Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Update Just To Update: Caffeine, Gadgetry, and Some Final NaNoWriMo Thoughts


1. Ya-hooo!

In my young Air Force days, before I discovered that there was more to coffee than the lousy yucky-to-begin-with-then-cooked-for-hours-cooled-and-reheated stuff most typically available at home, I was well and truly hooked on the glowing yellow elixir that is Mountain Dew. I didn't lug around a two-liter bottle or anything, but I did go through the stuff. OK, so I realize it's essentially just very watered down orange juice with some whole buncha sugar and a plethora of unsavory and suspicious chemicals and dyes and things added to it (brominated vegetable oil, anyone?), but I loved it nonetheless. Still do, though I partake but rarely these days, if only due to the sugar content. Although Diet Mountain Dew is not the downright sacrilege that Diet Vernor's is (ohhh, Vernor's, how I love thee!) it still just isn't the same.

So the other day I was at the grocery, and they had "Mountain Dew Flashback" for sale. It's made with reg'lar sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, which made me mildly curious about any taste differences...but I still would have passed it by but for the label. I could not resist the charms of the hillbilly with the moonshine jug (don't read too far into this). I mean...come on! So I picked up a twelve pack. But the package said, "For a Limited Time Only," and I'm a I grabbed one more. I mean, that's like a month's supply if I don't have one every day. And then I got to the cash register and after everything was rung up, the clerk said, "Oh, those are buy two twelve-packs, get two free. Do you want to run back for two more?" if you run into me in the next few weeks and I seem particularly hyped up on sugar and caffeine...well, I probably am.

2. Nanooooo

A few (belated) final thoughts on the whole NaNoWriMo '10 experience: this was a fun year in a lot of ways, and in other ways, the toughest year ever. My writing method--pencils--was not really to blame for the struggle. Life got in the way, and I fell behind early on and struggled ever after. Let that be a lesson to me: in my case, the first week is make-it-or-break-it time. If I can get at least a day ahead by the end of the first week, I'm far more likely to have an easy go of it.

I also really struggle to write entirely at home, because it's all too easy to procrastinate when there are other distractions. If I take my notebook off to a coffee house or some such thing where there's nothing to do but write, I get lots more done. I did most of my writing at home this year, and did a lousy job of time management. Those of you who are not only able to write steadfastly at home, but write steadfastly at home despite having lots of other folks around have my admiration. I am weak.

But the writing process was a lot of fun, trying out all sorts of different pencils! I learned that paper matters a great deal--regular composition book paper is much nicer for pencils than bagasse. I liked the whole ritual of sharpening a whole platoon of pencils and using them one at a time, noting the differences as I went along. I developed some favorites for this lengthy writing: mostly the cheerful middle-of-the-road types, neither too hard nor too soft, not too smooth or too rough. I'd have to think a bit before writing full thoughts, but pencils that come to mind are the Mongol 482, the California Republic Golden Bear, the Forest Choice and the General's Cedar Pointe. (By the by, I just contributed a review of the Cedar Pointe on Pencil Revolution--check it out here!

3. Drrroooooiiid!!

I have a new toy. My contract with Verizon was up, and with all the free-with-contract-renewal deals out there right now, I decided to take the plunge into smart phonedom. Yes, I will pay out the nose for the thing over time with the added data plan, but I still have my dumb phone, so I can retreat if need be.

I got me an HTC Droid Incredible: an Android phone. I gotta say, thus far I'm impressed. Smart phones have come a long way in the last few years. Rather than just a very basic way to keep track of a calendar and check e-mail on the go, this thing is a full-fledged mini-computer. I expected to use it as a phone (well, duh...) and also for GPS (those who know me know just how much I *need* this feature!) and for basic internet checking when out and about, but didn't really think beyond those possiblities at first. But wow, there are a lot of things these little guys can do. Just a few of the things I've discovered in about a week's use:

  • In addition to playing MP3s, I can have podcasts delivered directly to the phone, and then plug the thing into the car and listen as I'm driving without having to rely on radio time schedules and reception. As one example, the most local Catholic radio station is based up in Seattle, and the AM signal doesn't reach down this way much of the time, particularly after dark. But the main morning show (Sound Insight) is available in podcast form, and with Google Listen, I can listen to it on my way to and from work, pausing if I want, and not miss any of it. Ditto other interesting podcasts (Car Talk, , music programs, documentaries, stuff from EWTN, etc.). Very nifty. There are also lots of streaming radio stations, and the 3G coverage 'round here is good enough I can typically listen without a hitch while driving around.
  • There's a free program called iBreviary (originally developed for iPhone as the "i" indicates) that gives you the Mass readings and ALL the major hours of the Liturgy of the Hours, and in the same translation as the books so you can follow along with other people. No, it's not a true substitute for a well-loved real book, but it's easier to carry around--I've been using it at least some of the time since I don't have to find my place, and because I always have my phone on me. It'd be very handy for travel. Way cool. The Android version is a little on the unpolished side from what I can judge from screenshots of the iPhone app, but it does the job. I like.
  • OpenSudoku. Very nice Sudoku game with literally thousands of free puzzles available. Need I say more?
It makes me a little nervous that my phone is now essentially just one application on a computer that does all sorts of other things, but it does work well as a phone. We'll see how I feel about it over time. There may be such a thing as being too connected, but just as, back when I got my first cell phone, I liked the fact that I no longer had to wait at home by the phone back expecting an important call, I like not being tied to a computer. I can check e-mail, news, weather, store hours, maps...all sorta stuff wherever I am. Fascination with old technology doesn't preclude fascination with new....

Weird search terms of the week: "i hate you poems" and "poems about haters". Can't we all just get along??