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June 30, 2010

So...I'm curious about your opinion

I know, I know. I'm usually the opinionated one here.

But I have a photography related question and I know that my readers are both smart and savvy. And many of you have an aesthetic that is not to be beat!

So I'll cut right to the heart of the matter.

I spend a fair amount of time looking at websites where amateurs with varying degrees of talent and experience post their photos.

There are some amazingly gifted photographers out there.

And...there are some amazingly gifted photoshoppers out there.

I tend to wince a little when I see photos that are lovely but are WAY post processed. It seems to be "the thing" these days to massively post process photos. So much so that I think we as photographers are losing the skill of setting up the shot on the camera.

When I mention this to fellow student photographers, everyone looks at me with a condescending smile, as though I'm the Village Idiot.

I don’t mind doing a little touch up work, a little color correction, things like that.

But the full scale photoshopping...well. I don't know, it's a thing for me.

But I sort of digress.

There is one particular photo treatment that bugs me. And yet intrigues me.

It is basically a photo in black and white where one color is pulled out.

Here, better to show you what I mean. This is my first attempt. I did this photo using the Colorsplash app on my iPhone and touched it up a bit using Photoshop Elements.

It's not the finest example of the technique, but you'll get what I mean.

Behold, my bowl of oranges, moments before they were juiced. Delicious!

I've seen some really well done versions of this technique, and it can create quite an emotion.

But I can't help looking at a black and white with one color photo, especially my own, and thinking it is something akin to the old fashioned photo-in-a-brandy-snifter as far as classy effects.

Then again...it creates laser focus to one part of the photograph which can make all the difference in the viewing experience.

Perhaps I tend to lean a little too much toward conventional.

So I'm curious if I should spend some more time perfecting this effect in Photoshop (and thus may learn to love it more) or if I should move on to other lessons?

Thoughts on both sides of the argument are really, really helpful. Feel free to Google "black and white photo with one color" to look at other examples before you render a decision.

Just curious. All thoughts are useful!

Thanks in advance!

June 29, 2010

Magic Spray - Cures What Ails Ya!

So ok, this year I've been keeping up with the World Cup. It *is* the biggest sporting event in the world.

From the giant vuvuzela to the US team's fairly decent showing. Yes! I'm onboard.

And so of course, I read with fascination a brief Yahoo Sports Blog entry about this elixir known as Magic Spray.

Especially the bit about "...no matter what part of the body the player is clutching in anguish, the attending doctor pulls out an anonymous looking spray can and gives the player a liberal dousing of white mist."

Hmm. Magical mist, eh? Do tell.

"Sometimes it works like spinach for Popeye, sometimes it only serves as a stopgap until the stretcher arrives..."

Ok. I'm in. Where do I get some? I need it. Gotta have it. Yup.

Magical mist = want.

Especially if they make in emotional flavor.

Boyfriend makes a cutting remark? Spray, spray, all better!

Yahoolio cuts you off in traffic? Spray, spray. No more mad!

Can't seem to get past the trauma from mommy and daddy grounding you for bad grades? Therapist just leans over, gives you a solid crop dusting, and you're back in the game of life!

I like it. Of course, it *must* come with a crew of trainers and physical and emotional therapists.

I imagine the scene goes something like this:

Boss loses his mind all over you because you whiffed a deadline.

You call, "Time out, time out!!!"

Your team of windsuited trainers comes jogging out, squats down beside your emotionally prone body, "how you doin'" they ask?

You answer, "Not so good."

Spray, spray. You are back up and limping, but you are in the game.

The clock starts, and then you tell your boss, "Hey! If you would bother to prioritize the work, maybe I'd meet your arbitrary deadlines!"


Ya'll picking up what I'm putting down here? Magic. Spray. Magic spray.

Gotta have it!

June 28, 2010

Soot of a Most Sorrowful Kind

Over the weekend, I read on "Only in New Mexico that there had been a fire on the highest trestle bridge of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

A Google search netting me an article in the Denver Post with a photograph of the fire on the Lobato Trestle that is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

The sadness immediately hit me in the heart. The Cumbres & Toltec railroad, billed as "America's Highest & Longest Narrow Gauge Scenic Railroad," holds a special place in my heart.

In fact, I did a post about my memories of the Cumbres & Toltec back in 2007. Looking back to that post, I rather enjoyed reading what I wrote, and I was filled with melancholy at the idea that the railroad won't be running this summer due to the damage.

I believe that either New Mexico or Colorado, or both, will fix the bridge because the railroad is a big tourist draw. However, times are tough and money is tight. So who knows how long it might take before the Cumbres & Toltec is up and running again?

On his blog, Jim Baca was kind enough to post a couple family shots from his adventures on the Cumbres & Toltec.

Having recently semi-reorganized my rather vast pile of family photo albums, I did a dive into the memories and dug up a few photos of my own. There was a family trip back in August 1978, and I found a couple photos worth sharing.

As mentioned in my 2007 post, Captain Type A, also know as my dad, rousted us all early from our beds in the Apache pop up trailer we'd camped in the night before. I'm unclear why we were up so early, but it was, ostensibly, to go and catch the train.

Chama sits at 8,203 feet, so even on a nice day the mornings are rather chilly. Getting out of bed wasn't the easiest of tasks that day.

I recall my dad being pretty excited and the rest of the family being...well. Um. Fairly excited?

Look at this happy group! (I'm the shortest one in the front.)

Man, is that a spouse and three kids that are LOVING the head of the household right now?

And also...helllooooooo seventies! How much denim is in that photo?

This is the station where the journey begins on the Chama side. That little figure huddled off to the right sitting on the wagon under the Chama sign is me.

Cold. Cranky. Waiting.

But I suppose there was a payoff. Once the sun came out and it warmed up and the train actually got moving...well heck, look at that face!

I'm diggin' it!

I remember really having a lot of fun once we were actually on the train. The end point of the trip, Antonito, was a charming little tourist town. I thought it was big fun since I'm a longtime lover of souvenir and tchotchke shops!

We ended the day covered in soot and ash, tired but happy. It ended up being worth it, a fun family trip, even if the beginning was a little rough.

I'd like to think that the Cumbres & Toltec will get up and running again, because there are whole legions of children who haven't yet been tortured by their early rising father at an elevation of eight thousand feet.

June 25, 2010

Flash Fiction & Fables Finale - New Mexico Folklore

And so it is that we've come to the last day of this fun and different sort of week on the blog.

What a ride it's been!

My goal was to shake up my brain a little bit so I could get some fresh blog posts out of the ol' noodle.

Well, it worked. I already have a list of about ten fresh topics that will start coming your way next week.

For today, I have what I consider to be the grand prize for coming along with me on this ride.

Today is the Fables part of the week.

After scouring both books and the internet, I've selected an item from a book called Cuentos de Cuanto Hay. The subtitle is "Tales from Spanish New Mexico."

This story collection is published by University of New Mexico Press, and was edited and translated by Joe Hayes.

The stories were originally collected by J. Manuel Espinosa in the 1930's. He traveled around Northern New Mexico collecting verbal tales from the Spanish speaking residents, then transcribed and published them. That first published book was called Spanish Folk Tales from New Mexico.

Joe Hayes found a copy of the book and had loved it through the years, so in 1998 he worked with Dr. Espinosa to clean up many of the stories, added in a few more, and republished the collection.

It is charming, odd, and packed full of deep rooted stories from the Hispanic culture.

Just like New Mexico itself, many of the stories are a bit quirky.

Even the title of the book reflects the beautiful slow moving, "Land of Mañana" charm. Joe Hayes translates the phrase Cuentos de Cuanto Hay as "tales of olden times." Literally translated, it means "stories of whatever it is."

Which seems sort of New Mexico to me. "Eh, tales of whatever!" with a dismissive wave of the hand.

The story I've selected, "Juan Pelotero" also brings a lot of that New Mexico mischievous sense of humor. There is a line in the story where two characters agree to meet at "such and such a place." Details, feh, who needs 'em!

