This Week




It has been cold in Edinburgh but not so cold that I can write that without apologising deeply to my family in the godforsaken tundra. Still, biting cold. Right now it is raining and the rain, I can say with authority because I was just standing in it waiting for a Sunday bus, is the kind of rain that wishes it were snow so it lands like little stinging hail-drops.

On Tuesday, FunkyPlaid and I went through to Glasgow to visit a friend and help her with some computer issues. The photo above is of her cat sitting on a silver platter atop an old Scrabble set. She was perfectly happy to sit up there (because it was near the radiator, I think) and the sight of it made me giggle.

Fitbit step-count: ~50,000 steps out of my 70,000 weekly goal. Not great, but better than last week.

I am supposed to be reducing caffeine and sugar while on the 12-week wellness programme I mentioned. I haven’t done well with this. My justification is, as usual, that I already have to give up croissants for the rest of my life and now I’m supposed to give up tea and Junior Mints? So I’m a big baby and I need to get that under control. But Thursday I met Kaite at Cuckoo’s Bakery and had a gluten-free banana and sea-salt caramel cupcake with hazelnut tea and I didn’t feel guilty, not even a little.

Okay, a little guilty.


The JDB1745 naming authority work is complete! Well, as complete as things like this ever get, which means it is as polished as it can be for this phase and we really need to move on to location authority work next so, yeah.

As I was entering trial deposition data this week, I discovered yet another instance in which our data sets do not conform nicely to a template and require some creative thinking. This has to be at least 80% of database design for me: I think I’ve got a template that works, and then when I start entering data I see, nope, no, there’s more than a few instances in which this template just does not work.

As for the weekend gig … well, I wish the entire working world would get on Slack already because my work email inbox is a terrible place anymore.

However, I work with lovely people who wished me a happy birthday-eve. I am lucky and grateful.


I blogged the heck out of this week (thanks, book-club).

I also wrote a scene from a short story in progress, and am excited to write more. Part of this has to do with the book-club pick, and part has to do with me finally accepting the fact that I do my best creative thinking with pens and paper, not in front of the computer.


What are those again?

I did download SimCity BuildIt but after about an hour of gameplay I found its freemium bullshit unbearable: here, waste your time until interesting stuff happens, or pay real-world money to make it happen sooner. No thanks. Deleted.


I haven’t read anything about my bees this week because it’s been all about “Turning Pro”. What? You haven’t heard me talk about this book one million times already? Right. 

CN Lester’s “What cis men could learn from trans masculinities” gave me a lot to think about this week. I often think about gender and identity and, especially now, the politics surrounding them. I try to write about these ideas with compassion and respect, and as I have so much more to learn I am glad that I can rely on CN’s intellect and insight to help me along the way.

Top artists I listened to this week:

  • Holy Other, a recommendation from Scott. Good electronica, great writing music for me.
  • Glass Animals, which we were listening to in the car on Tuesday. I had forgotten how much I liked it.
  • The Handsome Family, because John Hodgman sang “So Much Wine” on his podcast and I loved it so much I wanted to hear the original. (I liked Hodgman’s version better.)

Hey, I decided to watch the first episode of “Better Call Saul” because I heard mixed reviews about it. I enjoyed it, and I think I would have enjoyed it even if I hadn’t seen “Breaking Bad”. That’s saying something. 

Ink o’ the Week

Tweet o’ the Week has been replaced by Ink o’ the Week! I love fountain pens and ink and I have to have a place to express that. In the future, I’d like to post ink tests and reviews here; for now I will share my “daily carry” pens and what they are inked with:

  • Lamy 2000 – J. Herbin’s 1670 Stormy Grey, deep coal-grey with flecks of gold, a perfect Scottish wintry grey
  • Faber-Castell Loom Piano – Diamine Damson, the plummiest plum to ever plum

This Week


I’m trying something new here, kind of a “state of the union” only the union is a person and that person is me and this might just be awkward and strange but we’ll give it a go anyway. I like the idea of writing a weekly report to keep myself accountable of how I’ve spent my time and where I am at with my goals. Hat-tip to Cate Huston for the idea. She’s a software engineer and all-around interesting person I met through … something I’ll mention later. Here we go!

Sunbathing beauty.


The sun is coming back!

I saw Postmodern Jukebox in concert on Wednesday at the Queen’s Hall. Their performance was energetic and joyful, but I was pretty disappointed by the lack of Robyn Adele Anderson.

FunkyPlaid and I celebrated Valentine’s Day over sushi dinner. <3

Fitbit step-count: ~40,000 steps out of my 70,000 weekly goal. Although I have recovered from the latest nasty bout, I’ve been hiding indoors a bit this week. However, I just started a 12-week wellness programme with a super-duper coach and I’m feeling very positive about it.


We’re almost done coding the naming authority data in JDB1745! This means that if we search for persona records with the first name “Robert” it’s going to pull up transcriptions like “Robt.” too. This essentially enables fuzzy-text searching on first, middle, and last names, and allows us to say things like, “Hey, when you see ‘Robt.’ also look for Robert, Bobt, Rob, etc.” This may seem like the simplest thing but 18th-century data sets are anything but simple.

I joined the Women in Technology Slack this week. Or maybe that was last week? I’m counting it for this week. It is filled with good people like Cate, and I look forward to the conversations there.

My weekend gig required more hands-on supervision than it usually does, which reminded me of two things:

  1. I enjoy teaching people, being enthusiastic about minutiae, and light record-keeping. But mostly I enjoy the teaching people part.
  2. Sometimes I have no idea what people here are thinking or feeling. That is mildly disturbing.


Scrivener word-count: 0 words of 1,750 weekly goal. Holy ugh. When I say my writing mojo has bottomed out, that’s what I’m talking about.


I didn’t volunteer at the Community Virtual Library this week; I’m trying to limit my in-world time while I get my writing schedule back on track. I visited my virtual cats, and that’s about it. (Yes, cats really do rule all of my worlds.)

My knitting projects are languishing just now because my arms and shoulders have been very sore.


I finished reading Emma Healey’s “Elizabeth Is Missing” (my review is here) and started Laline Paull’s “The Bees”. I’m at 10% of my goal of reading 50 books this year.

The Daily Science Fiction story “Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Apocalypse” by Claire Spaulding got me all teary.

Top artists I listened to this week:

  • Postmodern Jukebox, obviously.
  • They Might Be Giants, because of Dial-A-Song Direct and also … I just love them.
  • Punch Brothers, because Rdio said I might like them and the cover of their album is a Magritte painting. I wasn’t thrilled by the music.

FunkyPlaid and I started watching the TV series “Dead Like Me” (first time for him, a re-watch for me) and I am enjoying it immensely. I am not sure that FunkyPlaid likes it quite as much, but at least I knew where to find more Mandy Patinkin to tide us over until “Homeland” returns this autumn. #quinning

I finished watching the fourth season of “The Walking Dead” and I am so conflicted about this show. Mostly it just makes me want to play the game.

Tweet o’ the Week

2014 in first lines.


Can it be? 2015 is just an hour away! Here is my year in first lines.

Hello, beautiful human, and welcome to 2014.

¡Estamos en Barcelona!

About ten years ago, I became a zombie.

Writers’ Bloc returns to the Edinburgh International Science Festival for The Culture Collider, an exploration of weird science and stranger arts.

For the month of May, I’m back to meals for one.

I didn’t post in June, so here’s something from 9 years ago that I just found at random …
“Halsted, someone is collapsed in the women’s restroom downstairs,” is a sentence I never wanted to hear my coworker say.

My story “Paper Turtles” has been published in Innsmouth Magazine: 15.

Thank you to everyone who attended my Story Shop reading today at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Be soft.

I meant to post this on The Morning After but got waylaid by my workweek, and then everything seemed saturated with the rawness of reaction so I put it off.

Stevenson Unbound is this afternoon!

One of the best presents in the world is an autographed copy of a book.

