Tuesday, May 31, 2011

eBook Technical Snags

Slow day on the eBook front.

I sat down and reviewed the Scrivener manual for the Macintosh.
  • I've discovered that editing CSS style-sheets only works for screenplay manuscripts.
  • I also hoped that I might be able to finesse opening paragraphs using some sort of trick with document headers, titles, notes or synopsis fields - but that means making a manuscript unusable for anything but ePub format.
  • Finally, it turns out that our old Mac's hardware is PowerPC, not Intel-based; this means I can't save the manuscript for Amazon's Kindle.
Sigh. I'd sort of wanted to do all of this myself, but I'm beginning to think that I should use Smashwords because I'll have access to more formats and a easier time formatting the layout.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Your Own Personal Action-figure

Wow. Okay, this video has been out a while but it is so cool! Can you imagine how much business they could do if they re-tooled this for weddings? The groom and groom could have their picture taken and voila! Cake topper!

Or let's say you want to make a doll house that looks like the place where you live. Or maybe instead of a Barrel of Monkeys, you could have a Barrel of Yous.

Kinect and 3D printer turns people into action-figure souvenirs - Boing Boing:
"Barcelona's Blablablab set up a 'Be Your Own Souvenir installation that used a Kinect and a 3D printer to allow passersby to pose for on-demand action-figures of themselves and their night out on the town:"

Be Your Own Souvenir! from blablabLAB on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cover Reworked

There. I think I've managed to get a clean design that says "Mask, Glass and Magic." And neither myself nor the camera are being reflected in the shiney bits. Much. 

Now to work on the title and credit placement...

Friday, May 27, 2011

eBooks & Design Philosophy

I should add here that there are folks who go to school and actually learn how to design book cover layout and take photographs. I am not one of them. I feel like I'm exploring the boundaries between DIY, professional work standards, and how eBooks are going to put pressure on writers and graphic designers to collaborate. Or not.

First Attempt at Cover Photos

I started out with this. It's wrong because the image says, "Tea!"  Which would be fine, except the story isn't about tea.  Also, the title is too small and the author's name is way too small.

So it was time to work on a new cover. One that said, "Mask Glass Magic!"  I had a design idea, so I assembled the appropriate Visually Interesting Props. 

I fiddled around with the shadow theatre. And this photo says "Theatre!" Or possibly "Shades of Milk and Honey."  The other question is, how does this look on a Kindle screen?

This was the image I was aiming for. I can see I'll have to try again. But, while it's a cool image, it's also a confusing one seen up close and I should look at it through a black and white filter to get a feel for how it would translate to the Kindle or Nook.  It's possible I'd get more mileage if it were zoomed in really close.

Well. It says "Mask" and it says "Glass." I think it also screams "Amature!"  And, looking at this again after a rest, it also says, "Shampoo."  Sigh.  Back to photographing -- good thing the camera batteries are recharged.

Oh. Writing. Right, back to writing....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Making an eBook Cover

I had an idea for the cover art for "Mask Glass Magic": We've got some small metallic mask decorations, and if I can fix them so that two reflect each other it would look cool and relate to the story. So, it was time to set up a photo shoot.

Step one: Clear off the table. Euw, at least I know what we had for breakfast... and who was eating there... anyway. The next step is looking at the shadow theatre I made a few months ago.

Unfortunately, the shadow theatre's been a little beat up -- it's a cereal box, so it's been re-purprosed as a storage box, and the paper screen has some oil or food or something on it. I thought I could be lazy and use the old paper, but it looked more dirty than antique, and I ended up replacing it with new paper.

We have a lot of glass objects d'art in the house (I'm sure Mark has another name for them). I want to photograph the two masks in front of some stain glass that Mark's mother made. The trick is to make the photo interesting, but not cluttered. Must. Not. Arrange. Every. Glass. Object. In. The. House. Into. Picture.

I actually own some lampworking tools and I could... no, Mark would probably not appreciate me trying to photograph a live blowtorch flame in the house and I'd probably melt the plastic parts of my camera.

