Tucker McKinnon
20 May 2015 @ 10:02 am
At the beach with boardgamers, like I do. It's been good for the most part: good games, decent company, sunshine, conditioned air. Feeling a bit more disconnected than usual this year. Partly this is because [personal profile] uilos isn't here, because "end of the school year" is a terrible time for an assistant instructor to try and take a week-long vacation. Other likely culprits include a sharp lack of time to introvert (the wifi downstairs is sketchy at best), and the fact that vacations feel less like vacations when they're a vacation from an unstructured life.

(The lack of structure is starting to seriously get to me, I think. When I get back I will have to a) restructure my life a bit more cleanly and, well, usefully, and b) start looking for work. These things are at least more or less complementary.)

For the first time in six years I'm not going to Wiscon. This is weird. I'm gonna miss the smart panels and conversations and the company, and downtown Madison. I am almost certainly going to stick my head in at Balticon, where I can at least get some of the smart conversations and good (if different) company.

Having writing thoughts, which is not at all the same as actually writing. Those ... may gel into a post later this week.

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Tucker McKinnon
14 May 2015 @ 09:21 am
(xposting here from elseweb, with expansions / clarifications)

I'll be in Seattle tomorrow (Friday) from roughly noon (train arrives in Chinatown) 'til nine (need to be at Seatac to catch a flight east). My current plan involves wandering Pike Place Market and environs while dragging a suitcase, and maybe finding a place to sit and write.

From there I fly to Norfolk for a week in the Outer Banks with the Arlington Board Gamers.

After that I'm in the DC area from about two pm Saturday (that's the 23rd) until oneish on Sunday, since I need to catch a flight from BWI at two. I have no real plans for that twenty-three-hour period.

However! I'd thought Balticon was the weekend after that but it turns out it's that weekend. So I may go up to Hunt Valley and hang out there for awhile? I dunno.

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Tucker McKinnon
07 May 2015 @ 09:08 pm
I'm not writing much here these days. This... is probably not a good sign.



Weekend before last my parents were in town. We had quite a good visit: hit the Maritime Museum and Granville Island, wandered arond Queen Elizabeth Park (a large hill in the middle of the city that used to be a quarry, so it's got some very neat planned-gardens and waterfalls and such, and also a domed conservatory with lots of birds), and ate much tasty food. Dad and I got our "portraits" done in magic marker on cardboard, by an itinerant artiste while we were loitering in Gastown.

They left very early on Tuesday morning, and I was thinking "it would have been nice if they'd stayed another day or so." I think this means that the visit was exactly as long as it should have been.



My viola finally arrived yesterday. Stupid Long & McQuade. It is in fact black and not green, as I'd requested, and the electric pickup seems to work, and in general it looks quite nice. And maybe sounds as well, at least when someone who knows what they're doing is playing it.

That is clearly not me. I feel like between the Gathering and my parents' visit I have lost most of whatever skill I'd developed and have been fumbling worse than usual trying to get it back.

It'll come. I keep telling myself that. I think I'm now past the point where any jumpstart I had from cello is doing me any good, and am having to learn the hard way like anyone else. Frustrating. Practice, practice, practice.



That may be part of my problem, honestly. I'm not really doing much of anything that I'm *good* at. Rather, the things I'm good at are either not things that I want to be doing (tech writing) or of very little use (boardgames). I'm a beginning violist with all that that implies, and a fiction writer with limited experience. And doing those things is how one gets better at them, but it's really annoying to spend my days feeling like I'm terrible at everything I try.

Which may be part of why I've been hiding. I don't know.

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Tucker McKinnon
29 April 2015 @ 10:43 pm
Words: 429
Total words: 5,043
Neat things: A standoff that won't end the way the guy with the wand expects it will. And Everywhere the light fell I saw more forgotten sculptures and paintings, tax write-off donations from rich heirs who wanted the stuff even less than the museum did.

