Saturday, April 30, 2005

Fiction: Mall of Mâvarin, Part Seven

I realized last week that this serial is a total spoiler with respect to both books.  Oh, well--too late to worry about that now!

The story so far:

Part One:  Cathy and Carl Salazar are on their way to high school in Dewitt, NY when their uncle and guardian, Jamie Barrett, suddenly starts behaving strangely.  After referring to the twins by odd names and promising to pick them up later in the carriage, Uncle Jamie looks confused--but denies that there's anything wrong.

Part Two:  Cathy and Carl tell their friend Randy about their Uncle Jamie's words.  Randy seems to know (or at least suspect) something about it, but delays telling them what it is.  When Cathy mentions that Randy rolled the r in the word "trrust," Randy looks frightened and rushes off.

Part Three:  Cathy notices that some of her teachers are also behaving strangely.  Even she experiences odd thoughts and memories as the day wears on.  At lunch, Randy tells Cathy and Carl that the impressions of another life that people are receiving are tied in with dreams he's had about a country called Mâvarin, in which Cathy and Carl are Queen Cathma and King Carli.  Randy has begun writing down the dreams in story form. Randy's main worry is that in the dreams, he's a monster. Carl suddenly remembers what kind of monster Rani Fost is in Mâvarin: a tengrem.

Part Four: Carl starts to remember a life in Mâvarin, and Cathy soon realizes that the same is happening to her.  Randy, who hasn't confided in anyone else but Mr. Stockwell, the psychology teacher, is deeply worried that he is turning into a tengrem.  Cathy and Randy hope to discuss the situation further with Mr. Stockwell, but the teacher is absent. However, he has left a note for Randy that implies that Mr. Stockwell also remembers another life--as Fayubi the Seer, Mâvarin's royal mage.  Carl insists that Randy should come along to Shoppingtown Mall with the twins after school.

Part Five: Cathy, Carl, Randy and Uncle Jami are increasingly overwhelemed by memories of Mâvarin as they approach Shoppingtown.  Inside they meet Fabian Stockwell, who tells them that that the source of the influx of otherworld memories (and spirits of their other selves?) is somewhere in the mall.  Randy may hold the key to restoring their identities--but Randy has gone feral, his tengrem instincts aroused by the sight of rabbits in a pet shop.

Part Six:  Carl tries to talk to Randy while Fabian rushes off to find something that will help Randy think like a human. Ultimately, however, it is the arrival of Randy's creative writing teacher that distracts him from his hunting instincts.  In this world she is Sheila Crouse, but in Mâvarin she is Rani's former mentor, Shela Cados. Fabian returns from J.C. Penney with a necklace that he claims will help Randy to think like a human.  They all go upstairs, followed by other mall-goers, where they find a miniature castle.  In front of it sits a man with a book, half-surrounded by police and mall security guards.  Cathy approaches the man with the book, and asks whether he's responsible for "all this."

Part Seven: The Man With the Book

“That’s hard to say,” the man replied.  “Why don’t you tell me what you mean by ‘all this.’”

“Don’t trust him, Your Majesty,” said the older policeman, who came striding over with Fabian and Sheila.  “He’s a mage,  and not at all forthcoming with information.  I’d arrest him if I thought it would help.”

The man with the book looked surprised to hear the words “Your Majesty,” and annoyed with the description of himself.  “On the contrary,” he said.  “I’ll be happy to provide what answers I can, if you’ll just give me a little time to work out what they are.”

“See what I mean?” said the policeman.  “He’s stalling.”

Cathy looked more closely at the policeman.  It seemed odd to see him wearing a cotton uniform instead of one of silk.  “Wil?  Is that you?” she asked.

The man who looked like Commander Wil Masan grimaced.  “That’s the question, isn’t it?  Maybe this guy knows the answer, but I don’t.”

Cathy turned back to the man with the book.  “Please tell us what you do know about this.  Maybe we can work out the rest from there.”

The alleged mage sighed.  “Look, ‘Your Majesty,’ I still don’t know what you’re talking about.  I don’t know who you people are, or what you think I’ve done, but I’m having my own problems here.  All I did was follow Toujours Chez Moi between worlds, only to discover that my castle was miniaturized, and most of my magic was gone.”

“What world were you in before this one?” Randy asked.

“I don’t know that it had a particular name, other than ‘the world’ or Earth,” the man said.  “Most of them don’t.  The country was called Mâvarin.”

Fabian waggled his eyebrows at the man. “You came here through a portal from Mâvarin?”

The man shook his head.  “Not through a portal.  I’m my own portal.  Usually I’m drawn between worlds involuntarily, and my home follows after.  This time Toujours Chez Moi disappeared on its own, and I tried to catch up with it.  Clearly, though, something’s gone wrong somewhere.  I don’t live in a pint-size castle.”

“But who are you?” Carl asked.  “You still haven’t said.”

Art by Sherlock“Oh!  Sorry, but you didn’t ask until just now.  I’m called Joshua Wander.  Josh for short.  Pardon my impertinence, but who are you people?  You don’t look like royalty, and this is hardly the setting for people called ‘Your Majesty.’”

“That’s true,” Cathy said. “If this were Mâvarin, we wouldn’t be dressed as high school students, which is all my brother and I are in this world.  But all day we’ve  been remembering another world, in which we’re the king and queen of Mâvarin.”

“Really!” said Joshua Wander.  “That’s very interesting.  I suppose that explains your acceptance of the concept of alternate realities.”

“Are you saying you had nothing to do with what’s happening to us?” Carl asked.

Josh shrugged.  “I wouldn’t go that far, but I certainly didn’t do anything to you deliberately.  I’ve traveled between worlds at least a hundred times over the past several decades, and nothing like this has ever happened before.  Well, except for the first time, and that was a special case.”

“What happened then?” Randy asked.

Josh grimaced.  “I was inhabited by the spirit of the woman I loved, who had just died,” he said.  Fabian looked startled.  “Not the same thing at all, really,” Josh continued sadly.

“So you have no idea how this happened,” said Carl.

“The only thing I can think of is that there’s something about these two particular worlds that makes them vulnerable to bleed-through from other realities.  Either that, or there’s something in the spell I used that I don’t know about.  As I said, I usually travel between worlds involuntarily.”

“May I see the spell you used?” Fabian asked.

Josh looked surprised.  “Whatever for?  That’s nothing you can learn from it. It’s in an unknown language that resists translation.”

“Nevertheless, I’d like to try,” Fabian said.

“Has your transformation progressed so far, Fabian, that you have the requisite knowledge?” Sheila Crouse asked.

“I believe so,” Fabian said.  “I have been in this mall longer than the rest of you, soaking up my other self.”

Joshua Wander handed over the leather book.  “All right, but be careful with it.  A friend of mine wrote it out for me, many years ago.  I still don’t understand it all, but losing it would be a major inconvenience.”  He pointed out a particular page, marked with a Pavone’s Pizza napkin.  “This is the spell, here. It’s sort of a multidimensional ‘find’ spell.”

Fabian looked at the page and nodded.  “You’re right,” he said thoughtfully.  “That’s exactly what it is.”

