Friday, April 29, 2011

State of Oregon: Sustainability Program

I recently discovered the State of Oregon: Sustainability Program which seems to be sponsored by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

So far I've only had the time to read about the osprey nest relocated out of an illumination tower and into a nesting platform built by ODOT and EWEB.

ODOT seems like an unlikely place for sustainability information, but it appears their jurisdiction includes things like bikes, buses and railroads in addition to highways.  I guess it's not that far of a jump.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Airships for the 21st Century - IEEE Spectrum Airships! I love airships. When I think about why, the Jules Verne area of my brain lights up. As a kid, I loved the Disney version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and from there it's a short hop to imaging an airship with Art Nouveau or Art Deco bits.

Then there's romance of the solitary designer, builder, pilot and captain of the airship (pause to imagine a double-breasted wool coat, turtleneck sweater, gloves, stainless steel tools, and binoculars) standing at the helm while the craft plies the clouds underneath stars. Oh, Alberto Santos-Dumont, are you sipping tea at some celestial cafe you've flown to in your personal dirigible?

But the reality is that one really good storm will rupture your envelope and there goes all your lift.  Then you crash into the ocean.  I'm sure there's a metaphor in there, somewhere.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

we say gay

I applaud the students organizing to fight this bill.

we say gay: "We say gay for the students who won’t be able to. This site is dedicated to fight against the Tennessee state bill SB0049 (Don’t say gay bill), which would make it a misdemeanor to talk about homosexuality in grades bellow 9th."

Japanese Tsunami Stones

I read an NY Times article on Tsunami Stones in Japan. There's something about century-old stones with warnings on them instead of someone's birth- and death-dates on them that strikes my imagination. Some of the Tsunami Stones are so old, that the characters etched into them have crumbled away.  It's easy for me to imagine the spirits of ancestors hanging around the stones in their effort to speak across time.

As a speculative fiction writer, I have to ask myself how I would make a marker.  Would I use titanium? How deeply would I etch it? What would I warn my descendants about? Don't build your house here; there's an old landfill underneath? Hey, there's Cesium burried here?

Or would I make the stone out of Nanites!  Or would I make a ... oh! Hey!  Gotta stop blogging, just got a cool idea....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

TSA Wiccan Fired

Things that make you go hmmm. Whistle-blowing witch grounded by TSA This whole story seems a little muddled.  The only clear message I got from this story is that working at TSA is stressful.

I think the most interesting thing about this article is Selena Fox's comment that as Wicca becomes more visible, the general populous is both more tolerant and more hateful.   Not to blame the victim or anything, but the flip side of her comment is that as Wicca becomes more visible, the Wiccan community becomes both more mainstream and more obnoxious (in a let's "freak the mundanes" kind of way).

The other aspect that strikes me is how readily the non-Wiccans in this story believed that their car heaters had been hexed by magic.  Like the TSA Wiccan said in response, "If spells were that easy, I'd have won the lottery by now."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Coastal Hole

Somewhere between the Sea Lion caves and Yachats there's a beach. We went at low tide a few weeks ago, so we could actually see and walk on the sand. Part of the beach includes some basalt cliffs, where I found this hole. The tide was coming in, and I didn't particularly want to crawl on squishy anemones or scrape myself on sharp barnacles -- so I didn't squirm through it.

 But I wonder what kind of wish I might have had granted if I did.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Finished Zelige

Yay! After a couple of nights of wiggling lines in Adobe Illustrator, I finished the design. Technically, this isn't zelige because the lines don't weave over and under each other; but interweaving lines like this in Illustrator is a pain.

I think if I ever got a tattoo, this is the sort of thing that I'd get.

(Thinks some more...)  Nah; I think it would be the Pythagorean theorem plus some other things like how to construct a golden rectangle.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Remembering Elisabeth Sladen

Elisabeth Sladen passed away last Tuesday. She played Sarah Jane Smith on Dr Who in the mid 1970's.

The very first Dr Who I ever watched (by accident) was her last episode on the series, "Hand of Fear." It was cheesy, and I missed the first part, so I didn't have a good feel for any of the story or the plot. But it was Science Fiction -- British Science Fiction. And the low-budget special effects were endearing (the show was produced in 1976, when the height of special effects was four TIE fighters chasing after the Millennium Falcon and I was watching it in post-Battlestar Galactica 1982).

A few years ago at OryCon, (where else am I going to bump into a television screen?) I managed to catch her farewell scene with a much later incarnation of The Doctor. What struck me was, A) wow, she can act, and B) OMG, I hope I look half as good as she does at... her... age (oh, wait).

