Monday, December 29, 2008

Maggie's Music

I just posted this to my blog on

For the past couple of weeks I've been pretty busy developing a series of 16 Squidoo lenses for Maggie's Music, an independent label started over 20 years ago by hammered dulcimer player Maggie Sansone. The label specializes in what has been termed "chamber folk." While there are many solo recordings on the label, the artists often get together on each others' recordings as well. The music draws on Celtic traditions of Ireland, Scotland and other areas, with a good dash of American influence thrown in since all the performers are from the States. The music I've heard, which includes samples from CD Baby that are up to two minutes per track in some cases, is both lively and beautiful.

Back in November I started a Christmas music lens on Squidoo and came across several CDs from Maggie's Music, which I included. Maggie Sansone, the founder of Maggie's Music, spotted the lens and emailed me asking if Squidoo might be an appropriate place for a small label to put up some information. She offered me some promo copies.

Things developed over the next few weeks with me creating some lens ideas and proposing to do a lens for each of the twelve artists on the Maggie's Music label. It's a busy time of year for a musician who's also managing a record label, but once Maggie approved the idea, I got started making lenses. It turned out to be sixteen of them:

Maggie's Music
Maggie's Music: Karen Ashbrook
Maggie's Music: Robin Bullock
Maggie's Music: Ceoltoiri
Maggie's Music: Ensemble Galilei
Maggie's Music: Hesperus
Maggie's Music: Ken Kolodner
Maggie's Music: Jody Marshall
Maggie's Music: Al Petteway & Amy White
Maggie's Music: City of Washington Pipe Band
Maggie's Music: Bonnie Rideout
Maggie's Music: Sue Richards
Maggie's Music: Maggie Sansone
Maggie's Music: Celtic Collections (this is where you'll find the Celtic Tapestry 2-CD set)
Maggie's Music: Christmas
Maggie's Music: Lenses

The first one presents a sampling of CDs from the artists, and the last one is what Squidoo calls a "lensography," a lens that basically links to the other lenses. The lenses themselves have links to the Maggie's Music website along with information from the website, although there's much more info at the website itself.

Maggie and I worked out a trade - she has sent off a whole bunch of CDs via UPS which ordinarily might've gotten here by last Wednesday or Friday, but of course right after the package left their office in Maryland, the weather here in the Northwest turned bad, with more snow in Portland than I've seen since my last one in New England in 1999-2000. I'm hoping the package will arrive later today (it's around 7:30 a.m. Monday as I write this, and I know the package got to UPS in Portland yesterday). It's a good deal - she gets the lenses made for whatever the cost of producing and shipping the CDs is, and I get CDs that would've otherwise cost me around $16 each. I don't know how many CDs are in a package that UPS says weighs seven pounds, but even allowing for a couple of pounds for packaging and UPS rounding up a bit, five pounds of CDs has to be a fair amount. It'll be like a slightly delayed Christmas, and I'll be listening to lots of music for quite a while. In addition to, of course!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The 12 Mondegreens of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the second day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the third day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
three henchmen,
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
four scalded bards,
three henchmen,
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
five rolling things!
four scalded bards,
three henchmen,
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
six geezers slaying,
five rolling things!
four scalded bards,
three henchmen,
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
seven Swansea women,
six geezers slaying,
five rolling things!
four scalded bards,
three henchmen,
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
eight mayors a-filking,
seven Swansea women,
six geezers slaying,
five rolling things!
four scalded bards,
three henchmen,
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
nine lazy dentists,
eight mayors a-filking,
seven Swansea women,
six geezers slaying,
five rolling things!
four scalded bards,
three henchmen,
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
ten louts a-sleeping,
nine lazy dentists,
eight mayors a-filking,
seven Swansea women,
six geezers slaying,
five rolling things!
four scalded bards,
three henchmen,
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
eleven sneakers sniping,
ten louts a-sleeping,
nine lazy dentists,
eight mayors a-filking,
seven Swansea women,
six geezers slaying,
five rolling things!
four scalded bards,
three henchmen,
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love gave to me
twelve dumber dumplings,
eleven sneakers sniping,
ten louts a-sleeping,
nine lazy dentists,
eight mayors a-filking,
seven Swansea women,
six geezers slaying,
five rolling things!
four scalded bards,
three henchmen,
two purple gloves,
and a cartridge in a bare tree.

Back around the mid-'70s I was working at a bank and had taken on, with a friend, the job of putting out a monthly newsletter. For December, I made a simple drawing of a small Christmas tree with no needles. The only ornament was a bullet: a cartridge in a bare tree. If you search the term "cartridge in a bare tree" on Google, you'll find plenty of examples, but the Internet wasn't available back then. That's how humor works - many different people come up with the same thing independently at different times.

Last evening I saw a video of a men's a capella group parodying "The Twelve Days of Christmas." There were no lines in the video anything like what I've written, but it got me thinking. What if someone misheard every line of the song? The first thing I came up with after recalling the cartridge in a bare tree was "five rolling things."

A misheard lyric is called a Mondegreen, after a misheard line in the 17th century Scottish ballad "The_Bonnie_Earl O' Murray." It was misheard by American writer Sylvia Wright in her childhood. Here's what she heard:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl Amurray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

The last line was written as "And laid him on the green."

Wright did an article for Harper's Magazine in 1954, and since then there have been many examples of misheard lyrics. You can read more about Mondegreens in Wikipedia. One collector of them, Gavin Edwards, has published several books of Mondegreens, some illustrated. I have three: 'Scuse Me While I Kiss this Guy, He's Got the Whole World in his Pants and When a Man Loves a Walnut. He's even done one for Christmas: Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly, but I don't have it and have never read it, so if any of my lines resemble anything in that book, it's coincidence.

My re-writing of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" technically is not an example of Mondegreens. A true Mondegreen is a genuinely misheard lyric, such as a misheard line from Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising": "There's a bathroom on the right." Mine are all made up to resemble ways someone might mishear each line of the song.

I've been asked in the past after committing an act of punnery, "Do you stay up all night thinking of those things?" No, not usually, although last night I might've gotten to sleep a bit later than I would've otherwise.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More Maggie's Music Lenses & Snow

On Monday I created a lens in the Maggie's Music series, which are in a Squidoo account set up by Maggie Sansone, for Al Petteway and Amy White, a couple who now live in Asheville, NC. It took longer than I thought it would at first, but most of that was because I finalized some details of creating a module. I looked up a few things and applied them to the modules, such as changing the type from Squidoo's standard (Verdana, I think) to Times New Roman. I also added coding to make the CD titles and catalog numbers larger and in red type. Nothing fancy, just stuff I hadn't used before, so I had to fiddle a bit to make sure the code was right so I could set it up for copying and pasting.

