Tuesday, December 23, 2008

First pizza

We made our first pizza in the oven on the 20th. It came out perfectly and made one of the best suppers we have had so far at our new place.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Watchers: a story in progress

Here is the first chapter from a story in progress. Let me know what you think and whether you would like to read more. Happy Holidays.

The Watchers

The girl stood by the stile of the worship house, her dark hair neatly parted and pulled back close to her skull. In her left hand—the soiled one, the evil one—she held a colorless, unglazed bowl. The thin material of her simple, almost seamless, muslin tunic could not conceal either her frailty or undergown nakedness.
The pale-faced cleric turned away, embarrassed by his own observing eyes. She was, after all, a child of God, set here by their holy ones, regardless of which hand she used. Her sex, age or name—if she still had one—no longer mattered. He firmly set his gaze straight ahead, his eyes boring into the dark, shadowless interior of the building which he intended to enter. His vision, adapted to the white-hot sunlight he was about to leave, gave him no objective or dimensional clue as to what it was he was moving into. He paused and blinked, briefly taking in the entry’s carved stone archway with its three-dimensional relief of gargoyles and demons. Cool, hardened clay brushed his left arm. “Please, Sir. A coin, one coin before you die?”
“Bless you, child,” the man answered, but neither reached for his purse, nor shifted his gaze. This child was already in their Supreme One’s hands. He would not be the reshaper of her fate. He habbened his staff and stepped toward the darkness.
“Aaah!” The cleric spun around, pulling his left leg back. “Blessed book! Dare you kick me?” Raising his free hand, he glared at the girl. She stared back, her light-blue eyes steady and bright. She was taller than he had first thought. His gaze shifted to her still out-stretched hand. Hand? She had only one. Where her right should be was only a leather-covered stump the size of a thumb and half a palm. “Ouch,” he whispered.
“A coin, Sir?” she repeated. Her voice was as level as her fearless gaze.
“… and if I don’t, you will kick me again?”
“No, Sir. You will die.”
The man’s appointment in the worship house seemed far away now. “We all shall die, eventually.” He still did not reach for his purse. Not yet, but this child was already proving more interesting than anything he could have planned for this hot, solstice day. “That is the safest prediction anyone can make.”
The child set her chin on the covered stump of her right hand. A smile flickered across her thin, sunburned face. “You speak great truth, Sir. But what is your life worth if you could extend it one more day?”
“A coin in your bowl will do that?”
“No.” She straightened up so that her eyes were almost level with the visitor’s shoulders. “But what I will tell you in exchange for your coin will.”
“Mmm. You know something that, if I know it, will safeguard me for one extra day of my allotted time?”
She nodded. “Something like that.”
“Well, I am late for my appointment. If you be here when I leave, I will look for you. Perhaps then I may find a coin that is worth a day of my life.” The man turned to go.
“Perhaps if I told you that one day was today …”
The cleric stared at the interior darkness. His eyes had adjusted and he now could see shapes: more archways, chairs and large creatures waiting—more than he had been led to expect. A metal blade caught an unseen light and glittered briefly. He took a deep breath and opened his purse without moving his eyes. “Here is your coin, child.”
“Thank you,” she said. He could hear the coin clink in the bowl, its sound harsh against this house’s swelling silence. “The holy ones that you are appointed to meet today are dead. Those who wait for you inside wait only to enjoy your blood.”
“Where am I safe?”
“Outside, in the sun.”
A chillness moved across his chest and down his arms. “Vampires?” he whispered.
“I do not know that term. They are not human—although once they might have been.”
The cleric stepped back out of the doorway and onto the street. “Child, how do you know these things?”
She shrugged and rubbed her left wrist with her right stump before dropping the bowl and coin into the pocket hanging on her left hip. “The watchers know. They told me to stop you.”
“Watchers?” The visitor moved away from the doorway so that he was no longer in the line-of-sight of whoever was waiting inside.
“Watchers: because they watch everything and everyone. Thanks for the coin.” The girl skipped several feet away, circled around a dry, ancient bronze fountain, swung around a lamp post using her good hand, waved once, ducked into an alley and was gone.
“Wait!” A pause and he was snapping fingers in frustration. Now what? He gripped the rim of the fountain’s bowl. It, at least, was real. But what now was truth? He had an appointment—an appointment he was now a day and two dial turns late for. Was that truth? Or was the word of one strange, adolescent girl? If her missing hand was any indication, she was a thief, or a former one who got caught.
He patted the pockets of his under jack, pulled out a small, green tablet, regarded it briefly and popped it into his mouth. As the cool, fresh limey favor began to fill his taste buds, he contemplated his next move. The interior of the holy house had felt evil; it had smelled of mold and old rat poison. It had not been what he had expected. But a thief? He sighed and walked over to the quiet, waiting opening. First tapping the dust from his shoes, he stepped just inside the entry way.

