Posts Categorized: writing + blogs

Five Things I Suck At

Sometime last week, after pondering and talking about a topic on Twitter, Dhruv Bhutani asked me if there was anything I wasn’t good at. While I have a fatal case of over-curiosity and a big reading problem* and thus appear to be the walking talking encyclopedia, there are many things that am only ok to down right bad at. Here are a few that come to mind immediately:
1) Small Ball Sports…. such as tennis, badminton, table tennis, handball, and golf: Basically any hand-eye coordination sport that involves a small ball**. For reasons unknown to me, I am decent at baseball/softball, volleyball, football/soccer, and basketball. And after much practice, I can draw, so I am not a total wash out at hand-eye coordination.
2) Learning dance moves and/or participating in any synchronized dance. More times than I can count from age five to thirty-five I have enthusiastically taken a dance class only to end up in tears about 15-25 minutes into the class as my eyes & ears can see / hear the instructions on how to make the body movements in question, but I can’t for the life of me get my limbs to do said activity. Tears in public, tears while surrounded by graceful dancing swans who get it right the very first time around.
3) Timing. Be it in dance or piano, I am usually two steps/beats ahead or two behind. This is an analogy for my whole life and got me kicked out of ballet & tap class at age five just before the class performance at the Costa Mesa Fish Fry, as well as causing me problems in middle school piano recitals and swing dancing during the late 90s/early 00s craze. Good thing I did not seriously practice bass guitar, as any band I was in would have had a drummer ready to kill me.
4) Illustrator. I took my first Adobe Illustrator class in 1990, again in 1991, another in 2000, more valiant attempts at the pen and path tools through the whole of the 2000s, basically I suck at Illustrator or Inkscape. I do just fine in drawing with Flash, Fireworks or Photoshop, but I want to throw my computer out at the window with Illustrator. I only use Inkscape under extreme duress now and then only for badly done mobile app SVG icons.
5) Writing for deadline***. If I am writing for myself for no particular reason at all, like this blog post, I can type out an amazing amount of words in no time at all. If I am writing for a deadline, be it school, masters thesis, business, clients, or a magazine; even if my reputation and friendships are on the line; for whatever reason, I get horrible writer’s block and have been known to stand on toilets bleaching ceilings rather than write the 85 – 20,000 words needed. This is a problem.
Mind you, just because I think I suck and after much trying still can’t do the above activities, it doesn’t mean that I have stopped trying. I am overly persistent. Well, I don’t play tennis or golf, as I have been known to bean people in the head with said ball…
– – – – – – * Notes – – – – – –

* My ideal house would be mostly full bookcases with a few paintings on the walls.
** On my Mom’s side of the family, they are almost all serious athletes, be it pro or am. My Mom is 69 and is a keen surfer & skier. I have several cousins who are/were the best in their sports, a stepfather who was/is sports obsessed, and a grandfather who won the 1987 sailing world championships. To be bad at sports and bookish in my family made for a moderately miserable childhood. I fought back with goth attire and punk rock.
*** Express apologies to long-suffering CS who has been waiting for a one paragraph synopsis out of me since… oh… May.

#resound11: 12 in 12

Some folks I truly like and respect have been participating in the month of Dec 2011 #resound11 blogging where they respond to a blogging prompt every day or nearly every day or occasionally.
It is J’s post on #resound11: 12 in 12 that got me thinking about next year.
So here are the 12 Goals I would like to accomplish in 2012:
1) Get one of the three mobile apps I am currently working on in the Nokia and the Android stores before the end of Jan 2012. Get the 3rd one in by the end of March 2012.
2) Take the #2 mobile app idea and make it a full working web app that any mobile phone browser can use, which will be a mild challenge as the iPhone doesn’t do this activity in the browser.
3) Go visit Cami and Alan in London before they depart to go live in Africa, which they depart in mid-January 2012, so I better hop to it. Hey London friends, I will most likely be in your city very soon.
4) Go visit A & S in their new place in Mumbai. Which then means I also need to get to Agra and drop some of Grandpa Bill off, hopefully CJ will still want to come with me. And then there is the Ladahk trip idea that Dhruv, Seetu and I have… Ok! So it is time for me to stop applying for the 6 month multiple visit tourist visa to India and just apply for the 5 year multiple visit visa. ;o)
5) Go to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and attend Swedish Beers, even if I don’t drink beer.
6) Read more fiction. Spend less time online in the evenings and read more books.
7) Move. I love my immediate community, but my apartment is the size of a postage stamp and I would like to be able to invite folks over for dinner. More than anything, I want the adventure of a new city. And a kitchen that more than one person can kind of fit in.
8) Make more art. Be it photos, or drawing, or painting, or writing, or poetry, just make more art.
9) Go visit Grandpa Jim and Nellie in Uraguay. Even if I don’t speak Spanish, I do understand most of what is said to me, and if my Grandpa can go to South America for 4-5 months per year, I can go for a few weeks.
10) Go skiing at least 2x this season, as I miss the mountains and snow.
11) Even if various iterations of my Creativity in Mobile session idea has been rejected by the SXSW committee for several years running, I would like to write more in this space on creating with one’s mobile. The mobile web is wonderful, but my true heart is encouraging folks to create with their mobiles, not just browse.
12) Leave the house more often and interact with more folks more often in real life. Most of my LA friends will be shocked to read this, as they remember my great Extrovert era of 1998-2005, but in the last few years, I have cycled through some introverted times and need to see some more folk regularly.
And you? What do you hope for 2012?

