Sunday, February 28, 2016

Moon Jellies

 The other day we went to the aquarium.  Because they move slowly and are lit from below, I usually try to take photographs of the moon jellies.

They're pretty cool animals.  The sense light from little nerve buds along their rims, and they don't have a brain or central nervous system, but still they move around with purpose.

I like this first picture because the moon jelly looks like a space creature.

 I'm not sure why the second picture came out green and the third one didn't.  

Working Out:  Went to the gym Sunday morning.  I was surprised at how busy it was.  20 min and 220 cal on the elliptical.  10 min at 100 cal on the rowing machine.  8 at 16 + 2x8 at 14 on the dip/chin machine.  3x12x50lbs on the pec fly.  3x12x80lbs on the lat pulldown.  3x12 suspended curls.  3x12x30 lbs barbell curl.

Came home with odd food cravings.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Waking Up in Spring

The flowers are coming up all over.  The last few weeks I've noticed the returning light in the morning.  I thought that going to the gym semi-regularly would free me from the influence of Winter's light, and to some extent it has, but I still sometimes feel like curling up in a large soft bed with plush blankets for three weeks.

What's nice about the returning light is that I feel more energized to work on projects.  This feels like the reverse of what happened last Fall, when I could feel myself getting more and more tired.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Late Winter Flowers

The ornamental cherries or plums or apples or whatever are blooming.  As I walked home after Wordos the other night, one had sprung open and was illuminated by a street light.  Tree blossoms reaching for sodium lights makes a quiet spot along the street.  The only sound is the slight hum from the light, and the occasional car on the next street over.  The petals glow against the night sky.

This morning, I noticed more trees had opened, and that here and there along the streets were swaths of pink and white.  It feels early for the blooms, as we're only three quarters through Winter.  Even the frogs croak up a chorus from the slough a few blocks away.  I guess the higher temperatures last week have started various cycles early.

Writing:  I've been revising like crazy the last few days.  I think I've managed (with the help of beta readers) to re-work the novel-stuffed-into-a-short-story so that it's working as a short story.  Some version-itis has crept in as I've gone back and forth between working on it in Scrivener and SimpleNote.  Changing the format from novel-wanna-be to short-story has changed the focus from an almost-meditation to more of an action story... and I think I might have to sit back and think about how committed I want to be to a novel (which I should write).  

Thinking about writing, I revisited "Rules for Reading a John Story," and realized that I should re-work those as Rules for Writing and hang them above my desk.  

What they boil down to is this:  "Remember that you are a foreigner writing in a foreign land, locked in a tower of bone and sending messages to the bone tower next door by tossing paper airplanes from your window."


  • Remember the reader is not in your head.
  • Develop characters so they aren't fall-back default characters.
  • Remember to use all the senses to supplement cool visuals.
  • Choose one connection (or at most three) between ideas to focus on and make the connection clear.
  • Choose one really cool (or maybe two)  word to enshrine in the text and define it as if it were a foreign word, because, alas, most readers are not word nerds.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Native Totem Pole

Working Out:  Went to the gym Saturday.  200 cal and 20 minutes on the elliptical.  100 cal and 10 minutes on the rowing machines.  3X8 at 16, 14, and 12 on the assisted dip/chin.  3X12X50 on the pec-fly.  3X12X80 on the lat pull-down.  3X13 curls.  I was running a little late and skipped the barbell curls (I think).

Saturday, part of The Child's class travelled south to watch and participate in a Native American blessing of a cedar trunk which the kids will help to turn into a totem pole.  I was a little worried that it would be a show, or cultural tourism, but it turned out fairly cool.  There were four tribes-people present, three elders and one young woman.  The eldest, Joe, burned sage for a purification smudge.  I believe the women were from the Coos Tribe, but I don't know Joe's affiliation.

Mark normally doesn't like incense, but he said that this smelled nice, which surprised me.  I haven't smelled burning sage (and probably sweet grass) in such a long time and I hadn't realized how much I missed the smell from various rituals I've attended over the years.  It made me miss rituals from Carleton College.  I wish I had thought to ask him what he was burning, because it burned much more sweetly than the sage we just happen to have at our house.  

The kids were interested, but antsy and a little mystified by what was going on as we lined up for the purifying smudge.  After a walk along a very muddy trail, we got to the place where a cedar had been blown over in a recent storm.   One of the elder-women spoke about how cedars were used by the natives for housing, fabrics, and basket supplies.  The natives used as much of the tree as they possibly could, similar to the way the Plains peoples used all of the buffalo that they could.  

Then the other elder woman sang and drummed.  I don't know anything about Native music (other than the song "John Wayne's Teeth"), but I think she wasn't singing words other than "hey."  She did explain that some of the higher faster beats were honor beats.  Her song reminded me of the songs I once heard at a butterfly dance on a reservation in Arizona.  

I hadn't realized cedar roots were used in basket weaving, and that one could harvest the runner roots like willow branches.  The other thing I learned was that cedars are considered "female" trees, while others, like yew, are "male" trees.  

The kids are going to work with a Native carver at their school to carve a totem pole.  The Child wants to put PacMan figures on it, but I think the plan is to put local animals or animals one might see upon the Oregon Trail on it.  Which might include Tuantuans.  

Sunday was my sister's birthday, so we had a family celebration in Corvallis.   And I fixed my Mom's laptop.  

Working Out:  Wednesday:  Went to the gym.  200 cal and 20 minutes on the elliptical. 3X8 at 16, 14, and 12 on the assisted dip/chin.  3X12X50 on the pec-fly.  Tried Russian curls with a 10 lb ball, some sets of scissor kicks, and attempted to do a pike-plank with a yoga ball (that was mostly laughable).

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Cemetery Flower

Another flower in a cemetery.  I'm sure this is a metaphor.

Working Out: Went to the gym Wednesday.  20 min 200 cal on the elliptical.  Skipped the rowing machine.  3x8 chin/dips starting at 16 and ending at 12.  3x12x50lbs pec-fly.  3x13x80 lat pull-down.  3x13 curl-ups.  3x12x35lb barbell curls.  Tried 2x5 overhand barbell lifts (I'm sure there's a real name for this) to see if I could work some different shoulder and upper chest muscles.

Writing:  Going through the 5100 draft of a novel stuffed into a short story format.  I've cut the first two scenes and am carefully blending material into the final scene.  I'm being mindful of excess exposition and description.   I've been thinking that I like words like rade and folkholt (and meniscus) and that if I'm careful to describe them, I can include them in stories and not confuse the reader.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Secrets of Geometry!

There.  I simplified the design a little and this is what the end result looks like (although Blogger keeps adding a black frame around the whole thing).  All the circles except the one circumscribing the square are unit circles.  


Now, of course, I want to rotate the inner circle and see if the pentagon and large triangle lines do interesting things.  And this is still making the signal-detection part of my brain light up.

Possible mystic uses
  • Make a medallion and use it as a key for a lock mechanism  
  • Use the design to twist wire into a Cosmic Antenna.  
  • Place precious stones at the vertices and make either an Etheric Force Field or a Sex Chakra Energizer 
  • Use it as a Magical Alphabet template (A is already there)
  • Turn it into a clock face 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cemetery Flowers

Feeling slow and tired this morning.  Okay, and a little stupid.

For Valentine's day, we went on a hike of the local pioneer cemetery.  The light was very diffuse, which is good for photographing things like flowers because there are no shafts of light to confuse the camera, but doesn't lend itself well to photographing monumental stones because the details wash out.

The morning was damp, which is also good for photographing flowers because the water droplets add highlights.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Geometry Obsession

My latest geometrical obsession has been the relationship between hexagons, pentagons, squares, and triangles.  The other week, I saw a picture of how hexagons and pentagons were related and started playing around with variations.

Mark accused me of designing Satanic or Illuminati designs, so I had to take out the pentagrams.

The arrangement of figures is tripping the signal detection part of my brain.  The small square and all the other polygons share the same unit side.  The unit side is also the radius of all of the circles in this figure but large one surrounding the large square.  The large square has sides twice as long as the small square.  The way that they all fit together intrigues me, but I think all this design is showing is the relationship between pi and phi.

I've been fiddling with a colored version of this, because I want to make something that could hang in the house without it looking like a tattoo parlor sample.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Novel in Short Story's Clothing...

Writing:  Whew.  The manuscript I've been working on got critiqued and the verdict is "this is a novel sized story brutally stuffed into a short story, and it's not working as a short story."   On the down side, it needs better characterization, less exposition, and a more skilled use of detail.  On the up side, the premise is cool and the world building is good.

To make this work as a short story (which is what I originally started out doing), I'll need to cut directly to and rewrite the final scene (or start over from scratch with a new situation set in the same world).  Luckily, I've got some time before the final deadline.

Everyone seemed to like the glimpse they did get into the manuscript's world and wanted to see a novel-sized treatment, so I'll have to get my ducks in a row and start working on it.

Working Out:  Hit the gym Saturday morning.  20 minutes and 220 calories on the elliptical.  10 minutes and 100 calories on the rowing machine.  Wrote down some ideas that came to me on a slip of paper.  12x30lbs + 2x12x40lbs on the pec-fly.  3x13x80lbs on the lat-pulldown.  3x13 curlups (I'm getting better at raising my knees up to my shoulders lately).  3x13x35lbs barbell curls.  Tried some assorted over-head 10lb dumbbell triceps curls and shoulder shrugs.   Realized I'd forgotten the dip/chin routine, and did some.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Pushing Against the Deadline...

Writing:  The short story I've been working on is somewhere between first and final draft -- mostly it's finished, but the ending needs some final adjustments and I need to flesh out the characters more consistently.  It's at 5000 words and threatening to spill over, so I need to go through and tweak things.  There's some places that are probably over-described, which will be interesting to cut back because I'm writing characters who are profoundly immersed in their world.  Anyway, I need to be done by Saturday so I can pass it through critique in time to submit it.  

And of course it feels like every time I sit down to write the phone rings or the cat is needy or I feel like I should be doing more marketing or something else.

Sometimes I look at my manuscripts like a person with a box of puppies for sale.

Working Out:  Wednesday, The Child was sick, which teaches me not to put off working out on Tuesday.  Between feeling tired and sore and writing, I haven't been to the gym.    Went Thursday:  20 minutes and 200 calories on the elliptical; this time I paid more attention to my right knee and figured out I had the tension on the machine up too high last time (9), topped it out at 6 this session.  Skipped the rowing machine, 3x8 on the dip/chins, started at 18, finished at 16.  Downstairs, 3x12x40lbx on the pec fly.  3x12x80lbs on the lat pulldown.  16 curlups.  Then I had to run off.

Did manage to talk with the owner of the gym about music; turns out classic rock garners the least complains... so it's the best of the worst?  Oh well.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Sunday Writing Marathon

Working out:  Saturday morning I managed to get to the gym right as it opened.  25 minutes on the elliptical at 250 calories.  My right knee started to bug me, so I only did about 5 minutes on the rowing machine for about 40 calories.  Assisted dips/chins 3X8 um, starting at 18 and ending at 16.   Downstairs 3X12X40 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X80lbs on the pec flies.  3X13 curl-ups.  3X12X35lbs on the barbell curls.  I probably need to mix up my routine a little; adding front and side planks would be a good thing I might be able to do at home.

Writing:  The family was going to go skiing without me Sunday, but it was 40F at Willamette Pass, so they went to the beach instead.  The new moon made the tide extra high, but the ocean was calm.  They had a great time at "Ripley's Believe it Or Not" which I guess has had an upgrade since I've been last... probably more that 20 years since I've been.  

I managed to (more-or-less) write from about 10:30 AM to about 6:00 PM.  I set about an hour's worth of  Bach oboe concerto on infinite repeat and I was set.   I managed to get a strong 1200 words out in the final scene, and, adding to what was already written, the total story is about 3500 words.  I'd guesstimate between the writing and editing out the wrong words I averaged about 200 words an hour.  I did make a setting error I had to go back and fix, and I probably spent too much time re-writing the opening scene.

