Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Am I Out of My Mind, or What?

I don't know whether anyone has noticed yet, but my link lists have grown significantly over the past several days. I've thought about adding at least two others, but held off, at least for the moment. The ones I added are primarily writing-related, most notably Miss Snark, Literary Agent. Julie recommended this blog about four months ago. I had checked it out and liked it, but didn't add it to my reading until now.

Oh, and I see I messed up one of the links. I'll fix it.

So what's all this about? Well, I've been following the Barbara Bauer/Absolute Write saga, even though I don't even know whether I've ever posted on Absolute Write. I posted on some board, somewhere, sometime. I suppose I can Google myself to see, but part of the point of all this is that the AW boards were taken down by the ISP.

Speaking of Google, here's a fun BB link I just read while procrastinating on this entry. In May, 2004, someone who had been asked for an upfront fee from Bauer's agency posted to a forum seeking advice on the matter. Someone replied the next day, without addressing the specific agency, that "The rule is that you should never be charged a fee for representation." No big deal, and that was the end of the thread until March 13th, 2006, when the site administrator posted that Dr. Bauer, or someone claiming to be Dr. Bauer, demanded a billion dollars in damages "for the illegal use of her name on our website." The admin, Angela Hoy, pointed out that Posting someone's name online to ask about their business practices is not copyright or trademark infringement." Later in the day, Angela Hoy reported that "She emailed again this evening, saying the name of her company was used to commit a crime on our website." Since the only mention on the site was the question from the prospective client, Ms. Hoy replied that no crime was committed, no one was misrepresented as being with Bauer's agency for defamatory purposes (as Bauer apparently claimed), and that Bauer might want to have a lawyer (implication: someone who knows that none of this junk is illegal) get in touch with WritersWeekly. And that, apparently, was that. Bizarre, no?

I've been thinking a lot these past few days what I'd say if BB showed up on my virtual doorstep, demanding a billion dollars for writing about her here and contributing to her Wikipedia entry. I guess I would say that the best way to silence her critics would be to provide documented evidence that some of her clients have sold and made money from their books (not paid to have them printed) as a result of her efforts. I would gladly add that to her Wikipedia entry, if she could produce one contract, one testimonial from a real client who was paid an advance plus royalties for a book from a non-vanity publisher. I'm not holding my breath, though. But with so many people writing about her now, she's unlikely to turn a baleful eye on me for a while, if ever. And a lot of bloggers much higher on the food chain than I have made similar suggestions, to no avail.

But I should not talk about bizarre behavior, unless it's my own. Here I have checking the Making Light thread and my Wikipedia watchlist morning, noon and night, instead of getting anything productive done. Along the way I've followed links from BB-related blogs and websites, as well as links from some of my recent comments here. Hence the new links on the sidebar. But I don't have time for this, clearly! I don't have time to keep up with the blogs I read now, or to do any of the other stuff I should be doing. So how the heck can I wasted yet another evening on this stuff? It's just isn't good for me. Here was are at 2 AM again, and I have to be at work reasonably on time for a change, to train a temp to help me with a project. It probably won't surprise you to know I'm not ready for that. So I shouldn't be messing with this stuff tonight. I should have written this entry two hours ago, skipped watching the second part of the Lassie episode with the jaguar and Paul Peterson, and gone the heck to bed.

But the whole Barbara Bauer issue fascinates me, and not just because of the Absolute Write situation, or even the people who get suckered into paying fees in return for extremely dubious services. I'm just amazed by the outrageous claims and demands this woman had apparently made all over the place in her attempts to keep people from saying negative things about her online. Come on, one billion dollars? For mentioning her name and asking whether to pay a fee? This isn't an original observation, but who does she think she is, Dr. Evil?

Absolute Write Support Badge

Maybe not, but she's managed to do some harm anyway. Absolute Write is now seeking donations, having lost advertising dollars, having accrued costs in recovering and moving their decimated website, and having the certainty of legal costs in their future. Here's the link, for any of you who might like to help out. The site's former ISP is still refusing to release their data to them, and just passed a third deadline for doing so. This is not all Bauer's doing, of course, but it's another part of this continuing saga. The behavior of the ISP is another example of proprietors of small businesses foolishly ticking off thousands of people and hurting themselves in the process. Shame on you, JC-Hosting. Regardless of bandwidth and other issues, you shouldn't hold AW's data hostage.



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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Just Some Photos and Stuff

Well, that's a whole weekend blown on sleeping and Wikipedia. Darn it! I didn't get laundry done, or mail sorted, or Chapter One edited the rest of the way. Can I have a do-over?

I did take a few pictures over the weekend. They had nothing to do with Memorial Day, really, but I'll tie them in anyway. Then I've got to go to bed. (You've heard that before, right?) After writing two all-nighter, marathon entries this weekend, I think I've earned a quick photos-and-caption one.

The sad truth is that most of the time, Tuffy's main interest in me, after the joyous greeting at the door, is as a dispenser of dog biscuits. This time of year, though, there's something else she wants from me: petting and scratching. Yes, it's shedding time!

Really, Tuffy sheds all year round, but I noticed a dramatic increase in this a couple of weeks ago. This is not too surprising, because we also hit 100 degrees a couple of weeks ago. Now Tuffy will hang around to be scratched, even if she knows I have no food for her. But what a mess it makes!

She also is spending a lot of time in the bedroom. The air conditioning is only on in there (and in my office) on night and weekends, but Tuffy takes advantage of the lingering coolness on weekday mornings. She was also so intered in the A/C the other day that she let me shut her in there while John and I went to the store.

Speaking of the store, I was surprised today to notice that the contest finalist "American Dairy Cow" is currently covered by a Mexican blanket. It's part of a whole series of Western-themed displays around my local Safeway.

I'm actually not quite sure what this is all about, but I think it's to sell beef. So what's with the gray hat on the steer horn?

It being Memorial Day, I had some specific ideas about the food I wanted to pick up today. When I was a kid, we used to have a picnic in the back yard, with hamburgers and hot dogs or chicken, plus Mom's potato salad (with egg, mustard, cucumber and celery), fruit salad with watermelon and cantaloupe, and salad salad with leaf lettuce and chives from the garden. But today, I pretty much settled for the watermelon.


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Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Barbara Wiki

I guess it's my turn to write about Barbara Bauer. Again.

Who? you ask. Julie knows, and probably a few others of you at least. No, I didn't write about here here, but on Wikipedia, of all places. However, what I wrote is gone now, I mean really gone, as if it never happened. It was all a dream, an imaginary story, a mere delusion. Except that it wasn't.

Let me tell you about it.

