June 14th, 2010


Bring Peter Watts to Aussiecon 4 Campaign

Cat Sparks has launched a campaign to bring Peter Watts to Aussiecon 4. Her message is below.

Many of you will be familiar with this story already but for anyone who isn’t:

Last year Canadian marine biologist and science fiction writer Dr Peter Watts underwent a terrifying ordeal at the hands of over zealous border crossing guards in Port Huron, USA. While leaving the United States on December 8, 2009, he was subject to an exit search, then beaten, maced and arrested when he tried to find out what was going on.

A full account of the incident and what was to follow is up on Tor.com

Or hear him interviewed about his experience, podcast at Starship Sofa

Even though all he did was fail to promptly comply with border guards’ instructions, he narrowly escaped a prison sentence and is now officially a convicted felon and therefore no longer able to attend US conventions.

Peter’s short story ‘The Island’ from The New Space Opera 2, edited by Gardner Dozois and our own Jonathan Strahan has been nominated for a Hugo award. What with Worldcon being on Aussie soil in September this year, I thought it would be a good thing if he could fly out here for both the Hugos and Aussiecon itself.

To that end, with Peter’s permission, I’m conducting a raffle to raise money for his airfare and accommodation. First prize is tuckerisation in his next novel State of Grace. Peter says:

“make sure that all entrants realize that their namesakes will most likely come to a really painful and unpleasant end. And they may not be especially cuddly as characters before then…”

The Aussiecon committee has very kindly donated Peter’s membership. The rest is up to us. If you think the guy deserves a break, how about taking part in the raffle or making a donation?

I’ve never met Peter face-to-face but we’ve been email buddies since I sent him a gushing fan letter after reading his first novel Starfish some years back.

He is well known as an excellent value panelist and would be a fantastic asset to the ‘hard science fiction’ end of the con’s literary stream. He has also consented to participating in Dudcon where he will hand out the Ditmars and generally partake of other silliness as required.

To participate in the State of Grace tuckerisation raffle send AUS $10 via Paypal to watts2aussiecon@gmail.com

Email me privately if you’d prefer to buy a ticket via some other medium: cat at catsparks.net

If you’re not into tuckerisation but would like to sling a few bucks into the pot, that’s awesome too.

Any funds raised surplus to requirements will be donated to a reputable charity of Peter’s choice.

Feel free to re-post this message on your own blog if you consider this to be a worthy project

Thank you!

ball of yarn

Podcasts and project ideas

I'm not awesome at keeping my ipod up to date with new episodes of podcasts I am subscribed to so I tend to go from feast to famine. At the moment though I have a bit of a feast and I seemed to be in the car a bit the last couple of days so I've been catching up with all my favourite hosts.

The Boxcutters crew are working on an all time best list for Top 10 Best TV characters. Each host put forward one and the audience submitted lists and they chose 6 out of those. And ... you're going to be shocked I know to find out that only 2 of those were female characters. Which I guess means its not just alternative music listeners and science fiction readers who forget to notice the women. Eh? The 2 who did make the cut are indeed awesome - Darleene from Roseanne and Lynda Day from Press Gang. Boxcutters have opened the list to listeners for the rest of the year so if you want to vote you can head on over to their site and submit your own list. I once again find myself without a list and without wanting to submit one - as reductive as I actually am as a thinker, I hate creating lists (yet will often work my way through someone else's - go figure).

The other podcast I was excited to see back on the air is Cast On by Brenda Dayne. It's a knitting podcast, in fact I believe it's still *The* knitting podcast. Brenda has been on hiatus since the beginning of the year due to an injury and is finally back, yay! I missed her even though I think I have taken a 45 episode break. I have loved this podcast off and on over the years as I think my interest in knitting has come and gone (I find craft passions are episodic with me) and whilst I am currently not knitting, I still love hearing someone else talk about it with the passion of a true obsessive. Sort of like listening to someone rave on about a fandom that you could get into, if only you could find more time.

