And, But, And Oxford Commas

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It has now been a month since I took on this attempt to write and, like I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t really done this since my high school days so I don’t necessarily remember everything I should have learned in English class. But thanks some reading of other great blog posts out there I’ve learned, or actually re-learned, a couple of things about writing.

First, I can actually begin a sentence with the words “and” or “but”. I know. I thought it was against the rules too. Here check out this great post from Stef at Dodging Commas that explains it. Apparently, it is acceptable to begin a sentence with “and” or “but” provided it is executed sparingly, appropriately, and skillfully.  If you’re paying attention to that last sentence then you’ll see how this leads me to the second thing I’ve learned.

That is, the “oxford comma”.  It is often debated by many over its necessity.  I am from the school of thought that it isn’t necessary but after some pondering I’ve come to the conclusion that it is logical so I will support it and use it.

Which side of the fence are you on about ands, buts, and oxford commas?

On Separation Of Blogging And Writing

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I’ve enjoyed blogging for some time now and lately I’ve enjoyed writing itself. But, like the separation of church and state, sometimes you have to keep one out of the way of the other. What do you mean?

Here’s what I mean…

In my opinion, writing should be a pure craft. Many writers believe this and go the lengths to achieve a zen like environment where they can let their creativity flow freely. Just like a sculptor chips and carves away the rock to reveal the sculpture or a painter envisions the masterpiece before putting a stroke of paint on the canvas so too is writing. It is inspiration manifested. No matter the type of writing an author is doing, the words have to come from somewhere meaningful. Hopefully to the reader as much as the writer. Otherwise, what’s the point.

When it comes to blogging, while it does consist of writing, different things come to mind. Thoughts of keywords, SEO, headlines, metadata, track backs, categories, tags, etc. These things can derail great writing. Personally, when I write I don’t want to think of the filling my sentences with search terms and keywords. I just want to express my thoughts, as well as I can.

Of course, people blog and write for different reasons and I imagine many people blog blissfully without a second thought about SEO and all that. Lucky them, I say, they are doing it purely for the joy of it. Then again, many people make a living blogging successfully because they pay attention to all the ins-and-outs of blogging. Like I said, sometimes blogging and writing need to be separated but sometimes they need to work together. Eventually, I may want to do that as well, make money from blogging-writing, but for now I try to just write.

Positivity And Clarity With Exercise

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I’m ashamed to say that these days, I hardly exercise but several years ago, before I had a family, exercise was a passion of mine.  I did it everyday, in some form.  It was how I started my day or how I got away from a long day.  Most days I couldn’t wait to get back into the gym or get out on the road for a good run.  It was my time, by myself, me investing in myself.  That in itself is powerful.  Lots of people forget to invest positively in themselves.  In my opinion, exercise is the best way a person can invest in themselves.

I don’t think I’ve ever met an angry, bitter person that also incorporates exercise into their lifestyle.  That’s because it’s a great way to work out negative energy.  You push yourself to the limit then you keep going.  Not out of any outside obligation.  You do it simply because you want to and you can.  You’re accountable to yourself.  When you push yourself like that you have no time or room to dwell on the negative.  When you’re done with your workout all you’re left with is sweat, tired muscles and positive energy.

Another great thing I loved about making exercise a part of my day everyday is that it gave my mind a break.  When you train by yourself, you block out all distractions and your mind doesn’t have to multitask.  You do have to concentrate but it’s only on your next rep, your form, completing the set, doing one more mile, beating your last time.  You visualize and you do it; and that has an amazing ability to clear your mind.

I guess I would have to retract my first statement on this post where I said that exercise was my passion.  Exercise is still my passion despite me not dedicating the time I use to for it.  I guess it’s about time I start practicing what I’m preaching, after all, I wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite and summer is just around the corner.  And passion is nothing if you don’t live it, right?

Make Google Docs Beautifully Inspiring And Google Reader Clutter Free

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Since starting this blog less than two weeks ago I’ve started to put more effort into writing.  Inspiration can be a fleeting thing so finding an inspiring place to read and write can be useful.  Just this week I found two ways to make Google Docs better for writing and Google Reader a little better for reading.

Linen Background For Google Docs

Google Docs is a great place to write but the normal white expanse of the Docs page may not inspire everyone’s muse.  If that sounds like you then you can try this beautiful Linen Background like the image above.

Get this for your Google Docs by:

  1. Install Stylish for Firefox (then restart your browser) or Stylish for Chrome.
  2. Go to the Linen Background for Google Docs page and click the +Install With Stylish button.

Google Reader Minimal Readable Expanded

As for reading, Google Reader is a very popular service for aggregating and reading articles.  With Minimal Readable, you can easily strip away everything from Reader except what is important, the articles you want to read.  Even the menu gets out of your way but it reappears when you hover over the sidebar area with your mouse pointer.

Get this for your Google Reader by:

  1. Install Stylish for Firefox (then restart your browser) or Stylish for Chrome.
  2. Go to the Google Reader Minimal Readable Expanded page and click the +Install with Stylish button

Notes On Minimal Readable Expanded

There are some caveats with Minimal Readable.  All the Google Reader buttons and share features also disappear so you will need to learn the keyboard shortcuts to accomplish usual functions.  Learn them at the link below.

Google Reader Keyboard Shortcuts

Additionally, Minimal Readable Expanded works only at the URL:

http://www.google.com/reader/view/*

This is the web address for Google Reader.  However, Google adds a bit to that URL if you are in a country other than the U.S.A.  For instance, I am in Belize so my Google Reader address starts with:

http://www.google.com.bz/…

So, if this happens, Minimal Readable Expanded won’t work.  You can simply delete the country bit out of the address in your address bar.  I opted to edit the code of the Readable userstyle so I wouldn’t have to edit the address bar every time.

I am trying this with Reader and the Docs update looks very nice too.  What do you use to do your best writing?  What do you use to read articles?

Writing Too Much To Tweet

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Last night as I was on my way home I pulled my phone from my pocket to jump on Twitter and I realized that I haven’t been on Twitter in days.  I’ve just been enjoying writing in longer form for this site so much.  Having inspiration strike with a great post idea and actually writing and hammering it out into a complete post is so much more rewarding than crafting a short tweet.  Even today, I can’t think of a single thing I would care to tweet but I have jotted down several post ideas and worked on several drafts.

Truth be told, writing blog posts does take considerably more effort than a status update and I do hope readers relate to some of what I will be committing to posts.  It is definitely motivating.

App Review: Tasks Syncs Beautifully With Google Tasks [Android]

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Everyone could use a great to-do app but finding one with all the right features and functionality that works they way you work is a never-ending search.  For me, a great to-do app must have:  a clean user interface, a quick workflow, drag and drop functionality so rearranging task is easy, a mobile app, a web app and seamless syncing between the mobile and web versions.  I think I may have found that perfect app.

Tasks [Free]

Tasks

Task brings the full Google Tasks experience to Android. It is available in a free version and a paid version (currently $1.10 USD).  Both the free and paid versions have the same features and functionality but the free version is ad-supported.

I only just found this app today and I love it so much I’ve already uninstalled all my other to-do apps from my Android phone.  When starting up the app for the first time I had to select a Google Tasks account.  Seeing as how this app is built around Google Tasks, I went ahead an authorized my account.  The initial sync took only a few seconds and went flawlessly.  Some forgotten tasks in my Google account were then shown in my lists but it was easy to delete those.  I then set up my lists (or folders if your mind works that way).  The app arranges lists alphabetically from left to right but the app makes it so easy to move from one list to another that I didn’t mind this.  Simply swiping left or right moves you to adjacent lists, similar to the Android/iOS home screens.  This arrangement is awesome because there are no menus to slow you down.  The entry button, check boxes to complete tasks and drag-and-drop buttons are always on screen so working with your tasks is quick and easy.  The aesthetics of the app is also very clean and pleasing.  Seriously, this app is simple, quick and it works.  What more would you want?

(This is my first ever app review but I am an app junkie so, if you follow this blog, you will probably see more of these.  Enjoy.)

Writing (And Blogging) Takes Courage

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I imagine that to some people, writing comes quite easily.  Just like with any other craft, they have a knack for it.  They probably hammer out pieces quickly and have no apprehensions about publishing their work.  What an author is really doing is putting themselves out there and that can be hard to do, depending on how much of themselves they put into any given piece of work.  It’s not easy but maybe that comes with practice.

As I start writing here at Random Waxing, I will be writing about topics I would not normally write about at my family blog.  My writing here is an exploration of a developing passion for writing.  So, inherently, many pieces will have a lot of me in them.  I’ve gotta say, it takes a few tries to hit that Publish button.  I’m not good that this yet.  The technical aspects of my writing is basic at best.  Some may argue that that isn’t important, that I should just write what I know and do it with passion.  Others may bash me and tell me learn how to write.  Its made me second guess my words more than a few times.

Another thing is that I’ve chosen to write in a blog form, which takes a commitment.  I have to be consistent or whats the point.  Its a challenge I knew full well before starting.

Nonetheless, here I am.  I have no grand goal to be had at the end of this site.  Its not a journal or a diary.  Its a manifestation of a desire to create.  So finally, after a few years of blogging, I am finally exploring this new passion for writing, publicly I might add (and maybe with a stiff drink while I click the Publish button).