Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dream: Driving Through Floods

Dream:  I was driving in the family car in Eugene.  I was driving down a street like Chambers street from 28th.  I was going to meet Mark at a movie theatre, probably at Gateway Mall, and rather than traverse a diagonal through downtown Eugene traffic, I was going to zip along Chambers until it met something like the Beltline and then zip along the Beltline until I hit the Mall.

It didn't work out that way.  I zipped along Chambers, which became more and more rural (almost like Greenhill Road).  The road became more narrow, and weeds and tall grasses began to sprout up on the shoulder.  I was driving through fields.  The day became more cloudy and rainy.  I zipped around a long curve in the road, and the road was flooded.

I started to drive through the water, but somehow turned back.   Then I decided to try to get to the underpass on the other side of the flood.  So I gunned the motor and drove as fast as I could through the deepening, surging, swirling water.  Brownish water frothed around the wheels and half-way up the doors.  I think in real life the engine would have been flooded or car would have gotten swept off the road.

I made it to the other side and parked the car.  The dream shifted, and I was waiting with a bunch of other folks for a bus.  There was a woman who was a bus representative who was taking customer's money and answering route questions.  The stop was under an underpass, and the roiling flood was near-by.

An older lady in a white convertible drove through the flood and parked her car next to the queue of folks waiting for the bus (to take them to the mall?)  The next thing I knew, I was in the white convertible with the lady, and she backed us into the torrent.  She tried to drive us forward, but we were swept back and into a kind of dark culvert with iron grates.  It almost was like being in a lock.  The bus lady was shouting instructions to us, and the car floated under the road and into a dock of sorts.

There was a break, and I was Tsunami Books.  This dream version was in a large Victorian house in a rural area.  Lots of wooden porch, wooden stairs, and segmented rooms.  I was letting people in or somehow in charge of a craft fair.  I was looking for an ink stamp to stamp people's hands and someone else was looking for a cash box...   There was something about waiting in line for a bathroom... but at one point I told Connie Newman "I dreamed the car got caught in a flood, and we floated into this dark culvert.  I need to write down the experience so I can use it in a story."

...And then the dream went on to other things, and all of us were on a flat-bed truck, and a youngish woman was in a speed boat on the river aside the road, yelling at us, "Have you seen [I'm gong to make up a name, Dexter, a large white horse]?  He was supposed to be in the paddock behind the house..."



It occurs to me that there were mostly women in this dream.

Driving a car through a flood is an anxiety motif I've dreamed since I was four.

I'm not sure why I would mash up being in charge of Tsunami Books (I lock the place up after Wordos meetings) and running a craft fair (Mark has run a holiday craft fair at his work for the last several years).  Oh, wait.... flood = Tsunami?

Crossing a river to an otherworld, frequently with a white horse, is another dream motif I have... although I'm reading "The Two Towers" to The Child and Shadowfax is carrying Gandalf between the Ents and  Helm's Deep.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Throwback Friday: Snow

Here's a picture from Jan 27, 2008, when it snowed.  This is to contrast the 65F weather we had the other day, complete with blooming camellias and hummingbirds.

More alien dreams last night; Mark's taken to firing up Dr. Who before bed, so that's probably why.  The only thing I really recall is that I dreamed about aliens.

Writing:  Finished the Queers Destroy Science Fiction story and polled some friends for beta reading.  Critiqued two 4000 word stories.  Received a glowing (probably form) rejection for a fantasy story; I know you're not supposed to, but I'd imagined this one would find a home.  Next up is writing a Sword and Sorceress candidate manuscript.  Trying to ignore the self-hater.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sushi Dreams

Dreams:

I was at Arcosanti, only I was leaving the very next day.  G. L. worked there (which is the first time I've spliced someone from Eugene into an Arco dream) and he seemed kind of sad and surprised at my announcement.  I was at a Manager's Meeting, I think, in what used to be the library underneath the main business office.  Jeff Manta (whoa, haven't thought about him in 20 years..) came in with a roll of a kind of clearish gelatin which he had just mixed up out of plant sap and common kitchen chemicals.  He went around with the cylinder and cut hockey-puck sized disks for everyone.  

Cool! I thought, because the pucks were kind of bouncy (the substance was a mix of silly putty, those white drafting erasers, and clear glycerin soap).  Then I realized they were soap, because everyone else began washing the small rectangular desks they were sitting at. It was really good soap, and it took up the pencil, ink and dirt stains.  

I'm not sure what the Arco dream with Eugene people in it is about... maybe I'm feeling stuck with the ending of the current story not working right.  I'm pretty sure watching a sushi chef last night is where the roll of bouncy cleaning pucks came from.

--

In the other dream, I was a detective of some sort, closing down extraterrestrial con-games.  I don't have good recall on this dream, which seemed long.  The aliens, who looked mostly human, were working for a human boss.  I think they were stuck on Earth.  The mark would bring thousands of dollars to the alien to see more aliens, and then the aliens would re-neg somehow.  They might have mind-wiped the mark, or they simply may have laughed and said, you've already met the alien (me) but whose going to believe you?  Or it might have been something else.  I'm not sure why they were working for a human boss. 

I'd gotten to the con-man aliens' HQ, an old theatre of some sort made of brick, and I'd let them think they'd fooled me but, I was prepared for their trick (and immune) and my money self-destructed so they didn't have the payment for their boss.  "This looks pretty bad," I said, pointing to an empty suitcase.  "You told him you had the money, and now you don't.  He's going to be pretty mad.  But if you tell me who he is, I can help you out."

Thre was something more about new construction, but I only have an image of a bunch of new, brick buildings going up; they were middle-range, Olive Garden type, fast food places.


Working Out:  150 calories in 14 minutes.  I did the free weight stuff, but I should do some more at home because I had to skip the dumbbell bit.

Writing:  I feel like that cartoon where da Vinci spends days painting and repainting the Mona Lisa's lips because something about them isn't write.  Endings are hard.  The action is done, but the conclusion-twist is wrong... and it's possible the solution is to  chop off the conclusion-twist.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sunday Writing

Sunday I had a writing day.  I set up Scrivener in the kitchen, where I can sit without craning my neck or holding my arms out at a funny angle and I put on my older glasses (which don't correct so well for distant objects, but which don't require me to peer at the computer screen through the bottom half of the lenses) and I wrote.

Actually, I edited.  I started out with a rough draft of a space story.  I should have used a timer to see how much time out of the twelve hours I had for writing, but I think that would have been a little distracting.  Also, sometimes when the writing is editing, it's difficult to do things like word count.  

I did take little breaks for snacks, shopping (for tea!), and laundry, but I mostly kept at it for about twelve hours.  I'm going to guess that I was writing/editing for about seven of those hours.  At the end, I synced the story with SimpleNote so I can work on it from the iPad.  At the end, the story came in under 4000 words, which surprised me -- I guess I'm getting better at cutting out the bits that are lyrically descriptive but which don't move the plot forward.  I'll credit Scrivener for making it easier to keep the scenes divided into pieces, and thus easier to focus on scene arc.

I've decided that I like writing to the music of Antonio Scarlatti.  It's interesting music, but not so distracting as Bach can sometimes be, but at the same time it sinks into the background.  It's perfect for keeping the part of my brain that likes to put splice songs like "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" together busy without distracting the part of my head that's writing.

I like the beginning of the piece; I want to submit it to Lightspeed, and I think the first half, at least, has the right voice and strong character interactions.  The second part works, I think.   But I have a feeling I need to do another pass and make sure the characters are doing what they should, and not what the author needs them to do.   


Later:  Yep.  The ending is totally wrong.  Everything up to the very last scene is mostly working.  I know how I want things to go, it's that final stretch that's not working.  Oh well....

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Shadows and Light

This morning I have the house to myself, and I'm working on a story set on Tau Ceti.  It really needs to be a character-driven plot, since it's primarily a relationship story (instead of being a milieu, mystery, or status-quo story).  I wrote the original Very Rough Draft a few months ago, and I'm seeing the parts where I started to lapse into "Tolkien Hiking Porn for Space Station Tech Enthusiasts."  The mantra to repeat has been, "Advance the plot, reveal character."

On a completely different note, here's some photos from last weekend, when it was much less foggy.


I'd recently seen some back-lit photos of plants Pat Kight did, so during the Mt. Pisgah hike I was on the lookout for light shining through leaves.
 I like the contrast between the pale lime lichen and the orange leaves.
 Western Oregon trees have to support a lot of lichen.
 Some times the lichen is so thick, it's hard to know where a tree ends and the lichen begins.
 The sun came out about a third of the way through our hike.  The earlier rain gave everything a silvered sheen.  My camera is not capturing the brilliant greens everywhere.
The only macro-lens shot I took.  I would have taken more, but that would have required a hike about six hours long instead of two.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Power Lines and Briars

 The other day as we were hiking Mt Pisgah, we came across the power lines.  They dominate the trail, and this time around we were in the right place at the right time so that the lines gleamed golden with sunlight.

The combination of looking through the viewfinder, which doesn't use the same optics as the camera lens (I didn't want to drain batteries with the LCD screen) and trying to shade the lens with my hand to cut down on sun flare meant that I took a lot of shots in the hope that one or two might work.

There were briers growing along the trail, and some of the branches framed the lines -- it seemed like a cool compare-and-contrast and I liked the idea of thorns and high voltage lines. 

Writing:  About an hour's worth of re-working and tweaking a scene.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mt. Pisgah Trees

The other day we took a hike on Mt. Pisgah.  For once I wore too many layers.  It was about 50F out, and we managed to miss getting rained on.  I think it's been something like two years since I've been last (I'll have to look that one up).

I like taking pictures of the trees, and as we're only about a month after the Winter Solstice, most of the afternoon is filled with magic light.  Also, although we missed getting rained on, there was a lot of mist in the air, which made photos gauzy and almost too bright at the same time.

Early on on the hike it's easy to point and click at every tree.  In any case, I managed to not take too many of the same sorts of pictures I always take (and not slow the hike down too much).

We went through the Incense Cedar trail first, then worked out way up.  I like walking through the cedar grove because the lighting is dramatic and mysterious.

Three trees growing together near their bases looked like conspiring spirits, and as I snapped their photo, I recalled the line from MacBeth:  "The weird sisters, hand-in-hand / posters of the sea and land..."

Writing:  I'm re-working a short science fiction story which was originally a photo prompt story with spooky toy animals.  Got about forty-five minute's worth on it this morning.  I'm hoping to get it into Queers Destroy Science Fiction, and it needs a stronger voice.

Working out:  Wednesday (a week since I last went to the gym) I managed to keep the cal/hour at about 770, and got 180 calories in about 16 minutes (which apparently is good).  I was trying to think about the science fiction story, but it was difficult to work out what I wanted to do and keep my rate up.   I managed to get in a full routine with the free weights (dumbbells, pec flies, weighted lunge, lat pull, triceps pull, and two other free-weight things I don't know the names of...)








Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bridge Arches

The Willamette River runs along the north part of Eugene (and the East part of Springfield).  There's a new(ish) bridge over it, which Mark says will be the one that's safe to cross after The Big Earthquake.  I just like the way the arches look together.
The underside looked like an accordion.  

The forces on the bridge arches and spans must be interesting because the road above curves a bit at one end.

Also, it occurs to me that this is a typical grey Oregon January day.  
What surprised us (and which shouldn't have) was how many encampments we saw on the opposite (South) shore between the river and the train tracks.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tree and Wires

Last week we went for a walk along the Willamette River, near where I-5 crosses over it.  I managed to notice some broadcast antenna guy lines framing a tree.  It was so arty it demanded I take a photo, so I did.

In honor of the New Moon, I received two story rejections in about five hours.  Thank you, universe.   I suppose since I send out stories in batches, it's not too surprising that I receive rejection letters in batches, too.   It wouldn't be so bad if only all my rejection letters didn't start with "Dear John."  Oh -- wait...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Still More Pat Kight Photos...

© Pat Kight, 2014
I think this is the most whimsical photo Pat took.  I was standing in front of a bowl of mist, but it wasn't really misting so much.  Once Pat got home, she zapped the bowl with some Photoshop magic.











© Pat Kight, 2014
 Obligatory Crystal Ball shot.









© Pat Kight, 2014
I was going for goofy (on purpose) in this one.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

This is Me...

© Pat Kight, 2014
This is me ready for my Bollywood Dance Number!










© Pat Kight, 2014
 This is me, swearing on all that's holy that I never took my clothes off at all during any part of this photo.













© Pat Kight, 2014
This is me pretending to by your kindly grandfather sending you a psychic message from another time.

Photo Shoot

I'm not sure what to think about this series.  I was going for rugged and I think it came out goofy. This is not Pat's fault.


© Pat Kight, 2014
I'm a simple Renaissance Man, in a simple wooden frame with straight lines to contrast the simple folds of my unconstricting poet's shirt.  Oh.  And I was a dog in a previous life.  Did you say you had some chocolate?  I can stay right here if you have chocolate.





© Pat Kight, 2014
Help, I've wandered into a play structure, and I can't get out!  They promised me a poet's cottage with glass windows, but this is all they have got.  And there's no tea.







© Pat Kight, 2014
Look at me.  Now look at my hand.  Now look back at me.  Wait!  Don't look at me.  OMG! This is a Drunk J Crew session, isn't it?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Evil Bambi Eyes

This morning I cleaned my office.  It wasn't quite the archaeological excavation I thought it would be thanks to actually using a filing cabinet the last time.  Mostly, it involved recycling odd notes and flyers, and clearing out some space in the rolling file that's supposed to house works in progress instead of finished manuscripts.  The take-away from this morning is that I have too many unfinished projects, and I don't have an excuse to not pick a manuscript and either finish incorporating Wordos critiques or else polish a manuscript for critique soon.

Pat Kight, 2014
© Pat Kight, 2014
On the picture front, here's another Pat Kight photo.  In most of the pictures, Pat used a narrow field of focus and managed to focus on my eyes.  She also Photoshopped some of them, mostly to darken or blur backgrounds.

I'm not sure what I was thinking when this picture was taken.  My hair looks like it's got a Dorothy Hamill bob, but it's merely escaping a hair tie.  I think I was trying to look coy or impish or something.  This photo is making my eyes look bigger... I think.  I've decided that black and white photos paradoxically make my hair look darker.

In thinking about this a little more, I've come to the conclusion that this photo is capturing my "Evil Bambi" look.  Maybe I'll use it for author biopics for romance novels.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Smiling Thespian

© Pat Kight, 2014
Continuing in the Pat Kight Summer Photoshoot series.  I like this photo because I look like I'm having fun, but not too goofy (What? Me? Goofy?).   I didn't realize it at the time, but in some of the other photos I've done the Fabio Open Shirt thing a little too much -- in this one, my shirt front is staying as closed as I thought it would.

Also, while I'm rocking the Grizzly Adams Beard, I don't look too wrinkly.  Not that wrinkles are bad, I'm not quite ready to embrace them.  (Yes, it's true, some days I look in the mirror and sing to myself, "The sun when it's shining on your face really shows your age...")

Waiting

Last August I had a photo shoot.  There were lots of props, and a few hat changes.

© Pat Kight, 2014
This photo is fun because I look like The Hermit from the tarot card.  I'm thinking that Pat must have Photoshopped in the light in the lamp along with some other post-production tweaking to make the photo more sepia than it was.  Now that I'm looking, I'm standing underneath our cherry tree and the Pat's facing south.  It was about 3 PM and I'm facing west.

We had a lot of fun.  I'm going to see if I can rotate some of the photos through the blog.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

January Dreams...

Last week.  The other day I dreamed that I was listening to an old friend of mine sing a Renaissance song.  It started out sounding like "Kyrie", but it was a joke song, and the words changed to "Kiwi wee-wee"


Saturday night I dreamed I was flying over Reed College.  I'm not sure if I was in my cloak or not.  Sometimes it was difficult to fly -- it was partially concentrating on flying, partially some arm gesture where I held my arms rigidly at my side.  Flying over the brick buildings of Eliot Hall and the Old Dorm block is a dream motif I haven't figured out.  What was different in this dream, I had flown into some upper story garden, and gotten a hold of some deep red roses.  I wanted to fly over Reed sprinkling the petals and this was difficult for a reason that wasn't clear to me.


Monday night (I think) I had an Arcosanti dream; I had gone back to Arcoasnti and was working there again.  In the dream I had been working there again for about six months.  When I woke up, I had a confused moment when I tried to remember when I had gone back there to live.  


Last night I dreamed I was in a hospital.  (I think I'd had some sort of travelling dream before hand.)  As I'm writing this, I can feel that Wednesday's workout must have pulled the shoulder muscles connecting my pectoral muscle to my trapezium muscle, because in the dream I was in the hospital to have an operation involving my heart or my ribs or my blood or something.   Although at first I think I had just gone in for some sort of out-patient procedure.

The hospital was in a newish building.  My room was part of a quad of quads around a central station. The nurses were all little-old-lady kind, on the old side of middle aged, and kind of pudgy around the hands, wrists and jowls.  I have a vague sense I was in my Grandmother Agnes's living room at one point... probably because the furniture in the rooms was all browns and avocado greens and overstuffed.

Various family members, my parents (I think) and Mark were there.  Mark and my sister had a conversation about how I had taken out a loan so I could go to the hospital.   I was supposed to choose a bed, and I ended choosing one that was away from the nurses' station; I had a notion that this was bad because if something went wrong, the nurses wouldn't be right there to notice.

Suddenly, it was time for the operation.  By this time in the dream, the situation had change from some simple blood draw to major heart surgery or the surgical removal of a rib or under-rib lump.  It had gone from a local anesthetic to full anesthesia.  

The plump nurses wheeled me through a darkened corridor into an operating area.  Or else my POV shifted into one of the plump nurses.  She was confronted by a younger, slimmer, black nurse  The black nurse was really angry because the plump old nurses had goofed up a schedule or hadn't gotten the right authorization.  I think I POV jumped into the black nurse's head and she was grumbling about something.

Working out:  195 calories in 15 minutes on the rowing machine.   Imagining Over-The-Top Two Steps from Hell music made me laugh, but seemed to help me maintain a 825 calories per hour rowing rate.  I imagined I was in a rowing shell, on a dark lake reflecting stars which rippled in the wake as I fled from unknown menace.   I increased the weight from 15 to 20 on the forward lunge thing I do, and I think that's why I was sore Wednesday night.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In A World Where Music is Over The Top....

Yesterday I discovered a music group called "Two Steps from Hell."  It appears they focus on atmospheric and movie trailer music, which makes them like "Juno Reactor" or "Junkie XL".

In deconstructing their music, it typically has a quiet, two to four note intro contained by an octave (for the moody pan across the snow-covered wheat field); a descending ground that spends a lot of time in a minor key (while mom washes the dishes in the Spice Mines of Kessel), stopwatch percussion, (the movie's "ticking clock"); a mystic or romantic female vocalist ("Hear my song/prayer, Obi-Wan.  You're my only hope."); silence between kettle-drum hits (for a last kiss from a betraying lover while armies glare at each other from world-sized star fortresses), a Roman legion horn section (freedom fighters riding dragons), and a frantic string section (for ninja-scampering and running away from the demonic horde).   Thinking about it more, I'm pretty sure that a slowed down, minor key version of the signature phrase from "I like to be in America" is worked into a lot of what I've heard. 

I spent at least a half hour with The Child moving dramatically and saying things like, "In a World where he must choose between posing dramatically and duty" or reaching out in slo-mo while saying "Nnnnnooooooooooooo!"

And laughing maniacally.

Lots of laughing maniacally.

While the wind machine blows fog over me and the stars fall.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Journal

Work-out (Monday):  200 calories in 15 minutes on the rowing machine.  I still have a cold, and it was hard to focus over the conversation that was happening four walking machines down, so not much on the sustained meditation front.  I was running, late, too; so I only did lunges and pec flies on the free weight station, lat-pulls and triceps pulls on another station, and some curl-ups (while suspended from my forearms).  Later at home, I did some bicep and triceps curls.

Writing:  I put the finishing touches on a piece of flash (the ending was difficult) and sent it to Penn Cove. This was a good thing, as yesterday I was in a bad head-space with Starhawk's Self-Hater in terms of writing.  Last week I sent something to S&FS (Finlay is editing and takes electronic submissions).

The cold makes me tired, so I haven't exactly been getting up early to write.  The deadlines coming up are Queers Destroy Science Fiction in February, On The Premises deadline in March, and Sword and Sorceress deadline in April.   

I've got four manuscripts in various states of post-Wordos critique.  Two of them are mostly edited; and I need to pick one and call it done.  And then do the other.  And then finish the others.... 

Later....The first one needed a word or two tweaked, and is ready to mail out.  The second one needed the same and I think it needs more of a ticking clock and the character reactions need to be turned up a notch.  So one more pass.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Journal

Wednesday Workout:  170 calories in about 13 minutes.  I was not able to focus so well on channeling my inner Stevie Nicks and have a Crystal Vision on the rowing machine; the best I could do was hold an Art Deco image of a serpent in my head based on some drawings I've done.   I mixed up my weight routine a little.

Writing:  About 45 minutes + about 10 minutes in the pre-Day-Jobbe parking lot.  Critiqued for roughly two hours.

Today's Original Series Star Trek Observation:  "The plot and dialog of "Spock's Brain," is structured for the maximal amount of times the characters can exclaim the phrase "Spock's brain!"  Extra points for pre-pending, "That's her!" or "That's the girl!"

...OK... that and pulling a phaser out of the frilly folds on the front of your extra-mini miniskirt and still managing to look and walk like you're not carrying a phaser between your thighs beforehand has got to be a statement of some kind.


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Cat, Dreams and Papercraft

Rough night sleeping.  The Smokey the cat was so active that I dreamed he had set up four or five tea lights at our feet on our bed and was racing around between them while Mark and I were dealing with fire at our feet.  It was one of those "what's that bright hot thing, what's the cat doing, I'm trying to sleep" sort of dreams.

I also dreamed I was at Reed speaking with my old thesis advisor.  I was telling him where we'd made mistakes about the whole project.  In the dream he had aged to something like seventy, and he was smaller and slighter than I remember him being in the mid eighties.  I think this dream was prompted by a WonderMark comic where various versions of a person meet and "Super-Old Self" tells his younger selves that if he warns them about what to expect, he'll jeopardize his own existence.  
In other news, here's some paper craft which lives in my office.  I discovered if you take the triangular pieces of paper, you can make something out of eight of them (instead of the twenty in the original design.   I haven't looked into it formally, but I think phi pops up when you put two equilateral triangles together so that they form opposite sides of a square with their bases.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Journal: Rowing Meditation

Monday Workout:  180 calories --I think -- in 16 minutes on the rowing machine.  I'm finding that it helps to imagine that I am rowing a serpent-headed long boat across a wide river or lake under the full silver moon.  650 cal / hour.  There's an older priest, craggy and dark, in the bow of the boat, holding a crescent tipped staff.   703 cal / hour.  He has a full robe engulfing him, with jagged navy and turquoise waves -- like the glyph for Aquarius or the hieroglyph for the Nile -- rippling along the cuffs of the robe's sleeves.  768 cal / hour.  And the ripples of his sleeves turn into the ripples of the boat gliding through the water.  And the boat is a snake, undulating through the water, its body sending waves waking back in widening V's.  812 cal / hour.  And to ease the ache in my back I imagine the snake straightens up my spine and reaches for the moon above me.  886 cal /hour.  And my legs are twinned snakes.  And I'm rowing, the priest in the boat in front of me, his staff leaning against his shoulder, the crescent tip dark against the silvery full moon.  The moon sliding away from the fullness it had hours ago and closer to the first new moon of Winter, weeks away.

