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Tucker McKinnon
25 June 2016 @ 09:25 am
I miss The Toast already.

(Me? I'm better than last week, but still not good.)

When You Smile: On Humor and the Heart: "If I can make you laugh, maybe you won't laugh at me."

What makes a city great? New data backs up long-held beliefs: "In a new (yet to be peer-reviewed) study on arXiv.org, researchers report that the completely plausible tenets of good city living laid out in the famous 1961 tome of urban planning, The Death and Life of the Great American City [ed: Of Great American Cities] by Jane Jacobs, do have some credibility in today's data-hungry world." EAT IT, ROBERT FUCKING MOSES.

Speaking of whom, The Dutch Prime Minister Is a Big Fan of Robert Caro: "We were bound for Randalls Island, where Moses based the Triborough Bridge Authority and built an office for himself... because people had to work hard to reach him, and because they had to pay a toll to his agency."

The Devil Signed Onto Twitter.

The Pitch Meeting for Animaniacs: "Animaniacs isn't 'for' kids, you see. It is the anarchic soul of the child. Sensory overload, constant change, sibling rivalry, new adventure. Life happens in a disjointed series of images, until they're locked away at night by an authority whose motives remain opaque."

This is why I'm learning to play viola.

Blockchain Company's Smart Contracts Were Dumb: "Any vulnerabilities in the DAO's code were not flaws in the code; they were flaws in the descriptions -- which were purely for entertainment purposes. The DAO's websites failed to explain to investors that the code allowed a hacker to take $60 million by using a 'recursive splitting function.' But the recursive splitting function itself is part of the DAO's code, and therefore part of the DAO." Fascinating stuff.

Soil Conservation: A Southern History: "Above is Providence Canyon, Georgia. This is one of Georgia's Seven Natural Wonders. It is also completely created by erosion from cotton growing."

A guy just transcribed 30 years of for-rent ads. Here’s what it taught us about housing prices: "6.6 percent. That’s the amount the rent has gone up every year, on average, since 1956. ... 6.6 percent is 2.5 percentage points faster than inflation, which doesn’t seem like a lot but when you do it for 60 years in a row it means housing prices quadruple compared to everything else you have to buy."

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Tucker McKinnon
18 June 2016 @ 06:19 pm
A grey day will not make me depressed, but a grey day can and will feed existing depressive tendencies.

I don't recognise my books. Rather, I recognise them, I know what they are and in most cases where and when I got them. When I last read them, or when I intend to finally get around to reading them. But they don't speak to me.

Mandy came out of the all-night Vurt-U-Want clutching a bag of goodies. I've not read Vurt or its sequel Pollen in, oh, probably not this millennium. I've yet to get to My Real Children or Jim Morrow's short stories, or finish Le Guin's Changing Planes which I've had for something like a decade.

I don't recognise the guy who bought them, who's hauling them around from apartment to apartment.

It's a wolf this time, I swear.

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Current mood: mixed
Current music: like greens, or nuts
Tucker McKinnon
14 June 2016 @ 06:12 pm
Ugh, time is getting away from me again.

Last Sunday I went to my viola teacher's end-of-year recital for her young students. There were maybe eight or ten kids performing, from ages three to eleven. I've not been to a Suzuki-type recital since before I graduated from high school. It was rather pleasant to hear a bunch of pieces I'm fairly well familiar with (and one or two new ones), in a relaxed setting. Felt like home. At the end Tegen and one student played the Bach Double. That's one of the two pieces (along with the Vivaldi A Minor) that I was always genuinely envious that the violinists of my acquaintance got to play, and which I've not heard in years.

(I did not play, mostly due to being a bit outside the target age range. I suppose I could have polished the Bouree from Bach's third cello suite, but, eh.)

The day before that, [personal profile] uilos came back from taking Kai to the vet (annual old-cat checkup, no problems) and announced "I have a tickle in the back of my throat!" Dammit.

I managed to dodge any symptoms until Friday, when I woke up with a sore throat that I attributed to the weather having decided to get cool again. I then did a bunch of socialising over the weekend and got very spacey whenever I wasn't directly doing anything, and stayed home from work yesterday. I was kind of on the fence about going in today, woke up at my usual time, decided not to, and proceeded to fall back asleep for three hours. Which pretty much never happens.

At this point I'm a little spacey and short of breath, and coughing a bit, but I ought to be okay to go back in to work. The interesting thing is that while I tend to get sick on the tail end of [personal profile] uilos being sick, it's not always the same thing, or at least doesn't manifest the same way. Hers is bacterial, multicoloured snot and all that, where mine seems to be viral and settling in the vicinity of my chest.


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Tucker McKinnon
06 June 2016 @ 11:20 am
About this time last year I threw money at the publishers of Atomic Robo in exchange for a complete eight-volume hardback run of the comic. I did this in the hope that it would arrive in time to be [personal profile] uilos's Xmas present. As you can probably guess from the fact that I'm writing this now, they missed their projected delivery date of November by, oh, seven months and counting.

I don't know what most of the circumstances were, but printing a gazillion colour hardbacks is not trivial at the best of times. I expect they just massively underestimated the scale and the effort involved. And also created their time budget "assuming everything goes smoothly" and then were surprised when everything didn't.

Today's Kickstarter update included the following gem:
On the yet brighter side: your damn books finally got out of damn customs! Apparently when everything is labeled "ATOMIC" it throws up some red flags and you get extra scrutiny. WOW THAT WASN'T A TREMENDOUSLY FRUSTRATING WASTE OF TIME OR ANYTHING HAHA LAUGH WITH ME HAHA.
I'm reminded of the time a couple of years ago when I bought a wargame from a guy online. I paid him via PayPal, and in the Comments section I made a note of the name of the game I was paying him for. Turns out that if you send payment through PayPal and put "Cuba Libre!" in the Comments, your payment gets flagged for Further Review and held for several days.

Moral: automated systems have no sense of either proportion or humour.

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Tucker McKinnon
01 June 2016 @ 02:40 pm
This time half a decade ago ... well, at this exact time we were still on a train headed for Everett WA, because flooding in North Dakota delayed us by seven hours. (Bit difficult to run a train when the water's higher than the tracks.) But tonight's the anniversary of us showing up at the Pacific Central train station in Vancouver with a fistful of paperwork, and coming out the other side with temporary Canadian work permits.

Hard to believe we've been out here for five years now. I still miss the people from back east something fierce, and at the beach I remembered how much I miss dapper grey mockingbirds (and cardinals, though *not* cheeseburger wrens), and of course my old boss R-- is still the best of all possible bosses. But for the most part I feel pretty well at home here. Overall, moving was the right decision, I think.

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Tucker McKinnon
16 May 2016 @ 01:10 am
My love affair with Fallen London lasted almost exactly two weeks, in the following stages:
  • Oh, it's free on iOS, may as well check it out.
  • The writing is kinda fun.
  • I'll throw a little money their way, support people doing cool things etc.
  • The app is frustratingly slow for something that's just displaying text and still images.
  • Yay, an app update fixed much of the slow!
  • ... which serves to reveal the grind-y underbelly of the game itself.
  • Bored now.
Verdict: the writing is fun but the gameplay is annoyingly focused around doing the same thing repeatedly. Reading the same fun snippet for the nth time sucks much of the fun out of not only that snippet but the ones around it.

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Tucker McKinnon
11 May 2016 @ 08:11 pm
Over the weekend I helped writer-Steph run the blue-pencil/pitch-practice room at Creative Ink Festival. Mostly we made sure that the newbie writers and the editors were in the right place at the right time to talk to each other, and ran sign-up sheets, and spelled each other when there were panels we wanted to go see.

The panels I got to were alright: on the level of your better small-con panel, I'd say. Nothing earth-shatteringly amazing but worth attending. More usefully, the couple of pieces that I put in for blue-pencilling (aka "reading by someone who doesn't know me") went over very well: one got a small amount of useful feedback, and one got mostly gushing and "no no no, this is clearly not a flash piece, it's the prologue to a novel, and I WANT TO READ IT." Which was pleasantly validating, enough so that I've resubmitted both of them to story markets after a hiatus of *mumble* months.

Our Wednesday writeins may have acquired another member, too. I suspect that I really do need to find a critiqueing group, mostly so that I have some motivation to bloody well finish something, but the writeins are better than nothing.

What are you reading right now?

I haven't technically given up on Mieville's Embassytown, I guess. It's a puzzle-novel: here are the aliens who can't lie, who can't talk to machines but only to empathically-bonded pairs of humans; here is an alien who is learning to lie; here are a bonded-pair of humans who unintentionally(?) drive the aliens mad by speaking to them; what's going on? Turns out I don't like puzzle-novels, at least not when they read as slowly as Embassytown does.

