Monday, July 30, 2007

Next to Something

Zorro defends my office plant, despite the snow

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a picture of things that are juxtaposed in interesting ways. "Juxtapose" means "To place side by side, especially for comparison or contrast," in case you hadn't run up against the word very much (it's one of those Scrabble words). Basically, if two things you see next or near to each other make an interesting picture, or seem to comment on each other in an interesting or ironic fashion, you're good to go.

Unobservant person that I am, this isn't an easy one for me. And yet I've ended up with seven photos for you. You be the judge of whether or not they're lame. First up, a subject I've photographed before, and the first juxtaposition I thought of today, mostly because I've been aware of it for years. Here's Zorro, defending the plant in my cubicle at work. I hope the hero of 1820 Spanish California isn't too chilled by the snowy scene on the box behind him!

Snoopy loves Trophy - but aren't they both boy toys?

In our trying to make room for more Doctor Who DVDs, somewhere along the line Trophy got shoved on top of Fisher-Price's Little Snoopy. Looks like love! Tuffy the Toro is the odd bull out.

Grouping of games at the Museum of the Weird

Part of our collection of vintage games offers a few interesting juxtapositions. Does a Ouija board put you in Jeopardy? (Answer: no.) Does Uncle Wiggily wear a wig, just as the Beatles don't? If you win the Game of the States, will you Go to the Head of the Class? If you do, will it involve climbing a ladder? Do Uncle Wiggily and the Tickle Bee live in Candy Land?

And I'm not that big a DB fan.

Two magazines, waiting to be read or recycled or both, happen to feature David Boreanaz on their covers. That's not why I bought that TV Guide, honest!

Let's not argue, okay?

An outdated Physics textbook and a Bible share shelf space, somewhere between a treasure chest and the trash. No further commentary from me on this one.

Childhood, meet adulthood. Help us, Peter Pan!

Not quite a child's toy, a promo rubber duck sits next to a tile depicting a Pueblo storyteller, stories of the boy who wouldn't grow up, and four scholarly works about children's literature. Adulthood is so overrated!

Rhymes with "bat"

Cutting out early tonight for reading, editing and/or sleeping. I'm on the second Harry Potter book now. Jekyll was good. We finished watching it tonight. Tomorrow I hope to write that letter from Jace, and maybe buy a $600 SONY computer, John willing and the creek don't rise. Meanwhile, good night!


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mostly Griping About My Computer

Okay, so I just finished editing Chapter Three of Mages, which was my computer's cue to lose communication with the new keyboard for the fourth time today - or was it the fifth? I closed down the programs and told it to restart, but it didn't even try to shut down, so I had to use the on button to turn it off for the fourth time today - or was it the fifth? Sixth?

Yes, this computer is dying, I think. Last night I unplugged all the USB cords from the two hubs and the computer itself, rearranged everything, and plugged one of the hubs back in to the power strip, which I hoped would solve my problems with mouse and keyboard and such. It didn't. And this morning the e on the built in keyboard decided that nothing would stop it from typing endlessly - not the removal of the cover, cleaning around it, manually pulling up the mechanism, removing the center plastic thingie, bending, prying, holding it up, slipping something underneath - nothing. That was the first or second instance today in which I had to forcibly turn off the computer.

The newest version of Norton, which I bought in May, doesn't seem to have anything like Disk Doctor anywhere, nothing at all for fixing computer problems. Spyware and virus and password checks, yes, but not the basic function for which I buy the program every year. Norton 360 also has a function for backing up files online, but I don't think it's worked for me yet. Nor does the computer seem to have anything like Check Disk or whatever it's called any more - not at start-up after an improper shutdown, and not on a menu anywhere. And of course I can't reload software or operating systems from a CD, because the CD drawer is broken.

Oh, and while I was trying to explain to John just how hopeless this computer has become, and that I really do need a new laptop and am not just being greedy, a bird pooped on my head. Nice.

But I got eight audio sermons posted to the St. Michael's news blog and sermons pages, all formatted and pretty, which took many hours because my only HTML composer, Netscape Composer, is a) about ten years old and b) highly uncooperative sometimes; and because Blogger didn't like the fast and dirty way I posted it at first, and punished me. Netscape told me that for an "unknown reason" it couldn't edit the page I made. Blogger refused to switch the post to HTML mode, probably because I'd pasted in headers and footers that marked ends and beginnings of entries where none should be. I found a workaround, spent several hours compiling a table with the right sermons and the right links, and reposted the sermons. But when I went to post the raw HTML into Composer for the Sermons page, which was the only thing Composer would let me do, the pasted material appeared as a line of blank space. It turned out that it didn't like the lack of line breaks that Blogger prefers. So I spent another twenty minutes highlighting bits of text to make it appear, and creating line breaks that somehow made the shorter lines visible. What a lot of work! But the Sermons page is now done, and so is the Announcements entry, and so is the updated Schedule page. I can stop feeling guilty, at least about that, at least for a while.

I was going to write about taking a friend to see the Harry Potter movie today, and about the BBC Stephen Moffat series Jekyll, and an exciting announcement about "Later This Somewhere," the Jace and Sandy sequel. But I think I'll settle for telling you that my friend Sarah will be collaborating with me on "Later This Somewhere," vastly improving the story's potential due to her expertise on the subject of theater. And now I'm going offline. Good night.

When Floods Are Fun

Looking north on Wilmot. Where did the mountains go?

Floods can be horrible, destructive things. I know this. Even here in Tucson, people occasionally die in washes and rivers during flash floods. Sabino Canyon was massively damaged by flooding a year ago, with 70-year-old bridges destroyed. And let's not even talk about the flooding that comes with hurricanes.

Police direct traffic at Broadway and Wilmot

But the kind of flooding we've had in Tucson this weekend isn't one of those bad ones, at least, not as far as I know. We've have 1.55 inches of rain in the past 48 hours, but the worst thing I've seen happen because of it was the traffic lights out at Broadway and Wilmot.

A temporary "river" at St. Michael's waters the plants

As if in defiance of my entry of last night, today's weather did not follow the usual pattern of blue sky in the morning, a buildup of clouds and then rain in the late afternoon and evening. It rained at 6:30 AM or so, something I discovered when nervous Tuffy came into the bedroom and woke me up by standing on my hair. That rain stopped after a while, but started up again in the early afternoon, and ended about an hour before sunset.

I set out around 3 PM in the car, looking for things to photograph, but it was still raining, and so I didn't want to slog my way to the Pantano River on foot. So I headed out to 5th and Wilmot, and got a few pictures of the flooding at St. Michael's - always a good time.

This shot's for you, Becky. Drainage at St. Michael's.

I set out around 3 PM in the car, looking for things to photograph, but it was still raining, and so I didn't want to slog my way to the Pantano River on foot. So I headed out to 5th and Wilmot, and got a few pictures of the flooding at St. Michael's - always a good time. The parking lot at St. Michael's drains into some kind of sewer thing or drainage ditch, but it doesn't make much difference when it rains and inch and a half in two days!

Flooding at Fifth & Wilmot, near the Crosswalk of Death

See? There's serious flooding in the road and on the sidewalk, just steps away from that culvert, including a little bit of whitewater rapids.

"Safeway Pond"

One last picture for tonight. This has been at the edge of the Safeway shopping center for several days, I think. It really does look like a deliberate pond, kind of pretty and peaceful. If this were Manlius, it would be the right size for a skating rink. No chance of that here! But taking pictures of the monsoon is more fun than ice skating, anyway.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Gullywasher 2007

Flooding on Calle Mumble, 7/27/07

Oh, yes! We're having a good monsoon so far! We only have a couple of inches recorded at the airport for the 2007 monsoon since it started a couple of weeks ago, but that's almost as much as we got for the entire 2004 rainy season. Plus I think we've had more rain up and down my Wilmot stomping grounds than at the airport. Aside from plant debris and a few accidents I've seen no damage, just lots of dramatic rain to refill our chronically depleted aquifer.

One of the nice things about the Arizona monsoon is the timing of the storms. I've remarked before that it resembles the lyrics to the title song from Camelot, the bit about about it not raining until after sundown. Occasionally it rains as early as 2 PM or so, but usually it's 4 PM or later, sometimes as late as midnight. So today I was able to take the car for emissions testing at lunchtime, and not run into a drop of rain. That hit around 4 PM. By the time I drove home around 6:30 or 7 PM, there was one heavy squall for about a block, but the rain was mostly over with. While it was here though, it dumped a huge amount of water throughout my neighborhood, as I discovered when I tried to drive home with a "to go" order from Mama's Pizza.