Looking Ahead, Looking Behind – Fare the Well, Anne

Looking back through the driver's side mirror
Tues 11.22.11 – Looking ahead, looking behind. Photo taken late this afternoon when I was driving east on Westminster Ave through the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Base as the sky was very lovely.
Today was a busy day and when I had time to sit down with my computer tonight, I found out that Anne McCaffrey passed away at her home in Ireland yesterday at the grand age of 85.
While I didn’t find Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series until late in college, it was a perennial re-read fave throughout much of the last 20 years. I have loved the Tower & Hive (Rowan/Lyon) series as well as the more recent Freedom series that was an re-write & expansion on a short story she wrote in the 1960s. I loved how her worlds were built so well, like Tolkein, that in my mind, I can still wander Pern, Altair, and Deneb.
Anne McCaffery stands with Madeleine L’Engle and Ursula Le Guin as the trio of writers who have greatly influenced my life, my imagination, and my hopes for being a smart woman in this world and for the future.
Thank you, Anne.
****
John Scalzi’s RIP, Anne McCaffrey
Jenna Busch’s RIP Anne McCaffery, the single biggest artistic influence on my life
And the MeFi folk

In the Red of the Fields

Seal Beach sky just before sunset

Fri 11.11.11 – Remembrance or Veteran’s Day depending on where you live. A day set up to remember the WWI veterans, who are all gone, and the WWII vets are passing now.
Two of my great-grandfathers who served in the Great War, both returned to father daughters in February of 1920, one to still have relative good acclaim in the family and one who returned quite twisted and the echos still reverberate.
In Flanders Fields (1915)
In Fanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918), Canadian Army Medical Corps

RSS, Atom, and Feeds – Let Us Know if You Change it

While tech pundits love love love to proclaim the DEATH of [insertwhateverissupposedlydeadthisweek], as a way to have something to write / talk about or as a way to drive traffic to their blog, the majority of the users on the web continue to ignore that [insert name of] is dead and continue to use it or they have never understood how to use and don’t as a result.
If you have a blog, your blogging software most likely provides a subscription feed, be it RSS or Atom, or you subscribe to a service like Feedburner which produces a feed of which you can then track the statistics on.
Depending on your blog and readers, folks may find your subscription feed(s) easily and use it or they are baffled by how to use it or are indifferent. Some bloggers have actively pushed an email or twitter subscription as an alternative to their RSS or Atom feeds.
I have now been blogging for 8.5 years here at BlackPhoebe.com and my logs show me that I have more folks accessing my feeds (RSS & Atom) than Google Analytics says I have regular returners who access the blog via a direct link. The grand majority of the folks who subscribe to one of the RSS or Atom feeds to this blog and don’t use the Feedburner one. Other bloggers may have a different experience, but I write from mine.
As a regular reader of blogs via their feeds*, it drives me nuts when a blog I like changes their feed URL with no warning. Much of the time it is when a blogger changes from one blogging CMS to another and in the stress of the move doesn’t think about how the change in feed URLs will affect their feed subscribers, or other times it is during a redesign or a big re-arrangement of files and blogging structure.
Regardless of how the feed URL gets changed, I would like to encourage all the bloggers using a CMS that generates a subscription feed to pre-think any architectural changes and warn your readers before it happens, as well as keeping the old feed open for at least 2 weeks after the move/redesign/cleaning/change with a last post on the feed that tells folks where to find the new feed URL.
Be kind to your faithful readers.
* I am a fan of Sage light RSS feedreader Add-on for Firefox.

Fantasy, Science Fiction, Imagination, Faith, and Modernity

There has been quite the internet blog-o-sphere to do revolving around Michael Weingrad’s essay “Why There Is No Jewish Narnia“, which led to D.G. Myers asserting that “Fantasy is a Genre of Christianity“, where upon E.D. Kain proposes that it is not Christianity but Anglophone culture that is the root of Fantasy literature in “Fantasy and the Anglosphere“.
In “Fantasy and the Anglosphere” Kain writes,

