Keys

Before me is eleven inches of trim functionality. Last Saturday, in an effort to write once more, I plonked down a few hundred clams for a used 2015 MacBook Air. Since then I’ve been able to make steady progress on the outline for Distance, today I’m well into the second act.

That’s some really good news, my word count more or less stopped at the end of August and I spent most of the summer struggling to wring words onto the page. This post is a review of the “new” machine.

Size Matters

Relative to my MacBook Pro the screen size is tiny. The keyboard is a little more cramped. And the screen tends to dim when left of automatic adjustment at exactly the wrong moment. But none of that matters much when I balance that on the scales of functionality, I’ve been working on the Air for three days without charging it once.

Yeah size matters, smaller means I’ve got a lot more mobility. It means that I can use the device all over the place and not have to worry where I’m going to plug in next.

Relative to my old iPad 2 and keyboard, which in its heyday had similar battery endurance, I didn’t gain much screen space or key-room. However, there’s absolutely no delay between the moment my finger taps a key and the point at which the corresponding icon is rendered on the screen. Bluetook keyboards are, in my experience, a nest of frustration.

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to use the Air to complete editing or layout work, there just isn’t that much screen real estate. But at least now I’ll have something to edit and/or layout as the case may be.

Storage

Weighing in at 120 GB this system has nearly nothing in the way of storage. Set up as my primary writing utility, I’m using about 16% of my total storage. I haven’t loaded Vellum and a couple of other utilities I know I’ll eventually need, but I have taken steps to streamline the OS and app footprint. No games, two browsers (Chrome, which I use, and Safari which is an OS-native), and a couple of plugins and utilities. The biggest app is Scrivener with MindNode Pro coming in a close second.

For a guy who, twenty-five years ago, rejoiced at the acquisition of a 2 MB external hard drive for my then moldering Macintosh Plus the tiny storage footprint of this device seems spacious. Add that relativistic view to the availability to cloud storage and easy networking and I’ve arrived in mobile heaven.

Digging In

I’ve opened a couple of text files and started planning. Right now I’m working primarily on Distance, which is the first in a generation-ship trilogy. Add to this, I’m planning on writing a many more blog posts too. Some about writing, some about my life in general, and a few about my van. Notice that nowhere in there am I including “angry posts about politics.”

On the whole, this device is representative of the quality and mobility I’ve come to expect from Apple. I’m going to make some good use of it.

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Sony AUX-AX100 Installation

I should preface this by saying that it’s not completed yet, but I’ve mostly installed the new stereo head unit in my 1991 Mitsubishi Delica Chamonix. This whole thing turned into a bit of a wiring nightmare which is why it took me so darn long to finish up. Well, that and the fact that I decided to wait for installation of several elements until I get an intact windshield back in the van.

What Was I Dealing With?

So the van came from Japan with a karaoke machine and a TV installed. All of these electronics were vintage 1990’s junk that could only work in Japan (Japanese radio and TV stations transmit within a sperate frequency set) and I’m pretty certain that most of it was in questionable condition regardless. Consequently, my first task was to rip all that junk out of the dash. And, well pretty much the rest of the van too (the TV was wired to the back as well the microphone for the karaoke machine and a bunch of tuner equipment).

I pulled most of this wiring in about a day of diligently unscrewing headliner and lifting carpets. There are still a couple of things I’m going to need to return to once all this is complete. Primarily, the diesel-timer (a common device used for slowly cooling diesel engine after you cut the ignition) and a bunch of early 90’s lighting, but the entertainment harness, all the way to the fuse box, has been cleaned and uninsulated wire (of which there was much) has been replaced.

next came manual mapping of the harness. This took me a good long time and then was complicated by the fact that I reverse the order of the wiring on the stereo side. Oops! Eventually, I ended up double checking my map and then writing the pinouts on both sides of the harness with a permanent marker. My flawed wiring was immediately obvious then so when I rewired the stereo side everything began working.

What’s Left to Do?

The backup camera and the dash cam, on hard-wired power, need to be installed. Also, I’ve purchased a USB harness that will fit flush in the dash. That’s going to take some cutting to get it in there right, but shouldn’t be that difficult.

As soon as I get the van back I’m going to replace all the interior lighting with LED equivalents. I’ll need to completely take apart the dash this time to make this happen, but since most of the existing bulb died back in 1997, it’s a project long overdue.

I *may* spin up a second project from this to reprint the speedo template with KPH and MPH (right now it’s all metric). Given that I’ve gotten pretty good and doing the conversion math in my head it’s not necessary, but I also think I’d prefer a white background on the dash instead of the stock black.

Right now the van is with the auto body shop. Once they’re finished fixing the paint, roof, and windshield I’ll complete the electronics package installation.

What Do You Like?

I’ve been considering what I’m going to work on next. Have some thoughts? Please do share them with me.

Going It Alone

Yesterday, a friend from what seems another lifetime, posted a job opening for work that I used to be qualified to do. He’s a good guy, working with good people and my first impulse was to dust off my resume.

And that’s me pretty much in a nutshell. I never bothered testing the waters with a toe, I’ve always just jumped in head first. More than once this has resulted in me gasping for air as my chest contracts and a vagus nerve shorts in both literal and metaphorical deep, arctic waters.

Back in 2012, faced with the genuine possibility that I might not be long for this life, I made a decision to leave my career position and set out on my own path. With little more than some inspiration from other writers as my guiding light, I’ve been wondering the deep dark woods of publishing now for five years. Yes, I’ve been lost. Quite a bit actually, but I’m trying to remain relentless in the pursuit of my dream. Too, I’ve been lonely much of the way.

Even yesterday’s momentary glimpse of life’s superhighway, jam-packed with traffic, got me excited like a hermit emerging from the wilderness. Money, companionship, a microwave and a water cooler, even lunch dates with other adults: all of this initially looked to me like the Emerald City. But then my van made me hold off a moment before I necessarily jumped in head first.

I had to load it on the ferry then drive home with a tired six-year-old. Somewhere between the calming rattle of the diesel engine and a merciless search for errant deer it occurred to me to give this whole idea a second and third thought. Sleep on it even.

This morning, I hopped a boat to the mainland once more, this time to buy a used MacBook Air. As I’ve written previously my 2013 MacBook Pro is borked, but good. It’s been desk bound since early last summer and is increasingly showing signs of its impending demise. Add to this that my most productive writing more often than not occurs at a coffee joint or bar, and you’ll quickly understand why my word counts have dwindled to nearly nothing.

All of this morning’s work has been on the drawing board for some time. I’ve been scraping together the funding for a used replacement because I’m just not terribly productive without a functional machine. Plus, tomorrow, I’m headed to my first Clarion West workshop with J.M. Sidorova. SQUEEE!

“I think the imagination is the single most useful tool mankind possesses. It beats the opposable thumb. I can imagine living without my thumbs, but not without my imagination.”
― Ursula K. Le GuinWords Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week

On the boat this morning, sitting in my van, I realized that this is one of those pools of water I’d be better off avoiding. Sure, all that society looks terrific, but I know that soon enough I’d feel claustrophobic. Eventually, I am confident, the same soul-crushing work I spent nearly fifteen years doing would once again begin to pulp whatever remains of me today. All of this, all these thoughts about what looked like an oasis but which was actually quicksand, were before the realization that once again I can write.

Invigorating

I just spent an hour wandering around one of the many island beaches we have here on Vashon taking pictures and wallowing in the autumn weather. Thick gray clouds, chilly air and the umami scent of big leaf maple detritus decomposing. Consequently, I’ve got sand in my shoes and a song in my heart.

 

My New Old Van

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed a number of strange vehicle pictures creeping into my feed. If you know me at all you know that my superpowers have a weakness. My dumb ass just can’t stay away from old vans. Vanagans, microbuses, pretty much anything that looks like it was designed to roll over Martian sands. Well, I’ve gone and bought another one. This time the king-daddy of vans (IMHO) a 1991 Mitsubishi Delica L300 Chamonix Space Gear.

Mine began its life in Kyoto, Japan where, apparently, it spent most of its early years sitting in someone’s garage. It’s 26 years old and has appreciably very few miles on the odometer (81,000 when it arrived). Most systems in the vehicle resemble their state when new, although since I received it I’ve uncovered some minor issues.

Right now the biggest outstanding problem comes from it transportation. After months making its way to the Pacific North West, on the last day it was inbound, the driver of the truck it was loaded on drove it into a low-ish overhanging tree in Bellevue.

The good-ish news is that I’ll have it in the body shop next week to see how much we can unfunk.

Last Sunny Days for a While

Aral and Nathan make it to the border of Wilderness

Last Friday, because there wasn’t any school, I loaded up Aral and his good friend Nathan and meandered my way up into the Cascades. The goal was to get the boys and me out on a trail to enjoy some of the last dregs of sunshine before its gone. We ended up climbing up to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness border via the Pacific Crest Trail northbound from Snoqualmie Pass.

To be sure, this section of trail is a favorite of mine, so it’s no wonder when given an opportunity I gravitate toward it. In particular, I love the ascent up to the Kendall Katwalk because it traverses a narrow face of the mountain and goes through all the different biological regions. I should add that once you’re high enough you get out of the noise pollution of the I-90 corridor. Back in the day, I never had any trouble climbing up and out of civilization. It’s an escape route.

Friday both boys drug their feet from time to time. I’d mistakenly let them pack whatever they wanted along on the trail and so in addition to all the spare clothing and water they had in their bags they were both toating a hefty load of toys. They did this even after I warned them that the extra weight would bother them while we hiked.

Oh well. C’est la vie, non? I was able to coax them both along until we reached the Alpine Lakes Wilderness border sign. I ceremonially stepped into the wilderness and let the sunshine beat down on me for a moment. Ah, momentarily cleaner somehow. Then we traveled back down to the van in good spirits with a healthy load of vitamin-D coursing through our veins.

As I get my van together I’ll also work on building out my go-bag and kit so these trips will become much easier. For the first time, in a long time, I’m excited to get off-island and up into thin air.