Winter Sunlight

Miscellaneous things

1. At some point, someone told me that Facebook doesn't show you when you have messages from non-friends, it just sticks them in a folder somewhere. I finally went looking for that folder, and I discovered someone trying to contact me about a freelance opportunity A YEAR AGO. Needless to say, it is no longer an opportunity, and I feel a bit like an idiot about it (though she was quite nice when I emailed her, and said they'd keep me in mind for the future). Anyway, thanks for the professional support, Facebook. Just go on being awesome.

2. I found myself tonight trying to figure out if it would have been possible to lock a door from the inside without a key in 1930. This is surprisingly difficult to google for! What do you call those keyless door locks, anyway, the kind where you push a button or press in the knob? I ended up reading a bunch of pages on the history of doorknobs, and finally googling for "push button door lock" got me to a page in which I learned that Schlage patented one in 1924 (apparently the first) and started selling them widely. I still don't think they would be widespread enough to be available in a low-rent office building in 1930, though, which is what I need for this scene. Maybe if the doors were recently upgraded, perhaps due to a rash of burglaries or something ...? (Of course, I could also just tweak that scene a bit, so I don't need it ...)

3. I'm still reading Diana Wynne Jones, with essays from Reflections: On the Magic of Writing interspersed between her books. I realized something else I absolutely love about her books is the way that ... I'm trying to think exactly how to phrase this ... her characters' thoughts and feelings on other characters do not necessarily reflect the author's feelings about that character. Does that make sense? I was noticing this particularly in the Dalemark books, since they're in omniscient third, which means you get everyone's opinions on everyone else, and even among a cast of mostly-very-sympathetic characters, there's still a tremendous amount of variety in how everyone feels about everybody else. Then I ran across one of her essays where she's talking about having the same character, or facets of the same character, pop up in different books, and one she mentioned is that Tacroy in The Lives of Christopher Chant and Torquil in Archer's Goon are facets of the same character. Now that she's said that, I can see it (in a way, Torquil is a sort of a "through a glass darkly" Tacroy, or vice versa), but it would never have occurred to me before -- and this is what's interesting to me about that from a writerly perspective -- because the way that the narrator reacts to the two characters is radically different. Christopher likes Tacroy immediately, so we get his sympathetic view of him, whereas Howard hates Torquil, for reasons that are entirely obvious in the book. It's just really interesting to me, because yeah, authors tend to have the same characters pop up in different books, which is something she's discussing in the essay, but I think it's rarer for very similar characters to turn up in different books but play radically different roles, which seems to be what's happening here.

And it made an impression on me because it is remarkably hard to do. This is one of the things that chases me off a lot of mediocre fanfic, because instead of the characters acting towards each other as they do in canon, you get everyone behaving as the author wishes they would behave (i.e. everyone hates X because the author hates X, even if they get along just fine in canon, or X and Y get over their differences even if they really shouldn't be able to). Obviously it isn't always that extreme or obvious, and I've been guilty of it myself, I'm sure. I think it's more insidious and harder to recognize in original fiction, since there's no baseline to go back to. In particular, there's a tendency for the writer to just end up with everyone getting along (the writer likes all the characters, so why wouldn't they like each other?!) or else everyone ganging up on the one who represents the Wrong Viewpoint. This is something I really need to keep in mind in something like Kismet, say, where there are a bunch of characters who have dramatically opposed viewpoints, and they really need to look very different when seen through each other's eyes.

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I love Reflections beyond all reason, and only partly because Tacroy and Torquil are two of my very favourite characters. Her essay on LotR was also kind of mind blowing. Makes me want to learn more about plots, stories and how they work, but I never know where to look. :D
I adore Tacroy -- he's one of my favorites of all her characters -- but I had completely forgotten Torquil was such a sweetheart until rereading the book. (Torquil and Hathaway and their fight! ♥ ) I didn't really remember anything about Archer's Goon except Erskine and the truth about Howard. It's really fascinating to know that she used more or less the same template for both characters, because I doubt I would have noticed on my own, but I can totally see it once it was pointed out.

And yeah, the LotR essay is great too! I'm only about halfway through Reflections, but I'm loving it. My very favorite thing so far is this line from one of her essays (paraphrasing slightly from memory):

It's better to aim for the moon and only make it halfway, than to aim for the roof and only get halfway upstairs.

