Monday, June 30, 2014

Doldrums HIt Your Blog? Ideas For You!

Today I'm at the A-Z Challenge Blog!  I'm sharing some ideas for what to do if your blog has hit a place with no wind in the sails...come on over!

~Tina, whom you might have noticed was rather absent last week.  No wind.  

P.S College Life will be here Wednesday. We'll be talking about the world before personal computers...which is almost as much fun as sharing clothes with your roommate.

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hilary Melton-Butcher: Great Ocean Coast Road, south Australia …

I've got a treat for you today.  Today's guest hardly needs an introduction here, most of you know my fellow history buff from across the pond, Hilary. She's has agreed to not only guest here today, but is also guesting at the A-Z Challenge Blog. These topics are linked.  Don't miss the other one.  It's about dragons...

Great Ocean Coast Road, south Australia …

"Great Ocean Road carved from the bare rock" 

Art, Science, ‘Down Under’ and bloggers … Tina of Life is Good asked if I’d do a guest post for the A-Z blog and as a guest blogger on her blog … theoretically these might have been on Vikings (these will follow) – but as is the way with my eclectic brain I’ve settled on the Great Ocean Road, south Australia and the Weedy Seadragon.

I expect many of you will have seen or heard of the BBC tv programmes ‘Coast’, where Neil Oliver, archaeologist, historian, author and broadcaster, tells us about Britain and Europe …

he has now moved to Australia (well perhaps he’s travelled there for the programmes!) – this is where these two ideas stemmed from.

The Great Ocean Road ties in with the Great War: the First World War, which I will be writing about, but I have just posted an A-Z on the recent D-Day commemorative events for World War II.

"The Hitchcock Memorial at Defiance Point - in the 1920s"

One thinks about the armed forces and their lives after having spent four or more years at War, probably in another country fighting for our and their own freedom, seeing their comrades fall, be injured or as most would be desperate to be home with their loved ones.

400,000 Australians enlisted for World War I, with appallingly 60,000 paying the ultimate sacrifice … however the work to which some returned to simply cannot have been any better, and may have been worse … I don’t know – I don’t like to think about either much … hanging off a cliff, or fighting in the War …

less than 10 months after War finished, three thousand servicemen went to work on the construction of the new coast road … hewn from the cliff face using explosives, pick and shovel, wheel barrows and some small machinery.

Anecdotal evidence suggested that the workers would rest detonators on their knees during travel, as it was the softest ride?!

They were paid 10 shillings and sixpence for eight hours work a day, also working half-day on Saturday. They had tents for accommodation, a mess tent for meals with food costing ten shillings a week?!

They did have access to a piano, gramophone and records presumably, games, newspapers and magazines … and when in 1924 the steamboat, Casino, was forced to jettison 500 barrels of beer and 120 cases of spirits – there was an unscheduled two-week long drinking break!

Howard Hitchcock, mayor of Geelong, wanted to create the road as a Memorial to the Servicemen killed during World War 1 … the road is the world’s largest war memorial … and in building it – it would open up a fairly inaccessible part of south-eastern Australia.

The route winds 243 kilometres (151 miles) wending its way through varying terrain, incredible scenery and past several prominent landmarks, including the Twelve Apostles limestone stack formations … the road is now an important tourist attraction.

 "The limestone stacks, known as The Twelve Apostles"

Also seeing this part of the programme reminded me about my recent Aspects of the British Coast, that I wrote about in this year’s A-Z Challenge … where sea stacks were meant to be mentioned in greater detail – but ended up with a brief mention under my W post – the wind erodes … these Australian stacks put my ‘weedy’ post into perspective!

The Australian coast looks just beautiful and that road trip, carved out of raw cliffs nearly 100 years ago, is a sight to behold – and one that is definitely on my bucket list.

It is full of sea stacks that are constantly being worn away, or being created … some wonderful and amazing geographical features … it must be just dazzling, raw and stunning …

So the Weedy Seadragon in my other post at the A-Z Blog ties in to some degree with this post, as do other posts I have written recently or in the A-Z Challenge in April …

Here the art is photographic images of magnificent natural scenery, the science that of geology, we are posting on blogs about that place that is down under

Hilary Melton-Butcher

©2014 All Rights Reserved


Don't forget about the dragons over at the A-Z Challenge Blog. These topics are linked.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

College Life: Episode 6: Marvelous Marble

For the summer, once a week I'll be sharing a story from my college days at CSU, 1984-1988. I will leave links at the end of each post for previous episodes.

Despite all the joking, pranks, and my lack of ability in physics, I was a really good student in my other classes.  I was also majoring in English along with the math.  Since I was studying two subjects which don't usually go together (that whole right brain/left brain thing) my classes were ALL over campus.  

I received the privilege of inhabiting buildings old and new, large and small.  I had the chance to attend classes in buildings over 100 years old.  Those were the ones that held my attention and fed the history buff in me.  Today we're going on a bit of an exploration to one of them.

The moment I opened the door to what was now the statistics building, I could scent the history of all those years in a way that touched me.  Not musty - but old paper, old machines still in use, it was the sum of thousands up thousands of people going up and down those amazing stairs, caressing that wooden rail with the brass fixtures, which now is narrower and has a patina.

The inlaid marble stairs were indented.  The impact of all those feet had worn deep marks into the design.  In places the big diamond outlining the pattern was just gone, little by little, until only a slight side or small corner remained.  No longer bright and shiny, the stairs were to most people just the stairs.  

"There's no elevator to the third floor?  Isn't that illegal?"

Hurrying by, on their rushed way, they miss it.  I just stopped and watched.  I super-imposed a scene - men dressed in suits and with hats, ladies in dresses and heels and the stockings with the seam in back. (The building had once been utilized in a public, commercial way, and I'd seen pictures in the library archives, though that's a different story, and I will tell it.)  It had been converted from offices to classrooms for our use.

I know I'm weird - math, words, history - but I love it all. Climbing those stairs to the top floor, I thought about someone coming in another time, and seeing the imprint even further into those stairs, only my feet helped make that impact.  One step at a time, we add our bit to the history, whether we appreciate it or not.


What "gets" you?  Are you into history?  Does a brand new building make you want to check out whatever the latest and greatest is in design?  Do you see if they're using "green" building products?


P.S Some of you saw two posts Friday.  I had written a totally whiny post about my health again, but had decided against it and to focus on my anniversary.  I forgot to delete the old one.  Sorry about that.  Operator error.  Unstable blogger ;-)

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Episode 1: Rommmates

Friday, June 20, 2014

Happy Anniversary, to My Engineer!

Happy Anniversary, to my wonderful Engineer. Thanks for 22 years of patience, love, smiles, special times, camping, hiking, parenting, fighting, making up, adventures, picnics, and time together just being.

Thanks for your tireless work to improve our family. Thanks for bringing home the bacon and a lot of the time being the one to fry it up in the pan.  Thanks for taking care of me in sickness and in (not so much lately) health, and for never giving up on me.

I love you so much.

~Tina, who'd marry you all over again

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit Emmerich Photography

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

College Life: Episode 5: A Physics Prank

For the summer, once a week I'll be sharing a story from my college days at CSU, 1984-1988. I will leave links at the end of each post for previous episodes.

It was lucky for me that I was right. He was the kind of professor who not only had a wicked sense of humor, but was also a good sport. Otherwise my harmless little prank of a joke might have ended quite differently.

You might recall we were previously in physics, the physics which should have come with the warning, “Physics for Einstein Only, Beware the Rest of You Fools Who Think You Know Anything.”  My college was the large state university, with over 20,000 students. Most of my classes were of normal size, and my honors classes had even fewer students. This class, however, was a herd of a class. We met in an auditorium, seating over 300, and most of the seats were full. 

