Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Shirt I'm Not Wearing on Camino

Saw this at Target yesterday. Pondered buying it. Didn't.
After all, do I really want to wear a picture of Picard for 6 weeks?

My favorite line, "Kirk would never sing to children in a crisis."

Even though, actually, I can imagine (painfully) that he would, indeed, do just that.
"Kids, have you ever heard 'Rocket Man'?"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Send Me Your Words to Walk to the Sea

I invite you to handwrite on a small and LIGHTWEIGHT scrap of paper a word or hope/prayer/dream or name or any message you'd like to send on Camino, and mail (or hand) it to me.

I will take these with with me--in this little plastic baggie (boy would medieval pilgrims ever love ziplocks & plastic)--from the foothills of the Pyrenees to Finisterre, the end of the world, and there burn them at the seashore. We hope to arrive there shortly after summer solstice.

If you want to, give or send me your scraps of paper before I leave on May 8.
Those of you who don't have my address, can email and I'll send it to you.
This reflects some pondering I've done about what a spiritual pilgrimage means to me this time round.
Some people approach the Camino as they might the Appalachian Trail, purely as a physical undertaking. But it's been a pilgrimage for hundreds of years, and that's important to me. But how?

My sense of what religion/gGod is all about has changed. Ten years ago, spiritual meant "metaphysical" to me--something wispy and ethereal, like the silvery strands in the pensieve in Harry Potter.
Now it is physical... embodied in the solid, living bodies of me and other people on Earth, connected in person or through shared Story, and--through memory--also to people who once were here.
Carrying people's words on foot, like a messenger, fits the way I feel now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tips to Prevent Blisters

The probability of developing blisters while walking 800 km is quite high; while the likelihood of rescue by Mr. Spock is, sad to say, infinitesimally low.

["Way to Eden,"]

Tip for free: don't walk barefoot.

When I set out to walk the Camino in 2001, I expected blisters to be a mild annoyance. Instead, after walking about 100 km with nothing but band-aid protection, it felt like my feet were being flayed. Because they were.
[The Flaying of Marsyas, by Jusepe de Ribera]

So, this time I'm trying out all possible blister-prevention aids. Here's what I've gathered in items and advice, so far.

1. Replace your boot's insoles to add support and stability. (Even expensive boots come with flimsy insoles.) Superfeet insoles may feel weird at first because they support your arch where it begins, closer to your heel, rather than in the center. Wear every other day at first, to break them in. (about $35)

2. Gel toe spacer for big toe, if that's your hot spot. It's not mine, but I tried it out. ($4.99, Walgreens gel spacers).

3. Medical tape to help prevent blisters forming. The premium brand is made of rubber; Walgreen's is latex-free and costs less.

4. My hot spot: my little toes tuck under and get squished and rubbed. These corn cushions work as spacers. Adhesive, but the adhesive only holds a day. ($2.99 for 18 Walgreens corn cushions)

5. Toe liner socks (Injiji liners, $10). I haven't worn these yet, but they're designed to wear under your hiking socks to reduce friction between toes.

6. Hiking socks with loopy-loops on the inside. Supposedly eliminate the need for sock liners. I like Wigwam best, or Thorlo (both about $15). Coolmax or Smartwool.
Tip: To fluff up lining, turn socks inside-out to wash and dry.

7. bodyGLIDE original anti-chafe formula. My marathoner friend Maura swears by this---not just for feet but any body parts that rub. (I paid $12.99 for 2.5 oz. at REI outfitters.)

8. Not pictured: moleskin. The cotton flannel, not the notebook. I'm taking a big pile of it for my heels, which rubbed raw last time.

9. Keep your feet dry. Switch out your socks during the day--let your spare pair dry.


To avoid blisters, "Walk in a relaxed manner."

(This is surprisingly hard to do, even on pilgrimage.)

--From Joyce Rupp, Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camino, about Rupp's experience as a pilgrim (at 60, which encourages this 50 year old).

