Is it time to officially switch loose and lose?

Seriously, I think I can count the number of times someone used “loose” correctly (instead of “lose”) in the last 20 years on one hand.

“I’m afraid I will loose my keys.”

“If you loose something, go to the Lost & Found to find it.”

” I can’t risk loosing any e-mails or data.”

The last one I actually saw today. The battle is over and lose has lost. Loose is the new lose. Time to update, Oxford and Merriam-Webster!*

* at which point people will start using loose and lose correctly again

Book review: We Sold Our Souls

We Sold Our Souls

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Funny, gruesome, breathlessly paced, and with a loving, near-reverent tone toward its subject matter–metal–We Sold Our Souls chronicles what happens when a little known metal band signs away more than it bargained for on a fateful night in 1998.

The protagonist is 47 year old Kris Pulaski, one-time lead guitarist and writer for a metal band called Durt Work. Kris and the other members of the band are enticed into signing a contract late one night by their lead singer Terri Hunt, aka The Blind King, giving away a lot more than they suspected in the process. The night’s events end in tragedy and the dissolution of Durt Wurk.

Jumping forward to 2019, the story picks up when Hunt decides to reunite with his successor band, Koffin, for a final tour. Intrigued and unsettled by the tour, Kris begins putting together what really happened on that fateful night in 1998 and the story kicks into high gear, barreling relentlessly toward an inevitable but entertaining conclusion.

Ending each chapter with an epistolary snippet that uses radio shows and news reports to foreshadow or chronicle events, Hendrix presents a story in which the power of metal and music in general is literal, and which can be used to fight against evil, or to at least to hold it at bay. In this case, the evil is something called Black Iron Mountain, an entity Kris wrote about without understanding its implications on Dürt Würk’s album Troglodyte. As forces array to stop her, Kris tries to warn and then enlist the members of her former band before Koffin completes its shows and very bad things happen.

Kris gets pulled through the ringer and there are scenes featuring gory action that recall the pulp horror of the 70s and 80s–a subject Hendrix explored at length in the delightful Paperbacks From Hell. I found one scene (minor spoiler) in which Kris works her way through an increasingly claustrophobic tunnel to be especially vivid, perfectly capturing the suffocating despair one might feel in such a space.

We sold Our Souls is both a love letter to heavy metal and the freedom and power of being in a band, of doing your own thing, of having an axe and using it to make your mark on the world, and a perversely funny take on “What if every conspiracy theory turned out to be true?”

The prose at times is laid on thick, but it fits perfectly with the over-the-top, larger-than-life world of metal (and seemingly demonic forces) it depicts. Kris is a hero you will want to cheer for and see succeed, and We Sold Our Souls is a terrific old school work of horror.

View all my reviews

Bad Design: Apple’s iOS Photos app

The Photos app Apple has is roughly the same on all of its devices, if you are on the latest version of the device’s OOS–in this case I refer to iOS 13.x, iPad OS 13.x and macOS 10.15x (Catalina), but for this post I am specifically referring to the iPhone version.

Generally for looking over your photos, sharing them with friends, cursed social media or other apps, the Photos app works well enough. iOS 13 even adds a surprisingly robust set of editing tools, so the typical user will never need to use another app to apply hideous, Instagram-style filters. Smiles all around, as they say.

But let’s say you want to do something like duplicate the photo, because you want to keep two copies–the original, and the version you have applied hideous Instagram-style filters to. Let’s take this image of me holding a bottle of delicious Clubhouse La Grille Signature Steakhouse marinade. This marinade is so good I want to, I don’t know, add stars to the image or something. So I tap on the square with the arrow pointing up. This opens the share sheet, which gives you options for sharing the photo (and lots of other stuff).

And here you can see some share options (I have obscured two AirDrop contacts in keeping with Apple’s much-ballyhooed privacy). This is mostly a list of other apps. Where’s the ability to copy, duplicate or do other things? They are not here. I am very sad.

But wait, those options are actually here. Do you see the sliver of white at the bottom of the screenshot, with the rounded corners? That’s the rest of the interface, almost completely obscured from view. In fact, if you wiggle the page slightly you can make that small visible portion completely vanish, while still showing everything above it. This is bad design.

If I swipe down I get so many additional options I have to swipe again to see all of them. This is what the first swipe gets me on an iPhone 8:

This is a perfectly clear, usable list of options. Apple has listed everything in plain text with a little icon for easy visual scanning. This is all really nice–if you actually scroll down and find it.

Obscure UI is something that has been discussed a lot with the touch interfaces used on phones and tablets. Without the “traditional” scrollbars, arrows and so on, a lot of the options you may have at your disposal are effectively hidden like treasure, waiting to be uncovered by swiping or long-pressing or tapping x number of fingers on the screen, or something else entirely. Some suggest that Apple’s own 3D Touch (or Force Touch) was removed on the 2019 phones (replaced by “Haptic Touch”, which is just a long press with a bit of vibration attached to it) because no one knew it existed. Most discovered it by accident–by pressing harder than needed for a long press and invoking the 3D Touch pop-up.

