Saturday, May 26, 2012

Eclipse and Storm

Not being particularly astronomical in nature, I didn't make it a point to note the time of the solar eclipse the other day. In the back of my mind, I suppose, I figured I'd know it if I saw it.

The evening of said eclipse, we were watching TV (the ever-engrossing Food Channel) when I noticed that the light outside had gone a bit odd. I grabbed a piece of cardstock from the studio, punched a hole in it with a pencil, and ran outside. My pinhole was really ragged, so I punched another (that's why there are two images in the shadow.)

Having been followed outside by most of the rest of the family, I was able to take advantage of Lillian's wits, as she recommended I use the garage door as my "screen." There it was, the eclipse, imaged.

Our neighbors across the street, who were also viewing the eclipse, ran over with some amazing filtered "glasses" with which one could look directly at the sun and see the eclipse. They have been cleverly spending time at our local branch library, where the librarians were giving out these paper-and-plastic eyeglasses for free. It was truly amazing technology, and I wish everyone had access to it.

And then, yesterday, which was the date of my father's birthday, just two weeks before my own, we had a thunderstorm with about 40 minutes of pouring rain. This may not seem like much, but we can go for years here in the Central Valley without seeing a thunderstorm, and certainly any rain at all after March and before November is unusual.

Bernie and I sat in the garage with the door open and watched the weather come through, the ominous dark clouds, the dancing rain, listening to the peals of thunder.

The very first instance in my life that I began to lose my fear of thunderstorms, my dad was standing out on the front porch, watching the lightning and the rain. I hovered at the front door, wanting to be with him, in terror of the loudness of the thunder. My love and belief in him won out, and I crept to his side, seeing how he reveled in the power of the storm.

From then on, I was a storm fanatic, and have loved them so much that a mere peal of thunder during the day draws me to a window to watch the wonder, dropping everything else, and at night, sends me into a deep and peaceful sleep.

So hey, Dad, happy birthday, and though it was two weeks in advance, I'll accept that storm as being my birthday gift, too, and nothing pleases me more.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Something So Simple

When I was working on a cover image for the Press this morning, I looked at images of fishing boats and rowboats for about an hour, not seeing anything that I could use.

Finally I gave up and drew my own sketch with graphite pencil (deliciously soft and intense).

The sketch and scan and upload took about 15 minutes.

I like the way it turned out, although I treated it in Photoshop for the cover, making a mirror image of it and then filtering it with "colored pencil."

Sometimes I frustrate myself, wasting so much time looking for someone else's work to use, having so little confidence in my own.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Topsoil in the Wind

I dodged a bullet today with minutes to spare.

The morning was rather cloudy, not bad at all, and I was scheduled to give a horsey lesson at ten. As Providence would have it, the mom called and said they couldn't be out there until noon. No way am I going to blunder around a hot and dusty arena in full heat, so I told her I'd catch up with them next week.

Then I zoomed to the ranch, dusted off the horse, flung the saddle on, and off we went for a short ride around one block of orchard. He was his usual perfect self (even when we inspected a new ditch dug to repair a leaky irrigation pump) and I was on my way home by 11 am.

How fortunate for me! The wind began to rise before I was even out of the shower and was a dirt-laden roaring hell. Lots of plowing being done; lots of dust being hurled.

Just going from the movie theater to the car got me coughing; the mountains are invisible, and you can feel the dirt on your skin in a matter of seconds. A very good day today for seeing The Avengers for the second time.

Hope the wind calms in time for us to open up the house tonight.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Did You Hear a Cat?

On the bank in back of our house, nestled between the branches of the overgrown lemon tree and a fat euonymus, is a graceful shrub, nandina domesticus, or "heavenly bamboo."

This is one of its children; the other one isn't in this picture but is nearby. We were able to dig them up from under the parent branches and transplant them to the south side of the house, where, it is hoped, they will flourish and provide a nice background to the huge window in the living room.

We were hugely pleased when the nandina-child accepted its new home; we even used some of Alex's compost to fill in some of the gaps in the heavy clay soil around it.

Yes, the same batch of compost one heard about in this post.

This morning, Bernie called me out of the studio, where I had gone to read the morning comics in the cool and quiet. "You've got tomatoes growing under the nandina," he told me. As I exclaimed in delight over the healthy little plants, he said kindly, "As I recall, those wild tomatoes are small but have great flavor, right?"

Such is his acceptance of my fascination with tomatoes that he never suggested that I already have too many plants ... indeed, instead he spent some time looking up recipes for the insane amount of tomatoes he expects that we will have in July.

Monday, May 07, 2012

That Glorious Aaaah Moment

No worries this evening; the Piker Press is back up, and so quickly that there were only a few schedule tweakings that needed to be done. This morning I switched the cover stories, in line with my goals for the Anniversary Issues. On Wednesday, perhaps KK Brown's wistful story about Africa will appear on the cover.

The first few years of the Piker Press, I knew that the ezine was important because it was my venue for writing, my excuse for continuing to come up with the tongue-in-cheek Aser stories. After I took over the management of the site, I wondered if I was just wasting my time, but I loved meeting new authors, and reading some really, really good writing every week. Sometimes, however, I wondered if I was the only one in the world who loved the Press, and would anyone care if it ended, as so many online ezines do.

This past week, I found out the truth. Other people care. They cared enough to get the Piker Press through this disaster. And I found out that I care more deeply than I thought about the people behind the stories in the Press. It would have been a loss for everyone not to have those wonderful words available; it would have been a greater loss to lose track of the wonderful people I've come to know.

I try to be altruistic, and look at the bigger picture.

Still, I'm human, and I love our authors and readers deeply.

For both aspects of the Press, I thank our donors once again.

Saturday, May 05, 2012


Thanks to the pledges and donations we've received, we were able to push on with getting the Press back up and running, in a much shorter span of time than we had anticipated.

Seriously, thank you, donors, for all your kindness. With the promise of funds, we set the wheels in motion and are back on track, only a week behind schedule.

My dears, how good it feels to see that old familiar lizard on the banner, and see the luscious front cover again!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Train Wreck

The Piker Press is currently unavailable.

At 12:01 am, May 1st, the Piker Press and its attendant satellites (forums, email, archives) crashed. As in a train derailment, something unexpected was left on our track, and that was that. We didn't see it coming at all.

Well, can't we fix it? The answer is yes, but it's going to take a month or so (we hope) and then we'll be up and running again. And yes, we could fix it sooner (48 hours) but the quick fix only happens to the tune of about $300 -- a sum that I simply don't have on hand, given that neither my husband nor I have a job, and aren't old enough for Social Security. We're living on savings, with food and housing being the priorities.

And so we wait, hoping that the problem will resolve easily as the situation changes. It is my intention to keep publishing the Press for as long as I can keep my wits about me, God willing and the creek don't rise, and the Mayans weren't right about the end of time coming up.

Is irony what this is? The Piker Press goes kaflooey less than 10 hours after the Grand Finale Anniversary Issue goes up. It's kind of like a giant meteorite hitting New Orleans during Mardi Gras. What a damn shame, as it was a great issue, and the month-long Tenth Anniversary celebration was glorious, with so many brilliant contributions.

Anyway, we'll see.

The published and penciled-in schedules are going to be bumped back four to six weeks, depending on the amount of damage control we have to do. There may be some hooching around with stories and their schedules. I'm so sorry that this happened, but as my husband told me this morning, "Sometimes businesses burn down. Rebuilding them takes time." I only wish it made me feel all better, but it doesn't.

I will be sending out my working email address to all the authors and submitters that I can for correspondence. And if you want to hear the latest news, this blog is where you'll hear it first.

My final comment is that during the hub-bub of the April issues, with all its work on formatting and illustrations, I mumbled a lot about looking forward to May when I wouldn't be so busy and could get back to work on my novels.

Damn, be careful what you wish for.

I think I've learned how to add a donate button ...