11. ...or, in the words of John Wayne, "Whoa! Take 'er easy there, Pilgrim!"
(Thanks for this tip, Crow!)

12. Finally, since no matter what we do, we will probably get some blisters, a sense of humor.

If you have any tips, please let me know!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Camino Packing

We leave on Camino three weeks from this Sunday.
I'm doing a trial packing run, wishing I'd kept a list of what I took last time. I think I have pretty much everything I need...
I'll make a list once I've got it all set.

Indispensables: something warm (sleeping bag) for albergues; something to carry water (Platypus water pouch with drinking tube); sun hat.
Optional: hiking pole (last time I used a stick I found, but since I got a generous REI gift card for my birthday, I splurged).

I'm pondering if I should cut my hair. It'll be a pain to wash in the sometimes-cold trickling shower water, but it'll keep me warm if it gets cold at night in the mountains.
Decisions, decisions.
I have a little Swiss Army knife--could always cut it on the road.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fuck Me, Rocket Man

For my 50th birthday party this year, I made up a Sixties quiz questions game (with prizes). No one of the 31 guests could "Name the first Russian cosmonaut in space in 1961, the year I was born?"
...except the 17-year-old Russian exchange student staying with friends of mine.

She said her mother had a crush on him. Seems to me he was airbrushed to be more of a rock star than the US astronauts. Also, he was more warm and personable, with that pretty smile of his.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's flight, April 12, 1961. I was five weeks old.

This mosaic image of Gagarin in Budapest, Hungary, is made from 470,016 LEGO pieces to celebrate the anniversary.

Speaking of crushes and space flight, since half my answers to the name 10 fictional characters you'd have sex with meme were the characters' creators themselves in disguise, Marz pointed me to this cute song about author lust, "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury." (Thanks, M.)
This version is "censored" uh huh, "for the guys who say that Bradbury is not a Sc*-F* Writer."

Actually, you have to sign in and promise you're at least 18 to watch the original version--it's been flagged as containing material "that may be inappropriate for some users." So bizarre, considering what the average pop video is like.

Can space flight be mentioned without posting Shatner's rendition of "Rocket Man"?
Yes! It can!
I can't bear Bill's musical interpretations---they gives me the "bamboo shoots under the fingernails" shudders.

Instead, here is Stewie from Family Guy doing his Shatner impression:

Monday, April 11, 2011

If Sofia Coppola Made Ferris Bueller's Day Off

This is so good: Ferris as one of those lost-in-space young wanderers of contemporary flicks, like the guy Zach Braff plays in Garden State.
This remix is right up there with the re-do of The Shining trailer. Editing and music make the movie.

The vidder says,"My aim was to make it look more like an indie coming of age film; perhaps the kind of film Sofia Coppola or Godard might make.
...The music is A Slight Return Home by Woodpigeon."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The "Name Ten Fictional Characters You Would Have Sex With" Meme

I've been meaning to do this meme ever since Mrs. Conclusion compiled her list and 6 out of 10 of her choices were Captain Kirk.

On my completely honest list, 10 out of 10 of my choices would be Kirk, but I decided to dredge up 9 others, since I think you all already know that.

Still, he has to be no. 1.
Jim Kirk is the only fictional character for whom I feel plain old animal lust I can imagine acting on IRL. (But not Shatner, it would really have to be the captain.) I wouldn't even want to have a relationship other than physical with him. Talk to each other? Why bother.

2. Not really lust, but I've always been a bit in love with David Copperfield, despite his priggishness. But in film, I think the adult David has always been miscast.
Jeremy Northam (left, in the ridiculous Possession) would make a fine Copperfield (based on the author, Charles Dickens, right)._____________________

3. An intelligent investigative reporter is often a turn on, in fiction anyway. Lili Taylor, whose intelligence is always attractive to me, has never been sexier than in Prêt-à-Porter/Ready to Wear when her (lesbian) journalist character repies to some fashionista's complaint that journalists always ask fluffy questions by asking [paraphrase],
"OK, then. What do you think about the fact that textile production for the fashion industry is responsible for two-thirds of water pollution in the developing world?"This picture doesn't do the character justice, but it's the only one I could find.

