Over the course of the last year, not a lot changed until the last two months. Most of my time was been spent on courses toward my English degree, work on some personal projects, and otherwise activities to remain sane. Unfortunately, though the last two months may be the most interesting for others to read about, they’re not something I’m fully comfortable writing on. I’m a fan of writing from an uncomfortable position, I believe it is where some of the best writing comes from, but you’ll just have to take my word that I cannot write about this now. So, rather than focus on something that I cannot yet write about, I’m going to cover a few different things from this year and probably splice in some things about the future toward the end.
I more or less revived and partly revised Spifftastic early on this year. I was concerned spam bots would pull my content from RSS feeds, using it to make their spam sites look legitimate, but that’s no longer on my mind. It’s a pointless fight, and anyone duped by a spam site probably isn’t interested in my writing anyway. Instead, the new focus was purely on readability. I wanted a site that I would be comfortable reading, one that didn’t hurt my eyes, and one that focused entirely on my writing instead of a Twitter sidebar or advertising or millions of distractions. Daring Fireball and Marco Arment, whose sites I consider to be extremely readable, were my primary inspiration when it came to the new design, so kudos to them for having the sense to care about readability. So, while it’s still a work in progress, I’m actually fairly happy with where Spifftastic is now.
Unfortunately, I’ve been incredibly bad about actually writing on here. There are a vast swath of excuses I could pull from to say that I was too busy, but I’m sure if I wanted to I could do this daily. This might change in 2012, but I don’t know and I won’t make any silly promises either to myself or others regarding update frequency. At the very least, I want to make sure that I never feel like I’m obligated to stick to a particular topic or theme as many writers seem to believe they should. If I focused my writing only on a small subset of the world, for one, it would limit me, and for two, it would bore everyone (myself included). Instead, I’ll just do what I can and write whatever I need to write.
Android & Ascension
This is a small point for 2011, but Ascension is mostly dead in terms of sales. It’s not much of a surprise to me, and hopefully not to anyone else, but I’ve been uncomfortable with updating it and it has otherwise stagnated. There are certainly other live wallpapers out there, though I don’t know how many offer the same level of configuration as Ascension. The biggest obstacles to updating Ascension, and really producing anything for Android anymore, are, firstly, that I no longer use an Android phone (and indeed cannot afford one just for testing), having since switched to an iPhone 4S, and secondly, I frankly dislike developing for Android.
The former obstacle is one of the absurd high points of the year, as strange as it is to say that. I now use an iPhone 4S, and I really am stupidly happy with it. Android, for all its niceties (and there are plenty to go around), has some serious problems when it comes to updates and stability. Furthermore, to those who would suggest rooting phones to get updates, I find that to be unacceptable. These are phones for people who should not need to hack their devices to make them work as desired. It’s disgusting, to me, that anyone would suggest purchasing a device that initially makes one unhappy, but think it’s OK because you can void the warranty by replacing the lousy software. It’s a solution that should never need to exist.
The latter, that I dislike developing for Android, is harder to diagnose. Many different problems culminated in my ending irritation with Android development. This includes the slow emulator (this is the only way I can reasonably test view layouts on differing screen sizes), fragmentation in general (i.e., hardware and software fragmentation), Google’s poor response to fragmentation, the lack of updates to existing devices, and my disliking Java. By all accounts, developing for iOS is far better simply due to the APIs that Apple provides, Xcode’s support for almost all things Apple (complain about Xcode as much as you want, it is eons ahead of the corpulent Eclipse), and the wide-ranging documentation on most topics (this is hit or miss, but my experience has shown that Apple’s documentation for both Mac OS and iOS APIs is far clearer). As a result of the two obstacles, I focus primarily on Mac OS and iOS, both of which make me far happier than the competition, both in my using and developing for them.
The Fabled Degree
As I mentioned above, I’ve continued as usual toward getting my English degree from Boise State University (best known for its windy campus and garish blue football field, probably). So far, that’s been going well, despite driving me to the edges of my sanity and patience. My instructors have all given me a lot of freedom to do what I want in their courses, typically by leaving assignments wide open and encouraging experimentation. I’ve never been a fan of rigid assignments and I appreciate anyone who tosses the tired old pedagogical approach to education, so I can’t stress enough that the instructors I’ve had at Boise State University have been incredibly good to me (and other students) by giving us that freedom to do as we please.
There are two important points to my education this year: I discovered I greatly enjoy writing non-fiction and I launched [nc]oetry, my poetry blog. Both of these are going to be rather important down the road, especially as it pertains to both my education and my writing. In addition, they both probably offer a closer look into what my education has wrought upon my tiny brain so far.
The former is by far the most important, though I suppose it’s not very surprising in retrospect. Much of my writing has been non-fiction to begin with, though I often felt that fiction was where I had to be — creating worlds (or expanding on this one), characters, and entire weaves of history are all interesting, but there is something fundamentally cool about being able to say what I wrote is real. Non-fiction has the allure of being true (at least for the most part), something that actually happened, will happen, or even just something crazy that someone actually thought and is now being seen in a new light. So, that connection to reality intrigues me, even if it is frankly very dull when one thinks about it.
The latter is, as far as I’m concerned, fairly unimportant. It reflects one decision though: to consistently write poetry. I update it weekly, every weekend (either Saturday or Sunday — I decided that this week that Saturday gets the retrospective to close 2011, while Sunday gets the poem to open 2012), with either a new poem or a revised copy of an existing poem, though I have not yet provided any new revisions to already-posted poetry. This started out as one of the aforementioned wide-open assignments for a course, and has ended up as something that I care quite a bit about. It will, ultimately, be one of my long-term projects. Whether it results in something greater than itself has yet to be seen, but I have a number of plans for it that should keep it interesting well through 2012.
This is going to be the short schism where I look forward to something or other. Very short, really, because I dislike the idea of setting up expectations for the future.
First off, I can only hope the Stop Online Piracy Act dies in a fiery wreck and takes its supporters with it. The people and businesses behind it deserve nothing less than immolation. Though many of them cannot be affected due to their position in the world (which one would think should preclude them from having any say, as they might as well be holding a gun to our collective skulls), I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to ruin those that can be affected. I hope the Todd Wassermans of this world finally understand why these companies cannot be trusted, even if they cease to support such terrible acts.
As mentioned above, I hope I get my act together and write more overall, though preferably in some way that would actually get me an income (Spifftastic, unfortunately, has little chance of making me even a single cent, especially given how much I loathe advertising). Unfortunately, that last little detail will likely make my life a living hell going forward. English majors, and likely others with similarly frowned-upon degrees, are probably in for a rough ride in the coming years, though that may have always been the case. The uncertainty I face as a would-be writer is, admittedly, very troubling at times, but I don’t feel like this is ever anything more than a mild concern. Like most humans, I’m fairly adaptable - I’m not required to suffer any particular path when there are many others available to us all.
I plan to continue working on my various personal projects in the hope that one of them will at some point show enough merit that it can go beyond the experimental phase. Most of them die out during that period due to some enormous hole I failed to consider, unfortunately. In particular, I will continue working on my little game (which I haven’t actually mentioned before, as far as I know) until I either go insane or complete it. It’s hard to say exactly what I want to do with my projects, however, so I really just want to have enough time to work on them.
So, that’s it. I hope you don’t have any regrets about this past year, because that’s a waste of your time. Enjoy the new year.