Monday, March 31, 2014

Heceta Head

The stretch of coast that we live closest to includes the lighthouse at Heceta Head.  The lighthouse is brick with white stucco on the outside.  It seems every time we visit I end up taking the same pictures of the insides and the outside.

Some of the homogeneity is from my camera, which is great for shots within about a fifteen foot radius.

I was a disappointed with the photos I took of the gear works underneath the two ton light because there were too many reflections of me and the camera superimposed over the gears I actually wanted.

I tried to take photos of some of the architectural details, but there's only so many ways one can photograph bricks or iron steps.

Next time, I'll have to remember to take the trail that goes up the hill behind the tower and try to get the other obligatory photo of the lighthouse.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Yachats in March

Back from a weekend at Yachats.  We had a fun time, but this time around whenever I'd go down to the shore the soundtrack playing in my head kept getting stuck on the opening track from Sting's "The Soul Cages."  The only way to banish it was to recite an even old tune by We Three called "The Drum" (Bring from the center of the sun...).

I took some photos, and stumbled onto a kind of self-portrait.  Or self-collage?  In any case, the elements came together in a way that surprised me.  I'm not sure which one of these is the best, but I'll start with this one.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Rain

A rain storm rolled in early this morning.  I'm glad for the rain, although I wish my hands (and feet) weren't such good barometers.

It's Spring Break here, and my goodness, the traffic to work is so much lighter.  Yesterday, I had to run an errand off-campus, and when I came back, the very same parking stall that I was in was still open.  It feels so banal to say it, but simple things like an open parking space that saves one having to park three blocks away is a great perk.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

First Tea at (Not) Café John

Today we're lucky enough to have very clear skies and comfortable temperatures.  Also, it's the first weekend of Spring, which means that it's time to open  Café John.  Sort of.  Actually, the deck has been designated Not Café John by Mark... but in any case, I wanted a real tea with real savories.

So I whipped out the table cloth, the Ceylon Black Tea, and put together a savory.

  • Preheat Oven to 200 F
  • Take three slices of gluten-free bread and toast them; set aside.
  • Slice Gorgonzola (or "Oregonzola") cheese as thin as you can, and place on the toast in a single layer.  Place in oven to melt chase.
  • Chop about a half-cup or handful of toasted, unsalted almonds.  Fine is nice, but you don't have to get microscopic.
  • Mix almonds into 2 to 3 oz Chevre (goat cheese) spread.
  • Once you're happy with how melted the Gorgonzola cheese is, remove toast from oven and top with the Chevre almond spread.  Roughly three times as much of the Chevre should be used as the Gorgonzola; this will take some practice to find the point where the Gorgonzola is adding an earthy aftertaste or base note without having it overpower the Chevre.
  • Serve with apple wedges and sliced turkey.  In lieu of tea, substitute sparkling apple and cranberry cider.

I'd had visions of bacon wrapped dates stuffed with the Chevre, but I would have had to go shopping (and I would have had to made up that recipe, too.

The tea itself was pleasant, and now that it's over, I must channel my inner Oregonian and observe that we really need more rain, not more sunshine.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Writing Process: Thinking in Pictures

Tuesday nights are my writing nights.  I left the house and hung out at the local supermarket (they have a nice mezzanine area that's usually not too crowded with other Patrons with Deep Personal Problems Which They Must Share With the General Populous).

Although it's a bad precedent, I decided to switch stories.  The one I was working on for Sword and Sorceress wants to be a novella or novel, and I need a short story (preferably 2000 to 3000 words).  Ignoring for the moment the advice of Jake Lake to Finish What You Start, I'm putting aside the mushrooming story for something simpler.

I want to write a story about a sorceress; the sorcery she does is tolerated by the locals, and part of the price of doing the magic results in a light shunning (they do need her for her spells, they just don't completely approve).

One of the first things I did was to think about the main character and where she lives in terms of pictures.  In the upper corner of my page, I drew an X for milieu, a heart for character, a ? for idea/mystery and a fulcrum for status quo to remind myself how I want to think about the plot.  I want to make this plot a status quo and character story.

Then I drew a hut.  Which led to a village.  Which led to general world-building.  And funny hats.  Now I have a kind of an idea how these people move based on the kinds of clothes they wear.

And I drew a volcano!  And finally, a wyvern, because if you're going to have a fantasy story, you're going to need these sorts of things.  Not to mention a volcano is an effective way to change the status quo so that the characters have to deal with it (argh! a giant wyvern has been stirred up by the volcano and now it's eating our sheep and our fields are covered in ash).

I actually wrote down something approximating an outline, because I'm trying to teach myself the discipline of outlining.  I hate outlines; they feel confining and when I force myself to stick with them, the characters decide they're going to do something different.

If I could just outline in pictures, I think I'd be set.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Faking a Parabolic Curve

Today someone wanted to waste a roll of aluminium foil to make a solar death ray generator.  Luckily Science! and Geometry! prevailed and I was able to find a quick and dirty way to approximate parabolic curves using just a straight edge and compass.  The advantage to this method is that it doesn't require knowing the equation for a parabola, drawing a graph onto cardboard, or using a 3D printer or paper cutter-plotter.

Finished Parabolic Template
I cheated and used a right-triangle to draw a right angle on cardboard.
Then I put the point of my compass at the vertex of the right angle and drew a circle centered on it.

Satisfied that the distance was neither too large nor small, I used the compass as dividers to measure the same distance along the lines; as a check, once I was done, I opened up the compass and confirmed the ticks I'd put along the lines were on the same ever-increasing circles.

I numbered the ticks along the lines 1 through 8 so I wouldn't get confused.

Then I used a straight edge to connect points 1 to 8, 2, to 7, 3 to 6, etc.  The result is an approximation of a parabolic curve.  If I'd used more points and spaced them closer together, I'd get a more accurate curve.

I cut out the cardboard to use as a template.  I snipped off the origin by cutting a straight line through points 1 to save material.

We'll see if it actually gets used as a template.  The idea was to trace the shape on stiff construction paper, slot eight cutouts together, then fit aluminum foil over resulting paper frame; but the Mad Scientist got bored and went on to other Mad Science, so I may have to make the solar death ray generator myself.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Photo Post: Shadows at Noon

This is one of my favorite pictures.  It's from five years ago when I measured the motion of the sun's shadow  (

Wow.  Five years.

Anyway, the shadow is about to point due north, as figured using the the circles in yellow and bisecting the angle where the shadow's tip touches.  I like the contrasts between the shadow and the pencil, and between the lines in the wood, the yellow circles and the black circles.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mid March Bug

I'm fighting off some sort of bug which appears to be living in my lower GI track and reminding me of the description one of my woman friends told me about what having a period is like:  "Imagine someone wearing pointy cowboy boots has placed them on either side of you, just below the ribcage, and is kicking them into you for three days.  Luckily, I seem to be on day one, which started around 3 AM.

On the plus side, I'll probably be able to cut way back on my caffeine, as all I really want to eat or drink are ginger based foods (not too much of those) and carbonated drinks (which start to feel good, but then make me feel bloated until I burp).  Bananas and yogurt seem like a good idea until about ten minutes later.

On the minus side, all I really want to do is take a nap.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Writing Progress: Focus on the Character


Yesterday was a writing night.  It was like pulling teeth.  If I hadn't been away from the house, I think I would have found something else to do.  But instead I typed "It was a dark and stormy night" a few times and "I hate this writing" a few more and the words started to come out.

Most of it was story related.  After some consideration and discussion, the story length that wants to come out is probably a novella.  This would be fine, except that I'm aiming for a 2000 to 3000 word short story for Sword and Sorceress.  That and--despite making an outline--I've started the story about four chapters too early (so much for that street fight scene).

Oh well:  Write now, edit later.

The chant for the next few days is going to be "focus on the character" to remind myself not to get bogged down in the world-building stuff like maps, and magic systems, and the German language, and what would life in a magical nun's convent be like, and ...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dreading Fifty

True confession time.  Turning fifty is bugging me.  It's different from when turning thirty bugged me, but similar.  I've got a sense that there's something I've forgotten to do.  Or I'm forgetting to do.  The "I've got things to do" feeling is the similar part from when I turned thirty.

OK, and when I was thirty, there were other thirty-year-olds who were also in the process of remembering not to forget to do things.  This time around, I seem to be surrounded by forty-somethings who have actually, honest-to-God Done Something (cough-JK Rowling-cough).

The other, bigger difference is that I'm beginning to notice the aging process; cue Rod Stewart singing, "The sun when it's shining on your face really shows your age."  Over the last couple of years, the skin on the back of my hands has gotten more drawn, thinner, and more wrinkly.  My fingertips are beginning to get the lines on them that I remember my Grandmother's having.  My hands have always reminded me of hers, and every month they seem to be a closer match.

We wont discuss the turkey wattle that is threatening to appear beneath my chin.  I try to amuse myself by saying, "Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!" when I see it lurking... but I can envision the day when the joke is going to be stale.  Hopefully, that will be when I'm sixty or seventy, and not next week.

And then there's the dull ache in the joints.  I don't mind feeling when the humidity changes too much, although it's annoying when my feet wake me up at 3:45AM because the balls of my big toes anticipate sudden spring rains.

Add onto this the "playing it forward" thing.  I keep getting bushwhacked by things I did just yesterday, like watch the first Star Wars movie, then realizing it was thirty-five years ago, and finding myself surrounded by twenty-year-olds.  So it feels like 2044 (when I'll be eighty) is going to be tomorrow.

It doesn't help when Mark does his Old Man Routine, a joke monologue filled with bowel movements, forgetfulness, and false teeth, and which makes me feel uncomfortable.  And feel unsexy.  Very unsexy.  I'm not sure which is worse:  Old Man Routine Sex (Hey Sonny, I learned this trick during the Clinton Administration), Being Too Old to Safely Have Sex (Oh, God; that'd be horrible:  "Well, he was having birthday sex when his heart gave out..."), or Completely Losing One's Sex Drive (What do you mean there are people who don't want sex?).  

Getting older reminds me of this one time Mark and I went into a gay bar in Portland.  Besides the cute servers in underwear, what I remember most about the place was an American Gothic eighty year old, sitting with his hands clasped in his lap, looking like a train engineer in his blue-and-white striped overalls and flannel shirt, gazing at the Very Young and Oiled Male Dancer in a Thong Bulging with Dollar Tips.  I don't know what angel the oldster was wrestling with:  desire, shame, temptation, regret, sadness, remembrance, or resignation.  But I remember thinking, "Ooh; don't be that guy."

Remember (cue the Harry Potter Music):  the happiest man on Earth would gaze at the Very Young Oiled Male Dancer and only see himself.

And they say Capricorns are supposed to age well...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Garden Statue Lion

Over Christmas, Mark said that he'd get me a garden statue.

Years ago, he got me the Sphinx, which we love, and is currently surrounded by daffodils.

A local garden store was having a super sale, so we went and picked through what was there.  A lot of it was ugly angels and peeing puti.  But we saw this lion, and after the garden store guy said that usually the paw rested on a globe, I knew that the stainless steel gazing globe would fit underneath.

OK.  And there's a secret plan to make little shields for the seasons and prop them underneath, too.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Café John Logo

Odd sleep last night.  I went to bed around 9PM, had strange waking computer support dreams, woke up wide awake around 4AM, stayed in bed to get more rest, and then couldn't wake up properly at 6AM.

Heaved myself out of bed and managed to edit a short story for a little bit.

But I think I need to make a large copy of this design, stand on it, and drink tea while reciting a charm for wakefulness.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Lamp and Memories

Back in the sixties, my folks did a lot of travelling.  One of the results was that there were various near- and middle-eastern objets d'art in the house I first lived in.

This brass lamp used to hang in a back hallway between the bathroom and my parent's bedroom.  The lamp has a pointy end, and used to be the source of four-year-old anxiety:  "What if it falls on my head just as I'm walking underneath it?"

My dad had wired it up with a forty watt light-bulb, and when it was on, it threw a basket-weave pattern onto the hallway floor.  I remember being confused by the pattern, partially because it was subtle and easily obscured by the living-room table lamps.  It's strange that I can only recall the light and shadow on the floor, but I couldn't tell you if the floor was bare wood or carpeted.  I want to say bare wood, but maybe it had some kind of vinyl or tile cover.

And now I'm recalling the huge--at the time--metal grate in the floor of the hall where the furnace would push out hot air.  When we were done with our baths, my sister and I would come out in towels or bathrobes or pajamas, stand on the grate, and let the hot air balloon out whatever was wrapped around us.  I remember the grate wasn't the most comfortable thing against bare feet, and standing on it until the hot air stopped blowing would leave a grid of narrow rectangles along one's soles.

The grate was so good at drying us, that one day I thought it would be good at drying off some wet ping-pong balls.  I forget why they were wet, either they were bathtub toys or I'd floated them in a lime green (with a swirly spiral pattern in the middle) ceramic bowl of water for some reason.  In any case, the vent dried the ping-pong balls too well.  I left them on the grate--the rectangular grid kept them from rolling off too much--and when I came back a little while later, they had melted:  most of them had triangular divots along their tops.

But to get back to the lamp, the LEDs Mark got me fit into it, and we've got a hook in the corner of our house that seems made for sharp pointy brass objects to cast basket-weave bands of light.  Illuminating it gives me a strange sense of homeyness, and now of course I wonder how many of my tea fantasies can trace their roots back to this lamp.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

New Lamp Design

For Valentine's Day, Mark got me some Very Cool LED lights.  They're remote controlled, and they turn all sorts of objects into incredible lamps.  They work so well that Mark said my paper lamps look amateury next to them.


So now I've got an extra-curricular art project to work on when I'm taking a (small) break from writing.

 I think this could make a nice cut-out lamp lattice, thank you very much.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Celestial Meditations

Now that it's March, I'm thinking about the (blessed) increase in sunlight and the stations of the sun.  In symbolic terms, right now the influences of the sun and the moon are in increase.  The sun's between mid-winter and spring, which suggests to me a time for dissolving static, septic structures.  The mental image I have of this time is of names of people or situaions scratched onto river ice, which is melting so that the waters are free to flow again.   I'm thinking taking a break from Wordos counts (not that Wordos is particularly septic, but freeing up some time is helpful).

The moon's phase for me is about pausing for a moment for maintenance of systems which sustain.  (I'd call it "The Castilan in the Healer's House Moon;" next month would be "The Castilan in the Sower's House Moon".)  At least it is supposed to be in the arbitrary (eight house) system that I've come up with; but, as usual, instead of feeling mystic and like I'm having my batteries secretly energized by some comsic lunar current, I usuallly feel crabby and tired.

Starhawk has a suggested meditation, wherein you (silently) ask yourself, "Is the the food (or driknk) of life?" and see what the answer is.  It's a good bet that if I'd remembered to ask myself this question on Friday (which was a black mood day), I'd say the food and drink of life consisted entirely of chocolate, salt, caffeine and fat.  

Sunday, March 02, 2014

New Moon, New Projects

It's the new moon.  I like to imagine that I'm going to get things done, or at least started, during the time of new beginnings promiced by the new moon.  To that end, I re-started my disco dancing excersise routine.  The reward for that is that I'm sore today, especially in my right calf; one does not simply jump into extended cha-cha, Ricky Martin songs or no.

I've also put some more entries into my writing journal.  If I can keep that up, that would be good.  Keeping up a system of accountability is going to be key during the next three months.

The very rough draft in progress at the moment is very rough:  the pieces from the week's twenty- and fourty-minute sessions are pretty disconnected.  Yesterday's longer writing session (thank you Mark, for clearning the house) was more about outlining and fitting vinettes together.  

And then there's the inventory of stories which need to be sent out.  Time for various mantras about writers, submissions, and rejection slips.