: views from the Hill

Friday, December 30, 2005

Yo! Paula! This one's for you!

Flickr also does clusters.

Paula? This one's for you! (Cute kitties. Aaaaaahhhhh.)

Champ's FlickrBlog

I have Heather Champ's FlickrBlog bloglined (as do 1400+ other blogliners).

Champ uses the blog to point out interesting pics on Flickr.

One of her posts for 29 Dec 2005 is a click to A Flickr Sampling, which has interesting pics of abandoned cars, stuffed chairs, dustydead pianos and stuff.

What I found even more interesting were her links to the spots where she'd found these pics: urban explorers, RUSTY and CRUSTY, clutter, litter, mess and muddle and Abandoned.

Interest groups, anyone?

Flickr has a bunch of special-interest groups like these, including this one focused on San Francisco Graffiti.

Miss Snark continues ...

I'm now up to #61 of 66 of Miss Snark's posted critiques of snarklings' synopses.

I'd caught up with her efforts at #60 earlier today only to discover that she'd critiqued six more while I was reading her earlier critiques and the comments that ensued. (And I haven't even gone back to see if more comments followed in any of the comment threads that I've already read!)

Miss Snark's planning to wend her way through over 106 synopses. "Over 106" (which had been her initial count) because she mentioned a day or two ago that some of the synopses that were bounced for exceeding the thousand-word limit had been mistakenly bounced by a word count program that converted the ['] in some e-mails to [,] and, therefore, counted contractions as two words. Ooops! She asked people who thought they'd been mistakenly bounced to resubmit.

Herewith some crystal clear advice from critique #61.

... you've got to give us a framework. Without that, I don't know
what you're talking about.

Here is how to start: The hero of the story is:
He faces a big problem. The problem is:
He gets advice about how to solve it from :
That advice is:
He gets conflicting advice from:
That advice is:

The hero faces a challenge from:
The challenger wants to do this to the hero:

The problem is resolved when:

From these sentences you have a framework.
You have to have ALL that information, pretty much in that order for me to understand what you're talking about.

It's been fun reading all the synopses. Some are so much clearer than others. Some more entertaining. Some discombobulated. Some drear.

The insight into what works and what doesn't reminds me of a writing seminar I took once with Penny Warner. We were supposed to bring in the first ten pages (or some such) of our WIP.

Just reading all the other writers' bits made it clear how an agent/editor/reader can churn through slush and sometimes know from page one that something is not going to work.

Miss Snark doesn't do synopses in her real agenting life. Instead, she asks for a query letter and the first ten pages of your novel.

What's clear from this synopsis exercise at her blog is that the first contact with agent/editor is your chance. Don't blow it.

Webster's Online Dictionary - with Multilingual Thesaurus Translation

This is a wonderful time sink.

from the site: What do you get when you start with Webster's classic 1913 unabridged dictionary, and you add updated definitions, thousands of images (one picture being worth a thousand words...), quotes, trade names, references, timelines, translations and any other bit of information that can help someone understand a word from as many perspectives as possible? For any given word, what you get is Webster's Online Dictionary with Multilingual Thesaurus Translation.

If I pop towse into the search I get all sorts of information up to and including how to spell out "towse" using Conan Doyle's Dancing Men code.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

How to Write a Synopsis ... Questions? Read Miss Snark.

Want to know how to write a synopsis? Oh, sure. There are links here.

(Good links too!)

... but for an even better education, hie thee over to Miss Snark's blog.

Miss Snark opened up the Crapometer for a few days last week (from 12/23 to 12/25) for synopses only. Snark is now chewing through the synopses submitted, giving her "this works" "this doesn't" "boy HOWDY does this not work" analyses of the synopses.

I'm only up to Synopsis #20 (of 40 currently posted). What an education!

If you've ever faced the dreaded synopsis, or plan to in the future, check out Miss Snark's notes. She has 106 synopses in queue and we are all hoping she doesn't have a nervous breakdown before she finishes her slice and dice.

Don't read Miss Snark? You should.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Downloaded a new Picasa (Build 27.66.0)

I'd downloaded a new version of Picasa some time in the last month or two -- Release 2.1 build 27.60.

Ever since, the "make a Web page" creator hadn't worked. 75-85% of the way through the Web page creation, Picasa would quit with an "export cancelled" message. I didn't much care. I usually put together my own photo Web pages, but I played around with the Web page creator for a while -- fiddling with the pictures used, fiddling with the size of the pictures folded into the Web page -- until I figured the problem wasn't just a simple problem of .jpgs being too big for Picasa to handle but something more fundamental.

Yesterday, when I decided to setup a page with some pictures of the tree, I decided to use Picasa for the exercise. The Web page creator still didn't work. I checked through Picasa's "help" site, where there were no tickets with "cancelled" or anything remotely similar to be found.

I used Google to search for / picasa "export cancelled" / and came across a post in the Picasa Google group (who knew?) where a user was making the same complaint: 'Ever since I've upgraded to 2.1 build 27.60 i haven't been able to use the "make a webpage" function - it always ends abruptly with an information dialog saying "export cancelled".'

Hey! Me too! I thought. One responder's solution was to revert to a previous version. Better than that! I thought, it's been a while since the 27.60 build. I bet Picasa has fixed whatever the problem was.

I downloaded a new Picasa this morning (Build 27.66.0) and, as expected, the Web page creator worked first time, without a hitch.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The tree ... more

Update: Clicking the photograph will get you a Web page of tree photos pulled together with Picasa's quick Web page creator.

'tis the season

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Those were the days, my friends

The tree is up!

For a while there I thought the tree would be a casualty of the move and I was sniffling about it.

Christmas. Christmas. Christmas carols. Christmas songs. "City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there's a feeling of Christmas." All of that. Even "White Christmas" makes me feel nostalgic, even though my Christmases that have even had the slightest chance of being white have been few and far between.

My favorite part of Christmas was always the tree, with its hodge podge of decorations: 1800s German glass ornaments, dough ornaments made by kindergarteners, CostPlus ornaments, glass Santa Clauses, ornaments bought in foreign lands, and a plastic Rudolph ornament from back when his nibs was young. ...

The living room at the old place had clerestory windows, so one side was higher than the other. We could squeeze in an 11' tree, when we could find one. Every year, excepting one or two in the last quarter century, we'd head up into the Santa Cruz Mountains with the kiddies and cut down a tree, after great debates over which tree was most deserving. It would take forever to set up the tree and get the ornaments hung, but the time was well spent.

Every year, I'd sit by the tree every evening after supper, with all the lights off but those on the tree. The smell of fresh cut fir filled the house. The lights on the tree sparkled. The ornaments glistened and turned in the drafts. Sparkling. Reflecting back. The tree always seemed such a fairy tale tree, a Nutcracker tree, all the tales of Christmas wrapped up in the quintessential tree, always the best tree ever.

I didn't know if we were having a tree this year or any year to come. His nibs had made comments about the impossible logistics of finding a tree and hauling it down the Filbert Steps from Montgomery and up the front stairs and setting it up ...

... no, the problem was less the logistics of the tree itself and more the impossible logistics of hauling the lights and garlands and the heavy old Army trunk full of Christmas ornaments away from where they're stashed and bringing them down the Steps from Montgomery and up the front stairs ... and sorting through until we find the decorations that must be on the tree and then adding other decorations until the tree tells us it's ready.

Come Epiphany, the tree comes down and everything happens in reverse. The tree is an incredible amount of work and would be moreso this year because of the logistics. Was it worth it? The practical side of me said that a tree loaded with sentimental ornaments is not necessary for Christmas and might be too much effort.

The kid in me, though, was sniffling about it. I didn't know if we'd have a tree this year. Sniffle. Sniffle.

I sniffled for days and weeks. Could there be a real Christmas without a tree? I finally whacked myself alongside my head and told myself to stop snivelling. The effort was indeed worth it. We just had to figure out how to proceed.

I made a plan.

We'd buy the tree from the Delancey Street Foundation lot on the Embarcadero. We wouldn't need to drive that far home with the tree, maybe a mile or two. If we took it slowly, we could manage the distance with the tree tied to the roof of the car. Even with the Honda, we could transport it.

(Turned out the tree we chose was small enough we managed to stuff it inside the Honda, after turning down the back seat. We were even able to close the trunk lid.)

We'd open the old Army trunk right where it's stashed and sort through the decorations there, bringing just a subset of must-have decorations here.

The tree and the decorations were do-able. Yes, they were. Without a question.

His nibs agreed.

So we did.

Even though we sorted through and left boxes and boxes of ornaments behind, we still brought too many decorations down the Steps, of course. When a tree is 6-7' tall, as ours is this year, it's not only several feet shorter than we're used to, but the circumference is far less as well, meaning far fewer branchlets to hang things on.

We'll learn. This year was the first Christmas here, and a test of what's possible. We'll sort through and box up some things that it's now obvious we won't be using while we live here -- old lights that are old enough to be interesting, old Christmas balls from the 50s that the offspring can sell on eBay or its logical equivalent after we settle in for our dirt naps, excess glass beaded garlands, the glass musical instruments, the glass clowns, the under-the-tree village houses and trees and people and animals ...

We just spent the afternoon, going through stuff, moving back in time, rewrapping things up, reboxing.

Turns out some of the old Christmas lights were wrapped in pages from the S.F. News - Call Bulletin, dated Friday, Jan 06, 1961.

What was going on in the world almost forty-five years ago now?

Well, the Quo Vadis at 375 Bush was advertising a complete prime rib dinner for $2.95.

