Pulling the manuscript together


I’m pulling together the last strands of my manuscript project. I’m assembling the last illustrations. I’ve done the preliminary page layout. Now I’m adjusting the lines of lettering and the photo sizing for each page.

I delivered a couple of old photos from the age of film to Holland Photo for scanning. One is faded, and it will have its color refreshed. The other is black and white, and it will be colorized. Almost all the other photos are from the digital age.

This morning, I took new pictures of my breakfast cooking. The picture I had was a vertical, and I needed a horizontal. More important, the picture I had was too dark. Sometime I will tell you all about my dislike of the black stove in my apartment. I fixed it with some white parchment paper. Looks good, I think.

I need to practice with the watercolors in preparation for coloring an illustration from a woodcut. It’s Flammarion, a really spectacular drawing from the 1800s. My watercolor ability is pretty crude, so we’ll see how long it takes and how it turns out.

I had thought about highlighting some words of the text with watercolor, and I tried it on the last draft. It was a disappointment. So, not doing that.

The page layout went pretty well. I stumbled a lot figuring out how to use Affinity Publisher, but I’m getting the hang of it. I’ll write more about that soon, too.

I had a run of the pages, with only the pictures, printed on plain paper. I’m using those and written pages from a previous draft to adjust picture size and text placement for the final manuscript. First, I lay the draft on the lightpad. Then I lay the photo layout over it. I can see it all. Then I figure out how I want to fit everything together.

You can see (squint at it) by the photo of the sheets on the lightpad that the lettering sheet shows through the photo sheet, so it’s easy to fit them together into a composite image. (You can also see the sad results of my watercolor attempt.) In that composite, the page-head photo covers part of two lines of print, so I’ll have to get creative about that.

Some time this week I intend to put the final photo layout file on a flash drive and take it to Miller Imaging. They will print it on some high quality paper. I haven’t chosen the paper yet.

Once I have the good sheets with the photos on, I’ll sit down to do the final lettering. I’m aiming for this coming weekend or the following. I’m getting excited about it.

Simple sautéed apple

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I had an apple sitting on the bar for about a week. I picked it up and looked at it. It still looked good and felt firm. I didn’t want to eat it raw: too big and probably too tart. I decided to sauté it in butter.

First I put several tablespoons of butter in the skillet and set the burner at medium.
Second, I sliced the apple.
Third, I dropped the slices in the melted butter.  I let them cook for about 15 minutes, turning every few minutes, testing with a fork.
Serve and eat! The tartness was tamed.

I tried a couple of variations for this..

I kept half the slices in the pan and sprinkled on corn meal. It immediately soaked up all the butter. When I ate the apple slices, the corn meal was still pretty hard to chew. Maybe I should have soaked it first. Or maybe flour would have done better.

I tried pouring a little honey on the other slices. That was delicious! Next time I may try brown sugar and cinnamon.

The whole thing took less than a half hour.

Good tools are a joy to use

I’ve been accumulating new tools.  About a week ago I bought some new inks.  This past week I bought a lightpad to use in laying out pages or tracing.  Today I bought and downloaded a page layout app.  I’m ready to go.

My new inks are my old inks.  Higgins makes excellent bottled indelible inks.  I use them with my dip pens.  Their inks were among my favorites for a long time.

My other new old ink is Quink, by Parker.  As a schoolboy, I learned to love fountain pens with a Scheaffer.  But, when I became a man, I discovered Parker and a refined writing tool.

Quink is a good all-purpose ink Parker makes to fill it’s fountain pens.  It flows freely, dries quickly, has good density.  But Parker is stingy with details about its manufacture or properties.  This bothered me.

At some point I discovered Noodler’s.  It seemed perfect for both dip pen and fountain pen.  It was indelible (or nearly), had good density, yet flowed freely enough to be used in a fountain pen.  This was all true, though the free flowing fountain required attention.  But the ink dried slowly.  What I mean is that it took a long time to dry.  In the time that it took to read this essay, the first line of ink would not be dry. 

So now, I have my new old inks back.  It’s good.

I’m excited about the lightpad.  It’s an Artograph, 12 x 17.  I’ll use it for a lot of page layout tasks, as well as giving invisible bases to lines of handwriting.

I think my first experience with a light table was working on some high school rag.  It was a lot of fun.  Later, working on various publications and as a shoestring publisher, I used light tables that, if I recall, may have been 36 x 36.  That’s a lot of light, and a lot of work area.  Most were smaller.  

In my own endeavors, I had a light box about the size of a small suitcase or a large briefcase.  This new lightpad has about the same area, but is less than half an inch thick.

For page layout software, I chose Affinity Publisher.  It’s been reviewed well and rated favorably.  I haven’t tried to use it yet.

I rode into the world of desktop publishing in 1985 with a piece of software by Aldus called Pagemaker.  I think I started with version 1.4.  For someone at home with newspaper layout on real layout boards, Pagemaker made perfect sense.  I loved it.

