Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You know you live in a high-crime area when...

...your time-traveling craftsperson friends have to help you break into your hall closet. Not your house, your closet. And we aren't talking about coming out of the closet. We're talking just getting into the damn thing.

Here's what happened--the door knob apparently broke and the little piece of metal that holds the door shut slipped out of its housing or whatever and held the door shut for good. After struggling and swearing with the thing for some ten minutes this morning we finally left without our coats. The standoff couldn't last forever, though. Sooner or later we were going to need toilet paper and guess where it is?

That's Tracy with the soon to be headless hammer. Tammy's in the background. My arm is in the way.

Anyway, Tammy and Tracy, who hang out in 1893 quite a bit--that's another post--came over this evening to have a go at the door. First we tried taking off the hinges. That part was easy but the door still wouldn't budge. Logic follows that if a door is held shut by hinges and a hasp, you should be able to remove one of the two and at least get half the door open. No dice. We took the hinges off and the door moved about a half-inch.

After studying the situation, Tracy asked us if we had any tools. We did, of course. Guess where they are? Okay, how about a saw? Er, it's in the same place. Having determined that the door itself was probably beyond saving, we decided that the only way in was through. Through the door, that is.

Tracy quickly decided that Tammy would not be attempting to break the door down, since she doesn't have health insurance. Hey, it was entirely possible that one of us was gonna end up in the emergency room before this was over. So I tried thudding against the door a few times and really didn't get anywhere. Tracy decided to have a go and began bashing the doorknob with her work boots. And her foot. Did I mention her foot? What's left of the door now has a lot of black streaky marks on it.

Anyway, several kicks later the doorknob flew off, but the piece of metal was still holding the door shut. We began whacking the hell out of it with a hammer. When that didn't work, we whacked hell out of the door itself, or rather the wood around the hasp, until it all splintered off and we could see the hasp where it went into the door frame. So we tried to pry it out. It would not budge. Tracy reached in there with a hammer claw and the damned hammer head broke clean off. I'm not kidding. I've got one headless hammer and one that's bent at a kind of funny angle. This piece of metal did not want to move.

Well, some pulling and panting and swearing later we finally got it bent outward at an angle, and then a few more solid kicks got it loose. At which point the door fell on us. (We took the hinges off, remember?) Luckily we were able to catch it, get the hinges back in place (using the pathetic bent hammer) and the door now opens. Sort of. It just won't close.

So add to the weekend errand list a trip to Home Depot to buy a new closet door. Sheesh. It made great street theater for the cats, though.
Success of a sort...

My time-traveling neo-craftperson friends

Deep in the heart of Dallas, less than a mile from the throbbing heart of downtown, is a little slice of 1893. A mysterious warp in the space-time continuum, no doubt caused by the TARDIS as Dr. Who dashed off on some mission to save the human race from a Dalek invasion or some such thing, keeps one village at least a hundred years behind the rest of us. Sometimes it slides forward to about 1901 and other times it's back in 1860, when the Texas Republic was a Confederate state. Anyway, right now it's 1893, and the place is called Dallas Heritage Village. My two good friends work there. Yep, they travel back and forth in time.

If you click on the link above and scroll down to the third picture (no, not the little girl peeking through the fence; no, not the sheep--geez, some of my best friends are sheep, but keep scrolling; yeah, that's the one) you'll see them. In the foreground is Mrs. Katie Kelly, and behind her is Hannah MacTavish. Katie is the Irish sheep-shearer and Hannah is, uh, helping. This sheep was a little obstreperous.

Anyway, when they venture out of the village and into 21st century Dallas, they become Tammy and Tracy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sometimes there's no comment required.

Playing on the iPod: Sibelius, Symphony in D-Minor

Here's the headlines from my "MyWay" page. I'm not making these up.

Clinton and Obama Clash over NAFTA, Iraq--Hm, I didn't know there was a NAFTA, Iraq. I also didn't know that either Clinton or Obama had enlisted, much less on opposite sides.

Expert details White House e-mail risk--Yes, I can see a certain risk in letting a certain President anywhere near a computer

Power back on after outages hit Florida--Well, that's a good thing. How else could they check the headlines on their MyWay page?

Army: Iraq combat tours to be cut.--I guess those two-week all inclusive Euphrates River cruises just weren't selling.

Marines want probe of armored vehicle delay--I've read this six times and it still sounds dirty to me.

Age bias case returned for more review--Great. Hope nobody dies of old age while they're waiting.

Court questions money laundering cases--What were the questions, "How can I get in on the deal"?

New case of mad cow in Canada confirmed--It was easy to spot the mad cow. He was the one yelling, "Our health care system is in crisis! Let's do it like they do it in the United States, eh?"

Buried seed vault opens in the Arctic--
Good to know that in case of global disaster, all we have to do is go to the Arctic, find the seed vault, get the seeds, and take them to somewhere they'll grow--all without airplanes, cars, snow cats, or high-tech digging equipment. Way to go, boys.

Am I too cynical, you think?

Monday, February 25, 2008


I just got an email from the publishing firm where I sent No Accounting For Reality. I made it past the first gatekeeper! She's forwarding my query to the submissions editor. Whoo hoo!!! That was only three days - the publishing equivalent of light speed. Typing with crossed fingers...

Oscar Recap

Playing on the iPod: "Doctor Who", third season soundtrack
Meters swum today: 1900 (Halle Berry twice!)

Okay, look, I hate the Oscars. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word. Dislike intensely? Nice, but that misses the firm Anglo-Saxonness of the word "Hate." Anyway, watching the Oscars, not my favorite pastime, enough said? Something about the whole glittery excess rubs me the wrong way. And don't get me started on all the dish about who's wearing what. (I do it too, of course. What was the deal with the Tang-colored dress worn by whatshername? Geez, I needed sunglasses.) Musical numbers: Can't stand 'em. Witty between-award banter: If it's not Billy Crystal, don't even bother.

So why do I watch them at all, you may well ask. Actually I don't watch them. Joan watches them. I sort of hang around while they're on and try to limit myself to two snarky remarks per hour while doing something else. Anything else. Last night, sending out query letters - yes, that is slightly worse than watching the Oscars. It's a fine point, though.

