Saturday, April 20, 2019

State of the Schafer, Vol 2

Writing Progress:

I managed to keep to my 500-word per weekday goal, despite a 3-day trip to Queenstown, plus scrubbing and prepping one side of our house for staining. My draft of The White Serpent is up to 18,503 words, including some very hard-won words on one troublesome argument scene which I had to rewrite a couple times before I felt happy with the interactions between Cara and the other characters. Onward to the next scene, which I hope will be a bit less tricky to get right.

My son, however, is quite miffed that I haven't done any work on HIS book, the middle-grade science fiction adventure with magic and lasers, since finishing the first chapter a while back. I told him I'm not good at working on multiple projects at once; he pointed out sternly that I managed it with my engineering job, so why can't I learn to multi-task with writing?

Kids, man. They cut you no slack. Maybe I can try adding in a 100 word goal for the magic-and-lasers on top of my 500-word goal for The White Serpent.

Skating update:

While visiting Queenstown, I spent another hour practicing on a public session. This time the kiddo came with me to skate, which is always extra fun. Best of all, I had no back soreness afterward: hooray! I think low sit spins are the riskiest move for my back, even more so than jumping, so I avoided those and I think it paid off. I haven't yet dared to try an axel or any doubles yet, but I sure had a good time.
The kiddo snapped this picture of me enjoying life on the ice

New Zealand Life:

As mentioned above, we're working on staining the house. It's actually not so much the staining that's hard, as all the prep work. Mix up a tank of moldkiller, spray on, wait 48 hours, pray for a sunny day, mix up washing fluid, spray on, scrub until arms fall off. Plus our house is two stories, with a funky steeply slanting metal roof in between the lower and upper level, which means we'll have to get creative with our climbing gear to safely work on the upper portion. Oh well, I always love a challenge.

It's Easter this weekend, and Kiwis seem hugely into Easter in a way they aren't with other holidays. Not so much the religious aspects, but the CHOCOLATE. Every grocery store (or should I say, supermarket), is absolutely buried in displays of every type of bunny-shaped and egg-shaped chocolate you could possibly imagine. White chocolate and mango eggs. Passionfruit and kiwifruit bunnies. Marshmallow eggs covered in sprinkles. Chocolate bars as long and thick as my arm, containing the same goo inside as Cadbury's creme eggs. (The Kiwis turn up their noses at Cadbury, by the way. Whittaker's is where it's at. Having tried their white chocolate flavors, I must agree.)

Yet the one Easter treat NZ doesn't have is the one my son always loved best: PEEPS. I had to look it up for him: apparently they're only sold in the US and Canada. It doesn't entirely surprise me they haven't caught on here. They always tasted pretty darn nasty to me, like a mouthful of Styrofoam coated in stale sugar and pumped full of preservatives. I think my son loved them because he can't eat gluten and doesn't like chocolate, and they're pretty much the one GF non-choc treat readily available in America for Easter. He plans to stock up the next time we visit the US. Assuming the biohazard folks at NZ customs let him bring peeps into the country, I look forward to watching his Kiwi friends' faces when they try one.

U.S. Politics (the horrorshow continues)

Welp. The Mueller report is finally out. While I'm genuinely glad to find that the more far-fetched theories about Trump's relationship to Russia aren't true, even the redacted version of the report is pretty savage in its portrayal of the President's corruption, lies, and disregard for laws. To quote from the report's conclusion, "The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests." But honestly, anybody who didn't already know Trump doesn't give a damn for laws or country or anything beyond his own personal gain, is either willfully blind or has been living under a rock.

The worrying part is that most of the aides and appointees who refused to carry out Trump's illegal orders have resigned or been fired. Since Republican voters continue to signal that they'll excuse or ignore absolutely any horrible or even criminal behavior on Trump's part, I don't hold out hope the Republicans in Congress will exercise their constitutional duties and hold him to account.

Prior to now, I'd shared the pragmatic view expressed by Democrats like Pelosi. If the Senate will refuse to act on any impeachment, why waste time and effort on a fight you can't win? Why not focus effort on one you can: the next elections. But since reading the report and seeing Mueller spell out very clearly his reasoning why Congress should be the ones to act on the evidence he collected, I've come to feel differently. Even if impeachment doesn't result in removal, it's still worthwhile to take a stand. To show voters and the world that at least some Americans aren't turning a blind eye to corruption; that speaking up for what is right is more important than worrying about political cost. I hope the Democrats of the House have enough courage to take that stand (which, realistically, will only happen if enough voters call or email them to say as much. So hey, if you feel as I do, call your representative.)

Pic of the Week:

Autumn colors in Queenstown

Reading Corner:

I finished The Luminaries, which I found absorbing but sometimes frustrating. (I thought the author prioritized cleverness of structure over depth of characterization.)

I then tried The Gutter Prayer, but stalled out about 30% into the book--I think I'm just not in the right mood. The worldbuilding was wonderfully imaginative, but I wasn't connecting with the characters in the way I wanted.

So now I'm continuing my investigation of New Zealand authors with Keri Hulme's The Bone People, which I've heard is powerfully memorable.


  1. Hunh. I didn't think that you couldn't get Peeps there. I've mostly lost my taste for them.
    I did really like NZ chocolate, though, especially Whittakers. I should have bought more than I did...

    1. Yeah, I don't even like chocolate, yet I still find Whittaker's Ghana Peppermint bar pretty damn tasty (because of that delicious peppermint cream inside...I wish they made a white choc version!). And boy do I love their Westcoast Buttermilk Caramelized White Chocolate...and their Colombian Mango with Passionfruit in White Chocolate...and, and...

  2. I blame peeps for the downfall of civilization. With the coming of the peeps the world was divided into those who thrived on peeps and those who did not. Those who thrived on peeps were strengthened and those who could not were weakened. Unfortunately it is an evil gene that makes peeps tolerable and thus were the forces of wickedness provided a weapon that the the enlightened, thoughtful, wise, and compassionate could not overcome.

    1. I guess that explains the current state of the world, heh.

  3. The Bone People made a huge impression on me. I even convinced a book club to read it (back in the 90s) and then felt bad when I re-read and realized how depressing most of it is. But still amazing.
    Re: GF candy, I was surprised how much I found for Sarah this year. Jelly beans in a cone shaped like a carrot, a plastic egg full of skittles, and super-sized “chewy” Nerds (which are disgusting, but they’re GF/DF and she likes them).

    1. I've only had a chance to read a few chapters so far, but it's definitely making an impression. Very poetic/painterly in the use of imagery and even the physical shape of the prose. Literary with a capital L, heh.

      Re candy, the even sadder part for the kiddo is that many of his US GF favorites, like Sour Patch Kids and Skittles and such, are not gluten free over here as the Australian versions imported into NZ are made with glucose syrup made from wheat, not corn. Some convenience stores in the larger NZ cities carry the Canadian/US versions that are GF, so we try to stock up when we can! Otherwise, he's pretty much left with Chupa Chup lollipops as his main GF candy option.