<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Thursday, January 27, 2005

Not a Proper Entry, In Which I Talk About Talking

I keep meaning to write a proper entry about Elizabeth Bear's reading/signing/book launch at Bakka last weekend, but, well, "proper entry" and me are two things that don't seem to mix well at the moment. Can't even pull things together for an entry on the work blog. (Can you say "Aaaargh, I'm swamped!"? Because I can. And do. And then eat a clementine.)

What was noticeable about that particular Saturday was the cold. The terrible, evil, numbing cold. Even though I'd been looking forward to this event since it was announced and had declared my intention to be there, when it came time to actually prepare myself to go out in the -18 degree weather (not to mention the wind chill), I wasn't particularly ... enthusiastic. My warm pile of blankets seemed so nice. But I said to myself, aloud and everything, "You're Canadian. You can handle this," and proceeded to put on about half of the clothes in my closet and an interesting collection of outdoor gear. I wasn't colour-coordinated, but my god, I was actually warm. Most of the time.

I was able to talk with Bear herself somewhat briefly, which was nice, though I always seem to lose my ability to construct sentences more complicated than, "Nice book. Pretty words. Write me another!"

Sometime during the launch, Chris officially announced that Bakka is moving to Queen Street, west of Bathurst. I'm happy--a bigger Bakka can only be good--and yet part of me is sad, too, because I've only ever known the store when it was on Yonge. And now I have to figure out the best TTC route from here to there ...

Anyway, I chatted quite a bit with Sarah, Leah and Roopen about the sad, sorry and likely permanent absence of the Eco-Challenge (boo, hiss, Mark Burnett. That's right: BOO! HISS!), the plan to flood the Toronto Arts Council with genre submissions for funding (because really, who couldn't use a grant?), and the delightfully sick and twisted ideas for Canlit SF. There was alcoholism, and space, and zombie Newfies and a farming combine. I think I've managed to block out the rest. Lord help us if anyone actually writes this--though, you know, it might actually get a grant.

Oh, I know, I try ever so hard to be open and interested in all sorts of genres, but Canlit (or should I say, Canadian Lit-rah-ture) really just drives me crazy. Enough with the moody moping already!

And speaking of chatting, last night I phoned M'ris. I think we've known and spoken to each other online for approaching four years, but this was the first time that I'd actually heard the sound of her voice (and she mine). And, I admit, I was a little nervous to call, because what if after all the email and journal entries and whatnot, we just had nothing to say to each other? I needn't have worried--though in the end I did need to apologize to my body for going to bed so much past my usual bedtime. A happy sense of relief.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:37 PM (0) comments

Do you need my bone marrow?

On Tuesday I finally had my appointment to give blood to be typed for the Canadian Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry. This--joining the registry--is something that I've wanted to do for literally years. I can't even say exactly why, only that I've had this feeling that it's something I need to do. My only delay was that I didn't know how one goes about getting on the Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry; I reminded myself every time that I had a doctor's appointment that I had to ask my doctor if he knew where I had to go, what I had to do, and forgot every single time.

Then, one dreary day in December, I suddenly realized, "What the hell? I have Google." And sure enough, about five seconds later, there was the Registry page in all its glory.

And joining was really the simplest thing. I read some information, took an online 10 question quiz to prove that I really had read the information, printed and filled out some forms and mailed them in. A few weeks later I had a call from Blood Services to make an appointment to give blood for typing, and I went. Easy. Done.

I had thought, from my reading of the pages that I'd been given to bring along to my appointment, that they were going to have to take seven vials of my blood. I wasn't particularly excited about that, but figured it wasn't a really big deal in the long run. But imagine my surprise when I discover that it wasn't 7 vials but 7 ml--a big difference! Seven milliliters required only two very small vials of my blood.

I still bought myself a raspberry hot chocolate to fortify me afterwards. You know. Because it was cold outside.

I know that I might never be called to donate--in fact, that's probably what will happen--but I'm there. Just in case. And who knows, maybe one day I can save someone's life. The least I can do is try.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 6:10 PM (2) comments

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Instant Soup: A Risky Business

Even though I have more money now than the no money I had before, I'm trying very hard to make sure that I'm not wasting anything. I know how to buy a lunch for $2.25 or less on campus, and know that bringing my own is often far cheaper. And despite the fact that I have been mocked for my continued consumption of the not-very-good Mr. Noodles brand ramen noodle soup in a cup, these things are very convenient. On the days that I have no cash and no time to make a meal, grabbing a cup of soup from the cupboard as I run out the door seems to be a good solution.

So you may imagine my delight upon finding a specialty brand of soup-in-a-cup that doesn't involve ramen. They had many varieties, of which I bought two. The ingredients list seemed to be appealing: full of real (if understandably dehydrated) vegetables. How could I go wrong?

Easily. Very, very easily.

Some vegetables, apparently, never rehydrate to the point of edibility. Ramen noodles do taste better than slightly crunchy, slightly gooey noodles, and one cannot truly call something a "broth" if it is simply a mixture of floating bits and discoloured water--two elements which need constant stirring to remain together. Not, of course, that you particularly want to swallow the resulting sludge.

And don't even get me started on the amazing dissolving beans.

My trip to the pitiful food stand (it does not earn the name of "cafeteria") in this building to find something, anything, to fill the churning pit of hunger that is my stomach leads me to my next discovery: packaged cookies described as "chewy" should really have their packages proclaim them "soggy." And, in the realm of soggy cookies, always aim towards the oatmeal and away from the chocolate varieties. Trust me. (After all, someone should. My stomach gave up on me a long time ago.)

(A timely message from Sarah allows me to add the following: instant udon is not good either. At all. Avoid, avoid, avoid.)

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 1:45 PM (0) comments

Sunday, January 16, 2005
Home, Digital and Otherwise

I think that these things work in patterns--blogging, I mean, or journalling, or LJing, or whatever it is you'd like to call this process of putting words online in reverse chronological order. A pattern like a tide, perhaps; ebb and flow, absence and returning and flood.

I've been reading a lot about blogs these last few months--a lot, a lot, a lot. Not just reading blogs, but about them, theoretically and otherwise; so much so, that I start to wonder that if/when I do a Master's degree, perhaps it should somehow be about blogging. The Cluetrain Manifesto was exciting enough to almost make me giddy, more than one person at my office now refers to me as "The Blogger," and I've spent literally hours writing and refining the text that goes in the work blog and other blogs' comments.

And yet I just tap away here, little hellos every week or two, random comments about stories still unfinished and events that I'll forget in a few days anyway. I think what it is--beyond a choice between fiction (writing and reading) and yet more internet time--is a disconnect between the shape of this space and what I need it to say. Long term I'm pondering a total redesign of the blog and webpage (because really, shouldn't I be beyond saying that I'm a student at this point?). I'm also thinking about getting a proper domain, something that becomes more important as I remember that this Rogers webspace might vanish out from under my digital feet in a few weeks. We shall see.

Anyway, anyway: am I going anywhere with this? Not particularly. Typing as I think, is all.

Just finished Elizabeth Bear's Hammered, which I really enjoyed--and, like M'ris, am happy that there is someone out there who can write books like this for me to enjoy, because I know I'll never be able to write anything remotely similar. It was fun, too, to have a book that was at least partially set in the places I think of as "home." Ontario! Toronto! Bloor West! Internet!

Also, I think, a sign that I need to work on the bagpipe/Kincardine story some more/again/still, as it's an enjoyable thrill to see the places I know (however changed) looking back at me from the page, even if it's a page that I've written.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 4:33 PM (1) comments

Monday, January 10, 2005
Merchant of Venice

Last night Carly and I watched William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. She had to watch the film for work--it's one of the ones that she is currently promoting--while I was able to watch it by virtue of being home at the time. The Merchant of Venice isn't one of the Shakespearean plays that I knew much about, and I had half expected to get bored by the film halfway through, or perhaps switch to reading while giving it a few glances over the top of my book. (Some film adaptations of Shakespeare make me ... twitchy.) So imagine my surprise when I found that I was not only enjoying it, but was totally absorbed.

My strength isn't in analyzing films; yet I can say that it was very beautiful and very dark, and that it left me feeling very conflicted. Happy and yet wanting to weep at the same time. Excellent acting.

I'm told that it'll be in theatres on January 21 (handy, that, being able to call into the next room and find out such information), and I think it'll be worth your time. And if anyone local wants to go see it--yes, I'd like to see it again. (If nothing else, the theatre versions won't have PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS popping up on the screen every twenty minutes or so.)

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 9:59 PM (3) comments

Sunday, January 09, 2005
Making a List

I've begun recording all the books I've read, and plan to continue throughout the year. I've known others who have done this--written down, in one form or another, the various books and magazines they read, the movies they watched--and yet I'd never seen the point of it. But recently I was reading online various people's "best of 2004" lists, and ran across SF Site's Best of 2004 contest, and it occurred to me that I don't really know what I thought were the best books I read in the past year, new or not, simply because I'm not sure what I read when.

Some are easy: I know that I loved Sean Stewart's Perfect Circle. Not only is it a Sean Stewart book, and a good one at that (and therefore all the things that I expect from a good Sean Stewart book: subtle, elegant, well-written and thoroughly engaging), but it's a Sean Stewart book about ghosts. (More, I think, needs to be said about my somewhat recent discovery of my own obsession about ghosts, but now's not the time. Too much to say.) I also loved Matt Ruff's Set This House In Order, even though it all but totally falls apart at the end, and there is a palpable moment shortly before the destruction that I can only call the moment where the author must have gone "Oh, crap, what happens next?" Yet I can forgive it that messiness for the goodness that came before. Survival by Julie Czerneda also stands out as a good 2004 book, especially as it almost made me cry.

But others? I know that I read Sabriel by Garth Nix when it was cold and I think snowing, but seeing where I live that isn't much help in pinning down an exact date. I think I got The Mount by Carol Emshwiller out of the library shortly after I graduated, which would make it a 2004 book--and what a wonderfully surprising and mind-twisting work that was. I read (and enjoyed--as much as that word may be applied to such a work) Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi in I believe the second term of that particular class, and the Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing was one of the last texts that I had to read for another class, but whether I read it on the break or in March I can't be sure. Still, good books all.

The biggest disappointment is easy to pin down, though, simply because I was so excited to read it and so let down by it upon completion. That, of course, would be Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark--and yes, I think I'm the only person I've yet encountered who has disliked it as much as I did. It's not that the book was bad; rather, it simply wasn't good. Rather predictable and rather dull. The part of the story that held the most interest for me, namely the ending and what happened shortly thereafter, was crammed into a few pages, glossed over or ignored completely. Pity, because in there was the kernel of a book I could have absolutely loved. For books with autistic main characters--that I read in 2004, no less--The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime was much preferred.

Anyways, yes, I'm recording the books that I'm reading this year. I'm currently on book #6. We'll see how long this lasts.

And since I'm on the topic of the year gone past, I've figured out why 2004 was the Year of No Sales. It's shockingly obvious, actually: I sent out way, way, way too few submissions. I'm not even going to say how few. Frankly, it's embarrassing.

But, I've gotten 2005 off on the right foot, I think: I rewrote the last three scenes of "The Ghosts of Water" and sent it out again, and then got back to work on the bagpipe story. It will be written. Oh yes, it will be written.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:06 PM (0) comments

Thursday, January 06, 2005
Math Crochet

Believe it or not, I was doing some work-related reading/research (an activity that fills much of my days) when I stumbled across this: a crocheted Lorenz manifold. Beyond its lovely geekiness, it's just plain lovely to look at. (Check out the enlarged picture.)

Though what on earth I'd do with it even if I managed to make something that wasn't a total snarl of wool, I don't know...

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:20 PM (0) comments

Sunday, January 02, 2005
Disjointed Christmas and Rambling New Year

Despite the fact that tomorrow's a statutory holiday, today's my last day of holiday. I should not complain--and indeed, I'm not. I can't believe my lovely good fortune to have all this paid free time thanks to the seasonal closure of the university. But it is, I suppose, high time that I update and confirm my continued ability to draw breath.

It was, on the whole, a very good and relaxing Christmas. Okay, well, not entirely relaxing, but I've gotten more sleep in the past week and a bit than I think I did the rest of December and end of November put together, so that's most definitely something.

There was, unfortunately, a death in the family. After stomach cancer and a series of organ failures which followed a not-very-successful operation in early December, my Oma's youngest brother died. Despite the fact that we didn’t truly have a common language, he was always someone that I liked and respected a great deal, and was saddened by his loss. But most understandably, his death and the family feud that followed shortly thereafter, all but crushed my Oma. Much distress, sleeplessness and illness followed. So it was not a holiday free from tears.

But there were many good things, too. It was lovely to just spend some quiet time with my immediate family without worrying about what the traffic was like or the weather or work or anything else of the kind.

I was able to spend time with my sick puppy, too; despite her terminal cancer, Tia was remarkably cheerful. In fact, she's astounding everyone with the way that she continues to not die, and merely carries on like her usual self with a somewhat restricted ability to swallow. Here's to ridiculously high dosages of steroids and their ability to fend off the inevitable for a few more weeks.

I saw all of my family members at one time or another, with everyone traveling to New House. I slept and slept and slept. I read (Robin McKinley's Hero and the Crown, Tanya Huff's Sing the Four Quarters, and started Michelle West's Hunter's Oath). I knitted and baked and played with small cats. I did not die of allergies or asthma or a combination of the above. And there was snow--much, much snow. At one point I took my cousins out to go sledding, only to discover that the snow behind the house was higher than my knees. Sledding became "run down the steep hill as fast as you can and see if you can make it to the bottom without falling and killing yourself," a last minute but nonetheless entertaining substitute.

Then I put out my back--or perhaps got some sort of weird back virus type of thing, seeing as my mother had a version of the same thing and did not lift the heavy bag of road salt that I did--and sat on a heating pad for two days. It was most warm and lovely, and gave me back my ability to use my right leg, which I greatly appreciated.

I spent a quiet but fun New Year's with Sarah and Jana and Simon, experimenting with mulled wine and watching Real Genius. (Finally!) I discovered that one should not drink the last swallow of mulled wine, as it is much like gulping down a mouthful of mud made out of cinnamon and cloves and thus not a particularly pleasant experience.

This afternoon I went out in the rain (a rather constant rain which has washed away all traces of snow and ice, knee-height and otherwise) to go on a shopping spree. But as I left the apartment rather late in the afternoon, I ended up only having a spree at Bakka and then decided to leave the rest (the clothes, the books, the CDs, the DVDs, the boots) for another time. There was something gleeful about shopping for a great many books at once--and I bought so many books that this spree is only rivaled by my World's Biggest Bookstore shopping trips when I was in high school. (Pity it's owned by Chapters now.) It is a strange and slightly heady thing to have money again--and one that I know won't last forever. Time for a little fun now.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 7:19 PM (0) comments

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