Still, every so often you actually see something worthwhile. The guy who accepted the Oscar for best cinematography (I think) had a longish speech about a discussion with his guidance counselor when he was in junior high school. "So what do you want to do with your life?" asked the man. "Make movies," said the kid. "Okay, what if you can't make movies?" asked the man. "I'd have to find a way to make movies," said the kid. "Okay, what if we pretend for a second that there's no such thing as movies?" said the man. "Then I'd invent them," said the kid. And on it went. The conversation, not the speech; they started the music at some point.

I just can't help but wonder how many kids, faced with this same conversation, would say, "I guess I'll be a hairdresser" or something after the second or third question. I mean, kids want to make adults happy. It's an inbred survival mechanism, sometimes quite literal ("Shut up, kid, or no food for you") and sometimes just a question of getting what you want ("Borrow the car? You want to borrow the car? Well, you better by God bring your grades up"). I gotta admire any kid who would be willing to sit there and give an adult the "wrong" answer over and over again. That took guts. And love. I gotta wonder if I'd have broken into the writing biz twenty years ago if I hadn't caved at some point and said, "Okay, I'll to go law school." (Thank God I didn't actually do it.) Course I'm a much better writer now than I was then, not so much for ongoing practice (though that certainly helps) but more for just getting knocked around, watching people live and laugh and cry and screw up and fix things and succeed and fail and so on.

It's an awesome world. Om mani padme hum.

Top ten reasons why Javier Bardim should play Roland in the screen version of Mindbender:
10. We'll get him a better haircut. We promise.
9. We'll get the Coen brothers to direct. They'd be great at it. Anyway, David Cronenberg is busy these days.
8. Oscar!
7. He can use his real accent.
6. Oscar!
5. He's proven he can play a psychotic killer who has occasional nice moments. Javier, meet Roland. Roland, meet Javier.
4. Did I mention Oscar?
3. He's good looking but not pretty. You can admire his face and forget it five seconds later. Javier, meet Roland. Roland, meet Javier.
2. Big star name never hurts in drawing in the box office bucks. Hey, Coen brothers, you listening?
And (drum roll please) the number one reason why Javier Bardim should play Roland in the screen version of Mindbender:
1. Jose Ferrar is dead. Oh well.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Okay, it's done.

Playing in the background: The Oscars - somebody making a long exhaustive speech, which is marginally better than the musical number they just did
Leaves raked today: Billions. I spread fertilizer, too.

I did it -- I sent a letter to an agent. A wise soul (Joan) pointed out to me that I didn't need an exhaustive list of persons to contact as long as I knew who I was sending to next. And I do. And so I don't have to tell you all about everyone I've ever smooched, which is just as well because I'd have put you all to sleep. Nothing gets my butt in gear like a deadline. Why is that? Why can't I just be hyper-responsible and do things I'm supposed to do when I'm supposed to do them?

Well, for whatever reason, I can't. But I did send the letters. And I'm going to bed now. Every single muscle in my back is trying to kill me.

Confidential to Javier Bardim: Will you play Roland in the movie version of Mindbender? You can use your real accent. Oh, and congratulations!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

One Down, One to Go

Playing in the background: The soft gurgle of the kitty fountain
Meters swum today: Zilch. I overslept.

Okay, gang, I sent the first letter last night to Wild Child Publishing. They're a print-on-demand, mainly electronic press, and if I dare say so, they have some pretty nifty titles. Check them out here. So that's one letter outta here. Now I gotta find some agent to write to about Mindbender. I can't tell you how old that's getting. Well, I'd tell you how old it was getting if I were actually writing the letters but since I'm not, I can't tell you. Suffice to say, the story's been taking up valuable real estate in my head for a long time, and I've managed to dredge up some passing interest but nothing lasting.

Brief tangent: Last night at work one of my vendors, Kyle, came by to install some software. We were chatting as we're wont to do and he brought up that he was having trouble with his real estate agent. He's been trying to buy a house for some time now, and you'd think with as depressed as the real estate market is around here, he wouldn't have any trouble at all. Well, you'd be wrong. He spun his saga while my computer churned away in the background, busily digesting documents for our litigation-management software, and concluded with this: "What I really need is a real estate agent who doesn't yank me around."

Boy, did I ever have a phone number for him. When we moved to Dallas four years ago, we had less than 40 days to sell the place in Cali, buy a place in Dallas, pack, get the movers, move, turn everything on in the new place, and unpack. I climbed the Mount Everest of logistics on that one and I did not, repeat not, have time to fool around. We went through three real estate agents in about a week because the second they started jerking me around, I fired them. No argument, no discussion, just, "Thanks for everything, you're fired." Then I found Sondra, and she is a goddess, and my only regret was that she couldn't get the commission for the place we sold back in Cali because she certainly earned it.

So I gave her phone number to Kyle and it suddenly occurred to me that this is what I need. Someone who knows me who also knows someone in the publishing world who also knows someone who just happens to need a suspense/ thriller with a strong female protagonist and a politically charged story line for the 2009 rollout. That's it. That's all. I don't ask for much.

See, here's the problem with literary agents. Any human being on the planet probably knows less than a hundred people that he/she could call on the phone and talk to out of the blue at any given moment. For most of us it's less than that (I counted less than fifty). Now, it's the business of agents to know people in the publishing world, but I'll bet even the very top ones know fewer than, say, 45 people in the industry that they could call and say, "Hey, I've got this great new manuscript." Even among that 45, they still know that, "Okay, Bob doesn't read that genre, and Mildred does but there's no way she'd get this manuscript past that fundamentalist-whacko boss of hers, and Steve might be interested but I owe him too many favors, so I think I'll try JoAnn and Fred." So it's not just a matter of finding AN agent, it's a matter of finding the RIGHT agent, and the only thing that says whether this agent is right or not (at least at the beginning of the relationship) is, "Does this agent know some people who might be interested in what I wrote?" Or, for the agent, "Do I know anybody who might buy this thing?"

