Conversations with a two-year-old

Me: “OK, Millie, I read you a story. If you want me to read you a story, you have to tell me a story first.”

Millie: “No.”

Me: “Come on, kiddo, just one story.”

Millie: “Once upon a time, there was a little princess and her name was poop. And then she threw all the poop. The end.”

Things I’ve read today

Like a vast number of users of Apple’s products, I read every post at Daring Fireball every day. It’s an Apple-centric news, information and review blog, but it’s also about whatever else its author, John Gruber, finds really interesting and things is worth the time and effort for his readers to explore, as well.

Well, Daring Fireball has been on fire for the last couple of days.

Yesterday, links to this quite excellent (albeit quite unsafe for work due to language) piece by David Simon on this absolutely ridiculous Gen. David Petraeus “scandal,” with an equally excellent followup about an FBI agent named John O’Neill. Even if you find the language offensive, read both of these pieces very carefully and consume the key message – then ask yourself what’s really important to you when we make decisions about the people we want to protect us from the dark parts of the world. When you’re done with that, do some serious soul-searching about the notion that a person taken down by some stupid sex scandal just might have had the ability to prevent 9/11. Then ask yourself again what’s really important to you.

Then, tonight, Daring Fireball had a link to a piece called “Twitter is pivoting,” by Dalton Caldwell. I’ve thrown around the phrase “500 ways to kill yourself” when describing Twitter’s behavior as a corporation over the last year or so, particularly concerning their inexplicable desire to slay the developers of third-party clients which played such a significant role in Twitter’s lofty position in the social media landscape. Caldwell’s piece is a pretty solid analysis of the path Twitter’s taking, and makes some interesting comparisons to another former social media giant that once took a similar path.

More social media news

Pinterest launched brand pages this week; I created an account for BSU back in the spring, and then never cultivated it. The launch of brand pages gave me a reason to at least touch base with the account this week, get it converted to a brand profile and verify our website. I’m still not entirely certain how to go about using this as a social media resource for the University, particularly given the vast number of balls that I already am juggling. But it’s one of those things that just feels like we have to get going.

And, even with the understanding that we’re not using Pinterest and should be, and have no presence on Instagram and probably should, I can’t get out of my head the notion that the relaunched MySpace could be a very useful tool for promoting certain segments of the programmatic and entertainment opportunities at BSU… But it’s also one more thing to manage in an already overwhelming sea of things to manage.

Also, the Twitter battle between the Israeli Defense Force and Hamas over the last couple of days adds a really interesting psychological warfare angle to the fact that neither of those two groups of people seem to be able to find any way to not blow each other up. It’s like Spy vs Spy at this point, only nobody is miraculously back in one piece in the next issue.

Grad school update

I took today off work as a writing day for graduate school. I generated some new material for the final paper I’m doing with one other person in my Systems Thinking class, but the majority of my efforts were spent repairing some abysmal work that was turned in with the last version of this paper. Incredibly frustrating. I’ve got some more writing days next week, but need to shift gears and pour some massive work into my final paper for my other class; completing that is going to be a challenge, honestly. So I want to see if I can have the paper I worked on today essentially done by the time The Walking Dead starts on Sunday. Good goal, that.

Social goals

About the only thing I’m doing with regularity is Pinterest. Twitter is a pain to follow when I’m out and about like I was today (and, the fact that I missed my quota is a good indicator that I was concentrating on my paper instead, which is good). This is only my third post here in maybe nine days since I started the daily goals checklist; that’s probably the one thing I’d like to try and make an effort to do better at.

Legos

For a couple of evenings this week, the girls wanted to bust out the Legos in the basement. Helen has been building this huge elaborate… something. It’s either a ship or a house or a ship with a house on it, or even possibly just an undefined polygonal mass. Whatever it is, she’s put a ton of effort into it and it’s pretty interesting. While she was working on that, I set out to build a version of the Monster Fighters Vampyre Hearse (even though we don’t have the bones or fangs or other skeleton-y bits to really make it work) with a significantly meaner engine than the retail kit. I think Lego’s base kit is pretty awesome, but the front of that vehicle seems very undersized compared to the rest of it. Minifig scale tends to make a lot of stuff seem undersized, I realize, but especially given how chunky the back of that hearse is, the front third is pretty underwhelming.

I ended up building more of a science fiction truck, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I want to spend more time just experimenting with the way pieces can be assembled in different ways to build certain structures, and especially how bits like saws and grates and walkie-talkies and sextants are used in interesting ways to create form and texture. I was able to do a few things with this truck (and I need to get some good pictures of it; there is an in-progress shots on Instagram), but I felt like I was limited both by a lack of parts and by a lack of understanding of how to fit together parts we do have in atypical ways to construct the masses I was going for.

Overall I’m really happy with how this vehicle turned out, particularly given the fact that it was for all intents and purposes designed on the fly as I was building it. In some cases, I found a part, decided I liked it, and figured out a way to shoe-horn it onto the vehicle in a manner that made sense and was visually appealing. There’s really only one part of the vehicle I’d change, and I honestly am not sure what I’d do as an alternative. So, for now, it’s good.

Social media checklist, Day 3

Today is Day 3 of my experiment with using a daily social media checklist.

What’s working:

• Facebook. Setting a goal of three status updates per day seems like a good goal; I’ve managed to hit that relatively easily, but not without having to think about it occasionally, so I’m comfortable with that.

• Twitter. The goal of 10 tweets and three responses has been good; the responses especially I like. I’ve been more engaged with Twitter the last three days than I have been in awhile, and it hasn’t felt overwhelming or overly distracting from my other tasks.

• Instagram. It’s forcing me to look for opportunities for photos, which is good for me.

• Pinterest. Five pins seems like a good goal; it’s been tough the last two days to come up with five things that haven’t felt like I was just shoveling content up there to reach the goal. It’s good content.

What’s not:

• Read and three things from Pocket. This wasn’t a good goal, because I quickly found that I don’t have three things a day in Pocket that I want to read and delete. Pocket’s becoming a repository for stuff I want to read and keep track of for awhile. This goal has been adjusted to just “check Pocket.”

• The “write three paragraphs in an offline journal” goal. I just don’t know that I’m going to be interested in doing that every day; this is day three and I haven’t done it yet – mostly because I haven’t had the urge to write anything that couldn’t just go here. I’m leaving this goal on the checklist for now, but I could easily see deleting it in the next few days or, at the very least, finding some way to severely modify the criteria.

Writing workflow
This week I’ve been experimenting with using iA Writer in my production workflow at work for stories. In the past, I’ve drafted stories directly in InDesign and saved an INDD file and a PDF in my archives. This year I began drafting in Pages and then moving text into InDesign; my motivation for starting was to mess around with saving documents to iCloud (I really don’t like iCloud, but I’ll post on this another time. It works just fine, but its limitations when compared to Google Drive or Dropbox are difficult to deal with). I’ve had iA Writer for a long time; I bought it on my iPad when it was on sale a while back, but I’ve never really used it. Likewise with the desktop version; an update to the desktop version brought it back to the top of my mind, so on a whim I decided to just start using it and see how it worked out.

In short, so far I am enjoying writing in iA Writer quite a bit.

The only limitation I’m running into so far is there is not remotely a straight-forward way to get Markdown-formatted text from iA Writer directly into InDesign and save the formatting. The cut-and-paste process works just fine, but then I’ve got to go through and clean up all of the Markdown indicia. For what I’m writing it’s a relatively minor stumbling block (very rarely do I write anything over 600 words), but it’s a factor to consider when thinking about using iA Writer for anything more significant until somebody comes up with a straight-forward way to import and save the formatting.

Skyfall
Mel and I went to see Skyfall tonight; what an incredibly fun movie. It was basically the perfect James Bond film – and so far and away better than the last outing, Quantum of Solace, that it’s hard to believe both movies are consecutive entries of the same franchise. Skyfall even got the opening credits right; Adele’s theme song is fantastic, and the animation was a throwback to the really excellent Roger Moore-era Bond intros. This entry eschewed Bond’s crazy gadgets – and even joked about that, with Q asking Bond if he expected to receive an exploding pen – but was filled with touches that threaded this movie back through familiar elements from the previous Bond movies. There probably will be reviews that savage this movie for its portrayal of women – which aside from Bond’s boss, M (Judy Densch), is pretty horrendous  – but in all it’s a fantastic entry in one of the most enduring film franchises out there. And, it’s simply an excellent action movie that’s well worth seeing on the big screen.

Daily social media checklist

I love participating in social media – it’s fun, and I get opportunities to easily interact with people that would otherwise be far more difficult for me to reach out to. But, it’s also one of those things that is really easy to ignore if I don’t make a conscientious effort to show up and do it. Shawn Blanc wrote about this back in July in his post, “50 things I’ve learned about publishing a weblog“; he claims his list of 50 things to be unordered, but it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the first thing in his list is “show up every day.”

I suck at showing up every day.

I’m good at showing up every day for maybe two weeks. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a daily checklist of things I want to make sure I do on social media every day, across all of my primary presences (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.). I just hadn’t taken the time to come up with a good system for tracking things. I’ve been using 37Signals Action Method for my work to-do list (the ability to add the notes off to the side is fantastic, even though it could use some functionality tweaks), but it doesn’t have a function to have a standing to-do list that resets each day. There are plenty of apps on the App Store that will manage daily to-do lists, but it took me until today to try and find one.

The one I’m trying is Daily Deeds. Each item on your daily to-do list also is tied to a calendar that will show the days of a particular month you crossed that item off so you can look for trends – see if one item is getting done consistently, or if there is one that’s consistently not getting done, etc.

I brainstormed a short list of the networks I wanted to be sure I hit up every day, then pulled some numbers for daily participation out of the sky and tweaked them a bit. So here’s the list I came up with:

• photo on Instagram
• three status updates on Facebook
10 tweets
• reply to five tweets
• find five things to pin/repin on Pinterest
• write a post for andybartlett.com (done!)
• write at least three paragraphs in an offline journal
• read and remove at least three things I have added to Pocket

It’s aggressive, particularly the writing part, but I didn’t want to start with something that would be trivially achievable like, hey, just tweet three times and update Facebook and call it good. If this works, I’ll try and adapt something similar for work — which will probably be more aggressive, since there will be the added complexity layer of having student workers to handle some/most of the load.:)

At first glance the only thing I may end up not liking about Daily Deeds is that you either check off an item from your list or you don’t. For something like the three Facebook status updates, I think it would be nice to have an ability to give myself partial credit for getting 2 of 3 or whatever, but then I also think that might eventually make me OK with not getting to three. So we’ll have to see whether I dislike that feature or not, I guess…

Anyway, that’s what I’m trying. This blog post gives me six of the eight things checked off for today, so that’s a good start. But, the key will be sustaining this. And, as I said – historically, I suck at showing up every day. One day at a time, etc.

Oh, hi there

It’s 9:18 p.m. as I write this, and there’s a two-year-old sitting in the middle of the living room watching Dora on the iPad. The switch to standard time on Sunday should’ve crushed her little toddler internal clock, which should’ve had her fast asleep something like two hours ago. Yeah, that didn’t work.

Four posts in October and I haven’t been around for three weeks. Well, I’ve been around; just not here. I haven’t been writing anywhere though; not here, and not in the thing I’ve been doing on the side (no entries there since the 14th of October; so just barely less time than I’ve been blowing this off).

I really just haven’t wanted to come here – or anywhere, really – to write. I would be a miserable failure if I were to be graded on “just show up” right now. But I haven’t felt up to it. Lame excuse, I know, but whatever.

30-day drawing challenge

The guys who did the #Inktober drawing challenge on Twitter have started a new 30-day challenge for November called #drawvember. Their 30 challenges for the month are:

  1. self portrait
  2. imaginary friend
  3. most-recent dream (which with me could get really, really interesting…)
  4. redesign a book cover
  5. childhood memory
  6. what’s in your bag?
  7. hybrid animal
  8. scene from a movie
  9. Siamese twins!
  10. super hero
  11. super villain
  12. an elderly person (I’d be tempted to finish something I sketched out a couple of years ago, and it’d get me in trouble…)
  13. a freaking baby
  14. portrait of a pet
  15. a dinosaur
  16. draw something with your eyes closed
  17. a delicious food
  18. ZOMBIES
  19. sea creature
  20. your dream job (this would be fun right now, given my current mental distractions)
  21. a guilty pleasure
  22. favorite cartoon character
  23. actor/actress
  24. collage
  25. best friend
  26. instrument
  27. something of sentimental value
  28. your zodiac sign
  29. the meaning of your name
  30. favorite outfit

I put up one thing for #Inktober, and it was horrible; it was an experiment with my Pentel pocket brush pen that I spent maybe 30 minutes on from start to finish, and about all it accomplished was to hammer home how freaking hard it is to ink with a brush. I totally missed the start of #drawvember, but maybe I can do something to try and catch up. Basically all of those 30 challenges could be a lot of fun, and they’d force me to start trying to draw what’s in my head, rather than just copying something somebody else has done, which really is one of my most-glaring limitations as a horrific hack with pencils.

Workflow

I decided today that I’m going to try and adjust my workflow at work to do drafts of the stories I’m writing using iA Writer instead of Apple’s Pages. I’ve got a few reasons for wanting to try this: Pages (and, really, all of iWork) is in desperate need of an update; since I don’t have Pages for my iPad (and really don’t have a compelling reason to buy it), its iCloud integration is essentially being wasted. Conversely iA Writer is on my Mac, my iPad and my iPhone, so I would have access to my work any where, any time, on demand; I like the added availability of having my drafts on my phone with iA Writer; I’m intrigued by Markdown as I’m using it in another writing platform and like the ability to have a formatted document written in mostly plain text. It also bugs me that when I cut-and-paste from Pages into InDesign, I lose the spaces between my paragraphs. On the scale of annoyances it’s probably pretty minor, but the few seconds it takes to scroll through the document and put the spaces back between my paragraphs bugs me. There are a lot of reasons I’m tempted to try this, really – and, honestly, one of them is that I think iA Writer seems like a pretty great piece of software, I haven’t bothered to use it yet, and this seems like as good a “force me to use software” project as any. I’ve got a story I desperately need to get written tomorrow (I had it scheduled for last week but a couple of “make this a priority” projects shoved it down a couple of notches on the totem pole), and I think I’ll take a run at it with iA Writer.

Complete Collection

The final score from my absolute assault on Amazon.com around my birthday in April will finally be here tomorrow — IDW is reprinting Marvel’s run of G.I. Joe comics in hardcover format as G.I. Joe – The Complete Collection, and the first volume reprinting G.I. Joe numbers 1-12 will be on my doorstep tomorrow. I’m curious to know how often these are going to be released; there were 154 issues in the Marvel series, so at 12 issues apiece this could get to be a pretty significant space hog in my library. We’ll see how I feel about continuing with these after I get the first one. I’ve never had anything resembling a complete run of Marvel’s series; even my brothers and I were missing a ton of issues. If this reprint series is nice, it seems like it’d be a pretty great way to finally have this series on my shelves.

I pre-ordered this in mid-May. I’m thrilled that it’s finally going to be here.