She interviewed a knitter who had recently written a book and it was fascinating for two separate reasons. The writer made the book sound really interesting, as did Brenda who must have a flair for interviewing. So much so that I went to Amazon to buy the book. There though I found one negative review after the other and each sort of saying the same thing - that the book waned after Chapter 4 as the author's interest in the project seemed to wane and also that rather that the writer taking a stance on what she was doing, she filled the back of the book with interviews of what other knitters thought. The page also included a 3 minute video from the writer talking about the book - and this was very interesting looking at it promotionally. After reading all the reviews of the book, which essentially were saying that this person was a hack who had set out to do a book and was more interested in that than the project, the author came across as rather overly impressed with herself and not really all that interesting or intriguing. And I then did not buy the book. How interesting to see that the writer's attempts to promote the book worked against them in this instance, just by not really pulling it off all that well.

The project that she was working on for the book was also a bit of a hack job - she had read Julie and Julia and wondered what she could do that would be the equivalent for knitting. She chose some really hard fair isle jumper and set herself the task of knitting that in a year. And the book ... Its a hack job, yes, the idea is not really hers, its a riff. And it sounds like she got a bit lost in what it was supposed to be (she spends most of the book wondering if she is indeed still knitting the project if she can't get the exact colour yarns ...)

But it got me thinking! (Oh no!) It had me thinking that the cool thing about setting a crazy objective like Complete X in a year or Do Y every day for a year is really cool cause it forces you to actually do the thing you set out to do and that in a world full of distractions, getting focus is hard to do. And I wondered if I could do such a thing as Complete Crazy Ass Project in a Year. Course I then reminded myself that I did in fact have such a thing already underway - Publish 6 new books this year (+ get % of 2011 schedule done before Xmas). And keep up with LSS, podcast fortnightly for GS and fortnightly for TPCast and deliver a Natcon next Easter.



I think though that I would like to have some kind of craft objective too, that doesn't take away the fun or the creativity, cause that is mostly the only outlet I have right now. So I think I have decided to post a photo here every day for a year of something completed craftwise - it won't necessarily be finished things every day but some progress of some kind.


We had the first Steering Committee meeting yesterday for Swancon. It means for this year, I sit on 2 committees as well as the WASFF board as we have a transitional year before the changes that were voted in at the AGM take proper effect.

That's a lot of meetings - two Sundays in one month and one sunday in the alternate one. I was wondering at myself for agreeing to this a while back when I got up on Sunday with the first meeting ahead of me. It went for 3.5 hours but on the other side of it, I felt like I and my committee, are not in this alone. Instead of reporting to a board directly, there is now a team to work *with* on the rolling out of the con, at the broadscale. And for me, I think this is already a major success of the changes - being able to go over all the fine details as well as the broad vision, planning and strategy, and have people to bounce off, and provide extra input and also support.

I think this is going to be a really successful change in the way things operate.


The strangest thing happened - freedom

I actually got caught up with all the backlog of the TPP finances last week.

Long term readers will recall that every March for the last few years aka ever since I started TPP, there has been much pain, great torment and lot of hard work to try and get my taxes done on time. Two Marches ago I decided the pain was too unbearable and I swore I would never leave my finances in such a state again. And from then on, I did make sure all transactions via paypal and cash were entered into all the correct spreadsheet places. And to be fair, coming up to June 30, that side of things was pretty much up to date.

But I had a hideous secret. A horrific secret that I have been hiding behind the words, "It's ok. I have a paper trail." Because no matter how awesome your paper trail is, it's of no use to you if you need to follow it and if that time is when you are 2 days late with your taxes. And worse than that, oh my, is that *deep breath* when I started this whole thing up, I did not have a Twelfth Planet Press paypal account nor a Twelfth Planet Press bank account. At some point along the way, editormum said to me, "You know, I think it's time you let TPP have it's own accounts" and thank goodness she kicked me up the bum cause I have no idea how much longer I would have let it go, seeing as, after all, "I had a paper trail". I should state, I had a very meticulously kept paper trail.