Once Al & Amy's lens was done, I realized all the lenses I'd done so far had contained a lot of CDs - around a dozen each. Setting all those up takes a while, with a fair amount of the time just adding in the Amazon text links at the bottom of each module. just recently started adding MP3 downloads, and they appear to have added most of their Maggie's Music offerings. So for most modules, there's the CD from, the MP3 from, the CD from and the MP3 from

All the work fiddling with the code paid off yesterday. That came together with having done all the bigger lenses. What was left was mostly lenses for artists who have only released a few CDs. Yesterday I put together five lenses, probably the most lenses I've ever done in a single day. They included Karen Ashbrook, Robin Bullock, Ceoltoiri, Ensemble Galilei and Sue Richards. (No pictures for Ensemble Galilei and Sue Richards, although Sue is in the upper right of the photo of Ceoltoiri below.) Some of that was made easier by a few of the CDs being featured in lenses I'd already done, so all I had to do was cut and paste from the existing lens, then fiddle with coding if needed.

The lousy weather is continuing. After many days, the temperature did manage to poke above freezing for a few hours yesterday, but not by enough to cause any significant melting. It was also the first in many days where the temperature even came close to predicted highs. Throughout the cold spell, the predicted highs have never materialized and sometimes those predictions have been off by ten degrees or more. Some of that is no doubt due to cold winds coming from the East out of the Columbia River Gorge.

It's abundantly clear that the municipalities in this area really aren't equipped to deal with more than the merest dusting of snow. There's been some plowing, but I went out on Monday to take the MAX down to the Fred Meyer store at Gateway, and plowing has been minimal. The parking lot around Freddie's didn't look like any plowing had been done.

Even worse has been the non-response to the weather from the apartment complex management. Most cars in the parking lots I can see - from the window next to where I'm sitting and from my bedroom - have not moved since Friday because there has been no plowing. A few people have done some shoveling to get their cars out, while a few others have just been determined to spin their wheels and rock the cars back and forth until they got out. In the lot where my car is parked, some guys shoveled a couple of the first spaces near the road so they could park a pickup truck I hadn't seen before the storm, plus the car for the people downstairs next to the apartment under mine. They were only concerned about themselves, leaving a ridge of packed snow across the width of the lot which would make it difficult for anyone, including me, to get out without shoveling it away. So far nobody else had attempted it.

Considering I don't have chains, it's a good thing I haven't needed to drive. The MAX trip was a bit of an adventure. The ticket machines all seemed to be frozen. I tried to get a ticket at the 162nd Avenue stop, then got on anyway. I tried again at Gateway for the return trip and that machine didn't work either. A Tri-Met person said not to worry about it, they weren't checking fares. At least I tried. I had to walk in the road to get to and from the stops at 162nd, and fortunately the plowing had left enough space for people to walk carefully alongside the single lane of travel. Sidewalks shoveled? You've got to be kidding.

The public and private response to snow in Portland seems to consist largely of "Hey, it'll warm up sooner or later." Tri-Met at least has done their best to keep trains and buses running. Back in 2004 when we had ice and snow, the ice stopped the MAX for two days. This time, most of the Blue Line, which runs from Hillsboro in the West Hills to Gresham on the other end, has been open, and buses have filled in on the Red Line to the Airport (now open - the Red Line, that is, I don't know about the airport as I'm not flying anywhere and I haven't seen planes flying in and out due to clouds and snow) and the Yellow Line (still closed with buses filling in).

Temperatures are forecast to finally get back to normal by Saturday, but I'm not going to hold my breath. Often predictions tend toward normal the further out they go. Often in situations like this, that never happens. Oh well, I still have more lenses to make.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Portland - A good day to stay inside

Most Decembers in Portland, Oregon we get a lot of rain - usually around six inches or more. We haven't gotten anywhere near that much this year, plus for the past week the temperature has mostly been around freezing, mostly below that. We've had snow several times since Sunday morning (Dec. 14), although it warmed up at one point and most of that disappeared.

It was pretty cold earlier in the week, and today it's gotten just as cold and may get even colder. To top it all off, it began snowing steadily this morning. It's not those light, big fluffy flakes, either. It's those small ones that indicate a pretty serious storm. The temperature was just above freezing around dawn, but it's been falling since then. The first picture shows what my view is of the parking lot when there's not a gust of wind blowing snow around, while the second one shows what it's like with a gust. The wind is coming out of the Columbia Gorge, which usually means it's drawing on some really cold air from the other side of the Cascades.

The normal high temperature for today is 45F. As you can see from my thermometer, it's considerably colder than that. It's about as cold as I've seen it since I moved here. The temperature inside is pretty comfortable, and I don't even have my heat on. That's a good thing because it's electric. The apartment downstairs is vacant, and I think the manager turned up the heat in it so the pipes won't freeze. When I put my hand flat on the linoleum in the dining area I use as my computer space, the floor is not cold at all. Before this cold spell the temperature in this apartment, without the heat on, would get down close to 60F, and that was with outside temperatures in the 30s and 40s. If it warms up, maybe the manager will forget to dial back the heat downstairs. I certainly don't mind paying less for electricity.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Maggie's Music & Snowflakes

I added a couple of new lenses for Maggie's Music yesterday:

Maggie's Music: Bonnie Rideout
is about the three-time U.S. Scottish Fiddle Champion.

Maggie's Music: Maggie Sansone is for the founder of Maggie's Music and features her CDs. She's recorded quite a few, some solo and many with other artists on her label.

I now have four lenses done and published in that series, including Maggie's Music and Maggie's Music: Christmas. More to come.

My lens on Wilson A. Bentley, the Jericho, VT farmer who took over 5,000 pictures of snowflakes, has been getting a fair number of visits, most from Google searchers. While looking at the stats page, I saw someone had found the lens by searching for "snowflake bentley video" and I was somewhat surprised to realize I hadn't included any YouTube videos in the lens. I recalled seeing a video from Boston's WBZ-TV meteorologist Mish Michaels last year when I made the lens, but I obviously didn't include it. I suppose, still being new at lensmaking, I didn't think I should use it. Now I wonder why I thought that.

Today, however, I did add it to the lens, then looked around to see if there were any other videos. I found a couple and put them in as well. One is a trailer for a one-hour documentary about Bentley, the other part of a series of short videos by a woman from Madrid, Spain about "Masters of Photography." All three videos are quite different, but they're all very good and add a lot to the lens. Check it out!

Perhaps one reason I thought of checking out my Bentley lens was that it's been snowing lightly off and on today, and we got an inch or two yesterday. I know a good way to get it to stop: all I have to do is start gathering something dark to let snowflakes fall on, then figure out how to take the most closeup photos my camera is capable of taking.

It's already working! There were a few flakes falling as I started writing about snowflakes, and now the weather radar shows the nearest snow is about 50 miles west of here, out over the Coast Range, so it might not even make it here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maggie's Music and Me

When I did my Celtic Music: Christmas lens last month I included several CDs from the Maggie's Music label. It's a small label with a dozen artists including the founder, hammered dulcimer player Maggie Sansone. The next day, I published a lens featuring Bonnie Rideout, an American fiddler who plays in the Scottish style and who has recordings on the Maggie's Music label.

The next day I got an email from Maggie Sansone asking about doing lenses on Squidoo to promote Maggie's Music. Then she proposed a trade where I'd make lenses and she'd send me some CDs. I liked the idea for two reasons 1) my budget for buying CDs is non-existent these days and 2) I really like the music on her label. I've been listening to samples. Some of the samples available at CD Baby are two minutes per track.

It's a busy time of year for traditional musicians, so it's taken a little while to work things out, but we did, and now I've got a couple of lenses published under the account set up for Maggie's Music:

Maggie's Music
Maggie's Music: Christmas

The Christmas one was the first one I did, and it's a pretty basic lens using Amazon Spotlight modules, with text links to pages on the Maggie's Music website for each CD entered into the text space between the title and the CD cover. Time is very short, so I wanted to get something up and maybe catch a little of the late Christmas traffic. The neat thing about the CDs is they're available as digital downloads from iTunes via the website or from Amazon (some are even available from, which is very new) if ordering off the lens.

The one for Maggie's Music just uses text modules with CD cover images and text from the website. It's got text links to and but the CD cover and title are both links to the Maggie's Music website. It also has the text and graphics inside colored text boxes, which I think add a lot to the lens, making it different than your standard plain text-and-image lenses.

I just got email from Maggie. She likes the lenses, so now I can get the word out.

I'm happy to have a more direct connection through this arrangement that enables me to help out folk and traditional musicians. During my coffeehouse days I found that folk musicians are super nice people.

It's not too late to order some beautiful music on CD for delivery by Christmas. If you're the type who likes downloading, even Christmas day isn't too late!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Celtic Music Lenses

Since April I've been building lenses (web pages, but Squidoo calls them lenses because they focus on a topic) about Celtic music on Squidoo. The pages have some info about the performers, links to their pages and other online resources, plus links, mostly to and, to available recordings.

Here's a list of Celtic Music Lens Links:

Celtic Music: Christmas Compilations
Celtic Music: Christmas
Celtic Music: What Is It?
Celtic Music: Brobdingnagian Bards
Celtic Music: Dougie MacLean
Celtic Music: Bonnie Rideout
Celtic Music: Julie Fowlis
Celtic Music: Liz Carroll
Celtic Music: Patrick Street
Celtic Music: Eileen Ivers
Celtic Music: Téada
Celtic Music: Alexander James Adams
Celtic Music: Golden Bough
Celtic Music: Dervish
Celtic Music: Danú
Celtic Music: The Chieftains
Celtic Music: Music at Matt Molloy's
Celtic Music: The Bothy Band
Celtic Music: Clannad
Celtic Music: De Dannan
Celtic Music: Gráda
Celtic Music: Loreena McKennitt
Celtic Music: Silly Wizard
Celtic Music: Enya
Celtic Music: The Poozies & Sileas
Celtic Music: Boys of the Lough
Celtic Music: Battlefield Band
Celtic Music: Capercaillie
Celtic Music: Tannahill Weavers
Celtic Music: Solas
Celtic Music: Lúnasa
Celtic Music: Alasdair Fraser
Celtic Music:
Celtic Music: The Thistle & Shamrock
Celtic Music: Sean Nos Nua
Celtic Music: Flook
Celtic Music: Altan

And here's one lens to rule them all, one lens to find them, one lens to bring them all and in the music bind them*: Celtic Music: Lenses

The list is in reverse order of when the lenses were created. The two Christmas lenses would be the third and fourth on the list, but for the season I put them at the head.

*Apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Yesterday over in Delphi Forums, there were some postings in Fortuna's Favor about the governor's corruption in Illinois, where the Gov was seeking payoff for appointing someone to fill Obama's Senate seat. Here was my response:

From: Moby [Born2Pun] (Moby46) DelphiPlusMember Icon Dec-10 7:45 am
To: Fortunalee DelphiPlusMember Icon (10 of 22)
7526.10 in reply to 7526.8

Maybe all the lobbyists and crooked politicians could set up their own online auction site:


Tonight on Keith Olbermann's show, he mentioned some people are referring to the scandal as, you got it: gBay. Keith didn't say who those "some people" were. After I posted that yesterday morning, Fortuna asked me if it was OK if she used it, and she put it in her own blog.

It's the nature of humor that often the same joke arises independently in different places, so there's probably no connection between my post and Fortuna's blog and the people Olbermann was talking about, but you never know.

"Mouse potato."

Zazzle: Never Say Die!

About a year ago, when I was thinking about doing stuff on CafePress, my online friend and fellow paronomasiac (it's a big word for punster) suggested using material from The Punnery for T shirts. I got as far as coming up with a couple of dozen lines I'd used in the Never Say Die thread and putting them on templates. So today I remembered that and figured it would be easy to create a T shirt line on Zazzle.

I could have used the artwork, such as it was, from the CafePress stuff, but instead I typed in each line into Zazzle's product creator, one shirt at a time. I bumped up the size one notch from Zazzle's default. The default font is a rather boring Futura font, so I decided to see what else they had. I scrolled right up to the top of the list. The first one was called Ad Lib, a fairly bold font that had some character but wasn't overpowering. I suppose I could've hunted around a bit, but Ad Lib is a good font that won't distract from the message. I started making shirt designs and wound up with 25 of them, including a few that weren't from The Punnery.

buy unique gifts at Zazzle

I also did a bit of digging in Zazzle's help files and this time managed to come up with how to create new product lines that weren't subcategories of "New Products." I should've known that before I started creating stuff because now I have to move all the existing products into their own lines. That has to be done one product at a time. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to check off a group of items and move them en masse.

Right now, all I've got in Never Say Die is the T shirts, but I'll add more stuff, like mugs and bumper stickers, later.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Have Pun Will Travel Update

Just about a year ago I registered the domain name with They have a website builder called WebSite Tonight, which I decided to use to make a site rather than struggle with learning all over again how to do web pages. I know enough HTML to be dangerous, but CSS is still a mystery.

As it turned out, I probably should have taken the time to develop stuff on my own. The WebSite Tonight pages turned out to be rather limited and only 800 pixels wide in an era when most people have screens that can handle 1024 or more. But I developed a site because I wanted to put up pages for The Punnery, a collection of posts made on the old GEnie service back in the early 1990s, before there was a World Wide Web with its graphic interface. I started with my own posts, then got permission from one of my oldest online friends Dick Ford to add his posts. Over time I got permission from several others who still join in for the Sunday Punday sessions on AIM.

I also added some pages for authors, based on the Squidoo lenses I'd done. I added some of the Celtic music stuff from Squidoo as well. I also added the stories I've written, plus a page about the tornado I encountered (from a safe distance) in Kansas while driving out here to Portland in late June 2000. The stories and tornado page are not on Squidoo.

Although I built all those pages, I was never happy with the limited design, so this time, when it came to renew, I decided to not use WebSite Tonight and go with just a standard hosting package where I upload everything from my computer after designing pages offline. That was another drawback with WebSite Tonight - it might've been easy, but sometimes it could be really slow.

So I've been working with Dreamweaver, trying to figure out templates and how to use them. I chose a design included with Dreamweaver. It has a header, a footer, and a sidebar on each side. It was set up for 800 pixels, but I was able to figure out how to modify it for 1024. I found some free background images and figured out how to put them in. I redid my white whale logo so the whale is white but the background is transparent. That required using a free Illustrator-like program called Inkscape (suggested by a Squidooer on Twitter), and that required a bit of learning of its own, although I did remember enough of what little I'd learned about Illustrator back at the newspapers so it wasn't too horrible.

It's been a process of trial and error, mostly error it seems, but I've made enough progress that when the WebSite Tonight subscription runs out on Friday at some point, I should be able to upload at least some of the site. I'm hoping to get all of The Punnery up first, in addition to a home page, of course, then add author pages, Celtic music pages, and the stories, not necessarily in that order. The stories might be easy because I was able to upload them to the site without using WebSite Tonight, although later when I wanted to do that for the Celtic Music pages, somehow I couldn't figure it out.

I've got ideas for the sidebars, but haven't really put anything on them yet. Thursday will be very busy. About all I plan to do with Squidoo is check to see if the payday notification comes through.

Once the revamped site is up, I'll spend more time developing it, probably learning stuff to make it better. I recently did a little calculating on how much I get from a sale through Squidoo, and it turned out to be less than I'd thought, so sales through Amazon, CD Baby and any other affiliations I make should work better on my own site.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

More Zazzle

I've created more stuff on Zazzle. This morning I did a calendar using images from NASA, which are not copyrighted, from the latest space shuttle mission, STS-126. That was a two-week mission to the International Space Station which involved delivering about 7 tons of cargo and doing some upgrading and maintenance on the station. It made a bit of news when a bag containing a grease gun and a few other items floated away from an astronaut. One of the people who flew up stayed, and one who was on the ISS returned. I included a photo of the shuttle crew and another with the shuttle crew and the station crew. February has a picture of the launch and December's is the landing. There's another launch photo - a vertical one - on the back cover along with identification of the crew members in the January and July photos.

I've also collected some pictures that are copyright-free from the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APoD) site and will be making another calendar using many images from the Hubble Space Telescope. For these images, I had to do some hunting about the APoD site because not all the images are copyright-free. There's some really beautiful pictures at that site, but some of the best are, unfortunately, under copyright.

I won't be the first one to make a calendar from APoD images. I looked on Zazzle and found several others have done the same thing. That had a lot to do with why this morning I decided to look up other images on NASA's site and decided to make a calendar based on STS-126, the latest mission from Nov. 14 - 30.

Speaking of copyright, I took the time to look up a page on the NASA site so I would be clear that I wasn't doing anything wrong by using images. One thing I read was that the use of the image for the mission patch is intended for media, not commercial use. Obviously one Zazzler didn't read that or is associated with NASA. Hard to tell because there's no profile to view.

I'm still attempting to figure out how to best organize stuff on Zazzle. Zazzle is pretty good at giving information about promoting your products, but less so about actually organizing things. Or maybe I just haven't found the right help files yet. For now everything is listed under "New Products." I'm thinking it might be a good idea to have more than one gallery, but I'm not yet sure how to go about that.

I'm doing some tweaking on some of the Squidoo lenses. I saw that it's a good idea to allow more than just five comments on a guestbook page, so I've reset some of those. Only a few of my lenses have more than five comments, but over time I'll be increasing the number of comments per page.

Also, I'm trying to find a good Dreamweaver template for Have Pun Will Travel, which has to be redone since I'm dropping GoDaddy's rather pricey and somewhat limited Website Tonight and going with a regular account. That means getting all the stuff onto new pages, but the advantage should be that I should find it easier to put links to Amazon, CD Baby, Zazzle and other places I may affiliate with. I'm thinking of a full width header and footer, a main area in the middle with a sidebar on each side. I've got to have it done by Thursday to avoid a gap in the site being available. It might be unavailable for a while, but I hope for only a few hours.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Getting into Zazzle

A lot of folks on Squidoo are making designs for stuff on Zazzle, which is a print-on-demand company similar to Cafe Press. People say the quality of products from Zazzle is better than from Cafe Press. In the past few days, Squidoo rolled out a module for people who want to feature products from Zazzle, either their own or someone else's. If someone goes to Zazzle from a Squidoo link, there's a commission involved, so right away it looked like an easy way to make a little bit of money.

create & buy custom products at Zazzle

To become a Zazzle associate, you have to have a gallery, so I decided I'd start one: MobyD46. I'd previously looked into doing stuff with Cafe Press, but I didn't end up getting involved with them. Some of the preliminary stuff I did was to set up some images for use in a calendar. So when I started with Zazzle, that was the first thing I did. I didn't have quite enough images, but I only needed a few more. Images can be uploaded directly from the computer, then they go into an image repository so they can be used at any time for additional products. I got the calendar done last night (Wednesday) and added a few other things using the tiger photo.

Today I discovered how to create a whole group of products from one image at once, so I used the tiger photo and a few others - lorikeets, elephants, and an eagle. Not everything looked great on the products Zazzle sets up, so I had to go through each set and delete some and adjust some others.

Like Squidoo and so many other companies engaging in getting people involved in doing stuff online, Zazzle makes it sound easier than it really is. Still, although there's a learning curve, with a little, or perhaps more than a little, work I should be able to figure things out and really get rolling. I have some decent photos and Zazzle has some ways to get them on products. It'll help if people want to buy them.

I haven't used the new Squidoo module yet. I want to get more stuff ready first. But a lot of people who already have Zazzle galleries are jumping on the bandwagon.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Rude Oaf deer Head-nodes Reigned Ear

"Rude Oaf deer Head-nodes Reigned Ear" is the Anguish Languish version of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" that I "translated" back in the early '90s when I did "Hay Visage form Sane Ticklish." I've added it to that Squidoo lens since there really wasn't enough to make it a lens of its own. I probably spent as much time writing it from memory as I did searching the web for a suitable picture of a reindeer with a red nose.

I added it yesterday when I probably should have been finishing up my new lens Celtic Music: Brobdingnagian Bards. But I did get that one published later on.

