Monday, April 30, 2007


Great Writing

I got a comment from Borax on my post about Minnesota's Basic Skills Tests that raises a very good question. Seems Borax doesn't have a lot of faith in the literary quality displayed by popular writers. Borax writes,

"They're famous because of their accessability, readability, flow, and entertainment, not because of their talent as writers. The average person doesn't know jack about good writing, which is why there's little correlation between great writing and popularity."

I rather think that readability, flow, and entertainment are among the qualities of good writing, although they certainly aren't the only ones. How would you define good or great writing? What attracts you to someone's literary efforts?

Labels: , , ,


Good News

Today, on this my writing day, I officially finished story number 7 out of the 10 I've been working on. Woohoo! And double woohoo!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Rocky Stream of Consciousness

Neil Gaiman went away to write for a little while. When he got back, he took a few pictures of the The Graveyard Book he's started writing. He used a lovely, leather-bound, Italian book for his first draft. If you look at the page of text he's opened the book to, you'll notice that he doesn't have anything crossed out. By golly and by gum, it's one helluva writer who doesn't have to cross anything out when he's writing a first draft.

In a later post, he explains the lack of crossing out in his drafts. (Scroll toward the bottom of the post.) He writes using a stream-of-consciousness method that I've seen recommended for writing in order to get something down on the page quickly. Well, now, let me tell you, my stream-of-consciousness is full of rocks and my thoughts are continually getting hung up on them. Stop - start - go around - burble, burble, burble. My notebooks are pure disasters. It's why I won't use fancy journals for writing. They look so beautiful, all blank and perfect, and they tend to be spendy, so I don't want to mess them up. Instead, I write in cheap (10 cents on back-to-school sales) notebooks. I keep all of my writing notebooks and try to write an index on the front cover. Some of my ideas carry over from notebook to notebook if they're something I want to keep working on. I don't believe I'll ever get to a point where my stream-of-consciousness flows clearly enough for a nice journal, but I'm not going to sweat it. In this case, it's the story destination I'm after and not the smoothness of the path. My hat's off to Neil, though, for making it look so easy.

Btw, if you have the time, read the rest of that second post I've linked. It's quite endearing. Neil doesn't feel that he's in the same league as other writers appearing at a reading event that includes Steve Martin and Salman Rushdie, among other major authors. Hey, I'd want to attend specifically for Neil - and also Steve Martin, both of whom are among my list of favorite writers.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 28, 2007


In the Zone

Oh, what a glorious Minnesota spring day! I was up-and-attem, ready to go this morning. My first task was taking our pile of recycling to the landfill - no, not to dump it in with the garbage, but to put it in the recycling containers. We've found this to be much easier than waiting for the city to collect it. The city collects it every other week, but we can never remember the day and they are quite persnickety about how we prepare it, so we'd rather load it in the car once a month and go for a little drive.

After the recycling, I decided I'd take on some yard work. I'm not much for gardening, but the herb garden was filled with leaves and long, scraggly, dried-up herbs and the job didn't look that strenuous, so I got to work on cleaning it out. What you seen in the photo is the end result. Turns out that herbs grow beautifully in our sandy soil, while most other veggies and flowers do not. We created this herb garden a couple of years ago using bricks left over from remodeling. (We're hoping the herbs come back. If not, it's time to replant.) The bricks are a local variety from when we had brickyards in town between the 1890s and 1920s. They are quite soft and not at all appropriate for landscaping as they flake and break easily. The one saving grace about this is that the bricks came from the ground and they're going back to the ground - another form of recycling.

While I was working in the yard, I figured I could get some thinking time in. I'm trying to imagine a character's home and belongings for a short story and thought that gardening would free my mind for the task. Not so. The more I worked, the less I thought. I slipped into a zone of no-thought, which was quite meditative. The same thing happened later, when the hubby and I hopped on the motorcycle and went for a ride. It's my first of the season. The hubby's been out a number of times already. I don't have a motorcycle endorsement, or a cycle of my own, so I'm always a passenger. It's fun to sit and let someone else handle the driving. Without having the worry of watching the road, I immediately slip into the zone, which is enhanced by the buzz of the cycle and the rushing wind. The zone is so relaxing that after being on the bike for about an hour, I have a tendency to fall asleep. This is not a good thing, for obvious reasons. Maybe, if we had a massive touring bike with armrests, I could get away with this. I have to concentrate really really hard to keep from falling asleep. If I do start nodding off, my body slips a little and I jerk myself awake. My husband jokes that I need to have bungie cords strapped around me to hold me on. I just pray that being in the zone won't cause an accident one day.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,


