Addiction: A Cautionary Tale

Today’s post is all about addiction. You may remember last month I posted a plea asking for podcast recommendations. Well, you guys really came through! I listened to at least one podcast from every one of your suggestions, and as I searched for those I even added a few more that popped up in the searches and looked interesting. As a result I have added 22 new shows to my podcast lineup! And because I’m an obsessive freak when it comes to these things and seem to really enjoy listening to podcasts from many years ago (it’s like an oral history of geekdom!) I am going to listen to all of these podcasts from the beginning. That means I now have 1,287 individual podcasts to listen to! I will never want for podcasts again! Thank you!

Here comes the cautionary part of this tale: Today when I started to take my daily photos my phone told me I couldn’t take them anymore because of “insufficient space.” That’s never happened to me before, and I’ve gone on some pretty epic photo binges in the past (I also make sure to clear up my camera roll between binges). I checked my usage stats and it turns out my beloved podcasts are now taking up 36 GB of space. So, if you’re going to become a podcast addict like me, you may want to change your podcast settings so it doesn’t auto-download every episode you add to your player. I’m not 100% clear on what all those settings mean, but I’m pretty sure that as long as you’re within wi-fi range you can still listen to all those podcasts without them being downloaded to your player. Now excuse me while I go hit “remove download” on 1,287 podcasts.

Today’s photo also deals with addiction. I drink Coke. I drink A LOT of Coke. It helps keep the migraines away, I swear. I don’t know exactly how or why and I haven’t really bothered to look into it because Coke is delicious and I’m not complaining.

Staging and lighting: I decided to go for the kitchen counter this time. I pulled out all the empty Coke cans from the recycling basket (last emptied on Sunday) and piled them up behind a glass. The light sources are the overhead light in the kitchen (one of which is burnt out) and the under cabinet lights (which apparently need cleaning).

IMG_4585 IMG_4587 IMG_4588

For the Instagram photo I cropped out the outlet, used the little sun button which appears to be some sort of brightness/enhance tool, and used the Sierra filter with a border.

For the computer edit I cropped it, enhanced it, increased the exposure a bit, decreased the yellow a bit, and decreased the contrast until the badger on the glass showed up.

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

I don’t know what exactly that sun button in Instagram does, but it sure did help the badger show up! I couldn’t really replicate it in iPhoto. I tried every single slider to see if any of them would help and the only one was the contrast. This was as far as I could get without the rest of the photo looking really washed out.

September – The Photocalypse

I’m on Twitter. I don’t tweet much (still haven’t figured out how to do that without looking like an idiot), but I do follow a lot of knitterly people to keep up with knitterly news. I saw a tweet from someone mentioning a knit-themed photo challenge and followed the Tweet-trail back to this:

Why yes, I AM interested. I’m still figuring out Instagram, so this seems like a perfect opportunity to learn how to use it!

princessdeia, the intrepid Tweeter behind this challenge, posted the photo prompts on Friday.

Because I like to make things way more complicated than they need to be, I’m imposing rules on how I create these photos.

  1. I cannot use the light box. I really want to learn how to take decent photos in places that are not flooded with light and have a carefully controlled background. The only way I’m going to learn is to DO IT.
  2. I’m not going to pre-edit the photos before I Instagrammize them. All the photos I’ve posted on Instagram before have gone through the process of being uploaded to my computer, edited in iPhoto (usually cropping, adjusting brightness, and color correction), and then sent back to my phone to be uploaded to Instagram (with added filters, of course). That’s just too much work, and not really what Instagram seems to be for. I will do all of my pre-screening on my phone and whichever photo looks the best on my iPhone will be the lucky recipient of a shiny new Instagram filter.
  3. In order to compare and contrast my Instagram photo style with my usual style I will ALSO edit my photos on the computer. The winning photo from my iPhone screening will also be treated to my usual photo editing routine in iPhoto.
  4. After all of that, I will post both photos here on my blog and tell you how I did them! I’ll show you my light sources, how I staged the photo, and I’ll tell you exactly how they were edited.

