The invisible crutch phrase (rants and confessions)

Feb - 02 2010 | no comments | By

What is one of the most useless sets of pad-words, a mainstay of badfic, a hallmark of inattentive or amateurish writing? Hint: It isn’t on any of the big lists of useless crap.

Watched as

Watched WHAT as? “As” implies simultaneous action. “As” is overused and abused enough without this pernicious parasitic phrase.

This well-established writerism goes unnoticed, even when it is used twice in the same page. How many occurrences can you count in your work? Can you live with it once you’re aware of it?

I am painfully aware. It bugs the hell out of me; the w.a. flea jumps out and bites me wherever I find it. When I see it in a beginning sentence, I read no more, because I know the rest is going to be poorly written. I confess to having let it slip out once, several years ago, in a fan-fic. This is all the more embarrassing because I am generally uncanonical and iconoclastic in my ficking. I hope to atone for that sin by raising awareness in others.

Ask yourself what it stands in for. What did you mean when you dropped in that habitual “watched as”? Does it mean merely that the character is watching something happen? Then say, “MC watched the parade pass by,” or “MC watched Villain skin Friend alive.” Does it mean more than that? Then say, “Held by the spell, MC watched, frustrated and helpless, while Villain skinned Friend alive.” Lousy example, but you can see how little meaning w.a. has.

A warning about “As” in general: While actions may be simultaneous, they can also have causative relationships, and/or might not have the same duration. I’ve seen a lot of as-linked phrases that implied a role reversal. “The specters crossed the room as the candle flickered once” does not give the same picture as “The candle flickered once as the specters crossed the room“. The first example is totally cockeyed; it says that the spectral parade lasted only as long as the brief flicker of the candle. I’ve seen this done over and over by writers with a bad as-habit.

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Treading water

Feb - 01 2010 | no comments | By

Not enough good sleep to make a meaningful post. I will some time soon, I hope. Both of the above.

This postcard turned up in a bad place when I reshuffled a shipload of junk so I could get up the stairs (the upstairs door was ajar, a criminal offense when the temperature outside hovers around 10F).

I believe the Standard sign (far left) belongs to my grandfather’s station (ETA: Yes, it is). Harry G. Ahlers, 1904-1984. I wish these old cards had dates on them.


Downtown Sturgeon Bay, ca. 1940

The signs have changed, but most of the buildings haven’t.

Dining out

Jan - 25 2010 | no comments | By

I don’t, generally. But there’s a new restaurant in town, and I’m involved with it, and with activity related to it. Not in a big way, but enough to spice up my life.
The New Leaf Café
is a quickly growing enterprise in downtown Sturgeon Bay. The theme is organic, raw, whole food. And if you think that’s ucky, you haven’t had lunch there. I have. Among other things, the stuffed tomatoes are to die for.

Word is gradually getting around. An article in the local paper, word of mouth (happy mouth, nom nom nom), and perhaps something in the air.

I’m the webmistress 🙂

AVATAR — Supersize my lie!

Jan - 19 2010 | no comments | By

Let’s postulate a peaceful tribe of Noble Savage warriors descended from carnivores. Send them an Honorable White Man with a selfish motive. Let’s have this HWM, this super Everyman’s Gary Stu, be sucked right into their neo-aztec NuAge culture and impress the tits off them. Yeehah.

Uh…too oxymoronic for you? Okay, let’s pile on a shitload of gaudy color, make everything three times as large as life (except for what has to be ten times larger than life), and keep the action fast and violent. There. Now the unbelievability factor has increased to the point of stupefaction. You have to accept it because…because the gimmick of 3D is so cool.

But…but…waitaminnit, what about the truly awesome Message? Mustn’t we be mindblown by the Oneness of all these bloodthirsty creatures with their too-grand environment? Shouldn’t we have the tits impressed off us by things like the straight out of Disney’s Fantasia tree seed scene? I mean, hey, all this NuAge wonderfulness is in direct opposition to the horrors perpetrated by lying politicians and greedy corporate entities, right?

Right. Let’s fight lies with bigger lies until we smash ’em all flat!

The Message doesn’t apply to the real world. Take off the goggles, walk out of the theater, and what do you have? A lot of wishful thinking. Baby, your buttons have been pushed.

You want a pristine environment? You’re probably going straight to Wal-Mart afterward to blow what’s left of your entertainment money on plastic crap. Then you’re going to your overheated home to eat junk. It’s too much effort to change your habits. Too hard to think about the connection between what you do and the consequences of your actions. Yes, Ducky, your actions. Not Those Other Bad People, you.

You want peace? Let’s kill the enemy, blow up their stuff. There’s a Message for you.

Avatar is going to help make this world a better place to live, you betcha. For liars. So lie to yourself, hang onto those fantasies of pure unobtanium, but don’t let them intrude into your Real Life; don’t look at them too closely. Just believe in lies, and keep the big liars rolling in money.

A few words about…that stuff

Jan - 16 2010 | no comments | By

Spammers are almost the sorriest thing on Earth.

I say almost, because the filthy pigs that create the malware and other fool-traps and pay stupid spammers to push their garbage are worse.

You can’t even flush them down toilets. They should be vaporized in nuclear reactors, or they will continue to contaminate everything. Yuck.

I’m not bletching about my own spam-count; it has been pretty low, and Akismet makes a joke of it. What outrages me is the desecration of useful forums. The worst are the slime that send PMs to unsuspecting forum members. Their victims are often not very computer literate; they have joined a forum seeking help with their software problems. This is like going into a hospital or clinic and preying on the sick and injured.

Spamming pigs, you are loathsome.


Truth is crueller than fiction

Jan - 14 2010 | no comments | By

This sucks.
Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border

Well, there’s Homeland Security for you. Authors are dangerous people, you know. Subversive. Some of us want to make you think.

If I had a spare chunk of cash….

Watts’ website

A wee Windwoes experiment

Jan - 10 2010 | no comments | By

HILARITY! I wanted to test the statement that the GodMode folder — name.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C} — would crash 64-bit Vista. Eh. Only Exploder goes down, and it is possible to stop the panic as long as a stable file manager is open to the folder’s location.

I created a folder named Sauron.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C} on Raven’s desktop, in Free Commander, while logged on as Raven. (Raven is one of my Admin level personae.) It caused a repeating Explorer crash that kept the screen flickering until I was able to delete it — in Free Commander, the only file manager still standing LOL. It also crashed Exploder when placed in C root.

On mere user matera’s desktop, when I am logged in as that user, it is harmless. The deadly effect requires administrator privileges and/or a normal desktop. As matera, I use an alternative shell, so Explorer is not the turtle upon which the world sits.

*My source of inspiration*

Of Drums and Weather

Jan - 05 2010 | no comments | By

My newest drums have a lot to tell me about how sensitive and moody drums can be. Raven Laughs is the crankiest thing in the house after me. We both wake up in the morning slack and grumpy. That drum…now it’s the temperature. Give it a blast of heat and it sings, but at 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit (“room temperature” in my house most of the winter) it goes flabby. In summer, it will probably have fainting fits because of humidity. It’s something I’ll just have to live with, at least if I want to learn bodhran style. Gotta make a tipper yet. 🙂

Raven Laughs -- front





Note the double edge binding of the head. From a video by Don Shulz (found on YouTube) I learned the trick of going once around and then running the main binding through the edge lacing rather than the holes in the head. It gives strength. After the disastrous first attempt to head this drum, I decided to go it one better. Once around, winding rather than in-out; then when that is fitted to the frame, another lace straight through around it. The second lacing anchors the main binding.

On the bottom edge I used a strong synthetic cord that is probably intended for macrame jewelry. The holes it goes through are lined with eyelets.

The small drum that I finished the day after is also very sensitive. I can tune it lower in a few seconds by blowing on it. This morning, it was almost as depressed as RL (that’s a pun, BTW), but when I warmed it by rubbing with hands and cheeks it cheered up. I think I could have made it tighter, but then it could get way too high-pitched and possibly be in danger of self-destructing under the right (wrong) circumstances.

small shaman drum

small shaman drum

This handy 8″ drum is no thunder-maker, but it can hold its own. The frame is of the same steel hoop, cardboard, layered paper, and fabric construction. I made it more quickly and simply, however. Less layers, less fussing — it doesn’t show much anyway. You can see the duct tape on the top edge. LOL


Raven Laughs

Jan - 03 2010 | no comments | By

…at plans. And drum makers who make plans. But this time I think I’ve got it right. It took several weeks to make the frame, from steel hoops, cardboard, and layers of paper and fabric. Tedious waits for glue, paint and protective coatings to dry. Sanding, re-coating, measuring, drilling. Then twice I tried to head it. The first time, I chose a piece of rawhide that was too thin on one side. It tore. Twice. Scratch that one. The second time, I didn’t get the bindings tight enough. The head was disgustingly flobby. Discombobulate again.

The third, and by far the best, attempt to head this drum looks like a — heh-heh — resounding success. It’s hanging in the kitchen drying. Now and then I hear a twing as something adjusts. A bit scary, those sounds, but it’s not threatening to break; merely tight enough to sound off at the slightest stimulus. A proper drum attitude.

I felt very confident as I started. All went well. Previous practice paid off. The binding technique that I’ve worked out through these three phases is solid and effective. I can visualize, a little at a time, any process; building or taking things apart in my mind before getting down on the physical components. Then when I actually lay hands on, small improvements come to mind. It helps that I can always gauge the amount of lacing to prepare. Running out of something that takes a few hours to soak would not be a Good Thing. 🙂

So I’m happy. I’m rubbing my hands together (with home-made lotion, they’re rough and sore) and gloating over my success. I’m planning more drums using built-up frames. Would be nice if I could make or buy nice wood frames, but for now I’ll make do with what I have.

Hoppin’ New Year

Jan - 02 2010 | no comments | By

A little more interesting start than some. My onlybegottendaughter reappeared (e-mail changes can have a dire effect on communications) on the morning of Dec. 31. Did she just e-mail me? No-o-o-ooo, she sent me a friendy from Facebluck. Hokay, must be some reason I got back in there a coupla moons ago. I had to reset my password to log in this time (I swear I had it right, but Facefook wouldn’t take it yadda yadda) but I was going to do it no matter how many captchas I had to squint through. It takes something to drag me into Facefook.

Then I find out that she has managed to find her father, whom I haven’t seen in nemmine how many years. Danged if she ain’t as bull-headed as me.


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