Here we are at the end of the year and even a decade. As always, it’s a good time to pause our games and shows and look back to reflect on things. It’s also time to do the other side of that coin by looking forward. And I hope I don’t overstuff it with the links!
With the dust still settling from the Christmas rush, I thought I’d skim the past 12 months from a geeky or nerdy perspective. How did 2019 shape up with respect to movies, shows, games, and what about sci-fi and tech stuff? I admit I’m not the most qualified for this; it’s just my two cents. I’ll also throw in a few of my own personal highlights and lowlights.
With an eye towards fitness and fun, I re-joined my Karate class and quickly tested up to my next belt. I tried to attend classes twice a week all year long. Overall, I’ve benefited greatly from it. I’m no Bruce Lee, but I can touch my toes, and I feel less guilty when I eat extra calories, so not too shabby! Also, I broke a board using a knife-hand technique and got punched in the ribs so well that I had to get X-rays to make sure they were not cracked!
Cal Newport launched his new book on Digital Minimalism, just as the angst or weariness towards Facebook and social media reached its zenith in our culture.
Also, we played a lot of Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 2DS.
We had the surprising 20 year anniversary of The Matrix movie being released. It still shocks me that it’s been so long since that ground-breaking film debuted! Time has flown! Whoa!
I deleted my Facebook account. Again!
Avengers End Game hit the big screen, closing the first Marvel epic mega saga thing-a-ma-bobber. Did I mention it was epic?
This month, I finally watched Captain Marvel. I liked it! My fave stuff was the 90’s nostalgia: dial-up internet, Nirvana, Blockbuster Video, stuff like that. For the record, I really miss video stores! Having it all on my phone is just not the same.
Apple held their annual developer’s conference where the keynote showcased all the new and cool stuff they plan to put on the market. iOS13 and iPadOS looked promising. So far, though, they’ve turned out lackluster and buggy. But the iPhone 11, especially the new camera system, looks fantastic. I’m thinking I’ll stick with iPhone and not switch to Android.
Space! Sci-Fi for real! It was the big 50th anniversary of mankind’s first landing on the moon! On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander touched down, and on July 21, mankind first set foot upon the lunar surface. It is still amazing today!
I switched from using an iPad as my primary computer to a Chromebook. And I’m still loving it!
Nintendo released the new Switch Lite hardware, a handheld-only version of the popular Switch. I think it is doing well in sales and will extend the current generation of Nintendo’s console(s).
My wife and I enjoyed 80’s nostalgia and a bunch of weirdness as we discovered Stranger Things on Netflix. Looking forward to more of that next Summer with a new season.
Also, I rejoined Facebook. Again! Good-grief!
My blog posting took a big nosedive as I devoted all my writing time to authoring a fiction novella for NaNoWriMo 2019. I didn’t finish, but it was a good try. I learned from the experience. And I’ve been trying to get my blogging back up to speed ever since!
The Force was with us (one last time?) in The Rise of Skywalker. NO SPOILERS. I liked it overall. I’d say more, but I shouldn’t do that yet.
I surprised my family at Christmas this year with a Nintendo Switch for all to share! We play Nintendo.
For my annual Reading Challenge on Goodreads, I failed! I aimed for 13 books. I’ve read 9 and two-halves. So far.
Throughout the past year in my house, there’s been a lot of Nintendo, Pokemon, Lego, and Star Wars. We have five (5) sons, so I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. Also, this year I tried Apple Music and Spotify music subscription services and decided to stick with Spotify. I love having all the songs!
So what about the coming year? The movies Wonder Woman 1984 and Ghost Busters Afterlife are two on top of my to-watch list. I’m also looking forward to the next season of Stranger Things.
Nintendo could release Breath of the Wild 2, the next Zelda game, but I think that won’t come until 2021. But Animal Crossing: New Horizons debuts in March! So does Final Fantasy VII Remake!!
Starting in February, with pre-release promos as early as this Friday, Pokemon Sword and Shield TCG comes out! A whole new series of cards!
Last December, I was able to upgrade from iPhone 6 to iPhone 7, which is still working great. Maybe at the end of 2020 I can upgrade again.
Anyways, there’s lots of fun stuff to anticipate, more than I can handle! I need the fun stuff to help offset the hard and heavy stuff of life that will always be around. I can overthink things and take things too seriously, so letting the pendulum swing the other way can bring some balance at times.
Lastly, I’ll mention anxiety, which is no fun at all! In 2017, I struggled big-time with major anxiety and panic attacks… Things slowly improved over time. And in 2019, things really changed for the better. I reduced my sugar intake at the end of 2018 and began more fitness in 2019. I think these were major factors contributing to my overall progress out of acute anxiety. Food for thought!
I hope your 2019 was good overall.
I wonder, have you heard the recent news about Flickr? You’ve heard of Flickr right? The awesome photo sharing site before photo sharing sites were common, before social media was really a thing? In fact, two years ago, I asked “Is Flickr Still A Thing?” I wanted it to be; I found it mostly was. But my use of it never really resurged. Now the latest news has tugged on me to reconsider Flickr.
An email arrived to my inbox this past week. Read for yourself here. Basically, Flickr is operating at a loss, which is not sustainable. Thus, Flickr’s existence is in peril. It needs more people to sign up for Pro (paid) accounts in order to remain operational. It’s math. And it’s business. I get it.
This news roused my fond memories of Flickr, a good site that still serves many well. My honest reaction was thinking that I should and want to quickly sign up for a Pro account, even if I hardly use it, just to help keep Flickr alive. It’s something I’m considering, so I might do just that. But first, I plan to look into Flickr again, the site, and re-evaluate how I might use it more these days. In fact, I already reinstalled the Flickr app on my phone!
My valuable time is limited. Flickr requires a little investment of my time if I use it, and that, I think, is the real issue here. A Pro account costs only a little bit of money each month – less, in fact, than what I pay each month for Netflix or Spotify. The cost of money is less a barrier than is the cost of time.
And with amazing “free” photo services like Google Photos, how can Flickr compete? That answer is in the features it has which other sites lack: an enthusiastic photography community! It’s not just pictures, it’s people! Flickr is about photography and the community which loves it. But therein is the other issue. When it comes to a community online, that’s where social media took over, along with its photo sharing experiences.
So, can Flickr survive? And if so, will it? Those are tough questions. I could do my part and sign up for a Pro account and become somewhat active there again. But would that be enough? And then, would I eventually need to say good-bye to Flickr? I would hope not.
Do you still love Flickr?
So the Cosmic Eclipse expansion was released in November; my family and I had some great pulls! It is the last expansion before the new base series for TCG comes out: Sword and Shield. And speaking of, the newest mainline Pokemon videogames already hit stores in November too, which really stirred the Pokemon pot!
There are brand new never-before-seen-or-caught Pokemon in the new Galar region! So even if you had caught’em all, well, now you’ve got more work to do. Get crackin’! And since my family had our Christmas early this year, we are!
I have been playing Pokemon Sword, my first ever Pokemon video game. It’s fun! And it’s helping me learn more about the Pokemon and Trainers in the card game, in which I’m enjoying a resurgence.
I’ve had fun learning and trying things with my first major battle deck based on Dark Pokemon. It had good mechanics with my main strategy (Weavile GX Ability). I guess I got tired of it though. But I recently had a jolt of the fun of finding new cards and putting together a new strategy with a new battle deck. So I’ve been eyeing several fiery Pokemon.