This is a wash near Palo Verde High School. It crosses the main back street route between Kolb and Wilmot behind 22nd Street. In more than a decade of living in this neighborhood, I've seen this wash run with water a few times each summer, usually just a few inches deep in the street itself. With maybe one exception, I don't remember it ever being deep enough to turn me away from crossing it - until tonight. See that spot in the middle of the water there? That's a box or a tire or something, washing away.

I drove closer, not intending to cross, but just to take a better picture. Yes, this was swift and maybe a foot deep, a Stupid Motorists Law situation waiting to happen. See, every year, rescue services get called out to pull cars out of washes. The driver then gets hit with a bill for being rescued from the results of his or her stupidity. But the wash behind the Palo Verde football field is usually not more than three or four inches deep as it crosses Calle Betelgeux. No real danger in that. Tonight, though, I was one of a number of drivers who turned around and headed off another way.

The detour didn't help much. I soon came upon more flooding, and little choice but to cross it, unless I wanted to double back all the way to Kolb! Seeing that the motor home had already crossed, I chanced it. No problem.

Uh-oh. Trying to turn right after crossing the lesser flooding, I saw another part of the same wash that's behind Palo Verde. The motor home driver clearly had decided not to cross it. The vehicle on the other side of the wash turned around rather than driving through. The woman and the dog, well, they didn't seem too worried, but they didn't go wading, either.

So I backed up and drove on, trying to find another way through. I came across yet a third piece of that same wash, again impressively deep. In the end I had to double back all the way to Kolb Road, a mile east of Wilmot. There was no other way to reach Wilmot except via the main roads, either 22nd or Golf Links. I went with Golf Links.

And yes, in the end, John's pizza slice and I got home safely.

I love the monsoon!


NWS Monsoon Tracker - Rainfall

Current Conditions - Tucson Intl Airport

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Why I Can't Tell You It's Overrated

Weekend Assignment #176: Tell us of one piece of culture -- book, movie, album, painting, play, architectural "masterpiece," whatever -- that you think is wildly overrated. Note I said to focus on an object, not the artist: for example, explain why Sgt. Pepper's is overrated, not The Beatles, or The Godfather, not Francis Ford Coppola.

Extra Credit:
Have you ever changed your mind about how good a book, movie, etc., was? You know, you read a book once, hate it, come back to it several years later and find out it wasn't so bad after all.

This is going to be one of those Weekend Assignment entries in which I explain, earnestly and at great length, why I can't comply with the assigned parameters, and therefore must tweak it to suit myself. Still, I think it's going to be a bit more interesting than me picking some bit of literature or pop culture and running it down from a position of ignorance. Because that's what the alternative would be.

Here's why I can't honestly tell you something is overrated:

