This is a great little Halloween dealie. Check it out. Adorable.
Have a great Halloween – don’t take any wooden nickels or crappy candy. Boo!
Like most writers (probably) I have often read there is benefit in keeping a dream diary. I suppose the point is inspiration or just to get in touch with your inner images, thoughts, intuitions? And I have done dream diaries from time to time but mostly when I was much younger and much more impressionable.
In search of inspiration (as writers are wont to do) I stumbled upon this free writing course on the internet. In fact, I stumbled upon several but for some reason this one spoke to me. If you are looking for some good information on story structure as well as inspiration, I recommend you check it out.
One of the first things Steve recommends is starting a dream diary. So, I figured what the heck, let me try it. And I have been jotting in it every morning since I started it – although, I’m not sure what ideas or inspirations I might derive from it because seriously my dreams are not that interesting…
Saturday – I dreamed of a sorority where people had special powers and rooms were facades.
Sunday – I dreamed of battling confusion and fighting for a cause (unknown).
Monday – I dreamed about social security and how it was killing people.
Tuesday – I dreamed about NASA redistributing wealth and a teacher with magical powers that she was teaching writers.
Wednesday – I dreamed about marching men in black masks and a naked Bill Clinton adapting to something.
Thursday – I dreamed my room mate turned his house into a bar and grill and inn. It made me mad because it endangered my email address. And apparently the FBI was onto him.
Friday – (last night) I dreamed about dancing and a cat with magical powers and there was a room I wanted to get into but couldn’t.
In looking these over, it seems there is a central theme of magical powers, disappearing rooms and things not being what they seem. Hmmm….what kind of writing might that inspire?
How about you, what do you dream about?
They were silken, silvered wings that hung from iridescent ribbon and called Moiré’s name whenever she passed by. She would stop and watch them, helpless against their power to enchant her. Pressing her hands and face against the glass she would wish them into her life, but all the wishing in the world didn’t make them hers. They simply hovered just out of reach and teased her with each sparkle.
“You love those shoes, don’t you, dear?” Mrs. Gamble, the shop owner, asked.
Moiré nodded and mouthed the word, yes, unable to speak in their presence.
Mrs. Gamble smiled and sighed. “I remember my first pair…they were so beautiful I was afraid to put them on. I only wanted to look at them and then put them away so they wouldn’t scuff. But they do you know. They scuff and they split and eventually you have to get new ones. The first pair, though, they are special.”
Moiré looked up at Mrs. Gamble, a plump and cheerful woman, and couldn’t imagine her leaping and pirouetting across a dance floor. Even though she’d seen the pictures on the walls of the shop, seen the awards Mrs. Gamble had earned in silver frames and spied through the window sometimes when she held dance class. Moiré wished to be in Mrs. Gamble’s class too but she knew it was only a wish that would never come – just like the shoes, she could see but not touch.
“I have to go to school,” Moiré mumbled.
“All right dear, see you later,” Mrs. Gamble waved. And she would see Moiré later because after school she would come back and commune with the shop window to covet the shoes for a while before going home.
School was filled with geography, history, English and math but Moiré’s mind held only images of pink tulle and satin, bright lights and varnished planks that gave with each landing of perfectly pointed toes. Of music so grand that you could not help but dance, that you could not help but fly through rarefied air like petals catching the breeze on a summer’s day.
Teachers frowned and admonished Moiré’s endless daydreaming and advised she learn her lessons well. The day would come when the real world would expect her to earn her keep and be a good, productive citizen. Moiré agreed and tried to memorize the fifty states, the names of dead presidents and long division but the shoes were her destiny, somehow they would save her from the dreary future the grown-ups forecasted.
It was dark when Moiré returned home and long past the time she was expected. Mother was red and angry as she so often was. Moiré braced for the slap sure to come. “Where have you been you little mongrel?”
Moiré shrugged and went to the kitchen. “Just around. Are you hungry? I’ll make you some soup.”
“I don’t want any soup,” the mother monster growled. “Where were you? Mooning after those damn shoes? Again?”