And, of course, after fourty-five minutes of gathering, cleaning, and repairing objects, I have an errand I have to go do.

I've returned! I arrange the masks, fastening them together with bits of Post-it Note. Unfortunately, the masks I want to work with make the photo look like flier for a Night at the Theatre. I take a couple of shots of mask shadows cast on the theatre. But the light's not right. Arg. Mask. Glass. How hard can this be?

I move to a darker part of the house where I can control the lighting. As I'm shooting I'm trying to remember that I'm going to want an image that divides horizontally into five sections. More prop-wiggling.

As I'm about to snap a photo that it approaching what I'd like the cover to look like, the camera batteries die.

OK. This probably a sign to go play with CSS.

Pictures later when my batteries have recharged.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Re-thinking Manuscript Format

Whew. Copy-editing is changing how I think about formatting.

When I turn stories in to the Wordos or send them to a professional market, they need to look like they came off of a typewriter from 1988. In other words, a mono-spaced typeface, double-spaced, with inch-margins. Straight-quotes, two spaces after a period. Underlines for italics, and other "before the world had LaserWriters" formatting involving dashes. It's how I've formatted stories for the last ten years.

Formatting for eBooks is different. In traditional publishing, there's usually a type-setter working on an author's professionally formatted manuscript before it becomes the hard-copy a reader holds. So I need to un-learn some formatting habits if I am going to be producing an end-product.

For example, when I use Scrivener, I need to take advantage of its export functions instead of forcing formatting options at the raw document level. I say this because it's a real pain -- even with a wonderful tool like Scrivener -- to go through a document and curl quotes that used to be straight.

At least with eBooks I don't have to specify gutter widths and pantone colors.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Copy Editing

I've been focusing on preparing the manuscript for Mask Glass Magic for ePub formatting.

The copy that I have is what I sent off to Writers of the Future back in 2006.  I stupidly did something with the galley copy that I okayed for the anthology and I wish I had hung onto it.  I can see all sorts of little usage things in my copy of the book that were fixed.  It appears I should re-read Fowler's Usage on hyphens.  And I don't want to re-write the story... but there are some places where word echos could be polished out.

Some of the expletives in my manuscript were toned down for the anthology; which is fine with me -- although it does raise the question of profanity use and portraying "edgy" characters.  Not that Michelle Horn was supposed to be that edgy, and the global word substitution probably made her a more sympathetic character.

I hope this doesn't come off as whiny, because I really appreciate the work whoever line-edited my manuscript did. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

First Foray Exporting an eBook

I'm beginning the process of releasing some of my stories to ePub format. Authors like Jay Lake, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Niomi Kritzer have released some of their short stories and novels for e-readers like the Nook and Kindle.  If I want to take advantage of indie publishing, it would be better to do it sooner, rather than later (and it appears I should have started six months ago), because it appears that eBooks now are at the cusp that web pages were in 1997.  If I don't establish a readership now, it will be exponentially harder to do so once everyone's grandparents and dogs are publishing.  (And yes, I intend to keep submitting to physical markets because there's something to be said for editorial filtering.)

Originally, I was going to release Mask Glass Magic, The View from the Top, Up, and a few non-professionally published stories in an anthology.   But I was persuaded by some Wordos to release each story as singles for ninety-nine cents and then offer a discount price anthology of all the works.

Luckily, I have a head-start with formatting because I've been using Scrivener.  I love Scrivener.  It's great for researching, outlining, and editing.   It's easy to break text up into sections, which helps me to focus on working on one scene at a time (instead of working and re-working a beginning).  Ease of sectioning off text makes it easy to deal with intruding chunks of other stories -- I can write what comes into my head, sequester it into its own section, and get back to the main story.   Scrivener remembers various manuscript formats: I have a default for Wordos Crititque, and a few others for the odd market that demands manuscripts be non-traditionally formatted.  And -- the important part for making an e-book --  Scrivener saves in ePub and other reader formats.

Creating a an ePub format file was pretty simple, especially after I watched this five minute YouTube Scrivener Tutorial

And then I ran into my first real snag.   I have no Kindle or Nook to double-check the formatting. The iMac we have is running older software, and the version of iTunes we have only plays audio books.   iTunes displayed the cover art I'd put together, but wouldn't open the book. What was interesting to notice was that the iTunes book cover looks like it wanted to be eleven by eight; I'd designed a cover with a photo that was more like five by eight.

I needed some sort of ePub reader. After skimming Ars Technia, I downloaded FBReader for Windows. With a little fiddling so FBreader knew where to find the ePub file, I opened up my test manuscript....

Uh, Wow. It's utilitarian. And it seems to be reading my manuscript backward? Or... no, I'm simply unused to the reader's interface.  And... okay, the reader is hyphenating the text depending on screen size.  Scrivener put in a table of contents that would be more useful if my first attempt had chapters or were an anthology.  My art looks okay, but the image -- an artsy photo of a tea infuser -- doesn't have much to do with the story -- a fantasy story set in modern Eugene. 

As Niomi points out in her blog, the reader, not the author/publisher controls the font face.  This is probably a good thing, because it will prevent type-face faux-paus (remember the mid-eighty's when the Macintosh let you print documents with Too Many Type-faces?  It wasn't pretty.)  But it makes formatting text to be slightly less catatonic a challenge.

It appears that there are some CSS tricks I can do to make the opening lines of sections more spiffy.  I would like to have the first letter in the first word be twice as large as a reader's normal font, and I'd like the first line to be SMALLCAPS.  Figuring out the CSS code for paragraphs will be the next step.

But there are a few questions I need to be clear about before I can start selling stories:

Can the Nook and Kindle can handle unicode 4.0 characters?  If yes, then I could use them for section breaks instead of blank spaces.

Where are the formatting controls in Scrivener again?  And what I'm doing is called galley work.  Which means I have to expand my notions of proper manuscript formatting and get used to seeing my prose with things like em-dashes, ellipses, and italics instead of double-single dashes, triple periods, and underlined text, respectively.  And, uh, whoa!  There's a missing word:  time to break out a paper copy and a red pen because I can't blame anyone else for production mistakes.

What's the best use of metadata.  If I want my books to sell, they need to be findable by search engines.  Metadata is where I put in tags and other search engine flags, and I need to make them work.  "John Burridge" would be one -- or should I put in my whole name so I don't have irate British soccer fans looking for Britain's Oldest Goalie.  "Fantasy" (at least for this story) is another.  But do I put in "Eugene, Oregon -- fiction" and "lampworking -- fiction"  and  should I put in a tag for a reprint's original publication (i.e. "Writers of the Future," "Analog" "Whidbey Student Choice"?) 

Oh, and about that cover art, what are the ideal book cover dimensions, anyway?

More as I figure stuff out.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun Dream Parts

I've been having unpleasant dreams lately, which I wont go into here... instead...

Last night I dreamed that I was on a cruise of places that Tolkien probably used when writing The Lord of the Rings. The cruise started with a map of the Bay of Balfalas, and a crescent-shaped island on the map happened to match a real live island.

I don't recall if the island was near Iceland or Tahiti. I'm going to guess Tahiti because we could swim in the water. Although Iceland has some possibilities, because there was a small volcanic vent near the island. A fiery pool heated the water within the lagoon. And it was the home of a Nazgûl-steed. This was a friendly, black-scaled, winged, four-legged, vaguely equine, aquatic Nazgûl-steed. Everyone on the cruise jumped into the water in a kind of "Swim with the Dolphins Nazgûl-steed Event."

The dream went onto other things.

I was the only man at some kind of historical / spirituality / Neo-Pagan event. Now that I think about it, the women may have been old high school friends: Ranel Hackett and Amy Beltaine were there, and possibly Audrey Pitts and Libby Riverstone. Ranel was working on a clay statuette, which looked like it came from the Paleolithic era. She was tuning the statuette, carving away bits and then striking them to make tones. I think I had a singing bowl, and the event turned into an impromptu jam session.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Doctor Burridge, I Presume?