What I liked about her portrayal of Sarah Jane Smith was that she was competent without being
  • an alien (Time Lord or otherwise),
  • Nobel Savage Cheesecake,
  • or a Ditzy Whiner.
Farewell, Ms. Sladen; you will be missed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Saturn and Enceladus Electrically Link

Cassini Solstice Mission: Cassini Sees Saturn Electric Link with Enceladus Wow. This is really cool. I'll have to add it to the list of cool things I should write a short story about (along with every other hard science short fiction writer on the planet...).

It's a New Tool (For Me)

What is BlogThis! ? - Blogger Help There. I should have installed this tool ages ago.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ruby, Writing, and Zellije

Lots and lots of rain today.

Lately, I've been teaching myself Ruby and Ruby on Rails. The Ruby part is fun; it's a little like PHP or perl, and the methods make coding easy to read. I'm still trying to keep everything straight in my head where all the Rails scaffolding goes, especially since I've already converted some tab-delimited text files into an SQLite database.

When I'm not trying make Ruby display tables, I've been writing, critiquing and working on a zellije tile design from Gök Medrese in the Tokat Province of Turkey. The part I'm interested in is based on pentagons. Since drafting pentagons is difficult, it's easy to get the geometry wrong, and then the lines making up the stars meet in the wrong places (see my example). Trying to reproduce the pattern has given me new respect for ceramic artisans living in an age before electricity and autoCAD.

What I like most about this design are the arc of stars around the center. I find the weaving of the lines relaxing and I enjoy how I'll see stars, or a decangle, or diamonds depending on when I look.

If I can get something reproducible, Mark is not adverse to having one or two of these on display in the house.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Scoring a Manuscript

I had a critique last night. Using the John is Writing Game as a scoring guide:
  • The manuscript scored big points for "The Twin Towers of Tolkien Sclerosis and Not Enough Details" because, despite copious amounts of beautiful writing, the readers were confused by irrelevant descriptions.
  • Probably the most points from "The Dictionary of Obscure Usage" came from the word "dwimmer," followed closely by "were-geld" and "sibilant" (which, I see, I misspelled "syllabant").
  • And from the expanded edition of the game, the manuscript garnered minor points from a "Very Clever Little Girl" character.
Oh well. Now I have to figure out what to cut, what to save, and what to re-write.  Despite the road-bumps, the manuscript seemed to be well received.  My favorite part of the critique was when the table argued about keeping ("it's beautifully creepy") or cutting ("there's no action moving the plot") the first eight pages. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sea Lion Cave Snail

This is a snail from the Oregon coast. I'm not kidding: this guy was slithering around about two blocks away from the parking lot for the Sea Lion Caves. You would think that all the salt air would inhibit snails; but no, this snail was about the size of my index finger curled against my thumb. On the other side of its shell, you could see where I'm guessing a crow had dropped it or tried to break open its shell with a rock.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

D'you Remember Tom Baker?

Saturday we went to the coast. We saw:
  • giant coastal snails
  • waterfalls
  • mating bald eagles
  • agates, jasper, and a tide line of tiny plastic bits
  • a raft of sea-lions in the coastal surf
  • real fishermen feeding real sea-lions ten feet away from us while we stood on a dock (no, lunging sea-lions never crossed my mind....)
  • a harbor seal
  • herons
  • large crows
  • seagulls of assorted sizes and shapes
  • historical, two-masted sailboats (by accident)

Because it's the first Spring Visit to the Coast, I got a sunburn on my face and the top of my head. I thought I had packed my hat, and Mark was the only one smart enough to put on sun-screen.

Lately, the leitmotif for Mime has been on my mind. As I was walking around the beach looking for agates, I tried to "recuperate" (as Chris Siosal says) the theme. The ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three-FOUR rhythm of Wagner's pensive tune turned itself to a disco tune; and I wondered if the Muse of the Opera Babes was near-by. Or else Mime's leitmotif wanted to become "Over the River and Through the Woods." I kept picking at the theme and imagining it as a strophe and antistrophe.... and out popped the theme to Doctor Who.

I am not making this up; Mime's theme is quite easy to make into the ground underneath the electronic whistling melody. (Pause to imagine how the opera might have ended if Tom Baker had been the Nibelung blacksmith.)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Spenser Butte Hike

We went on an evening hike. The clouds had mostly gone and the sun was out.

I'd been listening to Wagner all week, so the woods in my mind echoed with heroic strains.

There were mushrooms. I think the one I saw is called bird's cup. The failing light confused the auto-focus on my camera.

Many folks were on the trail. Most of them seemed to be under eighteen.

And we made it back to the car before the sun set.

Friday, April 08, 2011

More on Mime

It occurred to me, once the sun came out and the caffeine kicked in, that A) liking Mime's leitmotif didn't doom me to a life like Mime's and B) I could always use Garage Band to write a set of happy techno-dance variations on Mime's theme.

Take that, Wagner!

Wagnerian Observations

This week I've been listening to a condensed review of Wagner's Ring Cycle.  It would be fun to take a week to hear the whole thing.  The worrisome aspect is that I really like Mime's (not pronounced like the French silent street performer) leitmotif.  It has fun clangs and clanks, and it sounds like a horse ride in the night, or a distress signal in Morse code.

Mime likes to brood and tinker with things, but he has problems putting things together.  And he doesn't ask the right questions.  And bears come into his house.  And he's a treacherous, would-be poisoner.  Sigh.  He's got cool music, though.

Back to writing.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Writer's Desk

It's complicated, but my desk is in a closet in our house.  My desk, inherited from my grandfather -- who was also named John Burridge -- has been a part of my life since the late 1970's.  It's oak, with a white Formica top.  A large top drawer spans the breadth and width of the desk.  It's about three inches tall -- now that I'm thinking about it, I should get three or four unused, medium sized pizza boxes to use as interior project trays.  Two smaller drawers on either side of the chair well are almost but not quite wide enough to hold a ream of paper, so they end up storing CDs.  And... junk stuff knick-knacks office supplies. The drawers are painted purple on the inside (did I mention I've owned the desk since the late 1970's?).

It just fits inside the closet.  This is good and bad.  It's good, because I can close the closet doors and viola! no office clutter.  It's bad because there's about three feet of dead space on either side of the desk.  Dead closet space equals a giant junk drawer.  Also, the closet door trick increases the likelihood that I'll crack open the closet, thrust a stack of whatever office supplies onto my desk, and then close the door. 

About every six months the closet's inefficiency gets to me and I try to reconfigure the closet so that I have a productive working space.   The latest incarnation involved cinder blocks on the desk with a plywood shelf.  The collegiate shelf worked wonderfully for holding the volumes of books I have borrowed (Hi Nina!)  and checked out from the library.  But the shelf displaced the pre-LCD computer monitor.  And I found myself needed an ergonomic stand for my laptop. 

I think when I can use the computer by typing on my pants and what I'm working on lights up on my glasses, I'll be fine.  Then I could turn the closet into a reading room....

Monday, April 04, 2011

Jung, homosexuality, parents, and gods

Over the weekend I indulged in a nice hot bath and read Jung's Aspects of the Masculine.  The thing that struck me the most was Jung's comments on the "problem" of male homosexuality.  The kindest thing he had to say was that among students, it wasn't a bad thing for them to experiment with.

Given that Dr Jung's comments were from essays written before he had formalized his theory of the collective unconscious, and given that I was reading essays from 1905-1930, I wondered what Jungians have to say about homosexuality in general and gay men today.  (Note to self: time to hit some peer-reviewed materials...)

The other thing that struck me were his comments on transference, fathers, and gods.  Jung presented a patient's dream.  She was on a hill overlooking a field of grain.  The mountain grew into a kind of god, who cradled her in his arms.  The wind blew, and the dreamer was rocked in the arms of the god while the fields of grain waved. 

Jung seemed more interested in how the dreamer had made a connection between wind and spirit -- but the passage made me wonder if the need to gender our deities, and the tendency to confound our parents and our gods is a part of a kind of cultural transference process.

And thinking about this particular dream more, it seems so Neo-Pagan to me; I wish I knew more about the (presumably) Judeo-Christian  woman who dreamed it.  What about her upbringing enabled her to have a vision of "Father Earth" ? 

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Update on the Outdoors

Our cherry tree is about to bloom.  The buds are still wound, with only the tips showing any signs of pink.

Which means that it is pollen season here.  Topologically, every flower in the valley drops its pollen in Eugene.  I'll know it's really bad when I have to run the windshield wipers to clean all the plant reproductive matter off of the car in order to drive (I believe that's the pines' fault).

In the mean time, I'm enjoying the grape hyacinth, jonquils, and daffodils.  The roses are putting out small red-brown leaves, and the iris swords are pushing upward; they won't flower for about four more weeks.

It's still a little early for writing at Café John.  Showers will be common until mid June, and writing outside still requires a jacket, blanket and fingerless gloves (I get cold!).  The new gazing globe is near-by, and I amuse myself by looking at the sky's reflection and tracking the clouds.

And, yes; the bugs came out -- but they weren't mosquitoes. 

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Grumpy Chef

Yesterday was a bad day.  A "the world is a seed in an old, rotten apple; and then a bear comes and eats it" day.  A "the glass isn't half-empty or half-full; it's a broken glass and I've been drinking from it" day.  A "Trent Reznor and Annie Lennox singing dysfunctional duets in my head" day.  A "now it's time to stop writing day because I have all these little errands clambering for my attention" day.  A "I'd better not post things to the internet or a they'll send someone to collect me" day.

The new moon does that to me.  Or else the pollen.

Surprisingly, I managed to saute mushrooms, onions, garlic and cubed free-range chicken breast in olive oil and nothing blew up or caught fire, and it was kind of tasty.  Without a real recipe.

Not sure how that happened.