Part One  Part Two  Part Three  Part Four  Part Five  Part Six

Welcome to Mâvarin (info on the books and characters)

Joshua Wander and other past fiction (use sidebar to get to the individual installments)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Teresa's Light Touch, and Journals That Are Live

Weekend Assignment #57: Share some of your favorite Journals, Blogs and Web sites not on AOL Journals. Come on, we know you go off the school grounds from time to time. Tell us where you go. 'Cause we want to go, too. Even just one pick is fine (no more than five, though. Pick the best to share). Also, just in case this was a temptation, my site off AOL should not be one of your selections.

Extra credit: Find a link you think your mother might like. What is it?

As I mentioned just last night, I haven't anywhere near enough time these days to read more than a fraction of the interesting blogs out there, let alone other web sites.  But I do try to look in on the following:

1. Making Light.  I've mentioned this before--in this journal, in my other blogs, and on NPR's Talk of the Nation.  Science fiction and fantasy fans, aspiring writers, scientists and the politically astute (read: non-Republicans) hang out on this tremendously interesting blog, run by Tor editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden.  Topics range from Tolkien to topography, from knitting to narcolepsy, but the emphasis is on writing and language.  It's sharp and astute and often very funny.  Reading Teresa's postings and then the many comments that inevitably follow is a bit like sitting at the Algonquin Round Table in Dorothy Parker's day--if Parker and Benchley and the rest had been science fiction writers.

Atlanta Nights is a hoot!
The other journals I'll feature tonight are all on my "What My Friends Are Writing" page in LiveJournal, because they're all hosted by LJ. 

2. Within the Qelenhn is a LiveJournal by my friend Sara.  She writes about how her writing is coming along, and about her cats, and rpgs.  But mostly, lately, she's posting a fun, interactive serial.  Every week, a thief named Louie or a guard named Gus or a king whose name I've forgotten has more wacky adventures, and we get to vote on what happens next.  It's wild and funny and imaginative, and I like it a lot.

the latest installment

3. Apple Bonkers' Journal is a LiveJournal by my other friend Sarah.  (Note the spelling.)  She just posted the following:

Ten Things That Might Be True About Karen
(I figured I better write this before the HG movie came out, because she wanted me to say something about it in it. I'm asking her to predict the future in the case of that item, which I realize isn't entirely fair. But I'm going to do it anyway)

1. Karen will see the HG movie more than once, even if she hates it.

2. Karen had a blue bicycle with a banana seat as a child.

3. Karen is a coffee person (as opposed to a tea person).

4. Karen once learned how to play "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" on guitar.

5. Karen has had, over her lifetime, a total of six dogs.

6. Karen has had a letter to the editor published in a newspaper.

7. Karen can go to a movie without getting soda and popcorn.

8. Karen has built at least one snow non-man in her lifetime (in other words, a snow animal, a snow alien, a snow vacuum cleaner, etc.)

9. Karen and John seldom eat dinner together on a weekday, but do so almost all the time on weekends.

10. Karen has a cactus plant in a pot in her home or her office.

I think I probably got quite a bit of this completely wrong. I'm sure on did worse on Karen than she did on me. It was fun anyway, though.

My responses:

1. In the theater?  Not if I hate it, no.  If I like it, probably.  And I'll buy it on DVD regardless.  The producer(?) of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie was on NPR's Talk of the Nation today, and I'm currently feeling quite hopeful that the movie will be good. 

Incidentally, I met both Sara and Sarah on the HG message boards on Prodigy in the early 1990s, when they were quite young and I was, um, less old.  Sara was called Cricket Ball, and Sarah was Lordy the Cat.  Other people called themselves Arthur Dent and the Dolphins and the Voice of the Book and Zaphod Beeblebrox and Prostechnic Vogon Jeltz and...well, you get the idea, unless of course you've never read the work of Douglas Adams, in which case I pity you.  I changed my "handle" with every posting on the HG boards in order to remain, like the Universe, bizarrely inexplicable.

2.  Nope.  It was a pink Ross one-speed with 26" balloon tires and a bicycle seat-shaped seat.  When I was seven (1964), the only banana seat bikes I knew about were Schwinn Stingrays, which were ridden mostly by young boys.

3.  Completely wrong.  I hate coffee.  Hate, hate, hate.  I won't even eat or drink coffee-flavored or mocha-flavored anything.  That said, I'm not really big on tea, either.  I'll drink Constant Comment, or something fruity, or cinnamon tea or mint tea, but I prefer diet soda, preferably a non-cola variety.

4.  Nope.  The big songs I learned on the guitar were Blowin' in the Wind (source of Frankie and Benji Mouse's fake Ultimate Question) and Geordie, the latter of which I sang in a talent show once. No, it wasn't about the engineer on the Enterprise D.

5.  Three dogs:  Jenny, Noodle and Tuffy.  Oh, wait.  Four:  Wafer (Wayfarer), a lab puppy, was in residence at my tiny apartment for about a month in 1979.  I got a late start on dog ownership because my dad is very allergic.  I'm a little allergic myself, but determined to have dogs anyway.

6.  At least one.  I think I got some patriotic pap published in the Syracuse Herald Journal circa 1967.  I may have had another one published in high school, but I don't remember.

7.  I think I've gone without soda at a movie theater about once.  John would be very angry these days if I bought popcorn when we went to a movie together (which is almost every time I see a movie in a theater at all).  So yes, I'm capable of doing without--but I don't like it.

8.  I don't recall a case of this, unless you count the igloo attempt in 1966.  There haven't been opportunities to make snow anythings in AZ.

9.  We eat dinner together when we go out to eat, which  happens more often on weekends.  Other times, we may eat the same food, but not necessarily, and maybe not in the same room at the same time.  I hate to cook, and John's not fond of doing it, either.

10.  John thinks we have one somewhere, "a little barrel cactus."  It's probably outside.  If we ever get this yard landscaped, we may put in some kind of cactus somewhere, most likely prickly pear.  But I'll leave that up to John.

I've done the "10 Things" challenge at least once already, but I'll do it again if anyone wants to volunteer to be speculated about.

Sarah needs to post more often.  She writes about acting and music and animals and British humor and politics and travel, and it's all interesting stuff.  But, you know, she has a Life, and doesn't always have time to blog.

I could easily write about and recommend two other LJs that appear on my Friends page, but I'll just mention them--Shelly's Write Stuff and Julie's Oh My! She's At It Again!  Just take a look--they're two more of my writerly online friends, both with interesting things to say.

Extra Credit:  If my mom were still alive and still capable of navigating online, she'd probably be interested in the Alzheimer's Association web site and other health-related sites.  That was her primary interest online, other than senior and political chat rooms.  Although my mom's memory loss was most likely due to strokes and depression, she was quite worried that Alzheimer's was also in the mix. As a retired psychologist, she probably would have cared about the subject even if she were unaffected herself.  Me, I'm hoping desperately that the current research will bear fruit by the time I hit my 60s, and that I'll start taking better care of myself in time to lower my risk of serious memory loss.


P.S. Helpful hint:  Ihave links to nearly a dozen other great non-AOL blogs on my sidebar--not  counting my own.

Accounting for My Time

Barnes & Noble, 4/26/05, 10:30 PM Okay, I admit it.  It was a mistake.  I shouldn't have slacked off from early February through mid-April.  During that time I was incredibly busy, going through the graduation ceremony, participating in Holy Week liturgies and activities, learning to use my new camera, writing two serials and editing Heirs of Mâvarin, setting up my new laptop, dealing with the aftermath of my car accident, interviewing with a recruiter and an accounting firm, shopping with (and without) my husband, sorting papers, doing the taxes, working full time and blogging, blogging, blogging.  But in all that time, I did virtually no studying for the CPA exam, and let my accounting education get stale in my head.  Shame on me.

I had hoped to get a lot done during that down time.  I wanted to take three weeks or so and do some serious editing on both novels, so that the first could be submitted somewhere and the second could be at least almost ready to go out.  I wanted to diet and clean and also relax a little, catch up on my sleep and even read a few books.  That mostly didn't happen, either.

Where did the time go?  I haven't used BlogExplosion or BlogClicker in many weeks, and read very few journal entries except via AOL Alerts and my LiveJournal Friends page.  I've made progress on the cleaning, but not that much progress.  I've entered perhaps a chapter's worth of edits to the novel documents, and made changes by hand to about four chapters of my  Heirs printout.  Yes, okay, I've spent a fair amount of time at church, and taking pictures, and probably too much time blogging.  But is this all I have time for?  A day at the office, one blog entry a night, take a bath and suddenly it's 3 AM?

I have to do better than this.  I haven't spend the $800+ on CPA exam review software, but I've started going through the review books I bought, making the trek to Barnes & Noble nearly every night because I know darn well I won't get any studying done in this house.  Tonight I read in one of the books that I should put in 20 hours a week studying for 20 weeks if I want to pass the whole exam.  That's not taking into account that I won't take all four parts of the exam in  July (I've already blown May as a reasonable test date), but clearly, time's a wastin'. 

It's discouraging how very not-ready I am, how much I've forgotten since my last accounting course ended in September. I abandoned a diagnostic pre-test tonight after an hour or so because I felt so rusty on nearly every question that taking it at all seemed pointless.  So instead I started reading the conceptual framework chapter of the FAR review book.  At least that stuff seemed fairly familiar--economic entity assumption, historical cost principle, assets equals liabilities plus owner's equity.  But it's a long way from that ACC 362 stuff to something like this:

Barnes & Noble, 4/26/05, 10:30 PMPark Co. uses the equity method to account for its January 1, 20X2, purchase of Tun, Inc.'s common stock.  On January 1, 20X2, the fair values of Tun's FIFO inventory and land exceeded their carrying amounts.  How do these excesses of fair values over carrying amounts affect Park's reported equity in Tun's 20X2 earnings?
--Bisk, CPA Ready Comprehensive CPA Exam Review: Financial Accounting & Reporting, 34th Edition, 2005-2006)

Tomorrow I have an interview with a different recruiter from the one that's been mostly ignoring me (or maybe I haven't been attentive enough to her).  I've been a little discouraged this week, because I forgot to send a thank you for last week's interview and I haven't heard back from the firm.  Also, John announced on Monday that two other temp editors brought in after he was had been let go, which made his own temp-to-hire position seem more precarious.  But John is still expected to be hired at the end of his contract, and this other recruiter sounds so positive and enthusiastic on the phone that I will probably feel much better by the time I leave her office tomorrow.

Meanwhile I went to Dillard's and bought a couple of tops that should be professional enough to wear to interviews, cool enough that I won't roast as I did last week wearing a navy jacket in 92 degree weather.  I should take a picture, huh?  Well, maybe in the morning.

But if my journal entries get less ambitious for a while in length and scope, I hope you'll understand.  I need to learn to be more concise, anyway.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Souvenirs for Every Budget

I mentioned last night that not all Arizona souvenirs are cheap or tacky.  You can spend as little at $2 on a fake cactus, or thousands of dollars on a piece of Hopi or Navajo art.  Here are just some of your options:

Walgreen's Arizona decor

First off, here's some slightly more upscale Arizona decor from Walgreen's.  It's not authentic or expensive, but at least it's not as tasteless as a scorpion in Lucite. Incidentally, I think they must breed those scorpions for the purpose of putting them in Lucite.  The ones seen in the wild here aren't all that common, and tend to be much smaller than their preserved cousins.





Navajo sand painting

Navajo sand painting, budget version.  This is Navajo-made, but more or less mass-produced.  I only paid $5. A serious sand painting costs much more than that.  My friend, the late Dr. E., had a number of the medium size ones on his examining room walls.







kinetic objets d'art

Kinetic Arizona objets d'art at Dillard's, formerly Goldwater's.  Yes, that Goldwater.  I didn't price these, but it may be assumed that they're not inexpensive.  Most of the figures here (which rock back and forth) represent Hopi kachinas, but I'm guessing Pecos Bill (definitely not an Arizona icon) for the bull rider on the right.  The motorcyclist in the middle is traveling Route 66, which runs across the northern part of the state.  I think the stylized prickly pear cacti are made of copper, and after all this is the Copper State. This stuff may be kitsch, but it's very pretty kitsch.




Storyteller  it means, the bear went over the mountain.

Left:our Storyteller.  Technically, it was probably made in New Mexico. This kind of pottery was invented by Cochiti Pueblo artist Helen Cordero in 1964, based on an older tradition of clay figures and inspired by her storytelling grandfather.  Right: my Hopi ring.  I don't remember the artist's name, but he was quite old when I bought this in the late 1980s.  These are probably worth over $100 each, but they're not high end Indian arts. 

Linda's Koshare kachina

Linda's Koshare kachina.  Photo by Linda.  Koshare is technically more of a clown than a kachina per se.  They are often depicted eating or drinking, and generally having a good time.  A really good kachina by a respected artist can sell for over $1000.00.

Carly and Duane have both posted much leaner entries for this photo challenge, due to problems finding the right gimcracks on demand (and also because I have a strong tendency to overdo these challenges with too many words and pictures).  I hope they'll both revisit this subject later, but in the meantime, go see what they've come up with (if you haven't already).  Both journals are always well worth the visit.

And again, if you'd like to join in, feel free to post pictures of your local souvenirs, and leave me a link to the entry.  I'm anxious to see souvenirs of New Jersey!


Go to Walgreen's, Bring Arizona Home

This entry is part of a photo challenge with Carly and Duane, to post pictures of kitschy souvenirs from our respective locales.  I'm quite interested to see what souvenirs you walk past every week without buying, so feel free to post your own response to this photo challenge and leave a link.

As usual, I'm in overkill mode on this, so I'm going to do it in two entries.  Tonight will be souvenirs found at Walgreen's only.  Tomorrow we'll expand our horizons a little.

Most of this stuff requires minimal explanation, so I'll try to be less wordy than usual.

First I tried one of the newer Walgreen's locations.  They didn't have much.  Either it was all gone or in storage because tourist season is over, or the bulk of the tourista tschochkis were never stocked at this store. They did, however, have postcards, the obligatory cheap T-shirts, and rubber saguaro car antenna toppers.

putting a rubber saguaro on your car antenna is a fresh idea!  postcards, candy, or tabloids?

