Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Off Topic’ Category

Letter Art: Happy Rubber Ducky Day 2017


Happy Rubber Ducky Day! & Foto Friday: Duckies in DC 2013
Happy Rubber Ducky Day 2014
Instagram Foto Friday: The Daily Object, October 2015
Happy Rubber Ducky Day 2016

Caveat: I found the letters as “free printables” on various Pinterest boards. Pins point back to I can’t find the letters on the site, nor understand what it is saying. If I find out that I have contravened the designer’s intent, post will be removed immediately.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Letter Art: Screenprint


A sign and t-shirt that I “printed” – with much oversight, rather in the manner of a child helping to make cookies. “Nice…” is, historically, a city slogan and, lately, a mural. The Yellowhammer is the Alabama State Bird.

Today is even more off topic than the usual run of Sunday posts. Late last week, I took a screenprinting class at MAKEbhm. I figured I’d use a blog logo as my print and the result as a post. Turns out making your own design is the intermediate class. Oops. No time for plan B.

Did learn a few things that I already knew.

I work better when I know why. Once I understood the relation of the screen to the surface, my paint scraping became more effective. Why do I need to ride with my heels down? Why do my hands need to be up [Dueling Disciplines]?

I am more technical than artistic [Put Down the Hammer, Pick up The Paintbrush]. Years ago, I took a workshop at SCAD. I was miserable. I don’t speak artist. At the MAKE workshop, the instructors were happy to indulge in minute discussions over the behavior of the paint, the thickness of the screen, and so on. Ride Hard. Yup. Fix your body position. Yup. It’s a matter of style. Huh? Flair. What? Je ne sais quoi. Moi? (Did you know David Ogden Stiers was on Broadway before he was in M*A*S*H?)

No matter where you go, there you are. [Spring Fitness]

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Spotted Practicing Eclipse Safety

Glasses and map from Great American Eclipse. Props to Amazon and the USPS for getting the solar binoculars here on time, after faffing about. (Amazon, not the PO. Our local PO does good job.) Sneers to an unnamed astronomical equipment company for taking 8 days to let us know our order was out of stock. It’s not like the increase in demand was a surprise, people. Yes, I should have ordered earlier (again, not a surprise event), that’s on me. Order management is on them. (Pulls self out of rant spiral.)

Astronomy Cast suggests sitting back and grooving on the cosmic experience, if this is your first totality. Don’t worry about photos, or data, or whatever. You can go all science nerd at the next one. Ep. 448: Prepping for the Eclipse

NASA’s eclipse site
American Astronomical Society eclipse site
Really, it’s hard to avoid hearing/reading about it

Be Safe
By now, you’ve heard about eye safety. But why, other than we like our eyes?

However, it’s extremely dangerous to look at the sun, even if most of its light is obscured by the moon. Just as a magnifying glass can focus enough sunlight onto a leaf to start a fire, the lens in your eye can also focus that sliver of light onto your retina to burn it. And because retinas have no pain receptors, you can permanently damage your vision without even feeling it happen. Let us make this perfectly clear: Don’t look at the sun during a solar eclipse! LiveScience >, STEM Camp: Build Your Own Solar Eclipse Viewer (Emphasis mine.)

Did you know that counterfeit eclipse glasses are a thing? How can someone do that and sleep at night? Anyway,

• The glasses should have certification information, with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard.
• The actual manufacturer’s name and address should be printed somewhere on the glasses.
• Don’t use glasses that are wrinkled, scratched, or more than three years old.
• Don’t use regular sunglasses, no matter how dark they are.

NASA recommends buying glasses from from one of five manufacturers:
• American Paper Optics
• Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold film only)
• Rainbow Symphony
• Thousand Oaks Optical
• TSE 17 Please Do Not Buy Counterfeit Solar Eclipse Glasses

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Letter Art: A to Z in 2017

I played the Alphabet Game [Origin] with myself on Instagram [@alphabet2017].

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Surviving the Drive

Driving Thursday

Each lesson at Whip Hand Farm is framed by a seven-hour, round-trip drive. Because of the home horses, we go up and back in a day. Here’s how we’ve tuned our routine.

Take the Comfortable Car
The Fiat is a great car [Today, photo]. It is also a cheap car. One way to keep the cost down is power it with small squirrels. The one in charge of the AC simply cannot keep the car cool in the summer, particularly for the passenger, who gets the rising sun on the way up and the setting sun on the way down.

Manage the Stops
You lose time from when you lift your foot off the accelerator until you are back on the highway at speed. Therefore, it’s hard to stop in less than 15 minutes. Stop twice and, you’ve blown half an hour. Coffee and morning soda will not allow us to head up without a break. Often we are able to get back down without stopping. TMI.

Bring Food
We have a cooler of drinks and a basket of food. Turning the truck into a rolling picnic is a) cheaper and b) means the highway reststop at the border rather than pulling off for a gas/convenience store. Time saved.

Provide Entertainment
Audible on my phone. Podcasts on Greg’s phone. Both sync with the truck’s audio system. After almost 30 years of marriage and almost 40 of knowing him (?!?), I still enjoy Greg’s company. However, a bit of narrative provides diversion for those long, flat, straight highway miles.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Writing Life: My Book

Last week, I said I wanted to write a book [What Next?]. I’ve already written one. Technically. Co-written. I don’t talk about it much. The money was astounding but it was a difficult project that came at a crappy time in my life.

Wally Bunn worked for AT&T, starting as a lineman and working up to CEO of one of the Baby Bells after “the breakup of the biggest corporation in American history. ” [Wiki: Breakup of the Bell System] Leah Atkins and I helped him self-publish his memoir.

I Am a Telephone Man: Wallace R. Bunn’s Life in the Bell System
by Leah Rawls Atkins and Katherine Tuttle Walcott
Pine Ridge House 2009

Obituary at Wallace R. Bunn

+ Wally was a cool dude. He had done interesting things and lived through interesting times. He had great stories which he told well. Interviewing him was about the easiest I’ve done. Watching him run a meeting was a better education than a business school class.

+ Much research and reading was required. This counts as fun for an information junkie. I got to quote my father calling the break up, “The worst decision Judge Greene ever made.” (p105) Although Judge Greene insisted that the agreements were made before he ruled on the case. But I digress.

+ Our writing meshed well. One of us would draft a chapter, the other would correct. By the end, I couldn’t tell who had written what.

+ Money. A sizable amount both as a lump sum and as an hourly rate.

+ A large amount of work. It kept me busy while the freelance world crashed and burned. By the time I got my head out of telephone land, 2008 had come and gone.

– Remember what I said about wanting to take a flamethrower to your co-author’s house [Next]? Ask me how I know. I have no doubt the feeling is mutual. We had two problems. First, I kept everything as electronic as possible. We are talking oodles of text. Easier to edit a file than type-in handwritten corrections. Or so I thought. Halfway through, I realized that Miss Leah was old school and low-tech. I started printing out everything and carrying piles of paper to her house. It got a little better.

What I did not realize until after was that she wanted to be more of an emeritus senior author, lending advice and support while I did the heavy lifting. No problem. It would have been an reasonable exchange of opportunity in return for participation. A historically acceptable Master/Apprentice arrangement. Meanwhile, I was being the deferential junior author and not getting in the way of her project. None of this was said outright and I never guessed, because she is Southern and I am dense.

So, yeah. Not gonna work with anyone anytime soon.

– Validity. It doesn’t feel real. It’s not what I mean when I say I want to write a book.

– A large amount of work. Typing. So much typing. Two people does not make half the work. Between drafting and rewriting, we probably each wrote a full book.

On Amazon, the author is listed as “Leah Rawls And Katherine Tuttle Walcott Atkins” – one person. I’d seen this before, obviously. Since I planned to blog about the book, I thought it would be cool to link to an author page. When I called about correcting the entry, Amazon was useless. The person who created it has to make the change. I have no idea how the page showed up. I didn’t do it. Miss Leah would have added it to her own Amazon page. I am not interested enough to contact her about straightening it out, see above. Even revisiting the experience for the duration of this post has traumatized me all over again.

A project that continues to spread joy long after the completion date.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Writing Life: What Next? Advice Sought.

