Surviving the Middle Ages, the 21st Century, and my Government

I’m halfway home, surviving  my first novel.

It’s nothing like I thought it would be. No wonder I can’t remember anything about the last time I tried it, which must have been almost ten years ago.  It’s a blank altogether.

I signed up because I needed to reestablish my habit of production. NaNoWriMo goes for about 2000 a day, and I figured that’s about what I should be producing. Granted they say no editing. But I almost never edit, except in my head. So it seemed like a good way to establish the pattern I needed.

But a novel? That had never entered my imagination. I did know what behaviors my characters would engage in. And I knew that I had seen enough of such behaviors I should have no problem describing them. But novels have stories. Did I have a story to tell. I’m a teacher. For years and years I’ve lectured with stories. My students could always know I would go in a giant circle, exploring each event along the way, and then just as I ran out of time, and sometimes broke into a New York accent that could go nearly as fast as my French, everything would come together, and the moral was clear.

But I’d never considered actually writing a novel. Too much of a production. I think in lectures, not productions. Well, there was that one I started several years ago. I was murdered. And all the faculty in my department were suspects. It was great fun. Lived in a three-ring binder on top of my roll-top desk. I wonder what ever happened to it. Could I have worked on it in NaNoWriMo all those years ago. Nah, I would have remembered it then. Of course, I wrote Letters to My Daughter, to0. Don’t see that up there, either.  But I think I must have stopped that when she spent her junior year in Florence. I certainly didn’t use those letters for NaNoWriMo.  No, they were real letters, not a novel.

I decided to do this in mid October. So I checked the site to see if I should prepare anything. Read 5 books on novel writing. But we weren’t supposed to start until Nov. 1.  But they asked for a Novel title. A Title? How about a modern version of Aucassin and Nicolette. Was it like movies? Could you do a remake? Would that be like a redo? Maybe not. They asked for an excerpt. Now, really. How could I do an excerpt from a novel I hadn’t even thought up yet?

Then they had a forum on dares. Dares?  They dared us to make one of our characters a werewolf. Hello!  A werewolf. Well, actually, just a few weeks later, I discovered that Terrence, one of my characters really did look like a werewolf . So I made him one. So now I had a werewolf from the 21st century and a story that took place in the Middle Ages. Great. Then, on November 1st I started to write. I had to get the werewolf to the 12th century, and when one of my other characters tried to get him out of trouble by putting a spell on him, they all ended up being zapped  into the 12th  century into a tavern whose bartender was human, but that served mostly fairies.

Now I just know this is gonna be a great novel, cause I can’t wait to read the next chapter. Excuse me, I gotta go write.

Oh, the government, I forgot. Well, I’m 76 and the Republicans are going to destroy Social Security and Medicare, so I hope you’ll buy my novel when I discover that I can’t eat or get well anymore. Yeah, I thought it was only a Ponzi scheme when the people paying in now will have theirs paid by the people who pay in when they’re old.  I worked until I was 70 and paid all that time. But now Ryan says we can’t afford it because George Bush spent all our money proving to his Daddy that Saddam Hussein was a bad man. I think he said “evil.” Well, if he was as wrong as he was about the WMD’s I think I might write a novel about him next. Only fair, you gotta admit.

connect in peace,

Jennie the Red Jay

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It’s a Ghost

Whoosh! Three days flew right past my nose. I could feel the breeze. I shivered, not from cold, from confusion and fear. That’s a ghost! Hovering over Catrina. I knew I should have crocheted at least a hundred little ghosts. Oh, well, too late now!

The Hauntin’s a-Comin’: The Ghost Is Right Here

Happy Halloween and Day of the Dead. The ghost is , of course, real. But Catrina is free form crochet.  But I have to confess, the garage is a mess and Catrina has flown off to a haunting tonight, leaving me quite alone with all this hard work!

