Are you (walking/driving) comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

January 28, 2014

Okay, I’ve dived into my new Escape Artist podcasts, and don’t think I’ll be backing out, though it’ll probably (hopefully?) take me a long time to catch up on the incredible backlog of stories there. I started listening to them when braving the elements yesterday to get some exercise and fresh air on a day when the weather was lousy enough that I worked from home instead of driving into the office. And the stories were good enough to make me forget about the treacherous sidewalks I was picking my way over and lose myself to a faraway seashore with a boy genius and a great city besieged by intangible aliens.

It was as that second podcast was starting, that I thought of the quote I paraphrased in the title. I never listened to “Listen with Mother” on the radio, or watched on the television. The most direct experience I have with it was when it was sampled on Doctor Who, or referenced by Flanders and Swann. But I love the idea of these fiction podcasts as storytelling for the new millenium. They have a different kind of feel from longer audiobooks, or podcasting shows that are centered around the hosts and the general topic.

This morning, I listened to the same podcast on the drive into work, and got a pleasant surprise at the end of it, as an Escape Artist editor came on to summarize some listener e-mail and/or reviews they got for an earlier story–by Brad Hafford! I met Brad this summer; he was our resident adviser for Odyssey, and though I knew he was a talented writer, I guess I’d never bothered to track down his publications. Now I know where to find at least one; it wasn’t on the Escape Pod iTunes feed, but the archives on the Escape Pod website seem to go all the way back to the beginning.

What’s the coolest unexpected surprise you’ve ever found in a podcast?

Trying to glide through the Crash

December 3, 2012

On the walk to the downtown bus stop tonight, I was catching up on some of the last Storywonk Nano podcasts that I didn’t listen to during November, (I can never be prompt with podcasts,) and in one of them, Lani and Alastair were warning about the post-Nano Crash.

I think I hit the Crash over the weekend. On Saturday it wasn’t too bad – I was still high on sugar from Waffle-palooza, I did some grocery shopping, had some chicken schnitzel, and went into Toronto for a Browncoats shindig. Yesterday was a bit tougher. I felt as if I had a headache for most of the day, tried to nap but couldn’t stay in bed long, and didn’t get much done except for catching up on a few episodes of ‘Suburgatory.’

Lani said that you have to respect the Crash, that if you try to run from the Crash it will come get you. Now, even before I heard this, I wasn’t feeling particularly Crashed today – I did watch some videos on the bus to Burlington instead of diving back into ‘How to Revise your Novel’ or anything, but I felt fairly full of energy at work. On the bus ride home, I pulled out the eeePC and surfed through old word count tracking spreadsheets, trying to find promising short stories to rewrite for my workshop submissions, even though I think I have two strong candidates. Looking for other options is part of what helps me feel more confident in the choices that I already had.

So, I don’t think I’m going to just sit through my crash. I’ll take the December goals a bit on the easy side until I’m sure that I’m through the stormy weather, but a little gliding doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

What about you? Have you hit the Crash yet? What are your plans?

PS: I also want to mention, I’m kinduv liking the new National Novel Writing Month iPhone case that I got at the Night of Writing Dangerously. It’s a rigid case, with a bit less coverage than the big bulky Otter case I’ve been using, which means I can plug in the headphones with the ear guards, which means that I can listen to podcasts (or music, or audiobooks) on the iPhone while walking. With the Otter case, I had to use the apple ear buds, and they’d come loose if I was moving around. I think I’ll also be able to dock the phone on my little iPod speaker unit in this case.

The downside is that it seems like it wouldn’t give as much impact protection as the Otter, so I may switch back and forth – using the Nano case when I want to show it off, or use the attachments, and go back to the Otter – when I’m feeling clumsy, which is often.

Sansa view player – a tale of two protocols

September 18, 2012

I’ve had my Sansa View video/mp3 player for well over four years at this point. I don’t actually use it that much anymore, but keep it loaded with content, especially for long trips – mostly as an alternate to the iPod and iPhone, to be honest. It’s very similar to my iPod Nano, actually – a bit bigger, including a slightly bigger screen, but it’s slightly easier to fast-forward on the Nano.

Anyway, I was adjusting the content I had on the View yesterday evening, and that got me fooling around with the two different USB protocols that you can use with it. At first, the View only supported MTP – Media Transport Protocol. Now, the important thing with any data transfer protocol for a slave device, like a media player, is which microprocessor is directly responsible for talking to the device storage. You can’t have both the desktop and the player’s microprocessor reading from and writing to the onboard memory at the same time, because bad things happen if they try to access the same cluster at the same moment.

MTP protocol is the delegation approach – like if the Sansa View is a warehouse, the onboard microprocessor is the stock boy, and the desktop processor is the guy from head office. Here, head office tells the stock boy, “I need you to store A, B, C, give me a copy of D, give me F and not keep a copy, and throw G in the dumpster. Don’t bother me with the details.” And the stock boy does all that.

For whatever reasons, MTP support on the Sansa View was always a little buggy for me – I might copy a bunch of video files over, and one of them would fail. Sandisk released a firmware upgrade that offered the ability to switch into MSC protocol: Mass Storage Class. This is the same protocol that’s used by flash drives, though they don’t really have an onboard processor to worry about. In MSC protocol, the guy from head office tells the stock boy that he’s going to take care of everything and the stock boy doesn’t need to know the details; “just stay in the break room so you’re out of the way.” 🙂

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The Droid Groceries saga so far…

August 7, 2012

Warning, this post gets kinda geeky and technical in places. 🙂

I shared with you guys a few details about my first few forays into iPhone programming with NS Basic App Studio. It looks like I never told you about my favorite iPhone ‘app’ that I made myself: a simple grocery list program that I use all the time. There are other to-do lists and grocery story management apps available for free, but I love this one because it’s streamlined to exactly what I need – it’s easy to add new things to the list, and to mark them off when I’m shopping.

A few months back, I got a Droid LG Eclypse from work, to replace the ancient Blackberry I was issued years and years ago. NSBasic App Studio is supposed to work with all versions of Droid as well, so I was excited to get the Grocery app working on the Eclypse. This didn’t turn out to be so easy. The screen is slightly smaller, and I really wanted to be able to use the slide-out keyboard when typing into the list, which means showing the screen in landscape view. So I played around with a few different layouts, and thought I had a version that would work great in portrait view. Here’s what it looked like in Chrome on my desktop: Read the rest of this entry »

The Birds – they are Angry!

May 3, 2012

I’ve spent quite a lot of time this evening staring intently at my iPhone, catapulting birds at pigs and their walls made out of wood, glass, and stone – and then angrily hitting the ‘replay’ button when a particular angle didn’t work out quite as I expected them.

My usually mild obsession with Angry Birds only started around Christmas. I’d downloaded the ‘pusher’ free sample version of AB from the App Store quite a while before, but never got around to playing it, partly because I thought that you needed to register with Angry Birds separately – instead of just using my apple ID and password. But once I tried it, I quickly grew interested enough to pay up the 99 cents for the basic version.

I’ve now cleared almost every level that comes with that basic version of the game – all eight sequences: “Poached Eggs”, “Mighty Hoax”, “Danger Above”, “The Big Setup”, “Ham ’em High”, “Mine and Dine”, “Birthday Party”, and “Surf and Turf.” I’ve also unlocked and cleared eight out of the ten crazy ‘Golden eggs’ levels.

The last two golden eggs are rather challenging to earn – for each of them, you have to get a perfect record on every single level of the first two sequences – all 63 levels in “Poached Eggs”, and all 42 levels in “Mighty Hoax.” A perfect record, in this case, means earning a score that is considered to be ‘three star’ worthy for each level.

Thanks to considerable effort this evening, (and some helpful how-to videos on youtube which I do NOT consider to be cheat resources,) I now have 3 stars in 62 out of 63 for Poached Eggs. Surprisingly, level 2-12 is the tricky holdout, just over halfway through. I haven’t given up for good, just for tonight.

There’s a lot that I love about Angry Birds. It isn’t a game with a very complicated plot, but you have some very simple elements – a half-dozen or so different bird types, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, against pigs from big to small who just sit there, hunkered down in their best-built houses and wait for the birds to come at them.

The physics of the game play is intuitive and remarkably realistic, and it demands incredibly fine control of your catapulting angle and split-second timing to best utilize the special abilities that most bird types bring to the game. Red bird and his Big Brother Bird unfortunately have no unique powers of that sort – Red is just the plucky bird who isn’t better than his friends at anything, really, but throws himself into what he needs to do with enough heart that he almost makes up for that, and Big Brother’s specialty is just his size and weight that can often smash through or drag down the strongest fortifications.

Wish me luck! I’ll try to remember to let you know when I unlock those last golden egg levels.

Taking a little programming break

January 13, 2012

Between trying to keep up with the Holly Lisle lessons, my JanNoWriMo writing, reading for critiquing, working the slushpile, and my other daily targets for the calendar, I’m starting to feel a little bit creatively exhausted. And I’ve got a good idea for something else that I can do this weekend to give myself a bit of a break and recharge my batteries.

It may sound a bit weird that I love to write my own programs in my spare time, even though programming is what I do for most of my day job. But being able to pick my own objectives and work with different software environments and device types makes a lot of the difference.

Here’s my list of programming goals that I want to start working on this weekend:


  • Manual for MultiCounter
  • (Any changes that seem necessary in order to write a sensible manual)
  • Manual for AlphaFiles
  • (Any changes that seem necessary in order to write a sensible manual)

Song rater:

The tiny violin that went canoeing.

June 8, 2011

Well, I think it’s time to share another quick little prompt story. Like a lot of the writing that I’ve shared here, this came from the Hamilton Writer’s meeting at Chester’s Beers of the World, in early May.

Nobody had prepared any prompts ahead of time, so I actually used my iphone to get a few random writing prompts for everybody, and I think that they worked out pretty well. The prompts were:

A sleeping bag, an old record player, and a poem.
A tiny violin that went canoeing.

Here’s what I came up with based on that.


“I wish we could have brought the turntable,” Emily muttered as she looked over the clearing and the cozy tent that they’d managed to set up.

“Shall I compare my love to a vintage record?” John said. “The depths of my heart are scratchier and less bored…”

“Spare me the poetry,” she grumbled. “It’s just a good night for music, and I’d prefer something that doesn’t come out of that portable radio. They never play anything good on the FM band out here, anyway.”

“We could sing,” he offered, looking through the duffel anyway.

“I sing a quarter note flat, and you sing a quarter note sharp,” she pointed out. “We don’t make beautiful music together, at least not that way.”

“What the hell – why is this still in the bag?” he exclaimed, bringing a little black case out of the long duffel.

“Umm… well, I thought that was your manly shaving kit or something.”

“Who puts manly shaving gear in a minature violin case?”

“I dunno, somebody who wants to pretend to be a very short gangster? What is it? It was in the case already, from that trip you took to the convention in the city I assumed.”
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More iphone App updates

May 27, 2011

Well, as I mentioned a few days ago, I’ve gotten back to messing around a little with NSBasic App Studio and my iPhone over May.

So I thought I’d share a few examples of what I’ve been up to. The first app idea I had was for a little date calculator to answer questions like ‘What day is 90 days from Halloween’ or ‘How many days are between my birthday and Christmas’?

For things like this, it’s been really easy to use NSBasic App to arrange elements on the iPhone screen and not that hard to tell it what I want it to do with them either. Here’s what the DateCalc app looks like when it’s working: Read the rest of this entry »

My first iPhone app! (Kinda.)

March 3, 2011

One note – I’m really excited that people (two crusader people so far, but hey,) picked up on my passing reference to National Novel Editing Month – so I’m probably going to try doing a big series out of my NaNoEdMo journey this month. So watch this space.

It’s off-topic Thursday, though, which means no more talk about editing. Instead, I’m going to share screencaps of the first program I wrote for my iPhone.

This isn’t an iPhone app in the conventional sense, written with the iPhone SDK on a Mac… because I don’t have a Mac. But back in November, I was offered an opportunity to be in the beta test group of a cool program called NSBasic/App, which lets windows users write little HTML5/Javascript apps for iPhone, Droid, and the latest touchscreen Blackberries. I did my best to provide a little useful feedback to the NSBasic people just around the same time that I was writing like crazy for NaNoWriMo, and jetting out to San Francisco for the Night of Writing Dangerously, and they gave me a licence to the full tested version once it was ready.

It’s a nice little development environment so far, though I haven’t done anything really clever. Just a little Hello World app that tells a bit of a story as you click on the button, which I will show through the following Chrome screencaps:

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An iPhone riddle…

January 27, 2011

Is it an iPhone yet if it doesn’t have phone service?

So I went down to the Bell mobility store at the mall on Sunday and came back with a 32 gigabyte iPhone 4. There’s a lot of things I like about this little gizmo already – the touchscreen interface is pretty slick, and there’s an app specifically for moderating WordPress blogs.

But it looks like I won’t have mobile voice or data service from Bell until Tuesday next or so. This is because I wanted to move my home phone number to the iPhone, and apparently there was a holdup because Telus needed more information on the file before they’d port the number. (I don’t know what Telus has to do with my home phone at this moment, unless they work with Cogeco.)

I’m also rather planning to trade the 32 gigabyte model back in for the 16 gigabyte and save some cash, partly because I wasn’t blown away with the video player interface, and the only thing I’d really be using the extra storage for is videos. It’s still an alright video device, but trying to navigate within a particular vid with the slider is finicky, and I’ve been having recurring issues with the video player controls not coming up when I tap on the screen for them. So I think that the 16 gigabyte model is the way to go. But apparently Bell can’t do the exchange until the sim card is active with my number, so I’m waiting on that too.

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