24 November 2017

Bought Roy Peter Clark's book, "Writing Tools"

I thought my first copy was lost: I cannot find it in my office shelf. I scanned all my books back and forth, but to no avail. And then I remembered: I gave my copy to my sister years ago. That explains it.

I love Writing Tools. Strunk and White may give you the bare bones for writing well, but Roy Peter Clark gives you the tools to dissect a prose like a corpse, as what da Vinci did to study the anatomy of the human body. Knowing how a prose is designed allows you to think of writing as a design process: how to connect the parts and stitch them together. Well, there's always a danger of making a Frankenstein monster--something you see in this age of Google and Wikipedia: different sentences from diverse voices and tenses lumped together to form a hideous paragraph. The danger is there, but the reward is greater: ars poetica--the perfection of the word made flesh.

I went to FullyBooked, but there is no more copy left in all their branches. So I went to National Bookstore.

"Miss, do you have the book, Writing Tools, by Roy Peter Clark?" I asked

"Please write down the title and author," she said and gave me a piece of post-it paper. Then she typed something in her computer.

"Writing Tools: 50 Strategies for Every Writer? Is this the book?" She asked.

"Yes, that's the book," I said.

She went upstairs through a spiral staircase. After a while, she came down holding a book in spring green cover. It's Writing Tools.

I shall be a writer again. Tonight, I shall write the saddest lines.

12 November 2017

Writing three paragraphs per sitting is liberating

With three paragraphs I can already tell a story--a story with a beginning, middle, and end--though not necessarily in that order, as Jean-Luc Godard would say.

There is sheer joy in writing--something like chiseling a Pieta from a marble block with letters, words, and paragraphs. Then something takes shape: the words become the mirror of my mind. "In the beginning was the Word," says the John the Beloved. Christ is the Word of God. Christ is the image of God---perhaps in the same way as our words reveal who we are. And yet in this case our metaphor fail, though they are the closest theologians can think of in describing the relationship of the Father and the Son in the Uni Trinoque or the Holy Trinity.

 I haven't blogged for a long, long time. And writing these three paragraph spurts has been cathartic. I just need to get words out of my heart, before I go crazy trying to hold them in. And so with Jeremiah, I pray: "You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped...I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it." (Jer 20:7-9)

If you have time, read Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

It is a meditation on old age. But what really captivates me is the power of its poetry. It is just one long sentence separated by semicolons, and then one short sentence with vanity repeated thrice:
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years approach of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2 before the sun is darkened and the light and the moon and the stars and the clouds return after the rain; 3 * when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent; when the women who grind are idle because they are few, and those who look through the windows grow blind; 4 When the doors to the street are shut, and the sound of the mill is low; when one rises at the call of a bird, and all the daughters of song are quiet; 5 when one is afraid of heights, and perils in the street; when the almond tree blooms, and the locust grows sluggish and the caper berry is without effect, because mortals go to their lasting home, and mourners go about the streets; 6 * before the silver cord is snapped and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the pulley is broken at the well, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it.* a 8 Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, all things are vanity! (Eccl 12:1-8)
 Someday, perhaps next year, I wish to make a poster illustrating the nouns and verbs described in this passage: the darkening sun, the tranquil night, the old warrior, the idle grindstone, the blossoming almond tree, the tired locust, the caper berry, the street mourners, the snapped silver cord, the broken golden bowl, the shattered pitcher, the broken pulley.

Or perhaps instead of a poster, I shall write a story.

11 November 2017

Today, I deleted all my blog posts

Well, not exactly. I only hid them from view. They are still there in in my blog, buried like a treasure in the field. Perhaps, this is what Virgil felt regarding his Iliad. Or Brahms regarding his musical compositions. Or Gerard Manley Hopkins regarding his poems. Nothing short of perfection should be regarded as art. Carthage must be destroyed.

I need a new leaf in life. I felt stretched and weary, spread out too thinly butter, as Bilbo would say. I felt that my previous posts had defined me as just one of those bloggers for hire, churning out dozens of utilitarian how-to posts and listicles every week to feed the insatiable appetite of social media platforms and search engines. I am tired running after eyeballs. I need the solitude of deep writing. I need a monastery.

I am Jaguar Paw! This is my forest! I am Quirino Sugon Jr. This is my blog.



06 July 2017

How to use file folders to organize your documents

I felt stressed. There were assorted documents stashed inside my bag. On my table lie some loose papers I haven't filed: they were sitting on top of notebooks in various stages of disarray. The file folders on the right side of my desk are arranged neatly, but I know at the back end are some documents that I haven't properly filed. And what was my filing system again?

Entropy in Physics is a measure of the state of disorder of a system. According to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, the state of disorder of an isolated system can only increase. Hence, the mess.

So I decided to overhaul my folder filing system. I sorted the papers into different folders. Each folder has a two or three level classification system. In some folders, I use the institutional categories. The is usually an institution, such as Ateneo (for Ateneo de Manila University) and MO (Manila Observatory). The succeeding keywords are just modifiers, e.g. "MO history CD" or "Ateneo faculty appointment." The folders are then arranged alphabetically. In other papers, I use topical categories, e.g. "Person," "Medical," and "Magazine." For example, "Person: Sugon, Paul," "Medical: HealthDev," and "Magazine: Space Weather Quarterly."

I have thrown about 500 papers of trash, which I cut into thin strips by ripping a handful of papers by hand--about four to five strips per paper. The folders I keep. I can always relabel them using a self-adhesive continuous label paper--just a simple paper sticker of size 24 mm x 90 mm, with 10 pieces per fold. I did not anymore use my electronic labelers, because printing a plastic label is costly, though the labels last long and won't fade with time. But my priorities are organization efficiency and cheap price, not beauty and elegance. So I stick with paper stickers.

It took me 6 hours to reclassify and file my documents. Hopefully, I should now be able to find any document in less than one minute.

My next job is to overhaul my drawers.

18 January 2017

How to get things done with Notes in iPad

My iPad (9th Edition)
Apple's iPad have three apps for getting things done: Calendar, Reminders, and Notes. I tried all three, but Notes has been my app of choice for several weeks now. Here are some ways on how to get things done with the Notes App:
  1. Write a title for your note. I know this sounds silly, but the first 33 characters on your first paragraph serves as the title of your note. So better limit your first sentence or phrase into 30 characters and make it the title of your note. Usually, the title that I type is the date in yyyy-mm-dd notation followed by a three-letter code for the day of the week, e.g. "2017-01-18 Tue". If I am making some notes for a project, I write the title of the project as the title of the note.
  2. Write your body text. The first few words of your second paragraph will serve as text snippet. There's an Aa icon on the bottom left corner. Click this icon and you can type the text. If you use a physical keyboard, the keyboard panel in the iPad screen will be gone.
  3. Make a checklist. Click on the checklist icon on the lower left corner and you can type things that you need to do. After you have done them, you can mark the circles as check by pressing on them like a button; the circles will become filled with orange color and marked check. 
  4. Take a picture. There's a camera icon at the bottom right. Click it and you can take a photo which you can embed in your note. The picture will serve as your image snippet. You can take a photo or video. You may also grab a photo from your library.
  5. Write some scribbles. There's a scribble icon on the lower right hand corner. This is ideal for drawing cartoons with your bare fingers. You can also use this tool to make quick sketches which you may wish to develop later.
  6. Make a new note. There's a square with a pencil icon at the upper right hand corner. Click on this to make a new note. In my case, I copy the undone tasks in the previous day and transfer them to the new day note. To copy, just press on the right side of the text, click 'select', and drag the bounds of the highlighted area. Press 'cut', then go to the new note, press the location where you wish to paste, then click paste. This is the most enjoyable part for me in getting things done. It feels like I am using a real paper notebook, but the transferring of tasks to a new day is so much easier: I don't have to copy word for word. In this way, all the notes for the previous day are only the tasks that I have accomplished, which gives me an idea on my productivity for each day.
  7. Share your note. There's box with an upward pointing arrow icon at the upper right hand corner. You can share this note as a message, or mail, or Twitter, and more.
  8. Trash your note. There's a trash bin icon on the upper right hand corner. Maybe you don't need to trash. You can choose to highlight the whole text after pressing somewhere, and click Select All option. Click Cut and write a new note.
  9. Add people. The icon is a silhouette of a head with a plus sign enclosed by a circle on the upper right hand corner. You can use this to add people who can see your note. They can also edit what you have done. 
  10. Search. This is a very handy feature. But it is not immediately apparent after you typed your note. You need to drag the left column a bit by sliding your finger downwards. This column contains the note titles and snippets. The gray box area will show up at the top below the Notes header and Edit. Type something on this gray box to find the notes which contains the text you're looking for.