Been tapping away at this off and on. I think I may be at the point where there's more plot in my head than on the page. Which means I need to write the scenes that I know will be in there, and then figure out how to stitch it all together.

One of these days I will remember that this is how my process works and that when I know what a scene is I ought to go ahead and write it. Especially if I'm stuck on how the plot hangs together in the middle.

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Tucker McKinnon
24 April 2015 @ 12:06 pm
I went out for dinner with a couple of writer-type friends yesterday. There was a huge brown cloud hanging over downtown, soaking up all the light. It looked decidedly thunderstorm-y, which is not a look we get often out here. I picked up the pace and got indoors before any precipitation actually started.

Steph and Kat showed up about ten minutes later, with umbrellas out.

"It's decided to precipitate, then?"

"It is *hailing*," Kat said.

Today about an hour ago we had an actual thunderclap (just the one). Right now there's pinging off the window behind me which is most likely just rain, but could be tiny hail pellets. Chaos, who's sitting next to me, is a little perturbed by all the Weird Noises.

Stupid weather. Bad timing for my parents coming to visit this weekend, too.

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Tucker McKinnon
18 April 2015 @ 01:00 am
I'm at the Gathering again this year, spending a week-plus playing games and hanging out with people. Financially it was likely an unwise decision to go... but I found a roommate, and a cheapish flight to/from the vicinity, and darnit, it just seemed like fun.

It feels different this year. I went last year and had a blast, but it was all sort of overwhelming. It's a lot calmer-seeming now. I'm used to it, I guess, or maybe I'm just in a better place myself. [personal profile] uilos didn't make it due to some work shenanigans plus the general hazard of being on an academic schedule, that's a pretty big shift as well.

I'm rooming with Christine who I met once when we first moved out to Vancouver. She's an excellent roommate and a fine person, but she's very much an extrovert. I have not had this much conversation in the mornings in a very very long time.

Been getting up pretty much every morning to play 18xx games. I have consistently come in last or next-to-last in every one so far. No great surprise considering that a lot of these guys have been playing since well before I started doing any serious gaming at all. It's been really excellent regardless: I've learned a bit, and I've had a lot of fun.

Hard to believe it's nearly over. Not sure if I'm coming back next year; it's not easy to justify the expense when I'm not making a stupid amount of money. But it *is* a very very good trip. Eh. I don't know.

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Tucker McKinnon
06 April 2015 @ 06:33 pm
Ice Balls: "That Saturday morning I saw our CEO glowing with ego and it occurred to me that maybe testosterone wasn’t that cute of a look. Maybe the estrogen my body makes naturally was what kept me from doing dumb shit like paying 50 people for 3 hours of San Francisco minimum wage so that someone would look at my wedding album."

David Bowie Writing New Musical Based on The Man Who Fell to Earth: "Inspired by the novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, Lazarus features a host of new Bowie songs, as well as new arrangements of previously recorded tunes."

The curious case of the disappearing Polish S: "This is a story of how four incidental ingredients spanning decades (if not centuries) came together to cause the most curious of bugs."

The Mystery of Lê From Hop Sing Laundromat: "Later, I would reach out and talk to Lê's friends, his regulars, some of his former employees. I'd ask each of them the same question: What do you know about this guy? And, invariably, the answer would be the same: Nothing."

Making Sense Of Maple Syrup: notable for a) a change in the syrup grading system, which makes me sad because now the uninformed will no longer buy "grade A"/"#1" thinking it's superior to grade B/#2 and leave the good stuff for me, and b) "Grade B is part of a popular cleanse with cayenne pepper and now we ship all of our Grade B to California because of that." *sigh*

Do not mess with the animal kingdom:

Angry badger shuts down luxury Stockholm hotel, forces police to intervene: "It remains unclear why the badger was angry."

Rogue owl caught after year-long reign of terror in Dutch town: "In one of the many assaults, two members of a local athletics clubs were attacked last month, with one runner requiring stitches for six head wounds caused by the nocturnal bird of prey's talons."

