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If you're on Twitter and you haven't discovered it already, I recommend @dystopianYA as an amusing parody account. Here's a typical sequence of tweets:

"They're against the revolution! Change scares people." Anthem says.
"That's dumb. I'm 16 and I can tell right from wrong," I answer.

Anthem and I are the first people from different Categories to ever fall in love.

I changed my mind. I love Ermias now.

On a similar theme, I read a blurb for a YA novel that made no narrative sense. The elements were all sensical, and the grammar was fine, but it didn't hang together. It was as if you took a typical YA blurb and removed the verbs, nouns, and adjectives and then filled it in, Mad Libs style. Kind of like this:

"Deposed princess Ariestella is used to the ghostly petals that follow her everywhere, but when a dragon appears in the nearby canal, only street urchin Thomas can lead the Army of the Free to victory."

See what I mean? You can try:

[adjective] [character type] [name] is [verb], but when [noun] [verb] in [place], only [adjective] [character type] [name] can [verb].

Play along in comments!

The language of instruction in Zanzibar

A couple of days ago, NPR had a story about a remarkable short film, "Present Tense," made by teens in the fishing village of Matemwe, in Zanzibar.

It was about the horrible educational bind they're in: having been educated in Swahili in primary school, they're expected to continue their education in English in secondary school. The courses are taught in English--but the students don't know English. Furthermore, neither do their teachers, as fluency in English isn't required of graduates from teachers college.

We cannot understand our exam papers

The teacher speaks English, but I don't understand what he speaks about.
This is our problem in the class: he must speak English, but the students don't understand.

The well water has a lot of bad things and salt. If I have a lot of education, I will change this situation ...
If I'm an engineer, I will build new and good wells.

The teens made the film with the help of a retired pilot, who submitted it to EYE Want Change, a British film festival with a social consciousness bent. Their film won first place--but even better, the government of Zanzibar announced a change in its education policy: although English will still be taught as a foreign language, the language of instruction in secondary school will be Swahili.

There are many farmers of Polish heritage in the area. Sapowsky Farms is within biking distance and on my way home on volunteering days.

Here is bad news--and good news--concerning asparagus:

And for something completely different, here is a tree that grows dust masks. They look like single-breast bras, don't they? People who want to do some illegal exploration in the abandoned building (and others like it) seen in the background can harvest a mask, so as not to breath in asbestos.

And my music for today is "Carmelita," by Warren Zevon. It's a song I'd never heard before yesterday, when I was waiting for a long freight train to go by. On one car was scrawled

Carmelita hold me tighter I think I'm going down

It sounded like it came from something, and when I looked, I found it was a (slightly misquoted) line from "Carmelita":

Carmelita hold me tighter
I think I'm sinking down
And I'm all strung out on heroin
on the outskirts of town

I wonder if the person who wrote it really was all strung out on heroin. Since my area's currently in a heroin epidemic, it seems possible. Then again, the freight train could have come from somewhere far away.

Reading a book

Some years ago I read Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi. I really loved it. When I talked enthusiastically about it to people, though, I found that many had been burned by their experience with The Windup Girl.

Well *now* I'm reading The Windup Girl, as a mother-daughter reading club experience (this is with Little Springtime; next I'll read Ancillary Sword, which I'm going to read with the ninja girl), and I can see where all the hackles and suspicion came from.

The Windup Girl certainly is giving us stuff to talk over, that's for sure. Some stuff has been so glaring that it almost has CRITICIZE ME pasted on its back--rape scenes, for instance. Other stuff is annoying to the two of us but maybe not so much to other readers, like the way in which non-English words are deployed, and which ones (actually, that leads into a more substantive criticism, but I'll save that for when I finish the book).

Even as we're criticizing elements, we can be enjoying or admiring other things, though. We've been greeting each other with things like "Careful not to run into any Japanese gene-hack weevil today" and "Seen any cibiscosis or blister rust this morning?" because Japanese gene-hack weevil, cibiscosis, and blister rust--three types of plague--get mentioned like every page in Windup Girl. And yet, truth is, I'm super impressed by Bacigalupi's imagining of future plagues and his feel for agribusiness names for crop strains and disease strains. It's very immersive worldbuilding.

More when I've finished.

flower crown -- truck -- bottles

The flowers are wearing flower crowns these days, and going dancing:

What better thing to do as midsummer approaches?

The last time I walked this way, a truck was pulled up onto the sandy shore at the edge of the sea of meadow grass. A guy was lying beside, and sort of under, the truck. I think I saw tools under there--no doubt he was repairing something--but I kind of imagined maybe there was a lunch under there too? He was on his cell phone. Maybe he was consulting about the truck's problem. Or maybe he was just chatting with someone as he took his ease, sheltered from the road by his truck, looking out over the ripping grass and wildflowers.

I didn't have my camera, but I had my cell phone. Here is a teeny tiny picture. You can just make out his truck.

And speaking of trucks, look at the magnificent truck on this now-empty bottle of tea:

I think I may use it for a message in a bottle. And speaking of bottles for messages, I offered tiny decorated message-bottles as an extra incentive for time_shark's Kickstarter for Clockwork Phoenix 5, and it funded! And I have only three decorated bottles to hand, so needed to get a few more. Easily accomplished. Here is today's roadside haul:

Now I'll just wash them....

And soon I'll be decorating.

By the way, Clockwork Phoenix 5 is open to submissions, so go ye forth and submit!

A day in doodles

playing with cars

There is a young princess who loves to play with cars and building blocks. Her father the king is a city planner, and each summer the whole highway system becomes her toy. Her father works in a skyscraper overlooking the ring roads and the interstates, and every Wednesday, he brings his daughter to work with him and lets her play in a room on the top floor where there's a diorama of the city. She puts little model traffic cones here and there on the diorama, and down on the actual roads, they put up real traffic cones, and traffic is diverted accordingly.

(photo source)

She moves model cranes and cement mixers here and there, and the real things race to their assigned locations.

(photo source)

In the evening, she watches the elaborate, twisted paths of white headlights and red tail lights that her diversions have created. Commuters sigh. The whims of the royal princess must be endured.

(photo source)

Boardwalk lovers

I love the boardwalk over the marsh, on the way to the supermarket. I'm not alone in loving it. The plants that grow underneath it and roundabout it love it too. They show their affection by growing up and around it and through it--sexy green embrace. (You can click on these photos to make them bigger.)

The Virginia creeper loves it:

The oriental bittersweet loves it:

The poison ivy loves it:

Rosa multiflora love-love-loves it:

And so do the local grasses:

What can I say? It's a very lovable boardwalk.

Annnd... I have no good transition for this, but here are a couple of lovely things from today:

Beautiful grass, with cow's vetch and daisy fleabane:

And the turbulent sky:

In mirrors

I'm still very much enjoying Boy, Snow, Bird, which is doing all kinds of complicated things, things I'm still trying to stretch my mind around, while at the same time telling a comprehensible story in an intriguing way.

This section is told from Bird's point of view (Bird is the dark-skinned daughter whose birth reveals that her father's family have all been passing). She doesn't always appear in mirrors, which makes her fascinated by how other people regard themselves in mirrors:

Grammy Olivia avoids her own gaze and looks at her hair. Gee-Ma Agnes peeps reluctantly and then looks glad, like her reflection's so much better than she could have hoped for. Aunt Mia shakes her head a little, Oh, so it's you again, is it? Louis tenses and then relaxes--Who's that? Oh, all right, I guess I can live with him. Dad looks quietly irritated by his reflection, like it just said something he strongly disagrees with. Mom locks eyes with hers. She's one of the few people I've observed who seems to be trying to catch her reflection out, willing it to make one false move. (p. 185-186)

And now the story enters an epistolary phase--complicated by the gift of a pen whose ink vanishes. . .

A propos of nothing--well, fairy tales, maybe?--some rosa multithornaflora


mercury tears

The healing angel and I were eating a late dinner, very late. (How late? Like 10 pm) There came, from outside, a loud, hollow rumbling, like a kid peddling a Big Wheel. It seemed really close, like the kid was maybe pedaling up our driveway.

I realized it was someone rolling their trash bin to the end of their driveway. Probably my neighbor across the street. But it sounded like maybe she'd rolled it right up to my porch.

Since the healing angel had looked as nonplussed as I felt at the sound, I told him what I thought it was.

"No," he said. "That's not it. It's a carriage. A carriage that rolled out of the past into the present--just as it was going past our house--and then rolled back into the past again."

Later Little Springtime came home, and I told her the story. "Big Wheel? Trash bin? Can't you even tell," she said, "that it was an elephant dragging himself home after a hard day? Those were his footsteps you heard. And what about his tears? His sorrowful tears, made of mercury, not saltwater--did you hear those, as they hit the pavement?"

The healing angel and Little Springtime are awesome

. . . but now I need to go to bed. *sleepy*

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June 2015



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