Posted on Sunday, September 1st, 2013
Turn it up to 11... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Return! The flight home from San Francisco was blissfully uneventful... until we landed... "SIR! I NEED YOU TO SIT DOWN AND FASTEN YOUR SEATBELT UNTIL WE ARE AT THE GATE. SIR? YES, YOU SIR... THE ONE WHO IS STANDING. SIR, YOU NEED TO SIT DOWN NOW. YES... I AM TALKING TO YOU. YES, YOU. YES, PLEASE SIT DOWN WITH YOUR SEATBELT FASTENED UNTIL WE REACH THE GATE. THANK YOU FOR SITTING DOWN, SIR!" And this... this is why I could never be a flight attendant, because this is how I would have handled it... "HEY ASSHOLE! YOU NEED TO SIT THE FUCK DOWN RIGHT NOW OR I'M GOING TO COME BACK THERE AND BREAK MY FOOT OFF IN YOUR ASS!" Because, seriously, there's only so much shit I'm willing to take from stupid people, and all my patience would be used up on Day One of working the cabin at an airline.
• Fraud! I've lost track of the number of times Pat Robertson has "spoken to God" and made predictions that turned out to be bullshit. And yet, here we go...
Hypocrisy. It's what's for dinner. In this case, I suggest that his viewers take his advice and leave his congregation.
• Miyazaki! As I have mentioned on this blog many, many, many times, I am a monumental fan of Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki. The stuff he's churned out during his career is among the best ever seen, and I'm including giants the like of Disney, Pixar, and Bluth. In addition to seeing his films multiple times, buying his "making of" books, visiting his museum, and flying to L.A. for a rare US appearance... I've studied his work for decades. His latest film, The Wind Rises, has been quite controversial, but I am dying to see it anyway. Regardless of subject matter, it's bound to at least look amazing...
And now it's been announced that this will indeed be Miyazaki's final feature film. This has been threatened before, but was confirmed at the Venice Film Festival, so it's likely official this time. All I can hope is that Miyazaki-san will still release short films and books to satisfy his legions of fans. Including this one.
• Sundance! I like the new Sundance Channel show called The Writers' Room. Each episode has Jim Rash interviewing television screenwriters from such shows as Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. It's fairly interesting and worth your valuable time if you like television. But there's one problem. During the series they have "Pop-Up Video" style tidbits that show up, which would usually be a good thing. Except you can't frickin' read them because they're in tiny black type on a blue background! It's style over readability, and it sucks. Compare what happens if the people in charge of the show actually gave a shit about people being able to read what they're being shown...
Not as pretty? I'd agree. But at least you can READ the shit.
Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Bullets are done.
Posted on Monday, September 2nd, 2013
For the past several months, I've kept a list of important things I need to buy... like luggage and bedding and clothing and such... so that I could cash in on some Labor Day sales.
Except I had a crippling headache brought on by a crippling neck-ache and couldn't even think about Labor Day shopping. Instead I took painkillers, stayed in bed, and worked. Which is probably smarter than spending money I didn't have anyways. Besides, I'm not much of a shopper, which always seems more like work than actual work does.
Of course, the whole point of Labor Day is not working, so I was doing it all wrong.
Posted on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
This morning when I awoke my new tattoo was all jacked up.
Well, let me rephrase that... the skin which was killed as a result of needles shoving ink into my arm was all jacked up. It was starting to peel away like a sunburn, which I'm told is supposed to itch like a mother-trucker but, for whatever reason, doesn't itch me. But nothing works like it usually does when I get tattoos, so I shouldn't be surprised. For me, tattoos are not the least bit painful. There is barely any blood or seepage. I never get scabs. Cleaning it doesn't sting. Putting ointment or lotion on it doesn't burn. And they never itch as they heal.
Just lucky I guess.
The worst part for me is having to wait for all the dead skin to drop off, when what I really want to do is take a piece of steel wool and strip it off. But picking the skin off prematurely may cause you to lose pigment, and we don't want that.
I'll just have to stare at it being all smeary and gross for a few days.
And so I will.
Except now I am going to stare at the televsion so I can watch the latest episode of The Daily Show now that Jon Stewart is back. Everything else will just have to wait...
Posted on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
The stupid. It burns.
But not if you burn it first...
At this point I pretty much want to set the entire world on fire.
Posted on Thursday, September 5th, 2013
I'm trying not to let the amount of work I have over the next 30 days scare me.
I'm trying not to get my hopes up when things can go wrong.
But oh how I need a vacation so very, very badly.
So close... yet so far...
Posted on Friday, September 6th, 2013
Holy crap. This is going to be the month that never ends, isn't it?
Can't I just be put into a coma for the next 28 days?
Posted on Saturday, September 7th, 2013
I've been fighting a pinched nerve in my neck ever since returning from San Francisco. I have no idea what I did to make it happen, but over the past week it's gone from "uncomfortable" to "agonizing." Today I couldn't even get Migraine-Strength Excedrin to touch it, which made for an uncomfortable day. And inconvenient, given the amount of work I have to get caught up on.
Not the best Saturday on record, but I've had worse.
While trying to find a comfortable position to lay down (which doesn't exist), I was using my iPhone to peruse the Apple rumor sites. Everybody's favorite fruit-themed computer company has a "special event" this coming Tuesday, and sites are abuzz with what Apple might have up their sleeve...
The rumor mill suggests new low-cost plastic iPhones (in colors!) and a new iPhone 5S which will come in a gold/champaign color for the first time (in addition to black and white models) plus have a fingerprint reader for privacy/security purposes. It's also speculated that we'll get an updated look at iOS7 along with a release date.
Well, okay then.
I should probably be a lot more excited about what's going to happen on Tuesday than I actually am. Part of that is because my upgrade cycle won't allow me to get a new iPhone until the iPhone 6 arrives... and it's partly because my neck and head are killing me.
But mostly because Apple has gone with random polka dots for their new theming? Dots. Really, Apple?