In short, luck plays no small part. I mean, I suppose if you can't write to save your life, you're out of the game anyway, but even if you're really good (and I think I am), you still have to land in the right place at the right time. Somebody rejecting your manuscript is probably not thinking, "This sucks." He or she is probably thinking, "I can't sell this." There's probably some middle ground where they think, "This is interesting but I don't like it enough to go to all the trouble of trying to sell it." I mean, they do this for a living, people. And it can't be easy.

So having said all that, I'm going to look for a literary agent who needs a Latin-themed thriller with political undertones and blah blah blah. Or a comedy about a time-traveling municipal accountant out to save the Tree of Life before all of reality comes unglued. If anybody knows anybody who knows anybody who needs something like that, send 'em my way, will you?

The rest of you, go read something.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Salacious Details Not Forthcoming. Maybe.

Playing on the iPod: Band of the Black Watch, "Will Ye No Come Back Again" from The Sands of Time
Meters Swum Today: A mighty 1900, baby, canya gimmee Halle Berry?

Ha! And you thought you were gonna get the dirt on my premarital foolings-around! No such luck. I've already written the letter for one of the books I'm flogging around, formerly titled Annie Sipkins, Accountant to the Gods, recently retitled No Accounting For Reality so as to better fit on a book jacket. The only big question left is where to send it. I was gonna send it to Daw, only to discover much to my dismay and chagrin that it was too short. Like about 50,000 words too short.

I gotta tell you, too-shortness is a new one on me; Mindbender is like 150,000 words (500-600 printed pages). No Accounting for Reality is only like 32,000 words, which is about 120 pages. The Conventional Wisdom holds that the longer a book is, the more expensive it is to print. Steve King's The Stand, for example, is rumored to have given his chief editor at Viking a mild coronary. It was almost 1200 pages and it had to be a phenomenal bestseller to make its printing run back. Well, of course it did. Seventeen printings or something ridiculous. Howsomever there's apparently some point of shortness beyond which it's not worth printing at all. Waste of decent wood pulp or something like that. I mean, hell, 120 pages is more of a longish short story, don't you think? Or maybe a novella. To quote Stephen King again, "Welcome to Novella, senyora. Sit down and get comfortable. You gonna be here long time, yes?"

Yeah, yeah, I know, it's longer than Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, which clocked in at 107. But I'm neither Big Steve, nor am I R.L. Stevenson. I'm better lookin' than both of them combined, for one thing. But here's what I'm thinking. Unless you were a regular reader of the Del Mar Times back in, say, 1999, you probably haven't heard of me anyway. So, like, what harm could it do, to publish this thing somewhere other than a trad book press? Like, say, an ebook or audio book publisher. 120 pages would fit pretty well on a Blackberry or a Palm Pilot. It's just long enough for an airplane flight to somewhere or other, and if you don't like it, you can delete it when you're finished.

Of course, this means I must do more research. Which means I can't send the letter yet. No, I'm just kidding. I'll send it somewhere before Sunday night. There's no mail on Sunday, a'course, but e-publishers usually take e-submissions, so I'll be okay there.

One publisher, one agent. That was the deal, right? Okay, I'll start working on the other letter. Just so's you know you aren't missing anything, though, I'm still in the single digits romantic-partnerwise. Yes, even at my advanced age. And I couldn't have told you anything about Joan anyway because she threatened to hide a dead cockroach in my swim fins.

She'd do it, too.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'd Write This, But...Oh, Look! A Cloud!

Playing on the iPod: Ray Lynch, something from "Deep Breakfast"

I was gonna translate the Ten Commandments from the original ancient Hebraic today, but after yesterday I think I'm burned out on religion for the moment. Instead let's consider something near and dear to my own heart: Procrastination.

Oh, look! A cloud!

What? Oh yeah.

If you read the Absolute Write bulletin boards (and I do, man, I do), you'd be quick to come to the conclusion that most writers have Issues with this thing. Generally, though, they seem to have trouble actually writing. This has never been an issue with me; most of the time I can't hardly stop. (As I once told an ex-boss, "Hell, no, I'm not working on the book at the office! I go to the office to get away from the damn book!") Where I get stuck is in actually doing something with the stuff I've written. You know, like trying to get it published and all that.

Okay, I had a tragic experience with this as a youngster; my agent dumped me to run for Congress. For a while there I thought I had a new agent but that Didn't Work Out (getting an agent is like getting someone into bed; you make promises, send presents, go to dinner, develop wild crazy expectations of the other person that neither of you can ever fulfill...) Still, that was quite a while ago and I've done batshit nothing about finding a new agent, or publisher, or--or anything, except write more. I've somehow come up with the idea that somebody else should do this for me. Like, I dunno, an agent or something. Now there's a concept. Get an agent to get an agent.

It's better than it was, I guess. I used to get this terrible crippling fear even when I sat down to write letters to agents. Back when I drank, I was in the habit of knocking off a few cold ones before I even sat down at the computer. Which worked, after a fashion, but it played hell with my digestive system. Now I just sit there, shake like a leaf, tell myself "this too shall pass," and it does, and I write the letter. Or I would if I were writing letters instead of procrastinating. Which, uh, I'm not. Oh, look! A cloud!

Seriously, this has the potential of going on for years, maybe even the rest of my life, if I don't Do. Something. About. It. Immediately. I'm just not sure what. I mean, there's no point in randomly writing to agents and publishers. You gotta do market research and figure out who represents/publishes the stuff you're writing. You gotta know people who know people who can introduce you to other people who can tell you to whom you're best off sending letters. So of course I have to do all that before I can start writing letters. Except I haven't done that, either. Well, I have, but I don't feel like I've done enough of it. I don't feel like I have my finger on the pulse of the great throbbing vein that is Media. If I don't write to Exactly The Right People I'll be wasting my time and, worse, theirs. I need a nice tidy list of exactly to whom I should write so that when the rejection slips start rolling in (as they always do) I'll have a Next Option.

It ever occur to you that perfectionism might be another way of procrastinating?

Oh look! A perfect cloud!

