Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dealing with the DMV

I got it in the mail a week or so ago: a notice that it was time to renew my license plates. The only problem was that my registration was still in my maiden name. I'd changed my driver's license last year; I went on a Saturday and read a hundred pages (and finished a book) while I waited for my turn. It was so busy that day that the DMV had to stay open past the posted hours to serve everyone who had come in before then. They didn't want to change my title at the time, so my registration didn't get changed either. That meant I had to renew my plates in person. Not wanting to repeat last year's wait, I decided to go in this evening (since they have later hours on Tuesdays).

I thought I was prepared by bringing another book (two, actually) with me, but I never had a chance to read. A middle-aged guy with a short ponytail saw my Beatles purse and kept talking to me about them and other classic rock artists. But the wait wasn't terrible; it took between 30 and 40 minutes before my number was called. I went up with renewal notice and driver's license and checkbook in hand. But no sooner than I started to explain what I needed than the woman said, "We don't change the name on the title until you sell it. Go over there to get a sticker." So I did, and they didn't seem to care about the name change either. Since my maiden name is still part of my full name, perhaps it's not that big of a deal. The main thing that irks me about this whole affair is that next year around this time, I'll have to go into the DMV again, wasting more of my time, instead of simply renewing online or via snail mail.

I wonder if it would be worth selling my car to Eugene for a buck so he can sell it back to me, thus requiring a name change on my car title. I'd hate to think what the bureaucracy would make of that, though. They'd probably make me wait in line twice as long.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Back to Reality...

Well, after the parties last night, I didn't do much else with WisCon today. There were some panels this morning, but I decided not to attend. Eugene and I went to the dealer's room one more time to talk with one of the couples there. They sell wooden jigsaw puzzles of animals, both real and imaginary. We've bought at least ten puzzles from them over the years; we came home with six today. Then we drove down to Janesville and stopped to visit my family for a while before resuming our trip. It took nearly twice as long as normal; it seems as if one toll slowed traffic down for miles and miles. We were both tired when we got in; we drove up separately, so we both had to drive back. I'm still trying to catch up with e-mail and other things. Hopefully later this week I can upload more Oscar picture and notes from panels to my website. And yes, Russ, I haven't forgotten that you tagged me on your blog. I'll get to that later when I have nothing interesting to blog about. I think I set a personal record today for posts already!

Fancy Dress Party

WisCon doesn't end for the night with the official ceremonies; panels and parties last late into the night. I didn't attend any more panels after the ceremony, but I did want to mingle a bit. So I went to the fancy dress party. I wore a ballgown I bought a couple of years ago for a cotillion I attended with Eugene (one of his cousins was part of it, and his youngest brother was an escort), and I received several compliments on it. There were all sorts of other costumes there: kimonos, Elizabethan dresses, 18th-century dresses, Victorian outfits, motley, and more modern fashions. Many people brought their own masks, but the hosts/hostesses had decorated ones for those who didn't have one. I drank more champagne and talked with a nice couple who don't live too far from me. They had some nice outfits on; I wish I'd thought to take a picture of them. I gave them my card, so hopefully I'll hear from them again.

More pictures:

Many parties occur at the same time during WisCon, and people are free to drift from one to another. After leaving the fancy dress party, I stopped in to listen to Emma Bull, an author, sing and play guitar. Pay no attention to the person in the foreground; Emma did a good job.

And in case you were wondering, this is what I wore to the party. Eugene took this picture after I returned to our room. Think I should make it my new avatar?

WisCon: Sunday Night

After dinner, Eugene decided to hang out with our friends some more. They played poker and sheepshead, and it sounds as if they had a good time. I would have enjoyed being with them too, but WisCon was still going strong. I dressed up for later (see below) and got in line early for the dessert reception; the line quickly stretched downstairs. I'd been to the dessert reception before, so I brought a book to pass the time while I waited; however, I would up chatting with the gentleman next to me. We actually got started early (since the con committee thought they were running late). We each were allowed to have two desserts; I chose chocolate-covered strawberries and chocolate mousse. They were both very good, and I was glad I didn't take a slice of cake, as I wouldn't have had room for it. Since this was a special anniversary, we also got a glass of champagne to toast all the volunteers who make WisCon so wonderful. Then the guests of honor, Kate Wilhelm and Jane Yolen, spoke about personal experiences that affected their writing. The Carl Brandon Society presented a couple of prizes to works exploring issues affecting people of color; one of the winners donated the cash prize back to the society for a scholarship. The Tiptree Award (for a work exploring gender) was given to Geoff Ryman; WisCon is probably the only place where I've seen a man wearing a tiara (it's part of the award, along with chocolate and cash). The official ceremonies ended after he was serenaded.

