Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Chill Before Packing

Apropos of nothing, this is Tamino, my conveniently self-packing cat

Tomorrow I'll be flying into Milwaukee, Wisconsin to meet up with family for my youngest brother's wedding near Madison on Saturday. After the wedding, I'm driving back from Wisconsin to Western Washington with my sister, who is relocating out here.

The upcoming trip is just about all that fits in my head at the given moment, so it's what I talked about in between tunes while playing music with friends this past weekend.

We got to discussing various attitudes and styles of packing: last minute, weeks ahead, things that can go wrong. It brought to mind one of my worst packing moments: an anecdote I didn't get around to sharing, and which is a little hard to imagine in these balmy summer days.

It was January of 2003, and I was prepping to fly to Florida with two of my younger siblings to meet up with friends I mostly knew through an Internet forum connection it would be hard to fully explain without a lot more time: essentially, we started talking about a subject that interested us, and didn't shut up for years. And along the way, we got to know each other really well, and met up in a variety of "real world" ways. Still do, to some extent. Some of those folks remain among my closest friends.

That January, we all rented a house on the beach to just hang out for a week. It was a blast. Yes, it was the off season, and though we northerners were still crazy enough to go swimming, I don't think the temperature got much above the high sixties. But back in Vermont, it was -30 that week.

And that's where the trouble came in.

I am a procrastinator. I've admitted that here before. I will make detailed lists, yes. I will plan like crazy. But then...I will stall until the last possible minute. For this particular trip, I held off on washing some of the clothes I knew I was going to need until the night before we flew out, and then did a quick load late at night and stuck them in the dryer before hitting the hay.

That was my first winter in my little bungalow in St. Johnsbury, VT: A tiny place, but it did have a finished basement, where the washer and dryer lived. The basement was only partially heated: most of the heat from the furnace was set to blow upstairs through vents, but the previous owner had disconnected one of the heat vents and left the conduit hanging to blow a little warmth into the basement. It was never *warm* down there in the winter, but it was something.

The frigid morning of the flight out, I got up at oh-dark-thirty (we had to leave by about three to get to the airport), and made my way down to the basement to grab my things from the dryer. In opening the door, I quickly discovered two things: 1) In my sleepiness the night before, I'd forgotten to switch on the dryer after I put the clothes in, and 2) My still-wet clothes were frozen solid. In one giant lump.

I tried feebly to pick them apart at first, but it was not gonna happen. They were all stiff and intertwined. So I did the only thing I *could* do: I turned the heat setting on the dryer up, and turned it on.

OH MY GOODNESS THAT WAS LOUD. If you think about it, a dryer is essentially a large metal drum turning inside a large metal box. Putting a large, hard object in there and starting it up was startling, especially that early in the morning. Ka-THUNK, ka-THUNK, ka-THUNK! But it did eventually thaw out, though I still had to pack my clothes while they were slightly damp.

I'm sure I will find other ways to procrastinate tonight, but I did my laundry Sunday.

Just in case, you know.

How about you? What travel mishaps have you experienced?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Late Typewriter Day Entry: Business Cards

Yesterday was Typewriter Day 2014, but OSX Mavericks decided my scanner wasn't good enough for the likes of it, so I had to do some strenuous negotiation before they would grudgingly cooperate. And here we are.

Typewriter Business Cards

You could even add doodles or stickers. Makes for a nice little canvas.

And yes, I typed Earnest like the word and not Ernest like the name. So sue me. I don't even like Hemingway.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: rOtring Rapid PRO 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil

Hey, I've never reviewed a mechanical pencil here, have I? Let's have "Things that may annoy both the wooden pencil diehards and the fountain pen folk" for $100, Alex.

Rotring Rapid PRO

Much though I like those other things, there is something to be said for mechanical pencils when it comes to fuss-free on-the-go writing, and this has been my primary for that role over the last six or seven months. It went with me to Wintergrass, and has been my companion on many a coffee house jaunt.

Last things first: I flippin' love this pencil. A goodly percentage of my current large-work-in-process (Mind Jinx) came out of this pencil. I could dedicate novels to this pencil.

I will, however, try to remain objective.

