Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holiday Papercraft 2015

 Once again, I'd stumbled across a Pinterest pin and thought, "I could do that as a holiday gift."  So I went to the art store and used their paper-cutter to cut out some circles with three slots and various designs in them.

The designs I came up with were a snowflake, a double-star, a lightning star, six-hearts, and a Christmas tree,  I re-used old designs, too: the unicorn, and the partridge in a pear.
 Back home, I folded the circles and started assembling them into pentagons....
 ...because pentagons made out of equilateral triangles will make a kind of cone shape.
 The tricky part was arranging the triangles so that they had alternating colors and different designs.  The really big assemblies required glue along the tabs to keep them from falling apart.
 I used small clips to hold the tabs in place while the glue dried.
 In addition to previous years' unicorn and partridge, I designed some snow-flake like designs and an eight-fold sun shape.
 I wasn't exactly thinking through how many triangles I'd need.  I was thinking I would only need twelve, but that would be the case if the triangles were pentagons.  I ended up having to decide between a twenty-sided globe, an octahedron, or a tetrahedron.
In the end, I chose a tetrahedron:  it had a more stable base, was at a good scale as a table or mantle decoration, didn't require glue for construction, and created more finished products per sheet of paper.

I added an LED votive candle and an inner tetrahedron of parchment paper as a light defuser and my holiday gifts were complete.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Applications and Unicorns

Monday.  I'm applying for a two week writer's residency in eastern Oregon near a dried out lake.  There won't be much internet, and the only other folks there will be mostly other writers, some painters and photographers, and possibly some sculptors.  With the luxury of so much uninterrupted time, I could write a twelve chapter novel (especially if I prepped for it before hand).

Filling out the application is bringing up some issues; they want references and a writer's resume -- I write science fiction and fantasy, and I'm thinking they may be looking for literary writers.  So I'm telling the voices that are telling me that I'm not a good enough writer to take a hike. 

Between filling out the various blanks, I muse about attending Another Genre Workshop that lasts six weeks--but that's a pearl of too-great a price and I don't have the resources to be able to go.  I know a lot of younger folks without families or with highly flexible jobs who have gone, and it makes me  jealous.  And then I recall the Other Other Genre Workshop that I didn't get into...  And then I go down that spiral of comparing my writing career with others', which makes me a bad person.   

Ugh.... well... 

In other Creative News, after creating winter holiday craft for my relatives, I'm working on a NeoPagan themed craft for me.  Although I sometimes have issues of images of The God and The Goddess (Must deity be gendered? Must deity look like hot underwear models?  Must deity be about sex and fertility? Must deity be borrowed from ancient or pre-industrial, rural cultures?) , I'm designing some anthropomorphic images.  The first Goddess image I created looks less like a Phoenician Goddess and more like a Dalek Goddess.   I managed to design passable oak leaves and acorns, and I've got some older designs from previous years, so I'll be able to add in deer and unicorns.  

Because what good is it being a gay NeoPagan male if you can't have unicorns on your altar?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Working Out and First World Problems

Working Out:  Went to the gym last night (Wednesday).  Did about a half hour / 300 calories on the elliptical.  Tried one or two unassisted dips and decided that I'd do 3x7 at only 10 (I forget; I think this works out to a fifty or sixty pound assist).  Downstairs I managed 3X13X50lbs on the pec fly machine, 3x13x80lbs on the lat pull down, 3X12 curl-ups (which I haven't done in a while), 3X13X35lbs barbell curls, and some free-weight work (dumbbell shrugs and a bench-press kind of move).

The only difficulty with evening visits to the gym, and it's more amusing (but a little distracting) than irritating, is that some nights there are hard-core weight lifters who grunt there.  Last night there were three guys, I think they count as "bros.". I'm guessing they were thirty-something, which is a little young as far as the typical folks who go to the gym.  Anyway, they were grunters, which wasn't so bad -- and actually, I sort of prefer the grunting over the sibilant hissers -- except one of them wasn't a grunter so much as a gasper.  Every 1.5 seconds he'd make a high-pitched "ah" sound.  It sounded like a sound track to a porn movie, except the music over the gym's PA was "Take a Load Off Annie." 

On a different front, I think the latest iOS update turned up the auto-correct settings on my device.  It was very annoying the other night when I was trying to take critique notes and SimpleNote would freeze.  Just now, my word processor wanted to capitalize the "O" in SimpleNote and wouldn't let me erase and replace it with a lower-case one.  Auto-correct also wants to add extra periods to sentances that end with quotation marks.  Oh well; first-world problems.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday Reading

Last night was the Wordos Holiday reading.  It was packed with folks, and we had twelve shorts to read aloud.  I think the funniest story was about a mechanical Christmas carol moose; the most serious was a serious CJ-Cherryh-Morgain-esque science fiction story; the most political involved President Trump.  They were all fun or interesting to listen to; I think I was sitting at the dark end of the really long table (my story was about discovering one's first love is really mercantile).

Just one (or possibly two) more run to the craft store for Holiday Paper Craft.  It's nice to be able to give out this year's construction when I have extras, and people seem to like what I've created.

Working out... um.  Right.  Between writing the holiday short and Holiday Paper Craft, I haven't made it to the gym.  My Very Noble Goal for my holiday break is to go in in the mornings before Mark goes to work.  

My other Nobel Goal for the holiday break is to spend some time getting an e-book story out when I'm not otherwise engaged with The Child.  I'm trying to recall what we did in the 70's... because I'm really only recalling playing and sort of hanging out during the two weeks or so of vacation.  My dad must have been around for a lot of it because he was a teacher, and my mom worked some of the time.  I guess I'll have to ask my sister.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Manuscript Production Process


Wrestling with a story.  Originally, it was a 1000 word story for the Wordos Halloween reading.  When I was first writing it, I realized that my point-of-view character was a whiny teen complaining about how unfair their life was, and I didn't want to write the equivalent of magical teen princess complains about her life.  So I switched the POV to an older, mentoring cousin.  This seemed to work.  

I liked the story enough to submit a slightly longer version, 1900 words, to Wordos for critique.  Folks seemed to like it, but wanted some more information and a cool description of a ritual that happened before the story started presented on stage.  I incorporated those changes and submitted it to a second group, with a word count of 2300, but, alas, the story is now driving to the plot because of addition of the information and ritual, and they think the story should be written from the POV of the whiny teen.

I'm thinking some of the way this story worked the earlier incarnations was partially due to the fact that I read it aloud, and my Radio Voice hypnotized Wordos (but not the second group) into liking the submitted draft later.

Although both groups wanted clearer and higher stakes (darn, I thought I got that), I think the most useful critique so far has been the observation that if the story wants to be a coming of age story, use the teen's POV, but if it wants to be a fixing a failed mentor-student story, use the adult's POV.

When stories don't work, I'm slightly perplexed and frustrated that the translation process from my head to paper to the readers' heads didn't work.  I often have difficulty finding the sweet spot between assuming knowledge on the readers' part and over-explaining.  Also, the world-building and eye-candy is what I like to write, which seems to mean that my characters are underdeveloped.  (In my head I can hear K.D. Wentworth's voice saying, "women like to write about relationships and guys like to write about spaceships and submarines.")

I suppose this is a reminder to read my Notes on Critique on a regular basis.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Two More John Themes

Working out - last Tuesday (12/7) after Wordos I went to the gym.   I spent about a half-hour on the elliptical reading about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  For a while I was trying to properly say Nebuchadnezzar and it sort of works as a running chant.  I also managed to reset the machine about three minutes into my run because I was trying to hold the book down on the console. 300 calories.  Downstairs I increased my weights a notch:  pec flies 3x12X40 lbs, lat pull downs 3x12x80.  I did some free weight work with 15 lb Dumbbells and then it was getting late so I went back upstairs and did some assisted dips, about 4 or 5 reps of 7, decreasing the assisted weight each time from 15 to about 10 (the first weight is something like 36lbs, and each additional one is 6, and I wish they'd just list the amount of weight because I'm never quite sure what the calculation is.

Writing - The Wordos Holiday reading is coming up.  Luckily, the themes match some rough work that I already have.  Not quite as lucky, it turns out I have enough material for four and a half stories, and I only need one thousand word short.  The story that I'm polishing is threatening to turn into a talking heads story, so I'll have to fiddle with the action and make characters' motivations very clear.  