1. If I think something is overrated, I generally avoid it, because I've concluded that whatever-it-is holds little or no appeal for me. Therefore I don't watch it, read it, or listen to it. Therefore I don't have an informed opinion about it. Therefore I can't tell you, with any authority whatsoever, that the thing is overrated! Some of the many artistic works that fall in this category:
  1. Scalzi's example: The Catcher in the Rye. I think I got up to about page five of this book, my senior year in high school. I found it boring and annoying, so I went back to reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes.
  2. The Godfather. It seems a travesty to me that it's now ranked ahead of Casablanca on the AFI list of greatest films. But what do I know? I've never seen it!
  3. Titanic. This is also higher on the AFI list than seems reasonable. Again, I've not seen it.
  4. Remembrance of Things Past. The fact that Harlan Ellison once ordered me to read it very nearly ensures that I'll never bother.
  5. American Idol. It doesn't appeal to me, so I've only ever watched a couple minutes at the end when it runs over into the House MD time slot. Maybe there's a legitimate qualitative reason why people seem to care more about this show than they ever did Star Search or Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour. But if so, I'll never know what it is.
2. A lot of the stuff I consider deeply flawed (and therefore don't rate highly) is rightfully thought of as flawed by the culture at large. Some examples:
  1. Star Wars. It's a great film in many ways, with fun dialogue, iconic characters and groundbreaking effects (original and upgrades). But few people (I hope) think that there's nothing silly, juvenile, stilted or derivative in the film and its sequels. I'd say it's overrated only by the most willfully blind hardcore fan.
  2. Survivor, Big Brother, and other reality shows. They've been wildly popular in their time, but they play on the most negative aspects of human behavior. Karen does not approve - and therefore did not watch. But all along, there has been far more negative criticism of such shows than kudos, so there's little chance that they're overrated.
  3. Enterprise (or Star Trek: Enterprise). Somebody somewhere probably liked this show a lot, but overall it got iffy reviews and poor ratings compared to its predecessors. Scott Bakula played the least likable lead character of his career, and the whole thing was a bit of a downer. It got a bit better at the end, but it was too little, too late. It wasn't overrated: the critics and the public got it right.
3. Classics that I'm tempted to call "overrated" were products of their time. As a child of the late 20th Century, I lack the context to judge them fairly. No, really. I tend to feel that every book written before A Study in Scarlet is a waste of my time. The language has shifted, making the prose inaccessible. Times have changed in other ways, too, so that customs, clothing, transportation, communications etc. that the work's original audience took for granted are all a bit of a puzzle for us. Even some 20th Century works are hopelessly dated, with stylistic choices or sensibilities that seem shockingly backward. Is it all irrelevant now, but still being taught because it's "wildly overrated?" Let's take a quick survey:
  1. Hamlet. I find most Shakespeare a tough slog, but none more so that this one. I find myself wanting to tell the hero to be less depressive and more proactive, and a lot nicer to his girlfriend. But if I were to read it again now, and with real comprehension despite the language, I would probably discover that people are right to consider it one of the greatest plays of all time. Meanwhile, I much prefer The Tempest, As You Like It or A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  2. McTeague by Frank Norris. An uneducated brute of a man sets himself up as a dentist, but eventually it all falls apart. Things go from bad to worse for him and his horrible, greedy wife, leading to a horrible, hopeless end in the Mojave Desert. Blecch. Actually, if this is highly rated by anyone other than my American Realism course instructor circa 1978, then yes, it's wildly overrated. Same goes for several short stories by Stephen Crane.
  3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin. A woman wanders listlessly through several hundred pages of no plot, and then drowns herself. At least that's how I remember this book. Same verdict as McTeague. Really, the theme of that entire American Realism course was, "Life sucks, and then you die." None of the characters take successful action to make things better. Phooey.
  4. Madama Butterfly. I like one of the melodies, but I suffered through this opera back in 1974, absolutely hating it. Part of it was the language barrier, but mostly I was offended by the whole premise of this woman being utterly destroyed because some guy didn't treat her right. Where's your self-respect, woman? Is that a fair assessment on my part? Probably not. I might appreciate it more if I truly understood the language and cultural mores of Puccini's audience.
  5. Grimm's Fairy Tales. Okay, so I haven't read them all, and there are certainly the seeds of some classic stories here. But many of these folk tales are rhymes or nonsense, or full of death and violence, and few have anything like a conventional plot as we know it today. Are they overrated? Dunno. Who is doing the rating?
Eh, that's enough. I could tell you why I dislike Hemingway's short stories about Nick Adams, or why Battlestar Gallactica just doesn't work for me, but that's all down to personal taste, isn't it?

Extra Credit: if I didn't like it the first time, I seldom give something another chance. John recently rented the first season (or Best of, or something) of Get Smart. I remembered most of the gags in the first episode, which I liked a lot when I was, let me think, about eight years old. When I saw the show again as an adult, I found it stupid and annoying, just not as good as it should be. When John played that first episode a couple of weeks ago, I was kind of thrilled with the old familiar jokes that made such an impression on me 42 years ago. But it's still not a good show!


A Break, of Sorts

The Doctor and Potter

Over the last two days, the only edits I made on Wikipedia were to add a "Wikibreak" notice to the top of my user and user talk pages. A Wikibreak is pretty much what it sounds like: a break from Wikipedia. Some people take a Wikibreak in order to study for exams or go on vacation, or just because they're burned out or stressed out. I suppose I've got a bit of the burn out factor at the moment, but the real reason is the one I gave: I'm going to be busy obsessing about other stuff instead.

Captain Jack, Mages and the Sorcerer's Stone

See, having finished my edit of Heirs of Mâvarin, I have the momentum now to keep going and work on Mages of Mâvarin. (I also need to badger John about getting that printout done so I can send Heirs off!) I just finished work on Chapter Two of Mages again, which takes me to page 70. I can't say I'm working with total concentration, but that should improve after some sleep and once I get deeper into the trilogy. I've edited these early chapters so many times that it's hard for me to read every word with an eye to improving it. I don't expect to keep up a chapter-a-day pace for long, because some of the later chapters are a) much longer and b) much more labor-intensive, needing additions and deletions and changes galore.

I'm reading other books as well, in part because that sort of input seems to help with the writing and editing. It's been several days since I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but now seems like a good time to read through the entire series, all 4224 pages of it, according to a B&N flyer. I'm in Chapter Four of the first book now, when Harry first meets Hagrid. Good stuff! Plus I have a Doctor Who novel to finish reading.

And yes, I'm still watching Doctor Who as well. I don't know when I'll get burned out on that.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I Want...! But I'll Settle For...!

Well, well, well. Not only is it time for the next Round Robin Photo Challenge, but it's actually my turn to suggest the topic! That hasn't happened in over two years! For some reason my brain insisted that the theme for this time is "Gimme Gimme," and who am I to argue with my own brain?

I actually had no idea what I was going to post in connection with this topic, even as recently as this morning. Honestly, no clue. Then I remembered that I needed to go to Safeway and buy cold cuts for a pot luck at work. While I was there I took a few pictures of the store's most tempting case of edible decadence. I'll take one of each, please! But of course I didn't actually say that.

Sure, chocolate and stuff is pretty tempting, but there are other things I want much more than that, things that last more than a minute or two. Most of them are available at Best Buy. It seems I've been complaining for over a year now about the state of the keyboard on my laptop, the worn-away lettering that almost ensures that half the time when I try for an o or a u I type an i or a p instead. Best Buy doesn't carry the cheap roll-up keyboards, but there's a place on their shelves for a conventional one for $19.99. Except that they're usually out of them. Tonight they weren't. And I thought, given the "gimme gimme" idea, maybe I'd indulge myself, $20 worth. It's not as if I don't really need the thing!

Ah, but if I were to really give in to my greed, I could certainly do much better than a $20 keyboard. How about a slightly more ergonomic, wireless one? Only $69.99!

But heck, if I'm going to start spending more than a few bucks on peripherals, perhaps I should set my sights a bit higher. Have you priced laptops lately? I saw one for $599.99 that writes DVDs and has 160 GB of disk space. This one, for $50 more, has similar features. Heck, I'll take it! I don't need the one for $1,399.99. I'm not greedy. Well, not that greedy.

But of course I didn't actually buy the $649.99 laptop, or even the $599.99 one. When I sell the novel, or get a raise, sure, but not tonight. No, I bought the $20 keyboard and another $29.99 four-port hub, because I was out of USB ports again and the wires on my desk were a tangled mess.

So I've redeployed the wires and cords to be less messy, and for now I've got the new keyboard sitting on a towel on top of the laptop's worn-out built-in keyboard. It's wonderful to see letters again as I type.

I think the space bar is a little iffy, or maybe it's the height of the keys relative to my fingers that's throwing me off a little. And for some reason I keep getting thrown into a line above where I was typing, so that the new word gets typed in the middle of a previous one. I don't know whether that's a glitch with the new keyboard, or something I'm doing, or the old keyboard reacting to my pounding on the new one above it. Probably the latter. I'll work it out. If I have to, I'll move the laptop back so the new keyboard fits on the desk.

Now, there is one thing I want more than a chocolate cheesecake, a new keyboard or a new laptop. I want to sell the darn novels. Somebody gimme a contract already! Heirs of Mâvarin currently awaits printing so I can send it off to DAW. And I'm on chapter two in editing Mages of Mâvarin. Yes, I started over. Again.


Now go see what makes everyone else want to say, "Gimme gimme!"

Linking List

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Carly - Posted!

Kerrin - Posted!
A New Day, A New Photo

Janet - Posted!
Fond Of Photography

Vicki - Posted!

Nancy - Posted!
Nancy Luvs Pics

Steven - Posted!

Brandon - Posted!
A Visual Experiment

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Suzanne - POSTED!
New Suzanne R's Life

Monday, July 23, 2007

Before the Storm (and During, and After)

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a shot of something unusual on the street where you live. The challenge? It can't be a shot of something of yours. Which means you'll have to, you know, walk down the street a bit. The definition of "unusual" I leave to you. My only suggestion is that it should be in public view, unless you can convince a neighbor to let you in their house and take photographs of the freakish stuff they have there. And if you can, well. Good on you.

There's really only one thing on our street that I find particularly unusual, and it's not on our block. Here it is:

This old double decker tour bus obviously hasn't been used in years and years. The lettering on the words Tucson and Tour is the same style as the old Tucson Toros baseball team logo from the 1980s. I'm guessing this bus last carried tourists about 20 years ago.

Now, the rest of what I'm going to show you isn't as impressive as I'd hoped, but it is unusual for us. Exhibit A:

See all that dirt in the street? That is left over from flooding on Saturday night. According to a rain gauge at nearby St. Michael's, we got 1.25 inches of rain that night. Considering our annual rainfall is something like 11 inches, that's a lot!

This isn't technically my street, but I'm going to cheat a little and show it to you anyway. It's about two blocks behind our house. It's as close as I got to capturing a dust storm in progress at lunchtime today.

By the time I started back from lunch the dust storm had given way to rain, and the dirt and gravel in the street was weighted down by water.

And yes, okay, this is good old Wilmot. I don't technically live on Wilmot, but I practically do. I live half a block off it, spend my days driving on it and working on it and going to church on it. Besides, I love taking pictures of the clouds when they hang below the top of the Catalinas. And this shot even happens to have an old car in it.

On more Wilmot shot. I took this through a rainy windshield, but even so I'm not quite sure what that ring shape in the middle is. Pretty unusual, huh? Yeah, okay, I'm stretching a bit, but it's still pretty neat!


Done and Done!

Well, I've finished reading the last Harry Potter book, I've slept, and - ta-dah! - I've finished my edit of Heirs of Mâvarin. Actually I finished it twice, because Word froze up on me when I finished the first time and tried to save. I hope I recreated all my edits from that last hour! I even went back and worked on Chapter 12 some more, mostly for continuity reasons, but I also managed to cut some words here and there. Overall, though, the book isn't much shorter than when I started the edit, because of minor additions to the last chapter. Final count: words, 160,555, down from 160,744, on 537 pages, down from 540. Next step is to get it onto a memory stick so John can print it out for me, and then I'll send it off.

As for that other book that ate up my weekend, I'm reasonably pleased with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Given the increasing darkness and deaths over the last several books, and speculation over who would die in this one, I was pleasantly surprised at the ending. And that's all I'm going to say about that! But I'm thinking seriously about rereading the whole series now. Continuity junkie that I am, I appreciate the way Rowling has fit together elements from the previous books, and will appreciate that even more if I refresh my memory of them.

No photos tonight. Except for church and a quick Safeway run, I've been inside all day, and there's been no dramatic weather. (Come to think of it, I did take pictures on my way home from church, but I'll post them Monday night.) Besides, I can say that I got semi-adequate sleep this weekend if I go to bed soon. Good night!


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Welcome to My Monsoon

While I'm busy reading one book and editing another, let me just post some more pictures to fill out tonight's very late entry. The first four pictures are from Thursday evening, the fifth from Saturday shortly before sunset.

Windblown palms at sunset

When I left work on Thursday it was just before sunset, the sky was purple-pink, the wind was gale-strength, and it was just starting to rain a tiny bit.

Street sign and dust in the wind

By the time I got to Craycroft and 22nd, the wind was having a noticeable effect on my car, and the street sign at the light was flapping wildly in the wind. I opend the car window to take this picture. The spots are dust, from the dust storm the preceded the heavy rain.

More palms, blowing at dusk as the rain begins in earnest

By the time I reached 29th and Craycroft, we were having serious rain.

And this was today, shortly before sunset. The rain was so heavy that I was reluctant to venture out of the covered entryway. When I finally did so, I was soaked in seconds.