If you wanted to have a chance at seeing the board (this was back in the days when they still used chalk on blackboards) you'd better get there early. It didn't take me long to realize I was in WAY over my head. I wasn't getting anything from the lectures, but I went anyway, thinking perhaps a smidgen of useful info might drift into my brain by osmosis.

Sitting there, day in and day out, I did notice one thing, though. The professor had only four shirts: blue, white, blue with white stripes, and white with blue stripes. I got to wondering, did he wear them in order, same order, every week? Or was he a fashionista who mixed it up and varied the order? I began an investigation. It did give me a reason for going to class, and I started planning how I was going to present my findings. 

Each day I'd arrive early for my good seat, and await the next data point. In the margin of my totally useless notes, I'd make a note of the color. I used a code: B,W, BS, WS. Which totally nerdy, short sleeved oxford would he have on? To make it even more fun, I started trying to predict the next one. 

Mostly I was wrong. Which got me thinking, does he have multiple copies of each shirt? How else could he manage that random order without doing laundry every night? And he didn't strike me as the laundry every night kind of guy. More like beer and pork-rinds every night while watching wrestling. He was a very educated, intelligent man, but he looked more like Bubba the redneck, with beer belly and shotgun.

About a third of the way into the semester, I was enjoying my game so much that I finally gave in and told Christy what the code was. Now we were betting each other for the next day's shirt. And by now, I'd also found my study buddies of real engineering students who dragged me through that class with lots of patient explanations. I shared my joke with them, too.

In the end we settled on making a graph of our findings, and planned to casually leave it on his overhead projector for him to find before class. I took my time with this, more time than any real assignment, unfortunately. It was a beauty, the line wiggling back and forth, up and down in its randomness. And almost done.

Then the unthinkable occurred. The shirt one day was yellow! With white AND blue stripes! I was crushed. Now my graph was going to have this REALLY out of the norm data point. And horror of horrors, would he wear it on the last day? Because we had quite the bet going. The person who guessed right got not only the satisfaction so well deserved, but also bragging rights AND got to keep the graph to proudly display. I wanted my graph back.

The last day of the semester arrived. I was giddy with anticipation. I got there really early this day. Snuck the graph onto his overhead. And then had to wait through most of the lecture for satisfaction. Finally he noticed it. Stopped talking. “What is this?” And he began to GIGGLE. GIGGLE! Not what I expected AT ALL. 

The class is starting to murmur by now, so he shares the joke. “Someone made me a graph. Let me read you the title. “A Longitudinal Study of the Random Variations of Shirt Colors in Professoria Physica.” He could barely get that out between laughs, and then he's belly laughing when he notices the errant data point. “I guess I messed you up that day, didn't I?”
In the end, no one got to keep the graph. He asked if he could keep it. “Best laugh I've had in a long time. Thanks to whoever took the time to do this. My wife is going to love it!”

~Tina, who yes, recycled this post from 2010, but it has been edited for content, to fit this screen, and to run in the time allowed ;-)

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Episode 1: Rommmates

Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Father's Day! I LOVE YOU DADDY!

Just finished wonderful Father's Day dinner with the Swede.  Words cannot describe how much fun we had reminiscing and talking about writing, and planning for the future.  I just thought I'd share some of my favorite pictures as a tribute to this amazing man I'm blessed to call Pappa, Dad.

Patiently tutoring me when I spent 4 months in a body cast for a broken hip, 1974.  See A-Z 2013 for stories.

Goofing around with his three kids.  He did this a lot. We loved it.

Traditional Swedish Lucia, celebrated December 13 each year.  See A-Z 2012 for story.

Asleep with DataBoy.  I still have that sweatshirt.  No lectures about how much I save.  Today.  You can tell me tomorrow ;-)

I love you, Daddy.  Happy Father's Day.


