All posts in Deep Thoughts

Typosphere, forecasted in 1969

In grad school, I’m currently reading about the late communications theorist Marshall McLuhan, he of “the medium is the message” and other prescient quotations (one of my favorites: “The future of the book is the blurb.” How did he know?).

McLuhan had our number, we typecasters, long before we even existed. In this interview from 1969, he explains exactly what drives us to type, scan, and post:

Most people… still cling to what I call the rearview-mirror view of their world. By this I mean to say that because of the invisibility of any environment during the period of its innovation, man is only consciously aware of the environment that has preceded it; in other words, an environment becomes fully visible only when it has been superseded by a new environment; thus we are always one step behind in our view of the world. Because we are benumbed by any new technology — which in turn creates a totally new environment — we tend to make the old environment more visible; we do so by turning it into an art form and by attaching ourselves to the objects and atmosphere that characterized it, just as we’ve done with jazz, and as we’re now doing with the garbage of the mechanical environment via pop art.

… and with typecasting. Touché.

A difficult thing

As life is reliably imperfect at all times, I’m sure you’re dealing with a Difficult Thing. DT’s can range from petty to horrifying, hopelly more the former, but it’s always something, even if you’re the positive-thinking type (I’m not).

I’m tapping out this post on a smartphone in the dark while struggling, as I have every night for eight months, with insomnia and an often-waking baby. This makes most nights of sleep into a chewed-up couple of hours at best, resulting in a sub-optimal, itchy eyed waking life the rest of the time. I highly discourage others from repeating my experiments with sleep deprivation, should you so be tempted.

My thesis here is that, should you be dealing currently with a Difficult Thing, I’ll take the night shift of worrying about it off your hands, since I’m up anyway.

What has this to do with typewriters, you ask? Not one small thing.

I sold my books (and a footnote about Blogger)

The post above was kind of grumpy, I concede. Most of my posts these days seem to be veiled complaining about my overall lack of time.

But on to more interesting topics. OH, BLOGGER! Guess I was not a minute too soon in my thoughts about moving Blogger to WordPress.

Adding a postscript in the year 2014, that it took some time indeed for this actual WordPress migration plan to come to fruition.

Portfolios, WordPress, and web hosts, oh my! (and a windy history of my internet efforts)

I’ve recently been chatting with Just Write about the techwriting industry, and thought I should finally take the advice I’ve been giving other people about career stuff for awhile: make a portfolio site. Someone in my grad program recently did a presentation about online portfolio creation that I recommend as a place to get started, should you ever consider this effort yourself (assuming it makes sense for the kind of work you do or want to do). Anyway, here’s my site. There is nothing on it as of this writing, but it’s up, and that’s something.

Last night I tackled the installation of WordPress on my web host, which I’ve always been a little intimidated by, but it wasn’t so bad – a lot of hosts these days have “1-click install” that doesn’t require you to edit any files or fool with FTP. Installing WordPress has always seemed to me to be senselessly complicated, the sort of thing that requires trudging through forums to troubleshoot when something inevitably goes sideways, which is why I’ve used Blogger (which has the bonus feature of not requiring a web host), although tech snobs look down their noses at Blogger, and wouldn’t be caught dead using a blogging platform that’s actually easy to use.

Ironically as a techwriter I am not a fan of technology, just for the sake of complexity. Technical people, I say from some experience, often celebrate the mastery of needlessly complicated processes as a mark of their intelligence. Perhaps it is, but it’s the needlessly complicated part that always gets me – software and web apps are often poorly designed and explained because they are created by people with no concept (or sympathy) for people who aren’t technical for sport. I think I’ve had this chip on my shoulder about WordPress, although I know it’s supposed to be the mark of a “serious blogger.”

Some of this is based on my feeling that over time, technology should get easier. I started posting junk online in the late 90’s – frighteningly, it is still live. The Hall of Heads was a web site I created by coding plain HTML in a program called BBEdit (I learned HTML under duress at a job I had at the time) and learning some confusing junk about Javascript rollovers (see the heads in the left margin). Most of what I did is copy code from other sources and sit around editing it, not knowing what I was doing. Then I used Fetch, an FTP program with an awesome little running dog animation (still use it, because I like that dog!) to upload the files to my host. At the time, my host was a small local company run by a couple of dudes who actually sold Netscape navigator as boxed software in their storefront location. Oh dear.

All of this was somewhat confusing for me, but I made it work. This was in the days before blogging software existed at all, and I just edited and FTP’d each post by hand on tiny-dog (my second web site, which for the record lasted much longer and had a lot more content than Strikethru.net). After a long while I realized blogging software might work to my advantage, and somehow hacked my existing HTML template to include Blogger posts, all without a firm handle on exactly what I was doing.

So. When I decided to start Strikethru, I was pretty worn out. Just picking an existing Blogger template and fooling with that a little bit seemed all right with me (all the more time to spend on scanning typecasts). That was the official end of my tinkering with some of the more complex aspects of running a site, since tech gets easier over time. Right?

So you can imagine I was not amused by the general suggestion in the mid 2000’s that, although Blogger offered a no-hassle and no-cost way to run a blog that you could even use with a custom domain, “serious” bloggers needed to move on to something more complex and time consuming. Sigh. I admit I have fallen for the hype nonetheless, and plan to use WordPress for hosting my portfolio site. Do you have a portfolio site? Would you make one? Do you think writers need one? I’ve spent a bit of time at work trying to convince other writers that promoting oneself online is a necessity, and now it’s time for me to walk the talk.

Whew, that was a long post. I bet you’re not even reading anymore. I could say any old crazy ass thing at this point, and NO ONE WOULD KNOW…

On emotional honesty and art supplies

Well, this page used to contain a collage, and the image link broke. Which is a bummer.

Re-thinking Strikethru, and a footnote on the mists of time

I just dug up Strikethru’s inagural post, and realized actually that this blog is almost four years old. Zomg.

I think I failed to mention that I plan to keep rambling on in my Strikethru way per usual until or unless I come up with a brilliant idea, which, on four hours of sleep a day, could be awhile. If ever.

The original: Sotto Voce. Surely Collapsing World was typecasting back in the mists of time as well? At the very least, Olivander beats us all by many years in the collecting department (and in fact, probably none of us could truly call ourselves a collector compared to him, unless we were of course, the esteemed Richard Polt).

Welcome to Strikethru

I’m a technical writer who has recently become enamored with manual typewriters and the general resurrection of pre-digital forms of communication online– drawings, old film, typewritten or handwritten personal documents, tangible things that seem to be disappearing from everyday life.

I’ve poked around online and found a handful of encyclopedic pre-WWII typewriter collection links and a few nerdy grad students papercasting to make a semiotic statement, but generally speaking, not a lot of content for the average person who’s just interested in seeing some of this old stuff make a comeback on the web.

Well, that’s me. I am hoping that you’ll consider joining the conversation as I dig up and discuss books and links about this topic, scan slides, typecasts, and notebook drawings, and hunt around for information about manual typewriters to share.