I noticed something odd in WordPress Reader today. I was trying to catch up with blogs I follow, and realized a recent post I expected to find wasn’t showing up. I looked directly at the dates, and there was an unexplained gap between ‘1 day ago’ and 6 Aug 2018. Today is Aug 11, so what happened to all the posts in between?
Even stranger, I left it for a few hours to make supper and clean around the house, then went back into Reader thinking it might have fixed itself. Placidly browsing my way down the feed, I noticed I’d already reached posts from 4 Aug! The 6 Aug posts that were in Reader earlier aren’t there any more.
Usually there’s a ‘load more posts’ button, but that’s not appearing.
I guess… it might not be Reader’s fault. My iPad is really struggling for space. Perhaps the WordPress app has been directed by my iPad to deliberately not collect more than a certain number of posts, and has also been deleting some of what was already in the cache. I must make more serious efforts to clear out a lot of the stuff that’s on this thing!
I wonder how many bloggers change or delete posts in the days following publication? I’m not always happy with what I have written, but tend to think “it’s published now; forget it and start a new one.” Today I made an exception and deleted sections of my last post, which I felt rambled on too long.
The process wasn’t as straightforward as I would have liked.
I write blog posts in an iPad app (not Pages or Word) and paste them into the WordPress app. I stopped keeping the original drafts because sometimes I make minor changes afterwards so the original drafts are no longer accurate. It seems like too much work to go back and correct them, so now I just assume they should be scrapped.
It’s the first time I’ve tried copying text from the WordPress app back to the wordprocessing app, and my attempts to do this were failing. I discovered I could paste it into Mail… had to re-copy it from Mail before I could finally paste it into the wordprocessing app.
It also copies line formatting that I don’t want; I’m not sure I can override that. Fortunately I was only wanting to keep a copy of the original post in case I later changed my mind, so, having stored that, I just edited the post right where it was in WordPress, and updated. No faffing about with line spaces or reinserting links.
Thinking about it, it probably wasn’t transferring to the other app because what I was pasting wasn’t text but HTML?
My worst habit as a blogger is a refusal to re-read posts after publication, even to check. I would prefer to close my eyes and forget… lalalalalala. Having pruned my last post, though, I feel a lot better — must do this more often. 😀
A few days ago I set up an Instagram account for the first time ever. Everybody else seemed to be using it, I thought, so why not me?
I haven’t been happy so far. I’m so focused on settings and problems that I haven’t looked around much to see what other people are posting.
1. There’s no official Instagram app in the iPad App Store. Eventually I discovered they didn’t make one! We can only use the iPhone app with no way of forcing it to work in landscape view. Viewing it in portrait mode is unnatural and uncomfortable, so I don’t spend long doing that.
2. I can use Instagram from the mobile browser, but it’s spartan. There are things I can’t do unless I switch to the uncomfortable sideways app.
3. Nobody seems to like the way the feed works any more. People complain that the same posts they’ve already seen and commented on hang around for days on end. There’s no logic to it and you can’t target your viewing unless you visit each Instagram friend individually.
4. You can’t hide your follower lists from anyone following you.
The real kicker, though — the most mind-bendingly crass thing — is the way it notifies people you know (mainly Facebook friends) that you have just opened an Instagram account. This happens to some degree even if you didn’t use your Facebook sign-in. As soon as I created mine, it suggested I follow various Facebook friends. I’m quite sure they could see me too, even if they happened not to receive a direct notification.
This isn’t what I want. Even if I jump through hoops trying to keep my Instagram account anonymous, I wouldn’t be able to fully trust it, because who really knows how these social media sites work? Are you sure you understand all the ins and outs, who-can-sees, and who-can’ts?
I feel like a fly floating on the surface of a big pond with very little understanding of how things work and almost no say over my visibility. I’m simply not a fan of this idea!
It’s not that I really care if family and acquaintances can see the uninspiring photos and pictures I come up with, but I feel held back. If I was in a mood and ‘liked’ a grumpy quotation, those who have closer ties to me would wonder if I was grumping at them and what the issue was!