I made sure to make mint tea after about 11 so I wouldn't over-caffeinate.  

Whew.  I'm glad what I managed to get done, but I need to write more quickly.  I suppose I should try to use Eric Witchey's method of not hitting the backspace key and re-casting problem sentences as I see them in order to increase the word flow.  

Friday, February 05, 2016

Working Out and Writing

Working Out:  Slunk off to the gym Thursday evening.  130 cal on the elliptical in 25 minutes.  3x8 chins and dips, ending up at the 14 mark.  Skipped the rowing machine because I was a little pressed for time.  Downstairs, 12x30 + 2x12x40 on the pec flies.  3x12x80 on the lat pulldowns.  3x13 curlups.  3x12x35lb barbell curls.

Writing:  Managed to get more words into the short story.  Scenes one and two are completed; had to clean up some staging in scene two -- the problem with writing in small stretches is that sometimes I forget earlier bits and write conflicting stuff.   Right now I'm at about 2500 words, which I hope aren't overly descriptive.   Scene three needs to be about 1500 words, have the crisis, confrontation, and conclusion.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Writing Difficult Characters

The time of the Ides of Winter is a rough time.  I'm restless, but not energized.  I can feel the light returning, but I'm not waking up the way I'd like to.  I'm disenchanted with my writing.  And my hair is more irritating than usual, with the result that I want to cut it all back to an eighth of an inch.

Working out:  missed a session Monday, so I went Tuesday after Wordos.  25 minutes on the elliptical for 250 calories (and read a manuscript).  About 5 minutes on the rowing machine for about 60 calories.  Still easing into the dips and chins, 3X6 three times, increasing the weight each time.  Joked with B about the gym's music when Supertramp's "Logical Song" started playing (which is better than "Dreamer", but not by much).  I could stand the music better if they did a rotation out of the 60's and 70's.  Downstairs, 3x12x40 lbs on the pec fly.  12x70 + 2x80lbs on the lat pull-down.  By this time it was pushing 10 PM, so I left early.

Writing:  I am working on a piece with a character who is upset enough with the return of Faeries that he wants to blow up their hollow hill.  It's difficult getting into his head, and I don't want to make him a characature of Ammon Bundy . . . or Timothy McVeigh.  I some ways it might be easier to imply his character through the eyes of his daughter, whom I've started the story with.  I'm getting through this by channelling some of my inner-Eugene-morning-commute grump, and also reminding myself that the villain is always the hero in his or her own head.  The trick will be keeping the story tight and under 5000 words.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

More Skiing

We went skiing at Willamette Pass again this weekend.  Sunday was a bluebird day, meaning that there was no cloud cover (or rain).   

The Child and I started out on Sleepy Hollow.  During one lift up, the chairs stopped about twenty feet from the top.  We sat there for a few minutes, long enough to compose the following haiku:

Snow on green branches
Winter waits for Spring's coming
Like I wait for you.

This didn't exactly enthrall The Child, who only got into haiku when it turned mean:

You whining bratling
Stop your ceaseless complaining
How you suffer so.

The Child channeled his Inner-Road-Runner and missiled straight down the slope.  In contrast, I did S-curves down the slope, with "Premadonna" on my lips.

Mark and The Child went to more advanced slopes, and I played on Sleepy Hollow.  I thought I might have a moment to commune with the trees while riding the chair lift, but The Child had been replaced by two little boys belting out "The Final Countdown" at the top of their tiny lungs (they tried *The Imperial March,* but they didn't know the tune so well).

After lunch, I took a group lesson.  The instructor was great.  I do wish the class size had been a little smaller, (especially after a person who ended up skiing into me after she lost control on the slopes) but oh well.

Last time we went skiing, I wiped out on the green circle run, Duck Soup.  this time around, the class started out on the Sleepy Hollow runs, and then we moved to the steeper (and longer) run.  Probably the most fun part of the class was learning how to slide sideways (on purpose) on skis.
Surprisingly, I can still walk without my calves seizing up.