P.S College Life will resume Wednesday.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
All precious photos by Momarrazzi.  Thanks, Mom.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The June-a-palooza IWM Blogocalypse Blog Tour continues! Please Welcome The Indie Writers Monthly!

Today I'm hosting some friends promoting their latest endeavor.  It's what this community is all about: helping each other whenever we can. Please welcome Briane Pagel and his buddies....

The June-a-palooza IWM Blogocalypse Blog Tour continues! IWM, as I AM SURE YOU KNOW because you've read all these already, stands for "Indie Writers Monthly," which in turn stands for a blog and magazine put out by 5 great speculative fiction writers, offering you tips on writing and publishing and more, which in turn is the secret behind how Swiss cheese gets its holes. (AND YOU THOUGHT IT WAS MARTIANS? Silly.)

This is a vase full of
Cap'n Crunch Cereal. It has
nothing to do with this post.
This is part THREE of this modestly-titled tour, which presents to you


Part 1 appeared on Sizzling Hot YA Books, and told how reading IWM will teach you how to time travel.

Part 2 appeared on lit, a place for stories, and told how reading IWM will give you super powers.

Part 3 appeared on Laws Of Gravity, and showed how IWM brings your childhood friends to life.

And so we come to number 4, which is a doozy*

*"doozy" comes from the ancient Latin word "deus-e," which, when literally translated, means "Nobody is ever going to speak this language anyway so we may as well make up words"
#4: We have The Blutonian Death Egg.

Now, first off, many people will tell you "Hey, if you have some sort of all-powerful death machine, you don't reveal that in Part IV, you save it for the end, otherwise you're going to have to do something stupid like have them make another all-powerful death machine, and you're going to feel mighty stupid, even before you put in the medieval teddy bears."  DO NOT LISTEN TO THOSE PEOPLE, because they are just jealous of you and George Lucas.

The Blutonian Death Egg, as you have gathered, is an all-powerful universal destruction machine.  Or so I guess.  I guess that because IWM Writer Rusty Carl is the creator and current owner of The Blutonian Death Egg (he even named his blog after it), and he won't tell anyone what it is.

But trust us. It's superpowerful and you don't want to mess with it.

That's not all Rusty has.  Rusty is responsible for inventing Killbots, and unleashed on the world one of the baddest bad guys of all time, the titular (and wrathful) star of his first book:

I understand Rusty posed for the picture himself.

Rusty's contributions to our site include tips on writing and links to and thoughtful discussions of actual mind-blowing science topics, and he is perhaps one of the most-well-read people I've met, judging by the number of tweets in which he mentions books he's reading.

If you want to be a great writer, especially a great speculative fiction writer, you've got to understand the villains, and Rusty does that better than almost every other writer I read. (Er... I mean except the other IWMers who are all exactly the equal of Rusty.)(Sorry, Rusty, I mean you are of course the best.)

*Looks around for side door to slip out of, doesn't find one, sighs.*

And remember, Rusty is just one of the five writers you'll get writing and publishing tips from on IWM.  The MOST DANGEROUS ONE. Don't make me send him to your house with his Killbots and Death Eggs.  Just go ahead and bookmark Indie Writers Monthly.  Click here to go to the site.

The author, demonstrating his inability to master the "selfie."

While we're at it, The IWM June issue is on sale on Amazon for just $0.99 -- a bargain at 10 times the price! Well, not really, but it's a bargain at THIS price. Click here for that.

And there's still time to enter a story in our time travel anthology contest! Win prizes! Details here. (And if you need a bit of extension on the deadline, just ask. We're nice folk.)(Also, get it? Still time?)

Please take some time to visit my buddies.  They are a fun bunch, and I'm happy to have them here promoting their latest.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's a War Zone Out There

I decide after being cooped up 
Too long, for sanity to stay
Much longer
I must make a dash
A get-away
A walk-about
Get the hell out of the house

I refuse to wear a mask,
don't want attention
I refuse to wait,
I think I'll explode

The artillery is flying
Almost invisible, those pesky
Mold particles
Pollen pieces, more menacing now

Grass clippings - those I can see

I make a dash for the car, holding my breath
I see it coming
A cloud
It's like's really like cotton

Like the cotton I told the told the doctor
Someone had stuffed,
into my lungs,
which made it hard,
for me to breathe,
so that each sentence,
was about this long,
as I gasped for air,
in his office, and told him
this was ridiculous

He agreed
He gave me drugs
He told me patience
I said I had none
He said that was good, or
I wouldn't be so anxious
To be well
To be whole
To draw a real breath
To play outside
To take a walk
To sit on my front porch
To watch the sunset

To open a window, to the world
And actually be a part of it


Haven't whined about my health in a long time.  Just couldn't take it one more day.  Excuse the rant.  When you can't breathe, nothing else really 

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Greyed out pollen
Photo credit: enhanced pollen (this is a hollyhock, which I have a lot of in my flower beds)
Photo credit: cottonweed blowing in the wind (shut up Bob Dylan, I'm not in the mood)

Monday, June 9, 2014

College Life: Episode 4: Study Buddies

For the summer, once a week I'll be sharing a story from my college days at CSU, 1984-1988. I will leave links at the end of each post for previous episodes.

Since I was a math major, it meant that a lot of my required classes were taken with scientists and engineers.  For example, the required physics class was PH141, Physics for Scientists and Engineers.  It was held in a theater like setting. Sat about 300.  Five grueling credits.  Met three days a week, then a 2 hour lab.

It was brutal.  I could handle it fine once I got to the equation.  The problem was this was for engineers.  You know, those guys who build and design and invent things and work in the real world.

I guess you could call me Sheldon in that I'm a theoretical mathematician. I like the big ideas, the structure, the language, the possibilities.  I'm not Leonard, who uses all that theory to actually do something.  Just let me play with my numbers.  

Not so in this class.  I knew I was in trouble from the first assignment.  Luckily though, the two guys from my tiny high school who were also at CSU were in this class!  They were willing to tutor, along with their friend.

They were truly patient with me as I was over invading their space with some regularity.  I brought snacks, I attempted to be prepared with what I'd tried, so they'd see I wasn't just free-loading.  They literally dragged me through that class.

It wasn't them just handing me their meticulously completed homework.  No, they took turns sitting down with me and explaining.  There were even moments of joy when THEY were stuck on the equation part and I could help!

There was one more huge obstacle to overcome though.  The testing method.  Have you ever been subjected to the following atrocity?  You start the test with a 0.  You get four points for a correct answer.  You lose one point for a wrong answer.  "No answer" to a question does has no effect on your score.  Do you have any idea how agonizing it is to calculate your confidence in an answer using a system like this?

It was a struggle the entire year.  Yes, I had to take two semesters.  I played with the test formula.  I took risks.  I got a 56% in the class.  It was, however, much to our surprise, graded on a curve.  56% netted me a B.  A B!!!  Unbelievable.  I didn't deserve that, but I took it and ran.

Physics and I are still not friends (except on Big Bang Theory, of course) but I survived.  Next time, a little story of another strategy that made it possible.

~Tina, getting by with a little help from my friends

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 6, 2014

Celebrate The Small Things: An Attitude Adjustment

I definitely need an attitude adjustment this week, so I thought I'd return to a wonderful hop that I've participated in so sporadically in the past.  Viklit runs this hop, and it's just what I need right now.  Thanks, Vic.

Today I'd like to celebrate a few small things which ARE making me smile, despite some rather deep struggles this summer.

1) All four of our new window air-conditioners are now in and the house is a blissful, cool temp round the clock.  The thingamajiggies The Engineer built to get them sealed into the windows are working like a charm, and so far I haven't had to look at the electric bill.  He looked at it.  He didn't say anything.

