Category Archives: writing

The Great Generational Divide – Print vs. Cursive

During the media hype over a certain person’s political trial, one of the young witnesses on the stand was queried as to whether or not she had actually written a certain note. A sticking point in the trial became that she couldn’t have written it, since she couldn’t even read it. Turns out the young lady in question could not read cursive.

Now, many people brought this up as evidence of her lack of education. I cannot speak as to her education or lack thereof, not knowing her or her history personally. But my own teen son – despite several efforts on the part of his quite decent schools and myself – ALSO cannot read or write in cursive. “They tried teaching me for three years,” he says. Now this is a person who will have in-depth conversations with you about evolution, international politics, and the latest hacker scandals; but he can’t write or read in cursive. And why should he?

When is the last time you hand wrote a letter to someone? When is the last time you wrote anything down at all, even your grocery list? Do kids even pass notes in class anymore? They text each other on their phones, as far as I can tell. On the rare occasions people do write things down, they do so in print-like text more often than not, mimicking the words they see all around them.

Now, I have read a great many articles on this “problem” which is caused by modern technology, mostly mourning the loss of the “art” of cursive. But given that few people mastered that art and more had what they self-deprecatingly referred to as “chicken scratch” which was easily misinterpreted; this seems more a case of typical human resistance to change and new technology. Do we mourn the loss of the ability to read Old English? No – this is no longer our language. Cursive handwriting is a part of our language that is fading as well, and practicing pretty script will become the hipster art of the next generation – something adorably retro, yet almost useless.

Guy Fawkes Day and NaNoWriMo; Homemade Dairy is Easy

Well although I’ve actually been working on it for a little while already – today I officially set up my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) page! I figure this will motivate me to write… in between getting ready for Warlords of Draenor. And leveling up once it comes out. And Thanksgiving.

So okay, I may not have the best concentration this month, but I’m hoping NaNoWriMo and seeing all my friends’ writing will give me a bit more of a kick in the seat of the pants. I’ll try to remember to post updates to my progress here without giving away too many spoilers.

Happy Guy Fawkes day! …does one say “Happy”? I really don’t know. I’m not British. Apparently the British children celebrate with fireworks, much like Americans celebrate the Fourth of July. We don’t burn a wicker guy, though.

I’ve been making homemade yogurt and butter. Both are astonishingly easy and if I’d realized how easy I may have started years ago.

To make yogurt, you must start with a yogurt that has a live, active yogurt culture in it already; and some milk – as much milk as you wish to turn into yogurt. You will also need a saucepan, a stirring spoon, an accurate candy thermometer or meat thermometer that can handle high temperatures, a strainer or colander and some cheesecloth.

First, heat the milk to 170-180 degrees, stirring occasionally. Let it get close to boiling without boiling over. Remove it from heat immediately when it reaches this temperature and let it cool to 100-110 degrees. You can either leave it in the saucepan or transfer it to a large, clean bowl at this point – but at this point you add about 2 tablespoons of yogurt with live, active cultures. Stir it in smoothly and set the bowl somewhere warm and dark – probably your oven – for several hours. Many people turn on the oven light to keep the oven at an appropriately warm temperature – another method is to turn it on for one minute, then turn it off. You do not want the oven temperature to go above about 100, because this will kill the cultures you are trying to encourage; but you do want the milk to stay a bit warm because it will turn faster that way.

Check the milk after several hours. You should smell the characteristic tang of yogurt and see it firming into a gelled mass with whey rising to the top. Once the consistency seems close to right for you, you can choose to stir in the whey for a softer yogurt; or use the cheesecloth and strainer to slowly drain the whey into a larger bowl and make Greek yogurt. This is usually what I do, and I save the whey to add to homemade soups and stews.

Homemade butter is even easier. I use a blender – a fairly heavy duty one – and add heavy cream, about a quart. Turn the blender on high for a minute or two. Stop then and with a large spoon, stir the frothy whipped cream inside the blender. Then turn the blender on again. You will need to repeat this process several times, and the whipped cream inside will become more and more like a mousse, very thick and bubbly and semi-solid. At some point then, almost like magic, the sounds coming from the blender will change and liquid will appear as you hear a thumping sound – this is the butter suddenly manifesting as the whipped cream separates into butter and butter milk. Let this go on for about 30 seconds then stop the blender and stir one more time to be sure all the whipped cream gets properly turned into butter.

Run the blender about 2 minutes longer. Pour off the buttermilk into a separate container (it also can be used in recipes such as homemade ranch dressing or mashed potatoes) and put your butter into a medium sized bowl. Soak the butter in ice water to remove any remaining buttermilk from it, or it will have a tendency to go rancid. You can add salt to it if you like salted butter, but bear in mind it doesn’t need very much salt at all so add salt very sparingly! Homemade butter is a bit harder than the butter bought in stores, but is very tasty.

Stephen King, The Shining, and Horror Writing

Recently I went to the bathroom and shut the door and was about to settle myself down for personal business when my heart was nearly stopped in my chest because the shower curtain moved. I was barely able to force my hand forward to push the veil aside to reveal whatever horrors might lie behind it, waiting to allow me one last breath before ripping out my throat.

Of course, it was just one of my cats.

I first read The Shining (against my parents’ explicitly expressed wishes) alone in the house when I was a teenager and had that same experience while alone, telling myself it was absolutely absurd to be afraid to use the bathroom because the bathtub door was shut – it was JUST A STORY. But it was an eternity of five minutes or so of legs-crossed terror before I could open it then, and while I am mildly embarrassed on the issue, I insist the shower curtains remain open in my house as a manner of custom now. I can’t tolerate it, you see. Stephen King has traumatized me for life.

I want to do this.

There’s been a rise in the erotic thriller, the “linkage of sex and death”, and I think it’s kind of a cheap thrill really. I’ve read a lot of these, and some of the stories are good but it’s only because the authors are good. Linking sex and death seems to take the power out of both.

The vampire is not a lover, but a murderer. He doesn’t need to be understood. We’ve understood him again and again. We’ve examined his loneliness, his motives, we’ve worshiped the bad guy to death in the last few decades. Has the bad guy snowed us with his constant pleas to “understand me, understand me, see it my way”? Is it all just an elaborate con? Is this the seduction before the vampire takes us all down?

I want the monsters in my tales to be actual monsters. Maybe that’s too simplistic, but I’ve become far too cynical for yet another tale in which the bad guy is just misunderstood, where the vampire just needs to be loved and find the right woman.

Part of my pondering leads to a curiousity about the linkage of sex, death, and the AIDS epidemic – but maybe one shouldn’t look too closely at the inner wiring of stories. Maybe one should just tell them.

But at any rate – yes, I want to scare the pants off my readers, no double entendre intended.

I want to scare you, yes you.

I want to scare you to death.