1. Appearance:
This is a classy looking item. My one and only quibble is that the version I have (black--there is also a silver flavor) tends to get a little grungy looking over time as the knurled grip picks up dust and whatnot. I can't say for *certain* that the silver would be better in this regard, but it seems logical. The black does, however, contrast beautifully with the rOtring red ring, and has a nice understated stealth appearance to it outside of that splash of color. The paint has held up well to abuse (read: being carried unprotected in bag and purse and bumped about on tables and desks). The body is subtly hexagonal, which--along with the clip--makes it less apt to roll when it should not.

Lead Sleeve
2. Grip:
The knurled grip is rough enough to be reassuringly sticky, but (unlike many drafting pencils) not so rough that it will sandpaper away your hard-won writer's callus. Keep in mind that I am not a draftsman, and use this strictly for writing: it could possibly be a little *too* smooth for some drawing purposes. Even for writing, I wouldn't mind just a touch more roughness, but it gets the job done. The grip is of a pleasant girth: more than a wooden pencil, less than your average gel pen.

3. Balance:
This is a relatively heavy pencil at 24.2 grams by my little kitchen scale (in contrast, I weighed a Pentel P209, and it weighed just under 9 grams). It doesn't feel clunky, however. The center of balance is almost exactly in the middle--just a smidge closer to the tip than the tail. It feels about perfect to me. I have a Pentel Graphgear 1000 I like a great deal, but it is back heavy, and that gets tiring after awhile. This one doesn't fight me either way.

4. Retracting tip:
THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME. I don't wander around with a pocket protector, and I don't always feel like carrying a whole pencil case. I can quickly and easily put the point of this pencil away for its safety and mine. It doesn't have any fancy auto-retracting mechanism: you just hold down the button at the back of the pencil and then release it while you press the tip gently against your notebook/table/finger. I like the simplicity. Less to break.

Before the Rapid PRO arrived, I worried there would be a lot of give or wobble in the lead sleeve, or vibration while writing. I have little tolerance for this. As an example, I know a lot of people love Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencils for the way they rotate your lead for you and keep presenting you with a clean, sharp edge, and while in theory it sounds cool, I find the slight give irritating enough that I haven't used my Kuru Toga as much as anticipated. This pencil, on the other hand, is pretty solid.

My little point-and-shoot camera steadfastly refused to acknowledge the existence of the eraser, but you get the basic premise.

Other details:
The eraser is found, as you'd expect, behind the little back cap. There's actually a hole through which you can see the white eraser peeking through--I would prefer a solid cap, but whatever. The eraser itself is par for the course for quality mechanical pencils: i.e. you *could* use it in a pinch, but it wouldn't go very far, and I much prefer a separate Mars Plastic or a Pentel Clic Stick.

Eraser viewed through end cap
Eraser, as seen through the back cap

To load leads, remove the little eraser and drop them in the back end of the pencil. Again, pretty standard. It's a fairly small lead chamber, but my 0.5mm model will hold a half dozen or so leads in a pinch. The lead feeds out at a nice rate--doesn't require extra clicks, or overadvance and cause breakage.

It'sa clip.

I don't use the clip much, but it appears durable and without any bits that catch on things they shouldn't.

Overall impression:
As I said, I really like this pencil. The balance works perfectly for me, the retractable tip means I can take it anywhere without worries, the grip isn't bad, and the whole thing just screams quality. I currently keep mine loaded with plain old Pentel Super Hi-Polymer lead (B grade), and it is a pleasure to use.

• Just about perfectly balanced, at least for plain writing.
• Retractable lead sleeve/tip.
• Purty.
• Comfortable heft and solidity.
• Knurled grip adds stability.

• The black version can get a little grungy looking.
• Lead sleeve is fragile, from all I've heard, so make sure you get into the habit of retracting that point when it isn't in your hand!
• Don't expect the eraser to do much for you.
• Knurled grip could be a little grippier.
• Spendier than the Pentels and Bics at Wal-mart. (I paid about $30 for mine on Amazon back in November. YMMV.) That said, it should last pretty near forever with a bit of care.

Weight: 24.2 grams (empty), at least according to my cheapie scale
Length: Approximately 5.7 inches (14.5 cm / 145mm) long
Diameter: 9mm
Body material: Metal, but I'm not sure what type--if you know, feel free to fire off in the comments!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Typecast: Honk Not

Honk Not

I might add, laying on the horn does not excuse the drivers themselves from slowing down and using a bit of caution at the crossing, let alone entitle them to speed up and blast through, as many of them do.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Loss of Perspective

Later this week, I'll be going from this view:

To this view.