Left: saguaro antenna toppers.  Right:  Shall I buy the Enquirer, or some postcards with cacti on them?

Tonight I went to a much older Walgreen's, the one where the late Tracy Murray worked in 1990.  The Arizona souvenirs were mostly on clearance, or at least on "Manager's Choice."  Oh, yeah, that's the stuff: Kokopelli everything, chili pot holders, piggie banks, photo frames, live (or possibly fake) cacti for only $1.99, souvenir spoons, and best of all, real scorpions encased in Lucite!  You know you want one.  No?  Well, actually, me neither.

Souvenir of Walgreen's - It's Arizonapalooza!

Arizonapalooza at Walgreen's!

live cactus - cheap!

Anybody wanna buy a cactus, cheap?

Don't worry, they can't hurt you!

The classic tacky Arizona souvenir of all time - dead scorpions in plastic paperweights.

Tomorrow:  other classes of Arizona souvenirs.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Hubble: Whirlpool, Cat's Eye, Celestial Geode and More

The Monday Photo Shoot: Show off your favorite Hubble Space Telescope image. Tell us why you love it.

First off, a recently-featured one.  Probably everyone will use it, but I like it so much that I'll post it anyway:

Out of This Whirl: the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) and Companion Galaxy

Out of This Whirl: the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) and Companion Galaxy "The graceful, winding arms of the majestic spiral galaxy M51 (NGC 5194) appear like a grand spiral staircase sweeping through space. They are actually long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust.

This sharpest-ever image of the Whirlpool Galaxy, taken in January 2005 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, illustrates a spiral galaxy's grand design, from its curving spiral arms, where young stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home of older stars. The galaxy is nicknamed the Whirlpool because of its swirling structure."

I like that it's shiny and delicate and violet.  It looks like fairy dust, or a giant space amoeba (or, more likely, a galaxy) reproducing itself with a light-filled touch.

Here's another one I couldn't bear to leave out, the Cat's Eye Nebula.  Are you sure this wasn't done with CGI?

Dying Star Creates Fantasy-like Sculpture of Gas and Dust








The rest of these are older.  I posted this photo last year as part of the AOL-J Anniversary "Starlight Cyberball." 

A Celestial Geode

Hubble photo of N44F

From NASA description: "In this unusual image, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures a rare view of the celestial equivalent of a geode -- a gas cavity carved by the stellar wind and intense ultraviolet radiation from a hot young star."

Why do I like this?  It could be anything--any of a number of phenomena that I don't understand but would like to know about. Most of all, it reminds me of "The Doomsday Machine," the late Dan Cheney's favorite Star Trek episode.


Hubble Identifies Source of Ultraviolet Light in an Old Galaxy

"As announced on October 26, 1999, NASA Hubble Space Telescope's exquisite resolution has allowed astronomers to resolve, for the first time, hot blue stars deep inside the small nearby elliptical galaxy M32. Images were obtained with the Space Telescope Imageing Spectrograph (STIS) of a small portion near the center of M32, about 1/20th the diameter of the galaxy. With this observation, Hubble discovered that the ultraviolet light comes from a population of extremely hot helium-burning stars. About 8000 of these late-stage stars were found near the core of the neighboring galaxy, "resembling a blizzard of snowflakes", as the Nasa release puts it."

I like this one because, well, it's so pretty! It's cheerful and inspirational. 


And finally, a before and after:

Quintuplet Cluster

(Hubble Space Telescope image PR99-30B 9/16/99)
"Penetrating 25,000 light-years of obscuring dust and myriad stars, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has provided the clearest view yet of one of the largest young clusters of stars insideour Milky Way galaxy, located less than 100 light-years from the very center  of the Galaxy."

This last one is superficially just a star field, but the colors and clusters of brightness make it especially pretty, almost magical.

When I posted this last year, I made it a background for something silly:


By the way, Hubble is in danger of being abandoned by NASA.  Save the Hubble!



No, this wasn't the actual name tagI was going to write another one of those sermon thingies for which I'm absolutely not qualified, but I don't wanna.  So here instead is a brief riff on names and naming.

Today was "Naming Sunday" at St. Michael's.  No, I've never heard of it, either, and neither has Google.  But most of us put on name tag stickers anyway.  The church bulletin even had the Cheers theme lyrics reprinted in it.  Uh, no.  That part was not the best idea ever.

In his sermon, Father Douglas talked about names having power, and how he'd made a difference in some kid's life just by learning his name.  He even talked about Merry and Pippin's introduction to Treebeard, and the discussion they had with the Ent about their respective names.  And of course, the really important name in the sermon was the one that starts with a J and ends with an s, in whose name prayers are answered.

As for me, though, my mind was off on a slightly different track for Naming Sunday.  That "names have power" stuff reminded me of Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea, where a mage's "true name" is a deep secret, lest another wizard gain power over him.  That's the basis of Christopher Stein calling himself Joshua Wander in my stories.  And in my Mâvarin books, newly-promoted mage adepts add a syllable of a sponsor's name to their own names, and in so doing, incorporate a small part of the sponsor himself (or herself) into their own personalities.  At Darma's Renaming to Darsuma, she takes on a lot more than that, setting in motion the events of Mages of Mâvarin.

But the magical links between magicians and their names are not the only fictional treatment of the power of names.  In Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door (the first sequel to A Wrinkle in Time), to be Named is an act of love.  In the book, you have to know someone to Name him or her, enough to recognize and appreciate the person's unique qualities.  name tags on the ushers' cabinetEven awful Mr. Jenkins becomes lovable when Meg finally understands him well enough to Name him, distinguishing him from his evil doppelgangers.  Arrayed against the power of Naming is the power of Unnaming. The Ecthroi, the Un-Namers, try to destroy by turning someone into no one, something into nothing.  But if you're Named, even if you're destroyed, you're not completely gone, because you're known, and loved.  You're Named.

And back at St. Michael's, Father Smith calls parishioners by name while handing out the Eucharist, or greeting people at the church door.  Nor is he the only one who does this.  It makes a difference. We're Named, and it means that someone cares.


“He counts the multitude of the stars, and calls them all by name.” - Psalm 147

"The true shepherd calls his own sheep by name..." John 10

"I Name you Echthroi. I Name you Meg.
I Name you Calvin.
I Name you Mr. Jenkins.
I Name you Proginoskes.
I fill you with Naming.
Be, butterfly and behemoth,
be galaxy and grasshopper,
star and sparrow,
you matter,
you are,
Be caterpillar and comet,
Be porcupine and planet,
sea sand and solar system,
sing with us,
dance with us,
rejoice with us,
for the glory of creation,
seagulls and seraphim
angle worms and angel host,
chrysanthemum and cherubim.
(O cherubim.)
Sing for the glory
of the living and the loving
the flaming of creation
sing with us
dance with us
be with us.
--Madeleine L'Engle, A Wind in the Door

Don't mind me.  I'm very tired, and this entry probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  See you tomorrow.


P.S. Thanks, Becky, for the proofread!  I'm still very tired....

