I Confess

I Confess:

The title may be a bit radical, but today I’m going to talk about writing or what gets in my way when I write.

Steven Pressfield wrote an excellent book (a must read) titled “The War of Art”. In this book he describes the many things that prevent writers from writing and how to overcome them.

I enjoyed the bookl very much but I don’t think he described my problem.

I can hardly admit this but, I’m addicted to technology, not all technology, primarily the kind related to computers.

Okay, you got me, I’ve got a thing for cars too. But that’s pretty much under control.

How does this addiction manifest itself?

I collect tools, software tools, hardware tools. Tools that will help me in writing.

While searching, reading, looking for the perfect tools. I completely overlook the fact that many of these tools carry a high learning curve. But does that matter, not one bit, its all part of the quest for the perfect tools.

Using tools are not bad in fact many of my tools are excellent. Why else would I have bought them?

Step back and give me some room–I’m going to open the toolbox.

Let’s start with notes and research. I store my research articles, photos, web pages using either Evernote or One Note.

Why do I need both of them? Both programs are very similar, you can clip pages from the internet, type directly into the program, save email, etc.

I think Evernote is easier to work with and more flexible in using stored information.

One Note has an outstanding feature that sometime tips the scale in its favor. The program installs with an included print driver that allows you to copy a large document and “print” (think insert) it into One Note.

One Note comes standard with most of the Microsoft Office packages or it can be purchased through Microsoft. The basic version of Evernote is a free download and comes with a variety of optional packages.

Another tool that I depend on is Writeway Pro. This is a fabulous program designed to literally meet a writer’s dreams. It was designed by a programmer who is married to a writer and it was designed to his wife’s specifications.

You can develop and record the traits and background of your characters, plot your scenes considering location, environment, character actions, and tensions. You can create storyboards, outline, and it includes a full featured word processor.

If you’ve reached one of those spots in your story, you know the spot. Your hero has been driven to go on a quest, who will go with him and why? At this time I turn to a web program called Webspiration, this is a mind plotting program. It allows you to consider alternatives, all of the Hows, Wheres, Whos, Whats, and Whys. Webspiration will develop outlines or charts and instantly coverts from one format to the other. There is a fee for using the program but I think it’s worth it.

 

I use an Alphasmart Dana to write my draft copies. It’s the greatest little gadget for writing. In essence it’s a small computer (1.9”H x 12.4”W x 9.3”D , weight 2Lb) that has a full size keyboard. It’s powered by either a rechargeable battery or 3 AA batteries. It is advertised to have a 30 hour battery life and comes with a charger.

It syncs to another computer through a USB connection. With other included apps it can perform standard PDA functions. It can even be used as an ereader. Due to its compact size it can easily be taken anywhere.

One of its disadvantages is also a big advantage; it can’t access the internet, which means you can concentrate on writing. Isn’t that you’re supposed to do?

I find the screen on the Dana too small to do editing, for that I need my regular desktop or laptop.

 

Speaking of my laptop, I never could get used to using it. The glidepad or whatever controlled the cursor would not behave. While typing I would suddenly find myself in the middle of a previous paragraph, then have to go back and see what chaos I had wreaked and correct it.

I tried changing the sensitivity of the pad but that wouldn’t do it—then I saw an ad in one of the PC magazines for a Swiftpoint mouse. You have to see this mini_mouse to believe it.

Please follow the link; you’ll be glad you did. Swiftpoint

Your book or story is finished and it’s time to edit.There are many books on editing; I must have a dozen of them.

But, in addition I recommend a program called Editor, the program searches for problems using a customized set of criteria. As you would expect it catches spelling errors, in addition it detects errors in grammar and usage, it will identify problems with homophones, and suggest changes that might improve the manuscript. One of the more valuable tools is a word count of the appearance of each word per paragraph or sentence (I’m always amazed at how many times I use the word I in a paragraph. See, I used it three times in the last sentence.

Serenity Software the creator of Editor have made regular updates to the program, one of the more recent improvements adds Editor as a Plugin to Microsoft Word. This improvement allows you to review your word document with the suggested changes highlighted and explanations accessible.

All of these tools are very helpful to any author—as long as they don’t get in the way of your writing.

Tell me about any tools or programs that you have used. Maybe I missed out on something.

Don’t tell me that you use the oldest tools available stone tablet and chisel or tablet and pencil .

 

And the Match Goes On

I am not a golfer! Nor do I ever want to be one—but—

I live in Arizona about 3 miles from where the Accenture Match Play Tournament is presently taking place.

Why live in Arizona in a location surrounded by golf courses? To enjoy and appreciate the beauty of God’s works:

The plants:

 

 

 

 

The wildlife:

javelina herd     

The sunsets—there’s no way I can top the picture heading my blog.

Here in Marana, golf rules. Millions of dollars are made by the golf courses, hotels, restaurants, gas stations, etc.

The anticipation prior to the Accenture—Will he show up—? Is he here yet—? How did he do today—?The he– is Tiger Woods. 

The Tiger finally arrives, on the television the world is watching him practice.

The next day the match begins. The Tiger is scheduled to tee off at 10:35AM. Many of the spectators are making moral judgments—Does he deserve to win?—Has he paid for his sins—? Those are not our judgments to make. He is still the Tiger.

Back to the match, I know it has begun by the sounds of encouragement emanating from the living room. My wife who knows less about golf than I do is cheering him on. He scrapes by to win on the first day.

Will he survive the next match? Despite fighting to survive—he loses. There are mixed emotions—cheers for the winner—respectful silence for the Tiger.

It’s over for him, after the exit interviews, he fades away—will he return next year—? Maybe!

The match goes on!

Computer — Valued Treasure or Overvalued Pleasure

I’m starting a new blog today on another favorite topic–Computers–Love them or leave them.

I admit it, I’m a computer nerd. During my entire career I worked in main-frame computer related fields. Then the personal computers began to appear:

  • The TRS-80
  • Altair
  • Macintosh
  • IBM PC
  • Commodore 64

I wanted one badly; I didn’t have a good reason other than it was a breakthrough in technology and I love technology. Several of my friends were buying various models. They were just too expensive, at least for me (Macintosh Plus $2599, IBM PCs’ in the same price range).

Then a poor decision by Coleco (yes the same company that made Cabbage Patch Dolls) made it possible for me to purchase my first computer.

Coleco had introduced a very innovative computer called the Adam, priced at a comparatively reasonable price of $600. Unfortunately some of the early models had problems. Coleco either was too slow to react or didn’t recognize the seriousness of the situation. The public turned against Coleco and branded the Adam unreliable. Coleco dumped their entire inventory to the discount stores. I was able to purchase my system including Motorola RGB monitor for $350, even I could afford that.

 

What made the Adam innovative:

  • Equipped with a letter quality daisy wheel printer
  • Used TV as a monitor or optional RGB monitor
  • Two tape drives with digital search capability
  • 80K Ram
  • 3 expansion slots
  • Cartridge slot that accepted all Coleco game cartridges
  • Capable of operating under CP/M OS which would run Wordstar, Lotus, dBase

One of my favorite features about the Adam was that it powered up in word-processing mode. There was no wait for an OS to load and then wait for an application to load. Just turn it on and start working.

I liked this computer so much that in later years I purchased additional Adam units for anywhere from $50 to $100. I wanted to share my good fortune with all of my friends and proliferate the wonders of the Adam.

When Coleco went bankrupt and withdrew all technical support, User support groups popped up all over the world. Some of the more active groups in addition to those in the US were located in England and Canada. I was the editor of the newsletter for the St. Louis Adam Users Group or (SLAUG).

Annual conventions were held to socialize and share knowledge. Unbelievably, twenty years later these conventions are still taking place.

I hope I didn’t bore you but after twenty-five years I’m still passionate about my first computer, the Coleco Adam.

How about all of you readers, what were your first computers?

Are you as emotional as I am?

 

The First Car…

The last time we chatted, I was going to tell you about my first car and I hit a patch of nostalgia and spun out. Maybe I’ll make it today.

I’ve already established how important a car is to the physical and emotional needs of a young boy (er, I meant young man). Although most men learn to physically control and master the mechanics of driving a car, many of us never gain control of the emotional affect induced by cars.

 

My first car was a 41 Plymouth coupe. It was maroon blending to rust, the chrome was a little pitted, but still shiny, the interior was in pretty good shape.

The best feature was that for $50 it was mine. Mine!

Apollo never had a finer chariot when he raised the sun each morning. It was my access to adulthood.

My friends and acquaintances know that I am ostentatious bordering on pomposity.

Okay, I heard someone in the back whispering, “How can you be ostentatious or pompous when you own a 41 Plymouth in 1955?” Yes, I heard you! You know who you are and so do I.

Seat covers might dress it up. I bought a set of rolled and pleated seat covers (if you don’t know what that means) take my word, they were cool. The seats had a red and black diamond pattern with black vinyl trim and channel stitching running down the back. I paid $75 for the seat covers.

That was more than the car cost, but they would totally renovate the car. I spent a Saturday installing them.

When I was through I opened all of the car doors to display the renewed interior. I stood back, walked around to the other side of the car, got into the back seat and looked at the stitching on the seatback, got into the front seat, felt the sooth sleek seats, shook my head and realized sadly that it was still just a 41 Plymouth.

Paint, a new paint job; that would do it.

At the time I was working in a paint store. I bought some black enamel and borrowed an electric sprayer. This wasn’t a compressed air sprayer operating on electricity; it was simply a jar with a spray nozzle that plugged into an outlet.

I drove my car over to my father’s house and parked it in the garage. My stepbrother and I began the prep work, sanding off the rust and wiping the car down.

I filled the paint reservoir (otherwise known as a jar) with paint, plugged the sprayer into an outlet, and slowly squeezed the trigger, nothing happened. I checked the sprayer and realized that I had not opened the sprayer’s orifice. I adjusted the nozzle and once more squeezed the trigger. The sprayer sputtered and spit a blob of paint followed by drips, drops, and finally a mist. By evening the paint job was finished. I walked home and impatiently waited until the next day when I could view the results of our effort.

The next morning I slowly opened the door of the garage. The car was black, but it didn’t shine. I touched it, it felt like sandpaper, I turned the light on and saw that the surface was gritty, looking closer I saw dust embedded in the finish.

Now I knew why painting was performed in a closed off spray booth. After extensive smoothing with steel wool and a second coat, it still didn’t look any better.

Several months later I got an offer to buy it and accepted. Thus ended the saga of my first car.

Don’t fret I’ll have other car stories.

What was your first car like?

 

 

Cinderella’s Coach

Cars have always been my passion, from early teens continuing through today. It was more fun to fantasize over cars in my teens when they were sexy, sleek, and unapproachable, sort of like that cute blonde cheerleader. Today, I couldn’t even twist myself into a 300SL much less afford one. If I approached that cute cheerleader, she’d spray mace at me, run, and there’s no way I could catch her.

Enough fantasizing, back to the cars. Cars to a teenage boy were everything, freedom, status, coming of age, and bait in the great sport of fishing, fishing for girls—that is.

I have to digress again; we Seniors do a lot of that. I’ll never forget one of the most embarrassing dates I ever had. There was an attractive blonde in my grade who had some prodigious assets, you know what I mean. Don’t you? Sure you do. She brightened my day whenever she greeted me. I wasn’t one of the more popular kids, sorta tubby (I would have fit in better with today’s obese generation of kids) and I didn’t have a car

A Sweetheart ball was going to be held at a Masonic Hall. I just had to ask her. I practiced asking my mother out and after much coaching I felt I was ready. I hesitantly approached her and stuttered and sputtered an invitation. Was that a yes, had I actually heard a yes from this dream girl? Yes, I had.

How would we get there? I’d ask one of my friends to go with me! Bill had a black 49 Ford that was lowered in back and painted with flames, even had Laker plugs. Fabulous car, Cinderella’s coach couldn’t have been any better—except—two days before the dance Bill told me he was sorry he would not be able to go.

What do you mean you can’t go? I need you there, or at least Cinderella needed her coach.

I tried to make other arrangements, with no success. I had no choice but to tell Cinderella that I was sorry the ball was cancelled, at least for us.

I approached her and told her that Bill could’nt make it and we had no ride. Surprisingly, she said that she would rather just be with me. Then she added–we could take the bus—

Take the bus! Would Prince Charming have taken Cinderella on the bus? Of course not! But, I was not Prince charming and Cinderella said she wanted to be with me.

I showed up at her house carrying an orchid corsage, she greeted me at the door wearing a frothy white dress with a blue ribbon and lace directly under her breast line (oops, I meant bust line) she was beautiful and reminded me of a cotton candy cone. She took me to meet her mother and her mother pinned the corsage onto her gown, told us to be careful and have fun.

We boarded the bus and all of the townspeople watched my Cinderella work her way down the aisle, trying not to snag her gown on any of the seats. Their attention then turned to me and I could hear them thinking, couldn’t she do any better than that—, that being me.

I don’t remember the rest of the night, I had reached the nadir of self-respect. No one, absolutely, no one would ever or had ever taken Cinderella to the ball on a bus. The fascination that I had for her was completely erased and it was sometime before my self-esteem allowed me to ask another girl out.

How many of you can top my embarrassment on a data.

Let me hear from you.