reMarks on reMarkable 2

I am a handwriting note-taker. Scattered around my apartment are a couple dozen notebooks, all with an intended individual purpose that has in no-way been adhered to. Some have started out as story ideas that ended up with lists, others were for specific classes but ended up with half-baked design storyboards for websites. Many ended up being scratch pads for quick notes during meetings, but then I wouldn’t be able to find those notes when I needed them.

Along came the iPad Pro, with the Apple Pencil. Finally, the beloved Apple tablet could act as a digital notebook, with some really great apps to take advantage of this capability (GoodNotes has been a favorite!). Despite the capabilities with the Pencil and the iPad, the actual experience of writing on the iPad quickly falls apart for me. My handwriting, already not perfect (but serviceable) on paper, quickly becomes illegible when I try to take notes with any speed using the Apple Pencil on glass. The friction that normally comes with pen and paper that I’ve been used to for my whole life has been completely absent. I considered one of the screen protectors that give a more paper-like feel to writing on the iPad, but those have their own problems (that I won’t go into here).

So when I began seeing ads for the reMarkable a number of years ago, I was intrigued. I love E-Ink’s technology, and I think it has a wide application range yet to be discovered. However, trying to justify the cost at the time was difficult. I was still trying to force myself to love writing on the iPad, and even if I didn’t, it was still hard to justify the cost; during the reMarkable’s initial run, it was over $670 for a “complete” package, including the tablet itself, a pen, and a cover. It seemed a lot for a single-use device.

Fast forward to now, and the reMarkable 2 is out (well, it has been for awhile), touting better battery life, lower latency, a thinner design, and improvements to the accessories. As of this writing, the price is lower (not by much, and a much lower price requires subscribing to Connect, their new subscription service; more on this later).

Also, there is a 100-day trial period, so I figured – maybe it’s time to give this a try.

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Two Points for Honesty

This morning, I’m thinking back to the time that an ex of mine, the one who brought me to Rhode Island and whom I dated for almost three years, played me the Guster song “Two Points for Honesty” and told me it was about me.

If that’s all you will be, you’ll be a waste of time
You’ve dreamed a thousand dreams, none seem to stick in your mind;
Two points for honesty, it must make you sad to know that
Nobody cares at all.

Guster, “Two Points for Honesty”

This is one of those songs that you can listen to and it can kick your butt into gear if you’re in the right mindset. I think it’s a bit of a different story when you use it to tell your boyfriend he’s a worthless sack of shit because at 27 he hadn’t realized what he wanted to do with his life yet.

And you know, this was when I was trying to just get by in a new city that (at first) I hated, where I knew no one, where I first started working freelance and got my first paying jobs doing web design. (I wasn’t good, but I was doing it, I was trying to start doing something.)

But then, nothing I did or could do would’ve ever been enough for her. And that’s okay! Not everyone is meant to be together.

I don’t care if you’re 20 or 60. It’s never too late to find out who you want to be or what you want to do, and even when you do, it could all change a year later. You’re not a waste of time, and don’t let anyone tell you that you are.

And anyway, we’re all just little ants crawling on the tiniest of rocks in space, pretending like this all means something cosmically, so really, don’t take it all too seriously…

…but, seriously, fuck you Felicia.

The Summer Ends

And I had a dream, it blows the autumn through my head.
Dar Williams, “The End of the Summer”

What is it about the end of the summer?

This is how I think of it. This is how it reads, the voice in my head. It’s not the beginning of autumn or halfway to winter. It’s the end of the summer, as though something is being lost, something has been squandered regretfully, things will be missed. And like a Schroëdingerian axiom, this is both true and false at the same time, because not a moment has truly been wasted, not even a Sunday night that I could have been writing, but instead chose to sit by myself outside the Wild Colonial and watch the cars go by while sipping a beer. Maybe even especially not those nights, because those are the nights Joe or Billy or Dennis show up unexpectedly, and engage you in conversations that make a connection. No, nothing truly wasted.

The air changes. The air of hope that is swept in by spring like dust and settles over everything by summer, that really does get lost at the end of the summer, as if autumn were a Swiffer cleaning up any specks of ambition and potential the summer months might leave behind. The atmosphere of possibility evaporates into the lowering temperatures, the exhalations now visible in the ether of a dying world.

I know what’s to come. I know the hibernation well. I tend to stay in more, holing up in my room. Given how much I love seeing people in the summer, one would think it was simply giving in to the despair of the winter that I spend more time alone, but this isn’t the case. It’s merely a reacquaintance with myself, a burgeoning desire to reconnect with my own thoughts and to learn to be okay with the me I am, and to begin planning how I’ll try to burn that me down before spring. Plans will be made, fires lit, and I won’t always succeed, but I will try to move forward.

Autumn is like a fireplace for the soul, a place to take the hard, stubborn wood of who we are and slowly burn it to ash. Winter comes along to make sure we can sleep like a caterpillar, ready for rebirth as something new in the spring.

Summer is just for living, and it’s the end of the summer.

Postcards from a Wasted Youth: Episode I

(This essay originally appeared in Whale Magazine. It was intended to be a series, but that didn’t come to fruition. This is the first essay in the series. Others were written and will appear here soon. – Ed.)

I could start this at my birth, but that isn’t where it really begins. So I’ll give you the short version of the early history, leaving out just enough so you can’t pretend later that you’re Freud and make an Oedipal complex where none exists, okay?