I started looking at Fire abilities and was stoked! But things took a twist. As I was building up ideas for a Fire deck, I crossed paths with my Zygarde Fighting Pokemon and a fellow TCG player on Facebook. One thing led to another, and now, for the first time, I have an Expanded battle deck! I had been locked in my mind to play only Standard cards in rotation, but now I have…expanded.
The cool thing about my new deck, which utilizes all my Zygarde Pokemon, is that besides being Expanded, it is for fun! And it’s easier to play against young kids who sometimes have weak decks. It’s really about having fun and trying new things with Pokemon TCG. Meanwhile, I continue to build my new no-holds-barred Fire deck to bring the heat to battle!
Fighting With Fire
So what’s next? For my Fighting deck, I must start practicing it, finding its weaknesses, and tweaking it. I played in the recent League Challenge tournament and did okay. My new Zygarde deck took some beating, but I got a few lucky first wins. It was fun and I learned stuff, so either way!
Also, I’ve ordered some cards for my Fire deck, but I have more to order at a later date. So I’ll play my Fighting deck more while working on the Fire one. And starting in February, the brand new base set of Sword and Shield Pokemon will go on sale, and oh boy! There are all new types of cards, so there will be new strategies to try!
Do you play Pokemon?
Many of my free hours went into an immersive game with a huge cast of characters and a compelling story. The genre and the series became one of my favorites.
Over the years, I played more Final Fantasy games, which were on the Playstation. But when Final Fantasy X came out, I missed it because I never owned a PS2 console to play it on. And I think I missed a really good game in the series. That was around 2001.
Skip ahead to 2019. I learned this year that my most favorite series entry, Final Fantasy VII, is being remastered for the PS4! The game looks fantastic! But I will miss out again if I don’t buy the console. So I was tempted…
Weeks later, I walked into Gamestop and saw something I didn’t know existed. It was Final Fantasy X, remade in HD, for the Nintendo Switch! Whoa, wait a minute. I don’t have a Switch. Here’s another Final Fantasy game, one I already missed, re-made better than ever, on yet another console I don’t own.
What do I do? Buy a PS4 to play the upcoming awesome FFVII remaster? Or buy a Switch to play the already released FFX HD remake (which, by the way, happens to also include a second game, FFX–2 HD)? Or do I simply miss out on both since I don’t have either console?
How does this situation finally end? Well, I can tell you that the Nintendo Switch has a lot more going for it than just FFX HD. It’s Nintendo! My whole family plays Nintendo. We also play Pokémon, and there happens to be two new mainstream Pokémon games on the Switch.
Christmas is just around the corner.
As part of my family’s Christmas celebration/holiday time, we decided to include the 7 of us going to watch The Rise of Skywalker.
So I busted out the Fandango app and reserved seats at our local Cinemark. Plus, it’s on the super big fancy movie screen with extra whammy-kablammy cinema sauce!
And there you have it. Somehow I managed to find 7 seats in a row for my family to see Star Wars on opening day! It’s a matinee viewing, and it should prove to be a fun family event, kicking off my holiday vacation time.
As for the movie itself, I don’t know what to expect. Yeah, I think it will be great! But I have many questions, wondering how JJ Abrams has wrapped up the huge Skywalker saga. I think it has something to do with The Force and bringing balance to it. But how does Kylo Ren turn out? How epic will this thing be?
We should find out in a few days!!
Do you plan to see the newest Star Wars?
Is this really only my third blog post for November? Wow. This is tough for me. I knew my blogging would take a dive, but… I committed to my writing days being for my NaNoWriMo2019 attempt. I’m far behind my word count goal, but I’m making steady progress on the days I’m supposed to. And I’m enjoying the story writing process too!
But this tale has taken a twist – I didn’t see this coming! I was expressing to my wife early in the month my excitement for writing the first scene of my Novella. She was intrigued…then later she had the seed of an idea for her own story.
One thing led to another…
About half-way into the month, my wife started writing her story. She just let it flow! It’s like the dam broke. Boo-yah! She has blitzed beyond my own word count right off the field and kept going. She has surpassed my own goal!! I set out for 20,000 words. She is already beyond 25,000 – and that with a late start! She even set up her own profile on the NaNoWriMo site.
I’ve encouraged my wife to write, using my own learning and experience so far. It’s been nice. It’s new, it’s creative, it’s fun…it’s novel! Yes. I prefer my puns intended! (I even almost bought a coffee mug with that exact quote on it from Books-a-Million. Just sayin’.)
So, this week will be challenging for me. There’s this thing called Thanksgiving Day. Some turkey is gonna try to get in the way of my writing that day! What do I do? We’ll see. I’m sure it will all turn out fine. I plan to keep writing my novella. The real challenge will be December because I want to continue but I’ve got to get back up to speed on my regular blogging.
Until then, y’all have a safe and wonderful holiday time this week.
Book in the works
In October, I mentioned that I’d probably be blogging less in November because it’s NaNoWriMo2019! Well, here we are, over a week into the month and this is my first post. But I have been writing. In fact, I #amwriting.
Last year, I wrote that November is a novel month because so many people sort of compete to write 50,000 words in 30 days. If you do that, you’ll have yourself a nice novel. Since I’m on my first attempt ever, and because I have a lot going on otherwise, I set my own goal for 20,000 words. Technically, that means I’ll end up with a novella. Either way, this is a month for writing a book, for authoring a story!
So how’s that workin’ out for me? Actually, I’m pretty stoked so far! I finally sat down at my dedicated time to write (usually that means blog drafting) and started pecking out my first scene on my swank Chromebook’s chiclet keyboard.
My word count is nothing to boast about; what really counts is that I busted out a coherent half-way decent beginning to my novella! In just one scene, I enjoyed learning more about my protagonist, getting to know him as I fleshed out his thoughts and actions, as he interacted with other people around him.
Oh, by the way, my protag drank a whole cup’o’coffee in the first scene. Just sayin’.
There’s more positive stuff I could say about my first NaNoWriMo writing experience. But I’m typing this in our minivan on the way to our next mini-vacay this month! I’ve got an 18-year wedding anniversary to celebrate. Then I’ll be back in the world of my book that’s underway.
I’ll try to keep up with the blogging too. But know that December will probably also be a novella month. I’m not concerned with how long it takes to finish writing. I’ve started, I’m still going, and I’m enjoying it. I’ll cross the finish line eventually.
If you’re like me, then you may recall the way music worked in the 80’s and 90’s. If I wanted a hit song, I rushed to the boom box to mash the fat plastic record button on the tape deck while the radio announcer talked over the first few seconds of the music. Ah, those days…
If I wished to avoid the DJs, the air-wave ads, or the hissing crackling audio of cheap cassettes, despite Dolby B and NR noise reduction, my other option was to buy a whole entire CD (album) from an artist to get that-one-song. That’s right, we “old” people would sometimes pay $15 for a song.
Then Napster, Kazaa, and Apple changed everything.
Fast-forward (like a cassette tape!) to now. Way back in January this year, I tried Apple Music for the first time! I told you, I’ve been a hold-out. Buying specific songs for a buck on iTunes to make a mix-tape (playlist) was revolutionary and easy, and not so easy to let go of.
