Categories
general

All the stuff on my desk, 2020 edition

I did this back in 2013, so maybe it’s time for an update.

  • An Anthro desk, 60-inch wide, “fog” color. Anthro no longer exists, so I’m not sure if they still make them.
  • 2020 MacBook Pro 16-inch (the last Intel one).
  • Lenovo Thinkpad – I don’t remember the number, but about two years old (work machine).
  • A KVM switch, all the assorted dongles, and the Lenovo’s docking station, hidden half-under the desk, but sticking half-out because I’ve given up on cable management.
  • Regular-vision glasses (I wear a different pair for the computer.)
  • Sony MDR-7506 headphones, but with the foam pads replaced with new perforated fake-leather ones. Great daily monitor-type headphones, but the pads disintegrate within a year.
  • iPhone 11 Pro, in a battery case.
  • Lightning-to-Thunderbolt cable.
  • Lightning-to-USB B cable.
  • 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch headphone adapter.
  • Glasses case.
  •  USB 3 hub.
  • Vanatoo Transparent Zero monitors.
  • iPad pro (the first generation, the smaller size). It’s in a wire stand meant for recipe books that I got for four bucks instead of paying $75 for some sculpted aluminum thing.
  • A couple of bottles of vitamins.
  • Kinesis Advantage keyboard.
  • Two different Western Digital external backup drives (4TB?), and an external enclosure with an SSD (512 GB) full of different Windows VMs.
  • A cheap TENS machine that’s currently plugged into my lower right back.
  • A Kensington trackball.
  • An Ergotron monitor arm.
  • A crappy ViewSonic monitor, maybe 24-inch 1080p.
  • A Manta TR-1 IR remote receiver.
  • A Logitech C920 webcam.
  • An Apple Pencil, probably with a dead battery.
  • A couple of Japanese erasable pens (blue, red. Frixion Ball. Pilot makes a version in the US that’s garbage, the wrong shape.)
  • A bunch of post-it notes.
  • A bill for my license plates.
  • A cheap Chinese LCD clock.
  • A fingertip pulseox monitor.
  • A three-toggle switch replica of the SCE switch in an Apollo command module.
  • One of those stupid hand grip exercise things.
  • Proventil inhaler.
  • Wire pen/pencil basket, filled with various pens and pencils I almost never use, plus at least two Strat whammy bars. I also see a Palm Pilot stylus in there, to give you an idea of how often I clean it out.
  • Two different travel-size bottles of hand sanitizer.
  • A keyboard brush thing from Japan that stands up and has a creepy anthropomorphic face on it, as a Japanese desk accessory would.
  • About a dozen bills or “important” papers from like 2014 stuffed between a speaker and the pen holder.
  • A Verilux desktop light.
  • A Verilux light box I never use.
  • A Ghiradelli candy bar.
  • Apple remote.
  • Vanatoo remote.
  • Cloth napkin.
  • Apple earbuds.
  • The paperwork satchel thing out of a MacBook Pro.
  • Half a can of Coke Zero.

(None of this is probably of any interest, but it will be of interest to me in five or ten years, so that’s why it’s here.)

Categories
general

Done editing

I think I finished editing and republishing old entries yesterday. The grand total is that I have 1,362 posts, with a word count of 1,059,000 or so words. I’m finding that this is big enough that it cripples either of the main SEO plugins for WordPress. That would be a problem if I was trying to make money on real estate or vitamin sales, but I’m not, so I disabled it.

I still need to figure out this theme – it feels like the headings are too big and inefficient, and I do miss having the widgets on the side for the archives and such. And I need to have better integration with this and Facebook and/or Twitter. I would like to just blog here and spend a lot less time on social media sites.

Another thing I need to do is there are a ton of posts that have no title, which doesn’t work well with the various widgets at the bottom of the page. But the idea of going through a few hundred posts and adding dumb titles like “ate lunch” is a bit exhausting. I just did a big run of them, and I think I still have a few hundred more to go.

Now that this stuff is almost settled, I need to figure out what I’m doing with this thing. My only real goal is the same one I have every January 1: a new post every day. But I don’t know what to post about. After reading every post over the last week, I feel like I’ve already strip-mined any old stories of memories and nostalgia. There definitely won’t be any trip reports in the near future, and not a lot of day-to-day news except “sat in my home office for twelve hours and then watched four hours of Married at First Sight.” I guess I need to step up the reading and should do something more constructive with my boob tube time.

Definitely no current events or politics. The upside of all of this tedium is I spent a lot less time looking at the news. So there’s that. I should probably go back into my list of starred Wikipedia articles and write about each of them. I have a bad habit of falling down k-holes, starring articles, and then wondering why the hell I bookmarked comparative religion scholar Frithjof Schuon years ago. (Still trying to figure this out – only thing I can think of is he died in Bloomington. Maybe I helped him with his VAX mail at some point.)

Not a lot to report otherwise. It was a typical NYE, and I was asleep by about ten. We rented The King of Staten Island and I was very mixed on it. I should write a longer post on it, but it’s lunch time.

Categories
general

2020 summary

So, 2020. We can all go on forever talking about the horrors of the year: the pandemic, the economy, the job market, politics, and everything else. I don’t want to get into it. I can’t get into it.

Let me try to scrape together an update like I did last year and stick to my facts. I know that’s narcissistic, given everything going on. But, write what you know.

Good stuff:

  • I published The Failure Cascade in December. It’s a little longer than the last few placeholder books, but it’s still not the Big Book I wanted to finish this year. Maybe next year.
  • That book was 37,565 words, plus I wrote another 122,494 in my morgue project, and a hair over 100,000 in the book I couldn’t finish. So a little more than last year, maybe.
  • 31 posts here for a hair over 30,000 words, which was better than last year.
  • I edited and revisited all 1600-some posts here, which took me… a while.
  • 2,010,005 steps, 2780 floors, 948.09 miles, which is lower than last year. Weight is 5.3 pounds more, but considering what I gained over the summer during lockdown, I’m about ten pounds lower than the peak, so I’ll take it. I also meditated every day of the year. Closed all three rings on the Apple Watch every day. Current move streak: 1791 days.
  • No interviews, no podcasts, no stories published. Whatever.
  • I wrote the intro and helped publish John’s book Latch Key Kids. Also helped Keith publish The Orphic Egg Caper.
  • Only about a thousand pictures taken, which is amazingly low.
  • Just took one trip to Vegas this year with Bill and Marc. Managed to go back to Area 51 again. Had vague “when this clears” up plans for travel, which obviously didn’t happen.
  • I didn’t die.
  • I didn’t catch COVID.
  • I didn’t lose my job.

The not-so-good:

  • My friend Joel died.
  • My Aunt Eva died.
  • Ray’s dad died.
  • Two people at work died.
  • Neil Peart died.
  • I don’t even know how many people I know who caught COVID. My sister-in-law, two of my uncles, a few friends, and I can’t keep track of the rest.
  • Because my job was locked down and my company is not doing stellar, everyone was working constantly. I started getting up early just to get caught up with a big project, and then that became a regular requirement. I started working weekends, started taking 6AM meetings, 9PM meetings, Saturday meetings.
  • At some point (probably after my aunt died) my director told me I absolutely had to take time off, because I’d worked every day for like three months straight. I said okay, I’ll take next week off. An hour later, HR emailed me and told me I had to lay off 60% of my employees the week I was taking off.
  • I actually ended up having to lay everyone off twice. They had a round of these “opt-in separations” and then none of the people took it (we’re in a pandemic) so I had to re-lay them off three months later.
  • I didn’t know if I was getting laid off. I kept getting invited to these layoff meetings and wasn’t sure until they started if I was there to terminate people or if I was getting terminated.
  • I’ve been working from home for ten years, so nothing new there. But it’s been a learning curve for having both of us here at home. And I usually go mall walking on weekends to break up the week, and that didn’t happen anymore.
  • I had various health-related stuff of the cardiac sort happening, which is mostly from stress, an unhealthy relationship with caffeine, and whatnot. Nothing drastic, but lots of dumb tests, and I think my days as a carnivore are numbered.
  • One of my crowns came off in May, when we were still in extreme lockdown, but my dentist was able to see me and fix it.
  • The fires and the air quality were brutal this year.
  • This was the first Christmas where me and Sarah were both home (i.e. our home) at the same time, ever. I’ll put this under the bad column because she was really bummed about not seeing her family. (It is the first time I didn’t catch the flu in December from air travel, though.)
  • My iPhone 8 blew up (for a second time).
  • My 2017 MacBook Pro blew up.
  • Taco Bell discontinued the Mexican Pizza.

OK, that’s enough bad stuff. I don’t even want to get into what a cesspool Facebook and Twitter have been all year, or how the whole post-truth era has made about half of my relationships impossible. Let’s put all of that behind us. I don’t know if we can, and the 2021 memes are about to start, but whatever.

The first big thing that’s going to happen in about 21 days is that I will hit a very big birthday. And I won’t be able to do much about it. Maybe I’ll go off into the hills and hike all day.

No resolutions, though. The usual. Try to finish this book, try to stay employed and inch toward retirement, try to write here more and spend less time on FB. Try to get healthy. Try to stay sane. You?

Categories
general

Still editing

I mentioned a few days ago that I’d pulled every entry on here and was slowly adding them back. That’s basically all I’ve been doing for the last several days. I had close to 1600 entries before starting this crusade. I’m down to about 100 in the queue, although I wouldn’t mind doing some more general cleanup. I also need to do more work to get this site completely modernized. I am not entirely happy with this theme, and there’s some plugin changes that could be made to speed things up.

It’s really weird reading through 23 years of entries in one clip. A few observations:

  • I really like the first few years, when I was in Seattle and the word “blog” hadn’t been invented yet, and this was more of a diary than anything else. It’s fun to read the old entries where I’m talking about what I ate for lunch or what happened that day on the drive to work. It was a lot easier to belt out short updates like that when there were no expectations and there was nothing else to compare this site with.
  • In the years before I published my first two books, all of my writing about writing is extremely cringe-worthy. I’m glad I got past that.
  • I always forget how bad my early system was for running this site. I reluctantly switched to WordPress pretty late in the game. When I started, I had this crazy system where I had to telnet to the server machine, type everything in emacs, then run a C program to generate the table of contents on the left. The program broke every new year’s day, and required manual surgery to reset everything to January. I later half-fixed this with PHP, but it was still ugly for a long time.
  • I also forget about how I had my own garbage system for hosting photos on this site. I would put all of the image files in a directory on the server, then run a shell script that used mogrify to resize them to web and thumbnail sizes, then build the index.html file. Brutal stuff.
  • I think I owe a general apology or amends to anyone who read this journal from about 2002 to 2005. I was a real contrarian asshole about all things political. I’ve been scrubbing that stuff, because it’s so cringe and horrible.
  • I don’t know how I got as far as I did in my writing career without knowing that commas and periods go inside the quotes. I can probably blame this on learning to program in C before I really got into writing.
  • Speaking of punctuation, I sure did like using the f word as a piece of it. I should stop doing that.
  • I was seriously on fire in the early 2010s. I think I’ve written 200 entries in the last six years, but I easily wrote 200 in just 2010-2011.
  • I have a lot of stories that were on this blog and later collected into books. I’ve removed them from here. I think if you didn’t read it in a free book that came out in 2003, you aren’t going to read it.
  • I also pared back a ton of posts announcing “see my story in…” that had a URL that points to a Chinese gambling site now.
  • I don’t know how I ever survived seven years in New York. Reading the stories of my trials and tribulations back then are hilarious. I’ve unfortunately had to trim a few of them back for career-limiting-behavior reasons. But living in Astoria with no AC really can drive you to drink, eh?
  • I think about 40% of the 1500-some entries here have to do with dental trauma or being sick. I am really glad I stopped drinking a case of full-sugar Coke every day, because that’s calmed down both problems somewhat.
  • I used to have a separate section of the site with a bunch of long-form trip journals. Some of those got collected into my Vegas book, but may more were pulled from the site out of general apathy. I often wonder if I should put those back, or clean them up and put them in a book that nobody will buy. Something to think about later, I guess.
  • Music reviews are a real waste of my time. Luckily nobody reads them anymore.
  • I took all the links off the side (now bottom) of the page. I will probably put those back as I find more blogs worth following.
  • I really need to pick up the blogging more. It’s a much better time-waster than Candy Crush or reading the news.

I really do think I need to spend more time here next year, and a lot less time on Facebook. I need better integration or whatever to drive people from FB to here, but of course all of that is a crapshoot, and when I post a link from here on there, only three people see it. I don’t know if a mailing list or the return of RSS feeds or something else will make this any better.

In that vein, I’ve reluctantly turned back on comments. They are all in “strict” mode and you need a login to use them. It uses Disqus, so it also uses Facebook, Twitter, or Google logins. I moderate all comments. Feel free to add to the discussion, but don’t be an ass.

Hopefully I’ll finish this quest by the end of the year, although that’s tomorrow, so I better hurry.

Categories
general

2020 Dreams

So, about this year’s dreams.

Before 2020 went completely sideways, my friend Joel died. After that, he started showing up in my dreams, a lot. Like, an unhealthy amount. The dreams were nothing abnormal or psychotic; it either involved running into him at a party, or the company we used to work for somehow got re-formed and I had to move back to New York and work for him again. The dreams completely fed into my nostalgia obsession/problem, and whenever I woke up, I would know — I would assume — he was still alive. And then I would remember he wasn’t, and think maybe that was an alternate reality or some mistake was made and he was alive. And then the dreams got even more weird, because in the dream he would explain to me that he wasn’t dead, and it was a big prank or for tax purposes or I misunderstood the email or something.

(I realize there’s an easy psychological explanation for this, given the total lack of closure in his death. And duh, I should be talking to a therapist about this. I think everyone’s got bigger fish to fry at this moment.)

* * *

I don’t know exactly when the COVID dreams started. But I started having these intense dreams where I was walking around, like in the context of a normal weird dream, and then I would realize I didn’t have a mask on and suddenly needed one. It was like the typical “naked in front of class” terror dream, and fed into the same fear/paranoia/shame nerve.

I also would frequently have these dreams where someone was giving me COVID. Like I had this bizarre dream where I was competing in some kind of eco-challenge race through the desert with Joe Rogan. And every time he talked to me, he would lean in really close and spit would fly everywhere. And I woke up in a panic, trying to think if there was something I was supposed to overdose on to prevent the virus from catching, like eating a whole bottle of vitamins or drinking a gallon of Listerine.

I haven’t had the same nightmares I had during the SARS epidemic, though. They were based on a nightmare I had as a child. When I was a young kid, maybe four or five, I had a bad pneumonia or something that completely laid me out, and I had these insane fever dreams that everyone but me was dying of a mystery plague. Like I was watching the news, and the anchorman dropped dead, and bodies were piling up outside the house. And finally I was the only person alive, and the earth looked like the surface of the moon, and some alien Vincent Price-like voice or being was laughing at me. It’s one of my earliest memories, and that dream went back into heavy rotation when the SARS boom hit.

* * *

I have always had a lot of dreams about dead malls. Those still happen constantly. (Another big one is being back at IU, or some bizarro version of IU that has all new buildings, which I guess is IU now, since they’ve expanded everything in the last twenty years.)

My usual dead mall dreams — and these happen pretty much every third night or so — involve a strange composite mall. Like in my mind, the mall will be just outside of Queens, but it will remind me partly of Hilltop Mall in Richmond, mixed with some Factoria Square outside of Seattle, and maybe a dash of University Park in South Bend. There will always be vivid dashes of heavy deja vu around a particular store or sense memory, but when I wake, I’ll realize that there’s no way that mall exists at all.

This is also some weird sense of mourning, because I really miss these places and they don’t even exist. I have spent very little time at malls this year (obviously) and a lot of them probably won’t survive the plague, so I’ll miss them forever. So it’s fitting that they end up the backdrop of my bizarre nightmares.

* * *

Similar to the malls, I have a lot of dreams about Wards. These end up being two varieties. One is that Wards never went bankrupt, and they just closed the stores I knew about, and they had locations that still survived. The other is that some vulture cap company bought the name (which actually happened, but for online catalog purposes) and were somehow kickstarting a new retail presence. I’ve had many dreams where the old store #2258 in Elkhart has reopened, the existing Hobby Lobby shut down and the store converted back to its old glory, except it looks like a Sears with virtually no stock on the shelves.

In many of those dreams, I have a permutation of the “I forgot I had one more class to take to graduate” thing, and I’m somehow obligated to go back and work some shifts. (John said he gets the same thing with the Army, that a recruiter shows up at his house and says he didn’t finish his time thirty years ago and has to come back and do more.) In some of those dreams, my original coworkers are still there, although I’m certain that thirty years later, most of them are all dead. Sometimes I go back and I’m the only person who worked at the old Wards and that’s supposed to hold some cachet over the new people. (I have the same thing going on at my day job now.)

In last night’s version of this dream, I was back at the paint department, but as a manager. A weird little fact popped up in the dream that I’d almost completely forgotten. To mix paint, we had this big turntable thing with various pumps of pigment on it, and you would shoot specific amounts of each primary color into a can of base paint. This was all manual, no computers. We had a binder of formulas for the 863 premium colors and 768 standard colors. Each formula was something like 3-B, 6-C, 2Y-F. So you’d turn to the B color on the turntable, pull back the plunger three notches, shoot in that paint. Turn to C, six notches, go. The Y was significant, because that meant you pulled back the lever to its fullest extension, and gave it a full shot. I don’t remember the exact nomenclature or what the primary colors were, but I totally remember that Y.

* * *

I’ll occasionally have a full-on dream of a real mall, and it usually leaves me horribly depressed, and it’s almost always Concord Mall. I’ll leave you with a dream from a few weeks ago:

I was back at Concord Mall for a visit, and there was some major construction going on, like the whole fountain area was completely redone as this giant Rainforest Cafe-looking food court with a waterfall and a ton of mask-less people in it. I was a bit bummed most of the mall was all Simon-ized and bland, but then I found a semi-hidden staircase that went to a second floor that I never knew existed. The upstairs was basically a mirror of the first floor, with a duplicate of the shops below, but they were all in the 70s livery and configuration, mothballed and untouched for 40 years. I wandered an old JC Penney and everything had signs on it like it was a museum exhibition. I was then in the food court and met up with Kurt Vonnegut, who was talking about how he found an article on Dresden right before he wrote Slaughterhouse Five, and it was like the magical key that unlocked the whole novel in his head. He then gave me a mall directory from 1980 and said that was my key.

Categories
reviews

The Last Blockbuster

The other night, in a bit of irony, I watched the movie The Last Blockbuster by renting it on my Apple TV. It was a cute dose of nostalgia, talking about the last remaining store of the once-mighty video rental empire, out in Bend, Oregon.

As I started writing this, I realized I already wrote an article on The Death of Blockbuster last year, and hit pretty much all of my points there. The movie covers all of this, more or less, except they get Kevin Smith, Brian Posehn, and a few others to talk about it. I think they let corporate Blockbuster off a little easy here. People need to remember that Blockbuster was essentially the Amazon of the 90s, and decimated the mom-and-pop stores with their almost monopoly and tight ties with big studios. And if you wanted to rent weirdo disgusting zombie films with a lot of skin (17-year-old me, guilty) you couldn’t find them at Blockbuster.

One other thing that resonated with me is that Bend reminds me vaguely of Longview, Washington. It’s twice as big, but it’s got the same sort of small-town main street feel, with a few loose strands of suburb hanging off of it. They both sit on a river, with lots of evergreens and the mountains in the background. The reason this is nostalgic is that in 96, 97, I was dating a woman who lived in Longview, and every weekend I’d drive into town and we had the same ritual: pick up a pizza from Papa Murphy’s, go to the video store, walk the rows of films, pick out one or two we both like, and maybe one for me. Bend in 2020 distantly reminds me of Longview in 1996, and has the same cozy, sleepy feel to it. The documentary fixates a bit on the celebrity of the shop’s owner, as the last-Blockbuster cred went viral. But in the glimpses of how the family ran the business, it really reminded me of that past era.

I also have this stupid theory I haven’t entirely fleshed out that the total lack of empathy in this country is at least partly related to the death of retail and the lack of personal relationships in media consumption. I love buying all of my music instantly, but I also feel like I was more of a human being when I would interact with a salesperson on a weekly basis in a record store, when I had a relationship with someone that involved not just handing over a credit card, but talking to a human being about my likes and their advice and suggestions. I think with the beginning of the hypermart, consumers developed this lack of empathy and low-level depression from so many choices and so much homogenization and a lack of actual retail sales people. And in a perfect storm, retailers fed directly into it. It was perfect for the retailers because it meant they depended less on expensive human labor, just the line of cashiers at the front of the mega-store (and then they experimented with getting rid of them.) But also consumers felt a need to shop more and fill that hole in their soul. Now we all click endlessly on the Buy it Now button and feel worse and worse. This might be a dumb theory (I remember 30 years ago dealing with asshole customers aplenty) but maybe it’s something I need to pick in my head a bit.

Anyway, you can find the movie’s web site here: https://www.lastblockbustermovie.com. They will sell you the DVD and allegedly will be doing a limited-edition VHS, if you happen to still have a working deck.

Categories
general

Christmas, blogging

Pretty low-key Christmas here. Three different Zoom calls, which were okay, but when you spend ten hours a day in Zoom calls, that can be problematic. No presents or anything. Sarah made this gigantic chunk of prime rib, and we watched the original movie Fargo. The giant chunk of meat may be my final coda on being an omnivore, as per a discussion with my cardiologist, but we’ll cover that when the New Year New Me crap starts up next week.

Forgot to mention, but The Koncast is officially dead. Hasn’t been updated in years, so that’s kind of obvious, but I got sick of paying LibSyn every month for hosting something that nobody listened to in the first place. Maybe someday I’ll give it another run, especially since I have a few hundred bucks of podcasting gear in a box in the closet now. It was fun while it lasted, though. The in-person podcasts were the best, but there’s the rub, especially now.

In a fit of depression/stupidity/paranoia, I deleted this entire blog yesterday. Then I realized what a dumb idea that was, and I started restoring it. Problem is, I have about 1500 posts, and I need to go through them one by one and re-add them. There is a way to bulk add everything, but I really need to vet and edit everything. I’m roughly halfway through it, and it is incredibly time-consuming. Word count-wise, that’s roughly three times the size of the bible. So this may take a bit.

But, it’s also fun. I forget how much great writing I’ve put on this thing in the last twenty-three years. This thing started with daily updates about nothing, and reading that stuff really makes me miss Seattle. There’s a lot of cringe in my early days as a writer, and all of this was happening before self-publishing was a thing, aside from going to Kinko’s and xeroxing the stuff by hand. (Back when there was a Kinko’s.) I think I had the assumption I was going to write these books and… find an agent? I don’t know. But it’s somewhat humorous to see how naive I was back then.

I also keep thinking maybe I should self-pub another book compilation of this stuff. It would be great to read it on paper, and it would be somewhat impressive/amusing/masturbatory to see a curated collection of these as a 1200-page slab of dead trees. I did a book for the 1997-1999 entries, and it looked great, but I think it sold maybe eleven copies, with half of those being me and the other half being people who thought it was JA Konrath murder mystery. So, maybe not a good waste of my time.

I can’t believe I still have another week off of work. I’ve completely lost track of days. It’s wonderful.

Anyway, blogging – I am not happy with this WordPress theme, so I may screw with that after I get these posts added. Many thoughts of what else I should do here, especially in the new year, but I feel like I should take all of the energy I wasted this year in doom-scrolling and Facebook and apply it into writing posts here, even if nobody reads them.

Categories
general news

NEW YEAR NEW THEME

So here’s how behind I am: this site has been running the WordPress Twenty Eleven theme since 2012 or so. Now that the Twenty Twenty-One theme has just shipped, I decided to upgrade to the Twenty Twenty theme.

A few features and differences:

  • A lot more space and readability, with better typography (I think)
  • Much easier to read and navigate on a mobile device.
  • The stuff that used to be in the sidebar has moved to the bottom of the page. Look below to see things like archives, links, recent posts, and all that jazz.
  • I nuked the little “share to social media” stuff because nobody ever used it.
  • There is a privacy policy. This is stupid and useless, but at some point Google will probably ding me points because I don’t have one. Bottom line, I don’t collect data, and don’t sue me.

I think that’s it. Let me know if you see anything obviously broken.

Categories
general

Book layouts in Apple Pages

I do my book layouts in Apple Pages. Yes, I should be using InDesign. No, I don’t want to pay $35/month for something I use once a year. Apple Pages worked okay for layouts until version 5.0 came out in 2013, when they tried making the OSX and iOS versions have parity with each other, at which point they removed hundreds of features from the desktop version and said, “everything in the desktop version works on your iPhone!” (This, coupled with the move away from Intel, makes me fear the future, when there is no real Mac anymore, and they just have expensive iPads with keyboards, and they are useless for real work. That’s another rant.)

Anyway, Pages has evolved in the last seven years, and now I don’t have to keep an antique copy of Pages 4 to do layouts. I’ve done two books this year, mine and Keith Buckley’s, and Pages has more or less worked for them.

Here are my tips on how to lay out a book in Pages. This is not a complete guide, but maybe it will help you avoid any problems.

Basics:

  • I write in Scrivener, then either copy/paste all of the text into Pages, or export to a .DOCX and open that in Pages. I’m sure you could write the whole thing in Word or Google Docs or even in Pages. Whatever works.
  • I usually set everything to Body (see below on setting it up) and then go back and fix headings and first body paragraphs and such.
  • After you do this once, make a template of that doc with all of the text scraped out and use that next time.
  • I lock down all of my text before it comes to Pages. The spelling/grammar in Pages is better than Scrivener, but it’s still pretty piss-poor. I hate to endorse this, but Google Docs has a far better spellcheck because it’s constantly being trained on millions of words of text per second. I usually paste my locked text into Google Docs, do a check, and reconcile everything in Scrivener.

Numbering and sections:

  • Document (the upper right corner button) > Document > Facing Pages gives you different left and right page layouts, which is what Pages broke forever.
  • Always use section breaks, not page breaks. (It’s a bummer there’s not a keyboard shortcut for this.)
  • In Document go to the Section tab, and set Section starts on to Right Page. (If you set this once before you change your page breaks to section breaks, it will ripple through the rest of the book. If it doesn’t, you might need to set this manually in every section.)
  • You’ll have a bunch of front matter sections (title, copyright, TOC) and then the actual chapters. In the section where chapter 1 starts, set that to start at page 1. The first page of the first chapter should be 1. Leave page numbers off of every section before this. (Technically, the cover page should start with i, then go ii, iii, iv, etc (lowercase) through all the front matter, but you don’t need to get cute and show those numbers unless this is an academic journal.)
  • In each section on Document > Section, it should be Match previous section and numbering should be Continue previous section. You should also set Left and right pages are different, and Hide on first page of section.
  • Also on the above, you should set Section starts on to Right Page. This will result in every odd page being on the right, and every even page being on the left. This also means every chapter starts on the right page, with an odd number. Yes, this will result in blank pages. Books have been printed this way since the sixteenth century. Pick up any book that wasn’t self-published by someone in MS Word and look at the right page number. Trust me on this.
  • …But, if you have a blank left page, this will screw everything up in Pages, of course. Blank left pages won’t count against numbering. So page 15 has text, page 16 is blank, and the next chapter starts with page 16 on the right.
  • To fix this, you need to restart numbering with the correct number of the left page on the first page of the chapter. Don’t do this until your book is fairly locked down, because you’ll just have to redo it every time you add or delete a page.
  • I always create a Header & Footer – left and Header & Footer – right and assign them accordingly. Put author name in the left header, title in the right. I’ve also seen book title left, story or chapter title right.
  • I usually left-justify the left page number and right-justify the right. Marie, if you’re reading this, feel free to tell me I’m wrong here. I just noticed every David Foster Wallace book you designed centers them, and every one before you doesn’t. Maybe left/right went out of style in the early 00s and I didn’t get the memo.
  • By the way, my “bunch of front matter” (and everyone else’s) is the following sections:
    1. A right page that’s just the book title and nothing else.
    2. An “also by” section on the back of that page.
    3. A right page that’s just the book title and author name. Maybe your press name and logo, but whatever.
    4. On the back of that, the copyright info and notice.
    5. Starting on a right page, The TOC.
    6. Also starting on a right page, any introduction, publisher’s note, preface, dedication, or whatever else. (Nobody ever reads any of this, so don’t waste your time. Trust me, I wrote book introductions.)

For the Title style used at the start of chapters:

  • Delete any blank body paragraphs above or below the title. Each chapter should start with a single Title paragraph, then the body text. Don’t add a bunch of blank paragraphs to add space.
  • Click on a Title. In Format (upper right button) go to Style tab, and set After Paragraph to the point size of your Body style (probably 11)
  • The Before Paragraph doesn’t work for the first paragraph in a section. (But you can use Pages on your phone! It’s great!)
  • A hack: Go to Layout tab. In Borders & Rules, set a top border of a single line. Make it 70 pt wide, then set its color to white. Select the top position, then put in an offset of 50pt. (If you could simply make this offset 130pt, that would be great, but you can’t for some damn reason.)
  • After fixing the title once, make sure to update the Title style (a button will appear next to it when you make changes) so changes percolate to the rest of your Titles.
  • I shouldn’t need to tell you that your titles should be sans fonts and your body text should have serifs.

Body text stuff:

  • Go to an indented (i.e. not-first) paragraph and update Body so that’s the default style for all of your body text.
  • Set that style to use justified text.
  • Make a Body-first style based on Body that has no indent. Use that for the first paragraph of each chapter.
  • I always assign a shortcut to that style to make it faster to use. I usually set Title to F1, Body-first to F2, Body to F3, and a Body-centered to F4.
  • I’m not into Drop Caps, but if you like having the first letter or first word of your chapter four or five lines tall like a Gutenberg bible, they finally fixed this in Pages. Go to Format > Style and there’s a Drop Cap option. Pick a style and set this in your Body-first style.

I’m probably forgetting stuff. And I’m sure I’ve pissed someone off by saying not to use a sans font for the body text. Also, I wrote this at the end of 2020. If you’re reading this in 2027 and none of it works anymore, it’s because Apple has changed everything seven times. Anyway, hope this helps.

Categories
general

Vacation, CDs, Drones, Etc

  • I still have a new book out. https://amzn.to/3r4c2KG
  • I am on vacation from writing for a bit. I don’t want to get into the next thing, and want to take some time off. But I am also going stir crazy not writing every day, and the last time I took more than a few weeks off, it suddenly turned into like ten years. It’s really hard to build up momentum again when you come to a dead stop.
  • I am still hopelessly addicted to http://astronaut.io. I think I could watch it for hours.
  • I realized yesterday that I completely missed the CDs-in-cars era. The two cars I had in Seattle from 95-99 had tape players, and on longer trips, I’d sometimes use a cassette adapter to play a MiniDisc in it. Then I didn’t have a car from 99-07. We bought two cars in Denver in 07, and both of them had CD players, but by then, it was all about the iPod with the built-in aux port. I think the entire time I had the Yaris from 07 to 14, I used the CD player maybe twice. So I never had those CD holders that went on the sun visors.
  • My Kinesis keyboard from 2011 is starting to randomly die. It’s no wonder, after eating pretty much every meal at the computer and typing millions of words with it. I used to get about a year or two out of the old Microsoft keyboards, so ten isn’t bad.
  • The Jimi Hendrix estate put out an official release of the Maui bootleg from 7/30/70. (Here) I’ve had another version, but this one sounds much better, and has the song order fixed. The original audio is fairly bad, and there were high winds that made the various bootleg versions mostly useless. This one sounds much better. Here’s a longer review of it on pitchfork. I’ve enjoyed the live work from that last tour the best, because it’s when he was sick of the hits, and more into the long jams, which makes you wonder what that unfinished fourth album would have sounded like.
  • Every time we go to Maui, we always go to this place called the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center. The Hendrix shows were at the A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center. The two are about six miles apart, and one could double for the other if you were filming a docu-drama and were careful about your blocking and angles.
  • I am not going to Maui this year. Not going anywhere, but that’s obvious. I have almost two weeks off, but will be here, probably watching youtube.
  • I bought a drone. A DJI Mavic Air 2. It is very easy to fly, except finding an actual place to fly it. There are a lot of airspace restrictions, and then various parks and private property are also off-limits. I had to register the drone with the FAA, and it uses GPS so it’s locked off from flying in various places. Like during the forest fires, they geofenced off areas where first responders were. And you can’t fly by the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • I’ve been flying a few times around Alameda, near the old Navy base. I’ve shot a lot there, but I’m still learning, so the footage isn’t great. It’s surprisingly good, though. With the gimbal pointed forward, it looks like a sweeping crane shot. With the gimbal down, it looks like the spy satellite or drone footage from an action movie.
  • I’ve been obsessed with this dumb idea of taking the play history out of Apple Music (somehow) and feeding that into a lightweight CMS of some sort so I could scribble down various notes on songs, like as a journal or blog of sorts. I’m not sure how I’d get this to work, and I doubt it would be very interesting. Plus the minute I got it scripted or programmed, Apple would break whatever API I used and it would stop working.
  • I heard they are going to tear down Brownstone apartments in Bloomington and put up some gigantic thousand-unit townhouse compound or something. My memory of Brownstone is that me and Larry went there once to go to some girl’s party. The place was typical stadium-adjacent student ghetto housing and was falling apart 25 years ago. Larry ripped out whatever techno dance thing was in the tape player and put in the GG Allin album Hated in the Nation. Everyone was watching a Pauly Shore movie. One of the girls there said she watched Forest Gump every day for a year straight, and she loved him so much she wanted to date a man with an Intellectual disability.
  • I also remember that when my car blew up three days before I was to move across the country in 1995, I turned down 14th street and pushed the car for about a block to get out of traffic, and I ditched it overnight right in front of the same apartment complex.
  • You can’t fly a drone anywhere on the Bloomington campus. The airspace of the entire area is shut down by the university unless you have a special permit, and I imagine they don’t hand them out to anyone.
  • I need to lay off the Bloomington stuff before I suddenly decide I want to write another book about college.
  • I can’t believe it’s only Thursday. It feels like this week has been seventeen days long.
  • I also can’t believe Christmas is in a week. This will be the first Christmas I’ve ever spent in California, which is weird considering I’ve lived here since 2008.
  • It has been 46 and dreary and raining on and off, and I guess that’s winter now.