Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Vancouver, Washington

Last night I was hoping to see the crescent moon next to Venus.  The smoke from various fires -- I'm not sure if the haze was from British Columbia or California -- obscured Venus completely and turned the moon into a ribbon of orange rind. 

Over the weekend we visited some friends in Vancouver, Washington.  I had some time, so I wandered around the old downtown.  I didn't visit the old Bell Exchange Building, mostly because I can never quite remember where it is.  I managed to get a close-up of a stone lion's face (see Aug 11's photos), which when I showed a local resident expressed surprise that it was there (just two blocks away from her shop).

I strolled by the city's fish bell tower, and took some obligatory bronze salmon statue photos.  The downtown park features a house from the 1880's, similar to Eugene's Shelton McMurphy house, and I took a few pictures, but the lighting wasn't the best and there was a huge beer-garden party going on in the park with unaesthetic cyclone fencing all around everything and lending an air of internment camp to the day.  Only with 80's rock.

What I like best about old houses like this is the detail work around the locks and door nobs and nooks.

Monday, August 13, 2018

When The In-Law Visits...

 Cicero's brother, Spencer, came over to the house.

He came for breakfast, but we're only supposed to feed him the stray snack or two, so I put up the unfinished breakfast bowls Cicero and Smokey had left behind (I suppose I qualify as a crazy cat lady, because when I heard Spencer rustling around in the kibble, I could tell it wasn't Cicero or Smokey).

(I got lucky with this mid-pounce shot.  A second later and my camera strap was a kitty toy.)

Spencer stayed for some chin skritches, and then went outside.  I wasn't sure where the other cats were, and Spencer seemed to be looking for them.  Since he's a photogenic cat, I got out my camera.

The cats in general seem to not like having the cameras too close, but the new zoom lens lets me stay far enough away that they don't seem to mind it too much -- although Spencer did want to come up and sniff the lens mid-session.

And then it was time to go on with my day...

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Mid August Update

Once again I've gotten behind on my blogging.

Mark and I recently celebrated our fourteenth year marriage anniversary.  We got each other nice little gifts and treated ourselves to a fancy dinner out (the fancy dinner also combined with his birthday celebration.  It's not all rainbows and unicorns, but being married to Mark makes me a better person, and I hope that I bring as much joy to Mark as he brings to me.

Today is pleasant (70-80F) and the sky is clear; but the previous weeks have been in the mid 90's, with a lot of haze from a large fire south of the Willamette Valley.  The smoke is not as bad as it was last August, but there's still enough smoke and dust and pollen in the air that I wake up with runny eyes and nose.   

The gym... has gotten out of my routine, and I need to fix that.  On the plus side, my left elbow joint feels much better.  On the minus side--and I wish it were a little more minus--I think I've gained about five pounds.  Certainly my girth has summoned my abdominals to siege.   

Writing... on the plus side, I submitted a short story to a market.  It's a good story, and I expect it's chances are as good as previous stories I've sent out -- which is to say I expect a "this is a fine story but we're going to pass for unarticulated reasons" rejection.    In the minus side, I looked at the word-count report for the novel . . .  and I'm about ready to chuck the whole thing.   The writing has become mechanical and the plot sort of "a day in the life."  Sigh.  Well... OK, maybe not chuck the whole thing; there's probably four or five short stories hiding in there, so maybe I should rework the corpus into linked stand-alone stories.  

Casting back to longer pieces... I've got one long piece that has been alternatively critiqued as visually stunning an descriptively exhausting -- I suppose technically it's ready to send out, but I've been reluctant to because the negative critiquers' voices have been stronger.   I've got a series of five short first-encounter stories which straddle the boundary between short story and chapter -- and I haven't looked at them in about a year because I had a sense that most critiquers hated them or were confused by them. I've got a stalled novella that deals with some sexual taboos, and I need to figure out why I keep backing away from it -- which is tied up with wanting to write about male sexual pleasure without the piece sliding into erotica/porn.   I've got an attempt at a science fiction novella/novel length story that has been living in a drawer for over four years... which stalled out and I'd have to remind myself why, but I think I was trying to do too much.  I suppose there's some writers' guide to not stalling one third of the way into longer pieces that I need to read.

