500 Words

An interesting year closes tomorrow night. 

A year ago I was completely involved in my quest to post something daily here on the blog. I did so, and not so surprisingly (at least to me) I havenʼt even posted 150 times this year (considerably less than half the possible days). Things change?

A year ago I had no connection to the USDA nor any awareness of the emerald ash borer. Boy, did that situation change. And I am looking forward to renewing that relationship (both with the bug-hunt and the governmental agency), Congressional asininity permitting.

Last year I was trying to dictate as many words to the computer as I could. Just now I am excited about uploading handwriting into editable text.

A year ago, we had nearly (or more than) a foot of snow on the ground. This year everything is gray and brown — bare and possibly more depressing than a white winter (of course, before the last three years, we went through a phase of winters that often had no snow until January, or very close thereto).

A year ago, thanks to a Christmas gift, I was listening nearly nonstop to the Allman Brothers (again, after an almost forty-year gap). I donʼt think Eat a Peach or Live at the Fillmore has played since April. Lately, not having been able to afford the complete (huge) Europe ʼ72 live Grateful Dead box, I have been listening a lot to the two of those concerts I did purchase. And some new/old Rolling Stones — The Brussels Affair, pretty good music. And (potential blog topic here) Joe Grushecky. Yes, Mozart, Miles Davis and Bob Marley, too. Clapton (in various guises). Bach. A 2011 Christmas gift means Jefferson Airplane, as well.

A year ago I imagined I would have completed my NaNoWriMo 2010 novel, and I just realized I havenʼt added a word in the last twelve months (and my performance for November this year was so crapulous I know I will be discarding just about all those words). Sad.

A year ago I was hopeful that the relatively new phone-line filter Qwest technicians had installed would make my internet experience smooth. As I recently reported — no such luck. (Thanks for nothing, CenturyLink. And by the way, my bill still says I am paying for “high-speed internet with MSN.”  Didnʼt MSN die?*)

I felt pretty self-satisfied, a year ago, and optimistic about myself and my writing. Then I wasted what time I could have given to writing until I was working ten hours a day, on the road. And then I made only feeble efforts to get the gusto back. 

I had no big new yearʼs resolutions in mind a year ago. But I feel as though I had better make some seriously significant changes now (at least I have been getting my large and lazy arse out of bed for some time hitting the streets these past mornings — but weʼll just have to see if that reluctant effort persists).

A year ago things to me looked pleasingly bright. Right now, the view seems pretty bleak.

So why am I smiling?

* MSN did die. I got an e-mail announcement of the demise/change. The software no longer works on Janetʼs Windoze laptop; she has to get her e-mail using Hotmail (on Firefox). The web siteʼs free. To anyone, whether they pay money unnecessarily to CenturyLink or not — disbelievers should just click the link above. (I really do have a long phone call to endure, complaining, soon.)

Okay. With the footnotes, this is definitely more than just 500 words.

And the much-delayed explanation behind this recent flurry of posts is coming tomorrow (really; it would have been today, as previously promised, but I couldnʼt count).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Gramatically Speaking (and — another favorite theme — looking backward)

clip art image

Todayʼs post arises directly from yesterdayʼs. And as yesterdayʼs got a little bloated with extraneous complaints (about CenturyLink) and (in picture captions in particular) additional information about the Echo smartpen (which I am using to compose longhand right now), Iʼll try to keep this short and as sweet as possible for this human.

Yesterday I originally composed this sentence: “A bit larger (wider/fatter) than a normal pen, I find it forces me to write almost legibly,” which I corrected before publication as “A bit larger (wider/fatter) than a normal pen, it forces me, I find, to write almost legibly.” And I wondered if you, Gentle Reader, knew why the alteration was important (and necessary).

The difference was required because of the nature of a dependent clause. Thatʼs a clause (words that grammatically could be a sentence,* having both a subject and verb in the appropriate relationship) used to describe or “modify” a word in another independent clause, almost invariably —  because of how our language operates — describing the word right before the dependent clause starts. “I am writing the sentence which you are reading” is an example. “I am writing the sentence” is the main clause, and “which you are reading” is the dependent clause modifying “sentence,” telling you which sentence I am discussing. (I am keeping this discussion simple because in reality there are many kinds of subordinate clauses.)

In yesterdayʼs sentence, “it forces me to write almost legibly” is the clause dependent on (describing) the noun ”pen.” The “I find” is an interjected clause,** intended in its turn to modify the dependent clause (“it forces me to write almost legibly” in case you had forgotten). And if placed in its original position, immediately after “pen,” then “I think” becomes the modifier dependent on “pen,” meaning it and “pen” should somehow be related*** (and theyʼre not). “Pen” is the antecedent for “it” in the actual dependent clause (and itʼs that pronoun/antecedent relationship — between “it” and “pen” — that creates or permits the dependent clause to work and have meaning, just like “which” and “sentence” in the example I invented in the previous paragraph).

Short and sweet — “I think” couldnʼt follow “pen” logically/syntactically because that position is where the actual “it forces me to write almost legibly” clause had to fit. So in revision I did with “I think” what it grammatically did: inserted it interjectionally within the clause it modifies.

(And with that utterly roundabout and probably unclear explanation, I have created the necessary post for today.****)

* Actually my example of a subordinate/dependent clause (“which you are reading”), that I present toward the end of the paragraph, could never be a sentence on its own because it begins with a subordinating, relative pronoun. (So my example isnʼt exactly the same kind of subordinate clause as the one I used yesterday.)

** a third clause, and the shortest one of the sentences involved, having only a subject and a verb in it

*** and the meaning would be that I am a pen, and Iʼm not a pen, please.

**** And I will explain tomorrow (or one soon thereafter) what my fascination with having a post a day this week is all about.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Toys (and Problems)

The 8½-by-11 inch notebook that I have not yet opened, preferring to fill the starter, I think, first (see starter directly below). The special notebooks provide on each page — actually each spread — controls which one accesses by tapping the pen on the printed control items, visible also in the starter notebook image below. I saved the images fairly large so that you may, by clicking on them, observe details.

I could have gone into more detail about our Christmas celebration yesterday.* I thought about it, briefly, as I was editing (and slightly expanding) what I had originally written. But then CenturyLink kept cutting out my internet connection (predictably — no surprise, there, because my Internet Disservice Provider** leaves me high and dry, disconnected, offline at least a half dozen times each day), and I realized I hadnʼt actually asked my family for their permission to “appear” on the blog. Finally, I sympathetically realized that you, Gentle and Imposed-upon Readers, had probably somewhat more than you really ever wanted on my Christmas holiday.

But I could have detailed the entire twenty minutes (and somewhat more) that the family actually took exchanging gifts. Why? Because I had recorded the events, using a new toy that had finally arrived just after December began — my Livescribe Echo smartpen, designed to record audio and digitally remember what I write for later computer use. (It was my splurge purchase out of my summer salary this year, although I really shouldnʼt have splurge purchases of any kind.)

The Echo smartpen (in the middle, I hope obviously) with a standard Zebra or two for size comparison. A plastic tip covers the sensitive ink cartridge that serves to activate the penʼs smart functions, and if you click for the enlarged image, you can almost see the speakers/microphone built into the pen for recording audio. There is also a screen which indicates by LED the time and date and other functions.

And unlike my CenturyLink internet connection, the pen works fine. A bit larger (wider/fatter) than a normal pen, it forces me, I find, to write almost legibly*** (and legibly enough that the  associated handwriting-to-digital-text software**** actually can transcribe what I write into editable digital text at about 90-95% accuracy — which is better than my apparent mumbling has accomplished yet with speech-to-text using Dragon Dictate). Even just experimenting so far, I have done really well turning my script into digital text pretty easily (perhaps today I will attempt to do that for the blog).

The recording aspect is intended mostly to capture lectures and meetings (with notes — the audio being linked to the text or doodles one writes down in the special notebooks). I thought my smartpen might help me when my thoughts are running widely and rapidly ahead of my fingers and pen, writing. So far, that situation hasnʼt arisen, although I fell asleep last night imagining myself capturing the conversations all around me in, say, a Barnes & Noble Starbucks coffee area as I sat sipping a decaf-skim quad latte and composing the next adventures of Søren and Judah.