The Call Bulletin had a long article on the Best Dressed List just released by the New York couture group after compiling the results of ballots submitted by two thousand fashion editors, designers, and society leaders. Mrs. John F. Kennedy, wife of the President-elect, was voted tops on the list by a landslide. Of those named, the Call Bulletin had photographs of Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Princess Stanislaus Radziwill (also known as little sister Lee), Queen Sirikit of Thailand, Audrey Hepburn, Mrs. Patrick Guinness, Mrs. Stavros Niarchos, Mrs. Norman Winston, Mrs. John B. Ryan III, and Princess Alexandra.

In the same section was a column labeled Club Activities. The Blue Horizon Social Club was offering old fashioned dancing for the middle-aged. The San Francisco Women's Breakfast Club was meeting.

A headline cried, "Million Dollar Divorce: Dick and June Powell Separate." "What To Do About Castro" was the top editorial.

Those were the days, my friends. ...

Another advertisement read, "Caesar's Italian Restaurant at the corner of Bay and Powell. Full Course Italian Dinners." No price given.

Some things don't change.

Caesar's is still there. On Sundays black Crown Vics drop off guys of a certain age, escorting their moms to Sunday dinner.

These are the days, my friends. ... Enjoy them.

Friday, December 16, 2005

How did I get here from there OR Uncle Abe's Favorite Chocolate Cake

There's been some talk over at Scott Adam's blog as to what he should buy his fiancée for Christmas.

(I, of course, nudged him to buy her a 100% cotton woven throw with a picture of Ada Lovelace)

Someone else mentioned that he'd never go wrong if he bought something off Oprah's Favorite Things list.

Huh? I said. So I went off to investigate and found (among other more appropriate gifts) this recipe for Uncle Abe's Favorite Chocolate Cake.

Ingredients for cake/filling/glaze are:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 10 oz. + 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1C + 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1t. vanilla extract
  • 2C + 1/2C heavy cream

... and that's basically it! What's not to like?

Wendy Strothman at The Strothman Agency, LLC

For those who keep finding this blog by searching for /"Wendy Strothman"/ and reaching this post from back in July 2004, may I provide you with some better links:

Update: "The Strothman Agency is moving. As of July 28th, [2008] we will be located at 6 Beacon Street, Suite 810, Boston, MA 02108. This will also be our new mailing address."

Creativity Nudges

Tina Wainscott had a contest earlier this year for "the MOST SHOCKING first line (Something fun and suspenseful). "

Now, I'm not saying to lift someone else's first line, but doesn't Casey Becher's entry, set your mind popping with possibilities?

As I typed up the details in my online auction, I thought to myself, "Now, what would be the most appropriate font for 'Nice Casket - Hardly Used?'"

How about DJ's

The happiest day of my life was the day I ran into Mark's body in the morgue?

Or DS's

When I woke up from death, I was living in eternity but what shocked me more was that God had my face and spoke in my voice.

There's muy mucho nudges on the list of finalists on Wainscott's site.

I have more creativity nudges over on ye grande olde swarme of links.

Artists Literary Group - Submit to Us

Artists Literary Group has an interesting take on the current "accepts e-queries"/"does not accept e-queries" literary agent dichotomy.

Artists Literary Group (Joe Veltre, Founder and Diane Bartoli, Literary Agent) has an online submission form.

Answer questions in text boxes. If they think your project sounds interesting, you'll hear from them in a week or so. If not, well, you won't. Your query is unfortunately not right us, and we wish you all the best in your search for representation elsewhere. Thank you for thinking of us.

The questions?

  • What's your name?
  • What is the title of your work?
  • Is your work fiction or non-fiction?
  • How would you categorize your work? (Ex. - literary fiction, mystery, romance, narrative non-fiction, academic, political, biography, memoir, etc.)
  • Do you have a proposal or novel to submit?
  • Did someone refer you to us? If so, what is their name? If not, how did you find us?
  • In a few words, how does your background relate to the subject matter of which you are writing about?
  • So that we may contact you, what is your phone number?
  • What is your email?
  • Are you submitting your project to us as an exclusive or is this a multiple submission?
  • Tell us about your project. Please summarize your work as it might appear in a book's flap copy.

Easy peasy, eh? Love this bit down at the bottom of the submission page:

I agree that Artists Literary Group is not undertaking any obligation to accept, review, examine, otherwise evaluate and consider, or return the Material.

Telling you one of life's little truths (vis-à-vis agents) up front.

A select list of their fiction and nonfiction authors is on site.

The DNA of Literature

The Paris Review brings you The DNA of Literature: The Paris Review - Interviews.

Welcome to the DNA of literature—over 50 years of literary wisdom rolled up in 300+ Writers-at-Work interviews, now available online-- free. Founder and former Editor George Plimpton dreamed of a day when anyone -- a struggling writer in Texas, an English teacher in Amsterdam, even a subscriber in Central Asia -- could easily access this vast literary resource; with the establishment of this online archive that day has finally come. Now, for the first time, you can read, search, and download any or all of these in-depth interviews with poets, novelists, playwrights, essayists, critics, musicians, and more, whose work set the compass of twentieth-century writing, and continue to do so into the twenty-first.

