Towse: views from the hill

July 31, 2007

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2007 Results

Filed under: contest,wordstuff,writing — Towse @ 6:02 pm

2007 is the silver anniversary of the contest.

Jim Gleeson, Madison, WI, is the grand prize winner this year with

Gerald began–but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them “permanently” meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash–to pee.

Additional prize winners here: 2007 Results

re the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest


Conscripted numerous times to be a judge in writing contests that were, in effect, bad writing contests but with prolix, overlong, and generally lengthy submissions, he [Professor Scott Rice] struck upon the idea of holding a competition that would be honest and — best of all — invite brief entries. Furthermore, it had the ancillary advantage of one day allowing him to write about himself in the third person.

By campus standards, the first year of the BLFC was a resounding success, attracting three entries. The following year, giddy with the prospect of even further acclaim, Rice went public with the contest and, with the boost of a sterling press release by Public Information Officer Richard Staley, attracted national and international attention. Staley’s press release drew immediate front-page coverage in cultural centers like Boston, Houston, and Miami. By the time the BLFC concluded with live announcement of the winner, Gail Cane, on CBS Morning News (since defunct through no fault of the BLFC), it had drawn coverage from Time, Smithsonian, People Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Manchester Guardian, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Radio, and the BBC. Most important, over 10,000 wretched writers had tried their hands at outdoing Bulwer’s immortal opener, with the best entries soon appearing in the first of a series published by Penguin Books, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night (1984).

Since 1983 the BLFC has continued to draw acclaim and opprobrium. Thousands continue to enter yearly …

[via Bob Sloan at misc.writing]

Too much zucchini?

Filed under: blog,food,San Francisco — Towse @ 3:47 pm

Is it getting to that time of year again? I wouldn’t know, lacking a (sniff) sunny space to raise zucchini.

But for those of you who do have a sunny space and are using it to raise zucchini, Heidi Swanson offers up My Special Zucchini Bread Recipe at 101 Cookbooks.

(Added bonus: Today’s 101cookbooks blog entry features Quinoa and Grilled Zucchini.)

Bon appetit!

July 30, 2007

Creeping prosperity

Filed under: culture,photographs — Tags: , , , , — Towse @ 6:44 pm

Sectwanto’s HUGE tag on a brick building down by Potrero Point, was painted out last week. The brick building was originally tagged (according to this site) in 2005. Seemed a year or two earlier than that at least, but I have photos from July 2004 that show the brick building untagged. Memory’s a funny thing.

SECTWANTO always reminded me of RIGO’s TRUTH over by City Hall, “but different,” as they say.

Still, two years from tag date, SECTWANTO and the fribbly tagged crap beneath it were painted over.

Why now?

Well, perhaps because plans are afoot to revitalize Pier 70 and surrounds.

July 28, 2007

From each …

Filed under: blog,politics — Towse @ 4:07 pm

Zen rotates quotes through the top of his blog. This one showed up today: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs! Marx

Reminded me of the on-the-street-reporter-types who ask people, do you agree with this? who said it?

Seems about half of Americans asked think that this credo is from the U.S. Constitution.

Should it be?

I was checking to confirm that my “50% of Americans” memory was accurate and found this current ref: Does America need to update Constitution? Renowned political scientist believes it’s time for big changes. by Ed Williams.

Interesting read.

July 27, 2007

Book shifting

Filed under: books,libraries,life — Towse @ 6:17 pm

Book shifting. So here’s the problem. The bookcases are, for the most part, filled with the books I intend to stay where they are.

That leaves hundreds of boxes of books to go through on my quest to let go (“Finally!” sez his nibs) of some of the books. You can’t see into boxes without opening them. All the boxes of books on a given subject aren’t necessarily together.

We already have twenty boxes of books or so packed up for the Coast Community Library. The older younger one will come by with his partner maybe the first weekend in August to see if any of the books in the additional nine boxes of SFF titles intended for CCL are ones they want. Let’s call it thirty boxes of books boxed up and ready to shift out. … and more than ten times that many still here, most unsorted.

