Writing and reading

October was a very blessed month for me. Besides turning a year older last month, I won second place for Feature Writing during the Regional Schools Press Conference, so I will be going to Tagum City to compete in the Nationals. I was also named Caraga’s Outstanding Campus Journalist for the Secondary level during the same event.

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I finished reading two classic books this week: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

The Little Prince is a very odd book. I’m sure the author meant to bring a point across, and I guess he succeeded, at least in a way—Asteroid B612’s little prince’s frivolity is a wake-up call to people whose lives are too preoccupied by things too worldly to warrant so much attention. The finicky rose on his home planet and how he painstakingly took care of it could perhaps be interpreted to symbolize love and all that. However, I find it extremely difficult to understand why Saint-Exupéry chose the little prince and his psychedelic adventures to be the vessel of his message. Perhaps I’ve grown too old to appreciate the color and wonder of his work.

That scares me. I don’t want to ever grow old in that sense.

The second book, The Old Man and the Sea, is a fantastic (and much more digestible, at least to me) read. I cheated, though—instead of the book itself, I read Barron’s Book Notes for it. In fairness to myself, I feel I wouldn’t have appreciated the novella as much if I’d read the original work. Hemingway did such a masterful job with the symbolism in the book, regardless of whether you think it was autobiographical. I think that without the Book Notes, I wouldn’t have caught the little nuances that make the book so enduring, such as when Hemingway paints Santiago as a man whose life was the sea—a fact reflected by his eyes which were colored like the ocean—and who appeared dead with his eyes shut.

If you still haven’t read The Old Man and the Sea, though, I recommend you purchase a copy of the work itself together with the Book Notes. I think that is the best way to enjoy the work. Hemingway’s simple but strong language is superbly effective in unfetteredly delivering what he wants delivered but can sometimes belie to the plebeian reader the tenacity and emotion of his work, so the Book Notes can be thought of as a guide to deconstruct the complexity of the masterpiece.

Thank you, by the way, to Sir Jay for loaning me the Book Notes.

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Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol, hasn’t had much luck with critics, or so I’ve heard. I hate to even entertain the thought, but could Robert Langdon’s glory days be over? Maybe the world has simply grown tired of an eternally single, claustrophobic Harvard symbologist’s history-rich capers. Maybe Dan Brown has milked every last creative drop out of Langdon. Maybe there is no more story to be milked.

I haven’t read the book yet, though, so I’ll reserve personal judgment for later. I would have bought a copy the last time I was within comfortable distance of a National Bookstore branch, but the Php900++ price tag on the hardcover version is out of my reach. Considering what the book reviews have been saying, I can wait for it to come out in paperback form.

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Currently, I’m reading Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama. I’ve barely reached page 30 of the book but so far it’s been a captivating and insightful read, made enjoyable by Obama’s simple style.

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National Novel Writing Month 2009 has begun!

I spent a considerable amount of time last night formulating the very general plot of my novel. I think today I’ll hurry up character development and finally give my protagonist and the object of his affection their names. I have a November 30 deadline to meet, and a NaNo participant who wants to complete his novel must write at least 1,667 words a day to meet the 50,000-word requirement. Those who can only work on weekends must be able to come up with 12,500 words every weekend to make the quota! Obviously there is a lot of work to be done, and with school and other highly important things also on my to-do list, this year’s NaNo is promising to be very daunting.

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I very recently upgraded my machine to Linux Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala, the latest version of the popular Linux distribution. It is no exaggeration to say that this OS is gorgeous, inside and out. The pedestrian user may not be able to readily recognize the more drastic changes that have been made—mostly in security and in the Linux kernel itself—but they will definitely improve overall user experience.

I’ve made it a point to do a clean install every time a new version comes out (instead of clicking “Upgrade” in Update Manager). This time around, I found a little difficulty in installing Karmic as my DVD drive had gone bonkers so I couldn’t burn a CD. I decided to download the Karmic ISO then use the USB Startup Disk Creator utility that came with 8.10 Jaunty Jackalope to make Karmic bootable from my flash drive. After fiddling with the BIOS a little, booting from the USB key and setting up Ubuntu, I was good to go. It took me a grand total of less than two hours and $0 to get set up. This is why I love FOSS.

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