ashnistrike: (lightning)
The first year of one's child's life is expected to be both exciting and stressful (it was).  One isn't expected to get much done other than take care of the child, and go to one's day job if one has one (I didn't).  In our case, the major reason for not getting much done was that M--while quite good at everything else--totally failed to learn to go to sleep on her own or sleep through the night. So for the past year we've had an unpredictable 1-4-hour intensive process involved in putting the baby to bed, and most nights gotten woken up by her crying 1-3 times. S, bless her, did most of the getting up and getting her back to bed, but it was still no fun for anyone.  At one point we tried the standard ferberization technique that's "supposed to" work for everyone, leaving her alone in her crib and coming in at slightly increasing intervals to check on her, which resulted in her not sleeping and being phobic of her crib for a week.

Also this year, I sold a book. This was awesome, and among other things eventually resulted in the arrival of a book advance. Part of which we spent on a sleep coach. This is possibly the best decision I've ever made short of getting married to my wife.  For the last couple of days M has fallen asleep downstairs in her own space, needing one of us in the room for less than half an hour, and slept for 11-12 hours. And taken a 2-3-hour nap in the afternoon. (Did I mention that she rarely napped, previously?) And we're less than halfway through the process that is supposed to result in a nice, easy bedtime routine and a child who can fall asleep without adult supervision.  All of a sudden, I have back 3-4 hours every evening. I can talk with my wife and read and catch up on chores and correspondence and write or edit, without feeling like every second spent on one of those is stolen from the others.

Probably someone wants to know what a sleep coach does.  About half of it is taking textbook behaviorist stuff that I could lecture on in my sleep, and explaining how to turn it into an on-the-ground intervention that I would not have been able to intuit correctly even without the sleep deprivation. Basically we're doing a variation on habit deconditioning or phobia fading--sitting a little farther away from the crib each night and providing a little less scaffolding for her falling asleep. The other half is family-specific--she talked to us about everything from when M gets fussy during the day to the fact that she may have a predisposition to anxiety, and helped us adapt techniques and figure out when in the day to apply them based on that input. If we'd known the technique, we probably could have figured everything out eventually, but it made the whole process smoother and less stressful for everyone involved.

The other other half is coaching--reassurance and on-cheering and a heads-up on what pitfalls and patterns to expect. After the fubar with the ferberization, it helped tremendously to know that we had expert back-up if something went drastically wrong again.

All of which is to say--if I've barely spoken to you for the past year, or always been rushing off somewhere when we have a moment to talk, or neglected e-mails or posts, I hope and expect that my time and energy will be much less constrained in 2016.  Ditto if I, um, owe you novel edits. Just as a hypothetical example.

But for now, I'm going to go to bed, and very likely stay there for a few hours. Best Christmas present ever!
ashnistrike: (lightning)
Things I've done over the past two days:

  • Bounced a lot

  • Gotten congratulated a lot, and been pleased by the number of people who seem to think this is good news for them rather than for me

  • Been pleased and a little worried by the various prayers to Nyarlathotep, Cthulhu, and Mother Hydra for the book's success. I'm pretty sure that's not the scale these guys work on...

  • Been terribly distracted by Miriam learning to wave

  • Jotted down ideas, way too far in advance, for publicity swag (Esoteric Order of Dagon Temple Fund cookbook outtakes; flyers for events at Miskatonic...)

  • Jotted down ideas, way too far in advance, for a post-launch party at Wiscon 2017 (salted chocolate and caramel, tome exchange, probably can't afford to feed everyone sushi...)

  • Been terribly distracted by the possibility of alien megastructures 1500 light years away. Tried to convince myself that weird comets and dust-free planetary collisions would also be awesome. Tried to figure out whether 1500 years is long enough to finish building a Dyson cloud.

  • Been very grateful that I ended up with a publisher who works ridiculously quickly.  Twenty-seventeen is a long way away, and to imagine my state of mind with the usual time frame of novel sales and publication is not to be borne.  I know a lot of people who've managed it; I remain deeply grateful that Carl is as impatient and deadline-driven as I am.

  • Found out which characters my editor ships.

  • Repeated to myself: "Before novel acquisition, carry water, chop wood; after novel acquisition, carry water, chop wood" as I wash dishes, feed the baby, and clean wildly in preparation for this weekend's visit from my in-laws.

Yesterday

Jun. 27th, 2015 09:59 am
ashnistrike: (lightning)
...was a very strange, very good day. We're legal. Oh my god, we're legal.

We can visit relatives in Michigan, friends in Louisiana, and not worry about what happens if one of us gets sick. We can confidently drive our daughter through any state in the union. And people are getting married who've been waiting for decades in Texas, in Georgia, in Arkansas... and that 82-year-old couple in Atlanta can finish growing old together and know that they'll be able to take care of each other with the state's help rather than obstruction.

What's weirder is that ten years ago we were a boogyman that the bad guys could reliably use to scare out their voters, and the 'good guys' didn't dare speak well of aloud. And yesterday people were literally dancing in the streets around the country, lighting up the Empire State Building--the president gave a speech about how awesome our marriage is--newspapers around the country printed updated maps of where same-sex marriage is now legal and the New York Times covered the page above the fold with same-sex couples kissing.

There's still so much left to do.  There's always more work to do--but it's so rare to win a battle that we should celebrate when we have the chance. And it's not unpleasant, but extremely startling, to have most of the country celebrating with us.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
New Cthulhu 2, which reprints "The Litany of Earth" and many other fine stories, is out. B read the cover upside down across the table, and asked me, "Why does it say 'more percent weird'?" And I had to admit that while it did not, in fact, say that, it would have been an appropriate and delightful description.  (He got the rest of it right--pretty good for a 6-year-old reading upside down.)
ashnistrike: (lightning)
We aren't following our usual Black Friday tradition of going hiking, because there's a foot of snow on the ground and S is 8 months pregnant.  Instead we're following our new Black Friday tradition of hanging around the house and writing and yakking and maybe playing chess if we feel really ambitious.  But not acting smug about it, because this article kind of schooled me on the similarities between Black Friday and the Hunger Games.

Both B's and C's schools had 'traditional' Thanksgiving pageants this year and both came home with construction paper "Indian headdresses."  Alas, neither is old enough to emulate Wednesday Adams on the matter.  I was disappointed, because I'd somehow gotten it into my head that, in the decades since I was in elementary school, most places had picked up a clue and stopped doing that.  Apparently not.  Now pondering the best suggestions for alternatives, as every good behaviorist knows that you're more likely to get someone to stop doing something if you can suggest something better in its place.

Option 1: Follow a slightly older tradition.  Go back a hundred years and make Thanksgiving more like Halloween or Carnival.  Dress up and parade through the streets, and put on a wider variety of costumed pageants.  Minus the "dressing as caricatures of other countries and classes" bit.

Option 2: Go back to the holiday's real origins, and put on a pageant about Abraham Lincoln trying to figure out how to heal the country post-Civil-War.  Still problematic, given the general failure to do so in the years since, but more historically accurate and includes the opportunity for everyone to dress up representing their own cultures and talk about how they've contributed to the country.

Option 3: Teach about real cooperation between Europeans and American Indian nations and have kids put on plays about the syncretic communities that sprang up shortly after contact--the ones where plague survivors took in runaway slaves and Europeans who found Puritan life too constrictive, and where "kidnapped" women for some obscure reason refused to go back when their families tried to rescue them.

All historically accurate, and all still fun and positive.  I know there are good reasons to focus on non-positive things on Thanksgiving, but given how most kids' families celebrate they are not going to go for that.  And for families where the holiday really is a rare opportunity for feasting and togetherness, or for people who aren't descended from colonists and aren't benefiting from the current system, pretty seriously not cool anyway.  Guilt-focused curricula that assume everyone is rich and/or white are starting to piss me off almost as much as curricula that just ignore the problematic bits.  Erasing your audience isn't better than erasing history.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
Good: The rest of the Aphra novel is basically outlined, and I know most of what happens...

Bad: ...except for the climax, currently listed as "and then they do a thing."

Good: I like writing by the seat of my pants, and if I thought I knew what the climax looked like I'd be wrong anyhow.

Good: I've finished writing the annoying-but-necessary transitional bit before sh*t hits f*n for the rest of the book.  (Annoying to me, hopefully not annoying to readers.)

Bad: I've looked over how long scenes have taken on average, so far, and have counted up remaining scenes, and that's a longer book than I thought.  Which means either busier writing nights, or a busier editing season--because Baby M's birth date is not going to be affected by whether I've finished my other big projects.

Good: I find deadlines very motivating.

Fingers crossed.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
Hello, and welcome.  You've reached my irregularly updated Livejournal.  A sampling of reasons why it is irregular:

1) I write fiction: you can find some of it online at Strange Horizons and Drabblecast--and on this journal, where I reprinted a story from Analog for Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.  My most recent stories, The Litany of Earth and Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land and The Deepest Rift, are available at Tor.com. Winter Tide, a novel following Aphra Marsh's story after "Litany of Earth," will be out from Macmillan's Tor.com imprint on April 4, 2017.

2) I write non-fiction: you can find some of it at Green Minds, my old blog on the psychology of sustainability.  With Anne M. Pillsworth, I co-write a Tor.com series on rereading Lovecraft.

3) I have a large, complicated family.  They're hard to count because they move so quickly, but I'm fairly certain there are at least 3 children, at least some of the time.  I definitely have a wife, who is wonderful and the main reason I ever have time for all this other stuff.

Holidays

Sep. 27th, 2013 11:41 pm
ashnistrike: (lightning)
Happy belated Stanislav Petrov Day!  One does appreciate the world still being here, however fubarred it may occasionally seem.

Today is my birthday, and also Google's.  Every year I go through approximately 15 seconds of being creeped out by the "personalized" Google doodle until I remember this.  Oh my god, this evening they do have a personalized doodle that says "Happy birthday Ruthanna" when I mouse-over.  Happy birthday, Panopticon.

My family, chosen and otherwise, are an awesome family.  I had mushroom leek tart that I did not have to cook, and chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting that I did not have to bake.  And I am now the proud owner of a Tam Lin t-shirt (with Janet wrestling the lion), and a mint copy of the "Peter Principle" game in which the goal is to avoid promotion.  I am also the even prouder owner of the 1983 Avalon Hill catalog that came with the game, including gems like Amoeba Wars and Empire of the Overmind, and a chart of which games can be played on which computers that also carefully explains how to read a chart.  1981, you had your points but I do not miss you.
ashnistrike: (Default)
Rain's been coming down since last night.  Wind's starting to pick up.  The forecast sounds fairly alarming, but we are on high ground and far from large bodies of water, so we have our fingers crossed.  We have lots of food, ice, and alternate sources of light.  There are brownies and blondies, and will be roast chestnuts if the power stays on much longer.  I've done what I can for work from here, so am now, guilt-free, sitting in the living room with warm wife, dog, and housemates.  We are reading each other weather reports and random funny things off the internet, and there may be role-playing by and by.

Everyone stay safe and dry!
ashnistrike: (Default)
Last week was our first full week with a farm share.  We are splitting with our next door neighbors, but I was still a bit worried about my ability to iron chef a random assortment of vegetables every week.  I am therefore pleased to report that we managed to cook and eat everything in exactly seven days, and that it was all tasty. 

One item made me about as smug as I've ever been in the kitchen: the kale/chard mix of cooking greens.  I've never cooked greens before in my life--I generally like my leaves raw, and S considers the usual run of cooked spinach and so forth horribly revolting.  But you can't really leave kale uncooked.  I had this sample of quick-sauteed cooking greens at Whole Foods two years ago... and I managed to reconstruct it: just enough peanut oil to coat the leaves, a couple splashes of soy sauce, sesame seeds, ground garlic powder, chili powder, and powdered ginger.  (I know, but the point is to get as much spice stuck to the leaves as possible, and fresh won't have the same effect.)  Leaves stir-fried just long enough to be moist and barely wilted.  Delicious and crunchy and gingery, and S loved it.  I win at cooking.

