Proof of Life, Twenty-Eighteen

Not dead yet. I joked on twitter that this is a recurring entry on this, a 16 year collection of things written that is roughly covered by the term ‘blog’ (so naturally I dubbed it a ‘Journal’). The rest of the recurring entries are threats that I’m getting back to writing fiction. I have a […]

Welcome Back to

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Welcome to again. Same-same, but different. New logo. Revamped Portfolio section. Comments are back (do leave one, say hello). Fewer pictures of me on a pink slide on the About page (I’m not sure if this is for the better). There’s still a bunch […]

Wagons & Saddles


As usual, I was supposed to write this days ago. Writing always takes the back-burner, is the first to be sent to the back of the queue, behind client work, videogames, and doing nothing. Tweeting scratches the itch to write just enough to make you think you’re doing something, and in three years my persona on twitter has spread to a number of accounts covering everything from myself, to movies, games, books, comics, and even RANTING.

Blogging once held this position.

“I’ll write, but first let me blog about how I haven’t written, my writer’s block, and how I’m going to write.”

Which is basically what this is now.

I don’t think I can classify what I have as writer’s block anymore. Ten years is a long time to have been off the wagon (Why is it that you fall off the wagon, but get back in the saddle?). In the last ten years I have never stopped writing, but I have stopped finishing things. And like the proverbial falling tree in the empty forest, if it isn’t finished, then it may as well not exist. Some of you, kind souls that you are, will point to the short story I wrote years ago as a finished piece of work. And I will grant you that, short as it was, it does qualify. But I also know that it was supposed to be the start of a large number of semi-interconnected stories, and so in my head at least it remains unfinished.

(Excuse me, I just went away to tweet about this post I’m writing)

The strict form on your words that twitter imposes is enticing. Sometimes I consider writing a story in tweets. It’s a gimmick, but then, so is writing an action ‘novel’ in 500 words. Things of great beauty can emerge from that 140 character box, but so can they from the vast, bottomless window of Notepad as well, and I like to remind myself that all novels, great and small, started with no back cover to assure the author of a safe landing.

(Excuse me, I just went away to tweet about this post on the ranty account because the term ‘blogging’ seems funny. It’s 2001 again.)

NaNoWriMo has tried to remedy this to an extent, with the 50,000 word goal. I have participated in most NaNos over the last decade, but have yet to even best my first, NaNo 2001 achievement of 35,000 words. I’m sure that, on average, I wrote about that much fiction per year over the decade, but never into anything finished. Hundreds of thousands of words sitting there like so much risen dough, waiting for a loaf pan (baking is another thing writing has taken a back seat to. I sometimes catch myself thinking of baking like one might think of all their unfinished novels suddenly being ready & successful). But even all that goal-oriented writing doesn’t spur me into finishing things. It only ever gets me to start new things. Like Don Draper (according to Dr. Faye Miller), I only ever seem to love the Beginning of things.

Mad Men, and stories of its quality, loom large over me as well. They are at once beacons to follow & aspire to, and seemingly unattainable masterpieces, hurdles insurmountable by someone who can’t even get to THE END of a first draft. Take the last season (number five), and the way it ended. It’s definitely not the end of the series, but if it did have to end, I can’t think of a better way than employing the theme song from You Only Live Twice, followed by an innocuously-posed question, and Don’s profoundly enigmatic response.

Or lack of one. Because it cuts to the credits before he says anything. Those people know how and when to end something. I’m a little afraid of this post going off the rails (and a wagon and a saddle) into non-stop gushing about Mad Men — which it still could — but the point is that fear is as present in an writer as it is the audience, and often ending something sooner than you think is better than never at all.

I’ve had my share of frustrating, absurd anticlimaxes to things in my personal & professional life, and while that isn’t what we enjoy in fiction, prolonging and postponing things for the sake of word counts or writing traditions only delivers an ending that is nothing but absurd and anticlimactic.

I thought that this blog post would end differently, with some grand proclamation of getting back on that saddle, of promising — as I have many times before — a valiant return to writing, to producing, to meeting word counts and doing heroic feats of typing & first-draftery. But really, all I’m looking for is an ending.

And I’m going to go see if can find it.


My Google Reader Shared Items Blog: Now with Added Value!

google reader blog image
Just wanted to give you guys a heads up that I’m now using the Share With Note feature on my Google Reader Shared Items, so in addition to the widget in the sidebar providing you with the latest links on stuff I’m browsing, you can now check the blog itself (or subscribe to its own Atom feed) for little notes by me on each item (I’ll try to write more than just, “Cool, lookit!” — I swear!). I generally share things that I hope readers of this blog will like, so lots of stuff on design of all kinds, illustration, photography and of course, lots and lots of weird stuff.

You can access my Google Reader Shared Items Blog by clicking here.

V Has Been Redesigned! Redesign Banner

After months of slacking off, I finally got round to doing something I should have done way back in March: I’ve redesigned the site’s look!

When I switched over to Drupal I used the Minnelli template, a default template that comes with the program. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice and functional template, but being a graphic designer and using a standard template on my own site is a bit… well, shameful.

It took me a few hours yesterday to come up with a design that’s been more or less stewing in my brain for ages. It took the better part of the last 24… well, 32 hours for me and Samir — well, mostly Samir — to convert it from a graphic in Inkscape to a working HTML and CSS template.

This is the first time I’ve worked with the guts of Drupal, and it’s been an illuminating experience. In my previous CMS, Pivot, a lot of the functions were handled in the backend’s configuration, which meant that the template was more of a ‘wallpaper’ and it would take me about a day after it was ready to get all the right settings done in Pivot admin to make it look like what I wanted. Drupal is far less, um, guided and that is really it’s strength. You can pretty-much do anything with this CMS if you know enough PHP programming (I do not). You can probably run an entire small country using Drupal.


Unlike most people, as a old school techie I warm to complex and highly tinker-friendly things like this. In order to get the words ‘read more’ and ‘2 comments’ to work right and reposition them in the right place, we’ve had to put in a dozen or so lines of PHP code, most of which sounded like Greek at first, but have now started to make some kind of sense.

The final result is a design that is 99.99% exactly like the Inkscape mockup I made yesterday — usually in the conversion things don’t always look quite the same — and it’s certainly the tightest, most finished layout I’ve done so far.

I like it — I like it a lot, actually — and it’s a lot more functional than the older one. Post categories, for instance, have been moved up to under the title of each post, and no longer jostle for space with the ‘read more’ and ‘comments links like they used to (Amit, you should find it easier to read. When a post was under several categories that area would get really messed up).

Please note that since I’m not an idiot I don’t use Internet Explorer, and this design may not show up correctly in IE. It has been tested in Firefox and is rendered correctly in Mozilla browsers. I know that in IE6 the Journal graphic on top doesn’t show up well; it may be better in a newer version, but I figure that jumping through hoops (and trust me when I say it’s like pulling teeth) to get something to work there is only encouraging Microsoft to continue to make crappy non-compliant browsers.

So there.

There are now two sidebars while still retaining the same width on the main content, so now you don’t have to scroll halfway down the page to see the recent comments (but you all subscribe to the Comments RSS feed anyway, don’t you? Hmm?). I feel it’s a better use of the space, and it allows me to have more important things like that picture of me giving you a big, loving smooch on every page.


Believe it or not, this is only the third custom template I’ve ever done for one of my own sites. I’ve actually used more templates by others than my own! Some of you may recognise these:

iLevel layout by Vishal K Bharadwaj, circa 2004This design was on the old iLevel page, my first non-blogger blog. It came in around 6 months into my using that site which ran Greymatter. I did this design on vacation in India on a 166Mhz Pentium 1 laptop with a wonky power cord, uploaded over a 56K connection. It was my first experience with CSS and was great! I still love this layout and may end up reworking it as a standalone free template for other people to download and use someday. You can even read all the old content from that time in the ilevel.prohosting section of the journal (there are some nice photos there. If you’ll recall, iLevel was almost exclusively a photoblog). layout by Vishal K Bharadwaj, circa 2006This was the template I used on my last free host, and indeed it was the template that the site was running until March 2007. I was using Pivot as the CMS for a year or so — and used a slightly personalised version of the popular Kubrick template — before designing this one (hmm, spotting a trend here). While I like it I’m not really in love with it anymore; it doesn’t quite reflect the site. Again, it might return someday as its own thing.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t just use some of those old looks (I don’t think they’ve gotten old or outdated) it’s because the site as it is now would not be best suited by those templates. The look of a webpage is a very important thing, and it should complement the content and the personality of the author in order for the site to grow. is not iLevel, nor is it the site that it was a year ago. Sure, the journal (that used to be the blog) has all the old content for archival purposes, and it will continue to have photos and sketches and strange musings, but a website is more than just a blog for me, and I want to explore all of those possibilities. This new layout will be a better canvas on which to do that.

I’m actually one of those old crones who remembers a time before blogs, when we just had websites, and believe it or not those were wonderful things in their own right. I love the blog medium, but to solely focus on it and forget everything else the internet and the HTML page is capable of is like abandoning books because magazines and newspapers have been invented (I stole this analogy from my brother, amongst several other things).

Anyway, I hope you like this new layout (tell me if there are any bugs!) and now that I’ve decided on a visual look I can get to work on the rest of the site’s content!