Writing for National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month, sounds like fun. No? Well, I gave it a go, and it was a mother.

The object of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word novel in one month. That’s not a lot when you consider that the total number of words in Tolstoy’s War and Peace has 587,287. Of course, he wasn’t fighting a 30-day deadline. To write, edit, rewrite and end up with a reasonably coherent story, all in 30 days will leave you positively twitchy. Trust me, I bailed on day 28.

Having said all that, if you have some uncontrollable urge to listen to me whine about the NaNoWriMo, I’ve got a couple of posts over on Some Old Dude.

I thought I’d put down a few things I took away from that masochistic exercise.

Everybody has their own way of writing, and if you try to copy them exactly it probably won’t work nearly as well for you.

There are plotsters (planners), those are the people who plan every meal, clip coupons, go to the grocery store, and don’t buy anything that’s not on their list. You can always spot one of these the minute you step into their office. They have a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Then there are pansters, those people who write out a list, leave it on the kitchen counter and wander the aisles trying to remember what the heck they needed. With them, every meal is a surprise. They have notes and notebooks scattered everywhere. For instance, my office looks like somebody dropped a small tactical nuke.

I use a laptop with LibreOffice, others use MS Word because it’s almost universally accepted in publishing circles, but some people; okay, one person I actually met, use devices like this Neo2, which is nothing but a minimalist word processor capable of displaying four to six short lines at a time.
neo2 word processor

If you’re going to write 50k pages in thirty days you need to have your research in order…. in advance. I wrote a thief but had to research locks, alarm systems and any actual crimes using the basic mo and how they got away with it. And where the heck do you sell documented diamonds.

You need your basic character profile (character arc) written down. –My protagonist had a sea change, from a crook with a heart of gold, to a self-centered bastard.

You need the major points in the story (story arc) written down. –Mine went from stealing some diamonds to a murder mystery.

All this points to a need to get organized. Don’t keep notes in several notebooks, don’t use more than one program, keep focused on the task at hand.

It’s only thirty days but sometimes it feels like forever.

Car title loans 101

“Car title loans.” How’s that for a change of pace?

Okay, so I’m talking to this dude, and out of the blue, he asks what it takes to get a title loan.

It seems that a while back I mentioned that I worked IT for Pioneer Loan. Therefore I must know all there is to know about title loans. Including the details of how each and every one of the competitors operates. Right?

It’s not like the guy is stupid, he just has no clue about how it all works, and he’s trying to get the best deal he can. –You can’t blame him for that. But, at the end of the day, he didn’t know what a clean title was, and the bank still owns his car. So he’s screwed.

At any rate, I helped keep the Pioneer Loan network up and running and spent time talking to the loan officers, so yes, I know a little about title loans; at least in the state of Nevada. And after having to explain title loans to this otherwise bright guy, I decided I’d get up on my soapbox and explain a little about how the world works.

Before I start let me say that I not only worked for Pioneer Loan, the owners are close friends. I’m not going to sugar coat anything because of that, I just thought I should be upfront about things.

So here goes:

A title loan means that the company holds your title until you pay them what you owe them. A lot like the bank that held on to the title until you paid off their loan.

If you don’t own your car, stay home.

If a company willing to give you a “title loan” on a title you don’t have, there’s something very wrong. –There are exceptions, but most of the legit exceptions are nothing more than refinancing your loan so some other bank owns it.

    Here are the basics of car title loans:

  • As stated above; you need to have a clean title.
    –Which means no leans.
  • The title must be in your name.
    –You can’t get a title loan on your mother’s car. I don’t care how often she lets you drive it because it’s still her car.
    -It’s like this: Just because your mother put you in her will and lets you live in her basement rent free does not mean you own the house.
    (Trust me; after talking to clients, and listening to the loan officers, this is not nearly as stupid as it sounds.)
  • If there’s a second name on the title you can still get a loan, but they need to come in and do their share of the paperwork.
    –If someone else is on the title and they don’t come in the title loan company runs the risk of becoming a casualty in a messy divorce.
  • The car also has to be in running condition so you can bring it down and they can look it over.
    –After all, at the end of the day, a new Mercedes that was t-boned by a semi is just so much scrap metal.
  • You have to be able to pay the loan back.
    –Why would anybody loan you money if they knew you couldn’t pay them back? In fact, the state wrote that bit into the law.
  • The company doesn’t want your car. They want your money.
    –Just like the bank or that friendly dude at the bar who offered to loan you the cash at a rate “he wouldn’t give his own mother.”
  • If you’re in the military or are a dependant they probably don’t want to give you a title loan, because the Military Lending Act caps the interest that can be charged at a rate that is, in many cases, less than their cost of doing business.
    –Employees have to be paid, insurance has to be paid, the electric bill has to be paid, and for some odd reason, the landlord wants the rent.
  • You have to be old enough to sign a contract. In Nevada, the age is 18.
    –That also means you can get yourself into serious debt, but you can’t gamble what little money you have in the hopes of hitting Mega-Bucks or try and drink your troubles away like a grownup.
  • Title Loan companies are not in the used car business.
    They really and truly don’t want to repo your car. They will, but when they sell it they can only get the amount of the loan, plus some state approved fees and any costs associated with the repossession.
    –Not a real profitable process is it?
  • The interest on title loans accrues every 30 days, not yearly.
    –7.99% sounds good, but that’s every 30 days, so you’re looking at right about 96% per year.
    Now I bet your credit card interest doesn’t look so bad.

