Topical Tuesday: The Importance of Loving Your Computer

I love my computer. It’s a Macbook that I purchased in February of this year. And I love it. It’s black, sleek, happy and most of all, wonderful to me.

Before my Macbook I had a Toshiba. The reason I had this Toshiba is because in a pinch, it was the easiest thing to get me after my Jerusalem apartment was robbed and my laptop (a Dell that I had had for two and a half years) stolen. Though it had caused me numerous problems I liked my Dell. It pissed me off enough, though, that I had resolved to get a Mac as my next computer.

Unfortunately, when I had to have something as quick as possible and my mom had to get it to me from overseas, I did not get to look at and shop for Macs but just had to take the quick fix. That quick fix was perhaps the worst computer I’ve ever used. Toshiba hasn’t always made bad products but recently they’ve been buying parts on the cheap, and the quality of their computers has suffered dramatically. This was such a computer. It was horrible, shutting down all the time, never working for long, and generally screwing up at every turn. Plus, it had Vista which totally sucks.

When I arrived in the States three months later I resolved to purchase a Mac and forever stay away from the horrors of PC. I did and I’ve never been happier. I feel like I divorced this ugly, stupid girl and started making love to the hottest and most brilliant chick in the world. The transition to a Mac from PC was relatively painless and I’ve never looked back. There’s no problem creating Word files; there’s no blue screen of death. I can run as many programs as I like at once (and I do). It is an intuitive experience and there are all sorts of excellent ways for me to enjoy myself with my computer by personalizing it more thoroughly.

And why is this all important? Because as someone who spends 12 hours a day in front of the computer, working and typing and writing and trying to be creative, I need to have an excellenet relationship with this machine. It is essential to my productivity, comfort and peace of mind. I didn’t used to love my work station but ever since I got this Mac I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

What kind of computer do you use? Do you love it? Why or why not?

Don’t forget to check out Chandler’s blog for more on this topic, or for another Topical Tuesday article click HERE.

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Author and Computer Scientist, Hank Simon, Talks about Publishing and Writing

Hank Simon has been a wonderful asset to me as I began the writing, querying, proposal and publishing processes with The Zen of South Park. I wanted to bring him on as a guest blogger this Monday so that you could get to know him a little better and reap the benefits of some of his advice just as I have. Please don’t hesitate to leave questions and comments at the end of the post and he will return to answer them accordingly.

What do you do for a living?

I’m currently a computer scientist/engineer at a major corporation. I’m responsible for the long-term, strategic design of how information flows across the enterprise using Service Oriented Architecture approaches.

What book(s) have you written? What are they about? How do they relate to your day job, if at all?

I’ve written and contributed to 7 non-fiction books about technology. They relate to highly technical topics, such as XML, wireless, expert systems, and spectroscopy. I wrote them because, as a thought leader in advanced technology and R&D, I found a gap in information about these topics. So, as I gathered this information for a forward looking applications, it was natural to organize my findings as chapters in my books.

When were they published and with whom?

McGraw-Hill was my most successful publication in 2001, as well as a few smaller companies, ranging from 1999 – 2005.

Did you have an agent when you were trying to get them published or did you go straight to publishers?

I was very lucky in this aspect, because I was publishing many articles – more than 100 – in various trade journals, as well as making presentations at international conferences. This experience gave me lots of exposure to editors in various publishing houses, and they approached me with ideas for the books.

When you wrote query letters and proposals, what was the most difficult part?

The proposal is the most difficult part, because I had to get a feeling for the marketplace and clearly define my audience. I also had to defend my book idea compared to existing books already published. This was both a blessing and a curse. I found that the easiest way to slip into the market was to discover a gap or niche that I could fill. That niche is unique in all cases, and sometimes it is not a niche that I could fill. It was difficult to admit that.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors trying to get published?

Read a lot by authors that you like and topics that interest you. But if you don’t like authors, don’t choke on them. For example, I read voraciously, but I don’t like many authors who write more than 600 pages. That means I have never waded through War and Peace. In contrast, I do like some of the older authors, Thurber, Benchley, Twain, Shalom Aleichem, Hemmingway, Herriot, Asimov. And I also like Grogan, and Rowland for their straightforward style. When I write, I try to blend aspects of these authors in order to improve my own style. And, I try to write at least 1 hour everyday, saving the edit process until I have a completed piece.

Are you working on any projects right now? Can you tell me about it (the writing process/publishing process/etc.).

