Writing Light

I’m writing this post on my phone.

As I mentioned last entry, we moved to Pennsylvania recently, which means a lot of changes, large and small, including in the way I structure my work time.

Back in our Denver days (2007-2015), and before that in Austin (1998-2007), I was a wandering writer: I’d take my spiral notebooks and/or laptop out into the wilds of town and, by bus and shoe-leather, I’d write everywhere.

In Fort Collins that wasn’t really possible; we were stuck out in the ‘burbs with nothing but manicured hellscapes within walking distance: not a single café, diner, bar or fast-food joint within an easy hike of home. On the other hand, Sandra was working from her home office by then, so we started going out together by car, which means I started getting heavier laptops (in Denver, I’d been leaning toward the smallest, lightest devices I could find for maximum walkabout portability, because “portability” means something very different on foot than it means when you can chuck a laptop bag in the back seat of a vehicle).

That horrific suburban isolation is nearly half the reason we had to leave Fort Collins, and here in PA, I’m happy to say I’m back in town: I’m within 5-20 minutes' walk of pizzerias, bars, other pizzerias, a seafood market, some places that sell hoagies and also pizza, some restaurants, a bowling alley with pretty good pizza, and a couple of libraries. I cannot promise in good faith that the libraries don’t also have pizza.

Dangers to my cholesterol aside, it’s excellent to once again live near human life (suburbia, emphatically, does not qualify).

But that means my 950-ton laptop bag is suddenly a problem, and removing the 945-ton laptop is not the answer (it’s totally portable … if you’re traveling by car).

In our last years in Denver, little keyboards suitable for my phone were popping up on store shelves for pretty low prices, and I was tempted, but I had a netbook that fit in my camera bag (I did the Cumberland edition of Uresia: Grave of Heaven almost entirely on a tiny eeePC), so it wasn’t a priority.

But here I am now, writing this post on a tiny portable Bluetooth keyboard, using a word processor on my phone. And it’s not too bad!

The device itself was pretty cheap (less than $25 for a backlit model, under $20 if you don’t need it backlit), and it connected easily, and it’s responsive. It’s chiclet, which I hate (most laptops have gone chiclet, too), and it’s miniature, which takes getting used to (but no moreso than my old eeePC). So, no snags on hardware.

There was, I’m sorry to say, a brief snag on software. I was assuming I’d just use Google Docs; I’ve been using it a lot for campaign documents and such and it’s comfortable, convenient and powerful enough. Usually. But … Google Docs doesn’t support text reflow when zooming in Android (or if it does, I couldn’t find out how to switch the setting on), nor do several other word processors and office suites I tried (including a couple I've been using for years, but before today I didn't need that function).

Ironically, the app I had the least hope for, Microsoft Frickin’ Word, supports text reflow, and that’s what I’m writing in right now. WPS Office (formerly Kingsoft) does as well (with a handy easy-to-spot on-screen reflow button) and, while it’s deliberately light on features, the markup-oriented Writer Plus does a version of zoomy reflow, too.

I was shocked that so many “full-featured” office suite apps had no apparent concept of text reflow, but here I am with my old nemesis, Microsoft Office, and it’s doing everything I need it to, and I love it and I resent it and that’s my lifelong relationship with Microsoft in a nutshell.

There’s still a lot to learn, but this far into the blogpost, the notion that I’m writing on my phone has pretty much vanished as I type. Word (Microsoft Frickin’ Word; I can’t believe I’m in you again, and away from Windows, no less) is behaving well; the correction features work seamlessly with touch-screen interaction replacing the mouse, and … yeah, It’s good.

In a few months it's going to look a lot dirtier, so I want to remember it this way.

I’ve always done a lot of visual work on my phone. I do preliminary sketches and layout thumbnails here, plus map-development drafts, Risus LCB drafts (and a few final LCB drawings), and recently, I drew two entire fonts on my phone. So, it’s a great device for doodles, and fortunately for me, my work gets pretty doodly.

This right here, though, is the longest bit of writing I’ve ever done on my phone. I’ve used fingerswipes and dictation to do the occasional sidebar or addition, and I’ve done that with increasing frequency, but it’s always for tiny stuff: 300 words or so and I’m tired of swiping, or of trying to get dictation apps to parse phrases like Sindran attitudes toward Raansa veneration among the Mourfa.

But this … this, I can write a blog post on. And if I can write a blog post this way, I can write my books this way, too. Hello from my phone!


We Moved to Pennsylvania

I'd like to blog about the road trip in detail, someday, but that would be a big project. Here's the distilled version.

We knew if we were going to move east anytime soon, it had to be before the winter weather hit, so over the course of September we got packed and stored and in October we hit the road and headed east, with a vague intention of maybe moving to the Philly area unless something caught our fancy along the way.

Nebraska was horrific until we got to Lincoln; Lincoln was a pretty rad town and we were kind of tempted to stay. Iowa was surprisingly beautiful (it's impressive how much prettier rolling farmland is compared to dead-flat farmland), and we went to see Kirk's birthplace and met a cool nerdy lady working at our hotel in Iowa City and talked to her a lot. Illinois was pleasingly industrial and had the first signs of cultural shift, which energized me and we did briefly flirt with just moving up to Racine Wisconsin because Encounter Critical but ultimately decided to just go look at Lake Michigan up close, by which point we were technically in Indiana, where we got excellent trail mix. In Ohio we got the best food we've had all year, and some coffee at a Tim Horton's (a rush of nostalgia for Sandra, and me too!) and a buckeye candy and spent a lot of time away from the Interstates doing winding roads, and decided to detour down to Cumberland so I could brim over with emotion about that and get a coney dog at the old coney dog place (it moved half a block but was otherwise identical) and bum around the bowling alley where I used to play Centipede when Centipede was new.

We didn't move to Philly, but we did stay there for a week or so, including some days in a funky modern experimental hotel downtown, and we found neighborhoods we loved and food we loved and places we loved and not so much with the job and apartment situation.

We tried Delaware for a bit and found an apartment we loved in a neighborhood we didn't love, complete with neighbors we would have loved. We stood there talking to them 'til the sun had gone down.

And then we came to the Wilkes-Barre area up in the Delaware valley and I GM'ed some Risus and we walked around and found a little place we like in a spot we like, so now we live here in northeast Pennsylvania and Sandra got a new gig and I've got a game shop to run Risus at and yay!

[Then we both got super sick from a cold for a while and mine lasted longer because of my respiratory thing but now we're better and Christmas is behind us and I figured it's time to blog and that's the story.]

That's not the story, not all of it, not remotely, but it's ... the adcopy on the back cover of the story, which will have to do for now. Hi everyone! More blogginess soon! Here are some pictures.

A gift shop in Nebraska. I couldn't think of any worthy questions to ask.

Riverside, Iowa. Corn.

When Kirk's parents eventually have sex while this stands in the back yard, will it be awkward? In terms of paradoxes, Kirk's faced worse, but still.

Lake Michigan. We were standing on the Indiana side but could see Chicago across the water, which was cool.

Lead melts at 621 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you're casting lead, you've got about a nine minute window with a fresh cup of Tim Horton's coffee before it cools below that point.

The Coneys of my childhood, five doors down from the original location with carefully reconstructed fake-ass logo damage. As a maker of stressed type, this goes right to my heart. Like the Coney.

Beautiful cheap produce, Philadelphia.

Beautiful cheap produce and a beautiful man making beautiful batches of kettle corn, Philadelphia.

A memento from my first-ever Risus run at my new home-base game shop. A valuable axiom established in play.


A Dungeony Word-Fill

It's been awhile since I've done a pencil-puzzle post, so here's a new wordfill: the Puzzle-Dungeon of the Ancients, stocked with dungeony words and delverish terms.

The intersection of "dungeon map" and "crossword grid" is a hoary old beast but it still makes me smile. I had this sitting around in the drawer for a while (it was originally meant to be the pencil-page for an issue of Cumberland Gamer) and one thing was bothering me: the perfectly grid-fitted look of the original grid. As you can see, I landed on the simple solution of just bending the graphic a bit, and it feels a bit more like a thing.

Like most wordfills, it's a pretty gentle exercise for the intellect, less a jog-around-the-block and more a short-walk-to-the-fridge, but it unfolds nicely with a few logical hurdles right out of the gate. Take pencil to paper and you'll see what I mean!

Hope this finds you well. Drop me a line, if you've a mind to!