Enjoying the hell out of iTunes Radio

iTunes Radio is a rev­e­la­tion to me. Not that I didn’t know what it was going to be like, I mean, intel­lec­tu­al­ly. I’ve used Pan­do­ra, after all. But Pan­do­ra was annoy­ing, brows­er-based, finicky, and I nev­er used it very long. When I first tried iTunes Radio yes­ter­day, while try­ing to write, I picked some of their pre-pro­grammed “sta­tions” and was all, meh. Their “iTunes Top 100: Alter­na­tive” has too much Killers in it. Which is to say, any Killers is too much. My taste is def­i­nite­ly Alt, but I like my alt more eclec­tic than that. And that Fall­out Boy song (Alone Togeth­er) sounds like Rihan­na in drag.

But today I made my own “sta­tion” based on a song in heavy rota­tion in our house, Lit­tle Brass Bear by Rachel Goodrich.

And it turns out, basi­cal­ly, that iTunes Radio is like Genius, but with the entire iTunes cat­a­log as your library. Which is freak­ing awe­some.

Of course, it also turns out that iTunes Radio is just like Pan­do­ra, Rdio, etc., but with­out the has­sle of using some­thing added on to my ecosys­tem. I am, as stat­ed else­where, ful­ly entrenched in the Apple ecosys­tem, and in here I am as hap­py as a bug that is snug in a rug.

My playlist so far:

Jay­may (one of my favorite songs, Gray or Blue!)
Woody Guthrie
Matthew and the Atlas
Kimya Daw­son
Lang­horne Slim
Thao
Lau­ra Veirs
Lind­sey Ray
The Col­or­ful Qui­et
Malv­ina Reynolds
Lucy Wain­wricht Roche (dang there are a lot of Wain­wrights, no?)
Cast Spells
Rachel Goodrich

I’ve heard of… six of those artists. I own one of the songs I have heard so far. New music! Which is what makes this so awe­some.

I’ve only just begun to write

Some of you may already know that I quit my job a cou­ple of weeks ago. Some of you may even know that I also quit my career at the same time. I’ve been work­ing in High­er Edu­ca­tion web devel­op­ment or tech­nol­o­gy since I took my first part-time job at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa in 1996. That’s sev­en­teen years of web devel­op­ment work at three dif­fer­ent insti­tu­tions. It is a lot of time put into a career to flush it all away now.

But I have.

What are you doing instead?

I am going to write.

Um, okay. What are you going to write?

Well, that’s the ques­tion, isn’t it? When I start­ed, or rather, before I start­ed, my glib answer was that I’d write any­thing any­one want­ed to pay me for. That felt like the answer I was sup­posed to give, the answer that made this leap off the cliff at least some­what sen­si­ble. “Sure,” I said/thought, “I’ll write any­thing as long as it pays. Tech­ni­cal writ­ing, spec writ­ing, social media, what­ev­er.” Peo­ple who knew even less than I do about the writ­ing busi­ness would take that as a com­fort. I did for a while, until I fig­ured out I was fool­ing myself.

As it turns out, I don’t want to write just any­thing. I don’t want to do tech­ni­cal writ­ing. I don’t want to write web arti­cle-ads for pen­nies “just to get your name out there.” I don’t want to do PR. Is this because I’m only two weeks into it, and I’m still flushed with the promise of a Writ­ing Career? Will I be beat­en down by the end, will­ing to write ad copy for the local FREE Rental Mag­a­zine? I prob­a­bly am unrea­son­ably chip­per about it, I’ll admit.

But for now, I want to write three things. I want to write opin­ion arti­cles (hey, that’s what a blog is for, huz­zah!), I want to write fea­ture arti­cles, and I want to write sci­ence-fic­tion and/or fan­ta­sy and/or fic­tion. Basi­cal­ly, I want to write sto­ries.

What makes you think you can make it as a writer?

I know the road to becom­ing a writer is lit­tered with the car­cass­es of oth­ers’ attempt­ed careers. I know that “starv­ing artist” is a stereo­type for a rea­son. My moth­er once told me that she believed that peo­ple are artists or writ­ers because they can­not help it. They can­not stop writ­ing. They can’t not write.

That’s not me. I am lazy, unpro­duc­tive and eas­i­ly dis­tract­ed.

But my moth­er also raised me with an excess of con­fi­dence, and I do think I am a good writer. I think I can, is the answer, I guess.

How can you afford it?

Well, I can’t, frankly. The wife and I sat down and worked out a bud­get that would keep our stan­dard of liv­ing rough­ly where it is, at least where our kids are con­cerned. So we kept after school activ­i­ties and enrich­ment stuff, but killed TV. We save on child care but not on health care. We’re not eat­ing out (ever, it seems) and we’re watch­ing our spend­ing like hawks (lazy, eas­i­ly dis­tract­ed hawks). And even so we’re in the red. That is, we’re bud­get­ed to be in the red. That’s not good.

So I have picked up a small time gig doing some social media writ­ing, and that is help­ing us close the gap. But what I real­ly need is to write, so I can sell, so I can write some more.

How long before you come to your sens­es?

