Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Archive for the tag “Writing”

NaNoWriMo – I made the 50.000

nano_07_winner_large.gifAnother challenge of life finished. It was fun to push myself to writing 50.000 words over a period of one month. With a few days to spare I finally crossed the 50.000 words barrier today. The basic idea is that you just keep writing and not allow yourself to be stopped by a writers’ block or other chores. One focus, one goal and in the end a lot of builiding blocks for a book.

In my case I have gathered and written about BSD mostly. Once the 30 day series about DesktopBSD is finished I will start re-working all the material into a publication again. But not today. Today I simply enjoy the feeling of succes. 😉

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Preparing for the next month

I have almost finished moving from one house to the next. Most boxes have been unpacked already and the only thing lacking is a cable from the router on first floor to the basement where the study (and all the computers) is located.  New surroundings provide new insights and new desires. I started Ruminations on the Digital Realm about a year ago and gradually it focused on W2L migration issues. I like Linux and open source, but also realize I have my own ideas on what is needed for it to make a serious leap to the endusers’ desktop.

Last month I spend most of my time on PC-BSD and -as I wrote before- I will spend some more time on the *BSD’s in the coming months. I do believe that the cluster FreeBSD/PC-BSD/DesktopBSD will provide a serious candidate for the open source desktop in the near future. The Linux world would do well to keep a close eye on what is happening outside it’s own realm. Microsoft is moving ahead with it’s own initiatives and even succeeded in getting some licenses approved as open source licenses. If ever there is a time for some serious consolidation in the Linux world the coming year might be a good time to start. But then again, that is just my opinion.

Anyway, today I launched a new version of Ruminations. The content is still the same, though the packaging has changed. I run this site on WordPress and my previous theme didn’t support most of the new features. This theme is somewhat brighter and more colorful, which seems to fit my mood and my intentions. I am still working on the new categories, the new tag system and some quirks here and there.

There are some more challenges ahead for the coming months, involvements in other writing activities, and an update on the dvd for the readers of the book. Enough to keep a busy man occupied.

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Writing a book in one month?

About a week from now I will start  a new series of articles “DesktopBSD: the first 30 days”. This coincides with the annual National Novel Writing month. It’s the insane challenge to write a complete book of 50.000 words (or 175 pages) in one month.

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: Sign-ups begin October 1, 2007. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

Now, writing about DesktopBSD isn’t going to be fictional and I seriously doubt it will ever be considered “novell” enough to win the Booker prize, but I don’t mind giving the 175 page goal a shot. Or at least finish the month with a lot of pieces to work on a book for new users to *BSD.

Writing a book: Stage 2 – day 2

Today I wasn’t in the mood to write anything. Escapism was the magic word, so I cleaned the complete first floor (including the bath room), made sure my desk looked more like a desk than a pile of paperwork and junk and decided to watch a few episodes of Battlestar Galactica. This usually works because I have learned a thing or two about how my brains work. In the background -let’s call it a cron job- I am working on a new chapter two which is supposed to be a combination of the current draft of chapters two and nine. Nothing to worry about then. It just shouldn’t take days.

Writing a book: Stage 2 – day 1

Time to get the book writing on the road again. I spend most of this day going over the notes, checking out the parts that are already written and drawing up a list of what I still need to do. It’s plenty, but that was to be expected. At the same time I have to prepare a public talk which requires research, pondering and writing. Ah well, it is all interesting enough and food for the brain. I just need to plan some physical exercise, because all that sitting down isn’t good for my health.

Writing a book: Preparing the next stage

Just a few days from now the next writing month starts. The three weeks in October were quite eventful with my dad’s heart attack, but I still managed to achieve my writing goals.

November wasn’t an easy month for our small band of writers. The organization that ordered the book withdrew itself from the project, leaving us and the publisher out to dry. Since we are also members of that organization we were extremely disappointed and up to this day we never received an official notification nor an apology. I can understand when an organization which finds itself with various failing commercial endeavors needs to make tough decisions. But that same organization is build on the backs of dozens and dozens of volunteers, active computer users that contribute in many ways. At least they could have had the decency to speak with us personally, explain their viewpoint and apologize. They didn’t and I’ll leave it at that.

Another problem arose between the publisher and one member of our writing team. It makes no sense to get into that right now, but the result is that our friend decided he could not continue with the project. I regret that deeply. He is the most knowledgeable on Ubuntu. Fortunately he allows us to use the work he already has done and he will remain on the team in an advisory capacity. For that I am grateful since it can only contribute to achieving the quality we aim for.

Coming friday we meet with the publisher again to discuss the new situation and how to progress from here. The publisher already decided that the book will be published, albeit in another series. The deadline will change somewhat and the two remaining writers have some extra work to do.

As far as my planning is concerned I decided to stick with the original timetable and finish my part in mid January. At least, that is my intention. This week I spend my time warming up a bit. I wrote some online reviews on other Linux distributions and an article about Sabayon Linux for a small magazine. I forced myself to write “one shot” pieces. Write in one attempt. Of course the quality is more variable that way, but considering the response I got it is still high enough. This helped me to overcome any tendency for a writer’s block. Right now, I am on a writer’s roll and prepared to write the next 100 pages for the book. If I could do this for a living…

The River and The Salmon

While life has been moving in the right direction for a long series of months I always kept in mind that things would turn again. It always does and will continue to do so for a time to come. One motivational speaker said that you can expect four serious crises each year and -while I don’t completely agree with the number- my own life experience seems to prove the statement true.

The last couple of weeks have been rocky with no clear end in sight. First, my dad had a cardiac arrest at the age of 61 and what followed where three and a half weeks of travelling up and down to the hospital, motivating and encouraging him, my stepmother and myself, dealing with emotional and physical stress while at the same time contuining with the daily affairs of life. He is okay now and the process of rebuilding his life and confidence has begun. I am glad it all turned out that way. However, the whole time period brought me to the brink of another burnout, the fourth one, and it takes a lot of energy and effort to avert that from happening. Thirdly there is the issue with the book we are writing. There is a strong possibility that the current project will be halted. The best case scenario hints at a delay (meaning a serious re-write of the chapters somewhere next year), the worst case would be a complete cancellation. Due to the inability of the publisher to make amenable agreements with one of the authors we might loose him and his long-time experience in Ubuntu as well.

When things start to move in the negative direction I become more introspective, tapping the source of inner strength and conviction. I start thinking about my life plan which was carefully designed and is in the middle of execution. What are my goals? Why did I choose those goals? Does the current crisis change any of those? Since the life plan and it’s goals are firmly rooted in scriptural principles this kind of introspection also brings me closer to the spiritual man. This time it brought me to the scripture “keep on searching and you will find, keep on knocking and it will be opened to you, keep on asking and you will receive”. Keep on…. Life and the pursuit of it’s goals is a process. Getting the results is not a one time effort or a one shot affair. Keep on…

The image that came to mind was that of water. Left to it’s own water follows the laws of nature and will take the path of least resistance. Water always runs down a mountain, never the way up. And don’t we say that life is an uphill battle. But when the water runs down, how do we ever get up. The answer was and is simple. Be like a salmon. The salmon is driven by a strong inner instinct to move to the spawning grounds, where new life will be brought into existence. Rapids, rocks, bears and waterfalls.. the salmon doesn’t care about any of them. On the contrary, it results into one of the strongest images in nature. The salmon jumping out of the water, ignoring the claws of the bears in order to reach the next level of it’s journey. The salmon doesn’t follow the current. It fights it, goes against it. Not all salmons reach their destination, only the strongest, the most determined and the ones who were not caught by the bears and fishermen. And yet, what a journey they make.

From there it was a small step to another motivational speaker who discussed the value of goals in life. The goals themselves are unimportant. They are merely the tools for the life you lead in order to pursue them. Pursuing the goals change the person you are into what you want to become. And when the goals are achieved, like the salmon when it reaches the spawning grounds, it brings new life into existence. Now it time to stop introspecting and continue swimming. Blasted rocks.;-)

Looking ahead

I love to write. With the prospect that -maybe- the Ubuntu book may not be published as we expect it to, I look forward to other projects or other forms of publishing.

The OpenSource eLearning project is one channel that I can give more attention to. The texts in Dutch are partly transferred to English and can be added to the website. I also believe there is room for books, even in an already crowded market for computer books. Cheap, pulp style books for a fair price, the price of a paperback novel. Most books have a short shelf life anyway due to the pace of new developments. Beyond that there is a need for good teaching tools about open source software. Rich, multimedia tools.

Another area I wish to explore is writing fiction. Bin is waiting for his tale to be told. Poor Bin.

Writing a Book: Day 18

It’s done. No, the book isn’t finished, not by a long shot. I now have drafts for all chapters I have to write including notes for materials missing. The structure is there. The majority of the descriptions are there.

Writing a Book: Day 16

Excellent progress with the part about office applications. With Abiword and NeoOffice under Mac OS X I had sufficient software fo quickly test out some features. There is still a lot do, but the blanks are mostly filled now. From here on it is a matter of expanding or descriptions and editing text and screen shots.

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