Friday, December 21, 2012


Whoops, I guess three weeks have passed since I last poked my nose in here. I think as we age, time no longer travels linearly, but swoops and peaks and dips like a roller-coaster gone out of control. How is it that in the heart of Nano I was making regular updates, and now... not so much?

Holiday plans are taking most of my time, but I'm looking forward to the quiet days as we finish off the old year and usher in the new. No typewriters under the tree this year, but that's all right -- I've had a bountiful year. We're trying as much as possible to scale back a bit: focus less on the "stuff" and keep the focus on the kids (which is far more fun anyway.) Aside from the usual hiding and wrapping, my days have been filled with naps and trying to coax sodoku solutions out of my brain. In all: quiet.

So, how's the end of the world look from your location?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Well Done, Rhino Wrimos

That whumping sound you heard was Wrimos collapsing in a heap after another thirty-day charge of the Typewriter Brigade. No matter what state your wordcount bar was in at the end of the month -- purple victory, blue almost-there, or barely-budged -- or even if you were cheering from the sidelines, it's quite a spectacle and a huge effort for all involved, attempting to squeeze an overlarge creative project into an already over-squoze life. (I'm still getting past the "invent new words" stage.) Like Scrooge, I wake up blinking in the sunlight -- or winter rains -- and marvel that the spirits of Nano got it all done in one month.

Personally, I'm glad to have a Saturday where I'm allowing myself to sleep in. I put the typing table and Beast back in their hibernating spots, and today, I get to shuffle around an end table, an electric piano, and several bins in storage as we attempt to jam an overlarge Christmas tree into our already over-squoze house. I've got a backlog of books to read, a story to review (hello, Mr. Speegle), and normal life to resume. And sometime in about four weeks or so, a mysterious box to open, jammed with the output of an over-caffeinated, under-rested Rhino on the keys.

Nano Rhino

Monday, November 26, 2012


One month later, and it's done.

November Growth

Overseen by the trusty Nano Rhino, my 2012 draft is in the bag. Or more correctly, in the box, where it will percolate for another month or so until Christmas vacation when I'll dig it all out with the obligatory pen and Refreshing Seasonal Beverage and start tearing it all up again. This Nano turned out to jump the rails a lot faster and more dramatically than drafts of years past: I diverged from my insane pre-planned outline mid-month, only to finally loop back in the final day or two of writing. Some characters never made their appointment with the story, others stepped forward to take their place. There were digressions, and wanderings, and ramblings, and many, many expository speeches. And I only remember snatches of it, since I was up at 5-ungodly-o-clock for almost the whole month to sneak in 3-4 pages before my day got started.

All the typewriter auditions turned out to be mostly for naught, since I didn't want to tinker with the magic of Online OCR being able to successfully turn my typescript into digital text. I'm still assembling the final document, melding my typed pages together with those I wound up typing on the Alphasmart over vacation, usually while visiting with the neighbor's cats. The final work was mostly done on the Royal KMG Beast, and an Olympia SM9 and SM3, all of which have boring Roman-style typefaces. (All the better to scan with, I hoped.)

For those still grappling with your Rhinos: hang in there! Put your head down and charge, right through to the end, even if it's not the end that you anticipated.

Now I need to play catch-up on all the happenings from the past month or so and breathe a little air again, because soon enough I'll sit down to see how those original ideas grew.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


It's Thanksgiving Day today in the U.S., a national holiday dedicated to the legend of a shared meal between the early European colonists and the Native Americans who encountered them. Of course, time and selective memory have softened the truth of that first harvest season into something that's suitable for elementary school re-enactments, where the class is divided roughly into Indians and Pilgrims, and perform a make-believe feast of construction-paper food for parents and family. At least, it was recognized as such in one of my early schools. We moved to another state when I was still fairly young, one that had a deer-hunting season, so the fourth Thursday of November became less focused around making hand-print turkeys and more about the making unique fashion statement of blaze orange hunter's caps with camouflaged coveralls. Thanksgiving became an also-ran to Deer Day.

Now I'm older and more ornery, and bristling visibly at "Black Friday" sales now being superseded by stores opening on Thanksgiving day. Christmas decor is already in all the shops: it's been in place since the first of the month. I still champion the day, though, not just because of its focus on sharing a really big, home-cooked meal concluding with pie* -- well, that is a large part of the appeal -- but because it's a last day of quiet before the rush to the end of the year. This year, the calendar has aligned such that Thanksgiving is the earliest it can possibly be -- November 22. This means we effectively get an extra week to heed to the drumbeat of Christmas mania. You can imagine how I feel about that.

That drumbeat, however, is over 24 hours away. I'm writing this Wednesday evening, and I hope to be offline much of tomorrow. Tomorrow, I get up early as I have every day this month, sit at the keys and try to wring a few more pages of my novel out of my brain, and listen for the sound of my youngest sneaking into the room with the dog diligently behind her. We'll make pumpkin pie, and apple pie, and a raisin pie, and make too much noise as we mix and pour and bake and clean, and then do it all again. The Nice Dishes will come out of the cupboard, we'll wipe off the wine glasses and shake out the good napkins and prop up the hand-print turkeys my daughters make** as they wait and wait and wait for the meal to be readied, as too many people try to do too many things in our too-small kitchen. We'll sit down at last, hungry and tired and ready to eat, and then go around the table as we always do, saying what we're thankful for.***

I'm thankful for many things: things I'll share at the table, things I'll keep private in my heart.

Thanks to all of you for putting up with Rhinos and novels and all the self-indulgence that comes from keeping a blog. Thanks for being part of the Brigade, be it as a participant, or part of the cheering section, or one of the sane people watching politely from the sidelines. Thanks for being one of the nicest groups of people on the Internet, hands down. Thanks for all your scholarship, for your photo essays, for flea markets and for sharing your hobbies.

Thanks for another year, everyone. Can I get you another slice of pie?

* If it's done right, that is. Some traditions should never be lost, and the post-Thanksgiving pie coma is one of them.

** Hand-print turkeys are another tradition not to be trifled with.

*** Highly corny. You're allowed to do this. It's Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dark Horse the Second: the Neo Nano Rhino

As much as I tease AlphaSmart users at this time of year

Brigade Poster

...I appreciate the combination the pure functionality, durability, and simplicity of the AlphaSmart. This summer I traded in my old Pro model (c. 1987) for the latest, a Neo2, which brings with it the added advantages of on-board USB, two-way file transfers, proportional and scalable fonts, and keys that don't require ball-peen force to trigger. I've used it on and off, and plan to make it my main revision machine for 2012's ever-growing opus.

Today, it got pressed into service as a drafting device, too.

Neo Rhino

My wife came down with a sudden bout of stomach something-or-other this morning, and since our younger kids are home-schooled, she had to put in for a last-second substitute teacher, which is... me. The Neo has been hopping room to room with me today (sans Rhino), picking up some words whenever the kids sit down to get a lesson done. It's infinitely more portable than all but the slimmest travel typewriters, without all the distracting pecking and bell-ringing that would pull my darlings off-task.

The only downside is that it's so damned easy to count words with a simple keystroke, so I'm trying to not obsessively to that every. Single. Line. (Trying and failing, obviously.) Today's wordcount is going to falter a bit -- yes, Duffy, I hear your snorts of derision, settle down -- but hopefully my Brigadier Cred will remain intact.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Auditions: A Dark Horse to the Rescue

Due to the fact that my typing station is set up in our family room, my Nanowrimo typing time is limited to those few hours when people aren't trying to watch TV, or have a conversation, or basically do anything over the unholy din of me at the Beast: the Royal KMG tucked in its November writing spot behind the sofa.

This is what morning looks like

Such a situation arrived yesterday. My youngest was staying in, recovering from one of those spontaneous fevers that children seem to develop. Using the Beast is out of the question when a kid's in the room, much less a sick kid propped up on pillows watching her way through our DVD collection. And all my auditioned machines are at my office. Drat!

I could have grabbed any of the spares here at home, but since I discovered how well OnlineOCR works for me this year, I'm hesitant to use a machine with irregular type, as many of them do. And of course, being a sort-of collector means that you get to play favorites.

This is when I remembered Gomez, my same-era SM3, who was tucked away on the floor of the coat closet.