3D Touch is pretty handy once you know to look for it, but even then it’s not a system-wide feature. Apps don’t have to support it, and since Apple always sold phones that didn’t include it, a lot of app developers ignored it. And now it’s gone, with a lot of people never knowing it existed.

But back to the Photos app–burying a long list of options at the bottom of a page is not a bad thing in itself. Where Apple fumbles here is not giving the user any concrete visual clue that the options are even there. A few obvious fixes come to mind:

  • Add a “More options…” button to the initial photo screen. Currently there are three choices: Share sheet, Favorite and Trash. They could squeeze in another icon here.
  • Another choice would be to add it after tapping the Share sheet icon. And look! Do you see at the top where it clearly says Options already? You might think that’s where you would find all of these extra options. But instead it’s where you find exactly two options concerning sending the photo as “automatic”/an individual photo/iCloud link and whether to include location/all photo data. The additional options could simply be added here. But this has two problems of its own: it adds an extra tap to get to the options, and it doesn’t necessarily address the original issue, which is the options not being clearly visible.
  • A third choice, then, is to make the additional options more obvious. One way would be to turf the AirDrop contacts, since there’s already an AirDrop button and I suspect people are not AirDropping photos all over the place, anyway (I could be wrong). This would leave enough room for the list of other options to be more visible.
  • A fourth choice would be to provide a visual indicator that there are more options available if you swipe up. This could be done several ways:
    • Adding a scroll bar. This will never ever happen.
    • Adding a floating arrow pointing down to indicate you can swipe to see more. This has the advantage of being something that could be used universally, much like scrollbars.
    • Some other visual indicator that I haven’t thought of. Let’s face it, I’m not a UX/UI designer, I just know bad design when I see it.

I have no expectations that Apple will move away from the “obscure gesture” interface. One need only look at iPad OS to see how, if anything, they have embraced it even more. There are now large swathes of the iPad interface that most people don’t know about–and never will. This is in part due to obscurity, but also in part due to questionable interface choices. But that’s a whole other post. Soon™.

Inktober 2019: All 31 prompts

I’ve created a gallery with all 31 of my Inktober 2019 prompts. You can view it right here or by selecting it under the somewhat inaccurately named Photo Galleries at the top of the page.

Promotions gone horribly not-quite-right

Two I’ve seen lately.

First up, Microsoft wants you to get a Surface Laptop 3…maybe never? As of this post, trying to order some Surface devices from the Microsoft Store site still gives Invalid Date for when you might receive them. This seems to be related to new Surface devices, so maybe the store is just reflecting the general glitch level of the new Surface devices.

Next is this promotion to get a flu shot. Every time I look at this it reads to me as FU season is here! Which, if you end up getting the flu, is perhaps not an inaccurate way to describe it.

Run 642: Two weeks later, two seconds slower

Run 642
Average pace: 5:52/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 10:33 am
Distance: 10.03 km
Time: 58:47
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 6-7ºC
Humidity: 84%
Wind: light
BPM: 160
Weight: 169.1 pounds
Total distance to date: 4820 km
Devices: Apple Watch Series 5, iPhone 8
Shoes: Saucony Switchback ISO (180 km)

I did not run last weekend for various reasons that I sum up as runner ennui, a term I just made up now. The weather was nice, I just lacked any motivation at all. I can’t even say I was feeling lazy, I just felt a total lack of ambition.

This weekend, the weather was again nice, but chilly, so I donned my layers and headed out, taking advantage of the (still dumb) switch back to Pacific Standard Time. Although I left around 9:45 a.m. it felt more like 10:45 a.m., which worked to my advantage.

As it was sunny, the lake was packed full of people, including a large number of runners, many running in pairs or small groups. I generally navigated most of these groups fine, but there were a few near-misses thanks to the ever-baffling lack of situational awareness that some people exhibit, even though they have functioning eyes and presumably functioning brains. In one instance two girls stood off to the side of the trail. A half second later I would have passed, but one of the girls, even though she saw me, still chose to step out into my path rather than wait that half second, then seemed confused about what she had done. Baffling!

A group of four runners were running abreast of each other, taking up the entire width of the trail. The one on my side moved very slightly in, giving me barely enough room, because falling back for a moment is apparently an inconceivable horror. I don’t understand people.

A family of cyclists were camped out on the Still Creek bridge with one of the kids having some issue or another. They were close to the trail exit, so I said nothing and just moved around them. Another cyclist, riding fast and not paying much attention, caught me by surprise at a corner and left me sufficiently stunned by the near-collision that I didn’t even know how to react. I finally turned my head around and mumbled something about no bikes allowed. He was long gone.

But enough about the weird, crowdy people. As mentioned, it was cool, but I wore two layers and warmed up quickly. I chose a modest pace, stuck to it and only felt a bit of a stick in my lower-left side for a few minutes early on, before it went away. My fastest pace was the final km, at 5:41, edging the start by one second. Generally I felt good and the trail was in good shape, other than the marshy area past the fields, which was filled with puddles and generally damp despite no recent rain. Maybe the swamp is backing up. This is one of the last areas that really needs to be resurfaced.

The best part may be my BPM dropping back to 160, which is a full 21 beats lower than the previous, rainy run. I can’t say for sure with only a single data point, but it would seem cold + rain = heart works a lot harder, where cold alone doesn’t have as much effect.

Overall, a solid effort and about what I was expecting. I am actively looking at treadmills, so here’s hoping I can continue runs indoors now that the standard time perpetual dark mode™ has been enabled for the next four months.

NaNoWriMo 2019, Negative Day 2

Here it is, the second day of NaNoWriMo and I haven’t written a thing.

It feels great. So much time to do other stuff. I went to Costco today and bought a 20 liter jar of mayonnaise.

I am thinking I should keep up on the drawing now, because it’s fun and relaxing. But what to do? Possibilities:

  • Finish that book on learning how to sketch
  • Go back to one of the earlier Inktobers and do all of its prompts, either one per day or following whatever whimsical order I decide
  • Go back to my 2019 prompts and fix/rework the ones I’m not happy with or just try coloring all of them like Ted Turner
  • Start a gum gum person comic
  • Something else
  • Or maybe write something, just not something for NaNoWriMo

A lot of possibilities. I will choose by…tomorrow.

‘Twas the night before NaNoWriMo…

And all through the condo I was breathing a sigh of relief over not taking part this year.

Honestly, I’m looking forward to having a bunch of free time for other stuff in November. There may be a cure for my writing ills, but the last few years suggest to me that the cure is not National Novel Writing Month.

It feels a bit weird sitting out for the first time in ten years (!), but it also feels right. And nice.

Now to maybe write something without the pressure of 1,667 words per day…

Inktober 2019 #31: Ripe

My first idea was a laundry hamper full of stinky socks. My second thought was a giant watermelon. Then a bunch of bananas.

Inexorably I ended up drawing a sweaty but athletic gum gum person.

Some personal Inktober Fun Facts™:

  • This is the first regular drawing I’ve done since 1985 or so
  • Every sketch was done using:
    • iPad Pro 10.5 inch (2017 model)
    • ProCreate paint app using the Studio Pen brush
    • Apple Pencil
  • Gum gum people are featured in 9 drawings; drawing them is a kind of meditation
  • My favorite gum gum person sketch is for the prompt SLING
  • The most “fail, start over” drawings I did for a prompt was five, for the prompt TREAD

I often found little mistakes or things I didn’t like in sketches, but never went back to fix them over the course of the month, with one exception–the prompt for INJURED is different on this blog than the original posted to Instagram. I fixed the arms and head because it just ended up bugging me every time I looked at them.

Overall, this was a fun experience. Much like discovering outdoor photography last year thanks to a kidney infection, I chose to do this at the last minute and am pleasantly surprised to have stuck to it.

Now I have to decide if I keep drawing and if so, what do I draw? An endless parade of gum gum people? Possibly!

Inktober 2019 #30: Catch

Originally he was going to catch a fish but I couldn’t draw a fish I liked and didn’t want to cheat with reference. So I made it a hand grenade instead. I swear the pin is still in.

October 2019 weight loss report: Up 4.1 pounds

Yes, it’s fair to say that October was more like Fatober, as I took up eating as a full-time hobby, while at the same time running less due to it getting dark by the time I got home from work and lacking super-spiffy night vision to allow me to run in the dark like a bat. If bats ran. Also, I think they use radar or something, anyway.

So yes, this past month was a disaster for weight loss, even allowing for the start of the month being unusually high, which should have given me an advantage. It did not.

In November I’m hoping we finish converting the spare bedroom into a combo computer/workout room with a treadmill. This will not only allow me to keep running through the winter, it will allow me to run any time at all, which might possibly encourage me to run a bit more. It could happen!

Also, I’m going to try a variation on the no-snacking rule: I can snack all I want on any given day, as long as I burn the same or greater amount of calories through exercise (not everyday activity, actual recorded exercise). We’ll see how well this goes come Fatvember. Er, November.

The lard-filled stats:

October 1: 165 pounds
October 31: 169.1 pounds (up 4.1 pounds) (note: ay caramba)

Year to date: From 167.5 to 169.1 pounds (up 1.6 pounds)

And the body fat:

October 1: 18.4% (30.3 pounds of fat)
October 31:
18.5% (31.2 pounds of fat) (up 0.9 pounds)

Sign of the times #437

Headline from a CBC News story:

People are now literally dying for likes. Or confirming their affiliation with their favorite social media echo chamber before going splat.

But I refuse to believe that amusing cat images have resulted in road deaths. It’s too terrible to even contemplate.

Speaking of amusing cat images, here’s a bonus one: