See Spot Run

I know the names of five of the regular dogs at this café, and three of them are Dino.

And, here I am…

I’ve got Internet in the ol’ domocile now. Actually, I’ve had it for a few days. Why, then, the sudden silence in the Media Empire? The answer is surprisingly simple: I have Internet in my home now.

You see, the first few days of near-unlimited high-speed access to every one and zero the world has to offer are a heady time. Oh yes, there is a virtual world calling out, saying only ‘taste me, swim in my fantasy’, and that is what I have done. The ones, the zeroes, they have thrown themselves at my retinas and eardrums by the billions, sacrificed and lost now in the transience of flashing neurons. But that’s OK, they were just copies of other ones and zeroes. The supply, it seems, is limitless, and soon it appears the distribution of them will be virtually unlimited as well.

The digifest is wearing off now, as I have had my fill of ridiculous japanese animation and my brain is exploding from the information regarding moving Jer’s Novel Writer to the GCC 4.0 (Apple version) compiler, which I will have to do to get my programs onto the Intel Macs.

On a related note, as my productivity recovered in the last few days I released a new version of Jer’s Novel Writer (0.6.0.0), and wrote a hell of a lot of Pirates. Just got to get learning Czech back onto the schedule and I’m golden!

Arrgh!

Still no Internet at home (long story getting longer), and today they’re filming something (probably a commercial) at the bowling alley, and that seems to mean no Internet here, either. Of course I didn’t realize that until after I ordered food.

On the other hand, I do have a good view of the thoroughly uninteresting production in the lanes below. The one good part is that the dude is a really bad bowler, so time after time he’s rolling the ball, then turning and doing a high five with the pretty girl as his ball trundles off course. Rack ’em up and try again, sparky!

The owner of the place just came by to ask if I was using the WiFi, and when I explained that it wasn’t working today he was surprised. Maybe I’ll get some love here soon.

A bit of picture-taking

Another warm day here in the city of a thousand spires, although not as unashamedly sunny as yesterday. I stayed in bed a little extra, but started getting antsy. I got up and sat at the computer for a while, poking at one project, prodding another, but not feeling inspired. I had been lamenting not putting the camera to use more often, so I loaded up the gear and headed to one of the many graveyards nearby, one that has a large church in the middle of it. I had ideas of the bare winter branches framing the spire against the sky, while grave markers huddled like sheep beneath.

There’s a reason I call what I do picture-taking rather than photography. My first observation: when a I look at something, it is amazing how much I do not see. A shot that I think is going to be a picture of a spire behind some trees turns out to be a picture of trees. Where the heck did that evergreen come from – the one taking up a third of the frame? Granted, I do try to include a little extra in the shot, with the intention of cropping later, but sometimes it’s just ridiculous.

One important technique for separating foreground and background is depth of focus, making the object of the picture sharp while keeping the rest of the busy world indistinct. I have many, many pictures that, in retrospect, would have benefitted greatly from a judicious use of that tool. (I can’t tell you how many snowy angel carvings in the very cluttered Olšansky Hřbitovy are lost to the background.) So today I was standing in a much more orderly graveyard, scratching my noggin, trying to remember which way to adjust the aperture to reduce the depth of focus, so my object is sharp and the rest isn’t. I remembered incorrectly, and cranked the aperture far in the wrong direction. I now have lots of pictures displaying the surrounding noise with remarkable clarity.

Live and learn, I guess, though in my case the latter half of that axiom has yet to kick in.

At the Helm in Strašnice

U Kormidla is a new place (I think). It is a longer walk to come here than it is to go to Little Café Near Home, but if today is an indication, there are definitely times when the extra walk is worth it. The bar has a nautical theme, celebrating the Czech Republic’s long and highly regarded maritime tradition (‘Ahoy’ is, after all, the most common informal greeting.)

I made my way down the stairs from street level, and my immediate impression was highly favorable. Two pretty girls sat at the corner of the bar, not smoking. There was a large group filling the back of the place, all dressed in black (we’re in cemetary country, out here in StraÅ¡nice), also not smoking. I made myself comfortable, enjoyed the smoothness of a Kozel dark, and communicated easily with the waiter with his nice, slow diction.

It is not a big place (although it dwarfs Little Café Near Home), dim but not dark, filled with rich wood and occasional brass highlights. It tiptoes dangerously on the borderline of kitsch, but overall it works. All these non-smokers in here is probably a fluke, but even when someone does light up the fumes are whisked away from where I sit. There is a staircase that leads up to a few more tables and the kitchen. My Bora-Bora chicken was heavier than I would expect from an island delicacy, but hey, this is the Czech Republic.

It is time for me to mosey along, now, but I will be back.

Sunday Morning

It is a balmy morning, well above freezing, easily the warmest day of this year. The sun was shining brightly as I made my way through the quiet streets of Strašnice; the only others out at this time on a Sunday morning are the old men and their wiener dogs.

What is any right-thinking non-wiener-dog-owning person doing out on a Sunday morning, no matter how bright and shiny it may be? What Siren song drew me from my home, my fortress of solitude, my haven in the hurly-burly world that is Strašnice? Fast food.

It was late when I got home last night. Really late. I was at Roma with fuego, and we all know how that can go. It was a night of Pirates and hockey. Pirates of the White Sand, I’m happy to report, is making progress. The version fuego brought back from the secret underground laboratories of North America is good enough we can actually show it to people, and many of the tweaks to make it even better are quite simple. Last night we worked up a list of improvements, and except for one really stupid bit that fuego seems to find delightful we’re in good shape. The last hour of the evening was dedicated to me finding new ways to explain how stupid that bit is.

I staggered home as the wee hours of the morning were growing up. I mounted the stairs and when I opened the door I was not hit by the blast of tropical air that Soup Boy prefers. He was still awake. Well, moving, anyway; awake might be a bit of a stretch. “Heater’s not working,” he managed to mumble. “No hot water, either.” I tried pushing the reset button on the heater, just as Soup Boy had already done, but you never know. He might not have pushed the button correctly. In this case, my button-pushing was no more effective than his, so I shuffled into my room and flopped into bed, too tired even to plug in the electric heater in my room.

This morning I awoke, perhaps a little later than usual, but usual is difficult to define. I shuffled around a bit, found a valve on the water heater to allow more water into the radiator system, and groped my way to the kitchen for some tea. Ah, tea, the leaf that built an empire, where would I be without your magical alkaloid? As the kettle hissed and burbled I stood, semi-conscious, contemplating the paper bag on the counter. Slowly the friendly logo and happy marketing slogans sank in. McDonald’s. As I looked at that bag the craving started, the conditioned reflex born of forty years of exposure to relentless marketing. I wanted some of that.

And so now I sit, far from home, tired, muddled, sated, nibbling the last of my fries, watching parents struggle with children who are not yet finished crawling through the giant hamster tubes. Man, I wish they had those when I was a tot.

Changing gears

Two days ago I decided to turn my full attention to Novel #2, The Test, setting aside Novel #1 (again), putting short stories on the back burner, and biting the bullet for a major rewrite. There is a lot of Novel #2, and as it stands it’s not terribly well-constructed — although it does have some mighty fine bits. Jane, the protagonist, is a finely-crafted girl, if I do say so myself. The first draft was written without a solid plan, however, and it shows. The plot is intricate, with many overlapping things happening, but the threads are born and fade away rather haphazardly. So, reading over the 600 untamed pages, I came up with a plan of attack.

“This would be a lot easier,” I thought, “if Jer’s Novel Writer could…” and off I went into software design. Now is not the time to be making major upgrades to the software, however. Now is the time to be fixing bugs and getting a good release out, now that hundreds of people are using it anyway. I looked back at the story. Threads. The ability to view the story from different points of view. Those changes sure would make fixing the novel simpler.

Faced with that dilemma, I did what any rational writer/coder would do. I set Novel #2 aside to work on Novel #3 instead. No new JNW features required, just prose that goes beyond storytelling into the realm of literature. Yes, Novel #3 is my Great American Road Novel. I’ve been looking forward to diving in to it for a long time.

While I was in this intensive review process, I had my phone turned off. Some of you may have the impression that I spend my days locked away in my room, writing, never emerging. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most days I make it to the kitchen and beyond. On this day, however, I declined invitations from Graybeard, from my czech tutor, and from Belladonna. Pretty soon they’re all going to give up on me, and that would suck. So today I’m going to try to not quite spend so much time writing. When I woke I was going to try to go the whole day without writing anything except this, but that was just plain crazy. I am, however, going to try to catch up with people.

As soon as I finish the Las Vegas chapter…