Great pictures of Day of the Dead in L.A. at Lrntn’s blog on

But Catrina and Godfrey’ll be back tomorrow, to help me start our novel. Yes, she’ll be in it. And Godfrey, too. And a werewolf and fairies and leprechauns, too. But I promise we’ll find time for you. We’ll put up pictures and instructions, too, on how to make Catrina and dancing knights, too.

Witch Makes Off with Children

The story’s here. You’re welcome to copy it and share it with friends (Creative Commons License):

Day of the Dead Los Angeles

Day of the Dead in Los Angeles.

They looked up AT THE SKY and SHRIEKED!

It’s a Witch! It’s a Witch! Flying off with our Kids!

 Oh, Goodness! Oh, Gracious! Oh, what can we do???

 Now, don’t get excited, And don’t be misled.

Their house was afire! They might have been dead!

What the Good Witch WANTED


* * * * * *

Seeing is believing. Well, most of the time, yes . . . But caution and wonder may clear up the confusion before a mess of distress.

Happy Halloween and Day of the Dead


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No, I Still Didn’t Run Away

Meg Ryan and Jeff Skoll

Image via Wikipedia

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...

Image via Wikipedia

Although I must admit, I considered it again. I keep remembering Sleepless in Seattle, when Meg Ryan says, “It’s a sign.” Yep. It’s a sign. I’ve downloaded software to write my novel, read about six books on how to write a novel. No, none of them really fit what I meant to do. But neither did the genre categories that NaNoWriMo offered me.

That’s OK. I don’t have to work at getting outside the box, I AM outside the box. I think I’m getting used to it. I probably like it out here, or I would have found my way in before now. Being different means you’re probably not too popular at parties with cocktail conversation, but over the years I’ve learned to balance that out by vivid and colorful conversations with myself.

So when Gail called on Thursday, to ask why we weren’t doing Halloween this year, Arnold (husband) and I were surprised. We hadn’t received an invitation. So we thought they had decided to not have their neighborhood party anymore.

Since I was considering running away anyway, that was OK. I could practice with the NaNoWriMo software. That was important. Despite having read the entire manual for two different sets of novel and screen writing software, I still hadn’t figured out how to ask either set how on earth I was to get a fresh sheet of composition paper and fresh note cards to start writing. Both software programs told me in detail how to use the note cards, how to write the outline, how to create a list of characters, but neither one told me how I ask the computer “May I have a scratch pad? May I have a note card? May I have the composition screen, with a fresh sheet instead of your notes?”

Granted, all this was happening with a nagging suspicion that I should just run away. But Gail’s call just added more to do. Now, of course we had to do Halloween. And since we thought they weren’t having Trick or Treat this year, I hadn’t done all the handmades I usually give the children for treats.

Day of the Dead ofrenda

Image via Wikipedia

Way back when I was planning the handmade gifts, I had done a wonderful crochet piece on Catrina of Day of the Dead fame. Mexican culture celebrates the dead so differentlyfrom our preoccupation with fear.

We focus on vampires and Frankensteins and serial killers and werewolves.  Even some of the children come as goblins and witches and scary, scary other-worldly creatures.

Catrina of Day of the Dead

Mexican culture, on the other hand , focuses on skeletons and skulls and sugar skulls, and pictures of their family and friends, who return on the first day of November 1st to celebrate and honor the happy lives they lived.

“Boo” and “Trick or Treat” are not part of the Day of the Dead tradition in Mexico. Instead, picnics are held at the cemeteries, with food included for the Dead as well as the living, and with joy and dancing by all. And, marigolds, the traditional flower for this celebration, are strewn everywhere.

With so little time left to prepare for so many, I fell back on my plans to have all our public-sphere conversations with neighbors and friends summarized in story form for out meetings. I know that Steph would like to adopt the habit of handmades for gifts instead of just candy for “treats.” So would Susan. I’d already sent them the pdf versions of two of these picture/stories. But they hadn’t all successfully arrived.

