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Confessions of a Cafe Writer

Creative Writing on a Tablet PC

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Transparent Gadgets!

I found some transparent gadgets for Windows 7 desktop, and, well, they’re beautiful. Here’s my current desktop (listening to The Weakerthan’s Live CD through the Zune player).


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Flat 3D

avatar_banner_m You know, no one could be happier than me that finally, quality films are being shot in 3D.

Or are they?

Yesterday I went to Avatar, eager to be thrilled by the visuals, ready to forgive the dated plot, and expecting to grin at a few depth-enhanced moments of wonder.

Yeah, I was thrilled by the CGI wizardry, which appeared to be a mashup between live action and CGI wizardry, and though I managed to forgive the by-the-numbers plot until the final act, I didn’t get my 3D grin.

And this isn’t the first time. UP was amazingly flat for a 3D film, and so were most others released in the last couple of years. The only notable exception being My Bloody Valentine 3D.

And I think the reason may be that in their attempts to keep the audience from experiencing any eye fatigue (Avatar is long, for example) and to shy away from “gimmick” scenes, they’ve managed to create a very flat 3D experience.

Rather than use 3D to enhance the scene and pull the audience into the flick, it’s just there. To do 3D justice you have to map out your shots. What’s in the foreground? The midspace? The background? Even though Avatar’s scenes were lush and evocative, they very rarely felt “deep”.  For instance, they had these beautiful jellyfish-like seed pods that gracefully and gently floated through a number of scenes, but they never floated off the screen, out into the audience, to bring us into their reality. Very puzzling.

At its very best, 3D can turn the screen into a window and bridge the gap between audience and performance. It can help pull you into the story. One of my favorite movie moments was in the 3D version of House of Wax. During the final act, Charles Bronson’s character runs into the frame from the lower right corner of the screen. But it didn’t looking like he was running into the frame from off camera, it looked just like someone in the theater had leapt from our world into the world of the film. It was a startling, thrilling moment as the wall between these realities tore and I was there, merely a few rows away from the action. That was a true, magical moment that I’d love to experience again. I can do flat at home (and very soon, flat 3D, I suspect). I go to a 3D movie for that something extra.

Those old, 3-D red/blue flicks had it all over the current crop. Hollywood, come on, bring it on!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kindle it! Tablet Style (:

As some of you know, I’ve been an eBook fan for years. I’ve been counting the days until eBooks really took off, and well, it looks like the time is now. Amazon has been amazingly successful with its Kindle; Sony has plodded along with superior hardware but little marketshare; Barnes and Nobles got all the geekboys in a tizzy with the announcement of The Nook, and well, there are probably a dozen other lesser players that have released or are about to release readers.

Finally, earlier this week, Amazon released their Kindle reader software for the PC,with a special nod to multi-touch tablet PCs. That, in itself, does the heart good. I immediately downloaded the software and checked to see if my current programming tome was available.

It was. So I bought the damn thing.

You see, the book is over 1300 pages long, making it unwieldy to hold, horrible to carry with you, and it weighs as much as my tablet PC. So, even though I didn’t have the money for another copy of the book, I bought it. Check out this screen shot:

Kindle Reader

Dig this – I’m actually able to resize the Kindle reader so that I can have my book on the right side of the screen and my IDE on the left. With Windows 7, it makes switching and resizing windows really nice, too. Anyway, it’s soo much better than trying to manage a HUGE book on my laptop desk along with my tablet. I can now read it on the bus, at school, virtually anywhere.

The only real complaint I have is one that the original version of the Kindle had – it’s too easy to accidentally flip pages! Do you see those light grey borders on the sides of the Kindle reader page? Click either one of those and you’ll advance a page ahead or a page back. I find that as I’m programming I sometimes need to move the windows so I can see more and then move back to the Kindle Reader software…when I do, I often click the border and have to figure out what page I was on. The Kindle software also doesn’t do page numbers – instead, it tells me that I’m 60% through the document and identifies “locations”. The page I’m currently on is “Locations 13,739 – 46” out of a total of 23,294 locations! Okay, that’s not the most friendly way to do it, but I assume it has something to do with Whispernet, their syncing software and the fact that page sizes differ whether you’re using a Kindle (either size), an iPhone, or a PC. I can deal with that, but I would really like it if it offered a little customization. Right now, other than setting the font size and placing bookmarks, the software is pretty bare bones.

Another minor problem is the way it handles graphics. In Microsoft Reader software, for instance, a graphic could be clicked on and made full size – which is GREAT. In Amazon’s Kindle, you don’t get that option. There’s also not an option to zoom in, so it’s what you see is what you get. That would be fine, but the code samples in my book are inset as graphics and can’t be resized. And they’re small. Very small. Of course, my tablet PC is a high resolution little guy – 1440 DPI on a 12.1 inch display – so text tends to be small anyway. So while I LOVE the Kindle software, it’s more about the selection of books than the actual implementation. If Microsoft Reader hadn’t crashed and burned, I would be happy to use that software and own a gazillion books in that format. Unfortunately, it never took off, and Microsoft seems to have abandoned it well before eBooks finally came of age.

Hmm…have they really come of age? My guess is that if each manufacturer insists on using their own version of DRM, the future of eBooks is rather bleak. Why can’t businesses learn from past history? Nobody wants a gazillion formats hanging out there. My guess, if this isn’t resolved quickly, there will be a shakeout. I’m putting my money on Amazon, because let’s face it, they’re currently the it-girl when it comes to eBooks, and well, they are where America goes to shop. I read recently that the number 1 item in both unit sales and revenue on their site is the Kindle. If they open it up to other vendors’ eBook reader devices, which they should, it’s game over for the other formats. Adding the PC was a stroke of genius – as was the iPhone – so they’ve got a serious head start on the other players in the market.

Okay, back to programming. Man, it sure feels good to update this blog after such a long lapse. Yeah, I’ve been on Facebook, but sometimes being able to put down your feelings/thoughts/ideas in a more complete manner is nice, too. I think I’m back.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Skunk bites

Last night I met up with a friend and his visiting niece at the top of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. It was a beautiful, August evening. Chilly, but bearably so. And the view was gorgeous, as usual.

When we left, we met at our cars and talked for an hour or so…as we did, we saw maybe three to four skunks saunter out from the park and into the neighborhood. We held our breath, not wanting to disturb them. This is what lead to the dream.

In the dream I was in bed and a skunk crossed behind my head and climbed up onto my windowsill and tunneled behind the blinds. I was holding my breath, not wanting to startle him. I wanted to move, but I was tangled in the covers and so sleepy that I was having trouble fully waking up. Finally, I was able to scoot a tiny bit to my left, where my head made contact with something warm and fuzzy. I gingerly reached over and sure enough it was another skunk. My fingers curled around its muzzle as it rooted. I didn’t know what to do or how to get out of this. As I slowly removed my hand the skunk bit my index finger, hard, and I pulled it quickly away.

I think my dream self work up fully then, and began moving forward on the bed, pushing up with my elbows as I fought with the covers. That’s when the skunk fetuses dropped into my lap. I’m not sure how, but in my dream it made some kind of sense and I pushed at them. One of the fetuses fell on the floor and it was on.

The skunk at my side bit into me and the one in the window jumped on me and began biting and then others appeared and joined in. I was still stuck in the covers and still afraid of them spraying me. And I began to struggle and whimper…

And that’s when I woke up. I think I whimpered aloud, in the real world, and woke myself up.

I’m really having a hard time with this dreaming thing, and what’s up with the nightmare? God, I hate it. If someone had told me that meditation would unleash my dream state, I’m not sure I would have gone along with it. Now that it has, I wonder if it’s possible to bottle it up again.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I haven’t dreamed with any regularity since I was a pre-teen. It’s weird, I know, but that’s the way it is. I heard you go insane if you don’t dream, so in my vanity I assume I do dream but I just don’t remember them.

A couple weeks ago, the dreams returned.

I dream now, every night, and I have to admit that it’s rather disconcerting. Not because they’re nightmares, but because the dream state is so unfamiliar to me. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.

This most definitely is a side effect of the success of my meditating. I’m sure it’s good for me, probably the most concrete evidence that the meditation is “working”, but still, I find it unsettling.

I know I’ll get used to it, but in the meantime I’ll just have to deal with that moment of wooziness as I exit one world and enter another.

Meditation also promises insight and enhanced creativity among other things. Those are more to my liking!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Managing the down time

As some of you know, I’ve been working on programming during my unemployment. I’ve also been working on me, trying to learn to relax and let go and manager my problems with meditation. They’re both going well, despite my innate impatience, but one thing still is kind of vexing.

Having fun.

I waste a lot of time not having fun…mainly, because I don’t have money. But here I am, in San Francisco, living right across the street from Golden Gate Park, and I’m not taking advantage of all the low cost, fun, amazing things in my own backyard. So yesterday I decided to do something about it. I’m going to make sure that this time of unemployment isn’t wasted. In fact, tomorrow I’m going to the SF MOMA, as the first Tuesday of the month is FREE day!!! Just missed the FREE day for the Asian Art Museum (first Sunday of the month), so I’ve put it on my calendar for next month. Really, there’s so much to do it’s silly not to.

From here on out, being laid off is going to be an adventure.

A Tale of Two Footers

I have two e-mail footers; one is a staid woodcut with address and a link to my business site, the other is a doodle, like the ones on this blog, with a link to this page. For business correspondence and job hunting I always use the business footer. Right before I click send, I select my business account which magically switches the footer and return e-mail address.

I always do this.

Except when I don’t.

Last night I got an email from an employer, stating that they received over 200 applications for their contract copy writing position, and after going through them all, they selected a few people who they wanted to speak with. I was one of them.

What surprised me most of all is the fact that this was one of those rare (though not as rare as I’d like) instances where I clicked “Send” and simultaneously sucked in a breath, realizing I hadn’t changed the footer!

I thought, oh well, I won’t be hearing from that one. Afterall, what an unprofessional presentation! And a link to my blog rather than my business web site?

So when I received the email last night, it got me thinking.

Recruiters are people. And like all people they are curious. And when bombarded with one business-savvy resume after another, well, they all begin to look the same. Sure, backgrounds are important, but when many of the applicants have the minimal requirements, how do you really select among them?

Maybe, I’m thinking, that’s what happened here. Maybe, as the recruiter shuffled through the stack of virtual applicants, mine had a face. Okay, not exactly my face, but a face nonetheless. I use the term face both figuratively and broadly; to mean that the recruiter knew a little bit more about who I am, based on my footer/blog, than he did about most of the other applicants.

Maybe he just liked my doodle.

It’s hard to say, but in this amazingly difficult time at job hunting, maybe it’s time to add a hint of personality to our staid business presentations. Maybe we shouldn’t be afraid of “who” we are beyond the experience and the degrees. After all, in every interview I’ve ever been in, I’ve felt that “who” I was played as much of a part in the decision-making process as “what I’ve done”. Maybe, at that stage of the game, more. So maybe it would be wise to drop a hint or two, in ever business solicitation, about who the person is doing the solicitation.

I don’t know for sure, but over the last few years, more than once I’ve felt that it’s the non-professional stuff that has made all the difference. I’m not advocating you lay out your life story, but a little glimpse at the person behind the words.

About Me

My photo
This is me and one of my two cats. His name is Cougar, and he’s an F1 Chausie. A chausie is a new breed of cat under development. Chausies are the result of a cross between a domestic cat (in Cougar’s case, a Bengal) and a jungle cat (Felis Chaus). Cougar’s mom is 8 pounds and his father is a 30-pound jungle cat. He’s about 16 pounds, super intelligent, spirited, and toilet trained. A writer without a cat (or two) is not to be trusted.