An Experiment of Bloggy Proportions

This blog entry is quite literally brought to you by Windows Live Writer, a free blog-writing program available for download here.

I discovered Writer while downloading the new Windows Live Messenger and thought I’d give it a try. From what my brief Google-based research dug up, Writer seems to be fairly popular and well-liked. It works with all your main blogging sites: WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, etc. I had to see it in action for myself and decided to drag you in on my experiment too… as a witness of sorts. So, put on your safety gear, back up a safe distance, and let’s see what this thing can do…

windowslivewriter2008

First impressions are very important. My first impression of Writer was that it was pretty much the same thing I can get out of the WordPress editor. Both Writer and WordPress can create new posts and pages, can manage multiple blogs, is able to insert links, images, videos, etc., has the standard spell check, and keeps track of word count. By linking Writer to an existing blog account, existing categories and tags are also available. Both are able to view posts in an edit mode, a preview mode, and an html mode. The blogger is also able to set the publish date in both. Writer even had my WordPress theme available in the editor. The similarities in standard features are overwhelming. Yet, upon closer inspection, Writer did start to prove itself as being above merely standard.

Are you still wearing that safety gear? Because it is time to tinker…

Clicking Some Buttons

OOOO! Wasn’t that header rather neat and mildly unexpected? What about this? Writer does allow the blogger more customization opportunities. It has several headings to choose from, all the standard FONTS, colors, and downloadable plug-ins which allow the blogger to insert other objects, like maps. Writer combines the WordPress editor with MS Word-like features, making the blog writing process a little more involved.

Even something as simple as adding images becomes a bit more complicated due to all the customization options. Images can have added borders of varying degree of thickness and shading. They can be converted into black and white, or even sepia. The blogger has full control over blur, contrast, and sharpness, and can crop, rotate, emboss, or even watermark the images. These features, when combined, allow you to take a simple image:

Ducky and create…

Ducky Ducky Ducky Ducky Ducky Ducky

A Work of Blog-Art

All of these added options make creating a blog post or page more like creating a work of art. Consequently, this can make blogging more time consuming, and let’s face it… everyone’s time is precious. Writer compensates for this by offering a feature that allows you to save a draft of your page or post directly onto your computer (in addition to saving it to the online blog account). This allows bloggers to write and come back to it later, even when there is no internet available. Saving drafts and published versions has the added advantage of being able to easily print or keep an offline archive of the blog. Writer’s installation automatically creates “My Weblog Posts” under My Documents where drafts, pages, posts, etc. are all neatly stored for easy access.

WordPress has the advantage of being completely online, making it accessible from anywhere around the world, but the fact Writer works offline gives it a lot of advantages as well. My conclusion is that these two programs work beautifully together. For short, quick, to-the-point posts, the WordPress editor works fine and offers all the essentials to get the job done. For those who have the time, Writer gives bloggers the opportunity to express themselves in new and creative ways.

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A Woven World Unravels

The Carpet Makers

What happens when your entire world comes crashing down? When everything you knew and loved… everything you believed… everything that kept the world in balance for eons… is simply gone? Would you deny it? Would your life lose its meaning? Or would you celebrate change? Would you even ever fully understand?

Welcome to the world of Andreas Echbach, a world where the limitless Imperial Empire is full of utter mystery.  Rumors are spreading that the god-like Emperor Aleksandr is dead, that his power over the Empire has fallen to a group of rebels. Such rumors are heresy on many of the Empire’s worlds, including the world of Ostvan, a member of a long line of hair-carpet makers. Hair-carpet makers have a single duty… to spend their entire life creating a single carpet tied from the hair of his wives and daughters. This trade has been passed down from father to son since prehistory. The carpets are then sold to Imperial Traders who take them to the palace.

Yet the Empire as the characters know it is not what it seems. In fact, the reader soon discovers nothing is as it seems, and even the simplest things are constructions towards  some elaborate, illogical purpose. Each chapter is a snapshot of a single event in a different character’s life. Each snapshot provides important insight… a clue… to what is happening and more importantly WHY. The reader is left to actively piece together the big picture.

Overall, the read was completely engaging.  Andreas Eschbach strung me around masterfully, leading me on with false clues. He predicted my hesitations and assumptions and used those to drive my curiosity forward.  It was as if I was involved in an adventure/suspense/mystery rather than just reading one.  I will say that the novel does draw on stereotypical imperialism/dictatorships.  The planets are generally fairly primitive… either tribal or feudal… with the exception those few directly involved with the Imperial Palace or the Rebel Movement. Women, especially those on the primitive planets, are merely submissive property. Hair-carpet makers only want wives who fit special hair standards. The use of their hair in the carpet is not empowering, but simply duty.  Yet, the author balances this by allowing three chapters to follow a female’s perspective: that of a young run-away, a old peddler, and an imperial archivist, giving these women depth and a voice of their own.  The novel’s message does not seem to be on social commentary, but rather on political commentary. An overall theme involves the dangers of power, especially the political power of imperialism. Even by the end of the book, the reader is left wondering where the power truly ends… assuming it ever does.

I had not read contemporary German science fiction before (published originally in 1995), and probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity if it wasn’t for Orson Scott Card. He explains in the foreward his personal involvement in getting Adreas Eschbach’s novel translated into English (published translation in 2005) and adopted by his publisher, Tor.  The relationship between them is an interesting story, which is worthy of such an interesting novel.

Overall, The Carpet Makers is definitely the sort of plot that would reveal something new each time you read it.

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