< / weekend trip>

Back from the yearly weekend trip with the inlaws, and in time for the club-management meeting tonight.

I read. I wrote. I splurged all sorts of crazy ideas onto white pages, sadly all for the trilogy that comes after the first trilogy and the hexalogy. How's that for being prepared?

For once I did not take my camera along, seeing as how I'm still wading through French castles and architectural details, and I still have tons of fun pics from previous trips to Ardennes. So I'll leave you with two little snaps of around the village of Herbeumont from a few years back:

Beautiful pine and moss, though we didn't see a lot of that this year
I love the light in those forests...

Dramatic skies, because I like them, and we had quite a bit of that this year. Luckily it was just not too wet or windy to have a couple of nice long walks in the wilderness.


I didn't like City of Ruin, sequel to Nights of Villjamur.

I read it, beginning to end, no skippage. But I don't like where MCN is going with this, neither style-wise nor plot-wise.

And this, my digiblips, makes me feel like an alien.

Paradoxically, in a bid to prove I'm not an alien, I might have proven I am: I spent the last 10 hours writing down what I didn't like, why I didn't like it, from the point of view of the wannabewriter trying to figure out why the reader was disgruntled. That's far too much time, dudette.

It's saved in my posts list as is, but seeing as how this started out at an insomniac 4 a.m. and it's now 2p.m., it might be over 3000 words of crap. So, instead of posting it right away, I'm going to sit on it over the weekend and see how it looks on Monday or Tuesday. Especially since I'll be gone for the weekend, and I don't want to make grown men cry and then let them stew in it without a chance for ripostes. Because that would be impolite. This ain't fencing after all.

But still I did not like it.

So! On that little note I wish you all a nice weekend, and I leave you with a very appropriate picture. An example of the cute little gifts Pipsqueak leaves us, now August is coming to an end. Usually at the bottom of the stairs in the living, between the cat-hair tumbleweeds and dirt, or worse, in the bathtub...

And along came a cat...

In the land of Beer and Fries

74 days have come and gone since the elections. The same elections that shook Belgium on its foundations, the one where -whatever your political interest or inclination- as a Belgian your only response -in whatever tonality, joy or glee or desperation- was: OH CRAP!

To the north: landslide win of Flemish Nationalists, whose leader saw (strangely intelligent for a Nationalist) that victory coming well enough to tone down his discourse on tearing apart Belgium

To the south: comfortable victory of Walloon Socialists, a party that has been lead by an amiable looking man who loves his fellow man (as in homosexual), but who nevertheless has shown resilience, authority and unforgivingness worthy of his Italian roots when dealing with scandals in his party.

The stage was set for a civil war!!!!!!!!

Well, at least for nuclear government formation talks, that's if the Flemish Nationalist leader, a staunch republican (not in the American sense, but as in: all for kicking the royals out of the palace and into the street) would not mess up protocol. Because, after an election, the Belgian king invites all party presidents and appoints the informator amongst the victors, who then has to find out what alliances are possible. (→ gleegleeglee)

But, the man had a good little talk with the king over coffee and cookies, met up with his co-victor of the Walloon Socialists and had some more coffee and cookies.
Nobody died.
(→ gleegleeglee)
They then decided together (it's a duumvirate!) to invent something like preformation talks: all political parties engage in a discussion that's padded by groundwork laying committees and all, on the 3 hot irons in Belgian politics (laws concerning complicated finances between federal Belgian state and the regional governments; Bey-Hash-Vey; revaluation of the Brussels region)  to come to a form of understanding before deciding on which minister gets what post. Meanwhile the old government continues, but of course with the new parliament.

What's this? Can we allow a government, that filed for political bankruptcy with the king, to continue to rule a country? Is Belgium some quaint Third World country?

I hear you, and it are all viable questions, but then you don't know Belgians. We have fries. We have beer*. We have chocolate. We are a resourceful people mostly interested in our own backyard, with a profound wish to simply lead our lives with too much interference by neighbours or governments. So they wanna have some more talks before starting with the actually elected government? *shrug* Why not? As long as I can continue to do a little moonlighting left and right while they're busy talking, all's well.

The only questions or remarks Belgians had was: Would having MORE talks on the 3 irons solve anything? Would all that blahblah finally lead to some results? Give it three days. Give it five. It'll all implode, you'll see, and then what? Civil war is just around the corner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Prepare your bunker/weapon/escape route!!!!!!!!!