The interviews come, sorted by decade and by author. Each has a snippet followed by a PDF download. You'll need to download the latest version of Adobe Reader, if you don't already have a copy.

Release dates for DNA of Literature PDFs:

1950s: Online Now
1960s: Online Now
1970s: Online Now
1980s: December, 2005
1990s: February, 2006
2000s: April, 2006

How cool is that?

[ref: Contemporary Nomad]

TypePad is currently unavailable and their message needs editing

TypePad is down.

The message reads, "TypePad is currently unavailable for maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience. During this time, your weblog is available for reading and viewing, but you won't be able to log in to TypePad to post, and visitors will not be able to comment on weblogs."

[Ed.] Substitute "due to" for "for" in the first sentence of the /down/ message.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

30-Second Bunnies Theatre

From Angry Aliens Productions, The 30-Second Bunnies Theatre Library ... in which a troupe of bunnies parodies a collection of movies by re-enacting them in 30 seconds, more or less.

AKA (for those writers amongst us) that thirty-second elevator pitch.

Most Popular Toys

Forbes expounds on The Most Popular Toys of The Last 100 Years with a featured toy from each decade and mention of other toys of the decade.

Ah, yes, 1952. A good year.

No, a GREAT year.

Birth year for both me and Mr. Potato Head.

(Mr. Potato Head is a dragon too? Who knew?)

[via Bill Crider]

Monday, December 12, 2005

Old but good ... profile of Laura Lippman

No, I'm not characterizing Laura as "old but good." I'm saying this profile of Laura is good, albeit over two years old.

Secrets and Ties
Author Laura Lippman Takes a Break From Heroine Tess Monaghan With Every Secret Thing, "The Most Hard-Boiled Book to Ever Begin With A Barbie Doll."

By Lizzie Skurnick

The profile also mentions a weeklong spate of Slate blog entries that Laura wrote just a couple months earlier, in June 2003. Those are worth reading too, if you're interested in writerly things and/or like the stuff Lippman writes and want to know what she's up to or was at the time and/or are just curious what George Pelecanos had to say about Chinatown.

When you're done with that, head over to Laura's blog, which I finally bloglined today. Hadn't been over there in far too long.

Update: As Sandra Ruttan mentions in the comments, she has an interview with Laura Lippman in the Winter Issue of SPINETINGLER magazine. Go thee hither for more insight into what makes Laura Lippman tick.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A collection of word origins and trivia

A collection of word origins and trivia

The wisteria ... gone

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I'd mentioned that our next-door neighbors were painting their building and rebuilding balconies and decks and what-not. We knew their painters had hacked at our wisteria when we weren't looking, but we hadn't realized the damage done until we went to clean up after them today.

Oh, there's a severed twining branch ... follow the twining branch from the cut section up to the rooftops, unwinding it, extracting it from the spiral fire escape and the metal "sculpture" on the deck side between our place and theirs.

Oh, another twining branch, severed at the third floor. Follow it up ...

And another ... follow it up. We carefully unwound the wisteria that had been murdered from the bits that we could save. The wisteria would grow back. Eventually.

His nibs was cutting and piling the wisteria bits into plastic bags and had one huge bag filled, the second filling. He thought he was almost through.

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Although we no longer had any wisteria wending its way on the metal sculpture, we still had wisteria wending its way up and around on the spiralling metal fire escape.

... and then, I decided to check further and went one level below our lowest landing on the fire escape, down to our downstairs neighbors' upper landing. The workers had severed the wisteria that was wending its way up the fire escape there too.

What had they been thinking? Why didn't they care that they were murdering the wisteria that had been growing there since forever? Why didn't they think about what their snip-snap would do to the rest of the vining? They were on our property, for pete's sake, on our fire escape. Cutting back wisteria that was brushing against the neighbors' walls so they could paint I could understand, but ... why do what they did?

His nibs is now removing the rest of the wisteria from the fire escape. All dead. All gone. No more wisteria.

The question is, whether the workers also severed the wisteria that was growing up the fire escape on the two levels that our neighbors own. I didn't traipse down their portion of the fire escape to see if the wisteria had been severed at the roots.

Wouldn't surprise me.

How long had the wisteria been growing? I don't know, but some of the trunk pieces were an inch or two in diameter, so it had been years.

Will the wisteria grow back eventually? I don't know. Depends on whether they cut it off at the roots, but fer sure we won't have wisteria blossoms next spring or for a long time thereafter.

... if ever.

I loved that wisteria, loved the blossoms.

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Let go. It's gone.

Potatoes au gratin ... dangerously easy.

Au gratin potatoes are delicious. Friday night, I discovered how dangerously easy they are to make at home. Last night I made them again, just to make sure that the night before hadn't been a fluke.

1. Scrub and bake (microwave - 5 min or so) one large potato until cooked through. Let cool a bit. Slice as thinly as possible. Crumbly bits aren't a problem.

