Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Friday, December 31, 2010

So Long, 2010!

Well, technically there's another 20 minutes to go on this coast, but I figure the year's pretty much done what it's going to do by now, and the credits are rolling, so it's safe to say the thing is over... unless there's some sort of stinger at the tail.

Let's just hope not...

After the rare full-moon eclipse that saw us through the Winter Solstice, we find ourselves leaving the year under the light of the barest lingering crescent. (I shot the above photo with my little purse camera before work this morning. Came out better than I'd expected, though not as good as my big camera would've done. Didn't help that I was leaning on an icy rail at the time, either...) Appropriately enough, the new moon arrives with the new year - or close enough for horseshoes.

I won't bother retyping my 2010 resolution list for an itemized run-down of how I did. For one thing, I have a cat convinced that I've resolved to rub more kitty bellies this year. For another, I'm just too lazy to bother. Anyway, by my estimation, I hit about three out of the five main goals I set for myself. I could've done more on all of them, but I checked off significant portions of two and at least one item on the third and fourth. The only one I completely dropped the ball on was my exercise resolution, which I readily admit was entirely due to personal laziness. (I said I was too lazy to bother retyping the list...)

So, up for 2011 is pretty much more of the same. I want to keep working on the stuff I made headway on last year, and pick up the slack on the stuff I didn't.

The abridged 2011 resolution list (leaving out specific sub-goals that mean nothing to anyone but me):

1. Increase monetary income. (Pretty much the same as last year, unfortunately...)
2. Draw and/or paint more. (I kicked up my sketchbook productivity last year, but I want to do more in 2011.)
3. Write more. (Been far too lazy on this front, spending most of my time dinking around instead of finishing stories.)
4. Get back into the exercise habit. (Self-explanatory. Walking's been linked to all sorts of health benefits, and unlike insurance it's affordable.)
5. Continue organizing and cleaning. (I made significant progress on this front, and don't want to lose ground.)
6. Start/Continue other personal improvement projects. (Sort of a catch-all for some things I've been meaning to get to. Mostly, I want to stop taking time for granted so much - stop assuming I'll be able to get to it later, that it'll be easier tomorrow.)

Hopefully, I'll maintain my better-than-half average in 2011, starting in six minutes... make that five...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Another Xmas Come and Gone

This is Grandpa's Christmas tree.

It's been at his house nearly as far back as I can recall. It has little silk-strand ball ornaments, traces of old silver plastic tinsel, and two sets of old-fashioned electric lights that blink out of sequence. At one time it belonged to a late uncle, but since then it's been Grandpa's.

We've had Christmas at Grandpa's every year since I can remember as well. After our family gift exchange, we'd pile in the car to meet the relatives over there for a holiday feast and more gifts, and while away the short hours until evening until the grown-up talk was over and we went home. Pulling out of that driveway meant Christmas was really over. It always seemed a bit surreal, after all the excitement and anticipation, how it seemed a mere blink of the eye before it was all over, the magic gone, the world gone gray again as the year tumbled to a close.

Through all the years, Grandpa's Christmas tree has been there, blinking away every season, not a bulb dimmed, not an ornament shifted, a constant through years of change.

This year, we arrived to find Grandpa shuffling back to his chair, having just been encouraged to clean up for dinner. He stumbled and shuffled and collapsed with a sigh, and gazed about with a vague, watery gaze as though just woken. With some prompting, he put in his hearing aids, but the look didn't change, and his eyes still slid closed as Christmas songs and conversation filled his living room.

At dinner, he shuffled over to the table, and nodded off over his plate, before returning to his recliner to doze off once more.

As gifts were distributed, he napped on. Once in a while, his eyes opened, but more often than not they weren't the eyes of the grandfather I'd grown up with. Vacant, vague, not quite seeing, not quite hearing. Lost in a fog of age and fatigue.

Did he want to open a few gifts? After all, it was Christmas.

No, he'd rather sleep.

Presents were exchanged, conversations waxed and waned. My uncle finally enticed him to open a couple presents. He hardly seemed to know what to do with them. Long moments of looking, of concentrating, of visible effort to wade through the fog before he would slowly work open the wrapping paper. An ornament with his name on it momentarily confused him. The effort sent him to drowsing again, a restless doze.

Some time ago, we got him a game system, in the hopes that the simple controls might get him moving again, get his mind moving, the once-sharp mind of an inventor, an engineer, a builder and solver and doer. Exercise helps, sometimes; moving, walking, can sometimes shake off the dozing fog, the vacant confusion of the years. Tonight, it only drew an occasional glance, a brief moment of open eyes that was not so much waking as a lesser form of sleeping.

Once in a while, he'd notice again. A new camera. A slice of pie for dessert. But the fog would pull him back, and he'd drift away again, never quite waking, never truly resting.

When we left that night, Christmas lights still glowed in the yard, in the windows of neighbors. Garland still hung from Grandpa's ceiling fan. And the immortal blinking lights on the little plastic Christmas tree still blinked, seemingly immune to the passage of time... unlike the old man sleeping in the chair beside it, under a new blanket he hardly seemed to notice, a pile of unopened gifts carefully moved out of his way, remnants of a Christmas he scarcely woke long enough to enjoy.

I wonder if I'll see that little tree again next year.


Sorry... bit of a depressing Xmas, in some respects, so I thought I'd get it off my chest.

In an attempt to end things on a somewhat less downer note, I can say that I had an otherwise decent holiday. People seemed to like what I got them. I liked what I got. (The above photo was shot with one of them - a compact camera I can carry around for on-the-go photographic emergencies.)

Oh, I also have photos of this year's ornament blitz results. The theme this year: glitter. Lots of glitter. And plastic ornaments, some fabric paint and glitter glue, and a few rhinestones for good measure... but mostly glitter. Because one can never have too much glitter in one's life.

Family Ornaments - Back and Front
The center shapes were larger plastic rhinestones. I'd intended them to shine unadorned, but the silvering on the back was so cheap that the glue showed right through. So I just coated them more glue and covered them with glitter, then tried to hide the evidence with decorations and embellishments.

Shipped Ornaments - Front and Back
These are the ones I know reached their destination on time. The others might have been lost in the mail. Or the recipients are just too busy to say if they got them... Another case of Salvage Mode Creation - the decorations on the back were not my original intention, but what happened after the original intentions failed miserably with a shipping deadline breathing down my neck. (Actually, they're more 95% complete, here - I had to add hangers and drumsticks, still. But it was pretty much my only chance to stop and shoot a picture, so I took it.)

And off I go...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

X minus 7 days... well, 6 and 1 hour... and counting

Well, calendars don't lie, and my calendar says that next Saturday is Xmas.  My calendar also says that Tuesday is Winter Solstice. (And Monday is supposed to be a full lunar eclipse, which - clouds pending - we might even be able to see.) All signs are pointing to 2010 being down to the final dregs.

Things I have done:
  • Finished holiday shopping.
  • Wrapped everything.
  • Mailed cards.
  • Avoided sitting through the insipid "Christmas In The Northwest" and the annoyingly pointless and circular "Charlie Brown Christmas" songs once thus far this holiday season. (I did have to sit through "Christmas Shoes" once to do it, though...)
  • Needlessly neglected cats to type up blog posts.

Orion!  Get off the keyboard, dang it!

Sorry about that... where was I?  Oh, yes...

Things I have not done:
  • Finish family ornaments.
  • Publish the December (or November) updates for Brightdreamer Books.
  • Read much of anything to justify an update at Brightdreamer Books.
  • Check off a good chunk of my 2010 Resolution list.
  • Decorate my workbench.
  • Listen to my Trans-Siberian Orchestra holiday CD clear through.
  • Rub enough kitty bellies.

Okay, okay, hint taken...

And people wonder why I never get anything done...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wet and Drying

Winters in the Pacific Northwest tend to be gray and damp... some winters more than others. Usually, though, we don't see actual flooding in December. But this is evidently an unusual year. This weekend, the Pacific Ocean sent its regards via the Pineapple Express. For those outside the region, this is a weather system bringing warmer temperatures and rain up from Hawaii to our doorsteps. The weather people blame various causes, mostly La Nina, for this particular storm. But whatever the cause, the end result is the same: too much water on too much pavement with too few natural wetlands left to cope. (One might think that there was a reason that broad, low river valleys were traditionally farmland rather than houses piled on top of each other... filled with people who seem just as surprised to find a river in their basement as they were last spring... but I digress.)

Anyway, with over six inches of rain in 24 hours, the little seasonal stream in our backyard decided to make a break for the lawn. In the hopes of preventing a catastrophic fence collapse (and a potential for basement flooding), I spent a fair portion of today wading out to poke holes in piled-up debris, trying to relieve the pressure and encourage the stream back into its usual banks. I couldn't actually reach the logjams behind the fence that were the cause of the whole problem, so every few hours I'd have to head back out and poke fresh holes in the accumulating debris. As one might imagine, it was rather a zero-sum effort in my part, but it seemed to help a bit... if temporarily.

Since all this water came from Hawaii, I suppose this counts as that tropical vacation I've always wanted...

Between bouts of battling the runaway stream, I've been hard at work in my new workshop* shed trying to finish the first round of holiday ornaments. Ideally, I should've shipped them last week - with any luck, I'll hit Friday, though the things have decided to fight me after several days of relatively smooth progress.

I'd be making more progress if paint didn't take so long to dry. I'd be even further along if it weren't so danged slippery outside that I can't risk trekking to my workshop after dark; flashlights don't make mud any less slippery...

Fortunately, the rain is supposed to be backing off to mere sprinkles for the week, giving us a chance to dry out. Hopefully, this means I can stop worrying about the stream attacking the fence and spend more time trying to salvage ornaments that seem dead-set on self-destruction.

* - Mom retrofitted one of her old storage sheds into a workspace for me, as a birthday/Xmas gift. I just got moved in about a week ago. Now I can work in my own space without having anyone peering over my shoulder... and without ambient dog hair to settle into drying paint.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lumbering Across the Finish Line

With 24 hours, 20 minutes, and 229 words to spare...

What am I talking about?  See the sidebar, under NaNoWriMo 2010. (If you're too lazy to look, I can't help you...)

I have to say, this year was a tough one.  Not only was life generally cruddy and annoying this November, but this year's story rolled along like a wheelbarrow full of cement on a field of mud.  The characters never really gelled.  Storylines flared only to gutter out out mid-scene.  The world was an embarrassingly slapdash conglomeration of inconsistent details and illogical rules.  It didn't so much end as lumber to an ungainly, wheezing halt at a point where I could slap on some semblance of an end-cap.  If I ever talk myself into a second draft, I expect everything but the name to change beyond the point of recognition... and right now I'm fighting a reflexive urge to burn the sucker onto a DVD, back over it a few times, then light it on fire just to watch the miserable, recalcitrant monstrosity go up in flames.

But at least I finished it.  And a full day ahead of the deadline.

Go, me...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Frozen Feathers

Guess what the weather's been like around here...

It started with plunging temperatures over the weekend, then on Sunday night the flakes started falling. This morning, we had five and a half inches of the white stuff, give or take a bit. Fortunately, we never got the winds that were predicted (though some areas weren't so lucky.) The local roads are a mess (hills and ice being a bad combination), so tomorrow might be interesting when I have to get to work.

That'll teach us to procrastinate on buying snow tires...

Monday, November 15, 2010

It was a Dark and Stormy Night

No, really, it was...

Well, the winds have picked up out there, and the power's been blipping with alarming regularity. Fortunately, I have a UPS. And, into that UPS, I currently have the Little Black Critter, plugged in but charged and ready if the power goes. I also have a flashlight/lantern around my neck... just in case.

With all these precautions, the power should hold.

The cliche title is intended to evoke thoughts of terrible novels... speaking of which, I finally edged over the halfway mark in this year's NaNoWriMo effort not one hour past. I'd hoped to be further ahead by now, but this weekend kinda sucked, long before the threat to household power became a real and valid excuse for procrastination.

Friday started out bad when I went to the car to leave for work. While wiping off wind-deposited Douglas Fir needles (nasty little things - they seem to get everywhere they shouldn't be), I noticed a crack in my windshield. This was no little thing. This was longer than my hand.

I think I would've noticed it if it had been there before. In all likelihood, I had a very minor and undetectable crack for some time, and our recent dip into freezing overnight temperatures (brief as it was) caused it to catastrophically expand.

Well, I thought, at least I have windshield replacement on my insurance.

And trying to ignore the omen, I set off for work.

At work, we were nearly half an hour late starting due to the Big Crane being snarky. During the downtime, people started talking about insurance and accidents. Kinda weird, as I'd just been thinking about that very same thing... but we finally got to work, and though an off start tends to throw the whole day out of kilter, somehow we got through the load.

Off to the grocery store, then to home... but not quite. See, backing out of my parking space, I saw someone else backing out. I stopped. They didn't.

No damage to my end, but they claimed damage on theirs. And they insisted I instigated the whole thing. (As they were copying my insurance info, a bystander came by and handed me his business card - a witness supporting my statement that I was stationary, and they were not.)

So much for ignoring omens...

I went home and got to play phone tag with the insurance company on two counts: one on the parking lot incident, and one on the windshield replacement. It was more than enough to make me want to bash teleprompters and their stock questions to which I've already provided answers with a suitably large and spiky object.

Needless to say, between that and a stubborn coughing cold, this weekend was hardly my most productive writing period...

But, today, I got my windshield replaced. It almost didn't happen due to the weather - the guy had to check a mobile app from the Weather Channel to confirm no rain, because the wind was bad enough he couldn't set up a tent - but it got done faster (and earlier) than expected... and it really was covered. And I got the call from the insurance company about the accident. Seems that having a witness may have paid off; suddenly the other party decided playing insurance chicken would be too big of a headache, and backed off on pushing a claim. Since no parties wanted money, they decided to deem the thing a wash... and, theoretically, it won't affect my insurance rates. (Since insurance companies are all about money, and they spent none, I'm hoping the guy on the phone was right.)

Thus elated, I managed to get back on the proverbial horse and get back into the NaNo race.

Which is why I was so happy to reach the halfway mark that I risked logging on for a celebratory blog post.

Even though it really is a dark and stormy night.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Rolling Back to Go Forward

Not just for clocks anymore...

So, as you might have noticed, I'm up to my proverbial neck in NaNoWriMo 2010. I'm also somewhat ahead of the bare minimum word-count-per-day requirements for finishing by November 30th.

At least, I was.

When I started this year's effort, I had a far less concrete idea of my story than I did last year. I had a vaguely amusing idea, a couple thoughts that might be fun to visit along the way, and something that might resemble an opening. That was it. A few nights into writing, unfortunately, it started going off the rails. The steam started leaking out through the many gaps in the pipes. Though I was pounding away producing words, I just didn't feel I was actually producing any story.

I was already past 10,000 words, but I didn't think I could hit another 10, let alone 40k.

So, I did the only thing I could do, if I wanted to have a rough draft worth finishing.

I ripped the guts out of the sucker and went back to try again.

This time, things are falling into place much nicer. I'm getting more invested in the characters and their world. I'm seeing possibilities and plotlines opening up as I go. I may have lost two days of forward momentum with this rollback, but it was entirely worth the effort.

With any luck, by tomorrow I'll be back up to where I was, and beyond... thanks, in no small part, to that extra hour I'll have to work with.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Witches, Ghosts, and Paper Bags... it's Halloween again!

Last night, my sister and I went to the one-night-only special Rifftrax Live presentation of The House on Haunted Hill. (For those unfamiliar with Rifftrax, and too lazy to follow the link, three of the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have started riffing movies again, sans robot puppets.) It was taped in Nashville and broadcast to select theaters nationwide... and, for once, "select theaters nationwide" included a location that wasn't some weird little place downtown that requires parking across a freeway and walking through unlit back alleys in the dead of night to reach.

We arrived much earlier than planned, since the rush hour we'd anticipated never seemed to happen (and the road construction we were allowing for didn't happen, either.) Being the first in the door, we staked out our favored seats and settled in for the wait. It was stony silent, sitting there all alone, without even ads to keep us company.

"Remember when they used to run music before a show?" my sister asked.

At that exact moment, saxophone-heavy jazz came blasting over the theater speakers. It was as if some strange (and exceedingly bored) wish fairy were hovering overhead.

"Remember when they used to give us 100 dollar bills before a show?" I asked, just in case.

The wish fairy must have left by then, unfortunately.

It was almost ten minutes before anyone else showed up; we were starting to think we'd be all alone. He left after a while to make a call - the jazz music was just above the comfort level and just below the pain threshold - but we toughed it out. We like our favorite seats, thank you very much...

Between the music and the feature presentation, we watched onscreen as they synched up the satellite feed. Some disturbing messages popped up now and again, but it seemed to work. All of the sudden, the blaring jazz was replaced with another song...

Sparkly Vampires (by the Rifftones)

Movie trivia, famous quotes, and Halloween tips flashed onscreen... with a Rifftrax flavor. Long before the actual broadcast started, we and the rest of the growing audience were laughing out loud. Between the on-screen hilarity and the continued Rifftones soundtrack, it was hard to decide whether to focus on my eyes or my ears. Either way, I was highly entertained, and the thing hadn't even officially started yet.

When a Man Loves a Shark (by the Rifftones)

The feature presentation had the unexpected bonuses of a "guest riffer" (a comedian I should probably know, but whose name has slipped my brain at the moment) and two vintage short-subject films (a.k.a "shorts.) The first short, "Magical Disappearing Money," showed a grocery store witch who grows so concerned about 1970's shoppers throwing money away that she forces them all to watch a magic show about smart shopping. The second short, "Paper and I", stars a sick boy hallucinating about a paper bag who talks him through the paper-making process, then makes all paper products in the world vanish to prove how important he is. (Shades of Coily, from the MST3K-riffed short "A Case of Spring Fever", here...) Both were absurd on their own, made all the more fun with the commentary.

The House on Haunted Hill is an old Vincent Price film about an eccentric millionaire (Price) who invites a handful of strangers to a haunted house, along with his gold-digging wife and the traumatized man who owns the place but doesn't live there due to the ghosts and the long history of bloody murders associated with the place. (Great party atmosphere, eh?) Anywho, lots of dialog occurs, half a hundred doors get opened and closed, an old blind lady glides around on invisible skates, a wine cellar pit inexplicably left full of acid gets put to good use, and then it ends with hardly any body count worth speaking of.

And we, along with the rest of the audience, laughed nearly nonstop.

Now, the odd thing is, my sister and I had seen the non-riffed version of House on Haunted Hill before... and for some reason, we remembered a totally different ending. (As we recalled, the whole thing was a set-up - and there hadn't even been any murders in the house, as the freaky owner implied. Maybe we transposed another movie ending...)

Anyway, it was a highly enjoyable experience, much more fun than anticipated, and a great kickoff to the holiday weekend.

Happy Halloween, everyone! (And remember: a sign left next to a bowl of candy saying "Please Take One" really translates to "Free Bowl of Candy.")

(The photo at top would be the phoenix stepping stone I mentioned previously... unfortunately, we didn't realize that, while the yellow, blue, and the copper were inside the glass, the red was evidently painted on.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NaNo Minus 9 Days and Counting

More like 8 and a near-half by now...

Yes, as those who still read this blog might have surmised by the new little gadget in the sidebar, I'm taking another swipe at NaNoWriMo this year. (That's National Novel Writing Month, for the abbreviationally challenged. And it's actually worldwide, but InNoWriMo just doesn't have the same ring to it.) I have an idea, one I've kicked around for a while without ever getting to take substantial shape, so hopefully I can pull off my second victory in as many years. I've had the further inspiration/kick in the tail of just finishing a lousy book, so my sense of irked indignation that that junk got published and I'm still picking away fruitlessly on the keyboard is all fired up. (That kind of thing usually makes for good emergency fuel when I'm staring at the screen wondering what the frell I'm doing.) It should be interesting this year, because I'm working on a second draft of another story and I hope to keep picking at it between NaNo bursts.  Yeah, I know... not the greatest timing.  But I'm trying to increase my overall productivity, with the goal of having a marketable product to annoy editors with in 2011.

In part to keep myself from jumping the gun on the new story, and in part to keep up my lifelong tradition of procrastinating, I downloaded a new (free) program: yWriter 5.  It has some fans on the NaNo forums, and it looks like it might appeal to my nitpicky style - it lets you keep track of character info, scenes, subplots and more without having to scribble it all down in a notebook beside the computer and hope to heck you can remember where you wrote it (and what you wrote, if your handwriting's as illegible as mine.) Theoretically, you can rearrange scenes and such with a few mouseclicks, as well, which could be very useful.  I'm currently testing it with a dummy story.  Yes, I'm writing a story to test software on which I intend to write another story.  So far, I'm still getting the hang of it.  It works completely differently than I'm used to, but I can already see how it'll be nice in some respects.  Kind of like having your little notecards and margin scribbles right there onscreen with you as you go.

So, let's see... that would be two stories I'm actively working on, and one in the rough planning stages that I intend to start in 9 days (give or take a few hours.)

Oh - and I really need to get my tail in gear and start, if not finish, my annual holiday ornament blitz while I'm writing one novel and editing a second. My workbench is still mothballed (or rather ratballed), but we're working on a solution to that issue as I type, and I have an idea that shouldn't be too time-consuming to do.  Assuming I can get started before too much longer.

Should be interesting, to say the least...

(For the bored/curious: The stepping stone picture was one I made with my own two hands, as part of a family stepping stone project.  It was supposed to be more complete, but we had some issues with the cement mix on that batch.)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Clearing 700 and Other Pointless Excuses for a Post

It's been a couple weeks, so time for a I'm-not-dead procrastination post.

Well, October has arrived far too early this year. I ought to check around the house to see if a few weeks fell behind the couch cushions or went through the wash in someone's pocket. With it has come our typical fall weather, with days of gray punctuated by random spots of sunshine.

Nothing much exciting has happened since my last post, except that I've unofficially cleared 700 book reviews; for the curious, it's DragonArt: Evolution (by J. "NeonDragon" Peffer), and it can be viewed at my book review blog. The October update, scheduled for later this month, will make it official. Can I make 800 by next year? No idea, but my reading backlog isn't getting any shorter...

Last weekend I wandered down to our local celebration of suicidal salmon. The usual crowds and the usual vendors, but it was nice to get out of the house.  This is where I saw the metal dragon photographed above (full body shot here, for scale.  No pun intended... not that I'll admit to, anyway.) Since then, I've been keeping an eye on our local stream. Just in case... (I know they're on a four-year cycle or so, but I can hope for another run.)

Well, that's about all I can come up with. I suppose I've procrastinated enough. As your reward for slogging through the preceding post, I'll throw in a couple video links.

NSFW humor, but danged if I didn't laugh out loud at this one... when I watched it, and at inappropriate moments during the day when I thought about it:
Why Nicholas Cage is in so many cruddy films

And a link my sister sent me, a 15-minute movie made entirely on open-source 3D animation software (Blender.) Things like this remind me why I want to get better at art, and why I find animation fascinating. (Rated PG, for mild violence/bloodshed.)


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sanding Tall

Not a typo, but a very lousy pun...

Today being the first decent day in a while, we ("we" being the immediate family and I) decided to head to a nearby city to view the World Championship of Sand Sculpting. This is the first-ever time the championship has been in America, and the first-ever time at this venue (actually an empty parking lot outside an empty Target building.) Their publicity has been, shall we say, a trifle pathetic; my grandfather and uncle went a week ago, and they were so desperate to get bodies in the door that they gave the pair deeply discounted tickets. Grandpa was so impressed that he actually called us on the phone to tell us about it - an act virtually unprecedented since his mental decline began a few years back.

Getting back to today...

The sunny weather made standing around on asphault a not-entirely-fun experience. Still, the sculptures were beyond amazing. I cannot conceive of how much labor and planning goes into the creation of these things. (They use a diluted glue solution after they're done, but that doesn't explain how they manage to sculpt sand in such impossible shapes to begin with.)

Yes, I brought my camera.

Yes, you're about to be treated to/tortured by a very extensive photo dump.

Click away now, or slog ahead...

Work in Progress
A sand sculptor works on a new project, from the top down. There were supposed to be more sculptors wandering about answering questions, but evidently many of them had already left. (It's an international competition, so it was inevitable, but we felt a bit gypped that there were only two pros on hand to talk to when it was implied that there would be more.)