Okay, okay. I've done some research. I can do more research until the cows come home but in the meantime I gotta crank out a letter to somebody, somewhere, asking if they wanna read my stuff. So here's my solemn pledge: I, Jen Ster, do hereby promise to write to at least one agent and at least one publisher on or before Sunday of this week, that is, the 25th. If I fail to do so, I will immediately post a list of everyone I've ever slept with, including dates, incriminating details, sex toys used (if any), angry significant others involved (if any), and whether or not any mind altering substances were used and if so, which ones.

Now that'll make dull reading. I'll do it, though.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Well, this has been an interesting day...

Playing on the iPod: Kitaro

Usually I send out emails and post to this thing and I get almost universally ignored. Ever since I sent out that thingy from Rev. Charles about the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic, tho,my mailbox is filling up. Here's one of the milder responses:

"Sorry to disappoint … but ….this article will clear things up. AND I hope you’ll pass it along to the people who were in the first distribution list."

Interesting web site, by the way. Disputing that conclusion is this one from the Nazarenes:

As a nonspeaker of any of the above referenced languages I can't testify one way or the other. I do think the Aramaic text is pretty cool to look at, though:

If you 're interested in the squabbles of Biblical scholars, go here:

Keep scrolling down, it goes on for days. If that doesn't put you to sleep, there's always this historian, who says:

I could say this just goes to show something or other, but I dunno what, so I ain't gonna. In closing, here's my own translation, with the help of the ever-wise Bill and Ted:

Be excellent to each other. And party on.

Religion Without the Middleman

Playing on the iPod: "The Sands of Time" by the Black Watch
Meters swum today: 1600 (a mighty mile)

Guys, check this out. It was sent to me by the Rev. Dr. Charles, who is my misanthropic pearl-producing significant other's ex-husband. (It's okay, we're all friends.) Him bein' a pastor and all that I reckon he knows a few things.

Source: Saadi Neil Douglas-Klotz, based on the work of Saadi Neil
Author: Mark Hathaway

A translation of the "Our Father" directly from the Aramaic into English (rather than from Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English).

"O cosmic Birther of all radiance and vibration!
Soften the ground of our being and carve out a space within us where your presence can abide.

Fill us with your creativity so that we may be empowered to bear the fruit of your mission.

Let each of our actions bear fruit in accordance with our desire.

Endow us with the wisdom to produce and share what each being needs to grow and flourish.

Untie the tangled threads of destiny that bind us, as we release others from the entanglement of past mistakes.

Do not let us be seduced by that which would divert us from our true purpose, but illuminate the opportunities of the present moment.

For you are the ground and the fruitful vision, the birth-power and fulfillment, as all is gathered and made whole once again."

Are we SURE Jesus and Buddha never met? Because this sounds pretty DARN familiar. And, okay, it's not rhythmic, but then neither is the Nicene Creed, except for the cool part in the middle that goes, "God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made." (Yes, I actually do have it memorized. I went to Catechism classes, thankewverymuch.)

All this comes back around to what I've been thinking all along, which is, there's no conflict between Buddhism and Christianity. I think it's entirely possible to believe both at the same time. Myself am firmly on the Buddhist side of that balancing act but I know a lot of Christians (heck, I live in Texas, it's not like they're rare around here) and I think plenty of them would be open to this kind of stuff. Om mani padme Christ, folks. Let's hang out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hijacker alert!

Hi. I'm the bad Buddhist's "misanthropic neo-pagan" sweetie. Jen decided to give me posting privileges since I've been whining that I occasionally have something to say, but not Something To Say enough to justify my own blog. (Okay, I confess. I've tried blogging, and I stick with it for about three weeks, and then lose interest.) At any rate, I'll be popping in from time to time. Or not.

In case you don't know about me, I am a mild-mannered librarian at a Large Public Library here in the Texas Republic. When I'm out and about on the Internet, I sometimes go by Constant Irritant. The name came from Jen: during a minor spat, I agreed with her I was an irritant at times, but that irritants create pearls, after all. She replied that I must be producing pearls by the shopping bagful as I was a constant irritant. So here I am. [waving] Hi.

So, don't mind me. Continue on with what you were doing before I showed up. I'm housebroken and reasonably well-behaved. I bring my own snacks. And if you show up at my library, I'll wait til you're out of earshot before I start making fun of you. Because I'm a Nice Person, dammit.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Gallifrey Wrap-Up

Playing on the iPod: "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by David Sylvian
Meters swum today: 1600

I'm back in Dallas. Joan stayed an extra day at the Con and she'll be back today. We've already pre-registered for next year. (Heck, it was only $40 a head, why not?) I gotta say, as someone who's never been to a sci-fi con, it was a nice experience. I didn't even have time to get bored. If you haven't seen the splendid movie Galaxy Quest, there's a scene where four actual aliens walk into a sci-fi con and aren't even noticed among the wildly costumed revelers. That's pretty accurate. Favorite parts: Talking to Sylvester McCoy, the episode commentaries, the amazing art in the fan gallery, the general atmosphere. Least favorite parts: Really cool goings-on at 11 pm (I am not a night person) and the hotel prices, not for rooms but for meals and so on. Course, we were in L.A., and everything's more expensive in California, but I ran into sticker shock on an hourly basis. $4.95 for a venti cinnamon dolce latte?! I mean, what is the world coming to?

Anyway, the flight back was good (it's a good flight if I fall asleep shortly after takeoff and don't wake up until the rear wheels hit the ground) and no suitcases were lost. I got home in one piece (I can see my office building from the freeway!) and even got to the pool this morning, albeit a little bit late. Sparrow the cat curled up on my lap, so I think I'm forgiven for bailing on her for the past three days. Course I haven't yet checked all my shoes.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gallifrey Two

Hey, I didn't know I could blog remotely with this thing! Blackberries rock! Except that there's no reception through most of the con-oh well. I was surprised that most of the fans were NOT teenage boys but mid-thirties adults on up, an even mix of men and women, most very nice, a few nuts (they always find me, it must be the breasts) and almost all possessed of wicked senses of humor. Nice bunch of folks. During technical failure at one of the programs two of the presenters got up, danced, sang ("What a wonderful world") and told jokes, with minor encouragement, or should I say heckling, from the audience. This was followed by a game of "Stump the Asian" and random hilarious comedy about whatever the projector was tossing out.

