Reading on the iPod Touch

I recently bought myself an iPod Touch. First, I wanted an iPod with a more storage. Second, I wanted a smaller wifi device (smaller than my laptop) for web connection and email while I’m on the move. Third, I want a better phone, and would like an iPhone, but stumping up the cash for both the phone and the contract seems a bit steep. I got the touch to test out the idea of the iPhone, and if I like it I’ll maybe get an iPhone later in the year.

The Touch, by the way, is pretty cool. I keep finding new things on it that are really useful. A main thing is the seamless integration with iCal, which I use for calendar stuff. And lots more I won’t go into now.

I thought I’d use it as a book reader too. If I can get new releases cheaper, and I don’t have to carry the damn things around with me on multiple airline journeys, I’d be a lot happier. Also, I’d like to read through my own fiction writing on the go, rather than having to print it or scroll through it on my laptop.

My first plan was just to read html or text formats with the Safari browser. I knew I could get public domain books from Project Gutenberg so surfed on over. I wanted science fiction, so picked a The Time Machine by H. G. Wells.

After four chapters I found that scrolling down a huge page on a browser wasn’t the way to go. I needed to be able to flip pages.

So I went to the App Store and downloaded two free ebook readers. One was eReader, but that seemed strongly tied to an ebook store, and transferring files looked tricky.

The second was Stanza. I opened it for the first time on the Touch and it said “The Time Machine. Wells, Herbert George.” I was confused for a split second, thinking “Wait, I’ve not even tried to transfer the file across yet! The iPod Touch is just the best device EVER!”

Then my brain caught up and I realised the novel I wanted to read as a test of the Touch as a book reader was the exact same novel that Stanza provides to let people use the Touch as a book reader. The reasoning is the same, of course; a classic short novel in the public domain. It’s just one of those small coincidences that make life so interesting.

Stanza seems to have all the features I want, with direct access between the Touch and my Macbook via wifi for transferring text files. Maybe I won’t need a kindle afterall.

EDIT: Four hours before I began looking for ebook readers for the iPod Touch, Amazon released an app that lets you view kindle content. Another coincidence, and a product I’ll look at later.

Three quarters.

I’m writing a novel at the moment, a story idea I’ve been mulling over for ages. While it isn’t my best or even favorite idea, it’s very different from my previous completed novel. I think at this point in my writing career (if a career it even is), I need try out a wide variety of styles and story ideas and viewpoints.

I’m sure I’ll talk a lot more about these novels (or novellas depending on your definition) in the future.

To the point of this post: I’m about three quarters of the way through novel number two. While I know exactly where I need to take things, I seem to be having trouble pushing through to the end. I keep finding distractions (like this blog, you see), and when I do write, I can’t seem to find inspiration. My first novel had a non-linear structure, so I didn’t have to fill in the gaps. Now I’m having to ramp up the energy and get myself into the explosive and twist-filled final act, but my characters are pottering about, killing time, discussing stuff instead of actually getting on with it.

Then today I remembered part of a pep talk by Niel Gaiman, and looked it up. Sure enough:

The last novel I wrote … when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”

I was shocked. “You mean I’ve done this before?”

“You don’t remember?”

“Not really.”

“Oh yes,” she said. “You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients.”

I didn’t even get to feel unique in my despair.

This makes me feel better about the entire project. A bit. It doesn’t change the fact I’ve only written 23 words today.

Table tennis!

The living room as viewed from the juggling studio.

The living room as viewed from the juggling studio.

Pola drove the van back from Aachen on Saturday, which contained everything we had taken to Portugal for 6 weeks, plus Pola’s accumulated art projects from the trip. Today we finally got around to clearing it all away.

At the same time we rearranged furniture. This included creating a large table in the living room for Pola to work on large projects, for larger dinner and breakfast gatherings with friends (a weekly ocurence when we are in Berlin) and… ping pong!

Whenever we work on cruise ships together we play a lot of table tennis, normally 30 minutes every evening. This is what led me to developing my table tennis routine. With the table in this position we’ll probably play ever day at home. We’ve already tried it, and while the table is on the small side, it’s just as much fun.

Four years.

Yesterday Pola and I celebrated our four year anniversary. Four years is, by far, the longest relationship I’ve ever had. In fact, it is one of the longest anythings I’ve stuck with long term…

Juggling – 18 years total, 13 years hardcore, 6 years as a job.
Music/Guitar – 15 years
Primary school – 6 years
Secondary school – 5 years
Pola – 4 years
College – 2 years
University – 2 years
Longest job (non-self employed) – 1 year, 10 months
Longest other relationship – 5 months (intermittent)

Well, I guess that really puts raising a child into perspective. About 18 years, and we’ve not even started yet.

A new routine

Ok, some juggling news. I’ve been injured recently, so my juggling practice has been cut down a lot. However, I felt I needed more pure juggling material in my full length show so worked on a new routine.

The routine needed to tick these boxes:
– I can do it without bending my back or legs too much.
– uses a prop I already take with me, so no extra weight.
– contains skills I can already do.
– looks interesting to non-jugglers.
– lasts about 4 minutes, but can be extended with an introduction if needed.
– involves comedy.
– fits into the story of my show (fake biographical).

I chose rings as the prop, as I always take 7 with me, and only ever do 40 seconds of juggling with them in the show. They are colour changing rings, red and white, so wanted that to be the main focus. I start with three rings, and do about 45 seconds of tricks, but cleverly (a certain level of cleverness, at least) make sure they only ever see them as white. Then I make them turn red, and everyone goes “Aaaaahhh…”

I then do a load more 3 ring tricks. Then 4, then 5. All good. Then I get the technician to press pause as I set up 7 rings. This includes holding a ring in my mouth, launching 6, grabbing the 7th, juggling for between 11 and 15 throws, then gathering them all in my left hand. I explain the trick before juggling it, but for a lot of the explanation I have a ring in my mouth, so nobody can understand what I’m saying.

This, if you don’t know, is called comedy. No, really, people laugh. I’ve done the 7 ring piece in shows before, and it always gets a good reaction.

So I put the entire routine together and performed it on my last cruise ship gig. I only dropped once, and the audience really enjoyed it. Of course, my 3 ball and video routine is the one that everyone always raves about afterward, but when I asked about the rings everyone said it was good. And when I mentioned it was new material, everyone said they couldn’t tell. That could be good: I’m good enough at putting together new material that I can get new routines right on the first attempt. It could be good: the rest of my show also looks like new material. I think I’ll go with the first option.

I have another routine in the works, which uses one to three clubs, video and a specially written soundtrack. The 3 ball piece works so well, I want something like it to close my show if I don’t feel like juggling knives on a rolabola. I’ll post more about it as it develops.