sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

May 8, 2021


saturday plans
posted by soe 1:19 am

Rudi and I had a nice final evening before he headed out to Salt Lake City to spend 10 days with his mom and sort some things out there. Despite the cool drizzle, we strolled down to the library and then on to Trader Joe’s. With pizza dough in hand for the night’s supper (along with salads made from greens from our garden topped with delicious Green Goddess dressing from the bakery at the farmers market), we moseyed home. While Rudi was cooking, I put on a livestream of authors Amor Towles and Chris Bohjalian chatting, courtesy of one of our local bookstores, Politics & Prose. It ended in time for us to watch the season finale of Magnum, and then we rounded out the night with Now You See Me 2.

Rudi’s flight leaves from Dulles early, so I anticipate needing to come home for a nap before starting the day for real.

Quite a bit of rain has fallen this week, so I expect there will be a correlative quantity of weeds to pull out of the garden and more twine to put up for growing pea vines sometime this weekend. I don’t mind. I’d much rather Mother Nature take care of watering the garden, although it’s easier this year than ever before, thanks to the faucet installed last year and the Y splitter we added this spring.

There’s a neighborhood arts walk/craft fair across town tomorrow, so I may head over that way in the afternoon. And, of course, I can take in the Saturday night park concert from our local band.

If I have any energy left, I’m putting it toward reading and knitting — and maybe replacing all the batteries of my jar lights. I told Rudi I was going to do some spring cleaning while he’s gone, but I don’t see any reason to tackle it on the day I already have to get up before sunrise.

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May 7, 2021


mighty, off my plate, and in season
posted by soe 1:24 am

Not My Front Yard

Three beautiful things from my past week:

1. An extravagant splurge purchase of lilies of the valley from the farmers market fill my kitchen with fragrance — and I don’t regret a single penny.

2. Moving a couple projects along for someone else to do the next part.

3. Fresh strawberries and ice cream (albeit storebought) for dessert.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world lately?

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May 6, 2021


weighing our words
posted by soe 1:32 am

One of the projects I supervise at work involves making short informational videos of 90 seconds or less. That amounts to 200 words on a subject. You can say a lot in 200 words, but you have to choose them carefully.

First, you have to know a lot about your subject (or work closely with someone who does). The less you know, the more you’re able to obscure that fact, intentionally or otherwise, by wrapping them in a blanket of clauses and phrases.

Second, it helps to be able to wordsmith on the go. I am here to declare that your experts are never, no matter how many times you emphasize there are constraints, going to give you which tradeoffs you should make when they edit your text for accuracy. They will only ever give you more words they think need to be included.

Third, people have different styles when it comes to removing words. I tend to get there by wielding a scalpel, cutting a word here, a word there. My colleague approached it with a big kitchen knife, taking whole sentences with her as she went. Both techniques can be mighty to behold, when you watch someone remove a fifth of the words without losing the meaning. And, in the end, the goal is to leave your audience without a clue you excised anything.

Fourth, don’t show off. Because we’re aiming our videos at the general public, our rule of thumb is to keep our language at an 8th-grade reading level or less. That means using shorter sentences, but more to this point, fewer long words. The easiest way for experts to keep their word counts down is to use long words with some frequency. If you’re talking to other people in your field, it’s a great hack! That’s why lawyers and accountants and tech experts exist. Laws and tax codes and computer manuals are written for others who already understand the same basics, even if your specialty is different. Keeping your reading level lower means using more words, but it also means widening your audience.

Fifth and most important, you have to use your thesaurus with care. Remember back in middle school, when you first learned what a synonym was, your teacher said that you couldn’t always substitute one for another in any old sentence? You had to consider context. When making educational materials, you have to also consider the baggage your audience is bringing with them. When you say “prove,” you might be intending to convey that research is overwhelmingly in support of what you’re saying. But if your audience doubts your sources, they may hear “prove” as indicating what you’re saying is in need of defense and extrapolate that to mean there’s reason for suspicion. “Make sure” is twice as many words, but causes way fewer red flags in many people’s minds.

Getting rid of those final words to hit your target is painful and takes time. But when someone watches your video and says it was a great introduction to a topic and made them want to learn more, there’s nothing better.

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May 5, 2021


dosed
posted by soe 1:56 am

I got my second dose of vaccine yesterday. I felt so fatigued after the first shot, I’d expected to feel terrible this time around. But I didn’t. I felt fine.

So, yay! Now I get to start thinking about seeing my family, about eating outside, about going to movies and to baseball games, about hugging friends. I’m ready to shake this past year off and move on, even if I don’t quite know what the future looks like.

12 more days…

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May 4, 2021


top ten most recent recommended reads
posted by soe 1:06 am

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I originally thought I was going to get caught up on my 2021 reviews (And I still might! Stay tuned for tomorrow!), since I’ve only finished 10 books to date. But since that would call for more words than I want to write, I’m taking a page from Jana of That Artsy Reader Girl and simply giving you my last ten 4+-star reads:

  1. Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas: I will always recommend the Lady Sherlock series.
  2. An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn: Another solid Victorian-era mystery series.
  3. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez: An enjoyable middle-grade novel about a boy who (sometimes accidentally and sometimes not) creates rifts in the multiverse and his new friend who doesn’t think he’s crazy for it.
  4. Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev: The second novel in which this author takes inspiration from Jane Austen’s novels and applies it to a contemporary extended Indian-American family living in California. Warning: Don’t read while you’re hungry.
  5. Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore: A suffragette tries to find a way to bring a member of the House of Lords around to her cause.
  6. Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob: A memoir inspired by her son’s concern about growing up Brown in America.
  7. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune: It topped my best reads of 2020, and I continue to adore it.
  8. Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why by Alexandra Petri: A book of Washington Post satire columns that could only have been published during the last administration.
  9. How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason: I don’t know what to tell you: While this is the second book on this list with a similar title, it is not remotely like the other. Great if you always wondered what the Star Wars trilogy would have been like if told from Leia’s POV.
  10. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert: A young, disabled Black British woman makes a bucket list (with the hopes of jumpstarting her life, rather than to do before it ends) and enlists the super of her new apartment complex to help her.

How about you? What have you read recently that you’d recommend fairly universally?

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May 3, 2021


notes from the garden: early may
posted by soe 1:45 am

Salad in a Bag

I was sitting on an overturned milk carton at the garden this afternoon, trying to unbraid my purple sage and my violets so I could thin the latter, when the ground under my potato patch started pulsing.

Fascinated, I stared as whatever was approaching from the forest came closer, both curious and slightly horrified by what might emerge.

And then common sense kicked in and I realized I was far more likely to witness my tallest potato plant be sucked underground in a Loony Toons moment than I was to make an adorable new friend. I grabbed my trowel and tapped on the earth, causing my new neighbor to decide to exit via another door.

I’ve always had neighbors in my garden plot. They sometimes place doorways up in the middle of the plot, which I then tuck a rock into the next time I see it. It’s likely a field mouse or maybe a vole, but I suppose it could also be a rabbit or a rat. (The latter is the least likely; they’re far more likely to be found in the compost than in my plot, but I can’t rule it out.)

On the vegetative front, you can see it was another successful harvest week. There’s two types of sorrel, a red leaf lettuce, arugula, and spinach in my spring greens bag.

I have a couple rows of seedlings I need to thin, including one that maybe is bok choy. It’s unclear, and I’ll need to look through the seeds Rudi and I planted to see. My Swiss chard is growing delightfully neon, and I look forward to harvesting my first stalks later this week.

More peas have emerged, so I created some more string latticework for them. The tallest vine is past my knee and growing fast.

The potatoes, onions, garlic, and celery seem to be doing okay. I’ll need to add more compost to the potatoes next weekend (unless my new neighbor eats them all between now and then), and apparently I need to keep an eye on my celery plants for pests.

There are actual berries on the strawberry plants, so I’ll shift the straw around later this week to cut down on the likelihood of slugs. Rudi says he’s also prepared to proffer free drinks to anyone undeterred by that method.

And finally, I planted a basil, a sungold tomato seedling, and a cayenne pepper today. I figure if I buy only a few plants at a time, I have a better shot of getting them in the ground the same day.

Early May Gardening

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