Bed now, I think. I'm on page 570 of Potter, and page 523 of Heirs. I added some description to this chapter, and had to double back to Chapter to fix a continuity glitch. This book is not going to be any shorter when I'm done - but it will be better.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

End of the Line

I've tried, but I'm not going to finish it tonight. Despite distractions from other books, I am well and truly hooked on this book, one of my favorites of all time. But it will soon be 3 AM, and I'm the wrong sort of sleepy to make my way through the book's final revelations. These beloved characters, their battles and relationships and secrets and surprises, will all still be there tomorrow, after I've slept.

I'm talking, of course, about Heirs of Mâvarin. I really wanted to finish the edit tonight, and celebrate my completion of one unsold tome before reading the megaselling one, the volume that brought me to Barnes & Noble twice tonight. Ah, well.

My camera was on my desk at home all day and all night, so I have no pictures for you of the line that snaked around the store early this evening, the one I spent an hour following past Thomas Merton books and diet books and prep books for AP Biology. I can understand why it wasn't threaded through the YA fiction or the SF/fantasy, but it was a little annoying that I couldn't quite reach the Meg Cabot paperbacks for adults without getting out of line. Eventually I passed an end cap of books related to Pirates of the Caribbean, and picked up a title I first saw at Disneyland a year or two ago. I love books about the history of Disneyland, the whole Imagineering thing.

That was from just before 7 PM to about 8 PM, this wait in line to procure a purple index card with the number 10 written on it. I then picked up dinner at Barnes & Noble, because at that point I didn't want to take the time required for Chinese take-out at Peking Palace.

At home I watched part of Disney's Peter Pan with John on DVD - a beautiful print and a classic story, but oh, my! The Indian jokes and the attitude toward them is horrendously dated and awful, even allowing for the fact that is's meant to be a child's playtime perspective. After that I watched some Doctor Who, peaked at a few articles on Wikipedia (the Ub Iwerks article needs help, but I'm not the one to do it), and worked on Heirs until almost 12:30 AM.

Then I headed back to B&N. This time I had my Doctor Who book to read, and my purple index card, but I still didn't have the camera with me. So you won't get to see the store staffer dressed as Hagrid, sorting people into lines by their index card colors and numbers. You won't see the college boy dressed like a female Gryffindor, skirt and all, or the table full of In-N-Out wrappers from someone's munchie run on behalf of her family, or the sheer numbers of people, in and out of costume. Eh. I'm sure you can find lots of pictures of similar events around the country if you really try. Heck, you can find my pictures from last time around, if you really want to.

It doesn't matter, though. After the annoyance of the earlier line, waiting for the Purple 10 line was pretty painless. They were lining up the Purple 7s right after I got there. I only read a page or so of the Doctor Who book before I was in line myself. Ten minutes after that, I was in my car, driving home with the book. I would offer advice here about how to handle these Harry Potter release party lines, but such advice has just become magnificently irrelevant now.

I don't expect that the Mâvarin books will ever inspire anything like the Potter brouhaha, but Rowling's experience is nevertheless inspiring to me. She wasn't always the success she is now. She wrote in cafes early on, the same way I wrote chunks of Heirs and Mages in Austin's and Golden Corral. She wrote about an alienated adolescent with magical abilities, and while Harry and Rani are very different characters, still we're mining similar veins. And she had her share of rejections before the books made it into stores.

If she can accomplish all that she has, surely there's hope for me as well. I'm not looking for mega-success, after all, any more than she was looking for that. I just want to get the Mâvarin books finished, sold, published and into stores. They're good enough, really. They deserve a chance.

But first I need to finish editing Chapter 13!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

In Which I Tape a Television to My Dog (Sort Of)

Weekend Assignment #175: TV or Bacon? By which I mean, you have to choose one of these two things. Whichever you choose, you get to continue to enjoy. The one you don't, you lose forever. So which will you choose? The pixellated, phosphorescent pleasures of television's hundreds of channels? Or the smoky, meaty pleasures of bacon? You must choose!

Why TV and bacon? Well, because they are two things most people seem to like, and they are (usually) entirely unrelated, which makes choosing between them more interesting.

Extra credit: Current favorite TV show and/or variety of bacon.

I thought about recruiting Black Rose Kate to help me out with this one, since she's likely to have more to say about bacon than I do. Salt pork was an important part of ships' stores in her day; television, not so much. On the other hand, she enjoyed watching television while visiting our century back in 2005. Were bacon not a necessity for an early 19th century seafarer, or if Kate were to relocate to the 21st century permanently (which she wouldn't do), she might well choose television (particularly Buffy the Vampire Slayer) over bacon herself.

As for me, it's television all the way. I no longer watch seven hours of broadcast tv a day, as I did in high school; in fact I only watch two network broadcast tv series, Heroes and House MD, and only when they're not reruns. But I watch a heck of a lot of tv on cable, DVD and download, not just Doctor Who but Eureka and...well, actually it's mostly Doctor Who at the moment, but sometimes we'll buy or rent or download something and make our way through a whole season of whatever-it-is in a couple of days. No, I'm not inclined to give that up. You can't make me. And you know darn well what my current favorite TV show is.

Giving up bacon, on the other hand, would require only the tiniest of tweaks in my lifestyle. Assuming that Canadian bacon is also disallowed, I would have to switch from an Egg McMuffin to the sausage-based equivalent when I go to McDonald's for breakfast. And if we stopped at Denny's en route to Disneyland, I'd need to get sausage there, too. That's it. The end. Easy. I've had too much uncrispy, unappetizing bacon in my life to be the slightest bit bothered if I need to give up the foodstuff as a whole. In fact, I hereby give it up for the rest of the summer. So there. I don't even have a favorite bacon product, unless you count pictures of a certain Ohio cat.

How else shall I demonstrate my commitment to the ascendancy of television over bacon? Oh, I know. I will provide a graphic counterexample to John Scalzi's infamous Baconcat demonstration. I'll tape a TV set to my dog, thus:

All, right, okay, I'll admit it. I did not actually tape a tv to Tuffy. We don't have a Tuffy-sized television set. I'd have to strap 30-inch Tuffy to the 30-inch screen tv set, and she wouldn't enjoy it. So I've faked this up instead. The tv shown is a 10-year-old, full-sized Magnavox. The image on it was photographed from my spare laptop. The Scotch brand tape is copied and cloned from the tape on the remote. I did tape the remote to Tuffy - sort of. The remote and the tape lay on top of the dog but were not actually attached other than by the minimal gravity involved. The tape didn't really stick to the fur, and that was just fine with Tuffy and me. Being used to my making unusual requests of her for photographic purposes, Tuffy lay patiently until I took the remote away again.

Here is another shot from the same session, with less photo editing. All I did to this one, basically, was digitally clean the carpet a little.

As I was working on the editing, tonight's monsoon storm, which started around 7:15 PM with an impressive amount of wind, turned into a thunderstorm. Tuffy doesn't like thunder, wind, or even loud rain. She's been underfoot or climbing onto me ever since, seeking reassurance - and hamburger and cheese, probably.


Since she was so keen to hang out with me anyway, I spread out a cloth and posed her again. As you can see, she didn't mind a bit. And yes, I came up with a little meat for her as well. Not bacon. She actually doesn't like bacon.

Good dog.

Karen (and Tuffy)

De Plane, De Plane

Okay, maybe it won't be a substantive entry after all. But at least I have some unusual pictures for you tonight.

The hanger, as a storm moves past.

We (that is, some co-workers and I) went on a field trip late this afternoon. We went out to the Executive Terminal area at Tucson International Airport, to a hanger where the two company planes are kept.

Two of my co-workers on the steps of the nicer plane

One of the pilots in the cockpit of the same plane

The traffic control tower.

I was in that tower, 20 years ago when I was in travel agent school.

I should probably tell you about the trip in some detail, about the long drive out there, the nice spread of food, the difference between the two planes, the entertainment possibilities on board, and what I saw on the drive back. But on the other hand, some of this probably falls under the terms of a non-disclosure agreement, either a formal one or my self-imposed one. So enjoy the pictures for now, and I'll revisit the subject later when I can work in some appropriate words.

Speaking of appropriate words, I've reached the last chapter of Heirs of Mâvarin in my editing, and yes, I crashed MS Word again. I'm convinced that my current version of Norton doesn't even have an equivalent of Disk Doctor. Shame on them! Anyway, I'm on page 494 and counting. And there I stop, at least for tonight!