“Good day, kind sir. You are?”
“Huh?” He had been squeezing and blinking his eyes, trying to adjust to the breeze-cooled passage and its dim lighting. But how had he missed this creature, or thing, that now hovered a yard from his right elbow. How indeed, for it stank worse than gutted roadkill under a noonday sun. Involuntarily, he stepped back, pausing at the edge of the light.
“You are?” the creature prompted him again.
“I am Shepherd Benjamin,” the man replied formally.
“Shepherd? A shepherd. Hmm …” The doorkeeper pulled long yellow locks of matted hair away from its grey-furred face and began sniffing at a digital tablet it held in its third hand. “”Mmm. Ah, yes. Here. They are no longer here to meet you. So sorry.” The creature folded its lower arms, causing the tablet to disappear.
“Did the elders leave a message or location where they might be reached?” The sunlight touching Benjamin’s heels and calves was like a safety line holding him to the real, saner world of the outside. Ahead, he could now see and count at least seven other creatures standing in the vestibule fewer than a dozen paces away. Most appeared humanoid, but only in the sense that they stood erect on two limbs and were using their forelimbs to hold and carry tools.
The doorkeeper shook its head. “Would you come farther inside? One of our caretakers might know … I believe a message might be waiting …”
Caretakers? A strange word choice, Benjamin told myself. Time to trust a young thief over the word of a something that used its nose rather then its eyes to read a computablet. “Thank you. I will try to reconnect with the elders from my lodgings.”
“Please come in,” a new voice called, honey-trimmed like a girl-child’s at first commitment. Three of the creatures began moving toward Benjamin. Others shifted left and right. Again he caught the faint reflections of dull, unpolished metal just edging the light behind him. “Do, do come in.” The voice was soft and insistent, but Benjamin felt his stomach rebelling against the rank odor still smashing against his nostrils.
“Wogard!” a deep-throated creature called.
Benjamin tightened his grip on his staff and turned it crosswise, moving it to guard position. As he did, a shining disk flashed by his head and into the interior. “Run,” the child’s voice screamed from behind him. Benjamin leaped back to one side of the entry as silvery, searching tendrils and spinning stars launched themselves toward where he had stood.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lodge life

Our little garden in our solar house is doing well, despite the recent bitter cold. Swiss chard and zuchini are growing and the zuchini is developing buds.
An evening view. Wes on his computer, the masonry heater burning a charge and our Amish light iluminating everything.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Our masonry heater

Well, we cranked up the three-ton masonry heater again last weekend. It was down to 55 degrees F inside and 20 degrees F outside, so we decided it might be time. It worked beautifully and we baked yams, hubert squash and biscuits as well. The slow cooking does a great job.
In these pictures, Linda is cutting scones from our first baking back in March.
Another image shows the kitchen side of the heater with its oven big enough for pizza.
The heater is ornamented with Mercer tile from the Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The dragon has been a Loder badge for a long time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

We took a few more pictures in September. Here is the south side the week before the soybean harvest and Linda standing by the heater. We fired it up for the first time this season this last weekend. I guess we were impatient, because it was up to 70 degrees F by late afternoon as a warm front passed through.
The heater was built by Brian Klipfel of Amazin' Masons—a fine craftman and artist who did a beautiful job.

Posts and beams

Part of the reason we went with a timberframe structure was due to the beauty that the wood gives to a building. Here, even in the early stages, the curves of the braces and the lines of the timbers created a visual grace that we never grow tired of looking at.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Nikon Book

So far I have not written too much here about my second book. This is The Nikon Camera in America, 1946-1953. You can readily access more publishing information from the book's website:

This is a story about people, both American and Japanese, who believed in a little camera and its lenses and were willing to take risks to promote a product made by a former foe to a public who then believed that anything Japanese was junk.