Socializing would be a lot less fun if you had to worry all the time about who was privy to what. Your rabid SNP cousin might blow his top if he knew your political views, which is exactly why you don’t talk politics to him but might to someone else.
Or perhaps this is the idea… we all have to have very bland, politically-correct conversations that don’t move too far from the weather?
I made my Instagram account private but am considering closing it altogether because I can’t see myself using it. I felt confused from the start… “what do I post here? Family stuff or arty, self-expressive stuff?” I considered setting up a second, more private account, then realized anonymity isn’t guaranteed anyway.
These big companies may say, even believe, that they have opened up the internet, simplified it, made it easier, automated everything and connected everybody, but in fact they are closing down the ways you can productively, safely, freely and confidently use it. Everything’s so automated and ‘smart’ and omniscent that it’s out of each user’s control exactly who can see what you’ve posted and where, and I’m sure this has already led to problems for many people.
You wonder what’s the point of having these different forums anyway, if they’re all interlinked to the degree that you can follow one person from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest to…? It seems like too much bother; just amalgamate the lot into one single interface! One App to Rule Them All.
Instagram might have been fun on its own. I could have got used to the square format and would enjoy creating the right kind of images. Unfortunately social media communicates *too* much on our behalf, and we no longer know what we’re doing. That’s a recipe for disaster.
In the iPad App Store on Monday, I downloaded this week’s free app — MindNode, a tool that helps set out the groundwork for projects. I love new apps, and it doesn’t hurt when they’re free, but I absolutely adore making plans… probably more than carrying them out. When it comes to organizing in general, my computer groans with deeply-nested files; defolderifying is required when my system proves more of a hindrance than a help. I should probably delete redundant files altogether — those awful old merged fractals from 2007, for instance… I can do a lot better nowadays.
It can be hard to let go, sadly. My middle name should be Squirrel.
As any squirrel knows, sorting resources into careful heaps and folders is calming. It’s an acceptable way of gloating over your hoard while allowing you to feel more in control… so I had hopes this mind-mapping thing would be a useful weapon against the encroaching world. In my experience, plans morph into action surprisingly quickly, leading to greater self-confidence and a lot less of the energy-sapping procrastination I’m prone to.
“Incredible — I sorted that out myself! No dithering for days on end wondering what to do!”
It astonishes you to discover you’re a rational adult and can take on many comers, regardless of their role in life. Usually that phenomenon is attributable to pencil, paper and copious notes, and it’s also why MindNode now lurks on my iPad.
So far, so good.
You can’t, however, be a rational adult without questioning yourself and others, so there are reasons for me to be sceptical as well as hopeful.
First of all, mind-mapping looks and sounds terribly technical and arcane, and you wonder if you’re doing it right, particularly when not learning anything from it. You suspect it’s an attention-seeking gimmick that does the job no better than merely writing lists. Mind maps don’t present with a neat appearance, so how could they be better? They start in the middle of the page and sprawl in different directions… what if you ran out of room and started writing on the table by accident? A mouse could make a nest in someone’s mind map and feel completely at home.
Secondly, I know myself too well! A helpful and instructive tool becomes a blunt instrument in my hands. I bludgeon myself with it remorselessly, then give up, disillusioned and bruised.
It’s one thing ‘actioning’ a highly-targeted plan when there’s a time limit and a specific outcome in mind. It’s another to ‘improve’ myself or my daily life with something like a Chart of Chores or a To Do List, because these tend to be grandiose, pernickety, perfectionist schemes, quickly tired of and forgotten.
Who wants all of their time earmarked in advance, even for pleasant pastimes like watching Blackadder’s schemes on TV? Years ago I created such a time chart in an effort to combat a bad spell of procrastination, but I never tried it out. It’s still in my nested folders somewhere. I could draw up a new one specifying “read blogs at 10 every Sunday morning”, but it’s unlikely to happen. This is real life: I read blogs at different times during the week and could be there for anything from two minutes to two hours. I’m not a robot, and there’s no point trying to programme myself as though I am one.
iNotRobot. Depressing but true.
There’s a To Do List app in my arsenal, but it wasn’t at all long before I deleted it. For the right kind of people it’s excellent, and they doubtless use it the right way. I, on the other hand, use it completely the wrong way, so for me it wasn’t working. There’s something about being told what to do that makes me dart like a spooked squirrel the other way — even if the person telling me to do it is me.
Before discovering the app, my usual organizational methods included (and still include):
Lists — I love lists
Spreadsheets and charts
I don’t use the iPad’s Reminder app as it’s never worked for me… too limited, or so I thought when I tried it. I can’t remember much about it now, but a lingering impression is that there were only so many items I could add to a page. I would tell it to alert me to something, and either the alert wouldn’t arrive, or I’d be uninterested and ignore it when it did.
By ‘journaling’ I don’t mean bullet journals, which I haven’t yet tried — I mean ordinary ‘dear diary’ journaling. This has surprising strengths which I should probably go into another time. The gist is that you start with a problem and enter into a conversational spiral, one thought leading to another… ending up fairly consistently with an idea of what will work and what won’t. Sometimes when you re-read, you pick up on things you forgot, which is all to the good. It’s like an old-fashioned ‘text’ version of problem-solving mind-mapping, no neater than a pictorial mind-map, and though I’ve filled out most of my thoughts fairly satisfactorily, you are left with a mass of text you might never read again. Unless you type your diary on computer and remember the keywords you used, you’d find it difficult to search for a particular event or idea.
That said, I love journaling, and wouldn’t stop for all the tea in China (or anywhere else in this globalized world). Mind-mapping should be just my cuppa, shouldn’t it, even if I don’t have carte blanche to waffle on?
To get to grips with my use of the MindNode app…
This isn’t intended as a review or how-to page, and I’m not going to focus on the technicalities of how to use it, but I’ll just comment that it’s easy for beginners — you don’t need an instruction manual, other than a couple of starting tips. Fiddly to use at times, but it’s good to be able to move things around or delete them altogether — an aspect which must blow pen and paper mind-mapping out of the water.
My first experiment
When trying it out for the first time, I mind-mapped an established creative process in digital art. My aims were to (1) provide a reference to keep me working quickly without getting bogged down; (2) potentially to inspire. I hoped mind-mapping might live up to its reputation and work some mindspace voodoo. Who knew what it might do? I lived in hope.
In the process of creating my nebulous map of creativity, I ran up against a few problems.
I got confused about what should come under certain tags. For instance, radiating away from the word ‘artwork’, a key word in the map is ‘organize’. I read somewhere that you should use one-word terms rather than pin yourself down with something more specific. OK, keep it loose. Should I then go on to list organizational methods like folders and databases — or platforms like the iMac — or the type of resources to be organized, such as Bryce master files, Photoshop brushes, tutorials and so on? These are long lists — how do I put everything in one place without making the mind map explode?
This led to the possibility of repeating the terms like ‘organize’ elsewhere in the mind-map, but I feared that might be against the rules. Also, how do you tie in ‘platforms’ with ‘software’, specific creative processes and different types of resources in a neat and orderly fashion, seeing as the software all worked together in some cases but not others — while working from different platforms in different ways — so I couldn’t list everything neatly in one place, moving in a sedate direction therefrom?
The results of this, my first experiment in mind-mapping:
No benefit. I had no room for all the items I wanted, and it was as though I hadn’t got to grips with the problem — if there was one.
The process I tried to clarify showed itself in its true colours. It’s a creative process that pulls in resources and inspiration from everywhere, and you can’t list these, slot them in one logical place or plan them robotically. This is something I should already have realized, and I didn’t need a mind-mapping session to tell me that.
I found no inspiration or new ideas.
If used as a reference to keep me on track, it would add an extra, unnecessary step. It wouldn’t improve matters, being more likely to throw me off.
Even so, I realized I’d used the process wrongly with a subject too big (or not properly broken down to something more rational), while having no clear and specific aim. It would be unfair to condemn it on such grounds. I’ve never before mind-mapped, and needed time to consider how best to use it. Some of my first attempts are bound to be duds.
Ploughing grimly on
If I was not to discard the baby with the bath water, it was clear I should do more research. It wasn’t looking at all good for my experiment, which I now viewed with a degree of irritation. I was hot all over, my heart raced, my brows beetled and I was starting to pout.
I recognize that soul-destroying feeling from other projects I’ve not been good at.
Baking is definitely one, when I start off with fond ambitions of delicate, beautifully decorated little cakes and wafting cinnamon smells, and end up feeling it’s all more hassle than it’s worth. After which I start chucking flour around in lumps and slamming badly-shaped objects in the oven. Another recent project was mindfulness — I was determined to give it a go because I might learn useful life skills, but every time it asked me to do something such as imagining a peaceful scene while repeating a senseless question over and over, dull rage surged up and I had to put the book down. So I’ve not yet read it.
That doesn’t mean I won’t read it… the real reason I’m irritated is it’s something I want to do but it turned out not to be that easy or pleasant. Also there’s still the worry it’s overhyped and I won’t get what I wanted: a better life and a better me. I’m not the perfect person I was fondly imagining.
Oooh. We have now reached the point in this narrative where I was getting these dangerous rumbles over mind-mapping. It was distinctly worrying but I grimly soldiered on. The only way to turn this around was to find out what other people use it for.
One site provided me with some real ‘ah ha!’ moments, and I gleaned the following:
Mind-mapping is used for problem-solving. (I’d been thinking in terms of organizing and streamlining; not quite the same thing).
Think of the keywords in terms of headers rather than processes. If I was planning a party, I would have lists for food, guests, games, music and ‘things to do’ before the big day. The chances are low that I would head one of my lists ‘Organize’!
Leading on from this, I can see my worry about repeating keywords doesn’t matter… it’s flow and direction that matter. You are trying to get somewhere, and it’s not a crime if there are half a dozen information offices in your map, provided they are all well-located and useful.
The biggest break-through for me was when it was pointed out you could use mind-mapping to plan blog posts.
A better attempt
All my pouts vanished, and in no time at all I was embarking on my second experiment: Mission Mind Map. If that term seems a little familiar, it’s because it is!
Shortly after starting, I knew I was onto a winner.
I was now thinking in terms of headings and lists, and didn’t get stuck.
Item order mattered. Things don’t just spring up in the middle of nowhere, and the map finally had a direction.
You see, I was finally getting the hang of it, but my pernickety nature ensured I aimed for at least two items per heading. You can’t have a list of one, can you? In a mind map it’s really about flow, like in my diary… one thought leading to another — but while thinking of thoughts as lists, I wanted two leading on from one, and would fish for another point just to make up numbers.
That’s the feng shui approach to mind-mapping, I guess — or plain OCD.
I enjoyed it; it was a lot of fun. I was able to go into detail without forgetting minor points or losing the shape of what I was writing about.
The next worry, however, was how to get the mind map into my document. The idea of swiping back and forth between it and my blog post didn’t appeal.
Of course, MIndNode wouldn’t have been a proper app if it didn’t have a solution! I was able to convert it into a column of text in my favourite writing app. First of all it arrived in a mad jumble, starting with my last point and ending with the introduction. So I went back and moved everything round the other way, reimported, and this time items appeared in the right order.
When I remembered things I’d forgotten, I made direct changes to the text column rather than edit the mind map itself. I was tempted to think of the map as a finished product, like a picture, but it’s only a stage. It had already done the main work and was not part of the equation any longer.
Some of my changes and additions in the text column arrived as long lines and paragraphs, which is how I’ve always written. I put ‘brief’ ideas in the right places, and these immediately start growing, forming the nucleus of the post itself. In contrast, placed in a mind map, they would remain short snippets of text to be fleshed out later rather than ‘now.’ The process of allowing your notes to expand immediately can take you in new directions, and these are sometimes worthwhile. On the other hand, it’s confusing if these weren’t directions you meant to go in, leaving your original point jostling for place.
Perhaps the mind map is not a hindrance to the evolution of your post — more a temporary postponement of narrative in favour of deeper structure. It still reminds me of my use of journals to ‘problem-solve’… one thought leading to another and ending in a plan. It’s certainly keeping me busy and I’ve not yet abandoned this mass of text! I’m polishing sections of this before I’ve even written the rest of it — it’s partly procrastination; partly because in some sense it’s been written already, and I can relax and not worry that I’ll forget things.
