Saturday, February 26, 2011

Paper vs Screen (or Real Books vs E-books)

One needs only look at my collection of books to know that I am a bit of a bibliophile. I'm not just someone who enjoys reading, but I really love the books themselves. I tend to collect anything that I read, and only begrudgingly part with a book, and then only if it was really one I didn't enjoy, I just really need the shelf space to accommodate, you guessed it, more books. So, it shouldn't be any real surprise that one of the first things I downloaded when I got my Motorola Droid over a year ago was an app called Aldiko Book Reader. I've also downloaded quite a few E-books as well, but up until now, haven't read a single one. Recently, while between books (meaning I had just finished one and was deciding what novel to read next), I starting browsing through the list of items I had downloaded to my Droid. I ended up reading the poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. It was the first time I had actually used the e-book reader to read more than a page or two of anything.

Reading that classic poem got me to wondering about if I'd actually enjoy reading a full length book on such a small screen.* So, to accommodate an experiment I decided to download an e-book for which I also own an actual copy of the book. So, when I'm at home, I read from the hard copy, but having the same book in electronic format on my Droid allows me to be able to pick up reading a few pages when I'm out and about even if I've forgotten to take my book with me. So far, I have to admit, reading a book on my phone isn't as bad I thought it would be. The tricky part, so far, with reading a book via two media formats is keeping the bookmarks synchronized. Whenever I read the book, I have make sure I move my bookmark in the e-book and vice versa or I end up reading the same pages/chapters twice.

Now that I've established that I'm perfectly content with reading a book on my smallish phone screen, I now have to decide if that will become the future of how I read books. As I mentioned before, I love books – the way they feel, the way they smell. I can easily spend quite a bit of time (not to mention money) at a bookstore. However, Aldiko has access to quite a large library of free, public domain books as well as more current books, usually for a bit cheaper than buying the hard copy. Then there's also the ability to get e-books via bit torrents.

There are also other concerns to take into account when collecting books. They take up a lot of space, and they can also be quite heavy when packed in boxes (something I have to consider since I'm still have most of my collection in storage in North Carolina and am currently establishing residency in Atlanta, GA). My old college buddy Sam had some interesting insights on this very subject some time ago. Rather than re-listing them all here, I'll suggest you read his blog entries “Digital Dilemma” and “Kobo Impressions”. The only other comment I'll make is that, while Sam bought a dedicated e-book reader, I rather like the fact that my smartphone has the ability to function as an e-book reader using the Aldiko app (or others) as well as access the internet. In other words, I only have to carry one mobile device, where someone with just an e-book reader would need to carry at least two (the reader plus their cellphone).

~ JC

PS. I should be noted that I have only cataloged physical books using LibraryThing. I've yet to catalog my e-books/PDFs save for a few.

* The Motorola Droid has a 3.7” screen

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Of Friends Old, New and Forgotten

I mentioned in last week's blog about my new tribe for friends here in the ATL. Apparently some of my comments were misconstrued by one of my oldest and closest friends back home in North Carolina. So, I want to clarify things about friendships both current and past. Being 39 years old and having lived in NC and GA (twice now), I've had opportunity to meet and make friends with lots of folks. Some are forgotten (like old friends from high school whom I haven't heard from in two decades) or even some from college. Life moves on, and when someone is no longer directly inside one's sphere of influence, it makes it difficult to remain friends unfortunately. One of the hard things about uprooting myself and moving to Atlanta was leaving not only family and my fiancee, but my friends as well. I tend to choose friends carefully (just look up Scorpio in any online zodiac guide and you'll see that we tend to be like that), but once I've befriended someone, I tend to be very loyal to them. Life in Fayetteville was such that even my closest friends and I were rarely able to get together. There's just something about that town that does that; that sucks life right out of people, not to mention it's over-priced cost of living versus the job market there making it hard for anyone to afford to do much more than work-eat-sleep. The friends I've made here in Atlanta have become like soul-mates. In only five months time we've become close; we hang out together usually once a week, or at least call/text just to say hello. That fact doesn't mean that I'm closer, per se, to my Atlanta friends than my North Carolina friends. It's just something about the Metro-Atlanta area that seems to facilitate being able to spend more time with friends than I was able to in Fayetteville, NC. If I could somehow move everyone important to me from back home to Atlanta, I most assuredly would, for then I'd be able to spend time with all of them (not to mention rescue my NC friends from the life-sucking cesspool that is Fayetteville, NC).

Now, no doubt someone from Fayetteville, NC will become offended that I've called that town (yes town, not city no matter what it's “City” Council thinks) a “life-sucking cesspool.” Well, it is. I've left there twice, and returned once. I do not wish to return a second time. Other than the fact that I never would have met the love of my life, and the aforementioned friends I have there (including the one who is now currently my roommate in Atlanta), the biggest mistake I ever made was moving back there in 2000 from when I lived in Athens, GA. Fayetteville offers nothing in terms of career choices, unless one wishes to slough away in minimum wage retail and restaurant jobs the rest of their lives. My beloved has an MBA and has still had no luck finding anything in Fayetteville outside of the crappy non-profit organizations that don't even come close to paying someone with a Masters Degree what they should be making. Even my buddy Andrew, who is a school teacher, is trying to get out of that burg because NC has the worst teacher salary in the entire nation! So before you go getting upset that I ragging on Fayetteville, consider this – the apartment I'm going to be moving into here in Atlanta in a few weeks goes for $650 per month for two bedrooms and two bathrooms; that same apartment in Fayetteville, NC would either be a really bad neighborhood, or cost $100-200 more per month. With the exception of the place I work now (which hopefully won't be much longer), the average employer in Atlanta (including retail) probably pays $8-9 per hour starting out instead of maybe $7.50-8 per hour like in Fayetteville. So, here the income to cost of living ratio is much more favorable than back home. All that being said, where would you rather live? Somewhere where you not only had a decent income and reasonably priced housing plus lots of places to go do things in your free time? Or, somewhere where the apartments are horribly over-priced for the average income level of the populace and where you can't really tell where the ghetto ends and the “nice” neighborhoods begin? I'll take “Places I Can Live Instead of Withering Away and Dieing” for $1000, Alex!

I miss my friends. I miss my family. I most assuredly miss my fiancee. But I absolutely don't miss Fayetteville, NC... not even a little bit.

~ JC

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Long Awaited Blog

It's been three months or so since my last actual blog post. Not the longest hiatus I've taken from writing, but still, I've missed the Sunday morning routine of sipping my coffee while typing away with whatever chaotic thoughts are running through my brain. Speaking of chaotic commentary, this one proves to be anything but topical since I'm probably going to end up cramming three month's worth of observation, ranting and bullshit into a single post – it's even going to have subsections with their own heading, which is something I don't usually do. So, without further adieu, on with the show.

Welcome to the Tribe

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the first night I arrived in Atlanta, I was introduced to several people as it was gaming night. The game we played that night is called Tribe 8. It's interesting, as I think about it now, how life imitated the game a bit. As my newly rolled character for Tribe 8 had to be introduced to the other player's characters and be accepted, so to was I being introduced and accepted into a new tribe of friends. I've only known these folks for about three months, but it seems like we've been friends for much longer, like I was meant to have this group of friends. Since that night, I've spent a lot of time hanging out with all of them, and not just on gaming night. We've celebrated everything from Thanksgiving, to the return of another person from Officer Candidacy School (who likewise has become a good friend in a very short time), to New Year's Eve together. They've all met my fiancee when she came to visit, and I've come to know that I can call on them for just about anything, as they can call on me as well. I'd hate to ever have to leave Atlanta and these friends behind, which just motivates me even more to move beyond the part time, minimum wage job I have now into a job or career that would allow me remain here beyond just a few months.

In that same vein, not only have I been introduced to Tribe 8, but also a few other rather obscure role playing game systems that I had never heard of (e.g. Unknown Armies and Burning Empires). Now, I've blogged in the past about role playing games and offered my comparison of Dungeons & Dragons vs Palladium Fantasy and Rifts, so I won't go into a long diatribe here trying to compare all these systems. Suffice it to say that, so far, I like these systems much better than the D20 System used by D&D and leave it at that.

They're Just Little Plastic Army Men, right?

I've also mentioned previously, that I have, after several years of saying I'd never do it, started playing Warhammer 40,000. For those that aren't familiar, it involves collecting, building and painting models of little plastic futuristic army guys and then pitting them against another person's little plastic futuristic army guys on a big-ass table that's been adorned with various models of terrain, buildings, ruins, etc. The first time I ever saw Warhammer 40k, or it's older brother Warhammer Fantasy Battles, played, I thought “There's no fuckin' way I'll ever play that. It's to complex, and the pieces cost to much.” I've really got to learn to stop saying “never” when it comes to games I'm willing to try. Years ago I was given a starter set for Warhammer Fantasy, which I was originally going to use the models out of as miniatures for Dungeons & Dragons. When I decided, after overcoming my addiction to World of Warcraft last year, that I wanted to get back into building models to have a hobby to take the place of WoW, I figured I might as well look into both versions of Warhammer, but I still wasn't sure I wanted to play the games themselves. Now I've got a decent, if smallish by comparison to other players, collection of Warhammer 40k models that I'm working on painting and that are built enough to be playable. So far I've played five games of 40k with a record of 0-2-3. I suppose that's a decent battle record for a newbie considering that I'm playing against guys that have played for years and not only know their army's abilities, but mine as well. So, I've made some mistakes tactically because of lack of knowledge of what my enemy can do to counter my plans, but hey, you live your learn right? At any rate, the modeling part of the hobby is a nice way to relax in the evening while listen to music or watching a movie/TV and the game itself is a pretty cool way to kill a few hours at the gaming store on my days off. It's also another motivational factor for wanting to stay in Atlanta, since I know that back home there isn't anyone who plays that I'd actually want to play against (I've seen the guys who play back home, and frankly, they're all kind of douche bags).

Show Me The Money!

All the social interaction aside, what I really came to Atlanta to do was try to find a job that would allow my fiancee of eight years and I to be able to really have a life together without having to live with family. Don't get me wrong, I love my fiancee's family, but really, it makes it really difficult for us to be a couple when having to live under her mom and dad's roof. So far, what I have found is a part time, minimum wage job at an office supply store. I could have stayed in Fayetteville, NC and done that, and had the pleasure of seeing my beloved everyday. I've had two other interviews for “real” jobs since October, one of which flatly told me that they didn't think I'd work out, the other (which was very recently) should lead to a $10 per hour fulltime temp-to-perm posisition. Now, that job is supposedly slated to begin on February 14, which is a week from tomorrow (at the time of this writing) and I still haven't heard one way or the other. Couple that with the fact that I have just about reached a point with my current store manager where I'm ready to tell him to go fuck himself and don't really care that he won't get the traditional two weeks notice, it's all becoming a little frustrating.

I now have a definite time frame that I have to move out of my friend's house by (May). It's not a money thing or a we're not getting along thing. It just simply that by the middle to end of May, there simply won't be a viable place for me to stay. So, while $10 per hour isn't super rich, it is enough, believe it or not, to afford a pretty decent apartment here in the Decatur area of Atlanta (I found one for $650 a month for two bedrooms/two bathrooms or $599 per month for two bedrooms/one bathroom). I really don't want to have to pack up and move back to North Carolina. As hard as it was to leave my fiancee and family to move down here, I think it would be harder to have to leave the friends I have here to go back home. In NC, there just aren't any jobs that are worth a damn, and I really don't have anyone to hang out with or activities I can do. I honestly feel like going back to NC would be like a wounded animal finding a place to lay down and die. Sorry if that sound morose, but honestly, here in GA I feel alive, while in NC I merely existed.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

As I mentioned before, I used to write a blog every Sunday morning. I miss that. There was something really therapeutic and cathartic about being up on a Sunday morning, enjoying a cup of coffee and some music and venting my frustrations or sharing my observations or newly acquired knowledge via the written word while the rest of the household was still asleep. I need to start doing that again. Who knows? Hopefully, I'll get to stay in Atlanta, which will make these blogs more informative and entertaining and less ranting and raving. Either way, I like to write. It's actually one of the things I miss about college. Yeah, I know; weird right? I actually liked writing papers for my classes. I even had one of my uncles, who is a professional journalist, tell me that I should have considered making writing an integral part of my ministry (back when I was actually planning on going into the ministry). That's a good thing right? When a professional writer tells you that you're writing is good enough to do that, it makes you feel pretty good. And so, I write this blog, just to make sure I don't forget how to write.

Until next time (which will hopefully be sooner this time),

~ JC