And then someone walks by me or the house-flipping show on the TV turns into a dance commercial and I'm aware of my ungloved hands (I left my gym gloves at home) on the plastic grip of the rowing machine and I'm trying not to think too hard about my breath, or I'll mess it up.  I end my rowing session with 45 seconds around 1000 cal / hour.  

I did my usual free-weight routine, with some extra stretches for my back, which has been bothering me ever since my trampoline-fest (Wonder Woman!  Wonder Woman!) two weeks ago.

Writing:  Mostly critiquing, editing, and trying to get a handle on my inventory of stories that need to be sent out and manuscripts in need of finishing or post-critique polishing.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Holiday Paper Craft


Over the holidays, I made and gave some paper constructions.  This one is based on Moroccan tile designs, where lines zig-zagging at ninety degree angles are rotated around each other to make six-pointed stars.






I'd made this earlier, but I wanted to improve the design so there was less cutting and gluing.  After several attempts with InkScape and some failed prototypes, I came up with this net.  Printing it twice gave me the structure I needed for one sphere.






Whenever I have a design that is a flat, radially symmetric hexagon, I can fold it in to a three-dimensional radially symmetric pentagon -- and pentagons are easily turned into a dodecahedron or icasadodecahedrons.  (Think variations on twelve and twenty sided dice.)





You can see how the six pointed stars remain (more-or-less) flat, while the five pointed stars are centered on corners.  I suppose I could have creased the design to highlight the polyhedral nature, but I wanted this to look like a sphere.





The most tedious part was punching out the hanging chads from where the cutter-plotter didn't always cut through the card-stock.  The most difficult part was gluing along a seam without pulling the previously glued parts apart.





As I got closer to finishing the sphere, I poked a pencil through the construction and used the eraser end to wield the pieces together.   









For an encore, and because I had copius amounts of spare time, I designed this construction after seeing something similar on the net.  "I can do that," I said.  Once I figured out the equilateral triangles were being used to make the five-pointed stars, the rest was fairly easy. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

Reviewing 2004-2014

Whew... I've reviewed the last ten years (eleven if you count 2003).


Looking back over the decade, my hair and beard are whiter now.  I've gone from having two white streaks in my beard and a white blaze running through my hair, to a white chinstrap beard and a wide streak of white in my hair to a mostly white beard and white hair with some dark streaks.

My body's gotten older; my joints hurt more often, especially in the last three years, and my eyes have gotten worse.  When I'm fine, I can take my body for granted; when I'm sick, I'm struck by how a little thing can set me back.   It least I still have most of my teeth.  And my libido.



This is the decade when people in my age cohort died:  Jay, Janice, Kent, Kristen, James, KD.   Elders passed, too:  Grandma Agnes, Ken and Leslie Engle, Uncle Lionel, folk's from my parents' congregation, and various friends' parents.  Dealing with age and death is going to continue into the next decade, I'm sure.

We don't do Death well in this culture.  When I look at imagery in museums, I see that personifications of Death were much more prevalent in the past.  It makes me want to place skeletal Deaths or Lilly-bearing Angels of Time over all the clocks in our house.

I've always maintained that I would live to one hundred.  Given my mother's mother's genes, it's possible (she made it to 99.5).  But... both my grandfathers had heart issues, and I had a depressing romp through various actuarial tables -- so it's possible that I've only got twenty-five years left to live.  I tell myself that I've never smoked, and I don't drink (much).  After thinking and talking about it, I finally started regular exercise.  Working out regularly has improved my mood, my weight, and my sex life.  I'm hoping it extends my time on the planet.



Mark and I went from having a "spiritual marriage" to having a legal one.  Building our household hasn't been without bumps along the way, mostly because I said that I'd build a household of eros, agape, and amore entwined--but it's easier for me to get caught up on the amore and eros and forget about the agape and its attendants:  respect and listening.

Looking at this decade in review, I don't talk about Mark much, but he's there.   Mark and I compliment each other; he makes me a better person and makes fun of me when I become a "distracted prophet."   I don't talk about our families much, either, mostly because I want to respect and protect their privacy.



This was the decade that I became a stay-at-home dad, and then the part-time working dad.   The most difficult thing for me is trying to appreciate life through The Child's eyes:  he's a war-mongering boy's boy whose heroes are Boss TweedRobert MosesRichard Nixon, and The Joker.  OK; and Minecraft YouTube video hosts Stampycat and iBalisticSquid.  I miss the days of Enrico Carouso and Rex Harrison as Henry Higgens.  And George Carlin narrating Thomas the Tank.

Despite his bravado, The Child cried last year when I read him "The Hobbit" at the end of the Battle of the Five Armies.  I'm in the middle of reading "The Lord of the Rings" to him.  We sometimes play chess, which he's good at when he's in the right mood.  We've recently started watching old Star Trek episodes with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

The strangest thing for me is comparing my life to my dad's:  he's thirty years older than me, but I'm forty years older than The Child.  I remember my dad's fiftieth birthday party:  I was in college.  It feels so strange to be an old parent.  I'm so thankful for Mark on the days when parenting is extra difficult.



Spiritually... while I don't think I've gotten any more or less "woo-woo", I've certainly gotten more cynical.  I had sort of learned it when Starhawk visited in 2003, and it took several times to rediscover:  Often people go into relationships with people and groups looking for the perfect relationship, and then get annoyed or frustrated when they aren't perfect.  Often people hope a coven or ritual group will be life-changing: it will validate their life, or solve the one problem that's been bugging them for the last decade.  But, to borrow from the Wordo's critique group, a group wont be a silver bullet for your problems, and you're the one who cares about your spiritual development the most.

Theologically, I've moved from trying to find a gay male deity to identifying the divine within gay maleness.  Actually, I'm less interested in general in specific manifestations of deity than I was at the beginning of the year.  To borrow from the Women in Science Fiction Convention:  finding gay male deity started out as a destination and over the course of the decade became a process.  

One thing I appreciated from that didn't-quite-work-out UU minister was that he often said, "Scripture is everywhere; pay attention."  As someone who treats the whole world as a Rorschach Test, I can appreciate that. 

I still greet the Moon when it's in the sky.  I still sing "Center of the Sun," by We Three.  I still (sporadically) track the Sun and Moon's position in the sky on my home-made, portable Stonehenge.  I still (sometimes) do Tarot readings.  I still write down the sacred moments in dreams.



Writing...  I'm not entirely happy with where I am, writing wise.  I keep talking about discipline, and then I get distracted from writing.  I need to write more.  I need to submit more manuscripts.  I need to read more of what my peers in the science fiction and fantasy genres are writing.  I need to figure out why markets aren't buying what I send out.  I need to e-publish my manuscripts which have been sold.  And, if I'm serious about being a professional writer with a legacy of books (i. e. royalty checks) I need to start writing novels.

The Wordos are fun (mostly), and I enjoy the after-critique gatherings, and being at Wordos has given me tools to edit and critique manuscripts -- I need to be better at applying those tools to my manuscripts.

Creatively, I'm having fun, and the "Maker Art" that I do is fun and satisfying.




I think, looking at the last decade, "He Kept At It," would be an apt summary.  Some times it could be "He Kept At It The Wrong Way,"... but other times, at least, the decade could be summarized "He Kept At It Different Ways."  

Decade in Review: 2014

Sometimes I notice the beginnings of fat and loose skin flirting with making a fold under my chin, and I try to laugh it off by saying "Gobble-gobble-gobble."  It doesn't always work.


January 2014.   I'm not sure when, but Ronald Hutton replaced Starhawk as my go-to source on NeoPaganism.  I spent most of the Winter going through Hutton's "Pagan Britain," which wasn't as much of a source of of schadenfreude in terms of debunking various Neopagan origin stories as I had hoped, but was still an informative (if sometimes dry) read.  "Pagan Britain" was a recapitulation of an earlier work, which said "there's not much of an archaeological record of ancient or pre-historic Paganism; the record might support some ideas about worship and ritual, but there's little proof one way or the other -- so everyone's free to imagine whatever they'd like based on the artifacts we do have (and your theories are just as valid as your weird neighbor's)."

The first quarter of 2014, I took a sabbatical from the Wordos table.  I spent the Tuesday nights writing.  I'd visited Fort Vancouver, and used what I learned about the forge there to write a story for Sword and Sorceress.  Which...got rejected.


March 2014.  Turning Fifty officially began to bug me.  I felt like there was something I was doing wrong, or was forgetting to do, or needed to do.  Especially when my friends seemed to be getting published all over the place.


May 2014.  I discovered the painting of Wes Hemple.  Hempel manages to paint beefcake that's more than beefcake.  The nude or semi-nude male body is a powerful and subversive image, and he manages to make his paintings subversive with erotic overtones, while managing to not stray into explicit or gratuitous images.  Well, maybe a little gratuitous.

When I think about images of NeoPagan Deity I usually run across, the gods imagined are oiled up with a strategically placed vines or wolf pelts draped across their loins as they gaze out of the picture with smoldering bedroom eyes.  Or they're body builders, tattooed or artfully dirty, holding up animal horns to their brows and pouting like underwear models.  Or else they're about to perform The Great Rite  with a buxom, blonde, blue-eyed goddess.  And actually, I don't need to see depictions of two men performing The Great Rite because my spirituality is more than just a queer retelling of Heiros Gamos.   Hempel's paintings have embodied men navigating questions, they are working through something instead of being merely pleasing objects. 



June 2014.   Everything seemed to happen in June.  The month opened with the death of Jay Lake -- all of my social media networks turned into a memorial for him.  Jay was prolific, funny, crude, irreverent, erudite, and only six months older than I was.  I would have never thought when he appeared at my fortieth birthday party in 2004 that he would be dead ten years later.

I had a handful of crazy dreams afterward:  I had my feet whipped as penance for something, I lived in cardboard houses that were melting, I was battling a monster called "Pink Skull," and I woke up with the words, "I'm a fake," ringing in my ears.

I grumped about not having a mentor, and concluded that I'm semi-pro writer who writes lyrically, mythologically, queerly, deistically, sensually, imaginatively, romantically, and visually.   As much as I want my writing to live forever in letters of fire and to be the bane of English Graduates everywhere, I'm satisfied when the images in my head get into the reader's head.  

It would be nice and would save time if I had a guide for those instances when it feels like I'm lost in the woods at night and babbling to myself.  However, no mentor has materialized, so in the meantime it's up to me to prod myself into action, to track authors I admire and try to follow their path, and to initiate myself into my own voice.

And then I wandered into the Joanna Russ Archive.  Suddenly, I could listen in on a conversation about gender, orientation, wishes, desire and exploring character that Ms. Russ was having thirty years ago.  And it was exhilarating.  She had linked Kirk and Spock as gay gods in the early 1980's.  She was reading and writing and thinking about essentialism and sex and everything.   Out of all of her writings, I added wishes, Fears, Knowledge, Experiences, and Desires as a useful lens for crafting stories. 



My entry in the Penn Cove Literary Contest, "Before the Last Bloom Falls," was chosen as the winner for June.

In other writing news, I teamed up with a photographer friend of mine and we switched prompts:  she'd post a photo and I'd write a story to it; I'd post a story or vignette and she'd compose a photo with it.   At first we were doing a weekly cycle, but we switched to a month cycle.  It was a low pressure way to create about eleven rough drafts (two went through the Wordo's table) by the end of the year.


July 2014:  During a discussion of testosterone in older men, Mark essentially pointed at my sagging pectoral muscles and laughed.  In a fit of Capricorn pique, I joined a gym and started chanting explicit oaths under my breath as I worked out on various exercise machines.

I also designed and had 3-D printed two mugs -- er, sake cups -- er, jiggers -- out of ceramic material.  They are very cool, but they're Barbie sized.


August 2014.   Mark and I got legally married in a small courthouse marriage on top of the Lane County Courthouse roof.   We kept it small; my immediate family took pictures.  And nobody cried.  It marks how attitudes towards same-sex marriage have progressed, from Oregonian's amending the state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman to the US Supreme Court striking down discrimination.   And now I can say "Mark is my husband," and it has a clear meaning.  I can't tell you how much of a relief it is to simply and clearly say to someone, "Mark is my husband."


September 2014.  In an effort to improve my performance, I got serious about blogging my progress writing and working out, and began posting word counts and work-out routines.  I got a simple word-count tracker, and was promptly appalled at how much I don't write; unfortunately, there's no good way to track editing manuscripts other than the amount of time I spend on them.    I managed to keep tracking up until about the first week of December.

As a result of keeping records, I sort of learned what I already knew:  going to bed late makes it harder to get up at 4:45 to write; changes in my routine make it harder to write; holidays make it harder to write; getting the Eugene crud (which the University and elementary students toss around) makes it harder to write.


Our friends, the Wylds, became the latest friends to move to the Portland area.  It's going to be strange without them, because they are one of the few folks Mark, The Child and I like to spend time with.


November 2014.  Maybe it was the post-Halloween sugar crash.  Maybe it was switching from Daylight Savings Time.  Maybe it was the reduction of light, but the first weeks of November were filled with Ennui.   Working out seems to help, and I seem to have shaken it off by the middle of the month.


December 2014.  I wrote and submitted some erotica; I was slightly relieved when it was rejected.  (Spell check had changed that to "slightly revealed," and writing and submitting erotica did feel like I was revealing a little too much.  I'm glad I wrote the piece, because it was good practice for revealing character ... oh dear, that's not coming out right at all... without getting distracted by all the eye-candy.)


I identified several dream images I've had, exploring the intersection of maleness, desire, and spirituality.  I want to work with them and see if writing them into story helps me to discover anything.  About the same time, I tried meditating on the dream images as I work out on the rowing machine; I'm at the beginning stage, but I think once I get used to holding images in my head (while maintaining a 750 calories per hour rowing rate or better), I should be able to use the fifteen minutes as a kind of work-out vision quest.   Or something.


We celebrated my fiftieth birthday with a dance party.  Mark arranged it all, and I collected four hours' worth of (mostly) 1980's dance music.  And danced all of it.  My back and abdomen are still sore a week later. 




When I think about 2014, it feels like the year where I'm trying to stay focused.  If I can stay focused, I'll be -- OH! Squirrel!  


Decade in Review: 2013

In November of 2012, we got a cat, Smokey.  Insert stories of the cat grooming us here.

January 2013.  After reading about the productivity of other writers who Arise Early, I started getting up at 5:30 to write during unprotected time.   Two weeks later I got sick.  And vacationed in New York.  The rest of the year was a battle to get up and write, which I won from about April to about October.


February 2013.  In a conscious effort to cut back my swearing at other drivers, I started saying, "bless you," instead of "damn you all to hell!"  This joins "Come on, Dover," and "Driver, why have we stopped?"   Although there's a visceral pleasure in muttering (usually) expletives, every now and I then it strikes me how ugly it makes me -- and shouldn't we all be spreading blessings to each other?  Even if they are said ironically?  Oh, who am I kidding; I still invent new circles of hell in which to condemn the people I'm forced to share the road with.


March 2013.  My short story, "The Gear Master's Wife" was chosen for publication by On the Premises.  I lucked out on this one.  The Wordo's Holiday story for December was a good match for the theme On the Premises was looking for, "Holiday."   Based on these sales, I'd say that a good relationship / married couple story does well there.

Machine cut paper projects continued.


April 2013.  I managed to start writing in the mornings again.  The sun was rising earlier, and I wrote outside so as not to wake the family with keyboard clicking.

Later in the month, I took a train to Seattle for a Clarion Mini Workshop on writing characters.  I'd say writing characters is my weakest quality as a writer (my strongest is cool ideas and world building).  There were some good pointers -- and I felt like the stupidest, slowest (and oldest) writer there (I wasn't having the best Sunday morning).  Everyone else managed to pump out short-story bits as if they were Zeus giving birth to Athena.  I felt like Peter Shaffer's Antonio Salieri in a room full of Mozarts.

Sometimes I wish I could take the full, immersive, six-week long, Clarion writing workshop.  Although it's expensive, I could apply for a scholarship.  But A) it's in Seattle, B) I'd have have to leave my job, C) I'd have to leave my family, and D) I have a feeling I'd never get any sleep.  OK, and E) I can imagine being surrounded by twenty-something Mozarts popping out Athenas while I'm bogged down in world-building in the hope that I will get a handle on the characters in the process would do wonders for my self-esteem.   Still, it seems like one of those Gateway Moments in Writing similar to Writers of the Future, where the words, "I attended the Clarion West Workshop" becomes the "open sesame!" of publishing (yes, I know it isn't).

