I made it home with no problems and no chance encounters with editors in transit. I would worry that my streak was broken, except I spent a week of this trip at the Codex Writers Workshop and Retreat with Ellen Datlow. Surely that maxed out my quota for the month.
I will do a full post, with photos of the retreat. It was an amazing experience and went surprisingly smoothly.
At the moment though, I’m going to pet the kitties and spend some time cuddling with my husband. The cats are getting first dibs simply because Rob is out at the moment.
Oh, and did I mention that there’s a moose head in my hallway?
It’s been an interesting year.Â I’ve been so busy that I can barely breathe, but Rob spent then entire year looking for work.Â And that’s almost literal.Â He sold his first article a bare two days before our one year NYC anniversary.Â He’s got a couple of other jobs coming up, so I’m really hoping the dry spell has broken.
It will be interesting to see what the next year holds.
I was given an ARC of Scott Mebus’s Gods of Manhattan The basic premise is that a parallel, magic, Manahatta exists throughout Manhattan. It is inhabited by the Gods of Commerce, The Best China, Guilt, Opposite Side of the Street Parking, and the like. These gods used to be mortals, but after their death if they lived on in memory, they could become elevated to godhood. People like Peter Stuyvesant and Babe Ruth run through these pages along with two totally believable kids.
I started jotting down favorite parts but then got caught up in the story and forgot to keep doing it. So here are two from close to the beginning.
He knew she couldn’t see what he was seeing. Because he was going crazy and that’s not really a team sport.
When Bridget picks up her only Barbie (she doesn’t normally pay with “such girlie things” and had given it a makeover) we get this fabulous bit.
This was Malibu Death Barbie. A fashion-conscious dealer of justice. The last thing her enemies saw before their horrible dismemberment was a flash of pink lipstick and a really big knife.
If you’ve got a teen reader in your life, look for Gods of Manhattan when it comes out. History, adventure and magic! What more can you ask for?
Last night, Rob told me that the milk carton had sprung a leak and that he’d had to transfer the milk into other containers. So this morning, I got up and poured a milk out of a cocktail shaker. Mmm… milktini’s anyone?
And with a belated gift from my little niece! Yes, the delightful germ-monger has presented Rob and myself with colds. His struck yesterday and mine began kicking in this morning. We’re fortifying ourselves with Chinese food and heading for bed early.
Today was largely relaxing, except for our outing to buy Christmas presents. We borrowed Dad’s car and drove to the mall to pick up some things. Now, you have to bear in mind that this is really the first time either of us has driven since moving to NYC six months ago. We’re really used to being pedestrians at this point in our life, so rather than driving from the strip mall to the main mall across the street, we decided to walk. Traffic was icky and it was less than three blocks away.
Except that Chattanooga apparently has a thing against sidewalks. There were none.
Strangely, one of the lights had a pedestrian crossing button, to get the traffic light to change color, but no crosswalk, no crossing signal, no sidewalk on either side. Just who were they expecting to hit the button? Drivers just didn’t know what to do with us. I felt far less safe walking than I did driving. I’d forgotten just how intense the car culture is after living in NYC and Portland.
Meanwhile, I’m probably not going to be online much the next couple of days, so may I offer you some old-time Christmas Radio. This includes such gems as the original cast recording of It’s a Wonderful Life.
The other day, Rob and I went to see part of the Silent City series at the Film Forum. The evening started off with NYC Treasures from the Library of Congress, which was a collection of short subject from 1898 to 1906. They had a live pianist providing accompaniment. Seeing the city bustling around in some ways made me feel as if only the fashions have changed. Granted, they’ve changed a lot, but watching these people in unguarded moments of laughter or frustration made me really aware of how little human nature changes. The fashions though…people definitely dressed better then. One put on a suit and tie to go to Coney Island.
After that collection, we watched Lonsome. Again, set at Coney Island, this film from 1929 is your standard boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl and they live happily ever after. The male lead, Glenn Tryon, was out of the same mold as Stefan Karl, quite delightfully so. One of the things that fascinated me was how modern the text cards appeared. I’m so used to faux silents with their old timey text, that I’d forgotten how recent these films actually were.
At one point, Our Hero followed the Girl to the beach. He tried to gain her approval by feats of acrobatics and then finally settled down next to her and said, “Hello.”
I tell you, the entire audience gasped. It was as if we had never heard a talkie before in our life. This film, which I had thought was a standard silent film, had three minutes of dialogs in it. The moment when he opened his mouth and sound came out was electrifying. I can only imagine how much more it must have been for people who didn’t even know that such things were possible.
So, that thing I said about only the fashions changing isn’t completely true. Technology has given us a lot more possibilities. But it’s awfully nice to know that the sense of wonder can be regained in the right context.
So that’s the question du jour. Should I get a New York number for my cellphone or keep my Oregon number? I can keep the Oregon number active, so that’s not an issue.
The question is about getting work. I feel like the area code on the phone is becoming a sort of non-issue these days as more and more people switch to cells. On the other hand, it does instantly label me as an out-of-towner.
So what do you think? Switch to a 646 number or stay with the 503?
Edited to add: Thanks for the comments everyone. I decided that the continuity was probably worth more than the “local” number. Especially since I realized that I can just forward my 646 Skype number to my cellphone. It’s the best of both worlds. So, the 503 number stays.
When I do a bid on a puppet, mechanisms are the most expensive part. They are fiddly things and no matter how many times you’ve built something similar, each puppet is radically different. This dog puppet, which I’m creating ears for, technically has four mechs in it since each ear is capable of two movements. The ears pull back for angry dog, and droop for sad dog.
As I was explaining to someone, I always quadruple the amount of time I think it will take to do a mech because it never goes right the first time. I’ve installed ear mechanisms on masks before. This was a thing I was familiar with. And yet…
I did a rough draft of the ears on Tuesday. On Thursday, I came back to install the final ears, but we weren’t sure where the puppeteer’s hand needed to be for the control. Saturday, I went in at three o’clock to install the triggers. I left at three a.m. Here’s what I did during those twelve hours.
While I had installed the ears on the exterior of the head, I wasn’t sure until I went in on Saturday where I would need to run the cables to control them. (Normally, you figure all of this out in advance, but there were some staging issues that needed to be resolved first, in this case.) The cable for the ears needed to move three inches in order to trigger the angry dog pullback. Unfortunately, where we needed to put the trigger, there wasn’t enough room for a lever to move that far. So, I needed to reduce the amount of distance that the cable had to move.
It’s sort of like a reverse block and tackle, because I was willing to increase the amount of resistance, to decrease the distance moved. But to do that, I needed to allow a length of line pass through the skull in a “v.” Another line would attach to that and pull it. So, I needed to cut a slot in the skull. I started by drilling four holes.
I then inserted a coping saw blade into one of the holes to cut out my opening.
Once the slot was cut, I tested the ear. Which resolutely failed to work.
After a bit of cursing, some internet time and a conversation with my dad, who is a very clever man, I realized that I had attached the pull line with a fixed point, and it needed to be a fluid point. Such a silly thing to do. After that, it worked exactly as it was supposed to. Whew.
Sorry this is a blurry photo. All the cables have to come together to a fairly tight point where they run down the length of the dog’s spine. I’m using goldenrod cable (a flexible push-pull cable for model airplanes) to get from the head down to the handle where the trigger will be. That’s the thin yellowish cable, with the brass fittings on it. I have to use cable in a housing, otherwise the movement of the dog’s head would trigger the ears as the distance between the head and the trigger changed. A housing keeps that distance fairly consistent.
For the trigger, I opted to go with a wheel rather than a lever. The cable exits the housing and wraps around the wheel as it rotates. Rather than centering it, I put the pivot point off-center to give the puppeteer some mechanical advantage. We tested it and it worked well. Happiness.
I installed the other mechanism, which was comparatively simple. Again, running it back to a wheel. Suddenly the first mech acquired a lot of friction. I couldn’t figure out where it had come from since the new one didn’t touch it. In desperation, I pulled the second one out, thinking that its mounting might be binding the first one somehow. Nothing. I tried activating the mech from within the head without using the cable. It seemed like it was within normal limits there, which meant that the friction was occurring somewhere along the length back to the trigger. I undid the mounting on the first one, checked it for crimps and reinstalled it. Still, it had that awful friction. It was unworkable. I was baffled.