2. Shred sharp cheddar cheese into a large dish. A pile. 1/2-1C. Add about the same again of parmesan cheese. Throw on some herb mix -- Mrs. Dash or the equivalent. Mix it up. The cheeses &c. won't mix evenly, you'll need to stir them up as you layer them into the casserole.

More potatoes? More cheese. The volume of cheese should == the volume of potato.

3. In a small casserole dish, place a layer (one slice deep) of potatoes. Toss on a handful of the cheese-herb mix. Add another layer of potato. Cheese. And so forth, ending with a layer of cheese. The broken, crumbly bits of potato can be tossed in the intermediary layers between the slices.

4. Add cream/half-and-half/milk ... to casserole until the top layer of potatoes is just barely covered.

5. Microwave until dairy liquid has been pretty much absorbed.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Michael Allen (The Grumpy Old Bookman) on novels and story telling.

Michael Allen (the Grumpy Old Bookman) reviews Dara Horn: The World To Come, and makes some interesting comments about fiction writing in general.

... the novel which eschews all attempt at Deeper Significance, and just tells a story, is at least as valuable (actually rather more so) than one which seeks to weave in some message or other. At one point in the book, Der Nister is told that a painting doesn't have to mean anything, but a story does. And we are left in little doubt that Dara Horn believes in that principle. But personally I don't. A story, in my opinion, doesn't have to mean anything. But it does have to have an effect; otherwise both writer and reader are lost. And the story also has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Apart from that, just leave the damn thing alone. Let it speak for itself, and let the reader draw from it whatever conclusions she wishes; if she wishes. And if she chooses to value the book just for its emotional effect, rather than for its insights into the Meaning of Life, so much the better.

Grumpy Old Bookman blog

People lacking any sense of fashion ...

Chameleon scarf coordinates with your outfit
* 14:05 09 December 2005
* NewScientist.com news service
* Will Knight

People lacking any sense of fashion no longer need worry about their scarf clashing with their clothes this winter - researchers have created one that automatically changes colour to suit an outfit.

The miracles of modern science!

I've dreamt of such an app. This invention is worthy of a Nobel prize!

Next up, someone please create a wall paint so I can, early one Monday morning, say, "Um. No. I'm so tired of that blood red Chinese glossy lacquer finish. Today I'd like the walls to be pale sea foam, except the north facing wall, which needs to be buttercup yellow."

The Lion, The Witch, And The Really Foul Candy

The Lion, the Witch, and the Really Foul Candy
In pursuit of Turkish Delight.

By Liesl Schillinger
Posted Friday, Dec. 9, 2005, at 12:22 PM ET

At Christmas nearly a decade ago, an aged Englishman gave me a choice gift, one that I'd fantasized about since the age of 7 after reading C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. It was a box of Turkish Delight -- rose-flavored candy dusted with powdered sugar, nestled in a blush-pink package that glinted with the gilded minarets of Topkapi. The fragrant mystery of the East bulged within, in 20 plump little squares.


(Good article. Read it.)

Ah, yes. Someone finally breaks silence.

I too imagined how exquisitely tasty Turkish Delight must be, after first reading TLTW&TW.

Ten years or so back (fifteen?) I finally tasted Turkish Delight while I was in Turkey .. Kusadasi? Bodrum maybe? ... and ...


I can't imagine what Edmund Pevensie was thinking, to toss his siblings over to the White Witch in exchange for even more pounds of that awful gooey stuff.

... but then I don't like gummy worms or jelly beans either.

The Year In Review. Blog meme.

Snitched from Keith's blog
Rules: Post the first sentence of your first journal entry for each month in 2005.

January 2005: This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

February 2005: The City awakes ... and traffic is moving east to west across the upper deck of the bridge.

March 2005: Photo Tuesday theme: Down [31 Jul 2004, San Francisco] A look down the Filbert Steps through the Grace Marchant public gardens.

April 2005: I've been playing with Google Maps today.

May 2005: Yesterday the same mover guys who moved six hundred boxes of books last month showed up again, at 8A.

June 2005: [otherwise occupied - out of the country, out of town, out of my mind]

July 2005: Come Monday 10-2, the Comcast Guy will be here.

August 2005: Madhukar Shukla's Creative Muse is an entertaining collection of descriptions of the mind spasms that resulted in rubber heels, the Band-Aid, the sewing machine and more.

September 2005: You know you've done something right when (1) you get a note from the younger younger one saying, "I am trying to find ways I can help out the hurricane victims and since you told me once not to donate money cause you would do that and really its kind of your money anyways, I was wondering if you know of places I might be able to help out in boston, i already asked the red cross but they have a lot of people helping already.

October 2005: "Home again, home again, riggety jig" ... as my DOD used to say.

November 2005: A major tree was down by the end of yesterday.

December 2005: Keeping up my lists of blogs and interesting sites was tedious with the design I'd set for the blog.