4. Handsome, dashing, wryly funny, and able to cook you a nice piece of fish: Robert Donat as Richard Hannay, in The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935, A. Hitchcock). Implicated in a dastardly plot by soon-to-be-murdered spy Lucie Mannheim (below, top), he ends up running around Scotland handcuffed to Madeleine Carroll (below, bottom).

5. Oh, wait... for animal lust, how could I forget Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing? I love that this sensual scene where he's teaching Jennifer Grey to dance is silly (she keeps laughing when he strokes her side) as well as steamy.

6. Fludd, the mysterious, seductive and liberating character in Hilary Mantel's novel of the same name. Is he a priest, the devil, a reincarnation of the real 17th cent. mystical cosmologist Robert Fludd?
None of the other characters can quite recall his face when he's not there. Or even, really, when he is.
Images, The Great Darkness and The Appearance of Light from Robert Fludd's The Macrocosm, 1617 & 1618, from here.

7. I went looking for a picture of Alan Tudyk as Wash, the lovely, doofy pilot on Firefly (the blond guy in the Hawaiian shirt; he plays with toy dinosaurs), but when I came across the entire cast of characters, I thought, aw, come on, how can I discriminate against the others? I'm sure they'd all be fun in bed, except uptight Simon and his fractured sister River (the two on the far right).

8. Well, Augustine was a real person, of course, but his autobiographical Confessions reads like a novel, and surely is reconstituted reality with a spin, like Dickens's David Copperfield or Stephen Colbert's "Stephen Colbert," so I'm claiming "Augustine" as a fictional character I would sleep with (before he went too, too overboard with religion). Super smart, funny, intense, and we know he liked sex. And, being from Algeria, had ample access to olive oil and figs...
The Conversion of Saint Augustine, by Fra Angelico.

9. Philip Seymour Hoffman as the brave, tender hospice nurse in Magnolia. He even looks after the dogs of the dying.

10. I see that some of my choices are the alter egos of an artist or writer. In , sexy Guido (Marcello Mastroianni, center) is the onscreen personna of director Federico Fellini (left). Creative power is sexy, whatever the creators look like. (I don't know what film is being filmed here, but probably not --Sophia Loren wasn't in that.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Reading for Fun!

After a decade of wanting to read nonfiction almost entirely, I've been reading novels. And nonfiction storybooks. Some of them are serious, but it's still such a delight, like nibbling on marzipan.

Hm. I guess what's most delightful about reading "even the serious ones"
*levitates briefly*

Serious, like Damon Galgut's The Impostor. According to the Guardian's review:
"In one sense, it is a conventional crime caper, the story of an innocent man who gets sucked into a world that he doesn't understand. In another, it is a critique of contemporary South Africa, a country that, as Galgut depicts it, is beset by cruelty and a spirit of brutish materialism."

Speaking of brutish materialism, not pictured (because it's lying on the floor by my bed) is the novel I'm currently reading: The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope. With a only a little bit of adaptation, it could easily be updated as a story about our recent economic and other -ic charlatans.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Networking Images, 3

I mean "networking" in the broad sense, as you can see, including communication technologies (practical tools) and design that connect people and ideas.

See also Networking Images 1, and Networking Images 2

Below, top: 1794, The Great Chain, Covenant, or George Washington Belt, wampum, 1794, presented by Washington to the Haudenosaunee [Iroquois]";

Below, bottom: 1974, The Arecibo Message, radio signal (of 1679 binary digits) sent into space;


BELOW: Reproduction of the "Belt Representing the Union of the Four Eastern Tribes";
"…with a dark background denoting former or potential hostility among the tribes, lightened on the margins with white borders denoting the bonds of friendship that now surround them. The alternating panels of blue and white at the ends are evidently a convention imitated from the Iroquois. The four white triangles are tribal "wigwams," the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Malecite, and Micmac. In the center is the pipe which is the symbol of peace by which the allies re joined" (Leavitt & Francis 1990: 17-18).
BELOW: Drawer of lead type at Em-Space Books Arts Center;
BELOW: The Game of Life, penny-cheap broadside (printed paper) version for American colonies;
BELOW: Three versions of Morse Code (mid-1800s). The dots and dashes are digital technology (on-and-off, not continuous);
BELOW: Catholic rosary (prayer beads);
BELOW: House of Cards, by Charles and Ray Eames, 1954; interlocking slotted cards depict objects from the animal, mineral, or vegetable kingdoms.
BELOW: The City Plate Collection from Rios Clementi Hale Studios (2010?);
BELOW: Illustration of DNA binary code (Shutterstock)
BELOW: Smartphone-readable QR (Quick Readable) code; billboard ad for restaurant in Minneapolis, MN
BELOW: DNA binary code as a tattoo;
BELOW: "Mark Miller vs Astrophysicists," 2006. Nerves in brain on left - Universe on right;

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chit Chat

What's up. Let's see...

1. Yesterday I turned in to my editor the newly revised ms of the communications book I've been working on, off and on, for ten months.

I would complain that that means I earned about $450 a month (you wouldn't believe how poorly children's publishing pays), but I am still (still!) in the artist-mode of being amazed to be paid ANYTHING for creative work I do.

Not that this was super creative.
It was, like my geography books, mostly a matter of compiling and arranging huge (HUGE) amounts of material. There was more creativity to it though, since I could shape this book any way I wanted, unlike the geography books, which had to fit into a very tight mold.

I was amazed that after a break of two months, when I reread the whole thing in one sitting, it's really good!
I don't know why I was amazed. I guess because writing it was such a long, hard stretch of solitary confinement, it didn't feel like anything very good was coming out of it.

Anyway, I felt that old familiar mix of euphoria and emptiness after sending it off.
For the first time in almost a year, it's not the undercurrent of my everyday life, whether actively working on it or not.

I feel like an animal that's been let out of a cage... still crouching on the ground outside, wondering if I'm really free to make a break for the hills, or if this is a trick and I'll be yanked back.

But I do know I'm free because yesterday I asked the managing editor at which stage was I free to say, "I'm done with this book; if you want any more changes, do them yourself"?
And the M.E. said, "That would be now."

I am willing to do, and no doubt will do, more work on the book, but knowing I'm free *not* to makes all the difference.

2. And anyway, yes, I do believe I am free to head for the hills
...because I have The Right Socks!

Cushy coolmax overdesigned hiking socks, for walking the Camino. One month from tomorrow!
(I took this photo to send to Marz--the pair I'm holding is my birthday present to her.)
These socks are ridiculously expensive. With the money I earned on my ms, I could only buy 300 pairs of them.

[OK. I see here I am broiling up a brew of resentment about the time/pay ratio. I must stop and remind myself that the publisher doesn't expect their authors to spend much time on their books.
It was entirely MY CHOICE to make it into a long haul, in-depth job.
And, in truth, I am proud of my work, and I wouldn't have been if I'd whipped it out in a month or two.
So. I will try to simmer down now.]

Yesterday afternoon I went for a five-hour walk. Today, socks notwithstanding, my feet feel a bit pulpy, and I am staying off them.
My plan is to push hard with exercise, then rest. And repeat. On Camino, the rest part won't be there much. It'll be day after day of walking for five hours or so.

I'm really looking forward to it. Even older and fatter as I am, I think I might suffer less this time round than I did in 2001.

