Because It’s Been a While

A recipe!

This is one of my go-to seasoning mixes for things like pot roast or beef stew, or even roast chicken. File also under “Useful Things I Learned from Folk Songs.”

Scarborough Fair Seasoning Mix

Mix together in equal parts (how big the parts are depends upon whether you’re planning to use all of the mix on your current project, or planning to make a larger batch and store most of it for later):

Dried parsley
Dried sage
Dried rosemary
Dried thyme
And a bay leaf (because you always need a sheriff at the county fair.)

Whiz them together in a spice grinder or grind them up in a mortar and pestle, or just mix them together as-is. I like to grind them up because that solves the rosemary problem: Rosemary makes stuff taste delicious, but the little needle-like sprigs don’t soften very much during cooking.

I use more or less equal parts of all four herbs, but there’s no reason you can’t tweak the proportions to suit your own preferences. Store any extra in a clean glass jar with a tight lid.

Baby Needs a Pair of New Shoes

Or, to be more specific, a new porch. Because the hardships and foul weather of this past winter caused the porch and steps of our house to transition from merely dilapidated to actively collapsing, and Steps (see what I did there?) Had To Be Taken.

So carpenters came and carpenters went, removing the old porch and the old concrete and granite steps
Porch Day 2

and putting in new wooden steps with handrails, which the old steps sadly lacked, and mending the gaps in the clapboard which the collapsing porch had left in its wake.
Finished Porch Smaller

Carpenters, like writers and freelance editors, are self-employed and need to be paid, and so they were. Which means it’s time for me to discreetly point to the Editorial and Critique Services link up above, which gives the good word about what I do and what I charge for it. You can also find an informal FAQ page here: It’s Dr. Doyle’s Question and Answer Time.

Also, I’m now a dues-paying member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, for that extra bit of professional gloss.

The Things That Rattle Around in Writers’ Heads

One of the things I used to wonder about when I read C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle was that literal died-in-a-train-wreck ending . . . it always seemed to me like a rabbit pulled out of a hat. Then one day while idly mousing around the internet, I found out about the 1952 Harrow and Wealdstone railway crash, a three-train collision where 112 people died and 340 were injured, and I thought, “Yeah . . . for a book published in 1956, something on that scale that happened in 1952 would have still been taking up space in the author’s mind during the writing process.”

Writers aren’t necessarily in control of what sinks into their memories, and they don’t always have a say in how it may bubble back up to the surface later.

With Regard to the Recent Email to Nominees for the Hugo Awards

Science Fiction’s Hugos would not be what they are without accompanying periodic outbursts of controversy. This year’s topic is the email sent out to nominees for the award, “encouraging” them to dress professionally for the awards ceremony. The backlash from the sf/fantasy community was, shall we say, vociferous and overwhelmingly negative.†

As well it should be. To quote my elder daughter, on an occasion some time ago when I was fretting about the advisability of going out in public with my hair pulled back using a kid’s Snoopy-the-Flying-Ace hair tie:

“Don’t worry, Mamma. You’re a science fiction writer. You can wear anything.”


File 770 has a summary here — scroll down to item 8 in the entry.

Ah, Summer.

The weather is hot and sticky, and leaves me disinclined to do anything at all, including cook dinner.  So cold cuts and storebought potato salad are the order of the day.

We have what I think — based on comparison of its noises with sound files on the web — is either a barn owl or a screech owl living in the messed-up soffits of the upstairs gable window.

There is a black bear wandering around town, eating from the garbage cans out back of the Wilderness Restaurant and showing up in people’s back yards — also once in broad daylight at the verge of the school baseball field, while a game was going on.  (The kids were taken inside — a case of “game called on account of bear,” I suppose.)

And something knocked down and tore up our front-yard bird feeder last night.

It’s enough to make one peevish, so it is.  Herewith, therefore, a peeve to make your day complete:

Past and passed are not the same word.  Past-the-noun refers to an earlier point in time (“The past is another country”); past-the-adjective describes something having to do with an earlier point in time (“remembrance of things past”); and past-the-preposition indicates that something is moving from a point either metaphorically or literally behind something to a point forward of it (“a first-past-the-post voting system.”  Passed, on the other hand, is the past tense of the verb to pass (“time passed” or “the winner passed the post in record time.”)

Don’t confuse them; it makes the baby copyeditors cry.

Collecting the Whole Set

Along with a series of ongoing infrastructure repairs and upgrades (what can I say — it was a hard winter), we’ve finally managed to acquire all of the college decals for our assorted offspring, including the year each at Elms and Rivier that Twin B and Twin A did before moving on to bigger things:

Decals

Putting four kids through college is a hefty undertaking under the best of circumstances. Doing it while freelancing is even more so. As my spouse/co-author says, we are entitled to fly our battle honors.

In Which I Eventually Make It to a Recommendation

This is a post for all the female, female-identified, and female-presenting people out there, or for anybody else who has ever, for some reason, needed to buy and wear a bra.

If delving too deeply into Women’s Mysteries™ is not for you, read no further, and I’ll see you next post. But if you’re still with us, I’ll start by explaining a couple of things about bras that most bra-wearers already know.

The first thing is that bra sizes — for all shapes and sizes and configurations of bra-wearing people — are based on two measurements and two measurements only. One measurement is taken around the rib cage just under the breasts; that’s the 36, for example, in the classic 36DD bra. The second measurement, for the cup size, is derived from the circumference of the chest at nipple level on the bustline. (It’s not an absolute, because the D-cup in a 32D bra is not going to be the same size as the D-cup in a 42-D bra.)

That’s it. Those two measurements are the whole thing. Never mind the shape of the breasts in question (which will vary from one person to another for all sorts of reasons), or the placement of them (higher or lower; closer together or farther apart) on the rib cage, or the muscular development (or lack of it) of the wearer’s chest and shoulders. Two measurements.

Which leads us inexorably to the second thing that most bra-wearing people already know: You can’t just pick up a bra off the rack in your size and expect it to fit. You have to try it on, first. And it’s probably not going to work for you when you do — the cups will be the wrong shape for your breasts, or will be set too close together/too far apart, or they’ll fit just fine except for the internal seam that irritates you unspeakably; or the straps will slide off your shoulders, or cut into your shoulders, or somehow, in defiance of all common sense, manage to do both at once; or it will be your perfect bra in all respects, but will be the last one in the store and the manufacturer has discontinued the line.

So you can’t just try on a single bra when you go out bra-shopping. You have to try on a whole stack of them, and most, if not all, of them won’t fit.

It is, therefore, no wonder that shopping for bras is an experience calculated to make almost anyone feel — at best — like some kind of mutant alien.

Which brings me to the science-fictional part of this post.

We already have scanners and sensors that can map and image a body, either still or in motion — Hollywood uses them all the time. And we have 3-D printers that can spit out everything from houses to handguns. So how long will it be before some servant of bra-wearing humanity combines the two and comes up with a commercially-viable device that will scan you and then print out, in a comfortable material, a custom-made bra in your own personal size?

My guess? Quite a while, probably. Maybe not until we get enough bra-wearing people in STEM fields to make it likely that at least one of them will think that the problem is one worth tackling. And maybe even longer than that, because while handguns are easy (they were what the idea of interchangeable parts was originally developed for), bras — because people do not, in fact, have standardized measurements and interchangeable parts — are hard.

(Also, guns are a cool guy thing, and bras are girly. These things should not matter, but they do.)

Which brings me to a recommendation. If you’re a bra-wearing person on the east coast of the USA, check out Zoe&Company in New Hampshire or Rhode Island. They’re not just bra sellers; they’re bra fitters, and they’re damned good at it. Their store carries the full range of bra sizes, from AA all the way out to KK  (yes, the range is that wide), and they’re trained to help you find bras that actually fit.

Also, they won’t make you feel like a mutant while they’re doing it.

A Brace of Peeves

(Because I’m waiting on a dishwasher-repair person, and that sort of thing always makes me peevish.)

Peeve the first: It’s vocal cords, people, not vocal chords. It’s an easy mistake to make, given that cord and chord are homonyms, and given the association with sound-making and hence with music . . . but the items in question were named by anatomists, not musicians, and for the anatomical mind the notable thing would have been their physical structure. Wikipedia has some good pictures, which I’m not going to reproduce here because while interesting, they aren’t particularly handsome or appetizing.

Peeve the second: This one’s a bit more subtle. If you’ve got a character listening in on another character or characters talking about something, but the listener isn’t quite able to make out what’s being said, the conversation isn’t undecipherable or illegible.

Undecipherable and illegible are adjectives for something that is, or is meant to be, seen or read. Something that’s undecipherable is, taken literally, unable to be decrypted or decoded; by extension, it refers to something drawn or written or otherwise seen, the meaning of which cannot be determined. (You can have an undecipherable letter, or an undecipherable carved inscription, or — speaking metaphorically — an undecipherable expression.) Something that’s illegible is something written that cannot be read, such as an illegible signature (though not — because it isn’t written down — an illegible expression.)

If what you’re dealing with is something that is, or is meant to be, heard, the words you’re looking for are unintelligible (the listener can hear it, but not well enough to make much sense of it) or inaudible (the listener can’t hear it well enough, period.)

I run into this one oftener than you’d think, and it drives me batty.

For Lo, the Winter is Past

And of course, everything is blooming, and the landscape is full of road repair personnel.

This particular winter, which showed up early around here and then overstayed its welcome, and which included a three-week subzero deep freeze, was particularly hard on the local infrastructure. Which is to say, the north country is full of potholed roads and busted-up plumbing; also, porch roofs that were previously merely dilapidated emerged from the snow-time as disaster areas requiring demolition and replacement.

Fortunately, my new desktop computer system is now up and running (16G of RAM! Zoom-swoosh!), and my editor-hat has acquired a spiffy new plume: I’m now a paid-up member of the Editorial Freelancers Association.