Tuesday, October 02, 2007


If you were following this and lost me:


Monday, August 07, 2006


I spent the last week in the high Sierras, mostly in Palisade and Dusy Basins.


For a while, there didn't seem to be frogs in the Sierras. Now there are yellow-legged frogs, leopard frogs and a frog/toad who is lichen green with a black eye-stripe and brilliant orange under-thighs.


I am the Timothy Treadwell of marmots, except for the being devoured part. They let me hang out with them, permitted me to watch them feed (they shared roots with each other). I have given them names: Behemoth, Genghis and Victorianus.

What the mouse did:

One morning, in my green Lexan cup was a tiny mouse turd, and in my white plastic spoon was a tiny golden circle of mouse pee. He must have climbed into the cup to do this, then carefully oriented himself to achieve the desired aesthetic effect. Why in the spoon? Why at all? Some fine point of rodent mentality is at work here.


Talus climbing is the perfect rock-climbing art, a constant calculation of force, angle, balance, speed and risk, devoid of the unwanted interpolation of effete and clanking gear between myself and the rock.

Except with a pack on. With a pack on, it's grunting hell.


Now I'm back in the desert, working rather slowly on a novel set in 1876 Galveston for which I cannot devise a name.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Rant(s) of the week

There are, in fact, various things I could rant about, and the trouble is to choose between them.

I could, for example, rant about the online writers' workshop of which I am a member, and how irritating it is that they do nothing to guarantee any particular number of critiques in any particular period of time, so that I post a story and wait and wait and wait, and after long waiting get maybe one crit, which usually is unhelpful. Adding to the irritation is the fact that one can see how many people have viewed the story how many times, and these numbers make clear that *the majority of the viewers* have viewed the story more than once without bothering to leave any comments at all.

I'd really rather be paid for my stories before they are used for someone's reading pleasure.

I could rant about the insensitive, or at the very least poorly phrased, recent complaints of two commentators on TVG that handicappers had been "considered last" in the decision made by Hollywood Park to install an artificial surface. Are we to believe these commentators would like the convenience of handicappers to preempt the safety of jockeys and horses? Or the financial, time and emotional investment of trainers and owners? Or the image of racing in the eyes of the public? Surely that was not what was meant to be implied. And surely people who present themselves to the public as expert handicappers should not be afraid of a challenge.

(Hints: watch, don't bet, for a month or so; stick with turf races; stop fucking whining.)

Or, OK, I could rant about faux kink in fiction. I just read a book -- a very long book -- in a series that enrobes itself in a mantle of Gothic fantasy kink.

The brooding, handsome, absolutely fucking tedious main character spends the entire VERY LONG book brooding handsomely about the Darkness In His Soul.

In the scene meant to impress this Darkness upon our shrinking senses (or our heaving bosoms), he gets into some BDSM Lite, soft leather thongs, safewords, yadda da yadda, with a hooker who is enthusiastically consenting (like all the hookers in this wish-fulfillment world for the Gothy young.)

This is not kinky. This is not dark.

It's fake, silly and pretentious. And it's really, really irritating (and LONG). In addition, the book has this sort of fake "gay--friendlyness", because, MY GOD, the protag kisses a guy once and, well, people make coy references to gay sex and stuff. This is particularly irritating because the heterosexual scenes are graphic -- so, in other words, the text is pretending to be liberated and unprejudiced when in reality the gay stuff is off taking place somewhere in, you know, a closet.

Lord, people, it's 2006. Get over it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Writing update

Except there's not much to update.

I'm trying to sell a couple of short stories. TRIB'S WAR and STEALING THE SUN are with my agent. RIDER: A NOVEL is awaiting one last reader's examination before I send it along to him.

I've been writing stories set in the modern day, at Bay Meadows racetrack. Which is going to be torn down and developed for condos and stores some time in the next few years -- just another victim of the eternal profit motivation.

Anyway, it's frustrating. It's frustrating to get rejects in the first place; it's frustrating when they contain cryptic comments that you go crazy trying to decipher; it's frustrating when they have the rejecting editor's own (not very impressive) sales attached as a .sig file.

And it's particularly frustrating to go back to something I wrote in 2002, tried to sell, and couldn't, and realize that not only is it not good enough to sell, it's not even in Standard Manuscript Format.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

"That's horse racing" is not acceptable

A few hours ago, Barbaro broke down on the track near the start of the Preakness. It's still uncertain whether he'll live and, honestly, I don't have much hope. If by some miracle they save him, his racing career will certainly be over.

Frank Stronach, owner of several tracks and general horse racing magnate, said, as the trophy was presented to the winners, something to the effect of "It's sad, but that's horse racing."