I’m sure I missed a bunch of stuff, but to me, the bottom line is this.
Only borrow money you can actually pay back.
Only use title loans as short-term money, not as a second source of income.
Because, in the long run, the people loaning you money are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, They’re doing it to make money, the longer you owe them the money the more interest you pay, and if they must, they will repo your car. –Business is business. No?
(As far as I know, that bit about not repoing your only method of getting to work only applies to the IRS.)

There’s a FAQ on the Pioneer Loan website.
–Read it, then call them with questions. They really are a friendly bunch.

Climbing down off my soapbox, running to the head, then getting more coffee. LRR

Blowing smoke up your ass

We’ve all heard the phrase “blowing smoke up someone’s ass.” Well, the phrase has a basis in reality.

This is from the Wikipedia:

The tobacco smoke enema, an insufflation of tobacco smoke into the rectum by enema, was a medical treatment employed by European physicians for a range of ailments.

Tobacco was recognized as a medicine soon after it was first imported from the New World, and tobacco smoke was used by western medical practitioners as a tool against cold and drowsiness, but applying it by enema was a technique adapted from the North American Indians. The procedure was used to treat gut pain, and attempts were often made to resuscitate victims of near drowning. Liquid tobacco enemas were often given to ease the symptoms of a hernia.

During the early 19th century the practice fell into decline, when it was discovered that the principal active agent in tobacco smoke, nicotine, is poisonous.

This is from a 1776 textbook.
18th century device to administer a tobacco enema

This kit is from the late 1700s.
tobacco enema kit

Even the Mayan indians did it. Although I’m not sure they count. It seems enemas were one of the favorite ways to get high. -But only for rituals… Riiight.

Laying natural gas pipes

Contractors for Southwest Gas are laying new pipes all around the neighborhood. Fortunately, they only two or three trucks and a couple of trailers for their equipment and they only work on one side of the street at a time, so they don’t block the road.

Getting in or out is still kind of a mess, but the flier we received –after construction had started– said that they expect to be finished in 2018. It didn’t say when in 2018, but, at least they narrowed it down to which year.

A backhoe is their only piece of “normal” job site equipment I’ve seen. They did, however, bring in a specialty workhorse by Ditch Witch.

Now, this is a seriously cool beast of a machine. It has an auger for drilling location holes and a rotating chamber, sort of like a revolver, where the guys load the pipe, which it automatically feeds into the hole while screwing the pieces together.
laying pipes with style
Until I saw this unit, I didn’t even know Ditch Witch made a machine this big. In fact, when I hear the name Ditch Witch I automatically think of one of those little trenchers they use on farms when they’re laying irrigation lines.

In the meantime, I think I’ll call this final shot, “enthusiasm.”
a guy being paid by the hour

Adapter – Nikon G to Canon EOS

I got a Nikon G to Canon EOS K&F Concept adapter, brand new, for 20 bucks off eBay, so I could use some of the Nikon mount lenses I have left with my Canon 80D, and it does its job nicely.
K&F Concept Nikon G to Canon EOS lens adapter
The white piece lets you adjust the aperture, but, fair warning, there’s no indicator on the adapter or any Nikon G lens to tell you what the heck you just set it at.

This is not a deal breaker, because not only does the sensor in a camera like the Canon 80D do a great job handling the exposure, but with practice, the amount of light coming through the viewfinder will let you make a pretty good guess at what f-stop you’re at.

For someone like me, the adapter is extremely useful, but if you’re one of those people who think the camera should be totally automatic, save your money. This little beastie is completely manual. Not only does it force you to select your aperture, there’s no autofocus.

–While I’ve ever heard of a Nikon to Canon adapter that can give you autofocus, some of the more expensive adapters have a chip in them that will at least give you a focus indicator.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, here are two of the lenses I’ve been testing.
Sigma 105mm macro lensNikon 35mm G lens
The Sigma is a bit long in the tooth, but it has good glass, manual f-stop selection and most importantly, the adapter goes on and comes off without a hitch.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m shooting extreme close-ups, I use a tripod, so I don’t need IS, I focus manually so autofocus is a waste, and I use the aperture markings on the lens for depth of field. That leaves the camera dealing with ISO and exposure, but only when I let it. So for me, at least, the only difference between the Sigma and a Canon lens is that I have to remember to put the adapter on the Sigma. –Yeah, yeah, I know, the quality of the glass, but for what I do and for the price difference, I’ll stick with my Sigma.

The 35mm is a different critter entirely. Sure it functions well with the adapter, and it fills the hole between my 10-18mm and my 50mm, but I’m one of those people who tends to shoot really wide or really long. Which is probably why I left it tucked away in a drawer for so many years. Still, if I ever need a mostly manual 35mm, I’ve got one.

In the meantime, here’s a handheld 1:1 macro taken with the Sigma 105mm lens. –It’s not exactly a keeper, but you get the idea.
1:1 macro handheld taken with Sigma 105mm
The EXIF data doesn’t show the aperture because the adapter lacks a chip to allow the lens to talk to the camera, but I tend to shoot at f8 or f11 si it’s all good. Beyond that, I relied on the camera to set the exposure.

And I just thought of another selling point for the K&F adapter. It lets me use my already manual tilt-shift lenses, which is a great excuse not to sell them.

As a side note: I went into the camera and limited the iso to 6400. I’d rather have a longer exposure time and less noise. –This may or may not be necessary with the newer processor. I guess I’ll have to make a few test shots to find out.