Hello friends, happy Boxing Day! I'm still using Typora, which is super fun. It's makes writing blog posts so much easier. And it's about as customizable as I'd need or want. A friend said they use Typora for their fiction writing too, which is pretty zany! I'm kind of considering it. I've always found Scrivener to be a bit over-designed for my taste, with too many options and too much customizability.
The sad thing about being a science fiction writer is that you love whizmos and gadgets, but writing is still pretty old-fashioned. The act of composition hasn't been substantially improved since the invention of the word processor (and, I'd argue, it's still essentially the same as it was back when people were composing using pen and paper, but that argument relies heavily on one's definition of the word 'essentially.') So it's always fun to discover a new word processing modality.
You might've noticed that I've been using more links now than I used to. That's because I always found hunting down the links to be a fiddly, annoying process. But with Typora and markdown, whenever I think of something that needs linking, I just surround it with brackets, [like this]. Then at the end of the document I create a link reference, like this:
[like this]: link goes here.
I think it's pretty nifty. Of course I'll get tired of it eventually, just as one gets tired of most things. But for now it's fun.
In terms of writing I have very little going on, just working on doing the line edits for my young adult book. Then will have to start work on my super secret nonfiction project that I hope to announce in January!
The Husserl I've been reading very slowly for at least a month (am halfway through!) I think it's honestly the best entry-point for Husserl. I believe that I previously read another of his: Ideas. But that felt very internal to some purely philosophical problems of consciousness and epistemology, whereas in this one ties it all in together with the big question: What is it possible to know? And how can we start to breach the boundaries of what we think is possible.
Vindication of the Rights of Man is the work that made Wollstonecraft famous. It's a response to Edmund Burke's Notes on the Revolution in France. Burke's is a foundational conservative document. It may very well be the first elucidation of movement conservatism as an ideology, within a liberal democracy. I read it upwards of ten years ago, so I don't entirely remember what it said, but as I recall, it's a polemic against the concept of radical change. Wollstonecraft's reply is like, you tell us that we're bound by tradition? But where does that stop? When are we allowed to change anything? What makes it striking is the intemperate, personal tone. It's not a matter of academic debate for Wollstonecraft, she goes hard at Burke. I found her extremely convincing. In the years since, we've seen the dangers of revolution, but at the time it's hard to imagine not being in favor of the French Revolution.
The graphic novels are what I've actually been reading the most of. Went through a Brubaker phase. Really like the work, but it's subtle. At first I was like...these are just typical crime stories. But it's something in how he draws this world together and shows how shaky it is, and, moreover, how its generational: how kids grow up with unstable home lives and then they replicate the same patterns as adults (even as they do their best to avoid them). This makes it sound like a work of sociology, and it is, a little bit, sociological. But the characters are also very human. Definitely work that grows on you the more of it you read.
As I recall, when I was in elementary school, all our conversations basically consisted of quotes from The Simpsons.1 And I don't think I actually watched the Simpsons, but I got a lot of it through osmosis. And one of my favorites was when Nelson calls Milhouse a nerd, and Milhouse says, "I'm not a nerd! Nerds are smart!"
Well, I've become a nerd! I think the genesis was something to do with Twitter potentially collapsing. I can't remember. But the point is, I wanted to take control of my own data. And the main data I was worried about was my kindle books. And the current best method (a paid software called ePubor) of cracking Kindle DRM (Digital Rights Management) only works on Windows machines, because it requires a deprecated version of the Kindle software that only runs on machines w 32 bit support.2
I have a huge clunky windows laptop I was using for gaming, but somehow during the Black Friday sales I ended up buying a new Windows machine, and I haven't opened my Mac ever since. Now everything I want to do takes longer and is harder: for instance, whenever I do a video-call it used to just work, but now I have to fiddle with my camera and microphone. But I also have way more options! Everything feels customizable and up for grabs.
Being a nerd also means switching away from Apple Notes. I switched to Obsidian, which is a notes software where the underlying notes are written in markdown, which is a convention for formatting your text easily without mucking around with a lot of HTML. More importantly, the texts are still readable to the naked eye, so even in ten or twenty years, a markdown file will be very decipherable.
I ported over all my notes from Apple notes. And then I started to think why don't I write my blog posts in Markdown, so I installed the Markdown plug-in on wordpress. And that words okay, but the internal markdown editor is a bit clunky, so now I've installed a special Markdown word processor: Typora. You know, nerd stuff. The kind of things that nerds do.
I also put all my audio books and comic books in calibre, which I use to organize my ebooks. And I'm doing barcode scans of all my paper books and will put notes for those in Calibre too. So eventually I'll have my whole library in one place, digitally speaking, and I'll know exactly what books I have.
With my switch to DRM-free books I also switched to a fancy chinese e-Reader, the Hi-Reader. Its essentially an android tablet. It runs the Kindle software but the best thing to use on it is a 3rd-party e-reader software called KOreader. This software is really customizable, so you can mess around with the look and feel of books if they look slightly off. It's also good at reflowing PDFs, if you're still using those. And it handles large libraries better than the Kindle software. I just imported my entire eBook library (some 2300 books, which I've bought over the course of 12 years) into it. The most fun feature is the one that'll let you pick a random book. That's led me down some cool paths and has made my library feel a lot more open and accessible.
In terms of reading news and whatnots, Calibre has a news aggregator that will upload, for instance, today's New York Times to your e-reader whenever it connects wirelessly. I also downloaded Instapaper, which has a paginated viewing style (with a button press, you can flip a page, instead of scrolling) that works well for e-Readers, and now when I have a long article I send them to Instapaper, where I can...well...let's be honest, probably never read them.
My windows laptop is also a 2-in-1, so it folds back and becomes a tablet. The screen is 15 inches, and it's very wide, so it's good for the aspect ratio of most media these days and good for reading comics. It took me a while to find a comics reader with good touch controls, since most PC comics readers are designed for keyboard / mouse controls. [Pico Reader] is by far the best here. Cover is also good when it comes to touch controls, but has bad library management and doesn't play well with Calibre (when you use Calibre to send a book to Cover, Cover opens the book, but doesn't add the book to its internal library or remember your position).
When it comes to Comic Book management, one major problem is getting the metadata. Most comics, if you get them from Humble Bumble, don't have anything besides the file name to indicate what they are. Ideally if you're importing them to Calibre, you want the author and book description meta-data to already be in the file. For this I used Comic-Tagger. This is kind of a finicky and difficult to use program. If you still can't find the meta-data, your last resort is to use Calibre's internal search tools (it'll search Amazon and other databases to find meta-data based on the author name and title of the book), but those are hit or miss. A great comics program for Calibre is Embed Comic Metadata, not so much for embedding metadata, but for the final stage in the comics conversation process.
Making DRMs easily usable in Pico-Viewer is a bit of a process, though it's not that difficult. When I buy a comic on Amazon, I download it to my deprecated Kindle software, then open up Epubor and strip the DRM. Calibre is programmed to automatically add anything in the Epubor folder to its library. Then I use Calibre to convert the comics file from AZW3 (the Amazon proprietary format) to ZIP (which is just a zip folder that has all the pages of the comic listed in sequential order). Then I use Embed Comic Metadata to convert the zip to a cbz file (this is actually a very simple process, you just need to change the file name ending, but it's a hassle to do manually). And then when I want to read it I click the link in Calibre and read it in Pico.
Now is this simpler than just using the Kindle software? Of course not. But simplicity isn't really the point. It's just about having fun.
Of course one problem with Windows is that these softwares are often maintained by small teams and frequently the team quits or goes out of business or sells their software to someone else and they fuck it up. This obviously never happens with core apps like Word or Apple Notes (or rather happens much more rarely). But on the other hand because each app handles your files in a way that's transparent and not proprietary, it's a lot easier to put in another software that does something similar.
I guess my next step, if I cared to, would be to take my site off wordpress.com and start hosting my own wordpress install, so I have full control over my site! There's definitely something attractive about that. Over the last few years, everyone has made a substack, and nowadays when people talk to me about my online journal, they're like, "I loved your newsletter". It's not a newsletter. It's a blog! I've been writing it since 2008. I never stopped! I honestly just don't like how closed-off Substack is. I want people to just hop onto my site and click around. I like how roomy it is, and how there's lots of content, etc. Just saying.
