Lately I've become a HUGE fan of a mash-up DJ by the name of Luke Enlow, known to his buds as Lenlow. You should run on over to his music page and download pretty much everything that's posted. And while you're at it, if you'd like to know more about him, check his blog
Have any of you seen a mention about the UK-based graffiti artist named Bansky? Turns out the Brits have a counter-culture genius on their hands. Take a look at his website, by all means, but first check out this article about his latest exploit. Turns out the man decides to waltz in to some of the greatest museums of our time (including The Brooklyn Museum, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and New York's Museum of Natural History) and decides to hang his own pieces of art right next to the masters. What's worse, one of his pieces was up there for THREE DAYS! By any measure, that is just GREATNESS.
Last weekend, I learned of two evils in this world. Two puissant forces determined to drive the wedge of hostility amongst betwixt ourselves and our bretheren of the human race, and to entrench painful despair in our very souls.
Of these evils I speak, the first is the underfunded gift card.
My wife got a nice gift card from a relative this Christmas, and has yet to spend it. Why, you may ask? There's a very good reason. The card was for a certain dollar amount, let's call it X. The average purchase at the store whereat this gift card is honored is another dollar amount - let's call that Y. Now, you can probably guess that Y is greater than X. Quite a bit greater, actually. Of course, one could buy some little trinket or tchotchke, but what use is that when you could easily buy the same item yourself at a different store for much less? You, my friend, are left in a quandry. A chasm of unparalleled agony from which you can not escape. Either you waste the gift card on a meaningless purchase, thus stripping the intended value of the holiday gift away and tossing it carlessly away as rubbish, or you invest so much of your own money in purchasing a real gift for yourself from the carded establishment that it negates the worth of the gift card all together. A true evil in this world my friends, indeed.
The second of these horrors I speak also deals with shoppping. I shall call it "the unanswerable display."
Consider this: you are shopping for clothes with your significant other. You're in the clothing department of the opposite sex, which, for a man, means you might as well be in another nation. Your dearest love is perusing the racked wares, sometimes pausing, other times moving quickly by. And then, it comes. The Moment. Your mate removes a piece of clothing from the rack and holds it up, saying nothing but merely wearing a quizzical expression. And, at that moment, you are stuck between a solidity of rock and gravity of a hard place between which you have never been before. For what shall be your answer?
Either you assume she likes said garment, and is seeking your outside approval only to affirm the inclinations she is already feeling in her heart - meaning you should offer some token praise for the raiment, even if you feel it's more deserving of display upon some cell wall within Arkahm Asylum.
Or, she is feeling a moment of whimsy, and raises the foul fabric design aloft merely to mock it with some sarcastic remark as "Oh, this is SOOOO me!". Your proper response then is to join in the sarcasm, relishing in its irony, or perhaps heaping some derogatory comment upon the woven wreck hung so impossibly from the cheap plastic incorrrectly-assigned-as-another-size hanger.
Fail to determine the correct response, and you have either insulted a garment which your loved one truly felt a yearning towards, or you have intimated that she should garb herself with images too mind-numbing to be seen in public. You balance a tight rope above a lake of burining sulfur, with the Sword of Damocles suspended above.
Truly, these are great and heavy perils.
"...I want a girl with a short skirt and a looooooong jacket..."
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." -Hebrews 12:1
Those of you who have read some of my previous blog entries will know I'm always amazed at how the Biblical authors can make these statements of belief, faith, fact or action with such certainty and ease. The Hebrews passage above just says to "throw off" everything that's keeping you down, like you can just do a metaphysical wet-dog shake and clear your life of everything. It boggles the mind.
See, more these days I feel like Paul as he's speaking in Romans 7">Romans 7 where he says he's doing the very things he doesn't want to do. You know, this may come as a shock to all you good, strong readers out there, but nobody's perfect. Even the Christians. Sometimes especially the Christians. I focus so much on the things I'm not doing, the ways I'm not right, or the times I fall short. I don't see my Walk as a race, but more of a stumbling crawl through the dust at times. That's not to say that I don't also have my moments, but that my overall perception is much more negative.
And that's where I think I've got it wrong.