About Yesterday's Post

Been thinking about yesterday's post, rolling it around in my mind, developing a theory that makes me sound not quite so mean. Here's what I've come up with . . . reading trash talk about Dave Matthews Band is humbling, especially if you're an empath. It's like this. If a hugely popular, incredibly talented band can have detractors, then so can any artist, writer, musician, creator . . . literally anyone with a viewpoint. That means that no matter what I write, someone out there is going to hate it. You could probably graph the love/hate relationship of an author on a bell curve. You'll have a small percentage of people who love your work, and a small percentage of people who really hate it. Everyone else is in the middle - those who like it a little, those who dislike it a little, and then there are all those people smack in the center who are completely indifferent to your work. They could care less. Hmm. At least those who hate it are having a reaction, right?

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, April 27, 2007


Perverse Pleasure

Most people who know me would say I'm nice. I'm not tooting my horn here; that's what they'd say because, for the most part, I don't try to ruffle feathers. However, I've got a mean streak. My weaving teacher in college recognized it once. The assignment that led to his recognition was to combine two pigments together on two notecards. On one, we were to identify the two colors we had used. The other was handed to someone else in class and they had to try to remix the color. My teacher saw the color I had made, a dark purply splotch, and what I had mixed to arrive at it, something odd, like green and blue, and he looked at me and said, "I didn't know you had it in you."

That sums up my mean streak. It's not a big thing, but it comes out once in a while in weird ways. For example, I've taken a perverse pleasure in doing blog searches on Dave Matthews Band and reading the negative comments people make. One blog writer used to like DMB, but quit listening after coming to Christianity. The reason? DMB's music wasn't holy enough because it glorified partying. Someone else - well, a lot of someone elses - think DMB's music simply sucks. Of course, I disagree, but I still like reading this trash talk. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it's because I like to think of myself as a discerning individual and, if everyone under the sun likes the same thing I do, well, I'm no longer discerning, am I? I'm just one of the herd. And I don't like being part of the herd.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The First Law of Design

I thought this up while considering Wired's redesign. I call it The First Law of Design.

Good design enhances communication; poor design hinders it.

Labels: , , ,


Wired Magazine Doesn't Look Good in a Speedo

You know those guys on a beach who wear a Speedo and think they look so cool, when they really come off as anything but? That's the way Wired magazine has been behaving lately. Let me explain.

The folks at Wired redesigned the magazine, unveiling their changes in the February 2007 issue (or issue 15.02, if you're into Wired-speak). They explained their changes in the Chat (formerly Rants & Raves) section and, along the way, mentioned that they'd tweaked their logo so that it now obeyed the Law of Optical Volumes. They asked for feedback on the redesign. I obliged with the following:

Wired, you've gone crazy with the Cheese Whiz and now my eyeballs are screaming, "Make the confusion stop!" John Hodgman may like the typography, but did you have to pick FOUR different types? My grandpa, an old-school sign painter who painted the names on ships during World War II, always said that it was easier to get a message across by using a single font. Now, I'm not suggesting you drop three out of the four, but take a good look at page 60 in the February 2007 issue and tell me it's not a complete mess. The one font that doesn't work for me is used in the body text of the article on Brian Eno on page 68. It's squished and difficult to read. I realized there was a problem with the new design when I discovered that I was skipping articles at the front of the magazine, something I didn't do before. When I did a comparison of this month's and last month's issues, I saw a cohesiveness in the previous magazine that has gone missing, especially in the front section.

Okay, that was the rant. Here's the rave: I love the new graphics for Chat, Start, Posts, Play and Found. The words arranged in colored squares the way you've done reminds me of Asian script, or illuminated manuscripts. The slider bar with the "lit" rectangle denoting the page reminds me of a graphic equalizer. Perfection! I also like the new look of Expired/Tired/Wired. The serif-style typography used for the body of the feature articles reads well.

You still have great articles. A little more tweaking to rid your pages of eyeball freak-attacks and you'll have it.

Mary Warner

P.S. I don't know anything about the Law of Optical Volumes, but did notice that you reversed the serif and sans serif letters in your logo.

Wired published this letter on their website.

Then, in the April 2007 (15.04) issue, the folks at Wired got snippy about all of the reader feedback. Their little missive appeared at the top of page 27 as an introduction to Rants (formerly Chat). That got me steamed. If you're going to ask for feedback, you better darned well be prepared to take it, so I wrote another letter, thusly:

Thanks for the bitch-slap, Wired. You redesign your magazine, you ask us for feedback, and when you get it, you accuse us of being unable to embrace uncertainty. And this you do in your Radical Transparency "we're so open" issue. The irony is not lost.

