Looking for recommendations, in case any of my cat-knowledgeable friends have suggestions. My mother lives in Woburn (shortly to move to Burlington). She has a longhair cat who is currently getting rather excessively fuzzy; she hasn't yet found a regular groomer since she moved to these parts from Amherst. PetSmart isn't looking like a great option (due to hours that don't suit her, I gather).

So: anybody have suggestions of a good cat groomer in the area of 128, between 90 and 93ish? Are there any who do housecalls? (I have no idea if that is a thing or not.) Any recommendations welcomed -- thanks...

How often is the thing that brings a story to life a question of grammar? And yet, I know exactly what Linda Nagata means. Here she is, explaining how verb tenses turned out to be the key:

***

cover for THE LAST GOOD MAN by Linda NagataIf there ever was one bright spark, one bit of insight, one unexpected plot twist that brought The Last Good Man to life, I don’t remember it. What I do remember was how flat and uninteresting the manuscript felt to me in the earliest days.

This wasn’t an unusual situation for me. Beginnings are hard and it can take time to work out a tone and style that feels right. So I kept pushing forward, telling myself that if I kept going, the essential spark that every novel needs would eventually ignite.

It didn’t happen. Not for over 30,000 hard-fought words. Sure, the story was advancing but I wasn’t happy with the tone or with the way it was being told—and I didn’t know why.

I’d done my preliminary work—a lot of preliminary work. I’d been tossing ideas into the literary stew pot for months, revising my synopsis again and again. This was a very near-future story centered on a small private military company—contract soldiers of the sort hired by corporations, NGOs, and the US government. These were “white hat” mercenaries, choosy about their clients, working only for the good guys, and though they were a small force, that force was amplified by the autonomous robotic weaponry they could deploy. And I had an unusual protagonist in True Brighton.

Middle-aged women are not generally considered cool enough to serve as the lead in a techno-thriller, but I wanted to give it a shot—I wanted the challenge—so I made True forty-nine years old, a retired US Army veteran and mother of three who is still fit, strong, and agile enough to qualify for field missions.

All the pieces seemed right. For months I’d sensed the potential in this story, but still somehow the spark was missing.

Up to this point I’d been writing in third person, past tense. Then—30,000 words in and on the verge of despair—I chanced to read a novel written in third person, present tense and I was intrigued. Could I write The Last Good Man in third person present?

Present tense is commonly used with first person, where the narrator relates the story using “I” or “we.” I’d done a whole trilogy in first-person present. But I’d never written in third-person present. Inspired by the novel I was reading, I decided to try it.

And I liked the energy of it! It was just a technical change, but at last the tone of the story felt right. I continued to move ahead, writing additional pages every day in present tense, and at the end of the day I would revise my past work, gradually shifting it from past tense to present, adding detail as I did.

I was far, far happier with the feel of the story. The change in tense had given it the spark it needed—or maybe it had given me the spark I needed. Whichever it was, I never considered shifting back.

***

From the cover copy:

Scarred by war. In pursuit of truth.

Army veteran True Brighton left the service when the development of robotic helicopters made her training as a pilot obsolete. Now she works at Requisite Operations, a private military company established by friend and former Special Ops soldier Lincoln Han. ReqOp has embraced the new technologies. Robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence are all tools used to augment the skills of veteran warfighters-for-hire. But the tragedy of war is still measured in human casualties, and when True makes a chance discovery during a rescue mission, old wounds are ripped open. She’s left questioning what she knows of the past, and resolves to pursue the truth, whatever the cost.

“…a thrilling novel that lays bare the imminent future of warfare.” —Publishers Weekly starred review

Linda is a Nebula and Locus-award-winning writer, best known for her high-tech science fiction, including the Red trilogy, a series of near-future military thrillers. The first book in the trilogy, The Red: First Light, was a Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial-award finalist, and named as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015. Her short fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and several anthologies.

Linda has lived most of her life in Hawaii, where she’s been a writer, a mom, a programmer of database-driven websites, and an independent publisher. She lives with her husband in their long-time home on the island of Maui.

Website | Twitter

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

ceciliatan: (darons guitar)
([personal profile] ceciliatan Jun. 27th, 2017 09:00 am)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

Tell me. When do you think the worst possible time for my hand to cramp up would be? In the middle of the show? Right at the beginning of the acoustic segment with me and Ziggy? Right in the middle of “Candlelight?” The fact that it happened the in the five minutes before we went on proves that things could have been worse. Right?

Read the rest of this entry » )
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([personal profile] ceciliatan Jun. 26th, 2017 02:39 pm)

Ars Technica published an article by me on Pride Day (yesterday, traditionally the last Sunday in June) entitled “Coming Out as a Slytherin.”

In the article I detail how there have been a series of “closets” whose doors I have had to kick down, from coming out as bisexual in the 1980s, to coming out as a pro who also wrote fanfic in the 2000s, to, eventually, realizing I had to come out as Slytherin, too.

In the article I talk about the pervasiveness of the anti-Slytherin bias in the books, which carries right through from Harry’s first hearing of the word through the epilogue:

“One of the magics of the Potter books for me was that as I read them, I was transported back to feeling like a kid again. … My journey as a fan… started from a childlike devouring of the books where I took Harry’s journey at face value. Harry hated Snape and Draco? I hated Snape and Draco. Harry thought all Slytherins are bad? I thought all Slytherins are bad. It’s a book for kids, right? A simplistic worldview is appropriate and comforting.”

“But the moment I leapt into fandom headlong was also when book six, Half-Blood Prince, came out. In that book, Harry keeps on thinking that Snape and Draco are villains. It’s also a book where many adult readers started realizing that Snape and Draco are victims. I went back and re-read the entire series through Snape and Draco’s eyes and what I saw was very different.”

“I guess you could say it was the Potter fandom equivalent of being woke.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from blog.ceciliatan.com.

ceciliatan: (darons guitar)
([personal profile] ceciliatan Jun. 22nd, 2017 10:00 am)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

Character Overview

Growing up, Daron’s family life left a lot to be desired. When Daron moves out on his own, he tries to leave his family behind.

Read the rest of this entry » )

I’ve been sitting on this news for nearly a year, waiting for my first piece to go live so I can tell you all about it.

So there’s this game called Legend of the Five Rings. It was a collectible card game and RPG; I got involved with the RPG, doing some freelance work for the later parts of fourth edition, because it had sucked me in overnight. The setting, Rokugan, is inspired by Japanese history and culture, and it’s got the kind of rich worldbuilding that makes the place come to life for me. So when the parent company sold L5R off to Fantasy Flight Games, I was, shall we say, rather determined to stay involved.

And I am. But not writing for the RPG this time: instead I’m one of their fiction writers. You see, one of the defining characteristics for L5R has always been the ongoing narrative of the game, influenced by the winners of various tournaments, and expressed through official canon stories.

My first story is here!

I think it should be a decent introduction to the setting for those who aren’t familiar with it. (In fact, that’s one of the goals for this first set of stories: give newcomers an overview of Rokugan, clan by clan.) If you like what I wrote, you might find L5R overall interesting, and you can check out the other fictions here (those provide links to the pdfs if you want to see the pretty formatted versions).

Yeah . . . I’m pretty excited. 😀 The setting has been rebooted back to the Clan War, so there’s an opportunity to do all kinds of cool new things, and this story provided a really great chance to showcase that, with the Dragon facing two entirely fresh conflicts that don’t come with easy answers attached. And I’m working on more stuff as we speak, so my involvement will be ongoing. *\o/*

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Posted by Rory

I think it was Machiavelli in his Art of War that said "The greatest reward for a fighting man is simply to trust him." That resonated. I'd worked for a long time under a variety of people put in leadership positions. Just being in the position doesn't make someone a leader. The true leaders, the ones that inspired loyalty and dedication, had alls aid, at some point, "You've got this." And let me handle things on my own.

Machiavelli (if I'm attributing it to the right person) specifically applied it to fighters. I don't think that's necessarily true--everyone takes micromanagement as an insult. But it's more explicit in dangerous professions. A firefighter I know is incensed that he has to spend more time in each report documenting his PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) than his job. He showed me one report-- nearly half a page of what equipment he put on and in what order. Barely four lines on extracting the subject from the wrecked car.

When you are entrusted with life or death decisions, being treated like a child throws a huge mixed message.

So here's the deal. If you are a micromanager, you aren't a leader. You aren't even a shitty leader. You're a busybody who likes to feel important by interfering with better people than yourself. If you have employees who need to be watched every second either you need to hire adults or, more likely they aren't the problem.

When you get the micromanager who always finds fault, it is something else. If everything a worker does is wrong, no matter how closely they follow policy or even if they were just following the last set of orders, what's going on isn't even management, micro or otherwise. It is straight-up victim grooming. Creating a field of passive people for the manager's games.

I doubt if most micromanagers realize what they are. Humans are excellent at rationalizing and it's easy to reframe micromanagement as "Being explicit" or "I'm a hands-on guy." But on the tiny chance someone reads this and sees through their own bullshit and decides to change... it won't be easy.

No matter your intentions, all those years of micromanagement have instilled in your people the idea that you don't trust them-- and that they can't trust you. They will literally assume that you turning over a new leaf is a trap. That you will give them enough trust to show some initiative and then will ruthlessly punish them for that initiative.

This easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you change your behavior and don't notice any benefit for a day or a week or a month, it is easy to revert. The reversion just becomes further evidence that your attempt at change was insincere.

Note: Going out of my lane a little, but setting up for the next post, which is about the teaching equivalent of micromanagement.
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)
([personal profile] ceciliatan Jun. 20th, 2017 09:00 am)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

From an objective viewpoint, the Star*Gaze opening set was probably a perfectly adequate performance.

But I don’t have an objective viewpoint. I thought it was excruciatingly terrible.

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([personal profile] swan_tower Jun. 19th, 2017 10:53 am)

The most recent New Worlds post is on sumptuary laws, i.e. the ways in which societies try to regulate the outward signifiers of class and rank.

Looking back at my previous blog series of BVC — Dice Tales is now set to be an ebook! You can currently pre-order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, and Kobo; or you can wait for the on-sale date of July 18th and get it from DriveThruRPG or direct from the publisher, Book View Cafe. This is edited and expanded from the original blog series, with more than half a dozen new essays.

And — as a teaser — while it is my first foray into game-related publishing, it may not be my last . . .

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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([personal profile] jducoeur Jun. 19th, 2017 11:09 am)

Those of you who know Niki know that her great passion is for historical medicine -- whether it's teaching SCA folks about bizarre period cures for the plague or her novella about life in the medical tents of the Revolutionary War, she's all about the topic, and has lots to say about it.

She's just begin a weekly blog, focused on Renaissance Medicine, Saltatio Medica. I've just set up a feed here on Dreamwidth for it, [syndicated profile] saltatiomedica_feed -- that should populate later today. Check it out!

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([personal profile] vg_ford Jun. 19th, 2017 09:10 am)
Day: 1
#100daysofwords
Starting Count: 2989
Ending Count: 3380
New Words: 391
 
Opening Line:
Sapph filled him in quickly. “So if we take her words at face value, there’s no reason for this place to be haunted,” she finished. “But I can feel the Ghostwind here, a lot stronger than if there were no ghosts.”
 
Closing Line:
“How do you know?” Sapph said, following his gaze. The main room they were in had a large oak card catalogue and three desks, each of which had a typewriting and a stack of books on them. There was a microfiche machine in one corner. And on the air was the scent of old paper and the faintest trace of mold. 
 
Darling:
The building they were in now was not the building she and Scottie had entered. It was smaller, and Sapph could see water damage creeping down the walls. It lay like old mold over everything: almost decorative, not interfering with the books she could see in the old bookcases, but definitely there. The books were large, substantial looking, but the titles were missing. She wondered what she would find if she opened one. “Do books have ghosts?” 
([syndicated profile] chirontraining_feed Jun. 18th, 2017 09:58 pm)

Posted by Rory

You are amazing.
When I die, these are the things that I will have wished I said and possibly the things you would have wished to have heard. I'm thinking of my son right now, but that's just a focal point. If your dad (or whoever) had the words, these are the words that need to be said:

You have never disappointed me. You might have felt that, but know it was never so. When you were born, I held in my arms a perfect example of perfect human potential. An awe-inspiring bundle of possibility. Innate power and potential of cosmic proportions.
In Greek myth, the heroes were half gods. Heracles, the son of Zeus and a mortal mother; Aeneas the son of Aphrodite and a mortal father. This is how I see you, how all humans are: Something incredible and powerful and heroic. Supernatural in your birthright.
That is how I see you.
If you sensed disappointment, it was never with you, but with the world. You have had to make compromises; we all have. And I may have sighed because the choice you made was not the choice I wanted, since I wanted to see you as a pure and perfect god. But the choices you made were pure and perfect, given the information you had and the priorities you placed. I might have wanted you to stand above the world, but you were neck-deep in the world, protecting the weak, calculating the consequences. I had a Socratic, imaginary ideal-- you had a gritty reality. You made your choices based on that reality. You made the best choices you could, and I love you for that.
I wish that you could see yourself as I see you. The strength, the growing wisdom, the compassion, the insight. You are mightier than you can possibly imagine.
Walk in the world as an Olympian. Nurture your strength and cherish the strength of the minigods all around you. It is a beautiful and complex world, and you are an integral part of that beauty and complexity.
Be.


ceciliatan: (darons guitar)
([personal profile] ceciliatan Jun. 17th, 2017 12:42 pm)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

(This Saturday chapter brought to you by generous donations to the Tip Jar! Thank you especially Frank and Bill and Wendy! -ctan)

The first time I saw Ziggy that day was when I arrived at the venue with Carynne, who brought me over separate from the rest of everyone. He had a gaggle of Spanish-speaking press around him so I didn’t approach.

The venue was another space-age wonder. On the day sheet it had been listed as “Estacionamiento del Poliedro de Caracas.” I was under the impression that “estacionamiento” meant parking garage but I thought maybe I was wrong, or maybe Venezuelan Spanish didn’t use the same words as the mishmash of Castilian and Puerto Rican that I could normally make out. “Poliedro” was a mystery until our driver used the English: The Polyhedron. The name made sense as soon as I saw the place. The roof was polyhedral, one shallow slice of a geodesic dome. Groovy. So to speak.

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gehayi: (tears (gehayi))
([personal profile] gehayi Jun. 17th, 2017 01:13 am)
I am so fucking sick of being depressed and in pain and feeling hopeless.
([syndicated profile] chirontraining_feed Jun. 16th, 2017 09:41 am)

Posted by Rory

Sometimes you get a request that is just flabbergasting. If that's a word.
"We want an unarmed defensive tactics system for our officers that works the same for all officers regardless of size, gender or age, that will work on all threats regardless of size, strength or mental state and has zero risk of injury to the offender."
"You realize that's impossible, right?"
"You don't have anything? We'll keep looking."

The latest. A request for comprehensive self-defense training but with absolutely no element of violence. This one is tempting. Not the material. As requested, it's simply stupid. It's the students. The people who want this do home visits on people who are in the system. Often alone, this student base has daily contact with a population that frequently have criminal records and a history of violence. These are kids (adults, but at a certain age, everybody starts to look like a kid) going into harm's way to do good things. If anyone needs a comprehensive program, these are the people.

Naively, I alsoused to believe that there was always a non-violent solution, but even then I realized there wasn't always time to find that solution. I was wrong. There are people who enjoy hurting others, and only force or the threat of force will stop them. Predators who can't feel closure without pain. Really bad guys who need to see someone break. People who honestly believe that acceding to a verbal solution is an act of cowardice.
" You boys have been real nice, but I guess now it's time to make you fuck me up." When I asked, "Why?" later the old man said, "If I went to jail and didn't fight, I wouldn't be a man." People satisfying needs with pain isn't limited to the BDSM world.

Realistically, the big gains in SD are in the non-violent soft skills. Recognizing and avoiding dangerous places and people. Recognizing when an individual is setting you up or weakening your position. Escape, evasion and de-escalation. Usually, by the time things go physical, it's pretty desperate. This isn't how to out-fight a fighter, but how to deal with a bigger, stronger threat who chose the time and place and conditions (weapon, numbers...)

This isn't a Disney movie. Things can go very bad. The belief that there is always a non-violent solution creates blindspots and vulnerabilities. If any belief is that precious to you, you will fail to recognize and respond to the exceptions. People don't train for things they don't believe in. It is a belief that makes one voluntarily both blind and unprepared.