This week, I need 101 things to do with leeks, and I only have 50.  Suggestions welcome!  Also instructive anecdotes about kohlrabi.
ashnistrike: (Default)
So this was not the most Hallmark of Passovers--fortunately, Hallmark has yet to fully co-opt Passover.  Bobby spent a good part of the seder with gastrointestinal troubles, which made for a lot of interruptions and parents getting up and down with him.  He spent the rest of the seder alternating between misbehavior (trying to blow out the candles) and cuteness (insisting on answering rather than asking the four questions).  But it's meant to be a family ritual, and we had family and friends happy to help out and participate, lots of good food, good discussion, and good questions.  In some sense the seder spread out through the whole day--S and I talked about how "freedom" is used in modern political discourse, and A and I got into a debate over whether Jews are permitted to question G-d's morals, all well before we sat down at the table.

And speaking of ritual prep, S did something wonderful.  For the past few years, she's insisted on getting the fancy round matzah for the seder itself, even though we use the ordinary square box matzah for the rest of the week.  The round matzah make perfect sense to me intellectually: they are hand made, and look like they were baked in a hurry on a hot rock.  But they've never quite had the same emotional resonance as the square crackers I grew up with.  This year, though, we discovered that there's a lot more demand for fancy round matzah in DC, and if you don't buy them a couple of weeks in advance, you don't get them at all.  So S, in cooperation with [livejournal.com profile] page_of_swords, did something she's been talking about for years--they actually made matzah, right in our kitchen. 

The rabbinic rule for matzah is that you can have no more than 18 minutes between water touching flour and putting the bread in the oven.  Ostensibly this is too fast for free-floating yeast to start the rising process; it's also numerologically significant in some fashion.  In fact, it turns out to be just the right length of time to be doable, but still feel genuinely rushed.  This is the bread of haste.  It's the simplest, most primordial flatbread that you can make in a modern kitchen--flour and water dough, thrown onto a baking sheet, cooked briefly in the oven and brushed with olive oil and salt for flavor.  It's perfect.  It's nothing like what I grew up with, but it tastes right anyway--all the ritual's emotions invoked by one of the most basic foods of civilization.

For the record, we used our bread of haste at the table, but we did not use it for the hidden afikomen.  Hiding a prototypical-but-oily pita-chapati-tortilla in your child's bedroom is not effective ritual.
ashnistrike: (Default)
Me: Bobby, we're trying to get ready for guests--put that blanket back in your room.
Bobby: *ignores me*

*repeat cycle 2-3 times*

Me: Bobby, put that blanket back in your room 1... Bobby, put that blanket back in your room 2...*
Bobby: Mama 1, Mama 2, Mama 3!
Me:  ...are you counting at me?  Did the mama do something wrong?
Bobby: Yes!
Me: ...what did I do?
Bobby: *thinks hard* You ate my head!

*Thank you [livejournal.com profile] brynnya for teaching us that trick.  Works 99% of the time, although this was not one of those times.
ashnistrike: (Default)
I love my wife.

I got home today and saw a copy of The Watchtower on the coffee table.

Me: Oh, did we get Jehovah's Witnesses today?
S: Yes, apparently some live nearby.
Me: So, what happened?
S: They asked whether I'd noticed all the bad things happening in the world, and whether I agreed that things seemed to be getting worse all the time, and didn't I think that was a sign of the coming apocalypse?  I explained to them about the availability heuristic* and about how rates of violence are actually getting lower.
Me: I love you--what did they say?
S: That it made sense. And they stayed and rested a while before they went back out in the rain.

And now I feel like I ought to put these things together in a convenient pamphlet for the benefit of people not married to psychologists.


