: views from the Hill

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gone for a few weeks ... reprise

We leave tomorrow for Beijing and then on to Xinjiang Province (NW China) and the Hunza Valley, Pakistan, for a glimpse of a place we've never been and a piece of the northern Silk Road.

We'll be flying puddle jumpers within China and have to keep our bags light, but we need to pack for hot and for cold and I'll need a head scarf in Hunza and for the mosques we visit in Xinjiang Province. We need reading material for the long flights. Camera & batteries. Rain gear. Pens. Paper. Hat. Sunblock. Shades.


Adventures include road travel to and fro over Khunjerab Pass into and out of the Hunza Valley. Here's hoping the roads are much improved from the roads shown in the book we own that has photographs taken in the early 60s. Those photos are like Yikes!

(In similar circumstances I've just closed my eyes and trusted to the competence of the driver. I figured if it was my time, it was my time ...)

We went flying around with Google Earth a bit ago to check out the route. Now his nibs is checking the weather over the Web. He tells me the weather is clear in Urumqi and the temps are 48dF at 9:30 a.m. (CST).

The Web's a wonder.

And I'm packed the day before. That really =is= a wonder!

Hasta luego.

Gone for a few weeks.

And look what we're missing!

(I put this list together for our intrepid Auntie K, who will be catering to our feline companion while we're gone.)

  • The Bicycle Thief screened down in Washington Square Park. Sat. Sep 23rd. 8PM.

  • Autumn Moon Festival in Chinatown. September 23-24, 2006

  • International Dragon Boat Festival. September 23-24, 2006 (Treasure Island).

  • San Francisco Blues Festival. September 23-24, 2006. Fort Mason's Great Meadow. $$ Tix but there will be a free kickoff concert at Justin Herman Plaza on September 22 (Fri) from noon-1:30p.

  • Folsom Street Fair. Sunday, Sept. 24. WARNING! WARNING! Hugely popular leather, fetish, and BDSM event. If you plan to drive anywhere toward the south on Sunday, check out which streets will be closed for this street fair. It makes a real mess of things.

  • Friends of the Library HUGE ANNUAL HUGE (did I mention HUGE!?!??) BOOK SALE. Festival Pavilion. Fort Mason Center. TH Sep 28-SU Oct 1. Preview sale (members and special guests) Wednesday Sep 27. 4-8P. (We have passes for you as our special guest.)

  • 2006 Floating Homes Tour in Sausalito. September 30. Buy tickets online. Take the ferry over!

  • Comedy Day (free) October 1st. 12-5p.m. at Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park. Benefit for the Food Bank. (They'd like attendees to bring $$$ and donate generously.) Five hours. Thirty comedians. San Francisco's professional comedy community joins together each year to produce the four-hour show. The Punch Line, Cobb's Comedy Club, SF Sketchfest, Pepperbelly's, and Jose Simon (founder of Comedy Day) each produce an hour-long, highly entertaining set.

  • Fleet Week San Francisco. Tour Navy ships and watch the Navy Blue Angels perform. Oct. 7-9, 10am-4pm. Free to the public. Fleet Week Airshow includes Blue Angels and the Red Bull Air Races.

  • 6th Annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Oct 7-8, 2006. Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park. FREE! Earl Scruggs, Hot Tuna Acoustic, Flying Other Brothers, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Richie Furay, Steve Earle, &c. This is the sixth annual event -- a gift to San Francisco from Warren Hellman.

    Schedule -- Emmylou Harris on Sunday! Ramblin' Jack Elliott too!

  • Italian Heritage Parade (formerly Columbus Day Parade!) in North Beach. Sunday. October 8. Starts at 12:30 p.m. Goes from Jefferson and Stockton Streets (Fisherman's Wharf), west on Jefferson to Leavenworth, south (left) on Leavenworth to Columbus, left on Columbus to Filbert, east (left) on Filbert.

    The parade ends in Washington Square in front of Sts. Peter and Paul Church (666 Filbert. How cool an address is that? Especially! for a church?)

and ongoing and stuff:

Quilts of Gee's Bend at the deYoung

September events
October events

Deval Patrick Wins Mass. Democratic Primary

The younger Younger Guy -- the one who is now slogging through Alaska doing physical labor with AmeriCorps on roads and in national parks until late October -- volunteered a couple days a week for Deval Patrick's campaign for Massachusetts Governor when the younger Younger Guy was finishing up his senior year at BU in Boston.

(A Towse? A Massachusetts Democrat? Oy!)

Word yesterday was Deval Patrick Wins Mass. Democratic Primary. The next step is the election in November where Patrick will faceoff against Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, the Republican nominee.

Sent the kid in Alaska the news. Knew it would make him happy.

Monday, September 18, 2006

eBay auction for a cause -- thru Sep 24, 2006.

Auction supporting the First Amendment Project

First Amendment Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition. For more than twelve years, FAP has provided advice, educational materials, and legal representation to its core constituency of activists, journalists, and artists in service of these fundamental liberties.

Fourteen authors donate a once in a lifetime opportunity -- to have your name appear in an upcoming book."

Some of the auctions have finished. Carl Hiaasen (whose auction finished yesterday) raised $1,025 for "your name in a Carl Hiaasen book + personal Skype call!"

The John Lescroart auction item is "your name in a John Lescroart book + personal call" -- end date 24 Sept.

The Kevin J. Anderson item is "your name in a Kevin J. Anderson book + signed copy" -- end date 24 Sept.

&c. and so forth

[lifted from Neil Gaiman]

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Anousheh Ansari's Space Blog

Anousheh Ansari lifts off with the Soyuz TMA-9 Expedition 14 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome tomorrow, Kazakhstan time, which means a bit more than fourteen hours from now. The crew members she's flying with are NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin.

Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-born American multi-millionaire, is flying up to the International Space station with both the Iranian and the USAn flags sewn on her suit.

She has an interesting story and a blog, of course. She won't be blogging from space, but you can read her befores and her afters. Her husband will be blogging in her stead while she's away.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Little Goddess by Ian McDonald. Hugo Nominee

We were in Bhutan on September 11, 2001, as part of a trip that took us through Nepal, up to Tibet, back to Nepal, then on to Bhutan. We spent a total of maybe three days in Kathmandu, wandering around, looking at things.

I was fascinated by Kumari Devi, the living goddess of Nepal, who lives in a building that looks out over Durbar Square.

Ian McDonald was fascinated by the living goddess too and wrote Little Goddess, loosely based on Kumari Devi and set at a time in the future. The story was published in Asimov's, June 2005, and was a Hugo nominee for best novella this year. Inside Job by Connie Willis won the Hugo in that category.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Kelly Link and stories on the Hugo Ballot

Auntie K sent me a link the other day to an article about Kelly Link, a woman who self-published her first two collections of SFF short stories to great acclaim.

MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS (July 2005) got great reviews from Time Magazine, Salon, SFC and others and was a Locus Award winner. The book's been picked up by Harcourt/Harvest, USA and has also been published in Japan, Italy, Russia, Germany and elsewhere.

Want to know what all the buzz is about?

The Faery Handbag, collected in MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS, won a 2005 Hugo and a 2005 Nebula.

Link's title story, Magic for Beginners was a Hugo award nominee for best novella this year. (Connie Willis won best novella with Inside Job.)

Here are links to other 2006 Hugo nominees. Hugo winners have been announced, so some links to nominated works are now 404.

Fog's burnt off now,


but a few hours ago, the Bay Bridge was wading through it. Posted by Picasa

The peahen next door

  Posted by Picasa

The peahen next door to my parents' place had a couple chicks this spring. The chicks are now half-grown and the family (sometimes with Dad, sometimes not) hang out on the redwood picnic table on the back deck.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Museum of Useful Things

Oh, I love this sort of stuff: The Museum of Useful Things.

49 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA.

Question is, is it still there? The Web site has dates of 2004. The "exhibits" articles' latest date is 2003.

x'd fingers it's still there when next I visit Boston.

Serial commas ... or not?

An editor in Australia insists the serial comma is used in America and, therefore, Americans should use serial commas. Period.

(As a very minor matter, Father Luke is an American, so there should be a comma before the "and". )

Not necessarily, as I pointed out on his blog. I write according to what an editor asks of me. If an editor wants serial commas, I'll use them. If not, I don't, unless the comma is needed to clarify what might be confusing writing. (The classic example of a sentence that needs a serial comma to make clear sense is the perhaps apocryphal book dedication: "I'd like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.")

Not all Americans use serial commas, I said.

Alas, he swatted my demurs away. He edits American writing he said.

So? was my thought.

I was thumbing through my stacks of magazines today, ripping out pages, tossing the bulk. On a whim, I decided to see if there were serial commas in the articles, or a lack thereof.

I am here to report back that in the magazine I checked (W) there was a lack thereof. Seems not all American editors believe in serial commas. Of the articles I checked, all articles that had sentences that could have used serial commas didn't.

I can't find the September issue of W site on the Web but I did find a click to an article about Janet Jackson from W's October issue. Note that the first sentence of the article is missing the serial comma before the "and" that some people say Americans should always use.

House style for W seems to be no serial commas, but then that makes sense, doesn't it? Why would there even be something called "the Harvard comma" (a nod to the fact that Harvard has the serial comma as part of their house style) if the serial comma is ubiquitous?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Time for CUPCAKES!

For Nobody (in case she missed it), a click to Joel Stein's TIME essay, Cupcake Nation. [28Aug2006]


That's what bugs me about cupcakes: they're fake happiness, wrought in Wonka unfood colors. They appeal to the same unadventurous instincts that drive adults to read Harry Potter and watch Finding Nemo without a kid in the room. They're small and safe, and so people convince themselves that they can't have that many calories. They are the dessert of a civilization in decline.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Blogger status

What's the use of having this, if it can't be reached when the Blogger servers are having problems?

... and if it could be reached, it hasn't been updated since late August?

Hello, Blogger! Hello, Google!

When your system's unusable and flaking out, put information somewhere that lets people know you're aware of the problem, working on it, and may even have an estimated "back up" goal.

[WR] www.pulpnoir.com - The Official Charlie Huston Website

Hadn't heard of Charlie Huston until I was reading Miss Snark and her critiques of query letters and first page(s) this morning. Someone's query&pages were for a crime novel set in Houston.

Miss Snark said, "It doesn't suck but it's [it gets] a form letter rejection. There's a reason everyone's yapping about Charlie Huston...he took the usual expectations of genre and turned them on their ear. I'm looking for good writing but I also have to bring something fresh to the table."

Charlie who?

With a quick search I found www.pulpnoir.com - The Official Charlie Huston Website.

Charlie has his bio and his blog and what all.

Charlie also has first chapters for CAUGHT STEALING, SIX BAD THINGS, and ALREADY DEAD. The print layout for SIX BAD THINGS is downright awful, but the first pages for all three are


Wondering what people mean when they say, "Start in media res." or "Those first pages have to grab you by the throat." or "Start with conflict. Start with action."?

Charlie Huston is the poster boy for those folks.

Go. Read.

writers.com books, caelum press, infrapress submission guidelines

Funny (Hahahahaha. Sad. No, funny!) note where the writers.com books, caelum press, infrapress submission guidelines should be:

We are very sorry, but we can no longer say that we are looking for submissions. This is not because we are not looking for more material to publish, it is due to the incessant email from people who evidently could not read our guidelines. We have a firm belief that if you cannot read, you should not write. Most publishers share this belief.

Please -- if you want to be published, learn something about publishing. Writers.com offers an article, How How Do I Get Published that might serve as a beginning. There are also numerous books and periodicals as well as free writing Web sites online.

