Thursday, August 26, 2010

Heraldry tonight

After days of working on family trees and spreadsheets, I have a pretty good idea who the remaining leaders of the Northern Alliance are and where they and their troops are located. This means I can describe a few more scenes.

Next: the Eastern Alliance and the Southern Alliance.

Meanwhile, tonight I sketched the arms of the original eleven houses allied around the Northern Plain. The banners and the tunics of the rulers do get described from time to time in the tale and sometimes the head of an aristocratic house is nicknamed by his/her arms. The Silver Stallion, for instance, refers throughout to one of the cousins claiming the throne.

That I am no professional artist becomes evident when my fox passant looks more like a depressed rat with a fluffy tail. Ah well, at least I can visualize the arms easily now (in my mind's eye, that is).

Yes, all this means I really am gearing up to write again and I am pleased about it.

Looking at all it takes to recount this civil war in a single principate I shuddered this afternoon to contemplate the Great War of 1291 waiting for me several volumes ahead. That tale was told in quick strokes and a mere hundred pages back in the early 70s but it will take two entire books to narrate properly now that the world is fleshed out and I know so much more about history, setting, and characters than I did then. It is the richness of the characters that intrigues me; otherwise there would be little pleasure in writing (nor, I suspect, for others in the reading).

--the BB

Monday, August 23, 2010

It would be an act of charity

It would be an act of charity to articulate a fourth option on the Mosquemania that is sweeping the country. Here are the three I see.

1. Certain sincere individuals are woefully ignorant. They are ignorant concerning Islam, al Quran, and Sufism; concerning the United States Constitution; concerning geography; concerning history; concerning the proper respective roles of the federal, state, and local governments; and concerning reality in general. They are to be pitied.

2. Other individuals are unreconstructed bigots who cannot see beyond their fears and hatred. They may also fall into the first category or they may, conceivably, even know better, but their desire to defend their imagined status leads them to harbor, and currently spew, the most toxic fear and venom. The first step in casting out a demon is naming it, so let's all admit they're bigots and stop listening to their poison.

3. A third category are the demagogues who manipulate ignorance, fear, and hatred to achieve their political ends. This would include Pam Geller who started this whole thing, Newt Gingrich and the others who rile the masses over NOTHING in order to distract from real issues, tear down the current administration, mobilize voters, and raise money. They are detestable and are nothing but manipulative hypocrites. They should be denounced at every opportunity.

So, if you have some more categories for people allegedly or actually freaking over a Muslim community center that is not even in sight of Ground Zero, please share them.

I suppose there is an adjunct category of Democrats who wet their pants every time the right wing suggests they might be communists, fascists, socialists, Muslims, weak on defense, anti-American, or any other category that makes the Baby Jesus cry. We need some leaders on all sides to stand up and say, "This is bullshit. Now get back to work." I am pleased that several Republicans have called BS on this. Kudos to them.

Faux News, of course, falls in category 3. The mainstream media need to calm the temperature on this by not falling for the machinations of the manipulators. And they need to call out bigotry. There is nothing more un-American than saying no mosques should be built in this nation. It is nothing but ignorance, bigotry, or demagoguery.

While the nations roils in this crap the corporations continue to work behind the scenes to hang on to their power and extend it when possible. Whether we start combat operations or "end" combat operations, KBR makes out like a bandit. There is nothing in so-called health care reform to keep insurance premiums from rising. Google and Verizon are working very hard to undermine net neutrality and wrest power from the people and put it into the hands of the corporations. Corporations may now spend unlimited money to influence elections thanks to the Roberts Court. The employment situation sucks and is getting suckier while corporations still make profits (this is what we call a "jobless recovery"). Companies are hanging on to their capital (for what? executive bonuses?) instead of investing it in hiring. People who are willing to listen to science instead of reject it are well aware we are heading into a global crisis with climate change, which means more extreme weather and its sequelae: floods, heat waves, drought, rising ocean levels, crop failures, increased competition for scarce resources, and the movement of populations and wars that always attend these. Yet we lag horribly in shifting our economy and investment strategies toward renewable energy and more responsible ways of living together and commuting. One fifth of Pakistan is under water. There are immense crop losses and loss of life in Russian from the heat wave and fires. Haiti has still not recovered from the earthquake.

And we get riled up over a community center in a neighborhood that is already full of various houses of worship and establishments of sleaze. There is nothing sacred about the street on which the center was to be built.

I predict the United States will fall through stupidity. I don't know when but no empire has lasted forever. I do not wish this, but it is increasingly difficult to believe otherwise.

--the BB

It was not do-nothing mode

The weekend was not really super busy and I did spend lots of time sitting around. Nonetheless, I made progress on several fronts.

Dinner in Corrales on Friday. As I wrote to a friend through whom I got the wine:
The menu (a tribute to late summer):
Goat cheese with strips of roasted and peeled Big Jim green chiles from B's yard, olive oil, salt, pepper - all spread on crackers. The chiles are usually fairly mild but these had kick.
Freshly-picked figs that K. brought (her neighbor's tree hangs over into her yard) halved and served with little strips of prosciutto.
Ripe very intensely red tomatoes from B's yard, sliced with olive oil, chiffonade of Thai basil, salt and pepper.
Grilled chicken that has been marinated in lemon juice for a couple hours, then brushed with olive oil and Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. So simple and so good.
Grilled eggplant slices brushed with olive oil.
Grilled corn on the cob.
Peach cobbler that I had made with Red Haven peaches from my tree, picked when they were literally starting to fall from the branch.
The wine was a St Peter's Church Reserve Zinfandel. Nice big wine. I did feel stuffed like a turkey after all that food.

Saturday I had an eye exam and purchased a new pair of glasses. Slight changes in one eye, nothing huge. I think my brain has adjusted to the change already. Since it is not hugely different from the last prescription this means I now have a spare pair of glasses.

I also did a bit of retail therapy, paid the chap who got a new motor for my downstairs A/C unit, hung out with the local Italians for a couple of hours, and did a load of laundry.

Sunday saw three more loads of laundry, I ran the dishwasher twice (yes, I had let dishes pile up), cleaned the kitchen, baked the last peach cobbler of the season and took most of it next door for the neighbors (tacky, but I had a little), and worked on updating my cast of characters and their alliances (previous post). The day before I studied Italian in a phrase book and Sunday evening I watched a bit of Italian TV online.

Should I win the lottery in any substantial amount I will hire someone to clean my house, you can be sure of that. Don't we all have these fantasies?

I would not mind a nice uneventful week.

--the BB

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Trying to keep track

Vinat, Jugdal, Tjunar, Evnat, and Heggel are all allies of Jarnor. How can you doubt it when you can see rulers of all five regions linked by marriage in the chart above? Heggel, however, has been co-opted by the party of the Princess Vinat is also related by marriage to Ocnathal and Ocnathal is linked by family ties not only with the Northern Alliance but also with the neutral border territory of Uhli and the County of Orgl, the latter being firmly in the Eastern Alliance. It is truly a civil war, with siblings and cousins fighting on opposite sides. The personal conflicts are many.

I try to keep track of forty towns and cities (feudal territories) in the principate and who is currently where as armies move about the land.

And so I use complex spread sheets (sorted and filtered and color-coded) with formulas to track how old the players are (and if they are still alive). I use genealogy software with over 1800 fictional characters stored therein. I keep referring to my maps and timelines. What is the phase of the moon? Which stars shine above?

Because if I don't, readers will. LOL.

This is really rambling commentary to note that I have done work on family trees this weekend. I also wrote a scene for the next-to-last book in the series. Almost a year may have passed since I was last in full swing but I feel as though I am, indeed, about to plunge in once more.

--the BB

Visualisation of Activity in Afghanistan using the Wikileaks data

So, how is that Afghanistan thing going for you?

We do learn things from leaked information. Here is a visualization of hostile activity from 2002 to 2009. Click on it. Watch it. Think about it. (It IS a graphic; it is not "graphic," in case you were worried. Just a colored map.)

Visualisation of Activity in Afghanistan using the Wikileaks data
at Vimeo.

--the BB

No one pays attention to this. How odd.

Borrowed in its entirety from Jed Lewison at Daily Kos:

According to a new AP poll, about three times more people oppose the war in Afghanistan than think President Obama is a Muslim.

But that's not big news, is it?
Now if one were of a suspicious mind, and I am, one might think that the close ties between those who own the media and the military-industrial complex could have something to do with this. Nah, that's crazy talk.

--the BB