Eventually, Adobe captured Pagemaker, and then slowly let it die.  I’ve really been at a loss for a layout application since then.  I’ve tried a few.  We’ll see how it goes with Affinity.

With these new tools, I’m fully equipped to finish my project.  It’s a collection of illustrated broadsides of poetry.  I’ve been working on it for over a year, I’m embarrassed to say, and now I’m at the final step.

You may suspect that there will be another step after the final step, and you would be right.  I’ve thought about that.

Medicare for All Kids

I’m for Medicare for All, but not all at once.  We should expand Medicare to cover all Americans.  But we should do it in steps.  Step one: cover the kids.

What is Medicare for All?  When I talk about it, I mean the current Medicare system, expanded to cover everyone.  People understand the current Medicare, and it was created by our last great President, a Texan.  Senator Bernie Sanders (I voted for him and may again.) and some Democrats define Medicare for All to mean a fully comprehensive system that covers all necessary medical costs.  That would be great, some day.

Back in 2010, when the so-called “tea party” Republicans were demonstrating against the Affordable Care Act, I went to my Congressman’s town hall meeting carrying a sign that I made.  It said:

Universal Medicare

From my little home-made sign, the idea of expanding Medicare caught fire.  (Well, okay, maybe that wasn’t the spark.  But the idea did catch fire.)

Universal Medicare should be phased in for three reasons.  First, there is not enough support, even in the Democratic Party, to get the expansion done in one time.  Second, such a sweeping expansion would be a tremendous shock to the economy.  Third, we don’t want another disastrous rollout like we had with Obamacare.  The best way to expand Medicare substantially while establishing that it is going to be for everyone eventually, is to extend it to all children under 25.

Start with the kids

We should start with kids for several reasons.  First, children are the most vulnerable population.  Medicare, like Social Security, was established for the elderly because they are a vulnerable population.  Children are also a vulnerable population.  Second, covering children will take a lot of financial pressure off families.  Third, we are already spending some of the money to cover children, so it’s not as big a budget stretch to bring them under Medicare.

We spend money covering kids now with a program called CHIP.  It’s a very limited, means-tested program, so it’s inefficient and unfair.  Let’s discontinue CHIP and bring the kids into a solid program.

Forget about expanding Obamacare (Pelosicare, anyone?).  It’s a house built on sand.  Let’s build our house on rock—Medicare.

Life span

The beauty is that, once we have covered both ends of the life span, we will have created a donut hole in the middle that obviously will be closed in time.  Just as the donut hole in prescription drug coverage created by the Republicans was inevitably filled…  What?  The prescription drug donut hole hasn’t been filled?  What’s the holdup?

Do you want to lock in the remaining expansion?  Sure.  Take it in two more steps.  Cover 45 to 65 in the thirties.  Then cover 25 to 45 in the forties.  That’s soon enough to feel definite, but far enough out to feel non-threatening.

Maybe this is our only shot to expand Medicare in this generation.  Let’s don’t blow it.  Social Security was created in the thirties.  Medicare was created in the sixties.  If we get this expansion done in the twenties, we may be waiting another generation or two.  Let’s make it the most important one. 


Got Content? You can manage it.

You know what you’re looking for.  Do you know how to find it?  You need a CMS (Content Management System).  You want something that you can put things in and then easily find them later.  Got it.  It’s called: “the Finder.”

It was invented by a little startup that stole it from an experimental lab run by a big legacy company.  But, it’s not hard to find.  It comes preinstalled on every Mac (Apple computer).

You probably don’t think about the Finder much.  That’s the kind of CMS you want.  Because what you’re interested in is your Content, not the Management System.

The reason you don’t have to think about the Finder is because it’s intuitive.  That means it works like you would expect.  It’s a hierarchical file system. (no sorry, Apple, you can’t own that).  It’s really simple.  Things that go together, you put in a folder.  And folders that go together, you put in a higher level folder.  It’s called sorting.

Intuitive means you understand it without thinking about it.  Why do we understand the Finder so well?  Because it is based on a system that was developed over centuries, using paper.

It works with anything.  It’s application-independent.  You can put a movie and a spreadsheet and a text document in the same folder.

There are a lot of content management systems, but very few that manage content as well as the Finder.  It’s the standard.  Soon, I’ll compare another CMS with the Finder.

Democrats compromise

This is what democrats do. They argue for what they believe in. Then they listen to the opponent’s argument.  Then they agree on middle ground.  That’s what makes democracy work.

A special kind of compromiseis badly needed.  I mean that Democrats should compromise among themselves.  The Democratic representatives in the U.S. House must forge a compromise among themselves that they can then represent to the whole country.

I’m a social democrat, meaning I’m in the left wing of the party.  I believe in Medicare for All.  I believe in the Green New Deal.  I believe that it is urgent that we impeach the loathsome sociopath impersonating a president.  But I believe in something else more.