Kate Wilhelm.

Jane Yolen.

Geoff Ryman, proudly wearing his tiara. During his acceptance speech, he said something to the effect that Heaven must look a lot like WisCon.

The serenade.

Buddies and Burgers

Eugene and I met with some of our college friends (Brian, Sara, Oz, Lisa, and Oz and Lisa's daughter Charlotte) Sunday night for dinner. We went to Dotty Dumpling's Dowry. Here are some of the photos we took during dinner and afterwards:

This sign caught my eye: it says, "When better men are made[,] Wisconsin women will make them." I still qualify as a Wisconsin woman, don't I?

Oz, Lisa, and Charlotte.

Oz and Charlotte meet Oscar.

Brian, Lisa, Oz with Charlotte, and Eugene. Sara was also taking pictures, which is why she's not shown.

Same group, different expressions.

The Photos Men Don't See*

From the Tiptree Auction Saturday night at WisCon:

The auctioneer, Ellen Klages.

Space Babe (who is that masked woman?) and others helping out at the auction.

More helpers hold up one of the auction items, a drawing by Terri Windling.

Why, yes, people do worship Ellen; why do you ask?

*Title based on "The Women Men Don't See," by James Tiptree Jr. (a.k.a. Alice Sheldon)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Catching up with WisCon

I was so busy I didn't have a chance to post yesterday. Eugene and I started the day early with a quick swim and soak in the whirlpool, then we went to the Farmer's Market. We stocked up on lots of jam and honey; I also bought myself a sprig of lily of the valley since I love the scent so much. We also ate breakfast there; I had a fruit-and-cream crepe. I went to one panel on how changing modes of communication are affecting literature before we had lunch. Although there were some interesting panels right after lunch, I took some time off to review notes for my panel. I think I said before my panel was on fiction, hard science fiction, and women. There were about 25-30 people attending, and they were very interested in the subject. They had a lot of questions and comments, which made for an interesting discussion. At the end, I showed some material I found on the Net (bios of women scientists and a list of science fiction writers) to some of the audience members. Afterwards, I attended a panel on feminist romance to learn more about that. That was also interesting. Eugene and I then had sushi for dinner and walked around campus for a bit. Unfortunately, my sandals weren't quite up for the walk, but at least I didn't get blisters. I attended part of the auction (the first time I've gone to it even though I've been at several WisCons), then wrote a haiku to get a pair of earrings at one of the parties. Eugene and I went out for frozen yoghurt and hung out with some of our friends until 1:00 a.m., when I keeled over. We slept in late today, so I missed the first session but still made it to a panel on childrearing and science fiction. After lunch, I went to another panel on the differences between "breeders" and "broads," then to one on reading vs. sex. I left that one early to attend the Strange Horizons tea party, where I met one of Sue's friends. Now I'm sitting in on a panel on technology and disability in SF, but I'll have to leave that one early so we can have dinner with college friends. When I have more time, I'll post some pictures. I may also post notes from panels on my website. Till later....

Friday, May 26, 2006

WisCon: Friday

Well, after driving up to Madison, I'm at the Concourse Hotel, listening to a panel on gender differences in magic. I attended part of a panel on culture clash this afternoon, but I didn't take notes. After the panel, I hung out at the Gathering for a while. I got my hair braided into a crown (I'll have to have Eugene take a picture of it later), drank tea and ate cookies, and hung around for a while, watching other people. I didn't run into anyone I know there, but I did see someone later in the dealers' room. So far I've only bought three books, which isn't much for me. Then I went to State Street and stocked up on shower gel and other goodies before having dinner at Chautuara (sp?), a Himlayan/Nepal restaurant. The opening ceremony was packed; the con is sold out at 1000 attendees, the most they've ever had.

Here are a few pictures I've taken so far:

A Captiol view from my hotel window.

The cow-tipping booth at the Gathering.

The knitting circle at the Gathering.

