Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gift Horses and other Assorted Annoyances

There is an old adage from a bygone era that admonishes us to ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth.’ For those who are too young to know the meaning of this expression, it was the horse and buggy equivalent of a Carfax. There are a lot of free ‘horses’ and assorted software out there on the Internet, but you’re likely to get more than you bargain for if you download them. Recently, I downloaded a program I needed and acquired a little ‘gift’ called Weather Bug. It does what the name implies, but you aren’t likely to like the ‘bug’ part that gallops uninvited into your system. Weather Bug contains adware and is anathema to anyone doing serious research. Right in the middle of your search for some elusive fact you need for your story, an advertisement is likely to pop up and try to sell you something you don’t want. I’ve spent far too much time in the past week trying to uninstall Weather Bug. Nothing works. It is still there and the adware seems to be working overtime. Few of the ads have a cancel button, and I have to exit Explorer in order to get access to my screen again. I don’t know how you feel about aggressive ads, but I wouldn’t accept a new BMW if it came to me via adware. There are a lot of merchandisers on the Internet who need to grow up. There is a subtle difference between a product offer and badgering. Few of these people seen to know the difference. Weather Bug, please go away.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'm Furious!

I’m a laid-back guy. I usually don’t want people to know that, because in another life, I took part in all kinds of active and dangerous sports. Too much knowledge hurts the image I’m trying to carry over into my post-retirement years. Last night before going to bed, I put the finishing touches on a 270 page manuscript. My sigh of contentment when I finished would have melted the heart of the most hardened Wall Street banker. After breakfast this morning, I fired up my new computer and was not pleased to find that my perfectly formatted manuscript had been transmogrified into what is apparently Mandarin. While I’ve never thought of myself as being self-centered, this manuscript is my own creation and I do not want it in Mandarin. Fortunately, I make a new file of each days work and will only have to go back a day to two to find a pristine copy that is properly formatted and in English. Major decisions about any computer related action usually involves, ‘are you sure you want to . . .’ You would think that the genius who put language translation abilities into a word processor would have the forethought to do the same. Perhaps I involuntarily touched some icon and this happened . . . But now I’m having second thoughts. My favorite food is Chinese and I eat often in one of the four Chinese restaurants in my area. I’m a good tipper, but I’m going to slip out to my shop and saw the handle out of my shovel, then sharpen it into a spear with my hatchet. If I find one of those little dudes hiding under my bed or in the closet, I’m going to . . . Well, you’ll read about it in the paper. Murder, anyone?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Being Negative About Negativity

The world is full of negative people. Some of you wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t pointed it out to you. I can let most negativity pass by without allowing any of my feathers to lift, but sometimes it really bothers me, especially when I encounter it on writer’s forums. One forum, where I am the resident lurker, has many ‘experts’ who seem to know everything on every subject, and they are quick to point out the dangers in trying something new. One young woman was making her first attempt at poetry. They gave her the same advice you would give an adolescent if they were picking at a zit. They are especially bothered by anyone who attempts to do things where they don’t have the necessary expertise. Most of the ‘right stuff’ apparently consist of an MFA, a diploma from an art school, computer engineering, or whatever. If some amateur suggests that they might ─ just might ─ attempt something new, then the little hatchets come out and they chop at the neophytes ego until he/she is whittled down to size. During a recent discussion that skirted the boundaries of a first class flame war, I held my tongue. After the shouting was over, decided I would attempt to do what this particular writer was warned away from doing.

“No writer should attempt to design the interior of a book, and they should certainly never attempt to produce a book cover,” the sages said. I disagree rather strongly. I am in the process of revising a previously published book. Here is my first draft of the new cover I managed to produce with a software program I had never used before, in just over three hours. Not bad for a first attempt. Oh, and another thing. The next person who says you can’t do it, it’s too hard, you are too stupid - yada, yada, yada . . . You have my permission to stick your thumb in their eye. How did the ‘experts’ become experts at what they do? Some of them will imply that they were born that way, or that someone popped out of Nirvana and placed a hand on their shoulder. I’ll bet you that most of them just sat down and started to work. Don’t give up on your next story and don’t give up on designing your next book. Keep working on your dream until it has the feeling and texture of a well worn dishcloth. Whatever you want to do, just go out and do it. Why? Because I said you could.