Lindens

LindenInBloom

The linden trees bloomed late this year.

Their flowers, while pleasant, aren’t particularly showy. They don’t pop out in April or May, when all the crabapple, redbud, magnolia, ornamental pear, and cherry trees are showing off. I wasn’t even cognizant of them the first 30+ years of my life. It was only when I was getting a certificate at College of DuPage and walked along a gloriously scented avenue for a few days in June that I finally asked, “What is that fragrance?”

Lindens. Now I seek them out every year and find them all over. Thank heaven. Which is what they smell like.

I understand they’re a popular tree in Germany and had the occasion to ask a German friend (Simone Heller, who is the brilliant writer of such stories as “When We Were Starless” and “How Bees Fly”) if she liked them as well.

She shared this story from her childhood:

There were three enormous old linden trees behind our house, and I used to get up on a ladder with my dad to “help” with harvesting – most important thing was to look out for bees also interested in the flowers. We harvested the flowers only. I have discovered some places that serve linden flower around here as a hot or cold infusion during the last years, and they have harvested the seeds, too (the parts with the wings). They look very nice and it doesn’t hurt to have them, but the aroma and the pharmaceutical components are mostly in the flowers. 

We used to gather them in a basket to not squish them, and then bring them up to the attic to dry them over a longer period of time, spread out on a big cloth. They should dry in a shadowed place is what I remember, not in the sun. They were used in winter then, because they are good against the symptoms of colds or to prevent colds. But when I rediscovered them a few years ago, I found they also taste very good, mild, slightly sweet, and a lot like the blooming flowers smell. I remember not being so thrilled by the taste as a child, probably because they were used as a medicine, more or less.

We have to do some major regrading and drainage work in our yard and the old tripping hazard of a silver maple that makes it practically impossible to mow will soon be removed. We’re thinking of replacing it with a linden tree.

I don’t see myself harvesting linden flowers and creating infusions from them any time soon, but I love the idea that it’s possible…

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2019 Hugo Nominations Announced!

http://www.thehugoawards.org/2019/04/2019-hugo-award-1944-retro-hugo-award-finalists/

I was so excited to see a Hugo nomination for my friend Simone’s novelette, “When We Were Starless”!

This novelette has made Simone a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon award. It is also featured in many year’s best lists. You can read it here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/heller_10_18/

If you’re eligible to vote for the Hugos, you really should give this story a read. Read as many of the nominees as you can, of course, but don’t miss Simone’s.

Do. Literally. Anything.

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By Adam S. Keck (Own work; click photo for Creative Commons license)

This blog was never meant to be a political pulpit.

I’m not eloquent when it comes to expressing my opinions, I’m not convinced you can really change anyone’s mind, and I’m uncomfortable with confrontation to the point of phobia. That said, I can’t stay quiet about the gun problem in America. But here’s my rationale for this post: most Americans are in favor of common sense gun control, especially when it comes to assault rifles and universal background checks.

I’m not expecting anyone to change their mind. I’m asking people to start speaking up for what they believe in. If you disagree with me on this, that’s your right. I’m hoping that the multitudes who want meaningful gun control policy will raise their voices to drown yours out.

You can post on social media platforms, but those who agree will already agree, and those who don’t will ignore you (at best) or attack you. You can try writing (or calling) the White House if you think that will work. To the best of my knowledge, the more effective tactic is to call your elected representatives. I use the site 5 Calls to help me keep track of the issues that matter to me, and I recommend it.

The following are some thoughts from a few people (more eloquent than I) regarding gun control.

Cookie:
If you feel the need to own a gun for self-defense or protecting your home, fine, get one; our current interpretation of the Second Amendment permits it. But you don’t need, and shouldn’t have the ability to obtain, a semi-automatic weapon. That is NOT your Second Amendment right. We have speed limits on our roads for public safety and need limits on guns as well. Our government put tight controls on buying decongestants when some clever person figured out how to make meth out of pseudoephedrine, but they can’t seem to manage to regulate guns that are used for mass murders on a frighteningly regular basis in this country. And it makes me sick.

Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune:
You want better. You want change. You want it to stop. You wanted it to stop after Virginia Tech. After Sandy Hook Elementary. After Fort Hood. After Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal in Charleston, S.C. After Pulse.
You want your children to live in a world where it’s harder to slaughter people. You want them to live in a country that tries harder to stop the slaughter.
You want to believe one of these mass shootings will be the one. The one that makes us decide assault rifles don’t make us safer. (How can a good guy with a gun stop a bad guy shooting from 32 stories above the ground?)

James Corden, The Late Late Show:
I saw a quote from Robert Kennedy that stayed with me today. He said that “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”
Now is the time for gaining that wisdom. Somewhere, it has to stop. Maybe the time for the thoughts and prayers of Congress members and the president have passed. We need to look to them to actually do something to prevent this from ever happening in the future.

Jimmy Kimmel Live:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a number of other lawmakers who won’t do anything about this because the NRA has their balls in a money clip, also sent their thoughts and their prayers today, which is good. They should be praying. They should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country, because it’s so crazy.
Right now, there are loopholes in the law that let people avoid background checks if they buy a gun privately from another party, if they buy a gun online or at a gun show. So I want to show you something. These are the faces of the senators who, days after the shooting in Orlando, voted against a bill that would have closed those loopholes. These are the 56 senators who didn’t want to do anything about that.

Stephen Colbert, The Late Show:
(Addressing Donald Trump) Want to make America great again? Do something the last two presidents haven’t been able to do. Pass any kind of common-sense gun control legislation that the vast majority of Americans want. Because if we are facing pure evil, then by all means, offer thoughts and prayers. But think about what you need to do and pray for the courage to do it.

Again, 5 Calls. Maybe you’re already subscribed but if not, it’s incredibly easy.

If you have another (constructive) idea, I’ll share it in the comments.

 

Totality

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Bro has been talking about the 2017 total solar eclipse for at least three years. Nearly two years ago, he reserved hotel rooms in Perryville, Missouri. Just off the interstate, so in case it got cloudy, we could drive to a location with clear skies.

On August 21, Bro got up at 5 a.m. to check various weather apps and decide if a move was necessary, and where we should trek to. By 6:30, we were heading down to my Toyota Sienna (affectionately nicknamed Moby Dick) to load it up with telescopes, binoculars, cameras, chairs, tables, and coolers before wolfing down breakfast and driving to Eddyville, Kentucky.

Around 10 a.m, Bro and George, aided by Bro’s Bride, George’s wife Bonnie, and me, were setting up equipment, including Bro’s specially-fitted telescope and George’s mega-fabulous binoculars. Our hosts for the occasion were the lovely people at Eddyville United Methodist Church. Unlike the gougers in Hopkinsville, Kentucky ($200 for a 10’x10′ space in a WalMart parking lot? Please!), the Methodists’ expectations were modest and their hospitality generous. For $10 they provided parking, real rest rooms, a pair of eclipse glasses, water, and a box lunch.

And lest I forget, the box lunches contained:

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According to Bro, a total solar eclipse is the most impressive natural phenomenon most people ever report seeing. I had my doubts. I’d seen partial eclipses before. They were nice.

He was right, though. A total eclipse is a whole other ball game.

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Bro reported first contact around 11:55 a.m.

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Almost total.
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During totality

Now. This is why you need to plan for the next total solar eclipse (for me, that will be in 2024). The above picture (taken during totality, when Bro was able to remove the filter from the telescope) is pretty nice. If you look really hard, you can see the reddish prominences at roughly the three- and five-o’clock positions. Sadly, this shot doesn’t approach what it feels like to look up just after you’ve whipped off your eclipse glasses (only safe during totality). The prominences were more…well, prominent, and there was one more prominence visible, which didn’t show up well in any picture I saw.

