Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

17 December, 2012

Tools of the Trade

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I’ve just finished up what I think is the most intensive exam period of my academic career, and good riddance to it. The exam period, that is, not my academic career – although the results are not in yet, so we’ll see. Prior to the exams, I had a quite full semester, with teacher training eating lots of time, so all in all it’s been a busy six months.

Because I am, as previously established, crazy, I decided to add to my work this year by forging ahead with NaNoWriMo for the first time since my very first year at university. Back then, in the innocent days of 2006, I concluded that there was just no way to complete the challenge with university work on top! I clung to this established truth until now, the busiest semester yet, before throwing caution to the wind, and I actually ended up with a workable first draft of a story I have been brooding on for far too long.

A graph charting my progress thorugh NaNoWriMo

But spot the bit where I gave up in despair for a while.

Anyway, this is all preamble, what I actually want to talk about are word processors.

I know, right! Sexiest blog in the ‘verse, right here.

The purpose of a word processors, as I currently see it, is to get out of the way and allow the user to just write, and then be ready with whatever features are needed to polish the product afterwards. Pretty easy and straightforward, no? Hard to see how it could be screwed up, really.

But it can. Oh, but it can.

I’ve been using OpenOffice for, oh, several years now. I can’t quite recall when I made the switch, but it was sometime after 2005, when I no longer had a school computer with Microsoft Office on. During my aforementioned teacher training, I had to use one of the school computers they had lying around there, and it came with Microsoft Office 2010. I think my feeling can be pretty much summed up with a tweet I made at the time:

I do not understand how that thing can even be sold. When last I used Microsoft Office it had looked pretty much like OpenOffice still does, but now the UI was clunky and unnavigable. It was made so user-friendly as to be unusable. And every time I tried to scroll to a different part of a document, the would automatically jump back to wherever the cursor was. Maddening. I wanted to throw that machine out the window at the end of every day. Ugh, never again. I hope.

As I’ve pretty thoroughly established by now, I’ve been using OpenOffice. During the writing sprint in November, however, I suddenly discovered that OpenOffice isn’t what it used to be, and that LibreOffice is its spiritual successor. I’d heard the name LibreOffice before, so I’m not a complete shut-in, but I’d never bothered to look up why all the people who used to push OpenOffice had suddenly switched allegiance. What I had worked for me, and I never even noticed that there was a change in update frequency or support systems. Now that I do know, though, I think I might switch over. Just because it seems better to use a piece of software that’s actually in development and with a support structure around it. I realise that OO still has that to some extent, but hey – support the open source guys, yeah? Also, it looks prettier.

But there’s another piece of software I’m quite excited about – something new and shiny that’s caught my eye. It’s called Scrivener. OK, it’s not all that new, only to me, but it sure is shiny! Scrivener is one of the sponsors of NaNoWriMo. I didn’t actually notice it until after the month was over, but I downloaded the demo to see what everyone was raving about then. And since I did manage to squeeze out the 50 000 required words, I then almost immediately used the discount given to winners to buy a full copy. That’s how much it impressed me. It looks good, it makes organising notes easier, and its non-linear approach to text handling – because writing often is about shuffling bits around until they work – just appeal to me tremendously.

Now, there’s a part of me that is eager to jump into the old trap of thinking “If I just had the right pen, the work would do itself!”. Scrivener, or LibreOffice, or anything, obviously doesn’t do the work for you. And you don’t need any of it, you can write with a piece of coal on a slate if that’s what you have handy. But these tools can make the process easier. They can sit back and just let you write and be there when you need them to help you polish stuff once you’re done. And I’m eager to find the optimal setup here.

Because as long as I’m looking, I have an excuse not to do real work. Zing!

10 December, 2012

Still Can’t Talk. More Exams.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

The white flag is still waving. I’m in the final stretch, but the finish line still seems distant and unreachable. So, more phoning it in. I’ll be back stronger next week, I promise.

Meanwhile, music!

3 December, 2012

Can’t Talk. Exams.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I have exams lined up for a bit now, so this is a emergency post running on back-up generators. To put it another way: I’m phoning it in.

To put it another way: Look! Seasonal music!

26 November, 2012

Priesthood of Almost All Believers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Last week, the General Synod of the Church of England failed to pass legislation that would have allowed women bishops.

You can read all about it in various news articles one the web, like this one, as well as several reports on the fallout. MPs and bishops alike calling for the Church of England to lose its exception to equality legislation, calls for Parliament to overrule the Church and throw the bishops out of the House of Lords, and bitter, bitter disappointment from those supporting the legislation that failed to pass.

You can understand their frustration. The vote failed by the tiniest margin. It needed two-thirds majority in each of the three Houses of the Synod. It passed easily in the House of Bishops, and by a good margin in the House of Clergy, but was six votes short in the House of Laity. In that last House, 132 voted for and 74 voted against, and so the against vote won.

Even though I do sympathise with the reasons for such a system – the Church should be mindful of significant minority views within itself, and should change slowly, not just at the whim of society – I am not at all sure the result actually reflected the views of the Church as a whole. I have seen several articles say that outside the Synod, the vast majority of the Church supports women bishops, and that a few hardline conservatives managed to get themselves elected and scoop the vote. On the other hand, they did manage to get themselves elected, so it’s hard to object to that after the fact.

I myself rooted for the legislation to pass. My own church, with which the Church of England is in full communion through the Porvoo agreement, has had women bishops since 1993. At present, four of the twelve bishops in the Church of Norway are women, among them the praeses. Other Anglican churches have also had women bishops for a while, and the Church of England itself has had women priests for 20 years, but now it failed to move further.

From what I understand, the Porvoo agreement states that members of one church is to be considered as if they were members of the other, and those ordained in one, are then fit for service in the other. I’m not sure what would happen if one of our women bishops wanted to move to England. It’s not something that’s likely to come up, really, but ordination to bishop isn’t really a temporary thing that disappears when you retire. I would imagine that the agreement had specific rules for bishops, since they’re their own thing any way, and that the exchange of ordained ministers referred mainly to priests.

I’m not going to talk much more about this – people far smarter than I have already said most of it anyway, I think. Suffice it to say, I’m disappointed. I feel for those who have laboured for years to make this legislation happen. I hope it won’t really be seven years before it can be attempted again, and that the Church can move forwards in the way that the majority of its members actually want it to soon. It’s a dangerous thing, to claim that someone is on the right or wrong side of history, but I cannot help but believe that this was the wrong decision for a Church for which I have great affection and affinity. Ultimately, though, I guess I’ll have to take the difficult advise of a vicar friend of mine, and trust God.

19 November, 2012

Oziana

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I greatly enjoyed Gregory Maguire’s Wicked.

I am by no means an Oz aficionado. I have vague memories of checking the Norwegian translation of the original Oz book out of the library as a child, but I have no memories of actually reading it, so it cannot have made a big impact. I actually just bought a copy of the book in English the other day, on account of finding it at a bargain, but I haven’t read it yet.

I do recall the film, of course. You know the one I’m talking about, I doubt I need to specify further.  I don’t recall when I first saw it, but I’m fairly sure it was somewhere in childhood. It was never a big favourite, but I appreciate it for what it is now. Still doesn’t add up to a big Oz interest though.

That came with Wicked. Which is a bit sad, I suppose, that it takes a drastic reimagining to make me take notice. Really, though, it is a testament to the quality storytelling Maguire pulled off in that book. It really was an excellent novel.

I didn’t care to much for its first couple of sequels, Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men. They were all right, I suppose, but nowhere near as engaging as Wicked. I’ve never felt moved to reread those two, but I was still interested enough in the world to read the final book in the series which came out last year, Out of Oz.

While I still wouldn’t rank that as good as Wicked, I felt this was much more of a return to form. I might actually reread this at some point! It somehow made Maguire’s vision of Oz much more interesting that the previous two. I do enjoy his ordered take on the world of Oz. Baum’s books seem to be the sort that rewrite the past whenever convenient, which isn’t the sort of approach I care for. Maguire’s Oz, on the other hand, takes all these confused elements and order them into a coherent whole. It’s like how Don Rosa organised Barks’s myriad references into a coherent whole in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.

Come to think of it, Wicked‘s full title is even Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Like I said, I’m no Oz aficionado, but having finished this series now, I’m almost tempted to become one. I do have Baum’s first book already, and I’m sure plenty of others are on Project Gutenberg or something.

Of course, first I have to find the time.

12 November, 2012

Dream(fall) Come True

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I apologise for that title.

You will recall that my favourite game is Riven. The Myst games in general dominate my toplist, but in the second spot, breathing Riven in the neck, is The Longest Journey.

I love The Longest Journey. It has its flaws, but I am willing to completely ignore them, because the good bits are so very, very good. It has some excellent puzzles (and some weird ones), some beautiful graphics (and some dodgy ones), and an excellent story (which is great all the way through). I love, love, love it.

I also liked its sequel, Dreamfall, but to a lesser extent. The story was still excellent in that game, but with some dodgy bits in it this time. The puzzles were not as engaging, and several of them were basically just fetch quests. I didn’t care for the interface. And, oh yes, there was combat.

I only finished that game by downloading a cheat thingy that let me instantly win any combat. And then I got stuck after I beat an enemy that was intended to be unbeatable.

Anyway, I did like it, and that’s enough about that. The reason I’m writing about this now, is the recent announcement that another sequel, Dreamfall Chapters, is on its way. I think I can sum up my immediate feelings on the matter by quoting my own tweet-slash-retweet:

Pictured above: elation.

To make it even better, they’re going back to pure adventure game, removing the clunky and dumb combat of Dreamfall! More puzzles! Closure to the Dreamfall cliffhanger ending! There’s apparently going to be a kickstarter campaign to fund development. I say, show me where it is, so I can throw my money at it. Elation.

Man, I hope it will be as awesome as it looks. Nobody’s asked me, but here’s what I think anyway: By dropping the combat, they’ll already be leaps better than Dreamfall. Hopefully, they’ll make better puzzles. In Dreamfall, so many of the puzzled were basically find this person, who asks you to find something else, and to find it you need to talk to X and help them find Y etc. Better puzzles, please! From the interview, it really looks like that’s where they’re doing anyway, so I’m optimistic. And maybe, just maybe we could have all the characters actually do something. In Dreamfall, Kian was pretty much just introduced, then off screen for ages, and then turned his coat out of nowhere when he popped up again. Develop this stuff!

Aaah, I’m just so excited! It looks like Tørnquist is fully and completely in charge on this one, so I’m hoping for awesomeness. The story continues! I’m almost running in circles, here.

 

I’m not afraid to give my heart away yet. Now I just have to count the days and look out for the kickstarter.

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