This is my third Mieville, and I've disliked them all for different reasons. (King Rat had a plot that resolved itself by the antagonist self-destructing, which I detest; Un Lun Dun was decent but unmemorable, and I couldn't shake the feeling that it was an attempt to rewrite Neverwhere and give it a plot this time). I should probably stop but I want to try The City & The City first.

What did you just finish reading?

John Christopher's Tripods Trilogy, nearly fifty years old and still decent. I mean, the characters might make it to the level of 'cardboard cutouts' if they strained a bit, the prose is serviceable at best, and in the entire trilogy I think there's a single named woman and maybe three unnamed ones, but they read quickly and have some neat worldbuilding going on. They can stay. I don't know that I'd recommend them to anyone who didn't grow up with them, though.

What do you think you'll read next?

This weekend I picked up both of Katrina Archer's fantasy novels, so I may as well read Untalented.

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Tucker McKinnon
The Cinamatheque, the semilocal artsy theatre, is doing a Shakespeare 400 film series. I like the Cinematheque quite a bit but their Shakespeare preferences ... are not mine.

Choices that I am fully on board with:
  • Chimes at Midnight, aka Orson Welles plays all the Falstaff in one movie
  • Kurosawa's Throne of Blood and Ran, aka Samurai Macbeth and Samurai Lear
  • My Own Private Idaho, the single most arthouse Shakespeare film I can think of
  • Forbidden Planet
Choices that I understand while not agreeing with:
  • Polanski's Macbeth
  • Whedon's Much Ado and Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet, because people will come see those (I will go see R+J, because it's been at least a decade)
  • West Side Story, ditto plus classic-musical cachet
Choices that baffle me:
  • Three different Oliviers: Hamlet, Henry V, Richard III. Surely one was enough?
  • Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Taming of the Shrew, though there may be context that I'm missing
Omissions that baffle me even more:
  • Branagh. I assume someone at the Cinematheque hates Branagh.
  • Ian McKellen's fascist Richard III
  • Julie Taymor's Titus

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Tucker McKinnon
06 May 2016 @ 03:37 pm
Spring has come on with a vengeance, as someone or other once wrote. This is a mixed blessing in our south-facing greenhouse-like apartment but I do approve of the sunshine.

Still looking for an apartment, still not finding one. Rumour has it that the lack of rentable supply has to do with owners realising they can make more money for less effort with AirBnB and short-term rentals. Jerks. There are definitely fewer places available than there were two years ago, even accounting for price and location.

On the bright side we went to see a place out by Commercial-Broadway on Wednesday night, and while it didn't work out (mostly made of stairs, and the few interior walls had baseboard space-heaters) we decided that that's pretty much the kind of neighborhood we're looking for. Lots of foot traffic, lots of interesting restaurants and shops and grocery stores, lots of trees. Not really any hi-rises, which is okay. My new space at work has a third-floor balcony that overlooks a quiet street, and I've discovered that I rather enjoy watching people when I'm close enough to see *people* instead of brightly-coloured ants.

So now we at least have someplace to focus our efforts, and the knowledge that the general kind of place we want to live does exist.

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Tucker McKinnon
On (roughly) the centennial of the Easter Rising, it's clearly time to link again to A History of Ireland in 100 Excuses.

The Cinematheque is running an Irish film festival for the occasion. On Sunday [personal profile] uilos and I went to see a documentary on the Rising, followed by Liam Neeson Versus The Bastard English And Also His Fellow Shortsighted Irishmen.

The documentary ... didn't impress me. The occasional newsreel footage didn't make up for the annoying Ken-Burns-esque closeup image-panning, and the shots of contemporary Dublin added very little after the first couple of images of the Post Office. I spent most of the time wishing it had been a book.

Michael Collins, well, it's still Michael Collins, it's a fictionalised and dramatised look at a freedom fighter / terrorist in the early twentieth century. Most of what I wrote last time I saw it holds true. Needed more Stephen Rea. (This is true of most movies. Stephen Rea has made a career out of appearing slightly rumpled and compelling.) It's a good movie and one of the few biopics, possibly the only one, that I'd recommend.

I brought back a round of con-crud from Niagara, of course. At least it seems to have *not* turned into full-blown pneumonia, which it did in one or two other people who were there. Stupid sinuses.

