Writing

“Twitter is over capacity”

As I write this, Twitter is acting up like a bunch of birds in a frenzied chirrup. Yes, it’s the title that you read, as well as the image in here that you see. Too many tweets, the complaint reads. It sure is a bandwidth problem. But I can’t imagine myself unable to tweet a thought that I’m raring to share with my friends. Or a tweet that I want to be timestamped to the “now” of an event that took place in my life.

Twitter is my documentation (history recording, if you may) tool just as it is my means of sharing ideas, joys and angst with my twitter friends. It’s also my tool to learn from them. So, please, God, don’t let Twitter to act up during my important moments. Bless the Twitter dev guyspeeps always.

My Moleskine

I met Jasper of avalon.ph yesterday at Starbucks Katipunan Ave. and transacted with him for a Moleskine large plain reporter notebook at a price of P650.00. (Quite too much for a non-rich guy like me!)

After the meeting, I had a mixed feeling of “wow, I finally have moleskine as my own!” and “waah, I lost six-hundred-fifty bucks!” Add to that the first impression that I would not be able to use the stuff all the time for its big size. When you unfold it, it will take 16-and-a-half inches of space. And peeps will take notice.

But as soon as I started to push my pen on it, the vicarious feeling of writing on the venerable Moleskine became real. It’s like writing on a slightly wet or a slightly grainy paper, which makes my strokes clearly registered.

So what I started to use the prized possession with? When I got to Malate Church for a concelebrated mass of Bishops (as part of our campaign for CARP extension with reforms), I sat in one corner to be hardly noticed. I opened my Moleskine and started to write a piece to be said by one Masbate farmer during the rosary procession after the mass. The writing entailed six pages, back to back, or three sheets. I detached the sheets and promptly gave those to the lady farmer.

Never mind if the notebook costs me P2.70 per sheet, excluding the cover, pocket, and cord. Never mind if I detached the three sheets and gave them away. The baptism that the notebook got from me (the fact that it happened inside a church) augurs well for a creative and productive writing on the road (just like what happened to the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin!). OK, what would be the name of my Moleskine then? Ahh, let me name it Molly. And I wish to have its siblings in the future.

Moleskine

Offline dictionaries and thesaurus

I am a writer in my own right. And I’m not as prolific as those professed to be. So everytime I am confronted with the task to write something in English, whether work related or not, I need a lexicon at my disposal. (Actually, I want a handy dictionary because I’m also fond of learning English words on regular basis.)

I need a dictionary and thesaurus because I sometimes feel not convinced with my choice of words, or dissatisfied with my use of common terms.

Thankful am I for I am a Linux user, or Ubuntu user, for that matter. Even when I am not connected to the Internet, I got offline word references that come in handy, not like that one seen in the image here. For Ubuntu users who may be unaware, you may install any or all of the following packages:

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Blogging from Firefox

performancing.png

Thanks to a fellow WordPress blogger, I was able to discover this cool add-on of Firefox, by which I can read my previous blog entries and post an entry without going to the admin page. I’m talking about “performancing firefox”.

I have written this entry right on the performancing firefox add-on. (See image above.) But I had to edit this entry on WordPress editor to publish the image in thumbnail format, which is lacking in the add-on.

Performancing firefox’s advantage is that you may blog about a site you’re on without leaving it (say you’d like to blog about a news story right in front of you). Loading faster than your blog service, the tool takes up half the browser’s window space, so that you may still see the page you’re blogging about. The frame may be adjusted, though, by dragging the resize button above the frame.

Once installed (and Firefox is restarted), a performancing firefox icon (a notepad and a pencil) sits right at the bottom left of the browser’s window. Clicking on it will pop up the editor. I registered my WordPress blog, which was fast and successful. I also did for my LiveJournal and Blogger accounts, which were also successful. Only that I learned that support for LJ is experimental and labels I use in Blogger were not retrieved. Tsk, tsk. Thank God I’ve stuck to WordPress.

At the right pane of the editor are four tabs: Blogs (in case you’ve got more than one blog), Categories (for tags you use for a selected blog), History (recent posts, from which you may select one for editing and even deletion), and Notes (for important text you may need for writing posts later).

As for publishing, the options you’ve got are: Post as Draft; Technorati tags; bookmark post at del.icio.us; trackback urls; and enable pings. I don’t know whether these options vary depending on the blog service selected. So, what I miss in the options is posting a private entry.

Oops! I tried to save this entry as a draft. Then when I checked back the History tab, there were two entries with a similar title: Blogging from Firefox. The first entry is the draft one and the other is the previous entry I published. I was expecting that there would only be one entry with the previous entry retracted from being publishing. I found out that I should have instead clicked on the “Publish as Edit” button.

It’s only dangerous to delete a post in performancing firefox. I tried to delete a duplicate entry. It was successful, but the dangerous thing is that I was not asked to confirm the deletion.

Anyway, blog services automatically supported are TypePad.com, LiveJournal.com, Windows Live Spaces, Performancing, and Jeeran. In terms of blog system types, the following are supported: WordPress, Movable Type, Drupal, Textpattern, Roller, MetaWeblog API, and Blogger. Quite a lot, but so sad that Multiply.com is not listed. I tried to register my multiply.com account to no avail.

There are tools you may use with performancing firefox. What I like most is the “Bookmarks” tool. I can drag the web site address to the url field, assign tags to the bookmark, and send it to my del.icio.us account right away.

I also signed up for an account with Performancing as an organization of professional bloggers. But that’s another story. I’ll blog about it later.

