Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Octavia Butler on Writing

You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.

—Octavia E. Butler

Saturday, July 3, 2010


My father cooked. Not a lot, but he cooked. There were three things that he specialized in; amazing French toast, oatmeal cookies (using the original Quaker Oats recipe), and coleslaw.

I loved his coleslaw. There were two things that made his coleslaw different; one, he didn't overuse mayonnaise, and two, he added nuts. At first, it was slivered almonds, or pecans, but later, after he retired, he started using macadamia nuts. I can remember him standing over the cutting board with half a head of green cabbage, and shredding it with a knife. He didn't like to use the food processor. He'd add grated carrots, a little high quality mayo, salt and pepper to taste, and last of all, the nuts.

Some of my earliest memories are of my father chopping the cabbage for the coleslaw; I can remember him doing it when we lived in Indiana, where we lived until I was five, and I can remember him doing it some forty years or so later, when my parents were retired and living in coastal Maine. I always had a hard time waiting until dinner time to try the slaw, and Dad would often let me have a sample before (though it was always better after being chilled for a few hours). And it was something he'd make when we were camping, when I was small.

Dad's Coleslaw


  • Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Mayonnaise
  • About 1/2 cup of chopped Nuts (slivered almonds, pecans, or crushed macadamia nuts, or a mixture of any 2)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. Thinly slice the cabbage, horizontally, and then vertially, until you have approximately 4 cups (not packed) of sliced cabbage. (Using a mandoline helps in this case.)
  2. Grate a carrot.
  3. Add about 3 Tablespoons of Mayonaise for about 4 cups of cabbage; adjust to taste.
  4. Add chopped nuts to about 4 cups of cabbage
  5. Add pepper to taste.

The last time I had my Dad's coleslaw, he made the coleslaw in the morning, then we drove to the Keag Store (referred to as "the Gig") on Route 73 in South Thomaston, Maine, to pick up lobster rolls, (with the buns toasted in butter, first) to go with the the coleslaw.

My Dad died in 2005. They said I'd stop missing him. They were wrong.

Image Credit: Michael E. Cohen

Saturday, April 17, 2010

G. K. Chesteron on Writing

Most of the machinery of modern language is labour-saving machinery; and it saves mental labour very much more than it ought. Scientific phrases are used like scientific wheels and piston-rods to make swifter and smoother yet the path of the comfortable. Long words go rattling by us like long railway trains. We know they are carrying thousands who are too tired or too indolent to walk and think for themselves. It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable. If you say "The social utility of the indeterminate sentence is recognised by all criminologists as a part of our sociological evolution towards a more humane and scientific view of punishment," you can go on talking like that for hours with hardly a movement of the grey matter inside your skull. But if you begin "I wish Jones to go to gaol and Brown to say when Jones shall come out," you will discover, with a thrill of horror, that you are obliged to think. The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard. There is much more metaphysical subtlety in the word "damn" than in the word "degeneration."

Orthodoxy. (1908) by G. K. Chesterton