Clifty Creek

Clifty Creek, originally uploaded by bradipo.

According to some plaque I saw in Shades State Park a while back, the trees in the area that turned into the park cast such deep shade it was called “Shades of Death.” I thought this shot, taken in Pine Hills Nature Preserve, right next to Shade, captured a little something of just how dark the canopy makes the shaded areas, and how abrupt the transition is between light and dark.

It was tough to see Steve, Daniel, and Lucy off yesterday, after two weeks spent visiting, but it was nice to spend a couple hours hiking together at Pine Hills.

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Clifty Creek by Philip Brewer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Sale to Redstone!

Just learned that Redstone Science Fiction has accepted my story “Like a Hawk in its Gyre” for publication, probably in early 2011.

I’ve signed the contract and mailed that in already. I still need to write a bio to send along with a headshot. Until I start selling more frequently, I have the luxury of writing a new bio for each sale. (I know some writers find the bio-writing step to be daunting, but I kind of enjoy it.)

Lazy River

My mom, brother, and nephew are visiting, and at my nephew’s enthusiastic request, we all spent the afternoon at the “aquatic center” yesterday.

Getting out of the water was hard. After four or five trips around the lazy river, I’d gotten very used to floating. Putting my feet down and standing up in three-foot water was okay, but each step up the long ramp out of the water meant a little more of my weight that I had to support myself.

Jackie and I usually float together around the lazy river, and we did that this time for a couple of laps in the middle, but Jackie had sprinted off ahead for the first lap, in a hurry to float under the fountains that sprayed over the stretch just before the ramp where we’d entered. She waited there, and once I arrived we floated a couple times around together.

Maybe it’s the nature of lazy rivers; more likely it’s the nature of my family, but it seemed perfectly ordinary that we all ended up at the lazy river: Daniel having been floating in a different part of the river, but turning up near the entrance at the same time Jackie and I floated past and noticed Steve standing near the entrance.

I pointed Steve toward the corral with the tubes. Once he put his hands on one, we headed down the lazy river as a group, in direct contravention of some rule against ganging up more than two of the tubes. It was too much trouble to keep hanging onto one another, so pretty soon we were rule-abiding again.

It was the sun that got me out. Even slathered up with sunblock, an hour of floating is about all the sun I can take.

Except for the transition of the hard trudge up out of the water, the rest of the afternoon was very pleasant, even for someone who’d gotten used to floating: A place to sit in the shade, a large soda from the concession stand, and conversation with Steve and Lucy.

George Turner at V Picasso

We went to eat tapas and hear George Turner play at V Picasso this evening.

George is a great jazz guitarist. He’s been a local performer since coming to town to work on a Masters and now a PhD at the university. We first encountered him playing with his trio at the Iron Post a few years ago, and have made a point of going to hear him whenever we get a chance.

He played mostly jazz standards.  I’d heard most of them many times, but the only ones I recognized were “My Funny Valentine,” “Girl from Ipanima,” and “Moon River.” (I have an odd relationship with jazz standards. I’ve heard all of them, because my dad played them when I was a kid, but a lot of what my dad played were instrumentals, so I often don’t know the names of the songs.)

It was a good show, and good food. A pretty small crowd. He’s playing a couple more times this week and next, so if you like great jazz guitar in an intimate setting, check it out.

The Sinister Leprechaun

The Sinister Leprechaun, originally uploaded by bradipo.

Jackie and I attended the Haiku Earring Party at WisCon this evening.

In case you’re not familiar with it, here’s how it works: Elisem creates pairs of earrings. You pick out a pair you like and bring it to her. She gives the pair a title. You then write a haiku or senryu inspired by the title and the earrings, which you trade for the earrings.

At least, I tended to think of it as a swap—haiku for earrings. Jackie, it turns out, had a slightly different take on it. In her mind I was winning the earrings for her via a display of skill, like winning a stuffed animal by tossing rings at the county fair.

“The Sinister Leprechaun”

Find at rainbow’s end
Not expected pot of gold.
Green stones turning black.

Or, in Esperanto:

“La Minaca Irlanda Koboldo”

Ĉielarka fin’
Ne atendita oruj’
Verdŝton’ negirĝas


WisCon, originally uploaded by bradipo.

Arrived in Madison to attend WisCon.

Ran into Dora, but failed to get a picture.

Went to The Gathering and got a fake tattoo.

Went to the dealer’s room, saw Nnedi’s new book at DreamHaven and snapped up a copy.

Had dinner at the Afghani restaurant Kabul.

Now reviewing the program book and plotting strategy for seeing Dora’s and Nnedi’s panels and readings, and as many other interesting readings as we can fit in.

Sorry there aren’t more of us from the 2001 Clarion.

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WisCon by Philip Brewer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Responsibility for oil spills

I’m as outraged as anyone at the incompetence that led to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the gulf: both the slipshod regulation by the government and the incompetence and criminality of BP, Transocean, and Halliburton. I wouldn’t mind one bit if all three companies were broken by cleanup costs, restitution to injured parties, and civil and criminal penalties. But I’m a bit sad to see all the blame being laid at their doorstep.

The fact is, spills like this are an entirely predictable result of consuming 85 million barrels of oil per day. If you consume that much, you have to produce that much. And if you produce that much, you will have accidents. Some of the accidents will kill people. Some will contaminate huge swaths of the ocean.

Sure, BP et al deserve much of the blame. But there’s plenty of blame to go around. A good share of it belongs to every one of us who drives a car, heats their home, or buys anything made out of plastic.

What did you think was going to happen?

Thinking about Clarion

It’s hot today. Writing when it’s hot always reminds me of Clarion—of the many sweaty hours sitting at my desk in Owen Hall, writing fiction. And I was already thinking of Clarion. In 2001, Clarion started on June 3rd, so I spent much of May getting ready to go. Since then I’ve found my thoughts turn to Clarion every May.

Thinking about Clarion reminds me how I’d been wrong about which activities would teach me the most. I’d imagined that the benefits would flow from writing a lot and getting critques on my stories. Those activities were beneficial, but what taught me the most was doing a critique of a classmate’s story and then hearing another 20 critiques on the same story. Especially when one of my fellows had a different take on the story from my own, I learned something. Some of those insights were pearls of great value that I secreted away and have used many, many times since then. Even when I disagreed, just the notion that the story could be viewed that way changed the way I thought about stories.

Sadly, I don’t have an active local critique group, so I’m not in a position to recreate that aspect—the most valuable aspect—of the Clarion experience this summer. But that’s okay. I can still write a lot. I can still read a lot. I can still think critically about the stories I read. And on hot days like today it will almost feel like I’m back there again.

Backyard Chickens in Champaign

Backyard Chickens
Chickens at Creque Dam Farm in St. Croix

When I was looking for a house a few years ago, I only looked in Urbana. The main reason was that Champaign prohibits residents from keeping chickens, while Urbana allows it. As you can imagine, I was delighted to learn that the topic of legalizing chickens has come before the Champaign City Council.

I know a little about what it’s like to have chickens in the yard, from one summer when my parents got a flock of chicks and raised them up to fryer size. We didn’t keep them for eggs, but they were around for several months, and I was never bothered by noise, smell, or any of the other problems that backyard chickens are supposed to bring.

I’ve had eggs from free-range chickens—real free-range chickens, not the mockery of free-range allowed under USDA regulations. They’re not just better; they’re so much better as to not even be the same thing.

So, I’ve written to my city council representatives:

I was very pleased to see in the local paper that the topic of changing the law to allow Champaign residents to keep chickens has come before the council. I urge you to support this change.

One of the most important changes we need to make Champaign a more sustainable community is to stop viewing the household purely as a center of consumption: it needs to become a center of production as well. Allowing residents to raise chickens is a step in the right direction.

Many communities (including Urbana) allow residents to raise a modest number of chickens in their backyard. With a few sensible restrictions (no roosters, adequate space for each bird), there’s no reason that chickens can’t be kept in an ordinary backyard without adversely impacting neighbors.

I urge you to support such a change in the law.

The picture that illustrates this post was taken at the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farming Institute’s Creque Dam Farm, which I visited in August of 2008 and about which I wrote a piece for Wise Bread: Learn Techniques for Sustainable Living. I’d earlier written a piece for them on backyard chickens called Real Eggs.

Update to add: I got a quick response from Thomas Bruno, one of the at-large city council members. He described the process for getting an item considered by the city council and adds:

Get a science teacher involved or a scout troop and your chances of success will skyrocket.

So, I guess my next step is to get in touch with some of the other people mentioned in the article as pushing for a change in the law, and see if anyone knows a science teacher or a scoutmaster.

Second update: I found and linked to a great article on how to get your town to legalize backyard chickens.

Champaign to lose Angela Rivers mural

Angela Rivers Mural

I heard on the news this morning that Champaign was going to lose (to building renovations) a large public mural by Angela Rivers.

The mural, painted in 1978, is in pretty poor shape, which I suspect had something to do with the decision to let it go, but it’s still sad to lose. I’m a big fan of public art.

Since I had some warning, I figured I’d seize the opportunity to go grab some pictures. Here’s a detail with some faces and the signatures:

Detail of Angela Rivers Mural

And here’s another bit I particularly like, horses plowing toward the sun on the horizon:

Detail from Angela Rivers Mural

If you’re local, it’s worth getting up there to see it in person. It’s on the north side of a warehouse at the corner of Park and 5th Street, just a few blocks east of downtown Champaign.