Categories
nerd technology writing

Updated WordPress, Updated Theme

Updated to the latest WordPress 5.3 “Kirk” and trying out the default 2020 theme.

With a few tweaks, I think I like it.

2019-11-17 update: I don’t like numbers that descend below the baseline, so I’ve swapped the font from the default to Gentium Book Basic.

Categories
art writing

The Blinking Cursor

The Cursor blinks incessantly. Mocking me. Taunting me.

Blink. Blink. On. Off. On. Off. On.

On and on, marking the blank page.

The blinking Cursor makes me sad because no characters follow it.

Not Today.

Maybe Tomorrow.

Categories
politics technology writing

Exploring

Considering I used to write for a living, it surprises me how difficult it is to find my flow again. Granted, my decade as a newspaper journalist wrapped up more than a decade ago. In those days I would rattle off 400–1,000 words on some assigned topic after traveling, interviewing subjects, photographing subjects, and taking notes.

Lacking an assignment sucks away the drive to write; therefore, I need to take on the role of editor and some assignments for myself. Two things immediately come to mind and just as quickly get pushed out of mind.

  1. Technology – I love it, but the market for that seems saturated and with no audience there is little point to it.
  2. Politics – Sakes alive. There is plenty of cannon fodder strewn about to take this on, but anything I say paints a great big divisive target on my back (and front, sides, just one big target).

That leaves a third option more daunting than the first two. Fiction. I just need to set off down a path, follow it, and see where it leads.

Categories
food writing

Funeral and Japanese Whisky

Home alone yesterday and today while my wife and daughter attend a funeral for a family friend in Lexington, Ky.

Since there is a Japanese whisky tasting at London Calling, I'm spending a few minutes sipping some black Colombian coffee at Mad Priest before enjoying some of my favorite types of liquor. I'm more exciting for the December tasting with a round of bourbons from Buffalo Trace Distillery.

I also got to deliver gifts to my favorite people at the best bar in Chattanooga. Tonight I brought a cup of coffee for Kris (by request), a substantial portion of smoked pork for the crew, and a sample of Nag Champa. They burn incense in the bar and I figured they could use some of the best.

Tasting Notes

The Japanese have it figured out. If you can get your hands on Suntory, it's worth it.

Categories
writing

Mulligan

Thinking about counts as posting, right?

Categories
food writing

Sunday Meat Day

Today is Sunday. Today is meat day.

The summer has just been too hot to stand by a fire in the Big Green Egg on our deck, but that isn't the case any longer. We knew mornings were going to greet us with temperatures in the high 30s so I bought the largest pork shoulder Costco had for sale.

Roughly 17–20 pounds of ex-pig is smoking on the BGE now. It should be ready to pull apart in about 10 hours or so. We can't wait!

Categories
writing

A Post a Day Keeps My Conscience at Bay

2019-11-02

I'm no artist so Inktober isn't my bag, but I am a writer at heart and every November I think about NaNoWriMo. Though I have never followed through with an attempt to write a novel from scratch in 31 days, I do plan to write something on this site every day for the rest of this month.

Length nor quality are concerns for me. My only goal is publishing something consistently every day. It may be a tweet-length thought, a standard 400-word article, a 1,000-word essay, or a 10,000-word think piece (although the latter isn't likely).

Buckle up with me, buy the ticket, take the ride. With any luck I will build up a habit this month. After all, the only way to be a writer is to write.

Categories
nerd technology writing

Fast Software, the Best Software — by Craig Mod

Fast Software, the Best Software — by Craig Mod:

Software that’s speedy usually means it’s focused. Like a good tool, it often means that it’s simple, but that’s not necessarily true. Speed in software is probably the most valuable, least valued asset. To me, speedy software is the difference between an application smoothly integrating into your life, and one called upon with great reluctance. Fastness in software is like great margins in a book — makes you smile without necessarily knowing why.

John Gruber posted about this article over at The Daring Fireball and he’s right. It is a delightful read for a nerdier audience and hammers home some excellent points about software.

If you are so inclined, give it a read.

Categories
writing

Waiting at Starbucks

My son was in a car wreck a couple of weeks ago. That’s why I am at Starbucks right now. My wife drove his busted car to the shop near where she works this morning. I am at the corporate coffeehouse down the road from her office waiting for 5 o’clock to happen here instead of somewhere else. As I type, it’s 3:52 p.m. I figured I would get to the neighborhood (read the mall), enjoy a fancy caffeinated beverage, and unplug for a bit.

Writing comes so much easier with no connection to the internet. Why can’t I just make a conscious decision not to open Twitter or Instagram every 45 seconds or so. The weird thing is I have my phone here next to me, but it seems shameful to pick it up. Even now it calls to me.

My precioussssss.

It feels good to putter through a few lines of prose with no real goal while the caffeine soaks into my brain.

A previous career required me to write several hundred words a day to fill the pages of the newspapers I worked for. The pace wasn’t so extreme at the weekly, but the daily paper could be challenging. There are always topics to write about because something is always happening. A typical article for those small publications was about 400 words long, and that only came after writing more and editing back down to condense all of that newsy goodness.

I enjoyed journalism, but I don’t really miss it. Because the papers were small a writer had to know about all areas of potential coverage from the kids who win the spelling bee to city and county government shenanigans and the effect of national politics on the local economy. Now that I am free I can be free to grouse about whatever irritates me at the moment and when it becomes too much I can simply ignore it. I don’t have to know what’s going on if I don’t want to.

Also, I now enjoy ending my sentences with prepositions. Also, Oxford commas. They’re pretty great, swell, and fun to use without an editor complaining about them.

Categories
art writing

Mister Rogers, Poet

Drawing a picture badly

I’m not very good at it.
But it doesn’t matter.
It’s the fun of doing it that’s important.
No matter how anybody says it is.
It feels good to have made something.

Categories
brain life nerd writing

Breaking Digital Bonds

My habits have become terrible. All of my idle moments are filled with Twitter, Instagram, and endless mindless games of Microsoft Solitaire (which is the best handheld solitaire game I have found to date and please don't download it for your own sake and sanity just DON'T DO IT).

So it's time for some change. The easiest change is to read more, not in witty chunks of 240 characters or 500-word articles on, well, everything. I mean reading real books of fiction and non-fiction, and I mean reading for fun and not to learn anything. I mean reading like I did when I was a kid riding my bicycle to the public library between the polo field and elementary school to fill up my summer reading booklet with titles.

I've had a Kindle for years. It's the third-generation Kindle with the physical keyboard. It's slow, and I'm old and need lots of light to read now. As I was finally finishing American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a book I purchased two or three years ago and only finished Sunday night, I found myself leaning into the lamplight and squinting to make out the words. It was frustrating, so it didn't take me long to upgrade to the Kindle Paperwhite and I got it yesterday and it's wonderful.

Now I'm digging into the five-volume box set of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones saga, which may be too ambitious. Having watched the series on HBO (and eagerly anticipating the final season), reading the books is like watching it again in slow motion in my brain. The writing is great, but I'm not sure if it will hold my attention to the end. I wish I had read it before watching the series so I could kvetch about how they did so-and-so wrong and "No, it wasn't like that in the book!" with all of my fellow nerds.

Reading more will, hopefully, lead me to write more regularly. One plan to reframe my brain on the front is to simply move around a bit. Today I have holed up in a local coffeehouse. Cliché, I know, but it's working. I can see they have Wi-Fi, but I refuse to ask for access. That invisible Wi-Fi wire will bind my mind and I'll be stumbling through Twitter and reloading Reddit before I know it. If I really start jonesing for a connection, I have a paper notebook and pencil.

In case of emergency…unplug!

These grand plans for change are fresh on my mind. For now, it's working. I have written more today than I have in the past year. Much of it is rambling. Nobody would want to read it, but it's getting garbage out of my brain. I spent many years making a living as a writer, enough time to know that the words will start making sense if I just start giving them form outside of my brain. I remember someone saying something like "you can't think your way out of writer's block" and that is so true. Thinking is important, but spilling thoughts into a more physical medium is the only way to break a block. It seems like a contradiction, but you must write your way through writer's block.