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Tucker McKinnon
18 April 2016 @ 10:47 pm
0) ... and still insists he reads of ghosts.

1) One amusing in retrospect bit I didn't mention earlier: when I arrived at the train station in Toronto (after an unpleasant redeye flight featuring loud drunk bachelor-partiers, and a wholly pleasant ride on the new no-longer-$38 train from the airport to the train station) I attempted to present my passport so I could pick up my ticket and ... opened to a picture of [personal profile] uilos. Apparently our passports got switched for the wrong wallets the last time we travelled (down to the used bookstores with Steph in December). Luckily I had my own Nexus card and my own PR card, and the train folks were happy enough to take the Nexus card, but it made for a somewhat tense ride down.

E FedExed me my passport so I could get on a plane to go home. I could *probably* have worked it out with just the Nexus card, but I had used the passport to buy the ticket, and better safe than stranded in Buffalo.

2) Speaking of, home from the Gathering as of eleven-thirty last night. Still tired, still heavily overpeopled. I didn't take care of myself as well as I could have this year; the weather was miserable for the first half of the week and for whatever reason once it nicened up I still didn't go outside and wander. Something to bear in mind for next year.

3) More on this later, but: consider this another plug for Graydon Saunders's Commonweal novels (available in ebook from the Google Play store). Reread the first (The March North) and read the first third or so of the second (A Succession of Bad Days) over the week. Comparisons with the work of Mr Ford are not inapt. The bone-deep understanding of trauma and healing and loneliness and identity is still there in Graydon's work, it's just even further down than in The Dragon Waiting. Or maybe I just haven't reread these enough times for it to be obvious to me.

4) It seems I have a strong predilection for flawed characters in difficult situations who are trying their damnedest. I have no further use for stories about terrible people being terrible, and I think this means I should let the Joe Abercrombie books go.

4a) Losing people you’re responsible for hurts. If it didn’t, the Line wouldn’t give you a warrant of commission.

If it stops, they take the warrant away.

--Graydon Saunders, "The March North"

5) I am returning the nameless new laptop. A week with Taranis has convinced me that I don't need to spend an exorbitant sum of money on a new machine, not yet and likely not for another couple of years. I *do* need a battery replacement and could do with a clean reinstall, but that can wait for the weekend.

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Tucker McKinnon
13 April 2016 @ 11:14 pm
Not really up for wandering the gameroom, and I could probably do with some downtime anyhow.

The Gathering is a week-long smallish (400 people?) gaming convention in Niagara Falls (US). [personal profile] uilos and I were first invited two years ago; sadly she hasn't made it back. Maybe next year.

I'm rooming with Scott, a guy I met at random last year. He's a fine roommate but very much an extrovert. As with Christine last year, I've not had to be this sociable in the mornings in a very long time.

Eric B--'s absence this year is notable: he welcomed me into the morning 18xx games two years ago, sort of took me under his wing last year, and is generally one of the Good Ones. Hopefully he'll be back next year.

Two years ago Splendor was obviously the Big Hit; last year it was Codenames. I haven't seen anything this year that would really qualify. There's a lot of Codenames Pictures being played, which is exactly what you think it is.

Perhaps it's Ponzi Scheme, which Dave E-- described as "a party game for economic-gamers." Every round, everyone takes a scoring tile and a funding card, which provides an infusion of cash now in exchange for a payment in a few rounds. Then there's a flurry of 'clandestine dealing' where you're exchanging money and score tiles with the other players, and then the round increases. You can pay for your ruinous interest by ... taking more and larger funding cards, but those will come due sooner or later as well. You're hoping for "later:" the game ends as soon as one player can't make a payment, so if you're going to go bankrupt in two turns that's fine as long as someone else crashes out next turn. Ponzi Scheme is currently extremely unavailable; there's a new edition coming in a few months, I believe.

The weather's been horrendous: cold, rainy, I think there was unpleasantly wet snow a few days ago, and so very very windy. I have not left the hotel except to make a grocery run the day after I got here. I may go out to the falls on Friday or Saturday, I haven't quite decided yet.

Three more days of gaming, and then travel on Sunday. It's been good to not be at work.

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Tucker McKinnon
06 April 2016 @ 06:58 pm
My laptop hath arrived. Initial impressions: thinner and glossier and about the same weight as Taranis. The Power key is a stupid idea. I miss having both USB ports on the same side: makes it a little harder to charge two things at once. The very very clever battery-power-lights on the side of the case seem to have been dispensed with, which makes me sad. Overall I see nothing to challenge my belief that laptop case design reached its pinnacle with Taranis and it will all be downhill from here.

I haven't done much with it: installed a few programs, made some configuration changes. So I haven't really noticed that it's much faster, or anything like that. The retina display *is* nice: everything just feels a bit crisper, brighter, more solid.

I expect I'll take Taranis with me next week, and then come back and offload all my documents onto the new currently-nameless machine.

What are you currently reading?

John Morressy's Kedrigern and the Charming Couple, book 4 in a series of five slim light fantasy paperbacks from the late eighties. I read the third (Kedrigern in Wanderland) several times in high school / early college and have been carting around the set of five for years; don't know if I ever actually read them or not. I don't think I did. They're utter fluff with occasional bright spots ("Ah yes, the hermit Goode, who lives in the wood that slopes down to the sea") and more than occasional visits from the sexism fairy. Doubt I'll be keeping them.

What did you just finish reading?

Kedrigern 1-3. I don't want to get started on anything serious; I'd rather not carry any physical books with me to Niagara this weekend.

Before that, Philip Knightley's biography of Kim Philby, followed by a reread of Tim Powers's Declare because of course. Knightley paints Philby in a positive light: not sympathetic but definitely admiring, and very critical of the British intelligence service as an old-boys' club and nothing more than a grand old adventure, a Great Game if you will. I came out of it vaguely dissatisfied. It felt too hagiographic to be trusted, I think.

Declare is of course fantastic, although I was less taken by it this time round as well. Powers wrote an excellent secondary female character in Elena and then reduced her to a prize to be won. The interleaving of the timelines worked well, I thought; it's just the wrap-up that felt wanting.

What do you think you'll read next?

Kedrigern 5 if I get to it before I leave on Friday night. Otherwise, since Graydon Saunders's third Commonweal book is out, probably a reread of The March North and then reading A Succession of Bad Days and Safely You Deliver. I've got the third of Kameron Hurley's Bel Dame Trilogy waiting for me, too.

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Tucker McKinnon
Let's see. Still writing (mostly just on Wednesdays with Steph), still playing the viola and starting to sometimes feel like I'm beginning to get the hang of it. Still less than thrilled by job but hey, they pay me. Still looking for a better (closer to downtown, less frustrating) apartment. Settling into getting used to the idea of having a stable living situation, and being able to think and plan about what happens next.

Finally got the cats on all wet food all the time. They've been on dry food for long enough that wet food has been "okay this is a nice treat but where is my REAL dinner?" It's taken a couple of brands to get to some that they'll consistently eat most of. I say "some" because we had one that we thought would work but after a week that turned into "aww, the humans bought a case of our favorite food, now we can't like that kind anymore." Mixing it up seems to be sufficient.

Apple has deigned to offer new normal-sized phones, so we'd intended to go pick those up this weekend. In addition they now give you some amount of credit for your old phones, which seems like a win-win proposition. Unfortunately the local stores are sold out of new normal-sized phones for the next couple of weeks. And the easiest way to get credit from the old phones is to exchange them at the time of purchase, which precludes ordering online. So, new phones once I get back from Niagara.

I did go ahead and pull the trigger on a new laptop, though. I may go to my grave defending the hardware setup of Taranis, my current laptop, as The Best Ever. It's got a CD drive, a Magsafe power connector that detaches safely when you accidentally kick the cord rather than yanking the laptop off the table, and it's got a software Eject key that is intensely stupid but can be remapped to be a proper Delete. Sadly newer models of Macbook have removed the optical drive and replaced the useless Eject key with what I think is a Power key that I can't remap. And all indications are that Apple is getting serious about moving to USB3 for power ports with the new models that ought to be out this fall. I figured, I may as well get while the getting is no worse, and if the new laptop lasts me five years like this one did then it's a fine investment.

And this Friday I fly out to Niagara for a week of gaming. I'm not really feeling the get-up-and-go urge, which seems ... odd. I suspect I'm pulling in on myself again. Eh. Will sort that out once I'm back from Niagara.

101 in 1001 updateCollapse )

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Tucker McKinnon
26 March 2016 @ 10:49 am
Woke up last Saturday morning with the telltale soreness of sinus drain at the back of my throat. I didn't have any other symptoms, though: no headache or stuffy head, no spaciness, some tiredness but not much. Mostly just the sore throat.