It's not uncertainty that's the problem; it's your flirtation with poor design and your apparent inability to deal with criticism. Grow a pair of Thatchers, take your lumps, and thank your lucky iPods you have readers who are astute enough to use "$10 words" like "gauche, frenetic, and abrasive," which, for the literate, are worth no more that $2.50 apiece.

(Wired has asked permission to publish this too, so they're not completely without Thatchers. Thatchers is a Stephen Colbert word, in case you are unfamiliar with it.)

That leads us to the current issue of Wired, May 2007 (15.05), in which the creators reveal a little secret. Remember that term 'Law of Optical Volumes'? Here's what they have to say about it on page 21:

We said that our new logo obeys the Law of Optical Volumes, and our resourceful readers promptly searched the Internet for the existence of such a law. So we confess: Scott Dadich, our creative director, sort of invented it. We explain his thinking on the Underwire, one of the 60 gazillion blogs we now run (

The excessive selection of new typefaces, the snippiness about feedback, the sneakiness concerning an invented term, this is not the Wired magazine I came to love. There's a pall of . . . hmm, what's the word? . . . oh, yeah . . . arrogance . . . that seems to lace its pages now. Perhaps the magazine's staff is feeling the flush of being ultra-popular, or is recognizing the success of Editor in Chief Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail. I can't be sure, but it's almost as if Wired has become aware of the fact that it's a cool magazine and now thinks it looks good in a Speedo. They can do anything and get away with it. In the spirit of making up laws - The First Law of Coolification is that you can't try to be cool. If you try, you're no longer cool. Wired's cool used to come naturally; now it feels forced.

In all fairness to Wired, I have seen many other organizations attempting to be cool & hip, trying to lure a Gen X or Millennial audience. That's not going to work in the long run. There has been study after study of these groups and what marks them is a resistence to marketing and slick messages. You'd better be authentic and don't even try to be cool because we'll see it for the lame ploy that it is. We'd rather flock to the dude in the swim cap, Burmuda shorts and striped tube socks. Now that's cool.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Photos of Rain

For your viewing pleasure, photos courtesy of my illustrious daughter, of the rain storm we had this past Sunday. We got drenched, which should be obvious from the puddles forming on our sidewalk.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 23, 2007


Q & A

I just read a book with the most interesting plot. It's been said that there are no original stories left in the world, and while this may be true at it's root, I still think there are many original ways to tell a story. Indian author Vikas Swarup does just that in his book "Q & A." The premise of the novel, which does not give anything away, is that an orphaned Indian boy, 18 years old, goes on a quiz show called Who Will Win a Billion? and he wins a billion rupees. The day after winning, he is arrested because the show's producers claim that he cheated. This is where the novel starts. The rest of the chapters are structured so that Ram Mohammed Thomas, the main character, tells his life story based on each of the questions he is asked in the show. Of course, he is trying to show how he knew the answer to each question and prove that he didn't cheat. This was a fabulous way to tell the story and kept me guessing as to what the question would be from the story he told in each chapter. I rarely could tell. At the end, there were three twists that I didn't see coming. Now that's a story!

Here's an interview with Vikas Swarup by Channel NewsAsia.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Major Tom

Last night, we were watching TV (the movie "Dodgeball," if you must know), and my husband was on the computer. I'm not sure what led to this, but he started singing, "Four . . . three . . . two . . . one," and then something else that I didn't quite catch, but I it pushed a memory button for me and I said, "What was that? Sing it again." The hubby did one better - he pulled the song up on YouTube. He was singing "Major Tom" by Peter Schilling. I loved this song as a young adult, but if you had put a gun to my head and said, "Name the singer," I would never have come up with Peter Schilling in a million years. The video was familiar, though.

Our kids wondered about this song and the Major Tom story. For those who don't know, Major Tom was a character in at least two songs by David Bowie - "Space Oddity" and "Ashes to Ashes". Major Tom is an astronaut who leaves his space craft and floats into space. Listeners are left to wonder what happens to him and what has to be going through his mind as he realizes he's a goner. (I'm admittedly not an expert on Bowie's music, so if Major Tom showed up in any of his other songs, let me know.)

In my opinion, Peter Schilling's Major Tom song is more melodic than Bowie's songs, although Bowie's leave me feeling infinitely more unsettled, which I think was the point. If Schilling had written his song in today's copyright climate, Bowie's music industry representatives would have slapped him with a cease-and-desist order or sued him. Thankfully, Bowie didn't get his undies in a twist and one of his characters led to further creative exploration. Does anyone know whether Major Tom has shown up in anyone else's creative work?