Typing pad project: the raw materials

I grabbed an old cafeteria tray we have at home, Gomez, and paper, and headed off into the bedroom to work. An emergency type-cleaning with some alcohol and an old toothbrush was all it needed to get the slugs shining. Gomez types at the odd-sized 11 cpi size (picalite?) so every page from that machine is like one and a half from the Beast, and over the course of the day, I ducked in to try to knock out a page when I wasn't swapping DVDs or getting beverage refills.

Gomez was a well-loved machine before I got him from Freecycle. I'd forgotten about the stray marker scribbles on his side and the mysterious sticky something (gum, I hope) on the front corner of his frame. The ribbon cover paint is worn away from being scraped by the return lever, and he desperately needed the gasket-replacement repair.

His looks may not be much, but oh! I am a stalwart lover of these Teutonic marvels. Gomez rescued the day's writing... though not the plot. Nothing in my collection can manage that.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Off the Rails

Just like clockwork, the Rhino has laid waste to my carefully-laid plans. He's claiming no responsibility for it, of course.

I Deny Everything

As I've said countless times, the reasons I devote all the prep time to NaNoWriMo are because:

  1. Control freak
  2. I tend to go blank at the keys, especially during my main writing session first thing in the morning
So, I plot and I plan and I make index cards and stack and sort them. Everything's all laid out, nice and neat, all I have to do is write the day's notes.

Every year at this time, though, the Rhino and my Muse conspire against me, and have me tossing out -- OK, setting aside -- my notes right when I need them the most, here in the clutch.

It's Week Two. That's right: it's Suck Week.

Week Two Nano Rhino Suckage

I always like to think that my outline will insulate me from the suckage that follows so closely after the giddy start, but it doesn't, not by a long shot. My characters are now running around, not following The Almighty Plan, uncovering interesting details and asides that I knew nothing about. They're throwing parties, and scheming, and lying, and telling fables, and all sorts of things that were totally unanticipated, and dammit, they will not be denied. And this in a sequel, too. You'd think they would have learned how to behave the first time around.

So, me and the Muse are at something of a creative stalemate right now, thanks to the Rhino prodding the old girl. Obviously, the Plan I've so assiduously laid out isn't happening, or at least not in the order I expected. I'm wheel-spinning to keep to make my self-imposed word goal of 65-70K. At the same time I'm gazing at the plot horizon, looking for a way to get back on track, even if that means ending the journey somewhere other than where I started.

Curse you, Rhino! Curse your derailing ways!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Five Days In

NaNoWriMo proceeding normally, at least as "normal" as the Typewriter Brigade gets

For example:

NaNoWriMo Pantsers?


Rhino Rasta

which are ways that I spent time prior to the kickoff.

Thank goodness November started at last and I can cram all that strange energy into writing, instead. This year's novel is a sequel to my novel from 2009, and the very best thing that's happened so far is my first-hand experience using to turn my typescript into text. The difference between this and my own small incursions into optical character recognition is amazing. I actually have a text file for each of my typed pages this year, and am using "real" word counts instead of some estimating formula/spreadsheet combination.

Better still, I can work from the actual text instead of taking months and months to transcribe my draft, so it's really the best of both words. Digital copy for editing, paper copy for backup and scribbling upon. Five days in, and I'm happier than a rhino doing happy-rhino things.

Despite all my planning, I'm surprised by the actions of my characters, their backstories that are spun out on-the-fly, and by all the little details that crop up as I go. This happens every year. I tried to give myself some gap time, though, so I can afford to spend a session or two writing up things that I didn't expect.

Also true to form: character names. I am unable to come up with decent ones on the fly without a lot of pained staring at the wall first. And then I'm unable to recall the name later, so I wind up putting the role of the character in place instead -- "thief #1", "matron", "farmer #3", etc.. My entire novel looks like it's populated with the supporting cast of a much larger, more interesting book. I've been filing spam messages from interesting-sounding (fake) people in a special folder for a year now. I need to print this out as a cheat sheet, I guess.

Finally, the Brigade is nuts this year. We normally take over the "Nano Technology" forums anyhow, but this year, we're skirting close to having 600 posts in the thread (!) and we're not even a week into things. New people are dropping in all the time. It's a pretty amazing thing. Maybe we'll get a little Typosphere bump along the way?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Once Upon a Time...

November dreaming

Off you go, Brigadiers. May your fingers fly, your imaginations soar, your muses be generous. Tame the Rhino!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Epoca Hunters: I Hear You

I like to dig around in the blog settings and look for how people are finding the site (and obsessively over-analyze which posts are getting viewed.) Lately the this search phrase keeps popping up.

hermes 3000 epoca font

I do have a 3000 with that typeface, but it's suffering from lighter top-halves of letters, which I think indicates that the platen diameter has shrunk narrower than the curvature of the slug faces.

Anyhow, someone is interested in it, and maybe you want to make a computer font of it? If so, have at it. I've uploaded a scan of the characters from my machine into my Google Drive which you should feel free to fontify or ogle or pity, persons-who-are-finding-the-blog.

Typospherians: if anyone has tips for getting better letter impressions, I'm open to ideas. These were typed by running about five sheets of paper through the machine at once -- there's little improvement over past examples of the machine in use. I know about recovering the platen, and that may ultimately need to happen when budget allows, and I'm willing to stare into the madness that is the Hermes line-spacing mechanism.

Prepared with the help of my otherwise-awesome 1958 Hermes 3000
Hermes 3000, c. 1968

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Auditions: An Old Friend

20121018 typecast

I'm not even going to bother apologizing for the typos here. The only negative I'll say about the Skyriter is that it wants to skip space a bit when it's not being held level, say, when it's being used in a lap, as I did. I suspect this is also like my Royals, which want a more even typing style than I usually use on the computer.

Looks like the return issue on typer #2 is the bell tang getting caught on the right margin stop. I'll have to compare the two and see if something is out of place. This is why everyone should own two of everything!

Typed on Smith-Corona Skyriters from:

Smith-Corona Skyriter c. 1952

Smith-Corona Skyriter, c. 1957

PDF scan of the Skyriter manual shown

Two Weeks?

Is the calendar correct? Are there only two weeks until November? Has someone been mucking around in a time machine?

(Source image from BBC)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On Being Cheap: Ribbons for Wrimos

Cheap ribbons I have known

I know that there are better sources for typewriter ribbons than my local office supply big-box store. Jay Respler has his share of business from around the Typosphere, and I've seen Baco Ribbon & Supply mentioned a few times. With my general budget-mindedness, though, I usually opt to roam the printer ribbon section at Staples. They sell 2-inch diameter plastic spools of 1/2-inch wide nylon "printer ribbon" that is meant for a dot-matrix printer. I figure that application is pretty close to that of a typewriter -- short impacts -- and for NaNoWriMo, I'm not as picky about quality.*

The above photo is the three different packaging variations I've seen over the years, from oldest on the left, to the current supply on the right. The common theme is that they are meant for a line of Okidata printers, in models 80, 82, 82A, 83, 83A, 92, 93, "and others." Also, evidently, the Xerox Phaser 3300.

The spools are nothing special, but the ribbons have the familiar grommet near the end to trip the typical portable reverse mechanism, and are drop-in replacements for many of my portables. The ribbon is all-black, and 12 yards long. They're fairly durable, and I've re-inked them with success.**

These are not the "Universal Typewriter Ribbons" which have the evil strip of flaky, useless "correcting" material on them. I avoid those like a pile of fresh rhino poo, as should you.

* I suspect the cheap ribbons are part of the reason why I have such issues with OCR, since they leave a fine dot pattern inside open letters that sometimes trips up the software. A larger issue for OCR, though, is my bad habit of backing up and over-typing my mistakes. No ribbon is going to fix that.

** Also, with ink. And WD-40. Unlike the delicate re-inking procedures I've seen other folks use, I just drip black ink into the wound-up ribbon, zap it with WD-40 to theoretically spread the ink around (it's a solvent of sorts, right?) and then let it all sit in a sealed plastic bad for a while. The end result is not bad, although sometimes you get bold blotches in your typing where you hit damp spots in the ribbon. Again, it's NaNoWriMo, so my tendency to care about this drops off noticeably.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Auditions: The Other Brother & Friends

20121016 typecast

Not a strong showing for the travel typers to say the least. I think I'm getting spoiled on the full-size machines. There's more to go, though.

In order of appearance in this typecast:

Signature 100 (Brother-made):
Signature 100 Typewriter

Hermes Baby:
Hermes Baby, c 1943

Lettera 32:
Olivetti Lettera 32, c. 1975

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I Love October

October planning

I do enjoy this time of year: the seasons (such as they are) are changing, and we seem to be breaking from the hot days, moving into cloudy, cool weather. We've even had the first rain showers of the fall. I'm doing my usual overplanning NaNoWriMo insanity -- writing a sequel to One Last Quest -- and have just had the inspiration that might tie together the main bits of plot that I've been woolgathering in my various scattered notebooks. The pile of index cards is growing... a story is being born.

It's a great feeling.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Auditions: The Big Brother

20121011 typecast 

Apologies for the grammar gaffes and typos (I do know when to use "its" and "it's", honest.) Can I say I was focused on the spacebar fix and not paying attention to what my fingers were typing? Yeah, let's go with that.

Typed on a Signature 513
Montgomery Ward Signature 513 (Brother), c.1966

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Rhino's Curse

The humble Nano Rhino all but stampeded the Typewriter Brigade last year, helped in no small part by Ledeaux at Dante's Wardrobe and her near-bottomless supply of themed clip art. All I can bring to the table is my cheap plastic toy Rhino that I found at a local clearance outlet: the kind of place where "ambiance" means "open boxes on top of shipping pallets." The little guy turned out to be pretty photogenic, though, and has become my writing mascot, and by extension, I've subjected the Brigade to all manner of Ceratomorphic shenanigans.

I'd like to pretend that 2012 will be different, but let's face it: there's no joke like a recurring joke, and the memeification of this little toy provides hours of entertainment when I should be doing something else. Anything else...

Rhino Curse

Never let it be said that I don't share, though. If you'd like to roll your own, I've uploaded a pair of blanks for your own use. I just recently discovered that the "standard" font for memes is Microsoft's "Impact" which satisfied my typographic OCD. Feel free to have at it, and maybe join up with the Brigade while you're at it? We could use procrastinators like you.

Rhino Meme Blank White Rhino Meme Blank Brown

Monday, October 1, 2012

One Month Out

We're one month away from the kickoff. Feeling a little less-than-confident? The secret to Nano is just to power through it, come what may. Kind of like a certain grassland-dwelling mammal we all know... hmmm...

Rhino advice 20121001

Using Richard Polt's "Sholes & Glidden" font.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rhino Herders Wanted

November dreaming

20120927 typecast

Hey look! I'm already practicing my crummy spelling and grammar! Avert your eyes and:
  1. Go register at the NaNoWriMo site
  2. Check out the 2011 Brigade Topic (until the forum wipe)
  3. Sure, I'll be your buddy

Typed (with an assist) on an italic-face Olympia SM3

Nano Rhino

Friday, September 21, 2012

Coming Soon

Nano Rhino

I feel like I keep posting about this, but criminy, is this year moving fast. It's the last day of summer here in the northern hemisphere, and the vacant storefronts in the shopping plazas have all been taken over by pop-up Halloween costume stores. Nano's just around the corner, folks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Time Slip

How did it get to be almost the middle of September already? It's been over two weeks since a blog update from me, and I don't even have the excuse of taking a vacation to cover for it. I've been utterly swamped at work, and that's not leaving me much energy or inclination for outside pursuits, beyond keeping my reading list stocked and my library card in regular use. There are worse ways to pass the time.

The kids are in school, fall sports are under way, and the calendar is creeping towards November whether or not I am prepared for it. My summer rewrite plans hit a bit of a snag when I realized that the draft I was rewriting was exceptionally, deadly dull stuff. I don't think I'm being overly self-critical here. If anything, I'm pleased that I could distance myself enough from the writing to realize that large chunks of it are simply idling or linguistic plate-spinning, when what I need is a good crash and some broken crockery to liven things up. I'm not sure how to approach a fix, though. That's put me in a bit of a writing funk, too.

I'm still here, though. Still breathing and demonstrating a fair amount of restraint at the odd typewriter that's crossed my path. There's a small rhino on my desk, reminding me that soon we'll be slipping into that annual word frenzy and the working vacation of NaNo. September is beginning to slip by, but I won't let the season of the Brigade pass.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Space Considerations

typecast 20120802

Typed with the Remington KMC
Remington Model KMC Typewriter

Inspired by Strikethru's writing shack post. I concur: Cameron is really in isolated writing heaven up north. I think I need to wrangle an invitation and then never leave.