Ah, but as it turned out, it was a good way of doing things. We've now had had 74 days of preformation talks, in an atmosphere so serene you can nearly hear angels sing. Well, okay, there's a hiccup now and then, but really, there's an amazingly small amount of press leaks, name calling, and general blundering about in public. It's so refreshing to have our Belgian tax-euro pay politicians to actually silently do their work, instead of producing an idiotic media circus. Apparently the only stick behind the door that will keep these ill tempered and foul- or loudmouthed politicians in check is the knowledge that if they do not succeed this time, the only future is:
having another election (bà-à-ààààd: not only: as if that's going to change things!, also: and risk complete fucktwat politicians to grab the steering wheel?) that will very certainly will have distrous results, ending in having to request Europe (or the UN, god forbid) for aid in creating a dialogue and fix this Kafkaesque country.

* and we keep the best brands for ourselves, trust me on this. Stella is just the shit we sell to tourists! At stellar prices too Muahahhaaa!

And so, I leave you yet again with a sample of our French vacation. And here you thought Lost was the shiznit. I bring you: The End is Nigh!

Apocalypse: this way!
 The apocalypse is available for man, woman and disabled, in several languages (English, French and German), and if so desired, an introduction is available in a specialized area to help you prepare.


Cross your heart & cross your fingers

I've promised myself to get some order in my life, including this blog; order is the order of the day, okay?
Or does that sound too much like I'm trying to convince my lazy, all-over the place, jobless self?
So, like, I'm not going to say up front what kind of organisation I promised myself, because that's setting myself up for having to call myself a liar. No lying, lying bad, okay?

Anyways, for now, let's start with this simple rule: Wednesdays are Alter Ego days.
Ergo, click here for a newly published part of my vampire existence.

And thus I leave you with a sample of our Loire-trip, an example of free thinking medieval France as seen on the outside of the Amboise-castle chapel. Imagine having this over your door...

Eve & the snake


Stephen Deas is looking for YA readers and will throw free copies at them (not literally; the exact reasons and manners can be read on his blog) in a search for the essence of YA.

While I have yet to read the Thief-taker's Apprentice (damned maxed out credit card!), I think Deas makes an excellent point about how subjective the picking of a hero is, and that our childhood heroes are often completely different from those we pick as adults. All you have to do to confirm this is reread a couple of your favourite childhood novels, and you'll easily find that your beloved hero turns out to be a naive git, and that the boring guy is a far more intriguing character.

Only yesterday, whilst conversing with the hubby on *issues* (or -isms as they are or are not present in books or movies; this mainly prompted by our processing of Newton's City of Ruins), we came upon the subject when he reminisced on having heard about heroes and examples in popular culture from his 18y+ students. A bunch of worldly-wise, free and outspoken young women amongst them nominated Druuna as their female heroin and champion. Seriously, if you have no idea who Druuna is, click on the link and you'll see how this is a quite baffling choice for emancipated women to make. NB: I am not judging the choice here, only illuminating that it really is not as easy as it seems.

So I think Deas is engaging in an interesting experiment here. I know I've always been confused by the many ways you can define a genre, and in the end it *is* marketing that decides (as Adam Christopher wonders in his comment), for the same reason that readers of Dark Romance are considered (by marketing dudes) to feel more at ease standing close to the Thrillers and SF&F section than the mainstream Romance.

I'm one of those crazy kids who was reading adult fiction of all genres by the time I was 13, and most of the YA novels I continued to read were either emotionally quite hefty and thought provoking, or SF&F, where the only difference with the adult stuff was the difference in language. And as it happens, one of the definitions of YA zones in on the language used (as in the actual grammar and words) and whether it is on a YA level, which is already pretty vague if we're trying to define a box, if you ask me. Yet, it's the only definition I've found that holds up cross-genre (fiction, thriller, SF/F,...).

I regularly check reviews or comments about YA books, since I'm not averse to reading a YA book once in a while. But I often wonder why adults find a story more easily not-YA-okay (NOYAOK) when it's SF&F YA (based on the -isms or violence or dark and disturbing stuff the story deals with). As if SF&F for teens must always deal with cute ETs and nice unicorns, while mainstream YA fiction can go further without its YA-okayness being questioned.
Well, unless you're asking your Catholic schoolteacher if you can read Aidan Chambers' Now I Know for your book report. Ah, if only she had known that I was also reading  and working through Dante's Divina Comedia, verse by verse, as my serious lecture that year. Ah, good times, good times...


Maxed out my credit card in France, so now I'll have to wait until the card has cycled through its automated payment day. Hope it is soon, because I need to buy more books to read, dammit.

Are you happy now? Are you satisfied?

Slowly picking through the far too many pictures taken during the France trip and that need cleaning up (pictures: oui, flash: non), a pack of work I have to do for the fencing club (deadlines looming for subsidy dossiers), and of course the gazillion posts my feeddemon had on offer upon my return.

Below my less concise response to Mark Newton's most recent post in which he comments on a NYTimes article "E-Books Make Readers Less Isolated". Let's start off with a song quote (title comes from the same song):

                                                     The thoughts of all the lonely people
                                                     Makes you cry
                                                     Cos you're lonely
                                                     You're lonely too inside
                                                                ~Poison Girls

The act of reading and the act of having a meaningful conversation cannot exist at the same spot in space and time, that's about the only thing I can agree with in that article. The rest is all wild tangents about how the e-reader will rehabilitate a supposedly ostracised group.

Having a shiny new e-thingummy people want to ask everything and more about might lead to some socialising, granted. But the point should be made that while you let others fondle your e-reader, you are very certainly *not* reading. I myself find the price of an e-reader still too high to use it as a conversational icebreaker. And having been a Lone Reader in public for years: people certainly do approach to ask about what you are reading, usually people who are Lone Readers themselves but currently out of books to read. Just as the *e*mproved Lone Reader will mostly be approached by people thinking about getting an e-reader (not to ask him out for dinner or engage in a thoughtful and meaningful discussion). Or am I to believe e-readers are enhanced with special pheromones to attract people?

Same goes for the Lone Reader who can now connect online from his corner table (as if he couldn't before through laptop or phone if so desired). The question is, can we still consider the Lone Reader a Reader if he's not reading but having a conversation (in the physical or the digital world)?

Aha, I have unearthed a dark and devilish plot! This is merely propaganda for a so-called miraculous piece of technology that will supposedly change the social habits of the Lone Reader. The Lone Reader, who with his strong attention span and ability to read, has not yet succumbed to the addictive lure of social networking. But now the internet will be slipped into his book, cunningly like a Trojan horse, and Lone Reader will stop reading and start chatting away, and then everybody will finally be equal: unable to read more than 500 characters at a time. Muhahaa!

Also the unknowns who are allowed to declare for or against how socially cool reading whilst commuting/travelling is are both completely beside the point. People do not get onto plains, trains, busses and undergrounds to socialise. They do so to get from point A to B, and most of them, especially when it's a regular commute, look for things to occupy their minds so as not to have to stare at each other like idiots for the duration of the trip (especially the same idiots every day).
So they read (newspapers, books, some stuff for work they forgot to read in the evening,...),  listen to music, do their nails, watch a movie, tap away on their iPhones at lightning speed and connect (with people probably sitting in another train), count cows, sleep...

I'm sure that if they ever invented an e-reader that would watch traffic for you while you read a book or browse the internet, to use on bicycles and cars, you'd really see the sales shoot up.

The return of the not so thin white duchess

Here I am, back from France, head still reeling with the impossibly complicated history of Europe, with a gazillion pictures to sort out. History is written by the victor, and then rewritten and rewritten some more. So if you do go to the region, a bit of historical background certainly helps to put things into perspective. It also helps you to avoid sounding like a total idiot; actually  overheard in one castle:
"Well, they certainly have a lot of things from Brussels and Flanders here"
"Didn't I read somewhere that the owner of the castle Belgian?"
Ack! We're talking about a period long before Belgium existed, I mean, hello, France wasn't France yet!

But anyways, history is just a big noodle puzzle of facts and you can twist the story any way you want it. Just to give some impression of the noodles: there's this large part in European history where the king of France had the Île-de-France (part of modern day Paris, and mightier persons (Duke of Orléans and Maximilian of Austria) had all the rest. Some of these mightier men also had England, like one of the most beloved kings of England (if the Robin Hood story is to be believed): Richard the Lionheart. But if you look at the facts (king of England from 1189 to 1199, hadn't set foot in England yet by 1194) it's easy to see why he would be beloved: what's better than to have a king who doesn't meddle in local affairs!

It was good fun, informative, thought-provoking, and I had plenty of good ideas even if I didn't do one jot of writing. Ha. And now for some fencing!


One day I'm going to be sickly famous and stinky rich. So to prepare for my neverneverlife, I'm going to shop for habitat ideas for about ten days in the valley of the Loire, because if anybody knew how to be rich and famous and live large, it were the kings of France, and their queens, ministers, mistresses, dogs and other assorted appendices.

Magic Dice

So, Scalzi's taking a long break and Whatever will become the playing ground of plenty of guest bloggers. Kate Baker showed us her dice and asked about ours, which is actually a great trick to break the ice, isn't it?
Unlike the topic of game systems, dice are a safe conversational subject. And the answers can tell you plenty about a person, game system, and preferred game play. You've got your mixed bag D'ers, 20-D'ers, 10-D'ers, 6-D'ers, even no D'ers.
Just by showing your dice, you're telling something about the game system you use.
And it got me thinking how there's two kinds of people in anything, even in rpg-dicing. You have those who do the cold math of risk calculation and you have those who always end up blaming the dice. Some of us believe in statistics (well, duh, you only had 12% chance to succeed in that roll) and some of us simply love the un-randomness of random.

I'm firmly in the latter pack, because dice are dice, and even if you have 4% chance of fumbling that one roll, you've got plenty enough chances to succeed, and plenty of chances to fumble again in the next. Trust me.

So as a player, you cannot but end up developing fetish excuses, like "Cold Dice Always Fail", or "Rolls on Soft Surfaces Always Succeed". In this animistic view, dice live up in a metalevel of roleplaying, become part of a character and characters on their own. It leads to buying new dice when you change characters*, and punishing them when they act up. Threaten them that they will be replaced.

Which is not an idle threat in my case. Over the course of 18 years, I've gotten quite the collection, and they all have stories. Going back over my most recent dice history, we have:

Manon de Brissot, daughter of a colonial landowner with noble roots, should have been a princess to be married off. But despite her parents efforts, she never lived up to that, the tomboy. Her dice were the classical rounded d6, in pink pearl with black pips, and mauve marble with black pips for the damage she dealt (and boy did she deal damage).

Sandre de Brissot, little brother of Manon, though with certainty a little indiscretion of her mom's with tonton Sevestre, a blond pirate and cursed adventurer,n and not the fruit of de Brissot's loins. Sandre was into forbidden knowledge, alchemy, magic and demons, and ended up a brilliant strategic in the army too. Sharp edged, dark purple with gold marble and golden integer. Always dancing with the devil, he was.

Aron (a.k.a. Captain Lonny, that's what you get for having Asian blood and teaming up with a damned redneck) had rounded d6 of metallic coloured plastic, which were lighter than normal, which irked me somehow so I ended up not liking them. The two damage dice of real metal with blue dots, however, I loved to bits. I'm thinking of getting more. Eventually I started using the red marble dice with gold pips I bought for the current game for Aron too.

So currently Yaroslava works with dark red marbled with gold pips for regular throws, Sandre's magic dice for powers, and the two heavy damage dice for punching people's lights out.

Hmmmm, all this talk about dice has made me want to shop for some new ones...

*I should add here that we usually spend around 3 to 4 years immersed in one world, and sometimes manage to stick to one character. I can see that if you play short story-arcs and often switch world your dice might just remain tools, simple as is, or as an extension of you, the player, personally.

Reaping what you sow

I'm wading through all the digital clutter that has piled up while I was busy in the flesh and slowly getting back in touch with the here and now. The business has also meant I did not work as much in the garden as I wanted to; I only had time to pick some fruit today, which in the blueberries' case means at least a kilo has been lost to utter over-ripeness and other decay. But not to worry, the yield is more better than usual, and as this picture shows they only become more gigantic. That blackberry's over an inch tall, y'all. Poor little Yaroslava should know better than to face this dark-skinned danger in daylight.

Speaking of Yaroslava, I've created a blog for my alter egos. Chances are that I'll have the time to write up some of her adventures when I'm on vacation in France.