It's times like this when my writing feels like The Seven of Pentacles from the tarot:  lots of work with no immediate gain and some fretting about the future.  And yes, I have time management issues.  And there's this sense that I'm starting writing way too late.


July 2013.  We put a deck on our house.  This is a big deal because it means we can get to the back yard more easily, and we have a sunny spot on the south side of the house that level and not too squishy after a rain.


August 2013.  After two years as a part time, temporary employee of the Psychology Department, I applied for and was accepted back into my old job with the English Department.   I was "The New Old John."  It was great to be back with the English Department team.


September 2013.  I didn't participate in the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire.  When I first started harping there, it had been magical.  I'd felt like I'd slipped into another time.   But lately, the fair felt more and more like someone's private costume party.  Our group would dance the Abbot's Bromely Horn Dance, which I loved; but I wanted it to be a time-travelling, world-crossing ritual, and I was dancing it with folks who were doing a re-enactment, and dragging them, unknowingly, into a ritual felt increasingly wrong and difficult.

And it became more and more a thing that I did without Mark and The Child.

I didn't miss sleeping on the cold open field (along with the raggle-taggle gypsies), but I did wonder a little bit, if I was having some problem with group activities no longer giving me the enjoyment they once had, and if this were indicative of an age-thing or depression or something.


October 2013.    Late in the month, I attended a Women in Science Fiction convention at the University of Oregon.   Ursula LeGuin and Kate Wilhelm were there.  Much of the conversations were about what it was like as a woman to write, especially in the 1960's and 1970's.  The conversations about gender and orientation and writing gave me a lot to think about in terms of what I want to write.   It also reminded me of the Joanna Russ collection at the university's special collection.


November 2013.  The summer light went away, and suddenly, getting up at 5:00 to write outside (or inside) became monumentally harder.  And I wanted to stay up until 1:00 AM writing.  And it became easier for me to think in icons and design stuff than to think lexically and write.  So I made a Twelve Days of Christmas card set.




When I think about 2013, it was about trying to make things work.

The first third of the year felt like I was getting somewhere with my writing, and then I hit a plateau.  One difficulty I have with "writing professionally" balancing the reality of writing as a business (with its attendant time management and product-product-product) and writing as art that sustains me.

In terms of what I'd call "Maker Art," I was going gang-busters with a Silhouette Cutter-Plotter.  So, while it wasn't writing, at least I was being creative.

In terms of The Day Jobbe, the move to English was a good one.  And it was weird discovering materials and notes I'd written in 2003.


Thursday, January 01, 2015

Decade in Review: 2012

March 2012.  Ursula K LeGuin came and spoke at the Eugene Library.  It's always refreshing to hear her speak because she's clear and passionate.

April 2012.  After a period where I was conducting tasseomancy, and Tweeting what the tea and milk swirling in my tea cup said, one of my friends commented that I was always taking a Rorschach Test.  That's an apt metaphor for how I think.






This was the year that I started playing with Blender (again), a three-dimensional rendering engine, and InkScape, a graphic design program.  In addition to creating a scarab on a 3D-printer and playing around with a Silhouette plotter-cutter, I continued to play with geometric designs and zellij, with the end result being a Café John logo.


I should explain that Café John is what I imagine our back yard could be like if I only had wait staff to bring me scones and tea.   The idea is that I'm writing at a nice table, with linens, and a comfy chair, outside.  Not only am I writing, but I'm a fabulous writer.  With tea.  The reality is that the snacks get cold, or the wasps want the cucumber sandwiches, or the neighbors start using a leaf-blower, or the sun becomes unbearably hot.  And then I notice detritus around the yard that makes me mutter, "Great Moments in White Trash," and the illusion of glamour is broken.  Which requires more tea, and probably some chocolate as well.


Part of the allure of Café John is that it would be nice if I could host a symposium on ancient archaeology as it impacts theories of NeoPaganism and modern constructs of shamanism, or Steampunk and Masculinity, or even a presentation of airship songs of the early 1900's, that would be so great.  But somehow, instead of being Scheherazade hosting an erudite party, it's usually just me, trying to write or edit.





May - September 2012  Some friends formed a coven.  Um.  It didn't work out for me, and I dropped out.  It was mostly a case of some people you can be friends with, and some people you can do ritual with, and they aren't always the same people. 

But it was also...
  • If I'm Doing the Coven Thing, then I can't be writing (and I'm supposed to be doing the Writing Thing (and the Job Thing and the Parent Thing, and the Spouse Thing).  
  • A growing sense that the everyone wanted to go to Place A (or possibly Places C, D, E and F), but I wanted to go to Place B. 
  • The feeling that getting to Place Close-Enough-To-B-And-To-A would require more effort than I could give, and turn me into a nag in the process.... not to mention leave me unsatisfied that I'm not going to Actual-Place-B.
  • Which makes rituals feel forced.
  • Wanting to experience Numinous Moments within a Group Context, and worrying that it put an unrealistic burden on everyone.
  • Fretting that wanting to experience Numinous Moments was a kind of spiritual addiction.  
  • The realization that maybe I'm in an Old Curmudgeon Mode, and while the concept of group spiritual practice seems nice, the reality may be that I'd rather do it alone.  




November 2012.  My short story, "Reset Romance," was chosen for publication by On the Premises.  The premise was "Time."  I'd written this story shortly after watching the reboot of Star Trek.  I was annoyed by "red matter" and the resetting of timelines in the movie, and turned that into a story about a married, time traveling couple.



2012 was a utilitarian year, I guess.  Looking back, it seemed like I was plugging along, writing, getting manuscript rejections, and designing graphic things when I wasn't writing.  And failing to make a group Neo-Pagan practice work.