I want to write a book. Who doesn’t? Most book-writers-to-be appear to have an idea of what they want to write but lack the time. Me, I got time. What I don’t got is any idea what to write.

What do I want? I want to be sitting in the audience when my Hugo-winning science fiction novel is the basis for the Best Movie Oscar, and then win the National Book Award for my non-fiction account of my book being made into a movie.

But seriously folks, I want a project. I want a world to get lost in. Sure, books offer this. But then I’m done and have to find a new one. I’ve gotten picky. I spend longer hunting for new books to read than I do reading them. I want to write characters who take over the plot, for example Temporarily Significant: Spontaneous Character Creation, Or why sometimes your characters know more than you do.

So, I’m looking for advice. From what you’ve read of me in the blog, or know of me IRL, or both, any suggestions?

TLDR – that’s the gist. Below are thoughts on different genres.

Non-fiction – Journalism. Not books or articles that involve interviews and deadlines and contracts. I know how to do that. Whether or not I would be successful at selling a book idea is a different question, but I would know where to start.

Non-fiction – memoir. Love these. Read them all the time: Bill Bryson hikes the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods; Ken Jennings won 74 Jeopardy! games, Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs; and Stefan Fatsis played competitive Scrabble, Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive SCRABBLE Players. Unfortunately, I have not done anything newsworthy. Each of us is special in our own way, yadda, yadda. What I mean is that I have not done anything that would be an automatic marketing hook. Yes, people write books about the minutiae of daily life. However, the closer the activity is to the norm, the more the book relies on the writing. I have all the style of a window pane. I like to think of my writing as straightforward. An English professor called it pedestrian. Perhaps I could identify a quest that could be done at home, as A.J. Jacobs did when he read the encyclopedia, The Know-It-All.

Blog. Printing out the posts and driving a staple thru the corner might make a book-length piece of text, but would not constitute a book. There hasn’t been sufficient narrative arc. I could rework various events as self-contained essays and then publish the collection, but a) none come to mind and b) see above re style. I don’t see myself making an amusing tale out of loading a horse, such as The $700 Pony Goes To the Vet. Maybe I should try.

Food Blog. Greg cooks. I write. There should be something there. Greg says no. He says food blogging is all about recipes. I am not.

Research – history. Take one idea & run with it. History of Hell by Alice Turner. Color by Victoria Finlay. Possible. I’d have to find an idea that is sufficiently intriguing but hadn’t already been done.

Research – fiction. Fictionalization of an historic event. Relies heavily on characterization. Not my forte.

Fiction – horses. I don’t really read horse fiction [Horseback Reads]. They say you should write what you read. While my lettering this year is horse books [AlphaBooks 2017], most are memoir, or books I read as a kid, So far [O’Connor], the only adult fiction as been Cooper, Francis, & McKinley.

Fiction – literature. Pffffft. Next. I put down a book if the cover copy describes it as “lyrical.”

Fiction – science fiction & fantasy. It’s what I read. At least, the strand that is clever, funny, & intellectually-engaging without relying on messy emotions. Asimov over Bradbury. I love the idea of world building, either from whole cloth, e.g. Pratchett, or taking the real world as a stage for the absurd, e.g. Adams, or for the fantastic, e.g.The Chronicle of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor.

(Caveat. Both Pratchett and Taylor succumb to an incurable case of morality. I gave up on Discworld toward the end and on St Mary’s about halfway through. Love them till then. I understand an author wanting to expand and grow. I don’t have to like it. But I digress.)

Graphic Novel. Would. Love. This. I read more comics than books as a kid. Unfortunately, I have zero artistic talent. This is not an insurmountable obstacle. James Hatton uses dots to draw In His Likeness. Letters? Or I could work with an artist. You now what they say about collaborators? You should work with someone at least 500 miles away. Then, once you have loaded the flamethrower and guns in the trunk and plan to drive over to burn their house down and shoot them when they run out, you will have time to change your mind.

??? A compilation of spoken word poetry? A revolutionary blend of online, print, and LEGO bricks? An epistolary novel in Tweets?

Whatcha got for me? No idea too bizarre. Robo-giraffe porn might end up being the secret shame of my protagonist in that Hugo-winning novel.

Thank you for reading & commenting,
Katherine Walcott