Barbara Bauer is a literary agent of sorts, which is to say the wrong sort. She charges her clients fees up front, a practice that is generally frowned upon. As I understand it, these are supposedly for expenses, but no expense seems to be incurred, certainly not to the extent of the fees. In return, Ms. Bauer is expected to help place her clients' books; but according to SFWA and other sources, she has no substantiated sales to anyone but vanity publishers. None. A vanity publisher, in case you don't know, is one that the author pays to get into print, rather than the other way around. Sometimes there's a good reason to do that, but it emphatically does not constitute a sale to a publisher. Bauer's web site lists numerous publishers who "worked with" her authors, but to date, no one has been able to find concrete evidence that one of her clients actually sold a book to a non-vanity publisher as the result of Dr. Bauer's efforts.

Since all this adds up to a barely-legal scam, Bauer has been the subject of numerous complaints over the years from clients who rightly feel they were ripped off. This landed her on Writer Beware's 20 Worst Agencies List, published by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Their description of the list is as follows:

Below is a list of the 20 literary agencies about which Writer Beware has received the greatest number of advisories/complaints over the past several years.

None of these agencies has a significant track record of sales to commercial (advance-paying) publishers, and most have virtually no documented and verified sales at all (book placements claimed by some of these agencies turn out to be "sales" to vanity publishers). All charge clients before a sale is made--whether directly, by levying fees such as reading or administrative fees, or indirectly, for editing or other adjunct services.

Writer Beware recommends that writers avoid questionable literary agencies, and instead query agencies that have verifiable track records of sales to commercial publishing houses.

Note that while the 20 agencies listed here account for the bulk of the complaints we receive, they're just the tip of the iceberg. Writer Beware has files on nearly 400 questionable agencies, and we learn about a new one every few weeks.

Evidently, Barbara Bauer didn't like being on that list, which was widely circulated, either as a whole (on Absolute Write and Making Light, for example), in part, or as a link. She set about trying to suppress it by sending out her own cease and desist emails. In a posted example, Bauer reportedly demanded the prompt removal of the list from someone's blog, on the grounds that it was "disparaging, and inappropriate as well as libelous and defamatory."

Disparging it may be, but it's not libelous or defamatory. For that, the claims made would have to be false, and the person posting them would either have to know they were false or have a "reckless disregard for the truth," according to what I learned in college the first time around. Bauer doesn't seem to have had much success with this tactic, so she tried a few other things:

1. She tried to get Teresa Nielsen Hayden fired from Tor Books for libeling her on a corporate web site. The charge was false on two counts: Making Light isn't part of Tor or its parent company at all, but a private blog belonging to Teresa and Patrick; and everything Teresa wrote was true, and therefore not libel.

2. She tried to get Absolute Write shut down, after someone on their Water Cooler message boards printed Bauer's email address in connection with one of the cease-and-desist emails. She reportedly told Absolute Write's ISP that "my e-mail address has been unlawfully published without my consent. I am receiving SPAM because of Absolute Write Water Cooler's illegal activities." In the phone call that followed this fax, she supposedly invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which does not apply to the situation, according to a lawyer. Her claim was that printing her email address was copyright violation, which it's not, and that it makes Absolute Write a spammer, because it promotes her getting more spam. Even if this logic were defensible, which it's not, it would be undercut by the fact that Bauer has that same email address posted on her own web site.

Nevertheless, the email address was removed from the post, although the timing of this is a little unclear from my reading. This should have been the end of it. Instead, the proprietors of the ISP, JC-Hosting, James and Stephanie Cordray, gave Jenna, the proprietor of Absolute Write, one hour to recover and back up all the pages from his huge web site before pulling the plug on it. This was, of course, impossible. There seems to have been an existing issue about bandwidth, and an 11th-hour attempt by JC-Hosting to get more money from AW's Jenna in return for releasing the files. But it all looks kind of fishy, because Stephanie of JC-Hosting chose the same week to announce her launch of a competing web site for writers.

Volunteers from among AW's thousands of users have been trying to help rebuild the archive from private files and Google caches, to help get the site up and running with its new ISP. The main page is there now, but Jenna reported on Saturday that "What we were able to download of the forums before we were shut down is not usable. It's lacking vital components, and there's no way to fix that." Lawyers have been mentioned, and this whole thing look to be getting uglier as it goes along. Absolute Write is now seeking donations to help make up a little of the money lost in advertising and to pay the inevitable costs for legal fees and getting fully underway again. Merchandise is also available, all profits going for the same purpose.

Meanwhile, the alleged instigator of this takedown, Barbara Bauer, has aroused considerable anger in the online writing community. Lots and lots of people have blogged about her, and even more have Googlebombed her, by linking her name to the 20 Worst Agents List repeatedly, all over the web, so that the list is now the #2 result when you Google "Barbara Bauer." This is, of course, is the exact opposite of what Bauer tried to achieve with her letters and threats. Her infamy has spread like wildfire, even resulting in a Wikipedia entry.

This is where I come into the story.

No, I didn't create the Wikipedia entry. I wouldn't have done that, because it seems a little petty and un-Wiki. Wikipedia is supposed to be an encyclopedia. There is an effort not to allow "attack articles," but to observe neutrality with respect to every subject. For some controversies, this can be highly problematic.

When I looked at the Barbara Bauer article, it basically said she was an agent, based on NJ, and on the list, along with direct quotes from the SFWA article about the basis for agencies landing on the list. Links were proided to Bauer's own site, SFWA, and one of the older Making Light entries about her. The article was short and vague. It explained very little about who this woman is, why she's notable. If a person is not considered notable, he or she is not supposed to be featured in a Wikipedia article. This is a highly subjective judgment, but for example, Teresa Nielsen Hayden and John Scalzi are both notable enough to have entries. I am not. Writing one about yourself is verboten. If you're not important enough for some stranger to write about you, the reasoning goes, you're not notable.

But is Barbara Bauer notable? Probably. The article as written just didn't do a good job of explaining why. All a reader could tell from Wikipedia was that Barbara Bauer is on a list of the 20 Worst Agents. So where are the articles about the other 19? What makes her so noteworthy?

Making Light's most recent entry about Barbara Bauer

So I wrote a second paragraph to the article, explaining as factually and neutrally as I could about her attempts from suppress the list, and the result of this with respect to Absolute Write. I used words like "reportedly" and "allegedly," even though there seems to be little room for doubt that she did make repeated attempts to force people to remove the list from web sites and blogs, and was at least a precipitating factor in the AW takedown. I kept my explanation brief, and mentioned the online response even more briefly. I think I did all this on Friday, but it may have been Thursday night.

Somewhere in there, I think just before I made my contribution, some other person edited in a much more blatantly attacking version of the article, and someone else took it out again. Another person added the name of Bauer's town or city in New Jersey, and linked to the article about that municipality. Once my paragraph was posted, it was left alone, except for a one word edit, changing the word "exist" to "existed."

Until Sunday morning. Someone removed the entire paragraph, reverting the article to basically what it was before, a one paragraph explanation of what the list was and the fact that she is on it. Then, late Sunday morning, someone deleted the article entirely, using a process called "speedy deletion," on the ground that it appeared to be an attack article. Someone else reinstated it four minutes later, with something called a "hangon." A third party, noting this disagreement, entered a formal nomination for deletion, which is a review and consensus process. The discussion for this can be found here. So far, the consesnus seems to be "Keep and clean up."

Normally, the history of any Wikipedia page can be found using a History tab. You can look at the actual text as it appeared on an older version, and revert the article to that version if that seems like the best thing to do. This is done a lot, usually to remove online vandalism. I've seen rude things inserted into the Madeleine L'Engle entry, only to be removed quickly and painlessly by Wiki watchdogs. But in this case, the fact that the article was deleted truncated the history. Nothing older than 5/28 can now be seen on the history tab, which means that what I wrote is completely gone, even in hisotry. Google hadn't cached it yet, so that's that. (But see below.)

The Barbara Bauer Wikipedia entry as of 2:30 AM MST Monday

But wait! While I've been working on this entry, someone else has been trying to fix the Wikipedia article. This person must have had access to a copy of the older version somewhere, somehow, because some of my words are back! JulesH put in a couple of my sentences, supplemented with some of his own, clearly explaining the situation and citing his sources, including Making Light. It will be interesting to see whether someone else takes it out again, but for the moment it's much better than it was. And in the articles for deletion discussion, shortly before Jule H's restoration, someone just wrote,

"Keep and clean up, probably by undeleting the original, since it was better sourced and better written than the current incarnation at the time it was unceremoniously dumped. --Calton"

This makes me very happy.

Some WrinklesMeanwhile, another page I've worked on, for A Wrinkle in Time, has been chosen (at least tentatively) to be on a Wikipedia CD aimed at schools. I'm very pleased and proud about that, even though my own contribution to that page was very minor compared to the L'Engle one. I celebrated by adding character listings for the six members of the Murry family, plus Calvin O'Keefe. That was the only really glaring omission the article had. I missed a couple of titles, but someone later fixed them.

And now, once my screen grabs upload, I'm going to bed. Goodnight!

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A Perfect Meme to Follow Up

Carly has tagged me for a meme called, 10 Things That Make Me Say, "Life Is Good." That seems awfully appropriate in light of last night's marathon entry. Besides, it gets me off the hook on the other two topics I was thinking about covering, at least for tonight. Hmm. Let me think about this:

10. Making my boss laugh. I like walking into her office and making a wry observation about myself, or the absurdities of the work, or both. She's an easy mark for my humor, but I really think it makes the job easier for both of us. Oh, and I actually do enjoy the work itself, especially when I solve some problem or improve some process.

9. Nature. Birds in the tree. Whee! Apologies to Gertrude Stein, with her "pigeons on the grass, alas." I love coming across interesting birds, whether I'm walking to my car, taking a trip out of town, or photographing Tuffy in the back yard. It's been years since I've done any formal birdwatching, probably close to two decades. I'm definitely out of practice. But I'm still thrilled when a hawk turns up on a telephone pole, a turkey vulture soars across the sky, a mockingbird sings day and night in the front yard (or anywhere else), or a hummingbird scolds me for getting in her way. And that's just the start. I love going up the mountain to see birds and trees and more, or watching a lizard on the wall, or coming across pronghorns near the VLA.

8. Travel. If I could, I would get out of town every two months at least. I love driving through New Mexico or California. I love going to Disneyland, or Hollywood, or Universal, or Florida, or London, or, well, anywhere. I have a long list in my head of places I want to get to: San Francisco and vicinity, the Pacific Northwest, all the major islands of Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, Ireland and Scotland (via Yorkshire), Greece and Giza and Jerusalem and Kenya. Don't bet on me not getting to all of them eventually.

7. Digital photography.
I still remember how annoying it was to only have 12 or 24 or 36 shots available to be taken, and then having the hassle, expense and the wait of mailing the film off for development. Polaroid cut the wait time to almost nothing, but it was fearsomely expensive, sometimes the pictures turn or were discolored, and it turns out they didn't hold up well over time. Being able to carry a camera in my purse, take 100 photos of the full moon if I want, play with different settings in capturing the same sunset, and then being able to see and edit those pictures without any expense or delay...ahhh! Life IS good, and technology is wonderful!

6. TV, cable, and DVD. This is another innovation that I love. I remember when the only way to watch my favorite tv show (Star Trek, of course, back then) was to be in front of the tv set at 5 PM on Monday through Friday, if WNYS Channel 9 wasn't currently showing Mission: Impossible instead. VHS was a major improvement, but it had its drawbacks. Laserdiscs were great, but never really caught on. But DVDs, at their best, have the tv show or movie in a form that probably won't break or wear out, can be accessed directly at that great scene in the middle, and have interviews and bloopers and "making of" featurettes and other delights. I am consequently delighted. It's also a thrill to be watching the Ninth and Tenth Doctors every week on Doctor Who. Those of you who like Christopher Eccleston's Doctor on Sci-Fo but haven't seen his replacement yet, I can tell you that David Tennant is also very good and fun to watch. Tonight's story, the one that aired on the BBC today, actually freaked me out a bit. Very scary!

5. Church and Coffee hour. What? I like going to church, for all that I slacked off on the web site again this week. All the priests who do the sermons are very good and funny and insightful, the liturgy (a lot like the one I grew up with in another denomination, but better) has become an old friend, I get to participate as an acolyte and lector, and I like all the people. Who knew that church could be fun instead of boring, and still be a solemn liturgy? And no, I don't drink coffee, but I love drinking ice tea or an "Arnold Palmer," and hanging out with Kevin, Mary, Jan, Suzanne, Toni Sue and Eva (or some combination thereof) after Mass. Kevin sings, Mary has interesting objects or stories or opinions, Suzanne is as kind and friendly as the day she first welcomes me to St. Michael's, Jan is always reading something interesting and will tell us about it, Toni Sue knows everybody and can make anyone smile, and Eva, well, she's #4.

4. Eva. My friend Eva turned 101 this month, and I get to pick her up for church in the morning for the first time since her birthday. She wasn't up for it last week - too much celebrating had worn her out! We hope to take her out to lunch after coffee hour. Last time I saw Eva, I chased her half a block from the crosswalk to the library, in 100 degree weather, just to say hi. I arrived panting and wheezing from the heat and the hurrying. Eva, a retired nurse, scolded me for scaring her by overexerting myself like that, and threatened to knock me down and call for help next time I do that. She's just fabulous - funny and independent at 101. How can I hang out with someone like that and not be cheerful and optimistic?

3. Writing.
For all that I haven't gotten much done lately on the editing of Mages, it's not as if I'm actually not writing. I've got these blog entries every night, and The Jace Letters every week (yes, tonight's entry is posted), and I enjoy the heck out of it. When I'm actually woking on the novels, I enjoy that, too, as long as it's not page 1 of Mages of Mâvarin. I'm sick to death of that page. I need to get to Chapter Two of my edit so I can stop accidentally looking at the beginning of Chapter One.

2. Friends and Relations.
You didn't think I'd forget you guys, did you? Whether I'm related to you or not, whether I work with you or not, whether I've physically met you or not, I love you all: all the people in my life, online and offline, and some whom I know both ways.

1. John, specifically when I get to hang out with him on weekends. After all these years, he's still the most interesting man I know, with a lot of the same interests I have, but a very different point of view on many things. And yes, it's still true: "He makes me laugh." Just today, we did a riff on John's extraordinary patience (he has none):

Karen: Oh, yes. You'll stand around in line for hours...
John.: ...for no reason at all, just because I like to do it so much.

Gotta love him!

There are lots of things I would have listed had I not run out of slots: The Beatles, books, blogs, baths, and that's just the b words! How could I leave out Tuffy? Well, just assume she's both "nature" and a "relation."

I don't tag. Feel free to do the meme if you want - and please let me know you've done it!


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Friday, May 26, 2006

Happiness: What Does It Mean? How Do We Get It?

So I've been reading through a week's worth of FeedBlitz alerts, on my way to the Round Robin posting I haven't commented on yet. I figure that a few of the RR entries will be in the FeedBlitz as well.

Along the way, though, I've run across a couple of very different postings that touch on the subject of happiness, or lack thereof. One of my online friends was evidently pretty depressed when she posted her most recent entry a week ago. I only just found out about it, and left a long, Karenesque lecture in the comments. This entry is a more generalized, much longer rant about the same thing.

In contrast to my friend's sad entry, there's a quiz I found on Patrick's Place. My result is probably well above average, but it would not always have been so:

You Are 76% Happy

You are a very happy person. Generally, you feel content and that all is right with the world.
Occasionally, you have a down day - but you have the ability to pick yourself right back up.

But really, I think the test itself is more instructive than the result. Here are some highlights:

  • Check all that apply to you or that you agree with.
  • When you think about people in your life, you tend to think of those you care about and love.
  • You think life is getting better all the time.
  • When it comes to work or school, you enjoy a challenge.
  • You feel like your life is on the right track.
  • There is enough time in your life to take care of yourself.
  • You have a strong positive attitude that has gotten you through tough times
  • When you feel confused, you just step back and remember that things will work themselves out.
  • You are proud of who you are.
  • You believe that finding meaning and happiness in life is something you have to do for yourself.
  • You let negative feelings go quickly.
  • You rarely feel lonely.
  • You feel like you have control over your life.
  • Over your life, you've learned a lot - and grown emotionally.
  • You could lose people you love (or be out of work) and still feel secure.
  • Life is good. You truly appreciate what you have.
I think I answered fairly honestly. A few of them could have gone either way, but I tried not to fudge a positive result. Much.

Am I an extraordinarily happy person? No, probably not. Although things are going very well in some ways, I'm very aware of my failures. Am I a very strong person? Well, I'm a bit of a survivor, but it's not hard to upset me. (Please don't test this!) Am I self-confident? In some ways, perhaps, and certainly more so than when I was younger; but I'm as full of self-doubt as the next person, probably more so than many people.

What I do have, aside from a good job and a good husband and good friends (which admittedly count for a lot!) is years of experience watching people give in to depression. I had a mother who was a clinical psychologist, and who suffered from depression. I haven't exactly been depression-free all these years myself. Fortunately for me, I don't seem to have a physiological predisposition toward that condition. Nevertheless, I think I've learned something about why some people are reasonably happy at least part of the time, while others are unreasonably miserable most of the time.

There isn't one simple answer. There isn't a single cause or a quick fix. But: there are a number of factors you can look at, and things you can do to increase your odds of being at least somewhat happy instead of perennially miserable. What you need to do depends largely on what the actual problem is:

1. It's a chemistry thing. Some people are unhappy because their brains don't have the right balance of chemicals. I personally don't know much about seratonin or endorphins, much less the physical effects of long term stress. But I've seen someone who was depressed and cranky for years and years, who became considerably less so after adding certain supplements to his diet to promote the production of whatever-it-is that his brain needed more of. I'll try to get the details for you later, but for now, just remember that some of that depression you're fighting may be a case of bad chemistry. If it is, there are things that can be done to counteract it, not all of them involving prescription drugs. (And no, Paul, it's not about homeopathy, either.)

Addendum: Here's the info I didn't have handy before:

enlarge bottle

Trimethylglycine (Anhydrous Betaine) * 750 mg
TMG, also known as anhydrous betaine, is found in a variety of plant and animal sources and is utilized in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine. Maintaining normal homocysteine levels is important for the health of the cardiovascular system. TMG has been shown to help protect the liver and raise S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) levels in animal studies. SAM may help to promote a balanced emotional state.

****My explanation *****

SAMe is the supplement that is supposed to help the brain avoid depression, but it's extremely expensive to buy. TMG helps the cardiovascular system by regulating homocysteine levels, a process that produces SAM(e) as a byproduct. My friend gets a two-fer benefit. He points out, however, that it's not a magic bullet. Other factors - a better job, diet and exercise, for example - also play a role in his improved emotional state. He also warns that it doesn't work well unless you're also taking certain B vitamins. A good B-complex takes care of that issue.

2. Maybe your life does suck. Everyone has periods of crisis in their lives. Illness, joblessness, loneliness, divorce, financial insolvency, homelessness, addiction, family strife, lawsuits...well, the world is full of trouble, sorrow and pain, and we all have to deal with it. The last year of my mom's life was terribly stressful and depressing for me. There was no way to escape the situation. It simply had to be lived through.

Do you remember the Serenity Prayer? That's the one about accepting what you can't change, and fixing what you can. That's easier said than done. When you're trapped in a difficult situation you really can't change, that's bound to be stressful. So what do you do? Well, I suppose you go with what the prayer says. You change the things you can, ease the pressure a little bit, even if you can't really fix the main problem. For the rest, I guess you "accept" it. Does that mean you're cool with it, drifting lazily along through a sea of troubles? Of course not. But you can decide that you will survive this, and and come out the other side, if any. For many people, it helps to know that God cares, even if he's not going to wave a hand and make it all better. Other people disagree about this, and I'm certainly not going to argue the point tonight. The main idea is this: yes, sometimes your life does suck, but you can cope with it. No, really. You can. And that leads me to my third point, the excuse for writing this long blowhard post:

3. Ditch the script. In my postings about writing, which mostly appear in my LJ, I often refer to a concept that developed a colorful name on the AOL sf/fantasy writing boards five or six years ago: the Inner Weasel. This nasty critter is the part of a writer's brain that says the story sucks, the edit is going badly, the words are stupid, and what the heck makes you think you can write, anyway? Sound familiar? It should. I've read a number of posts from some of you that are at least partly dictated by your own Inner Weasels.

Well, guess what? Overcritical judgments about your writing are not the only pronouncements coming from this part of your brain. The Inner Weasel thinks you suck, personally, professionally, and in any other way in which you are less than perfect - which is to say, in all areas of life. Some people manage to keep their Inner Weasels on a very short leash, but others come to think they deserve all those nasty nips at their self-esteem. After all, the Inner Weasel is only confirming what your parents, your teachers, your abusive boss or spouse or whoever it was taught you long ago. You're fat. You're incompetent. You're ugly. You don't keep the house clean. Your grades are too low. Your hair is a mess. You didn't finish that project in time. Your kids are too wild. You don't call your mother often enough. Your paintings are too weird, and so is your lifestyle. You're useless and old and stupid. You're just going to get worse. Why do you even bother? You don't deserve any better than this.

Nonsense. These cheap shots may have an element of truth, but they aren't remotely fair or helpful. All they do is distort your self image, magnify your faults and ignore or minimize your strengths. They do all this with scripts. That old Inner Weasel, or even an external tormenter, knows exactly what to say to make you feel bad, to sap you of hope and motivation.

The good news is that you can rewrite the script. (I think this theory comes from cognitive therapy, by the way. That is the kind of therapy my mom found the most helpful,personally and professionally.)

Ever see that movie Agnes of God? Jane Fonda's character, psychiatrist Martha Livingston, tries to teach Meg Tilly's nun character to change her scripts. Sister Agnes's mother used to tell Agnes she was ugly and stupid. Doctor Livingston tries to teach Agnes to fight back.

Livingston (as Sister Agnes's mother): Agnes, you're a mistake.
Sister Agnes: I'm not a mistake! God doesn't make mistakes!

Okay, so I don't remember the dialogue in any detail, but the concept has stayed with me. I've heard friends go on for years like a broken record, endlessly repeating their destructive scripts. "I'm so lonely. Nobody loves me. I'm useless. My son won't see me. " Suggest something that might help, and they trot out a script that tells why they can't do anything to improve the situation.

But try this instead, the next time the Inner Weasel wants you to recite a litany of all the ways your life sucks:

IW: You're old.
You: Yeah, I'm getting older. So what? I'm not done yet.
IW: You're ugly.
You: By whose standard?
IW: Your kids misbehave all the time. You're not raising them right.
You: Misbehavior is part of the learning process. My kids are also smart and loving. And they don't always misbehave.
IW: Your job is boring and demeaning, and it doesn't pay well.
You: I like that one part of it. That's kind of fun. And I like my co-workers, and most of the bills are getting paid. It will do until I find something better.
IW: You'll never find something better. You haven't gotten one interview.
You: I will if I keep trying.
IW: You'll always be alone.
You: There's no way to know that. And even if I don't find the right person, I can be happy anyway.
IW: You're fat.
You: Okay, so I'll lose weight. Eventually. Maybe I'll go to the gym today.
IW: Your painting sucks.
You: That's not what the teacher said, or my friends online, or the person who bought the last one.

You see? You don't have to buy into this self-bashing stuff, or hopeless predictions about the future. You can change the script, and talk back to your Inner Weasel. And eventually, you'll realize that the IW was wrong after all. Your life isn't perfect, but parts of it are pretty good. You're not perfect, but parts of you are pretty good. And there are things you can do to improve on both.

Now let's go back to some of the statements in that Happiness quiz.

  • When you think about people in your life, you tend to think of those you care about and love.
This goes to several attitudes that run counter to the IW: being less selfish and petty and more loving, appreciating what you have, and focusing on the positive.
  • You think life is getting better all the time.
  • You feel like your life is on the right track.
Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. Is there something you can do to head off in the right direction?
  • You have a strong positive attitude that has gotten you through tough times
This isn't blind optimism, but more of a can-do attitude. You can do this. Whatever it is. You may not be able to fix the problem, but you can survive it, emotionally if not physically.
  • You are proud of who you are.
  • You believe that finding meaning and happiness in life is something you have to do for yourself.
Who else would you want to be, really, and who else has the magic answer for your life? Your task is to be the best you that you can, and find out what makes you happy.

  • Over your life, you've learned a lot - and grown emotionally.
This is one that I checked off with no reservations. Your job as a human being is to learn and grow, to do things that improve your life and the lives of others, to accomplish things that nobody else can do, at least not in the same way. If you can do that, and keep on doing it, every year added to your age is another gold star.

See, that quiz is all about attitude. Sure, there are some items that are affected by whether your life really does does, but basically it's about whether or not you believe your Inner Weasel. 1960s stand-up psychologist Dr. Murray Banks said,

"The psychologist does not like the word 'happy.' It's the most deceptive word in the English language. When I say 'happy,' I don't mean someone who gets up in the morning and says, 'Ooh-hoo-hoo, am I happy!' I don't think you're happy if you act like that. I think you're crazy."

My friends and I used to play that "crazy" statement of happiness on the Just In Case You Think You're Normal LP until we destroyed the groove and it wouldn't play any more. And here's another relevant bit, which I don't quite remember word for word. Banks said that nobody's problems are inherently more crushing, more life-destroying, than everyone else's problems. "It's your adjustment to the problems," he said, "that makes life worth living." I'm not sure it's true that nobody has worse problems, just on the face of the facts, than other people have. Nor do I agree with pop psych books that seem to claim you can decide to be happy, and voila! you're there. But I do agree that you can adjust to the problems. You can optimize the brain chemistry (with sleep, among other things), improve the sucky life (lose the weight, find the job, finish the book), talk back to your Inner Weasel, and rewrite your scripts. The new scripts don't have to be sappy, motivational poster, morning affirmation crap (unless you like that sort of thing), but they should be about the stuff that is going well, and ways in which you'll make it better. You probably don't tell yourself you're going to get the perfect job, land a movie deal, lose 100 pounds or marry George Clooney. You may not even tell yourself that you'll get that slightly better than okay job, rent a movie, lose 10 pounds or watch George Clooney on tv. But you can at least shut down (or shout down) the Inner Weasel, most of the time.

Even that may be enough to drag you kicking and screaming out of that depression. One of these days, you may realize that you've been fairly happy for a while now, and didn't even notice.


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"Travel Light" Reading

Weekend Assignment #113: Someone you know is traveling. Suggest a book or two for them to read on their trip. If at all possible, pick a book from the last couple of years. Also, keep in mind that it's meant to be a recreational book; i.e., they're not really reading to change their life, here, just to have fun.

Ah, John, you're starting to repeat yourself! Last year you wanted us to suggest things for you personally to read while traveling. Now here you are traveling again, and making a similar request. That's all right. We'll let it slide this time.

By the way, for anyone who doesn't recognize the two travelers in the black and white photo, they're Buz Murdock (George Maharis, left) and Tod Stiles (Martin Milner, right) from the 1960-1964 tv series Route 66. I'll get to them in due course.

I haven't bought a lot of books lately, or indeed any in the last couple of months. Money is an issue, and goodness knows time is an even bigger issue, goodness knows. But I do still have those free books and magazines I got at the Nebula Awards Weekend a couple of weeks ago. Let's see whether any of those fit the bill.

A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park.  Cover artist unknown.A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park. I've shown you this book before, and mentioned I was reading it. It's about a teenage girl named Miranda, who was adopted from a Romanian orphanage when she was very young. She still has a small collection of odd artifacts from Romania, including a mysterious one-of-a-kind book. (Actually, there are two of them, not quite identical). Partway through the novel, her book is destroyed, and Miranda finds herself stranded in another reality, the one she always half-remembered from early childhood. In that world, Roumania is a major country rather than a backwater, and in the midst of political upheaval. Miranda is their missing princess, and several years older than she appeared to be in the mundane world. People and events are calling on her to go to Roumania, but she and her transformed friends (one of whom is a dog now) are in danger an ocean away, in the underpopulated wilds of eastern New York State. It's a good read with a somewhat unsatisfying ending. More than half of the book is told from the point of view of a villainous Roumanian baroness, who is frankly much more interesting than Miranda is.

Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black. I believe Holly Black just won the first-ever Andre Norton award for Young Adult fiction. I think she even won it for this book. (Yes, that's right. I finally got around to checking.) It's about a teenage girl who runs away from home and gets involved with kids who live in subway tunnels - and with a troll named Ravus. I'm only about twenty pages into this, but I suspect it's really not light reading. This is pretty much in the dark fantasy realm, with a dark view of reality as well. The reason the protagonist leaves home in the first place is that she catches her mother snogging her boyfriend. Sheesh! Things sure have changed since Madeleine L'Engle had a YA book rejected because it began with the death of a child's father.

Travel Light by Naiomi Mitchison. Could there be a more appropriate title for this Weekend Assignment? This book was just reprinted, but originally came out in 1952. It's a fairy tale about an abandoned princess, raised by a nurse who transforms into a bear. The princess lives as a dragon before returning to the human world. She also travels widely - and, presumably, light. I think this is the next book I'll be reading myself.

I'm going to pass over Fledgling by Octavia Butler (a futuristic sf vampire story), Futureshocks, edited by Lou Anders (a dystopian anthology, as best I can tell), and Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison (mostly too disturbing to qualify as light reading). I got all of these titles along with the others, but I haven't read any of the Butler or the anthology (yet). Harlan's book was my favorite at one time, but that was 30 years ago. It's very good, no doubt about it, but probably not the best choice for a book to travel with. The others don't sound like light reading, either. Good, but not light. The Butler one is the one I'm looking forward to. The other, not so much.

And why must this light reading be a book at all? How about a magazine or two instead? The one I'm thinking of is F&SF (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), edited by Gordon Van Gelder. I used to read F&SF all the time in the 1970s, back when it was edited by Ed Ferman. I even submitted a bad comic ballad to the magazine, my senior year in high school. I suppose that's not strictly relevant, but the fact remains that a collection of short stories, which is what this essentially is, works really well when you're traveling, snatching little bits of reading time by way of distraction while waiting for something else. There's no great commitment to reading hundreds of pages - you can pick something short and zip through it, or select a novelette if your flight isn't going to be called for a couple of hours yet.

Overall, I have to give the nod to Travel Light as the best book to travel with, at least of the titles sampled here. But take the magazine along, too. And if you have a really long layover, that Roumanian princess and her nemesis may prove to be good traveling companions as well.


I was going to spend the evening commenting on everyone's Round Robin entries, but I got sidetracked by Wikipedia again. The entry for the Route 66 tv series is really coming along. Someone added a bunch of stuff about the quality of the writing, with details from a number of specific episodes. That was my cue to finally take all the material in the entry and organize it into headings. Yes, I was on my way to bed, and ended up working the Wiki instead until 2 AM. Tonight I got an earlier start, but if I'm not careful, the result will be the same. Oops! Too late!

I'll get around to the blog jogging tomorrow night, I promise!


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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tuffy Through the Looking Glass

Here, as promised, is my other "Reflections" entry for the Round Robin Photo Challenge. It won't be too ambitious, because I'm way behind on blog reading and commenting and the church web site and cleaning and editing and sleep - remember sleep? I didn't get much of it last night. Or the night before that. Or the night before that.

Before I get on with the main subject for tonight, here's a shot I took at 2 AM Wednesday morning. I was picking up prescriptions for my edema at a nearby 24-hour Walgreens when I noticed the store's sign reflected in the back window of the car. I just washed the car early Tuesday evening, but apparently the rinse failed to get the soap off the back of the car before the $1.50(!) wash ran out of time. Drat! The car still looks better than it did, though, and I like this reflection.


It's been a little while since I've done a Tuffycentric photo shoot, so I've recitified this state of affairs for this entry. Our bedroom has mirrored closet doors, which makes it easy to photograph reflections of Tuffy on the bed.

Tuffy ImpressionismWhen Tuffy was younger, it was evident that she was aware of her reflection and mine, and knew that the reflections corresponded to movement in the real world. She really seemed to understand what a reflection is - not another dog, but sort of her own colored shadow. Of course, a reflection doesn't smell like a dog. Maybe that explains it.

I say "when Tuffy was younger" because it's been a while since I saw her pay attention to mirror images at all. I think I see the beginnings of cataracts in Tuffy's eyes. She still gets around fine, though.

On the floor of John's bathroom is a vintage medicine chest with mirror. It's been here for a while, just another Cool Thing waiting to be used in some future renovation. Last week I photographed Tuffy in front of it. The mirror was so dirty that the image came out looking almost impressionistic!

I've since cleaned the mirror, to the extent that it can be cleaned. Here she is again, sitting in front of it earlier this evening, waiting for another bribe. Good doggie!

Check the entry below this one for a reasonably current list of other Round Robin participants. And watch the Round Robin blog later this week for a special announcement! Folks, I know I haven't commented on most of your RR entries yet. I'll get there as soon as I can, I promise!


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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Looking Through a Glass Sunset

This is the first of two entries I'll be posting for this week's Round Robin Photo Challenge, "Reflections." The topic was suggested by Cheryl, a.k.a. BoiseLadie, of the blogs Welcome to My World and Life Through My Lens. Welcome back to the Robins, Cheryl, and thanks for the great topic!

