Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Must ... Not...


Haiku2 for johnburridge
made more difficult
by the applause it seemed
like it was getting
Created by Grahame

Haiku2 for johnburridge
get to the kitchen
and start putting things away
happy thanksgiving
Created by Grahame
run... haiku...

Haiku2 for johnburridge
focused me on
positive things so i had
enough to fill two
Created by Grahame


Haiku2 for johnburridge
so i don't know
how much ice there is under
the snow time to do
Created by Grahame

again ...

Haiku2 for johnburridge
to see how they turn
out the trash and reset the
download history
Created by Grahame

Dreaming Story Plots

Woke up with a cool story idea from a dream. Critiquing the dream plot, I see that the party scene doesn't make much sense... I mean, if I were at a party and two sorceresses were magically duking it out on either side of a very long buffet table, I'd make sure there was some distance. I guess the hors d'oeuvres were really good, because people kept piling food onto their plates.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Happiness Posting

Over the last few days, Mary Robinette Kowal posted things that have made her happy. It focused me on positive things, so, I present my (public) version of my list:

  • Writing (and reading and performing) the Lumbering Holiday Tale (A Story for Wicked Aunts Uncles and Parents to read to children).
  • Having Smoked Salmon and Eggs for a birthday breakfast (prepared by Mark).
  • Being ceremoniously presented with a birthday gift while the opening cantata to Monteverde's Orphero played and Mark fanned me with a Cook's Illustrated magazine (yes, it was wrong to enjoy this so much, but it was only for a minute).
  • Having a few hours to wander through the library stacks and lingering in the 299 section and then the periodicals and then picking up a copy of Unholy Business.
  • Writing with the Oltions while Walter (not yet Wendy) Carlos' A Clockwork Orange soundtrack played (I need to get a copy of The Well Tempered Synthesizer).
  • Teaching my sister Pregnant Lady Judo to fend off strangers who wish to touch her womb (and otherwise channeling my hippy wise-womon by asking her questions from The New Our Bodies Ourselves -- pause to imagine us sipping mint tea and sharing a Red Tent Moment).
  • Receiving a copy of the 2004 Emergency Response Guidebook. This will allow me to play "Hazmat Bingo" on the road because, with it, I can read the four-digit code on the side of trucks and not only know what nasty chemical is inside, but how far away to get away from the truck if it's on its side engulfed in flames (did you know that for most radioactive loads, the first thing you want to do is put out a fire and then worry about any radiation?).
  • Discovering that I won the Dec 2008 Whidbey Student Choice Contest

I'm leaving out all the chocolate that came my way, but I want to assure everyone that I'm grateful (and it's going fast!).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

So, you're astrologers, are you? Well, what is he then?
What star sign is he?
Uh, Capricorn.
Uhh, Capricorn, eh? What are they like?
Ooh, but... he is the son of God, our Messiah.
King of the Jews.
And that's Capricorn, is it?
Uh, no, no, no. That's just him.

I need to get an English to Latin translation of "How can I love you if you won't do what I say?"

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Lumbering Holiday Tale

the year is cold and worn,
the sun appears in Capricorn.
Spinning planet circles sun.
Winter's season has begun.
Wind and rain and sometimes snow
make us wish for fire's glow.
We hope that it is not too late
to clean our house and decorate.

We scrub and rub until we're sore --
we must have cleaned an hour (or more) --
Then drive out in the morning light
to get a tree with dynamite!
We travel on a country road;
we've packed up an explosive load.

The farm
which sells folks Christmas trees
Charges us with extra fees:
We have to promise to be good
before we can blow up some wood.
The tree farmer is nice but stern
and tells us when it is our turn,
"Leave your driver's license, mate, or
we wont give you a detonator."

We leave our ID and depart.
Riding in a draft horse cart
The driver and the people with us
share their stories about Christmas.
This farm is better, we tell them,
than dealing with the BLM.
We're here! The horses stop and steam.
We've come upon a winter dream!

Firs and pine trees everywhere;
explosives scent the alpine air.
Rows of trees, and craters, too
(which indicate where trees once grew).
We sing songs with great aplomb,
like "We Three Kings" and "Tanen-bomb."
Here's a blue spruce -- it's too prickly;
there's a brown tree, kind of sickly.
Here's a doug fir -- way too droopy.
And madrone is much too loopy.
Here's a crater; there's a hole
where someone bagged their woodlot goal.
Will we find the perfect one?
Perhaps the good trees are all gone.
No tree to take back on our car?

Oh Horror!
And we'd come so far!

But wait! It's here! The perfect tree!
And it will blow up beautifully!
The dynamite goes 'neath the roots
(we relocate bugs, mice, and newts).
The blasting caps and wires are set.
This blast will be the best, I bet.

The final countdown has begun:

Six five
three two & one!
Blam! The tree is in the air;
its flaming roots are like a flare.
The pyrotechnics sure are bright
and brings to mind the fiery sight
Of birthday candles on a cake
(or poetry by William Blake).

Its impulse spent, it arcs to rest.
We're sure that this year's tree's the best.
The farmhands help to douse the fire
and wrap the tree in bailing wire.
The tree is measured and we pay
for our explosive, fun-filled day.

We drive back on the country road
glad to have our Christmas load;
But kind of sad, too, in a way --
we'd like to do this every day,
But we'll have to wait a year at least, or --
okay -- there's always eggs at Easter.


If this poem has offended
Then think on this -- And all is mended.
only trees which were molested:
paper where these words have guested.
The players are a poet's whim;
Likewise their actions here within.

Real fools and louts who sin
real nitroglycerin
learn the lesson far too late --
After they disintegrate --
That high explosives' power unfurl'd
Can erase us from this world.

My tale's a Christmas fantasy:
Do not harm trees with TNT --
Unless your antics are confined
Within the borders of your mind.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Late December Photos

The snow has all turned to rain. It's less pretty, but it does make for easier traveling. It's looking like we'll have a green (and brown) Christmas... although it's possible that my birthday will be white.

It was just a little above freezing when I took this photo. It's a lavender plant, and what was crazy was that when I took the photo, the sharpest scent of lavender rose from the plant. Most other outside smells (the earth, the grass, the pavement) were still frozen, so I had the curious sensation of smelling lavender as if it were wintergreen.

