Archive for February 2012

 
 

AI11 – The Boys Round of 12, er, 13

I have no plans to write up this year’s season of “American Idol,” but I do have five minutes tonight, so here are a few words on The Boys singing live for America for the first time:

  • The judges have abdicated their duties and their responsibilities.  They’re merely cheerleaders. It’s America’s time to decide, right?  So why get in the way?  Why take any of the blame?  Don’t give America any guidance.  Just tell everyone how great they are no matter how flat they are or how nervous they look or how horribly they misinterpreted that song.  Remember when Simon left and Randy tried to be The Tough Judge?  That didn’t last terribly long, did it?

  • Another season, another awful music mix where the band drowns everyone out.

  • Here are the six I’d pick to go through:

    • Reed Grimm: Because, in the words of Steve Jobs, “Here’s to the crazy ones…”  Every season needs the wild child who could go off and do anything on any given night.  Plus, he has a name that could easily put him on The Fantastic Four.

    • Colton Dixon: I wasn’t a big fan of the song choice tonight, but I thought the kid got robbed last year, and is still good enough to deserve a Top 12 spot.

    • Aaron Marcellus: Honestly, he’s the one I’m least sure about, but he’s good enough and I’d like to see him do more.

    • Creighton Fraker: He’s right up there with Reed for potential craziness, but he’s also the first one on the night who belted out his song and didn’t let the band drown him out.

    • Philip Phillips: Because, hey, I liked Taylor Hicks, too.

    • Jermaine Jones: I like the guy, and he did great under the circumstances tonight. Perfect song choice, belted it out, has great potential.

  • Here’s who I’m afraid of: Eben.  He has the John Stevens breakout potential.  He could be the one to make it through on the tweenies’ text votes week after week without any relationship to the level of his music talent. His song tonight was way out of his league.  He was completely flat.  And even that final note didn’t go up enough.  But he’s the Justin Beiber of the season.  Cute kid, young kid, and the type that all the valuable 10 – 16 year old girls will go crazy over.

  • One other wildcard, whose name I didn’t write down: The country kid who looks like Brandon Frasier.  Country artists get votes on American Idol.  Country fans protect their own.  It wasn’t that he was bad tonight, by the way, but that I liked the others more.

We’ll find out on Thursday.  Let’s hope the girls do better song choices tomorrow night, in the meantime.

Text Expander for the Mac

 

Textexpander logo

I finally started using TextExpander about a week ago or so.  I had bought it on sale for half off at some point, but never got into it until just then.  And I’m loving it.  I’ve saved over 5000 keystrokes already, and I know that because TextExpander keeps track of such statistics.

For those who haven’t heard of it: It’s a Mac app that you can buy in the Mac App Store that will automagically auto-expand something you type into something bigger.  People use it to set up things as large as form emails, or as small as signature files or email addresses.  I’ve used it for that latter piece, using a different four character shortcut for each of my four email addresses.  Anytime I have to fill in a web form now, I save a bunch of repetitive typing.  I type ‘emgm’, for example, and it auto expands out to my Gmail.com address.  ’emoo’ expands out to my OptOnline.net email address.  But I also have shortcuts for typing out the image captions on AugieShoots.com, so all I have to do is input four numbers (for ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and focal length) and TextExpander handles the rest.  I have shortcuts set up for writing Pipeline to make it simpler to include links, or to put my standard header at the top of each column.

Not a night goes by in using my computer where I don’t think of another way to simplify my life with this application.  The only bad news is that the full program will run you $35 at the App Store, so I encourage you to try the free trial download direct from SmileSoftware.com first.  The SmileSoftware.com website has a bunch of links to tutorials, books, videos, etc. where you can learn more about the program and how people are using it.

Good news for those of us stuck on PCs at work: There’s an app that the TextExpander people work with called Breevy.  It will import your snippets (the ‘technical’ term for shortcuts) from your DropBox.com account to be used on your PC.  If you can install software on your computer at work and they allow you access to DropBox, you’re good.  Of course, it’ll run you another $35 there.

 

Testing Mars Edit

I’ve decided recently that I want to get better organized with my computing life. It’s not all easy, since I spend all day on PCs at work that are behind firewalls and won’t let me install software or use the internet freely.  But there are tools I can use on my computer at home to make my precious free moments here at home more useful.

One of the tools I’m trying out is Mars Edit. It’s a highly-regarded blog writing tool that lets you do everything away from the web browser, where things are faster and easier. This very post is my first test of it.

 

Elmo in a random picture

 

I also need to test how well including pictures is, which explains the random pic you see in this blog post.  The WordPress backend I use at AugieShoots is painfully slow, though it automates some things that I’m grateful for.  But maybe Mars Edit will be easier.  We’ll see…

 

For now, I’m just talking out loud, but I’m very happy to note that my first attempt at posting this blog entry as a “Draft” worked.  I’ve never gotten any other off-line blog editor to work this easily.  This is a good sign…  Maybe I’ll write the next post in Markdown, for kicks.

Mindmapping with MindNode

I tried something new this week in writing my weekly comic review column.  I used MindNode, which is billed as a mindmapping program.  Yes, I’m a hipster now.

Basically, it lets you make lists in graphical ways.  I often take notes while reading a comic that I might want to review.  I’ll write them in small bullet points lists: First, a set of art notes, then some writing notes, and maybe some packaging notes. I’ll draw lines here and there, write footnotes, or whatever it takes to tie in some tangents or supporting statements.

Basically, I’ve been “mindmapping” for years without fancy software to make it color-coded and PDF-enabled.

But since the app was free in the Mac App Store, I thought I’d give it a shot. MindNode is very simple to use.  I didn’t read a line of directions or instructions. It’s all pretty obvious.  You start with a node. Give your mindmap a title there.  Then click and drag from the “+” button next to that to start a new node.  Create subnodes as you wish.  Each tendril off the root node will be automatically assigned its own color

Your work is saved in a MindNode file format, but you can also helpfully export out to a PDF (or PNG, or a few other formats) for those times you won’t be on a Mac but want to read it.

It also has the convenience of not being on a small scrap of paper that accidentally gets thrown out when I clear out my pockets at the end of the day.  I can keep it in DropBox as a PDF so it’s accessible everywhere.

I used it for Pipeline this week.  This is what the final output looked like for my review of “John Romita’s Amazing Spider-Man: Artist’s Edition”:

Mindmap used for this week's Pipeline

Mindmap used for this week's Pipeline

I didn’t cover everything in there, but I did get the vast majority of it.  When it comes time to apply butt to chair and write, you realize that some parts aren’t all that necessary. They just bulk up the writing at the expense of the reader’s attention.  That’s not something a mindmapping piece of software will teach you. That’s experience and ‘feel.’

Was the software necessary?  No, I could have just used pen and paper like I usually do.  But if MindNode feels more “fun” or interesting to use, then it’s worth it.  I made mindmaps of the next three books I read, at least two of which will see reviews in February.  We’ll have to check back at the end of the month to see how this goes. During that time, I’d also like to read more of the documentation to see if I’m missing some obvious feature that would make all of this even better.

If you’re not organized and scratching out bullet point lists on your own – whether on a scrap of paper, the back of an envelope, or your simplest text editor of choice on your iPhone or computer – then this might be a handy program for you.   It’s free, so what do you have to lose?  (There is also a “Pro” version of the software, which lets you add all sorts of funky stuff, including importing pictures, and even finer grain control.  It’s $20.)