ShellyBlog Shelly Brisbin's life consists of several long tails. She writes about them here.

January 27, 2013

Great weather for a transit app pack rat

Filed under: General Store — Shelly Brisbin @ 8:44 AM


January 24, 2013

Pack Rat

People talk a lot about hoarding nowadays. I’m told by multiple sources that there is a reality TV show featuring people who do it to the extent that their houses and lives are destroyed. Sounds super-entertaining, huh? That’s another subject, and one on which you probably wouldn’t like my opinion. But whether it’s inspired by basic cable or not, the word “hoarder” comes up all the time when people need a word to describe their inability to unburden themselves of the objects they have accumulated. Is it a different thing when you need to carry the objects with you?

Before I go on a trip, I feel compelled to stockpile things that I might need; electronic equipment, cables, batteries, and bar tools have all ben stuffed into roll-y bags for trips both long and short. Lately though, what with iPads and phones, and tiny audio recorders, I don’t carry so much excess heavy stuff. All of my pre-travel pack ratting is digital.

To wit:

I’m about to go to San Francisco for five days. I expect my days and evenings to be packed with events, and that I will tumble exhausted into my bed at ridiculous times of night. And yet, my iPad Mini, iPhone, and iPod Nano are each stuffed to the gills with movies, music, podcasts, and audiobooks. Why? Because I detest the thought of reaching for a digital entertainment and finding that I don’t have it.

I need a movie for the plane ride. Better take four, in case film noir seems more appealing than a musical once I’m in the air. But wait! About half the time, plane cabins on morning flights are too bright to watch a movie, and I scroll through podcasts to find a Fresh Air interview, or a friend’s vacation story show. And what of those late nights when I fall into bed and grope for the device charging next to me? I’ll need some audio drama, or the latest episode of my favorite hometown radio show–until I fall asleep after 20 minutes.

Speaking of that radio show, though, it needs to be on the iPhone, along with the New York Times audio digest I listen to first thing every morning. I must be able to download the new shows while I’m gone, even though I packed gigabytes to take with me on the trip. I will dutifully fire up the slow hotel wi-fi just when everyone else is getting up too, impatiently checking to see that my newspaper has made it onto my iGadget when I exit the shower.

Music? This is the thing I am least likely to consume. I listen to podcasts when I walk or ride public transportation conveyances. Music is for writing time, or as a salve for bouts of insomnia at home. But wait! I might not be able to sleep in the hotel. Better take 4000 or so songs with me.

There’s one more media type clogging up my gigabytes: despite the fact that the average audiobook is at least eight hours long (many are far longer), I have loaded up 11 (ELEVEN) fiction and non-fiction titles. Because, like, how do I know whether I’ll be in the mood for World War II era spy novel, or a critique of the modern military general staff? Maybe it will be a book about how the British interacted with the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. That’s on standby in case the Tom Perrotta novel with the great reviews seems boring. In any case, there is no chance at all that I will finish any single book during my trip.

Why do I do it? Why, when confronted with one of the greatest cities in the world, and both business and pleasure reasons for visiting, would I go to such lengths to make sure that I can entertain my ears in four or more different ways, on three machines? I don’t know, but TSA hasn’t regulated the digital heft of our iDevices (so far), and disk space continues to be of inconsequential cost. So I might as well, right?

January 23, 2013

Return to Macworld

Filed under: Announcements,General Store,New Media and Tech — Shelly Brisbin @ 7:59 AM

I used to go to Macworld Expo (now Macworld/iWorld) every year. I covered the show for MacUser along with a swarm of my colleagues, roving the aisles to find new products, and meeting with vendors who had secret things to show me. When I became a freelancer, I continued attending the show. I always had a book to sell, or a writing project research. A few times, I gave presentations or signed my books. I helped put on a few parties, and published a bucketful of podcasts, too. That was always a lot of fun. And then there was the annual spectacle of the Steve Jobs’ Keynote. I was there for all the big announcements, doing my best not to get sucked into the very real Reality Distortion Field. Macworld was a social whirl, too. I have so many friends in the Mac economy, and we had some truly great times, running from event to event on cold San Francisco nights in January.

My last Macworld was in 2008. I was editor of Blogger & Podcaster Magazine, and I was trying mightily to raise our profile that year. Sadly, it didn’t work. Our publisher declared bankruptcy. As you might expect, that pretty much killed the magazine.

This year, I’m headed back to San Francisco, and a Macworld/iWorld that seems, from the outside, anyway, to have changed quite a bit since I last attended. The event itself is less focused on business and professional Mac users, and more oriented toward hobbyists and iGadget fans. And of course, we are now fully immersed in the social media and mobile epochs, meaning that simple things like meeting up with friends, and finding venues will work very differently than they have in the past. And many people I’m used to seeing at the show won’t be there: they’ve moved on in their careers or, like me, haven’t been able to justify the trip in a tough economy. Social media comes into play here, too, as people find ways to connect without schlepping across county to shoulder a plastic bag and a laptop on a trade show floor for three days.

But the more profound change for me is that I will not be attending as a member of the press; gifted with an all-access pass to sessions, parties, and the mix-and-mingle center that is the press room. I can handle buying my own bottled water (gasp!), and even the inevitable sorting that goes on when an acquaintance or vendor peers at your badge and discovers that you are but another attendee (and potential customer), not a writer they want to impress. The challenging part will be physical separation from the friends, colleagues, and mover/shaker types who cleave to the behind-the-scenes spaces where one can relax, type out a news story, or scarf down a sandwich between vendor appointments. It is in these places that you run into people you need to run into.

And here I should take a moment to mention my reason for making the trip. I have a book project in the works, and I need to plug it to anyone who will listen. I’m still writing, so my promotional efforts are in the nature of a warning. Look out, because sometime this spring, awesomeness is headed your way, and I’ll be asking your help to promote it. I’ll have more to say about the book as we reach Macworld week and beyond. I need to keep you coming back here, don’t I?

January 8, 2013

Best Music of 2012, sez me

Filed under: General Store,Random Personal Nonsense — Shelly Brisbin @ 11:15 AM

Right up front, I feel compelled to admit that peer pressure has brought me to this open window in MarsEdit, and to the playlist that’s running behind it in iTunes. My friend Dana Nordaune, whose musical taste I respect and adore, posted a thoughtful, well-documented Ten Best Recordings of 2012 on her Facebook page. I loved it, and immediately set about listening to the songs and artists I hadn’t heard. But I also came face to face with my own self-perceived inadequacy.

You see, I used to make annual mix discs for friends, distributed with clever labels and nice artwork, and often wrapped in Christmas paper. They weren’t retrospectives of the current year’s releases, just a bunch songs I happened to be digging at the time, occasionally on a theme. People liked them. People complimented me. People popped the discs in at holiday parties. We need not dwell on that one time when a friend started playing one of my mixes, only to be over-ruled by her guests, who hated it.

So, yeah. Dana’s list-making got to me, and I quickly tried to assemble a mental retrospective of 2012. The first thing I realized was that I’ve been listening to a lot of “old” music. I seemed to be focused on favorite artists; either playing familiar stuff as comfort food, or digging into their back catalog for gems I had somehow missed. I spent quality time with Eleni Mandell, Calexico, Guster, The Nields, and Old 97s, to name a few. I also laid some unexpected nostalgia on the next generation, building a playlist for my nieces and nephews called Music Education. Its shocking reliance on early 80s awesomeness from The B-52s, The Cars, The Romantics, The Clash, Queen, etc. surprised even me. But hey, the kids loved it and it builds strong bones. And maybe mohawks.

The final non-2012 element of my musical year was discovery (thanks to friends) of great 2011 music. (I hate when that happens.) See Neko Case soundalike Lydia Loveless, Dengue Fever, Fleshtones (listened to, but not loved until this year), and the latest from faves Nathan Hamilton and Michael Fracasso.

(When is she getting to the Best of 2012?)


Owing to my late start and lack of previous focus on the idea, I used automation to gather up all of the 2012-released music I had acquired. This seems, even to me, like a cheater’s way, but it does at least point out where my head was at during the various moments last year when I was adding new music to my life. From there, I did a lot of memory-jogging, and also a bit of analysis of what tracks had ended up on playlists I had made throughout the year. And I noted which albums I acquired because they seemed cool, but turned out disappointing. There were a surprising number of those.

I freely admit that this is more a geek’s method of finding gold than an art critic’s. For this, I’m sorry. I can only work to do better next year.

Having gone on at such length, I’ll forego detailed descriptions or praises of albums, songs, and artists. I will say, looking at the list, that half of it seems to reflect continued love for favorite artists (Caroline Herring, Calexico, Buddy Miller, Lucy Kaplansky), while another few tracks reflect new discoveries (Oppenheimer, Laura Gibson, and especially April March). and while some tracks are here to represent great albums (Kathleen Edwards, The Heavy) there are others (Imperial Teen, the dBs) that came to me one song at a time. You’ll have to work out for yourself whether the albums are any good, as I will over the next few weeks.


Track Artist Album
Chick Habit April March Chick Habit
Candy The Men Open Your Heart
Fireflies Caroline Herring Camilla
Sidecar Kathleen Edwards Voyageur
Can’t Play Dead The Heavy The Glorious Dead
Runaway Imperial Teen Feel the Sound
That Time Is Gone The dB’s Falling Off the Sky
Stay Useless Cloud Nothings Attack On Memory
Vampire Girl Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale Buddy and Jim
La Grande Laura Gibson La Grande
Song For G Oppenheimer The Racket Takes Its Toll
Epic Calexico Algiers
Sleep Well Lucy Kaplansky Reunion

*Listed in the order I would play them for you, not by preference or alphanumeric precision

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