Moiré opened the can of soup – plop into the saucepan, whoosh, the gas flame ignited. Carefully she filled the can with water and added it to the soup then stirred. “It’s cold, the soup will taste good,” she murmured. “I think we have crackers too.”
The beast calmed and Moiré served her soup and crackers and rubbed her tired feet. “I used to dance when I was your age.”
Moiré nodded, dark blue eyes fixed on the pattern in the worn rug. “Uh huh.”
“I was damned good too,” mother lamented. “But it broke my heart. It broke my heart I tell you.” A small whimper escaped the stern mouth that once was sweet and gave kisses freely. “I just don’t want you to get your heart broken, you see?”
Again, Moiré nodded but she didn’t see. Mother fell quiet and snored softly. In silent stealth, Moiré covered mother with a blanket and took the dinner dishes to the sink.
Too tired to do any more, Moiré went to her tiny room and locked the door behind her but did not bother to turn on the light. She undressed, carefully folded her clothes and placed them on the little chair by her bed, pulled on her soft blue nightgown, then crawled into bed. When she lay down her head something felt wrong. She reached under the pillow and pulled out a pair of old, worn ballet shoes – mother’s shoes. Her heart exploded into tears and smiles and little girl giggles. And she dreamed of the dance.
It was the oldest tree in town, reaching seventy five feet into the sky and it enchanted Sally. Her first sight of it was when she was eleven, not quite as tall or grand but even then it had an endless reach toward the heavens – this glorious Sycamore. Trees always spoke to Sally and this one spoke in wonder. She longed to climb it and know its secrets and started to but skinned her knee in the attempt. Not because she wasn’t an agile climber of trees for Sally had conquered many but because of the tow-haired boy who surprised her by yelling, “Hey!”
The peeling bark of the old syc was merciless as she slid down its trunk. “Hey what? Look, you made me skin my knee!” She grimaced at the fresh blood and broken skin.
“That’s my tree and you can’t climb it!” The boy’s blue eyes matched the morning sky but there was a little danger there too.
Sally huffed off, feeling those eyes watch her until she disappeared from their view. His tree? He must have been one of those Halligan’s. They owned most of the town and truth be told she was trespassing whenever she visited her tree, the Syc. His tree?
But she could never stay away from it, though always on the look out for the blue-eyed boy, she visited her tree, her tree, every chance she got. That had a heart in its trunk left by a broken and removed bough, that had a dancing man and woman made of twisted branches at the top. And they weathered the seasons together – in Spring Sally sat beneath it and wrote poetry, in Winter she left bread crusts in the heart for the birds and squirrels who refused to go south, in Summer she clung to its shade and in Fall she collected its blazing leaves and pressed them in books. Yes, her tree. Her Syc.
And when Sally left home to discover her own life, she brought the Syc with her and kept it close in mind and heart, longing to feel the rough bark, smell its musky scent, feel its sway with the wind and time. It was a special place Sally could go to when life was cruel and uncaring. Her life had fallen away from the simplicity of home, love refused to oblige her, work refused to fulfill her and the sky was never blue enough, never the color of that boy’s eyes. “Come home,” Mom had written so many times in so many letters. Sally resisted that request for years until the story about her tree.
Mom sent a copy of it in a letter. “Look what they’ve done with your tree, Sally,” was all the letter said. The Halligans had parceled land to the town and a park was now the permanent home of her tree. Her Syc. And she had to go see it again. Go home. Leave the empty place of small city apartments, commuter trains and singles bars.
Sally sat in her car in wonder, parked on Main. The town had changed so much – but the tree never changed. It had only grown higher and stronger and she didn’t have to worry about the blue-eyed boy, the Halligan who once claimed ownership. She could climb it now and she would.
“What are you doing with that ladder?” Dad asked seeming to know what she had in mind.
“Never mind, Dad,” Sally said and pecked his cheek as she grabbed the keys to his truck.
“The town won’t let you climb it either,” he said as she started for the door, “They’re more strict than Will Halligan ever was.”
Sally stopped and turned. “Will Halligan?”
