Here’s a Job Captain Jack Would Like!

Sheepdog-sheep-switchbacks-Romania-YMThis is definitely a job Captain Jack would like.

My brother Chuck and his wife Youngmee were recently in Romania, and sent back some photos of the road they were on. Here’s a dog watching his flock. Totally what Captain Jack was born to do. But what does the dog do if the sheep start to slide?

And as for the rest of the picture, didn’t I see James Bond being pursued by international terrorists on that road? Chuck said they rented a red car, so that the wreckage would be easier to spot. Pictures by Youngmee.

Chuck-sheep-switchbacks-Romania-YM

 

Dumb Animals? How about this Birdbrain Dancer?

Have you ever tried to teach a dog to dance? In rhythm? I’ve tried with all of our dogs. Never mind their grace in running, jumping, and snatching food from the air. Dogs are hopeless when it comes to rhythm. But watch this cockatoo, who could put many an inebriated undergraduate to shame. Now and then he even breaks into double-time. And catch his aplomb in response to the applause at the end.

;

Plot Problem Solved!

Here used to be a picture of me after licking a thorny plot problem in the chapter tentatively titled “Chapter 29” in The Reefs of Time. This would be the chapter that, in the first draft, caused me to type, “I HAVE NO FRICKIN’ IDEA WHERE THIS IS GOING! FIX IT IN REWRITE!” and then move on. When the rewrite came around, the situation was not much improved. But this time, I didn’t think I could do the same thing, so I just kept pounding my head on it until it relented and gave up its secrets. So, this time I’ve solved it and moved on. Having solved it. I think. You never know about these things until you circle back on the next pass and see it all in the context of the whole story arc.

Have I mentioned that this is a long and complex book, with many threads, and it’s taking me a long time to (re)write it? Think Game of Thrones… but without the thrones, the kingdoms, the backstabbing murders, the dragons, the dark magic, etc. Actually, it’s nothing like The Game of Thrones, except for the length, complexity, and the time it’s taking me to finish it. But that’s not nothing.

 

On Creativity

Jasck-smileI’ve been listening to a book on creativity and writing by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. The book is called Big Magic.

One line so delighted me that I had to stop the playback and transcribe it. Here it is:

“Possessing a creative mind… is something like having a border collie for a pet.  It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do or else it will find a job to do—and you might not like the job it invents: eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc….

I firmly believe that we all need to find something to do in our lives that stops us from eating the couch.”

The book is a good listen, in the author’s own voice.

Here, you can listen to Ms. Gilbert talk about some of the same aspects of creativity in her TED Talk:

 

Watching a Writer Work

Watching paint dry1_sm
Here’s Moonlight and Captain Jack keeping me company in my office while I work. I’m pretty sure they think watching me write is a lot less interesting than watching paint dry. At least with paint, you can walk across it and then track it around in artistic ways. Watching a writer work?

Zzzzzzzz…

Gorilla Watching Cat Video

I can’t figure out how to embed this (short) video, so I’ll just have to give you the link, at TheAtlantic.com:

The commenter noted that the girl seemed to be ignoring the magnificent creature beside her. I actually found it rather sweet that she was sharing a video in such an unstudied way—just one friend to another.

Moonglow

Last night’s supermoon lunar eclipse was gorgeous, even viewed from our suburban Boston driveway. It gave me a reason to bring out my Meade ETX-90 Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope, which is a compact 3.5 inch reflector that I don’t use as much as I would like. I don’t have equipment for taking pictures, so I’ll show you some that other people took.

The thing that most struck me was how much the reddened Moon, with its dark, patchy maria, looked like pictures of Mars, especially from the days when astronomers had only modest ground-based telescopes—but even now, with the Hubble.  I’ll show you one of those, below the moon shots.

The other thing, as I peered through the lens wishing I could see the Apollo lander equipment, was that twelve men walked on that world over forty years ago. It’s high time some more men took that stroll—and some women, too. And maybe for some to go there to stay.

The third thing was, this was an anniversary of sorts for Allysen and me. It was the last supermoon eclipse, in 1982, that got us started dating!

Here (if the code works) is a slideshow the Telegraph put together on short notice. Our view probably looked most like the one you’ll see from Paris, here.

And here’s a shot of Mars, from the Hubble Space Telescope. Reminiscent, no?

And what the hey, in keeping with the theme, here’s a picture of Moonlight:

  

Curse You, Skunk Baron! [PHEW!]

He looks innocent, doesn’t he? All doe eyed and mild mannered. Well, at 2:45 a.m. Sunday morning, when I took him out for a late-night pee, he wasn’t so mild mannered—not when he saw Philippe LePew in the bushes in front of our house. He vaulted over the side of the steps and dove after it, nearly yanking me head over heels with him. (Thank God for retractable leashes—and that he was on the leash.)

As I yanked him back, I saw the flash of white and black in the bushes, and I knew my night—which just hours before had been a pleasant gathering of friends for movie night—had just taken a serious turn for the worse.

Going inside was out of the question, even though it was cold and raining. I leaned on the doorbell, rousting Allysen out of bed. She began a long series of trips up and down the stairs, bringing me all the supplies: bucket, rubber gloves, old T-shirt, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, dish detergent, vinegar, Nature’s Miracle, towels, etc. (Forget tomato juice; it doesn’t work.) Here’s the recipe we used (it’s on a refrigerator magnet that we got at the animal hospital):

1 quart hydrogen peroxide
¼ cup baking soda
2 teaspoons dish detergent

Mix it up, lather it in, and wait 20 minutes. I especially liked the waiting part, standing in the cold rain in bare feet, in shorts and t-shirt, trying to keep Captain Jack from shaking it off all over me. Then around the house to the hose, to wash him down. Repeat. We were soon out of H2O2, so I switched to vinegar and baking soda.

Eventually I toweled him down and poured Nature’s Miracle skunk treatment all over him. By the time we got upstairs it was 4:30 a.m., and Allysen had set up sleeping arrangements for us in the living room—Jack in his crate, me on the sofa on multiple sets of sheets, and a fan in the window. (No way was I going to risk taking skunk essence into our bedroom.)

Me sleeping on the sofa and Jack in his crate was the sight that met our daughter Lexi when she passed through early Sunday morning. What have they done to make Mom that mad? she wondered.

Amazingly, the next day, the skunk smell was almost entirely gone. But Captain Jack hadn’t forgotten. The next few times we went out, one thing was clear: He wanted to find that skunk and teach him a lesson he wouldn’t forget!

Fortunately, Philippe the skunk had moved on.

1 2 3 4 5