An Unsolicited Endorsement

Breathe easy . . . it’s not political.

We live in an old house, by American standards; the core of it — the part where the basement has a dirt floor and the basement walls are granite rocks that probably came out of the ground the basement was dug in, and the support beams are essentially whole logs — was built sometime around 1850, and is, ah, somewhat more permeable to the world outside than your standard suburban no-basement house set on a concrete pad. This means that over the years we’ve played temporary hosts to a variety of local wildlife, including squirrels, chipmunks, and — one memorable winter — an ermine.†

And of course, we always have mice. Most of the time, our cats keep the local rodent population within acceptable limits, but this year, between the long winter and the wet summer and — for all I know — the Trump administration (because lord knows, the orange-haired vulgarian is responsible for most of the rest of this year’s horrors), the numbers have gone beyond what two hard-working cats could be expected to handle.

This isn’t just a problem, we said to ourselves; this is an infestation. Time to call in reinforcements.
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So we’ve gone high-tech. Not for us the cheapie spring traps, or the glue traps . . . we’ve laid out serious money for a Victor Multi-Kill Electronic Mouse Trap. Because damn, this thing works. We’ve had it in place for around a week now, and the score currently stands at Victor Multi-Kill 21, Mice 0.

Highly recommended.


We only saw him once, heading across the kitchen floor at speed and disappearing under the closed basement door, but our house was remarkably free of other vermin while he was in residence.

Where We’ll Be This Weekend

We’re going to be at Scintillation, a science fiction convention in Montreal. Except for being in a different country and all that, Montreal is actually more local to us than Boston, or even Manchester. (Reminder to self: Must go to Montreal more often.)

Scintillation is more or less a successor-state to Farthing Party, the convention that Jo Walton ran for eight years from 2006 to 2013. Jim Macdonald and I made all of them — even the year when we had to do the con as a Saturday day trip because we were moving our younger daughter into Simmons College in Boston on the following Sunday — and we were sad to see it go. When we saw that Jo was running a Kickstarter to bring a convention back to Montreal, we jumped onto the bandwagon right away.

(If you’re going to be at the con, don’t miss Jim’s presentation on A Century of Dead Magicians, which looks at the history of modern stage magic through the lens of a succession of magicians who had some really bad days.)

A Thing to Do With Gift Tomatoes

One of my brother’s friends cleared out her garden in advance of the frost, and as a result we ended up with a large bag full of fresh tomatoes — more tomatoes than we could possibly put into bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches, or add to salads. Letting them deliquesce in the refrigerator until they could be thrown out as inedible would be tacky, but neither did I feel like doing any of the things that would involve peeling and coring and scooping the innards out of that many tomatoes, either.

Then I found a recipe for marinara sauce in the instant pot that called for pureeing whole tomatoes skins, seeds, and all, and said to myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

And myself replied, “Well, the recipe could turn out to be a total failure even if you execute it correctly.”

“Yes,” I said, “but even if it is, these aren’t tomatoes I’ve paid out actual money for . . . so what do we have to lose?”

“You’ve got a point there.”

So I limbered up the food processor, and then the Instant Pot pressure cooker, and I’m pleased to report that the recipe was not, in fact, a failure. The end result definitely counted as tomato sauce under the meaning of the act, and it now sits in my freezer in zippered freezer bags, awaiting the day when they’re needed.

All that being said, I’m not such a committed foodie that I’ll be going out of my way to purchase tomatoes to do this thing again. But now I know what to do the next time I’ve got a veggie drawer filled with somebody else’s tomato crop.

(Obligatory writing reference:  Sometimes your subconscious presents you with the creative equivalent of a pound or so of gift tomatoes.  Even if you don’t have a use for them right now, it’s always a good idea to preserve those ideas in some fashion — a scrapbook file on your hard drive, or a printout stored in a physical folder and kept in the bottom drawer of your desk, whatever works for you — to keep your subconscious happy and willing to serve you up ideas when you need them.)

A Meditation on Stuff

For about the first decade and a half of my post-undergrad life, I moved house on a regular basis, progressing first through a series of progressively less crappy apartments and then through two stateside and one overseas Navy billets.  This did a great job of keeping the accumulation of Stuff down to a tolerable minimum, since every time I — later, we — moved, a certain amount of Stuff would be deemed not the worth the trouble to transport and recategorized as Trash.

There were idiosyncratic categorizations, to be sure (my class notes from two semesters of Gothic at UPenn have been permanently classified as Important Stuff, even though I don’t think I’ve looked at them since I got the degree back in never-you-mind) and some equally idiosyncratic and regrettable losses (there was a nice silver necklace from Arizona that got lost somewhere between Philadelphia and Newport News, back in 1980 or so, for example), but by and large a certain equilibrium was maintained.

Then we moved to northern New Hampshire, and raised four kids, and put them all through college, and haven’t moved anywhere since we got here.  And the Stuff keeps trying to take over.

Never mind the fact that more objects come into the house than leave it purely in the natural way of things.  There are also those four kids.  And one by one, they all went off to college with Stuff every year in the autumn, and came back every year in the spring with Stuff Plus, most of which stayed behind like sand and gravel after a receding glacier when they went back again to college with New Stuff in the fall. Four kids.  Four years each — five, for one kid, because of weird required course scheduling — of undergrad, and then four years or so combined of grad school for two of them.  That’s something on the general order of twenty-one kid-years’ worth of Stuff, almost all of it remaining in residence.†

And yet sometimes, I still wonder:  How did I get from arriving in Philadelphia with one suitcase plus two footlockers to be sent along later, to this?


Because you know that as soon as something gets thrown out, that bit of Stuff will suddenly turn out to be the one thing that’s desperately needed for some new project in their current life.

Where We’ll Be This Weekend

This weekend, Jim Macdonald and I are going to be at Albacon, in (surprise, surprise) Albany, New York.  This will be the first convention we’ve fully attended since Arisia, back in January — Readercon was a bar-and-lobby con for us this summer, for one reason and another, so we didn’t get the full experience with that one.

Albacon isn’t one of your big crowded conventions that sells out its hotel room block within 24 hours of reservations opening up, and then goes on to fill an overflow hotel or two.  It’s a pleasantly-sized regional con that won’t overwhelm a newcomer.  So if you’re in the area, why not swing on by?  Jim and I will be wearing name badges (and so will everyone else) — if you greet us, we’ll say hi.

(Well, I’ll probably squint at your name badge and try to remember exactly where I know you from, because I suck at remembering names and faces.  Just say, “I read your blog,” and that’ll be introduction enough.)

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.

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.