: views from the Hill

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Helix :: a Speculative Fiction Quarterly

Here's something worth checking out: Helix :: a Speculative Fiction Quarterly.

This magazine is supported entirely by donations.

Editors: William Sanders and Lawrence Watt-Evans

Jim Macdonald on AVPU and EMT lore

Jim Macdonald's post on TNH's Making Light covering AVPU and other basic EMT protocols is one of the most useful things I've read in a long while.

Be sure to read the comments tail too (currently at 83 comments and rising), for added info, including a link to the Vial of Life Web site.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

[WR] Updated Towse's Links to Online Guidelines - Markets for Writers - Publishers

Spun through the list of publishers that accept direct queries, proposals, manuscripts from writers and cleared out dead links, moved publishers who now will not accept work directly from writers to the bottom of the page, added additional publishers and otherwise updated the publishers list at Towse's Links to Online Guidelines.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pravda just ain't what she used to be

Japanese censor pregnant Britney (Photo) - Pravda.Ru

plus +++

Sexual contacts with aliens occur frequently.

(Yes, I know. Old news. Still ...)

Lenin must be spinning.
Khruschev must be spinning.
Heck, Gorbachev must be spinning.

Three to go

We visited three close-by restaurants within the last week or two and all are worth a repeat visit. This doesn't happen very often, folks. In fact, I don't think it's ever happened that we ate at three new-to-us restaurants and came up with three repeatables in a row.

Impala [caution: soundtrack]
501 Broadway (just W of Kearny on the S side of Broadway)
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 982-5299
Open Table reservations

Good Mexican food. Fresh ingredients. I'm not saying that the food's better than the tamales at Lucy's on White Road in San Jose, but I am saying I'd be happy to make a return visit. The salsas weren't very spicy, perhaps a nod to the tourist trade. We ordered the Monday-night-special half-price pitchers of margarita. Impala doesn't water down the margaritas just because they're serving them half-price.

I just checked the site and see no mention of half-off bottles of wine or half-price pitchers of margarita, so maybe that was a time-limited offer to draw in the locals.

We were upstairs in the restaurant. A record release party was happening downstairs in the VIP lounge. Our experience might've been different if there'd been a crush or loud music, but the night was relatively young and it was Monday. We were able to enjoy the food and the margaritas without stress.

The Helmand Restaurant
430 Broadway (just W of Montgomery on the N side of Broadway)
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 362-0641

Afghani food. I'll lift the descriptions from the menu.

We walked in on a Monday night and had a table without waiting. The restaurant was near capacity. After we ordered, a basket full of Afghani bread was delivered to our table with three pots of sauce: green, white and red. The red sauce was sweet, spiced tomato. The green sauce had cilantro as the base, I think, and was my favorite. The white sauce was a typical yogurt and mint concoction.

We shared appetizers: Aushak (Afghan ravioli filled with leeks and scallions, served on yogurt-mint topped with ground beef sauce) and Kaddo (Pan-fried then baked baby pumpkin seasoned with sugar and served on yogurt garlic sauce, topped with ground beef sauce). Both were scrumptious.

For my entree, I ordered Qabelee (Pallow baked with chunks of lamb tenderloin, raisins and glazed julienne of carrots). Pallow is boiled rice mixed with oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and black pepper, then baked.

His nibs had the special: Lamb Lawand (Leg of Lamb sauteed with onion, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms, fresh cilantro, capers, hot pepper, yogurt and spices served with sauteed spinach and challow rice.) Challow rice is boiled rice mixed with oil and cumin, then baked.

Both of the entrees were super. Both types of rice delish. The portions were far larger than we'd expected for the price on the menu. I couldn't finish my Qabelee and took it home to heat up for breakfast yesterday.

We shared a dessert: Sheerberaing (Rice pudding, served with pistachio and cardamom). The rice pudding is not my grandma's rice pudding or even the rice pudding at Sears Restaurant. This rice pudding is not a creamy pudding with raisins and cinnamon but more a rice gruel (think "rice" as in a Balinese rice breakfast) sweetened, and served with pistachio and cardamom. Delicious, I thought.

