Curious Rat



Baron Fig Apprentice →

Baron Fig, makers of the Confidant notebook, have a new product out called the Apprentice. It’s a pocket notebook that sets itself apart from the competition in one special way:

We’re treating an analog product like a tech one—by continuously taking feedback and iterating the design. The community shapes the product.

They come three to a pack for $9.


Rare Footage of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli →

ᔥ Open Culture:

Reinhardt and jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934, and in the forties, Reinhardt began composing, and toured England, Switzerland, and the U.S. as a soloist with Duke Ellington’s band. He recorded his final album, Djangology in 1949, retired in 51, and died in 53, already a legend, “one of the few European musicians to exert a serious influence on the American art form of jazz,” writes an NPR “Weekend Edition” profile.

As stated in the Open Culture article, Reinhardt played a role (not literally) in one of my favorite Woody Allen films, Sweet and Lowdown. Gypsy jazz also had a hand in what may be my favorite Allen film, Midnight in Paris, in the form of the piece “Bistro Fada” by Stephane Wrembel. A live rendition of the song can be heard below.


I Wrote a Novel By Hand →

I wrote a piece today for The Cramped about writing my third novel, LUMINOUS. I wrote the whole first draft with nothing but pen and paper. It was a process. I have the hand cramps to prove it.

The biggest thrill came from watching the back of the notebook get thinner. I use Scrivener‘s word goal tool religiously, but a meter turning from red to green doesn’t have the same effect as holding a stack of pages in my hands and saying, “I did this.”

Hope you enjoy it!


Young Readers Prefer Paper to Ebooks →

ᔥ The Bookseller:

The 16-24 generation is still firmly in favour of print books, new research shows, with 73% saying they prefer print over digital or audio formats.

Exclusive research conducted by Voxburner for The Bookseller showed that while nearly three-quarters of young people said they prefer the print form, only 27% prefer e-books and 31% said they don’t buy e-books at all.

The survey questioned more than 900 young people in the UK about their book habits.

Not sure what the stats are in the U.S., but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were similar. The reason?

“They told us they like to touch books and see the creases in the spine, but for bargain-driven young people the conversion to e-books will most likely be determined by price.”

That first part threw me because I thought kids didn’t care so much for the tactile experience of books. However, based on my limited anecdata from BookCon, it was clear paper books had wide appeal—easier for authors to sign, no up-front cost of a dedicated reader or tablet, and easily lendable to friends. In fact, I see kids reading paper books on the subway every day while the adults read on Kindles and iPads.

Also:

When it comes to paperbacks, 37% of young people said they would pay £5.00-£7.00 and 35% said they would pay £3.00-£5.00. However, they are less willing to pay as much for e-books, with 43% saying they should cost less than £3.00 and 27% saying they should cost between £3.00 and £5.00.

Many young readers didn’t agree with spending more than a few dollars on an ebook, so for the money, paper books held more value, and since 81% of respondents paid for their own books, they felt their money was better spent on something tangible. Something they truly owned.

One look at who they named as their favorite novelists and it’s clear they weren’t just going to buy $.99 ebooks by unknown indie novelists. These kids were deep into traditionally published authors, like JK Rowling and Nicholas Sparks.

This isn’t an “ah HA!” or “gotcha!” moment for me just because I’m a personal fan of paper over digital, but it certainly made me go, “huh.”


I’m Good

TRIGGER WARNING: This piece contains the usual masturbatorial self-introspection and ultimate enlightenment found in all personal essays about technology and how it affects the author. Don’t worry—at least I’m not droning on about changing my social media habits.

I watched yesterday’s Apple keynote. I watch almost all of them. As disillusioned as I am with the tech blogosphere, I’m still a huge fan of technology and, in particular, technology coming out of Apple. [INSERT LIST OF APPLE DEVICES I OWN TO SHOW I’M QUALIFIED TO DISCUSS APPLE, EVEN THE NEGATIVE ASPECTS.]

But as my life changes, my needs change even more. I’ve been clamoring for a bigger iPhone ever since my wife got her Lumia 1020. I’m 6’3” and have large, Mansfieldian hands, so the iPhone 6 Plus is exactly what I want from a phone. My MacBook Air is a tool for searching the web and running Scrivener. I no longer need the horespower (or footprint) afforded by the 15” MacBook Pro. I don’t use my iPad as much as I’d like, though I expect that to change with iOS 8 and eventually, Scrivener for iOS.

The Apple Watch on the other hand is not on my radar. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s futuristic. Yes, it’s a gleaming achievement in the art of telling people what they want, but it’s not for me. Not to peer too deeply into my navel, I’m trying to be less reachable. I enjoy checking Twitter throughout the day, but on my schedule. I love that I have numerous ways to communicate with people all over the world, but only when I want to. When I come home, I like to leave my phone on my desk and spend time with my wife and son. Let the notifications chime. Let the calls buzz. I can’t hear them and I love it that way.

An Apple Watch, however, is an obligation. If I’m at work and it dings with an @ mention or a new text, I’m going to want to answer it. It’s going to disrupt my concentration. And if I’m with my family, I don’t want to be bothered. It’ll be pretty hard to ignore something vibrating against my wrist. The accusatory alert tone is going to ring in my ears and urge me to respond. It isn’t something I can just turn off or leave on my desk and go about my day. That’s not its intended purpose. It was designed to keep the user in the loop and honestly, I’m done being in it.

I write first drafts of my fiction in analog formats—on typewriters and with pen and paper—so I’m not fed with a glut of notifications or compelled to initiate some of my own while I’m writing. My phone goes into airplane mode and I’m pulled into the words on the page. Being able to shut out the world around me goes a long way for my sanity. I embrace quiet. I prefer solitude. I’m an introvert…and I have a general disdain for other people.

I’ll leave the $350 price tag alone for another day 1. People will spend it, though if the iPhone and iPad are any indication, first generation Apple products don’t exactly have the longest lifespan, so I’d encourage those hell bent on getting one to wait for version two.

I know I’m in the minority when it comes to tech. I want just enough to get my work done without it getting in my way. A standard watch doesn’t get in my way 2. In fact, owning several different watches seems more flexible to me than one smartwatch. I can switch up the styles to go with a particular suit or outfit. There is no “one style fits all” for me. I may be able to change the face and the band on the Apple Watch, but it’ll still be the same device on my wrist, and no matter how much 14k gold Apple crams into it, it still won’t have the cachet of a Rolex or Omega.

But I’m not here to disparage the Apple Watch. It looks great. It’s exciting. It’s pushing a niche product category populated by limited and poorly executed devices from Samsung and Motorola into the mainstream. People will want this device. They’ll line up around the block for it. I’m definitely going to check one out at the Apple Store when it’s finally released, but I’m not going to buy one. At least, not yet. Maybe one day all our communication will occur on the watch and I’ll have no choice but to buy one. Or perhaps its uses will extend beyond the obvious and I’ll actually become more engaged with the world by owning one. We’ll see.

Until then, I don’t need it. I’ll admire it from afar. I’ll probably feel a twinge of jealousy at people who get one, but I’m not sold on it. The phone is more than enough for me. I’m good.


  1. For that money I can buy a very good analog watch that will outlast my next several computers. 

  2. I’m looking forward to everyone who used to say, “I don’t wear a watch. I just pull out my phone to check the time,” to now say unironically, “I don’t have to pull out my phone anymore. I can check the time on my wrist!”