Monthly Archives: August 2013

Sunflowers before a Storm

Normally words are my creative outlet, but I am awfully fond of my iPhone and iPad cameras. Today when I got home, I noticed how striking the sunflowers in the garden were against the dark gray of the pre-storm sky.
Naturally, I got out my phone.

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I love sunflowers.
And as I was finally heading towards the door, this also caught my eye:

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I’m a firm believer that weeds are just misunderstood plants…and in any case, I don’t feel up to challenging this thistle to its right to grow among the mint…at least, not with those thorns!

Categories: ordinary life | 1 Comment

Writing on an iPad

People often ask how I manage the massive amounts of writing that I do…with an iPad and an iPhone.
Simple answer is that writing is no different than texting…it’s just usually in larger chunks.
But this is the long answer and you’ve been warned. 20130829-221348.jpg
The above is a screen shot of all my writing apps on my iPad. Below, I’ll break each one of them down and explain how I use them.

Writings by ice cream studios. It was, if I remember correctly, about $3. This one is set up like a bunch of loose paper on a wooden desk. You can organize it by adding different works spaces, and inside each work space you can have unlimited loose “papers”. Once you open the individual files, it presents you with a clean, distraction free writing zone, with a specialty keyboard for quotes, parenthesis and such. If I use my Bluetooth keyboard with it, everything but the specialty keys goes away.
I use Writings if I’m in an distractible mood, or I feel the need of crisp, clean format. Probably my third most used app, though I do use it more for difficult scenes.

Notes. Comes free with the iPad and iPhone; also syncs automatically between both devices. It’s just like writing on a yellow notepad; I use it for sudden bursts of inspiration. It’s also my sole writing app on my iPhone, though sometimes I will text bits and pieces to myself. Second most used app.

Journals.
Unlike most journal apps, this one lets you put in chapters and subsections within each chapter.
I use this exclusively to put finished sections in their proper place. I had to disable the Dropbox link as this caused funky things to happen, but I put up with it because it is a good way to get that “I’m reading this on a kindle” feel that I often need.

Storyist: the most like Microsoft word of all my apps…and perhaps this is a good time to mention my absolute loathing of Microsoft Word and similar programs. Too many features and fonts and formats; I find all these options distract me from the flow of the story. Also, I like something pretty to look at while I’m writing.
Storyist is a good happy medium for me: it allows me to put my story in the unfortunately necessary manuscript format, but all the extra stuff is easier to hide than Microsoft Word or Pages.
Storyist has a number of features, like character sheets, scene snapshots, and outlines, and other such stuff that I don’t really bother with. Like Journals, it divides the document into chapters and subsections. This I do use, because it allows me to quickly find my place without getting bogged down in the sheer number of words and pages that have accumulated during the writing process! I also use this app to figure my total word count.
Like Journals, I use Storyist exclusively to put completed bits in place; Journals I use when I want to read through for continuity, Storyist I use more for editing purposes.

Chapters and Chronicle are very similar…and they both come from the same developer. They both have the option to create multiple notebooks, and in each notebook the entries are sorted by time and date; just like a paper journal. Chapters has a word counter that Chronicle doesn’t–but Chronicle has this neat little feature where you can read what you’ve written without the keyboard popping up. Also, Chronicle has this cool little feature where you can put down the location where that segment was written. I suppose that, for my purposes, it’s just idle curiosity, but it is rather neat to see the various places I curl up to do my writing…kitchen table, living room couch, library, car, bed, break room at work…
Chronicle has to be my number one most used app at the moment. Chapters used to be, before I figured out that screen toggle between writing mode and reading mode in Chronicle. I love that feature!

