Not posted to a how-to site

This was originally written by request for a how-to site, however, that site kind of went down before I got it in to them, so I’ma post it here. 

There is always going to be something about picking up a pen and crossing something off a list. You may own a tablet, smartphone, laptop, netbook, and desktop PC, but when it comes down to it, you still like to use that paper and pen. Why? One reason would be simply because it’s satisfying. But mostly, our reasons vary. It’s because you don’t have to keep an app open all the time, cluttering up your taskbar or using up your phone’s memory. Because you can’t stand it making your tablet constantly pop up reminders. Because whatever device you use, it won’t be on the one you have with you. Because it’s not convenient.

Because you can just stuff a piece of paper in your pocket.

And that’s the kicker. The one bad habit we all need to kick – stop stuffing little pieces of paper in our pockets. It’s bad for the environment, it gives off a bad impression if you ever have to pull something else out of your pocket, it’s messy, the ink runs and stains our clothes, and at the end of the day there’s a big wad of paper in your pocket made up of the dozens of notes you’ve had to make all day.

And really, all of our problems with the idea of going paperless are easily solvable. There are plenty of apps that run in the background, that will sync across multiple devices so you always have it with you, that could be just as convenient as paper if you gave them more than a half-a-day’s try.

Well, except that the better ones, like Remember The Milk, all cost money these days before they’ll do anything cool. And there is no frustration level like the frustration of using a new free application that everyone’s raving about only to hit a pay wall five minutes in because you added a task on your tablet and why exactly isn’t it showing up on the website? Oh for…that’s $25 a year? What’s the point then?!

Uninstalled and back to paper. Didn’t even last ten minutes.

The obvious answer here is Google Tasks, which auto-sync to any device without too much trouble and which will sit next to your Google Calendar. Chances are you already use GCal or GMail, so the idea of using another Google product isn’t unfamiliar, but there’s a very big problem with that for me: it’s literally just an add-on. It’s not a full, developed list application. I can create tasks. Not multiple lists for multiple things, I can’t make a grocery list with it, and no one can add to my list with it.

For easily shareable lists, there’s Microsoft OneNote if everyone’s on the same network, but that doesn’t work if you’re working with someone across the country on a project. That only works if you’re doing a grocery list with someone across the house.

Google Docs can work for the aforementioned project, but it’s a bit glitchy in its syncing, and at that point, an email would do it.

And none of these will put the grocery list you have on your computer onto your phone or tablet, so it’s really not as convenient as paper in the end.

No, my answer is highly unconventional, but has worked wonders for me.

I instant message myself.

This may sound very strange and a bit weird, but it works. I always have my phone with me when I’m out and most lists are made on my computer when at home. So I simply created a second Google account and linked it to my phone. I make a list and send it to myself, and there it is when I’m out and about.

Likewise, if I’m checking something out when out shopping, for example, I want to make sure I get the best deal on a new set of RAM chips, I can easily send myself the information in an IM, as if texting a friend, and have it there, waiting for me when I get home. This has the added benefit of being a reminder when I get home to look up the information, because the window’s at the front of my screen, blinking in the taskbar to remind me that I have a new message.

For long-term lists, I simply open the mail account attached to my phone and create a new email – and never send it.  Saved as a draft, it’s forever editable, and will be there on both the computer and phone whenever I need it. I can check things off by bolding or italicizing them, and I can always add new items to the bottom. Using this system, I have room for infinite lists, always available on any device. I can easily sign into the list account on any computer or tablet, so I can always get to my lists wherever I am and with whatever device I have with me, so that I’m never wondering what I was supposed to do.

It also makes sharing lists easy, as you can copy the current version into a new mail and send it out to whoever you’d like (I never send the email I use as draft list, because then I’d get confused as to which one is the more up-to-date version).

