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Thursday, August 30, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Long-time readers may have guessed the reason for the lack of updates this week. It's That Time of Summer again, and we can say, unimaginatively or according to tradition,


We really ought to have another celebration in October, to mark the second anniversary of the weblog proper. On the first anniversary, there wasn't even an entry.

So yet again I'm sitting in this chair in this corner, listening to these waves and these seagulls. The same people are in the house, in roughly the same states of sleep and waking; the little nephew has been waking up as early as his sister this year, and I've been waking up a little later, but otherwise the patterns are the same. The weather has been lovely, again. We did have rain, but it was in the form of a terrific thunderstorm deep in the night on Tuesday, and the kids didn't even notice. This morning the air and the light are smugly beautiful, and the water is again like silk.

The little daughter and I went for our swim in the bay on Saturday; the water was cold but not deadly, about like last year. We haven't done it since, though; she hasn't wanted to, and I apparently don't enjoy it enough to want to do it on my own hook. She's older and more mature, perhaps; or it may just be that having a Big Tub of Water of her own at home reduces the novelty of the bay-swim below threshold.

I've been pottering about, reading random paperbacks, fiddling with my music-generation program. The little daughter urges me to "teach it about endings!", and progress is being made in that direction. Yesterday I taught it about simple chords and chord progressions, so cadences aren't far off. The basic structure of the music is still very simple; I await the Bolt from On High that will reveal to me a powerful set of data structures for representing a nascent piece of music as a hierarchy of nodes with interesting semantics.

The other Daddy in the house says that the people who used to be Devo ("Are we not men?") are now doing the music for the Rug Rats cartoon. Whiffle! I'll have to look that up once I start being connected again.

Layers of habit and tradition: here I am writing the second anniversary entry, and I'm modelling it quite closely after the first anniversary entry, an entry in which (among other things) I worried about the log falling into ruts.   *8)   Now that's good old-fashioned irony (yet another sense of "irony", not really covered in our monograph on the subject).

Second Anniversary Poll:
What do you like best about this site?

What do you like least?

We stopped, again, at Travellers Food and Books on the way up. This time the little boy deigned to choose a Free Book, "The Old Woman and Her Pig" (and I still haven't read "The Song of Bernadette" that I picked up last year when he declined).

[Historical note: they're putting in a handicapped accessible rest room in Travellers, and during construction they've taken down the shelf where the kids' free books used to be, so now they're in a different place. I know you wanted to know that.]

Please take the "this is going to be an extremely rambling essay that I'll be surprised if anyone but me ever reads" stuff from last year as included herein by reference. Also the stuff about how this won't actually be posted until next week, unless something unexpected occurs.

Maybe later on I'll talk about all the books that I brought or acquired on the way up, that are now lying around in pleasant piles and drifts. At the moment M and the little boy are asleep in the room that contains the largest number of them. And I've moved upstairs to the floor of the room that the little daughter sleeps in, and am saying "hello hello hello!" now and then to encourage her to wake up, as per her orders last night. Her nighttime self is a great believer in early rising; her morning self would usually rather sleep in.

I'm sitting on the same dusty floorboards, with the same bright sun, that figure in the poem. How odd.

It can't possibly have been a whole year since that first anniversary entry! Which seems like a bland and inevitable observation, but it gains a little more interest from the fact that I didn't feel that way last year. The time between starting the website and writing the first anniversary entry seemed (I recall) like a convincing year; this last year seems more like three to five months. Fewer things have happened in the interval? Certainly I'm more used to having websites, to having a weblog, so fewer new things have happened in that area, so fewer things to make the time seem long. Have fewer new things happened in the rest of life? Perhaps; things seem pretty settled.

(This is assuming that having lots of stuff happen makes time seem to fly when it's happening, but stretches it out in retrospect. Whereas uneventful times perhaps seem to be dragging while experienced, but seem short when looked back on. Or something like that. Is that accurate?)

One of the books in the drifts is Iain Banks' "Complicity"; Bill lent it to me weeks ago and now I've finally read it. It was good; valid characterizations, involving suspense, and some provoking questions (about complicity, among other things) underlying the action. I didn't find it as utterly admirable as the typical Iain M. Banks book (that's the form of his name that he uses on his science fiction); not enough idea-density, perhaps. (I should talk about Iain M. Banks books in general sometime; they're really good.)