I’m working on a Dog book that uses my dog as the central character, to highlight his personality and intelligence, to show interactions with other dogs, and to use this as a canvas to paint the relationships of people and the dogs that they meet along the way.

What advice do you have when it comes to writing?

Write everyday in a style that you like to read. Don’t try to win the Noble Prize.
Write and create first, edit later. It is tremendously easier to create and then edit.
And it is more productive to write a complete work and then edit. If you keep editing, you will stop creating and will get discouraged.
Plan to take 2x or 3x as much time to cut & edit, as you do creating.
Plan for your first book to take about a year from start to publication.

Who is your favorite author? What’s your favorite book?

I like the Harry Potter books.

If you could write one kind of book that you haven’t yet written what would it be?

I’d like to write a book on “Managing Ignorance” to complement Peter Drucker’s classic on Managing Knowledge. I could see many Dilbert opportunities.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Writing is very hard and time consuming. And, it is a job that requires discipline to remain in isolation while you create. Non-writers don’t appreciate the long hours, and the hard work needed to turn a phrase and to chip away everything until only the finely crafted piece remains.

Topical Tuesdays…on Wednesday! – Self Publishing

First, an apology. As some of my loyal readers (and for the record I love you all) will notice, this promised Topical Tuesday is not happening on Tuesday. It’s Wednesday (to be honest – I’m in San Fran so it’s still Tuesday here but since it’s Wednesday on the East Coast and most people on the West Coast won’t read this blog until Wednesday, here we are). Low and behold, you will also know, as a loyal reader, that I have just moved to San Francisco and so my life and schedule (and internet access) are a little thrown off. Please forgive me for the aberration in posting.

That all said, don’t forget to check out Chandler’s blog for more on this week’s Topical Tuesday subject, self publishing. I assure you it’s more informed than my own opinion. And here we go…

Self publishing is a challenging matter and Chandler’s point remains crucial: a self-published author has not been selected for publishing. The author has chosen to avail him or herself of the services of someone else’s abilities to print. That means you’re responsible for what happens (generally speaking) after said availing.

There are, of course, some benefits to self publishing. One is that, if an author is having trouble getting a book published, self publishing is a way to prove that the book can be successful. With a proper ad campaign (self-funded, of course) and good promotion, you can sell a lot of books (pending you convince people to buy your book). You can sell copies out of the trunk of your car after a book signing or talk. You can sell them over the internet and with an isbn number through Amazon.com. All of these things and more are possible and you could sell a crapload of books this way. If your goal is to be published, a publisher could be greatly incentivized by your book’s success and agree to give it a go through real publishing. So, in this sense, it could be a means to an end.

As far as money is concerned, first books and writing in general don’t yield a lot of money. Very few people become Stephen Kings or Nora Roberts. Most of us make next to bubkes doing this. If you self publish, you could be responsible for some money up front (I don’t know the details). Fortunately, if you get a lot of copies of your book (and some awful publishers like PublishAmerica don’t let this happen so be careful and as Chandler warns, make sure you know what you’re signing) by running a large print run at your expense and keeping the copies, you get to keep all of the profits if you sell them. That means that the harder you work to promote and sell the more direct fiscal benefits you see. In the world of publishing houses, they reap the financial benefits of your promotions (aside from meager royalties) and you only reap the benefits of a book thoroughly sold which increases your odds of being published again – a noble gain, no doubt.

On the flip side of all of this are two issues that I see. Number one: you’re not really published in an elitist way and your book is probably not all over Barnes and Noble bookshelves. And number two: you could pay more money up front and not really get paid by a publishing house. There are other issues but these are two that I see.

At the very least, before self publishing read your contract carefully and make sure you’re not getting into a mess you can’t get out of – or at least get out of with your book.

What do you think about self publishing? Are you self published? Was it a good or bad experience? Are there other pros and cons that I didn’t talk about that you think should be brought up?

Status Report: San Fran is great and I’m loving the city. This was our first day apartment hunting and we’ve seen some stuff we liked. We feared the worst before beginning but think that we’ve found some great things and are not worried about working out a positive situation. We are staying in a friend’s apartment 30 minutes outside of the city (Sunnyvale) and it’s quite nice. His car is a great bonus for apartment hunting. Cyrus, the cat, did not have a great trip in and was pretty upset all through the night (disoriented, still a bit drugged, upset by the move) but today he seems pretty normal and his usual self. Tomorrow we check out more apartments – I’ll let you know how it goes.