Posts Tagged ‘Mom’

A case study of a geek’s sense of time

Am I offbase in being annoyed about this? When I dropped my computer off, the guy at the desk said it would be ready in a week. That was eight days ago, so I thought I could reasonably expect it to be finished today. I called to see when I could pick it up.

1) “Um… I’m having trouble finding it, can I call you back?”
I was silent for a moment and he said, “Don’t be scared when we say things like that. It usually means that it’s on a technician’s desk. I just need to spot it.”

Sure. That’s fine.

2) He calls back. “It should be ready later this week. We’re short-staffed because one of our technicians went on vacation to Spain.”

I said, “So when will it be ready? I was told that it would be five days when I called in and a week when I dropped it off.”

“I don’t know. I mean, if you could see what it’s like here. We’re really short-staffed.” He sounded nervous, like he was a geek totally out of his element. Which was probably true. “We’ve only got two techs on the floor. A third one comes in at three. Your computer is about ten down in the queue.”

“That’s good to know, but what does that mean in terms of when it will be ready?”

“I don’t know.” It sounds like he’s having to grip the phone harder to keep it from sliding out of his sweating palms. “I’m not a technician; I build systems.”

“Well, what I’m trying to decide is if I should come down and pull it out of the queue.”

“I wouldn’t recommend that. There’s no guarantee that you could find someone who would have it done faster than four days and then it would just be back at the end of our queue.”

“Four days?” I stuggled not to shout at him. “Look. This wasn’t an urgent repair, but it was my only window of time to have it done. This is my primary computer. I have a gig coming in on Thursday; I need it back.”

“If you could see what it was like at our end, you would understand why it’s not ready. One of our techs is in Spain and we’ve been working our regular hours.”

The effort to not shout became harder; I’ve run shops before. “I have been on your end. A vacation to Spain doesn’t spontaneously arise; that should have been part of the planning with your scheduling. I was told a week. I’m annoyed because I was given inaccurate information.”

“He was already in Spain when your computer came.”

I didn’t respond to that, because clearly, that did not improve his case at all. “I need the computer back by Thursday. So I’ll call at five o’clock on Wednesday to see if it is ready and if it isn’t then I’ll just come pick it up.”

“Oh that should be plenty of time. I know it’ll be ready in a couple of days.”

“Wednesday is tomorrow.”

“Oh. Really?”

“Today is Tuesday.”

“Oh. Man. Well, I’ll tell them you need it back. But we’re really backed up right now.”

At this point, I was finished with the conversation because I wasn’t going to get anything useful out of the boy. “Thank you for your time. I’ll check in tomorrow.”

So, my mental note from this is that computer geeks have no sense of time at all. I’m sure this will come in handy on a story sometime.

9 and 10

We recorded Chapter 9 and 10 today, so my part of the process is over for the moment. Rob will edit it together, and then we’ll see if I need to do any pick-up lines.

Safe arrival in Paradise

Our flight out was utterly uneventful. We both napped some. Rob read the NY Times. I wrote and got about 2000 words in.

And then we waited for our baggage to arrive. The staff seemed to be engaged in a slow motion Laurel and Hardy film, which anywhere else would have involved much running around trying to fix the multiple baggage carousels as they broke. But this is paradise, so they ambled from the first carousel to die. Then they ambled away. Sometime later, without an announcement the carousel next to us began revolving and lo! our flight number was now on the sign above it. En masse the passengers flocked to the new carousel. Four bags emerged.

It stopped.

The staff ambled back. They examined. Pondered. Then ambled away. We waited and then felt some relief when the buzzer over the carousel began to make its noise and flash. But as the minutes passed and nothing happened there was some question of whether they would move us to a different carousel.

The staff ambled back. One of them disappeared into the nether regions of the machinery, which would have given Hardy his cue to turn the belt back on, sending Laurel scrambling. In this case, we waited until he slowly emerged and ambled away. The buzzer began, slowly, and then built tempo like a diesel engine turning over on a cold day. It kept going for about a minute before the carousel started moving again this time with an added high squeal.

