Saturday, October 31, 2009

NaBloPoMo for November

I'm on the blogroll at NaBloPoMo, aka National Blog Posting Month, for November.

Now all I have to do is be sure to post here at least once a day. I tried that in October but managed to miss two or three days. Still, it was good practice for this month. Originally NaBloPoMo was intended to be for November only, but some folks who'd joined wanted to keep things going, so it is now possible to sign up for any month. November is the month for which prizes are awarded. Each month there's usually a theme. For October it was "Haunted." According to the site's home page, "The theme for November is there is no theme for November."

I'll be posting my second Sundancer story "Sundancer's Fairy Tale." While "Sundancer" was told in first person from tavernkeeper Brewer's point of view, the second story is told from the POV of Sundancer. Originally I thought it would just be about Sundancer's trip halfway around Dahroona in her sailboat Wind Dancer and possibly some events after that, but early on the story took a turn when someone showed up.

In Open Office Writer, the story takes up 46 pages. I'll be breaking the story up into approximately two-page chunks depending on how it looks for breaking up the story. Overall it's about the same length as "Sundancer" or maybe a bit longer. "Sundancer's Fairy Tale" will start tomorrow.

In other news, after trying various different ways to get computer #4 back in operation, it looks like it's not going to happen. Although I know the CD drive works (discovered by switching the ribbon cables of the hard drive and CD drive and seeing the machine boot the Super Grub Disk) it appears the machine simply won't see there's a keyboard attached. I may attempt reseating the CPU, which is in a strange vertical holder that for some strange reason was a little too small for the socket, but I was able to keep it in by jamming some pieces of toothpick in the sides. Sounds odd, but the machine did run for several years without problems. If that doesn't work, I'll just put the 120 GB drive into Caristiona for extra storage.

I had another bit of strangeness occur on Sileas, the main computer a few days ago. When I use the keyboard/monitor/mouse switch to go from one computer to the other, the mouse often does crazy things and stuff gets opened without my input. At one point when I tried to access messages in Delphi Forums all I got was a mostly blank screen with the forum title bar in the middle. I could get into forums using Caristiona, so I knew it had to be something affecting Sileas only. I posted about it in the Firefox forum and got no response initially.

Then I added a bit more detail after I tried deleting cookies with no change and also discovered I could get to messages by changing part of the URL from "" to "" Then someone asked if maybe I had AdBlock Plus installed, saying it's possible the mouse craziness might've added a filter. Since the time I'd switched computers was a time when Delphi Forums was open on Sileas, that sounded logical. I checked filters on AdBlock Plus. That took a while because I block a lot of big signature graphics on Delphi through it, but eventually a filter blocking the forums showed up. It died a quick death upon discovery. Now I can read forums on Delphi again.

Be sure to tune in again tomorrow for the start of "Sundancer's Fairy Tale."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween on

There was a special show on today with Klara McDonnell, who usually does a show from 6 to 8 p.m. Dublin time on Mondays. As you can see, she was in costume and had a good time.

I had fun playing with the screenshot app in Linux Mint, which makes it easy to take shots not only of the whole screen but also of selected areas of it. That's how I managed to take these shots. It's not the easiest thing because for each shot I had to go to the Mint menu, choose the screenshot app, then chose to take a selected area, click on "Take Screenshot" and define the area, then hold the mouse button down with the area defined and wait for a good moment to release it. It's releasing the mouse button that determines when the screenshot is made. It took a couple of tries before I realized that.

She had her friend Linda in the studio with her and at one point they did a little Irish dancing. I did get a shot of it, but webcams don't have very fast shutter speeds, so that shot came out pretty blurry. A couple of times she showed off the vampire bite marks on her neck, but that happened too quickly for me to go through the steps to catch that in a screenshot.

The studio has undergone some renovations lately and it's looking good. Daithi, who does all the techie stuff, says there's more to come. He's upgraded the main computer in the studio and there either are or will be more webcams.

From the VID Blaster logo in the upper right corner of these shots, it looks like they're trying out something new in software as well. Before Klara came into the studio today there was a screen showing four different views including one of Crow Street and a couple of different studio shots. After Klara's show the view went back to the more usual shot of the street.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And Another Thing...

It was only a few weeks ago that I learned there was going to be a sixth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Before he died unexpectedly in 2001 at 49, Douglas Adams had talked about doing a sixth book. The 30th anniversary of Hitchhikers is this month, and in August of 2008, Adams' estate contacted Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series about a teenage criminal mastermind. It's Die Hard with fairies, according to the author. People are always asking Colfer (whose first name is pronounced "Owen," by the way) why he was chosen to write the book. He says it's because Douglas Adams' widow and daughter thought he was funny.

