I think that’s the best term for how I’m feeling right now.

This weekend I discovered a teesie-weensie problem in version 1.4 of my book. Or more accurately, Stefano pointed the problem out to me.

It’s missing an entire chapter.

Somehow Ch 14 got dropped during the formatting, I don’t know how.

Version 1.4 is the version that I’ve sent to the most people, including the professional author in the US who read and commented on the book. At least a dozen people have read v1.4.

And nobody noticed an entire missing chapter. A chapter that sets up the final action of the book. A chapter that is one of my favourites.

What does people not noticing the absence mean? Is my book so riddled with unexplained discontinuities that skipping an entire chapter is no better or worse than the rest of the prose? Or perhaps is speaks more generally ill of the SF genre, and what is considered an “allowed” level of continuity error?

In any case, it has done my head in rather severely.

If anyone out there would like the corrected, v 1.5 of the book (now with Chapter 14! Woo!), please drop me an email.

That's Entertainment

Went to the 2011 WOW Awards last night, and was quite pleased.

To those who are going, or who are planning to go, we highly recommend binnoculars. Being able to see the materials, composition and details of the costumes is key. Otherwise many of the works might just evoke a “huh?” from a distance.

Like previous shows the parading wearable art was interspersed with song and/or dance routines. Sometimes to provide color and movement on stage, sometimes to bridge the costume and set changes.

You gotta love it when one of the dance troupes was the Royal NZ Ballet. (Not to ignore the NZ School of Dance or the Footnote Dance troupes). There was also some fantastic Opera (Aivale Cole and Ben Makisi).

What really broke my head was the final “Kiwiana” section of the show. (This came right after a lengthy Ballet/Operatic section.) There was the sheep dog. And the little herd of (extremely calm and tame) sheep on stage. All at the bach on the shore. Then came the dancers in Gumboots and Swandris. And the Wizard of Christchurch. And a Kapa Haka troupe. And the picnicers handing out pavlova to the audience while the blokes BBQed behind them. And them the big final dance routine where everyone was wearing jandals. A wonderful, over-the-top, brain-breaker to end the show. It was also really quite lovely, and well choreographed.

While we didn’t agree with all the winners (we never do).

Yay! We did local culture stuff!


Last night I finished the first draft of “Blindspot”, my first novel.

At 172,000 words it came out longer than I was expecting. And considering that my first-read editor (Tam) keeps wanting me to add material (my prose, especially early-on, was painfully sparse) I can only expect the total will grow a bit.

Currently I have no sense of exultation, or anything of the like. That might be because I know I now have a few frenetic weeks of editing and rewriting ahead of me. No time for slacking off.

Then a draft goes out to my first lucky outside readers. When they are done I will visit them in their new institutional homes and endeavor to gather reviews from their newly-mad ravings.

Gotta get this one done, so I can start on the next!

Edit: The plan at this point is to edit like mad for the next ~2 weeks, then an early reading-draft goes out to about a half dozen volunteers- people who I know tend to devour books quickly. Based on their feedback I engage in another round of editing, then hopefully a second round of different reader reviews. I have the semi-hard deadline of September, which is when I told Delia I’d have a readable draft for her.

"I hope it doesn't suck…"

A busy weekend. Saturday morning/early afternoon was spent (along with Tam, Kerry, Jenny and Zane) collecting free firewood- the scrap left over after the harvest of a forrestry block near Makara. Sure, it is only radiata pine, but it is free! Only effort required. A rather exhausting amount of effort mind you, what with the chainsawing, splitting, hauling, loading, trsnporting and unloading. After four hours, we were well done. We can do more loads in subsequent weekends. We have to return anyway, to pay the landowner the case of beer we owe him for the wood.
And then for the watching of BSG. With the airing of the finale in the US a few weeks ago, we needed to finish watching season four up through the end, so to prevent spoilers. This was about 10 hours of ever-cheerful Battlestar-happiness. Thus we scheduled to watch it both Saturday and Sunday evenings with a half-dozen friends.

As we headed toward the conclusion Sunday night, we had a second anticipatory experience- spagetti squash. We have a rather lots of it in the garden. I planted it because it sounded cool, but I didn’t know if I had ever tasted it before. Did I mention we now have a lot of it?

***Warning BSG Spoilers below!***
The verdicts:

-Spagetti squash is good! You can use it as a pasta substitue, it has a lovely mild flavor with a slight hint of nut. We think it would probably also go well with a curry.

-The ending of BSG was fun, and satisfying! After 4 seaons (spread over about 6 years), we really wanted it to end well. I like that they did not explain everything (as the mystery revealed is often lame). I like the huge visual shift from the cramped, dark-and-grey ship interiors to the vast green lush of the savannah. It is good when a writer knows what the ending will be, and the series ends well, rather than the wandering, aimless ends that afllict so many other otherwise-good series.

My theory as to why Earth was never found and “finshed off” by the remaining Cylons? The hundreds of red-stripe Centurian-piloted  base ships that now surround the Sol systems. They never forget. And perhaps they feel some affection for the meat sacks who set them free. Wouldn’t that be a fun discovery for the first human explorers to leave the system?


Not a typo, but the MV Doulos, currently berthed at Queen’s Wharf. It’s an interesting ship — built in 1914 as a steam cargo ship in Providence, RI, its first run was carrying onions from New York to Galveston, TX. After shipping along the east coast for a while, it did some time ferrying pilgrims to Rome, and then immigrants from Italy to Australia. Then came a stint as a luxury passenger liner. Currently, it’s a traveling missionary bookshop, with volunteers from all over the world.

I normally avoid Christian missionaries (or any other flavor, for that matter) like a plague of boils, but I couldn’t resist the lure of a book shop.

It has, as you might expect, racks upon racks of what I suppose I would describe as modern vanilla Protestant fiction and non-fiction. Lots of self-help-ish life affirmingness. Plenty of bibles, mostly the New International Version, in various sizes, bindings, translations (they must shift their stock around by port, because I saw a Tongan bible, but not, say, a German one), and spins (bibles “for men”, bibles “for women”, lots of bibles and bible excerpts for kids, daily message bibles, gardening bibles, whatever). I admit I was tempted by the Manga Bible. (On the cover, Manga Jesus: “Does he come to save the world — or destroy it?“)

Half the shop is childrens books, and not just churchy ones — all kinds, including some “name brands” like Disney, Dora the Explorer, etc. Lots of Narnia stuff, as you might imagine, and classics like Winnie the Pooh (all the Milne stuff, not just the Disney version). There were fairy tale collections, the Hardy Boys books… I spotted two copies of the Hildebrandt illustrated Robin Hood on special (the dust jackets were badly munged) for NZ$8.

They also have educational stuff — the NCEA standard textbooks, atlases, dictionaries, some language learning books and CDs, Hawking’s On the Shoulders of Giants (illustrated !). There were books on, say, dinosaurs (including childrens books) that did NOT insist they were put in the rock by God as a test of faith. (The “defense of Creationism” books were over in the “Bible Reference” section, with the concordances and the interpretive stuff). I went ahead and picked up a concordance, because I didn’t actually have one (Cruden’s, because it was cheap. I may have to get me a Young’s Analytical at some point…).

The balance is quite a lot of the inoffensive subset of the sort books you’d see on the sales tables at Whitcouls or Borders — heaps of cookbooks, gardening books, books on trains, horses, pets, quote-a-day, Sudoku, blank books, notecards, etc.

The prices are actually quite reasonable. All the books are tagged in “Dolous units”, so that when they reach a port, they can just post up charts showing how to convert Dolous units to whatever the local currency is — and since the prices are all rounded to the nearest 100, it’s pretty straightforward. 100 units = NZ$4.00. Most of the books looked to be under $20, and there were quite a lot that were 100 or 200 units.

I took my book over to the checkout, which was being run by a young Mongolian woman named Oogi (pronouned roughly “Oggie”). I correctly guessed from her name (most of which showed on the register screen) that she was Mongolian, and asked her to pronounce it for me. It was, alas, a tangle of consonants and not-quite-schwas that would have taken me a bit more time to get right than I had in the checkout line. She smiled at me a little wistfully and said that since no one can say it, she just goes by Oogi.

Ah well. I may go back today for another look at a coffee table book on the Sahara, and to see if they dredged up anything interesting in the nightly restock from the hold.

One weekend, two events

While Stephen was in Auckland, I was tasked with managing our very first public appearance as Alpacas Rampant, at the Lifestyle Farmers Field Days in Otaki: lots of stalls aimed at people with small rural blocks, not unlike ourselves. People who might just be interested in buying some of our lovely young boys (and doesn’t that sound dodgy?).

We’d spent the previous week getting stuff ready: me wrangling printers for business cards, stud info sheets, and banners; Stephen painting and assembling the khana for the alpaca pen (“khana” being sort of collapsible trellis, a smaller version of the walls for our ger/yurt).

Kerry and Jenny volunteered to help me out on the day. Friday night, I scrambled to get a barebones version of the website up an running (looks bad to hand out business cards with an address that doesn’t go anywhere) while they and Beth & Geoff played Robo Rally. K&J stayed overnight, so we could all be ready to go at stupid-o’clock Saturday morning.

My victory conditions for the day:
– get the six boys we were planning to take up there loaded safely
– get the ute started
– get up there and set up on time
– not get drenched and miserable and hypothermic in the crap weather
– get packed up and home safely
Bonus: maybe chat to some people and hand out business cards and stuff

All were achieved, with the unexpected plus that the weather turned out to be actually sunny and warm, and the additional bonus of maybe finding an inexpensive carder to send some of our fleeces to. Jenny and Kerry were muy fabulous — Jenny always managed to be the extra pair of hands wherever the extra pair of hands was needed, and Kerry has been doing ‘paca stuff with us for so long that she could run the stand herself if I had to go to the loo. W00t! There was a bit of a glitch when I got the ute stuck going up the driveway when we finally got home, but with Jenny and Kerry telling me which way to steer, we managed to get it unstuck *and* I did a hill-start and got it up into the sideyard instead of having to back all the way down the drive at leave it at the bottom for Stephen to deal with. Go me. Go us!

And the final surprise for the evening: one of the agisted girls had her cria while we were gone. Go her for getting it done without us (not that they usually need us fretting over them, mind).

Note, re: the new website. I’ve tested this out in Firefox and IE6. If you have the time to kick the tires in another browser, let me know how it goes. I had to teach myself CSS to get it going, and I’m still working out some kinks. :^p

Crows and libraries

Two unrelated things I felt like posting about.

One, as you all probably know, crows are smart. If you read BoingBoing, you’ll probably have heard about the guy that built a vending machine for crows. Here’s a video of the ten minute little talk he gave about it. Some of the anecdotes in the comments below are nifty, too. The part that I find compelling, though, is the on-the-face-of-it quite simple notion that you don’t have to domesticate a species, or even really communicate with it very well, to work with it productively.

Two, I’m looking for more authors to read (preferably ones my local library has. In the process of searching, I stumbled across Gnooks. It’s an adaptive learning widget that shows you authors that other people who like the authors you like also like. (I’ll give you a second or two to parse that). There are similar tools for music and movies. You can either type in a single name, in which case it will spit out a little cloud of “you might also like” names (with the closer ones supposedly being more likely matches to your tastes), or you can type in three names and it will pop up a single suggestion. At this point, you can tell it if you agree, if you think it’s completely off base, or if you’ve never read its suggested author. That’s how it learns.

I typed in “Robin Hobb”, “Bernard Cornwell”, and “Richard Adams” (in part just to be difficult). It suggested Sharon Penman, an author of thick historical fictions. The Central Library had some of her stuff, so I got out The Sunne in Splendour, a War of the Roses era piece featuring Edward the IV, Richard the III, etc. It’s a bit dry so far — I blame Richard Adams — but we’ll see how it goes.

Squid + Burlesque = ???

Thursday was fun. In the evening we first attended a regular Science Talk at Te Papa, led by Steve O’Shea to give us his sleep-deprived rambling descriptions of the squid dissection and what they had learned, followed by questions from the audience. The whole squid-team was there, so sometimes questions got answered by different experts. Very fun. I think the organizers were very surprised by the size and enthusiasm of the audience.

Afterwards we headed over to the Paramount theater for the yearly “Heavenly Burlesque” show. There was a variety of entertainments on offer. The MC was a competent stage magician, and his patter throughout the show was quite amusing. There was a fan dance, a couple of spastic modern dances, a weird 50’s-housewife-geek-show which involved nails and screwdrivers in the sinus cavities, and there were the acrobats. The most striking were two very strong men who did a variety of rope and trapeze acts. They were very good, and funny comedians too!

The only down side was that the show started at 9:30, so we were not home until midnight. My biological clock is still playing catch up!

Oh, and in the required alpaca-related-news, one of Bruce’s girls (Cotton) unpacked Friday morning. A little white girl (which makes 3-for3 girls for him, lucky guy!) Friday was a lovely day- until the afternoon when the clouds rolled in, the southerly started to howl, and the temperature plunged. So all of Bruce’s animals spent the night in the shed (so we could sleep, knowing the baby was safe, dry and warm). To prevent Cotton from being remated we are moving her in with our girls tomorrow (as this is a bad time of year to be dropping cria). We will put her back in with Zeus to be mated in the Spring.

Argh, argh and more argh.

Okay, not feeling the Open Source love here. Yes, I know it’s free, and therefore I don’t really have any right to bitch. Yes, I know that 90% of my problem is that I learned graphics manipulation from the Adobe Hegemony, and that my notion of “intuitive interface” is therefore biased by my early training. Yes, there are some things that Inkscape and GIMP actually do much better than their Adobe counterparts.

AND YET. Dammit, when I use a selection tool, like, say, the marquee or the lasso selector, I would expect that it would, oh, select something. As in, whatever tool you use next — like the Move tool, for instance — would operate on the selection, and not the whole freaking layer. Or just the selection frame itself. No, you haven’t made a selection, you’ve made a selection frame. What can you do with it ? Not a damned thing. Is there a point ? Not that I can tell. RARGH.

Stupid, simple things that take all of a minute and a half to do when one knows what one is doing are taking upwards of an hour, as I stagger my way through the menus like a drunken moose, hoping to accidentally crash into some method of doing whatever it is I need done. (Why, no, the documentation does not help. The documentation consists of: “Need to select something ? Use one of our selection tools !”)


Also hating the Adobe Hegemony for taking the classic Calvin $60,000.00 glass of lemonade route and pricing themselves out of reach of normal people.