Artist In Residence: The Quarantine Diaries, Episode 1

I found out the other day that William Shatner has taken to posting Kirk-style ‘captain’s log’ type entries to instruct, educate, and entertain the fans. His first one:

“Captain’s Log: Stardate 1 of self-imposed isolation. After having arrived at Planet Home, I was warmly greeted by Emissaries Espresso and Macchiato. I look forward to my planned respite from my normal duties. Kirk out.”

Someone else memed earlier that they would consider themselves not “quarantined at home” but transitioning to the role of “artist in residence” (although others said that “exiled for the good of the realm” sounded THAT much better…)

So here I am, Artist in my own Residence, and I’ll try to amuse entertain or otherwise distract you for a little while.

To that effect, let me regale you with the tale of how I drowned my bathroom.

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BVC Announces New Worlds, Year Three by Marie Brennan

New Worlds, Year Three by Marie Brennan
New Worlds, Year Three
More Essays on the Art of Worldbuilding
by Marie Brennan

The boundless complexity of worldbuilding can create a daunting challenge for writers of science fiction and fantasy. In the third volume of the New Worlds series, award-winning fantasy author and former anthropologist Marie Brennan provides not only the building blocks for creating a setting, but advice on exposition and other aspects of craft. Whether you need guidance on security or sanitation, demographics or demons or drugs, you’re sure to find inspiration here.
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The Induction Course

I’ve been thinking recently about the process of welcoming new members and, naturally, this dredged up memories of the many ‘first days’ I experienced. The most notable – and traumatic – was my first real job when I joined the Home Office and, one hour into the day, became convinced I’d accidentally joined MI5. That story appears in my short collection the Free Cornish Army and Other Stuff I Could Have Been Arrested For. This blog post is about my next job.

In 1979 I left the Home Office to join North East Gas in Leeds as a computer programmer. I was told to report to the head office where I’d spend the morning on an induction course.

Everything started well. The head office wasn’t a secret unmarked building with no way to identify if it was the right building or not. Yes, after my first day at the Home Office, my expectations were set very low. I arrived at reception, told them I was here for the induction course, and went off to the find the room. Continue reading


Lounging in France 3: Buildings

How things are put together fascinates me. A writer must know many things, and a person who makes things always wants to know how it’s done. Today let’s think about buildings.

In the US modern housing is ‘stick built’, erected out of 2 by 4s, in a balloon construction. You’ve seen them, a skeleton of wooden members with layers of plywood, Tyvek, and siding layered on outside, and insulation, drywall, and flooring inside. This is very modern, a method developed less than a hundred years ago.

I’m now living in a house built more than a thousand years ago. The walls are made of stone. Windows and doors are supported by stone or brink lintels. Here is an exterior wall:
French wall
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Meanwhile in Australia

The Arts have been suffering under our marvellous Coalition government for a long time. Until now, literature copped the biggest hiding, but now, small companies in other sectors are joining us and we really don’t want company in starving in … Continue reading



My grandmother was a dressmaker. I’m not.

She taught me how to sew, and I did sew because I liked having cool clothes. I still do like cool clothes, but I gave up sewing decades ago for the ease of thrift stores, and later, catalogue shopping.

Today, the husband and I stood in a line at Costco, waiting for our turn to enter. I wore a red calico mask and he a brown one with bronze squares. I had just made them, primarily to defy the president’s laissez faire attitude toward CDC experts, but also because I am a team player and want to show everyone else that I trust the CDC.

This is my mask-making accomplishment for today. I set out to make masks for hospital staff. Whole groups of sewers are making them. (I guess I should use the term “sewing people” Sewers, well, is something else.) I’ve looked at numerous YouTube videos, downloaded a pattern from a local dressmaker, and ventured into JoAnn’s Fabrics, where weary, overworked clerks cut yards of cotton calico for me as I stood six feet away.

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The Rambling Writer Returns to Crete, part 21: Sacred Symbols and Shrines

A last tour of the Iraklion Museum of Archaeology, with an eye on the artifacts of sacred symbols and shrines.

NOTE: Of course, Thor and I had to make another trip to Greece, as he’s fallen as much in love with the islands as I am. This time, in addition to other island-hopping, I wanted to return to Crete after 37 years. My first months-long trip was as a hippie backpacker, camping in the ruins and falling under the spell of the mysterious, vanished Minoan culture. This time, I got to introduce Thor to “glorious Kriti” and research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT. This new blog series started October 19, 2019, and continues every Saturday.

Last week’s blog post explored the evidence of Earth Goddess worship in the Minoan culture, and we’ll conclude our wandering through this mysterious past with artifacts of their sacred practices. Scholars seem to agree that their sense of the sacred was closely allied with reverence for nature, as evidenced in their art and in particular the plentiful figurines and other depictions of a Serpent Goddess/Earth Goddess and priestess figures. There were no grand temples, as in other cultures of the time and region, but instead many sanctuaries in natural caves or outdoor shrines atop high peaks. There also seem to be many small shrines probably used in homes, including the palace complexes such as Knossos. Continue reading


New Worlds: Before (and After) Money

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

In an early essay for this Patreon, I made an offhand comment about how before we had monetary systems, the economies of early societies operated on the basis of barter.

I need to walk that back. Because it turns out, it probably isn’t true.

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Blogging the Magna Carta #2

By Phyllis Irene Radford

Continuing with the Magna Carta: Clause #1 dealt with the freedom of the Church to elect their own leaders without interference from the crown.

For the entire document, you may go here:

For a more scholarly analysis of the Charter and its relevance to modern life:

Clause #2 and #3 address the problem of inheritance tax in a time when the silver penny was the standard coinage.  Thus a pound of silver became the Pound Sterling standard in later centuries.  Coinage in general was a small part of the wealth of the kingdom and rare.  Paper money nearly unheard of.  (The Knights Templar invented letters of credit with gold or jewels deposited with one branch of the Order and redeemable at the end of a journey so one did not have to carry gold while traveling.)  Most wealth was in the land and in trade.  A barter economy.

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Poodle Skirts and Pet Rocks, 19th century Style

It’s easy to assume that crazes are a modern phenomenon. But the 20th and 21st centuries by no means have a monopoly on them. As far back as the middle ages there were dance crazes, religious fervor crazes (one of which led to the so-called “Children’s Crusade” in the 13th century), and even botanical crazes (the enormous demand for tulip bulbs in 17th century Holland.)

Nor was the 19th  century exempt from crazes. The world of fashion seemed especially craze-prone, often sparked by something quite unrelated to dress. For example, the publication in 1814 of Walter Scott’s first Scottish historical novel, Waverley, led to a passion for all things Scottish. Tartan fabrics were all the rage, as you can see from this young miss at the right.
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