Is There Anyone Less Interested Than Me?

About what, you ask?  Oh, you know, the Kardashians/Jenners/entourage/etc?  I’m guessing there isn’t anyone LESS interested, but I will allow that I most likely have a lot of company down here at subzero.

Advertisements

That Settles That

I watched the Royal Wedding.  Sort of.  No, I didn’t get up at 2 am to see it live – I just found the tape on YouTube and then skimmed through the slow parts (like 90 minutes of crowd scenes and another 40 minutes of a carriage ride).  I’m happy if they’re happy.

However, viewing this did cement a determination I made long ago:  if I marry, elopement is the way to go.  Not that any marriage of mine would even vaguely resemble the royal spectacle, but with elopement, you get much less fuss, bother and expense.

Yep, I’m all in for that.

Family Fun

I can’t understand why Meghan Markle wouldn’t want the vast majority of her extended family at her wedding.  After all, they seem like such warm, caring, selfless people, only interested in seeing her happy.

Is That Medically Possible?

I’m not a doctor and do not pretend to know a great deal about medical matters.  However, there are things I’ve learned over time that could be useful for you to know.

Too often, we see injuries that simply aren’t believable, because the reader doubts such a thing is possible.

For instance, if I want an attacker to stab someone in the head with a pocketknife, writing that it pierced the skull, entered the brain and caused instant death is very unlikely.  That’s why we do research.  What’s inside our faces?  A skull.  A bony skull.  A sturdy bony skull.  Damage is possible, but it is designed to protect the brain, so it is pretty durable.  Is it possible to stab through it?  Maybe.  In your research you may find that such a thing has happened once or twice, though there may be extenuating circumstances that made it possible.  But in general, it probably doesn’t happen a lot.

So, if it isn’t at all possible, don’t write it.  No one will believe you.  If it is possible, though not probable, write it, but address the issue of unusual circumstances making it possible.  Say that it’s rare, and mention how the knifer either got very lucky in their attack, or was so skilled that they knew how to circumvent the difficulties.  Give your reader a reason to believe anything that isn’t common.

We often see depicted in movies/stories someone being stabbed or their throat slit or such, and then they silently die instantly.  Only trouble is, that isn’t at all likely.  Most people will cry out when stabbed or even attacked, so you need to silence or muffle any outcry.  Most of the time the person isn’t dying from the injury so much as bleeding to death and that doesn’t happen instantaneously.  Knowing human physiology increases the likelihood that your attacker stabs them in an extremely vulnerable spot, to improve the possibility of killing their victim.  I ran into this when I had someone kill a person who was holding a hostage.  I had to find a way of quickly killing the person without the hostage being injured in the process.  And in researching the issue, it wasn’t simple to come up with a believable solution.

We see this often, also, when someone breaks a leg and then is running marathons a week later.  Bones don’t knit that fast.  Know how long it takes to recover from an injury – that is how long your ‘victim’ is going to be hampered.  And that means complete recovery.  If you don’t use an arm or leg for 6 weeks while a bone mends, the muscles are going to be weakened by lack of use and need to regain their former ability.  Keep that in mind.

Maybe not all of your readers will know when you fudge something.  Maybe if the story is really good they won’t bother to question whether or not it could happen.  But maybe they will.  If you have a sound basis for an injury/illness, you don’t have to go into all the details of it, just what is important to the story.  But having the details in the back of your mind can add to the telling of it, or guide you where to make advisory comments, such as, “Don’t see that often.  Once in a blue moon.  The killer was either very good or very lucky to accomplish it.”

I spent hours researching the attack I mentioned earlier, but it amounted to only a couple of seconds/minutes “on screen” and I didn’t go into it in great detail.  I, in essence, had 50 pages of research for 3 sentences.  But having the details in my mind made it possible to write those 3 sentences more believably than before I did the research.

Keep your credibility – stay believable.

Master – apprentice. Hmmm, an ongoing theme in many arenas.

Over on Tumblr, I found this quote on kristensnotebook and I think it’s true. 

“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”                             –  William Faulkner

I’ve read things and been enchanted with the emotions they pull from me, and then read something else and thought, “This isn’t very good.  They’re telling me what happens, and they aren’t fleshing anything out to give it depth or meaning.”  We may not always consciously read that way, but there is usually a general sense we get about what we’ve read.  If the book is good, we tend to reread it, sometimes more than once, and as we do we notice tiny details that play into making it so ‘good’.

I am a fan of the Harry Potter books, but not particularly of the movies after about the third one.  But even with the early movies, if I sit down to watch them, I find myself thinking, “Why bother with this abbreviated version when I can just read the original and get the full flavor?”  More often than not, I’ll turn off the movie and pick up the book.  And whatever is prompting me to do that is probably the same thing that has prompted so very many people to read and love these books.

