It’s like clockwork.

From the first time I ever gave it a shot, every year that I’ve done NaNoWriMo, there has been something to come up and make things complicated. Every time, something bad happens that threatens to derail the entire plan. I thought that it was just bad luck the first time, but I soon discovered that I could almost set my clocks and calendars by it.

 

The first time, it was being basically booted out of where I was staying—a situation that I’m choosing to call a “constructive eviction” as I really was afraid for my safety. Exactly a year later, things got a little different and I wound up with a computer to work on!

…except it blew up. The hard drive went up in smoke and the smoke damage delicate stuff inside the refurbished machine, and I had to try something else. I didn’t get a darn thing done for Nano that year.

 

The following year, things seemed to be going well. I had a plan, I had an outline, I had the skeletal first zero-draft from the first place I’d been living, and I had my own apartment.

…I also had a catastrophic injury to my left knee—remember that series of rants and lawsuit? That one—and my computer was somehow lost by my now-ex (not why things ended, but I don’t feel like getting into it. Some of you know the deets already, and some of you don’t, but the burden of an ongoing investigation means that until further notice, my lips are sealed). He arranged for me to borrow a friend’s tiny netbook until he could pay off my PC (I hadn’t even finished paying it off when it happened) and then replace it outright. That year, I finished.

 

I thought the luck had improved by then, that it wouldn’t happen again, but then—this was last year—my battery crapped out. I had to replace my warranty and then replace the battery. I managed to pull it off—and I managed to win, though the draft wouldn’t be finished for another couple of months.

 

My third shot in a row comes up in a few weeks. The plan was to back everything up, find my notes, make sure that the batteries and things were working properly, and then get ready to get started by creating the Scrivener project .scrivx files. Nothing going wrong here—

A strange error message popped up and I asked a friend what tests I could do. I wasn’t seeing problems in any of the scans I did, so we went to these tests on a CD-ROM.

The first test didn’t detect my hard drive.

“What is that?” I ask with a face resembling this. –> (O_o)

“I don’t know! I’ve never seen that error code.” Delivered with a “the hell is this” awesomeface sort of look.

“How the HELL does this keep happening to me?” I laugh. The pattern was coming back.

“Okay, we’re gonna try something else then,” Seamus*of course the names have been changed to protect the guilty innocent suggested, and we rebooted to the disc and tried something else.

This time we didn’t get an error message initially. We instead got system beeps. Like…loud, painful, I-actually-shouted-“HELL IS THAT NOISE?!”-beeps.

“I don’t know!”

My computer issues are kind of like patients in a teaching hospital: never a dull moment.

BEEP. Lag. Successful reboot. FREEZE.

“THAT could be the hard drive.”

 

Flash forward to now: I’m backing up my important data to Skydrive and an external enclosure. It’ll likely take days. A jar near my printer contains the money that I am saving for a new hard disk drive. The documents are currently safe, but backing up obsessively is the way to go. I’m not losing my work…again.

Lifehack: Clean Sexy Money

If you’ve ever worked in a service industry—foodservice, hospitality, hosting (not as in a host club, more in the sense of the part of the restaurant gig where you show people where they sit and do any gimmicky things, as opposed to the cooking) then you run into many, many people. Often, many of these many, many people have unseen pathogens, bugs, and other assorted foreign icky things on them. And even when they don’t…

The money does.

Money is easily the filthiest thing that you come into contact with on a daily basis. It changes hands over and over, and never does it see the kiss of saponins and dihydrogen monoxide…

Henh? What? Oh. That’s soap and water.

Though washing coins is a dicey proposal—fail to dry pennies properly and they take on a verdigris shell—bills are much easier to handle. Since paper money is actually not made of paper, but rather a combination of cotton and linen, your standard “paper money” can actually be cleaned and sanitized. (Ever wash a pocket full of money and it came back crispy and dry and hard to use? This is why.)

Note: Keep in mind the general condition of your paper bills. If the bills look like they’ve seen better days, I’d recommend NOT using the first half of this trick—you could still do the second part, the actual sanitization part.

 

The Process

 

  1. Run a sink of water—or use a bucket. You don’t need much. Add a bit of detergent—nothing top-shelf, considering that this is going to be (ideally) change
  2. Take the “paper money” and check it for damage. Bills that seem a little thin or have a LOT of creasing are a “try this at your own risk” affair.
  3. Take the bills in decent condition and pop them in the water. To wash them, simply agitate the water a bit with one hand until either the bills look cleaner or the water doesn’t change as much in color. (Don’t be surprised if nothing seems to come off; a lot of the schmutz that paper money appears to have is actually just an artifact of the ink used in manufacture.)
  4. Take the money out and lay it flat on something that absorbs water, like a hand towel. Pat it until it doesn’t drip.
  5. If your  money’s in lousy shape, the above steps can be skipped. Now you just take an iron and the towel and iron the money until it is dry. OR, if you have a flat-iron that doesn’t have the chops to be used on your hair anymore, you can use that. This method can also be used to iron a little flip into the end of a bill to make it easier to feed into a vending machine.

That’s it.


I know this sounds weird, and maybe a bit OCD, but—working in hospitality, I am acutely aware of the things that money comes into contact with, and so I like to keep it clean and neat. An extra bonus of this money-laundering (haha!) is that neat and flat bills take up far less space in one’s wallet.  🙂

100 Things #28: Music.

(This is an obvious one, isn’t it?)

I love music. Almost every kind. I mean, there’s a reason I have two iPods and use so much data on my phone streaming from Google Play.

It’s taken a new meaning since my PTSD started presenting. Keeping one or more of these devices handy, along with a good set of cans, has become almost necessary to make sure that I don’t lose my head when things get screwed around all wrong. In addition to cutting off a whole bunch of the outside input, it gets me into a small space that lets me not get affected by all that noise.

Besides the health benefits, having music handy helps me focus. Without something for at least two parts of my brain to do, it’s one of the worst cases of monkey brain that you’ve ever seen.

So I keep the music going. …sometimes, without the music handy, I make do with a generic white noise of some sort—from a TV droning on to an actual white noise machine.

I got the biggest thrill earlier this year, in March, when I got to see the Distant Worlds concert live at Powell Symphony Hall. Even with the panics kicking in and out, I worked through it with one of my best friends and a moogle plushie.

As a matter of fact, it was the thoughts of going to that very concert that helped speed my exit from the loony bin. I was not about to miss that conert.


Whuf. Favorites, huh? I’d have to say that pretty much anything done by Nobuo Uematsu ranks high in my book. Anything sweeping or orchestral is an instant win. I’m also big on the ambient genre, metal, and rock.

…strange combination, isn’t it?

I’m a member of Last.fm. Depending on where you’ve caught me, you might see a little grey box (or most of a little grey box) in the corner somewhere. That little box live updates with the listening trends in my iPods and phone. If you get bored, give it a look. I’m sure that something’ll turn out interesting.


I don’t just listen to music: I also play the ocarina. Right now, though, that’s on slight hiatus—seeing as a nice little weather accident caused my instrument to just POP open on me, two clean halves of a beautiful blue whole, silenced. I survived it, and am now putting money in a jar to save up for my second oc. While I DO have a six-hole to tide my need to tweetle over, it’s one of the first domestically produced clay ocarinas, and it’s just the tiniest bit out of tune with itself—but that’s a big deal when you have perfect pitch. “OH HEY, DON’T MIND ME, I’MMA IMITATE F-SHARP FOR YOU EVEN THOUGH I’M REGULAR OLD F, OK?” Yeowch. Makes my teeth itch. Also the high-note ocarina squeak makes playing certain pieces impossible.


I’ve rambled on for a while, haven’t I? I’ll take a break now. Time to get to work on another of my favorite things.

