Tuesday Drips By

As a follow up to last post, I did indeed procure and install a shower head and pillow (well, the pillow doesn’t really need installing per se, but the gist I think is made). Life is better, though I’m still looking forward to something more resembling a bed. I’ve gotten a few other errands out of the way, and my Scrivener review is now up, if you care to read it.

Today I woke up to a bright, blue sky, which is always fantastic. Spent the morning reading and puttering around the apartment waiting to meet with my landlady and for a package from my parents to arrive (got it, and it’s all very much appreciated! Happy Ayyam-i-ha!). The meeting with the landlady went well, so now I’m officially the leaseholder and I’ve paid my rent and all that. I’ve got to say, it’s really nice renting from someone who is willing to work with their tenants: I was able to move in on a relatively small deposit and without the lease officially signed, and all a week before the apartment was originally supposed to come due. Big, hearty thumbs up on that. We also briefly discussed my doing some computer related work for her other business, and she asked me to give her a rate to set up a VPN. I’ll need to think on that and get back to her: not too worried about setting up the VPN (she has pretty minimal needs, we’re not talking some enterprise level solution here), just trying to think of what to charge — I could certainly use the money.

When I was down in Portland, I swung by Powell’s, and ended up picking up Harry G. Frankfurt’s On Bullshit and On Truth, both of which are delightful short reads (I started and finished On Truth this morning waiting for my appointment). Definitely some interesting things to think on, and I’ve already started taking some notes (via Scrivener!) for an essay I’ve been thinking about writing.

I’m currently in Zoka, downing a pot of Jasmine while waiting for for their wireless connection issues to sort themselves out (system crashed and had to be rebooted, and now appears to be flaking out again… unfortunate). I’ve been here most of the afternoon, wrapping up a project for AvatarMUD and mailing it out to the rest of the staff. While I think I did some good work with it and that it would on the whole benefit the game, I’m not exactly holding my breath on seeing it actually implemented. Perhaps I’m getting cynical in my near-decade on the MUD, but seems like big changes tend not to go through unless they’re championed by someone in a position to implement the change themselves… which this isn’t. Sorry I can’t be more specific about what I’m talking about. It’s good to have it out of the way, at least. I’ve been working on it since August.

The weather has progressively become wetter as the day has marched on, with it currently wavering between drizzling rain and simply looking sullenly damp. I’m fine with this. I kind of like the semi-rain Seattle tends to get. It evokes a partcular mood that is a little hard to describe: the closest I can come to a short definition would be “indie aloofness”, only without the smug pretentiousness. You’re walking around or driving around and there’s a good groove going on the radio or on your iPod and you’re feeling good about the solitude. It is all good.


I’m sure it’s exacerbated by the fact that I’m sleeping on the floor with a sleeping pad, but I’ve had little to no sleep the past two nights. Last night I got roughly 20 minutes of sleep… I say roughly because I remember checking my watch and seeing that it was 6am, and then actually waking up at 6:30 when my alarm went off (had a job interview at 8… I’m hoping it went well, but I’m not sitting around waiting for it, either). The rest of the night I can remember in excruciating detail. Got up, went to my interview, then went over to Zoka to leech bandwidth and get some juice and a chai. Their network is a little overly locked down, in my opinion: most of the ports are locked down, which means that I can’t check my email securely, or even log into Avatar (found a nice little workaround for that… the standard ssh port IS open, so I ssh into the host and then telnet remotely from there). Interestingly, even the Gtalk port is locked down, though none of the other IM services appear to be.

Something I meant to sent to Lichen last week but forgot: are you aware of the library and literacy initiative in Portland, OR? It was remarkably refreshing to see billboards promoting reading nights not only at the local libraries, but at cafe’s, sponsored by libraries. I think that’s a fantastic marriage. Coffee and books have already been wedded together for years thanks to the prevalence of cafes in every Barnes and Noble and Borders (to name a few), so why not leverage that link for libraries as well?

Today, I think I need to buy a shower head and a pillow… I gave the shower head that’s in there a fair shot, but a) it sprays everywhere, b) it’s too low (I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have to practice yoga to wash my hair), and c) the water pressure out of specific parts of the nozzle could cut diamonds. The desire for a pillow I imagine should go without saying.

Second Post of the Day

Sitting in the University Zoka atm, drinking a White Pekoe tea and doing some general updates. I ended up sitting down and playing (and writing) with Scrivener this afternoon, and I’ve got to say that I’m really impressed. It’s well worth the $34.99 (which I’ve not yet had a chance to plunk down… making sure rent and bills are covered comes first, sadly), and a lengthier review will be up over at AppleGeeks on Monday (it’s already written, but I forward dated it to Monday morning).

Mostly I wanted to post that my friend and former classmate Caleb Wilson will have one of his short stories in volume 20 of Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Congratulations, man, you deserve it! I hope it bodes well for further publication.

