Introducing Mildred Trevor-Thornes

In my last post I wrote about casting Shiitake Sensei   for the serialized story “The Great Mushroom Detective: The Case of the Golden Mushroom” in my zine MaiNichi Mushroom. I’d done a quick sketch of a hedgehog but it didn’t fit Shiitake Sensei. I liked my hedgehog drawing enough that I decided to rewrite the story to include the hedgehog.

I held a character naming contest on my Facebook Page.

I had some great suggestions and I had a tough time choosing. Check out the suggestions below:

Sir Lloyd Picklymaster
Loro
Horatio Stickleback/Sticklebottom
Gunter von Shpeiny
Dr. Klaus Pricklestein
Spike Nerfler
Norman Spikes
Trevor Prickles
Neville Needlebottom
Ivan Thornback aka Ivan the Stabber
Kevin Stabbottom
Myrtle Thornback
Mildred Thornes
Finkle Pricklystein
Prickler Finkelstein
Todd Finklemeister
Hedge Mastermind
Hedge Hoch
Porky Pinebottom
Prickly Pinebottom
Nichi Iggymeister.
Mortimer

Two names caught my attention. The first was Trevor. Trevor is such an unassuming name for a villain. I love that kind of thinking! So I thought it would be Trevor. But once someone suggested Mildred or Myrtle if the hedgehog was a girl. I realised I wanted more female characters. So I mixed them together and came up with a international British hedgehog criminal mastermind.

I present to you

greatmushroomdetective-mildred-trevor-thornes-loriono-hedgehog

 

Big thanks to everyone who participated and especially to Dolly Tartan who came up with both Trevor and Mildred Thornes.

I will do another sketch of Mildred and send it Dolly’s way.

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Blogging Gear: Logicool Keys to Go Bluetooth Keyboad Review

Red version of Logicool Keys to Go at a cafe and used with an iPhone 6plus
Red version of Logicool Keys to Go at a cafe and used with an iPhone 6plus

I’d been looking for a keyboard to use with my iPhone and my iPad. I’m honestly rubbish with the virtual keyboard. I don’t intend to compose epics but I wanted something to do a quick blog post on the go or a quick scene for a project. Being the picky person I am, my dream keyboard needed to be light, qwerty-format, easy on the hands and not weirdly folded. Affordable and accurate figured highly on the list.

During a trip to Bic Camera, I saw the Logicool Keys to Go keyboard. It’s not the smallest keyboard but it’s thin, flat and light. It also comes in black, a nice turquoise and a fablulous red. It’s qwerty-formated without any weird gaps to make it foldable. I quickly looked up user reviews on Amazon.com (because I prefer English reviews) and people sounded happy with it.

Was the search finally over? I tried the display keyboard. The keys felt a bit stiff and my only slight irritation was that the space bar is near the edge of the board and felt awkward at first.  As I write this, I’m no longer having that problem but I’m seated at a table.

I bought the keyboard (it currently seems cheaper online at Bic and Japan than in the store) and charged it up when I got home. It charges via USB quite quickly. It paired easily with my iPad and pairs with a second device if you hold the bluetooth button on the keyboard for two seconds to make it discoverable again.

I like that I can easily highlight, delete and copy text using the keyboard shift and arrow keys. I have the same command key functions I have on a regular keyboard except for command/z (sadly my most used command). It’s also possible to make an em-dash (option/dash) ). What can I say, I’m picky but easily amused.  I’ve been using the app iA Writer and it’s working really well but I’ve used it for texting also.

The keyboard also has function keys: home, language, camera, play and volume. The function key that switches between Keys to Go and the virtual keyboard is really helpful though it’s a habit to develop I think. I spent some puzzling moments wondering why the keyboard wouldn’t pop up when I wanted to text someone after a phone call. Duh… I still had keyboard priority not virtual keyboard. I actually really enjoyed texting with the keyboard instead of the virtual one. My friend appreciated the break from my usual absurdly innaccurate texts.

My keyboard came with a detachable device stand (I have the impression that this is not the case for sales in the US but I’m not sure). It words really well with the iPhone (best in landscape orientation) and is okay with the iPad (which MUST be in landscape orientation, not upright) but that feels a bit tippy.

There is no user manual in the box, just a set up sheet. The user manual is online  and is useful for a quick overview of everything. This link from the support site is specifically about pairing devices.

So far, I like Keys to Go a lot and I’m very happy with the purchase. I feel like this keyboard is the component I’ve been missing and kind of makes my iPad feel a bit obsolete or my iPhone a whole lot more useful.

SPECS:
242 x 6 x 137mm
180 g
Micro USB cable
2.5 hours to full charge
Usage time: each minute of charging gives you 2.5 hours of use (recharging frequency will vary between users)

Go For the Knowledge, Leave with Inspiration—Learn about Travel Writing with La Carmina and Odigo

If you think that spending your Saturday in a day-long travel writing workshop sounds exhausting, then you didn’t make it La Carmina and Odigo’s writing workshop held at Ryozan Park Otsuka. I learn a lot and I left more energized and inspired than I’ve felt all week. La Carmina is a tv presenter, blogger/video blogger who covers counter-culture all over the world and has a huge following. Odigo is a new travel app/service designed to help visitors access locals’ insider knowledge in order to enjoy a more authentic travel experience in Japan.

Eric Bergemann, La Carmina, Melissa Rundle at workshop with Odigo
La Carmina (middle) with team members Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle

In the morning, Marla Hall presented a basic workshop on travel writing. We covered different types of travel writing and had a chance to start or continue an article and do peer critiques. Marla’s presentation helped me refine the angle I will take for writing more about my recent Zao trip.

In the afternoon, La Carmina, and her team members, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann generously shared their expertise on what makes a successful travel blog and how to make a living from travel writing. They were friendly, extremely organized, and direct about their experiences.

I’ve been to a lot of different classes and this was the best presentation I’ve attended about blogging and social media. Using examples from her blog, La Carmina talked about the importance of creating a great experience for readers and how to maximize your blog’s effectiveness.

Eric and Melissa are screenwriters and film-makers and had lots of tips for making effective videos. They talked about the types of gear they use and what they do with it. Melissa an Eric also gave practical tips for editing segments to create a professional video. I haven’t really done much video, but after listening to Melissa and Eric, I’m keen to start experimenting.

My favorite tips include naming your media files with key words and hyphens to increase SEO and always filling in alt tags for images. It’s an easy thing to do but it’s an easy thing to overlook. I hadn’t realized how much difference it would make. I usually name my files in an unintentionally cryptic way that works for my projects but aren’t helpful search terms. I am changing how I do that today.

La Carmina emphasized that it is a process and that it takes work and that generating a successful blog doesn’t happen over night. When they finished their presentation I had renewed respect for how much work it all takes, but I also left with the feeling that I had been shown some good steps that I could use to grow. From talking with other participants, I know they also feel the same way.

Melissa Rundle, La Carmina, Ryozan Park Otsuka, Odigo
After the workshop with Odigo.

Community Manager Lauren Shannon gave an overview of Odigo’s purpose and goals then led a roundtable discussion about writing and blogging goals in general. I’m pretty excited about the concept of an app based on local knowledge helping people get to know Japan. I’ve been here a long time and there is a lot to see and do beyond Tokyo Tower and Kaminari Mon in Asakusa.

We finished the day over snacks and conversation with La Carmina, Melissa, Eric, Lauren, Marla and other participants. It’s always good to meet people who share similar interests. When you get a chance to learn from friendly people who are doing so well it’s even better!

Thanks La Carmina, Melissa, Eric and Odigo for the great opportunity.

The Concrete Octopus Mind

octopus mind

Water Haiku.

I decided to try the Writing 201 Poetry at WordPress Blogging U. The first assignment is haiku and the topic is water. I love haiku. I think Ben Huberman did a good job for introducing the basics of haiku (though simile is maybe not the best device to introduce with haiku) but this simple formula is deceptively deep.

Haiku is not just about the 5-7-5 syllable structure.

Haiku is about:

  • Nature
  • the is-ness of now, NOT past tense
  • finding the perfect season word to express your idea
  • having two images that juxtapose each other but complement each other, making them richer
  • Not using metaphor or simile (or at least obvious ones)

The Haiku Society of America explains this very well if you would like more depth.

What I like about haiku is the opportunity it offers to connect to the present by intensely observing a fleeting moment then distilling the essence of that moment into words. It forces the poet to immerse herself in the fleeting now. Our observations connect us to nature but the act of observing imposes our interpretations on it. I guess this is how poetry is like physics. The act of observing influences what we see. I feel there’s a Schrodinger’s cat analogy here, but actually making it stretches just beyond me.

If you want to deal with human nature and it’s foibles and frailties then you’re really writing senryu. This is haiku’s sibling. Senryu also doesn’t need a seasonal world. Senryu is considered lower class which I think is unfair given that humanity is as richly textured as nature or even just an extension of it.

Writing 201, Day 1 Haiku
Yay!  I finally found a use for this photo

While I support looser interpretations of the structure in favor of creating mood, I still like the challenge of meeting stricter criteria. There comes a point when a piece strays too far from the structure of haiku. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a beautiful poem and it doesn’t mean that such a poem isn’t in its perfect form that was meant to be. I think it’s perfectly fine to have a poem inspired by haiku without calling it haiku. I guess it feels disrespectful to both the tradition and a unique work if you shoehorn it into a label. This idea I have isn’t meant to dissuade anyone from writing. These are simply the lofty goals of haiku. The most important point is to write and enjoy writing and not worry so much about labeling. God knows, my effort is not perfection. At any rate, here it is:

slimy dark puddles—
the splendid universes
you would never drink

I like this first effort, but I edited since I did the image. I felt micro universes didn’t work.  This edit gives it a bit more juxtaposition. Maybe not the most amazing haiku in the world. Given my intro in this post, not sure if I would label this Haiku or a poem inspired by one. Ultimately, I’m happy I wrote a poem today.

The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy

The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy (Burford Family Mysteries, #1)The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy by James Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was lucky enough to spend a week in London at the end of October. Last time in London, I read a Regency romance while having high tea at Fortnum and Mason. I decided to continue the tradition of reading a book set in England while I was there.

I went to the Waterstone’s at Trafalgar Square and fell in love with this book cover and the title. The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy, what a perfect title! The book is set in England just before the start of WWII, at an old English manor. Oooh, love! And an egg cosy! That just seems quintessentially British to me. More love! Some cover copy hints at shades of Agatha Christie. SO… we have a classic English manor mystery, complete with stolen jewels, international intrigue and an English Inspector that reminds me of Columbo. Hmm… Columbo. That doesn’t seem as promising. I really disliked that show. But surely an egg cosy will make up for it.

I found the first thirty pages didn’t really draw me in, but when the book hit it’s stride, I quite enjoyed it.

I finished reading the book on the airplane going home when the murderer was revealed and I actually burst out with, “What?” The plot is quite intricate and it was fun to see it sorted out. I think that’s why I was jarred with the identity of the murderer. It seemed a bit contrived when everything else fit so well.

Now, having said that, I would read another book if Jane or Geraldine were in them. I think the female characters were well done. I wasn’t thrilled with the Inspector, but then again, I really dislike Columbo so that kind of character device sets my teeth on edge.

I do want an egg cosy now. I’m off to search for a pattern on the internet.

View all my reviews *edit 2019: I’m not posting reviews to Goodreads anymore.

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

"A writing rhino composes his opus at a tiny typewriter"

Supermoon

Supermoon. Image by Gladson Machado, May 6, 2012

A project I am working on requires some research about the moon and its effect on Earth. The moon fascinates me because of the variety of things to follow: physics, geology and superstition. Each subject on its own makes interesting reading, but mix them together? The possibilities for stories multiply!

My current passion has to do with supermoons. A supermoon occurs when the moon in in perigee (closest point to Earth in moon’s orbit) and full. If a full moon is not also in perigee it is not a supermoon. A supermoon will appear fourteen percent larger and thirty percent brighter. The size difference may not be so noticeable, but the difference in brightness is.

The occurrence of natural disasters is linked to the appearance of the supermoon but no hard science has been found to back up these claims. Of course, perigee and full moons affect the tides and the combination of the two events do even more so, but the changes in the water level is not considered numerically significant world wide. There have been claims that link supermoons to the Tohoku Earthquake last year and the 2004 earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Science doesn’t really support the claims. I find it fascinating that people will jiggle their guidelines for cause and effect to fit the two events together. But yea or nay, I’m still enjoying the reading.

I happened on this article about supermoons.

Think bad things don’t happen during a full moon? Consider the quote below.

As TIME’s Michael D. Lemonick reported earlier this year, two physicists found that the combination of the moon’s perigee with Earth’s closest approach to the sun on Jan. 3, 1912, could have been responsible for the Titanic’s sinking that April. The combined gravity of this positioning led to a cycle of unusually high and low tides, Lemonick explained. In fact, the tides were higher than they’d been in hundreds of years, helping set free icebergs that were usually grounded and send them on a collision course toward the ill-fated ocean liner.

That full moon may not have sunk the Titanic per se, but if, as with many things on the earth, small changes can trigger bigger events maybe there is a link. Given the long odds and confluence of all these things; the astrological events, the high tides, the path of an iceberg through a vast ocean, human error, happening to sink a ship, it can be hard to ignore the idea of fate. With our human compulsion to seek, and sometime impose, order on random events, no wonder we have so many superstitions about the full moon.

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