KIM ROBERTSON: Celtic ChristmasI also found some more CDs to add to Celtic Music: Christmas as a result of looking around CD Baby's site. Celtic harpist Kim Robertson has a couple. It was nice to find her CDs on CD Baby. I bought several of them way back before I moved to the Left Coast. I don't have her Christmas CDs, but I'll bet they're beautiful. I added the Brob Bards Christmas CD, and added some CD Baby links to a few others. If you click on Kim's CD cover, you can poke around CD Baby and see what Christmas music might be there. A fair number of artists in the Celtic and Folk genres have them.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Joined CD Baby Affiliate Program

MAGGIE SANSONE: Sounds Of The SeasonLate Friday night I was poking around on the website for Maggie's Music, which has some very nice Christmas CDs I've featured in my Celtic Music: Christmas lens. Maggie has links to CD Baby, an online seller of independent music. The links allow you to listen to samples of the music, and in many cases you can hear two-minute samples instead of the usual 30-second samples. It gives you a much better feel for the music, in my opinion. The only drawback is you can really get into listening and then the two minutes end. Overall, though, it's a great idea.

MAGGIE SANSONE: Sounds of the Season IIEarlier last week I'd discovered CD Baby is right in Portland, out near the airport, which made me even more interested, so I started reading about it, and through Wikipedia I was even able to listen to a couple of stories NPR had done. I'm not sure how (probably Google), but I found out they had an affiliate program, which really got me interested. It was late and my eyes were getting tired, so I decided to look into it Saturday morning.

In the morning, I found the link to the affiliate program again and signed up. I already knew they had at least a few artists of interest since all of the Maggie's Music folks seem to sell through CD Baby in addition to her website.

BROBDINGNAGIAN BARDS: Real Men Wear KiltsThe Brobdingnagian Bards have about a dozen CDs on CD Baby, and I decided I'd create a new Squidoo lens for them. They're from Austin, TX and performed at Renaissance Faires, SF conventions and other venues starting in 1999. If you like Celtic, Ren, filk and humor, you'll probably find them interesting.

Buy the CD CD Baby makes it pretty easy to create links with HTML code which can be modified as I've done to get text to wrap around the cover images. The images are clickable, btw, so you can go to CD Baby, order some stuff, and I'll make a buck for every item you buy. The button at the beginning of this paragraph will take you to the Bards CD Real Men Wear Kilts. In the affiliate screen, all I have to do is enter an artist's name to get a list of everything they have, then add it to a screen that shows what the links will look like. They have three sizes of covers - I'm using the largest at 200 px. There are three sizes of buttons - I'm using the smallest at 100 px.

I started my first Squidoo lens without Amazon links, Celtic Music: Brobdingnagian Bards, although as I'm writing this, it isn't published yet. I want to have it done before Sunday's over. If you click on the link and get an "under construction" page, please check back later. It's mostly done.

DERVISH: A Healing HeartIn addition to working on that lens, I also added some links to several other pages as I found I already have some lenses featuring artists with CDs available through CD Baby. That includes Dervish, the Irish trad group. CD Baby even sells one of Dervish's CDs, A Healing Heart, which Amazon doesn't have. So I added CD Baby links to the Dervish lens, by making a whole section of the lens using CD covers and buttons as links just to CD Baby, with the Amazon sections below.

I've got a good reason for giving the CD Baby links prominence: at a dollar per CD I would make 6.25% of the price of one selling for $16, which seems a typical price. That's more than I can make splitting commissions from Amazon with Squidoo. If a CD sells for $10, I still make a buck, so that's 10%. Even from my own website, I'm not going to get 10% from Amazon, and I'd have to see more items credited to my links on Amazon than I've been seeing to beat the 6.25% although that could happen in the future.

FIONNUALA GILL: Whispers of LoveCD Baby is a very good deal for artists, who deal directly with the company. CD Baby keeps $4 from the sale of each CD, with money paid to affiliates coming out of the $4, not out of the artist's cut. So if an artist sets the price of a CD at $16, CD Baby sends them the other $12. The company does charge a $35 setup fee for each CD an artist wants to sell through them, but selling just three CDs at $16 can cover that. Once it's in the catalog, according to CD Baby, it can remain there as long as an artist wants it to regardless of how few might be sold. Also, it's not just a place that sells physical CDs. Most of the catalog is available in MP3 format for downloading. In putting together the Bards site, I only found one that wasn't offered for download, Real Men Wear Kilts.

CD Baby isn't exclusive. Artists can sell on their own sites, Amazon, etc. Fionnuala Gill, for instance, sells her Whispers of Love CD on her own website as well as through iTunes, and

CD Baby's affiliate program does work like Amazon's in one way: if you click through one of my links, anything you buy counts toward my commission. It doesn't even matter if you change your mind and don't buy the item you clicked on; if you buy anything, it counts. So even if the links I've got in this post aren't for items that you might buy but you want to look around, go ahead and click anyway. My links happen to be for Celtic artists, but Celtic music is only a small part of what CD Baby offers. The company is one of the largest, if not the largest seller of independent music.

So go ahead. Click on the link and Buy the CD. Any CD. Look around and you're sure to find something intriguing. Oh, and keep me in mind for future trips to CD Baby. Find one of my links on this blog (the Blogspot one for anyone reading from Delphi) and use it to go to CD Baby. If it's been more than 12 hours since your last visit through one of my links and you go back, I won't get a commission. It's the same with Amazon, although there it's 24 hours.


Friday, November 28, 2008

New Printer from Staples

My Canon S330 printer died recently. I turned it on one day and instead of getting a steady green light once it did all its initial stuff, the light would blink green followed by seven amber flashes. It was a print head problem. I found information online about stuff to try, tried it, and for a very short time the printer worked again. Earlier this week, though, the amber flashes were back, and the same tricks had no effect. A new print head would cost almost as much as a new printer, plus I was out of color ink (this had never caused the printer to stop printing in grayscale before). I'd had it for several years and had gotten it on sale, so I figure I got my money's worth out of it.

I went printer shopping online, and the best deal I could find for what I wanted was an HP C4480 all-in-one printer for $49.98 (half the usual price) at Staples on sale the two days after Thanksgiving. Amazon states it has been discontinued by HP, so this is obviously a clearance item.

I wanted an HP because I'd read their printer cartridges don't start indicating they're running out when the cartridge still has a whole lot of ink left, nor do they
just stop printing when the cartridge still has a lot of ink. Also, the C4480 uses fairly common ink cartridges and even the standard ones are bigger than those for the Canon S330. They cost more, but overall I think I'll be getting more ink for the buck with them. Even better, there are large-capacity cartridges available.

Staples was opening at 6 a.m. today (Friday), so I decided I'd get up early and be there.
The printer mission was successful.

I wasn't prepared for all the cars in the parking lot when I got there at around 5:45, or the line that went around the corner of the building (probably 50 people or more) and continued to grow. Staples had someone out there with tickets for certain items, probably because there weren't that many in stock. I didn't need one.

They opened the doors about three minutes early and because they'd blocked off certain areas to funnel the crowd, I found myself going right to the printer aisle where I spotted the sign with the large-type price right away, and it was for the C4480. Perhaps they had more in back because there were only two in boxes under the display model. I picked up a box and headed for the checkout. The woman at the checkout suggested buying ink cartridges. She said the supplied ones were "only one-third full." I suspect what she meant was the standard cartridges are one-third the capacity of the larger ones. At least, I hope so. One of each larger ones would've cost more ($69.98) than I was paying for the printer. Even one each of the standard cartridges would total $33.98 at Staples, or 68% of the cost of the printer. It's easy to see the profit is in the ink, not the printers. Online prices are close to half of what Staples charges, so that's probably how I'll be buying ink in the future.

The whole buying process was so fast I was out the door and headed for my car at 6:01. Staples really lived up to its motto of "That was easy." I went home and back to bed for a while before getting up to unbox and set up the printer.

I must have put a little too much paper in the input tray because my first printing attempt for a page to do an alignment test resulted in a jam. After taking out some paper, everything was fine.

The test photo print of a parrot's head closeup looks pretty decent. The 4x6 print
is cropped a bit more than I'd like, but I may have chosen a photo that was sized for 8x10. I'm not concerned as it was just a test to see what a print would look like, then what a scan of that print looks like when saved to the computer and added here.

The parrot was at the 2007 Portland Pirate Festival as part of the Pirate Parrot Show. The photo was taken with my Canon PowerShot S3 IS.

It's nice having a scanner as part of the printer because now and then it will come in handy for building Squidoo lenses. I can scan in book covers, for example. The printer also has slots for memory cards, but the LCD screen is only 1.5" so it makes more sense to put the card in the computer and work from there. But if I ever wanted a quick print and the computer was off, the slots on the printer might come in handy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

SF Awards Lens Revisions

I've got another large project in the works, and this time I think I'll spread it out a bit. It all began when I got the idea of adding a Table of Contents module to each of my Hugo and Nebula Awards lenses so people who want to look up a winner or the nominees for a particular year could click on the links created in the ToC. Then I got more ideas for making the lenses more informative.

I first thought about those books that might have won one award and been nominated for the other. I've got blurbs for all the winners of both awards, so I thought I'd go through the lenses and add the blurbs from the winning books to their listings on the lens for the other award. For instance, Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio won the Hugo and was nominated for the Nebula. I wrote a blurb for the Hugo entry and felt it should also appear on the Nebula lens where it appears as a nominee.

Of course, things didn't stay that simple. I began to think it would be a good idea to also add to each book's entry on either lens about it having won or been nominated for the other award. There are a fair number of books that have been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula but won neither, so there's no blurb, but I could add a mention of the nomination. That still wasn't too complex. It would just mean going through the lenses with the Hugo and Nebula lenses for each decade open and cross-referencing. Things might get a little more complex at the beginning and end of the decades because the way a book is nominated can mean it might be nominated in two different calendar years.

Then I decided just listing Hugos and Nebulas on the opposite lenses wasn't enough. Why not look up all the awards - major ones, at least - and list them as well. I decided that would be the most informative short of writing blurbs for every bloomin' book that has been nominated since the 1950s for the Hugos and the 1960s for the Nebula.

That, of course, requires looking up each book. Wikipedia is pretty handy for most of them, but it can be a bit erratic. So I found myself starting on the Hugos for the 2000s, using Wikipedia, and also checking out author websites as well. Sometimes that meant making decisions about whether to list some of the less prestigious awards. It also meant having the corresponding Nebula lens open to copy stuff from one to the other, making sure I didn't repeat on the Hugo lens that the book had been nominated for or won the Hugo, and saying on the Nebula lens it had been nominated for or won the Nebula. It gets a bit confusing when both lenses are open and the screen is only showing a part of the middle of the lens.

I worked my way through the Hugo lens for the 2000s, with some of the information being added to the Nebula lens for those books on both. When I tackle the Nebula 2000s lens next, it'll be easier since some info is already there and I'll just have to add stuff for those books nominated for the Nebula but not the Hugo.

There are 11 lenses and I'm not going to try to do more than one a day, nor will I hold myself to doing one every day, so this could take a couple of more weeks. At least once the information is added it shouldn't change except for books in the latest year where a book might get additional awards.

Also, with only a few days left in November, I'm hoping my Spoonerisms lens stays high enough in the ranking so it'll be in the top 2,000. It's still well above 1,000, but the effect of Lens of the Day is fading. It has been rated by 100 people and that's the most ratings for any of my lenses by far. And the Kit Cat Clock is the first of my lenses to get over 1,000 visits. Spoonerisms is close behind with over 900.

And since it never hurts to ask, if you're going to be doing any buying from or, please keep this blog and my Squidoo lenses in mind. Even if the item you're looking for isn't one I've linked to, you can click on any Amazon link and then look around from there and I'll get credit if you buy within 24 hours of clicking through via my link. Also, I've got search boxes on the left side of this blog for both the US and UK Amazons. Remember, it costs you nothing extra to go to Amazon through my links, but I'll make a commission if you buy something.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Christmas Sweater Controversy?

Glenn Beck, the until-recently CNN Headline News (and soon to be Fox) commentator, isn't someone I know except by reputation. Since I tend to follow left-of-center sources, it's not surprising I haven't heard much about him that makes him look good. He seems to be part of the right wing crowd that includes Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Michael the Savage Weiner (in case you didn't know, hatemonger Michael Savage's real last name is Weiner).

So it was a bit of a surprise to see Beck's name pop up with the #1 hardcover fiction book on the Publishers Weekly list last Friday morning, especially with a book that sounds, based on description alone, like something Robert Cormier (The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese) or some other popular writer for young adults might have written. But over the weekend, I read a blog post by Squidoo's Seth Godin, who remarked that Oprah Winfrey's popularity and her book club can have ten times the effect on a book's sales as being on The New York Times best seller list. Since Beck has his own show on both TV and radio and a large right wing following, it makes sense his book would shoot to the top on both the PW and NYT lists.

Still, I wanted to check something on the NYT list. On that list, a dagger (†) beside a book title indicates booksellers report bulk orders. This happens often with books put out from the various right wing publishers as an attempt to manipulate the ratings. This morning (Monday) I went to the NYT list to see if Beck's book had a dagger. Nope, no †.

But there was something I hadn't seen on Amazon's page, which is where I go both to list the book in an Amazon Spotlight module on my Squidoo lens, Best Sellers - Fiction - Hardcover and to get information for the blurbs I write about each book. The NYT list entry isn't for just "The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck." It's for "The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck with Kevin Balfe and Jason Wright." Interesting.

I started doing some checking around to find out who these other two guys are. Balfe is a co-author with Beck on a previous book Beck got a lot of attention (something he seems very good at doing) for, An Inconvenient Book. He's also the creative director of Fusion magazine, for which Beck is editor-in-chief. Wikipedia says this about Beck's involvement in the magazine: "Beck is credited as the magazine's editor-in-chief, with Kevin Balfe as creative director and Liz Julis as managing editor. Beck himself writes little or none of the material, but is involved in overseeing the process to make sure it matches his 'voice.'"

Jason Wright showed up in my searching. Amazon has a bio page on him that notes: "He also edited and appeared in Americans on Politics, Policy, and Pop Culture: The 101 Best Opinion Editorials From (2005)." And he's the author of several young adult novels, including one called Christmas Jars published in 2005.

Then I went back to Amazon's page for The Christmas Sweater. I did a search for "balfe" and got no results. Same thing for "wright". Searches are not case sensitive, by the way. It's rather interesting that in an extensive page of publicity and reviews, which includes Beck crowing about beating out Stephen King and Oprah-recommended author Wally Lamb for the #1 spot, there is no mention at all about two people who contributed to the book and who are listed along with Beck on the NYT list and many other places as contributors.

Word is that the book is based on a personal experience of Glenn Beck's. OK, I'll take that as true. But I have to wonder how much of the writing is really his. Also, it bugs me that Amazon doesn't mention his two collaborators.

Here's a link to the Amazon page:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Giant Squid Awards Nomination

My Spoonerisms lens has been nominated for the 2008 Giant Squid Awards in the Humor category. Today it's ranked #2 in Humor and #149 overall.

I added a box of text with a linked graphic to the introduction for the lens:

This lens has also been nominated in the Humor category for the 2008 Giant Squid Awards. Logged in Squidooers can vote by clicking on the image to the right.

Please vote by December 21, 2008!

I'd appreciate it if you'd visit the Spoonerisms lens, which gives me a page view, then click on the graphic from there. But if you're in a hurry and still want to vote, clicking on the graphic in the box above will take you right to the Humor category on the voting lens.

It was fun figuring out how to make the graphic, which I uploaded to Flickr, into a clickable link that opens in a new browser tab. You can bet I saved that code so I can use it again!

In other Squidnews, I updated the Best Sellers lens with the new format. The one tweak I made was to put the number representing a book's position on the list into the title of the module instead of on the line with a book's previous position and number of weeks on the list. By doing that, it shows up when I hit the "Rearrange Modules" button and I just move the modules up and down until they're in order.

I still save book titles, ISBNs, and text in a Notepad++ file, but with the individual modules, I should only have to enter stuff once for the entire time a book is on the list. That way, if editing gets messed up, the information is still available to be plugged in. The modules used for books that drop off the list get recycled for use by new books.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hay Visage form Sane Ticklish

It was probably back in the '70s when I was looking at The Next Whole Earth Catalog. That was the one that made the title of The Last Whole Earth Catalog a bit inaccurate, sort of like Douglas Adams did to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy when he expanded it to four, then five, books. Anyway, what I saw in The Next Whole Earth Catalog was a story called "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut," written in something called Anguish Languish. This "language" was the invention of Professor Howard L. Chace, who used it to illustrate to his French language students that intonation is an important part of understanding another language. The story looks strange in written form, but makes more sense when read aloud.

In the early '90s I had some time on my hands, and I must've read "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" again because I got the idea of translating Clement C. Moore's classic Christmas poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" into Anguish Languish.

When I got a website through an ISP, I made a couple of pages for the Anguish Languish and English versions of the poem. I found some nice graphics to use as a border and background, plus some Thomas Nast illustrations. Moore's poem and Nast's illustrations have a lot to do with the way Americans think about Santa Claus. Both are in the public domain, and I think the pages I made then look pretty nice.

I was on Squidoo last year at this time, but I didn't make a lens for my Anguish Languish version. It's probably just as well. I've learned a whole lot more about making lenses look good, and I incorporated them into the lens I made today (Thursday). Hay Visage form Sane Ticklish on Squidoo doesn't have graphics quite as fancy as the earlier web pages, but I did find more Nast illustrations. I uploaded them to Flickr, and found that they fit nicely with either eight or twelve lines of the poem without breaking any lines. I had to adjust the size of the text a bit after the lens was first published because the editing window is a little wider than the published lens window. There were enough illustrations to allow for some to be used in the Anguish Languish version, and different ones to be used in the English version.

One line in the Anguish Languish version mentions "Sane Tick." You'll have to take a look at the lens to see how I incorporated that idea into it. Da-da! Da-da-da dwee dow!

In other activity on Squidoo, I put five additional videos into my Celtic Music: Alasdair Fraser lens and deleted the Alasdair Fraser video showcase. Alasdair is an incredible fiddler in the Scottish tradition who has teamed up in the past few years with one of his former students, Natalie Haas. The fiddle and cello go back a long way in Scottish music where they were frequently used to provide music for Scottish dancing. Under Natalie's bow, the cello really comes alive.

Tomorrow morning I get to do my first update for the recently made over Best Sellers lens. It'll be interesting to see how that works out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Extreme Makeover for Best Seller Lens

I've made some changes to my Best Sellers - Fiction - Hardcover lens on Squidoo that should be big improvements. It started out small with the decision to add one line just above each book blurb that would give the book's previous position on the list and the number of weeks on the list. Fairly easy, but then I had another idea.

The Amazon Spotlight module has a much bigger image, so I added 15 of them and transferred all the information into each one, then deleted the three Amazon module that had listed five books each. That meant adding each book's current position on the list. Also, the Spotlight module allows the use of italics in the blurbs, so where I mentioned an author's other books, I italicized them.

Also, I decided I would add a paragraph in the introduction module about the changes for the week, something I'd been doing all along, but only in SquidCasts, which are brief notes sent out to people who have marked the lens a favorite and people who have joined my fan club. I wanted to put most of the text in the intro module into a box with a colored background. It looked OK on the edit page, but when the lens was published, the photo (the one you see here) intruded into the box. So I found a free image, cropped it and replaced the other one.

I don't know if this will result in any more visitors, but I think it makes the lens a bit more useful and it looks a whole lot better.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dougie MacLean Lens - Almost

Last night after I'd signed off, LindaJo Martin, one of the Squidoo people on Twitter, sent me a tweet asking if I'd done a lens for Scottish singer/songwriter and fiddler Dougie MacLean. When I saw the tweet this morning, I wondered how I'd manage to miss doing one for him so long. So I got started.

MacLean is probably best known for his fiddle tune "The Gael" which was featured in the movie The Last of the Mohicans, and his song "Caledonia" which is regarded by many as Scotland's unofficial national anthem.

It took a while longer than usual because also this morning I got an email forwarded through Squidoo from Maggie Sansone, hammered dulcimer player and founder of the record label Maggie's Music, which is the label Bonnie Rideout records for, mostly. The forwarding indicated she'd seen my Spoonerisms lens, although her actual message referenced my Celtic Music: Christmas lens. She was interested in the possibility of using Squidoo to promote Maggie's Music and wondered if it might be too commercial. So I emailed back and let her know a little about Squidoo and no, it certainly wouldn't be too commercial.

After taking time out to watch Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow, I got back to the Dougie MacLean lens. Sometimes I leave the biographical stuff at the top of a lens to last, but this time I'd gotten it done earlier and mostly just had to add in the links to Amazon for his CDs that are available there. Not all of the stuff available through his website is also on Amazon. I got a video of "The Gael" from his 2007 Perthshire Amber Festival performance added. Almost there.

Then when I went to add what links I could for CDs available from, Squidoo crashed. After I'd finally determined that yes, it was Squidoo and not anything I was doing, I spent some time reading posts on Delphi, then started this post. I figured unless something was really wrong, it wouldn't be too long before Squidoo came up and I could finish. And just a minute ago, a tweet from Chef Keem indicated it's back.

So my Dougie MacLean lens should be ready to publish soon. If it's Friday or later as you read this, no problem.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Lens for Bonnie Rideout, Scottish Fiddler

Bonnie Rideout is one of the best fiddlers in the Scottish tradition in the US. She grew up in Michigan and Maine, discovered a fiddle in her parents' home when she was eight, trained classically, then immersed herself in Scottish fiddle tradition. She's the subject of my latest Squidoo lens, Celtic Music: Bonnie Rideout.

I'd come across her name before, but it wasn't until I was putting together the Celtic Music: Christmas lens that I learned more about her. Several years back, she recorded A Scottish Christmas. That CD was turned into a performance, which resulted in a second CD and a DVD.

In checking her website, and, I found she had enough material out there for a lens, and that was just published a few minutes ago.

Earlier today I decided that my Christmas music lenses, Celtic Music: Christmas, Celtic Music: Christmas Compilations and Nowell Sing We Clear, might do better if submitted to some Christmas groups on Squidoo, so I found about a half dozen or so and submitted them. It'll be interesting to see how that goes.

Today was a perfect day for making a lens - outside it was mild, but it was also windy and rainy, with the rain sometimes rather heavy. There's not a whole lot of sun in the Portland area during November, December and January, and February and March aren't particularly noted for sunshine either. I decided to buy some sunshine by ordering one of those natural light lamps from Amazon. I found one on sale, then decided to use most of the difference between the regular price and the sale price on one-day shipping so it'll be here tomorrow instead of sometime next week. I probably should have gotten one soon after I moved here. Not only are winters much cloudier here than in New England, I'm also living about three degrees latitude further north than I was back East, so days are just a bit shorter.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nowell Sing We Clear - New Squidoo Lens

Some Coffeehouse History

From 1976 to 1989 I helped run a coffeehouse featuring first local, then regional, national and international folk musicians. It took place in a meeting room of the First Parish Church (Unitarian Universalist) in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. It was started by my friend Ed Visco. He got the idea to have a one-time coffeehouse. I wanted to be there, but I was also involved in what turned out to be my one and only play at Stratton Players, the local community theater. I had maybe three lines. I did help out with preparing for the coffeehouse, but couldn't be there while it was going on.

It went well enough that Ed thought it would be worth trying again in a couple of weeks. Since the play would be over by then, I could be more involved and volunteered to be the emcee. I had no idea I'd still be doing that nearly thirteen years later.

For the first few years, we found local performers willing to play for free to get a little exposure, then after Ed suggested we call it the Northern Lights Coffeehouse, we took it a step further and formed the Northern Lights Folk Arts Society. The main focus was the coffeehouse and we also started a contra dance once a month with New Hampshire caller Mary DesRosiers, Alan Block on fiddle and Peter Barnes on piano.

With a new focus on professional musicians in the coffeehouse, I also took on booking musicians. I got some advice from Gene Petit, the station manager of WICN-FM, the Worcester, MA National Public Radio affiliate. He provided me with a number of contacts. One of my first calls was to Sally Rogers, a midwestern singer/songwriter who had recently relocated from Michigan to Connecticut. My friend Joanna and I had seen her at what turned out to be the last Fox Hollow Folk Festival and she'd bought Sally's album. When I let Sally know we were just getting started with hiring professionals, she was extremely helpful.

Northern Lights and Nowell Sing We Clear

Ed was involved with the local Community Concerts association, something my parents had been interested in some years earlier. Things were winding down with that group. They had some money left over, and Ed, who had heard of English performers John Roberts and Tony Barrand and their show Nowell Sing We Clear, suggested presenting the show as a joint venture of Community Concerts and the Northern Lights Coffeehouse. The CC group approved the idea and so did the folks of Northern Lights, so the first of several presentations of Nowell Sing We Clear at the coffeehouse, using the church sanctuary, was set up. I don't recall exactly what year it took place, but it was in the early 1980s. We got the word out through local radio stations, including some in the Boston area and WICN, of course. We also used a very nice small poster and flier illustration by Joanna - and I certainly wish I had a copy, but if there's still one around, it's 3,000 miles away.

So what is Nowell Sing We Clear? Glad you asked. It's billed as "A Pageant of Midwinter Carols" drawn from English traditional music. The performers in the Northern Lights days were John Roberts, Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig and Steve Woodruff. John and Tony, both from England, had met as graduate students at Cornell University and began performing sea ballad, drinking songs, and songs of the working people. When the idea for Nowell Sing We Clear was conceived, they got together with New England performers Fred and Steve. The first Nowell Sing We Clear performance was in 1975. By the time they came to Northern Lights, the performance was already becoming a tradition in several communities. It's a presentation of old songs and tunes as played and sung in English villages for generations and handed down. Fortunately some of the music was preserved in written form by folklorists, so John and Tony had a lot of material to draw on. Even today, after more than 30 years of performing the show, they're still finding "new" material.

A Lens Is Born

On Monday morning, while I was updating my Loreena McKennitt and Celtic Music: Christmas pages because Loreena's latest album was now available, I played the video of Loreena doing "The Seven Rejoices of Mary," in which she uses the melody of the Irish traditional song "Star of the County Down." That got me thinking of the versions I was previously familiar with, one done by the Silly Sisters, Maddy Prior and June Tabor, and I also recalled it was part of the Nowell Sing We Clear show. That got me wondering if the show was still around, and when I found out it was, I spent the rest of the day alternating creating a lens about it with other things I found to do, including cutting back on some of the politically oriented forums on Delphi now that the election is over.

Usually my first criteria for creating a lens about performers is whether they have CDs available at, but this time I was more interested in creating the lens to let folks know about Nowell Sing We Clear. It includes the performance schedule for the shows they'll be doing in December. They're all in the Northeast, ranging from New Hampshire down to just outside Washington, DC. I was pretty pleased to see a couple of folklore societies, a coffeehouse and the Old Songs group presenting the show. Old Songs, of course, puts on the annual Old Songs Folk Festival in late June west of Albany, New York. That was started by Bill and Andy Spence who used to run Front Hall Records, a label John and Tony recorded on and home to the first three Nowell Sing We Clear albums.