So here's this week's superficial triple analogy. Non-fiction writing is like a "list of links" weblog: it points directly to existing stuff out in the world, outside the circle of writer and reader. Ordinary fiction writing is like a "my day" journal: more or less intimate accounts of the doings of more or less realistic people. Conceptual fiction writing is like a "catalyst" blog (in the appropriate sense of the term): references to the outside world interlarded with the doings of ordinary and extraordinary people, all in the service of some thing to think about, some widening of the horizons.

I like "catalyst" blogs, and I like conceptual fiction. That is, I like science fiction, and (good) fantasy, and Borges and Kafka and Eco and all them folks. I'm not as into nonfiction or ordinary fiction or "list of links" blogs or "my day" journals, except where they drift over into the conceptual.

Which is of course where the superficial categories of the analogy sort of break down. Pretty much all good writing, fiction or non-fiction or whatever, is done "in the service of some thing to think about, some widening of the horizons." And presumably all good blogging is, also. So rather than dividing the world into three sections with neat little lines between them, the real point here is that the writing, and the blogging, that I most like to read is the stuff that pushes at the stubborn and calcifying edges of my cognitive envelope, and leads me toward new stuff (or new takes on old stuff, which counts just as well).

BOOKS: M and the little boy are up now, so I can tell you all about these piles and drifts of books. The aforementioned "Complicity", of course. Bill also lent me Karl Schroeder's "Ventus", which I haven't read yet. My Free Book at Travellers was "Verse and Toast" by Col. William H. Rowe Jr, apparently printed in 1908 by J. B. Lyon Company of Albany. Certainly a vanity printer; I can't imagine a publisher touching this stuff. Gotta admire the Col's spirit, though. Here he is on one of his local banks:

New Netherland Bank, nothing is feared;
Good men at the helm, Gould, Leaycraft and Beard.
  Every depositor, your're money's always in reach,
  Here's to Rogers, Biggs, Caswell and Seaich.

Read a "[sic]" after "your're". I wonder if it got him a better loan rate? Still, it's from 1908, it's a Real Live Person; gotta love it.

Lesee. Oh! In the Erotica section of Travellers (downstairs, in the non-Free books) I found a real-live hardcopy copy of "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure" (Fanny Hill), a book we've mentioned before. So that's sitting in the piles, too. In town on Sunday we went to "Enchantments" again (New Age and general hippy stuff must be In; they've expanded into the former Mexican restaurant next door, and now have a Chai Tea bar in there), and I bought a copy of "The Great Seal of the United States: its history, symbolism and message for the new age", Paul Foster Case, published by Builders of the Adytum, Ltd., Los Angeles, California, copyright 1935, reprinted 1976. Great Masonic / Qabalistic esoterica and numerology:

Surrounding the constellation is a golden glory divided into twenty-four equal parts. The Masonic reference is to the twenty-four-inch gauge, emblematical of the twenty-four hours of the day, which are divided into three equal parts of eight hours each. This division of the twenty-four-inch gauge is represented numerically by the three digits of the number 888. This is the numeration, by Greek gematria, of the name Jesus.

I'm sure there's lots of stuff about this on the Web. Mr. Case doesn't mention the connection to the Illuminati; but of course he wouldn't...

On Monday I finished Juanita Coulson's "The Death God's Citadel"; pretty much disposable fantasy, but with an interesting take on the mechanics of how magic works (vaguely like "Magic: the Gathering", come to think of it). I also finished "Ellery Queen's Lethal Black Book", an ancient paperback with thirteen short stories of crime and murder and mayhem (thirteen is also the number of leaves and berries and arrows and things on the Great Seal; messages everywhere). I'm currently reading Niven and Barnes "Saturn's Race" which I picked up (new!) in the bookstore in town, hoping for some at least slightly ambitious hard SF. We'll see...

Brief break in the book list. I'm just back from a long chilly swim in the Bay. The little daughter heard me say something to the Moms about my swimming companion having deserted me, and she came down and said she'd be glad to go in if I wanted to. And then the other Dad, and the little niece, decided they'd come too. It was great! Very little wind, smooth water, bright sun.

I bought a cooking thermometer at the store in town on Sunday, with the idea of taking the measure of the water. But it always reads just about 62°F in the water, whether near the warmish surface or held in one's toes down in the coldish depths. I think I believe that as an average; I'd guess the surface is like 65°F, and the depths more like 60 or 62. Today was the warmest day ever, swimming-wise, at least subjectively. Nothing's ever been as cold as that first year; either because it's really been warmer, or because we've gotten used to it.

Funny story: I tried casually and without success to find some string to attach to the cooking thermometer before we went into the water. Then as we were getting out again, I saw a line tied to one of the mooring points on the dock. "Here's a string!" I said, and pulled it out. Tied to the other end was, naturally, a pool thermometer.

More irony!

It said 66°F, which was definitely too high for the bay in general. Probably accurate for the sheltered place in the sun at the side of the dock, though, near the surface.

Then I had a shower, and had some hot chocolate, and for lunch some leftover pickle and walnut pizza from last night. Hot leftover pickle and walnut pizza smells really good after a dip in the Bay.

More books lying around: two recent copies of Analog (Science Fiction and Fact), two recent issues of the New York Times Book Review, Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Darkover Landfall" and "Hawkmistress!" dug out of a box in the attic to reread, Peter F. Hamilton's "The Neutronium Alchemist" from the SF section of Travellers because I've heard alot about it, Eno's "A Year with Swollen Appendices" because I'm still slowly reading that, Zane Grey's "Horse Heaven Hill" and Nicolas Freeling's "Strike Out Where Not Applicable" and Suzette Haden Elgin's "At the Seventh Level" and Lin Carter's "Thongor of Lemuria" (four more paperbacks from Travellers), Sue Grafton's "N is for Noose" (left behind in the guest room by Dad, I think), Haruki Murakami's "The Elephant Vanishes" (I liked a couple of his novels), "Speaking with the Angel" (edited by Nick Hornby) a bunch of short stories I picked up at random in some Barnes and Noble the other week, "Greetings, Carbon-based Bipeds" a collection of essays by Arthur C. Clarke that I borrowed on the way up, T. S. Eliot "The Waste Land and other poems" for when I'm feeling highbrow, Dark Horse Comics "The Long Gunmen Special" (not highbrow, and rapidly finished), and again that wonderful thick book of blank quadrille pages for random jottings. And that's all the books. Not counting the ones M brought, of course.

There's also the two U. S. Geological Survey maps for these parts, picked up at the bookstore in town: Boothbay Harbor Quadrangle and Pemaquid Point Quadrangle.

Speaking of Eliot, the little daughter was looking over my shoulder on Monday night as I was reading some of my old poems, and she decided that on Tuesday we should sit around and write poems. So there we were on Tuesday, out on the deck overlooking the Bay, drenched in sunshine, wearing straw sunhats, holding pads on our knees, and being joyously literary. We didn't write a whole lot of verse that will live undying in the hearts of humankind, but we had fun, and we did some thinking about sound and language and rhyme and rhythm, and we mixed up anapests and dactyls alot. I wrote this and dedicated it to M:

Tell me two truths
  and then tell me a lie;
Win my affection with pineapple pie.
We're only here for an hour or two;
  all of my dreams
  look exactly like you.

Lots of details: on Saturday we arrived and had lobster for lunch and moved into the house and swam in the Bay. On Sunday we went into town and did the gift shop and book store circuit (except that the blown-glass shop that the little daughter loves was closed because it was Sunday). On Monday the other grownups and the little niece went off shopping somewhere, and I stayed at the house with the little daughter and the little boy and the little nephew, puttering around and playing Monopoly and reading cheap paperbacks (see above), and the little daughter and I went into town in the afternoon but the glass shop had closed at 2pm for no apparent reason. On Tuesday we did the poetry thing and generally lay around, and drove into town yet again and this time the glass shop was open as scheduled, so that was okay.

