Monday, December 11, 2017

Day One Down

Ever have one of those days when you're just not that smart? You find yourself making basic errors well-below your level of knowledge and experience, and you can't seem to grasp even low-level concepts. I had that day today. It was supposed to be a solid writing day--and I put in the time--but I ended it with one page written. I think. Maybe I wrote another. I don't know. I don't know if I wrote it completely last Friday (or whenever Dave was helping me write complex SQL queries to join the tables in my dataset), or if I only started it then and mostly wrote it today. *sigh* I feel my brains leaking out my ears as I sit here. Tomorrow I'm going in to the office all day and I hope I absorb smartness and savvy from the air and people around me. And tamales. Apparently the office orders lunch in on Tuesday and it's tamale day.

On fronts other than writing, however, it was a solid (if somewhat lethargic) day. I worked out. I packed two glass shipments that I will mail tomorrow. I packed three Christmas packages also to go out tomorrow. I didn't make it through the bills, but I will hang the stockings by the chimney with care now, and then I'll head off to clean up dog pee on my way to bed. Thank you Baxter.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

I Gird My Loins For the Week To Come

Because we'll be on vacation next week, this is the week before Christmas for me. Everything that needs to be purchased, wrapped, packed, mailed, or delivered must be done before Friday. My tech writing gig must be almost finished. My glass orders must ship. And my normal, full life must occur simultaneously including working out, taking the dogs to the dog park, going to ceramics class, taking a piano lesson, and dealing with home repairs (a water leak from the second floor bathroom). There are bills to be paid, new tires to acquire, prescriptions for refill, and a car to go in for service before taking it on a long drive. And there are five days. Five. I am not counting Saturday right now as it's going to be a catch-whatever's-left day. Breathe. Don't chase the squirrels. Don't go down the rabbit holes. Don't get stuck on the hamster wheel (also known as squirrel-caging). I think Dave's worried about me. But he shouldn't be, for I have list!

Tonight we saw The Shape of Water, and it was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped it would be. Too often a movie with a seemingly  beautiful, complex story in previews is rendered banal, trite or shallow as a full feature film due to poor writing, poor acting, poor direction, or a combination of the above. As with Three Billboards--my other recent favorite--everything about this movie is perfect. Del Toro is hands down my favorite director working today. One of the things I love most about his films is his intentional attention to color.

The following is from an interview he did did with the folks at Loot Crate:

"For our readers who are studying film, or are interested in filmmaking: What are the universal aspects of your craft that you feel apply to everything you do, whether it’s a period love story like this or a big, futuristic action film like Pacific Rim?

Well, the same very, very careful and minute color-coding, texture and shape coding, the same impulse… to use audio-visual language to tell the story, other than just the screenplay. [The type of] dramturgy that you can share with theater and TV, you can use to tell the very language of film, and tell the story. When we color-code we do so for content, you know? Not for looks. We assign each color in the palette a specific reason to be there.  For example, in The Shape of Water, blues and cyans are [Elisa’s] apartment, because she’s a creature of the water. Every other living space – Zelda, Giles, Strickland – all of them are color coded for daylight, in ambers, oranges, yellows. They immediately exude daylight. We use green for the future, very pointedly, even in the dialogue. And then we use red for love and cinema: Only for the theater seats, the theater door, and her clothing once they fall in love. And I could walk you through a very different use of the same colors for example in Crimson Peak: red signifies the past, the warm colors are for America, the cool colors are for the old world.

Are there films, or even artists, that have used a similar strong approach to color or light that you feel influenced you in a big way?

The moment I felt it gelled was very early on when I was a kid, I read an interview with Fellini. He said, very pointedly, “When I went from black and white to color, I wanted to make color tell the story. I wanted it to count for something.” And I thought, that’s true, and the same applies to light, color, texture, everything.  Every time you’re using an audio-visual grammar, there are directors that use it almost in a casual way, and there are those that use it in a painterly way. And when I say “painterly,” I don’t mean “pleasant.” But actually, as part of the energy of the painting. If you have a sunset by Van Gogh, and a sunset by Turner, and a sunset by a classical painter, they will be completely different, and they could be depicting the same moment. The thickness of the paint, the boldness of the stroke… the color palette they use. They are read in a way that we don’t read film, but I try to write it in that way. I try to write it in a painterly way."

Such a beautiful movie and one that I know I'll see more details in the next time I watch it. Makes me think I want to pick Crimson Peak as one of my choices for our New Year's Eve movie fest this year...

Saturday, December 09, 2017

I Write SQL, Therefore I Am

There was more to this beautiful day than the writing of SQL queries, but that is what occupied my time for the past couple of hours. I took three years worth of the raw intake and outcome data from Austin Animal Center--a no kill shelter here in Austin--and put it up as a dataset in my workspace on From there I wrote some queries (with help from my spouse as a SQL refresher) that I'll use to make new tables, and the documentation I'm writing for will go against this dataset. What does it say about you when you rush through your day (laundry, delivering a loom, Christmas presents and decorating, and making glass for orders) so that you can finally get on the computer and play with SQL? I'm honestly finding it as addictive as I did Diablo when I first started playing it. (Whatever happened to...?)

This is the last weekend at home before we go on vacation so I'm trying to get the house ready for the house sitter, the apartment ready for the renter, and Christmas presents ready for us so I don't have to wrap everything on Christmas Eve when we get back. This week is my big push for the tech-writing gig and I really want to do the minimum possible on non-writing activities during the day. But the dogs need to go to the dog park, bills need to be paid, orders need shipped, I need to work-out (I know, right?). It's a very needy week.

Before I dissolve into a whiny, needy, little puddle, I'm going to hie myself off to bed. I'll work more tomorrow.

Friday, December 08, 2017

End of Day, End of Week

It's already after 10:00! Where do the days go? I have been really enjoying working for in my contract writing gig. Today I went in for much of the day and had my own desk in an empty office. Next week I'll go in some more and take over an unused desk in the data pen next to one big brain and across from another. I'm getting sharper and smarter through osmosis.

Today the snow melted here--though temps are still in the mid 30's--and new snow dumped on Atlanta. Winter has us in his icy grasp. Guess I won't be looking in on the bees till it warms up a bit.

Tomorrow is a glass, home admin, and Christmas day. I have three orders to get out, presents to order (sadly not make) and ship, and bills to pay. It's like I was a regular 9-5 person home for the weekend's chores!

Now, after this excruciatingly brief post, I'm off to snuggle the spouse under a big down comforter.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

And Now We Have Snow!

 It has been a very long, very full day. The way this tech writing gig has worked over the past couple of days is that I get in an hour or so in the morning, a couple three hours in the afternoon, and then three four hours after dinner. It gets me a decent number of hours (especially given that I haven't had any full writing days yet), but I am pretty wound up by bedtime after the hours of intensely focused work. Tomorrow is the first full, uninterrupted, otherwise-unscheduled, writing day and I am looking forward to it. Much of my first day was spent installing software, getting accounts set-up, and beginning the organizational process. I also did a lot of concept review. Yesterday I didn't feel like I made much headway, but today I finalized the structure I'm using for the docs, the meta data, and the individual page format. Now I feel like I'm moving forward on the real meat of the writing.

Enough about work though. The real topic of interest tonight is snow! I have seen snow in Atlanta, and ice in Austin, but I have never seen fluffy white snow on the ground in Austin before. Dave said our botanical garden in the snowy night is beautiful, but I didn't make it out to see it--too busy writing. In typical southern fashion, school is closed tomorrow and Dave's company is suggesting employees stay home in the morning until the risk of icy roads is past. So we'll all be cozy together. We had a big fire tonight to celebrate winter and snow, and I think I'll go ahead and have one going all day tomorrow. There aren't that many times here where a roaring fire is more than decorative, but we're in one now.

Speaking of time, it's time to make my way under the down comforter so visions of SQL can dance in my head.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

It Rained All Day

What's with all the rain? I don't have a rain gauge up, but it didn't stop raining all day. Seriously. It rained heavily all last night and it's still raining now. That's a lot of water!

I spent another day slaving over a hot laptop... well at least part of another day. The rest was spent working on learning a skill (piano lesson), being healthy (working out), and being a good parent (having lunch with my child and taking her out after school to photograph architecture for her photography class assignment). Tomorrow I have more time to devote to writing so I can get past the first page hump.

A first page doesn't seem like much, but when you are learning a new writing platform and tweaking your outline for the rest of the doc, a lot else gets done along with the first page. Tomorrow will see me writing example queries against my test database and finishing the format for the next major set of pages. My goal is to get through all of the Basic material by the end of the week. I doubt if I can finish Intermediate, Advanced and Reference by the end of next week, but I need something to do while we're on vacation besides relax and have fun!

Speaking of relaxing... Tonight gets another short post and I'm off to bed.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Exhilarated and Terrified

'Tis a night fit neither for man nor beast. The rain is sheeting off the roof and the wind is blowing it hard against the windows. The storm is both exhilarating and a bit terrifying--much like my new contract job at Data.World. This morning I got a Mode account and used it to review the Mode SQL tutorial, and I also got a GitHub account. At 1:00 pm I attended the kick-off meeting for the project and signed a six-page independent contractor agreement. When I got home from the meeting (3:00), I added Data.World to my heretofore unused Slack account, installed and configured Atom (per the website, a hackable text editor for the 21st century), and added a new Data.World shared board to my Trello account. I even started writing the first doc! All that was before dinner. After dinner I wrote the complete outline and hierarchical structure for all the docs--really delving into what I need to write to successfully complete my contract. I am simultaneously exhilarated and terrified. I don't have any doubt that I can do it. My only question is, can I do it to my (and Dave's) standards before the end of the month?

Now it's after 11:30 and my head is spinning from so much writing. I have to go put it on a pillow. In a dark room. Next to a spouse. (Mine).

Monday, December 04, 2017

Let the Day Begin...

...let the day begin, let the day... start. But not this minute as it's 10:00 at night. (This is another listen-along post: play the video below while you read.) When the day does begin, it will be with a new chapter in my book of life. Tomorrow I start a career as a full-time, contract, technical writer! Oh it's not a long contract--only a couple of weeks--but if it goes well, I can see myself eventually taking on more contract writing. I'm not quitting glass anytime soon--or giving up on my other creative pursuits and projects--but it's time to take writing out for a spin again.