We're about forty miles away from the forty-fifth parallel, so this time of year the sun only gets around twenty degrees up in the sky. The weeks around the Winter Solstice are the best time (if the sun comes out) to take photos because most of the day has "magic light."

The snowy blossoms
Fill my heart with thankfulness
That I'm not a tree.

Another obligatory Sphinx in the Snow photograph. We really need to get her a grotto... and I'm trying to think of ways that we could incorporate a home for her in the labyrinth I'm thinking of creating around the cherry tree.

Happy Solstice!

The noon-time sun is over the tropic of Capricorn, so it's official: winter is here. May the Winter Solstice bring you gifts of reflection, maintenance and renewal.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Weather Report

The rain turned into snow yesterday afternoon around 6. We got about an inch of snow last night. Haven't been out to shovel the sidewalks yet, so I don't know how much ice there is under the snow.

Time to fire up the camera for icy tree shots!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Wordos Holiday Reading Party

Photo credit: Leslie Wolf. Thanks!

No Freeze Yet

No Ice-capades Yet. I was sort of hoping that we'd wake up and everything would be covered with a layer of snow and ice because it looks pretty; but I'm glad that nobody has to drive in a frictionless condition. It did snow briefly around noon today, but then went back to mostly rain. Supposedly all the rain that's been falling is going to freeze solid this afternoon around 4.

Last night we had a "no power" drill. We turned off all the lights and the stereo, said "Oh no! The Power's Gone Out!", wandered around the house with flashlights, lit candles in the fireplace, and ate the emergency dessert rations (shortbread stars dipped in dark chocolate).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Carols and Weather Report

One thing I forgot to mention about the Wordos Reading last night: carols! We managed to get enough people together after all the grim holiday stories to be able to sing a few old carols. This is harder than it sounds because, as someone once commented, Wordos is one of the few groups that can provide technical critique on short stories involving Tarot cards and their usage, but gets totally confused by phrases like "washed in the blood" (we thought it was some kind of vampire story).

The carols were lots of fun. I got to sing the bass part.

In terms of weather, everyone is bracing themselves. So far the main streets are kind of dry, and there's some snow melting... but the skies are showing dark signs of precipitating something with a low coefficient of friction. (Ooops! Just checked the window -- it's started snowing. Off to cover the car! Ooops -- it just stopped. Here we go!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let's Talk About the Weather

Whew! More "wintery weather" is heading our way. This morning when I got into the car there was a little bit of snow on the floor and there was ice on the inside of the windows. Driving was particularly interesting; luckily, I still retain the winter driving skills I picked up living in Minnesota. I slipped a few times, mostly where the sun had only been shining on part of a road, creating a layer of water on top of the icy pavement. But it wasn't anything that driving at about 15 MPH couldn't fix. Okay, and slowing down about a half-block away from stop signs. And driving in low gears. With front-wheel drive.

But other than that it was fine.

We've been stocking up on things; Mark even arranged for firewood in case we lose electricity (we have electric baseboard heat). Wednesday's supposed to be a mix of rain, snow, sleet and other things that show up in the postal carrier's oath. I suppose the cold is good for killing bugs, and the snow is good for the snow pack -- but we usually don't get the combination of cold and participation at the same time.

So far it's been fun. I made snow pryamids on either side of our driveway -- it should be fun to see how they turn out in the next twenty-four hours. In the back I made a snow-lantern (take an artistically sculpted pile of snow and stick a lit taper into it; perfect for those Winter dinners at a yard side table) and of course took obligatory pictures of the Sphinx covered in snow.

In writing news, tonight was the annual Wordos Winter Holiday Reading. Despite the icy roads we had a pretty good turn-out. The theme was Secret Santa (with $%@* Christmas a strong secondary theme). Somehow, I managed to do both; judging by the applause it seemed the story was well received.

The Wordos are also doing an experiment -- we're all writing versions the same story (same setting, characters and problem) and then we'll critique them. It's an interesting exercise in writing to an outline, which I always find difficult. At first I wasn't enjoying the writing, but then I got into it. Writing the story was made more difficult by the iMac crash -- which resulted in half the story being on one computer and half on another.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Don't Drive!

We have snow! About three inches. This is enough to close the local school districts. Willamette Valley drivers will now spontaneously perform looop-de-loops as the snow purges any knowledge and experience with Newtonian Physics from their minds.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wintery Tree Killing

We went to a tree farm to murder a tree for the holidays. I still have ambivalent feelings toward Christmas trees. On the plus side: the scent of a tree in the house, the fun of decorating the tree with friends and family, the shiny bits, the memories of childhood trees, not to mention listening to The Nutcracker and imagining the tree getting bigger and bigger ... but, on the other hand, it's still killing a tree for decorative purposes.

I suppose if we were eating the tree and using the needles to craft our clothing... or if the tree were a potted tree I'd feel better about it. Unfortunately, our track record with potted trees isn't much better than with the ones we dispatch quickly.

The day was pretty mutable. Sunny and about 40 one moment and then rainy and about 35 the next. To get to the trees one could ride a horse-drawn cart. The horses were Percheron draft horses named Ruby and Ted. Ruby was 20 years old and Ted was her 10 year old son.

Mark's family's tradition is to decorate the tree on December 24. Since this is my birthday, we will decorate a few days earlier. In the mean time, the tree is in a stand making the house smell nice.

We've got a lot of stain glass decorations up (Mark's family makes them). I think my favorite is a large snow flake made out of beveled glass tiles. I think Mark's is a stocking made with vivid red glass.


Winter has hit the valley. We had snow showers this morning (and snow mixed with rain this afternoon). About 500 feet above us the trees are white.

It was a perfect day to chop down a tree for the holidays.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Up And Running (Sort of)

Well... the iMac is back.  I'm slightly irritated because it's come back with a Safari problem.  Before I took it into the shop on the 3rd for a power supply problem (which I pretty much diagnosed for them), Safari worked really well.  Now, Safari runs about 90 seconds before crashing.  Grrr.  

I called the shop to see if they had installed any hardware diagnostic software.  They said they hadn't until I told them that the iStat Pro widget had been installed Dec 9.  (Ooops -- if you're going to tell the customer you haven't installed anything, it's a good idea to empty out the trash and reset the download history first.)

