Category Archives: me

Rock It

First item of news: I finished NaNoWriMo last night. Seriously. All done. As mentioned on Twitter, I expect this thing will need extensive rewriting before it’s even close to publicly readable, but I don’t have to think about that for weeks or months. Yay.

It’s the tenth anniversary of the WTO protests in Seattle, which I’ve written about before. I’m still grateful there’s only been one week in my life where I’ve sat around watching the news to figure out if I could walk around my neighborhood without encountering pepper spray, tear gas, and police lines.

When I’m at the end of a project with a imminent deadline, I discover an amazing tendency to suddenly get excited about some other creative project (one that does not have to be finished anytime soon). This past week it’s been electronic music. I picked up a UCreate Music toy a few weeks ago, but didn’t spend much time playing with it after I unwrapped it. Until this past weekend, of course. Click the audio link above to see what it sounds like.

The device is set up to play 12 installed loops plus 2 you can record yourself. You can plug it into a computer via USB to download your song, or update the samples from various other sets it downloads from the UCreate site. Right now the options are a little limited; just five sample packs. There’s a link for a store, but if you click it, it says “Coming Soon”. (Which is really weird, IMO. Why show the link if you don’t have a store set up and there’s nothing to tell people when it might become available?) It will let you drag and drop the different sample pack sounds to any button you want, but your own recorded loops can’t be moved from the bottom row. So I’d like to figure out how to install custom sounds. I found one other blog post asking about this, but no one who’s made it work yet.

Even without that, it’s still a fun toy. I like how the effects controller pad works. Perhaps I’ll have a video to demonstrate, next week.

The other music toy I’m playing with is the Korg DS-10. No finished sound clips to show off yet, but if you pick this up for yourself, I recommend checking out howto videos on YouTube.

Still Sick

I’ve been trying to do some kind of weekly update on this blog, but this week I don’t feel like I have much to report. My daily log has been “still sick. nanowrimo: X words.” for about a week.

I could tell you something I didn’t manage to work into last Monday’s post, that the weekend before this we went over to a friend’s house with a bunch of other people and had food and watched a boxing match. I knit, not so much for the weird contrast as because I was afraid of being antsy—I’m not really a boxing fan. Group consensus was that HD makes everything much more gruesome. In the slow-mo replays of punches, we could see the fighters’ faces ripple from their chin up to the ear. So: I learned that boxing is kind of interesting when there are people around to tell you about technique, but also, pretty gross. I finished the second sleeve of the sweater I’m (occasionally) working on, while we watched the fight.

My NaNoWriMo word count is now over 37,000. I need another 800 words for today, and instead I’m writing this, which doesn’t help. The process continues to be hard, but (mostly) fun.

So yeah. Writing, work, coughing. A little reading. Playing with this neat synthesizer cartridge for the DS. It’s a week.

Keeping Things Going is Hard

All month I’ve been worried about getting sick, because last time I tried NaNoWriMo, in 2001, that’s what derailed me (to be fair, a lot of other things went wrong for me that fall. it wasn’t a very good year in most respects.)

So guess what? I’m sick. Cough, scratchy throat, no fever (yet?). It sucks. But I don’t have to worry about contaminating co-workers (germs don’t know how to use the internet), so I’m working. And I’m still going to try to hit today’s word count. I passed the halfway point over the weekend, so theoretically it’s all downhill from here, but I don’t know what it means that I got this far before figuring out who the real antagonist should be.

I downloaded a free trial of Scrivener this weekend, which is as awesome as I’d heard. It’s a book-writing application, an idea that (as someone who does everything in TextMate until it needs graphics) normally would put me off, but they’ve figured out a really good balance of adding tools one needs without having junk that gets in the way (unlike, say, Microsoft Word).

I’m still going to finish the first draft in TextMate, but I think I’ll import it into Scrivener before I start to edit. I also imported a couple of short stories I’ve been working on, and found it useful even for something of a shorter length. Being able to write in full-screen mode, then have the program generate a properly-formatted manuscript to print, is pretty neat.

The last few days I’ve been reading Palimpsest, which I love, but it’s been hard to focus because reading makes my brain want to work on writing instead. Do other people experience that? Still, it’s helpful (see the above ‘oh right the antagonist should be…’ revelation). I recommend this book if you like sexy stories about maps and trains and strange cities. The setting reminds me a bit of Perdido Street Station. Maybe my next task should be to re-type chapters from both of these books until I can figure out what makes them work.

Daydream Games

According to my notes, in the last week I’ve read Heart-Shaped Box, seen District 9, and knit the sleeve of a sweater. I’m also up to 17,000 words on my NaNoWriMo project, which has been eating my brain when I’m not working on something else.

Part of the fun of this is that by writing every day, at a pretty steady pace, I’m giving myself permission to daydream that I too could be a Real Professional Writer, with books on shelves at Powell’s and fans who give me 5-star ratings on Amazon. I imagine that I will finish this book, and I will revise it and sell it to a publisher, and I will write another one that will be even better. And really, this is an easy dream to indulge. I’ve been writing stories on and off since I first learned to read and write.

This fits in nicely with Russell Davies’ notes from his Playful talk, about things that are barely games, exercises that tend to be open-ended and have a minimum of rules. He says,

When I walk through the crowds on Oxford Street a tiny part of me is pretending I’m an assassin slipping steely-eyed through the crowds in order to shake the agents on my tail. And I bet it’s not just me. I’m not saying I’m massively deluded, just that, very often, some bit of us is always trying to play those games, to make mundane things more exciting. … I think that’s why we find Jason Bourne so resonant. It’s easy pretending to be him. Because most of the time he’s just commuting.

Click the link for the full thing with some fun pictures, graphs, and interesting ideas. The comparison of time spent in “moody commuting” vs. “fighting & killing” cracks me up.

Pretending to be a writer is enough fun that a lot of people do it, though most remain at the stage where they haven’t gotten around to putting words on paper (or screen, as the case may be) just yet. Right now I have a third of a novel, which may or may not massively suck (probably does, since it’s an unedited first draft), and I don’t have to have a real plan. But the possibilities seem endless, especially if I just continue to write. I like this feeling; it’s a good place to be.

# # #

A quick “things for sale” reminder: I have yarn and felt things in my Etsy shop. They make lovely gifts. I’m also thinking about setting up some sort of photo print shop, and putting last year’s family cookbook Christmas project up for sale as a food bank fundraiser. It has a jello salad recipe in honor of my aunt, who died last spring, as well as a number of other tasty things.

Progress Report

Back in September I started keeping a daily log of everything I make, read, and watch, along with excursions like meetings or trips to the farmers market. It’s on paper to discourage over-analyzing, and excludes my “day job” work (I try to keep that in its own area).

Anyhow, this lets me go back and see how I’m spending my free time a bit more clearly, which is nice when you’re juggling a bunch of different side projects.

Open Source Bridge is winding up again, starting with an initial fundraising push. If you’d like to get involved, we started a new mailing list (we weren’t very happy with how we split things up before). Sign up and see where you can help.

I haven’t forgotten about I❤ Food Carts, but I also don’t have any new news other than plans to start the layout this week. The cart owners survey has received some neat responses, but there’s definitely room for more.

There’s some neat stuff going on around the City of Portland and open source, but not much that’s ready to point to yet. My part mostly involves going to meetings, and later asking people I know “so if there was going to be [a regional data apps contest|a professional association for open source developers|a bouncy castle with kittens and rainbows], what would you want it to do?”


I’ve been doing some more drawing. Right now I’m inking the sketch from the Lovecraftiana post (I finally learned out how to use the pen tool in Photoshop, and to make better use of layers for lighting and coloring, and now it’s up there with photo editing for “most relaxing computer activity”). The picture above is my first attempt to put some of these new skills to work.

My Etsy shop has been barren a while, but after a fair amount of waffling, I relisted some of my favorite unsold items. There’s still several skeins of handspun yarn, hand-dyed sock yarn, scarves, and bags available, and I have more I may list if these sell.

All of the knitting projects have stalled again, possibly because I’m reading instead. I started Planetary, which is interesting timing because the last issue just came out, and now I’m in the middle of Unseen Academicals, which is succeeding in cramming in all the football [soccer] culture jokes possible (I’m not even convinced I’m catching them all, myself).

And you know, other stuff. Like noticings and Freakangels and thinking up ideas for when Newspaper Club is open for business and enjoying the pre-Halloween surge of Lovecraftian crafts being linked everywhere. But not very many events because I seem to want to hole up at home and think, more than anything else right now. It’s a good change from the first half of the year.


Part One:


Lucas and I have a running joke about Mudshark being the Lurker in the [Hallway, Bookshelf, Closet, …]. When we were working on Yog’s Notebook [1], we both read the Lovecraft/Durleth novel The Lurker at the Threshold, which is about an encounter with Yog-Sothoth, the zine’s namesake.

I don’t remember who started it, but Mudshark is kind of an odd furry monster of a cat, so it stuck.

Part Two:

I came down with a cold on Friday, forcing me to cancel all my plans in favor of lying around coughing. I barely felt well enough to read (a dire situation!), so I was browsing around on my phone thinking about Halloween costume ideas when some line of free association got me thinking about historical expedition gear and Lovecraft [2]. This led to finding some very nice patches and pins commemorating the 1930-31 Miskatonic University expedition to Antarctica (sadly, all sold out).

And that reminded me that I’ve never read “At the Mountains of Madness” (which describes the doomed expedition to Antarctica), but it’s available through Feedbooks for the Stanza iPhone app, so there you go. [3] Then I read “The Call of Cthulhu”, and “The Dunwich Horror”, and a few others. I think I’d been putting off reading much Lovecraft because I was afraid of liking the beasties more than the style of writing, but everything I picked up over the weekend was a lot of fun.

One thing I kept noticing was what sorts of details were emphasized, and what was glossed over. There’s a lot of “oh, I dare not speak of it!” with respect to the monsters, but at the same time a certain amount of gleeful scientific curiosity, and artifacts are often described in terms of how they match no known artistic lineage or culture (apparently the protagonists are well-educated in this area). Our narrators tend to be complete nerds about something (geology, medicine, architecture…) and enthusiastic about sharing everything through that lens.

Anyhow. All of this is a long way of explaining what’s going on with the image at the end of this post. [4] In “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, we encounter a town full of people who’ve been mating with the Deep Ones, a race of fish-frog people who provide them with food and wealth in exchange for sharing in their Cthulhu-worship, and eventually, creating a town full of fish-frog-human mutants who will then take over the world. [5] The narrator is happy to dissect the town’s architecture, but apparently he really does not want to ponder how you go about making fish-frog-human people, so we look the other way.

I’m sure I’m not the only reader to consider how the biology of this would work, but I’m a little scared to Google it. So I drew my own version. I think this is hilarious [6] but YMMV.

What happened at Innsmouth

Maybe “Scenes Lovecraft Left Out” will be my next comic?

[1] Copies of both issues are still available, if you don’t have them yet. Buy them through the site or email me to pick up at an event.

[2] Alas, I don’t remember how I got these two topics combined. I was thinking about Dürer, and demon ladies, and …?

[3] Another case for ebook readers on the phone: sick days. If I could just download hot tea to go with it, I’d be completely set.

[4] It’s like a shaggy dog story. A creepy, wet, slimy one.

[5] Or something.

[6] Ask Lucas, I was laughing so hard I had to get up and have a drink of water before I could finish the sketch. I do not actually expect anyone else to have the same reaction.

What a busy 2008

Mudshark in an ill-fitting hat

In 2008, I

  • Started Calagator.
  • Served on the Legion of Tech board.
  • Helped organize Portland editions of BarCamp, Ignite, and spearheaded WhereCamp Portland.
  • Attended WhereCamp in the Bay Area.
  • Presented at the last (for now) Portland OSCON.
  • Went to way more other events than I can enumerate.
  • Met Matz and several other members of the Shimane Japan open source community.
  • Set up Planet PDX to aggregate Portland tech blogs.
  • Appeared on OPB’s Think Out Loud program to talk about open source in Portland.
  • Had a knitting pattern published in a book.
  • Spent a lot of time talking to people about the Portland tech scene.
  • Worked. We did client projects, we did internal projects, we tried out new bug trackers (so far Pivotal wins), we talked about development and design and client interaction and how to be the best at what we do. I finally (mostly) got over my fear of Javascript, and leveled up my front-end HTML/CSS skills (but I still hate IE). I also wrote a lot of code. With specs. Yay.
  • Appeared in Ultimate Northwest magazine as one of Portland’s 25 most creative thinkers.
  • Celebrated my 5 year anniversary with Lucas with a weekend at the beach.

In 2009, I will

  • Appear on Strange Love Live (very soon: 1/9).
  • Co-chair an awesome Open Source Bridge conference.
  • Travel to Austin TX for SXSWi.
  • Help the rest of the Calagator community finish getting to 1.0 and figure out what’s next after that.
  • Other exciting things, yet to be discovered. Suggestions?