So Apple’s streaming service was cool, if not a bit overwhelming. It was kinda weird to see my decades old music library suddenly inundated with new albums and artists. The Apple Music app on my iPhone also wasn’t organized very well. I had a hard time combining my trusty library with all the new stuff and getting it sorted. But most of all, I wasn’t ready to pay $10 a month for the rest of my life; I figured it’d be cheaper to buy 5 new songs a month at roughly half the price!
But things have changed. Again.
I switched my main computer from iPad to Chromebook. In other words, from Apple to Google. So I wanted to switch to Google Play Music too. I’d used it before, and besides uploading my songs from iTunes (library migration is hard!), it had a feature I really liked: Stations based on a song or artist. It was great for new music discovery!
But I quickly saw that Google was, yet again, killing a service! Slowly but surely, Google Play Music is being replaced by YouTube Music. And it’s just not there yet. You can’t transfer your existing song library to it. The app is limited too. If I must abandon my old song library and start over, then I’ll go with the best solution I’ve found so far.
I’ll start with this one-weird-fact. For years, I thought the Spotify logo was lame. But I can say it has grown on me. Judging a book by its cover is a no-no. And now that I’ve actually started trying Spotify…oh my, I think I may have fallen head over heels!
The app and service are so MUCH better than Apple Music! The interface is clean, elegant, simple, and easy. The service works great as a result of clarity and simplicity. How has Apple fallen behind in this regard? I think it’s due to the baggage. Apple’s music app/service has the burden of combining the old (iTunes library) with the new (streaming library). But Spotify starts fresh from the ground up as a groundbreaking streaming service.
Speaking of starting fresh, I’m experiencing a surprising liberation. Since there is no way to import my old music collection into Spotify, I’m literally starting over with a clean slate. It’s a refreshing transformation! I can create all new playlists. I don’t have the laborious task of migrating, importing, or matching music. I have all-the-songs!
Also, Spotify is a third-party solution. It’s an independent, not sold-out, service. So it’s cross-platform. That means I can use any company’s device (iPhone, Chromebook, fire tablet) and always have my whole music library!
A Sound Summary
Long have I resisted subscription services, but Spotify is awesome! I’ll keep trying it out and see if it sticks. I think it will.
At least the Spotify logo is not a cassette tape.
Where do you get your music?
Commenting On Facebook
Being off Facebook for six months was a long break. In Facebook’s absence, my web-social time was spent on Twitter and WordPress. So now there’s good competition for my time. More on that later.
I restarted my new Facebook account from scratch. That part is nice, having a squeaky clean fresh Newsfeed and Timeline. The app is now on my phone, and I sent out many Friend Requests and filled out my basic profile info – the metadata of me.
It’s great to be connected again to all my friends and family so I can see what they’re up to, how they’re doing, and easily share with them. It’s especially nice to stay in touch with the many people I know who live far away.
I rejoined just in time to catch some birthdays, and I caught up on a lot of good photos I had missed out on this past Summer! I also became an active member of a Group I had been absent from. So there are a lot of cool, fun, or useful things on Facebook that I’m enjoying.
Also, in 30 days or so, Facebook Marketplace will open up. To avoid scamming, the Marketplace is designed to wait a month before allowing new Facebook users access to it. That’s smart. And this is one reason why I like it. The people you buy or sell with are connected and vetted to some degree, which helps make the process safer. I have not used Craigslist in years!
In my short time being one of the billions of people on the social network, I was reminded of a few downsides to it. These are not surprising, but I’m going to need to work on them. The first one was mentioned above: time.
Facebook, like all social media, is designed to take up your time and attention. It can be addicting. I’ve received a ton of red notification numbers and banners on my phone and on the web browser. Granted, this is higher than usual activity since my account is new again. Once the honeymoon phase wears off, things will quiet down a bit. But I will likely need to adjust settings and moderate my behavior so I don’t get distracted by what can feel like the party on Facebook.
The other thing I will be proactive about is the Newsfeed. That thing is still a cacophony of posts! So many memes, posters, and silly pix and vidz! Facebook made it so you can friend yet not follow. In other words, you can connect with others to see their Timeline, Message them, or join a Group with them, but you don’t have to see their posts in your Newsfeed. This helps keep a good signal-to-noise ratio. Oh, and I’ll try to not contribute too much noise myself.
Overall, I’m enjoying my fresh friend-and-family-feed one week in! My goal is to be active but not too active. And when the shine grows dull, I’ll take a break if I need to – without deleting! For a time, I can be inactive yet not deactivate.
Let’s call this Social Media Moderation. Or Social Net-work/life Balance.
And I’ll leave you with a quote:
“…even if you don’t want to actively use Facebook, it’s one of those services that you basically have to sign up for. Like email.” – M.G. Siegler
That, I think, is more or less a truism these days. Facebook, like email, is a social utility. For better or worse. I’ll focus on the better!
Remember And Remaster
The visuals are so good, they bring to life what I could only dream of back in 1997 when I first played this then-groundbreaking Playstation game. The best fully-rendered stuff I’ve seen is on my Wii U (Xenoblade Chronicles still bedazzles my eyes). But this FFVII Remake on PS4 takes things to another level with lighting effects and more.
The gameplay is revamped as well. You have options. Either play old-school in turn-based battle, or go into full-action mode, or do a mix of both. I like the choices and think it will make the game more fresh without the risk of ruining a classic jrpg from Squaresoft.
Hopefully the story that drives the whole thing remains the same. The real question I have is in the telling. This remake will be distributed in chapters or separate game installments. The point was to enable the full game and story to be remastered without cutting any material. How much gets added to it is unknown to me. Hopefully any additions won’t detract from the pacing or overall story.
Over the years, I’ve tried to replay through the whole game again. But due to a busy life of adulting and already knowing how to grind out the game, I’ve only beaten it once. This Remake, though, looks like it will be so good that I won’t be able to stop playing it all the way through!
Not So Final Fantasy
My first grand entrance into the FF universe was with FFIII (FFVI) on SuperNES. So when FFVII came out for PS1, it was amazing on every level! I followed these up with FFVIII and IX. While both are great, they didn’t touch the stellar status of the previous games.
FFVII Remake looks like it may be as groundbreaking as the original! In fact, although I’ve never owned a PS4, this game pretty much has compelled me to buy one just to play it.
So yeah, next year I might blog a little less if I get my gaming hands on this. Something to look forward to!
Best Notes Ever
This month, I re-discovered Evernote. The last time I really used it was 2014. Since then, I’ve relied on first-party apps: Apple Notes or Microsoft OneNote or Google Keep. I’ve switched between these over time, depending on the main computer I was using. (I’ve tried Simplenote and used Ulysses too.) They’re all great in their own ways, having pros and cons.
But Evernote sticks out. Unlike the big-three, it’s a third-party solution from a company dedicated to the task at hand: note taking. It’s mission is a singular focus on using notes to organize your life. This is Evernote’s expertise.
Also, I’ve been fond of the green elephant for a long time.
Being a blogger, writer, and thinker, I love jotting down or typing up what’s on my mind. It gets my thoughts out of my head in front of my eyes to see. It’s a satisfying process of organizing my brain.
Simply put: I note my notions.
All The Goods
The first thing that surprised me when I started trying out Evernote recently was the interface. It’s much cleaner and leaner than years prior, yet I found all the tools and features one might want. It’s polished now, and as I began using it, I noted (ahem) how easy it is.
Evernote uses a simple folder (called Notebooks) plus tagging system for organization. You can even have Stacks of Notebooks. To me, this makes a lot of sense. I’ve used apps that employ only a folder system and apps that utilize only tagging. While simplicity is a virtue, Evernote gives the option of both. It’s neither too little nor too much.
One of Evernote’s most impressive features is the Web Clipper. The thing is awesome! It’s easy to add it to your web browser. What I love about the clipper are all the options to share anything on the web to Evernote with precision and ease.
Let’s say you’re doing research online and find an article with a quote you want. You can grab the whole web page, just the quote alone, or simply bookmark it, to name but a few options. Then, without leaving the web page, you can file the content into any of your Evernote folders, tag the content, and add remarks to it. And this all takes place inside a simple elegant drop down window in your browser. It’s incredibly useful and well done!
All that is cool. But how reliable is Evernote? Can you trust it with the fruit of your mind? To that I can say in the span of about 10 days, I’ve added over 100 notes into various folders with tags, links, web clips, and have applied some text formatting. And I’ve done this on the iPhone app and both the Edge and Chrome browser on different computers. So far, everything has been syncing flawlessly.
Finally, one of my biggest reasons for relying on Evernote is because it’s cross-platform. Being a third-party service that works on the web and in smartphone apps, I can use it in Apple-land or in the Google-verse, for example. Evernote is cloud-first; I like living in the clouds.
Note To Future Self
I’ve jumped onto different note-taking platforms over the years. I gravitated towards the built-in notes app on whichever device I had because of its system-level integration. The default app is the easiest to choose and use.
Now I’m hoping and planning to stick with Evernote for the long haul since I can take notes on any device (iPhone, Chromebook), and because it has shown much improvement over time. Evernote will likely stay great or become greater.
As I wrote last week about the social pressure getting to me, I had two options: Return-Rejoin-Refriend or Resist-Refuse-Retreat. The reasons for signing back up for Facebook are simple. My friends and family are networked together and benefit from the convenience of social utilities: Marketplace, Groups, Pages.
My Kyokushin Karate class has a Facebook Page; no other website exists. I missed out on some engagement there.
Our local Pokemon League has a Facebook Group. When not playing at league meet-ups, my wife enjoys info shared in the Group online. I’ve missed out on that.
And I love the Facebook Marketplace. I’m a sucker for value and amazing deals on gently used stuff that people I’m connected to are selling or buying. It totally replaces Craigslist for me.
Another draw is being able to stay in touch with family living overseas. We email, but not much. There’s more staying-in-touch on Facebook with photos and posts and such. I’ve missed that too.
Those are just a few examples; there are more! Practically, everyone is on Facebook. Most of all, my friends and family are there. It’s the easiest way to share photos with them.
I explain this more in my blog post from last October. It sums up why I am rejoining Facebook again.
To see how cyclical my Facebook relationship has been, first joining 10 years ago, here it is for the record, so far:
- First Account: Fall 2009 – Spring 2011
- Second Account: Summer 2011 – Fall 2015
- Third Account: Winter 2015 – Spring 2018
- Fourth Account: Summer 2018 – Spring 2019
- Fifth Account: Fall 2019 – ?
Each time I deleted my account (never just deactivated), I only stayed off Facebook for 3 to 6 months. Through all my back-and-forth, my wife has remained on Facebook for 10 years, despite all the privacy woes and the like. She’s never been hurt or hacked by it. Instead, I’ve seen her benefit and enjoy it overall.
I know Facebook is not without its flaws. I’ll focus on the positives and be careful to view the bad in the balanced light of the good. Granted, there will likely be more data breaches, security scandals, and privacy problems. And I’ll probably grow tired of the memes and melodrama. Cat videos, though, I could use more of.
Facebook has the market cornered on connecting online with people I care about. It has its upsides! So instead of beating Facebook, I’m joining.
Extra: Do you remember the movie The Social Network starring Jesse Eisenberg? I love that movie. I think I’ll watch it again to commemorate my return to Facebook. Is that cheesy or dumb? Well, I do that sort of thing sometimes. I’m one of those weird human persons, ya know?
Okay, I did something that might be a little bit daunting. I signed up for this year’s NaNoWriMo event in November! It’s official. Also, it is exciting and kind of crazy. But what’s the point of dreams if you never go for’em?
Hello, I’m Wanna B. Author
Escaping into imaginary worlds, connecting with interesting characters caught up in conflict – this is a story. And who doesn’t love a good one? I like reading fiction, but I’ve wanted to write my own for a long time. In fact, I’ve already tried.
A few years ago, my first attempts at writing a story were unfinished and not good. Fail and fail. But at least I really tried. I had a good sci-fi story idea with some semblance of a plot. But my characters were not developed well. The writing was likely poor. Yet I wrote!
Back then, I didn’t know what I was doing. I think I kind of winged it. Pantser maybe. But though there was no writing success to speak of, the little ember of desire to write didn’t go cold. In fact, a second story I began, a fantasy, is still one I’m fond of. I created a map of a world and started my characters on their journey. The plot was somewhat mapped out too. But I guess time and life cut that trip short.
Enter NaNoWriMo. I’d heard about this last year and was intrigued. I blogged about it with admiration of the many brave souls who pushed themselves to churn out 50,000 words in a month. With such an official writing initiative supported by a community of enthusiastic fiction fabricators, I felt compelled to try my hand at being a nascent novelist. But I decided to shelve it in the Book of Dreams.
Things have changed over time. I’ve recently reignited my fiction fondness by reading a bunch of good stories. And that makes me wanna get in on the fun, writing my own make-believe adventure. Where will the characters go? What will happen next? My imagination gets revved up and I try to tap into the creative side of my 3-pound brain.
What could hold me back from chasing a pipe-dream to author a novel? Reality might do it. Fear is also a suspect. I’m – hold on, here it comes – busy. When am I going to have time to write 50,000 words? Life is not going to say, “Hey, go ahead and take November off. The world will wait. Go write your magnum opus.” Maybe I can write a book, but should I?
Well, what the heck? I’m gonna go for it. You gotta start somewhere, right? Let me give it a good shot, and even though it’s likely I won’t finish writing all-the-words, I can at least have a good start on a first draft. The best part is, I’m sure I will learn a lot from the process.
I give credit to the fun, encouraging, brave, and inspiring writing community for my choice to jump in the deep end, sink or swim. There are many aspiring and succeeding authors on Twitter and on blogs that welcome newbies to join the fold. They offer advice, tips, and encouragement. And many of them struggle to write, like real-life normal people wrestle with anything. But they jump life’s hurdles and write.
To make it more feasible, and fun, for me to clear the bar, I simply lowered it. For my first ever NaNoWriMo, my goal is 20,000 words, which would get me a novella instead of a novel. And that would be amazing if I pull it off!
The breakdown of those 20k words is also do-able. I’m focusing my writing time on weekdays, and there are about 20 of those in November. That makes the daily goal just 1,000 words. And I’ll use the weekends for cushion and to catch up when I need to. So I’ve got a goal and a plan.
I’ve also got a story idea, a partial plot, and my protagonist and antagonist started. The table of conflict is set. The main dish served is a Paleontologist who wants to find the origin of humankind, a species who had a special connection with the earth. But what the hero really wants is to find his own origin – his parents – and thereby know who he really is.
It’s kind of simple, but I’ve been trying to make the plot intricate and interesting. Anyways, I get excited when I think about it. My interest is piqued! That’s how I know I’ve got an idea worth chasing, taking risks, and making the NaNoWriMo commitment. And it should be fun! I’ve written down a lot of details already and look forward to typing the story.