We encourage writing no matter what your goals are, but remind you: Although everyone has the right to write, not everyone has a right to be published. If you do deserve to be read, we hope that you find publication. Good luck.


Rudy Rucker has A Writer's Toolkit at his SJSU faculty Web site. The PDF file contains his "working notes for teaching writing workshops."

Also on his site are his Writings About Writing, including essays on transrealism and the book-specific notes he made while writing his books. The "notes" for a given book can be anywhere from 14K (for THE HACKER AND THE ANTS) up to 100K words (for MATHEMATICIANS IN LOVE). An interesting look into how one writer writes.

[WR] Crawford Kilian tells you how to Write a Novel

Crawford Kilian has booted up another resource: Write a Novel.

Write a Novel is a form of open courseware: Learning materials placed online for free use by anyone who wishes to do so. At this point, it is an experiment; if it succeeds, Capilano College may create more such guides, along the lines pioneered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The guide contains 18 items, PDF documents that give you some basic information on topics related to writing fiction in general and novels in particular. Each item includes one or more assignments based on the material you've read.

Kilian is the author of a score of books including SF, fantasy, history, WRITING SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY (Self-Counsel Press, 1998), WRITING FOR THE WEB (3d rev. ed. coming soon) and more.

[via DRO at Inky Girl.]

Monday, September 04, 2006

[URL] Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design

Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design is an interesting site.

I was poking around on the Web, after revisiting POWERS OF TEN, because I was wondering how Charles and Ray Eames hooked up with MIT's Philip Morrison to make the film. (Morrison narrates.)

At Boxes and Arrows, Erin Malone explains the story behind the making of the movie. Turns out the Eames made a first version of the film in 1968 for the annual meeting of the Commission on College Physics. That version of the film was called A ROUGH SKETCH FOR A PROPOSED FILM DEALING WITH THE POWERS OF TEN AND THE RELATIVE SIZE OF THE UNIVERSE. (Quite a mouthful, eh?)

Years later, in 1977, Philip and Phylis Morrison helped them with a revised version, which has been seen by millions of people since its debut.

Philip Morrison, the father of SETI, was quite a guy himself. He passed away in April 2005 at age 89.

Book meme

Tagged by arkadianriver

Do this:
Grab the nearest book.* Open the book to page 123. Find the fifth sentence. Post that text and the following three sentences, along with the stuff below on your blog, along with the instructions.

[*] 'nearest' means you can't rummage around for a 'cool' or 'intellectual' book. Really, whatever your hand falls on first.

To freeze a sprinter, the shutter must open and close before the image of the runner perceptibly changes position on the camera’s image plane. Therefore, the faster the subject runs, the faster the shutter speed you will need to stop the action and avoid a blurred image.

A second factor affecting the final image is the camera-to-subject distance.

One elevator door was half-open on an empty shaft, from which drifted hissing wind. The door was coated to look like wood, but a dent at kneel level showed it was black metal. While he squatted, fingering the edge of the depression, something clicked: a second elevator door beside him rolled open.

"Hey, good-lookin’!" the blond driver yells, her hair flapping in the wind. "Don’t go! I think I love you!" Laughing, her friends pull her hat off.

Several people put their arms around me and said keep coming back!

Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794), the revolutionary leader, was himself executed in July 1794. This destruction came not from outside the system; it was produced by the system. As in the later Russian Revolution the revolutionaries on their humanist base had only two options–anarchy or repression.

In a large skillet brown meat, half at a time, in hot oil. Drain off fat. In a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker combine undrained tomatoes, beef broth, onion, jalapeno or serrano peppers, garlic, cornmeal, chili power, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, and black pepper.

Let anyone who will not believe it, go thither and inquire for himself. There was once an ass whose master had made him carry sacks to the mill for many a long year, but whose strength began at last to fail, so that each day as it came, found him less capable of work. Then his master began to think of turning him out, but the ass, guessing that something was in the wind that boded him no good, ran away, taking the road to Bremen; for there he thought he might get an engagement as town musician.

The bus company? They got another one. Line coach Douglas Fowlkes recalled that the media wrote about the losing streak so much that it was always at the forefront of the players' minds: "When are they going to win?"

There are also V-shaped dividers that are smaller than the frames; these go in front, to allow a deeper decolletage. In 1958, with the sexual revolution only a few years off, some of the customs inherited from the nineteenth century still survived. Despite the fact that most women now wore girdles, there were still corsets being worn — and not simply by a few elderly ladies, since Mademoiselle Etienne;s handbook contains instructions for making children’s corsets.

Roxane: Les roseaux fournissaient le bois pour vos épées…
Cyrano: Et les maïs, les cheveux blonds pour vos poupées!
Roxane: C’était le temps des jeux…
Cyrano: Des mûrons aigrelets…

Darwin's ideas are so much a part of our world view that we take them for granted, so much that we actually read the Origin, it does not seem fresh and iconaclastic, but dreary and derivative.

The androgynous beautiful boy has an androgynous sponsor, the male born Uranian Aphrodite whom Plato identifies with homosexual love. While the Archaic kouros is virgorously masculine, the early and high classic beautiful boy perfectly harmonizes masculine and feminine. With the Hellenistic tilt toward women, prefigured by Euripides, the beautiful boy slides toward the feminine, a symptom of decadence.

Praxiteles registers this shift in his ephebic Hermes (ca. 350 BC), which misaligns the elegance of classic contrapposto.

Her demeanor was oddly melodramatic, and she consciously tried to meet the eyes of all of the mourners before she spoke.

"You've heard from Pastor Robbins about the life of Lamar, and I'm here to let you know that he didn't die in vain. No Sirree Bob."

No Sirree Bob? Joe felt Marybeth squirm next to him. And he felt it again when Melinda Strickland paused and forced a blazing, inappropriate smile.

[Three sentences after the first; "No Sirree Bobs" not counted. WINTERKILL by C.J.Box]

Added: I posted a variant of this back in January 2006.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

[URL] The Wilkie Collins pages

"the" definitive Wilkie Collins site

Best known in this household for writing THE WOMAN IN WHITE and THE MOONSTONE, Wilkie Collins had far more going for him.

Wilkie Collins was born on 8 January 1824 and died on 23 September 1889. In those 65 years he wrote 27 novels, more than 50 short stories, at least 15 plays, and more than 100 non-fiction pieces. A close friend of Charles Dickens from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens's bloomed. Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has for fifty years. Almost all his books are in print, he is studied widely, and new film and television versions of some of his books have been made. Nevertheless, there is still much to be discovered about this superstar of Victorian fiction.

Includes articles, bibliography, biography, links to e-texts of almost every piece of Collins' work: fiction, nonfiction, books, letters, articles, plays, short stories PLUS! the letters of Charles Dickens to Wilkie Collins. (The letters from Wilkie Collins to Charles Dickens were, of course, burned in the bonfire at Gad's Hill Place in September 1860.)

e.g. A Queen's Revenge: 15 August 1857 Household Words XVI 156-162
A Queen's Revenge -- A historical account of Queen Christina of Sweden and her murder of her equerry.

The things they never taught us in world history class. If they'd spiced things up with stuff like this, more students might've paid attention.

Friday, September 01, 2006

These are the "winners"

These are the "winners" of Miss Snark's Third Irregular Crapometer for which she promised to critique one hundred (+/-) 750wd entries comprised of a query letter and first pages.

I'm bummed. I took a chance, but I'm not one of those who made the cut with the random submission generator. (She had 459 entries! Yikes!)

Still. Miss Snark's Crapometer challenge kicked my sorry butt and had me revising that critical first page.

I'll continue on from there. I've promised the youngest sprog that a ready-for-critique draft will be ready by the time he gets home from his Americorps stint in Alaska: late October.

Kick yourself in gear, Miss Sally.