Someone brought a pith helmet to Wordos. And I just happened to be wearing my white sweater. And they had a brass sextant, too. And someone else had a camera.  And there I was, surrounded by books at the end of a table. 

I love it when life turns into a gigantic photo-op.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Writing Synchronicity

I was speaking to a neighbor the other day about old landmarks when out of the blue he was telling me how he had a capped well on his property and then how, when he was digging a fence post hole, he struck an underground stream. "It was just flowing - zip!" he said, and made a cutting motion south to north.

It was one of those moments of synchronicity, because I'd recently workshopped a short urban fantasy story set loosely in the local neighborhood which featured an underground stream flowing in a northerly direction.

[Insert spooky music here.]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: The Hidden Spirituality of Men

Every now and then I would stumble across the name Matthew Fox, so I finally went to the library and checked out a copy of The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine. I was excited, at first, because Matthew Fox is a former Dominican who became an Episcopal priest after his expulsion from the Catholic Church. Episcopal: That's Catholic-Lite; twice the ritual with only half the guilt! And Starhawk had dropped his name once or twice, so I thought as I cracked the book, "At last, something about male spirituality with some theological teeth in it."

I became uneasy as I read; the paragraphs seemed to be fuzzy and disjointed. Sort of like, "Purple is a color between red and blue. 'The Color Purple' is the name of a book by Alice Walker. Donnie Osmond liked purple socks, and Prince had an album called 'Purple Rain.' As you can see, purple has an attraction to artists of all genders and orientations." Except Fox would have used chakras, Robert Bly, Meister Eckhart, and Native Americans.

I flipped ahead to the chapter on The Green Man, where I read "The Green Man is an ancient pagan symbol of our relationship to the plant kingdom." My earlier vague misgivings crystallized. I checked in the index, and failed to find Lady Raglan, the British folklorist who wrote in 1936 about the foliate heads she'd notice in English church architecture, and who started the Frazierian theory that they were were symbols of pagan fertility and tree worship. There followed some more loosely related paragraphs, ending with Greenpeace.

The Green Man is an icon, and the cultural meaning of this icon has changed throughout the centuries: from ancient Bacchus, through the medieval images of the Tanglewood and renaissance agents of festival crowd control, to Lady Raglan's theories about restored church architecture in the twentieth century. To make assertions about ancient pagan interpretations of the Green Man is about as valid as asserting that motorists in the modern age worship Pegasus because they gather underneath an icon of a red winged horse. Certainly, Neo-Pagans today use the Green Man as a symbol of the interconnectedness of Nature and Humanity, as a male avatar of Nature's spirit incarnate, and as a paragon to emulate.  However, this contemporary use begins with the assumptions of Lady Raglan. I don't mind so much that Matthew Fox wants to imagine new scripts for the Green Man, but I do wish he hadn't grounded them in outmoded folklore theories.

Moving along, I flipped forward to the chapter on Masculine Sexuality. By the fifth paragraph, I read about Toaist practices of controlling seminal fluids (code for "orgasm without ejaculation") and how there's chi stored in the testes. At least Fox did spend some time addressing issues of infertility and male sexuality -- but then out came the berdaches and winktes. This section made me angry because it was titled "Honoring, and Learning From, The Gifts of Homosexuality." It was so old-school-Harry-Hay-elitism: "because we're a persecuted minority we've got special powers." Okay, Fox gets points for saying a Spiritual Warrior must exorcise homophobia, but then he loses points for implying that doing so will give access to, among other things, the homosexual gift of spirituality. Here's a special note for all of you Spiritual Warriors: when I'm having hot, throbbing, man-to-man sex, my primary motivation isn't to bring straight allies a spiritual gift. (And by-the-way: I'm a white guy, not a First Nations person). Muttering "Magic Negro" under my breath, I flipped forward.

