Litlets

December 29, 2008

My goals for 2009

I’m too self-skeptical to make New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I’ve set the following goals. (These could also be considered my list of Big, Fun, Scary Things for 2009.) This list is subject to additions, deletions and alterations at any time.

  • Find a permanent job. I’ve been doing the IT contracting thing for a while now, but that puts me in a volatile sector in a volatile career field. Choosing a place to settle down is a gamble. What if they have massive layoffs, or move the office to a distant state? (Both have happened to me, and I had been happy in those jobs.) What if the company looks good on paper, but turns out to be another Dickensian, Dilbertesque or Kafkaesque environment? (I’ve worked in all three. A sense of humor is mandatory.)
  • Start learning Polish. I’ve often threatened to learn a second language. In addition to high school Spanish, and German and Koiné Greek in college, at various times I’ve toyed with Italian, French, Latin, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Icelandic. I couldn’t ask for a cup of coffee in any of those languages. Polish, with its scarcity of vowels, is intimidating, but I admire Polish culture and have enjoyed many Polish writers in translation.
  • Start learning yoga. I have the For Dummies book. I don’t intend to become a human knot, but I would like to become more fit and less stressed.
  • Start meditating. I’ve meditated sporadically, by which I mean about five times a year, for a couple of decades. I need to start revving down my type-A personality. I might even begin sleeping eight hours a night. (Why is everyone laughing?)
  • Write a play. I’ve written plays before, but that was in my dadaist period; they made no sense and were completely unstageable. (As I recall, one ended with the destruction of the universe.) I’d like to script something that could actually be performed.
  • Write song lyrics. I’ve written the lyrics for two or three songs in my life, and I still don’t know what I’m doing. I hope to learn. Composing melody is beyond me.
  • Write at least one poem a day in April. I do this every year for National Poetry Month, but I think it still counts as an adventure. I usually end the month with at least one or two keepers.
  • ScriptFrenzy. This is the cousin to National Novel Writing Month; the goal is to write a full-length film screenplay in one month. Unfortunately, ScriptFrenzy coincides with National Poetry Month. (There goes my “eight hours of sleep” goal.) I’ll be collaborating with my wife, Anne, in this adventure.
  • Create my personal website. I’ve owned the domain for years. I keep tinkering with the site design. It’s time to just do it.
  • Publish a piece of fiction—for pay—in currency, not copies. Just to prove I can.
  • Make a good start on that philosophical-epic-dramatic poem I have notes for on a million scattered scraps of paper. (Working title: “Polyphanic Idiographies.”)
  • Recycle the abandoned items on this list for 2010.

December 6, 2008

Software for Writers Review: TextRoom

TextRoom 0.2.5 is, judging by the numbering, a beta version, and many of its shortcomings undoubtedly stem from that. According to the software’s wiki (http://code.google.com/p/textroom/), TextRoom is “simple open-source full-screen rich text editor for writers.” Basic formatting is enabled: font, font size, italic, underline and bold. TextRoom is available for Windows and Linux at http://code.google.com/p/textroom/downloads/list.

Cons:

  • The interface is unintuitive.
  • The help documentation consists of one pop-up window keyboard listing shortcuts. I cannot find any further documentation, either in the program itself or online.
  • There is no visual indication of selected text.
  • There seems to be no way to change the default document font; it must be changed for each document. Default foreground/background colors can be changed (I have mine set to a nostalgic blue background/white foreground scheme), and the default font for the status bar can be changed.
  • Formatting is glitchy. For example, I often have to press the prescribed keyboard shortcut twice to turn on bold, italic or underline.
  • Documents are saved in HTML 4 (strict) format, though the default extension is TXR. No other options are provided.
  • For the timed writing mode, it is not clear what units of time are being used. I tried setting it for “2” and starting the timed mode, but after three minutes I could not tell that anything had happened.
  • Saving documents has a bug that made me lose one version of this review because it was saved as an empty document.

Pros:

  • The statusbar (at the bottom of the screen) shows a running wordcount total.
  • There are modes for targeted writing, either by wordcount or by time limit, and a deadline feature.
  • One nice feature of the wiki is a list of alternatives to TextRoom.
  • The interface and feature set are deliberately kept simple so that writers, who are TextRoom’s target users, can focus on one thing: writing.

Overall impression:
I find two features of TextRoom useful: the running word count (something I would like to see standard in word processing software), and the targeted modes for writing exercises. However, the bug in saving documents is impossible for me to overlook, and I will not be using the current version of TextRoom. I will keep an eye on future releases, though.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.