Ever practical, and knowing that some of my CSUDH students had found this blog, I decided that if I uploaded the pdf forms here, all of you who had found JeannieSpace would be able to take these images and stories down and use them with your own friends and families. This blog is under Creative Commons, as is our website.  So download and enjoy them.

The first file I created To Egg or Not. It’s my drawing, my writing, so you may use it (though not for sale without permission, copy it, and, as long as you keep it free under a Creative Commons Copyright, alter it to be what you’d like it to be.

To Egg or Not

Chick Ponders the Egg Question

and  it was  summer
and the egg was chicken
and the chicken was . . .
or did we kill it?

This one is not for the very young. Our college students were talking about the Dada art movement after the First World War. The art reflected the insanity of the culture that artists found themselves in at the end of the First World War. How ironic that we find a similar culture of craziness in this human-caused global depression in 2011.


that’s all, folks.  it’s late; i’m tired; g’nite until tomorrow,

Jeannie the Red Jay

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I Ran Away

OK. I admit it. I ran away. I tried to download writing software for NaNoWriMo and made the biggest mess I’ve ever seen on one poor computer.

Bless it’s heart; the computer’s that is. I’ve got the right files in the wrong places. Unzipped a file for which I now have unzipped files, and the zipped file, too. Lost one of the unzipped files . . . I think! I’ve got to call Richard for help! But if I don’t fix it myself, I’ll just get in trouble again.

So I just ran away for a couple of days and dealt with family crises. Thank goodness, they’re very distracting. Now I’m going to try to set up the software again. And I will call for help. I thought I was supposed to be disengaged at 76, and not care anymore. I care! I care!

But the family crisis turned out splendidly. And I guess I’m really much happier with that than with getting my software straight. The nice thing about getting older is that you sometimes discover your skills really have grown over the years, and your ability to make things turn out OK is stronger than ever.

So, I’m back, and braver, and ready to work on software for a few weeks until I have to explain to Husband Arnold why I ordered a Kindle Fire. You see, if I can just get through the novel in November (to get back to my routine of writing everyday and producing copy everyday), then my Ubuntu and CSS and Javascript should be ready to start programming again, my software found and fixed, and I can start trying to write apps for the Kindle Fire.

Well, it is a plan. And it’s only 1:30 p.m.  Well ahead of midnight.

love and peace,

Jeannie the Red Jay

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Coming of Age?

The world is an extraordinarily exciting place; and I love it. But I’ve got to draw a line in the sand and stop trying to do everything, all at once.  I’m behaving like a child in a candy store. I just came across Walt Kennedy’s blog, with a fabulous background on stamps with camels. We’ve had such a wonderful time with camels, I had to call Arnold in to see. Now he wants the stamps.

The blog is on animation. The Disney kind. And I have never wanted to do animation. Well, except for that time I swirled Arnold’s head around on a platter. But I hadn’t planned to have a character lose his head at NoNoWriMo. I think a werewolf and a vampire are quite enough to set a tone.  But I really liked Walt Kennedy’s explanation of squash and stretch. Bet I could do it if I practiced. And there’s a group around his blog – they all sketch.

No, no, no. Here’s the URL:  Go explore the Temple of the Seven Golden Camels on your own. You see, if I’m not careful, I’ll go from there to tell you all about The Books of Adam at and how delightful some of his drawings of skulls and skeletons are, and how that will certainly inspire me as I put together all the Halloween handmades that I didn’t even start today because I was so tired i fell promptly asleep after brunch and slept the whole afternoon.

If I’m not careful this is going to turn into a coming of age novel, with 76-year-old teen-ager trying to do everything at once. No, wait. I already did that when I was a teen-ager. On the other hand, what about a leading character who gets older at the same time as he gets younger. I guess you’d have to start him in the middle, and then work out all those problems with understanding time. And then I land right back into astrophysics, and even they haven’t figured out time yet.  But how do you include a werewolf in a science fiction drama, or even a romance with morals? I don’t think they even wear a watch. . . Werewolves, I mean.