Happily, half of these are writing- or performance-related. I really liked that about 2014. Another thing I liked was joining HabitRPG, because it made me focus on taking action instead of dithering. As a result, I took some solid risks this year that paid off well. I also reached out to family and friends more often, and pushed myself to be more social than I have ever been.

There were things I didn’t like about 2014, especially spending two months of it without FunkyPlaid. I also lost my running mojo this year, which is sad because I miss it so much. And the referendum … well, I’m trying not to bring it up because I know it is a sore spot, but it was a momentous and difficult time to be here with so many people I know experiencing the gamut of emotions about the run-up and result. And I inadvertently had feelings about it too, even though I tried not to have them, even though I felt I did not deserve to have them.

Some people I know are saying good riddance to 2014, but I’m pouring 2014 a dram and smiling wryly at it as we toast. It deserves that much, at least.

Happy New Year.

Treasure in the Grassmarket.


Esterbrook M2.

I’m not much of a shopper. Browsing endless racks of clothing, trying to find something in both my size and style, is something I avoid doing whenever possible. So holiday shopping becomes a game I play with myself: how quickly and painlessly can I find things I would want to give friends and family?

When I heard about the popup market in the Cowgate a few weeks ago, I thought it might offer me an easy way to do much of this shopping at once. It was sure to offer unique items I wouldn’t be able to find on my own, and all concentrated in one place. Problem solved.

Well, not really. I did find a few things there, but most of it wasn’t in the style of anyone I know. (Except for me: I did not know this about myself before the popup market but I am fascinated by bizarre taxidermy, especially of small animals wearing spectacles.)

I was lucky to be wandering around the market with a patient friend, who was also up for checking out whatever was going on in the Grassmarket. (Another market! In a market. Not shocking.) And as we were strolling and chatting our way through that second market, I spied one of the things that even a non-shopper such as myself has learned means Cool Stuff Might Be Here: the wooden-sided glass case.

These glass cases are usually filled with an odd assortment of costume jewellery, rusted pocket-knives, old tins of long-dried unguents, commemorative coins commemorating things no one cares about anymore, and pens. Yes, pens. Usually dented metal ballpoint pens, but still: pens.

So I have to look. And I hate shopping, and I hate browsing for things that I might buy, but I still look.

In this particular case, something caught my eye that wasn’t a dented metal ballpoint at all. It was a plastic box with gold lettering and something was inside it. The gold lettering read “Esterbrook” and I gasped as I read it.

Because I was not raised by wolves, I asked the stall owners if I could open the box and look at the pen. As I was trying to play it cool, my tone was somewhere between desperation and apathy, a teenaged boy’s mumbled squeak.

I would like to tell you that my hands weren’t shaking. After all, vintage Esterbrook fountain pens are not uncommon, and they’re not even all that fancy. But recently I became a first-time Esterbrook Dollar Pen owner and when I fell, I fell hard. So my hands were shaking, a little, as I removed the pen from the case and inspected it. “Mint condition” is too generous but it was certainly in good condition, and I’ll save you the nerdery around the specifics there.

Because I’ve been collecting pens for a number of years now, right about the time I am fondling a pen hard enough to consider buying it, a number pops into my head. That number is the most I would pay for the pen. Another thing pops into my head: the first word I would write with that pen, if it were mine, but that’s less relevant to the actual transaction portion of the experience.

So as I turned this cream-of-tomato-soup red pen over in my hands, the number popped into my head, and the word too, and then I realised there was also a number on a sticker on the plastic box the pen was inside and that number, that number, was a deliriously low number, the type of number not even as high as the number on a menu next to a fancy hamburger. And that was when I knew that this pen, this pen, was mine. The rest was a formality.

The word? Serendipity. Because shopping, as awful as it can be, can also contain moments of serendipity like this one. Plus “serendipity” is just one badass word to write with an Esterbrook M2 fountain pen.

All I want for the mandated festive period is …


I will post an actual Holidailies entry soon, but I just had to share one of my favourite pick-me-ups.