Monday, April 30, 2007

Rain!












We needed rain and last night we had a rainstorm. Thunder growled and lightning chased across the sky. We opened our window wide and lay on the bed, cool air billowing the curtains. The electricity went off once, and my husband had to go outside with a candle (our electric panel being in the side building!) He put his raincoat over his head and sheltered the candle from the driving rain. Otherwise he wore nothing but his slippers and boxer shorts - I should have taken a picture of that!
But this morning the sun is shining and the flowers look half drowned but happy.


You can click on the two last pictures and open them full size. That way they're big enough to use as wallpaper if you want!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The difference between men and women, and a new haircut

My hubby is back from his trip in Spain - and I saw him for about an hour before he was dashing off again - two polo games, two referee jobs, polo lessons, and hopefully he'll be able to relax Monday!
I got my hair cut - and of course he didn't notice; men do not notice this sort of thing.
There are other differences I've noted between men and women.
I'm reading a mystery thriller, and the hero is investigating his brother's death. He goes to ask some questions of a seedy character, and the seedy character gets scared, closes shop, jumps in his car, and goes to see his boss - thus leading hero straight to the big bad guy.
Now, if the seedy character had been a woman, this would not have worked and the hero would still be searching for the killer.
Why?
Does anyone know why?
I'll tell you.
Because a woman would pick up her phone and Call the boss. She would not close the shop, get in her car, and drive for a half an hour when she can pick up her phone and spend thirty seconds telling about the problem.
This is the truth.
How many times has my husband been halfway out the door, car keys in hand, to see someone or find out something, when he could just call? I usually point to the phone, and the yellow pages, because I've also noticed that he'd rather spend half an hour driving than spend seventeen seconds looking up a number in the phone book.
*sigh*
So, men don't notice hair cuts and they don't have the telephone reflex.
There are a few other differences.
My husband can ask me what time it is five times in fifteen minutes, and never listen to the answer. I've started saying things like 'It's half past seventy', and he'll grunt, and then a few mintutes later, ask what time it is. Men will ask a question, and not hear the answer. Why? I've yet to figure this one out.
I'm listening to Mika - his album is so bright and fun - I love it.
If you pop over to my MySpace page, you can hear one of his songs - or go to his page and listen to a couple!

Oh, and I redesigned the Calderwood Books page - please let me know what you think!
Thanks!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A really interesting post about cleaning the floor...

This past week has been busy. School started again, and I started spring cleaning, which for me, means taking the house apart room by room and cleaning from top to bottom. My husband, the neat freak, loves the result, but the part about taking everything apart drives him batty, so I decided to clean while he was in Spain. My son is in college during the day, and most evenings he's in Versailles at the spring firemen's training session, so my only help are the two dogs, who get under my feet more than anything else. Auguste is curious about everything. He loves to watch me sweep - I think the broom hypnotizes him, and he's always tramping through the dust piles and sneezing, or sticking his nose in my bucket of brushes and sponges. I usually end up looking for a sponge or two in his bed.
Right now, I'm waiting for the stuff to work that I put on the floor to strip the old wax off. If you figure that this house is about 120 years old, and that no one has ever stripped the wax off the tiles, you can imagine the layer of wax; Well, it's not so bad, actually. The house is small, and people and dogs walk on almost every area, wearing down the wax. So it's just in the corners and along the walls. (See, I told you this was a really interesting post on cleaning floors...)
I was going to go to the gym this morning, but I figure I'll get enough exercise scrubbing wax.
News on trading:
The braces trading is working really well. What I worked out was giving lessons in exchange for part of the braces payment, and the dentist, who is a very nice woman, decided to give my daughter the clear braces at no extra cost. I was VERY touched, and now I have to think of a present to give her in order to say thank you. (My whole collection of Ellora's Cave books?) (My friend Lynn suggested that, lol.)

And I know, I know...I didn't say a word about the French elections. In this house, almost everyone has a different opinion about politics, so discussions are lively. My son voted one way, my husband another, and I was hoping for yet another candidate. The run-offs are the 6th of May, and in our house, at least, the votes will negate each other, unless someone persuades someone else, lol. I doubt that will happen. Hubby is a stubborn Taurus, and son was born in the Chinese year of the equally stubborn ox. In France, the record for voters' turn-out was bested. I think they said that almost 80% of the electorate turned out to vote, and they voted against the extremists of both sides by choosing the moderate middle. Sarkozy is our conservative and Segolin is our liberal candidate. Both have their plusses and minuses, so it's really a toss-up who could do the better job. But I will predict one thing. If Sarkozy wins, and tries to push his reforms through, there will be more strikes in France than in Italy in its worst years. The French hate change of any kind, no matter what they say, lol.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Win a free copy of Horse Passages!

Go here: Clean Reads, leave a message, and you will be entered in a drawing for a copy of Horse Passages!
Good Luck!

Monday, April 23, 2007

International Pixel-stained Technopeasant Day

According to Mr. Hendrix, vice president at SFWA, authors should never post work for free or undersell their work, because that undercuts other authors who are trying to make a living writing fiction...
As if anyone can make a living writing fiction.
Let me pick myself off the floor and wipe the coffee off my keyboard. Sorry. SOME people can make a decent living (fiction) writing. In France, where I live, the percentage is 5% of writers (published fiction authors) actually make a living from their writing. It is probably a little higher in the US.
I do not make a living writing fiction. I make pocket money. I make enough money to send my son in the US to community college, and to buy transport tickets for my college son here in France. I make enough to buy myself plane tickets to visit my family in the states. I make enough to indulge myself once a year, and buy myself something I've been drooling over (like a digital camera). I consider myself one of those thousands of 'midlist' authors, waiting for a big break, maybe forever, but content to move along and hone my craft and write and sell my stories. And give them away for free. I post short flash fiction here quite a bit. There are some in my archives.
At any rate, in honor of Mr. Hendrix's comments, Jo Walton has declared today International Pixel-stained Technopeasant Day, and has proposed that authors and aspiring authors post professional quality work online. (Here is her post).
I'm sure that authors who make their living writing are not worried about the struggling masses posting their work online. And so, without further ado, I will post the story I wrote that was nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and first published in the Vestal Review (Thank you Mark Budman, for believing in me.)

Honey On Your Skin

by Jennifer Macaire

Leave honey on your skin. Wash it off with water, and pat rose petals on your cheeks.
Tie the leather laces tightly. Wear your armor over a linen shirt.
Brush your hair nightly. Sew lavender in your pillowcase.
Sharpen your lance. Make sure that your quiver is full.
Soak your hands in lemon juice to whiten your nails. Darken your eyes with kohl.
Harden your hands with live coals. Run for a day, in case your horse falls beneath you.
You are a desert flower, a fragile blossom.
You are a mighty warrior, a fearless brave.
Goodnight, my sweet daughter.
Godspeed, my son.
The young girl lay down on silk pillows and watched muslin curtains billow in the night breeze. Her hands had curly arabesques painted in henna. Moths blundered softly about the room.
The young warrior rode across the desert. By his side were five hundred soldiers. The sound of the horses' hooves was summer thunder. Five hundred spears glinted in the moonlight like lightning.
The young girl heard shouting. She ran to the window. In the garden, men ran across the lawn, their boots trampling curry sage and rosemary.
The young warrior left his horse at the gate. With his men, he fought his way through the archway and over a wall. They ran through the garden, and threw their ropes and hooks onto the roof.
The girl watched as men swarmed up the walls. As one reached her window, he looked in. Their eyes met.
The young warrior saw the girl. At that moment, an arrow pierced his armor. He swung wildly, then started to fall.
The girl pulled him inside. She half-carried him to her bed. She untied his laces and undid his armor. The arrow protruded from his side, its feathered end trembling with each breath.
The warrior clenched his teeth. Was he lying in a silken bed, or was he dead? The pain in his side seemed to argue for life. Paradise, he reasoned, should be painless.
The girl studied the boy‘s face. He was the enemy, but no one had told her that the enemy had such finely arched brows. She would have to remove the arrow and cauterize the wound. The brazier held red coals. She eased the arrow from his side. Then she seized a coal with tongs and held it to the cut.
The smell of burning flesh woke the warrior from his dream. He opened his eyes, and found himself staring at a young woman. His side ached, but the arrow was gone.
"My horse is at the gate. Help me, and you shall be my bride."
"Spare my family, and I will bring my jewels as dowry."
They were married. When their children were born, they spoke thus: Leave honey on your skin. Sew lavender in your pillow, and learn the art of healing. Sharpen your lance, and make sure your horse will carry two people.