By this time my attitude toward "The Hidden Spirituality of Men" had deteriorated into a mix of "Ha, where is your Goddess now?" "Someone is wrong on the internet!" and the feeling of looking/not-looking at a traffic accident. My eyes fell randomly on the end of Chapter Eleven: The Sacred Marriage of Masculine and Feminine. Yep, there it was, a reference to hieros gamos, and the Jewish tradition of Yahweh consummating a marriage with Shekinah, feminine bride. Which is fine, except Shekinah wasn't formulated as feminine, much less a cosmic bride, until probably sometime in the ninth century, and was first written in the "Book Bahir", written around 1185. Earlier writing presented Shekhina as an ungendered concept to enable limited humans to perceive Deity.

As with the Green Man, I don't have a problem with a modern reworking of Shekinah as a Cosmic Bride; but Fox seems to have confused medieval Shekinah with Sophia or ancient Ashera. Shekinah's sexing a thousand years ago by rabbis was done to develop a spiritual toolkit to fix the imbalance in the emanations of the Tree of Life. Fox is looking for a metaphor of the union of two cosmic opposites; but originally, Shekinah was the facade Deity wears so that the Nation of Israel might comprehend the divine.

Yes, I'm knit-picking on this last example, but by now it was too late. I felt betrayed. What I'd hoped for was a Priestly Ronald Hutton or a poetic Margot Adler. What I found was an odd grab-bag of "ancient" and "native" "wisdom," a Frazierian regurgitation of art history presented as archeology, and a kinder, gentler Men's Mythopoetic movement. The symbols and icons of the Divine Male are active and available; use them, re-work them - and if the re-working is a good one, it doesn't need a populist pedigree to justify it. I'm sure Matthew Fox has given us some symbolic gems, and the divine male does need to explored -- but for me, the Spirituality of Men was too well Hidden for this book to be useful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Seahorses

As I was walking to the store the other morning, this fern plant caught my eye. At first I thought I was looking at an aquarium of sea horses. This picture doesn't quite catch the effect of the light diffusing through the leaves -- maybe because I took it at a slightly different time of day and the light had changed; or maybe because I had was in a hurry and didn't have time to play around with aperture and shutter speeds. It's still a cool fern, though.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May 2011 Irises

A few days ago, the irises started opening.

Last year they all seemed to open at once. I might be remembering incorrectly, but this year they seem to be taking turns.

Purple irises like these are my favorites, although I like cobalt blue ones, too. When I was growing up, we had some giant bearded irises that were descendants of ones from my maternal grandmother's homestead. They were light blue or yellow. There may be a few at my folks' house, but I think a really cold winter killed most of them off.

I love irises before they are fully unfurled because their triangular symmetry is apparent.  They remind me of NASA equipment opening, or alien telescopes, or ceremonial hats, or craftily folded napkins at an erudite café.

When I see the fuzzy yellow insides, I wonder what the iris would look like with ultraviolet light.

I wonder if the stripes on the inside of the iris are a kind of landing strip for insects to follow for pollination.

In the early morning or late afternoon, shadows and light play upon the blooms.

The sphinx looks on from a short distance.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory

A while back I read The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory, by Cynthia Eller (Chapter One excerpt: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/e/eller-myth.html).  I keep referencing it, and I realized I hadn't blogged about it much.

The basic gist of The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory is that the prehistoric record is such that no one can say with certainty anything about prehistoric people other than things like, "they left behind these ruins," or "they buried people this way," or "they produced these sculptures and drawings." Eller then goes on a point-by-point argument against the story of a golden, pre-historic age (roughly 5000 to 2500 BCE) where society was centered on women, in which women were revered for their mysterious life-giving powers and honored as incarnations of the great goddess, and which was subsequently somehow transformed into what is called "patriarchy."

Eller concludes that the story of a golden age of woman-centered society (especially a pan-European one spanning over 2000 years) is a myth which should not be treated as historical fact.  As a myth, Eller argues that it is neither helpful as a guide for how women and men conceptualize their self-perceptions of gender and how the genders relate (her view is that the myth engenders sexism by heightening the differences between male and female), nor is the myth of prehistoric matriarchy required as a template from which to model a future society that has reached feminist goals (since it's a myth, it's not a history we're doomed to repeat; let's move on to equality).  She concludes, however, that adherents of the story of a golden age of prehistoric matriarchy are unlikely to abandon their "passionate hope and religious faith" in the story.

Eller's tone is sarcastic in places, and I found myself saying "ouch!" after reading several passages.  I did wonder at times if she was using particularly silly sources (ala Philip Davis in Goddess Unmasked).  However, I would recommend The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory and I found it useful for generating the following questions:

  • Does Harry Hay's story of the Qeddishim count as a "Golden Age of Male 'Homo-archy'?"
  • Golden Age stories seem to feed into 'apocalyptic end-times,' 'after the revolution' or to 'boosting self-esteem' thinking; is there another way to incorporate them into a world view?
  • As someone who is seeking the Divine Queer, is there such a thing as a "divine queer way of knowing?"  How would a story help to weave together our erotic, the spiritual, and mental lives -- and how would my story as a gay man be different from someone with a different gender and orientation?   Or, to put it another way, is a book like "Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-sex Love" (in the Eugene Library, 0974638838) going to be useful?
In applying The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory to my own experiences and observations as a gay man, I came up with the following:

In my experience, gay men have tried to seek myths of how gay men have functioned in various other cultures (for example, Greek, Japanese, First Nations).  The rational behind using other cultures as material for gay myths has been to bolster gay self-esteem by providing modern U.S. gay men with prototype gay ways of being.

These myths are unsatisfying to me because I am neither an aristocratic warrior nor an indigenous pre-industrial native.  And instead of synthesizing new cultural solutions to the question of what it means to be a gay man, it seems to me that there are many "Indian-wanna-bes" trying to heal their self-esteem issues by being something they aren't.

This is not to say that the myth of a prehistoric matriarchy would motivate women the same way that my gay male examples seem to motivate gay men.

There is also a "Golden Age" in American Gay Culture, which would have been around 1980 in New York City (post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS).  This golden age helps support the stereo-type of the urban gay male (think Will and Jack from Will and Grace and the Bravo TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy).  As evidence for my supposition that the gay golden age promotes stereotypes, I'd present the movie, Jeffry; and the novels An Arrow's Flight, by  Mark Merlis and Like People in History by Felice Picano.  These are mostly literary sources, and could be biased.

But - like the myths borrowed from other cultures - this golden age (at least as it is represented in cultural and literary sources) is not helpful to me because I am not a Castro Clone nor a Greenwich Village Artist.  The internal push-and-pull about personal identity and big city gay social expectations can be seen in the book Life Outside by Michaelangelo Signorile -- which basically blames Wall Street for seducing gay men into restrictive roles about what is "masculine" and "gay" -- think Tom of Finland. (Unfortunately, Signorile seems to have not read Starhawk, Niomi Wolf, nor an introductory statistics text.)  Signorile's solution was to suggest that gay men move to small cites and find mentors.

I should point out that I'm very lucky - I've never been institutionalized or beat-up physically for my orientation (although 1976 through 1983 were very rough years to be a nerd and perceived queer) .  And I'm very lucky to be maintaining a household with a loving partner.

So, to bring this back to  The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory, I can empathize with Eller's written preferences for a history grounded in archeological evidence (as opposed to imagined or intuited myths), although I don't know how easily applicable an archeological history of people can be mapped onto today's culture.  Rather than fetishizing a place (such as Stonehenge or Isreal or Canterbury Cathedral or the Parthanon), focusing on prehistoric cultures seems to fetishize a particular time.

Eller argues that the story of a prehistoric matriarchy comes with strong expectations about what it means to be a woman (and by inference, a man) which set up restrictive gender roles. Given my experiences with the Golden Age of Gay New York City, I would have to agree with her.

But maybe I'm stuck in a pre-Hegelian modality - or perhaps I need to re-read a copy of Godel Escher Bach and practice writing "mu." 

Others have not been so amused as I have been with The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory and here are their reviews and critiques:

Review by Kristy Coleman: http://www.cynthiaeller.com/colemanreview_new.htm

 Eller's response to Coleman:  http://www.cynthiaeller.com/responsecoleman_new.htm

 Review by Joan Marler:  http://www.belili.org/marija/eller_response.html

 Comentary by Marguerite Rigoglioso:  http://www.belili.org/marija/rigoglioso.html

 Eller's response to Marler and Rigoglioso:  http://www.belili.org/marija/c_eller_response.html

 Review by Max Dashu: http://www.suppressedhistories.net/articles/eller.html

 Eller's response to Dashu:  http://www.cynthiaeller.com/responsedashu_new.htm

Friday, May 06, 2011

May 2011 Irises

Yesterday the first of our irises bloomed -- this time by our driveway. I expect the other bed in the backyard to have opening ones soon; right now they are reaching up with darken tips.

I love our irises because they're deep purple, somewhere between plum and eggplant. I love the spears of bloom before the tight buds unfold and reveal their bearded insides. And I love the dusky scent of freshly opened iris -- it's sweet, but with a strong base note that gives it an extra potency.

Now if the darn slugs would just lay off of them....

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Ancient Mayan plumbing!

I saw this link on Plumbing ancient Mayan plumbing!:
"... a new study indicates that the Maya were building pressurized pipes between about 450 and 750 AD, in Palenque, a major Mayan city in modern-day Mexico."

Hmmm.  Given how much slope there is in our yard -- no; I'm pretty sure putting in a natural fountain wouldn't work.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Cabela's Traffic

map image courtesy KVAL Oregon is getting its first Cabela's. Look at this map (thanks to KVAL).  See the loopy red bits and the arrows superimposed over the loopy green bits?  The green parts are called "The Beltline" and are -- at the most -- two lanes wide.  The part of the road under the big red arrow (next to the "Welcome to Springfield") is one lane wide.

Oh -- and, by-the-way -- where it's one lane?  That's where the southbound and northbound traffic from the interstate merge.

And, um, right -- there's a traffic light that will make the traffic along that single lane stop.

Now, recall that the next closest Cabela's is something like 300 miles away.  So...compress all the folks in a 300 mile radius who want camping equipment and compound bows into one lane.  Now put them into SUV's, Very Large Pick-up Trucks (with extra-wide back wheels), and have some of them pull trailers. 

An hour later, add 5 PM traffic as the folks working in Springfield hit the Beltline to go home, or folks who work someplace else try to get home to Springfield.

Oh, what?  You want to leave?  Sorry, you need to use Highway 126 for that.  Same problems, though.

And Happy Cinco de Mayo! (The ODOT site should be pretty entertaining.)

Derek K. Miller's Last Post

I just stumbled across this, a post-humus blog post. It's made more surreal by the fact that the Tannhauser Overture is playing over KWAX. The author's matter-of-fact post-death statements reflecting his non-participation-in-spiritual-things reminds me of things Mark says. It seems ironic that this is his virtual voice from beyond the grave.

The last post - Penmachine - Derek K. Miller:
"Here it is. I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog. In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote—the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive."

Man. He left instructions for his family to post this as part of the process of dealing with his estate. Essentially, its an extended obituary. I guess the internet is still at a point where it can only offer eternal memory, but not eternal life.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Nettles at The Bonnefont Garden

This showed up the other day on The Bonnefont Garden's web site: "The nettle has a long relationship with humankind, and has been exploited as a fiber, a food plant, and a medicine. Cloth woven from nettle is stronger than the linen made from the stems of flax; remnants survive from the Bronze Age, and the fabric was still produced in both Scotland and Denmark in the eighteenth century."

I had heard the story of the Seven Wild Swans, where a princess has to weave clothes out of nettles to break the enchantment on her brothers, but I'd forgotten that it could actually be done.

This is one of the better posts the Bonnefont Garden has put out. What's interesting to me, in addition to the information about nettle, are the excerpts from ancient and medieval sources.