Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Self Publishing ebook Style

I'm getting to the business end of the writing for my book Living An Inspired Life- I've now written around 55k words and my goal is around 65-70k words. There's a lot to do before it will hit the shelf any-where including I expect a lot of editing. But articles on the topic of self publishing are starting to catch my eye, herewith a few worthy of review-

Why and How I Self-Published a Book by James Altucher - I can't decide whether I like James Altucher or loathe him, he does make an art of being controversial, either way this is a worthwhile read.

How I Wrote a Book: Step by Step by Ben Nesvig -I also started with Google Docs but it became unweildy when I exceeded a certain word count. I've heard numerous good things about Scrivener but unfortunately they don't make a Linux version. LibreOffice is serving my needs nicely, I do miss the clickable index in the Google Doc though.

E-books Are Not That Easy by Daniel B Markham - despite the title there is a great checklist of things to do here, including things I would never of thought of, eg. markup validation.

And a couple of great (older) posts from A Newbies Guide To Publishing by Joe Konrath - You Should Self-Publish & Time Investment

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Life Changes When You Become A Parent

They say life changes when you become a parent. I always wondered what they meant by that, I assumed it was some deep and profound change in your relationship with the world because you were now completely responsible for a life other than your own. Something unreachable for a non parent. I've been a parent now for nearly four years, I won't claim to be a great parent, I'm not. However I do think I've got a bit of a handle on it, I roughly know what this parenting thing is about and I am pretty sure I know how life has changed. I got it in a flash of insight as I was picking up food off the floor – a half chewed, thoroughly masticated and slobbered on crust which I'd just stood on.

So here's how life changes when you become a parent- you pick up food off the floor, lots of it pretty much after every time they eat. You get sneezed and snotted on and you get to clean off of you and everything else pretty much every imaginable body fluid. You get intimately involved with another humans bowel movements- I've lost count of the number of times in which I've ended up, due to some mishap or another, wearing another persons poo. You find yourself looking forward to reading “Where Is The Green Sheep” even though you know it word for word. You have locks on cupboards and you worry about cars and dogs and cats and strangers and pretty much anything that is bigger than a cardboard box and sharper than a ball and lots of things in between. A short trip to the shops becomes a major planning exercise and has to be strategically approached, packed for and executed. Your friends only see you in the hours of daylight, if they see you at all, and you always look like you've had about four hours of sleep - probably because that's all the sleep you got. And here's the real kicker- after you've been a parent for a while you think that all of that is normal, that every-one else is doing the same.

OK and life profoundly alters in deep and meaningful ways which no non parent could ever understand.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How To Complete Anything

I coach people on how to achieve the things that they've always wanted to achieve. There are a variety of tools, strategies and technologies which I train people in but if I had to boil it down to a formula it would be these steps
  1. start right now
  2. start with something small
  3. keep on taking actions until you get there, or said differently: don't stop!
  4. have a way of measuring & checking your progress
 Anything else is window dressing. It might make you feel good (which can be important) but it's not strictly necessary.

See also Get To Details

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Murray's Guide To Learning/Mastering Anything

Start somewhere, where you are right now is the best place. Find a good book on the topic. Read web sites, journals, forums and blogs on the topic. Find a teacher or a class and learn from them. Experiment on your own. Find another different teacher and learn some more. Question a lot. Experiment yourself and make notes about your experiences. Keep what works and save what doesn't for future reflection (sometimes what doesn't work is because we are doing it wrong and sometimes it's just wrong and it takes time to work out the difference). Take a break and do something completely different for a while.

Speak with other people doing it and find out how/what they do and what works for them and how they learnt. Read lots. Keep on practising. Keep on taking notes. Find people who are masterful and hang out with them. Don't be afraid to look stupid. Make your work public and get feedback. Find a way to make any criticism constructive. Practise some more. Pause to reflect.

Read some more. Find some-one who knows nothing about the topic and explain to them or better still teach some-one what you have learnt, get them to ask the really hard questions and find out the answers for them. Read some more, practise some more, teach some more. Vary the order as required. Remember that you can never know all there is to know on any topic and there is always someone who knows more.