The bone-weariness kicked in further on Sunday, and I ended up staying home on Monday. I could have gone in, I guess. Mostly I didn't want to deal with the hour of transit to get there and back again.

I was more or less fine by Tuesday. [personal profile] uilos has picked up something of her own; if it's the same thing I had then it's hitting her a lot worse.

Stupid spring sick.

Every NYT Millennial Trend Story: "Millennials--the demographic group also known as Generation Y, Generation Me, and Daesh--have found it difficult to balance dueling priorities as they exit their parents' basements and enter the real world." (I am told this is even more hilarious with the browser extension that replaces "Millennials" with "Serpent People.")

Masculinity Is an Anxiety Disorder: Breaking Down the Nerd Box: "Man, from my perspective, is not an identity so much as a Long Con, and masculinity is a concatenation of anxiety–founded posturings."

Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle: "In 1996, an amateur archaeologist found a single upper arm bone sticking out of the steep riverbank—- the first clue that the Tollense Valley, about 120 kilometers north of Berlin, concealed a gruesome secret."

'I'm not the Obamacare kid anymore': "He was the chubby 11-year-old African-American boy who stood next to President Barack Obama as he signed Obamacare into law at a White House ceremony on March 23, 2010.... As supporters prepare to mark the sixth anniversary of Obamacare's signing, Marcelas is marking another rite of passage -- as a transgender teen."

An interview with Gail Ann Dorsey about Bowie: "He completely, single-handedly altered the course of my life."

Smart Car turned into a snowcar: "Yeah, it's just a thought that came to me and it seemed like the right thing to do."

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Tucker McKinnon
14 March 2016 @ 07:01 pm
Today I amused a small child on the bus by blowing bubblegum at her, and explained to several very young violinists that they should take up viola because it's cooler.

How was your day?

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Tucker McKinnon
10 March 2016 @ 04:46 pm
Playing a stringed instrument is hard. It's not all that physically demanding, but it requires precision and dexterity, which have never been traits I associate with myself.

Too, I've only been at it for a year and a half. I have no recollection of what I sounded like after a year and a half of cello (and the timeline there is fuzzy anyway; do I count from when I started in grade school orchestra? or when I started with private lessons under Dr Boyce, from the beginning of Suzuki book 1?) but I doubt I was all that musical. Certainly it was years before I willingly played outside of first position.

Playing a stringed instrument is hard, and I would do well to remember this.

That doesn't make my viola sound any better, though. I am reasonably certain that I'm better than I was a year ago. I am less certain that I'm any better than I was six months ago.

I'm at the point where habits from cello are actively working against me. To take one example, when I play a fourth above an open string I place my third finger and instinctively think "four," because on cello that would be the fourth finger. This causes confusion when using my actual fourth finger. I'm trying to train myself out of that; it's not yet stuck.

There is also my general inability to relax into things, which seems to be at the root of my difficulty getting the sound I want. It's hard to sense the contact point (bow on string) when you're too tense to feel the bow gripping the string, and it's hard to keep the bow moving in a straight line when you're not engaging your whole arm in the process.

Some part of the problem is that my practice schedule has fallen off in the last six months, for obvious reasons. (In related news, the forty-hour work-week is some bullshit, both in general and in the specific case of how I'm spending it.) There's also my ongoing inability to hear the difference between a minor and major chord, which ought to be easy, and my tendency to not notice when my pitch starts drifting off until I play an open string and it sounds jarring.

Point being, my playing is not where I want it to be.

Ira Glass:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.
And so I stick with it. Because maybe it'll get better, and because every single time I walk out of a lesson with that feeling of this is awesome, i can do this.

Maybe it's a lie, but it's a useful one for now.

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Tucker McKinnon
09 March 2016 @ 03:31 pm
I used to remember the books I read much better. These days it seems like I read a book and a year later I can't recall much about it at all.

Turns out the solution is to *reread*. After a first reading I retain scattered images and impressions, and if I'm lucky a general sense of the plot. A second reading cements it in my brain much more solidly.

Hence, this past couple of weeks.

What are you currently reading?

The Serpent Sea, by Martha Wells. Book 2 of the Books of the Raksura, which I first read, mm, about three years ago. This is exactly the thing I'm talking about: all I remembered was "the Raksura go to a city built on the back of a sea creature, for Reasons". It has some quite interesting plot and metaplot development before they even start leaving for the city!

