Instant anxiety

I’ve spent years pressing the refresh button in my email client, anxiously awaiting a message to be sent to me after I see that a friend is typing, and tracking a package every two hours. Waiting is something we all do from time to time. When you get used to instantly responding to everything, though, things become unmanaged and much more annoying than they should be. Today, as with every other day of the week (I’ve dropped the five-day week of work), I’m experiencing just that, and I’m growing tired of it.

There’s a lot of scientific reasons for why we are looking for the latest bit of information in today’s fast-paced world. The bit that I think is important, though, is what some European nations have been doing about it. In France, The Guardian reports that new labor laws “now make it illegal for workers in the digital and consultancy sectors – including the French offices of Google, Facebook, Deloitte and PwC – to respond to work emails after 6pm.” The government understands that the people should not be expected to respond to their emails every moment of their consciousness.

When you get in the habit of launching your email client right when you start up your computer at the beginning of the day, priorities can get jumbled. Personally, I’m always waiting to hear Sparrow’s “ding” to know that I have a new email. It’s as if my day is filled with nothing but anticipation. And all this for what? More work that I don’t really want to do right now anyway. I finished early and should go enjoy my time, but I would rather keep the email client open just in case.

Today, I’d like to take a bold step in a different direction. It’s a good day for change, methinks. Rather than keep Sparrow open all day and constantly check the Mail app on my iPhone, I’m going to figure out something else to fill the hours of time. When there’s nothing to actively do, maybe I’ll take the short nap I’ve been needing for weeks. Who knows. All I know is there’s a point when these things get very annoying, and right now everything has bolted past it.

I tried this a few months back and I must say, it’s a very difficult thing to do. Not only am I exercising self-control, it feels like I’m blatantly ignoring work and will be fired. People will understand, I’m sure. They must have more sympathy than I think. We’ll see!

April 11, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Penderworth’s Car Buyers Guide

I’ve spent the last three weeks searching for a car after I sold my last one. It’s not as easy as I remember it, but maybe that’s because I’ve become much pickier in the last year. After buying a car with a few problems, I want to avoid doing so again or get something at a significantly reduced price. That’s difficult, but I’ve worked out a good system for it. Here are my tips for buying a used car in today’s market. continue reading »

March 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Stop being ashamed of who you are

For too long I’ve sat in silence as the people around me dictate my life. On multiple occasions, I’ve told myself that they don’t define me and “I am totally a hipster” (I often talk like this in real life—sorry to disappoint you). But really, this has merely distracted me from the truth: people stop me from being who I want to be in this world. These people can be anyone from my parents to my close friends to total strangers. The really strange thing is that I let strangers, of all people, affect me in the most noticeable way. continue reading »

February 11, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Why does development stop?

My inconsistent, intolerable experience with people who make things “better”

A disappointing pattern has been surfacing in the app industry. Whether it be Web, iOS, or Mac—Windows is so far gone it’s not even worth mentioning—many big-name companies simply do not update their apps enough. iOS is probably the least problematic of the Big Three, but over the past year I’ve noticed a significant decline in the development of some apps there as well. continue reading »

February 7, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Being a better customer

I started working at a coffee shop back in November. Initially, I expected the job to change my work ethic and teach me a lot about the industry. After a few weeks, though, I began to see that I could learn more about people through my daily experience with them as customers if I just paid attention. Then, I found out people can be grumpy, sometimes rude, and surprisingly disrespectful in certain situations. At this point, I started to want to be a better customer than those people, to show the things that I hadn’t seen in those at my job. continue reading »

January 15, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Comparison of affordable noise-isolating earbuds

So, cheap in-ear headphones. I don’t like them. I don’t like the appearance or sound of Skullcandies nor do I like the feel of most earbuds, especially the ones with the over-ear loop — rubbish. I decided to buy a set of Monoprice 109927s a few days ago just to see how well they actually perform when compared to Apple’s EarPods, which are my economical headphones of choice right now (in-ear and over). Then, since they looked really nice, I also purchased some Sol Republic Amp one-button model, which are twice the price of the Monoprice ones, but actually look nice.

The first thing I must address on these headphones is the appearance. They’re downright ugly. I was scared to be seen with them outside my house because of how little they fit my setup: MacBook Pro, Magic Mouse, a Dropbox t-shirt, red Vans shoes, and … steampunk-like earbuds? I would not recommend buying these for their visual appeal, because you’ll be sorely disappointed. The really strange thing is, for the noise isolation that they offer, these earbuds are very comfortable. I’m used to putting in earbuds feeling like they’re going to crush my head. The Monoprices are barely noticeable once you actually put them on. At first sight, I expected them to poke the edges of my ears and annoy me, but they did nothing of the sort. After a bit of use, I preferred using them over the Sol Republics because they didn’t get me a headache.

These definitely have “enhanced bass”, but not the kind I enjoy. Kick drums in songs like Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” sound horribly muddy. That can be said for the rest of the audio, actually. The entire mix has one tone. You can fix it with an equalizer in iTunes, but that’s not the point of good headphones. When I put the Sol Republics in after using the Monoprices for a bit, I instantly noticed a difference in sound. Where the Monoprices had a hard time hitting certain frequencies, the Amps sounded fantastic. I still found that the overall clarity in both headphones was much less satisfying than in a $100 pair of Sennheisers. Then again, Sennheisers don’t have enough bass for my taste. Unfortunately, neither of these headphones gave me the best of both worlds. Sol Republic’s came close at first, but still sounded too low-mid-focused for me. After a bit of comparison, I found that Monoprice’s offered the best clarity, but the bass always sounded distorted. And I don’t have a problem with bass: I have to 10-inch subwoofers in my car. There’s just a difference between a good mix and a muffled one. Both these headphones sounded like I didn’t have them all the way in no matter what I did.

As for noise isolation, I found these earbuds to have the best in their price range. The Sol Republic Amps trumped them, but they are twice the price. I preferred  using the Monoprices, though, because they isolated noise nicely while remaining comfortable. When I put them in I didn’t feel completely isolated from the world. That may seem like a weird way to judge the headphones, but I enjoyed complete noise isolation without feeling it. The headphones sit in my ears like the EarPods do, which is perfect. On that note, I’m not sure they would fit everyone. I gave my sister my Sennheisers and she had to replace the ear tips just to use them. I suppose judging them by their appearance wasn’t the best idea after all.

Overall, the Monoprice earbuds are louder than most headphones. I have to turn them down to half the volume of the Sol Republics and EarPods so I can listen to them. That’s not bad, but it catches me off guard every time. I really enjoy the Monoprices, despite their muddy bass and dull frequency range. They are easily the best earbuds you can buy for $10, noise-isolating or not. I am very surprised by how well they isolate noise, too. I would happily recommend them to someone who works in a loud space, but not to anyone who jogs — they easily fall out of your ears.

The Sol Republic Amps are very disappointing. They don’t sound that good for the price and stick out of my ears too much. The way they hit certain frequencies makes me cringe. Listening to “Punching in a Dream” and “Young Blood” by The Naked and Famous for a test run, I found the Monoprices more tolerable, but neither set very good. Most of the high frequencies were drowned out by the mids and when they weren’t, they pierced like a knife in the dark. It’s not all that pleasant. I wish they sounded as good as they look, because they’re actually attractive.

December 10, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Finding focus

For quite some time, I’ve wanted to write about getting things done when there’s an overwhelming amount of other things we could be doing. The average perrson would say it’s best to focus on the most important things and do away with the distractions that constantly hold you back. There’s a problem with this, however: you may often find yourself thinking, “But what if I did this instead?” It becomes a continual struggle to locate your true priorities and carry them out. If you have this problem, I don’t claim to be able to help you, but I do have something for you to think about. continue reading »

November 23, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Pros and cons of owning a Retina MacBook Pro

The Retina display, or “ultra-HD display” if you’re one of those people, is definitely the way of the future. It enhances the digital experience better than any piece of technology has in years. Even 4K displays aren’t at its level. There are a lot of benefits to using a Retina display, but there are also a lot of drawbacks, especially when it’s on your regular computer. Rather than posting a traditional review of the new MacBook Pro with Retina display, I’ve decided to round up what I do and don’t like about it after a week of use. continue reading »

November 1, 2013 at 11:44 am

Pros and cons of owning a Moto X

Rather than write a full-length review of Motorola’s latest trendy Android device, the Moto X, I’ve decided to round up my thoughts in an easy-to-read pros and cons list. I’ve used the device for over a month now, which is enough time to give me a good idea of its long-term Hopefully it gives you a good idea of the experience from a former iOS user’s perspective. continue reading »

October 13, 2013 at 9:21 am

The process

Here’s my style of writing: sit down and do it — all at once. I can’t treat anything like a “project” or outline my entire research paper for school. My brain just does that for me. (Not trying to brag. I apologize.) I don’t like wasting any time, which is why I end up waiting until the last two days to read a 400-page book for history class. At least then I remember everything I read, right?

People think I’m inferior because I put things off. They say I “procrastinate” and “avoid the subject”. I’m just divergent. My mind works much differently than most people’s, I’ve begun to notice. I can’t slowly develop my opinion on an app or my angle for the next tutorial I’m writing. Instead, I sit down for as long as it takes — usually not much more than ten minutes, because I’d get bored — and write. Sometimes I bullet-point ideas and on occasion I take notes. Most of the time, however, I have a predefined route to finishing any kind of project. If it’s a paper, I’ll have it done in one session. I can’t walk away, because I lose everything I’m working towards and end up scrapping all the words I’ve written to replace them with new thoughts. I also have a hard time proofreading, due to my already-piqued interest.

This is why blogging platforms like Svbtle don’t work for me: I don’t organize ideas; I create and finish them in one swift motion.

Writing, for me, is a sprint, not a marathon. It may take me seven hours to finish an academic essay. In that time, I’ll be too busy to eat anything and by the end I’m very happy with what I’ve written. I do still find the value in working towards a certain goal, but it’s hard for me to do that. Even in algebra, I do two weeks worth of work in a single day. I can’t just take my mind off something once I’ve started because I know I’ll neglect it later.

So, when people ask me why I “slack off” on my English paper, only spending a Saturday morning writing the entire thing with no revision, I tell them it’s because I think differently. I’m not trying to be rude about it. I don’t want to insult other people’s work. I’m just not everyone else. If you stop my seamless motion, as it were, bad things could happen (to you). If not, I create what I set out to. The result is not always amazing, but I do enjoy the process.

There. That was a look into my mind. What’s your process?

October 9, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Switching

There seems to be a mindset that people get into once they’ve used a mobile operating system for a long period of time. (To be fair, this is universally applicable and can be found in many parts of life.) Apple users love their devices and protect that admiration — or “fanboyism” if you wish — with a passion. They remain loyal to the Apple ecosystem, sometimes even if they don’t like the changes that are taking place.

Just last night, at a friend’s birthday party, everyone in the room was talking about the iPhone 5s, why they’re getting it over the 5c, and how excited they are for the new phone. Even people without upgrades were talking about purchasing one. You certainly must value the community that revolves around Apple. They’re dedicated. Sadly, though, they often see users of products other than Apple as inferior. The American complex.

Then there’s the occasional wanderer who opposes the current trend. He doesn’t agree with the design choices, or he just gets bored. (After a while, Apple’s minimal, slow-changing approach to things can get dull.) I’m him, but not until recently. continue reading »

September 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

Papermail supports Prince of Spain

Last week, I browsed NoiseTrade in the usual fashion: listen enough to understand what the artist is trying to accomplish, then either agree with it and download or close the tab and begin another album. I typically don’t discover a lot of truly inspiring new music, but during that listening session, I happened upon Prince of Spain, which, from what I can tell (I tried to research this as much as possible) is a solo project. With that in mind, this guy is knows how to maintain a unique and heartening sound unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. continue reading »

September 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Apple announces media event for September 10th

Today, Apple Inc. sent out invitations for a special media-only event at 10:00 a.m. Pacific on September 10th. It will be held at the Town Hall of the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. continue reading »

September 3, 2013 at 9:43 am

Kindle MatchBook

Amazon.com, online superstore and manufacturer of the Kindle e-reader, today announced Kindle MatchBook, a program that will provide owners of physical books with a free, or heavily-discounted, electronic copy. continue reading »

September 3, 2013 at 9:23 am

Microsoft announces Steve Ballmer’s upcoming retirement, company stock rises

Early this morning, Microsoft announced that its CEO, Steve Ballmer, will be retiring “within the next 12 months”. Following the news, the Redmond, Wash.-based corporation’s stock began trading 7.29% higher and reached a pinnacle for the month of August 2013. continue reading »

