Posts Tagged 'writing'

Goals

There is a lot of talk these days (well, for a while now) about SMART goals. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or that is what people say. I get that it’s a good acronym (though I suspect it’s more of a backronym than an actual acronym). But I have issues with the whole thing.

First of all, the only consistent bits are the “specific” and “measurable” parts, but I feel like those are nearly redundant. Of course with an explanation you can see the difference, but how hard would it have been to combine those ideas into something that embodies both ideas? But then it wouldn’t fit into the neat little acronym, right?

And even if you don’t feel like those ideas can be joined together, do we really need to make sure every goal meets five criteria? And don’t forget that some authors add additional letters to the end (SMARTER, for example). I want to write goals, not go through checklists to make sure my goals meet five or seven or more criteria.

For various reasons I have been asked to write a lot of goals lately. And I’ve also been trying to help others come up with and meet goals that will help them improve. And that’s the thing: I feel like most goals should lead to some kind of improvement. Isn’t that the focus, anyway?

So I feel like the first criteria should be that goals focus on improvement and responsibility. Of course, we don’t need to include “improvement” in some kind of “how to write goals” piece, because that’s the purpose of a goal, not part of the design. But it is worth mentioning, in case someone is setting goals that might lead to some kind of degradation. Plus, when we take responsibility for our own shortcomings we set goals. We aren’t blaming circumstances, or our parents, or our spouse, or our coworkers, or our boss, we are saying, “I have something I need to improve because I am responsible for this.” And with that in mind, goals that you set for someone else will rarely be reached, unless they are heavily invested in all aspects of the goal. They must feel that the goal is necessary and be invested in generating the goal to the maximum allowable extent.

#1 Goals should be focused. You should be pretty specific about what category you want to set a goal in, how you plan to execute it, what you plan to do, and why you are doing it. Focus on something, find ways to remind yourself about the goal and the focus. This is something you’ll need to carry with you in the forefront of your mind through to reaching the goal. Focus is key.

#2 The next thing that I think a goal should be is reasonable. I don’t just mean this in the normal sense of the word (that the goal not be absurd or unreasonable). You should be able to reason about your goal, you should have reasons for your goal, and you should reason your way to the goal. Goals should be accompanied by reason from inception through to completion. Of course goals should also be reasonable in the sense of “not unreasonable or absurd.”

#3 The final thing I feel is an important part of goals is that they be restrictive. I know that one is a little odd (especially since it’s such a negative word most of the time), but hear me out. We grow though self-imposed restrictions and through work. We increase in self control by exercising restraint, which leads to work. We deny ourselves instant gratification in order to gain discipline. Nearly all good things in life come through some form of personal restriction and hard work. By restricting our options we gain freedom. There are a lot of potential actions I could take right now, but by removing most of them I am free to chose the best options. For example, I could commit any number of crimes right now, but by restricting myself to the list of possible actions in the “completely legal” list I am avoiding issues with the law (which could lead to even worse imposed restrictions) and I have a much shorter list of potential activities to choose from, which avoids overload. The brain is actually pretty good (most of the time) at removing options in order to more easily and quickly make decisions. And similarly, by occasionally imposing restrictions on ourselves with purpose we can grow more readily and easily. A favorite exercise among writers and one I enjoyed in college was to pick a common word and write a paper or story without using it. You might try writing a short story without including the word “the” or “and” or “then.” By doing so you grow, because you are forcing your brain to work harder than usual to complete a mundane task. Restrictions lead to growth, so long as they are reasonable (see #2). Reasonable here means your restrictions shouldn’t be too loose or too tight. Seek moderation.

Again, like with the mention of “improvement” above, I don’t feel that my mnemonic device need include the final bit of advice. Moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance. These are fantastic criteria for anything, whether it be a goal or an interaction with your neighbor. I seek moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance in all things, and I encourage others to do the same.

So while FRR isn’t a great acronym (Focused, Reasonable, Restrictive), I do feel that it is a better set of criteria for goals. Before finalizing any goal, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the focus?
  2. What are the reasons for needing goals here? Why am I focusing on this? Why do I need the goal? What do I hope to accomplish? How can I reason my way to that accomplishment? (Don’t stop here, there should be lots of questions in the “reasonable” stage, all the way through to reaching the goal.)
  3. In what ways will I restrict myself in order to reach this goal?

The final bit of advice I have for goals is to keep records. Record your progress. Record your thoughts. Record your failures. Reason your way through the records from time to time and take assessment. Do you need to adjust course? Is the goal wrong? Is your methodology flawed? Are there any potential improvements you’re missing?

So while the three steps (FRR) are the most important bit when forming goals, the entire process looks like this:

  • Take responsibility and use goals for improvement.
  • Create goals that are Focused, Reasonable, and Restrictive.
  • Seek moderation, balance, simplicity, and elegance.
  • Keep records throughout the process.

If you do all of those things you will have success, which is the primary objective of any goal. If you do not taste the sweetness of success you will struggle with goals for the rest of your life. Start small (and simple), taste the success, and take small steps from there, setting goals along the way.

My Future

My attempt at making an X-Wing was cut short...

I made this in High School.

NOTE: Unlike some of my other posts, I’m not linking to Wikipedia on all of these links. I highly encourage you to click on every link here – some of the pages will make you laugh, some of the videos will make you cry, and most of the photos are from my personal albums. Enjoy!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time, so here goes.

First though, I would just like to say that prior to commencing the crafting of this post I was listening to some really excellent music by a very talented friend of mine. If you enjoy music by such awesome composers as John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Horner and more, you would do well to click here. In fact, the first track sounds like something Edward Shearmur and John Williams might have written together.

OK, so let’s get something straight here. Not to brag, but I am a smart guy. I don’t always do the smartest things, and I don’t have a whole lot of formal education, but I have an extremely capable mind and I excel at various tasks involving mental labor. I love problem solving, have always enjoyed technically creative hobbies, and have a deep obsession with aircraft and spacecraft that has followed me my entire life. Being good at practical mathematics, I decided at an early age that I would enjoy engineering.

Then I began researching what is required for an engineering degree. Nearly immediately the math scared me away.

I love practical math (geometry, trigonometry and some algebra). As I see things, practical math has some sort of immediately accessible application or I can draw a picture to further understand it. When I started learning some pre-calculus, things went south as I discovered that not all math is practical.

I clearly remember my first pre-calculus class – the teacher wrote a very large, complex equation on the board. Then she started hacking away at it, removing entire segments and portions saying they were “insignificant.” I was overwhelmed and appalled. I consider every part of an equation, formula, system or composition to be intricately and inseparably part of the whole. I quickly wrote off calculus as psychotic and moved on with my life, seeking for a future among careers with as little advanced math as possible.

Turns out that’s difficult for someone with my interests. I thought 3D animation might be good, but after attending a year at the Savannah College of Art and Design I decided that my creativity levels just aren’t on par with the animators and modelers that I admire. In fact, I am too technical to allow the imperfections of real life into my artistic endeavors.

Then I considered becoming an author, but again I feel that my writing style is better suited to technical documents than creative fiction. Sure, I can throw a little humanity in there every once in a while, but most of my writing could have been produced by software. The same went for music composition – I was too robotic about it, even when I put all of my feeling into it.

I considered jobs in robotics, software engineering, piloting, information technology, and many other fields, but alas – they all required too much math. And not just any math, scary math. Psychotic math. At one point I even considered working to pay off all of my debt before just going off the grid entirely, becoming completely self-sufficient with my family in the woods, living off the land. I don’t think my wife liked that idea very much.

Being a thinker, I briefly pondered becoming a philosopher, but that didn’t feel like a very good career for supporting a family.

Then, while reading a book on philosophy, I thought, “getting an education is going to be tough no matter what. I suppose I might just need to study some advanced math.”

For English Class

My Sophomore Year in High School

So, I pondered back along my life’s many interests and hobbies and took another look at engineering. Then my realist side kicked in. Engineering might not be all that I hope it is. It could be especially boring and overly technical (even for me).

However, from my earliest years my first love has been engineering. Whether it be designing new aircraft, making a better space-plane, creating a robot, or dreaming about what the future could be, I was always headed toward some sort of engineering.

When I was in grade school I came up with a design for an aircraft that blended the best of two wing configurations. The F-14 Tomcat already proved that swinging wings could be used to reconfigure an aircraft for multiple flight characteristics even while still in the air, but I wanted to incorporate the maneuvering benefits of forward swept wings (such as those of the X-29) and a swept back delta wing configuration for high speed. So at least a few years prior to this patent being filed, I designed a plane that looked almost exactly like the Northrop Switchblade.

Yes, I designed this one before 1999.

My Switchblade (predates 1999 patent)

Even back then I was reading Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. Boy was I surprised one day to see my plane design in their pages when one of them published an article about the new patent for a switchblade design. I guess that’s when I knew that I needed to get into Aerospace Engineering.

However, the psychotic math and possibility of engineering being boring still kept me hesitant until recently.

I have been aware for a couple of years that the space shuttle program is coming to an end this year. But when I recently learned that the second to last shuttle flight (and final flight for Endeavour) was taking place this month, I became inexplicably depressed. I began to obsessively research everything I could about the Space Shuttle. I fantasized about attending the final shuttle launch in July when Atlantis will become the last of the Space Shuttles to launch. I started watching inhumane amounts of NASA TV, even going as far as to adjust my schedule to ensure I got to see certain events. I daydreamed about building a 1:1 replica of the exterior and interior of a shuttle in lieu of a tree-house for my children later in life. I added a bunch of shuttle paraphernalia to my wishlists on Amazon. Some of the products are too expensive.

From Family 2011

If I tell you everything about my shuttle obsession, we’ll end up with a long, sad autobiography about a guy who stalks space planes.

What I recently realized was that I desperately want to be involved with the future of Aerospace technologies. I want to inspire, design, and launch systems for human transportation both inside and outside of Earth’s gravitational pull. I want the vehicles I design to inspire the world and make space exciting again. I want to inspire people the way many of my favorite planes have inspired me. Planes such as the X-29, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-14 Tomcat, the P-61 Black Widdow, the F-4 Phantom, or the OV-101 Enterprise.

For underwater exploration.

An underwater exploration vehicle.

When I was a kid I designed various types of craft. From watercraft to spacecraft I had ideas for anything that moves people fast. When I started experimenting with 3D design I tried recreating some of my designs, but ultimately failed. If I had put a little more effort in I may have succeeded, but all of my best 3D work has been the result of just messing around in the programs. Clearly there is a disconnect (have I ever told you how much I hate using that word as anything but a verb?).

This was my favorite sub design.

Submarines are similar to spacecraft, no?

I will close out this post with a few more of my designs. I had to dig them out of a box. I’m glad I kept them, as I find them inspiring at this time. I am about to begin the rest of my life. I am sitting on the edge of a past that offers little in the way of a future for my family. Before me are endless possibilities, and proceeding without direction is terrifying. These seeds from my childhood are offering and awesome insight into my inner dreams and desires.

Clearly there is still a lot of uncertainty. Even Aerospace Engineering isn’t quite specific enough. There are many fields of specialization within aerospace engineering. Of course, it is nice to know that I am still young and I still have time to deal with this uncertainty.

Wow... I drew this?

An underwater scene from WWIII.

For now I will continue with my current job and take advantage of any education benefits I can to work toward my degree.

Oh, and rather than babble on about nothing while sharing these images, I will tell you about a recent experience that helped me make the decision to get into engineering.

We know a family in the area in which the husband and wife are both engineers. When they saw our bumper sticker, and after getting to know me a little, they both decided that I needed to be an engineer. Or, at least that I would make a good engineer.

Based on something I read about.

I envisioned going to school on this.

So we finally got around to visiting them in their home recently and I grilled them for information about their education, their job, and other nerdy things.

I had a good time getting to know more about the work they do. The wife is currently a stay-at-home mother, but her husband is working as a materials engineer. I think he was surprised to learn that I am familiar with many of the concepts he researches at work. My desire to be on the forefront of technological advances and new ideas takes me all over the Internet in search of the new and magical things people are doing in labs.

So while that wasn’t the deciding factor, it was nice to have a talk with an engineer and learn more about real engineering. Plus he was completely dorky and proud of it. I like that quality.

Alright. Time to stop the blabber. Enjoy the last few photos here. Thank you for reading. This is a big deal for me because I have wondered what I would do with my life for the last twenty years or more. To finally have a solid plan in place (again) feels good.

The End.

Author Page at Amazon

It’s official! I have an author page at Amazon.com. When people search for me or any of my books, a link to my page shows up. Anything I’ve written is listed, I’ve got a cute little biography there, and you can even see posts to this blog from there!

For now there’s not a whole lot else there. In the future I can list events like book signings or readings there, and if I ever do a video showing off my book, I’ll post it there. Discussion forums can be set up where I can respond to reader questions too. I hope some of you who are reading my book right now (or in the near future) will start discussions there on what you’re reading.

If this is your first time seeing my blog, I just wanted to provide you with a few links to some past articles you might enjoy.

Don’t forget to enter my book giveaway contest, and I look forward to interacting with readers through Amazon.com!

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Official Book Giveaway 2

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This contest has ended. Thank you to all who entered. See the post-contest analysis post.

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

Book Giveaway Sweepstakes (round 2)

Official Rules

1. Eligibility

This drawing is open to anyone in the U.S. with a brain except:

  • Anyone who is Brian Haddad (the author of the book to be given away), his wife, children or pets.
  • The winners of the previous sweepstakes of the same title (you already have one of my books, I’m not giving you another one).
  • People who have mailing addresses outside of the United States of America.
  • Non U.S. citizens. This is mostly just to cover myself. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, I’m sorry. Maybe next time?

If you don’t meet any of those criteria, you are eligible to enter and win this drawing. Just to be clear: zombies do not have brains, so if you are a zombie please do not enter the contest.

2. Prizes

There are a total of ten (10) copies of Facebook Drives Me Nuts that will be signed by the author, defaced inside with a page full of doodles and mailed to five lucky winners. The prize is valued at over one million dollars ($1,000,000), but the actual monetary value of the prize is none of your business. The book retails for $12.99 in case you are interested.

The losers will be notified that they lost by way of a personal email or message from Brian Haddad, along with a consolation prize consisting of a group of seemingly random characters that serve as a discount code that can be used at https://www.createspace.com/3422240 when checking out to receive almost a full $3.50 off the price of the book.

3. How to Enter

Go to the official entry form and fill it out after the contest begins on Wednesday, January 27th.

Because Brian Haddad is a generous administrator of awesome contests, here are the elements of the form and how they affect your chances of winning:

Name, Email and Mailing Address

Seriously, do you need me to explain why these are necessary to win? Your information will only be used for this contest. I promise not to sell, disclose or lose your information to any person, business or other entity. If you have any questions, please post a comment on this page and I will address them.

Reading Habits (1 & 2), and Reviewing Habits (1 & 2)

People who lie to me here will not win. It’s plain and simple. I want people who are honest about how much they read and how they review what they read.

Write a Review

A link to three of my short stories is provided in the application form, and you are expected to review one of them. If you won’t even read a single short story that I wrote, I’m not sending you a whole book. Plus, I want people who can review what they read, even if they hate it. Loving or hating the short story you read will not alter your odds of winning, so don’t suck up thinking you’ll get a free book out of it. Just write a good review, clearly stating your opinion. A good sense of humor will be rewarded.

Dedication and Essay

These are your last chances, so make a good effort here. Convince me to send you a free copy of my book. Make me smile, chuckle, laugh or wet my pants, and I’ll throw some super-fun doodles in your prize in unexpected places. Please remember to keep it clean and mostly appropriate though. My wife will be helping me judge these, and if my six-year-old sees any dirty responses, I’ll take video of him crying himself to sleep and send it to you.

Beyond the official entry form, no other purchase, comment, communication or bribe will increase your odds of winning. Love letters in the comments on this page, on Facebook or by email couldn’t hurt though.

4. Deadline

Brian Haddad will stop taking entries after Saturday, March 20th, at which point the official application form will be taken down. If it is not taken down, and you submit an application, you still can’t win after the deadline.

5. Winning

The winner will be chosen from among qualifying applications that meet the criteria above. If more than ten (10) applicants meet the criteria, the author’s daughter will be handed a dowsing rod which she will use to select the winners. Winners will be selected and notified no later than one week after the close of the contest, or by Saturday, March 27th, 2010.

6. Other Details

Brian Haddad and his spouse are not eligible to enter the drawing. Neither are their past, present or future children or pets.

To ensure fair consideration, those entries that do not adhere to the rules and submission standards will be disqualified.

Brian reserves the right to use a winner’s partial name, quote, likeness or descriptive essence for publicity and promotional purposes. In fact, after you’ve read his book, he would appreciate if you wrote some kind of review or testimonial that he can use to promote the book. Rating and reviewing the book on Amazon.com would be rewarded with one thousand (1,000) rainbow unicorn kisses.

This contest and drawing is void where prohibited. There is no purchase necessary to enter or win. Not only that, but there is nothing that you could possibly buy that would help you win. Money does not buy happiness. Late or incomplete entries will not be accepted. Brian Haddad is not responsible for lost, stolen, late or misdirected entries. In the event that a user submits more than one entry, the author will chose which ever entry he sees fit. It is in your best interest to submit only one (1) entry.

Any Last Words?

Once you have read and understood these instructions and rules, please proceed to the entry form and fill it out completely. Good luck!

Official Book Giveaway 1

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

This contest has ended. Thank you to all who participated. The Official Book Giveaway 2 is now live.

For those who are interested (namely, the people in the list below), here were the rules for round one. I tried to make them as entertaining to read as possible, so I recommend reading them through to the end.

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

Book Giveaway Sweepstakes

Official Rules

1. Eligibility

This drawing is open to a specific list of individuals. To see if you are eligible, please look for your Facebook name on this list:

  • Amber Napoleon
  • Annie H
  • Autumn Flynn
  • Basia Opalska
  • Becky Fletcher
  • Chalyn Elking
  • Christopher Johnson
  • Jacob Haddad
  • Jennifer Bernarducci
  • Jessica Johnson
  • Jocelyn Udall
  • Jon N Hannah Moses
  • Katie Hill Anderson
  • Kelsey Hunter
  • Keturah Wojtanowski
  • Luke Haddad
  • Melodie Brooke Hammett
  • Pascale Koys
  • Rachel Jones
  • Rob Shively
  • Rudolph Oosthuizen
  • Russell Roberts
  • Spencer Bawden
  • Tony Leonhardt
  • Victoria Scott

If you did not find your name, never fear. A future drawing is being planned that will be open to anyone who sees the contest rules. Be patient and watch my Facebook notes and https://mereman.wordpress.com for future contest announcements.

2. Prizes

There are a total of three (3) copies of Facebook Drives Me Nuts that will be signed by the author, defaced inside with a page full of doodles and mailed to three lucky winners. If more than ten enthusiastic entries are received, the number of winners may increase, at the discretion of Brian Haddad, to a maximum of five (5). The prize is valued at over one million dollars ($1,000,000), but the actual monetary value of the prize is none of your business. The book retails for $12.99 in case you are interested.

The losers will be notified that they lost by way of a personal email or message from Brian Haddad, along with a consolation prize consisting of a group of seemingly random characters that serve as a discount code that can be used at https://www.createspace.com/3422240 when checking out to receive almost a full $3.50 off the price of the book.

3. How to Enter

For this contest, send Brian Haddad a Facebook message with your mailing address somewhere in the body. People posting their mailing addresses on Brian’s wall or as comments on this note or Brian’s status will not be entered into the contest. They will, in stead, be ridiculed, laughed at, and possibly sent junk mail after making their addresses publicly viewable.

While this is a random drawing, there is also an element of competition. Those who apply first and those who express the greatest interest in winning will be preferred. After entering, writing love notes to Brian, posting enthusiastic comments about how great the book must be and how excited you are to read it, and generally sucking up to Brian Haddad will increase your odds of winning.

4. Deadline

Brian Haddad will stop taking entries after Saturday, February 6th, but those wishing to improve their odds may continue sucking up to him until the shipment of books arrives (expected to be sometime around the middle of February, but could be much sooner).

In the event that the shipment of books arrives early, if Brian Haddad has already decided who he will pick as the winners, he will stop taking entries, even if February 6th has not arrived.

5. Winning

The winner will be chosen at random from among the entries. OK, that’s a lie. The winner will be chosen from among the entries, but Brian Haddad will essentially decide who to send the prizes to based on the sincerity of their interest in the book, the enthusiasm with which they have engaged in showing him that they want to read his book, and how well he thinks they will be able to entice others to read the book. More than three individual entries may meet this criteria, in which case Brian will select the winners randomly.

6. Other Details

Brian Haddad and his spouse are not eligible to enter the drawing. Neither are their children or pets.

To ensure fair consideration, those entries that do not adhere to the rules and submission standards will be disqualified.

Brian reserves the right to use a winner’s partial name, quote, likeness or descriptive essence for publicity and promotional purposes. In fact, after you’ve read his book, he would appreciate if you wrote some kind of review or testimonial that he can use to promote the book. Rating and reviewing the book on Amazon.com would be rewarded with one thousand (1,000) rainbow unicorn kisses.

The drawing is void where prohibited. Late or incomplete entries will not be accepted. Brian Haddad is not responsible for lost, stolen, late or misdirected entries.

Winning or losing does not in any way imply that you are a good or bad friend. Losing does not imply that you are loved less than the winners. Anyone suggesting or attempting to imply that their status as a winner or loser in this contest is indicative of the strength of their relationship to Brian Haddad will be banned from future contests and may lose their Facebook Friend status with Brian Haddad.

I Won (again)!

**Edit**
I’ve got a new page where you can view everything I’ve written that has been published. Please visit the My Published Books/Works page and check them out!

My NaNoWriMo story is done this year (as of yesterday). I broke the 50,000 words mark by just over 200 additional words, uploaded my document for an official word count, and I’ve won. Sometime next week they’ll post the code for the free proof copy from Amazon’s CreateSpace. My book from last year has been published (though in its unedited, raw form) mostly just for fun. This year I’m going to heavily edit and revise my book before submitting it for publishing because I actually like this one better. Here’s a preview of the rough cover I made for it:

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

You can view my author bio and novel info at the NaNoWriMo site here.

NaNoWriMo 2009

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

So, I’m doing it again. I guess I’m going nuts. I’m going to try to write 50,000 words in under 30 days (last time it took me less than 25, this time I’m shooting for even better). You can see my NaNoWriMo profile page and read the synopsis of what I’ll be writing here.

Plus, I’ve given myself a new goal – I’m hoping to talk my wife into doing it. I know she wants to, I just have to figure out what’s holding her back. If she knows anything about me, it’s that once I’ve got an idea in my head, it’s nearly impossible to get me to let it go unless you can prove my logic to be fatally flawed (almost never happens).

Anyhow, I’m posting this as an official excuse for not posting anything else for at least the month of November (except a victory post when I finish!).

If you’ve ever enjoyed writing anything, you should head over to http://www.nanowrimo.org and enter yourself in this year’s competition. Don’t worry, you’re only competing against yourself, nobody else has to read what you write (in fact, you don’t even have to read what you write), and you don’t have to feel bad about not finishing.

Plus, if you do finish, Amazon is sponsoring the same prize they did last year through their site, CreateSpace. You get to see your finished novel in print form with a free proof copy! It’s really pretty neat, and if you approve the print version, you can put it up for sale for free also. So far, since January, I’ve sold exactly zero copies of my dumb story, but that’s no reason to stop writing. I’m going to keep on plugging away at the keyboard and see what I come up with this year.

Thanks for your support and you’ll hear from me again in roughly a month.

P.S. I would appreciate it if you’d keep in tight contact with me over Facebook in November if you can because I will be relying heavily on your crazy status posts and activities to fuel my inspiration for this year’s story!

Yet Another Site

Or should that read, Yet Another Waste of My Time… I have yet to see.

This project is complicated, and I should just let it explain itself. Head over to the main page and start reading. Maybe you can help me out a little!

Thanks.

Update: A Kindle for Authors

My Kindle for AuthorsMy Kindle for Authors

Alas, there is still no Kindle for authors in the sense of a low cost, feature rich, power sipping device dedicated to the act of writing. For now, my favorite writing implement is my Logitech Classic Keyboard 200. It is a simple plug-and-play USB keyboard that supports everything from Mac to Windows – Linux and even my Wii included. It’s extremely comfortable to type on, and I use it on my old desktop replacement laptop (a once powerful machine that is now on the verge of death) and on my EEE PC. I love the EEE for its portability, but being a first generation model, it lacks some of the refinement most of the newer netbooks have (a slightly larger screen/keyboard, for example).

However, some netbooks are losing their identity and so I am proud to own a true netbook. I do not like the trend to put traditional hard drives in netbooks. A netbook should have solid state memory, even if only a little bit of it (mine has 4 gigs, and that’s plenty for writing and browsing the Internet). Companies are trying to dress the netbook up like a laptop – making them larger, more powerful, able to do things that a laptop should do. If I want a laptop, I will buy a laptop. Laptops should cost $500 – $2,000, depending on what I’ll use it for. Netbooks should cost $200 – $400.

My Asus EEE PC 4G Surf

My Asus EEE PC 4G Surf

 

Now people are trying to sell you laptops that cost $450 and do little more than a netbook, and netbooks that cost $500 – $600 and do everything a laptop should do. Personally, I don’t even think a netbook should be running Windows. I’ve heard that Microsoft is aiming to make Windows 7 able to run on netbooks (less of a RAM monger than XP and Vista, maybe), and in that case I might consider Windows an option. Until then, though, Linux works just fine on my little Asus. Sure, it’s not as user friendly as Microsoft’s OS (Linux has too many different Kernal versions for software installation to be user friendly, among other little problems), but it gets the job done just fine. I’m personally a huge fan of OpenOffice.org, and all of their applications run great on my Asus EEE.

You could always use this...

You could always use this...

If you’re really, really interested in something portable, that lets you write stuff and transfer it to a computer later, has good battery life and doesn’t do much more than that, the AlphaSmart products might work for you. I’m considering the act of sharing this with you my good deed for the day, since I was looking for something like this for almost a year before I stumbled upon it. Maybe I’m just bad at looking for things, but these devices don’t seem very prominent on the Internet. I discovered the AlphaSmart only months after I purchased my EEE. I’m still glad I bought the EEE instead of an AlphaSmart, but I intend to add an AlphaSmart to my writer’s toolbox in the future simply because it’s not a computer.

I hope you found something here to help you find what you are looking for. If you have any additional questions, or actually wanted me to go into more detail about any of this, leave your comment and I’ll get back to you.

Sophie’s First Oreo

We’ve had a very busy last couple of months. Allow me to attempt a summary here.

It has been crazy. We traveled, we found a new job, we novelled, we did some shopping, we fed Sophie an Oreo cookie…

Photo by Rochelle – From Family Stuff

Like I said. It’s been crazy. If you check out the Family Stuff album, you’ll likely see more photos of Sophie’s first Oreo experience. One of my favorite shots is of her examining the slimy remains of one of the cookies.

Ok, poll time. I spent the entire month of November writing for NaNoWriMo and completed the first draft of a 50,000 word “novel” (really, more like half a novel in length, and far less in actual content). This site (blog thing) is decidedly not for me to post entire chapters of a mediocre first novel draft. However, I might make it available for curious eyes via DeviantArt if enough people would be interested in reading it. Please be honest, the poll is completely anonymous and I won’t be upset if nobody wants to read it (I’m not sure I really want to read it again). To be fair, it is titled “Alex” and it is a science fiction novel that would most likely appeal to teens (though they might need to be drugged or bribed to actually read the story). It contains very little of my famous witty humor, and was written with the sole goal of reaching the 50,000 word count mark.

Most likely, I’ll spend some of my writing nights going over the draft and using it as practice for some of the editing techniques I’m learning about in the various books on writing that I’ve accumulated. With a massive amount of luck and stupidity on my part, the draft may even one day find itself polished enough to not  embarrass me as much as it does today.

For those of you who haven’t followed us very closely while I wasn’t posting here for a while, our Thanksgiving trip to Arizona went really well. We had a great time and my parents were extremely gracious hosts. We all got to meet my sister’s friend (of the male variety). I found it surprisingly easy to resist throwing most of those embarrassing jokes at him. I had hoped to find it in me to ruffle him up a little, but alas – he came away unscathed. Maybe next time.

We had considered visiting other people while in Arizona, but we didn’t even get confirmation that our travel plans were approved until the last minute, and since we drove out (a 12+ hour trip) most of our vacation week was spent in the car. Eventually we do hope to visit all of our dear friends and family members (except those who live too far away for our meager world-travel budget – we’re sure you understand).

In the way of a quick update, our family is doing very well. I recently received a call about an assignment. Training begins in the early parts of January (don’t send any perishables for my birthday, I’ll be done with training sometime in March). Micah is making steady progress adjusting to school life, Sophie is making steady progress adjusting Mommy to slave life, and Mommy and Daddy are nervous about the move (we still don’t know where we’re going to be sent for this job).

Photo by Brian – From Family Stuff

Most of my time at home these days is spent laughing at Sophie (like when she climbs into the space under the sink as seen above, but then decides its too far up to get down on her own) or working on a new family project (tentatively titled, “The Family Book” – including our family mission and the system outlined below, among other things). Ok, there are plenty of other things I spend my time doing, but those are the big ones.

Our family is developing a financial system. It’s something like a reward system and an allowance all rolled into a tortilla. At school, Micah is rated by his teacher based on his performance during different class activities. He comes home with a rating of a star (excellent), happy face (only one warning, then he did better), sad face (the warning didn’t improve his behavior) or a rain cloud (his behavior was terrible). 