The starter notebook (roughly A4 size?) and protective cover (protective both for the notebook and most importantly, for the pen) included in my purchase. This is the one that I have been using so far. Inside the notebook cover are further controls, including a calculator and access buttons for status items and other settings — plus the NavPlus cross (also visible to the far bottom left above), which one could draw for oneself anywhere any time, used to get to uploaded smartpen software and menu items.

Except for the additional and continuous expense of buying the special notebooks necessary for the audio records and script transcriptions to operate correctly, I think the pen is pretty nice. (Oh, yes, you also have to buy the special ink cartridges that fit the pen. But I thought ahead, slightly, and bought some notebooks and refills when I bought the pen.) And I used it to write down my annual record of what Christmas gifts The Lovely One and I receive, so this year I also have an audio record of what was going on as I wrote (a rather self-conscious one on my part, admittedly).

The only problem I have is that my pen wonʼt register itself online (using the Livescribe Desktop and Connect software***** that automatically starts up when I attach the pen via USB for a charge and uploading of my most recent documents). Unlike some software and hardware companies (and ISPs**), the Livescribe technical support team has been industrious in trying to help me with the problem. Unfortunately, although I have reset my pen and downloaded and reinstalled the software again (and downloaded and installed two other bits of software not generally provided to the public), the pen still wonʼt register. I fill in my personal information (which by now the program and Livescribe know), but when I click the Continue button, nothing happens. Ever.

So far no cure (which means as of yesterday when I tried the latest fix). Very puzzling (and really only frustrating because I canʼt acquire my “free” full subscription to Evernote that came with the pen unless I register the pen). But kudos to Livescribe for actually trying.

Maybe tomorrowʼs post (when I should explain why I am seeking to post daily by yearʼs end, except, if you read on to the end, through the endnotes, I have another plan in mind by the time I finished editing this post) will be created by handwriting…

* I know: youʼre glad I didnʼt.

The picture is from my Chronories logs for last Thursday. Although it was a very bad day overall, the CenturyLink performance was just about average. And CenturyLink kicked me offline again (#4 for 12/27/2011) as I tried to upload this picture today for this post.

** CenturyLink, of course. (I grow more and more certain that our problems here in Our Town result from the ancient [copper] telephone wires that contemporary telecommunications companies want to use for far more data than such wires could ever serve, not to mention the switching and relay posts and such that really, really are antiquated and inappropriate. And yet, we pay here in the rural Midwest the same rates, pretty much, as optical fibre cable subscribers in the big urban centers… Not exactly appropriate. Or fair. When they were still Qwest, the company did assign technicians to install a house-wide filter to help my service; however, it never made much difference, really, and in recent months, the whole situation has just gotten worse. …But probably all this is another blog entirely.)

The picture to the right indicates just one day (and for CenturyLink a pretty average day) of my (tastefully edited-by-blurring) frustration at having an internet connection.

*** I had to revise that sentence from A bit larger (wider/fatter) than a normal pen, I find it forces me to write almost legibly.” Do you realize why?  — As I havenʼt written a post on grammar and usage in a very long time, Iʼll tell you tomorrow (even, or especially, if you did know why).

**** MyScript 

***** Both of which, contrary to some online reviews, donʼt seem buggy on a Mac (except probably for my registration issue).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Winner (Kind of, Partially, Not Really IMHO)

Although I struggled to write anything, and although a good part of what I did write was, um, “garp,” my NaNaWriMo 2011 experience has ended happily and, officially, successfully. Just check that meter to the right (which I will delete in a few more days) or, more permanently, that NaNoWriMo 2011 Winner’s Badge toward the bottom of the second column.

Or this…

My Official Certificate

I wasted most of my time most of the days this past month (without exaggeration — I really did, just as I slipped through the first months of 2011 fruitlessly), but with blushing and partial success I made some important progress on the horror story (including a detailed calendar of events for James Arkham and others in 1993-94). Unfortunately, just like my efforts last year on Slaves to the Lesser Moon, the taleʼs not done. How utterly like me.

I would feel a lot more successful if I believed that every word really counted (this year) and that I might (someday… ever) finish these long items.

Yes, faithful readers (who may actually remember other comments I have made on my partial success this year), much of what I wrote may never actually get used,* but 51916 sleazy words later,** the month of November draws to a close. Now I have weeks of completion and revision ahead of me. But first, I think I may take a little vacation/digression/diversion for the writing topic that was drawing my attention when the month began and kept distracting me throughout these past twenty-eight days — Søren and Judah.***

And yes, a gentle and (for me, at least) enjoyable review of the excellent time The Lovely One and I enjoyed in Budapest. I think that starts tomorrow…

See you then (so to speak).

* “May,” ha! Probably will not get used.

** NaNoWriMoʼs count (52174), which may include chapter numbers and titles and suchlike, runs a bit higher than the count I was keeping in Scrivener. I feared the goal count was higher than I might end up with after compilation, so I kept going (necessarily, not just worriedly). And I need to keep going.

*** My first big project, commencing today and tomorrow, is going to be finishing the dictation of handwritten text for that first of the interlocking Sepharad stories (and the part of story #2 that I have already handwritten). Dragon Dictate and my microphones have had it too easy (as have I) for far too long. (Besides, one of the two versions I have composed of our first days on vacation — along with most of our Alaska trip, 2010, too — is handwritten and in need of dictation into digital reality, as well.)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Thanksgiving Aftermath

Wow. Nearly the entire month of November has slipped away without even a breath of a post here. I wish I could say that I have been writing diligently for NaNoWriMo, but even though my word-count (now illustrated in the bright new, but sadly belated widget to the right) is pretty close to the norm, I have mostly just wasted my time (still) this month. (And I know full well that a good slew of what I have written and counted toward that total is worthless and I will probably never use it. Sad to say, but bitterly true.)

The box set iTunes is frustrating me about right now.

Anyway, The Lovely One is busily decorating for Christmas today (as per annum), my crapulous iMacʼs optical drive repeatedly refuses to acknowledge or read the final three disks from The Jimi Hendrix Experience Winterland box set (does anyone else think Apple does that — makes their hardware/software refuse to load CDs — deliberately to drive iTunes users to buy/download from that damnable store?*),and I have been raking (yet again — umpteenth time, again) to clear the oak leaves, originating across the street, from our yard. I only got the eastern side and half the back yard raked (and another mostly full truckload of leaves delivered to the dump site) before concluding the windʼs just too strong (damn southerly gale) to keep at it longer — much to your delight/misery, readers.

However, updating my word count with NaNoWriMo today reminded me to see about widgets they provide, and finding many, I placed one into the sidebars. And that procedure made me realize that I havenʼt written a word since the first of the month for good old Wakʼs Blog. So here are a few words.

I do have some parts of a travelogue on our Budapest trip completed, and I will upload those, or words very like those, as a post or two over the next few days, along with some pictures. Otherwise, having not eaten more than some soda crackers — a few with cheese — today, I had better keep this short to be able to help Janet make supper from the leftovers we snatched home from her mother yesterday. (Yum — both for the original Thanksgiving feast and the cold and/or reheated leftovers today and whenever after.)

I hope everyone felt appropriately thankful yesterday, and that those who went shopping all night/today enjoyed themselves (my beloved and I might venture into a store by tomorrow or Sunday). And now I must try to create a Christmas-gift suggestion list for my family, to get in the old e-mail ASAP.

Merry weekend, all!

* Personally, for every time a CD wonʼt load, I schedule not buying anything from the iTunes store. Itʼs around 576 albums I wonʼt buy from Apple right now…

And, yes, any suggestions on how to make the optical drive actually work (and not just kick a valid CD back out) would be gratefully appreciated. ASAP.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

…and weʼre off!

Supposedly, as the picture-title indicates, writer at work (maybe) with presumed thinking cap on…

Itʼs the first of November. This fact shocked me this morning.

Strangely, even though I was admittedly aware that yesterday was Halloween (no matter that here in Our Town the powers-that-be always see fit to have the kids go around trick-or-treating on any day near the end of October that isnʼt actually Halloween — this year on Sunday), I had an actual moment of light-bulb-over-head, smack-the-noggin awareness of the date at about 10:00 AM (while reading the TLS from about a month ago, the issue with John Speke on the cover) that, “Good grief, todayʼs November 1.” Followed about five minutes later by, “NaNoWriMo starts.”

I hadnʼt even registered my novel yet.

Duh.

And I still had to rake leaves and mow the yard, too. That was my plan for Tuesday/today (after all, itʼs crystalline-clear blue skies and 70° today; itʼs going to rain and the temperatureʼs going to drop a couple dozen degrees tomorrow).

So I did. (Rake and mow, that is.) The job(s) took me until 1:30. I hadnʼt even turned on the computer for the day yet. Once I did, and once I checked e-mail and Facebook newsfeed, reading several articles and such that popped up in one place or another, and dealt with a few practical matters of household finance, it was 4:15.

Surely too late to start a novel this year. Surely…

But I pressed on, logged into NaNoWriMo and set up my novel. Even though I had spent most of yesterday (including half-dreams part of last night) brain-writing Søren-and-Judah stuff (and realizing I have a big travelogue on Budapest to write, if only for my brother Stephen, to whom I owe a letter, too), I registered my eastern Iowa horror novel, giving it the title Quetzal County, Iowa. (I know, really lame, but then no one ever came through, when I was posting stuff last year for that story, with any usable title suggestions. Of course, nobody but me really knows whatʼs going on in the story, either…) I also updated my “Author Profile” a bit haphazardly and without much effort (although I did add a picture this year — thatʼs me on our Danube Cruise in Budapest last Thursday*).

And then I set up a new Scrivener project just for the NaNoWriMo 50,000 words I intend to add to the story. Right now itʼs got two “chapters” or folders — one for Arkhamʼs Diary, the other for “Symonds Stuff.” (I also spent a while refamiliarizing myself with my characters — notice I now recall their names).

Then I hacked out a thousand words (actually 1005, according to the Scrivener Project Targets, of which I was reminded by a timely blog post from Scrivener guru Gwen Hernandez, also undertaking her own NaNoWriMo novel, today — one of the items or activities that kept me from being productive, writing, until after 4:30). An actual thousand words…

Whether I end up using them or not.

And so I have begun…

* Although you will have to click the link to my NaNoWriMo information to see the picture I am talking about.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Autumn

Itʼs quite chilly in Iowa today. I have hauled out my fingerless gloves for the first time since mid-April, and although the wrists and palms of each hand are cozy enough, my fingertips feel cold tapping away at the keys.

Everything is indicating the full arrival of fall. I raked leaves five different days (and hauled away ten truckbed-loads). Furthermore, I am going to have to rake again soon, although our back yard trees and bushes have not let go of their photosynthesis machines yet. I may as well be looking ahead at the last lawn-mowing of the year…

I have also been receiving notifications about the imminence of NaNoWriMo 2011. And, although I have been utterly worthless as a writer this year — probably penning (often literally there) only ten or twenty thousand words outside the wretchedly few blog posts I have uploaded* —, I am intending to use November to (I hope!) finish the Mantorville (Iowa horror) novel. If I actually finish it, that will be considerably more than 100,000 new words (and I do mean “new” — above and beyond what I have already written and posted here).

Last year, I wrote 110,000 words on the planetary fantasy, but it remains incomplete. I havenʼt added word one since the end of 2010.

But back to more positive thoughts. Mantorville and the cesspool of evil behind the incarceration of former teacher Arkham**

I know that the story will fall into three (possibly four) sections. Only the first is the more-or-less formal record of the treatment sessions between Dr. Symonds and legally insane murderer Arkham. Part Two, probably, is the Arkham diary that I had finally gotten introduced toward the end of what is available so far. Part Three… well, some things are about to happen that will, after some delay, turn the tale into Dr. Symondsʼs story (and I may just interweave the diary selections through that portion, which I intend him to be dictating into a cell phone or mini-digital-recorder in more or less present time, early 21st Century). That fourth part? I may need one more major character to resolve the whole thing…

And a whole bunch of people have got to get killed off. (It is a horror story, after all.)

Scrivener is ready to go, announcing on Facebook today that their 2011 NaNoWriMo versions are available. So, having used that wonderful software for last yearʼs (still incomplete) “novel,” I guess/hope I had better be ready and willing as well.

* Incredibly, even without regular posts, the blog has been receving more than a hundred hits a day (mostly folks seeking images to use, just as I borrowed the NaNoWriMo official logo to the left and above).

** Anyone remember his first name? I donʼt without re-reading.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.