Apr 29, 2010


The Ballade is a French rhymed and syllabic form. The Ballade's name derives from the Old French balade ("a dancing song"). It was one of the principal forms of music and poetry in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century France. Not to be confused with the ballad, the ballade contains three main stanzas, each with the same rhyme scheme, plus a shorter concluding stanza, or envoi. All four stanzas have identical final refrain lines. The rhyme and repetition in a Ballade made this form popular with audiences. The form allowed the listener to catch the poem more clearly at first hearing or first reading.

One of the most influential writers of early ballades was François Villon. He used the exacting form and limited rhyme scheme to create intense compositions about poverty and the frailty of life. Inspired by debauchery and vagrancy of his criminal life, his work often included scathing attacks on the wealthy and declarations about injustice.

In English, ballades were written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth-century, and revived by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne in the nineteenth-century. Aside from adaptations of Villon composed by Ezra Pound, there are few modern examples of the ballade and it is most often reserved for light verse.

Variations on the form include:
The basic Ballade, which has three stanza of 8 lines
Ballade Supreme, which has three stanza of 10 lines
The Double Ballade, which has six stanza of 8 lines
The Double Ballade Supreme, which has six stanza of 10 lines.

In a traditional Ballade:
The stanzas are of fixed size (number of lines and syllables).
A brief closing envoy has half the number of lines of the preceding stanzas.
The stanzas and envoy comply with a strong end-rhyme scheme.
The same line reoccurs as a refrain at the end of each stanza and envoy.
The shorter Ballade has 28 lines with only three rhymes throughout.
The longer Ballade (the Ballade Supreme) has 35 lines with only four rhymes throughout.

Here’s the rhyme scheme for the traditional Ballade:


The capital C represents a repeated refrain which ends each division of the poem.
No rhyme word should be repeated in the entire poem.

Unfortunately, this form was more complicated than I realized and I didn’t leave myself enough time to complete my own example. Therefore, rather that subject you to a rushed version of what I intended, I offer instead an example by someone else.

Ballad of the Dead Ladies

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Translation of "Ballade des dames du temps jadis, by François Villon".

Tell me now in what hidden way is
Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
Where's Hipparchia, and where is Thais,
Neither of them the fairer woman?.
Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
Only heard on river and mere,
She whose beauty was more than human?
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Where's Héloise, the learned nun,.
For whose sake Abeillard, I ween,
Lost manhood and put priesthood on?.
(From Love he won such dule and teen!
And where, I pray you, is the Queen.
Who willed that Buridan should steer.
Sewed in a sack's mouth down the Seine?
But where are the snows of yester-year?.

White Queen Blanche, like a queen of lilies,.
With a voice like any mermaiden,
Bertha Broadfoot, Beatrice, Alice,.
And Ermengarde the lady of Maine,
And that good Joan whom Englishmen.
At Rouen doomed and burned her there,
Mother of God, where are they then?
But where are the snows of yester-year?.

Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
Where they are gone, nor yet this year,.
Save with this much for an overword,
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Apr 28, 2010

Whimsical Wednesday

I have two stories to share today. Hope you enjoy. :-)

The Jewish Man and the Wall

A female CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time.

So she went to check it out. She went to the Western Wall and there he was, walking slowly up to the holy site.

She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane and moving very slowly, she approached him for an interview.

"Pardon me, sir, I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. What's your name?

"Morris Feinberg," he replied.

"Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?"

"For about 60 years."

"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"

"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims."

"I pray for all the wars and all the hatred to stop."

"I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love

their fellow man."

"How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"

"Like I'm talking to a f**kin' wall."



For all of us who are married, were married, wish you were married, or wish you weren't married, this is something to smile about the next time you see a bottle of wine:

Sally was driving home from one of her business trips in Northern Arizona when she saw an elderly Navajo woman walking on the side of the road.

As the trip was a long and quiet one, she stopped the car and asked the Navajo woman if she would like a ride.

With a silent nod of thanks, the woman got into the car.

Resuming the journey, Sally tried in vain to make a bit of small talk with the Navajo woman. The old woman just sat silently, looking intently at everything she saw, studying every little detail, until she noticed a brown bag on the seat next to Sally.

'What in bag?' asked the old woman .

Sally looked down at the brown bag and said, 'It's a bottle of wine. I got it for my husband.'

The Navajo woman was silent for another moment or two. Then speaking with the quiet wisdom of an elder, she said:

'Good trade'.

Apr 27, 2010

Random Shakespeare

William was born to a Stratford tanner named John Shakespeare. His mother Mary was the daughter of a wealthy gentleman-farmer named Robert Arden.

Nobody knows Shakespeare’s true birthday. The closest we can come is the date of his baptism on April the 26th, 1564. By tradition and guesswork, William is assumed to have been born three days earlier on April the 23rd, a date now commonly used to celebrate his birthday.

Legend has it that at the tender age of eleven, William watched the pageantry associated with Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Kenilworth Castle near Stratford and later recreated this scene many times in his plays.

Although he was one of literature’s greatest figures, Shakespeare never attended university.

Most academics agree that William wrote his first play, Henry VI, Part One around 1589 to 1590 when he would have been roughly 25 years old.

It is believed Shakespeare started writing the first of his 154 sonnets in 1593 at age 29. His first sonnet was Venus and Adonis, published in the same year.

