December 2011 - Chris Ullrich dot net
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December 2011

Resolutions: Another Viewpoint

In a previous post, I expressed my desire to make at least one resolution to end 2011. Sounded like a good idea a the time.

However, there’s also this:

Resolutions  candh

I’ll leave it to you to decide which one is more appropriate.

See you in 2012.

Resolutions, Smesalutions


As most of you are probably aware (unless you live somewhere that doesn’t reckon the calendar as we do here in the States) we are almost at the end of 2011 and will be well into 2012 by this time next week. Why am I bringing up the obvious?

I’m doing it because this is a perfect time to talk about resolutions. You know, those things that people always make at the end of the year and never keep? I’m talking about them.

I don’t make them. Haven’t in the past anyway. However, this time I think I’m going to make an exception. I’m going to make at least one.

What is this amazing resolution that will cause me to re-think my entire philosophy on resolutions? Glad you asked.

I am going to make a resolution to get more fun out of life. I know this might seem like an obvious one but I’ve realized over the last few years I’ve had less and less fun.

So, I’m going to change that — starting now. I hope you will all join me and get more fun out of life in 2012 too. I’m sure we could all use it.

Happy New Year and all the best for a healthy, happy and prosperous (and fun!) 2012.

Convergence and Balance

Man looking out window

I’ve often mentioned here that I seem to have my feet in two different worlds. There’s the world where I go forth and make money to buy the things I think I need, to pay my bills and to save for the child I don’t have yet’s college education.

There’s also the world where I fulfill my creative needs by writing or expressing myself in other ways. I also call this the “real work” world. If you’re a writer, you know what I’m talking about.

Most of the time those two worlds do not converge.

With 2011 winding down and with me being another year older (and presumably wiser), it’s occurred to me that I need to make those two worlds converge more frequently. In other words, how can I make more money doing that which creatively satisfies me?

I realize this is quite the dilemma for so early in the morning (I’m writing this at around 6AM Pacific time) but these are precisely the times when you tend to think about these types of weighty issues. I can’t help it, the thoughts just come to me and they need to be addressed — sleep or other considerations be dammed.

Returning to my point, I need to figure out a way (or ways) to make money doing what I love. I’m sure people out there must have faced a similar situation, so if you’re reading this and feeling inclined to help, chime on in.

Until help comes from unexpected but welcome corners of the Internets, I’ve gone ahead and formulated a plan on my own. Or, at least I’ve got an interim plan until something better comes to mind.

In truth, my plan is relatively simple as it involves doing pretty much what I already do and how I do it. The main difference is in how I will allocate my time during the day and what I will focus on.

For example, under this new plan I will now spend as much time writing something (a short story, script, blog post, etc.) as I do on the Internet. I include time spent on Facebook, Twitter, etc. in that as well. I also do this in hopes of reducing the time I spend reading Twitter, on Facebook or reading mindless blog posts.

Going along with that will be an attempt to “reduce the clutter” of my online information stream. In other words, I will visit fewer sites less frequently and try only to read those sites that feature what I consider to be “good” writing and not attention grabbing link bait disguised as writing.

I will also schedule my day better. I will allocate blocks of time to tasks and only do those tasks during that specific time. Of course, this will have to be somewhat flexible to allow for creative bursts of energy and inspiration so if I’m “on a roll” I don’t have to cut it off to fit a particular schedule.

Going along with that I will also have a definitive cutoff to the day when I won’t, for example, answer emails from clients or deal with other matters that don’t have anything to do with the creative world.

I think the term I’m looking for here is balance. Although, that may not be exactly applicable in this case. I’m not looking for balance, per se, I’m actually looking for a way to spend the vast majority of my time in that second, creative, world.

The best case is that those two worlds converge completely and I spend all of my work time doing those things which make me the happiest. If I could make a few bucks in the process, all the better.

Obviously, I’m still working on the full plan, but I feel pretty good about it so far. At least I’ve mostly identified the problem and are taking some steps to remedy it.

I know I can do better and I know this plan will evolve over time like any good one should. Stay tuned to see how the goes.

But until then, this is what I’ve got. And really, what did you expect at 6AM?

Note – I’m not sure what the pic above has to do with this particular topic. I just like it, okay?

Christmas 2011

Yes, it’s Christmas. . . at least for those of us who celebrate it. If you don’t, have a great Sunday. For the rest of us: Merry Christmas! I hope you got everything you wanted and only a little bit of what you deserve.

Christmas Birthday 101

The holidays are upon us in earnest and Christmas is coming this Sunday. I’m also having a birthday this week too. In fact, it’s tomorrow (Thursday).

Before you feel too bad for me and express sympathies that my birthday must get forgotten due to its proximity to Christmas, I will make you feel better by telling you that in all the time I’ve been alive, I’ve never felt bad about having a birthday three days before Christmas.

There’s one reason for that (well, two). Harold and Dorothy. My parents.

My parents came into my life sorta late in theirs. They tried for several years to have a kid the old fashioned way, but in the end, for whatever reason, they were unsucessful. So, like countless others who wanted a child, but just couldn’t make it happen, they turned to adoption.

That’s where I came into the picture. My parents adopted me, sealed the deal in late November, I was born on December 22 and they brought me home to live with them on Christmas day.

Since that time, my parents, being the intelligent and thoughtful people they are, went to great effort to distinguish my birthday from Christmas. It was always considered a seperate day and talk of Christmas was put aside until it was over.

Sure, the house usually already had Christmas lights and decorations up (my father was like that), but that was not allowed to detract from my birthday. If my party was at the house, we celebrated in a room away from the tree and as much of the rest of the Christmas-centric decor as we could manage.

They were also really great at making sure I had separate birthday and Christmas gifts each year. My mom still does that to this day.

I have no doubt that when I see her this weekend she will make me open my birthday presents first and then make me wait for the Christmas presents until a respectable amount of time has passed. Somewhat of a traditionalist is Dorothy. If my dad were still alive, I’m sure he’d insist on the same thing.

The purpose of this missive is to say that I’ve been very fortunate to have these two people in my life. Whatever happened, they always put me first and made sure I never needed or wanted for anything.

I could not have asked for better people to show me the whys and wherefores of life. I just hope, if I ever have children of my own, I can do half as good a job as they did.

It’s a tough act to follow.

Keyboard Considerations


I’ve been trying to use just the iPad 2 for a few days to do my writing work and I came to the conclusion that I need a keyboard. That’s not to say that typing directly on the iPad 2 wouldn’t work for most people, or for me under different circumstances, it’s just that right now my fingers are a bit sore and it’s time to explore other options.

Fortunately, I already have a solution. I’ve dropped some hard earned cash on a keyboard case and stand combo from Incase. It’s called the Origami Workstation and it features a place to hold your Apple Wireless Keyboard (I already had one of from a previous experiment) and to hold you iPad or iPad 2 either vertically or horizontally. I usually pick horozontal, just in case you were wondering.

With the iPad 2 and keyboard in place things have gotten much easier on my hands and fingers. Yes, I realize having to bring a keyboard with you begs the question as to why I don’t just use the MacBook Air. That’s a valid question and one I could answer by just saying I just don’t want to.  
The truth is I’m not just doing this just for me. I’m doing it for you. For those of you who want to know if you can get along and get work done with just an iPad 2 and that’s it. The answer is, so far, yes you can — unless you have a problem like I do. In that case you need to make some adjustments. 
Problem or not, the iPad 2 is especially useful if you’re a writer, or some other type of creative person, who’s job it is to put words in a certain order and upload, print or otherwise share them with people. It really is a great tool.  
It’s likely if my hands were a bit younger and I haden’t spent the last ten or more years pounding keys I would have gotten away without using an external keyboard. Sadly, I can’t. You might be able to, however. And you should try. It makes the idea you can bring a small device like the iPad 2 with you, and that’s all you really need, that much cooler. 
My needing to use a keyboard doesn’t change the fact that the iPad is a great writing tool and so far has proven to be very useful in my everyday work. Now to get back to it. I’ll let you know how it’s going, don’t worry.

The Great-ish Writing Experiment


I think in the spirit of trying to make things work, and also challenging myself a bit, I’m going to try to use the iPad 2 as a writing/blogging tool as often as I can. Let this post serve as the first-ish example of that.  
I say -ish because I’ve already done at least one or two with the iPad 2, but that was before. Now, I’m going to take it more seriously and consider it more of an experiment, or test , then I did before.  
One of the first questions to ask when embarking on a journey such as this is do I use the built-in keyboard on the iPad 2 or do I use an external one? It’s an important question because, to be honest, my fingers do get kinda sore when using just the iPad 2’s touchscreen keyboard.  
However, that may be more a function of the fact that by the time I start using the iPad I’ve already been typing for a few hours. Maybe my fingers would hurt no matter what? I suspect they would.  
So, with that in mind I think I will try to use the touchscreen keyboard for now and see how it goes. I’ve got an extra Bluetooth keyboard I could use but that sorta defeats the purpose of using the iPad if you have the also lug around a keyboard.  
At any rate, I’ll know soon enough if my fingers can’t take it and then I will consider other options. Fortunately, as I discussed in an earlier post, the rest of the writing/blogging experience shouldbe pretty good on the iPad 2.  
I guess I’ll find out.  
In case you’re the sort of person who likes to know the more technical, nuts and bolts kinds of things, I’m going to list the tools I will be using during this experiment. Here they are:  
Apple iPad 2 (of course) – Apple’s device excels at so many things and has a battery that lasts a long time. It has become an indispensable part of my daily work (and fun).  
Blogsy – This is the primary blogging app I’m using. It allows for complete control over posts and offers the ability to insert photos and video. Pretty much everything you need and pretty easy to figure out and use.  
IResize – This is a great app that allows you to resize images to fit in a blog post or other writing. You can load any picture from your Photos on the iPad and change the size, resolution, etc. and then save the changed version for use in other apps like Blogsy.  
IAWriter – This app let’s you get back to basics and just write. It removes distractions and lets you focus on the words. Plus, it syncs with Apple’s iCloud and its own OS X desktop version to allow you to work on whatever you want and have it available on the iPad or your Mac with whatever changes you’ve made already there and synced.  
Other tools:  
Pages – Appple’s own writing App is pretty good and I used it quite a bit before IA Writer and Blogsy came into the picture. Now I use it less frequently, especially as oit doesn’t support sync across the mobile and desktop versions using iCloud as IA Writer does. At least not yet.  
FDX Reader – Sadly, my favorite screenwriting app Final Draft doesn’t have and iPad version yet. I’ve been assured one is on the way, but until then, I still need to use the MacBook Air when I want to write in Final Draft.  
However, I can at least read scripts in Final Draft format (instead of PDF) on the iPad by using the terrific FDX Reader app. This app allows you to load scripts written in Final Draft and saved as .fdx files and view them in their native format. Very useful and saves you the time and effort of saving scripts as .pdf files plus if your a writer on the go or collaborating with another writer it also makes it easier to quickly review the current draft.  
So, this is my challenge and those are the tools of choice. Of course, figuring out what you want to do and choosing the tools to accomplish a task is often the easy part. 

The hard part is doing the actual writing. I’m goin’ in, wish me luck.