30 October 2012

[liff_in_OR] Cascadian Blessings, The Counting Thereof

2885.In New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania they're being inundated by water; fortunately, us in the Puget-Willamette Trough and environs about the Salish Sea are being inundated more by news about Sandy than we are by any actual rainfall, though there is a great deal of that.

Truly I'm blessed to have won Oregon in the birth lottery.

And I will be, until the next Cascadia Subduction Zone quake.

And so it goes.

29 October 2012

[art] Well, That's One Way To Succeed In Graphic Design

2884.I haven't been terribly successful at graphic design. But this guy found a way. Not something I'd do, in as much as it involved all that breaking of the law and stuff.

Sounds like material for a great book though
Gregory M. Zimmerman, 36, was a key figure in a jet-setting band of suspected identity thieves. He produced high-quality identification for a group of "creepers," who burglarized commercial office buildings in many U.S. cities, stealing checks, credit cards and personal information to defraud banks, say federal prosecutors. 
Graphic designers. More dangerous than you know.

Man, I can just picture them strip-club confabs right now. Goodfellas with a bird on it.

[pdx_media] The Ohmanless Oregonian

2883.This shouldn't have happened on Bob Ross's 70th birthday, man. Just isn't fair. One of the best things at The Oregonian isn't there anymore, starting today.

Jack Ohman … a personal hero of mine, and one of the reasons that The Big O's editorial page was still a must-visit for us, is no longer there. This, from the pape, today:
The Oregonian's prize-winning editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman has decided to leave the paper. Ohman, who had worked at the paper for nearly 30 years, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize this year.
The message, with the warm byline of simply The Oregonian, was only about four mere paragraphs. So much for an award-winning cartoonist who was nominated for the Pulitzer last year, and with the OR-7 For President campaign, was at the top of a very cool form. Seems a bit wan and un-sincere. Jack, who says (and we believe him) that he will remain an avid reader of the paper, is gracious and well spoken in his announcement.

Also, the article notes that he 'has written and illustrated several books'.  But you're on your own, bunkie. Well, maybe The O can't be bothered to so much as check Wikipedia, but I can:
  • Back to the ’80s (1986)
  • Drawing Conclusions (1987)
  • Fear of Fly Fishing (1988)
  • Fishing Bass-ackwards (1991)
  • Why Johnny Can't Putt (1993)
  • Media Mania (1995)
  • Do I Have To Draw You A Picture? (1997)
  • Get the Net! (1998)
  • An Inconvenient Trout (2008)
  • Angler Management (2009)
  • Illustrator, Blowing Smoke: The Wild and Whimsical World of Cigars (1997), Brian McConnachie, author
I particularly recommend Back to the 80's, which I still find incredibly humorous, having survived them and all.

Word is he's going to be releasing something about his future plans on Wednesday. Bated breath here at Haus ZehnKatzen.

[art] Bob Ross's 70th Birthday Gift ...

2882.... is the sweetest Google doodle I've ever seen. Seriously.

 I mean, I saw the little squirrel on his shoulder and I kind of want to cry now.

28 October 2012

[teh_funnay] Joss Whedon's Magnum Opus

2881.Yes, it's better than Buffy, and better than Firefly. Just shut up. It is. Don't argue!

Parkour to you!

[net_liff] Wikipedia Awesome Sauce, Salish Sea Edition

2880.The Salish Sea is the recently-adopted name for the inland waterway network in Northwestern Washington and Southwestern British Columbia - the northern half of the Cascadian heartland - made of of that merry messup of the Strait of Georgia and the Puget Sound as connected to the Pacific by the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Still there is obviously some debate as to the makeup of that feature. No worries, man! Wikipedia (and associated Wikipedians, whoever they may be) to the rescue:

This screencap is accurate as of the time of this post, honest!

Well. That's settled then.

And so it goes.

27 October 2012

[diary] Two Sites All About Diary Essentials

2879.Those essentials being, of course, pens and notebooks, two things which I absolutely adore.

Two sites I'm abashed to say that I've only now stumbled on:
  1. Pen Addict: http://www.penaddict.com This is a very spare, cleanly designed site, very few photos, but links, links, and more links. Follow any one for interesting things about pens, pens, pens … so … many … pens. I've only begun to explore.
  2. Notebook Stories: http://www.notebookstories.com/. "In search of the perfect page" is its tagline, and there are profiles of notebook addicts, some personal stories … again, I've only started exploring, but it looks promising.
The design of Pen Addict showed me something I might have forgotten myself; a good, efficient design, with just what is needed, no more, no less, can get across as much as a cute little blog festooned with baubles.

Food for thought, there.

26 October 2012

[liff] It's Sam Klein's World, You Just Live There, Brazil Edition

2878.I'm apparently huge there. A regular Sam Walton.

[media] And Was His Stump Speech Written By Jim Steinman?

2877.Today in our somewhat-involuntary chronicling of the Death of All Media, we stumble on this.

Actually, If I can digress a moment (well, usually I do) I've got to blandly admit that I'm surprised at how easily things like this are to find. I don't go looking for them, truly I don't. The impression I'm coming to is that media orgs are so desperate to put out content, and do so in such a blind frenzy sometimes, that they just don't look. Copy-editors and caution have clearly become a thing of the past, or or going that way even quicker than even I had suspected.

That out of the way, today's morsel comes from the Global Post, yet another news organization that strives to keep us informed (or at least distracted) by posting everything all the time. It would seem that Meat Loaf, that memorable exponent of 70s-80s tract-home and trailer-park down'n'dirty rock'n'roll (I say this having lived in a tract-home and a trailer-park, so I know whereof I speak) has endorsed Mitt Romney for President, a development that manages, in a a Möbius-strip way, to be both unexpected and completely unsurprising. And the caption on the photo can't seem to get straight just who it is they're talking about.

No, you aren't misreading it. The caption says that's Mitt Romney, not Meat Loaf at Mitt Romney's rally, but Mitt.

If so, he's had work done.

On the other hand, you could have the makings of a new movie here:

The Romney Horror Picture Show. [1]

Try not to worry. It'll just get you old early.

[1] Yeah, I ripped that one off. It was too good to leave alone.

25 October 2012

[liff] Google StreetView Immortality Missed By THAT Much in Corvallis

2876.Before the word photobomb became en vogue, the real trick was to get yourself into Google StreetView by acting out or doing something odd when the StreetView photo car comes by.

It's not hard to notice. It's got this camera orb on a pillar over the trunk that looks like that odd monster on Star Trek's head who got all the historical personae to fight in that one episode.

But since you won't know when … or even if, or if ever … the car's coming your way, it's something you can never be really ready for. So, you wind up doing this:

This happened in Corvallis, on a little side street called Park Terrace, whose only function now is to funnel traffic on and off parking lots to Monroe Avenue at about NW 25th Street.

The sad thing is, he had his moment … and Google's fuzzed out his face.

Missed immortality by that much.

Here's the link to the actual picture.

[graphic design] 30 Ways To Die Of Electrocution In Greater Germany

2875.This following diagram isn't just a good idea … it's the law. Or it should be.

The book this (and other pictures similar) is found in is one called Elektroschutz in 132 Bildern, published in Vienna in the early 1900s by a physician named Stefan Jellinek. The pictures are nice and direct and unambiguous; they teach, graphically, that the surest way to kill yourself with electricity is to form a complete path from source (usually the bright red arrow) to ground (the screened back, pink arrow. Arrowheads provide the path for current flow.

The pictures seem oddly timeless despite being drawn in a style instantly recognizable for that of Germany and environs in the early 20th Century. They're very evocative, showing the startled stunned dismay of the victims, and the drawings are strewn about with strange inscrutable devices with dials and terminals whose apparent function is to place lethal electrical current in places where foolish, thoughtless death is made even more convenient and unavoidable:

And electricity being what it is, not even animals are excused from appalling stupidity:

Who's a bad dog, then?

Really, considering the flagrant disregard for safety apparently exhibited by the German-speaking peoples during that time, it's doubly astounding that the Deutsches Kaiserreich even made it out of the Wilhelmine era, never mind Reich #3.

H/T http://www.brepettis.com/blog for this boon. View 30 of these überamusing diagrams at this flickr album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bre/sets/72157611077138836/. Via Google+ at this post: https://plus.google.com/u/0/112360867913985105653/posts/7advWsaN4KS.

24 October 2012

[art] Color From Out Of Oregon: How Gamblin Sees It

2874.Here's a nifty little video with the man himself, Robert Gamblin, talking about what he does and why he does it, with behind-the-scenes scenes.

Approach to Colormaking from Gamblin Artists Colors on Vimeo.

Gamblin's website is http://www.gamblincolors.com/;  You can get the at I've Been Framed, Muse, and Utrecht, and even Blick (if you must).

[art] Sensazioni!: Photorealistic Pencil Portraiture by Diego Fazio

2873.(h/t Cort Webber at this Facebook post) I dare anyone to not believe this photo:

… is anything other than a photo. Looks pretty realistic. And here, I'm giving it a way a bit; this portrait, called Sensaztioni, by Italian artist Diego Fazio.

It takes some close looking. But you can get a better view if you follow this link, and views in progress here and here and here, too. Being a huge fan of the pencil to begin with this was greatly inspiring, but I did draw something myself last night at Denny's … but it was a crabby sketch of the USS Enterprise. 

Well, one thing I have discovered is that I've let my drawing muscles lay fallow for far, far too long. Also I was tired then. And vexed generally; my entire life right now is kind of at sixes and sevens. But this is quite a light.

While there's no video of the work-in-progress, here's about 20 seconds (far too little!) of the drawing with the light playing about it. As the POV moves right, you can see the light reflecting on the layered graphite, a telltale visual signature that can't be mistaken.

Splendid, absolutely splendid.

23 October 2012

[pdx] The OLCC: Licensing Wervers Since 1933

2872.Today in this Post-Copy-Editor World, our stumbling on of more silly errors takes us down Snailem way, to the web page of the capital's daily, the Statesman-Journal.
Reporting on the resignation of Oregon Liquor Control Commission head Steve Pharo – an event which will simplify Governor Kitzhaber's day quite a bit, if the stories we've been following tell us anything – The old S-J lets us in on the following fact:

That's right. Since 1933, the OLCC has be licensing wervers. 

Whatever they are. Right now, my wits are running on fumes. I got nothing.

Werves me right for spending so much time on Facebook, I suppose.

[pdx] Goodbye Jordie, Dean of Portland Store Cats

2871.We have sad news to report today. We have learned that Jordie, the official store cat of I've Been Framed, has crossed, as they say, the Rainbow Bridge.

We met Jordie some months back and, after coming out of his ultra-shy kitten stage, he stood athwart the back rooms of IBF, patrolling with catly poise. Friendly little guy too.

I was surprised to find out that he'd passed away … we were thinking it was about time to pay another visit to one of Portland's greatest art resources and get a few minutes of whisker time besides. He was quite the little gentleman by now, and I don't think he must have been more than two years old.

We should have visited when we thought about it, darn it.

Loved ya, schweetie pie. Sorry we didn't come by to say 'hi' more often.

Stop by Facebook to pay your respects, willyaplease.

21 October 2012

[branding] Bodyform: The Best Feminine Hygiene Advertising … Period.

There's a joke I learned as a kid. A version went something like this:
Did you hear the one about the kid who found a fiver on the street? He went to the drug store and bought a box of Tampax. When his friends heard, they made fun of him, but he said "Don't laugh! With Tampax, I can go horse-riding, water-skiing, bicycling …"
Yeah. I guess you had to be there.

I kind of wish I was in the room when the Branding Zen Masters™ came up with the following thing …

It's said (can ye believe everything that falls out of the intertuebz?) that a person who we shall regard as "Richard Neill" posted a rant to the page of Bodyform, manufacturers of a line of things we used to call 'sanitary napkins', which gave my mind no end of fits as a kid, because I know what sanitary is, and I knew what napkins were, but … well, anywhozzle … It was a soliloquy apparently on the reproach of a man who, upon learning the ins and outs of living with That Special Someone™and hoping to see the joy of woman from a closer vantage, instead, feels wronged. The whole rant is here, and it ends on the plaintive note:
Instead I had to fight against every male urge I had to resist screaming wooaaahhhhh bodddyyyyyyfooorrrmmm bodyformed for youuuuuuu as my lady changed from the loving , gentle, normal skin coloured lady to the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin. Thanks for setting me up for a fall bodyform , you crafty bugger
Damn you, Bodyform! A pox upon your house (but just a small one, understand). 

Added venom and 360 degree headspin, it must be said, at no extra charge. Such a deal.

Forging ahead: the trajectory of the thing seems to be thus; the Bodyform company saw the rant and decided to embrace it with humor and aplomb befitting the finest in fine comedy. As the company said here, Unfortunately Bodyform doesn't have a CEO. But if it did she'd be called Caroline Williams. And she'd say …

Well, she'd say this: 

Yes, my friends, we have finally learned how to joke effectively about when Aunt Flo comes to visit. To think that I'd have lived to see the day. But it's an effective lesson in social marketing, and great comedy to boot.

The rant spread to Mashable, as did the reply, and the rest, as they say, is hystery. 

There are some, though, who wonder at the timing and the quick, highly polished response to the rant. Some of the posters at AdWeek, in the reply stream, think the whole thing is a bit pat. And maybe it is. I myself am torn about advertising these days. It's true, as Orwell has said, that advertising is "a stick rattling in a swill bucket", but another side of me says If you're going to waste my time, at least entertain me.

Well, I'm entertained.

Well played, Bodyform … well played. You earned a "like" from me.

11 October 2012

[literature] The End of Banned Books Week Has Been Repealed

Bill Nothstine has banned the end of Banned Books week, which is just fine with us, because the Brigade of Decent Citizenry Brigade doesn't take 51 weeks off either.

And, also they're continuing to try to ban Huck Finn. Because America.

[pdx] Rewind: Extreme Makeover - Made In Oregon Sign Edition

2867.Stumbled upon by The Wife™, of which I am grateful (both for the stumblage as well as the wifeitude) …

I am usually of torn mind about most politicos, and when it comes to Commissioner Leonard, I'm positively schizy. That said, one of his moves I liked the absolute most was when he got Ramsay Signs to donate the famous Made In Oregon sign on the White Stag Block at the west end of the Burnside Bridge to the city - so as to prevent the U of O from putting its name on a beloved landmark and, not coincidentally, to make the sign a landmark for all of Portland, not just the Duck fans.

Go Beavers.

Anywhozzle, the ensewage from this stumblage is an article at Commissioner Leonard's blog, which actually showed some behind-the-scenes looks at Ramsay Signs as they pieced the new look together. I've always been obsessive about signs, and seeing them up close is something cool to me. Views like this:

The rest of it is here: http://commissionerleonard.typepad.com/commissioner_randy_leonar/2010/11/portland-oregon-sign-coming-soon.html (posted in 11/2010).

10 October 2012

[art] A Hard Pencil Is Good To Find

I love 9H pencils.

You all know what that means, don't you?

Probably not. Poor, poor people.

These are very, very hard pencils. You can drive them as nails.

Well, in balsa wood anyway.

9H pencils are the hardest you're likely to find anywhere. You can barely make a mark with them, pressing hard. Why would I want 9H pencils?

Because you can barely make a mark with them, which means they're actually very nifty for roughing in things with a very light mark which won't smear, because I'm clumsy (or awesome that way).

Actually, you can find 9H pencils … what you can't find are 9H woodless pencils, as I adore woodless pencils. For some reason pencil makers don't see any market for any woodless pencil with an H in it (unless that's HB). And that leads me, kind of awkwardly, into pencil grades, which everyone thinks are pretty much #2, which is another system altogether.

Ever wonder, if there's a #2 pencil, where's the #1?

Around the world, graphite pencils are graded from softest to hardest, along a continuum. Artists know the H-F-B system well; H is for hard, B is for black (soft lead is easy to make into a mass tone of black) and HB is right in the middle. There's another grade, 'F', which is softer than H but harder than HB, and was chiefly included so that people would go to the art supply store and go 'what's the F stand for', and the art supply store person will shrug and say 'I don't know either'.

Maybe F stands for a secret art supply industry word meaning 'get people into the stores'.

Maybe it stands for fnord. They'll never say.

But this is the scale on the H-F-B continuum:

9H … H - F - HB - B  … 9B
Hard            Medium            Soft

Now, this system originated somewhere in England, unless it didn't.

The system schoolkids in America are most familiar with seems to contain only one grade - #2 - but it only seems that way, as President Morgan Freeman said to Cub Reporter Téa Leoni in Deep Impact. What I can seriously say is that it was developed by Conté, the man who invented the pencil, and introduced and modified to American needs by John Thoreau, who was famous for causing Henry David Thoreau's mom to become pregnant with him (what lineage, yeah?). It was Conté who figured out that varying the proportion of clay with graphite would cause differing hardnesses of the 'lead' - the more the clay, the harder the lead. And if you ever wondered where #2 falls on the pencil hardness scale, here's where (arranged as above):

#4  - #3  - #2  - #1
Hard        Medium        Soft
2H  - H  - HB  - B

There are fewer grades and American pencils tend to be harder. This of course totally captures the American character: we are a simple folk and a hard one. Since there's less of a chance of inserting some arbitrarily-chosen inscrutable symbol or number (like that glyph George Harrison included on all his albums) we here in the States make it confusing by only making #2 commonly available, leaving us to wonder where all the other numbers ran off to.

In the meantime, the search for a 9H (or any H, for that matter) woodless pencil continues. We doubt much success along these lines.

And so it goes.

09 October 2012

[pdx] OR-7: A Predator's Predator; A Predator you can Trust!

Famous gray wolf OR-7's Presidential campaign is getting off to a strong, if late start, and already he's at the head of the … ah, pack:

OR-7 Presidential Campaign PRESS RELEASE
Contact: Jack Ohman, Campaign Director

PORTLAND--The new Pew Research poll shows OR-7 taking a commanding lead among predators, leading with personal injury lawyers 42 OR-7, 36 Romney, 22 Obama, mortgage bankers 46 OR-7, Romney 31, Obama 23, and used car salesmen 56 OR-7, 30 Romney, Obama 14.
So … who you gonna call?

Well, Jack Ohman, I guess. His name is on the press release, there.

[liff] Broughton Beach, August, 2012

As my friends know, my The Wife™ and myself were not born in Portland. She was born in Ohio but has been living in Oregon since she was 6 months old, though I am a native-born Oregonian, I was born in Silverton (which didn't count for much when I was a kid but seems to matter more and more as the years pass, but that's a digression and will cost me). And my wife is as Oregonian as any native born, and more fond of Portland than I am.

All these thoughts came back to me as I looked over these pictures at Broughton Beach which, as any local knows, is this wonderful broad sand riverbank along the Columbia River on the northern edge (where else?) of the city, by the western end of Portland International Airport. And that northern-edgeness brought on another thought, about the Columbia River itself.

 While Portland is famous for being a Columbia River town, it isn't, not really. It's a Willamette River town. and for all its stature amongst North America's rivers, and despite the notability that it's the biggest North American river to flow into the Pacific, And that it was the main street of the people of the Chinuk Wawa, it's not exactly the Main Street of the Pacific Northwest, when it comes to where people live. The biggest single city along the Columbia is Portland and, as I said earlier, it actually fonts the Willamette.

Other drainages, the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Ohio, all have remarkable famous cities that front on to them. Not the Columbia, which is an awesome river … but it belongs to small-town Cascadia. Maybe it's the geography, after all, before the dams were built the lower Columbia was much more well known as a river you had to portage rather than sail down (and eventually led to a cutoff that went south, around Mount Hood, and completely away from the river), and the truly clement and fertile weather that the white man came to enjoy were along the Willamette anyway.

I don't think it's a good or bad thing; just a thing, an interesting thing. To the Willamette belongs Cascadia's cities and population - to the Columbia belong the small places, the wide open vistas. The outback.

It simply is.

Another thing a child of the banal Mid-Willamette valley never gets used to are the big boats. During this afternoon, a Tidewater barge sought its way up river. It entranced both of us for a long long time. You just don't see this growing up around Salem, which lost any interesting river traffic when what amounted to Oregon's steamboat era ended. The Willamette at Salem is an adorable thing in comparison to the Columbia (or even the Willamette at Portland), the rivers here in the metro area are this muscular, working thing, always busy.

How will you keep 'em down on the farm?

And a sunset is a sunset is a sunset.

 But a sunset on the river like this …

… is a special thing, and makes me glad I'm here.

[writing] The Associated Press: Sick (sic) transit gloria

Lately the death of capable writing in this society of ours has been revealing some odd symptoms, to be sure, and I can't call this the 'death of print' since it's online and digital, but I'm betting it is related.

The AP Stylebook must have lately been condensed down to pamphlet size, much in the way the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary was being created. It's an awkward witticism explanation, but the best I can come up with for this stuff …

KGW is my news-online source of choice, mostly because I'm extremely impressed with the throroughgoing and professional mein they got there. As do most news sites, they populate the feed with AP stories. But I'm starting to wonder how much proofreading goes on over there.

Since I found this hilarious error, the story has been corrected; it's this one, which reports a wonderful, wonderful, thing; both UO and OSU unbeaten and in the top 10 nationally, which apparently, OSU CAN HAZ:


But the real boggler for me is this one, about that nut, Felix Baumgartner:

 It's still there at the time of this writing. And it does appear to say that Baumgartner is going to descend to 22 miles to make his legendary jump. Which would be somewhere in the upper reaches of Earth's mantle.

He claims that this will be his last jump. I can see why. After this, his true identity will be revealed.

Satan. I mean, 22 miles down? Who else?

And, so … in a post-copy-editor, post-spellchecker world … it goes.

Updated, 0741 10/09/12: The 120,000 foot descent has been re-termed an ascent.

04 October 2012

[logo] 'blnk' and you'll miss it …

2864.I've seen this logo around town, most notably in the parking lot of the Midland Branch of the Mulnomah County Library, quite possibly the bestest place in the world outside of my own house:

You'll find it, too, if you charge your electric car there. Public places have sacrificed a primo parking space (well, hell, we needed the walk anyway, right?) to a space devoted to serving a small, kiosk-like thing, which is about the height of an average-short human being, and with the cord dangling, resembles an ultra-thin gas pump as imagined by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Seriously, they do look pretty sharp. They are electric taps for charging up you aforesaid auto made and knitted into a neato-mosquito computer metering network made by the Blink Network. Since I drive a '72 VW Type I "Beetle" (that's Bug to you unsophisticates) and The Wife™ drives an'86 Subaru GL Wagon, we have no truck ('scuse) with such a thing; we proles can only do so much. But they are pretty nifty and clean designs, pleasant to look at and harmonizing quite well with the efficient aesthetic of a parking lot or space.

But that logo … bugs (so to say) me.

It's easy to see the cleverness there. The left-hand stroke on the minuscule 'n' has a tittle over it, and while the tittle is an integral part of your standard minuscule 'i' glyph, it makes little sense over an 'n'. It's strange, like only half of a heavy-metal ümla¨üt. And, since no distinction is made between the 'i' letterform and the 'n' letterform, eventually the 'i'-ness of it just disappears, and I read it …


… which I pronounce "blunk". Which is awkward, because "blunk" isn't a word at all, really. That's not to say that it's not at all possible, mind; Hebrew script, that gorgeous square calligraphy, naturally comes with no vowels at all; did you know this? You read the consonants and inferred the vowels.

But that's not how English works.

So, when you see this logo, keep your 'i' on the 'n' … but watch it! Blnk and you'll miss it.

[pdx], So, I Run Into S.M. Stirling At Powell's Books One Day …

2863.I do happen to be a fan of the Emberverse.

So, after a particularly trying day in McMinnville (long story, patience, my friends, patience, we shall get there anon), back on Sept the 6th, me and The Wife™are achieving ingress to the Greater Portland area along Highway 99W, the Pacific Hwy, and we're tired and kind of hot after doing several trying things (like I said, later, some other time maybe) and all I want to do is get home. I'm blown, as they say, to hell and back.

But Wife™wants to stop by Powell's Beaverton. Gas prices being what they are, we don't get over the Sylvan Hill as near as often as we used to, and Powell's is a relatively quick detour up Southwest Hall Boulveard, and she's driving, and a visit to Powell's Suburb of Books is always guaranteed to brighten the dullest day, and this one made me dull indeed, so I mumbled in the affirmative, and we went.

I didn't intend on buying anything. Then, Tiny happened.

I've not written much about Tiny, and that's too bad. I love this guy. Big in body and big in heart, just the sweetest fellow you ever wanted to meet. Cares for his friends, is one of those big guys with a huge heart who is a little scary looking but you need not to judge books by their covers sometimes.

He looks like one of those big, bruising biker-dude types, but he's a smart, kind fellow. And he recognizes us, and we make greeting, and he asks us if we're here to see S.M. Stirling.

'Scuse? You mean S.M-everlovin'-Dies The Fire-Emberverse-Stirling?

Yah. Dat da guy.

All of a sudden I'm buying a book. I'm gonna get an autograph. I think most of you can relate. We come off this real trying day, we're stunned by certain events and have had more mood swings than a teenage girl, and it just so happens that I've stumbled into an S.M. Stirling author appearance to promote his next Emberverse novel?

I'd like to be able to report that I jumped up and down like something that jumps up and down going Yippee, yippie! but believe it or not, I was still discouraged enough from the day we'd had (like I said, some other time, nothing personal) to think aaaaah, just want to go home anyway. 

Glad I thought about it a little. A lunch at the TacoTime in the mall area did a lot to help. TacoTime soft taco. Staff'o'liff. You can quote me. Thus fortified, we go into Powell's and take a seat in the assembling seating area. Steve's due in at 7:00 PM.

He arrives and seats himself at 6:30 PM. I thought authors (or, as some I knew as a kid called them, arthers) were dissolute and got there when they were damn' well good and ready, but I found that incorrect, making this an S.M. Stirling appearance and a learning experience. Bonus!

Now, whether or not one idolizes the artists whose work they adore one does form a certain impression based on the photos they seen, the things they've heard, and the voice that comes from the work. Based on Island in the Sea of Time and the Emberverse series, something told me he'd come on like a retired Marine, real strict and correct, but he was just about the nicest and easygoing-est author of the (sadly) few I've had the fortune to meet. He just carried around this marvelous relaxed attitude with him, and all of a sudden people were chatting with him, he was chatting with us, it was rather like making the fellow's acquaintance at a SF convention in hospitality. Very friendly, affable, chatty.

The appearance officially got underway after he got caffeinated (well, that author stereotype holds, at least) and he treated us to over an hour's worth of reading out of the newest Emberverse novel, Lord of Mountains, which apparently finds High King Artos I, Queen Mathilda, and the rest, chasing the CUT and their Prophet back across the Rocky Mountains, and the United States of Boise nearing a turning point.

You'll all excuse the blurriness of the photos. They were taken only a row back from the front and I didn't want to give Steve sparklies-in-the-eyes with a my rude camera flash.

One other thing I can assure everyone about Stirling is that he knows how to read aloud from the printed page. That's not as easy as one would think. It was easy to tell when Rudi MacKenzie was speaking as Stirling affected this rather delightful faux-Gaelic lilt.

After the reading, a rather generous question-and-answer session. I got a few questions of my own answered, had my suspicion that a few lines of dialogue was probably inspired by The Frantics, and I think we nearly went over. There was much good feeling.

One particular question really drove home to me how nifty this guy is. The Wife™ asked a question about how talented people sometimes have trouble getting published. He answered it, but somehow in mid-delivery he changed the angle of approach on the reply and turned it into a very touching and sensitive encouragement to keep trying. My spouse has never tried to write any stories, but she's made some tentative steps into diarizing and I'm betting she's always wanted to try. It was a very personal answer, or at least it was pitched that way, and it really endeared him to her. If my betrothed ever becomes a published author, you can mark this moment; this was the point of inflection.

So, that's the thing about S.M. Stirling. Nice guy, writes what excites him, for readers who like him and he likes them right back.

Couldn't ask for more, really, considering that there was a chance that we'd not have been there at all. Sometimes, things just kind of get dropped in front of you.