That’s just one example, and not everyone will be writers like J.K. Rowling, but don’t we want to strive for that level where readers love to feast on our smorgasbord of words and ideas?

PSA: Answering Machines Explained

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…  No, wait, that’s a different story.

Ahem, let’s start over.  There seem to be a LOT of people out there who do not grasp the idea of answering machines.  Considering that voicemail is not appreciably different, I’m not sure what the problem is, but there is a problem.  So, in the interest of enlightening those poor, unfortunate souls, here’s the big secret that no one ever shared with them/you.

Answering machines came into being in the annals of history – well, the past 50 years, anyway.  They are pretty simple devices.  You attach them to a landline phone (that’s a phone that you can’t put in your pocket and carry around with you wherever you go).  Their purpose is to keep you from missing calls.  If someone calls you, and you are not at home, or are in the shower, or just stepped out to put the trash cans at the curb, you can come back to a blinking light letting you know someone called you.  Then you play a voice recording of their message to know who it was and what they wanted.  See?  Just like voicemail.

(Though, just like voice mail, they can be used to screen calls, in case there are people you don’t want to talk to, but that’s another subject altogether.)

So, when you call a friend’s cell phone and they don’t answer, a recording tells you to leave a message and then hang up.  Their phone lights up to tell them that they missed a call, and that a voice message was left.  Answering machines work exactly the same way.

NOTE:  And this is very important for you to understand – you are NOT talking to a person.  You are talking to a machine.  So saying, “Hi!  How are you today?” will avail you nothing.  Then following that up with, “Hello?  Hello?” still will avail you nothing.  Then hanging up and calling back probably won’t improve things.  Unless the person came home or decided to answer the phone on your second call, you are STILL going to be talking to a machine.  And unlike the robots in the movies, the machine is not going to talk back and have an intelligent conversation with you.

So, what have we learned?

When you call someone, and hear something along the lines of “Please leave a message after the beep/prompt/tone”, then you should leave a message and hang up.  Or hang up without leaving a message if talking to a machine that doesn’t respond scares you.

See?  Easy peasy!

Now stop calling my answering machine and trying to get it to respond to you.  It’s not C3PO or K-2SO.  You’re wasting your time expecting an answer.  These machines answer the phone; they do not give answers.  Though, come to think of it, having K-2SO answer my phone might liven things up…

Word Play

Am I the only one who randomly thinks of a word, then decides I vaguely know what it means (enough to understand when it is used), but don’t really know the precise definition?  Periodically I’ll think of a word (not always sure why) or use a word and realize that I should look it up and get a better understanding of its exact meaning.  Sometimes I’ve found that my vague understanding is sufficient, if not entirely accurate.

For example, the word ‘pundit’ floated into my head this morning for no discernible reason.  I had the vague sense of ‘people who say something’ since we hear it in the media quite a bit.  The actual definition is a little more precise than just vague ‘people’.  According to Merriam-Webster:

Definition of pundit

1 : pandit

2 : a learned person : teacher

3 : a person who gives opinions in an authoritative manner usually through the mass media : critic

These definitions make the ‘people’ a little more authoritative, though not limited to a particular field of study.  I think generally we hear the word in connection with politics, but these definitions would allow for it to be used in a broader sense, such as a scientific symposium, the medical profession or even someone teaching a class at a community college.

Do you look up words to make sure you understand their meanings and are using them correctly?  If not, try it.  You might be surprised by all the things you’ll learn.

Organize? But Why? It’s Hard!

I am by no means a computer genius, but over the years of using them, I have learned quite a few things that others seem to have missed (or not discovered yet).  One of them is the need to organize your files.

A girl I work with tends to leave all her emails in her Inbox, and then searches through the growing list whenever she wants to find something.  When she saves something to her computer, she dumps all the files in a single folder (e.g. My Documents).

Admittedly, that gets the job done, at the most basic level.  But, if you keep more than 50 emails in your Inbox and more than 50 files on your computer, it gets unwieldy very quickly.

In “the old days”, you were limited by how long a file name could be.  It could only be 6 (or 8, I forget which) characters.  Not very many to give something a meaningful name that readily identifies it.  “ltrJoe” tells me it’s a letter to Joe, but when was it written?  What if I know more than one Joe – which one is it?  I quickly learned that you could use the 3 characters after the period to give a little more info, such as:  ltrJoe.Smi   Now I know it is probably a letter to my friend Joe Smith.

However, since then, they made document extensions pertinent.  Word expects to see .doc or .docx files.  It’s how it recognizes them.  Same with .jpg, .pdg, .xlsx, etc.  So that took away the extension as an option, but they did increase the number of characters that could be used in the file name itself, and that is of great benefit.  Now, I can name things like: 

               Smith_Joe_letter_11.04.17.doc

                              I know it was a letter to Joe Smith written on 14 Nov 2017 (Though you do need to be careful that there is no confusion on the year if you often use multiple centuries; in the above you can’t tell if it was 1817, 1917 or 2017.  Sometimes that matters.)

And by how I arrange the name, I can force things to group together.  If I have multiple letters to Joe Smith, the above naming convention will make them sort alphabetically together:

               Smith_Joe_letter_11.04.17.doc

               Smith_Joe_letter_11.10.17.doc

               Smith_Joe_letter_11.12.17.doc

Occasionally, I will want a certain file to sort at the very top of the alphabetical list.  For Microsoft files, they sort:  folders (if any), then numbers, then letters.  So you might see:

               Genealogy  (folder)

               WordPress  (folder)

               Writing  (folder)

               2006 tax return.pdf

               2014 tax return.pdf

               anniversary dates.doc

               covered bridges.doc

               inventory of supplies.xls

               writing_dictionary locations.doc

But what if I often use the file ‘writing_dictionary locations.doc’ and want it to sort to the top of the list so it is easily found?  In those cases, I can put a zero in front of it, to force it to sort first in the above list (of files, not folders).  So you might see:

               Genealogy  (folder)

               WordPress  (folder)

               Writing  (folder)

               0writing_dictionary locations.doc

               2006 tax return.pdf

               2014 tax return.pdf

               anniversary dates.doc

               covered bridges.doc

               inventory of supplies.xls

That also works for the names of folders.  If I wanted the WordPress folder to always sort at the top, I could rename it, thus:

               0WordPress  (folder)

               Genealogy  (folder)

               Writing  (folder)

I can rename as often as I want, so if I no longer want the WordPress folder at the top, I can simply rename it without the 0 in front.  (I can also use X in front to force things to sort to the bottom, if I want.)

And, yes, it is important to set up folders so as to group certain information (both on your computer and in your email program).  If I want to find something to do with my Genealogy, I don’t need to look in those other folders for it.  And I don’t need to have the computer Search for it in those other folders if I don’t remember what I called it.

These things will reduce the clutter and narrow down finding what you are looking for in your files.  You can also create subfolders.  Suppose I wanted to further group information in my Genealogy folder.  I might have something like this:

               Genealogy  (folder)

                              Genealogy Articles  (folder)

                              Jones surname  (folder)

                              Online Search Resources  (folder)

                              Smith surname  (folder)

                              Wilson surname  (folder)

I know taking time to organize your files (whether in your computer, in your email, or even just paper on your desk) is time-consuming and not much fun.  But once it is done, it makes things so much easier and less frustrating.  I know in my genealogy, before I got good at this organizing thing, I often did the same research more than once.  I couldn’t find it so I figured I didn’t have it.  Then later I found I had two or more copies of the same thing.

Save yourself some long-term grief, start organizing now.  The sooner the better.

Eyes Front, Please

When I was in school, after every test there was that group of people who wanted to sit around and analyze every question and how they had answered – trying to decide if they had gotten it right or not.  I wasn’t one of those people.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care about my grades, but rather that I knew that test was ‘done’.  Nothing I did at that point was going to change my answer or change that it was right or wrong.  When I got the test back, then I could review any incorrect answers and try to determine what I didn’t understand.  Sure, a bad test grade would affect my overall class grade, but I still couldn’t change the fact that was the grade I had gotten on the test.  All I could do at that point, was try to do any extra-credit work that might raise my grade, study harder or seek help if I was struggling to understand a concept so I passed subsequent tests, and make sure my work was as good as possible.

Let’s face it, after you’ve driven off the cliff, it’s too late to decide that maybe you should have heeded the speed limit signs and slowed down on that winding road.

Don’t waste time agonizing over things in your past that you can’t change.  Focus on now and the future and make whatever changes necessary so that you don’t make the same mistakes again.  Too much time looking back is when you tend to run into something unseen ahead.  The past is a learning tool, but it shouldn’t be a deadweight.

Grow, learn, move forward.

Up for Grabs #1

Wherein I have written something, whether a single line or two, or several paragraphs, but think it highly unlikely I will ever do anything with them beyond that snippet.  Therefore, they are herewith put ‘up for grabs’.  If any of you writers can and wish to make use of them, feel completely free to do so.  I don’t even require any sort of acknowledgement if you do.  You can take a tiny part of them, the thing in its entirety exactly as is, or the basic idea and completely do with it what you will.  It just seemed pointless to let these things sit ignored on my computer until the end of time, knowing full well I won’t do anything more with them.  Rest assured, if there is any idea I have even the vaguest intention of pursuing, I will not be posting it here.  So, no fear that I’ll change my mind.

 

Her blond hair was pulled up into a topknot, but the topknot itself was a lurid pink color.  It gave a jaunty, fun impression that didn’t quite match her glowering expression.