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March 2008:
27th Naming Names P1
25th Guestbook
22nd White Bear
20th Watcher of the...
19th Arthur C. Clarke
19th ViTran
18th Floating Cities
17th Cruz Bay
16th Spotting Sea...
14th A day at the eco...
13th Back from the...
6th Off camping
4th Paulís been...
3rd Spirits: both kinds
1st How cold was it...
Naming Names Part 1
Posted by JVJ @ 9:34 pm
Mar 27th : 2008
The Great Gatsby, Scrooge, Heathcliff, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Huckleberry Finn, Gandalf, Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, Scarlett OíHara and Rhett Butler: these are names that tell us something about their owners. Even before we meet them we have an idea of what kind of characters they are. Naming a character is an opportunity to describe character. In Great Expectation, the hero is named Pip. Small, insignificant: a seed. Ahab, in Moby Dick, shares traits with his biblical counterpart; a doomed, obsessive king.
Just like people, names come with baggage. Name your hero Jack and readers will expect a manly man, rugged and prone to infidelity. Jack Nicholson, JFK, Jack London, Jack-of-Hearts: popular culture affects how we view names. Similarly with Monica, Bill, Michael, Johnny, Dick, Barbara, Elizabeth, George, Jennifer and so on. As writers we have to keep this in mind when choosing names, only letting the baggage do extra lifting as a conscious choice.
Posted by JVJ @ 9:51 pm
Mar 25th : 2008

Every tent and studio at Concordia has a guestbook. The eco tent guestbook is a work of art. Folk have drawn beautifully-rendered maps, detailed line drawings of wildlife and birds, and passed along their stories of how, when, and why they came to stay in tent P10, the windiest spot on St. John. The guestbook in the studio is different. Shorter, less lovingly rendered. A heartache is laid bare across two of its pages. A man stayed in the studio alone for a week. His wife, not fond of traveling, had stayed home in Boston. The man, who did not sign his name but provided the dates of his visit (late 2007), was lonely and heartbroken. Detailing the deterioration of his marriage--the slowly widening gap between he and his wife--he asks future guests of the studio, ďWhat more could I have done?Ē
White Bear
Posted by JVJ @ 10:15 pm
Mar 22nd : 2008

To mark the knighting of the title for Book IV, Watcher of the Dead, hereís a sneak peak at the book itself. The Prologue takes us far North, back to the Ice Trappers and their ancient and troubled Listener, Sadaluk.
Watcher of the Dead
Posted by JVJ @ 9:39 am
Mar 20th : 2008

Book IV now has a title, Watcher of the Dead. This has been one of Raifís names from the beginning, referring to the raven lore he wears around his neck. When Death comes to claim Raif in Book I, she says, ďPerhaps I wonít take you yet, Watcher. You fight in my image and live in my shadow, and if I leave you where you are I know youíll provide much fresh meat for my children. Kill an army for me, Raif Sevrance, any less and I just might call you back.Ē When naming Book IV, it was this quote I had in mind.
Arthur C. Clarke
Posted by JVJ @ 11:28 am
Mar 19th : 2008

Arthur C. Clarke died yesterday. He was one of my favorite SF writers and one of Dadís favorites too. I grew up in a house where copies of Childhoodís End, The Sands of Mars, and 2001: A Space Odyssey were left lying around on the windowsills. Iím very sad to hear of Clarkeís passing. He was a great writer and visionary, and heíll be missed.
ViTran: Virgin Islands Transport
Posted by JVJ @ 10:31 am
Mar 19th : 2008

You can spend a lot of time waiting for the bus on St. John. The ViTran comes once an hour, except when it comes every two hours. No one on the island can predict which schedule the bus is adhering to on any given day. Bearing this in mind, itís probably best to plan for the two hour schedule, then youíll be pleasantly surprised if the bus turns up early. Riding from Salt Pond Bay to Cruz Bay takes 45 minutes. For most of that time youíre traveling through a National Park. Green mountains and canyons, waterfalls, crescent-shaped beaches and clusters of islands can be appreciated from the bus. The roads are narrow and Virgin Islanders drive on the left--using left-wheel drive cars. The buses however are right-wheel drive, which means that their drivers can see farther ahead. The cost of this magnificence is one dollar. All rides, anywhere on the island: one dollar. Throw into this the fact that you can watch wild donkeys, wild goats, wild pigs and wild chickens from the bus stop and you have a pretty good way of getting around.
Floating Cities
Posted by JVJ @ 9:14 am
Mar 18th : 2008

Charlotte Amalie is the largest town on St. Thomas. Itís where the big cruise ships come to dock, offloading passengers by the thousand daily. Each super ship has an average of 3,000 passengers. The day I was there five of them dropped anchor, effectively doubling the population of the city. Many folk come to shop. Main street glitters with tax-and-duty-free jewelry stores offering diamonds and emeralds, platinum and gold. Itís a relatively small town, though, and you only have to walk a few blocks to escape the commerce. The rhythms of reggae and corrido float from old peeling buildings, along with the smells of frying pates and conch.
Cruz Bay
Posted by JVJ @ 8:45 am
Mar 17th : 2008

Cruz Bay is the main town on St. John. The beach and ferry dock are right there, only a block from the post office. Rolling off the ferry at 8pm that first night, after an entire day without food, we hauled our luggage fifty feet north from the terminal and had barbecue at Uncle Joeís. Our view across the street was of Capís Place, which we came to know over the next few days as home of the two dollar Presidente. Pretty much everything was two dollars: rum cocktails, Courvoisier, rum cocktails, gin and tonic, rum cocktails. While youíre enjoying their mean rice and peas, you can keep abreast of the horse racing results which are beamed onto their eccentric collection of smallscreen TVs.
Spotting Sea Turtles
Posted by JVJ @ 4:56 pm
Mar 16th : 2008

Your fearless reporter at isn't afraid to get her feet wet in search of wildlife. Here I am at Waterlemon Key on St.John investigating the claim that giant sea turtles have been seen close by. "Find the sea grass and you find the turtles," locals said. I donned snorkel and rashguard and waded out to investigate. I quickly found said sea grass and it wasn't long before I spotted it: a sea turtle as big as a VW. Grazing sedately on sea grass, he didn't seem the slightest bit bothered at being ogled by a strange creature with flaying limbs and bug eyes. As I don't own an underwater camera, you'll have to take my word for this big turtle tale.
A day at the eco tent
Posted by JVJ @ 11:09 am
Mar 14th : 2008

One day I stayed (you can hardly call it camping) at the windiest spot on St. John, Rams Head Point, where the Caribbean and Atlantic meet. The canvas of the eco tent billowed and flapped through the night and the wood creaked. It was like being on a ship.
As you can see the eco tent is cool. Itís sturdy vinyl canvas tied to a wood frame, with zip-up windows and a plank floor. It has running water, which is reclaimed, and an outhouse with a shower. Part of the outhouse has a glass roof, where the water tank sits. Sunlight, and nothing else, heats the water over the course of the day.
Back from the islands
Posted by JVJ @ 9:24 am
Mar 13th : 2008

Blue skies, turquoise water, sea turtles, two buck Presidentes, shrimp Creole, palm trees and warm tradewinds: these are just part of being in the US Virgin Isles. I spent four days camping on St.John and the final day in St.Thomas. Getting around, I either walked or caught the bus. A gentleman named Charles gave us a ride into town and then gave us a gift of lemons. I have them in my suitcase. Iíll be using them today.
More on the trip in the days to come. I have to get back to work. Thereís an image I have of a man macheting a coconut that I need to write about before it fades.
Off Camping
Posted by JVJ @ 1:04 pm
Mar 6th : 2008

Tomorrow I head south, to St. John in the US Virgin Islands, for a few days camping. The campground Iím staying at is eco-friendly. They generate their own solar power, cache rainwater, use sustainable building materials, recycle, reclaim, and other interesting stuff. This is good news as most of St. John is a National Park. The other good news is that the camp provides all tents and equipment so you donít have to haul all your gear on a plane. Iíll let you know how it goes.
Paulís been tinkering
Posted by JVJ @ 6:56 pm
Mar 4th : 2008

You may have noticed that the first update of the month was a little late, thatís because Paul has been working behind the scenes, building a better website. Weíve gone widescreen. And weíre finally acknowledging that itís 2008 (we tried to fight it, holding out long past the Chinese New Year but time marches on) and have indexed 2007 and 2008 separately. We hope the changes work and they improve your viewing experience. Email Paul with any problems...or praise.
Spirits: both kinds
Posted by JVJ @ 2:08 pm
Mar 3rd : 2008

Last month I introduced you to our old cellar, complete with secret tunnels and tombs from the 1600ís. Hereís a photo of the pub (foreground), and you can see how close the church and graveyard are. The original church dates back to the time of the Norman Conquest, and the pub was built over part of the graveyard. In respect for the dead, tombs were left intact with their tombstones, eventually forming part of the cellar floor.
How cold was it yesterday?
Posted by JVJ @ 10:43 pm
Mar 1st : 2008

Iím glad you asked: -4F. Thatís minus twenty Celsius, a record low here. Just standing outside for a few seconds was enough to make my hands ache. I know that people in other parts of the world endure colder weather, but for someone from the North of England, where the temperature rarely dips below freezing, itís pretty chilly. Giant ice crystals grow on the window panes and the air is very still and dry.
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