Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Advice: DVD stuck in TS-T632A ATA drive

I know this little bit of advice is going to have a very small audience, but when I consider that just a couple of days ago I spent considerable time searching for the answer which this advice would have provided, I think it is worth my effort and your time.  It would have saved me considerable frustration.

CD/DVD slot
Let me begin with a little back story:  My computer has a built in CD/DVD drive like most computers.  However, mine is one of those slot drives which has no cover or eject button and only the slot is visible.  Now imagine my consternation when I put a brand new program DVD into this drive and my computer did not recognize either the drive or the disc.  As a result, I could not eject it and try another drive.

My device manager stated that the drive was not functioning properly, but that was the only part of my computer that admitted that I did have a CD/DVD drive.  I spent about one hour searching for an updated driver for the unit and confirming that no such update existed.  There were plenty of trails to lead me to believe there was a newer driver than the 2006 version I was currently using (or not using depending on how you view a situation when the computer does not know the drive exists in the first place), but it turned out not to be the case.

I spent another hour trying to find out if there was a manual eject.  I am very familiar with computer components as my father was a fiddler of electronic things (engineer) and I inherited this vice (but am not an engineer).  I expected there to be a manual means of removing this disc. But all my searching only provided me with three options.
  1. Use the software eject.  Open My Computer, right click on the drive, and click eject.  This was not a viable option.  Remember my computer is not recognizing the drive, so it was not showing up on My Computer.
  2. Use the built-in keyboard eject button.  Would you believe I never noticed this before?  It did not work, no matter how many times I pressed it.
  3. Take the back off the computer, remove the shroud underneath, remove the CD/DVD drive, remove its cover and then remove the DVD.  What?! You want me to open a CD/DVD drive, completely exposing its delicate innards?  YIKES!  I went looking for more options.
I know that most (all?) such drives have a tiny hole in which one can insert a wire (modified paper clip) and like magic (with a little pressure applied) activate the mechanism that will eject the CD. This drive did not appear to have one.  Some will hide it inside the slot up high or way low.  So I tried inserting the wire and working by feel to find this mechanism without result.  I spent the better part of an hour muttering about the engineer who designed this particular drive.  We were never going to be friends.

I gave up my fruitless search for answers on the Web and carried my computer to the kitchen table.  The back came off easily.  I complimented the engineer.  The shroud also came off with amazing ease.  I complimented this engineer also.  The drive slid out of its bay like it was greased.  I really liked this engineer.  My husband stood by encouraging my efforts.  (He will take apart anything from remote control boats to shotguns, but not a computer.)  I was explaining how any intelligent engineer will supply a manual means to remove a disc from a drive.  At this point I leaned over and looked at the drive's slot edge-on now that the shroud no longer hid everything but the slot.  A tiny hole about an inch and half from the top of the drive caught my eye.  I ran for my modified paper clip.  Feeling much like a safe cracker, I eased the wire in, applied gentle pressure and out popped my DVD.  I could have done it without removing the drive from its bay, but could not have done it with the shroud and cover in place.

Moral of this story:  I am going to assume every drive has that manual means of ejecting discs.  I am very glad I did not take the drive apart.  The computer was well-designed for easy access.  Accept for the manual release being hidden when the computer is all together, the engineer was not so bad after all.  So always check for the manual eject hole and keep a paper clip close by.  Chances are 100% likely (or nearly so) that the drive does somewhere have a manual means of ejection.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #39 2012

Write about a dream, but not just any dream.  Pick one of those that kept sliding into odd, even unrelated scenes that as the dreamer you just accepted.  Explore the strangeness of this dream following all its remembered impressions, actions and reactions. 

Write the twisty dream.
If you don't recall all the details, let your mind slide around what you do remember and pull at it until you have seized everything you can from the dream. 

If you are one of those who don't remember your dreams, imagine an image and carry into some foggy focus, let it slip into another image and then another as you track each flight of fancy. 

The one thing I ask that you do different with your dream is create a string of connections that holds each event to the next, smooth out the quirky, extra-stair-steps startle effect of the twisting dream.  Let take on a sort of logic of its own that may not have been there when you actually dreamed it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Inspiration is all about the lean

On Tuesdays I post a writing prompt because I have had students that have trouble coming up with things to write.  They need a direction, an arrow pointing off into the distance, a gentle push into forward motion, a leaning, and they just start walking that way.  They haven't learned to trust their own inspiration.  "Give me direction!" is their cry. (Though I don't do this anymore, the prompts still reside on my blog and can be used repeatedly.)

I think inspiration to write is much easier than they realize and is about being willing to lean toward any little thing that sways your attention.

"Tree."  What does a person see with just this one word?  Something will come to mind even if it is a sapling, twisted and nearly barren of leaves, a Whovian cluster of green hopeful growth at the tippy top of its highest reaching twig; two asymmetrical arm-like branches crook downwards at odds with the upward desire.  Mature oaks garbed in rough bark stand imposingly by, gruff opposers of any young upstarts grasping at the stabbing sunlight, great spears of dancing photosynthesis, splashes on last fall's dry castaways.  In the breezy rustle that sallies down the stiff elder oaks, there marches the firm argument that supplying a cart load of seed is not a promise to provide a place to root.  The sapling quivers its reply, a sithering shuffle of curled, mint-green locks straining to rub together a complaint for air, water and light.

Just lean, all it takes is a little bit of lean.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #38 2012

Find two very different images that you wouldn't normally imagine together, such as done with the movie Cowboys and Alien.

Once you have the two ideas, imagine them together.  For example, alligators and song birds don't at first seem to belong in the same closed space, but they certainly bring to mind a quick image, perhaps one with the alligators eating songbirds, their feathers strewn about in the mayhem of the gory scene.  On the other hand, it could be paradise if these two could reside in close company.  Maybe you would prefer unicorns and moles.  At first I thought of moles as little furry animals underground, but what if they were actual moles on the skin that would erupt and destroy the pristine white coat of the unicorn, a symptom of a serious disease.

Use whatever images you bring together to inspire you to create a scene or event.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Multitasking: My ideas occur when I can't put them in writing

Memo: Got your ideas right here
Other than when reading, I never have the time to give one task all my attention.  During this time of year, it is especially difficult.  Until school ends, I simply must be doing more than one thing at a time (and actually several things at once):  emailing a colleague about a meeting, sorting assignments, prepping one computer for presentation while I am waiting for a program to install on another, getting items together to discuss with a student.  Sometimes the thing I am trying to do in tandem with other tasks is related to writing when I don't have access to a computer.  While I shower, I work through scenes I want to draft or redraft, but my shower is not computer friendly.  As soon as I am out, I do nothing but worry about losing all my ideas before I can find the time to write them down because more than likely I am getting ready for school or for bed and no time is available.  So while my brain was busy planning that amazing plot twist or clarifying a character's motives, it was doing so with the sure danger that I will not be able to write it down and even worse won't get the chance until after I get back from work.  I often review my ideas over and over hoping to imbed the kernels of particular value while I am blow drying my hair, putting on makeup and getting dressed, but it never works.  Faint echoes are all I am left with when I am finally able to seize the moment to jot them down.

Yesterday, I was getting ready and began thinking through two scenes I need to add to the first novel in my Students of Jump series.  One can't type with wet hands, and it would be tough in the bathroom even it I tried.  However, there on the counter was my iPhone.  It has the app Dragon Dictation, but I haven't made an effort to use it.  Knowing I was going to lose all my fast approaching ideas, I grabbed the phone and activated that app.  I dictated about a paragraph, took a glance at it through somewhat soapy eyes only to find it had only caught the first six words which did not include "entropy scram" (In this scene...).  I tried three more times without any worthwhile results.  Out went that idea.  I think the exhaust fan combined with running water just did not work well with this app.  But iPhones come with a voice memo app.  I gave that a try.  And two scenes later all my meteoric flashes of insight and inspiration were recorded and easy to access.  What was especially nice was I stopped more than once to think a bit, pausing the recording, and when I had my idea ready, I was able to return to recording.  I did that at least three times.  Four minutes of notes on my next two scenes all tied up and clearly enunciated rather than my scribbled writing.

Ahh, but then another flash of inspiration came to me.  I have two blogs to write and since I am feeling creative... So on went that little app again which shortly recorded two blog post ideas and my new writing prompt for the week. I knew I would not be writing them for at least another day and, of course, would not remember the details my mind was so rich with at that time.  Even when I do find a moment to write a note, I tend to just jot down a sentence or two rather than the long list of points I wanted to make.  But every word that came to me as the muse whispered in my ear was on that recording, no recall necessary.  I didn't even have to consider if I would be able to make out my writing which becomes quite messy when I am hurried. This very post was the first of the two ideas I dictated. 

Alright, this is not a genius idea.  Many people employ a recorder for catching To Do's or notes to the secretary or self.  But I haven't.  So for those who have this method available to them and often don't have the time to sit down and do the work when they think about it, try it.  I am sold.  My ideas are not going to drift out of my memory or be scribbled on a tablet leaving me wondering what I was so excited about.  My stream of thought was flowing, and the app was busy recording: nothing between me and my inspiration.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #37 2012

Today you are going to need a little help with this prompt.
  • Locate a bag, one preferably that is not clear, so a paper bag or a solid colored plastic shopping bag.  
  • Now locate a person, someone who has a mischievous nature or quirky way of looking at things would be helpful.  
  • Hand this person the bag and tell them to place something unusual in it.  The item can be as simple as a tiny rolled up piece of paper, a screw that fell out of something and is laying in the corner, a picture, figurine, whatever.  Make it easy on them and leave the room or even the house for a bit so they have time to really look around at what is available. 
  • Once the bag has the object in it, get it back from the person and take it to where you write.  
  • Write about it:  describe it and tell the story of its use or how it was created; or make up how a person felt when they first saw it, or bought it, or gave it away to another person. 

That's your prompt. Get busy.

Friday, September 7, 2012

In Times Passed: under reconstruction

I thought I should mention that I have pulled my first book (In Times Passed) from publication because I feel it needs redrafting.  Certainly, I did not have it in mind to publish my book and then remove it, but as time went by, I began to feel that the whole story was not there.  So, as noted on my Books & Projects page, it is back in edit, under remodel, reconstruction, etc.

A fellow author agreed that sometimes this is necessary, and she encouraged me to feel good about my choice.  She found herself making a similar decision some time back regarding one of her books.  Like me, she wanted her work to be at its best.  So the first in my series of Students of Jump books is on temporary hold.  Likely, the second in the series will hit publication shortly after this first gets back on the e-book shelf.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fingers tapping, program frozen, time for an update

Recently, while writing a scene that I had been thinking about quite a bit (fiddling with the details, what I wanted revealed and what I wanted to just hint at), I came to a stopping point and rolled down to the end of the page so only a portion of my hour's writing was visible.  I was still thinking through what I had typed and thought it a good time to save before I made any more changes.  I gave a quick roll of the mouse and a click on save.  The program froze with a hand tapping its fingers on my screen just above the save button.  I waited several moments, left my desk and returned to find those tiny fingers still tapping.  Ultimately, I had to force-close the program and accept that my recent work was gone.  I restarted, began the scene again having convinced myself that most of what I had written was still clear in my mind, my work at phrasing things just so still drifting before my writer's eye.  I wrote a while, moving through the scene quicker than the first time.  It didn't feel that I had caught all that I had worked so hard to recapture, but it was not bad.  Again, a roll of the mouse and a click.  The hand appeared, fingers tick, ticking along.  Frozen again.  I waited an hour in the hope it would come to whatever conclusion it was set on, but no luck.  This time I had not rolled the page down, so all of what I had written was still on screen.  I pulled out a sheet of my daughter's line paper and copied.  It took a while, but I had my work written down at least.

I have pondered the problem a bit.  I use WordPerfect and have for more than 30 years. This particular version of the program is more than eight years old and does not work well with Vista unless it is set up to be run as an older version program set for Windows XP.  It has not been a problem as I set it up properly years ago.  However, Windows keeps updating, and I think my poor old version of WP has finally met the point where it cannot function with my Vista.  I tested it repeatedly, causing the program to freeze every time.  I even reset it again as an old version program, but the problem persists.  So for a week now I have not been able to write, which is frustrating as this will probably be the last couple weeks that teaching doesn't take up all my time.

Some time next week my Vista compatible version of WordPerfect will arrive.  In the meantime, I ponder the next scenes I hope to get down and will be ready when my chance to write comes again.  I know I could hand write, but I have become so comfortable with the ease of editing in mid-stride that the thought cramps my thoughts up too tight for such slow drafting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #36 2012

Pick a co-worker you don't know well but have observed.  (You can exchange co-worker with club member or any large group you are involved with.) Describe that individual.  As you do, you will find the main feature about that person that stands out to you because you will focus in on it without realizing it.  This practice (maybe do two or three) is useful because you will be describing real people who have qualities that you have unconsciously connected with.  Collecting idiosyncrasies from real individuals you know and using them in your writing will add a naturalness to your characters and help your readers to identify them individually, especially when there is a large cast. 

Writers select only a few qualities to attach to a character, main or minor.  Hair and eyes are popular features, but there are so many other qualities that can help define a character as unique and help a reader connect with that individual no matter how short the involvement with the individual is in the reading.

  • Glasses that slide down the nose or enlarge the eyes when lenses are looked through directly by other characters.
  • Profuse sweating:  sweaty hands, beading above the lip.
  • Feet that slap the floor with every step.
  • A habit of rubbing an ear or stroking a brow.