But no bags. The staff ambled back, stopped the machine and disappeared. Sometime later the buzzer began again, slowly revving up, and then it started to fail, doing half-buzzes or flickering. When the belt finally started moving again, bags came out packed tightly together, piled on top of one another. Rob’s bag tumbled down the ramp and slid toward us. And the carousel stopped again.

We waited for the staff to amble back. Once they arrived, they began manually extracting the bags from the conveyor. Mine was not far down the stack and so we were able to make our escape. I don’t know how much longer the other people had to wait.

Rob and I ambled outside to meet momk, who greeted us with leis.

Weta Holics: Weta Originals Rayguns –

RaygunLook at these shiny, shiny Rayguns.

The Rayguns: Dr. Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators, are a line of immensely dangerous yet simple to operate wave oscillation weapons.

Meticulously built to the exacting standards and plans of Dr. Grordbort, these weapons, bespangled in fine detail and with various (most likely quite dangerous) moving parts are the perfect addition to a gentleman’s study or a deterring centerpiece for a lady’s powder room or chiffonier.

Is anyone else having an intense session of coveting right now?

Teeth, Sinuses and Me

I woke up during the night with a toothache, which was Just Not Fair. At all. I tried sleeping anyway, I tried taking ibuprofen. Nada. In fact, it got worse, radiating through my ear and sending shafts of steel straight through my brain and out the top of my head. Visions of root canal opened in my head.

So, I got up around four and called my dentist’s office, leaving a fairly pathetic voicemail asking them to call me when they got in and make the pain go away.

At 8:05, five minutes after they opened, Angela called and sounded so sympathetic on the phone that I knew I was doomed. They got me in with an immediate appointment. Definitely doomed.

I walked in and apologized for being ill and the technician’s eyes lit up. “Sinuses?” she said.

I nodded, “And a cough. Sorry about that.”

“I have three kids, it’s not a problem.” She went to the computer screen. “So tell me what’s going on.”

“Well, about three days ago, I woke up and my jaw hurt. I thought ‘Jeez, have I been clenching my jaw.’ But then last night it got worse and woke me up.” I proceeded to describe those symptoms. “It hasn’t been as bad since I got up.”

“But the pain medication didn’t do anything?”

“It kept getting worse.”

Upper Right Molar x-ray“Let’s get an x-ray and see what’s going on there.”

She worked really fast, remembering that I have a hair-trigger gag reflex, and got the image up on their nifty computer screen. Then the doctor came in. She was quickly caught up on my symptoms and then looked at the x-ray.

“See that thin white line dipping down across the roots of your teeth?” When I nodded, she continued. “That’s your sinus cavity. It’s pressing down on your nerves. We’ll go ahead and test to make sure that it’s not a dental issue, but I think you’re looking at a sinus infection.”

She poked, prodded, stuck cold things on my teeth and everything was normal. Yay! No root canal. (By the way, thank you to Angela and Brandi at Laurelhurst Dentistry who sent me my xray.)

So then I trotted off to the doctor and repeated my symptoms. He shook his head, “I am exactly the right doctor for you to see because I am three weeks ahead of you with these symptoms. So I know that the first line antibiotic does nothing on this particular strain. Which means that you don’t have to spend five days wondering why you aren’t getting any better. What you have is the flu that’s going around plus a secondary infection.”

I somehow got to this point in my life without ever having had a sinus infection, ear ache or toothache. At the moment it feels like I have all of them.

I now have antibiotics. I’m armed with the knowledge that lying down will make the pain worse. That part of the symptoms with this is that it doesn’t respond to pain medicine, so I won’t bother trying. And, that the antibiotics will have no affect the flu portion of the illness, but in a couple of days my head won’t hurt.

The important thing is that I don’t have to have a root canal. On the whole, that alone makes it a good day.

What else can’t you do?

Tonight we went into the studio to record Chapter Two of the secret project. At one point, the narration refers to one of the characters whistling. When we paused, Rob said, “Are you going to whistle?”

“No. I can’t whistle,” I replied.