The barking dogs, chirping crickets, sudden darkness, temperature drop, and the delighted oohs, ahs, laughs, and applause of those around you just don’t show up your smartphone photos. And the diamond ring–the flash that occurs just as totality ends–can only be fully enjoyed in real time (even accompanied, as it was for me, by the little frisson of panic when I realized I’d better shield my eyes fast; I guess I looked away quickly enough because my vision remains undamaged).

There was real camaraderie among strangers. Bro and George were everyone’s best friends. People enjoyed Bro’s eclipse soundtrack and loved the telescope and binoculars outfitted with solar filters.

Two morals:

  1. Knowledgeable eclipse buddies can’t be beat. Make friends with an astronomer today!
  2. If you live in North America, start thinking about where you want to be on April 8, 2024.

Neko and Kiy

I’ve met several talented people through my local writing group, The Writing Journey. We’ve enjoyed putting story anthologies together, doing informal readers’ theater versions of Shakespeare plays, and going to see some of our members perform.

Neko Zujihan is someone I know from the group (mostly online) and he’s created something remarkable that I wanted to share:

His book is now available on severable platforms, and I hope you get a chance to experience the rich world he’s given us. Look for Kiy: Jumoku No Musuko (Son of the Forest) on his publisher’s web site, or on Amazon.

(Some of ) What I Did this Summer

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Purple Mountain Majesties

I recently spent two weeks in a beautiful place, both mentally and physically. I was accepted (huzzah!) into Taos Toolbox, which was held in Angel Fire, New Mexico.

Walter Jon Williams organized the workshop. Nancy Kress co-taught brilliantly. We were treated to guest lectures and schmoozing with Steven Gould,  E.M. Tippetts, and (damn, I buried the lede):
George R.R. Martin!

It was intense. Eighteen budding science fiction and fantasy authors from four countries wrote, read, attended classes, and/or critiqued each other’s work almost every hour we were awake.

I did sneak in some early morning walks and one hike. The above photo is your evidence.

I’ll share more about the workshop and some of the writers I met there in upcoming posts.

Happy Independence Day!

Bike MS Tour de Farms 2017

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Power Pedallers Randy, me, Tiger, Cookie, and Tyler – can you spot who was photoshopped in later?

Sigh. The most wonderful time of the year has once again come and gone.

Tour de Farms 2017 was a real challenge. In addition to how little training time we seemed to have, we have never ridden anywhere near this long with winds of 20 mph, gusting sometimes to near 30. I used to think headwinds were the worst, but that was before I learned what a 30 mph crosswind can do to you… or more properly speaking, your partners in crime.

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Cookie and Tiger meet some sheep at Rest Stop #1

Cookie and Tiger had a tough go of it. I think they still are glad they came, but it’s harder to have fun while being blown off one’s bike, or onto a gravel shoulder you had no desire to end up in. When you’re a dainty, delicate flower like Cookie or Tiger, you are far more likely to be blown sideways by a good crosswind.

I, however, am quite heavy and was thus able to keep my seat. Don’t let anyone tell you there is nothing good about being fat. It was easier to stay on my bike. Oh, and my bone density is also swell.

Our team, the Power Pedallers, raised nearly $7,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Cookie, Tiger, Randy, and Tyler will have their own folks to thank, but here’s my list:

Thanks to BK for tons of support of every imaginable kind leading up to the ride and over the weekend.

Thanks to Sis and Al for generous donations and moral support. It was wonderful to have them with us during the weekend.

Thanks also to donors Lorie & Steve, Cecelia & Brian & Emily (oh my!), Danielle, Cookie, Kishin & Rita, Elizabeth & Jay, Tim, Katherine L.,  Ann, Lori, Rocky, Quentin, and Kevin. You are all my heroes!

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Two holes, three riders: me, Tiger and Cookie