Also on Tuesday, I went out on foot for a walk along the peninsula, following a Pocket Map that we got in the general store up the road. Too many sights and thoughts and doings to write down all of, but: many Bed and Breakfasts and art galleries and little houses; a very strange long house with big windows and thick wooden shakes on the walls and a full-length greenhouse along the front, with a very artsy "Millennium Lodge" sign in front (and a very mundane "For Sale" sign next to it); an even stranger house with the same shake walls, a vaguely mushroom-shaped tower with a weather vane on top, a detached garage with purple art-glass lamps on either side of the door and ornate dark-wood hinges, a general look of elvishness, and a great temptation to knock on the front door and say "you have a really neat house", but probably they get that all the time and hate it by now; talking to Carlton and Joan Plummer in the Plummer Gallery, admiring their artwork and finding out that "the mushroom house" and the Millenium Lodge were designed by one David Lee (spelling?) who has done similar odd houses all over the place (have to look him up once I'm connected again).

Carlton Plummer apparently a pretty widely-known watercolorist himself, as evidenced by the various magazine articles and book paragraphs sitting open on various surfaces in the house (clean and open and well-lighted house he designed and perhaps built and certainly landscaped himself, themselves, there on the open-sea side of the peninsula where some pretty impressive storms have come through over the years). Then down around the point, bought a bottle of soda from the machine at the Little River Lobster Company (only visible commercial enterprise in the area) and talked to the pretty Maine woman sitting on the dock watching the boats moving around, asked her where the dam was, followed her directions to and across the dam and looped back toward the house and yipes it's already nearly five o'clock when I said I'd be back and I'm still at least ten minutes away. Arrived back sweaty and a little winded and seven minutes late and quite satisfied.

a boat to Monhegan

On Wednesday, yesterday, we took the Balmy Days II out to Monhegan Island, twelve miles out on the ocean. It was lovely: ninety minutes out, ninety minutes back sitting in the bow and the wind with the kids, and three hours or so in the middle to have lunch, walk up to the Lighthouse, explore the Museum, and hike across to the open-sea side to admire the cliffs and the surf. I could write all sorts of stuff about how cool Monhegan is, isolated out there with its 70 or so permanent residents, lobsterers, wandering artists, and boatloads of hundreds of tourists like us in The Season. No bank, but one ATM. One church, one library, one school, all tiny. We never did figure out if it has a grocery store or anything. According to this here pamphlet, it has a website at Monhegan.com.

In some mystical time when the kids are off doing other things, it'd be fun to retire there for a week or a year, with a meadow outside the window, the sea somewhere over the hill, a room full of books, and just contemplate the universe. (See previous similar fantasies.)

Extremely odd thing: up until sometime today, I was being disappointed with this iteration of the Maine Vacation, feeling a sort of "been here, done this" feeling, and missing the remarkable flavor of bliss that marked, that suffused, the last two times. But sometime today, sitting here writing this Log entry, reading through the old ones, feeling the wind coming in through the windows, swimming in the Bay, it came back, and now, although you can't go down to the same river twice, I seem to be sipping from the same font of contentment for a completely undeserved third time.

Am I incapable of enjoying anything unless I write about it? Unless I discuss it with you, or more accurately I guess with me, since everything else aside I'm still at the last accounting my own primary audience? Or did I just need four or five days, this time, to slough off the daily routine and get into the Idyll Thing? Or did the weather change, or was I reading the wrong books? Or is there something about immersion in very cold water that stimulates the production of some secret endorphin analogues?

More study on this subject is clearly called for.

What new paths have we forged through conceptual space in the last year, what progress have we made, what milestones have we passed? Hard to say. Things are mostly stable, in calm progression. Kids growing up, savings bobbing up and down with the market but gradually mounting. Some viruses and similar things went by, along roughly the lines that we (that everyone in the field) expected. I've written no more of the Forked Stick, even though the CGI script I wrote for that purpose last year seems to meet its specs just fine. I didn't make a Themes page for the log, but I still might. We finished another game of Nomic, which was fun. We dug up the Elea interpreter, did angel angles, linked to countless things, read lots and lots of Supreme Court Decisions, and generally thought thoughts.

My politics are probably pretty stable; my internal iconography seems mostly fixed. Are those signs of some experience, some correctness? Or is this just a local maximum somewhere down in a deep valley in the nadirs of value-space? Will things continue to converge, or am I just waiting for some Pivotal Experience that will significantly re-point, or notably expand, the vectors of my thought? And what about you?


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