Wooo. Exciting posts 'r' us!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Happy 85th bday, Dave Brubeck

My dad and his twin's bdays were yesterday. Dave Brubeck's 85th bday is today. Dad and my uncle aren't as old as Brubeck, but they're in the same decade these days.

My dad has plans to celebrate his 100th bday. He keeps doing things to make his life interesting, like taking a creative writing class last year, getting published in the junior college's literary magazine, and jumping (tandem) out of a plane at 10K feet to celebrate his 80th bday, despite his fear of heights.

100? I'm encouraging that ambition.

When I wished my dad a happy bday yesterday, I told him about the article I'd read in the Chron yesterday about Dave Brubeck.

At eighty-five (as of today), Brubeck is still playing eighty (THAT'S EIGHTY!) gigs a year. Today, in honor of his bday, Brubeck was scheduled to play with the London Symphony Orchestra at Barbican Hall. How cool is that?

The Chron had another article today, reminiscing about Brubeck and all the things he's done, including his stands against segregation. In the summer of 1958, Brubeck refused to fire his black bassist Eugene Wright despite that refusal meaning 23 out of 25 colleges cancelled concerts scheduled for the summer. In 1976, Brubeck turned down a $17K concert gig in South Africa, because the concert promoters required him to have an all-white band.

Brubeck walked the walk and we're lucky to have had him in our lives.

Live long. Prosper.

Track record? Should mean something, shouldn't it?

Michael Allen over at Grumpy Old Bookman put me on to this one.

I popped the names he mentioned into Google and found this article in The Globe and Mail

The Great Fiction Crash of 2005
Saturday, December 3, 2005


Whatever the causes, it's clear that international publishers are giving every new novel greater scrutiny.

Consider Stratford's James W. Nichol. His first novel, a mystery thriller called The Midnight Cab, has been moving like bratwurst in Germany, with more than 200,000 copies sold under the title Ausgesetz (Exposed). Short-listed for Britain's Gold Dagger award, it also did well there (selling more than 50,000 copies) and has been sold to eight other countries.

With that sort of track record, selling the second novel should have been a breeze. Not so, says Nichol's Toronto agent, Bev Slopen. His Canadian publisher, Knopf, took a pass, as did his British publisher, Canongate.

Call me gobsmacked.

If selling hundreds of thousands of books doesn't mean a shoo-in for your second spin ...

What's the story? Was the asking price too high and too immutable?

Was the new book being shopped something completely different?

Enquiring minds. ...

At Last! Writer Beware Blogs! A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss Reveal All!

A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware have (At Last!) started up a blog to give updates and warnings about scammers and others who would take advantage of writers seeking publication.

Ann dropped me a note Monday, after I'd posted about the new blog on the Usenet newsgroup misc.writing, because (at long last!) one of their long-time scammers hit the wall, pleaded guilty, and awaits sentencing.

As mentioned on the blog Monday,

Kelly O'Donnell/Martha Ivery/6 other aliases has just pleaded guilty in Federal Court to ALL 15 COUNTS OF FRAUD (INCLUDING BANKRUPTCY FRAUD) SHE WAS CHARGED WITH!

Sentencing was set for April 28th, 2006. Victoria and I are planning to be there in court that day.

Folks, this means JAIL TIME. Several years of it. We're hoping for about five.

For those who don't know about the work these two anti-scamming wunderkinds have done for years, they have been out in the forefront, maintaining the Writer Beware site, exposing questionable practices, naming names and providing hundreds and hundreds of hours in pursuit of scammers and crooks who prey on writers. They'd made Martha Ivery a pet project seven years ago and have doggedly pursued her.

According to Crispin, quoted in the Times Union, "This case, unlike the other ones we followed, really got personal. She made death threats to us, and stalked us online. I plan to go to the sentencing."

Monday, December 05, 2005

Monday. Monday.

Our Pier 19 visitor weighed anchor this sunny Monday morning.
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Fun watching two BIG tugs push -and -tug! the ship away from its berth. One of the new micro Coast Guard boats buzzed around making sure nothing untoward happened.

I took something like 40 pictures as the ship weighed anchor and left, then came back to my computer to track down which ship it was, having spotted the "83" on its side.

USS Howard DDG 83

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Pier 19 visitor

I feel a bit sorry for the guy in layers of warmth who's been on deck of the tiny security boat that's been keeping folks away from the Pier 19 visitor. I'd thought the duty must be cushy, until I realized he's just standing there, freezing his butt off on the bay.


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[FOOD] Scott Howard, 500 Jackson, SF

Scott Howard
500 Jackson St. (between Montgomery and Columbus)
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 956-7040. Full bar.
Open Table reservations

We noticed that someone had moved into what seems an unlucky spot at 500 Jackson.

We'd never been to Cypress Club when John Cunin (whom we'd first encountered at Masa's) had the joint. We would've liked to, but we were busy raising kids and not getting up to San Francisco as often as we would've liked and all that's another story, another life.

Cypress Club folded after 9/11, amid rumors and swirling stories and stayed empty, probably due in part to the bankruptcy and furor that surrounded the Cypress Club closing.