The only other song I can think of with this strange astronaut imagery is Peter Mayer's "Astronaut Dreams." (Sorry, I can't find a recording of this for you to listen to online.)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Minnesota's Basic Skills Tests

All of our children have undergone state testing lately. Our oldest two had writing tests as part of Minnesota's Basic Skills Tests. The children have to pass all of these tests (writing, math & reading) in order to graduate from high school. Thus far, no problems there - everyone has passing scores.

The writing test involves a prompt to which students have to write an essay. Our son's prompt was this: "Think of a time when a person you know did something you admired. Describe what this person did and explain why you admired it. Include details so your reader can understand the situation."

Scoring falls on a six-point scale, with six being the highest possible score. To get a six, the paper has to meet the following guidelines:
"Related to the assigned topic, consistently focused on a central idea, evenly & richly developed with ample supporting detail to clarify & expand central idea, containing a purposefully crafted beginning, middle & end with an overall sense of wholeness, demonstrating a consistent control of language enhancing overall qualtiy, demonstrating a command of the rules of sentence formation, word usage & mechanics."

Here's what I want to do. Let's get a bunch of accomplished writers - Margaret Atwood, J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, etc. - and have them take the test. I'd love to see how they'd score. What might that tell us about the test?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Alec "Holy Crap" Baldwin

I'm sure by now you've heard about Alec Baldwin's over-the-top rant at his eleven-year-old daughter. Here's my two-cent's worth. It doesn't matter how much of a bitch Kim Basinger is being, this was Alec's daughter, not the ex he was speaking to. An eleven-year-old can simply forget about the time and not be dissing her dad on purpose. But, if Alec speaks to his daughter like this all of the time, and who's to say he doesn't, why would she want to make herself available for that? I've seen two situations on a personal level where a nasty parent habitually laces into a child on the phone and the child decides it's not worth the abuse. Kim is being blamed for releasing the audio of Alec's rant to the media, and that may not have been the best thing to do, especially if she was court-ordered not to, but I think it's about time parents get called out when they are being particularly nasty to their children. A healthy adult wouldn't put up with this behavior. Why does society allow people to do this to children?

If Alec had had his head on straight, and had not taken out his rage at his ex on his daughter, he could have said something like this: "I'm disappointed in you, darling. I've taken time off to speak to you and you're not available. While this is your choice and it hurts, I'm not going to force you to talk to me. I'll be always available if you should want to call me, but the ball's in your court now." Which message would you have been more likely to respond to?

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, April 20, 2007



Something dawned on me recently that quite surprised me. Before I get to that, I'd like to talk about inspiration. As an artist and writer, I take inspiration from many, many things. Science, the woo-woo mysteries of life, birds, flowers, children, historical events, small human behaviors, technology, the interesting juxtaposition of words and the sounds of words, and, of course, the creations of others, be they books, art, movies and music. I'm never sure how all of these things will come together, or what the result will be. My latest realization came to me while listening to a U2 CD. As I was listening, the music translated into images in my mind. This has happened before with U2 music. It has also happened with the music of Duran Duran and Ultravox. The result is that I'm inspired to create visual art with the songs of U2 et. al. The surprise about this is that I've been listening to the music of Dave Matthews Band a lot these past couple of years and it makes me want to write stories. It wasn't until I re-listened to U2 that I saw the difference. U2's music doesn't have the story-writing effect on me, not in the least. U2 inspires visual art, DMB inspires literary art. I don't know why this is, but there it is.

So, now, what inspires you to fits of creativity? Feel free to be more specific than I was. (Science, sheesh! That about covers everything, doesn't it?)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Favorite Nonfiction

Time for another book list. This time I'm covering nonfiction. I read waaaaay more nonfiction than fiction, and no matter what I read, a little of each book rubs off on me. These happened to rub off a lot. They are in no particular order.

Conversations with God, Book I - by Neale Donald Walsch - This book changed my worldview, especially the point God, speaking through Neale, makes about Hitler going to heaven.

Brand Hijack by Alex Wipperfurth - Consumers take over!

Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnick - Snappy little book about breaking writing rules.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser - Good, solid writing advice.

On Writing by Stephen King - Enjoyable, with excellent advice on how to deal with criticism.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell - I so want to prove the tipping point in some way.

Baby & Childcare by Dr. Benjamin Spock - Saved us from a screaming infant.

Yoga for Wimps by Miriam Austin - Easy yoga with a low time commitment. Made me limber.

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson - Liked the premise of this book, but now the term is used so much that I'm starting to get sick of it.

Beyond the Writers Workshop by Carol Bly - Made me not put as much stock in other people's opinions of my writing.

Anything by Brenda Ueland - She was a Minnesota writer who was full of moxie. One of the first women in her community to wear pants in public. She coined the term "moodling."

Anything by Seth Godin - Energetic, good ideas, tries to get businesses to be remarkable, instead of half-assed.

Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch & James F. Balch - The Bible of healthcare options in our house.

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen - Along with being straight-out fascinating, this helped me see how history is told through the voice of the victors.

The Dictionary and the Thesaurus - any will do - they are indispensible.

Okay, your turn. What are your favorite nonfiction books?

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


We Can't Always Be Prepared

The Virginia Tech tragedy has been playing non-stop on our television. Tonight, on the CBS News, I saw photos and heard the stories of some of the victims. It moved me to tears, especially the story of the professor who was a Holocaust survivor who got shot while attempting to save his students.

There are all sorts of questions about why students weren't notified and the school locked down after the first shootings. I think that it's natural for people to think about how the further shootings could have been prevented, but two hours (the amount of time between the first shootings and the first notification) is not a lot of time to figure out what happened, try to find the suspect, and compose a response that tells everyone what happened. There has also been talk of how other schools can prepare for similar situations. While this, too, is a natural response - we all want our children safe - we cannot possibly prepare for the various permutations of a mind that has gone awry. We cannot prepare for every possible disaster. What we can do is realize that whatever gets thrown our way, we will find the best way to cope while we are in it. We are remarkable in our adaptability and ingenuity.

My condolences to those touched by this incredible tragedy.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Getting the Message

Before going on and on wondering what the term "business model" meant, I should have done my homework. I found the term defined on Wikipedia. Turns out that, even though the term was coined in the 1950s, it didn't see widespread use until the 1990s, so I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself for not knowing it. It refers to all the how-tos and where-fors and why-ofs and what-ifs of business, not the general notion of selling products and services for a profit. By dropping that post, which, despite its length, I wrote in about fifteen minutes, I did learn one thing: Economists don't read this blog!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, April 15, 2007


New Business Model

People keep saying that a new business model is coming. (Chris Anderson of The Long Tail, Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams of Wikinomics, and others.) When they say this, they are referring to changes brought on by technology and the internet. I keep trying to figure out what they are expecting will happen. What will this new business model look like? What is meant by the term "business model?" I'm no economist, obviously, or I'd probably not question the term "business model." I'd just carry around the definition that some economics professor had crammed down my throat in college.

To figure something out, I like to break it down to its essence. In business, a company sells products or services. Products, at their core, are natural resources - physical stuff like food, minerals, wood, human-made things, etc. When you buy a service, on the other hand, you are buying something intangible, albeit no less real. You're buying time (like when a maid comes and cleans your house, so you don't have to), expertise (like the computer tech who fixes your hard drive after it decides not to work), entertainment (music, movies), knowledge, and attention (you buy attention when you engage the services of an advertiser).

Back when we were a nomadic society, and even in the earliest days of agrarian culture, we "bought" things through barter. "I'll give you ten chickens for that rug." This wasn't always a convenient way to conduct business. What if the rug maker wants a pig, but all you have is chickens? Then, the bright idea of currency dawned. Money became the stand-in for anything of value. (Realize that an entire society has to buy in to this idea for it to work. If someone decides that a currency isn't worth anything, he isn't going to give you a rug for a bunch of coins.) Today, after the New Age movement, many of us think of money as a symbol of energy - the energy it takes to produce something, or the time spent earning that money.

In my estimation, this is the ultimate definition of the term "business model," which is why I'm confused when people talk about a new business model being on the horizon. The fact that we have hierarchical organizations or sole proprietorships, whether we sell in a physical location or online, whether someone works in a factory, a cubicle, or from home, or all the permutations a business can take in selling products and services, these are merely frills to the underlying scheme. Sell your goods and services and make as much money out of the deal as you can. In order to get back more than you give (profit!), you have to convince the buyer that your goods and services are worth more, or you have to cut your costs in providing that good or service.

The sources that indicate there is to be a new business model point to the internet as the source of that model. They talk about the reduction in cost of holding inventory. If the goods we buy can be held in a warehouse, or better yet, held as bits and bytes of digital data, which costs virtually nothing, the seller can make more money. Yay for the seller! But this is still no different from the basic premise of doing business. We've just learned how to bring costs down to practically zero.

The other area in which I see talk of a new business model is in the music industry. Here, people are saying that the music itself will no longer be the product. Musicians will make money through peripherals, selling concert tickets and merchandise. Honestly, how long in the history of human beings on earth have musicians actually made money on the music itself? Before the advent of recorded music and copyright laws, musicians likely made their money on the performances, so we're coming full-circle.

Even stripping it all down, the idea of the "business model" still confuses me. Is it the basis of business, or does it include the frills of how that business is conducted? I wish some bright economist could explain this to me. Then maybe I could begin to see what people mean when they start jabbering about a NEW business model.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Lighting Effects

We were out and about today. Visited nature, then went to a pow-wow. The pow-wow was a fiber artist's dream. The outfits worn by the American Indians in attendance were spectacular, full of movement and color and sound. Stunning, and no two were alike.

While I didn't take any pictures at the pow-wow, I did capture a particularly nice photo of a sumac silhouetted against a lovely blue sky with white clouds. See for yourself:

I'm quite fond of interesting lighting effects in photos. Here's sunlight streaming through a glass on our kitchen counter:

Okay, so this last one was probably just an excuse to post another picture, but I really do like how the light shows the transparency of the glass.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, April 13, 2007


Tag - You're It!

After Pi left a comment on my blog, I cruised on over to his blog to check it out. Interesting commentary there. I found a post on tagging, which got me to thinking about my philosophy of tagging. When I tag my blog posts, I do it first for myself. Tagging the most obvious subject of a post is easy. It's the secondary and successively smaller topics that I mention that I'm never quite sure of. Working in a museum doesn't make this any easier. In fact, it makes it harder because when you look at an artifact or document, you automatically start cross-referencing it with the other subjects people might be looking for. An example: You have a photo of a train next to a depot. Do you file it under train, or depot? What about all those people in the picture? How about that water tower or bridge in the background? See? It gets complicated. Filing copies of the same photo under all of those topics gets to be excessive. We only have so much space. We really can't be taking it all up with 50 copies of the same photo. Same as with tagging. Once I tag the obvious topic, I tag the other sorts of things that I'm interested in following - husband, children, writing, creativity, blah, blah, blah. The one thing I won't do is tag for a topic that is not included in the post. Believe it or not, some bloggers do this in order to get attention for their sites.

As an aside: Did you know that tagging developed from metatags? (I think I learned this on Pi's website.) Metatags are built into the hidden part of website code and they allow search engines to find your website by topic. Good metatags are critical for raising your ranking on search engines, which is why there are people and companies that'll play fast and loose with both metatags and tags.

Another aside: Neil Gaiman is known for his unusual tags. Check out his tag cloud. (Tag clouds are just the coolest thing ever!)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 11, 2007



I love watching what my kids discover in the way of music. They've happened upon a Lebanese-born singer named Mika lately, who, if he can manage to cross over the big blue waves, should make it big here in America. I see from his Wikipedia profile that he was born August 18, 1983. That makes him a Leo. He definitely has the dramatic flair of a Leo. My daughter says he reminds her of Freddy Mercury. He's got a five-octave range. Here's his song/video "Grace Kelly."

April 13, 2007 - Addendum: How could I forget to tag Freddy Mercury? What am I thinking? All fixed.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Milk Transfer Station - Pouf!

When I was driving home from work today, I was surprised by an emptiness I didn't expect to see. The milk transfer station, a smallish white building used to hold milk between deliveries located on the northwest corner of our block, was gone - pouf! It was there yesterday. Not so today. There was a bulldozer on the lot, along with a tiny pile of garbage. Strange thing was that the station sat up on a high cement block platform. That's gone too. Now, I can see straight through from my upstairs hall window to a metal shed in the next street. It's a metal shed I rather like, not that the milk transfer station was an eyesore, I just like the metal shed better. Isn't it strange how quickly something that seems so permanent can disappear?

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Frustration Overwhelm

Normally, I don't blog about work, but that's what's on my mind tonight. You see, I'm attempting something new with the website using cPanel and Fantastico and I couldn't figure out what the fudge I was doing. I hate when I can't figure out what I'm doing. It leaves me crying in frustration - really crying. You gentlemen out there reading this will prefer swearing instead. For me, frustration overwhelm causes crying - major league bawling. You'd have thought I just lost a cherished pet or something. Nope. Just mad as all get-out that I can't figure something out. And, of course, I'm not willing to walk away and cool down. I've got to solve the problem NOW! So, I came home and did some internet searching to see if I could find the answer. I emailed a bunch of links to work, hoping one of them will have an answer. In the process, I got so engrossed that I burned a pizza - charred that baby so crispy that it could be a piece of performance art. Luckily, I have a super-sensitive nose and, after about an hour's worth of baking, the thing finally started to smell burnt and I realized that I had forgotten it. When it rains, it pours. Sheesh!

P.S. If any of you can walk me through loading WordPress properly using cPanel and Fantastico, I'd appreciate it. I'm part way through the process, but don't know what to do next to get it to do what I want. Thanks.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, April 09, 2007


Looking for White Space

I read an article in Discover Magazine yesterday (it's the May 2007 issue, can't find the article online yet) that discussed the search for dark matter in the Tower-Soudan mine in northern Minnesota. The article detailed the difficulty of finding dark matter because dark matter particles (called WIMPs - can't remember what that stands for, exactly) are supposed to be massive (that's the "M" in WIMPs), bigger than particles of matter. For all of the trouble researchers are going to (and it's a LOT of trouble according to the article), the thought occurs that they are attempting to catch the white space on a page of text. It's the thing that holds all the text together in a unified way. Well, dark matter is the thing that holds all matter together in a unified way. At least that's how I understand it. I'm not a physicist. In college art class, we had an assignment to draw the space surrounding our subject, which leads to quite an accurate portrait of that subject. Instead of attempting to catch a particle of dark matter, perhaps researchers could draw it out in a manner that mimics what we did in art class.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Reestablishing Boundaries

Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users is down, but not out after receiving death threats on her blog. Now, she's soliciting advice about how to handle the situation. The matter seems to be one of reestablishing boundaries. Those on the path to fame have to take stock and figure this out at some point. It's the price that has to be paid for renown because the famous lose the boundary of anonymity. Think about the barriers celebrities place around themselves. Unlisted phone numbers; unlisted addresses; a big house, preferrably in a secluded location (space makes a good barrier); agents & managers; fan clubs; moving out of the country of fame. If they have websites, they either don't have email enabled (U2 and Moby are examples), or they don't answer it (DMB). If they have blogs, they do not enable comments (Seth Godin, Neil Gaiman). See? There are ways to draw lines in the sand and say, "You've got part of me, but you can't have all of me." And that's eggzactly as it should be.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 07, 2007


More on Favorite Books

My post on favorite books, based on an MPR program, had two takers. Kim at Knit Whimsies and Joanne at Poppy Seed Heart both posted about their favorite literature. Kim did it with a twist, choosing to highlight her favorite authors. Joanne gave a nice summary of why each book was her favorite. This is a difficult little exercise. While my list is pretty firm - only two are ones that I could switch out for something else (My Lord Bag of Rice and Fahrenheit 451), the rest are definite - I have many other favorite writers. (Just figure that I pretty much enjoy all the other works of the writers on the first list.) I decided that my other favorite writers should get their due as well, so here goes:

Michael Crichton - The guy really knows how to tell a story, always with a scientific bent, which I really like.

Edgar Allan Poe - The original master of horror. My absolute favorite of his is the poem "The Raven." Nothing beats reading this aloud.

J.K. Rowling - Imaginative, able to write about a gazillion characters and somehow readers manage to keep them all straight. I've only read books 1-4, so I have some catching up to do.

Amulya Malladi - I have loved both of the books I've read of hers - "The Mango Season" and "Serving Crazy with Curry." I think perhaps I've been reincarnated from India. I have always had an affinity for the country. Maybe it's just because I read and loved Frances Hodgson Burnett's books as a kid ("The Secret Garden" and "A Little Princess").

Stephen King - For as prolific as this guy is, I've only read two of his books - "On Writing" and "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon." Both are fabulous. I shy away from his horror because I'm not a horror fan, except for Poe, of course.

Margaret Atwood - She's an excellent writer, and she's here for that reason. The endings of her stories are dark and leave me very unsettled, which is why they didn't make my very best list.

Kate DiCamillo - "Because of Winn Dixie" and "The Tale of Despereaux" are simply wonderful children's stories. They hooked me.

Growing up, I was a huge mystery reader. Agatha Christie, the Nancy Drew series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Alfred Hitchcock's compilations of short stories were the thing. I'm a big fan of Dr. Seuss, but more so as an adult than I was as a kid. My all-time favorite children's book was a Little Golden Book called "The Saggy Baggy Elephant." One-two-three, kick! One-two-three, kick! He danced through the forest, and then someone made fun of him and he hid in a cave. Eventually, he is told by other elephants that he is beautiful and he is happy again.

This list and my previous one barely scratch the surface of all the reading I've done in my life. There's nothing in here that's nonfiction, for one. My other problem is that I've read many marvelous books over the years, but they don't stick with me. In order to keep track (which helped me with today's post), I've been recording the books I read in a small notebook since 2003. It's annotated, which jogs my memory. It also shows me that I've spent a lot of time reading. Yeah!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, April 06, 2007


Leaving Passwords to Heirs

If you inhabit the online world, you've probably accumulated a few user names and passwords to your various accounts - email, blogs, news aggregators, online stores, etc. We've all been told not to leave these things laying around, make sure they're secure. So, what happens to these things when you die? I have a gmail account in which I keep quite a bit of past personal correspondence. That's a personal archive, akin to written letters of the past. If I were to keep my user name and password to myself, this personal correspondence would be lost when I die. My suggestion? Keep your user names and passwords secure, of course, but come up with a way to give this information to your heirs upon your death. Be sure to choose someone you trust. After all, Google's not going to be providing anyone with paper copies of their emails any time soon.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Who Killed the Electric Car?

We just finished watching Who Killed the Electric Car?. My thought: I hope GM goes bankrupt from its utter stupidity. If you've seen the movie and care anything about electric cars, you'll know what I mean.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Favorite Books

This morning on MPR's Midmorning program, there was a discussion about who various writers would include in their top ten greatest literary works of all time. J. Peder Zane has compiled a book called "The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books." According to the conversation, when writers were approached to pick their top ten, they were first asked to define what made a great literary work. One of the guests said that a work was great to him if it was something he himself couldn't write, but wished to. That's a pretty good definition. Someone else said that a great book was one that really struck you at exactly the right time in your life, something formative. I'd also say unforgettable, or something that makes you think in ways you hadn't before. Of course, when listening to such a discussion, the mind wanders to what you might pick for your top ten. And you know very well that I'm going to have to share my top ten. Most of these books came immediately to mind, a couple I had to really think about. These are not in any particular order.

Shop Girl by Steve Martin
My Lord Bag of Rice by Carol Bly
Anne of Green Gables (the first in the series) by L. M. Montgomery
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Lamb by Christopher Moore
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Charley by Joan Robinson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

That's my top ten, and most of them will remain on my list for a long time because I read a bunch of them when I was a kid and they've stuck with me all this time. So, what books would you include in your top ten?

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Keeping Occupied

My boys got a little bored with the rain this weekend and decided on an interesting project to keep them occupied.

The eldest painted the youngest. The armor, made entirely of cardboard by the eldest, was a previous project. The whole arrangement works well in that the eldest likes to design costumes and the youngest likes to dress up in them.

P.S. In case you hadn't noticed, I finally figured out how to post pictures. I'm thrilled no end.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Freak Storm, Freaked Robins

We got a freak Minnesota snowstorm today. Well, it isn't actually that freaky for Minnesota, but once it's reached April and we've lost our snow and had sixty degree days, it throws a loop in the schedule. I had to clean off the car twice this morning it was accumulating so quickly. The consistency is slop with a veneer of white. The robins have returned from wherever it is they go in the winter and the poor things were trying to figure out how to deal with the sudden snow. As I was driving, I'd come along groups of them huddled in tire gulleys in the road. I had to get really close to them before they were willing to move. I bet they're thinking they should've waited a couple more weeks before coming back from vacation.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, April 02, 2007


A Sock

I'm half-way to my goal of knitting a pair of socks. About a month ago, I finished one. The pattern called for a super bulky yarn, which I had on hand, but only size 6 needles, which didn't quite jive with super bulky yarn. I went at it with the yarn and required needles and ended up with one bulky, stiff sock. It has a harsh seam on the heel that will make for some uncomfortable walking. Now, I'm trying to decide whether to make another sock of the same yarn, or start over with something a little less bulky. Here's my attempt:

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Stuck, Yuck!

I'm working on a new short story. The first page or so came tumbling out last week. Now that I've had a break, I'm finding it hard to get going again. This morning, I sat down to figure out how to continue and suffered writer's block. I started and stopped and started again. It would have been much easier to read a book than to keep going, but keep going I did. When I get stuck in my writing, I tend to work myself out by writing with paper and pen, rather than on the computer. In this case, I had to rewrite the sentence I was continuing from several times and add on several continuations of the story. After struggling with it for a while, I think I finally got it the way I want it. Whew!

Labels: , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?