Go For The Goal
So that’s it. My 20,000 word NaNoWriMo goal. November will be interesting. And busy!
If you dream about writing a book but haven’t yet made any attempts, maybe just go for it! Consider the time and effort it would take, and try to make things work. Think about story ideas that make your imagination buzz. Once that creativity gets started, your desire to write will grow!
That’s been my experience at least. I just hope when November hits and I sit to write, the words will start to flow. Until then, I’ve got more plotting to do.
Do you aspire to write fiction?
Journey Is The Destination
Somehow, Journey had slipped under my radar. I found it by searching the Google Play Store for journaling apps. Since I rely on a Chromebook, I wanted an option that worked in a web browser in addition to using an Android app. Journey covers those bases, plus there’s an iOS app for Apple’s mobile devices.
So Journey is a cross-platform app made by a third-party, meaning it’s not an Apple, Google, or Microsoft product. That said, it utilizes Google Drive for all its backup and cloud sync tasks, so it should be dependable. The advantage of using a third-party service is that it works on all the major tech-ecosystems and isn’t trapped inside a walled-garden.
For me, that means switching between an iPhone, a Chromebook, or a Windows PC won’t be a problem. There’s no need to migrate all my journal entries from one app to another; I just log-in to Journey and get all my stuff! I could have my iPhone in my left pants pocket and an Android phone in my right (because I’m a nerd-geek like that); my journals would be in sync just the same.
Pros and Cons
My first impression of Journey is that it’s a lot like the Day One app (a highly acclaimed journal app made for Apple devices, now also on Android), even using almost the same shade of blue. It’s got your main section that shows all your entries in chrono-order (Timeline), newest at the top. There’s also a calendar view, typical in many journal apps, that shows which days of the month have entries.
You can also view journal pages by photos and by location. Finally, there’s a section called, “Today.” There you can view overall stats for your journaling, like how many entries you’ve made, how often you journal, and what your average mood is over time. It even shows you what entries most reflect your various moods.
This section also offers more (journal coaching, entry prompts, fitness tracking…) if you upgrade to one of the paid versions. There are a few coaching prompts in the free version, which is the one I’m trying now. In fact, it is not even ad-supported. There are zero ads in the app, except for the repeated nudges throughout, which remind you that there’s more offered if you buy or subscribe. So far, those elegant “ads” have not been nagging; time will tell if they wear me down.
There’s a lot to like with Journey. I’ve been trying it in three places: iPhone app, Android app on my Chromebook, and the web version in the Chrome browser. And I’ve encountered zero sync issues. All my entries made on each interface appear everywhere without fail.
The look-and-feel of the smartphone apps is consistent and pleasant to use. You can ‘tag’ and ‘favorite’ entries (still in the free version) for easier searching later. And despite there being a lot of features, the app isn’t cluttered or convoluted. Journey is simple, neat, and easy.
I’m finding that the more I use Journey, the more I like it! I didn’t think the calendar feature would really be important to me. But now with several days of usage, I can easily see my journaling streak visualized!
After depending on note-taking apps for years to do my journaling, at first I found it hard to get into Journey. I was not comfortable with the idea of using yet another app to do what I have always done. But I have found that Journey’s singular focus on journaling has allowed me to quickly and easily jump into the app and let my thoughts flow. The date and time is automatically recorded and displayed prominently. I can even back-date journal entries in the free version!
Then after more use, I found something really cool about Journey that I never had in my note-taking apps. When viewing an entry, you can swipe the page left or right to see the adjacent day’s entry, which also shows the tag, weather for that day, and your mood. I love it! I can thumb through my journal like a physical journal and casually browse my thoughts over time!
Of course, nothing is perfect. Journey is an ideal app yet with one minor drawback. The web version is functional, but it does not have feature parity with the phone apps. The only section available is the overall list view (Timeline) with all your entries ordered by date. At first, I felt this was a limitation. But it’s grown on me already because it looks and feels a lot like a social-feed (for better or worse).
At the top of the web site for Journey, there’s a big box for entering text with a formatting bar and all the features you need, although a few seem to be missing, like the ‘favorite’ option. It’s easy to type what’s on your mind and also easy to go back and edit in-place.
The online version has a web-chat feature that lets you talk with the friendly people at Journey to get help. I had some initial questions and they were answered via the chat. Nice! The journey folks have also emailed me helpful tidbits, including the chat transcript with follow-up links to help resolve my queries. Impressive!
Overall, Journey is proving to be a robust and reliable journaling service that’s very inviting to use. It’s got some kind of ineffable zen mojo thing going on.
It will take more time to decide whether or not I want to stick to a dedicated journaling app. My tried and true method has always been to use a note-taking app like OneNote or Apple Notes. As of now, I’m checking out Evernote as another alternative for journaling.
And as for other dedicated cross-platform journal apps, there is also Penzu. I tried it a few times in the past week. It is nice, interesting, and full of useful features. But it’s free version is limited compared to Journey. And overall, I like Journey better because of the way it’s laid out. Penzu tries a bit too much to replicate a physical journal. It’s a preference.
If you want or need a place to keep your private reflections, I say give Journey a try. It’s a good destination to help you along life’s journey.a
Being consistent is not my greatest strength. And blogging is optional. So of all the blogs I’ve started over the years, each endeavor to write my passions has flamed out in short time.
Like many bloggers, when I’ve had a blog go defunct, I’d dust it off and return with a feeble Note of Hiatus, trying to pick up where I left off. And that usually didn’t last too long.
But I always return to my love of crafting words on the web, sharing and connecting with fellow thinkers and writers with common interests and experiences. Sometimes the only same trait has been blogging itself, which is enough.
Because of the steady tendency to blog, when I returned again last Fall, I purposed in myself to stick with it. And I meant it. So I lowered the bar on blogging to make it as easy as possible.
With my renewed resolve and maximum chance of success, the clock started over October 13, 2018 with my Return To Blogging post. In that post I noted three changes I was making to avoid yet another break in blogging. Of those three, only one has remained in effect!
Now that I’ve actually made my goal of blogging for one year solid, where do I go from here? To be honest, my next goal was simply to continue through December 31 so I could then have accomplished the ‘cleaner’ stint of One Calendar Year of Blogging.
After that: inertia! I will keep on keepin’ on with the blog. And as usual, I will probably change the design theme and make some new mini-goals to keep things fresh. I don’t wanna get bored and bogged down. Yet since I’ve made a habit of publishing my ponderings online, my mind’s muscle memory is developed. That helps me stick with it.
So raise a glass of your fave fluid with me! Here’s to another year of blogging!
The Network Effect Of Everyone
I have not rejoined the world’s largest social network. Yet. I’m resisting the pull. But I can’t help wonder why this urge returned. It’s a little perplexing yet not surprising. Just, why?
I have good reasons to not be on Facebook. And I think some of them apply to everybody. But though I can articulate them in writing, as I did here, I find it harder to tell someone face to face why I’m against Facebook or why it’s so off-putting and should be avoided by all.
I feel like capitulating. Like, everyone is on Facebook. Not only that, there are some bonafide good uses of the platform simply because everyone you know is there. I’m talking about Groups and Pages and Marketplace. The network effect is real.
These three examples of Facebook’s utility are not unique. Elsewhere, the internet offers similar options that provide the same features. But honestly, I don’t know of any that are better or easier to use. And even if they are, they lack the greatest feature: everyone.
Even though everyone is on the web and therefore can connect, those connections are separated across various websites. So connecting requires juggling multiple accounts and log-ins (unless, of course, they provide the Facebook log-in). The point is, different websites that offer different Facebook-like utilities are separate. But Facebook easily connects everyone on the web in one central place.
The One Place To Rule Them All
Like an existential rule, it seems that there had to be that place: the one website online where all people could unite, connect, and network together (ironically, that union has also surfaced and reinforced much division). Social interaction defines humanity; relationships! Other websites (Friendster, MySpace, and more) were built on this fundamental trait. It’s just that Facebook was able to take off. Right place, right time I guess.
If the internet is a connected web of everyone spread across earth, then like a modern day digital Tower of Babel, Facebook is the defacto site for everyone online to come together, for better and for worse.
The network effect is what compels me to rejoin Facebook. Practically all my friends, family, and acquaintances are there. (Just this week, a co-worker asked me if I’m on Facebook – that never happens – what a coincidence!) And though I’ve lived totally without a Facebook account several times, the truth is I’m unable to escape it altogether. Like pumpkin spice in Autumn, Facebook is everywhere.
It’s in my house. My wife’s use of the social network remains stalwart. Through her, I am informed of daily life stuff via Facebook. Also, I see how it benefits her. And honestly, I don’t see much consequential detriment to her personal usage of Facebook (other than the negative drama that gets posted sometimes). As for sucking a lot of time, I can’t talk. I use Twitter as much as my wife uses Facebook. Guilty!
By nuking my Facebook account from orbit, have I cut off my nose to spite my face? Other questions have come to me: am I “too good” for Facebook? And is my personal boycott of the platform benefiting others or advancing a good cause? Am I just being a Facebook-hater? These are good questions that deserve good answers.
Here’s a situation that affects my decision to rejoin Facebook or not. I have a vacation coming up with both immediate and extended family members. We’ll be taking a lot of pictures! Naturally, after the trip, we’ll want to share those photos with each other. So where will that happen? There are several good options, but the easiest and practically the best place to do that is on Facebook.
Another scenario that makes Facebook compelling is that I have a family member who lives overseas and is active on Facebook. We seldom email each other, so Facebook is the strongest way we can stay connected with text updates and photos. This is hard to resist sometimes.
There’s more weirdness. Since I have deleted and rejoined four times, what will my friends and family think if I rejoin again? Will they be glad to see me there? And will others keep me at a distance, expecting my cycle to spin around to deleting again? These questions spawn a meta-query: why am I wrestling with such social anxiety? It’s just a website! Right?
So what will come of this? Despite the pull to rejoin Facebook, I’m not totally comfortable with the idea of being tallied in the census of the world’s biggest digital country that is controlled by one idealistic man who is also trying to create a new global currency. The size and power of Facebook and its influence are disturbing, and the Libra initiative is foreboding. I’m wary of the whole thing.
But Facebook is, frustratingly, like a utility because of its network effect. I think my back and forth tug-of-war will continue. Maybe it will be a stalemate. Is resistance futile? Is rejoining and reestablishing a love-hate relationship with Facebook inevitable?
Resist or rejoin? I don’t know. I’m leaning toward the latter.
This Summer, I read three books by the same author, all in the first-person. After those, I read Ed Snowden’s new memoir, a real-life story told in riveting first-person.
Then I started reading another work of fiction. Right away it felt off. At first, I didn’t know why. And I had trouble getting into it. Then after a bit of slogging through, I realized it was written in third-person. That’s when it became clear as diamond just how much the perspective of the story-teller makes a difference.
So then I did some Googling about narrator perspective. It confirmed what I experienced. Now I know how strongly I prefer first-person accounts and why.
I like how immersive first-person perspective is. It’s like you are the protagonist experiencing the events of the plot yourself. Or the hero is talking directly, giving me a personal telling of the story as it unfolded.
Contrast that with the third-person, like the epic I’m now plundering, Dune. So far the story is good and well told, but it naturally is more distant. I’m less a participant and more an outside observer, peering into moments in time surrounding the intriguing characters and the detailed events.
This makes me wonder, can any story be told from either the first or the third person? Or are some stories somehow restricted to one or the other? That’s another one I’d have to Google. Much to learn, I still have.
Fit To View
Anyways, it’s not a big deal. I just got a much deeper appreciation for the first-person perspective and wanted to share my new-found delight from it.
In the past, this gripping narrative view is what helped spark me further as a reader in general. It was the Hunger Games trilogy that drew me in. Experiencing that trilogy from Katniss’ perspective was pretty enthralling. My love for reading grew as a result. The story itself was awesome, so that helped too.
You may already be an avid reader yourself. Maybe the perspective of the story-teller makes little or no difference to you. But, there might be someone you know who struggles to read fiction. It might help them to know that switching stories based on perspective could make the difference. Whatever helps someone fall more in love with books is a win for all story lovers.
Back in April, I published a piece about being torn from my kindle. It was sort of an experiment to rely more on my iPad as eReader. While nice, I later ditched my iPad for a Chromebook in August. So then I switched to my iPhone being my eReader. I also flipped from using the Apple Books app to Google Play Books instead.
I had doubted that I would abandon my kindle for good though. My gut was right on that one. Over the weekend, while exploring new books to read, I reinstalled the kindle app on my phone. Then I found my Paperwhite, charged it up, and rediscovered how good it is!
I started reading a book that’s been on my To-Read shelf for a long time: Dune. It’s a 600-something page novel, no small thing. So I’m sure glad I’ve got the eBook version. And I can think of no better way to read it than on a kindle.
Pros and Cons
The only real downside to using my kindle is that I have yet one more device to manage. I know, “first-world problem.” But simplicity is a valuable virtue when we are inundated with tech and entertainment options. I’ve now gotta charge three devices with three separate cables! (My Chromebook has a USB-C plug. My iPhone uses the Lightning port. And my kindle is still recharged via Micro-USB.)
Thankfully, the kindle lasts forever on a single top-off from the wall outlet, which is one of the upsides. My iPhone’s battery will last longer since I’m not draining it from reading eBooks.
Other pluses that make me glad to be reunited with my kindle are its wider screen, the built-in store, and integration with my favorite book service, goodreads.
Most of all, the kindle’s eInk screen is still its top talent. Fall weather, Lord willing, is imminent. With cooler temps, I’ll be able to sit on our tree swing outside while I read on my kindle, escaping comfortably into other worlds.
If you don’t have a kindle, then after you finish reading this blog post, go to Amazon.com and pick one out. It’s okay, you have permission.
The newest kindle for less than 100 dollars now has a built-in light! But I still recommend the $120 Paperwhite because of the higher resolution text, which gives you a smoother reading experience.
The Better Whole Half
The Galaxy Fold has a single large screen that folds in half – like paper!
Microsoft’s upcoming new phone, Surface Duo, also folds with two separate screens, one on each side of a crease – like a book!
With those hints, the best place to apply this new tech is an eReader! And Amazon is likely to make one; in fact, it probably has a prototype already.
Somewhere I seem to recall that Amazon wanted to make eBooks as book-like as possible. And eInk screen technology made that a reality. The only thing lacking is the smell of a real paperback book.
