A tool in the least useful senses of the word: Armed U.S. protesters enter Michigan capitol to demand lockdown end – Japan Today:

A person used as an instrument by another person; – a word of reproach; as, men of intrigue have their tools, by whose agency they accomplish their purposes.

I was not made for a minion or a tool
– Burks.

Also, an obscene terms for penis; – a stupid, irritating, or contemptible man.

That guy is such a tool.
– Jorgensen.

Recently a lot of Apple-ish writers spent their e-ink reserves reviewing the new iPad Pro Magic Keyboard. The reviews vary from Very Good to Glowing. I’m going the other direction. I’m getting rid of my iPad Pro.

I had a clear use case when I got the iPad Pro 12.9″ S2 (2017?) in Japan a few or more years ago. The 2015 MacBook Air issued by work was underpowered with a low resolution screen. I asked for a MacBook Pro 13″ but was denied (a topic for another post). I realized that I could do almost everything I needed on the iPad. What bits I could not work on with the iPad rarely had any urgency, so those bits waited for the MBA. I registered my BYOD iPad Pro in the corporate MDM.

Part of my use case was the Japanese work day: I would travel by train into the office or a client site, I would move around to other sites and coffee shops, and I would go home by train. Sometimes, a drinking party after work popped up. All of these were easy places to lose a laptop, which would be a thing. The iPad? Remotely wipe-able and less easily hackable.

The iPad Pro pencil was kind of nice. I could pair a Bluetooth keyboard for heavier work. I bought the keyboard folio which I then rarely used because it was so bad for my typing experience. Pairing a Magic Keyboard was far more useful, or even the old Logitech K810 was better for me than the Apple product. I sold the iPad Pro keyboard folio for the same price I purchased it.

Personally the iPad was good for consuming occasional media, though the case I bought – a generic hard case with a folio-type lid – lacked the rigidity I had come to expect from the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (which I sold to pay for the iPad). The result was that the iPad would sometimes smack me in the face after I fell asleep with it propped up on my chest. The F… fine thing split my lip more than once. I’m still surprised I didn’t fling the thing off my 37th story balcony out of frustration.

Regardless, and made better by my not having made it an illegal flying disk from my balcony, by the time I left Japan I recouped my sunk investment in the iPad Pro. It delivered enough utility over the two-ish years, personally and professionally, that it was a good investment.

When I returned to the US my workflow changed. The new work-issued MBA, an underpowered 2019 model, had a better display if lousy keyboard (and a US keyboard at that – I vastly prefer the Japanese keyboard, but that’s another post). The customers I supported didn’t allow extra devices in their sites. My work issued iPhone XS Max was the one mobile (read: non-laptop) device allowed. When I was out and about on my own time I detested pulling out the iPad because of its size.

I commented on this site about a year ago that I should have bought an iPhone SE instead of the iPhone XS Max and an iPad Mini instead of the iPad Pro. I don’t have an SE, but I bought myself a 5th generation iPad Mini for my birthday. It is almost the perfect device for me. There was rarely an instance where the iPad Pro was a better choice for me than the Mini. It had become a sometimes third monitor for my work MBA. I do wish the iPad Mini had more storage.

Now it is repurposed as a general purpose machine for my sister’s family while they remote school their kids and telecommute for work.

To be clear, I think the iPad Pro is one of the best pieces of technology available today. The hardware is the best an average person (with the appropriate budget) can get. The OS is the weak link with the cost of the accessories the second biggest drag on the platform.

The new iPad Pro Magic Keyboard is not for me, just like the iPad Pro is not for me. My needs will change, and maybe these tools will become useful to me again. Your mileage may vary.

For those considering an iPad Pro, I suggest saving money by going with a 10.2 model (or Air or Mini) with a regular Magic Keyboard and a Magic Trackpad. The whole thing will cost less, weigh less, be more portable, and offer more flexibility. YMMV.

I read all four Murderbot Diaries novellas by Martha Wells last weekend. Well, actually it was about a 36 hour stretch from Friday evening to Sunday morning in between working on a big proposal. The fast read was due to two chief factors.

  1. The novellas start with the shortest one first and get longer as the series progresses; and
  2. It was a fun adventure story.

For science fiction books there is actually very little science fiction in the story. Those elements are often window dressing or “magic”, in the best sense in both cases.

I am excited for the first novel in the series, Network Effect, which is due next week. Tor Books, in preparation, offered the four novellas for free the week before I read them. I took advantage. I am glad I did.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. I don’t want to say too much about the book. I enjoyed not knowing where the story was going. Not every turn is a surprise, but I delighted in seeing how Mandel gets the story and the reader there. There’s a graceful simplicity to her writing I find engrossing. The characters are handled with an honesty and respectfulness that keeps them from becoming trite archetypes we’ve all encountered. Melancholy runs throughout without it becoming melodrama.

My library has the ebook for borrowing. I took advantage. If your library doesn’t have it (check here) I recommend purchasing it. Libro.fm Kobo Amazon US Amazon JP Audible

NPR has two reviews. There are dozens more. I suggest holding off on reading them until you read the book.

You may recall her previous work, Station Eleven, a pandemic story you may want to wait on if you haven’t already read it. When I saw The Glass Hotel was coming out it was an instant get for me. Mandel’s first three books are in my To Read queue.

Picture © Penguin Random House

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

I read Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court when I was 15. I don’t think I thought much of it at the time. I “read” it again as an audiobook over the last several months. Nick Offerman’s voice is indelibly bonded to this story for me. And the story is one I will gladly audibly revisit.

I cannot recommend this book in this format read by this narrator more.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is a 1889 novel written by Mark Twain, a.k.a. Samuel Clemens, where an engineer from Connecticut named Hank Morgan is transported to the time of King Arthur due to a blow to the head. In stereotypical New England Yankee fashion he applies his knowledge from 19th century America to transform Arthur’s 6th century England. The various stories that make up the book are funny, frustrating, and too close to some of what we’re experiencing.

Sadly, Audible is the only outlet that has Nick Offerman’s narration. Libro.fm has the book with other narrators (link your local independent bookstore with your Libro.fm account) as does the Internet Archive.

Want to read it as an ebook? The Standard Ebooks edition is a great free starting point. I’m sure your local U.S. library has it in print.