On the Plus Side

I want to introduce you to another place where I post stuff. — Fun stuff!  — and invite you to join me there.
It’s the “blog” created by my posts, shares, links, etc., on Google Plus.
profiles.google.com/kkimberlin
If you belong to Google +, circle me. We can network. If not, bookmark that site anyway. You don’t have to be a Google Plus user or log in to anything to see it.
I’ve been finding myself posting things in 2 or 3 different places, to reach different groups of people. That’s a time killer. I’m done.
Google Plus is the future of sharing online. At some point, when Google + evolves greater formatting skills, it will likely replace Metaphor. … Everything is on its way to somewhere else.
For now, my writing is staying here at Metaphor, everything else is going to Google Plus. Because there’s a distinction between publishing and sharing.
Here’s a statistic for you. After 11 years and nearly 5000 posts, readership on Metaphor is averaging 11 people per day. (And I thank you!). But after 6 months on Google Plus, 1731 people are subscribed to my posts (they have me in circles which does not mean they’re reading everything I write), and it goes up daily.
A Short Video About Google Plus

For now, Metaphor is still here. So please keep reading Metaphor if you’re interested in creative writing and poetry. But if you’re not checking out Google Plus too, you’re missing some of the fun!
Here’s the link again: profiles.google.com/kkimberlin.
See you there!

New Blogger Revisited

I haven’t been posting much lately. You’ve noticed, right? Nobody’s complaining though. We’re all busy and distracted, preoccupied. For me, I’ve been feeling a little unfocused. Literally. I’ll be getting some new reading glasses soon, which should help.

Another thing that might help is this new Blogger interface. They’ve updated the whole thing again, and I have to say it’s quite an improvement. It looks like this:

 Click to Enlarge

Pretty cool, huh? I’ve been using Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer 2011 this year, and it’s excellent. But the main reason I wasn’t using Blogger’s own interface – the single most annoying thing about it – was a problem inserting a break at the end of a paragraph. I wrote about that here.

I’m not seeing that problem anymore, which means I’ll probably go back to using Blogger’s own interface to compose my blog posts. This is good, because draft posts are saved online. Windows Live Writer saves drafts on the local hard drive, so that one must return to the same computer to complete them. Not a big deal, but sometimes it’s nice to go work somewhere else.

Speaking of somewhere else, I think that’s where I need to go in search of new content for you to read. It’s a nice day, I’ve had my coffee, and it’s time to get outdoors. I’m not Marcel Proust, and don’t want to be.

OBE

I used to work at a company where some of the guys in engineering and tech pubs (my department) frequently went to lunch with people from nearby companies. The reasons aren’t important, but it was a cool community of friends.

One day we got an email from one of the group saying he couldn’t make it to lunch. He said, “OBE.” The next time I saw him, I asked what those letters meant. He said, “Overcome By Events.” I thought that was pretty funny, because when I was studying metaphysics in college OBE was the abbreviation for “Out of Body Experience.” (Yep, my minor in philosophy included coursework in topics such as telekinesis, bilocation and astral projection. It was a hoot.)

Separation of the cognitive from the corporeal is not what’s been keeping me from blogging. I’ve been overcome by events. Busy. Distracted. So it goes. I’ll try to settle down now and think of something to post, something for us to think about.

Have you ever felt that you are not yourself, or not in yourself? It’s possible, don’t you think? Apocryphal teachings of the Christian Church include tales of pious people who were in two places at the same time, or who traveled great distances at impossible speeds, without vehicles. Such are supernatural events, and it’s hard to believe in God and dismiss the paranormal. And if we accept that our bodies are ours but we are not in them, or that we transcend them at death, then perhaps we can transcend them in life as well.

Anyway, like I said, I’ll sit down soon and try to think of something for us to ponder.

Peace. Kyle out.

A Quick Note to Email Subscribers

There was a glitch with Metaphor’s email subscriptions. Emails started appearing to be from a “no reply” address instead of my address.

I think I found a fix for this, deep in the settings at Feedburner, the site which has ably delivered Metaphor subscriptions for quite a while. But we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see.

If you receive your email from Metaphor and it’s from a No Reply address, please let me know in Comments or by email.

Not sure why it happened, except that – like so many companies – Feedburner is now owned by Google. As is Blogger, on which this blog is hosted. And which I also started using before Google subsumed it.

Hooray anyway! (Do not piss off The Google; dissent will not be tolerated.)

blackhelicopters

New Blogger

Blogger has a new interface for composing posts. It’s pretty cool. PC Magazine calls it “airy,” which seems right. Here’s their complete review, and they have screen shots so you can take a look at the new product. 

I’ve been using Microsoft Live Writer, a free desktop-based program, for quite a while. That’s because the Blogger writing interface was basically crap. It felt more like leaving a comment on a post than actually composing one. This new one seems much better.

You’ll notice the editor has been moved away from a box on the left, to a page view in the center of your screen. I hate typing in little squares of screen space. The post settings are on the right where you can get to them, instead of at the bottom. And all the formatting tools are conveniently arranged across the top.

Blogger automatically saves your work frequently, so you can relax.

There is still a problem entering a paragraph break, and that’s a significant concern. When you reach the end of a paragraph and press Enter to move down, nothing happens. You have to click your mouse button the current cursor location, or press the arrow key on your keyboard, then press Enter again. And I have to tell you, that in itself – if it’s not remedied – could become a reason to keep using more stable software. 

The new blogger is in Beta and not rolling out automatically to users right now. PC Magazine says that will happen this month or next. To try it now, go to draft.blogger.com. I think is well worth a look.

Post #2700

Metaphor is an old blog. If you cruise around the blogosphere you will see that not many have sites been active longer than this one. I started when blogging started; at least, when it started going mainstream. I had been trying to design a kind of html web page, composed in MS Word or Publisher, which I could update and upload periodically to my traditional web site. I was going to call it The View From Here. Then I learned there were things called blogs.

As of this item, I’ve posted 2700 times. Actually, it’s probably over 3000, because I had other blogs that lived briefly before Metaphor. I also have a blog that has lived concurrently with this one. But it’s published with a pseudonym, in the tradition of Benjamin Franklin’s Silence Dogood and and Richard Saunders. Dissent lives.

I started in March 2003, ranting against the imminent calamity of the Iraq war and George W. Bush’s arrogant and evil Shock and Awe. Times were hot for blogging. I got reaction to my pro-peace, anti-invasion posts. I even had people emailing me posts of their own, in complete disagreement and demanding that I publish them under some misguided fairness doctrine. That was funny. I suggested they get their own blogs. It’s free and easy.

Blogging is kind of fun sometimes. I find it much more satisfying than ripping off a Facebook mini-thought or a Tweet. I’m simply geared more like a Peterbilt than a Vespa.

Writing is for me a social, tribal endeavor, and blogging has enabled me to ride trains of thought that I never would have taken by any other means. I mean, there is nothing posted in this blog, as far as I know, that would have wound up in my journal if it hadn’t been shared here.

backhoe_in_swampMy journal is entirely different. It’s more of a list of events interspersed with mundane observation and self-deprecating snark. It’s a useful reference, but nobody would want to read it. I don’t. But it’s like a big mental backhoe, good for draining the swamp.

Are you a blogger too? If so, why? What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it? If you’ve tried it and given up blogging, or decided it’s not for you in the first place, I’d like to hear from you too.

You can drop a comment, or maybe you’d like to post something on your blog and leave a link in the comments. Or send me an e-mail with a comment or a link, and I’ll post it for you.

Blogger’s Back

Did you try to post to a blog and find that Blogger was down overnight and into this morning?  They took it down for maintenance. Interesting. You’d think a site of such enormity would be able to do maintenance without unplugging. But what do I know.

Here’s a deep thought for your Friday:

The price of freedom of religion or of speech or of the press is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish.

– Robert H. Jackson
US Supreme Court justice (1892-1954)

Bloody Vikings

I usually use MS Livewriter to write blog posts. Today I decided to use Blogger because I might want to switch PCs in the midst of drafts. So I saw Blogger’s claim that they’ve got automatic spam filtering now.

I turned off the Capcha word thing for comments on this blog. They say that the proof is in the piddling, so we’ll see if any piddle gets posted, is my point.

cheesy blogging

When is blogging like cheese? When you let it age a while.

I was just reading a post by a blogger who was writing his post offline, knowing that it would be a while before he could post it, because his Internet was down. Which made me wonder: How would blogging be different if you always had to wait a few days or a week between the time you started it and the time you posted it?

I’ve often said that I can’t get into Twitter because nothing meaningful can be said in 140 characters. Actually I’m  not sure that’s true. But it’s just very difficult to do it in a hurry.

Clouds appear
and bring to men a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.

– Basho, (75 characters)

Drunk as a hoot owl,
writing letters
by thunderstorm.

– Kerouac (51 characters)

So it isn’t the length of the work that troubles me, it’s the haste. Haste makes waste. And it does seem that all this lightspeed technology is hastening human thought to the point that it can’t matter, so never mind.

So what if, instead of working on this post for 30 minutes – including research, hydration, and a trip to the loo – then quickly publishing, I don’t. Instead, I’ll click Save and see if tomorrow it has reached that tangy mellow sharpness that I like to taste in words.

We’re hoping for a mild cheddar, because I don’t know jack.

————–

Having let it ferment for a day I see, more than ever, that the cheese stands alone.

Yikes

I just glanced back at the post I wrote last night. Wow. That’s some bad writing right there. Stilted and redundant. Constructing formalistic sentences amuses me, but I went a little overboard.