The beauty of the system, though, is that if for some reason, you happen to hate Google, you can use it with any other email system, including your own domain-based webmail. As long as you have two accounts, with a draft system that will not delete items, all but the instant-messaging portion will easily work. And if you want the IMs, there are dozens of ways to add that in – hotmail, AOL and yahoo all have IM systems for phones and tablets that you can use to talk to yourself and keep track of your grocery lists.

This is the easiest way to ditch paper – using something you already have without having to learn a whole new program, you can ditch paper forever, just like me.

Most of the time. Kind of.

I barely use paper for lists anymore, I swear it.

Except last-minute grocery lists, I mean, that’s just silly to open an app if I’m just running out for a few things…


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Gaming Prejudice

OK, I get it. Easter and Christmas are big deals. You guys celebrate them loudly enough to make that very, very clear. And I get special events in all my facebook games for them, and for Valentine’s day and St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s and Fourth of July. Awesome, and I enjoy them.

Here’s the thing. We just passed a holiday with no gaming fanfare at all, and I’m so damned used to it that it didn’t even occur to me to complain.

Yesterday was Rosh Hashanna. The Jewish New Year. Where the FUCK was my little Jewish guy in Castleville with his yamaka and peyos, walking around with a Torah and giving me quests to do with apples and honey?!

Dude, you’d think I’d get that, considering the Chinese New Year gets events, too, with the dragons and the lanterns. Where’s my stereotyped event?!

I know, it’s a ridiculous question. But that’s what bothers me – it’s a ridiculous question. The very idea of folding the Jewish holidays in is absurd, and that in itself is a problem. If we hit Easter and Christmas, I want Rosh Hashanna and Passover. I don’t think this is too much to ask. Just a few matzos and some apples and honey aren’t exactly hard to pull together for a game. You could do it if you really tried.

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I’m Totally Using My iPad!

OK, so when I first got an iPad it was kind of under pressure and not exactly of my own free will – but when a prospective client doesn’t hire you based on the fact that you have no iPad, you wake up to certain realities: One, I’m too young to be in this field and not look completely and totally successful, and two: as a society we judge success based on whether or not we have the fancy new gadgets.

Both of those are rants for another date.

I’ve had the iPad since April. APRIL. And yes, for work, it is handy. I keep contracts on it and I can adjust them at any time and sign and send them off right there! Very useful. But other than work functions and meetings there hasn’t been a lot of call for it, and to be honest, I still take better notes by hand even though I have a cool Jot stylus, which makes the whole shebang easier on a tablet.

None. NONE of this has anything to do with what I wanted to talk about, though – which is that suddenly, in the last week or so, I notice that I’m actually using the thing on a regular basis.

I got a recipe app, and I’m using that way more than I thought I would. Well, ok, that’s reasonable – I don’t have to sort through little cards and I can just import anything I find online.

There’s also the fact that I now  have a few games on there that I’m actually PLAYING. See,  before, I had stuff like Draw Something and such. You spend a few minutes a day playing them if you remember and then you’re done. But then Nyx got me into Temple Run: Brave and I started playing that. And while I was updating things the other day, I got My Singing Monsters. It was like getting a candy bar in the checkout line! Total impulse download, figured I’d never touch it.

Yeah, can’t stop playing it.

I also had long ago set up a second email for my iPad because I hate, HATE attaching my main to devices. I do not like being that available – as I’ve said before, my email is closed. So I put a new email address on the iPad so I could share pictures and such through email. See? Makes sense.

Ok, but I recently started sending out some resumes and one-pagers looking for gigs and opportunities in Seattle. And I ended up using that email address because it was professional sounding without being attached to a website or company, which I kinda needed for this venture.

And then, of course, I proceeded to forget to CHECK that email because it means signing out and back into a different gmail account and I tend to forget to do that. This is why I takes me so long to build up my MyPoints and get my B&N gift certificates, which is kinda all I use that system for.

Hey, I like free books, what can I say?

