Tuesday 23 August 2022

Writing on a Chromebook

I've been playing with a budget Chromebook for the past few months and have to say, a Chromebook is a pretty good choice for writing. I'm using an Acer CB314-1H which cost me a whopping £79 (thanks to a £100 cashback deal). It has a bright, crystal clear FHD screen, a fantastic keyboard (much better than my HP laptop) and it is super lightweight.

As far as the keyboard goes, on first impressions, it seems that the keyboard has no delete key or CAPS lock, but both are available with help from the ALT key. It also seems that there is no way to turn the Trackpad off. This takes about ten seconds on Google to enable debug shortcuts, but to be honest, even with the option available, I rarely use. I catch my laptop trackpad all of the time, but hardly ever on the Chromebook.

The next thing to consider is software. There's Google docs. You can waste time searching the internet for alternatives, but this means enabling Linux and playing about and it's really not worth it. I managed to get LibreOffice working but it was slow and couldn't access Drive, which is where all the files are. But Google Docs is seamless, and a lot more powerful than it looks, certainly good enough to create a manuscript for ebook or publication. It can get a bit slow with large documents, but I haven't encountered too many problems and I'm working at just over 60,000 words, but for ease of use, I chop the document into five chunks. I use headings for titles which gives me a Document Outline (same as a Navigation pane and similar to Scrivener's Binder). I also use the comment pane all of the time when editing (a recent update allows you hide comments). Getting the work out is a breeze compared to Scrivener - you just download it as the format you want.

The next advantage is the grammar checker. The grammar check in Google Docs is amazing and picks up things that other word processors miss. It is certainly infinitely better than Scrivener, so when I get to proofing, I'd have to export to Google Docs anyway. I do like Scrivener for drafting simply for the option of coloured labels, but I can live without it. The grammar checker trumps any bells and whistles every single time because I continually miss out words when writing. Even drafting, I tend to write cleaner, stronger copy in Google Docs than anything else. 

So there you go. Yes, you can definitely use a Chromebook for writing novels. It's not the best solution. Hey, given the choice, I'd love a Macbook Pro, but those are way out of my budget, and probably always will be. For now, I'm more than happy with my £79 Chrome-buddy.

Monday 22 August 2022

Veggie Challenge

 It all began with a duck.

Two ducks, actually. They appeared in the middle of a housing estate and were waddling about outside my front door. I went out to get a photo and they were really friendly. They were curious too. This messed with my mind a little. I mean, ducks with personalities. You can’t eat something that’s friendly. That's just not right.

But the ducks flew away and I got over them. Well, kind of. But then last week, we were on holiday in Scotland with a farm right next to us. Our back garden looked out on a field full of cows. The cows had calves. They were friendly too, and curious. They kept coming over to see how we were getting on then skipping about the place exactly like cows don’t. 

Suddenly, I felt a bit guilty about the huge block of minced beef I’d bought for bolognese. 

The thing is, I've never had much success when I've tried going veggie before. I usually fail when it comes to ordering take-away or going into a pub for something to eat. But this happened in the middle of a sober challenge that was going insanely well. I had the daft idea of doing  Dry January in the summer, simply because it's more of a challenge that way, but I was so bowled over by the changes during the first month that I kept going. I ended up doing 72 days and the benefits are amazing. I lost two stone in weight, sorted out a whole load of mental health issues, blood pressure is firmly within the healthy bracket, my productivity went through the roof and I was reading more. I only broke my sober streak to see if I missed it as much as I thought. That was another shock. I was surprised to find that I couldn’t bear the taste of lager or wine. I also hated the feeling of being drunk. Something I thought I loved. 

So I’m doing that challenge again. This time I want to let it roll and just see how long I can go. 90 days is the first marker. But, as it's Day 1, it seems a good idea to do a Veggie Challenge at the same time and with the same mindset - to see what the health benefits are. Why not? So I thought I'd kick off with breakfast.

Let's just say it's not a good start.

Yesterday, not realising I was about to do a Veggie Challenge, I bought a load of bacon to go with the black pudding and sausages that are already in the fridge. Unfortunately, those aren't ideal foods for a wannabe Veggie, but I was all fired up for a cooked breakfast. However, thanks to my morality wobble with the cows, I have some plant-based sausages in the freezer.

I got them out and stuck them in the oven. Twenty minutes later, they’re ready to go. Here they are, on brown bread with a squirt of tomato sauce and a side order of black coffee.

Mmmmm.... Tasty eh?

Not exactly. They tasted bloody awful. The pack says they're made from peas. The experience is like eating Weetabix-flavoured cardboard.

Besides, what is the point of veggie sausages? I get veggie fingers, because they're colourful and taste like they sound, but are veggie sausages meant to mimic pork? Does that mean there's some Quality Assurance guy eating both to make sure they do? So Porky Pig is being slaughtered regardless? There's something not quite right about that. I'm not sure that meat substitutes are the way to go. 

Time to go shopping.

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