I'd decided I'd get the book, And Another Thing... in the near future, then I learned he would be appearing this evening at Powell's Books over in Beaverton where I'd seen Sarah Vowell a couple of weeks ago. I didn't feel like paying full price for the book, so I made a trip to the nearest Barnes and Noble, where it was 20% off and started reading. Then I drove over to Powell's, leaving early enough so if traffic was heavy I'd still be there in plenty of time. That left me plenty of time to continue reading, and by the time the event started I was up to page 99.

All the regulars are back: Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Trillian and Zaphod Beeblebrox. Marvin the Paranoid Android may not be in this book; so far I haven't seen him. It's a bit into the future and while everyone's still going, they've had some help, since it's mentioned at one point that Trillian, who has had a successful career as a galactic reporter, is 105 years old. Even so, she has a child, Random Frequent Flyer Dent who is a teenager in this book. She was introduced in Mostly Harmless. Trillian had gone to a galactic sperm bank and since Arthur was the only donor of the same species, he's the father. From what I've read so far, And Another Thing... is worthy of being the sixth book in the series. There are frequent references to characters, species and events from the previous books, and the humor is just as offbeat and crazy as anything Douglas Adams ever wrote. If you liked the first five books of the series, you'll like this one.

Colfer didn't do a reading, choosing instead to talk about how he came to be the one to write it, which including talking about how he and a group of friends read the original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy back around 1979 and loved it. When And Another Thing... was launched earlier this month all of the group of friends and their families were at the launch event. He also took questions, but I couldn't think of anything intelligent to ask, so I didn't.

This event was a bit different. You needed a free ticket for the signing and people were called up in groups of ten according to the ticket number. They also had a raffle. There was a $10 gift certificate, a large poster on foam board that stood in front of the podium, 20 small black towels with the book title and "Don't Panic!" on them, and about the same number of small books containing reviews of each of the six books in the series. People filled out slips of paper with their names and emails which then went into a box. I almost never win anything in these raffles, and tonight was no exception.

Normally I'd have a picture, but I managed to leave the apartment and get almost to where I get on I-84 before I realized I'd never even thought about the camera and by then I didn't want to turn around.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nice Try, But...

I've had a three older computers sitting around not doing anything, so I thought one or more of them could be set up to run Linux. Things did not go well, unfortunately.

I started with the least old one. I'd previously installed Ubuntu on it but never really used it much. An attempt to try again by installing Mint instead did not get far thanks to a loud SNAP! which may just mean the power supply went out.

The next oldest one would not boot from the disk like it's supposedly set up to do. Booting into Windows got me to the screen where a password is required, but it wouldn't take any password I tried. After trying to find ways around that, nothing was working, so I decided to take the C: drive out and put it into my second machine.

Once it was in the second machine, I put in the Mint install disk and installed Mint on the drive. Then I moved the drive back to it's original place, where it promptly failed to boot. I messed around some more, even pulling out an older HP machine I hadn't run in a long time to see if I could install Linux on that, but that hard drive made ominous clicking noises and never booted. Putting the hard drive with Mint on it in that machine didn't work either. So now I appear to have only two working desktop machines, although I will see about that power supply. If that's the problem with #3, that'll be good, especially if I can switch the power supply from #4 into #3.

Most of that messing around took place last night and this morning. Then I discovered another problem. When I'd installed Mint onto the disk from #4, I'd messed up the boot file on Caristiona, the second machine. That's how I found out about GRUB, which is somewhat like the Master Boot Record on Windows machines. I did some looking around the internet on Sileas. I found one site that gave simple instructions for fixing GRUB, but it didn't work.

Fortunately, in my looking around I found references to something called Super GRUB Disk. So I downloaded it, burned it to a CD and stuck it in the CD drive on Caristiona. At first, I just chose to boot, and found out I could get into Linux and everything was still there and working. But when I took the disk out and rebooted, I got the error again.

The next try was to put the SGD back in and look around a bit. From reading help files, and trying a few things (carefully) I eventually managed to select the right options and got a message that SGD had succeeded in putting things right. I restarted, popped the disk out, and Caristiona booted into Linux just like before. Just to be sure, I rebooted and confirmed everything's OK.

While I did eventually find out what I needed by reading some Linux forums found in Google search, I had to read through a lot of verbiage. Many people, instead of just presenting a solution, seem to have a need to berate people for things like not giving enough info or for being dumb enough to mess things up in the first place, and then threads tend to digress. So it took a fair amount of searching around.

With all that messing around, I'm essentially back where I started except #4 no longer has Windows on it. That's not a big deal because Windows is not in my future. Linux is the way to go and the price is right. Also, I do now have Super Grub Disk in case I have any future problems.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sundancer - Page 13

Sorry, but I've deleted this post because I'm interested in publishing this story electronically and offering it for sale.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sundancer - Page 12

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sundancer - Page 11B

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sundancer - Page 11A

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Friday, October 23, 2009

More Linux

Today I decided to make my second computer, Caristiona, into a Linux machine without Windows at all. I wasn't having any success getting it to boot from the Mint disk. I thought there was something wrong with the CD drive until I put a different CD in and it was visible. I wasted some time by downloading Mint again and burning a second disk, then I discovered I had the computer's boot sequence set wrong. It was set to boot from a floppy first (yeah, this one's old enough that I built in a floppy drive), then the hard drive, then the CD-ROM. I reversed the order and it booted from the CD.

My 120 GB drive was partitioned into two equal parts, but the stuff on the D: drive just barely fit onto a second 80 GB drive. Once I'd moved stuff, I did the Mint installation so Linux occupies the whole C: drive.

One thing I've noticed it I can now run both Sileas and Caristiona without the network connection dropping, so I can access the internet from both computers. Under Windows, the connection would drop within a half hour of starting up the second computer, and it didn't matter which one I started first.

Network connections seem kind of off and on, so I probably need to learn some stuff to make it more reliable. I wanted to copy over the files for my home page from Sileas to Caristiona, but couldn't make it work. So I copied the files onto my 160 GB Seagate USB external drive, unplugged it from Sileas and plugged it into Caristiona. Then I copied the folder onto the 120 GB drive and set it up as my Firefox home page. That saved me from having to edit things so all the icons show up because I'd already fixed it.

I'm finding that I'm not going back to Windows on Sileas very much at all. I suppose I'll keep the Windows partition on that machine for a while. I do have some programs that might prove useful now and then.

One very nice thing about Linux is I don't have to be concerned about viruses. Overall, I'm pleased that I finally got to making the switch on a computer I normally use. I may be using Caristiona more often too. I'm writing this post on that machine, for instance.

Several years ago when I bought Sileas, I didn't really need another computer, but she's faster and the price was right since she's a refurbished HP machine. Caristiona, one I built, was only about two years old at the time I got Sileas, so I expect there's a lot of life left in her.

The name Caristiona comes from an album by George Jackson and Maggie MacInnes. It's the title track from the album which came out in 1984.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sundancer - Page 10

Sorry, but I've deleted this post because I'm interested in publishing this story electronically and offering it for sale.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sundancer - Page 9

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Sometimes Things Go Right

I got my Comcast bill in the mail on Saturday. Often I don't open bills because I do most payments online, but I opened this one. I noticed I was being charged $15.99 a month for HBO, something I don't recall ever having ordered.

After some checking, it appears the charges started back on June 2nd, the day I called to change my cable plan to one that cost less. The HBO was free for three months from that day, so after seeing the amount on the next bill in July was lower, I didn't pay much attention. I guess I didn't actually look at either the printed bill or the online bill for the details. Not a good idea, obviously.

After calling up enough bills online to see just what had happened, I gave Comcast a call and got connected to Steven. I told him I didn't recall ordering HBO. He confirmed to me when it had been added and the time I'd actually been billed for it. Then he said, "Let me do some math here." After a few clicking calculator sounds, he said the amount I'd been charged was $41 and some change and he'd credit that amount. He also explained that the current bill for the period which started yesterday would still include HBO, but the next bill would reflect the credit, including for the current bill. Also, he discontinued HBO.

It was that simple. I was prepared to argue, although it's not something I enjoy doing, so it's good it never came to that. I suppose it's possible back on June 2nd I'd gone along with an offer of three months of free HBO, in which case it would've been smart for me to note the date and cancel it before the three months were up. On the other hand, I was trying to reduce my bill, so saying yes to such an offer seems unlikely.

I'll be sure not to accept any such free offers in the future unless I'm prepared to pay for the service after that time is up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mint Condition

I've been interested in Linux for some time and now I've finally got it installed on my main computer, Sileas (both the computer and the star cruiser in "Sundancer" get their name from the Scottish harp duo of Mary MacMaster and Patsy Seddon).

The other day I downloaded Mint 7 and burned it to a bootable CD. Originally I was going to put it on another computer that already had Ubuntu. I never got too enthused about Ubuntu, and for some reason strange things happen when I have more than one computer running on my little network. For one thing, the router keeps dropping the internet connection. For another, some of the mouse and key functions get wonky.

I was getting set to install, but when I rebooted the computer, there was a rather loud snap, and the monitor showed only a dark screen with the message "Out of range." That snap must have been something on the video card.

Next I thought I'd try the disk on Caristiona, which was my main computer before I got Sileas four years ago. But even though it should've booted from the disk, it didn't. It's probably something simple to fix, but since I wanted to try it out, I decided to put the disk into Sileas's CD drive.