Please note that many of the following titles are mine and mine alone: they weren't very well labeled, for one thing, and for another I just plain didn't see the names if they were there at all.

Spiritual Visions
A nice wolf-themed sculpture, the first one to greet visitors.

Two kids chance upon a wicked witch in a Halloween-themed sculpture.

The Vine Lady
From the back, her hair was extensively detailed, but I had to cull a few pictures here and there to keep Photobucket from pitching a fit... and myself from being prosecuted for mass murder by photo-link-induced boredom.

Another with a lot more than I could cram into one frame...

The Face of the City
Absolutely amazing 3D sculpting, here... and also amazing, how many people had to have it explained to them...

The Bridge (side and detail)
A 360-degree work of amazement, full of little details from any angle viewed.

The Missing Links (detail, detail, detail, back, detail, and detail)
One of my personal favorites, and one of the largest sculpts on the grounds.

And now a word from our sponsors...
Part of a long wall honoring the sponsors of the championships.

Connected (and back)
Oddly enough, while the Facebook (earlier) scupture seemed fairly self-explanatory to most ages, many older visitors took a while to clue in to this one, despite the similar theme; I think it was the use of handheld devices as opposed to the "old fashioned" computer that did it.

The line of figures continued through the hole at the bottom, wrapping around to the tail end (seen on the ground behind the main block of the sculpture.

Through the Door
I think that's the wrong door...

Open Mind
The damage on the hand was caused by rain in the previous week. Apparently, sand being porous, rain itself just drains through; only when it pools is there a problem. Since the competition was set up on a parking lot, some sculptures got puddles under them in heavy rains. Most of the sculptors had gone home, so those left behind repaired the ones they could and left the ones they couldn't. This was one of the latter, evidently. Still impressive, though.

Splitting Headache
Well, that would explain it...

The Impression
Odd little brain-warper...

Cranes with Origami

Icarus II
Check out the details on those feather edges...

Sand Castle
(with "facilities")
This is the one the photo at the top of the post came from.

The level of detail on these things continued to astound me, and still astounds me in retrospect.

Welcome to 2065!
"It was just a bad dream", reads the caption.

Puzzle Head

Noh Theater
Also self-explanatory.

Faces in the Wall
All in all, they're just bricks in the wall...

Rapunzel in Green
So, that new organic shampoo looks like it has a few side-effects...

Fantasea Castle
Looks like a happy place...

Not sure what to say about this one... I mean, it's cool and all, but I don't know what to say about it.

To Be Revealed
One of those sculptures that makes you forget you're looking at sand.

Trees with Orb
Love the little mousie on the log...


Tribute to Freedom
A work-in-progress sculpt, from the form around the base, but already impressive.

There are more sculptures at the event itself, and I took scads of photos, but I figured any visitors have suffered enough already. In any event, if you're around the area before October 3 and are looking for something to do, I'd recommend it. (EDIT - Sounds like they may have extended it to October 10... if so, it's definitely worth a view!)

Now I suppose I ought to head off and do something even less productive with the rest of my evening...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Web of Fall

The furnace has been kicking on in the mornings.

There's a bite in the shadows and a chill to the rain.

The sunlight has a sharper slant than it did a month ago.

The downtown trees are brushed with crimson, and the green of the hills is shading towards gold.

The spiders are spinning their webs.

Yep, it's fall again.

The last month has been fairly uneventful, hence the lull in posting. Mostly, we've been going through our storage sheds for the first time in too many years, getting rid of stuff we no longer need. So far, we've sent over 20 sacks to donation and more than that to the dump. (These are garbage-bag size sacks, not grocery-store size sacks.) It feels good to lighten the load a little, even though we have barely begun to scrape the surface of decades worth of accumulation.

I finished Draft 2 of last year's NaNoWriMo monstrosity, and I already know it'll need more tweaking for Draft 3 before the kinks in logic, character development, and plot continuity are sufficiently ironed out.  I've decided to let it marinate on the back burner for a while, and called up one of my unfinished stories to take its place. So far, I'm mostly skimming my backstories and chapters, getting my brain back into the feel of the universe. This time, I'm finishing a draft... and, fingers crossed, it'll be a draft worth chucking in the mail. Might have to take a break for NaNoWriMo 2010, but that's a month away; if I get my tail in gear, I can get the bones of the tale hammered out sufficiently before then.

Don't laugh... it could happen...

At work, the local library system is switching over to a new computer program to control everything. Because this switch knocks out the brains of the sorting system while it sets itself up, I had a day off today. My sister, my mother, and I took advantage of the sunshine to head up to a nearby trailhead (where the above web was photographed.) Then we grabbed lunch and ate at the lake, watching parasailers launch and land on the beach. (They were towed with a boat to get altitude; not sure if that would be easier or harder than jumping off a mountain, but danged if it doesn't look fun...) All in all, it was a pleasant day.

Well, I suppose that's about all that's worth updating. The blog looked a little lonely, so I figured I'd post to keep it company.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Big Wheel Keep On Turnin'...

We spent today (or a few hours of it, at any rate) playing tourists aboard the Queen of Seattle, a paddleboat on Lake Union.  Things got off to a bit of a rough start; the website failed to mention that construction had closed off most of the parking, and construction fences forced a further massive walking detour.  Then a local fluff-news crew stopped by, evidently with little warning, to do a "short" segment on the ship that ended up delaying departure for nearly half an hour (no compensation for the lost time for those of us standing around waiting to board.) Other than that, for the cost, it wasn't that bad, though I get the impression that the crew is still getting the hang of the whole "old-timey tourist boat and banter" part of things.  In addition to the narrated tour of the waterways, we were treated to the occasional steam calliope concert (with a steam calliope that could use a little work, as the notes would randomly not play... that, and the player was used to a piano keyboard and not the calliope controls, making for oft-mangled tunes.) On the way back to dock, they had a little cabaret show, which was just one gal singing Gold Rush era tunes and a guy playing the slightly-out-of-tune saloon piano while providing the aforementioned unpolished banter. The lady had a nice voice, at least...

Afterwards, we hit lunch and wound up visiting a little place we've been driving by forever but never managed to stop in at: Barone Gardens, whose cruddy website doesn't do justice to the zillions of statuary items, birdbaths, and fountains on site.  They're actually reasonably priced, too; not exactly bargain-basement, but not priced through the roof, either.

I'd post more pictures, of the paddleboat trip and the statuary, but my computer has decided to pitch a minor fit today: every time I try to play with graphics from the file folder where I stored these photos, the window locks up for upwards of a minute.  I've got a disc-check scheduled for my next bootup; since I just tested with another photo folder with no lockups, I'm hopeful it's just a bad sector. (I just copied the folder to a different part of My Pictures, and it works just fine there, too.) I know I'm pushing my luck insofar as age corrupting hard drives with this machine, but I'm really not in a fit financial state to consider a replacement at this point.

EDIT - Okay, got the pictures relocated to a less snarky folder, so I'll try posting some links.

Shipboard Singer
One of the costumed staff aboard the Queen of Seattle.

Voyeur on Houseboat
Hey, you don't see me taking pictures of everyone who floats by my house in an authentic steam-powered paddlewheel, do you?

Houseboat, or Floating Mansion?  You Decide...
There was quite a range of styles in the houseboat neighborhoods we paddlewheeled past, depending on when they were built and how much money people were willing to shell out. According to our tour guides, some modern houseboats even have basements with underwater windows.

Gasworks Park with Duck
A former power plant converted into a "safe" park. (How safe is it? If you picnic there and drop anything, it's not advised to pick it up...) In front is one of the amphibious vehicles from the "Ride the Ducks" Seattle tour.

So Much for the Extinction Theory...
An unfinished topiary project from the Jurassic era.

TARDIS sighting
I can only assume that, in the original timeline, the drawbridge failed to open and a major disaster ensued. (Okay, I know the scale's way off... still looks like the blue box to me...)

Mama Tug and Babies
Ah, ain't that cute?

Arc to Arcturus
In memory of Jack "Star Gazer" Horkheimer, as he speeds on to Spica.

The aforementioned Big Wheel, actually turning
Yep, that there's a paddlewheel...

The Calliope Whistles
After the cabaret show started and the little kids left the top deck, the staff dropped the "Authorized Personel Only" cable and let those adults remaining get a closer look at the steam-powered calliope. The buckets are for runoff/drainage.

Not the most dynamic show, but with a little polish it'll be more impressive, I expect.

Sail the Rainbow
The Center for Wooden Boats must run some sort of sailing day camp or school in the summers.  Earlier, they had kids out kayaking, too.

Barone Garden Decor: Catfish, Eagle, and Gargoyle Fountain
Because it was a darned cool place to wander through, even without a yard to decorate.  Or a budget to spend on said decoration.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Well, that went faster than I thought...

I just updated Brightdreamer Books, with the new ratings system and a new book list page that organizes reviews by genre. Turns out upgrading the ratings went quite a bit quicker than I anticipated, so I went ahead and tackled the genre-list project. That went faster than I thought it would, too. (My classifications may make little to no sense for most people, but they were the way I had them organized in my mind, if not on my shelf.)

Next up, with any luck, some more enhancements for the September update. I figure I ought to do something special, at least... Brightdreamer Books - at least, the new and improved incarnation of it - turns one year old on September 8.

Talk about things going faster than I thought...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Too True...

Courtesy of as SciFi Wire (sorry... now renamed SyFy Blastr, in keeping the the general degradation of the network's target  IQ)... Well, actually, they got from another site, but the ads there are even more obnoxious than the ones on SyFy.

The Lifespan of a TV Show

Enjoy... or cringe in sympathy as you remember favorite series of years past as they trudged along the arc of death.

Oh - and just so you don't leave on a totally depressed note:

Technovelgy, a site that shows how sci-fi-predicted gadgetry has become reality.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Web of Eternity

Offline, I just finished the Great Cross-Linking Project for Brightdreamer Books, a project I started in April.  This will be shown to the world (or rather the one or two people who stumble across the place) in the August update, but it has been such a monumentally time-consuming task that I had to note when I finished.

This is good news.

I also decided I needed to change how I reviewed books, namely adding a half-star for those books that fall right on the line between one rating and the next.

This is bad news.

It will require retrofitting over 600 pages and giving a quick re-scan to over 680 reviews to see where the half-star might apply.  It will be a pain in the tail to get done, but I know I'll be eternally bugged if I don't do it.  The site is also screaming for new graphics and a nicer layout.  I ought to consider listing books by genre as well as by author, too, one of these days.

Oh, yeah... I also wanted to try promoting the danged place in some way.  And I haven't even looked at Skyhaven in far, far too long...

Ah, well... I suppose the only finished website is a dead website.

Back at it...

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Red Skies at Night

Today, the skies seemed hazy, in contrast with the area weather forecasts.

On the way to the weekly family gathering, I noticed an unusual amount of dust on my car.

As the day went on, the light took on an odd, orange tone, as if filtered through a slice of agate... a tone which shifted toward an unsettling reddish hue.

Tonight, I saw perhaps the strangest sunset I have ever seen in my life, something I can't recall witnessing outside of a sci-fi film set on planets far, far away.

Finally, it clicked. Wildfires east of the mountains have kicked up enough ash to dust my car and color the skies. (Actually, the news claims it was the fires in British Columbia behind it.)

Still creepy as heck, though...

(Yeah, this was mostly an excuse to post an I'm-not-dead-my-life's-just-dull update. I got new glasses which may or may not need realigning - still trying to figure out if it's me or the lenses - and I hit ten posts in a month over on Brightdreamer's Book Reviews, but nothing else has leapt out as postworthy.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

So Much Cooler Online...

And I'm not just saying that because I'm currently sitting beside a nice, cool fan on a warm and humid day.

Nice, cool fan....

Today, I made an attempt at personal socialization. Nobody died, at least not in a manner that can be legally connected to me or my actions, so I suppose it counts as a success. I just don't seem to do well when I can't cower behind a keyboard, unfortunately... nothing personal, you understand. I'm just a cowardly loser.

But I'm a cowardly loser with a nice, cool fan.

Speaking of nice, cool fans (in a different sense, but, hey, I needed a segue), today's excursion was to the local Sci-Fi Museum. Despite being a second-generaton fan whose existence can be directly tied to fandom (my parents met over fanac, or rather the printing of fanac, oddly enough), I hadn't managed to get down there before.

As promised before my departure, here are the photos I almost managed to salvage.

The Shiny Object That Ate Seattle Center
The EMP may be a photographer's paradise, but I still see it as the thing that spelled the beginning of the end for Fun Forest. (And if the rest of the site really does become another monument to Chihuly's oversized ego... one the general public can't even see without paying through the nose, despite the fact that the Center was supposed to be for everyone... Eh, never mind.)

Aliens! Aliens are attacking!
No, no, no - not them! That's just the Sci-Fi Museum's window washing crew.

These are them! Run! Run for your lives!
They look like normal tourists, don't they? Just a little too normal, if you ask me...

Retired robot, or security issue? You decide.
Typecasting's hard enough on human actors. This poor guy only had one hit, and hasn't been heard from since. Even Robby the Robot landed more gigs than him. He says he's not bitter, but try asking him for an autograph some time. Acts like he doesn't even hear you...

"Just because they're aliens doesn't mean they don't have to go to the little boys' room."

(Arnold Rimmer, from Red Dwarf) And you doubted my alien invader theory... see how welcome they are on this planet?

"And now, if you dare, look into the Hypnotic Eye!"
(from The Hypnotic Eye) A really, really cool spherical projection screen, covered in ever-changing, moving displays. Isn't this what TV was supposed to be like by now? I mean it's, what, 2010? Get with the program, you lazy tech guys!

Fanac gets its due
A nice display honoring the evolution and importance of sci-fi fandom, which helped launch more than one author from letterhack to bestseller. (No SAPSzines made the cut, though... and by now, the Spectator Amateur Press Society has to be one of the oldest running printed 'zine groups left. Most everyone else has folded or gone online by now.)

When I am an old alien, I shall wear purple
Just a cool con costume... shiny and glittery, ain't it?

Robby and Co.
Couldn't get a good angle on the original Robby the Robot (sorry Dad, I tried!), but I got the one from Lost in Space. I see the original Battlestar Galactica's Muffit made the cut for the museum, too, as did R2D2,  Twiki from Buck Rogers... but no sign of Dr. Theopolis. Maybe he retired and started a new career as a lunchbox...

A familiar face
A Scarran from Farscape. Dang, I miss that show...

When rayguns are outlawed, only outlaws will have rayguns
A portion of the sci-fi armory, which has seen many a cheaply-costumed hero through many an impossible battle.

Where's OSHA when you need them?
I mean, come on - not even a railing? There are kids down here, for cryin' out loud!

Destination Moon
Maybe this is why we never got ourselves a proper moon base going. We didn't have funky retro rockets to fly us there and back.

Yoda, Y-O-D-A Yoda...
It's hard to look him in the eye without think of Weird Al Yankovic's classic song...

"Great! Even in the future, nothing works!"
(President Skroob, from Spaceballs) Remember where Paul Allen used to work, folks... used to... Fortunately, the planet rebooted successfully. Probably time to defrag the thing.

Relics of yesterday's future
Can you believe anyone thought you could perform advanced calculations on that little weird sliding thing? Me, neither, but they were everywhere in the old days. Laughable now, isn't it? (Honestly, it boggles the mind, how anyone came up with a slide rule, let alone was able to use one to solve the kinds of scientific and mathematical conundrums that led us to the digital age on them. Maybe the experts are right; we are dumber than we were a couple generations ago...)

The ultra-groovy HypnoScreen (TM)
And me without my 3D glasses... I think the EMP is trying to run the Pacific Science Center's laser show out of business with this thing.

Look to the skies!
Ah, now I get it. While everyone is hypnotized by the HypnoScreen (TM), the Space Jellyfish descend and devour their prey.

The gift shop - OF DOOM!
One heck of an entrance for a fairly tepid-looking gift shop, if you ask me.

A sonic tornado!
Actually, this explains it. Yes, there were instruments rigged to play themselves; you could listen to them on the headphones by the base. Pretty cool, really...

That's about all I got. Afterwards, I headed off to a family function. In hindsight, I should've stayed behind... I really, really should've stayed...

But if I had, I wouldn't be here, writing up this blog post.