Categories
culture life writing

A Change of Scenery

As part of the monthlong celebration of my birth, I got to enjoy a Scotch tasting session at our favorite bar in Chattanooga.

The session begins at 6 p.m. and I figured, “Hey, why not make a day of it?” I packed a small bag with all the necessities: MacBook Pro, notebook, pen, pencil, and my new Kindle Paperwhite. Armed with some extra time and a credit card, I was ready for anything!

Https farm8 staticflickr com 7871 33221219458 27523bce1a nNo, I’m not drinking all day. To start, I settled in with a latte around 2:30 at a great coffeehouse next door to the aforementioned speakeasy. After treating myself to one latte, I switched to black coffee roasted fresh all the time just six blocks down the road. I’ll be a twitchy mess at bedtime, but it sure was good coffee.

Two folks chatting nearby caught my attention and introduced themselves. Genesis is a local, an artist by the sound of it, with a guest named Daga. Genesis seems to know everyone; he greets almost all of the customers coming into the place. He introduced Daga as “a creative who just moved here from Boston.” I had been tapping away at the computer open in front of me. He asked if I am a writer. “Sometimes,” I said. “Same,” Daga said. Cool folks. We exchanged a few pleasantries about writing and living around Chattanooga before returning to our own little worlds at our tables.

Back on track, the Scotch experience was fascinating. Rick Edwards, one of four Masters of Scotch in the world (at the time of this writing), led us through an hourlong session tasting five servings of Glenlivet. I always knew I like Scotch whisky, but I never knew why I like it. Now I do!

Categories
productivity writing

Little Stones for 2019

Little Stones for 2019:

I live in New England. We have tiny stone walls criss crossing the fields and forests. There are thousands of miles of two foot tall Hobbit walls just outside my door that attest to our history as really poor farm land. When I first moved here it really struck me that every single wall was made in a time before the Bobcat excavator. Stone by stone each farmer marked the boundary of their aspirations. That seemed like a nice analogy for making and achieving goals so I revisit this idea often.

I start by marking out a rough limit for my goals, realizing that this isn’t the real work. The real work is going to be moving stones. One small stone at time.

If you noticed my site’s title, you know I appreciate how Macdrifter built this post on small stones. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s worth your time.

Categories
art design nerd writing

Typography for Everyone Makes Texts Much Easier to Read | NOUPE

Typography for Everyone Makes Texts Much Easier to Read | NOUPE:

The starting point for the observation is always the continuous text, which is what we write into the p-tags on the web. This text is the index, meaning it keeps the font size of 100 percent. All other elements are derived from that.
According to this, the first step is getting the text to a comfortably legible size. A lot of this is just a matter of taste. For me, this value is at 18 pixels, I don’t want it to be any lower. Common publications are mostly around 14 pixels. No matter which size you define, it is important that it is the foundation for all other elements.
Headlines (hl) should have 180 to 200 percent of the original size, secondary headings (h2) 130 to 150 percent, and tertiary headings (h3) should only be slightly bigger than the running text. In many cases, you’ll see h3 as a simple bold text. You should be able to go up to 125 percent without problems. Footnotes shouldn’t exceed 75 percent of the size of the continuous text.

This is good advice and reading the entire article is worth your time if you use words. This is also a good time to recommend The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst.

Categories
life writing

Optimism Never Dies

Last month I made some bold claims about my output on this site. Oh well! Life goes on. I remain optimistic that both of my readers will have soon have more to read here than extended apologies for nothing being here to read.

Categories
writing

Never Stop Writing

Kermit the writer frog
Building a list of topics. In the meantime, enjoy our surprise guest writer. Kermit the Frog! Yaaaaaaaaaaayayayayay!

Categories
writing

Swing and a Miss

I missed my deadline for day two of this latest writing adventure, but I thought about it and that means something. After a brief nap to carry me through to morning, I shall return. Until then…good night.