The building was vacant for two years after the Cypress Club closed. Todd Kneiss remodeled the place and open with a different vibe in Fall 2003 as 500 Jackson. We tried the place out. We're always interested in restaurants that are an easy walk from our place and 500 Jackson is just a bit over half a mile.

Boy, was that place all the buzz, filled with the see and be scene set. The place was billed as a casual seafood place. A bit noisy with all the hubbub of the younger crowd. The interior still had some cypress leftover from the previous incarnation. The price was pricey. The food not distinctive. The skate wing was a disappointment. We didn't understand the reasoning behind the chatter and hype. We never went back.

So we were walking home up Montgomery a week or two ago and saw that a new restaurant had arrived on the scene and went to check it out: Scott Howard has opened Scott Howard. The posted menu had foie gras! sweetbreads! Those two items on a menu require a visit. We needed to see what was happening.

We dropped in on November 22d. The interior has been totally redone. There's a stainless steel raw bar where I seem to remember we sat amidst cypress panelling during the 500 Jackson incarnation. Mary Risley and a crowd were at a table in the room's center. We were at a cozy table for two that overlooked Jackson.

We were eyeing the sweetbreads and the foie gras on the menu. When we asked the server about the tasting menu, he ran down what dishes would be served. Sweetbreads! Foie gras! What's not to like? He'd been talking up Howard's signature dish, the carrot broth (carrot broth? signature?) and that was on the tasting menu too. We opted for the tasting menu with paired wines.

The meal began with some champagne and an amuse bouche. The dishes on the tasting menu that night included fluke sashimi, sweetbreads with truffled madeira and smoked bacon, foie gras, Scott Howard's signature carrot broth (more on this later), scallops, short ribs, something I'm forgetting, I'm sure. Upside down cake for dessert. The wine pairings were generous and interesting. A dark, sweet, flavorful sake was paired with the foie for example -- something I would've never thought to do.

We had a lovely evening and left feeling happy, satisfied and full, but not so overly full that the walk home uphill was a chore.

A delish dinner. We'll be back again.

Oh, and that carrot broth? The recipe is included in the fold that brings your bill, if you want to decamp with the recipe. I did. Haven't made it yet, but I will soon. Recipe includes directions and ingredients: 3C diced carrots, 6 1/2C carrot juice. Reduce. Reduce. Reduce. Salt and pepper. 1 C heavy cream. 1/2T curry powder. The broth is served with creme fraiche and drizzled with truffle oil.

The carrot broth is absolutely heavenly. If you ever get to Scott Howard, make sure you order some from amongst the choices you make off the menu.

First Saturday in December

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The sea is calm. The sky is blue. ... The traffic moves east and west on the Bay Bridge.

I always feel a bit sorry for the visitors who have only two days of their lives here in San Francisco and arrive and leave during a wet patch like we had earlier this week, when a couple days later the days look like this.

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My favorite geophysicist/seismologist is due into town for the AGU meeting this week. Here's hoping that the weather holds for her.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Life in the Big City

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Sunrise this morning.

A wicked storm just blew through, leaving the air clean and crisp.

For a time yesterday, the CHP wasn't letting empty trucks over the Richmond-San Rafael bridge because winds were gusting to 65 mph. I watched out the windows as sheets of rain pelted and billowed, chased by winds out of the south.

The workers next door, who are scraping and gouging and prepping and painting, continued working through the storm. The rotty wood gouging turned out to be pretty extensive. Next thing we knew, the worker guys were hauling in new lumber and rebuilding the rotty balconies. Whack. Whack. Hammer. Bzzz saw. Bzzz sander.

Our downstairs neighbors just got through a multi-month inside remodel that gave us days on end of saws whining, worker guys thumping and all sorts of interesting smells. Sure, I love you guys and want your places to look nice, but can't we all get our rehab work done and enjoy some quiet time?

But enough of the whining.

On Wednesday afternoon, when the storm was just beginning to show its face, we took Muni over to the new de Young to check out the action. The rebuilt museum reopened in mid-October and our friend LucyK was there for the opening festivities. Child of The City though she be, she raved about the new digs. There's been some [ahem] controversy about the new building from people who loved the old and thought the new rendition looked too much like a Mayan palace plopped in the middle of the park. But Lucy loved it. OK. We needed to go and not just because we'd missed the museum while it was closed. Being as I get twitchy in large crowds, we decided to wait a bit and let the crowds thin before we visited.

Always before, we'd taken the bus or trolley down to Market to catch the Muni. Always before, we'd had transfers. Wednesday we'd decided to walk downtown and get some extra exercise. Turns out (who knew?) if you go into a Muni subway station downtown with $3 in bills to pay for two fares, there's no way to do so. You must have coins, a monthly pass, a transfer or whatever, we were told. No bills. So, we hiked back up to the surface streets and caught a trolley, paying with $3 in bills. We rode the trolley over to U.N. Plaza, where we got off, went back down into the subway and caught Muni using our transfers.

Muni dropped us at 9th and Irving, just a block or so from the entrance to Golden Gate Park. The de Young is just a few blocks in from the 9th Avenue entrance. Easy peasy. Well, easier than finding a place to park ...

On our way in, we ate at Park Chow on 9th Ave., because a friend from the quaint village nestled in the verdant foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains told me the last time I saw her that Park Chow was her absolute favorite San Francisco restaurant these days.

It was two in the afternoon. We were hungry. We sat at the bar and ate. I liked the vibe of the place. The bartender was friendly and the staff seemed to genuinely like each other. My short ribs were delish. Nice place, good people, but favorite?

favorite in the neighborhood even?

I wouldn't go that far. Just across the street is Ebisu, after all.

When I was growing up in east San Jose, we very occasionally made fieldtrips to San Francisco to see the wonders of the Big City. I went to see Daughter of the Regiment with my sixth grade class. I vaguely recall a visit to Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf in junior high, probably soon after Ghirardelli Square reopened as a tourist trap.

I recall a trip to Golden Gate Park and the California Academy of Sciences somewhere in there too. I remember the old de Young, especially its Asian Art section, built as a wing off the de Young to create a space for Avery Brundage's collection. I could wander for hours, and did. The Asian Art collection eventually came out from under the de Young umbrella and spun off into the entirely separate Asian Art Museum.

The thing I most clearly remember of the park from when I was a pup, besides the Academy and the museums, were the Statues and Busts of Famous People tucked here and there in nooks and crannies. I loved those outdoor artworks -- like this one of Verdi, which we passed on our way in to the de Young on Wednesday.

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Past the bust of Verdi, we caught a glimpse of the rebuilding of the California Academy of Sciences.

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Looks like they're keeping two walls extant.

Memories, loads of memories of that building, not only from the school years but also from the parenting years. When the young guys were young, we made many trips to the Academy, took in the shows at the Morrison Planetarium, wandered through the exhibits of dinosaurs and Indian basketry, checked out the gators and crocs and fish at the Steinhart Aquarium, oogled the cassowary, watched the Foucault Pendulum knock the pegs over and prove that the world turns, and sat through (over and over) the 1906 earthquake re-creation. Ah, Memories, Memories of the Park as a sprout filtered and muddled by memories of the park with our sprouts.

Just steps beyond the Academy's mud we found the Music Concourse Revitalization mud. What a mess. Here's hoping what results is something at least similar to what was there before.

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And finally, the new de Young.

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As members of the Asian Art museum, we have reciprocal membership at the de Young, so we had free admission. The Hatshepsut special exhibit would cost us $5 extra, but we decided to forego that and visit it later, before it left at the beginning of February.

We spent as long as we could inside, checking out the Oceanic Art and Art of the Americas, American Painting, American Sculpture and Decorative Art, Contemporary Craft, ... We didn't have time to climb the Tower. Didn't have time to see all there was to see before we were booted out. Worth a visit. Worth more than one visit. Plan some time. We skipped the Hatshepsut exhibit, as I mentioned, but did see the Jasper Johns prints exhibit and the American photography exhibit.

The new museum is great. Loads more room, hence loads more exhibits. They'll be rotating the collection through in addition to having the special exhibitions. Come back again. Often. So much to see. Another time.

We headed home again on Muni, which will take your $3 for two seats if you board above ground and deal with the operator. We got off at Montgomery, intending to walk straight home, but got sidetracked by the smells of dinner cooking at Sam's. Sam's. Ymmm. Sweetbreads. his nibs had the sweetbreads sautéed with mushrooms while I had the sweetbreads sautéed with lemon and capers. Ymmm. I took some of mine home with the potatoes served with them and had them for breakfast yesterday.

Life in the Big City.


Hip Liz posted his version of

one of these

Hey. I hadn't looked for a long time. Wotthehill happened last April?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A new view from the Hill

Keeping up my lists of blogs and interesting sites was tedious with the design I'd set for the blog.

I had two options:

1) using Blogrolling.com or Bloglines or a similar tool to create the blogrolls and stash them offsite, referenced and included in the blog template.

I had the unfortunate experience of blogrolling.com going south on me one day and my blog hanging as it displayed because it couldn't contact the site. Blogrolling.com and alternatives were out.

2) hardcoding the blogs and sites of interests into my blogger.com template, which I've been doing for quite a while now. Unfortunately, every time I changed my lists, I had to recompile my site.

Because the lists were getting long and taking up a lot of real estate and because I hated sitting around while my site recompiled, I split off the lists of blogs and sites of interests to another location today and reworked the blog. A link to those lists is available on the blog in the left column under Blogs and Sites of Note.

I'm off to a holiday gathering at Dee Vine Wines at Pier 19. It's been raining like the dickens and hasn't let up and I need to carefully work my way down the steps and across the Embarcadero.

Hasta mañana.