Yep, that’s right, you’re in store for another month of DAILY BLOG POSTS! The photos may end up looking like crap, but I think we’ll all learn something.

Oh look, it’s September already. Here’s the first photo – UFO.

Location and staging: my bedroom, on a chair several feet from the window. I moved that set of drawers a bit to the left for the photos to obscure my bed, which just looks weird and ugly without a bedskirt. I mean, I hate bedskirts with a burning passion – they never stay put – but that would have been a nicer background for the photo if I had one.

IMG_4519

Light source: Overhead light, and some light from my window. The sun does not face my window EVER, so it’s hard to use the window as the only light source even on a really bright day like today.

IMG_4521 IMG_4517

Photo editing: For Instagram I did that blur function thingy (anyone know what that’s called?) to blur the top and bottom of the image, and used the Lo-Fi filter with a border. There’s also some automatic cropping in Instagram to make the photo fit the prescribed frame, but I didn’t do any cropping manually. For iPhoto I used the “enhance” button and did my usual color correction – increased the blue and decreased the yellow a bit to correct for the yellow cast from the light sources.

edited with iPhoto

edited with iPhoto

Another note about my photo-a-day challenge – I will be plastering these photos all over the internet, so if you don’t care about my blathering on about my fledgling photography skills but still want to see the photos you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, or Tumblr. Don’t expect anything too polished or professional from me on those sites though – that’s basically a list of every social media platform that I have barely a passing knowledge of how to use. I want to know them better, but I haven’t had time to sit down and read the manuals yet. You’ve been warned.

Welcome to the Photocalypse.

Progress!

I’ve been quiet lately, which means I’ve been busy. Unfortunately the things I’ve been busy doing aren’t very interesting so I’ll spare you the details. Lots of the doing has involved things I’ve already blogged about, and much progress has been made.

  1. The iPhone is now my bitch. It has been replaced, wi-fi is working, and Siri and I seem to be on the same page.
  2. There is an end in sight for the Endless Ends. I only have 8 more yarn tails to weave in! Then I need to block it…
  3. I am nearly done figuring out how to use all the programs on my MacBook. I have an iTunes lesson on Friday, and then I can finally leave the poor Apple employees alone for a while.
  4. I cleaned my room and have my light box set up again, which means I can slowly start working through my backlog of yarn and project photography.
  5. All of my needle felting supplies have finally arrived, so now I can start felting all of the fun toys my Indiegogo contributors have requested!
  6. I exercised! Twice! OK, that’s really pathetic, I’ll try harder.
  7. After digging through my external hard drive for what felt like an eternity, I have located the vast majority of my knitting patterns and all of my knitting ebooks! I even found a bunch of missing yarn photos! They weren’t in my latest back-up AT ALL. They were hiding in a previous back-up, which means any brand-spanking-new patterns I might have had are gone. Luckily I think the only things I might be missing are a few club patterns, which I can easily get new copies of from the club distributors. Now I just need to figure out what’s missing…

How I Spent My Weekend (Hint: Technology Still Hates Me)

I have no news on the knitting front, because for the past several days I haven’t done any knitting. Instead I have been getting to know my new iPhone 5. The initial introduction did not go well.

On Wednesday we picked up our new phones from the Verizon store. My mother and I got iPhone 5s (hers a 16 GB, mine a 64 GB), and for a mere $1 my sister upgraded from her regular phone to her first smartphone – an iPhone 4. As soon as we got home we hunted down our Wi-Fi network password (I intelligently wrote it down for future reference – it’s almost like I knew it would be important later…), connected to our Wi-Fi network, and proceeded to download apps to play with. My sister and I both decided the My Little Pony app was our first priority, so off we went to play Ponies.

Approximately 8 hours later (yes I played Ponies for that long – don’t judge) I got a text alert informing me that I had used 50% of my allotted data for the month. Alarmed, I exited Ponies and checked my Wi-Fi connection on the phone. Sure enough it was no longer connected to Wi-Fi and had been using data to play Ponies for god knows how long. It hadn’t simply dropped my Wi-Fi connection though, it had entirely forgotten it. I had to re-enter the password and everything to get connected again.

After that I continued to play Ponies, but now I had a purpose. Every few minutes I returned to the home screen to check the status of my wireless connection. In the space of several hours I had to re-enter the Wi-Fi network password at least 3 times. When my mother came home from work she had to re-enter the Wi-Fi password too. Any time one of us turned off the phone and turned it back on we had to pull out that piece of paper with the password and enter it yet again. We checked in with my sister who reported zero problems with her iPhone 4 and cackled with glee at our troubles with our shiny new expensive iPhone 5s. Any time my mother or I complained her response would be to declare “Mine was a dollar!” while grinning maniacally. I think I deserve a medal for not punching her.

It didn’t seem to be a problem with our wireless network. My sister’s phone was working fine, my BlackBerry had worked fine the day before as had my mother’s Android. My laptop had no trouble connecting to the internet, neither did the Wii or the PS3. It was JUST the iPhone 5s. What the balls was going on? I Googled to see if anyone else was having trouble with Wi-Fi on their iPhone 5s and found that we were definitely not alone. Of course Apple has yet to actually admit to the problem, but thousands of customers can’t be wrong. Many theories about what could be causing the problem are floating around (including that iPhone cases are to blame which certainly doesn’t apply in our scenario since our cases have yet to arrive from Amazon), but the fact remains that the iPhone 5 seems to have trouble connecting to, staying connected to, and/or remembering it ever connected to Wi-Fi networks.

Since we bought our phones from Verizon we started by directing our calls there. The rep I talked to had heard about problems like this with the iPhone 5 and ended up connecting me to an AppleCare rep after promising to reimburse us for the extra data we’ve been using. The AppleCare rep gave us some homework to do so we could pinpoint whether the problem truly was the phone or if it had something to do with our wireless network.

We spent all day Saturday dutifully completing our homework. We restarted our router and modem, we turned off our phones and turned them back on, we turned off the wireless on the phones and turned it back on…no change. We then went scouting to see if other wireless routers produced the same result.

We went to Starbucks to test their free Wi-Fi. I played Ponies while enjoying their new Vanilla Spice Latte and was booted off their Wi-Fi no less than three times.

Starbucks

We went to Barnes & Noble where I admired their Game of Thrones display and could barely hold a Wi-Fi signal for more than a minute.

Barnes & Noble

We went to my boyfriend’s house to watch him brew up some homemade root beer for us and I was kicked off their Wi-Fi at least once an hour.

Root Beer

In every one of these locations my mother’s phone exhibited problems as well, but not nearly as often as I did. The problem was NOT our wireless router. When we returned home we re-entered our Wi-Fi password (now memorized) and awaited the callback from AppleCare to report our findings.

This time the AppleCare rep had new instructions for us: we needed to restore our iPhones. Seemed like an odd thing to have to do with phones that are only a few days old, but we complied. I followed the instructions for backing up the phones, restoring them to new condition, and then restoring the backups. The restore on my phone went smoothly. My mother’s did not. Her phone seemed to insist that the backup could not be restored without a valid iCloud email address…which she had. Oddly enough the few pictures and what-not that she DID have on her phone were restored just fine, the only thing missing were the apps she had downloaded. While in the middle of trying to resolve the weird iCloud issue the AppleCare rep attempted to put me on hold and hung up on me instead. He did try to call me back twice, but every time I answered nothing happened. When I tried to call the AppleCare number it said their offices were closed. So that ended that “helpful” consultation.

After all of that, there was still no change. We were still having to re-enter our wireless password any time we left the house or turned the phones off.

Several hours later we seemed to enter a new circle of technology hell when my mother’s missing apps mysteriously appeared on MY phone while it wasn’t even connected to the computer. WTF?! Surely this was iCloud at work, but how? We have two separate iCloud accounts…

Sometime during the chaos of Saturday we also discovered that our wireless printer doesn’t want anything to do with my MacBook. I can print stuff, but only if I plug the printer directly into my laptop. If I ever want to print things wirelessly from my laptop, or if we want to print things from our phones EVER, we need a new printer. Fabulous.

Sunday. A new day, with a new call to AppleCare. I once again had to re-hash the entire history of our phone problems with a new AppleCare rep despite having a case number (what the hell are those for if not to prevent having to re-tell everything?) and for added fun, before I even had a chance to describe the problems the rep tried to sell me additional AppleCare coverage. I told him as politely as possible to shove it. After listening to his helpful suggestions to try turning the phones on and off again and try restoring the phones and perhaps our wireless network was to blame I informed him that all of these things had been attempted and unless the Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and another household’s wireless was ALSO to blame, the common denominator here was the iPhone 5. Finally he conceded that perhaps the phones needed to be replaced and how odd that BOTH phones are doing this. He made an appointment for us at the Apple store (30 minutes away, mind you) and off we went.

Apple Store

At the Apple Store we had to endure yet another round of Apple employees trying to figure out how they can avoid replacing our phones. This time it was the added charm that the employee absolutely refused to accept that there was any problem whatsoever with the product, that our TWO phones were simply a fluke and all of those customers complaining ON THE APPLE FORUMS are just trolls. They were able to replace my mother’s phone right then and there, but since mine is a speshul snowflake 64 GB they have to order my replacement.

Knowing there were some oddities involved with restoring my mother’s back-up I brought my laptop with me so we could do the restore right then and there and get some help when things started to go wrong. Trouble was, when the iCloud backup started to go awry the “helpful” Apple employee proclaimed that his next appointment was here and just left us! Awkwardly for him, his next appointment was sitting across the table from us, so we got to harass him until he brought out someone else to finish his job. The next person was immeasurable more helpful, but we’re still a bit mystified about what exactly went wrong. At least now we have some work-arounds to use which should (hopefully) prevent it from happening again.

We returned home, mom with a brand new iPhone 5, and me stuck with my (4 day) old iPhone 5. We connected her new phone with to our wireless network. Then, holding our breath, we turned her phone off and turned it back on again. And we waited. And waited. And waited. We waited more than five minutes after it finished restarting and still it had not recognized our wireless network. She had re-enter the password AGAIN. Could it really be that all THREE iPhone 5s we have been in contact with are faulty? Or is it just ALL of them?

Among the rumors floating around the internet about what may be causing this epic Wi-Fi failure are rumors for how it can be fixed. One rumor that seemed to hold the most weight and logic behind it was that while the problem really isn’t the wireless router, that these phones really should not be so sensitive that they can’t interact with the majority of routers out in the world, perhaps they would have a lot less trouble communicating with an Apple router. Since it is an Apple product it would be beyond ridiculous if it wouldn’t work with an Apple router, and certainly they would have tested their product with their routers (though it appears that is where their testing stopped).

We barely had enough room in the budget to upgrade to these phones and running out to buy a $100 router was not part of that budget. Nevertheless, we were so desperate to make this nightmare stop that we had resorted to throwing money at the problem. Mom went out on a mission to find an Apple wireless router (pretentiously named AirPort Express Base Station cause it’s the fuuuuuuuuture). Online Best Buy claimed it was in stock at our local store, but of course it wasn’t. The Best Buy iPhone “specialist” then confirmed to her that the iPhone 5 had a serious flaw that Apple had not yet admitted to. The “specialist” also said that getting a new router wouldn’t help (and really, they are there to sell stuff, so telling her NOT to buy something is very telling) and that we would probably be better off returning the phones and getting something else. After taking a break to sob uncontrollably in the car my mother returned and ventured into the interior of the mall to visit “The Mac Store” to see if they carried this elusive AirPort Express Base Station. They did. After being reassured that it could be returned for a full refund if this did not resolve the problem she bought it and returned home.

New Router

I spent several hours swearing like a sailor while trying to get the router set up and finally triumphed. Once a new wireless connection had been established, mom turned her iPhone 5 off. We held our breath and she turned it back on. Within seconds she had a wireless signal without having to re-enter the password! I tried it on my phone, and same result! Finally, after 4 days, 3 AppleCare calls, a tour of local Wi-Fi spots, a trip to the Apple Store, a trip to the local Best Buy/mall, and $100 later we have a stable Wi-Fi connection on our fancy new iPhone 5s. And my sister STILL has zero issues with her iPhone 4. Hers was a dollar.

I will still be replacing my iPhone as soon as the 64GB comes in since my Wi-Fi connections during our field trip seemed to be about twice as unstable as my mother’s. In the meantime I am taking a break from wrestling with technology for a few days. I need to knit. And drink. A lot.

 

The Mayans Lied, So I Guess I’ve Got to Do Stuff

Happy New Year’s Eve!

I am going to be spending my day clearing the decks to prepare for 2013, because nothing motivates me to clean more than a looming arbitrary deadline.

Hilarity brought to you by Hyperbole and a Half.

Hilarity brought to you by Hyperbole and a Half.

I’m still not quite clear why I do this. I never seem to get everything done that I want to. I don’t think of it until there are only a few days left in the year and then I procrastinate for most of those days thinking somehow I have developed the ability to bend the time-space continuum to my will and compress a week’s worth of work into a few hours.

Today though, I’m gonna try to go easy on myself and acknowledge that it REALLY is an arbitrary date and my success or failure at finishing ALL THE THINGS before midnight has no bearing on how the rest of the year is going to play out. Here are the things I plan to accomplish today in order to wake up tomorrow without shame:

  1. Blog post (hey look at that, I already finished something!)
  2. Send out thank you emails to my Indiegogo contributors. Bonus points if I manage to do it without sounding too socially awkward.
  3. Clean my room. Vacuum it too.
  4. Laundry (why is there always more laundry?)
  5. Go through my WIPs bin and rescue all of the notions and needles that are no longer in use.
  6. Spend the rest of 2012 photographing yarn and projects!

That’s not too bad, right? I think I can handle this…maybe I’ll even take some pictures with Sven for once so I can justify having a mannequin in my bedroom watching me sleep.

Also, I don’t usually make resolutions per se, but I do make some fuzzy goals based on the fact that a new calendar has been hung up and somehow that means I have a “blank slate” or whatever. Not that I ever look at the calendars I hang up, I have a smart phone, a computer, and a TV telling me what day it is. The calendars really don’t give me any new information…

Looking forward a few more hours to 2013 here are my fuzzy goals:

  1. Earn money. I’m not even going to specify “turning a profit” because for the first year of business that may be aiming too high, but I would at least like to be able to convince people to give me money for my skills.
  2. Bend technology to my will. I know, I know, that’s never going to happen, but I would really like to have it stop failing so spectacularly on me like it did all throughout 2012. I still haven’t found any of my documents in my back up files from the old computer – meaning I have NO knitting patterns and any ebooks I may or may not have had are currently missing. I’m trying not to panic, it’s possible they’re still in there somewhere. Also, my BlackBerry has decided that having a battery life longer than 4 hours is no longer its responsibility. I suspect it’s been conspiring with my camera, which seems to think AA batteries grow on trees. In other news, I’m starting to get really twitchy without easy access to any of my music thanks to the fact that my iPod is still probably under a couch in some crack-den in Vancouver. An iPhone 5 has been ordered in hopes that it could remedy all of these problems. If something happens to that iPhone and somehow it doesn’t work or gets lost or broken or I can’t figure out how to use it or ANYTHING…I give up. I’ll just go live under a bridge or something.
  3. See daylight at least 4 days a week. My sleep schedule is completely upside-down right now and the days are so short anyway due to the whole axial tilt thing that I can’t quite remember what daylight looks like. I really need to work on my outdoor photography skills anyway, so I should go outside sometime and take some photos. Though I recently got some REALLY cool night shots…I’ll show you later.
  4. Knit a sweater. I still can’t believe I haven’t done this yet. Put down the shiny shawls and cast on a freaking sweater.
  5. Try to spend at least one continuous hour a day NOT sitting down. Exercise can happen too, but there are plenty of days when I am simply not up for it. Regardless of whether I am mentally or physically prepared to actually exercise, spending some time NOT sitting should be on the agenda. My spine will thank me for it.

I could add more, but that sounds like more than enough ambition for one year. What insanity has New Year’s Eve inspired for you?

How Yarnologist Got Her Groove Back

Yesterday my mother finally got sick of seeing me moping around the house and randomly bursting into tears and took me to the Apple store to see if we could get me a new computer. I had an estimated cost in mind based on poking around the Apple site and guesstimating what I would need in a laptop. That estimated cost was almost $5,000 after I configured the laptop to what I thoughtmight need.

Now, I know very little about Macs. I’ve been a PC user all my life, but my life has changed quite a bit. I was once on a science career track and now most of my activities are more artsy. Supposedly Macs are better for creative pursuits than PCs. I’ve also heard rumors that the displays are more true to color than most PCs, which is something I was constantly struggling with on my previous laptop (and don’t even get me started on my sister’s computer – trying to color correct photos on her display was an exercise in futility). Many of the creative professionals I know are Mac users. Everyone I’ve ever known who has owned a Mac has LOVED it. I also know from personal experience that PCs, especially laptops, tend to only last 3 years or so before they start getting so buggy they’re unusable (see my sister’s computer) or just crash, while I’ve heard Macs tend to last much longer. When I got an iPod this summer and saw the way Apple products work first-hand that sealed the deal for me – my next computer would be a Mac. It would HAVE to be. To get another PC knowing I’d have to struggle with displays and using more visually based programs, not be able to sync anything from my iPod (or future iPhone?) with my computer, and that it would only be a few years before I had to get buy a brand new one would just be stupid.

Of course when I made this decision I was counting on my PC sticking around for another year or so. I was NOT counting on it being stolen, leaving me in a technological bind.

So back to my mom being awesome, she suggested that since I really was just guessing at what I would need for a Mac we should just go to the Apple store and get a professional to help us figure it out. THEN we would know exactly how much it would cost and can plan accordingly.

So we did. A very nice man named Chad helped us out and listened to all of my inane questions about computers and a detailed accounting of precisely what I need a computer to do for me. It turns out I really don’t need a lot of the add-ons I originally thought and the actual cost was more like $1,400. Mom had already set aside some money to loan me after everything was taken and was able to buy it right then and there!

Here comes my PSA for the day…one thing I learned from having to file a police report for stolen property is that serial numbers are very useful. You know where you can find those? On the things that were stolen. So, the first thing I did with my new computer is write down the serial number and all of the specs and file them away, just in case. If you have any technology that could potentially go missing – laptops, phones, MP3 players, etc. – I would encourage you all to find those serial numbers and write them down! If they ever turn up that’s the only way the police will be able to tell they’re yours.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t need help raising money anymore. Actually it means I need even more help, because now I have to pay back my mom. So please, if you have anything to spare, donate to my Knotty Narwhal campaign on Indiegogo. Even if you can’t contribute you can still help by telling others about my plight. I have a computer and can move on with my life, but now I’m in debt. To my own mother. I also would like to get some applications to make this computer work smoothly for me, like Pages, a task management program, photo editing software, antivirus, and definitely LoJack.