Went to a screening of my favorite episode, "Blink", with the writer, Stephen Moffett, providing live commentary. He also wrote the show "Jeckyll" if any of you saw that. His idea for the weeping angels came from the fact that Dr. Who monsters, and monsters generally, are scarier when you don't see them. What he set out to do was create a monster that you only see when it's not moving, the effect being that he created a monster that does nothing. Well, he used it to very scary effect! He also won a Hugo for that episode.

The high point of the evening was an MST-3K version of an episode I had never seen, called "Silver Nemesis", which wasn't a very good episode so snarky commentary could only help. Good fun. There was a "Buffy" sing along after that with the episode "Once more with feeling" but I just couldn't keep my eyes open for that.

Anyway, having a great time out here. More to follow.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Gallifrey confidential

I met Sylvester McCoy! He played the 7th Doctor in the early 90s and is currently in King Lear (opposite Ian McKellen) in a touring production. He is the nicest guy! Warm, friendly, great sense of humor, very down to earth. His co-star, Sophie Albrecht (I may have that last name wrong) is also very nice, sweet lady. I was in the Jaccuzzi this morning with her two kids. By the way, this place is fabulous! Well appointed, nice pool, 24 hour fitness center, good food and cheap! (I'll stick in a link later to the Airport Marriott. Online time costs me by the minute here so I must be brief.)

Last night, fantastic costume contest (sci fi people do the best costumes)--there was a four year old dressed up like a Cyberman and a really really good Martha Jones. My favorite was the drunken Tenth Doctor from the episode, "The Girl In the Fireplace." Had to be seen to be experienced tho.

Today we're meeting the writer who wrote most of my favorite episodes, "Blink," "The Empty Child," and the awesome and scary BBC series "Jeckyll." Haven't got much writing done myself, but hey, I've met a lot of strange characters.

Gotta run!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Con is On

Playing on the iPod: "Castles in Spain" by the Armoury Show (long version)
Meters swum today: 1400

Just a quick update here: I'm going to a convention called "Gallifrey One" in Los Angeles tomorrow. I haven't been to L.A. since 2001 or so, so it should be interesting. By the way, in Texas, LA means Louisiana, not Los Angeles. I keep forgetting.

Anyway, "Gallifrey One" is a gathering of Dr. Who fanatics, and if you're not watching the show on BBC America, where have you been? Actually I'm not the fanatic--that would be Joan, my S.O.--but I do like it and I'll watch it if it's on. I can't help but be impressed by any show that's managed to be on the air for the better part of forty years. Not even Gunsmoke managed that.

As kind of a casual fan, I can't imagine what it'll be like running around with some large number of teenage boys with computers for brains, but hey, I'll try anything once. There will be a couple of the show's writers, there, also, and one thing about this show, it has really good scripts. Always has, even if the special effects were not so great from, oh, the beginning until three years ago. So I'm looking forward to hanging with other writers, if they allow me into their company. If nothing else, I can hang around in the lobby with my laptop. Yes, I have a laptop. So sue me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Blackberry Blitzen

You gotta wonder if your new PDA was a mistake when it's featured in a CNN story a week after you get it. Blackberry Blackout Still Unexplained; No Comment from Research in Motion--it all sounds so sinister. See, I told you popping the battery out to make it behave was a bad idea. Next thing I know it'll start emailing pictures of me swapping smooches with Britney Spears to my boss or something. It's smarter than I am, and now it's bent on revenge. I'm in trouble.

What's really interesting about this article, though, are some of the Blackberry users. That one guy they quoted, Mr. Gold, gets a thousand emails a day. You gotta wonder how many of them advertise things that will make your penis bigger. And the Canadian politician who said all of Parliament shut down because nobody could communicate? Uh, hello? Talk to friends much? There's an old Twilight Zone episode where aliens shut off the power in a suburban community and everybody goes bananas. I guess ol' "Bod" Sterling was a pretty sharp guy after all. Here we have one three-hour gap in emails and somehow that's equated to a catastrophe.

Myself, I didn't notice. Well, I noticed in that I was trying (unsuccessfully) most of the evening to check my bank balance, but I didn't attribute that to any global clusterfuck. I just thought that, once again, I couldn't figure the darn thing out, or it couldn't figure out my bank's Web site, or my bank's Web site couldn't figure out how to talk to this tiny thing, or something like that. I don't remember getting furious and calling Research in Motion to berate them for their three-hour gap in service. Then again, I don't get a thousand emails a day, either. I suppose if I missed 125 emails I might be pretty furious, too. (Does that guy ever sleep?)

Which just goes to show something or other about perceptions about whatever's going on, and attributing the cause to something that may not be so. For years I thought I kept catching colds because I went out with my hair wet. Then, when I was about 28, I discovered I had a rare-but-documented-birth-defect-of-the-sinuses and I needed surgery. I had it. Colds went away. Well, not entirely but I don't get sick but once or twice a year now. Also, from the time I was about six I thought I was some kind of train wreck as a human being because I was too fat, couldn't stay on a diet, ate everything that wasn't nailed down. And gee, there was nothing like parents, kids at school and society in general to buck up that little preconceived notion. All fat women are miserable moral failures, you know. (Fat men, on the other hand -- well, that fella must've played him some ball back in college. Nothin' wrong with him but a healthy appetite!)
Now at the ripe old age of pushin' 40 I discover I have a chronic, incurable illness with no name, that's like alcoholism or drug addiction but involves--food.

Imagine my surprise.

In a way, recovering alcoholics have it easy. They look at a bottle of something and if it says, "Contains Alcohol," they just don't drink it. Food, though--kind of necessary for life. Ya don't eat, ya won't have to worry about any of your other problems either, at least if you do it long enough. Yet the treatment, such that there is, involves the same treatment program that's helped zillions of alcoholics. There's an Overeaters Anonymous, people. Yeah, it's hokey, and yeah, it talks about God every five seconds, but I go. Look, I'm the most cynical person on the planet, practically, and I wouldn't have hung around with these folks for five minutes if it didn't, somehow, work. It does. It's weird, but I've decided I'm okay with weird, at least on that level.

This may surprise you, but even though there's this very strong Judeo/Christian thing going on in AA, OA and the related Twelve Step groups, there's no conflict with Buddhism, at least that I can see. The whole Buddhist mindset of remaining in the present moment and being mindful of your actions totally fits in with the Twelve Step thing. To say nothing of this idea that you need to take your hands off the controls and let God drive because you keep crashing into a wall. I'm not especially good at that, but One Day At A Time and so on.

So anyway, next time my Blackberry gives me fits, I'm going to find out if there's something else going on besides a chronic screw loose in the operating system (me). And one of these days I'm going to get my mind around the idea that I couldn't stay on a diet and I ate everything that wasn't nailed down, but it wasn't my fault. It's a disease. Kind of like malformed sinuses.

(Like how I came full circle on that one?)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Beliefs of a Bad Buddhist

Playing on the iPod: David Lanz & Paul Speer
Meters swum today: 1900

One of my co-workers (not the xenophobic clod) asked me today what Buddhists believe, anyway. I told her I didn't have the foggiest idea. I could tell her what I believe, though. That wasn't nearly as interesting because she suddenly remembered something she had to do. Remind me to use that trick next time someone asks me if I've accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.

I ought to say here, I'm a Buddhist by default. Couple years ago I sat down and figured out what, in fact, I actually believed, did a little prowling around the basic tenets of world religions, and Buddhism came the closest. This is all my mother-in-law's fault, by the way, may she rest in peace. When she died and we were cleaning out her apartment, we found out she had at least one book on just about every religion known to man, from paleolithic shamanism right up through Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (more on him later). She was New Age when it was old age and could cast a horoscope the old fashioned way, ie, without computers. We had her funeral in a Lutheran church, but that's only because I hung around the place. Nice folks, Lutherans.

Anyway: I can't hold with the Biblical God because I know too much about cosmology to take them both as literal fact. Analogy, story, myth, even nice groundwork as to how one should treat one's fellow beings, sure, but literal belief, no. Old Testament, New Testament, New Improved Testament, doesn't matter. And yes, my folks took me to church and Sunday school and all that. and I tried really hard to believe it, especially as a kid, but I couldn't. Quite.

What I believe is that the nature of life is to exist. Scientists have found weird little worms that live in boiling water in volcanic vents at the bottom of the sea, and lichen in miles-deep caves that have never seen the sun and eat rocks. I believe that if there's any way possible for a living thing to exist, it will. Witness trees and small blades of grass jutting out of concrete and sheer cliff faces at impossible angles. I believe that all life is essentially the same. I believe that what Buddha figured out, while he was hanging around under the bodhi tree being pestered by Mala and experiencing ultimate truth, was that we're all made of the same stuff. These divisions we create to say this is you, that is me, that's a rock, that's a plant, I'm a person, are all artificial and all inherently wrong. I believe that Buddha realized that because we are all the same, there is no birth, no death and no need to be afraid. It's not a question of "not coming back again" as a reincarnated being but of simply realizing that the "I" that can come back again does not exist. I am you, you am I, we are all the same. We are life expressing itself in one of the billions of ways it's found over the years. Every moment is perfect. Everything around you reflects the glory of God, or Life, Itself. Why? Well, because the nature of life is to exist. See beginning of paragraph.

I guess I can see how that might bug a colleague who's used to hearing something like "I believe that Christ died for my sins" or "I believe there is no god but Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet." Maybe I better stay out of these discussions for a while. But that's what I believe. Prove me wrong.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

WriteClub recap

Playing in the background: Something on the "History Channel" about the Kennedy assassination (a local obsession), and my significant sweetie, ranting at the various commentators (also a local obsession)
Weights lifted today: Lots.

The sixquithizillionth meeting of WriteClub, or The Write People, took place today at the house of one Aunt Sally, who isn't my aunt. (She's everybody's aunt.) Sally read a piece about the calico cat, "Ferrell," who's been known to hang out in her garden. Jackie didn't show up (Jackie, you suck), but that's because she had some church thing (okay, it's Lent so I guess you're excused, but don't let it happen again). Juno, ie, Junkill, read a screamingly funny piece about various slang terms for certain portions of the male anatomy. See what I missed, being a female in high school? Who knew this topic took on so much urgency? Who knew there were even secret meetings about it? I'd give my left webble to go back and do it all again. Okay, no I wouldn't. Apparently, being female, I don't have webbles.

And as por moi, I read Chapter the Twelfth from Spellbinder which seemed to go over pretty well. Generally if I hate a chapter (and I loathed this one with a passion I usually reserve for newscasters who break in with exciting news about the election that's still eight months away) everyone else will like it. Which is good because Chapter the Eleventh fell kind of flat. This can be summed up in a word: Narrative. I suck at it. Well, maybe that's a little harsh. This is fair, though: My dialogue is a zillion percent better than my narrative. And here I'm churning out an entire chapter of unrelenting narrative. Not exactly a winning formula.

I think my narrative impingement started out as a rather ordinary visual defect in childhood. Oh, I can see fine (ie, correctible to 20/40 with lenses as per Texas state vehicle code), I just can't see the forest for the trees. I knew a guy in college who was mildly autistic and he said that if he's talking to, say, you, he can see you, he can see the shirt you're wearing, he can see the pattern on the wallpaper behind you, and every single one of those things is equally important so it's hard to know which one is most deserving of attention. I have the opposite problem; none of it seems important, at least compared to whatever I'm thinking about at the moment, which is almost never about you or your shirt or your wallpaper. So my imagination is kind of one giant field of white space, as it were.

(Incidentally, am I a bad Buddhist or what? Laserlike focus? Mind calmed through meditation? Ha. Well, I do meditate, and it does calm me, but that whole laserlike focus thing--Hm, I guess it could happen.)

