Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Trouble with Reading

I was thinking the other day, why am I such a bad reader? Why is it so hard for me to do some real, solid reading, as opposed to my typical 3-6 pages a day?

I've determined that it's a fiction v. nonfiction thing.

Air travel, for instance, seems like the perfect time and place for solid reading beyond the 6 page barrier. Still, I never seem to even crack open that novel or even really see it until I've returned home and replaced it on the bookshelf. Pathetic. Yet on that very same flight I managed to completely consume a number of magazine articles, lengthy ones, mind you, and even read through the first 15 pages of the latest political expose madness in the airport bookstore while waiting for my flight. And that novel just rests tucked away in my carryon bag.

Fiction - stories from another world, not necessarily otherworldly in the alien sense, but certainly not from the here-and-now which we know and love and live in. It's the unreal, however real it may seem.

Nonfiction - stories from this world, that directly affect/infect this world and its populants. It's real for the most part, save tabloid journalism and books by would-be/washed-up celebrities trying to make a cheap buck at someone else's expense, however unreal it may seem.

So what's the difference? Why can't I concentrate on fiction but can eat up the nonfiction without breaking sweat? It seems I've just answered my own question -- "without breaking a sweat" is the key.

Fiction necessarily requires the full participation of the reader. I've got to put my whole self into the story if I'm to breach the first barrier, the fact that it is fiction, the unreal passing itself off as real. No one ever wrote a bit of fiction with the intention that the reader would disbelieve the whole thing, the entire premise. Fiction is intentionally real and unreal at the same time.

Nonfiction, on the other hand, starts and ends in what we know, the here and now (or in the case of history, the here and then). There is no barrier to breach and no participation needed. There is no suspension of disbelief, just the invitation to disagree should an opinion be given, and I guess that in itself is one entre to reader participation, but it's not required.

I love the fact that I'm a writer. I hate the fact that I write so little. It's high time that I breach the barrier to make the unreal real.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

US State Demonyms: Ans, Anders, Ians, Ers, and Ites, OH MY!

No, not US State Demons! I'm talking about "demo" as in deomgraphics and "nyms" as in names - names of people. For example: the name for people from California is "Californians" (not Sunshine Staters or Hippies or whatever else you've got in mind for us, please!).

We really don't talk about state demonyms enough. Some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, why would we ever need to? But what do you do when you need to make a gross generalization about a mass of people in another state? When I lived in Wisconsin, people were always talking about how much they hated them "Flatlanders!" The what?! The who?! Unbeknownst to me, Wisconsinites (d'oh, what's an "ite"? this is getting interesting...) consider their state mountainous, or at least a little hilly. And they have an ingrown disaffection for those south of the border, known more properly as Illinoisans or Illinoisians (no one seems to agree on this one, go figure), and love to ridicule their neighbor's flat(ter) geography. Soon after, I learned that those on the other side of the great lake are called Michiganders. "Ganders? You've got to be kidding me!" But it's true.

It got me thinking... if I were in conversation and needed to refer to a stateload of people, what would I have said? "Yeah, those Michigan-- an-- er-- um, those Michigan people are so...."

While Alabamans seems obvious, there are some who go for Alabamians - I'm sorry but that's just too close to Albanians for my taste. Similarly, there is disagreement in Colorado, even among their own state and federal officials - the governor favors Coloradans while the congresswoman from the 4th district leans toward Coloradoans.

And just where did Floridians buy that extra vowel, "i"? Shouldn't it be Floridans?

A person from Utah is a Utahn, rhymes with Yukon. And while many Utahns are Mormons, and many Mormons are Utahns, not all Utahns are necessarily Mormons and vice versa, so let's get that straight.

As I've already mentioned Michiganders, something to keep in mind is that theirs is but a variant of the -er ending with the likes of New Yorkers, Maylanders, and Mainers.

Now Mainers serves as our entre into completely alternate demonyms that truly are nicknames as they don't actually use the state's name as their roots. Some Mainers prefer to be called Down Easters, referring to their far eastern longitudes and not to Easter/Spring chicken down feathers. Indiana Hoosiers are a classic, but what of Massachusetts? They're called Bay Staters? Really? I guess any variant on Massachusetts as a root just end up sounding silly, so the state legislature went so far as to write it into law. Wow.

But my all time favorite must go to our friends in New Mexico. You can't really argue with the cheerful ring of "New Mexicans."

US State Demonyms: Just the List

Alabama = Alabamans, Alabamians
Alaska = Alaskans
Arizona = Arizonans
Arkansas = Arkansans
California = Californians
Colorado = Coloradans, Coloradoans
Connecticut = Connecticuters, Nutmeggers
Delaware = Delawareans
Florida = Floridians
Georgia = Georgians
Hawaii = Hawaiian
Idaho = Idahoans
Illinois = Illinoisans, Illinoisians
Indiana = Hoosiers
Iowa = Iowans
Kansas = Kansans
Kentucky = Kentuckians
Louisiana = Louisianans, Louisianians
Maine = Mainers, Down Easters
Maryland = Marylanders
Massachusetts = Bay Staters
Michigan = Michiganders, Michiganians
Minnesota = Minnesotans
Mississippi = Mississippians
Missouri = Missourians
Montana = Montanans
Nebraska = Nebraskans
Nevada = Nevadans
New Hampshire = New Hampshirites
New Jersey = New Jerseyites, New Jerseyans
New Mexico = New Mexicans
New York = New Yorkers
North Carolina = North Carolinians
North Dakota = North Dakotans
Ohio = Ohioans
Oklahoma = Oklahomans, Oklahomians, Sooners
Oregon = Oregonians
Pennsylvania = Pennsylvanians
Rhode Island = Rhode Islanders
South Carolina = South Carolinians
South Dakota = South Dakotans
Tennessee = Tennesseeans
Texas = Texans
Utah = Utahns
Vermont = Vermonters
Virginia = VirginiansWashington = Washingtonians
West Virginia = West Virginians
Wisconsin = Wisconsinites
Wyoming = Wyomingites

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

5 Holes for 5 Trees

Let us learn to see the ((sub)urban) forest for the trees...

Thanks to People for Trees and San Diego Gas & Electric - and, of course, our tax dollars hard at work - this week we are the proud recipients of 5 free shade trees for our home landscape. We have judiciously chosen, according to the free shade trees program's guidelines, planting locations around the main house and cafe for maximum possitive reinforcement. The idea of the program is that one of years, the trees will become large enough to give shade to our home and thereby lessen our reliance on air conditioning and the electricity drain that comes with it.

So over the weekend we dug our 5 holes for 5 trees and are in the process of sticking'em in the ground so they can grow to their full glory in our backyard. Here are some snapshots of the trees we received:

tree1crapemultiLagerstroemia indica - Crape Myrtle, multitrunk, pink
This multitrunk specimen was clearly a busy little tree in the nursery. It arrived in a 15 gallon landscape tub like all the others, but this on had branches and leaves starting from the base and flaring out 4-5 feet in all directions; delicate pink flowers all over it. The crape myrtle is a deciduous flowering tree with striking smooth bark in its more mature stages. It's planted widely as a street tree throughout El Cajon in both its multi and single trunk forms. We'll have to prune the extremely low horizontal branches upon planting since we want it to be a shade tree, not a shade bush, near our outdoor kitchen's seating area.

tree2crapesingleLagerstroemia indica - Crape Myrtle, single trunk, lavender
This lavender specimen is on a single trunk with its first branches at about the 5 foot mark. It should serve as a nice screen between our bedroom window and out neighbor's patio.

tree3prunusPrunus cerasifera - Purple Leaf Plum
This spring flowering and summer leafing deciduous tree has distinctly dark purple leaves. Since there's nothing like these purple leaves on any other tree, it's very noticeable when driving around town; though this tree is often pruned incorrectly or not at all, making them sometimes look wiry and odd. Hopefully we won't make those same mistakes. This tree will anchor the southeast corner of the cafe, at one end of our eventual lawn.

tree4peppermintAgonis flexuosa - Weeping Peppermint
"He must have a truly romantic nature, for he weeps when there is nothing at all to weep about." Or so wrote Oscar Wilde. Truly there is nothing to weep about for this tree either, for we shall love it most tenderly and speak to every so often. We felt our landscape needed another tree of weeping habit. When we moved here, we inherited a huge California Pepper (Schinus molle) directly behind the cafe, up near our citrus orchard. We weren't sure what to think of it at first, except that we did appreciate its lacelike weeping quality. Granted, sometimes it weeps a bit too low for our tastes and we have to shorten its 'do, but we wanted another weeper, something a little closer to our main outdoor living spaces. So we've chosen to plop him between the patio basketball hoop and one of the cafe windows to provide much needed afternoon shade to the west facing cafe.

All right, take a breath, I'm almost done...

tree5brachychitonBrachychiton acerifolius - Australian Flame
Our favorite tree of all, if you've been to our home, no doubt you've seen the year-old (time in the ground) Australian Flame in our front turnaround. In just a year, it has more than doubled in height. This little one's spot is between the other west facing cafe window and the kids' playground. It should fit right in because of its towering upright habit and large shiny evergreen leaves. Plus, the one in the frontyard got practically no water from us and is really a maintenance-free tree since it just kind of self-prunes the leaves and branches it doesn't need, and always goes up, up, up!

So come on over and meet these new additions to the landscape in person.