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The Baroness's articles
Article
The Accidental Podcaster: The Death of a Dream
Oct 3rd 2016
I'm not gonna lie; I'm crying as I type this.
The announcement came out Friday afternoon that after fifteen years of publication, mental_floss magazine is ending its print publication with the November/December 2016 issue...which went to print Friday morning.
Words can't begin to describe the sense of loss I'm feeling right now. The first issue I read was found on the end table of my then-boyfriend's parents house in 2005, and it was just an insanely well-written conglomerate of interesting topics. But nobody back home had ever heard of it, and so it wasn't until the spring of 2007 after I moved to Cleveland that a friend re-introduced me and I fell in love all over again. I was just out of college and out on my own, making barely enough money to pay my bills and keep my clunker car on the road to get to work. PB&J's and store brand macaroni and cheese were my primary food staples that first year, but every other month on the day a new issue would hit the newsstands, I'd scrape together a little bit of cash, make the trek out to the Barnes and Noble store in Westlake (the only place that carried it), and get flossin. Such was the joy it brought me that I remember in particular a phone conversation with my sister that fall, where I was lamenting having missed the new issue because I'd been sick and had to use all my extra cash on prescriptions and doctor's bills. Two days later, I got a letter in the mail with a twenty dollar bill inside and a note with my sister's unmistakable scrawl saying "just get a damned subscription already."
Article
The Accidental Podcaster: Down the Rabbit Hole
Sep 27th 2016
Colleen Mondor puts out a monthly blogletter chronicling her research and progress for her book on the 1932 Cosmic Ray climbing expedition on Mt. McKinley. In last week's missive, she details a side story she came across in her research regarding a friend of that expedition's leader by the name of Elbridge Herron, who was a fellow climber (and, creepily, looks kind of like our own SaladBooty). At the age of 30, Herron was returning from his own expedition to Nanga Parbat in the western Himalayas when he stopped in Cairo for a day trip, climbed the Second Pyramid, and was killed when he fell off.
Herron was not a part of the Cosmic Ray expedition (also ill-fated; the aforementioned friend and expedition leader, Allen Carpe, had been killed during that expedition a few months before), and Mondor only learned of him by accident when looking for something else. As she laments in her missive, "I have a running list of names of fascinating people I find in all this research (thank goodness for Field Notes) and I just continue to add to it every damn time I open another old book. But how to do your resist a story like Herron's? How do you not want to know more?"
I completely get where she's coming from. For the new RCM adventure story (debuted yesterday!), I had a general idea for a three-book story arc that was going to need a lot of research to do right. Without giving too much away, the team will be battling a numbers-based cult that I decided early on to build from scratch, mixing in elements of Druid beliefs, numerology, stargazing and astrology, interpretation of ancient prophesy, and more, delineating between the actions and beliefs of actual religions against the decidedly darker perversions of those beliefs taken on by my cult. What started out as a simple, and I thought would be quick, research into some historical secret societies and how to write up a proper numerology profile has morphed into what has (so far) been an eight-month odyssey into the history of magical practitioners in an insanely vast spectrum of spell casting and divination fields, secret rites, mythology, and more. I have librarians in three separate libraries helping track down materials as I need them, and also tagging books and other things they find that they think might be useful. What we've found so far has taken on my bare-bones concept of the heart of the cult and its motives and given it such a rich fullness of detail that aids and fleshes out the story I want to tell.
Article
The Accidental Podcaster: We The People
Sep 13th 2016

Last week, as I prepared materials for our campus resource room, I got into a discussion about why schools across the United States at all levels have to have activities and discussions centered around Constitution Day. It was a valid question, and I explained about how the observance came about because so many people didn't have a good understanding of what the Constitution was and the importance of the framework the document provides. "Right," my fellow conversationalist replied, "I get why it's important and people should know about it, but really, how often do they use that in their day to day lives?"
The question threw me a bit, because if you're an American citizen (as we are), the answer is "all the friggin time."
Article
The Accidental Podcaster: I Am The Greatest Detective
Sep 6th 2016
Today, we learned I am the World's Greatest Detective.
In Borderlands, we've been playing through the various side quests and things and having an insane amount of fun with it, even though I'm pretty certain I have to be about the most frustrating co-player ever for someone who knows what they're doing (I still fall off of things a lot). Today, the web ninja seemed very excited about a particular side quest because he knows I like mysteries and puzzles, and this was supposed to be a classic, logical whodunnit. The premise is that there was a murder in Sanctuary, and there were four identical-looking suspects. The player (in this case, me) was supposed to ask questions of the townspeople to kind of piece together what happened (what kind of shots, did he get injured, etc) and rule out suspects until only one remains. What actually happened was that the foot I had tucked up underneath me in my chair was falling asleep, and when I shifted during the instructions, I accidentally hit the button to accuse one of the suspects as being the killer (whoops). As stated, we weren't even through the instructions yet - I technically hadn't even seen the body. Poor Hax was flabbergasted, but more so after it turned out the accused was in fact the killer! Clearly, this makes me the World's Greatest Detective. I'm so good, I didn't even need the facts of the case to nab my man.
The web ninja will dispute this, of course. In his view, accidentally nudging the keyboard in such a way as to make the game think you're issuing your verdict before it's even completed the instructions does not constitute detective work, even when it turns out the accidental accusation was, in fact, correct. He calls it "cheesing it." I say my skills of deduction are just so advanced I have no need of wasting time interviewing "witnesses" and gathering "evidence." I should also point out that this isn't an isolated incident, either; my playthrough of Portal contained some of the most amazing accidental bank shots that I'm fairly certain I gave Hax at least one headache trying to contemplate how I managed to keep doing it.
Article
The Accidental Podcaster: Welcome Wagon
Aug 30th 2016
My sister is about five paces in front of me, her blonde pigtails waggling behind her as she runs up to launch herself into the next puddle. I frown at her, partly because I know Gram will be angry with us both (her for jumping in the puddles, me for not stopping her) and partly because pink saddle shoes are even less good for puddle jumping than her My Little Mermaid sneakers. And I really like puddle jumping. Puddle jumping would be just another tick on my list of what made up my Best Day Ever: I found a quarter on the way to school, I had an egg salad sandwich in my lunchbox, we got a new Weekly Reader, and the school librarian said if I wanted to, I could start borrowing books from the big kids section AND still get books from the little kid section to read to my baby brother. For a seven year old, this was very exciting.
But the most exciting thing was we had a new girl in our class today. She arrived at the end of the day, brown eyes peeking from behind her mother's skirts while Mrs. B announced we would form new learning pods on Monday. At one point I made eye contact with the girl, but she just blushed and ducked out of the way.
We manage to make it up the street to our house without my getting splashed (though lord knows my sister tried). My mother is home early, and I excitedly tell her about my Best Day Ever and my new book privileges (she seems sufficiently impressed, which pleases me). Then I tell her about the new girl joining our class, and she asks a question that gives me pause:
Article
The Accidental Podcaster: Good.
Aug 17th 2016
It's late spring, 2010. Summer's heat is still a few weeks away, yet the uninsulated brick and black roof of my top floor apartment already have the place unpleasantly warm. I am lying on the floor of my living room, staring at the pockmarked ceiling and intensely aware of both the coarseness of the shabby carpet underneath me and the clacking of keys coming from the room at the end of the hall. Both are driving me insane, but I'm rooted to my spot, frustrated. I hate my job. I hate that the recession and the resulting lack of jobs means the job I hate is the only thing we have to pay the bills and not go hungry. I hate being broke while we finish grad school. I hate that we can't afford to live in a building with air conditioning, or at the very least even scrounge up enough to get one of those cheap floor models to stick in the bedroom. Something.
I especially hate the furious clicking that emanates from the back room every time a rejection letter arrives in the mail, the slumped shoulders, the dejected "what am I doing wrong?" Nothing, I say, you just haven't found the right person yet, but it falls on deaf ears as the fingers are already clacking, editing, refining, changing perspectives and narratives and plot in an attempt to find that magic formula that will make an agent finally say "yes." Today had brought two of those rejection letters; he was obsessing over what to change before he'd even gotten out of the elevator. That alone made me want to cry.
But at this moment, what I hate more than anything else, the reason I'm on the floor digging my nails in the cheap carpet and staring at the nubs in the ceiling while the eight-dollar window fan tries to suck some cool night air into the baking room, is the email that's still displayed on the ancient laptop above my head. Weeks before, I had written to a number of small publishers with a simple request: I was looking at making a move to publishing, and had some experience as a reader and editor already, but wanted to expand on those skills. My dream was to dually work with a publication like mental_floss (indeed, what little extra cash we do scrounge is spent on maintaining my subscription and collecting the books they release) and coach writers who had promise but weren't quite to the point of being ready to publish. I had the education, but the problem was showing the publication experience to make an editor even look at me. I was willing to work for free in exchange for the experience to help balance out my resume, and touted that in my pitch: whether it worked or didn't, it wouldn't cost the publishers anything except a recommendation if they liked my work. I just wanted the experience and the chance to help others out of those sweltering back rooms, blindly clacking away without any real idea of why their work didn't make the cut. I wanted to give feedback rather than form letters. I wanted to help them find that right person to see their work.
Article
The Accidental Podcaster: Pomp and Circumstance, Part 2
Aug 8th 2016
It is a June heat wave, a few years ago. The asphalt along Euclid baking and reflecting its warmth off the skyscrapers and office buildings of downtown Cleveland. I am in a full skirt suit, stomping down East 17th under a muggy sun. I am hot. I am tired. I am stressed. And I am beside myself with fury as we maneuver around destruction work randomly chunking up or blocking the sidewalk. A mistake has been made. A vital piece of information about a student's needed accommodations were not relayed, and that paired with massive renovations at the venue meant I was the only person who knew how to navigate the student in the back way - through the crowd, out of the theatre, around the corner, down the street, and in through the delivery entrance. It didn't help that we are close to showtime and the radio at my waist constantly chirping to ask where I was keeps slowing us down. However, my job is to think on the fly and make things work, and that's what we're doing. I'm not even mad about that.
What has me hot is that this is the second time this same issue has taken place to the same student.
"I'm telling you, Miss D," I say as we skirt around another set of scaffolding, "this is not normal for us. At. All. And I'm very sorry this is the second time we haven't been ready for you."
Article
The Accidental Podcaster: Pomp and Circumstance, Part 1
Aug 2nd 2016
God damn my body hurts.
This weekend was the graduation ceremony for my campus' Class of 2016. This was my tenth ceremony, third as event chair, and it was a beautiful day. Seven and a half months of planning, continual controlled communication, and a seasoned crew of volunteers and performers make for a fairly easy run once we actually get to the event. The highlights for me were getting to see Miss D. hooded for her masters (the reason for that turned into an entire essay of its own, so look for that coming out next week), and being part of a conspiracy that saw one of our local students reunited with her son, who is an active duty member of the Army and whom she hadn't seen in two years. She had no idea he was there until she started to walk across the stage for her scroll, only to have this young man march out from the opposite wing in full uniform to meet her center stage while the rest of the house exploded in cheers.
Things like that are what help make the job worthwhile.
Article
The Accidental Podcaster: I Am a Motherf***ing Shark
Jul 26th 2016
Summer has always been my least favorite season. I hate being hot. I hate the earth being dry and cracked. I hate the grass turning brittle and brown. I hate the bugs. I especially hate the air being so humid that stepping out of my house smacks me with the instant sensation that I'm drowning - I get worse chest colds in July and August than hypochondriacs get in the middle of flu season. What I hate most, however, is that whiney, restless feeling that comes when I have tons of things to do but the heat makes me not want to do anything.
Going into last week's entry, I realized I was coming dangerously close to getting stuck in whine country sans any drinkable wine to put me in a better mood. Most people take these moments of self-enlightenment and put them to immediate use - take a walk, have a nap, binge watch TV shows until they're less grouchy. Which, side note, if you have not become addicted to AMC's Turn yet, stop everything and go Netflix it right now. Seriously. I'll wait.
.....
Article
The Accidental Podcaster: Back To (Digital) Basics
Jul 20th 2016
I hit a new achievement in my digital farming last night.
My careful return on investment analysis for my digital crops at the beginning of the digital season meant I brought in more than enough profits to hire someone to build me a digital barn and expand my animal stock with four young cows, which in honor of my colleagues at RCM I have named Cowyar, Baron Von Cowsu, Killer McCow, and CowCoCow. Once I have reached the level that allows expansion of my barn, I will add to my herd with Vampy Cowtaker, teh_leet_milker, and BioMooCowcamist (I did not follow similar naming conventions with my chickens, but do get a naughty chuckle every time I see the one I named MotherClucker running around). With the game's winter approaching, I will soon shift focus from crops to my new animals and working on the maple grove I've carved at the edge of my estate, which I have named the Alpine Retreat and rule with my digital cat, Hobbes (who loves me, unlike those snotty villagers in Pelican Town). All around us in our little corner of Stardew Valley is abundance and serenity.