My overall evaluation of performancing firefox is that it is a very indispensable tool for easy blogging, which should appeal most for WordPress bloggers.

powered by performancing firefox

OOo Writer, your proxy desktop publishing tool (creating a booklet/primer)

I remember that I produced an 8-page primer two years ago using OOo Writer. It was a paradigm shift for me. Before my FOSS life, I believed that all complex documents (large sizes, brochures, primers, ads, etc.) could only be produced by desktop publishing apps and the best one was Aldus PageMaker (now Adobe PageMaker).

You’re right. OOo Writer can be your friend in case you need a tool with which to produce complex documents like primers. I’m not saying that FOSS DTP tools like Scribus are no longer relevant. Use Scribus if you want to work with overlays, story management, master pages, and the like. In fact, you may combine the powers of both apps. Go see this howto.

Going back to the topic: Making a primer with OOo Writer. In my experience, here’s what I did:

  1. Open a new Text document.
  2. Format the page at 5.5 in x 8.5 in (portrait) with a footer to show document title and page number.
  3. Write the primer, taking into consideration the divisibility of pages by four. My first draft was nine pages. I revised it to eight pages so that brochure-type printing will not create blank pages.
  4. Print the document to a file. Before I did this, I went to the print dialog (File->Print). I clicked on the “Properties” button to make sure that the printer paper size is set to 8.5 by 11-in and the orientation to Landscape. Then I went back to the Print dialog. I clicked on the “Options” button. I clicked on the Brochure field and then pressed Enter. I checked the “Print to file” field and pressed Enter. I was asked to enter a file name. I did assign a file name and pressed Enter. The printing process took a while.
  5. Convert the postscript file to PDF using a terminal with this command: ps2pdf /path/to/source/filename /path/to/target/filename.pdf.

If you want to see my work outputs (and let me also introduce a national peasant federation in the Philippines), here are the .doc (exported from OOo Writer 😦 ) and PDF versions:

primer-on-unorka.doc unorka-primer.pdf

Sloppy paragraph alignment of Vim-created blog entries just solved

I was terribly appalled by my finding out that my blog entries which I had posted off the Blogger site via Vim (my mail editor with Mutt) did not align to a T. The right margins were inappropriately ragged. I realized that sending posts through a terminal was indeed fast but cleaning them up later was a tedious consequence.The culprit, I found out, was a setting in my ‘.vimrc’ file that read ‘set textwidth=72′. With this setting, every line that I type is arbitrarily cut when it reaches character position 72 and continued on the next line. A line break is then created for each line. And since Blogger does not have textwidth in its vocabulary, it reads line breaks like paragraph breaks, which results in the inappropriate raggedness in my posts’ alignment.

Solution: Not to delete or change the textwidth setting (it is my friend when I write prose through Vim) but to turn off the setting everytime I mail posts to my Blogspot site. I know there’s a trick to do the occasional turnoff task faster but for now I issue this 10-key command: ‘<Esc>:set tw=0’.

Thoughts on Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, Series 3

I have not known of scribblers who also moonlight to supplement their income from writing. What I know of are professionals who moonlight as newspaper columnists, poem writers, contributors, and the like.

In the case of Stephen King, he did not want to depend solely on writing as source of his family income. He said that if he were single, yes, he would have devoted all his life to it. Teaching in high school was his sure bread and butter. But every night and every weekend he would be in his room and write stories like Carrie, Tommyknockers, Second Coming, The Shining, and the like. He would never know when those stories would get published and how much he would earn from them.

King as a writer:

  1. Based his story characters consciously and unconsciously from his real-life experiences. In fact, he did not realize that the main character in his novel "Misery" was he himself. He only realized this when he was in his 'abnormal' (not drunk and doped) state of mind.
  2. Found it difficult to continue on a story whose central characters were women. His sortie into a girls' locker room in high school as well as his witnessing how two of his girl students were reviled in class were not enough to understand his characters; until his wife Tabby came in and helped out.
  3. Realized that "stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea."

I was not surprised to know that King became addicted to drinking and doping. I appreciated how he would invoke his predecessors to rationalize his addiction. Like the "Hemingway Defense" that he himself invented, claiming that sensitive male writers need to hide their sensitivity or escape from it by getting drunk and real male writers can manage their transitions to and from being inebriated.

But I was struck by his revelation that he was not a 'real male writer'. He came to the point where his family was affected by his addiction and would not want to see him committing suicide one day. He was made to decide: Dope or cope up for the family? It was really difficult for him to decide as he was afraid he could not write prolifically and brilliantly anymore once he renounced doping.

For the love of his family, King chose the latter option. And the reward was that he still continued writing, as prolifically and brilliantly as when he was doped and drunk. Then he stopped "wiping his ass with poison ivy."

I wiped my ass with a little amount of poison ivy when in college (I was in a campus newspaper organ for two years, the second year as Editor-in-Chief), I used the 'technique' of getting tipsy first before I started writing my stories or editing the stuff of our junior writers.

But I never got into doping. Shabu was already a thing in the 80s. Perhaps I was not as magnificent as King, so getting into it would have been an overkill.

To recap, a writer must be gender-sensitive so that he or she can truly and effectively present his or her characters. A writer must strive to work on a story that seems difficult to continue on and finish, which may be helped with by anyone in the know. A writer must realize that creativity is not the function of being out of the normal state of mind, by getting drunk or doped.

That writer is me, I strive to be.

[To read all related series on Stephen King's memoir, click here.]