Taking the long-view.... I found the latest round of "we're not looking for/we can't use this story" rejections has been really frustrating and it's almost enough to make me want to give up on writing.   On one hand, I know I could do better market research, but on the other hand it seems like the stories I want to write simply aren't popular with paying markets.   

Oh well.  On a more cheery topic, I've been able to take some nice pictures of the moon and architectural details.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Gargoyles and Sunflowers

Today I prepped for the gargoyle photo safari by wandering around the UO Library and Art Museum and pointing my camera's zoom lens at the stone heads adorning the walls.   I'm made the following observations

  • Early morning sunlight or evening sunlight will turn stone ruddy.  Noon time sunlight turns stone white or yellow.  Unless there's a forest fire 100 miles away.
  • Deeply embossed designs or fully three-dimensional heads probably photograph the best on the side of the building the sun isn't shining directly on,  i.e. the north side at noon or the west side in the morning or the east side at dusk.  
  • I think shooting a stone face or figure with sunlight striking at the extreme right, left or top will result in a high contrast shot that will confound the camera's ability to deal with light levels. . . unless there's a neighboring building or sidewalk providing light in-fill.
  • It's probably best to shoot heads and gargoyles as directly in the front of them as you can.  Shooting wall details at an angle may result in awkward trapezoids.
  • I thin better views are obtained by standing across the street or equivalent distance from a building, otherwise, you're looking at up gargoyle noses.
  • It's hard to hod a two pound camera still in order to keep images centered when the zoom is all the way at 83X Zoom, unless one has a tripod.  

In different news, the big sunflower outside our deck has suddenly wilted; all the streaming yellow petals are sagging.  I guess the inner flowers have all been pollinated by the bees and the big flower's job is done--its head is swollen with seeds and hangs down toward the ground.   The smaller, newer sunflower blooms are still tracking the sun, and I suspect they will be holding their heads up for another week or so before it's their turn to droop with seeds.  The squirrels will probably discover them before too long.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Early Friday Morning

I've been researching cameras in preparation for purchasing a superzoom lens camera.  My current camera is fine, but it's going on fifteen years old and the shutter button is beginning to fail.  I love its macro lens, and I've taken quite a few picutres of bugs and slugs and stamens -- and I'm ready for a camera that can take a descent photograph of the moon or of a gargoyle five stories up.   Of course, the camera I wanted to get (recommended by The Wirecutter) was discontinued two months ago, and isn't in stock anywhere (unless I get it used or refurbished).

Last night the full moon was next to a brilliant Mars. I tried to take a picture of it.  I' m not sure if there was a bit of a haze, or if there's something going on with my lens, because I got a lot of flare off of the moon.  I'd been hoping to get a good Mars and Moon shot to contrast the Venus and Moon shot I took a fortnight ago. 

A hummingbird has just visited our gladiolas while I was writing this morning.  I'd been waiting a while, and I'm going to hazard a guess that until the sun's been shining on them for about a half-hour, the flowers don't generate enough interest for the darting birds.  

We're in between heat advisories.  Today is supposed to be the coolest day since last Saturday, and a new advisory starts Sunday (on the overmorrow).   I'm very thankful for the air conditioner in our bedroom.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

More Sunflower Photos

The sunflowers continue to be a source of photographic inspiration.  My photo album looks like something  Vincent van Gogh would paint.

On the writing front, I had a nice session Tuesday where I cleaned up some sections and wrote about 700 new words.  

Monday, July 23, 2018

Morning Divination

This morning one of the sunflowers in the yard had turned its tawny face toward the rising sun.  I saw a bee at the twelve o'clock place on the flower and, as I drew nearer, noticed a fly--black and green with iridescence--at the six o'clock position.   As I tried to puzzle out the meaning of this, the fly flew away and the bee began a clockwise circuit of the flower, toiling away from tiny interior bloom to the next--one for each potential seed spiraled around the sunflower's face.

Is the bee some kind of summer grain genius, or industry?  Is the fly winter or envy's avatar? 

Then a hummingbird visited the gladiolas, and I had to intervene before Smokey could position himself for a pounce.

Now it's the three of bees combing their way along the spiral of miniature flowers.  Smokey has retired to his favorite cushioned yard chair in the shade, and Cicero and Spencer have crept into the yard -- which calls for cat treats all around.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Pause Before the Heat Advisory

We're about to have another heat wave in the valley.  It's not my cup of tea, and it increases the chances of forest fires in the area, too.  Apparently, our weather is currently "patchy smoke," probably from a local field catching fire over the weekend; starting Monday afternoon there's a heat advisory out for about 36 hours.

Aside from the discomfort from the heat, other thing that bothers me about the hot months is that our fans (which I love for moving air around) make a lot of background buzzing, which, now that I've reached a certain age, makes it difficult to pick out conversations.  Sometimes in the mornings before it gets too hot I go around turning off all the fans and reveling in the stillness of the air and the quiet.  I stand near the center of the house and I can hear all the little sounds -- the movement of the leaves in a breeze, the 'fridge, the rustle of birds, neighbors walking their dogs.  

When the fans come back on, it's like living wrapped up in cotton -- useful for when you want to take a short nap, but it's the sonic equivalent of waking up in the middle of the night because one of your arms has fallen asleep and you have to physically move it with the other, all the while wondering if you're pulling a tendon the wrong way or twisting your arm out of its socket.

Oh well, off to fill a tub with cold water....

Saturday, July 21, 2018


On the gym front:  I've pulled something in my arms (again)--it's the elbow joint in my left arm this time--and it's been a bazillion degrees the last week, so aside from some elliptical work, I really haven't been going to the gym much.

One the writing front:  the novel is at a virtual standstill, and I'm thinking the best route may be to look at the 52,000 words I do have and break them into short stories.  Lately, I've been not writing more than I have been writing.... I don't know if this is a function of pollen, heat, sleep, "man-o-pause," politics, a mutable Summer schedule that throws routine out the window, binge-watching Queer Eye or what.    On bad days I write less than 500 words; on worse days I write variations along the lines of  "You can't write.  You write crap.  You're too old.   You're too white and cis.  You're not gay enough.  You're too lazy.  You're a fake.  Fake fake fake.   You're not literary enough.  You're not dark enough.  You're not enough."

OK... some of it is related to not getting into an anthology and doing research to try to figure out where the story failed for that particular market.

I might try a stab at personal essay, which used to be fun, but I'm not sure if I have anything new to say.

On the music front: I've been playing my harp more.  Yay me.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Writing Music

I'm sitting behind the wheel of my parked car, waiting for The Child to finish an activity, and writing.  There's a keyboard resting on my thighs and the car seat is cupping the small of my back.  
The only problem with writing in the car like this in the Summer is that it's pretty warm, but if I roll down the windows someone inevitably decides to smoke or stop and have a cell phone conversation more or less next to the car.  The breeze is nice, though.
To cut down on the distractions of the other folks going to and from their cars (cue the father with a crying infant), I've got the radio tuned to KWAX.  I've got almonds; I've got tea, and-- Ack!  They've changed shows.  "Harmonia" has been swapped out for "Early Music Now"!  What the heck?
(Listens)  Hmmm, they seem slightly... less folksy?... than Harmonia.  The music seems a little more focused on a medieval and very early Renaissance music from Spain, Italy, and France.  The host seems to be less your eccentric liberal-arts aunt and more corporate symphony cousin.  The production values are a little higher.  I guess I'll have to listen a few more times to see what I think... I'm still surprised KWAX changed shows.    

I've been attempting to mix things up at the gym in order to keep my elbow joints from aching.  I think maybe the Nordic Elliptical on top of the pec-flies and the lat pull-down.  

The other afternoon, I sat The Child down and we watched an old US Department of Defense film on resisting fascist propaganda.  I'm hoping it helps him to recognize some of the hateful rhetoric bouncing around.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Virtual Locations and Solstice

Happy Solstice (a few days late).

As I write this, the U.S. is struggling with a just plain evil policy of seperating infants, todlers, and young children from their parent when families attempt to seek assylum or immagrate (sometimes illegally) into this country.  Immagration is a complicated issue, and I'm sure any solution will be equally complicated, but federal government's crackdown and its psychological and physiological damage to over 2000 children is immoral.

For my Solstice pause, I rearranged the statuary in the back yard, placing the Sphinx to the west of of the lawn circle and the Lion to the south.  I need to find a replacement shell for the Sphinx so she can have a reservoir of water between her front paws again.  The Lion looks good in a kind of cave of laurel and vibernum, and the Sphinx is peeking over some plant I haven't indentified astride some goldenrod.    

When I have ritual in the circle, I think I'll place the labyrinth stone in the north.  The eastern flower bed currently features foxglove (thanks, Mark!) and arbor vitea (thanks again!) and other plants that Mark has managed to coax out of the ground (our clay-heavy soil is in dire need of amendment).   If I can get my act together, I would like to build some standing tables with spiked leges so I can level them after they've been set in the ground.  

And in the back of my head, as I arrange things, I wonder about boundaries and boarders, and the chainlink fence running between our house and the houses of our three neighbors.

Wednesday night, as I lay in bed, I watched a live-stream of Stonehenge.  The sky here had just darkened, but at Stonehenge the pre-dawn Summer Solstice sky was casting enough light to see people.  Our house is far enough from Stonehenge to make it awkwardly late to watch the sunrise there.  On one hand, the technology of live-streaming made it very cool to be virtually among the trilithons of Stonehenge. On the other hand, I was in bed watching something happening that for some of the folks there must have been luminous, but that luminous experience wasn't translating across the Internet.  Honestly, it looked like a bunch of (mostly British) people standing around as if they were waiting for a rave to start.  I was very much aware that I was looking at a plastic-and-glass slab rendering of a crowd of strangers holding up their plastic-and-glass slabs to capture a photo of the pre-dawn crowd milling around Stonehenge.  

We have a planetary network that reduces the world's boundaries to palm-sized panes of glass.  

I watched for about twenty minutes, but there didn't appear to be any sort of organized ritual; of course this made me feel like I was in an old Carleton College comic strip, "Tall Corn" (renamed for the purpose of this particular strip "Mystic Corn"), where two undergraduates go out to watch the Carleton Druids have a ritual ("Wait! The Blonde is taking off her mittens!"), are disapointed that it's not a nude ritual ("That's it?!"), and end up asking incredulously, "Don't you people do crazy things?"  ("Well... Jon's a vegitarian....")

A few crazy things went through my mind, but Mark was wiped out from all the pollen and had passed out even before I started the Stonehenge live-feed, so I turned out the light and went to sleep, too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Summer solstice is just around the corner.

This is a catch-up post.

We're getting our first hot days--above 85F--of the season

I've been going to the gym, although I haven't been posting about it.  At the advice of my masseuse, I'm looking into ways of mixing up my work-outs, because it seems like I'm always pulling something in my arms or shoulders and then I have to dial back the weights. 

Here's a collage of photos of Smokey (center), Cicero (upper-right), and (neighbor cat) Spencer.  They mostly get along.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dream: Olaf's Treasure


In an earlier dream, I was in Corvallis driving some author friends around, S.D. and C.O. (who is not an author in real life, but a high school friend) or maybe E.P. (who is also not an author in real life, but a friend from St. Olaf College.   We may have been driving from Portland, and I seem to recall highway navigation.  In any case, I was driving, and I realized that I needed to get S.D. to her house in North Corvallis, which meant I needed to take the Hwy 99 exit to Walnut street--which meant going over a small hill (which in real life was probably the back road to Samaritain Hospital.