When a computer boots, the monitor flashes the screen resolution. It usually reports several before it reaches the point where the resolution I've set shows up. The monitor will show a resolution of 1360x768, but with Windows that's not an option for some reason. For a while I'd run it with 1024x768, then changed to 1266x720. While the wider screen was nice, it was 48 pixels short of full depth and there were black bars of 47 pixels on either side of the screen. And when I first switched, there was dark screen burn on the right side, although that faded in a couple of weeks.

Sileas accepted booting from the Mint disk and as it finished booting, I got a pleasant surprise. The final screen resolution that flashed was 1360x768. I'd thought the limitation was due to the video card. I'd looked into replacing it, but any decent video card would have required more power, and Sileas' power supply is on the puny side, so it would have meant replacing the card and power supply - more money than I can spend on computer right now.

Suddenly I knew I would be installing Mint on Sileas, which only has one built-in 160GB hard drive, although over time I'd also attached a couple of USB drives. One is also 160 GB and the newer one is 1 TB. I'd freed up a lot of space by moving stuff over to the 1 TB drive, and earlier today I moved even more stuff and deleted several programs I'd installed and then hadn't used much, plus I got rid of Microsoft Office, which like so many Microsoft programs, ate up a lot of space. I've been using the much smaller (and free) Open Office.

Once I'd move stuff and deleted, I had about 88 GB free space on the C: drive. But when I began the installation, I found the choices a bit confusing. I unplugged the two USB drives, but once I'd done that, I wasn't comfortable with editing the partitions within the Linux installation procedure.

I backed out once again and located a free disk partition program online. It allowed me to partition the C: drive into two partitions, and appropriately enough, the program told me the new partition would be L:. It took a long time to partition the drive - about three hours.

Back to the Linux installation program and this time I saw what I wanted - I could set up the L: partition without bothering Windows on the C: partition. The instructions I'd read weren't terribly clear about the swap partition, but I went ahead and the installation program eventually gave me the opportunity to carve out space for that from the L: partition. Once that was done, it did take about 20 minutes for Linux Mint to install.

So far I've gotten Thunderbird email set up, although there's more to do there, but at least I can get mail with it. Also, I figured out how to copy over the files for my home page on Firefox, which is on the computer, not the web. So I'm able to get to everything online I'm used to getting, including this blog.

It looks like finally I've found myself on Linux and I'm hoping as time goes on Windows will fade. I'm already thinking I may take Windows off Caristiona and just have Linux on it. It'll be interesting to see if the networking between the two works.

Now I've got to get this posted - it's less than 15 minutes to midnight!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sundancer - 8 of 13

Sorry, but I've deleted this post because I'm interested in publishing this story electronically and offering it for sale.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.

I've been following the webcomic User Friendly for several years now. One of its features is a Link of the Day. People send in links to interesting and odd sites, and Illiad, the strip's creator, choses one each day. Today's link was to the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. While I don't think I need any superhero supplies, it seemed like a fun link to check out and it is. I don't think everything listed is actually for sale, but I'm not exactly sure how much is for sale and how much is just listed for fun.

When I clicked on the "Manuals" link it led me to some of the writings produced by the 826NYC group (these items are really for sale). It's a program for 6- to 18-year-old students interested in creative writing. The unusual name rang a bell. It didn't take long for me to recall it's a group Sarah Vowell is involved with, and a little looking around the site confirmed that. She is on the board of directors. I'd included a video about 826 National in my Squidoo lens about Sarah.

Sarah Vowell at Powell's Books, Beaverton, OR, Oct. 14, 2009
From MobyD's Soundings

It's interesting this came up because just this past Wednesday I went to Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing in Beaverton where Sarah was giving a reading from The Wordy Shipmates, her latest book just out in paperback. She told us she was trying something a bit different with this reading, so she read from the section of the book about the Pequot War in the 1630s.

Sarah Vowell's approach to writing about history is quite different from that of many other historians. She frequently mixes in her own personal experiences and makes frequent references to modern events that are related in some fashion to her subjects. Also, she's not afraid to interject her wry, offbeat humor. It makes reading her books much more interesting. She reads all the dry, sometimes difficult source material and presents her results in a manner that makes it both informative and fun to read. In putting together my Squidoo lens about Sarah, I saw quite a few videos, plus I've heard her on This American Life (mostly through online recordings). Now, having also heard and seen her in person, it's easier to imagine her style of delivery as I read her books.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sundancer - Page 8

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sundancer - Page 7

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vowell's at Powell's

I'm heading out soon for the Powell's Books store at Cedar Hills Crossing in Beaverton where Sarah Vowell will be appearing to promote her book The Wordy Shipmates which just came out in paperback. I'm leaving early to avoid as much of the rush hour traffic as I can, then I'll get the book and use the large amount of time to start reading it.

I considered taking the MAX and/or the bus, but it really takes a lot longer that way since going through downtown Portland eats up a lot of time. Also, I'm taking my camera, and I feel a little safer driving. I've ridden the MAX in the evenings, and some of the characters I've seen are ones I'd rather not see again.

