Me 2012

The Dunning-Kruger Effect, But It’s Me

This struck me as a good blog post prompt: “think of an occasion where you exemplified the Dunning-Kruger effect.”

I’ll pick an amusing area that came to mind on this, rather than, say, the horrific and cringe-inducing ones that also come to mind.

Me-1984: “I’ve read SO MANY books! I know exactly how to write a novel! Watch me, it’s gonna have a friendly dragon and a talking horse and princesses rescuing their lovers and I’m just gonna dive right into it because world-building and outlines are for people who don’t know what they’re doing.”
Me-1987: “Yeah, Me-1984 was wrong. Maybe I should give this ‘outline’ thing a try. I don’t need to write, like, a WHOLE outline, do I? Like if I just know the beginning and the end, that should be enough?”
Me-2002: “No, Me-1987, that is not enough. But I know what I need now! A detailed outline!”
Me-2002: “And because writing is so hard, I should pick a Truly Great idea, not just toss together my favorite tropes. I should write the kind of story that I’ve never read before. Like one where the world is awful and the protagonists lose in the end! The kind of story that literary figures love!”
Me-2006: “So, uh, Me-2002, you know that the reason that you’ve never read that kind of story before is that you hate it, right?”
Me-2002: “Nonsense! I love great literature.”
Me-2006: “Noooo not so much.”
Me-2002: “But this idea is so special and unique that no one has ever written something like it in SFF -- “
Me-2006: “GIRL IT IS OUT THERE. You don’t read it because you don’t like it! You don’t enjoy reading it and you think you will have a good time writing an entire book like that??”
Me-2004: “... so I finished it.”
Me-2004: “It was not great.”
Me-2004: “But I figured out the problem!”
Me-2006: “Oh thank goodness”
Me-2004: “Outlines are bad!”
Me-2006: “... we’re sure about that?”
Me-2004: “Well, it’s one of the problems, anyway.”
Me-2006: “Okay, well, I finished a book without writing an outline, so that must be it.”
Me-2012: “Yeah I don’t think that was it.”
Me-2006: “What why not?”
Me-2012: “Haven’t finished a book since 2006.”
Me-2006: “Oh. Whoops.”
Me-2012: “Gonna try that outline thing again.”
Me-2021: “So I’ve completed, uh, a lot of books now.”
All My Past Selves: “Ooh really? How many? Are they published?”
Me-2021: “Um. Lemme count. 11 novels, 1 novella, one collection of three novellas. 1 novel awaiting publication. 3 manuscripts that needing editing. 1 WIP novel.”
All My Past Selves: “Wow! You must know everything now! Tell us the secret! How did you do it?” *chinhands*
Me-2021: “Yeah I have no idea.”
Me-2021: “I mean, I have plenty of ideas.”
Me-2021: “But they’re probably wrong.”
Me-2021: “I have an incredibly long history of being wrong so”
Me-2021: “idk magic or something.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I have to wonder how much of the “experts lack confidence” side of the Dunning-Kruger effect is “after people gain experience, they realize they’ve been wrong SO MUCH in the past, and therefore the odds that they’re right THIS TIME seem pretty slim.”

Anyway, if you can think of times where you too served as an example for Dunning-Kruger, I'd love to hear it, either in comments or your own post. *chinhands* :)

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Free Speech and Compelled Speech

I have a pretty straightforward take on the first amendment: I agree with it, and I agree with the general thrust of courts to interpret its protections broadly. The government should not stop people from saying things, and this includes things that are reprehensible and hateful. Many ideas are dangerous and harmful, and as a general matter the government should not prevent them from being expressed.

This is less because of my great faith in the marketplace of ideas and its ability to make the best ideas rise to prominence and the worst ones fade to obscurity, than because I have zero faith in the government’s competence at same. If you tell the government that they get to decide what “hate speech” is, they’re not gonna lock up white supremacists for threatening poor minorities. They’re gonna lock up twitter liberals for saying “eat the rich”. This will not work out the way you planned.

So most questions of “should the government stop X from saying Y” aren’t interesting to me because my answer is just “no” unless it meets a very high bar. Like “we should meet at [specific address] at [specific time] in order to murder [specific person]” probably rises to the level of true threat and the government can arrest you for that. But “[politician] deserves the guillotine” is tasteless and wrong, but not criminal unless, eg, you are standing in front of a working guillotine with [politician] next to you while you encourage a crowd to seize them and put them into it. But in normal contexts, it’s hyperbole. I find it offensive and obnoxious, but I wouldn’t want it criminalized.

The issue of private companies censoring speech is thornier for me.

I do not love private companies censoring speech either, especially ginormous private companies like Amazon Web Services. I do not love that we live in a world where a handful of technocrats control access to the vast majority of the American audience. One of the reasons I like the fediverse is that it’s a decentralized form of social media and therefore much harder for a single entity to decide what can and can’t be said there.

“Compelled speech” is the legal term for forcing a private person or entity to say something whether they want to say it or not. The first amendment is considered to protect individuals against compelled speech as well. Just as there are exceptions to free speech like “it is illegal to make a true threat”, there are narrow exceptions where compelled speech is legal. But the broad legal principle is “the government can’t make A say X,” and this is, again, an area where I agree with the principle.

That means that whether or not I like the decisions Amazon Web Services makes about who to host, I also don’t feel that the government should compel AWS to provide hosting services to any given entity. But getting back to “a handful of technocrats control access to most people”: it’s still kind of a terrible result. The answer to “do I distrust Big Government or Big Business” is “yes”. But Big Business doesn’t have its own army or police force so it’s slightly less entrenched. I have a little more hope that market forces will help competition arise and/or induce existing businesses to wield their influence with restraint in order to avoid that.

I kind of feel like I should have a better answer than this, on the one hand, and on the other hand it’s just as unsatisfying as my response on hate speech so at least it’s consistent?

Maybe it's not so much thornier as "the older I get, the less I feel like principles actually work out in practice" and I don't know what to use if I don't use a principle. Like maybe the principle isn't as great as I'd hoped, but throwing it out feels like a guaranteed way to get an even worse result.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

March 2021 in Review

Health & Fitness

I didn’t make it to exercising 20 times in March: 17. Even so, total effort over the course of the month was pretty similar. Not particularly making progress on improving overall fitness, but I’m not losing ground, either, so that’s good.

Back in January, Lut and I signed up for the county and city vaccine wait lists. In early March, Lut finally got an email telling him he could make an appointment, which he did within minutes of it being sent, at like 4AM because he happened to be up then. He got the first dose of the Moderna vaccine on March 10, and is scheduled for the second on April 7.

On the 31st, my state made my category (bankers) eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I promptly went to our usual hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine sign-up site, which directed me to sign up for the state’s vaccine wait list, which I dutifully did. On the same day, the local library system sent out an email with a “COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ” link. I was not optimistic that they’d have any new sources for me to try, but I checked it out. They noted that Wal-Mart and CVS were offering shots. I’d had no luck with either when I tried them at the beginning of March, but it had been a few weeks. Wal-Mart hadn’t updated their eligibility criteria yet and the last time I tried their site, it didn’t tell you whether any given store was actually offering shots: it was just “click on store, see that they have no available appointments, click on another store, same, repeat for half-dozen stores before concluding that maybe they’re not offering shots in this state yet at all.”

CVS’s site, however, showed me a store that had appointment slots available early in the form-completion process. There was a lot of form to complete, but I got through it and made an appointment for the next day.

As of 4/1, I have received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Aw yisss. CVS was lovely about the whole thing, had plenty of staff on hand to make sure it went smoothly, and it was much less crowded than the process at the pop-up clinic where Lut got his shot. (This is just a matter of scale -- the pop-up had like 10 stations to administer vaccines vs CVS’s one booth; both processed patients quickly and administered vaccines within like 10 minutes of arrival.) Lut had no side effects beyond a little arm-soreness and maybe some extra fatigue. My arm is slightly sore but it’s only been a few hours. I had insomnia last night so I’m not gonna be able to tell if it makes me tired.


I dug out the incomplete outline for You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99, But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person, finished it up, made some additional notes about the MMO and characters involved, and started writing it. Draft is up to 19,600 words.

The Business of Writing

I poked at the cover art for The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady, did the layout for it, and sent that to Alinsa. At this point, the book is just waiting on the print layout.

I also read through Demon’s Alliance and Angel’s Grace, and made editing lists for both of them.


Still chewing through India After Gandhi at the same glacial pace. I did not get brave enough to try reading more fiction, although I’ve thought about it a few times.

I broke my “read a little every day in 2021” streak by missing a day. Oh well. “Almost every day” is fine.


Once I had a complete outline for a book I wanted to write, I dumped art in favor of writing. Before that happened, I did finish a picture I’d started of Frost and Thistle back in 2019. And I did some sketches of ears for Ear Week. I like how this one came out.



Instead of blowing my “learn a new game each month” goal forever, I learned Draftosaurus. It’s simple and not really a “play every week” sort of game, but still fun.

March Goal Scorecard

  • Assist Lut you betcha
  • Look at goal list occasionally very occasionally but technically complete

Stretch goals

  • Exercise 20 times this month Nope. 17. Honorable mention for trying.
  • Consumption tracking Yup.
  • Make an art Technically, in the “completed something that I mostly-finished years ago” sense.
  • Do a simpler cover for Lord Nope. Decided to stick it out with the original concept.
  • Practice artTechnically! Did a few sketches of ears.
  • Dig up some of the other old outlines and see if I want to write any of them instead Success!
  • Write some fiction Also success!
  • Re-read Demon’s Alliance so I can figure out what I want to change in edits Yep, did this
  • Re-read Angel’s Sigil so I can figure out what I want to change in edits Did this one too
  • Make editing list for Demon’s Alliance Done
  • Make editing list for Angel’s Sigil Done
  • Maintain bullet journal Done
  • Watch stuff with Lut We picked up a Disney+ subscription and watched WandaVision and The Mandalorian. I enjoyed The Mandalorian quite a bit, which was a pleasant surprise. I’d assumed it would be a grimdark, morally-ambiguous story, but it was fairly upbeat and the protagonists were likeable and generally trying to do their best.
  • Play games I maybe played too many games, my right hand is sore from resting on the trackball.
  • Read Technically!

March Goals:

March was much better than April -- having an outline to write from makes a huge difference in my mood.

April is CampNano, and while I’m not gonna use the CampNano site, my beloved writing incentive game 4thewords always does special events for CampNano. So I’m gonna participate in that (just as soon as I finish One Last Quest).

But I’m still not feeling ambitious enough to commit to a writing target. So goals are still minimal:

  • Assist Lut
  • Look at goal list occasionally
  • Participate in CampNano on #4thewords

Stretch goals

  • Finish writing Level 99 (this is not as ambitious as it sounds; I expect Level 99 to be a short book and according to my outline, I’m already almost a third done with it. So finishing it is probably 40,000-50,000 words. If I write a lot for CampNano, this may well happen.)
  • Start revisions on Demon’s Alliance
  • Start revisions on Angel’s Sigil
  • Work on notes/outlines for a new book (eg, Alien Peacelord or The Twin Souled-Empress or whatever else sounds fun. This is actually kind of important because I don’t want my mood to crash when I don’t have something new to work on after finishing Level 99.)
  • Exercise 20 times this month
  • Consumption tracking
  • Make an art
  • Work on cover art for Demon’s Alliance and/or Angel’s Grace and/or Level 99
  • Practice art
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Maintain bullet journal
  • Learn a new game
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before

This is definitely way more stretch goals than I will finish in April. That’s fine, it’s why they’re stretch goals. n_n

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

February 2021 in Review

Health & Fitness

Pretty much the same as last month. Exercised 20 times, technically, by way of counting things like “shoveling an inch of snow,” “doing laundry,” and “10 minutes of a beginner core workout” as exercise.


I remembered that I had an “alien peacelord” romance novel idea a while back, so I started developing that further. I have 7500 words of notes. It is not particularly going anywhere.

The Business of Writing

I finished the final read-through on The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady, and sent the last corrections to Alinsa.


Still chewing through India After Gandhi at a glacial pace. I did finish two Alexis Hall novels, which was surprising but nice.

One of the oddities of my life is that most of my friends assume I am a big reader, notwithstanding the fact that I have not been a big reader in over 30 years. I read voraciously as a child and a teenager, but that dropped off sharply after I got to college. I have had occasional bursts of reading since then, but I have not finished as much as ten books in the last two years. At this stage, I am not just “not a big reader”: I am not a reader at all.

I set a goal of finishing 12 books this year, which will more than double my current rate. We’ll see if it happens.

I have opened the Kindle app and read at least a few pages of something every day this year, so that’s kind of cool.


Actually did some of this. Mostly from following along with “The Joy of Painting” videos, but also did a bunch of sketches for the theme weeks started by a Discord server I frequent. Themes so far have been hands, backgrounds (I just did more Joy of Painting videos), and eyes. The first eye I did was largely a paintover of the reference pic, but I still like it enough that I’m gonna drop it in here. It’s of Frost, from Frost and Desire.

Frost's eye


I realized on Thursday that I was gonna fail my “learn a new game each month” goal if I didn’t learn one that day. And then I realized I wasn’t accomplishing any of my other goals, so I blew that one off too.

February Goal Scorecard

  • Assist Lut: yep!
  • Proofread The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady: did this
  • Look at goal list occasionally: Kind of but not much.

Stretch Goals:

  • Exercise 20 times this month: technically complete
  • Consumption tracking: yep
  • Make an art: made several arts, albeit nothing very original.
  • Practice art: did a lot of that
  • Figure out if there’s anything I want to write: kind of? I thought I wanted to write the Alien Peacelord thing but I don’t know if it’ll happen. Maybe I’ll look at one of my other incomplete outlines in March instead.
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review: also technically complete
  • Maintain bullet journal: more or less, yeah
  • Watch stuff with Lut: I watched quite a bit of stuff with Lut, including binge-watching both seasons of “Harley Quinn and Ivy” over the course of a weekend.
  • Play games: yep did this
  • Read: oh hey I did this

March Goals:

I spent most of February depressed, and I am still depressed now, so I will stick with the “modest goals” thing.

  • Assist Lut
  • Look at goal list occasionally

Yes, that’s everything on the goal list. I don’t have any more low-hanging fruit that I’m comfortable listing as an actual “I will get this done” goal.

Stretch goals

  • Exercise 20 times this month
  • Consumption tracking
  • Make an art
  • Do a simpler cover for Lord
  • Practice art
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Complete Alien Peacelord outline
  • Dig up some of the other old outlines and see if I want to write any of them instead
  • Write some fiction
  • Re-read Demon’s Alliance so I can figure out what I want to change in edits
  • Re-read Angel’s Sigil so I can figure out what I want to change in edits
  • Make editing list for Demon’s Alliance
  • Make editing list for Angel’s Sigil
  • Start revisions on Demon’s Alliance
  • Start revisions on Angel’s Sigil
  • Maintain bullet journal
  • Watch stuff with Lut
  • Play games
  • Read

I decided to break down the ones that amount to “edit the two drafts you’ve got lying around” into smaller pieces in the hopes that I would be more tempted to do them because then I could cross them off.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

Looking for Group, by Alexis Hall

I read another book! Also in a finite amount of time! Just as if I were a person capable of reading books. Weird.

Bonus! This one did not make me sad! So that was nice.

Like Boyfriend Material, Looking for Group is also an M/M romance with a single POV character. LFG centers on two college students who meet while playing “Heroes of Legend”, a thinly-veiled stand-in for World of Warcraft. Much of the story takes place while the protagonist plays HoL, so you hear a lot about the game and detailed play-by-plays of dungeons and raids and the occasional grinding or touring the world.

The sum of my WoW-playing experience is “for three hours on one evening, using a free account.” Despite this, I have significant WoW-adjacent experience: Lut played on and off for several years, including as a member of a raiding guild. Many of my other friends have also played a lot of WoW. And I’ve played various other MMORPGs. Anyway, I found the descriptions of raids, dungeons, tactics, strategies, etc. all intelligible and easy to follow. The end of the book has a glossary, which I got to and thought “oh, this would’ve been useful to know about before I finished the book.” And then I paged through it and realized I had immediately recognized every term in it except for “achi”, which I figured out by context two lines after coming across it and which the narrative revealed explicitly in another six lines or so. (Me: “what the heck is ‘achi’? Oh wait you mean CHEEVO? Is calling achievements ‘achi’ a UK thing? Or a teenager thing?” All the other terms I hadn’t recognized were general UK slang, not gaming-specific, and not covered by the glossary.)

I don't know how the book would work for readers who are not familiar with MMORPGs. I found the MMORPG content believable and authentic, and occasionally tedious to read in much the same way that MMORPGs can get tedious to play. I expect reading it as a non-gamer would be similar to reading a fencing romance when you know nothing about fencing -- ie, it might be deal-breaker because you don't want to deal with all the jargon, or it might be fine because you can let it slide in favor of the story.

The story starts with the narrator meeting a female character in-game, and there’s some “I thought you were a girl IRL” drama and mention of homophobia while the narrator contemplates whether or not he might be bi. So content note for that, but it’s pretty lightweight. Overall, the tenor of the book is optimistic and good-humored.

A few things struck me as implausible; the 19-year-old narrator is the “best-geared tank on the server,” plus going to college, plus maintaining an RL social life where he doesn’t raid on the weekends. And I really feel like playing in the top guild on a server is a bigger time commitment than the author suggests here. Like, this is significantly less time commitment than I had to EverQuest, and I was never an elite player. Also, both he and his love interest have been playing since they were 15-16, and my experience with teen MMO players is that their parents will not let them make the kind of commitment to the game required to become an elite player. On the other hand, this is a fictional MMO so one can posit that it allows skill to elide some of the grindiness of real MMOs. The one that startled me more was a 19 year-old character saying that he spent “most summers” visiting a 45 yo friend in Germany. The friendship is perfectly reasonable; when Lut and I met, one of our close friends on Furry was a teen and about half Lut’s age. But a teen traveling to another country to visit a much older man -- eep. I actually do know people who did this (well, “traveled across the US” rather than to another country, but UK to Germany is pretty similar), so it shouldn’t boggle me that his parents didn’t just go “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND” at the concept. But it does.

Regardless, it was nice to see a book refer to the cross-generational friendships common to the online era as a positive thing, instead of “ew adults creeping on kids.”

Overall, I had a great time with this book and am glad I read it. It was in some ways not as good at "romance" as Boyfriend Material -- it doesn't really have scenes that I found so touching that I want to re-read them, for example. But it's a fun read. Maybe I will even try reading YET ANOTHER book! gasp

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Boyfriend Material, by Alexis Hall

I read a book! In, like, a normal amount of time for reading a book instead of my usual “multiple months.” (I have been reading India After Gandhi since September. I'm still reading it. I read a little bit more of it every day. It's possible I'll finish it before this September.)

Several people on a discord channel I frequent have been on an Alexis Hall binge recently, set off by one person, Eseme, giving a long and enthusiastic recommendation for his entire oeuvre. I’d read two Alexis Hall books already -- There will Be Phlogiston and Pansies, and they were solid if not favorites. I decided to try another, and picked Boyfriend Material because it was available from Hoopla, and Eseme’s favorite.

There is a lot to like about Boyfriend Material. The main protagonists are engaging and the writing is witty and compelling. I put down pretty much everything I pick up these days, so just “I got through an entire book in under 24 hours without ever wanting to give up on it” says a great deal. There’s an eclectic supporting cast of friends, relatives, and co-workers, and if they’re not necessarily plausible, they are at least entertaining. The protagonists walk the line of “lovable but still flawed.”

The characters don’t have sex until over halfway through the book and after they’ve established a serious emotional bond, which I loved. The sex scenes were less explicit than I’m used to, and focused on the narrator’s mental state more than the physical details, which I also adored. (I never write sex scenes like this, but I’d like to.)

Some of the scenes are heartbreakingly sweet and tender, the kind I like to re-read when I finish a romance novel. I’ve re-read several of my favorite parts already.

On the other hand, I was sad pretty much the entire time I read the book, which is a weird way to feel about a romance. Part of why I kept reading was that romances are guaranteed a happy ending and I hoped that I would stop being sad about the book when I got to the end.

I got to the end and I’m still sad, so that part didn’t work.

I can’t tell whether I am sad about the story or just depressed in general, since I have been depressed for most of February. But the thing about the story that I found saddest was that the protagonist, Luc, had zero self-esteem, self-sabotaged regularly, and for most of the book he was depressed, miserable, or panicking about the looming threat of things going wrong (usually because he would make them go wrong.) His self-sabotage mode was “treat the people around you abominably.” So, uh, content note for that.

Luc is extremely aware of his assortment of problems. He’s not cognizant of his good qualities, and I kept wanting to see him through the eyes of his love interest, Oliver. I wanted to know what Oliver found loveable about him. But Luc is the only narrator. Collapse )

Anyway, I have now discovered my ability to be sad about a romance with a happy ending and where no one dies or gets seriously injured or anything else, so I feel like I’ve achieved a new depth of “just can’t feel good about anything, can you.”

I am pretty sure this is on me and not the book. It’s a good book. I recommend it.

I’ve thought about trying another book since I successfully read one, but also I’m like “I’m already sad and I don’t want to read another book that lets me discover new ways to be EVEN SADDER” so I dunno.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

The Joy of Painting

I told one of my friends that I’d been painting along with Bob Ross videos, and was surprised to discover that Bob Ross is not as ubiquitous as I’d thought, since my friend had never heard of him.

In case anyone else is unfamiliar with Bob Ross: he is a landscape painter who did a show for PBS called “The Joy of Painting” for about ten years. There are 31 seasons of “The Joy of Painting”, each of about 13 episodes each, and each episode a little under half an hour. Bob Ross is famous in part for his productivity, speed, and skill -- he’d begin and finish a painting in every episode -- but more for his unfailing enthusiasm for his subject, and his gentle, positive attitude. He’ll paint a “happy little tree” and then paint a “friend” for that tree. After I’d watched a few episodes, Lut joked that I needed to find a Bob Ross video without mountains in the background and trees in the foreground.

Me: “He does a few seascapes.”

I haven’t watched any of the seascapes yet. I watched the first video that came up when I did a Google search for Bob Ross, and after that I started browsing through Bob Ross’s work to find a painting I liked and then watched the accompanying video. There’s a website,, that’s devoted to Bob Ross paintings and sells the accompanying supplies for them.

I “paint along” when I watch a video, although instead of using actual oil paint and brushes (Ross’s medium), I use ArtRage, a digital paint app. ArtRage is designed to mimic real media -- that was its original design philosophy -- but it is not designed to mimic how Bob Ross uses real media. So, for example, Bob Ross makes a snow-covered mountain by painting a dark underlayer, and then putting white paint on a palette knife and dragging it gently down the line of the mountain. The “snow” part takes him like fifteen seconds. Load paint, drag, done. The effect is astonishingly good, and ArtRage does not, so far as I can tell, have a tool that mimics it.

So Bob Ross spends half a minute painting his mountains, and then I pause the video and spend ten minutes trying to make something that looks half as good.

Others of his techniques, I’ve found tools to imitate. For instance, he does this blorp thing with the fan brush to create trees. To my surprise, the best way to get the same effect in ArtRage was to use the “leaf” brush. At first, I assumed the leaf brush would be too overly detailed and fussy to mimic the painterly style of Bob Ross, but it works fine.

I started painting along to Bob Ross videos a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve painted seven of them now, plus one landscape where I was seeing if I could use his style without following a video. (I do not feel like I’m there yet.) It takes me about an hour and a half to two hours to finish a single 24-28 minute video. It’s more fun than my usual art practice, because at the end of it I have a complete picture in full color, as opposed to, say, a dozen sketches of hands. Because I don’t have to worry about proportions or precision -- a tree can be gigantic or short, crooked or straight, and it’s still recognizably a tree -- it’s a lot less fussy than figure drawing.

I expect I will end up counting one landscape or another as my art for the month. I might try again with an original landscape. I want to do another painting of the skylands in the Demon’s Series in setting, but during daytime. We’ll see how that goes.

I’ve been putting the finished paintings on my Flickr account for archival purposes, and I shan’t link to all of them because seven is A Lot. But here’s my favorite of the lot:

Based on Joy of Painting s26 e13

(It's the second of the ones I painted; they're not posted in order.)

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

January 2021 in Review

Health & Fitness
Some people find mention of weight and calories very upsetting, so I’m gonna drop that part of the recap. I track it elsewhere so I don’t need it here.

Everything was very similar to December, except with less exercise because my back went out on Wednesday and I haven’t done much since.


I finished writing the first draft of Angel’s Grace. Finishing the book went like this:

  • I’ll just finish 7% of the book this week.
  • writes 5000 words
  • Huh that’s 10% already
  • writes another 3000 words
  • How am I at 20% for this week already?
  • repeat until draft is finished
  • I really expected the book to be longer than this
  • checks outline
  • The estimated total was 52,250 and the actual was 48,700 so ... this is pretty close to the estimate.
  • ... okay but how was I supposed to know the estimate was accurate this time???

It probably should be longer, to be fair. I wrote the Angel’s Sigil outline to make sure I knew how I’d wrap up some of the loose ends from Demon’s Alliance, and at the time I thought ‘I can refine this later, I just want to be sure the main plot works.’ Then I never went back to refine it, so some aspects of the draft are underdeveloped.

I also put up, um, six blog posts in addition to my usual month-in-reviews one. So that plan is going well.

I dug up the outline for The Twin Etheriums and resumed work on it. I made it into a functional outline, and then decided I still don’t want to write it. It has a lot of “characters do magical research” and almost no one finds this interesting or entertaining when I do it.

The Business of Writing

Alinsa sent me the beta version of The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady. I’ve read through the first 5% but I haven’t been focused on it because the cover’s not done anyway.

I started revisions on Angel’s Grace and added another ~1500 words to it.

I collected a pair of Bookbub rejections, and linked to my books a few times in passing in social media this month. I don’t want to do the “tweet your book blurb + link” thing because I think it is a uniquely ineffectual form of advertising, but I am trying to bring up “my books exist” a bit more. Like, a few times a month.


I am still chewing through India After Gandhi at a glacial pace, but I did read a few pages every day this month.


I put in some more work on the cover for The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady. I worked on it in pieces and then moved it to my desktop to reassemble it because I needed a higher resolution than my Surface tablet can handle.

I have basically reached the “give up” stage. I’ve been working on this thing since June of last year and it’s not getting any better anymore. The exercise is starting to remind me of the “if you throw 1000 pots you will end up with a better pot than if you spend the same amount of time trying to make a single pot perfect” anecdote. Maybe if I did a thousand paintings, I could finally make one that’s good, but I’m not gonna make up for my lack of skill by throwing more time into this one.

I haven’t decided whether “give up” means “do a completely different cover” or “hope this one is good enough.”

I also did a setting doodle for the Demon’s Series.


One of my unwritten goals for 2021 is “learn one new game per month”, which I put down because (a) I already pay for a account and they have a ton of games I’ve never tried and (b) Terry likes learning new games and for the last few years we’ve been playing the same handful together, week after week after week. So I figure he deserves a break.

Anyway, I learned one and two half-games in January.

New game: “Welcome To”, where you design neighborhoods. This is one of those games with simultaneous turns. I like it and we’ve played it several times. It probably does not have the endless replayability of our standard games, however.

