The M Rivers

Had a relaxing time in Saint Louis this past weekend. As it turns out, it’s a shorter drive to St. Louis (4 hours) than it is to Chicago. Note. To. Self.

Cindy and Bryan very graciously relinquished their weekend to play host and tour guide. We decided to do the uber-touristy thing and ride up the arch. Since it was overcast, we couldn’t see out over the city. We could, however, look straight down and see barges and nearby traffic. I can safely say that this is the most impressive piece of monumental architecture I’ve personally witnessed. Very cool. We attempted to do some museums (which are free) in Forest Park but ran out of time. There is also a zoo there which I must see sometime.

And did we eat well in St. Louis. For brunch we visited the Scottish Arms and were Russell partook of a yummy heart attack on a plate (I think it was called the Highland Hangover) and I had eggs and bangers. For dinner we all went to a local Italian place called Talayna’s in Chesterfield. There I experienced fried ravioli (delicious!) and pretty good lasagna (I am PICKY about my lasagna).

I got to see a very swollen Mississippi River (Lewis and Clark looked like they were wading in chest-deep water from their pedestal) and I crossed the Missouri River on an early morning ride.

The Western boundary of ‘Places I’ve Been’ is nudged a bit further. Some day, Russell and I will get out to the West Coast.

I’ll try to find some time this week to upload some a pic or two.

Holy Glittering Vampires, Batman!

Batman and Superman have HAD IT with moody vampires and horny werewolves. Written by Kevin Van Hook and illustrated by Tom Mandrake, the collected six-part miniseries by DC Comics can be found in-stores on July 29th.

Analysis: superheroes and lame creatures are out of the picture and this can only mean one thing.

Zombies, this is your time! Imagine the franchising possibilities. The story: wide-eyed 17 year old Girl, with no personality and no interests of her own, falls _In Love_ with a cold, moldering, and generally _Amazing Guy_, who must battle his desire to feast on her flesh in order to be with Girl. Uh… oh, wait. Damn. I had some really cool tag lines in the works too.

Dead of Night. Sure, he prefers brunettes but he loves her for her brains.

30 Days of Twilight by Joel Watson
Webcomic from Hijinks Ensue

Headlines: a How-not-to Guide

During lunch, I read a baffling headline in today’s print edition of the Indiana Daily Student. The story appears online with an altered headline but here is what I saw:

“Students to march in protest: event proclaims dismay with troops in Iraq”

The ugly sentence construction misleads readers. My initial interpretation of this headline was ‘students are voicing their dismay with U.S. troops in Iraq. Oh, okay, clearly these students feel that troops are doing a crappy job on U.S. tax dollars.’

Sigh. I am certain this is NOT the message that protesters wish to deliver. The article proper expresses the protesters’ mission more clearly. Protesters’ dismay is directed toward policy, not toward the men and women in uniform, who are doing one of the hardest jobs in creation.

The event isn’t dismayed with troops. Protesters are dismayed with the U.S. policy of occupation in Iraq.

I cannot claim to write clearly and concisely all of the time. I do, however, expect this of journalists. That is their job.

Clarity. It works.

Post from Pan

Testing WordPress for iPhone app. I can post to multiple blogs either on or offline with my iTouch (Pan). There doesn’t appear to be a way to include hyperlinked text, so I’ll write out the HTML here. Ah, the app saw that I was inputting a link and gave me a helper. It appears that it supports some HTML.

I’m trying this out with a saved photo. There doesn’t appear to be a way to format the photo or add a caption or alt tag. I’ve left the default ‘resize’ photo option on, to see what that does.

A lot of the bells and whistles that make WordPress really fun to use are missing but, for quick on-the-go blogging, this seems like a very capable tool.

She Makes with Lots of Shiny

You may have read somewhere (on Twitteror maybe I blogged about it?) that Howl, my beloved iPod, died. Tim lent me his for the time being and, knowing my birthday was coming up, suggested that I opt for a Nano or an iPod Touch. I was taken with the Touch: wifi web browsability, mail and calendar syncing? Win.

Tim picks it up and taunts me with this fact via SMS. I call my parents to see if they’d be willing to chip in for my birthday. During the course of this, Dad suggests a hard reset to restore Howl, something I should have guessed existed. A button press combo later and Howl is resurrected. Oh dear.

So now I have a 30 gig iPod that is a bit poky but working (for the moment) and a shiny new 16 gig iPod Touch named Pantalaimon (in keeping with the ‘name Apple devices after book characters’ trend). I haven’t uploaded any music or videos but I did grab some handy apps (Tweetie, Bylines, Pandora and Wikipanion, Bookmarks Delicioussafari (Free)). I’m curious to see how much wifi is available around town. In the meantime, the plan is: if I’m just going out walking and just want some tunes, I take Howl. If I’m going to be in the vicinity of wifi and feel compelled to be chained to the interwebs, I take Pan.