The main problem for me on this one was narrowing down my options, and second-guessing what everyone else will be doing. I ended up with two interpretations. This is the first one, inspired by the photo I posted a week ago of sunset at Picacho Peak, as seen in my driver's side mirror. I call it "Sunsets in Glass."

peach sunset
This was tonight's sunset here in Tucson. I photograph a lot of sunsets at this particular location, the corner of Golf Links and Wilmot as seen from the shopping center across the street. The sunset tonight was a bit of a dud, due to the lack of clouds to reflect the colors. Because of this, the whole sunset only lasted about five minutes. I kind of like the weird peach color I ended up with, though. For this image I lightened things up a bit, rotated the shot 3 degrees to square it up, and boosted the saturation. The result is pretty close to what my eyes saw.

autocorrected sunset
You might say that this image reflects a slightly different approach from the first one. It's the same photo as before, but edited differently. I did rotate, lighten midtones, and boost the saturation, same as the other one but not quite as much. But first I did an "auto correct." This brought out the pale blue sky above the pinky-orange.

autocorrected glass sunset
Here's the exact same sunset, as reflected in the windows of an empty storefront at the edge of the shopping center. This one has the auto correct to enhance the blue a little. I didn't boost the color saturation. It didn't need it.

natural glass sunsetSame sunset, same windows, no autocorrect, no change in saturation.

glass sunset to the south
And this one is a reflection of at least two reflections, taken on May 16th. I was driving north as I shot this, and probably stopped at an intersection or U-turn lane. The mirror therefore pointed south. Yes, the mirror is showing sunset reflected in the sky to the south, and the colors of sunset reflected on the west side of my car. I boosted the saturation to make it more obvious, and closer to what my eyes saw. It is very common here for sunset's reflection to appear in the north and south and occasionally even in the east, as well as in the west. The colors are reflected off clouds and mountains, cars, windows, doors - and my camera's lens.

Tomorrow: Doggie Reflections.

Be sure to check out all the Round Robin entries:

Cheryl... "Welcome To My World" Posted!

Karen... "Outpost Mâvarin" Posted!

Carly... "Ellipsis...Suddenly Carly" Posted!

Valorie... "Retrospect USA" Posted!

Sachin... SacWorks **Welcome, New Member!**

DesLily... "Here There And Everywhere 2nd Edition" and "Here There And Everywhere" Posted!

Kimberleigh... "I Shaved My Legs For This?" Posted!

Erika... "Stealing Time" Posted!

Nancy... "Nancy Luvs Pics" Posted!

Julie... "Julie's Web Journal" Posted!

T.J. ... "Every Picture Tells A Story" Posted!

Suzanne... "Suzanne R's Life" Posted!

Derek... "Through My Eyes" Posted!

Tammy... "The Daily Warrior" Posted!

Connie... "Moments To Remember" and "Connie's Photo Pages" Posted!

Steven... "(sometimes) photoblog" Posted!

Deb... "SassysEYE" Posted!

Dorn... "Through the Eyes of the Beholder" Posted!

Steve... "PAPARRAZI BY PROXY" **Welcome, New Member!** Posted!

Betty... "My Day, My Interests" Posted!Duane... "sotto voce" and sotto voce USA Posted!

Tess... "First Digital Photos" Posted!

rRose... "WAIT-NOTYET"" Posted!

Becky... "Where Life Takes You" Posted!

Amy... My life and pictures ***Welcome New Member!*** Posted!

(And yes, you're welcome to join us too. Check the Round Robin blog for details, and leave a comment with your name, blog name, and URL at the "Reflections" entry.)


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Pulling Over

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Show off your favorite place to nap, that's not your bed. Couches, hammocks, recliners -- let's see where you doze in repose.

Listen, you've already seen my couch...

...where I often sleep if there's reason to think I would otherwise be disturbing John (during an allergy attack, for example). Nothing new or exciting there. But that's not my favoite place for a nap, anyway. I actually take most of my naps in the bedroom (imagine that!), but my favorite place is somewhere a bit west of where this picture was taken:

This is Interstate 8 in California, somewhere near Cleveland National Forest. (That's named for the President, not the city in Ohio.) Yes, I've undoubtedly slept at this very spot, while John was driving. But you have to be a bit closer to San Diego to get to the ideal place for a much-needed nap in the middle of a road trip.

Unfortunately, I can't give you a picture of the place itself, only one of the venues for sleeping when we get there. My favorite place to sleep, other than in my own bed, is in the front seat of my car, or the passenger seat of John's car, while parked at Buckman Springs Rest Area in Cleveland National Forest. The shot above is from my car. It's actually more common for me to sleep in John's car, but he doesn't like me to photograph that.

I've actually only slept in my current car about once, during our Labor Day weekend Disneyland trip. Yes, we did take a nap at Buckman Springs on that trip, but I didn't think to take a picture. This shot was taken tonight in my own driveway. Unfortunately, my expensive car seat cover recently tore. I reclined the car seat for this photo shoot, and had trouble getting it back to where I want it afterward. Those shots didn't look good, anyway. You really can't tell from the photos that I reclined the seat at all.

I-8 is what John and I call "The Southern Route" to Southern California. We usually go that way, specifically to sleep at Buckman Springs. This is because the elevation there is high enough that it's seldom too hot to sleep, at least not in the middle or the night. We typically pull in there around 3 or 4 AM, and sleep for three or four hours. Then we continue on to Disneyland, or wherever it is we're going, usually with a stop at Denny's for breakfast on the way. Once I woke at dawn at Buckman Springs, and saw a bobcat just beyond the edge of the parking area. That was probably 20 years ago. Too bad I couldn't get a picture!

When we take The Northern Route, that means staying on I-10 well into California, getting off somewhere between Cabezon and Los Angeles. The bad news is that I-10 goes through Yuma, and yes, it can be hot, even at night. The good news is that we sometimes get to take a nap at The Wheel Inn, in the company of dinosaurs. I don't care if there's no such thing as a brontosaurus. That was my favorite kind of dinosaur when I was a kid. I always love to visit this one, and his T. Rex friend.

And I'm not the only one.


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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Only Abandoned

This is going to be really short, because I'm really tired. I must sleep tonight!

I've always admired the Leonardo Da Vinci quote, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” But I was watching a show about him tonight on the History Channel (gee, why do you suppose they aired that this week?) that puts a different spin on it, one I never quite realized before. As great as he was, he had a problem with finishing things. Sometimes it was because nobody would hire him to actually build the tank or the diving suit or the flying machine, or because war and politics ended his relationship with a patron. But at least some of the time, it's because Leonardo lost interest in a project as it neared completion.

He got bored.

Or, alternatively, he kept tinkering with something, because he was still interested, and the piece was not yet perfect. For example, he kept messing around with the Mona Lisa until he died.

OCD or ADHD? Possibly.

Why should I care? That was a long time ago, and nobody today would accuse the gretest polymath inventor-artist of all time of being a slacker. Well, maybe I would, but it's not exactly fair, is it?

I'm no polymath, and I'm no genius inventor. I'm definitely never going to be the subject of a novel by Dan Brown. But that quote as always resonated with me. It still does. I thought Leonardo essentially meant that at some point you have to call the work good enough, and let it go. That's an important principle, especially for someone who worked intermittently on the same novel for over thirty years.

an unfinished scene in Mages of Mâvarin
Now I've got this other novel that I much not abandon. The other meaning of the Leonardo quote hangs over Mages, just as surely as the more obvious meaning told me to finish Heirs and move on. If Leonardo could not be bothered to finish the Adoration of the Magi, what does that say about little old me and my "magnificent mess?" Does it say anything at all?

