Monday, December 05, 2011


I wear a hat to bed in the winter, and use a sleeping bag as a comforter.  This lets me turn the heat down at night, thus saving money for more entertaining things than heat.  My favorite hat for these purposes is a thoroughly goofy thing I would never, ever, ever wear out in public: it's blue and white with a pseudo Nordic sweater print, a big pom-pom, ear flaps, and (at the ends of the ear flaps) two long blue and white yarn braids, like ragdoll hair.  It's wild, but it's warm

So...Saturday morning, I get up relatively early, and--still wearing my goofy hat and my long johns--become engrossed in messing around on the mandolin.  I found a really neat Russian klezmer-ish sort of tune and was all but dancing around the living room with the mandolin going to *town* on that tune (not your typical fare, but ooh, it's fun stuff!).  And then there was a knock at the door.

My landlady wanted to let me know someone would be by soon to work on a minor plumbing issue.  She was nice enough not to comment on either my attire or my odd choice of noise-making.

I have no idea what she must think of me now.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Out but not Down

Halvah taking advantage of a momentary break...

I am officially throwing in the towel for NaNoWriMo 2011, at least as far as hitting 50k is concerned.  If I had more free time, maybe I'd do some frenzied catching up, but I don't, and music is still taking priority. The fact that I feel great relief rather than guilt in letting go of this particular goal tells me it's the right thing to do.

I wrote a lot over the course of this year, pretty consistently, usually two or three pages a day.  I've proven to myself I can take a story and finish it without needing a contest as motivation, so I'm not too worried.  If this story is worth writing, it will be written.

Now getting ready for the type-in in a bit here!  Wouldn't miss that, even if I'm no longer a Typewriter Brigade member.

Also working on a set of polka tunes: Bill Sullivan's / Dennis Murphy's / Sean Ryan's.  Bill Sullivan is a decent chap, I'm in love with Sean Ryan, but Dennis Murphy is not my friend at the moment.  Maybe I'll record these (albeit in rather bland solo mandolin format) once I get them down.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Music 1, NaNoWriMo 0

Musical things I did this week: 
1. Went to two concerts: one jazz/swing, with Paul Anastasio, an excellent fiddler (he played with Asleep at the Wheel, and for Merle Haggard, among others), and also saw Randal Bays, who is a highly decent Irish fiddler and also a great guitarist, both fingerstyle and rhythm (he was the rhythm guitarist on Martin Hayes' first few albums, for those of you who know who Martin Hayes is...)  Both concerts were at a very small local venue, where you could really see what the musicians were doing.  Lots of fun!

2. Went to the local Irish session for the second time.  It's a somewhat humiliating experience in that I don't know the tunes yet, so everyone assumes I'm a rank beginner and treats me with the sort of condescending kindness reserved for beginning musicians in such situations.  They're all very nice--don't get me wrong--but it can be a blow to the ego.  Not that I'm advanced, but...I know I'm better than I seem to be.  I hate that feeling.  The other frustrating aspect is that the mandolin is *so* much quieter than a whole crowd of fiddles and whistles, so I can't hear myself at all.  Even on the tunes I do know, I have to more or less hope my fingers are going where they're supposed to, and I'm very reluctant to experiment with playing along on tunes I don't know well because I can't hear how wrong or right I am.

We shall see how this develops.  I'm determined to go regularly and really work on learning the music, no matter what, but I'm developing fiddle envy.  The concerts didn't help this.

3. Practiced "some whole bunch," as a younger sibling used to say, including visiting a friend so we could practice Emma's Waltz, which we're going to do as a duet at the open mic portion of a monthly jam we both attend.

And I'm working on chords (memorizing plus executing), a bit of theory (modes and scales, mostly), and trying to learn the Irish session tunes, one or two at a time.  It will be a long while before I've got even a fraction of them down well enough to play at full speed. :\  But you have to start somewhere.  I also foolishly picked up a pennywhistle this week, and have been goofing around with that.  Too fun!

NaNoWriMo stuff I did this week:
OK, so maybe it isn't quite a *zero* score.  I have about thirty letter-sized pages written as of this afternoon, which I'm hoping to transcribe over the next few days.  But even though the story is fun and the narrator interesting, I'm really struggling to stay focussed and motivated.  I had some time off this week due to the wisdom teeth yanking on Monday (which went fine, by the way), and hoped to get ahead of the game, but I figure I'm about a day behind instead (hopefully a bit less by later today).  Here's hoping the time change helps give me a boost over the next few days.  I've learned from past NaNoWriMos that morning writing time is the make-it-or-break-it element for me: I simply cannot just make up for it in the evening.  My mind doesn't work well at night.  At all.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I gotta go play "Cup of Tea" about eleventy billion more times.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lazy Update Just to Update

I'd like to say I've not posted much because I've been so busy mapping out my NaNoWriMo story, but the truth is I've been obsessing about music instead.  Note to self: the week before NaNo is not the best time to rekindle a fanatical interest in one's primary instrument of the moment (mandolin, in this case).  But I still want to ride that wave as long as it lasts.  So we'll see how November goes...

I did get out and wander a bit yesterday, in town and out, and pictures (even poor cell phone photos, as is the case) make for easy, lazy update fodder.

First off, I went back to the downtown Olympia, WA antique place I'm always yammering on about: Finder's Keepers, on 4th Ave.  It's almost always a fun place to browse, whether or not I buy anything.

There were a number of typewriters this time around, some of more interest than others.  This Royal was in pretty rough cosmetic shape and didn't have a case.

This Smith Corona standard is absolutely gorgeous...but it's also $75.  Lovely thing, though.

This little guy tucked away on a bottom shelf looks kind of familiar, and likely a good candidate for a crazy paint job.  But for forty  Not even if I was in buying mode.

I was tempted by a number of vintage index card/recipe boxes.  They almost always have some pretty ones there.

Oh, and toys!  Look at this little doll house desk!  Isn't this adorable?  (Sorry about the glare--it was in a glass case, and I couldn't get a good angle).

I also saw this somewhat puzzling toy typewriter.  I guess you had to rotate the little wheel for each and every letter.  Good way to teach kids patience, I suppose...or drive little Johnny completely mad before his seventh birthday.

It was a beautiful sunny day, so I went off on a ramble down the trail as well--days like that are rare here this time of year!  Most of the fall has...fallen, and the trail is thickly carpeted with leaves, still colorful (though not the jewel-toned brightness of the sugar maples back home in Vermont...).  Along the way I saw a note posted on one of the mileposts offering a reward for the finding of a lost gold ring, and had to feel for the author: how is anyone to spot one tiny spot of gold in all that natural richness?

These little guys are out in force.  I lost track of how many I saw along the way--dozens, for certain.

And now I suppose I should buckle down and NaNo plan for one whole day.  Or an hour or so.  I have wisdom teeth coming out tomorrow (joy!), so I doubt I'll be doing much in the way of deep thinking.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Untitled (and likely to remain so)

Some of us have no trouble coming up with titles, sometimes even before we know what we're going to put in the story to go with the title. At the other end of the spectrum--the very, very, very distant other end--that's where I live.

Most of the poems I've written over the years are untitled. In my head and in my journals, I refer to stories by clumsy monikers like "the time travel story with the dog," and "the Philip and Maggie story," "the old space story," "the new space story," and "that amnesia thing." A very few have working titles, but even those tend to be awkward, hokey, or cutesy (examples: "Dangerous Memories," "Unlikely Angel"), and I pretty much uniformly dislike them all.

I've been trying to come up with some sort of working name for this year's NaNoWriMo, and once again feel like bashing my head against a wall. I have the basic story sort of laid out (in short, it's a rather goofy detective novel set in a future where there's magic, a frog turned into a woman who wants to figure out who did this to her and why, an impulsive and rather bossy fairy, and assorted other characters), but can I come up with a name? Of course not. I'd like something that sort of resembles the titles of old detective novels, being as how this is almost a parody...but the closest I've come up with are "The Color of Jealousy" and "When Worlds Collide," both of which sound disturbingly like bodice-rippers. Oh dear.

And so, little NaNo novel, you are likely to remain "the magic detective story." It's OK. I'll love you (and hate you) just as much as other folks do all their tidily named tales, I promise--bless your undefined heart.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NaNoWriMo Pencil Reunion

That was then:
NaNoWriMo Arsenal

This is now:
NaNoWriMo Pencil Reunion
(Click the pics to view on Flickr if you'd like to see identifying notes).

They're all a bit battle-hardened (or shell-shocked) now.  They've seen things--terrible things: some of the worst prose ever penciled.  You young guns can't possibly understand until you've been there...

I did use some other pencils--Rhodia, a few different Staedtler pencils, a General's Layout...whatever happened to find its way into my pencil box on any given day. But those pencils took the brunt of the work. The relative length isn't necessarily an indication of how loved they were. I'm actually not sure how the Golden Bear came through so unscathed, for one thing! And I had trouble with the Oxford lead breaking, so that's part of how it ended up so dinky.

Another NaNoWriMo approaches now, and as I've mentioned, I'm starting off with pencil again this year, though I reserve the right to switch to fountain pen or typewriter or what-have-you (do *you* have a what-have-you?) if burn out or whim strikes.  This year's line-up looks something like this:
Somewhat in the same line as last year, with a few new faces.  Yes, that Blackwing 602 is already sadly shrunken and marked up.  What can I say?  It's getting used.  I really like it.  Once I use up the first Blackwing 602, I'll probably save the rest for journal writing and short story scribbling and other less crazed writing pursuits.  I can't resist using at least one in this mad venture, but it isn't as though I don't have plenty of other pencils to fill the void...

I'm still getting to know the Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencil (which needs a shorter and less fussy name...maybe I'll call them all Bob).  In feel, it's a little like the Helix Oxford HB, though slightly less...waxy?  Seems to hold a point better than the Oxford, which makes me wonder if I was over hasty in classifying it as something like a 2B.  I'm not really sure *what* it is, grade-wise, but so far I like it, despite its rather poor reviews in the pencil blogosphere...which makes me wonder if my opinion is at all valid, or if I'm too ignorant to know good pencils from bad.  Or maybe I just need to spend more time with it before disliking it...heh.  I may yet do a highly subjective mini-review one of these days, after I've had more time to develop an accurate opinion.

I'm pleased to welcome some Ticonderogas back into the mix.  I had a few newish Mexican-made ones around last year, but was unhappy with them: the lead was scratchy and pale.  At some point in the past year, I picked up some Made in China Ticonderogas (the unsharpened kind that come in paper boxes), and these are entirely different.  Not sure if it's batch variance, a different formula for boxed vs. pre-sharpened in blister packs, or the country of origin...but I quite like the new ones.

I guess I don't have to run through the entire line-up.  They're all good, solid, dependable and (most importantly, perhaps) easily obtainable, so I don't have to feel afraid of using them...aside from maybe the Blackwing, which is so pleasant to use I just don't care.

Out of the running: I don't think I'll bother with any Mirado Black Warriors this time around.  I *so* wanted to like these, but at least in their current iteration, they are disappointingly poor quality.  I think the lead itself is actually pretty nice, but of those I've sharpened so far, one was warped to the point where the lead rattled and clicked inside the bent casing at certain points in its life, and others had lead so poorly centered that they were almost impossible to sharpen and they wobbled as you wrote.  Maybe there are some good pencils in the package, but I don't have the heart to mess with them quite yet. I haven't had the same issues with the yellow Mirado Classic.  Just lucky? I'm not sure.

You'll notice I have more in the line-up as a whole. Part of this is just because kept following me home. Part of it is because I learned last year that variety is the spice of NaNoWriMo, and because I found it was much easier to keep my flow going when I had a whole bunch of pencils sharpened and at the ready for each writing session rather than stopping to sharpen along the way. I'd sharpen before I went to bed, and work through pencils the next day, tossing one aside when it got dull and reaching for another.

Now if I just had some idea how to start writing this thing....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Monsters and Musgraves

Sometimes my desk looks like I killed a large, blue-blooded monster and tried to mop up the evidence. (In reality, this was just an unfortunate incident with a sample of Private Reserve Electric DC Supershow Blue--luckily most of the ink made it into a pen!)

And sometimes, even though I can't draw, I doodle monsters. Like this guy. (Apologies to Hank Sr.!)

In other news, I already broke my pencil buying moratorium. You knew that was going to happen, right? It's my birthday Monday. I used that as an excuse. That and the free shipping on Amazon orders over $25.  Has anyone else tried the Musgrave Test Scoring 100 (especially Speculator)? If not, I may pass some out. I'd be curious to get your thoughts.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A NaNoWriMo Related Self Pep Talk

Autumn writer's palette
As I was avoiding writing today, I started playing with the various writing implements on my desk. I like how these look together...autumn leaf colors!

It's frustrating. Two weeks ago, I was in writing frenzy mode. I wanted to spend all day every day scribbling everything that popped into my head. And my head was busy. My mind was bubbling over with ideas. I was so excited about the prospect of NaNoWriMo I could hardly see straight. This week? Not so much. There were days I didn't even manage a brief journal entry. Once I start one I usually manage a few words, but...ugh...I'm not feeling it. Doesn't bode well for November.

Or does it? Isn't that, in a nutshell, part of what this whole NaNoWriMo thing is about: to show us that even when we have the writing blahs, we can still do great things? As Jack London so colorfully put it, "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

Watch out, Inspiration. I've got you in my sights.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

An Open Letter to the Search Bots of the World (Concerning Haters)

Open Letter

And I would like to add, as search bot bait, poem haters poetry hater h8ter. Mmmkay?

Tell me I'm not the only one to get some odd repeated search terms!

Of course, *after* I write this rant, it occurs to me that maybe these people are all dyslexic, and really are looking for poetry haters or some such thing. Whatever. I'm determined to have my rant, nonetheless!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Happiness is a New Box of Pencils: Palomino Blackwing 602s!

Actually, true happiness is another subject entirely.  But pencils don't hurt...

Ever since I first heard California Cedar Products had come out with a new version of the famed Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 pencil, I've wanted to try some, just to say I did.  And I finally broke down and bought a box.

Palomino Blackwing 602

At 19.99 a dozen, they are very pricey as pencils go, though less than comparable high-end Japanese brands: a dozen Tombow Mono 100s will set you back $28(!!).  I'm scared to even try those!  My Blackwings arrived at the end of last week, and I spent part of the weekend putting one through its paces and comparing to other pencils. ( I finished the rough draft of a short story--woot!)

Blackwing slogan
This cracks me up...hooray for old school, over the top slogans!

I have to say, they are awful nice.  Sooo smooth, and they manage to write a pretty dark line without needing a ton of sharpening, just as the reviews say, and without much pressure. There is something to be said for a pencil that requires almost as little pressure as a fountain pen.   And because they're so smooth, they take longer to get to that draggy stage you eventually hit with a less-than-sharp pencil.  Also, they're gorgeous: glossy, metallic charcoal grey, the distinctive gold ferrule and flat eraser, and with that famous (if a bit goofy) slogan down one side and the model name down the other in gold lettering.  From what I've read, there was a certain amount of brouhaha over the choice of using a black eraser (the original had a pink eraser), but since I never used the original, I don't really have strong feelings either way.  I think the pink eraser might be a cool-looking contrast, but the black eraser looks sharp and works well.

My problems with them are mostly just that--my problems.  If I had unlimited funds, maybe I'd use nothing but Blackwings forever.  But I don't.  And they're twenty bucks a dozen.  I can just about buy a gross of California Republic Golden Bears for the same price as a dozen Blackwings.  Do I really like the Blackwings enough to justify that much of a price difference?  I doubt it.

Also, I'm intimidated by them, partly because of their price, partly because of their beautiful glossy metallic finish.  I've gotten accustomed to the lonnnnng points my Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener produces, but it does leave marks on the pencils.  At first I just sharpened a Blackwing with the hand-held Kum wedge, but I missed the long point terribly, and finally broke down and used the big sharpener.  It left marks, of course, which hurts.  I spent a certain amount of time this weekend explaining to myself that pretty though they are, these pencils are tools, and I should feel OK with treating them as such, but...

Still, I'm glad I get to experience them!

And now I really, really need to not buy any more pencils.  Like...ever.  I came across an interesting acronym among yarn craft folks the other day: SABLE.  It stands for "Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy."  I have a fairly optimistic view of my own life expectancy, but...well...sometimes I veer dangerously close to SABLE status when it comes to paper and ink and pencils.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Beautiful Mess of Pencils

The positive side of my NaNoWriMo transcription project (aside from the fact that I now have a digitized NaNo novel, such as it is and what there is of it) is that it reminded me of just how much fun I had playing with pencils that month--lots and lots of pencils, lots and lots of hours spent with them. I've been more or less fixated on the fountain pens lately as I'm working my way through all my pretty ink samples from Goulet Pens.

But last night, I got the pencils out and started working on a short story idea. The wonderful tactile realness of pencils combined with their optional impermanence makes them one of my most confidence inspiring writing technologies. Love 'em.

How's this for a lovely cluttered autumn palette of pencils? (Please to ignore the eraser crumbs and cat hair...)

Pencil clutter

Pencils of the evening yesterday were the General's Semi-Hex (love those: dark, *and* they hold a point forever) and the General's Layout. Unintentional theme.

No real point to this blog post. Except gratitude, I suppose! Life is good.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

NaNo Liar, Pants on Fire

First of all...I had to laugh at this comic. Note that this could apply equally to pencils and typewriters. Old school FTW!!

Ahem...moving on.

NaNo Lie

Brought to you via Elmer, the Lettera 31.
Olivetti Underwood Lettera 31

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Long Expected Rereading

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, 
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, 
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, 
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne 
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. 
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, 
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them 
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

I first read J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was about thirteen.  Sometimes I wish I could go back to that first read-through, recapture that first wonder.  It took my breath away: that vast world with all its many races, cultures, languages; the varied landscapes, the maps and runes, the staggering scope of the history.  Although it's an often criticized aspect, I loved the richness of the many layered names for people, places and things. I warmed to to the innocent, comfort-loving hobbits, felt for them as they left innocence and comfort far behind in order to do what needed to be done.  I felt the panic of being chased by Black Riders, by evil unknown.  I felt the awe and wonder of the hobbits at Rivendell; like them, I wanted to linger, listening to the songs and stories of the wise, unthinkably long-lived elves.  And then, at Rivendell, just when the adventure seemed about to end, the true quest began, filled with danger, beauty, darkness, love and friendship--and an ultimate victory that, as is so often the case, is nevertheless touched by sorrow and pain.  And along the way, I fell deeply in love most particularly with two characters: the sweet, ever-faithful hobbit Samwise Gamgee, and the brave, wise, and utterly romantic Knight of Gondor, Faramir. (Ladies: just try reading his scene with Eowyn in the Houses of Healing without swooning a little...)

I don't need to go through every detail of the entire story.  Those who have read it are likely already wandering there in their minds.  Those who haven't...really should. 

It's a long story in its own right, but for better or worse, I quite literally would not be where I am right now without these books.  You could say they were, in a very real sense, entwined in my own destiny.  And it had been too long since I last read them.

Today, I begin the adventure anew, starting with Frodo and Bilbo's birthday, which happens to fall--funnily enough--on September the 22nd.  When I was planning to set aside some time for this reread, it seemed an appropriate day to begin the journey once again.  I am very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Too Much

Some reflections, partially drawn from my recent brief blog hiatus (the virtual type-in dragged me back...;)

Too Much Too Much_0001 Too Much_0002

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

NaNoWriMo roll-call

I was going to preface this with this year's web badge, but they aren't up yet...

I know we're still a few months out, but since it came up in the type-in and since I've seen a few whispers elsewhere...who's planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year?

And for those of you wondering 'What's a NaNoWriMo?', go here and be enlightened. Essentially, you spend any free time you can wrangle up during November writing your brains out to get to 50,000 words. (Unless you're Mike Clemens, in which case you spend one week's free time writing your brains out at X-TREME WARP SPEED, and then spend the rest of the month twiddling your thumbs and smiling indulgently at the rest of us still slogging and stumbling and whimpering through the muck.) (Not that I'm bitter.) (OK, maybe I am a little.)

This will be my tenth year (!!), which is sad, in some ways. I am exactly the sort of person who the NaNoWriMo naysayers ridicule: all that writing, and for what? Most of the stories are still utterly unfinished, many of them are not worth finishing. But you know what? I've had fun, and I've made friends along the way. That's good enough for me.

I don't exactly have a set-in-stone plot (do I ever?), but thus far, I'm thinking something off the beaten track: kind of a detective novel set in the future, in a world where magic has become part of the "real" world, which...complicates things a bit. And so far, I'm thinking I may write by hand again. Except, this time around, I'll actually transcribe as I go, more or less. I'm still working on transcribing last years--finishing that is one of my goals for September, actually.

