, checked Joseph's route the opposite way, and the playground, then sat down at home to call the police and mind Alex (and the phone). I found most of this out afterwards, when I borrowed the phones, or even after I got home.

Do we need to have a more orderly plan in place? More than just "Next time I bring my cell"? Colin did exactly the right thing. I was keeping it together in most ways until Joseph was safe (I had a really obvious increase in panic and stress symptoms once I was told he was found, and more once I had him, but I was aware even as I was managing to think out plans while I walked that I wasn't thinking entirely clearly.)

Had I come downstairs sooner, would I have seen Joseph while he was still in the house? He starts working on getting outside when he's bored with indoor stuff; I could have started an activity with him. We need to do more of that; more things that aren't default habits. Might I have at least arrived soon enough to nab him in the first block? Did I hear a chime and assume Colin was in control? I don't remember doing so, so probably not, but the other escape out of the house happened when I heard the chime but had thought Colin (who was working on renos) was doing work that involved going outside as well as into and out of the basement.

There's the things I have done lackadaisically, like teaching Joseph to say his name (Which he can do -- but the officer said he never got a peep out of him, and the only thing Joseph said to me in the police car on the way home was "octagon stop sign" when we reached an intersection.) I've talked about making him an "all about me" book to teach him rote answers to "what's your name?" and "where do you live?" but haven't made it.

I keep wondering if we should get him some jewellery that has his name and address, but teaching him to wear it, all the time, would be some doing; he doesn't like wristbands, and he's very good at figuring out fasteners (see again: everything we've done to our doors to slow him down)

I've also wondered about preemptively flyering the neighbourhood with his picture and home address and an explanation that he's a flight risk with poor verbal skills. The houses and apartments and condos, probably not; not only would it be a dauntingly huge undertaking, but it carries a lot of OTHER issues. But maybe the businesses, at least the ones that have a view out the window? I keep thinking this is a bad idea, but is it a worse idea than not doing it, if he vanishes again? And yet again, most of my samaritans were just people shopping or going about their day, although the woman who flagged the paramedics is one of the people who runs a street kiosk.

We're planning on building a fence around the yards this summer; that was part of the plan already.

The other bit I posted on facebook:
And for a super-fun follow-up: we were at a party at the house of one of Colin's old friends this afternoon, in their back yard. We'd figured out how to keep him from opening the gate right away. Then he followed the other kids inside once ... and inside, went instead to the front door, opened it and was off down the street. In Fort Richmond, which he doesn't know and where we would have no idea where to look after 5 minutes. One of the other parents caught on and chased him down, so he was brought back quickly (he leaves doors open behind him), but we had to spend half of the rest of the party minding all possible exits. It's that fast.

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)

A No-Pressure Club : First meeting

So I had this idea a while back, partly from reading Felicia Day's memoir. There's a stretch of time when she's in a sort of support group for artistic endeavours, and everyone else seems to be taking active steps to assure their goals, while she... is playing World of Warcraft or making schedules. Well, until eventually she pretty much tortures herself into writing the first script for the Guild.

And I thought - I've been wanting to do an in person writing group for a while. BUt I don't know many fellow writers in Winnipeg, and of the ones I do know, many of them write slowly, piecemeal, or do NaNoWriMo (And maybe the Camp) but not much else. And I thought, I'd love to see some of these people more, but I'd hate for the seeing of them to become a source of stress and pressure. Where and when Felicia was in her life, she really had both no excuse and need for a really hard push. But I'm looking at new moms, divorcees, anxiety disorders, depression, huge workloads...

So I sent this e-mail to some people (And I am considering at least one more):

I've been toying with an idea for a bit, so I'm going to throw it out there at you all. FEEDBACK IS VERY WELCOME. Nothing is finalized or set in stone. At the very least, if you like the idea of a get together, let me know what times you might be available?

As far as I know, all of you do some SF/F writing, and enjoy doing it. Some are aiming to go pro (Or already have) and some are just in it for fun.

But ALL of us have one other thing in common; a life so busy and full of other projects and obligations that we really don't write as much as we want to, or used to, or you-name-it.

Which means that for most of us, a traditional writing group doesn't work, because they often expect a certain amount of progress daily, or weekly, and sometimes the message, intended or not, is that you aren't really into it if you don't hit some magic number.

Which can be discouraging instead of inspiring. Or, when it inspires you to force out words, can make you miserable instead of happy. Deadlines make some people stubborn instead of purposeful, and some people write or edit once or twice a year in big sprints, spending the rest of the time thinking, planning, and researching, which works very badly with most writing groups. Some people are only productive with a strict schedule, some find strict schedules break them.

However, it's also true that just hanging out with other writers in a group can often be itself a motivator to do stuff, or to ask questions about the things stalling you. it can also give opportunities to brainstorm, blather, and just generally squee, about your own writing, about books you love, about all the things.

So I am proposing a club that gets together about every two weeks to sit, talk about writing, plot problems, worldbuilding, research, tea (Or beverage-of-choice), books, and life. Each session would be in three phases; a semi-formal organized section where everyone in turn talks about storyish stuff they're thinking about, any progress they made if they wish, or asks questions for everyone to try and answer (45 minutes to an hour), a more general conversation and loosening up for a while (this would happen anyhow, why not make it officially allowed?), then one 45 minute writing session, which is optional participation, can be on your ongoing project if any or just an outpouring of words, or can be a set exercise (Multiple set exercises will be available, not just one) followed by a last burst of comments etc. about the writing session. So 3 hours or so total time.

And one of the things about it being a no-pressure club is that the same pressures of life that make writing hard also mean some people will NOT be able to make it every time, and that's okay, too, as long as they do show about once every 3 months or so. (That'd be one session in 6). We need a minimum of three people showing for a session to go forward, though the more the merrier.

Today was the first meeting. We had a total of four people (the couple hosting, me, and one more.) Because the last person arrived rather late (to be fair, even I arrived late; Alex nursed to sleep right when I was ready to leave). The thought that there were only the three of us, and the fact that these are people I don't see as much as I'd like, meant we started very informally, chatting before veering into writing related stuff, did a lot of meandering off topic. Ultimately we didn't do the writing sprint because there wasn't time (though one person, not me, was doing research and notes for an ongoing project while listening and talking). Most of us agreed a more structured approach the next time would be good, but this also allowed us to get some of that out of our system now. (I do kinda regret not doing the writing sprint, but I was half an hour late in leaving their place anyhow).

All in all I call it a success, though a minor one, and we'll have to see how the next one goes. If they all end up this informal, I'll be sad.

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)

Argh! Indie?

(Interesting timing for this set of thoughts...)

I thought I would only consider selling any of my stories Indie if I exhausted all other options, or as reprints. But looking at the markets available out there for a 30k fantasy novella.

-The place that pays the best pro rates and actually gets their books in bookstores is firmly closed to unsolicited submissions for, as far as I can tell, ever.
- The only other place that pays pro rates decided to drop back to 20k as a top limit (even though the guidelines I was going by said 40k).
- The place that pays a half-decent rate and seems to be getting some attention and word of mouth (More important than the money) cut their guidelines back to 25k between my first research and the rejection from the pro place.
- Most of the other places I saw listed had poor rates, weird red flags in their guidelines (not necessarily that they are at all dishonest, just that they might have no idea how other publishers work or what's professional), or terrible cover art and design. Or some mix thereof.

Really, Eggplant Productions was a teeny tiny operation that was staffed by about three people and shut down because the woman running it was having personal difficulties, so not exactly top-line. And yet they had guidelines that made it plain they knew how publishing works as a whole and what writers want to know, a low but clear and honest pay rate (And actually, the second time around, it wasn't *that* low) and decent cover art/design.

So... Should I try and go it sorta-solo for the novellas? I still fully intend to submit novels to publishers.

If I do, should I get a more professional editor's eye on the thing first, just in case?

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)

The Shepherd's Crown

Well, it's only been since December.

I think I'll make this reopening post a review.

In my heart of hearts, I really kind of wanted Terry Pratchett's last book to be a real, true Swan Song*, a work of excellence to rival his prior bests. (Exactly which books are those bests is up for enough debate as it is, although Night Watch, one of my two picks, is frequently cited. Nation less so, but I'm not its sole advocate.)

I knew it wasn't likely, but he still had a pretty solid grasp on Tiffany Aching in I Shall Wear Midnight, and I knew his editors had been praised for making this one a fairly solid work.

I will say it was better than the books right before it, in many ways, but I also felt like I was getting that impossible chance to beta-read an early draft, not the final. There was so much that was here that was Pratchett through and through -- interspersed with all the bits that wobble and wibble and get written in as one is looking for the heart of a story - things that would be cut in later drafts, scenes that would be expanded upon.

Spoilers ahead.

The death of Granny Weatherwax, and the reactions of the living in dealing with it, were among the jewels, the pieces carved out at their best and most precise. I have little doubt that was among the parts, as mentioned in the afterword, Pratchett had written earlier and had the greatest chance to revise and polish. I also have no doubt it was a part he most cared to get right, alongside coping with his own mortality.

I was mostly amazed it happened so early on, as the catalyst of the plot rather than as part of its resolution, or as a key turning point in the centre. But it makes sense.

The thread about the farming family with the triplets, and young Tiffany, I thought was one of the pieces where Pratchett had the most to say that never got written. It felt like there would have been greater ties, greater thematic resonances, with the main story, if this had been written ten years ago. They might not have been any better parents or learned much more than they already did - Pratchett was never one to shy away from the folly side of humanity, or its failings - but it rang one note, and usually it would have made a chord.

I feel rather the same about Geoffrey and his goat - things seemed to open for him a bit too easily. On the one hand, the bedrock of the witches has fallen, and the world has been changing steadily a while, so one more change feels like barely a blink -- and the more so for Tiffany herself, who is already following a rather unusual path. HER reaction is spot on. On the other, there should be some pull back, even if it's not the explicit, solid wall 'you can't do that' kind. In fact, I'd have been disappointed if it was that. But something on the order of micro-aggression, condescension, the occasional soft nudge aside - let me do it dear, I've been at this for years, I know my stuff, you can just watch for now - would have been much harder for Geoffrey, used to hard walls, to break past. It should have felt more like a pleasing turn when at the end even Mrs. Earwig approved him. Especially since it might have seemed peaceful so his calming tricks wouldn't work. I liked him and loved Mephistopheles as characters, though. Distinct even at this brief an intro.

By contrast, there were far too many bits affirming Tiffany Aching as THE witch, too many times the possibility of big resistance was raised, only to be waved off. I feel certain Pratchett would have crystallized the number of times it was asserted, by the number of people, that Tiffany was indeed the right choice.

The battle with the elves, and indeed their incursions into Discworld, were more clumsily handled than they might have been -- Nightshade's transformation was too quick, and in some ways far too likely to have reversed again when she got her power back. Her awareness of the changes in the Disc started before she lost power, and probably would have stayed, but I could easily imagine her understanding of humans fading again if she was back on a throne over elvish courtiers, and more if the elves found a different, less iron-advanced, world to harass. Peaseblossom was far too one-note to be a solid villain, and the scenes with the King were disjointed and confusing, even as his motives, too, were one-note. Their themes "The world is changing and we are being left behind" AND "Let's make elves in Discworld Great Again" both got repeated too much, with too little of the depth Pratchett has previously given to the opposition, making their resemblance to certain real-world aspects weaker and less convincing, and making them less scary.

The climactic battle had a much more solid feel of pieces coming together as they ought -- which felt surreal when my impression of the rest of the book was that the pieces were less than fully realized (or overemphasized).

And the epilogue fit Tiffany well.

* I felt the same about Diana Wynne Jones, and I didn't get it then, either, not quite. Her last novel written entirely by herself was fabulous except for the very last two pages, which added an extra and unnecessary and rather squicky revelation. Her very last book, finished by her sister, had a promising DWJ start and a not-wholly unsatisfying ending that nonetheless was also rather clearly, to me, not written by her. I can't point to exactly where the transition happened, her sister is a better writer than that. I also can't say for sure it isn't the PLOT she intended, it could have been - only that the prose and the flow of it were no longer hers.

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)
  • Current Music
    Steeleye Span - We Shall Wear Midnight