Back on topic, the iPad’s always signed into that new email address. So I started using it to just check that email.

Which leads me back to today, when I realized that I’m actually using the thing. Like, a lot. Like, way more than I ever really expected to honestly USE IT. I figured it was an expensive loss and I’d just have to deal with it because it’s good for business. I really didn’t think I’d be USING IT.

But I am. Using it. It’s kinda scary.

Now excuse me, I have to check my iPad – think I just finished breeding my drummer monster.

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No, I did not get the email you sent me this morning. If it was sent after 10am, I already checked my email for the morning and closed the tab.

No, I do not sit there with the tab open all day and perpetually check my email.

No, I do not use a program to alert me whenever a new email message comes in.

No, I do not check my email on my phone.

No, I do not check my email on my iPad. As a matter of fact, my iPad has an unrelated email address attached to it so I can send stuff easily without having to sift through my entire inbox every damned time I turn the tablet ON.

I’m going to say this once and I really need everyone to pay attention: I check my email a max of three times a day. Once at around 10am to get last night’s and first thing in the morning’s emails. Once at around 3-4pm to get the rest of the day’s emails. And once, MAYBE, late at night, and I stress the MAYBE, to see if anything interesting came in.

That’s. It. It’s not an instant message service. It’s not a phone. You cannot immediately get my attention with email, and I do not appreciate the FIFTEEN EMAILS in my “priority” section demanding to know why I didn’t respond now, now, now, now!

If you need me that badly, pick up the freakin’ phone or text me. Or hell, IM me. I’m on Gtalk pretty much all the time – if I’m at the computer, I’ll answer you. No, I don’t get my IMs on my phone either. I’m 30, not 60, but I do have this thing about getting stuff DONE, and constant connectivity doesn’t exactly help. Read Lifehacker sometime.

I will answer your email when I flippin’ get it, ok? No, that’ s not likely to be right when you send it. I swear to GOD, you won’t die if I don’t answer right this very second.

Otherwise, pretend it’s 1994, and you need something from me. There’s this cool invention called a telephone. Still works great, even in this modern age. Use it. Your fingers aren’t broken, you can dial.

Otherwise, how the hell’d you type so damned much?!

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So I use Spotify free most of the time. I’ve paid for a month here and there, but mostly it’s just not in the budget right now, and that’s fine. I don’t mind the ads.

HOWEVER! That does mean that I get to see how hard Microsoft is pushing with their new ad campaign. Use IE! It’s SHINEY! NEW! Use Bing Search! It’s a social search!

…it’s the second one we’re talking about here today.

I use Google. I use a lot of Google products in fact. I have an Android phone, I use Chrome to browse, I use Google for search, Gmail, Gtalk, G+, Google Hangout, Google Calendar. Seriously, I loves me some Google. And therefore, I know something that Microsoft is apparently unaware of.

Google was doing the social search thing like six months ago, folks. The instant you signed up for Google Plus and agreed to the terms, your searches got “personal” results. You can turn ’em off at any time, though. Which is kinda the thing. You can’t with Bing.

Now, I did use Bing for a bit, because for a half second, they had the size-specific image searches and Google didn’t. I give ’em that. They were a step ahead there. But then Google picked that up and all was well again.

That said, there WAS a short stint during which I used the engine. I came away very happy to go back to Google. It’s not that there’s anything WRONG with Bing, but it felt clunky and rarely found the sites I was specifically looking for. The algorithms weren’t as clean, I guess.

Then again, it could just be that I’m USED to Google now.

However, I can’t help but notice that GOOGLE is not ADVERTISING their services. They just figure you’ll use ’em if you like ’em.

And that’s always been a big thing for me. It’s refreshing. Yes, they have ads ON their site, but they’re still, after all these years, unobtrusive, quiet, off to the side. The sponsored search results are actually often helpful. And I never have once had to sit through a Hulu or Spotify ad for them.

That pretty much does it for me.

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