Monthly Archives: November 2013

How time flies….

This Thanksgiving furlough has been busier than I even dreamed, between working out the process in developing an illustrated short story ebook using Scrivener (it, um, seems to kinda sorta work) and pictures I’ve taken and a lot of other stuff.

I haven’t gotten anywhere near as much writing down as I had wanted. But I think I needed a break. I worked on putting together Dahlia: A Netwalk Sequence Illustrated Short Story   (which will go up tomorrow) for most of the week, taking my time, thinking about the process. If I can ever get the dang phone to reliably link up to Dropbox (which is pretty easy, I just need to not be lazy about it), I can even check the flow there.

It’s been easy to get out in the weather. Lovely and cool and clear. I took some shots I’ve been wanting to get for some time now. Whether it was Mocha ear cam shots:IMG_0523

or various architectural shots while out walking around Portland:


I’ve been doing stuff. Baked bread and pumpkin pie; cooked up a pumpkin soup with ham, did other domestic stuff.

And riding time. And just–unwinding.

But now it’s time to get rewound to face three more weeks.


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Breaking in the boots

So last year was another hellish Year of The Boots in ski world. I’d skied enough days in my trusty Atomic 80s to pack out the liners. Some people can get away with cruddy footwear but I’m not one of them–for me, boots that are too loose lead to lots of falls and lack of control. But the counter is that I’m hard to fit. I need room in the toe box with a snug heel. That means boots with a last designed for a woman’s foot. Add to that the reality that I wanted to move up a level in responsiveness–that meant a stiffer boot. The 80 in my previous boot’s name reflected a measure of boot stiffness called flex–most beginners ski a 60 or lower flex. I wanted a bit more control.

So I went out to buy a new boot in April. Ski boot buying in April, in my size, sucks. I had a spare pair of boots around the house I tried to make work but they were too big, didn’t fit my arch, hurt my feet horribly and made me trip on the stupidest inclines. A short spell in rental boots in the right size pointed that need out sharply. But when I went shopping around PDX, I literally could only find five pairs of boots in my size, with the requisite stiffness, in the local shops. REI had pulled their stock for the summer and–well, given my foot issues, I’m not about to buy boots online. Nor was I going to forfeit six more weeks of ski season.

Ergo, the Dalbello Electras. I kinda sorta got used to them, but the crappy thing for me in buying boots toward the end of the season is that they usually don’t work well. If my feet are already unhappy in boots, they want to stay unhappy, and while I could feel the potential in the Electras, the reality was that I’d upgraded a level of stiffness in a ski year that already sucked due to packed out boots, a bum hip, and lousy May weather. I packed the boots away for the summer in June, planning to take them into the shop this fall to get some adjustments made to the fit.

I still haven’t done that. Part of my rationale goes back to carefully thinking through the process. The Electra is not only a stiffer boot by level (90), but they were on the stiffer end of a 90. They’re a higher skill level boot, so, instead of merrily pulling them on and going skiing, or hauling them off to the shop, I decided to suck it up and dedicate my Thanksgiving furlough break to breaking in the boots (and acclamating my feet to the dang thing). I look at it as being like a version of breaking in high-quality riding field boots–the more time I spend breaking the boots in and conditioning them, the better fit they’ll have. Rather than try to break them in and ski with them simultaneously, maybe it’s better to spend some time clomping around the house and doing stuff to break them in.

After all, there’s only two feet of snow at Timberline. No precip in sight. It’s close to ski time but not there–and no way am I going up with levels this low. My character Melanie would, but she’s also a hell of a lot better skier than I’ll ever be (and much more obsessed).

Last night I made it to an hour after wrenching the boots on. They came on easily tonight, and I did a light weight workout wearing them and I’m at two hours. One thing I’m figuring out is that perhaps I don’t need the heavier socks I’d started wearing in the Atomics (ulp, perhaps that was a sign of upcoming liner packing out). I’m starting to get the ball of the foot to spread out in the toe box for optimal ski tip control (it’s how I visualize the control) and the heel cup in the liner, while tight on my heels, is about the only dang thing I’ve run into that nails down my wandering heels hard and keeps them from wandering.

This could work.

Hmm. Maybe tomorrow night I’ll move beyond working out and clean tack while wearing ski boots.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking snow in probably one of the few places in the US that isn’t wet and snowy right now….which is unusual for us. And that makes me nervous in various other ways.

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Clamdigging at dusk


One of the things that our friend S has been talking about doing is checking out digging razor clams on a late afternoon/evening winter low tide. The combination of weather, lower tides, and timing seemed to be just about right yesterday, so we joined him on an expedition to the beach near the wreck of the Peter Iredale to dig clams.

If clams could be found, that is. It was a blustery, stormy day with a couple of rain squalls blowing through and a constant wind that made it hard to identify clam holes. We poked around on the beach for about three hours from 3 pm on, following the tide down while we could see, then going back up closer to the pickup to look for clams using lights.

One clam. It wasn’t the usual firm summer sand underfoot, either, but a softer, more saturated sand that slid away from under heels if you stayed in one place for more than a few seconds. I got vertigo staring at the water-saturated sand after dark and had to spend more time studying the surf–despite the dark and the clouds, the moon above the clouds kept things well lit.

The wind was also stiff enough to push me a little bit, and a couple of times when the surf came up, even though it was calf-high it was still pretty strong. I kept a sharp eye out for sneaker waves just because of the mood of the ocean this time of year. Didn’t get too cold, but I was wearing my ski base layers underneath heavy jeans and a sweatshirt, plus a vest and a rain suit added to my tall boots.

At one point I did get a lovely shot from a sunbreak, early on:


Afterward, we stopped at the Pig n’ Pancake and I had lovely gluten-free blueberry pancakes with blueberry compote and bacon. Yum.

We’ll try this again, but maybe not on such a windy day!

(on the Oregon coast, in winter, yeah. Riiiight.)

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Orycon 2013

With all the craziness of the past six weeks, I’ve been worried about getting sick before Orycon or wiped out badly after. Well, the first didn’t happen and so far (knocks on wood), the second isn’t too horrendous. If things stay that way, I’ll be quite grateful.

All that aside, this year’s Orycon was delightful. I had about three panels a day; one got cancelled on Sunday. For whatever reason, it seemed like one of those cons where I got the chance to participate in long, thoughtful conversations with my friends. Cons don’t always get to be like that, but when they do…it’s very sweet. I didn’t get to talk to everyone, but I did get to talk to a lot of fun people. And, well, stuff got done. Pleasantly so.

Science fiction conventions can be tough roller-coaster rides for the writer. It’s possible to find both despair and delight in the experience. I’ve had my share of the despair; this year, it was delight. Any con where I get to have mindful discussions with friends is a delight, and this year will be one of the con memories I’ll treasure.

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O.M.G. Teacher is ANGRY. Sickened. Sad.

Over this.

TL:DR on the link (though it is short and a must-read): in a nutshell, the Department of Education (nationally) is proposing to eliminate the 2% exemption rule for the most seriously impaired special education students, holding them accountable for the SAME “college and career-ready standards” that the remaining 10% of special education students must fulfill.

What the DOE is talking about here isn’t your neighbor’s kid with ADHD, or even kids with moderate to severe learning disabilities. Those kids aren’t the 2% being exempted here. For one thing, there’s a LOT more than 2% of those sort of kids, and those are the kids who struggle even now and are getting culled out academically in the name of “college and career ready” rather than giving them the support and training they need.

No. We’re not talking about those kids.

We’re talking about what those of us in the special education business call the “low-incidence disabilities.”

We’re talking about kids who may not be verbal.

We’re talking about kids with a functional IQ way below the 70 points required to classify a student as intellectually deficient (the new term for mental retardation).

We’re talking about kids who may be medically fragile ALONG with a cognitive impairment.

We’re talking about kids who may not have the life skills to functionally care for themselves, whose entire academic life is centered around teaching them those skills in some form so that they CAN be functional at their level as an adult. Whose academic learning focuses on safety words and signs. Who struggle with counting change.

The learning of THOSE skills is what those modified assessments have been all about. Measuring growth through the learning of the necessary skills these kids will need to possess in order to become functioning and contributing adults in society.

I’ve administered those modified assessments in the past. I’ve watched this 2% struggle. I don’t regularly work with kids at that level, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know about the challenges.


Because, make no mistake, that’s what Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, is advocating for.

Direct quote from Duncan, lifted from the link:

“We have to expect the very best from our students and tell the truth about student performance, to prepare them for college and career,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “That means no longer allowing the achievement of students with disabilities to be measured by these alternate assessments aligned to modified achievement standards. This prevents these students from reaching their full potential, and prevents our country from benefitting from that potential.”

Make no mistake, I support the notion of high expectations for all students. But this proposal, and the absurdity that Duncan’s quote represents, doesn’t move that 2% of students forward.

What it does is shove those kids out of the public system and back into the bad old system of separate, non-public, non-education in church basements. Make no mistake, what is going to happen is that some unscrupulous districts and states will quietly find a way to shed those kids who bring those test scores down, and by implementing value-added evaluation of teachers based on test scores, ensures a revolving door of special education teachers as they continually get sunk and dumped because none of their students can meet assessment goals.

Dear sweet mother of God, has this man EVER, EVER, seen or worked with that 2% of students? Or been the teacher struggling through the alternate assessments with these kiddos? Hell, has he EVER seen what forcing some of the other 10% of special education students through unmodified assessments does to their interest in learning?

I’m thoroughly sickened by the cynicism in this proposal.

This is immoral.

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Winter arena ride

It’s November and clearly with the rains and mist outside, we’re back to winter riding. No more outside and dust, back to damp and cool, sweaty horse, and slick arena footing.

Mocha was eager to get out and work. We didn’t do a lot of intensive schooling, more gymnastic and flexing work. She wasn’t very aggressive at the lope, wanting to work more under herself and staying balanced and collected to manage the footing better. Smart girl. Guess she learned something from her injury in September.

Along with the slower, more elevated work, I noticed she was lighter on the rein and shifted directions quickly to avoid slick patches when I started guiding her around them. We didn’t work very hard, though, mainly to avoid getting Mocha too damp. Yep. It’s that humid phase of November when it’s just too warm to ride hard with a winter coat. I’m going to try a trace clip again this year, since unlike last year she’s only getting wet on her neck and hindquarters. I can always do a full clip if that doesn’t work (but then she gets a fitted undersheet, for those times when the Gorge wind blows strong).

A nice, quiet evening ride after work, and a prelude to many more like it this winter.

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Furlough weekend

It’s not often that I get time to go out and about in late October/early November, which is sad. In my opinion that’s one of the nicest times to cruise through the east side of Oregon, but…don’t often get the time to do it.

Not so this year. We had November 1st off, DH found a Groupon for a Bend-area resort–so off we went this weekend for a belated birthday celebration.

Friday was stunningly gorgeous, in a late fall East Side way.IMG_9391

It didn’t start raining until early in the morning. We went cruising up toward Bachelor, but the snow got a bit intense. We retraced our tracks to the Swampy Lakes trailhead and went hiking in about 2-3 inches of snow, with 4 inch drifts.


We hiked nearly 4 miles. Combined with about 1 1/2 half miles on the Deschutes trail in the morning, we did pretty good.

Then, today, on our way back to Portland, we headed out through Mitchell and cut back through Condon and Wasco. Saw some nice stuff there, too.


We also discovered this cute little pioneer park.


Amphitheater and stage on both sides of the creek, a smaller stage facing the picnic area. Very cute.

We also saw the critters–wild turkeys in two places, including a flock of over 100; deer, elk, grouse, various raptors, and a bald eagle (at least one). A nice break was had by all.

And now time to push on to Orycon, Nanowrimo (though I’m continuing an existing work project), and other stuff. I’ve been poking at Scrivener and I have some project ideas incorporating pictures for ebook and CreateSpace chapbooks.

Contemplating it, anyway. Might not happen for a few months, but…had fun taking pictures for some of the projects.

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