I don’t mean the little poem. I think that’s clean and tight. But the prose remarks on the topic are thick and chewy.

My bad.

Writing in the Dark

Do you ever wish, when you sit down to concentrate and try to write, that you were not confronted with an array of technology? Buttons and toolbars and menus, oh my. It can make it hard to focus on the words and sentences, can’t it? And the black letters on the bright white screen are hard on the eyes, don’t you think? 

Sure, you can take a program like Word or OpenOffice to full screen temporarily, and in Word you can change the appearance to blue with white text, to help your eyes. But those things make you jump through some hoops. This delays concentration, and it’s still not quite the same as being completely alone with one’s words and sentences.

Last night I read an article in the November/December issue of Poets & Writers magazine, called "Writers Rolling Back the Revolution." It begins:

“Firing up WriteRoom, a minimalist word processor developed by Hog Bay Software, is like turning the clock back thirty years. Gone are the toolbars, the menus, and the array of options that jostle for real estate on the modern screen. In their place, the program unfolds an empty black expanse, a void that can be filled only with the monochromatic glow of unadorned text.”

I will provide a link to the entire article below.*

It seems there is a trend among writers these days, to reclaim focus and concentration that have been hijacked by the unending swells and ripples of technology’s distractions. I’ve seen several interviews and columns by accomplished wordsmiths, saying they eschew full feature software for programs that just let them capture words.

The writer Corey Doctorow wrote a post in which he explains all the tools he uses for his writing, business, and life. He wrote:

Writing: I use a plain-jane text editor that comes with Ubuntu called Gedit. It doesn’t do anything except accept text and save it and let me search and replace it. … I like writing in simple environments that don’t do anything except remember what words I’ve thought up. It helps me resist the temptation to tinker with formatting.

And he has a point. When I’m writing in Word, I’m constantly tinkering with all the bells and whistles, and trying to keep the formatting right. As if the project is headed off to the publisher tomorrow, which it’s not.

So I checked out WriteRoom, and found that it’s for Mac. But there is a clone called Dark Room, for PC. I downloaded it – free gratis – and saw first that it’s so small and light weight, that it downloaded in a few seconds, and doesn’t even install in the system registry. It just arrived, ready to work.

Dark Room is designed for writers, people who need to concentrate for a while and drain the swamp. It’s not for someone who is concerned with formatting their document for presentation, at the same time that they’re composing the text. It simply opens a blank black writing surface which fills your screen without any menus or toolbars at all. In the center is a column for writing plain text. The default is green text on black. If you click Esc or F11, the full screen shifts to a normal Window, with a basic menu. File > Edit > View > Help. Hit F11, and you’re back in full screen.

While working, the right mouse button brings up a content menu with the basics, including some Preferences. You can change the colors and the font, the width of the center writing column, and a few other thoughtful things.

Dark Room saves your work in plain text, Windows txt, the same file type used by Notepad, which has come free and installed on every PC for at least 15 years. And txt is opened easily by Word or virtually any Windows word processor on the planet. No worries about compatibility.

By the way, there’s no speelchker. Spellchkre. Spellchecker. The idea, as I see it, is to open your plain text file in Word or OpenOffice when you’re ready to format it. Spellcheck will run then. And then you can deal with editing, page format, fonts and colors, indenting, page breaks, etc. Then you can print your work when it’s pretty and fancy, or make your PDF. (Yes, you can print from Dark Room. And if you’re a true geek like me, you can make a PDF straight from Dark Room, but I won’t bore you with that.)

So if the point is to get your new ideas – your fresh writing – into the computer without the tech in the way, why not just use Notepad? Sure, I love it. Notepad is the old school #2 pencil of computing. It’s great for keeping little notes. But it’s black text on a bright white screen. And the text runs the width of the window. So either there’s distraction around the window, or your text is filling the full width of your monitor. Dark Room has the adjustable column down the center. So in full screen mode, there’s nothing else visible at all.

Or maybe you want to see a little of your computer – the desktop perhaps – without leaving full screen? Right click > Preferences. There’s a slider to adjust the opacity of the program, so you can see through it.

I used Dark Room to write this post. And the lack of distractions probably contributed to its incredible length. Then I pasted the text into Windows Live Writer, make a few adjustments, corrected a couple of typos which the spelling checker caught, added a link or two, and clicked Publish. Done.

Links

You can find and download the program free at:

http://they.misled.us/dark-room

That Poets & Writers article is here:

http://www.pw.org/content/digital_digest_writers_rolling_back_the_revolution

Corey Doctorow’s article on his tools:

http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2010/07/cory-doctorow-what-i-do/

*Footnote

You might have noticed I used no in-text hyperlinks in this post, although hyperlinks are the salt and pepper of blogging. That’s because I wanted you to keep reading, not click a link and go off somewhere else. You might not come back, and if you did, that’s still a distraction. Food for thought?