Saturday, July 26, 2014

Turf and Surf with the Typopigeon

As threatened, the temperatures today were what I call one hundred and stupid outside. We're generally spoiled in this part of California because we lack the smothering summertime humidity of other parts of the country, such as those where I grew up. Still adapted to the dry Arizona climate, though, Eugene did as the natives do, which is to cower inside behind heavy curtained windows and try to keep cool.

My youngest made off with him to read him a number of books, but soon they both appeared and requested that I dig out the marble-run game, a favorite indoor activity. Eugene quickly found himself in the middle of things...

Run Pigeon Run

Eventually, though, our thoughts turned to fresh air and sunshine, and so, properly sunscreened and be-toweled, we headed off to a neighborhood pool. He quickly made friends with the natives...

Making Friends Poolside

...and then enjoyed a fine afternoon in the water. I don't know if pigeons are natural swimmers, but Eugene took to the water like a pro, showing us all his "hang six" surf technique.

Pigeon Afloat

Friday, July 25, 2014

Eugene Onegin, Bird About Town

(For Adney the Younger)

Noble typopigeon Eugene is settling in nicely for his visit to Northern California. Today he accompanied me on my regular Friday lunchtime trip to the local branch of the library.

Concord, California is home to Dave Brubeck, honorary typospherian Tom Hanks, and is a sister city with Kitakami, Japan. We did go past "Brubeck Park" on the way to the library, and Eugene nobly volunteered to represent Mr. Hanks and the rest of the typewriter crowd as we paused at the small garden outside the library.


Concord/Kitakami, are you ready to coo?

We paused briefly, I should say, as we're entering one of those weeks where temperatures shoot up into triple digits. We retreated indoors to bask in air-conditioned comfort and check out the selections. Eugene made himself at home...

Properly Catalogued

...and settled in with some light reading while I scoped out the CDs.

Amazing Bird(s)

Today's selection was an Erik Satie compilation, something to mellow out with at the end of a busy week. Eugene had a few problems with my noise-cancelling headphones, and neither of us were entirely clear on where a pigeons' ears are actually located. This, however, did not seem correct.

The Headphone Incident, Part I

A little quick Google-fu got us sorted out, though, and with the aid of some office supplies, Eugene was soon able to enjoy the lyricism of Satie, as realized by Reinbert de Leeuw.

The Headphone Incident, Part II

Personally, I find Satie rather sad, and I suppose it had a similar effect on Eugene, so far from home. Clearly he is a creature of the wind, and even a glass-walled cage is not the same as feeling the breeze flowing beneath your flight feathers, or finding a half-eaten hot dog next to the sidewalk. (I cannot deny Eugene's urban tendencies.)


What was he thinking of? He wouldn't say, maintaining his usual stoic silence. Daydreaming about Japan, perhaps, or simply thinking about that book ("What makes owls so amazing?")

Tomorrow is Saturday, though, and both Eugene and I are released from office obligations for a few days.  I know my youngest is already making plans.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mr. Adney Flips Me the Bird


After a circuitous route from Magic Margin HQ the infamous bird has arrived at last. I cannot begin to tell you the joy that the arrival of this creature has brought to my home, not to mention the many postal workers who sped it on its way, and the lucky driver who wedged it in our curbside mailbox. No worse the wear for his travels, I need to now extract him from his shell of packing tape to reveal the letter beneath. I have to confess that I didn't expect him to arrive au naturale. Hardworking hands at Clickthing Industries are already engaged, planning accessories.

Stay tuned for the NorCal adventures of Eugene Onegin, though I expect this savvy typo-traveler may adopt an alias during his visit. I suggested "Hunter Peck," which got me booed and shooed out of the kitchen. I can't imagine why.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Edit Zone

Nexus 7 + Logitech K760 + Ikea "Dave" + Google docs + Window + Sofa =

The Edit Zone

The Edit Zone

Slowly, slowly, slowly, the rewrite is happening...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Unconventional Typewriter Day

Unconventional, because I had the day off! I spent little of the actual day typing as we're entertaining company, and with all due respect to Mr. Sholes, I didn't want to spend it all in front of the keys. I'm looking forward to catching up on everyone's creative endeavors.

As for me, I delved back into colorcasting, this time using crayons on some erasable onionskin that I picked up, thinking that the thinner paper and the special coating (?) might make a more carbon-paper-like surface. In the end, I prepared four sheets with alternating stripes of colors, and then used each to type something "conventional": a few lines of the exploits of the Quick Brown Fox, a thank-you note to Mr. Sholes, a shout out to World Typewriter Day, and the reminder to all Good Men that Now Is The Time.

Scanned and placed inside the letterforms of Richard Polt's Sholes & Glidden font, itself a scanned piece made from the handiwork of a far more famous and literary Clemens...

Typewriter Day 2014 word collage

Only too late did I realize how well the lighter wax would work on darker paper: maybe next year!

Using the thinner paper as a base layer for the wax worked well, and I turned the touch control on the typewriter all the way down to the lightest touch. Lots of punch-outs on the closed letters, as you would expect, so another colorcasting lesson was learned: always use an open-bottom typewriter! My table was covered in colorful, waxy confetti when all was done.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Quick Post: Nyms and Newlines

I'm hip-deep in a project that involves structuring information stored in one system for transmission to another using a very specific format and protocol, and part of the process involves generating a list of fabricated names, a benefits number, and date of birth. The latter two are easy, since they just require a random number generator, but I wanted to solve the name issue with cleverness, and come up with some reasonable-looking pseudonyms. After all, the programmer's credo is: if it's worth engineering, it's worth over-engineering.

I've mined the baby names lists from the U.S. Social Security Administration before, and opted to pull a subset of names from the 1880 and 1890 data files. For last names, I turned to Wikipedia's entry on common bird names, and after a little scripting and hackery, have it generating me a random list of patients with a very Wodehousian flavor. Since I usually struggle for names in my own writing, I decided to keep the script for my own use, just in case I need something moderately ridiculous.

And taking a page from the book of the Typosphere's own Duffy Moon, I decided to over-over engineer and also come up with a set of professions for my silly characters. Duffy's technique, if I recall, was to open the telephone directory listings and combine the alphabetical section headings at the top of the page, treating the two index words as the parts of an interesting-but-rarely-normal job title. Category lists are easy to come by online, so I added these to my script's data sources, and hey presto, the nymomatic was born. Now I can contemplate the fictional life stories of "Florence Waxwing, Photography Plasterer" and "Grace Jay, Motorcycle Moistener" and perhaps wonder how "Christopher Albatross, Thermostatic Toilets" got into the business. And if you're very good, I shall whisper you the tale of "Franklin Dove, Turkey Upholsterer"

Part two of this ramble has to do with those submission-and-response files, stuffed full of the exploits of "Etta Magpie" and "Glenn Ibis" and "Cornelius Kingbird" (who is in the Wildlife Wax line, I might add.) They are sent as a single stream of text, and received as the same, with no line breaks. Anyone who has to program text files needs to worry about how different systems say "this is the end of the line, start a new paragraph."

On Unix-ish machines, it's denoted by a "newline" character, which is usually written \n 

Before Apple got smart, they used to end text files with a "carriage return" character, thus: \r

Operating systems claiming a DOS ancestry use both, in combination: \r\n

These were originally teletype commands, meaning to literally return the carriage \r and advance the line one stop \n.  Of course typists will recognize this system, since it's exactly what you do when you manually throw the carriage as you type: return it, and then push on the lever a little more to line-advance.

Line endings are one of those things you take for granted until you get bitten by them, since most of our software handles the translations from one system to another automagically behind the scenes. But when you're hip-deep in test data, trying to reformat the exploits of Lou Cuckoo (Lead Lamps) and Nicholas Sandpiper (Singles Shredder) one gets reminded of the legacy of typing and the persistence of old standards. You may now look lovingly upon your QWERTY/QWERTZ/AZERTY keyboard.

Concerning my previous post's cry for editing guidance, I have decided to follow your collective sage advice and just soldier through what I was doing, which was to edit in full, not to reduce-and-expand. I did give myself a little bone, though, by dropping in "finish lines" throughout the body of the text every 25 lines. When I'm able to edit, I tell myself that I only need to make it to the next finish line I have marked -- but once started, I'm not allowed to quit until I hit that mark.

There's no scripting my way out of this one. I have to work the text one \n at a time.