If you are at all interested any aspects of the history of photography, the history of technology, the post-war recovery of Japan and the interrelations of Americans with their former enemies, then this is a story worth reading.

If you are particularly interested in Nikon cameras: their design, their features, their history and in the individuals who made the camera and its lenses happen, this book is an essential read.

I will not apologize for saying these things. I spent over three years doing the research and, I will admit, that this has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. So, take a look, and if you have read it, let me know what you think.

Ganado, Arizona

We lived for two years in Ganado, Arizona, where I worked in the college's library. The College of Ganado is long gone, but the old mission compound continues. Two images from our stay there.
The edge of the roof of the old adobe dining hall, and Round Top, a local landmark, as seen from the college's horse corral. Both pictures taken using 35mm film and Nikons, although I am not sure at this point which model or lens.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Oregon in Black & White

I have not had my darkroom set up for over 25 years. Time, lack of space, career demands and a dozen other excuses, such as raising a family, come to mind. Still, I have fond memories of the private world Linda and I would enter with only a safe light for company. The thrill of watching the image materialize on paper in the developer and the sense of quality that good, silver-based paper gives is quite different from the what most photographers go through now.

Here are a few images from Oregon where we lived for several years in the 1970s. The picture from Central Oregon was taken on the highway from Bend to Malheur, one of the loneliest, but beautiful, stretches of finished highway anywhere. The high north desert is quite different from what most people think of when they consider rained-on Oregon.
The other two pictures are from the Fern Ridge Reservoir, located only a few miles west of Eugene. In the early spring, there may be a lake below those clouds, but it is impossible to tell. The lichen-covered trees are typical. They drain the reservoir in the winter and it becomes acres and acres of mud flats, often lost in the rain and fog. Old roads and other hints of pre-water civilization show up, then disappear when the reservoir is refilled in the spring.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

House construction in August 2008

Some pictures we took at the end of the summer. In both of the interior shots, you are looking across the entire floor.
The first picture shows the house from the southeast. Note the large windows and overhangs on the south side and minimal windows on the east. The tiny lawn next to the porch is now partly covered with mums.
The downstairs interior picture shows the view toward our masonry heater and the kitchen area behind. The upstairs shot shows the bedroom area and the upstairs bath. Since these pictures were taken, the interior walls have lost their measles look as we have gotten base coats of paint on the sheetrock. The interior is open. The only "rooms" are the bathrooms and our closet. As a result, the house is full of light whenever the sun is up. Of course, it gets dark inside pretty quickly once the sun goes down since we still have no electricity. House will never be connected to the mains in any case.
The timber framing is all local oak, the downstairs floored with tile and the upstairs in yellow pine. The masonry heater is a Finnish style and sheathed in local limestone we recovered from a ruin on the family's farm.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thoughts on building

We start with a field of dreams. It may be an actual field, or it might be an open lot, or a place where another building stood. Still, it begins with a blank space, a space in which we draw our vision up out of the ground, conjure walls, a roof, windows, floors and spaces. Once such a dream would involve no more than the biggest and grandest space that one could afford. Today it may involve questions of how long the building will last, where its materials came from, what it will cost to upkeep and the health of the environment it creates.

The academic libraries I visited in the spring of 2008, new or old but mostly LEED-certified, all reflected new concerns with long-term costs and the long-term environment being created. I find this encouraging and refreshing, although I am still not sure if this is a trend. I hope so.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fox Girl (copyright 2008) Wes Loder

