I haven't done one of these in years

Sep. 20th, 2017 08:58 am
supergee: (me-kinda)
[personal profile] supergee
1. Who are you named after?
My grandfather Abraham. The Jewish custom was same first initial, different name. In New York in the 50s some of the Anglo-Saxon-sounding ones that Anglo-Saxons rarely used were considered inherently funny, though Arthur wasn’t as bad as Melvin or Seymour. Since no one else feels that way, I’ve gotten over it.

2. Last time I cried?
Can’t remember. I guess I pass that aspect of Correct Gender Performance

3. Soda or water?
Split the difference: warm, flat diet soda. Fake chocolate is my fave.

4. What's your favorite kind of pizza?
Mushrooms/onions/olives. Ham & pineapple is OK.

5. Favorite flower?
All the garish ones.

6. Roller Coaster?
Nah

7. Favorite ice cream?
Chocolate chip mint, but my pancreas don’t want me to have any.

8. Favorite book?
Illuminatus!/Stranger in a Strange Land

9. Shorts or jeans?
Neither. I decided 50 years ago that jeans are a particularly boring form of cosplay.

10. What are you listening to right now?
The voices telling me—I mean, nothing! Nothing at all!

11. Favorite color? Magenta, the one that’s not on the spectrum. (I refrain from saying, “unlike me.”

12. Tattoo?
None. Unlike my (female) spouse, I am not macho enough to put up with the pain.

13. Favorite thing to eat?
Rare red meat

14. Android or iPhone?
Scary newfangled things! Get off my lawn!

15. Favorite holiday?
5/5. Not as Cinco de Mayo, but as the anniversary of my first zine

16. Night owl or mornings?
Mornings

17. Fave day of the week?
Now that I’m retired, I don’t have one.

18. Favorite season?
Spring, I guess

19. Favorite Sport?
Pro football

Interesting Links for 20-09-2017

Sep. 20th, 2017 12:00 pm
[syndicated profile] book_smugglers_feed

Posted by Ana

Hello and a Happy Wednesday to all!

Today, we are proud to be hosting an exclusive excerpt from Weaver’s Lament, an upcoming Tor.com novella by Emma Newman, sequel to the excellent Brother’s Ruin!

weaverslament_final_original

Chapter 1

Charlotte was certain she was going to die. She’d thought the threat of Royal Society Enforcers was the most terrifying thing she’d ever experienced, but that was nothing compared to travelling by train. Now she understood why her grandmother had always crossed herself whenever anyone mentioned the rapidly expanding rail network.

She’d been fine in the first few minutes of the journey, when the train had pulled away from Euston station in a stately fashion, even excited. She’d looked out on transport sheds and then houses, with a sense of adventure blooming in her chest. It wasn’t so bad; it was bumpy and noisy as the carriage rattled over the rails, but only a little faster than an omnibus. Quite why her father had looked so concerned when he’d helped her into the carriage, she’d had no idea.

Twenty minutes into the journey, as the city thinned and the countryside opened up, the train had built speed until the greenery at the side of the track was a blur. Surely nothing could go so fast and be safe? No wonder her mother had been so put out by Ben’s letter, asking his sister to visit him in Manchester.

“But you’ll have to go on the train!” she’d squawked. “It’s such a long way! Why can’t he come to visit us here?”

“Because he’s not allowed,” Charlotte had replied, reading the letter from her brother again. It seemed like a simple invitation, but the fact that he’d asked only for her made Charlotte nervous. Surely he missed their parents too? She feared he was getting ill again and struggling to cope. After the success of being accepted into the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts, she could imagine his reluctance to admit any weakness, especially considering the exorbitant amount of money they’d paid her family as compensation. She remembered how proud he’d been, even though it had been her magical skill, not his, that had earned him a place in the College of Dynamics and changed their family’s fortune.

“But I thought he wasn’t allowed to see us,” Father had said. “Something must be wrong. I should go with you.”

Charlotte knew Ben would be furious if she brought anyone else with her. “No, Papa, I’ll go by myself. If there was a problem, he’d have been sent home. We’d know about it. He’s probably missing us and can’t risk the entire family going to see him.”

So much concern over one simple invitation, but it was no surprise. They’d all been worrying about him, and with the six-month mark of his training as a magus coming up, they were all afraid that his previous pattern would resurface; he’d last a few months away from home and then fall deathly ill again.

“I’m not sure it’s proper for you to travel alone, Charlotte,” Mother had said. “We’re a respectable family now. We live in the West End. People will talk.”

She’d laughed. “Mother, no one will even notice I’m gone! Even George is too busy to see me this week.”

Her fiancé’s review was on Friday and he was desperate to earn his promotion to registrar. She was certain he’d succeed; the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages could not have a more dedicated clerk. But there was more at stake than his professional pride; he was adamant that they could not marry unless he was earning a decent salary in a secure position. Not even the offer of help from her parents, now very well off thanks to the compensation from the Royal Society for taking Ben, would dissuade him. “It’s a matter of principle, darling,” he’d said to her. “If I cannot provide a good life for my wife right from the start, I don’t deserve to marry.”

Charlotte would have been happy to live in a tiny terraced house back over on the other side of the city, where they used to live before the windfall, but she was willing to be patient. Life in the west of the city was surprisingly different. Her mother was so much happier there—she’d been able to give up sewing—and the house was larger, with a better landlord. But with the improvement of their circumstances came a strange set of ideas that Charlotte simply didn’t share. Her mother seemed to think that living in the West End meant they had to go promenading in the park on Sunday afternoons after church. The colour of their curtains had to be fashionable, they had to have a maid—even though they’d been perfectly fine without one before—and Charlotte had to take care of her reputation. It seemed that taking the train alone would somehow endanger it. Charlotte was certain that her secret career as an illustrator would not fit in with her mother’s ideas about how she should conduct herself, either.

“I will put her on the train at Euston,” Father had said, elbow resting on the large mantelpiece, pipe in hand. “Benjamin will meet her at London Road station in Manchester. The London and North Western railway company has trains that go straight there with no changes. We’ll make sure he knows which train she will be on.”

“I shall go tomorrow,” Charlotte had said. “Then I can be back for Friday, so I can be there for George after his review.”

“That’s settled, then,” Father had said between puffs. It seemed that, for him, their change in fortune had translated to that particular pose and unfortunately smelly habit.

Now she wished her father had come with her, if only just so she would have someone to talk to. She’d brought her sketchbook, handkerchiefs to embroider and some crochet, but was unable to put her hand to any of them. Even though the terror had subsided to a constant tension and a gasp every time the carriage lurched on a corner, it was still too bumpy for her to do anything save look out the window.

Growing accustomed to the speed, Charlotte was getting used to focusing her attention out towards the horizon. It was a beautiful May morning when she left Euston and she was filled with hope as she looked out over the verdant countryside. The hedgerows were flowering, the fresh new leaves on the trees were her favourite shade of pale green and she could see lambs gambolling in the fields. George would be promoted and they would have a spring wedding and it would be perfect. As they sped through the midlands, the sky darkened and the view was obscured by driving rain. At least she was in an enclosed first class carriage. Her grandfather had told her about the old third class carriage he’d travelled in once, open to the elements during a terrible thunderstorm. She shivered at the mere thought of it.

