Category: Shiny Objects


Audio Books

In my day to day routine I find it extremely difficult to acquire enough time to read.  My commute to work is 25 miles, and takes 40 minutes to an hour one way.  I have activities after work almost every day including aikido, school (I’m working on my M.S. in Systems Engineering), and many other hobbies.  My immediate family and my husband’s immediate family live here, immediate being parents and siblings, and I always try to find time to spend with our friends.  Though some of my friends and family do not live here, I like to try and keep in touch.  Modern marvels like Facebook help me see what’s going on in my cousin’s lives overseas, Skype helps you call people anywhere for free, and texting, email, and instant messengers make those letters you want to write instantaneous.  Of course I am not always the best at communication with all of my family because, despite many modern marvels, time zones and distance still keep you apart.  But, that is a story for another time.

I came to realize that there were just not enough hours in the day to do all of the things I wanted to do.  The commute to work became a burden.  I thought about what else I could be doing with that ten hours a week back, but moving closer to my job of course is not possible, or at least not preferred, because then my husband’s 45 minute commute would turn into two hours.  Our home is still in the ideal spot between our jobs and in a good community with decent schools, so until such time that is no longer true, this is where we stay.

I tried listening to music and morning programs in my car, but I still felt like I was wasting time that could have been better spent doing something else, so I started to look for other things to do in a commute that would not disrupt my ability to drive, and in my home city, public transportation is just not an option.  So, being a new joiner to the wonderful world of Smartphones (I had recently purchased an iPhone 3GS), I started to explore audio books.  I started off with the free apps, things that downloaded from public domain audio books like LibriVox, and loved it.  The books were hit or miss because the people reading the books are volunteers, but I couldn’t get enough of them.  I started looking for other things that might be public domain, and once I had exhausted the worlds of authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, I branched out and started to look for things like Agatha Christie novels and found that she was not available in the public domain and I was quickly running out of books.

I had already started to realize that I was not going to be able to spend the next 20 years or so living off free books on my commute, so I started to look for other options.  The collections of audio book CD’s in the library were great, but limited, and I found it difficult to force myself to go out of my way to go to the library.  30 minutes one way to go to the library just seemed too much when I had already been spoiled by immediate downloads on my phone, and I only wanted to go when I was out of audio books, so that thirty minute drive there was spent surfing radio channels or listening to Pandora when all I really wanted to do when driving was “read”.  I started to look at the book stores and on Amazon for books on CD.  At the time I didn’t have a CD player in my truck, but I had a tape deck adapter and figured I could make due.  I found the books on CD, though, to be very expensive.   It was about this time that I first heard of Audible, Amazon’s audio books website.

My aikido sensei is legally blind, and had long since resolved the problem of reading.  I asked him what he recommended, and both he and another student in the class recommended Audible.  I went to the site to check it out, and immediately saw that it, too, was very expensive, but what my sensei had said was that I should take a serious look at the benefits of their membership plans.  I realized that not only do you get a 30% discount on each of the books with membership, but the “credits” that you earn each month to use towards “free” books meant that I was really only paying about $11 or less per audio book.  I started off small, and immediately became addicted, especially after I discovered the Dresden Files through a coworker.  James Marsters is a talented voice actor (and TV actor too), and really brought the characters to life for me.

Audible is of course, not the only option out there.  Audiobooks.com and Simply Audio Books are others, though I have no personal experience with them and cannot tell you which program is better.  So, if you hate your commute to work or just can’t seem to find enough time to read, check out audio books and see what you can find.

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Web Comics

Web comics?  What’s that?  Well, essentially it is a growing community of self-publishing artists from a variety of back grounds with a mix of traditional and non-traditional styles.  Some of them can be educational, others controversial, but in general they’re intended to be fun and entertaining.  There are a lot of webcomics out there, like XKCD and Penny Arcade, and web comics that started life in weekly newspapers like Dilbert.

The Webcomic community gets to enjoy a lot of freedoms that the world of newspaper and magazine comics don’t get to, including the option not to have someone edit their works.  They also have the option to use the web’s unique forums like clip art, animation, and sprites though and a lot of web comics go with the traditional newspaper comic style. A few are even financially successful on their own.

So why am I posting about web comics?  Well, so I could make a shameless promotion of my brother’s new web comic he’s been working on.  I’ll warn you now, some of the content is a little bit NSFW (not safe for work), but the comics are cute and fun and not full of terrible language or violence.  The comics mostly have a light sense of humor and reference things like Indiana Jones, Dr. Seuss and zombies.  Check them out here (or he’ll punch you): Frank n’ Bob: Buttholes

If any of you guys own an iPhone – or droid for that matter – you know that if you record video over a certain size it’s like pulling teeth to get it downloaded into your computer.  Not long ago I recorded about 2 1/2 minutes of video at work and wanted to share it with my work pals by downloading it off of the phone and putting it on my work laptop.  I tried everything.  I tried to transfer it off like the phone was a camera, I tried figuring out how on Earth to do it in the evil monster known as iTunes, I even tried to upload it to YouTube to just share the link with NO JOY.  (“No Joy”?  What’s that mean?  It means: “it didn’t work, insert-swear-word-of-choice-here” in NASA speak).

I don’t know how to fix it for Droid, but there’s a fancy pants tool I discovered not too long ago that makes life a whole lot easier when trying to explore and transfer data from your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch to your MAC or PC.  This is not the ONLY method to get large video files off of your phone, but it’s a pretty good one.  It also helps you explore your other apps and get data out of there too!  With this, you can pretty well tell iTunes to stuff it and you don’t have to jailbreak your phone!

Check out iFunBox file manager here: http://www.i-funbox.com/

Hello world!

Suppose it’s high time I join the world of bloggers.  Best to start it at high time, too.  At low time you just get stuck in the mud.

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