Snowless in the Capital

Six to 12 inches was the prediction two hours ago. And this is the National Weather Service I’m quoting. If I were to run my hand over a few car windows that I can see from my balcony, I may be able to make a snowball. Maybe.

I think the Snow Queen may be punishing the city for naming the storm the Snowquester. Enough with the threats and the abuse of verbs. It is also possible that the weather personnel — some of them go by the nickname of the Capital Weather Gang (cuteness) — may need to sign up for a few continuing education credits. It is 35 degrees at 5 am. Hmmm. The people predicting that number predict numbers rising even higher in the coming hours. Numbers like 36 and 37. I want to be the first to note that if snow starts collecting to the tune of multiple inches when it is 37 degrees, we have on our hands a new climate change issue.

Meanwhile, the snow people note that the largest accumulations may occur west of 495. I like a safe prediction. West goes a long way and includes places like Kentucky and Illinois and the Rocky Mountains.

When first predicted, this storm was to be over by 3 am, but I just checked a couple of webpages and learned that the snow is to arrive here all day. So back to the numbers — 36, 37. I may have to eat my numbers. If so, they can be snow numerals with a remoulade of horseradish and cranberries. Pic to be added, of course.

Stay tuned.

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Base 2

We’re drawing to the end of base 2 dates for this year — 12/11/2011. We have a few left, but I’ll be sad to see them go. In my daybook, I stack them, and they appear to hold some mystery of intent:

The simplicity calls for a quick addition, or it makes me want to reread a wonderful post at on teaching 3rd graders base 2 math entirely through the Socratic method. Actually, it’s here and it’s fun: Mostly it’s a breezy transcript, but it will probably occupy ten minutes of your reading day and then more minutes of thought over the coming years.

The limits and potential of base 2 are not unlike the growing number of websites or technologies that allow only so many letters or characters, and that takes us back to haiku and its 17 syllables and other restricted forms of poetry. Then there are the books based on the website that invites autobiographies in six words.

Restrictions can be a fun engine for creativity. The novel Gadsby has no occurrences of the letter e. I once wrote a short story based on Chopin’s Minute Waltz — every syllable matched to a note. By no stretch were they lyrics, but the idea of reading the whole story in a minute was definitely attractive. Hmmm. Maybe that’s another website.

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Pushing Character/s

Sometimes you have a character who must take a difficult action. In fact, we need characters to take those actions as part of the development of the story. Say your character learns that an old friend is dying, and the character knows she must call the dying woman’s brother. It’s messy. They haven’t spoken in years. The character knows that despite all resolve, she will cry during this telephone call, in fact, start crying as soon as she says hello. The veil of formality and any hope of hiding her feelings will dissolve. The outcome of the call may or may not matter, but pushing the character to take a breath and follow through on dialing the number is how the story moves on.

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Feeding the Background

Somewhere long ago, I learned that Willa Cather read the Bible each day before she began writing. She was not a religious woman, so she was not reading for spiritual enlightenment. Rather, it was the language. Something about the language of the text tapped into her mind where her own stories were produced. She does not obviously write with Old Testament cadences, but those long-ago-laid-down words inspired the rhythms in her own language.

So it is, sort of, that I signed up for a class in sculpting clay. I have been researching a 19th Century woman who sculpted medallions, busts, and full figures of people, and the clay class seemed like a way to understand more about her. The easy part is that I have no expectations for creating something wonderful or even recognizable. I want only to learn what it is like to make the effort, push at the stiff, cold clay, and somehow gain some feeling of the art.

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My Stupid Morning

My hard drive crashed. Second one this year. Replaced it and purchased Backblaze back-up services somewhere in the ether.

I devoted an hour this morning to following instructions on how to transfer “saved” photos into my computer’s photo program. Failure.

I use Scrivener for writing. The files are on the computer, but they are not in Scrivener. I have to dig out each one and then open it. THEN it is attached to the program.

There is something not right with back-up programs. A file drawer for papers and a box for photos has great appeal just now.

This morning I told a friend that I’d rather clean the stove for an hour than go through this process. At least the hour would conclude with visible results.

I should add that even having a terrible draft, which seems like a waste of time, is infinitely better than no draft, which is the equivalent of my stupid morning.

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Solving Problems

I have finally read The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I am late to this particular party, I know, because it was published in 2005. When I finished the book, I was not so happy with it, but ignoring that point, I want to say that when I began the book and reached page ten, I absolutely adored it. Not only was I feeling the enchantment of the author’s spell, but more important, the book – or its beginning — solved a problem in a project of mine that I had not yet fully articulated. It was like a big fat YES that fell out of the sky and opened the way.

It was like opening a door in my mind and finding on the stoop an unexpected basket of fruit, nuts, exotic candies twisted in decorative cellophanes, packets of Himalayan tea and … You get the picture.

The event makes me hope that libraries as we know them are around for a very long time. Walking into a building with thousands of books is like walking into the greatest mind-drug store in the world. Lying between those covers are the answers to questions we may not even know we have.

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February 12 2009

Confession. Right up front.
This date is on the bottom of a can of V-8 that has been living in my refrigerator since, oh, I don’t know, November 2008 perhaps. I don’t dislike V-8, but I am not a regular drinker of the juice – as might be obvious.

I must hasten to add, as the guilty often say when they feel more accusations are about to be piled on them, that the can has been moved around in the refrigerator like a troublesome tenant: back of the top shelf, highest rack on the door, down to the bottom right drawer (surely the biggest island of neglect overall), back to a rack in the door, and so on. It was most likely moved when I cleaned – and I clean refrigerators Solomon Grundy-style. I suppose I should also confess that I don’t like cleaning refrigerators for the usual boring reasons. In fact, I have become rather skilled in getting the job done quickly by using liners and baskets and bins. But I digress. The guilty say that, too.

Today I am throwing out the V-8. I’m positive that it’s not a souvenir from a great event. Therefore it’s time to give it the old heave-ho. And I am not going to open it first, because the smell of food that has been overcome by being inside a can too long is not a smell that one ever intentionally seeks.

As usual, I see something here about writing. Sometimes what we write is very much hooked to the times, but a few years out, the detail will have lost its punch.

The first truly dramatic Mohawk haircut I saw on a woman impressed me greatly. It was about 8 inches of spike, black as shoe polish, and it provided a fine balance for her piercings and tattoos. I’m sure you are reading this with a “hohum yeah the blood pressure is going nowhere yet” sigh. And so it should be. But this woman appeared in the mid-1980s in the local cafes and ordinary places in Iowa. Remember the first time you saw someone decked out this way!! It was news!

I used this woman in a young adult novel, which I drafted in that period, then ignored for a decade, then revived, and eventually published. By the time it hit the streets, the readers no doubt thought the character was just about as weird as you find her today.

So: the lesson is obvious, isn’t it. The next time I look through my old pasteboard box of writings from whenever ago, I’m going to take a good whiff and slap an expiration date on each one. Some bits may deserve salvaging, but if they flunk the Mohawk ho-hum test, they’re history.

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