Squirrel blamed for car engine stuffed with nuts: "Evans says the driver recognized the nuts."

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Tucker McKinnon
01 April 2015 @ 09:33 am
This A Softer World comic hits uncomfortably close to home, and would have reduced me to tears and speechlessness about five years ago.

Let's see.

Foot: still sore, still a little swollen. Going back to icing it today.

Viola: Went to pick it up on Monday. I am much less of a fan of the colour than I'd hoped: it's a lot flatter than anticipated, and it makes it look... cheap. More importantly, there was an inch-long crack next to the tailpiece. Looked like someone had dropped the package on its end and hit the tailpiece just right. So it's going back to the factory. I'll call the store today and see if I can talk to a human being and cancel the dye job, just get a glossy-black hybrid.

On the bright side, they loaned me the standard carbon-fibre viola they had in stock, and it sounds roughly a zillion times better than the $200 rental I had before. So there's that.

Writing: Been plinking away at this %&$ story. It looks like I'm going to have to do something I've never done before: write a scene or three from a different character's perspective so I can figure out what happens, even though I know for a fact I'm not going to use those scenes. Oh well. Going out to sit in a coffeeshop & write with Steph this evening, which will be pleasant.

Role-playing: reached a stopping point in the Lords of Gossamer & Shadow game last week. I made a rookie-GM mistake in the Big Fight Scene and had an NPC doing a lot of the actual fighting but apart from that it went reasonably well. We're now taking a break to play 13th Age, which appears to be "D&D with fewer rules and more cool storytelling tools."

There's also been some friction with the perennially difficult player, which might warrant its own post later. Or maybe not.

Boardgames: Forgot to mention that I spent much of last weekend at another boardgame convention thing. This one's run by a local wargame club, but they have a small contingent of 18xx players. It was decent: got in three games, and enjoyed the company alright. They have regular meetings one Friday a month, to which I may go.

I leave for the Gathering (ten-day gaming convention in Niagara) in eight and a half days. Based on the cost breakdown and the general state of finances this is probably a mild error in judgement, but it'll be fun.

Speaking of money, I'm also sorting through taxes, which are slightly complicated this year. That's why we pay Chris-the-accountant the small-to-medium bucks. On the "bright" side we're likely to get a small-to-medium refund depending on how some things get classified.

Cats: Are adorable. Chaos is a lot more mobile, and also a lot less steady on his feet than he wants to be, especially when jumping. But he *is* jumping, so that's a good sign. Mostly they both do a lot of sleeping, as is appropriate for elder kittens.

Overall things are good, I think.

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Tucker McKinnon
30 March 2015 @ 12:46 am
At eight it seemed like a good idea to have a cup of the tea that Ed gave us for xmas. (It's a flavored tea whose name escapes me but is on the tin, and is rather tasty; so saith the person who normally dislikes flavored teas, so.) At half past midnight it's seeming like a less good idea.

E & I watched Ronin again this evening. I remember going to see it in the Lyric when it came out, probably on a 75cent Tuesday, with Mandy and Vond and whoever else, and thinking, "They made a movie of a Cyberpunk game session." It's also namechecked in Night's Black Agents (the role-playing game of spies versus vampires) as a direct inspiration for the kind of gameplay Ken Hite was going for. It holds up very very well: great car chases, fun but not overdone dialogue, Sean Bean getting ambushed by a cup of coffee. Recommended. (Do not ever watch the "alternate ending" on the DVD. It is terrible and will make you think less of the movie by its very existence.)

My foot seems to be healing up from last weekend; it's just tight and a little sore across the front of the ankle. And my viola has come in at last, and I'll go and get it tomorrow. That will be good.

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Tucker McKinnon
24 March 2015 @ 10:27 pm
On Saturday night I discovered that I tend to walk slightly on the blades of my feet. This is almost certainly doing terrible things for my posture.

cut for description of trauma, neither graphic nor permanentCollapse )

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Tucker McKinnon
19 March 2015 @ 12:40 pm
In early February I dropped a large sum of money on a viola. I ordered it through Long & McQuade, a Canadian music megastore, on the theory that they could a) get me a slightly better price than ordering direct from the manufacturer, and b) deal with any issues that I might happen to have. I was told it would likely arrive in late February.

In early March, when the viola hadn't yet arrived, I called L&M and left a message. I called them back a few days later, somewhat more irate, and got told that it would be here "hopefully by the end of next week." This sounded suspiciously like they hadn't bothered to even put the order in, but I let it go.

Today it's closer to the end of the week after that, and I've called them again.

It turns out that in fact they hadn't bothered to put the order in. There have been a large number of payment screwups in their head office, and mine was one of those affected. Not that anyone bothered to check this until I called to bug them.

So, I am told that the payment will definitely go through tonight, and the viola will ship directly to the Vancouver store instead of being routed through Toronto as was originally planned, and it'll be here in two weeks. Which probably means available for pickup the day after Easter Monday. And they'll give me a substantial discount on a bow as well.

Moral: do not purchase anything from Long & McQuade unless it is right there in front of you.

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Tucker McKinnon
18 March 2015 @ 01:51 pm
Two weekends ago, more or less, [personal profile] uilos and I went out to Harrison Hot Springs for a couple days of vacation. We soaked in a naturally heated pool and wandered around a small village and saw the source of the springs. We did not partake of the Spa Experience, as that costs ridiculous amounts of money, but we saw a bunch of people wandering around in white terrycloth robes. Also, it was spring break for the BC school system, and apparently people like to take their kids on spa vacations, so there were a ton of kids everywhere.

The rental company gave us a Big-Ass Truck instead of the compact we'd requested. Driving (and parking) that was an adventure in itself.

Overall it was alright. I don't know that I'd go back just-us but dragging a few other people along could be fun.



Last weekend saw the second annual Terminal City Tabletop Convention, a day-only Vancouver gaming con that an acquaintance of mine started up last year. That too was generally good. I played a number of games I'd been wanting to try for awhile, had some duds and some surprising hits (Red7 is sort of the lovechild of Fluxx and Uno, and fantastically chaotic fun).

Got in a game of 1889 with mostly-newish players on Sunday. I think I'm about done with 1889: it's 1830 with a different map and one less company, and the 'one less company' part makes a surprising difference in how aggressively the game runs. And the map isn't terribly exciting, either. Oh well, now I know.

Afterwards on Sunday we went out to a Thai place near Metrotown which makes a quite tasty pad thai. I keep thinking I ought to try other thai dishes, and I keep coming back to "but I really like the rice noodles in pad thai and can't get them anywhere else."



I also seem to have picked up an odd head-cold at TCTC. The last couple of days my nose has been stuffy & my throat sore (sinus drip), and I get out of breath and spacey in the mid-afternoon. This is making it difficult to get back up to speed after having E home for a week.

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Tucker McKinnon
11 March 2015 @ 11:05 pm
Hey, it's Wednesday again. Funny how that works.

What are you reading?

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, about coping when you're overly sensitive to stimuli. It's odd. I feel like I'm maybe borderline HSP at best, and then I read the stuff about growing up HSP and think "yep, that was me." Did I change / grow out of it? Did I talk myself out of it or let myself get talked out of it? Am I just not paying attention? Any of these are plausible.

What did you just finish reading?

The Zalozhniy Quartet by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. This is a set of adventures for Night's Black Agents, aka "Jason Bourne With Vampires: The RPG". It's exceedingly well-designed and well-written, and would make a fantastic HBO or BBC-TV series. I'd love to run it but I don't think I'll get the chance.

What do you think you'll read next?

The Scholars of Night by John M. Ford. Spies and Marlowe. I wasn't so impressed with this the previous time I read it; curious to see whether my opinion improves.

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Tucker McKinnon
06 March 2015 @ 07:29 pm
Because it's been a not-wholly-unproductive week.

Writing
Proceeds, or rather doesn't, as I seem to have hit a brick wall in plotting. I suspect that when the answer finally comes to me it will be utterly obvious and have been right all along, I just wasn't seeing it.

I can't tell if nothing I've come up with feels right because it's not right, or because it's going to take a decent amount of effort to make work. This is seriously frustrating. If I haven't cracked it by early next week I will put it aside and go back to the other piece that I have a decent start on.

Viola
Also proceeds, reasonably well I think. I'm working through the first Suzuki viola book, and am nearly to the Bach minuets. So, about two-thirds through, though it gets harder now.

Technically: I'm mostly pleased with my left-hand ability, and mostly frustrated by bowing techniques. I sound more or less in tune but not *good*, not by a long shot. I'll get there.

I strongly suspect that the music store didn't bother to actually order the viola I paid them for a month ago until I called earlier this week to bug them about it. Grr. It ought to be here sometime next week.

Sociable
For once I am doing some of this! I'm emailing people on a semiconsistent basis. I am not the greatest correspondent but I'm trying to keep up. It helps that the best way to get mail from neat people is to write to them myself, so there's sort of built-in motivation.

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Tucker McKinnon
02 March 2015 @ 11:30 am
I am home from the Rainforest Writers Village retreat, where I coined a new-to-me word (thaumobabble, the urban fantasy equivalent of technobabble), saw some old friends and met some new ones, and generally had a good time.

The weekend is best summed up by this photo.

More seriously, I wrote some 2600 fiction words, interspersed with stream-of-consciousness plot noodling to figure out how I'm actually getting from point A (the opening) to points X, Y, and Z (the action/suspense climax, emotional climax, and aftermath), and whether any of those points will look at all like my original conception. (Spoiler: kind of but not a lot.) This is kind of a big deal: in the last three years I've noodled on a couple of stories but never got past the 'crap what happens now' point after the initial burst of inspiration. It'll be good to finish something and I think it's doable.

A couple of years ago I had the idea to start a story pendulum: write two, revise the first, write a third, revise the second, etc. At the time, with work etc, I'd thought a month for each swing would be reasonable. I'll start trying to get that but I'd really like to get it down to two weeks, or maybe three for writing and one for revising.



To do today-ish, in no particular order:
  • Write this post WIKTORY
  • Email: [personal profile] uilos, Karawynn, Sonya, others?
  • Deal with pile of mail
  • Call Long & McQuade re viola No sign of it yet. Bah. Should have ordered it myself direct from the manufacturer.
  • Writing: work out character motivations, which will I hope explicate plot & climax
  • Viola practice
  • Box game for shipping, get shipping quote
  • Sort through receipts from this weekend, wince at exchange rate

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Tucker McKinnon
27 February 2015 @ 07:08 pm
Words: 838
Total words: 2709
Neat things: I looked at her hands, still dripping from where she'd torn out poor Daltrey's throat. "I hadn't expected to take the riddle quite so literally." "We're a literal people."

Ack. I know what I want to have happen and how I want the ending to come off, and it involves the main character standing around spectating instead of doing something. Which means I now have to figure out what she's going to do and why.

... I think I know what she's going to do and I sort of know why, but not quite why it's necessary. And after I figure that out (and I think that's the last "what's the plot" I have to solve) I get to see whether it makes a story.

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Tucker McKinnon
26 February 2015 @ 05:51 pm
Words: 775
Total words: 1675
Neat things: Opening scene now has twice as many snarky characters. Unexpected plot twist is unexpected. Old arguments about ritual ingredients, arguments that are themselves practically ritualized by now.

The real triumph isn't those 700-plus words, it's having sat down and worked through why it is I've been stuck on the plot and fixed at least some of the structural problems so that I'm capable of writing those 700-plus words, and more tonight / tomorrow, and having a better than even chance that they're more or less the right words.



Three years ago Rainforest got me a couple of good friends and a finished draft of Bookwyrms. At this writing that's still the last first draft I've finished, excluding the spontaneous writing contest at Wiscon. Since then I've revised, mm, call it three things worth the submitting, and come round to the Ideomancer editor's view that Bookwyrms is a cute idea with no plot and hence not really a story.

I have no expectations that I'll meet anyone who clicks as well as Karawynn this year. But if I get unblocked or unstuck or whatever, I'll happily take that.

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Tucker McKinnon
25 February 2015 @ 09:52 am
Late February isn't quite early enough to take the late train south from Vancouver: the sun has already set by the time we get moving. Late March is probably about right.

It's still about the most comfortable way to travel to Seattle I can think of. Less cramped than a car, less expensive than a plane, less cattle-car-y than the bus. Plus wi-fi. Would train again.

Note to self: getting mail from people makes me happy. The way to get mail consistently is to write it. How on earth did I ever send lengthy messages nearly every day for four years?

The trouble with coming down late and crashing with Ederlyn is that we sit up talking until even later, and then I oversleep and she's later for work than desired and I'm half-braindead all the next day. Well worth it, though.

Am sitting outside a bakery/coffeeshop in Belltown, near the water. Belltown is... I don't think there's anything like it in Vancouver. Gastown is about the closest. Down here at least it's all older buildings and interesting shops and such, and lots of trees and the occasional view of the water. It's the kind of thing I think of when I say "i want to live in the city."

Soon queenoftheskies and Steph will have finished breakfast and pick me up, and we'll head off to the rainforest for several days of writing and writerly behavior. I am... not as excited about this as I'd hoped or expected to be. I think it'll be fun, and good for me. Kick my writing muscles back into gear, that sort of thing.

The cherry trees are blooming, and there are a couple of chickadees talking and flitting from tree to tree. The sky is grey and threatining rain and there's just a bit of wind. It's a good day.

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Tucker McKinnon
21 February 2015 @ 09:03 am
Awhile ago I was having some problems with Scrivener's RTF output. It would occasionally eat paragraph spacing info, I would fix it in OpenOffice (a free MS-Word clone), and then the next time I opened the file it would be even more broken. I thought those problems had been solved.

(This is what us writer types call foreshadowing.)

For reasons that are still unclear to me but which I'll attack this weekend or early next week, it's turning the last paragraph of the story into single-spaced. No problem, says I, I can fix that in OpenOffice. So I do, and open it again to make sure it hasn't broken anything (looks good), and submit to a market noted for its super-quick turnaround times.

Got a response back last night saying essentially "No, and by the way please use standard manuscript format."

Huh?

Opened it this morning in OpenOffice, and saw pages and pages of whitespace and broken headers.

So *that* was embarrassing.

I think (think) I have fixed the problem by switching to LibreOffice (a slightly different free MS-Word clone). I've heard before that this is something I should have done years ago but I have a great deal of software inertia.

On the bright side, the switch seems to have been painless, and LibreOffice is a touch faster than OpenOffice, too.

Stupid software. I'd go back to just using MS Word but a) while unemployed is not the time to start spending hundreds of dollars on software, b) versions of Word after 2003 have been increasingly less usable, and c) they've moved to a 'subscription' model where I get to pay them every month. As I don't anticipate using the software every month this seems like a terrible deal.

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Tucker McKinnon
Well, that's a draft. And unlike previous 'that's a draft's I think I am sufficiently happy with this one.

By which I mean, I don't think I can make it much better, and certainly not enough better to justify the increasingly diminishing returns of pounding away on it.

So I'll send this draft off for a couple of final reads to make sure I haven't completely screwed anything up, and then I guess it's time for another page in the submission spreadsheet.

And also to figure out what I'm going to be working on at Rainforest next week.

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