Word Play

Am I the only one who randomly thinks of a word, then decides I vaguely know what it means (enough to understand when it is used), but don’t really know the precise definition?  Periodically I’ll think of a word (not always sure why) or use a word and realize that I should look it up and get a better understanding of its exact meaning.  Sometimes I’ve found that my vague understanding is sufficient, if not entirely accurate.

For example, the word ‘pundit’ floated into my head this morning for no discernible reason.  I had the vague sense of ‘people who say something’ since we hear it in the media quite a bit.  The actual definition is a little more precise than just vague ‘people’.  According to Merriam-Webster:

Definition of pundit

1 : pandit

2 : a learned person : teacher

3 : a person who gives opinions in an authoritative manner usually through the mass media : critic

These definitions make the ‘people’ a little more authoritative, though not limited to a particular field of study.  I think generally we hear the word in connection with politics, but these definitions would allow for it to be used in a broader sense, such as a scientific symposium, the medical profession or even someone teaching a class at a community college.

Do you look up words to make sure you understand their meanings and are using them correctly?  If not, try it.  You might be surprised by all the things you’ll learn.

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Organize? But Why? It’s Hard!

I am by no means a computer genius, but over the years of using them, I have learned quite a few things that others seem to have missed (or not discovered yet).  One of them is the need to organize your files.

A girl I work with tends to leave all her emails in her Inbox, and then searches through the growing list whenever she wants to find something.  When she saves something to her computer, she dumps all the files in a single folder (e.g. My Documents).

Admittedly, that gets the job done, at the most basic level.  But, if you keep more than 50 emails in your Inbox and more than 50 files on your computer, it gets unwieldy very quickly.

In “the old days”, you were limited by how long a file name could be.  It could only be 6 (or 8, I forget which) characters.  Not very many to give something a meaningful name that readily identifies it.  “ltrJoe” tells me it’s a letter to Joe, but when was it written?  What if I know more than one Joe – which one is it?  I quickly learned that you could use the 3 characters after the period to give a little more info, such as:  ltrJoe.Smi   Now I know it is probably a letter to my friend Joe Smith.

However, since then, they made document extensions pertinent.  Word expects to see .doc or .docx files.  It’s how it recognizes them.  Same with .jpg, .pdg, .xlsx, etc.  So that took away the extension as an option, but they did increase the number of characters that could be used in the file name itself, and that is of great benefit.  Now, I can name things like: 

               Smith_Joe_letter_11.04.17.doc

                              I know it was a letter to Joe Smith written on 14 Nov 2017 (Though you do need to be careful that there is no confusion on the year if you often use multiple centuries; in the above you can’t tell if it was 1817, 1917 or 2017.  Sometimes that matters.)

And by how I arrange the name, I can force things to group together.  If I have multiple letters to Joe Smith, the above naming convention will make them sort alphabetically together:

               Smith_Joe_letter_11.04.17.doc

               Smith_Joe_letter_11.10.17.doc

               Smith_Joe_letter_11.12.17.doc

Occasionally, I will want a certain file to sort at the very top of the alphabetical list.  For Microsoft files, they sort:  folders (if any), then numbers, then letters.  So you might see:

               Genealogy  (folder)

               WordPress  (folder)

               Writing  (folder)

               2006 tax return.pdf

               2014 tax return.pdf

               anniversary dates.doc

               covered bridges.doc

               inventory of supplies.xls

               writing_dictionary locations.doc

But what if I often use the file ‘writing_dictionary locations.doc’ and want it to sort to the top of the list so it is easily found?  In those cases, I can put a zero in front of it, to force it to sort first in the above list (of files, not folders).  So you might see:

               Genealogy  (folder)

               WordPress  (folder)

               Writing  (folder)

               0writing_dictionary locations.doc

               2006 tax return.pdf

               2014 tax return.pdf

               anniversary dates.doc

               covered bridges.doc

               inventory of supplies.xls

That also works for the names of folders.  If I wanted the WordPress folder to always sort at the top, I could rename it, thus:

               0WordPress  (folder)

               Genealogy  (folder)

               Writing  (folder)

I can rename as often as I want, so if I no longer want the WordPress folder at the top, I can simply rename it without the 0 in front.  (I can also use X in front to force things to sort to the bottom, if I want.)

