Category Archives: everything else

This category means, “I didn’t know where to put this post.”

Much obliged, astronomers!

Guess what? Astronomers have “eliminated most of the risk from global-scale, civilization-ending asteroid impact events during our lifetimes and the lifetimes of our grandchildren.”

They really ought to be bragging about this. But no. It was buried deep in the middle of an article in Sky & Telescope. The article was about the asteroid that hit the Russian city of Chelyabinsk this February. People wondered why astronomers didn’t detect the object before impact. Part of the answer is that it is relatively small, compared to the asteroids we really need to worry about. NASA began a program in 1992 called the Spaceguard Survey Report, with a goal of finding 90% of the objects that are near Earth and larger than 1 kilometer.

And . . . mission accomplished! Now they can look for the smaller stuff, the kind that has the ability to kill people but not wipe out entire civilizations.

(From “The Chelyabinsk Super-Meteor” by Daniel D. Durda in the June 2013 issue of Sky & Telescope.)



Lately, I have been thinking a lot of a taoist story I read in my twenties. I wish I could find the original source – looking for it online, I see it many times with no source quoted. It’s also often described as a “positive taoist story.” Is it?

The Taoist farmer lived in a small town in China. People were poor there, and didn’t have any luxuries. One day, the farmer’s horse ran away. Because the town was small, everybody in town knew what had happened. They all came running to the farmer, who was hoeing his field. “That is so terrible, so terrible!” they exclaimed. “Maybe”, said the farmer.

The next day, his son went out to search for the horse. At the end of the day, the farmer was working in his field when his son came home with four horses! Everybody in town came running to the farmer. “That is so amazing. You are so lucky! What good fortune!” they exclaimed. “Maybe,” said the farmer, continuing to work his field.

The son worked to train those wild horses. It was a hard job, and he worked steadily. One day, he was trying to ride one of the new horses, when the horse threw him, and he fell. He was badly hurt. The doctor treated him for a broken leg. Now the son could no longer help with the farm chores. All the neighbors came right over to the farmer, pouring out their consolations. “That is too bad.” “Oh, you were so unlucky.” “How terrible it is that your son was hurt.” The farmer continued planting his seeds and responded, “Maybe”.

About a month later, the king declared war on the nearby territory. All young men were obliged to serve in the army. As the neighbor lads marched off to the war, some of the parents came to the farmer. “You are so lucky. Your son has a broken leg, and can’t serve in the army.” The farmer continued working his field. “Maybe,” was his reply.

Song and a quote

My theme song for today is “Should I stay or should I go” –

Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
If I stay it will be double!

Have you ever outstayed your welcome in a group? Or, rather, clung to a sinking ship like a drowning rat who didn’t know it was time to desert?

BUT, on a happier note, I found a quote about feminist science fiction that I like. It’s from this post on the Geek Feminism blog:

The author of the post, Mary, quoted a 2001 interview by Nick Gevers, a science fiction editor and critic:

[Gevers asks] Who, for you, are the finest SF authors now writing — both your fellow feminist writers and more generally?

[Le Guin answers] First I am to list fellow feminists and then… non-fellow anti-feminists? Come on, Nick, let’s get out of the pigeonholes. If feminism is the idea that differences between the genders, beyond the strictly physiological, are an interesting subject of study, but have not been determined, and so are not a sound basis for society to use in prescribing or proscribing any proclivity or activity — which is what I think it is — then I probably don’t read any non-feminist SF writers, these days. Do you?

Who else can merge biting wit, humor, and dazzling leaps of theory in just one sentence like that? Yes, my favorite author.

Potlatch Recap

March 8, 2010 – Back from the Potlatch con.

Their Web site describes Potlatch as a place where SF readers and writers meet on common ground. And that’s pretty much what it is. You don’t necessarily know, at first, whether the person you’re chatting with is a reader, a writer, a published author, a bestselling author, a bookseller, or an editor.

This is a little disconcerting, but overall, I really like it. I’m what you would call an author early in her career – a few short story publications under my belt, but no published books. I really need other authors to hang out with, and an informal setting is a nice way to do it. Some of my favorite times are when I’m in a circle of readers and writers talking about something a little tangential to writing – we may be trashing Star Wars, for example, discussing imaginary children, or commenting on how the sentence “I have to turn off my phone or it will take pictures of the inside of my pants pocket” would not have made sense twenty years ago. I also had a couple of wonderful in-depth conversations with people I like.

Here are the events I attended:

Friday afternoon writing workshop:
I took a writing workshop with author Ellen Klages (author of Portable Childhoods, The Green Glass Sea, and others). I’ve taken a lot of workshops, and I have to say, she was a breath of fresh air. There was general respect for all the stories (all of which were quite good and two of which – not mine – were nearly publishable) and a lot of laughs and running jokes. (“Three dyslexics walk into a bra.”) We took her for a beer afterward and talk ranged from the development and use of the first atomic bomb to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and googling one’s grandfather. I appreciated most of all that she had genuine enjoyment for stories and admired writers whether they were published or not – she told a story about a manuscript she had once read that was lovely and lyrical and wonderful but which the author never intended to publish, and how much she respected that.

Friday evening panel:
Authors Nisi Shawl, Ellen Klages, David D. Levine, Eddy Smith, and Natasha Oliver gave a panel on writing the “other” – how to responsibly portray characters whose ROAARS (race, orientation, age, ability, religion, or sex) differ from your own. For background, you can check out Nisi Shawl’s article “Transracial Writing for the Sincere.”

Saturday morning reading:
I went to a reading by Ellen Klages. She read some stories about interactions with her imaginary eight-year-old daughter. (Related stories have been published in her collection Portable Childhoods.) Nobody believed her at first when she said she has in fact no children whatsoever. “But it’s so spot-on!” all the parents said. “How did you know???” She attributed it to having been a child, but I personally think some of it must come from reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Or the child was an actual ghost. Or both.

Saturday morning panel:
I attended a panel on electronic publishing, presented by Vonda McIntyre, John D. Berry, and Janna Silverstein. It was a pretty high-level talk for authors and editors. Some topics included: the dreadful typography in ebooks; the cost of buying ISBNs for each version of ebook reader; a wish list for readers of ebooks; whether or not ebooks could do without graphics; and a question of whether e-publishing will destroy livelihoods for authors.

Saturday evening auction:
The auction at Potlatch benefits scholarships for the six-week Clarion West writing workshop – a fabulous cause, because it means that writers can participate regardless of income, which in turn means that upcoming novels will be more diverse class-wise. One of the high points: Ellen Klages auctioned off a dramatic reading of a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle story, with the phrase “Don’t touch D___.” Also auctioned off was a lock of hair from someone who, sadly, is undergoing chemotherapy. I scored, among other things, a book autographed by Vonda McIntyre and a lap blanket she knitted. The auction ended right on time, which was good because folks had run out of money.

Sunday morning readings:
Short-story author Vylar Kaftan gave a reading of a story she had written the night before. She had donated the writing of a 750-word flash fiction piece on whatever topic the auction writer desired. It turned out to be disturbing and squicky, but with an orange tree and a happy ending, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Eileen Gunn, author of the collection Stable Strategies for Middle Management, gave a reading of a hilarious time-travel story she had finished that morning, along with the funniest story I’ve ever heard about the writing-of.

Potlatch tomorrow!

March 4, 2010 –

Tomorrow I’m going to the Potlatch con, held in Seattle every other year. I’ve been every other year since 2002, except for the 2004 one, which I fully intended to go to, but due to new-baby amnesia, completely forgot about. I’ve been introduced to, um, Scotch-tasting, the game Zen-Do with the Icehouse game pieces, fabulous reading lists, the Locus February issue (best-ofs!), cool people, interesting conversations, and informal skits of Nickelodeon show put on by a seven-year-old.

Tomorrow my story “Swallow the Clock” will be workshopped. I am looking forward to it and hoping comments might help me upgrade it from not-publishable to publishable. I’m slightly apprehensive, but not too much, because I’ve done a whole lot of workshops before. Also because I wrote the story several years ago and am not attached in the same way I’d be attached to a new story.