Thursday, July 30, 2015

Aug 30 Journal

We're on day two of a three-day heat advisory here.  It's supposed to be in the low 100's.  Cooling the house becomes an arcane art involving monitoring the inside temperature, the sunrise, the outside temperature, synchronized watering, opening openings in the house, and closing all the openings in the house.  We should install an exhaust fan in our attic space one of these days...

Working Out:  Wednesday night.  Got about 20 minutes on the elliptical (darn, I forgot to look at the calorie count), 10 minutes on the rowing machine (100 calories), and did three reps of 10 assisted dips plus 8 + 5 assisted chin-ups.  Downstairs 40lb pec-flies, 80lb lat-pulls, 40lb-triceps curls, 3 sets of 12 curl-ups, and 30lb dumbbell curls.  While my arms, chest and upper back have responded well to the exercises I've been doing for about a year, I still have a paunch.  I know you can't spot-melt fat, but I do wish it wouldn't spot-stay.  I suppose I have to give up (or cut way back more than I think I do) on something like (once or twice a week, really) Pepsi.

Writing:  Sat down and just wrote whatever came into my head for a little under an hour (oh dear, only 340 words....).  Then the idea of setting something on a city floating in the upper atmosphere of Venus struck me and I spent about fifteen minutes researching.

It was nice writing, but I have a bunch of partially opened manuscripts that I need to finish or officially close.  Working on them feels more like editing than writing, so I guess I've been letting them float.  Some of them really want to be longer than short stories... so maybe I should take the plunge and make them novel length.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Time-lapse Poppies

I discovered I can make time lapse videos.

I've been saying that I wanted California Poppies growing in our yard.  I've always liked the little yellow, orange and red flowers that pop up alongside various buildings around the neighborhood, so I figured they'd grow in our poor, clay-rich soil.   These are some volunteers that got away from me when I was planting their fellows in peat pots and sprouted up on the soil stairs/planters that Mark made last year.  

Post Greasy Food Dream

I don't know if it was the Sprite, the sweet potato fries or the ranch dressing, but I didn't sleep so well Tuesday night and dreamed a lot of jumbled dreams.

I did a lot of wandering.  I'm pretty sure I had the "family reunion in a large confusing house" dream (featuring a conversation with my Dad and Aunt Margot about something--hmm, usually it's my Mom's side of the family...), and I did a lot of walking around the mid Willamette Valley.

Near the end of the dream, I walked to a party being held in an old barn.  The paint had long ago flaked off and the wood was weathered to a silver-grey.  It was close to sunset.  I want to say the party was hosted by some Albany friends, but what really struck me was that Jay Lake had come back from the dead and was at the party.

I was really glad to see him.  He looked pretty good; he was restored to how I remembered him from 2007.  I very much wanted to ask him what it had been like being dead because, Writing Research!  But I didn't want to be all awkward with the sorts of "so, what was it like being dead?" questions he probably got all the time.

It turned out he was entertaining everyone with post-mortem stories.  "So I walk into the DMV to get a driver's license, and they ask me for some ID, so I pull out my death certificate...."  I got the sense that Jay was driving without a license, but that there was this whole, "So what are you going to do, officer?  I'm dead." vibe.

Then the party was over and everyone was leaving.  Jay gave me a ride in the GENRE mobile (which was painted red) and we traveled along a curving mid-Willamette Valley off-shoot of highway 99.  I discovered that I hadn't put on my seat-belt and fixed that.  At some point in our conversation, I said, "Wow, I can hardly wait to see the look on my kid's face when I tell him I got a car ride from a formerly dead man."

There were flares along the side of the road, and the landscape was suddenly under construction, and then the dream went on its wandering-dream way, and I wandered into a battle with devils and angles who were dressed as 1980 New-Wave rockers (slacks, lose blouses, narrow neckties, retro-fifties' buzz cuts).  Everyone was walking around in a dimly-lit, orthogonal, blocky kind of indoor mall.  The devils wore red and grey and had electric torches that shot flames; the angels wore white and grey and I had to help them by invoking The Power of Christ's name, and as the flames whooshed around us and the devils were cringing back I was thinking, "Wait, how does it even work that a NeoPagan like me can do this ... ?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Late July Journal

Working Out:  Monday, I did 20 minutes (145 cal) on the elliptical, ten min (100 cal) on the rowing machine, and 20 assisted dips and 10 assisted chin-ups.  Downstairs, I did pec-flies (3 sets of 12 reps at 40 lbs), lat pulls (3 sets of 12 reps at 80 lbs), and 20 curl-ups.  Then I had to leave a little early.

Writing:  I'm about ready to abandon the current piece I've been working on.  I'm afraid if I fiddle with it for too much longer it's going to get over-edited.  Mostly I've been pecking away at it here and there.  It's at a point where I need to send it out, and it will be good to focus on the more creative end of drafting a story instead of editing one.  

The weather has been in the 70's and 80's the last week, which is nice; but we're about to have another spike of mid to upper nineties (bleah).  We had a little sprinkle over the weekend, but there was no measurable precipitation.

More Fair Rides

I rode this.  It was a little more alarming than I thought it would be, mostly because I was very conscious of how I was about nine stories above pavement, and how I was held in place with a little metal pin.

I pretended I was skydiving, which helped a little.

The centripetal force pulled my feet sideways, which didn't help.

Every so often, the ride made a sideways shiver motion, which was disconcerting.

Monday, July 27, 2015


We rode on the Tilt-A-Whirl.  The ride was invented in 1910 in Minnesota; the factory there still makes the ride and parts.

I think I rode for a little too long in the Tilt-A-Whirl.  Pulling several G's while our car whirled around was fun while it lasted, but once we got out, I didn't feel so good.

One little girl who was exiting the ride with us threw up.  I had to limit my later rides to ones that mostly moved in one plane.  I remember when I used to be able to not have to worry about spinning around and around and around.

When we got home, I needed a little mint tea to help settle my stomach.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Ferris Wheel

 We rode the Ferris Wheel and rocked out to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
 The shadow of the wheel was cast upon the fair buildings.  "Shadow of the Wheel" sounds like a good fantasy story title.
The view was nice, but it was hard to hear Joan singing from where we were.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

More Ankh Goodness

 The ankh saga continues...  since I had an SVG file created by Inkscape (see yesterday's post), that meant I could import it into Blender, turn the vectors into a manifest mesh, and then render the design as a 3-D object.

After fiddling around with the ankh, a white light and a blue light, and various planes, I came up with some designs that look like they should be on the cover of a 1980's ambient synthesizer band's album.

The images I liked the most had a white light behind the ankh to back-light it and a blue light just above the ankh in order to cast blue anti-shadows onto the plane behind.  I got different shadow effects by moving the backdrop farther or closer to the ankh.

I like the first image because the blue light behind makes the ankh look like it is descending from space, or like there's some mystic teleportation going on.

For the second image, I moved the blue light so it was in the junction of the vertical and horizontal openings in the ankh.  I like this one because the light is implying a second ankh behind or somehow extending out of the solid one.  It does look a little like a sword hilt, though.

The third image has some hour-glass suggestions going on in the background.   It's a little distracting, and makes the ankh look a little like a tattoo on some woman's mid-drift.  I placed the blue light at the base of the ankh, so there's a saturation of blue there.  There's also the teleportation ray going on, too.  I think I might crop this so that it's square.

The fourth is one of my favorites because it looks like the ankh is being put into a box made out of the sky.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Designing Ankhs

The other day I was fiddling around with sketches, and I wondered if I made an ankh using a half-circle and a triangle made out of two 3 x 4 x 5 right triangles how it would look.  My sketch looked better than the design I came up with, so I must be bad at guestimaiting what kind of triangles I use.  Actually, I often find that the designs I come up with which appear to use circles, squares and triangles in my sketches look wrong when I use Inkscape to make geometrically accurate circles, squares and triangles.

Once I saw that the loop wasn't going to work with pure circles and triangles, I reworked it by tweaking the spline-points on a regular circle and then finding a triangle that fit the loop and used it as the serifs for the ankh's arms.

During the process of moving thick-lined polygons around, designing the arms to be hollow suggested itself, and I ran with it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Journal Stuff

Working Out:  Monday's session was truncated.  Only managed the eliptical, rowing machine, and assistend dips/chin-ups upstairs; then only lat-pulls and pec-flies.

Writing: I've been attempting to re-write the beginning section of a story.  Right now it's week on setting details and the reader isn't sure who the main character is and what her main problem is.  The most receint round of critique suggested that for a short story I should just call some of the relatives aunts or aunties, and save aunts=your mother's sister, auntie=your father's sister, and auntins=your aunt-in-law and a similar kin-ship construction for uncles for a novel.  

I managed to put at dent into the beginning this afternoon.  Tomorrow's task is adding more setting details in the second scene.

Thinking of Designing....

Here's a rendering from a few years ago.

At one time I thought it would be fun to 3D print a ceramic or metal lamp like this, but it would end up being prohibitively expensive.

It's fun to design them in Blender, though.... and now that I think about it, I ended up creating a paper version.

Some times I think it could be fun to laminate enough of the paper version to create a plaster casting that I could pour tin into.  Then I could somehow wield the tin into something cool and shiny... Hmmm.. .

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Journal for July 12-19

Working Out:  Monday evening I went to the gym.  Someone was on the rowing machine, so I only did the elliptical.  Followed up with assisted dips and chin-ups.  Downstairs for the lat pulls, pec flies, curl-ups and dumbbell work.

Writing:  Finished up critiques for Tuesday night.  I saw a useful exercise over on Mary Robinette Kowal's website, and tried my hand at a few.  What I like about it is that it gets right to the story, and I'm hoping that it's a good antidote for my tendency to over-write and back-pack story beginnings.   I'm going back through the pile of critiqued manuscripts and cleaning them up... which feels more like editing than writing.

Working Out:  Thursday afternoon I went to the gym.  Upstairs managed the elliptical 20 minutes, um 130 calories?), the rowing machine (ten minutes, 110 calories), and the assisted dips and chin-ups (tried for a wider grip on the chin-ups).   Downstairs did the 80 lb lat-pulls, pec-flies, curl-ups, and 35 lb dumbbell curls.

Writing:  Thursday and Friday I did some critiquing, and tweaked a science fiction short story manuscript up for Saturday Night Crit.  Despite my efforts at tweaking, I managed to confuse most readers through unclear setting details and too many supporting characters in the first few paragraphs.
This weekend is seeing temperatures back in the mid to upper 90s.  At least the week previous was in the more reasonable mid 80s.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Designing Logos

Every now and then I have a desire to design a business card logo for myself.  The last time I did so, Mark said, "Congratulations, honey; you've just designed a business card for a pagan architect."  When I asked The Child for his opinion on this latest artistic endeavor, he said something I won't bother to record.

I was aiming for a sun-and-moon design using only black and white on the theory that it would reproduce more cleanly on a photocopier or scanner than a color logo.  I cheated a little with a gradient on the moon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Magnolia Fruit

As I was walking through the backyard last Sunday, the remains of a magnolia bloom caught my eye.  It didn't come out as brightly in this photo as it did in real life, but the purple band along the stem was vibrantly striking.

In a few weeks, the pod will brown and shrivel, and the result will look like some sort of Shadow Technology from Babylon 5.

And to think that this was a fragrant white flower a few days ago.

On a related note, I can never remember what this tree is called, and often call it a "mangolia tree."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Early French Bomber Plane

 This is a French plane from (I think) World War One.  It last flew a few years ago at the airfield near Fort Vancouver.  It is a bomber of some sort; I forget how many bombs it could carry (I'm not sure how big the bombs were, or if they were grenades.)

