Archive for November, 2014


Had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat yesterday, and had lots of fine conversation with some of our oldest fannish friends. It was a good time. We will get through this.

I had wondered what happened during the functional MRI. Kate said that there was first a general MRI (just holding still while the machine banged and thumped), then a finger-tapping exercise (tap a finger for 30 seconds, then hold still, then tap again), then an exercise of nouns and verbs (given a noun, think of the corresponding verb), then an exercise of concrete/abstract (given a verb, think of whether it is concrete or abstract), then another exercise she doesn’t recall. It was all kind of boring and repetitive and some of the tests had to be done over because she dozed off, though they still finished it all up in just under the scheduled two hours.

The answer to the question “how is it that they can ask if you are claustrophobic and also say that you have to be able to read text five feet away??” is that she had an angled mirror in front of her eyes and the words were shown to her on paper cards (some printed, some hand-lettered) held up near her feet.

The paper cards and hand-lettering tell me that the tests vary a lot depending on exactly what brain areas are being examined for the particular patient, and also that this is a very new type of test. This also suggests a reason for the whole deal with the contact lenses — they are still figuring out how to effectively administer this test. Perhaps in five years the prompts will be displayed on a screen and they’ll have a rack of glasses with all-plastic frames in a variety of common prescriptions.

I’ll just leave you with today’s XKCD:

From Kate’s brother

Kate got this note from her brother:

Don’t let this opportunity go unrealized:
Sudden craving for pad thai and pickles? “Brain Surgery”
Caught watching “My Pretty Pony”? “Brain Surgery”
Tell everyone it was a sunflower seed you put up your nose when you were four, or an absorbed twin.
When you come out of surgery, don’t recognize anyone and claim your name is Ethel Shapiro.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Thanksgiving eve

Kate had a successful functional MRI today. The biggest problem, she said, was not falling asleep during the long boring stretches. The new contact lenses worked well enough, and she managed to get them in and out before and after the test. She may not ever use them again, but they did the job.

She brought wooden knitting needles and a ball of yarn, but didn’t get to use them.

We don’t have “results” from this test, nor did we expect to. I believe the purpose of the test is to map out the parts of her brain that Kate is actually using, so as to properly avoid them during the surgery. There will be an additional MRI, called a “stealth” MRI, during the surgery itself — the neurologist described this as “a GPS for the brain.”

Kate’s language and cognitive skills are generally better than when we went to the ER, thanks to the steroids I think, though she does definitely still have some interesting issues, such as coming out with exactly the opposite word from what she meant. “It would be fascinating if it weren’t happening to me,” she says.

We have had much love and assistance from many friends, especially Bo (coordination), Ariel (laundry and beef stew), and Sara (more than enough delicious food for four meals for the three of us, left in a cold-bag on our porch while we were at the MRI), and double-especially Sue, as well as many good wishes from farther afield. We’ve also received one anonymous gift, a knitting-themed tote bag via Cafe Press, for which thanks. I may not be able to keep up with the individual thanks as things get hairier, but please know that you are all appreciated more than you could ever know.

In some ways this experience, terrible though it is, is kind of… cleansing. All my priorities have been reduced to two: 1) This has to be done NOW; 2) Fuck it. I have, with great reluctance in some cases, canceled or postponed almost everything we had been planning to do through January. With luck that will be sufficient.

I cannot imagine doing this without cell phones, text messages, and mobile email. I took three phone calls and uncounted text messages during a one-hour consultation with the nutritionist.

At one point, while waiting for some doctor, I began whistling the Jeopardy theme. Right at the end, where the last low “dum DUM” comes in the song, my phone sounded an incoming text message. We laughed and laughed.

We are still laughing.

We expect to attend Thanksgiving dinner with our fannish friends. Everyone have a good Thanksgiving, and hug your loved ones.

Kate’s surgery scheduled: 12/1

Okay, we have a date for Kate’s brain surgery. It’ll be in the morning on Monday 12/1. The surgery will be probably about 3 hours and she’ll be in the hospital for 3-5 days after that, of which at least one day will be in the ICU. If you can provide assistance, comfort, and food any time during the hospital stay or during the weeks of recovery at home thereafter, please contact Bo O’Dell (youknowmeasbo at gmail dot com) to coordinate.

We have a functional MRI scheduled tomorrow afternoon. During this test Kate will be performing several daily functions, including reading, while they look at her brain to find out what parts she’s actually using (I guess to make sure they leave those bits alone). But reading in the MRI machine is problematic because you cannot have ANY metal. So this means she has to wear contact lenses.

She does not wear contacts. Never has.

Ever try to get contact lenses prescribed and fitted on one day’s notice during Thanksgiving week?

The people at Hawthorne Vision Clinic have been exceptionally helpful so far. Just heading there now. Thanks too to Kate’s sister Sue, hero of the revolution.

More news as it develops. Thank you all so much for all of your good wishes and offers of assistance.

Kate in hospital

Yesterday Kate was having difficulty finding her words, and couldn’t write a check. We took her to the emergency room, where they gave her an MRI. The MRI found some kind of mass in her brain (3x3x3 cm). We don’t yet know what it is, but it has to come out.

They have her on steroids to reduce the swelling, which is already beginning to help with the aphasia, and will do more detailed scans before performing surgery. Surgery is yet to be scheduled but will likely be either Wednesday or Monday. (Dr. O’Neill at St. Vincent’s.)

At the moment we are in Providence Hospital in NE Portland, but hope to be discharged today after consulting physical, occupational, and language therapists. After that we’ll be home until the surgery, whenever that is.

We are okay-ish for now. We have insurance. We have money. Kate’s sister Sue is here.

Where we will really need support is during and after the surgery. I don’t yet know what kind of help will be needed but will welcome food, a supportive shoulder, and other forms of aid and comfort. I’ve asked Bo O’Dell (youknowmeasbo at gmail) to coordinate scheduling.

More news as it happens.

ETA: Returned home Sunday evening. Thanks for all the good wishes.

Show vs. Tell

Over on Facebook, a friend asked “is it always poor writing to tell and not show?” Here’s my reply:

If you had an entire story that was nothing but “show” it would be overlong and tediously detailed. I interpret the maxim of “show, don’t tell” as applying to the most important parts of the story: the characters’ motivations and emotions, the key bits of worldbuilding, the pivotal moments of the plot. When the character is only driving across town? It’s okay to just tell us that part.

World Fantasy Convention 2014: Welcome to the Machine

WFC Hyatt LobbyLast weekend I attended the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, it was the same weekend as my local con, OryCon, and I’d had a tough time deciding between them. But, as it shook out, I made exactly the right choice.

You might think that the difference between the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and World Fantasy Convention (WFC) is obvious from their names, but it actually isn’t. It is true that WFC focuses on fantasy rather than science fiction, but it doesn’t exclude SF and the Worldcon doesn’t exclude fantasy. The real difference between the two is that the Worldcon is a large (5000 people or so) convention by and for the fans, whereas WFC is a smaller (1000 people) professional conference for writers, publishers, editors, and agents. WFC generally has excellent programming, a dynamite art show, and a dealer’s room focused on books, but the real reason most of the attendees are there is to schmooze. There is a hospitality suite, but the real heart of WFC is the bar where everyone hangs out.

My first WFC was one in Seattle back in the 20th century, when Kate and I helped out our friend Debbie who was running the hospitality suite. We thought it was a great con, but it seemed that there was this invisible web across the con of deals being made, and spending time with our writer friends felt as though we were keeping them from important business. Although fans are welcome at WFC, the con isn’t really about them, and we didn’t go to another WFC for years after that. But WFC changed substantially for me when I started selling my fiction professionally, and became one of my favorite conventions.

This WFC was a whole different animal for me, now that I’m a cog in the publishing machine. I met with my editor (my editor!) Moshe Feder, Tor’s art director and head of Irene Gallo, and Tor’s head of publicity Patty Garcia (she was bartending at the Tor party at the time, but very generously took some time to chat with me as well). I also bent the ears of many of my writer friends, who offered congratulations and sage advice. Several people commented that I was adorable with my puppy-like enthusiasm, and I have to own that.

I did hang out in the bar, a lot, and had many professional breakfasts and lunches in the hotel restaurant. I think I had five meals outside the hotel in six days, all within walking distance, and otherwise didn’t leave the hotel at all.

I came out of the con feeling like my brain was rattling around in my skull, and I’m still on East Coast time. I have an enormous list of things to do for Arabella of Mars, and #1 on that list is to write the sequel. (I did manage to write every day of the con, even if it was less than a hundred words some days, but I missed a day after coming home when I found myself asleep at the keyboard.)

Publishing is a machine, yes, but it’s a machine made of people, and WFC is where the gears are lubricated. I had a blast and I’m already looking forward to next year’s WFC in Saratoga Springs.

How to change the time setting on the iHome clock radio in your hotel room

If you are at World Fantasy Con right now, you have an iHome clock radio in your room. It looks like this:

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The iHome clock radio is very popular with hotels all over the world. It features an iPhone dock (with the now-obsolete 30-pin connector) and easy-to-use controls with instructions printed right on the top. Unfortunately, one of the things that is NOT covered by these instructions is how to change the time. Very few people, including hotel staff, know how to change the time setting on this clock, which means that — especially in the days and weeks following a change to or from Daylight Savings Time — the time shown is incorrect and it is frustratingly difficult to change it.

I have figured out how to do it, and I’m going to share it with you now.

Turn the clock radio around and look at the back:

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You’ll see a horizontal bar of plastic with a knurled knob at the right end (it’s just to the left of the white wires in the photo above). This knob is actually a thumbscrew. Twist it counterclockwise to unfasten it.

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When you have unfastened the thumbscrew, the whole horizontal bar comes off (it hooks in at the left end), revealing buttons labeled TIME ZONE and CLOCK ADJ and (on some models) a switch labeled DST.

If your clock has a DST switch, it has three positions: AUTO, OFF, and +1. The AUTO position is supposed to select the appropriate Daylight Savings Time setting automatically. (But if that were working, we wouldn’t be here.) The +1 setting advances the clock by one hour. (In my case, that changed it from being off by an hour to being off by TWO hours.) And the OFF setting gives up on the whole idea and lets you set the time yourself.

To change the time, press and hold the CLOCK ADJ button until the clock beeps and the time display blinks, then rotate the right-hand disc on the top of the clock to adjust the time backward or forward. Once you have the correct time, press the CLOCK ADJ button repeatedly until the time is displayed again. You’re done!

To replace the horizontal bar, hook it into the hole at the left end, swing it back into place, and refasten the thumbscrew.

Please link to this web page using the words iHome, clock, radio, and hotel in the link so that people can find it and change the time on their hotel clocks. Future hotel guests will thank you.