So, anyway, that's the thing with narrative. If I could skip it entirely, I would. After all these years I'm smart enough to do a little "camera pan" of wherever I happen to be before everybody there starts yapping, but it's never my favorite part and I always wish I could just skip to the dialogue. Somebody ought to open a "Narratives R Us" around here so I could pick up a package of gently used, but clean and pressed narrative. Right after they open a "Rent a Toddler".

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Blackberry Blitz

Meters swum today: 1900
Playing on the background TV "Audio Visions" channel: Suzanne Ciani

Anybody who doesn't think technology is vastly outstripping our ability to deal with it should have seen me trying to figure out my new Blackberry over the last few days. I was even smart and ordered the 8700g, an "old" model by most standards, with fewer features and gizmos and a nice QWERTY keyboard that I can thumb my way through. No Pearl or Curve for me, thanks, they're way too intimidating. The new arrival is small, blocky, kinda thick and cute in an ugly baby sort of way. It's also confusing as hell, though I'm sure I'll get to the let-three-weeks-go-by-and-you'll- forget-you-ever-had-a-Palm-Pilot phase eventually.

One of the first things I wanted to do was set up specialized ring tones for when my lawyers call. I've been using a snippet from the "Dallas" theme song for this. (When I worked for a certain attorney at a former job I used Elton John's "The Bitch Is Back.") According to the cute little manual they sent with this thing, I'm supposed to look for the browser icon on my home screen and click it once to register with T-Zones, whatever that means. Only issue, there's no "browser" icon. Well, maybe they hid it somewhere. Where, though? I mean, this thing isn't real big. After trying and failing for the better part of a day and a half, I finally called tech support.

Turns out my Blackberry didn't yet know it had been turned on. (Gee, that explains the smiling little home screen and the cute blinky lights.) This tech support guy wanted me to flip the Blackberry over, take off the back, and remove the battery, count to ten, and then stick it back in there. In other words, to make this thing work I had to waterboard it. "Do what I say or no more battery for you, little guy." Geez, I'd better cancel my Amnesty International membership right now.

Anyway, I did what I was told (for a change) and lo and behold, the little "browser" icon popped right up. I guess I scared it. Now I feel bad. I still haven't found the
"Dallas" ring tone, but I did find "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC. And the Darth Vader death march from "Star Wars," a cell phone essential. I think my lawyers are gonna get stuck with "Thunderstruck." Oh, and it's got the cutest little chimey chime for announcing the arrival of a message.

Because I'm a masochist, I'm now trying to import addresses from my Palm Pilot. Stay tuned, this should be fun.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Of Which I Speak

Playing on the iPod: "Clubbing on Sunshine" by Svenson, from the Trance Box set
Meters swum today: 1900

"Winter solitude. In a world of one color, the sound of wind." --Basho

There's been a minor kerfuffle at work because the city school district has just announced all students will be required to learn Spanish. I'm the only one who seems to think this is a fine idea, and indeed a little surprised that they had to make it mandatory. I went to elementary school in Utah, fergodsake, about as far from any border as one can hope to get, and we had to take a foreign language--though there were several options, not just Spanish. Anyway, some people are very upset that kids are being required to take a foreign language at all, some that it's Spanish instead of a language spoken by a much cooler class of people (like, I dunno, Latin?) and some just have a problem with the whole "mandatory" business.

Yes, folks, some of my colleagues were born middle finger first. Well, so was I. So was Natalie Maines, for that matter--"Time" magazine even said so--but I don't think she'd object to learning Spanish. Anyway, discussing this over dinner with my common-law Significant Sweetie (12 years in April!) it suddenly occurred to me that all these various viewpoints about learning a language have nothing to do with the actual situation. As in, Colleague X can dislike the policy because Colleague X doesn't like Spanish; Colleague Y doesn't like the idea of kids learning any language other than English (yes, colleague Y is a xenophobic clod, but we'll deal with that in another post) and Colleague Z just hates being told what to do. Floating around by itself, unattached to any of these things, is the policy itself. It simply is what it is. People bring their emotions, angst, "issues," heat, etc. of their own choice. How somebody feels about a given item doesn't change the essential reality of that item.

I think most things are like that. Here's a cup of coffee. I love coffee. Some people hate coffee. Does the cup of coffee, itself, care whether you like it or hate it? Does your like or dislike for this cup of coffee change it substantially? I think not. A cup of coffee is a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee, until it's drunk (preferably with cream and sugar). This would apply to practically everything, from microorganisms to Hillary Clinton. I wonder what amazing things we'd see in the world if we could simply look at something, just the way it is, without heaping all these preconceived notions on top of it. Half the time we can't see the coffee for the color of the mug, the forest for the trees, the person underneath the thick layers of "I don't like you because you're different." Seems like we make things a lot more unpleasant than they have to be, deciding we dislike things that aren't even there.

That said, I'm going to get another cup of coffee.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Kids, movies, dialogue, Spielberg

Playing on the iPod: Jean Michel Jarre, something from "Hong Kong"
I'm reading: Summer of Night by Dan Simmons. I got an introduction by way of his 2007 magnum opus, The Terror, and I've since become a fanatic. Dan, where ya been all my life?

I inflicted another chapter of Spellbinder on my writing buds. This from Kellum, whose most excellent blog can be found here: Juno Jinn, Mollusk Hero (Yes, there's a story behind that, and no, I'm not gonna tell you what it is. Ask him):

Very much like real kids. I have a theory . . . that the reason the critics hate Speilberg's and Lucas' children characters . . . is that they talk like KIDS. They say stupid goofy things and poke each other and do silly things like real children. People don't wanna see that. They wanna see little kids who are extra-precious and super precocious. When people don't talk like movie characters, the critics (and the geeks) get MOST unhappy. It's funny that when people act like real people, it seems strange...

Strongly seconded. It bothers HELL out of me when kids act like adults in movies, TV and so on. Kids have their own language, their own pacts and alliances and frankly, their own reality. Even when kids are in very adult situations (like monster hunting in IT, for example) they still think and act like kids (which is, of course, why they can perceive the monster and not just its effects on the town.) Sometimes I wonder if growing up is what kills us, spiritually, which is why so many of us troop into religious institutions that refer to a "God the father" so we can feel like kids again.

Kids feel things very intensely, especially anger and fear, which is why they scream sometimes and throw tantrums. All very unacceptable to adults of course. It's like if we can somehow murder our natural feelings and only have the nice acceptable ones (glee, especially when sinister, "fine", and mildly annoyed) we've arrived in the adult world. I guess it works, but my God (the father), what a price to pay. I wonder why real kids so annoy the moviegoing public. Are they jealous? Or just scared?

The word from here: When angry, scream. When scared, scream louder. Oh, and don't read The Terror unless you're somewhere warm and safe, wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

This thing I'm writing

Meters swum today: 1900 (I swim with Dallas Aquatic Masters)
Playing on the iPod: Something by Terry Oldfield

So I'm writing a book. It's my second. Well, actually, it may be my fifth, I'm not sure how many of the others count. I'm flogging two of them around to the Media, which is to say, I'm thinking about flogging two of them around to the Media, but I actually haven't done any flogging at all this year. I keep coming up with reasons not to send out letters. I need to compile a list of potential markets and do research and create an Excel table and and and. Procrastination and anxiety are my friends. And with friends like these...

Anyway, what I'm writing is Spellbinder, the sequel to Mindbender. Mindbender was/is about a twelve-year-old American boy, picking up about six months after his mother's mysterious death. His stranger-father shows up and whisks him away to a large Latin American city (the fictional San Sebastian, standing in for San Salvador, El Salvador, where I spent some happy time as a delirious idealistic twentysomething.) They're staying with an art collector who hates having a child in her very expensive home, Dad's away most of the time doing whatever it is he does, he's alone and at loose ends, and the whole thing would be plenty unpleasant enough without the men in grey that seem to follow him everywhere he goes. Oh, and for some reason things tend to blow up whenever he's around. He makes a friend, a university librarian, and he's more or less gotten her convinced that the men in grey are real when they show up at the library. Hm, they're both more and less than they seem to be, and oddly enough they're not very nice guys. Much hilarity ensues.

Spellbinder is about what happens next.

I've always been a big fan of what happens next. Take Stephen King's The Shining, for example. At the end of the book (spoiler alert!) the psycho dad blows up the Overlook Hotel, killing himself and hopefully all the spooks. (Can you kill spooks? If you don't believe in them, do they go away?) Mom and kid are left alive, and what happens to them? Do they get arrested? How do they explain the blown-up hotel to its owners and insurance agents? (Hey, I'm an insurance defense paralegal, I wonder about these things.) Do they get sued? Probably not, since they don't have any money. How do they go on with their lives, knowing what they know about things that go AAAAAAAAAAAIGH!!!!! in the night? Steve doesn't tell us. He did a better job with IT, though he gave us (spoiler alert again!) a mournful future of forgetting all about everything that made our heroes what they are. Which sucks. Sorry, Big Steve.

Anyway, that's what Spellbinder is about. "Okay, we've been kidnapped, tortured, lied to, we watched friends die, learned about a sinister conspiracy, escaped and survived, so now what?" I'll probably post some of it here. It's going great guns. I seem to get into these periods of being hyperproductive-- right around the time I'm most likely to get pregnant, oddly enough--when I can't hardly stop. I think I'm coming down from one of those as it were, but I still cranked out close on sixty pages in two weeks, which is pretty amazing. I was emailing chapters to my writing group because I didn't want to wait to read it all to them. Nice folks, the ones in my writing group. Heck, anyone who puts up with me is nice folks.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sup! Yo!

Hi all,

Rarely am I so blown away by a piece of news that I'll stop in the middle of the work day to rant at an elected official, but this one was just--I mean I--for the love of--Words fail me, okay?
Check it out here:

Miss. Law Would Ban Serving Obese Diners

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A state lawmaker wants to ban restaurants from serving food to obese customers - but please, don't be offended. He says he never even expected his plan to become law.

"I was trying to shed a little light on the number one problem in Mississippi," said Republican Rep. John Read of Gautier, who acknowledges that at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, he'd probably have a tough time under his own bill.

It goes on, but I'm gonna stop there. Here's my reply to the good Mr. Read, who, incidentally, does not represent me.

Dear Representative Read:

I'm sure this isn't the most appropriate way to address a state representative, for which I apologize, but dude, what were you thinking?!

Yeah, yeah, I read the story in the AP that you never expected your bill to become law and you just wanted to bring attention to Mississippi's number-one problem, which you claim is obesity. And I could mention poverty, infant mortality, Hurricane Katrina cleanup, the homeowner's insurance crisis on the Gulf Coast, the abysmal state of your educational system (here in Texas we say "thank God for Mississippi and Louisiana" because we're only 48th out of fifty states) and environmental destruction from the scads of ships that were damaged in 2004. But, seriously, dude, what were you thinking?!

I won't even bring up all the logistical impossibility of your bill. What concerns me more than any of that stuff is that you would choose to use your position as a public servant in such an irresponsible manner. By your own admission, you never thought your bill would become law. Yet you chose to use scarce resources, such as taxpayer dollars which pay for your staff and your office supplies, hearing space on a very crowded legislative agenda, time that almost certainly could have been spent on better things, air conditioning and the associated electrical costs, and paper and ink and toner to make an unmakeable point. Instead of bringing positive attention to this "number-one problem" (and again, I think you have lots of bigger ones out that way), you've embarrassed yourself and the office you hold.

You owe the persons you represent an apology. I won't go so far as to suggest you resign--you've been a representative since 1993, so you must be doing something right--but, seriously, dude, what were you thinking?!

Whatever it was, please don't think it again. This is my real name and address.

And now for something Buddhist-y. This is from my Zen calendar. It made me cry.

The monk from Shu with the silk lute case,
walking west of O-mei mountain,
Has with a light touch of the strings
enveloped me in the pines of a thousand valleys.
I hear him in the shimmering brook,
I hear him in the icy wind.
And I feel no change as the mountain darkens
and autumn's dark clouds heap in the sky.

--Li Po