Summer seems a long way away
Posted by JVJ @ 15:49 pm
Feb 28th : 2008
Itís cold so Iím reminiscing about warmer climes. Last Summer I camped at
Big Sur. The Pfeiffer State Park is fantastic, with miles of hiking trails,
mountains, redwoods, craggy coastline, wildlife and birds. The campground I
stayed at had a creek running through it, and every night I fell asleep
looking at the stars and listening to the sound of running water.
Posted by JVJ @ 10:47 am
Feb 27th : 2008
It snowed some more, all day yesterday, tiny damp flecks that stuck to tree
branches. After seven hours the cherry tree looked like this:
Back to the woods
Posted by JVJ @ 3:49 pm
Feb 25th : 2008
So of course it snowed--it always snows. Here I am following fresh deer
tracks down toward the creek on Sunday. I was struck by how narrow the
tracks were. The deer place all four hooves in a single line.
More on the Message Board
Posted by JVJ @ 8:26 pm
Feb 23rd : 2008
Paul and I appreciate everyoneís comments. We heard you, and for the most
part folk seem to be taking the advertising in their stride. Paul suspects
the banner ads will become more prolific over time as the message board
grows and becomes established. As he mentioned in one of his posts, we
canít currently copy the contents of the board--the function is
suspiciously ďunavailableĒ--so weíre going to wait and see what develops.
Thanks for letting us know what you think. Thanks also for participating in
the board. We recently hit a hundred registered subscribers and are nearing
one thousand posts--more than Paul or I hoped.
Posted by JVJ @ 10:39 am
Feb 21st : 2008
Iím now on the East Coast. Itís twenty degrees out, frosty but not snowy. I
had a great view of the lunar eclipse from the plane. Surprisingly, when I
arrived the skies were clear and I could see the rust-colored full moon in
all its glory.
Off to Upstate NY
Posted by JVJ @ 2:26 pm
Feb 19th : 2008
Tomorrow I fly east to spend some time in Upstate, NY. Itís a good place to
work as Iím away from house and friends, and itís often too cold to go
outside. I build a fire and wait for it to snow (it's February, it will
snow). As I write I can look out of the window and see the woods. Itís not
hard to imagine the clanholds: I can picture Raina Blackhail jumping Mercy
across the creek.
Spot the Possum
Posted by JVJ @ 8:58 am
Feb 18th : 2008
Okay that was a trick. There are no possums in N. America. Itís spot the
opossum. Itís really there, honest. Last night when I was working at my
computer, I looked over at the window and saw a pointy white face staring
back at me. By the time I got the camera, the little critter had backed
off. Sadly the flash bounced against the glass and obscured him. Heís
there, though, perilously close to the dryer vent. He entered the vent once
before, and walked the walk right into the drywall behind the laundry room.
So now weíre talking possum, I have a story. I once slept with a possum
under the bed. Unbeknown to me, the little devil was stealing in through an
upstairs window every night to feast on Biggieís food. Biggie knew the jig
and had struck up some kind of feline-marsupial relationship based on, ďI
canít really believe somethingís eating my food--but hey, thereís plenty
more where that came from.Ē One night, not realizing the possum was in the
house, I closed the window, thereby sealing off its escape route. Youíve
never known fear, my friend, until youíve turned around in a dark room and
had something hiss at you. I ran. The possum panicked. Biggie moved in to
eat some food. When Iíd recovered sufficiently, I opened every window in
the house, imagining the possum would escape. He didnít. He went into
commando-survival mode under the bed, hissing and baring its teeth. It took
a long-handled broom and daylight to evict him from the property.
Posted by JVJ @ 6:15 am
Feb 16th : 2008
In case you donít generally stop by the message board, hereís a copy of my
latest post outlining our current dilemma.
The message board is third party software hosted at a third party site.
When we look at it we view it in a jvj.com frame, but it has a different
address. We do not have sufficient server space at jvj.com to host it ourselves.
Paul and I have no control over the advertising that has recently
been popping up, nor do we profit from it. Paul works on my website for
free and I pay for the domain and hosting. It's a small, family-run
enterprise which we do to connect with readers. We're both a little
disappointed by the banner ads and are wondering what to do next.
- 1) Shut down the board?
- 2) Keep it going and ignore the ads?
- 3) Start a new board from scratch, and thereby lose all existing content?
Your thoughts would be much appreciated.
Posted by JVJ @ 0:12 am
Feb 15th : 2008
And the wildflowers are blooming. For most of the year, the hiking trails
in San Diego are brown and dusty, but right now, after long (and
much-needed) weeks of rain, plants are flowering. Black mustard, wild
radish, sweet fennel, buckwheat, lemonadeberry, castor bean. Itís starting
to sound like a meal--skip the castor beans though. Theyíre poisonous.
More on the cellar
Posted by JVJ @ 1:23 pm
Feb 13th : 2008
In case youíre wondering about the inscription on the floor of the cellar.
Itís a tombstone. It reads, ďHere lyes the bodyes of William Webster and
Thomas his son. William who departed this life December 27th 1684. Thomas
who departed this life November 3rd, 1686.Ē
The dimpled and the deformed
Posted by JVJ @ 10:27 pm
Feb 12th : 2008
Growing up, one of my nicknames was Pothole Jones. Whenever I smiled two
big cavities opened up in my cheeks. Old ladies liked to pinch them. ďJust
like Shirley Temple,Ē theyíd say. Being compared to a fiercely perky child
star from the 30s was not flattering to my teenage self, though Iím sure
the ladies meant well. I was told at various times I would grow out of them
(I havenít), that they are a sign of beauty in North Korea (if only I could
get a visa) and that they provide a place for the devil to rest. My brother
Mark told me I was defective, and surprisingly he might be right. It turns
out that cheek dimples are a birth defect caused by foreshortened cheek
muscles. The guilty party is the double bifid zygomaticus major muscle. In
people with dimples it forms an attachment to the skin, pulling it inward
when the muscle contracts.
Posted by JVJ @ 10:46 am
Feb 11th : 2008
At last, readers questions answered. Weíve put up
a new page
answers to some of the most popular questions about the books, writing, and
other stuff. Itís a work in progress so weíll be updating it from time to
time. The photo was taken at the Grand Canyon in 2003. It was January and
there was snow on the ground. In addition to seeing one of the worldís
great natural wonders, I had one of the worldís best breakfasts. The El
Tovar Lodge in the park serves blue corn pancakes with prickly pear syrup.
If I close my eyes I can still taste them.
Posted by JVJ @ 3:48 pm
Feb 8th : 2008
It was only a matter of time before I started reminiscing. Here is part of
the cellar Paul, Mark and I used to rummage around in as kids. I found this
photo on the internet. I have no idea who the dude in the tuxedo is, but
thatís absolutely, one hundred percent our cellar. Mum and Dad used to run
a pub in England and, wonder of wonders, the local historical society has
posted some photos of it online. I look at the photo and remember the
rough-hewn walls, low ceilings, nooks and crannies, sealed doors and secret
passageways and I canít help but think, ďTomb of the Dhoone Princes.Ē Yes,
the cellar had a real life secret passageway that was sealed after WW2. It
was an evacuation tunnel leading from the church to the pub--or the other
way around depending on the day of the week. This tunnel ran across the
road, under the graveyard and into the church vault. In our day the
entrance had been sealed with cement, but you could still see its shape and
location. I havenít consciously thought about it in years--decades
even--but itís been there, in my mind, asserting itself gently as I write.
Posted by JVJ @ 7:58 pm
Feb 7th : 2008
One of the best ways to improve your dialog is to read it out loud. We know
how normal speech sounds and our ears can pick up a clunker a mile away.
Big words are usually the first fatalities--most of us donít use them. Even
if we know them, we donít use them. Also we tend to use the simplest verbs.
ďWe went to dinner.Ē Not, ďWe proceeded to dinner.Ē Generally when we speak
we simplify and take short cuts. Another thing we do is use rhythm. Thereís
an up and down, rat-a-tat-tat to our exchanges. It comes naturally to us as
humans. We expect it and respond to it. Our challenge as writers is to
convey this with subtlety and without falling into sing-song verse. This is
where reading our work out loud can help.
Whenever I give readings I find myself ruthlessly editing. I canít say
fancy stuff out loud. It has to be plain and real. When Iím reciting dialog
anything that sounds the slightest bit ďwriterlyĒ makes me cringe. Reading
bad dialog out loud is like exposing a vampire to daylight: pretty soon
thereís something dead on the street.
Posted by JVJ @ 11:56 am
Feb 6th : 2008
Hereís my latest birding dilemma. I was reviewing photos I took in June at
Big Sur when I found these. This was a really, really big
bird--one of the largest birds in flight Iíve ever seen. It was soaring on
the ocean thermals. California condors are known to nest close by, so my
question is: What is it? A condor? A golden eagle? Or turkey vulture?
Hereís the identification site
. Take a look and see what you think.
Egrets, I have a few
Posted by JVJ @ 11:38 am
Feb 5th : 2008
The egrets have returned to my local lagoon. This is the time of year when
they pair and mate. The males develop long, stylized plumes which they use
in displays to attract females. Once a male has established a territory,
heíll display until a likely female lands close by--then heíll chase her
away. The poor guy gets a little nervous. Or perhaps itís to test the
femaleís resolve. In order to mate, she has to fly back into his territory
and risk being chased off again.
Egrets can live up to twenty years. The beauty of the maleís mating plumes
led to them being hunted to near extinction in the nineteenth
century--women desired the long, floaty feathers for their hats.
Posted by JVJ @ 9:30 am
Feb 4th : 2008
San Diegoís starting to look like England. All the years Iíve been here
Iíve never known such a rainy season. Yesterday we had half an inch--a bold
number for San Diego. California snowpacks are now at 118 percent--good for
the reservoirs. For all of us who lived through a dangerous fire season
last summer, this is a relief. Itís truly frightening to watch the sky turn
red, smell the smoke and see charred matter floating past your house. There
are still burned roof tiles in my yard. Iím leaving them there as a
reminder to have things ready in case of evacuation. Last October when the
police called for an evacuation, I wasnít close to ready.
San Diego or the Everglades?
Posted by JVJ @ 5:24 pm
Feb 1st : 2008
In 2006 I visited the Everglades. The best birdwatching ever--you could
drive down any highway and see the most
spectacular displays of plumage. We took a ride on an airboat and ended up
with an alligator onboard...but thatís
another story. After a long and fruitful season of rain, it struck me that
San Diegoís starting to look like Florida. What
do you think?
Bald Eagles: a thought before Valentineís
Posted by JVJ @ 0:07 am
Feb 1st : 2008
mate for life. So do swans, Canadian geese, barn owls, some
waterfowl and some tropical birds. The vast majority of birds are
seasonally monogamous, which means they pair to mate and raise their young
over a single nesting cycle, and then find new partners the following year.
Some birds, such as doves and robins, remain together for several seasons
before parting. Itís the eagles that pull at our hearts, though. A pair can
remain together for thirty years. Yes, we know itís practical--prolonged
effort is required for eaglets to fledge--and we also know itís not
entirely technical (a percentage of chicks will have different paternal
DNA), but it still appeals to us as humans. There are not many creatures
who mate for life. Humans, bald eagles, wolves...A life spent in the
company of one particular individual is a surprisingly rare thing.