Recent Reads: The Long Earth

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I’ve read the four available books in Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter’s Long Earth series in the past couple weeks, going so far as to break my “no e-books over €9.99″ rule, which appears to have held right up until the point that I wanted something that cost more than that. :)

I’ve found them pretty satisfying, obviously, or I wouldn’t have read four of them in…mostly a week. They’re about the discovery, or rather, the consequences of the discovery, of parallel earths (referred to collectively as The Long Earth) that can be “stepped” to, mostly by use of a homemade device powered by a potato. Build a device, flick a switch on it, and you can step either ‘East’ or ‘West’, to infinity and beyond; humans have only developed on Datum Earth, so it’s all unspoiled territory, although it gets stranger the farther away from Datum you go.

Book One, THE LONG EARTH, is the most satisfying of them, and not just for the observation that Jim Steinman’s For Crying Out Loud is probably one of the most holy songs every recorded. :) The next three, including THE LONG WAR, but particularly THE LONG MARS, and THE LONG UTOPIA, don’t…really follow through on the promise of their titles, or at least not in any way that resounded with me. Many, many threads have been cast; each sequel is essentially a thread of its own, plus all the carrying-through subplots, but there’s no real sense of them all drawing back together in a satisfactory manner.

They may yet, of course; Pratchett & Baxter had contracted for 5 books and, given that the books are (according to a reviewer, but also fairly clearly to anybody who’s read Pratchett) more in Baxter’s style than Pratchett’s, I assume that Baxter will be completing at least the contracted books without Pratchett, with whom he had presumably mapped out the upcoming territory.

Anyway, I feel like there’s vast potential that’s not quite being approached correctly in the books, but I’ve basically enjoyed them and I’ll certainly read the next one when it’s out. And the fact that I’ve enjoyed them bodes well for the Baxter book I got at EasterCon and haven’t yet read (although I may do so promptly, now).

pajama day

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Yesterday was a pajama day. After all the moving and the party and the pox we were exhausted, and then our silly child got up at 6:20 in the morning. I got up with him and tried to read while he watched tv, but about 9am I fell asleep reading and crawled onto the couch and pulled a pillow over my head and only woke up enough to mumble, “Yes, you can watch that,” every time he asked about something (once it was something I hadn’t let him watch before but I was too tired to argue, and he said, “REALLY!?” :)), until 12:30, when I only got up because I planned to go to sleep in the real bed, but 12:30 seemed a little late so I didn’t.

Poor Ted had to get dressed because he had to get more cement to set the swingset in (and bring the wretched broken bookcase back), but Indy and I remained in our PJs all day.

Poor kid is really being a trooper, with the pox. “Mommy,” he said to me sadly yesterday, “when the chicken pox are gone will I be able to scratch again?” Today he’s had a baking soda bath, which he thought was fairly wonderful. (“Mommy! The stinging is gone!”) I think there may be another one in his future even on this very day.

I recognize that there are many, many things I should be doing today. I’m having a hard time actually doing any of them, but the list is as long as my arm. And probably the most important bit is working on Spite House, the crossover story with Kat Richardson, as it’s due in ten days. (It’s also, fortunately, more than halfway done, but Kat and I have both just had a series of hits that just keep on coming, and it’s now much closer to the wire than either of us would like. @.@)

I also need to, and none of these are tasks insurmountable for the day if I can get out of the chair and go do them, do the following:

unpack Indy’s room/put away toys
– finish putting laundry away
– do laundry
– put the DVDs away
clean the kitchen

The laundry’s already underway, and Indy’s room won’t take very long, probably, and it would mean another room in the house is basically Done. So I should get up and go do those. She said, looking rather tired and pathetic. :)

Tomorrow I’ve really got to remember to look in to rubbish collection around here, too…

a warm house

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The housewarming party went really well yesterday. Most people were able to attend despite the poxy child, and in a fortuitous combination of good weather and me just not being up to trying to otherwise entertain said poxy child, basically the adults spent the entire afternoon and evening outside in the vast, beautiful back garden while the kids alternated between watching TV, running around, and reading graphic novels. Normally I wouldn’t let them have the TV on, but…yeah. This time they got to, and so basically the Long Room was theirs and the rest of the house was ours. :)

Adults outside:
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One of the kids (the child of a librarian) came to me and said, in horror, “You know those graphic novels you used to have on top of the bookcase that are now on three shelves? They’re OUT OF ORDER!!!”

I told him he could put them in order and he lit right up in undisguised joy, and later reported, happily, that they were all in order now. :)

A great deal of heavy lifting was accomplished by big strong handsome men, and now everything that was intended to be taken out of the upstairs has been, and beds have been switched around, and there’s at least some room to continue unpacking.

The engineer in attendance was delighted to hear there was a swingset to build, and took over the construction and supervision of construction of said swingset. Many people stood around and observed, with the occasional intervention for heavy lifting.

Other people, distressed that I had been in the kitchen preparing food in one fashion or another the entire time they were there, took over the kitchen-cleaning duties after all the food was gone, and left the whole place much more manageable than I had expected it to be.

Mom gave everybody tours of the house, and people asked when it was exactly I’d met with the devil to sign away my soul, and said things like, “I’m going to take a turn down to the end of the garden; I’ll be back in an hour or so,” and sat around on picnic blankets conversing and eating and generally seeming to have a lovely time. I certainly did.

For all of their hard work, people were rewarded with sheets of brownies to take home with them, as well as, of course, the actual barbeque stuff, which all turned out nicely. Burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, homemade lemonade (which was REALLY good and had to be rationed because when it was gone, it was gone!), salad, crisps, soda, and hot fudge brownie sundaes at the end of it all.

Slightly funky panoramic of descending upon the feast. :)
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a comedy of errors

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To top it all off, Young Indiana has come down with the chicken pox. @.@

I had been certain he’d been immunized against it, but the HSE website says they don’t habitually use the chicken pox vaccine in Ireland. Ted was getting him ready for a shower this morning and said, “Caaaatie? Indy has spots…” And yes. Yes he did. Ten or fifteen of them. Many just looked like bug bites or something, perhaps, but there was one in particular that looked very chicken poxy. We asked if he was itchy, and he said nope!, but a bit later he said “I was itchy yesterday but I scratched!”

Oh dear.

Anyway, Ted whisked him off to the doctor, who verified that yep, that’s chicken pox all right!

Our housewarming party guests have been warned as best I can warn them, but we may stand at the door and shout, “THIS IS A HOUSE OF PLAGUE!” as people approach, just to be sure they got the message. That’s a problem with using Facebook; no certain way to know if people saw information or not. @.@

But the show is going on, because most adults have had chicken pox, and so far the one adult who as far as she knows hasn’t, has been made aware and is detouring to another location instead of coming up. Which is sad, but better than getting chicken pox at forty.

To top it all off, after a week of relentlessly beautiful weather, it’s raining!

insult to injury

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You know how in the last blog post I said there was insult added to injury regarding the bookcase?

It got worse.

I thought, well, I can’t possibly finish anything if I don’t put the new bookcase together, so I got ready to do that and I opened the first box and…both the long sides were broken clean through, a foot from the end.

I had noticed when we collected it at the store that one end of the box was floppy, but c’mon, it’s flat-pack. There’s weird packing in flat-pack all the time. I just figured it was a couple of short boards or something. But no. It was broken. Completely, irreparably, totally broken.

I was pretty well ready to cry at that point. But Dad came up from Dublin to help me, and instead of trying to find places to put things away he very sensibly said we should just clean up and put things into the garage if they didn’t have a place right now, because that way the house could be beautiful for the party and the rest could wait on shelving.

I literally would not, could not, have thought of that, because I’ve been trying *so hard* to just get all the boxes emptied. So that’s what we did, and I’m just so grateful, because the house looks nice now and I just wouldn’t have managed it on my own.

And the library (which is not wonky shaped, it’s just I took another panorama) is done in rough draft form:

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I have ambitions of a love seat that folds out into a bed on the wall where the rocking chair currently is, and (obviously, she said with a tired sigh) at least one more bookcase in there, but I’m *particularly* pleased with how the day bed, which used to be Young Indiana’s bed (by way of Mom, who’d had it in her sewing room and who made the cool brightly colored cover for it!), fits into the bay window. There’s a radiator under the window, so it needed something not-too-close-but-close-enough, and something that would let heat pass through, and the day bed is just perfect. That, at least, really worked out.

And with the room emptied out–with all of the rooms tidied, if not entirely put together yet–I can again see how beautiful it’s going to be, and what wonderful spaces they’ll be, and that makes me a little happier too. So it’s getting there, bit by bit.

completely defeated

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I give up.

So the whole saga is that I’m trying to get boards cut for shelves for the new house. I called a place yesterday to see if they had any, but the ones they had on the website were only available in the UK. “But!” the young woman I spoke to said, “we can cut them for you!”

I said, “You *do* that?” and she said “Yes!” and so last night I made a pattern for the complicated one and got measurements for the others and we all went out to the shop, where a lady looked terribly dismayed and said that the cutters only worked 9-4 and nobody was there to do it.

Well, okay. That was incredibly frustrating, but okay. So this morning Young Indiana and I took a taxi out to the store. I went to the back corner where they do the cutting. There was a sign that said “if we’re not with you in 2 minutes, you get 10% off!”

Five minutes later I went up to the front and said I needed a board cut. The woman there looked at me like I’d grown a second head and said “We don’t do that anymore. The whole thing’s broken down.”

I said, somewhat incredulously, “Yesterday I was told you did. Twice.”

She said, “Well, we don’t.”

Shortly thereafter an ‘out of order’ sign appeared back there.

I just give up.

To add insult to injury I thought well at least I can get a bookcase because we don’t have enough, and I went to Argos and got one and upon arriving home found that the radiator that’s totally hidden behind boxes and therefore was forgotten about is in the way of where I was going to put it, and probably none of the others will fit there either.

There’s a wall it, or one of them, anyway, will fit on, but it’s different from the others and I just wanted it put over on one side so it could be different on its own and I just give up.

getting there

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I’m down to about a dozen Moving Guys boxes, which all need to be emptied out so the Moving Guys can come get them again. Actually, we have quite a few left over from the last move, so the goal is now to give them not only the ones they brought this time, but also all the others. Technically I only have to empty 3 more small boxes and we’ve got enough to send back. But dammit, this time I am Unpacking All The Boxes.

I found the PERFECT SHELVES to fit into one of our kitchen closets. Unfortunately, they’re only in stock at the UK version of the store. #sigh The good news is I called to ask about them rather than trying to take a taxi out to the place that nominally had them. The better news is that I found out while on the phone that this place will CUT WOOD TO FIT A SPACE, which is not something most places here seem to do. So this evening we’re gonna go do that. If I’m really amazing I’ll find a piece of paper large enough to make a pattern for the other shelf we need cut, too, and then I’ll be able to put the rest of the things in the kitchen away. Although a shelf on the wall for Pretty Things would also be a good idea. Maybe not today, though.

We do, unquestionably, need at least one more bookshelf. At Least. Possibly two. For the library. I also want one for the dining room that is of such specificity that I’m never gonna find it and must adapt my desires. Or pay a great deal, neither of which is really appealing. :)(This one is very nearly perfect, except it’s expensive and not quite as tall or wide as I’d like but I’m not gonna get exactly what I want and whine whine whine :)) In the meantime I’ve got a thing that will do.

Okay. I’m going to go try to empty the last box in the library, which will at least…tell me what’s in it, and perhaps give me some idea as to what to do with its contents. Possibly cry and throw them out the window, but y’know, whatever.

Kitchen Illusion

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So the thing about Irish houses is they mostly have laundry facilities in the kitchen. This is because even up until about five years ago, “all mod cons” — all modern conveniences, including, say, a washing machine (but not a tumble dryer; those are more than Modern Conveniences) — were stil fancy enough to be mentioned in house ads, and most of those Mod Cons ended up in the kitchen because it’s where the running water was.

We spent the first 3 days in this house with our 6′ butcher block against one wall, a table and several chairs in the middle of the room, our small freezer in front of the radiator, and the dryer stuck randomly more or less in front of the sink while we tried to figure out what the hell to do with everything, because this house, like most, is not designed for such things. (Let’s not talk about the electric socket options, either.)

The table and chairs went into the Long Room (which isn’t quite ready for photos yet), at which point Ted said the kitchen was TOO BIG and I said OH FOR GOD’S SAKE and the next morning measured the long butcher block, which I thought was too big to fit across the room without compromising the dishwasher and washing machine, but it turned out to work just fine:

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We’ll ignore this corner, which is full of the things I couldn’t put away without acquiring more shelf space, but moved aside in order to create the illusion that the kitchen was finished. :)

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After doing all that I also cooked dinner last night, which I think is fricking amazing.

Today all I’ve done so far is massive amounts of laundry and made some food, which is possibly about as ambitious as I’m going to get. It’s very tired around here, after a week solid of packing, moving, cleaning, and unpacking.

Having said that, I’m going to go deal with the bathrooms now. And possibly make some cookies.

The Long Room

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Our living room is about 20 feet long, and will contain the dining table when we’re done, so it will henceforth (at least in these hallowed pages) be referred to as the Long Room.

The living room half of the Long Room is pretty well sorted now:

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(For the record, Young Indiana’s leg is not strangely deformed, it’s just the photo is a panorama and he moved while I was taking it. :))

It and our bedroom are about the only two spaces that can be considered pretty well sorted thus far. The back half of the Long Room is currently a staging area, and while last night the library was looking well enough that I was going to post a Rough Draft photo, since then things have been moved in and it’s an utter disaster again.

But we have amazing roses:

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and there are AT LEAST FIVE apple trees in the back garden. I have no idea, save to wait and hope, how to find out if they’re edible or crab apples, although some of them are certainly already as big as I’ve ever heard of crab apples getting and it’s only the end of June. And there are lots of things that can be made of crab apples if it turns out they’re not eating apples…

…but I really hope they’re eating apples. :) Two of the trees look like they might have a fairly decent crop, and all of them clearly need some TLC, so we’ll see how it all goes over the next months.

Okay. There’s still a great deal to do, so I’d better get to it.

in & out

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We are, after a very tiring day of cleaning, out of the Dublin house. It took longer than we hoped, but it’s clean and we’re out, so that’s that. Done and dusted. The woman at the post office, the guy at the corner shop, and various others all expressed surprise and dismay that we were moving away, generally couched in terms of a horrified, “*Drogheda*?” followed by, “Oh, well, that’s not so bad,” when informed that Ted works in Swords which isn’t too bad a drive from Drogheda.

So we’re back at the manor house (which is called Willowbrook, incidentally), and we…have a lot of boxes to deal with. I had an idea that the library was going to be the easiest room to sort, but probably the living room is going to be easier. If Ted knows where all the wires for the television-related stuff is, I have hopes of getting those all hooked up so the entertainment centre can be moved into its corner and I can start arranging other things in the room.

We have three pieces of art up: Ursula’s Mandarin, which has become our traditional First Art Up, Ted’s world map, and my Michael Whelan print of the cover of BLACK SUN RISING, which has gone into the library and looks Just Right there. :)

So much stuff. So. Much. Stuff. Even though I got rid of an awful lot of stuff. We ended up with a lot more boxes of Things at the end than we expected, and we’re sort of going “so have we just once more packed up uncountable Things that we did not really need? could we have thrown all this stuff away?” so I’m afraid this may be a slow unpacking process where we try to throw more stuff out.

Consequently, there will be no pictures of the unpacking process. Or rather, there might be over on Twitter, but I haven’t got that hooked up to my website yet so you’re just going to have to wait until it’s actually sorted out, or follow me on Twitter (I’m ce_murphy) if you’re really desperate to see them. I’ll get more of the grounds, though, tomorrow, and show you my climbing roses and such things.

Like the TWO apple trees! O.O Food does not grow on trees in the land of my people, so I’m quite awed by apple trees. If these things actually fruit decently we’re going to be up to our eyes in apple pie! :)