Thursday, April 29, 2010


I wish I was like a chameleon, disappearing into the background at will.

It's been a sad few days. There is really no silver lining either, and certainly nothing in the way of introspection. I think it is the gift that comes with age, being able to quickly absorb the blows that life throws at us and move on. What little I understand of the events persistent around me grants nothing in the way of wisdom.

To endure sometimes means admitting you are powerless against the forces working against you. That humility can grant a measure of peace, if felt in ernest. What continually doesn't seem to factor, is all of what I do to pass the time between my work, the moments when I play, and everything in between.

My wife wants to take on a mixed emphasis when she seeks her masters degree over the next couple of years. Becoming truly computer savvy requires a genuine love of the medium, of programming, and mastering technology. She's worried she isn't smart enough to conquer these things. In every programmer I've met, perseverance counts for something. Brains help.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Source of Ambition & Things

Took a walk with my friend Tyler Cook today. We spoke briefly about the details of desires and how they can generate ambition. This in the wake of my utter failure to follow through on goals we both share. I had to ask. "Do you know what you really want?" Tyler operates with a high degree of self awareness and answered me with as truthful an answer as any human being can express.

The conversation, my own personal failures from the morning, and some measure of triumph that came later got me thinking about the way I generate my own ambition. It certainly doesn't come from nowhere, conjured from the ether like some magical spell compelling us to do stuff. Also, it doesn't come with pressure crafted by external sources. It comes from the lists we make for ourselves, along the path to getting what we want, and how well we keep track.

Here comes the shameless plug.

I bought an app for my iPad called Things. It allows you to organize your goals, ideas, and check them off as you complete them. It has a simple layout, a means to tag each task, make notes, assign due dates, and organize them in order. If you're in doubt of what to do next, it can help you if you've done the data entry work to truly enter in all your thoughts and dreams. It's even got a place for those things you want to do someday. Totally worth the 20 bucks I paid for it... but not for those features.

The best feature is the log it keeps. As you mark stuff off, it logs and dates each item adding it to a bone pile. Today, I checked my log that I started on at the beginning of April. Relative to working towards my major goals, I've hit twenty one milestones in the time I've been keeping that log. Checking that log is better than any antidepressant, a king size Mr. Goodbar, or a basket of fresh raspberries. Okay, maybe not better than the raspberries, but close.

It is important to keep careful track of your goals, seek them tirelessly, and strictly record what you plan to do next. More than that, you have to keep track of what you've accomplished and keep a record. There's a difference between keeping these these records as a source of continuing ambition, and presenting them as a component of our pride. When I go into a place of work where someone displays mementos of their previous accomplishments, they are either a highly successful professional, or a colossal douche-bag.

Seems to me, whether you have a ninety-nine cent legal ruled pad, or a five hundred dollar iPad with a twenty dollar Things App, keeping a detailed record of our goals is very important. This physical recollection has worked as a source of great ambition for me lately. I've always used lists, then filed them away with the projects in question, but I never kept a log of what I'd accomplished exactly.

Even as I write this, my mind's eye flashes to all the file folders stuffed with works and projects... accomplishments and intellectual adventures I have little recollection of, writings I grasp at when I'm at a loss for what to do next. If I'd kept a log all this time, I wonder if the perception of my work would be different.

I wonder if my own anxiety about everything I've done so far would be greatly reduced. The answer seems pretty clear looking at the twenty one things I accomplished in the last fourteen days since I started keeping track.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Difficult Decisions

The closer I get to actually rendering my first book using InDesign, the more I realize I'll have to shut down some of my other activities and go into partial hermit mode. The time required to take 300 pages and convert to ePub on my own seems from all indication something that'll span three to four weeks, disrupting my table schedule among other things. I'm sure everyone will understand my reasons, it isn't that I worry about.

I really enjoy my RPG tables.

I can't wait to actually register the copyright on my first book, and have some print off. Smashwords or Lulu will probably be the avenue I take getting my book on iBooks, BN, and Amazon... need to do a little more research on which avenue will be best. Think I'll wait till I actually have a completed 'best works' manuscript before I worry too much about that stuff.

The world is a sunny place today. Think I'll ride my bike.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Had to take a break from the blog and even my journal.

Writing fiction eight hours a day somewhat precludes being honest with one's self within the confines of the same medium. I like where I've been in the last six months, where I am, and where I'm going. Those people that have problems, avoid them, while displacing blame and accountability? My friend Tara thinks that vice and virtue aren't that different, in fact, interchangeable.

I spent the better part of 2008 and 2009 completely avoiding the things that were eating me to the point of gross neglect. Now I feel like I'm at the other side of the tunnel pointing, all my discipline bent to tackle the next problem, and there aren't any. My friend Andrea would like me to be happy, and in her own way pointed out that I'm my own problem in that ... problem.

The last six months, I spent most of it using up my sorrow to evoke change, and to write. Now that I'm down the road, 35-50 page a week for six months... I have the basis for many books both fiction, RPG, and... well, philosophical. Some of it is going to get self-published because I want it to be mine. Copyrights, trademarks, the works... but not to protect the possible (extremely dubious) financial benefits. I really want these works to be more than just written by me, I want to own them in the most temporal and worldly way possible.

I want to say that I'm a writer. I'll probably never have a degree or a piece of paper issued to me that proves that, unless I write it myself. Right now, if people ask me what I do... I tell them I'm unemployed passing the time in a converted garage writing random stuff. My wife gives me more credit. Nevertheless, it is something better to put my energy towards than ... well, being morbidly depressed.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Apple's iPhone OS Event

I own many devices made by Apple, and each one has been of great value to my work. I really (really) like my iPad.

I love/hate iPhone OS 4.

Multitasking - Meh

Now your friends can use social networking apps to track you, just like big brother... all running in the back ground while you shop for new flavors of Kool-Aid.

Folders - Hurrah!


Enhanced Mail - Um... yay?

I like the mail client as is, and the proposed changes look stupid.

iBooks - Everyone knew that was coming.

Uh huh.

Enterprise Options - Hurrah!

Anything that makes mobile devices more mainstream and widely used, I'm generally a fan of.

Game Kit - Meh

Like xBox live, I could care less how my gaming skills compare to the rest of the people on the network, and no I don't want to chat with other gamers... unless we're around a table rolling dice.

iAd - iHate

I get that developers are already doing this badly and that Steve Jobs agrees the manner in which it is currently handled sucks. I give Apple Inc. an A for effort trying to polish the turd that is in-app advertisements, but a turd... is still a turd. If I click one of my productivity apps, even once, and I get an advert... the damned thing is gonna get sold on eBay faster than you can say "Asus Tablet with the Android OS."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Working, waiting and the iPad

It takes a little hunting around to find pictures I edited with Photogene, there was a small battle getting the wireless to stabilize, and there's some trouble with apps going from landscape to portrait. Otherwise working mobile with the iPad is not that different from my laptop. Most of the apps work with only a few glitches. I really expected to set the thing down for two weeks waiting for a firmware update, generally the fate of any early adopter.

The bluetooth keyboard works like a charm. The function + delete option doesn't seem to work, but all my other shortcuts seem intact. Working and playing on the thing is exactly like the rush I got using my first laptop. The games are buggy and fun, typing on it is its own learning curve, fuel for the brain. I really like the way Frank Sinatra and my Norwegian Death Jazz sounds on the speaker. Melodic Thrash sounds decent on the speaker, while Death Metal sounds tinny and washed out.

Took yesterday off with the wife, and plan to work Saturday. So far I've started the week off right with a few pages to my book and some notes for my RPG. I have some graphics to draw this week for Vinnie and my Dad that'll break up the monotony of text. Gonna be a good week I think.

-- Post From My iPad

Sunday, April 4, 2010

iPad Review

I was able to get all the pictured books off iBooks for free (thanks Gutenberg Press) except for Ayn Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishness" which set me back seven bucks.

The iPad:

This device isn't for everyone. Make sure you lay hands on one of these and actually use it before you get one. I'm writing this not to convince anyone because I think if you gathered 100 random people in a room, 50% will hate the iPad on principle alone. It is a very controversial device. There are people who are buying it or not buying it for philosophical reasons. For some it is like buying one of Howard Roark's buildings, and for others it is like funding the death of a whole generation of hackers and programmers.

Mike Masnick wrote one of the better anti-iPad articles I've read:

"A few months back, I tried to ask a simple question that we still haven't received a good answer to: all of these media companies, thinking that iPad apps are somehow revolutionary, don't explain why they never put that same functionality online. They could. But didn't. There's nothing special about the iPad that enables functionality you couldn't do elsewhere."

What most of the detractors don't understand, Mike Masnick among them, is that the iPad has a touch screen, while most of what the world uses for a computer does not. The interface is what changes the game especially for the purpose of consuming media. The psychology behind being able to touch and hold something in your hand as opposed to being detached is powerful. Working with a normal computer is like fishing with all the best gear, a pole a net, your trusty hat, and a six pack. Working with an iPad is like being a bear and fishing with your claws, getting in the water, feeling the excitement of the hunt, while getting immersed in the endeavor. Would you rather watch your child being born from a distance on close circuit TV or be there to hold that child in your hands?

