May 13th, 2011


Feeding the Wildlife You See

I usually don't feed the birds much in summer, but this year I'm experimenting.  For the last week I've been seeing goldfinches and indigo buntings all over the patio.  So, I bought them a thistle sock and hung it near the hopper feeder, in the woodland garden where the honeysuckle bush and sapling trees stand outside the kitchen window.  I also put a brick chip in the abandoned dog dish and started keeping that full of water.  It's not the kind of water feature that bird are "supposed to" like, but it's where they're going.  I can work with that.  When I got up this morning, these were the results ...

Grackle: "Is a box!  With food ins!"
Goldfinch: "Is a sock! With food ins!" 
Hummingbird: "Is a bush!  With food ins!"

Indigo Bunting: "Is a box! With food ins!"
Sparrow: "My box!" *peck*
Indigo Bunting: *flies away*
Sparrow: "Is a box! With food ins!"
Me: "Hey, Indigo Bunting, you're a clinging bird.  You can have sock food.  That's why I bought it."
Indigo Bunting: *flies back to hopper feeder*  "My box too!" *PECK* *flutter*
Sparrow: *flies away*
Indigo Bunting: "Can takes care of self.  Maybe tries sock food later tho."

If I remember, I may dig out my hummingbird feeder and fill that.

The Mosaic Novel

Here's an interesting description of a mosaic novel, consisting of many tidbits that are not tightly connected but do form an overall pattern.

I've helped write one, The Great Cybermind Novel.  It was existential, techno-surreal fiction composed by a team of folks on the Cybermind email list during NaNoWriMo one year.  We had great fun.

I suspect that this type of novel would also work great for Torn World.

Why Raising the Retirement Age Is Problematic

This article shows how raising the retirement age harms the poor.  I agree that this is valid. 

However, my main focus is on something else: the older people get, the worse their health gets, on average.  That means older workers have a hard time staying healthy enough to keep a job.  Also, nobody wants to hire older workers, starting around middle age in some fields.  If their health forces them to retire -- or they are forced out of the job market because nobody will hire them -- before they are able to claim Social Security, then they're just screwed.  They often wind up being a drain on society rather than an asset.  This is good for no one.  Conversely, this also makes people cling to employment as long as possible, whether it is prudent and effective or not.  So then some people are constantly calling in sick, or having health issues impact the quality of their work, which is an aggravation for everyone around them.  That can make your day suck no matter how good a job or health you personally have.  Raising the retirement age is socially dysfunctional.  The retirement age should not be based on life expectancy, but rather aimed at the threshold where people's bodies typically decline beyond their ability to sustain full-time work.

Crowdfunding Project: "Clays Beneath the Skies"

haikujaguar is crowdfunding a collection of short stories, Clays Beneath the Skies.  This will contain 7 short stories plus illustrations featuring the Jokka, a race of aliens with three sexes (male, female, and neuter).  I've read many of the Jokka stories, and I love them.  The Jokka have two puberties and can change sex at either or both, which may or may not affect their gender identity or their interest in sexual partners.  A lot of different combinations have appeared across the fiction.  Sex shapes the characters' lives because the females are very fragile, the males in-between, and the neuters are durable ... and the world is suffering climate change that just makes life harder. 

These stories are among the best sociological science fiction and gender fiction that I've ever read.  Go throw money if you have it to spare and you like this sort of stuff.  It will totally be worth your while.

Poem: "A Knot of Thyme"

Here is the perk for reaching the $150 goal in the May 3, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  You voted for a Fiorenza poem this time.  marina_bonomi and eseme both wondered about various aspects of Fiorenza's past and how she came to her position.  I myself had been wondering why she started out so young.  Then all the questions and answers came together...

You can read the other poems about Fiorenza on the "Serial Poetry" page of my website. Among other things, I researched historic herb gardens and greenhouses for this poem.

A Knot of Thyme

Fiorenza was born
on the day of spring's first flower,
laid in her mother's arms
for the space of one hour, and then
laid in a cradle
while her mother was buried
in a grave marked with a single blossom.

Carmela the wisewoman
wept bitterly for her daughter Marietta.
Then she rebraided her greying hair
and planted a new twist of thyme
in the knotwork garden that marked their lineage.
Carmela watched and watched the road
for her daughter's husband,
but Giordano never returned from his sea voyage.

Fiorenza grew up in her grandmother's cottage
with its tidy orchard and rambling herb garden
leading down to the little house of leaded glass
that protected the most delicate plants during winter,
precious gift of a long-ago lord for saving his son's life.
Fiorenza chased the chickens down the gravel paths
and braided calendula blossoms into her wild black hair.

Carmela noted her granddaughter's quick wits
and deft hands and sharp tongue.
Fiorenza was not and never would be a mild maiden,
sought after as wife and mother.
So Carmela taught the girl how to garden,
how to harvest the herbs for medicines,
how to bake them into breads and pastries.
Carmela hoped that Fiorenza would show
some talent for one of these things --
but Fiorenza excelled at all of them.

Fiorenza walked through the village
with a basket of eggs on one hip
and a basket of herbs on the other.
She ran through the village
at her grandmother's heels,
carrying the wisewoman's supplies
wherever they were needed.
Heads turned and people whispered,
but Fiorenza didn't mind.

Carmela passed away
when Fiorenza was three years a woman.
Don Candido the priest said the service for her,
while high overhead the white doves
murmured in the eaves of the church.
Afterward he advised Fiorenza to marry.

Fiorenza looked at the young men of her village,
whose bloody noses she stanched after fights
and whom she had treated for hangovers all too often
and who asked impertinent, urgent questions about
how not to get a baby on a girl they wouldn't marry.
She sighed and shook her head,
then went home to her grandmother's garden
and tended the long twists of thyme.

The villagers came to her --
slowly, sometimes blushingly,
but they came. 
There were bakers and gardeners aplenty,
but if they wanted an herbalist,
there was only Fiorenza,
who though young had learned her grandmother's craft
well enough to keep breath attached to body.

Fiorenza didn't mind.
There was time.
The people would learn to trust her,
just as the red hens had learned
as soon as she stopped chasing them.


Torn World Muse Fusion This Weekend

The May Muse Fusion is now live over in torn_world .  Please drop by and leave some prompts for the writers and artists gathering there.  What would you like to see?  Just ask for it!  You can also sponsor things so that they'll be visible to the public.

What I've Written

"Catch and Release" -- Dorom and friends go on an ice-fishing expedition and have an unexpected adventure with massive wildlife.  Later Dorom uses this to improve his connection with his friendly rival, Vlaran.
2,935 words, Buy It Now = $29.25 or 29 Torn World credits

"Swept Away" -- An overzealous cleaning girl clears off Bai's desk.  Rai helps him deal with the aftermath.
1,103 words, Buy It Now = $11 or 11 Torn World credits SOLD

"Seafoam Fashions" -- This month's freebie poem is about a fashion color.

"When the Wind's Teeth Sing" -- Two people come into Rai's shop, interested in selling as well as buying. They introduce him to some craft items made from sea monster parts, along with stories of adventure and adversity.
1,169 words, Buy It Now = $11.75 or 12 Torn World credits

"The Shipwright's Song" -- This poem has a driving beat similar to a sea chanty, good for guiding workers in a rhythmic task. It talks about shipwrights and their role in the endless campaign against the sea monsters. They may not be heroes like the warsailors ... but they make it possible for warsailors to be heroes.
20 lines, Buy It Now = $5 or 5 Torn World credits

"Catch of the Day" -- Vlaran performs her duty as a fisher of Itrelir, finding friendship and romance along the way.

Crowdfunded Illustration: "Without Fail"

meeksp has done an exciting sketch illustrating my Torn World story "Without Fail."  It makes clever use of depth-perspective in which the foreground (at the top of the page) is above  the background (at the bottom of the page). meeksp has also registered at Torn World; if this sketch gets enough comments and/or donations to justify a round of refinement, she plans to submit it there.  More sea monster art, yay!  Please go check it out and let us know what you think.  There's a donation button at the bottom of the post if you are so inclined.

"Without Fail" is in front of the Canon Board currently, and should be close to approval.  I just need to find time to check the comments and see if there's anything I need to tweak.  It's a story about warsailor Brelig and his adventures on the cruise ship Wavebiter.  As you can see from the illustration, Torn World doesn't make for smooth sailing.

Previously meeksp did this charming sketch of my Origami Mage poem "unfolding wings."  Both the original rough and the update are posted, and now there is a new detail image showing the Origami Mage and the beggar.  (Detail images are a new perk; we get one for every $10 in tips on a given cleaned-up sketch.)  Tips on this one are currently at $10, thank you for your support of the artist.