Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Night Videos

So, The Simpsons Movie opens today, 18 years after the famously jaundiced family made the jump from shorts on the Tracy Ullman Show to their own half-hour sitcom. Is there any doubt as to the music video must be featured in today's installment? You've got Bart Simpson, Sideshow Bob, Princess Kashmere and Bleeding Gums Murphy. It's directed by animation genius Brad Bird, the man who gave us The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. What more could anyone want?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Harry and the Potters.

Now Playing: Antonin Dvorák The Best of Dvorák

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Evolution of insanity

Yesterday I wrote over at No Fear of the Future that Pope Benedict has come out in defense of evolution. Although I'm wary about his various pronouncements, I view this in a generally positive light. In short, it made me happy.

I should've known it wouldn't last. The happiness, that is. Today I learn via Byzantium's Shores that our beloved (*cough* 39 percent of the vote *cough*) Governor Rick Perry has decided to abandon all pretense of competency and appoint avowed creationist Don McLeroy to head up the State Board of Education.
Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller, whose group advocates for the strict separation of church and state, said Mr. Perry deserves an "F" for appointing "a clear ideologue who has repeatedly put his own personal and political agendas ahead of sound science, good health and solid textbooks for students."

She noted that in 2003, Dr. McLeroy was one of four board members who voted against proposed high school biology textbooks because he felt their coverage of evolution was "too dogmatic" and did not include possible flaws in Charles Darwin's theory of how life on Earth evolved from lower forms.

"Dr. McLeroy will now be in charge of the board's scheduled revision of the state's science curriculum standards, an area where he has already cast his lot with extremists who want to censor what our schoolchildren learn," said Ms. Miller, whose group frequently battles social conservatives over textbooks and other issues.

The Austin American-Statesman chimes in with a somewhat exasperated editorial, in which the nicest thing they could find to say about McLeroy was that he wasn't the worst possible choice:
In 2001, McLeroy and a majority of the board rejected the only Advanced Placement textbook for high school environmental science because its views on global warming and other events didn't comport with the beliefs of the board majority. The book wasn't factual and was anti-American and anti-Christian, the majority claimed. Meanwhile, dozens of colleges and universities were using the textbook, including Baylor University, the nation's largest Baptist college.

The Texas Freedom Network is on top of this travesty, and working to drum up scrutiny of McLeroy's potential future activities on the board. The Texas Citizens for Science website doesn't seem to be as up to date. This is troubling, because this is an issue they could do well to publicize and bring to the public's (and media's) attention.

Now Playing: The Gipsy Kings Volare!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I'll be attending Archon 31 in St. Louis Aug. 2-5. It'll be my first NASFiC, and my first Worldcon-level event since Lone Star Con 2 back in '97. That's like 10 years. Wow.

Anyway, the Archon folks have released the preliminary schedule of events, which has me participating in the following discuss-o-ramas:
  • Thu, 3 p.m. - Ballroom C3 Smoke & Mirrors
  • Fri, 11 p.m. - Ballroom D5 I'm Just Here for the Beer!
  • Fri, 1 p.m. - Ballroom A SFWA: What is it? What is it for?
  • Sun, Noon - Ballroom C3 Creating Convincing Characters Workshop
  • Sun, 3 p.m. - Ballroom D5 The SF Films and TV of Kurt Russell

It's a long way back to Texas, so my participation in that last Sunday panel is pretty iffy at this point. Especially since I have Armadillocon 29 coming up the following weekend, with the big writers workshop and all. But if any of you are going to be at the St. Louis con, stop by and say hello.

Now Playing: Don Henley The End of the Innocence

Monday, July 23, 2007


I've always known that the cover art of a book influences my reading of said book (and indeed, often if I even pick up that book or not). I'd never give it much thought regarding short fiction, because I've rarely had any of my short fiction illustrated. That changed with "The Final Voyage of La Riaza," which Interzone published with half a dozen illustrations from artist Doug Sirois. I'm on record as being impressed with the quality of the illustrations Sirois turned in. He's very talented. I particularly love the chart room scene, with Diego Brazos and Capitan Ancira. I want an orrery like that!

But some of the other scenes weren't entirely accurate. Not that I'm complaining--I'd love the chance to have Sirois illustrate another of my stories someday. But as "La Riaza" was a swashbuckler in flying airships, he drew the ships as, well, 18th century ocean-going vessels flying through the air. Which is cool imagery, no doubt, but the ships in my story are closer to 18th century zeppelins (or dirigibles, you you want to be a stickler). I've got a things for zeppelins/dirigibles, you see (No, really?). No matter, I thought. The illustrations won't effect the story. And they're pretty, too.

While the majority of opinions regarding my story have been, thankfully, positive,
more than one specifically stated that the ships weren't dirigibles. That couldn't be right, I thought. Was I unclear in my writing? I thought I'd taken great care to describe the cigar-shaped, canvas-hulled craft as a zeppelin-like airship in the opening section without actually using those words.
Diego took the elevator wheel, then rang out the “cast off” signal. Immediately, La Riaza drifted back with the wind. The loosed mooring lines slipped free of the towers, quickly pulled in and stowed by airmen in the bow and stern. The silver ship rose smoothly into the sky. Emerald striping ran along the lines of the ship’s ribs from the folded masts and rigging at the bow to the low-slung pilothouse and horizontal, boxy complex of rudders and elevators at the stern.

Granted, I never use "cigar" or "torpedo" to describe the actual shape of the vessel, but I thought there were enough clues to tip the reader off that this was a dirigible, and their imagination would fill in the rest. Apparently not. The (thankfully few) negative reviews seem to have accepted the "magic flying pirate ships" reading of it as well, and not been impressed.

The next one I write in this sequence, I'll have to take extra care to leave the ship's form wholly unambiguous. Maybe put in something along the lines of:
The great ship looked like an enormous, airborne phallus; the imposing helio-filled hull was little more than thin silver canvas stretched over a complex skeleton of timber ribbing running the length of the vessel. Count von Zeppelin would be proud of this alternate-reality incarnation of his creation, that is, if he were still alive and willing to read English-language speculative fiction.

That might actually do the trick... unless there are more flying magic pirate ships in the picture, that is. ;-)

Now Playing: Sting The Dream of the Blue Turtles

Saturday, July 21, 2007


My p. sanguinolenta bloomed for the first time today. As you can see in the pic, it's set additional buds as well.


I'm quite happy about this, because I nearly killed this poor plant several times--and did manage to do in it's clone. The first time, I over-watered and it shrivelled and died, only to send up some new sprouts a few days later. The next time, I left of a long weekend and when I came back, it, along with several other plants in my window, had dried out and crisped. The others recovered, but the p. sanguinolenta didn't. Undeterred, I watered twice weekly and waited. After a month, a tiny, feeble little leaf popped up, almost as if it was afraid to draw much attention to itself, lest I try to kill it again. But I refrained. It too months of patience, but it appears this little plant has gotten over its trauma and is confident enough to bloom. Yay!

Now Playing: nothing (the wife's reading Harry Potter, and must have silence)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Night Videos

I had a really cool, obscure video from yesteryear all lined up for today's installment, but then the 10,000-ton colossus known as Harry Potter derailed those plans. I mean, I hadn't even heard of Wizard rock until this morning, and now I can nod my head knowingly if someone mentions they were going to the library to see Harry & the Potters or Draco & the Malfoys perform. I'm so sad. So anyway, here's Harry & the Potters performing "The Power of Love" (dubbed by YouTube fans as "Save Ginny Weasley from Dean Thomas").

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Cars.

Now Playing: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Music for Glass Harmonica

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Neolithic D'oh!

Nothing surprises me any more these days. Well, except for maybe this.
PAGANS have pledged to perform “rain magic” to wash away cartoon character Homer Simpson who was painted next to their famous fertility symbol - the Cerne Abbas giant.

The 17th century chalk outline of the naked, sexually aroused, club-wielding giant is believed by many to be a symbol of ancient spirituality.

Many couples also believe the 180ft giant, which is carved in the hillside above Cerne Abbas, Dorset, is an aid to fertility.

A giant 180ft Homer Simpson brandishing a doughnut was painted next to the well-endowed figure today in a publicity stunt to promote The Simpsons Movie released later this month.

Now Playing: Violent Femmes Why Do Birds Sing?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More passion than you can shake a stick at

You're not going to believe this. I hardly believe it myself. Last summer, I gave a fellow in San Antonio a couple of root cuttings from my Incense. He'd been into cactus for a long time, and had just stumbled across the whole world of passiflora and contacted me via email after seeing some posts I'd made online about the plants. I didn't think anything more of it--I pretty much give away passiflora root cuttings to anyone who asks, right?

He emailed me last week. Said he'd bought some additional plants and seeds since last summer, they'd flourished, and now had more than he could easily deal with. Would I like some? All I had to do was drive to his house and pick them up.

I now have TWENTY-SIX year-old (more or less) plants evenly divided amongst alata, edulis and vitifolia x coccinea. Each of these is AT LEAST six feet long. Some are longer. They were all pretty much rootbound in little 3.5" pots. I've managed to transplant about half into gallon pots, but man, it's a task. I'm also going to attempt to plant a couple of the alatas in sheltered spots in my yard. Passiflora authority John Vanderplank writes that they're hardy down to freezing, but he seems to be a bit conservative with his estimates (in my experience). We'll see.

This guy also had several other plants growing huge in the ground. I got cuttings of coccinea, vitifolia, Pura Vida and Crimson Tears-- once all was said and done, I sliced the collected vines up into a total of 30 potted cuttings. Now it's a case of sitting back and waiting with my fingers crossed for these disembodied stems to put out roots.

He also gave me a packet of Pride of Barbados seeds (which I was looking for, believe it or not) and p. antioquensis seeds. He told me he's been in contact with a grower in San Diego that's had a great deal of success growing antioquensis in the ground. Antioquensis is a rare and sought-after tasconia-type passi that does poorly whenever temperatures climb above 80 degrees. Supposedly, the roots are what can't handle the heat, so this guy has been grafting them onto caerulea rootstock. I kind of goggled at this bit of information. Apparently there's a back issue of the Passiflora Society newsletter that goes into a good bit of detail about this. Very interesting. I'm probably going to have to join that groups sooner or later.

Now Playing: Jerry Jeff Walker Viva Terlingua

Friday, July 13, 2007

Silly meme

One of the side effects of having regular readers (and really, don't these poor souls have anything better to do with their time?) is getting tagged with random blog memes. Jaquandor just hit me up with this, so I'll muddle through as best I'm able before inflicting it upon some other unsuspecting saps.
INSTRUCTIONS: Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so.

1. The Urban Recluse
2. No Smoking in the Skull Cave
3. Electronic Cerebrectomy
4. Byzantium's Shores: The Occasional Meditations of yada yada yada
5. Gibberish: Dubious & Questionable Ravings of Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Next, select five people to tag.

Hmmm. Let's see if I can tag some people I've not annoyed in this manner previously:

1. Mikal Trimm
2. Martha Wells
3. Mark Finn
4. Scott McCullar
5. Andy Duncan

And now for the questions!

What were you doing ten years ago?

Marveling at the fact I'd been married a whole year and my wife had yet to kick me out.

What were you doing one year ago?

Writing (and selling) a heck of a lot more fiction than I've been lately.

Five snacks you enjoy.

1. Chips and salsa. The hotter, the better (and by hotter, I mean heat evaluated on the volume of tears, sweat and running nose I'm experiencing after the fact).
2. Salted-in-shell peanuts. Except of those random bad ones. Yeech!
3. Raw broccoli with ranch dip. I practically lived off this my first few weeks out of college.
4. Cheese, melted.
5. Cashews.

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics.

1. "Lola" The Kinks
3. "Calling America" ELO
4. "My Life" Billy Joel
5. "Living On A Thin Line" The Kinks (hey, be glad the weren't all Kinks songs)

Five things you would do if you were a billionaire. (Ah. I see we're talking J.K. Rowling money here...)

1. Open a huge beer barrel restaurant/tourist trap in New Braunfels.
2. Set up endowments for the regional SF conventions in Texas that are still author-friendly.
3. Invest in or found my own publishing company.
4. Buy a 1937 Studebaker Dictator and a 1937 President.
5. Build a castle to live in.

Five bad habits.

1. Blowing my nose in public. Without using a tissue.
2. Procrastinating.
3. Belching.
4. I'm too quick to scold my children.
5. Tune out my wife when she complains about all my bad habits.

Five things you like doing.

1. Making beer and mead.
2. Making salsa.
3. Consuming the above.
4. Taking the kids to Schlitterbahn.
5. Playing with my passion flowers.

Five things you would never wear again.

1. Many "cool" fashions from the '80s.
2. '70s-era leisure suits (no kidding--my mom has pictures of me in on at about 6 years of age).
3. um... you know what? I just don't have that strong of feelings about clothing.

Now Playing: Andean Fusion Spirit Of The Incas - Andean Symphony II

Friday Night Videos

The Cars were so huge during my high school years--they were probably the ultimate 80s singles band (although their albums usually had a good bit of interesting stuff on them that was too quirky for radio. "Moving in Stereo" anyone?). "Magic" wasn't the biggest hit off of the multiplatinum Heartbeat City, but it is by far my favorite video. So simple, yet inventive and effective. I watched this one over and over back in the day. Never gets old.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Men Without Hats.

Now Playing: Sheryl Crow Tuesday Night Music Club

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

With the Order of the Phoenix movie now out and the final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows due out in another week or so, I finally took it upon myself to read the sixth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. While Rowling has improved as a storyteller over the course of writing these books, the technical quality of her writing as also declined, starting with Goblet of Fire and continuing through the next several books. If you look at the series, you'll see that the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban was the last of the "slim" Potter books. Everything published thereafter has been bloated. This corresponds with the Potter books becoming a publishing "event" and tighter production deadlines. When Rowling's turning in her final draft three months before publication date, there's precious little time for any editorial give-and-take, and that really shows with the flabbiness and over-reliance on adverbs in Rowling's prose. Somebody give this billionaire a copy of The Transitive Vampire, please.

That her storytelling is strong enough to overcome these significant flaws is a good sign. And Half Blood Prince kept me engaged, but I think it too suffered from a rush to production. The subplot with the emotional, moody Tonks went absolutely nowhere, and while I don't begrudge Remus Lupin from getting some action, the initial hints that Tonks had been Sirius Black's lover was much more poignant. Likewise the subplot between Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour. Sloppy and really, once you get right down to it, cut from whole cloth. Even the mystery of the "Half Blood Prince" was treated without urgency and seemed something of an afterthought. When it's finally revealed at the end of the book, the effect is anticlimactic since other events significantly overshadow it.

Once again, the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore keeps the story going, and is where most of the good bits can be found. But once again, much time is given to big infodumps via the magical pensieve which shows memories of events past. And once again, various parties' withholding of vital information from each other leads to painful and sometimes tragic complications. But that's to be expected. What wasn't expected is the direction Rowling seems to be taking the final book: Abandoning the one-year-at-Hogwarts formula and having Harry strike out on his own as an underage and undertrained wizard. It could be interesting, but I doubt that holds strictly true, since Rowling made it quite clear in the scenes with Harry and Dumbledore going after Voldemort's horcrux that Harry is nowhere near powerful or knowledgeable enough to accomplish his mission with his current abilities. The book does its job, positioning all the players on the stage for the final act. So here are my predictions for significant events in Deathly Hallows:
  1. Harry lives.
  2. Dumbledore lives.
  3. Snape is a good guy.
  4. Neville Longbottom plays a key, heroic role in defeating Voldemort, by virtue of his connection with the prophecy.
  5. Hermione's S.P.E.W. efforts finally pay off.
  6. Sirius comes back.
  7. Harry becomes the Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor at Hogwarts.

I believe Harry lives because, even though he's something of a tragic hero (or rather, a hero suffering through tragedy), he's been victimized his entire life. After banishing Voldemort, he deserves a reward of happiness, and with Rowling's fixation on love and loyalty in the sixth book, I believe she'll do good by the boy wizard. I also think killing him would be a betrayal of the young readers who've grown up reading the books, and identify with Harry and his friends. I also believe killing Harry would undermine the future commercial viability of the series, as well as the films. It's become big business, and there's a lot of pressure there on Rowling. Prediction 7 strikes me as symmetrical. Hogwarts is the only place Harry has ever felt at home. He's also got more experience than almost anyone else, and by banishing Voldemort, will have broken the curse set upon that position. Seems poetic. No. 6, admittedly is something of a reach. Rowling may fully intend for Sirius to be dead as can be, but his was such a abstract, pointless death in Order of the Phoenix that I can't help but think she's got some big reveal planned. But as for prognostications with more evidence to back them up, let's look at predictions nos. 2 and 3, shall we?
  1. Dumbledore's trust in Snape is absolute. Never doubt Dumbledore.
  2. In the climactic scene, Dumbledore tells Draco Malfoy something along the lines of "We can hide you so that Voldemort can never find you." If this isn't cryptic foreshadowing, I don't know what is.
  3. Snape is a master of occulmancy. This is the only way he could've survived so long as a double agent working against Voldemort.
  4. Supposedly killing Dumbledore eliminates the last doubts Voldemort may have regarding Snape's loyalty.
  5. In previous examples of the Avada Kedavra spell's use, the victim simply falls down dead. Why then is Dumbledore flung up in the air and off the Horwarts astronomy tower in dramatic, theatrical fashion?
  6. Snape doesn't kill Harry during his escape, although he has ample opportunity to do so. Yes, Voldemort has said "Potter is mine" but Snape showed a willingness to disobey orders by "killing" Dumbledore (remember, the other Deatheaters wouldn't strike at Dumbledore because Draco was the one supposed to do the deed). Moreover, Snape's duel with Harry takes on the surreal form of a classroom instruction, with Snape chastising, critiquing and offering advice (however snide it may be) about Harry's skills and technique. Snape refrains from even so much as hurting Harry during their fight, although it's clear Snape had complete advantage.
  7. Snape just about goes apeshit with fury when Harry calls him a coward. Of all the things going on right then in the battle between forces of dark and light, why would that relatively minor insult set him off? Because Snape is risking everything by playing the role of a double agent. Snape's afraid, and reveals as much in his earlier conversation with Dumbledore when he says he doesn't want to do it anymore.
  8. Snape hates Harry's father, James, but for the most part has been silent about Harry's mother, Lily. Via pensive flashbacks, it's shown that Lily showed the young Snape kindness while they were students at Hogwarts, even defending him from the bullying actions of James. This is very speculative here, but is it possible that Snape (a bachelor as far as we know) harbored a crush on Lily, and feels deep remorse for his role in her death? Those pensieve scenes were good character development, sure, but my gut tells me they've got more significance than merely fleshing out long-dead characters.

There are other bits and pieces here and there, but those are the main clues that come to mind. If I think of more, I'll post them here when I get a chance.

Now Playing: ParaCelt Montage

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I just saw San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. I was over at the San Marcos Outlet Malls on an errand, and stopped in the parking lot to let a pedestrian--dressed in shorts, white tube socks and sandals--pass. I thought to myself, "Man, that white-haired, unfashionably dress fellow sure looks familiar." Then it struck me who he was--the local four-time NBA champion coach. So I rolled down the window and shouted, "Pop! It sure was a crummy thing to do, firing Bob Hill in mid-season back in '96 with David Robinson set to come off the injured list!"

Actually, I didn't yell that. But it sure would've been funny, after everything Pop's accomplished with the Spurs.

So why was he in San Marcos, anyway? I guess the Spurs have to spend those championship bonuses somewhere...

Now Playing: Clandestine The Haunting


I got this one late last summer/early fall from Glass House Works. They'd sent it along as a 'bonus' plant in my order, I suppose to make up for the fact it took them six months to fill it. Incense was my first passiflora, so this tetraploid remake wasn't high on my wish list. But a passi is a passi, right? I planted it out a couple of months ago, and it has started rewarding me with blossoms:



There are several subtle differences between Inspiration and Incense. Despite being a tetraploid, Inspiration isn't any larger than Incense--either in flower or leaf size. Incense may actually be slightly more vigorous. The leaves of Inspiration are almost always three lobed, instead of five. It also shows no sign of the yellowing virus infecting all clones of Incense. The biggest difference is in the flowers--but a casual observer probably wouldn't notice. The petals reflex significantly in Inspiration, giving the flower a convex profile, whereas Incense is mostly flat in profile. Inspiration also has a slightly darker, more intense hue of purple, with more blue in it than Incense.

All in all, it's a nice plant. If you like Incense but are worried about that latent virus, this one's a good substitute if you can find it.

Now Playing: Wyndnwyre About Time

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I finally got to see Terry Gilliam's Tideland, courtesy of Netflix. What a very strange little movie--and I say that being a huge fan of Gilliam's body of work. In many ways, it's his most mainstream movie ever, since there's nothing supernatural in it at all beyond a little girl's imagination. When Jeliza Rose's imagination (and also her dreams) take center stage, there is an abundance of surreal, beautiful and sometimes troubling imagery. In that way Tideland is most similar to Gilliam's The Fisher King, only with a Jeliza Rose's sanity-saving innocence and escapism replacing Parry's mental imbalance from the earlier film.

Tideland is in many ways a return to form for Gilliam after the misstep the potentially brilliant Brothers Grimm turned out to be (oh, how good the film could've been had Gilliam rewritten that sloppy, uninspired script). Here he tackles complex, uncomfortable issues. The macabre takes center stage, framed in absurdity. The most mundane things--a upturned school bus, a disembodied Barbie head--become otherworldly under his direction. The performances here are fantastic. Jodelle Ferland is amazing as Jeliza Rose, surpassing even Sara Polley's stellar turn as Sally Salt in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Brendan Fletcher gives perhaps his best performance ever as the lobotomized, childlike Dickens, a character that brings to mind Brad Pitt's best-ever acting performance as Jeffrey Goines in 12 Monkeys. Seriously, there's some great acting going on here.

Unfortunately, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize why the film never found an audience. Despite Gilliam's introduction begging the viewer to watch the film as if through the innocent eyes of a child, it's impossible to watch this movie without becoming very uncomfortable with the undercurrent of child sex abuse. I'm willing to forgive a lot, especially since I understood Gilliam's intentions with the first scene, and the revelations regarding Dickens' childhood. But then Gilliam revisits it again. And again. There's such a thing a diminishing returns, and Gilliam runs up against it here, especially since the various scenes could easily have been combined into one for the same emotional and story impact. As it is, my brother walked out and I nervously eyed the fast forward button.

The ending, too, just sort of stumbles across the finish line. There's a tragic stab at poignancy and the implication that Jeliza Rose has finally escaped the inadvertent hell her life and become, with better days ahead. But it doesn't have any resonance, and very little closure. The pieces are all there, but they never quite come together, as if Gilliam himself were unsure how to wrap up this twisted little movie.

Tideland isn't his best film, but it contains some of his best work. Too bad most viewers are going to bounce off it so hard.

Now Playing: Clandestine The Ale is Dear

Monday, July 09, 2007


While I' obsessing over passion flowers, I figure I may as well post a pic of my newest bloom. This is the passiflora foetida var. gossypiifolia I purchased from Texas Madrone Nursery a couple of months back. It's more than 10 feet long now, and blooming almost daily. Unfortunately, the second plant I purchased isn't blooming yet, so I'm not getting any fruit. But it sure is pretty.



Sadly, the blossoms open in the early morning and close around the noon hour, so they're not around as long as other passion flowers. But those weird, veined bracts encapsulating the flower but are fascinating, are they not? Looks like some alien pod about to burst open. The feathery airs on the bracts excrete a sticky sap that small insects sometimes get trapped in. The reason for this is not certain, but there is speculation that this might be an early adaptation in the evolution of a carnivorous plant. Interesting, no?

Now Playing: SixMileBridge Across the Water

Passion flowers!

I've posted this on a passion flower forum I frequent, but readers of this blog might be interested in this as well. I've got an excess of plants to trade, and am hoping to increase the variety of my passiflora collection while helping others out at the same time. I prefer doing 1:1 exchanges for rooted plants or seeds, but will also consider unrooted cutting swaps and other arrangements. If you don't have anything to trade, drop me a line--I'm almost always willing to send out a plant or seeds in exchange for postage. I'm pretty easy going that way. :-)

Incarnata "Dwarf"
I don't know the provenance of this incarnata, but it's unusual. The flowers are 2"-2.5" across and darker purple than others. The fruit is smallish, between the size of a kumquat and a small plum. The vine is small as well, growing only about 10' in a season. An excellent candidate for a container-grown incarnata or if you have limited space for one. It suckers, but not aggressively. Rooted daughter plants available for immediate trade.

Incarnata "Georgia"
Classic incarnata type. Nice fat kiwi-sized fruit. Nice flowers roughly 3" across. Very fruitful. VERY strong grower. Suckers aggressively. Caterpillars can't even keep this one under control. Recommended for fence cover, etc. Decent cold tolerance as well. Rooted daughter plants available for immediate trade.

Incarnata "Texas Giant"
The prize of my collection. Huge 4" flowers. Very showy, very fragrant. The first photo was taken of the first blossom this year. Yes, those are the actual colors. Those intense blues have muted as the summer has progressed, and the flowers now more closely resemble last season's lavender-dominated blossoms (bottom right) although somewhat darker. Plant also sported one "Alba" blossom in May (see photo bottom left). So this one is definitely entertaining. Large tropical leaves. Drought tolerant. Fruit the size of goose eggs (see second photo). Strong grower. Does not sucker so readily as "Georgia." Growth habit is more linear, less "bushy." Rooted daughter plants available for immediate trade.

My first passion flower. Gorgeous 4" flowers. Very aromatic. Vigorous. Suckers readily. Mostly sterile, will occasionally produce 2" fruit if pollinated with caerulea or incarnata pollen. Fruit usually hollow, sometimes has one or two mature seeds. More cold tolerant than my incarnata, will regrow from roots if frozen back to the ground. Rooted daughter plants available for immediate trade.

Caerulea var. "Constance Eliott"
Pretty 3" white flowers. The orange fruit (red pulp) has a faintly blackberry taste to them, and are somewhat sweeter than my regular caerulea. Moderately vigorous, moderate suckering. Good cold tolerance. Rooted daughter plants available for immediate trade.

Pretty 3" flowers with a lighter blue color than other caerulea I've seen. Vigorous growth. Moderately vigorous suckering. Fruitful, but orange fruit are smallish and the pulp almost tasteless. Strong cold tolerance. Rooted daughter plants available for immediate trade.

"Lady Margaret"
Gorgeous flowers. Cross pollination with caerulea and Constance Eliott produce 2" green fruit with longitudinal striping. Fruit contains several mature seeds. Plant seems to like richer soil and more water than other passis. Cold tolerance unknown. No plants available, but I can either root cuttings or trade unrooted cuttings in short order.

