As a writer, I’m always looking out for The Next Great Tool. And while I’ve pretty much settled on Ulysses for novels and short stories, I’m still not completely satisfied with what’s available for blogging on mobile platforms (I’m looking at you, iPhone and iPad).

On my Windows laptop, Open Live Writer is my program of choice. Unfortunately, it’s not available for mobile devices–they’re just not powerful enough.

This morning I started reading someone’s blog post about a program called Drafts. It looked interesting, so I decided to take it for a spin, which was easy enough to do since there is a free version as well as a paid version.

So I installed it on my iPhone. In fact, I’m writing this entry using it. I already have several writing apps on this phone, so why do I keep looking for more?

It’s quite simple, really: I wasn’t all that smart when I bought my smartphone. I went with the one that had the least amount of memory: 16Gb. Which means I’m constantly searching for more efficient apps so that I can use the fewest number of them as possible.

And yes, I learned my lesson: my new iPad has 128Gb of memory.

Drafts

Formatting text in Drafts is quite simple; it uses Markdown language which is accessed via the on-screen Markdown toolbar. It’s the same language Ulysses uses, which is pretty cool considering that I can export my writing right into Ulysses.

So today will be a day of research. I’m going to install Drafts onto my iPad, and put it through its paces. My goal is to see what, if any, apps it can replace. I’m also going to see how far I can go with the free version, which will help me decide if I really need to spend money for the Pro version.


I just installed Drafts onto my iPad and it immediately synced to the cloud and retrieved this post. So far, so good! That means that although I’m still going to use GoodNotes on the iPad, I don’t need to keep it on the iPhone, thus freeing up space for those all-too-crucial pictures of cats.


I also managed to export this post to Evernote, then copy/paste it into Open Live Writer, my editor of choice on my laptop. It’s really beginning to look as if Drafts Is here to stay! I’ve already replaced Apple’s Notes app on both of my mobile devices, and between Drafts and Ulysses, I no longer have any need for 53’s Paper or Apple’s Pages.

Tomorrow I’ll take a look at a few more of Draft’s operating details.

Boy, Did I Ever Blow It!

Posted: 30 May, 2018 in Apple, Writing tools
Tags: ,

I asked for the Apple Pen. The sales guy sold me an Apple Pen. I’ve been using it for over a week, wondering what the difference was between the Apple Pen and the Apple Pencil was.

Even the chrome band with "Pencil" printed on it wasn’t enough of a clue.

So this morning I decided to intensify my search. I picked up the box that it came in, and lo and behold, last night someone snuck into my room and replaced the Apple Pen box with one that clearly said "Pencil."

Seriously, there is no Apple Pen. It’s been the Pencil all along. Sherlock Holmes I ain’t!

Well, I finally did it. I took the plunge and upgraded my old iPad Mini! It’s summer, and the idea of remaining in my Lonely Writer’s Garett™ just doesn’t appeal to me. What makes it the best room in the house during the winter (the fact that it’s the warmest room in the house) is the very thing that makes it almost unbearable when the temperatures reach 90°F/32°C.

But that’s not really why I bought the new one. I simply needed a larger format (I got the 9.7” model) and a lot more RAM. The new one has 128 Gb, which I consider the absolute minimum for a Serious Budding Writer™ like me.

iPad 97

Anyway, the stars (and my bank balance) aligned and I decided to go for it. Besides the memory, it’s also cell-enabled, so I can make and receive calls on it if I so desire—which I don’t.

Next, I took the old iPad Mini to the Apple Store where they gave me a $95 Apple gift card in exchange for it! I had wanted a keyboard and case combination, but they didn’t stock them. Instead, I went with the new Apple Pen.

apple pen 2

Don’t bother searching for the pen online; as near as I can tell, it’s just the Apple Pencil renamed and relabeled. In fact, the metal band around the top of the device says “Apple Pencil.”

But never mind: it works, and that’s all that matters.

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

I’m going to have to adopt an entirely new workflow for my blogs. Since I won’t be using my laptop as often, choosing instead to sit in a cool breeze on the porch, I’m going to have to invest in some new software.

I spent several days reading reviews of note-taking apps for the iPad/Pencil combination before finally deciding on GoodNotes. $7.99 made it the most expensive app I’ve ever bought; on the other hand, if a comparable program existed for my laptop (it doesn’t), it would probably cost at least $50, so I’m not complaining.

Apple Pen(cil) Specifications

It’s a USB device that requires pairing with your iPad before you can use it. Sorry, it doesn’t work with iPhones. Simply remove the cap and plug it into the charging port on your iPad and click on “Pair.” Once you’re connected, you will remain paired until the next time you power off your iPad.

Once paired, you can also use the plugged-in connection to charge the Pen, although my own Pen came fully charged. If you’d prefer, you can use the enclosed adapter to charge the Pen via a Lightning cable.

According to Apple, a 15 second charge will give enough juice for 30 minutes of constant use. A full charge takes 10 minutes, and provides 8-12 hours of use.

More About GoodNotes

For a (relatively) quick look at GoodNotes and it’s capabilities, here’s a video on YouTube. So far, I’m impressed with it. I’m going to spend the next few days learning how to use it and putting it through its paces.

I’ll get back to you about it.

apple pen

Dear Readers

Posted: 25 May, 2018 in Blogging, Gratitude, Thank You
Tags: , ,

Thank you for making this blog so popular. When I first started it, I had no idea what it would become. I just needed a place where I could rant and rave and generally sort through my thoughts and feelings.

It originally started as a journal to help me with my therapy. When I finally summoned the courage to show it to my therapist, she said that some of my thoughts might be helpful to others, should I decide to share them.

That was in July of 2015. “What a long, strange trip it’s been” (Robert Hunter).

And so this blog was born. I even got my own domain, completely free of advertisements. Even better, I haven’t commercialized it. That means I don’t ask you for money, I don’t sell your email addresses, and I am not beholden to commercial interests. This is meant to be a safe place.

Gay-friendly, certainly. Trans-supportive? Well, DUH! How could it not be, considering that I myself am Trans?

Your responses and comments let me know I must be doing something right, and once again, thank you for the feedback.

Haters and Bigots and Racists, Oh My!

We don’t have any of them here, which is a Good Thing™. Interestingly enough, they just don’t seem to come here. Maybe we’ve just been lucky, or maybe they’re just too afraid to associate with crazies like us.

I can say that, can’t I? “Crazies”? On the one  hand, I can say, “Well, Robyn, it’s YOUR blog! You can say whatever you want. But on the other hand, I don’t want to inadvertently hurt someone. It’s difficult, sometimes, to find the balance. But what’s even weirder is that if anyone is hurt by my comments about haters, bigots, racists, homophobes, transphobes, etc., my attitude is “fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”

Anyway, that’s not what I came to talk about.” (Arlo Guthrie, in Alice’s Restaurant)

A Brave New Pencil

Yesterday, Stacey and I drove the 15 or so miles to Eastview Mall, where the Apple store is located. We both had old iPads we wanted to turn in. We each got $95 for them, since they were in excellent shape. Stacey’s saving hers until she gets a new iPad Pro, but I used mine to buy an Apple Pencil to go with the new iPad I got last week.

Why the Pencil? Because they were all out of the keyboard & case combo I really wanted.

It’s a fun toy. I can use it to write notes, add drawings and pictures to stories, etc. I’m going to have a lot of fun playing with it exploring what it can do. Maybe it will even help my carpal tunnel issues. Oh, wait—never mind: that’s arthritis.

I’ll probably report back on it in some future post. Until then, thanks again for stopping by!

If you have to ask…

Posted: 25 May, 2018 in Grammar, Language, Medium, tea
Tags: ,

(Originally published on Medium)

It’s 7:30, and the temperature has already begun its climb towards its predicted high of 84. That might not be such a big deal to you folks in the South, but here in Rochester, NY, it’s kind of a big deal — after all, we had snow on the ground less than a month ago.

Both the current temperature — 66 — and the predicted high might make some of you wonder: “Why on earth is she drinking a cup of hot tea?” To which I reply, “If you have to ask, you know nothing about tea, and even less about me.”

To say I’m obsessed with tea would be an exaggeration; on the other hand, we are in a committed relationship.

Many people have specific morning routines, rituals if you will. I’m retired, and so I’m in the perfect place to exercise my own morning ritual: tea and Medium. I stumble downstairs to the kitchen, fill the tea kettle, and put it on to boil. Next comes measuring out the proper amount of leaves. This amount may vary, depending on how sleepy I am.

Finally, the water comes to a full boil, and I pour it over the tea leaves (only rarely do I use bagged tea, and even then it’s a premium brand), set the timer, and sit quietly as the minutes and seconds count down. I remove the leaves from the pot, carry my cup to my easy chair, take the first sip, and open Medium on my iPhone.

As I said, I’m not obsessed with tea, and I don’t follow this ritual religiously. Sometimes I’ll be up for more than an hour before I start jonesing for my fix. And it’s almost always for a cup of strong black Assam tea, grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and then packaged and shipped to my favorite local Indian food store.

In Rochester, we’re blessed with several Indian restaurants and food stores; my favorite is The Spice Bazaar, just a short drive from my house. It’s my source for fine teas, Basmati rice, and Tea Masala spice blend.

I’m on my soapbox now…

…so pay attention, class. There is no such thing as Chai tea! Yes, I know the so-called experts call it that (I’m looking at you, Starbucks), but here’s the secret: Chai is Sanskrit for tea. So when you’re ordering your Chai tea, what you’re really saying is “I’d like a cup of tea tea, please.”

What you really want is a cup of Masala spiced tea, Tea Masala being the particular blend of spices used to make that delicious cup of tea.

Okay, enough pontificating

No more soapbox. I agree: I can be a real jerk sometimes. But I’m a writer, so the nuances of language and grammar mean a lot to me — as they should to you if you’re even on Medium in the first place.

That’s not to say that I think you need to be an expert on writing in English if it’s not your first tongue; it is indeed a difficult language to master. So difficult, in fact, that many who speak or write in it as a second or third language do a far better job than a lot of native speakers. And HEY! everyone I’ve encountered on Medium is far better than I am in, say, Mandarin. So I make allowances.

Disclaimer

You can find my standard disclaimer right here.