Thursday, November 13, 2008

Write or Die!

Surfing the web isn’t always the time-waster people say it is. Sometimes you go down that rabbit trail of links and discover gold. Or Dr. Wicked.

The evil Dr. Wicked has developed a writing tool based on negative reinforcement. He calls it Write or Die, and it’s a web-based program that motivates you to just do it: keep on writing or suffer the consequences.wod2

It works like this: Go to the Write or Die site, enter a few customized choices into a dialogue box (word-count goal, time goal, level of “punishment”), click “submit” and start writing. Here’s what happens if you stop writing, depending on the mode you select:

  • Gentle Mode: A certain amount of time after you stop writing, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writing.
  • Normal Mode: If you persistently avoid writing, you will be played a most unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if and only if you continue to write.
  • Kamikaze Mode: Keep writing or your work will unwrite itself

I know more than a few writers who could use this. I’m the kind of writer who keeps on writing and worries about editing myself later. Some of my writing friends insist on editing as they write, and they’re the ones who have trouble producing 500 words a day.

As Dr. Wicked puts it, this program puts the "prod" in productivity. I love it.

If you give it a try, let me know how it works for you. I’ll do the same.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shameless Plug

But not for one of my books. This is a plug for Garlic-Free Gourmet: Be Your Own Personal Chef by Andy Ward.

Garlic-Free Gourmet Okay, I know what you’re thinking: garlic-free gourmet? That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? To me, garlic is its own food group, just like coffee. And the only time I entertain the notion of putting the words “garlic” and “free” together is when my local natural foods store overbuys and puts out a basket of free garlic bulbs. I live for those days.

But Andy and his wife, Donna, have an adverse reaction to garlic, so Andy developed several dozen recipes that use other flavorings to take the place of garlic. I’ve tried a couple, and they really are good.

Only for Andy, though, would I forgo garlic, even for a meal or two. We’ve known each other for…um…many, many years. We first met in Miss Radcliffe’s fifth-grade class at Sensor School in Millville, New Jersey, in 1960. My earliest memory of him dates back to one morning when I was basking in the glow of having just won the class spelling bee. Andy piped up and challenged me to spell “antidisestablishmentarianism.” Quite the precocious guy, he was.

To this day I maintain that even at the age of 10, I could have spelled that word correctly. But he threw me off my game. I turned bright red, blinked back the tears and wanted to run out of the room. Miss Radcliffe, bless her heart, chided Andy and told me I could sit down.

I have no doubt that this is why Andy has been deprived of enjoying one of life’s finest culinary pleasures. Let this be a lesson to all males everywhere: Before you make a young girl cry, consider the karmic consequences.

Enough. Now I’m in withdrawal. I’m going to go sauté a whole bulb of garlic just for the heck of it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Our long national nightmare is (almost) over


There's not much I can add to the eloquent and emotional words so many have spoken and written in an attempt to express what Barack Obama's victory means to them. What I can add is a personal perspective and a few memories of growing up during the civil rights movement and witnessing segregation first hand.

When I was a child, our family visited the South every few years. My mother was born in Georgia and had family in Florida; my produce-selling father had lived and worked in Florida seasonally and met my mother there. I don't have any race-related memories of the times we traveled by train from Philadelphia to Gainesville, but traveling by car was another story.

Car trips meant stopping in Southern states and being exposed to segregated restrooms, water fountains and restaurants. Those memories are hazy; I can mostly remember this vague sensation that Negroes, the term our family used, were lesser people, diseased and dirty and definitely to be feared. This impression didn't come from my parents. It came from simply walking the streets of Georgia or South Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s.

Even in the North, I can remember using coin-operated public restrooms (remember those?) in train stations and especially on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, and hearing women admonish their children not to use a toilet that a Negro had just used. A child couldn't help but absorb some of that trepidation.

Then came the race riots. I won't go into that history; all I will say is that if you didn't live through that time, you cannot imagine the terror people felt.

In April of 1968, I visited Paris on a high school trip. Race riots were the furthest thing from my mind---until the day before we were scheduled to return to New Jersey. The news was all around us: Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis. The fear returned. I recall looking out the window of the plane as it descended toward Philadelphia International Airport; I fully expected to see Philly and Camden, its neighbor across the river, engulfed in flames.

Today I heard someone mocking Jesse Jackson for crying as he listened to Barack Obama speak the night before. I don't care who your presidential preference was; I don't care what you think of Barack Obama---if you can’t understand why people were crying and taking to the streets in sheer jubilation last night, then you're far too cynical for me.

Our long national nightmare, the one that's (almost) over, isn't our history of racism. I'm hopeful about the future, but I'm also realistic about the deep racial divide among some segments of our society. Racism isn't the nightmare I'm referring to. The nightmare is the Bush administration. Free at last, free at last---thank God Almighty, we're (almost) free at last.

Sunday, November 02, 2008 goes live

Anyone who has worked with Ed Gilbreath can attest to his journalistic integrity and professionalism, as well as his deep faith in God. And he’s an all-around great guy, the kind of person who makes you feel good inside whenever you think of him.

He’s now the editor-in-chief of, which launched on Oct. 30 after what I’m sure was a long and arduous process. Any major online startup is a challenge, and given Ed’s commitment to excellence, I’m sure Urban Faith was no exception.

I’ll let Ed tell you what the site is all about:

Today, urban culture transcends racial boundaries and covers many different socio-economic backgrounds. For some, "urban" may evoke images of hip-hop and BET. For others, it might suggest inner-city poverty and injustice. Still others will associate the term with savvy, cosmopolitan sophistication. The truth is, an "urban" spirit can be just as vibrant in the suburbs as in the heart of the city. What's more, Christians who are engaged in the exciting call to urban ministry come from all races and walks of life. will embrace "urban" in all its diversity. It will be more about a way of looking at the world than where folks live or the color of their skin. It will be both for those who make their home in an urban setting and for those who simply care about the people, culture, and issues related to urban life.

Every day, you'll find thoughtful articles and conversation about issues such as politics, pop culture, and theology. You'll read commentaries, journalistic reports, and reviews.

Every day, we'll take on the hot topics everyone's talking about, offer insight and inspiration for your daily Christian walk, and provide a forum for honest, real-life questions and opinions.


Ed Gilbreath

I wrote two articles for the site, one about black independent voters and a growing coalition of black political groups and white independent voters. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that’s in its early stages and was prompted in part by the Democratic Party’s failure to deliver on its promises to blacks, whose support the party has long taken for granted. The other is a guide to what you can do to ensure that your vote is counted on Election Day—something everyone needs to be concerned about.

I hope you’ll visit the site, register and comment on its content. It’s a project of Christian publisher Urban Ministries.