The Adventures of the Rocking Chair

or, Where Should We Put This Thing, Anyway?

I promised you the story of the Adventures of the Rocking Chair, and here it is.

Once upon a time, I went on a road trip with my significant other to visit family in Oregon*.  And we happened into a shop that sells wood things made locally.  In fact, many of the things were made in that very shop, as we discovered when we** asked and were shown the huge rooms full of uncarved wood, and the huger room full of tools and more uncarved wood, and the hugest room yet stacked full of uncarved wood and great big tools.  Not to mention the shop across the street with the saw-of-some-sort that could cut a 20′ piece of wood.  But in the front of the shop were gorgeous things: clocks, shelves, tables, bowls.  And rocking chairs.  They came in three sizes: small, medium, and large.  First thing, we had to sit in them.  Ahhh, comfy.

This is the first one I bothered to take a picture of:

Chair in the store

We ogled.  We asked the shop owners about the chairs.  (We bought a couple of pieces of uncarved wood.)  And then we left.

A few days later we were back in town, and back at the shop ready to choose a chair and make a deal.  We sat in every single chair they had, including the dozen in a storage unit around the corner.  We wanted the right balance of comfort for me, comfort for Ben (we’re not the same size), and attractiveness.  They were all made by the same guy, so there wasn’t a lot of variation in style, but most of them were made out of very nice wood, and a couple were made of absolutely gorgeous figured wood.  (I didn’t get a picture of the most gorgeous one.  You’ll have to take my word for it.)

We hemmed and hawed.  And finally we chose the same one I’d taken a picture of when we first saw it.  It really is pretty.  It’s a little big for me, and a little small for him, but better than any other chair we tried.

And we told them we’d be back in a couple of days to put it in our truck.  Have I mentioned the truck?  We have a FWD truck with an awesome cap on the back that fits a mattress and all of our camping gear underneath, so we can go camping in comfort and luxury, without the crummy gas mileage of an RV.  So we figured, sure we’re buying a piece of furniture, and sure we have to drive it 500 miles home… but we have space!

See?  It totally fits.  (It’s behind the pillows.  Yes, those are our pillows.  We sleep on them.  Also, they protect the delicate corners.  Worked a dream.)

Chair in the truck

Here’s closer view:

Chair in the truck, closer

The only question then was, where were we going to put the chair whenever we needed to put ourselves in the back to sleep at night***?

As it happens, earlier in the week we’d decided we wanted to camp at this one specific campsite, because everyone knows that Oregon’s campsites are the best evah.  When we called to make a reservation, they only had a campsite with a yurt left.  It’s more expensive, but it’s a yurt.  We looked at each other and said, “Sure, that sounds like fun.”

Turns out the yurt is basically a tarp-covered frame with furniture inside.  The windows were all velcro’ed closed, so it smelled mildewy and awful.  Also, we would’ve had to strip the bedding out of our truck and put it on the bed in the yurt.  We looked inside the yurt, and we looked at our comfy mattress in the truck, and we said to ourselves, selves, we said, we’ll be much happier sleeping in the truck.  And the chair can sleep in the yurt.

Chair in the yurt

So that’s how the chair ended up sleeping in its very own yurt that can sleep six plus furniture.

The next night was slightly less exciting for the chair.  We hadn’t made reservations and we couldn’t find a spot anywhere we wanted to camp†, so we ended up at a Holiday Inn Express.  It was really nice.  The pillows were nice, the mattress was nice.  Having a place to rest and change so we could go out for dinner was nice.  Our pillows stayed in the truck, cushioning the chair as it slept.

The next morning we hit the road, refreshed and excited to find somewhere nice to camp.  Maybe somewhere along the Avenue of the Giants.  But lo, it was not meant to be.  There was smoke from a fire somewhere in Oregon.  Once we got beyond that, it was hot and icky.  Once we got beyond that we were back in civilization and there was no reason to try camping.  Instead, we stopped at my grandparents’ house, where my aunt had just arrived for a visit.

And because we are weird, and we really like our setup in the truck, we slept in the truck outside, while the chair slept in the house.

Chair at grandparents' house

Everyone admired the chair, and we felt quite pleased with ourselves and ate too much ice cream, as one does, and we left for home the next morning.

Chair at home

And we all lived happily ever after.

——

* Gorgeous up there, by the way.  I really liked being in the middle of nowhere.  The only downside to small towns in the middle of nowhere is that when you ask the gas attendant^ if there’s a coffee shop with WiFi anywhere nearby, she literally laughs out loud.

^ Cuz Oregon doesn’t let you pump your own gas, you know.

** This is the euphemistic “we” used by couples.  In this case the “we” didn’t include me, though I did follow along.

*** We did, in fact, try to put the chair into the cab of the truck.  Because of the runners, the chair was just a couple inches too big, no matter which way we angled it.  And then as we tried to pull it out again, I felt like the guy with the couch in DIRK GENTLY’S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY, who gets his couch stuck halfway up the staircase in his apartment building, and then when he models it on the computer he finds there’s no way the couch could’ve gotten into that position without knocking a hole in a wall. If you haven’t read it, you should totally read DIRK GENTLY. It’s Douglas Adams. It’s hilarious. There’s time travel, ghosts, and a couch stuck in a staircase that couldn’t possibly have gotten there. And a dodo.

We did remove the chair without removing any part of the truck.

† We stopped at one place by the beach.  Ben went into the restroom, I did not.  He left without having used it.  Apparently it was really really bad.

Reading Deprivation

Gaaaaaaaaah!

I’m not reading.  Starting about an hour ago, I’m NOT READING.  Anything.  Especially not books or the internet (goodbye facebook 🙁 ), but also not email (as much as I can avoid it) or user manuals or anything.  (Not blogs! 🙁  Goodbye Robin McKinley, until next week!  Not the awesome book by Tanya Huff that I just started.  🙁  How will I survive?)

So far this means that I’ve started writing a presentation I’m giving in a week and a half, which I otherwise might have procrastinated for far longer.  It also means that I found myself scrolling through the MS Word options, just because I wanted to disable spell check!, and technically was reading ALL of the options, looking for ones I might want to change.  Because that was an important use of my time.  *facepalm*

I’m not counting IMing or texting with friends in this “not reading” category, because that’s communicating with real live people who happen to be on the internet instead of a phone or in person.  Also, writing is not reading.  Duh.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve started doing The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron, and I’m up to Week Four, which mandates Reading Deprivation.  Since I haven’t been blogging much, this seems like a good time to resume.  I’m not allowed to read the internet, but I can still talk to it, right?

Fortunately, this only lasts a week.  I can make it.

Fits & Starts

There’s this theory that if you do a little of something every day, eventually you’ll have accomplished a whole lot of it.  For example, BIC—Butt In Chair—stands for sitting your butt in the chair every day, regardless of whether you “feel like it”, and just writing.  The corollary is, if you do a little every day you’ll get in the habit of doing a little (or possibly more) every day, and so it’ll be less of a struggle to do every day.  Twenty-one days to create a habit, or whatever that number is supposed to be.

But then there’s also this theory, which is mine, that there aren’t enough hours in the day, and there isn’t enough energy in my body, to do a little of all of the things I want to do every day.  Writing, house-keeping, paying attention to my people, WORKING for money, gardening, brushing my teeth (ok, I manage this one every day pretty well), sleeping (if I could only do without…), knitting, listening to interesting & educational podcasts.  Etc.  Oh yeah, and READING.  I do a whole lot of that already.

So instead, I tend to binge on those things.  I’ll spend a weekend vegging because I’ve been pushing too hard for too long.  I’ll spend another weekend away Doing Something.  I’ll spend the next weekend catching up on housework* and maybe knitting and watching TV.  I’ll spend another weekend on a knitting or sewing project.  Another weekend caring for my garden.  In most cases I’m not devoting the whole weekend to that activity, but rather a significant portion of my energy.  Same goes for weekday evenings.  This past week, I spent a lot of evenings between work and paying attention to my significant other.  Other weeks I manage to write in the evenings.  Other weeks I manage to at least compose a few blog posts.

I feel guilty when I haven’t written several days in a week.  I feel guilty when Ben’s hat is sitting half-made for several months.  It was his Christmas present.  With any luck it’ll be finished by next Christmas.  I have a sweater I want to start making some day**.  I have tomatoes that need my attention, and kefir & yogurt to make at least weekly, and …

But maybe it’s not so bad to accomplish things in fits and starts.  I do make progress on those things.  I keep them all going, one way or another.  Not always “on time”***.  The thing is, it’s not that I’m slacking off.  OK, I’m not consistently productive on any one thing.  But that’s not my style.  Maybe it’s time for me to accept my style as the one that works for me, and stop trying to be the person who does the same things every day, or even every week.

And by the way, I’ve read 27 books so far this year.  So I’m clearly not slacking off on my reading.  🙂

——

* Apparently it’s been four weeks since I last did laundry.  :-/  That’s long even for me.

** I have to buy yarn first.

*** See: laundry, hat.

It’s OK to stay in bed and read all day.

Being exhausted, achy, and miserable yesterday, I spent nearly all day lying in bed, reading (and finishing) NORTH & SOUTH by Elizabeth Gaskell.

I just couldn’t convince myself to get out of bed for longer than a meal.  Part of that was because I was miserable and achy, and part of that was because I’d totally fallen into the mid-19th century England that Gaskell described.  Fancy clothing, proper manners, class distinctions, people dying right and left.  Cotton mills, and strikes, and a passionate, scowly man who, despite being part of the upper-crust of his city, wasn’t quite a gentleman—not by London standards.  I was sucked into it, I had trouble imagining what in my real world could possibly be more important or more interesting than Margaret moving to a strange new town, than Thornton and his mill, or—I’ll be honest—whether Margaret & Thornton could manage to both like each other at the same time.

I felt lazy.  I felt like I was stealing time from the things I need to do–chores, keeping up with people, contributing to feeding my significant other and myself, watering my poor plants—and from the things I want to do—continuing projects I don’t have time for during the week, working on that story I’m in love with writing, writing blog posts because I like telling the world what it’s like to be me.  Etc.

But I LOVE to read.  I get absorbed into other worlds, other people’s lives.  I love it so much that I’ve taken up writing my own stories, because they don’t exist for me to read yet and I want to know what happens.  I love watching movies and TV, but I love books in this whole other way.  It’s immersive, not just visual and aural, but a truly engaging book will give me a whole-body experience.  I feel emotions and believe opinions that aren’t my own, because the characters feel and believe those things.  When I read for an hour at a time, it’s a nice pastime.  But reading a book all day—that feels like living the story.

That has its risks, too, of course.  When a story becomes more important than real life, is something out of balance*?  Is it escapism?  Or is it just truly enjoying an activity that isn’t bad for my health?

I don’t know.  But aside from the guilt, I liked spending all day reading.  And I felt less exhausted, achy, and miserable.  So it must be OK, right?

——

* Don’t they write creepy stories about books taking over a person’s life, a character sucking out the reader’s soul and living in her body?  Hmm…

Google Book Settlement overturned!


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I’m not a published author. I have no works in (or out of) print. But I hope to, some day. And this decision now will affect what can and will happen to my books (and my rights over them) when I am published.

Here’s how I understand the Google Book Settlement.‡

First, Google decided to borrow lots of books from libraries and digitize them, without asking the copyright holders for permission, and then made them searchable online. To go with that, Google would display ads to the people searching those books–effectively making money by presenting works they don’t own, without giving any money to the copyright holders (or asking for permission).

Then, some copyright holders and the Authors’ Guild got mad at Google and said, “hey, you’re a big bully!”* So Google said, “Oh, you’re right, I’m so sorry. Here, let’s settle this out of court. I’ll give you lots of money, and you let me keep doing what I’ve been doing. And you let me know if there are any books you don’t want me to digitize.**”

The Authors’ Guild’s eyes glazed over at the sight of the piles and piles of money, and they said, “Sure, ok!”

Then lots of other authors, who realized suddenly that the Authors’ Guild wasn’t actually representing them personally, took notice and said, “Wait a second. You want me to tell you that you aren’t allowed to digitize my works that I own? But I own them!” And then people started wondering, “Wait, what about copyright holders that we can’t find? Aren’t we just stealing their works?” And people in other countries said, “Uh, our works aren’t covered by U.S. copyright, so you’re not allowed to take our books without checking our laws.”

Then Google came back and said, “But this is the future, people! Can’t you see the future? A world where everyone can find exactly the bit of works they want, and they can check in advance whether they want to buy a book, from the comfort of their own livingrooms! (In their underwear!) Authors will make more money, because we’ll be selling more books! You can’t stop the progress of technology!” They also said, “This helps disabled people who can’t read have another way to access your work! This is all about the disabled people***! You’re hurting the disabled people!”

A lot of people (including me 😉 thought about this and said, “Ooh, the future is shiny. I likes it. I want the future!” And they also said, “I want to help the disabled people! Of course I do!”

But then they shook their heads and said, “Wait a minute. Why do we need to agree to this crazy thing just to help the future appear? Why do we need to give away people’s ownership of their own works in order to help people access those works? Why can’t we do this in a sensible way that benefits everyone? Let’s have an opt-in system!”

Lots of people joined the settlement with objections, lots of others opted out of the settlement with objections. Lots of people had no idea what to do, so they did nothing. And there were probably some people who liked the settlement just fine, and accepted it.

Finally, it went before the court, who, taking over a year to do so, had to decide whether this settlement was “fair, adequate, and reasonable.” It (by which I mean he, Judge Chin, my hero) concluded “that it is not.” See here for his full opinion: http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=115. Judge Chin gives a remarkably open-minded response–in other words, he explains exactly why this isn’t fair or adequate or reasonable.  Yay!†  Score one for the rights of the little people!

Also, here’s SFWA’s announcement: http://www.sfwa.org/2011/03/judge-rejects-google-book-settlement/

‡ Does the internet need another person describing the issue and talking about it in public? Of course not. But I’m happy about the recent court decision, and so I’m going to talk about it.

* All dialogue^ and actions described herein are invented by me, and probably bear little resemblance to the actual events. Particularly the bit about glazing, in the next paragraph.

^ And, uh. Chrome’s spell-checker is telling me that “dialogue” isn’t spelled that way. Really? It prefers dialog. Dialog is only a valid spelling (in my Not So Humble opinion) for dialog boxes, those things that pop up and ask questions. If actual people are talking to actual other people, then it’s a dialogue. With a “u” and an “e”. *sigh* What is this world coming to?

** This is known as having to opt-out of the settlement. It puts the burden of administration onto the authors and publishers, instead of putting it onto Google who would be benefiting from the settlement.

*** I’m just certain there’s a more PC term I should be using here, but I’m failing to think of it. If you can suggest a better way to phrase this, please let me know. I don’t want to detract from my otherwise funny story by offending anyone.

† Ok, seriously?  Chrome thinks “yay” isn’t a word, either.  Nor “ok”.  This, right here, is why I usually disable spell checkers.  And grammar checkers.

New Year’s Resolution and Summary of Recently Read 2009

I’ve totaled up all of the books that I’ve posted about here this year, and assuming I don’t finish any more books in the next four days (no guarantees! Yep, I did after all.), this is my summary for the year:

Novellas: 4 (possibly more, because some of the short stories I read were quite long, but I haven’t counted those.)

Started and abandoned: 1 (Elantris.  There are lots of other books I started and haven’t finished, but I do expect to finish them some day.  I’ll post about them then.)

Comics: 2 (or 3, depending on how you count — and I’m only counting full-length books, not the flimsies.)

Books: 45 46

So, that’s nearly a book a week, not counting all of the other books I haven’t yet finished.  Whew.

My New Year’s Resolution: Not to acquire any books or stories of any kind for all of 2010.

I’m giving myself a moratorium on getting books.  I bought or have been given/lent so many books this year (and last year, and the year before that…), and I’m afraid I’ll never get through them all, if I keep getting new books at the rate I do.  So, 2010 is my year to catch up.  My goal is to keep posting these “recently read” posts as often as I remember, and to get through a large number of the books I already have.  This includes a number of books that aren’t as easy as my usual sci fi/fantasy fare, like The Three Musketeer, and a ton of books that I’ve started and never finished.  I may decide to restart some of those