Towse: views from the hill

September 10, 2006

The Museum of Useful Things

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 11:36 pm

Oh, I love this sort of stuff: The Museum of Useful Things.

49 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA.

Question is, is it still there? The Web site has dates of 2004. The “exhibits” articles’ latest date is 2003.

x’d fingers it’s still there when next I visit Boston.

Serial commas … or not?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:15 pm

An editor in Australia insists the serial comma is used in America and, therefore, Americans should use serial commas. Period.

(As a very minor matter, Father Luke is an American, so there should be a comma before the “and”. )

Not necessarily, as I pointed out on his blog. I write according to what an editor asks of me. If an editor wants serial commas, I’ll use them. If not, I don’t, unless the comma is needed to clarify what might be confusing writing. (The classic example of a sentence that needs a serial comma to make clear sense is the perhaps apocryphal book dedication: “I’d like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.”)

Not all Americans use serial commas, I said.

Alas, he swatted my demurs away. He edits American writing he said.

So? was my thought.

I was thumbing through my stacks of magazines today, ripping out pages, tossing the bulk. On a whim, I decided to see if there were serial commas in the articles, or a lack thereof.

I am here to report back that in the magazine I checked (W) there was a lack thereof. Seems not all American editors believe in serial commas. Of the articles I checked, all articles that had sentences that could have used serial commas didn’t.

I can’t find the September issue of W site on the Web but I did find a click to an article about Janet Jackson from W‘s October issue. Note that the first sentence of the article is missing the serial comma before the “and” that some people say Americans should always use.

House style for W seems to be no serial commas, but then that makes sense, doesn’t it? Why would there even be something called “the Harvard comma” (a nod to the fact that Harvard has the serial comma as part of their house style) if the serial comma is ubiquitous?

September 7, 2006

Time for CUPCAKES!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 2:45 am

For Nobody (in case she missed it), a click to Joel Stein’s TIME essay, Cupcake Nation. [28Aug2006]


That’s what bugs me about cupcakes: they’re fake happiness, wrought in Wonka unfood colors. They appeal to the same unadventurous instincts that drive adults to read Harry Potter and watch Finding Nemo without a kid in the room. They’re small and safe, and so people convince themselves that they can’t have that many calories. They are the dessert of a civilization in decline.


September 5, 2006

Blogger status

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:14 pm

What’s the use of having this, if it can’t be reached when the Blogger servers are having problems?

… and if it could be reached, it hasn’t been updated since late August?

Hello, Blogger! Hello, Google!

When your system’s unusable and flaking out, put information somewhere that lets people know you’re aware of the problem, working on it, and may even have an estimated “back up” goal.

[WR] – The Official Charlie Huston Website

Filed under: blog — Towse @ 5:40 pm

Hadn’t heard of Charlie Huston until I was reading Miss Snark and her critiques of query letters and first page(s) this morning. Someone’s query&pages were for a crime novel set in Houston.

Miss Snark said, “It doesn’t suck but it’s [it gets] a form letter rejection. There’s a reason everyone’s yapping about Charlie Huston…he took the usual expectations of genre and turned them on their ear. I’m looking for good writing but I also have to bring something fresh to the table.”

Charlie who?

With a quick search I found – The Official Charlie Huston Website.

Charlie has his bio and his blog and what all.

Charlie also has first chapters for CAUGHT STEALING, SIX BAD THINGS, and ALREADY DEAD. The print layout for SIX BAD THINGS is downright awful, but the first pages for all three are


Wondering what people mean when they say, “Start in media res.” or “Those first pages have to grab you by the throat.” or “Start with conflict. Start with action.”?

Charlie Huston is the poster boy for those folks.

Go. Read. books, caelum press, infrapress submission guidelines

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 4:59 pm

Funny (Hahahahaha. Sad. No, funny!) note where the books, caelum press, infrapress submission guidelines should be:

We are very sorry, but we can no longer say that we are looking for submissions. This is not because we are not looking for more material to publish, it is due to the incessant email from people who evidently could not read our guidelines. We have a firm belief that if you cannot read, you should not write. Most publishers share this belief.

Please — if you want to be published, learn something about publishing. offers an article, How How Do I Get Published that might serve as a beginning. There are also numerous books and periodicals as well as free writing Web sites online.

We encourage writing no matter what your goals are, but remind you: Although everyone has the right to write, not everyone has a right to be published. If you do deserve to be read, we hope that you find publication. Good luck.


Filed under: writing — Towse @ 4:26 pm

Rudy Rucker has A Writer’s Toolkit at his SJSU faculty Web site. The PDF file contains his “working notes for teaching writing workshops.”

Also on his site are his Writings About Writing, including essays on transrealism and the book-specific notes he made while writing his books. The “notes” for a given book can be anywhere from 14K (for THE HACKER AND THE ANTS) up to 100K words (for MATHEMATICIANS IN LOVE). An interesting look into how one writer writes.

[WR] Crawford Kilian tells you how to Write a Novel

Filed under: writing — Towse @ 4:11 pm

Crawford Kilian has booted up another resource: Write a Novel.

