Thursday, August 17, 2006

Don't Use Internet Explorer

If you care to keep your computer healthy, don't use Internet Explorer.

There are two great free options--Opera 9.x and Firefox 1.5.x. Both are capable web browsers, and both will expose you to far less mischief from the thugs of the internet.

Neither will free you from the need to have and maintain subscriptions to anti-virus software and anti-spyware. But, in combination with these taking these precautions, using Opera or Firefox will make for a much safer experience.

Get the World's Best Free Word Processor

Many writers I've met have spent too much energy hunting for a word processor they can stomach. Some can't afford--or don't feel like affording--Microsoft Word. Some simply can't tolerate the extreme complexity of Word's interface.

There is a good option called OpenOffice. It's an open source application available as a free, no-strings download. There's no registration required, and the software won't nag you to upgrade to some more functional, professional version.

OpenOffice was created and is maintained by a group of volunteer developers with the notion of creating a non-proprietary software suite that's compatible with Microsoft Office. For the most part, the applications succeed beautifully. The word processor--which I know best of the applications in the suite--is very capable (in many instances simpler to use than Word) and is, in most respects, perfectly compatible with Word.

If you're dissatisfied with your current word processor, OpenOffice it's definitely worth a look. The one caution I would give, though, is that you're facing a huge download. It's no problem for a cable modem or DSL subscriber but not feasible for a dial-up user.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Fine Writing Book -- Bird By Bird

Neurotic and witty, painfully honest and flat out funny, Anne Lamott clearly cares about writers and writing.

Bird By Bird is a generous gift from a woman at once tortured by the writers' struggles and hopelessly captured by the promise of what fine writing can deliver. The book offers emotional support, nuts-and-bolts workaday writing advice, and biographical human interest stories.

Lamott is a mercilously straight shooter when it comes to her own writerly behavior. At her worst, she looks terrified, unsure, petty, and mean. At her best, she's as generous and committed a friend as a writer could wish for. But, in truth, even at her worst she's at her best, unflinchingly honest and intense, curious and giving.

She won't blow sunshine up your backside, won't promise ocean views from the hills of Malibu. What she will do is tell you the truths she's learned about doing good work. And she'll likely make you laugh a bit along the way. Not a bad deal for your fifteen bucks.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Photography Web Sites

A couple great web sites for those of you interested in photography.

Luminous Landscape

The Online Photographer

Friday, August 11, 2006

Cynicism and Wisdom are Not the Same Thing

Too many people mistake cynicism for wisdom.

Cynicism is, in reality, a cheap pretender to wisdom. It comes nearly free--which wisdom most certainly doesn't--and it encourages all manner of dishonest behavior.

In truth, cynicism and dishonesty are the best of friends. A world that mistakes cynicism for something better is the kind of swamp that breeds 'journalists' who forge documents to suit their ends, photographers who reconstruct photos to further their righteous causes.

Wisdom demands that truth have a fighting chance, no matter how difficult or unpleasant it is to discern; cynicism promotes my way at any cost, and promises that truth is less important than agenda.

Cynicism is not only the enemy of truth, but it's the enemy of joy, as well. The best a cynic can really manage with respect to creating and sustaining joy is a smarmy sort of self-satisfaction. It's a cheap thrill for the person delivering it, and it's no thrill at all for the honest reader.

As an honest reader, myself, I have no appetite for it. Not on the web. Not in a newspaper. Not in a novel.

Genuine writing, writing with a chance to move me, demands honesty. And I'll even take my proclamation farther than that and say that genuine living--genuine thought and reaction--requires honesty.

As a writer, don't fall for the seductive simplicity of cynicism. It's true that you could roll out of bed tomorrow and adopt the mantle of cynic, embracing all the smug self-confidence that brings. But the rewards are shallow, and the world around you will be diminished for it. Do yourself and your readers a favor and aspire to wisdom, instead.

Note:. I plan to post examples of cynical and honest writing in the next couple weeks.
Maui with throw-away panoramic Kodak camera