See, when I'm thinking about anything other than the present; when I'm reminding myself of past failures or lapses or crash-and-burns;
when I'm at those moments I'm letting the evil win the game. Despair, self-defeat, looking back, pity-parties, deep sighs of regret - whatever you call them, they're all a part of the ways we push God out of our lives. This isn't what a "spirit of power" does. Repentance means recognizing you were wrong and turning away completely - from the sin AND the guilt. Because if God's grace doesn't work until you've beaten yourself up enough, until you've moped about enough, then our salvation is locked off in some limbo, and we've got no certainty.
Take a look at your failures. Remember them, learn from them, and then walk on. Lay it ALL aside.
"But I'm holding on underneath this shroud...Rain."
A nice friend of mine recommended I try Plucker for reading an HTML book she sent me. I gave the app a little research, and I'm finding it to me MUCH superior for reading RSS feeds. Much better than my AvantGo/MobileRSS combination. I haven't worked all the kinks out of Plucker yet, but I feel it has room for greatness. Why? Autoscroll, faster read times, thumbnailed images, and a funky pacifier-looking logo.
Ah, we are a dying breed, aren't we? Outside of the standout Treo (note this link takes you to Handspring's former site - the Treo is about all they have left!), there's not much good news in the Palm world. PDA sales are down, and Palm OS market share is WAY down. Sony, the maker of my favored Clié, has pulled out of the PDA market entirely.
But take heart, my bretheren, the Palm OS is still an incredible PDA platform, and there's still plenty of software out there to use - even some good FREE stuff. I've been asked about where to get the best goods before, so here's a list of my favorite apps and sites.
- Numero Uno, you need to have AvantGo. I mean, I read this stuff EVERY DAY, and it's always refreshed when I sync. Kinda like carrying a magazine rack around.
- Documents To Go is a suite that came with my Clié, and it's honestly the best way to work with Word, Excel or PowerPoint on your Palm PDA. So, of course, it's not free.
- If you can't spend the money on DtG, you're going to need some kind of PDB Converter so you can work with documents and read some ebooks on your PDA. The one linked here is free.
- Once you've got things converted to Palm Database Format (PDB), you're going to need some kind of reader. HandStory Basic has been highly espoused on download.com. I use ReadThemAll, because I like its auto-scroll function and small footprint.
- Adobe Reader has a Palm OS format program, which I think is the best way to read ebooks out there. It has a desktop componenent for converting PDFs to a mobile format, and a reader you install on your PDA. I read the entire Harry Potter series with this program.
- Putting The Bible on my PDA has been one of the greatest things for my spiritual life that I've ever done. The Bibles you mark in and highlight are just too big for comfortable reading late at night, and they certainly aren't backlit. I'm currently using Palm Bible+. Follow that link, and they've got great instructions for how to set it up and how to install multiple versions on your PDA. I've got four free ones on mine right now, and I love it. It's very cool to switch between versions on the fly to get better context while you're reading. Before I got Palm Bible+, I used Olive Tree Bible Software, which also worked just fine.
All work and no play makes your PDA blow up, so let's talk about some games:
- PopCap has some of the best portable games I've ever played, including the great Bejeweled. Go ahead and download their trial versions - most of them just have a "please register" waiting screen that gets longer the more you use them. For games like Bookworm, Bejeweled and Alchemy, there's no locked-off levels to worry about, so once the screen gets annoying, uninstall the thing and download yourself a new copy.
- Dope Wars. A minute to learn, a lifetime to master, and lots of time wasted in the process.
- Palm Boulevard has a number of games available for free download. Some are very good, some are very bad. Most are for Palm OS 4 and earlier, but you can find some good OS 5 files if you look around.
- Card House is a great soliataire package, and the demo works just as well as the real-deal. If you've got some money to spend, though, go get Acid Solitaire.
- I've tried Nintendo Gameboy and Sega GameGear emulators before, but never had much luck with them. Unfortunately, Sony's audio programming is different than other Palm OS PDAs, and so most of these emulators don't have any sound if you're using one. Phoinix is the most popular Gameboy emulator, if you'd like to try it.
After that, there's tons of little do-dads and gizmos that you can stuff in there. After the big apps take up most of your memory, try tossing in a few things like:
- There are lots of mirror programs out there - basically they turn your screen black (or dark grey if you have color), so you can see the natural reflection of the glass. Not perfect, but not useless. The best one is here.
- The reverse of this is called Flashlight, which turns your screen all white (or all black if you're in grayscale mode) so you can illuminate the room. Remarkably useful when you're fumbling around at night after reading.
- If your PDA has IR capability, there's a ton of programs you can use to make it control your TV, VCR, DVD player or whatever. Enjoy.
- And finally, if I had an old Palm PDA that was just gathering dust, here's what I would do with it in a heartbeat.
"I dare you to move..."
Creativity, it's a privilege, not a right.
Last night I watched this presentation on my PDA by two guys from Belief, a broadcast design and live action studio in Santa Monica, CA. A friend of mine showed this to me, and I've finally had the chance to watch it all. I have no clue who these guys are, but their presentation is incredible.
Their goal is to answer all those popular questions about creativity - where do original ideas come from? What makes one idea "more creative" than another? How can a person engage in creative work within the commercial framework of advertising? What can I do to become "more creative"?
Great thoughts, great questions, great answers. Go download the thing (it's about 45 minutes, but worth it) and expand your mind.
We're now able to catch up with the elusive Mr. Swan...ah, there he is! Mr. Swan! Mr. Swan! Could we have a word? Oh, you do have a minute? Excellent, let's roll tape on this and get a few statements for the record.
- Can you tell us where you've been for over a month?
Well, naturally, I've had a number of commitments to attend to, not the least of which being my work. After all, they're kind enough to look the other way as I blog my little heart out - the least I can do is actually accomplish that which they hired me to do.
- Mr. Swan, that's extremely boring. Can't you do better?
Sure. I've been training with Iron Chef Masahara Morimoto, who has been instructing me in the finer arts of sushi. And Japanese food. And blowfish dissection.
Ok, so he actually took me to McDonalds a couple of times, but the art he can create with a McNugget and a sharp plastic blade is truly breathtaking!
- So, what's in your bag these days?
I'm so glad you asked. I've recently gotten addicted to this Flickr meme, and I've been recently taking stock of what I'm carrying around these days. Here's a good list:
- Sony Clie TJ-37
- Clie data cable w/power & data dongle
- Leatherman Wave
- Notepad portfolio w/random papers stuffed in there
- Gym clothes I was going to use when I went there yesterday, before work got crazy. Again.
- Scrabble® Keychain (yeah, I'm a nerd. Deal.)
- Vinyl/rubber change holder (it's not a purse)
- Contact drops
- Oral-B Brush-ups (thanks, mother-in-law!)
- Archos Gmini 220 MP3 player w/included mediocre earbuds
- Gmini data cable & power brick
- CD wallet (I'm ripping them to the player at work)
- Unidentifiable bills, papers, and other things I was supposed to do something with.
- Sony Clie TJ-37
- Mr. Swan, you mentioned visiting the gym, is that a new development?
Why yes, it is. Since I last posted to this lovely blog, I've joined and now work out 3 days a week at a gym. I've actually had a trainer for these past few weeks, and my last training session is tomorrow. Going to the gym has been good, but also an extremely steep learning and accustomization curve. I'm not in terrible shape, but put me on that stair mill for half an hour, and I might belive I'm having a heart attack. Weights are good too, but when you can't straighten your arm completely afterwards for a day or so, it's kinda uncomfortable. I asked my trainer the fateful question: "It goes away after a couple weeks when you're used to working out again, doesn't it?" "No, not really. I'm in pain all the time. But it's a GOOD pain." Heh.
- Mr. Swan, after such a long hiatus from blogging, what are your plans for this corner of cyberspace?
First, I'm making a commitment to myself to blog more often. It's a valuable exercise in writing, a powerful outlet for the mind, and a great jump-start for those creative juices. Blogging doesn't have to begin with a careful meme in mind, it can just be a foolish idea for an interview metaphor that ends up taking way more time in your day than you thought it would. Rest assured people, I shall still attempt to make you laugh, think, wonder about my mental health, and jump to far corners of the internet I have visited.
Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Swan.