Today we (Dee, Todd and I) unloaded the minivan after the weekend's art festival and then I took it one step further and vacuumed it out since all the removable furniture (including the center console) was out. Then it was time to take them to the airport so they could fly home to Atlanta. My afternoon was spent curled up with an old romance novel I first read in the 1970's by Kathleen Woodiwiss and a nap. I gave myself an afternoon off--free from cleaning, bills, email, or work of any kind. It felt great, and now I'm recharged to start anew.

The art festival was a really good experience, and all that remains is a wrap-up meeting and sending an evaluation form to all the artists and vendors. All in all it went much more smoothly than it had any right to--and it was because there were a lot of parents and students volunteering to help out. Students set up and broke down the cafeteria, unloaded and reloaded artists' cars, and worked the Students Making Films table taking donations, and selling food tickets and bottled water. Meredith, Carlotta and Kim did graphic design, Facebook and Twitter feeds, Jason managed all the set-up and show logistics, and Ken wrangled musicians and student volunteers. The show would have failed without them. We also had all the other parents who signed up to work shifts at the table with the students. I'll admit it--I overstaffed. But I figured it was better for students to be a bit bored for a couple of hours than for the patrons or artists to have  long wait for service. I have had first hand experience of just how bad things can get when a show is not properly staffed and logistics is run badly (and not just for one year--can anyone say Chicago Tardis?).

So now to bed, but eager to Let the Day Begin tomorrow.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Men

A Fair of the Art is over! It was a good weekend, and a good experience, but I'm ready to get back to normal life. The food vendors were not as happy as they could have been--they had a pretty bad show. One of them only did yesterday, the cotton candy vendor didn't come back today either, and the face painter never showed up at all. Nor did she let me know she wasn't coming Nor did she reply to my email and text messages asking her where she was. I was polite, but unless she had a major emergency, her behavior was pretty bad. All the artists I spoke to had mostly good things to say about their experience. Now it's all over but for the artist evaluations and the wrap-up meeting.

Tomorrow I am declaring a day of rest and doing nothing more than unloading the van, taking Dee and Todd to the airport, and firing a kiln load of glass. As I look at that list it doesn't seem like much of a day off after all... But it's what I'm going to get as I start a new tech-writing gig for two weeks on Tuesday. Yep, that's right I am trying out a new profession, and if I like it, I'm going to expand on it! The only thing I'm not thrilled about is that it is going to have an impact on what I do for Christmas. I had a bunch of presents I was going to make for family, and now it's going to be tough to find time.

I could have made Christmas in the evening, but I found out last night from my child that her designs for the fashion show were to be finished by last Thursday. We just went and bought the fabric today. I also coaxed out of her that the girl she was partnering with did her own designs and sewing. Originally the deal was that Jessie would design and the other girl would sew. Guess who's doing the sewing now (and before December 13th)?

The first dress is a form-fitted white brocade sheath with large gold ruffles over one shoulder and around the hem and a beaded band around the top. Like this one, but fancier, and sleeveless.

The second is a v-necked, sleeveless blue satin with a gold lining under the skirt and a stiff interfacing in the skirt. It's somewhat like this red one, but has shoulders and a beaded lace shawl (which also needs to be made).

I don't have a pattern for either of these dresses--I have sketch. A couple of sketches, and a week and a half. This is going to be a challenging project! Then there is the men's suit she needs to make as the last piece in her collection. We're going to do it next, or her work partner is going to have to do that one for her.

Now I drag myself to bed and hope for ten straight hours of sleep.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Live From A Fair Of the Art!

It was a lovely afternoon at McCallum High School and a great day for everyone to come out and buy ART! The emerging artists at the festival were so cute I just wanted to hug all of them. I did some mentoring, I did some shopping (from all of them). It was a good day. The only down note came when I discovered that I had put the wrong hours on the website (!). I had 10-4 Saturday and 11-5 Sunday. Thanks to this faux pas, Meredith had the wrong time on the poster, and I had the wrong time on the postcard. Oy. So we left it up to individual artists and vendors as to whether they left at 4:00 or stayed till 5:00. They split about 50/50, but everyone was gone by 4:45.

Organizing a show is an incredibly difficult endeavor--especially with only two months from conception to inception. I was awake at 4:00 and and had to get up and take my phone into the bathroom so I wouldn't wake Dave and I could add things to my list of all the things I needed to take and do today. Tomorrow will be a much more low-key day. I'll take Jessie shopping for her Fashion Show project fabric tomorrow morning before heading to the At Festival. There is another project I have just added to my plate and that is seamstress for my daughter's two fancy dresses for the Art Department Fashion Show in January. Jessie designed two dresses, and other girl on her team is supposed to sew them. I have a feeling I might be picking up that slack a bit.

I would love to write more both about the art festival and about the fashion show project, but I have already fallen asleep 3-4 times during the course of writing this post. So I'll do a recap tomorrow of all the new and wonderful projects!