Tube-widening

Or how I got faster internet on Christmas Eve.

It started a few days ago when I went online to check how my monthly internet/TV bill was divided between the internet and TV parts, as I am looking into the possibility of cutting the proverbial cord. As it turns out, the TV part is about $60 per month. I then drifted over to looking at the various internet plans to compare to what I have now, and discovered my current plan no longer existed, but a new plan that was both faster and cheaper, was available.

My ISP had not notified me of this. IMAGINE THAT.

I called and a tech came out today for her last appointment before heading off to spend Christmas with the family or whatnot.

Here are the results of the initial internet connection in 2011 and the results of the speed test today, post-upgrade.

2011:

2018:

Sadly, Telus’s star rating has not similarly improved over the last seven years. But now I can reap the benefits of getting exposed to horrible social media even faster than before. Onward to the future, what little we have. Hooray!

Treadmillin’ again

This afternoon I spent three minutes on the elliptical.

(That’s how long it took for a treadmill at the Canada Games Pool to open up. Not surprising on a Sunday afternoon. My watch detected a workout just as I stepped off. Is it ironic that my watch has poor timing? I say yes.)

Today’s effort went better than last Friday’s. I only switched to a walk a few times and only breifly, so it was less of an interval-style run and more of a run-style run. The knees held up fine, my pace was about on par for being indoors and out of shape (6:16/km–this includes the walking. I was closer to 6:00 if you only count the running bits). My BPM was also decent, at 157 (I tend to run harder and faster outdoors, so it’s unsurprising to see the BPM here be lower. But it’s still nice).

Overall, I found it encouraging and sweaty. I’m thinking of perhaps jogging outdoors in the next few days to see how that goes. Mind you, tomorrow is Christmas Eve and Tuesday is Christmas, so I’m not sure if I’ll run or just stay home, drink eggnog and get fatter.

But I’ll definitely get out sometime this week. Almost guaranteed.

The full stats for the treadmill run:

Distance: 4.31 km
Time: 27.03
Average pace: 6:16/km
BPM: 157
Calories: 354

My rainbow keyboard

One day I’ll write up a proper review of the CTRL keyboard I got through Massdrop. I actually quite like it. But it also prompted me to make my first YouTube video. Or at least the first one I can remember.

When Windows reboots, the keyboard shuts off, then when it comes back on, it goes into its default backlight mode. It looks like this. The effect is so pronounced you don’t even need to actually watch the video, just look at the still image from it. But go ahead and watch it, it’s only two seconds long and it’s magical.

Now, you might be thinking, “Who would consider a strobing rainbow pattern to be a good choice for a default backlighting scheme on a keyboard?” and then answer quite sensibly, “Absolutely no one.” And yet we know at least one person would, given the video evidence above.

It takes a few keystrokes to set the backlighting to what I prefer (white, no strobing), but this is a textbook example of just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should (technology edition).

(Also, the video was made from the two-second live video clip from my iPhone. It’s like video-making for lazy people with no attention spans. Perfect for me!)

Winter Solstice 2018

The winter solstice was actually yesterday but I was busy entertaining myself troubleshooting browser issues and realizing how little I enjoy spending my time troubleshooting things anymore. Which is not a great thing, since it’s also my living. Oops.

Anyway, yesterday was the shortest day of the year, meaning that today and every other day this year (all nine of ’em) will keep getting delightfully longer. Or to be technical, the sun will set later, giving us a smidgen more daylight.

So although December 21st marks the official start of winter, for me it signals the official countdown to Daylight Saving Time (I advocate switching to this year-round–make it so, government people in charge of clocks or whatever) and the beginning of summer, the best season of all.

I’m already thinking about my first sunburn.

Book review: Kiss My Asterisk

Kiss My Asterisk: A Feisty Guide to Punctuation and Grammar

Kiss My Asterisk: A Feisty Guide to Punctuation and Grammar by Jenny Baranick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A short, sassy and innuendo-filled collection of tips on grammar and spelling that stays PG despite references to Richard Gere and gerbils. The book is derived from the blog Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares, a title that pretty clearly sets the tone for the book.

I think my favorite thing in Kiss My Asterisk were the examples of the creative spelling used by some of Baranick’s students:

whorable (“I am having a whorable day.”)
thoughs (“I love old black and white comedies. Thoughs are the best.”)
celeberde (“Have you ever met a famous celeberde?”)

While the book on the whole covered familiar territory for me, it did help me to better understand my abuse and misuse of commas, so I consider the purchase as money well-spent. If there are any misplaced commas in this review, don’t blame the author. I am not always a fast learner.

My only serious complaint is how abruptly the book ends. I mean, it just stops and you’re looking at an answer key for the exercises. It was a bit disappointing. The tone, though consistently cheeky, sometimes misses the mark, but I did find myself chuckling more than a few times. There aren’t a lot of books on punctuation out there that can do that.

Overall, recommended, though you might want to read a sample before committing, because if the tone doesn’t work for you, the whole book will be fingers-on-a-chalkboard annoying.

View all my reviews

Return to the treadmill

And it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Back around the start of November I had the flu and ended up being the poster boy for Why You Should Get a Flu Shot. This not only put a crimp in my NaNoWriMo novel, it meant running was right out. I barely had enough energy to sit in a chair, let alone do actual exercise. Then I became wrapped up in writing for a bit, then the weather turned cold and wet and by this point I was making excuses not to run because I had become soft, flabby and lazy.

The longer I held off, the more I dreaded the return, not only because I was getting increasingly out of shape, but also due to this year’s special bonus of sore knees.