Updating in the Rain

Just updating in the rain… (apologies to Gene Kelly)

I’m currently in the Apple Store in University Village, making use of the wireless to find some information I need, since I don’t have an internet connection at the apartment yet (nor furniture, though I did make a trip to a Fred Meyer for basics like a trash can and shower curtain). There are 9 wireless networks in range of my apartment, 8 of which are WEP or WPA encrypted, and the 9th appears to be a honeypot. Interestingly, the networks are all piled on top of each other, either on 6, 9, or 11… but none on channels 1-5, which means I’ve got plenty of room for my own network when I get connectivity.

The mall is something of a yuppie-land, full of upscale mall-stores and plenty of well dressed but still vapid-looking people walking around, but there are worse things, I suppose. I may end up working here (interview tomorrow morning), we’ll see how it goes (my biggest concern is that I’ll just be signing my checks over to the store… you know how I am about geekery, and employee discounts are hard to pass up). It’d be an easy commute (straight down 20 to 65, 65 to 25, turn into mall… 10 minutes in traffic, tops. Same route will also take me to the 520 bridge without having to get on the interstate), and assuming it has some basic benefits like healthcare, should pay enough to live on.

Having no connectivity at home has made me realize just how much I rely on an internet connection. It’s my primary mode of communication (email, im, audio/video chat, blogging), it’s my encyclopedia whenever I have a random question, it’s how I find stores and restaurants in a new neighborhood, how I find phone numbers of same, how I check my bank and credit card balances, the games I play are primarily online, the articles and news I read are all via websites. Just… well, damn. I know I’d adjust if the internet suddenly went away, but it really is pretty remarkable how “wired” you can end up without realizing it.

I downloaded a new application the other day to try out… it shows a lot of promise, but I just haven’t had much of a chance to play with it yet. It’s a WRITING app called Scrivener, and has been developed by a writer, with the quirks of writing in mind. Plenty of note taking and organizing capabilities, collecting snippets of story and anything else… so, it’s not necessarily meant to replace the ubiquitousness of, say, Yojimbo, or DevonTHINK, but does have a lot of a similar functionality for given projects. Anyway, I’m going to play with it and write up a full review for my Applegeeks column, and probably link to it here.

No Complaints

Back at the Fresh Pot, once again had lunch over at the Cup and Saucer… this time, a lucky scramble, which reminded me SO MUCH of Andy‘s scrambles that he used to make in Montpelier (only this had bacon instead of veggie sausage, though I’m sure you could have swapped). It had cheese and eggs and mushrooms and green onions and bacon and potatoes… damned tasty, though I did hit my egg limit and couldn’t finish it all. Ended up striking up a conversation with the folks at the next table over, who are (ironically) originally from the east coast (like, Boston, and went to St Mic’s), who are now in Portland. One is working on getting an assistantship in photography, and the other works for a trip planning organization for high school students to Thailand. I inserted myself when I heard them talking about cameras, and I ended up giving them both my card (may be helping one out with their portfolio site, even). It’s always nice to be able to strike up conversations with folks, though I’m always a little self-conscious about it.

I swung through the Hawthorne Street Tea shop while waiting for a table at Cup and Saucer (that place gets hopping on weekends), and picked up some white chocolate covered espresso beans… arguably, I think I prefer them to the milk chocolate covered beans… the white chocolate augments the coffee flavor really nicely. I also heard that Gomez is playing in town tonight, and I’m SORELY tempted to go check it out, but I can’t really justify spending the money on a show right now. There will be a time and place for such.

I’ve taken to writing in my notebook while I wait for food. I usually stop at a full page, though today I did end up doing a second page of just ideas for stories. It felt good to brainstorm, and hopefully I’ll actually go back and revisit them, and use them for writing projects. I’ve been doing a fair bit of introspection about my writing, and I’m noticing certain trends, and where I need to improve. I’m fairly comfortable with my informal prose, and my essay work, but as far as fiction goes, I’m a macro-writer with nearly no “micro” game. By which I mean that I’m good at outlining and summarizing an idea or a story arc, but when it comes time to actually do the details, the subtle dialogue and nuanced description, forget it. I think I would probably really benefit from sitting down and writing a bunch of “nothing” stories, just work on slowing down and appreciating the details and subtleties of, say, a conversation over a cup of coffee, or over breakfast in a diner. I mean, think about Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Yes, there’s a lot that happens, but the action scenes are actually relatively short compared to the dialogue. Early on in the book, sitting around in a hotel room, there are pages and pages of dialogue and detail about planning the revolution, but no action takes place, yet you’re still engaged. That’s the sign of good dialogue: it should stand alone as a conversation, not as a lecture, nor as filler within an event. The same goes for adding details to a scene… they shouldn’t be arbitrary or tacked on, they should be part of the tapestry of the scene… if you can’t think of a way to work an element into a scene without breaking the flow, then maybe that element isn’t necessary or the scene should be rethought.

This goes for all forms of storytelling, I think, not just writing. Visual storytelling has some other elements that it has to consider. Comics immediately come to mind, where each panel tends to contain an action or other method to signify the progression of time… though simply changing viewpoint can do wonders… I immediately think of the Grant Morrison run of Animal Man, the final issue, where Animal Man meets Grant (a brilliant story arc for those who haven’t read it… they’ve released it as a trilogy of graphic novels if you want). They spend a fair bit of time just walking and talking, and that slowdown from the standard pacing of comics did a lot to encourage the surrealist feel of the story.

An emerging medium that I think could really benefit from implementing a more nuanced dialogue and story would be video games. While it has been slowly improving, the dialogue in most games is a bit of a joke. Approached appropriately, the sense of ownership of action from an interactive medium could potentially make for a more poignant and directly felt reaction from the viewer. (I should really expand on this and put it up over here…)

New Site Design!

I won’t say that it’s done (because it’s not… there are still several things I need to turn on or otherwise set up), but the majority of work is completed. I did all of the work offline using MAMP on my laptop in coffee shops and hotel rooms, including redoing the header graphic (same original image, same concept, just tweaked differently). If you notice anything wonky, let me know, please: I’ve tested the new design in Safari, Camino, Firefox, and Opera, and it seems to function properly (you will, however, need JavaScript turned on in order to make use of the date archives on the sidebar), but I haven’t checked it in IE6 or 7 (mostly through a reluctance to boot into my Windows partition). In the process, I also upgraded WordPress to 2.1, which was a smooth process as usual.

The new design uses several plugins, though small: Smart Archives, Fancy Archives, Autometa, and Google Analytics. I’ll probably re-add Word Stats and some pagination and excerpt handling plugins in the near future as well.

So, yeah… hope you like the new design. If you want to use it for your site, let me know and I’ll zip it up along with some notes on which things you’ll need to specifically change for your own blog. Feedback would be appreciated!

No Werewolves, but…

To quickly sum up the past few days, the fruits of my apartment hunting turned out to be rotten (they decided they wanted a cosigner, which isn’t acceptable to me on a number of levels… I’m sorry, but I have issues with arbitrarily attaching someone else’s livelihood to my own to get an apartment. You’re not renting to them, you’re renting to me, so either yay or nay based on MY qualifications, or I don’t want to do business with you). I’m getting my deposit mailed back to me, and I spent Tuesday night and Wednesday morning doing more apartment hunting. I found a place in northern Ravenna that looks very promising, and checked it out yesterday, liked it, and have put down a deposit (again). The tentative move-in date is March 1st, but they’re going to talk to the current tenant (who is already moved out barring his bed frame, and needs to still clean) about getting me in sooner than later. I like the fact that they’re trying to accommodate my needs, and the fact that as long as I can pay the rent and my rental references and credit check are good, they don’t mind that I’m not currently employed. I should hear back from them sometime soonish with a concrete on when I can actually move in. The bright side is that this is actually a better laid out, larger space than the previous place, with better light and hardwood floors. Smaller kitchen, but it’s still workable. The theory discussed when I toured the apartment was that I could potentially move in as soon as next week, which would be good — I like traveling more than most, but this hotel-hopping holding pattern is starting to wear on me.

I’m back in Portland while I wait, because it really is significantly cheaper (if the current apartment hunting had fallen through, I may have ended up moving to Portland instead… comparing via Craigslist, what gets you a small studio in Seattle will get you a 2br flat or townhouse in Portland). I’m currently down at The Fresh Pot again, again drinking delightful Pixie chai, after eating a fantastic lunch at The Cup and Saucer just down the street. (Start with good coffee, then a side salad with buttermilk ranch, then a cup of zucchini and rice soup, followed by a spiral pasta with creamy pesto sauce, tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms… did I mention that pretty much everywhere I’ve eaten in Portland has a ton of vegetarian and vegan options, but without forcing it down your throat?) All in all, life is pretty damned good, I’d say.

Last night back in Seattle, I found a theater that was playing Pan’s Labyrinth, and made a point to go see it. What a remarkable film. I really enjoyed it, on all levels. I found myself thoroughly engaged from the beginning, and felt that the story was strong, the acting was excellent, and the visuals stunning. I would happily go see it again, and look forward to owning it on DVD. I can’t encourage others enough to go see it while they can. (It is unfortunately a limited release, so some of you might have trouble finding it near you.) Fair warning: it’s dark, both visually and in nature. It’s also subtitled from Spanish. On a personal note, the actress who plays Ofelia (the main character) reminds me very much of Jamie Staudt from the last time I saw her, which was when I was 12 (crikey…). I’ve got something of a quirky memory like that.

Returning again to the topic of The Fresh Pot… the guy behind the bar is apparently one of the co-owners… and is selling his half of the coffeeshop to go traveling with his daughter. I just wanted to say kudos and congrats to them, I hope they have a really fantastic good time. We chatted a bit about travel and how invaluable it is. I think it’s really wonderful that he’s taking this opportunity to instill a love of travel in his daughter while she’s still young.