The link up above (and here) is to my Squidoo lens for Sarah Vowell.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sundancer - Page 6

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Sundancer - Page 5B

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A Vegetarian Spider

I spotted a story at the UK site TimesOnline about the discovery of the first known vegetarian spider that lives in Mexico (which, in spite of what the article's author says, is not in South America). One of the first things I noticed when reading the article was the spider's scientific name: Bagheera kiplingi.

If you're a little rusty on Kipling, Bagheera was a panther in The Jungle Book. I'm not entirely sure why a vegetarian spider in Mexico would be named for a carnivore from India, but it is kind of interesting.

Q: Do you enjoy Kilping?

A: I don't know. I've never kipled.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sundancer - Page 5A

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Richard Dawkins Is Not a Pirate

I had been planning to go to a fantasy festival put on by the Seattle Seafair Pirates and the Seattle Knights up in Washington today, but changed my mind. I'd gotten up very early yesterday to watch the L-CROSS moon mission on NASA TV. The impact was scheduled for 4:31 a.m. Pacific Time, and they started broadcasting at 3:15. There wasn't much to see other than increasingly large views of the targeted crater. No debris plume was visible as had been expected. But they say they got good data. That left my sleep schedule screwed up, so last night I decided not to go to the festival which is about 170 miles away. Also I was still feeling the effects of either a muscle cramp or slight pull from a couple of days ago, so the idea of tramping around a field for several hours was less appealing.

Rachel Maddow had Sarah Vowell on her show last night because Vowell's latest book, The Wordy Shipmates, is just out in paperback. I'd meant to check it out on Amazon and Powell's but forgot until this morning. While checking the Powell's site, I learned she's going to be at their Beaverton store next Wednesday, so I'm planning to go.

While looking around, I also found out that Richard Dawkins was appearing at Wordstock, the annual book fair at the Oregon Convention Center at 3 p.m. He's the author of several books on evolution and also wrote The God Delusion, which I'd read a year or so ago. There'd been some discussion about evolution on a Delphi forum I visit in which reference was made to another of his books, The Blind Watchmaker. I got that last weekend. I decided not to pass up an opportunity to see and hear Richard Dawkins in person.

In order to see him, it was necessary to buy a ticket for $22, which also included a copy of his new book The Greatest Show on Earth. That's less than the $30 cover price, but more than the $16.50 Amazon sells it for, but of course with Amazon I wouldn't see and hear him and the book wouldn't be signed. I couldn't buy a ticket online and when I called it was suggested I get a ticket soon because there had been quite a few calls about his appearance. So I got down to the Convention Center just before 11.

There were still tickets, and there was plenty of time to wander around and see all the booths. Shortly after noon I stopped by a talk being given by Scott Westerfeld, who has a new book, a steampunk novel called Leviathan. It's an alternate history set in 1914 at the beginning of World War I. In his world, Darwin discovered DNA and scientists began making all types of weird animals, some of which were used for military purpose. The "Darwinists" as they were known, developed their war beasts in England, France and Russia. The Central Powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey, developed war machines using mechanics, except their machines were very different from what was developed in the world we all know. The Leviathan of the title is a huge 1,000-foot-long sperm whale that creates hydrogen and is used as a huge airship. I was interested enough to buy the book and get it signed.

There was an online comic strip artist, David Malki, who uses bits of illustrations from Victorian-era publications to make his strip. His website is It's strange, but in a good way. He also had a few bumper stickers. One in particular I had to get: "I was an honor student. I don't know what happened." (I was and I don't.)

After an overpriced lunch - I didn't quite have enough time to leave the center to go to a nearby place for lunch - I got in line fairly early for the Richard Dawkins event. Some of the time was spent reading a bit of Leviathan. The doors were supposed to open at 2:30, but that got pushed back as Richard was still busily signing books. I was able to get a seat in the second row on the aisle so I could get some pictures. There was a bit more delay since there were so many people. They ended up opening up more space by sliding a movable wall at the back and getting more chairs. Richard even carried a chair from the stage to the back for someone to use. I suppose it was the Richard Dawkins Chair in Evolutionary Studies.

Eventually things got underway with readings from The Greatest Show on Earth, a book which Dawkins describes as a "missing link" because while his previous books on evolution explained the theory, this one presents the evidence about why evolution is fact. The readings were from various parts of the book, even including the last chapter. He read an interesting and humorous anecdote about the famous neo-Darwinist J. B. S. Haldane who was once confronted by a woman after one of his lectures. She doubted that evolution could have created a human being with all it's complicated structure, trillions of cells, miles of blood vessels and nerves, etc. from a single cell. Haldane replied, "Madam, you did it yourself in nine months."

After his reading, Dawkins answered about a dozen questions. A few were about The God Delusion, then he gently reminded us he was here to promote his latest book. After that, there was an opportunity for people who hadn't had their copies of The Greatest Show on Earth signed to get them signed, along with copies of his other books. I should've brought the copies I have. But I did go up to him and say I'd always thought evolution made sense and thanked him for providing me with good material to work with if I get into conversations with people who don't want to accept it as fact.

It was an interesting day in which Darwin, the Victorian era, evolution and steampunk fiction all mixed in. Even before I found out about Wordstock and Dawkins, there was a hint of things to come when I listened to Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac before I looked up Sarah Vowell's book. He said (and this is from the website):

It was on this day in 1881 that Charles Darwin published what he considered to be his most important book: The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms. At the time, most people thought of earthworms as pests, but Darwin demonstrated that they were beneficial, important for soil fertility and consequently for agriculture.

Darwin had published The Origin of Species in 1859, but he thought that this work was more important — and in fact, during his lifetime it sold much better than The Origin of Species, more than 6,000 copies its first year.

The Disappearing Post

Maybe my blog is haunted. I really thought I had posted yesterday (Friday) but there's no entry. Maybe somehow I went through all the steps but somehow managed to not hit the Publish Post button, but I thought I'd looked at the blog afterward. This means next month I'll have to really double check everything to make sure there's an entry for every day, and the time to start double checking everything is now.

Anyway, page 4 of "Sundancer" is sort of longish for one part, but I couldn't find a good place to break it around the middle.

Also, I went to Wordstock, a book fair at the Oregon Convention Center, to see Richard Dawkins. I'll be posting about that right after I get this posted and check that this entry really did post.

Sorry, but I've deleted most of this post because I'm interested in publishing "Sundancer" electronically and offering it for sale.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sundancer - Page 3B

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sundancer - Page 3A

Sorry, but I've deleted this post because I'm interested in publishing this story electronically and offering it for sale.

Sarah Vowell - The Wordy Shipmates

I first heard Sarah Vowell on the public radio program This American Life, a show I don't keep up with enough, partly because I mostly listen to the radio when I'm in the car. She has an unusual voice for radio, but it's a quickly acquired taste because she's very sharp, very witty, and has the ability to make some of the most amazing comparisons you're ever likely to hear. For a couple of good examples of that, take a look at the Squidoo lens I made - Sarah Vowell: The Voice of Violet Writes! Among her many accomplishments, she was the voice of Violet Parr in the animated movie The Incredibles.

Her latest book is The Wordy Shipmates. It's about the Puritans who settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. If anyone can make the Puritans interesting, it would be Sarah Vowell. The book just came out in paperback. She was on The Rachel Maddow Show tonight to promote it. While there, she took the time to recommend Keith Olbermann's hour-long Special Comment about health care. I recommend it as well.

If you're interested in reading Sarah Vowell's books, I'd appreciate it if you'd visit my Sarah Vowell Squidoo lens and click on one of my Amazon links. It doesn't cost you anything and I get a little commission from it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sundancer - Page 2

Sorry, but I've deleted this post because I'm interested in publishing this story electronically and offering it for sale.

Go Ahead and Try It

I came across this little bit yesterday, but while I typed out the text from the handwritten note that was posted, I forgot to save the URL. So this isn't original with me:

"While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise cirles. Now, while doing this draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction and there's nothing you can do about it."

The best I could do was have my foot go from side to side, which is a change in direction. It also works with the left hand and foot. But if you do opposite hands and feet, you can keep your foot going clockwise while the hand draws a 6.

Also, if you reverse directions - make the foot go counterclockwise while the hand draws clockwise, you get the same results. Or I should say, at least I do.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oldest Living Things

Back in 1954 my parents bought the World Book Encyclopedia. I began reading it like many people might read magazines or novels. We never got National Geographic, but often enough I was somewhere that had either current or old issues around. It was in one or the other that I read about the bristlecone pine, then thought to be the oldest living tree in the world. I would've thought the oldest living tree would be a giant sequoia, but the gnarled pine growing in the White Mountains of California southeast of Yosemite National Park on the Nevada border was older.

Earlier today I encountered the website of photographer Rachel Sussman. She has a portfolio of photographs of the world's oldest living things. It appears the bristlecone pine has a lot of competition. There's links to a location map which shows that the largest single living organism on the planet is in Oregon and a blog she adds to occasionally.

Sundancer - Page 1B

Sorry, but I've deleted this post because I'm interested in publishing this story electronically and offering it for sale.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


A few years ago I wrote a science fiction story that takes place on Dahroona, a world somewhat similar to Earth. It's about a young female with a red pelt who goes by the name of Sundancer, told from the point of view of Brewer, a tavern owner and her first friend in Sunrise Harbor. Dahroonans look much like humans, except they average a bit shorter, they have pelts, tails and pointed ears. The planet's name is a nod to Anne McCaffrey's Doona.

I thought I'd share the story with you. I'll break up the story into short bits rather than post the whole thing at once. On my webpage the story takes 13 pages of varying length. I'll probably break each page into two, sometimes three, parts. I may also include other stuff of interest along with the story, either in the same post or a separate one. I think it would be kind of cheating if all I did each day was repost something I wrote some time ago.

So here's the first part:

Page 1A

She came to Sunrise Harbor with the sunset, sailing a small white boat. Even as she eased the boat up to the town dock she attracted the attention of those nearby. I had come out to the top of the broad steps that led from the dock to my tavern, and she got my attention as well. A dahroonae sailing alone is unusual. Even more unusual, she was a redpelt. And for attracting attention, it didn't hurt that she was unclothed, even though that's common in these warm latitudes. She was small and had a very pleasing figure. I've never been off Dahroona, but wherever one travels in the United Planets or beyond, a pleasing female figure is bound to attract the male. The dahroonans converging on the sailboat proved our species was no exception to the rule.
I'd heard of redpelts, but she was the first one to visit Sunrise Harbor in my memory, and I've been running the tavern for more than forty cycles. I don't recall my father, who ran it for over fifty cycles before me, ever speaking of a redpelt visiting this southeastern part of Quastrana. Redpelts come from the Candara Isles, clear on the other side of Dahroona near the Orbital Tower on Arralta, but outside the limited area where off-worlders are allowed. Even there, redpelts are a minority. Our people usually have pelts ranging from dark brown to pale blonde, with a smattering of silver and white, and the rare blackpelt.
Willing hands caught the ropes and made her sailboat secure. She thanked those dahroonans who helped with a smile that even at this distance I could tell was warm and cheerful. She went below into the cabin and emerged with a duffel and a small case which she set beside a bollard as she stepped on to the dock. And then this already unusual dahroonae became of even greater interest.
She stepped away from the small group, gesturing for them to give her some space. Then she turned to face the sun and raised her arms straight over her head. Slowly she went down onto her knees, her long single braid of hair nearly reaching the ground behind her. She bowed forward until her arms, still above her head, were on the dock. Her tail, with its dark red tuft, extended straight back. For a moment, she resembled a Rashniran in prayer, except they are never unclad and always face Jarna, which is off to our northeast, as they pray. After only a brief pause in that position, she rose just as the sun touched the western horizon.
Then she danced.
There was no music for that first dance, of course. None that we could hear, at any rate. But with her fluid grace, she made it obvious that she was hearing the music inside her, and it was music of incomparable beauty. All conversation and activity stopped as all eyes followed her. She danced during the several mirns it took for the sun to sink, and as it disappeared below the horizon, her dance slowed and she briefly resumed the prostrate posture she'd started from.
She rose, and as the assembled dahroonaes and dahroonans came out of the spell she'd cast, they applauded. Meanwhile, she skipped over to her duffel, brought out a bowl and held it out toward her admirers. They were quick to bring out coins and drop them in the bowl. She smiled brightly and I suppose she said a few words of gratitude. She accepted what was given and made no attempt to wheedle more. In all the time I knew her, she never begged; she only accepted with quiet gratitude.
"I hope she'll come to the tavern," my silvery blonde mate Weaver said from her place at my side where she'd come without my realizing it. "That looks like a fiddle case beside that duffel, and if her playing's even a quarter as good as her dancing, she'll earn food and drink and a bed for the night if she wants one."
"I couldn't agree more," I replied.
"I noticed the little redpelt dahry's put a twitch in your tail," Weaver teased as she moved closer to put an arm behind my back. "Seventy cycles and you've still got an eye for beauty."
"It hasn't had to wander very far, that's for certain," I said as my arm went around my mate. Our tails touched and twined briefly.
We watched the dancer as she shouldered her duffel and picked up the fiddle case, cheerfully declining several offers of assistance, and headed toward the steps and us.
"Would that be Brewer's tavern there?" she asked as she stopped beside us at the top of the steps and motioned with her chin. "I've heard there's no finer ale to be found in all of Quastrana than his. Sailing works up an appetite and a thirst, and my own poor cooking makes me truly appreciate food and drink done right." Her voice was bright, cheerful, and had a very pleasing lilt to it.
"That would be Brewer's tavern," Weaver said, "and my mate here is Brewer himself. We were hoping you'd seek out our food and drink. I'm known as Weaver."
"Delighted," she replied with a slight curtsey. "I took the name Sundancer when I left the Candara Isles aboard Wind Dancer."
"You sailed halfway around Dahroona by yourself?" I asked, unable to avoid sounding amazed. She was small even for a dahroonae, and though Wind Dancer was a compact vessel, Sundancer had to have been both nimble and determined to accomplish such a voyage solo.
"I did just that," she replied with a smile that showed she wasn't offended by my amazement. "I've been sailing since I was knee-high to a leafjumper, and I'm older than I look, so I know my way around sailing craft. It was a long and lonely sail, but now I've made Sunrise Harbor, it's time to give Wind Dancer a rest."
"You'd heard of us all the way back in the Isles?" I asked.
"No," Sundancer answered, "I left Candara's shores with the intention of putting a lot of distance between them and me. But a little over halfway here I began hearing about this place, and everything I heard appealed to me."
She paused and looked out over the harbor with its scattering of sailboats and fishing craft. Brin the Tidebringer was high in the darkening sky, and Lil, Brin's smaller and more distant companion, was just above the harbor entrance. It was easy to see why artists often set up their easels where we were standing.
"My first impression is that I'll not be disappointed," Sundancer said softly.
We took the short walk to the tavern, followed by almost everyone who had been on the dock or nearby. Sundancer took a seat at the bar. Weaver served up a bowl of her famous stew, and I drew a mug of my latest pale ale, which had garnered me a number of compliments. Weaver gave me a look that questioned me about serving ale to one who appeared so young, but I had decided if she was old enough to sail halfway around our world, she was old enough, and no doubt thirsty enough, for my ale. Sundancer put her nose over the steaming bowl, inhaled, smiled, and took in a spoonful. She swallowed and smiled even more.
"By the stars that guided me," she exclaimed, "I believe I've truly come ashore in paradise!"
"Take a drink of that ale and you'll have no doubts about it," said Cooper, one of the many locals who'd followed Sundancer to the tavern.
"That was to be my next move," she said, raising her mug and downing a healthy portion of its contents. Sundancer's next smile was delivered full force and straight at me. "Not only is Sunrise Harbor paradise, but surely Brewer's the one who made it so! I hope you're in need of a fiddler to entertain your guests, because I can't see myself doing my eating or drinking anywhere but here."
"Well, young Sundancer," I answered, "it just so happens we could use the services of a fiddler. Food, drink, and a bed for the night are yours if you'll favor us with some entertainment. No doubt you'll have some tunes that haven't been heard this far from your home." There was a murmur of approval and anticipation from the locals.
"I'm sure I have something new for you," she said, "so we've got a deal." She raised her mug, looked at it, then me, and said, "If you were to be asking me, though, I'd say I'm getting the better of it." She downed another healthy swallow, and then turned to the task of making the stew disappear. It didn't take long. Meanwhile, most of the group who'd followed Sundancer to the tavern ordered food to go with their ale. She hadn't yet played a single note on her fiddle, and already she was proving to be good for business.


[Edit November 29, 2010] Originally I went on to post the rest of this story. I have removed those posts because I plan to publish the story in ebook form, probably on Amazon for the Kindle and Barnes & Noble for the Nook. The B&N version will be in the .epub format and will be suitable for other ebook readers that use that format, which I think is almost everything except the Kindle.

At this point, I'm not sure if I'll get the story published in a very short time or whether it'll take longer. I just know that leaving it out here on the Internet for free when I have plans to possibly make a little money makes no sense.

I'm leaving this first part up in hopes anyone reading it will be interested enough to spend a little money to get the rest of the story. I don't plan on charging very much.

I'm going to do the same with "Sundancer's Fairy Tale" which I posted in November 2009. Again, I'll leave the first post up.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Two Favorite Things in One

Although I never saw Firefly when it was aired on Fox, I did become a fan later via DVDs. I saw the movie Serenity the day it opened. I've also always loved watching blooper reels when I can find them, so here's a video of bloopers from Serenity which contains language you might not want your mother to hear, but if that doesn't bother you, enjoy:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Heart Is a Lonely Haunter

It's the first of the month. A few days ago I joined NaBloPoMo - National Blog Posting Month - and began posting every day. It was a warm-up to see if I wanted to try posting every day for a month. NaBloPoMo has a theme for each month and for October it's "Haunted." Posts do not have to be related to the theme.

I don't believe in ghosts, so what could such a theme could mean to me? It seems when I start thinking about words there's always a pun lurking about waiting to jump in. As thoughts of past relationships started swirling about, the title of Carson McCuller's most famous novel came to me in a slightly altered form and became the title of this post.

It could've been worse. If I were into reading books about ghosts during this month in years past, another title might've come out: The Haunt for Read October.

Then there's this:

Home is the sailor
Home from the sea
And the haunter
Home from the old decrepit scary mansion.

No, that last line doesn't work at all.

How about putting a scare into animals: The Deer Haunter.

Gonzo journalism from beyond the grave by Haunter S. Thompson? Now that's scary!

Silly puns, but it's probably better to post about them than make a maudlin entry about past relationships.