Memo is the best handwriting recognition app I have found yet, and believe me, I’ve tried plenty of them! It’s also the only one I found that’s for free…go figure. I use it on the rare occasions I want to use longhand versus typing. This only happens every once in a while, and usually only lasts for one page. When I’m fighting with block, I open up Memo and start writing with a stylus, thinking it will help get the juices flowing.
It never does. Notes, with the cute yellow school-paper background and marker-felt font, or a regular old text message to myself are actually the two that do help break up block. You’d think that, knowing this, I’d open them up first on a blocked day…but no. For some reason I always go in for the romantic notion of handwriting remedy–even though I know history is not on my side here.

Phraseology is this nifty little app that breaks down my writing for me. Grade reading level, Flesch-Kincaid readability score, which words I use the most, how many compound sentences vs simple ones…just a great way to check myself on the mechanics of writing. So far I’m doing pretty good, I think!

And last but certainly not least, this two motivational do-dads on my iPhone: My Minutes and Word Tyrant.
My Minutes is a free app that reminds me of my writing goal. Right now it is set for an hour a day, seven days a week. Every morning it will remind me of the goal. I start the timer every time I sit down to write and the app logs it. I don’t always do the full hour in one sit down; often I’ll write for five minutes and pause the timer to go do something else. When I’ve completed the required hour (whether in one big chunk or a bunch of little segments), I get a message that “You’re all done Writing!” and a green dot for the day. Extra minutes for a day do not count for tomorrow’s writing…and if I miss a day or don’t quite get the hour in, I get a big, ugly, red dot.
It’s surprisingly motivating, more so than assigning a particular time of the day for writing.
And Word Tyrant is a way of keeping track of another kind of progress: word count.

Anyway, those are the apps I use for writing. I haven’t gotten to the big editing phase, so I can’t say which I’ll use once the bulk of the story is written.
And of course, I couldn’t really do a post about writing without mentioning my trusty bluetooth keyboard. I have a ZAGGkeys Flex: sturdy enough to take the daily wear and tear, but cheap enough that I don’t worry about the abuse it takes. While sometimes I’ll use the iPad keyboard, most often I’ll haul out the Zagg and pound away on that.

20130830-191855.jpg Keyboard and iPhone used together.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a green dot to earn!

Categories: Writing | 5 Comments

Future Thing

Last week I remembered another thing that I have always wanted to do, but never got around to doing. Actually, I remembered two things, though they are kind of related.
I want to run a mile and participate in a 5K run.
Enter The Active Network’s Couch-to-5K program; $4 on the App Store.
I’ve been doing it three days a week and am on my second week. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do the program in 9 weeks though…
Proof that I’m actually doing it. I figure maybe in October I’ll run a straight mile and a few months later I can sign up for a 5K run!

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Categories: The List | 3 Comments

In which I walk across a river (but not Jesus-style)

August seems to be the month of the light purse, mostly thanks to The Ugly Brute…better known as my car. Or my damn stupid car, which has to be her most often used epithet.
With $500 in repairs this month, I have been given the golden opportunity for the launch of my new big girl budget…no iTunes, App Store, Amazon orders, kindle books or eating out. I’m gonna be a good girl and pack my work lunches and stay away from digital purchases. I have a big enough library of books, music, and apps already.
With this in mind I changed my additional Thing for August from going to the Kentucky State Fair to the Big Four Walking Bridge: the bridge is free. Also, everybody in the area has been going on about it and I decided it was high time to check it out and check off another item on my list.
For those of you not in Louisville/Southern Indiana area, the Big Four Bridge was railroad truss bridge built across the Ohio River built in the 1890s and closed in 1969, earning it the nickname “The Bridge That Goes Nowhere”. (And that isn’t a Diana Wynne Jones kind of Nowhere, either. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I suggest you read Fire and Hemlock.)
As a child, I always thought it was sad that such a unique bridge should abandoned…and in 2011 the governors of Kentucky and Indiana agreed with me. The Big Four is now a pedestrian and bike bridge, connecting Waterfront Park in Louisville to somewhere on Riverside Drive in Jeffersonville.

So, in August I did two things that I’ve never done before: sing karaoke and walk across a converted railroad bridge. It was fun; though getting lost in Portland because I took the wrong turn…was not. I have vowed never to venture into Louisville again without a GPS or a friend with better sense of direction than me. That shouldn’t be too hard, I could just close my eyes and grab one out of a line-up.
Anyway, once I eventually made it to Waterfront Park, it was getting rather late and my still-spooked-over-the-Portland-detour-parents made me promise to leave before it got dark. I figured that gave me an hour and decided to pass up exploring Waterfront Park in favor of walking the bridge on this trip. I hustled across the park, up the ramp and onto the bridge. Once on the bridge I slowed down and, as you can see below, started snapping pictures.

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That’s the Belle of Louisville there in the corner.

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View from Waterfront Park. The Big Four is still kinda the bridge that goes nowhere, as the Indiana ramps are not yet complete.

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Looking across the Bridge itself. You can’t really tell from this picture, but even at 8 pm, the bridge was crowded! I waited for several minutes to get a picture without people…this is Louisville. You just never know!

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Michael says I look sad here; I maintain that I’m just trying not to trip over my own feet while I get a picture of myself on the bridge.

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Ah…the Sunny Side of the Ohio! I can’t wait for November: Catching Fire comes out and the city of Jeffersonville will complete the ramp!

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Proof that I left before dark. I do have some sense…buried under that crazy creative, absent-minded artist side.
See that umbrella at the top of the ramp just before the bridge proper? That’s where I bought hotdogs, chips, cotton candy and soda from a stand; cotton candy being another item on my List. I don’t recall ever having it before and I can’t see myself ever buying it again. Nasty!

Categories: The List | 2 Comments

Fog

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It’s dangerous but I still love foggy mornings. They are just…kind of soothing

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We said someday we’d find out how it feels

to sing to more than just a steering wheel.
That’s right! I sang karaoke last night…in a bar. Yeah. I saw that one coming, too.
An old friend I recently reconnected with turned 21 not to long ago and wanted to go out to a local tavern. She asked if I wanted to go with her; I said “Sure, why not?” Those three words, I’m finding out, are usually the precursor to all kinds of assorted misadventures and exclamations of “you did what?!”
The night started out in the typically fashion for me at a bar: I ordered a Sex on the Beach and stood in a corner, talking (or trying to talk) with the person I came with. I should perhaps mention that bars and I have only met twice; and that I only ever have the one drink–which I wash down with alarming quantities of good old H2O. If there’s one thing I learned from my brief stint as an EMT, it’s never to mix alcohol with cars, texting with car, and illegal drugs with people.
Anyway, G and I listened to her coworkers band for a while before we gained confidence enough to explore the rest of the tavern…which, by the way, was HUGE. I mean, I’ve been to Fourth Street Live. Phoenix Hill Tavern seemed almost as large and certainly more crowded. The drinks were better–and cheaper. Go figure.
In our exploration of the place, G and I came across the dancing section, complete with dance cages and poles. We had to beat a hasty exit from that part as the thick clouds of smoke had me choking and gasping for unpolluted air. We stumbled from the smoke…right into the karaoke lounge.
I immediately thought of my blog and the List. “Let’s do it!” I said. It seemed an eternity from us putting our names in to the time we were finally called up for our duet. Anybody who knows me can attest to the fact, that while I do not lack for confidence or nerves or words in a small group, getting up in front of crowd (even a hammered crowd) gives me a serious case of hesitation. Hesitation and karaoke do not mix; but despite this, G and I belted out Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young.” Well, G belted. I squeaked.
I’m not sure the audience appreciated the irony of two Christian “good girls” singing this song in a bar.
Mom and Dad certainly did.
Then I had my solo. I had chosen Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me”; once again demonstrating my impeccable ability to consistently bite off more than I can chew. Singing Nickelback is HARD! The helpful shading of the words to help you keep time…didn’t help. I was either half a line ahead, or three lines behind and I was so wrapped up just trying to keep up to really get into the whole dynamic performance thing. I ended with stating that I never claimed to be a good singer and that was much harder than singing to a steering wheel.
Nobody else seemed to be Nickelback fans or they were still trying to recover from my tone-deaf performance to properly respond to my wit.

So there! My New Thing for August is done and written up before the month is half over! I can now say that I have sang karaoke…in a bar…very badly.
Courtesy of G, here are a few pictures.

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Categories: The List | 2 Comments

The Long Story of a Small Gadget

Despite the August date under the title, this is July’s List entry. I know, I know, I’ve posted late two months in a row…procrastination is a fault of mine. Just ask my mother about the laundry and she’ll tell you.

So, this story actually begins years ago when I was moving up from cheap dollar store phones. I had found this really cute phone, a Pantech Pursuit. Being me, I hemmed and hawed about it, wavered back and forth between it and another phone; and by the time I decided I really wanted the Pantech, it was “unavailable”. Even Amazon didn’t know when it would be available again. I fussed and cussed and bought the other phone, a refurbished Samsung Strive. It wasn’t a touch screen, but it did have a QWERTY keyboard and was much cooler than the flip phone…which had a screen just slightly bigger than my big toe nail.
I carried that Strive for three years: three years of phone envy and checking out the phone displays in almost every store I entered. None of them, however, could compete the phone that got away and so I remained grudgingly faithful to the Strive.

Fast forward to two months ago. In another “I hate my phone” moment, I was browsing Amazon’s collection of unlocked phones…and lo and behold! There she was in all her beauty, the phone I had given up on and deleted off my wish list in despair! The Pantech Pursuit in cute green!
I bought.
It came.
I opened it.
I hated it.
I really should have known better; I mean, my very first touch screen device had been an iPad, top of the line, wonder of the technological world. The Pantech Pursuit was a $50 cheap plastic touch screen; the best way to describe it would be “wonky”–often unresponsive and always unreliable. I’d scroll down my list of contacts looking to call Mom and find myself in an awkward conversation with my old nursing home. I’d be on Facebook trying to update my status and find myself staring a picture of someone with no idea how I’d gotten there. And don’t even get me started on the camera! So when Dad came home one day in early July asking if anyone wanted a refurbished iPhone 4, I found the words “I’ll take it” coming out of my mouth.
It took Dad quite a while to get me the phone, but he finally brought it on August 1st…which is why this post is late.
I took it down to the AT&T store Saturday after work to get my number transferred and set up the smart phone prepaid plan–and ran into a number of issues, most of which could have been avoided if I had taken the time to do a little research.
Problem A: Apple won’t let you put a prepaid plan on an iPhone. Problem B: because of problem A, I was going to have to get a new number. Problem C: to set up a smart phone plan apparently requires a credit check and Problem D: the phone which had worked the night before would not turn on for nothing.
I felt sorry for the sales rep assigned to me. We’d get through one problem, run into the next and have to start all over again. Literally. We had just finished the process when the phone wouldn’t turn on. The rep diagnosed water damage from the previous owner. He said I should take it back for a refund; I told him I wasn’t walking out of the store without an iPhone. I realize in hindsight this wasn’t the best haggling move ever, but it all turned out in the end. I returned the broken phone for a full refund, got a brand new iPhone 4 for $1.99, a discount for working at a nursing home, and thanks to April’s Thing, my credit was approved!
I am now the very happy owner of an iPhone! I loved my iPad all by itself–I absolutely adore it now that it works in tandem with my iPhone. I can get a flash of inspiration on the go, type it in on the phone and when I get home, it’s on the iPad! How cool is that? (Yes, yes, I know it’s called iCloud sync and it’s standard on most devices these days, but still. Pretty cool!)

So, that’s July’s New Thing: I upgraded to the realm of smart phones and meet a very patient sales rep from AT&T.

Categories: The List | 3 Comments

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