Susan Wise Bauer's Blog, page 5

August 4, 2012

This weekend I’m in Houston, speaking at the Texas Home School Coalition conference. Will try to post some pictures shortly.

As it turns out, the Woodlands conference center is currently hosting both the THSC conference (theme: “Educating For Eternity”) and the Kiss/Motley Crue Tour 2012.

I’m a little afraid that the resulting matter/antimatter explosion might obliterate the universe.

(Concert was last night. That’s the flowerbed outside the hotel, this morning…)

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Published on August 04, 2012 06:12 • 17 views

July 28, 2012

"If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you." #
Dear Verizon: When you say "Submit repair requests online easily!" and then provide absolutely no path to such requests, my faith wavers. #
Dear Verizon: If I tell you that lightning has sizzled my DLS, please connect me to repair services, not tech support in another country. #
Dear Verizon: When I am into my 11th request-repair-phone-tree and my cell service fails AGAIN, I am not filled with confidence. #
Dear Verizon: Are you a REAL company? I have questions. #
Dear Verizon…oh, never mind. #
House internet fried. On phone to Verizon til midnight, "Unable to schedule repair at this time." But offered to connect me to sales. #
Dominion Power & Gannon Well Service on the job 7 AM to repair lines & water, Verizon still MIA. Like Good vs. Evil, Farm Utilities Version. #

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Published on July 28, 2012 21:21 • 24 views

Lightning hit the house this week. The house is fine, although the strike practically knocked my third son off his chair and a flash of blue fire went by the window. Funny thing about a lightning strike, though; you find out exactly what has gotten accidentally unplugged from surge protectors and replugged directly into the wall. That would be…the living room TV, my third son’s computer, the DirecTV box, and the DSL router-modem. Additional victims: the transformer outside the house, and the well pump. So, no power, no Internet connection, and no water.

I spent three hours on the phone with Verizon’s pathetic imitation of a customer service department; still no DSL at the house this morning, so I’ve sent Son #2 off to Radio Shack for a DIY solution. (There might be a tiny rant about this on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.) The TV and computer together are about three dollars short of our home insurance deductible; oh, well, that’s life.

It’s annoying not to have the house Internet, and we’ll have to catch some of the London Olympics on rerun. We have generators, so apart from not being able to use the electric oven, life plodded along as usual. And Dominion Power arrived on cue the next morning to replace the transformer; a lovely sight to see at sunrise.

But without the well pump, there’s no water.

This turned out to be relatively tiny crisis. Gammon Well, who originally dug the well decades ago, sent a repairman out first thing the next morning. He hauled the cover off the pumphouse and said, “Do you have a fuse?” And we were good to go. (Which made me feel stupid, actually, because I know the pump has a fuse; I could have checked it the night before and popped in a new one. But after the blue fireball, my mind went straight to Toasted Pump.)

The amazing thing about this itsy-bitsy crisis is how long it took me to do everything, the night before, without running water. I hauled buckets of water in from the swimming pool to rinse the dishes and flush the toilets. I went to find water for the livestock, who kept slurping it down with total disregard for the fact that it was no longer coming out of the faucets. I scrounged bottled water to cook dinner with, make coffee, wash hands, brush teeth. And there wasn’t much, so I policed it. Funny how thirsty everyone gets when they’re only allowed half a cup of water at a time.

Running water is a brand-new development, historically speaking. My grandmother spent her youth hauling water up a hill from the river; my mother remembers her hanging out urine-soaked diapers to dry and re-use (only the really poopy ones actually got WASHED). But we have a generally reliable well-pump-generator system, so I rarely experience exactly how much time it takes to get water, and how precious it is. I was wearing a pedometer, the day of the lightning strike (my husband and I are trying to improve our everyday fitness, so we try to take 15,000 steps per day in the course of normal life). I was around 11,000 just before dinner. By the time I was done rounding up enough water to finish out the day, I was up to 23,000 steps. And I was kind of grimy and sweaty, too. But I was beat, so I settled for a bottled-water handwash and went to bed “in my muck,” as one of my cousins puts it.

Chapter Two of The History of the Ancient World begins:

Ancient peoples without deep wells, dams, or metropolitan water supplies spent a large part of their lives looking for water, finding water, hauling water, storing water, calculating how much longer they might be able to live if water were not found, and desperately praying for water to fall from the sky or well up from the earth beneath.

I wrote that, but this week, I realized how impossible it is for me to truly understand it.

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Published on July 28, 2012 10:35 • 98 views

July 14, 2012

This morning's ride: my neighbor's field. [image error]
Breakfast on the farm. Reminds me of what happens when I make cookies. [image error]
I would go: A Bid to Save Detroit by Welcoming Zombies

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Published on July 14, 2012 21:21 • 35 views

July 12, 2012

The History of the Renaissance World went to my editor a month ago. I’m not finished with it; I am finishing maps and timelines (which depend on the final draft) and waiting for edits, I’ll have to check proofreader marks and copy edits. But right now, everything I still need to do with the book is waiting on someone else’s action.

Today, I de-spidered my office. As you probably know, my office is a restored chicken-shed, so a natural home for all sorts of uninvited visitors. I don’t mind spiders, but webs under my desk do not make me productive and comfortable.

I’d been meaning to de-spider since early spring, but I realized today that de-spidering is actually one of my post-deadline rituals. I don’t tend to haul the vacuum cleaner down, plug it in, and go to the trouble unless I’m in transition.

And then, thinking it through, I realize I have at least five post-project rituals.

1) Vacuum.

A clean office is an office ready for the next project.

2) Return books to the university library. I had around four hundred out at the height of this project; I can’t return them all until my book actually goes to the printer, because up through the last stage of proofreading I find myself needing to check facts and citations. But about half of them are now migrating eastward to Williamsburg.

3) Throw away clutter.

Lack of clutter = space for thought.

I got three big garbage bags out, including two pieces of defunct computer equipment. Felt great.

4) Choose a new notebook to start keeping thoughts for the next project.

This one was a present from my oldest son a couple of years ago. I’ve been saving it. Now I’m tasking it for the next big book I’ve been contemplating.

5) Invent a new task-chart.

I’m a list-maker. A linear-thinking, type-A, left-brain list-maker. When I do something that isn’t on my list, I write it on my list. It makes me feel good. (So there.)

When I’m restarting, I re-list. Think of a new way to keep track of my goals. Figure out a different method for charting my time. I use colored pencils, because they make me feel free and creative.

My new task-chart has places to write down the sub-goals I have for different types of projects, and columns for exercise and for the work I do with the horses.

It’s worked well for the last month. It’ll work well until it starts making me feel guilty; and then I’ll ditch it and make another one with different colors.

Post-project, pre-project. It’s an inevitably temporary, but remarkably fun place to be.

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Published on July 12, 2012 15:05 • 13 views

July 6, 2012

My editor at Norton has just asked me whether I have any suggestions for the cover of the History of the Renaissance World. I suggested the covers for the first two books in the series (that’s Constantine taking Rome “for Christ” on the History of the Ancient World, and Charlemagne’s coronation on the History of the Medieval World) based on what I thought were overarching themes for the books.

So what I think is an overarching theme for this book probably isn’t going to make it onto the cover. It’s death. Yes, I know, “renaissance” is rebirth, but the centuries of the Renaissance were even fuller than usual of plague, revolt, rebellion, crusade, campaign, war, war, and war. So my first suggestion to Norton is to use part of Pieter Brughel’s “The Triumph of Death.”

Here are a couple of details:

I think this would be a fantastic cover, combining those images with the word “renaissance.” I seriously doubt Norton’s going to go for it, though.

So here were my other suggestions–the conquest of Constantinople, either by the Crusaders in 1204 or by the Turks in 1453,

(the 1453 conquest, by Palma il Giovane)

(the 1204 conquest, by Domenico Tintoretto)

one of the illustrations from Renaissance manuscripts of Aristotle teaching Arab scientists, like this one from an early 13th century Saljuq text,

or, for a completely different look, some of the thumbnail scenes from the fourteenth-century Catalan Atlas designed by Abraham Cresques, one of the first world atlases.

The oil-painting conquest scenes have the most continuity with the look of the first two books, but I also think they’re the most predictable (and kind of dull).

Which ones do you like? (I’ll keep you posted about what the cover designers come with.)

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Published on July 06, 2012 07:58 • 23 views

July 4, 2012

Georgiana and Caroline have arrived to complete the new Leicester Longwool flock.

And for a sheeps-eye view of the whole flock, check out my Wandering Sheep video, shot this morning.

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Published on July 04, 2012 08:19 • 33 views

July 2, 2012

This weekend, six of my eight-sheep “starter flock” arrived on the farm.

I’ve wanted to raise sheep for YEARS. I researched the breeds; I wanted wool as a priority over meat, good temperament, naturally polled (hornless) if possible, and good “tourism” value for the visitors to the Peace Hill B&B. Finally I settled on Leicester Longwools, a breed developed in the eighteenth century by the English farmer Robert Bakewell. Leicester Longwools (you can read about the breed here) nearly died out before Colonial Williamsburg’s breed conservancy program began to raise them, about twenty years ago. They’re still rare, and I like the idea of helping preserve a breed. Plus, I wanted some sort of historic connection to this part of Virginia, and these sheep were raised here in colonial times.

I bought sheep from three different farms, hoping to get as much genetic variety as possible: Row House Farm, Old Gjerpen Farm, and Hopping Acres. The complete flock will have three white ewes and three black (the black longwools are even rarer), plus a white ram and a black ram.

So far, the lambs from Old Gjerpen and Row House have arrived. We’re heading off today to pick up the last two from Hopping Acres.

And here they are! (Yes, these are “lambs.” They’ll be lambs until they turn a year old, but as you can see, they grow pretty fast; they’re 3-4 months old right now. The rams are probably around 100 pounds right now and will top out closer to 200; the ewes are in the 45-60 pound range and will end up around 150.)

This is Mr. Bingley, contemplating his new home. Most shepherds name their flocks each year with a theme, so we decided that this year’s theme would be Pride & Prejudice. The black ram is Mr. Collins. (We have two cats named Darcy and Wickham, so those names were already taken, in case you’re wondering.)

Mr. Bingley keeps a watchful eye inside the sheepfold…

Lydia and Charlotte graze at sunset…

And here’s the flock so far. Mr. Bingley and the white ewes, Jane and Elizabeth; and Mr. Collins, the black ram, with Lydia and Charlotte. The last two ewes we’ll pick up today, one white and one black, are Georgiana and Caroline. (Yeah, we had to go kind of deep into the character list.) I’ll post photos tomorrow.

We’ll separate the rams from the ewes in a month or so, and if all goes well, we’ll re-combine them in November and have lambs in March or April.

This falls under the “doing a few other things” heading on my blog, I guess…

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Published on July 02, 2012 04:26 • 13 views

June 30, 2012

Getting ready to give the plenary address at the Society for Classical Learning annual conference in Charleston, SC. Beautiful city. #
Back home: today, SHEEP DELIVERY! (That's how you get started in shepherding, FYI: you take your credit card and buy a Starter Flock.) #

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Published on June 30, 2012 21:21 • 12 views

June 26, 2012

So I haven’t posted on my blog in a couple of weeks. And here I thought that, once the History of the Renaissance was turned in, I’d be all bloggy again.

Actually, I feel weird. I’ve been focused on that manuscript for SO long that I’m feeling a little…gormless. Unfocused. Scattered. Clueless. In fish-mode. (You know, where you go a little to the left, and then a little to the right, and then a little to the left, and then you turn around and go back the way you came.)

So here’s what I’m going left and right and back and forth with.

I’m getting the second level of my middle-grade writing program, Writing With Skill, ready for the beta-testers.

I’m still finishing up the maps

and timelines

for the History of the Renaissance. That’s time-consuming and particular work. (You’ll notice the color-coding; don’t get excited, the final versions will be black-and-white, like those in the previous two volumes,

but the color-coding is a strategy that the good folks in Norton’s production department came up with to try to avoid a repeat of previous frustrations.)

I’m trying to decide which chapters need illustrations.

I’m finishing up the summer’s conferencing (on my way to the Society for Classical Learning, even as I type this). Still have a Texas conference to go.

Working on the next Peace Hill Press catalog, the one that we’ll launch in 2013.

Getting ready to can/freeze the eight zillion peaches that are about to come in. After several years of bad crops, we’re looking at a bumper harvest.

(Yes, this is better living through chemistry and, yes, I too feel ambivalent about it.)

Getting ready for the arrival of the sheep, most recently by adding a guardian donkey to the farm. This is Athena, named after the goddess of war. Which you would understand, if you saw her go after the dogs.

All of this is great stuff. It just feels so scattered. I don’t miss the pressure of always feeling behind, which I’ve lived with for the last year as the History of the Renaissance oozed farther and farther past its original deadline. But I miss the single focus I had when I was working on it.

Which is probably why I keep contemplating starting another Really Big Project…

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Published on June 26, 2012 17:54 • 18 views

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