Morning Meanderings: Non-Eclipses, Writing, and Mind Mapping

PBW Confusion 001.jpgI notice this morning that I’ve passed 10,000 pages read so far this year (I only count book pages, not those read online or in magazines, etc.). I’m a bit ahead of last year’s pace as I didn’t hit 10,000 until July 10th. Obviously, I was reading much shorter books in 2010 as I’d finished 49 books by this time last year while in 2011 I’ll finish my 40th book later today.

Last night’s total lunar eclipse was a bust here in Phuket. Right as the moon was due to start it’s path through the earth’s shadow it began to rain. The shower didn’t last very long and I went outside shortly before totality was to begin. There were a few breaks in the clouds where dark sky was visible and I wandered through the neighborhood for perhaps a half hour checking to see if the moon was visible through any of the holes. However, I had no idea where the moon should have been had it been visible. I never did spot it although there seemed to be a reddish glow on the clouds to the northwest. This could have been ground-reflected glare, however. I have yet to observe an eclipse in Thailand as the clouds never cooperate for me…

With my recent proliferation of writing I’ve decided to join Inkygirl’s 250 Words A Day Writing Challenge. One of the things I miss about using Windows Live Writer was the word count being displayed along the bottom — Zoundry Raven doesn’t seem to have that feature. I searched all over the ‘net last night trying to find a downloadable tool that would allow me to track how many words I was writing — not only for the blog but also in my personal journal and anything else I happened to work on.

I found several WordPress plugins that were useful for analyzing material already published on the blog (or giving counts for drafts in WordPress’ online editor plus a number of different meters for tracking progress towards writing goals, none of these were exactly what I was looking for.

However, a very interesting bit of software called Enso Words by Humanized fit the bill perfectly. Once installed you simply highlight text, hold down the Caps Lock key on your keyboard and then type the name of a command — in this case, “word count”. You don’t even have to type the entire name as “W” will bring up just two choices and then you can move the cursor over the one you require. This is called a “quasimodal” entry and takes a bit of getting used to but I quite like it. Thus, I can find out that so far in this entry there are 455 words. Hmmm…perhaps I should join Inkygirl’s 500 Words A Day challenge.

I’ve recently discovered a blog by fellow American-expat-in-Thailand Paul Salvette. Paul is an author who recommends making a name for yourself by publishing short stories and flash fiction online. His blog is full of useful information about sites that accept these types of submissions, self-publishing ebooks in Thailand, profiles of other Thailand-based authors, as well as links to his own published stories.

Because of Paul’s blog and several other’s I’d found slightly before and as a result of reading his articles I’m hoping to get back to my own “serious” writing (meaning not for the blog or journal but with an aim for publication). I still have big plans for my “History of Phuket” with a major rewrite and expansion of the “brief” page included on Phuket Bookworm. I have a long way to go on this project and, really, it’s the only thing keeping me in Phuket right now (however, I can definitely continue work on it if living elsewhere). I also want to take my stab once again at Phuket-set fiction — I’ve long planned a mystery novel taking place on the island but perhaps I should try my hand at short fiction instead.

To aid in planning my writing a bit better I’ve returned to the concept of mind mapping. According to Litermind.com, “this is a graphical way to represent ideas and concepts. Information obtained through brainstorming or other means can be structured in a way that unlike traditional note taking or linear text more closely resembles how one’s brain actually works. It’s an activity that is both analytical and artistic which engages the brain in a much richer way, helping in all its congnitive functions.”

There’s quite a bit of mind mapping software around. When I had my iPod Touch I started using SimpleMind which I found wonderful not only in the packed features and ease-of-use but also in the beauty of the maps I created. I used the desktop version as well (and it synced nicely with the iPod app) until the 30-day trial expired. I’m way to cheap to purchase such software though so I recently sought out a free alternative.

I quite liked Mindomo as it had everything I liked about SimpleMind and more. However, the free version has a major limitation — you can’t save the mind maps you create on your desktop unless you started them in the online dashboard. Since I don’t have an internet connection in my apartment and my online time is severely limited when I do use the cafe downstairs this wasn’t a good fix for me (too bad they don’t have a portable apps version as it would have been a better solution).

Many of the other free mind mapping apps I found were simply ugly. While certainly useful in brainstorming part of the appeal (at least for me) is creating a work of art as well as a organizer of thoughts. Who wants an grapically unappealing mind map? I finally hit upon XMind which is open source and includes a load of features (there’s also a $49 per year Pro version). Perhaps best of all for me is that there is a portable version so I can take my mind maps with me. Here’s one I made this morning…

[Click on the image for a larger view]

The Phuket BookwormDaily Writing Word Counts:
This Article — 1002
Total Today — 1002

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