Archive for Creative

What I’ve been up to these past few months

Time flies when you are a habitual project starter. July and August were both crazy. My time spent in Virginia, and then immediately after in Colorado Springs, was an amazing, once in a lifetime thing, that reminded me why I’ve taken the path that I have and helped me refocus myself. The first leg of my two week intensive book tour was at the Rare Book School, where I took a course on the basics of bibliographical description. The class was intense, the instructors excellent, and the experience as a whole was just as amazing as everyone says it is. There’s a sort of bliss that comes with being surrounded by people who not only love what you love, but are so mature in their love that you are constantly in awe of the vast depths of knowledge to which one can plunge in pursuit of it.

The students in my bibliography class joked that we would never be able to explain to other people just what it was that we had been doing all week, because it was so esoteric, but for me one of the great things about getting to really understand a subject is that it makes it easier to help other people understand that subject. That part of my personality has gotten me in trouble for being a bit of a know-it-all at times, but when something is interesting it’s really hard for me not to tell everyone all about it.

And, in fact, I got a chance to apply my new found education immediately after my week at Rare Book School ended, when I flew out to Colorado Springs to work as staff for the Colorado Antiquarian Seminar. This year the faculty was trying something a little different, and gave seminarians a challenge to “Adopt” two books and spend the week applying what they were learning to the cataloging and description of those books. Collation (describing how all the pages and leaves are put together in the binding) was not explicitly part of that, but after Terry Belanger’s talk on collation everyone turned to their adopted books and started struggling to put their new found knowledge into practice. What I had spent a few books of study and a week of lab time on, the CABS folk were attempting to do after 2 hours of instruction.

And they did remarkably well. A lot of people were a little intimidated by the terminology and notation in the beginning, but I was still in COLLATE ALL THE THINGS MODE and was practically begging people to ask me questions so we could collate something together. Occasionally we would come to something a little complex and I would say it wasn’t necessary to get too deep into it, which only resulted in them going to Terry, who would sit down and do it all, no shortcuts. I should have known better than to think that CABS folk wouldn’t want to know it all.

Over both weeks I ended up meeting some amazing people, refocused and reinvigorated myself, and drank more beer than I usually do over the course of an entire year.

Since then I’ve been occupying myself with the usual endless list of projects, which are below if anyone is interested.


A few weeks ago I finished working on the digital catalog of Thomas G. Thrum‘s library for Librarything. Thrum was white man who moved to Hawai’i at a young age, and is primarily remembered as a folklorist and compiler of almanacs. His library was recorded by an anonymous bookman, most likely as part of estate proceedings after his death, and the majority of the books appear to have found a home at the University of Hawai’i. When his project came up I couldn’t resist snatching it up, since it was so closely connected to my alma mater, and the catalog looked straight forward enough, but it actually ended up taking some time to get everything written out.

For one thing the bookman who recorded the library did so with a shortlist only, and one in which he was in the habit of truncating titles to the point where it took some doing to find out just which “Report” was being referenced. The second problem was in the obscurity of some of these titles, particularly with the serials. I would say that almost half of Thrum’s books had not been previously cataloged on librarything, and many were not in enough libraries to pop up doing a broad search. A number of times I had to use the UH library system catalog to find the item, and then bring that information back to librarything. But persistence paid off, and now if you want to know what a scholar of Hawai’ian folklore from the 19th century liked to read all you need to do is go here.

I also managed to watch all 140 some episodes of Hunter X Hunter. It can’t be work time all the time.


Notice I only really have one thing “finished.” Such is my life. Recently I’ve been working on:

  • Getting 52 books read by the end of the year. I’m currently at… 17. Haha… ha… ha… Well, that’s still a decent average for me. I haven’t actually hit 52 ever, even though I always say I’m going to aim for it.
  • A worldbuilding toolkit. For almost ten years I’ve been managing a “contest” of sorts where participants have been challenged to answer a series of prompts about different aspects of an imaginary world that they create. The platform that I had been using was not optimal for this sort of thing, so I’m migrating it to something I have more control over, and in the process I’m fleshing the whole thing out into more of a toolkit. With 400+ original prompts to migrate, and a lot of editing work required to get them into the new format properly, this is a project that will take some time.
  • I’ve picked up Japanese again and am making my painful way forward with it. Trying to work back to fluency is both painful and gratifying. I’m hating myself for how much I’ve forgotten, but it’s surprising how much I’ve managed to retain. My biggest hope is that my next step in life will be utilizing Japanese more centrally, but for that to happen I need to get serious.


  • NaNoWriMo is in a month. I haven’t won in a very long time, but I’m getting tired of the dry spell.


Draft Map 1

I started worldbuilding when I was in elementary school and dragged my mother and little brother in to a DnD session, and I’ve never stopped, even though my projects have taken a back seat to a lot of other things in my life. Lately I’ve taken it back up again and have been devoting more an more time to it.

One of the things that is very common for world builders to make but that I’ve been avoiding is maps. A high level of realism or accuracy has never been a goal of mine. I just want to build a platform for interesting stories. But lately I’ve found that things are getting too complex, and it’s time to start mapping things out.

If I’m going to make a map, I figured I would make a map that would say something about the world in which it was made. The world I’ve been working on for the better part of two decades is the shape of a bowl, not a sphere, so the people there must necessarily see the landscape differently. I remember seeing some wonderful Japanese travel guides during my study abroad where each stop was illustrated with a view of the horizon, and creating a horizon-type view in a world where there technically was no horizon seemed like an interesting idea. The amount of information you could put into a map like that would not be limited to the horizon line, so you could theoretically get the entire world onto a one.

This is how the first draft turned out:

Dragmal mapThe quality is crappy because I had to use my camera. The image is too large to fit onto my little scanner.

Since this is a first draft, there are a lot of errors, but I’m satisfied with the map as a test case. I had planned to create the map from the perspective of a person who was standing at the town in the center, but clearly I ended up with an overhead view instead. Since the mountain range is relatively young I think the peaks are too steep and jagged.

The proportions are sloppy. I’m just going to pretend that an apprentice cartographer was responsible for this thing to explain that away.

Water is a massive pain to think through. Not only does a bowl shaped world create water systems that might seem counter intuitive, the entire world moves like a censor on a chain, drastically altering the water systems on a seasonal basis. This means that the rivers alter course constantly, and some riverbeds are dry in their offseason and can flood in season.

The blob in the left river is an aborted attempt at a lake and is an error.

The region in the map is supposed to be a lowlands close to the only ocean. During the winter the entire lower half becomes something of a massive delta, and during the summer the tide engulfs the bottom three towns represented, stopping just below the others.

The little tree shaped things are towns. Why trees and not little houses? The shapes represent spearheads. Large poles carved to represent spears are erected in each town, and the heads are decorated with feathers, the patters of which describe the town’s allegiance.

The icon on the far left with the two spear symbols is the capitol, Doe’ Dragmal. The two large spears represent its importance, and it’s actually further East than the map indicates, but it is mandatory that the city be represented on all official maps.

Direction is indicated by the symbol at the top of the map, read “Cange Lar,” or Southern Tree. The tree is the highest point in the south and on a clear day is visible with the right instruments.

The eye symbol at left is the sun, a stationary object in this world. It’s placed at the position it was in (really, the position the bowl was in) at the time the map was made, with the symbol above it indicating that it is a “winter” sun, i.e. the sun is behind the imagined viewer and is on the way to the summer solstice.

You can see that the rivers all bend towards an invisible low point that exists directly under the sun. As the world moves under the sun, the flow of the rivers shift so that they are always aiming for that fixed point.

The line at the top is supposed to represent the horizon, but it was badly thought out and isn’t at all accurate. My limited grasp of perspective failed me hard there.

So this is crappy map number one. It’s not much to look at but many years of work went into the concepts behind it.