I pulled the trigger from the other mech completely off the handle and–the first mech got easier again. It was still tight, but it wasn’t unworkable. What we were facing turned out to be a combination of factors. The trigger for second mechanism put the puppeteer’s hand in a weaker position. It also activated a mechanism that naturally had less resistance, so the first mech’s trigger hadn’t actually acquired more friction, but it felt significantly harder compared to the second one. At the same time, the monofilament that I’d used had stretched out. I normally avoid the stuff, but because the dog was so pale I used that instead of the braided dacron (which is black) that I prefer. It was a bad combo all around.
Unfortunately there wasn’t anywhere else to install a trigger. It was also two o’clock in the morning. Emily had to get on a plane with the puppet later on Sunday, to Ireland. I was tearing my hair out in frustration.
What you see here is a mockup of what I wanted to install. I used the connector on the end of the cable and a ziptie to create a thumbgrip. Elastic held it in place. One slides the thumbgrip back and the ears droop. You can still hold the dog’s handle and operate the trigger for the first mech in a reasonably comfortable position. It is far, far from ideal, but it works.
Here’s the proof.
This should have been a five or six hour job. My quadruple estimate was closer to being accurate. When Emily comes back with the dog, we’ll be able to fix it for the NYC shows in January.
Our friend, Fabulous Girl, came up to our neck of the woods so we could go out for brunch. After we finished a tour of the apartment, we decided to stay in. I’m generally happier cooking than going out, so that worked well for me.
The closest coffeeshop to the Puppet Kitchen is the The Bagel Zone. The guys there are totally nice. I needed to research some ways to decrease the distance of a cable pull, and they were starting to close down shop. Not only did he let me hang out while he cleaned, he gave me a big bag of pastries to take home.
It was great to have Fabulous Girl here. She is a fine reminder of the many reasons that moving to NYC was a good idea.
Today I took my bike out for the first time in the city. First of all, I have to say, that my timing was amazingly stupid, because today was genuinely hot. A high of 92. For the most part I was in shade by the river, but still. It was hot. Hot. Hot, I tell you.
I was expecting to be frightened and tense while biking–I mean, it’s New York. I’m used to Portland, where the cyclists are plentiful and respected. We all know how crazy traffic in NYC is, right? Yeah. Here’s the interesting thing. Traffic in the city is slow.
I didn’t think about that until I was on the bike. Even obeying all the traffic laws, I was always moving faster than vehicular traffic. Why? Well, first of all, I planned my route so I was on bike lanes almost the whole way. So, when there was an obstruction, I just sailed past it. Second, cabs stop all the time to let people out.
By the end of the ride, I wound up being more aggressive about merging into traffic when someone was stopped in the bike lane. Again, I expected that would be scary, but really, I’m going the same speed as traffic. I’d look. Signal. Change into their lane. Not once–and this is NYC–not once did anyone honk at me. I even had a cabbie, a cabbie mind you, wave me ahead.
I think because I was behaving like a vehicle and they’d seen me stopping at traffic lights (there was a long stretch where I was next to the same three cabs) they were inclined to not hate me for making their lives difficult.
I, on the other hand, began to loathe the other cyclists and pedestrians who just wander out into the street as if no one is going to run them down.
I went over to our local farmers market today. There are only six or so booths, but with a nice variety of things. It’s at 106th and Central Park West, nestled against an unexpected bluff of stone. It’s a beautiful setting, and naturally I didn’t have my camera with me. Google Maps Street View is not really doing it justice, but gives you a bit of the idea.
The weather has cooled off enough that I have been cooking at night. Other than that, most of the day was spent organizing the office. There have been several things in our boxes that baffle me. For instance, why in the world did I decide to pack the folding file I had in college? I mean, nothing–nothing is useful in that. I didn’t even know I still had it, so why is it in NYC? I’ve started a box for “things that don’t belong here” that Rob will take back to Portland when he goes back for IPNC.
(Tor Books – July 14 2020) Mary Robinette Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series, following The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, with The Relentless Moon. The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and […]