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.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Editing Advice Wanted

No clever title this time, just looking to solicit some advice or opinions on editing approaches from the Typosphere-at-large.

I'm struggling to get through the initial re-write of last November's NaNoWriMo draft. I used OCR as I went, so I have a largely clean digital copy of my typescript, but I'm still devoting a little time to go through it and clean up. Where I'm getting bogged down now is trying to apply some coherence to the thing. It's a series of short comedic episodes, told from the point of view of a blowhard narrator. I'm trying for a Twain/Wodehouse vibe here -- might as well aim high, right? -- but I'm also fighting with the tendency to pad out the text with details I omitted in the draft stage.

The result is that I'm bogged down on the first episode of about a half-dozen, and there's so much additional stuff in there that it's not interesting or funny. This is something of a problem!

So here's where the advice part comes in: I'm thinking about approaching this edit either by "reduction" or "inflation"

Reduction is what I'm sort-of doing now, but with less editing as I go, and more straight transcription. Just get everything together on the page, and then cut away that which isn't essential. This, to me, seems to be the classic editing approach. It feels slow, though, like I'm not moving, and the urge to tweak and tinker as I copy is strong.

Inflation would appease the impatient side of my brain that can't believe we're still in the first episode. Transcribe only the barest elements of the stories over, almost in outline form but with sentences, and then punch them up with details once the bones are in place. Give myself permission to gloss over for now, in the interest of getting through the work before the heat death of the universe.

Help? I clearly need a more stated direction than the one I have now, which is "spend some time on it every day." Spend some time, yes, but in what way? That's what's killing my interest.


Friday, June 6, 2014

High, Concept

typecast 20140606 pt1

typecast 20140606 pt2

For as long as it lasts, here's the exhibit in question, but a quick interwebs search can find you information about numerous concept cars, including ones that should have been in my toy car collection, if oil embargoes hadn't spoiled everyone's fun.

Typed on a 1952 Smith-Corona Skyriter
Smith-Corona Skyriter c. 1952