The bleat was more scream than cry. The boy pivoted, put down his cup and stared out of the open dutch door. “Elsie? Elsie!”
A second cry hit his ears, but he was already taking the porch steps two at a time and tearing toward the barn, the screen door banging behind him. The barnyard’s gate was closed, but—never mind—he scaled it, spotting the cause of Elsie’s cries just before he dropped over the other side. His family’s favorite ewe and her three days old lamb were both outside. So was another, older lamb and something red—like flame and anger flashing—all four circling and jumping in a frantic dance together.
Without thinking, he charged right into this circle of snorts, bleats and sudden, high-pitched barks—the barks sounding like the horn at the start of a race, or a dog’s last cry as it discovers the inflexibility of a moving car’s bumper. The red-furred animal was the boy’s target. He swept aside the bigger lamb and dove at the creature still spinning in the manure pile, caught between Elsie and himself. He had a dim, break-of-dawn vision of a small, narrow-snouted dog, all flame-colored except for black feet and a white chest. Then it was under his body and he had it by the throat and jaw, his right hand clamping its mouth shut.
Suddenly his grip slipped, for the nose he had just held was flattening, and changing from black to white, the creature’s head growing rounder and its ears shrinking. The flailing, furry, dark paws were morphing into hands scarcely smaller than his own, a fuzzy red dress replacing what had been fur and bushy tail.
A moment later, and he was staring into frightened, blue eyes set in a pale face and framed by the brightest red hair he could ever imagine. “Hu, huh” the girl gasped.
“Wha …?” The boy let his hands go limp and panted several times before more words could come out. “Where’d you come from?” he finally managed.
“Ah-mm, Mmp?” the girl seemed to be able to manage only meaningless noises from deep in her throat.
“I’m sorry. I’m sitting on you, aren’t I?” The boy rolled off the girl. He was about to offer her a hand when he spotted the first drop of blood dribbling from the side of her mouth. He backed away, holding up his hands with the index fingers crossed. Yes, he could see that the older lamb was limping and the wool of Elsie’s near shoulder was turning a dark red. “Go away,” he cried. “Go, go back to your own world. Leave our sheep alone. Go on. I’m sorry I hurt you, but begone.”
The girl got up on her knees, then stood, brushing bits of straw and turds from her dress. She stared at him, her eyes wet and anxious, then she licked away the blood on her chin with a long, black tongue.

Plug for book

I will start this with an unabashed plug for my first book (The Golden Horn, published August 2007, ISBN: 1-4241-8927-6, Available from the publisher, PublishAmerica, or through Amazon, or at the Waldens in the Fairlane Mall, Pottsville, or the bookstore at the Schuylkill Campus of Penn State).

"In the Balkan country of Starnovia, a land of roses and dust, memories and hatreds run deep, and poor families sell their daughters to city brothels. Here, over one long summer, an American boy and a Starnovian girl discover the power of truth and love.

"For Jim Gailey, the excavation of the ancient fortress of Castelschtop begans as just a job to earn extra college credits. But for Jonnie Gilenhoff, the native girl he rescues from a bar and hires as his assistant, the archaeological dig means far more—for it promises of a new future for both her country and herself.

"As the excavating progresses, Jim and Jonnie struggle to maintain proprieties yet help each other. A death vendetta, ancient lies, stolen equipment and growing affection all come together in a fatal climax, sparked by the recovery of a national treasure believed lost in an invasion 300 years earlier."

Sales have been good, reviews have been helpful and positive. Perhaps its biggest problem is finding a niche. Is it YA, crossover or adult? Is it an adventure, a coming-of-age story, a mystery or a romance? Is it a guy-book- or chick-lit? Have it any way you like, because it is all of these. If you have read it, let me know your thoughts. I am open to any feedback and suggestions.

For my next entry, I will share a little something that might be appropriate for the coming Halloween season.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Most of the pictures Linda and I took of the house raising a year ago were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 995, which has since died. I also took quite a few pictures using a Nikon rangefinder camera and a 21mm f4 Nikkor. A nice combination for this kind of work and one that allows coverage of all the action.


I guess everyone has to start by explaining why he or she is pushing his or her interests on a nosy public. My reasons are modest, but mercenary. I have written and published two books that people—even those who are not my friends—say are well-written, informative and entertaining. I hope that this blog might reach more of a public that would be interested in what I have had to say.
The second reason will become clearer as I comment on the home Linda and I are building. We believe that all of us need to move to a life style that uses less energy, is healthier and reduces our carbon footprint. Others’ thoughts are welcome in this regard.
Finally, I hope to occasionally showcase some of my writings in progress, comment of my photography and feature pictures I have taken. Again, feedback is welcome.