Of the 154 sonnets the playwright penned, his first 26 were said to be directed to an aristocratic young man who did not want to marry. William’s 126th sonnet contains a farewell, to "my lovely boy" a phrase taken to imply possible homosexuality by some postmodern Shakespeare academics. Sonnets 127 - 152 talk about a dark woman, the Bard seems to have had mixed feelings for.

Shakespeare lived through the Black Death, which took place when he was 39. This epidemic killed over 33,000 in London alone in 1603 and later returned in 1608.

William never published any of his plays. We read his plays today only because his fellow actors John Hemminges and Henry Condell, posthumously recorded his work as a dedication to their fellow actor in 1623, publishing 36 of William’s plays. This collection known as The First Folio is the source from which all published Shakespeare books are derived and is an important proof that he authored his plays.

Shakespeare and wife (Anne Hathaway) had eight children, including daughter Susanna, twins Hamnet, Judith, and Edmund. Susanna received most of the Bard's fortune when he died in 1616, age 52. Hamnet died at age 11, Judith at 77. Susanna died in 1649, at the age of 66.

The Bard's will gave most of his property to Susanna, his first child and not to his wife Anne Hathaway. Instead his loyal wife infamously received his "second-best bed". The Bard's second best bed wasn’t so bad, it was his marriage bed; his best bed was for guests.

William Shakespeare died in 1616 at the age of 52. He wrote on average 1.5 plays a year since he first started in 1589. His last play The Two Noble Kinsmen is reckoned to have been written in 1613 when he was 49 years old.

* * * * * * * * * *

Suicide occurs an unlucky thirteen times in Shakespeare’s plays. It occurs in Romeo and Juliet where both Romeo and Juliet commit suicide; in Julius Caesar where both Cassius and Brutus die by consensual stabbing, as well as Brutus’ wife Portia; in Othello where Othello stabs himself; in Hamlet where Ophelia is said to have "drowned" in suspicious circumstances; in Macbeth when Lady Macbeth dies; and finally in Antony and Cleopatra where suicide occurs an astounding five times (Mark Antony, Cleopatra, Charmian, Iras and Eros).

* * * * * * * * * *

Racism crops up frequently in Shakespeare’s work as well. In Othello, the lead character, a Moor of African descent, is continuously insulted for his heritage and appearance (especially in Act I) by his enemies and even his supporters (Lodovico) at the play’s conclusion when Othello murders his wife for mistakenly believing she cheated. Racism also occurs in Titus Andronicus (towards the Moor named Aaron), The Tempest where the misformed giant Caliban is called "this thing of darkness" (Act V, Line 275), and in Richard II.

The Bard's characters frequently debase those of colored skin. In Love’s Labour’s Lost, the character King Ferdinand, King of Navarre, racially remarks that "Black is the badge of hell, the hue of dungeons and the scowl of night" (Act IV, Scene III, Lines 254-255).

Anti-Semitism also crops up. The Jewish moneylender Shylock in the Merchant of Venice is portrayed as greedy and calculating. At the play’s conclusion he is forced to change religion to Christianity as punishment for wanting "a pound of flesh" from Antonio who agreed to this if his friend forfeited a debt to Shylock. Being a Jew is used as a curse in Henry the First, Part Two (Act II, Scene IV, Line 178), in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Act II, Scene V, Line 53), The Merchant of Venice, Anthony and Cleopatra, Much Ado about Nothing , Macbeth and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Shakespeare introduced more words into English literature than all the other writers of his time combined, over 1,700 by some estimates, though in the past critics have credited him with introducing over 8000 words. If you’d like to see a list of these words, go HERE

Apr 26, 2010

Mortmain Monday

mortmain - restrictive influence of the past on the present

Last week . . . *shakes head sadly* . . . I don’t know whether it was a convergence of the wrong planets, bad karma, or just plain bad luck, but last week was not a good week, neither writing-wise nor personal.

The doctor’s appointment I had Monday? I made this appointment back in October. I left work an hour early to get to my appointment on time. After waiting an hour and a half, the doctor was called away to an emergency and I had to reschedule. The first available appointment was June 30. Argh!

I did not have my “poemwork” done for my poetry group on Tuesday, although I did have a couple of new poems to read.

The rest of the week went downhill from there. All I can say is, I’m glad that week is behind me and a new week is just starting.

This Week’s Goals:

Tuesday: I have an idea for a new series I’d like to start, but it’s going to take a bit more investigation and a lot more research to see if it will fly. So, for this week I’m going to present you with a few random facts about the Bard.

Wednesday: I was cleaning up my e-mails on the weekend and I found a few amusing tidbits for Whimsical Wednesday. Thank God for friends who spam me!

Thursday: This week’s Passion for Poetry form is the Ballade, a French form which is not to be confused with the Ballad.

Friday: I solemnly swear to post Chapter 36 of the Space Opera.

Elsewhere in my week:

I have a meeting of the Northumberland Scribes tonight, for which I was supposed to write 150 words on the topic of spring and which I forgot about until now. Oops! Guess we’ll see how fast I can write after work today.

I have a couple of books I’ve been reading and I’d like to finish at least one of them by the end of the week. I’d also like to get a few more entries made into my book catalogue.

I’m sure by now you’ve noticed the colour changes to this blog. I got playing with the colours on the weekend and sometimes I just don’t know when to stop. It’s not exactly what I was aiming for, and I may or may not keep it like this. We’ll see how I feel later in the week.

So that’s what’s in store for me this week. How about you? What are you up to this week?

