The truth about the world

The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning. 

Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

Alternatives to iA Writer 3

I was once a daily user of iA Writer. They just released the latest version of their app, iA Writer 3. I tried it out and the experience is gorgeous. 

I still won’t end up using the text editor because it doesn’t support exporting to WordPress or Evernote. I’m using the Byword App instead. It’s great, but I prefer the aesthetics of iA Writer. 

So tell me: What are my alternatives if I want these features/characteristics:

  • Export to WordPress and Evernote
  • Markdown
  • Minimalistic 

Let me know if the comments if you have any suggestions!

On breaking habits

Regular readers of the blog know that something has been amiss since Monday. That’s right, this is the first post since I wrote a review of Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. So much for daily blogging…

I managed to write every single day for 48 days in a row. In my original blog post I said I was going to give it 3 months before I switched to anything other than a daily schedule. I missed that by almost half.

I’m still going to be writing daily, but I’ve decided not to publish everything like I have been. The reason I didn’t publish anything on Tuesday or Wednesday is because I wasn’t satisfied with what I wrote. So here’s the plan:

  • On the days when I have something ready to publish, I’ll publish it. I still plan on writing based on the daily categories, but I won’t necessarily have something for every day.
  • On the days when I don’t have something ready to publish, I’ll write a short post giving some stats about the writing I did that day. Nothing crazy, just what I worked on and how many words/pages/whatever I managed to drag out of my brain and onto the screen.

Sound like a plan? Well that’s what I’m doing, so it better. See you soon!

The power of journaling

I listen to Tim Ferriss’ podcast regularly. I’m somewhat tired of the similar answers that seem to pop up all the time (yes, I read Meditations and stoic philosophy is interesting Tim). There’s probably something to be said for any answer or habit that occurs regularly though. That’s why I still listen.

One thing that comes up over and over again is journaling. A bunch of people do it, and they all seem to get something out of it.

I recently took up notebook journaling and it seems like a habit that’s going to stick around in my life. I’ve done other kinds of journaling for a long time. I use the Day One App on my phone every day and have for more than 2 years. I only use it for basic journaling, however, because I find typing on the tiny keyboard difficult. Instead of writing out paragraphs of details, I tend to write a simple sentence about how the day went. Sometimes I’ll include a photo from the day as well. I don’t look back at it often and I don’t have any plans to in the future. I like to have the data though, because there’s always an idea about some all-powerful dashboard of Logan that I could have in a distant future, one where I could pull up any day and remember exactly how it was through the magic of the quantified self and data visualization.

Anyway, I’ve tried to keep a paper journal a few times in the past and it hasn’t stuck. I’ve been journaling in my notebook for about a month now so there’s no guarantee that it will continue. I’ve found it incredibly useful in focusing my efforts on a daily basis. I’ve also looked back to find important information on a couple of occasions. Those two data points alone are enough to tell me it’s worth my time.

This is what my journaling looks like

  • I use a black large hardcover Moleskine Classic Notebook with squared paper and a blue ballpoint pen. I like the squared paper instead of lined because it plays nice with lists. I’ve tried Rhodia notebooks in the past for their superior paper, specifically so I could use a fountain pen instead of a ballpoint. I simply can’t justify the extra cost for the small perceived benefits to the process, however.
  • I write a couple pages in the morning, usually shortly after I wake up. I’m not great at keeping a perfect schedule. The morning journal tends to be more about the day ahead, although I don’t have any set requirements for myself. I do try to set a few specific goals for the day so I can write about my progress at night.
  • I write two pages in the evening whenever I can find time. It’s 7:30 as I’m writing this and I will probably wait until after dinner to write my journal entry. I’m not as good about writing in the evening, but I find it just as useful as writing in the morning. I usually review my goals and write about any important situations or people I had interactions with during the day.
  • In both the morning and evening journaling I use the Evernote mobile app to save a digital copy of the journal. I simply open the app, tell it I want a new note in my Daily Journal notebook, choose the photo option and point the camera at the notebook. The app has a great document recognition feature so it just automagically snaps the page without any input from me.
  • The image is transferred into searchable text by Evernote because I’m a paid subscriber to the service. I can search by keyword, although with my terrible handwriting the optical character recognition isn’t always the greatest.

Like I said, I’ve already looked back into the journal to remind myself of something I knew was in there, which is incredibly useful. Probably more important is the way it forces me to order my thoughts and goals and put them out on paper every day.

I’m going to continuing journaling. I can already imagine a future with an entire bookshelf dedicated to the black Moleskines. They will, of course, be filed by date with labels on the spines to aid in my information retrieval. Maybe I’ll even do something interesting enough that someone will want to read them in the future. If not, there’s always family. They’re obligated to be interested — or sell the notebooks as kindling in a garage sale.

Short story: The Hand

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for the conclusion to The Runner you’re going to have to wait until next week. Hopefully you’ll like this short story just as much or more!

Jonah looks down his arm to his wrist. That’s where it ends. The hand that once made his living and his life is gone. The detached appendage made its way down to the crematory in the bowels of the Beanman Hospital where it will meet its fiery end.

A week ago the hand ran down Sarah’s long, blonde hair until it found a hold and helped direct her lips to his. Three days ago the swelling moved from Jonah’s middle finger to the rest of his hand. Yesterday the infection made its murderous intentions for the heart clear. Then they cut it off.

The drug-induced sleep didn’t wipe out Jonah’s dreams; he remembers the last wisps of a vision of a bird and a dark intruder. The dream falls apart as Dr. Emmanuel Kingman enters the room. He is short, with a muscular upper body that belies his surgeon’s touch. He looks at Jonah through the mask covering his head and face.

“Are we awake Mr. Cliver?” Kingman says, forming the next sentence too quickly for a reply. “The operation went well. They’ve been waiting to administer tests to confirm the eradication of the infection.”

Jonah grabs at the meaning behind the words as quickly as his chemically handicapped brain will allow. They cut off my damned hand, he thinks. What other sacrifice is required to pummel the foreign attacker into submission?

“I thought the operation was all the eradication we needed,” he whispers loudly through dry vocal chords. “You’re telling me you might take even more from me?”

The doctor flips to the next page on the chart without looking at Jonah. “The infection took your hand, not us. As we discussed, amputation was our only option after the antibiotics and other treatments failed. Please sit up so I can do my job.”

The protests boiling up in Jonah’s throat die down quickly. He knows his actions over the last three days led to Kingman’s attitude. He thinks the doctor is probably right, he deserves the brusk bedside manner and probably more.

Jonah struggles to move his body up as nurses begin to fill the small area left open in the Intensive Care Unit’s isolation room. Only the virulent communicable cases that threaten the wellbeing of the other sick people make their way here.

The front half of the room is taken up by the mechanism tasked with keeping the good germs out and the bad germs inside. The air lock and decontamination center seem like a fire hazard in the making to Jonah, but his caretakers assured him he would make it out alive in the case of a fire. His body might eat itself, but no simple flames would make this world black to him.

“Everything I can see looks fine,” Kingman says. “That doesn’t mean they won’t find something in the testing room.”

“You can’t even reassure me that everything is going to be OK?” Jonah says. “Couldn’t you have done these damned tests of yours while I was knocked out?”

“No, these tests require your cooperation,” Kingman says. “Unless you’re as talented at conversing in your sleep as you are at being rude to the doctors trying to save your life, that is.”

Jonah thinks back to the time he’s spent with Kingman. No one would listen when he told them about the phantom movements that only happened when the doctors’ backs were turned. They all thought he was crazy until the blood tests started coming back positive for something they really didn’t like. He’s been quarantined in the ICU since then.

“The team is on the way up now,” Kingman says. “Please try to give them the information they need without too much hassle. We really do want to fix whatever’s causing your body to attack itself.”

Jonah wakes to the hiss of the airlock and sees the whole gang is here. There must be at least a dozen medical professionals on the case. Some are practitioners of the craft and the rest of the group is made up of researchers from prestigious schools around the country. Apparently all you need is three days and a brand spanking new infection no one has ever seen to rustle up the best medical minds in the country.

Jonah can’t remember everyone’s name, but he has a little story about each doctor after spending so much time with them in the last few days. Today it looks like the rodeo clown is going to be taking charge again based on the number of carts he’s pushing toward the side of the bed.

“Hello, Jonah,” he says, his head just barely peeking over the edge of the cart. “Are you ready for some tests?”

Jonah remembers the moment the nickname jumped into his mind. They were poking and prodding him when an entire machine tipped over on top of the diminutive doctor. Jonah looked over in time to see him rolling around on the ground grappling with a crescent shaped machine emblazoned with SIREMOBIL on the side. He looked exactly like a rodeo clown in a barrel. Jonah lost it and couldn’t stop laughing for the next 5 minutes. He later found out the machine was some kind of portable X-ray machine.

“Test away doc,” Jonah says. “Just try to keep the missing body part count to a minimum, OK?”

The next hour is a blur. Doctors move in and out of his personal space, touching and probing in ways that make absolutely no sense to Jonah. Don’t they have technology for this kind of thing these days?

Throughout the examination there’s a feeling of apprehension that darts to the surface of Jonah’s mind whenever he sees a particular doctor. It’s someone new, which isn’t unusual. It seems like the tall, dark doctor never gets a turn at the side of the bed, however. Whenever it seems like he’s getting close Jonah loses sight of him as his line of vision is blocked by yet another torture machine masquerading as medical equipment.

“We’ll have results by tomorrow morning,” rodeo clown says. “From everything we’ve seen today you don’t have anything to worry about, at least for now.”

Jonah is about to reply when rodeo clown reaches out his hand and turns away from the bed. A jumble of pokers and prodders jumps directly into the path of his hand as he lives up to his namesake yet again. Jonah is fairly sure the real rodeo clowns just act uncoordinated for show, but it seems to be the real deal with this one. It’s a good thing the doctor isn’t a surgeon because all the malpractice insurance in the world wouldn’t keep him from going broke.

The mess sets off a chain reaction from the other doctors in the room, who gather up the fallen instruments in a hurry.

“Make sure you get everything,” Jonah says. “I don’t want you coming back because you forgot a needle or something. You took my hand and I haven’t even had the time to properly mourn my loss, and now you’re making a mess in my room like a bull in a China shop.”

Rodeo clown looks up from the quickly diminishing pile of surgical steel, the blood rising to his face in a blush that would put a teenaged boy before his first kiss to shame. His mouth opens and closes as the red deepens to a deep maroon. Apparently no good response comes to mind because he doesn’t utter another word before he leaves the room at the tail end of the pack of physicians, closing the airlock in his wake.

Jonah is using humor to calm himself, as he often does in situations where he feels out of control. The truth of the matter is that he’s absolutely terrified and wouldn’t mind the company of a witch doctor or two as he tries to fall asleep. He thinks about how he’s going to manage with only one hand, fighting the gravity pulling against his eyelids. He falls asleep with an image of the unknown doctor emblazoned on his retina.

Jonah sees the blackness taking over the world. It starts at his hand and flows outward across the bed, making its way across the room to the airlock and deftly twisting the portal open. He sees the tendrils of pitch-colored substance snake their way around the corner and fills his lungs with a scream to warn the other people on the ICU to get away. Just before the words burst past his teeth into the world the mass sucks back into the room and forms itself into the shape of a man.

The dark doctor snatches the words away from Jonah’s mouth with a flip of the wrist. His face, which looked like any hominid, melts into a writhing mass of snakes before congealing into a formation that looks more like the beak of a raptor than anything human.

Jonah can’t force his diaphragm to obey his commands to bring more breath into his body. His eyes dart back and forth from the falcon-headed doctor to the door, locking in on the claw that is slowly wrapping itself around his ankle. The snare tightens and Jonah remembers the pain in his hand before they took it away from him.

He can’t take it any more, it’s going to kill him if it doesn’t stop — if the bird doctor is death he’s taking his dues. The curtains go up and Jonah can see the well-lit isolation room again, the airlock across the way in its familiar place. His leg is still on fire. Jeff unthinkingly reaches down with the stump they left him with and sets off two new bolts of pain, one in the arm and another spraying out from his ankle.

The bandages covering his arm are immediately soaked in blood. The wail that wouldn’t pass his lips in the dream forces its way out into the real world at a volume loud enough to break the normal glass they don’t use in ICU isolation rooms. In this place it just reverberates back and forth in the small space until the handle on the door starts to turn. Jonah can see a sea of blood at his feet as he sits up to get a better look.

His head snaps back involuntarily when he sees the dark doctor at the foot of the bed, cupping his claw hands underneath the dripping blood. The airlock slams open and the bird thing shoots out the door past the incoming human. It’s Dr. Kingman and his face immediately registers shock as he sees the carnage in the room.

“What the fuck happened?” he says, looking back and forth between Jonah’s bed and the airlock door.

“Didn’t you see him? One of your crazy fucking doctors did this to me!” Jonah screams. “The bastard ran right by you!”

The events of the last few days catch up to Jonah all at once. He’s about to lose consciousness and there’s nothing he can do to stay in this world. As he starts to slip away he sees Kingman running out the door as rodeo clown makes his way in.

The bird man slides between the world of the blackness and the well-lit real world. Jonah’s vision flickers back and forth in sync with the monster, catching glimpses of the rodeo clown at his feet every time he makes it back. The bird man flits back and forth, alternating positions behind the rodeo clown and directly in front of Jonah’s face, the razor sharp bill dripping blood and gore onto his face. The effect is like a strobe light going off in the most realistic halloween house of horrors in the world.

Jonah gathers his strength and pushes with all his might toward the real world. The light returns and he sits up toward the rodeo clown.

“The dark doctor went that way!” he yells, pointing sharply with his good arm toward the airlock door.

Rodeo clown stands up and makes a move to push him back into bed. His eyes widen as they fall upon the bloody scalpel in Jonah’s hand. It lashes out at rodeo clown’s face, tearing a hole through his cheek and into his eye socket. The eye bursts and Jonah remembers the popguns he and his brothers used to play with when they were young.

Jonah realizes the hand is shooting the blade back toward his head just in time to bring the stump up to block its progress. The scalpel slices through it, leaving a fiery line of pain in its wake and hardly slowing in the process. There is an incredible pressure in his neck as the hand disappears under his field of vision.

The bird man stands in the corner watching as Jonah understands. The hand is under the same spell as the one they took from him. They just didn’t get this one in time.

The blackness spreads from the falcon-headed man to the rest of the room as Jonah floats away from his body, watching the hand attack what’s left of his body until the blackness envelops him completely.

Short story: The Runner part 5

Editor’s note: This is part 5 of the story. You should read part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 first.

Short Story: The Runner
Photo courtesy of Cassandra Braman.

Running.

One mile was an eternity. The next six were a flash. The trance became all encompassing and faded away. A dog chased the shadow and snapped at the point where the penumbra connected to the foot. The canine parasite held on until the pace slowed enough to set off the end of the world. The white lines on the road shimmied out of place and twisted into serpents slithering on the path. They made their way back to the center when no one was looking.

Running.

Heart beats matched the steps until the cadence caused bits and bytes to break off in the thousands. Then millions. Breath came in, left, sped up and down. Feet touched the ground and left imprints in the asphalt. Weightlessness followed (caused) by the screaming mouth. Words that became ideas and letterforms. Then nothing. Pain from too many steps. Not enough steps to keep the pain at bay. The road ate its tail and spat it out again.

Running.

The sun dipped under the horizon. It came back when the eyelids opened. Hot heat trampled thoughts into piles of pulp left over from deforestation. The trail of vomit spanned two miles, a line of breadcrumbs pointing the way to the ambulatory machine. Sun disappearance ahead. Do not pass. Speed limit number.

Running.

Don’t count steps. Only 30 steps to the next light pole. Think stop. Don’t believe talking bird. Fowl knows foul knowledge. Camie escapes machine if nomadic mechanism completes purpose. More steps. Breathing one two three and four. One two three and four. Four steps per line. Feet. Miles. Don’t forget to think. Don’t slow. Don’t slow. Not slow.

Running.

Sun gone. No light. Brightness lanced through brain going up the hill. Unidentified flying something glowing in the distance. Human eternity. Actual eternity. Atomic clock explosion; perfect timing for destruction. Ambiguous dreaming with patterns. Lucid dreams breaking patterns. More light.

Jeff came back into the world slowly, with the sun rising to the east. He looked ahead and saw Camie’s family ranch in the distance.

The mugger stepped into the road and barreled toward the runner.

See you next Tuesday for more!