August 23, 2013 at 10:03 am

Everything at once

I have a sort of problem prioritizing things in my life. When it gets busy, I find it difficult to keep everything organized and held together. But the real issue arises when there’s nothing to do. In episode sixty-five of On Taking Pictures, a 5by5 podcast on photography, the two hosts, Bill Wadman and Jeffery Saddoris, discuss why “doing nothing is the enemy”. I can relate to their experiences because I too have a problem with dead days. It’s better to be learning and seizing the day (I just watched Dead Poets Society) than to recline in an office chair waiting for work to arrive on the Pony Express.

But doing nothing isn’t what this article is about. Instead, I wish to discuss another issue that’s been plaguing me: finding the balance between nothing and everything.

On occasion I’ll be bombarded with work. New tutorials must be written, apps are waiting to be reviewed, the lawn must be trimmed, and I really need to read that bit of poetry I’ve had open in my Safari tab for days. The last one is the most notable. Lately I’ve been keeping relatively short emails for days thinking I will eventually  get a chance to read them, but often I end up archiving them because there are hundreds of other things I need to do in that moment. I make everything a “do it later” task and put it in yet another list within Simplenote, hoping to one day conquer the goal.

In reality, I don’t get half of these things done because there are more important tasks out there. Is that a bad thing though? Am I missing out on an experience?

“Just because everyone jumps off the bridge doesn’t mean you need to follow”, my parents would remind me when I was a child. I’d respond, annoyingly for them, “But it could be a memorable experience.” There are a lot of experiences that can become good memories and if you think about it for a moment, there are billions of people doing different things than you are (maybe having experiences you’d enjoy). Does this mean you should focus on what you’re missing? Of course not.

A lot of people I know will spend their lives going to one extreme: doing only what they see fit for themselves. This means no adventure or excitement is present in their lives, but maybe they just don’t care. Other people I know will spend their days swimming on the opposite pole: trying to do everything at once. And that is your worst enemy. You will constantly be regretting your decisions to do one thing over another since, when you think about it, you missed yet another opportunity.

Is this a story of regret or missed opportunities? I don’t know anymore — at least not the way my brain is working at the moment. I just know that it’s easy to get stuck with lists of things to do and, out of sheer panic, run toward all of them. If you do accomplish all the goals, you may still be unhappy; not because you weren’t there for something else, but rather that you did a shoddy job, focusing on too many things at once.

August 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Dating in a digital world

I wrote the following article for a local newspaper, but they decided not to publish it.

A recent survey conducted by the University of Chicago, Gestalt Research, and Harvard University shows relationships which get under way online are healthier than those in real life, and they are becoming increasingly popular.

The survey was sponsored by online dating service eHarmony and included data from 19,131 individuals who had married between 2005 and 2012. Approximately one-third of these participants had began their relationship on the Internet. According to the survey, 45% of these digital relationships started on online dating sites; 20% from social networks (Facebook, Twitter); 10% from chatrooms; and less than 7% from email and instant messaging.

Strangely, the real world only accounted for 30% of relationships, 20% of which were initiated in the workplace. The other 10% of participants first began their relationships at school, which is a surprisingly low statistic since 36% of 18–24-year olds are in college (US Census Bureau data) and 43% of offline participants went to college.

Online dating is not only becoming more popular among this increasingly-digital generation, it has also proven to be more reliable, according to the survey. 5.96% of the participants who met their spouse online reported that their marriages ended in separation or divorce, versus 7.67% for those who met in real life.

There is an advantage to meeting someone online and then being able to simply tell them you’re not interested with a few keystrokes. Then again, is that human interaction or just your unwillingness to be vulnerable? After all, people need people, whether they’ll admit it or not.

It’s easy to get trapped in digital communication. Instead of using it to maintain contact with people when they’re busy, you can make it an excuse to not see them in person. I’ve even found myself favoring text messaging over calling people, just because it takes less time. But how is that showing that I am devoted to being their friend? It’s just lazy. I wrote a lengthy piece about how communication has been fractured. It addresses the above concerns and more, but this new survey brings processed data into the picture.