I’m a majoritarian, meaning I want the Democratic Party to build a stable majority in this country that can govern for a generation.  You don’t do that by holding purity votes and holding out for exactly what you want.  You do that by forging compromises and achieving significant legislation that moves the country forward.

This is not the time to be trying to scrape off those moderate Democrats who won in Republican districts.  This is the time to listen to them.  They are important messengers from persuadable voters.  They are also messengers from the Democrats to those persuadable voters.

What good is it going to do to elect a Democratic president for one or two terms, if the Democrats are going to be driven out of office by a Republican wrecking crew that then devotes itself to undoing all the progress that was made?

Focus on the settlement zone.  Democrats should be focusing on the settlement zone, not the end zone.  The settlement zone is that area between two ends where compromise is possible.  It can usually lie in the middle 40 percent between the two ends.  If I say $100 billion, and you say zero, then the settlement zone is somewhere between $30 billion and $70 billion.  I’m going to make my argument for $100 billion, yes.  But I’m going to accept something in the settlement zone.

I hope Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not give up on passing a budget in the House.  This is a critical test of leadership, and it is a critical test of Democrats.  If Pelosi can’t get her own party to agree on a budget, then how is she a leader?  Does she know about the settlement zone?  If the Democrats can’t get a plan among themselves, how are they going to govern the country?

House Democrats must remember that they are America’s team now.  This is their chance to prove themselves.  They can win the confidence of the country if they rise to the challenge.  They can give our next president an effective force for change, if they rise to the challenge.


Shutterbug makes a break…

I finally created a Shutterstock portfolio.  And I uploaded some pictures from my trip to Garner State Park.  Soon I’ll be rich.

I don’t know what took me so long.  I love taking pictures, and people like them.  It’s only natural that I should publish them.

I first started taking pictures seriously (seriously?) as a young newspaper editor.  I had a really good black-and-white camera and a tiny darkroom.  Yes, I did my own darkroom work.  I published those pictures in the newspaper.

The pictures went with words, of course.  But sometimes, the words can go with pictures.  You call those captions.

I’m a word man.  Usually, when I take pictures, they go with my words.  And I use my words to paint pictures.

Every year at the winter solstice I shoot the sunrise to go with a poem.  I send those out in a card to a few thousand friends and acquaintances.  (Ask me.)  And I take pictures to go with other poems.

I guess I’m a picture man, too.  Some people call me a photographer, but I feel more like a shutterbug.  Either way, I love the visual world.  I love color and form and motion.  I look at a scene, and I’m compelled to take pictures of all that. 

I went to Garner last fall when I was trying to figure out where I am in my life.  It was a moving trip.  You can read about that (and see some pictures) here.

A big part of where I am in my life now is getting my work out there.  So, hello, Shutterstock.  I have a lot of what they sell.  And they’re willing to market it for me.  (I’m going to read their terms of service real soon.)  Look me up.

Emergency meal for one

It’s good to have an emergency meal in stock. Like a lot of Austinites, I was slammed by the pollen in the air one weekend.  I had to eat, but there were no leftovers in the fridge.

I operate on a very narrow grocery window.  I try not to buy more groceries than I can eat in the next three days.  That saves me from throwing out a lot of stale food.

I could barely drag myself around the pad, let alone go out for groceries.  I contemplated the gloomy prospect of ordering food for delivery.  Then, I remembered my emergency meal.

I opened the cabinet, and there it was, a can of pinto beans and a can of diced tomatoes! I was saved.  This is a meal that you can cook, eat, and clean up after in less than an hour.

First, start heating the skillet.  A cast-iron skillet with congealed bacon grease from breakfast is perfect.  Put it on a medium burner.

Second, chop garlic, onion, and (red) bell pepper.  Scrape the ingredients into the hot grease one at a time, about a minute apart.

Third, pour in the can of beans.  A word about bean juice:  it’s precious!  Some people will tell you to drain your beans.  That’s crazy.  Pour it all in.

Fourth, heat it through.  Shake on the spices.  Salt frugally, but apply a nice dusting of cumin and chili powder over the entire surface. After a few minutes, stir it.  By now, the juice should be bubbling.

Fifth, now we’re ready for the tomatoes, but ask yourself how much more time you want to take with this.  If you have time, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for a little while.  If you’re in a hurry, go ahead and pour in the diced tomatoes and stir until the bubbling starts again.  Then serve.

This one pan meal is great by itself, but it goes really well with cornbread or rice. Squash or greens also make a nice side dish.

Garnish with a jalapeño.  And when I say a jalapeño, I mean a whole jalapeño, from a can, not nacho slices from a jar.  It is scandalous that there are several reputable grocery stores in Austin that do not sell whole jalapeños.  At least HEB remains true.

Okay, meal’s over.  You probably have enough left over for another day.  It’s a matter of minutes to wash the skillet with hot water and a stiff brush.