I have four main areas where books in boxes (and loose now, due to the sorting) are stashed. I have too many boxes whose contents aren’t easily identifiable because I didn’t, back when we were packing the boxes up, always remember to label the boxes (as I do now) so that the contents labels are visible from all sides.

I have other boxes that might be labeled but are hidden by other boxes so I can’t determine the content. In all I have over thirty boxes that are “unknown.” I have another twenty or so that are labeled “nonfic” which need to be sorted through. I have eight that are labeled “misc” which need to be sorted through. I need to get to the “unknown” boxes and see what they might be. And I have the added twist that, due to the vagaries of the move, what is in the boxes is not necessarily as is labeled, if the box is even labeled.

Yesterday I decided that I had to get a grip on what we had, where. I spent some time counting boxes in the four areas and today I created an Excel spreadsheet (and I am so not a believer in spreadsheets) so I can get a handle on which boxes are where and what I can do to shift books around, always remembering that I don’t want to end up with too many books in any one place because even though the space was built with a live load req of 40 lbs/sq foot average, you just don’t want to push it and, like J Carter Brown, I think it was, have your walls started spreading out because of the load of books on the upper floors.

The purpose of this first pass is to get the nonfic and misc and whatever books rough-sorted into categories so that I can then take each category and sort it more definitively and then take those sub-sorts and figure out what stays, what goes.

So … my box count yesterday. After feeding the data into Excel I find I have over seventy “subject” sorts of labels for the boxes, and that’s even with me throwing physics and biology into a greater superset of science when I was making the book count.

Seventy subjects is about fifty too many. I’m having a problem though with sorting some titles. Are they “essay” or “memoir”? When does “memoir” segue into “autobiography”? Would “Letters” be autobiography or memoir or essay? How about if they’re Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to His Son? When do memoirs belong in history?

So I sort and sort and resort. My “reference” boxes had contained all sorts of things. My “facts” boxes had started out as trivia/factoid Uncle John’s and Cecil Adams sorts of books but had wound up also including flags of the world and Amos, Amas, Amat. And around and around and around.

The gross decision is that Area 1 will contain fiction, which still needs sorting. Fiction is all that fiction stuff that isn’t SFF or MYS. Area 2 will contain history & biography & autobiography & memoirs? essays? Area 3 will have SCI-related for now and JUV. Area 4 (the largest area and where I’ve been sorting) will get liberal arts (except history and biography) and all the stuff that needs sorting.

My kludgey spreadsheet tells me how many of what are where so I can wrap my head around how many non-fiction things are in the fiction area (24 boxes! that’s not bad) and how many fiction things are elsewhere (2 … okay).

The sheet also tells me that I have about 400 boxes of books, which (take out the thirty destined for CCL or the older younger one) means (hurray!) over half of the books moved in are either on shelves or headed out the door soon.

When I was making my notes, I didn’t note how many of those 400+ boxes have already been through the primary sort, but there have been loads. Heck, I probably missed some boxes anyway, but close enough is close enough.

A light’s glimmering at the end of the tunnel.

One thing, no, two things, I found day before yesterday were two identical copies of Kipfer’s THE ORDER OF THINGS, an interesting book but don’t ask me why I have two copies. The table of contents may help me with some of the “How do I sort out the science-related books into subcategories that will make it easy for me to see what I have?” sorts of decisions.

Does Feynman go in “essays” or in “physics” or in just what?

How do I make sure when I’m sorting through for dups that I have all the Feynmans in one place?

Odd, isn’t it, that I haven’t been buying many books at used bookstores or thrift shops lately?

The Simi Wine Dinner at Fior d’Italia that wasn’t

Filed under: food — Towse @ 5:23 pm

Simi Wine Dinner at Fior d’Italia, or the dinner that wasn’t.

As I was shifting and sorting books yesterday, I was looking forward to the Simi Wine winemaker’s dinner at Fior d’Italia. I’d even gone to the site earlier in the day to doublecheck which winery was being featured. There it was (and still is!): “Simi Vineyards, Sonoma. July 26. Special Guest, Steve Reeder”

I got home from book sorting. His nibs got home soon after. We skinned off our Levis (mine black, his blue) and put on clothes that were more dinner-like and walked down the hill, arriving at Fior d’Italia a little after 6:30 p.m., which is when the dinner was to start.

The front door had a sign on it to use the door to the bar and come in that way, so we did. The bar was PACKED. We found our way to the main dining room, but there was obviously a banquet planned there, not the winemaker dinner. We wandered around trying to find someone to talk to, trying to find something that looked like a winemaker dinner.

We finally grabbed a waiter who knew nothing about a winemaker dinner, who grabbed another waiter who said there wasn’t one after all and finally the guy who runs the dining room and banquet rooms showed up and said, “Yes, it’s been canceled. We tried to get hold of … who are you?”

We told him.

“Yes. We left multiple messages for you this afternoon starting after 1 p.m. Didn’t you get them?”

Well, no, we said. We’d got in, changed clothes, came straight down without checking the answering machine soze not to be late.

“Well,” he said. (The waiter who’d told us the dinner was canceled was in the process of trying to convince us to — for the same price the winemaker dinner would’ve been — try their extravagant multi-course paired-with-wine special dinner.) “Stay for dinner. We’ll take 20% off the bill.”

So we stayed. Dinner was fine. A deal at 20% off. Some parts of it were excellent, but not so excellent I’d rave to friends that they must try it. Mostly, we agreed between the two of us that it would be a good place to bring friends who weren’t adventurous diners. Loads of food.

The antipasti had cured olives, melon and prosciutto, jumbo shrimp with a rustic tomato sauce, crab with a homemade mayonnaise, mozzarella/basil/tomato. Antipasti was followed by Caesar salad, which was followed by tricolor pasta: gnocchi with tomato sauce, tortellini with Alfredo sauce, penne with a not-intense (tourist-version) basil pesto. The main plate was also a medley: fillet mignon with a brown sauce (I’m sure they have a more elegant name for it), veal scallopine and salmon with a dill sauce. Dessert was tiramisu, which was different from any I’ve ever had. Served in a hot fudge sundae glass, it was a sweetened mascarpone mousse-like dish with the lady finger soaked in coffee liqueur embedded in the mascarpone and mini chocolate chips on top. A different bit of wine came with each course: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Essencia (an orange muscat dessert wine).

Unfortunately, the first courses had been so filling that I left behind some of the salmon and most of the tiramisu. Given my drothers, I would’ve had all of the tiramisu and skipped the Caesar salad. Better for me, I suppose, to have done what I did.

As I said, the front dining room was packed with the car buff types, there for a banquet, whoever they might have been. The dining room where we were, which is usually, I think, used as banquet rooms, was also pretty full. Obviously, the decision to cancel the winemaker dinner hadn’t been made at lunch time. There was no room for a winemaker dinner. Obviously, someone had forgotten to make the call earlier in the week or last week or whenever the decision was made.

We walked home after dinner, uphill, stuffed to the brim. Listened to our phone messages. First, a woman: We are calling from Fior d’Italia. We called to leave you a message a week or two ago and just wanted to remind you that the winemaker dinner tonight has been canceled. Next, our guy who runs the dining rooms: I’m calling from Fior d’Italia to make sure you know that the winemaker dinner tonight has been canceled.

(1) We did get 20% off, but they should’ve called us earlier than the afternoon of the dinner. (2) Don’t go telling us you called a week or two ago and are just calling us to remind us that. … We aren’t stupid. Someone forgot. Just tell us straight up.

Dinner was fine. Filling. Not to die for. We may go back with friends who don’t want to have the tasty but unusual things we can find elsewhere. Good place to bring your friends who think that tomato and mozzarella and basil is an exotic dish.

July 26, 2007

elephants and luck facing window

Filed under: blog — Towse @ 5:09 pm

Someone found the blog with an search for /elephants and luck facing window/.

Note the lack of “”.

I’m wondering what the person was in search of.

Boxloads of books

Filed under: books,libraries,life — Towse @ 5:55 am

I’m tired.

There are boxloads of books to go through.


So, what’s taking so long, Sal?

Let’s recap.

We moved ~ 800 boxes of books up here. I have no clue how many are left to sort through. We moved a bunch of shelves as well, but most of those shelves are full so the sorting is taking a long while, while I move boxes from this end of the space to that.

The cookbooks are out of boxes (for the most part) and against the wall in the eastmost room. The travel books (pure travel and travelogue) are in two banks of bookcases perpendicular to the cookbook bank.

The SFF books take up three banks of book shelves to the west of the two banks of travel books (and, yes, perpendicular to the cookbook bank).

There are no more shelves in this room, which is the room where I’ve been sorting books out of boxes and into other boxes since last week or so when I finished sorting the SFF books. (The SFF books wound up with four boxes of books with no space on the shelves and another five boxes of SFF short stories that didn’t fit on the shelves.)

The hall between the eastmost room and the westmost room has stacks of book boxes, mostly boxes marked HIST or PHYSICS or SCI plus boxes with several Harvard Classics sets. Oh, and my SUNSET Magazine going back to forever, and a box of Christmas craft/recipe magazines and books, and …

I have all the crime fiction (six+ bookcases) on shelves in the westmost room along with a couple shelves of writing books. That room also has a bunch of art (pictures, posters, paintings) and music (78s, LPs, tape, CDs and the occasional 45RPM) that need sorting through eventually (not now) and another twenty-five boxes or so of a motley collection of books, which will be sorted in the current go through.

The alcove outside the westmost room has the SUNSET magazines mentioned up there plus a bookcase full of assorted Tightwad Gazettes and how-to-make-it and FIX YOUR PLUMBING sorts of books that need sorting. Oh, and there’s probably 25 boxes labeled HIST and S/W DEV and TECH and what-not.

The hall leading out from the alcove outside the westmost room to the door on that level has a few bookshelves that I may use for sorting the books in that area. Mostly the area has boxes of adult fiction books and (currently) seventeen+ boxes of books destined for the library and nine boxes of SFF books waiting for the older younger one to poke through plus some NF and some MISCNF and … oh, it goes on and on.

My pal came through today to pick up some cookbooks I’d offered. She took a few. Offered me some of hers that she was getting rid of.

The books she didn’t take were reboxed for the library.

I found a box or two of duplicates and things I didn’t want/need today. I brought home a list of titles to check in and to make sure I don’t accidentally give away a first edition of Sue Grafton’s KEZIAH DANE.

What did I find? Well, here are some examples.

I found TWO sets of the 2vol. THE PIMA BAJO OF CENTRAL SONORA, MEXICO. by Pennington. 1980. Univ of Utah

I found a selection of slim pamphlets with dust covers by David Starr Jordan and printed roundabouts 1912 by Whitaker & Ray-Wiggin in San Francisco. Titles:

Google /”David Starr Jordan”/ if you don’t know who he is.

I found a slim, HB, blue jacket with gilt SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN REFERENCE BOOK. 1891. Munn & Co, Office of the Scientific American.

I found MASTERING MAGIC CARDS by George H. Baxter and Larry W. Smith. Wordware Publ. 1995.

And I found everything in between and to both sides.

My method is thus: rather than go through just once and decide toss/save, I’m going through once, sorting out the dups and things I know I really have no need of and repacking the boxes, relabeling, if necessary. (Thanks be for masking tape. Rip off the old, on with the new.)

I relabel boxes which had been NF or MISC or VERY MISC as FIC REF FACT phil/psych/soc HIST SCI or whatever and sort the books into them with a gross sort of sort.

The next pass will be another pass for duplicates and “do I want to keep this?” and an opportunity to sort the general (SCI, f’rex) boxes into a finer sort so that I can wrap my head around what I have instead of just thinking, I think I saw that title or one like that about five boxes ago. I’ll have a chance to pull everything out of the FUN & GAMES boxes, f’rex, and see just how many copies of 150 WAYS TO PLAY SOLITAIRE I have. (I found three today.)

Then there’ll be a third level sort … then …

Come 2009, I may have things under control.

Update: The library all the boxes of books are intended for is the Coast Community Library in Point Arena, which serves the northern Mendocino coast communities.

An old friend is heavily involved with book hugger issues up there and showed us around the library when we were up visiting him in Gualala last May. What a neat library. Great community support. What a story that library and its Friends group have.

When the library was moving from their dinky digs into the old Mercantile building (which the Friends raised money to buy and restore), over a hundred locals lined up along Highway One through town for a “book worm” bucket brigade and moved the books across Highway One and down the road a piece to the new digs, hand to hand until the books were all moved and settled on their shelves in the restored building.

How many places have that kind of community support for the library?

We told Don that he can come down here to get books and if they all don’t fit in his van (and they won’t, it’s now apparent), we’ll take books up and the library can take what they want of the books and sell the rest to make money for the library. That offer to Don last May is what precipitated all this sorting activity. That and the fact that books in boxes do you no good when you’re looking for your copy of Watts’ THE WAY OF ZEN and all you know is that it’s here somewhere in one of these boxes …

July 22, 2007

Harry Potter

Filed under: books,life — Towse @ 6:58 am

I did not spend midnight at a bookstore.

I spent the hours before midnight wending my way home from the lobster feed at the Bankers Club and chatting with our 2-unit-condo partner-in-crime at our front doorstep until the new parents next door asked us to pipe down.

Today, when we were at Costco buying greens and tequila and Bisquick and whatever, I considered buying the latest HP but because I’m not all caught up with the first six, I decided it wasn’t critical to buy a first-edition (one of 12 million) today.

We got to Costco late — too late for his nibs to nab a 2 lb. loaf of Acme Bread’s sour batard. We’ll have to go down to the Ferry Building and pick up a 1 lb. loaf. Seems the bakery at the Ferry Building doesn’t do 2 lb. loafs, alas.

We’d left our place in the early afternoon. Spent some time at the preview for Bonham’s SOMA auction. Went over to the loft and sorted through books. Headed off to Costco and then home.

One of the guys in an adjacent line was a tough-enough guy there with his one-maybe-two-year-old. He chatted up an even tougher looking guy in another lane, a buddy, who came over and chatted up the young ‘un.

What surprised, and pleased me, was that all our tough-enough guy had in his cart were three Harry Potters.

I imagined him telling the kids that he would =not= hang out at Barnes&Noble with them at midnight, but he =would= promise to go to Costco today and buy a copy for each of the reading kids so they wouldn’t have to share.

We came home plus white t-shirts for his nibs but sans Harry Potter.

As I’m sorting through the boxes of books, I will set aside the Harry Potters and then spend a few days of serious reading to get me through the series.

Harry Potter. Who he?

C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success – New York Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:38 am

Published: July 21, 2007

“Michael Moritz, the venture capitalist who built a personal $1.5 billion fortune discovering the likes of Google, YouTube, Yahoo and PayPal, and taking them public, may seem preternaturally in tune with new media. But it is the imprint of old media — books by the thousands sprawling through his Bay Area house — that occupies his mind.

“‘My wife calls me the Imelda Marcos of books,’ Mr. Moritz said in an interview. ‘As soon as a book enters our home it is guaranteed a permanent place in our lives. Because I have never been able to part with even one, they have gradually accumulated like sediment.’”


C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success

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