In the course of going through older manuscripts, for this story and for others that I'm struggling to get into e-book format, I've discovered two more John Themes:  The Marvelous Device, and The Bracelet.  The Marvelous Device is usually a cross between an orrery, tarot cards, a music box, a disco ball, and possibly an insect.  It can be made of gold or silver, but any shiny metal will do.  If it is made of more mundane materials, these will be enchanted somehow or otherwise Highly Symbolic.  The Bracelet is typically a form of personal assistant; it usually shows up in science fiction stories as a combination smart-watch/comm-link.  The fantasy version tends to function as a magical electronic pass identification card.  Very likely The Bracelet has its origins with the women who steal Spock's Brain.

Working out - last Thursday (12/10) I went to the gym.  Umm.  200 calories on the elliptical, 100 on the rowing machine.  Pec flies 3x12X40 lbs, lat pull downs 3x12x80.  Triceps pull-downs, 3x12x30lbs.  I think I did a few other things, but I don't quite remember what they were.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Do You Love Your Monkey or Do You Love Me?

Apparently, I've been singing "Monkeys mine, their bitter perfume / breathes a life of gathering gloom" one too many times, because I've been informed it's grounds for divorce.  

Oh well.  I'll stop, because I don't want to annoy my husband... but I was kind of looking forward to making "A Very Monkey Christmas" album and singing, "I saw monkeys kissing Santa Clause, underneath the mistletoe," and singing about Good King Wenselsas seeing "a monkey came in sight, gathering winter fuel," having John Lithgow as Dr Emil Lizardo shout, "Drum while you still can, monkey-boy!" at Peter Weller's Buckaroo Banzai.   

I suppose this penchant for inserting monkeys into songs started with ABBA's "Money! Money! Money!"  because I think it's hysterically funny to sing, "all the things I could do, if I had a little monkey."  But I think there's something deeper going on, and following the chain of monkey associations, I can hear Mike Myers as Dieter asking guests on "Sprockets" about monkeys, which is followed by Peter Seller's voice as Clouseau saying something about a "minkey."  Which goes back to my Dad:  he used to have a high school physics demonstration with a monkey puppet which showed independent vertical and horizontal motion -- the monkey puppet got shot by a BB and would crumble around it.  I'm pretty sure he called it a minkey, until one year the girls in his class corn-rowed the monkey's hair and the puppet attained celebrity status as "Bo Minkey."  

I think at this point Mark would yell, "Help! It's genetic!"

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Advent Weekend

Saturday (12/5) I attended the morning sessions of the Tipree Symposium at the University of Oregon.  I wish I had had gone to the session on Friday, because it sounded like it was an incredible sharing of letters between James Tiptree Jr. and various authors, most notably, Ursula Le Guin.  

I saw some writer friends and Wordos alumni, and we had a nice lunch discussion about writer's intent, and audience, and I realized that I need to get out and socialize with people more.  

I picked up a copy of Ursula Le Guin's "Steering the Craft" (partially because I already own all of her other books that were being sold there, but mostly because I thought if I were going to own a writing manual, it should be by LeGuin), some spare copies of F&SF Gordon Van Gelder had brought as freebies, and a gift (which I'm keeping a secret).  

I read "Gypsie," a novella, Saturday night.  Wow, it was overtly a cheery tale of a failed trip to Alpha Centari.  When I bumped into Jai at the Eugene Public Library Sunday afternoon, she was saying that Kim Stanley Robinson's "Aurora"was in the same vein, and I recalled that I had read a short article by him about some of the feasibility problems with generation ships.  So it looks like interstellar voyages that go badly is going to be the next thing.   

This weekend was a Holiday Shopping and Craft weekend.  I'm working on a super-secret project and I think after all the prototyping and cutting and folding I've got a Holiday Craft Gift that A) doesn't take three hours to complete per gift, and B) my relatives will actually like.  

Sunday (12/6) I slept in until 8.  I'm not sure if I'm fighting off Mark's cold, or if it's the light, or if it is the three storm systems moving in, or sitting in lecture hall chairs just a little too small for me, but my body -- especially my feet -- felt sore all day.  

Augh! Christmas is Coming!

Lots of deadlines looming of the Christmas kind; this will make it difficult to get writing and gym time in.

I was writing a blog post about Bad Parenting Ideas I've Actually Considered for Longer Than Five Seconds, but I decided that it would bring too much backlash on a number of fronts.  I'm sure anyone frustrated by raising a child could come up with it.

I'm thinking about my birthday, which is in a few weeks, and what I'll do during it.  Last year I had a dance party, but this year I think I'll try something more laid back.  I wouldn't mind some sort of tea.  I'm trying to think what sorts of thing would be appropriate for a pentagenarian... and maybe I'll have to visit my Pinterest boards or something.

Working Out:  Went to the gym Wednesday ( 12/2) night:  35 minutes on the elliptical, so I'm guessing 350 calories.  3x13x30 lbs on the pec fly.  Increased lat pull-down to 3x13x90.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

More Virtual Book Editing

More Scrivener and Kindle adventures... I did some research on-line, which suggested the extra carriage returns could be caused by trailing spaces at the end of paragraphs.  Luckily, my story is short enough that I could take those out fairly quickly.  It means I'm going to have to come up with a search-and-replace strategy.

I dropped in a cover; we'll see how it turns out.  I attempted to find a filter for double- and em-dashes, but it looks like they only go one way; so I'm going to have to use search-and-replace there, too.  I also put in ❦ as a section separator to see if the floral hearts would come out properly... and...

The preview tool doesn't show my cover.  The extra carriage returns are gone (yay!) and the floral hearts code is showing, not the actual symbol ❦.

Oh well.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Adventures in Scrivener and ePub

I want to publish mobi filles in order to direct publish reprints to Amazon. 

I use Scrivener to produce my stories.  

Scrivener is a compiler: it takes bits of a story or book and compiles the pictures and text into a finished work. Depending on settings, I can choose to format finished work into chapters or sections.   Normally, I output stories as RTF files in standard McIntyre SFWA short story format, but in this case I'll want to change the output to mobi.

I open up a story in Scrivener.  In this case, I originally wrote the story with some other word processing tool, so I copy the text into a new Scrivener file.  Scrivener uses text blocks and folders to organize words.  Typically, each scene gets its own text block, and text blocks are gathered into folders.  The hierarchy of folders is used to organize story chapters, if any.

I have to break my story apart so the scenes are formatted properly; I manually search for the hash marks that separate my story into three scenes.  This breaks my story into three text blocks, which live in the main Story folder.  

Now I'm ready to compile.  I hit the COMPILE button and the familiar compile dialog box comes up.  Normally, I compile for RTF, so I change that option to ePub.  The normal Compilation Options on the left-hand side of the dialog box change to some new things.

First I chose the contents option.  I don't need need the First Page Header because I don't want to publish my contact information and other information only an editor would want.  

Under the separators option, I realize that instead of the usual hash-tag for separating scenes, I want to use a fleuron ❦  The Unicode standard calls them "floral hearts." I paste one into the Custom text box for the text separator.  Hmm, I might want to use a section sign, § but it's not as pretty.

Under the Cover option, I realize, oh yeah, cover.  I'll need a 500 pixel by 800 pixel cover.  I'm going to skip the cover for a moment; it looks like I can drag and drop a picture.

Onto the Formatting option!  Ooops, Scrivener wants to make my short story a book with chapter titles.  There's settings for each section type: folder, text block collections, and text blocks.  When I click on the folder, I see Scrivener wants to start each folder with a chapter heading and a title.  Since this is a short story, I'm thinking I might want to keep the title, but get rid of the chapter heading....and I can only remove the title.  I think the solution here is to unselect folders in the Contents option above (so now only the text blocks for each scene in the story are selected for compilation).

I click on the Level 1+ icon document, which controls the look of the text.  There's a "Section Layout" button I click on and I find a setting "Number of words to make uppercase" when starting a new section.  I select "Use small caps" and choose to make the first 3 words uppercase.

I'm running out of time, so I jump ahead to the Layout option and unselect "Generate HTML table of contents" because this is a short story.

There's a Meta-Data option, and I'm sure I should add things, but mostly I want to check out what the formatting is going to do, so I hit the COMPILE button.

To keep things organized on my computer, I save the mobi file to a folder within my Manuscripts folder called "epub", to reduce the chances later in the year that I'll grab the wrong compiled version of my short story.

Now I want to see what the story looks like, so I go over to  I click on the web page's "Create New Title" button.  This takes me to a new page where I can enter in information about the book.  Of particular interest is the "book description" which would be either a story excerpt or a blurb, or at the very least a short teaser telling a potential buyer what the story is about. Oh, keywords, like fantasy... and Digital Rights Management (DRM), I'll leave that off for now, but I might want to enable it to allow for more sharing.  

At the very end is a button called "Book contents file," which I press.  A dialog box comes up asking me for my e-copy of the story, and I navigate to the epub folder I created on my computer.  The page thinks to itself for a moment, and the status of the manuscript is displayed.  The conversion from mobi on my computer to Amazon's Kindle format appears to have worked, and there's no obvious spelling errors.  Now I can preview...

Since I haven't saved a book cover, and I didn't include any front matter, my book jumps right into the story.  The first three words are in smallcaps, which is what I asked Scrivener to do.  On a third pass, I notice that only the first section of the story starts with smallcaps, which I suppose isn't so bad, but I did want each section to start the same way.  

Oops.  I didn't tell Scrivener to convert double-dashes (slush-pile format)  into em-dashes (finished format); I'll have to do some other conversions for ellipses and italics.  But oh!  The fleurons ❦ work!  Now of course, since this is a Winter Solstice tale, I'm wondering if I could use a snowflake ❄ instead of a fleuron.  Hmmm.  There's an extra blank space in the text, I'll have to go back to Scrivener and see if there's an errant carriage return.  And there's no ending symbol, this might be a good place for a a section sign,§ 

NCX view?  I don't know what NCX means, and it displays an inappropriate working name for one of my sections; I'll have to see why the Kindle previewer is slurping up just one section name.  

Hey!  I can preview on different devices.  Uh oh! Trouble in paradise; the fleurons don't work on iPad devices. Or a Kindle DX.  Bother!  It looks like more errant carriage returns are showing up.  I'm done for the moment, so I follow a link back to my Kindle bookshelf.  My book is still in draft format, and I can come back to it later.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Pre-Holiday Pause...

Working Out:  Between the Thanksgiving Holiday and feeling downright lazy I didn't go to the gym for a week.  I did go Monday night:  300 calories in 30 minutes on the elliptical (it appears that I'm able to do about 100 calories in 10 minutes).  3x12x40 lbs on the pec fly machine.  3x12x80 lbs on the lat pulldown station.  3X12x30 lbs on the triceps pulldown station.  4x12x30 lbs barbell curl.  2 30 second planks plus and assortment of sit-ups on an exercise ball.

Writing:  This has been a heavy critique week.  There's five stories on the table for Wordos, and I'm going through older manuscripts and preparing them for mobi format; this will enable me to set stuff up on Amazon direct publishing (which I should have started doing at least two years ago).  

Thanksgiving was mostly fun, but I didn't get to visit with my relatives as much as I wanted to.  I'm working on a super-secret holiday craft project, and don't want to spoil the surprise with photos of the process.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Quiet Sunday

Sunday was a down-time day.  Saturday had been filled with light, and it was warm enough to be able to edit outside.  Sunday, dawned damp, grey, and cold.  I stayed in my pajamas a very long time.  Instead of writing, I worked on various papercraft designs for the holidays.  One design is for a polyhedra made out of a hexagonal arrangement that I call the "lightning star."  I don't recall the precise source of the lightning bolt shape, but it's borrowed from Moroccan tile design.   The other design is circles with three slots arranged in a triangle with stars and snowflakes cut out of the center.   I should be able to lock those into an icosahedron.  

Some noise--the cat, I think--woke me up 12:30 Monday morning and I realized I was wide awake after only about two hours of sleep.  I tossed and turned a bit, and since I didn't want to wake up Mark, I moved to the couch.  I fretted a little about being awake, and then tried to think about the fairy tale story I'm editing.  About this time I became aware that I'd had a dinner of pepperoni pizza, so I got some milk.  Then I went back to the couch and tried to sing "Center of the Sun" in my head, but then started thinking about work and writing and more work.  About two hours later, I eventually fell alseep.

The cat stirred and I got up at 6:30.  I'm not sure if I'm tired but rested, or simply under-slept.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

These Are Not the Mushrooms You're Searching For...

Yesterday we went on a hike east of Oakridge to search for mushrooms.  The sky was clear and the sun was out, although it felt like it set early in the valley we were in.  Sunlight liberated steam from the saturated ground.  Usually mushrooms are all over the place, but this time we only saw them in ones and twos.  Mark was very happy when we found a purple mushroom, which he took a picture of.

The Child could only speak about Sith and Jedi the entire three hours we hiked.  I attempted to have him listen to the trees and the stream in crane stance because 1) it's good practice for his Kung Fu class, 2) to get him to be quiet for two seconds, and 3) to try to get him to actually focus on self-betterment and other positive benefits of focusing on The Force besides Force-chokes, Force-pushes, and Force-lightning.  (Mark and I have taken to shouting "Force-smooch!" and "Force-hug!" as an antidote to all the violence... and I think I may have to change my name to "Darth Enchanté.")

Friday, November 20, 2015

On List Stories

13 Reasons Why I Hate* List Stories

  1. List stories are a form of epistolary stories.  This isn't a bad thing per se, but the reader knows the protagonist-writer isn't dead, or at least has survived whatever plot (if any) complications, so the story tension feels flat.

  2. List stories typically have no setting, which contributes to the feel of a "talking heads" story.

  3. List stories are sometimes not lists, as if the story has realized that it needs characters interacting, an interesting setting, or a plot.  Suddenly the list form falls away and actual story elements break out of the constraints of the list's structure, like birds breaking out of a birdcage.

  4. List stories, when they have any plot at all, are usually reveal-stories.  So you get to the end and the account trails off because the list maker is dead, or insane, or eaten, or is really an alien.

  5. Also; why are we going through a dead/insane/digested/alien person's personal scraps of paper?

  6. They are a form of writers bitching writing about writing.

  7. List stories are joke stories.   Each list item is supposed to be a punch-line.  Or something.  This is difficult to pull off.

  8. Try-fail cycle?

  9. Another joke here.

  10. List stories seem to be inspired by the self-help section of the bookstore or those spammy click-bait websites.  It's like "Dick and Jane" meets "ridiculous ways to get outrageously rich quick."   Run, dear reader, run.

  11. List stories sometimes turn into an instruction set written as if the person writing the list was either  A) an information technology support person, B) trapped in a bureaucracy , C) suffered from OCD,  D) Satan, or E) someone who hates lists of instructions.

  12. List stories are in vogue now, the same way sexy vampires, lusty pirate maids, and zombies were in their heyday.   This means that list stories get published instead of the stories I write.

  13. Not all list stories.

*by "hate" I mean the way authors are bemused and annoyed by stories like "Twilight," "The Da Vinci Code,"  and "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dark. So very Dark.

Wednesday.  Well.  Darn.  I think the darkness of November is making me depressed.  Not a full, "I'm just going to sleep in bed until May 1" depressed.  More like a bleh, meh, and intermittent bouts of depression saying "I'm going to sit on your chest and pile some stones on top of your sternum.  Oh! And Happy Birthday! (What have you done with your life?)"

More (dark) chocolate and workouts for me, I guess.

Writing:  I've been polishing the Halloween reading story.  It's more-or-less where I want it, and I should let it rest for a day or two and read it with fresh eyes one last time before sending it through the rejection gauntlet.  

Thursday:  The rain is back today.  We're supposed to get anywhere between a quarter and a half inch today.  Some of Mark's bonsai were soaked; he rescued them.  I'm hoping it will hydrate our back yard, which had some gaping cracks in it over the summer.  The whole neighborhood is pretty much sitting on clay, as we learned when our neighbors excavated a couple of years ago.  

Writing:  I read a list story on-line and I'm bemused by it.  The opening was very clever, but by item three the story lost steam.  I'm trying to figure out what else the editors liked about it, and I'm thinking the difficulty I'm having with it is that the premise (and reveal) is that the reader is part of a collective intelligence, which begs the question of the epistolary form.  Additionally, I think this is another one of those pieces that I'm not getting the humor of.  Oh well.

Working Out:  Went to the gym.  Did a 20 min run on the elliptical and got to 230 calories.  Cute little sweat beads broke out on my right arm, but not my left.  Repeating to myself "Sweat is fat crying," I went downstairs.  3X12X40 on the pec fly.  3X12X80 on the lat pull-downs; I tried some narrower grips on the bar to attempt to work different muscle groups.  3X12X35 barbell curls.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why Fairy Stories

Working out:  Saturday I had a full session at the gym.  200 cal on the elliptical, 50 on the rowing machine.  3X12 at 14 on the assisted dips and chin-ups.  I tried to do an unassisted chin-up and I can almost-but-not-quite do one.  3X12X40 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X80 lat pull-downs.  3X12 curl-ups.  3X12X35lbs barbell curls.  I think the elliptical session turned on endorphins, because this was a fairly hilarious workout.

Writing:  The other night at a critique session, someone asked me why I had written a piece as a fairy tale, or, more precisely, what function telling the story as a fairy tale was bringing to the story.  I'm still sort of trying to wrap my head around their question, because it feels like they asked "Why do you speak in English?" and I'm sure that's not what they were trying to get at.

I started to say that I wanted to tell a transformative story in the way that Tolkien talks about in his essay "On Fairy Stories."  When I first started writing the story, I'd read "Fairy Tale Queens: Representations of Early Modern Queenship" by Jo Eldridge Carney, a book comparing fairy tale queens with Queen Elizabeth I, and which explored the queen as forge of dynasties, the queen's fertility, and the role of the court and of gardens vis the queen's fertility.  That and Tolkien's essay about prohibitions and taboos, made me want to try my hand at writing something like George McDonald's "The Golden Key," or William Morris' "The Story of the Glittering Plain," or Oscar Wilde's "The Selfish Giant."  Only with a steampunk style (it wasn't steam-powered so much as wind-up plus some magic).

The mix of vaguely English 18th Century fairy tale with techno-wind-up tech threw some people for a loop.  I think the difficulties were with the prohibition, which is part of the fairy tale formula, and the unbelievable way the princess had broken it; and courtly dialog.

I took the question a little further, and I wondered, why is it that I write urban fantasy, or science fiction, instead of mainstream literary fiction, or magical realism, or memoir.  And I guess the answer is, "I write what I'd like to read more of."

 I'll confess I went in thinking "this manuscript is going to blow everyone away" because it had done more-or-less that with The Wordos. The coolest thing about writing is when and idea in my head manages to jump into another person's head, but it became clear that that hadn't happened with this particular reader and this particular fairy tale manuscript.

 When my writing doesn't work, there are times that I feel like it's because I'm defective, or an unactuated adult, or the wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time.  We used to have someone at the Wordos who wrote cool, lyrical poetry--but who couldn't write a linear plot to save his life and his stories were labyrinthine tomes that were frustrating to critique; I don't want to be that person.

 Had a stuck in Arcosanti dream.  I had to walk out of Arcosanti--which had a suburban development around it--to the junction, which was on a curving mountain-side (think Mary's Peak) and wait for either a bus or Mark to pick me up.

Working out:  Monday I managed to get to the gym.  190 cal on the elliptical in 20 minutes, 100 on the rowing machine in 10.  3X12 at 14 on the assisted dips and 3X10 on chin-ups.   3X12X40 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X80 lat pull-downs.  3X12 curl-ups.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nov 10 Journal

Working Out.  Went to the gym Tuesday. I'd wasted too much time previously trying to get a web site to track my gym attendance, so I had a correspondingly shorter session.  15 minutes at 140 cal on the elliptical.  10 and 120 on the rowing machine. 2X10 assisted chin-ups and 2X10 assisted dips.  Then I had to run off on errands.

Wordos:  Received a critique of the Halloween story, which needs some re-working.  I need to place some more action in following the story chronology.

Dreams:  More really weird dreams last night -- probably the post-critique tequila drink is to blame.  I crossed over an over-flowing dam to a simple village that had quarantined itself (from unspecified modern diseases).  Crossing over water into a different place is a common motif.

The dream slowly transformed from a rural backwoods village into increasingly urban surroundings.  I could fly in the dream, and at some point I was flying around the Reed College campus.  Flying over a much more Gothically ornate Elliot Hall is another common dream motif.  Then it turned into sort of wandering and flying through various dorms, halls, and bars.  At first I was looking for something (my dorm room?  a place for dancing and drinks?) and there was a vague sense that it was orientation week.  Then I was trying to get away from someone and flying was harder.  At one point the world's gravity changed and the New York Style apartment building I was trying to fly away from became "down" and I slowly fell back to it.

And then I woke up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Let's Do It

Sunday afternoon I was indolent.  I had been craving hot cocoa, so I made some, enjoyed it, and promptly had a sugar-crash.  At least I got a workout in earlier in the afternoon.

The latest song that's become our favorite to sing is Cole Porter's "Let's Do It."  Mark observed that innuendo songs were nothing new, and found a clever early ninety's reworking of the song with references to Liberace, authors, and various English lords.  This has inspired us to make our own verses.

I think the difficulty is getting words like Eugene, cyclists, and Oregon to fit in the meter of the song.  

William Blake, burning bright, did it.
Chuck Palahniuk with a fight, did it.
Let's do it; let's fall in love.

Cyclists who ride side by side do it
on the streets of Eugene.
Drivers who text do it,
and it makes them careen.

Monday night I woke up around 1 AM certain that I'd heard something in the garage--you know when there's a memory that straddles sleep and wakefulness:  it's not the noise that wakes you, it's the memory of the noise.  I woke up enough to wander around the house looking for hooligans.  Our neighbor's garage proximity light turned on, so a raccoon or a cat or wayward bar-and-grill patron must have activated it.  A little over a half hour later, I went back asleep, only half-convinced the noise that woke me was the refrigerator or a hard drive or the ticking of a baseboard heater.

And then I proceeded to have Processing With People dreams.  I was suddenly in a strange town, but I had been living in the Reed College house known as The Motel Six; so I was sad that it had broken up, and I was trying to get KKMHK (whom I haven't seen in over a decade) to move in with me, and we kept having these odd financial discussions while wandering through an empty apartment.

In another dream, I was going to take a hot-air balloon ride (the balloon was very home-made and kind of small).  I was going to fly with someone, who kept changing throughout the dream.  At the end, it turned into someone who said 1) they were Muslim, 2) they were in love with me, 3) because their love was forbidden, they couldn't be alone with me in any circumstances--but they wanted to confess their feelings so that when they started shunning me I'd understand why.  There was something more about talking with a psychologist along the lines of what must be going through their head.

I woke up thinking "Huh?"  

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Journal: Sunday Workout.

Working out:  Went to the gym Sunday morning.  230 cal on the eliptical in about 23 minutes.  120 cal on the rowing machine in 12 minutes.  40lbx3x13 on the pec fly. 80lbxx3X13 on the lat pull-down.  3X13 on the curl-up frame (with about half of them with straight legs).  I tried some scissor kicks on a yoga mat, but I'm not sure I was doing them right; what I really wanted to do was some extended anterior abdominal stretches by extending my feet to the right and left while flat on my back.  35lbsX3X13 barbell curls.  7.5lbsX2X13 overhead triceps curls.  I also did some assisted chin-ups.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Writing Ritual

One of the habits I've gotten into is wrapping and unwrapping my wireless keyboard in a lavender, maroon, and navy  tea towel embroidered with geometric letter forms.  If I don't protect the keyboard while it's in my shoulder bag, dust and hair and fluff are more likely to get into the keys, and I can imagine the keys getting damaged by a stray pencil or book or something stuffed into the bag.  I want to make writing a kind of ritual, and unfolding the fabric from the keyboard when I write on my mobile device is supposed to put me into a kind of writing space.  When I'm done, I try to pause and think about how I'm putting the keyboard away as I carefully fold up the fabric around it.    

In my mind, I'm remembering times at the Episcopal Church, where the priests would gather at the altar after the communion to veil the chalice and paten.  I think I must have been six or eight, it's a strong image of three oldish men--probably Father Neville, Father Chadwick, and someone else--in white cassocks.  Someone's wearing a green chasuble, and another one a white one with red highlights.  And they carefully put the paten on top of the chalice, and fold a green cloth over the front, creasing the fabric into a trapezoid shape.  

However, when I was putting away the sacred keyboard, carefully and methodically folding the fabric around it, it occurred to me that it looked like some sort of compulsive-obsessive disorder.  It isn't.  It's me wishing I could dress up in robes and have everything be a ritual.  

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Journal for Early November

Working Out:  Went into the gym Tuesday night for a pick-up session on the elliptical (150 cal in about 15 minutes) and rowing machines (100 cal in about 10 minutes).

Writting:  Got about 800 words in on a short story that had an irresistible prompt about a mom smudging her son's dorm room.  Submitted a "light fluff" short story Tuesday morning; it got rejected Wednesday night.  On one hand, at least they didn't sit on it forever; on the other hand, it would have been nice if they bought it.  Submitted a different short story and I'm expecting a rejection there, too, if only because that particular market is famous for quick rejections.  I've a third story that's due to be rejected any time now from a market that's famous for slow rejections.  The Halloween short that I read to the Wordos last week is up for critique next week; I'm always interested in how these stories get critiqued because my voice usually hypnotizes everyone into thinking the story is the next best thing to laser-sliced bread, but once folks read words on paper, the spell is broken and I get critiques like, "I remember thinking this was hilarious when you read it, but..."  

Design:  I wanted to make some sort of paper Christmas Unicorn thing for the holidays.  When I brought up the unicorn designs I'd come up with, I noticed that I'd made two of the unicorns' bodies way too short for their legs and heads.  Fiddled with the splines, and now I have better looking unicorns overall.  Alas, the unicorns have different bodies and poses than the deer I created to great effect a few years ago, so I'm going to have to rethink what I want to do.  (And thinking about it has just given me an idea.... which trying much later today has panned out.)

More Working Out:  Got to the gym late Thursday.  Elliptical, 150 cal in 15 minutes.  3X12X30 on the pec fly.  3X12X70 on  the lat pulldown.  2X12 curl-ups.  Tried to straighten my spine on a pool noodle.   Discovered the gym has an electronic body fat measuring tool; I think it was mis-calibrated, because it said I had about 10% body fat (or about 16lbs of it) which sounds a little low to me (who knows, maybe I'm wrong).

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

No Power Wednesday

The big excitement this morning (Wednesday) is that EWEB (Eugene Water and Electrick Board) decided to do some work replacing a sheared power pole and turned off the electricity for the neighborhood at about 7:25.  I was making breakfast at the time; luckily, I had not started to microwave some eggs.  The power sort of flickered, first, and then about twenty seconds later it went out for good.

Mark looked around for an EWEB phone number to call.  Eventually, he cranked up a radio and we heard on the local news what had happened.  It seemed odd that EWEB hadn't e-mailed or mass-phoned first.  (One of my co-workers said that she'd heard on the radio that they would turn off the power before they actually turned the power off.)

Luckily, we'd all showered.  And luckily, I'd already made my tea.  We went around turning things off (luckily the computer equipment was already powered down).  The Child commented on how weird it was to walk into a room, forget the power was out, and flip the light switch.  I noticed how much more quiet the house was without the humming of the refrigerator, and the subtle buzzing of the lights, computers, and power strips.  

The stillness of the air and the need to use sunlight to see reminded me of the house my Grandma Agnes's father built around 1890.  My Great-Uncles Olaf and Conrad lived in the house up until Olaf died in the early seventies and Conrad moved onto property in Svenson with my Grandma and (Step) Grandfather Einer around 1978.  

The old homestead, about twenty miles out of Astoria (past Olney on highway 202), had no electricity or plumbing.  Conrad did have a large radio that took eight D-sized batteries to run.  My favorite part of the house was the old pump bellows organ, and a giant tree that was probably about four trees grown together--it had a raised place about five feet off the ground where the trunks met.  It was like being in the palm of the tree.  I also liked the hummingbird feeders my Aunt Dorothy had set up on the front porch (which was never used as a front porch -- we always entered through the kitchen door.  

The old stuff in the house was interesting.  But, like most children dragged to an elderly relative's house, there was a lot of stuff we couldn't touch and not much for us to do.  Skittering water droplets on the wood oven lost its allure after an hour or two.  The giant whetstone was fun for about fifteen minutes, but we never really used it to sharpen anything.  The outhouse seemed particularly barbaric.

I wish the house had stayed in the family because it was a farm and it did have a lot of history.  It's the sort of place that would make a cool writers' retreat or artist's colony (or farm).  It was eventually sold sometime in the eighties and it's been decades since I've seen the place.    

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Halloween Weekend Warrior

Ugh.  This weekend has been an orgy of rich foods and I've still not recovered.  I had a fantasy that I would go to the gym Monday, but I was feeling so lousy that I didn't.

Friday (a no school day) started out with some car maintenance.

Saturday was Halloween; our pumpkins were extra scary because they had rotted.  The first Winter storm dropped about an inch of rain, too.  Between the cat, party hooligans, and the change from Daylight Savings Time, I got very poor sleep.

Sunday was a post-Halloween tea.  It was lots of fun.  Followed by going to a book release; I wasn't exactly the most awake.

Monday (a no school day) I realized that I shouldn't have had that extra short-bread tartlet from the day before.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Brotherhood and Clones

Working Out:  I've been lazy.  I was going to work out yesterday (Wednesday) and I wound up taking a nap instead.

I had a dream this morning, but I don't recall what it was.  

Lately, The Child has been watching the CGI show, "Star Wars:  The Clone Wars."  The writing is fairly good, and in many places better than episodes I, II, and III of the Star Wars movies.  I think the most interesting characters are the clones themselves because they are people who know that they've been manufactured to be soldiers.  The show has written them as individuals who choose names for themselves and who differentiate themselves with tattoos and various hairstyles.  Since they're all clones, they consider themselves brothers, and the theme of brotherhood between brothers is a reoccurring one in the show.  

I have to admit that the brotherhood theme sometimes eludes me.  As someone who only has a sister, the places where the characters deliver an impassioned "brother" in dialog seem a little over-the-top.  The only experience I have are watching Mark retaliate with "the youngest brother preemptive nuclear option" when we tease each other (which, I don't do that often because of said option).  I have three brother-in-laws, but I don't think that counts.

I'm trying to think what it would be like growing up with 100,000 copies of me.  On one hand, that would be pretty darn cool... but on the other hand, I can see us being super-competitive.  But I don't think we'd work out as a battalion.  I think it would turn out more like when Calvin duplicated himself. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Falls, Dreams, and the Wordos Reading

Last Sunday we went on a hike to a fall near Silverton.  It's a smallish creek, but it flows over a tough basalt lip.  Softer soil underneath the basalt has eroded out, so the trail makes a crescent through a cave behind the falls.  A maple grows near the bottom of the fall, and twines around the basalt lip, a natural bonsai twisting to trap as much sunlight as possible.  Within  the wide cave, there's a bench, and it's dry.  Sitting in the shadow of stone, the sunlight flows through the falling droplets of  the spray. I imagine that it would be the sort of place to sit and write haiku.

Tonight (Tuesday) is the Wordos Halloween reading.  As usual, my story is about 300 words over the thousand word limit, so I have some trimming to do.  

I had a very weird dream Tuesday morning.  I think it started out with men in a hott-ub or something.  Then I was at a kind of book fair.  Then I was introducing Mark and The Child to K.W. at her house, who was much more harsh Southerner than I've ever encountered her.  Then we were trying to beat a storm home, and I had to drive the car through some water.  There was a break, and I was staying with a Mexican family and at first the very traditional father thought I was having an affair with his daughter, but then the dream shifted and they thought she was a lesbian.

The short story for the Halloween reading was received well.  By changing the POV from a whiney teen (essentially) princess to a self-possessed kung-fu instructor, and making the teen character a sullen boy, I side-stepped narrative summary whine to the plot.  People seemed to appreciate the teen's "whatever" voice.  (Although there was a discussion of whether teens say "whatever" or something new).

There were thirtteen stories in all, and they spanned the range from funny to creepy to interesting.  A number of stories addressed the changing traditions of Halloween, lamenting how the holiday has gotten tamer.  Some alumni-members returned and read their stories, and it was nice to catch up a little with them.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Autumnal Soreness

Working Out:  Wednesday afternoon gym:  25 minutes on the elliptical for about 200 calories and 130 steps/minute.  Rowing machine: 110 cal, at about 680 cal/hour for about 12 minutes.  Assisted dips: 3X12:at 14.  Assisted chin-ups: 3X10 at 14.  Pec-fly: 3X12X40lbs.  Lat pull-down: 3X12X80.  Curl-ups: 2X13.

I'm not sure how or what I did... but my trapezoids on my left side are sore enough to make my left pectorals tight.  Not sure if it's a back thing, or a twisting thing, or a sitting too much thing.  

The morning Friday is foggy and cold.  The leaves are well on their way to turning from green to yellow, orange and red.  I was lucky enough to see the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mars before the fog rolled in.  The big dipper was upside-down over the northeastern hills.

I've been sort of ennui-ish.  This morning a kind of malaise sat on my chest, like the Nightmare painting usually gracing Freud's "interpretation do Dreams"...  What were the French Diseases of the Soul from "The Lathe of Heaven" again? (Looks it up: pique, umbrage, and ennui.). Maybe it's ennui.  Maybe it's existential angst.  Maybe exercise isn't combating the seasonal reduction in light as well as I wish it would.  Maybe it's the humming of the refrigerator.  Maybe I'm just sort of tired.  (Maybe I had a psychic reaction to a rejection that I discovered via Twitter the following day...)

More Working Out:  Went to the gym Saturday.  25 minutes on the elliptical for about 210 calories and 125 steps/minute.  Rowing machine: 110 cal, at about 680 cal/hour for about 10 minutes.  Assisted dips: 3X12:at 14.  Assisted chin-ups: 3X10 at 14.  Pec-fly: 3X12X40lbs.  Lat pull-down: 3X12X80.  Curl-ups: 3X13.  Barbell curl 3X13X35 lbs.  And some vague sit-ups on a medicine ball and a swimming noodle to try to straighten out my back.  There's been a knot or something where my trapezoids connect to the left side of my spine; the elliptical helped loosen it up,  and I tried ironing it out with the ball and noodle -- I might be leaning to the left too much when I sit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dreams of Halloween Tea

Working Out:  Tuesday I felt twitchy -- I'm assuming it was endorphin addiction -- and so I went to the gym for what I guess I would call a cardio work-out.  I spent 25 minutes on the elliptical (200-something calories, 135 steps/minute, and a heart rate of about 135).  Downstairs I did the pec fly 3 sets of 13 at 30 lbs and barbell curls (because I keep cutting those out lately): 3X13 at 35 lbs.

For a while my weight plateaued at 172, but the last two times, I've dropped down to 168.  I thought there was something wrong with the scale at first.  I'm not sure if I've reached some sort of tipping point in terms of general muscle mass, or if I've managed to eat less junk or what.  

The other day I saw a Facebook post where one of my friends had gone to a Halloween Witch's Tea.  There were lots of photos of women in dark dresses and pointy hats and gauzy material and leaves and purple.  It looked like a lot of fun, and I thought how enchanting it would be to have a tea party with table linens, bat-shaped cookies, and black tea, and spiced cider, and maybe even snacks like pumpkin cake and chocolate -- and possibly Tarot cards, or maybe something more laid back like looking at tea leaves or a scattering of maple leaves or a playful wheel of fortune.  With Scarlatti or Purcell harpsichord playing in the background.

Probably what I want is something like an old Carleton College Druid Ritual.

Anyway, now I'm wistful, and sitting in the dark listening to "Dead Can Dance," which is probably not the best choice for a snappy mood....

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Journal: Wildlife and Critiquing List Stories

Working Out:  I've been lame this last week; I've only done a few stray push-ups and some free-weights here and there.  I can feel muscles in my back and legs and arms all twitching and missing the workouts.  I'll have to hit the gym this (Monday) afternoon.

Writing:  I got a rejection yesterday (Sunday) evening.  This morning when I remembered it, my reaction was a kind of mental "phft" and then the DJ in my head played "Nothing" from "A Chorus Line."  On one hand, I suppose that's good and I'll just send the piece someplace else. 

The other week I was critiquing a list story.  List stories are difficult for me to critique because they're usually humor pieces and I have an odd sense of humor, and I'm not sure how to apply the five-point try-fail cycle to them.  Also, I think they are a sub-set of the epistolary form, which I've found is difficult to pull off without deflating character and plot tension or raising questions of why the reader is reading a stranger's letters.  

I've decided that if I approach list stories as if they were Twitter stories--which I've got a better understanding of--then I've got a handle on how to look at their structure.  

Working Out:  Monday afternoon I hit the gym.  Elliptical: 160 cal, 20 minutes, 130 steps per minute, 130 heart rate.  Rowing machine:  110 cal, 10 minutes, about 650 cal/hour average.  Assisted dips: 4 reps of 12 at 14.  Assisted pull-up: 3 reps of 10 at 14.  Pec-fly machine: 3X12 at 40.  Lat-Pulldown: 3X12 at 75.

Writing:  Pretty much finished up folding in edits and crits from a 2000 word mom-scientist piece.  I'm doing a final run on paper to catch any stupid things that I miss on the screen.  Then I'll have to see where I can send it out.

Yesterday (Monday) afternoon as I was picking up The Child, a crow fluttered across the road in front of my car.  It was at about foot level, flapping its wings and half-flying, half-walking across the street.  A yearling dear -- it seemed to big to be a faun -- followed it.  The deer's head was down, as if it were playing follow-the-leader with the crow.  I slowed down to give the deer time to cross.

Of course a crow leading a deer across a street from left to right seems like A Sign.  I'm not sure what of, and, recalling how crows will sometime drive rabbits across highways, I wondered if this crow was hoping for roadkill venison.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Angsty Dreams

I guess I'm not as fully recovered from the weekend as I thought I was; I was pretty tired yesterday (Monday) and I had a very slight case of vertigo (my ears must be congested or something).   Anyway, I thought I'd be more productive than I was.

Dreams lately have been angsty .  In one, I was two twin boys, until I was the twin caught in an evil doctor's office (lots of screaming and yelling in that one).  In another, Mark and I were wandering around, lost -- I think we were lost on a hike, or lost in a building, but it was the usual stuck in a labyrinth motif.  The latest was discovering that The Child was trying to feed Smokey our cat and another mystery cat, and he'd opened two cans of cat food and plopped them in water bowls and filled the bowls with five cups (at least) of dry kibble, and the both bowls were turning into a soupy mess which the cats were mostly tracking around the kitchen.  And then The Child did something like smear the cat food all over the walls and himself... and I'm standing in the kitchen thinking, "Why the hell don't you have any common sense" and trying not to lose it.

Tuesday Night.

I dreamed that I was in a parade or something.  It was vaguely Renaissance Faire.  Mark was there, and at one point I was reclining in a rectangular fountain basin.  The fountain was the backdrop in a circular amphitheater setting (very Soleri-esque) with ramps spiraling around the seating area.  At various parts of the dream I would either be in shorts, or naked, or else wearing a kind of merfolk tale (which might have been a artfully twisted green blanket).  

A procession of horns ... no that's not right, maybe it was a procession with just one singer singing  Greensleeves came down the ramp, and the costumed people standing in front of the fountain couldn't quite hear the words or the tune.  I started singing because I could hear what was going on, and some robed people in front of me picked up the tune.  

There was a break... and a fine, fit man had joined me in the fountain.  He ran a hand over my merguy tail and made a comment about the fabric, and I thanked him for the complement and told him that I was in a monogamous marriage.  

There was something more about getting out of the fountain and finding mark in the outside mall surrounding the fountain in order to find some clothing.   And someone in a really large plush sun mask.

There was another break, and I was in an audience with Fer Horn.  This may have been after the fountain... A bunch of Renaissance performers were up on a stage, but the sound system wasn't working, and we couldn't hear them.  I noticed a rack of mics...   And then the duct tape in my socks started to crinkle very loudly (I don't know why there was crinkly duct tape wrapped around my feet under my socks), which Fer thought was very funny.  

Then there was something involving lots of wandering and swimming through or flying over a river... and something a family finding a lost puppy underneath a terra cotta flower pot during an outdoor garden performance.

So... stages and audiences, sexual tension, quests, and being heard or not.   I guess the next step is to ask myself who I'm not hearing, or what it is that I'm trying to tell.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Flu Weekend

Over the weekend I caught a 24 hour bug that gave me the chills and a fever.  It also made me tired; so this weekend was one of enforced relaxing and I didn't get a whole lot done.  I didn't go to the gym, and I only sort of re-arranged the stack of manuscripts needing work (however, I do have a list of which ones to work on first, so that should keep me busy).

During my more lucid moments, I read an article on commencement speeches, in which the author listed some of their favorite sayings.  The one that struck me the most was "Do what you are doing."  I'm going to remind myself of that one for the week and see what happens.  The author also extolled folks to read the old classics, like Plato, which also seems like a good idea.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Laughing Prophet, Broken Wheel

The other day, when I was walking from the parking lot to where I work, there was a twenty-something man walking away from campus loudly reading some Old Testament scripture about smiting in God's name (I've tried to find the scripture he was reading, and it might have been Jeremiah 29:21, but it could have also been Isaiah 11:15 or Ezekiel 30:21 or some other grumpy prophet).  He was about five eight, with medium-long, think, dish-water blonde hair like a proto-dreadlock halo around his bearded face.  He wore army pants, a camouflage T-shirt, and carried a heavily-packed backpack on his back.  A smallish, triangular green tattoo was above his right triceps.

His voice was strong, and echoed for a half-block off of the office and apartment buildings on the street, and down the empty streets and over the parking lot.  "...and go into Egypt, and in my name  scatter the armies of Pharaoh.  And--" here is voice rose into a hoarse pitch "--the Lord God said,"  he voice returned to a sea-shanty voice, "and go and raise your arm and smite the King of Babylon, and do this... "his voice returned to its maniacal pitch " the --hee-hee-- name -hee-eee-eee-ee of Jee-hova, your God..."

It was like God--or something--had driven him mad.  If he was acting, he was good at it; as he walked by he projected that super-focused "I must intone Bible verses" vibe, and the hee-eee-eee seemed like a real stutter of Jehova.  I felt sad for him, because it seemed like his religion had broken him, like a cart after it's carried too heavy a load, and now he was meandering through the streets with a squealing axle.

He walked away from campus, and his voice was lost.

Dancing and Working Out

Workout:  Sunday morning I managed to get to the gym.  Mark calls it "The Old Folks Gym," and he's kind of right.  This was my first time in on a Sunday morning, and the folks there weren't necessarily old, but they did have a kind of focused earnestness about them that folks who are there for their health (as opposed to being there to look good naked) have.  I quite freely admit that I'm there so I can look good naked.

200 calories on the elliptical in about 20 minutes.  100 calories in 9 minutes on the rowing machine.  10X3 assisted dips and chin-ups on the 13 level.  Downstairs I only did 12X3 at 40 lbs pec flies, 12X3 lat pull-downs, and 12X3 35 lb barbells.  I would have done some more, but I had to get back home in time for us to go on an excursion to pick up The Child.

Saturday afternoon Mark and I had an impromptu early dinner at a sushi restaurant located in the old Savoré space.  I haven't been in the place for about nine years, and my memory of the old layout kept intruding on the current one (I suppose that I should just lay the reminiscences aside ...  J'ai déjà passé un bon moment autrefois).  Mark ordered bento, which he liked, and I ordered a yummy crunchy sushi roll.  The musac was very soulful saxophone, but otherwise the restaurant was very nice.

We went home, took a disco nap, and then went dancing at the new local queer bar, The Wayward Lamb.  The front area is open to the street, and had some charming hinged windows for airing the place out during the summer.  The bar is more generic and less raunchy than Club Arena was; Club Arena played a lot more disco and had gay male porn clips playing on the video screens.  The Lamb is new and clean, with a kind of clean Scandinavian Design feel to it.  The single flat screen TV over the bar was showing a football game.  It felt more energetic and brighter than the old Neighbor's bar, which always felt like a run-down high school cafeteria.

Since it's downtown and on the same city block as Titan Court, a student housing complex, the crowd there felt young.  I joked that Mark and I probably doubled the average age of the room when we walked in.  The clientele felt fifty-fifty split between the genders; I couldn't guess the breakdown of orientations, but it seemed like the whole spectrum was represented. 

The music didn't start until about 10:30.  When we were dancing, they played a lot of very distorted rhythms--the latest style seems to be mashing together 90 second long song clips of eclectic styles: I'd just be getting into something with a good dance beat when suddenly something funky-hip-hoppy or something would jar me out of the rhythm ("The reason you can't dance to this," Mark said, "is because you're white.").  Mark thought the (concrete) dance floor was about the same size as Club Arena's, but with less club table space.  We thought it was a converted kitchen, because there seemed to be grease-trap covers set into the floor (insert obligatory "on the manhole" joke here).  

I had fun dancing (when I could).  [Edit- Oddly enough, music hasn't really changed in twenty years... Although I couldn't understand what was being sung over the distortion. Our dance moves became "Little Bunny FruFru" and "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" when ever the music devolved into the musician using a synthesizer key as a percussion instrument.] Mark and I haven't gone out in an age, and my favorite part of the night was dancing with my head on Marks shoulder, my left hand on his back, and my right hand on his heart; I closed my eyes and felt us moving together as we danced.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Journal and Retrograde Mercury

Working Out:  Tuesday night (last week) after Wordos, I had a pick-up workout.  200 cal on the elliptical (and critiquing), then 100 cal on the rowing machine.  I did 10X2 chin-ups and dips at 16.  Downstairs, I did reduced weight routine.  3X12 at 30 lbs on the pec-fly.  3X12 at 70 lbx on the lat pull-downs.  12 curl-ups.  3X12 30lbs. on the bar-bells

Wednesday (last week).  I did 200 cal on the elliptical (and critiquing).  The rowing machine was in use.  10X3 chin-ups and dips at 14.  Downstairs, I did 3X12 at 40 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12 at 80lbs on the lat pull-down.  3X12 curl-ups.  3X12 35bls.  bar bells.

Writing:  I have been getting up at 5:30 or 6 and writing.  Obviously, I get more done when I arise earlier.  This week has been difficult, but I've managed to write, finish up and edit the short story (5500 words) that I started at the Ken Scholes workshop.  I'm hoping to have it critiqued by the Wordos next Tuesday (on track for that).

Thursday was a retrograde Mercury morning from Hell.  I couldn't find my work key (which I'd had to do without the day before).  Then I couldn't find my car keys, which I think were moved either by Car Key Gremlins or The Child.  

I managed to get The Child to school.  Then I got to work and realized that I did not have a valid parking tag, nor did I have the Office Birthday Snack for one of my office-mates.  I drove back home, got the parking tag and thought... I wonder if my work key is at the gym.  I tried to look up their number, but as soon as I did, the internet on the home computer went out.  Not even ipconfig \renew * would fix it (which pretty much assured me that it was there). 

I zipped over to the store and got the supplies I'd need for the day.  I wound up driving by the gym, and picked up the key that had in fact, fallen out of my pocket (or something) Tuesday night.  Surprisingly enough, there was a parking stall open when I got to work (I can only assume that Retrograde Mercury caused one of the undeserving SUV drivers to have a flat tire).  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sept 2015 Eclipse

Last night I went up to the Eugene Reservoir to watch the lunar eclipse.  I think half of Eugene was up there.  I met Jerry and Kathy Oltion, who are with the Eugene Astronomical Society, and hung out with them.  Allen Roberts showed up, as did Nina K Hoffman and Jacob Boyd.   I also saw some parents of The Child's school friends (Mark and The Child were not very interested in going with me, and stayed home.)

Folks milled around, waiting for the moon to rise.  The sun set shortly before 7, and everyone peered eastward to try to see if they could see the moon.  I brought my mobile device with the notion that I'd be able to photograph things through telescopes... but that didn't work out so well.  I did have an astronomy app that told me when the moon was above the (ideal) horizon.  There was a hill due east, and even though we were on College Hill, the moon was hidden.  Jerry pointed out that the moon would be difficult to spot, as the eclipse was well underway and the moon would be a tiny sliver (later this morning I saw a composite photo of the eclipse taken from Dallas, and it looked like two time zones over was the perfect place to watch the full moon rise and then promptly start to have bites taken out of it.  

Jerry, looking due east through binoculars, saw the moon first.  More haze than anyone had realized had built up and the moon was a dim orange wisp in the sky, barely perceptible in the blue twilight sky.  I went over and pointed it out to The Child's friends.   

The sky grew darker, and the moon rose, moving up and to the right at a forty-five degree angle, following the sun's near-equinoxal path.  It glowed an orange ember with the refracted light of the world's circle of sunrises and sunsets.  

Eventually, a sliver of white appeared on the moon's face.  I said bye to Jerry and Kathy and walked home.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wednesday night we drove over the Agate Hall chimney to see the swifts swirl into it.

The Child was supremely Not Interested in some "stupid birds," and I felt like I was dragging him to Church or something.  I was a little sad, actually, because even if he does believe in dark side of the Force, he doesn't believe in the everyday wonder of a flock's internal calendar.  It's possible he was focused on getting a Halloween costume.

When we pulled into the Agate Hall parking lot about 7:10 (twenty minutes after sunset), we found the place filled with disappointed bird watchers.  The swifts hadn't come for their Equinox roosting.

"Doesn't look good," a man said as he leaned against the hood of his car.  "Even the falcon didn't show up, so he must know something."  Normally, by this time a swirling funnel of swifts would be clicking and chirping in the sky.

Mark got out and blew soap bubbles for some kids.  The Child stayed in the car, dressed in a newly purchased phantom costume and looking at movies on his mobile device.

I looked at the chimney for the peregrine falcon, but it wasn't in evidence.  The only thing in the sky was a scattering of clouds and a waxing crescent moon.  It felt like looking at a deserted temple ruin.

We got back in the car and drove home, concocting conspiracy theories to explain the missing flock:  the dry summer meant no bugs for the swifts to eat; it was the Pope's visit; the U of O had secretly capped the chimney to keep the swifts from pooping on football players' uniforms; it was Xi Jinping's visit; it was sunspot activity; it was....

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September 2015 Equinox

It's the Equinox.  This is the time I like to think about what projects have completed.  Hmm, I seem to have a lot of half-completed things floating in the air.  Tonight (Wednesday) we may go and see the chimney swifts swirl like backwards smoke into the giant chimney at Agate Hall on the edge of the UO campus.  Some times when we go, there is a kestrel perched on the chimney lip, watching as the swifts drop down into column of brick.  Not all the swifts enter the chimney, and instead swoop down along the outside.  These the kestrel watches, then flicks after.  Moments later, the kestrel is back on the chimney lip, picking at a dead swift under its talons.  

Writing:  Finished up a critique.  Managed to have tea ready and was writing/editing Tuesday morning at 6:40-ish.  Managed to keep working until about 7:05.  I sort of hoped to have the short story ready for tonight's Wordos session, but between not having paper (where the heck did those extra reams go?) and needing to go into the gym this afternoon, I think that's not going to happen.

Working out:  I need to figure out a better afternoon routine.  I've gotten out of the habit of early-afternoon gym attendance over the summer, and it's gotten easy to say, "I'm too hungry to go to the gym" or "Ugh, I'm too full to go to the gym."  So I keep pushing when I'll go back.  I guess "Always go Monday," needs to become my new motto.  Did some push-ups and free weight work Monday night.  I was sore from Saturday's routine (mostly in my upper pectorals).

Tuesday afternoon's session:  20 minutes on the elliptical: 130 steps per minute with about a 130 beats per second; I want to say about 200 calories.  10 minutes on the rowing machine 120 cal.  3X10 assisted chins and dips at 14 on the assisted machine.  Downstairs 3X12 40lbs pec flies.  3X12 80lbs lat pulls.  3X12 curl-ups.  3X12 barbell curls (30 for the frst 35 for the other two).  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Latest Hurrah at the Enchanted Forest

Yesterday The Child and I went to the Enchanted Forest with my sister's family.  This was a birthday gift for my niece, and we'd only just now managed to get everyone's schedules aligned.

We've been going to The Enchanted Forest since the late 1970's.  I'm thinking that our first visit was with Velma Seat, an old family friend.  The park is old-school Oregon:  my mother and aunt were baptized by the father of Roger Tofte, the founder and builder of The Enchanted Forest.

The first part of the park is the oldest, which is a walking path along concrete dioramas and simple animatronic fairy-tale characters.  I like the giant dog and cat-headed flowers along the path.  Over the years they've added some rides and a Haunted House.  Although I like the the log ride and the Matterhorn roller-coaster ride, I'd have to say my favorite exhibit there is the seven dwarves' mine; call me a sucker for black-light paint and tinkly synthesizer music.

If it didn't make me feel nauseated, I'd really like the Crooked Man's House.  They do such a good job with the optical illusions there that I have to go through it with only one eye open.  I think The Child's favorite ride was "The Challenge of Mondor"(which he likes much more than he did in 2011) and my niece's was the Old Woman's Shoe and slide.  


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Journal: Sept 19 2015

Writing:  Despite some difficulties getting SimpleNote and Scrivener to sync up with each other, I managed to get in about 1000 words of prose in on a short story using SimpleNote.  I had a lovely time writing outside at Cafe John.   Encorporating it into the Scrivener part story will be relatively easy, but I'm going to have to work at avoiding version-itis.

Working out:  Finally hauled myself to the gym.  30 minutes on the elliptical for about 400 calories, followed by 10 minutes on the rowing machine for 100 calories.  Did four sets of 8 assisted dips and chin-ups at the 16 setting (I usually do 3 of 12 at 14).  Downstairs I did 12, 12, 12, 8 X 40lb pec flies; 12, 12, 12, 8 X 80 lb lat pull-downs; 3X12 curl-ups on the power station; 3X8 40 lb triceps curls; 3 X 12 barbell curls.

Wrting and Shrewsbury

I'm not entirely sure what has happened, but a bunch of my routines have fallen apart.  Actually, I'm pretty sure that between school starting, fighting off a September cold, and the Shrewsbury Faire, my routines have fallen apart.  I haven't been to the gym in almost twelve days, although I have done some free-weight work at home; and my writing has been sporadic.

Thursday, Mark was great and cajoled me out of bed to get some editing in the morning, and I did manage to get up and do some more editing Friday morning.

I've been thinking about Shrewsbury all week.  For the longest time, they very graciously let me lead the opening and closing parades there, and I would sing with the Pearwood Pipers.  It was fun, and I enjoyed it, but it slowly got less and less fun.  

Part of the disenchantment is the on-site camping.   While I mostly enjoyed the Pearwood Encampment in years past, chances were usually good that we'd set up next to folks who drank, had loud sex, smoked, and swore a lot.  This made for difficult sleeping.  The solution is sleeping off-site.

I thought I might get some writing in at Shrewsbury, but that didn't happen.  The fantasy was that I could park myself under a canopy somewhere and work on short stories.  I had a book I could have written long-hand in, but I didn't have a period pen.  I wanted to get a feather with a ball-point pen core in the shaft, but that didn't work out.  

Sometimes it feels like Shrewsbury is turning into a costume party for the participants and less an immersive event for patrons.  Someone pointed out to me this year that Shrewsbury had very little street theatre because most of the performers there are production groups yoked to stationary guild yards, which encourages patrons to come and watch the show, similar to an interpretive museum.  This is not a criticism of the production groups, who do a very good job presenting historical information in an entertaining way.  I think the solution to non-interactive Renaissance-Zoo would be to start-up a Street Theatre Guild (John ducks).   

I'd say this year's oddest experience was at the Staggering Oak Tavern, when I attempted to teach what I took for street players the Closing Parade Song only to have them look dully at me over their tankards.  Then there was a scattering of applause, and a gentleman of a certain age dressed in fine Elizabethan period clothing began loudly calling for a stripper.  I turned my back on the tavern's yard and continued to teach and lead the song to the players who were slowly congregating.

The more I think about leading the parades, the more I wish there was a portative organ or some other loud instrument which could be automated.  My fantasy is to make something like a mechanical stag on a cart with a musical component.  It's really too bad that steam calliopes are an American invention.  Oh well, at least we have a very capable bag-piper.

The most fun part of the parade was telling everyone that we were going to do the Opening Parade as a cha-cha:  "Aah-wake / awake / the day / doth break / good craft- / men / oh-0h-pen your stalls / (cha-cha-cha)."