Words on Wednesday

Passover is here, which means eating matzah, also chocolate and more eggs than usual. This year during the seder one line struck me from our (radically abridged) reading of the Hagaddah: “Today we are slaves; next year may we be free.” It contradicts a note I have taped to my wall as a reminder: “you are free.”

There is this contradiction between feeling free, as in the experience of making choices and free will, and feeling trapped the way we do when fears hem us around, fears that seem both groundless and inevitable in the mental arguments that often accompany them.

There is also a contradiction between the subjective feeling of choice making and the research that shows how easily the human brain can be manipulated through priming of words or images. Even holding a heavier clipboard makes the material attached to the clipboard seem weightier. We are shaped, more than we realize, by the messages with which we are bombarded on a daily basis.

I’m working on a book set in the Soviet Union. Every day I am grateful that we don’t have a gulag. But we are subject to propaganda in the form of spin and in the form of media, which relies on sensation, not reportage, to keep it afloat.

If we are slaves, then who is the master? There are all kinds of conspiracy theories out there, to which I don’t personally subscribe. Perhaps then the master is our own brain, which is so susceptible to cues like the clipboard. Then let us choose our own cues, let us re-write the stories we tell ourselves about what today is worth and what tomorrow may bring. Put the BS on a light clipboard.

May we all be free.


Leaves in January

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

– Sonnet 73, W.Shakespeare

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

There was a cute resident at the fracture clinic where H had the final xray on her arm this week. The clinic specializes in cute male resident pediatricians. But alas…Hadara is too young to appreciate and I am too old to flirt, which is both a loss and a relief, since I was never adept at it. Inside, however, I’m as young as ever, and grinning.


Coopers Hawk

Coopers Hawk 3, originally uploaded by colographicalchemy.

I didn’t take this photo but I saw its match today. There is a family of Coopers Hawks nesting in the park a block from my house. This morning when I was out for a walk in the early morning, a young one was sitting on the fence taking in the scene. A squirrel walked by nonchalantly–she must have known the hawk was too young to hunt her.


Scrivener Review

Well, folks, Scrivener for Windows is out of beta and version 1 is available for purchase or free trial.

It’s fabulous. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Finally PC=Mac in the writing world.

An aside…I know people rave about Mac, but I’ve always been a PC devotee, mainly because of the cost. Before I ordered my Lenovo laptop last spring, I visited the Apple store many times, but honestly, I don’t get the attraction. For the cost of the kid size Macbook, I have more resolution, larger screen size, more RAM and faster speed by several orders of magnitude. Plus I also bought a 24″ LED monitor for another $200, which turns the laptop into a desktop, a movie theatre, or even an additional computer. For example, yesterday one of my children was doing internet research using the large monitor, a keyboard plugged into my laptop, and a wireless mouse. At the same time, I could look at the website from the laptop to provide assistance.

Back to Scrivener. Currently I’m working on two projects using it. I’ve imported text, web pages, and pdf files into the research folder. I’ve been able to easily move scenes around as I change my mind, using drag and drop either in outline format or cork board. I love the virtual index cards, which can be colour coded as you wish. In fact there is so much here to customize: fonts, colours, shapes, and sizes.

On the left you see a list of scenes, which can be organized in files or folders, in the middle your text, and on the right the index card and notes–or you can write in full screen mode which shades the border to eliminate distraction. You can also post photo onto your index card or notes to look at while you work.

Working on the split screen is much easier than using Office, and that’s the reason I bought the large monitor, though it’s had many other uses since!

I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of Scrivener. I watched the tutorial before I started using the beta version, but really ought to do it again. In fact I’ll do that right now! But before I go, I just want to say that this is really a pleasure to use. Unlike most software that is designed by well-intentioned Martians, this clearly is programmed by folks who know a lot about writers and writing.