Keeping a Separate, Well, Everything

Thursday, Jun 16, 2022

The iPad has sort of become my personal creativity computer. I work all day on the Mac and the last thing I want to do is come home and work all evening on the Mac. So instead, the iPad takes on a sort of personal role, though “personal” may not be the right word. It’s more like a different “paradigm”.

I think the idea of keeping a separate creativity computer actually extends to nearly all facets of life. To get away, you need to keep a separate everything. Keeping a separate everything forces a change in perspective, which hopefully allows you to flex different brain muscles and keep your mind from floating back into work when it instead needs to rest.

I have one laptop, which does come home with me each evening. If I open that laptop and work on the built-in MacBook Pro display, I instantly start clicking on work. If I need the MacBook Pro for some personal work, I find I have to connect it to the Studio Display in my basement to switch perspectives in my brain.

Same goes for the keyboard I type on. I’m using a Logitech MX Keys at the office these days. Before that, it was the built-in MacBook Pro keyboard. You can guess which keyboard I’m not typing this creative venture on right now. Instead, switching keyboards helps to switch into a different paradigm of thought.

I pick up the Canon EOS-R once or twice a week these days. I pick it up to shoot photos for The Sweet Setup. I then put the camera back down, edit the photos, upload to where those photos need to go, and call it a day. The EOS-R has quickly become my “work” camera.

This has had a small impact even on my family life. I have far less photos of my younger daughter — I picked up the EOS-R when my oldest daughter was just a few months old. I have thousands of photos of my oldest. I have only hundreds of photos of my younger daughter. I may not have the same sort of capacity to shoot thousands of photos these days, so it’s not fair to blame it all on the camera. But that EOS-R provides much less creative inspiration than it used to.

The EOS-R is work. I really want a camera for play.

If you spend countless hours of the office, you’ll know every sense is fine-tuned to your workplace. You know the smells. You know the sound of how each chair creaks. You know if someone new is walking through the front door or if one of your co-workers is walking through the front door, all simply by the way the door opens.

If I want to break away from work, I have to separate those senses. I have to shift perspectives, shift paradigms. It’s just about impossible to do creative work at the office. And it’s very hard to work on an iPad.

We’ll see how long I can last before a new camera arrives. I may owe it to my younger and incoming daughters.

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My Thoughts on Obi-Wan Kenobi at the Halfway Point

Sunday, Jun 05, 2022

We are finally seeing Disney dialling in a legacy Star Wars character. Han Solo was the guinea pig. Luke Skywalker was the experiment. Leia Organa never had the chance. Boba Fett was the anti-experiment.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is Disney learning from past mistakes.

Spoilers. Leave now.

Each legacy character has been telegraphed over the last 40 years. Luke’s extended universe story had him becoming a wise grandmaster, much like Yoda. Han and Leia parented the next generation of Skywalker Jedi. Each of these characters had a backstory engrained in a gigantic audience, and Disney punted these backstories in favour of a new backstory. That new backstory wasn’t told quick enough or with enough force to make each legacy character’s fall believable. Grandmaster Luke in the extended universe to Blue Milk Luke in The Last Jedi was one of the strongest bits of whiplash an audience has seen in Hollywood history.

Obi-Wan Kenobi has been handled very, very differently. So much backstory has been written — this time, it was backstory that Disney decided to keep or continue, such as Clone Wars — telegraphing where Obi-Wan would be in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. His fall into PTSD. His visions of the downfall of Anakin Skywalker. His belief that Anakin was dead.

All this stuff makes sense.

It was telegraphed over the last 20 years and Disney is simply following through. There’s nothing shocking about Obi-Wan. There’s nothing off-putting. It’s much easier to understand why Obi-Wan completely cuts himself off from the Force, why he makes mistakes, and why he’s so afraid. All these tendencies have been hinted at or built upon since the end of Revenge of the Sith.

Side note: How awesome would the sequel trilogy have been if Disney just followed through on the telegraphed path?

The Obi-Wan series benefits from more than just Disney’s learned lessons.

The series is benefiting from tremendous acting. This is Ewan McGregor mastering the Obi-Wan character. His confidence in the prequels followed by his fear in this series is masterful. How McGregor has been able to take the same habits and mannerisms from the prequels, moulded them with the Alec Guinness character, and somehow managed to switch from fearless Obi-Wan to afraid-of-everything Obi-Wan is truly amazing.

Moses Ingram! She was so stinking annoying in the first three episodes — an absolutely perfect portrayal of the pitifully annoying Inquisitors. If you’ve watched any Rebels episodes or played Jedi: Fallen Order, you’ll understand why she’s so annoying — these are fallen Jedi, artificially boldened and tempted with greed and power. Ingram has done an incredible job becoming that character in live action. I feel bad her character has to meet her end by the end of the series.

And Vader! Disney’s Star Wars has been dominated by characters behind masks (specifically The Mandalorian). It must be difficult to portray emotion when nobody can see your face. Pedro Pascal has been superb over the last few years with Din Djarin. I suppose we’re only getting started with Christensen’s version of Darth Vader.

I like how Christensen’s version of Vader incorporates some of the younger Anakin mannerisms. The way he walks through the village largely matches how Vader walks through Mustafar at the end of Revenge of the Sith. The best line in this show — “I am what you made me!” — nicely reflects the tone, pace, and structure of Vader’s quote “If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.”

I believe Vader would have thrown the fire aside amidst his burning passion to torture and destroy Obi-Wan. At least the Vader in the comics would have done this.

