Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch
After the Fall 2016

Monday, June 23, 2014

Computer Skills Report Card #2

Nearly three years after the posting of my first Computer Skills Report Card, an update seems in order.  I'm still learning, of course, and expect to add more updates on the way. But I'm satisfied with my average grade.

Hardware/Software:
1) Never be without a laptop. Mine crashed last December--almost certainly because of a frayed adapter cord frying the hard drive. I thought to replace it with a Kindle Fire for online work and library computers for typing my work. But libraries close early and are closed on Sundays. My production schedule suffered.
2) Find a model and operating system that are right for you. This is my second Dell Latitude D630, a used model purchased for just under $200. The last model came with XP, no longer supported by Dell. With a little negotiation, I got the computer shop to install Windows 7--and to replace the Open Office software, which I'd used before and hated, with 'Kingsoft'--an effective clone of the Windows office/student program.
3) Choose the web browser that's right for you. On the advice of two trusted people, I replaced the web browser provided--switching from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome. Bing just doesn't work for me--I'm a Google kind of dude.

Security:
1) Watch your step on line, especially with Twitter. Now, Twitter is a significant part of my online platform. But Facebook has its dangers too. After two virus infections, I've made it second nature to avoid any links sent by strangers: especially those beginning 'OMG, I LMAO when I saw this. Did you write it?' But all other links sent by strangers can be dangerous--even those thanking you for following them and sending a link, they maintain, to their work.
2) Watch your emails carefully too. I receive numerous emails from strangers with headlines geared to lure me in: Please confirm this notification of your winning of 1 million dollars...Confirmation of your order...But I also receive emails in  the names of friends whose computers have been hacked: Help, my dear friend, I'm stranded in the bowels of Tuscatonia, after being mugged and raped...I've learned to delete, unopened, any email from anyone whose name I do not know--or whose name I do know but don't trust in this context.
3) Library computers do have their uses. Once a week I use a secure library computer to open links I do keep, but which I'm not 100% sure of.
4) Split the online labors to reduce the risk. I use my Kindle Fire for about half of my online work. Important though the Fire is, I need the laptop for my work. So in this way I hope to better my odds.
5) BACK UP ALL WRITING ON FLASH DRIVES, AS WELL AS THE HARD DRIVE. AND DON'T CARRY ALL THE FLASH DRIVES WITH YOU. Last December, when my laptop crashed, I lost an entire novel that I'd just completed. Luckily, I found an ancient second draft on a flash drive from the year before.

Technical Proficiency:
1) Matters of form and format: More important than some think and yet essential to master. Take my Seattle blog, for instance. If I want to steer traffic to it, I might type in the address as:
www.theseattlekid.blogspot.com
The problem with that is that readers must either cut and paste the address or retype it. Most readers will pass on the pleasure because it involves too much work. BUT:
There is a line for matters of form: font, type size, Bold, Italics, etc. And this line includes the word Link. When I click on this button, I can place the blog address--which will then appear as a clickable link, involving no effort at all:
http://www.theseattlekid.blogspot.com
See the difference? No less important is learning how to insert photos properly on Facebook, Twitter--and even in a blog itself.
2) Superior editing tools: Things have certainly changed since the old days, when I'd have to retype an entire manuscript if I changed the main character's name...or I'd have to change pagination if I added or subtracted a page. Now, with Find and Replace I can change a name in seconds. Pagination's reset automatically. I have Spell Check and sometimes annoying grammar checks as well. (Yes, thank you, I want the sentence to be incomplete!).
3) The groovy this and groovy that: Scarcely a day passes that I don't learn some brand new way to stop being such a damned dodo. I'll learn my computer footwork is still too slow and receive new suggestions: how to work, for instance, with an edited draft from a friend...how to make better use of windows...how to better organize my files.

You get the idea. I am growing daily. But none of this would mean that much if not for my learning the following too:

Web Savvy:
Expanding our awareness of the power at our fingertips is the key to real success. And we need to do this daily, especially if we're over thirty years of age. Or just maybe I ought to say twenty. I worked with a young man of twenty who embodies the new spirit. Married to his smart phone, he was seldom without the phone in his left hand. If you mentioned a film or a book that he'd never heard of, he'd never ask for further information--he'd find out for himself. If he heard a song playing that he didn't know, an app on his phone would inform him.

