Monday, August 31, 2009

Fifteen Minutes and Then You Get a Sticker

I spent most of the weekend hovering over our youngest, trying to reveal unto her the magical mysteries of toilet training. I'll spare you the specifics, but know that it involves acting surprised and excited every fifteen minutes when the kitchen timer sounds, and then spending quality time perched on the edge of the bathtub trying to look neither eager nor disinterested at the habits of my daughter's bowels. We're not ready yet, but the Mrs. and I are trying to get there before that magical window of interest slams shut and effort can no longer be rewarded with stickers and hugs and high-fives. We have a pre-teen: we know what stubborn looks like.

There's not much you can do with your day when it's punctuated by a hand-clapping parade down the hall every fifteen minutes, especially when the thermometer has reached Absurdly Hot at 8:00 AM and threatens not to back down for another fourteen hours. Stuck inside with the air conditioner blasting and our kitchen timer counting down at my elbow, I finally broke down and cracked open my NaNo 2008 draft. I'd managed to edit up through about day four's writing -- all my pages are numbered by day -- and by "edit" I mean "rewrite whole sections in-between the double spaced type." It's not easy, and at every clunky word I was reminding myself how I got here by being the obsessive over-achiever that I am. ("Why stop at 50,000 words?") I hate, hate, hate editing this thing. I don't know why, as it was it truly was a pleasure to write, but then it's far more fun to cook than wash dishes, too. Perhaps it's just this section of the novel, those first exploratory days where I was getting used to the idea of daily typing, and was still sussing out the characters. Once I get started, it's not so awful, but it's still taking me about an hour per page (!) because I insist on redoing whole chunks. And knowing that there's hundreds of pages ahead of me just fills me with a soul-sapping dread.

So I made myself a deal, in the spirit of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. All I had to do was the short assignment of editing for fifteen minutes, just until the little timer bell rang, and then I could stop. And I did, fifteen minutes at a time, and then the bell would sound for the Parade, and off we'd march, the toddler and I. Ten minutes later I was back on the sofa, winding up the timer for another wait, and made another deal with myself. Just fifteen more minutes, that's all. And then another fifteen. And another.

Added together, all those little windows passed the time -- I probably edited for around three hours in total, around all those breaks. Normally I hate being constantly interrupted, but this was shockingly productive, taking tiny little fifteen-minute bites out of the novel, with a mandated reward sticker at the end.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Needs New Ribbon

Needs New Ribbon

Also needs:
  • Dust and eraser bits blown out from insides
  • Surface grime wiped off
  • De-pooping (case only, luckily)
  • De-hairing (typewriter only, unfortunately)
  • Paper holder bent back into shape
  • Rust spots removed from case lining (OxiClean?)
  • Zipper re-sewn on side of case
  • Its story discovered and written

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Speegle Curse

I need someone to blame, after all. After she sort-of badmouthed the Olivetti line, Strikethru found herself in possession of one and renounced her ways. And secretly I might have been smirking at Mr. Speegle's lavish affection for la signore and the attention she garners when he takes her out in public. And now it's my turn for a comeuppance, as this little script (yes, script) Lettera 32 followed me home from lunch. The clerk and I looked the case and typewriter over for a price tag lurking somewhere under the cobwebs and hair (?) and bird scat (!) with no luck, so she finally just said:

"I don't know... how does $5 sound to you?"

It sounds lovely, thanks.

This is another mostly-metal machine, not the plastic Underwood/Olivetti machines that I've bought and passed along. I think this one will be a keeper. No photos yet, for she and I are both ashamed of her condition right now. She's got the heart of a poet, though, I can feel it. This little gal didn't sit under a dust cover and type casserole recipes before she was cased up and forgotten. I think she's got a Significant Story lurking inside. And she's blue, like so many of my other machines... I think I may have an accidental collection "theme" going now.

Update: I meant Lettera 32, not 22.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Red Badge of Hype

No, this doesn't count as my Significant Story entry (and how did this become homework all of a sudden? [shakes fist at Strikethru.]) This little guy caught my eye at Goodwill the other night, mainly because of that little red dot.

Leica Mini Zoom

Now, this is a "real" Leica in the same sense that I'm a "real" author. Put another way, this camera is a sheep in wolf's clothing. That said, Leica lenses are famous, and the lens really does make all the difference. I took a Yashica T4 with me to Disneyland which took outstandingly sharp photos (Zeiss lens, for those in the know) and I was hoping this camera would behave about the same.

My test roll came back from Walgreens just a bit ago, and here's some of the scans from the CD.

I'm pleased! One, for the quality, and two, that I didn't need to pay the Hype Price to experience it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New From Clickthing Industries: The Handoscan (Mark 1)

I'm getting closer: my hand-scanning technique just got an upgrade with the lunchtime creation of the Handoscan (Mark 1), aka, a homemade light-table. I've been using my digital camera to "scan" the negatives I've been making, since I don't have a film scanner or ready access to one that can handle transparencies. For just posting pictures on the web, my camera's resolution is Plenty Good Enough, but taking a picture of a highly reflective surface held up to a bright light is what you might call a challenge. Inspiration struck when I took a quick inventory of the clutter useful materials I have around my office.


Handoscan Mark 1, Disassembled
Cardboard box, tape, old flexible cutting board, binder clips.

Handoscan Mark 1, Demonstrated
White plastic acts as diffuser, spreading the daylight evenly.

And a couple of shots that I was unable to get before, due to the horrible reflections from the camera:

Flowers Soccer

I'm still shooting through the plastic negative sleeves, and the sleeve is not being held perfectly flat yet -- I tried some magnets from the crafts store as a means to "pin" it down, but they're too weak to pass though the layers of cardboard. I'll see if I can locate some stronger magnets and try doing a negative strip held directly onto the white plastic.


I've got a lead on some dead hard-drive magnets, thanks for the tip, Olivander. Also, a couple more pics to enjoy...

From the Olympus Pen

3-D Boat
From the Nishika N8000

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I appear to be an idiot

...because I simply cannot get the comments thing to work on various blogs, specifically Monda's, Joe Van Cleave's, and his grandson's (Line Writer.) It's some kind of voodoo with the embedded comments form, and I thought that it might have to do with a browser plugin -- I'm using NoScript -- but I'm unable to do this even running other browsers.

Normally I have nothing but love for Blogger, but if I can't leave snarky, irrelevant comments on your blogs, what motivation will you have to leave the same on mine?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Argust Memories

Argus C3, c1940s

Another Argus Day come and gone. Here's some preliminary "scans" from the roll I took yesterday, and developed last night in Caffenol C. I've simply got to buckle down and get a decent scanner if I'm going to post pictures: these look like they've been shot though a fine mixture of Vaseline and sand. The excess dust on the guitar picture is particularly annoying.

Rock and Roll

Neighborhood Watch

Dog Days of Argust

My "handoscan" technique is holding up a sandwich of white plastic, the negative sleeves, and a sheet of clear Plexiglas to the window and then photographing it in macro mode with my digital camera. (In other words: pathetic.) Reflections from the digital camera bounce back onto the Plexiglas and sleeves, so many of the shots have a mysterious ring on them. What I need to do is encase the setup in a box of some kind to limit stray reflections. I'm still experimenting.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Still More Cards

If you're sick of hearing about my homebrew McBee-card system, please tune out... now!

So here's where I am at the moment. I decided to take a first cut at this by getting my old stack of cards from 2008's NaNo hole-punched and prepared. I would up with about 200 of the silly things in the end, keeping track of three main story ideas and timelines that all eventually came together in the end. (Or that was the hope, anyway.) Thinking about those cards and the issues I had with them led me to this setup:

Hole layout for NaNo cards

One problem I faced was my very curious toddler who happily emptied out my box of cards every chance she got. Keeping her out of the cards was like trying to contain an octopus: she's clever, and all hands. I did have the presence of mind to number all the cards on their back according to which day I'd hoped to be turning them into novel mulch: this was my outline. Still, trying to re-form thirty piles of cards while the same toddler is simultaneously trying to un-make those piles was a challenge. Thus, the blue circles in the above picture.

Here, the idea is to use a hole or combination of holes to sort the deck. By punching out numbers on each card, it's possible to pass the needles through them and restore them to their original order. So, cards for the first day get the "1" edge punched out. Cards for the 8th day would get "3" and "5" punched. Using holes to sort like this is an old idea, and there are various schemes to do it, but I wanted something that would be easy to add up in my head, and would cover all thirty days of NaNoWriMo. The best way I've found to sort is to start with the highest numbers first, and then work down. This removes the problem of "false drops," which occur when you're trying to select cards with commonly-used hole, like the "1". If I took my stack of cards and tried to pull out only day 1's bunch, I'd wind up with a lot of other cards where the 1 was used, like day six (1 + 5 hole), eleven (1 + 10), sixteen (1 + 5 + 10) and so on. But by starting with the highest number and working down, you'll never get a false drop. It's magic. Now when Little Miss Trouble comes through, I've got a solution to get the stack back in order.

The other issue I faced was just trying to find something in the whole deck of cards, like that one obscure detail I wrote down about such-and-such character, but I don't remember where it was, or trying to remember if I'd written down a certain plot development already. That's what the red-colored holes are for. Only one hole in this group is punched out per card, and I tend to write cards that are one of those four things: something about a Character, a description of a Scene I want to include, a general description or history of a Setting in the novel, and an overall Plot Point to try to aim towards.

That leaves me with nine unused holes in the middle. Now it occured to me that those nine holes can each be used to supplement the four leftmost "category"-type holes. So now I'm trying to determine what to do with this extra space.

Things I've learned:
  • Accurate punching is not for the impatient. I've torn the punched edge of a couple of cards by trying a punch-and-tear maneuver. Must. Be. Patient.
  • I get cleaner punches overall by doing multiple cards at once. Punching individual cards often leaves hanging bits that need to be carefully torn off.
  • I've moved to smaller-diameter knitting needles. I'm using U.S. size 3 now, and may even try size 2 next. Cards don't always drop off the needle, as it catches on the lip of the punched notch. Friction is not your friend here, and a good shake often loosens a bunch of cards unexpectedly.
  • 200 index cards are a lot to sort through by any means. I've had the best luck paring down the pile into smaller groups, like sorting by the major number divisions first (20, 10, 5) before detailed sorting.
  • I tend to get better "drops" when the bottoms of the cards are resting on a surface, but I'm still working on a video-worthy technique.