Apr 23, 2010

Friday Failure

Sorry folks, due to craziness at work and migraines in my head, there will be no chapter today. I may or may not get it up tomorrow, but if not you'll have to wait until next Friday. My apologies.

Apr 22, 2010


The form was invented by and is named after Edmund Clerihew Bentley. As a 16-year-old pupil at St Paul's School in London, Bentley invented the clerihew as a diversion from school work. His first clerihew was created during a science class:

Sir Humphry Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

The first use of the word in print was in 1928. Clerihew published three volumes of his own clerihews, including Biography for Beginners (1905), which was published under the name "E. Clerihew”.

Form specifics:
A Clerihew is four lines long.
The first and second lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
The first line names a person, and the second line ends with something that rhymes with the name of the person.
A clerihew should be funny.
They are not satirical or abusive, but they target famous individuals and reposition them in an absurd or commonplace setting, often giving them an over-simplified and slightly garbled description.
That's it! You don't have to worry about counting syllables or words, and you don't even have to worry about the rhythm of the poem.

You don't have to limit yourself to writing clerihews about people you know. You can write clerihews about people you have never met. A clerihew will work best, though, if you write it about someone who is well known, or who at least is known to the people who will read it.

Here’s my examples, and I challenge you all to give it a try. It’s lots of fun!

Here’s a nod to Twilight’s Bella
Who knows what works with both her fellas
With Edward and Jacob at her feet
Life for Bella is very sweet!

The writer Edgar Allan Poe
Wrote a lot of poems you know,
And though his work I just adore
He’s dead, so he’ll write nevermore.

Apr 21, 2010

Whimsical Wednesday

I wish I could take the credit for this one, but alas, I can't. I found this little gem in an e-mail I printed off over 10 years ago. Why yes, I am a pack rat. Your point?

Ahem. On to the whimsy. :-)

Hamlet’s Soliloquy for Writers

To write, or not to write: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The rejections of outrageous editors,
Only to resubmit, And by resubmitting end them?
To die upon rejection: to sleep fitfully, awaiting the next;
No more; and by an acceptance letter, to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That acceptance is heir to, ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, and are published.
It must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long awaiting ‘discovery’;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of editors,
The sharp pencil, the checkmark in the column “Does not meet our needs at this time”,
The pangs of waiting, the mail’s delay,
The insolence of assistants and the polite responses and suggestions.
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his publication make
With a major publisher? Who would a million editors bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary pen,
But that the dread of something awaited forever,
The undiscover’d book tour from which
No traveler returns, puzzles the writer
And makes us rather not submit
Than send our pet projects to those that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of smudged ink
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of rewrites,
And enterprises of great worth and promise
Are shoved in a drawer or recorded to a disk
And lose the name of action.—Soft you now!
The fair Writer! Muse, in thy orisons
Be all my submissions and publications remember’d.

By Jo Loving Gann, 1999

Apr 20, 2010

Tell Me Your Fortune - Part XII

Today is the wrap-up of this series. I've had a lot of fun researching the various methods of fortune telling, and I've saved the best - maybe I should make this the strangest - ones for last.

Aleuromancy is the use of flour for divination. The word comes from the Greek aleuron, meaning flour, and manteia, meaning divination. Divination with flour is attested in cuneiform sources from the 2nd millennium B.C.E. The Greeks would bake slips of paper with sentences on them inside of balls of flour, mix the balls nine times, and distribute them to those wishing their fortunes to be told. Modern fortune cookies are a variant on this form of divination. Another method used was sloshing out a mixture of flour and water from a bowl and interpreting the patterns of floury residue left on the bottom and sides. As well, sometimes flour was poured out in small heaps and the interpretation was based on the observation of their shapes and orientation.


Axinomancy is a term derived from the Greek axine ('axe') and manteia ('divination') and applied to an obscure form of divination from the heating of an axehead in the embers of a fire. Another method of Axinomancy recorded among the ancient Greeks is that of placing an agate stone on a red-hot axe; its motion is taken to indicate the identity of someone guilty of a crime. Yet another method is through the observation of how an ax or hatchet quivers or points when driven into a tree or post.


Cephalomancy was a form of divination using the skull or head (sometimes boiled) of a donkey or goat. Cephalomancy technically means "head divination" and therefore applies to any sort of divination using a skull or head. It covers two different methods: one was concerned with the shape of the skull, somewhat like extispicy or phrenology. The other, cephaleonomancy, involved heating a skull while reciting various phrases, often the names of criminal suspects. If the skull crackled or the jaw moved while a name was spoken, this was taken to identify the guilty party. (Cephaleonomancy literally means divination by a donkey's head, but it also applies to the same technique using a goat's skull.).


Cleidomancy is derived from the Greek kleis ('key') and manteia ('divination'), this term is applied to a large number of different methods of foretelling the future through the use of a key. One method involved writing a question on a key and placing the key in or with a Bible, which was then hung in such a way as will permit it to turn — the direction of movement dictating the response. Sometimes both would be hung upon the ring-finger of a virgin, who then had to softly recite from the bible. Another method involved placing the key in a clenched fist and allowing a pregnant woman to touch one of the two proffered fists. If she touched the one in which the key was held, then it was claimed that the child would be a girl.


Gyromancy is from the Greek guros ('circle'), and manteia ('divination') and is said to be a method of divination in which the diviner walks around a circle of letters until he or she is too dizzy to continue; the letters against which they stumble or the direction of the fall is supposed to spell out a prophetic message. Another method is to have a person spin around inside a circle drawn on the ground, the perimeter of which is marked with the letters of an alphabet. The divination is inferred from the letter at the position where the person either stumbles or falls across the circle’s edge. The person would repeat the practice until he produced an intelligible sentence. The dizziness brought on by spinning or circling is intended to introduce randomness or to facilitate an altered state of consciousness.


Leconomancy, is a form developed by the ancient Assyrians consisting of divination by interpreting the patterns and ripples left on the surface of water from a basin when precious stones are dropped in. A special bowl was used, where the water was covered by a thin layer of animal oil or fat. After a question was asked, the diviner dropped a consecrated stone, usually marked with mystical symbols. Whether or not the oil separated determined the final prognostication. For meditation, the water was gazed upon, invoking a self-hypnotic state for divination.

Another form of divination where a stone is thrown into a basin of water. The scryer will divinate by the sound the stone makes in the water and the images of the rippling water. Sometimes oil is used instead of a rock. In this case the scryer interpretes the shapes of the oil floating on the water.


Omphilomancy is divination by the navel. This method of divination has two forms. One consists on the interpretation of the belly button - by its size and shape an individual's personality and/or fate is revealed. The second form is based on interpretation of the umbilical cord; the number of knots in the umbilical cord of a newborn baby shows how many more brothers or sisters are to come.

Closely related to this is Omphalomancy, or navel gazing, which developed to include aspects of an individual's character, for example anyone with a navel that inclined inward was considered to be introverted while a child's navel that protruded out indicated an extrovert. The protruding navel is also meant to indicate someone who is usually optimistic in nature and quite light-hearted.

An interesting aspect of navel gazing is when it is applied to suggesting life expectancy the longest lived possessing a circular navel that also indicates a shy retiring individual who lives a quiet life. The navel is employed as a link to the spiritual dimension because when conceived a child derives through the physical umbilical chord provided the spiritual communications necessary before birth. When the physical chord is severed the spiritual chord remains invisibly connected. Through this connection we communicate with our spirit in the spirit dimension and do so when we dream.


Oomancy employs eggs for the purpose of divination. Fragile, yet full of promise, eggs can symbolize life, fertility, prosperity, new beginnings and protection. The most common method uses separated egg whites which are dropped into hot water. Divination is performed based on the shapes assumed by the rapidly-cooked egg whites. A second method is to read the external shell of the egg. Method three is an ancient way to determine the gender of an expectant mother's child. She incubates a chicken egg in her bosom and when the chick is hatched its gender will determine the gender of her child.


Rumpology or "bottom reading" is a pseudoscience performed by reading the lines, crevices, dimples, warts, moles and folds of a person's buttocks in much the same way a chirologist would read the palm of the hand.

According to Jacqueline Stallone, a foremost American rumpologist, rump reading is an art that was practiced in ancient Babylon, India, Greece, and Rome. She claims that the ancient Greeks thought the butt was the key to health and fidelity. She says the Romans used butt prints the way some people use graphology today: to determine potential talents and future success.


Urimancy is divination by the observation of urine, either by its color, by its taste, by its flow patterns, or by the patterns formed when it hits the ground or in a swirling bowl. A divination can also be made by reading the bubbles in urine that form when urinating into a pot. Its origin can be found in medicine, where examination of urine is used as a diagnostic tool. As with many forms of divination, the original basis is extrapolated and exaggerated to the extent that it is said that the urine does not only give indications of a person's health, but also foretells the future.

Apr 19, 2010

Mini Monday

I’m pretty happy with the way last week went. I got all my goals accomplished and I even knocked a few “extras” off my to-do list. Things like organizing the documents I have on my USB keys, e-mailing some poems to the CPW poetry magazine, and making a couple of entries in my journal.

This Week:
Tuesday: will see the wind-up of the Fortune Telling series, and will feature a few of the more odd fortune telling methods I’ve come across.
Wednesday: something whimsical is in the wings for Wednesday. I’m thinking of shaking things up a bit and changing the format for Wednesday’s posts, but I haven’t decide what to do instead so for now you’ll still be getting whimsy.
Thursday: The Passion for Poetry this week is the Clerihew.
Friday: Chapter 36 of Space Opera. In which Chaney helps Nakeisha figure out how to contact the Illezie.

Elsewhere in my week:

I have a doctor’s appointment today, and a poetry meeting tomorrow night and other than that I plan to get lots of writing/editing done.

So, that’s my week, such as it is. How about you?

Apr 15, 2010


A Quatern is a sixteen line French form composed of four quatrains. It is similar to the Kyrielle and the Retourne. This form does not have a set meter but each line must have eight syllables. There is also a descending repeated line throughout the poem. Line 1 repeats as line 2 in the second verse, again as line 3 in the third verse and once more as line 4 in the fourth verse. There are only four four-line verses in this form. Rhymes are not a requirement and if one is used then the rhyme scheme or rhyming pattern is entirely up to the poet.

To recap, the requirements of the Quatern are:

1) It must have four verses.
2) Each verse must have four lines.
3) Each line must have eight syllables.
4) It must have a first line which is a descending repeated line.

line 1
line 2
line 3
line 4

line 5
line 6 (line 1)
line 7
line 8

line 9
line 10
line 11 (line 1)
line 12

line 13
line 14
line 15
line 16 (line 1)

Even though this form isn’t required to rhyme, my example just seemed to do so naturally. What can I say, rhyming’s in my blood. ;-)


On summer nights the moonlight sings
And seeks you out on phantom wings
Inviting you to come and play
Beneath the stars till light of day.

No matter what tomorrow brings
On summer nights the moonlight sings.
Will you deny the siren’s song
As it entices you along?

Feel the grass underneath your feet
Its wafting scent is summer sweet.
On summer nights the moonlight sings
And promises fantastic things.

The air is warm, the moon is bright
Can any soul resist this night?
In far-flung lands, in faerie rings,
On summer nights the moonlight sings.

Apr 14, 2010

Whimsical Wednesday

Mind Games For Dogs To Play With Humans

After your humans give you a bath, DON'T LET THEM TOWEL DRY YOU! Instead, run to their bed, jump up and dry yourself off on the sheets. This is especially good if it's right before your humans bedtime.

Act like a convicted criminal. When the humans come home, put your ears back, tail between your legs, chin down and act as if you have done something really bad. Then, watch as the humans frantically search the house for the damage they think you have caused. (Note: This only works when you have done absolutely nothing wrong.)

Let the humans teach you a brand new trick. Learn it perfectly. Then the humans try to demonstrate it to someone else, stare blankly back at the humans. Pretend you have no idea what they're talking about.

Make your humans be patient. When you go outside to go pee, sniff around the entire yard as your humans wait. Act as if the spot you choose to go pee will ultimately decide the fate of the earth.

Draw attention to the human. When out for a walk always pick the busiest, most visible spot to go poop. Take your time and make sure everyone watches. This works particularly well if your humans have forgotten to bring a plastic bag.

When out for a walk, alternate between choking and coughing every time a strange human walks by.

Make your own rules. Don't always bring back the stick when playing fetch with the humans. Make them go and chase it once in a while.

Hide from your humans. When your humans come home, don't greet them at the door. Instead, hide from them, and make them think something terrible has happened to you. (Don't reappear until one of your humans is panic-stricken and close to tears).

When your human calls you to come back in, always take your time. Walk as slowly as possible back to the door.

Wake up twenty minutes before the alarm clock is set to go off and make the humans take you out for your morning pee. As soon as you get back inside, fall asleep. (Humans can rarely fall back asleep after going outside, this will drive them nuts!)


Teenagers Are Like Cats

For all of you with teenagers or who have had teenagers, you may want to know why they really have a lot in common with cats:

1. Neither teenagers nor cats turn their heads when you call them by name.

2. No matter what you do for them, it is not enough. Indeed, all humane efforts are barely adequate to compensate for the privilege of waiting on them hand and foot.

3. You rarely see a cat walking outside of the house with an adult human being, and it can be safely said that no teenager in his or her right mind wants to be seen in public with his or her parents.

4. Even if you tell jokes as well as Jasper Carrot, neither your cat nor your teen will ever crack a smile.

5. No cat or teenager shares you taste in music.

6. Cats and teenagers can lie on the living-room sofa for hours on end without moving, barely breathing.

7. Cats have nine lives. Teenagers carry on as if they did.

8. Cats and teenagers yawn in exactly the same manner, communicating that ultimate human ecstasy -- a sense of complete and utter boredom.

9. Cats and teenagers do not improve anyone's furniture.

10. Cats that are free to roam outside sometimes have been known to return in the middle of the night to deposit a dead animal in your bedroom. Teenagers are not above that sort of behaviour.

Thus, if you must raise teenagers, the best sources of advice are not other parents, but veterinarians. It is also a good idea to keep a guidebook on cats at hand at all times. And remember, above all else, put out the food and do not make any sudden moves in their direction. When they make up their minds, they will finally come to you for some affection and comfort, and it will be a triumphant moment for all concerned.

Apr 13, 2010

Tell Me Your Fortune - Part XI

If you've ever pondered the beauty of a bonfire on a still night, you will understand the human fascination with fire and the belief that it can somehow predict the future. It’s thought that Pyromancy may have originated from the times when burnt offerings were made to the gods. The ancient seers would study the flames as the sacrifices were made and interpret auguries and omens.

The most basic form of Pyromancy is that in which the diviner observes flames and interprets the shapes that he or she sees within them. There are several variations on pyromancy, however, some of which are as follows:

Alomancy - which involves casting salt into a fire
Botanomancy - burning plants
Capnomancy - divination by smoke
Daphnomancy - burning laurel leaves
Osteomancy - heating bones to produce cracks and then interpreting the cracks
Plastromancy - burning turtle plastrons (the flat part, or belly, of a turtle shell); in China this was done by heating pits carved into them.
Scapulimancy - usually practiced in Asia and North America, this involved burning the scapulae (the shoulder blade bone).
Sideromancy - burning straw with an iron

A number of different pictures may appear but one should stand out from the rest as being particularly significant. If no image is seen, then the Pyromancy is abandoned and a new fire lit in 24 hours time. However, if one shape stands out clearly then this is considered to be important and is interpreted as the oracle for the future.
Once the symbol from the fire has been determined, it is interpreted according to a set of traditional meanings.

Good omens are present when the flame is vigorous and quickly consumes the sacrifice; if it’s clear of all smoke, transparent, or neither red nor dark in colour; if it does not crackle, but burns silently in a pyramidal form; if the flame is bright and pure without noise or smoke; and if the fire doesn’t go out until there’s nothing left but ashes. If you see the shape of a windmill or fountain it indicates a change for the better.