Daydreaming about her wedding and enjoying the view could only keep her fears for Ben at bay for so long. The compartment was relatively small, seating six comfortably, and had its own door. She was lonely, yet always relieved when no one got in to share it with her at a station. She wouldn’t know what to do if a man travelling alone got in with her. She hoped another young woman would share the rest of the journey, providing company without any fear of unwelcome attention, but she was still alone hours later when the train pulled into Crewe. A comfort stop of ten minutes was announced, but she didn’t want to leave her luggage unattended, so she watched the other passengers instead. She was desperate for a cup of tea and a bun, but she decided to wait until she arrived so she could share that with Ben.

Charlotte was just starting to change her mind when she spotted a familiar flash of blond hair against a black satin collar. She jolted in her seat as she realised the man leaving the compartment next to hers was none other than Magus Hopkins, her secret tutor. The sight of him brought the usual tumult of guilt and excitement. The sense of guilt had started months before, when he’d discovered she’d helped to con the Royal Society into thinking her brother was far more magically gifted than he was. It was a permanent emotion now, reinforced every time they met in secret, even though it was only so he could teach her how to control her own ability without turning wild.

Charlotte watched him stride towards the station café along with many other passengers. Her heart pounded, as it always did when she saw him. She scowled at the back of his burgundy frock coat, silently cursing the perfection of his silhouette. Like every time she saw him, she was seized by the desire to draw him. Charlotte knew she must never give in to it. Bad enough that she even considered it.

When Hopkins was out of sight, she leaned back so he wouldn’t be able to see her through the window of her carriage when he returned to the train. Had he followed her? Surely not! She’d left a note in the usual hiding place, explaining that she couldn’t meet him that week, but hadn’t said anything about the reason why.

A knock on the window made her jump and she felt her face flush red when she saw a burgundy velvet cuff. She pulled the window down as Magus Hopkins doffed his top hat to her.

“Why, Miss Gunn, it is you!” he said with a cheery smile. “What an extraordinary coincidence!”

“Indeed,” she said, trying to hide her delight at seeing his face by frowning most deeply. “What brings you to Crewe?”

“Oh, I’m going to Manchester,” he said, patting his hat back into place. “My compartment is next to yours. We’ve been neighbours all the way from Euston, it would seem.”

She folded her arms. “Magus Hopkins, this is too much of a coincidence for me to bear. Why have you followed me?”

His eyebrows shot up behind the brim of his hat. “Followed you? Quite the contrary, Miss Gunn. I’ve been invited to assist with the design of a new clock tower. The Manchester Reform Club has proposed something quite ambitious.”

It sounded plausible enough; his specialisation in the Fine Kinetic arts was the design of efficient timepieces. The Royal Society held the Queen’s charter for the maintenance, measurement and accuracy of nationalised timekeeping, necessitated by the rise in popularity of the railways. Now that the country could be crossed in a matter of hours, localised time at individual towns and cities was no longer acceptable. The trains, in turn, were a product of research funded by the College of Thermaturgy, and one of their magi would be at the front of the train now, using Esoteric arts to keep the boiler at exactly the right temperature. Between the three colleges of the Royal Society, England—and indeed, the Empire—were evolving at an astounding rate.

No matter how plausible the reason, Charlotte didn’t believe him. But then she considered how she was simply one secret in his life, not the centre of it. She doubted that her comings and goings were of as much interest to him as he was to her. She shouldn’t be so vain.

“May I ask what takes you to the North, Miss Gunn?”

She couldn’t tell him the real reason. Ben could get into trouble if his supervisors knew he’d written to her. “I’m visiting a relative,” she said. “My aunt. Vera. My aunt Vera.”

His lip twitched in that maddening, charming way it did whenever he disbelieved her. “Oh, really? I confess, when I spotted you on the way to the café, I was certain you’d be on your way to visit your brother. He’s been assigned to a mill in Manchester, has he not?”

That was more than she knew. “I have no idea,” she replied truthfully. “Apprentices aren’t permitted to disclose their whereabouts to relatives, as you know.”

“Shame,” Hopkins said, glancing down the platform as other passengers started to return to their compartments. “I’ve heard some rather alarming rumours about a couple of the cotton mills there. It would have been interesting to know if there was any truth to them.”

“What rumours?”

He waved a hand, dismissively. “All hearsay, no doubt. But of course, it’s of no relevance to your dear aunt.”

The twinkle in his eye infuriated her. Must he always tease her so? “If my brother were—purely hypothetically—serving his apprenticeship in one of those mills, would he be in danger?”

“I would not be content if someone I loved were involved in their operation.”

She bit her lip. She knew he was steering her again, as was his wont, but she couldn’t let her pride interfere when it came to Ben’s safety. “Please, Magus Hopkins, if there’s something I should know about my brother’s apprenticeship, do tell me. Is this Ledbetter’s doing? Is it something to do with that awful cage he was involved in?”

Magus Ledbetter was the one who had recruited her brother into the College of Dynamics, an odious man whose marque was embossed on a cage that killed debtors. With the help of Magus Hopkins, she’d been able to save her father from that fate, but not her brother from Ledbetter’s clutches. As much as she feared for Ben’s health away from home, she also feared that Ledbetter would corrupt his gentle heart.

Hopkins became serious. “The mills are the province of the College of Dynamics, you understand. They wouldn’t appreciate the likes of me knowing about any difficulties they may have, let alone my telling another.”

Charlotte slid to the edge of her seat, closing the distance between them. “You said that we would work together, rooting out the likes of Ledbetter and his despicable activities. If there is anything like that cage happening where my brother is apprenticed I insist you tell me.”

“He’s asked you for help, hasn’t he?”

She looked away, torn. “He’s asked me to visit,” she confessed. “He didn’t say anything in the letter, but he asked only for me. I’m very worried.”

He nodded, satisfied with the truth. She hated breaking her brother’s confidence, but Hopkins had not let her down yet. “There have been several unusual accidents that can’t be ascribed to mechanical failure nor to human error. The accounts that have reached me speak of something sinister at play and—”

“Is this gentleman bothering you, Miss?”

Charlotte leaned back as the station guard came into view. “Thank you for your concern, but we are acquainted.”

The guard doffed his cap at both her and Hopkins. “Begging your pardon, sir, Miss, but I like to keep an eye out for any young ladies travelling alone.”

“Most considerate of you,” Hopkins said. “I was simply doing the same.”

“The train will be moving on shortly,” the guard said. “May I suggest you return to your compartment, sir?”

Hopkins doffed his hat to Charlotte again. “I wish you a very pleasant stay in Manchester, Miss Gunn.” He looked as if he were about to go, but reconsidered. “And mark my words, Miss Gunn. You are likely to see things in Manchester that will upset you, and possibly test even a saint’s temper. Best to keep your mind on higher things.”

He was warning her to be mindful of his teachings and remember her own marque. As an untrained latent magus, the risk of turning wild was omnipresent for her. In the months that had passed since Ben’s test, she knew she was getting more powerful, and Hopkins had confirmed as much. He had taught her the technique her brother would also have learned to manage his ability. Like all the magi, she’d developed her own personal symbol, what the Royal Society referred to as a “marque.” It was meaningful only to her, and focusing upon it helped to rein in her latent ability. It would also, in time, mean that she’d be able to influence objects at a distance, even out of her sight.

She wanted to ask Hopkins to come into the compartment with her so they could continue the conversation, but she didn’t dare do something so scandalous in front of the guard. Besides, Ben was meeting her at the station, and if he met her straight of the train, he’d recognise Hopkins. They’d met when Ben was tested. All she could do was give a faint smile and say, “Thank you, Magus Hopkins. I will bear that in mind.”

The guard saw Hopkins to his compartment and gave her a kindly smile as he walked off down the platform. Charlotte wished she’d gotten that cup of tea after all. She needed one now more than ever.

Chapter 2

The crowded platform at London Road station was both a blessing and a curse. It reduced any chance that Ben might have had to spot Hopkins, but it also made it very difficult for her to be seen, too.

It was easy to pick Ben out in the crowd, as he stood at least a foot taller than many of the men there. But no matter how much she waved at him, he simply didn’t see her. She dragged her bag from her compartment and stood on it, taking off her bonnet to flap it at him. At last, he waved at her and made his way over, cutting through the crowd like a tea clipper.

He picked her up and span her around. “Charlie Bean!” he cheered. “Oh, I am so very glad to see you!”

“Put me down, silly!” Charlotte laughed, worried that far too much of her petticoat lace was in plain sight. She beamed up at him when he put her down.

He looked so well! Better than she’d ever seen him, in fact. His gaunt cheeks had filled out and even taken on a rosy hue. His dark brown hair was shining, his sideburns and moustache neatly clipped, his back straight. The coat hanger quality of his shoulders had gone and he filled out his shirt and frock coat with a broad chest. His arms had felt strong when he’d picked her up. He was the very picture of health.

“How was the journey?”

“Terrifying,” she said, and he chuckled. “It improved once I got used to it. Could you wave that porter over?”

“No need,” he said, picking up her bag as if it contained tissue paper. “There are splendid tearooms down the road. Are you thirsty?”

“Parched,” she said, tucking her hand into the crook of his elbow. “It’s so lovely to see you again!”

Charlotte clung to him as he led her through the crowd, Hopkins nowhere to be seen in the throng of passengers. They passed happy reunions and tearful farewells, until at last they made it out onto the street.

Ben disentangled himself from her. “I’m afraid we shouldn’t be seen to be close, out on the street,” he said. “Sorry, Charlie, I quite forgot myself there. I shouldn’t have embraced you like that. Not in public.”

She looked around them, but no one seemed to be paying any attention. “I understand,” she said.

Out on the street, the red-bricked buildings made her feel a world away from the fine Georgian stone and grey bricks of London. The street was pulsing with people and the thoroughfare was clogged with horse-drawn carriages and omnibuses. The skyline was dominated by mills several storeys high, mixed with rows of workers’ cottages and slums. The smell was most unpleasant, and Charlotte couldn’t help but think of miasma. Only two years before, thousands had died here from cholera.

Despite the overcrowding and filth of the city, she was happy to be there. It was such a relief to see Ben well. The ominous comments Hopkins had made about the mills seemed irrelevant now. Ben seemed full of confidence and people moved out of their way as he approached. He wore the red-and-black-striped cravat of a Dynamics apprentice, and those who noticed it stared at him as they passed with looks of envy, fear, and respect. How different it was from the last time they’d walked down a street together and she’d had to practically carry him home. This time she was hurrying to keep up.

She was glad when he guided her towards the doors of the Heywood Tea Rooms. “You must try an Eccles cake,” he said as he held the door open for her. “They are quite extraordinary.”

It was a very large establishment, filled with tables covered in crisp white linen waited on by pretty women in smart uniforms. Along the back wall, there were private booths. Charlotte suspected they were the reason he’d brought her here. When Ben asked one of the waitresses to seat them in the one in the far corner, she was certain of it.

He ordered tea for two and Eccles cakes for both of them.

“Mother and Father send their love,” she said, watching him cast an eye over the room and the rest of the patrons.

Relaxing, Ben gave her his full attention. “Did they make a fuss about you coming to visit?”

“Of course. They’re both well. George, too—he has his review for promotion on Friday. We’re hoping for a spring wedding. And there’s going to be another collection by the author of Love, Death and Other Magicks and I’ve been commissioned to illustrate it. That’s all my news, now you tell me everything!”

The waitress arrived with their order and Ben waited until she’d left again. He sighed at the way Charlotte prodded the Eccles cake. “It’s got lots of currants inside. You’ll like it.”

“When you said ‘cake’ I was expecting a sponge, not something covered in flaked pastry.” She stirred the teapot. “When I got your letter I was worried you’d fallen ill again.”

“I’ve never felt better.”

The first pour from the pot was enough to tell her it hadn’t brewed long enough. She nibbled at the edge of the pastry and took a larger bite, weathering his “I told you so” expression with as much grace as she could muster. She looked at him expectantly, deciding not to say another word until he started talking.

Instead, he stirred the teapot, too, and then poured for both of them. She took another bite and looked at the rest of the tearooms. Perhaps everything was actually just fine, and she’d got herself into a stew over nothing.

“Charlie, I need your help.”

Perhaps not. She looked at him, at his healthy glow, and saw genuine worry in his eyes. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“It’s all been going so well,” he said. “I was so nervous when I left home, I didn’t eat for the first couple of days. But then I made a friend, and I settled in and . . . it’s difficult, dear heart; we’re not really supposed to tell an outsider about anything we do.”

Outsider? The word stung. She pushed the feeling down as best she could. “I understand. Has something gone wrong? Is it your friend?”

“No, no, nothing like that. It was very difficult at the start, I won’t lie. I struggled terribly but then I had a real breakthrough, and since then I’ve been doing so well, Charlie. Ledbetter says I’m one of the most promising students he’s had for years. Oh, don’t look like that! Surely you’re not still harbouring that grudge against him!”

“He is not a good man,” she said firmly.

“Is this some nonsense about him taking me away from you?”

“Oh, what rot! I’m not a child, Ben!”

“Then tell me what you have against him!”

She picked up her teacup, knowing she could never tell him about that awful debtor’s cage. It would put him in an impossible position, and she couldn’t risk his success. Now that the Royal Society had recruited him, he could never leave. She wasn’t prepared to make his life there a misery, and it would be, if he knew what his mentor was really like. “It’s just a feeling I have,” she finally said, hating the insipid statement. “You’ve been doing well,” she said, trying to bring him back on topic, if only to take the look of exasperation from his face. “So why did you send for me? Are you lonely? Homesick?”

He shook his head, clearly struggling to confess his troubles. He was such a loyal soul. It didn’t stop her from wanting to shake him until he spat it all out, though. She took out her frustration on the cake instead.

