Tag Archives: frustration

QWERTY & shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are a wonderful invention. They allow us to integrate common tasks into our typing without really disrupting its flow, and for the most part they follow rules that are more or less consistent. We have that ‘i’ is for ‘italics’, ‘b’ is for ‘bold’ and ‘o’ is for ‘open’ all of which seem reasonable enough, but then we have that ‘x’ is for ‘cut’ and ‘v’ is for paste, simply because no one else would have them, and because they are stuck on either side of ‘c’, which is for ‘copy’ (that, and because ‘p’ is for print and because, with copy already hogging the ‘c’, cut is out of luck). So far, so good… well, more or less.

The problem is that we are just as likely to make mistake when typing a shortcut as when typing anything else, and our keyboard layouts can give rise to some rather dangerous clusters, such as (U)-I-O-P and B-N. While underline is not much of an issue, this means that all of a sudden you may find yourself being presented with a dialog window helpfully asking you which file it is that you would like to open when what you all you are trying to do is italicize some text, or with a print dialog when you are trying to open a file (though that is nowhere near as annoying, as in both instances you are expecting a dialog window to pop-up and ask for your input)… and that is only if you don’t find yourself suddenly in front of a brand new file when all you are trying to do is add a little emphasis.

No, these shortcut typos that bring up an unwanted dialog window don’t happen often enough to be a major issue, but I admit that, when they do, they tend to get on my nerves (especially because, at least in my case, they become more frequent  when the juices are flowing, and I’m typing a little faster than I should). The good news is that this is a situation can be addressed by remapping or disabling some shortcuts either throughout your system, or for any given app. The bad news is that, if you go that route, you are likely to have to make some compromises.

If you want to shift a shortcut on a system wide basis you have to make sure you are not going to be creating a conflict with some obscure shortcut used by some app, meaning that the alternative shortcuts are likely to be less than intuitive. If you want to modify your shortcuts on an app by app basis you can avoid this problem, but then you’ll have to remember which shortcut goes with which app. As far as I’m concerned, neither one of these options is worth the hassle.

A more realistic solution that can be applied on a system wide basis -but one that does take some getting used to, and will drive anyone who happens to borrow your computer crazy- is to have bold and open switch places. That way you get one cluster with underline, italics and bold, and a second cluster with new and open. Of course, if you do this, then print becomes more of an issue, as -just like open-it brings up an unwanted dialog window.

The easy alternative is simply to get rid of ‘open’ and ‘new’ in your main writing apps. That way you don’t have to worry when trying to use bold or italics. Unfortunately that means that you are giving up some functionality, as you are then stuck selecting those options by hand.

Anyway, if you want to remap your shortcuts you can do it from from the system preferences on a mac (go to ‘keyboard’, select ‘keyboard shortcuts’, and then click on the plus sign to bring up a window where you can remap your shortcut). If you are running windows I think you need a specialized program to do this, but there seem to be a few of those out there.

As for me, for the time being I am still trying to implement the other choice I have when it comes to this particular issue, but I admit hasn’t been easy: I’m trying to learn to own up to my mistakes, quit whining, and become a better -or at least a more careful- typist.

So much spin it makes me dizzy

Yesterday Amnesty International released a report on the dismal conditions experienced by migrant workers in Qatar, where preparations are underway for the 2022 World Cup, and something that seems to amount almost to modern day slavery is legal (that would be the Kafala system).

Anyway, the BBC’s headline reads: Qatar migrant workers ‘treated like animals’ – Amnesty

CNN’s headline is: Amnesty International: Qatar rife with abuse of migrant workers

Reuters’s reads: “Alarming exploitation” of workers in Qatar: Amnesty

The Guardian’s is:  Amnesty Report on Qatar exposes ‘grim’ abuse of migrant workers (BTW, The Guardian also features a piece on the rather amusing design of one of the stadiums, you can find that one here)

I think you get the general idea as to what the content of the Amnesty report happens to be, but then -if you dig a little deeper- you come up with the following gem from The Gulf Times, a Qatar-based, English language newspaper: Amnesty commends ‘accessible, open’ Qatar

Say WHAT? Are these guys even reading from the same freaking report? Well, the truth is that they probably are… with a magnifying glass, and looking for the one or two favorable sentences that were inserted out of politeness.

Of course, while this example is more transparent than most (in fact it is so transparent as to be downright pathetic), the fact that Qatar is a tiny country that is not English speaking serves to make the discrepancy even more glaring by providing us with a single headline from the one local source that is trying desperately to put a favorable spin on a train wreck. If Qatar were a large, English speaking country, the general picture would be more balanced, and the truth is that there is always some bias when it comes to the local news. In other words, while this is an extreme example, it probably reflects a reality that is far more common than we’d like to believe… so, how aware are you of what your country looks like through the lenses of foreign, and preferably foreign language, news organizations?

The stubborn chapters

I’m currently working on the first readable draft of book three of Citlalli, and I have come up against three stubborn chapters. I knew this was coming, of course (after all, it’s not like they were all that agreeable the first time around), and I also know why it is that they are giving me so much trouble (in fact I freely admit that I brought this on myself), but that doesn’t mean that dealing with stubborn chapters that refuse to be written is one of the most annoying aspects of this whole writing thing. Still, we have to come to an understanding somehow…

Oreos are as addictive as cocaine

Yesterday I went grocery shopping, and as I was walking down the cookie aisle -salivating like a good Pavlovian dog- I heard someone mention a recent study that found that ‘oreos are as addictive as cocaine’. I had seen the headlines, of course, and I had found them amusing and bordering on the absurd, but at the same time I was worried about what those headlines seemed to suggest: ‘oreos are as bad as cocaine’, and that’s where the difference kicks in… not that the similarities along the addiction line can be stretched as far as that headline would seem to suggest.

Yes, sugar tickles the same pleasure centers of the brain as drugs do, that has been known for a while (hence the ‘salivating like a good Pavlovian dog’ bit), but while we can be said to crave both substances to a certain extent, there is a difference both in term to how we are likely to respond to being unable to get a ‘fix’ are, and in terms of the damage the substance in question does to our bodies.

Simply put, most people I know can skip their daily cookie fix without displaying any obvious withdrawal symptoms, and -diabetics not withstanding- the likelihood that you will eat enough oreos in one sitting to kill yourself are… well, they are pretty much nil.

And if you are wondering if my passionate defense of the blasted things means I’m secretly in the employ of the food industry, let me reassure you that that is not the case. My defense of the cookie industry has to do with something more fundamental than that: even though I am not particularly keen on oreos, I do have a massive sweet tooth, and I am not to happy about the growing criminalization of sugar I see all around me. Yes, I realize that we should try to exercise some self-control in that regard (or maybe that we should try to exercise, period), but while I am aware that sugar is not the healthiest of foods, putting it on the same level as cocaine -or even nicotine- is downright absurd, and I am not particularly fond of the fact that sweets have somehow been turned into a guilty pleasure… so excuse me while I go grab a cookie.

E-publishing and the race to the bottom

As I prepare to release another book I find myself grappling once more with the question of what to do about e-books, a question that becomes more relevant with each and every passing day, as more and more readers eschew the printed world altogether to switch to electronic versions instead. The thing is that while a part of me would love to join this trend, there is another one that can’t help but to hesitate.

To begin with there is the fact of just how fragmented this market happens to be. You can choose a publisher, have your book printed and distributed by signing a single contract in such a way that you know what you are getting, but when it comes to e-books each bookstore requires what amounts to a different agreement, with most outlets claiming for themselves the right to modify the terms of the agreement. This creates a maze of shifting legalese few self-published authors can realistically hope to untangle, or even keep track of, where the possibility that the evolving contracts would at some point collide with each other cannot be entirely ruled out… and the more distribution options you seek, the higher that risk becomes. Continue reading E-publishing and the race to the bottom

Roller coaster writing

One of the hardest things you have to do when writing a story is learning to recognize when and where should you hit the delete key. Sometimes, when you are stuck, you have to go back and make some radical changes to a section you thought was long done. Doing that can be not just frustrating, but also downright terrifying, especially when the scene involved was one that was one of the pillars of the whole plot. These little ‘surgeries’ can be enough to cause the whole structure to collapse on top of your head, a fact that can leave you bruised and battered… and if you are in the middle of a series, where a couple of volumes have already been published, well, let’s just say that that makes it even worse. Simply put, if the work in question is part of a series then there are parts you just can no longer change, and you certainly can’t walk away or start anew. That was what happened to me a couple of months ago with Citlalli.

The good news is that, even though it took me a while to figure out how, I eventually managed to fix that one, and I’m pretty happy with how that turned out. The bad news is that I’m no longer sure I know where the story is going… not quite. Oh, I have a general idea as to what the general destination is supposed to be, and I think I know how to get there in general terms, but the detailed map I thought I had has been shredded. That means that the path I’m going to have to follow is going to be different from the one I had originally envisioned.

Of course I have to admit that dealing with these little surprises can also be a lot of fun.. .terrifying fun, mind you, but still fun. This is the roller coaster aspect of writing, the one most people don’t even realize is there. Yes, you can set out with a destination clearly in mind, but there are always surprises, and pitfalls, along the way, and watching a story grow, develop and change is one of the most fascinating aspects of the whole process. In fact at times when people ask me why I write, seeing how I’m not exactly making a living out of it, my answer is that I write precisely because I have a story buzzing between my ears and I just have to know how it turns out.

I have written a number of books by now, and the one lesson I have learned is that the story I wind up with at the end of the process hardly ever turns out to be like the one I had originally envisioned… but of course, if I knew how the story was going to end, chances are that I wouldn’t even bother writing it down.

The healthiest meal is… no meal at all

And here we go again, with another pointless warning about why you should abstain from eating/drinking something you had always been told was good for you if you want to live a long, healthy life… come to think of it, if you were to listen to all those warnings you would probably have to give up food altogether. Anyway, the latest bit of nonsense that had me slamming my head against the nearest wall was an article on Yahoo about how unhealthy fruit smoothies happen to be (if you want to read it, you can find it here). Yes, smoothies have sugar in them, and sugar is not the healthiest of ingredients, but  that doesn’t mean that smoothies are poisonous or that they are ‘as bad as soda’, which is what the so-called-experts behind the study on which that article is based seem to claim.

The thing is that the presence of one or more unhealthy ingredients doesn’t cancel the benefits of the other ones. In fact even heath nuts acknowledge that chocolate has a number of health benefits (not the least of which is that is delicious and one of those things that make life worth living).

In other words, it’s not black and white, you can eat some sugar and that’s not likely to kill you (not unless you are diabetic). The key word here, in case you were wondering, is ‘some’. Besides, for all the dangers that experts keep reminding us are lurking in every mouthful, it is worth noting that there are few things you can eat as part of your regular diet that will kill as surely as not eating at all, so give yourself permission to enjoy your life, and if you want to have a smoothie or a piece of chocolate, go for it!

Getting my projects into some semblance of orders

YES! At long last it looks like my projects are in some semblance of order (don’t ask me how long that’s going to last though). Sure, seeing how I didn’t abandon any of them, I’m still juggling more projects than is good for my sanity (that is assuming I have some sanity to begin with), but at least I seemed to have come up with something that looks like a sequence that allows me to prioritize them so that things can start moving again. That’s a good thing because lately I had been feeling like there was a logjam in my mind, so much so that at times I had the feeling that I was so worried about what wasn’t getting done that I couldn’t even concentrate on whatever it was that I was actually trying to accomplish.

Trying to get back in the rhythm of things… again

Do I even have to say ‘ARGH!‘ I mean, first I go on vacation (okay, so I definitely needed that), then I have a mad dash to finish last years projects. I get them done, but then, just as I’m starting to get back into my projects and things begin moving in the right direction, I get sick and spend a month basically out of commission (what can I say, writing is one of those things you really shouldn’t attempt when your brain seems to have been reduced to some sort of a bloody goo that threatens to leak out of your ears). Now that I’m finally almost back to normal I am trying to get reacquainted with my projects, but the truth is that it’s been something of a struggle. I think part of the problem is that, even though I’m doing better, I’m still in no shape to work as many hours as I usually do, but at the same time I am reluctant to cut back in my number of hours for fear of losing my rhythm, that leaves me pretending to work on one of those projects, and that in turn feels like cheating, something that annoys me to no end.

Oh, well, next week I’ll probably try to rearrange things so that a book that is being revised, rather than one that is currently being written, will wind up with that last position of the day, and hopefully that will make it possible for me to get back on track, but somehow I get the feeling that my schedule for 2014 is effectively shot.

How the heck did Quantcast get here?

Okay, this is disturbing: Ghosterly is showing a tracker by an advertising network (Quantcast) as being blocked from this site… seeing how I know I never added such a tracker in the first place, I have to assume that a plugin is to blame. That means that I have to go and test them to try and find the culprit… and then I am going to have to decide whether I’d rather lose the functionality involved or live with their unwanted snooping. I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: I’ve identified the culprit, and unfortunately it’s WordPress’s very own Jetpack. I’ve added a privacy-protection plugin to block this ‘feature’… did I ever mention that I really don’t like being tracked?


The past twelve months have been fairly productive ones –in fact they were great in that regard, so I’m most definitely no complaining about that– but today is one of those days in which I feel like I am being pulled in a dozen different directions. Right now I’m trying to put the finishing touches on last year’s projects. There are four of them. There is the sequel to Citlalli on the Edge of the Wind, a fully revised version of Scales at a Glance, and two translations (Laira and Scales… are about to be released in Spanish). Anyway, each one of these four books must be proof-read one last time, formatted (and believe me when I say that that is not and easy task when it comes to the two versions of Scales, which feature about a gazillion figures each) and then there is the whole cover design thing. Oh, and if that weren’t enough there is also a blog that has to be updated, not to mention that I’m already working on two new projects and those too demand their share of time (those would be the third part of Citlalli and a sort of history book). I know this is just the final push and that it will be over in a couple of weeks, but I freely admit that at times the balancing act gets to be a little too much for me… I mean, right now I feel like I could really use a twenty-eight hour day! That wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t because today I got so overwhelmed that I would up getting distracted and didn’t even do the things I was supposed to do. That is one of my problems. As soon as I realize that there’s no way I’m going to get everything done I tend to get disorganized.

Well, there are worse things in this world. Here’s hoping that tomorrow things will work out a little better!

Plans and the real world

ARGHHH! Okay, now that I got that one off my chest I have to say that I am having some trouble with my writing… no, I’m not stuck, but rather I have a project that seems to have taken a life of its own and now I find myself facing a bit of a dilemma: I began writing that one in what amounted to a hiatus of the second book of Citlalli (I always take a small break before I start revising it to gain a modicum of distance). That hiatus was supposed to last a couple of months, which could be stretched to maybe four.

Well, those four months are almost over and the other book, which I had originally envisioned as having something like 25,000-40,000 words is well past the 60,000 mark and I am only half way through. That means I have to choose between postponing Citlalli to finish at least the first draft of the new one first, or putting this one on hold even though I am only half way through. As you can probably guess neither one of these seems to me like a particularly pleasant choice, but a choice I’ll have to make.

Did I mention I’m not happy about that one?

When things don’t turn out as you had hoped they would

Six months after my books went live in amazon I can honestly say that they haven’t sold well. Seeing how I am a writer, not a publicist, this is not entirely unexpected and I had originally thought I would let this particular milestone slip by unnoticed. That would have been the logical thing to do (we tend to celebrate our successes, not our failures), but the thing is that the fact that my books haven’t sold made me think about what this ‘failure’ means and to try to examine it more objectively… and then I decided that that was something that might actually be worth sharing in a world of ever-cheerful, self-promoting, self-published authors.

Continue reading When things don’t turn out as you had hoped they would

Making sense of the past… or at least trying

ARGH! Today I was doing some research on a battle between the Arabs and the Byzantine Empire –that would be the Battle of Ajnadayn, if you want to get technical– so I went to see what Wikipedia had to say about the whole thing. I got the basic outline of what happened (sort of) and I also got the coordinates to its exact location. Those place the battle in question what is today Israel… the problem is that one of the things I needed was the name of the ancient province, not that of the modern country. I mean, we are talking seventh century here and by then the old and familiar Syria Palestina had been subdivided into a number of ever-shifting  Syrias and Palestinas, but as a result of what I fear was a hyper-zealous attempt by some ‘editor’ to edit ‘Palestina’ right out of history somewhere along the line, the actual name of the ancient province was not included… do I even have to say that I found the whole thing incredibly frustrating? (okay, to be fair, it could also be that, in light of those ever-shifting Syrias and Palestinas someone just threw his/her hands up in the air and decided to play it safe by sticking with a good, old-fashioned set of coordinates).

Now, if that had been the extent of it, it wouldn’t have been that bad, but to make matters worse that particular article had a few other fun issues. For instance there are also some references to a general by the name of Theodore and others to one by the name of Theodorus, and it is not clear entirely clear whether or not these refer to the same guy (given that they seem to play the same role I am inclined to believe that they are one and the same, but the problem is that while the article claims that ‘Theodorus’ was killed in this battle, the entry on ‘Theodore’ has him dying a couple of years later… as for ‘Theodorus’ there is no entry on the guy at all). Let’s just say that trying to make sense out of that one turned out to be a fun way to spend an afternoon!

Oh well, Wikipedia is still a wonderful resource (let’s face it, most places don’t even mention the fact that there ever was such a thing as a Battle of Ajnadayn), and I am  most definitely still a fan, but this time around I have to admit that it left me scratching my head.