In other news, Tim and I will be taking walk 2009.004 at Bloomington Rail Trail (map). Later, we will be getting our Irish on for movie night with two loosely Irish films: Boondock Saints and Intermission. Irish-related flicks shall be accompanied by Shamrock Shakes (made with Creme De Menthe and Peppermint Schnapps).


More Walks

The most recent walk was win but first, Walks 2009.002.

On Wednesday, we circuited Wal-Mart, which was a less than stellar experience but I had good company, we kept a good pace, and I picked up a few things we were low on afterward. I wouldn’t rule out Wal-Mart for future walks though. There’s always great people watching at Wally World, after all. In fact, I saw a guy who used to (and, as a recent report suggests, still does) manage at Domino’s on the south side. I *think* his name was James? Maybe. Good guy.

Saturday was cold in the morning, so we opted to go to College Mall for Walks 2009.003. We were probably the youngest walkers there at 8 am but this rather suited me. I enjoyed being at the mall during off-hours. I rarely go to the mall but when I do, it’s always with a purpose. Get in, get what I need, and get out. This time however, I found myself window browsing, which is, admittedly, hard to do at the brisk pace we set. I marveled in the freedom to window shop, something I just don’t do in malls it seems. All totaled, we walked at least two, maybe three miles.

The only qualm I had with the mall walk: giggling. High pitched, electronic, creepy-ass children giggling. It would seem the mall gods leave on the kiddie rides that occupy one of the main intersections, the ones with the sound of giggling children. Without the usual piped music and human-flesh present, the sound isn’t diffused or absorbed, it’s amplified. It echoes. Suddenly, Jenny is hissing in an alcove, claws bared. There is a reason why I refused to be in the same room as Russell when he watched The Omen. Can’t. Stand. Creepy. Children.

I eventually got over the feeling of unease and Tim and I chatted on many a good topic, including whether or not the Facebook/Twitter/txting culture has cheapened true human interaction, or if this type of communication serves a different purpose altogether. Do you remember not having cell phones? Internet?

Happy Ides everyone!

In Which She Learns More Wiki Markup

I’ve been working on beefing up wiki entries on all things Jackal, since I have been stewing on numerous points that really need to be written down somewhere that is not loose bits of paper or forgotten GoogleDocs.

I got stuck when trying to frame out a timeline, so I let it be for the moment in favor of working on some of the rules for the universe I’m writing. I needed to figure out veils and gates and parallel realities, mythology and folklore from a variety of sources (ancient Egyptian, shape-shifting lore from all over) and, most importantly, the human dimension that will make this whole thing work. Once I started hashing out these background details, the big plot pieces that were troubling me started to fall into place. Ah hah!

So, even with clean up and additions to the wiki, I am happy to report that I have much, much more to add. It’s almost as if I’m beginning to get somewhere.

Power of Repetition

In writing a recent post over at Puddles, I realized that I have a tendency to use repetition quite a bit. In the aforementioned post, I ended a few of the paragraphs with a refrain. It’s not the same every time but it is structured in a specific way:

[sentence]. [1-2 words]. [single word].

If that post had been longer, I think the repetition would have evolved into something more normalized.

[sentence]. [1 word describing sound, motion, etc., e.g., ‘Grumble,’ ‘Grr,’ ‘Facepalm’]. [single word, e.g., ‘Onward’].

The final repetition ends with the refrain changing:

[sentence]. Sigh. End.

The repetition was deliberate but I didn’t reflect much on why I was using it. In looking over earlier posts, in which I attempt to entertain with my writing instead of treating the post as a journal entry, it seems that repetition is one of my favorite devices. A great thing about repetition is that it’s scalable. I may utilize an exaggerated parallel structure within single sentences (as I’m doing in this sentence), I may use lists, or I may sustain a refrain over several paragraphs (or indeed, entire novels).

I like using repetition because it helps pull a reader into the story. Predictability can be detrimental but, if used as a device (instead of predictability arising from poor plot construction or flat characters), it is much like letting a reader in on a joke. I may or may not have pulled that off in my “Walks 2009.001” post but there was definitely a semi-conscious effort to wink at the reader, who (I hope) is already nodding, because they know where I’m going.

Things to think about: Is repetition annoying, even if done well? Does it talk down to the reader? Is repetition a cheap trick? Is it too obvious or affected? What are other examples of authors or works that pull off repetition well? Are there other ways to help engage readers, allowing them to be quasi-co-conspirators in my writing? Conversely, which stylistic techniques are useful for distancing readers from my writing?