I'm kind of dreading it. I love my windows. I get to see the trees change with the seasons. I get to watch weather roll in and out. I like seeing the same people and the same dogs walk by every day, like my own personal reality TV show. (Incidentally, when I was walking back from dropping the car off to have its tires changed the other day, one of the regular walkers said "Good morning!" to me, which was crazy surreal: like suddenly bumping into Jack Bauer or Lady Mary at the grocery store.) I like the sunshine, when we get it. I don't spend *all* my time staring out the window, of course, but it's nice that it's there.

The move is necessary: we have a new employee who will need to be next to the person who will be training her. So off I go. But yeah, I'm a little stressed about giving up my view.

I had a dream the other night that we were moving our office into the run-down underground NATO bunker I worked in for awhile in Germany, complete with guarded turn-stile entry, backed-up sewage smells and occasional power glitches. Definitely no windows in that place. Maybe my subconscious is telling me it could be worse.

I did joke that they should really get me a lava lamp or *something* to look at. And one of the other tech support guys suggested maybe he could rig up a webcam, so I could at least look out the window via my computer....

On the plus side, I'll be closer to the kitchen, so I can mainline green tea and Jif honey peanut butter without disturbing anyone else. Score!

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Eeeevolution Resolution

Just wanted to thank those of you who took the time to comment on my recent post (now hidden) regarding the once and future Little Flower Petals. I appreciate the thoughts! My conclusion: I think I'm going to keep it like it is, and go back to using Thorns and Blossoms as originally intended, for more faith related and introspective posts. Of course, now I've already confused everyone, but hey.

For better or worse, Little Flower Petals is a reflection of me: rather messy, generally (but inconsistently) enthusiastic, occasionally morbid, tending toward self-indulgence and impatience but striving for generosity and kindness, and always eclectic. I suppose anyone who knows me well knows all these things already, and will not be shocked. And if they don't...well, I yam what I yam, and it can't hurt to reveal it.

An example of being what I is: I sold a typewriter today (the Olivetti Underwood Studio 21, since I need to raise fund for the road trip with my sister at the end of the month AND I don't like typewriters sitting around unused and I tend to use the Olympias). As I was getting ready to head out, scrambling to find some scrap paper and the typewriter dust cover and all, I realized my hands were all stained with fountain pen ink, and had to stop to scrub THAT off. Yep, that's me.

Incidentally, the Studio 21 went to a good, typewriter loving home. You know you've sold a typewriter to a real enthusiast when you bump into the buyer again five minutes later at the Goodwill down the road where you've headed to check out possible "new" machines in spite of yourself....

Monday, June 02, 2014

Starting the Day Off Write

Bic Cristal, Morning Page

Have you heard of morning pages? I can't recall where I first saw them mentioned, though in researching (to give credit where credit is due) I find it's an idea which was popularized via Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way," a book which I admit I have not read and on which I cannot offer an opinion.

In any case, the concept is simple: first thing in the morning, as soon as you roll out of bed, before your brain has had the chance to fully wake and get its house in order, you sit down and write three full pages. Longhand. That's right: just you and a notepad and a pen or pencil.

What do you write about? Whatever pops into your head. Write about the crazy dream you just escaped. Write about your plans or worries for the day. Write about what you're going to eat for breakfast. Write about how weird the word "morning" looks to you right now, for some reason. Write about the sound of the rain and how it reminds you of sleeping in the back bedroom at your grandmother's house that July between sixth and seventh grade, when birds created a nest under the eaves and one memorable afternoon, a fledgling flew in though the window and about gave Grandma's fat old tabby cat a heart attack.

There are no rules. Just fill those three pages.

As you'd kind of expect, much of what I write is dreadfully dull or complete nonsense. However, in giving myself the freedom to explore whatever comes to mind, I've also found the seeds of short stories or poems or blog posts, wrestled with life decisions, and sorted out tangled scenes in larger works-in-progress. It's also a good way to work on writing discipline: simply sitting down at a given time each day, knowing you have to write something, no matter how sleepy and uninspired you may feel.

In a perfect world, I think I would always start my days with morning pages, and end them with writing down my "Three Good Things." In practice, I manage stints of three or four days at a time, but have never really gotten consistent about it. And I should.

Have you ever tried morning pages? If so, how have they worked for you?