The name, Pelotero, is also symbolic. In today's vernacular, a pelotero is a ball player, usually baseball, but pelotero can also refer to futbol. The first line of the story gives you the clue to the more archaic use of the word: "Juanito Pelotero was a gambler." Pelotero back then meant a player, a rogue, a roustabout.

You'll also find the story tends to move fast in some parts, skipping over details. At just a few pages long, it packs a lot of story in there.

Since these tales were originally an oral legacy passed down from family member to family member, I'm going to bring "Juan Pelotero" (and maybe others) back to the verbal tradition.

Today, I've made a recording of the story and it's posted below for your listening pleasure. I suggest putting the story on in the background while you go about your work checking email or what have you.

As I converted the file to MP3 format, feel free to download the audio file and put it on your iTunes or iPod to listen later if you would like.

I recorded this using a podcast microphone and Garageband software.

Do not expect recording studio quality, please. The quality reflects my gear and my room. I've done my best to keep the sounds of The Feline and my iPhone out of the recording, but I live in a creaky house and it's windy today. You get the idea.

If listening to a story isn't your thing, but you'd still like to read it, I've posted a .pdf. Click here for that. (remember, this edition of the story is copyright the University of New Mexico Press, so don't run off doing anything naughty with it, you hear?)


The story of "Juan Pelotero" was told to Dr. Espinosa by Bonifacio Mestas of Chamita, NM.

Run time is just over nine minutes. File is just over 4MB, so it may take a few moments to load. Player opens in a new window.


Karen Fayeth reading "Juan Pelotero"


1. Sorry about the high-pitched whine behind the audio. I think it's from the internet router on my desk.

2. In case you are wondering what a sacristan is, click here. I had to look it up too.

3. Yes, I think the part about the talking spit is weird.

4. The dove sounds I'm making are read as written in the story. Cucurucú is how it's written. I did my best....:)

June 24, 2010

Flash Fiction - Day Four & Final

Whoooo, yes! Fist pumps and happy jigs. I managed to pull off this massive stretch goal of writing a new Flash Fiction story four days in a row.

I'm not going to lie to ya, this has been challenging. Getting today's story done was tough, and I think it reads like it. This challenge really took some work.

Today, the overworked Muse got a little silly. I hope you're willing to come along for this final ride.

Tomorrow, as promised, I'll be posting an oral reading of a New Mexico folktale as my wrap up of this crazy off beat week of Flash Fiction and Fables.

It's a good one, I think you're going to like it, especially the readers/listeners from my home state.

But for today, my randomly generated word is: portability

Without further ado:

The Device

by Karen Fayeth

Darryl and Sean worked quietly, side-by-side in the corrugated metal work shed they referred to as "The Lair."

Work was wrapping up on their invention, a device without a name so far. If you asked them, it was totally a fusion reacting, power providing, super über top of the line invention.

The whole deal was this, it was a small reactor that creates enough power to run a small city. Clean burning, no electricity or fuel required, and it only fills up a small footprint.

The genesis of the invention came when Darryl had entered a project in his college science fair to show how he could make small fusion reactions.

Sean had also worked on an entry for the fair, but wasn't able to complete it in time. His was a device for efficient distribution of power in a small space and without heat or exhaust.

The two ideas put together was an invention in which Pajaro Ventures had invested $3 million in R&D money. It would totally pay off, assuming they could get the device to be stable.

Initial trials were not as successful as they'd hoped.

The Lair had been replaced three times due to what the boys referred to as "misfires."

But if they got it to work right, they could rule the world. Literally, they hoped, because that would be cool.

When they weren't working on, or fighting over what to call the device, they were arguing over what to call themselves. Darryl favored Captain Hazard as his superhero slash evildoer name. His costume included a bright yellow vest, the kind road crews wear to be seen by passing cars.

Sean was leaning toward Dr. Reaction. His costume was a bit more ill defined, consisting mostly of a white lab coat with nuclear symbols attached to both shoulders like epaulettes.

The U.S. Army was interested in the unnamed device, as they needed strong, reliable power at many of their installations in the Middle East. A clean burning self-contained unit that kept them off either generators requiring gasoline or power lines requiring infrastructure was looking real enticing.

However, the U.S. Army was a bit skeptical that two recent college grads had the gonads to actually pull this thing off. No matter, the risk was on Pajaro Ventures. If it worked, Parajo got a huge contract. If it didn't, Pajaro ate the R&D fees and the U.S. Army would keep on looking.

Early on, Darryl and Sean had flown out to Washington to meet with senior ranking officials, including one five star general. The field commanders gave the boys their list of must haves and nice to haves around this thing.

The team agreed on device specs. Darryl and Sean would come back in six months to demo their progress.

That demo was due to take place the next morning. After a good night's sleep, the boys rose early and got ready. A black Suburban rolled up and men in dark sunglasses loaded up The Device and the boys and delivered them to the airport, where they boarded the Parjaro private plane headed for the Pentagon.

The flight went without a hitch and soon Darryl and Sean found themselves in a large auditorium surrounded by a lot of people, most wearing dark green uniforms.

"Yeah, so, ok, let's get right into this," Darryl said, doing the talking. He was the more eloquent of the two.

The Device sat on the floor in front. When signaled, Sean hit the go button.

Fans whirred, parts rumbled and the machine's lights flashed.

"As you can see," Darryl said, "It takes only a few moments to come online. Once you see an orange light here, at the side, it's fully charged and ready to go."

The light came on, and Darryl took the plugs from a refrigerator, a clothes dryer and a microwave and plugged them into the outlets built into The Device.

"These high power drawing items are but a fraction of what The Device can power. When up to full capacity, this device could power a small city, say the size of Austin."

The assembled crowed murmured their approval.

It worked. The Device was generating smooth power. It shook a little, but no fires so far.

"Gentlemen, I believe this meets your requirements for high voltage yet safe and steady power. We have achieved your list of must haves. Oh, wait, there's one more item we haven't demoed," Darryl said, flipping a red switch on the back panel.

Immediately a bright blue undulating hole, about a foot wide, ripped into the fabric of time and space above the machine.

"And there you have it, General, sir. Your requirement is complete."

General Johanssen looked at the eerie opening in the air that was starting to exert a gravitational pull.

"What the sam hell have you boys done?" he shouted.

"You said that your key requirement was portal ability. We've succeeded. The Device not only facilitates powering your base camps, but also provides the beginning stages of time travel. This really is a cutting edge machine."

General Johanssen's face turned tomato red with anger. "I said it was mandatory that this device have PORTability, meaning moving the stupid thing as our troops relocate around the world. I did NOT ask for goddamn portal ability! What the hell is that, anyway?"

Darryl and Sean looked at each other, eyes wide. Darryl began frantically fiddling with the red switch.

"Boys, close that goddamn worm hole before someone gets hurt!" a major called out from their left side.

"Um, I'm trying, sir," Darryl said, sounding panicked.

Suddenly, a nearby office chair was sucked into the depths of the wormhole and sent two thousand light years ahead into space. It landed with a "whump" on the fifth moon of the planet Kranon, killing the opposition leader of the attempted violent overthrow of the King of the Kranonians.

Two thousand light years back on Earth, Darryl could only reply, "Whoops."

Creative Commons License
"The Device" by Karen Fayeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

June 23, 2010

Flash Fiction - Day Three

I wanted to take a minute to thank my usual readers for sticking with me through this week of a bit different sort of blog post.

I'm not going to lie to ya, this challenge has been a lot harder than I expected. I compete in contests where we have 48 hours to write a thousand word story, and even then, the time feels tight. I've been producing the stories this week in around five to six hours.

I'm pretty pleased so far. They all could do with more time and distance to allow for extra editing, but I'm not ashamed of anything I've written so far.

I hope at least a few of you are enjoying reading them as much as I am writing them.

My goal for this week has worked. I needed to shake things up to get back into my blogging head and it's working. I'm looking forward to getting back into my groove next week.

For now, here's Day Three's story.

Today's randomly generated is: representation

Top O' The World, Ma!

by Karen Fayeth

Alex was on top of the world. Six months ago, he'd been promoted to Senior Director of Sales and he was rolling. He was the fair-haired boy employed at one of the fastest growing companies just shy of Fortune's top 100.

Yesterday the Executive VP of Sales had called Alex personally to congratulate him on landing the biggest client in the history of Jackflash Software. The ink was barely dry on the deal.

Alex and his boys had properly celebrated the victory.

After just two hours of sleep, Alex now looked at himself up and down in the mirror because he knew he looked good. Not just "hey, that's a nice suit" but "damn! You look GOOD in that Prada suit" sort of good.

Even his hair looked good and his eyes weren't the slightest bit puffy. A little chin stubble told the tale, but hell, that would just make him look a little rugged today.

If asked, he could say he was up all night on an overseas call. They'd buy that.

This morning he had a date with the CEO of Jackflash, Bob Jackson. The invitation had come quite a few days before the new contract had settled and had been somewhat vague as to the agenda.

Jackflash was still a pretty small company, so meeting with the CEO wasn't entirely unusual. Maybe there was another big deal in the works? Or maybe there was even a big bonus coming his way. He smiled at the thought. Oh so many toys like boats and cars he would buy...

Alex looked at himself in the mirror. "God, it's a great day to be me," he said to his reflection.

Turning from the mirror and picking up his car keys, he felt the burn from lack of sleep around his eyes. Unacceptable, he told his wavering body.

Revving the engine of his brighter-than-the-sun yellow Porsche, his first stop on the way into work was a 7-Eleven. Two Rockstar energy drinks should do the trick.

Alex was guzzling the second Rockstar when he parked and walked into the office. Burping loudly from the fizzy drink and tossing the can in the trash, he put on his winningest smile when he saw people in the lobby turn to look at him with nods and waves.

News must be out, he thought. But not everyone was smiling. Jealous, probably, he thought to himself.

He smiled and made like a politician. If there was a baby in the room, he would have kissed it.

After all the schmoozing and stopping by to talk to friends along the way, it took him a half hour to get from the front door to his office. His heart was trip hammering in his chest from all the caffeine and he couldn't sit still. He glanced briefly at email and ignored the flashing message light on his phone.

A note was taped to his monitor. Terry, his boss, wanted to see him as soon as he came in. He checked his watch, 9:45. Terry was probably already in the day's meetings, but he figured he'd give it a try.

Alex walked so fast to the elevators, the back of his jacket trailed out behind him like a little woolen cape.

"Hey Susan! Is she in?" Alex said, putting on his charming voice for Terry's admin. Susan wielded all the power in the organization, including whether or not Alex flew first class, so he treaded lightly.

Susan looked at Alex with a face drained of blood. "No, Alex. She's gone."

"Gone? You mean meetings?

"No. I mean gone. Fired." Susan whispered the last word.

"Fired? What the hell?"

Susan shrugged.

Alex checked the Rolex on his right wrist and noted he had five minutes to get upstairs to meet Bob.

"Ok, I'm going up," Alex said, pointing toward the ceiling, the company recognized gesture to indicate Bob's office on the top floor.

Susan was VP of Sales. If she was gone, and with Alex coming off such a huge victory...well, the writing was on the wall. He was going to get promoted again.

Alone in the elevator, he did a little "yes!" fist pump dance/jig sort of a move.

When the elevator doors opened, he was met by Bob's Admin, Charlene. "He's here," she said into her boss' open office door, then with an out of character syrupy voice, "I believe Bob is ready for you. Go on in."

Alex walked into the office with his head high, but faltered when he saw Ellen Banks, VP of Human Resources and Stan Ingersol, Jackflash General Counsel already seated at the conference table.

"Hello Stan," he said, shaking the man's hand, "Ellen," he said, nodding. "Bob, how great to see you! You heard about the Techtron Telco deal, I assume?" Alex said, all smiles and sales training in his demeanor.

"Yes, I've heard. But that's not what we're here for. Alex, why don't you have a seat?"

Alex was still grinning ear to ear when he sat down at the head of the table.

Alex drummed his fingers on the table impatiently and looked at Bob who turned instead to Stan. "How about you take the lead on this meeting?"

Stan cleared his throat and shuffled through the stack of paperwork in front of him. He found the page he needed and held it up.

"Alex, this is a copy of the resume you submitted when you applied to Jackflash."

Alex leaned forward to squint at the document, then nodded.

"It was your representation at the time you were hired that you both attended and graduated from Yale School of Management. Your hiring manager failed to do a background check before extending the very generous offer. During a routine audit, Ellen's team found the lapse in procedure and conducted the appropriate check."

Alex swallowed. He knew what was coming next.

"Son, you never even graduated high school."

Alex closed his eyes.

Visions of Masaratis stopped dancing in his head.

Creative Commons License
"Top O' The World, Ma!" by Karen Fayeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

June 22, 2010

Flash Fiction - Day Two

Today's word from the random word generator is: disgust

Owen's First Hunt

by Karen Fayeth

Owen squinted his left eye in a perfect imitation of his father, and with his right eye, he looked down the sights of his brand new .30-30 Winchester rifle. He didn't see anything yet, but he wanted to be ready, just in case.

Holding the butt of the rifle to his shoulder then squinting down the scope didn't feel natural yet, and so he kept practicing the move.

He absolutely didn't want to mess this up.

His dad was lecturing him on how to spot deer, how to stay hidden, how to stay downwind and Owen was listening, but also practicing. He knew that his chance to shoot his first deer would come quick and he needed to be ready. His dad was counting on him and he was counting on himself to be that kind of guy. The man who can confidently get a shot off in a hurried situation.

At twelve, this was a key day in his life and he knew it.

Owen turned his head and looked at his dad, decked out from head to toe in camouflage, smelling of the doe urine he'd applied to cover up his human scent, breath reeking of Budweiser.

There was no one in the world Owen looked up to more than his dad. He wanted to be just like him when he grew up, from the day old stubble to the low rough voice.

Owen wasn't the only one who looked up to Hal who was a born leader and natural teacher. Hal was that guy everybody either wanted to be or be friends with.

"Ok, now, stay quiet and don't move," Hal instructed in a low voice. "We got what looks like a three-point buck headed into this meadow. Get ready, ok?"

Eyes wide, Owen looked where his dad pointed. Sure enough a tawny deer came into the clearing, foraging in the grass, oblivious to the fate that awaited him behind the brush.

"Real easy, son, make sure you look careful down that scope. What you are looking to do is drop that buck with one shot. Do you think you can do that?"

Owen nodded, yes.

His insides wobbled, no.

He couldn't stop his hands from shaking as they held his rifle, which now seemed impossibly heavy in his hands.

He braced the wooden butt of the gun up against his shoulder. Immediately his muscles tensed in anticipation of the kick that rifle would deliver when the trigger was pulled.

Owen took in a long quiet breath, willing his muscles to relax.

"You see it, son?" Hal asked quietly.

Owen nodded.

"Ok, now, you get it in your sights, right behind that front leg. You're aiming for the heart, got it?"

Owen whispered, "yeah."

He carefully found the area on that deer that he was pretty sure his dad was talking about. He tried desperately to keep his hands still and to focus.

"When you're ready," Hal whispered, "Just do it like we practiced. Take a breath in and then let it out slowly. Stay calm and squeeze that trigger."

Owen gave a small nod and focused. He drew in a breath and exhaled. About halfway through the out breath, he put his finger on the trigger, giving up a silent prayer that he did this right.

He imagined his dad congratulating him on his first deer. It was a rite of passage. Today he would go from little kid to a man.

Owen was ready. He couldn't be a man fast enough for his tastes.

The buck moved a little bit, turning his side more toward where Owen and Hal were well hidden. It was a perfect shot and both man and boy knew it.

Owen changed his aim to the left just a little bit, tried to relax, took in another quiet breath and began to let it out.

"Go Owen or he's gonna get away!" Hal said in a sharp whisper.

Startled, Owen pulled.

Then he pulled again, because nothing happened the first time.

The only sound was the click of an empty chamber.

"What the hell, son?" Hal whisper-shouted.

With knitted brows, Owen looked at his rifle. Suddenly he was scared to death the shell got caught in the chamber. That could be very dangerous.

"I don't know dad!" Owen wailed, holding out his rifle. The sounds of running hoof beats echoed down the canyon.