We plan to go back some weekday for the lunch buffet, so we can try a wider variety of items off the menu in one swell foop.

Our third keeper ...

Da Flora - A Venetian Ostaria
701 Columbus Ave. (NW corner at Filbert)
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 981-4664

We ate here last night for the first time. We'd keep walking by on our way somewhere else. We'd sometimes think of it on Monday nights when we wanted to go out to eat, but Da Flora isn't open Mondays.

We hadn't realized that the restaurant was subtitled "a Venetian ostaria" and has a Venetian vibe with pictures and lighting and menu items that reminded us of our visit to Venice in June. We walked in and were seated immediately. The menu, which is handwritten, says "we strongly prefer cash" but the staff just waved her hand nevermind when we told her we hadn't brought much cash with us.

Took a while for the staff to get back for the order, but we didn't mind. The place is a haven for people watching. Be sure to ask for water, if you want some. Delicious focaccia with kosher salt topping comes after you order. We drank a Tedeschi valpolicella with our meal.

I had carpaccio for an appetizer. The meat was so tender and sliced so thin that it just fell apart as I scooped it up with my fork. Served with drizzles of creamy horseradish sauce, capers and bits of argula. The best. His nibs had the sweet potato gnocchi with pancetta and a sherry cream sauce. Superb. To die for.

For the main course, I had duck livers, served Venetian style, with caramelized onions, sage and pancetta. The livers were served with polenta that was soft but fried on one side to create a crusty top. I be a happy camper.

His nibs had veal rolled up with a stuffing of breadcrumbs, shrooms, etc. The veal was still pink, not overcooked. There was not a lot of stuffing (less stuffing than meat). The veal was served on a bed of orzo and pesto. (At least I think it was orzo.) The pasta was very rich and, lucky me, his nibs shared his portion with me.

Dessert was pistachio cake with vanilla cream, which we shared. I asked for a double espresso. No espresso. No coffee even, they had no coffee. They hadn't flagged down the coffee merchant that afternoon to get more coffee. They'd make me a pot of tea! Um. No.

I ordered a glass of a Sicilian dessert wine which went perfectly with the dense pistachio cake. Not too sweet, but a heavy enough wine that you would not want to share a bottle with a meal.


So there you have it. Three restaurants, all within a half mile walk, all worth repeating. Of the three, choose Impala if you have a hankering for Mexican food, or margaritas. We don't have much Mexican food in North Beach. Taqueria El Zorro (at Columbus and Broadway) serves up Mexican food, and we on occasion stop by for Dos Equis and burritos, but Taqueria El Zorro is more a lunch place.

If I wasn't hankering for Mexican, I'd be hard pressed to choose between Da Flora and The Helmand. Both are good in their way. They serve totally different sorts of food. Both are white table cloth. The Helmand is quiet and subdued and has seemingly effortless service. Da Flora felt more like the neighborhood trattoria with staff that doesn't feel a need to compete with the Relais & Chateau staff down at Gary Danko.

Don't get me wrong. The Da Flora folk seem like nice people who love their food but they also seem like they would give back any attitude they got. Added note: Da Flora closes up shop relatively early. A couple came in at 8:45 p.m. and were told that they'd just told the kitchen staff they could close up. Sorry! (The couple said, "This is the third restaurant we've gone to. Can't you serve us?" One of the other diners said, "Maybe you should've stopped at the first restaurant." Hm. Maybe the clientele has attitude too.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Air at MSP airport being tested after 19 fall ill inside

Air at MSP airport being tested after 19 fall ill inside
Pepper spray or Mace was likely to blame for closing the area around a checkpoint.

by Chao Xiong, Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St.Paul, MN)

Discarded pepper spray or Mace was the likely culprit in a chemical alarm Tuesday morning at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that sent 19 workers to area hospitals.

Patrick Hogan, speaking for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, said, "They could find absolutely no sign of air contamination. It's important that people recognize that we don't have any indication that this was a deliberate act to disrupt airport operations."

No, not deliberate, but disruptive anyway. Boy howdy.