But of course, I did a quick check on Prospero, to see how Shakespeare handled Twelfth Night, and landed on Prospero’s Books, “Time, thou must untangle this” . . .  Well, if even Shakespeare had trouble with time, after all the plots he came up with, I’m going to skirt it for my first novel. No, I wouldn’t leave you without the URL:

Arnold just came down. It’s already 9 p.m. This is clearly not the day I’m going to resolve my coming of age. Come to think of it, that’s a much nicer way to say “aging.” Maybe my werewolf could “age” and we could refer to his “coming of age.” Yes, I like that. Meanwhile, what does a werewolf do when he’s not scaring victims to death? He can’t just stand there and roar evil sounds at random. Does he shop? Does he hunt? Does he work? Or does he flit around like fairies on a Shakespearean island?

Like I said, or is that “as I said,” this is not the day I’m gong to resolve the dilemma of not having a day job. So I think I’ll go eat with Arnold and talk nonsense to my cats. Sometimes they actually appreciate the conversation, and join in. Arnold, too, that is.

love and peace, and let’s all hope for a better day TOMORROW.

Jeannie the Red Jay


Of course it’s a run on sentence. That’s the problem.

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I’m back; but I did consider running away

I am not brave. I’d rather stay home behind my computer keyboard than hike the Galapagos bravely. I can do quite well with National Geographic’s films of Blue-Footed Boobies, [ ] if I’d have to wait around all day on an island with no Starbucks and no shopping while we wait.

I thought things were bad last week, what with CSS and XHTML and JavaScript. But now I’ve not only added a picture book piece to the novel, I’ve recognized how much time I can spend out there on sites like FlickR. Susan and I talked again today, and added Social Network and Link Analysis. And that adds another programming language, Python. I could, of course, just do all my own artwork, but I’m not sure I can afford to limit myself to the copy of Paint that came with my Windows 7. The last time I used the equivalent to Illustrator, I had a marvelous rendition of Arnold’s (husband’s) head twirling around on a platter. Cool, but hardly the kind of image I had in mind for our website.

On the other hand, there was so much chat of killers and murder mysteries today on NaNoWriMo, I think I should include at least one serial killer in my romance-with-a-moral plot. Maybe a few murders would be a little more exciting than one of those Chinese stories of morality I picked up in Beijing. Besides, I don’t think they really persuaded any of their real Chinese readers. I considered having my werewolf kill people off, figuring he could sort of stand in for a real serial killer. No problem that way with clues. With a werewolf running around I wouldn’t have to be too subtle.

Having this new blog, all my software, and novel writing month upon me is a little scary. OK. It’s a lot scary. I can’t really back away from any of what’s going on. I gotta learn to use this computer. And I gotta learn a lot of programming languages. We need them all yesterday. And I really do need the novel writing to get my old routines back. I wrote at least that much most days just to maintain Dear Habermas. But I had to restructure our whole approach.

OK. I didn’t have to. But If I didn’t there would have been no point to my going on. It took two years of experimentation before I figured out that it was basically public-sphere praxis we were after, and then I had to learn to make my own designs for knitting and crochet because today all we seem to value is money, and very little is accessible free of charge.  I wasn’t too happy with that shift in values, but in today’s economy I have to admit that one does have to earn a living. Our website will stay free. Our project will go on, grants or no. Education has to be accessible at very little cost. Trust me, it does, though I’ll be happy to debate this when I don’t have quite so much going on.

When you can’t run away without losing your integrity, you slug it out. Welcome to our slugging it out blog. I would complain about all the work, except for the fact that I’m having so much fun, and my energy is surging.

Today’s my birthday. I’m gonna go play for a while now.

love and peace, and goodnight until tomorrow.

Jeannie the Red Jay

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The Road Not Taken

Builletin board on the Infinite Corridor at MIT.