*I can't find a good link for this aspect of the heuristic, but in general it's easier to think of bad things that happened recently, because it's generally easier to think of things that happened recently.  And it's definitely easier to think of bad things that have happened during your lifetime.  This leads to every generation imagining a recently lost golden age when this stuff was unheard of.
ashnistrike: (Default)
Sometime over Thanksgiving, S heard my parents reading Bobby a particularly insipid version of Goldilocks--one where the bears don't even get angry because Goldilocks is too cute, or something.  In response, she read him Three Bears Norse.  My parents may have been a little alarmed, but Bobby loved it, and insisted she reread it several times.  But he also told her, repeatedly: "I want Three Bears Norse in a book with pictures!"  We were, of course, unable to comply, but we passed on the compliment to [livejournal.com profile] papersky, not expecting anything further to come of it.

The book is now available!  There is not enough squee in the world, and I cannot wait to see Bobby's face--or B & A's.  I haven't told them yet; I'm planning on presenting the thing in person.  Meanwhile, I believe there are about 50-odd copies left.

Duck

Nov. 15th, 2011 09:32 pm
ashnistrike: (Default)
My wife got me a 4 pound duck at Eastern Market, because she knows me and loves me.

Day 1: Roast duck with five-spice powder. Stock from the carcass.
Day 2: Yorkshire pudding baked in duck fat. Salad with duck cracklings.
Day 3: Fingerling potatoes roasted in duck fat.
Day 4: Duck liver mousse (padded with chicken liver). Deviled heart and kidney, plus one liver piece I accidentally left out of the mousse.

Still to come: risotto with duck stock and the remaining cracklings.

I'm not sure why I can't get a week's worth of meals out of a 4 pound chicken, which has twice as much meat on it.  Possibly just not as inspiring.
ashnistrike: (Default)
Bobby is recovering from a stomach bug, and his appetite is recovering somewhat slowly.  This means that it took 3 parents to feed him chicken soup tonight--me to hold him so that he wouldn't need separate reassuring hugs between each bite, S to sing Kipling songs--why that helps, I'm not sure, but it does--and his Daddy to actually put soup in his mouth.  Pursuant to this, we also taught him to critique Kipling:

Me: "The chorus of 'Mandalay' is very nice, but the verses are a classic example of orientalism."
Bobby: "A classic example of nanamamanentalism!"

We never did get him to pronounce it right, but it's a start. 

The chicken soup was helpful, and he proceeded to eat salad on his own.  He then asked to smell everything on the spice rack--we would tell him what it was, he would sniff, and in almost all cases would ask to lick a little off his hand.  Coriander.  Curry.  Zatar.  Lemon pepper.  Northwoods mix.  Fenugreek.  I had a lick of fenugreek myself, and discovered that I am not a highly spice-tolerant 2-year-old, and vastly prefer my spices diluted by actual food.
ashnistrike: (Default)
(Bobby is sitting on S's lap at the computer desk.)
Bobby: What's that?
S: It's a shoggoth. (She takes it down for him.)
Bobby: It has lots of eyes.
S: Yes, it does.
Bobby: It has lots of mouths.
S: That's right.
Bobby: It's a good shoggoth! (Pets the shoggoth gently, as he has been taught to do with the cats.)


We also had a conversation about families:

Bobby: Becca has a Daddy and a Papa.
S: That's right.
Bobby: Bobby has a Papa?
Me: No--Bobby has a Daddy and a Mommy and... how many Mamas?
Bobby: Both Mamas!
Me: Right, two Mamas.
Bobby: Aunt Becca has a Daddy and a Papa.
S: No, Aunt Becca has a Mommy and a Daddy, and they're Mama Thanna's Mommy and Daddy too.
Me: Everyone has parents, but they have different kinds of parents.

For the people who claim that having to explain my family will upset and confuse their kids, I'd like to point out that the distinction between the 3 or 4 Rebeccas he knows was the only part that seriously befuddled him.

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