What struck me about it was how much it looked like something out of "Girl Genius."  The wheels were especially interesting with all of their struts and wires.
The propeller was a push-propeller mounted in the back.  I think the engine's radiator is right behind the gunner, and I wondered how hot it got and how someone in the plane would avoid being tossed against it during a bumpy flight.

I'm not sure if it's the black stork on the side, or the general shape of the plane, but it also reminds me of the Nazgul from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Building Airplanes

Over the Forth of July weekend we went to an aviation museum next to Fort Vancouver.  The coolest fact I learned was that a dirigible flew between Portland and Vancouver in 1905.  It was steered up or down by the pilot leaning backward or forward.  (In contrast, Santos Dumont used a weight and pulley system to change his craft's trim.)
 There was an airplane kit on display.  I remember one of our neighbors back in the 1970's was working on one of these.  I think his was fiberglass; I remember it being much whiter.
The most interesting part was the jig used to make the wing shape.  I'm guessing that the wood was soaked in water before hand to make the curving part.  It occurs to me that one could 3D print this as one solid piece.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


 This spring we broadcast various California poppy seeds around the yard.  Alas, only one plant reached maturity, and it is in an awkward place on our backyard steps.  Mark is hopeful it will self-seed in a more out-of the way place next season.

It's possible a few will show up next year in various spaces around the yard.
Not to be daunted by the lack of random broadcasting's success, I made a concerted effort to plant seedings in peat pots in the late spring and then place the established plants about the yard.

This Saturday, the first of the plants flowered.  These appear to be a darker orange variety.  Our soil isn't the best,and the first bloom appeared in the best soil.

There is something cheerful about California poppies.  They make a nice contrasting plant to the foxglove Mark has established, and I'm hoping we can have some more blooming next year.

Friday, July 10, 2015


"No, no.  You wanted a trophy wife instead of a doctor.  Next!"

"Uh, he really loves you.  That's why we brought him here.  Um, he's been pining for you all along."

Captions Contest

"Oh my God!  You told me it was Palmolive!"

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Journal: Shaolin Windstaff

Working Out:  Last week I was very good and went to the gym four out of seven days.  This week, not so much.  Tuesday night after Wordos I went to the gym and had a maintenance workout.  I did twenty minutes on the elliptical and the rowing machine combined.  Did the assisted dips (30) and chin-ups (20) and had a conversation about astronomy with Brian, the counter-guy.  Went downstairs and did the pec-fly, the lat-pull, and some barbell work.  (35 lbs, 3 reps of 12).

I wasn't completely evil; last week I also attended a Shaolin Windstaff class (in 90F degree weather, I might add).  By the end of the classes (the last session was last Monday night), I had learned the first part of a series.  My form was kind of bad -- I kept pointing my feet the wrong direction or going out of correct arrow stance, or putting my left hand under my right instead of over -- but the instructor was very nice and pointed out that I was learning stances and poses and learning to hold a stick as long as my arm span all at once.

From a writing point of view, a martial artist using a staff will...

  • Use appropriate force at the appropriate time to get a staff moving (i.e. use small subtle force to build momentum instead of over-powering the staff).  
  • The motion and power of the staff ultimately comes from the hips (hence having good form on the arrow stance).   
  • The motion of the body and the motion of the staff follow each other, especially in spins.  
  • When spinning the staff, think about where the tip is moving.  Striking moves involve the end and lower fifth of the staff; the upper hand on the staff pushes the staff, the lower hand pulls the staff (usually into the chamber position on the hip).  
  • When grasping the staff, leave enough room for the lower end to pass beneath your armpit.  
  • When learning stances, close one's eyes and focus on how the body is standing and try to make that kinesthetic memory an anchor.  
I'll have to try and use this in next years Sword and Sorceress submission.

Writing:  Although a couple of folks got it, last Tuesday night's flash piece confused a vast majority of the folks at the table.  I was trying to juggle three POV's and it didn't work out.  I'll have to fiddle with it to make things more clear, starting with adding section breaks.  Then I have to figure out which market to send it to, since there's no speculative element in it.