What's your learning tip?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

GTD- Get To Details

I'm a fan of productivity systems and especially GTD, Getting Things Done by David Allen. I am by no means a GTD purist- aside from continuously tweaking my structures (another blog post on this coming) I insist on keeping separate existence systems for work and home, even using separate tools in each environment.

One of the things I noticed as I implemented Getting Things Done was that I had a tasks which never got completed. When I really looked at them it was because they weren't actually tasks they were projects, sometimes even involving other people for some of the steps. When they were all bundled together as one task it could seem so big as to be overwhelming or impenetrable. But when I broke them into separate, discreet and doable tasks they suddenly progressed. The un-doable got done.

So now my mnemonic for GTD is "Get To Details". And what I've noticed is that once you get to details it's easy and natural for things to get done.

If you find you have things hanging out forever on your to-do list (or however you manage your commitments) maybe it's time to step back and have a look at it. One of two things is likely-
  1. you aren't actually committed to doing that thing in which case it's time to acknowledge that you aren't going to do it and then do what you need to do to be able to remove it from your list- probably have conversations with whomever you promised it to in the first place or is expecting you to complete it.
  2. or like me you haven't done sufficient thinking to break it down into steps that you (or someone else) can actually complete. It's time to step back and do the thinking. Break it down into as many small discreet tasks as required. Then you just start with the first task and complete it and then the next until they are all done, one little task at a time.
Get to details, it works.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Silently Failing

Unix applications are pretty good at telling you when they break. You'll either get informative messages at the command line or you will get informative messages in a log file somewhere (/var/log for Linux boxes where I live these days) and Googling for said messages is usually rewarding too. I've had to track down a few bugs lately where I got neither helpful command line warnings or helpful log messages, in one instance it was syslogd and in another it was sshd and both were silently failing to start/run. In both instances the failure was caused by SELinux. So my new debugging rule for anything which is silently failing is to try disabling SELinux first (or changing it to permissive mode though that doesn't always work either), if the service works without SELinux the problem is with SELinux.

NB. Java programs unhelpfully break my assertion about helpful logging- Java developers seem to delight in spooling out pages of eye-gouging text instead of just telling you what broke, how and why.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Parallel Lives

I first came across the drabble in a Neil Gaiman's Smoke & Mirrors anthology- Nicholas Was... I love the form and I've written a few since. Here's one I wrote some time ago, somewhat autobiographical.

Parallel Lives

We live parallel lives.  He is a poet, I am a computer engineer. He thinks of philosophy, nature and love, I think of hardware, software and debugging.  I go to the gym, he takes long walks.  He treasures a fountain pen, I a laptop computer.  His friends are arty alternatives, mine are geeky misfits.  I am concerned about tax rates, mortgage rates, holidays and return on investment, he about social justice, global warming and the numinous.  He lives for a better world, I live in a virtual world.  He weeps, I anesthesiate.  He is the dreamer.  I am the dream.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Dozen Simple Ways To Find Harmony

  1. Listen to relaxing & uplifting music, music which feeds your soul.
  2. Tune in to positive forms of news and entertainment which nourishes you.
  3. Start a garden or grow indoor plants, surround yourself with living things.
  4. Go for long walks in natural settings, exercise your body whilst relaxing your mind.
  5. Make time to meditate, become an inner explorer.
  6. Experiment with creative expression, find a medium which enlivens you.
  7. Practise giving thanks for all the little (and big) blessings in your life.
  8. Read; become a philosopher of life.
  9. Create little altars in everyday spaces to remind you that everywhere is sacred.
  10. Live out loud: dance, play, laugh and have fun.
  11. Make every meal an offering to divinity.
  12. Play with the kids and chill with the grandparents.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

With our thoughts we make the world

Why he asked, does failure torment us so bitingly?  And then, why does success sometimes leave us feeling dissatisfied all over again? Why does arrival let us down, even after we have dreamt of it for so long, have fought so hard for it along a cruel road? Why?  The answer in both cases, Shukla-ji said, is because we believe the illusion of the self.  I am the doer, we believe.  We shout this out at the world, I am doing this, I am doing that, I, I, I.  Believing in this most slippery of all illusions, we think that our failures are our fault, that they flow from the shape of this self.  We think we own our victories.  And yet, when we find success, we discover that this self-illusion, this illusion of the self, can only live in the future, or in the past.  It is eternally separated from the present, and so as long as we believe in it we know only loss.  It is only when we transcend this illusion and laugh at it that we can know the pleasure of this moment, laugh because then you are truly alive.  Swami-ji aid, my children, give away your actions and discover your true nature.  Know yourself.  - Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games.
 Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. -Albert Einstein
Because our representation of reality is so much easier to grasp than reality itself, we tend to confuse the two and to take our concepts and symbols for reality. -Friitjof Capra
We see things not as they are.  We see things as we are. -The Talmud
What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind. -Buddha
The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there. -Yasutani Roshi

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

All About Me, March 2006

Melbourne poet Peter Bakowski introduced me to the self portrait poem over 10 years ago. I've done a few since but far short of the one/year which I thought would make a good retrospective one day. I wrote this one in 2006 and I find it still speaks to who I am now.

All About Me, March 2006

I'm someone who appreciates
silence and tall trees.
I love beauty, harmony and paradox
I'm drawn to opposites,
and in betweens.
I like books, horses and poems,
music which sings to the soul.
I have a weakness
for catalogues, coats and stationery.
I enjoy good food-
your cooking or mine.
I play like a child
I'm a hopeless romantic
and an outrageous flirt.
I'm a seeker,
I shine
where there is something to learn.
I'm a leader-
my lifes purpose is in service
to power and creativity;
yours, mine, the worlds.

Murray Barton

Monday, February 21, 2011

Poem Of The Week - Christopher Morley

I don't know if it is obvious from the commentaries on the poems I run here but for me one of the things makes a poem for me is the context; it's relationship to my life. Sometimes I read a poem that doesn't move me right then but I know that what's missing is not with the poem, it's the context. I have the right poem but not at the right time. I first encountered this poem many years ago whilst doing John Bradshaw family of origin work. I was moved by it at the time but more so now that I am a parent myself, the changed context has emphasised every line of this poem. Our little Miss is coming up to three years old in April and I can tell you that every line of this poem is truth.

To A Child

The greatest poem ever known
Is one all poets have outgrown:
The poetry, innate, untold,
Of being only four years old.

Still young enough to be a part
Of Nature's great impulsive heart,
Born comrade of bird, beast, and tree
And unselfconscious as the bee--

And yet with lovely reason skilled
Each day new paradise to build;
Elate explorer of each sense,
Without dismay, without pretense!

In your unstained transparent eyes
There is no conscience, no surprise:
Life's queer conundrums you accept,
Your strange divinity still kept.

Being, that now absorbs you, all
Harmonious, unit, integral,
Will shred into perplexing bits,--
Oh, contradictions of the wits!

And Life, that sets all things in rhyme,
may make you poet, too, in time--
But there were days, O tender elf,
When you were Poetry itself!

Christopher Morley

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Fferyllt

In the story of Taliesin, Ceridwen is said to boil a cauldron of "Inspiration and Science", according to "the arts of the books of the Fferyllt". She wishes to bestow knowledge of the mysteries on her son, to compensate for his ugliness. The cauldron has to boil for a year and a day and she appoints the blind Morda and a youth, Gwion Bach, to tend it. Her plans fall astray when three drops from the cauldron splash onto the thumb of Gwion Bach. As he sucks the hot liquid from his thumb he realises his danger from Ceridwen and flees. Ceridwen pursues him and they both undergo a series of transformations or shape-shiftings until as a grain of wheat Gwion is eaten by Ceridwen as a hen. Ceridwen becomes pregnant with him and when he is (re)born she sews him into a leather bag and throws it into a river because he is so beautiful she could not bear to kill him. He is rescued by Elphin who proclaims "Behold the radiant brow" on seeing his forehead. Thus he is named Taliesin. He goes on to become an important Bard and magician in the court of Elphin and through-out the land.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Open Letter To Greg Combet

I received the letter below from the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and to be honest I was somewhat underwhelmed. Here is my response.

Dear Mr Combet,
thanks for your email dated February 10th whilst I appreciate you taking the time to write to me I hope you can forgive me for being less than enthusiastic about your response. We are already experiencing climate change related extreme weather and it is only expected to get worse- large storms more likely in future. And yet according to your own climate change advisor, Ross Garnaut "Australia needs to catch up to the rest of the world in it's effort to address climate change" and  describes Australia as "a drag on climate change action". This shouldn't be a surprise to you Mr Combet, Government figures show that Carbon emissions are on track to soar. If that is how you intend to "continue to play a strong role in international climate change negotiations" then frankly we'd rather you didn't. The time for talking has long passed, it's time for action and yet as far as I can tell the only thing your Government has actually done with respect to climate change is to slash $1.3 billion in clean energy incentives. My inner cynic has a few explanations as to why that might be so but nothing that speaks to what the Australian people elected you and your Government to do. Kevin Rudd described climate change as  "the greatest moral challenge of our time" it's time to rise to that challenge, the Australian people, our children and grand children deserve no less.

Yours Sincerely
Murray Barton

Thank you for your correspondence on land sector accounting rules in the international climate change negotiations.
The Australian Government recognises the need for improved international treatment of human-caused emissions from the land sector.  As the current international accounting rules do not encourage countries to take up carbon pollution reduction opportunities from this sector, Australia - like other countries - is seeking changes to improve the environmental effectiveness of the rules. Improving the rules could provide greater incentives for countries to include emissions from a broader range of land management activities including forestry in their carbon pollution reduction commitments. This would promote greater action to reduce emissions and increase uptake of carbon dioxide (known as sequestration).
Good progress was made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Cancun, Mexico in December last year, with agreement that countries should finalise the land sector accounting rules during 2011.  As part of this, countries need to agree on the approach for establishing a baseline which countries can use to measure changes in carbon pollution levels from their forests. Importantly, and in line with Australia’s preferred outcome, the decision also establishes a review process, to ensure that the proposed baselines are robust and set in an open and transparent manner.  The findings of the review process will be open to all countries, as well as interested stakeholders.
Thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention. I can assure you that Australia will continue to play a strong role in the international climate change negotiations.

Regards,Greg Combet
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Murray's authentic Asian style salad

So we've been eating a lot of salad lately and I've been experimenting a bit using a tin of beans as a basis. Tonights was particularly good so I thought I'd share. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Caveat lector: I can claim many to be things but a chef I absolutely am not.


2 cups of wholemeal pasta cooked firm and allowed to cool
1 600g large tin 4 bean mix
1 handful of pistachio's, shelled
6 spring onions sliced thinly
1 white onion chopped finely
2 handfuls of English spinach, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon of Tamari sauce

Mix all ingredients. Serve. Enjoy. Feeds 4.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bring Out Your Dead Week

Our suburb recently went through it's 6 monthly cycle of verge-side bulk refuse collection, I call it  "bring out your dead week".  I have to admit to enjoying a bit of verge shopping but I don't make too many "purchases" (this time I did pick up a wrought iron coffee table frame which with a bit of TLC and a new top is going to look fantastic).  Herewith a few observations, move along if you don't find junk interesting.

Aside from the green waste there are some things which are consistent throw away items; chipboard furniture, exercise equipment & push bikes. All items you may want to reconsider your purchase of. Chipboard furniture doesn't last, the exercise equipment I'm guessing gets used for a while and given up on. I have no idea why people throw away perfectly serviceable push-bikes. One thing I didn't see this time which has usually made a regular appearance was futon style beds, maybe there was a fad for them some time ago and they've all reached end of life?

The last few collections every second house was throwing away one or more CRT computer monitors, they must have been all replaced with LCD's now because I didn't see any this time.  What I did see was a lot of very very large CRT TV's, obviously being replaced by thin screen technology. I suspect a good proportion of these CRT's are in perfect working order, they just aren't the latest thing any-more, surely they have to have some value?

Lisa and I have been out to minimalise our household (we're making progress... sporadically) and also we inheritted a lot of stuff when we brought this place so the last couple of collection times we have had a lot of stuff out. I am always pleased when our stuff gets picked up- it's nice to know we have "good junk" :)