Saturday, August 26, 2006


I have a few fires to deal with. Unfortunately, these are not the sort of fires which we be put out easily. Therefore, I may not be blogging for a while.

I'm available at Quinebarge


yahoo DOT com

if any of you are curious enough to require details.

It's all political--a Board member resigned, and I'm about to get sued.

I hope to be back in late September. Send me a happy thought, Suisan

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My Very Elegant Mother Just...

...Sat Upon Nine Pancakes.

Ahh, the solar system. The Many Planets. Well, now we have one less, and I'm not sure what My Very Elegant Mother is going to be Sitting Upon in the near future.

NYTimes story (which I think is hidden behind a subscriber firewall):

Astronomers Decide Pluto Is Not a Planet

Published: August 24, 2006

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is -- and isn't -- a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Although astronomers applauded after the vote, Jocelyn Bell Burnell -- a specialist in neutron stars from Northern Ireland who oversaw the proceedings -- urged those who might be ''quite disappointed'' to look on the bright side.

''It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called 'planet' under which the dwarf planets exist,'' she said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed Pluto of Walt Disney fame beneath a real umbrella.

''Many more Plutos wait to be discovered,'' added Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The decision by the prestigious international group spells out the basic tests that celestial objects will have to meet before they can be considered for admission to the elite cosmic club.

For now, membership will be restricted to the eight ''classical'' planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: ''a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.''

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of ''dwarf planets,'' similar to what long have been termed ''minor planets.'' The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun -- ''small solar system bodies,'' a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.

Experts said there could be dozens of dwarf planets catalogued across the solar system in the next few years.

NASA said Thursday that Pluto's demotion would not affect its US$700 million New Horizons spacecraft mission, which earlier this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.

''We will continue pursuing exploration of the most scientifically interesting objects in the solar system, regardless of how they are categorized,'' Paul Hertz, chief scientist for the science mission directorate, said in a statement.

The decision on Pluto at a conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries was a dramatic shift from just a week ago, when the group's leaders floated a proposal that would have reaffirmed Pluto's planetary status and made planets of its largest moon and two other objects.

That plan proved highly unpopular, splitting astronomers into factions and triggering days of sometimes combative debate that led to Pluto's undoing. In the end, only about 300 astronomers cast ballots.

Now, two of the objects that at one point were cruising toward possible full-fledged planethood will join Pluto as dwarfs: the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it got demoted, and 2003 UB313, an icy object slightly larger than Pluto whose discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, has nicknamed Xena.

Charon, the largest of Pluto's three moons, is no longer under consideration for any special designation.

Brown, who watched the proceedings from Cal Tech, took Thursday's vote in stride -- even though his discovery won't be christened a planet.

''UB313 is the largest dwarf planet. That's kind of cool,'' he said.


AP Science Writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this story.


On the Net:

International Astronomical Union,

And, of course, couldn't we have guessed, Evolutionary Biology has been taken off a Federal List of Approved Majors in approved fields of study. Again, another link and an excerpt:

Evolution Major Vanishes From Approved Federal List

Published: August 24, 2006

Evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of study for recipients of a federal education grant for low-income college students.

The omission is inadvertent, said Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, which administers the grants. “There is no explanation for it being left off the list,” Ms. McLane said. “It has always been an eligible major.”

Another spokeswoman, Samara Yudof, said evolutionary biology would be restored to the list, but as of last night it was still missing.

If a major is not on the list, students in that major cannot get grants unless they declare another major, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Mr. Nassirian said students seeking the grants went first to their college registrar, who determined whether they were full-time students majoring in an eligible field.

“If a field is missing, that student would not even get into the process,” he said.

That the omission occurred at all is worrying scientists concerned about threats to the teaching of evolution.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Book Trailers

You know those video clips of books? Sybil has a link to Milady Insanity who's interviewing Sheila Clover, who produces quote a lot of them.

I've not seen too many, but I'm a little gunshy of the whole experience. (Hitting myself over the head now with a spatula, saying, "Luddite! Luddite!" Ow.)

I think this is because I was unexpectedly treated to a wonderful video montage created by my prep school a few years ago. The pictures are amazing--the school is gorgeous, no doubt--but the accompanying track sets up that Law of Unintended Consequences thing. Here, go watch it. It's very nice.

Please click on Sights & Sounds of Andover just under the Paul Manship Armillary sphere. (After the song loads, you still have to click the "Click here" thing to get it to play.)

Oh. My. God. Teh Horror.

Sammy Davis, Jr.?? Singing about Andover being HIS Kind of School? Emmmmmm. Let's review here. Sammy was born in 1925. Add 14 years to that, and he'd be at Andover in 1939.

Oldest prep school in America in the late thirties--welcoming Sammy? Listen, boys and girls, I lurrrve Andover, but it's been the whitest, most elite institution on the East Coast for well over a century, maybe two. Feeder school for Yale, has a football rivalry with Exeter that pre-dates that Harvard/Yale rivalry. It has its own Archaeology Museum, its own internationally recognized Art Museum. George Washington sent his nephews there. Paul Revere designed the seal. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

It only went co-ed in 1973, and many alums were still grumbling about that in 1985 when I was touring them around campus. Yes, Sammy Davis, Jr. SHOULD have been allowed to attend in the 1930s, but if he had made a single "Abbot girl drool" at that time he would have been at least kicked out, if not lynched.

Andover was really important to me. It was the best educational experience of my life, and, to its credit, it was thoroughly multi-cultural when I when there. But not in Sammy's day. Probably not even in 1965, when the head of NBC convinced him to sing this. At least I'm honest enough to know that the school's rich history did NOT include welcoming kids from Harlem in the 1930s. And Andover's not Vegas-cat, brat-pack cool EITHER. Winton Marsalis may run a master class, or Alan Ginsburg may perfom Howl (as he did my senior year), but the reputation of the school is NOT a hip, groovy, cool kind of place. So Freaking Weird.

And that's kind of my problem with trailers for books. Do we want to put an image into someone's head defining what the experience of the book will be like? Isn't it better to experience the experience of falling into the book without setting up a mood first?

One bad experience can really prejudice one against such marketing ideas.

Footnote: At the end of the song, Sammy lists "Bogart, the drop-out, Andover is." My great-great-uncle was a Dean at Andover. Apparently he's the one who signed the letter to the Bogart family explaining that their son, Humphrey, would not be returning to school, although I haven't seen the letter myself. My own itty-bitty brush with fame.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Well, it made ME laugh.

Why would Beet Pulp pellets make anyone laugh? Well, I dunno, but I did.

Beet pulp pellets are a common horse feed. (They are a by-product of the Sugar Beet industry. Steam and shred Sugar Beets, squeeze all the sugar water out of them, and what you are left with is beet fiber. Press those into newspaper-grey pellets, and you can use them as livestock feed. It's a nutritious source of fiber, easily digestible, etc.)

A lot of people say you need to soak them thoroughly and feed them as a pasty mash added to grain, and some people feed beet pulp unsoaked. However, the first time you use these little grey power pellets, you will be AMAZED at how much water they can absorb, and how much volume they suddenly take up.

Here's a story about a woman who, with the unsolicited help of a squirrel, tried to discover exactly how much expansion took place.

Gave me the hiccups, I was laughing so hard. I keep imagining the sheer glee the squirrel felt upon discovering his beet pulp motherlode.

"And I'll put one over here. And I'll put one over here. Oo! One right here."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Math Follies

We grew up listening to Tom Lehrer records. And one of my favorites is:

Hooray for new math,
It won't do you a bit of good to review math.
It's so simple,
So very simple,
That only a child can do it!

Here's the full song.

Now, imagine you're on the School Board of a small school district. Imagine that parents and teachers have been complaining to you for years that one of the Math Curricula is bizarre, that students who do well in the "New Math" version get great grades in Middle School and then go on to flunk basic Algebra in High School, as taught with traditional methods, because the "New Math" simply doesn't work.

Imagine that all the adminstrators (and some of the math teachers) have been telling you that we must keep the "New Math" version, because, after all, not ALL of our students are going to go on to become scientists. Really, they only need a basic understanding of math, not all that fancy higher end stuff like Calculus. (One of the MATH teachers said this to me!!) Imagine Suisan yelling at one poor administrator during a public meeting, "That is NOT an Excuse! What if they want to be Game Designers? Economists? Pilots? Scuba Divers? Think they should know about rates of change then?"

Imagine that the Math Department of the High School finally rose up and decided to scrap the "New Math" program. Imagine that they took a vote and decided to adopt an entirely different textbook series, one based on Traditional Methods, for the 2006-2009 Textbook Adoption Cycle. Imagine the School Board sighing in relief in February of 2006 when they heard that this change had come from within, democratically, and had neatly bypassed any further public arguments on the matter.

Imagine that school starts Monday, August 21.

Imagine learning that there are NO Math textbooks at the High School. Imagine learning that the District Office had neglected to...wait for it, because it's so damn infuriating...had neglected to order the new textbooks.

I guess that's one way the administration has of ensuring that its point of view is always reflected in the schools. Forget what the parents have lobbied for. Forget what the teachers and Department Heads have voted in. Simply forget to place the order.

The next person who stands in front of me, with their hand on their collarbones, eyes closed, chin tipped to the sky, and tearfully says, "It's for the children," WILL be used for target practice by Yours Truly.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Sighing and Swooning

Definitely just found a new Keeper KEEPER.

Lady Anne's Dangerous Man by Jeane Westin.

(Thank you, Bev--Was it you THIS time? or Kristie?)

Great characters, great dialogue, good plot, good time period (non-Regency).

I need to write down what really worked, but before I do that, I'm off to read the blessed thing again. Hee hee. Delighted giggling ensues.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

OK, the compass thing makes me crazy

Where does the compass point?

Where, oh, where?

I blogged on this when I first saw THE MOVIE, and mentioned that the compass pointed to Jack, which demonstrated that there was a love triangle. But, ho! some commentators mentioned that the compass did not point to Jack at all.

I just came back from seeing THE MOVIE again.

I am resolute.

I am clear on this point.

When held in Elizabeth's hand while unboard the Black Pearl, the compass points at Jack. There's even an extra shot of her looking at the compass and then turning her head to look at Jack to make it absolutely clear.

You may disagree if you wish, since that generates long discussions and many htis, thereby fulfilling my desire to be popular, insightful, and "courant". Or you may simply agree with me that the love triangle between Elizabeth, Will, and Jack is a touch flawed since Will is forever being knocked over the head or tricked into compliance with someone else's greater scheme.

In other news, I have tried repeatedly to finish Anne Stuart's the Prince of Magic. It ain't happening--I don't know why. But I did read both His Majesty's Dragon and The Jade Throne, by Naomi Novik. Liked both of them very much. Received Lady Anne's Dangerous Man in the mail--looking forward to readng that very much.

PS--footnote from Dear Butcher. He says that I'm only having trouble with the Love triangle because I'm not eighteen. If I were eighteen then I would be attracted to Will, and I wouldn't have a beef with him always standing on the deck looking as if her were just about to have a brilliant idea. Could be.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Getting the three kids back into school is freaking expensive!

And I still have to find a rolling backpack and those little pencil bags which go inside the binder.

But they have clothes, shoes, and lots of paper and pencils. Happy dance for when SOMEONE ELSE will be taking care of them during the day is scheduled for Monday Morning.

tick, tick, tick.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Lots of posts...

lots of pictures.

Blogger didn't like me talking about horses, so I did one per post.

Keep scrolling.


This one's Thackeray. The owner mentioned that he didn't feel really accomplished at horse names and might need help coming up with some for this horse's children.

Well, gee, Makepeace, Vanity Fair, Barry Lyndon (or just Lyndon), Rebecca, Virginian, Esmond, umm, was he joking? Yes? (I think Vanity Fair must already be in the registry, but even so, you can simply add a farm prefix to it and reuse the name.)

Have you any cookies?

What a sweetheart. I actually wish I could have gotten more shots of her, but she's just too friendly to get pictures of. (I have quite a few of her mane too. She liked to walk right in front of me when I had another shot set up.)

Hello, Ladies.

Of course, the stallion's being very sweet. But notice that it's the MARE who has her neck stre-e-etched out so that she can touch noses. Hussy.

Could Be A Magazine Cover

My Favorite Horse Picture

Makes me laugh every time. Where did he go?

(I hate the delay on digital cameras, by the way. I think this was supposed to be a graceful action shot of a horse just turned out in pasture. I have a lot of these, actually, although this one is more in focus than others.)

Dreaming of books

I've been distracted. I keep meaning to write about the books I've recently read, but I can't quite pull it together to write anything coherent. Actually, I've been having trouble writing much of anything at all. And I've had a fair bit of difficulty keeping a clear train of thought in my head too.

As a result of my Sentimental Journey to Georgia, I find that my aunt is at the forefront of my thoughts these days. I started to write about The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux, which was really interesting to reread again (mostly because I didn't like it, but I remember having liked it when I first read it). But even that turned into some odd conversation in my head with my aunt about various tropes. (I do love that word, "tropes.")

I've been working on a writing project for a few months, a ghost story which is having a little trouble being a romance. I think the heroine wants it to be a romance, but the hero keeps wandering off on these odd plot-paths which can be hard to follow. (He likes ducking behind trees in the wilderness to contemplate why he's conflict-averse, and he can be hard to coax out from the underbrush. He's very sensual though, enjoying those shady mossy places. Which could be neat, I suppose.)

Ultimately, I decided that this puppy needed to get some obedience training. Both the story and the hero. (But I like the heroine, gee, who'd have thunk it? I'm really not into heroines that much.) So I sat down and outlined. I index card plotted the scenes. I added three plot devices to get them interacting With Other People. Figured out exactly how many internal perusals Mr Hero was going to be allowed, how to get him more actively involved in dialogue, and how to get this story stepping forward. I can get this thing to work structurally.

And then, I finally discovered what the deeper character problem was. Yay!

Except I'm not happy with what I discovered. Boo!


I thought that I had been writing about a ghostly hero, one who hung around the house which the young heroine had recently moved into. Still, I was having trouble figuring out WHY he had to stay there so entirely. Was he scared of leaving? Did he love the house (good idea here from a friend), or the memories of the people in the house? If he Couldn't leave, then what did that mean for the heroine? Why did he love THIS heroine? And I can't quite get past the building suspicion that he doesn't actually love her--which could be a deal-breaker, no? I've been fighting with this guy quite a bit. Ultimately, I was only clear on one thing: he was a ghost. Then I dreamt of him on the plane home from New York and learned a crucial detail about him.

(I have GOT to be the most granola-munching, mystical, woo-woo, dream-obsessed person I know. At least when it comes to my own dreams.)

In the dream, I watched him walk across a bright green meadow. He was facing away from me, wearing a dark flannel suit with an upright white collar. Looked as if he were from the early 1900s. He had broad hands with long fingers, wore a small-brimmed dove-grey hat and a silver ring with a black stone on his right hand, and he was very long-legged.

I really enjoyed watching him walk. He was fluid, even over the slightly ragged grass. His stride came naturally from the looseness of his hips, one leg rolling forward while his back stayed completely straight and untouched by the momentum of his walking. Then his lower leg would snap forward with a determination that was unexpected. Overall, his walk was a combination of a leisurely stroll and a military march. I don't remember his arms moving much at all. Hard to describe, but just intriguing to watch. He covered a lot of ground too. Very athletic, brisk, but calming too.

He walked until he came to a greenish pond. He tucked one leg behind the other, leaned to the side, and collapsed to the ground. Although the fall was awkward, and somewhat humorous, he had managed to land perfectly arranged on his side, one elbow up, head resting on hand, legs crossed.

And I thought to myself, "Well, this is all very interesting, watching him walk and fall, but what the heck is going on? I can't even see his face."

And then I thought, "Why am I thinking? THIS is odd."

I watched him by the pond for quite a while, his coat moving gently with his breathing. And that was the whole dream. He never even took off his hat.

I woke up and had a whole new perspective on the hero and on the story. Because once I was awake, I recognized him. That man in the dapper suit, the man who rests by the water, he's shown up before, although I had never seen him walk. And dammit, he's a horse.

Yeah. I know.

I have these dreams where the animals I know show up in the form they would be if they were human. I know this guy from the dream very well--although he hasn't come to visit for quite a while. (My Australian Shepherd was always a four year old boy who had come to the house unexpectedly. He was plump, freckled, with bright red hair and kept running though the kitchen. He would always "forget" to stop at the screen door, run full tilt at it and plaster himself across the screen, squealing with glee. My current dog is a laconic cattle rancher, tall, lean, and bony.)

So I looked back over my notes, my plotting, my character sketches, and dammit, I've been writing about this horse the entire damn time. Shit. No wonder he has trouble with dialogue. (And in case you haven't read any earlier posts, let's just be very clear here that dialogue makes my heart go pitter patter and is REQUIRED of romantic heroes.) No wonder he's so sensual. Damn. I really did not want to be writing about a man-ghost-horse.

Yeah, I know what you're going to say next, "But it could be cool. The heroine could be just as startled as you were." But I don't want to WRITE it. Groaaannn. (And now it's a little more confusing as to why he's stuck to the house. Wouldn't he be stuck to the barn? end of stupid aside.)

I have to set this down for a bit. The reveal itself has been thoroughly distracting to me. As was my trip to Georgia. As were the many conversations I have had recently about my aunt with other breeders.

Most times I dream about horses, they are trying hard to tell me something, but it's not always clear what that is. Sometimes I get it very, very wrong. (Like that dream where I thought they were trying to tell me that my aunt would be healed, and a year later it was very clear that the whole thing had been a dream about death, separation, anxiety, and mourning. That's the problem with divination--everything's open to interpretation after the fact.) I can't be thoroughly sure what Mr. Dapper Man Down by the Water is getting at, but he helped me figure out what I need to be working on: the stories of those guys. I'd like to intermingle them with the stories of my family and how I came to know them so well. The structure is obvious, the length is clear, the character's conflict is well-defined. I get it.

And this one is writing itself like water flowing from the town well.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

It must be Fall

Yeah, I know the calendar says early August, but I've got my first Board meeting since June to go to tonight.

And I took my daughter for her Kindergarten check-up today.

So it must be Fall. (School starts August 21. Yeeps. Eleven days away??)

More later....

Friday, August 04, 2006

Books I need to, eh, write about.

Forgive any misspellings--done from memory

The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue.
Goddess of Spring by PC Cast
Howl's Moving Castle by Diane Wynne-Jones
That swashbuckling romance which is upstairs--the one Bev recommended. Good.
The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux.
The Sandlewood Princess by Chase
The Prince of Magic by Stuart

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Related much?

Above is the appropriately named Gracenote, and below is the stallion Diomede.

Gracenote is not only graceful, but she was the smaller twin who survived.
I've always loved this pose, but it can be hard to get the horse in question to cooperate. (Gracenote again.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Old Friend and New Friend

That's a 26 year old stallion, looking just as pleased as punch to be taking my daughter out for a brisk walk around the farm. (Yeah, OK, that's me barely holding on to a side rein as a safety measure. I guess this means I'm unmasked?)

He was so happy to be ridden, bobbing his head, swishing his tail, stopping at the gate at the entrance to the farm to bellow into the trees, "I'm Heeeerrrrre!"

Soon after this photo, I hopped on and took him for a spin around the side pasture. Round and agile like a bouncing rubber ball, he was. Picked up a canter with barely a nudge and we did a great serpentine all through the pasture. At the close of the serpentine, I felt the saddle leap and lurch--I hadn't tightened the girth after my daughter rode. Saddle went sideways, I went to the ground.

Stallion, being all mean and everything, stopped dead and just looked at me. "You OK?" he asked as he blew warm breath in my hair. I was fine. Felt stupid, but I was fine. After I tightened the girth and took him around again, he retired to his paddock for another round of stallion fights through the fence. "Nyah. Nyah."

I took an additional 350 pictures. When I get home I'll post some more. Maybe not all 350--lots of those are pics of horsie noses blowing sand up the lens--I have some great head shots of some truly lovely Arabians.