Posted on Sunday, September 8th, 2013
Don't touch that dial... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Nanny! I'm what could be considered "middle-of-the-road" when it comes to politics. Yes, I think that there's some things the government should be doing to look after us and keep us safe... like making sure the water supply isn't going to kill us... but, for the most part, I feel our government should stay the fuck out of our lives when it comes to personal freedoms. Like being able to marry the person you fall in love with... regardless of whether or not you have the same genitalia. And being able to buy a Super Big Gulp if you feel thirsty enough to consume 40oz. of fizzy sugar-water. AND GETTING A TATTOO WHEN YOU FUCKING FEEL LIKE IT. But here we go again... Washington, DC is contemplating a mandatory "tattoo waiting period" to minimize the risk of somebody getting a tattoo they'll regret... by making them wait 24 hours. Which is just a nice way of saying "people are too stupid to make their own decisions." Which is 100% true. Except it should be their stupid decision to make! Now, granted, my first tattoo had a waiting period of 26 years before I would commit... and my subsequent tattoos have a waiting period of weeks because my artist is 700 miles away... but if I wake up and decide I want a new tattoo right now, I think it is categorically absurd that there are people who feel I should be legally denied it. Getting a tattoo affects nobody but myself. And if I make a mistake, I'm the only one who has to live with it. Just as it should be. So if our politicians feel that they should start regulating stupidity, I'd encourage them to start with themselves.
• Katy! When it comes to music, Katy Perry is kinda hit-and-miss with me. I like some of her stuff okay... and thought her tour-movie Part of Me was great... but I never became a huge fan. Until the video for the first single off her new album was released...
Pretty amazing, actually. And the song ain't bad either. This is a Katy Perry I can't wait to see more of.
• FARTPOP! In contrast to the beautiful pop treasure that is Katy Perry, we now turn to Lady Gaga. I never much cared for her music... and positively loathe the first single off her forthcoming ARTPOP album, Applause (currently blasting from my TV in KIA Soul commercials). But I thought I'd give her the benefit of the doubt to see if she could win me over with her new material. Then came her iTunes Music Festival appearance (currently streaming for free in iTunes)...
Holy crap what a boat-load of shit. She should have stuck to ripping off Madonna. Her tedious "music" takes a back-seat to her "art," which couldn't be less edgy or relevant. And just when I thought things could possibly get worse, she comes out in a rhinestone-encrusted pig mask to sing Swine. Hopefully with this disaster, Gaga's 15 minutes will be up. Maybe then she'll get over all this laughably absurd "artist" persona and start making actual music. Which I honestly think she has the talent for if she'd focus on it. In the meanwhile, I'm preparing myself for an onslaught of FARTPOP idiocy come November.
• Reeves! And speaking of actual edgy and relevant musical artists... the song He'll Have to Go by Jim Reeves popped up as I was searching through YouTube earlier this week, and I couldn't believe what I was hearing...
This guy is totally bad ass! He's calling up the woman he's stalking and tells her to have her boyfriend get the fuck out so they can have phone sex. Ah, the good ol' days when something like this didn't result in a restraining order! On top of that, the guy's got an awesome singing voice!
• Blasphemy! One of the Worst People on Earth, televangelist Pat Robertson, is the subject of a new documentary detailing how his "Operation Blessing" program is more of a money-making scam than a charity... taking credit for work done by others, including my favorite charity: Doctors Without Borders. All so he could bail out his diamond mining operation...
And now God is telling me... that you should send me more money!
Disgusting. But he's denying it, of course.
Is it too much to hope that he finally ends up in jail? Or, at the very least, his supporters will finally realize that he follows much more closely in the footsteps of the Antichrist than Jesus Christ?
And... it's now 9:00, but feels a lot more like 11:00, so I may have to think about packing it up for the night.
Posted on Monday, September 9th, 2013
I am not one to get overly-sentimental or fondly reminisce about "the good ol' days." Yes, there are things I can look back on with fondness in my life, but I try to put my energy into my future rather than my past. It makes moving forward so much easier.
That being said...
Finding out that the king of all car dealers, Cal Worthington, died yesterday at age 92 was a real kick punch in the gut for me. Just as much as Captain Kangaroo or any number of other television personalities, Cal and his dog Spot (which never seemed to be an actual dog) are a childhood memory that never seems to fade. His epic commercials and catchy "Go see Cal! Go see Cal! Go see Cal!" jingle are embedded into my psyche in a way I can't possibly understand. All I know is that I very much remember looking forward to whatever crazy antics he would be up to next, and nothing would grab my attention faster than hearing one of his commercials pop up on the television...
Even though Worthington Ford was based in L.A., his commercials ran in Washington State because of a satellite dealership in Federal Way (a city just north of Tacoma, about 20 miles south of Seattle). As a kid, I kinda wanted to visit there just to see if lions, tigers, snakes, bears, goats, and all the other "Spots" were wandering around. And I'm pretty sure that Young Me could find Federal Way on a map long before Paris or Tokyo.
Cal Worthington stopped making commercials in the mid-80's, and there's no reason on earth he should be in my head after all these years. He's a memory I should have discarded long ago.
But how can I?
"Go see Cal! Go see Cal! Go see Cal!" will undoubtedly be stuck in my head until the day I die.
So thanks a lot, Mr. Worthington... and rest in peace.
Posted on Tuesday, September 10th, 2013
And so Tim Cook & Co. trotted out their new iPhones today.
Thankfully, nothing was so compelling that I flushed my iPhone 5 down the toilet and drove to Seattle so I could stand in line at the Apple Store to get a new one.
That being said, I was very impressed with the direction that Apple is taking their mobile handsets. And it all comes down to this beautiful quote from Jony Ive, head of Apple's design team...
"It's not just rampant technology for technology's sake... every single component... every process... has been considered and measured to make sure that it's truly useful. That it actually enhances the user's experience. This care... this consideration... extends to how we protect all the important information that you actually carry with you on your iPhone."
Apple isn't just slapping shit on their phones willy-nilly, they're thinking about it.
And right now this includes protecting our personal information... more and more of which is ending up on our phones every day. From the keynote, Apple is basically saying that very few people bother to protect their phones with a passcode or other security measures (I know I don't), and they feel it's important that this attitude be changed.
And so they came up with "Touch ID," which is fingerprint identification technology that has been woven into their new high-end 5S model to be pretty much effortless and transparent. No more having to type codes or waste time swiping... just put a finger (or thumb!) on the "Home Button" and Touch ID will verify your fingerprint and unlock the phone automatically. Simple. Any barriers or excuses to not secure your phone have just vanished...
So very Apple.
Well, unless you don't have fingerprints, I guess.
And assuming it actually works as advertised.
The phone has also gone 64-bit, is unbelievably fast, and has graphic capabilities that shame a lot of desktop computers. But let's get to the one feature that is almost enough to make me sell my kidney so I can buy a new iPhone 5S the minute it goes on sale.