Anyway, they suggested going in and resetting my Safari library files... which hasn't worked.  The weird thing is that Safari seems to work in the Admin account (not mine).   At least replacing the faulty power supply seems to have fixed the problem.

While I was without e-mail I received a cluster of e-mail rejections.... most of which were very nice, "we'd really like to buy this, and we're sorry but we're not going to" kind.  I did receive some feedback for two stories -- something most editors don't have the time to do, so that was good.    As Mark says, "you're getting closer."  


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Computer Blues

Arg. Still no computer. Apparently, the replacement parts for it were ordered today. It's looking like steady internet access will be a fantasy until something like December 15.

In the week that I've been away from my e-mail, I've recieved two rejections.

Oh well, at least we're having a lot of quality family time at the house.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

iMac Blues

There's an intermittent power supply problem with the iMac -- I get about 20 minutes use out of it and then it shuts down. Apparently this is a power supply / video problem with iMacs, so I'm hopeful it will be a quick (and free) fix. We'll see. I've run out of quick tricks to fix the problem, so it's not the PRAM, a dead lithium battery, or any of the hardware tested by the diagnostic package that comes with the OS.


So much for writing. (Oh, I got two rejections.)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winter Icons

A few weeks ago, under the influence of several art deco books, I created a few designs that I though would be seasonal.   Here they are:

Winter Sun. I designed this first using a compass and then switched to a computer program.  

Snowflake 1.  This one sort of came to me in a dream.  Okay, and I'd been fiddling with the compass a little before I went to sleep.

Snowflake 2.  This is what happens when you can add "difference filters" 

Winter Moon.   I wanted something that implied the mutability of the moon without being too crescenty.  

I think we have our favorite in this house... but My Art Critic had some strong words to say.   So... It's a pole (see the box to the right)!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Old Photos

I was reading Mary's blog about how she visited the Cathedral at St John the Divine and it reminded me that I have a photo of a squirrel jumping into a hole in the gigantic bronze statue of St Michael slaying Satan (on top of a giant crab while giraffes are necking behind him).  (The contrast isn't so good in this photo, but if you look at about 10:30 from the tip of the crab's claw, you'll see the squirel's back legs and tail.)

I liked the columns at the front entrance, too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Too. Much. Stuffing.

The food I like the most at Thanksgiving is the stuffing.

This year we didn't eat Thanksgiving with our families, so we ate it with some friends instead.

I made the stuffing.  Now, I've never really watched my Mom make the stuffing.  While speaking with my sister over the phone, she opined that Mom fried bacon and added that to the mix... but I digress.  I flipped through the Joy of Cooking and found a recipe that had most of Mom's ingredients in it -- just one problem, it's not really a recipe so much as a list of things that one could put into a stuffing if one so desired; even the measurements are suggestions.  

The other thing:  not only do we live in the Coupled Lesbian Capitol of the World, and the Tie-Dye Capitol of the World, we also live in Oregon's Largest Vegetarian Enclave.   So, no turkey.  My work-around to not being able to mix in giblets and sew the stuffing into a neck cavity was to use boxed turkey gravy as a sauce.

So let's see... a loaf of bread, a bunch and a half of celery, two boxes of mushrooms, a onion, garlic, sage (and other random herbs because we were out of paprika), a package of cashews and more butter than I care to think about later and I've got a Very Large Bowel full of stuffing.  It looks like Mom's stuffing, but more importantly, it smells like Mom's stuffing.  

Lots of stuffing.  I was going to cook it in the Very Large Bowl, but Mark suggested that the manufacturer might not have had ovens in mind when they made it.   I had enough to fill two big casserole dishes.  

The dinner was lots of fun.  One of the female teens called into question the manliness of one of the male teens because he took the smallest portions possible -- "So," I asked her, smiling, "Are you saying that I'm more manly that he is?"  Since I was wearing what Mark calls my "Lesbian High Priestess" outfit (beige jacket with padded shoulders, purple iridescent scarf) she started to say yes, but then faltered.  

There were three carnivores at Thanksgiving.  One brought a chicken.  Not only did I eat way too much, but I've got a Large Deep Dish of Stuffing living, untouched, in our fridge.   Oh, and dirty dishes in the sink; which means I have to waddle to the kitchen and start putting things away.

Happy Thanksgiving

Got a five-day e-mail short story rejection. Off to make stuffing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Papier Mâché Fish

I've always been impressed with the craft of Mary Robinette Kowal, so after she posted a papier mâché tutorial,  I knew that I had to try to make some fish.

I used scissors to freehand cut out fish shapes out of an old cereal box (I get more milage out of those boxes).  These were about nine inches by four inches.  I had a vague notion that it would be fun to hang a school of them from the ceiling (which is sort of passe when one lives in the Pacific Northwest, but it does look cool).

I found an old paper bag -- this was slightly harder than I thought it would be because we have about eight fabric bags we go shopping with.  I also dragged out about four reams worth of printer paper that had been printed on both sides with short story rough drafts.  A helper and I ripped them into strips about an inch by six inches.  

Then dinner happened.  One thing sort of lead to another, and now that I'm actually re-reading Mary's tutorial, the only instructions I followed was use to whole wheat flour and paper bags.  (There was post-dinner hot chocolate involved, so I was busy with a whisk, a double-boiler, and a hot stovetop when the rest of my family decided to start.)

Somehow the cardboard fish were dumped into a pretty wet mixture of flour (with maybe some salt and no paste -- I wasn't in the room to see the actual mixing process).  Mark decided he wanted his fish to curl around.  So here's a picture of his.  Mary suggests using a painting tin, as you can see, we used a Very Large Mixing Bowl.

For my fish, I applied a base of the paper bag strips along the belly of the fish to try to give it some depth.  At the time it seemed like it was getting pretty thick, but I think that was wishful thinking because I wanted to be through dodging the papier mâché  being splattered around the room (no, the large drop cloth we'd put down wasn't big enough, and I'm still finding odd blobs of the stuff on the floors and used mugs of hot chocolate).

We avoided a Tasmanian Devil moment with the craft materials and put the fish out in the garage to dry.  That was last night.  This afternoon they're still kind of wet and pliable (it's Thanksgiving time in Oregon, so the sun puts in about a half-hour's worth of time).  

I can't help but look at the random words from a short story on my fish and remember the words of Eric Witchey, who, when using a fish metaphor for selling short stories, said, "Even a dead fish will float down stream."  

I'm pretty sure this fish will be a prototype, and the next batch I might try using two cardboard cutouts to get a jump on the three-dimensionality.  

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Story Marketing and Harping

Been marketing.  The PHP scripts are helpful -- I'm finding the suggestion lists they generate very useful -- although they make me feel a little draconian in terms of looking at markets simply for their pay rates.  Oh well... at least I managed to send out two stories to postal-only markets.  

I'm playing harp this Sunday evening for a kind of advent labyrinth walk at the UU church.  This means I've been practicing a lot, since I have to provide about a half-hour's worth of music while people walk a labyrinth of evergreen boughs and light candles.   It's times like this when I realize that all of the music I know (or at least can play on the harp) is divided into two groups:  music that has a C-F-G-C chord progression and music that has an Aminor-C-G chord progression.

I think the only exceptions are "We Three Kings" and "Diamonds Are Forever."  

Anyway, I have to make a play list so that there aren't too many lurches in song style.

Colds and Discoveries

I have a cold; not too bad -- mostly I'm only congested in the morning (and tired, and sore). On the bright side, at least this year I haven't gone to OryCon and turned the cold into something much worse.

Yesterday I went to a bat mitzvah. I had two of those ah-ha moments as I was following along with the transliterated Hebrew. One was that I really enjoy the translated, transliterated, and annotated prayer books and I wish that Neo-Pagans had some (this is usually in conjunction with wishing Neo-Pagan chants were more musically complex than "Three Blind Mice").

The only bits I recognized were from Dion Fortune's "The Mystical Qabalah," and -- I guess some of this comes from reading an excerpted chapter from Cynthia Eller's "Living in the Lap of the Goddess," -- I was really struck by how the vocabulary of the occult system underpinning a lot of Western European Neo-Paganism is appropriated from Hebrew prayer. Hearing the worshipers in the synagogue reminded me that "Chokmah" isn't just a little symbolic circle on a symbolic pillar -- it's also the divine gift of wisdom granted by God.

Looks like I have some housekeeping to do...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dream Saxophone

Lots of long dreams lately.  

Probably the coolest image lately was of a kind of saxophone.  It was very large, and not only could you play it with your hands, it had pedals for your feet connected to articulated sticks so you could play the bowl of the horn (sort of like a cross between playing pots and pans and a steel drum).  

Yes, I've been exposed to a lot of Dr. Suess lately.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Silver Balls

The other night we went window shopping.  It's been a while since I got to look at all the shiny things.  In one store there were a bunch of fist-sized silver balls.  I couldn't tell if they were made of glass, ceramic, or some kind of metal -- unfortunately the cashiers couldn't figure it out either.  

They reminded me of the gazing globe from long ago, and I thought how much fun it would be to hang a few from the cherry tree out back.   Not to mention, since I was wearing my cloak, holding two of them in my hands made me look two-thirds of the way to Jereth The Goblin King (or maybe his woodsy older brother).

But they were made in China, so who knows what nasty chemicals lurk inside.  Mark suggested that I lick one to see if it was sweet (from lead) or not, but I declined.  

I did remind him that I thought it would be fun to have a surgical stainless steel obelisk, ala David Harber, in the backyard.   That prompted the speech about when I'm a writer who makes money I can afford a little writers' colony (with gardening staff).

I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Notes and Dreams

Well... Let's see.

I think the dark is affecting me.  Either than or kicking the Pepsi habit from 24 fluid ounces a day to 12 every other day is.  

In the writing department:  I got another rejection.  It was a very nice form letter, obviously from a stack of form letters, that said, "Gee; we know you writers work really hard, but we don't have the time to do more than send you this really nice rejection letter."  I had to write the date and the name of the piece on it for my records.  Of all but one of the stories that I sent out at the beginning of last October, none of them sold (the final one is at a market that has a six month turn around time).  

In the house department:  I managed to prime and get a first coat of new paint over the strip of water blistered paint that Mark noticed last week.  Just in time:  the winter rains have begun and it's likely that they won't stop until February or April (OK, that's not quite true, but sometimes it seems like it).  So hurray!  The house is more or less the color it should be in the front.

In the dream department:  I had a very long convoluted dream.  The main conflict was that I was on a boat along with another guy who was somehow a college friend.  The boat was hijacked by a twenty-something girl and taken to a secret river harbor.   There was lots of flying, and an art show, and at one point the boat (a large yacht) turned out to be an inflatable boat with a hole in it.

The other main part of the dream was trying to recall an e-mail posting I'd made to a mail group which involved instructions (with illustrations) of how to make a suspended table in the silhouette of a person -- the joints were joined by chain links.  So the the table (or shelf) was like a shadow puppet, only horizontal instead of vertical.    And at the same time the table was an essay.  And I couldn't remember exactly what I'd called it and I was trying to remember when I'd e-mailed it.  I spent a long time in a kind of dream-fugue trying to recall the steps of the argument in the essay so I could remember the e-mail's title.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sigh. Computer Problems

The iMac is overheating or something. Unfortunately, zapping the PRAM and the SMU and blowing out all the dust doesn't seem to be fixing the problem -- which is about five hours of use causes a little electric sounding ZZZZT, the screen to go black, and the fans to rev up like a jet engine's.

The latest crash happened in the middle of e-mailing a story submission. Grrrr.

Another Rejection

Sigh. Got a very nice, "close but no cigar" rejection today. That makes three rejections this week (and one of those was in a record 50 minutes). Time to edit, send out more, and eat some chocolate. (I'm starting with the chocolate.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's a Sign

Hmmm. In a twenty minute period I've read Mary's latest blog entry, and someone forwarded me this excerpt.

I think the universe is telling me to work harder.   (Or possibly that I should have been born in 1955.)


Scene:  The kitchen.  I've just explained that I've received a rejection and I spent the morning reading the market to try to figure out what the editors want.

Mark:  "You always say that writers shouldn't try to figure out what editors like.  If they are always rejecting stories you think they'll like, maybe you should send them stories you think they won't like."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Remembrances from Apr 1997

Corvallis.  Sat, 5 Apr 1997 

My Dippy-Hippy self demanded that I nap in the circle in the sun and wait for visions. Since I'm lucky enough to have a circle of bricks a stone's throw from the house, complete with an outer circle of trees and next to a river, this impulse took on the nature of a Moral Imperative.

It was a beautiful day: sunny, but not too warm, with an occasional breeze to remind you that the Spring Equinox had just been last week.  And it was a Saturday, too.

My harp was set in the shade of one of the trees. The wind blew through the harpstrings, producing an otherworldly sound. I spread out a blanket upon the long grass, wrapped myself in my cloak (don't want to prematurely age my skin in the sun), and lay on the green sward. In the darkness of the hood, beneath the shadows of my eyelids, I waited.

The harp hummed under the unseen fingers of the blowing wind. I was drifting in the wood between the worlds; there was a woman in green walking towards me. She looked up and began to speak and -- a really loud airplane flew overhead.

The red-black screen of my eyelids shifted, resolved. There were snow-capped mountains Suddenly, I was seeing them through a stone doorway. The stone lintel of the portal was made elegant by simple straight lines carved along the edges. Wide stone pillars held up the roof over the door; it was a colonnade surrounding a courtyard which I had just entered.

Guards and yeomen, wrapped in bands of cloth reminiscent of something Asian, clustered in small groups about the courtyard. I walked towards the temple priests and -- AN ANT WALKED ACROSS MY THROAT.

Shaking the ant out of my cloak I relaxed once again.  It was no use, the sun was beating down on my cloak, turning it into a sauna, and more ants began to walk across my arms, feet and face. Unlike Starhawk, I was unable to eroticise this experience. I sprang up, and made ready my preparations.

Moments later, I began in the North (because Danger Always Comes From A Cardinal Direction), and started circling widdershins.

The voices of animals long dead roared out as the lawnmower blades cut back the grass and scattered the ants.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Funny Things

These nothing like a roomful of Unitarians with karaoke equipment to put a smile on my face.  Yes, we sang, "Blowing in the Wind."  Yes, small children sang "American Pie."  Yes, I sang, "Diamonds Are Forever."  

And yes, I did belly dance during my rendition of They Might Be Giant's "Istanbul (not Constantinople)."

But, no, I did not sing "Missionary Man," but I could have.  And no, I didn't have the best voice in the room -- it was some 20-year old with a scratchy alternate rock voice.

In the "Heard Today Department"

My dad: "... and if we die you guys will get to clean out the house, mwah-ha-ha-ha!"

Suddenly, where I got my sense of humor seems much more clear.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Doesn't Everyone Know What Dolmen Means?

Just back from the Wordos.   

The first story confused the hell out of everyone.   Sigh.  This hasn't happened for a while.  I guess I got so into the story that I forgot to adequately translate it for 21st century readers (the story was set in paleolithic times).  I and my characters knew what they were doing and why, but not my readers.  (Although the person who seemed to be the most confused by the story was the person who figured out what was happening.)

Someone said that the story felt like a translation from another language -- which was good; the story was told from a 20 C BCE tribal person's point of view.   And I guess I was so casual about the fuzzy boundaries between this life and the afterlife that it killed any tension about dying.... And no one knew what a dolmen was; I thought "dolmen" was in most fantasy readers' lexicons -- but I guess that's only if they also read a lot of archeology and Neo-Pagan paleolithic history.  (It's a stone with a hole in it or a stone arch or gateway -- like what they have at Stonehenge.)

Oh well.  On the brighter side, my surreal story was more positively received.  I think I mananged to channel my inner Ray Vukcevich (probably a more manic Ray than the real Mr. Vukcevich, but still a successful channeling). The folks who recognized it was a slipstream story enjoyed it a lot.  The folks who read it as a more "mainstream" fantasy story got frustrated with the narrator's logic (and they were more likely to find the more confusing plot elements).

Oddly, although the first story is more Burridge-esque,  the second story, which is more Vukcevich-esque,  will be easier to fix.

It's Raining, It's Pouring

I've been feeling a little bleah the last few days -- I'm not sure if it's from the change in light or from my flu shot.   Chocolate and hot tea help; and in a OMG-why-isn't-this-woman-exhausted way, so does the blog of Mary Robinette Kowal.

In house news:  painted the rain gutters.  Now we have to re-attach them (just in time for the two inches of rain forecast for the next twenty-four hours).

In writing news:  Got a form rejection last week.  I need to sit down and send more stories out via USP.   It would be nice to sell something.  

I've been working on a Wordos experiement; it's hard -- it's a short story with a very specific outline.  I suppose it's building character, and I have to work myself up to work on the story.  

Last week I completed two flash fiction pieces; they're going to Wordos for critique tonight.  One is grim, the other one's fluffy and kooky; we'll see which one (if any) the Wordos like.  

Monday, November 10, 2008

Old Dayhist Dream

I was flipping through some old files and I found this dream from March of 2002. Apparently, I had a cold and took some Dayhist before going to sleep, because this dream is extra wacky, even for me...

I was in a cave with a river flowing through it. It was the cave of unborn souls. A voice said, "You can choose to be reborn, but it will not be easy, for you must plunge through the waterfall of rebirth." The whole sequence had a kind of Native American feel to it.

Someone else was there, and he said, "I will go with you through the waterfall." So we both jumped into the river and went over the edge of the waterfall. (In typing this, I'm having flashbacks to Marshal, Will and Holly falling to The Land of the Lost.)

As we were in the river, falling, I could hear some rhythmic drumbeats. The waterfall was like a tunnel we were travelling through. "The otters are drumming us along our way," said the person with me.

"Wow," I thought, "it's like the beating of a mother's heart as a child goes down the birth canal... or the rhythm of two lovers..."

"Or me jumping on a bed!" said Joey from Friends. Suddenly the entire cast of Friends was riding on a huge log that was floating down a busy New York street. There was no water, no river, just a log floating about eight feet off the ground as if it were in water. I was hanging onto the roots as the six of us floated down Manhatten. We were on some sort of travel through time.

"Oh look," said Rachel, "there's the old apartment building where we were first roommates!"

...and the dream went on to other things....

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Numinous Moments

Yesterday we went on a hike about forty miles west of Eugene. The drive is mostly pretty, as the road parallels a local reservoir. It was raining off and on, but at one point the sun came out enough to provide a wonderful moment. Pine and cedar trees surrounded us as we stood upon the sloping bath. Across the wide still river the climbing hills were crowned with more evergreen. Mist obscured the vanishing point; each receding curtain of trees growing less and less distinct.  Silvered rain fell out of a pearl sky. Beside us, the trunks of the trees wove a tapestry of shadow and limned leaves.

It was a numinous moment and I didn't have a digital camera.

A few moments later the 3 PM afternoon became as dark as twilight as the rain clouds thickened.

So welcome November. Even if today I -- despite two cups of tea and another of hot chocolate -- wanted to hibernate.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Rain and Paint

Tomorrow we get to paint the rain gutter drains we took down to paint.  The rains have come, so rain's been spattering next to our foundations.  Probably a Bad Thing in the long run.   I'd rather see the simulcast of Dr. Atomic.  Oh well, I guess that's the price of home ownership.

This has been a tiring week; I was speaking with my sister and I think she summed it up:  Halloween, the elections and the time zone change all happened at once.

In writing news, while I was in the shower, the ending to a short story I'd been tinkering with presented itself.  I managed to jot it down before breakfast and then massage it into the story later.  

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


 Last night folks were setting off fireworks -- presumably they were happy with the Presidential election results.  I think many (but not all) people in Eugene were singing versions of "Ding Dong The Witch is Dead."  It will still be a while before we know who our mayor is; last time I checked, the candidate I wanted to win was ahead by about 500 votes.  Likewise, we're not yet sure who Oregon voted into the senate.

I'm cautiously optimistic about President Elect Obama.  I remember Bill Clinton not delivering on "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and going ahead with NAFTA.  And Mark likes to point out that Obama's good at getting elected, which is about all we really know about him.   In my mind, at the very least Mr. Obama will appoint Supreme Court Justices more in line with my political and cultural views.  

In the writing department:  Got another rejection today -- this one looked like a form rejection... but it also looked hand-typed.  Oh well; at least it frees up the market for another story.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Back Flap Shot?

A friend of mine took this photo last Tuesday at the Halloween Reading. To quote Londo Mollari, "Everybody's cute. Even me. But in purple, I'm stunning."



Last week was extra spacey -- I managed to forget my cell phone and wallet in Corvallis Thursday and had to drive back to retrieve them. I think I must have been pondering if I should be a UU Worship Associate very heavily. In the end I decided that it wasn't the right time to go down that path. It was hard, because I really like some sort of group; but helping out with a Protestant liturgy ultimately wasn't going to feed my Neo-Pagan soul.

We got many more trick-or-treaters this year. The signal in our neighborhood is to keep your porch light on (last year we had lots of pumpkins lit, but no porch light). Mark got a bunch of glow-sticks, which were a big hit with the kids.

The rains have returned. I'm hoping that it fixes the ground underneath our house so that the door between the kitchen and the garage goes back into alignment. Of course, it's kind of grey now, and I could feel the dopamine transmitters in my brain turning off. Or something. Looks like it's time to break out the halogen lamp and stare into it for the next six months.

Had a fun weekend with the family on the train. It's more expensive than driving, but more relaxing. Mark found a good deal, so it wasn't quite as expensive as it might have been. Our Thanksgiving Fantasy is to rent a Silver Slipper and have it do a round-trip up and down the Willamette Valley collecting relatives so no-one has to travel far for Thanksgiving Dinner.

In the writing department: Got two rejections; on presumed one on Halloween and a nice "please send us more" rejection on All Souls' Day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wordos Halloween Reading

Last night was the Wordos Halloween Reading -- instead of a regular critique night we read 1000 word (or less) stories. The theme for the reading was "dearly departed." Man, was it grim. I think with a few exceptions, everyone had their characters' family members killed off. Somehow, I managed to write two stories -- one was funny and the other was -- er, Tanith Lee-esque. I was going to flip a coin to see which one I'd read, but by the time it was my turn there'd been a lot of grim stories. So I went for funny. I'm thinking the grim one will go to Whidbey (it's under the word count limit).

At the end of the reading we decided the unofficial theme for next year is "fuzzy bunnies and the elves who love them." (Yes, within ten seconds one end of the table had already outlined a crucified fuzzy bunny Easter story.)

This morning was a crazy day. I don't know where my keys are; after searching the house for about twenty minutes, I finally broke down and got my alternate keys. Sometimes when I've been wearing different jackets, my keys end up in a seldom-used pocket... but I went through four jacktets and I still couldn't find them.

Oh well. I think it was a kind of object lesson in remaining calm instead of getting more and more frustrated -- although I was a little late getting to my first appointment, in the end it didn't matter and I got where I needed to more or less on time as the day went on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pre-Halloween Musings

On the house front:

Mark was inspired to paint the trim around the front windows and door. Our friend George said our house looks, "Artsy-fartsy."

On the spiritual front:

I'm wrestling with if I should become a UU worship associate. There's pros and cons.

On the writing front:

The PHP scripts that I use to track markets and stories is working nicely in terms of helping me rank which story to send to which market; it's a little clunky, but that's kind of okay because it makes me actually think about what I'm doing.

However... it's not foolproof. I typed in the wrong word count limit for a market and managed to send a story that was too big to a market (I got a form rejection).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rejection Time Warp

New record.  I submitted a story (the traffic one) to a market and got it rejected in three hours.  Any faster and I would have thought I was in some kind of time warp.  

Oh well. 

In related news, I'm having problems with the 'mktime' function in PHP, because it only returns today's date or the beginning of the epoch (Jan 31, 1969).  It would be nice if it computed dates for data that I gave it, because then I could clear out the markets that are closed until such-and-such a date from my market suggestion lists.   

At first I thought it might be a problem in my markets array, and I tried tweaking the closure date with the 'trim' and 'settype' functions to make sure that I was passing a correctly formatted data point to the 'mktime' functions.  

It's one of those finesse things -- I can just keep track of when a market will open up manually.  But it would be nice to have the software have markets pop up only when they're accepting manuscripts.  

Uhhg... the iPod has just recycled for about the fifth time, and I'm carefully not looking at what time it is.  If only I could time warp my sleep...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Painting and PHP

Finished the east side of the house.  Hooray, now all the walls (mostly) have a double coat of paint and the cedar shakes wont rot out.  We still have to do the window trim and the drain pipes.

I managed to finish re-vamping the stories-in-the-mail tracking software.  The new code tracks market payment more precisely and figures out a story's approximate market value . . . which is useful from a craft standpoint because the software suggests that I might want to trim stories down to the 5000 word size.  It's also humbling; I mean, if I were an editor and I had to choose, would I shell out $500 for a 5000 word story from me or from Ursula K Le Guin?  

Anyway, the software is a guide for where to send stories so I don't waste an afternoon trying to decide where to send something.  It's also a back-up system for Duotrope.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Writing News

Got a rejection; it was nice and the editor encouraged me to submit more material.

Been working on the story tracking PHP software; the old program is great, but it needed some tweaking so it could respond to markets with non-linear pay scales.

Did some minor post-critique work on the traffic story. It's ready and I hope to send it soon.

Tomorrow is supposed to be nice; so I'll probably be painting the house.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Our Story So Far...

I figured out some plausible rubber science for the traffic story and I worked it in this afternoon. It's rough, and I'll see if the parts I worked on still make sense tomorrow. I need to check a few other things in the manuscript, polish it up, and hope to start it up on the send-reject-resend cycle; hopefully by this Thursday or Friday.

Now that Mark is back, there's been some re-alignment of The Great Garage Clear-out. Most notable was the space in front of he lateral files. Some ladders and other stuff got placed in front of the files; after I moved the ladders to a new (and hopefully acceptable) place, I put blue tape on the ground to outline how far out the file drawers pull out. I think that will keep the area in front of them clear.  I'm hopeful that the new arrangement in general will keep our garage a more usable space. . . . and yes, I have a lot of useless garbage that needs to be sifted through for the good stuff and then thrown out.


Bad Hair Day

Bad hair! No biscuit!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Rubber Physics

Just finished skimming "Traffic.  Why We Drive the Way We Do" by Tom Vanderbilt.  I was hoping that it would solve a technical problem in one of my short stories, but it didn't.  Or at least the parts I went through didn't.

So now I'm left to my own devices about what to do with the story, which is about traffic, and which (according to two engineers at the Wordos critique table) has a fundamental flaw in its understanding of how traffic works (they weren't quite pounding the table and chanting "Ringworld isn't stable!" but it was close).   

Maybe I can have one of my North American circa 2009 characters invoke "graviton waves."  

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Tales End

Tales in the Mail is done. 

7 stories total:  2 science fiction stories; 2 fantasy stories; 3 essay or other stories.

Markets:  1 to Asimov's; 1 to Analog; 1 to Whidbey; 1 to F&SF; 1 to The Sun; and 2 to other markets.

One of Nina's stories goes into the post. Various electronic submissions and brings the story count to six.

Story Four

Nina just showed up with her LaserJet.

Let The Mailing Begin

Three manuscripts in the mail!

Loud Idiots With Cars

I don't know what was going on last night. Starting at midnight loud people parked in front of our house. I think it must have been the party shuttle because they left and came back at least once. Then someone in a monster truck pulled up around 2:30. Thinking that I could get some sleep after 3 AM, I awoke at 6 AM to a brown minivan blaring a news show.

Sheesh. If you'r going to be that loud I want to here a shriek of, "I am so drunk!"

Today is Tales in the Mail -- so I need to de-clutter the house.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Printing Day

Spent most of the day printing stories to send to postal-only markets.

And folding laundry.

And washing dishes.

Laundry Day

This morning is especially domestic. I found my winter scarf, so of course I had to take a picture of it.

I found a recording of Clara Rockmore playing "The Swan" by Saint Saens, on the theremin. Watching her hands as she plays (wearing a kind of purple turban, too) is wonderful, and she makes the theremin sound like an analog cello. As she played, I realized I'd found a new goddess, and I lamented that, as far as i knew, she had not done any collaborations with Laurie Anderson.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Writing Progress

Managed to pound out a 1100 word essay.  

Looked harder at the markets today to prep for Tales in the Mail on Saturday.   Tales in the Mail is when a bunch of Wordos gather for the sole purpose of mailing out manuscripts.  Four of the top markets are currently closed for submission; luckily the mainstays are still accepting  -- but they require paper submissions (so tomorrow is a printing day).   Other markets that accept electronic submission have allowed me to boot my number of manuscripts in the mail to barely acceptable -- I need to keep those numbers up.

The writing sabbatical is almost over.  It's been a real learning experience.  Although I know that I'll be focusing my effort in other places, I'm hoping that I can keep my writing road map clear in my head so that I use time effectively when I have it.  

Had fun this evening; I won some tickets for a Beethoven piano recital at Baell Hall on the U of O campus.  It was really good -- the piano sounded almost like a cross between a harpsichord and tubular bells in some places.  My Dad came down and he enjoyed the concert as well.  


Day seven: the last of the Pepsi cans has run dry.  I have no porters to send for more supplies.

It's raining... no, wait, the sun is out.  Nope.  It's raining.

Managed a lot of dialog on the serious Mars story; edited the not-serious Mars story.

Muriel continues to be an irritant.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Must Keep Writing...

Sent out a story a little early today.  Also printed out a short story for Wordos instant-critique.    The 500 words that popped out earlier today is interesting, but it's got a grim feeling to it.  

After Wordos there was a good discussion about meaning of what writers write.  "The meaning" is a poetic term, somewhere between "heart" in movies and "moral" in fables, which I think not only applies to the written words we produce, but also what the act of writing means to our lives as writers.  I guess it's time to look up an old essay by John Chiardi, "How Does a Poem Mean?"  

There was also some discussion about Golden Ages and their helpful and baneful aspects.  One helpful thing that I got from the discussion is the concept that while a Golden Age can straightjacket people into restrictive roles, the story of a Golden Age can be a statement of a community's values.   (This is what I get for reading Ronald Hutton, William Dever, and Cynthia Eller.)

Afterward, watched a video about robot-controlled cars racing through the desert; I'm hopeful that some ideas for the Mars story I'm trying to write will come through.   There were some good character ideas from all the robot engineers as well.  

Must Sleep.


I've written about 500 words this morning. Kind of scattered right now -- I'm letting what wants to come out out.. but it's not the serious Mars story (well, at least not too much).

Muriel continues to express her little kitty needs loudly and often.

And thank goodness, the tea's come!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Today's Summary

  • Coils of Love (9900 words -- fantasy)
  • Corporate Samurai (6600 words -- fantasy)
  • Are We There Yet (900 words -- slipstream)
  • A Martian Tall Tale (800 words -- humor fantasy)
  • Anti-Logos (1900 words -- personal essay)
Samurai was e-mailed out to a market.  Coils' size may make it a difficult sell; market research tonight!  Are We There Yet I'm going to send out to a market that opens Wednesday.  The tall tale goes to Wordos for critique -- I think it's funny, but we'll see how badly it gets teared apart by the critique.  

My tea appears to be stranded in Hodgkins, IL; it's been there since the 25th, having started its journey from Stratford, CT on the 23rd.  

Two Manuscripts!

Well, OK... more like one and a half (I have to make the changes to one electronic version).

Murie continues to be an irritant.

Monday Writing

Manuscripts everywhere!

At least they're mostly filed now. It amazing what a bad filing system can do, but now at least everything is mostly consolidadetd -- I need to decide what to do with old critiques... they're sort of interesting but it's a little early to start a museum to critiquing.

I've run out of milk and O.J. -- so it's off to the store before writing.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I've Read About These Somewhere...

Our farmer delivered produced today. I should have reminded her that I'm sensitive to peppers and can't eat them. I managed to give a few away so they won't be wasted.

But there's still one problem; or rather two.

I recognize the eggplants, the tomatoes, the cabbages and broccoli.  But I don't know what one green leafy vegetable is -- I know it's not spinach, and I suspect it might be related to kale.

And I have no idea what the long white thing is. Last time I saw something like this I called it a white carrot (it was a turnip) and Mark's never let me forget it. So, it wants to be purple, like an eggplant, except that it's mostly white; and it's long, like a cucumber -- I think I'll call it an "albino eggumber."

If you can identify either of these mystery vegetables, let me know (and send a recipe).

Writing and Floss

Ah morning. I guess that I'm not much of a morning person. If I can set things up the previous day then I can glide through routines until I'm fully awake.

Last night I printed out my story marketing data so I have concrete goals for the next few days. Today is a backlog day -- there are several manuscripts that need minor tweaking so I can send them out.

Interesting dreams last night. I think my oral hygenist symbolized my anxiety about not "writing enough." OK, and I need to floss more.  Then there was the "returning to school" motif; when I tried to walk passed the art building my legs stopped working -- it was like walking through molasses.

I must not have been awake.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The serious manuscript became humorous -- as Mark often says, "I'm the funniest person I know."

More Writing


Getting ready for another day of writing looms ahead.

And I'm out of Ceylon tea (thank goodness for the UPS tracking site ... at least my tea has left New England and is somewhere in the midwest).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ash Friday

Ugh.  Well... I've got the beginnings of something.  

I once had a calligraphy instructor who told the story about a painter who painted and painted and burned her practice paintings.  She had a lot of ashes. . . which was good, because that meant she was doing a lot of painting.   I think she kept the ashes in a clear jar on a shelf somewhere.

So today is what I call an "ash day."   Except that I don't have ashes in a... glass... jar -- oh, wait; now that I think about it, we do have Pickles' ashes in a crystal jar in the garage loft (along with the unfiled John crap and seasonal decorations). 

Muriel continues to be an irritant.

Let the Typing Begin!

Must. Not. Stay. Up. Late.

A rocky start this morning -- I stumbled around this morning and didn't quite get to writing at the stroke of 9 AM. Slogged forward, reminding myself to type when I stopped, and slowly the setting for a story on Mars is taking shape.

My little break is almost over, more later.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Garage... continued

Wow, Mark. You're as right as right can be: there is a lot of my unfiled crap up in the garage loft.

Oh well, I think the art crap, camping crap, clothing crap, and cleaning crap is coming along.

I can see the floor anyway.

Writing. But first, cleaning

I've got the house to myself for the next nine days.

So today I'm cleaning the garage.

Oh. Right. The cat is reminding me that she's here, too.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Paint Break

Taking a quick break from house painting (for lunch).  I suppose that listening to Philip Glass's opera Appomattox on the radio while painting wasn't exactly the cheeriest of musical choices.

Oh well. I guess I'll have to get a copy of Akhnaten or something.

Back to the paint...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Footage from Shrewsbury Faire

Recovering from the Shrewsbury Faire.

I had a lot of fun singing with the Pearwood Pipers and playing the harp between gigs. Someone liked my harping so much that he offered to post me on YouTube; he turned out to be a friend of one of the Pearwoods.

The cool moments of the faire for me were walking to the privies at 4 AM in mist illuminated by the stars of Orion. Oh yeah, the full moon (nearly) was cool, too. There were a couple of faire guests who were simply thrilled to see a harper (especially when I managed to plink out the Harry Potter Theme for them -- OK, not quite period, but they were ten and decked-out from head to toe in Hogwarts-wear). There's also something to be said for singing madrigals with a choral of forty.

And at this year no one asked us who died as we danced the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. 

OK, yeah; and I sang The Shark Song for the participant talent show (always a big hit).

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bingo Bugs

One sunny day, the bugs assembled to vote. They were not much larger than a fingernail and yellow, like fireflies, only with hard wings, like ladybugs. They liked being tapped on their backs, which would make them arch and half-open their wings. They didn't flash when they were tapped, but instead gave a strong impression of purring.

They gathered together onto bingo cards and we counted how many were in each cell. Quite a few didn't get into cells; they stood, straddling the line between two or more. When this happened, we bent the cards along the cell borders, trying to force the bugs to vote one way or another. At a safe distance, circling around us, black crows watched with keen interest. They wanted to eat the bugs and hoped to peck the straddlers off of the creased cardboard -- but they'd just as happily eat the other bugs, too.

We tried shooing the crows away, but they kept returning.