What did you just finish reading?

The Cloud Roads, Raksura 1. These are, still, excellent fantasy books for people who are honestly getting a little tired of the sameyness of fantasy. They genuinely feel like a whole different world instead of culture-X-with-magic. The Fell make for a slightly too-pat antagonist but every other relation between and among cultures is handled well enough that I forgive that easily.

Before that, a reread of WJW's This Is Not A Game. Feels a little slighter than when I first read it, but still an enjoyable romp. "...you want to write Dagmar fanfic?"

Before *that*, reread of Doyle/Macdonald's Price of the Stars and first-read of the first two sequels. Excellent fluffy space opera that's a little deeper than one might think. Hopefully volumes 4 and 5 will turn up soon so I can read those and the already-acquired #6.

What do you think you'll read next?

The Siren Depths and then probably a first read of the two Tales of the Raksura collections. These are going fast enough that I doubt I'll be able to jump straight into the next book (released 5 April); I don't know what I'll pick up instead.

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Tucker McKinnon
08 March 2016 @ 10:43 pm
This is what I mean when I say I'm ridiculously lucky:

I have awful teeth, have had since pretty much forever. Orthodontia since third grade, a year and a half of braces, crowns and root canals on six or seven of my back molars, all that. In retrospect this all started when I mixed a hardwood floor, a blanket, and a running start at the age of four and had a root canal in one of my baby teeth. I'm used to dentists, is what I'm saying.

I'd been going to the same dentist since we got to Vancouver but I hadn't been totally happy with her. So when I got laid off and my insurance lapsed, it seemed like a fine time to just forget to go in for cleanings and such. And when I got a new job, insurance didn't kick in for three months, and then I just didn't feel like bothering. I didn't want to go back to my old dentist, and I didn't want to go through the hassle of finding a new one.

One of the crowns that I got in DC has been giving me a bit of trouble since I got it: it was painful to put in place, it didn't sit right on my bite, and there was a little lip at the base of it that caught when I flossed. On Satyrday night, while we were at a small local gaming convention (playing Die Steven Seagal[1]), I bit down on a lollipop stick and felt something give way.

The entire crown above the gumline had sheared off.

"How on earth," you ask, "is that lucky?"

It doesn't hurt, thanks to the root canal.

My insurance kicked in two months ago. (Emily's doesn't until next month, so it could have been better, but half covered is better than none.)

And when, spurred by the sudden need for a dentist, I complained about my lack of same, David recommended his. I went today for a cleaning and checkup and prepwork for tooth/crown replacement and he seems likely to be the best dentist I've had since I left Dr Ankrum in Blacksburg. And who had a last-minute cancellation, so that I could get my teeth cleaned during the prelim appointment.


[1] A German trick-taking/bidding card game that's really named Die Sieben Siegel, or The Seven Signs/Seals. It comes with a standup figure, the Traitor, that you can take as your bid if no one else has and you feel like just mucking with everyone else. Naturally we refer to the Traitor as Steven Seagal...

The convention was pretty good, too: played some heavier games, some lighter ones, a really good round of Tichu, and on Sunday wrangled thirteen people in three 18xx games.

And tonight we just got back from seeing The Big Short, which is very good and avoids being horrendously depressing by being extremely funny in a dark way. Relatedly, I am growing accustomed to the idea that I will sometimes be the only one laughing in smart movies. At least I had [personal profile] uilos there laughing with me tonight.

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Tucker McKinnon
04 March 2016 @ 03:59 pm
Words: 400ish
Total words: 988
Neat things: A new character, on the far side of a blazing inferno!

Progress, and at least I know what happens next. Eventually this will tell me why it's happening.

In email with Steph on Tuesday we'd decided to meet for pre-writing dinner at Deep South, the newish decent cheap barbecue place. Steph mentioned this to her coworkers on Wednesday and one of them said "i think they're closed." Yep, closed up shop earlier this week. (At least they're only relocating, and not gone for good.)

Luckily we had a backup plan: Jinya Ramen, across the street from the library. I've eaten there maybe a dozen times, and it's not great but decent. I arrived about five minutes early, and all the lights were out, and there was a handwritten note on the door to the effect of "We are temporarily closed for maintenance and cleaning." Immediately below this was another note headlined NOTICE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH.

So we wound up at Original Joe's, the overpriced pub-food place around the corner. Maybe next time will go better.

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