I recently bought a beautiful new camera... the Sony NEX-6. A big reason that I invested the money in it was because it takes SLR-quality photos, but loses the SLR mirror so that it does the same job at a much smaller size and weight. This reduced bulk encourages me to take a "pro" camera with me much more often than I used to, so I end up taking more photos.
But, I'm not going to lie here, even with the new NEX-6 in my possession, I am still taking the vast majority of my day-to-day photos with my iPhone. It's just so unbelievably handy and it's always with me.
For that reason, I want a camera on my phone that will give me the highest possible quality image. And Apple has stepped up the game once again with their beautiful new 5-element lens camera that has a larger aperture to let in more light... and larger pixel sensors to actually take advantage of it. AND for those times that the scene is still too dark... they've added a new two-tone flash that intelligently senses the available light for the proper tone, then fires a combination of white and amber light on the scene to get a "true tone" image that's the best it can be.
There's loads of other cool new stuff with the camera... like selective slo-mo video, auto image stabilization, intelligent photo focus, and live filters... and it all adds up to a very compelling package that makes the iPhone a serious choice not just as a mobile phone, but for a camera as well.
This page at Apple dedicated to the new camera is well worth checking out. Pretty incredible stuff!
Everything else at the event was fairly tame. I like most of the colors and love the feature set of the new iPhone 5C, but honestly thought this was going to be the sub-$50 phone that could have really broke into the cheap handset segment for Apple. At $99, it's still running too expensive for a lot of people looking to buy a phone. Sure, they can get a 4S for free, but who wants to invest in yesterday's technology? Kind of a missed opportunity, really.
And, of course, I'm chomping at the bit for iOS 7. When using it on my development handset, it's really hard to go back to my iPhone sporting iOS 6... which just doesn't feel as "elegant" as it used to.
Oh well. I guess a week isn't a long time to wait.
Except... YES, IT REALLY IS!
Posted on Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
As if I could ever forget.
Posted on Thursday, September 12th, 2013
Now that our local airport has only three flights per day, the odds of connecting with flights out of Seattle are pitifully small. The first flight at 6am is my best shot, but it arrives too early to connect with West Coast flights... and too late to connect with East Coast flights. Either way, it means anywhere from 3 to 5 hours of waiting, which is longer than it takes to drive to Seattle.
Even worse is the return trip. There's a 4:25pm, which is too too late for West Coast returns, and too early for East Coast returns (and since the next/last flight isn't until 11:10pm, there you are with 3 to 5 hours of waiting... again). Since the absolute last thing I want to do when I'm trying to get home is spend hours and hours waiting for my connection at SeaTac, this is not really an option (though I did just that on my recent return from San Francisco).
And so I've been driving over the mountains instead of flying. When there's no snow on the ground, it's just so much easier.
Except when there's rock blasting.
Which was happening today at 6:30pm.
Which meant leaving after work at 5:00pm would have meant sitting on Snoqualmie Pass for two hours while construction crews chip away at a mountain. And so I left work early.
The plan was to use this extra time to catch up on some sleep, because heaven only knows I need some of that.
Except the hotel room above me was blasting the television at full volume and stomping around so hard that the ceiling was shaking... and the hotel room next to mine was having some kind of noisy party until 1:00am.
Which is perfect, considering it's now 1:30am and I'm wide awake... with an alarm set for 3:30am.
If I'm lucky, this means I'll get two hours of sleep.
But I think we all know I'm never that lucky.
Posted on Friday, September 13th, 2013
20min shuttle ride + 2hr waiting + 4hr 15min flight + 1hr 25min layover + 2hr 15min flight + 3hr time change = 13hr 15min of travel on no sleep.
I can't quite remember where, but somewhere along the way I lost my sanity. I'd be upset about that, but I'm just too tired to care anymore.
Remember when I used to love Earl of Sandwich?
When I would travel hundreds of miles out of my way to eat there?
When I would wax poetic over every sandwich consumed in my blog?
When I would visit the same Earl restaurant and get the same sandwich every day I was even remotely near one of their locations? Sometimes twice a day?
I used to describe their food as "orgasmic" and "my favorite sandwich on earth" and "so good it's worth risking your life to have one." Their "Earl Veggie" was a dream come true... packed with lettuce, tomato, onion, olives, feta cheese, and their amazing Mediterranean dressing (I skipped the roasted red peppers and cucumbers)... all served on bread so delicious that you couldn't help but make yummy noises while you ate it.
But then, for reasons I can't even guess, they discontinued the "Earl Veggie" and replaced it with a boring-ass Caprese sandwich.
For a while there, I was able to get back the "Earl Veggie" I loved by paying extra money to get an alteration with added ingredients... "I'll take a Caprese Sandwich. No mozzarella. No basil. No Vinaigrette. Add Feta Cheese, Lettuce, Red Onion, Kalamata Olives, & Mediterranean Dressing." — Sure it sucked that I was paying more for the same sandwich, but it was so delicious I didn't care... no harm, no foul.
But then they stopped making the Mediterranean Dressing.
And now they don't even have onions any more (unless they're grilled). Yes, you read that right, a sandwich shop with no onions.
So tonight when I went over the International Plaza's Bay Street, I made a pitiful attempt to get my sandwich back by ordering a Caprese with NOTHING on it... add lettuce, tomato, olives, feta cheese, and Italian Dressing. This grotesque mockery of a sandwich is what I ended up with...
Despite the staff being eager to please, it was pretty disgusting and barely edible. They forgot the feta, which is the entire point of the sandwich. And instead of a drizzle of Italian Dressing for flavor, they literally flooded my sandwich with the stuff. It soaked into the bread and was dripping out every time I tried to take a bite. There was barely any veggies inside either, with one pathetic leaf of lettuce, a few scattered olives, and three tomato slices.
How the fuck do you go from having the greatest sandwich I've ever tasted in my life to having a barely edible monstrosity that I have to force myself to choke down? The best thing about my meal was the baked potato that came with my sandwich, and it wasn't even hot.
And it's not just the discontinuation of the greatest sandwich I had ever eaten that's the problem, just look how Earl of Sandwich sandwiches have degraded over time...
The bread, once buttery and wonderfully flaky, has become more like a typical crusty sandwich roll. It still tastes great, but it's not the magical experience it once was. And just look at the size! I was more than a little shocked when I opened my sandwich to see how much it has shrunk. I know the photos are all different scales... but compare the logo dots on the wrapper. I'm betting the current sandwich is a good inch shorter and half-inch slimmer than it used to be. Which makes it all the more disappointing that the amount of sandwich toppings has been so grossly reduced. The veggies used to be piled high. Now? There's barely anything to be found on the sandwich I got.
All I can say is that I hope the meat sandwiches are faring much better for the carnivores out there, because the vegetarian options fucking suck. And if you had told me two years ago that I would ever be saying something like that about Earl of Sandwich, I would have slapped you across the face and screamed "LIAR!!!"
I just don't get it. Really I don't.
But oh well. One less thing I have to worry about when I travel.
Posted on Saturday, September 14th, 2013
Not so long ago, I was lamenting that I would miss the 2013 "Delta Machine" tour for my favorite band, Depeche Mode. For some unfathomable reason, they decided to skip Seattle this time. Fortunately, Certifiable Princess saw my agony and mentioned that they would be playing in Tampa on September 14th! One very, very cheap airline ticket later plus a few thousand hotel points, and here I am!
As expected, the concert was amazing... C.P. and her husband thought so too. DM played a terrific mix of new tracks and old favorites, and backed it up with an Anton Corbijn stage show that was pretty cool (if less elaborate than what we've seen in the past).
Delta Machine is a fairly dark album that has a heavy industrial-style sound to it. I enjoyed it well enough, but it's just not the same Depeche Mode that made me such a huge fan. And though I wish they had played more classic stuff, it was still a great show that was easily worth the effort it took to get here...
Despite my pining away for more of their older material, this was an epic concert. Depeche Mode sound every bit as good now as they did 30 years ago, and remain one of the best live bands I've ever seen (with Matt & Kim being a close second). So long as they keep performing this well, the band is in no danger of losing me as a fan, regardless of where they go with their music.
That being said, can we please go in a slightly different direction on the next album? All these songs about heaven, angels, redemption, addiction, and salvation have really been played out now, and it's time to move on. I really, really don't want to have to suffer through another version of The Child Inside.
Posted on Sunday, September 15th, 2013
Time to put your Wiener back in your mayoral candidate pants... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Dumbosity! I am still trying to figure out how Anthony Weiner went from being a politician I actually respected... to somebody I loathe with such fervor that I want to kick in my television every single time his stupid face shows up on it. In other words, just like every other politician out there. I should have known better. Is it too much to hope that this is the very last we will ever see or hear of him?
• Dumbsuckery! I hate CAPTCHAs. I'm not alone. Everybody I know hates them too. Which is why running across this particular CAPTCHA pretty much summed the whole situation up nicely...
But hey, at least you could actually read the characters.
• Dumbassery! Just when you think Microsoft couldn't possibly be more of an embarrassment to itself, they find a way to prove you wrong. First came this tweet from now-Microsoft-owned Nokia...
I'm willing to guess that Apple would agree... as would any other company in the history of the world who has made different-color products ever...
I'm sorry, but when it comes to "imitation being a form of flattery," Microsoft has had had their mouth permanently attached to Apple's dick in an imitation-induced frenzy since around 1984. Which is not to say that Microsoft hasn't been innovating... but you'd never know it from their advertising, which is constantly painting them as a pathetic, lame, whiny bitch who is having to play catch-up to Apple. It's like they're their own worst enemy, and just when you think they couldn't possibly beat themselves up any worse than they already have, they proceed to do just that.
• Dumbfuckery! I am at a complete loss for words. This wouldn't be so terrible if these were three random assholes just pretending to be representing the United States... but they are actual US Representatives! I am so fucking embarrassed right now that I don't even... I don't know... I don't... I just don't...
I mean, holy shit! People actually elected these fucking idiots.
• Dumbholery! And if you thought that was bad... never underestimate the agenda-ramming mouthpieces at FOX "News"...
They don't even try to hide it. Yet, they're the "Fair and Balanced" network. And people keeeeeeep watching. Any bets on how much longer it'll be until Andrea Shea King is added to the FOX "News" team? If anybody could put a new and interesting negative spin on First Lady Michelle Obama's efforts to keep America hydrated, it's her.
And, I'm about as disgusted as I'm going to get tonight. Kind of pointless to continue now.
Posted on Monday, September 16th, 2013
"His back's better. It shows in his swing." — Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell
"Well that's the understatement of the year." — Blogography scribe David Simmer II
It's no secret that I am a huge, huge fan of the Boston Red Sox in general... and their catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia in particular. But Boston had been playing the poor guy to death, which caused strain on his back. Rather than work him into an injury, they wisely decided to bench him for a while so he could heal up.
Which leads us to last Friday...
Yes. A game-winning grand-slam against the Yankees.
And then yesterday?
Beautiful animated GIF courtesy of the ever-entertaining Over the Monster.
Steals home against the Yankees in a three-game sweep.
As if that weren't good enough, here's Saltalamacchia's take on it...
"I mean, Jackie Robinson, Ellsbury, I'm in a pretty elite category."
Yes. Yes you are...
It's a great time to be a Red Sox fan.
And who knows what tomorrow brings?
Well, except the Orioles, of course.
Posted on Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
As summer comes to a close I've been having a tough time of it. Just like every other change of seasons, my allergies go into overdrive and my days are spent with a runny nose, watery eyes, mucus drainage, and miserable fits of coughing. There are things I can do to alleviate the insanity, but there's nothing that can really stop it. But, oh well, I'll get over it eventually, right?
Every year it's taking longer and longer for me to recover. Ten years ago, it took days for me to adjust to the seasons. Now it takes weeks.
This getting old thing really sucks.
Posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
And so iOS 7 was released at long last, and has been trumpeted as "The biggest update to the iPhone since the original iPhone." After using it on my development iPhone for weeks, I'd have to say that's pretty much all marketing hype. Yes, it looks fresh, but it's pretty much a few really good new features tacked on to the iOS we know and love... but with a fresh coat of paint.
Not that this is a bad thing! Truth be told, Apple got so many things right when they first created the iPhone that there's not a lot that needed to evolve and change. I'd take old iOS 6 over my Microsoft Windows Phone... and I'd definitely take old iOS 6 over any of the four Android mobiles I own. Now that we're at iOS 7, that goes double. It was a rough start, but now I like it. A lot.
And so now I'm going to talk about some iOS 7 stuff. It's not going to be in-depth, because there's a gazillion websites out there that have this covered, but it will be things I feel are a bit annoying. Because that's what I do.
The text is crazy thin... almost too thin... which makes it tough to read in spots. Fortunately there's an option for "bold text" under the General/Accessibility settings, so it's an easy fix. There's no fix for Apple's new boring-ass icons, however, and that's a shame. Yes, some are not too bad... Weather is simple, but effective... Passbook is kinda cool... but what in the hell is going on with Photos and FaceTime? I don't know what the hell Photos is trying to say, and FaceTime uses a video camera shape for an icon that practically doesn't exist any more. And then there's Safari and Settings... both of which are somehow overly-detailed and plain-ass boring at the same time. Total garbage. Give me the beautiful icons for Tweetbot and Reeder any day.
Overall, I like Microsoft Phone 8 well enough... but the nonstop barrage of time-wasting animations, flippy-tiles, and other inane bullshit drives me insane. I was always much happier with the more restrained approach that Apple took with iOS 6... pretty animations, but not in your way or wasting time. So of course Apple threw all that out the window with OS 7. Now the phone fades on and fades off... icons glide in slowly from beyond... apps zooooom open and closed. And while it's nifty the first fifty times you see it, by the fifty-first you just want your life back. Hopefully Apple tightens these up in the future, because wasting people's time like this is just wrong.
An essential tool for managing all the alerts and info your iPhone is throwing at you, Notification Center was a welcome addition. Unfortunately, it's taken a dive in iOS 7. The super-thin text makes readability difficult, and will probably be what convinces me to turn on "bold" text in Accessibility settings. Also, the addition of a "TODAY" tab is something I really, really don't want. Just give me a newest-first list of alerts, and I'm fine. If iPhone would stick to the tab I last used, it would be okay, but it randomly switches to "TODAY" for no discernible reason. Oddly enough, you can turn off "TODAY" in the lock-screen. Why they don't allow you to turn it off in Notification Center is a mystery.
If there's one feature that has become essential in my travels, it's Passbook. It has my loyalty cards, train tickets, airline boarding passes, and other great stuff available instantly without adding bulk to my wallet! So imagine how thrilled I was to find out that the new iOS 7 Passbook was going to allow you to scan barcodes on cards so you can add them to your iPhone arsenal! Except... it doesn't let you create cards at all. It scans your cards and sees if it can find an existing card to add. Except in the ELEVEN cards I tried, it worked on exactly zero of them. Suckage. GIVE US A FREAKIN' CARD DESIGNER, APPLE!
SIRI, PART 1...
Apple's "personal digital assistant" which is called "Siri" is something people either love or hate... use or don't use. I love her. I use her. And with iOS 7 Apple has given her a higher quality voice and even more functionality. They've even given us a way to make her smarter, thanks to being able to tell her when she's pronounced a word wrong. At first I thought that she would also be learning from the new "tap to edit" link that appears after your query has been parsed, but she doesn't. For example, if you say "Open Waze" to have her open the Waze app... she thinks you are saying "Ways" and so I tap to edit it and type "Waze." Simple, right? But Siri forgets what I've taught her, so next time I say "Open Waze" she gets it wrong again. Bad enough she doesn't even try to find the app when she knows I'm asking for an app, but not being able to teach her that I actually have a Waze app is pretty lame.
SIRI, PART 3...
One thing I was excited about with the New and Improved Siri was the option to have her become a him and speak with a male voice. This would allow me to live with HAL from the movie 2001 in my pocket, which is a dream come true for somebody with my name. "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that...
Except... male Siri doesn't sound like HAL. He sounds like female Siri who has been pitch-shifted to have a deeper voice. This wouldn't be terrible if Apple allowed 3rd party voices so somebody could build HAL for iPhone, but they don't. Boo.
SIRI, PART 3...
As I mentioned, Siri has new functionality that's kinda handy. When you tell her "Turn on Bluetooth" she understands and takes care of it. Cool! Except... she appears to be severely limited here, and it's maddening. Why is it I can say "Turn on data roaming" and she understands it, knows it's located in "Cellular Settings," and provides a link to get there... but she won't just change the damn setting for me? These kinds of omissions drive me nuts.
Apple did us a huge, huge favor when they finally gave us a way to access frequently-used settings and tools in iOS7's new "Control Center." And it's great. Just swipe up from the bottom, and you're there! Except... it's not configurable, which sucks ass. When I'm traveling, I use international data roaming, which is very expensive. In order to save money, I find myself turning it on and off frequently. As mentioned above, Siri can't do this. Instead it takes multiple taps to get to the settings because I can't configure Control Center to have it, and this is nuts. I rarely use my phone as a calculator or stopwatch, why in the hell are they taking up space that could be designated for something I will use.
Falling in line with my previous point, turning off International Data Roaming wouldn't be so important if I could choose which apps are able to use it. But, while iOS 7 does allow you to choose which apps can use cellular data, it's all or nothing. There's no way of saying "This app can use Cellular data at home, but not Data Roaming abroad." So, basically, Apple has screwed international travelers not once here, but three times. Does nobody on the iOS team ever leave the US?
And... that's about it for the things I would like changed in iOS 7.
Tomorrow the list may be entirely different.
Posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2013
One of the big new "features" for iOS that got touted at Apple's event was iTunes Radio, so I'm busting it out to take a look.
It's very cool.
It's also very dangerous.
But first we'll start with the cool stuff...
Newly integrated into iTunes, iTunes Radio is a similar service to either Pandora (free-listening ad-supported) or Rhapsody (ad-free membership service through iTunes Match) whereas you can listen to a variety of songs which have been helpfully organized in "similarity groups" based around artists, genres, or songs you like. For example, if you like Depeche Mode as I do, setting up a "Depeche Mode Station" is dead simple. Just search for the artist and pick your poison...
Annnnnd... done! Your station cues up immediately and starts playing...
It's important to understand that this station is not Depeche Mode exclusive. You'll get occasional Depeche Mode, but you'll also get similar artists like Erasure, New Order, Pet Shop Boys, and Eurythmics. Just as if you were to create a "Depeche Mode Enjoy the Silence Radio Station" it's not just going to play that one song over and over... you're going to get that song plus similar tracks.
If you don't have an artist in mind, iTunes Radio has some "featured stations" to get you started. These include stations based on iTunes chart-toppers, popular genres (like Pop and Rap), sponsored stations (like the Pepsi Pulse Pop station), and even "Guest DJ" stations by popular artists and performers...
"Guest DJ" stations have commentary by the "guest" which may add information about the song (if it's theirs) or provide insight as to why they like the song (if it's somebody else's). Unlike songs, which can be skipped, commentary has to be played all the way through.
Which brings us to "skips."
Just like other internet radio services, iTunes Radio puts a limit on the number of songs you can skip past... six per hour (regardless of whether or not you are an iTunes Match subscriber). This may sound limiting but, if you find yourself wanting more than six, you're probably not listening to the right station in the first place. But what if you can't find a different station that's closer to what you're looking for? Fortunately, iTunes Radio gives you options to customize your stations so that they'll be more to your liking and less "skippable." The easiest way to do this is head to the "Star Menu" and tell iTunes Radio whether you want more songs like what's playing... or not to play that song ever again...
I could be wrong, but I think choosing "Never Play This Song" only applies to the current channel. So if there's an artist you really hate, you'll want to ban them from every channel manually. Fortunately, that's not quite as horrible as it sounds. You don't have to wait for each of their songs to show up, you can just ban an entire band from your station, or add them, if you'd prefer...
Also note that you can temper a station between "Hits" (most popular songs), "Variety" (all songs), or "Discovery" (obscure songs). To be honest, I don't notice a heck of a lot of difference at this point, but maybe that's something that will get better with time? Or maybe I just wasn't giving iTunes Radio enough time to build a list. I'm impatient that way. One thing that would be nice would be if "Discovery" mode looked at your library to play stuff you don't have... and perhaps that's the intent... but it's not very effective if that's the case.
And now for the problems. Which are surprisingly few so far.
The most puzzling problem is duplicate songs. On more than a couple occasions, a song will play again for a second or third time after it's just finished. It's happened to me four times now, and I'm not quite sure what the deal is. At first I thought that maybe they were coming from different albums (original album, greatest hits album, compilation album)... but a quick check under history shows this is not the case, so I don't know what's going on...
The other problem is something that may not be an actual problem. I had thought that iTunes Radio was going to be dynamically syncing across my devices. Meaning I can start listening to a song on my Mac, then pick up where I left off when I head out with my iPhone. But maybe I heard something wrong... or misunderstood. In any event, it ain't happening. It should.
And here's where we get to the dangerous part.
With every song played, Apple conveniently places a "BUY ME!" button next to it. Whether it's in your play history, or in the track info window, you're being given every opportunity possible to purchase whatever it is you like listening to that you don't already own. Like so...
Now, this is dangerous for two reasons.
The first is that you'll find yourself buying a lot of music because it's just so convenient. I ended up purchasing $26 of new stuff in just one day (curse you, 1980's and your delicious music!). I'm not an avid Pandora listener by any means, but I maybe purchased two whole songs in the years I've been using it off-and-on. Good thing I have a $50 iTunes Gift Card to burn through.
The second danger is more serious... iTunes Radio doesn't seem to check your library to see if you already own the song. So, unlike the iTunes Music Store, you're in real danger of purchasing stuff you've already bought. In some cases, this is somewhat understandable. The Depeche Mode song Something to Do that I own is, I suppose, different from the Something to Do: Remastered version that Apple wants me to buy. But that's not the case with Yaz's Only You which is the exact same Only from the exact same album I already own (twice if you count the version from the 1999 Best Of... album), and yet, when it plays I'll be encouraged to buy it a third time...
Note that the Upstairs At Eric's version that iTunes Radio played and wanted me to buy has been "matched" by iTunes Match. Apple knows I already own it! The second copy from the Best Of... album was actually purchased from iTunes. They definitely know I own that! So... like I said... dangerous. But, than again, I haven't actually bought music I already own (that I know of), so maybe Apple checks with the iTunes Store and iTunes Match before it actually charges you? I dunno. If this is the case, they really should go a step further and not waste your time encouraging you to spend your hard-earned money on something you already own (but may have forgotten about). It happens when you own thousands and thousands of songs.
So... anyway... danger aside, I love iTunes Radio. Love it.
Once I fine-tune a station, I'm getting even better play-lists than I did from iTunes Genius Mixes. Plus discovering some terrific stuff I either never knew about or didn't recall hearing before. And that's about the best I could have hoped for.
I just hope I don't go broke buying new music while listening to it.
Posted on Friday, September 20th, 2013
Well, my trip over the mountains was brutal.
It all started when I was leaving town and had to drive across some broken glass to get out of an alley. Not knowing whether or not any of my tires would develop a leak, I made a mental note to visit the AutoZone that's ten minutes from my hotel. That way I could pick up a couple cans of Fix-A-Flat just in case my morning dash to the airport starts with a flat.
But those plans went right out the window when I ran into the never-ending-road construction on I-90, and traffic ground to a halt. Why in the hell the idiots in charge are closing down lanes of a major highway on a Friday night as people are trying to get to the coast for their weekend is beyond me. It must be beyond them too, because I never saw any work crews. Apparently they choked down traffic to a crawl for nothing? Whatever the case, it took me an hour to drive 8 miles, which pretty much screwed any chance of getting to AutoZone before 9:00pm.
And then flood began.
The top of Snoqualmie Pass was pouring rain, slowing the traffic that had just gotten going again.
Eventually I decided to just bail off the highway in Issaquah to see if Target had any Fix-A-Flat (they did) and wait out the rain (it never stopped). I finally pulled into my hotel around 10:00pm in the pouring rain after five hours on the road, which is twice as long as it usually takes.
Now I have a headache and am beyond exhausted.
This concert I'm going to had better be amazing.
Posted on Saturday, September 21st, 2013
Got up really early.
Drove to airpot parking.
Took a shuttle to the airport.
Breezed through security.
Had a Qdoba vegetarian burrito.
Flew to Atlanta.
Flew to Philadelphia.
Caught a shuttle to my hotel.
And that was pretty much my entire day.
Posted on Sunday, September 22nd, 2013
When I found out that one of my all-time favorite bands, The Pet Shop Boys, would once again be swinging through Seattle on their Electric tour, I was ecstatic. This would be three-for-three in seeing all their Seattle performances. Except... the date was one day before I leave for vacation. And there was no way I could make that work.
But there was also no way I was going to miss the show, so I found they were playing Philadelphia on a weekend, and my solution was clear.... I would be cashing in a pile of airline miles and hotel points and heading back to the East Coast (after Depeche Mode in Tampa last weekend).
It was totally worth the effort.
Mostly because the concert was mind-bogglingly excellent, as usual. But also because my ticket came in a "meet and greet" package where I actually got to shake hands and chat with the band! And get my lanyard and program signed...
Not really knowing what to say, I thanked them profusely for coming to Seattle at long last and then returning again with their previous Pandemonium tour. It was then that Neil said "Wait... we're going to be in Seattle again this tour... what are you doing here in Philadelphia?" At which time I explained my situation, and Chris was kind enough to say that they really enjoy playing Seattle and that it's part of their schedule now (replacing Texas, apparently). Both "Boys" were incredibly warm and friendly, and seemed genuinely appreciative of their fans. It was a complete thrill to have met them, and I'm still a bit starstruck from the experience.
As I had said, the show was beyond amazing. Very imaginative and technically impressive. Beautifully staged. Incredibly entertaining. And then there was the music... which is one of my favorite things on earth. They played a brilliant assortment of songs new and old, and the crowd was on their feet the whole time.
AND I GOT TO SEE IT ALL FROM THE SECOND ROW!!!
When I bought my ticket, I had thought that I was in the 28th, because my row was "BB." In an Excel spreadsheet, columns go from A to Z, then go AA, BB, CC, etc. But it turns out that the "Mann Center for the Performing Arts" has BB as the second row of the orchestra pit. I was so close to the stage that it was almost like getting to meet them all over again!
ME! RIGHT THERE AT THE STAGE!
Their first costumes were scary spikey shirts. They did not look at all comfortable.
Then it was time for... BULL HEADS!!!
The sheer volume of lasers present would have vaporized lesser men!
Chris is wearing a disco ball on his head. And why wouldn't he?
The Pet Shop Boys were strapped to beds, then had other bodies projected on to them!
Chris's keyboard station was beautiful and... ELECTRIC!
And... it was time for a final couple of songs and the end to a great show!
Incredible. Just incredible.
No joke... if you are even a tiny bit of a fan of The Pet Shop Boys, GO SEE THIS SHOW! Tour dates are here.
This is one incredibly small world. I went from having no idea how I was getting home from the concert to getting a ride from the guy sitting next to me from Philadelphia who is a colleague of a friend I know who lives in London when I am from Seattle. I noticed it completely by accident when he put on a sweatshirt with a company logo I recognized. And this follows my running into my friend from London when I was in Boston back in June.
Everything's connected... you just have to stop and look for it!
And speaking of connections... seeing The Pet Shop Boys was not the only great thing to happen today... I got to go to lunch with blogging buddies BubbleWench, LibraGirl, and ChrissyRub! They were incredibly kind enough to take time out of their busy Sundays to come hang out with me and I couldn't have been happier. Having met such amazing people over the years from this blog continues to be a payoff that never ends.
After a fun couple hours, the ladies were nice enough to kill time with me before the concert by offering to take me to see Ft. Mifflin. Once they told me it was haunted, I was totally onboard! It's actually quite a pretty area...
Though the insides are kinda dead. I totally understand why ghosts would want to hang around here...
The most interesting thing about Ft. Mifflin today, however, is its proximity to the airport. Every 5 minutes, a plane screams overhead. And the planes get really close...
No, seriously, the planes get really, really close...
I swear at some point I could see people inside...
Pretty cool! Thanks again ladies!
And... then it was off to the concert, which LibraGirl was kind enough to drive me to.
And... it was incredible. Just incredible.
But I think I mentioned that already.
Posted on Monday, September 23rd, 2013
Maybe if I had billions of dollars I would feel differently about things, but right now I am having an even harder time than usual trying to comprehend the astounding level of assholery it takes to be able to say the words "You may serve me now."
But if you find that you've slept through meal service... and you really want something to eat... and you're a total asshole... then dinging your call-button and telling the flight attendant "You may serve me now" is apparently a perfectly acceptable thing to do when seated in the First Class cabin of a plane.
Had I been the flight attendant in question, there is no telling how I would have responded to something like that. My guess is that I would have gone the sarcastic route and said something like "And what a thrill that is for me! You have no idea!" But, much to the credit of our flight attendant, she just said "Did you want the chicken pasta or the chicken sandwich?" and then went about her business.
Whether or not she wiped her ass with the bun from that chicken sandwich before serving it I'll never know.
Posted on Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
It turns out that I didn't like the show that I had most been looking forward to seeing from the new 2013-2014 television season: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. At least not as much as I was expecting to.
Now, don't get me wrong... there are elements I liked quite a lot...
But... and here's the hard part... that wasn't enough. I actually fell asleep half-way through the show. I had to rewind it when I woke up so I could find out what happened. And a lot of the reason for that can be summed up thusly...
The good news is that the previews for upcoming episodes look like they're going to be more focused and interesting than what we got tonight. If they can just work on not making every moment be so life-and-death overly-dramatic... tone down the idiocy of Fitz and Simmons... shift towards a bit more action... and take a more balanced approach to the effects budget... the show has a chance with me.
Otherwise this is just going to be a bad retread of Heroes, and something that I won't miss when it's inevitably canceled for boring the shit out of the audience.
Posted on Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
Pledge allegiance to YouTube... because a special All-Video Bullet Sunday on Wednesday starts now...
• Guinness! Really good advertising is exceedingly rare. Especially on television. Most television ads are irritating as shit, and something you can't wait to end so you can get back to watching the show you tuned in for. I loathe television ads so much that I rarely watch "live" television any more. I record everything on my DVR so I can fast-forward through that shit. However... there are times that truly good ads happen. Then, not only do I not mind watching them, I actually find myself rewinding my DVR so I can watch them again and again. This miraculous ad from Guinness is just such an ad...
Beautiful. Maybe even poetic. And most certainly one of my favorite ads ever. I've lost track of how many times I've watched it just for the sheer joy of seeing something hopeful and good. If all advertisements were this thoughtful and smart, I'd have to start watching "live" TV again.
• I DO! Everyone on the internet has seen this already, but I want it on my blog anyway because I love it. I can't fathom the person who watches this video and experiences anything but happiness for these people...
If that isn't enough for you, Spencer and Dustin talk about the video on Ellen here. Best of luck, guys!
• BRAINS! When it comes to zombie stories, "touching" and "heart-warming" are not terms you'd generally use to describe them. But this... this... is well worth your time to watch, because it's exactly that...
Put these guys in charge of the new Walking Dead spin-off.
• Orchestra! This kinda made my week. It's Tom & Jerry as you've never heard it before...
So many of the cartoons from my childhood had brilliant scores that could easily be deserving of this treatment. Brilliant.
• D*CK! Never underestimate the power of a Kiwi accent...
What is it with these squirrels hanging out on my d*ick?!?
And... no more video bullets for you.
Posted on Thursday, September 26th, 2013
When living with a problem for so long that you don't even realize how serious the problem has become, it's a real eye-opener to suddenly be handed a solution to the problem you didn't even know you needed solved.
Which is exactly how it feels to find out that I haven't been breathing properly for a decade.
Oh sure, I knew that my allergies got a little rough when the weather changes in the Spring and Fall... but far better to find relief in an occasional allergy pill than to buy into some pharmaceutical solution that's probably going to cause more problems than it solves, right?
And yeah, Summer can be a real bitch with all the pollens and allergens polluting the air, but that's what Summer is all about, right?
The allergy problems I've been dealing with most of my life finally got to the point where I was waking in the middle of the night unable to breathe, and every waking day was so miserable that just stepping outside was something to dread. Three days of uncomfortable transition between seasons was becoming three weeks. In recent days I didn't even know when "allergy season" ever began or ended because the entire year was becoming "allergy season."
My entire life had become post-nasal drip.
So I finally bit the bullet and saw a doctor so I could get loaded up on two drugs called "Flonase" and "Singulair"...
It's been less than a week and already my quality of life has improved to a ridiculous degree. For one thing, I can breathe through my nose again. I can't imagine what things will be like a week from now after the drugs have really had time to make a difference.
Of course, by that time I may be knee-deep in side-effects, but I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Posted on Friday, September 27th, 2013
When it comes to nightmare scenarios, having Jarrod Saltalamacchia leave the Red Sox for the Yankees pretty much tops anything else in my head right now... including "Alien Invasion Destroys Disney World" and "Chocolate Pudding Made Illegal."
And tonight Salty hit another home-run hit his 40th double of the season, breaking the record for a Boston catcher, and banishing all fears that the guy can't produce a strong finish to the season. He's finally becoming the player I always knew he would be, and watching him blow past expectations of the stats-crunchers who dumped all over his batting average last season... despite his 25 home runs... has been hugely satisfying for a fan like me.
But his escalating success just makes him all the more appealing for a team like the Yankees, who could very much use a guy like Saltalamacchia in their roster.
Somebody is going to be backing up a dump-truck filled with money to Salty's front door and sign him to a nice fat contract.
If it's not Boston, I'll be crushed.
If it's the Yankees, I'll be devastated.
But I suppose if my worst nightmares come true, I'll always be able to look back on days like today and remember why I'm such a big fan.
The look on Salty's face when he thought he had another homer in the bag is priceless.
And... I'm ready for the World Series. Which conveniently starts when I return from vacation.
But first... some wild-card antics...
Posted on Saturday, September 28th, 2013
Am I excited for vacation? Oh yes.
Am I even remotely ready for vacation? Not even.
There is no possible way that I'm going to be able to get all my work done before I leave. Which means that, once again, I'll be on a working vacation. Typical.
Sure it sucks but, hey, it's still a vacation.
And now I should probably be thinking about what I'm going to be doing for vacation...
Posted on Sunday, September 29th, 2013
Say hello, wave goodbye... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Bad! I've been dreading the impending final episode of Breaking Bad for months. I love the show, didn't want it to end, and was worried sick that the writers would build everything up to a shitty, "artistic," non-ending ending like The Sopranos. Or, more recently, a shitty, shitty, non-ending ending like Dexter... both of which sucked ass. But, surprise, Vince Gilligan and the rest of the Breaking Bad crew actually pulled it off...
If the show had to end, this was a great way to do it.
• Go Martha! Heaven only knows I am no Martha Stewart fan... there are times I downright despise the woman... but her taking a stand against patent trolls has me cheering her on. If only we could get rid of these do-nothing, innovation-killing shit-bags for good.
• So Long! If somebody were to unfriend me for supporting my friends or family, then they were never my friend to begin with, and wouldn't be missed...
People who live in the past should be left there. If they remove themselves from the game, so much the better.
• Delicious! For those of you keeping up with my love/hate relationship with Earl of Sandwich, THE PHILADELPHIA AIRPORT LOCATION STILL HAS THE EARL VEGGIE ON THE MENU!!
A little saltier than I remember (I think they over-did the salt/pepper/spice mix) but still oh so delicious.
• High Society! Betty Who's "Somebody Loves You" is getting a lot of attention... but my favorite track off of her her "The Movement" EP is called "High Society." And seeing her perform it live in this video has now made seeing her in concert a priority for me...
If you haven't picked it up yet, The Movement EP is worth a listen.
And, I guess it's goodbye!
Posted on Monday, September 30th, 2013
One of my favorite hobbies used to be life drawing in pencil. Portraits were especially fun, as it's kind of cool to start from a blank piece of paper and slowly build up to an actual person that people can recognize.
When I was in high school, I did a number of pencil portrait commissions just for fun. Somebody would bring me a photograph. I'd use an overhead projector to blow it up to the size needed. After that was set up, I'd trace over the lines of the image on a piece of good-quality drawing paper. Then I'd spend the next couple days of free-time building up the darks and carefully blending them to the lights until the portrait took shape. I'd then deliver the portrait to the client, collect my $20, and go blow it on comic books.
This story would be so much cooler if I could inject a photo of one of my portraits here but, alas, I don't have any. You'll just have to trust me that I was pretty good at it.
Now, a lot of people... especially "artists" who have no idea what they're doing... look at a pencil portrait and say something like "Well that doesn't look so hard! All they did was trace a photo! I could do that!" And they're not entirely wrong. Most times, it is tracing.
At the start.
But what distinguishes a crappy pencil portrait from a great pencil portrait is what you do with that tracing. It's how you choose to define your lights so that the darks can pop. It's how you choose to define your darks so that the lights can shine. And it's how much you allow the shades of gray to mingle in-between.
It's all about definition.
I've seen many a pencil portrait where somebody has blended too long, too hard, and ended up with a big mess of gray. Their portrait lacks contrast. It will look boring and flat no matter how perfectly rendered, because the necessary darks and lights which are needed to create definition and add excitement are missing.
There's something to be learned from that.
Entirely too many people are trying to drag us into a flat, boring world where nobody pops or shines and everything is reduced to a murky gray that lacks any definition and excitement. They want everybody to look the same, act the same, and feel the same. The exact same as they do, of course, and there's no room for anybody to be different. Or even tolerant of those who are different.
And what fun is that?
I want my world filled with as much definition... as much diversity... as possible.
Because one day the person trying to shine who is being dragged into the grey could be you.