Long-distance events like walking 800+ kilometers are as much a mind-game as a body game. And I'm beginning to believe (from experience) that age is actually an advantage in the mind-game department.
I like this a lot.
I wonder if I might apply it to writing long-haul projects too. Or if I simply Never Want to Do One Again, which is rather what I feel today.

3. Checking my blog stats this morning, I saw 3 searches for "фреди меркури."
I had to call on my very dim and very distant classical Greek to figure out that this spells "Freddie Mercury."
Once I'd got past "ph-r-e..." it was easy, because searches for "Freddie Mercury" in all its various spellings have waaaaaaay overtaken searches for "puppies in a box." Today, 134 to 14.
Plus 3 for фреди.

When I first noticed that lots of people were looking at my Freddie post, I went back and beefed it up a bit. Which made more people look at it, though there's nothing you can't find a hundred other places.
Anyway, I like the idea that strangers pop in and hopefully get a little kick from a shared love.

And now I'm off to walk a few blocks to meet a friend for coffee.
Tootle-oo, all!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cake on Camino, a Recipe

Speaking of cake, I found Spanish baked goods to be pretty unimpressive, especially compared to the amazing wine. (Totally unfair competition: the Camino winds through the Rioja region, where wine is as cheap as bottled water).

Exception: the dense almond cake we ate in Santiago. It's named in honor of Santiago (St. James), the patron saint of Spain.

I put together steps from 2 recipes here, for a recipe that looks pretty easy, though I haven't tried it yet.

Or, here's the link to a gluten-free FLOURLESS ALMOND CAKE, from Domestic This is also where I got the 2 photos of the ingredients and the finished cake.

Tarta de Santiago, Saint James's Cake


1 1/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), room temperature

4 eggs
1/2 cup water
zest (finely grated outer peel) of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 2/3 cups ground almonds
3/4 cup flour

powdered sugar to decorate

To zest a lemon, use a tool called a lemon zester (right), or grate on the fine teeth of a grater. Try not to get any of the pulpy white pith underneath.

You can buy ground almonds, which should be coarse like granulated sugar. They go rancid pretty quickly if you don't use them up. *Instructions on grinding almonds follow this recipe.


1. Heat the oven to 350 F degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar butter together. Add beaten eggs, water, and lemon zest to the sugar-butter mix, and beat well.

3. Stir the baking powder into the ground almonds and regular flour. Add to batter, and mix well.

4. Grease a round 8-inch spring-form pan. Pour batter into pan.

5. Bake in oven on the middle shelf at 350 F degrees for approximately 45-50 minutes.

6. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set on rack to cool.

7. Make a paper cutout of a design you like, lay on cooled cake, sprinkle powdered sugar over it.
(Traditionally the design on top is a cross or sword of St. James. There're lots of horrific militaristic images all along the Camino about Christians driving out the Moors (Muslims) and Jews.)

*How to Toast and Grind Almonds

Option: instead of toasting the almonds, you can blanch them (boil to remove skins, here's how).

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F

2. Place the almonds on cookie sheet into the preheated oven, and bake until they just begin to color (about 8 minutes). Remove and set onto a cooling rack to cool completely before preceding to next step.

3. Once the almonds have cooled completely (they must not be warm or they will turn to a paste in the food processor), place the almonds, 1/4 c. sugar, and 1 Tbsp flour in a food processor.

4. Grind the almonds, sugar, and flour together until to a coarse flour, about the consistency of granulated sugar. Do not grind the nuts too long or the oils will separate and cause the mixture to become paste-like.

5. Remove ground almond flour from the food processor and set aside for making the batter.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cake on Camino; A Birsdey Macro from Marz

Marz's computer went commando and so this birthday macro just now got posted on smoothable. Marz, as you may know, is some kind of wondrous inventor of wackiness, and this is just more proof.

Here's an abridged sample of her story:

So, does Fresca ever come along? Get any cake?
To find this out, read the whole shebang here.

Btw, Marz turns twenty (20!) today, so go wish her a happy birthday.
I do!