I find myself channeling his spirit these days. After reading a Rolling Stone piece about Queen, I developed a passionate interest in the band and Freddie Mercury. I began investigating, starting off on Google, then clicking on other links. Wait, I'd heard of YouTube, but had never used it...A few clicks later I was watching a Live performance by Queen. Another click brought me to the last tape of Freddie Mercury, weeks before his death--skeletal, but still singing at full power.

I've found maps for my move to Seattle, showing neighborhoods and apartment rent rates. I've learned to research my writing more effectively: a new car for my hero...the gift box in which his new gun might arrive...

Gotta go now--back to school!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Coming Sunday! Computer Skills Report Card: 2014

One of the more popular posts here was published 9/7/2011: on my almost non-existent computer skills.

Almost three years later, things have changed and I want to celebrate the difference with a post this Sunday, June 21, about the main lessons I've learned and those I'm still trying to master.

I have a new used laptop, new operating system, new Web browser...and flash drives, thank you, to back up my work. I also have far better attitudes about filing, security and follow through on TweetDeck, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.

See you Sunday!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Two Great Weights Off My Shoulders

The 'alternative funding' referred to me in my last post, The Thousand, came through. And it was joy to know that the upcoming move to Seattle needn't be by the seat of my pants--and that I could repair the laptop that crashed last December.

Today as I was walking, though, I had to stop cold in my tracks. I wasn't only tired, I was sick and tired of lugging around so much stuff: a courier bag with my laptop and Fire, pages of a WIP, mouse, AC adapter, headset...plus handled carry bag with gym clothes, extension cord, notebooks, energy drinks, spare glasses, flash drives, oversized paperback workout book, check book, umbrella, etc., etc., etc.

Not only that, any time that it rained heavily, I had to call a cab to protect my Fire and laptop.

Enough! Today! Here and now!

The entire move to Seattle, for me, has been about learning new footwork...mastering the Quickstep...traveling more lightly. And here I was, lugging stuff, bowed over and huffing for breath. I decided to invest a portion of the money toward putting more bounce in my step.

An hour later, I stepped out of Dick's sportswear with a colorful, XL, water-resistant backpack. Pockets within it for all that I need. All neatly squared away.

Checkbook? Here.

Gym key card? Here.

Flashdrives? Look no further.

This is cool in itself. Cooler still, though, is that bank shots are already bouncing off of this first insight. Where else, I wonder, am I still weighted down by stuff and simply habitual footwork?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Thousand: My Secret Weapon

In November, 2013 I found a 'secret weapon' that has put some old foes in the ground: doubt, fear, insecurity. I promised to tell you about it someday--and now, seven months later, I'll tell you about the weapon that I call The Thousand.

I've already written many times of my fondness for Moleskine notebooks--for my writing and my personal logs.

product image

But the one Moleskine containing The Thousand stands in a league of its own. It is compact and it has legs: this single 3.5" x 5.5" Moleskine will last me one full year because of the format I've chosen.

The Thousand, I'd decided, would help to keep me on course and reinforce my goals. Each day I would record one thing accomplished on each of three fronts: A for Accounting or career/business concerns...P for Priest or matters of discipline or spirit, diet or exercise, more purity in writing...E for Entertainer or actions taken to reinforce my online presence as a lively presence, also steps taken to accordingly alter my appearance.

As you see, I allowed for flexibility. But my goal was stern and solid: three significant things accomplished--not tasks such as doing the laundry. And if I missed on any one day, I would double up the next: two things on each front.

Believe me, doing this is harder than it sounds. The temptation is always present to put down on any old damned thing instead of breaking new ground. I've missed entries, in seven months, a total of three times--and I regard those as serious dings. But simply becoming aware of the dings and the temptation to nod off has strengthened my resolve.

At year's end, I'll write a full review of The Thousand--where I fell short and where I flew high. Today I can tell you that through the practice of The Thousand I:
--Rallied from the loss of a finished novel, rewriting it completely from an ancient second draft.
--Found a needed part-time job.
--Decided to move to Seattle this fall.
--Made a bold financial move that freed me from the need to work two jobs and paved the way for a cross-country move in greater comfort and style.
--Launched a second blog chronicling the move.
--Completed rewriting the lost novel, with plans to launch it July.
--Began circuit training at the gym to whip myself into West Coast shape.
--Began the months-long process of preparing for the move: trashing junk, clearing a jungle of personal papers, condensing a closet of clothes to a neatly packed steamer trunk.

I swear by The Thousand and urge you to give it a try.