“The boy who made you skin your knee,” Dad said. “He’s still around, loves that damn tree as much as you do.” Dad giggled a little and shook his head. “Have fun, honey.”
The sun had left only traces by the time Sally got into the park and she drove the old pick-up right up to its trunk, next to the heart. She wrangled the ladder from the truck bed and rested it firmly against the Syc. “I will climb you now, my friend,” she said rubbing its bark and feeling giggles rising up from her eleven year old soul. And when she reached the top rung, Sally clung to the Syc’s trunk, still unable to find a foothold into its arms.
“Hey!” the man’s voice startled her and the ladder rattled.
Sally looked down and there he was, that boy, now a man – Will Halligan. And though there was only moonlight to illuminate his face, the eyes were still morning sky. “What?” Sally asked annoyed and embarassed that she couldn’t move without falling.
“You’re going to break your ass trying to do that, darlin’.” Sally heard the smile in Will Halligan’s voice.
“Go away, I’m busy,” she said. “And this isn’t your tree anymore, so just go mind your business.”
Will was already in the truck bed putting his hands on the ladder to steady it. “Okay, I’ve got you, you can come down now.”
Sally looked over her shoulder and down at Will Halligan who seemed to be enjoying the view a little too much. “Who said I want to come down? I’m going to climb this tree,” she insisted.
Will laughed and it was sweet and boyish, his laughter. “Well you’ll be there quite a while. You’re going to need a cherry picker to get up there. You want me to call Bert, I think he has one. Though I don’t know if he’ll come down here at this hour…”
Sally’s arms were aching from trying to keep her embrace on the massive trunk and her pride was slipping too. “You’re an ass,” she said. “Get out of my way, I’m coming down,” and she started her descent, secretly hoping he wouldn’t let go of the ladder.
“Okay darlin’,” Will said, “you’re fine, just keep coming,” and Sally felt his hand on the small of her back to steady her. Sally was thankful for the moonlight because it wouldn’t reveal the blush that rose from her toes and reached to her face.
“I’m fine now,” Sally huffed, “you can let go.” And they stood face to face in the truck bed, in the moonlight and the blue eyes no longer held danger but something else that frightened her more. “What are you looking at?”
Will jumped down from the truck bed and grinned. “Why do you love my old tree so much?” he asked.
“Why do you still call it your tree?” Sally retorted. “It’s not your tree anymore,” she pointed out.
“Darlin’, it will always be my tree,” his grin grew wider and Sally thought she saw a wink. “So, why do you love it? Tell me.
Sally stood in the truck bed looking down at Will and resisted the smile that forced itself on her face. “Because it is perfect, because it is glorious, because I could see everything from the top, if I could get there. Because it enchanted me from the very first time I saw it,” she whispered.
Will reached out his hand to Sally and she took it and came down to solid ground but never let go, and they stood in the moonlight, beneath the Syc, looking at each other for the longest moment. “What?” Sally finally asked.
“You enchanted me from the very first time I saw you.” His eyes were liquid sky and mirrored the stars.
She sat down at her desk, blew on the hot coffee before she took a sip and lit a cigarette…
As I sit here in early morning daze and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes – trying to lift the fog of bad dreams and lousy sleep, my mind grasps nothing but the thought of you.
I wonder where you are and what you are doing. If there is music or fresh air, sunshine or rain in your little corner of the world. What you ate for breakfast, if you sleep in contented suspension and dream of good or terrible things.
I wonder what you would do if your doorbell rang and it was me. Would you still know me? Would I be welcomed with embrace or slamming door? I wonder too, what would happen if my doorbell rang.
It’s funny what we wonder, isn’t it? Why people can’t get along, why they hurt each other. Why the sky is blue and the sunset takes your breath away. Why chocolate tastes so good. Why money is such a problem.
The whys and you get wrapped up in my mind like a giant ball of string – no beginning, no end. And I’m left with a mess of everything and nothing. Wondering how you are while trying to think of anything but you.
And she folded the paper in three parts and tucked it in an envelope – sealed it without addressing it. Then put it in the drawer with the others.
Swallow knees (how would you?)
Hollow sneeze (God bless you)
Apollo cheese (dairy products for only astronauts – like tang and instant?)
Wallow please (I do, and often)
Apologies, I don’t like them. Getting them. Giving them. It’s always an embarrassment for both sides. I’d rather have a time machine that would take that time back, only those few seconds when the words were uttered and/or the actions were done. Just like a movie director, I could yell “cut!” and then we could do a retake. Edit out all those mis-statements, mean thoughts, wrong steps. Where I could correct the lighting and all of it would be photo perfect again.
Life would be better if it were a movie. There would always be a happy ending and the right people would end up with each other and the music would always be context appropriate. Popcorn, coca cola and hot dogs would not be taboo foods – and except for the occasional idiot who forgot to turn off his cell phone, we could all sit in the dark, ah and ooh and feel entertained and safe, relaxed and happy.
No, I don’t like apologies nor the things that make them necessary.
I’ve never thought of myself as driven. Truth be told I’ve always thought that I was somewhat lazy. If you ask my mother, I had an answer for everything. I thought that came from having a sharp mind or being like my dad or possibly both.
I do have a high IQ and spent many years of my life trying to hide that fact. You know, wanting to be just one of the gang, not wanting to stand out? God forbid that any of my friends should know I had a brain and that I knew how to use it. So, in my formative years, my time and energy was devoted to consealing my terrible secret.
Quite possibly, that is why the path of my life seems to the casual eye, so driftless and aimless. I am a slacker by all standards harsh and otherwise. I go off in all directions, like a gun on crack – never knowing what target I’ll be aiming at next. Or so I thought. Actually, now I’m thinking not so much.
Since I’ve made the ill-advised foray into self employment or as we like to call it out here in unemployment land, freelancing – I’ve come to find that there is a certain trajectory I have plotted for myself. In fact, I’m a writer. And truthfully, have always been. Even when I couldn’t read or write I was writing stories in my head. I was making up shit with wild abandon. In my imagination I have been married to William Tell, Eric Clapton, all of the Monkeys, Robert Dinero and Rudy Richards. Of course, none of them were aware of this and probably that’s for the best. But I digress….
The point here is that I am driven. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I could spend 18 hours at a computer keyboard without even noticing the time going by. That I could spend those hours looking for ‘markets’ and ‘jobs’ and ‘gigs’ and buffing up resumes and looking for ‘clients’ and such. I never thought I would find it more important than eating or socializing or watching television. I never thought I would ever be driven toward anything. Or amount to anything. Of course, the numbers aren’t in on that one yet – so it’s always a possibility – still, my drive seems to say no.
And even though there are many times, sometimes in the course of a single hour, where I think it’s time to pack it in and give up. To go and get a ‘job’ and join the rest of the human race in normal life, something happens. Unexpected money, an offer of work, something…and my drive gets reinforced even more.
It’s a curious thing to realize that I’m not really that laid back, easy going slacker chick that I’ve fancied myself to be all these years. That I have big ambitions and a never ending drive, but realize it I have.
I’ve no idea where it will lead but I must say I will be fascinated to see how it all turns out.
How about you? What are you driving or what’s driving you?
Well, it’s been a busy week for new green solutions for the price of gas. Though I hate that term green solutions – how about non-tyranical, got you by the balls, solutions? Yeah, I like that better. Anyway, I give you the Air Car! Tada!
(here’s the scoop) The Compressed Air Car developed by Motor Development International (MDI) Founder Guy Negre might be the best thing to have happened to the motor engine in years.
The $12,700 CityCAT, one of the planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units. MDI says it should cost only around $2 to fill the car up with 340 liters of air!
The Air Car will be starting production relatively soon, thanks t o India’s TATA Motors. Forget corn! There’s fuel, there’s renewable fuel, and then there’s user-renewable fuel! What can be better than air?
For more info, check out the website here. (HT to Marli)
And Zelda sent me this:
From The Times
June 14, 2008
Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol
Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide ‘renewable petroleum’
Some diesel fuel produced by genetically modified bugs
Some diesel fuel produced by genetically modified bugs
“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”
He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.
Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.
Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. “All of us here – everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency,” Mr Pal says.
What is most remarkable about what they are doing is that instead of trying to reengineer the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0″ will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.
LS9 has already convinced one oil industry veteran of its plan: Bob Walsh, 50, who now serves as the firm’s president after a 26-year career at Shell, most recently running European supply operations in London. “How many times in your life do you get the opportunity to grow a multi-billion-dollar company?” he asks. It is a bold statement from a man who works in a glorified cubicle in a San Francisco industrial estate for a company that describes itself as being “prerevenue”.
Inside LS9′s cluttered laboratory – funded by $20 million of start-up capital from investors including Vinod Khosla, the Indian-American entrepreneur who co-founded Sun Micro-systems – Mr Pal explains that LS9′s bugs are single-cell organisms, each a fraction of a billionth the size of an ant. They start out as industrial yeast or nonpathogenic strains of E. coli, but LS9 modifies them by custom-de-signing their DNA. “Five to seven years ago, that process would have taken months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he says. “Now it can take weeks and cost maybe $20,000.”
Because crude oil (which can be refined into other products, such as petroleum or jet fuel) is only a few molecular stages removed from the fatty acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation, it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result.
For fermentation to take place you need raw material, or feedstock, as it is known in the biofuels industry. Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the byproduct ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.
The company is not interested in using corn as feedstock, given the much-publicised problems created by using food crops for fuel, such as the tortilla inflation that recently caused food riots in Mexico City. Instead, different types of agricultural waste will be used according to whatever makes sense for the local climate and economy: wheat straw in California, for example, or woodchips in the South.
Using genetically modified bugs for fermentation is essentially the same as using natural bacteria to produce ethanol, although the energy-intensive final process of distillation is virtually eliminated because the bugs excrete a substance that is almost pump-ready.
The closest that LS9 has come to mass production is a 1,000-litre fermenting machine, which looks like a large stainless-steel jar, next to a wardrobe-sized computer connected by a tangle of cables and tubes. It has not yet been plugged in. The machine produces the equivalent of one barrel a week and takes up 40 sq ft of floor space.
However, to substitute America’s weekly oil consumption of 143 million barrels, you would need a facility that covered about 205 square miles, an area roughly the size of Chicago.
That is the main problem: although LS9 can produce its bug fuel in laboratory beakers, it has no idea whether it will be able produce the same results on a nationwide or even global scale.
“Our plan is to have a demonstration-scale plant operational by 2010 and, in parallel, we’ll be working on the design and construction of a commercial-scale facility to open in 2011,” says Mr Pal, adding that if LS9 used Brazilian sugar cane as its feedstock, its fuel would probably cost about $50 a barrel.
Are Americans ready to be putting genetically modified bug excretion in their cars? “It’s not the same as with food,” Mr Pal says. “We’re putting these bacteria in a very isolated container: their entire universe is in that tank. When we’re done with them, they’re destroyed.”
Besides, he says, there is greater good being served. “I have two children, and climate change is something that they are going to face. The energy crisis is something that they are going to face. We have a collective responsibility to do this.”
- Google has set up an initiative to develop electricity from cheap renewable energy sources
- Craig Venter, who mapped the human genome, has created a company to create hydrogen and ethanol from genetically engineered bugs
- The US Energy and Agriculture Departments said in 2005 that there was land available to produce enough biomass (nonedible plant parts) to replace 30 per cent of current liquid transport fuels
Now, I don’t know if any of this spells solutions but I do think it’s nice to know that there are those out there looking for solutions and trying to get us there.
Which is fully electric, power efficient and fast – plus there is a solar option which means it is energy positive – and according to their website they have already worked out the recylcling issues for both the tires and battery which is built into the purchase price. Though, I’d be curious to know if they have included the safe disposal of the battery acid as well, since that is my particular concern with electric vehicles. If they have managed to find a way to reuse the batteries, as is the case with current standard car batteries that would make me happy. There isn’t enough data on their website to answer this question, however.