How about you? Any clue yet what you'll be writing about? What typewriters/pens/pencils/paper/computer software you'll use? Any special plans you'd like to share for keeping organized/focused/caffeinated/sane?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Virtual Type-In!

Eek...I go away a couple of days, and blogger has completely changed the interface on me?, we made typosphere history: at noon PDT, Adwoa, Richard Polt, notagain, and I met up for a completely virtual type-in via a "hangout" (video chat) on Google+. It wasn't flawless--in particular I had some trouble hearing Adwoa some of the time, and anytime we all typed or talked at once, it was hard to hear everyone. Still...I'm pretty impressed at how well it worked! Here are my messy, messy notes from the event. Aside from the typos, I also managed to drip water on them. Yay for the brutal honesty of typecasting!

Virtual type-in Virtual type-in_0001 Virtual type-in_0002

There were quite a few other typewriters in attendance, besides those mentioned in my typecast. I sort of gave up trying to keep track of them all. Peter (notagain) has an interesting Noiseless (love the sound that thing makes!), and Adwoa, of course, had all sorts of cute and colorful typewriters. Fun seeing them all! There were also quite a number of feline attendants.

I believe others planned to stop by but missed out--we were there an hour, but then some needed to get going. I think some folks were going to meet up again at midnight PDT, for anyone who'd like to stop by!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Darkness and Light (whole bunch of type-cast poetry)

I have a tendency to take things much too much to heart. Last Saturday afternoon, someone removed a comment I'd made on one of their Facebook posts. I can't come up with any sort of reason why, and I was too shy to ask. I was so mortified by the experience, trying to imagine what they must have *thought* I meant, that I was practically non-functional for the rest of the weekend.

Things like being removed from a friend's blogroll paralyze me, even while intellectually I know I've talked about a lot of different things over the years, and since I haven't broken things out into strictly compartmentalized blogs and I bounce around a lot (an understatement), some people will drift away. I try to figure out what it was I did that offended, and beat myself up for imagined wrong-doings. I've also found myself stat-watching, fretting over how many page-loads I get or don't get.

And all of this is just silly. If I'm taking these things so seriously, I think maybe I need to take a step back from this whole Internet thing--or at least the blogging portion thereof--for awhile, take a deep breath, get some perspective, do some writing that will only be seen by me instead of jumping up and down trying to get attention, and then half the time not knowing how to take it if I do get some. Oh, and maybe catch up on letters for once--what a concept.

I'll be back, probably sooner than I intend to be, but I'm taking a vacation, at least for a few weeks, maybe a month or so.

So...hey, if I'm gonna go out for a bit, I'll go out with a bang... First off, here are a few poems I actually wrote a number of years ago, but refrained from posting because of their darkness. I'll count these as my final two vignettes for Art of the Letter's July challenge.

In Mortality


And something a bit more lighthearted--a little poem I wrote back in the late 90s, when I was in Germany in the Air Force. I like this one. It makes me smile.

Word Traveler

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vignette #13 - Visitor

Figure I might as well finish them out, since I only had a few more to go to complete the #15.  OK, so I'm nearly three weeks late and it's really a little too long to qualify.  Oh well.

I think this one may grow into a short story.

Norman was waiting for Amanda when she got home, sitting on the bottom step with his knees drawn up and the old blue coat she'd given him last time pulled tightly around him.  The coat was much the worse for wear: filthy, the edges of the cuffs hanging in ragged, sodden tatters.  Duct tape patched a hole in one sleeve; greyish stuffing spilled out on one side where the tape had pulled loose.  He jumped up with an open grin as she approached, revealing a new gap--one of his top teeth was missing.  "Heya, sis!"  For a moment, he seemed about to embrace her, and she drew back involuntarily.  A shadow crossed his face; he held out a rough, black-nailed hand instead, and she grabbed on, swallowing her disgust.
"Norman," she said.  "It's been awhile."  His hand was not only dirty but also cold as ice and clammy.  It took all she had not to pull away immediately.  "I gave you gloves," she said.  "Two pairs."
He shrugged.  "I get by."  Which meant, of course, that he'd given them away.  He always did.  It was a wonder he still had the coat.  Probably no one else wanted it.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
He looked away.  "Just wanted to see you."
He raised his head to look at her, his grey eyes thoughtful, but said nothing.  She sighed.
A neighbor pulled up in the drive next door; the woman stared at Norman with alarm as she climbed out of her car.  Amanda felt her face flush, and felt simultaneously angry with herself for her shame and with Norman for shaming her.  She managed a weak smile and a wave.  "'Afternoon, Marie!" she called out.  Marie smiled back uncertainly, and hurried up the stairs and inside, glancing back over her shoulder, her face pinched.
"Thinks I'm going to mug you or something," Norman whispered cheerfully.  He knew--that was the worst of it.  He knew, and yet...
Amanda pursed her lips and turned away.  "You'd better come on in," she muttered.  She stepped past him up the steps, unlocked the door and banged it open, switched on the light, dropped her keys with a clatter in the tray by the door, and went into the house, Norman following silently at her heels.  They'd done this often enough to have a sort of ritual, she thought bitterly.  No words were needed.  Norman waited with his hands folded in front of him while she dug out some clothes she'd picked up for him in the interim; he took the shirt and pants, underwear and socks, pulled a plastic grocery bag from the bin by the laundry room, and went up to the upstairs bathroom to clean up.  Always the same thing.  And as always, when he came down, shaven and scrubbed, carrying his dirty clothes in the grocery bag, she asked her usual question: "Have you eaten?"
And as usual, he tried to make light of his situation.  "Depends on what you mean by that.  I couldn't possibly have arrived at my current age and state of being if I'd never--"
"Norman," she said sharply, "are you hungry?"
The half-smile faded and something like sadness flickered in his eyes for a moment.  "Yes," he said quietly.
"OK, then."  She slammed the refrigerator door open and started taking out containers of leftovers, banging each one in turn down on the counter as Norman stood silently waiting in his clean clothes and his stocking feet, blinking a little at each impact.  Why was she being this way? she asked herself.  To punish him?  For what, exactly?
When the last option was set out, she turned around, leaning back against the counter with her arms folded and demanded, "Which one?  And don't say it doesn't matter.  That doesn't simplify anything.  There's chili, tuna casserole, turkey for sandwiches, or I can heat you up a burrito or make an omelet.  Which?"
He gazed at the containers, swallowing.  "Chili," he said finally.
"Fine."  She snapped the lid off, set it loosely on top, and shoved the container in the microwave. "And sit down, why don't you?" she said, pointing at a chair.  "You're making me nervous."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lamy Safari: Official Typospherian Fountain Pen?


I would like to declare the Lamy Safari the unofficial Official Fountain Pen of the Typosphere. Seriously, how many of us have 'em? Stand and be counted!

I have two, neither of which are colors that photograph easily: an orange (medium nib), and the new aqua (fine nib), which in reality is a fairly dark turquoise. They've been my ink sample pens, for the most part, because they fill and clean easily, and because they just write so nicely. And it's nice to know if something *does* happen to a nib or converter, they swap out easily. Cheerful, bombproof pens they are.

Star of the County Down...sort of.

I think I'm going to start putting these music posts up on occasion--not normally this frequently, but now and again--primarily as a means of working on the stage fright I mentioned. Even faced with a microphone, I go dry-mouthed, so this is a good exercise: just recording them and letting them hang out there all public-like.

I can hear the nerves in this one, big time, but I'm done trying for the perfect take. It's an instrumental fingerstyle arrangement I did of an Irish song called Star of the County Down, which is often done in a more march-like 4/4 version...but this was the way I first learned it.

I swear, I *can* play in keys other than A minor. Honest, I can!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Guitar goofing and goofing up

At the type-in, the subject of playing music came up, and someone (Justin?) asked me if I played with a band.  I answered (tongue in cheek) "Not currently."  And then spent the rest of the day worried someone had actually believed I meant it, and that I can actually, in fact, play well enough for such things.  I can't.

But I have had the guitar out more since then, out of shame, so there has been that benefit.

Here's something I came up with years ago that I've been goofing around with again: two chords, very simple melody, fingerpicked.  Lots of the audio equivalent of typos: my fingers were tired and I kept buzzing, my guitar wasn't completely in tune.  Not to mention Tam gets in his two cents at the end, sort of throwing me off.  The tune needs a title one of these days.  It's in A minor, so the "A minor thing" name on the track means that it is, in fact, an A Minor thing.  Not a minor thing.  Or, actually, it is a rather minor thing, but...

Oh, never mind.

Anyhow, it kinda feels nice, having sore fingers again!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Find of the weekend: Sheaffer Cartridge Pen

I went to the antique mall in town yesterday for the first time in awhile (for those of you at the type-in, think a bigger, more cluttered and varied sort of Deluxe Junk, with lots of books and kitchen stuff in addition to furniture and what-have-you).  It's called Finders Keepers.  Love that place.  They occasionally have typewriters, but this time, the only ones there were electric.  One of the electrics had a really interesting san sarif typeface, but it was still electric, plus $69.  Not my thing.  However, I did make my first ever in-the-wild more-or-less-vintage pen purchase: a Sheaffer "Cartridge Pen". I figured it was an acceptable risk, since there wasn't a filling system likely to need restoration. It's a lower end pen, nothing fancy, but!

The cap is a bit tarnished, but otherwise it seems in decent condition. Friction fit cap.

It has a conical nib, which the nice folks over at Fountain Pen Network inform me is a "Triumph" nib:

(Please ignore the capitalization weirdness in the title of that thread.  Ugh!)  It has a little tip-up at the end, which I'm told is normal.  And it's a pretty nice writer--fine, but fairly wet, and very smooth if you hold it at just the right angle (something I'm still learning to do).

The cartridge missing from the box slot on the left was still inside the pen. I rinsed the pen, added a little water to the cartridge, popped it back in, and the little guy fired right up! It was a little scratchy, though, so I refilled a cartridge (via syringe) with Noodler's Blue-Black, which works better.  Eventually I may try to find a converter for it, though I'm not sure modern Sheaffer converters will work.  I have a feeling they may be too long.

One of the reasons I suspect this was early as cartridge pens go is that the instructions include info on essentially using the cartridge as a converter in an emergency--apparently assuming most folks would have easy access to bottled ink, but not necessarily to cartridges!

All in all, not bad.  For twenty dollars, I may have overpaid compared to some on-line sources...but hey, instant gratification!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

(If) There Can Be Only One

(Epic fail at doodling a recognizable fountain pen...but that's a subject for another day...)

This post is partially inspired by a question in a recent letter from Justin: no doubt bemused by the too-many pens I brought to the type-in, he asked which I preferred, fountain pens or typewriters. My answer to that question, I'll leave to the response letter (Cliff Notes version: it depends), but it led me to ponder a related question: what if you had to choose?

Imagine one day you were told that you had to pick a single writing technology, whether it be pencils, typewriters, fountain pens, ballpoints, Alphasmarts, computers, stylus on clay tablets, sky writing, or what-have-you. (In this fantasy world, this particular choice doesn't affect what we use at work, and we'd still have the Internets and all--this would just be what you'd use for first drafts, or bulk writing of whatever you tend to write: poems, letters, short stories, novels, essays, whatever. In other words, the device you use first to get ideas out of your head and into the world.)

Hopefully I won't be disowned by the typosphere and pencil comrades alike for admitting it...but I think if someone held a proverbial gun to my head (drat those proverbial guns!) and I *had* to choose, I'd go with fountain pens. Yes, they're slower than anything with a keyboard and fussier by far than a pencil, but I like the way I think with one in my hand, and the look of wet ink on a page, and the feel of a good nib on good paper. I like their easy portability and quiet nature (I'm still not one who's going to pull out a typewriter at work or a coffee house). I like the way they make me slow down and consider what I'm composing and yet let me cross out and continue without breaking stride. I like the immediacy and directness of hand-on-pen-on-paper: much as I like typewriters, there are some times when they make me feel as though I'm trying to do delicate work with heavy gloves on--as though there's a barrier in the way.

What about you? If push came to shove, would you cling to typewriterly clickity-clack? Pen or pencil and paper? Become a die-hard Alphasmartian? Or would you reluctantly set aside all the more tangible tools and retreat to the speed and convenience of a computer? Or, to throw another option out there, would you choose something wordless, like a camera? What would you pick, and why?

All that said...I'm really glad I don't have to choose!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Type-In Report (warning: many typos ahead!)


Oh, and this typewriter shall be called Gerard.  Edit (where are my manners!): I should mention that notagain was the generous soul who gave it to me.  Thank you again!

Oh, and one more edit: here's the fountain pen test scribble sheet.  I like Strikethru's little people!