Apr 27 2016



My sister and I currently visiting pals in New Hampshire for a few days.  You know: that couple with the great house on a lake, with Blue Herons nesting, and Canada geese raising their babies.   And Ming, the famous Birman cat.  It’s lovely and restful here… I’ve basically just been chilling and reading and chatting.   Very little blogging or writing this week!

But one doesn’t stop thinking.   And one thing I’ve been considering about the upcoming book is the matter of how new steerswomen are made.  That is: the Steerswomen’s Academy.

And in light of that, I find myself circling ideas about how we see, and how we interpret what we see; and how a steerswoman has to approach what she observes without the usual built-in biases.

And drawing: a steerswoman will be sketching and drawing a lot in her travels.  She needn’t be artistic, but she must be accurate.

Of course, artistry is permissible if it doesn’t compromise accuracy!  And there’s nothing to prevent a steerswoman with an artistic bent choosing to also do artistic, evocative and imaginative images unrelated to her work as a steerswoman (as long as she doesn’t pass them off as being entirely factual!).

Of course I’ll be revisting Betty Edwards’ Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain.  Of course.

But sometime in the last couple of weeks, I was directed — I can’t now recall by whom — to this set of images:




Part of the Milky Way. From a study made during the years 1874, 1875 and 1876.

These are drawings by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, a french artist and astronomer working  in the 19th century,  at a time when astrophotography had not yet hit its stride, and science depended more on images drawn from observation.

great comet of 1881

The great great comet of 1881

They’re from the New York Public Library’s Digital collection.   (Click on any image to go to their website and see the rest.)


November meteors, 1868

November meteors, 1868

I find them lovely and inspiring.


Jupiter, Nov 1, 1880

But I do wonder here, how much was seen, and how much assumed?


aurora borealis, march 1 1872

aurora borealis, march 1 1872


For, example:

The planet Mars. Observed September 3, 1877

The planet Mars. Observed September 3, 1877

Notice the canals?  They’re right there.

Except… there never were any canals on Mars.

Starting with the observations by Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877, people saw canals on Mars.  And drew them.  Even mapped and named them.

And they were never there.

Once photography improved, and its use in astronomy became common… people began to notice that no photograph ever showed a canal on Mars.

We are human beings, and we are pattern-seeking creatures.   We’ll  piece together fragments and glimpses into arrays that make sense to our eyes and our brains… and we can be fooled.

But when you discover that you’ve been wrong — that is itself a discovery.  And then the knowledge that replaces the error slots into position: a very satisfying feeling.

New knowledge: what could be cooler?

It’s all about discovery.

Apr 16 2016

Back in the saddle, in case you were wondering.


Just an update — letting you know that I’m back on task,  digging in, knuckling down, all those useful metaphors.

I shall persevere, and overcome the inherent recalcitrance of a book that thought it was one thing, but which turned out to be quite wrong about itself!

There, there: nobody likes change, but you’re just going to have to admit it and… Come on… Oof.  Okay, now… turn in this direction, please…

Hah.  Whew.

Right, there we go.

Meanwhile, here’s view of the little creek by my office, with what seems to be a permanent resident turtle.   There are also two ducks (not pictured) who have decided they like living here.

Yo, better hunker down, buddy. Freeze warning tonight.

Yo, better hunker down, buddy. Freeze warning tonight.


Apr 7 2016

The dreaded chores of officialdom, federal edition. Plus: Night Vale!


Yep, finished my taxes.   I had assumed it was going to be insane and overwhelming and stress-inducing, and had scheduled extra time to be freaked out about it all.

I had eight different 1099’s for writing income, and another one for unemployment income, and W-2’s for both the day job and about a month of disability pay that I got at the beginning of the year.  And I had started an HSA account.   And I had to do the Schedule C for my business, and self-employment tax, and all the deductions relating to having an office dedicated entirely to my writing work, thus office expenses, not to mention (she mentions, as she mentions it) travel and hotels for business-related events.

Amazingly, it was actually pretty easy.

I had saved most of my receipts.  Good habits win!   Plus, I ran almost everything through my Amex, so my year-end statement helped.   Also, some stuff was bought on Amazon for my business, and for each of those I could reprint all the receipts I hadn’t saved at the time.

Then I ran it all through TurboTax.    Twenty-first century, I love you.

I do remember the Dark Ages, when I (and most people, for that matter) did not even possess a computer.  I was a self-employed programmer consultant, and aspiring singer/songwriter.  Tax time was a nightmare!   Lordy, not even Excel spreadsheets to help me calculate.   And I did not make enough to afford an accountant to do it all for me.   Just me and the forms and sheets of paper and a calculator, and sweat and anguish.

This time, just a few hours on two separate days to sort it all, enter it all, print it out .  I owed the government slightly less than I thought I was going to.   All is well.

In other news: Yes! Sabine and I saw the latest Welcome to Night Vale live show, Ghost Stories.  I did love it.  It went by much too quickly.

No spoilers here.  I’ll just say that Cecil Baldwin (as the Voice of Night Vale, Cecil Palmer) is a treasure.   There were moments when I was completely enthralled, just by this  guy  all alone on a stage, saying words.  I’m still amazed that that can happen.  A lovely script (Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the creators of Night Vale), all eerie and funny and heartbreakingly poignant.

Their live shows change a bit from city to city, traditionally.  They usually have alternate versions so that the different cast members from the podcast can step in for a show or two, and not have to be present for the entire tour.   This time we had Hal Lublin doing his usual great delivery as the much-maligned Steve Carlsberg.   And Meg Bashwiner as Deb the Sentient Patch of Haze.   Meg also does the intro and credits, and is a delight.   The two other walk-on roles were handled by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink themselves, and they were really quite good.   You don’t expect writers to be good actors too, but these guys are pros.

This was only the third time the show had been performed… so, maybe a little rough in spots?  I did not mind.  Also, the Academy of Music, while a lovely venue, is also a small venue.   Sabine and I later wondered if seeing it in a big city at a bigger theater might allow the show to have more guests.  Because, bigger theater=more income?  More $$ to spread around?   Maybe.

If so, what we missed in spectacular-spectacular was made up for with intimacy.  Cecil was right there. He was also right here:

Yo, there , behind the pole. Tall guy with the blue wool cap.

Yo, there , behind the pole. Tall guy with the blue wool cap.

Yeah, okay you can’t tell it’s him unless you saw him walk up to that intersection.

By the way, that snow on the ground?  Yes, it was the horrible snow/sleet/freezing rain event that we had on Monday.  And I was at the wheel.  White-knuckle driving all the way to Massachusetts!   Ten miles an hour, sometimes increasing to a terrifying thirty miles an hour! But I was not going to miss the show.  And once we hit Mass, it all calmed down, amazingly.   Past Springfield, it was a breeze.

And we had a lovely pre-show dinner with Geary Gravel, whom we see all too rarely.  Discussions of Life and writing.  Discussions about self-publication of works now out of print.   How to do it, etc.   And family!  And Life, did I mention that?   I love hanging with Geary.

Sabine was at the wheel on the way home.  When the weather was all done being weather.