My second exercise obsession has six legs

by Jennifer Stevenson

After swimming for two years every single day, I fell in love with a new sport: horseback riding.  My husband and I began taking lessons at a hunter-jumper barn, which means they wanted me to sit on top of this enormous animal and then ride it at a fence and, presumably, go over the fence with the horse, staying on the whole time.


This terrified me, but I wanted it sooooo badly.  Unlike swimming, riding is a high-impact sport—higher than I want it to be sometimes—and if I mess up, I might hurt the horse as well as myself.  So the stakes went up significantly.


But many good things have come of my riding.

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The Gestalt of Reading

My very good friend, who we will call S, is a big fan of writer A. S has read and enjoyed everything A ever wrote. She finds his stories thought provoking and insightful. She feels a connection with his characters, and she thinks A is one of the best writers ever. I find his stories to be shallow, impractical, and puerile. I think his characters are two dimensional and puppet like, in that they do things merely to further the plot and not from any actual motivation.

So which of us is right?

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EVERGREEN: On Being a Professional Amateur #7: Where’s Waldo?

The situation: Waldo appears in chapter three as a close personal friend of the protagonist. He has an epic encounter with the villain, saves the day and endears himself to a female protagonist. He then promptly disappears for the rest of the book, while the reader is left to wonder where he went.

This is such a familiar scenario in the manuscripts I see, that I begin to suspect the “Where’s Waldo?” fad was started by a college level creative writing instructor or a convention workshop coordinator.

What happens when we treat our characters as if they were widgets?

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The Marvelous Great Tartal

Great Sea TartalThe great Tartal was once the most precious of creatures in the Wide World.  How sad it is these days that they are no longer among us.  For the Wide World is a colder, lonelier place without these great creatures that willingly carried men and women to and fro across the great waters.  A lonelier place, indeed.

Imagine that you are standing on the long, glittering marble Promenade on the shore of the shining White City.  And then, a vast body of silver and yellow-green passes into the mouth of the bay, slashing through the blue-green waters.  Imagine that this is a body of glittering living shell, strung with shining strands of bottle green and coal-red light like colored pearls.  It is a great Tartal.

Imagine that the enormous creature changes its course, slows, and its great head rises as it sights the White City.  Now the vast creature gingerly sounds the channel, seeking the way it will approach the shore.
Too large by far to take any berth in the city’s harbor, the Tartal pauses.  Then, with its mighty lungs, it exhales twin plumes of water like two whales put together, and searches again.  It senses its channel and guides itself through the waters. It does not want to beach itself upon a spit, or entangle itself in any hidden danger – great nets, perhaps, or underwater magick.  Such things would pose little obstacle to this great creature, yet there is something about the creature that is cautious, and perhaps, tired.

It inches across the bay, closer and closer still, so slowly now that it seems that it has come to a stop – but not quite – and at last, brings itself to rest alongside the beautiful Promenade that wends its way along the sandy shore. 

This is indeed what they saw in the White City on the day that Lumiere came.


How do you Find Your Way?

Hiking in the Mountains on June 17

Several years ago, my family decided to return to New Mexico where we grew up and try to revisit sites we remembered from childhood. We rented a hostel for a week: it had two long bunkhouse rooms for the kids and private rooms for the adults. The cousins entertained us nightly with Terrace Entertainment–skits, jokes, and songs that they put together. During the day, we took excursions to local places.

It was June 17th, when we decided to hike in the mountains. The hike started at about 10,000 feet elevation and was planned as a four hour trip. Hiking were myself, my husband, my brother, and three kids. It started with an easy trail up to a placid lake, where we stopped and ate lunch. We skipped rocks and played because we had plenty of time. Finally, we decided to move on.

Moss hanging from trees decorated the path. At various muddy spots in the path someone had laid a series of short logs making a dry corduroy pathway. Soon, the trail led through a stand of pines. June 17th! Under the pines there was still snow, at least 8-10 inches deep. In places, my boot slid in so deep that slushy snow fell inside the tops of the boots.

It didn’t take us long to realize that something was wrong. We should have been near the end of the trail. Instead, we came to a pole stuck in the ground that baffled us. Apparently, the winter had been harsh and had knocked down trail signs, splintered pieces of wood that now lay near the pole. We tried hold up the signs and figure out which way was “down, off the mountain.” But it was impossible to tell. We were lost! Continue reading


TOP 10 Season Two #3: A Very Short Review

This is the third issue in a 4 parter that is a follow-on to the award-winning TOP 10 from some years ago. That original run, now collected in two trade volumes, was an instant classic and is well worth seeking out.

Super heroes as precinct cops, what could be happier and better? Original writer Alan Moore moved on as he always does, but of his works Top 10 was always the best prospect for survival without the founder. An earlier miniseries by a lesser hand was tepid — skip it and save your money — but this is much better, full of plot twists and agonizing character development. You don’t really need to have read the earlier volumes, but I guarantee this will send you scurrying to find them. Continue reading


The External Validation Ghoul and Me

Ooo, my first post here at BVC! And I have a question for you —  Do you have an External Validation Ghoul?

It’s okay. You’re not alone.

“Hi, my name is Laura Anne. I have an EVG.”

For those of you scratching your head and wondering what she’s on about, every now and then, some – many – of us fall victim to this dire beast, the phantasm that sits on your chest at 4 in the morning and tells you that you’re only as good as your last sale/review/promotion, and if there’s nothing in the pipeline you’re likewise not worth anything.

It’s enough to make you swear off pistachio ice cream before bed. Or maybe think about getting into a new, less stressful career. Like politics.  Continue reading


Singularity: Dumbing down the human race?

So I’m following this interesting story at slashdot because it concerns an apparent gaffe by the company I work for, IEEE. (For how this affects me personally read my blog post). In a nutshell: a computer-generated paper was accepted to an IEEE-sponsored conference and the fake writer of the paper was assigned to run a panel at the conference.
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