2) I've joined a support group led by an amazing, caring, wonderful Father Dragon, and they are a really encouraging bunch.  I'm accomplishing some goals.

3) I got a massage today.  My amazing brother and sis-in-law just gifted it to me.  What a treat!

4) Blogger is actually working, unlike Tuesday night when I was ready to brave the garage, find a sledge hammer, and just go at this computer in Office Space copier style...

5) I continue to meet wonderful folks on the Post Challenge A-Z Road Trip.  It's been really enlightening, humbling, and encouraging to read their Reflections.  (I'm going randomly, so if you're at the top of the list, you have not been skipped, just FYI).

6) The new friendships I made during the April Challenge endure, and I'm enjoying continued friendships with my long time buddies.

I have a lot to be thankful for, and I need to stop whining.  So here's a first step.  I'm grateful for these blessings in my life, and the people who have brought them to me.

~Tina, time to stop wallowing and start movin' and groovin'...

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

IWSG: Unexpected Resources

I just give up.  I've been trying to get a post up all night.  Three blue screens of death.  Blogger won't save anything.

What I want to say is that I had a great time world building with my son, and we each helped each other with our projects.  It was AWESOME bouncing ideas off of a young mind full of engineering and ideas and possibility.  I've gotten this far in this post before, but if I try to say anymore, my stupid machine blows up.

Tomorrow I might have more patience, but now it's all gone.  So let's just say, you might find inspiration closer than you think.


Monday, June 2, 2014

College Life: Episode 3: The Cheerleader and The Boyfriends

For the summer, once a week I'll be sharing a story from my college days at CSU, 1984-1988. I will leave links at the end of each post for previous episodes.


It did get better once The Cheerleader moved in next door. Her "real" name was Tara, and she was actually a cheerleader, for CSU, so somewhat famous on campus, and a bit of a steadying influence on the trio.  We all know how well triads work in female friendships, don't we?  (Guys: it doesn't.  Someone is always on the outside looking in at a much more solid connection, and someone else is being gossiped about.  A lot.)  I think you can see where this trio headed...

She was kinda the cream to the black coffee and sugar, trying to take something a bit bitter, and unpalatable to some, and steady out the "sweetness" of someone trying to please all the people all the time by adding a touch of something smooth, and easier to take.  I did like her, but she was definitely Mary-Jo's type, not mine.

Tara came with a sorority attitude.  This was the year she was going to pledge, and they spent hours on the floor of my room planning which one, discussing the merits, and of course the all important connection each had with a sort of "brother" fraternity, therefore making this decision all the more critical.  

I just went to my math classes.  They went to most of their classes.  They were both psych majors.  Tara was on her third major.  (Can you see how choosing a sorority might take some time when you can't decide what to study?)

Then came the afternoon I couldn't get into my room.  I'd gotten past the front door, because it wasn't after hours yet, and I had my ID and keys (two items I checked for constantly  - did NOT want to be without them in any circumstance.)  However, I couldn't get my room open.  The doorknob key worked just find, but the deadbolt wouldn't turn.  

Puzzled, I knocked on Tara's door.  No answer.  Of course I had no cell phone, so I knocked on my own dorm room door. "Mary-Jo?  Are you in there?"  No answer.  Dead silence. Frustrated, I sat down to formulate a plan.  I don't know how long I was sitting there until I started hearing faint noises from inside MY room.  I decided to wait it out.  She, or someone, was in there, had surely heard me knock, and was maybe thinking about letting me in.

I was still waiting when I met Deanna.  She wandered by, I knew she lived on our floor, and I said hi.

"Oh, the old forgot the tie on the door rude. Wanna come down to my room and meet my hideously gross roommate while you wait?"

Why not.  I didn't know about ties, but at least there was another person with a rude roommate, and she seemed nice. Anything to pass the time...

©2014 All Rights Reserved