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Tucker McKinnon
04 February 2016 @ 12:20 pm
A cat, however hard he tries,
Grows creaky without exercise.
Our Chaos-cat is stiff and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The dignity to clamber back.
The falling-off-the-ottoman thing is, as they say Drawn From Life. He's not really fat anymore, though, hasn't been for years. His hips are still distressingly bony from this past summer's bout with diabetes and the years of general arthritis.

He has also begun turning his nose up at his twice-daily joint supplement treats, which were the BEST THING EVAR about five months ago. O, cat. At least he'll still eat his thyroid pills.

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Tucker McKinnon
For no apparent reason I've had the opening number to Guys And Dolls ("Fugue For Tinhorn") stuck in my head all day.

...Epitaph...
What are you reading right now?

The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks, in which a rich heir whose mother committed suicide and who slept with his cousin returns to his family. I am not sure what I think of it; it seems unlikely to be a keeper.

Technically I haven't yet given up on John Crowley's Little, Big, which I've been carting around unread for nearly twenty years. But if it insists on meandering around the point much more (at nearly a hundred pages in), into the go-away pile it goes.

...Valentine...
What did you just finish reading?

A quick reread of Pinkwater's Lizard Music (about which see), because I finally got my hands on a nice copy of it.

Before that, Nicola Griffith's Slow River, which gets major points for being dystopian-ish (though the dystopian elements are now recognisably present in the real world) while being mostly populated with characters who are Decent Human Beings. The feel reminded me a little of Kelley Eskridge's Solitaire, which is probably not a coincidence, and of Susan Palwick's Shelter. Recommended.

...PaulRevere...
What do you think you'll read next?

Beats me. Something else off the unread stack, since I seem intent on making a dent in that.

... I got the horse! right! here!

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Tucker McKinnon
21 January 2016 @ 02:48 pm
People who have suffered existence failure during the most recent year of the Wood Goat:
  • Sir Terry Pratchett
  • Sir Christopher Lee
  • Leonard Nimoy
  • David Bowie
  • Alan Rickman
  • David Hartwell
For once in my life I am seriously looking forward to February. Specifically, 7 February and the year of the Fire Monkey.

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Tucker McKinnon
19 January 2016 @ 03:08 pm
Last week (from Monday) was just kinda unpleasantly grey and heavy. I started the morning spacey and forgetting things, and then Bowie.

(Interlude: the setlist from the 1997 concert, courtesy Megan H-- from high school who I met up with there. Holy cats that was an amazing show. Now that I see the list I remember "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "White Light / White Heat," plus "Scary Monsters" and his weird spoken intro to "Hallo Spaceboy" and "Earthlings on Fire" and and. Yowza. Interlude over.)

That pushed me down into a pretty blah place overall, with no real chance to recover during the week. News of Alan Rickman didn't help any but that was more numbing shock than an actual emotional blow: I don't have as much connection to Rickman's work. And then the weekend was decent: among other things we picked up the first three seasons of Futurama and are working through that. It's aged surprisingly well, and so far every episode has had multiple not-just-heh-but-genuinely-funny moments. Sold some games, had barbecue from the amazing barbecue joint across the tracks, mostly hung around the house and worked on getting back up to speed.

But for whatever reason I haven't been reading LJ/DW. (Or twitter, but no surprise there.) I'm slowly catching back up: I've started reading at work now, for one thing.

Anyway, if you're wondering: I'm doing alright, but I miss you.

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Tucker McKinnon
12 January 2016 @ 10:43 pm
I realised this morning that it's not that Bowie changed my life, although I'm sure he did. It's that he's been a part of my life for twenty years: not just the music, but the anticipation of music to come. Which is why I filed Steven Brust in the same kind of category: I think Brust is the only author I've been reading constantly from before high school who's still writing. (Le Guin, I guess, but the only Le Guin I read before the university class I took was Earthsea. And she's no longer writing novels anyhow.)

To probably misquote someone or other on Twitter: "It's like if someone told me Mount Everest had died. I keep wanting to say 'No, silly, that's not how mountains work.'"

Recommended viewing/listening: Under Pressure from 1997, with Gail Ann Dorsey; The Hearts Filthy Lesson (a rather disconcerting video).

(I haven't yet picked up Blackstar, on the grounds that I don't have a spare hour to spend in tears. We watched the video for Lazarus last night and that was about enough.)



In other musical news, playing the viola is hard. It's hard in what I assume is the way that new things are always hard, and what I assume is the way that complicated and finicky things are always hard. I haven't really tried either in a long time.

It is *depressingly* hard. I picked up the cello tonight for the first time in a year, and after five minutes of reacclimatization I was sawing away at the opening of the Squire tarantella and a couple of the easier bits of the Bach cello suites. My fingers *know what they're doing* on the cello, and I understand how to shift, and how to hold the instrument and the bow, and how to sound halfway decent. I nearly cried when I went back to fat-fingering and screeching on the viola.

The other problem is that, as I'd more or less expected, my ear is not actually all that good. We're spending part of each lesson drilling on intervals, and while I can semi-reliably distinguish between a major and minor third, and somewhat more reliably between a major and minor second, for some reason I hear fourths as fifths and am running only slightly better than fifty percent there. At least I can tell a tritone when I hear one.

I'm not giving up. As I've said, after a year I suck on a whole new plane. I figure I'll keep at it for at least another couple of years, and if I still can't stand my sound at that point then it's probably time to throw in the towel.

Currently working on a bit from the Bach cello suites. I *think* they're mostly a little easier on the viola but I'm not certain.

On the bright side, I can stumble through alto clef well enough to pick out the "Baby Elephant Walk" from my book of Henry Mancini viola arrangements. Indeed, I can stumble well enough that I can tell I don't much care for this particular arrangement, and may soon be looking for either a better one, or the original score so I can bloody well do it myself.

I still harbour fantasies of arranging Peter Gunn for two violas ("With apologies to H. Mancini and A.O. Noise") and playing a duet with myself. We shall see.

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Tucker McKinnon
11 January 2016 @ 01:34 pm
Well, fuck.

... no, that's about all I've got. It's too big. I'm having trouble conceiving of a world without David Bowie in it. I think "There won't be any more Bowie albums," and my brain comes back with "oh, so he's saying he's retired?" It makes.no.sense.

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Tucker McKinnon
03 January 2016 @ 10:43 am
A fallow year. Havi, who may be the wisest person I know, has been writing extensively about her shmita, from the one year in seven that the Israelites would let their fields lie fallow to rejuvenate and refresh. That's more or less where I was in 2015: recovering from somewhere between three and ten years of ongoing pressure and stress.

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Tucker McKinnon
02 January 2016 @ 08:32 am
A couple of months ago, ex-coworkers N-- and S-- quit the still-imploding ex-workplace and moved to Seattle. They came up for a couple of days around Xmas, which was nice; we did a bit of the touristy thing on the 25th, including dim sum at that one place in Chinatown that's open on Xmas Day.

They also came by for Orphan's Boxing Day, along with a few other folks. (We even got a James, which I regard as a minor victory given that he spent over a decade in retail and has a strict policy of not leaving the house on Boxing Day.) Much food was cooked and eaten, including another turkey; many games were played; a great deal of Good Times were had.

I worked two days last week, which was kind of fantastic: quiet office, little pressing that Needed Doing, and a chance to sink my teeth into restyling the online documentation. Didn't finish it but it's better than it was. I remain baffled by the styling on the numbered lists, and not sure whether I'm going to be able to fix it. Stupid Flare.

Advancing the Year Marker (party name shamelessly stolen from Bob A-- in Virginia) went off quieter than in the past, which I'm also okay with. By the time the new year actually rolled around we were down to semilocal J-- and ckd, who'd come up from Seattle for the occasion. CKD stayed over until yesterday. I fed him pancakes and did *not* go do the touristy thing, on account of being slightly overpeopled and overtired.

Today has been a day of Not Much. I've missed those. I've a year-in-review begun but not finished; will endeavor to post it tomorrow.



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Tucker McKinnon
23 December 2015 @ 06:50 pm
Dark and wet and dreary the sky this autumnal winter, just the worst time of the year for a journey. A fine time to stay at home buried in blankets and cats.

I feel like I'm just starting to get a sense of what my life is actually going to look like. As though there's a sense of stability just about to settle in. Doubtless something will shake it soon enough; if it's all the same, or even all predictable, then you're dead.

So the light gets brighter and the night gets shorter. And we move forward, as we always have, into the stories that have yet to be written. And may your Sunreturn be peaceful.

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Tucker McKinnon
19 December 2015 @ 08:46 pm
Star Wars [the original trilogy] In 30 Seconds. Just mentally replace the words "Phantom Menace" with "Force Awakens" at the end and you're ready to go.

So yeah, we went and saw the new Star Wars. Nonspoilery: it's not great, but it is good! I am not the most reliable of reporters here[1] but I enjoyed myself the whole way through, and would be willing to see it again. That is: if other people were going I would happily tag along, but I wouldn't make the effort to see it myself. Reasonably excited for Ep8 in a year and a half. Recommended if you are at all a fan of Star Wars; I expect J., the biggest SW geek I know, is absolutely thrilled to death.

[1] I also thought Phantom Menace was good the first time I saw it. In retrospect much of that was attributable to a) it *looked* like Star Wars, b) Liam Neeson, and in particular the Darth Maul fight at the end, and c) the Destructors, the droids at the beginning that rolled in and unfolded and started shooting.

I have no idea how it works for someone who didn't grow up watching the original trilogy over and over again on VHS.

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Tucker McKinnon
14 December 2015 @ 06:49 pm
Done today: submitted a story, returned a rental car, put away the dishes, got my eye licked (twice) by the useless cat, stared at the wall in a mental fog.

Note the absence of things like "went to work" in that list. Stupid sick.

For much of last week I was stressed out about various things: cat illness (Kai spent Sunday not keeping food down, was fine Monday morning and then having trouble again Monday night / Tuesday morning, so off to the vet she went), work stuff (multiple releases scheduled for Friday), xmas shopping (supposed to be done one afternoon last week but unexpected cat illness put a damper on that plan). So it's not a huge surprise that I woke up Friday morning with a sore throat, or Saturday morning with the same sore throat plus some sinus ache.

We ran around on Saturday in the wet and the cold accomplishing fairly little: failed to pick up fish because the fish guys weren't at the farmer's market, checked out a potential apartment that idn't meet standards. Xmas shopping for shipping to the US got done, at least, and everything got wrapped up and boxed up. And we got four litres of syrup for something like $80 CAD. Which is, what, like two buck American these days?

I felt a lot better on Sunday so we and writer-Steph bundled into the car and headed down to B'ham, to give money to the USPS and poke in bookstores and eat delicious wood-fired pizza. I also wandered around in the cold and rain without a jacket, since I hate driving with a jacket and putting it on and taking it off was a nuisance. In retrospect this may have been an error. I crashed hard when we got in, and decided this morning that recuperation was the better part of valor.

Here's hoping this week will go better.

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Tucker McKinnon
01 December 2015 @ 09:58 pm
What are you reading right now?

Nearly through Trouble on Triton, by Samuel R. Delany. Best summed up as "Christ, what an asshole: The Bron Helstrom Story".

The first (and only previous) time I read this, it was for Marc Zaldivar's class (either sophomore English or F&SF, I forget which), well over a decade ago. I have distinct memories of enjoying the book, and thinking there wasn't a lot of plot but there were some really interesting philosophical ideas in there. This time I'm mostly enjoying the book, and though there's not much plot it's a fascinating character study of an unpleasant frustrating person, and the character study has some neat parallels in the interesting philosophical ideas. I am also not infrequently wincing in recognition and semi-recognition.

I am both a better reader and a more self-aware human being than I was in university. I knew both of these things, more or less; I just haven't really had the first driven home to me recently.

What did you just finish reading?

The March North by Graydon Saunders (ebook only, alas). It's... "military fantasy" is I guess the best descriptor, and it's not inaccurate, but it's painfully incomplete. Anyone with any interest in subtle deep worldbuilding, and incidentally things like giant warsheep and chemistry a la Ignition! / Sand Won't Save You This Time, ought to check it out.

Several people have compared it to the work of John M. Ford, which is also not inaccurate, but gave me very much the wrong idea. I don't think of Ford's books as dense or impenetrable or subtle, although they very much are. The first thing I think of when I think of a Mike Ford book is the emotional depth of the characters. That's less present in The March North. This is not really a criticism; that's not the point of the book, and it's well worth reading anyhow!

What do you think you'll read next?

Probaby the first of Delany's Neveryon books (there's an umlaut and an accent in that word somewhere). I never got around to reading all of Neveryon, and Trouble on Triton, its second appendix, and some scattered bits of the Neveryon cycle form a loose collection entitled "Some Remarks on the Modular Calculus," which is why I picked up Triton in the first place.

Somewhere in there I will almost certainly read Graydon's second book, A Succession Of Bad Days. I am not devouring it immediately in the hopes that the delay will tide me over until the third thru Nth come out.

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Tucker McKinnon
28 November 2015 @ 01:35 pm
Because it's been ages and ages since I did a proper con report.

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Tucker McKinnon
23 November 2015 @ 08:47 am
Since 2005, when I started flying semiregularly, every time I've checked a bag on a multi-leg flight home it's gotten lost. Every. Single. Time. I used to joke that my luggage went to Chicago unless I was going to Chicago, in which case it went to Denver. These days I no longer check bags unless forced to.

Because I was bringing home too much stuff I checked my suitcase in Dallas. Got to Toronto, waded through customs, came out at the baggage claim area, where apparently you're supposed to pick up your bag and check it to your next flight.

I bet you can guess where this is going.

I asked the Air Canada baggage desk if that was actually the procedure. They said no, and pointed to a list of origin cities from which baggage processing is expedited. Dallas was on that list. With some foreboding I went on through.

In a shock to no one, when I got off the plane in Vancouver my luggage wasn't waiting for me.

Based on conversations with several other people on a couple of different flights, it sounds like *no* bags from Toronto got transferred to anywhere. Idiots. I filed a report and got a claim number, and my bag is currently listed as "en route to destination airport."

I wisely pulled my laptop out of the suitcase during packing. I neglected to grab my razor, and I completely forgot about my house keys, so I'm housebound today.

Stupid Toronto.

Full con report coming probably later today, because I've not done one of those in awhile.

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Tucker McKinnon
17 November 2015 @ 06:47 pm
Going out of town tonight: Jeff K-- had a spare ticket for BGG.con, and I had four days of vacation that I have to take before the end of the year or else they vanish into the ether. (There are things about my job that I am not fond of, and its vacation policies are high on the list.)

So, have some links.

Pinboard on the Next Economy Conference: Maciej Cegłowski, who I hadn't realised until yesterday is also the author of The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel, livetweets the O'Reilly Next Economy Conference. "We’re moving from a world of widespread unemployment to one where people have three, four or even five jobs. #prosperity"

Ernest Shackelton Loves Me, "a musical about the inspirational romantic connection between a down-on-her-luck electric violinist and the legendary turn-of-the-century polar explorer."

David Mitchell on Earthsea: "Ged's story is told with the calm authority of an age-old Icelandic saga, yet stitched here and there with passages of pure beauty for its own sake." This article is everything I love about A Wizard of Earthsea, and also why that love is fundamentally different from how I feel about books by, say, Tolkien, or Mike Ford, or most recently Ann Leckie's Ancillary books.

Mitchell has (also?) written an introduction to, o my, a beautiful new edition of A Wizard of Earthsea. Based on the samples, the illustrations by David Lupton are exactly perfect.

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Tucker McKinnon
14 November 2015 @ 01:36 pm
I've been out of DC for long enough that I'm starting to think of driving as fun again.

I've popped down to Seattle a couple of times in the past few months to play 1817, one of them honking long train games, with a group down there. It's about a 2.5-hour drive, so I've been leaving around 8-8:30 and arriving at elevenish. Then we play for eight hours, and I drive back, getting in well before midnight. Reasonable.

Traffic is light, the scenery's pretty, and I get to dig into some music I've forgotten I had. (Coming home last weekend I listened to Loreena McKennitt nonstop.)

Maybe this is bundled up with why I like traveling: if you're traveling, there's nothing you need to do other than travel. Nothing that needs worrying about, nothing that needs attention.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

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Tucker McKinnon
07 November 2015 @ 06:18 pm
On Friday afternoon we writers relocated to a different spot in the Great Wide Open (god i hate open-plan offices). Now we're at the far back corner, where I will no longer a) get distracted by people walking by and b) get tense because I'm at the front of a row and I always feel like someone's WATCHING me. So that's a minor improvement. And I snagged a better chair on Tuesday and have been much less tired since. It's not perfect but it is definitely an improvement.

Other than that, not much going on. E's been ill all week, the kind of low-grade ill that depresses executive function but doesnt really do much else. I seem to have dodged it so far; will see how long I can stay lucky.

We've started looking at apartments closer in to town. Nothing has really come up yet, other than a general sense that we're likely going to have to get rid of some bookcases. Oh well. Every so often I get the urge to just go live in a tiny bachelor suite (studio apartment) somewhere, but I'm pretty sure I'd miss my stuff after a month or two.

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Tucker McKinnon
31 October 2015 @ 08:09 pm
I can see the lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night

(Though it's really just the fireworks over Surrey. Vancovites will take any excuse to set off fireworks.)

On my own tonight; E's gone out to a Night Vale show, someone had to be home to stick the cat, and frankly I'm looking forward to an evening By Myself. Plans likely include A Movie and probably Cat Cuddling.

The wind is full of a thousand voices
That pass by the bridge and me


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Tucker McKinnon
31 October 2015 @ 10:41 am
I am still struggling through, and have yet to achieve work/life balance. Have a couple of weeks worth of update.

Cats: Kai is perfectly fine, if a little rounder than she ought to be.

Chaos has been revealed as vampire-cat. Or possibly vampire-victim-cat. Part of managing a diabetic cat involves glucose testing, which requires a bit of blood. THIS CAT HAS NO BLOOD. We spent half an hour last weekend repeatedly sticking him in the ear or toebean, getting a tiny drop of blood, wiping it away (because you can't use the first drop), and then getting about half as much as the glucometer needs before the stick-hole seals up.

E took him to the vet on Thursday, where they used their magic powers to extract blood from him and determined that we probably ought to double his insulin dose.

He's more mobile and more talkative since he's been on the insulin, which are both good. He doesn't seem to be gaining any strength back in his legs, which isn't, but supposedly that'll take awhile.



The discovery that I *can* juggle book + tea + Skytrain pole has improved my commute immeasurably.

Finally read all three of Ann Leckie's Ancillary books last week, which are fantastic. The first is, mm, probably the best-plotted and best-structured, but the second and third have more interesting things to say. Also, "We aren't related, Cousin" is the best line on the best page of anything I've read in quite awhile.

Also (re)read Bear & Mole's Iskryne books. I read A Companion To Wolves (AKA "the book that tackles the Green Dragonrider Problem") when it came out and thought it was great: a *very* interesting exploration of gendered roles in a warrior society, as well as just being a good read. I read the second one, The Tempering Of Men, when *it* came out, and was mostly frustrated. Rereading it now I'm even more frustrated. NOTHING HAPPENS IN THAT BOOK. There is *no* reason for it to exist, plot-wise. It is entirely build-up for the third book. What payoff there is comes in the form of an inevitable romance plot.

The third book, An Apprentice To Elves, came out last month, and I dutifully picked it up and plowed through. And... despite ToM being made of setup, the first hundred pages or so of A2E are mostly backstory, because it takes place fifteen years later and a decent bit has happened in the meantime.

The book goes on to ramble in ways that remind me unpleasantly of Neal Stephenson: too much Cool Stuff, not enough resolution. Fascinating gender politicking but that's not enough to hang a book on, not for me. Your mileage may vary.

Currently reading: Dracula Unredacted, by Bram Stoker with assists from Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. The conceit is that Dracula was a thinly-fictionalised after-action report of a British Intelligence attempt to recruit their own personal vampire and all the ways it went wrong, and the original novel had to be heavily redacted before it could see print. This is the "original" version, annotated by three generations of British Intelligence agents who are not entirely sure that the ongoing attempts to recruit a vampire are a good idea at all. It's really a giant prop for the Dracula Dossier campaign frame, in which the players are secret agents fighting vampires... the idea being that the players read Drac Unredacted and follow up on some of the annotations, making for a neat, complex campaign. I'll never get to run it of course but it's still excellent reading.



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