June 29, 2013

Three Seasons Into Parks & Rec

A few weeks ago my wife and I started watching Parks & Recreation[1] from the beginning. I’ve spent three seasons in Pawnee, IN now, and I’m having a great time. I’d never watched the show on television. People seemed to like it, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by not watching it. I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed the show to this point, and how much I’ve laughed.

My experience with Parks & Rec reiterates my feeling that shows are better when compressed. I seem to always enjoy a series more when I can watch them one after another. I can’t explain why, and it might be a personal thing, but for comedies especially I get more out of them when I can watch them in chunks of 3 or 4 episodes at a time.

June 27, 2013

New & Improved Ballpoint Pens

Ballpoint pens are probably the shittiest writing pens out there. Still, ballpoints are the most commonly used pens. You will see them everywhere. As I have become more and more of a pen addict I’ve distanced myself from any type of ballpoint. But lately I’ve had a hankering to use ballpoints, and it turns out there are some pretty good options out there. Here is a rundown of what I’m using.

June 24, 2013

Back To The Wet Shave

This winter I started shaving like my grandfather. I liked it, but on a whim I grew out my beard in March. This past week I decided to get rid of it and bust out the safety razor and badger hair brush again. I’d definitely missed it. My face feels so much better when I use my old-school shaving setup.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a badger. It made me wonder how they are getting all this hair for shaving brushes. Is there a badger farm where they sheer them like sheep and then set them free again? While I’d like to believe that is the case, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to turn to the Internet.

“Because badgers are a protected species in North America[5] and most of Europe, virtually all commercial badger hair comes from mainland China, which supplies knots of hair in various grades to brush makers in both China and Europe. In rural Northern China, badgers multiply to the point of becoming a crop nuisance…”

Turns out, like most everything else we use, the brushes come from China. I wish I had a picture of the cute little weasel that made my shaving brush possible. For now I’m going to pretend it is Friar Tuck from Disney’s Robin Hood (1973). He was old anyway so he probably died from natural causes.

➔ Shave brush - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

June 13, 2013

iPad Babysitters

How much should a child be allowed to use an iPad? Is it okay for them to use it if they are reading a book or playing a learning game? For a child, is reading a physical book better than reading an ebook?

Parents with tablets and smartphones have yet another glowing screen to worry about frying their kid’s brain with. It isn’t just the tv anymore. If we are keeping score, is watching television shows on the iPad doubly bad? Cause I might be in trouble.

A 2011 study found that while more than half of children younger than eight have access to iPads, smartphones or other tablets, their usage was still relatively low: five minutes of daily use compared to 29 minutes of reading or being read to.

I bet if they conducted this study in 2013 it would be more than 5 minutes per day. There were probably a lot of Kindles in that 2011 study, and what kid wants to play with one of those.

➔ Parents aren’t relying on iPads and smartphones to babysit their kids | Quartz

June 12, 2013

20 Years Since Jurassic Park

I remember June of 1993 for only one reason. It is the month I went to see Jurassic Park twice. It remains one of, if not the best, movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. It is crazy to think it has been 20 years since my 10 year old self sat at The Strand Theater and witnessed Spielberg’s masterpiece.

Back then I was a wimp when it came to movies.[1] I remember being concerned that the dinos would scare me and I’d look like a baby in front of my friends. I didn’t have to worry. None of them were paying attention to me as I sat clutching my arm rests as the raptors stalked around the kitchen. It was an amazing feeling of exhilaration when the helicopter took off and the music rose. Nothing like it since. There may never be.

I love reminiscing on my JP memories, which is why this post from Scott Mendelson was so much fun for me to read. It provides a perspective on how in hindsight the film was on a pivot point that led us to the modern blockbuster. Jurassic Park is a near perfect film that happened at a perfect time.

Jurassic Park is perhaps a defining example of the perfect combination of newfangled and old-school blockbuster film-making. It represented both a preview of what was to come and the last gasp of traditional mainstream movie-making in one glorious concoction.

➔ The box office legacy of Jurassic Park, 20 years later… | Mendelson’s Memos

  1. Okay, I still might be.  ↩

June 11, 2013

The New iOS 7

Yesterday we got out first peek at this year’s new and improved iOS. It has been 7 years since iOS hit the scene and the “world’s most advanced” mobile operating system was starting to feel stale. Apple had iterated iOS to the max and it was time to re-think how we use our iPhones. I don’t think they achieved it. It still feels like the OS, just prettier.

Apple mostly made a side-step today with iOS 7, but it feels like they put it on a better path with more room to move forward into the future. It is fresh and “modern”, though it seems to borrow a lot from the aesthetic of Windows phone, and even Android. Which, one could argue, is a circular reference.

June 5, 2013

Blog Format Changes

If you have followed this blog for any amount of time you have probably noticed the layout and design have been in an almost constant state of flux. In the most recent iteration I have simplified; eliminated everything other than the posts. I like the extremely basic design and I like that it is easy to read.

A couple weeks ago I learned how to render an iPhone specific view, so now it should be easy to read on the small iPhone screen as well.

I’ve also added the ability to post quotes or short blog posts that don’t have a title. These type of posts have no link that would allow you to click into them to leave a comment so at the bottom right-hand corner of every post I added a little link icon that will take you to that individual post.

For now I am happy with the site. I wish there was a way to put the search box near the top of the page without making it look dumb, but for now it will be stuck down at the bottom. I’m going to try to leave the site alone for awhile… until I decide to change it again.

June 4, 2013

iOS text editor nerdery

As evidenced by the existence of this blog, I enjoy writing from time to time. However, I rarely have motivation to get home from work1 and sit in front of the computer. I found myself writing on the iPhone and iPad more and more. I bought a few different iOS text editor apps, but nothing offered a good way to post to my blog.

There were options, but it always required multiple steps. I usually wrote in markdown, so I had to convert it to html, then I had to copy and paste it over to a separate app. I used Blogsy on the iPad and the Blogger app on the iPhone. Most of the time I just didn’t post from my iOS devices because it was messy and prone to formatting errors.

This week one of my favorite iOS text editors released an update that added lots of nice features. In addition to bug fixes and formatting options they added an in-app purchase2 that allows you to publish your text file directly to your Blogger, Wordpress, or Tumblr blogs. This very post will be my first test, so we will see how it goes.

I like writing everything in plaintext using markdown3 to format all the links, footnotes, and annotation. It is simple to use and powerful once you get used to it. The only missing piece was being able to post that txt file to my blog. Hopefully Byword has solved that problem.

➔ Byword • Simple and efficient text editor for Mac, iPhone and iPad.

  1. Work, where I sit in front of a computer all day.  ↩
  2. The in-app purchase is $4.99.  ↩
  3. Technically I use multi-markdown.  ↩

June 1, 2013

Some Thoughts on Silver Linings Playbook

When a film gets Oscar buzz I am immediately wary. Ever since Crash won the best picture I cannot trust anything the academy exalts. However Silver Linings Playbook actually looked good, and I heard a lot of good things about it from people who had good taste in movies. I went in with pretty high expectations.

The film is mostly about mental illness and dealing with life when things don't go your way. But at some point it changes to be about family and love and hope. At some times it is a comedy; sometimes a drama. It tries to make light of some heavy stuff, and asks a lot of the actors when they are not merely shouting at one another.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give us characters that are interesting to watch, but I never got past the feeling that both of them were playing at something. I was never convinced that either of them were actually crazy. They were merely actors trying to act crazy. I am not one to judge what a crazy person has to act like. I mean, I don't think anybody can say for sure what truly makes somebody crazy. In the scope of the narrative. I didn't find them to be crazy enough for my liking. They did shout a lot, so if that means one is crazy then they nailed it.