I'm not sure, but I think I should take it a warning. Maybe art must be abandoned at a certain point, when everyone but the artist agrees that it's done. But it shouldn't be abandoned before it reaches that stage of completion. Maybe you can and should set it aside for years, until conditions are right for continuing the work, but eventually, you should return to it.

On the other hand, does it really matter that Leonardo never built a working flying machine? Isn't it enough that someone else came along later, and made the idea take off?

Well, I'm not waiting for some latter-day, literary Wright Brothers to finish my novel for me.

I suppose I'd best get on with it! I am getting on with it. I'm halfway through Chapter One at the moment.

Oh, and by the way, I posted Part Five of The Jace Letters tonight, a day late. Does anyone care?


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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Old Tech, New Tech, and Other Time-Wasters

Well, I had twelve hours of much-needed sleep today. I went to bed at 4:40 AM (yeah, yeah, shame on me), and got up late this afternoon. This means I didn't get much done today, but it was worth it. No, we haven't touched the router and all that. We'll get there eventually. John did get some tiles laid on the Library Conversion of Doom, we bought groceries, and I washed my favorite pants and did my best to remove the oxygen-cleaner's discoloration, so the day has not been completely wasted.

But I've had what I like to call "digestive inconveniences" today, which makes it hard to sit at the computer for long. (It doesn't help that I'm also watching That's Entertainment! in the next room.) When I have been in here, I've spent a fair amount of time messing around with Frappr and Wikipedia. I noticed today that I'm suddenly on a bunch of Frappr group maps I never signed up for, with names like "We like Writing," "We admire kindness" and "The Hitchhi Fans."

The Hitchhi fans?

It turns out that some spider, robot or person made a bunch of maps based on whatever people put down in their Frappr profiles. That got me on the maps listed above, plus "We Want to Meet Anne McCaffrey," "We like Reading," and "back to the future fans." Apparently whatever method used to generate these maps was a little iffy on quality control. I deleted my pin from "We admire kind," and these maps show all their initial members using the non gender-specific "people" pins. And nobody ever called am H2G2 fan (or "frood") a Hitchhi fan before. But what the heck. I uploaded a couple of Hitchhiker's-related pictures anyway. Maybe a human will eventually give the map a proper name and identifying image.

Frappr has beeen adding lots of little features, including a blog space on each person's My Frappr page. Well, I don't really need an eighth blog to contribute to, but I couldn't stand to leave it blank any longer, so I made an entry directing people here. If you found this blog that way, hi there. Welcome!

It's all still kind of weird and confusing, the Internet I mean, even for those of us who have been online a decade or longer. I'm still trying to figure out why a couple of splog-like pages have put me on sites devoted to tennis and treadmills, according to Technorati. I mentioned one of those words in passing, but not the other. My entry that mentions Frank Lloyd Wright is no longer excerpted on the tennis page, but as of last night that page still showed up on my Technorati "Blogs that link here." Weird. So why has the count of sites linking to the Outpost dropped significantly in the last week, from 76 or 77 down to only 72 sites? Was it something I said, or something Technorati did? I know I shouldn't care, but it bugs me. Does that make me a bad person?

I haven't done too much with Wikipedia today, but yes, I've been doing more editing this week. I added a little bit about shooting locations to the Route 66 tv series entry, and a little more about George Maharis to his entry, which was initially too much about his misbehaviors rather than his achievements. You may recall that I interviewed him back in 1986, and liked him a lot. And someone added a reference to Julie Newmar as a Route 66 guest star, so I mentioned that she was the only actress to appear on the series twice in the same role. One of those episodes, set in Tucson, is among my favorites. But all my material for the unfinished Route 66 book is on dot matrix printouts and large Commodore 64 floppies. I don't see how any of that stuff is ever going to be converted into useful form, all these years later. The technology is just too old, too incompatible.

And then there's the challenge of keeping up with the newest online toys. This week John Scalzi and Editor Joe introduced an AOL video-sharing platform with a cute video of Athena and John playing with Mentos. I must say I was a bit jealous. I have a few little movies I made with the Canon digital camera and some software or other, but never figured out how to share them properly. But Joe mentioned Google Video, so I'm uploading my Mt. Lemmon clip there right now. We'll see what happens.

Mount Lemmon Driving Adventure

31 sec - May 21, 2006
« Back to video details  download for

Dang! It looks as though I'll be going to bed as late tonight as I did last night. I'll have to do better.

While I'm waiting for that video to upload, and mostly ignoring Mae West and Cary Grant in the next room, I'll just mention that despite everything, I have gotten a little work done on Mages. I've really only changed a few sentences in Chapter One, but the nature of the changes shows me that I'm capable of taking text that's been static for years and years and finally making it clearer and cleaner. Here's one of them:

This one had shown him nothing more than a normal conversation, one that could easily happen in the waking world.

That's clumsy, and the extra words add no information. How about:

This one showed a normal conversation, one that could easily happen in the waking world.

Here's another:

Harleno was famous for missing classes whenever he could.

Yeah? When would that be?

Harleno was famous for missed classes and unfinished homework.

You get the idea.

The video is uploaded. Time to embed the code and then embed myself!

No, the html doesn't work in Blogger. Drat.


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Old and New Delights

This is going to be one of those lazy late-night entries, a few thoughts strung together rather than some big photo essay or rant. But I think you'll forgive me when you read why.

Tonight, John and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. Last night (Thursday), we attempted to do so a night early, on the theory that it's easier to get into a restaurant on a weeknight than a Friday night. John hates waiting to get seated. But when we walked into Mama Louisa's, we found their vestibule crowded with people waiting. We made do with Mama's Pizza (no relation) instead. So tonight I suggested that we try again, but this time make an early start of it. I got to Mama Louisa's just after 5:30, just ahead of John. There was nobody waiting at all. Go figure!

So we had a pleasant time in this family-owned restaurant, which is 50 years old this year. John sometimes finds it too bright and too noisy, but that wasn't a problem tonight. I love the mural painted on the wall, and the salad bar, and the homemade pasta, although my cannoli was a little overcooked tonight. The service is generally excellent, too. Best of all, I was with John, relaxing and chatting, instead of sitting at my computer while he sat at his. One of the things we discussed was how much happier we are than just a few years ago, when John was working for a jerk who pretty much made his life miserable. There were other reasons why it wasn't a wonderful time, but I'll let John's old job and my mom's difficult last year stand as the main ones.

After dinner we went home, so I could check my email and John could try one more thing to determine whether his cable modem, several years old at least, was really dead. Apprarently so! So I packed up my laptop and we headed for Best Buy. John got a new cable modem, and I finally bought a wireless card, and a router, and more RAM. Take that, Norton!

The Geek Squad guy also advised me to dump some of the programs in the start-up tray, which I've now done. That's as far as I've gotten so far, but John did get back on the cable connection with his new modem.

Other than that, tonight was Doctor Who, of course, along with a couple of decent SG-1 reruns. Tomorrow, John sort-of promises that we'll tackle the router. We'll see whether that actually happens. Um, I mean, yay!

Good night!


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