Monthly Archives: April 2007

Happy International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day

A while back, Howard V. Hendrix sounded off about people posting works for free online, calling people who do so “webscabs” and “Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch[es]”. Given that he’s the current VP of the SFWA, the organization for professional writers of science fiction and fantasy, and so many SFWA members have posted works for free online, it caused quite a bit of uproar. In response, Jo Walton, who is up for a Nebula this year, decided to turn this into something good and declared April 23rd to be International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.

On this day, everyone who wants to should give away professional quality work online. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, a story or a poem, it doesn’t matter if it’s already been published or if it hasn’t, the point is it should be disseminated online to celebrate our technopeasanthood.

Whatever you’re posting should go on your own site. I’ll make a post here on the day and people can post links in comments to whatever they’re putting up on. If you are a member of SFWA, or SFWA qualified but not a member (like me) you get extra pixel-spattered points for doing this. If other people want to collect the links too, that would be really cool. Please disseminate this information widely.

I’m taking part, though my contribution is not a novel, story or poem. It’s a tutorial I sold to PC Plus UK last year on how to write a text adventure using the programming language Inform 7.

In the spirit of the day, here are some of my picks for what you might enjoy reading.

  • April 29th, by Nick Mamatas. The aliens have arrived on Earth, and Jeremy is coming to grips with them.
  • Bury the Dead, by Ann Leckie. A family’s Thanksgiving dinner, complete with family secrets.
  • The Famous Ape, by Chris Roberson. Apes and elephants and the tensions between them.
  • Missile Gap, by Charles Stross. Charlie’s alternate-history novella involving the Cold War. Currently on the Locus award shortlist for best novella.
  • Parting Gifts, by Diane Duane. One of the few short works set in her Middle Kingdoms universe.
  • Redemption, Drawing Near, by Michael Jasper. The aliens have landed, and they want a priest.
  • Think of a Pink Ship, by Chris Roberson. Caution: contains adult content. The aliens have landed right next to Clay and Molly.

I’ll update this as the day goes on and as I have time to look through other submissions. If you want to see them all yourself, take a look at Jo Walton’s list or the IPSTP Livejournal community.

UPDATE as promised:

  • Bad Medicine, by Martha Wells. A wielder of magic and something from the world beyond.
  • Domovoi, by M.K. Hobson. The main character is a murder, a rapist, and a real-estate developer.
  • Dragon Offerings, by Janni Lee Simner. Do dragons really like Oreos?
  • Glass: A Love Story, by Jay Lake. Love and loss in an unusual urban fantasy.
  • Immortal Sin, by Jennifer Pelland. A tutorial on how to outrun God.
  • New Hope for the Dead, by David Langford. The approaching singularity can be tough on posthumans as well.
  • The Queen’s Mirror, by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald. I’m a sucker for stories that play off of fairy tales.
  • The Seventh Letter, by Sean Williams. Georges Perec would be pleased.
  • Signs of Life, by Barbara Krasnoff. Drug use and deafness in space.
  • A Terror in Flesh, by Andrew Plotkin. Zombies, plus something else I shan’t say for fear of spoiling the story.
  • Thorns, by Martha Wells. Did I mention that I’m a sucker for stories that play off of fairy tales?
  • Wellsprings of Genius, by Robert Reed. One of the more interesting choices for the day, given its topic of intellectual property.
  • When Jabberwocks Attack, by Kelly Mccullough. What happens to classics majors who need jobs.
  • Words Written in Fire, by Yoon Ha Lee. A very short story about a young firebug.

My Husband Rocks!

Last weekend, I jetted off to Nashville to hang out with the gals and Stephen hung out with Eli. Today, I had a baby shower lunch to attend and a church function immediately following. So once again, Stephen was in charge of Eli pretty much all day. (Now granted this morning wasn’t that big of a deal, since he slept from 9-noon.)

But this afternoon not only did he entertain a toddler of uncertain mood and physical well-being but he also managed to strike the full bed in the guest room, get it situated in Eli’s room for my approval, set up the crib in Liza’s room, vacuum about half the rugs in the house and when I arrived, they were dust mopping the hardwood floors.

It is apparent to me I should either leave more often or be pregnant and whine more. Whatever caused all this good work to get done, I am thankful from the bottom of my pregnant heart. Now don’t you all wish you had a Stephen?

P.S. Here’s Eli on his big boy bed…

There Is No Substitute For Mom

I was working on a project last night around 9:30 when Eli came padding into the room. He’d been in bed for over an hour, and now here he stood, looking distraught, his arms held out in a drooping cruciform. “Daddy,” he said, and “daddy.”

Then the smell hit me.

We went into his room to clean up his supper and a good portion of his lunch, which was now on his bed, his clothes, and his two favorite stuffed animals. We whisked everything off and to the washing machine.

(I guess I should have warned you about the vomit ahead of time. Sorry! Think of it this way: you got as much warning as we did.)

Eli sat with Misty while I cleaned up. “I’m sorry,” he told us several times. He then vomited again into a metal bowl I’d grabbed for such an emergency. “Thank you for cleaning me up.”

He proceeded to throw up every fifteen to twenty minutes. I offered to sit with Eli, but he was having none of that. He wanted mom. They read and watched TV before settling down to fitful dozing. I brought paper towels and cleaned out the metal bowl as needed. Misty finally sent me to get some sleep around midnight, and at 1 Eli had been asleep long enough that we felt safe to put him to bed. I stumbled out of bed to help get him to his. He was so tired that he tripped over the edge of his bed, fell face first into the mattress, and was asleep again.

He got up at 6, but now he’s back in bed. Don’t expect much from us today.

Friday Night Videos: Paper Cutouts

Eskimo Disco: Picture Perfect (2005)

Man cuts out pictures of people; people dance. I dunno, this is an interesting concept, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired. On the plus side, there’s a keytar. Keytar!

Switchfoot: Awakening (2007)

Here’s what Eskimo Disco could have done with paper cutouts — mimic Guitar Hero. The video has a story line, stuff happens, and Tony Hale (“Hey, brother”) is in the video. A far better effort than the above, and a lot more fun. But I’m sad to see what happened to the Guitar Hero interface now that Activision bought it.

(Thanks to dfan for the Switchfoot video.)

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Huntsville-Madison County Public Library System is holding The Big Read, in which the city reads one book. This year’s book is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I just returned from tonight’s event, in which Alabama historian Wayne Flint discussed the historical reality of Alabama in the 1930s. At one point he asked everyone who had read the book to raise their hands.

I raised my hand, but strictly speaking, I haven’t read it. I had it read to me. One summer when we lived in a little camper in Texas, my dad read To Kill a Mockingbird to Andrew and me. We would huddle in the bunk bed that was crammed against the roof at the front of the camper, listening to Harper Lee’s prose while the Texas heat seeped in through the walls. Whenever I think of that book, I hear my dad’s voice, reading it softly to me.

I’m curious: have you read To Kill a Mockingbird?

Three Cool Things #2

These are some cool things that happened today:

1. I finished all my baby thank you notes before the upcoming showers on Saturday and the one following quickly on Tuesday. It’s good to get one set all done before they start really piling up.

2. LanaBob! posted this on her site. It’s sappy but very sweet and gave me the warm fuzzy.

3. Eli wrote his name all by himself tonight as I was working on the above mentioned thank you notes. He asked me to help and so I gave him instructions and here is what he did:
I had to darken it considerably because he wrote it so lightly on the back of a printed page so that’s why it looks like this.

Because the Day Can’t Pass without these Cute Photos of Eli

This is called an Eli Sandwich. It’s a variant of Stephen and me hugging Eli between the two of us and yelling “Eli Sandwich!” Either situation invokes many, many giggles.

Eli wondered into the office at bedtime tonight like this. Stephen and I had to prop each other up while laughing. We are so on top of the oral hygiene around here.

The Five Paragraph Essay Considered as Kudzu, a Shoebox, a Crutch, and Training Wheels

I expect the last three words of this sentence will bring back horrible memories of school for most of you: five paragraph essay. It’s one of those pedagogical tools that, thanks to its use on standardized tests, has taken root like kudzu, spreading throughout US high schools and resisting attempts to get rid of it. Its formulaic structure lends itself to writing without thinking, and its ease of use means a lot of teachers don’t go any further in teaching writing.

The five paragraph essay is a triumph of organization over, well, everything else. That’s the main reason it’s used in classrooms. When you first start writing, you don’t know how to organize your thoughts, or even that you should. Five paragraph essays make that task easier. Writing wraps your thinking up in a package you can hand to others, and organizing that writing brings the package together. In that sense, the five paragraph essay is a shoebox. It’s tidy, easy to carry, and stacks well, a convenience for teachers with thirty essays to grade. But I wouldn’t pack my clothes inside shoeboxes for a vacation, or store our one thousand books in them. Not all thoughts fit into a five paragraph essay.

Even for those that do, the essay’s structure can be a crutch, discouraging developing those thoughts further. Once you learn the five paragraph formula you can apply it over and over and over again, dutifully composing a thesis sentence, dropping in three supporting paragraphs, and wrapping it up with a concluding paragraph. By the end of high school I could fart a five paragraph essay. I never took an English class in college thanks to the five paragraph essays I wrote for the freshman composition test. At no time, though, did I truly learn to develop those thoughts beyond what was needed for a minimally-competent five paragraph essay. I’m not the only student to have that experience, either.

Yes, class time is limited. Yes, five paragraph essays teaches organization. Yes, five paragraph essays are the easiest form of essay writing. But they’re training wheels. At some point they need to be left behind. Five paragraph essays can be the first step in learning how to compose; they shouldn’t be the last. If only they weren’t used on standardized tests like state achievement exams and my college’s freshman composition test. Teachers have to teach to tests, and that leads to them emphasizing the form to the exclusion of most any other. The result: students who can, if pressed, write in a form that doesn’t exist outside of junior high and high school, but who can’t do any other kind of critical writing.

Five paragraph essays may be the triumph of organization over content, of facile writing over critical thinking, of convenience over skill. Regardless, I have hope that they will not reign forever. The College Board announced that of all essays written for the SAT from March 2005 to January 2006, only 8 percent used a five paragraph structure. If we’re lucky, those students made a conscious choice not to use the five paragraph structure. If not, I know what kind of SAT preparation skills I’ll be marketing.

Office Shelves

As promised, here are photos of the shelving extravaganza.


Painting process.

The first wall bracket installed.

Stephen doing the hardest part, pounding the brackets onto the wall pieces.

Placing shelves.

Left side of shelves. (My side.)

Right side of shelves. (Stephen’s side.)

Those are all the books from under the guest bed. It seemed like so many when they were under there. But now there’s so much room to grow!

I had to take some more photos after I had fiddled around and put more stuff on the shelves…I’m such a homemaker nerd.

My side. Two good things here. 1. My diploma which I’ve always wanted to have on display. 2. On the second shelf from the bottom is a stack of empty notebooks. Never let me con you and say that I have nothing to write on. To the left of that stack, my ink for my fountain pen. Never let me con you and say I have nothing to write with.

Stephen’s side. Note Stephen’s shelf o’ toys, which he has never had in one place.

Now Being Announced

Baby TBA’s name is to be Kathryn Elizabeth Granade. We’ll call her Liza, at least until she tells us her name is Elizabeth or Kate or Athr.