This summer I haven't been getting up at 5 AM to write.  I think there was less pollen, and also (which sounds very strange) Jay Lake's death was a motivator.  This year, I seem to be staying up later instead of getting up earlier, so I may just roll with it and try writing at night more instead of fatigue web surfing and playing Clash of Clans.  I've been editing more than writing, too.  

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Over-The-Top Art

Over the July Forth weekend we went to the Portland Art Museum and saw the "Gods and Heroes" display of (mostly) paintings from the French Academy.

I liked them because they are over-the-top ("see the drama unfold").  Think of all the hysteria over the Death of Socrates, and add stray arrows, and dancing over severed heads.  And fabulous necklaces or scraps of loincloth.  Mark thinks the over-the-top parts are stupid, but he likes the technique.  I like allegory in general and convoluted allegory especially, and I liked some of the sullen expressions in the paintings.  And tableaux:  it's true, if I could live my life going from one fabulous tableaux to the next, I'd be... well, maybe not happy all the time, but certainly it would be fun.

The body language of the nymph turning away from Paris was great, and all the outstretched hands in every piece were fun.  

I wasn't especially wild about the painting from just before the French Revolution, as these tended to feature children being shot with arrows or stabbed with swords.

I think the most effective part of the display was walking around a corner and being confronted by the anatomy paintings.  Mark had warned me about these, and still I was surprised.  The most impressive painting was a warrior in a fighter's stance, and the artist had painted the musculature and bones underneath the skin on half of the figure.  

A painting of Icarus and Daedalus reminded me of the funny captions recently given to a slew of Icarus paintings.  The one in this exhibit wasn't particularly buff, but it was easy to imagine him suggesting, "But Dad, put these feathers will make me stand out more when I'm up in the sky."

Early on in the exhibit there was a statement about how the students of the academy spent much of their time painting or sculpting the male nude.  The idea was that the male nude was something God made and therefore a something that was divine and worthy depicting the heroic.  Mark thinks this is propaganda, but what I think is interesting is how we went culturally from the nude male body being divine and heroic to it being a subversive statement of (homo) erotic desire.  

I missed the cartoon at the end making fun of all the figures holding their arms out, up, or imperiously.  So we'll have to go back.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Bronze Chinese Zodiac Heads

We saw the Bronze Chinese Zodiac Heads on display at the Portland Art Museum over the weekend.

I liked the heads.  The boar had interesting eyes; the eyelids or some reflection from the rest of the head made it look like the sculpture had irises.  The dragon head looked the most traditional.  The roster head looked the most realistic.   The snake looked very cool and also like something you'd see in a science fiction show with reptilian aliens.  I liked the ram's curling horns.  I'd say I didn't have a favorite, although I liked the snake, the roster, the ram more than the others because they looked the happiest and friendliest; the horse was well done, but looked anxious.

These were reproductions of heads that existed in 1700 in China.  They'd been designed for a palace courtyard fountain by a Frenchman; the prints of what they originally looked liked was very Versailles.  The palace where they'd been part of a fountain was looted a long time ago, and the original heads have appeared on auction.

I learned that the twelve Chinese Zodiac signs were assigned hours over a twenty-four hour period.  The dragon has the hours 7 AM to 9 AM, the tiger 3 AM to 5 AM, and the roster 5 PM to 7 PM (additionally the cardinal direction of west).   The original heads were on human bodies, and sprayed water during their assigned hours.

There was a short video about the artist, Ai Weiwwi.  I didn't remember until I saw it in the video that he had bought a Ming vase and photographed himself breaking it.  The artist had a convoluted statement about art and commodities and real art and reproductions and market value, which strayed into the "It's worse than that, it's art, Jim!" language Tina Howe used in her play, "Museum."

What I got out of the display was that he was good at his craft, and the heads were cool.  

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Nature v. The Manufactured

 Once, there was a little crack in the road out of which a vine grew...
 ... and grew in secret places in the heart of cold steel, sending questing tendrils along conduits...
 ... and grew until it found a crack of sunlight.
And no one knew what secret fruits it labored on, fed by distillates of creatures dead eons ago.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Manuscripts, Rejection, and the Trunk Process

The other day after Wordos, someone asked me what I do with manuscripts that are rejected: do I send them back out?  What if you liked it when you wrote it, but now you think it's bad?

The Rockstar Writers say, "Write the story that you'd like to read," and "Don't try to write what's 'hot.'"  And this is difficult advice to follow when (as I've been told) one has a quirky writing style, and publishing goes through trends.

When a manuscript comes back, I try to send it back out.  (I should be better at this than I am.)  I may scan through it to see if there's something stupid, like a syntax error that I've missed.   Looking at a story once the brilliance of a fresh work has been dimmed by the submission process makes it easier to see if a scene's staging has become less clear over time, or if the characters have become less clearly motivated.  But I really don't want to get stuck in over-revising a manuscript; to quote Edna Mode, "I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now."

At some point, I may look at a manuscript, say, "What was I thinking?" and pull it out of the submission process.  And then there are the battered manuscripts that have made the rounds to ten or so markets and have either garnered "Guess why we rejected your manuscript" form rejections, or else have gotten glowing rejections prominently featuring the word, "but."  The less personal feedback I've gotten, the harder it is to know what to do with them.

So, do I have stories that I've pulled from the submission process?  Yes:

  • The short I wrote about a over-sexed talking teddy bear that I wrote about six months before the movie (which I haven't seen) "Ted" came out.   It's a victim of timing, and will always seem derivative.  
  • The fairy tale retelling story that I couldn't sell because the market was either glutted with fairy-tale retellings or fairy tale retellings went out of fashion.   I might have found an anthology, but I ended up using this as a marketing piece.
  • The high fantasy story that's at 5500 words, which puts it over the sweet spot of 4500 words for a short story.  I'm running out of professional markets to send this to.
  • The quirky Christmas story that I like and think is perfectly fine, but apparently confuses or is unsatisfying -- it resonates so strongly we me that I can't see how it doesn't resonate with others.  
  • The samurai story I wrote in 2003 that everyone says is funny, but now feels slightly dated.
  • The madcap Superman story that one editor thought was hysterical (but didn't buy), and which another editor scorned with "is this supposed to be satire?"  

Once they're pulled, there's some triage.  The first question is: "Is this manuscript broken?"  If the answer is no, then I have to research a market that might buy it, or they go into the self-publishing pile (right, e-pub formatting...).  If the answer is yes, then the next question is, "Do I want to try to or can I fix it?"  If the answer is yes, then it goes into the "To Edit Later" pile (yes, it's a growing pile).  If the answer is no, then it goes into a trunked stories pile (yes, that's growing, too).    

In terms of trunked stories, it's helpful to remember that painters have scrapbooks filled with studies or first attempts at a subject.  It's helpful to remember the painters, composers and writers who were better known after they were dead.   And, who knows, maybe those old drafts will be the bane of English Majors in a hundred years....

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Working Out, Grasshopper Stytle

Working Out:  Last week I managed to get to the gym four times.  Monday I did a shorter session than normal.  Managed to get the elipical and rowing machine in.  (About 200 calories in 25 minutes between the two).  Then it was on to assisted dips and chin-ups.  I can't do a chin-up without help, and I"m hoping the machine will get me to the point where I can do them without an assist.   Downstairs I only had time for lat pulldowns, pec flies and some curl-ups before I had to leave.

On a different note, I'm taking a short complimentary Kung-Fu Wind Staff class.  So last Wednesday and last Monday, I was swinging around a bamboo pole as long as my arm span around.  The things to remember are:  to use small appropriate forces on the staff to move it instead of pulling muscles brute forcing it around, and to think about where the end of the staff is moving because that's where you're going to hit someone.

So far I haven't pulled any muscles in my legs or hips doing the pubu, mabu, or other Shaolin stance.  And I've only hit myself with the staff a couple of times.  What probably hurts the most is folding my thumb for the blade hand stance.

I've yet to see if "Dragon Reaching for the Chocolate" is an actual stance.