Incidents like this shouldn't be a huge surprise, should they?

ing commented on this recently, maybe at a blog that recently moved, leaving all comments behind. Maybe not, but in any case, I can't find her comment, so, paraphrasing ing -- from memory.

ing said something to the effect of so you're not allowed to take certain gels and liquids and what-not on planes because you might be intending to mix certain gels and liquids together and "all go BOOM!" so instead you'll take all the gels and liquids and toss them together in a big bin and later the TSA will dispose of this large glob of goods ... where? how?

Um. Right. Just saying.

[heads up courtesy of John M. Ford]

"an oppressively compendious list of writers' resources"

I got here, the way I usually get somewhere.

I was off tracking down whether Caitlin Blasdell (former Harper Prism editor, now agenting with Liza Dawson Agency and, it turns out, Charlie Stross' agent) had a Web site.

She doesn't, but I came across Kathryn Cramer's Web site which had a collection of links to "literary agent info" which had a link to Neil Gaiman's Journal and a post titled Everything you wanted to know about literary agents....

I'm reading through Gaiman's post which includes a long and detailed response on the getting of agents and agenting that he'd solicited from Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

... and somewhere in the bits of information and list of resources, in a category labelled "Miscellaneous," TNH mentions Internet Resources for writers, describing it as "an oppressively compendious list of writers' resources."

I'm sure she meant "oppressively compendious" as the bestest of compliments.

Ah, the sweet fragrance of laurel leaves.

Manuel Guerzoni's San Francisco Daily Photography, San Francisco Photos

San Francisco Daily Photography, San Francisco Photos by Manuel Guerzoni

"this site is about photographs. i add a little bit of information with each one but i'm always careful about not giving too much away: i really want for the photos to speak, not the words. all photos were shot in the city of san francisco, there has been no photos posted from surrounding areas (maybe some day i will, but for right now, this site is about the city). no archive photos are being posted, each photo posted was taken the day before, or occasionally, a few days before. all photos are candid and undergo post-processing as i shoot almost everything in raw format. except for the few photos where i experimented selective coloring, only white balance is being adjusted during post-processing, or conversion to black&white with adjustment of contrast on some of them. photos can be browsed using the browse link in the top right corner."

"Browse" is sorted by architecture, abstracts, people, black and white, and scapes.

Some photos are titled. A map click shows you approximately where the photo was taken. Use the labelled arrows to click through the day-to-day or simply click on the photograph to move one day backward.

Evolutionary biology omitted inadvertantly, says DOE

"Evolutionary biology omitted inadvertantly, says DOE"

Two days after the Chronicle of Higher Education broke the story about the absence of evolutionary biology from a list of college majors eligible for a federal grant, both New Scientist and The New York Times have provided further details. At issue is a list of majors that qualify for grants up to $4000 under the new federal Smart Grant program; a blank line appears in the list (PDF) in lieu of 26.1303, where evolutionary biology would normally have appeared, prompting observers to wonder, according to the Chronicle (August 22, 2006), "whether the omission was deliberate."


Entertaining, wot?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Web Design 101 (an ongoing feature)

Today's lesson: Make it easy for people to contact you by including contact information at your Web site -- preferably on each and every page.

If you don't want someone scarfing up your contact e-mail, disguise it as an EMAIL button and/or use the topsekrit code (&-#-6-4) for the "@" sign and/or use a gmail address for your site.

e.g. Site containing (allegedly accurate) information about The best mystery authors. Skimming through the list of names, I found it impossible not to notice
  • Lawrence Block's name misspelt.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle's name misspelt.
  • Erle Stanley Gardner's name misspelt.
  • Dashiell Hammett's name misspelt.
  • and others
I would've pointed out the misspellings to the site owner if I could've found contact information anywhere on the site.

Couldn't find contact information.


Oh, well.

Updated FICTION page

Updated FICTION page at Internet Resources for Writers

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pier 26 needs repair too.

Pier 26 needs repair too. The Port Authority has millions of dollars of deferred maintenance that needs tending to.

  Posted by Picasa

10 Aug 2006

Pier 36 needs repair

Pier 36 needs repair


  Posted by Picasa  Posted by Picasa

10 Aug 2006

Fireworks but no pics

For the second time within the week -- that we know of -- there was a huge fireworks display over at Treasure Island, north of the Admin building.

The first one we saw was Saturday night. (Well, first you hear them going boom! boom! Then you go over to the windows to see if the Giants are blowing off fireworks at the ballpark which, if they are, you can't really see them, but you can see the flareups on the cloud cover. Nothing from the ballpark end of town, then Oooooh! Pretty! Look, Eunice! Fireworks over at Treasure Island!)

Last night we were on the way home from a party friends had thrown in the south bay, so there might've been fireworks or not. Tonight we heard the boom! boom! again -- louder than before -- sounding more like explosions closeby.

Tonight, I had my camera out, set to the "fireworks" scene setting, but I was hoping that holding the camera steady on a railing might work and I was too rushed to pull out the tripod and set everything up. Everything was blurry and none of the pics really captured how cool the fireworks were.

We heard neighbors applaud after the grand finale.

We thought the show might be the pyrotechnic guys in town for their annual convention again (last convention with accompanying razzle dazzle was September 2005), but we couldn't find hide nor hair of explanation anywhere in our web wanderings.

So, instead of the fireworks pics I'd planned to post, here is a pic from a set I made August 10th, when we went out for the day on Pablo's boat with Pablo and the lovely and charming Ellyn. We spent the day hanging around Ayala Cove, Angel Island, picky nicking before heading back to South Beach harbor. Quiet day at the cove. Sunny. No fog whatsoever either coming or going.

Cupid's Span by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, on the Embarcadero, public art I've mentioned before.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Right before my eyes, all the time.

Wasn't until recently when I was pouring some balsamic vinegar from a decorative oil/vinegar bottle my younger sister gave me several years back that I realized the picture on the bottle was of

L'Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Sénanque, in Provence .  Posted by Picasa

(Picture taken June 2005. Lavender not in bloom. Alas.)

Why'd it take me so long to make the connection?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

[URL] Fenner's Complete Formulary

Back in my younger day, Ballard's Golden Oil was the cure-all for chest congestion, coughing, &c. Used externally for chest congestion or stuffy noses, it worked like Vick's Vapo-Rub, warm, soothing, smelly. It busted loose the crud. Used internally for coughs, it cured what ailed you. Every time.

Unfortunately, my grandmother only had a few bottles left by the time I showed on the scene and no one made the elixir anymore. She gave me a bottle from her stash decades ago. That bottle's empty. The rest of her bottles are gone as well.

Every once in a while I search the 'net to see if someone's picked it up and resumed manufacturing, someone like Jeffrey Himmel, who's made a fortune resurrecting brands like Ovaltine and Gold Bond medicated powder.

Today's search brought up a reference in the LOC in Robert Grady's Life of Henry Mitchell, Indian Canoe Maker, quoting Henry Mitchell, reminiscing:

Right where the bank is now there used to be a drug store run by a fellow named Folsom, and across the street, where the First National store is now, next to Parlin's, there used to be a drug store run by a fellow named Marsh. Old Sockalexis left the recipe for a cold remedy at Marsh's, where his boy worked, so when he gave any one a prescription for it, they could got it filled there. When Marsh died the stock was sold and old Ballard up here got a hold of all the books and papers. That Ballard's Golden Oil that he puts out now is really the old Sockalexis Indian Cold Remedy."

That sounded encouraging but I could find nada mas.

The old, torn, stained label on the small bottle I'd had had been pretty nigh unreadable, but I had been able to suss out that one of the ingredients was camphor. Maybe I could find the golden oil recipe by searching Google for /"golden oil" cold remedy camphor/.

... amongst the other hits was this keeper:


Sixth Edition of Fenner's Forumulary, greatly enlarged,
revised and entirely re-written.


Of Valuable Information for Pharmacists, Manufacturers of
Chemical and Pharmaceutical Preparations, Physicians,
and Students of Pharmacy and Medicine.


Compiled and written by



The Web's a wonder!

Some of the recipes look like they might be close to Old Sockalexis' remedy. Maybe I'll try cooking something up one of these days. Other recipes, I'd have a hard time formulating.

e.g. Cough Mixture (formula #4009)

Syrup of Squill, 1 ounce.
Syrup of Tolu, 1 ounce.
Wine of Ipecac, 1 ounce.
Tincture of Opium, Camphorated, 1 ounce.

To this is frequently added:

Tincture of Bloodroot, 1/4 ounce.
Syrup of Wild Cherry, 1 ounce.
Hydrocyanic Acid, diluted, 1/8 ounce.

Oh, for the good ol' days ...


His nibs asked me to clear the space next to the window so he could open the window and brush off the debris that Joe had accidentally let fall on the overhang.

So, I'm sorting through old papers and straightening piles. Photographs. My passport photo, age 4. Me riding a pony, age 3. The Towse family, sans #5 and before #6, at Manhattan Beach, New Year's Day, 1957.

I found a torn piece of paper with cryptic notes from a conference some time ago, which one, I don't remember -- perhaps a NASW session on writing science for children. Maybe.

13307 $33
The Little Giant Book of
   Sterling Publishing, NY

Maryjo Koch science illustration
work similar to Ruth Heller's

Jared Diamond COLLAPSE

"Sometimes" Sheenagh Pugh

Turns out Sterling Publishing (associated with Barnes and Noble) has a whole series of THE LITTLE GIANT BOOK OF ... Maybe I'd been thinking of sending them a proposal.

I always enjoyed the late Ruth Heller's work. She published her first children's book, CHICKENS AREN'T THE ONLY ONES, in 1981, when she was fifty-seven. A few years later, the young ones and I heard her talk at the Santa Clara City Library about the whys and wherefores of her books and her illustrations. She was living in San Francisco at the time and using the creatures at the zoo and the aquarium as models for her book illustrations. So often illustrations in children's books are not to my taste. Heller's always were.

Maryjo Koch lives in the hills above Santa Cruz. Not that far away. Her illustrations are similar to Heller's: detailed, delicate, engaging.

The note reading "Jared Diamond COLLAPSE" refers, of course, to the 2005 book by Diamond, who also wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL. Haven't read it.

The final note -- "Sometimes" Sheenagh Pugh -- turns out to refer to a poem, a poem which Sheenagh Pugh "long ago got sick of."

Here 'tis:


Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

-- Sheenagh Pugh

Friday, August 18, 2006

... and the night visitors

The neighbors in the two top floors immediately south of us were burgled in January. The same burglars tried to break into our place but were put off by the burglar alarm setup they noticed when they took a screen off a window.

We found the screen tilted up against the wall the next morning and wondered who had done what and why. We thought maybe our youngest had been mucking with the screen but we never got around to asking him.

A couple days later we heard about the neighbors' burglaries. We figured we must've been out gallivanting and away from home when the burglars paid us a visit. We assume that they started in the then-vacant top unit just north of us, hopped over onto our deck, hopped over to our neighbors, and then over to the next building down.

We hadn't really thought about it before, but the burglars only took jewelry and small items from the neighbors. Of course! we realized. Who'd want to drag TVs or stereos up the path, up the stairs and over to wherever they'd found a place to park. Easier to take jewelry and cufflinks and stuff their pockets full, then saunter away.

Night before last, after dinner, we were sitting at the table reading papers and magazines. I heard some distinct thumps from upstairs. Then some more. Thumps from something heavier than the cat, who has a distinct thump all her own when she jumps off the bed so you won't catch her where she's not supposed to be.

The thumps sounded like they were coming from our deck, on the top floor, two floors above us -- the deck with the window the burglars had tried to enter through in January.

Um. I said. How about those noises?

Some more thumps followed and a noise that sounded like someone had stumbled against some of my potted plants.

His nibs went up to investigate.

"Come up here, Sal. Come up here RIGHT NOW!"

I raced up the stairs and had made it one floor up when his voice floated down. "Oh, too late."

He came down the stairs to explain what he'd seen. I followed him back up. He'd turned the lights on on the deck. One last BIG FAT RACCOON was staring in at us, then waddled away and disappeared down the fire escape.

Seems there'd been at least five raccoons, big raccoons -- REAL BIG RACCOONS, his nibs said -- (the one I'd seen was the smallest of the lot and was still three times bigger than our cat). The raccoons had been wrassling around up on our deck. Thump. Bump. Crash.

They'd scattered when his nibs turned the lights on.

Those raccoons had lumbered up a spiral fire escape staircase FIVE STORIES HIGH just to wrassle on our deck.

Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

The cat? She'd gone missing and didn't turn up again until much much later. Probably hid under the bed until the excitement was over.

And after the flood they settled somewhere over the rainbow, in Triomphe

Harper's carried Bill McKibben's The Christian Paradox last August.


Ours is among the most spiritually homogenous rich nations on earth. Depending on which poll you look at and how the question is asked, somewhere around 85 percent of us call ourselves Christian. Israel, by way of comparison, is 77 percent Jewish. It is true that a smaller number of Americans—about 75 percent—claim they actually pray to God on a daily basis, and only 33 percent say they manage to get to church every week. Still, even if that 85 percent overstates actual practice, it clearly represents aspiration. In fact, there is nothing else that unites more than four fifths of America. Every other statistic one can cite about American behavior is essentially also a measure of the behavior of professed Christians. That’s what America is: a place saturated in Christian identity.

But is it Christian?

Interesting article.

In the article McKibben mentions a survey that found that 12% of American adults think Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Senator says he's sorry for "macaca" comment

The Seattle Times: Politics: Senator says he's sorry for "macaca" comment

Shows what I know.

I (1) would never call someone "macaca," but (2) never knew "macaca" was a slur-ish word. Shows what I know.

During the couple years or so we lived in Belém, the maid or cook would sometimes refer to one or more of us kids as "doido macaca."

"Doido macaca" == "crazy monkey" and that we were, that we were, sometimes, on occasion.

Monday, August 14, 2006

[URL] Latin Quotes, Latin Phrases, Latin Mottos and Latin Quotations

For those of you like me, who never had a Latin class and never succeeded in teach-yerself-latin beyond Weenie, Weedy, Weechy, a cheatsheet: Latin Quotes, Latin Phrases, Latin Mottos and Latin Quotations -- over 1900 with English translations.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Otto hates cozies

Otto hates cozies.

Lee Goldberg responds, calling Penzler "a sexist, narrowminded neanderthal...who embarrasses himself and, even worse, our profession every time he spews his offensive, sexist crap."

Lee's never one to mince words.

More of Lee at his blog: A Writer's Life.

Put it in writing, or not ...

Found an interesting bit of commentary today as I was wandering the Web.

How did I get there? I was searching for information on Arthur Edward Waite and Aleister Crowley because of a comment someone made in misc.writing. There was a click in the article to /writing style/ and I, of course, clicked it.

The article starts thusly

Thumper's mom said "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all", but I would advise differently.

I am not referring here to the various ways one may dis the outside world: slandering celebrities, critiquing art, stating political convictions. What I am saying here is if you can't write something nice about someone you care about, just don't write anything.

Somewhat anathema to the spirit of Everything, I do firmly believe this admonition when talking trash about friends, family or people you care about. It's something anyone with friends who read their nodes should take *very* seriously.

If someone you love has done something that you do not approve of, if they irritate you in one way or another and you simply have to get it off your chest but don't want to let on to the person you are angry or upset, then go right ahead. Make sure they are out of earshot and say it. Yell it out loud. Scream it. Pound your chest, if you need to.

But don't write it down. Once an idea is recorded, whether on paper or digitally, you won't know whose eyes may someday read your thoughts. The pen is mightier than the sword, they say, and it's true. The written word hurts much more than any spoken one, and if what you say is nasty, untrue or out of character, it will do nothing but reflect badly on you.

The writer continues on with a personal story of how something she'd written and planned to destroy (but didn't) fell into her grandparents' hands and broke her grandparents' hearts.

I've been thinking on all this lately but from a different angle, not the "I'm so angry at his nibs because he is such a freaking sock dropper" [disclaimer: he isn't] sort of writing. I've been thinking about the balance between dishing honest guts -- which takes guts, you're exposing yourself, after all -- and writing Ms Sweetness and Light when crappy things are happening or have happened in the past, solely because of concerns with how family and friends will feel if you lay it all out there.

No James Frey here. No narcissistic stories of snorting lines and waking up in a jail, not knowing where I am. No, that's not what I'm talking about.

But what-if, what if un-sunny things are happening in your life and you are stressed all out of shape. What if your favorite great-aunt has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and has less than six weeks and no money to provide her care in her final days and you are stressing over how to help.

What if stuff like this is happening, affecting you deeply, and you want to write about it, but your nearest and dearest want you to keep your mouth (and fingers) shut and not write a line about "private, family business."

"Why would you write about that?"

"Why did you write about that?"

"You aren't going to write about that, are you?"

What's wrong with writing, "My great-aunt's terminally ill and I'm falling to pieces, crying at the drop of a hat." (She's not. I don't even know of any living great-aunts, for that matter.) What's wrong with writing about her when who she was to me is why I'm crying at the drop of a hat?

Should I not write anything about family matters? Should I write about my life only after carefully carving all that family stuff out? Does my family get a bye? Always? Altogether? What if the person I'm writing about wouldn't mind, but another family member does?

A writer I know told me an uncle was very upset about a memoir he'd written, because in the book he'd talked about being gay. The uncle was upset because he didn't want people knowing he had a gay nephew. Well, it was a memoir, for pete's sake. I guess the writer could've just cut out chunks of his life story, but why should he? To soothe an uncle who didn't want to be embarrassed by him?

Weird, huh?

I'm not talking about writing the sort of stuff the poster referenced above is talking about. I'm not talking about dissing sibs or parents or relatives. I'm not talking about writing out my anger because I'm afraid to tell someone to their face.

No. That's not what I'm talking about.

I don't know.

So I Google'd /writer family upset guts writing/ and found this.

The author says,

How can I grant myself the freedom to write and publish honestly, while making sure those I care about don't feel as if I've done them a disservice?

Do you write about things that are affecting you personally? Do you spill your guts in public or on paper or both, or do you keep the guts wrapped up and show just the sweetness 'n' light?

Should you?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Bread Review - the Bay Area's bread lover

At one point in time, Max Tardiveau was in pursuit of the perfect bread and put his tasting notes online at San Francisco Bread Review.

The bread descriptions and reviews are thorough. Ranks the breads. Ranks the bakeries.

His top ranked bread is Bay Bread's Walnut Boulot. Alas, his nibs does not like walnuts so I'll probably never buy the bread.

Double alas that the most recent bread rating is May 2005.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It's all Greek to me!

4PM PDT Today! Watch the live Webcast as the Exploratorium and SLAC get together to use synchrotron radiation to scan some old goatskin that just happens to have some of the earliest Greek copies of Archimedes' writings, the Archimedes palimpsest.

Animated Virtual Harmonograph

Oooooh. Pretty! Trochoid geometry!! Java applet.

[via Diane Duane's Out of Ambit]

Thursday, August 03, 2006

[URL] Anna L. Conti, San Francisco Artist

Came across the Web site today of Anna L. Conti, San Francisco Artist, through a SiteMeter reference. Seems Anna referenced one of my blog posts last August on her blog. Someone clicked that link today and visited here. Serendipity doo dah.

Took me forever to find the reference when I backtracked into her blog because I was looking for a "Sal said" or "Towse had" sort of reference and the reference was a link in a mention of how San Francisco has more great bookstores per capita than anywhere else in the country.

I enjoyed looking through her portfolio.

I also like her blog which is a leisurely wander and ramble through how Conti creates and the galleries she visits and business and meanderings about life. Come on in. Set your feet up. Have a cup. Let me tell you about my life.

Conti paints cityscapes, life around town, other scenes. She has a wide range of work. Doggie Diner fans, be sure to check out her whole series of Doggie Diner acrylics.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Whoopsie! 4.4 outside Glen Ellen

4.4 outside Glen Ellen at 8:08 p.m. -- forty or so miles north of here.

His nibs was downstairs worrying about the mashed potatoes and didn't feel a thing.

I said, "Earthquake!"

He said, "When? Where?"

"Uh. Just now, honey. Didn't you feel it?"

I was up tip tappying and felt the desk heave back and forth and waited to see if it got worse (it didn't). If it had got worse, I would've found something solid to hunker down next to.

Mark, feel that one?

[WRITING] [CONTEST] ... and for the Californian writers amongst us

California is one of two states chosen for the Poets & Writers Writers Exchange for 2007 -- which means we probably won't be chosen again for a quarter century!

The 2007 California Writers Exchange is funded through a major grant from the James Irvine Foundation.

Details [PDF file]

Deadline for submission is August 31, 2006.

Writers must be California residents for at least two years and have never published a book or have published no more than one full-length book. Self-published books don't count.

A poet and a fiction writer will be chosen and each will receive a $500 honorarium and travel/lodging to NYC in May 2007 to "meet with editors, agents, publishers and writers" and to give a public reading.

[WRITING] [CONTEST] Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize -- Deadline: 15Sep2006

Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

An advance of $12,000 and publication by Graywolf Press is given annually for a book-length work of creative nonfiction by a writer who has published no more than two books in that genre. Robert Polito will judge. Submit a manuscript of 200 to 400 pages between August 15 and September 15. There is no entry fee. Send an SASE or visit the Web site for complete guidelines. (See Recent Winners.)

Graywolf Press, Nonfiction Prize
2402 University Avenue, Suite 203
St. Paul, MN 55114.
Katie Dublinski, Editorial Manager.

[WRITING] [CONTEST] Gather/Amazon Shorts competition

We're thrilled to launch our newest Gather.com writing competition in which unpublished authors can compete for the opportunity to have their work featured and sold on Amazon.com through the Amazon Shorts program.

Introduced last summer, Amazon Shorts offers an entirely new way for customers to enjoy their favorite authors and to sample the work of new authors through exclusive short-form literature, sold on Amazon for $0.49 each. Amazon Shorts have no printed editions and are delivered digitally.

Starting today, Gather.com will offer a first of its kind opportunity for non-published authors to participate in Amazon Shorts alongside bestselling authors like James Lee Burke and Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Today through Saturday, September 30, Gather members can submit 2,000- to 10,000-word original entries. Each month, the three highest-rated entries, along with a fourth entry selected by the Gather Editorial Team, will have the opportunity to be sold on Amazon.com!

How It Works:


One month's gone. Only two more to go ... Because you can only submit one entry per period and you can't submit in two consecutive periods, you have one ONE chance to submit something between now and the end of September.

Have at it.

[URL] [WRITING] Story Starter and the 1st Story Starter Contest

The Story Starter provides 298 million ideas for writers of novels, short stories, mysteries, horror, science fiction or silly stories. If you have never written a story, The Story Starter will give you ideas that will help you get started. If you are a writer who has gotten into a rut and can not think of something interesting, The Story Starter can help you too! The Story Starter randomly generates 298 million ideas (no kidding). It is also great for teachers who want a fun activity to encourage their students to write.

And! Story Starter is running the 1st Story Starter Contest

Brief rules (for more detail, check the site).

No entry fee. Deadline: midnight (EDT) 18 August 2006

1. Each story MUST contain one of the lines from The Story Starter. The line must be exactly as The Story Starter generates it.

2. Write a story using one of the millions of The Story Starter sentences. The story can contain no more than 300 words, including your title.

3. The winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon Gift Certificate. If this contest works out well, we'll increase the prize next time. :) The winner's story will also be shown on The Story Starter site.

4. In addition to the winning story, other stories may be used on The Story Starter site.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

For those of youse who use HaloScan to handle your blog comments

I was just checking the HaloScan blog and noticed this:

And the biggest change—email notification of new comments is now 100% free! So be sure to go and activate the free email notification if you haven’t already done so.

I've always had a click in my toolbar that took me to HaloScan so I could check to see if there were new comments. Sometimes people comment on posts that are way off the current screen and I'd miss those comments otherwise. I may still keep doing that. Getting e-mail every time someone leaves a comment may get old after a while. But, hey! I have the option.