Now, finally, you might ask, has any of this affected how you write fiction? And the answer is...no. I still write almost everything in Scrivener. Sometime last year, I finally started consolidating my poetry, essay, and story-writing into their own single scrivener docs. So I have three docs: Master List of Poems; Master List of Stories; and Master List of Essays. Then all my stories, poems, and essays are inside there. I think otherwise I felt very constrained, because it seems like a lot of effort to make a document for a single poem or a single story fragment, when I might easily abandon it, and yet I don't want to just leave it in Notes or someplace I could forget it existed. With this, I can easily move around the little sub-documents, and it's easy to compile things when I want to send them out. Novel-writing still happens in its own Scrivener document, though I have recently made a doc called Master List of Novel Starts which contains attempts at novels that haven't yet gotten big enough to gain their own document.
Oh! Now that I'm writing non-fiction I might want to get some good reference software. Will have to investigate that more carefully, since I've seen from my wife and mom how you get locked into a certain software and if it messes up your database, then it really hampers your work.
I also have a lot of contracts flying back and forth, and I need to figure out a method for keeping fully-executed contracts so I can refer back to them. I am so glad that publishers switched to Docusign (all book contracts used to be paper!!!) so I know the documents are always somewhere in my email or computer, but still I occasionally want to refer to them quickly, especially when it comes to exclusivity clauses etc.
When it comes to contracts, I got tired of printing out, signing, and then scanning everything, so unless it's a very important document (i.e. book contract, which is all docusign anyway), nowadays I just use Adobe Acrobat Pro to give it a digital signature. I've never had anyone complain, so I assume that's okay.
Finally, a pro-tip regarding contracts, which I am going to bury here at the end. You can sign contracts with whatever name you want, so long as it's understand that you are you. If you're trans you don't need to sign contracts with your legal name. There's no need to run it past anyone or ask permission. Just give people your name, they'll type up the contract with that name, and you can sign with that name. If you ask permission, they'll run it past the lawyers, and the lawyers might very well say no, but lawyers constantly say no to shit that's perfectly fine. It's their job to cover the company's bases in every circumstance. For my part, unless it's a mortage or something, I just use "Naomi Kanakia" and that seems to work. I've even been running my credit card payments as Naomi Kanakia sometimes, and they go through fine. After all, the system isn't set up to protect ME, it's set up to protect THEM. So long as they get their money, they're happy. It's up to "Rahul" to complain if his name / identity are being misused, and he really has no problem with Naomi signing for him.
On a sidenote, did you know The Simpsons is still quite popular? It's true! It gets something like 2-3 million viewers an episode, and was getting five million as recently as 2014. That means way more people watch The Simpsons than watch most of the cult-hit sitcoms (i.e. Community or Parks and Rec) of the last ten years. ↩
I have no idea what '32 bit support' means. But I used the term as if I knew, didn't I! ↩
When it comes to e-book version of the classics, libraries mostly seem to have cheaped out and gone for very inexpensive versions that're usually based on Project Gutenberg texts. This means that the translations are often old and the quality is bad. Which means until now I've largely, particularly for English language classics, relied on directly downloading the texts from the Gutenberg website.
Recently though I came to the conclusion that my reading would benefit from more annotation and background, so I've started to put down money to buy the Penguin Classics or Oxford Classics versions of various books, and it adds up, sheesh. I mean the quality of my reading experience is better, but it is odd to pay money for something I used to get for free. For instance I just downloaded the Oxford classics version of Emma, because I decided when I rereaded I wanted to get all the downlow on the political and cultural shit that I just to just intuit (or Google) during the course of my reading.
Anyway, I can't believe how much money I've given to Amazon in my life. My Kindle library is like 500 titles long. I've read about 200 of those, but the remainder could easily be my entire reading for 1 or 2 years. And yet I still continue to acquire books.
Sigh. Buying books feels better than buying other consumer goods. In many cases it's also a lot cheaper. But it's still a form of consumerism.
It's true! I bought a lightbulb: just a bulb, nothing more, albeit with maybe a slightly larger base. And I plugged it into a lamp. AND THEN I CONNECTED IT TO WIFI!!!!!!
And now using my phone I can make the light turn off and on and change colors and also do other things like follow a schedule!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I also programmed it to turn on and off with my voice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!