Way to go, Mr. Stronach. Way to sound empathetic in front of a live and TV audience of millions, many of whom watch no horse racing outside the Triple Crown. Way to leave people with the impression that this happens all the time and no one really cares. Little more ammunition for PETA. Probably some people were watching the race who were starting to find racing attractive, and now wouldn't touch it with a bargepole. This was not the impression that horse racing needed to give the public.

Hopefully, the public saw the horse's jockey, Edgar Prado, and trainer, Michael Matz, and realized that this was a deeply felt tragedy. Not just another day at the track.

No catastrophic breakdown, whether of the Kentucky Derby winner or of a two thousand dollar claiming horse, should ever be dismissed. No breakdown on the track is acceptable. None. Zero. Ever. The fact that breakdowns happen, that we will never be able to absolutely prevent them, doesn't mean they should be shrugged off as 'just part of the game'.

I don't think anybody did anything wrong to cause Barbaro's fractured fetlock. It was a structural weakness or a minor injury that disintegrated under pressure. Ironically, considering what I said when Afleet Alex was retired, Barbaro was not, as far as I know, pushed too hard as a two-year-old, and as a son of Dynaformer he was bred to last.

The horse's intelligence and athleticism, as he cantered on three legs, then carefully tried to put the broken leg back down to the ground, only to pull it painfully up again, were heartbreaking.

And there is, finally, something the horse racing industry can do to prevent something like this from happening again, or at least to reduce its frequency. Just the other night I watched a discussion forum on Polytrack. I've been opposed to Polytrack as an artificial surface and because some horses don't run well on it. But the numbers seem to be there: the number of catastrophic breakdowns drops dramatically on Polytrack and similar artificial surfaces.

My qualms about Polytrack have been completely swept aside by the realization that, had Barbaro run his main-track races on that surface, he might not be struggling for his life tonight.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Name Jinx

Dosage, birthdate, geldedness, five-week layoff, they've all proven to be meaningless elements in picking a Derby winner.

Here is one superstition that stands the test of time:


Horses with mundane, silly or ignoble names almost never win the Derby. Among my top picks, while intending no insult to Ron, Bob or John, I can't really think of Lawyer Ron and Bob and John as names having the ring of nobility. Brother Derek is a bit better, but not all that much. Keyed Entry was jinxed by being a miler, but also by being apparently named for data entry (or for how you get into your house when the door is locked?). Sweetnorthernsaint is OK, but it doesn't really make much sense and it has that joinywords thing going on, which is annoying in horse names (I still remember someone or other joking about a Bob Baffert trainee, Isitingood, that the name must be 'I Sit In Goo, D'). Sinister Minister? Icky rhyme. Bluegrass Cat is a pretty good name -- he was second. Steppenwolfer is sort of catchy, although it doesn't make much sense -- he was third. Don't know what Jazil means; something in Arabic, I assume. Why name a horse Seaside Retreat? As for Showing Up, well, he... did. For fifth, I think. Sharp Humor isn't bad. Flashy Bull -- am I supposed to be picturing Reindeer Dippin, here, or is the 'bull' supposed to have different implications? Storm Treasure is pretty but doesn't actually make sense; are we saying the horse is flotsam, here? Private Vow -- well, that could be pretty much anything. Maybe he privately vowed to convince everyone he should pursue athletic endeavors other than horse racing. And Deputy Glitters. Huh? Please do not make me picture a cop in a spangled jumpsuit, people.

Cause To Believe is a great name, but the name jinx does not preclude also having to be a good horse, a factor that also caught up with Point Determined and AP Warrior.

Barbaro is a good name, with a virile ring to it. He wins the name game, and he won the race. The Name Jinx is for real.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Just humiliated a good field by a vast margin, proving once again that I can't pick Derby winners.

Things I learned:

When people on TV try and tell you that post position 18 in a 20-horse field is not a disadvantage, don't listen. Brother Derek dead heated for fourth after going wide around both turns.

I'm not sure what happened to Lawyer Ron, who looked like he was in a good spot and faded out completely at the top of the stretch. Maybe just the distance.

Keyed Entry I can only hope will make it back in races suited to his ability.

Sweetsouthernsaint didn't handle the distance and also I noticed yesterday the rail seemed dead.

Bob and John sucked. I have no idea why.

I think Barbaro is probably capable of winning the Triple Crown, and I don't like him. I mean, I don't have anything against his trainer or owner or sire or anything. I don't like him because, except in motion (he has amazing motion), he's damn ugly. Skinny bay horse with big head. Yeah, I realize it's not a beauty contest. I still don't like him anyway.