November 29, 2015

Digital vs Analog Note Taking

➔ Handwritten Notes — The Brooks Review

Ben Brooks wrote this good piece on analog vs digital note taking. I have asked myself these same questions. At work I use a combination of both, but primarily when I go to meetings I take a notebook and pen. I’d say 90% of my notes are taken on paper. Then a small fraction of that is actually consolidated and written down into an Evernote note.

There are many times when I find that I need to get a lot of information down quickly. In those cases digital note taking is almost always better. It is so much faster for me to type. I have never been one that can scribble notes quickly. When I get into this situation and only have pen and paper I feel lost. I miss too much detail unless I am able to ask for things to be repeated.

When I take notes digitally I feel like I am able to get more stuff down. What’s even better is that information is stored in Evernote where it is easy to search and parse that huge list of items you talked about. When you have to reference something later digital is almost always better.

In my experience, I think it would make sense for me to take my laptop or iPad (with keyboard) to every meeting I attend. The benefit of having those meeting notes and thoughts stored digitally would usually outweigh the negatives for me.

➔ Which Do You Enjoy More? — The Brooks Review

The next piece from Ben addresses that inexlicable pleasure we get from these things. Should we do something because it is objectively better, or should we do something because we enjoy it more; ultimately making it more effective?

Like Ben, I don’t really care which method I use for taking notes. I love using pen and paper but in my job the most important thing is bettering the pertinent information down. Digital is probably the most efficient way to achieve that.

My quandry comes in journaling. Up until recently (in the last 3 years) I dint have a good digital solution for journaling. Then I found the Day One app. It looks great. It makes it easy to tag entries and attach photos. The calendar view makes it simple to look back and read old entries… and all the entries are searchable. Day One is awesome and makes organization easy. Objectively it is clearly better for journaling.

However, I still keep a paper journal. I cannot clearly explain why, I just enjoy it. I like the feeling of a fountain pen nib scratching across the paper. Hand-made lines on a page are so much more personal than a keyboard’s apathetic text. I don’t think I will ever stop writing in a notebook. Using pen and paper seem to help find clarity.

So now I have two separate places to store my thoughts and I don’t like that one bit. I have tried to integrate the two. I created a script on my phone that allows me to capture the physical book and page number, type in a quick synopsis of what I wrote about, and create a digital entry as a placeholder. I can then search for something and see that I wrote about that topic on this day in this notebook. This obviously requires numbering and catalogging all of your notebooks. The concept was great, but I have never been able to keep up with it. Even though it isn’t time consuming, I rarely create the Day One entries.

Every now and then I get renewed focus on a hybrid journaling system, but it never seems to stick. For now I will keep waffling back and forth. It seems to be working alright. At least I am writing.

I have also considered going through each month and dictating all of my analog entries into digital entries. Again, this is time consuming and I ultimately I have never been able to keep up with it. For fun I dug out a notebook from 14 years ago and started creating the Day One entries back on the corresponding date I wrote it. Reading those entries out loud made me cringe[1], but I’m still glad I wrote them.

  1. Mortified is a really entertaining podcast. You should listen.  ↩

November 25, 2015

Ex Machina - Robots With Attitude

It is a rare occasion that I write about a movie on this blog. Last week I watched Ex Machina and I am forcing myself to write about it even though I had a very lukewarm reaction. Over the last few months I have watched at least a dozen movies without creating a single post. I need to get back at it.

Ex Machina is a low-budget sci-fi film about artificial intelligence. Nathan, an accentric billionaire is working on some top secret stuff on his island compound. Caleb, a programmer at his company, wins a chance to visit the island and work on a special project. Caleb is wisked off to the island and introduced to Ava, the humanoid robot with the face on a angel and a silicon brain.

Ex Machina seemed like it was right in my wheelhouse. It was reviewed well and I usually eat up this type of sci-fi/drama/suspense. My expectations were pretty high… and they were letdown in almost every way. I am not saying it was a terrible movie, but I didn’t find it to be nearly as “smart” as everyone made it out to be. The dialog felt awkward and forced, which always kept me at an arms length from the story.

The entire plot hings on the relationship between 3 characters, and the motivations behind those relationships. Even after everthing is revealed in the end I’m not sure I understand what is going on in the characters’ heads. To the film’s credit I thought about it quite a bit when it was over, but I feel like there are some pretty big plot holes, and I still don’t understand what is going on in Caleb’s brain. Maybe I need to watch it again, which I might do since it is now available on Amazon streaming.

Ex Machina does a really good job of creating tension from the beginning and sustaining it throughout. There is always this sense that something isn’t quite right, and from the beginning Nathan made me uneasy. Even so, I feel like his actions were mostly justified. Maybe it is just my personality, but I could not humanize this being that is clearly not human. When it came down to it I could not understand why Caleb acted the way he did, and it seemed incongruious with his character. His supposed relationship with Ava, which happens in short snippets over just a few days, does not justify anything his character does in my opinion.

I like thinking out the concept and ideas behind Ex Machina. I think it is intereesting to consider the possibility of artificial intelligence and what that would mean. Ex Machina raises the idea that true AI would include the concept of free will and the desire for freedom. How would the creation overcome the feeling of being enslaved by the creator? I guess the plot of Ex Machina gives us a what-not-to-do.

October 22, 2015

Facebook iOS Battery Drain

iOS 9 added the ability for users to see battery usage by individual app for the last 24 hours and 7 days. This is the first time I know of that you have been able to see how much battery each app is using. I was looking around in the settings a couple of weeks ago and noticed that the Facebook app was always on the top of my list. That made no sense to me. I open the app several times a day, but I don’t spend much time in it. I check out what is new and then close it. It was #1 on the battery usage with “Background Audio” listed as the reason. That makes no sense. I don’t listen to anything in Facebook, and I’ve never had the notifications turned ont.

I found this post on Macstories talking about the very issue I was experiencing. I immediately went into the Facebook settings and turned off the auto-play video, which I didn’t even realize you could do[1]. I have also started killing the app when I am not using it.

Facebook quickly dropped down the list of most battery usage. I doubt fore-qutting the app every time had much of an impact. I feel like turning off auto-play video solved the background audio issue. This was validated by a Techcruch article.

Facebook has confirmed it is investigating reports of excessive battery drain caused by its iOS app apparently continuing to run processes in the background — even with background app refresh disabled.

Facebook was one of the first apps I installed on my very first iPhone. It has been there from the beginning, presumably draining my battery the entire time. I was late jumping on the smartphone bandwagon. One of my largest reasons for holding out was the massive drop in battery life I was sure to experience[2]. It is frustrating to learn that an extraneous app has been siphoning off precious battery all of these years.

  1. Or else I would have turned it off a long time ago.  ↩

  2. I still miss the good ol’ days of charging my phone once or twice a week.  ↩

October 21, 2015

You're The Worst - Not Terrible

You’re The Worst is a comedy on FXX[1]. The first season aired last year. The second season is currently about halfway finished. This show completely flew under my radar until a few months ago when, seemingly in unison, the Internet started sigging its praises. Season one is available on Hulu[2], so I started watching it.

I had no clue what to expect with this show, but a lot of people I respected seemed to like it. I watched the first 2 episodes on my own, then I watched them again with my wife. I liked it right away. It seemed different somehow, and it legitimately made me laugh.

The first season is only 10 episodes long, and each episode only has a 20 minute run time. It is a quick and easy watch. We finished it in a few evenings of watching 2–3 episodes at a time. Overall I enjoyed the first season. It is way less consequencial than I thought it would be. I was expecting You’re The Worst to (at least attempt to) say something profound, but ultimately it is fairly mindless fun.

As we moved into the second season the stupid got worse. I went from laughing at most of the jokes to cringing and trying to figure out why this show even exists. You’re The Worst started out with the premise of two horrible people getting together and finding out they were a match. We got to watch their apprehensive love blossom. Once that initial bit was worked out the show seemed to unsure of where to go next.

In season two we spend a lot more time with secondary characters. By the third episode of season two I found myself hating the show. Specifically I cannot stand Gretchen’s best friend Lindsey. She is the worst. To its detriment, the show has decided to focus more on her plot line.

As I watch I still search for meaning… themes… anything. This season has focused on Gretchen’s fear of getting “old”. She is unhappy. Her friends are maturing while she is clinging to the irrisponsiblity of her youth. I am not sure were Jimmy fits into that equation, but he surely wants no part of her internal struggles.

Episode 7 airs tonight. Season two appears to have 13 episodes, so we are at the halfway point. S2 has been much less funny and engaging. Maybe it is a sophomore slump, but it has quickly fallen off of the list of shows I’m excited to watch. I am nowhere near giving up on the show. It is still worth watching and offers a good laugh from time to time.

