15 September, 2018

now is the autumn of your discontent

I am feeling cranky and at odds with... everything? Not really combative, more restless. Like I should be doing something but I'm not, and whatever I've forgotten/am neglecting is going to bite me in the ass. This is what happens when Type A personalities have nothing on the immediate agenda. I'm like a border collie without sheep. Pretty soon I'm gonna start chewing on the furniture and digging in the garden and okay, letting this metaphor go now.

Part of it's the university teaching quarter starts in 2 weeks, but the HS class already started, like, a month ago, and I'm in that limbo between working my ass off and having something to do one day a week for 3 hours. My just-finished novel (RORY TWO)  is off at my agent, and I haven't gotten the editorial notes on the first book (formerly SRP, now How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, aka RORY ONE). I'm not writing anything at the moment. Not that I don't have ideas. It's just I don't want to go launching into a new project when I know revisions are coming.

Instead, I'm spinning a lot of fiber (like that bagful on the right. It's, like, 4-5 hanks of compatible colorways all mixed up to be spun out at random).  I'm making Christmas socks (2.5 pairs of 5, or halfway done!) and bingeing Netflix and Prime series. (The Good Place has to be one of the best things in a long time.) We've gone hiking a couple of times, now that things have mostly stopped burning. But the last couple of weeks I haven't had anything I had to do except the HS class.

Maybe that's it. I'm freaking out because I'm not under any deadlines. I'm...taking a vacation. It feels weird.

20 August, 2018

the spiral rug

Or, that time I successfully felted BFL blend handspun. BFL is, IME, a PITA to felt. Merino, Icelandic... look at it crossways and it felts. My last rug, even with a merino strand, required two rounds of agitation in hot water and throwing it at a floor (that works. It's magic.).

So. Before felting:

 Note the stitch definition and the large gaps between threads; I deliberately used a bigger needle than the yarn weight called for in hopes that the extra room would allow for extra agitation in the felting process.

Also note that amazing blaze of color in the center. I think all four skeins were the same colorway, but the first and last were definitely a different dye lot. (The first might be a different colorway; the orange is pretty distinctive. I don't know because I get fiber from M's excess stash and it's not labeled.) Anyway, also note the grey striping makes it seem wavy and wrinkled, but I assure you, it's flat.

I was so damned happy to be done with this rug that I forgot all about bagging the project and sticking a towel into the cycle to give it something to felt against. I just threw it in hot with a drop of Soak and let it go. Maybe that's the secret, although everything going through the washer for the next few days is going to sport tufts of wool.

I wish I'd remembered to measure it... unfelted, it was about 36 inches in diameter, I think. Here's a before and after with Murdercat for scale.

19 August, 2018

Review of Michael Mammay's Planetside

PlanetsidePlanetside by Michael Mammay

So: Planetside is military SF meets hardboiled detective novel. There's a missing lieutenant, son of an Important Person, and an almost-retired combat veteran, Colonel Butler, is sent to investigate. The general who sends him says "get it done." The blunt simplicity of that directive drives the narrative. There are not a lot of stylistic frills here, nor meditations on the meaning of life. Butler describes his environment and observations with a spare, dry wit and an understated sense of drama. Butler's cool makes the action in the book--the explosions, the surprises--that much more, well, dramatic. And surprising. You're walking along the narrative, thinking (like Butler) you know where it's going, and then bang.

I really can't talk about the plot much without giving things away, because it's a mystery as much (more than) it is about firefights and violence, even though the story has its share of both. There were moments where I saw echoes of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and moments when I laughed out loud (not the same moments). The military is, of course, at the core of the story, but Mammay's military is composed of people--good and bad and venal and brave and scared--and not caricatures. (Confession: I grew up in a military family. Reading this book felt a lot like coming home.) Morality is grey, but also crystal clear. Mammay does a fantastic job of showing multiple perspectives (no easy feat with a first-person narrator!); the war itself feels like a character as much as the people walking around and fighting and dying. Mammay spools out the backstory slowly, in fragments, relying on the reader to put things together as much by what's not said as what is, and lets the reader--through Butler--figure out how to feel, and what course of action to take despite an increasingly muddy morality.

Don't look for heroics (although there are heroes). Don't look for drama (though there's that, too). Look for a smart, and smart-ass narrator who does his best to get it done, while never letting anyone--least of all himself--get too comfortable in their assumptions.