Anatomy of a Distracted Morning

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Sirens - painting by Leon BellyThis morning I was up bright and early with a spring in my step and a purpose in my heart. While I slowly woke up in bed, I had decided that today I would shun all distractions and write like there was no tomorrow. A few hours of concentrated effort could easily earn me an article or three for my blog, and then I could go back to unfocused endeavours without as much guilt.

After making sure I was within the legal limit of sleepiness for operating a piece of computer equipment, I sat at my desk and opened up my note book (the real life dead tree one that I write my ideas in). Sure enough there were a good handful of article ideas, at least a couple of which I could tackle without too much research or other preliminaries.

After creating a new folder on the computer, I paused to ask myself what programme I would use to do the writing. This was a valid question because I was working on my Linux computer which has only the minimal software installs and only a simple text editor on its drive. Text editors are fine with me, in fact I mostly use plain old Notepad for most of my writing in Windows anyway. Still, what would I do to double check my spelling? I’d held back on installing AbiWord hoping there would be a lighter solution, but what was it? Thinking that I might as well find out, I went on line.

I looked for Linux text editors with spell check facilities and Google spewed out its usual smorgasbord of mostly related information. Random blog posts, the home pages of actual software projects. Hold on! Can’t I get a spell checker for my current text editor? I typed “geany spell check” into the search box and off went the spiders. Aha! There is a plugin, but it was only version 0.2. That didn’t sound very encouraging. Also, it needed to be compiled or packaged or one of those things, and I wasn’t feeling adventurous. Oh well, back to more general searches then.

Soon I stumbled upon a shoot out between 9 different Linux text editors on ComputerWorld. Wow, so many pages of information. I began to skim. Hey! That one seemed better than the last one, got a much higher score too. No wait, this one is much lower. And what’s this? After testing the most bloated programmer IDE type thing towards the end the writer still wasn’t happy? Why are human beings never satisfied with what they have? Unsatisfied, I clicked away.

As I searched some more, I came across a text editor called Cream, which is available for Windows and Linux. That’s always a useful combination. Macs have never really attracted me anyway. So I went to their site looked at the features and the messy but cool screenshots of multi-coloured code in white windows(geek pornography). Finally ending on their downloads page I saw they had some sort of source download package. No Arch Linux specific package. Not a surprise, that’s the price you pay for not going with one of the most popular 4-5 distros.

So now I searched for “cream arch linux” and found a listing that pointed to the Arch User Repository. No no that’s too much work. Wait, let me see if I can install it directly with the package manager. So I fired up a command line window, signed up as root and tried get Pacman(The Arch Linux package manager) to do the needful. Not found. I guess I needed to go back and download the repository manually. Browsing through the page I came across some related content and WordNet caught my attention. It’s a desktop dictionary, not just a spelling text file, but an actual dictionary with meanings and synonyms and everything. Yes! I definitely needed that. I have the excellent TheSage on my Windows install but I couldn’t possibly write anything on Linux without a proper dictionary to look up occasionally. Once again, I wondered if it was available in the official repository though Pacman.

It wasn’t, so now I had two pieces of software to get from the user repository and compile and package myself, before I could install them. Hold on, how do you do that? I’d only done it once before with XNView and that was weeks ago. I couldn’t remember. Click-click-click, lets see what the Arch linux wiki has to say. What’s this, support software for Pacman to access the user repositories? Aah, that should be convenient. What the hell is Yaourt?! Let’s see, it’s supposed to do what I want but it needs to be compiled itself first. Brilliant! Chicken and egg here. Wait there are instructions. They sounded simple. But why not try the procedure out on the software I actually want to install anyway?

Click click. Downloaded all these tar.gz file. What are these png and desktop files for? Probably icons for the install. Just got everything and dumped them in a folder. Ok. Followed the instructions and tried to make the WordNet package. What’s this error? I don’t know this stuff. Hold on, let me try to put it all under the same folder. Aha! It worked. I am a genius! I can make computers stop printing lots of lines of red text! Ok type in the command and pressed enter. Scrolling gibberish … scrolling gibberish … What! Error again? Dependencies not found? Tk and Tcl! Can someone please stop calling things with random alphabets. We’re going to be all out of alphabets soon. Damn it I’d avoided installing Tk and Tcl for so long, trying to keep my system lean and mean. Hmm (stroking beard), what would Captain Kirk say at a time like this, I wondered. “It’s a Woman!” No! That doesn’t help. Or does it? (stroked beard some more)

You know what? This beard was way too long for me to maintain my cool dishevelled bohemian look, mingled with a touch of educated class. I had to shave, or trim it at least. I got off the chair. Where is that trimmer anyway? Walk walk walk. Couldn’t see it anywhere. I must have missed it in the bed room. No, wasn’t there either. There it was! Right where I should have looked in the first place. Ok batteries were needed. There were a pair lying about that seemed to have enough juice to make me beautiful again .. but not too beautiful. So, I was off for a shave.

Why was that computer screen on? Oh never mind. I would get back to fixing Linux issues later. And I hadn’t even checked my email yet, or my Facebook, or my Twitter, or my other email address, or my other one. Standing in front of the mirror I tried to act all dignified and switched on the trimmer, its metallic buzz echoed on the ceramic tiles. I tried to visualise how exactly bearded and dishevelled I need to be to really look like a convincing writer on the inside back cover of a bestseller. “Writer!” I shouted out loud. My short term memory suddenly kicked back in as I stared at myself wide-eyed in the mirror.

And then the batteries died on me.


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  1. You just described my entire life. Although some of my distractions include the 2 year old throwing books at the cats, pouring hot water all over the bathroom floor, and finding the cats have somehow spilled the bucked of clean cat litter all over the laundry floor – all within 10 minutes of waking up!

    1. Alright, you win. šŸ˜€

      I can’t really compete with the two year old and the cats. Although I must admit that most days I have a two year old and a bunch of cats all running around in my head and being generally unhelpful.

      Like your own two year old and your cats though, I’ve gotten a bit fond of my brood of mental trouble makers and can’t think of disowning them. I’m just a sentimental softie that way.

      Coming back to your two year old. I’d say you have a latent scientific genius on your hands. Children are infinitely curious, only one of the things I love about them. If she figured out that throwing a book at the cats and recording the results of the experiment is a worthy task in her busy toddler schedule, I’d say she’s on to a good thing. Just make sure you don’t have many hard-covers lying about or it might degenerate into all out war. šŸ˜‰

      Saw some pictures of her on your site and she’s a real marvel. Just let her know she can come over and throw books at my imaginary cats any day.

      Thanks for sharing, Sally. Always good to you’re not alone in your quirks and mental misdemeanours.


  2. Thanks, Samir! Wasn’t expecting such a personal response. šŸ™‚ I didn’t think to check back before now, since I have you in my reader and there have been no new posts.

    My 2 year old would love to throw books at your imaginary cats. Wish we could afford the airfare!

    May all parts of your day be less distracted,



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