Sunday, January 21, 2018

Signs of spring?

Not even close. None the less, Calgary chinooks soften winter's edge, and sometimes produce interesting scenes. I like how light changes going through ice, but it's difficult to catch in a photo. Something to work on.

I always admire the optimism of the plants during longer chinooks. Sometimes they start growing, and poor Linda is shrieking, "No, it's a trap! Don't grow just yet!"

One AMA question rolled in, thank you, and while I'm working on that, the door is open for more. (hint, hint)

Friday, January 19, 2018

One (big) thing worse, one thing better

So yeah, there were more bombs in the timeline than expected. That's what happens when you only work on one book at a time, when there are several books and they all have a common timeline. I've got the major events in the software now, most with a "WHEN??" to indicate I need to nail down the date. I'm already seeing connections and making notes of things to write.

Mostly Bone and Elixir are good, just a few minor timeline tweaks. It's everything thats in between that is all muddled up. At least I know what the problem is, and can start thinking about fixing it. Once done I'm hoping that some of the other issues will resolve themselves. So I guess in an odd sense, the worse leads to better.

The actually better thing was the swim today. Hot tub first. Then 500 m or so easy, and a bit of drill. I saw a drill where the swimmer touched their hip, shoulder, and head on every stroke. They made it look graceful. I didn't. I had the lifeguards watching me, wondering if they were going to be needed. Not.

Then more hot tub while the pools cleared out and the swim club kids went to school or whatever. Picked a lane and chatted briefly with swim buddies I hadn't seen in a while. Then banged out 500 m in 9 minutes flat without even really trying, everything feeling really smooth. That's a big step forward, and a reward for consistency.  Now to start building some distance again. Water ran afterward. Then more hot tub.

There have been no Ask Me Anything questions. None. Zip. I figure either my readers already know as much as they want to know, or they are horrified at the possibilities of the answers. So this is the last call for AMA.

Lately going out and trying to get planned photos isn't going so well. There have been a few taken along the way, almost by accident, that worked out sort of ok. Here's one of them.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The downfall of being a pantser, revisited

Lately I've been working on the never ending book projects. As one reader said, it's readable but it's mostly rainbows and unicorn poop. Someone wants to make money out of all this, or prevent it from happening for their own reasons. They are the good guy in their head, so what's their story? That has led to a chunk of writing to build conflict into The Sweet Elixir and the other works.

Plus more information about setting and character descriptions, and the actions taking place. Some writers are great at action and you only notice later they never talk to each other. I'm way better at dialogue. Maybe I've watched too many movies or read too many books where the characters talk to each other in elegantly appointed libraries. And yes, one of my characters has a lovely library.

Before I get started you might wish to review the earlier blogs on this topic, here and here. I did a bit of work closing brackets, and that led to a nice book ending scene, providing you don't mind a gap of about 5 or 6 years from the previous chapter.

So I started on the conflict part and have bogged down several times. This guy is a planner and organizer. The thinker behind the scenes. He spends lots of time at a computer working on databases and spreadsheets, thinking. He attends meetings, reviews reports, and pushes his subordinates (not minions) around. There is a word for all that in most readers minds, and that is BORING! I got him out to the field hoping to find a bit more action, and there's some nice scenes.

But this is a slippery guy. He likes to fade into the background, and as a consequence, there are other interesting characters coming forward. A digression here, we are currently watching a fun show called The Librarians. One of the recurring characters in season two is Professor Moriarty, of Sherlock Holmes fame. He made a great villain; better than the titular villain. I'd love to see him again in future episodes, but I don't think it happens. He was smart, capable, charming, and he certainly thought of himself as the the good guy under difficult circumstances. I'm thinking a combination of him, and the Ba'al character in Stargate (but with less ego) as the template for my conflict guy. But the problem with a smart bad guy is that they don't do stupid things, and don't stand around talking when the time has come for an action.

On one hand I learned a bit more about some of those other characters, but it started going down an unrelated path that I think is a separate book entirely. Plus I've run into a couple other problems in maintaining internal logic to the story, one of which has me stalled.

One plot device that infuriates me is obvious blindness or wilful stupidity (and vice versa), so I'm not going to do it to my (hypothetical) readers. I suddenly realized one day that if character X is observant enough to know certain stuff, he certainly would have noted that certain stuff about character Y, which kills dead a certain scene I'd used as a building block, and everything downstream of it. I either have to explain why character X didn't notice when it is entirely to his advantage to have done so, or rewrite the scene, which leads to it's own complications I'm noodling through.

The other is internal timelines. I wrote a nice scene showing how one character meets up with other characters and gets them to do something for her, and builds for a later scene. Problem is that as written it is simultaneously too late and too early for related events that I've already written. I've talked about this before and used some software to help sort things out. Now that I've sort of written myself into a corner I've decided to revisit that software and see if I can't plot my way out again.

However that leads to a couple other things. After the great music update I started down the path of updating software on my various devices, which is still in progress. None the less, I fired up Aeon Timeline on the big screen and started reviewing. It's sort of interesting looking at software again after several years.

The timeline is mostly focused on The Sweet Elixir and that's ok. I can add an arc for the book(s) I've tentatively titled Bone To Elixir, and while I'm at it I should do The Bone in the Digester, since there are complicated things happening in the background across all the books. I'm just now thinking about the best way to do that. It turns out there is an updated version of this software available, and I need to decide if the current version is good enough, or if the newer version has features I want/need.

So now I'm looking at going through the various stories living on the laptop and marking the key scenes in Timeline on the big screen. The trouble is that while they are sequential, I don't have a specific starting date, other than it being any time within a range of several years, which isn't terribly helpful. The conflicts I've discovered will be obvious, and I can only hope that there aren't more revealing themselves along the way. Although in the long term maybe that's best. Even my big screen isn't big enough.

Then comes the tricky part. Making the revisions in Timeline to smooth out the inconsistencies, and then writing the actual scene out and fixing it in the text. This has worked for me on a couple of occasions, where I marked a meet cute scene, then managed to write it out. Yay me! (That couple married, house sat for another couple for a while, and were looking for a house and eventually pregnant with twins as the story ended. Just in case you were wondering.) A couple other ones I marked out on the timeline, and then it went sideways when I tried to write it out. There's some features I'll need to figure out to track the changes to make sure I haven't missed anything. It might be best to start a new version of the various books. Hmmm.

Normally I like to start writing, channel the characters involved, be open to the unexpected, and see what words appear on screen. It leads to discovering interesting things about characters and the situations. The problem is those scenes don't always go together very well. Or at all, hence my current difficulties. You can't let the characters have their own way entirely; that leads to vast piles of unicorn poop, but you can't force them into something that is not them. They'll sulk, and the perceptive readers will say to themselves, wait a second that's not all what character x would do.

In the meantime, I have to cope with this, and the ever so cute snoring noises they produce. There is no place in the house that is silent once Curtis gets started. If I'm even the slightest bit tired, I want to join them for a nap.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Scouting under a dull sky

Some days your photo sense just tingles. The light looks nice, or you've got a great subject lined up, or you have an idea that you just know will work out.

Monday was not one of those days for me. I wanted to get out with the camera, but the sky was dull, and I didn't have a particular place in mind at first. Then I thought of that lonely tree in Fish Creek, and decided to walk around that area some more, mainly as a scouting trip to see if I could come up with some interesting ideas. Then I remembered Ralph Klein park, and wondered if the wetland would freeze over, or if there was enough flow that it would stay open. It was frozen. The building was closed.

I took a scenic route back to the house, and scoped out the pathway near Glenmore and Heritage, but nothing really compelling jumped out at me.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Macro Monday 18, red but not wine diamonds

I got these images while experimenting with a macro project. That first one far exceeds anything I'd expected. These are not extreme macro shots, only about 2 or 3x with 68 mm of extension tubes on, just because they happened to be on the camera anyways.

Is this a moon floating above Jupiter? Or something much much smaller?

I do have the shot that shows where these came from, but I almost don't want to show you, yet. Maybe if enough of you ask.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Drool alert! You may need a napkin

Such a tasty day. I don't often blog about food, which is sort of amazing given how good a cook Linda is, but today you have to suffer through me burbling about food.

After the brutal crushing disappointment of finding the Repsol hot tub out of action we settled in for a nice swim. Yes, my swim mojo is coming back. Yes, BRBE is swimming faster. There were several water polo games going on in the other pool, so it wasn't exactly a peaceful tranquil swim like Sunday so often is.

On the way home I was invited to have an espresso poured over foamed chocolate milk. That's a new one for me, so how could I refuse? No fancy machine, only a nice model of the moka pot we used in Venice. It was lovely to sip the coffee and chat. No rush. I think I have to get one of those, and see if our grinder will grind coffee that fine.

Home and things are smelling wonderful. We had lamb shank prepared several different ways over Christmas, and it was melt in your mouth each time. We got to wondering if there was such a thing as bison shank, since we love bison. I hadn't considered that such a shank might be the size of our stove, and thus difficult to cook.

Our bison supplier showed us some bison butchered as osso buco, and I was willing to try that. Once a while back in Halifax I had a wonderful meal of venison on a bed of risotto, and mentioned we hadn't had that for a while. As it turns out Linda has never cooked risotto the proper way and was happy to try.

So that amazing smell was the bison simmering away in a sauce of tomatoes, carrots, celery, shallots, and some herbs and spices to taste, with some red wine and chicken stock splashed in. I had to zoom back out for some parmesan cheese, and it was smelling even better than before. I don't think Linda quite appreciated how good it smelled, not having come in from outside. My tummy was beginning to rumble in appreciation.

Risotto has to be stirred constantly, and when it was done the bison was done. The bison and risotto went together perfectly! The bison was fall off the bone tender, and the risotto was firm but creamy. Some red wine with the meal, and I was in heaven. Saskatoon berry pie from Yum bakery for dessert.

You can't see the risotto in that photo, and believe me it was hard to pause even long enough for an iPhone shot, and I wasn't about to rearrange it. It's not really a kilo of meat, though it looks it. There's a big chunk of bone that went back into the sauce to be simmered some more, in preparation for the next meal.

We don't eat out all that much because we (and by we I mostly mean Linda) can produce a meal the equal of all but the fanciest places, at a fraction of the cost. I will stack my BBQ rack of lamb against any restaurant in the city. Once you've had one of our bison burgers, you'll never go back to a fast food place again. Plus we're home, so we can have two glasses of wine if we want, and not worry about the drive. And no, I don't mind doing dishes.

I just zoomed out to the library to pick up an item on hold, and when I got home it still smelled like dinner. I'm almost hungry again.

Here's the two recipes Linda started with, then modified a little along the way.
Osso Buco


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Why I like physical media

I'm talking books, and discs of music or video files. Somehow along the way we have accumulated many of these things. A great many. Anyone who has visited the wine cellar, and turned around has been confronted with the very great many books. I used to know how many there were because I kept a list for insurance purposes. That is now fragmented across several technologies so I can no longer easily say how many books we have. I don't have the faintest idea how many CDs, DVDs, we have.

(insert a photo of all the CD's and DVD's.) (You'll have to use your imagination. I'm not up to taking an artistic photo of dust bunnies. I mean plastic cases.)

The CD's are a little less obvious, but they have recently come to light. Do any of you remember iPods? Better yet, lets go back in time a bit more. Tape, as in cassette, 8 track, reel to reel, betamax, VHS. Record players in both 33 and 45 RPM complete with different hole sizes and adapters. Plus 78's if you really reach, and probably some others that I don't know of. People bought these physical things in stores.

All were a way of listening to music or watching video. People would create their own mix tapes on cassette, and it was a huge innovation when you could carry around a battery powered 'portable' player. The first video tape machines were hugely expensive, and one could buy a lifetime membership in video clubs to save on the astronomical cost of the tapes. I somehow doubt any of those clubs are around now.

Life goes on. Apple wasn't the first to sell a digital audio device, but the first iPod, 'with 1,000 songs in your pocket' was a major game changer. Do people still say sell like hotcakes? The iPods sold better than that. People like carrying their own music around, which baffles me a bit. It's nice, but not that important.

At the same time came a program to copy music from a CD into a database to be copied onto iPod and successive devices. That's about the last time I understood what was happening, and it's become much more complicated. I don't intend to go into that.

Eventually I got an iPod and ripped some music to it. Then at least some of the music went onto my phone so I didn't carry around the iPod anymore, not that I used it that much. It normally lived on a little player and blasted out the tunes for bike spin workouts. Lest you think I'm a hopeless Luddite, my phone can talk to a small device that wirelessly plays music directly into my ears, which is nice in the office, though it sometimes means asking people to stop talking for a second while I turn the music off.

Our last car held 6 CD's in a carrousel. It was great to see several USB ports in the new Fit. I dug out the old iPod so Linda would have music when she drove. That didn't turn out so well. It didn't want to run in the cold, and when it restarted it was always on a song I hated. A few times I couldn't get it to go at all, even though it was always plugged in so the battery should be charged.

Eventually I got sick of it and started researching if I could plug a USB stick with music on it directly into the USB port. That worked! I was amazed. So I spent some time cleaning up the iTunes library, mainly deleting songs and artists that I didn't want to listen to anymore. That got the size down to 20 GB or so, and I copied that onto a big USB, plugged it into the car and had music! Nearly instantly as opposed to the long start up time for the iPod, and it even remembers where it is.

Then I realized something was weird. Mostly starting with artists who's name began with R, up to the end of the alphabet, much of the music wasn't there. A few other artists before R. Sometimes iTunes could see the name of the album, but there was no actual music file. Not all of them, and I couldn't see a pattern. Most of those I still have the disc and decided rather than try to find them electronically and fix it, I'd just recopy the disc. There's lots of space on that hard drive, and lots of room left on the USB.

Well. One red CD holder that used to live in the old car, two drawers full, two revolving cd storage units, three fabric box thingies, and one big cardboard box, all full of CDs. Sorting through and finding the desired CDs wasn't too bad, but there are also a bunch that hadn't been imported and I like the music, so I added them to the pile.

I saw lots of discs that I remember buying, and usually I remember what the music is and don't want to hear it again. And then there are some discs that I have no idea what the music is, other than the genre. I shake my head at some of it. Aside from an attack of the sneezes from the dust, it's going ok. I am choosing to be amused when iTunes insists that some files cannot be found, yet when I put that CD in, asks if I want to replace the existing files. Sheesh. Just between you and me, iTunes needs a major rewrite.

All this is happening on a 10 year old computer because it's the only one with an optical drive. Well, the old Cube still functions, sort of, but putting the digital files on that is pointless, there is no way to get them off again. The new iMac and laptop have no optical drive. I guess they figure if you want to copy or create a physical disc, you will go buy an external disc drive.

Don't get me wrong, there are advantages to digital. The file itself takes essentially no space, in that 1 file or a bazillion are available on the device. It is usually easy to copy a file from one device to another, with implications both good and bad that I won't get into. Sorting, playlists, and all sorts of metadata are possible if you're into it.

But, he said.

There are some nasty surprises to digital files. You may think it is sitting there all cozy in it's ones and zeros, but it is every so gradually atrophying. That file format may become obsolete, which has happened to me several times in the text world. Worst of all from my perspective, is that your digital file might 'go away' without warning because of licensing issues.

Just because you bought a digital copy of some music or a movie and think it lives on your device, doesn't make it true. What you've bought is a code that lets you download it again when you want, unless something happens along the way, and they decide your country or region isn't allowed to see that data anymore. Movies are bad for that. I'm sufficiently old fashioned that I think there is a cost to downloading unless I'm home using my WIFI. I do not want to be downloading music on a cellular data plan.

A book is always a book. It can be found on a shelf fairly easily by looking. It's even easier if there is a consistent shelving system. A file can still be there on the computer, but it can be hard or even impossible to find. Maybe the title or creator isn't quite as you remembered, or there's been some slight computer corruption that renders it 'invisible.'

Yes, of course books decay as well. I've some books that are nearly 100 years old and the paper is going yellow. With care they can still be read, should I desire to read the un-Bowdlerized versions of the early Hardy Boys novels. They might go another 100 years before falling apart completely. With better paper and some care with oxygen and light, books can last for centuries. There is no digital technology so far that can make that claim.

I can take my book anywhere in the world or even to space and read it. If I bring the disc and playing device(s) and whatever adapters are needed for the power supply, I can read or watch my book or movie. Some people like the feel of a book in their hands, or the look of the rows and rows of books in their library.

Books in particular need no batteries, no device to play them back. Pick it up and read wherever your heart desires. Just don't drop it in the bath. Books and discs can be lent to a friend, or be sold to a used book store. None of these things are remotely true for a digital file.

Still, anyone want an 80's vintage set of Encyclopedia Brittanica?


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