Categories
life productivity writing

One Day at a Time

Because quitting addiction cold turkey can be overwhelming, counselors encourage those who struggle to take it one day at a time.
Quitting isn’t my problem today. Starting is my challenge. Though I am going against the grain to start an addition, the same advice applies.

“Every day? Maybe several times a day?! I can’t do it!”

Yes I can. I just need to take it one day at a time. If I can write one short thing today, I’ve met my goal. When I don’t post something, wallowing in anxiety doesn’t make it better; it probably makes it worse. I should just shake it off and do a better job the next day.
Cobwebs are the only thing connecting this blog to the web. Returning to a daily writing habit seems overwhelming, but I met my goal today. So far, I have doubled it! I hope to do as well tomorrow, but the world won’t end if I don’t. I’ll just try to write again the next day.

Categories
nerd writing

xkcd on Wordy Nerdiness

This is a good one.

Categories
technology writing

Sorting Out How I Work With Plain Text

My cup runneth over with superb apps for writing, manipulating, and writing text on any Apple device; so much so that it’s hard to pick the one I want to work in right now. A nice problem to have, but still a problem. A post by @macdrifter published on New Year’s Day, Quick Notes with Sublime Text, prodded me think about this.
As a nerd plunked firmly in the “fiddly” class, at least I know one thing. After years of agonizing over which font I want to use and how big the margins should be, I committed a long time ago to working in plain text using Fletcher Penney’s MultiMarkdown (based on John Gruber’s Markdown). All of my files are synced using iCloud or Dropbox for ubiquitous access from my Mac, iPhone, and iPad mini.
On my Mac, most ideas start in Sublime Text 3. It is always open and one of the best text editors on the market (along with BBEdit, of course).1 A bonus to both text editors is the hot exit; all open files are saved and reopened the next time you launch the app. This alleviates my File Naming Anxiety Disorder (FNAD), an affliction that submitted for inclusion in DSM-6.
So from my Mac I may start quickly in Sublime Text, but at some point I freeze and wonder, “Is this really where I want to be working on this?” These are my top three options, all of which recognize variants of Markdown while curating their own unique strengths:

  • MultiMarkdown Composer — This application for writing in MultiMarkdown is designed by Fletcher Penney, the man who designed the markup language. What could be better?
  • Ulysses III — In my memory, Ulysses kicked off the plain text editing revolution on the Mac. The developers completely overhauled the design and it is beautiful (and dovetails perfectly into their iOS app Daedalus Touch).
  • Byword — Another popular app with many writers on the web, Byword’s designers built in capabilities to publish directly to WordPress and Tumblr.

All three are terrific. Though it’s a Mac application, Ulysses III works the most like an iOS app; open a new file, start typing, and it’s just saved somewhere in the app without irritating my FNAD. Byword and MultiMarkdown Composer (MMC) work with standard files that are saved in iCloud or Dropbox, respectively. MMC handles MultiMarkdown metadata better than the other two (as it should coming from the man who wrote the spec).

Another Can of Worms

This has so far focused on the Mac while ignoring two other platforms, the iPhone and iPad. I’m getting bored with this topic for now, so I’m just going to rip out a few points here.

  • Byword is available on all three platforms
  • Ulysses III, coupled with Daedulus Touch, is sort of available on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
  • MultiMarkdown Composer is Mac-only, but being plain text is available for easy editing on any device when synced with Dropbox.

Findings?

The whole purpose for writing this article is to sort through my options and determine a system that works best for me. I don’t think I am quite there yet. If you’re still reading and curious, I chose to write this article in MultiMarkdown Composer. When I nail down something that works for me, I’ll let you know.


  1. BBEdit is still my go to app for cleaning up and reformatting documents using Text Factories. My most common use case is copying the text of meeting agendas sent to me in MS Word, pasting into BBEdit, running a Text Factory that strips weird spaces and characters, converts to Markdown, which is exported into HTML to publish online.