The greatest advantage of meeting a person online is that you know everything about them by slyly perusing their profile. There’s nothing to lose — that’s the greatest threat. Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, but isn’t it more fun to have an adventure? When you actually do things with the person and get to know them, you may find yourself hating ever single moment, but at least that can be turned into a hilarious story for your kids.

“You’re finding someone who is 90% compatible for you before you meet them,” reflected local photographer and dumpster diver (not really) Cody Tuttle. “It’s like you’re putting out your resumé and looking for suitable matches. I think it can be dangerous, but there are agencies who can do something good with it. There’s always a way to work any system, and if you’re a professional at online dating, you’re a creep. But, you know, there’s a certain realness to real life meetings — you can have a connection to a person not just through their words.”

Risking something is vital to relationships, because you can’t learn without stumbling. There doesn’t seem to be as much emotional investment in beginning a relationship online since it’s much easier to abandon it anytime. It’s the same principal as the one-night stand. Not every person wants to jump from one bed to another — some care about having a partner who loves them.

So when it comes to finding a spouse online, how rational is it? That depends on your age. The survey shows that 30–50-year olds with a solid fiscal standing — 40% had an income of over $100,000 per year — are more successful than, say, a recent college graduate with student loans to pay off. Also, Hispanics and males are more successful in their romantic pursuits, according to the participants. That’s only rational, because we know men.

On the topic of online dating, June Laker Paden Rosnau simply said, “Don’t do it.” He elaborated: “I don’t want to be mean, but why can’t you just suck it up and go to a bar to meet someone? You’re desperate if you need to go online. It could be really good if you met the person online and got to know them a little bit, and then after that no more talking online — just in person. A lot of people feel safer being behind a computer.”

It’s definitely easier to get to know someone online, but it’s not exactly exercise for the heart. Then again, where else will you meet that companion of your dreams? You could sort through your friends’ Facebook contacts, or you could risk your pride at the local coffee shop when someone cute sits down a few tables away. The latter sounds like a better story, and isn’t that what love should be? I mean, who wants to tell people, “Uh, yeah, we met online and after a few weeks we got dinner together. After that we dated for a year and got married.” Boring.

Sources: Ars Technica | PNAS

August 1, 2013 at 4:27 pm

The problem with upgrading digital software

Early this morning, Apple, Inc. released a major update to its professional audio software, Logic Pro, bringing it to version ten. It includes a plethora of new features, from a built-in arpeggiator (finally) and Drummer to SoundCloud publishing and redesigned vintage keyboards. Well worth the $199 price tag.

Sadly, with all of its wonder, this DAW brings an interesting problem to the table: upgrading digital-based software isn’t as cost-effective. With physical purchases, you could deregister the software and sell it on Amazon.com or eBay. This isn’t the case with digital purchases since there’s no way to transfer the license. Apple doesn’t use key authentication for Mac App Store purchases because signing in to your account is a lot easier. However, without this there’s no way to redistribute the software — it’s expendable.

This isn’t just Apple’s problem — it plagues developers on any platform. Soon, physical mediums may be obsolete and the only thing valuable could be the USB keys required to legally run the software. Propellerhead still uses this with its Reason DAW, which means that resale of the software is easily possible. But with products on the various app distribution hubs, it’s not plausible to consider making money off the software once it’s outdated.

The only solution to this problem is to release major upgrades every few years rather than every other month. It ensures that the users don’t pay too much for the software so they keep coming back for more revisions in the future. Just like with sequels to games and films, new copies cost money. But if you don’t need the old copy, it should be possible to sell it.

July 16, 2013 at 9:29 am

Papermail supports The Paper Kites

Today, my weekly NoiseTrade email arrived and a band name stuck out to me: The Paper Kites. They have a free EP available on the website, so I thought I’d have a listen. Boy is it good. continue reading »

June 13, 2013 at 11:18 am

Byword 2 review

Today my favorite Markdown editor, Byword for iOS and Mac, was updated to version 2.0. The developers have included sandboxing, a way to keep the preview at the same position you in you were editing the document, the ability to copy rich text to the clipboard, and, of course, lots of bug fixes and other improvements. But by far the most important upgrade here is publishing, which allows you to write a blog post and instantly send it to Blogger, Evernote, Scriptogram, Tumblr, or WordPress. continue reading »

June 4, 2013 at 7:16 am

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