The majority of the finances moved into TPP accounts and cashflow was adequate such that the whole thing mostly ticked over on its own ok. But I had several outstanding questions that needed answering. And in order to answer these, I needed to actually follow said paper trail. Basically I had money sitting in my own paypal account, which I ended up quarantining because I did'nt know who it belonged to - some of it was nonTPP book sales online, some of it was TPP and most of it presumably was ASIF donations from the donation drives we did in 2006 and 2007. The questions were: who owed who and how much? And the answers were scary and the process to find the answers out looked scary and brainbending. And without finding out any of these answers, I couldn't ever actually finalise my end of year total tallies to bring forward to the following year and thus could not figure out the actual bottomline of TPP.

Does this hurt your brain as much as it's been hurting mine?

It took me a very long time to (sit down and even look at, let alone) figure out the maths of figuring out the paper trails. And an even longer time actually sorting through the damn trail! On top of keeping up to date with paypal sales and records since March 2009, the rest of the spreadsheet needed fleshing out. In other words, I had to follow this damn trail. This involved auditing two paypal accounts, my credit card and about 6 different bank accounts all the way back to 2005. I did most of this on that 3 week holiday I took between job contracts late last year. And since then I have been slowly, in time chunks when I could face it, finishing off the bank statements, hunting down all the invoices (to reconcile and check have been paid) and filing (added bonus of gradually tidying up my study).

And then it all came down to finally facing this last big horrible question.

And I noted last week that when I am in panicmode so many other things get swept up in the wake. And so too I like to be productive by rotating what I am procrastinating on and finally I found something more yucky than following *this* paper trail to answer these final scary scary questions (not telling what the thing is I am procrastinating on).

And to my amazement, in just two days of slowly and painstakinginly unravelling the threads that created this knot, I answered all these final questions. I paid out all the monies in my personal paypal account to the places it was owed and freed it up to be used again by me.

And. Um. Now I have looked the scary abyss in the eye. And it feels really weird not to have this giant burden on my back - it's been there for about 4 years and suddenly it's gone and I don't know quite what to do with the weightlessness of it. I still have to do a final crosscheck but then I should be able to cascade forward and find my final bottomline. And maybe even do my taxes on July 1!!!

And out of all this I have finally sorted out ASif! Close to $3000 was donated to ASif! over the two donation drives and of that, according to all the records, I have spent about half of that so far. So my plan is to continue running ASif! until the remaining money runs out and then to have a look at things. But that means there should be another couple of years of funding left for the site at this stage.

ball of yarn

Craft Photo Post Day 1

So not really something that I have finished but more something that I have started ... or rather, another example of needing to overcome my stashing tendencies. Here is one of the charm squares from a pack that I bought to supply random fabrics to my charm quilt (cause all my stash is apparently pinks, purples, greens and blues) with the triangle for the charm quilt cut out. I wasn't sure what to do with the leftover fabrics from each charm square but thought that another decent shape could actually be cut from these so I started throwing them all back into my stash. For some other project, some time.

But I'm doing this decluttering of my life. I recently discovered that much of my stress is of my own creation and I can do myself a favour by actively reducing my stress by removing stressors. And one such stressor, I think, is the constant weight of the to do project lists. It's reserving future time for past allocated projects. Meaning less time in the future to execute future ideas.So it occurred to me that saving up these largeish scraps in my stash was more a hindrance than good thinking. And furthermore, if I was to do another similar project to the charm quilt, and I used all the spare scraps from this one, it would look the same. So I realised that it's better to be in the moment and let the future be what it wants to be later - filled with projects and future tastes and colourways that are yet to appeal to me.

So I threw them into my current scrap quilt project, which funnily enough is also stalling with lack of new colours to balance and liven it up. The current scrap quilt is mini log cabins pieced in steeple chase, I think it's called. So I just had a bunch of new colours to add to that project and move that along. I just have to cut the pieces out:

I've been taking all the scraps from all the projects I've been working on this year and piecing up these squares but I have a lot of the black and white and blues so haven't been able to sew the blocks together yet. As I finish each quilting bee block I have some extra pieces and I love the idea of having a memory of projects I've worked on.

Tomorrow hopefully photos of a few finished blocks.