Uncommon decaloba type. Highly variable leaves. Small yellow flowers, similar to lutea. More vigorous than lutea, but with less cold tolerance. Drought tolerant. Texas native. No plants available, but I can either root cuttings or trade unrooted cuttings in short order.

Incarnata seed
Seed produced by crossing the Georgia and Texas incarnata plants listed above. Fresh from this season, stored in moist sand in the refrigerator.

Caerulea seed
Seed produced by crossing the caerulea and Constance Eliott plants listed above. Fresh from this season, stored in moist sand in the refrigerator.

x colvillii seed
Seed produced by crossing the caerulea and incarnata plants listed above, both caerulea and Constance Eliott pollinated available. Fresh from this season, stored in moist sand in the refrigerator.

Dewberry "Rubus trivialis"
Okay, not a passion flower at all, but I've got a number of these--more than I can use--and am willing to swap. Drought tolerant.

Hopefully, I'll have more types available for trade later this summer, but this is a good listing of what I have immediately available.

Now Playing: Silly Wizard The Best of Silly Wizard

Let there be beer

Started my batch of beer for Armadillocon last night. Six gallons of nut-brown ale are happily fermenting away in my office--I opened the door this morning to check on it, and was bowled over by the aroma of fresh yeast. Mmmmmm.

I'd been contemplating brewing up something exotic--barley wine or black ale, something really stick-to-your-ribs--before the request came for a special brew for the con. Since I've done this one several times in recent years (most recently for Mark Finn's book release), I had the itch to experiment a little. So this six-gallon batch is an all-malt edition. I expect the malt will go quite well with the base character of the nut-brown ale, but time will tell. And the best part of it is, even if the beer sucks, people at the con will either be A) too drunk or 2) too nice to tell me so.

Now Playing: Clandestine Music from Home

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bottling mead

Last night I finally bottled the mint and jalapeño meads that I've had taking up space in my office for far too long. A couple of weeks ago I added Sparkolloid to clear up the cloudiness in them, and it worked like a charm. After making a quick run to San Antonio Homebrew Supply to pick up some much-needed corks (as well as some beer fixin's--but that's another story) I set to work on bottling the beverages.

When all was said and done, I had four bottles of jalapeño mead (technically a metheglin, since jalapeño would qualify more as a spice than anything else, right?) and five bottles of mint metheglin (again, mint being a spice, right?). The mint, as it has trended the whole time, was much clearer and had solid, compact lees in the bottom. It bottled up easily. The little bit I tasted during the siphoning struck me as surprisingly mellow. I'm not a huge mint fan--the flavor is at Lisa's request--but the chocolate mint and spearmint I used (gathered from the back flowerbeds) have blended into a nice, smooth flavor. This may very well combine well with Sprite or 7-Up for a tasty, light cooler-type drink. The jalapeño, on the other hand, remained stubborn. The first three bottles filled easily and cleanly, but the lees began to stir toward the end of the fourth bottle--they weren't solidly packed at all. I'd hoped to bottle a fifth (these were one-gallon glass carboys the mead was aging in, remember) but I only got about half a bottle filled before the liquid became too murky to continue. The sediments were an ugly, gray-brown muddy color, and my efforts to filter some of it by running it through a coffee filter resulted in murky, stopped-up coffee filters. The jalapeño definitely had an impact on the yeast and lees, far more than I'd have expected. As for the flavor... well, this one's going to age for a while before I give a verdict. The rough mead edge had mellowed a good bit, but there wasn't much blending going on yet between the jalapeño and honey flavors. It undeniably tastes of jalapeño, though, with a pleasant mouthburn following shortly after swallowing. This one probably could've used a little more in the way of tannins, but it's not a flavor that's going to win over many people in the long run.

Now Playing: Violent Femmes Violent Femmes

Friday Night Videos

Three albums, two hits and one good video. Probably best-remembered for Weird Al's "Brady Bunch" parody--how's that for immortality? So without further ado, I present the trippy mid-80s ren faire techno-psychedelia of Men Without Hats:

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Herbie Hancock.

Now Playing: ZZ Top Antenna

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pardon me

So President Bush, to the surprise of nobody, intervenes to keep Scooter Libby out of prison. This, after the famous statement, "Anybody involved with leaking Valerie Plame's identity will be out of my administration" (that's paraphrased--I'm not wasting my time hunting down the original quote). I guess it's simply embarrassing when investigations reveal that everyone in your administration secretly talked to the media at one time or another in the scandal. But Bush's mere "commuting" of Libby's sentence, negating the two-and-a-half year prison sentence but not the conviction, caught many by surprise. Bush said he "respects" the jury's decision, but the punishment was too harsh. Ha.

