Thank you, Mr. Jobs

1982 was one of those transition years for me. My oldest daughter, Sarah, was born. I started my career as a teacher. And I got an Apple II Plus computer. This blog is about the computers.

Apple IIe

The Apple II Plus did not have a shift key and no lower case letters on the black and white monitor.

It had 48K of RAM. Not megs. Not gigs. K. That’s kilobytes.  The word processor — loaded with a floppy disk — took most of that space, leaving 16K to work with. I wrote a novel and saved it with over 40 separate files and many separate floppy disks.

In order to get a letter to print upper case, I had to hit the escape key twice. It would appear on the screen as a white box with a black letter inside.

South Rowan High School had one computer at that time, and it was in the computer programming class.

I was an English teacher, and I hauled my Apple II Plus, monitor and all, to school almost every day. The kids were enchanted.

The next year, the school got five more computers. I was the teacher who was not afraid to turn them on and let the kids write simple programs in BASIC or use a word processor.

Many teachers thought that computers were a fad that would never last.

But some people thought they were important, and many thought I was a genius (because I knew how to turn it on).  I was hired to be a Technology Facilitator — something I did for 22 years.

The Apple IIe came out. It had a shift key and lower case letters. That was an amazing machine that I used in several different computer labs for many years.

Then the Mac.

So at home and at school, I’ve always adopted whatever Steve Jobs thought I might like.

When it comes to Windows and PCs, I’m an idiot.

But I’ve always enjoyed the world of Apple.

Below are some of the computers I’ve loved.

Thank you, Mr. Jobs.

Apple IIc

the Mac



Power Mac 5400

Macbook, another one I'm using now
iphone, use it throughout the day

Toodledoo. My new old friend.

For much of my life, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with to do lists, planners, and task management software.

For the first 30 years of my life, I used my memory.

I also used this theory (one of many great lessons I learned in the Lifespring Trainings):  a “to do” list is basically a list of things I do NOT want to do.  If I really want to do something, it’s no problem remembering.

This pretty much did the job, although I did get in trouble on occasion for forgetting things.  Once, I forgot an important meeting at work and got fairly blessed out by my supervisor.  I still remember that like it was yesterday.

Around about age 30, I started making a few lists of things I needed to do — usually on a napkin, envelope, or piece of paper (folded and stuck in my pocket).

The world, back then, was more simple — and less noisy.

In the mid ’90’s, I took a workshop on Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  I got and used the planner.  I read the book.  A few times.  I also read First Things First.  I bought and listened to both of these audio books — several times — and tried my damnedest to be become an organized, highly effective person.

Franklin-Covey Planner
Franklin-Covey Planner

Then I jumped head first into PDA land.  My first was a Palm III, and then the Sony Clie (color!), and then the Treo (phone!).  With all of these devices, I used the pricey, but completely awesome Franklin-Covey software package and synced my calendar and tasks several times a day.

palm III
Palm III
Sony Clie
Sony Clié
Treo 600
Treo 600

Then, one fine day, shortly after the first iPhone shipped, my Treo stopped working.  Replacing the Treo was going to be expensive, so I shelled out a little more cash for the original iPhone.

Goodbye Franklin-Covey and Microsoft Outlook.  Hello Apple.  I had always used a Mac, but did not use Apple Mail or iCal.

Loved the iPhone, of course — but there was one problem.

While the calendar synced fine between iPhone and computer, there was no to-do list on the iPhone.

The workaround was to use free web-based apps such as Toodledo.  I tried this.  The problem here was that, with the 2g service and the original phone, it was too slow.

I eventually just used the calendar for appointments and tasks.  And little pieces of paper folded and stuck in my pocket.

Eventually, Apple solved the problem by adding the App Store.  Also, with the introduction of Leopard, the iCal task list was allowed to sync with the phone.  At least, I think that’s what happened.  I still haven’t upgraded to Leopard.

I thought I had the problem licked when I purchased Things.  It costs a little, but it’s a pretty nice little piece of software.  The problem was the syncing.  It does this only with wifi.  Because I use two computers — one of them without wifi — this required a workaround (using Dropbox), that occasionally resulted in lost data — when I accidentally went from one computer to another without remembering to close the application on the other computer.  I also had problems because my primary computer — the desktop — is the one without the wifi.  So if I was working on the desktop and wanted to sync to the phone before leaving the house, I had to go use the laptop for a minute, just to connect and sync.  So While Things is nice, it’s a royal pain not syncing in the cloud.  Why they haven’t fixed this major flaw is anybody’s guess.


Had a brief romance with Put Things Off, another iPhone app.  It’s cool.  I like it.  But there’s no desktop application at all.  I thought maybe I could plan entirely on the phone, but that didn’t work out.  A desktop version is on the way — but the author says it will only work with IO 4 on the phone.  I’m using IO 3 and will continue to do so (because my Mac is too old for Snow Leopard and I don’t want to buy a new computer and break my apps and my workflow just so I can use the latest iPhone OS).

Put Things Off
Put Things Off

So, one day, while extremely frustrated with all I had to do and looking for my notes in so many places, I started looking again and decided to take another look at Toodledoo.

Toodledo iPhone
Toodledo iPhone

What a difference three years makes!

Now, it’s not a website on the phone.  It’s a real 3g app that works fast and syncs in the cloud in a jiffy.

The website is quick also — and it’s pretty good.

It’s based not on Covey, but on Getting Things Done.  (I read that too, and it messed with my head while teaching me some valuable things).  I thought I liked the Covey system better, but GTD is growing on me.

This is just to say that I’m happy with this.  I think I’ve found my final resting place.  For now.  Except that I’ve just spent all this time blogging when I’ve got a mile long list of things to toodledo.

Which brings me back to the original theory I learned in Lifespring.  The things I really want do don’t need to be on a list.

Cell phone tower in my neighborhood! Okay.

Ever get a phone call and run outside, hoping to get a decent signal before the call drops?

One of our neighbors came ’round with a petition the other day.

There are plans to build a cell phone tower on the Catawba campus, near our house.  The petition was asking the planning board to postpone a decision until the neighborhood has time to study “the situation.”

The board met last week, and I haven’t heard from anybody who knows what happened.

We’ve had a few battles in the past over zoning.  If they want to build a dorm or parking lot across the street from my house, I want to register my voice against it.

But I’m not that unhappy about a cell phone tower that’s on the other side of the campus.

In fact, it would be kind of nice to get a better signal at home.

A few years ago, we did away with the home phone.  We noticed that we never used it and it cost a lot.

At that time, we seemed to enjoy a better signal on cell phones than we have recently.  I think the AT&T signal has degraded a bit because of the iPhone’s popularity.

But if it weren’t the iPhone, it would be something else.  These devices are a fact of life.

I’m not sure if we’ll be able to see the tower from our house or not.  I doubt it.

I’m pretty sure I’m not nearly as hypocritical as some of the politicians I see on TV.  Consider the adulterers leading the battle to impeach a President for adultery.  The deficit hawks leading the battle for massive tax cuts for the super wealthy.  Or even those who have had government health care since the day they were born railing against the adequacy of government health care.

But I also know that I’m not Gandhi or Henry David Thoreau.  I’m a normal human being, limited in knowledge and point of view, capable of arranging my thoughts to justify what I do — and probably equally as hypocritical as the next guy or gal.

Wouldn’t protesting a cell phone tower, while making daily use of a cell phone, make the hypocrisy a little blatant?

So I see no need to fight this one.  If Catawba College can lease a bit of property and make a few dollars for higher education — and enhance the quality of our phone calls — I’m okay with that.

Of course, I’m about three blocks away from the site.  I’m sure I’d feel different if I lived right next door.

Choosing stable over newest

Well, all that in my previous post about not being able to use a newer iPhone with Tiger O.S. …

Problem solved.

I got the new phone.  It’s great.  I can hear my phone calls again.  It’s not an iPhone 4, but for $199 I got the 3GS with 32 GB.  Not bad.

Even though the specs on the Apple website say that you need 10.5.8, you don’t.  They are assuming that you will upgrade the iPhone OS to 4.1.  I didn’t.

So I’ll continue using Tiger OS on the Mac and 3.1.3 on the iPhone.  No multitasking.  No Facetime.  So what?  It’s a stable system for now.

The phone works.  When I received my first phone call — from my wife at the grocery store — I heard every word she said (something I haven’t experienced in a year or so with the 2G iPhone).

And with 32 GB, I can load all my audiobooks.

I’m not a game player or a highly sophisticated user.  I want a phone.  I want to listen to books.  And I use a few apps to keep track of my tasks, phone numbers, appointments, and calories.

So I bought a brand new older phone with no OS upgrade path.  But it’s proven to be a stable system.

Besides, the iPhone 5, or 4.5 — which I’m guessing will be soon — might not have the call-dropping and face sensing issues.

Dear Apple: I want to buy an iPhone but can't

Dear Apple,

I want to buy a new iPhone but can’t.

My current computer, a dual 1.8 G5, still works like a charm.  It runs OS 10.4.11, aka Tiger.

The PPC processor can’t run Snow Leopard, even though we own the family pack.

Yes, I know I could run plain Leopard, 10.5.8 — and I could get the new phone and sync.  This would cost me an additional $129, which makes the new phone a little pricey (still less than I paid for the Original iPhone I currently use).

However, because I use several different graphic packages, and have a working driver that prints to a rather old but very expensive digital duplicator — and my business depends it — I’m afraid an OS upgrade would break something, cause serious problems to my workflow, and disrupt my business — thereby putting me out of business.

I’ve used the Mac since it was invented.  Before that, I used an Apple IIc.  Before that, beginning in 1982, an Apple II+.   I’ve got a little museum of old Macs on the floor of my office.

Alas, one of the reasons so many of us love Macs is because they work so well and last forever.

But now I feel caught between a phone and a hard place.

The 2G phone reception on my Original iPhone is getting worse and worse because AT&T seems to be degrading this service in favor or 3G.  That’s okay, if I could get a new iPhone that uses 3G — something I want to do.

But I’d like the phone to sync with my computer.

Tiger is an excellent operating system.  The G5 dual processor Power Mac is a great computer.

I would buy a phone today, if I could.  But I’m not in the position, currently, to buy a new computer, new duplicator, and all new software.

So my question is this:  Why not let your engineers allow the newer iPhones to sync with the older Macs?  Users of older PC’s CAN do this.  Windows XP is nine years old, and users of this OS are able to buy new phones and sync with their computers.  Why not Mac users?



iPhone 4 – stuck between generations

I want an iPhone 4.

Even with the well publicized reception problems, it’s probably better than the one I’m using now:  the original iPhone 2G. The reception was great when I got it (which is why I decided, shortly thereafter, to do away with the home phone).

But it’s not the same now as it was then, three years ago.

The signal has been degrading ever since the iPhone 3g was introduced. There are only a couple of rooms left in my house that I can use.  I drop calls all the time.  I’m eligible for an upgrade, and almost ready to buy it.

Because of AT&T’s lousy reception, I would possibly switch phones and carriers altogether, but I enjoy the iPhone.

I got my iPhone before the App Store existed.  Switching from years of Palm use, I sorely missed the absence of a to do list — but I managed with iCal.

Then came the apps, and it hasn’t been a big deal for me.  But there are a couple I us a lot.

•Put Things Off (the most simple and best task management system I’ve ever used).  In the past, I’ve paid serious money for PIM packages.  Put Things Off is perfect for me.

•Lose It! I’ve lost 26 pounds with this little gem.  It’s free.

I’m sure I could find similar apps for an Android phone, but I might not find anything as cheap, or as simple, or as elegant.

Anything else I use (iTunes, mail, contacts, calendar) is on every phone.  But do they sync nicely with Macs?  Probably not.

The rest of it I could probably live without — although I do need the better GPS that 3g offers.

I could switch to another smartphone.  They all have mail, contacts, and calendars. But I’ve used a Mac since it was first invented, and I’ve used PDA’s since they first came out — and iPhones sync better with Macs.  And I love Lose It! and Putting Things Off.

Alas, the new problem now is syncing anything at all.

I use Mac OS Tiger (10.4.11).  It’s a good OS.  The iPhone 4 requires OS 10.5 or above.

I already own 10.6 family pack — but it won’t install on my G5 (a 1.8 dual processor Powermac.  Top of the line in its day.  The big, expensive tower).

I can barely afford the phone, and I’m certainly not looking to buy a new computer.  There’s plenty of life left in the one I’ve got.

If I upgrade to plain Leopard 10.5, things would be cool — phonewise.  But that’s another $129 — and it’s likely to break my old version of Final Cut.

I spent a lot of time making films with this computer and although I seriously doubt I’ll ever do anymore video editing on this machine, I want access to those films — just in case Hollywood decides to pay me a million dollars for Coffee Therapy, with a few edits.

Upgrading the OS could break some of my graphics software also.  I depend on this system, on a daily basis, and don’t want to break it or spend money on lots of new packages.

So I’m stuck between generations.  Wanting the newer phone — not wanting to let go of my computer system.

I could forget about syncing altogether.  Not a great solution.

My Earbud Problem

I continue to have problems with all the stuff in my left pocket.

Today I bought a new set of earbuds for my iPhone.  This is the original 2G model, almost three years old, and I’ve probably gone through ten or fifteen sets of microphones.

At first it was hard to find them.  I had to either pay a fortune to Apple, or get really cheap ones on eBay.  I would buy several at a time because some didn’t work at all, even when they were new.

Today I bought a decent set at the kiosk at the mall, and I asked the nice lady there if other people replaced their earbuds as often as I did — or if it was just me.

“The truth,” she said, in her heavy accent.  “Just you.”

The reason for this is that I keep them in my left pocket, along with:

• my bank cards, license, and other cards, bound by a rubber band — the things one normally carries in a wallet.  I don’t use a wallet because I don’t like sitting on small, hard objects.

• my pedometer

• my nicotine gum

• drops for my eyes

When I get a phone call, I grab the phone and the earbuds.  Sometimes they get caught on the pedometer cord, which attaches to the side of my pant pocket with a tiny clasp.

Sometimes they get snagged by the nicotine gum.

If the earbuds are tangled, then I have to really hurry to get them on while the phone is ringing.

They take a beating, but I don’t know where else to put them.

If I leave them at home or in the car and get a phone call — without using the earbuds — I can’t hear a damn thing.

I don’t like wearing them around when not in use.

So it’s a bit of a problem — but not much of a problem.  That is, it’s a problem that’s not worth solving.

Want an iPad, but I do have an Eye Pad

I do have some new Eye Pads, but not an iPad.

I’d like to get an iPad and certainly will, eventually.

my iphone
my iphone

When the iPhone came out, it was too expensive. A few months after release, they lowered the price $200 and I got one then. Since then, the price is still lower, although the fee for data is higher. I’ve still got the original 2g (over 2 and half years). The 2g data costs less, and it works too well to upgrade — although I probably will get a new one if this one breaks, or, most likely, when the next generation is released, probably this summer.

Apple iPad

This is just to say that I think what we hear is true, that the iPad, and similar devices, will enjoy exploding popularity just as smartphones did — and will soon be the first choice for reading textbooks, books, magazines, and newspapers.

And I want one too.

Is it vulgar to love a company and the hyped-up products that company makes? Perhaps.  Perhaps not. Life is short. I’ve used and enjoyed Apple products since my first Apple IIe in 1982.

But money is tight these days, so I’ll have settle for a lesser but still awesome eye pad:   Visine Total Eye Soothing Wipes.

I just discovered the eye pads a few weeks ago. I don’t know if they’re selling as fast as iPhones and iPads, but the last time I checked, Walgreens was out. I had to go to Walmart, where I bought the last three they had on their shelves.

I badly strained my eyes in 2006, while editing my feature indie film, Coffee Therapy.

Since 1982, I’ve spent many hours a day staring at computer monitors, but I think that film is what really did it. Editing video is a little different from writing. The stuff is small, the changes minute, and one has a tendency to work for hours at a time without looking up, and forgetting to blink. (BTW, Coffee Therapy is, of course, available on DVD).

I also spend much of my time handling paper and ink. I often do this while using a computer — going back and forth from printing to writing — and I’ve got a bad habit of rubbing my eyes. Not a good combination.

I guess I should not have ignored my grandmother’s stern commands.  She told me, many many times, “Stop rubbing your eyes!”

Thus, I’ve got a little problem with blepharitis, and the best treatment for this is scrubbing the eyelids with a warm washcloth several times a day.

I find the eye pads more convenient than washcloths, and I can take them into my office and into my car.

But I still want an iPad.

The Tipping Point (lowering my IQ just enough to do something stupid)

This past year I’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s books in reverse order, and just finished his first book, The Tipping Point. In it, he explains, among other things, how the little things, the things in the margin, often make all the difference.

Such was the case with something I did last night.

Apparently, I pulled a muscle, sort of close to the hip region. It’s a very minor injury, nothing a couple of Ibuprofens can’t handle. I’ll probably forget about it by the middle of the week. But it hurts a bit, and it’s an aggravation.

stupid cartoonI did this because I was stupid — and the reason I was stupid was because I drank two beers.

Those two beers, in combination with other things I was doing, caused me to reach the tipping point, in terms of stupidity.

That is, two beers in three hours is not enough to make me drunk, but it’s enough to lower my IQ just enough to do something stupid.

Here’s how it happened:

A few days ago, I weighed.

I noticed that I’ve gained six pounds in the past year — despite the fact that I set a goal to walk 10,000 steps per day and have done so each and every day since January 1, 2009.

I needed to lose twenty, and I gained six (I didn’t weigh all year — a bad sign).

Having watched Michelle Obama on Larry King Live (followed the next evening by a discussion of Bill Clinton’s heart situation), I decided to go on a diet.

Twenty-five years ago, I became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, and I thought about going back.

But, I don’t feel like it. I love the Weight Watchers program, but don’t enjoy the meetings that much — especially since I’m usually the only man in the room. And I don’t feel like wracking my brain trying to learn whatever new calorie counting system they’re currently using. And I don’t feel like spending that money.

So, I checked my trusty 2G iPhone and found Lose It! — a free app that is excellent.

Lose It! allows me to input my weight, my goal weight, and how many pounds a week I want to lose. Then it assigns a number of calories to consume each day and calculates the date on which I will reach my goal.

I’ve used a similar system before, years ago — a Weight Watchers knockoff for the Palm Pilot. iPhone is much, much quicker.

It’s quite easy to enter food as it’s consumed, along with exercise.

I had the choice of losing one, one and a half, or two pounds a week. One pound a week gets me to October before reaching goal. Too long.

Two pounds a week is quicker, but not enough food.

I chose one and a half pounds per week.

In order to reach my goal by July 10, 2010, I’m allowed slightly better than 1600 calories per day. With my walking and yoga included, I’m able to eat a bit over 2,000 calories a day.

I’m already a vegetarian, and quite a healthy eater, and I quickly learned that this constriction is no problem, as long as I drastically reduce the amount of bread and pasta in my diet (my weakness, and the source of my weight gain).

Which brings me to last night. I went out on the town and drank two beers, my usual number. This is not a daily practice, but something I enjoy doing once, twice, or zero times a week.

In any case, last night I entered the two beers on Lose It! before drinking the beer.

When I got home, about midnight, I had about 300 calories left to consume.

Confession:  I’m a night owl and often do exactly what everybody says not to do.  I eat snacks late at night (usually in the form of a sandwich).

Last night, I had a bowl of black beans, with salsa, and still had over 100 calories to go.

That’s when I did the stupid thing that I would not have done had it not been for that damned beer lowering my IQ.

I ate some sesame crackers — and I ate them very carefully.

According to the information on the cracker box and the calorie count on my pedometer, I would have been fine eating four crackers.

And here’s where I got stupid. I ate five.

The reason I ate five is because five is the “serving size,” according to the box, and required no additional math on my part (this, despite the fact that Ak-Mak crackers are packaged with four crackers per section).

And I ate five because that beer had me wanting one more cracker, and I thought it would be no sweat paying for it by burning thirty more calories.

But it was actually a bit of a chore.

I walked around the kitchen and the calorie counter on the pedometer barely registered an increase.

So I went outside and walked up the street a bit.

Having consumed those beers, I didn’t have the intelligence to wear a coat.

Thirty calories is not a long walk. Halfway up the block and back was sufficient. But it was quite cold, and I wanted to get back inside the house, so I started running.

Hence, the tipping point.

Breaking into a sprint, on a cold night, slightly under the influence, was stupid.

My weight loss program is right on track, but I’ve got a pulled muscle to show for it.

The things in my pocket

I’m not complaining.  I’ve read Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.”

If, in my gut, I don’t appreciate how lucky I am — at least I have some intellectual understanding of how lucky I am.

But here is what I carry in my left pocket:

• nicotine gum

Nicotine Gum
Nicotine Gum

• iphone

• iphone earbuds


• a 3/4 inch thick wad of cards (debit card, driver’s license, library card, health insurance card, social security card, AAA card, and, for some strange reason, my tiny little laminated high school diploma).

wad of cards

wad of cards

I don’t carry a wallet.  I used to.  Then I went to the doctor one day with a lot of pain in my hip.  I thought it was a sciatic nerve problem.  He suggested I quit sitting on the wallet in my back pocket — a quick and easy cure.

A few more things in my left front pocket:

•drops for my eyes


•a tube of extremely therapeutic gunk I got from an herbal store — also for my eyes


•a pedometer


In my right pocket, I carry a couple of pens, a sharpie, and whatever change is there.

In my right back pocket, I carry cash (not much, if any), and my business cards.  I should carry more of these, but I don’t want the hip pain from sitting on cards.

In my left back pocket, I deposit other people’s business cards.

This is a lot of stuff — especially the left front pocket.  Frequently, I lose things.  Once I lose them, I spend a lot of time looking for them.  Often, I find them — in my left pocket.  Sometimes I look for things in there and have to take stuff out in order to find what I’m looking for.  Then I lose what I’ve taken out.

Sometimes, I take one thing out and something else accidentally drops to the ground.

Tonight I lost my nicotine gum. Still haven’t found it.

My wife told me I needed a purse.  She tells me this a lot.  We laughed about the Seinfeld European Carry-all episode.  “It’s not a purse. It’s European!”

She insisted I give it a try.

My daughter, the fashion expert, said it made me look even more ridiculous than I already look.

I thought I’d see for myself, so Alicia took a picture (see below).

Not gonna happen.

I might start shopping for a tiny backpack.