It’s Not So Easy — So Should I Give Up?

For all my (alleged, assumed) writing ability, I’m stumped. I needed to write an article, but the true purpose is to advertise a group’s event (and the group). An advertorial. Articles go in for free (assuming they make it out of the slushpile). Free fits the budget.

I’m pretty good at technical writing. I’ve been praised for my reports on meetings, or at least some meetings. [1] The quality depends on my mood and alertness at the meeting. I always take notes for myself, and believe group notes are valuable, so often get voluntold for it.

[1] I don’t call them Minutes. Those are quasi-legal documents that only record decisions. If I miss a meeting, I want more. I want to know what you considered before making the decisions, and what was discussed that didn’t lead to a decision. A note of who volunteered, or was voluntold (especially if absent) to do what is also good.

For fiction, I’ve finished 1/10 of my million words of garbage, and most of the fiction advice I read these days is familiar. The trail is hard to follow and has many false-leads, but at least I know the landmarks.

But this article? Last season, I took the advice of a friend who used to write advertorials. Start with a story. Easy enough. Almost a formula. Character and problem we can identify with. Group solves the problem. Two similar articles, actually, just changing the character. Seemed okay, but didn’t get in. I read them again today. Adequate little pieces, but nothing special. The editor probably saw through it.

This time I tried a different approach. (I’m tired of creating fictional characters.) It started without a character, but with the feeling that most of our lives we create nothing tangible. It’s a crafting group, and one of the big benefits is I get to make pretty little objects. I get to hold the result in my hands, and all my senses are involved. (Pretty soon I’ll get to make more space on the shelves for them.)

Some moody descriptions, a nice rhythm at one point, but nothing cohesive. I brainstormed for other benefits of belonging. Found another half-dozen easily, and nothing fit. Gave up in frustration and did a brief bit describing the variety of objects they’ll see. The editor said it was too much like an advertisement. Sigh.

Walk it off. Rant and fume about how it’s supposed to be easy. Decide I should suck it up and learn. I’ve watched professionals do this on the fly, and they take dozens of runs. Why should I succeed in two?

I went back to the actual paper yet again, to see examples of what works, and realized that I’d only been interested in one of the articles. Given my reaction to the rest, I’m probably sick of the whole thing. Or maybe I just don’t like reading profiles. I’ve rarely enjoyed biographies.  Give me a few neat things to think about and enough to know if it would fit my schedule — which is the piece I was happy with.

That’s the key to the solution. Stop beating my head against the brick wall. Rule One of choosing a genre to write in is pick one you enjoy reading. I don’t enjoy reading advertorials or profiles. I rarely enjoy biographies or profiles longer than a paragraph. I also remembered that I’d tried to get others to write them, and they assured me I was better at it than they were.

Today I learned, after being annoyed at myself for most of the day, that it’s okay to give up on this one.

Grab My Books — Ebook from WebSite, Not Just WebPage

Not 100% what I was hoping for, but pretty good, especially for the price.

There are several (too many) blogs that I want to read from the start. Currently, I have the index bookmarked on my PlayBook. When I want to read something, I open that bookmark, scan upwards until I see the next entry I haven’t read, and open it. And wait while it opens. Then go back to the index and repeat. Some blogs have “next” tabs, which makes it easier, but many don’t.

Grab My Book is a FireFox addon. It’s a bit clunky, but works.

Open the index and one a typical page. Open the rules editor to make sure it interprets that blog correctly. Move the mouse around until the right parts have the box. Click OK (or something like that) and save the rule.

Then, and this is the painful part, open every tab. Middle-click on each one, in order. (I was hoping to avoid this step, but no luck.)

Grab Tabs.

My Book.

Grab My Book.

Done!

I was hoping for something like a Plucker Distiller, but all the websites for that were from 2006 or older. I liked Plucker. I could tell it how deep to follow the links, give it a few rules, and a few minutes later I had an ebook on my Palm.

I tried Download Them All [1] and then Calibre to convert to ebook, but unfortunately the links don’t interconnect. It’s theoretically easy enough to create a simple html index page that links to them all, that I could send Calibre, but in reality there’s a lot of typing.

[1] Download Them All is aFirefox addon that lists all the links from a page, with nice sorting and filtering, then downloads the ones you check).

Now off to read my new books!

The Part that Scares Me … aka Challenges Me

I’m doing the Knitting Masters from TKGA. Honest. It’s been almost 2 years since I ordered the instructions. I’ve put in maybe 6 hours of work. (And 20 of … research, including several hours reading the entire blog and YouTube channel of one of the committee co-chairs. Make that of two committee co-chairs, or past-co-chairs.)

I’ve found the bit that scares me. The research projects in levels 2 and 3. I just read the bibliography created by another master. Rough count is over 90 references by the time she finished all three levels.

Relax, just over 10 for level 1. But still in shock at the size of the list and some of the places she found things for the in-depth research into the history of a single style of knitting.

I’m happy following instructions, when the desired results are clearly stated. This includes swatches, calculations, and even the blocking report. That’s comfortable for me, even if it takes several tries. I don’t envy the earlier students who didn’t have all the great advice and pictures from committee members and had to check 3 or 4 books to find a consensus on the best way to do something. I’d be terrified the committee would prefer a different method or they’d use the same name for a different technique.

I also enjoy picking up random books about a subject. I even go in-depth for a few weeks out of interest, just wandering the library and the internet.

But focusing on one sub-topic long enough to do a comprehensive report? Interest books that cover things the author found interesting, not text books that take you through all the ins and outs of a topic? Ensuring most of the references are reliable and traceable, not just thrown up on the internet by someone who took a single class? Ordering book after book through inter-library loan and hoping this one will fill in the holes?

I’d never have thought of some of the places she found references. And it’s not just a matter of reading the same books she did. Yes, use some of them, but I suspect part of what they’re testing is our ability, and enthusiasm, to go off on our own, and our ability to bring back the good stuff.

Doable. Absolutely doable. Also outside my comfort zone. That’s probably a good thing.

I think one of my first steps with any level will be to get my subconscious working on the reports. That way, when I find something by serendipity, I’ll remember to take notes (at the very least “great information about … here”).

For now, though, “a journey of a thousand miles…” An hour of housework. An hour of paperwork. Then gauge swatches with the new yarn. (Didn’t I say something like that yesterday?)

+++++

Yesterday I learned that I can mess up a basic homonym in a 63-word post. Today I learned I can’t spell homonym — but WordPress’s spellchecker can.

Baklava Math

Yesterday I saw a big display of baklava at the store. Incredibly thin pastry, layered with sugar syrup (or honey, probably some butter in there, too) and nuts.

The larger box was better value. 325 g, and 25g is 110 calories. That’s an entire non-diet day of  calories on a small plate.

Today I learned the smaller box might have been a better value overall.

Cameras and a Baby Snail

Baby Snail

Baby Snail

We’ll skip the bit about me being a control freak and wanting to make my own trade-offs between f-stop and shutter speed. Memories of Dad’s camera, my teenage trip camera, and the day at the zoo after Husband and I inherited Grandpa’s, can be another post.

Suffice to say I read the manual for the new camera and it’s confusing. To take a picture indoors, tell it, “indoors”. To take a picture of a face, tell it, “face”. To take an action picture… you get the idea. But what if you want to take a picture of a sprinter’s face, indoors.

On the manual SLR, it’s: Buy fast film. Get as much light on the subject as you can. Pick fast shutter speed. All that speed means depth of focus might have to suffer, so be more than 20 feet away. Read the light meter. Look up film speed, meter reading and shutter speed on the chart, and use the recommended f-stop (opening size). If the film is fast enough and the light strong enough, the opening might be small enough that the depth of focus doesn’t suffer.

Today I tried to take a picture of our new baby snail. (This time we actually got it into a bowl. The other three we left in the tank and never saw again.) Fuzzy. Yet the sales staff took a picture of the hairs on my arm! So, eventually, off to the manual. (Happy observation. The manual came on a CD, so now it’s on the computer and easy to find, and the file is searchable.)

It turns out that I need to:

  • Set AutoFocus Macro mode. Flower with “AF”, not flower with magnifying glass.
  • Do not zoom in. Do the exact opposite of zooming in. Set the camera to show the entire bowl and the table.
  • Move the camera in until the snail is big enough.
  • Take the picture.
  • Use software to crop and zoom even more.
  • Take shot, put on computer, repeat to get good lighting and remember to put in a piece of my hair for scale.

It’s Been a While

I’ve had this urge to start blogging again, and today seems like a good day.

Life’s been as busy as usual. Way too many projects and goals, with too few deadlines.

I now have an occasional job as backup secretary at the church. Me? Working for a church? We started going because my daughter wanted to join their community choir. It’s a denomination I’m comfortable with (no hate, much inclusion). Fortunately, it’s not the secretary’s job to provide pastoral care, and as part-time I can honestly say, “I’m not familiar with the policy on that, would you like to talk with a minister?”

I started networking for a new job mid-January with a friendly person at the church, and her eyes lit up. It turns out she’s the backup secretary, looking to spend more time on other things, and the full-time secretary had a 2-week vacation coming up. Long story short, we didn’t ask the personnel committee in time, so I didn’t get trained before she left, then the backup had a family emergency so she trained me on a morning when she was very low on sleep, and both ministers were at a week-long conference. They only needed me one day, and I did okay, but it was awkward. Fortunately, it was a light day in the schedule. Another team had dealt with the money on Monday, and the bulletin didn’t need doing until Thursday. (Starting it too early doesn’t save time, since information dribbles in all week.) I’ll go in for more training next week when the full-time secretary has recovered from her vacation. The only way to really learn a job is to actually do it while the trainer works on another project.

My goals for the blog now include “what I learned today.” This might be something I researched that I think others will find interesting, or document another step towards me learning wisdom and gaining expertise. (An expert is someone who has already made the mistakes.)

On to housework.

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