Turns out I got meme-tagged again. This time it was by Pooks over at Planet Pooks, who picked me to carry on the Things That Work meme.
Simply put, I'm supposed to list some things -- mundane, largely -- that just work great. Nothing Earth-shakingly epic or impressive here -- just some everyday items I like for their simple unspectacular ability to Do Their Job Well.
So... here's my list of Five Things That Just Work:
Mac OSX 10.4 (Tiger)
As amazing as this next statement is going to sound to some people, it's absolute truth: "I have never worked on a Windows computer." My family started buying Macs back in 1985, when we used (ahem) "an educational discount of debatable appropriateness" to purchase a pair of Mac Plus boxes for use in the family business. I started writing and doodling on graphics then, and I've been all-Mac only-Mac ever since. The iMac I am banging on even now is my fourth Mac, and in the house right now we have seven total Macs. And in all my years of working on Macs, I have never -- NEVER -- been as absolutely satisfied and blown away by an OS like I am by "Tiger" (Mac OSX 10.4).
Tiger is stunningly beautiful. Blazing fast. Damned near bulletproof in terms of virus and worm attacks. And, best of all, it's as rock-solid a software product as I can imagine in this day and age. In the year or so I've been running it 24/7, I have had zero system crashes. None. Nada. Zip. In fact, the ONLY crashes of ANY sort I have had in that time have been with MS Exploder. I have since jumped to Apple Safari 2.0 and have been almost as pleased there as with Tiger itself.
Add a new printer? Just plug it into the USB port and start printing. Now drivers, no installation, no thought needed. It's as simple as attaching a hose to a spigot.
Need to find a file? Use Spotlight, the amazing built-in universal search utility, to near-instantly search for anything on your machine using basically any sort of search you can dream up.
Thanks to Tiger, I wake up every day knowing that I'll be able to work WITH my computer without any need to work ON my computer.
Pentel Pilot G2 Gel pens
I love writing on a computer: the ability to save multiple versions of the same file, and then edit and tweak each a little differently to then see which really works best... the ability to cut and paste entire scenes and chapters and acts between different projects... the ability to have somebody (or something) else sweep up the grammatical mess left as my verbal trailride rumbles by... it's all just too "suh-weet", to put it into Napoleonic phraseology (Dynamite -- not Bonaparte). But still, there's nothing quite like the tactile joy of actually putting ink on actual paper.
And for that, this year I have become a huge fan of the G2 gel pens. They're cheap -- around a buck fifty at Target -- but they write smooth as silk and just feel good when writing. I always have packs of both the black and the red laying around: black for scribbling notes in my faux-Moleskine style notepads, and red for marking up hard copy of screenplays ('m one of those twisted farts who feels a sick rush when he opens one of his own drafts to find it splattered in so much crimson that surely a pig was gutted on those pages).
No, the G2 is no Mont Blanc gold-nibbed "Bentley of writing instruments." Rather, it's more like a Honda Civic: inexpensive, not overly trendy or fancy to look at, but good luck in finding a more dependable, better bang for the buck option. Try one -- it won't cost much, and you might wind up with a new favorite cheap pen. I did.
Berol Black Warrior pencils
Yeah, smooth-writing pens are great, but I still have a deep affection for the subtlety and caveman-level simplicity of a good old graphite pencil. At least, so long as that pencil is a Black Warrior. Plain old "yellow pencils" can make lines on paper (usually...), but for my tastes, the Black Warrior flows where other pencils scratch. It's a little larger in the barrel (which suits my none-too-dainty maulers just fine), has a great soft pink rubber eraser (critical must-have feature for any decent pencil), a great soft extra-dark lead (supposedly made using a mixture of carbon black and graphite), and, best of all, is made of honest-to-Georgia Pacific red cedar, which means you can always bring the tip near your nose, inhale deeply, and know that in at least a few far-flung corners of Creation, some things remain Right and True. There are some scents which just make you warm and happy inside, and for me that list includes the smell of a well-oiled ball glove, a home-grown tomato, and a freshly sharpened Black Warrior pencil.
Shiner Dunkleweizen beer
I've been a Shiner man since before I was a man. I'm from a Czech family, which means (among other things) "beer is normal and good." I can clearly recall sipping beer from my parents and grandparents from age 4 and 5. No, I wasn't helping kill off a sixer while in grade school, but beer was as normal a part of everyday life as any other food product. And back in those days Shiner beer ("Premium" and "Bock" both) were still among the cheap beers in Texas. The fact that the stuff tasted like 4-dollar beer but cost like 2-dollar beer was likely a big part of the reason it was always around my tightfisted Granpa's place. So I've been drinking Shiner Bock for several decades.
