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I’m obsessed with to-do lists! August 2, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Blogging, Misc, On Writing.
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Source: whoisbolaji.com

I have become an obsessive maker of to-do lists.  I can’t seem to do anything unless it has been written down in a list.  Then I’ll revise that list, compile a new list, combine existing lists, rewrite the list and type it up in various formats (I recently discovered several iPad apps that can organise your entire life into lists, complete with priority rankings and reminder alarms!).  Anything but actually do the things on the list.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I do eventually complete things on the list, but I don’t think I’ve ever completed every item on a single list (before carrying over unfinished items into a new list), and certainly never within the entirely unreasonable time constraints I’ve set myself.

But darn it, I like lists.  I compile them because I have a tragic memory and I freak out when I can’t keep track of all the things I need to do.  When I have a list in front of me I feel like my life is in control and everything will be okay.  A good list for me is halfway there.

I think it started years ago at work when I truly needed them to keep track of the zillions of things that needed to be done, usually into the wee hours of the morning.  I would scribble the tasks down on a yellow legal pad in the order of urgency, and work through them methodically, one by one.  I think I must have gotten hooked on the sense of accomplishment I got whenever I ticked an item off the list.

Nowadays, every task is listable.  Finishing writing my book(s) is one item that appears on every list and gets carried over every time.  Finishing reading a particular book is another.  Getting an article published is another.  But smaller, day-to-day things are making the lists as well.  Sending an email.  Making a phone call.  Even exercising, taking my vitamins — these are all listable now.  And I love ticking them off.  That’s two down and fifty more to go, I tell myself, proud of the fact that I’ve gotten the ball rolling.

What’s next?  Showering?  Brushing my teeth?  Maybe.  But first I need to tick this post off the list.

Dictating a novel? May 20, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Misc, Novel, On Writing, Study, Technology.
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I’ve really been struggling trying to get my novel project into shape the last few days.  When I’m away from the computer I have a million thoughts running through my head, and I feel like I am ready to write the best shit ever.  But as soon as I sit down and start typing, I’ve got nothin’.

The other day, just before heading out, I was taking a shower when I pretty much planned out an entire chapter of my novel in my head, or so I thought.  I was really excited, but I didn’t have time to write anything down because I had to head out immediately.

I was driving when I had an idea.  Using the recording app on my iPad, I started dictating the chapter to my novel that was in my head during the shower.  It was surprisingly effective.  In about 25 minutes, I had more or less dictated the entire chapter.

That night I went home and transcribed it.  It wasn’t great, but at least I got it out of my system and it allowed me to fix it as I went along, almost like editing a rough first draft.

All of this amazed me, considering as a lawyer I never used the dictation systems they had in place because I found it all too hard and awkward.  I also wasn’tMaybe it was just because I didn’t know what to say.

Could this be a new way for me to write?  Has anyone else tried it?

Unfortunately for me, writing first drafts of chapters is no longer my concern anymore.  I now have to actually shape the drafts into good shit, which I have discovered is even harder.  D’oh.

E-books make me read more March 26, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Blogging, Misc, Study.
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About 12 months ago, I was a staunch opponent of e-books and e-readers.  Nothing against the people that read or purchased e-books — I just didn’t think I could do it because I didn’t like looking at a computer screen and I preferred the sensory pleasures of a real book made of paper.

Towards the end of last year, I got an iPad for a present.  An Apple product for a guy who never bought Apple products.  It wasn’t the first time.  I had received iPods and an Apple TV as gifts on previous occasions.

Over the months, I slowly became an Apple convert.  Well, I should say iPad convert.  I loved using it wherever I went.  Mostly playing the plethora of games available for free and at bargain prices, but also to send and receive emails, to surf the net, the watch and listen to live NBA games and to write blog posts.

Naturally, I also downloaded stacks free classic books (from Project Gutenberg) for the iBooks app and also downloaded the Kobo (which is owned by Borders) and Amazon (for the Kindle) apps — just in case.

Recently, I started using the iPad to read books.  The first was Joe Cinque’s Consolation by Helen Garner (review here), which I needed to read for class.  The hard copies were all out on loan at the university library, and I was about to fly out to China.  I decided to purchase the e-book version for around $11 (with Kobo, which was cheaper than iBooks, but my Amazon account stuffed up so dunno if it’s the cheapest).

And you know what?  It was surprisingly easy to read and use.  I toned down the light, which helped, and maybe it’s because my eyes have become accustomed to the iPad, but it didn’t strain my retina at all.  I breezed through the book in record time, and I have since moved onto my second book, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.  It’s a bloody long book, but I’m smashing it.

Come to think of it, the iPad is making me read more than I ever have.  Books in particular, but I’m also reading a lot more articles (online and in PDF), news, short stories (on my Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe app and Ghost Stories app) and manga (on my manga reader app).

Perhaps it’s because it’s the iPad, so I feel like I’m not really reading, I’m having fun.  Another reason is because the format is very reader friendly — you can enlarge the font, and the formatting is not the same as traditional books as new paragraphs are double spaced, so pages are extremely short and it makes you feel like you are making tremendous progress.  For me, the biggest momentum killer is feeling like I’ve been reading forever and I’ve only progressed a page or two.  With the e-reading apps, I get the illusion that I’m flying through it.

Maybe it’s also because I carry it around with me, so whenever I get a spare minute, I pull it out and do a bit of reading.  I could be stuck in traffic, or on the treadmill, or brushing my teeth, or eating lunch.  When you combine all those tiny blocks of time when you’re not doing anything, it actually adds up to quite a bit.

I’m loving it.

Any iPad or Kindle or Kobo or other e-reader owners out there having the same experience?

Maybe I was wrong about e-books August 15, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Blogging, Technology.
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1 comment so far

Admittedly, I have not been the biggest e-book supporter out there.  I like the look, feel and smell of a real book, made out of paper, in my hands.  I’m not crazy about the idea of purchasing “intangible books” from the Internet because I feel like I should get getting stuff like that for free!

Having said that, I am starting to see a lot more people out there with Kindles and in particular i-Pads on the streets, reading e-books.  I tried it out a couple of times myself at some electronic stores.  And no, it’s not the same — but maybe someday I could get used to it.

A friend of mine recently alerted me to a couple of articles which indicate that e-books are on the rise.  First, this depressing article from Crikey about how two of Australia’s biggest book retailers, Borders and Angus & Robertson, are struggling to stay afloat.  Book orderings are now made very cautiously, and in very small quantities.  If you thought it was hard to get on shelves before, it’s now harder than ever.

Secondly, this article by Michael Wolf entitled “How e-Books Won the War”.  I wouldn’t exactly go that far myself (there’s still some life in the old hardcopy I reckon), but things are starting to look up for e-books and down for traditional books.  Stieg Larsson has become the first million e-book author, and Kindle prices are set to drop below $100, possibly as early as Christmas.  Barnes & Noble, the massive US book retailer, is in strife as well.

Have I been wrong about e-books?  Are they really going to take over the world, and at a quicker pace than any of us could have anticipated?

Why the heck is Apple so popular? May 28, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Social/Political Commentary, Technology.
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The Apple iPad was launched in Australia today

Today marked the official launch of Apple’s new iPad in Australia.

As with just about anything released by Apple these days, people camped outside all night in the cold and rain just so they could be among the first in the country to purchase one of these babies.  The frenzy was slightly more subdued than when Apple released the iPhone, but it was still a very solid crowd.

Most admitted they didn’t know a whole lot about the product, which has been shrouded in Apple’s trademark mystery for many months.  Some others even said that they didn’t even know if they wanted one, but they just wanted to get it for the sake of it.

Seriously, what is going on here?  It’s not like Apple is giving away these things for free.  Apparently, an iPad ranges from AU$629 (for a 16GB Wi-Fi model) to AU$1049 (for a 64GB 3G + Wi-Fi model).  And there’s nothing astroundingly revolutionary about it either.  Both tablet computers and touch screens have been around for years.  Further, critics have pointed out the lack of an in-built camera and USB port.  The reviews have been varied, but the general consensus is that the iPad is essentially a bigger version of the iPhone.

Nevertheless, the iPad has once again become the latest “must have” product from the Apple.  It seems whenever Apple releases anything, no matter what it is and regardless of the merits of the product, it is always guaranteed to sell and sell big.  The iPad has been selling extraordinarily well around the world and in Australia, pre-sale orders have been mind-boggling.  There is even expected to be a shortage in stock for the first few weeks at least.

How has Apple managed to do this?  Are their products really that innovative and far ahead of the rest of the pack?  Or is it the clever marketing campaigns designed to make Apple products look ‘cool’?  Or is it a combination of these and many other factors?  Whatever it is, Apple has somehow made the iPod, iPhone and shortly almost certainly the iPad, the most ubiquitous personal devices in the developed world — possibly ever.

The iPhone

I still remember a time, many years ago, when the Apple brand almost had the opposite effect on people.  Everyone had PCs and Macs were considered ‘pretty’ computers for unsophisticated users.  Then, something happened.  I started seeing those ‘silhouette man’ iPod commercials on TV and on the side of buses.  Then there were those ads with Justin Long.  Before long, iPods were everywhere.  Everyone in the city had an iPhone.  Getting iMacs and MacBooks suddenly became the ‘in’ thing to do.  Now when I go to a cafe, most people I see have iMacs.  The lecturers in my writing course (and most students, might I add) all have MacBooks and one even said to us, “I’m a writer, of course I use a Mac!”

I don’t believe promotion alone can elevate a brand to where Apple is now.  There has to be merit in their products.  But what I don’t get is why Apple has become such a crazy phenomenon world-wide.  It’s not like competitors have not come out with similar products which either have stronger specs and/or have cheaper prices.  But none have been able to make any significant dent in Apple’s market share.  It’s almost as though consumers are hypnotised by the stylish exterior of Apple’s devices and have shut their minds to alternative products.  Can you think of another electronic device brand (or any brand, for that matter) that would have people lining up outside for 24 hours or more, just so they could be one of the first people to buy a new product?

I only have two Apple products — an 80GB Video iPod and an 8GB iPod Touch — both gifts from a former employer.  Everyone in the workplace got one, which just shows how popular — or at least how popular my employer thought — these products had become.

I don’t have anything against Apple or their products, other than the annoying fact that everything has to be synched to the extremely frustrating iTunes.  That alone was enough to make me look for cheaper and more user-friendly alternatives.

There have been numerous articles that touch on the Apple ‘phenomenon’ (I do have some reservations with this term because Apple is apparently bringing out a next gen compositing application by that name), but I haven’t found any serious pieces that have provided a comprehensive examination into just what it is that makes Apple products so popular.  I’m sure someone, somewhere, has written a thesis or dissertation on this topic — if you know where to find such a thing, please feel free to point me in the right direction.

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