On Friday after work we went to the Canada Games Pool and instead of going on the elliptical, I strangely climbed on a treadmill, opting for an interval-style run for half an hour where I’d jog at a good pace, then ramp down to a fast walk for a few minutes, then back to jogging and so on. Intervals are supposed to be a great way to train/exercise and it was easier, which particularly appealed after more than a month off.

And it really wasn’t that bad. I pushed a little at times, but I kept up and burned some 300 or so calories. The knees were a bit sore the next day, but the soreness didn’t persist much longer than that, and I actually kind of want to go back. I’m supposed to hate the treadmill and in a way I still do, but it’s warm inside the pool building and I had my water bottle and music and it was all right.

I may even try running outside again this weekend. The forecast for Saturday is rain showers with a high of only 4°C. This is not especially inviting weather. In fact, it’s yucky. But I will change into my running clothes and convince myself to go instead of sitting on the couch eating shortbread cookies.

I’m pretty sure, anyway.

The important thing is I miss my incredibly sexy legs, which are looking positively ordinary right now. This will not do.

I am again defeated by Scrivener

I love Scrivener, or rather, the platonic ideal that Scrivener can represent.

The actual program inspires something less than love in me. I long ago adapted to its complicated, cumbersome interface and learned to ignore the long list of features I would never use. I write simple stories, I don’t need a lot of sophisticated tools for that.

I came to appreciate the Scrivener features I did use–easily dividing chapters into discrete blocks that could be moved around or removed, being able to set goals and see my progress (especially handy for NaNoWriMo), the corkboard for keeping track of scenes, and being able to set up my editing environment and have it complete separate from the compiling of the document. I realized I did not need the WYSIWYG approach of Microsoft Word and it was nice.

I’ve been thinking of doing a proper outline of Road Closed, then going back and properly finishing the first draft. I’d written the novel using WriteMonkey and earlier this year I took the time to convert it over to Scrivener. This is a somewhat time-consuming process as Scrivener would  import the novel’s entire text and place it into a single scene, from which I would then copy and paste the different chapters into their own Scrivener folders.

Now, my first mistake was using the Scrivener for Windows 3.0 beta. In November 2017 Scrivener 3.0 for the Mac was released, and at the same time the first beta of Scrivener 3.0 for Windows was made available. A final release date was never offered beyond “2018” and that, too, ended up not coming to pass, though it seems a release in early 2019 is possible.

All the caveats of using a beta apply, of course. And I already had the novel safely backed up and ready to go in WriteMonkey in the case of disaster striking.

Last night I updated to the latest Scrivener 3.0 beta,. with the intention of loading Road Closed so I could export it to the older Scrivener 1.9 format, allowing me to keep writing in a safer, more stable environment.

Except when I loaded Road Closed, all of the text was gone. The chapter and scene structure was preserved in the binder, but the actual story had vanished. I thought about why this might have happened for a minute or two. It’s quite possible–even likely–I had done something wrong. I considered my options.

And then I did nothing. Because I had a current version of the story intact and ready in WriteMonkey. I am not going to spend any time playing my own personal technical support. I’ll just wait until version 3.0 comes out of beta, then consider then if I want to invest in the upgrade.

This is not the first time Scrivener has gone sideways on me, losing or corrupting data, and if I keep using it, I would fully expect it would eventually happen again. And I emphasize once more, this may be my fault entirely. Maybe I just don’t get it.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter. I can’t trust Scrivener, or perhaps I can’t trust myself to use it, so I won’t. For now, anyway.

This irks me in another way, too, because last year I had what was close to the perfect setup, using Ulysses on my MacBook Pro. There were a few problems, though:

  • I came to strongly dislike the MacBook Pro’s butterfly keyboard. Some people (tech writers especially, weirdly) love the shallow, clicky keys, but I ultimately did not. I ended up going to the other extreme on laptop keyboards by getting a Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1. This has one of the deepest keyboards you can get on a laptop. I very much like it. This is an issue for Ulysses because the program is Mac-only and Apple’s entire line-up of MacBooks now use the butterfly mechanism in their keyboards (my 2016 MacBook Pro is helpfully still eligible for free keyboard repairs for another two years, a testament to the issues that have plagued the design, even if you do love the keyboard).
  • The other issue was the decision by the developer to switch to a subscription model, which I have ranted about before. As much as I like the app, I don’t think it’s worth paying what amounts to the full purchase price every year in perpetuity.

But there is really nothing else like Ulysses out there. There are dozens of markdown and minimalist writing apps available on every platform and I’ve tried a bunch of them, but they all fall short in some way. The biggest issue for me is failing to support indents, something I consider crucial for writing fiction.

FocusWriter is lean and generally nice to use, but it’s almost a little too basic and its organizational structure is pretty bare.

The WriteMonkey 3.0 beta looks promising, but indents are still only a “might include” feature and the beta is moving so slowly I may be 110 by the time it hits official release. It’s a one-man project, so I’m not knocking the dev, just saying.

iA Writer has a wonderful minimalist interface, but it lacks indents and the Windows version lags behind the Mac version of features (even though the Mac version itself is not exactly feature-rich).

And on it goes, with other programs either getting abandoned, lacking features, not working well with cloud-saving (like Atomic Scribbler–though really, how can you develop and launch a writing app in 2018 and not plan for people wanting to save their work to cloud-based storage?) or just somehow not being the right fit.

It’s also possible I may be too fussy. Very possible.

For now I’m sticking to WriteMonkey 2.7. It’s getting old, but it still works and it’s pretty solid. It only saves text files, so the possibly of data corruption is pretty low (insert GIF of Jeff Goldblum saying, “Nature finds a way” here).

Now I just need to get back to the actual writing. One of my resolutions for the new year. Let’s hope it pans out better than my attempts to get my weight down.