And sitting in front of my nice, cool fan.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Silenced Howl (and Other Reasons the Past Few Days Have Sucked)

On Saturday, we got a call from my uncle. Evidently, a neighbor had found Grandpa sitting at the bottom of the stairs leading to his door, unable to pull himself to his feet. She got him into the house, and my uncle was called. Grandpa's been having some troubles getting up and down for some time. We also found out he'd driven to the store, which he should definitely no longer be doing. (Long story involving a stupid pharmacist calling a number they were told not to call and insisting he pick up a prescription...) So finally the keys have been taken from his hands, and we think he's figured it out. But taking away car keys doesn't change the fact that Grandpa's days of living alone are just about over.

On Monday, Mom's increasingly flaky boss at the increasingly unprofitable store where she worked one day a week decided to favor quick money over a loyal employee. What was worse was that she point-blank lied to my mother's face about several things in that conversation. (Another long backstory here... suffice it to say that this has been coming for some time.)

This morning, I was woken at 4 AM by trouble in the house. My sister's 12-year-old Malamlute/Husky/maybewolf mix had been diagnosed with probable liver cancer in November, but he's been trucking along decently... until now. He was making distressed noises and couldn't climb to his feet. We wrestled him into the car and drove him to the nearest emergency vet we could remotely trust (the closest one is part of a vet chain that favors wasting money on expensive and unreliable tests... another long story.) Pale gums, fever, enlarged spleen, bleeding into abdomen... At 5 AM, my sister had to make the decision that every pet owner dreads making, silencing one of the most beautiful canine voices I've heard.

There's also a dead mouse hiding in Mom's car, and somewhere in the walls the rat poison is taking effect, to judge by my nose.

There have been good moments, too. After the fall, Grandpa has inexplicably been walking straighter and sleeping easier (something he does much of the time when we visit him.) On Monday, after Mom came home, we met up with my uncle and went down to a lakeside park with beautiful reflections on the rippling water; we saw ducklings and chickadees and turtles and cedar waxwings. And today, I had the pleasure of watching three bald eagles dance over the lake.

All in all, though, I can't say I've ever been happier to know I can escape to work tomorrow morning.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Feast Amid Famine

It's no great secret that I'm not a wealthy person. (Some people might say that they may be poor in money but rich in other ways, but I'm not one of those people... mostly because I find those people annoying as heck.) I only have a part-time job, and on it I'm more or less treading water. I've become pretty good at talking myself out of anything that even has the faintest whiff of unnecessary expense.

Once in a while, though, I have my moments of indulgence.

There is the impulsive sale indulgence, where I find something deeply discounted and talk myself into, rather than out of, buying it.

There is the overtime indulgence, wherein, after a particularly long and fruitful stretch of overtime at work (and often with a coupon or two on hand), I'll permit myself a bookstore run or a lunch.

And then, once in a very, very rare while, there is the juice-dripping-down-the-jaws, painfully selfish yet marvelously satisfying indulgence.

During the course of my recent efforts to clean up and unburden myself of unnecessary Stuff, I realized just how much of that Stuff consisted of loose change. Oh, I knew it added up over time, but I never realized just how much. Then I sat down to count it.

My, no wonder my purse felt more like a bowling bag...

I could have taken it down to deposit directly into savings... but that's a bit of a drive, to get to the branch that can actually handle monetary transactions in person.

Then I remembered the CoinStar machine. For a nominal fee, I could get my pile of coins processed and get cash back from the store. I wouldn't get the full amount back, but the change would be gone. Plus, there's a certain feeling of triumph, when the clerk at the grocery store hands over money for once, instead of the other way around - that alone is worth a little fee.

Or, there was a third option. A terrible, evil third option. For no fee at all, I could go to the same CoinStar machine and turn those coins directly into a gift certificate... and that gift certificate could be to Amazon. There's Father's Day and two family birthdays coming up within the next two months - but, really, the only one who could possibly benefit from this course of action would be me. Me and me alone. Lazy, underemployed, undereducated, and financially challenged me. Only a fool, in my shoes, would even remotely consider such blatant gluttony.

If you heard a mad cackling echo ominously across the Internet a short time ago, that would have been me... pressing the "Confirm Order" button.

I may be a broke fool, but right now I'm a danged happy broke fool.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Five Months Down...

The calendar finally rolled over to the sixth month of the year. Though the year isn't technically half over until the end of June, I'm already feeling the pressure to step up efforts and Do Something Useful with 2010. My resolution list still has pathetically few checkmarks of completion on it.

Operation Declutter continues in fits and starts. I still haven't figured out a feasible way into my closet yet (don't ask... let's just say the room wasn't designed with computer desks in mind), but I've tackled other areas of accumulated crud that needed attention. So far, I've amassed one more donation sack, another bin full of recycling, and two more bags for Half Price Books (after another two scrounged up after my last report... the total's somewhere around eight or nine by now, I think, and I ain't done yet.) I'm feeling a little less claustrophobic from the lightening load. Creative juices are starting to trickle, if not properly flow, again.

For some reason, I've been on a reading binge. May saw seven new book reviews posted at Brightdreamer's Book Reviews, and I'm still working on my cross-linking project on the review archive site itself. (I've also decided that the formatting on the ones I've done is sloppy, so I need to go back and fix them, but right now my priority is getting all the cross reference links up and running.) Offline, the I reviews are finished; I hope to have at least three more letters done by the time I post the June update. Once I've finished - or maybe even before then - I hope to find a way to promote the place to see if I can't get a little traffic over there.

As for the rodents... while they're still about, I'm under the delusion that there may not be as many of them around. I'm not in charge of that particular operation, though, so I can't really say.

Well, I guess I better skedaddle. We have a long shift tomorrow at the shipping center, thanks to Memorial Day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Flying Dust

Due in no small part to our rodent issues, I've been on a cleaning kick lately. This weekend, I finally tackled my room. How long has it been since it had a good gutting? Well, let's put it this way. When I first got the cats, I had to throw everything on high shelves as fast as possible... and 99% of those items hadn't been touched since. That was over a decade ago.

So far, I've removed a trash can's worth of raw junk, two bins worth of recycling, and nearly three garbage bags' worth of items for donation and/or Half Price Books. And I still haven't hit the closet... that'll be at least a bag's worth of stuff to go, as well.

I've found many things I forgot I ever had. I found things I can't for the life of me remember why I bought. And I found books that must have been snuck in by the clutter gnomes, because I know I never spent money on them. I also found old sketchbooks and art projects, not to mention fragmentary notes and sketches for many of my old stories. For now, at least, I'm hanging on to those; flawed as they were, they were still things I created, and I just can't bring myself to turn my back on my own imaginary worlds, even if I've forgotten almost everything I knew about them. (Just for the heck of it, I should try revisiting them sometime...)

Even though I'm not done, and even though I'm probably holding onto more things than I ought to, I'm already feeling the lightness of shedding unneeded crud from my life. It's a good feeling. Almost makes me wish I had the gumption to clean more often.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Some manner of success...

Well, I'm over half a month behind my self-imposed deadline, but I just printed out the test copy of this year's Camp Coyote logo. Hopefully, that'll be it for that...

Speaking of artistic successes, my Snow Leopard drum sold. I'm down to one drum in the store. Really wish I could paint up more, but we're experiencing rodent issues in the basement, so my workbench is under protective covering until we get a handle on that... hopefully, some day soon... (Oh, how I long for a separate work shed...)

Anyway, just thought I'd post an "I'm not dead, I'm busy" entry on the ol' blog before returning to the pile of Stuff That Needs Doing.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

For anyone who reads fantasy...

This cartoon is all too accurate.

(No, I really don't have anything else to report with this post, except a vague sense of disbelief that it's already May 1. I've been on a reading/writing binge lately, which precludes interesting external activities.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Works In Progress

I have a camp logo to design and ink. I have a story that needs editing. I have workbench projects to start and finish. I have a budget that needs restarting, and various and sundry other goals, large and small, that need doing.

So, naturally, I updated my website.

I've needed to update my book review site for a while. I wanted to do it every month, but I kept getting distracted, and it started bugging me. Plus, it was something I could do that wasn't important, and that's exactly the kind of task my brain was looking for.

