NaNoWriMo Day 12 Update

So I spent most of the day on this and only got 2,628 words written.  Yesterday I spent less time overall and put out a lot more words.  As per typical there is more than one reason, and writers block per se  was not one of them.  Mainly it was because I spent a lot of today doodling on my iPad creating a ‘professional quality’ (per Smash Words Style Guide) cover for Elgin. I love doodling on graphical projects, and especially on the iPad.  I started out trying to do a typical (atypical) swords and sorcery type cover with Elgin the Iffrit and Elgin the Cowboy etc, and this was stupid, I’m not an artist.  Then I started playing around with scenery and graphics do-dads and came up the the pretty cool cover you’ll all be seeing soon. 
While I was doing that I was pondering shifting the ‘publishing’ of the ongoing work the Smashwords, who have kindly made Meatgrinder and their site available to NaNoWriMo works.  Trying to do it on the web page is a bit of a pain since there is something hinky with the import of large blocks of word text into WP, almost undoubtedly me not the site but not something I’m going to bother fighting right now. 
Then of course was the fact that I was mucking around in my mind with the usual….you’re getting too long, too wordy, too discursive.  But then I went back and as of this time I really don’t know that I am.  Oh I can see sections an editor would say cut out, and they’d be right technically, but I have to wonder if the shibboleths of the day of physical type setting, or even physical paper and binding, should come across full force into eBooks, I like books that flesh out the character, that spend some time explaining things, describing things.  As long as they’re not boring.
Status from NaNoWriMo
Words Written Today  2,628
Total Words Written  34,332  Current Day  12
Average Per Day   2,861
Words Remaining  15,668  Days Remaining  19
At This Rate You Will Finish On November 17, 2011
Words Per Day To Finish On Time  82

Target Word Count  50,000  Target Average Words Per Day 1,667


(oops forgot a title) Nov 4th Progress

So I put up the first chapter of Elgin, the Novel I’m writing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), you can click-through Elgin in the writing menu to the left, read to the bottom and click on the Chapter 1 link. OR:

So I spent the day shuttling between various medical labs and had some time to write, so I did some on the iPad.  My method for this is clumsy but workable.  I use Dropbox to store my current writing which gives me access on the ThinkPad T42 laptop where I do most of my writing and the iPad which is my constant travel companion. I use Pages for writing, which started out pretty easy to use and is getting easier to use.  On the iPad Dropbox knows I can open a word document in Pages, so it gives me that option, but of course Apple does not link to Dropbox so I have to e-mail the file to myself and drop it back into Dropbox, which is annoying but workable.

Without my Verbatim bluetooth keyboard using the iPad on-screen keyboard is a two hand two finger exercise instead of ten finger touch typing but it’s still pretty fast.  Pages was the only real choice for a real word processor that I could see when I bought the iPad.  And as times goes along I am getting to like the slimmed down features of pages, though I dislike the modern smart phone based assumption that it knows better than I what I meant to spell (it’s a pain when inventing words/’terms for scifi or fantasy.)

Anyway read the intro and first chapter, let me know what you think.

Post a Post

Ok so this is pitiful. Have had several opportunities to post with the iPad and did not so here I am, end of the evening, out of energy and just writing an explanation of why I don’t have a real post….so that I can post something.   But there you are.  Hopefully tomorrow I can do better.  FInish Elgin Chapter 1 and start on two…probably just about on target for NaNoWriMo at least.


Apples iEmpire

I’m sure what I’m going to say has been said before, I intimated it the other day for that matter, but Steven Jobs left Apple with an iMpire (i Empire)  that no one has been able to keep up with.  One way of seeing his legacy, the way he and others may have seen it was as the tools required to interact with the world of data.

Our world (in the metaphysical sense) started out as a place of brute  physicality.  As society developed and technology humans began to plan, and then we began to record information remote from our brains, and then ideas and concepts, some of them completely disassociated from the physical world we lived in.  Some people began to ‘live in their head’ could do so without getting eaten or starving because society could afford to support them, and even awarded them for some of the things they could bring forth (art, science, technology in the abstract.)

This evolution has continued to the point where a large part of our world has become intellectual, it is now a world of data that can only be accessed with the right tools.  But this world is not a static one where you just look in and pull out what you want, there is a vast amount of creation and manipulation required.  But this requires a set of tools that provide mirror simple access to the world of data.  Mirror simple, because all you need to do with a mirror is hanging it up and look into it and it does its job.  If technology requires you to carry out arcane incantations and hand motions to provide access to the data world then its to some extent impeding you.

Look at it another way, there is ongoing work in the DoD that eventually will allow a pilot to look around and see the world outside the cockpit as if the aircraft were not there.  We need the inverse, the ability to peer into the data world and do what we need, from any point at any time, for an uncountable multitude of reasons…

  • On the Go Data Access + Comms
    • iPad (Fire hose of access, lite content creator, iPhone in chief?)
    • iPhone
    • iPod, Touch (can we see this as the low end iPhone) Nano (does this eventually become the iPhone Nano, the iWatch….which it already is, almost)
  • The Links
    • Commercial Front End
      • ITunes
      • AppStore
    • The Linking memory
      • iCloud
  • Content Creation
    • Mac
    • Mac Mini (beginner)
    • MacBooks
    • AirBook (on the go content creation, iPad with keyboard)
  • Home Data Center, access heavy, creation light
    • Apple TV
    • Mac Mini
    • iPad

 So Apple as a complete iCology now; the problem is that we really need the rest of the tech world to catch up.

iPad, BeBot, Pandora and the ‘tech’ industry

iPad wallpaper

Jobs Motto

So I haven’t said much about my constant companion, the iPad, recently. 

  • I updated to iOS5 the day it released, of course on an Orig, it’s not  the same as it probably is on a 2 but it’s still good.  I think iCloud’s (base) is going to work out well and the iMessage etc look interesting.  The tabs in Safari took a few hours to get used to but they are an improvement.
  • Other than a pretty good hand holding experience during set up I haven’t had much ‘contact’ with the new.  Which in my experience is actually a good thing.  I may be a fantasist and romantic but I’m als a bit of a stick in the mud, if something works, why change it for the sake of change?
  • Biggest headache was having to update what seemed like umpteen Apps but as usual it happened pretty seamlessly. 
  • My biggest iPad laugh was taking it(them actually) to my sister in-law’s and I think her little grand son(4?) whose had an iPad longer than I have, flipped the selector switch on the side of my wife’s iPad, muting it.  It took me an HOUR and several hard boots and harder words, to figure out the poor thing was doing what it was told, I just didn’t understand.  
  • So at the same meeting of iPad carriers, we were introduced to BeBot, a simply wonderful time sink, and maybe the closest thing to a new instrument I have seen in a long time.  It’s just an App but it turns the iPad into a synthesizer with a pure touch interface, you run your finger(s) over the screen to make synth music.  Quite a few interesting base options and lots of ways to vary them.  I could see someone becoming a professional BeBotist in the future, or BeBot Groups getting together.  It’s currently only an instrument, it does not record, I hope they come out with a version which lets you ‘lay tracks’ etc. 
  • Pandora, the phenomenon, I listen to little else these days, on my iPad or laptop.   I have found music that I love, that I had never heard or been able to follow up on before.  This is by far the best way to listen to music.  As I have said elsewhere, the fact that I cannot absolutely control what I am listening to but can make my opinion ‘heard’ is simply a phenomenal breakthrough in listening pleasure.

And so to the Tech industry, who is finally settling into a funk over the dominance of Apple, iOS, the iPad, and to some extent the death and ascencion to TechSaintHood of Steve Job’s (that’s a comment on others, not a slam at Mr.Jobs who was as human as they come but the right gifted man at the right pivots of  [tech] history.) 

It seems to me that anyone out there who looks at the industry with a reasonably open mind will see that pervasive lacks have impaired broad swaths of the industry

  1. originality
  2. innovative risk taking
  3. long-range vision
  4. middle distant financial horizons. 

Jobs seems to have recognized these things and was able to use Apple and the experience he gained while in the wilderness to build a product platform + family + business-model that others seem unable or perhaps unwilling to compete with. 

Most fundamental to the paralysis is item 4 above with a lot of 3 in support. Jobs was able to keep building his model over a long period of relatively lack luster performance.   He was lucky, in that no one really expected great things of Apple but it had a dedicated customer base and no one in a place to counter or make use of the knowledge understood what he was doing till it was too late.  He was cagey and secretive, probably because that was just the way he was, but also because he knew that if some of his business partners understood what he wanted to do and came to believe in it like he did, he’d probably have a harder time making enough money to keep the project going when he needed cash flow to push some of the concepts forward. He was also like most visionaries and his understanding of his own  vision evolved and developed detail over time.  And of course, no one else knew what they should be watching for. 

So now we have people talking up Amazon’s Fire as a competitor.  Why, because its Amazon and Amazon had the Kindle.  I’m not sure but I think they miss the point.  The Kindle was the front end of a digital book store.  The Nook showed that with color and the right price you could have a bit more than that.  The Fire is a shopping window and digital sales point for Amazon, yes it’s also a reader and a tablet, but its main purpose is as a shop window. 

The iPad is a more general purpose tool than Fire.  IPad is part of a larger tech infrastructure from the iPod Touch to the top of the line Mac workstations. This is essentially an intellectual interface infrastructure for creation and consumption, with a powerful shopping window built in.  The Fire is never going to compete with that.  And neither is the Android platform by the way.

Android is like Linux it has a good chance of lasting a long time because it is widely dispersed and open for people to build on and use.  It is also likely to be very important, but as an also ran competitor in all but the phone space, where in some senses it may already dominates because of the variety of companies and price points it supports. 

So is this bad….yes because Apple is not going to be able to carry the ball forever and maybe not for very long unless Jobs trained his heirs well and left them with the tools to control the kingdom.  It’s bad because competition is good within reason and no one is competing with Apple at the moment which will weaken them eventually  The competion seem to be in a ‘waiting out the deluge’ mode.  Waiting for Apple to stumble giving them the opportunity to pull it down to their own level. if (when) that happens then the leaps we have seen recently may end as the industry falls back into the frothy stagnation it suffered from the later nineties to mid noughts. 

Lets hope not….

Rage Against DCA

When you travel to the northeast you have a series of not good options for transfer hubs.  There is Chicago, La Guardia , Kennedy, Newark, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington Dulles and DCA, Ronald Reagan International, Washington District of Columbia.

I actually prefer smaller aircraft these days, the Embraer 145 and 170/190 mainly because you either get an aisle or window seat, I’m a big guy and I and my seat mates hate it when I get a middle seat. So that means that I tend to fly through the smaller airports when I can.  Cleveland has been a favorite but its likely the United buy out of Continental will curtail that option. That means DCA which some people find surprising.

DCA is actually a very small airport with a lot of flights.  It has very good links to the rest of the country east of the great plains because it’s a taxi ride to congress and the rest of the gov’t.  All the state capitals (like say, Indianapolis) have pretty good service albeit on regional or smaller mainline jets. Early in the day and later in the afternoon there are all sorts of options to provide your Gov’ts functionaries access to each other. 

Since even in today’s America the movement of bureaucrats and politicians and other sundry functionaries couldn’t support a commercially viable network the hoyploy are allowed to use it as well.  And the flight links are business friendly.  So I get to pick this as a hub far more often than I want to.

There have been various efforts to close DCA over the years as a security (passengers on one side can look down the mall at congress, from less than a mile, as you land or take off) or safety (it’s a bit tricky to fly into along the Potomac, to avoid over flying things like the Pentagon, Naval Research Labs, an Air Force base, etc.)  The ride can be interesting from a sight-seeing viewpoint. But I wonder how many weapons targeting systems are tracking us as we wind down the river.  

You can see this as a test in itself… it takes a reasonable pilot to stay on the twisting flight corridor…its unlikely the 911 hijackers could have gotten close without being ID’d.  Is it possible that one of these days there will be a series of mistakes made, resulting in a shoot down?  In fact I’m (pretty) sure any active defenses are even closer to the targets and its likely the defenses are purely passive, but who knows? And of course that’s the point, and I think that’s just fine…it just makes flying into DCA a little more ‘fraught’ than I like.

Physically Ronald Reagan International is a highly constricted piece of land on the Potomac across from the center of the city.  And it’s not optimally laid out, because of the constriction and because it was designed and built just before 911. So if you land at gate 24 and fly out of gate 38 you have to climb down outdoor steps get on a bus and get driven between the two concourse arms dodging baggage trucks and backing jetliners.  I actually don’t mind the ride but the steps in the rain snow, horrid heat/humidity with my luggage is not a fav. 

Because many of the flights are direct links (the ones I’m on anyway) even when the rest of the east coast traffic goes ‘blewwey’ because of bad weather I get in and out of DCA reasonably reliably.  But also because of those same links I have sometimes run into the the timeout or other passenger unfriendly events.  Towards the end of the day pilots are getting towards the limit on the number of hours they can fly in one 24 hour period.  I was on a flight earlier this year where we pulled away from the gate, and were delayed a few minutes because of flight routing, and the pilots told us we were going to be staying in DCA because one of them would be out of hours before landing, (this happened to a flight to Indy just earlier in the evening las night.)  Another time a flight was canceled because another aircraft had a mechanical problem and my flight was relatively thinly populated so they switched aircraft.  There is no room for spare aircraft at DCA so we found ourselves staying the night. 

So to last night, cue the thunderstorms, delays and canceled flights all up and down the east coast, concourses full of people trying to get home.

Arrive in DCA on time, exchange concourses in the rain, find a seat, start writing a post on my trusty iPad.  Then I hear that my flight is now departing from a different gate, in the other concourse.  Back on the damned bus and back to the other side.  Set up start typing and time gets away from me.  Hit the line just in time to get aboard and get a spot for my roll-a-board then I dash off the message I posted last night. 

Then we sit….finally the doors close, with empty seats because the aircraft they were holding for did not leave La Guardia and they didn’t have time to get other displaced passengers aboard.  Then we push of the gate….and sit. Then the mains wind up…we’re on our way!  No we aren’t. Get out of the alleyway and the engines spool down…and we sit.  We’re going to be routed south to avoid thunderstorms in the lower flight levels. Good we’re going right?!  Spool up, wander around the airport for a while, then the engines spool down again (and by the way every time you light off a gas turbine you take hundreds of operating hours off its life, they love to run, they hate starting up and stopping. But sitting there with the engines running was burning fuel we’d need for the hop to Indy.) We sit…then the engines start and we taxi again….back towards the terminal! Then we start seeing massive flashes of lightning.  There’s a major storm cell heading straight for us!  And the engines spool down again! We sit and rock as the wind and rain lash us.  Then the engines start again! We taxi sloooowwwly past the terminals, I figure we’re staying the night.  But we don’t turn in!  Then we tuck in behind another liner, and the captain makes only the third announcement, that we’re waiting for the storms to clear our departure vector and we can call our loved ones that we’ll be late!  And the engines spool down again! 

Then finally, ‘everyone back to your seats, less than six minutes to take off!’ And we were off in about the six minutes.  Of course it was well after midnight instead of ten but we were off. 

SO? I got home, why am I whingeing? Because it was painful, every damn step was painful, getting through security, waiting, getting on, getting off, waiting, getting back on, the delay, everything! everything was painful.

Why was it painful. Probably because I was tired and depressed but mainly because I’m a romantic.   Flying should be an adventure, the power and beauty of the aircraft, the wonder and beauty of the sky and world.

We have taken a dream humanity has probably had ever since we had self-consciousness and turned it into Kafkaesque Bureau-Industrial grotesqueness.  As I said earlier in the week its like traveling on a prison tram with well behaved inmates. 

At least once in the air, I can close my eyes and dream of starships as we wing home.

Why I miss coughing

Flying was something you did very infrequently when I was young. By the time I joined the workforce as a junior civil servant it had become quite common for the engineering set. By the time I left deregulation had made it cheap enough for folks to go places several times a year, even fly to Vegas for the weekend.
Those too young to remember should be assured that flying in ‘the good ole days’ really was a different experience, you have to deal with it in a metal tube at 30,000 ft know how horrid cigarette smoke really is, and I even smoked at the time! But they did really feed you and they gave you the whole damn can unless you didn’t want it. People where polite and seemed happy enough. You didn’t often have a full flight. The xray machine was a formality and you didn’t have to undergo the equivalent of a strip search every other flight just to appease the god of a little more security.
These days the only joy I get are the occasional extra special views out the window. A few months ago flying out of Cleveland between storms, looking into the side of a thunder cell at eyeball level and seeing the strokes of lightning lashing down. Flying out over the hot coal orange symmetry of Chicago at night and seeing it end in the moon silvered black of lake Michigan.
But other than that I might as well be on a inter prison subway train with a politer than average set of inmates.

Sometimes I miss that wheezy after flight cough!

Written from an undisclosed location far from the bosom of my family on my trusty iPad.

Pandora…..Its not all about Free

Pandora, another technology and service that has changed my life.  A couple of years ago I stumbled across some mention of Pandora and pushed it aside.  A while later I went looking for a better way of getting music.  I tried Yahoo, Google, iTunes and started listening to internet radio but didn’t like what I found, even for free.  Then I ran across Pandora again and read the blurb on the Music DNA project that the company was based on. 

I started to use Pandora, a little at first, then more and more, finally running into the hours per month limit.  I did that for a couple of months, then had a look at the premium service.  I almost quite because I hated paying for something I’d been getting free. 

Then I had a bit of an epiphany, I cannot expect to always get good to great services for free, and the ones coming closest irritated me with their commercials.  Pandora had already introduced me to multiple new artists and completely new genre and I liked how it worked…

I paid up and have never regretted it.

There are always a lot of words flying about how Free has killed the web, and how so many magazines and papers started providing free services and could not sustain it or get the readers they had to start paying. There were the ones who tried to start charging from the beginning, which generally died out.

But there are more and more places where people will pay for content.  In particular in cases where, like me with Pandora, they really come to love the application and want more and can get it for a modest investment.  The Economist essentially does this, (I was an addict long before the web version, but their current model has gotten me re hooked several times) and there are others out there.

The secret is providing the customer with a compelling experience and charging a fair price.  Providing a me too experience with nothing special is not going to get customers.  Newspapers in particular have yet to develop the right combination of experiences via the web.  Local papers survive in the paper form because/when they have local value and because many of us love the crinkle of the paper in the morning.  But its the value/content that does not transfer to the web. 

I have to say as much as I love my iPad for most other forms of reading I still like the morning paper and its combination of format and topics….and by the way the funnies….the web-crowd always seem to miss how important the morning funnies are to folks.  And its not just  the ones I like.

And maybe that’s a secret someone needs to ponder.  Like Pandora (and the Economist and WSJ etc) the paper pushes content at me that I would not necessarily choose to (or know to) go searching for on my own, I trust the paper to do a reasonably unbiased job of putting out content that is of local importance (even if that importance is in others eyes) making me an informed/understanding local citizen. 

 I cannot know what I should be paying attention to outside of a small set of things that are central to my life.  The newspaper helps me pay attention to secondary stuff, I will not always agree with what is written but it does point it out.  And that is important.

And to receive that daily packet of local color I pay, I would pay for it online if the layout and the presentation were compelling.  But right now I go out to the mailbox every morning, rain or shine, snow and Ice, etc, for that few minute scan of my local environs and a few chuckles or groans at the comics.

By the way I live in Indianapolis and get the Indianapolis Star.  A very good local paper that I hope has many more successful years ahead of it.

iPad, WordPress, Life and Genius

WordPress has a pretty full functioned blogging tool for the iPad which I’ve used twice now. Once for the blog about my covers and how cool the iPad is for the artist inside you.  And now the passing of Steve Jobs, which I caught after I had already gone to bed and was sneaking some browsing time when I couldn’t get to sleep.  The WP tool is especially useful for this sort of short posts and it illustrates a key attribute of the iPad its immediacy and availability at almost any moment to catch a thought, a picture, a moment. 

I’m currently using it to track a recurrence of infection in an old injury. Taking pictures (with a seperate camera because I have an iPad 1 not 2) and putting them in keynote with some notes as to the date and progression of the issue.  This also illustrates the power of the iPad as a life tool.  I used this to brief my doctor on the issue, and as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. There are medical record apps and in the long run this will be how we access our centralized medical records.

Returning to Steve Jobs, I am sure that he did not design the iPad but he was key in many fundamental decisions that brought it forth. He was even more central in establishing the infrastructure that makes it a compelling tool masquerading as a toy. 

Mr. Jobs saw that the PC model was failing the Tech world, as was the Cell phone model. He’d always had problems with those models, I think foreseeing their eventual collapse into commodity cannibalism.

He also understood that while the interface to the user is only part of the story, it is an incredibly important part.  I said the other day, in some ways the iPad seems like an extension of my body.  It is generally so easy that you can pick it up and start using it almost immediately after watching someone else manipulate it for a while, if you have an iPhone there is no learning curve.  And even though it has some almost crippling weaknesses (lack of a true filing system up to this point being one) it is still so useful, so compelling that it has become a principle interface to the world

It was this sort of gestalt that Steve Jobs ‘got’ far earlier than his near peers.  I think/hope that he taught the concept by example to the younger generation of visionary entrepreneurs who are and will follow.

Picture of a world changer

Guttenberg 1398 - 1469

Guttenberg was not the inventor of the printing press per se or of moveable type (really) but he was the person who put them together.  He is perhaps the most important person in ‘the modern era.’ Steve Jobs was our Guttenberg.  Many will say this is overwrought that Guttenberg was much more singular….but I would argue that in his own way Steve Jobs was just as singular perhaps more so, because he had to wade through and stand above the tidal surge of ideas and voices that is the modern tech world, and had to do so over an extended period.