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.

Profiled in the local paper

Christine Des Garennes of the New-Gazette did a profile on me and my writing for Wise Bread.  It made the front page! Checks and Balances: Living large on a smaller budget.

Although some of his blog posts are practical, such as “how to make sourdough bread and save a buck on every loaf,” Brewer’s “central shtick,” as he put it, is all about doing what you love.

Ask yourself, are you working a job just to earn enough money to support your lifestyle?

“If you live frugally enough, you can change your work based on what you want to do,” Brewer said. After your family, he said, there is nothing “that has such an importance on whether or not you’re happy than your work.”

[Updated 29 May 2009:  It used to be that the News-Gazette closed articles behind a pay wall after a week, but as of today the link seems to still be working.]

An Education of Scars

“An Education of Scars” is up at Futurismic edited by Christopher East (fiction editor) and Paul Raven (publisher and editor-in-chief).

An Education of Scars” is up at Futurismic edited by Christopher East (fiction editor) and Paul Raven (publisher and editor-in-chief).

Her gown left her shoulders bare. Her skin was pale, translucent. She had no freckles, as if she had never gone out in the sun. Her lips were colored a shade of red that seemed odd for a red-head to wear, until I noticed that it was the same angry red as her scars.

New local Esperanto group!

Thanks to Darcy and Meryl, we’ve once again got a functioning Esperanto group in Champaign-Urbana!

There are several komencantoj, but also three or four of us who speak Esperanto adequately, so we’re trying to do a mix of things at the meetings.  We’ve been reading Gerda Malaperis, which is something that even beginners can do. We also started watching Mazi, which is fun. We’ve decided to all read a couple of articles from the Esperanto Wikipedia and show up ready to discuss them. We’re hoping that narrowing the topic of conversation down to a specific article will make it easier for people who’s working vocabulary is still really small–they can look up a few domain-specific words before the meeting (even make notes to refer to, if necessary).

I’ve already noticed improvements in my own Esperanto, after just three meetings–it’s amazing how fast you can pick up fluency if you’ll just practice.

Here’s the folks who were at the last meeting:

Our new local Esperanto group
Our new local Esperanto group: Jack Hutchens, Omar Ali, Phoebe, Darcy Ross, Matt, Meryl Garrison.

Translated into Turkish

It seems that someone translated my Wise Bread post The line between frugal and crazy into Turkish:

http://www.tutumluol.com/tutumlu-ile-cimri-arasindaki-ince-cizgi/

I’m  kind of chuffed about this–translating a whole article is a lot of work; I’m pleased that there’s someone out there who thought this article was worth the trouble.  I hope it’s a good translation–it’s kind of hard to tell, based on the Google translation:

Nature of diseased condition that does not bring happiness. At this point the question must be asked is: Does it make you happy to make thrifty behavior? In this way, make you happy is to live a frugal man, you are normal and others that it does not matter what you think. For example, to use bicycles for transportation or walk to me very happy.

Clarion Workshop for 2009

Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop
Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop

Through March 1st, Clarion is taking applications for its 2009 workshop.

If you’re working seriously on the craft of writing science fiction or fantasy stories, seriously consider whether you can  shake loose six weeks to attend.

I attended Clarion in 2001.  I kept a journal of my six weeks at Clarion, so I won’t bother trying to describe all the things I learned or how much fun I had, except to say that it was a lot.  If you want to learn more, follow that link, or send me some email–I’d be glad to answer questions.

On setting things straight

One of my fellow Wise Bread writers, Catherine Shaffer, is somewhat troubled by the fact that so much of what Google returns when she googles her own name is unreasonable criticism of one article that she wrote long ago.

She knows as well as I do that it does little good to try to argue with your critics. Trying to thread a path between doing that and doing nothing, she’s written a post where she tries to lay out her case at full length, unrestricted by word limit she had in the original article. I’m pleased to put whatever Google Juice I’ve got toward her effort to set the record straight–the link above goes to her post.