Brightdreamer Books not only has new reviews and new Random Recommendations, but a new feature. I've started cross-referencing reviews, pointing all none of my visitors towards other titles they might enjoy (or prefer.) It's a work in progress, of course; right now, I only have A - C done. I'm still fine tuning the process, and it'll be a while before the whole list of 660 reviews is finished (yes, 660 - only 40 away from 700, which is my unofficial goal for 2010), but it's a start.

Swing on by and let me know what you think.

In the meantime, that's one thing checked off my list of frivolous distractions.

Let's see if I can't get to work on the important stuff, now...

APRIL 24 UPDATE - Well, I made tangible progress on the camp logo. I also just updated the book site again, with more cross-linking (D-G and T-Z books) and more Amazon links. Just need to keep chiseling away at the workload, but I feel like I might be getting somewhere. Almost.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Slipping Gears

Ergh... Be forewarned, this is another pointless, potentially whiny post intended to allow me to procrastinate rather than do something useful.

Well, March is almost over already. I can't say I accomplished much more this month than I did last month. Unfortunately, I can't use the February Bug as an excuse this time. Just can't seem to get my brain to lock into a gear.

Story editing has hit another lull, as I grind back and forth between actually editing my rough draft and simply rewriting it in scattershot, first-draft style. I keep telling myself that it's a necessary evil, to patch up serious plot structure and pacing issues, and not me falling back into old habits as a crutch, but I'm not at all sure that's the case. I want a finished second draft by November at the absolute latest, but the more I waver on whether or not I'm progressing, the less actual progress I'm making.

My sketchbook's stagnating, with barely a page a day getting filled; I want to be drawing more from my mind, maybe nail down a few book scenes and characters, but once again I find myself wavering between teach-yourself-to-draw studies and lousy-crud-from-the-imagination thumbnails. Neither seems to be getting me far. Right now, I've given priority to a project that has an actual deadline (it's for someone else; the annual camp logo - a.k.a. my annual skirting of potential copyright infringement hell.) Unfortunately, the theme is nothing to make the ol' pencil leap and dance across the paper. Sometimes, I wonder if the staff deliberately picks ideas without a smidgen of inherent interest. But, a job's a job, a theme's a theme, and like it or not it needs doing. Once it's done, I tell myself I jump back into my sketchbook with a vengeance, to make up for time lost wrestling with a theme that makes "Watching Paint Dry" seem fascinating and dynamic.

As for my other hopeful March projects - sprucing up my websites, rearranging my room, fooling with my budget program, researching Etsy, and so forth - well, somehow they all ended up piled on the back burner. How they got there, I don't know, as I honestly can't say I see anything significant on the front burner to displace them. But there they sit, cold and congealed, frosted with dust and specks of mold.

Hmm... maybe I ought to move cleaning the kitchen up a notch on the priority list...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Interlude with Daisy

Just a brief update to waste time while adjusting to the Missing Hour.

The February Bug has pretty much retreated to an occasional squeeze in the sinuses.  I finally felt secure enough to start up the Claritin again.  I didn't want anything to possibly interfere with my immune system while fighting the bug, and I have a vague, twisted idea that allergy medication might alter immune response, since allergies seem to be an overreaction of the immune system to unharmful stimuli.  My relatives, on the other hand, aren't so lucky.  My sister's ears are still clogged, and her sinuses and throat aren't done yet.  My mother was feeling better, but it's gone back to lurking in her throat again.  Hopefully, the danged thing clears out of the house soon.  Illness makes people cranky... well, crankier than usual.

I'm getting back on track with my various trivial goals in my trivial life.  I just made my first relatively major change in the story I'm editing, which feels much more productive than just opening the file and staring at random sections like I had been doing. (Whether or not the change helps, well, that's for Draft 3.) I still have some pacing issues to deal with.  I also have a vague idea that I can manipulate things so that the story doesn't need a sequel; has to do with relocating events in the finale, and possibly delaying them via a few more catastrophes.  I'll burn those bridges when I get there, though... right now, I've just started Chapter 9, where the main character has to recover from attempted murder and a close call with death by dragon fire.

Half the fun of writing is tormenting imaginary people.

Other than that, I can't say I have much to report.  Just thought I'd post to let all none of you know I'd shaken the worst of the bug.  I still never found February, though... I think it went wherever the Missing Hour goes after the time elves sneak into our houses and steal it from our clocks.

And the daisy?  Eh, I just shot the picture at a local park a few weeks ago.  Little daisies in the grass always mean springtime to me.  Mainly, though, I thought it would help dull the pain of trudging through a pointless blog post if there was a pretty picture to look at.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Missing Month

It's February 23.  In less than a week, it will officially be March.  I'm still waiting for my February.

The weather around here has been wavering between March and April for the past few weeks.  I've seen butterflies and bugs and blooming flowers.  I've woken to birdsong and sunlight.  I went for a walk where I didn't even need my heavy jacket.  Sometime in late January, we jumped clear past the rest of winter and wound up in spring.

February was also robbed by a nasty bug.  I don't know if it's a cold, a flu, or a curse from the sinus gnomes.  Whatever it is, this thing has torn through the whole family, and roughly a month after the first twinges in head and ear signaled its arrival, it still doesn't want to let go.  I even missed a day of work from this - and I do not call out of work if I am even remotely capable of bipedal locomotion.

I had plans for February.  I was going to make significant headway on story revisions.  I was going to update my book review website. (I have several reviews backed up on my book review blog, waiting to be archived.) I wanted to get more drums painted up and investigate alternative outlet sources.  I thought I'd start the long-overdue reorganization of my room.  Instead, the only major accomplishment of the past fortnight has been finally sleeping through the night without once considering taking a power drill to my sinuses and ear to relieve the horrific pressure.

Of all the months of the year, February's always been something of a runt.  It can't even muster 30 days, and it only gets 29 every four years.  Sure, it has a few holidays, but it's usually a nondescript, gray little stretch of time.  Most of us hardly notice it as it slips past, riding the tail end of winter.  But it's still a month, and to find so much of it gone is depressing.

Four days left... wonder if I can find my missing month before then...

UPDATE - Well, it's February 28, the last day of the month, and I can finally say I've accomplished something.

Brightdreamer Books has been updated.  I now officially have more than 650 book reviews posted on the site.

Okay, so we can't all accomplish big things, all right?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Picking Up the Beat

It's been well over a year since I sold a drum ornament.  I'd pretty much given up hope on them, and was rooting about uselessly in my brain for something else to try.  Then, a few weeks ago, the phoenix drum sold.  The person who bought it also asked for another drum: a snow leopard.  They even provided a reference picture.

It wasn't a great time to do a commission.  Various bugs were attacking various relatives.  I'd just seen Avatar, which derails one's artistic vision the way reading the perfect novel derails one's writing vision: in a thousand thousand years of finger-bleeding, eye-tearing practice, I don't think I could ever come up with a world as varied and beautiful as Pandora.  And it had been a year since I picked up a brush, let alone tried to paint with one.  But a commission was a commission, and I'd be lying if I said I couldn't use the money.

It took me two or three days to unearth my drum-making supplies, and another day to figure out what I still had and what I needed to replace. I was annoyed and disturbed about how much I'd forgotten about making drum ornaments, and how much I had to relearn on the fly.  Long story short, I got the thing done and delivered one day under my stated two-week deadline. (Whether or not it's been picked up yet, I haven't heard, but I'm happy knowing that I can still hit a deadline, even from such a flat-footed start.)  While I was at it, I decided to dust off the cobwebs - figuratively and literally - and do up a couple more drums.  I did a second snow leopard, this time from my own reference photo (because there was some initial miscommunication on the color of drum the client wanted, and I wanted my tail covered in any eventuality), and a special drum in honor of the upcoming Year of the Tiger.

I just finished the last one today, and plan to drop the two new drums off tomorrow.  I also plan to raise my prices by a few bucks... especially for the danged tiger.

For pictures, follow the links...

Snow Leopard (Commission): Front Back Close-up

Snow Leopard (Other): Front Back Close-Up

Year of the Tiger: Front Back Close-Up

I wish I could say I was 100% happy with them.  I wish I could say that, in a year of working on art and filling sketchbooks, I'd improved.  I wish I could say that the drums flew from my workbench on golden wings, with nary a frustration or misstep or hair-pulling scream of agony.  I wish I could say all that, and more, but I can't.

What I can say is that, while stringing and painting and gluing and beading, I learned something.  As aggravating as the process could be, I missed it.  I missed making physical objects with my art.  I missed making things with my hands.  I missed seeing an end result, rather than page after page after page of sketches.

I suppose this means that, in between filling more sketchbooks and editing my story and searching for extra income, I'll have to squeeze in making stuff at my workbench again.

Dang it.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Not the Best Way to Spend a Sunday

Today - or yesterday, I suppose, by now - as usual, we went over to visit Grandpa for lunch.  He seemed unusually tuned out, even for his recent baseline.  He was too tired to eat lunch.  He was too tired to stand up, and too tired to walk.  He was too tired to answer if he was feeling tired.

We ended up taking him to the local ER to be looked over.

Sitting in ER waiting rooms is never fun.  People come and go.  Snatches of other people's lives drift about, while yours sits in limbo waiting for news that never seems to come.  There's always a fish tank, though this ER's tank was about the least impressive saltwater tank I've seen in a medical facility.  There's always a TV, tuned to a station you would never watch in a million years at home but which keeps drawing your eye nevertheless as the hours crawl past.  A line of vending machines beckons with suspiciously unhealthy fare, and even books and playing cards.  I wound up buying a word search, not just to have something to do but because I was fascinated by the idea that I could buy a book from a vending machine. (Why don't we have something like this at work?  It could revolutionize the library business!  Or maybe not...)

We wandered down the hall, past pictures of rich people who enjoy having their photographs taken and nature images placed where few people will be able to properly appreciate them.  A small gift shop - closed at this hour - sold expensive handbags and jewelry in addition to junk candies, stuffed toys, and other generic cheering-up treats.  I had to wonder at the kind of person who, lingering in a hospital, thinks to buy a designer handbag and gold necklace.

It was hours before we got word back.  Grandpa's problems seemed to stem from bad dehydration.  In all likelihood, he's been ill and hasn't been willing or able to tell anyone. (Grandpa has been losing his words over the past few years; the synaptic connections between thought and speech just don't seem to work properly anymore, and as hard as it is to get any member of this family to speak about anything important, it's been exponentially harder to get him to engage in conversations longer than a half minute in duration.) The CAT scan ruled out a stroke - which we'd feared, given his sudden drop in activity level and inability to walk properly, not to mention waking up from his day-long doze in a state of evident agony yet being unable to recall pain when asked about it immediately after the fact - and all other tests were apparently normal.

So, despite the fact that Grandpa cannot reliably get out of his own chair anymore, the hospital sent him home for the night.  My uncle will likely be staying with him tonight and tomorrow.  After that... well, I think this proves that his days of living alone are over.  We've all known it was coming, if he lasted this long, but it's still a bit of a kick in the gut to actually see it dawning.

All in all, not the best way to spend a Sunday.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ups and Downs

Yesterday, the crane at work was pitching a Mercury-retrograde snitfit.  On the other hand, I got four breaks in five hours, and I found 12 pieces to the puzzle in the break room. (Bit of an aside: we have running puzzles in the break room to keep us from going crazy, and the current one - a 2000-piecer - has been fighting us for ages.  At this point, it's a grudge match... and it feels all the sweeter when a piece finally locks into place.  So a 12-piece day is really a big thing.)  So work was an up and down thing.

I finally sold that phoenix drum at the store, and got a request for another drum.  Unfortunately, I completely slacked off and didn't do more than stare at the story in revision.  An up and down day.

Today, the crane was much happier at work, enabling us to take a good swipe at the backlog we'd accumulated.  On the down side, I caught my pants on a protuding bit of metal and got a nice-sized rip in the leg.  Didn't actually get me - the only thing wounded was my dignity - but I had to use bandages to tape up the rip for the last hour of work. (I keep bandages with me on the job because I sometimes catch nails or pick up papercuts.  Never thought I'd have to use them for field repairs of clothing...)

This really has been an up and down week, in retrospect... and it still technically has one day to go.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stuck in the Sketchbook

Operation Story Revision has just hit Chapter 4.  I honestly thought I'd be further along by now.  After all, I got Chapter 1 rewritten in a day.

Or so I thought.

After rereading what I wrote, I decided that it was a weak opening.  To fix this, I went back and added a prologue, using something I hadn't mentioned until later in the original draft.  Then I decided the prologue needed some work to make it more interesting.

This made the first chapter seem even weaker, so I had to tweak it again.  Finally, I hit Chapter 2.

You guessed it, Chapter 2 meant I had to tweak Chapter 1 again.  And I rearranged parts of the new prologue.

I just finished Chapter 3 - or a version of Chapter 3 I choose to live with - and am doing my darnedest to keep from going back and nitpicking the previous two chapters and the prologue.

This is the kind of behavior that has kept me from finishing a second draft in ages.

I often think I'd do better if I had some sort of outline.  A nice chapter-by-chapter overview of what I want to happen.  I even tried it once.

Did it work?

I'll let you know if I find the outline.  And the story it was associated with.

They say that editing is a process.  One cannot think of a story in editing in the same way one thinks of it during its original creation.  The first draft is the rough sketch, maybe the color study.  Editing polishes it for public consumption, filling in details and removing tangents and perfecting composition.  The final picture may vary radically from the rough sketch, but only as a result of the revisions; it doesn't do to keep going back and scratching away at a sketchpad when one has a canvas to fill with paint.  At some point, the sketchpad has to go away, or at least be relegated to spot-sketches to solve specific problems that crop up in the polishing process, and the canvas itself must be tackled.  So, I've been trying to think of editing the story as I'd think of drawing a picture, moving from the gesture studies of the NaNoWriMo-spawned rough draft to - hopefully - a presentable work of art.

Unfortunately, I haven't finished a picture in ages, either...

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Gentlemen, Start Your Spellchecks...

Computer, note-taking materials, and flash drive?  Check.

Cats asleep, relatives dispersed?  Check.

Worst of the year-starting bug over with?  Check.

No clue what I'm doing, but determined to do it anyway?  Check.

Running out of things to do to procrastinate? Check.

Okay.  It's officially Revision Time.

The monster that came into being during NaNoWriMo 2009 is about to be dismembered, gutted, reassembled, clipped, scrubbed, and polished to within an inch of its life.  How long will it take?  I don't know; I've never successfully edited a second draft before.  But, before 2009, I'd never written a rough draft in under a month before.  As the saying goes, there's a first time for everything. (I wonder who said that first?) Online estimates indicate that a full revision of a 50,000+ word draft will take about a year, unless one devotes every waking minute to the task.  My hope is to have something presentable before next November.  We'll see how that goes...

I already did the initial read-through.  As I suspected, it needs serious help.  The first step is writing down what I have... that I want to keep, at any rate.  Character descriptions, places, world history notes, that sort of thing.  Then, with these notes on hand, I'll start the rewrite proper.  I expect I'll end up doing most of it from scratch, with the first draft serving mostly as inspiration.

Well, I suppose I ought to stop blogging about revisions and actually get started with them.

Away I go...

Friday, January 01, 2010

The 2010 Resolution List

For accountability... or a laugh in 2011, at the very least.  Since the "bonus" idea seemed to help last year, I'm trying it again this year; mainly, they serve to clarify what I want out of each resolution.
  1. Increase Monetary Income.
    Bonuses: Sell something online; Investigate/obtain business license; Start some sort of long-term investment.
  2. Decrease Personal Clutter.
    Bonuses: Reorganize my room; Reorganize my workspace.
  3. Spend at least 1 hour daily, 5x/week creating.
    Bonuses: Start working with color; Work with Wacom more often; Improve digital art skills; Learn 3D graphics; Resume penny whistle practice; Do at least one Daily Sketch Group (ConceptArt.org) per month.
  4. Finish at least a rough draft of three stories.
    Bonuses: Edit a story into marketworthy shape; Send a story to a beta reader; Submit a story for contest and/or publication; Win NaNoWriMo again in 2010.
  5. Exercise in some form at least 3x/weekly.
    Bonuses: Increase walking range; Healthily lose at least one belt notch of weight.
I suppose the first thing I ought to do to start the year off right would be to head off to bed. (And tomorrow I get to sleep in... nice way to start a new year.  Gotta love workin' for the library!)