Why My iPod Is Better Than Your Cloud


I saw the movie, Baby Driver, this week and it was fantastic. Not only do I love a good car chase and quirky characters, but one of the central components of the film was the iPod Classic, (multiple generations, too!).  You read that correctly – the iPod Classic. Not the iPod Touch or the invisible Cloud, but the golden device that started it all, the iPod Classic. It took everything I had not to cheer right there in the theater, (especially when I saw Baby had both generations of iPods that I currently own and use) because I firmly believe the iPod Classic is still the best device out there for multi-media files.

Over the last year, I’ve noticed iPods have gained some popularity among the smartphone generation. My 9th and 10th grade students stare in awe, not disdain, at my 6th Generation 160GB iPod Classic. That awe only grows when I explain how it works (they truly have never seen anything like it) and why it rocks:

⇒ It doesn’t absolutely require the internet. Songs can be uploaded straight from DVD or MP4 media files. Listening to songs or watching videos requires no internet, either, which means it’s good on planes, road trips, dead zones, or anywhere else.

⇒ I don’t have to pick what to download, I can have it all  with 160G of pure space. It’s basically a portable hard drive that works waaaay more efficiently thanks to a simple filing system of music playlists and file categories for TV Shows, Movies, and Audiobooks. After 9 years, I still have 50G remaining!

⇒ I don’t have to worry about data usage because I’m not using the internet while I watch movies or listen to music.

⇒ Battery life rivals any smartphone. Although, I will admit this applies mostly to music and audiobooks. Videos can kill battery life much faster.

⇒ It does music and video and audiobooks with a simple flick of the click wheel. I know smartphones and iPads do this, too, but you likely need the internet or have a limited number of choices based on what is downloaded. My iPod is a complete entertainment system with everything I love, not just a small selection.

⇒ I can plug my iPod into any speaker, TV, or projection system if I want to enjoy media files without my earbuds. This is why my students have seen my iPod – I plug it into a speaker in my classroom all the time. They like my Disney and 90s Retro playlists while they work. And, again, I can do it without the internet!

⇒ iPods are incredibly reliable if you take good care of them. Mine is 9 years old and it still works perfectly. I have a 13 year old 4th Generation Classic that still works beautifully as well.

Now, I know the iPod Classic is grossly archaic to some people and that’s okay. It’s not that I hate the Cloud (I do use it for a number of things), I just prefer not to be totally reliant on it. Maybe I’m just tragically nostalgic, but for me I’ll be using my iPod until the day it dies. And then I’ll probably hunt one down on eBay.

– – –

c.b.w. 2017


15 Years Brings 15 Changes


I was listening to my iPod the other day and it shuffled to a song I hadn’t heard in a while.  When “Real World” by Matchbox 20 started playing, it made me smile and reminisce about a time in my life that now feels so far away.  I was 18-years-old and had just begun to taste the real world as an adult.

I pulled out the actual CD and marveled at the relic.  Matchobx 20’s debut album, Yourself or Someone Like You was one of my favorite albums and served as my soundtrack during my first year of college.  It’s hard to believe that was fifteen years ago, but here I sit as a 33-year-old woman with an old CD in her hands.  I even checked the copyright date to make sure my math was right. Yup, 1996.

I couldn’t help but load the CD in my car for old time’s sake.  This is the band that turned me into one of those people that sing in the car.  I suppose I can credit Matchbox 20 for giving me the license to say “I don’t care if anyone’s watching.”  I still sing in the car and I still don’t care who sees me doing it. To my surprise, I remember all the words to every song.  Driving down the freeway, I belted out “Long Day” and “Push” as if I was some rock star behind the wheel.  Fifteen years later, its still good music.

My little jaunt down memory lane got me thinking about how much in my life has changed since I was eighteen.  I don’t long to be that young again, nor am I saddened by the passing of time. Rather, I’m in awe of how life brings so many changes in such a short period of time.  Between then and now, I’ve gone from being an adult just starting out to an individual who has found her groove in life.

15 Years Brings 15 Changes:

1. Age
Then: 18 and very naïve.
Now: 33 and hopefully a little wiser

2. Living Situation
Then: Living at home and sharing a room with my sister
Now: Homeowner with a writing room all to myself

3. Mode of Transportation
Then: 1991 Chevy Cavalier.  It was my first car and it broke down all the time!  About a year later, I totaled it by rear-ending an SUV.  The SUV was fine, but my car crinkled like a tin can.
Now: 2006 Mini Cooper.  It’s the cutest thing ever.

4. Occupation
Then: Full-time student and part-time salesgirl at The Body Shop.  I sold lotion and gave make-overs.
Now: Full-time teacher and aspiring writer.  These days I barely wear make-up and I’m allergic to almost all scented lotions.

5. Relationship Status
Then: Single and getting over a break-up.  I was three years away from meeting my husband.
Now: Married to wonderful guy and I can’t imagine life without him.

6. Style
Then: Jeans and Birkenstock wannabes
Now: Jeans and Converse sneakers.  I haven’t changed much in this department!

7. Travel
Then: U.S. and Mexico
Now: I have memories of so many beautiful places: French Polynesia, Great Britain (4 times), Ireland, France, Italy, Czech Republic, and China. To think I’ve only just begun!

8. Technology
Then: I had a CD Walkman and a large PC desktop computer.  The monitor alone took up half my desk!  I was hardwired into thinking Macs were not cool and Windows 95 was the best thing out there.
Now: I can’t live without my iPod and I carry a thin, lightweight laptop everywhere.  I’m a full Mac convert and can’t imagine what I ever saw in a PC.

9. Appointment TV
Then: Reruns of Star Trek: TNG, Wings, Newsradio, and Golden Girls.  Reality TV was not part of the vernacular and talk shows were all the rage.
Now: Fringe, Big Bang Theory, The Office, Project Runway, and reruns Star Trek: TNG if I can find it.

10. Communication
Then: I relied on a pager and snail mail, with a bit of e-mail.
Now: I’m fully connected with a smartphone, e-mail, and social networks.

11. Current Events
Then: 9/11 was just the 11th day in September
Now: 9/11 was the day that changed everything

12. Reading Pattern
Then: Mostly textbooks for all my classes. College gives you very little time to read for fun.
Now: Literary and mainstream fiction, along with a smattering of young adult.

13. Writing
Then: Research papers and random bits of poetry
Now: Fiction, (including novels and short stories), blog posts, and poetry

14. Hangout Spot
Then: Barnes & Noble on the East side of town.
Now: Barnes & Noble on the North side of town.  I can’t help myself. I love B&N and the coffee they serve.

15. Direction In Life
Then: Still questioning my identity and course . . .
Now: I know who I am and where I want go!

I can’t imagine what the next fifteen years will bring, but I’m excited all the same.  Life continues to be an adventure I can’t wait to experience.

Where were you 15 years ago?

c.b. 2011

Muse Juice


A recent post on writenotright got me thinking about what fuels my muse.  Whenever I sit down to write, a number of elements are needed to please my fickle muse. She’s a little more cooperative when the Top Ten List is in play:

1)    A clean computer.  Most of my writing is done on a white MacBook, which gets dirty easily and often.  If there’s even one small smudge of dirt, I’m so consumed by the need to clean it I can’t write a thing.  Before heading out to my favorite coffee shop, I always check to make sure its clean.  Awesome tip: I’ve found Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is the best product to clean a matte finish Mac.  It zaps every stain and makes my Mac look brand new.

2)    My “spot.”  I’ve been going to the same Barnes & Noble café for the last five years.  My novel was born there and so was this blog, along with countless other writing projects.  In particular, I have a favorite table that lets me observe the door, the café, and the book floor.  It’s a great spot for people watching when I need a character in a pinch.  I’ve made some great friends among the employees and the regulars, which makes this place a true second home.  Not to mention, they make great coffee!

3)    A Tall Café Mocha.  The title for this post comes from my favorite cup of coffee. This stuff is truly my muse juice as it has had a place next to my computer from the very beginning.  From outlining to revising the third draft I have relied on my muse juice to keep me focused and relaxed.  Besides that, its chocolate coffee.  What more could I want in life??

4)    Chocolate of some kind.  This really doesn’t need an explanation.  (It’s a food group, you know!)

5)    Spiral Notebook.  This applies to my Big Notebook or a small memo book I use for scribbling notes.  Before I type anything I usually need to work it out on a piece of paper the old-fashioned way.  The Big Notebook keeps me focused when I’m writing sections of a novel, while the memo book is used for rough drafts and lists of words I jot down after scanning through a thesaurus.

6)    iPod. Music is an essential part of my writing process.  Every project has a playlist to put me in “the zone” of the story or the character, (See How Music Helped Me Write A Novel).  If I’m writing a random piece, like a blog post, I select an established playlist to set the mood.  For example, right now I’m listening to Owl City’s All Things Bright and Beautiful album from  my “Feel Good” playlist.

7)    Goals.  If I don’t set some sort of goal, I’ll end up wandering on the internet or staring off into space.  A large project usually means a word count goal, while smaller projects could be something as little as finding one right word.  The idea is to create a reachable goal that matches to scope and size of my current writing project.

8)    A Jolt of Motivation.  To get in the right mindset I check out the literary quote of the day on my iGoogle page, read a few inspiring blogs, or take some time with a photograph or piece of artwork.  Seeing the creative output of others motivates me to join the ranks and create something all my own.

9)    My banged up Thesaurus.  The cover is ragged and held together with packing tape.  A crack in the binding makes the book open automatically to #626 every time.  It’s from 1972 and is by far the best thesaurus I own (never mind how many thesauri populate my shelves).   It has the best index, includes older phrases that I love to use, and its organized in Roget’s original system, which is far more useful than an alphabetical listing.

10)  Pencil Pouch O’ Supplies.  My pencil pouch is loaded with ballpoint pens, highlighters, pencils, USBs, and sticky notes.  If I’m working on the Big Notebook I’ll toss in a pair of scissors and a glue stick.  With this stockpile, I’m prepared for anything.

Luckily, most of this fits in a standard messenger bag with exception to numbers two and three.  With so many variables it’s amazing I get anything done, but somehow the words come and the story unfolds.

What is your muse juice?

c.b. 2011

How Music Helped Me Write A Novel


When I set out to write my novel, I had only a vague picture of my main character, Noah.  I could see him and I knew most of his story, but the stuff that hides deep inside a person remained a mystery until I started constructing his character profile.  After a mess of notebook pages and scribbling, I realized character building takes more than just pulling things out of my imagination.  I needed to grab onto something concrete in order to get a real sense of this guy’s soul.  As it turned out, music was the key to understanding him and his journey.

I started by scanning through my iTunes library and randomly listening to songs of all genres.  I asked myself what Noah would blast in his car or what he would listen to when things didn’t go his way.  As I listened, I wrote down song titles when they made me think “That’s Noah.”  It didn’t take long for a very distinct profile to emerge.  Noah was all about good ol’ rock n’ roll, grunge, and a thumping beat.  He has strong emotions that he keeps locked up, so his music had to have the same vibe.

Noah’s Playlist:

Precious Declaration – Collective Soul

Allison Road – Gin Blossoms

Waiting For The End – Linkin Park

Propehcy – Remy Zero

Iridescent – Linkin Park

Shine – Collective Soul

Unwell – Matchbox 20

Gone Missing – Maximo Park

Long Day – Matchbox 20

For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield

Against the Wind – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Alive – Pete Yorn

Heavy – Collective Soul

Anything by John Mellencamp and Eric Clapton

– – –

Each of the above songs helped to flush out the subtle nuances of Noah’s character regarding mood, temperament, attitude, and emotions.  On days when it was hard to find him, the music put me into his head and it helped me see things through his eyes.

Once I found songs for Noah, I looked for music that fit his story, a soundtrack of sorts.  The feel had to be similar to Noah’s Music, but it didn’t necessarily have to be something he’d crank up on the radio.  The music was more for me as his creator and narrator.  I looked for songs that lyrically told part of Noah’s story, while also encompassing his personality.  The soundtrack had to be strong enough to trigger the mindset I needed to be fully immersed in the story, even after a long day at work. Just like music creates mood and tone in film, it can do the same thing for the process of writing.

Story Soundtrack:

Angry – Matchbox 20

Life is Life – Noah & the Whale

All at Once – Pete Yorn

The Way It Is – Bruce Hornsby

Robot Boy – Linkin Park

Your Life is Now – John Mellencamp

Shadow of the Day – Linkin Park

Acoustic #3 – Goo Goo Dolls

Better Days – Goo Goo Dolls

Listen – Collective Soul

Bed of Lies – Matchbox 20

Counting Blue Cars – Dishwalla

Fake Empire – The National

Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve

– – –

While this is only a small selection, each song relates directly to major turning points in my novel. They all inspired something like a plot point, an emotional response from Noah, or a subtle shift in tone.  I’m usually a slave to outlines on large projects, so I needed a constant reminder not to be so rigid.  The music got me thinking in different directions and gave me the spirit to let Noah and his story evolve in a more organic way.

c.b. 2011