Saturday, February 26, 2011

On writing, (portable)

Does anybody have tips on how to find or make a writer's group? This is a broad question, but several readers are interested.
Some are also interested in what machines are good for writing when away from home.
For me, the key aspects are 1) light weight and 2) a good keyboard. Of course, the these qualities are not often combined.

If one can live with a tiny screen with low contrast, the Alphasmart Neo is an amazing writing tool. It can't do anything else, but it's a fab typewriter, and the keyboard is full sized and feels great. And it weighs well under a kilo. (Video. (Update: sadly the connection shown in the video does not work with the newest iOS.)) It stores what you write in one of nine files, and when you come home you can "slurp" the text onto a Mac or PC for saving and editing.

The new 11-inch MacBook Air is also right up there at the top. It weighs only a kilo (about 2.2 pounds US), has an outstandingly crisp screen, and a full sized keyboard, although it has a rather short key travel (how far you push down a key). That's normal with compact notebooks of course. And unlike the Neo, this is a full-blown computer, you can do anything you can do with a desktop computer.

An iPhone or iPod Touch or an Android device with a bluetooth keyboard (wireless) is perfectly useable. Of course a ten-inch device like the iPad or the Xoom gives more space for the text and editing, but for pure writing, it's not strictly necessary.
For portability, this is unbeatable. An iPhone 4 and a foldable keyboard like the iGo/ThinkOutside both fit in a pocket! Something like the iConnex Freedom (pictured) is slightly larger, but still pocket-sized, and closer to full size, although all of these mentioned I can touch-type on, even with my large hands.
A downside to foldable keyboards is that the peripheral keys usually have a different layout than a normal keyboard, so they demand a bit of re-training for touch-typists.

Miss American Pie

I'm well blown away by the Madonna version. (I'd not seen the video before today, honestly I think the song is better without it, all the T&A show is off the point.)

Don McLean has consistently declined to interpret the lyrics of American Pie. One interviewer asked him: "But what does it mean?!" He answered: "it means I never have to work again."

Sheen is off the hook

Charlie Sheen's character on 2.5 is hard-drinking and likes his pills too. It seems like maybe it does not need too much acting for Charlie to portray such a character, if his current juvenile behavior is any indication.

The Daily free trial expanded

 The Daily has expanded the free trial. Twice now!
It's not based on much, but I'll bet a good dinner that public interest in the first electronic-only newspaper is weak, even frustratingly weak. I think there's a lot of hair-tearing in Rupert's house right now.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Adam Engst on iPad and ereaders

Adam Engst on iPad and ereaders, article
Interview by myself.

Again about café writing

I think I've mentioned café writing a couple of times. Here's another take on it.
I first heard about it in the dawn of portable computers, in the early nineties, in an article in a newsletter put out by a group of science fiction writers I belonged to. And I immediately loved the idea. Being in a public space with just the right amount of activity (not too much), and a view, is stimulating for the ol' grey cells.

Alex G wrote:
I have been trying to get my local writers circle to pull up tents and do just this, relocating from thay cold, stuffy windowless library back room to a local coffee shop where they can sit and people-watch and write.
Instead, they all elect to head off down the nearest pub for refreshments.

How can I get it past their heads that it is the view and the ambience conducive to writing that prompts me to choose a cafe as a venue, and that the only ambience that stuffy, claustrophobic windowless pubs maintain is conducive to vegging out and drinking rather than creating?

"Oh! I miss good sitcoms"

"Oh! I miss good sitcoms"

(Thank god for Big Bang.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Someone else?

I wonder if couples ever break up without there being Someone Else on one side or the other? I think it's rare. Change is hard enough for most people, and going from "something" to "nothing" is devastating, so most people will stay in a miserable relationship until they are forced out, or they find somebody Much Better.

A Parent’s Struggle With a Child’s iPad Addiction

A Parent’s Struggle With a Child’s iPad Addiction, article by David Pogue.

Personally, so long as the kid gets his exercise and has a social life, I don't see any reason to take away his iPad. Plenty of adults, myself included, would nigh kill somebody who tried to do that to them.

The equivalent when I was a kid would have been to deny me the right to read books except in weekends. I would not have stood up for that, I'd have found a way to read on the sly, or I'd have revolted violently, despite me being a quiet and polite kid.

It is astounding how easily toddlers take to the iPad. For example, from a comment to David's article:
We struggle with the same thing for my 2year old. She loves the iPad, and affectionately calls it the APPLE BOOK, since she can say those 2 words but not iPad. In the beginning when she was about 1, it was merely digital books like Jingle the husky pup, Peter Rabbit or the awesome Toy Story book apps. As you grew older, she learned to flip the pages and even unlock the iPad, so she starting playing memory games, puzzles and animal sound discovery games.

We hear it again and again: 2-4 year olds just figure out how to use the durn thing, all on their own. Huh.
Sure, moderation in all things, couldn't agree more, kids need to do other things too. But apart from that, I think that in the future as software matures, the iPad will turn out to be inestimably important in children's development.

Audio search?

Does anybody know if there's a way to do a Search in an audio file? Say a long interview, and you want to find the place the speaker mentioned, uh, Betty Boob's affair with Donald Duck, without having to re-listen to the whole thing?

Looks --> self-confidence --> money?

This article shows the perceived links between looks and earning power. If you are tall, slim, and gorgeous, you are likely to earn more, yeah? Seems so.

However, I had a suspicion that if I read through to the end they would come to the real crux of the matter, and they did: self-confidence. I think the most important factor is not the looks themselves, but the self-confidence they inspire. And while outer factor can make it easier for you to have and project self-confidence, it's really a mental thing which can be built up, not the least by simply getting your job training and doing really good work over time.

Abandoned particle accelerator in Russia

Abandoned particle accelerator in Russia, photo story.
Spooky, but beautiful.

Cyndi lauper - Girls just wanna have fun

(Who spells their little girl's name "Cyndi"? That's just sadism.)

(Official TV video.)

I love Cyndi's stage presence and the way she moves.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The one big reason why iPad rivals can’t compete on price

The one big reason why iPad rivals can’t compete on price, article.

More and more reasons are coming in about why it's nearly impossible for Apple's competitors to compete with Apple in the tablet market. This guy says it's the high profits of direct sales through the Apple Stores.  Fascinating stuff anyhow.

I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7-inch, and it's a very good device. But it costs the same as the iPad, and it really is not worth that, it should be around 70% of that.

By the way, I wonder why Apple started off with such a low price ($500 entry price) on the iPad? They had the market to themselves, and it would still have sold like hot cakes at $700 or even $800, and they could just have lowered the price later, like they did with the iPhone. (Though perhaps not as soon and dramatically as they did with the iPhone, which ticked off early customers fiercely.)


TTL found this cool talk about lifestyle experiments.
Listening to intuition and making small changes can sometimes turn out to mean a lot.

Probably many people will listen to him and say "hell, that's all very well for you, but I have responsibilities here, I can't just up and flit to New Zealand and Iceland". But I think that for one thing, one of those "experiments" does not have to look extreme to other people. The change can be anything.  And for another thing, the willingness to change very often opens up a lot of possibilities one had no idea were there.

The change in mind always comes first.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Alabama sex toy shop to trade guns off streets for fun between sheets

Alabama sex toy shop to trade guns off streets for fun between sheets, article.
Trade your guns for "romance-inspiring gifts," aka vibrators and other intimate items.

More power to them. I still don't get areas where they give guns away when you open a bank account, but where you might be arrested for owning a dildo. Talk about twisted thinking.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Twin cameras... (updated)

I have sometimes thought, like when looking at the new Fujifilm X100, that somebody like Fuji, instead of making a possible exchangeable-lens camera with all the compromises that involves, or the size it would need for a zoom camera with a large sensor, to make just two cameras.

Many enthusiast photographers, the only thing they really miss when they have a good street camera with a moderate wide-angle lens like the Fuji's 35mm-equivalent, is a lens for portraits and moderate tele work. To get the soft backgrounds, and the better perspective for portrait work.

Thus you could have your wide scenes in the upcoming X100, and you might have an X101 or whatever, with a 90mm-equivalent lens, hopefully a fast lens and hopefully also quite compact. This can be done, as seen for example with Pentax's excellent and very compact 70mm F:2.4 lens.

Admittedly it would be ridiculous to most people to buy two cameras, when zoom lenses and smaller sensors make really fine pictures, but for hardcore enthusiasts, there really is a difference in quality, and and the strong interest in the X100 demonstrates that this group may not be so small as one might think.

... You know, come to think of it, I don't think I've ever heard of any dedicated portrait/short-tele camera. I'd really like to see one, it could be very cool.

Mike Johnston of tOP educates me:
I think we'll actually see this if the X100 does well. 
The best-known camera that took this approach was the Rolleiflex; aside from the ubiquitous normal-lensed Rolleis there was the Rollei Wide and the Tele-Rollei, with 55mm and 135mm lenses respectively. 

There was a Minolta point-and-shoot (I think--maybe a Konica?) that had a two-position-only lens--you had a choice of 40mm or 80mm, but nothing in between. 

For years I photographed with a Contax and two lenses, a 35mm and an 85mm....

A dying industry?

Despite all the hand-wringing, I was sort of feeling that an industry as popular as the music industry could never really suffer. Music is always popular after all. But heck, look at this:

Holy mama.
OK, it's worth keeping in mind that there is a difference between the music industry and music. I've no doubt music is alive and well, and will be so for as long as humans breathe.

Whether musicians can earn money is a third thing yet, and might fall somewhere in between these other two. The "music industry" after all consists mostly of middle-men making money on the work of musicians, and then a handful of very successful stars. But without that industry, how many musicians can monetize their work on their own? I'd like to know.

There was some protests about it not being inflation adjusted. I found one which is: