Friday, November 23, 2007

My World and Welcome To It - Friday 11/23/2007

No, not really a reference to the James Thurber book. Just an invitation to look over my shoulder and see what I've been saying about writing by candlelight. It's truly magical.

After taking the photo I realized that the black object in the left background is my 250 gig external hard drive. Just so you should understand that although I am committed to my fountain pen, I am no Luddite.

I am most happily productive when I am writing new material in my notebook and then transferring it to my computer later. The pen taps into something that my keyboard doesn't. Maybe because the written page is not intended to be perfect while the computer file just begs to be edited.

Chez Sundry is open for business. I'm glad to report standing room only crowds this morning.

Note the female goldfinch on the top tier on the right fending off a finch who's trying to land on her head!

Taking the Cake - Thanksgiving Day 2007

This is what it's supposed to look like. Except that it's supposed to be four layers rather than three.

But four won't fit in my vintage cake carrier!

So yesterday I frosted and caramel-glazed and pecaned the extra layer and put it on a paper plate and took it over to the retired single guy in our neighborhood who follows his dog around the hills half the day. I was a little nervous that he might think it was odd or that I thought he needed charity, but--yay!--he was just very pleased and maybe a little moved.

Everybody wins!

The mysterious city of oil. A couple of times a year we pass the Signal Hill/Long Beach area at dusk and I wish I knew where to set up a tripod and get a shot of this massive refinery all lit up.

Someday, maybe.

Shhhh! - Wednesday 11/21/2007

I can't tell you everything I did on my layoff day. Because it involves hiking over the the hill.

To meet Hydra at the offramp.

And embark on a Super-Secret Mission!

Which didn't involve this L.A. Sheriff's Department helicopter. But it was big and it took off right next to us, and doesn't my Nikon D80 just kick ass in a pinch?

Fulfilled my list of things to do on a layoff day by writing for an hour and a half, cooking ahead for Thanksgiving and hiking over that hill.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

CSI: Toluca Lake - Tuesday 11/20/2007

Who killed the laser printer?

J'accuse! Shall we blame Mamalisa, who lurks in the background?

You know from watching the show, that the most obvious answer just can't be right.

A quick interview of the usual suspects garnered the following speculations:

"It killed itself." From the person most likely to empathize with the poor overworked machine.

"It's number was up." From the person with the most Zen presence. Who, coincidentally, orders the toner and replacement drums and may actually be aware of the projected print-life of the machine in question.

"It needed killing." From the person most likely to lose a document somewhere between her computer and said printer.

Given that the holiday is fast approaching, I 'm afraid that this crime scene is going to go cold and stay cold. Given that the strike is on, I'm afraid we won't recruit another printer for a long long time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Foggy Bob's - Monday 11/19/2007

I was amazed at how the flash revealed texture in what looked like solid fog to the naked eye. It was so foggy I became disoriented driving down Riverside Drive. They even shut down Burbank airport due to the fog.

Cool Thing: Another funny video: The WGA Strike: A Love Story.

And now some thoughts about writing, because it's been going well again for the past week or so. (Rah!) You're excused, if you want to be. But if you do read on, I'd love to hear any thoughts you have about the process.

I remembered that candlelight provides a private sphere in which to create. It helps me focus and dims out the rest of the world. I rose before dawn and Saturday and Sunday and had a great time writing in candlelight.

How interesting! My bad guy, who would spend a lot of time in firelight, came out of the dark and had so much to tell me.

I planned to write in third person from the points of view of the three other characters and let him be a mystery, but when it comes right down to it, a good villain is someone we can relate to on some level.

He has a whole different perspective on everything that happens in that canyon. Of course. His set of recent experiences has been vastly different from anyone else's

In exchange for letting him express his point of view, he showed me how to address a couple of plot problems.

I guess it takes me a lot of writing and thinking to get to the point where the characters start showing me things. Kind of like acting, where you have to learn the lines and really own them before you spark to the character’s perspective and motivations.

It’s interesting to know that others are doing NaNoWriMo right now, and to reflect on how good it was for me. I’ll always know I started this novel on November 1st, 2006.

Pumpkin Cake! - Sunday 11/18/2007

I found this truly wonderful recipe for a pumpkin cake several years ago and finally got around to trying it today. You can go to the link if you like. This is just going to be notes about things you should know if you're going to try it.

Like... Note the photograph above. I had to laugh when I tried to follow the instructions to beat the cream cheese (for the frosting) at medium until creamy. Even though it was at room temperature, it all migrated instantly to the beaters!

This is where the recipe's 20-minute prep time first gets thrown off (unless, like me, you realize that neither you nor your husband actually put the eggs into the cart and you have to wait for reinforcements) as it takes 3-5 minutes to repeatedly scrape the cheese off the beaters as you try to get it creamy.

Tip #1, kind of: Next time I will try adding in just a few spoonsful of the pumpkin puree at the beginning. (Maybe I'll let you know. I'm making this again for Thanksgiving.)

It will also take you another few minutes if, like me, you have to pause to laugh helplessly, find your camera and stage several shots along the way.

Tip #2: Don't believe them when they say to mix the frosting in a "small bowl." What is Kraft's definition of a "small bowl" anyway!? I had a suspicion that my definition of a small bowl wouldn't hold the 8 oz. of cream cheese, 7 oz. of pumpkin puree, 8 oz. of confectioner's sugar and full tub of Cool Whip.

Right I was. This bowl is probably about 2 quarts and it's just about full!


Or he might just wander over--while you're waiting for the cakes to cool and trying to design your Christmas card online--and take a big bite out of one of them.

If this does happen, simply cut around the bite with a knife and fill in with frosting. Don't tell anyone about this. It will only make them uneasy about eating in your home.

Unless they have cats. People with cats have fewer food/animal issues because if they're honest with themselves, they know that their darlings dance all over everything in the kitchen anytime you leave the room.

Tip #4: Half of this cake is enough for most reasonable people to enjoy. I called Braveheart for advice on freezing cakes. (In her spare time, she is the Mistress of Cakes and the Doyenne of Pies.) I wrapped the other 8-inch round in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and slid it into the freezer for later. Froze the extra frosting separately, in a yogurt container.

If you followed the link, you'll see that this cake is configured differently because it's only two layers (really one layer split into two) and it has frosting on top, and there are no pecans.

Which leads us to

Tip #5: If it's your boss's birthday and she's allergic to nuts, don't even bother to toast the pecans and take them on the side. Let her feel that the cake is complete as it is.

Or, like me, tell her that you omitted the pecans because you didn't think she should have to provide the entertainment by puffing up and being Medivacked to the hospital.

"Happy Birthday! Buh-bye!"

A good, hypoallergenic time was had by all.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Out of the Fray - Saturday 11/17/2007

Not thinking much about the strike today. Though they do have a plan now for the WGA and the AMPTP to meet on November 26th to restart negotiations.

Went for a short hike around our neighborhood for the first time since my surgery. Followed this raven with my lens.

Time for these little guys to settle down for the night. They were all a-twitter.

What a day. Just my kind of day. Woke up before dawn and wrote by candle light. I'd forgotten what a great thing that was for me when I was working on my 1820s character. It occurred to me that there won't be a lot of unnatural light in the novel I'm working on now.

So I lit a candle and decided to see what my villain (after today I almost hate to call him that) might have to say. I thought I'd get inside everyone's head but his, and leave him a mystery. But once I gave him the slightest invitation, he stepped out of the dark and boy, does he have a lot to offer the story.

I guess it takes a lot of writing and thinking to get to the point where the characters start showing me things. Kind of like acting, where you have to learn the lines and really own them before you spark to the character’s perspective and motivations.

It’s interesting to know that others are doing NaNoWriMo right now, and to reflect on how good it was for me. They're on a heroic journey. I’ll always know I started this novel on November 1st, 2006.

Cool Thing: a video clip of Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader on The Electric Company that I dug up for an online friend who didn't know he was on that. Oh yeah. So hip. Not so much a singer though.

Rosy Outlook - Friday 11/16/2007

I take this as a sign that I arrived at my usual parking spot across the street from this building at exactly the right moment this morning.