Half-game #1: Race for the Galaxy: Xeno Invasion. “Race for the Galaxy” is my all-time favorite game; I usually play it with the first three expansions. “Xeno Invasion” is an expansion that adds a bunch of new rules and removes all of the other expansions. It is a different experience to play it and I had to read the rules. The “Arena mode” for the current BGA arena uses it, so I bit the bullet and finally learned it. Now that I’m familiar with it, I like it as much as the other versions of RftG.

Half-game #2: Seven Wonders: Duel. I like the game Seven Wonders, which is designed for seven players and plays best with 5+. Seven Wonders: Duel is a 2-player game based on some of the same ideas. It’s pretty different and I did not instantly love it the way I did original Seven Wonders. But I played a few games and like it enough to play again.

Phone Switch Coda

I received the new phone sim cards on the 5th, I think, and switched providers on the 6th. Switching phone providers was traumatic enough that I no longer feel bad that Past Rowyn had put it off for nine months.

Much of the trauma was not Ting’s fault, but there has remained one ongoing issue.

I have a smartphone and wanted the $25 plan that comes with 5 gigs of data. Lut has a dumb phone and uses 0 data, so I wanted his phone on the $10 plan. I put this down when I requested the sims. When I activated the sims, both phones were set up on a $25 plan (for $50 total), and there was no apparent way on the account to switch just Lut’s to $10.

Resigned, I called Ting’s customer service, who informed me that Ting can’t handle multiple lines with different plans. If you want a different plan, you need it on a separate account.

... okay. So I set up a second account, and the customer service person says she’ll switch Lut’s phone to it and call me back when it’s done.

She calls me back and says it’s not working today but she’ll take care of it on the 11th and give me a credit for the difference.

On the 15th, I still have two phone lines on one account for $50 a month, and a credit for $25, and no phone lines on the second account. I reply to the customer service with “oh hey, this is still not done, please help?”

“We’ll take care of it and give you another credit!”

Today: I have two phone lines on one account for $50 a month, and a credit for $50. I tried to use the website to switch both phones to the $10 plan because I have used like 0.29 GB so far this month, but the website now requires you to call to change plans at all.

I tried emailing with a request to change plans. I do not have a lot of faith that this will work either. But Ting has been generous with credits and even if I were paying the $50 a month, I’d still be saving money over my previous provider. So it’s really not a big deal.

January Goal Scorecard

  • Assist Lut: Done!
  • Get to 2/3rds done with the Angel's Grace draft: Finished it! OVERACHIEVED.
  • Cancel T-Mobile service when Ting SIMs arrive, assuming Ting SIMs work: Done!
  • Archive 2020 Bullet Journal spreadsheet & use fresh one for 2021: Done!
  • Look at goal list occasionally: Done!

Stretch Goals:

  • Exercise 20 times this month: Done (just barely. Technical completion is best completion).
  • Track calories consumed a little more diligently. Like figure out how many calories is in the spaghetti sauce I keep making, and how many servings it makes.: Done!
  • Make an art. Finishing part of the new book cover counts even if I don't finish the whole thing.: Overachieved this one too: I worked on book cover and made a new art.
  • Mention on social media that I have some published books people can buy: Done
  • Fling a few books at Bookbub for rejection: Done
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review: Done!
  • Work on outline(s) for next potential book(s) to write after Angel's Grace: Done
  • Maintain bullet journal: Done!

Apparently I didn’t have enough stretch goals? That was weird.

February Goals:

  • Assist Lut
  • Proofread The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady
  • Look at goal list occasionally

To be honest, I don’t want to do anything else. I don’t even want to do the proofreading, but that’s such a basic, simple thing that it seems spiteful not to do it. Making things -- writing, art, whatever -- feels pointless and futile.

But I’ve only felt this way for like a day and it seems likely it will pass. And also I don’t know what to do with my time otherwise anyway. So everything that I might do will go under stretch goals.

Stretch goals

  • Exercise 20 times this month
  • Consumption tracking
  • Make an art
  • Do a simpler cover for Lord
  • Practice art
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Figure out if there’s anything I want to write
  • Work on revising Demon’s Alliance and/or Angel’s Sigil
  • Make editing lists for Demon’s Alliance and/or Angel’s Sigil
  • Maintain bullet journal
  • Watch stuff with Lut
  • Play games
  • Read
This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

How You Can Tell I’m Old

On Wednesday morning, I woke up and my back had gone out: that distinctive and painful feeling where your lower back muscles go on strike and when you move the rest of your muscles try in vain to make up for it and it hurts to do anything but lie down.

I have thrown my back out before, usually when I strain the muscles by lifting something heavy in a bad way. This time, I did it while sleeping. This is how you can tell I'm old. It runs in my family: my father permanently crippled his ankle two years ago, while asleep in his bed. No, neither of us sleepwalk or do anything more complicated than roll over while asleep. Sometimes your body just randomly breaks.

Anyway, Wednesday was also Lut's monthly oncology clinic appointment, so I had to drive him to the clinic that morning.

Also, it had snowed overnight.

I contemplated calling a cab for Lut, and also driving over the snow instead of shoveling the drive -- it was only an inch or so. But taxi service in my area is poor and Lut doesn't have a smartphone so he can't use Lyft or Uber. My driveway is at an incline and shaded, which means that (a) packed ice can trap my car in the driveway pretty easily and (b) it takes a long time to melt off. So I summoned all my determination and went out to clear the walk and the drive. It was little enough snow that I could use the shovel to push it to the side instead of having to pick it up, so this was actually possible. I don't think any amount of willpower could've made me pick up a shovel full of snow more than once. Because it was so little snow, the city hadn't plowed my street yet, for which I was grateful. It meant there was no large ridge of plowed-up snow that I would have to struggle to move and possibly not be capable of either moving or driving over. Instead, I pushed the snow out of the road in front of my drive, too.

I am extremely proud of myself for getting this done at 8AM while in significant pain and with a marginally-functional back. BE PROUD OF ME, INTERNET.

By nightfall, my back was mostly-functional again, and then I went to bed and struggled to walk again in the morning. Lather, rinse, repeat. It does seem to be improving faster today, at least. Hopefully in a few more days it'll be back to normal.

I haven't done much since it went out apart from required stuff, like dropping off & picking up Lut and also prescriptions, and finishing out my 20-hour work week at my day job. I did the color doodle of Anesh and that’s about it. Sitting up in the reclining loveseat at my computer is uncomfortable but I do it anyway. I haven't tried sitting at Pretend Coffee Shop, which is less comfortable than the loveseat in the office even when my torso is fully functional. This morning, I made hot cocoa with marshmallows and motivated myself to write this blog post, so that's something. And also, my cat is lying on the footrest next to my feet and is super cute.

I will probably get some writing done tonight, because CoffeeQuills is doing their usual Friday writing stream and those are fun.

I'm gonna write a little about CoffeeQuiills' stream because the thing I like about it is not obvious from the description. They break the stream into 10-minute blocks, using an on-screen timer: a 10 minute "progress sprint", then a 10 minute break, then repeat. During the sprints, CQ writes quietly, and during the breaks they chat with their audience (CQ talks, audience types in the chat bar). Chat is mostly casual and about whatever anyone feels like talking about -- sometimes writing, sometimes other stuff. During the sprints, the audience can watch what CQ is writing, but the feel of the thing is more "you should work on your thing while I work on my thing!" They even call them "progress sprints" rather than "writing sprints" so that people who want to work on non-writing things will feel included. The pacing suits me very well: my attention tends to wander when I'm supposed to be writing, but focusing for 10 minutes is short enough that I can generally manage it. The 10-minute breaks likewise suit me: long enough to talk a bit or to get up and stretch and refresh my drink. It doesn't leave me feeling rushed or pressured. And I write quite a bit more over the course of one 4-hour stream than I do when I just decide "I'll get some writing done today": a couple thousand words, without ever feeling as if I'm forcing myself to struggle onwards.

And it's companionable: CQ and their audience alike are friendly and encouraging. For me, the stream is much more about "hang out with nice people while you all get stuff done and say kind things to one another" rather than "spectate as one person livestreams their writing." Nothing against people who enjoy the latter, either as streamer or spectator! But I am not a good spectator so a productivity-hangout has much more appeal for me personally. I started attending the livestreams during Nanowrimo and have made a habit of going to them on Friday and Saturday evenings (my time) since. (CQ is in Japan, so their livestream is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday morning in their time zone. They have an afternoon-in-their-time-zone stream Monday through Friday, but those generally start around my bed time so I seldom attend.)

Haven’t decided what to work on, either. It’ll be either notes/outline for my next book, or revisions for Angel’s Grace.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

January Art

I apparently didn’t set enough goals plus stretch goals for January, because I’m running out of goals to complete and I’ve already done all but one.

One of the goals was “make an art”. I’ve been doing some work on art every week this month, but most of it is on the eternally incomplete cover for The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady. Which I need to finish soon because Alinsa got the draft of the e-book to me, so we’re getting close to the point where “no cover” is the reason I can’t publish it yet. o_o;;

But I took a break to doodle a picture of the Anesh Archipelago from the Demon’s Series. Because I finished drafting book 4 this month so I’ll need covers for those books soon too. Oog. I miss commissioning book covers. Anyway, this is definitely not a book cover, it’s just me thinking about how the setting looks. During a storm-cloud-filled sunrise, in this case.

Storm brewing in Anesh

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.