Posts Tagged ‘Rob’

In which Mary learns why one should unplug glueguns

Rob always gets on my case if I forget to unplug the gluegun when I’m finished with it. My defense has been that the state of “finished” fluctuates. I mean, finished for the moment versus finished for the day. It takes the gun awhile to heat up, so I don’t like to unplug it when I’m only finished for the moment. That seems reasonable, right? Even if I’m leaving the room to go, say, make bread or something. I’m coming back and then I’ll have to wait ten minutes while the gun heats.

Last night I unplugged it, because I was finished for the day, and this morning worked on my computer while I was waiting for it to heat up. I heard a sudden pop. And then a hissing crackle. On my workbench, smoke poured out of the gluegun.

I unplugged it.

In the eighteen years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen a gluegun do anything like this. Still, all I can think about is: What would have happened if I hadn’t been in the room?

Dr. Who contributor copies!

Doctor Who: Destination Prague Woot! Look what I got in the mail. My story “Suspension and Disbelief” is in Destination Prague and one of the only two stories I’ve written with a puppeteer as a character. It normally seems like such a dull job, but it made sense here.

Hey! Until recently, almost everyone I knew was a puppeteer. Now there are all these writers running around in my social circles. Wacky.

Anyway, as you can see by the fact that I have a police box bank on my desk, I’ve been a long-time fan of the good Doctor, so having my story in this book — which is also my first hardcover — makes me go all kinds of fangirl goofy.

Should I get a NYC phone number?

So that’s the question du jour. Should I get a New York number for my cellphone or keep my Oregon number? I can keep the Oregon number active, so that’s not an issue.

The question is about getting work. I feel like the area code on the phone is becoming a sort of non-issue these days as more and more people switch to cells. On the other hand, it does instantly label me as an out-of-towner.

So what do you think? Switch to a 646 number or stay with the 503?

Edited to add: Thanks for the comments everyone. I decided that the continuity was probably worth more than the “local” number. Especially since I realized that I can just forward my 646 Skype number to my cellphone. It’s the best of both worlds. So, the 503 number stays.

Scalzi Chaucer’d (Listen!) : Michael Livingston

Old Mannes Werre Michael Livingston, in addition to being one of my favorite people, also happens to be a scholar of Middle English. I have just finished listening, twice, to his Chaucer’d excerpt of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.

In a fit of rage against working on my syllabi for the coming term, I took a snippet from John Scalzi’s novel Old Man’s War (chapter 9 for those playing at home) and, well, Chaucer’d it. That is, I took Scalzi’s text and translated it into Chaucer’s dialect. Details follow the audio.

That’s right–audio in Middle English. Tee-hee, quod she. I mean, look at this.

“I can take a shot,” Watson said, sighting over his boulder. “Let me drill one of those things.”

“I kan tak a shote,” quod Watson, lookynge right over his rokke. “Graunte me striken oon.”

The living room comes together

The living roomFinally, we got our futon. Whew. We also picked up a gorgeous bookcase from the early 1900s. The folks that sold us the futon said, “Need anything else?” And we said, “Bookcases?”

Behold, for reasons that are unclear to me, they wanted to get rid of this glassfront bookcase which had belonged to the husband’s grandparents. It’s beautiful! I am baffled but was very, very happy to buy it from them. Naturally, it was not a dimension that we had planned on having in the apartment, but so pretty that we went into make-it-fit mode. Actually, I think this will be better all around. So, what we are doing is using it as a divider in the living room and giving Rob a micro-office there.

Clearly, painting is still happening, but I hated the color I put up on the wall behind the lamp. It’s a purple that does not play well with anything else in the room. It is not at all the color that the photo makes it appear.

The apartment floorplanI am taking over the entire room that we had set aside as an office. Though my workbench was supposed to be temporary, it’s becoming pretty clear that I will always need something like it. I made this floorplan when we were moving out, to figure out what furniture would fit. It’s been very handy so far. Like when we were trying to decide if we could, in fact, make the bookcase fit. So far, we only have one piece that we don’t have a good home for. It’s a Japanese kimono rack, which is normally a lovely piece, but the right spot hasn’t presented itself yet.

I need to reorganize the office, which we are already starting to call the “workshop” but that will probably wait until Coraline is finished.

Who stole the show?

Pied PiperMy business and creative partner, Jodi Eichelberger, has been doing some podcasts. Here’s the description of his latest:

From August of 1994 through the spring of 1997 Mary and I toured a production of “Pied Piper” with Tears of Joy Theatre. We were particularly close to this show because Mary designed it and I wrote the book, music, and lyrics. We had lots of adventures during this tour: towing a truck through a blizzard on the Bear Mountains, being taken from a hotel room in the middle of the night by Officer Monty, losing my big toenail during a performance…but be careful when dealing with the Piper; you never know what might get charmed away. On the morning of April 16, 1996 the “Pied Piper” disappeared, along with our van and all its contents.

He invited me to relive memories of our tour with Pied Piper. You should listen to find out who stole the Pied Piper.

Look what Rob brought me from Oregon!

What’s this? A fever! A sore throat! Aw… he shouldn’t have.

Naturally, of course, we had a dinner guest last night, so I’ve probably infected the poor fellow by cooking at the height of my contagiousness.

Doggone it all

When I do a bid on a puppet, mechanisms are the most expensive part. They are fiddly things and no matter how many times you’ve built something similar, each puppet is radically different. This dog puppet, which I’m creating ears for, technically has four mechs in it since each ear is capable of two movements. The ears pull back for angry dog, and droop for sad dog.

As I was explaining to someone, I always quadruple the amount of time I think it will take to do a mech because it never goes right the first time. I’ve installed ear mechanisms on masks before. This was a thing I was familiar with. And yet…

I did a rough draft of the ears on Tuesday. On Thursday, I came back to install the final ears, but we weren’t sure where the puppeteer’s hand needed to be for the control. Saturday, I went in at three o’clock to install the triggers. I left at three a.m. Here’s what I did during those twelve hours.

Prepping the headWhile I had installed the ears on the exterior of the head, I wasn’t sure until I went in on Saturday where I would need to run the cables to control them. (Normally, you figure all of this out in advance, but there were some staging issues that needed to be resolved first, in this case.) The cable for the ears needed to move three inches in order to trigger the angry dog pullback. Unfortunately, where we needed to put the trigger, there wasn’t enough room for a lever to move that far. So, I needed to reduce the amount of distance that the cable had to move.

It’s sort of like a reverse block and tackle, because I was willing to increase the amount of resistance, to decrease the distance moved. But to do that, I needed to allow a length of line pass through the skull in a “v.” Another line would attach to that and pull it. So, I needed to cut a slot in the skull. I started by drilling four holes.

The coping saw inserted

I then inserted a coping saw blade into one of the holes to cut out my opening.

The slot cutOnce the slot was cut, I tested the ear. Which resolutely failed to work.

After a bit of cursing, some internet time and a conversation with my dad, who is a very clever man, I realized that I had attached the pull line with a fixed point, and it needed to be a fluid point. Such a silly thing to do. After that, it worked exactly as it was supposed to. Whew.

Cables inside the dog's headSorry this is a blurry photo. All the cables have to come together to a fairly tight point where they run down the length of the dog’s spine. I’m using goldenrod cable (a flexible push-pull cable for model airplanes) to get from the head down to the handle where the trigger will be. That’s the thin yellowish cable, with the brass fittings on it. I have to use cable in a housing, otherwise the movement of the dog’s head would trigger the ears as the distance between the head and the trigger changed. A housing keeps that distance fairly consistent.

Closeup on trigger
For the trigger, I opted to go with a wheel rather than a lever. The cable exits the housing and wraps around the wheel as it rotates. Rather than centering it, I put the pivot point off-center to give the puppeteer some mechanical advantage. We tested it and it worked well. Happiness.

I installed the other mechanism, which was comparatively simple. Again, running it back to a wheel. Suddenly the first mech acquired a lot of friction. I couldn’t figure out where it had come from since the new one didn’t touch it. In desperation, I pulled the second one out, thinking that its mounting might be binding the first one somehow. Nothing. I tried activating the mech from within the head without using the cable. It seemed like it was within normal limits there, which meant that the friction was occurring somewhere along the length back to the trigger. I undid the mounting on the first one, checked it for crimps and reinstalled it. Still, it had that awful friction. It was unworkable. I was baffled.

I pulled the trigger from the other mech completely off the handle and–the first mech got easier again. It was still tight, but it wasn’t unworkable. What we were facing turned out to be a combination of factors. The trigger for second mechanism put the puppeteer’s hand in a weaker position. It also activated a mechanism that naturally had less resistance, so the first mech’s trigger hadn’t actually acquired more friction, but it felt significantly harder compared to the second one. At the same time, the monofilament that I’d used had stretched out. I normally avoid the stuff, but because the dog was so pale I used that instead of the braided dacron (which is black) that I prefer. It was a bad combo all around.

The triggersUnfortunately there wasn’t anywhere else to install a trigger. It was also two o’clock in the morning. Emily had to get on a plane with the puppet later on Sunday, to Ireland. I was tearing my hair out in frustration.

What you see here is a mockup of what I wanted to install. I used the connector on the end of the cable and a ziptie to create a thumbgrip. Elastic held it in place. One slides the thumbgrip back and the ears droop. You can still hold the dog’s handle and operate the trigger for the first mech in a reasonably comfortable position. It is far, far from ideal, but it works.

Here’s the proof.

This should have been a five or six hour job. My quadruple estimate was closer to being accurate. When Emily comes back with the dog, we’ll be able to fix it for the NYC shows in January.

Rob is home

After ten days away, Rob is back from his trip to Oregon. He brought with him a container of fruit, tomatoes and a cucumber (thanks, -r-!) from -e-‘s garden. I have already eaten a plum.

Twins Days festival

TripletsI was looking for something else and stumbled across the Twins Days festival, in which thousands of twins descend on this one town in Ohio. In the photo gallery, was this photo of triplets. I just loved the guys’ shirts.

To save you from having to click on it to make it larger, the shirts say, “Ladies, there’s plenty of me to go around.” I don’t know them at all, but that’s just brilliant.

Realms cover – And here’s how it ended up…

Realms AnthologyI thought you might be curious to know how it ended up…

Neil says:

The three covers in the poll were presented in chronological order and represent a sampling of our favorites. During the 24 hour period prior to the poll, there was a lot of discussion about color, framing, fonts, and such. I have to admit to being a bit of a troublemaker. As reflected in the poll, there was a lot of support for cover #1. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the portal-effect the framing had on the art I had selected, so we pressed onward.

REALMS is now available for preorder at the Wyrm Publishing website and should be listed at Amazon and (hopefully) other bookstores within the next few weeks.

In appreciation for all the input I received, for the next week, I’m running a special 30% off promotion on preorders for this book.


ShelvesI picked up our set of bookshelves today. Compared to the kitchen cart, this was a piece of cake. It was only a three-story walkup and a eleven block stroll with the shelves on a hand truck. Every man I passed offered to help me. The shelves weren’t heavy, but they were very awkward. I was tempted to say, “Yes, if you will just push it a block to give me a breather,” but I knew I was going to need to save my karma for when I got back to our building.

There are three short steps up into the building. At the apartment where I picked up the shelves, they helped me get it down. Here, I was going to be on my own. I passed one of my neighbors as she was on her way to church. She turned around and followed me back to the building so she could hold the doors for me. Another neighbor, Manny, arrived at right that moment and helped me get it all the way up into the apartment.

Whew. Now. Note the gap between the shelf and the doorframe. Remember when I said that our floors sloped and that it was hard to make pictures look straight? This is why. I did level the shelf after taking the photo, but it took a one-inch block of wood under the left side to do it. Crazy.

All the books fit. I am happy.