The wonder of living on an alien planet

I just love the sound of rain falling on canopies – leaf or shingle. It puts me in a contemplative mood.

Maybe because I recently watched Interstellar, maybe because I caught a clip of NOVA’s Alien Planets Revealed this week . . .

When I looked out the open window last night around bedtime, out into the darkness scented by the gentle rain that had just begun to fall with a pattering sound on the broad leaves of the plants in the flowerbed, I was suddenly transported with wonder.

Such a strange place, this, where life depends on a liquid that falls from the sky at irregular intervals.


Simple pleasures, experienced June 1

An “I enjoy your work” comment on a blog post, from a faraway stranger.

The successful mend of a tear in a favorite shirt. (With thread! Not duct tape!)

A two-hour lunch with a Friend Who Understands.

Laughing out loud at a precious, goofy text message.

A storm with enough oopmh to water the garden and scare the cat, but not the energy to produce hail larger than a generous pea.

A piece of mail that was neither an advertisement nor a bill.

The wonder of seeing hints of my brother’s face in a photo of my nephew.

The effervescent fizz of a freshly-opened jar of kimchi.

Good beer, a cool breeze, and a box of colored pencils.


Age a required course, old an elective

I love this essay in The Washington Post by Susan Bonifant: “Our college son invited us to a beer pong party. Here’s why I accepted.

Some tidbits:

Old is taking part in something that might be fun only if it’s easy.

Young is taking part in something that will probably be fun even if it’s hard.

Old is looking back on everything that’s already happened as better.

Young is looking forward to what will be even better


Learnin’ lingo

I was patting myself on the back last night for having successfully set up an email address incorporating my domain. I crowed to a computer-savvy friend on social media, and he responded:

Yup, you got your mx records right and that’s the weirdest part to grok. Good job!!


What kind of techno-speak is that?

1961 Martian-speak, it turns out.

According to an entry in Wikipedia:

Grok /ˈɡrɒk/ is a word coined by Robert A. Heinlein for his 1961 science-fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, where it is defined as follows: Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.

Urban Dictionary says (emphasis mine):

Taken from the book ‘Stranger in a Strange Land,’ literally meaning ‘to drink’ but taken to mean ‘understanding.’ Often used by programmers and other assorted geeks.

Grok is even in my Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary. (Of course I still use a physical dictionary. Don’t you? Such fun to browse!)

v.t. 1. to communicate thoroughly and intuitively. v.i. 2. to communicate sympathetically.

I can’t honestly say that I grok mx records, but I’m glad to have a new word to roll around on my tongue.


Quotes on motivating yourself to write

There’s some good stuff in this Flavorwire article “20 Great Writers on Motivating Yourself To Write, No Matter What.”

The ones that resonate with me at the moment are:

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice. -Octavia Butler


The old incapacity. Interrupted my writing for barely ten days and already cast out. Once again prodigious efforts stand before me. You have to dive down, as it were, and sink more rapidly than that which sinks in advance of you. -Franz Kafka

After having developed some functional writing habits and then promptly broken them up by leaving town for a couple of weeks, I’m currently in a guilt-and-rebuilding phase.


Poetry – an excuse for a party

Ever since I visited Scotland and was subsequently invited to a Burns Night supper in Iowa, I’ve tried to host a Burns Night celebration of my own every year.

What better excuse for a party than poetry, and Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns?

I was first exposed to Burns’ poetry in a Romantic Literature course in college. My favorite of his poems remains “To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough.”

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,

If you’re not sure what all a Burns Night supper involves, you can download the Robert Burns app. Yup. Seriously. It was developed by the Scottish tourism bureau, to good effect, I would say.

My parties typically involve:

  • bagpipe music (recorded)
  • tartan worn in some fashion
  • scotch and/or Scotch ale
  • cock-a-leekie soup
  • neeps & tatties (mashed turnips & potatoes)
  • a vegetarian haggis

My party this year was a few days delayed past January 25 – postponed due to a nasty cold. Happily, we still were able to fill our table with guests.

Kilt-clad Bugman, setting the haggis at the table. Not quite as "warm-reekin', rich" as a traditional haggis, but more easily stomached for some.

Kilt-clad Bugman, setting the vegetarian haggis at the table. Not quite as “warm-reekin’, rich” as a traditional haggis, but more easily stomached for some.

This year, we were treated to a flamed plum pudding, which one of the guests brought.

flamed pudding

I’ve never seen a pudding flamed before. It was lovely!

Until next year, dear haggis – should auld acquaintance be forgot!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw


Fun with words

On the The Loft Literary Center Writer’s Block blog today, Valerie Cabrera shared this post, which mentions the Google Poetics blog.

Valerie muses about the “found poem” writing technique, and how a Google autocomplete list, while random, can be quite profound:

Although Google isn’t Burroughs, or Shakespeare, or Dickinson, it still manages to shed light on the inner workings of the human mind, our wild hopes and our bizarre fears, our absurd worries and our crazy wonderings.

I have many times enjoyed the fun of playing with Google autocomplete. There was a social media meme going around awhile back to post the top autocomplete suggestions for “[your name] needs”. Here are my current ones:

Katie needs money monday
Katie needs kickstarter
Katie needs twitter

Another bit of fun I used to have with Google was to take a phrase and run it through Google translate, through at least five different languages, and then translate it back into its home language. The results were often tear-jerkingly funny. Alas, Google Translate has gotten a lot better over the years, and the phrases wind up fairly close to what you started with. (That, or I’m just not as good at coming up with connivingly difficult sentences to translate at the moment.)

I got a sweet deal, and I feel like a million bucks.
I have a sweet deal, and I feel like a million.

I have a fond memory of accompanying a friend to her friend’s band practice in a sketchy empty warehouse and entertaining myself by tearing words out of a pile of abandoned newspapers and creating found poetry on the floor.

And who can forget Magnetic Poetry?

What kinds of fun do you have with words?