Bad omens are present when the flame is difficult to kindle; if it’s slow to consume the sacrificial victim; if the flame is divided; if the flame does not ascend in a straight line but swirls around or turns sideways or downwards; if it’s extinguished by wind, rain or by some other accident; when it crackles more than normal; or is black, casting smoke and sparks.

Besides the sacrificial fire, the ancients divined by observing the flames of torches, and even by throwing powdered pitch into a fire. The flame of a torch was good if it formed one point, bad if it divided into two; but three was a better omen than one. Sickness for the healthy, and death for the sick, was shown by the bending of the flame.

Another common technique for Pyromancy involves sitting quietly in front of a fire that has died down to a bed of glowing coals and entering a state of relaxed meditation. When the pyromancer is ready, ritual dictates that he should then scatter a handful of salt upon the glowing coals. Once the flames and crackling have died down, he gazes into the fire and contemplates the pictures he sees in the glowing shapes in the coals for between 10 to 15 minutes. It is considered particularly auspicious if the coals glow for this brings great good fortune.

The true diviner, however, will see beyond traditional meanings and listen to the voice of his intuition to ordain the true meaning of the omen. From this inner prompting, it is hoped he will gain a true and accurate precognition.

Apr 12, 2010

Mantic Monday

mantic of, like or pertaining to divination; prophetic; divinely inspired

My normal routine is to figure out my weekly goals while watching True Blood on Sunday nights. It occurred to me during the week that I might be better served by figuring out the coming week’s goals on Friday night, while watching Stargate Universe, leaving me free to get a jump start on my posts over the weekend.

*sigh* It was good in theory. In practice I was too busy sweating over my entry for the Behind the Headlines Blogfest to worry about my goals. My story was much more difficult than I’d first envisioned, and I didn’t get the actual post up until Saturday (you can read it here if you care to.)

I also spent part of Saturday downloading a trial version of Office 2007 (it took several tries). This buys me a couple of months to save up for a copy of my own, and in the meantime I was able to get some work done on both Saturday and Sunday.

I met all my blogging goals last week, although I fell a bit behind on my blog reading and commenting. And this was despite going to a Scribe’s meeting one night and the movies another night. I just wish I’d managed to get some other writing or editing in as well. This was one of the reasons I started thinking about working on goals at the beginning instead of the end of the weekend. Oh well, maybe next week.

This Week:
Tuesday: Part XI of the Fortune Telling Series will be Pyromancy.
Wednesday: Will be going back to the cats and dogs for something humourous.
Thursday: The Passion for Poetry this week is the poetry form of the Quatern.
Friday: Chapter 35 of Space Opera. Just how much are things going to change between Chaney and Nekeisha? And where’s E.Z.?

Elsewhere in my week:

Other than having to drive to a nearby city tonight, my nights are pretty much free this week. Hopefully this will translate into more writing/editing time between blog posts. Why do I feel like I’m forgetting something? :-)

So, blogoverse, that’s what’s ahead in my week. How about you?

Apr 8, 2010

Bref Double

The Bref Double is a fourteen-line French form. It is similar to the sonnet, but it need not be written in iambic pentameter. It contains three quatrains (four-line stanzas) followed by a final couplet.

There is no requirement of meter in a Bref Double, though all lines must be consistent in length It has three rhymes: a, b, and c. It has five lines that are not part of the rhyme scheme. The c rhyme ends each quatrain. The a and b rhymes are found twice each somewhere within the three quatrains and once in the couplet.

To make it a little easier, it can take one of the following forms (where the x's represent lines which do not rhyme with anything else, even the other x's):

abxc abxc xxxc ab

xaxc xbxc xbac ba

xabc xaxc xbxc ab

For my example I chose the first rhyme set.


The Muse has fled the empty mind,
The pen has stilled, the words are gone.
Inspiration is sadly lacking
A creative dark cloud settles in.

What’s the good of writing blind,
When all conclusions are foregone?
How many trees give up their lives
To find the story from within?

Ideas, not so elusive now,
Flirt within the writer’s mind.
With pen and paper set the snare,
Trap the Muse and wear her skin.

The story’s written and refined,
Once again creation’s pawn.

Apr 7, 2010

Whimsical Wednesday


A group of 40-year-old girlfriends discuss and discuss where they should meet for dinner. Finally it is agreed upon that they should meet at Café Monet restaurant because the waiters there are totally hot.

10 years later, at 50 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed upon that they should meet at Café Monet because the food there is very good and the wine selection is good also.

10 years later at 60 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed upon that they should meet at Café Monet because they can eat there in peace and quiet and the restaurant is smoke free.

10 years later, at 70 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed upon that they should meet at Café Monet because the restaurant is wheel chair accessible and they even have an elevator.

10 years later, at 80 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed upon that they should meet at Café Monet because they have never been there before.



A recently divorced woman spent the first day packing her belongings into boxes, crates and suitcases.

On the second day, she had the movers come and collect her things.

On the third day, she sat down for the last time at their beautiful dining room table by candle-light, put on some soft background music, and feasted on a pound of shrimp, a jar of caviar, and a bottle of spring-water.

When she had finished, she went into each and every room and deposited a few half-eaten shrimp shells dipped in caviar into the hollow of the curtain rods.

She then cleaned up the kitchen and left. When the husband returned with his new girlfriend, all was bliss for the first few days.

Then slowly, the house began to smell.

