Photo by Jenni Jones on Unsplash

I remember an episode of NCIS where the character Abby Sciuto (played by the very talented Pauley Perrette) said something to the effect of “I used to be an anarchist, but I quit. Too many rules.”

Too many rules. Ay, there’s the rub! Whether it’s anarchy, religion, writing, society, or even life itself, we’re hemmed in by rules. Grammar, ritual, whatever: rules are everywhere.

It makes me want to scream sometimes.

But then I remember the Number One Rule as taught by a former English professor: “You have to know the rules in order to break them deliberately.”

Or as Bob Dylan so elegantly put it, “To live outside the law, ya gotta be honest.”

That great master of the English language, Winston Churchill, was once taken to task during an interview for having ended a sentence with a preposition. He glared at the young reporter and replied, “That, sir, is arrant nonsense, up with which I will not put.”

Here on Medium, you can find countless examples of rules for writing which, given that this is primarily a site for writers, makes sense. I know; I’ve read many of them. Some of them even make sense. Actually, they all make sense, if you look at them from the point of the various authors who wrote them. They make sense to that person for a very simple reason: they work for her.

And ultimately, isn’t that why we have rules in the first place? Because they work? But here’s the thing: my rules work for me. Do I have the right, then, to force them onto anyone else? I don’t know you. We’ve never met and probably never will. So who am I to say my rules will work for you?

Rules vs. Laws

Here’s where things get sticky. One of my rules is that I don’t have a uterus, so I have no say in what any other woman does with hers. It’s none of my business. Therefore, I am pro-choice. Notice I said pro-choice, and not pro-abortion. There’s a huge difference. I don’t favor abortion, but as I said, it’s not my body.

But.

There are also people who don’t believe a woman has the right to choose what she can and can’t do with her own body, and they make laws about it.

I deliberately chose abortion as an example precisely because it’s such a hot-button issue. Alabama’s governor just signed a new law which is the most restrictive in the nation. Even such a right-wing religious fanatic as Pat Robertson says it goes too far.

Found on Facebook

I seem to remember an old document from my distant hazy high school history class. I said something to the effect that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It goes on to say “[t]hat to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”

It seems to me — and I can’t be the only one — that our current form of government has indeed become destructive of these ends, especially the pursuit of happiness.

I have no answers.

For Further Reading:

The Declaration of Independence

The Constitution of the United States

The Declaration of the Rights of Man

The Age of Reason

The American Crisis

Jaws 2 Movie Poster

That’s how the movie “Jaws 2,” the sequel to the original blockbuster was advertised: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to go Back in the Water.” And that’s how I would describe our weather lately. Let me explain.

After a week of being warm enough at night to sleep without blankets I finally bit the bullet and opened my bedroom window. Not much—only a couple of inches. Just enough to let in some fresh air into the room. The window had been closed since last October, and I wanted to air it out.

So far, so good. But in the week and a half since I opened it, we have had sunshine, rain, and a little snow. Even now, when it’s 45° outside, I’m wearing a sweater as I write. And for the past 3 nights I’ve used not one but two blankets at night.

But here’s the thing: I’m not complaining. That’s just the way things are in the springtime here in Rochester. My ex told me that one year she was greeted by snow and an ice-storm on her birthday…which is in the second week in May.

We’ve already had crocuses in the garden, and now the daffodils and tulips are taking their turns. So I think I’m safe in assuming that spring has finally arrived—especially since the ice is all gone from the neighbor’s swimming pool. To be sure, we’re still going to have some cool nights and chilly mornings.

But that’s why God invented tea. And afternoon naps. But mostly tea.

As always, thanks for reading.

 

We’ve All “Been There, Done That”

Some of us even have the T-shirt

Once, I even tried prayer. Then I realized that it was a waste of time: after all if one set of imaginary friends won’t talk to me, what made me think another set would?

Being blocked is frustrating. When I’m there, I’ll try reading a book. It works, sometimes. Other times — like now — it makes me feel useless: I can never be that good a writer.

So I set the book aside and fire up my laptop. Maybe there’s something good on Netflix that will inspire me. “Oh, cool!” I think; “This one looks interesting.” It’s a martial arts epic in Mandarin, with English subtitles. Am I the only one who wonders why it seems the Mandarin language takes several paragraphs of dialog to deliver a single sentence in English?

Ninety minutes, 2,500 dead bodies, and 175 gallons of fake blood later, I’m all, “Well, that wasn’t it.”

I know! I’ll wash the dishes! Maybe cleaning the kitchen will clean my mind so I can start with a clean slate.

Photo: izzie-r-584152-unsplash.png

So. The dishes are washed, the kitchen is clean, and now it’s time for a cup of tea. I do my best thinking over a nice cup of tea. I’ll clear my mind and perform the ritual: I measure the tea precisely into the cup. I boil the water. As I pour it into the cup, I use the bamboo whisk to mix it thoroughly before rotating the cup three times and finally raising it to my lips.

Ok, ok, ok…that’s what I do in my mind. In reality, I boil a pot of water and pour it over the two Earl Grey teabags I’ve already put in the cup. While it steeps, I set out the milk and sugar. Hey! A girl can dream, right? And before you write to complain, I know Earl Grey requires lemon, not milk. What can I say? This is how my Irish Nana taught me how to make it, and that’s how I like it best. So screw you, George Orwell.

It’s The Weather

Spring is here, and with it comes pollen. With pollen, come allergies. And boy, do I have allergies! Mine call for “[t]he nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine.” And that’s in the daytime!

In fact, the pollen is so bad in our neighborhood that the meth heads are converting their crystal meth back into Sudafed!

It Isn’t Writer’s Block, it’s Blocked Sinuses

And I feel like dog doo-doo. It’s quite simple, really: I don’t want to write. Or do anything, for that matter. All I really want to do is to take some acetaminophen, some Benadryl, and go to bed until next Thursday or whenever I feel better, whichever comes latest.

Yes, I know I promised a review of my note-taking apps. But that was then and this is now.

Finally! The goddess is in her heaven and all’s right with the world!

I’ve often used Ulysses on my iPad and iPhone, wondering all the while why they don’t make a Windows version. To get a document written in Ulysses over to my laptop for editing requires me to jump through far too many hoops.

Too many in fact that I finally stopped using it altogether, canceled my subscription and deleted it from my devices.

Never before had I been sad after removing an app, especially one that was so useful.

Enter Notebooks

Not in any generic sense, however. Not “notebooks” but Notebooks with a capital N. The solution to my problem. Once I paid for it (less than $30 U.S.) and installed it on all my devices, I set it to sync to Dropbox.

Now I can start writing on my iPhone, work on it in bed on my iPad, and do a final polish on my laptop.

What’s that? $30 for an app? Well, no. It’s act$30 for three different apps and no subscription fees.

Consider: in order to create an app that runs on the iPhone, iPad, on Windows, on the Mac, and on Android devices requires that you own at least one of each of those devices. Costs a bit of money. And if you’re a programmer trying to make a living from your work, you don’t just give it away.

Oh, and then there’s the software you have to have on those devices to make sure your app is compatible with them. And the last I heard, Microsoft isn’t giving away free copies of MS Word.

But why did I even need a new writing program in the first place? If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know that to me, writing is as necessary as breathing or drinking. Whenever I have a few minutes to kill — when I’m waiting for my tea water to boil or the tea to steep, or when I’m riding on the bus, or when I’m waiting to be seen by the doctor — I write. Sometimes when I’m writing, my ADD-addled brain says, “Ooh, ooh! Here’s another idea!” and I make a quick note of the thought, knowing that unless I do I’ll forget it in about 3 seconds.

With the Notebooks app, I can simply add a new note and jump right back into the previous one. For me, it is the answer if not to prayer then certainly then treasure chest at the end of a long search.

And I’ve also done away with all the other note-taking apps I had on all my devices.

 

Or, I’m always on the lookout for The Ultimate Note-Taking App

freestocks-org-570357-unsplash

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Sadly, it doesn’t seem to exist. IA Writer comes close, but it still doesn’t have all the features I’d like. Note’d is pretty nifty, but it too lacks the features I need. Standard Notes has all the features…but you have to pay $10 a month to get them. It is available, however, for all your devices: iPhones, iPads, Windows machines, MacOS devices, and Android smartphones and devices. So if I create/edit/delete a note on my iPhone, it syncs to my iPad and my laptop.

(As an aside, before I went completely digital, my ultimate notepad was a Rite-in-the-Rain notepad and a pencil.)

Which brings us to Apple Notes. From what I’ve seen of it—and used it—it seems to be the best all-around note-taking app available for iOS and MacOS: iPad, iPhone, and Macs. The problem is that in addition to an iPhone and an iPad,I have a laptop running Windows.

Apple Notes started out as a bare-bones note-taking app. But Apple, like just about every other software publisher, lost sight of the First Rule of Engineering: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.

Over time, Apple Notes has been tweaked and massaged and upgraded until it’s now just a short step away from being a full-blown word processor. And if I’m going to use a word processor for taking notes, I might just as well use Notes’ big sister, Pages, which runs on all of my devices.

The Ultimate Test

So I’ve decided what I’m going to do: I’ve downloaded  all the apps I listed above and installed them on the appropriate devices. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to use each of them to jot down the same notes. At the end of the test period, I’ll decide which one I like the best, based on ease of use. Then I’ll get back to you with the results.