Suddenly, S.D. was sitting on my lap, and the car stalled, and I couldn't get my feet on the break or gas petals properly because S's feet were there, too.  The car rolled backward, and before we knew it, I was driving the car backward on the highway.

There was something more about being apartment-mates and a meal.

I think the main dream starts here... I was in a house that was my Grandmother Agnes's (only it wasn't).  Everything was dark wood, and chrome grates and enamel tubs and vaguely 1950's decor.  Some cats and kittens (possibly Cicero) were there, and there was a pile of stuff (like a kitty basket) over an air vent near a cast-iron stove to keep the kittens from getting into it.  The room became more cabin-in-the-woods as the dream progressed.

The stuff was cleared away, which revealed a trap door (more like a five-by-five-foot section of the floor flipped up) opening on a kind of vanity counter and bathtub.  The room was darker than above, and there was a sense that it was part of the air circulation system.  I think we were trying to turn on lights, and after fiddling with an old-style breaker-box, we opened up another part of the room, which was dark and musty like a concrete floored garage or tool shed.

There was still a sense that this space was underneath the wood cabin.  This room had a bunch of my Great Great Uncle Olaf's stuff (like a lawnmower) in it.  In the dream we called him Uncle Olaf, but it was really my Great Uncle Conrad.  There were other rooms beyond, and we found ourselves (by this time my writer friends had turned into non-descriptive, generic family members) in a labyrinthine set of museum wings filled with Fertile Crescent Antiquities that Uncle Olaf had excavated and curated by himself (and everyone was surprised, since he was a potato farmer from Astoria in the early half of the 20th century).   

I think the cats followed us around.  Room after room was filled with tiles, and carvings, and figurines.  There was a room of finials which had a special, crescents-and-feather finial in it... it was some kind of rune, I think. 

In a side room, we found a glass-chip vase filled with random rocks and agates.  We decided that it would be OK to take a stone each.  As we were exiting the museum, I passed through the tool shed garage and noticed a figure standing/sitting in a wheel-chair (he was propped up, he was standing, but there was also a wheelchair).  It was Olaf/Conrad; his visage was dark and shadowy (which was kind of odd, since he always had a shock of silver-white hair on the top of his head and I always remember him being pale).  Since Olaf/Conrad died in the 1980's,  I stepped closer, for a better look and became aware of his dead staring eye blazing blue in the dark.  He didn't move; he didn't speak; I don't know if he'd opened his eyes or if they'd already been that way, but his blue eye had a flame in it.

I rushed upstairs.   The cabin was still a cabin, but now it was in a city setting.  My relatives, a married couple, were standing on a concrete overpass. 

"Uh," I said, "I think it wasn't a good idea to take those rocks.  We should put them back."

The husband agreed, and gave me his rock.

The wife wanted to keep hers.  "They're good luck.  Why should we give them back?  All those years, Olaf [did something bad/selfish], so I don't see why I shouldn't take some of that luck now."

I walked up to her, "You're using Olaf's bad decisions in the past to justify _your_ bad choice now.  Stop it." 

There was some frustrated rock-throwing, and I picked up one dark rock from the edge of the overpass before waking up.

Monday, June 04, 2018


June is busting out all over, and everything is happening at once.  The last few days, I've been busy with a decoration project for an event at The Child's school.  At work, folks are gearing up for the end of the academic year and the graduation ceremony.  Some how dentist and vet appointments became scheduled during this time.  The Child's birthdday is coming up, which means getting ready for various festivities.  After that is Father's Day and Pride Events everywhere but Eugene.  Things start to wind down by the Fourth of July.

The grass pollen seems to be pretty bad this year--but Mark has managed to avoid most of the usual symptoms of May and June.  Luckily, I only really feel it in my eyes, which are gummy when I wake up in the morning.