That's just such a wonderful sentiment. :D
My front door, which probably dates to the 1930s, has a mortise lock with buttons -you don't need a key, but if it was set to being unlocked you'd have to open the door to switch it.
Oh, that's interesting ... though I'm having a little trouble visualizing this -- if you don't mind me asking, do you think you can image-search something similar and show me? Because this sounds really intriguing and different from (modern) standard locks, but I can't quite seem to picture it in my head.
Push button mortise lock. You've got two buttons on the bottom there - when one's pushed in the door is locked, when the other is pushed in the door is unlocked. Then you can unlock from the outside with a key, it's not like a deadbolt. Or you can with mine, at least, I can't tell if you can with the one I linked.

So it works for "can lock it without a key," but not for "can lock it without a key after slamming the door in the face of a deadly assassin."
Ah, thank you very much! :) That's really a nifty design -- well, I don't know if it would be a pain to actually use, but it's certainly interesting. And completely plausible in the time period! (Any kind of keyless lock will work for what I need -- I just want my main character to let himself into his office without realizing someone is already in there, because he thinks the door is locked as he left it.)
I recently remembered that 'other' section on FB's messages (well, stumbled across it and and went 'oh, yeah, I'd forgotten about that'. For me, though, it was blokes wanting to get to know me. Yeah, right. *rolls eyes* I'm annoyed that you can only archive them, not delete them! But yeah, even if they feel the need to keep these messages in a different section (like a spam folder in email), they could at least let you know the message exist!
I think you can delete them once you archive them -- at least, I had a spam message in there from some random jerk hitting on me via Facebook, archived it by accident, then hit "delete" and it went away. I haven't tried on any of the others.
Thank you! So that's a business proposition, two dodgy blokes and an ad for something or other all gone!
Really, it baffles me why guys think hitting on strangers via Facebook message is ever going to turn out well for them. Yes, creepy stranger, I am totally going to fling myself in your direction because you messaged me out of the blue on Facebook. Really?
There used to be a thing called a police lock that I think you could set up from the inside without a key. My last apartment had one (without the bar, so it was non-functional) and I ended up googling it one day. I mean, this is the sort of thing you'd only have on an outside door, so I don't know if that's at all useful. But there actually is a wide variety of different locks that were used through history. We've settled on the keyed lock and the combination lock, but I went to the John M. Mossman Lock Museum a few years ago, and you can see the amount of innovation and different methods people came up with before the two we have now gained dominance.
Oh, those are interesting! Thank you for the link. :)

And yeah, one of the things I like about writing historical stuff (this is for a murder mystery I'm writing that's set in 1930 Chicago) is that so much of what we take for granted now is really different in the past, in subtle little ways or large ones. That lock museum sounds really neat - there are SO many things to see in NYC, but I am going to have to put it on my list of places to go if I ever get back there. :D
[her characters' thoughts and feelings on other characters do not necessarily reflect the author's feelings about that character. Does that make sense? ]

OMG yes! I -love- that...writing device? I guess it could be called a device? Anyway I know exactly what you mean. This is especially cool in YA books where you know that the the hero or heroine is probably not correct in the assumptions they're making about other people and their reasoning is slowly peeled away to better understanding.

And yeah, this is difficult to do. I particularly notice this in milder cases in fanfic. For example, two people are in love and for some reason everyone else in their lives suddenly needs to point this out to them and act as though their grand romance is something important to the people outside of it. Like, yes, obviously friends will be supportive (or not) but it annoys me when secondary characters whole lives become those of cheerleaders for the couple. In the real world many of these characters would be like "oh my god stop talking about him/her" but in fanfic they're instead saying, "let's explore your feelings for the other person to the minute detail." lol
ahahaha, yes, augh -- I HATE the trope where the characters' entire group of friends all become a cheering section for them to get together. I have wanted for ages to write a fic in which the main characters' friends think they'd be terrible for each other and try to talk them out of it, but they refuse to listen and go on to be very happy together. XD (I think it was SGA fandom in which I first conceived a deep and yearning desire to do this, because there were SO MANY John/Rodney fics in which all their friends had nothing better to do except matchmake them. But MCU fandom is pretty bad about it too.)
Facebook does that sometimes even with people you know, like both my chair and the head of the biology dept when I was locked out of my email two weeks ago and I used facebook to tell them grandma died and yeah it never told them. Facebook is full of fail. Sorry you missed an opportunity.
1. Ah, the FB "other" folder. Not only does it stick messages there, but it also often fails to pop up any sort of notification that there's anything IN there. I just end up clicking on it once a week or so. I use FB for commerce, so I get messages there a lot.
2. Maybe they can't lock the door from the inside, but they can BAR the door from the inside. As far as I know they've had slide locks to lock from the inside for a LONG time. For example (I know this was a movie, but...) in Scrooge, he bars the door with two separate slide locks to try to keep Marley out.