I've posted photos of our various cats here before from time to time. Cats are naturally photogenic; they're born posers, and pretty easy to photograph.

I haven't had that much luck with our Corgi, Madame Mim. Part of this is because her natural reaction to having a camera aimed at her is to jump up and lick the lens. But a while back, I finally caught her in an I'm-not-getting-up mood, and she laid still long enough that I finally got a photo of her I'm pretty well satisfied with:

A Compelling Argument For Old-Fashioned Ballpoint Pens

So you get to the parking lot at work, racing the time clock, and get out of the car, juggling a large insulated mug and the multi-pocketed bag where you keep a snack, some extra drinks, reading material, miscellaneous papers and a notebook. And in the midst of the juggling, some of the mug's contents spill out its top vent.

But only a splash against the side of the bag, which you quickly wipe off, then hurry in to start work.

A few hours later,the mail's been sorted and trayed, everything loaded into your truck, you've done the first section of your delivery route, and you stop for your first rest break.

Which is when you find that the splash you saw hit the outside of the bag was only the one you saw, and that the splash of liquid you didn't see was the one that fell directly into the open pocket where you keep your writing notebook.

The notebook you write in almost exclusively with gel pens. Pens whose smooth-flowing ink is water-soluble.

The notebook where that splash of liquid has had several hours to percolate and spread, meanng that the pages in that notebook now look something like this:

The good news is that the pages written with black or blue gel pens didn't bleed as badly; they're mostly still legible. But the ones written with red gel... wow.

This is one time I'm glad I'm not in a writing workshop right now. Sure as shooting, some smartass would say "Some of your descriptions are a little unclear."


On Torture, Congress, and Culpability

[This was originally written as a comment to this discussion on Making Light, but their commentware seems to be off somewhere sneaking a smoke right now, so I post it here instead]:

PJ Evans wrote:
"We believe that those who authorize torture, under whatever name and in whatever form, those who say that it should be done, those who say that it is permissible in time of war, should be charged with war crimes and tried, under the rules of the international court at the Hague."
This is something I think should be made clear to all members of Congress: Anyone who votes to approve the "compromise" on torture is no longer a silent bystander. They have approved torture, they have endorsed torture, they have enabled torture. They have become accessories to and participants in torture.

They have become... they have declared themselves to be... war criminals.

They are safe... for now. Fortune favors them... for now. Their government will protect them... for now. They are useful to that government... for now.

But times change. Fortunes change. Governments change.

And they should know... they should be reminded, often... that every time, EVERY time, they leave the US, for a "junket" or "fact-finding" or just an ordinary vacation, they will now be running a risk.

Not tomorrow, or next week, or next month. But someday, in some other, braver, country, they will be approached by men in black suits, men with papers and guns and handcuffs, men who will say "Come with us, sir. Quietly."

And then... then we WILL see Americans in the Hague, on trial for their complicity in war crimes.

As they deserve to be.


Days of Future Passed

In the news today, Pan Am Airlines rose for its last gasp of breath, fifteen years after folding.

When Libya finally agreed to pay reparations for the 1989 Lockerbie bombing, Pan Am was one of the benficiaries, partially recouping its financial losses in that bombing. To their credit, the executors of the bankrupt defunct airline have used the proceeds to make (partial) good on back pay and vacation time owed to the employees let go fifteen years ago.

Pan Am was, once upon a time, the airline people thought of when the subject of air travel came up.

And the clearest visual representation of that iconic status was when Stanley Kubrick put the Pan Am logo on the Earth-to-Moon ship in the early moments of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Pan Am would (at least it seemed at the time) be there when humanity began regular travel to the Moon, a few decades after Kubrick's movie.

Alas, he was (we were) wrong on both counts. In the realm of failed SF predictions, I've always found that one particularly sad.


Things That Make Me Feel Old

From a recent flyer for an auction house I attend occasionally:

Les Couples Impairs

Browsing at the library recently, I came across Napoleon's Exile by Patrick Rambaud, latest in a series of novels about Napoleon (The Battle and The Retreat are earlier volumes).

In the Afterword/Notes ("Notes for the Curious"), Rambaud conducts a conversation with himself on whether or not his Napoleon books are "historical novels". In the process, he draws a comparison I've never heard before, but I think is worth repeating here:
"The term, certainly reductive, even contemptuous, refers to adventure stories telling timeless tales of love and revenge in exotic settings. [...] ...the chosen era serves as a backdrop, you can easily replace the fortified castle with a Florentine palace or an English building; it doesn't change anything."


"Dumas, exactly! The cycle of the Three Musketeers, that's the historical novel in its pure state!"

"No, I don't think so. His characters can't be transposed in time. You can't imagine them in our own time, or in ancient Greece, during the Crusades or among the pirates of the Caribbean. They tell us of the transition, in France, from the Baroque to the Classical age."

"I don't see ..."

"At the beginning we're in the reign of Louis XIII, an age damaged by feudalism, and Richelieu knows it, he fights the feudal lords. You have a sense of bravado, of sworn oaths, emtional outbursts and decent food. Twenty years later, it's all changed. Under Mazarin, our musketeers are out of step: honor has been replaced by cunning, negotiation and politics. With the accessiohn of young Louis XIV, in the novel Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, the state winis the day, the aristocracy makes way for the burgeoisie, and Colbert installs centralized power. You have to adapt or go under. Our musketeers pass through that precise age, when society is being transformed around them. They are nostalgic, they have plenty of regret but no remorse. By the end they have lost their illusions. It's the finest novel of passing time."

"Like Proust? Are you joking?"

"I'm not joking at all. And anyway, Proust was thinking about Dumas when he wrote the Recherche."


"One day he revealed his project to his friends. To help them understand, he said, 'You see, it's like Vingt Ans Apres.' Leon Daudet was there, and he corrected him: 'No, it's more like Bragelonne.' "
Dumas and Proust, together again for the first time. Thoughts of a French television sitcom rise inexorably, with big loud Dumas and fussy little Proust as mismatched roommates.

But I like the idea of redefining "historical novels" (and I think Napoleon's Exile is definitely one, despite Rambaud's denial) as, not just adventure stories, but as depictions of society in transition. This seems to me to add an extra layer of complexity and value to the best of the genre, on top of the common literary value of depicting how the characters of the story change and grow. (In that context, Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath could be considered as a historical novel.)



Thursday afternoon, with the work on the office done and CopperCon not due to start until Friday, Hilde and I found ourselves both sitting in our recliners in the family room, deep into our respective books, quietly reading.

This doesn't happen very often. Too many things to do around the house, too little time to do them all. Too much time online, browsing and blogging. But once in a while....

I looked up from my book, looked over to Hilde, and said, "Y'know, this is nice. This is very nice to be together like this."

"Yes, it is," she replied.

We went back to our books. As it happened, the book I was reading was Jo Walton's Farthing, with a Wonderful Loving Couple as main characters, and about two pages after speaking to Hilde, came across this passage:
David and I went out into the garden. [...] We sat out there in the sunshine, though there were clouds coming in from the north and I could tell the bright weather wasn't going to last. We ate our salmon sandwiches and finished up the Montrachet and sat and read our books until the clouds came over quite heavily, when we went into the library, taking our cushions in with us.

[...] I kicked my shoes off and put my feet up on the leather couch in the library and settled down to read The Treasure Seekers for about the thirtieth tiime. David sat on the chair where Mummy had been sitting the other day [...] and took up Three Men In A Boat, which he said he'd never read and always meant to. Before long he was completely engrossed.

I felt like dozing off, and yet I didn't. I just lay there, half-reading the very familiar episodes, and looking over at David now and again, feeling quite content really, because I didn't mind being at Farthing at all now.
Serendipity. Good thing.