Towse: views from the hill

December 31, 2005

Yo! Paula! This one’s for you!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 2:21 am

Flickr also does clusters.

Paula? This one‘s for you! (Cute kitties. Aaaaaahhhhh.)

Champ’s FlickrBlog

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 1:46 am

I have Heather Champ’s FlickrBlog bloglined (as do 1400+ other blogliners).

Champ uses the blog to point out interesting pics on Flickr.

One of her posts for 29 Dec 2005 is a click to A Flickr Sampling, which has interesting pics of abandoned cars, stuffed chairs, dustydead pianos and stuff.

What I found even more interesting were her links to the spots where she’d found these pics: urban explorers, RUSTY and CRUSTY, clutter, litter, mess and muddle and Abandoned.

Interest groups, anyone?

Flickr has a bunch of special-interest groups like these, including this one focused on San Francisco Graffiti.

Miss Snark continues …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 12:15 am

I’m now up to #61 of 66 of Miss Snark’s posted critiques of snarklings’ synopses.

I’d caught up with her efforts at #60 earlier today only to discover that she’d critiqued six more while I was reading her earlier critiques and the comments that ensued. (And I haven’t even gone back to see if more comments followed in any of the comment threads that I’ve already read!)

Miss Snark’s planning to wend her way through over 106 synopses. “Over 106″ (which had been her initial count) because she mentioned a day or two ago that some of the synopses that were bounced for exceeding the thousand-word limit had been mistakenly bounced by a word count program that converted the ['] in some e-mails to [,] and, therefore, counted contractions as two words. Ooops! She asked people who thought they’d been mistakenly bounced to resubmit.

Herewith some crystal clear advice from critique #61.

… you’ve got to give us a framework. Without that, I don’t know
what you’re talking about.

Here is how to start: The hero of the story is:
He faces a big problem. The problem is:
He gets advice about how to solve it from :
That advice is:
He gets conflicting advice from:
That advice is:

The hero faces a challenge from:
The challenger wants to do this to the hero:

The problem is resolved when:

From these sentences you have a framework.
You have to have ALL that information, pretty much in that order for me to understand what you’re talking about.

It’s been fun reading all the synopses. Some are so much clearer than others. Some more entertaining. Some discombobulated. Some drear.

The insight into what works and what doesn’t reminds me of a writing seminar I took once with Penny Warner. We were supposed to bring in the first ten pages (or some such) of our WIP.

Just reading all the other writers’ bits made it clear how an agent/editor/reader can churn through slush and sometimes know from page one that something is not going to work.

Miss Snark doesn’t do synopses in her real agenting life. Instead, she asks for a query letter and the first ten pages of your novel.

What’s clear from this synopsis exercise at her blog is that the first contact with agent/editor is your chance. Don’t blow it.

December 30, 2005

Webster’s Online Dictionary – with Multilingual Thesaurus Translation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 10:30 pm

This is a wonderful time sink.

from the site: What do you get when you start with Webster’s classic 1913 unabridged dictionary, and you add updated definitions, thousands of images (one picture being worth a thousand words…), quotes, trade names, references, timelines, translations and any other bit of information that can help someone understand a word from as many perspectives as possible? For any given word, what you get is Webster’s Online Dictionary with Multilingual Thesaurus Translation.

If I pop towse into the search I get all sorts of information up to and including how to spell out “towse” using Conan Doyle’s Dancing Men code.

December 28, 2005

How to Write a Synopsis … Questions? Read Miss Snark.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 5:29 pm

Want to know how to write a synopsis? Oh, sure. There are links here.

(Good links too!)

… but for an even better education, hie thee over to Miss Snark’s blog.

Miss Snark opened up the Crapometer for a few days last week (from 12/23 to 12/25) for synopses only. Snark is now chewing through the synopses submitted, giving her “this works” “this doesn’t” “boy HOWDY does this not work” analyses of the synopses.

I’m only up to Synopsis #20 (of 40 currently posted). What an education!

If you’ve ever faced the dreaded synopsis, or plan to in the future, check out Miss Snark’s notes. She has 106 synopses in queue and we are all hoping she doesn’t have a nervous breakdown before she finishes her slice and dice.

Don’t read Miss Snark? You should.

December 26, 2005

Downloaded a new Picasa (Build 27.66.0)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:46 pm

I’d downloaded a new version of Picasa some time in the last month or two — Release 2.1 build 27.60.

Ever since, the “make a Web page” creator hadn’t worked. 75-85% of the way through the Web page creation, Picasa would quit with an “export cancelled” message. I didn’t much care. I usually put together my own photo Web pages, but I played around with the Web page creator for a while — fiddling with the pictures used, fiddling with the size of the pictures folded into the Web page — until I figured the problem wasn’t just a simple problem of .jpgs being too big for Picasa to handle but something more fundamental.

Yesterday, when I decided to setup a page with some pictures of the tree, I decided to use Picasa for the exercise. The Web page creator still didn’t work. I checked through Picasa’s “help” site, where there were no tickets with “cancelled” or anything remotely similar to be found.

I used Google to search for / picasa “export cancelled” / and came across a post in the Picasa Google group (who knew?) where a user was making the same complaint: ‘Ever since I’ve upgraded to 2.1 build 27.60 i haven’t been able to use the “make a webpage” function – it always ends abruptly with an information dialog saying “export cancelled”.’

Hey! Me too! I thought. One responder’s solution was to revert to a previous version. Better than that! I thought, it’s been a while since the 27.60 build. I bet Picasa has fixed whatever the problem was.

I downloaded a new Picasa this morning (Build 27.66.0) and, as expected, the Web page creator worked first time, without a hitch.

The tree … more

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 5:15 am

Update: Clicking the photograph will get you a Web page of tree photos pulled together with Picasa‘s quick Web page creator.

December 25, 2005

’tis the season

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 4:13 pm

 Posted by Picasa

December 17, 2005

Those were the days, my friends

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 10:49 pm

The tree is up!

For a while there I thought the tree would be a casualty of the move and I was sniffling about it.

Christmas. Christmas. Christmas carols. Christmas songs. “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas.” All of that. Even “White Christmas” makes me feel nostalgic, even though my Christmases that have even had the slightest chance of being white have been few and far between.

My favorite part of Christmas was always the tree, with its hodge podge of decorations: 1800s German glass ornaments, dough ornaments made by kindergarteners, CostPlus ornaments, glass Santa Clauses, ornaments bought in foreign lands, and a plastic Rudolph ornament from back when his nibs was young. …

The living room at the old place had clerestory windows, so one side was higher than the other. We could squeeze in an 11′ tree, when we could find one. Every year, excepting one or two in the last quarter century, we’d head up into the Santa Cruz Mountains with the kiddies and cut down a tree, after great debates over which tree was most deserving. It would take forever to set up the tree and get the ornaments hung, but the time was well spent.

Every year, I’d sit by the tree every evening after supper, with all the lights off but those on the tree. The smell of fresh cut fir filled the house. The lights on the tree sparkled. The ornaments glistened and turned in the drafts. Sparkling. Reflecting back. The tree always seemed such a fairy tale tree, a Nutcracker tree, all the tales of Christmas wrapped up in the quintessential tree, always the best tree ever.

I didn’t know if we were having a tree this year or any year to come. His nibs had made comments about the impossible logistics of finding a tree and hauling it down the Filbert Steps from Montgomery and up the front stairs and setting it up …

… no, the problem was less the logistics of the tree itself and more the impossible logistics of hauling the lights and garlands and the heavy old Army trunk full of Christmas ornaments away from where they’re stashed and bringing them down the Steps from Montgomery and up the front stairs … and sorting through until we find the decorations that must be on the tree and then adding other decorations until the tree tells us it’s ready.

Come Epiphany, the tree comes down and everything happens in reverse. The tree is an incredible amount of work and would be moreso this year because of the logistics. Was it worth it? The practical side of me said that a tree loaded with sentimental ornaments is not necessary for Christmas and might be too much effort.

The kid in me, though, was sniffling about it. I didn’t know if we’d have a tree this year. Sniffle. Sniffle.

I sniffled for days and weeks. Could there be a real Christmas without a tree? I finally whacked myself alongside my head and told myself to stop snivelling. The effort was indeed worth it. We just had to figure out how to proceed.

I made a plan.

We’d buy the tree from the Delancey Street Foundation lot on the Embarcadero. We wouldn’t need to drive that far home with the tree, maybe a mile or two. If we took it slowly, we could manage the distance with the tree tied to the roof of the car. Even with the Honda, we could transport it.

(Turned out the tree we chose was small enough we managed to stuff it inside the Honda, after turning down the back seat. We were even able to close the trunk lid.)

We’d open the old Army trunk right where it’s stashed and sort through the decorations there, bringing just a subset of must-have decorations here.

The tree and the decorations were do-able. Yes, they were. Without a question.

His nibs agreed.

So we did.

Even though we sorted through and left boxes and boxes of ornaments behind, we still brought too many decorations down the Steps, of course. When a tree is 6-7′ tall, as ours is this year, it’s not only several feet shorter than we’re used to, but the circumference is far less as well, meaning far fewer branchlets to hang things on.

We’ll learn. This year was the first Christmas here, and a test of what’s possible. We’ll sort through and box up some things that it’s now obvious we won’t be using while we live here — old lights that are old enough to be interesting, old Christmas balls from the 50s that the offspring can sell on eBay or its logical equivalent after we settle in for our dirt naps, excess glass beaded garlands, the glass musical instruments, the glass clowns, the under-the-tree village houses and trees and people and animals …

We just spent the afternoon, going through stuff, moving back in time, rewrapping things up, reboxing.

Turns out some of the old Christmas lights were wrapped in pages from the S.F. News – Call Bulletin, dated Friday, Jan 06, 1961.

What was going on in the world almost forty-five years ago now?

Well, the Quo Vadis at 375 Bush was advertising a complete prime rib dinner for $2.95.

The Call Bulletin had a long article on the Best Dressed List just released by the New York couture group after compiling the results of ballots submitted by two thousand fashion editors, designers, and society leaders. Mrs. John F. Kennedy, wife of the President-elect, was voted tops on the list by a landslide. Of those named, the Call Bulletin had photographs of Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Princess Stanislaus Radziwill (also known as little sister Lee), Queen Sirikit of Thailand, Audrey Hepburn, Mrs. Patrick Guinness, Mrs. Stavros Niarchos, Mrs. Norman Winston, Mrs. John B. Ryan III, and Princess Alexandra.

In the same section was a column labeled Club Activities. The Blue Horizon Social Club was offering old fashioned dancing for the middle-aged. The San Francisco Women’s Breakfast Club was meeting.

A headline cried, “Million Dollar Divorce: Dick and June Powell Separate.” “What To Do About Castro” was the top editorial.

Those were the days, my friends. …

Another advertisement read, “Caesar’s Italian Restaurant at the corner of Bay and Powell. Full Course Italian Dinners.” No price given.

Some things don’t change.

Caesar’s is still there. On Sundays black Crown Vics drop off guys of a certain age, escorting their moms to Sunday dinner.

These are the days, my friends. … Enjoy them.

How did I get here from there OR Uncle Abe’s Favorite Chocolate Cake

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:37 am

There’s been some talk over at Scott Adam’s blog as to what he should buy his fiancĂ©e for Christmas.

(I, of course, nudged him to buy her a 100% cotton woven throw with a picture of Ada Lovelace)

Someone else mentioned that he’d never go wrong if he bought something off Oprah’s Favorite Things list.

Huh? I said. So I went off to investigate and found (among other more appropriate gifts) this recipe for Uncle Abe’s Favorite Chocolate Cake.

Ingredients for cake/filling/glaze are:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 10 oz. + 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1C + 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1t. vanilla extract
  • 2C + 1/2C heavy cream

… and that’s basically it! What’s not to like?

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