A few days ago, I was listening to a song that has stayed in my head all the time I’ve been writing this. Long Time Coming (David Sneddon).
And in a deeper part of me A stronger soul is breaking free And I want you to know Can’t hold me down for any more Pull myself from off the floor And I want you to know
Based on my short experience of it, pros and cons for mind-mapping as part of a writing process?
Cuts down the usual muddle, though not completely.
Possibly you would axe redundant topics before spending much time writing them.
Otherwise short and lazy posts would become longer and more detailed, though I don’t entirely know if that’s good!
It becomes less intimidating to deal with your blog topic overall; you don’t need to put it off to a later time when your thoughts are less scattered.
Tendency to waste time tidying the map — trying to balance it out and make it beautiful.
Mine was inside-out and back-to-front, but there’s a setting to adjust that.
This way of laying out your thoughts seems difficult to read. I showed it to a friend who commented: “I couldn’t get my head round it! It’s too much like the kind of thing the office used to produce as one of their many flavour of the month initiatives!” I can sympathize because I dreamed about mice (the ones nesting in it) and have no love for the corporate environment myself.
The map is transformed into a column of indented headers. Why not write them that way in the first place? This is one I find hard to explain away.
There’s a risk it disrupts one’s usual thought process. My style is conversational, but what if the mind map keeps me so much on the straight and narrow that I fail to follow some enticing side-path? On the other hand, the map probably makes sure I see the side paths, shoehorning all of them in. Both aspects could be bad.
I already write long posts which could now become three times as long. Maybe you waste time overwriting it initially and need to trim it down later. The length of the text column generated from the mind map was putting me off, so progress was quite slow. I would ‘flesh out’ a section then scroll hopefully down, thinking, “There, I wrote quite a lot, I must be near the end?” Unfortunately, the tail of the mind map trails forever into the distance…
My initial structure is too rigid. When I know what I want to say and look for somewhere to add it, I see what’s already there and there’s no logical place. Reading all the previous stuff, I promptly lose track of my new idea. Normally I write down phrases in my head before they are gone, fitting them together later. Perhaps it’s not the mind-mapping itself that’s at fault, more my use of the technique — I need to start with a looser structure and not break things down too much in the first place. It would leave me more room to move. Though that begs the question — why change from your existing method?
In any case, here it is… my mind-mapped blog post.
I am glad I persevered and didn’t give in to my attack of the blue devils. In the future I can see myself using MindNode for jotting down blog ideas, perhaps in combination with a page of ‘fully-sprung’ paragraphs, ‘use or lose’.
I still don’t see mind-mapping as a problem-solver — my problems may never have been that complicated. For me it’s: ‘Do research, write email or make purchase. Done!’
In decision-making I write lists of pros and cons; I can’t imagine using a mind map for that normally, but it was more complicated when choosing a new camera recently. I set up a chart composed of what I wanted from the new camera, showing how different models fulfilled these points compared to each other. Using this, I wrote lists of cameras in each context from best to worst. Different cameras came out on top in different contexts, but some listed high more frequently than others. There was a clear winner and it wasn’t the most obvious, being an older model I’d initially dismissed. I only added it belatedly for the sake of comparison, but it did so well (and blew off the roof in a number of reviews) that it seemed the only real option.
The newer camera model I nearly bought, praised in several reviews, would have been a pleasing choice as it was nice in its way… but it was not as good a camera, or as appropriate for me.
The above was in part a visual decision-making process but was not mind-mapping!
The idea of a mind map as study aid is interesting. In history, for instance — you could put main events in order and break them down. It would certainly help you write essays.
I’m still not sure why a mind map would work better than a series of lists. It was a great relief to me when I saw mine laid out as an ordered column of text. The ‘visual’ aspect doesn’t work when it comes to writing, as my usual need is to establish direction, not relationship.
I lost the plot towards the end of writing this, but it’s probably my fault for including too much detail and moving away from the visual map to an unbroken text column!
Will I continue to use it? Yes, I want to, and can make it work for me. Time will tell in the end, though my horoscope yesterday offered the following:
Someone’s ‘good idea’ could have you captivated – even if it means shifting things round yet again. The prospect of advance both at work and in financial matters could bring a smile too. With encouragement from someone who’s good at focus and who knows exactly how to present things on paper, you could enjoy a day of ‘personal development planning’.
I’ve been desperately trying to make space on the iPad, but that doesn’t stop me downloading stuff from the App Store!
I recently discovered Brushes 3 is now open source and free in the App Store… it’s this app that’s famously used by David Hockney.
I painted a picture I really liked, and it’s huge… takes over most of the screen on my big desktop Mac! (Not as big as it could be, but big enough). Which was when I realized I had a problem… the only way to get the master files off Brushes and onto my Mac (for back-up or further work) is by exporting to Dropbox or emailing it to myself. There is no iTunes option. When you have huge layered paintings like mine, the network can’t take them. It doesn’t help that you can’t see what size images are in Brushes… not till they reach Dropbox.
Why should ‘online’ be the only way of moving files?
I saved a PNG to Dropbox (2048 x 2048, 8.2 MB… it went quite slowly!) but can’t save my layered files. They are stuck inside the Brushes app for the time being.
I remembered reading about something for the Mac called Brushes Viewer… perhaps that allowed export of some type? Searching online turned up a discussion about how Brushes Viewer wasn’t available any more. People who needed to exhibit their paintings were stuck… unable to export high-resolution images from their iPads.
Doesn’t bode well. Will stop using the app meantime, even though I loved the results. I get the impression (from searching around) that there are people looking seriously into developing a new Brushes Viewer, or perhaps a companion Brushes app for the Mac. So it’s a space worth watching.
Inkpad is now open source and free in the App Store too, so I downloaded it… it seems very highly thought of. Export options might still be problematic. SVG files (amongst others) can be exported, but only via email or Dropbox — or to other apps on your iPad. It appears to have been updated since it went open source, with the export options improved, which is a good sign.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with vector apps… love what they can do, but hate using them! I can never get used to anchor points, nodes, handles and so on…
I’d love to see more tutorials (and full manuals) for both these apps. Brushes is particularly infuriating because of its name. If you search for ‘brushes tutorials’, you find pages of links to creating custom Photoshop brushes… no mention of the Brushes app.
I prefer text tutorials to video tutorials, which are so often not captioned. I found an Inkpad tutorial in Youtube that I had to abandon for this reason.
Meanwhile, my iPad continues to fill up…. it’s a losing battle!
It began as a rough abstract but I started drawing things, so it wound up being a strange landscape. Just made it difficult for myself when it came to joining up the edges…
It’s supposedly seamless and can be used as a repeating pattern or texture, but I don’t think it makes a particularly good brush. You are welcome to try, though I reserve the full-size image of 1800 px. 🙂
I have an issue with creating ArtStudio custom brushes… maybe someone out there has the answer? They look absolutely fine right up to the moment I use them — then appear on their side (in landscape mode). When I go into the brush settings to check, it’s the right way up in the preview. I can set the angle to 90 degrees to force it round, but that makes it even softer than it was initially.
Procreate has the useful brush setting ‘orient to iPad screen,’ but I don’t see one in ArtStudio. I’ve not found similar complaints yet, so probably I’m missing something! The setting might still be there somewhere, and I’ve just overlooked it.
Was horrified when resuming my doodle in ArtStudio to find my newest mountain had vanished! Layers were missing, I thought, then realized the work itself hadn’t been saved. As I’d spent a lot of the previous night on it, it seems strange nothing was saved during those hours. I normally save a lot, but possibly I was lulled into a false sense of security by autosave…. and simply forgot?
According to the ArtStudio forum there’s an autosave.art file that you can only see in iTunes when you back up your iPad. If you get to that autosave file early enough, it might have what you lost.
Originally I misunderstood what autosave was doing. I thought it saved the file I was working on, not a hidden copy that might change according to which drawing I was in. I looked for it in iTunes and found it, but it was blank. Same dimensions; one white layer!
Maybe that was because I turned off autosave before I even knew that it saved to a separate file. I thought it had somehow caused a problem but wasn’t sure what. But IF disabling autosave reverts the autosave file to a blank white file, that’s something else… people might think they were protecting their autosave file by stopping ArtStudio saving new stuff to it in the meantime.
Well, my mountain’s gone, and I don’t know why… but I’ve re–enabled autosave now that I understand it better.
I managed to retrieve my work by using a jpeg I created last night on a whim. The white areas show blotchy JPEG artefacts; I don’t know how it manages to do that on what should have been a pure white background! I cleaned it up but the lines are jaggy (had to erase the white completely, which took away from the smoothness of the black lines).
For the rest of the night I just cleaned, tidied, merged layers and duplicated copies of the file. Sent a PNG to the camera roll and saved a PSD ready to export to iTunes. Closing the stable door after my mountain had bolted!
Doodling time has not been wasted… I found several useful tips in the ArtStudio forums. For instance, I kept wanting to remove white areas without having to spend ages with the eraser. I went to the affected layer, made sure the palette colour was set to white, then went to the menu and chose Adjust > Color to transparency. The white bit just disappeared.
It didn’t work on the JPEG mountain because it left shadowy artefacts behind, but it worked on other layers. Saved my bacon!
This is a screenshot of the iPad games I most often play (click thumbnail for better view). All these run in iOS 7 on an iPad 4… I can’t guarantee they would play on older systems and iPads. More about those little nuggets of goodness below.
Cave Quest HD
A beautiful adventure involving treasure, mountain spirits and a missing family. It offers a series of tile puzzles and ‘find the object’ scenes. I found it relaxing to play… to me it was everything an iPad game should be. Even the free trial version was exemplary… it gave me enough to get my teeth into, and didn’t annoy me into refusing to buy it, which some other games have done!
It got me through a bout of shingles. Every so often I would look up and dutifully swallow a dose of Rhus tox. It’s a weird experience being handed a bottle of poison ivy by your mother… “take this, dear, it will fix you!”
Plants vs Zombies HD
A strategy game in which you deploy a range of plants to keep zombies away from your house. I have a soft spot for the old grandfather zombie who gets upset when he loses his newspaper. When the crush gets too much in Walnut Bowling and I have to let one zombie through while I go after the others, he’s the one who gets to hirple past the finishing post.
You can play through the adventure or choose from the mini games, puzzles and quick games. In the quick games you are offered a set of options: weak zombies or strong? Night, day, poolside, rooftop, fog? Perfect if you don’t have much time and just want to relax (or experiment with different plants). And because there’s a lot of variety, it’s more addictive than the sequel.
Plants vs Zombies 2
Some of the plants and zombies in this one are new, operating in three different worlds. It is free-to-play and can be played all the way through without any purchases, but is all but impossible without certain ‘power-ups’. Power-ups can be slowly earned as well as bought… I won through without them, except in one game.
It’s fun to start with, but you eventually find it drab and repetitive compared to the original. You would like to explore the worlds a little, but the spot where you fight zombies is always the same. It would be nice if a set of fantasy mini-games was made available, such as It’s Raining Seeds or Zombotany, but there really isn’t much variety.
Worst of all, there’s a zombie I refuse to play against now that I don’t have to…. the parrot! As soon as I see it waiting in the wings, I quit. That means I haven’t got any further than Level 6 in Dead Man’s Booty. If you can get further than that without having to play against the parrot, let me know! I’ll be incredulous.
Roads of Rome
You are directing teams of workers to build roads for Caesar, interrupted occasionally by wild animals. It’s not free to play, but that’s its strength! It doesn’t make you feel you might win more quickly or have more variety if you buy something. It’s peaceful and attractive, and you don’t have to play against the timer unless you want to.
There’s an expert mode, however, and if you can win all the games in that mode, a bonus level is unlocked. (At the moment I can’t remember if ROR has bonus levels, or if it’s just parts 2 and 3). At first I thought I would rattle through those in a matter of hours, so it was a shock when I found it wasn’t that simple! I got annoyed about playing levels over and over, missing the expert time by a fraction of a second in some cases. The workers would get home and the celebratory fireworks would be popping AND I’D STILL LOSE! It’s really just a challenge to do everything within the time, however, and I’m glad it’s there. It offers something more to strive for.
Roads of Rome 2
An extension of the above, though with improvements and different animals. I actually played this one first, as I read somewhere we should get this one and ignore the first one, which is clunkier. I think that was a mistake, though — I’ve enjoyed all three.
Roads of Rome 3
This is my favourite version. This time we don’t build roads… the barbarians have run amok, damaging the roads and setting things on fire. Our task is to douse the fires, rebuild the settlements and mend the roads. I was delighted not to have to sit and watch the workers slowly hammer their way along, plank by plank. When you’re up against the clock, it’s excruciating!
Cut the Rope
Cute little thing, loves his sweeties. I enjoy thinking about how to deliver them to his mouth without losing any stars along the way. He doesn’t care if you haven’t won them all yet… once the sweetie comes within reach, it’s gone.
I don’t spend all my time playing this, though, as it’s not all that relaxing! I play a level or two then potter off to bed.
A fantasy card game, not particularly expensive. I’ve not seen another like it; it’s unusual. I liked it enough to buy it twice (for Mac and iPad). It’s about battling to win strongholds with the cards in your hand, sometimes aided by magic spells. At one point I was a bit addicted to it!
Ah. Another cutie. I love the way he looks quizzically out of the screen at me, as though hoping I’ll do something to save him, but not really caring all that much. He’s got such sangfroid! You have to keep him from the angry mob for as long as you can (they get him eventually). I do love it, but I wish the scenery would change and something else would happen. I don’t care about his selection of hats and cloaks, and some of the curses and charms seem a bit odd. (I don’t understand how the ‘armored heart’ works, but maybe I’ll figure it out).
I do like the wee vamp, though, and hang out with him from time to time.
I’ve got a cold, so I think I might be playing a few of these over the next few days!
I wrote the following in my private journal: “You know, all that chatter is the kind of stuff I thought would be fun on a blog, with names changed to protect the guilty. But it’s far more complicated in real life, hedged around with ethics, dangers and concerns. I end up with cold feet, and whatever goes on a blog now is not quite the same. It has become too difficult for me to deal with.“
I’m still attracted to the idea of it, though. One of the reasons I’ve come back to my blog, for this post at least, is that I was inspired by another journal I read. That’s always the kind I wanted to write, but I don’t know if I have the courage. I always like to put down my thoughts, so you would think it would be easy, but it’s not.
I bought an iPad, thinking it would make it easier to write or doodle things on the fly. Instead I got terribly distracted and spent a lot of time playing games or finding new things to bookmark. While looking around, I found one blogger who said he would add something to the list of ‘Stupid Things I Do that I Don’t Know How to Stop.’ I was tickled at the idea of such a list, so here’s mine:
Turning on the iPad every morning
Constant surfing on the internet
Sitting up too late
Opening the wrong drawer YEARS after reorganizing
Writing too-long emails
Having a Facebook presence
Avoiding my blog
Starting new digital paintings but only finishing one in twenty
Downloading new Kindle books without having read the hundreds I have
It doesn’t help that I’m still reading The God Delusion a chapter at a time. I’m also reading How to be Assertive in Any Situation on my Kindle, Hung Lou Meng in iBooks and Five Little Peppers and How They Grew in the Kindle app.
The iPad is supposed to be a useful organizer and communications device, but my attention gets scattered and I lose my focus!
Anyway, I try. Yesterday I went through a list of recommended apps and downloaded several new ones. I had trouble finding the BBC Weather app (not mentioned in the list anyway) — it was sorted into ‘iPhone Only’ in the App Store. It’s supposed to be for iPads as well, so I’m confused. While I was at it, I downloaded the WordPress app… you may not realize it, but that was a great leap forward. Could be a sign of things to come! Note that I didn’t say ‘great’ things… just ‘things’.