Image via Wikipedia

It’s too early in this blog about what Susan and I did with Dear Habermas to know precisely where we’re going. There’s a lot of data preserved from our 14 years of maintaining the website. And as we restructure it, we hope to generate even more data on how social network analysis and newer mathematical analysis may guide us to more effective inclusions of the voices of real people in the governing process. To this end, I am trying to follow through on how the Meta-Activism Project is working out, and contacted the Soros foundation in hope of connecting.

Today I followed a number of links to flesh out what recent innovations might work for us as we restruccture Dear Habermas. A few days ago I had landed, probably through Stumble! on Pinteresst. They sent me an invitation to join, and I did, fascinated by their Pin It notion. the action resembles the ReTweet of Twitter, and the Sharing of the Wall on Facebook. But I found Pinterest a little more effective with it’s bulletin board of images, found elsewhere and pinned to my bulletin board, similar to Facebook’s Wall.

It’s late and I’m tired. Tomorrow I’ll link the board I tried to do with my idea of how we might be able to measure the strength of social relationships more accurately. My board of Things I’d Dare to Do would have given a good sense of who I am. But that’s not Pinterest’s goal. I like the concept of pinning images to boards, but I’m after something different.

For now, goodnight, love and peace,

jeannie the Red Jay

The Facebook wall scrolls down. It took me quite a while that that’s what they were calling a wall. I never knew a wall that scrolled down. Everything on Twitter seems to scroll down to. I like bulletin board concept better, and I like relying on images to gather first impressions of the member whose board you are looking at. Our forums on Yahoo also scrolled downward.

Unfortunately, when I  went back onto Pinterest this afternoon, I discovered that their concept of the bulletin boards is fairly static. The boards are named things like Travel, Food and Dining, Wedding, Party Decorating. When I first signed up, something had crashed my application, and no bulletin boards had been set up. Tinkering a bit I succeeded in putting one up, and Pinterest promptly asked for the name of the board. Duh! I was just trying to see if I could pin something up with the little widget I had added to my bookmark bar in Firefox. Impatient to continue, I named my board Things I would dare to do.

The first thing I pinned up was a dining chair with a full ruffled skirt covering its two back legs. I probably wouldn’t have used what looked like ruffled organdy, but would have been delighted to to add wonderful free form knitted or crochet tassels to the back legs of the chair. My two cats would love it! And it fits right in with my yarn bombing projects. But there was no where for me to put  such an explanation on my bulletin board with the image of the chair. This happened again, when I wanted to pin up a fashion photo with a wonderfully full and drapy skirt that could have been made of a fun informal fabric. Unfortunately, The skirt dragged on the ground, which I don’t recommend for hopping in and out of cars and wandering about Los Angeles, especially not if you’re my age. But the comment when I included went onto the bulletin board of the person whose board I found it on, not on mine.

I included muffins I thought I would love, a lovely pink rose made with rick rack, sewn in the traditional craft technique for making paper and ribbon roses,  pompons in a chain hung from trees for a party, and watches, old,  old ones like I had when I was in the eighth grade in 1949, and tile coasters to which a tissue paper photograph, from my computer printer had been glued. I’ve got a million photos from all over the world that I’d love to put out that way.

But Pinterest expected those things to be on a single topic, not all together. But mine was a single topic. The topic of what I’d dare to do. That included wild fashion for myself and my kitchen chairs, healthy muffins, since I’m supposed to lose all my bad eating habits, and sharing handmades with participants in our public-sphere project. If I could have put comments on my board, you might have learned quite a bit about me. Without the comments, and the short tales that tie them all together, the board will probably look like a mishmash. Not only that, but by tomorrow when I put up the Building Blog Book at Amazon. -The BLDGBLOG Book [Paperback] at Amazon

The inclusion of architecture is because our public-sphere project must work for boys as well as girls. The crochet and knitting  came first because a six–year-old at the Boys and Girls Club on Western Ave. asked me to start there.

This picture of Habermas needs to change places with the bulletin board picture from MIT. Duh!

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