Bring back the Underwood


Just bought a new laptop. I have a sudden desire to get an Underwood.

I’m no Luddite. I appreciate advances in technology. My phone is invariably with me and my audio/video system, while on the duller edge of the curve, has brought me plenty of enjoyment. Technology can make us more productive in many fields. It can also be a lot of fun. The problem is, the leading edge is too far ahead of me. It even leaves itself behind at times.

Have you noticed that, with each advance, we lose something? Few would choose to go back to analog recordings, but Neil Young is right when he decries the subtlety lost in the digital recordings we all use now. More is lost in the compression algorithms used, whether for audio or video. (Can you spell MP3?) Plus, we’re watching films on 3 inch phones that were intended for acre-size screens. One step forward, two or more back?

Like most computers, which are no longer used or useful for computing (or writing), cell phones fail at their original raison d’etre. Yeah, they’re great for lots of things—texting, browsing, reading—but between dropped connections, poor reception, speech delay, and butt calls, their suitability for talking to other people is debatable.

Matters grow worse as I age. The value of high-def TV and audio is lost on my low-def eyes and ears. As devices get smaller, the controls necessarily do as well. My fingers weren’t meant to manipulate buttons the size of boogers.

As a writer, I’ve already chronicled my frustrations with the modern computer in this post on my other blog. (It would have been more appropriate in this forum, but I hadn’t started this blog yet when I wrote that in 2014. Consider this my atonement. Please note that I predicted the rapid deployment of landscape-format web sites.) Those complaints remain valid. And since that day, no one has yet come out with the “writer’s laptop” I asked for. I suspect no one will.

I want to write.

I don’t want moronic games.

I don’t want to remove your bloatware.

I don’t want to learn new versions of software every six months.

Have I made myself clear enough yet? I’m a writer. I want to write words.

Don’t even get me started on Windows 10. Heaven help the writer.

Haiti seven years after

Does the seventh anniversary of the earthquake that ravaged Haiti mean so much to me because I wrote a book about it? Or did I write a book about the Haiti earthquake because it meant so much to me? One can never be 100% sure of one’s own motives but I’d be dreadfully disappointed in myself if there were even a hint of truth in the former.

Rather, I hope I wrote a book about Haiti because of my love for the nation and its people. Exposing others to the truth about a place so badly misunderstood is one of my missions in life. Thus, it’s appropriate to keep the nation and its plight in the forefront of peoples’ consciousnesses, whether through a blog or a photo or a book.

Never forget.


[This is important enough that I wrote a much longer post in my other blog. You can read it here.]

HTML for real life

When the technical and business worlds collide with real life, the results can be entertaining and instructive, giving insights into both. A couple of very clever guys, Tripp and Tyler, have leveraged this intersection to create (at least) two hysterical videos: A Conference Call in Real Life and Email in Real Life.

Why not push this into other areas? Back in the day when I was a software engineer, I dabbled in HTML. (Just enough to get myself in trouble.) In its simplest form, HTML involves a directive, i.e. an HTML command, that applies to all following text until an end marker, in the form of a slash and the same command, is encountered. For example, I can put text in italics by using the following syntax:

<i>This is in italics.</i>

…would appear on the screen as:

This is in italics.

It’s time to incorporate basic HTML notation in real life. That way, we can tell how to treat certain language and behaviors. Not only would this make intentions obvious to everyone, thus allowing us all to be prepared for what’s coming, it would be a boon for those of us who have trouble picking up both verbal and non-verbal cues.

Here’s a sampling of ideas that would improve our quality of life immediately, were they to be implemented across the board:

  • <whine>They don’t make good movies anymore.</whine>
  • <sarcasm>Oh, yeah, that’s a great idea.</sarcasm>
  • <throwaway>I’m fine. How are you?</throwaway>
  • <lie>No one respects women more than me.</lie> (In reality, no need for an end marker for this guy.)
  • <defensive>As a matter of fact, yes, I am a vegan.</defensive>
  • <flirt>Here, let me fix that strap for you.</flirt>
  • <insult>Your words are like water to a drowning man.</insult>
  • <braindamaged>I have a gun in my house to keep my family safe.</braindamaged>
  • <gossip>It was probably someone else with that woman, but it sure looked like Jim.</gossip>
  • <delusional>Steven Spielberg said he’d read my screenplay.</delusional>
  • <selfpromotion>I wouldn’t say so myself, but some people call me a genius.</selfpromotion>
  • <insincere>Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.</insincere>

You get the idea. Wouldn’t discourse be easier to follow if this notation were used? Which syntax would you like to see implemented?