“When I published my fantasy piece in the Atlantic it was linked (reproduced?) by Richard Dawkins’ site and a number of the atheists in the commentariat had scathing things to say about fantasy literature. Apparently it is not enough that readers of fantasy do not, in fact, believe in their make-believe. Apparently the fact that dragons and sorcery are not based in science is enough to earn the scorn of some anti-religious types.
This reminds me of the reaction of many conservative Christian groups to various fantasy novels, from Harry Potter to The Golden Compass and the attempt by some conservative groups to ban these books in schools due to all that witchcraft and other devil-worshipping (you know, all those satanic rituals Harry Potter and Hermione engage in before the strange sexual acts begin.)
But many, many Christians and atheists and people of various other faiths enjoy fantasy. “

It struck my absurdity bone as darkly funny that folks are unable to enjoy fiction because it is not science.
*blink*blink*blink*
Hello.
And then being the internet it gets better, as Alyssa Rosenberg jumps in the fray with “Is Fantasy Inherently Christian?” and Adam Serwer joins in with “High Fantasy is a Subgene of Fantasy“, wherein Mr. Serwer brings in the fantasy traditions of many cultures worldwide.
What I find interesting is that none of the writers above, after name checking C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Chesterton, with one or two brief references to Arthurian legends of the high Middle Ages, discuss the Romantic and Victorian infatuation with all things that we would now label as Fantasy: elves, fairies, the sublime, the door between the worlds, other worlds, etc. Not just the folks in the British tradition, but also Wagner (The Ring Cycle), the Russian literature around Baba Yaga, the Welsh Mabinogion, the Celtic revival of Yeats, Wilde, et al, etc etc.
Or how about the writer that both Lewis and Tolkein gave much credit to, George MacDonald. While MacDonald was a poet, writer, and minister, many of his tales border between a mash up of older Scottish fairy tales with the early Modern Christian allegory tradition, wherein the fairy tales come out a bit stronger in his stories than any claims to a 19th Century version of Pilgrim’s Progress.
Wherever we want to trace the history and genealogy of contemporary Fantasy literature, it is far deeper and broader than Tolkein, Lewis, and Chesterton. The Bridge of Birds immediately leaps to mind.
Also to say that Judaism is only concerned with the here and now, and thus couldn’t produce a tradition of Fantasy is also only looking at the last 100 years or so of history. I would love a time machine to take me back to 1100 or 1200 AD to Cordoba or Granada to sit at the feet of a Jewish storyteller and hear of the tales being told in that moment in Andalucia. Maimonides may have had a few good fantastical stories to tell that weren’t all theological in nature.
We, a people who have lived through and beyond the age of the early Modern explorers, the empires where stories leaked back and forth between subject & subjector, as well as the Modernist love of all things industrial progress and the rational, dip into many strands of fantasy in our TV, books, films, and now internets, of which many of these strands may have root in the primary culture we live in right now or the stories may scamper up and down other trees and roots of places we have not yet seen nor heard of.
Many of the stories we now think of as Christian or Medieval are stories that have been radically reshaped or completely created anew in the last 200 years the Industrial Revolution, the Romantics, and the various Revivals of the late 19th century. How much of the current genre we call Fantasy is not necessarily the creative child of Christianity but really the rebellious teenager of rational Modernism?

Nokia N9 / N950 Tips and Tricks, Part II : Blogs & Podcasts

I have been compiling a list of links for how to use, design, and develop for the Nokia N9 / N950, yesterday was links to tips & tricks for the User, Designers and Developers. Today is all the great and very valuable blogs and podcasts that I have found to be a font of information on the Nokia N9/N950, Harmattan, creating N9 apps in Qt.
If you know of other good Nokia N9/N950 designer, developer, and Qt blogs out there, let us know in the comment section.
Nokia N9 & Qt Blogs, Forums and Podcasts:
Nokia N9 Developer Blog
http://www.developer.nokia.com/Community/Blogs/blog/n9-developer
This Week in Qt Podcast
http://www.ics.com/learning/podcasts/
Blogasdf
http://juhaturunen.com/blog/
Cutehacks
http://cutehacks.com/
Ed Page (Python, Harmattan & Qt…)
http://eopage.blogspot.com/
fiferboy’s developing
http://fiferboy.blogspot.com/
flors
http://flors.wordpress.com/
KDE Pinheiro (Designer who works with Qt)
http://pinheiro-kde.blogspot.com/
Meego Handset Forum
http://forum.meego.com/
Meego Aggregator
https://meego.com/aggregator
My Meego
http://my-meego.com/
Nokia Developer News
http://www.developer.nokia.com/Community/Blogs/blog/nokia-developer-news
PySnippet (more Python & Qt!)
http://pysnippet.blogspot.com/
Qt Labs Blog
http://labs.qt.nokia.com/
Qt, Maemo and some other stuff
http://kunalmaemo.blogspot.com/
Qt / MeeGo Mobile Apps Development
http://qt-mobility.blogspot.com/
qtsource
http://qtsource.wordpress.com/
The MicroNokia Developer
http://micronokiadev.wordpress.com/
thp on Maemo
http://thpmaemo.blogspot.com/