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. :)