Under the old system, we used the Wii as our leverage to get him to keep his bed dry and his school behavior satisfactory. If he went three or more days in a row with a dry bed, he was allowed to play the Wii for any amount of time that we saw fit. Wii privileges were removed when he woke up with a wet bed. However, if he behaved well at school, he could earn up to half an hour of play time per day regardless of his bed. At the time he was rated in five different categories in the classroom, so it followed that stars and happy faces were worth six minutes each, and anything else was worth nothing. Too many rain clouds though, and he got nothing.

The new system is much cooler, in my opinion. Using a free program called InkScape I designed our own family money. When Micah gets home from school, he gets two family dollars for a dry bed, two for each star and one for each happy face (he’s been way too satisfied with happy faces lately, but that still means he was doing something wrong and the teacher had to correct him). If we catch him doing anything extraordinarily wonderful at any time, we (his parents) can hand him some family money to say thanks.

Here’s a sample of the family one dollar bill:

There are also $5, $10, and $20 nominations available.

There are also $5, $10, and $20 nominations available.

Whenever he wants, he can use his family money to purchase things from the family store (a list of available items that we have posted on the refrigerator). Among the items for sale are: minutes to play the Wii (five minutes for one family dollar), going out for a scoop of ice cream (twenty family dollars), and going out to breakfast at a restaurant with mommy or daddy (thirty five family dollars). The prized item on the list (as far as he’s concerned) is a little card I made in InkScape that entitles him to play the Wii without purchasing minutes. The card is nice, with pretty graphics and everything, and we even had it laminated. The back of the card explains:

This card entitles the holder (child) to unlimited time on the Wii (with no need to purchase additional play time) according to standards and regulations to be determined by the parents of said child.

This card may be revoked at any time by the parents based on infractions to any set household rule.

Basically: as long as you hold this card you don’t need to spend your family dollars on Wii time, but if you break any rules or wet your bed, we’re probably going to take that privilege away from you and you’ll have to save up your money to buy it back. We didn’t want the card to be impossible to get, so it only costs ten family dollars. On a really good day, he could earn two for a dry bed and he now gets three ratings from his teacher so up to six family dollars from school behavior – that’s eight family dollars a day. Even if he doesn’t have perfect days, he should have enough to buy the card after a couple of days with no problem. Although, today he only got two family dollars (two happy faces at school, a sad face and a wet bed in the morning). We gave him his own wallet to keep everything in (the money and the Wii card, when he buys it) and basically told him to treat all of this stuff like the real thing. He seemed excited, but a little depressed that he only got two dollars on his first day of doing the new program.

When Sophie gets older (old enough to count and do basic addition with some help) we’ll start her on this too. I think it’s a good introduction to money and it is a great reward system for children who can handle it. If we tried it right now with Sophie, she would eat the money. She loves eating paper. We really have to watch her lately, because anything she can tear goes directly into the mouth for consumption.

She’s been experimenting with new sounds as well, and a lot of what she says sounds like real, deliberate speech. She forms rudimentary sentences using phrases like “bite bite” which sounds more like “bye bye” combined with “mama” or “dada.” She also says “dis” (this), “dah” (that) and “I did id” (I did it). She also claps (occasionally her hands even slap together to make the traditional clapping noise, but most of her clapping is silent) and says “yeah!” Most of her expression is in her beautiful face, though, and she makes the most adorable happy sounds (lots of raspberries, grunts and squeals).

Everything she says is said with a fat, heavy tongue that causes spit to go flying everywhere and all of her attempts at “S” sound more like “SH.” Imagine our surprise, then, when she attempted to say “sit” this morning. If she hadn’t demonstrated the action immediately after saying it, we might have thought she had picked up a bad word from somewhere (though we couldn’t imagine where – nobody in our house uses words like that). Since she was already seated when she said “sit,” the only logical place to go from there was to the reclined position, which she achieved by throwing herself backward.

To demonstrate to us that she had completely mastered the word and technique, she sat back up, said “sit” (with the “SH” sound still, but a little clearer), and threw herself back to lay down again. 

To give you an idea of how I spent my November, as of right now, this entry contains roughly 1,500 words. To meet the requirement of 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo last month, I had to average at least 1,667 words a day (for thirty days) or, since I wanted to finish early, I set the goal for  myself of hitting at least 2,500 words a day. I didn’t always meet that goal, but I did finish the story a few days early and there were at least two times when I didn’t write for a few days in a row.

Well, that’s all for today. I’m sure there is more I can share, but it’s late and I want to get this posted and send out an e-mail so you all can enjoy my meaningless ramblings. Thanks for reading, and be sure to keep in touch.


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