I’m telling peo­ple that I’m giv­ing it a year. Some stuff hap­pens in a year that will make it much hard­er to do this, if I’m not mak­ing any mon­ey yet. Or, you know, if it looks like I won’t be bring­ing in any mon­ey any time soon, some­day. If it turns out that I am a ter­ri­ble writer.

Okay. So how is it going?

So far it is going okay. I’ve been at it for two weeks now, full time. The first week was tak­en up with a meet­ing and time spent on the social media gig. Ramp­ing up on that took longer than I had thought it would. I also had some issues keep­ing my not-writ­ing bound­aries firm that first week. Then last week I kind of lost it a lit­tle, in terms of my focus. Focus is an issue for me, as it has always been. If I’m into some­thing, it is easy to lose myself in it, be pro­duc­tive and cre­ative and awe­some. If I’m not, it can be a dis­tinct chal­lenge to make any head­way (my sis­ter will remem­ber a leg­endary bout with frac­tions in the sixth grade…).

Last week, I had too much on my plate, or thought I did. And as a result I drift­ed. This week, I’m much more focused. The chal­lenge will be to main­tain that every day, every morn­ing.

I’ll keep you in the loop on how it’s going.

So, is that it?

Yup. I’m also going to read. I’m told that read­ing is the best way to lubri­cate the writ­ing. I hope to walk the dog on occa­sion, and I’ll be here when the kids get home from school. But I am try­ing my best to keep the not-writ­ing away from the Writing’s time.

Edit: How I “watched” the Apple announcement

Edit: So, I end­ed up watch­ing via Engad­get most of the time, and when they had hic­cups, I went over to Ars Tech­ni­ca. Good job guys.


Hey folks, I am plan­ning on “watch­ing” the Apple announce­ment (iPhone 5S, 5C, iOS 7, maybe some iPads, ever so maybe a TV-relat­ed announce­ment that might just be new soft­ware) today at 10 am Pacif­ic (noon, where I am). Here’s how.

Last time I had the great­est suc­cess with Engadget’s live feed. It has lots of fea­tures, appears to be home­grown (or at least unique) and worked well dur­ing this past WWDC Keynote. If you’re only going to do one feed, do this one:

Engadget’s Live Feed

If you are like me, and you want to swap between sev­er­al feeds of almost the same cov­er­age with slight­ly dif­fer­ent snark, you might also try the fol­low­ing links:

The Verge
Ars Tech­ni­ca
TechCrunch
AppleIn­sid­er

What else is out there? Well, if you like pre­ten­tious hair and live video (of peo­ple talk­ing about the reveal, not of the reveal itself) you can’t do bet­ter (or worse) than C|Net’s ad-dri­ven pre-show page. Oy. Then, there are the lud­dites. AllTh­ingsD seems to be doing a straight up refresh-and-read approach, and Jim Dalrymple’s The Loop is proud­ly pro­claim­ing their refresh for new sys­tem to be “old school.” I’m on the fence about Slashgear’s approach (they are new to me in live blog­ging) and MacWorld’s cook­ie-cut­ter ven­dor-prod­uct-live-blog­ging-plat­form.

Thinking about talking about churching

A strange thing has hap­pened to me.

Ever since join­ing our hip­py-go-lib­er­al UU church, I find myself men­tion­ing it in casu­al con­ver­sa­tion. For forty-odd years I haven’t ever talked about church, except when asked, and then only to indi­cate that no, I don’t real­ly attend any church.

But since join­ing SMUUCh, I find myself talk­ing about church. I’m not entire­ly sure why. I don’t bring it up out of the blue. Usu­al­ly it’s some­thing rel­e­vant to the con­ver­sa­tion, like about heck­ling Rep. Yoder at the 4th of July parade, or about the sto­ry the min­is­ter told at din­ner with age-alike church folk. Once or maybe twice I have crowed about some­thing the church does, like about their com­ing of age pro­gram (like Con­fir­ma­tion, except hip­py-go-lib­er­al). But usu­al­ly it’s just about some­thing I heard on Sun­day, or some­thing the church did, or some­thing they might do.

And it feels weird to hear myself say­ing, “At church the oth­er day,” or “My church is going to…” But good, too. I like talk­ing about it. I don’t feel I need to hide that I go, or what it is they espouse. I used to dread con­ver­sa­tions about church, I guess because I felt I had to play down my beliefs. My lack of belief? My cer­tain­ty that humans can achieve spir­i­tu­al great­ness with­out a Guid­ing Hand. I didn’t want to get into it. But being a mem­ber of a church, a big church with lots of mem­bers, it lends legit­i­ma­cy to my beliefs. It makes me want to talk about how awe­some they are.

Which leads me to rec­og­nize that I could come across a lit­tle smug (my church is bet­ter than your church!). But most­ly I think I am just proud to be a mem­ber of this inclu­sive lit­tle denom­i­na­tion that thinks like I do and makes me want to be bet­ter than I am.

It’s crazy, but I think this must be how oth­er peo­ple feel about their church, right?

Huh.

Part of a com­mu­ni­ty they are proud of, and want every­one to know about?

Makes me think I should, at the very least, respect peo­ple of oth­er reli­gions, despite my dis­agree­ment with their atti­tudes about race, gen­der, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion or whether I am going to Hell.

Every­one deserves respect. Even when my church is bet­ter than theirs. :)