Copyright © 2000 Jennifer Macaire

PS - and for more free fiction on the web, check out Rhian's poetry train HERE.

Small budget stuff: Book Mooch & Freecycling

I found a place called Book Mooch! (www.bookmooch.com) You list the books you want to give away, and you mooch the books you want from other book moochers! Each book you donate goves you points, each book you mooch takes away points. You can donate points to public libraries for charity, you can find out of print books, you can get tons of books for free! (Well, for the price of shipping and handling when you send your Own books.)
Since I live in France, and postage is SO expensive, I can't offer to ship to anywhere outside Europe, so I've limited myself to mooching from people in Europe. So far I've mooched:
10 lb Penalty by Dick Francis
Turbulent Priests by Colin Bateman
The Chimney Sweeper's Boy by Barbara Vine
and a children's book for my daughter.
I've sent off five books to France so far, and that cost 5 euros, so I'll get 4 books for 5 euros, which is a nice bargain for someone with a tight budget!

I also joined the local Freecycling club here in Paris, and that's cool too.
In this club, people recycle objects rather than throw them away by offering them for free.
It's a club for all who want to "recycle" that special something rather than throw it away. Whether it's a chair, piano or an old door, (or ice cube trays or plant holders - I'm looking at the website, lol.) you just post your offer and whovever is interested contacts you and comes to get your 'trash'.

To help balance my budget, I've been doing a lot of trading. I've traded paintings for veterinary fees, English lessons for part of the cost of braces, English tutoring in exchange for ironing, and I've babysat in exchange for jeans even. Trade is a good way to work things into a small budget. For example, I've been helping a neighbor by taking her kids to the sport club every Wednesday, and in exchange she gives me fresh eggs and garden veggies. I know that the chiropractor here in the village often gets part of his payment in vegetables and eggs - his wife told me that when I spied a huge crate of apples in her trunk! Clothes get passed back and forth in the village as well. My daughter wears hand-me-downs from my friends, and when she grows out of them, I pass them on. A lot of the kids in the village have worn the same clothes, especially winter coats and pants - it seems kids grow out of those before they can get worn out.

And let's not forget Ye Olde Thifte Shoppe! Today I'm wearing a blouse and a sweater I got at the thrift. The sweater is an old, wrap-around style in pure cashmere. Someone gave it away, and I bought it for a dollar.
So, for all you budget-minded folk out there, you can get free books at Book Mooch, find free stuff at FreeCycle (both are world wide), trade, and get cheap clothes at the thrift!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Contest, pre-editing, golf, sun-burn, dog's tail tale

Jason Evans over at a newly discovered blog The Clarity of Night (new for me - you've probably known it for ages) is hosting a contest with a photo - you have to write something about it. So I did. When could I ever resist a contest? I'm entry number 8, and here is the link to the blog (not my entry) There are lots of other really great entries there. One is about a were-wolf-wife, another is about a college dorm - all are great. Go read and have fun!

* * *
It's been a busy few days. After stopping my allergy medicine I'm actually getting some work done. I can sit at the computer and work without falling asleep or into a transe. I've been pre-editing some wonderful books.
Pre-editing, you ask? I'm not an editor. Someone called me 'agent Sam' on another blog - but I'm not an agent. I do write and I read a lot. I've been reading the submissions and sending them on to our editor if I like them. One submission needed a little trimming in the beginning to make it move faster. The story moves like a freight train once it gets going, but it was bogging down in the beginning. That is, by the way, not hard to fix at all. Cut, snip, trim! Take out everything that is not essential to the story and that does not advance the story. It's an easy thing to remember, but it's hard to do when you've written a novel that's 250 pages long and you're so involved in the story that you can't sort out what's essential information for the reader and what's not. The information is there, in your head, and it's part of the character or house. Fine. It can help the writer to know as much about his or her character as possible. But some things are not essential for the reader to know.
Here is some good advice:
Let the Reader Use His Imagination!
This is also where a good beta reader comes in handy. "Take this out, I don't need to know this. Explain what that means. You don't have to keep saying that, you said it already before. Trust me, readers remember things."
I cut and trim (nothing is done without the author's consent!), and send the book to the editor for the final polish.


Golf: Played golf again. My elbow (the one I broke) is not happy with golf. It makes strange noises, cracks, hurts, and complains. So I'm complaining too. But there's no way I'm giving up my golf.


Sun-burn: It's still summer weather here. We are covered with sun block. My nose is pink already.


A dog's tail tale: Auguste sprained his tail. It looks funny, but hurts (the poor chap), and will get better in about five or six days. Until then he has doggy aspirin and lots of hugs. He's milking it for all it's worth - sitting at my feet and moaning every once in a while, so I'll hug him.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Braces!

My daughter got her braces today.

She's quite happy with them (so far) but tomorrow the dentist said she'd probably be sore.

I wrote the appointment down for the wrong day - but thankfully I wrote it down

as yesterday, so we showed up yesterday and were told it was today. Far better than showing up tomorrow and having to reschedule another appointment!

I also hit some golf balls today, and started giving my daughter golf lessons. And for the million-th time I thought how privileged I am, and how lucky I am to be able to get braces for my daughter and be able to play golf.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Adding some color

At breakfast today I was sketching Sebi (who does not like it when I draw him or take his picture, but he sat still enough for me to finish) with his apple and cereal, Julia with her bread, and when they left, the table with the leftover baguette, the honey, the napkin holder, and my lucky coffee cup.
Doesn't everyone have a lucky coffee cup?











A scary movie

My daughter wanted to go to the movies, and she'd loved Narnia, so we went to see The Bridge to Terabithia. Let me just say that it was one of the worst films I've ever seen. The story meanders, characters appear and disappear. Nothing is resolved. And the ending absolutely terrified me. What was that kid going to do with his little sister? I had the distinct impression she would end up cut into little pieces...
Let me go back a little here, for those who have never seen the movie. And if you haven't, don't bother, and whatever you do, don't take your kids, especially, as my daughter said, if your kid is bullied at school, is troubled, or has no friends. Because for what it's worth, the moral of the story is: When your best friend dies, everyone is nice to you and your life suddenly has a meaning.
My daughter is 12, and here is her verdict: "That movie was the stupidest movie I've ever seen. What happened to the girl's mother? How could she have hit her head, there were thick weeds and water everywhere? Why did the boy make his music teacher feel so guilty? It wasn't her fault. How come the big mean girl is suddenly so nice? That's just stupid."
Well, she's twelve and I'm translating from French here, but you get my gist. And the kids leaving the movie theater looked, for the most part, disappointed and confused.
"I kept waiting for the fantasy world to become real," said my daughter. "But it only became real in the end in the boy's head, and that's scary."
Yup. Scary. The boy retreats into a fantasy world, and he brings his baby sister with him, after swearing her to utter secrecy. "Do not tell Anyone about this," he tells her, and brings her into the woods.
Any child psychologist would be leaping up in his seat yelling, "No! Bring her back!"
Anyhow, the whole movie creeped me out.
My daughter's parting thoughts were, "there was no valid reason to kill that nice girl. No reason at all. It was just plain stupid."
I get pissed when authors use the shock of killing someone in order to spice up their otherwise colorless and boring books. This was no different, and yet, there was a story to be told. The story of a lonely boy in a financially troubled family. If he'd solved his problems in the real world instead of retreating into an imaginary world, the story would have worked. But no problem was resolved by the boy, and in the end he was in a world of his own imagination where, I imagine, live the same lonely boys who find guns and destroy their enemies by violence, which is the only thing that seems to work.
When your best friend dies, everyone is nice to you.
Scary.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

sketches

My husband is writing a book on polo technique, and he asked me to do some drawings to illustrate the different types of swings, starting with the basic forehand shot. So I asked him to grab a polo stick and show me the different positions he needed illustrated. I did some preliminary sketches, and then he left for Spain, so I have to wait until he gets back to finalize them. In the meantime, I put them together on a black board and tried to figure out the best way to present them. And when I was done, I did a few other sketches, finishing off with Rusty and Auguste, who were obviously bored by my work.


The basic polo swing

After the game





Discussions with the referee





Stick and balling with the old white mare




Rusty crosses her paws when she sleeps August sleeps on his back.










Tuesday, April 17, 2007

2 things at once...


I used to be able to do two things at once. At least, I'm pretty sure. But lately I have been getting into trouble with my penchant for juggling tasks. My latest endeavor was mowing the lawn while baking a cake. I admit the oven was too hot, but I should have caught it beforehand. My goose-egg cake is burned. I have tried to salvage it, but I don't know if it will be any good.

The other things I burned the other day were the sausages I put on the grill, then ran inside to make the salad. But the sausages burned. Luckily I had some wild boar steaks that I'd been planning on serving the next evening. I tossed those on the grill and watched them carefully.

This morning I took my husband to the airport and was stuck in traffic for an hour on the way home, so I'm feeling tired. I still have to take my daughter to the dentist and I'd really like to finish the book I'm editing. (I will not edit while driving, never fear!)

Hubby has just called - he's safely arrived in Spain where he's staying for two weeks. Lucky guy! I love Spain. But the weather here is resolutely summer still, so I'll not complain.

Instead, I will fix myself another cup of coffee and go keep an eye on my goose egg cake!


PS:
I just tasted the cake. It is unedible.
*sniff*
My son looked at it, said 'Uck', and went out for a jog.
Auguste seems to like it.
He's a weird dog.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Seriously Summer


Today I clipped our front hedge and finished mowing the lawn. I started on Saturday, but on Sunday it's illegal to mow grass (because of the noise) so I took the day off and went for a walk instead. I also got some work done yesterday, including putting the newsletter for the Sirens together and getting a tiny bit of editing and reading done. If anyone who submitted to Calderwood Books has not gotten an answer back, they should submit again, because we are all caught up with submissions and asking for partials. (I'm posting this here just in case.) So yesterday was a 'get caught up' day.

Today it's so hot we left our back door wide open for a breeze, and the dogs are inside lying on the tiled floor. Bees bumble in the garden, but not as many as I'd like to see. Our cherry tree is usually covered with blossoms and buzzing with bees; this year we have snowy blossoms, but it's too early for the bees. The ones who have woken up are clumsy and sleepy and crawl into our rooms through the open windows and get lost. We have no screens in the windows--there are few mosquitos and even fewer bees and wasps. Thanks to the farms we have flies, but they are clever and don't get caught in curtains.

Yesterday I set three bees loose after they blundered into my house and got stuck in the filmy, white curtains. Silly bees. But I'm still worried. The cherry blossoms need bees to make lots of cherries, and this year the flowers all came a month early. My apple trees a'blossoming, and it too is lonely for bees. The cherry tree is already shedding its petals like fragile snowflakes.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Car show in the village

Here's my house, and two cars parked in front of it which are part of the car show this morning. This afternoon we're getting jaguars and antique cars, so I'm keeping my camera ready! Thank goodness the scaffolding from the roof came down yesterday (it's all lying in the garden but you can't see it anymore, so the village looks chic.)



August has made his choice, sitting and looking at a bright red Ferrari. He's a boy dog, so I guess he likes cars.



Here's the church with some more cars parked in front of it. Everyone is in the restaurant eating lunch. August saw our neighbor's cat and ran away, and I had to run after him, yelling "Auguste, leave that cat alone!" He doubled back and ran as fast as he could back to the house with me pounding after him to make sure he didn't go the Other way around the block. It was entertainment for the people in the restaurant, I'm sure.

Here's August in front of the restaurant, admiring another car.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes...

Kurt Vonnegut was, no is, my favorite author. My favorite book of his is 'Welcome to the Monkey House', because it is such a clear reflection of humankind. It's a collection of short stories and I've read my copy until the pages are frayed and soft on the corners.

My second favorite book of his is 'Saughterhouse V', and if you've never read it, I feel sorry for you, like you've never had a hot fudge sundae or seen a beautiful sunset over a lake. So go to your local library (please) and get a copy of Slaughterhouse V. As you read it, remember that he was in the war, he was a young kid fighting in WWII, and he was captured and brought to Dresden. He survived the horrific fire bombing. He was one of seventeen soldiers to survive because he was in the basement of a meat factory. So when you read this book, think about a nineteen year old kid who has just witnessed the destruction of a whole city, and then his captives order him to incinerate the bodies with a flame thrower. And somehow, some way - he kept his sense of humor, and Saughterhouse V is a funny book. A funny, whacky, sad story. It's also one of the best and truest examples of war and what it does to people.

Here is an excerpt from his last book, "A Man Without a Country". He wrote this in 2005, when he'd already said everything he'd wanted to say. He didn't think he'd be writing another book but he did, and it was a best seller. Here's what he said about it. "It's like a glass of champagne at the end of my life."
He also said "So it goes." Kurt Vonnegut is dead. So it goes.



"Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." A lot of people think Jesus said that, because it is so much the sort of thing Jesus liked to say. But it was actually said by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, five hundred years before there was that greatest and most humane of human beings, named Jesus Christ.
The Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb they only used gunpowder for fireworks. And everybody was so dumb back then that nobody in either hemisphere even knew that there was another one.

We've sure come a long way since then. Sometimes I wish we hadn't. I hate H-bombs and the Jerry Springer Show
But back to people like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor, Mark, each of whom have said in their own way how we could behave more humanely and maybe make the world a less painful place. One of my favourite humans is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my native state of Indiana.
Get a load of this. Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was not yet four, ran five times as the Socialist party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, almost 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while campaigning:
"As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.
"As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it.
"As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Doesn't anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools, or health insurance for all?
When you get out of bed each morning, with the roosters crowing, wouldn't you like to say. "As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
How about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
And so on.
Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly George W Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld stuff.
For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!
It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed pink clouds. It is the law! It is the US Constitution.
But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'├ętat imaginable.
I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: "C-Students from Yale".
George W Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences.
To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr Hervey Cleckley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia, published in 1941. Read it!
Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.
PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!
And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's against gay marriage.
So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.
They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin' day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they don't give a fuck what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilise the reserves! Privatise the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!
There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: only nut cases want to be president. This was true even in high school. Only clearly disturbed people ran for class president.
The title of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is a parody of the title of Ray Bradbury's great science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. Four hundred and fifty-one degrees Fahrenheit is the combustion point, incidentally, of paper, of which books are composed. The hero of Bradbury's novel is a municipal worker whose job is burning books.
While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.
And still on the subject of books: our daily news sources, newspapers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books do we learn what's really going on.
I will cite an example: House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, published in early 2004, that humiliating, shameful, blood-soaked year.
In case you haven't noticed, as the result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African-Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers with appallingly powerful weaponry - who stand unopposed.
In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as Nazis once were.
And with good reason.
In case you haven't noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanised millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound 'em and kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want.
Piece of cake.
In case you haven't noticed, we also dehumanised our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.
Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything.
Piece of cake.
The O'Reilly Factor.
So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called In These Times.
Before we attacked Iraq, the majestic New York Times guaranteed there were weapons of mass destruction there.
Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn't even seen the first world war. War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the first world war so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.
Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?
Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now give up on people, too. I am a veteran of the second world war and I have to say this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine.
My last words? "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse."
Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas
Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler. What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?


© 2005 Kurt Vonnegut Extracted from A Man Without a Country: A Memoir of Life in George W Bush's America,

Premature babies

Alex and Sebi - just out of the hospital. Two months old. They weigh 4 lbs each. You can see where their hair was shaved off for the intravenous needles. Alex (on the left) is slightly bigger than Sebi.


My son is taking psychology and he's in the middle of doing a report on the effects of prematurity on a person's life. I told him to use his own experience, but he went to the library and got lots of books, so I've been stealing them off his desk and reading them.
The twins were born at exactly 6 months gestation - around 24 or 25 weeks.
According to the books on premature babies, they were in the group called 'prematurissimos' - the most premature and the most fragile. The problems faced by the premature baby are numerous. They are taken from their mother, kept in isolation, given painful treatments, and they feel attacked. They don't feel secure, and they are particularly given to depression and nervous tics as they grow older. According to the book, they have missed a crucial stage in their developement, and they need extra care and attention when they finally do get 'home'.
The book says that the prematurissimos catch up to their age group at arond the age of ten. That's ten years spent lagging behind, often in size, health, and maturity.
The twins were very premature, and one was very ill in the hospital, and fragile after. One was very strong and never got sick. One has asthma, the other does not. One is good in math (the book says that often premature babies have problems later with math.) one is good in art. Both are so different that it's hard to read the book and 'find' the twins.
At the end of the book, it stresses the importance of environment and stimulation. Premature babies need a lot more care than 'normal' babies. Massages, the 'kangaroo' method, and constant interaction are important.
In the book, one child says, "I was premature, but I survived. That makes me stronger now."
The book points to this as an important factor - children who overcome severe difficulties don't feel bad about their lives - on the contrary, most of them are proud to have survived and feel special.
The twins were born weighing 3 lbs and 2.8 lbs. They spent 8 weeks in the intensive care unit in the Good Samaritan hospital in West Palm Beach. They had the best doctors and nurses, and they made good progress. They came home weighing 4 lbs each. We spent one month in Florida with them, then flew to France (they were five pounds by then) and then went to England in May for the polo season, where we stayed in a tiny but comfortable house in the Cotswalds.
I do remember the doctors giving us lots of advice about the preemies, as they're called. They told us they would probably not smile as soon, they would not be affectionate, they would be difficult and prone to crying and tantrums. They didn't tell me they would be get the famous 3 month colic, which is what the poor babies got, and had for nearly 6 weeks when they were (adjusted age) three months old. Both babies screaming in pain for hours every evening wore us down to dust, I'm afraid. Luckily I have a big family, and everyone pitched in to help.
What I learned about preemies is, don't be afraid to ask for help!
And massage therapy is good, the babies loved that, and carrying them around in the kangaroo carriers was nice for them. Since they had a bottle every 3 hours around the clock, and finally by the time they were 7 months old, it had become every 5 hours, they got a lot of interaction and stimulation. We would take turns getting up for the 5 am bottle, and take turns going to bed at 11 and skipping the midnight bottle, so someone always got at least 7 hours sleep every night. (Usually my husband because he was playing polo, and you can't play when you're falling asleep on the horse...) So my sister, Sophie, or Andrea, me (or whoever else was around) would get up at 4:30 to get the bottles ready and then two of us would feed the babies at 5 am, and we'd put them in their kangaroos, and we'd go for long walks in the English countryside.

Here is Alex's footprint from the hospital. I put it next to a ruler (centimetres) and my business card, so you can get an idea of how big it was.
The first seven months were tough, and then we went to Bordeaux and the babies started sleeping more or less through the night. (They were 9 months old by then, and had been breast fed, then weaned from soy milk to normal baby formula.) We stayed in France for five months, then it was back to the states for Christmas, where Sebi discovered the baby bouncer and spent hours bouncing up and down and laughing. We travelled from the US to Argentina, to France and then England every year with the twins until they were 6, and had to go to school. We settled in Lyons, in France, and I stayed with the twins while my husband travelled. It wasn't easy, but I wanted the twins to do well in school, and since premature babies often have learning difficulties, we decided we wanted them to be in a good school system. They didn't have any problems, and by the time they were in second grade, had managed to become completely bi-lingual. (Before we'd only spoken to them in English - they didn't really learn French until they were about 6.)
They had physical scars from being premature. They still have scarred heels and Alex has a scar on his nose. But they seem to have overcome their difficult beginning and survived, gotten strong, and become healthy and hopefully happy young men!
I know when I saw them for the first time in the hospital, I never believed they could grow - but they did.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Spring colors and fossils

Yesterday I went for a walk and took some pictures of the spring trees and stream.
I love the hazelnut tree, below, with the gold tassle-like flowers. The stream was sparkling, and a wild plum tree bloomed in the hedge.



Then I stopped by the fossil site and found two new fossils. They're the biggest ones I've found there yet, (about 2 inches long) and in good condition. The recent rains must have washed them out of the sand. For those interested in fossils, here are the two shells I found. They're from the Eocene epoch / Lutecian stage (about 48 million yeas ago). I'm kind of nuts about old things, so this is fascinating to me, lol.

Hemicerithium imperfectum
Cerithium imperfectum

Plejona musicalis
Voluta musicalis


Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Sorceress’s Monkey

The Sorceress’s Monkey

She rode on a golden palanquin, an albino monkey crouched upon her shoulder.
Four men carried the palanquin. Easily, they held it over their heads, out of the way of the multitude.
The multitude gave way. “The sorceress,” they whispered. It was an anxious whisper. She was evil, but no one could kill her. They knew she took people, but no one ever saw her snatch them. The ones who vanished had no families to report them missing; just abandoned wares swept up with the garbage the next day.
The monkey scanned the crowd, lips pulled back from sharp teeth. “I see,” he chattered.
“So do I. The girl with the black shawl?”
“Yes! I saw her first!”
“Perhaps.” The sorceress moved her hands and spoke soft words into the air. The palanquin didn’t stop, but a farmer nearby raised his head, his attention suddenly fixed on the young woman. He went to her stand.
“Can I help you sir?” The woman’s eyes were sad. She wore a mourning cloak.
“I’d like a scarf for my daughter,” said the man. He spoke slowly, the words coming from far away.
“Your daughter.” Her voice was a sigh. “Choose. All I have is here.”
He picked a green scarf and pressed a coin into her hand. As he did, her eyes grew dim. “Follow me,” he said.
“Yes.” The girl’s mouth moved, and her feet, but she slept even as she followed the man out the marketplace along the dusty road leading to the sorceress’s palace.
“They come!” chattered the monkey.
“Hush! Welcome,” said the sorceress, as the girl crossed the threshold.
The girl saw the monkey, and she woke, screaming. She reached for her dagger and flung it at the monkey. The monkey died, writhing in its own blood. The sorceress uttered a cry, then sank to the floor, dead.
“Why did you kill the monkey?” the man asked, when the spell left him and he could speak.
“One bit my daughter last year, and she died of it.”
Behind them, the palace turned to ashes and blew away.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sardine Salad

Sardine salad:

Can of sardines (If possible, not in oil! If canned sardines in oil is all you can find, drain them well before use.)
Lemon juice
Rockette salad (arugula)
Balsamic vinegar
Parmesan shavings
Salt & pepper

Put the rockette on a plate and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and salt. Place sardine filets on the salad and squeeze lemon juice over them. Add the parmesan cheese shavings.
Eat with a slice of whole wheat toast. It's delicious!

Sardines are great with bitter herbs such as rockette, and you can put sun-dried tomatos on the salad for extra 'yum'. I didn't have parmesan cheese today, so I substituted with cantal.

I just looked up arugula, and here's what I found:
"Rocket (arugula) has been grown as a vegetable in the Mediterranean area since Roman times, and was considered an aphrodisiac."

I just love arugula, lol.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

New Blog Design!

I have a new blog design thanks to the very talented Daisy Mae - step up and take a bow! It looks wonderful, thank you!

She also designed a header to match for my website, so please go look (www.samanthawinston.com) It is too fun - I love the look - very Newspaper 1930's, Clark Kent mild mannered reporter and all that!

I think my book 'Merlin's Song' is due out today at Ellora's cave - I'll post an announcement tomorrow if it is. I have to say I LOVE this book - it's Hot, it's Fun, it's gor Great characters. I dare anyone not to fall in love with Merlin, and I think Kyla is one of my most interesting heroines after Gladys Hawke (My favorite - is it possible to have a favorite heroine?)
I think (because I'm rambling here) that my three favorite heroines are:
Gladys Hawke
Ashley
Kyla
And my three favorite heros are:
Iskander
Merlin
Tagor the Pirate
But it's so hard to choose because they're all my babies! (wail!)
Authors, do you have favorite characters?
Readers, are there characters you just can't bear to say goodbye to?
Does everyone think Gladys desreves to be number one?
:-)


PS:
I just looked and it's THERE!!!
MERLIN'S SONG is at Ellora's Cave!!!
Here is the LINK!!
I made lots of Links.
Go check it out!
Buy a copy!
Let me know if you fell in love with Merlin and thought Kyla was a great Heroine!!
And Thank you!!!!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Fast Train!

Seeley, I fixed the monster!


I had a business lunch today, and when I got there, everyone was watching the TGV as it tried to break the speed record. I guess it did - going 357mph (574.8km) on the Paris-Strasbourg high speed line. Well, I was amazed. The train looked like a missile, and I thought 'No Way am I going to ride in that thing,' lol.


After the train finished it's run, we talked about the CD covers I'm doing. The group is going to Hachette on Friday to present the project, and they need a mock-up to take with them. I did a few to give them some ideas:










Now I have to do a finished project with front and back, and put the logo on and such.


Well - back to work! (It's not work for me, it's fun! Isn't it nice when you love your job?)