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Semicolons, half & half, hermaphrodites

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So Kurt Vonnegut thought semicolons are like trannies or hermaphrodites and they have no use. That’s not true for both the punctuation mark (though I rarely use it because it’s easy to forget) and the social outcasts. Though he was driving a point about semicolons, did that reflect his view about homosexuality? I don’t know a lot about Vonnegut’s work and personal life. I have Slaughterhouse Five sitting on my desk for over two years now.

Here’s a part of an amusing essay about one’s transition from blindly following a hero to actually seeing value to the lowly semicolon himself:

Many times a week I’d been experiencing a mental event like this: I’d be reading an article about a flood in Mexico, which would lead me to thinking about a wedding I once went to in Cancún, which would lead me to thinking about marriage, which would lead to gay marriage, which would lead to the presidential election, which would lead to swing states, which would lead to a fascinatingly terrible country song called “Swing” — and I’d be three songs into a Trace Adkins YouTube marathon before I’d glance back down at the newspaper on the table.

It’s in honoring this movement of mind, this tendency of thoughts to proliferate like yeast, that I find semicolons so useful. Their textbook function — to separate parts of a sentence “that need a more distinct break than a comma can signal, but that are too closely connected to be made into separate sentences” — has come to seem like a dryly beautiful little piece of psychological insight. No other piece of punctuation so compactly captures the way in which our thoughts are both liquid and solid, wave and particle.

And so, far from being pretentious, semicolons can be positively democratic. To use a semicolon properly can be an act of faith. It’s a way of saying to the reader, who is already holding one bag of groceries, here, I know it’s a lot, but can you take another? And then (in the case of William James) another? And another? And one more? Which sounds, of course, dreadful, and like just the sort of discourtesy a writer ought strenuously to avoid. But the truth is that there can be something wonderful in being festooned in carefully balanced bags; there’s a kind of exquisite tension, a feeling of delicious responsibility, in being so loaded up that you seem to have half a grocery store suspended from your body.

So yes, Kurt Vonnegut: simplicity, in grammar as in all things, is a virtue, not to be sneezed at. But I can’t agree that semicolons represent absolutely nothing; they represent, for me anyway, the pleasure in discovering that no piece of writing advice, however stark, however beloved its deliverer, should ever be adopted mindlessly.

Written by markus

July 4, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Posted in Books

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A little Kindle review from the Kindle itself

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So this is me raving about my new Kindle, a Kindle Touch.

In four words: I am a fan.

  1. It is so lightweight. Suddenly my old Kindle felt like a 2000-page book.
  2. It fits in my backpocket! That just means I need to be extra cautious before sitting down.
  3. It is very easy now to look up a word. Long press on the word and voila! Aside from definition showing up as a dialog box, you can also add a note, just highlight or share.
  4. The touchscreen. I am quite late to jump into the touch bandwagon. This is my first touchscreenn device and I am so hooked! It just feels so natural and intuitive to tap, flip, pinch when you want it to do something. I love the onscreen keyboard I keep on adding notes to my highlights.
  5. I thought the experimental browser performs much better than the previous version.
  6. Needless to say it looks pretty.

That is all for now. More raving to come soon. Yes I am posting this from the always-experimental browser.

Written by markus

April 16, 2012 at 2:23 am

Posted in Books

The year of reading dangerously

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Weather’s turned a complete 360 today. Yesterday was warm and nice and a bit windy but today I awoke to the unimpressive sunlight filling my room. It is going to be a rainy day, I thought to myself, eyes half closed. Alarm clock buzzes. Snoozed.

The new Kindle Touch arrived yesterday. It’s pretty and sexy and it fits the backpocket of my trousers. I hope this gets my reading mojo really going. I have read little in the past years. When 2012 started, I set myself a goal of reading at least one book a month. January – check. February – fail. March – fail. It’s now April. We’ll see.

Obviously I already failed for the year. But I’ll catch up. I’ll revise my goal to at least 12 books this year. 12 books in ’12. New Year’s resolution revision. Thanks Easter Sunday.

I am rediscovering Kindle. I like it a lot. My first Kindle (Keyboard) I only read a couple of books total. Seriously. That was such a waste. And when the Touch came out, first thing I thought, “Who can I sell this one to?” Shame.

I hope Amazon doesn’t come out with something awesomer than Kindle Touch.

Written by markus

April 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Books, Introspections

Minimalism

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I don’t think there’s one aspect in one’s life where minimalism is not the better option. I myself am trying to practice it in a few: choice of products (design and their packaging), fashion and home design.

I don’t have a house of my own yet. (That I hope to start working on after I get me a car.) But I try my best to be minimalist in my own little apartment in Manila.

I think anyone who’s starting on the minimalist lifestyle should begin with his home. You see it every day. It’s a consistent , fabulous reminder that less is more.

I’m currently in Foster City, CA for work. I live in an apartment with a huge window. (Sunlight is a huge factor in making a place look its best. And it makes photos look great!) Although I know this is not my own place and I’m not going to stay here that long, I still decided to doll it up a little bit.

Here’s my home corner office project:

I was using the dining table for a couple months that I’m here but I got tired moving my stuff around when we’re using the dining table for what it’s really used for, dining. So I grabbed this nice white table from the unused master bedroom.

The cast: Macbook, a book, which I have not opened for weeks, a Lonely Planet journal, a pine cone, reed scent diffuser, makeshift flower vase (that’s actually a drinking glass!), and what seemed like the star: my longboard.

One thing I really like about minimalist design is you can completely abuse two to three color tones in a set of whatever you want and then put one thing in extreme contrast and it’s guaranteed to work. There’s little thought and planning involved. Like in this case, it’s kind of saturated with white, black, browns. Then the skateboard. It stands out with it’s gorgeous green tones from any angle. And it complements everything else.

I got this pine cone when I was longboarding one night in the park. It almost looked this nice and “bloomed” already when I picked it up from the ground. When I reached home, I ran water on it thinking I should clean it a little bit in case there are insects or dirt stuck inside. A few minutes later, it was closing up. I googled. Apparently, when wet these pine cones really contract and when dried up will bloom again. And it did.

I need to finish this book already.

Written by markus

April 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm