Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Journal!

I started a new journal today! Actually, I don't think any of y'all have seen my old journal, since I started it when I was at the cabin this summer, and I don't have any 'real' internet access there. OK, I do have dial up, but you just can't upload files of any size using dial up these days; it times out too quickly.
I made this book cloth by painting cotton fabric.
First off, here's a picture of my last journal, which ended up being titled Cap'n Midnight's Museum for Exceptionally Intelligent People. The title came from an essay in Joseph Mitchell's Up in the Old Hotel about Captain Charlie's Museum for Intelligent People. I don't remember which story it is; you should just read them all; they're wonderful. It had one less signature than I usually put in my journals: eight instead of nine. I'm trying to downsize and lighten my journals, once again, to lighten the load that I carry.
A few of my favorite things: Kenny inspecting my journal, and my cup of coffee.
Here's the new journal, titled Crazily Paisley. It's the brightest journal I've ever had, and possibly the brightest one ever made. It glows in the dark... Well, it glows in the dark if you have a black light, anyway. I was hoping to marble end sheets for it with day glo paint, but they were just too transparent to really see, except with the black light. I ended up painting stripes on paper instead.

Yipes, stripes!
This journal is even smaller than Cap'n Midnight whose pages were 7 1/8" wide by 8 1/2" high. Crazily's pages are 77% smaller: only 5 3/4" wide by 8 1/8" high. It's very hard to get two columns in unless I concentrate on writing really tiny.

To protect this journal - and the last - I'm carrying them in a plastic baggie in my purse. (Thanks, Roz, for that tip!) I feel somewhat odd about this, because the idea is to make semi-indestructible journals. There is some kind of a varnish you can put over day glo paint to protect it, but for now I'll use the plastic baggie. As you can see from looking at the top of the pages, there are two sheets of black cover stock in the journal for me to color on. I like coloring on them with my NeoColor watercolor crayons. Here's a paean to Pierce Bros Fogbuster coffee and non-electric coffee grinders.

The electricity went out at the cabin for over a week this summer after Hurricane Irene swept through the Catskills. I can live without lights - especially if I have one of those little headlamps - but I cannot live without coffee. So I had to beg and borrow a hand crank grinder. Then I found one at the flea market in Woodstock, a real beauty and capable of grinding for espresso makers, little Bialetti Mokas.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm typing this from my new iPhone...

When the iPhone first came out, I held off from buying one for several months... At least three, anyway. I lost my cell phone in May, right as I was getting ready to go to the beach with my Dad and his wife on what I called the 'Fogies Trips.' Dad and Ginger and two other couples - and sometimes a couple of other people - would rent a house on Bald Head Island for a week. Dad was in a wheelchair and needed help doing stuff, so I would go along as his 'nurse.'

I was really upset when I lost that phone. I knew the iPhone was being launched in another month and I really wanted one even though I'd never seen one. No one had. All I really knew was that they played music. I mentioned this when I went to the AT&T store, and the lady who helped me said that lots of phones played music, and wasn't I just being silly to want an overpriced phone. Who knew then what an iPhone really was?

I happily bought a Razr phone, which played music and connected to the web and did email, if you didn't mind hitting a key three times to get a 'C.' So, when the iPhone launched at the end of June, I put my hands over my eyes and went around saying 'Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah," like a PC person.

It wasn't until I went over to my friend Clark's house right before I left for the cabin that summer that I saw my first iPhone. I played with his phone the whole time I was there and drove from his house to the AT&T store and bought one. It was a completely different animal from the Razr... Completely! Evolutionary speaking, it was a new species, or maybe even a kingdom!

My first iPhone's screen cracked after a year, but it still worked. I got the 3G eventually. Im not slavish about it. I buy the new one when my old one craps out and I'm eligible for an upgrade. I didn't get the 4 when it came out because of reception issues. I was eligible, but I waited. And then, two weeks ago, it rained.

Now if you don't live in Texas, you may not know that it hasn't really rained here in a really, really long time. Months, really. Johnson grass was growing in my backyard and the soil was too dry to pull it out. So the morning after it rained I went out into the dewy grass with my cup of tea and my iPhone to weed. Because the ground was really wet, I didn't want to place my phone down on it, so I very carefully balanced it atop my mug of tea. Ahhh, I hear you gasp. Sadly, you are so prescient. Indeed, my iPhone dunked itself in that mug of tea.

I tried to order the new iPhone online, but the wait was already backed up. Since I still had my old Razr, I went straight over to AT&T and had a SIM card put in it so I'd have a phone for the duration. I mentioned the long wait to the AT&T kid and he said, "Oh we'll have plenty of them in stock; just come to the store on Friday the 14th!" And that's where I was just after 9am Friday... In line at the AT&T store.

It only took me an hour to get inside. There I talked with the Director of Sales for Central Texas. I told him and my sales rep the tea story. They thot it was very funny. I said, "That's nothing; my daughter dropped hers in a White Russian!" (Laugh.) "Then she got her replacement phone and dropped IT in a White Russian. That's when I told here she had a drinking problem!"

So I have the new phone. Frankly, I wasn't expecting much, so I've been completely blown away by it... Sure, sure the camera is awesome (or at least more awesome than the old one.) It's new and shiny. But it was the feature most hyped - Siri - that I expected the least out of. I had the Siri app on my old phone and it was coolish, but not integrated into the phone itself. Now it is and...

It has a sense of humor!

The folks at Apple took the time to think about and program these things into their personal assistant. They anticipate their audience.

It's not that I'm smart, or even that my phone is smart.

It's that the people who make my phone are smart...

Friday, October 14, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

If it weren't for Steve Jobs, you wouldn't be reading this, because I wouldn't be typing this.

Many, many years ago, perhaps back in 1970, I took a computer course in college. It was actually a 'computer graphics' course. That's in those little quote marks because to do computer graphics in the early 70s you first had to learn how to program. So I was also taking a course in Fortran and flow charting as well. I can't remember if they were the same course; I think they were, but it was very, very long ago, and it was very, very painful.

The object of the computer graphics course was to write a program that drew a little tetrahedron - on a CalComp plotter - that could send the tetrahedron spinning across an XY grid. This would be drawn in black on that white weird paper with the perforated edges. Not only did one have to write the program - which frankly was beyond me - but one had to punch the little cards that were used to tell an IBM 360 to tell the CalComp plotter what do do. It involved hundreds of cards, at least in my memory.

I not only proved completely incapable of writing the program, I couldn't, for the life of me, punch the damn cards right. This was not surprising, really, as I didn't know how to type at the time. It took every ounce of conniving, wheedling and ingenuity I possessed to copy someone else's cards and take them over to the basement of some science building where the 360 resided. And there, walking in the through the doors, I bumped into somebody. My cards flew into the air and came down like leaves around me. Lovely disordered leaves, floating all about, unnumbered and so impossible to reorder. I had to borrow another student's cards and run them to get the little drawing of the little tetrahedron poised on one edge of the little grid getting ready to jump forward into the future.

This was NOT cheating, at least not in our department, the Design Department. We were being trained to be generalists who interacted among specialists, and I, along with several others in the CG class had quickly figured out that computer graphics was a specialty... And not one any of us were going to be taking up anytime soon. As generalists, it was our job to find out who could do things and to get them to do it, so running someone else's cards was a perfectly viable solution to the problem. A few people in the class were able to write to the program. Many of us could not, and so we formed a club - the only club I officially belonged to in college - called the Fraternal Order of Computer Fuck Ups, better known by its acronym: FOCFU (pronounced FOCK PHU). We took a solemn vow not to touch a computer until they could talk to us.

All thru the 70s, I waited.

In the early 80s, I waited.

I had told the FOCFU story to many people, people who seemed to be able to use IBMS to do things, but, even though doing things no longer involved those stupid cards, it still involved programming... Or at least writing 'commands,' which is not my style.

It's not like I was holding my breath or anything. Frankly those computers, with their black screens with the green or blue or amber monospaced fonts didn't interest me in the least. They didn't SPEAK to me.

Then one day, I think in the spring of 1984, my friend John Salik came over to my house. He said, "I have something for you. I have a computer that will talk to you." And he put a Mac 128 down on the table and started to leave the room. "But, John," I said, "I don't know how to use it!"

"You'll figure it out," he said and walked out of the house.

How hard could it be? It only had one button on it. I pushed the button and a black and white, low-res screen came up with two icons on it: a word program and a paint program. Of course at the time, it wasn't a low-res screen, and I didn't know those little things were icons. I used the weird little thingy attached to it by a cord to move a pointer around the screen - the mouse, as I later found out it was called - and touched one of the little icons.

When John came back an hour later I was painting happily away.

A computer had talked to me. Thank you, Steve Jobs.

The first computer I got was not that one, but a used Mac 512. The second was the only non-Apple computer I've ever had, an Atari Mega STE. It was great, actually, because it could switch between Apple and Mac platforms and had a great desktop publishing program. The next computer I got was the iMac in August of 1998, one of the Bondi Blue ones. I got the iMac G3 in tangerine a year later, and have been hooked ever since.

They talk to me. In my own language.

No punch cards, all love.