Bush is merely deferring as much controversy as he can for the time being. Commuting the sentence keeps Libby out of prison for now while the appeals play out in court. In the final days of his presidency--just you watch--Bush will grant Libby a full pardon, arguing that Libby has already suffered enough (translation: Members of Team Bush are above the law). It's all politics, all sleazy. Just watch. That full pardon is coming, and anyone who doesn't expect it is either a fool or delusional.

UPDATED: See? What'd I tell you?

Now Playing: Billy Joel The Nylon Curtain

Monday, July 02, 2007

Back to the beach

Packed up the family and went to the beach over the weekend. We'd planned on going to Port Aransas' Sandfest back in April, but illness intervened. Other planned beach excursions fell apart due to bad weather, sickness and other things that cropped up to disrupt our plans. With all the thunderstorms and river flooding hitting central Texas these past few weeks, we weren't sure if we would make it work this time, either, but with forecasts calling for only 30 percent chance of t-storms on the coast, we figured we'd take our chances and set out Saturday morning.

The two-and-a-half hour drive went surprisingly smoothly, giving us reason to hope the big road trip to St. Louis for NASFiC next month won't be as challenging as we've been fearing. Not easy, mind you, but not so bad.

So we arrive in Port Aransas and stop into one of those beachcomber souvenir shops before we head to the beach, and overhear several customers complaining about how bad the seaweed is on the beach. No biggie. We've been to the beach many times when the Sargassum weed was thick on the shore. Only we quickly discovered that this wasn't the case. Instead of the expected mounds of Sargassum weed, we instead found... mulch? Black material of plant origin, each piece half an inch in length or smaller, formed a thick mat along the shore. The sea was thick with it, more washing up continuously. Jumping past it into the surf resulted in a body getting covered in the crumbly bits. It was gross. It looked for all the world like... oh, joy. Flood debris. There'd been no flooding on the island or heavy storms recently, but all the flooded rivers in the state had been dumping their debris-filled, flood-swollen contents into the Gulf for weeks. The ground-up branches, leaves and other assorted mess was now washing up on the shore, and will likely continue to do so for weeks to come. Throwing in the towel, we packed up after only 30 minutes and drove to the hotel in Corpus Christi where we hit the pool instead.

Side note: All Days Inns are not created equal. The one on the Corpus Christi bay front has somewhat reasonable rates, but the rooms are pretty trashy and the beds are the single most uncomfortable torture devices I've ever had the misfortune of sleeping on. Lisa will back me up on this last count.

That evening, after a surprisingly good meal at Blackbeard's (although the calamari was oddly cut into strips, which makes me wonder if it was fake) we walked out to the Corpus Christi beach. The beach is an artificial on, since it's on the bay, and generally mediocre with lots of crushed shells and little in the way of good beach sand. But it was heaven in comparison to Port Aransas from earlier. Because it's in a sheltered bay, none of the flood debris had made it to the beach. Yay! The kids played along the shoreline, and Lisa took lots of good pictures as the sun went down. We decided we'd hit the beach first thing in the morning before checking out of the hotel, since it's only a block's walk away.

The next morning we hit the beach. And found jellyfish. Big, fat ones, larger than a dinner plate were washed up on the shore every 10 feet or so. And smaller ones, the size of a silver dollar, were washed up every 10 inches or so. I tried clearing off a section of the beach for the kids to play in the water without worrying about stepping on the jellyfish, but the ones I scooped up and buried were replaced immediately--looking closer, the water was full of them. sigh Back to the pool once more. Only the pool was closed for cleaning. Double sigh

Abandoning any thoughts of swimming, we packed up and checked out. We decided, finally, to visit the aircraft carrier Lexington docked at the south end of the beach as a floating museum, since we've talked about going for years but never have. Let me just say that thing is huge. No matter how large you imagine it, it's bigger. We'd figured about two hours for the visit, and ended up spending five. Everyone was footsore and exhausted after hiking around the Lex, clambering up through the bridge, running around the flight deck, going through the engine rooms, mess, berths... It really is a floating city. Despite the amount of time we spent there, we still had to skim most of the displays and information. A person could spend several days exploring only those portions of the ship open to the public and still not take everything in. It also reinforced my conviction that set designers for SF spacecraft in movies need to study naval vessels more closely--there is very little wasted space on even a massive ship like the Lexington. With few exceptions, "cramped" is the operative word. Space is a luxury, and the ship is utilitarian.

A late lunch at the bay front Whataburger perked everyone up, although we were still bushed. The drive home was uneventful. Maybe we'll try for the beach again in September--provided, of course, there hasn't been any recent inland flooding to foul the beaches.

Now Playing: Rush Chronicles