The good:

If you've done any research into the device, it is all you're expecting and more. I could go for pages about how great it is, but words cannot describe how it is to work with until you've tried it yourself. You will need a freezer bag so you can take into the bath with you, which is by far my favorite place to use it so far.

There are already a number of great apps out there, a list in a bit.

The bad:

Apps written specifically for the iPhone or iPod Touch will, approximately half the time look awful and crash going from landscape to portrait mode. The other half are find and work like a charm. Some of the current iPad specific apps that came from third party merchants are buggy and prone to crash as well. No one, save a lucky few, actually had an iPad to work with when they developed these apps and most of my complaints in this regard will probably vanish in the first round of updates.

My Must Have Apps List:

Voice Memos
Weatherbug (Gorgeous! Makes the old Weather App look like a toy)
Sketchbook Pro, Brushes and Photogene (forget PS Mobile for the iPad)
iMockups (Awesome for App/Web Developers)
Netflix (Works great!)
Bloomberg (if you miss the Stocks App)
NPR for iPad
BBC News
Wall Street Journal
NBA Game Time
RealRacing HD (Awesome Game)

Gear for your Gear

For those lucky enough to get an iPad, you already know that the box contained the iPad, a 10w Power Brick, USB Cable, 1 page instruction manual, and the FCC information. For those who don't have theirs yet, I have a little advice on what you need to get, carry, and not carry with your iPad.

1. The extra 10w Power Cable isn't shipping until May, and the USB cord the iPad comes with isn't long enough to reach from the wall to a bed side if you have a bedside table. If you have a Macbook the extension cord that slips into the power brick it comes with works fine to give you a few extra feet.

2. Headphones. No one wants to year my Cannibal Corpse/Frank Sinatra mix at the coffee shop. The ones that came with my iPod Touch work great, including the volume control. The iPad has a built in mic already that works great, so any head phones will do.

3. Microfiber cloth. I am an oily person, and I leave my grease everywhere I go on everything I touch. It only takes an hour of me typing on my iPad to make the screen kinda cloudy. Do not use tissues, a rag, your sleeve, or anything but the softest microfiber cloth to clean the face of your iPad.

4. Bluetooth Keyboard or Keyboard Dock. I got the Bluetooth Keyboard because it wouldn't be as clunky as the dock and I could set it my lap. Before buying any of these however, make sure you've typed on the iPad for a couple hours first. I somewhat regret getting the keyboard because in only a select few situations I probably will prefer to type on-screen in landscape mode.

5. Case. Yes get a case. I haven't actually laid hands on the one from Apple so I can't comment but it looks pretty decent. Here are some other options.

6. Bag. Something small to carry your iPad in isn't a bad idea. Most cases just offer protection from getting bumped around inside your carry-all. If you want something to just carry your iPad around in I recommend one of these three bags.

This is the one I bought. I can actually fit everything in it, including the bluetooth keyboard, but there's little room for anything else.

This one is expensive, particularly for guys with wives who steal their stuff. This thing is nice enough I could see a guy, gal, or a small Gerbil named Kevin carrying it.

For the people who don't already have a good laptop bag and need a really tough one that wears high across your back and shoulders for riding two-wheeled vehicles, this bag looks to be the best out there.

Crumpler also makes a good bag. [] They have a charming website too.

Even better are the names they gave their bags. I own one they call the "Considerable Embarrassment". I bought that one in particular because it has no external pockets and I'm always nervous someone will mess with my bag while they're standing behind me in line. Clasps and velcro for the paranoid carrier of devices.

7. Stylus & Stands. If you think you really need them.

They make a neat stylus for the iPod Touch that works well with my iPad. However, I've already busted the dratted thing twice. If anyone finds a sturdier place to buy a stylus that works with the iPad, let me know.

These guys just make neat stuff. Don't know that I'd get a stand but 1000 nerd points for anyone who does.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Blogging from the iPad

Blogging from the iPad is tricky. First DO NOT try to post from inside a browser. Get an app or client, like Blogpress if you have more than one blog to manage or Wordpress for iPad if you're really fancy.

Further to that end typing on the on-screen keyboard is relatively easy and intuitive. I actually thought there would be a learning curve but mostly I hit the number toggle with my pinky. If anything it takes getting used rot holding your hands off the keys. Once I get my case the holds the device at an angle I don't think it'll be an issue.

I have a ton of apps to try out, and I'll post a full review of the them and the device by Sunday night.

-- Post From My iPad

Location:Robert St,Boise,United States

Friday, April 2, 2010

iPad Apps - First Pass

Here goes:

Instapaper Pro [$4.99]

Basically lets you save webpage for later offline reading, optimized for the iPad's screen with all the crapola and ads removed, hyperlinks intact. If you like to read articles online, this app is for you.

Sketchbook Pro [$7.99], Brushes [$9.99]

These are the programs I use to draw with my thumb while sitting in the bathtub. Speaking of which, I need to get a bigger freezer bag for my iPad so I don't get bubbles on it. Outline your drawing in Sketchbook Pro, export it to Photos, import to Brushes for some color, save it, then pop it open in PS Mobile for some effects or tweaks. Awesome.

iChalkboard [$0.99]

If you ask the programming elite the iPad will squelch the young would-be hackers of the world because you can't open it up and mess with it. That a whole generation of programers died with the iPad's introduction. iChalkboard is a really charming sketch app that looks and sounds like a real chalkboard with colored chalk... made by a 13 year old kid. I'd like to say I bought this app to spite the dusty quintessential nerds who like coding with a 30 year old programing language and perpetuating fifteen year old media formats... but it actually does look pretty cool!

Pages [$9.99]

Best word processing software I've ever used, hands down, except no substitutes. The iPad version from everything I've seen rocks rockstar socks.

Weatherbug Elite [$4.99]

If you have and like viewing Weather on your iPod Touch or iPhone and you're miffed it isn't on the iPad. Get this app, it looks stunning, complete with satellite topography, forecasts, the works.

Things for iPad [$19.99]

The most expensive app I bought. It's a project organizer, kinda like a super to-do list but without any of the bullcrap most of the other 2do apps I've seen have. It's elegant, customizable, and simple to use from all the screenshots I've seen.

Shakespeare Pro [$4.99]

All of his plays, sonnets, and writings stuck inside a mini search engine with portraits, information, and kids book versions of the plays. Lizzy squealed with glee when she saw it so I bought it.

iMockups [$9.99]

Basically what it says, specifically for apps and web content. I've been using iWeb as a mock up for the website I want to develop, but it's really limited and Dreamweaver doesn't let you conceptualize a project quickly. If you're even dabbling in web design or making your own apps, take a big fat look at iMockups

In the free or nearly free range I also picked up:

BBC News, Bloomberg for iPad, eBay for iPad, iBooks, NBA Game Timer, Netflix, NPR for iPad, Voice Memos, The Wall Street Journal, Pandora, IDW Transformers Comics, and Marvel Comics... just so I could spitefully delete it later.

Update: I caved and got Real Racer HD [$9.99] just because I love driving games.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Dark Side of Tech

Being a people watcher, I can tell a lot about a person by the things they do, the manner in which they do them, and the devices they carry with them. In my writing I've tried to keep the material things associated with my characters to a minimum making them something of their own metaphor if an item plays a part in the story beyond being a footnote. This perception has made me think harder about my RPG and the gear system within and my own real world perception of how people equip themselves.

There are a limited number of places that regular people tend to bring or carry tech with them. Generally these places have books (a library), coffee (Moxie Java, etc) or both (Barnes and Noble). Airports and college campuses are also good places to observe people using tech, but these scenarios generally have folks carrying tech for a purpose rather than as a component of their persona.

Technology is an invasive part of our culture spreading out from each individual like rings of single trees in a larger societal forest. At most I carry a camera, dumb phone, iPod Touch, and a Macbook Pro when I'm wandering about doing whatever it is I happen to be doing. That's four devices. My brothers probably carry something in that same range while my wife and parents carry at least 1-2 devices wherever they go.

Last night I typed out all my notes and outlines one-handed on my iPod touch, synced them with my mail client, and woke the next day and immediately began working. The ease at which I'm able to record my ideas thanks to the devices I employ means a greater realm of productivity. It also means that I rarely rest. Even sitting with my friends at Perkins or Moxie gets interrupted with the powerful urge to record a thought or idea quickly to the ever seductive digital medium.

Yeah, I like the idea of making the circle of laptops, sharing a pizza and bandwidth with my friends. However, tech can ruin as many meaningful social situations as it can enhance. My own desire to take notes with my iPod Touch I'm sure makes interacting with me awkward at times and when I get an iPad it'll be worse. That my social life will likely be put to death by a device with an instant-on feature and multi-touch interface is its own irony. I just have to hope the people that really know me won't take it personally that I have such compulsions.