My parents got divorced when I was six, and it didn’t bother me. Honestly, there was no confusion about what was happening. It just didn’t make a whole lot of difference – my mother was going to live somewhere else, and I would see her on the weekends. No biggie. She cried, but we didn’t. It’s not that we didn’t care, it’s just that, for me at least, it was a change in living arrangements, and not really the end of anything. My mom ended up working at some English pub not far from where I was growing up, and my dad would drop me off there on Friday nights. These days, it might be considered odd, but back then no one really thought it was strange (and if they did, they never said anything to me about it). I really loved that place. I got to know all the strange and lovable characters there,  and I learned a lot. I learned how to work, I learned how to throw darts, and I learned how it is that drunkards live. Not a bad education for a seven year old.

The rest of the next six years, well, I’m pretty sure they were standard issue years. You know what I mean, the kind of years where your dad marries some crazy woman who takes the house away – twice – and your brother decides to become a career alcoholic party animal who never gets his life together.

Yeah, I’d say it was a normal childhood.

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Losing My Religion

God is dead.

I was in denial of this very obvious fact, like a man holding a still-smoking gun who can’t believe he had the tenacity to pull the trigger. There was no such immediate moment, however, when this realization came to me. One day he was there, and on another he wasn’t, and I can’t draw a distinctive line between the two days.

I guess it all started with doubt in a coffee shop in New Jersey.

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Burning Down the House used to suck up a ton of my time. I spent days, nights, and weekends on the site, writing up incessantly boring treatises on emotional fallout, movie reviews, and experimental journaling, not to mention the usual mundanity of life (such as what I ate that day and what celebrity I found attractive that week).

Looking back at the beginnings of my online journal, one would never have guessed that I would eventually begin to turn essay-writing into a career. And in fact, it’s something I still struggle with (those of you reading this probably still don’t know who I am). However, if you followed my progress on Livejournal, you’d see someone who eventually wants to write more, and write better.

I never even knew I loved writing until years after I began writing on the site. Eventually, I built my own crappy little webpage, and began writing there. Since then, I’ve had dozens of blogs, writing things both longform and short form, yet it never occurred to me that I should really be improving my craft and maybe start doing it full time.

That all changed with an essay I wrote on how much technology has changed in my lifetime. I used to have an 8086 PC, a Commodore PC-10 III that was one of the early IBM clones. I used that (and later an Epson 286) to get online to local BBSes and, eventually, the pre-web Internet. I had an email address in 1992, just from one of the BBSes I was on, and I saw some really interesting technologies come and go during my early years on the Internet. It turned out this was a fascinating topic for a lot of people who read that essay, so I figured, “why not turn this into a book?”

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Dancing With Drugs

The Italian kid next to me was electrically tense. In fact, the presence of him standing over me was probably the thing that made me the most nervous and was also the biggest factor that made me blow out of my nose nervously, spraying cocaine all over the kitchen counter.

“Dannato!” he shouted. “Dannazione!” Something like, “goddammit,” I knew. Anyhow, Vito was pretty pissed off at me.

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Will McAvoy Isn’t Real, But He Should Be

“I’m a registered Republican,” he says. “I only seem liberal because I believe hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure, and not gay marriage.”

No, it’s not Bill Maher—who is unabashedly a registered Democrat, anyway—it’s the anchor of cable news network ACN’s nightly news show. His name is Will McAvoy, and he recently caused a stir among fans of the formerly staid and standard newscast when he gave a lengthy, expletive-filled explanation of why America is no longer the greatest country in the world.

“In case you wander into a voting booth one day,” he spat at a college student who asked him why America is the greatest country in the world, “there’s some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.”

“We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt, a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”

Man off his rocker? Or someone just speaking the truth?

Either way, it may not matter, because Will McAvoy is just a character on Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, now in its second season on HBO. Mr. McAvoy, played with earnestness by Jeff Daniels, is delightfully honest and human, a man on a mission to save America by reporting the news in an informative and truthful way because, as he sees it, it’s the only way to save America.

Will McAvoy isn’t real, but he should be.

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On a Sunday

9:30am. No alarm; my eyes simply open, and the act of focusing is slow and arduous. On these mornings, when I have little on a to-do list and even less of a plan of how to spend my day, even the process of awaking is slow and intentionally laborious. I even forget for several minutes that I need glasses to see.

Once I finally muster the kinetic energy required to sit up, the evolution of the day is spread before me, like a 3D map of possibilities. Statistically speaking, at least as far as statistics of my choices exist, I will probably not be too adventurous on this day. The extent of my decision making will be whether or not to attempt the Sunday Times crossword.

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The Soundtrack to Your Life

I’m eleven years old, in Netcong, New Jersey. MTV is on the television, and it’s probably two in the morning; even then, I stayed up far too late at night. Some concert is on the TV, called Knebworth, apparently somewhere in England. I’m only paying a little attention, because I’m also reading a book.

Some band comes on, a group I’ve heard of but never listened to. They’re called Pink Floyd. They play this long instrumental suite before getting to some odd lyrics, in a song I’d later learn is called “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” I become captivated by the sprawling guitar and pure connectionits player has on his face to the notes coming from the instrument.

It’s this night that I learn that music is so much more than something on the radio, more than a background cacophony to keep the brain busy. Music is life, and life is music.

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