And, yes, it is important to set up folders so as to group certain information (both on your computer and in your email program).  If I want to find something to do with my Genealogy, I don’t need to look in those other folders for it.  And I don’t need to have the computer Search for it in those other folders if I don’t remember what I called it.

These things will reduce the clutter and narrow down finding what you are looking for in your files.  You can also create subfolders.  Suppose I wanted to further group information in my Genealogy folder.  I might have something like this:

               Genealogy  (folder)

                              Genealogy Articles  (folder)

                              Jones surname  (folder)

                              Online Search Resources  (folder)

                              Smith surname  (folder)

                              Wilson surname  (folder)

I know taking time to organize your files (whether in your computer, in your email, or even just paper on your desk) is time-consuming and not much fun.  But once it is done, it makes things so much easier and less frustrating.  I know in my genealogy, before I got good at this organizing thing, I often did the same research more than once.  I couldn’t find it so I figured I didn’t have it.  Then later I found I had two or more copies of the same thing.

Save yourself some long-term grief, start organizing now.  The sooner the better.

Eyes Front, Please

When I was in school, after every test there was that group of people who wanted to sit around and analyze every question and how they had answered – trying to decide if they had gotten it right or not.  I wasn’t one of those people.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care about my grades, but rather that I knew that test was ‘done’.  Nothing I did at that point was going to change my answer or change that it was right or wrong.  When I got the test back, then I could review any incorrect answers and try to determine what I didn’t understand.  Sure, a bad test grade would affect my overall class grade, but I still couldn’t change the fact that was the grade I had gotten on the test.  All I could do at that point, was try to do any extra-credit work that might raise my grade, study harder or seek help if I was struggling to understand a concept so I passed subsequent tests, and make sure my work was as good as possible.

Let’s face it, after you’ve driven off the cliff, it’s too late to decide that maybe you should have heeded the speed limit signs and slowed down on that winding road.

Don’t waste time agonizing over things in your past that you can’t change.  Focus on now and the future and make whatever changes necessary so that you don’t make the same mistakes again.  Too much time looking back is when you tend to run into something unseen ahead.  The past is a learning tool, but it shouldn’t be a deadweight.

Grow, learn, move forward.

Up for Grabs #1

Wherein I have written something, whether a single line or two, or several paragraphs, but think it highly unlikely I will ever do anything with them beyond that snippet.  Therefore, they are herewith put ‘up for grabs’.  If any of you writers can and wish to make use of them, feel completely free to do so.  I don’t even require any sort of acknowledgement if you do.  You can take a tiny part of them, the thing in its entirety exactly as is, or the basic idea and completely do with it what you will.  It just seemed pointless to let these things sit ignored on my computer until the end of time, knowing full well I won’t do anything more with them.  Rest assured, if there is any idea I have even the vaguest intention of pursuing, I will not be posting it here.  So, no fear that I’ll change my mind.

 

Her blond hair was pulled up into a topknot, but the topknot itself was a lurid pink color.  It gave a jaunty, fun impression that didn’t quite match her glowering expression.

Seriously, people?

I’ve mentioned that I’m not keen on swearing, particularly when it involves the use of a certain word beginning with F.  I find it objectionable and offensive.  And since swearing is usually used for emphasis or to express extreme anger, over-frequent use renders these words irrelevant to any purpose.

That said, how is it that adults, including government officials who were elected to serve the people, can do nothing but focus on idiotic details like that and completely ignore the larger message.

Frankly, every adult in America is being put to shame by these kids fighting for stronger gun control.  They’re KIDS.  They’re in school.  They shouldn’t have to be doing this because it is our responsibility as adults to be doing it.  Instead, a significant portion of the population of the U.S., including its ‘President’ do nothing but hem, haw, sit on their hands and criticize these kids for every little thing.

It isn’t kids posting photoshopped images to discredit these gun control advocates, it’s adults.  Adults with a vested interest in changing nothing and reaping the monetary benefit thereof.

I’ve long been patriotic.  I’ve long supported our military.  I have no problem with responsible gun ownership.  I’ve even long been a Republican.  But now I am embarrassed, even ashamed, to call myself an American when I see what we have become.

No, it isn’t all adults failing to act, it isn’t all gun owners who are willing to protect gun rights above everything else, and it isn’t all Republicans or politicians who are blind and deaf to an epidemic issue in our country.  This isn’t just happening in schools, folks.  It happens in workplaces, malls, movie theatres or even just on the street.  If you’re sitting there thinking that this problem belongs to the kids, you’re wrong.  It may be you while you attend a concert in Las Vegas.  It may be you while you are driving your car down the road.  Do nothing, and it may very well be you the next time.  And there WILL be a next time again and again unless we do something.

Choosing to attack the messenger because you have no valid argument against the message itself only reflects poorly on you.

Things I’ve Learned on my Stay-cation

  1. The newish neighbors in the next apartment like to play music rather loudly in the afternoon (at least, loud enough to be heard through the wall).
  2. Dan Gibson’s Solitudes CD “Pachelbel, Forever by the Sea” makes effective white noise to drown out said neighborly music so I can concentrate to read or write.
  3. Sometimes the stars all align and I manage to walk to the store, buy more daffodils (yay!) among other stuff, and get home before it starts raining.

daffodils_zTX5anoac

Full disclosure:  The above are not the daffodils that I bought.  I was just too lazy to take a picture of them to post and I had this laying around.  (Besides which the ones I just got aren’t open yet.)

I’m Free!

Okay, only for a week, but still…  The hardest part about stay-cations, though, is not feeling like you must be productive.  It’s ‘vacation’ – I get to read, or write, or watch movies or do fun stuff.  If I was actually somewhere else other than home, I wouldn’t be thinking that I should do laundry, or clean the bathtub or any of the other mundane day-to-day tasks that we each have.  I’m allowed to have fun.  Whee!

Sure, I’ll probably still do some of the mundane – I doubt I can help myself in that regard – but I do intend to simply ‘enjoy’ this time also.

Here’s wishing all of you a little enjoyable breathing room as well in the near future.

Now excuse me, but I’m off to cook corned beef and cabbage.  After all, it is St. Patrick’s Day…

Short? I Can Do Short. I’m Full of Short.

Noticed an article today that might be of interest to some of you.  It is aimed toward people who enjoy reading short stories, but along those lines uses writers of short stories.

The first link (yahoo) is where I saw the story, but it was reprinted from TechCrunch (the second link).  Yahoo’s links sometimes disappear, so I’m putting both below so you can read the story about the website.  There is also a link for the website itself.

A service for reading short stories, but also for writers of short stories.

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/curious-fictions-helps-readers-pay-153856186.html

or the original article on TechCrunch:  https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/08/curious-fictions-launch/

https://curiousfictions.com/

NOTE:  Beyond having read the article, I know nothing about the website, so I cannot personally vouch for it or recommend it with any actual experience.

Can’t You Just Picture It?

I was reading a blog post about writing images rather than scenes, and I couldn’t help but wonder if writers didn’t do that already.  For me, I ‘see’ what I am writing, as if it were a movie playing out in my head, as I go along – I’m essentially writing what I ‘see’.  Similarly, when I read, I ‘see’ the story playing out.

I think many do that, which is one of the reasons it can be difficult to watch a movie made from a book – the filmmaker’s vision of the story/characters doesn’t closely match how we envisioned it.  Some small details may not matter overly much to us, but some we will feel strongly about.

How can you verbally paint a picture of a sunset without seeing a sunset, either literally, via some medium (paper, computer image, etc.) or mentally envisioning one?  Along those same lines, I ‘hear’ my characters speaking their dialogue.  It’s part of what tells me if the dialogue is too stiff or boring or confusing.

I had always assumed, probably incorrectly, that everyone ‘saw’ and ‘heard’ their stories as they wrote them.  If you don’t, maybe you should make the effort to do it.  It’s easy to write “The girl wore a blue dress.”  But if you are mentally picturing that girl in that blue dress, you might notice that the dress material flows and ripples around her as she moves, making it seem as though the dress is made of several different shades of blue depending on how the light is hitting it.

The saying is that ‘A picture paints a thousand words’.  If that is so, are we trying to use a half dozen words to describe the painting?  Doesn’t that inevitably mean, we’ve fallen short of doing it justice by many hundreds of words?

Next time you are writing, take a moment to watch it play out in your mind, then write down what happens.  See if it makes a difference in your story.