I seem to have finally won a long, frustrating, anguish-inducing war against the hackers who kept slipping malware onto my site and trying to infect people with same as they came in to learn about my books. I had to bring in mercenaries: specifically, the fine folks at Sucuri Sitecheck, who run a service that scans your site for you for free, and another service that keeps it uninfested for $90 bucks a year. After weeks of flailing attempts at DIY and instructions from my site host that were so simple they required a computer programming degree to comprehend, and promises from same host that now the site really was clean, honest, when it just friggin’ wasn’t, Sucuri had me squared away within twelve hours.
Now that I’m not dumping my non-existent free time into fighting the malware wars, I have taken the advice of a couple extremely savvy friends (writer Matt Youngmark and artist Racheal Ashe, if you must know) and started a newsletter. The Join button is on my site and my plan is to issue chatty notes that you’ll all enjoy reading–the sort of stuff that goes into the letters I write, all too infrequently, to all the lovely peeps I aspire to keep up with. Plus, also, whatever photo I’ve taken lately that I’m most proud of, exclusive sneak peeks at works in progress, bragging about my UCLA students who’ve sold fiction and links to the latest courses and me stuff. Try out the join button or just let me know if you’re interested.
And when I get an issue out, if you think it’s missing something, let me know that, too.
(I’d meant for this to be a low-key, personal post, but of course with the book out in twenty days, the excitement is building… there’s lots to post about.)
Kelly and I have been living in the current apartment for almost eleven years, which is about three years longer than I’ve lived anywhere in my entire life. I had something of a bounce-around childhood, and university was university–moving’s what you do. Then there were three places after the move to Vancouver: Chez Michel, Chez Frank, and the current Chez Dua.
So a couple years ago, around the time that we passed that longest-time-ever threshold, a bit of an itch developed. Some reflexive ‘isn’t it time to move?’ instinct scratches at the back of my consciousness. K’s got it too.
But moving’s not necessarily the right choice, so we’ve been trying to put a little effort into the house. Like Badger, I’ve been decluttering. I’ve sunk some cash into swoopy new gadgets that’ll do things like get us Netflix and let me use the TV in the living room as another computer monitor, if I please. We bought the footstool that is a (small, narrow) guest mattress, and allowed it to develop a healthy coat of cat hair. There’s a faint shadow of hope that the bathroom reno, which got stopped midway (I blame exhaustion brought on by the Parade of Death) might get wrapped up this year.
And windows! Yesterday, the stompy-boot guys who are putting new glass in all the suites in our building got started on installing new, non-moldy and allegedly noise-reducing windows in our place. To that there is only one thing you can say, and it is basically “Frabjous Day!”
Soon there will be pictures. In the meantime, an old reno photo.
I am a few weeks ahead of the Buffy rewatch, which is important for sanity reasons and nice for the Tor.com folks too. Anyway, it worked out that this week I wrote the column for “Surprise” and “Innocence,” which I called “A Very Unhappy Birthday.”
Anyway, by some peculiarity of timing, it’s now my birthday… whee! And it started at 12:30 a.m. when our downstairs neighbor started pounding nails right under our sleeping heads. They’re replacing the windows in our building, and just got to her suite, and I’m sure there are things needing remounting. She was very apologetic. She hadn’t realized it was so late. But Still!
My plans today are modest: running out to play a quick round of 1-800-I Gave You Life, you Give Me Tech Support! with Barb, a little teaching, a big late lunch at the home of cheesy goodness on Hastings, Au Petit Chavignol.
And, if I get lucky, maybe a nap. Meanwhile, here’s your gift: a visit to Youtube for my favorite birthday earworm.
Kelly and I spent the morning of December 25th scampering up and down the town of Modica, which is built in a serious ravine. Our opulent and gorgeous bed and breakfast was on a long street at the bottom of the incline, just downhill from the biggest of the churches, Saint George.
We climbed up to the church and I shot pictures of a few songbirds; there’s a sort of garden around the Duomo, and a little lemon grove. Then we went higher, looking for the clock tower but never quite finding it.
We had a reservation at a restaurant for a big holiday brunch and turned up for that after our hike, along with a number of big Italian families. The food started with a big plate of appetizers and then piled on course after course: three pastas, two meats, two desserts, sweet wine.
The plan had been to feast like queens for lunch, roll home and then just picnic for supper. We were prepared, because we’d spent much of the 24th acquiring fruit, bread, meat (a lot of meat, because the vendor was extra-cute and charming), more fruit, cheese, cookies and wine. We were trying out as much real Sicilian wine as we could, naturally, so Kelly could learn about it. But horrors! As we were headed back to the room, laden with grocery goodness, we realized we hadn’t managed to get our hands on a corkscrew.
If we hadn’t been carry-on only girls, we might have brought one from Canada, but it seemed a good prospect to get confiscated at the airport.
There was a random scattering of open stores, even though we’d picked a bad time, night before Christmas and all. Though, actually, we always found it rather hard to figure out what types of shops and services would be open in Italy at various times of day. We started going into one place after another, asking for a corkscrew. There was a gadget place that seemed especially promising, but the owner only sold batteries, shaving implements, lottery tickets, first and second-hand smoke… and not so much housewares. Finally we went into a wine bar and the owner told us we could hit up the store down the street (also owned by her) for one.
And they did have one for sale, but it was part of a set of expensive and useless wine accessories. We might have sucked it up, though. Because wine! At Christmas! In Modica! But the folks on duty there decided to lend us theirs. Bring it back on Boxing Day, they said, and so that’s exactly what we did.
(We found the Sicilians supernice in this way everywhere we went, whether or not we could communicate with them.)
It was a good picnic, and that afternoon was practically the only window of time that we spent loafing, rather than walking out to see some marvelous sight. Or walking half a block to make sure nobody had towed, ticketed, rammed or made off with our rental car. After the massive Christmas lunch, we couldn’t possibly have moved! We didn’t break into the stash o’ food for about six hours.
Here’s Saint George’s:
In 2001, before we left for Greece with Snuffy, I bought one of those fleece blankets they make from recycled pop bottles, and wedged it into my backpack with a bunch of other warm-weather gear that I thought might be superfluous.
It turned out it wasn’t a bad idea at all. We were there in April and May, on the cusp of summer, and there were some scorching days but also more than a few really chilly ones.
This year, to celebrate the blanket’s tenth birthday, I took it back to Europe… and left it there. Hopefully someone will give it a good home. Kelly and I decided to travel light, you see–in fact, we took carry on luggage only. Our wee bags were pretty crammed when we left, and part of the plan was to jettison some old clothes and other items if we acquired new items or souvenirs.
The blanket made it all the way back to Rome before it got the boot. It was an odd but nevertheless satisfying sacrifice. And before we let it go, I asked Kelly to pose for a good-bye shot.