A moment of silence passed with Rob’s mouth hanging slightly open. “Are you my wife?”

“Yes. But I can’t whistle.”

“Really? How did I not know that? Not at all?” He then whistled a scale. Bastard.

“Not reliably. I can make a sound, but not with any consistency. Inhaling. I can whistle on the inhale, but not blowing”

This seemed to fascinate Rob, while I felt a sort of delighted dread. Then I tried to show him what little whistling I could do, which tonight amounted to the sound of wind on the moor. Not a whistle, but not simply breath. I have no idea why whistling would have come up before, but Rob is apparently quite excited by the fact that I’m incapable of whistling. When we finished recording the chapter, he leapt up and came into the booth to ask more questions. This is the source of the delight and the dread. I have intrigued my husband by revealing a new aspect of myself, and new aspects are a precious commodity when you have known someone for seven years, but it’s something I’m bad at.

How about you? Is there something about you that your significant other learned after you’d been together long enough that it seemed as if the surprises were mostly over? Or, for that matter, what surprising thing are you bad at?

Trained Monkeys

Monkey Socks from Jenny RaeSo, after getting back from building monkeys, I had to go online to try to cancel an eFax service. It’s not that I didn’t like the service, but it certainly wasn’t the best online fax service in the world. Plus, I’d already completed the project that I had intially purchased the service for. Here is the transcript of my cancelling the account. Oh. And monkey socks that Jenny Rae gave me for my birthday. No reason to show those, I just like them.

{Amy R.} Hello, Mary. Welcome to online support. I am Amy, your online Live Support Representative. How may I assist you?

{Mary} I want to cancel my account.

{Amy R.} I am sorry to hear that you wish to cancel. Please give me a moment while I go through your records. In the meantime, please type the number corresponding to your reason for cancellation:

1) Moving to another provider
2) Bought a Fax machine
3) Business or role changed
4) Short term project completed
5) Financial reasons
6) Problems with Faxing or Billing
7) Dissatisfied with Quality of service
8 ) Too Costly

{Mary} 4

{Amy R.} Appreciate your feedback. Please give me a moment.
{Amy R.} Thank you for waiting.
{Amy R.} Mary, I can understand that currently you do not need the service however, it is always good to have a alternative faxing service as you may not know when the need for faxing may arise.
{Amy R.} In the current scenario, as a special consideration and goodwill gesture, your eFax account will be credited with $25.90 so that you may utilize our services without being billed our monthly fee for the next two billing cycles.
{Amy R.} Since you will not be charged any monthly fee for the next two months you may keep the account till then. If however, you still feel that you do not have any use for our services by the end of the two months credit period, then you can always contact us back anytime.

{Mary} I do not want the account. I have kept it open, just in case and have not used it for about a year. Cancel my account, please.

{Amy R.} Mary, I can completely understand your wish to discontinue, as you will not be charged any monthly fee for the next 2 billing cycles, you can retain this number at least till the end of two months credit offer.
{Amy R.} I would also provide you with an additional gift balance of $10.00 with which you can send up to 100 pages of faxes for free (per page per minute within US & Canada) along with the monthly credit.
{Amy R.} At the end of 2 months credit period, if you feel that the fax number does not serve your purpose, you can contact back to us anytime to process your request. We will just crediting your eFax account with $25.90 and $10.00 as gift balance for which you will not be charged any monthly fee for the next two months.

{Mary} No, thank you. Cancel my account now.

{Amy R.} Okay, I understand and respect your decision for cancellation. I will cancel your account with us immediately.

Actually, I only had to say it three times, so I guess that’s not too bad, as far as dealing with trained monkeys goes.

One percent

For the fiberglass resin I’m using, I have to use 99% resin to 1% hardener. At the moment, I’m having to face the bitter truth that I mis-judged the amount of hardener and didn’t put enough in. This means that the fiberglass I just put on the bear’s face is remaining a gooey, toxic mess. It is, to say the least, disappointing.


So, it took me about forty-five minutes to create the intial Save Apex website. And then I have spent the rest of the day inputting the donations. I mean, really. They keep coming in. It astounds me.

I had a total fan-girl moment when the signed, hardback first-edition copy of the Sparrow came in. When someone asks me to recommend a book, it’s usually that one. Love it a lot. And I also exchanged emails with Dr. Ben Bova. Um. Hello. I mean, the email only came to me because he donated a copy-edited manuscript of Titan. But still! Ben Bova in my inbox.

When I opened the raffle this morning, I had ten items on the board, with five others promised. There are forty now. Forty!

Oh yeah, I also worked on the bear and did some editing. Busy day.

Novel Update

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meterZokutou word meter
35,387 / 50,000

2,284 words.

For those of you keeping score at home, I wrote for an hour and forty-five minutes today.


Mom bit her lip, but didn’t respond.


Brownie Thistlekin stepped forward, twisting his broom in his hands.

Happy Birthday Dad!

While I wish that Rob and I could be home to celebrate with you, I trust that Mom and Steve will be able to help you with your birthday present.

Reading Aloud 4: Cross-gender voices

This entry is part 4 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

Cross-gender voices are a tricky business. Even if you can really do a convincing cross-gender voice–and I know folks who can–the fact is that in a live reading, people know there’s one person doing all the voices. There are two ways cross-gender voices can throw people out of listening. It’s really bad, and embarrassing, or it’s really good and shocking that a female voice is coming out of a man’s mouth. Either way, the listener drops the story for a moment.

This is like a turn of phrase that’s really stunning in a story. You stop reading for a moment and think, “Wow, that’s lovely.” That may be true, but the story has stopped, right there. Same thing with voicing. Any time you make the listener stop to think, you’ve injured your story.

The point of doing different voices is to make it clear who is speaking–it’s not to make it sound like there are fifty people sharing the stage with you. If you really want it to sound like there are completely different people, hire some actors.

Now, with that said, you also want to use your voice to enhance the character and to help paint a picture in your listener’s mind. Even when I’m doing same gender voices, I tend to “lighten” my voice a little to make it more feminine.

But, besides the “audio picture” I’m trying to paint, part of the reason I do that is so that when I do male voices, I’m altering my voice to a similar degree.

Let me use a visual analogy. If you are watching a cartoon, you don’t think about the fact that there is no texture in hair or clothing. But, as soon as the animated character wanders onto a digitally rendered lawn, the fact that you can see every blade of grass is jarring. It makes the grass look unreal, and the character look unreal. They don’t and shouldn’t live in the same universe.

With voicing, if you want your cross-gender voices to sound real they must live in the same universe. So if you’re a guy and you’ve got to do a female voice, then don’t use your “natural” voice for a male character. Color your male voices to the same degree that you color your women’s.

And remember that you can be subtle.

Reading Aloud 3: Narrating

This entry is part 3 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

Narrating is at once the easiest part of reading aloud and the hardest. It is the easiest because you don’t have to worry about character voice or distinction–or do you?

You do. That’s why it’s one of the hardest parts. The narrator is a character in your story and is the one that needs to connect to the listener. The voice needs to be distinctive enough that when you say a line of dialogue and then return to the narrator, the audience recognizes the voice. At the same time, it cannot distract from the story by being so distinctive that it overshadows the words.

The initial instinct is to use your own voice. This is a good instinct, but I’m going to suggest that you use a specific form of your natural voice. When we’re talking, there’s a number of different shadings that happen with our voice most of which have to do with Attitude. Your voice changes, subtly, depending on whether you’re talking to your mother, your boss, your lover, or answering the phone.

Your phone voice is a really, really useful voice. It will probably sound professional, fairly neutral, and slightly more modulated than your hanging-with-chums voice. You know the one I mean, right?

So let’s take that voice out for a spin. I’m going to give you a chunk of text to play with from Ray Bradbury’s The Fruit in the Bottom of the Bowl. Read this silently first.

William Acton rose to his feet. The clock on the mantel ticked midnight.

He looked at his fingers and he looked at the large room around him and he looked at the man lying on the floor. William Acton, whose fingers had stroked typewriter keys and made love and fried ham and eggs for early breakfasts, had now accomplished a murder with those same ten whorled fingers.

He had never thought of himself as a sculptor and yet, in this moment, looking down between his hands at the body upon the polished hardwood floor, he realized that by some sculptural clenching and remodeling and twisting of human clay he had taken hold of this man named Donald Huxley and changed his physiognomy, the very frame of his body.

Here are very rough, basic rules to start with.

  1. Speak slower than you think you should. As you become more familiar with text you will naturally speed up. This is the first time your audience has heard the words. You should be painfully slow, in your own ears.
  2. A period means pause and count to 2.
  3. A comma means pause and count to 1.

Go ahead and read through it, just thinking about that.

Now, the fun stuff.

Each sentence has a word or phrase that is the most important thing in it. Take the first sentance of the second paragraph. “He looked at his fingers and he looked at the large room around him and he looked at the man lying on the floor.”

What’s the most important thing here? “the man lying on the floor.” Underline it, so that when you get there you put a slight emphasis on it. Now in that phrase, what’s the most important word? Man? That would be my bet. So a slight line goes underneath it, but you don’t want to do too much or you’ll break the rhythm of the sentence.

Placing emphasis can be as simple as putting more stress on that part of the sentence, the same way you put more stress on the accented syllable of a word.

There’s a simple exercise to make you more concious of using stress in a sentence to change the meaning. Say “The ball is on the table.”
Now I want you to answer each of these questions with the same sentence, changing only the emphasis of one word to answer.

  • What is on the table?
    The ball is on the table.
  • What is the ball on?
  • Is the ball under the table?
  • The ball is not on the table, is it?

There are other ways to do it as well. You can use a vocal tremor, a dimenuendo, a crescendo, tempo, aspiration or a dozen other tricks. The key is to decide how your character, the narrator, feels about the moment. Remember Attitude? Go through this block of text and mark the attitude that you think your character feels. The deeper the penetration into the POV character, the more attitude your voice should display.

Bradbury uses the word “looked” three times in that sentence. The echo of the word can be powerful if it’s used right. Take a minute and think about how William Acton feels about each of the things he’s looking at. Perhaps the emotions could be wonder, disorientation and horror.

Another section to pay special attention to is this bit, “he realized that by some sculptural clenching and remodeling and twisting of human clay”

The verbs “clenching” and “twisting” are particularly visceral. When I was talking about words that were almost onomodopaeic, I meant words like this. When you clench something it doesn’t really make a sound, but you can manipulate the word to create a vocal description of it. If you tighten your throat–clenching it–the sound of the word will change. Find words like these and see if you can wring the vocal description out of them.

So read that chunk o’text again–after marking it–and see how much emotion you can get out of it.

What we’ve done with this exercise is gone from an emotionally neutral narrator to an emotionally invested narrator. There are times when each will be the most appropriate choice. Remember when I said about each sentence having a word that’s the most important in it? When you are using these ornaments try to pick only one per sentence, otherwise it’s like having a superflity of adjectives. It’s very easy to tip from emotional investment to verbal pyrotechnics. Make certain that you are making choices that advance the story.

Questions? Requests? Complaints?

Post delayed screening

I wrote this post a couple of months ago, but didn’t publish it because the episode had not been released yet. Now that it’s shown in the U.K…. but don’t worry. There are still no plot spoilers.

After we wrapped today, everyone trooped upstairs to watch Haunted Castle. It was so long ago that I had forgotten that I did the voice of the owl–the only voice I’ve done on the show. The 3D department did phenomenal work on this show and deserves major kudos.

One of the funny thing about seeing shots months after doing them, is that it brings back memories of the day surrounding the moment in addition to the seeing the finished product. So when Bessie is hanging the sheets on the line and there’s a closeup of her hands, which are mine, I remembered standing on an apple box in order to reach the line and that Emily was standing to my right to hand me the second clothes pin. Although, now that I’m typing this, I don’t think that bit was used.

Anyway, it was fun to see. I can’t wait to see the next one.