But there’s plenty of evidence to show Vader opting to let his enemy go for the sake of catching more of his enemy’s friends. He lets the Falcon get away at the end of A New Hope to allow for Han, Leia, and Luke to lead him right to the Rebellion on Yavin. So, given the backstory, I can understand Vader allowing Obi-Wan to get away, especially after seeing the blue blaster bolts and the NED-B droid pulling Obi-Wan to safety.

This is also a more calculated Vader, a more mature Vader — a Vader that has killed nearly all the remaining Jedi after Revenge of the Sith. You don’t do that by running hotheaded through a fire.

This is Disney Star Wars at its best so far. Disney has learned from past mistakes. They’re following through on 40 years of telegraphed character behaviour. And they’re benefitting from actors and actresses exploring and mastering new elements of their characters.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is my favourite bit of Star Wars since the Disney purchase years ago. The Rogue One hallway scene ranks higher. The Luke hallway scene ranks higher. And perhaps the Clone Wars finale comes close.

But from a live action perspective, this is Star Wars just like my imagination fancied all those years ago.

My Three Favourite Giddy-Worthy Apple Products

Saturday, May 21, 2022

I was chatting with a friend recently about my three favourite Apple products of, say, the last five years. “Three” is an arbitrary number and “five years” is an arbitrary length, but you have to cut things off somewhere.

Defining “favourite” is also a chore. “Favourite” can mean “let’s me get the most work done”. It can also mean “brings me the most joy”. It can be “my favourite design” or “My favourite Apple device to show off”.

For me, “favourite” means “brings me the most joy” or “giddiness” — which Apple devices make me want to rush home and use them at the end of a long day of work? Which devices have me wanting to reach for them over and over just because they are so much fun to use?

To an extent, my “favourite” does mean “allows me to get a crapload of work done each day” as well. I can’t be entirely whimsical.

Here are my three favourite and giddy-worthy Apple products of the last five years.

M1 Pro MacBook Pro

Originally shot for The Sweet Setup.
Originally shot for The Sweet Setup.

Let’s quickly get the work-first device out of the way.

The M1 Pro MacBook Pro may be the most impactful device I’ve ever used in my life. It’s surely been career-changing. I can do everything from this one device each working day. It never used to be this way.

I’ll tread carefully, but I also think I’m blazing a new trail. At least to an extent. I don’t think there are too many accountants out there who use Windows-specific software on a Mac each day, all day. I use Windows and macOS perfectly interchangeably, and there are very few files you can throw at me that I can’t volley right back to you. I’m incredibly proud of the workflow I’ve built to use a Mac in my enterprise/business-first career and I hope it can continue to blaze new paths for me in the future.

AirPods Max

Originally shot for The Sweet Setup.
Originally shot for The Sweet Setup.

I’m far from the correct person to be raving about the AirPods Max. I have no business owning a pair, nor do my ears have any capability to understand how good the Max truly are.

But I don’t care.

When folks ask me in the office why I use such big headphones, I tell them I use them for two reasons:

  1. They are a huge sign to anyone passing by that I’m in the zone and I’m working. Basically, it’s a huge sign on my head that says “Do not disturb!”
  2. They have an incredible Transparency Mode, which enables great music listening combined with an amplification of the ambient sound around you, ensuring you never miss a beat in the office or coffee shop.

So basically, the AirPods Max tell other people I’m busy and don’t want to be disturbed, but they have a listening function that enables me to stay in tune with what’s going on around me.

Needless to say, I love wearing the AirPods Max.

Studio Display

This may be the fastest any Apple device has made it into my top three. But I’m in love with this Studio Display.

It’s expensive.

It’s also an amazing product. I have the nano texture version, which makes it easy to shoot photos of. It’s also very easy on the eyes — I swear the ever-so-slightly fuzzier nano texture version takes off some blaring eye strain by the end of the day. I swear!

Everything else is Apple like. The Studio Display starts up right away with an M1 Pro MacBook Pro. The display has amazing speakers. It has an amazing design. And it has a pretty good panel — one you won’t hear me complaining about any time soon.

Originally shot for The Sweet Setup.
Originally shot for The Sweet Setup.

My Studio Display is my home display and I use two 24-inch LG UltraFines at the office. I always come home at the end of the day and opt to work from home for the last hour or so — just so I can use the Studio Display.

Special Mention: iPad Magic Keyboard

Originally shot for The Sweet Setup.
Originally shot for The Sweet Setup.

The iPad Magic Keyboard came out of left field unlike any Apple product I can remember. Nobody really expected it. Nobody saw the point-and-click interface fully built out in iPadOS. Nobody knew anything about the Magic Keyboard’s design.

Despite the incredible secret keeping, Apple was able to nail the iPad Magic Keyboard experience. The keyboard itself has an incredible feel, with very few laptop keyboards feeling as precise and comfortable. The trackpad is small on the 11-inch model, but completely changes how iPadOS can be used. Even the extra USB-C charging port enables the iPad to reach a new level.

At this current place and time, the three above mentioned Apple devices are more important to me than the iPad Magic Keyboard. But the Magic Keyboard was probably the first Apple accessory in years to tempt me away from a laptop computer. I looked for ways to get everything done on an iPad. I did all my writing on the iPad (I still do a ton of writing on my iPad, thanks to the Magic Keyboard) and I was looking for ways to extend the display to those LG UltraFines I mentioned earlier.

The iPhone 5 was the iPhone that kickstarted my love affair with Apple devices. The iPad Pro sort of did the same, but it wasn’t until the iPad Magic Keyboard debuted that I finally found a niche in my life perfectly fit by the iPad.

I really hope the next iPad iteration still maintains support for this impressive Magic Keyboard accessory.