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Fiction: Mall of Mâvarin, Part Six

I'm in danger of catching up with my handwritten draft here. I'd better get writing!

The story so far:

Part One:  Cathy and Carl Salazar are on their way to high school in Dewitt, NY when their uncle and guardian, Jamie Barrett, suddenly starts behaving strangely.  After referring to the twins by odd names and promising to pick them up later in the carriage, Uncle Jamie looks confused--but denies that there's anything wrong.

Part Two:  Cathy and Carl tell their friend Randy about their Uncle Jamie's words.  Randy seems to know (or at least suspect) something about it, but delays telling them what it is.  When Cathy mentions that Randy rolled the r in the word "trrust," Randy looks frightened and rushes off.

Art by SherlockPart Three:  Cathy notices that some of her teachers are also behaving strangely.  Even she experiences odd thoughts and memories as the day wears on.  At lunch, Randy tells Cathy and Carl that the impressions of another life that people are receiving are tied in with dreams he's had about a country called Mâvarin, in which Cathy and Carl are Queen Cathma and King Carli.  Randy has begun writing down the dreams in story form. Randy's main worry is that in the dreams, he's a monster. Carl suddenly remembers what kind of monster Rani Fost is in Mâvarin: a tengrem.

Part Four: Carl starts to remember a life in Mâvarin, and Cathy soon realizes that the same is happening to her.  Randy, who hasn't confided in anyone else but Mr. Stockwell, the psychology teacher, is deeply worried that he is turning into a tengrem.  Cathy and Randy hope to discuss the situation further with Mr. Stockwell, but the teacher is absent. However, he has left a note for Randy that implies that Mr. Stockwell also remembers another life--as Fayubi the Seer, Mâvarin's royal mage.  Carl insists that Randy should come along to Shoppingtown Mall with the twins after school.

Part Five: Cathy, Carl, Randy and Uncle Jami are increasingly overwhelemed by memories of Mâvarin as they approach Shoppingtown.  Inside they meet Fabian Stockwell, who tells them that that the source of the influx of otherworld memories (and spirits of their other selves?) is somewhere in the mall.  Randy may hold the key to restoring their identities--but Randy has gone feral, his tengrem instincts aroused by the sight of rabbits in a pet shop.

Part Six: Lost at the Mall

“Rrabbits,” Randy agreed.  He panted hungrily.

“Rats.  He’s gone,” Cathy said.  “Carli—I mean Carl—do you think you can get through to him?”

Carl grimaced.  “I’ll try,” he said.

“I’ll be right back,” Fabian said.  The schoolteacher-mage sprinted off toward Penney’s, of all places, leaving the others standing with the half-feral teenager.

“Randy, listen to me,” Carl said.  “Never mind the rabbits.  You don’t need them.”

“Hungrry,” Randy said.  “Food.”

“There’s better food than rabbits,” Carl said.  “Wouldn’t you rather have pizza?”

“No.  Rrabbit.  Chase.  Catch.  Fun.”

“You can’t catch a rabbit, Randy,” Cathy said.  “You’re human. You’re not fast enough.”

Randy just whimpered again.

“If this were fiction, I would call your friend’s condition an obvious metaphor for alienation and adolescent hormonal activity,” said a voice behind them.  Cathy turned.  Randy’s creative writing teacher stood there, professionally attired in a blue dress and yellow belt.  Despite Ms. Crouse’s dark hair and complexion, Cathy now recognized her as Shela Cados, the twins’ and Rani’s selmûn mentor.  “I would also find selmûn dialogue to be annoyingly stilted,” she added.  She did not smile at the self-criticism.

The teacher’s arrival served to distract Randy from his fascination with the rabbits. “Shela!” he said.  “How did you know to come here?”

“As I drove toward Syracuse after school,” the teacher explained, “I became aware that my otherworld memories and perceptions grew more intense in the vicinity of Shoppingtown.  It seemed reasonable to investigate.”

“Does that mean that if we got far enough away from here, we’d feel like Americans instead of Mâvarinû?” Jamie asked. 

“I suspect that it would merely retard our mental transformations, not reverse them,” said Sheila Crouse.  “It would not solve the underlying problem, or help other people who are affected by this.  Eventually, everyone on the planet who has a Mâvarinû counterpart might find it difficult to function in a technology-based culture.”

“That’s assuming we all forget how to Google and so on,” Carl said.

“That is not the only issue,” Sheila said.  “There is also the question of sanity.  These unlikely memories may threaten the mental health of some people, and cause the institutionalization of others, whether they need psychological treatment or not.”

“Speaking of which, here comes Fabian,” Carl said.  The psychology teacher could be seen hurrying back from wherever he’d just been.

“I doubt that a psychiatrist can solve my prroblem,” Randy said. “Much less a psych teacher.”

“You may be surprised,” Fabian said.  He was a little out of breath.  He held up a J.C. Penney shopping bag.  “I have something here that should help.”  He opened the bag and extracted a string of chunky white plastic beads.  “I know that this doesn’t look like much, but I bought it from Barry Ramirez.”

“Who is Barry Ramirez?” Cathy asked.

“He works in the jewelry and watch department at Penney’s. You know him as Barselti.”

Now that Fabian mentioned it, Cathy did remember Barselti.  He was Li Ramet’s brother, a transformation mage who also did some undercover work. 

Randy looked doubtfully at the necklace.  “And this is supposed to keep me from becoming a tengrem?  It’s not even made of real stones.”

“You’re not a real tengrem,” Fabian said.  “These beads are to keep you from thinking like one.”

Randy shrugged, and slipped the necklace over his head.  It disappeared beneath his Yellow Submarine T-shirt. He took a deep breath.  “We’ll see,” he said.  “I think…I think I feel a little better.”

“You sound better,” Carl said.  “What now?”

“We find the source of the problem, and we deal with it,” Cathy said.  The others all looked at her.  “Somehow,” she added.

“Well, as long as you have a specific plan,” Carl said.

“This way, I think,” Fabian said.

The mage-school teacher led them upstairs to the main floor of the mall.  Large numbers of people were going in the same direction, most of them without shopping bags in their hands.  Many of them appeared to be deliberately following Cathy and Carl.  Cathy thought she saw the Tilen brothers in the crowd, dressed in contrasting Hawaiian shirts, and Suri Pelch, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, looking around him in fear and wonder.  Cathy practiced her smile of royal assurance as she walked on.

The nexus of the mall was a small open area, where concession carts were seasonally pushed aside to make room for Santa Claus or Easter Bunny photo operations. Today the carts were displaced by something else entirely: a tiny blue castle, perhaps twenty feet high, like the central landmark of a miniature gold course.  A middle-aged man with dark, curly hair, wire rim glasses, a pointed hat and an outfit that was more Hogwarts than Mâvarin sat cross-legged in front of it, reading intently from a thick book with a brown leather binding. Half a dozen police officers stood nearby, in animated discussion with a man in a gray business suit. 

Cathy approached the man with the book, followed by Carl and Randy.  This drew the immediate attention of the police.  One of them reached out to prevent a younger officer from trying to deter Cathy from reaching the guy in the wizard outfit.

The man looked up from his book.