You all know this. But some people don't get it. More accurately, they refuse to get it. Teaching the impossible isn't a new problem. It starts with education. Over the years, I've found a bag of tricks to get people to see. That's why I use Maslow, and where the distinction between aggressive, destructive (including self-destructive) and assaultive behavior comes in. Why we discuss ethics explicitly. Personal clarity between what people want and what people need.

Whoah. Damn. Rewind and erase. I just strawmanned all over myself. Shit. All the objections and blindspots I just talked about? Realizing... You don't see these in the field. EMTs, nurses, police, corrections, security, even the people manning the desk at the local VA-- every last one I've talked to has recognized the need for something truly comprehensive. They're usually the ones who contact me. The impossible demands have all come from desk pushers, people who write and protect policy. People who live in idealistic abstraction of the real world.

Unfortunately, they tend to be the ones who control what the line staff get.

Not to self: Remember not to confuse institutions with people.





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([personal profile] swan_tower Jun. 15th, 2017 10:09 am)

I’ve been making these tikkun olam posts for about half a year now, and responses to them have been slowing down, which I suspect is in part a sign of fatigue. It’s hard to keep on working to repair the world when so many people seem determined to break it, and when it’s hard to see any result for your effort.

But sometimes you can make a very real difference to a very specific person. Chaz Brenchley has put out a call raising funds to treat his wife’s multiple sclerosis. If we lived in a country where this was covered by insurance, they wouldn’t have to worry; instead we live in a country where Republicans are trying to take away even the insurance we already have. Karen is the primary earner in their family, and she doesn’t know how soon she’ll be able to return to work. Helping out, either by donating directly, or by subscribing to Chaz’s Patreon, can make all the difference in the world to these two people, and to their friends and family.

And while you’re at it, call your senators and beg them to oppose Trumpcare. Because I’d like to live in a world where things ranging from anxiety to surviving sexual assault don’t count as “pre-existing conditions,” and where health insurance companies are required to cover things like doctor’s visits.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

Remo Cutlass, formerly a pirate, had turned his life around and was now sailing a cargo ship. He carried only the finest of rocks and rubber bands between ports in the Atlantic. He was three days’ overdue with an emergency shipment of rubber bands to Boston, and no one had heard from him.

His friends and customers searched everywhere. His former cabin boy, Daron, who now manufactured specialty rocks, contacted the Coast Guard, which launched a search and rescue mission off the coast of New England. There was no sign of Remo, his ship, the S.S. Bedouin, his crew or his cargo. Remo was simply gone.

Read the rest of this entry » )
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([personal profile] swan_tower Jun. 14th, 2017 03:22 pm)

When we bought our house last year, the property included one Meyer lemon tree, two apple trees (producing four kinds of apple between them, because grafts), and something we dubbed the Charlie Brown Cherry Tree.

Remember the Christmas tree in the Charlie Brown holiday special? Yeah. It was like that. Shorter than I am, spindly, rather lacking in leaves, and though we can’t remember how many cherries it produced, the number was small enough to be counted on one hand. I don’t have any pictures of it, but you get the idea.

This past winter, we finally got an abundance of rain. Also, our neighbors trimmed back a tree on their property that had been overshadowing the cherry.

Oh. my. god.

Here’s one branch of the tree. Note how there are more cherries on this single branch than the entire tree produced last year.

a small cluster of cherries on a tree

Here’s a shot of the most abundant section when it was really starting to gather steam:

a downward shot of cherries on a small tree

And here’s the near-final tally; there are still a few more cherries ripening on the tree that I haven’t picked yet.

a plastic container full of cherries

About half of those were harvested yesterday. Reader, I tell you: I got BORED picking cherries. Pick, pick, pick, for god’s sake why are there still more cherries to pick; I’ve been out here forever. They’re frozen because the tree is still shorter than I am, and even with its present abundance, we have to save up to get a useful amount. (They’re sour cherries, so less the kind of thing you just snack on than what we buy at the farmers’ market.) But we have enough to do . . . man, there are too many possibilities. My husband has been making jam out of various fruits, so maybe that. Or a pie? Is this enough for a pie? Maybe some little tarts or something? I don’t know.

I only know that it’s no longer the Charlie Brown Cherry Tree. Ladies and gentlemen, this is The Little Cherry Tree That Could.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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