But in recent years Shiner has expanded and upscaled itself into a premium regional brewery. Basically, that means they sell the same damned good beer but charge 6 bucks for a six pack rather than 3, and smile all the way to the bank. One cool result of this newly-improved profitability has been an expansion of the Shiner line, with lots of very cool beers coming on in limited or regional availability. Among those is Shiner Dunkleweizen (previously known for a while as Shiner WInter Ale). It's a dark wheat beer, but much like Shiner Bock, it doesn't have that heavy feel that dark beer usually does. It's a little bit sweet, but with a nice hoppy bitterness on the finish that keeps the taste from becoming cloying.
I've not yet found it in any restaurants, and I don't venture to serious beer pubs often enough to think about looking for this one beer, but I know I find it at my local market, and I know that I find it in my own fridge whenever I feel like kicking back at the end of a hard week. Are there better beers in the world? Hell, probably. I'm sure there are some tweed-wearing bearded collegiate types who'll explain with patience that that are 17 better beers in the world, or that all true beer fans recognize "Chateau Foofidoo" from Tierra del Bite Me as the world's finest brew. You know what, perfessor? You just go right ahead and go get yourself one of them fancy pants beers. I'm doing just fine with what i got.
Schick Mach III disposable razors
I hate shaving. In a perfect world, my facial hair would snap off at a length of 1/8 inch and I would continually sport a slightly scraggly "I don't care" look without any effort whatsoever. But ours is not a perfect world, and if I don't shave at least once or twice a week I very quickly start looking like member of the traveling cast for The Dan Haggerty Experience. My northern European genes have blessed me with that peculiar follicularity which make my forearms and legs look like an orangutan, enables me to grow a beard in 8 days but which keeps my chest largely smooth and shiny. I have to shave, or I look really ragged.
And I hate shaving. I have very coarse hair and whiskers, so I'm prone to stubble unless I use some serious pressure on the blade, and when I do that I'm prone to razor burn on my neck, as well as ingrown hairs, and it's all just nasty, and why do you people keep doubting that perhaps I have good damned reason for saying how I hate to shave.
But given that I MUST shave, I was pretty thrilled when I got a free trial in the mail one day from Schick: a free Extreme III triple head flexing pivoting razor with lubricating strips. Hell, it might have GPS, built in ice maker, and balloons for the kiddies for all I know. It seems like a serious hunk of technology for something meant just to denude my cheeks.
But damn if the thing doesn't kick serious butt. The blades are sharp, STAY sharp (even after cutting the wiry horsehair that grows from my body), and somehow all that triple blade and lubricating and pivoting and flexing work together to give me a shave that has so far not given me a single nick, burn, or ingrown hair in more than a year's worth of shaving. Yeah, yeah, they cost a bit more than the mega-pack of store brand disposable twin blade razors, but we are talking facial surgery, folks, so perhaps "splurging" an extra buck or two is not so much an expense as it is an investment, or insurance. However you rationalize it, these things work and work well.
But I still hate shaving.
HP Laserjet 1012 printer
I'm a writer, which means that I need people to read my words. With a computer, that means either I have to send a file to someone, or I have to output to paper. And given that I also much prefer to do my own personal editing of manuscripts in hard copy form rather than on a screen (red ink doesn't stick to my monitor so well, plus it's a pain to drag the iMac around to hotel rooms and campsites and swim practices and such), I like to have a dependable fuss-free black and white printer.
For that, I adore my trusty Hewlet Packard LaserJet model 1012. Now discontinued, this little puppy has never given me a moment of grief. I plugged it in on day one, started printing, and have never consulted the manual even once. When it ran out of toner after 6000 or pages, I popped open the door, lifted out the cartridge, dropped in a new one, closed the door... bingo bango the little beast went back to printing without pause or complaint. Quiet. Fast. Affordable. Dependable. Small. It's easily my favorite ever non-Apple hardware purchase.
And there ya go. Five Things That Work.
I'm not going to bother formally tagging specific people, because let's be honest: nobody reads this damned blog anyway (my autobiography is tentatively titled "I, Pariah"), but if by some twist of fate or spiteful act of the Almighty you find yourself washed up on my virtual shore and now feel some urge to carry forward this meme, then knock yourself out, cha-cha. But don't expect a cookie or a pat on the head from me.
I'm too busy with more serious work.