Imagine how book-like an eReader would be if it had two screens that folded on a hinge like an actual book. Now that this tech has been shown as viable, all that remains is to make the two screens the eInk kind. And when you swipe the right screen, the software would make the pages turn as a true book.
An added benefit to this form of eReader is that it doubles as a protective case when closed. And since the screen tech is affordable these days, there could be a third eInk screen on the front cover of the folding eReader that always displayed the cover of the book currently being read!
Speaking of book covers on the Amazon kindle, why doesn’t it display the cover of the book I’m reading? When I turn off my kindle, the screen shows me book covers of stories that I don’t own. It’s a good way to advertise potential good-reads; I like this feature!
But the kindle would be even more book-like if Amazon made an option that enabled the cover of the book I’m currently reading to display on the screen while the device is turned off. It seems so simple; I’m surprised it hasn’t been done yet!
The Folding Future Unfolds
So are dual-screen eReaders on the way? That’s what the Good E Reader asked earlier this year, noting the same trend of folding phones. But it also pointed out that two-screened eReaders have already been released.
If Amazon were to make a folding eReader that felt the most book-like, would you buy one? It would be cool tech, no doubt. But I’m not sure I’d buy one myself. A single-screen eReader is simpler and gets the job done. It’s also lighter than a device with twice as much screen. Of course it’s also half the size, making it easier to hold.
But if anyone can make a folding eReader awesome enough to be a compelling purchase, it would have to be Amazon. They’re the ones that made eBooks take off in the first place. Until such a time, one thing is certain: I’ll be immersed in reading some books. On my kindle.
There is now a subscription for all forms of entertainment.
For movies and TV shows, there’s streaming Video: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, YouTube Premium, Apple TV+, and more. Binge on binging.
For music, streaming audio: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, and Amazon Music to name a few. Millions of songs!
Like to read books? There’s kindle unlimited. How about news articles or magazines? Apple News+ and more.
Are you into games? Now there’s Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass.
For a small recurring fee, you can be fed a limitless supply of consumable content, like an all-you-can-eat-buffet. Binge much? To stand out, the creators, aggregators, and distributors must up the ante, making entertainment more delicious than ever.
Stories Of Other Worlds
There’s one thing all forms of entertainment have in common: story. It has universal appeal. Whichever way you like, a tale is ready for the telling.
A single 3-minute song often tells a simple story. An epic novel is the longest form of story-telling. In between those extremes, a 2-hour movie portrays story as does a 40-hour role-playing-game. The different forms of amusement engage our brains, both thoughts and emotions, in various ways.
I like all forms of entertainment. No surprise there. Recently I tried out Nintendo’s new iPhone game called, Dr. Mario World. It’s a simple match–3 game like Candy Crush or Bejeweled. Despite the simple mechanics of the game, it’s supported by a story. Viruses (the antagonist) have invaded Mushroom Kingdom (setting), and everyone (protagonist), from Mario to Bowser, must unite against them to save the world. There’s “Man versus Nature” conflict in a setting with characters. Story!
If you could choose only one subscription service to get stories, which one would you sign up for? I’ve been wondering about this for video: Netflix, Apple TV+, and Disney+ to name a few. If I could have just one, I still don’t know which it would be.
Movies are great, but it’s said that the book is always better. Lately, I’ve been immersed in reading. This form of storytelling engages the mind on the deepest level. Novels are excellent forms of escapism! But for the money, I’m not sure. An eBook is typically 10 dollars. At that price, you can get a month’s worth of movies and TV shows. It’s an issue of quality versus quantity, and it comes down to preference.
Amazon offers a kindle unlimited monthly subscription; I’ve never tried it. Yet I recommend reading stories and not just watching them. So your call to action is: go get you a good book. But also keep reading my blog too. 😉
Are you overwhelmed with monthly subscriptions?
Get Your Write On
I like the idea of practicing discipline and exercising creativity to boost your blogging bits. But I also like downtime and rest, which are critical to those creative brain juices.
Also, there’s this little 50,000 word thing right around the corner. In November, I might, maybe, am thinking about attempting NaNoWriMo!
So to be kinda realistic, I’m thinking that I shouldn’t write everyday for Blogtober and then turn around without a pause and write a novella in November. I mean, that’s a lot of words.
But then again, it’s all write. Okay, not the best pun.
What if for October, I blogged 1,000-word posts every day? Could I submit those 31,000 words to NaNoWriMo as a sort of memoir? You know, two birds, one stone?
For now, I plan to blog as usual. And I might pre-plan a plot so I can take a stab at writing a story in November. If I shoot for 50,000 words, I should get like 20,000 at least. But if I don’t shoot for anything, I’m sure to accomplish nothing.
I’ve been exploring the real world of creating fake worlds – fiction. Like seeking fireflies at night, I dream of writing a book someday. I figure it should be short for starters, to increase my chances of completion (which in itself I’d consider success). But how short should it be?
While rummaging through websites about the writing craft, my eyes gazed at a sparkling headline: The Novella: Stepping stone to success or waste of time? Talk about hive-mind. It’s like the web knew what I was thinking!
The beginning of the lengthy piece is the best explanation I’ve found distinguishing different fiction book lengths, like Large, Medium, Small, and Fun Size!
“A novella typically starts at about 20,000 words and tops out at 50,000, which is the minimum length for a short novel.”
The first thing that came to my mind was NaNoWriMo with its 30-day blitz to 50,000 words. You can author a novella in a month!
Here’s the breakdown of book lengths:
- Standard Novel – 80,000+ words
- Short Novel – 50,000 to 80,000 words
- Novella – 20,000 to 50,000 words
- Novelette – 7,000 to 20,000 words
- Short Story – up to 7,000 words
The word counts above are general ranges. But, at long last, it’s nice to know. Only recently did I ever hear the term, “Novelette.” I wondered what that was. There’s so much about the writing world I’m ignorant of. So I keep reading up.
For me, the measure of word count versus page count makes the prospect of authoring a book more feasible. It sets a target to aim at.
When I write blog posts in Google Docs, for example, I check my word count at the end of my first draft to see how verbose I was. I shoot for an average of 500 to 1,000 words a post. Then my inner editor unleashes word-wrath! I get to be my own Grammar Police.
Words count, so check word counts. Speak little, say much. Be brief, concise, succinct, simple. It’s challenging.
A True Story
For the record, Permanent Record is a good read.
More than that, Snowden’s account of the events of his life, leading up to when he revealed classified documents, is a great book that I didn’t want to put down. I devoured its pages over the weekend. Everybody loves a good story; Snowden’s story, and the telling, is fascinating.
When the memoir was released last week, my interest was piqued. But I thought I’d wait to purchase the book. By the next day, I saw on Ed Snowden’s Twitter account that the US government was suing him and/or the book publisher. If the federal system of America does not want Snowden to profit from his memoir, that’s one thing. But if it didn’t want me reading it, that’s another thing. Fearing the book might be yanked off store shelves, I decided I should buy it right away.
I’m pretty much a 100% eBook guy. I always want the digital version to read on my device. But knowing how easy it is for a company to delete, remove, or retract an eBook from eStores and eReaders, I wasn’t going to risk it. I bought Snowden’s hardback from Amazon just in time to get it before stock ran out, which happened by a day after my Prime order.
Snowden’s recount of his formative years leading to his dangerous decision to pull back the curtain on secret NSA operations gives the pretext and the context of that monumental revelation. His life, his decision, and the US government’s actions are on permanent record, thanks to Snowden and his memoir
It begins when he was a young boy, detailing key parts of his upbringing that help explain his personality and character, things that inform and influence his life circumstances, choices, and conscience, which all factor into that single point of deciding to bring to light the dark arts of one of America’s most secretive organizations.
Ed Snowden was a bright young man with a knack for computers. You could say he was one of the top web surfers in the world, riding one of the biggest waves to ever hit the shores of the States. Read: he was unparalleled in his aptitude for networking. It was intriguing to read about Snowden’s skills and how he honed them. Being part geek and part nerd myself, I related much with Snowden.
Even more gripping than Ed’s tech-star status were the inner workings of the US Intelligence Community (IC). Like many, I enjoy the entertainment of spy-thriller movies and espionage novels. This genre of stories is naturally intriguing due to the inherent secrets and mysteries shrouding the characters and actions involved. But in Snowden’s memoir, it is by default an order of magnitude more engrossing since it is a true story!
From a literary standpoint, of course Permanent Record is written in the first-person perspective, which makes it more direct and immersive. But it’s not written only by Ed Snowden. The last chapter is written by Snowden’s then girlfriend. It is a collection of her personal diary entries during the initial days Ed went missing. She tells a true spy story, involving the FBI, with raw emotion. It grabs you.
(not an affiliate link)
Get Snowden’s Permanent Record
Permanent Record is a book I recommend you read. That’s another reason I bought the hardback version. I want to easily share it with friends or family so they can be sure to consume it.
If you want a good book to read, Permanent Record will not disappoint. You may not even be able to put it down. It has the real-life makings of a riveting story: drama, emotion, danger, action, secrets. I suggest you grab a copy while you can.
Blue vs Green
In the tech sector, iMessage lock-in is often described as blue bubbles versus green bubbles. Why? If a person using iMessage receives text in a blue text bubble, then the sender is also using iMessage. But if it’s green, that means the sender is using an app that is not iMessage, which most often means they’re using Android instead of iPhone.
So what’s the big deal about that?
As blue is to sky, green is to grass; they’re both pleasant colors. So it can’t be the color itself but what the color means. Still, I don’t see a real problem. So what if someone sends text from an Android phone? There are only two reasons I can think of. The first is petty. The second is important.
The petty reason has something to do with status. There seems to be an air of superiority among some people who prefer iMessage and iPhone over Android and whatever pathetic chat app is used. It’s as if not only the hardware and software are inferior, but so is the person who happens to use it. I think this attitude is found in more immature people.
The important reason I can see for making a good distinction between iMessage and other chat apps is about security and privacy. iMessage texts, by default, are encrypted on the inbound and outbound side. This means whoever (the NSA) intercepts and collects your texts should not be able to decrypt and read your messages. For more on how this works, read this article.
iMessage is encrypted; that’s a nice feature. But despite how good and reliable iMessage is, it’s not perfect. Personally, I dislike how full of stuff it is. It has too many options and features and sub-menus and screens to access more stuff. The balance has been tipped from simplicity to complexity, which detracts from delight in it.
Now there is more reason why iMessage lock-in is a thing. A recent Fast Company article details some technical and related social reasons that are more important than petty. Basically, a non-iPhone text message that is sent to iMessage reduces its rich experience and, to some degree, limits functionality. Still, while there’s some merit to these reasons, I think they’re just inconvenient and a dent in luxury. In other words, no big deal.
And for more on the default Messages app on Android, check out Google’s info page here. I don’t think it is encrypted at all. Some chat features are limited compared to iMessage, but those are just bells and whistles to me. They’re nice to have, not need to have. Just give me letters and emoji and I’m good. Okay, I like the occasional GIF too, but it’s not a deal breaker if missing.
So there are some reasons and my thoughts about so-called iMessage lock-in. If you send me a text and it comes in green, that’s perfectly fine with me.
Actually, what I really would like is to have what was once found on Android Messages. It used to let you change the color of the message bubbles based on the color of the contact. I loved it! My wife was all purple, my dad was red, and I was orange; it all looked very cool!
It would be more important, though, if Android Messages was encrypted like iMessage. Google, telecoms, and the NSA are collecting our texts and metadata, destroying any semblance of ambient privacy. Not good.
But hey, as long as we all get those GIFs, right? Color…encryption…just give us our emoji.
Nevermind that one could simply buy real physical books made out of machine-masticated tree meat. I’m talking just eBooks here.
There are eStore options, mainly three: Google Play Books, Apple Books, and Amazon kindle. I’ll also add that since the prices are about the same across the spectrum, I’m omitting that variable.
It makes an ocean of sense to buy all your eBooks from Amazon since they pioneered the whole eBook industry. I think the kindle eReader remains the most popular.
What was once iBooks, and also in cahoots or competition with Amazon over pricing, is now Apple Books and is better than ever. Reading on iPhone or iPad is a delight, but if you want to read on a non-Apple device, sorry – no dice.
Google Play Books
Found on the most popular mobile operating system and on the most phones by default, this option is demonstrably valid. And you can read across many devices.
The problem is that I’ve bought books across all three digital stores. So my library is scattered like Autumn leaves. If I want to read a book, I must recall where it is and open the right app for that. Worse, if I happen to switch to using an Android phone, I can’t read my Apple Books on it.
Sure, it’s not the world’s biggest issue. But for an organized person like me, it messes up my little world. At this point I can’t fix it unless I decide to re-purchase all my books from one store only. That is cost-prohibitive, I mean bonkers!
But even if I could afford that, which store would I buy from? Which app would I use exclusively? Those are the key questions going forward. If I want to minimize my eBook library being strewn around, I must pick The One store to buy from. But which one? I don’t know.
I guess my vote would go for the one that makes the most sense: Amazon kindle. It’s a “third party” solution, so the kindle app (and eStore) is available across the most devices. And kindle eBooks can be read on their own dedicated devices with eInk screens.
Now a great solution would be for one or all the tech giants to set a standard for a personal eLibrary that is web-based. And no matter which company you get eBooks from, they all appear in one unified digital online vault that only you can access.
This solution is like Movies Anywhere. Not long ago, when you bought a movie, the digital copy could be from different vendors and you had to use their specific app to watch it after redeeming the eFlick from their particular website or service. That meant multiple accounts and apps, which nobody wants.
Now you can still buy a movie from iTunes, for example, and it becomes available on YouTube or Google Play Movies thanks to the Movies Anywhere tie-in! It actually works.
We need this for eBooks! If the movie industry figured out the proprietary digital rights management types of coding, then the book industry can figure out how to make different eBooks all work together too.
Once upon a chronographical span, my eBook situation was stalwart and straightforward: kindle. It was really the only option. Today, my Paperwhite is still fantastic to read on. But the store and library interface is clunky, and I really dislike not seeing book covers in full color.
On top of that, I had decided to only read books on my smartphone for the sake of simplicity. It’s always with me, and it’s super easy to read in one hand. The phone is always connected to the eBookstore, making it zero-friction when it comes to buying my next book (except for Apple’s store blocking nonsense). Lastly, the book covers are in vivid color.
So then it comes down to either Apple Books or Google Play Books. Both reading apps work great. The overall polish of Apple Books on my iPhone makes it the nicer choice. But the main advantage of Google Play Books is that I can read and buy them on my Chromebook, the web, or potential future Android smartphone.
For now I’m using Google Play Books. But there’s a good chance I’ll end up back on kindle.