  1. I’m not sure what the extra “X” means. I guess it is supposed to be edgier than the standard FX.  ↩

  2. Where I no longer have to watch the annoying repetitive commercials. The extra $4 to Hulu every month is totally worth it. At least for now.  ↩

October 20, 2015

Writing is nature's way of letting you know how sloppy your thinking is.
- Leslie Lamport

October 17, 2015

iOS 9 Niceties

We’ve had iOS 9 on our iPhones and iPads for a few weeks now. Overall it was a good update. I still haven’t taken advantage of all the additions, but here are my thoughts. If you have the time and energy go ahead and read Viticci’s mega review.


I use an iPhone 6. iOS 9 has been nice, but it honestly doensn’t feel like a lot has changed. I enjoy the new San Fransico system font. Helvetica felt bland. If an app offers San Francisco I use it. We will see how long it takes me to switch back to Avenir.

The predictive features of iOS 9 have not impressed me yet. It is nice that I can swipe right from my home screen and have access to my fantasy football app right away. If iOS 9 were really “smart” it would only show the app on Thursdays, Sundays, & Mondays. It shows it in my top app list all of the time. Maybe it will get better at “learning” as the season goes on.

I have found the text selection on the iPhone to be improved. Resting my finger on the screen near a word now makes the assumption that I want to select that word. However, I have noticed that the cut/copy box fails to appear a lot of the time. I end up having to select it multiple times. So, while it is much easier to select a word in iOS 9, I don’t think it has actually saved me any time.

When a notification takes you out of an app into another app iOS 9 gives you a nice little link in the upper left corner to take you back to the original app. I use it all the time. It is way better than double-tapping the home button to switch back. That feature is a big plus for me.


Most of the iPad-centric features for iOS 9 are for the fancy new iPads. I am still on an iPad 3… that is the first iPad with a retina screen… the one that was only “new” for 6 months before they released the faster iPad 4 in the fall with a lightning port. The iPad 3 handled the transition from iOS 6 to 7 quite well. Last year the switch to iOS 8 was not so great. Everything seemed to run slower. It felt “bogged down”. I did not hesitate to upgrade to iOS 9. I didn’t think it would make things any worse. So far so good. iOS 9 runs well on my old hardware. It still feels a little slow, but it is able to accomplish everything I need. I do wish I could run the new multi-tasking and picture-in-picture, but I think I am going to wait for new iPads next fall to upgrade. Hopefully they will get the 3D Touch functions as well.

iOS 9 brought 2 updates to my old iPad that may seem small, but have proven to be huge for me. I use my iPad with a keyboard connected most of the time while I am sitting at my desk. iOS 9 added the ability to command+tab to switch through apps. It is amazing! No more double-tapping the home button. I can easy toggle through the 3 or 4 apps I use throughout the day. It makes the experience so much better. It was always cumbersome to have to reach up to the screen to 4-finger swipe or double tap the home button.

Another minor, but awesome, update changed the messages app so when you hit enter on a physical keyboard it sends the message instead of entering down to a new line. Before iOS 9 I had to tap the send button on the screen. Hitting “enter” to send messages is a game-changer.

Other Improvements

We got a new Notes app with the iOS update. I didn’t use the Notes app before, and the update would have to be pretty good to convert me from using Drafts for all of my quick notes. I dig it out of the folder it was buried in last week and have it on my 2nd screen. I’m using it to organize a few small projects at home. It is very easy to save a link to an existing note. So far I am me joint it. I think it was a great update.

I’ve heard a lot about the Siri improvements. From her introduction I have loved the idea of Siri, but in practice I have never found it compelling. I don’t have a ton of scenarios where I want to talk outloud to my phone. I doubt I will start using Siri much more now.

Ultimately iOS 9 makes my year old phone feel a little fresher and adds some nice improvements. The keyboard shortcuts on the iPad is my favorite change. Apple didn’t make a lot of visual changes but the ones they did make felt natural just a couple weeks in. The case switching on the software keyboard even feels “normal” now.

September 15, 2015

Apple's New iPhone Upgrade Program

Shawn Blanc on Apple’s iPhone upgrade pricing

Here’s another way to think of it: a base-model iPhone 6 costs $649 unsubsidized. If you buy it, keep it in pristine condition, and then sell it one year later, you’ll get as much as $450 on eBay or Craigslist, or as little as $320 on Gazelle.

In that scenario, you’ve spent between $200 – $330 to use your iPhone for a year.

If you were to use that same iPhone for a year, except this time go through the Apple Upgrade plan, it would cost you $389 ($32.41 x 12).

This is the exact math I was trying to figure out as they were announcing this payment plan. As many others have noted, this seems like it will be marginally more expensive than the carrier programs, like AT&T Next, but it will include Apple Care and offer you the ability to get a new phone every year. I am tempted.

Apple is essentially leasing a brand new phone to people for $400 a year. They will happily collect that phone from you at the end of the year and turn around and sell it as a lower priced device in emerging markets. Pretty smart.

August 11, 2015

Productivity Woes

I am fascinated with personal productivity. I love making to-do lists and mapping out projects. I also love listening to how other people manage their productivity. I'm always looking for a strategy or workflow to make my own system better.

Four years ago I changed to a job where I had to juggle a lot of different projects at once. Trying to keep everything organized and moving forward, without anything slipping through the cracks, was a struggle. I set out on a quest to find some sort of system or app that would help me out. I've ready so many blog posts and articles. Every to-do list app for iOS & Windows that has been reviewed… I have read it[1]. I tried paper systems. I tried using Evernote. I tried iOS Reminders… and about 50 other iOS to-do apps[2]. I couldn't find anything that fit my needs exactly.

A little over a year ago I stumbled upon todoist. I can't remember where I head about it first, but Viticci's review is what convinced me to go from the free version to the paid tier. Todoist has been awesome. They have (recently improved) apps for iOS but also a great website that can be used in any browser. For the past year I used todoist to organize everything. If it needed to be done I had it on a list.

A few weeks ago I went in to the office on a Monday morning and pulled up todoist to start organizing my week. BLOCKED!! What?!?! My company had blocked my productivity app. This must be some sort of mistake.

I called our IT department and they instructed me on how to request to regain access. I sent a few emails and filled out a couple of forms and submitted my request. It was denied. They told me the todoist website was insecure and I should be using the built-in Lotus Notes had to-do functionality[3]. Ha!

Now I am a little bitter. I found something that allowed me to get more work done and it was inexplicably taken away. I had just renewed my premium (paid) todoist account. I still hope to use it, but in the first couple weeks since it has been blocked on my main computer I have found myself not bothering to pull out my phone to add something to a list. I am not bothering to go in and mark off my completed tasks until it occurs to me much later. Things are not looking good for todoist.

It looks like it is back to the drawing board. I am once again on the hunt for a perfect to-do system.

  1. I even read the famous Getting Things Done by David Allen.  ↩
  2. Wunderlist, Dash Plus, Carrot, Taskpaper, 2Do, Things, GoodTask, Clear, Gneo, Begin,… to name a few.  ↩
  3. I find it hilarious that the person even suggested using Lotus Notes.  ↩

July 22, 2015

Amazon Fire TV Stick

To celebrate Amazon Prime Day I decided to give myself the gift of a $24.99 Fire TV stick. I am already the owner of an Apple TV, a Google Chromecast, and a LG smart TV. The smart tv has served its purpose over the last couple of years, but the interface is pretty terrible. That tv is mounted over the fireplace in the living room. We use it quite a bit so it was time for an upgrade. I didn’t want to add a box to it because I like the clean look of no cables. The Fire TV stick was a good fit and I wanted to try out Amazon’s streaming offering.

As a Prime member I get a lot of benefits from the Amazon ecosystem in addition to the free 2 day shipping; namely streaming tv and music. Our smart tv had a Amazon Prime app, and we used it quite a bit. The Apple TV obviously doesn’t offer any Amazon integration or we would use the streaming services even more[1]. Depending on your expectations, their selection of television shows and movies to be quite good. I always find something to watch on there[2].

The Fire TV is a significant upgrade from the built in smart tv offerings. I’d even say it is as-good-as our 3 year old Apple TV. That may not seem like high praise, but considering the price difference (and the fact that Apple is still selling the same model for $70), it means the Fire TV stick is quite good. For $25 it was definitely worth it. I wish that I would have bought one last year when they came out[3].

I definitely like the Amazon TV better than the Chromecast. From day one I have not been a fan of the Chromecast’s lack of interface and dedicated remote. We still use ours in the bedroom, and it works fine. It is easy to pull something up on your phone then cast it, but forget about trying to pause or navigate. For a main tv that gets a lot of use I would never want to use the Chromecast exclusively. Depending on what you want to do, it has its advantages, but I will probably never buy one again.

I think the only streaming box/stick/thingy I haven’t tried is the Roku. I’ve heard it is really good, but I don’t think I need anything else right away.

  1. The tv with the Apple TV also has a rarely used Sony PS3 connected. When I really want to watch something on prime I can always fire up the PS3.  ↩

  2. Like Justified, Orphan Black, The Americans, a bunch of HBO series, and several slightly older movies that I wanted to see but never had the time/motivation to go out and rent.  ↩

  3. When the Fire TV stick first came out prime members had a chance to preorder for $25. I didn’t do it.  ↩

July 19, 2015

True Detective Season 2

The first season of True Detective on HBO was 8 of the best hours of television I’ve ever watched. I had high expectations for season 2, which were promptly crushed in the first episode. I don’t know exactly what I wanted out of the new season, but what we’ve seen so far definitely hasn’t delivered.

I was glad to see the new season was going to completely different from the last. A new setting and a new cast of characters was the right way to go. Rust & Marty were interesting characters that could have been explored more, but I felt like their story was complete. True Detective Season One was so great because it focused on the relationship of the two leads. The True Detective S2 meme was defined by coming up with the two perfect actors to explore in the next season. It was a misstep for them to focus on four characters in season two. The lack of focus has made the show much less interesting.

The writing in season two has been awkward. It is the same set of writers so it makes me question the writing in the first season, which I thought was awesome. I feel like I should watch it again to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. In S2 there has been at least one moment in each of the first four episodes that has made me cringe. The ridiculous things Rust Cole said felt honest and important. All of those moments in this season just feel corny and stupid. I’m not sure if it the writing itself or the shows inability to get me to buy in.

Having said that, I’m probably going to continue watching it. Today is the 5th of 8 episodes and I am committed enough to finish it out. I feel like each episode has been slightly better than the last. Hopefully that trend continues and they are able to put together a somewhat satisfying conclusion to what so far has been a bland story.

Update: I have now watched the 5th episode and I'm happy to say that the show continues to improve week after week. Maybe it is just me, but it seems like the awkwardness is subsiding and the story is getting better.

July 13, 2015

This makes a lot of sense...
Writing a journal feels juvenile. That is the beauty of it. Even as you write the words, you cringe in anticipation of how an older, wiser version of yourself will probably ridicule you later. You can almost hear the self-criticism, faintly echoing in from the future. That’s why the thoughts seem childish as soon as you transcribe them into alphabetic forms. 

Maybe this is exactly why journaling is important. It is a glimpse (or whisper) of your future perspective penetrating the present. You see your thoughts not only as you feel right now, but also as you might recall them later. As soon as your emotions inhabit a written work, they begin to exist outside of you. This creates a perspective that is invaluable — even if it is transitory and intermediate — and is worth all the supposed inward shame that comes along with writing your innermost thoughts down in the present.

July 9, 2015

TV Catch Up

Well here we are again. It has been months since my last post. Usually my excuse for not writing is that I hadn’t watched anything. That isn’t the case this time. I have watched a ton of stuff. I even made it out to the theater and saw Mad Max: Fury Road. I think the problem might be that writing about television and movies just hasn’t seemed interesting to me. In fact, writing in general has been low on my list lately. When something happens in my life my first instinct is usually to write it down for documentation; capture thoughts and feelings. A lot has gone on and I have let most of it pass by without putting a pen to paper. I might be over it now. I fee like writing again.

I have a big list tv shows I could write about. Rather than posting about each one separately I am going to do a quick rundown of the tv shows I’ve been watching…

There were a couple times I almost wrote about an individual episode of Game of Thrones, but by the time I got around to it another one was about to air and it just seemed pointless. Maybe I will try to organize my thoughts on season five as a whole and post something. In general I thought it was the weakest season of GoT so far even though it had some great moments.

I also watched the entire first season of Bloodline on Netflix. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see Kyle Chandler. It was good tv, but in the end it left me feeling a little unfulfilled. I would recommend it. It behooves the watcher to be more focused on the journey that worried about the destination, which I think the show promotes by how it is laid out. Most importantly, I am encouraged by the quality of Netflix’s original content.

Speaking of, I watched the first season of Chef’s Table. I like food. I enjoy documentaries. Chef’s Table was a winner in my book.

The real Netflix standout this spring was Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was a ton of fun. My wife and I powered through all 13 episodes in record time. There were a few things that I didn’t like about the show, but overall it was still charming and funny. I would recommend it for sure.

The first season of Last Man On Earth on Fox was a rollercoaster ride. It started off so unique only to devolve into a standard, mediocre, and sometimes downright annoying comedy. It managed to finish off with a couple of decent episodes and I will probably tune in next year to see where it goes.

Fresh Off The Boat had a solid first season on ABC. I first few episodes were really funny. I didn’t enjoy the second half of the season quite as much, but it will definitely be on the watch list next year, assuming it comes back.

Silicon Valley on HBO has turned into one of my favorite comedies on tv. I watched all of season one just a few weeks before season two started, then watched it week-to-week. Sometimes I feel like it can try to be a little too clever, but then it always brings me back with a funny.

The final season of Justified aired this spring. I’ve written before than Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder were two of the best characters on television. I couldn’t wait to watch how their stories ended. Seeing a series you enjoy come to an end is always bittersweet. It was made especially so with Justified because I wasn’t sure there was a satisfying conclusion out there to be had. I enjoyed it, but as expected, the very end let me down. The storytelling seemed to get sloppy in the last half of the season, and it was capped off with a flash-forward that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Per the usual, I find a way to fall out of love with a show down the stretch, thus lessening the heartbreak once it is gone.

The best tv I’ve watched so far in 2015 has got to be FX’s Fargo. Even though I had heard really good things about the show I wasn’t expecting much. The series overall, but especially Billy Bob Thorton’s performance were awesome. I was completely mesmerized by his character. Thorton and Martin Freeman both made the show thoroughly enjoyable even when the pace was slow. I may even go back and watch it again if I get a chance. I rarely even consider doing that.

I watched a few other shows as well, but this is enough for now. I also have a pretty big list of movies that I haven’t written about. Catching up on that backlog feels like a chore, but maybe I will take a shot at it.

March 15, 2015

Field Notes County Fair

I'm a big fan of these little Field Notes pocket notebooks. I've written about them before. This past week they announced their Two Rivers spring edition, which look amazing. I ordered two packs and I can't wait to get them. A few days ago I got a pack of notebooks that have been out for well over a year. I'm not sure how I missed them. They are right up my alley.

I live in Arkansas but I will always be an Indiana Hoosier at heart. I had to get a pack of the Indiana County Fair books. I grew up on a farm and raised pigs every year to take to the county fair. It was always one of my favorite things. I wish I would have had a pack of these notebooks back then to capture some of those memories. I also regret that I came late to the Field Notes party and missed out on the National Crop edition.

Some people wonder what the heck I write in my little notebooks. My answer is... everything. Any stray thought I have. I might make a list of things I need to get at the store. I might jot down a phrase that popped into my head. I'll make a to-do list. I'll keep a tab of things I need to knock out next weekend. There isn't anything extremely important in them. I just like to write things down... and things like to be written down. These books are perfect for that.

February 15, 2015

Uni Kuru Toga Roulette - My Pencil of Choice

This week Mike Dudek posted about the Uni Kuru Toga Roulette on his blog1. After years of only using pens I have returned to graphite over the past several months. My return to pencils started with the classic Golden Bear, and then I went ahead and bought some Blackwings; both the 602 and Pearl. The 602 is one of the best pencils I have ever used. The Pearl is amazing as well, but I just slightly prefer the 602. I will always keep a dozen of them on hand. Still, you have to keep woodcase pencils sharpened, so they are not always convienent.

I could not return to graphite without exploring mechanical drafting pencils. In college I used cheap Bic pencils for all of my engineering homework, but I coveted the fancy metal pencils with knurled grips. I couldn't justify spending the money back then, but nowadays I went ahead and bought the Rotring Rapid Pro and the classic Rotring 600. Both of those are amazing pencils, but they aren't the pefect pencil.

When I heard about the Kuru Toga Roulette I knew I had to have one. See, anytime you write with a pencil the lead gets worn down making a flat spot. You have to turn the pencil in your hand as you write with it to keep a sharp point. Well, the Kuru Toga Roulette does that for you. Every time you put a little bit of pressure on the graphite, it has an internal mechanism that spins it for you. Genius! I went to the local Walmart and bought one of the plastic ones. It immediately became one of the best pencils I owned. When I found out that made a metal version I had to get it. The Kuru Toga is my favorite pencil by far. Combined with some 3B lead, it creates a great graphite writing experience.

I use the Kuru Toga Roulette for most of my work notes and to-do lists. I bring it home every weekend for planning out projects at home as well. The spinning lead makes the graphite line so sharp and consistent. It is is unparalleled by any other pencil I have ever used. If you like writing in pencil I would highly recommend you try out the Roulette. The metal version is under $10 on Amazon. It is totally worth it!

➔ Uni Kuru Toga Roulette Mechanical Pencil - 0.5mm - Gun Metal — The Clicky Post
  1. The Clicky Post is one of my favorite pen blogs out there. I'd highly recommend following Mr. Dudek.  

February 12, 2015

Bigfoot.js Footnotes

Over the past several months a bunch of blogs I follow have wrote about Bigfoot footnotes. It is a bit of javascript and css that allows you to have fancy footnote popovers.1 Now, I don't tend to use a whole lot of footnotes on this blog2, so I didn't pay a whole lot of attention. This week I decided I was going to figure out how to make it work as more of a challenge than anything else.

Most of the sites I saw using it were folks who had their own Wordpress install. Stephen Hackett posted on his Squarespace site how you could make it work on that platform. Here at pretendcritic I just run everything on google's blogger platform. It is nothing fancy, but I have been able to strip out all the default styling and replace it with my own thing. I know this blog is simple, but it looks nice and I feel like it provides a good experience for the readers. I've been impressed with the level of customization blogger offers. It has been able to do almost everything I want to.3 A few months ago I was able to update my styling to look acceptable on the iPad & iPhone, something I thought I'd never figure out how to do, but ultimately was very simple.

At first adding bigfoot.js to blogger did not seem like it was going to be easy. Well I was wrong. Once it dawned on me how simple it was to pull in hosted files from Dropbox or Google Drive getting bigfoot to work was trivial. I think they look awesome. Next I need to figure out how to make a site search that doesn't stink.

  1. Like this little guy here.  
  2. I have a feeling you are going to see a lot more in the future.  
  3. There are still a few major limitations that I have not been able to get around. I'm sure eventually I will leave blogger behind.  

February 8, 2015

Justified Season 5

I feel like I’ve been waiting for a long time for season 5 of Justified to be free on Amazon Instant Video. It finally became available and I wasted no time marathoning all 13 episodes in just over a week. While I would not argue that Justified is the best show on television, it is one of my favorites. I’ve had a lot of fun watching this show. The plot seems to get more convoluted and nonsensical with each new season, but the core characters are still there; and they are still great.

I will go ahead and say that season 5 is the weakest of the lot. The show peaked during seasons 2 & 3, and has been on a gradual slide since. The season 5 antagonists, the Crowe family, were the least dynamic of the Justified villains. Season 5 introduced a ton of characters and I never quite understood what the plan was. Things jumped around a lot and I quit trying to figure out who was helping who and why. I’m pretty sure the last few episodes were more focused on setting the stage for the showdown in season 6 than resolving the season 5 storyline. I’m not sure I can wait for season 6 to be free on Prime. I might have to go ahead and spend the $23 to buy it.

If you have Amazon Prime and haven’t watched Justified… do it. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

February 4, 2015

Budweiser's Anti-Craft Beer Super Bowl Advert

Like most 30 something guys trying to seem awesome, I am into craft beer. I pretend that I can taste the subtle flavors each brew offers so I can discuss them in detail with my friends. In the past six months I’ve had some amazing beer, but I’m still very much a novice.

I was surprised to see Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad the other night taking shots at craft beer. I didn’t understand what their motivation could be to pit micro & “macro” beer drinkers against one another. Maybe normal people will delight in the idea that while drinking a Bud they are simultaneously mocking a pretentious mustachioed democrat. Still, I’m not sure how this commercial is going to stem the slide in sales Budweiser has experienced.

This article in Paste Magazine makes some good points about the advert…
And moreover, how stupid does Anheuser think the average viewer is? The effectiveness of anything in this commercial is almost entirely dependent upon the consumer’s ignorance—they’re praying you’re too stupid to realize that it’s all BS.
It seems impossible to me that there is an argument to be made for Budweiser beer tasting better than a good craft brew. I was amazed when I checked social media after the ad ran and saw how many people heard the rallying cry and were ready to go out and buy some Beechwood aged golden suds then punch a hipster in the bowtie.

January 27, 2015

Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up in your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.
- Jack London