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Computer trouble: Must…Prevent…FAIL!

That’s something that someone who is trying to make a living at this whole ink-slinging thing doesn’t need to hear/see. After having yet anouther instance of a total crash on my machine, I caved and got Memtest. …then I spent a day and a half waiting for a chance to figure out how to use it. After calling WTF at a friend of mine, we got the damn thing running. The scan was still going on when I left the hangout, but as I got meds ready and did some minor straightening up in the pantry, the scan finished.

The RAM is clean.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that means the problem is unequivocally the hard drive.

I’m too hopped up on my medicine, mild sleep deprivation, and a Bob Marley soda to really have a stronger reaction than “Well, shit.” Luckily, there shouldn’t be TOO much of a problem–there’s a solution across town and all I have to do is to remember to get out there and get it done. Whoot.

…now to pray that nothing goes wrong before Nanowrimo begins.

100 Things #27: Making Interesting Drinks.

I love cooking things. I also love coming up with nice drinks to go with them. Often that’s a customized tea blend. Other times, it’s a homemade soda. Sometimes it’s a juice thing.

And sometimes it’s some unholy hybrid of the three.

And sometimes, it’s entirely undefinable.

I remember a good drink that began with seltzer fizzed-up three buzzes in my SodaStream unit. After having drunk half the liter as plain seltzer, made some lemon syrup using sugar and lemon juice, added a shot of tart Montmorency cherry juice, and then tossed that all in a tall glass. The combination was wonderfully sweet and tart, and the dark color belied the taste that I’d just made—because it tasted like pink lemonade.

A slightly less…successful attempt started with the same strength of seltzer, but with a bit of vanilla syrup instead—Torani, if I recall correctly. I’d forgotten that such a heavy syrup, being added to a seltzer’d bottle—even tilted properly—results n a vanilla geyser. Furthermore, even though the liquid was bubbly as hell, the flavor was flat. Missing that certain something or another. I still haven’t figured out how to get that one to work. A shame, considering vanilla’s my favorite flavor.

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100 Things #26: Photography

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a noob where it comes to photography. One of my first memories of Christmas is of one where I got both things I wanted: a pink Barbie Corvette and a Polaroid camera. I was five…

Yeah, my perfect holiday was a camera and a pink Barbie car. I didn’t even OWN any Barbie dolls. I just liked (still like’em, too) Corvettes and I liked pink. (I’d eventually sour on pink, as it was all anyone wanted to buy for me to wear, but it’s slowly getting back in my good graces.)

I’d take pics of almost anything, and demand that someone ‘grade’ me on it. (Have I ever mentioned I’m a geek?) As I got older, I started using a regular film camera, but as it turned out, no one was willing to drive me to anywhere that’d develop the pictures.

On Digital

However, the rapidly changing technology meant that I was able to pick up the hobby again a few years ago. My first digital camera was this little pink VGA Hello Kitty thing that took surprisingly good pictures and came with software that let you transform photos into iron-on transfers, jigsaw puzzles, and positively adorable drag-and-drop things that let you add some more flair to the photos. The rise of digital photography did me quite a few favors—it made it cheaper for me to learn the ins and outs of good photo composition, and it let me learn the basics of good photography for FAR less than what my high school (and indeed, local college) was demanding. I’m not a pro by any stretch, but I can catch nice things.

And she isn’t much bigger now that she’s grown up, either.

Phones on cameras often infuriate purists, but even my dinky cameraphone can net some nice shots.

ALSO Tesla, from above. She belongs to friends of mine. And while she often acts like she hates it (“NO! NO CUDDLES!”) she can be quite affectionate. When I stay over and crash on the couch, her favorite method of rousing me is a cold nose beep. You know—when she beeps you in the nose with HER nose? It’d be irritating if she weren’t so cute and soft.

Also, for some incredibly strange reason, she always smells like baby powder.

You may have noticed the nifty photo effects in the second shot. I like to take my camera’s pics, upload them to Dropbox, and futz around with effects, frames, and lighting. Instagram and Path are my go-to’s for standard work, but when I REALLY want to trigger “Pretty Overload,” I begin in the app Pixl-r-matic, add the pretty stuff, and then begin to poke around in the other apps until I am satisfied with the result.

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100 Things #25: Video Games

…No one who knows me at all is surprised by this. Prepare for a ramble.

I’ve been a gamer since almost before I can remember. One of my earliest memories is sitting in front of my grandparents’ 27-inch TV (because that’s what we called a big TV back then) while we all passed around the Nintendo Light Gun and played Duck Hunt. Big Dad—Gramps to most people—was performing quite well, knocking down ducks left and right, but then he got a run of bad luck when the ducks just wouldn’t pick one direction for long enough for him to be able to get’em. As rules established, the gun went to the right—Bigmama (Grandma) was next.

She began to wipe the floor with the rest of us. Effortless, she just pops ducks off one by one—bam! bam! bam! My cousin and I just looked at each other, our faces a matching “whoa”-oh. Big Dad points out something then: Bigmama’s not using the sight. On this realization, she ALSO stops, looks at the gun, notices the sight…says “Huh,” and keeps wiping the floor with us.

My cousin and I just sort of slide over to one side.


Another thing that anyone who knows me is that I’m a sucker for RPGs. I got into them because I needed something to do when I was sick. A trip to Phar-Mor, an old pharmacy, resulted in a crapton of medicines for me and my parents promising to rent me a console while I recuperated. I picked Final Fantasy Mystic Quest for one of my choices, because the box was pretty and because the guy at the check-out counter said there was a lot of reading involved in that game.

Being a huge reader, of course, I called “CHALLENEG ACCEPTED…” or I would have if that meme existed when I was five.


Gaming became an outlet for frustration then, as I dove into shooters and harder RPGs—nothing like shooting someone’s head off to get that bad mood knocked down. Putting a controller in your hands—it’s got this sense of power that I’d never really felt before, being the family’s runt preemie and having never really caught up to average. Even if I was spending most of my days being beat up by my cousins, or later in adolescence, my aunts, uncles, and even father—at night I could beat the living daylights out of whoever I so chose. Mooks had my family’s faces superimposed on their heads, and I’d pump them full of lead and lasers until I felt better. And then there were the rocket launchers…

In the game Perfect Dark, there were two kinds of rocket launchers. The first one was this normal run-of-the-mill rocket launcher that had two modes: shooting rockets, and shooting heat-seeking rockets. It was efficient enough and got the job done. But that wasn’t my favorite one. That title went to a weapon named the Slayer. The Slayer had two modes as well—really, every weapon in this game, even your bare hands, had two modes. (Barehand’s second mode was stealing the other guy’s gun right off of him.)
Anyway, the first mode of the Slayer was a standard rocket. A little slower than the standard rocket launcher, but with a bigger boom. Its second mode? Remote controlled camera-augmented rocket. You had to ‘drive’ the rocket to its destination, using the camera view to steer properly. So you could shoot a rocket, run it to the player who’s been getting on your last nerve thus far, and then aim the rocket at their face. …Your decision as to whether you let the rocket explode on its own or kicking its detonation button immediately.


I think that the thing that stuck with me more than anything else about video games is the potential for beauty. (Funny, seeing this after I wax rhapsodic about the wonders of exploding face rockets.) Games could have wicked scenery that distracts you from your mission. Games could have a storyline that makes you forget that it’s a game.

Most of all, games can have chillingly beautiful music.

I suspect that I am into the ambient genre thanks to video games—specifically the RPGs. People say that games can’t be art, that the music is just throwaway jingles. That a gamer is biased in this argument because it’s built solidly on nostalgia.

I refute that argument because the composition that had me BS-ing an allergy attack to explain the sniffles was from one of the games I had never played.

I’ll leave it with that: one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

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