"Goddamnit!" Hal now shouted, a look of disgust washing over his face. He snatched the gun from his son's hands and pulled back the bolt to peek inside.

"Owen, why isn't there a shell in this rifle?" Hal asked not keeping the sarcastic tone out of the question.

The boy's face turned a hot red.

"Well ok, then give me one out of your pocket, let's get this loaded and try again."

Owen reached into the pocket of his Carhartt and found a used kleenix and a rock. His face turned even redder. The blush washed from down at the bottom of his feet up through his scalp.

He'd woken up early, before anyone else, and was so excited to go on his first hunt that he secured everything in the truck so they could head out. He packed everything carefully, including his box of shells, but completely forgot to put any in his gun. Or his pockets.

"So let me get this right, you left camp with a gun but no shells? What the hell were you thinking, boy?"

Owen paused. Then burst into tears.

The look of disgust quickly drained from Hal's face at the sight of his young son in complete meltdown.

"It's ok, Owen," he said, and wrapped his giant arms around the boy. "We'll get one tomorrow, ok? Let's get back to camp. Wanna go into town for an ice cream?"

Owen stopped crying and nodded.

The boy was not yet a man, but the man still remembered what it was like to be a boy.

Creative Commons License
"Owen's First Hunt" by Karen Fayeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

June 21, 2010

Flash Fiction - Day One

Today's word from the random word generator is: gibberish

And so, without further ado....

What Leibniz Never Learned

by Karen Fayeth

Anton dropped his head into his hands with a deep sigh, allowing frustration to wash over him.

He had so many things to say, deep, powerful, urgent emotions, and all he could squeeze out onto the pages of his spiral notebook were gibberish lines and jumbled words.

If only it were as easy as the calculus he loved so much. Figuring derivatives of complex equations happened with ease and grace.

Math made sense. Feelings did not.

He turned to a clean page and wrote down a problem, crafting the most difficult math he could think of and then solved the equation without breaking a sweat.

Math = Easy. Clean. Pure.

Words. They sucked. They could be misinterpreted and used against you. Fumble over the wrong words and people laugh, they make fun, they misunderstand who you are at your core.

Words were squishy like jell-o. Numbers were clean and simple and rarely misinterpreted.

Anton sighed again. Be that as it may, words were what he needed to use right now. No calculations could explain how he felt about Lisa.

She was his graduate teaching assistant for his hatefully required English Lit class. She was a lady who liked words.

It was Lisa's hand that wrote the red ink C minus grades on every one of his papers.

She also left comments like, "Where is the heart of Anton in this story?" and "It's ok to use adjectives."

Anton would never have believed that he could love a girl who was anything other than a math or engineering major. Maybe even a physics major, but that was pushing it.

And yet here was this raven-haired beauty, with eyes the color of periwinkles and a smile as bright as the North Star.

"Hey, that's not bad," he thought, then scribbled down "North Star and periwinkles" next to the first derivative and just before the next.

For inspiration, Anton dug into his desk drawer and withdrew the file labeled "Creative Writing." He fished out the paper that had netted him the worst grade and stared at her writing.

He sniffed the page, hoping to capture a momentary whiff of her smell, a mixture of rose oil and chamomile.

Hmm, he thought, and then scribbled down, "roses and chamomile"...that might be something.

She was right, his heart wasn't in his words. He wrote assignment papers in the last minute before class, fulfilling only the word count requirements (a number!) and caring less about things like sentence structure and meaning.

Anton ran his finger over the lines of the words she wrote, examining each letter with a scientific eye, measuring their weight and calculating the angles of the swoops in her pen stroke.

Lost in moony love thoughts, he was snapped back to reality by the thunderous return of Lars.

"Oy! Anton!" shouted his Australian rugby playing couldn't-be-any-more-different-from-me roommate who filled the corners of their dorm room with beer, cigarettes and cheap cologne.

"Hey Lars," Anton replied in a quiet voice, hoping his roommate would follow suit.

He didn't.

"Lend me a twenty, mate, I need beer!" Lars shouted.

Lars always borrowed money and never paid Anton back. He should tell him no. But if he did, Lars would only hang around the dorm room blowing unkind sounds from his tourist version of a didgeridoo.

If peace could be bought for the price of twenty dollars, maybe the math worked out in Anton's favor.

He sighed again and pulled his RFID blocking wallet from his back pocket.

"Here," Anton said, thrusting the note at Lars, "Go drink somewhere else, I have work to do."

"Oooh, someone's knickers are in a knot!" Lars taunted, then swiped the twenty from Anton's hand, scampering out the door. In as much as a 280 pound rugby player could scamper.

Anton turned back to his desk and looked down at his notebook.

The blank page stared back.

Anton closed his eyes. "Feelings," he thought to himself. "What am I feeling?"

"Mad. Goddamn Lars!"

"Ok, no. Not that feeling," his mind replied, sternly.

So he thought about Lisa. He thought about that day she wore a sundress with small yellow flowers with bare legs. He could see her feet in the tiny sandals she wore.

Anton had a thing for girl's feet. It was not something he mentioned to his friends, obviously.

Ok, the mental image was working. He was feeling something akin to a feeling.

"Yeah, that's the stuff," his brain encouraged.

He let his mind wander to fantasies of Lisa holding his hand as they walked together to the math building.

He thought about how all those other math nerds would lose their shit when they saw him with a girl.

Oh yeah, this felt good.

"Now!" said his mind, "Write! Write your heart!"

Anton scribbled furiously on the paper, opening the floodgates and letting the words fly with the fleet winged feet of Mercury the Messenger.

Oh sweet release of all that was pent up inside!

He quickly tore the page from his notebook, folded it roughly and stuffed it into his jeans pocket. He ran from his room to the admin office in the English building.

He found her name on the wall of mailboxes and carefully placed the note inside, heart racing out of his chest and into his throat.

Spent, he returned to his dorm room to wait.

The next day, Lisa noticed something in her mailbox. Usually it was empty, but a few Luddite professors still refused to use email.

She smoothed open the folded piece of notebook paper and read:

"Lisa -

Uh, hey. I noticed that you smell really nice and I think you have, like, really pretty feet, too.

So I was thinking, maybe you and I could go get a coffee or something?

Yeah, so, talk to you later."

The note was left unsigned.

Shaking her head, Lisa deposited the piece of paper in the trash.

It wasn’t the first stalker-y note she'd ever received, only the latest.

Creative Commons License
"What Leibniz Never Learned" by Karen Fayeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

June 20, 2010

And now for something completely different...

So lately I've been impossibly busy with work, life and all the joy that long summer days bring to my easily distracted brain.

As such, I've had the attention span of a gnat and have been really running to catch up on my blog.

In reading over posts from the past couple weeks, I feel like I'm starting to be derivative of my self.

And, well, that's ass.

I had a long talk with The Good Man about maybe taking a break from blogging, or quitting entirely.

In fact, I considered it seriously.

But then again...I'm up to 939 posts over three years, and there is a part inside of me that *really* wants to top 1,000 posts on this blog.

So I dug deep inside and asked myself if I wanted to stop blogging.

The answer was clear. No. I don't want to stop.

I love blogging and it's done amazing things for my writing and editing skills on the fly.

And so....

I'm going to keep on keeping on here on the blog. But to keep things interesting, I’m going to try something different this week.

I shall dub the week of June 21 through June 25 as Flash Fiction and Fables Week.

On Monday through Thursday, my blog posts will consist of a no more than 1,000 word fiction story or essay, thus the very definition of Flash Fiction.

As the impetus for each day's story, I will visit a random word generator and use the first word that is presented as the foundation for the story.

I will have to keep an eye on myself for no cheating! No hitting refresh until I get a word I like.

I have no idea what the stories will be about as this is all a fluid process.

I hope you are willing to come along on this ride, as it will be harder than it looks, I can assure you. This is really a task in pushing The Muse to produce. And sometimes she doesn't like that.

Here's a representative sample of her cranky face.

Four days writing a totally new Flash Fiction story each day may be tough to accomplish. We'll see.