“Hello,” Cathy said.  “Are you responsible for all this?”

Part One  Part Two  Part Three  Part Four  Part Five

Welcome to Mâvarin (info on the books and characters)

Joshua Wander and other past fiction (use sidebar to get to the individual installments)

A Moment at a Light

 But where is Boardwalk?I almost got a great picture for you today.  There was what Douglas Adams would have called "an irrational squall." Suddenly the wind kicked up, there was a spray of rain, and hundreds of yellow palo verde blossoms blew horizontally in front of my car.  This was at a red light, right at the Wilmot entrance to Park Place, formerly Park Mall.  I grabbed the camera.  Immediately the wind died, the light changed, and the photo op was lost.  Drat!

Right at that light is this sign, put in when the mall was seriously remodeled several years back.  This was a successful renovation, and I love that mall now.  (This is handy, because it's the closest mall to me.)  Someday I'll do "A Tale of Two Malls," comparing this mall with El Con, which is a failing renovation.  But not tonight.  Meanwhile, here's one picture from the kids' play area inside Park Place. I have no idea who the kid is. 
southwest-themed play areaShe noticed me taking her picture, and looked at me suspiciously. I said, "I hope you don't mind!" and walked away.

I don't have much to say tonight.  I don't feel comfortable talking too much about the interview yesterday, except to say that I think it went well.  There will probably be a second interview.  The only bad thing was that I had to use an adding machine as part of an accounting test.  I hadn't used one of those in about a decade.  John even made me throw my mom's adding machine away, on the assumption that such things were antidiluvian.  It probably took me 20 minutes to figure out how to clear the running total!  So I was quite late getting back to my current job.

One more thing.  At that same intersection with the blowing blossoms and the mall sign, but across the street, is this derelict movie theater.  Many years ago at that theater, John and I saw a sneak preview of Star Trek IV: The Search for Spock, with audience reaction cards and everything.  Before the show we sat in line outside in the heat, discussing Buckaroo Banzai with people who'd come down from Colorado for the preview.  I think the Buena Vista was shut down about a year later.  It hasn't been used since, which is kind of a shame. I think it would be cool to make it a kid's entertainment center, with kid movies and games and stuff. 


not a pretty view any more

Friday, April 22, 2005

Dimly into the Future

Weekend Assignment #56: What will the Earth be like 50 years from now? Will global warming have swamped Florida? Will we switch to new energy sources? Will the people of the world be more prosperous, or will they be mired in a world of trouble? Look forward and predict what our children -- and their children -- will have to look forward to in 2055.

Extra Credit: Name one thing from today that people will be nostalgic for in 2055.

too much fun to be true"Man oh man, I love that future stuff!" - Tibby, "Shock Theater" episode of Quantum Leap

For someone who was raised on Star Trek, who spent much of high school reading science fiction magazines, who has written professionally about Doctor Who and who longs to visit Tomorrowland circa 1955, 1959, 1967 and 2005, I don't actually think very much about what's going to happen in the real future.  The fictional one can be so much fun, with the Jetsons and the Gallifreyans and the Vulcans, transmats and transporter beams, flying Deloreans and personal jetpacks, warp drive, bistromathics and the Infinite Improbability Drive, that mere reality is likely to suffer in comparison.  "They promised me flying cars," as Avery Brooks famously complained in a 1990s commercial, but we're not likely to get them any time soon. 

Still, here are my predictions, such as they are:

  1. The environment will get worse before it gets better--but eventually it will get better.
  2. Technology and the access to knowledge that it brings will eventually reach everyone, leading to social reform and upward mobility for the poor.
  3. Both of these factors will lead to less physical travel, more virtual travel for a long time to come, until certain problems can be solved.
  4. There will be amazingly amazing stuff we have no clue about now, but will take for granted later.

Even the most pro-business, anti-environmentalist "experts" are finally starting to admit that global warming  is real, but that doesn't mean the United States will be facing up to the Kyoto accords anytime soon.  At the moment, a distressing number of Republicans seem hell-bent on drilling in Alaskan nature preserves, the rewriting of clean air regulations by and for the business interests, and on and on.  It doesn't seem likely that the world will wake up and smell the environmental damage until a) the negative effects of such bad policies become blatantly obvious, b) people can no longer afford to fill their gas tanks, or spend time outside without SPF-50 products, and c) someone finds a way to make money off alternative fuels, while still making them affordable to the public.  It will get better eventually, but not as soon as they should.  50 years?  Okay, by then, probably.  We may be a few thousand species the poorer, but we'll find ways to turn things around overall, because that's what humans do.

Connections host and author James Burke has some interesting things to say about the future.  In a 1998 interview, he correctly places a lot of emphasis on the impact of information technology on social institutions and the democratization of knowledge.  In the short term, he predicts, "information technology is going to bring change faster than the social institutions can cope with."  Because of tv, the Internet and so on, the have nots of the world increasingly know what they're missing, and they're not happy about it.  At the same time, though, the Internet puts access to knowledge--and a virtual printing press--in the hands of the many for the first time in human history.  Burke sees 19th century institutions such as traditional universities and traditional corporations fading away.  With all that information available, he says, people will be valued more for being able to connect and synthesize knowledge across disciplines, to "make imaginative links among data," than if they overspecialize, until they "know absolutely everything about almost nothing."  It's a good interview, and I recommend his books and tv shows generally.  Fifty years out, he probably would see the social upheaval he predicts pretty much over with, or nearly so. 

Myself, I'm less pessimistic about this aspect of it.  In the seven or eight years since that interview, we've already reached the point where there are Internet cafés and bloggers in Baghdad, and terrorists communicate on web sites.  In the long run, access to that wealth of information should lead to people demanding and getting social reform, and also educate them enough to finally escape endemic poverty.  Along the way, people will become citizens of the world in perspective, and less stuck in the "Us and Them" dynamic.

not likely!In terms of technology, current trends seem likely to continue for a while.  Technology will get better, smaller, faster and cheaper, which should help to spread it around to more people. Eventually the internal combustion engine will have to give way to hydrogen and wind and solar and who knows what else.  Unless such changes in energy sources can be applied to mass transit and long distance travel (I'd be an early adopter of a personal transporter in the Star Trek sense), people are going to travel less, replacing physical journeys with virtual ones, at least to some extent.  Some major problems need to be overcome before long-distance manned space travel (i.e., outside the solar system) is possible or practical.

But who knows?  I'm forty-eight years old now.  How could I have known in 1965, when I was eight, what the next forty years would bring, let alone the next fifty?  I remember a programmed text booklet in elementary school about the year 2050.  I thought that was a neat thing to read about, but I don't recall what it actually said.  I certainly didn't anticipate fax machines and laptops and blogging, or having close friends  I've never actually met. I did hope for two-way wrist tvs (as in Dick Tracy)  or eventually communicators (as in Star Trek), but didn't know they'd turn up as Samsung PCS phones.

So really, I can't be sure of much about 50 years from now.  I may be still alive, and I pray that the Alzheimer's research that currently shows such promise will bear fruit before then.  Whatever we have by then will probably be amazing, in all sorts of mundane, unpredictable ways.

But there probably still won't be flying cars. (Darn it.)

Extra Credit:  I don't play video games, but it seems likely that the current generation of stand-alone games will be the source of nostalgia for the current generation of gamers.  And appallingly, the people who grew up listening to hip hop will look back fondly on even the worst of that stuff (the really unmusical, misogynist, bragging, antisocial ones, not just the clever, innovative, socially responsible, rather musical pieces), just as my generation still takes guilty pleasure in Gilligan's Island.  On the other hand, I doubt anyone fifty years hence will spare a moment's thought for Survivor.


For current environmental info, check out NPR's Science Friday broadcasts for 4/22/05:

April 22, 2005: Hour One: Earth Day 2005: Climate Change Update / Plug-in Hybrids
April 22, 2005: Hour Two: Earth Day 2005: State of the Earth's Ecosystems / Paper or Plastic?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Get Ready!

Get ready!I'm not going to write a big essay tonight, because a) I wrote two entries yesterday and b) I need to get a good night's sleep tonight.  The reason? Ta-daa!  I have a job interview tomorrow.  It's with a medium-sized CPA firm. I've had my suit jacket dry cleaned, and recolored my hair (light reddish brown, probably a little browner than before).  I've printed a couple of pages of the company's web site, and a fresh copy of my resume.  In the morning I'll dress up and do my makeup and all that, which I'll freshen up later in the day for the 2 PM appointment.

I went out tonight to B&N and bought Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions, plus one about salary negotiation.  On my way over there, I had an epiphany.  THIS is why I haven't gotten any studying done for the CPA exam since graduating from UoP.  I haven't been going to Barnes & Noble!

Huh? you may be saying.  Well, it's like this.  At home, there's blogging to do, and working on the fiction, and watching whatever John just rented on DVD.  There's also no really good place to read a book.  So when I was in school, I would take my textbook (or PDF printout) and head over the the cafe area of B&N.  I pretty much always got at least ten pages of reading in, sometimes much more, depending on the material and how long I was there.  When I needed a break, I'd browse the books (and purchase far more of them that John would have liked, given our finances).  Bottom line is, I got the reading in.  Then later, as class night approached, I'd do the homework papers and problems on the computer at home

That's right! The volume.  The text. But for the CPA studying, I don't have homework to do on the computer, short of buying a review course costing $800-$2400, depending on the company and features. John is uncomfortable about this additional expense, and I don't blame him. So the only CPA exam study I'm prepared for is to go through three review books I bought, supplemented by my textbooks.  Since there's no good place to read at home, no good homework to be done on the computer, and lots of fun distractions, I've let my learning skills and book larnin' on the subject of accounting atrophy.  So starting tomorrow, I'm going back to B&N to study those review books!  I can always buy an expensive course later.

Dang! It's late anyway. Shouldn't have taken the pictures for this.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Forgive...or Forget It?

Tomorrow, it will be three weeks since a a kid just past his 18th birthday totaled my car by turning left into rush hour traffic.  I have some forms to fill out and send back, and then I'll be getting another $1800 or so (in two checks) from Da Kid's insurance company.  This will leave me about $700 more in debt, paying a higher insurance premium (probably to do with the size of the car), and driving a car that's larger but also three years older and a more obscure make and model.  The black and blue marks are gone from my knee.  Am I better or worse off than I was three weeks ago?  Probably a little worse off, but not as badly off as I'd feared.  I've even succeeded (finally) in developing the habit of wearing my seat belt.

But check this out:  Da Kid wants me to sign a piece of paper that will reduce or eliminate his misdemeanor fine for his unsafe turn in rush hour traffic:

A City of Tucson Prosecutor's Office web page explains this form as follows:

Misdemeanor Compromises
A victim may choose to enter an agreement with a defendant, or the defendant’s attorney, in which the victim recommends that the charges against the defendant be dismissed.  This generally occurs after the defendant has reimbursed the victim for any economic loss, or because a victim does not wish to prosecute.  A victim’s decision to enter a compromise is strictly voluntary and should not be entered into until compensation has been received. The victim must sign a misdemeanor compromise before a Notary Public upon providing picture identification. The signed and notarized form is reviewed by a prosecutor and forwarded to a judge who makes the final decision.

Civil Charges That Can Be Dismissed With a Misdemeanor Compromise
If you strike another vehicle and cause damage, the owner/driver of the vehicle may be willing to sign a compromise if you compensate them either directly or through their insurance company. If the court dismisses your civil traffic citation after receiving a compromise, there is no fine and no points appear on your Motor Vehicle Division driving record for that charge. You must first obtain a copy of the traffic accident report from the Tucson Police Department at 270 South Stone. When the owner and driver of the vehicle are different people, each must sign a compromise form. 

Da Kid wanted to come see me with this, and get me to sign it and have it notarized right away, so that he wouldn't have to pay the fine, which he says he can't afford.  He's already had to drop his insurance, because his rate went through the roof after the accident.  But I made him fax the form instead.  I'm not going to hire an attorney for this--I'm out enough money as it is!--so I'm left working this out myself.  But lucky you! You folks get to help advise me.  Here are the arguments as I see them, pro and con:


Da Kid has already suffered some consequences of his actions.  His insurance has gone up, and he's probably in trouble with family and possibly with an employer.  Does he really need to be punished further, paying money he can't afford? Heck, I've tried to get courts to reduce or dismiss traffic fines for me, and sometimes succeeded.  (I always had a justification, though, such as the time DMV employees kept my registration money and didn't issue my tags.  I should never have put cash in that drop box!)


This kid is trying to weasel out of the consequences of his actions, the same way he tried to lay the blame on me by telling the cop that I was speeding (which I wasn't) and that he was going 5 mph (which he wasn't).  If I let him off the hook, will he learn the value of mercy, or just that he can get away with stuff by asking repeatedly?


I don't believe in being vindictive.  I really don't.  I don't want vengeance or punishment for this kid.  It won't make me happier or less in debt (one assumes), and it's contrary to "blessed be the merciful."


I don't want to deep-six myself,either.  Will this form affect whether Allstate or the courts think I was partly to blame?  Probably not, but nobody seems to know. Will it affect my ability to collect on my remaining $700 loss?  Definitely, assuming there was a chance to begin with.  Will it affect my getting the $1800 still pending?  I don't know, but who wants to take that chance?


I wasn't  going to go after the $700 anyway, on the assumption that I'd never collect.  As long as I get the total I agreed to with Viking, what does it matter if I sign off that "I have been fully compensated"?


But it's not true!  I haven't been fully compensated.  Even when the rest of the money comes, I will have merely gotten as much as Viking Insurance cares to pay.  I strongly suspect I was a bit of a pushover on this, agreeing to the initial offers because I expected an even worse outcome.  Must I sacrifice the truth, too?


The kid doesn't have the money.  Have a heart!


Hey, I'm broke, too, and I'm not at fault here.  But I'm out $700 and counting, possibly more for not having had my insurance card with me.  Is it right that Da Kid is off the hook, and I'm not?

The Plan:

Well, I'm waiting to hear back from the insurance adjuster with his opinion, and I think I'll call the court and see how much money is involved.  If he's trying to weasel out of paying $100 or so, I'm less likely to sympathize than if it's double that or more.


