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letters to the world

Since he was five years old, Toby, who is in England, has been sending letters to strangers in countries around the world. He and his mother read up about each country, and based partly on that reading and partly on Toby's own interests, he comes up with questions he wants to ask. He handwrites the letters and sends them off. (The names and address of people to write to seem to come from well-wishers on the Internet and probably friends of friends of his parents.) So far he's sent out 906 letters and received back 386 postcards and letters. The website his parents have set up, writingtotheworld.com, includes pages with all the letters he's written, plus the replies he's received. Some of his letters have been collected into a book, but the project is still ongoing.

Toby's letter to Francis in Liberia

(reply here)

And here is Toby's letter to Nathaniel in Kyrgystan. This pattern--where the recipient is not actually from the country but is living there--seems more common than the case with Francis, above, who is actually Liberian.

(Reply here.)

Here is Toby in a Youtube video:

Fun project!
Today Matt, of Where the Hell [now toned down to Heck] Is Matt fame (videos here and here), came to dance in South Amherst.

I was one of the first people to arrive, but gradually more and more people came, until we had a small crowd. There was a woman whose name was Forest--not Forest Something, or Something Forest, just Forest. She's a dancer. There was a young meteorologist, and an acquaintance of mine who does shape-note singing, and a pastor who is going to let me go up into her belfry to take pictures of her bell and who has a little daughter. There was a woman with her two grandchildren. So many people, happy to dance!

He came with just a smartphone to film with! And asked for a stepladder and a chair, and people found those things--and then for someone willing to film, and guess who was willing: wakanomori!

Here he is consulting with Matt (forgive the crummy photo; I didn't bring my camera (crazy), so this is taken with my cell phone)

Here are two pictures of the crowd that wakanomori took from his vantage point on the ladder (you can click through to see bigger) (Also, the pastor's church is over on the right as you look at the picture):

Here's the front row, where the kids were (my cell phone picture again):

After it was over, one guy called out, "You've been all over the world--what's one thing you've learned?" Matt thought about it a minute and said, "That people want to be helpful."

It's true--you could see it in action right there. A sunshiny thought.

Matt collects way more video footage than he uses in his final video, and what he got today may not make it in--but it'll be up on his website, eventually. When it is, I'll link.

Last of all, a posed shot together :-)

a sweet grass of May

I first tasted this grass when walking with teenybuffalo one May a few years ago. It tastes like a combination of vanilla and the scent of a mown hayfield. I love it. And each year since, I enjoy it, and then it fades from my mind until the following May, when I see it, remember, and am delighted anew.

one of my favorite grasses

It is in bloom right now. Tiny tiny flowers.

this grass tastes like vanilla

grass in bloom

the limits of clouds

tell me the limits of clouds
because I hear they are not spheres
and not the cheeks of angels
but I don’t know
what other boundaries
may not be crossed
with clouds

Birds, butterflies, and a postcard

I was thinking just yesterday that maybe this year we'd have no orioles, because I hadn't heard any, and then! I heard one. And then! I saw one. So I'm happy. And it wasn't only an oriole I saw today. I also saw this lovely warbler, which I discovered is called a magnolia warbler. (I have no magnolias. He was flitting between lilacs and apple blossoms.)

Photo by Gregory S. Dysart
Gregory S. Dysart .:. Photographs of Massachusetts: Massachusetts Wood Warblers &emdash;

Meanwhile, amaebi told me that fritillary butterflies are called that because the Latin word for dice box is "fritillaria," and the butterflies' markings look like the pips on a die. So then it got me thinking that maybe fritillary butterflies are enthusiastic gamblers:

fritillaries play dice

The third thing is a postcard, but I need to explain. sovay recently talked about the film The Moon-Spinners, in which a jewel thief gets away at the end. He apparently promises to send the protagonist "a picture postcard from the Kara Bugaz." This intrigued me. Where was Kara Bugaz? It turns out to be a lake in present-day Turkmenistan that at one point in the recent past dried up entirely, sending salt-storms across the nearby land, poisoning fields. Whoa to the whoath, right? (Now it has water in it again.)

Well, I wanted to create the postcard that jewel thief Tony sends to protagonist Nikky. So here it is! The image comes from the coastal city of Garabogaz. The message is written in a font called "Byron," created based on the handwriting of, yup, Lord Byron.**

**It's hard to read, though. It says, "Dear Nikky, I promised you a picture postcard from Kara Bugaz. Is this woman smelting something? If not the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, then maybe its knives and daggers. Alas, she's probably stoking the fires merely to bake bread. Love from your favorite jewel thief, Tony."

spider timeshare

At around 7:10 in the morning, I saw a spider clamber over this lemon. Apparently I timeshare the kitchen with a spider. It takes the wee, quiet hours, and I take the noisier daylight ones. As you can see from the photo, the spider is now nowhere in sight. It may be chilling on the far side of the lemon--maybe that's the best spot in the whole kitchen? The whole point, from the spider's perspective, of participating in this timeshare? Or maybe, aware of overstaying, it's tucked itself away somewhere else, somewhere nonkitchen.

Or maybe we don't have a timeshare, maybe we have a (much more common) spaceshare. The spider takes the small corners; I get the large expanses. Relatively large. Relatively small. Since I do use the counter, and the lemon, we may have a misunderstanding about terms. Hell, if I'm not sure whether it's a timeshare or a spaceshare or both, I can easily see room for misunderstanding.

wisps of thoughts

You know how dreams can be hard to recall? You can think you have them--you can still be reverberating with them--but then when you try to go through, piece by piece, they melt away? Well, I had thoughts over the last few days of things I wanted to share, and they've gone the way of dreams.

Like, one was cars with names that are also . . . . What. Oh, I remember: math terms. Nissan Numerator (also Nissan Denominator). Toyota Sine, Cosine, and Tangent. Ford Asymptote.

There were other things to share, maybe about apple blossoms? Or books? Or fan art for Ancillary Mercy (like this or this of Sphene)? But they have vanished from my mind like morning mist on a sunny day.

So here's something I thought, though. When people tell me about their conflicts with others, or when I think over my own, I'm always imagining tweaks in the scripts of the players to arrive at happier conclusions. Sometimes even in an actual conversation, I'll find myself saying, "Say XX, and then I can say YY." But of course people prefer to come up with their own lines, thank you very much! With novels, yes: I get to decide all the lines. But real life is that extra bit muddy and unpredictable. And then I thought, well, and even novels benefit from unpredictability--not so much that the story seems random, but enough that it's breathtaking. At least in places.

PS Oh look--here's something from my camera. Windows I cut in a de-seeded and de-pithed pepper. If you are ever shrunk and trapped in a pepper, you will appreciate windows.


It was the scent of these that drew me. (ETA: I haven't checked what sort they are yet.)




no more naked toilet paper

I believe the unadorned form of naked toilet paper should be celebrated, not shamed into covering up, and yet-- a conversation with a friend this morning got me looking at the usually very frilly, and sometimes very creative, world of toilet paper roll covers. An image search revealed to me a world of Southern-belle-style covers. This is a particularly frilled-out version (Source evil Pinterest page):

Here's a sweeter one, with a homemade head (source).

But some people have let their imaginations roam in other directions:

Octopus (source)

Cupcake (source)

Duck (source)

It's a wild world of toilet paper covers out there!


speaking of money design

I like that we're getting Harriet Tubman on our money! I am in favor of having a wide variety of significant figures on the currency. Japan has Natsume Soseki, the novelist, on its money, and England has Charles Darwin.

We've been reading (very slowly) Terry Pratchett's Making Money as a family read, and we came to the scene where the mind-wiped counterfeiter Owlswick (at this point known as Clamp), whom Moist has hired to create the first official Ankh-Morpork banknote, presents it:

On the desk in front of him was the other side of the first proper dollar bill ever to be designed. Moist had seen pictures quite like it, but they had been when he was four years old, in nursery school. The face of what was presumably meant to be Lord Vetinari had two dots for eyes and a broad grin. The panorama of the vibrant city of Ankh-Morpork appeared to consist of a lot of square houses, with a window, all square, in each corner and a door in the middle.

"I think it's one of the best things I have ever done," said Clamp.

I couldn't resist doodling it.

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