They tried everything; cleaning, mopping and airing the place out.

Vents were checked for dead rodents and carpets were steam cleaned.

Air fresheners were hung everywhere. Exterminators were brought in to set off gas canisters, during which they had to move out for a few days and in the end they even paid to replace the expensive wool carpeting. Nothing worked!!

People stopped coming over to visit. Repairmen refused to work in the house.
The maid quit.

Finally, they could not take the stench any longer and decided to move. A month later, even though they had cut their price in half, they could not find a buyer for their stinky house.

Word got out and eventually even the local realtors refused to return their calls.

Finally, they had to borrow a huge sum of money from the bank to purchase a new place.

The ex-wife called the man and asked how things were going.

He told her the saga of the rotting house. She listened politely and said that she missed her old home terribly and would be willing to reduce her divorce settlement in exchange for getting the house

Knowing his ex-wife had no idea how bad the smell was, he agreed on a price that was about 1/10th of what the house had been worth, but only if she were to sign the papers that very day.

She agreed and within the hour his lawyers delivered the paperwork.

A week later the man and his girlfriend stood smiling as they watched the moving company pack everything to take to their new home........

And to spite the ex-wife, they even took the curtain rods


Apr 6, 2010

Tell Me Your Fortune - Part X

Graphology is the study of handwriting and the connection it has to a person’s behaviour. It has been used in compiling profiles of everything from employment to marital compatibility. In Switzerland, approximately 80 percent of large corporations use graphology in their hiring procedures. There are around 300 features to be found in handwriting, here we’ll explore only a few of the basic ones.

Line Direction
People who write in convex lines tend to start a project with ambition and enthusiasm only to lose interest and give up before the task has been completed. People who write with concave lines approach a task with little optimism but gain self confidence as the task nears completion. Writing in descending lines may be caused by depression or pessimism. People in a mood swing may temporarily write in descending lines whereas an ascending line indicates optimism. Someone who writes a straight line may go straight toward his daily aim. If a person writes in a precisely straight line it is said that person is unyielding.

The right slant is the most common and most natural slant. The right slant is found in people in a hurry - impatient people and the active writer. A left slant tendency shows both emotion and reserve. If the handwriting is generally upright, this indicates independence.

Large size handwriting can indicate someone who’s an extravert and outgoing, or it can mean that the writer puts on an act of confidence. Small size handwriting indicates a thinker and an academic. If the writing is small and delicate, the writer is unlikely to be a good communicator with anyone other than those on their own particular wavelength. These people do not generally find it easy to break new ground socially.

Wide spaces between words are saying - 'give me breathing space'. Narrow spaces between words indicate a wish to be with others. Sometimes the words of a sentence are both widely and narrowly spaced. This writer is usually unstable in both thinking and emotions.

Space between letters show the extent the writer relies upon their own intuition. When all letters are connected it indicates a person with logical and systematic thinking. When only some letters are unconnected it shows an artistic and intuitive thinker. When most letters are unconnected it shows a person who is an egocentric.

A person who writes with widely spaced lines may live a life of order and system. These are reasonable people with executive ability.. But if the space between the lines becomes too wide it may indicate a person who likes to keep their distance. Small spaces between the lines may indicate a person who likes to be around other people. Overlapping lines may indicate a person who suffers from an emotional or mental disorder.

The width of the left margin is indicative of the distance we wish to maintain to other people. Wide left margins are often in handwriting of proud or shy people. Pathologically self-conscious people will watch and control both the left and right margin. Narrow upper margins betray informality and wide ones show withdrawal. No margins is indicative of a person who wants no distance between other people. They want to be one with the world. Wide margins are indicative of a withdrawn person.

Tall capitals are people who tower above the rest. Small capitals are people who are modest in nature. They concentrate on facts, not ideas. Wide letters are extroverted people. Narrow letters come from loners. Lack of end strokes indicates a shy person. When the first letter stands apart it shows a cautious person.

Tall upper strokes are reaching towards goals and ambitions or, if they are very extended, there may be unrealistic expectations of what the person feels they must achieve. Reasonably proportioned upper loops indicate someone who likes to think things through and use their imagination in a sensible way. Wider upper loops indicate more of a tendency to dream up ideas and mull them over. If the up-stroke goes up and then returns on top of itself, the writer may be squeezing out imagination and keeping to the basic requirement of getting down to the job in hand.

A straight stroke shows impatience to get the job done. A full lower loop with heavy pressure indicates energy/money-making/sensuality possibilities. A full lower loop with light pressure indicates a need or wish for security. If there are many and varied shapes in the letters, the writer may feel unsettled and unfocused emotionally.

Heavy pressure indicates commitment and taking things seriously, but if the pressure is excessively heavy, that writer gets very uptight at times and can react quickly to what they might see as criticism, even though none may have been intended. These writers react first and ask questions afterwards.

Light pressure shows sensitivity to atmosphere and empathy to people, but can also, if the pressure is uneven, show lack of vitality.

Legible hand-writers make good teachers and speakers. They are sincere and co-operative. But beware of the person whose writing is impressively legible, these people are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Apr 5, 2010

Matutinal Monday

matutinal ~ of, like or pertaining to the morning; happening early in the day

How was everyone’s long weekend? I don’t know about where you live, but where I am we had record breaking temperatures all weekend. It was amazing! People coming out of hibernation, peeling off layers of outerwear; lawns getting raked and gardens getting uncovered. The cats are happy campers because I’ve had the windows open for the last few days (although last night I had to close them ‘cause the temperature dipped down again).

I got a lot accomplished during my long weekend, but only some of it was writing. One thing I did notice was that I got more writing done sitting at my desk in my office instead of sitting in front of the television. ;-)

Got my all my regular posts written and up last week, although Friday’s post was slightly delayed as I struggled over just how graphic to make it. I’m finding there are a lot of things I’d like to change when I get the Space Opera into edits, and this scene is one of them.

The cutting myself off from games didn’t go as well as I expected, I still have a serious problem with Mahjong Connect. If anyone else would like to give it a try, you can find it HERE. It will provide hours of mindless fun.

Friday, I managed to get some editing done before the kids came over to help rake the yard. We’ve got a really big yard and can use all the help we can get. Saturday I spent a lot of time working refining my database and entering more books into it. Okay, I also spent a lot of time skimming through a few books I’d forgotten about, which is why I didn’t get any writing done. Though I did start reading one of the new books I bought for myself as an Easter present.

Sunday I surfed for subjects for my middle of the week posts and got some editing done. Then late in the day I suddenly remembered it was the fourth and today was the Behind the Headlines Blogfest. Naturally I ended up spending an obscene amount of time searching for my headline. Hopefully, I’ll get the actually story written either today or tomorrow.

This Week:

Tuesday: Part X of my Fortune Telling Series will be the art of Graphology. Hopefully I can pare down all the information I found regarding it to a manageable amount.
Wednesday: Something humourous of course. I have no idea what yet.
Thursday: This week’s Passion for Poetry will explore the Bref Double. Don’t forget folks, this is National Poetry Month. If you want to have some fun with poetry, have a go at the PAD Challenge (poem a day).
Friday: Chapter 34 of Space Opera. Will I allow Chaney and Nakeisha time to bask in the afterglow, or will I throw something bad at them before they can even catch their breath?

Elsewhere in my week:

Tuesday night I’m going to go Clash of the Titans with a friend to see how it compares with the original version and Wednesday I have a Scribes meeting (which should have been tonight but the library we meet at is closed for Easter Monday).

I’m thinking it might be a smart move to not only figure out what I’m posting (for the week to come) on the weekends, but write the actual posts too. This way all I have to do is schedule the posts for the appropriate time and weeknights would be available for other writing.

Too bad I didn’t think of that at the beginning of the weekend instead of the end. ;-)

And that’s pretty much it for my week. How about you? What are you up to?

Apr 2, 2010

Post Delay

If you've come here looking for the next chapter of Space Opera, never fear, it will be up today, but not until later. I'm running a bit behind today.

Check back this afternoon.

Apr 1, 2010


The Paradelle is a modern poetic form invented by Billy Collins (who was the U.S. Poet Laureate at the time) as a parody of the villanelle. When he first published the Paradelle, it was with the footnote that it was ". . . one of the more demanding French fixed forms, first appearing in the langue d'oc love poetry of the eleventh century.”

His parody was of formal poetry and of amateur poets who adhered to formalism at the expense of sense. Some reviewers of his work failed to recognize the Paradelle as a parody and criticized Collins’ poems as an amateurish attempt at a difficult form without ever understanding that this was the point.

Some poets also missed the parody and took the form seriously, writing their own Paradelles. Others, knowing of the hoax, nevertheless decided to see what they could do with a form as strict as the Paradelle's. Thus, although invented as a hoax, the Paradelle has taken on a life of its own.

The Paradelle consists of four stanzas, each of which contains six lines. Each of the first three stanzas has the following format: the first two lines are identical, the third and fourth lines are identical. Where it begins to get difficult and become more of a poetic puzzle is when reaching fifth and sixth lines. These lines must contain all the words from the preceding four lines within the stanza using them only once to form completely new lines.

For the most difficult piece of this poetic puzzle, the final stanza of the Paradelle does not repeat like the preceding stanzas, rather the final six lines must contain every word from the first three stanzas, and only those words, again using them only once to form completely new lines.

The design is as follows:

Stanza 1: 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4
Stanza 2: 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8
Stanza 3: 9, 9, 10, 10, 11, 12
Stanza 4: 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

I have to admit, I thought with all the repetition this was going to be an easy form. Boy, was I wrong! This was probably one of the most difficult forms I’ve tried. The last two lines of each stanza were bad, but nothing compared to the final stanza. Trying to fit all the words from the previous stanzas without leaving any of them out was pretty tricky. If anyone out there would like a poetry challenge, I highly recommend the Paradelle.

Vampire Moon

Red moon in the sky, swollen and full
Red moon in the sky, swollen and full
Bathing the world in its ghostly light
Bathing the world in its ghostly light
Swollen in red, the full ghostly world
Bathing the moon and sky in its light

The time has come to embrace the night
The time has come to embrace the night
Rise, take your place in the mortal realm
Rise, take your place in the mortal realm
Take your place in the night rise, mortal.
Embrace the realm, the time has come to.

Soft velvet night of the vampire moon
Soft velvet night of the vampire moon
Awaits you with your heart’s desire
Awaits you with your heart’s desire
Velvet vampire desire. Soft night,
Your heart’s moon awaits with you.

In your sky, has the velvet moon come?
The night awaits with your place in
the world, swollen and full of the light.
You, bathing in its soft ghostly night.
Rise, heart’s desire, take the mortal realm;
Time to embrace the red vampire moon.