I called the court.  His fine if I don't sign is $162, and I'd be signing away my right to recover more money from him.  If I sign, he saves $162, and doesn't get the points on his license--unless the court decides otherwise.

Also, the Prosecutor's Office info thingy says not to sign until you've been compensated.  I still have $1800 on the line.

John says don't sign it.  The people at work say don't sign it.  The nice lady on the phone at the city court didn't say not to sign it, but she implied that it wasn't fair that I'd suffer economic consequences and the kid mostly wouldn't. What do you say?


When the Desert Turns Green (Revised)

Your Tuesday Photo Shoot! Earth Day and Renewal

Earth Day is about being environmentally conscious, and as it happens Spring is a great time for that, as the signs of earth's renewing itself make it easy to think about our world and the good things about it. So that's the Photo Shoot: Show signs of the earth renewing itself. This could be as easy as some shots of flowers in bloom, or as imaginative as you'd like to make it.

The view from Target on Grant, 3/15.

What's significant about this picture is that the Arizona desert is not normally this green.  We had an unusually wet winter, and this was the result, as of mid-March.

It's also supposed to have been a great spring for desert wildflowers.  I haven't really seen it that much, but these, most of which probably weren't wild, were in my neighborhood:

neighbor's yard.  verbena, I think.

These are from my front and back yards, respectively, today.


Front. The hummingbird (firecracker) bush, left, is not wild, at least in this case.

back, with Tuffy.

Back, with Tuffy.  I shot something just like this last summer.

These are wild.  You can also see the end-of-winter clouds.

Wildflowers, probably on Campbell above Sunrise.

And these are wild, from Gates Pass or Saguaro National Park West.  I forget which.

Gates Pass

Saguaro National Park West, I think!


Monday, April 18, 2005

My Wrinkle in Time

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Picture something that represents literacy to you. People reading, a street sign you wouldn't want not to read, a favorite book: Anything that conveys the significance of words.

"It was a dark and stormy night...."Okay.  After the chapter title, the words on the photo to the right begin the same way as a book by Snoopy, and one by Bulwar-Lytton, who probably originated it: 

"It was a dark and stormy night."

From that deliberately cliché beginning, Madeleine L'Engle quickly introduces us to Meg Murry, a girl whose father is missing, whose 5-year-old brother is a genius but rumored to be "not quite bright," and who is herself suffering through a difficult adolescence.  Meg is about to meet a strange old woman called Mrs Whatsit, and be dragged into an adventure that changes everything.  I can't tell you how many times I've gone on that adventure with her, but it must be dozens.

speaking of ways, pet, by the way, there IS such a thing as a tesseract.
In a way, this posting is a continuation of my entry from the other day, "Don't Wanna Do Your Homework."  As I explained there, I have an online bibliography about the books of Madeleine L'Engle.  As a result of that web site, I get a fair amount of email about L'Engle and her books, from people of all ages and literacy levels.  Because of this, and because of the history of the novel itself, it does represent literacy to me, more than any other book.  It also happens to be my all-time favoite book, at least most of the time.

Madeleine L'Engle got the idea for A Wrinkle in Time during a cross-country camping trip with her family in 1959.  As she explains in her introduction to the 25th Anniversary limited edition of Wrinkle,

"...the first idea for Wrinkle came to me as we were driving across the Painted Desert.  The names Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which simply popped into my head."

L'Engle had been reading Einstein, and her personal life was in upheaval, as the family left the country life in Connecticut to return to New York City, where her husband, Hugh Franklin, could resume his acting career. These factors contributed to the philosophical mood L'Engle was in at the time, as did concerns about the Cold War. 

Further reading about science fueled her inspiration.  L'Engle proceeded to write her most famous book, quite possibly her best.  She finished it in early 1960, and knew that it was something special.  It was only her seventh book, with more than fifty to follow in the years to come.

experimenting with part of the paperback cover.But she couldn't sell A Wrinkle in Time:

I was kept hanging for two years, by many different publishers.

"What is it?" I would be asked.  "Is it for children, or adults?"

"It's for people.  Don't people read books?"

Over and over again, I received nothing more than the formal, printed rejection slip.  These cold, impersonal rejections hurt.  I began to doubt myself...

On the Monday before Christmas, 1961, L'Engle was so discouraged by the arrival of the latest rejection slip that she told her agent to send the manuscript back to her.  "It's too different," she told him. "Nobody's going to publish it.  It's too hard on my family.  Every time it's rejected, I bleed all over the living-room rug."

But then she met John Farrar of Farrar, Straus and Company, at a Christmas party her mother threw that year.  Ultimately, he decided to publish it because he loved it, but warned her that the book would not sell well.  "It's much too difficult for children," he said.

Most of my Wrinkle collection.He was wrong.  L'Engle says that "it took off like a skyrocket."  It went on to win the Newbery Award for 1962, along with many other honors.  It's been through many editions and many translations, and has been continuously in print for over forty years.   "The problem wasn't that it was too difficult for children," she concludes in her 1987 introduction.  "It was too difficult for adults."

This has turned out to be true in other ways. Many people tried over the years to get the rights to produce a movie version of the book, but from L'Engle's perspective, none of them seemed to really understand the book.  When it was finally made as a Disney tv movie, L'Engle told Newsweek, "I expected it to be awful.  And it is."

messing around with PhotoStudio 2000Worse, the book has frequently come under attack by misguided Christians, who mistakenly believe that the book promotes witchcraft, magic, secular humanism (whatever that is), and fortune-telling, and leads children astray from Christian values.  A literate, thoughtful reading of the book reveals that the three "witches" are not witches or Satanists at all.  They are retired stars who gave up their celestial existences to fight evil.  The fortune-teller is a science fictional one, who uses a "crystal ball" to see things far away, not to foretell the future.  (And anyway, the Bible is full of prophecy, and nobody says that Isaiah or St. John were evil fortune-tellers.)  Mrs. Who quotes St. Paul, and Meg defeats evil with love.  No, there is nothing anti-Christian about the book, and everything wrong with the narrow-minded  ignorance that results in A Wrinkle in Time appearing on ALA listings of banned books.

Meanwhile, Wrinkle is still taught in school, and at home by home-schoolers who understand the book better than those who would ban it.  Schoolkids write to me, asking questions to get out of reading or thinking for themselves, or because they read it but are not sure they understand.  Others--both adults and children--write to me because they love the book, and want to know what to read next.  That's literacy for you! 

And back in 1965, one particular ten-year-old found it in the library at Pleasant Street School, read it and loved it.  I did understand it, but perhaps not as much as I do now, all these years later.  When I think of this book, I wrinkle back to my own difficult adolescence, and appreciate anew this wonderful book that helped me get through it.

Thanks, Madeleine L'Engle.


fine art - crayon filter 

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P.S. happens to have emailed a relevant quote yesterday:

"There are fashions in reading, even in thinking.  You don't have to follow them unless you want to.  On the other hand, watch out!  Don't stick too closely to your favorite subject.  That would keep you from adventuring into other fields.  It's silly to build a wall around your interests."

                                     --- Walt Disney