Write a Novel is a form of open courseware: Learning materials placed online for free use by anyone who wishes to do so. At this point, it is an experiment; if it succeeds, Capilano College may create more such guides, along the lines pioneered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The guide contains 18 items, PDF documents that give you some basic information on topics related to writing fiction in general and novels in particular. Each item includes one or more assignments based on the material you’ve read.

Kilian is the author of a score of books including SF, fantasy, history, WRITING SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY (Self-Counsel Press, 1998), WRITING FOR THE WEB (3d rev. ed. coming soon) and more.

[via DRO at Inky Girl.]

[URL] Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design

Filed under: URL — Towse @ 1:38 am

Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design is an interesting site.

I was poking around on the Web, after revisiting POWERS OF TEN, because I was wondering how Charles and Ray Eames hooked up with MIT’s Philip Morrison to make the film. (Morrison narrates.)

At Boxes and Arrows, Erin Malone explains the story behind the making of the movie. Turns out the Eames made a first version of the film in 1968 for the annual meeting of the Commission on College Physics. That version of the film was called A ROUGH SKETCH FOR A PROPOSED FILM DEALING WITH THE POWERS OF TEN AND THE RELATIVE SIZE OF THE UNIVERSE. (Quite a mouthful, eh?)

Years later, in 1977, Philip and Phylis Morrison helped them with a revised version, which has been seen by millions of people since its debut.

Philip Morrison, the father of SETI, was quite a guy himself. He passed away in April 2005 at age 89.

September 4, 2006

Book meme

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:15 pm

Tagged by arkadianriver

Do this:
Grab the nearest book.* Open the book to page 123. Find the fifth sentence. Post that text and the following three sentences, along with the stuff below on your blog, along with the instructions.

[*] ‘nearest’ means you can’t rummage around for a ‘cool’ or ‘intellectual’ book. Really, whatever your hand falls on first.

To freeze a sprinter, the shutter must open and close before the image of the runner perceptibly changes position on the camera’s image plane. Therefore, the faster the subject runs, the faster the shutter speed you will need to stop the action and avoid a blurred image.

A second factor affecting the final image is the camera-to-subject distance.

One elevator door was half-open on an empty shaft, from which drifted hissing wind. The door was coated to look like wood, but a dent at kneel level showed it was black metal. While he squatted, fingering the edge of the depression, something clicked: a second elevator door beside him rolled open.

“Hey, good-lookin’!” the blond driver yells, her hair flapping in the wind. “Don’t go! I think I love you!” Laughing, her friends pull her hat off.

Several people put their arms around me and said keep coming back!

Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794), the revolutionary leader, was himself executed in July 1794. This destruction came not from outside the system; it was produced by the system. As in the later Russian Revolution the revolutionaries on their humanist base had only two options–anarchy or repression.

In a large skillet brown meat, half at a time, in hot oil. Drain off fat. In a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker combine undrained tomatoes, beef broth, onion, jalapeno or serrano peppers, garlic, cornmeal, chili power, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, and black pepper.

Let anyone who will not believe it, go thither and inquire for himself. There was once an ass whose master had made him carry sacks to the mill for many a long year, but whose strength began at last to fail, so that each day as it came, found him less capable of work. Then his master began to think of turning him out, but the ass, guessing that something was in the wind that boded him no good, ran away, taking the road to Bremen; for there he thought he might get an engagement as town musician.

The bus company? They got another one. Line coach Douglas Fowlkes recalled that the media wrote about the losing streak so much that it was always at the forefront of the players’ minds: “When are they going to win?”

There are also V-shaped dividers that are smaller than the frames; these go in front, to allow a deeper decolletage. In 1958, with the sexual revolution only a few years off, some of the customs inherited from the nineteenth century still survived. Despite the fact that most women now wore girdles, there were still corsets being worn — and not simply by a few elderly ladies, since Mademoiselle Etienne;s handbook contains instructions for making children’s corsets.

Roxane: Les roseaux fournissaient le bois pour vos épées…
Cyrano: Et les maïs, les cheveux blonds pour vos poupées!
Roxane: C’était le temps des jeux…
Cyrano: Des mûrons aigrelets…

Darwin’s ideas are so much a part of our world view that we take them for granted, so much that we actually read the Origin, it does not seem fresh and iconaclastic, but dreary and derivative.

The androgynous beautiful boy has an androgynous sponsor, the male born Uranian Aphrodite whom Plato identifies with homosexual love. While the Archaic kouros is virgorously masculine, the early and high classic beautiful boy perfectly harmonizes masculine and feminine. With the Hellenistic tilt toward women, prefigured by Euripides, the beautiful boy slides toward the feminine, a symptom of decadence.

Praxiteles registers this shift in his ephebic Hermes (ca. 350 BC), which misaligns the elegance of classic contrapposto.

Her demeanor was oddly melodramatic, and she consciously tried to meet the eyes of all of the mourners before she spoke.

“You’ve heard from Pastor Robbins about the life of Lamar, and I’m here to let you know that he didn’t die in vain. No Sirree Bob.”

No Sirree Bob? Joe felt Marybeth squirm next to him. And he felt it again when Melinda Strickland paused and forced a blazing, inappropriate smile.

[Three sentences after the first; "No Sirree Bobs" not counted. WINTERKILL by C.J.Box]

Added: I posted a variant of this back in January 2006.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress