my recent reads..

When Good People Write Bad Sentences

uush .. I take a deep breath and prepare for the perilous task of blogging about a book that is all about writing well.

I know my writing can be lazy and prone to opacity (to all except me of course), but I do enjoy reading about writing.

However, too many books attempt to just lay down the law - albeit with a garnish of humorous anecdotes - and any 'learning' is short-lived.

Robert W. Harris' When Good People Write Bad Sentences doesn't make this mistake. He knows the problem is not that we don't know the rules. The root cause of our troubles is more fundamental.

(also available from the Singapore National Library)

Bad writing is an addiction; an -ism that is given to misdirect your pen. We are gripped by malescribism.

And just like any other condition, a cure is possible given the right intervention. Which is what this book provides (as you can probably guess, planting tongue firmly in cheek is the first prerequisite to recovery).

In 12 easy steps, we learn to overcome our denial, pride, and insecurity, then find the courage to begin the journey to enlightenment:
  • Accept the fact that bad writing happens.

  • Admit you've willingly made writing mistakes .

  • Believe that Standard English can heal you.

  • Stop writing weak sentences.

  • Stop writing formal sentences.

  • Stop writing overweight sentences.

  • Stop writing unclear sentences.

  • Stop writing careless sentences.

  • Stop writing unpersuasive sentences.

  • Stop writing incongruous sentences.

  • Stop writing unstructured sentences.

  • Stop writing unsightly sentences.

If I can only recommend one book on the craft of writing, this is it. Wherever you use English - school reports, blogs, business proposals, or novels - this book can help you do so more effectively, more efficiently and more enjoyably.

The Recovering Malescribe's Bill of Rights

  • I have the right to embrace Standard English.

  • I have the right to respect my inner child-writer.

  • I have the right to improve my writing skills without aiming for perfection.

  • I have the right to create sentences without being motivated by bad emotions.

  • I have the right to spell better than those around me.

  • I have the right to be grammatically correct.

  • I have the right to punctuate correctly without apology.

  • I have the right to edit my work.

  • I have the right to cooperate with my readers.

  • I have the right to give myself permission to be a healthy writer.

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Eleven Fire Crackers

OK, plugging in my iPod now to drown out the friggin jingle bells playing in the background. It's barely November, I'm in Singapore ... so who invited Bing Crosby and a troop of reindeer godammit??

Spinning thru albums at random I crank up the volume on Eleven Fire Crackers, and instantly remember why this was a 2 second buy decision back at some music store in Shinjuku.

I picked it up while working in Tokyo a few years back. I was going crazy over the local bands, and this album by ELLEGARDEN was kind of lost in all the great music at the time.

I think I just listened to it about 3 times today. This is wild, energetic J-Rock at its best, a little pop and heavy on the grunge. I guess what sets them apart from other bands in the genre - like Uplift Spice, another of my favourites - is that many songs are in English. Vocalist 細美武士 Takeshi Hosomi's accent is undefinable and intriguing. Could be Orange Country one moment, pure cockney the next. A little like Hyde in English.

Having just rediscovered ELLEGARDEN, it's sad to now discover I am just a month late - they officially suspend their activities indefinitely in September 2008 and go onto other things.

So no chance to see them live anymore (at least as ELLEGARDEN), only go back and checkout their other albums. I can't imagine anything better than Eleven Fire Crackers. But maybe I have some treasures to discover yet...

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Get Motivated

I hate motivation books; all that sickly rah-rah and exultations that you too can be like Donald Trump if you just repeat to yourself three times: "I am a success. I am a genius. People love me."

Justin Herald's book Get Motivated is refreshingly different, and a thought-provoking read. You may find it in the bookstore in the "Management Self-help Guru" section, but it is probably better classified under sociology.

This is about common sense philosophy for real people. Justin Herald tells it like it is, and sometimes you might not like it (ethics are important? you gotta actually work hard? Jeez!).

Here's a selection of chapter headings
  • Contender or pretender?
  • Victim of victor?
  • Stickability
  • You set your standards
  • The sad passing of common sense
  • Your future is not in your past
  • Don't just do something ... sit there! (my favourite quote)
He touches repeatedly on the idea of setting your own moral and professional standards and then not letting yourself be swayed or pushed into accepting less.
If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

This reminded me of another great quote from Anthony Bourdain on Chef's Story:
My best advice if you are starting out and want to be a success: set yourself high standards and stick to them.
(or words to that effect ...)

A refreshing read, and highly recommended. It may be just what you need to get a fresh perspective and work towards being a more positive life. Or not. I'll leave you with The Bitter Stick Girl's brilliant observation:

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Synchronising two directory trees - tree-sync 2.4 has had a little update thanks to a contribution from Dave Stafford.

  • Added option 'diff' to view only changes

  • Added option 'ignore' to exclude certain extensions

  • Added option 'brief' to remove src/dest directories in report view to make cleaner output

In the 2.4 release I've also added the 'force' option to control read-only file handling. is a bit of a geeky tool, suitable for cases where you want detailed control over a file-based copy/mirror/backup process from the command-line. There are many flashier solutions available these days, but if tree-sync scratches your itch - go for it! continues to be available on CPAN, but from the 2.4 release I have moved the source to github. If you have changes to suggest or bugs to fix, please go ahead and join this project.
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