“I’ve been apprenticed to a cotton mill,” he finally said, “and it’s been going very well. Very well indeed.”

“Darling”—she reached across to hold his hand—“you don’t have to keep saying that.”

He sighed. “I don’t want you to think I can’t cope. I can, I swear it. In fact, I’ve never been happier.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Ben! Just tell me!”

He pulled his hand back and leaned forwards to whisper over the teapot. “There have been a few . . . incidents at the mill. Not on my shifts, I hasten to add. Looms have been destroyed and none of the witnesses are willing to tell us who did it. They’re all covering something up.”

“Have you spoken to Ledbetter about it?”

“I tried. He just kept brushing me off. I’m only an apprentice, Charlie. No one listens to me and no one explains anything to me except exactly what I need to know.”

“It sounds like it’s all out of your hands.”

“If only it were that simple. I’m being put up to the next level of apprenticeship, which means I won’t just be working the line shaft, I’ll be supervising the running of the mill as a whole. Ledbetter has a system, you see, to push the best apprentices to the top faster. I’ve been chosen as one of the final two. Myself and another apprentice, Paxton, are going to be competing against each other. I cannot risk one of these incidents happening when I’m responsible for the mill.”

“Is there no one you can confide in? Is that why you asked me to come?”

He poured more tea. “No, that’s not it. Charlie, it’s more complicated than that. We believe the looms are being destroyed by saboteurs.”
“Like the Luddites? Darling, all of that stopped well before we were born!”

“Not Luddites, trade unionists. And more than that, socialists.” He looked around the tearoom again, lowering his voice further. “There are secret organisations springing up all over the country, determined to wreak havoc. They hate the Royal Society and want to destroy us. They argue that we have too much power and that parliament values the needs of the Royal Society above those of the common man. It’s dangerous, Charlie. Sedition, that’s what it is. And I’m convinced they have a secret group working at the mill. They have a great number of sympathisers among the workforce, and that’s why none of them will out the culprits.”

Want to destroy us . . . His words widened the gap between them. Sedition? Socialists? It sounded more like sensationalism to her. Was the pressure getting to him? “Darling, is there something you want me to do? I can’t see how I can help.”

He lifted the pot to pour tea before realising he’d only just done that. She steeled herself. What was he finding so difficult to say?
“Charlie, I need you to come and work at the mill.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I need you to pretend you’re not my sister and just be one of them. One of the workers. I need someone on the inside, and you’re so kind and people open up to you so easily.”

“Good lord! You want me to be a spy?”

He twitched and looked around the room yet again. No one was sitting close enough to them to listen in. “Keep your voice down! I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t absolutely imperative. Please, Charlie. None of them will talk to me because I’m a magus. Ledbetter has said that if neither Paxton nor I root out the saboteurs, he’ll consider us to be socialist sympathisers. Paxton is a snake, and I am certain he’s already trying to pin it all on me. I caught him going through the drawers in my room the other day. He didn’t take anything but it’s clear he aims to win this round and be fully qualified, no matter the cost.” He reached across the table and took her hands. She was shocked to feel them shaking. “Charlie . . . if Paxton pins the socialist problem on me, Ledbetter will have me prosecuted for aiding and abetting sedition.”

“But that’s utterly ridiculous! Why waste a good apprentice on such an exercise when it isn’t your fault?”

“Because he has to make an example. And he has to get to the bottom of it all. Threatening us with transportation is an excellent motivator. In Ledbetter’s opinion, anyway.”

Charlotte felt sick. “Transportation? To Australia?”

He nodded, just as pale-faced as she was. “I doubt I would survive the voyage. You know how sickly I used to be. Packed into a boat with criminals rife with disease, I’d be done for.”

“Shush,” she said, squeezing his hands. “It doesn’t bear thinking about.” Her misgivings about being a spy faded into insignificance, now that she understood the threat to him.

“You’re the only person I can trust completely to tell me who is responsible for the sabotage. I have to root them out, Charlie, before Paxton finds a way to pin it all on me. If I win this round, Ledbetter will pass me for full qualification. Paxton won’t be able to touch me. And when I’m fully qualified, I’ll be able to apply for funding to build my own mill, with his support. Then I can earn enough money to support you and Mother and Father.”

“I don’t need you to support me. I’ll have George.”

Ben leaned back. “You haven’t told him, then. About your gift.”

She dabbed at her lips with her napkin. “I am not going to discuss that with you. I have everything under control. I’ll help, darling, of course I will. But I have heard some horrible stories about mills . . .”

“The London rags exaggerate things terribly,” he said. “And it won’t be for more than a couple of days. You’re such a good judge of character, you’ll spot who the ringleader is quickly, I’m sure you will.”

“So now I’m a good judge of character? Even though you don’t believe me about Ledbetter?” There was a long pause, long enough for her to regret her tone. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is all a bit of a shock. I thought I was going to have nurse you back to health, not go and work in a mill.”

“I know this is horribly selfish of me,” Ben said. “But I’m desperate, Charlie. Help me to find the ringleader, and I’ll make sure you’ll never want for anything ever again.”

She tutted at him. “I won’t help you for financial gain, you fool. I’ll do it because I love you.”

His relief brightened his whole face. She could see how much it weighed upon him. “Thank you, dear heart, thank you. I promise it won’t be for more than a couple of days. I’ll take care of all the arrangements. Let’s have supper somewhere first, though, shall we?”

Charlotte nodded, feeling bad that she’d made him think she’d only agreed out of love for him. Hopkins said something strange was happening at the mills, and he’d made it sound like something esoteric, rather than political. She was determined to find something that could be used against Ledbetter, something she could take to Hopkins so they could build a case. The hope that it would impress her handsome tutor had nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Copyright © 2017 by Emma Newman

About the Author

EMMA NEWMAN writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels. Between Two Thorns, the first book in Emma’s acclaimed Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards for Best Novel and Emma was nominated for Best Newcomer. Her latest novel is Planetfall.Emma is a professional audio book narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast ‘Tea and Jeopardy’ which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking and role playing games.

Weaver’s Lament is out October 17 2017 from Tor.com.

The post Excerpt: Weaver’s Lament by Emma Newman appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

Fighting Bureaucrat

Sep. 20th, 2017 06:16 am
supergee: (reclining)
[personal profile] supergee
Comptroller tracks down Chicago mobster after a hit & run.

Thanx to Metafilter

Off tomorrow!

Sep. 20th, 2017 07:43 pm
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
[personal profile] 17catherines
On my grand and crazy choral adventure through Europe.  So you won't be seeing a lot of me here, though I will undoubtedly be all over Facebook like a rash.  Incidentally, it turns out that I'm in Paris for the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre, which is very exciting, and means that I have been madly signing up to free exhibitions and tours of all sorts of things.  I shall report back when I can.

I finished up work on Friday, but have been running around like a madwoman ever since, because what with everyone around me having horrible health scares or worse this year, I'm beginning to feel a bit morbid about my trip and wanted to see everyone before I left just in case I died while overseas.

Yeah, that's the inside of my brain right now.  It does not sleep.  Sleep is for the weak!  (Or for the plane.)

I also have apparently decided that I am only allowed to ignore the postal survey if I have written EVERY IMAGINABLE POLITICS BLOG POST before I leave.  So in addition to the one from last week, I wrote an epic piece yesterday fact-checking one of those long lists about all the ways countries lost their religious freedom after achieving marriage equality (hint: they really didn't. Also, some people are really paranoid about gender fluidity), and I'm working on four more pieces which will publish at various points while I'm away and after I come back.   Because I'm nuts.

Oh, and I posted my vote back on Monday, because that's rather more important than just writing endless essays...

For a different flavour of nuttiness, we're doing the Global Challenge at work this year, and our team is called 'one small step for science', which pretty much mandates an astronaut theme – and so on Saturday, I led my team on our first big group walk to the planetarium.  We met in Brunswick, at Handsome Her, a café that has achieved peak Brunswick by being vegan, environmentally sensitive (glass straws, no disposable cups or serviettes, free compost out the back for your garden) and feminist (men have to pay an 18% surcharge, which is donated to a women's shelter, and the walls are covered with vulva-themed art.  Except in the bathrooms, which have a menstruation art theme.  It's quite... something.).  Also hipster - every item on the menu has about twenty different elements, including things like charcoal brioche buns, smoked avocado and strawberry baobab ice cream.  Oh, and also all menu items are named for feminist icons.  And there are four kinds of non-dairy milk available for your coffee.

It's hilarious.  The food's pretty good, too.

Anyway, having stuffed ourselves silly on vegan yummies, we embarked on our journey, which quickly turned into a bit of a death march because everyone had arrived late, which meant we hit Brunch Peak Hour, which meant we left late, which meant we had just over 2 hours in which to walk the 12 km to the planetarium before our show started.  Ouch.

We started by walking along the Capital City trail, through Royal Park, until we met Flemington Bridge. Which we hadn't been expecting to meet, but evidently we got onto the wrong trail in Royal Park.  Fortunately this was, if anything, a short cut. Then we wandered through the streets of Kensington, and along a rather pretty path between houses and gardens with rather farm like fences that made us feel as though we were being herded like cattle - we were on the site of the old abbatoir, as it turned out!

Next we walked along the Maribyrnong River for a while, past the glorious golden Buddha statue, and then sadly left it behind us to walk along a rather busy road and under the Westgate Bridge. We had to take a slight shortcut at this point, which was a pity, because we missed a nice little footbridge out over the water.

Finally, we reached the planetarium - five minutes before our show was due to start!  We rushed in, and got to watch a gorgeous show about stars and how they work, which had really spectacular artwork - they would visualise the star as it would look, then stylise it into an art-deco / stained glass sort of design, and it was just stunning.  This was followed by a guided tour of the night sky over Melbourne in September, which referenced the indigenous constellations, and was really fantastic.  Finally, we got a special extra video about the Cassini mission to Saturn, which had of course ended the night before.  So that was really a nice touch, and we all walked out resolving to do some actual star-watching at a later challenge date.

And then we caught the ferry home, because if you can catch the ferry, you must catch the ferry.  That is the rule.

It was spectacular, and fun, and I got 26,700 steps and hurt all over for two days.  But it was worth it.

And this is me signing off for now - I have politics blog posts to write and a bag to pack.  See you next month!

Punitive

Sep. 20th, 2017 05:53 am
supergee: (nourish)
[personal profile] supergee
Because we are a mean, stupid nation, many incarcerated women are not allowed to breastfeed.

Thanx to [personal profile] conuly
giandujakiss: (Default)
[personal profile] giandujakiss
The GOP broke off bipartisan talks with Dems to shore up ACA's insurance markets, and now they're trying - again - to unilaterally repeal ACA and take with it a huge chunk of Medicaid (which will, of course, completely destabilize our entire healthcare system, but that's where we are).

You can find more information by googling Graham-Cassidy, but here's one link.

Apparently, Lindsey Graham - one of the bill's sponsors - got on Breitbart radio (yes, now we're integrating Breitbart into GOP mainstream, fun times ahead) to urge listeners to call in support of the new bill, so it's VERY IMPORTANT that the Senate be flooded with opposition calls.

Here is one script and information resource.

Speaker of the Lost by Clara Coulson

Sep. 20th, 2017 07:00 am
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by SB Sarah

D

Speaker of the Lost

by Clara Coulson
September 15, 2017 · Knite and Day Publishing

It’s getting a little bleak for me, reading-wise. This was the first book I finished after 8 DNFs in a row, some of which were nonfiction and some romance or fantasy. I was pretty excited that the beginning of this story was so promising. Then it became repetitive, emotionally limited, inconsistent, and then offensive.

Summary time! Stella Newport is a brand new FBI agent. Specifically, she’s a Lark, which is the name given to the agents in the paranormal investigation division. She’s sent to work with a curmudgeonly, unkind agent named Oswald Bolton, known informally as “Oz.” There are a couple of familiar character types here: the intelligent rookie who is more than she seems, paired with an experienced, jaded agent who lost his partner prior to the start of this story, and who doesn’t want to work with anyone else because emotional vulnerability is awful and he hates it. He works alone – doesn’t anyone understand that?!

This novel is book 1 of a new series called “Lark Nation,” but according to the listing, it’s part of the same universe as another series. First off: I do not think this book works as a stand-alone, and that’s a shame. The exposition and world building presumed that I knew things that I did not, and many major elements, like the entire other worlds and universes that exist parallel to the one the characters inhabit, are very sparsely described.

As a result, I switched between being frustrated that I didn’t get what the characters were talking about and being annoyed that they were so lacking in basic understanding of jurisprudence. For FBI agents, they didn’t know much about aspects of investigation that I would think were obvious. For example: if you suspect your partner has been hit in the head with a brick, throwing that brick into the water while you’re having a tantrum because she’s been fridged seems like a bad idea. Oz’s reasoning is that the rain washed away the evidence that it was used in an assault, but that’s some pretty flawed reasoning for an experienced agent. There are also multiple instances where “something” isn’t right, or “something” seems off, but the main characters shrug it off, or figure they’ll deal with whatever it is at a later time.

Stella and Oz are in Maine investigating a beheading. Some guy was walking home at night on a deserted road, and a headless horseman shows up and lops his head clean off. So Stella is sent to assist Oz, who is already on site, but because there are so many supernatural crimes happening all over the country – a byproduct of some event that happened in the earlier series which I didn’t read – there’s not much in the way of backup for either of them. At one point Stella has a call with her supervisor where she has to tell him about a few more beheadings that happened, and I was so confused how that wasn’t information said supervisor would need to know as soon as they had happened.

The book started out pretty strong: Stella is nervous about her first investigation, but very smart, capable, and confident in her training and her abilities.

Then we meet Oz. Oz is grumpy and also, he’s an asshole. They start by trying to figure out why the dude lost his head. Then more people start dying, and the narrative starts repeating itself. For example: I was told over and over that Stella isn’t sure if she wants to be the one who breaks down Oz’s defenses/”scale the concrete wall Oswald…had built around his heart”/lather rinse repeat.

Honestly, I didn’t care if she did or not. It was perhaps the second or third day of their working together, he barely managed to treat her with respect, and I didn’t really know the scope of what happened to him in the first place. I have dreadfully low tolerance for characters who lack any emotional fluency, and even less for people who use that excuse to treat other people poorly. Example: here’s Oz after he berates a local cab driver – and this is in a small town where he and Stella are already worried about gossip regarding the FBI’s presence and investigation:

Oz knew he’d been too hard on the guy, but again, he couldn’t bring himself to care about the feelings of a random stranger who would ultimately mean nothing in the grand scheme. The cabbie would get over his scare, resume his normal activities, and live, if not happily ever after, then some mediocre variation.

Nice, huh? And it’s pretty consistent with how he treats ancillary characters. I don’t care what kind of structures he’s built around himself. It’s probably a good idea he stay inside them. One of the goals (I presume) of this book is to establish Stella and Oz’s partnership as agents, but the overtly romantic tone, the constant reassertion that it’s somehow Stella’s job to emotionally heal Oswald, and the compressed time period of a few days or maybe a week, did not do enough to make me believe in their alleged progress.

The two things that frustrated me most, aside from the repetitiveness of Stella vs. Oz Walls, were as follows.

First: there was not enough connecting the magic to reality.  There’s a magical world connected to the real one, and the FBI has some sort of jurisdiction over it. But how that works is not ever fully explained, nor is their authority over magical events that happen to humans. Stella has some kind of magical ability (more on that in a moment) and both she and Oz have mage kits and magical rings but the integration of their individual magic into the reality they inhabit was also poorly built. The magical rings are particularly ludicrous: to use one, they have to point the ring at a target and yell “SHOOT!” to make things happen. I kept picturing the elementary school kids in my neighborhood playing superhero and waving their hands at each other: “BOOM! You fell down!” Without a more robust explanation of how the magic works, what the cost is, what its effects are, why they have it and some don’t, the whole wave-your-ring-at-the-bad-guy part seemed dumb.

Then, there’s this part which ruined the whole book for me. Get ready.

Stella is described by Oz when he meets her as follows:

She was roughly twenty-five and built like a ballet dancer, with light brown skin and facial features that spoke of a multiracial ancestry. Her long hair was tamed into a ponytail of black ringlets, leaving no shadows on her face to hide her bright green eyes. No, vividly green eyes. Eyes that almost seemed to shine, even.

I didn’t read about any other characters of color aside from Stella, but figured there would be some. To my knowledge, there were not – though I may have missed a description or two, as I began reading pretty quickly once the book began to sour for me.

Then Oz and the reader learns something pretty crucial about Stella:

Show Spoiler

Stella is revealed to be a powerful telekinetic, and part fae. Oz, it turns out – and this is revealed about him after Stella divulges that her grandmother is Summer fae – hates and distrusts the fae. Which leads to this rumination on his part:

Faeries were not his favorite creatures – they stood one step below vampires on his list of THINGS I HATE – but most of his ire was directed at full-blooded fae. They were mischievous, sadistic creatures, who’d taken their inability to lie and honed it into a mastery of manipulation. They were cold, callous, crafty, and clever, and every interaction Oz had with them in the past ended in absolute disaster….

To think Newport had their blood running through her veins unnerved him. It made him question everything she’d said and done since the moment they met. But…Oz rejected the impulse to categorize Newport with her inhuman relations….

No, Newport’s interactions with Oz had been true to form. She was what she appeared to be. Headstrong. Smart. Practical. Controlled…. She didn’t have faults as an agent that a few years of fieldwork wouldn’t fix.

Weighing all those qualities against her fae blood, Oz could find no legitimate reason to shun her. Her heritage was beyond her control. Her behavior was not, and what she’d displayed so far spoke of a talented agent in the toddler phase who’d one day grow to be a truly spectacular force.

My comment on my device: “Oh, no.”

So Stella is to my knowledge the only character of color in the book, and she’s part fae. But it’s ok: she’s not like other fae, and though Oz hates them all, she’s proved herself so he won’t shun her. Am I supposed to look at Oz favorably for overcoming his own prejudice? Am I supposed to ignore the substitution of “fae prejudice” for racial prejudice?

WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. LIVING. HELL.

If I cringe any harder, I’ll develop a hernia. Sloppy characterization that’s painfully racist is not what I wanted. I’ve sat here watching my blinking cursor trying to think of coherent words to respond to that scene. Stella even lampshades herself in an earlier part of the book, joking with a receptionist who expected Oz’s new partner to be “another brown-haired man around thirty-five” that her unit is “a little more diverse.” But she’s still a token character – on multiple levels.

I get so excited when I see more inclusivity in the fiction I buy. But this is not the representation I’m looking for. This is the exact opposite.

I was close enough to the end that I finished the book, but neither Oz nor the story were redeemable for me. There was so much potential in the first chapters: a bit of X-Files with a complicated set of partners, plus a headless horseman – who talks to the heroine! They have whole conversations after he yanks his head out of his saddlebag! They were the most interesting pair in the book, now that I think about it.

I would have been a lot happier if Stella had left Oz to his grumpy racist emotional navel gazing and run off with the murdering headless horseman.

Using only the Brat Pack

Sep. 20th, 2017 01:07 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Cast a 1980s New Teen Titans film....

Wednesday's story!

Sep. 19th, 2017 09:47 pm
murgatroyd666: (von Zinzer Trilobite)
[personal profile] murgatroyd666 posting in [community profile] girlgenius_lair
http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20170920

Happy birthday, Cheyenne! (And stay away from that onion vodka!)
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
It occurs to me I haven't looked at the Heavy Gear rules in a long time....
pameladean: (Default)
[personal profile] pameladean

This is very long and detailed, so I’m going to try to put in a cut tag.

All right, I can't get that to work, not if it was ever so. I'm sorry.

 

On Tuesday Raphael and I went to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. The forecast was for a sunny, almost windless day with a high of 87. The air quality was moderate. I complained about this the day before and Raphael asked if I'd prefer not to go. But Sherburne is actually a good place to go on a less than perfect day, because there's a seven-mile wildlife drive with stopping points for viewing whoever happens to be around; also a tiny oak savanna (1/10-mile loop) trail and a prairie trail with an oak grove in the middle with a bench (1/2-mile loop). And it's September; hiking season will be over at some point.

We got a late start but arrived with about five hours of daylight ahead of us. Sherburne is near Sand Dunes National Forest, and its soil is also sandy. It's a lightly rolling landscape full of marshes, pools, and prairie, broken by lines and clumps of trees. You drive through a short stretch of mature restored prairie to reach the actual wildlife drive. It was awash in blooming goldenrod and blue and white asters and rich brown grasses.

 We stopped at the Oak Savanna Trail and had a sandwich, read the list of plants presently blooming (six kinds of goldenrod, four kinds of white aster, two kinds of blue aster, rough blazing star, and boneset) and then walked out on the tiny boardwalk. We examined what looked like an abandoned bald eagle's nest through one of the spotting scopes provided, and then started looking at spreadwings (yet another kind of damselfly) in the tall grass that the boardwalk runs through.

 Here is an image of a spreadwing that one might see in Minnesota, though I don’t know if that’s what we did see.

 http://museum.unl.edu/research/entomology/Odonata/lere.html

 A flicker of motion in the distance caught my attention, and I looked up to see three sandhill cranes landing across the prairie near the road we'd come on. "A family," said Raphael, looking through the binoculars. "See the juvenile?" I did see the juvenile, which did not have all its red in yet but was almost as large as its parents. The cranes started walking through the grass, not unlike herons stalking through shallow water; occasionally they would bend their long necks down and poke around in the grass roots, and occasionally one of them would make a sharp dart and come up with food and swallow it.

It was hard to decide whether the cranes were more awesome through binoculars or just as tall shapes against the pale road and prairie, bending and straightening, wandering apart and together again. If you didn't look through binoculars you could also see meadowhawks darting around, the spreadwings rising to catch tiny insects and settling again to eat them, the unexpected wind shaking the oak leaves and the grass and the asters. From time to time a darner moved across the larger prairie, veering after prey or just powering along.

At last a truck came fairly fast along the road, raising a cloud of dust, and the cranes paused, considered, opened their huge wings and rose up, gawky but graceful, and flew away low over the grasses. We went back to looking at smaller wildlife

I was trying to spot a spreadwing through the binoculars when I saw what looked like an animated tangle of brown grass. I said to Raphael, “There’s some kind of mantis there!” and when Raphael expressed astonishment, I added, “It’s very stick-y,” which allowed Raphael to come up with the actual name: It was a stick insect. It took a few moments for me to describe its location and for Raphael to see it, and then I had trouble finding it again through the binoculars, but it was busy clambering around against the wind, so we did both get a good look at it. It was only the second stick insect I’d seen in Minnesota. The other was at Wild River State Park. That one was much larger and was rummaging around in a pile of leaves at the edge of the parking lot. This one was fascinating because its camouflage was so great, and yet it did have to move around, so you could differentiate it from the grass if you worked at it.

We’d arrived in the deep of the afternoon when smaller birds are quiet. We heard a few goldfinches murmuring, and a phoebe carrying on, and a chickadee. We left the boardwalk, admiring the asters waving in the non-foreseen but welcome breeze, and walked around the oak savanna loop. The little oak saplings tangled among the other shrubbery were already starting to turn red. White asters poked their flowerheads through leaves belonging to other plants, to startling effect. Autumn meadowhawks floated and hovered and darted, snatching up gnats from the clouds around them. We had seen a monarch butterfly in the asters while we were eating our lunch, and also a dark-phase swallowtail wandering over the grass; now we saw a painted lady butterfly.

We made an attempt to leave, but a darner landed on a drooping dead branch of an oak tree right in front of the car. The sun was behind it and we couldn’t get a good look without tramping heedlessly into the prairie, so we didn’t, but its silhouette was lovely against the brilliant sky.

 We drove on, past tall browning and reddening grasses, clumps of goldenrod, clouds of asters. Darners flew up from the sides of the road and zoomed away. We found at the turning that the refuge had reversed the direction of the wildlife drive since we were there last, which was momentarily confusing; but we found our way, and stopped at the Prairie Trail. I pointed out some thoroughly spent plants of spotted horsemint. We’d seen it in bloom, if you can call it that, at William O’Brien. It’s a very weird-looking plant. Here’s a photo:

 https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/spotted-horsemint

 This observation continued my inability to accurately provide the names of things; I’d just called it horsemint and Raphael reminded me that that particular weird plant was spotted horsemint. There are other horsemints, but they don’t look so strange. As we stood looking over the rise and fall of the little prairie, with folds of alder and sumac, and lines and whorls of different grasses and goldenrod, all truly starred with the blue and white asters, I said that I loved how big the sky was at Sherburne. Raphael noted that it was a slate-blue just now; we assumed that was the haze of the wildfire smoke all the way from the west coast, a somber reminder of far too many things.

 We took the grassy path, startling small grasshoppers out of our way and stirring up meadowhawks from the tall plants and shrubs. We saw a monarch; we saw a painted lady. Passing through a little grove of young alders, on almost every tip of the dead trees intermingled with the living there was a meadowhawk perched. They swept upwards, snatched a gnat or fly, landed to eat again. Raphael showed me how to identify a female autumn meadowhawk: they have a definite bulge just below the thorax, which was easy to see against the sky. Darners zipped past from time to time. If it was a green darner we could usually tell even from just a glance. The others were mosaic darners, but harder to identify in passing.

 I think it was as we approached the oak grove that we started seriously trying to identify the grasses. We’d known big bluestem, aka turkey-tail, for years. After seeing it labelled repeatedly here and there, I could pick out the charming clumps of little bluestem, just knee-high, with their pale fluffy flowers lined up and catching the light. We’d looked at an informational sign at the trailhead, but its drawings of Indian grass and switch grass didn’t look right. Raphael pulled up the photo of the sign about grasses at the visitor center at Wild River, which had struck both of us at the time as much more informative than other attempts to depict native grasses; and we could suddenly identify Indian grass after all. It has a long, narrow rich brown seed head with varying degrees of spikiness; some are quite streamlined and others are tufty and look as if they need combing. And we felt more confident about the switch grass with its airy spreading seed heads.

 Raphael pointed out a beetle on the path, maybe a Virginia leatherwing, and then realized that it looked like a moth. A little research when we reached the oak grove and sat down showed that it was a net-winged beetle, and the entry even mentioned that it looked quite a bit like a leatherwing.

 The bench we were sitting on was made from boards of recycled plastic. At some point Raphael had had enough sitting and went ahead a little way just to see what was there. I’d noticed when I sat down that there were verses from the Bible printed on the back of the bench in some kind of marker. On the left was the passage from Matthew that begins, “Come unto me you who are weary and heavy-laden,” and on the right the passage from John that begins, “For God so loved the world.” These might have been written in different hands. But the passage in the middle was definitely in a different hand, and began, “We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine.” The ending of the passage was a bit smeared and I couldn’t read all of it, but at the bottom the name “hunter s. thompson” was clear enough. I followed Raphael and relayed the beginning of the passage. “Hunter s. thompson!” said Raphael, going back to the bench with me. “It’s from <i>Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas</i>.” Raphael looked this up too, and showed me the unsmeared passage on the cellphone.

 Giggling a bit, we went on our way. We were now well around the loop and into the straight stretch back to the car. From the other side I’d pointed out a lovely layering of grasses, goldenrod, a narrow cleft of willow scrub, and a candy-red line of sumac. Now we came to the sumac from the other side. On the path in front of us was a butterfly. “What is that?” said Raphael. “It’s a Red Admiral,” I said confidently, but it wasn’t. It was another Painted Lady. Raphael consolingly told me that they were both Vanessa, very closely related, but the Red Admiral is very common in Minnesota and I was chagrined that I’d misidentified something else as that.

 We came to a little stretch of boardwalk over a marshy area. On a shrub was a shimmery amber-tinged odonate. I pointed it out to Raphael. It turned out to be another autumn meadowhawk, though it looked as if it ought to be an Eastern Amberwing, or at least a Band-Winged Meadowhawk. It had perched on a bit of red-stemmed dogwood, just to be extra-cooperative. We went on through the cattails and willow, past a minute patch of open water and up onto the grassy path again. Raphael pointed out that where the path climbed back out of the tiny marsh there was a nice view over the rest of the open water and the winding marsh with more willow, and cattails, and a shrub we should have known but didn’t. (I briefly misidentified it as more red-stemmed dogwood, because it was my day to misidentify everything; but it had deep purple stems and leaves just starting to turn reddish.)

 On our right for the end of our walk was the brilliant sumac and the cleft of alder saplings, all their leaves fluttering and twinkling in the wind and sunlight; on the left a long slope of prairie grasses interrupted by goldenrod and asters. More darners sailed by. The sky had lost its smoky cast and was a fine late-summer deep blue. We came back to the car and Raphael began to drive away, but I exclaimed at the sight of a big clump of stiff goldenrod covered with pollinators. We didn’t get out, but looked our fill from the car. Big bumblebees, a Ctenucha moth, beetles, ambush bugs. Once Raphael started reading it, I had to edit this entry to correct the Ctenucha moth's name and type, so have another link, since they are very handsome:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ctenucha_virginica
 
There’s one more trail you can actually walk along, near the end of the wildlife drive, but there was a sign at the beginning saying that it was flooded. Before that we drove past long stretches of marsh, open water, and rolling prairie, all patched with clumps of trees. From time to time there would be a wider spot in the road, sometimes a formal space big enough for three or four cars, with a bench or two, or a platform over a low spot with spotting scopes and some informational signs about the wildlife; others just a metal platform with railings, where you could stand and look over the water. We tentatively identified the spot where we’d once common moorhens, which are not so common that we weren’t deeply excited. We’ve also seen muskrats and various ducks in these locations, and once there was a gigantic cloud of mosaic darners all brown and yellow – I seem to recall that some of them were lance-tipped darners, but I may be wrong. This time we heard water birds making a ruckus, but couldn’t see them. Darners came by in about the density that they had been all the while. Over one platform we saw what turned out to be a northern harrier; these guys have an amazing acrobatic flight, and they’re reddish on the underside and bluish on the back. I excitedly called this one a kestrel, which would be smaller and have the colors reversed: bluish on the underside and red on the back. We also very clearly saw a nighthawk with its white wing bars, though the sun was still up.

 We also saw some cedar waxwings fly-catching from a tree with a dead top, and heard a yellow warbler.

 At last we came to a stretch of water, islands, and snags so large that it had two separate viewing-spots. From the first we saw several groups of large white birds. I thought the first were swans, but they were white pelicans. There were also some swans, however. We came finally around a curve of the gravel road to an observation station in a little oak grove, overlooking the far side of this large sheet of water. This is where most of the dead trees are, and here, to our delight, we saw as we’ve seen before several times a very large number of cormorants. The sun was setting by then, off to our right. The sky was pink and the water reflected it. Many cormorants were roosting already, but some were still coming out of the water; they would land on a branch, sometimes settling and sometimes glancing off several different trees before finding one that suited them, or one in which the other cormorants accepted them. It was hard to be sure. Then they would spread their wings out to dry, looking as if they were practicing to be bats for Halloween.

 We found the swans and pelicans we’d seen from the other viewing station, though it was getting pretty dark by then. Cormorants still flew up into the trees and spread their wings. Through binoculars you could see the ones that had folded their wings now preening their breast feathers. Some of them had pale necks and brown fronts rather than being entirely black. I mentioned this to Raphael, who looked it up in Sibley and confirmed that those were juvenile cormorants.

 It was getting quite dark by then and the mosquitoes were starting to think about biting us in earnest. We drove past two more pools; beside one two groups of people we’d seen pass earlier, a third car I didn’t recognize from before, and a man using a wheelchair were standing and gesticulating. We pulled up and got out. The water and trees were lovely in the twilight, but we didn’t see any wildlife. The solitary man went away in his wheelchair, the unfamiliar car left, and we followed, watching the varied texture of the grass and flowers fade away into the dark.

 

Pamela

a couple brighter spots

Sep. 19th, 2017 08:25 pm
lireavue: A section of the Preludia from the Bach Partita in E, text "rests are imaginary" between two staves. (rests are imaginary)
[personal profile] lireavue
*It is fucking amazing how much the right setup makes for fiddle playing. I just. Wow. I knew it was bad before, but I've honestly spent my ENTIRE violin playing career dealing with stuff that wasn't Quite Right because I have a rather long neck compared to how long most shoulder-rest manufacturers seem to think the default is. And now I have one that's basically infinitely adjustable depending on how my muscles are yelling TODAY and it's so. much. better.

No of course I didn't break out the old Haydn concerto what do you take me for.

...that's tomorrow. Today I broke out the Bach Partita.

*Our new all-clad skillets are fucking amazing.

*...I am SURE there was something else specific to today that went here but I lost it, so instead: I just wandered through my list of crafts projects and lo and behold I DO in fact have 3-5 stitching projects that don't take a lot of setup, which will be RATHER crucial to my sanity as there's only so much of the lace mesh for bottle holders I can take. Or the garter for the straps.

*One of these days I might ever get back to participating in politics instead of skimming my feeds in horror, but it is not this day and the rest of the month isn't looking so fucking good either. I just can't, with a whole lot of shit right now, which is SO not helping any of the mental stuff but at the same time... I kinda really have to prioritize keeping me and mine from totally losing our shit? So.

credit freezes

Sep. 19th, 2017 08:47 pm
xoxomarina: Princess Ai ({ manga } » smile)
[personal profile] xoxomarina posting in [community profile] actyourwage
Anyone who thinks they were affected by the Equifax security breach (or even if you weren't), feel free to check out the post I created with tons of resources for pulling and freezing your credit: https://xoxomarina.dreamwidth.org/239500.html
rfmcdonald: (Default)
[personal profile] rfmcdonald

  • Naomi Klein argues that this summer, of wildfires and disasters, marks an environmental turning point.

  • National Geographic shares stunning video of defrosting Tibetan soil flowing.

  • This dumping of illegally harvested lobsters as garbage on land in Nova Scotia is a terrible waste. CBC reports.

  • Can we limit urban flooding only if we force landowners to contribute to the costs of stormwater infrastructure? MacLean's makes the case.

rfmcdonald: (Default)
[personal profile] rfmcdonald

  • Hamilton's Christ Church is striving for continued viability, in part through selling off vacant land for condos. Global News reports.

  • Edmonton's Accidental Beach, a byproduct of construction berms on the North Saskatchewan River, has gone viral. Global News reports.

  • Meagan Campbell of MacLean's looks at how the refugee crisis did, and did not, effect the garlic festival of border city Cornwall.

  • The successful integration of a Syrian refugee family of chocolatiers in the Nova Scotia town of Antigonish is nice. The Toronto Star carries the story.

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