And then Friday will be a special day. On Friday I'm going to present a "Fable Friday" selection. This is a story I've taken from one of a couple books I have of fables and folklore. I will read the story aloud complete with funny voices, if necessary, and will also post a link to a scan of the story if you'd rather read it yourself.

This was inspired by a great night at a friend's house reading fables and folklore aloud. It was a fun and touching night and I'm experimenting with making this a regular item on the Oh Fair New Mexico blog.

After my week of Flash Fiction and Folklore ends, I will likely go back to my regularly scheduled stream-of-mind posts that I've done for the past three years, hopefully with a renewed sense of creativity and verve.

Verve...what a great word.

Anyhow, do join me and give feedback on the stories if the spirit moves you.

Personally I'm both excited and scared about the week, but I'm also raring to go!


June 18, 2010

Country Mouse

Oooh wee! Today I was a big girl.

Today I was, like, a professional and everything.

I had a rather important work related meeting with some very high level people.

The address of this adventure was simply, One Market, San Francisco.

Now, if you are familiar at all with San Francisco (I know you are, Natalie), then you know that One Market is where the ubiquitous Market (akin to Main street in Any Town, America) meets the Embarcadero at the Ferry Building.

If you are unfamiliar with San Francisco, Market Street is a major avenue that cuts diagonally across the length of San Francisco, ending at the edge of the Bay.

Ends at the very old and beautiful Ferry Building, where, oddly enough, you can catch a ferry. The building is both a beacon and a landmark.

So this morning I put on my best suit of confidence and made my way to the City by the Bay.

I acted like I knew what I was doing the whole time. I drove in, got parked, and walked with my head held high. I heard my high heels click-clack on the polished marble floors and hoped like hell I wouldn't slip and fall.

I rode the elevator up to the offices and pretended like I was all that 'n then some.

Once badged up, they led me to a conference room that had a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge.

As I waited for the Vice President of this very successful and well-known company to come to the room, I wondered how this desert rat of a girl ended up here.

I hummed "Oakie from Muskogee" while I waited.

As soon as the executive entered the room, I put away all those thoughts and stopped humming.

Then I acted like a lady, a professional, a woman in command who knows exactly what she's doing.

Weirdly, they bought it.

The ol' fake it 'til you make it really does work sometimes.

It was a high point to my week, actually.

But for all my high steppin' in that beautiful City, I was also glad to get in the car and drive back home.

Once home, I tucked into dinner and a glass of something nice and smiled over the rim of my glass.

I love it when I can use my Aggie ingenuity to pull one over on the big boys.

June 17, 2010


If asked to give a one word review of the Kris Kristofferson/Merle Haggard show at the Mountain Winery last night, that would be it.


I bought tickets to the show only to see Merle. You see, Mr. Haggard is part of the essential soundtrack of my life.

Recall my earlier discussion about the task my best friend and I have undertaken? Creating our own version of "The List" for her kids (my godkids)?

We are compiling what we consider to be the music of our lives, music my beautiful godkids need to know as it tells the story of their family.

Yeah. Merle's on that list. More than once.

So the chance to see Merle live was too much to pass up.

Kris Kristofferson was just part of the ride.

The show started with Kris. Now look, I'm not actually a big fan of Kris as a performer. His voice has always been a bit warbly to my ears. However, I do acknowledge that he is one of America's premiere songwriters. His name is on many, many of the classics that help make up the tapestry of American music ("Me and Bobby McGee" is only scratching the surface).

So out strolled Kris with and acoustic guitar and a harmonica. Alone. And he played a healthy portion of his own catalog in one hour's time.

Kris seemed uncomfortable and nervous, but I found his performance immensely intriguing. He laughed when he forgot the lyrics to songs he wrote himself. He rolled his eyes when he hit a bad note on his guitar. And he laughed. It was a really engaging thing to see.

At the end he thanked the crowd for their energy.

Ok, look. Kris Kristoffereson may have just won me over to his side.

Oh, lest I forget. Before Kris left the stage, he invited up a friend. A man by the name of John Prine. Now, I was not familiar with Mr. Prine, but a quick Google led me to volumes of information about the man.

Mr Prine is also a prolific songwriter and responsible for a lot of the heart of folk music. He's also one of the writers on the song "You Never Even Call Me By My Name" made swaggeringly famous by David Allen Coe.

God, I love that song.

After Kris and John had played a tune, they invited up another friend.

A lady by the name of Joan Baez.

Yeah, look, I’m neither hippie nor baby boomer, but I was still in awe of the talent standing there together on the stage.

It was truly unforgettable.

At the break, there were ladies crying in the restroom, sharing stories of what the music of Joan Baez and John Prine meant to them.

It was less of an emotional thing for me, and more of a "whoa...I'm so proud I got to see this."

And then...

Oh and then...

Merle finally took the stage. I couldn't believe it. I might have started to cry a little bit myself.

I kept saying, "I can't believe I'm here, eight rows away from Merle Haggard!"

Ol' Merle is 73 years old and survived the removal of a malignant tumor on his right lung a couple years ago.

So he started out a bit slow, and the voice wasn't quite there.

But he warmed up nicely. Soon enough, he was bringing the heat to songs like "Momma Tried" and "Big City".

Merle started out the night with "Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star" and sailed through his own songbook, ending with "Oakie from Muskogee."

He invited Kris, John and Joan to come up and join him for that last one.

As The Good Man and I first got to the venue and we had to navigate all the Mercedes driving, wine sipping, self-entitled looking Northern California people, I texted my best friend that it was times like this where I question why I ever moved to California.

By the end of the night, looking at four legends of American music on one stage, I remembered. Back in my growing up years in New Mexico, it was unlikely we'd get a show like that. I moved to California for the art, the music, the creativity that runs through the Bay Area.

The kind of place where Joan Baez is just sitting in the audience and is casually invited up on stage.

So ok.

I used The Good Man's iPhone to capture about 30 seconds of video. The image is terrible but the sound is all right. This is the last 30 seconds of the show, Joan, John and Kris are gathered together at the left. Merle is in the middle.

They are all warbling and off key and Joan's mic is too loud...and still...it's a beautiful moment in time....

(may have to double click the box below to get it to play, click again to stop)

June 16, 2010

And that's doin' it right

If you are a fan of any professional sport, major or minor in their designation, then over the course of your life, you've heard a LOT of renditions of the "Star-Spangled Banner".

T'was written by Francis Scott Key and set to the tune of a drinking song. Where there is beer, oh yes, they're playing our song!

And, may I quote from Wikipedia, "With a range of one and a half octaves, it is known for being difficult to sing."

So much so, that large crowds will actually applaud a performer who can hit all the notes. That is a rare performer. Very rare, indeed.

In fact, over the course of my life, I've heard quite a few very, very bad renditions of our country's anthem.

I'm not talking about local first grade choruses limping and wheezing through the tune or the high school marching bands galumphing and cymbaling their way along.

No, no I find those charming, actually.

What get's me are the hand waving, trilling, note runs that many people (especially young ladies) try to throw in there to make you *think* they are hitting the notes, when they are, in fact, not.

I once heard a man at AT&T Park with a deep baritone voice who sang the song and dropped the highest notes of the tune down half an octave, and it sounded fine. Lovely, in fact, and we didn't have to watch him struggle to hit impossible notes.

I find it's the people who go easy with it and don't try too hard that make it through all the ups and downs of the Star Spangled the best.

This past Sunday, just when it appeared the SF Giants vs Oakland A's game was due to start, The Good Man and I saw a vision in pink descend the steps to the field and enter the grassy area, bowing low to allow her very tall Glinda the Good Witch crown to clear the gate.

"Oh wow!" I cried out, "It's a performer from Beach Blanket Babylon!"

BBB is a long running San Francisco musical stage show. Bawdy and very vaudeville in nature, they tend to make fun of current events.

They are also known for their top-notch performers, so I figured this was going to be fun.

On this day, we were treated to a lady by the name of Misa Malone, a recent addition to the BBB cast, and she was out in full Good Witch regalia.

You know, it's awfully hard to ignore a lovely woman in a huge fluffy pink dress and a bouffant pink wig. It was even harder to ignore Ms Malone who took her time with the Star Spangled and used her immense vocal power to master that difficult song from the first note.

I admired how she used her breath, taking in air in places amateur singers tend to over look, taking air wisely to get power to her pipes in time to hit those high notes.

And hit them, she did, which earned wild cheers and applause from the crowd.

I have to say, not only did she sing the you-know-what out of that very difficult song, she also *owned* that crowd of almost forty thousand people.

We were all paying rapt attention to every note, every syllable, every gorgeous smile she handed out like candy.

THAT is a true performer.

Wouldn't you love to have the power to command a room, much less a stadium, like that...just once?

I sure would.


Had I managed to have a memory card in my camera (see yesterday's post) I would have provided an awesome photograph of Ms Malone at the park.

Instead, you get a photo of Prince Charles looking very awkward with the BBB cast. To the far right is not Ms Malone, but it IS the costume she wore on Sunday.

June 15, 2010

A boy scout, I am not...

"Be prepared."

Yup, that is the motto to which all those two-finger-holder-upper kids with the yellow kerchief around their necks swear to every chance they get.

Ah yes, be prepared. Think ahead. Plan your next move. Expect the worst and all that.

Sometimes, as the grown up I've become, I'm quite prepared. Oh I'm thinking about "what's the worst that could happen and how will I take my bacon back outta the fire when it does."

And then there are the days where the gas tank light is on and the needle quivers over the E and I forgot the tickets for the event I'm attending and I can't put my shoes on the correct feet.

So which was it on Sunday? You see, by the good grace of the baseball gods, I had some of the best seats in the major league stadium where I like to watch my favorite baseball team play. On this day of interleague play, my Giants are facing their across the Bay rivals.

Ooh baby! I'm ready! I'm prepared!

Tickets? Got 'em right here.

Gas? Plenty!

Sunglasses? Yes.

Spending cash for ballpark schwag. Certainly!

Portable radio already set to KNBR? Heck yeah!

Cool clothing for the warm day? Check.

Jacket in case it cools off? Sure.

Parking pass? Without a doubt.

Hooray! I've got it wired tight!

Off we go! We get to the park and plop into our seats that are THISCLOSE to the field and oooh, there's the players almost close enough to touch and what a beautiful day and rock ooooon!

So the game is starting, and what do I do?

Well, I'm a burgeoning photographer! I pull out my carefully packed camera and my 75-300 lens that will get me RIGHT in the middle of the action!

Yes! I even remembered to charge my battery! And the spare battery too!

This is gonna be so great! I’m going to wow the world with these shots! I will win awards! There will be accolades! I will get my invite to be an AP photographer with open access to the camera well on the field.

I am a rock star!!!

And so I begin to snap some photos, looking to take light levels and see about making adjustments for this bright sunlight.

Click goes the shutter.

And click once more.

Then I hit that little play button to review the shots.

And the camera says on its pretty little LCD screen:

No CF card,

NO CF CARD?!?!?!? What the seventeen kinds of sam hell does this damn camera mean no cf card?

And then I remember...

I left the memory card on my desk at home.

I was feeling sooooo Captain Prepared that I was going to do a full clean off of the memory card, reformat and be ready for the game.

Except I forgot to do that with all my attention on all the other careful pre-game preparations.

Uh. Whoops.

So you see, here's that amazing shot of Aubrey Huff at the plate right before he hit that first homerun:

Oh wait...

And that amazing shot of Pablo Sandoval taking a walk:

Yeah, no.

And that fabulous look of concentration while Andres Torres runs like a cheetah around the bases!

Heh. Nope.

Be prepared.

Be fracking prepared!


Prepared, my ass.......


Yeah, yeah, I haven't blogged in FOUR days.

I have no one but myself to blame.


Ah, tttthpthhhht to that!

We don't need no stinkin' goals.

Ok yes, we do. Or we, ahem, I, tend to wander a little off course.


There is a lot going on in my little world these days. Details to come. But for now, suffice to say, it's a good thing summer days run long, because I have a lot to try to cram into those daylight hours!

By the by, thanks to the good people at the San Francisco Zoo (follow them on Twitter! @sfzoo) for the fun this past weekend!

We celebrated the first birthday of my littlest goddaughter in style!

I'll post a picture of her adorable self, but I have to ask her parents permission first!

June 10, 2010

Taking the Challenge

Blogging friend and frequent commenter SinPantalones has challenged her readers to answer ten of her personally handcrafted questions.

Then, once answered, we are further challenged to write ten of our own and present them to our readers to do the same.

Sort of one them thar internet meme things, I think.

Anyhoo, I'm easily entertained by such things, and so, I officially take the challenge

Here we go:

1) Breakfast sausage: Patties or links?

Oh patties, hands down. I may be in the minority on this. I sort of hate the skin thing that links are wrapped in. I know it used to be animal intestine, but now it's something weird that I can't quite digest. Plus, with patties, your odds of a fully cooked sausage are much higher. I can't tell you how much I hate biting into a link sausage and finding it uncooked in the middle. Bleeecky.

2) I hate to do this to you, but I'm going to resort to the age-old Desert Island question. Which three LPs/CDs/musical collections and which three books would you like to have with you if you were stranded on an unpopulated desert island?

Okay, this is a tough one. Three records: The Mavericks "Music for all Occasions, Alison Krauss & Union Station "I've Got That Old Feeling" and probably the George Strait box set.

As for books..."Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry, "Moby Dick" by Herman Mellville (because hell, I'll have some time on my hands and a long book might be helpful) and maybe "The Sun Also Rises" by Hemingway.

3) Toilet paper: Over or under?

Over. Absolutely over. I'm very, very firm about this.

4) If you could wish any one celebrity completely and utterly out of existence--POOF!-- who would it be?

I was going to say Heidi Montag, but she's not really a celebrity and her 15 minutes are up soon.

So I'm going with Tom Cruise. I'm sure I don't have to explain why.

5) As regards dating/attraction, what are your three biggest dealbreakers? What three qualities/attributes/characteristics can you simply not stomach?

Hmm, this is a tough one. Over the years I've learned a lot about how every person has something that is intriguing. Yes, I said everyone.

So turn offs have to be pretty serious. I guess going back over my sketchy dating past, I'd have to say anyone verbally and/or physically abusive is a no go. An alcoholic and/or recreational drug user is also a no way. And finally, someone who is unwilling to put me and our relationship as top priority.

That last one is a big deal for me.

6) What is your favorite television commercial and why?

My bologna has a first name, it's O-s-c-a-r...

Cute, catchy and makes bologna sound appetizing!

7) What is your comfort food?

Oh so hard to pick just one. Probably Velveeta cheese chile con queso over fresh corn chips.

8) It's 1979 and you are a heterosexual man. (Or a homosexual woman, actually. Either one. You choose.) You can have a steamy one-night stand with Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, or Olivia Newton John. Which one?

Ooooh, tough call between Stevie and Tina. I think Tina would scare me so bad (but in a real nice way) that I'd have trouble stepping *up* to the challenge, so to speak.

Steve is probably a little freaky. Ok, I'll go Stevie.

9) When you were eight years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Or was that even something you were thinking about at the time?

Weirdly, I used to play that I owned my own business when I was a kid. My folks had this huge adding machine that I used as a cash register and I made up these invoices with carbon paper between the pages.

I cringe now thinking on it, but it's true. I played at being a business lady.

Strange ass kid. Where were my dreams of being a superstar?! A model?! An actress!? A ballerina? Nope, Little Miss Practicality....

10) If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your physical appearance, what would it be?

My genetic disposition to a lower tummy. No matter how much weight I lose, no matter how skinny the women in my family get, there is always that belly out there.

Ever since I was a little kid, I yearned for a flat tummy. I've never in my life had it.


Ok, on that low self esteem note...here's my ten questions.

I challenge my readers to answer on their blog and post a link in the comments. I look forward to reading your replies!!

1) What is your favorite fast food place, and why? Any answers of "oh, I never eat fast food" will be disqualified.

2) If you could be any one famous person for a week, who would it be and what would you do as that person?

3) Regarding the gas tank in your car, are you one of those "never let it get below half a tank" people, or do you run it down to fumes before getting a fill up?

4) If you could be gifted with either the talent of truly gifted athlete (think Willie Mays, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky) or the intellect of a Nobel Prize winning scientist (think Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein), which would you choose, and why?

5) Slushies come in three flavors: grape, orange and cherry. Which flavor do you choose?

6) Do you play the lottery? If so, how often and have you ever had any luck? If no, why not?

7) Have you ever "borrowed" somebody else's stuff from the office 'fridge? (lunch, CoffeMate, yogurt, etc)

8) Speaking of the office. Here's the scenario: You need to make a copy so you walk up to the copy machine. The readout flashes, "paper jam". Do you turn around and walk away, or do you try to fix the problem?

9) Who is the most famous person you have ever actually met in person. As in shook their hand or had them speak directly to you or signed an autograph for you personally.

10) After living a full life where you have accomplished all of your goals, you find it is your last day on Earth. You are provided a last meal consisting of whatever food and beverage you choose. What do you order?

Ok class, grab your #2 pencils and let's get to work! I look forward to reading your answers!

June 9, 2010

I am sooo, like, you know, literate!

For my recently celebrated birthday, The Good Man scored me a most awesome present.

I gots me a Kindle!

Oh my stars and bars, how I love that Kindle.

We'd had a lot of philosophical talks over Sunday morning breakfast about iPad vs Kindle and what did we *really* want from such a device.

I thought it was all idle chatter until a Kindle showed up under all that wrapping paper.


So, being the cheapy cheaperson that I am, I immediately went to the free section of the Kindle store on Amazon, and began downloading my bootie off.

I did pay for a couple books that'd I'd wanted, like the new Jeannette Walls book, "Half Broke Horses" (a five star recommend from me! This and her first book "The Glass Castle"), but mostly I downloaded the free stuff.

There are a few for free trashy romance novels in there. I downloaded a couple but I doubt I'll get to them.

The biggest portion included in the free section are books that are in the public domain, meaning their copyright has expired.

I guess anything published prior to 1930 is now public domain. There are quite a few of the classics in the free collection.

Let's be honest here, I wasn't exposed to a lot of the classics during the course of my education. Ok, some of the basics. "To Kill a Mockingbird" was on the list. "Grapes of Wrath" (haaate it!) was a forced read. And there was also a lot of bits and bites, but not full books. No "Scarlet Letter" or "Moby Dick" made it across my transom.

On the other hand, The Good Man has read almost all of the classics, many more than once, and it's no wonder he's so much more well spoken and intelligent than me.

But! The Kindle may just even out the game.

I have things like "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "The Jungle Book" and "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Pride and Prejudice" to name just a few that are loaded up and ready for me to get into.

I also have beautiful classic books that I have already read like "Red Badge of Courage" and "The Secret Garden" and "The Velveteen Rabbit" on the Kindle. They are like old friends, lost to the sands of time, who have returned to me.

My only issue is that sometimes I have a hard time reading the classics. The language or style can be tough.

I do love the Kindle's in line dictionary that makes looking up tough words a snap.

But all the Oxford English Dictionaries in the world can't help me get around some of the archaic language.

Right now, The Good Man and I are taking on our latest book club title. It is just us in our book club. We read together and then discuss.

Currently we are reading "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. The Good Man is a confirmed Wilde fan. Until I got the Kindle last month, I'd read zero Wilde. I started with the play "The Importance of Being Earnest" and really enjoyed it.

But I'm finding ol' Dorian Gray to be a bit of a slog. All the reasons that The Good Man likes it, the deep thought and philosophizing...well, that just makes me ape sh*t. I want some story to move the thing along!

I'm doin' it. I'm chugging though the pages. Currently about halfway done. The story part of the story is really fascinating. Well drawn characters and quotable pithy sayings.

But the expository pieces that run for pages and pages are about to make me insane. I *know* that's why people love Wilde and I *get* that he was a great thinker and artist of his time.

But damnit! I'm just a girl who likes a little Louis L'Amour sprinkled in her day. There is a cowboy, he fights another cowboy over stolen cattle or water rights, and then gets the girl. The end.

I know, I know. This high-minded literature stuff is good for me.

And I really am enjoying it.

Tell me, what do YOU make of: "But he never fell into the error of arresting his intellectual development by any formal acceptance of creed or system, or of mistaking, for a house in which to live, an inn that is but suitable for the sojourn of a night, or for a few hours of a night in which there are no stars and the moon is in travail."

I spent a while working on just that one sentence. I get it now, but my brain is tired.

Maybe wearing out the ol' brain on classic literature will help stave off dementia. It's a nice thought, anyway.

June 8, 2010

Anyone for a Mojito?

So let's see, I moved to this odd and fascinating Golden State of California in 1997.

This is now 2010...

So that would make it...let's see, do the math...carry the one...

Ah yes. Thirteen years that I've lived here.

Thirteen. That's a lucky number!

And you'd think that in thirteen years I would have arrived at the place where I no longer pick hayseeds out of my hair.

You'd think.

But you'd be wrong.

What a yokel I am.

Here's the latest.

Brace yourself for another backyard adventure.

Today I was out in my side yard. There is this scrubby, invasive, grows too fast tree/bush thing out there that I *hate*.

It's so unlike me to have vitriol for something that is only a plant. But I do.

So I was out there hacking away at the damn thing because if I don't stay on top of it, soon it will grow taller than my roof and the neighbors will complain. It tends to invade the nextdoor neighbors yard as well.

Ticks me off.

So I trim the crap out of it.

Here's how it looks now:

Never fear, oh mighty plant lovers. In a month it will be back at roof height. Gawd I hate that thing!

Anyhoo. After I was done committing gross violence to a bush/tree type a deal, I looked down and saw a few huge weeds. Well...I had my gloves on and the ground was soft, so I started wiggling them durn weeds out by the root.

At one point, I noticed a row of different looking weeds growing from the crack where the outside wall of the house meets concrete.

So I gave them a hearty tug.

Suddenly, all I could smell was this minty odor. I smelled my hands. Leather gloves and mint.


So I took a small plant sample inside so I could Google it.

Sure enough. We have mint growing wild in our yard

I have no idea where this came from and I don't recall mint growing in the yard before. It just, I don't know, appeared out of nowhere this year.

Look, I'm from New Mexico. I'm used to coaxing things to grow in the yard with a lot of vigor and pleading.

Not here. This sh*t just grows wild! There ya go! Something magical. Didn't even have to try.

Next up on the list of fruits ripening in my untended backyard:


Yes! Love fresh figs.

I'm ready for 'em!

Anyhow. This has been a very big day. Maybe I need a nap.

Oh, and in closing...this for my friend Natalie who likes bird of paradise.

That's a biggun!

I swear to god that thing blooms all year long. That shouldn't happen. And yet..it does.

June 7, 2010

The Power of Evaporative Cooling

You know, growing up in the high desert, the weather gets hot. Real hot, like high nineties and occasionally slipping up over 100 degrees.

And people joke all the time about, "well at least it's a dry heat!"

And inevitably someone will make a scoffing noise and say that "dry heat" doesn't matter.

I'm here to say...it matters.

It matters to me, anyway.

About three weeks ago, I was in Las Cruces.

The temperatures hovered in the high eighties, touching 90 at one point. The humidity was 7%.

It was fantastic!

I basked. I was like a salamander on a rock. I looooved every moment of it.

Yesterday, in the part of the Bay Area where I live, it topped out at a bold 77 degrees.

Yes, just a small 77 degrees.

With 84% humity.

I almost died.

Well, ok, no. I didn't almost die. But I felt like I was gonna.

Look, the human body was made to be an evaporative cooling device.

You sweat, either the wind blows across the sweat or the air evaporates it, or, ideally, both, and your body manages to maintain a good temperature.

Add an indoor a/c unit and a glass of iced tea into the mix, and those warm summer days are quite tolerable!

At almost eighty degrees with NOTHING helping me dry the sweat and every frappin' place I go (including my own home) has NO air conditioning (zero, ziltch, nada)...well, I had only a cool glass of iced tea to get through the day.

It wasn't enough.

I. Was. Miserable.

I actually was *grateful* for the fog rolling in around 4:00. Thank gawd for that Bay Area temperature inversion that I usually curse!

As sweat poured off of me, I could feel the wind ahead of the fog and the temps dropped fast and I enjoyed the peace I hadn't been able to find all day.

Today promises much of the same. I shall position myself directly in front of a fan and not move around much.

The Good Man likes to tease....."Oh you, my Woman of the Desert*...where's your heat tolerance now?"

It's back where it might be very, very hot...but at least it's a dry heat!

*That's a reference to the book "The Alchemist" which I found neither spiritual nor interesting. The main female characters says that about herself...a lot. "I am a Woman of the Desert"....yeah. Whatever, sister. I am a Woman of the Red Couch. Hear my Cheetos roar.

This one's for L

A couple weeks back in comments, long time reader and cyber-friend L asked me if I had an opinion on the new Olympus Pen camera.

I had little to say on the subject as I haven't shot an Olympus for over 20 years.

But in my mailbox this morning, an email from Digital Photography School held some better information.

Here ya go, L:

Olympus PEN E-P2 Review

June 4, 2010

Oooh, karma is a b-word

So as mentioned, earlier this week, while getting my hairs did at the salon, I read the most current version of People magazine.

Air travel and hair fixin's are the only time I let that kind of drivel inhabit my mind.


I noticed, while reading, an advertising for McDonalds and their new offering of Shrek 3 drinking glasses.

Oh did this take me back to my youth.

As a kid, I believe we had a set of Star Wars glasses. We also had a set of McDonalds character glasses, you know, Ronald McDonald, Hamburgler, etc.

I *loved* those glasses and loved collecting them.

However, they were made of such cheap glass that most ultimately broke in the dishwasher.

Ah well.

I thought it was a quite a bit of capitalizing on Gen X nostalgia that Mickey D's was doing this sort of promotion again.

I had planned to write a blog post that was something like "Stop pandering to my generation! I know we are a target audience what with being at a good money making part of our careers and most of my peers with the house fulla kids! Google pandered with retro Pac-Man and now THIS?!?!?!"

Turns out I have to switch that slippery ol' rant lever to "off".

McDonald's Recalls 'Shrek' Glasses.

Damn. Sorta stole my Friday blogging thunder.

Oh, and...

June 3, 2010

Important, Vital Work

I'm so glad someone had the time and ability to amass this into a single location.

The world is a better place because of:

The Best Photobombs by Goats

Thank you Shoebox Blog for the link.

Awkward Fan Girl Alert!

I have a crush.

Ok, to be fair, I have the biggest crush of all on my husband. He makes my tummy go all googley.

But I also have another, less powerful, crush.

A crush that I've been open and honest about with my spouse. He is ok with it. Or, while maybe not ok with it, tolerates my geek girl crush because that's just the sort of kind and understanding way he has with me.

You see, my crush is not about the usual sort of person you'd think.

No Robert Pattinson nor Johnny Depp. Nope.

Not even someone who you might call a celebrity. But someone who is a known figure...at least in the UK and to watchers of the BBC.

Oh, ok, I'll be out with it.

I have a crush on Mike Embley, lead presenter on BBC World News.

In my post-cable rabbit-ears-and-a-digital-box joy, I've discovered the very serious yet truly wonderful BBC World News show.

It's informative and not inflammatory. It's not televised drama, it's actual news from around the world. I've learned a LOT from this show and I chalk much of that up to Mr. Embley who presents the news in a professional and calm manner with a slight tinge of a sense of humor burbling just below the surface.

Plus, he cuts a stunning figure in a pink shirt and tie with a dark grey suit.

Truth be told, I find him rather irresistible. Brains and humor reel me in every time (just ask The Good Man who has both in spades, and might I mention, cuts a rather fabulous visage in a suit, himself).

Anyhow, yesterday, I was taking in the world news from the pleasing voice of Mr. Embley, and at the end of the show, he said, "You can follow me on Twitter at @bbcmikeembley."

Well that was that.

I looked him up and began following him straight away.

In reading his Tweet stream, I saw that he seems to be rather responsive to his followers. In many cases, he thanked people for the follow and answered their questions.

So...I took a chance.

Here's the transcript:

From me:

karenfayeth @bbcmikeembley I'm pleased to find you on Twitter. I very much enjoy your BBC World News broadcasts!!

A couple hours later came the reply:

bbcmikeembley @karenfayeth Happy to be Twting. Don't as much as I'd like but that mostly cos busy with the brdcasting. Or kids. Or dog. Or v bad guitar.

Oh swoon!

I appreciate he left out vowels to get to an economy of characters, and still managed to be very well spoken.

I am simply all a flutter to receive a reply!

When I showed it to my husband, he replied, "Oh my, you're a news fan geek. Who would have thought?"

He says this because I'm pretty steadfast in that I don't watch the news.

I really, really don't watch American broadcast news. It sets my teeth on edge.

Nope, no news...

But for one show. The one presented by my new Twitter friend...Mr. Embley.

: geek out!!! :

June 2, 2010

Just Another Marble in the Brain Jar

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the nature of memory.

Mainly, because my own memory sucks.

What was I saying?

Oh yes.

Some of this memory loss is, I think, is a hazard of having put in a few years on this ol' planet. Over time, one tends to collect a few things in the closets like bottle tops, tattered paperback books, and stacks of memories, both good and bad.

I sometimes think of my brain as a big storage device. Lots and lots of space. Too many bits of memory get shoved in there, and it's time for an upgrade.

But maybe that's a little too Silicon Valley for my tastes.

Let's try another metaphor.

Maybe my brain is more like a big glass jar filled with marbles. Some are large, some small, some are in between. So as I go about living this crazy mixed up life, these marbles roll their way toward the jar and drop in. These new residents tend to push out the old when I've run out of space.

There is only so much room in the jar, of course, and once filled to capacity, something's gotta give.

As I was getting my hair cut last night, I spent the color "cook time" working over this particular visual metaphor. Unfortunately, I was thinking about it while also pouring over the pages of the current "People" magazine.

Without my consent, some fresh, small marbles found their way into my jar.

For example, I don't really need to know that one of the Jonas brothers broke up with his girlfriend. *plink*

Or that Jon and Kate plus 8 lady just celebrated the birthday of her sextuplets. *plink*

That some blonde chick named Heidi needs "time alone" from her overbearing husband. *plink*

And that weird Svengali-like husband of that sad, tiny, actress that recently died has now also shuffled off this mortal coil. *plink*

These are not vital memories. These don’t need to be kept in the jar. If they do manage to stay in the jar, then other, better, memories have to slip out.

Oops, there goes making Thanksgiving turkey drawings by tracing my hand onto the paper.

And there goes the name of my childhood friend who lived by the park, across from the swimming pool. We took gymnastics class together at the YMCA. What *was* her name?

Don't tell me a Jonas brother shoved my friend out of the brain jar!

I suppose the trick is to let those lightweight worthless marbles flow in for a moment and then find a way to shove them right back out.

If I get too many of the trivial marbles, there's no room left for the big meaningful marbles to find a permanent home.

Of course, some of those big marbles are so heavy, they can't possibly be washed out. My wedding day. Holding my oldest goddaughter for the first time (I cried). Cracking jokes with my pops while he was in the hospital.

The big ones stick around, no matter. The middlin' sized tend to go all floaty without my permission. They are the hardest to hold onto.

But I try. Oh I try.

Let's just hope that at the very least, I can manage to hang on to most of my important marbles.

Because I surely would hate to, you know...lose my marbles.

Photo from the KM&G-Morris public Flickr photostream.

June 1, 2010

Geez, I've been doin' it wrong all this time

(via Reuters) "The average Briton turns up to work with a hangover three times a month..."


"...each day more than 520,000 people in Britain go to work hung over"

AND they get all the bank holidays AND they get five weeks or more vacation.


On the downside: "...nearly one in five of those admitting that as a result they make mistakes and struggle to keep on top of their workload."

Hmm. Everything's a tradeoff, I suppose.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
All content of Oh Fair New Mexico by Karen Fayeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.