Former guests of honor gather to have a group photo taken on the stairs.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New Link

I added a link to Maria Zannini's diary Topical Heat tonight. She's a member of OWW (Online Writing Workshop). I've read her reviews before and found that she makes some very good points. Tonight she was kind enough to respond both on and off the OWW mailing list to a question I had. Her diary focuses mostly on writing, but there are topics on there (such as what men and women want) that are of interest to a general audience. Go ahead and check it out!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

WisCon Prep

Ah, yes, my favorite time of year is quickly approaching... WisCon. In a few days, I'll be up in Madison at the Concourse Hotel, attending panels on science fiction, meeting people, visiting the Farmer's Market and State Street and hopefully seeing our friends from college...I can't wait. The weather should be good this year, which makes it even better. It's a little soon to start packing, but I'm already running some errands I need to get done beforehand. I'll be on a panel called "Science, Hard Science Fiction, and Women," so I've been doing some research on women in science on the Net. Here's an interesting site with biographies of women scientists. I'm still looking for a good site with statistics about women and science education; maybe I can search for that tomorrow. It's a little late tonight to get started on that. Plus there are some household chores that need to be done before Friday, like laundry, and I'm not sure if I'll get the oil changed in my car before I drive up. It would be worth doing, but I've put it off a bit long. I still haven't decided if I'm going to volunteer for anything or bring a gown for the fancy dress party on Sunday night (it would be fun but more stuff to haul with me). And Sara, has Eugene e-mailed you yet about getting together over the weekend? He said he would. I feel like I need a "willy-nilly" smilie to show me getting ready. No wonder I haven't made much headway with acutal writing. I'm still reviewing the plot of Lennon's Line and deciding what I want to do with that. But right now I should check in on Eugene....

Saturday, May 20, 2006

An Evening at Gameworks

Eugene and I were planning to go to ComedySportz tonight, but the early show was sold out, and we're too old to stay up for the late one. ;) He didn't feel like seeing The DaVinci Code tonight (though we may at some point), so instead we decided to visit Gameworks. This was the first time we'd been to one. It was a big place: two levels of various games ranging from air hockey to pinball to lots and lots of arcade games. Despite the smoke (there's a bar/restaurant inside), we wandered around for a while, playing such things as air hockey, pinball, Donkey Kong, Mario Kart, and Ms.Pacman. We spent the most time playing Skeeball; I got very lucky and made the trick shot worth the most points. (Of course, I also missed and got the lowest amount of points more often.) We collected over 200 tickets altogether, but we decided to keep them instead (since we might go back once a month or so) of taking one of the smaller prizes. I saw one of the McFarlane collectible Beatle dolls (the cartoon one of John) that I'd love to get; hopefully no one else claims it before I earn the thousands of tickets for it. Eugene had his eyes on a poker set. We'll see who ends up claiming the prize. ;)

Dishing It Out

Marriage involves growth, change, and compromise on both sides. That's why today I allowed Eugene to drag me (though without kicking and screaming) into the 21st century. That's right, we no longer just have basic TV; we have dish.

I never bothered with cable or satellite TV when I was living on my own. Since I spend so much time in front of the computer, for me it didn't make sense to pay for TV when I don't have time to watch it. I know 99% of people do watch TV, though, so I knew that when Eugene started living with me, he'd want more channels (not just ABC) and much better reception. To be honest, we're both surprised he held out over eight months. But World Cup is coming up soon, and he didn't want to miss that. So he compared cable and satellite TV before deciding to go with the dish.

The installation guy came fairly early, around 8:30. It took him close to three hours to get everything set up, though. It wasn't a typical installation, as he wasn't able to use the cable outlet already in place and had to run the line between our patio doors. I'm not sure we got everything Eugene asked for; he'll have to check on that. But it is working; all we have to do is figure out how to use the remote. And now that we have so many channels, even I might find something to distract me from writing--as if I need more distractions!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Fastest Teeth in the Midwest

I had a dentist appointment today at 3:00. I was done by 3:15. All I had to have done today were to have my teeth checked and cleaned, and my dentist said I did such a good job of caring for my teeth at home that it didn't take her long to clean them. No cavaties have developed since my last visit either. Although I'd taken the rest of the afternoon off, I seriously thought about going back in to work. I didn't for a couple of reasons: I wasn't sure what experiments I could do in an hour or so, and I'm sick again. :( Both my dad and Eugene have been sick in the last week, so I must have gotten it from one of them. So I picked up something for dinner from the grocery store, went home, and went to bed for a couple of hours. I think my fever may be returning, but for now, I need to eat.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Food Coma Fest 2006

My mother-in-law's birthday was on Thursday, and tomorrow is Mother's Day. We celebrated by taking her out to dinner at Sal E Carvao, a Brazilian steakhouse. (We celebrated with my mom last week.) If you haven't been to a Brazilian steakhouse before, it's an all-you-can-eat type of place featuring 14 different types of meat (filet, sirloin, prime rib, lamb, chicken, sausage, and several other varieties). When you're ready to eat, you flip over a little card (like a beverage coaster) to the green side, and waiters will flock to your table bearing various cuts of meat that they slice in front of you. There's also a good-sized salad bar (one of my favorite items on it is the fresh mozzarella), but of course everyone goes there for the meat. My company has had the company holiday party there a couple of times, and it's been a big hit. We haven't been there for over a year, so it was good to return and feast. Now I'm actually feeling more full than when we left. It's a good thing we don't have much planned for the night, although we're going to call Russ soon. Russ, I hope you're home and relaxing. If you're not home, I hope you're not still working. Give yourself a break!

Friday, May 12, 2006


Yes, I meant to use all caps and multiple exclamation points.

I'm very happy to announce that the fantasy anthology A Firestorm of Dragons, containing a short story by yours truly, has been accepted by Dragon Moon Press. Unfortunately, it won't come out until 2008--not that I'm impatient or anything. Further details will be posted either here or on my website as they become available. This press is a small publisher, so I don't know what bookstores will carry the anthology. Hopefully it will be available via special order or Amazon.com. Of course, I'll be doing my part with my website and other things to promote the book. How exciting it's going to be to see a story of mine in print. In fact, I bet it'll be so exciting that I'll have a hard time sleeping tonight.

Where I've Been...

In front of the computer, of couse. I just haven't had time to blog. For the last three nights, I've had chapters to crit, and once I finished them, I either goofed off with a game or worked on my outline for Lennon's Line until bedtime. I figured today I should post early so I do it. I'm into the second part now, re-reading as I go along. (The first part I could practically outline without looking at the text.) I have some ideas for things I may change, but I'm getting to the point where I'd like to get the story out to publishers and agents. OK, it's not quite there yet, but I would like to free myself up to do other things.

Not much news to report. The weekend is supposed to be cold and rainy, so I doubt we'll do much besides chores. We're taking my mother-in-law out for dinner tomorrow for her birthday and Mother's Day (we gave my mom her card and gift last week). Tonight we're going to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000; it's the one with Santa and the Martians. Last Friday we watched MST3K with Manos: The Hands of Fate. I wonder if tonight's movie can surpass that one in dreadfulness. At least I'll get to spend some quality time with Eugene and work on my afghan.

OK, time for a quick game or two before I start dinner.

Monday, May 08, 2006

I Must Bleed Ink...

I had to go to the doctor today to get some bloodwork done before my physical next week. Normally when I have blood taken or donate (which I haven't done for a long time, but I've been taking medication and wasn't sure I was eligble), I give with my right arm. I'm a lefty, so I like giving with my "weaker" arm. Besides, I never have any problems with the particular vein they use. There's even a little mark on my arm from all the times I've have needles poked in there. Today, however, the nurse started putting a tourniquet on my left arm, even after I mentioned my right-arm preference. I decided not to insist on it; after all, a blood test isn't going to drain me that much. Besides, it seemed like a good idea to try switching it up a little. Well, the nurse found a vein close to the skin, but she wasn't able to collect much blood from it. So she bandaged my left arm and repeated the procedure with my right arm. This time the blood collection went much easier. I got to return to work sporting bandaids on each arm. I admit I paraded them to my boss (in a "See? I really did have to take time off, and look what I had to go through" way) before taking them off a short while later.

Speaking of bleeding ink, now that I've finished critting Sue's latest, I should return to work on my outline. I only wish I could bleed ink like she does! ;)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mom and Dad Meet Sushi

After seeing sushi on TV recently, my dad developed an urge to try it. So today Eugene and I met my parents at Todai, an all-you-can-eat sushi and seafood buffet in the Woodfield Mall. The menu is so big I only sampled the sushi (I had about five-six pieces, but there were plenty of varieties to choose from). They also had various soups, salads, and hot entrees available, which is good as my mom refused to try the sushi. My dad was more adventurous, trying to figure out how to use chopsticks and sampling the wasabi. Unfortunately, he took a good-sized portion of wasabi and learned quickly why that's a bad idea. I had my digital camera along, but I didn't get it out--luckily for my dad. He must have gotten it all over his plate; my mom took some of his rice (he ate the fish from the sushi but left the rice) and said it was hot. As for me, some of the calimari was too spicy for me too. I guess we're just not used to strong stuff. ;) But in the end, Dad said that sushi was "edible" and that he would have it again. My mom also found plenty of food to her liking, so we all left stuffed and happy.

Writing: I finished switching the first part of Lennon's Line from first person to third. I hate losing the intimacy of Jo's narration, since I think that's what gives that part its "hookiness," but I think if I'm going to make the two stories a novel, then it's best to put all of it in third person so they flow together better. I plan to keep sections of the first part of the story in Jo's voice, but they'll be cast as journal entries. Her journal plays a crucial role in part two, so I want to reference it along the way. My next step will be to outline the whole book. I'll need one eventually, and it will help me decide if I want to add or change scenes. Then I can review all of the comments I got from OWW and decide how much of them I want to use. It would be nice if I can finish the revising/editing by the end of the year, but with everything else going on that may be pushing it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Lilacs in Lombard

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room....

A.E. Houseman was referring to cherry trees in his poem "Loveliest of Trees," but my favorite spring flowers include violets, lily of the valley, and lilacs. I got to sate myself on lilacs this evening as Eugene and I drove down to Lombard, which features a park filled with lilac bushes. The park was founded in 1927, though I think the lilacs were planted even before then. There were also several varieties of tulips still in bloom as well.

We brought Oscar, our stuffed orca, along for photo ops; after all, aren't killer whales and gardens a natural pairing? We wandered around a bit first, sniffing the various bushes as if we were sampling fine wines: "This one's pretty mild," "This one's stronger," "This one reminds me of baby powder." It was after supper, which would normally be a good time for photographs with the lighting conditions. Unfortunately, many of the best views were into the sun, so some of the pictures I took came out a little light. Eugene's pictures will probably turn out better--he knows more about what he's doing and has a much more impressive camera. Still, we took some good photos, particularly with Oscar. The best part was when we found a variety of tulips named Oscar; he had to pose with his namesake flowers. When I have time, I'll upload his latest collection of pictures to my website.

After about an hour, we'd gone through the whole park, and I'd stopped to sniff the lilacs several times. We stopped for Ben and Jerry's and did some shopping before going home.

Is he an ex-parrot?

My tulips have a first name,
It's O-S-C-A-R....

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Wicked: The Book and the Musical

Sorry I haven't blogged for a few days; by the time I've finished reviewing and editing for the night, it's been time to go to bed. Ah, the wild life of a writer. But at least I got some reading done this week too. I just finished Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. If you're not familiar with it, it's the biography of the Wicked Witch of the West from Oz, told from her perspective. The book came out a few years ago and more recently has been made into a musical. Eugene and I saw the musical last year, well before I read the book. They're very different from each other, and I thought it might be interesting to discuss the differences. Be warned; if you haven't read or seen the works, I'm going to provide spoilers. Let me provide some spoiler space...

OK, this should be enough. I'll start by discussing the musical, since we saw it first. The musical focuses on the unlikely friendship between Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch, and Galinda, later Glinda the Good. They meet at school (Shiz) and are forced to be roommates. Galinda is very blonde and very popular, while Elphaba is already looked down upon by the other students because of her skin color. (She was born green.) Elphaba is also a champion of animal rights, and when she learns the Wizard of Oz has been persecuting them, she turns against him, separates from Glinda, and is hailed as wicked by all. Nonetheless, she manages to win the heart of a prince, Fiyero, away from Glinda. Although Dorothy also comes between Elphaba and Glinda, the two reunite one more time before Dorothy throws water on the witch--with less effect than in the movie. By the end, Elphaba and Fiyero are reunited but must leave Oz (since Elphaba is presumed dead), and Glinda must develop beyond her shallowness to truly do good.

The book version is much darker and more philosophical. Many plot points were changed for the musical. For instance, in the book, Elphaba has a sister named Nessarose, who is born without arms and is very religious. In the musical, Nessa can't walk (well, I guess most actresses really wouldn't give up an arm for a role) and is love with a Munchkin named Boq, who ultimately becomes the Tin Man. In the book, Fiyero dies, but he and Elphaba apparently have a son. (There's a sequel about him called Son of a Witch.) Elphaba is portrayed much more sympathetically in the musical than in the book, although in the book it's clear that much of her unhappiness is due to her environment and upbringing. The book also contains a lot of philosophy about the nature of evil; indeed, in the book, there are three different religions/philosophies in Oz which come up again and again. I'll admit I haven't absorbed all of that discussion, though.

Is one better than the other? I have to admit I like the musical more. I thought they did a fantastic job of developing the characters; the leads weren't just bad or good, but both. The plot also seems more connected (since it's over a shorter span of time) than in the book, which covers Elphaba's whole life. It also ties in well with The Wizard of Oz, although some things I had questions about were made more clear in the book. I would definitely recommend seeing the musical to everyone, but I'm not sure everyone would like the darker tone of the book, although that's worth reading too. I wondered for a while what the author thought of the musical, but I noticed today that he dedicates the sequel to the original cast. So give Wicked a try, and you will be changed for good.

Site Meter