Getting outdoors

"Bee on Clover" by Philip Brewer
"Bee on Clover" by Philip Brewer

I do fine at getting outdoors enough in the summer.  In the winter, though, I’m prone to spend far too much time indoors.

There’s a sidewalk around the interior of our apartment complex that makes for a fine short walk.  (It takes about seven minutes, so I think it’s probably close to a third of a mile.)  In the summer, I might do that walk at any time.  In particular, I do it while I’m writing, when I find that the prose isn’t flowing.  That’s usually a sign that I’ve taken a misstep in the story, and a seven-minute walk is often just what I need to figure out where I’ve gone astray.

In the winter, though, I don’t do that, because the cold and the snow turn the little walk into a big production.  Changing into outdoor clothes (and then out of them again) can easily double the time for taking a quick walk, so instead of being seven minutes it’s a quarter of an hour.  Plus, I figure if I’m making that kind of investment of time, I ought to do more than just walk around the block–I should get a real walk in, or run an errand.

That kind of thinking leads to trying to optimize my time–scheduling my walk not when I need a short break from writing to get back on track, but when I need to go to the bank or pick up something at the grocery store.  And if I don’t have any such chore to justify the outing, I tend to just stay indoors all day.  (One of the few upsides of having a regular job was that it did get me out every day.)

Since I know I’ll feel better if I do get out everyday, even if just for a few minutes, I’m thinking of creating an artificial errand:  taking a picture.  I figure it’s something that can be added onto any actual errands I have–I can just bring the camera along.  If it seems like a day for a longer walk, I can take the camera along for that, too.  And if it’s not a day for a long walk–if I’m busy, or the weather’s bad–I can just as easily take a picture on a short walk.

When I get a picture that I’m pleased with, I’ll post it here.  This one’s from a day or two ago.  When I was a boy, one had to be careful walking across a field of clover because there’d always be bees around.  This summer, finding a bee on a clover was a rare treat.

Angel of Memory

My dad got a copy of The Ninth Letter, the University of Illinois literary magazine, and after looking at it sent it along to me.

The goal of this issue seemed to be to produce a physical object was as important as the content, and what they’ve produced is full of stuff–posters, cards, etc.

One thing in it was set of pieces of cardboard to be folded and then assembled (with the addition of a penny as a weight) into a little cardboard toy called the Angel of Memory.  Jackie put it together.  I grabbed this video with my camera.  I forgot that there’s no easy way to rotate video, so you’ll have to turn your head 90 degrees to the right to see it properly.

angel of memory

(I may be missing some trick, but it seems that you have to follow that link, and then click on another link in the page that comes up to see the video.)

Fellow sf/pf writer Karawynn Long

Just heard from Karawynn Long, a fellow sf writer who’s also keeping a personal finance blog:  Pocketmint.  (With Catherine Shaffer, this makes three of us sf/pf writers–I wonder if there are any more?)

Pocketmint is full of personal stories turned into larger lessons.  I rather liked Downsizing appliances to save money, which tells the tale of finding perfectly good freezer in the garage of a new house. Because it was so handy–already there and running–they started using it, rather than going to the work to reorganize the garage to use their own smaller freezer. The core of the article is a link to the US government’s EnergyStar calculator, which she used to figure out how much money they’d save using their own newer, smaller freezer. Then there’s the story where she caught a mistake the bank made that could have cost them $6100.  Lots of good stuff.

I’d actually read her sf work back in the day.  She had a story in Enchanted Forests, where she shared the table of contents with Bruce Holland Rogers, and she had a story in Century, a market that I submitted to but never sold to.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for her new work, both pf and sf.

Esperanto resources for English speakers

This is by no means a comprehensive list; I’m just trying to capture stuff that was previously in various places on this site and put it in one place.  If you’re an Esperanto speaker, there’s more stuff (in Esperanto) on my Esperanto site.

About Esperanto

National organizations in English-speaking countries

Learning and Using Esperanto

Local to East-Central Illinois

My English-language writing that features Esperanto

Quoted about Clarion

Mishell Baker has an article up at the new Fantasy Magazine website on looking ahead to attending Clarion this year while pregnant, Cautiously Expecting: On Creating Life and Fiction at Clarion–which includes a couple of quotes from me, talking about my experiences at Clarion.

She had emailed, asking for my thoughts.  I responded and also pointed her to a little essay I’d written about How I Learned at Clarion.  Looking at that piece again prompted me to revise my page about Clarion to include a link to it and to the various other things I’d written about my Clarion experience and what it had taught me about writing.

Spotting wildlife

Great Hall at Union Station
Great Hall at Union Station

Just home from visiting my Dad in Kalamazoo.

Had a good eye for spotting wildlife on this trip.  I spotted a young raccoon about halfway up a tree (visible from where I was sitting at the table in Katy’s house).  Later, from the conversation nook, I spotted a stuffelbeam (aka groundhog), that I suspect had a den very near the house.  A bunch of spicebush butterflies appeared on the last evening we were in Kalamazoo—perhaps just-emerged from their chrysalises (as we hadn’t seen any before), and later a hooded warbler that came to bathe at the pool outside the dining room window.  There were lots of hummingbirds at the feeders, plus the usual birds—I got a good look at a cardinal that came close to the window, and heard several crows that seemed unhappy to have us come home after the art show.

That was not the end of it.  I got a great look at a chipmunk just outside the window, and spotted two feral cats (unwelcome visitors on the property, even though I suggested that cats would be the one effective way to cut down on the mice chewing up the electrical wiring in the cars).  My dad spotted a turkey just outside the dining room and we all got a look at it.  A pair of phoebes had built a nest just under the eaves of the screened-in porch.  We could see the female sitting on the nest, and then spotted her again when she took a break in the late afternoon, sitting and preening for perhaps 15 minutes before returning to the nest.  And then, just twenty minutes or half an hour outside of Kalamazoo, I spotted a fawn just outside of some woods the track ran through.  (Poor Jackie didn’t get to see the fawn, as we zipped past in just a few seconds.  I think she got a look at everything else.)

I got several useful things done—did the crucial bits of setting up my dad’s website to use WordPress (it had previously been hand-coded html) and got two of their old computers decommissioned (deleted and overwrote the data on one’s disk drive; removed and smashed with a sledgehammer the disk drive from the other).

We went to the art show (the reason for visiting this weekend rather than some other), and got to see a lot of really nice art.  Visited the booth of Peter Czuk, an artist who crafts things from wood.  Richard and Katy had years ago given me a letter opener that he’d made, and (as I actually use it to open letters) the sharp edge had gotten dull.  I’d talked to him about it last year and he’d indicated that he could sharpen it, so this year I brought it along and got a fresh edge put on it.  Hopefully now it’ll once again open letters nicely for years to come.

Also at the art show, got a chance to chat with Steve Curl, one of Steven’s childhood friends, who is working as an artist these days, making sculptures of robots and ray guns.  (But who oddly doesn’t seem to have a website.)

We took the train both ways.  Our layover on the way up was just long enough for lunch.  On the return trip it was a bit longer, so we had some time to hang out in the great hall.  I spent a few minutes trying to find a way to photograph it in a way that captured what a great space it is.  I thought this picture was sort of okay.

All in all a great trip.  Despite the long list of things seen and done, we mostly just visited with the family and did some walking.

Interviewed by Laura of Green Panda Treehouse

I did two interviews recently with Laura of Green Panda Treehouse:

She’s looking for other people to interview, so I thought I’d mention that it was fun to do.  If you’re a personal finance blogger, consider getting in touch.

Guest post at Get Rich Slowly

As part of the publicity related to the publication of the Wise Bread book, I’ve got a guest post up at Get Rich Slowly in which I advocate that you be a bon vivant.

A bon vivant is a person who lives well — someone who enjoys the best things in life, especially with regard to food and drink. The stereotypical bon vivant is someone who can afford the best (or has generous friends), but that’s not the only way. You can be a bon vivant on a budget.

What is “the best” anyway? Your own tastes play the biggest role, but the tastes of family and friends have a strong influence. To a lesser extent, so do the tastes of opinion leaders, celebrities, experts, and others — even fictional characters. Because of this, appreciating the finer things in life makes you vulnerable to serious “keeping up with the Joneses” issues.

There are a lot of ways to fight this.

My working title was “Be a bon vivant,” but JD thought it would tie in with his site better as How to Live a Rich Life — On a Budget.