Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Card Prototype

Here's a photo of the card prototype. Looking at it, I can see that I need to add the date of the lunar eclipse.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reving Up for Christmas Lunar Eclipse 2010

Today I started to think about our holiday card. This year there's a lunar eclipse within hours of the winter solstice, and I wanted our card to be about that.

I folded blue construction paper into quarters. I used a ruler to find the center of the quartered paper, and then used a compass to figure out where to cut a circle out of the paper and some circular slits. Then I got out a white piece of construction paper and cut out a white disk. I colored part of the white disk black and fit it into the slits in the blue paper. I cut an arc-shape out of the blue paper so I could write legends on the white paper disk.

Viola! Instant move the disk and see when the eclipse takes place (in universal time). I moved the white disk through the eclipse cycle and wrote the time of the beginning, total and end of the eclipse in the arc-shaped window.

I showed Mark.

Me (holding up eclipse dial holiday card): "See?!" (moves white disk)

Mark (mixing pie crust dough): "Hmmm. It looks geometric - it needs to look festive."

Thank goodness for reindeer punches!

Me (two white paper reindeer leaping over the moon window later): "See?!" (moving the disk to the full eclipse position)

Mark (cleaning pots and pans): "That's more festive, but you're going to have to include an instruction manual with that card or no one is going to get it."

Me: "But. But... (points) I put little arrows around the rim of the dial..."

Mark: "I thought were were just going to send pictures this year because you didn't want to do craft project cards."

John: "Well. Yeah... I was thinking of that when I was using a craft knife to make all those little slits... which is why there aren't too many...."

Mark: "See; why don't you make a few for the folks you know will like them?"

Me: "But it's the eclipse!"

Sigh. Maybe I can just print out a link to NASA's Eclipse Web Page.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

4J School Board Budget Blues

Back from a school board meeting. Eugene's school district, 4J, faces a 2011-12 budget shortfall of 27-38 million dollars. The superintendent is making a bunch of proposals in order to stay within funding.

Tonight's meeting was for community input. I only have observations.

  • I wonder how the 4J district could normalize the district's revenue stream -- it looks like 75% of the district's income comes from state and federal sources it has little control over.

  • Most Eugene parents would like the teacher to student ratio to be somewhere around 1:18 to facilitate teacher workload and to enable a student to have some individual tailoring of a curriculum to learning-style.

  • My feeling, based on parent comments about K-8 schools is that most parents want a school size of roughly... 20 students X 3 classes X 9 grades = 540 students in order to preserve accountability in student interactions (i.e. they want community control to keep the 8th graders from bullying or dealing drugs to the kindergartners).

  • Every school in Eugene is a niche school. Add to this that most Eugene parents feel entitled to school choice and can be cultish about the school they're in. This turns arguing about which schools to save and which ones to axe into arguing whether to be shot or hung.

  • The school board was asking for input on dealing with the budget, and got appeals to save or target specific schools. It was like watching penguins jostle each other over leopard-seal infested waters. To be fair, it seems to me (looking at the list of school closures) that folks were asking "Why are you targeting my school?" because the school board hadn't made it clear that they're targeting old or small buildings and moving the kids into newer or larger buildings to save money. At least I think that's the logic behind the closures.

  • Nobody spoke about proposed furlough days and reduced class year. Wow. Just wait until unsupervised kids are hanging out at the bus terminal and downtown library because there is no school and mom and dad are working.

No easy answers. And I wonder what all the home school folks think about this.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blinking Glasses

Mark got these at a fundraiser for breast cancer. He thought that they'd be good Halloween glasses -- and they were, as long as one wasn't RollerBlading. They do blink from one side to the other, so that makes Mark a little dizzy; luckily, I am not so easily unbalanced.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hair Today...

For a few weeks an uneasy feeling stirred within me. This usually happens around Halloween and Groundhog Day. I resisted it last spring.

I thought I'd resist it this fall, too; but I was wrong.

Something had to change, and it was going to be my hair.

I will miss the Fabio Moments, and the Byronic Deliveries when I clinch an argument by unbinding my hair. I will miss being the envy of people who want long hair. I will miss those autumn afternoons when the wind, the leaves, and my cloak orchestrate with my hair to pause traffic. I will miss ruffling locks flowing behind me on moonlit RollerBlade nights.

And so I got the scissors. When I managed to get my hands into the thicket closer to my skull, I realized how the three-year-old, twelve inch ends were dryer and more brittle.

I will not miss the pony tail induced headaches. I will not miss waking up with my face underneath a tangled veil. I will not miss my hair falling into my food, toothpaste, or shaving cream. I will not miss ineffectual hair scrunchies failing to reign in my hair after twenty minutes. I will not miss Mark complaining about John-hairs in the drains, on the floors, in the car, in our bed, in the dryer filter or in our dishwasher.

I finished up with some electric clippers.

I will save lots of money on Aveda Products. I will enjoy the security of hats Velcroed to my head. I will rediscover the sensuous electrical bristly nape of my neck. I will enjoy the startled looks of surprise and delayed recognition. I will take advantage of the unconscious increase in respect people give me when my hair is this short.

A few more images at Picasa.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Behind on NaNoWriMo

Well... it looks like life is throwing some obstacles to writing my way. And I'm down on my NaNoWriMo count. And... now that I'm looking, I really type a lot more slowly than I thought. I'll need a combination of luck and staying focused to get back on track of 16,000 words by Monday.

Friday, November 05, 2010

NaNoWriMo Day 5

NaNoWriMo is interesting. I'm a little behind the suggested word count. If anything participating this month is good for showing me when my writing process is working and when it isn't.

As for the story... well. At this point I have two main characters, a handful of minor ones, the setting, and a very vague outline. As a result, I've got a lot of dialog. The two main characters are from an unpublished short story, so they're the most in focus.

In physical terms -- I feel it in my right shoulder, the one that wants to seize up, when I type for too long without breaks or with bad ergonomics.

And with that... back to writing.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Starting NaNoWriMo

I've been telling myself that I need to write a novel if I'm going to get anywhere as a writer. So, I'm taking the plunge and trying out NaNoWriMo. If I can manage to write about 2000 words a day, that will be good. I'll attempt to write about some characters from an earlier short story. What follows will be a lot of editing in December.

In the mean time, I must not research how to build a hydraulophone. Even if Heron of Alexandria might have built one... hey! Wow! I never heard of a pyrophone before.... um, I mean...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Fifteen Authors

Someone issued another FaceBook Challenge: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

So. Okay... in no particular order:

Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling -- Yes, they are editors, but ... Yes, I have many of the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies. I have another little gem from the mid-80's (oops, I thought Datlow edited it too, but it's only Windling) called Faery! It's very cool, and we're not talking sweetness and light sensitive new age fair folk, either.

Jane Yollen -- I like her use of language and her humor. Touch Magic explores the boundaries of truth, myth, and language in story telling. Merlin's Booke is a collection of Merlin stories, and it's interesting to see how she has created variations on a theme. Cards of Grief is a science fiction tale exploring the boundaries between legend, myth, history, power and gender.

Ronald Hutton -- While a historian not a speculative fiction writer, his books on English Neo-Paganism have influenced me greatly. Specifically, I like how he takes a look at founding myths and their histories. My favorite is Truimph of the Moon, and I like his collection of essays, Witches, Druids and King Arthur. I need a copy of Stations of the Sun.

Starhawk -- Her genius (and fatal flaw) is finding a poetic metaphor that best captures complicated issues. It's her fatal flaw because it sometimes leads her readers to reason by analogy or to base conclusions solely on imagination. But, hey - I read The Spiral Dance, Dreaming the Dark, and Truth or Dare and was transformed. I don't care for her novels as much as her non-fiction, but I do like some of her short stories.

Issac Asimov -- Three. Laws. of. Robotics. Okay, and Psychohistory. He pretty much defined the genre of the science fiction short story.

JRR Tolkien -- Language! Elves (and not your punky snowboarding pretty-boy Elves, either)! Beauty that is Perilous in its ability to Enchant and Transform. Ents! and Stars! OK... short on female characters who aren't trophy princesses... but still. If you haven't read his short essay On Fairy Stories, stop what you're doing now.

CS Lewis -- Probably my favorite book growing up was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I also liked A Horse and His Boy. I completely missed the "Aslan = Christ" thing until I was much, much older. The Screwtape Letters were interesting at first, but tiresome to read.... and at the time I read it (decades ago) I wished Perelandra were much shorter.

Sheri S Tepper -- I loved her nine-volume series set in the Land of the True Game. I love her sarcasm. I love most of her social commentary. Of her more recent writings, I enjoyed The Family Tree.

Mercedies Lacky
-- Whenever I need to read an entertaining story, I turn to Valdamar (at least in its earlier stories). Although it was fun to have an out gay hero like Vanyel Ashkevron, I like the stories with Tarma, Kethry and Warrl the best.

Ursula K Le Guin
-- Another language author. I read the Earthsea trilogy when I was eleven or twelve, and the Lathe of Heaven a few years later. What I like about her stories is that she's able to create complex and believable characters from a range of genders and ages.

Mary Stewart -- The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment were my gateway books to the Arthurian Romances. I loved them. Merlin in these stories was gritty and his magic was downplayed by his use of psychology.

Sprague de Camp -- I'm not sure when in my teen years I bumped into Harold Shea, the Incomplete Enchanter, but I loved the idea of literally jumping into stories where magic worked. I'm not sure that it would be one of my favorites today, but it certainly influenced me in the 1970's.

Marion Zimmer Bradley -- I was never much of a Darkover fan, but I did like her Lythande short stories and I adored the Sword and Sorceress series.

Charles de Lint -- I need to re-read some of his works. I particularly liked Greenmantle; I prefer his fantasy over his horror. I also liked the way that he used language, his use of music, and how he had the natural world inform his magical world.

Patricia C Wrede -- Before she wrote Talking to Dragons in 1985, she wrote one of my favorites, The Harp of Imach Thyssel. I loved most all of her World of Lyra stories.

Emma Bull
-- War for the Oaks. Early 80's rocker meets the Seelie Court. It's like Labyrinth, only grittier and with better dialog. I re-read it every so often and am always pleased.

Orson Scott Card -- Sure, I liked Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, but I like his short stories a whole lot better. They have a masterful use of language and he is wonderful at giving story endings a little twist. And, uh, no -- I don't agree with his personal politics.

I wanted (and still want) to write like these folks when I was a kid. When I think about my own writing in comparison, I can in part trace the wonder of connection, a love of language use, and humor back to the above authors.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Halloween RollerBlading

Our street is pretty quiet -- and it wasn't raining -- so Halloween night I decided that I was going to watch the house and distribute candy outside. On RollerBlades. In a black cloak.

The best part about distributing candy on RollerBlades isn't the part where I lean up against a shadowy corner of the garage, then silently roll forward toward surprised trick-or-treaters -- although that's fun.

The best part is swooping along the street, silently, my black cloak billowing out behind me; my body still and poised, yet in smooth motion; a floating flapping part of the night. And, of course, there's appropriate music playing in my head -- usually by John Williams.

Man, I need to do more nightly RollerBlading -- I used to do it all the time . . . sigh.