Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's spring!

Get outside and get a little sun, and take in your local flora! Just don't forget to pack your camera...

At the garden center 1 At the garden center 2 At the garden center 3 Bird of paradise

Friday, March 13, 2009


Time to play catchup on some projects I started:
  • Concerning the hiding of typewritten notes inside books, I did cut into the supply of onionskin and do exactly that, writing up about twenty little messages and slipping them deep inside the pages of various titles at the local thrift and used bookstores. This was fun, up until I got very paranoid about the security cameras and what it might have looked like I was doing, and as I'm a regular customer of these places, I didn't feel like getting a hostile warning from the manager on the next visit. On the upside: finally used some onionskin paper.
  • Speaking of hostile warnings, I took both my half-frame cameras out for a shoot-off lately, and just got the prints back. (The hostile warning came from a security guard who didn't like me photographing the local Bank of America office.) Except for some inexplicable cloudiness in the first few shots (fingerprint on the lens?) the all-manual Petri took far superior shots, I expect due to the fact that I could have more control over the exposure. Even a guesstimated setting was better than relying on the aged mechanism in the Pen. I'll try to get some representative shots of both scanned soonish. Clickthing photo tip #1: if you're buying a vintage camera for decent photography, get an all manual one and learn to use it.
  • In other film news, my experiment with a super-cheap DIY stereo camera looks just like that: super-cheap. Even the Walgreen's processing people commented on how blurry they were. I think the lens on those cameras may be made from wax. Clickthing photo tip #2: Dollar store film? Nice! Dollar store cameras? Not so much.
  • Ditto for the yellow-flash Lomography camera, and at this point you should ask yourself, didn't you get what you paid for? Well, yes, and the camera did not exceed my expectations overall. Now and then, though, it took some respectable, accidentally-good shots, also waiting to be scanned. Clickthing photo tip #3: Save your $10 at Urban Outfitters and just get a $3 flash camera from the thrift store and paint over the flash with a dry-erase marker. Same effect, way cheaper. Probably better pictures, too.
  • Speaking of lomography, I also got my pictures back from my other mega-cheap camera that I'm planning on taking to the Temple of the Mouse. It took surprisingly good pictures, though I realized how much I miss having a workable flash. Harsh southern California shadows and mandatory large-brimmed hats on the kids mean lots of faces-in-shadows. I'm still averse to taking the digital camera along, due to very high likelihood that I'll ruin/drop/lose it in the park. I've since found an Olympus Infinity Stylus 35mm camera that may fit the bill. It's got more doodads that I would have preferred -- motorized advance, date-stamp on pics -- but also a few features that I like, including a zoom and a proper fill-flash. Bonus: it claims to be splash proof, and Internet rumor has it that these are very tough little cameras. The Ansco may wind up in the capable hands of one of the kids.
  • I went into Tuesday with Grand Plans and Good Intentions to work on my novel, and instead spent the evening and all day Wednesday riddled with disease. One of my own darling little germ incubators caught me unawares, and I spent all day Wednesday laid up, inches from my novel, without the will or strength to pick the silly thing up and work on it (opting instead for tea and naps, which was far wiser.) I can only conclude that I am actually allergic to my manuscript. To reward myself for surviving, I picked up a bagasse composition book at Staples yesterday as a reward. Bagasse is the polite-company name for "leftover stuff from processing sugar cane" and reportedly, amazing paper can be made from the stuff. Folks, I'm here to tell you that the rumors are all true. I used my composition book yesterday with my cheapo steel-nibbed pen to try and round out some weak scenes in the middle of the novel, and oh MY is it nice. The pen-and-paper obsessed among you need to check this stuff out. (Staples markets this as "Eco" paper. The clerks aren't knowing from "bagasse" so be advised.)
  • Finally, fate seems to be practically hurling slide projectors my way these days. The local thrift store has three projectors at the moment, and another one nearby has a whole bin full of the empty circular trays. So.... tempted... I'm behaving, but I did break down and get two of those hand-held "Pana-Vue" slide viewers, which seems to be holding the lust at bay for now. As I have no actual slides on-hand to play with, I'm only thinking about the possibilities for them. At the moment they're perched on my desk next to Norma Jean. I think I need to fill them with some kind of inspirational quotes or snazzy typewriter art instead of what's in there right now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time to pick up

It's Tuesday, and my octopus only has seven legs.

This non-sequitur is brought to you by my latest knitting project. In knitting, the first row of stitches made is called the "cast on" row. That language puts me in the mind of fishing, and it's not a bad comparison, hopefully throwing your line into the water to see what you catch. I've only really managed one of the many methods of casting on, but it serves me well. My problem now with the octopus is that I need to go back and revisit that first row to attach legs, so the end product will look like a something, and not like a blob.

My knitting -- like my writing -- tends to shape up after a few rows (lines), so my cast-on row is numerically correct with the proper number of stitches, but may have serious style problems. Typically the tension in the yarn is wrong, and picking over it uncovers all the weak spots and funny gaps that even out over the course of the project. Now with this pattern, I have to go back and "pick up" stitches, which means just what it sounds like. Stitches that are done and in the past, stuff I laid down at the start of the project now suddenly fund themselves back on the needle and under scrutiny, being asked to support something else. And somehow, despite my ability to count to numbers higher than ten, I seem to be running out of room to attach the legs on the octopus. I just started leg number six last night, and without some creative rejiggering, it looks like I might be making a septopus after all. I'll figure this out, though. Knitting can be surprisingly tolerant of failure, especially when you're just doing it for fun. I'll work around it and it'll come out OK.

Now, it's Tuesday night -- the night of my wife's knitting class, coincidentally -- which leaves me and the offspring alone tonight. Once they're abed this evening, I will have about ninety minutes of quiet-in-the-house time. Unlike last week when I squandered this by actively ignoring the NaNo draft sitting right there on the side table, I think I'll dig out the pen and the note cards and start dealing with all those early lines, those cast-on pages that laid the foundation for the final story. Lines and pages that need reworking and revisiting, to ease out the tension and straighten things up. (Or maybe just ripping them out altogether.)

It's time to pick up and get to work.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lebbeus Woods on notebooks

I've got a typecast formulating in my mind for later, and by magical coincidence I just read a complimentary post by one of my favorite contemporary architects, Lebbeus Woods. I am lucky enough to own a copy of The New City, which to me reads like an archaeological study of a decaying city of the future. His work is eerie and precise, and just hits all the right notes for me, even if I can't always make sense of his essays.

I mentioned him before in my list of 25 things (see #24) in no small part because his drawings tend to be done in pencil, and have a hazy, almost photo-real quality to them. In his blog he talks about his use of notebooks as a means for capturing ideas while being limited to the modest space of an airline seat:
Notebooks are portable. They can be kept secret, or published. Technically, they are simple to make. Pen and paper. The hand, eye, and thought. Freed from any sort of burdensome apparatus, thought becomes more agile in confronting itself.