A Week+ on Monterey

For over a week, I’ve been using a newly purchased MacBook Air (2020) as my daily driver for work. I bought a new laptop after giving my previous one, an ASUS Zenbook, to my sister since her current/old one was dying.

When I was shopping for a new laptop, I had a few requirements in mind. It had to be powerful enough for my work (because laggy computers are bad), lightweight (I intended to bring it everywhere), have good battery life (nobody likes lugging around chargers or being limited when deciding where to sit), and be something I could, of course, afford.

The MacBook Air ticked all the boxes. And this was before I had any first-hand experience using the machine. Reading up the specs and watching tons of videos about the laptop gave me all the information I needed to make my decision – it wasn’t something I took lightly. I spent a long time ruminating about the purchase because I had the time to do so (I had no opportunity to work outside due to the lockdown).

So what were my qualms about the MacBook Air? Initially, it was the new Apple Silicon. I had been exclusively using Intel processors when it came to laptops and desktops (minus the one time I had a prebuilt desktop with an AMD processor), so I was skeptical about how well an ARM-based processor could run a fully-featured desktop operating system.

Speaking of the operating system, how would I handle the transition? I had been using Windows for the better part of my life and the idea of having to switch to something else seemed daunting. Would I have access to all apps and programs that I needed?

Battery life for laptops is one of my biggest gripes. I’ve been let down way too many times by how poorly Windows laptops perform in this area. Many high-end devices I’ve tried out in the past have let me down. Even when I was still using the Zenbook, which had great battery life in the beginning, I didn’t feel safe leaving home without bringing my charger along.

Google and YouTube were my best friends during this period, and I looked up everything I wanted to know. Nothing swayed my opinion when it came to the laptop’s hardware – all the reviews said that the machine was a beast with killer battery life. As for the software, I wasn’t too concerned – if I could do my work on Linux/Android, I could survive on Mac OS.

With all that in mind, I chose the base model MacBook Air and upgraded the RAM and storage (16GB/512GB). I could have gotten by without the extra storage since I don’t plan to store large files on my laptop and always have thumb drives with me but I felt I could afford the additional peace of mind. As for the RAM upgrade, I’m glad I got it since Activity Monitor tells me I’m constantly using over 12GB (Photoshop, Chrome, and MS Teams are real resource hogs). If you use similar apps often, you’ll probably want the RAM upgrade if you don’t want your SSD being used constantly for memory swaps.

My Thoughts

I’m still getting used to Mac shortcuts. It’s annoying when programs like Chrome have different hotkeys for Windows/Mac, so I spent a lot of time learning new ones to get back up to speed. I’m still clicking a bunch of stuff, but I’ll memorize it all eventually. Also, I’ve been absentmindedly using Mac shortcuts on my Windows desktop.

Mac OS felt familiar to me – it reminded me a lot of Ubuntu which I’ve used in the past. The main difference is me not having to use the terminal (at all, except when trying to get some apps running).

Transitioning to working on Mac OS wasn’t difficult since most of my work is done within Chrome (what can’t be done through your browser these days?). I did download a few additional apps, and even though they weren’t working natively on Apple Silicon, they ran without a hitch (besides the fact they consumed a lot of memory). Hopefully, those issues will be addressed in the future.

There were some things I had to get used to on MacOS – I couldn’t use hotkeys to quickly arrange/tile my windows nor could I launch pinned programs on my dock like you can on Windows. Fortunately, this was rectified by downloading Rectangle and Snap but I was surprised that the operating system didn’t have this built-in, in my opinion, they’re pretty rudimentary features.

Despite my MacBook Air having a 2560 x 1600 display, I couldn’t make full use of that resolution without the use of a third-party app (EasyRes). That felt odd to me. A lot of programs aren’t on the App Store (even popular ones like Discord/Spotify), I had to download them from their websites instead. Not a big deal since I don’t use the Windows App Store either but I had the impression the Mac App Store would be the main way to get popular apps.

Gestures are awesome, I enjoy using Mission Control for working on multiple desktops and switching between apps. The trackpad is intuitive, and I’ll never understand the complaints about Macs not having touchscreens. Having used touchscreen laptops and tablets in the past, I have never yearned for their inclusion in any laptop. External pointing devices get the job done better (and you don’t have to worry about finger stains).

Battery life is amazing – I can get a full day’s use and still have plenty left at the end of the day, so there’s no need for me to carry a charger around. One thing to note, this selling point goes away when you increase the laptop’s brightness. I experienced it the other day – 77% of battery life gone in 4 hours because I set it to the maximum. Since learning that, I’ve kept my MacBook Air at 50% brightness and lasts as long as advertised. At the time of writing, my MacBook Air has a screen on time of 11 hours and I still have 32% of juice left. If you’ve been waiting for tablet-like battery life on a laptop, the wait is over.

Performance is great. I know my workflow doesn’t push the machine to its limits, but you can check out the tests done by other folks to see what it’s capable of. The M1 processor is no slouch when it comes to running heavy-duty applications and multitasking. The fact that the MacBook Air can do everything it does without slowing down or heating up (it doesn’t even have fans!) is a bold statement by Apple. It no longer has to rely on Intel for its high-performance machines, and I’m happy to come along for the ride.

Touch ID is very useful. I like how fast and responsive it is, no complaints there. I wish it was on the iPhone too.

Conclusion

I’m very happy with my MacBook Air purchase. Would I have been satisfied with yet another Windows laptop? Perhaps, since I wouldn’t know what I missed out on. But I’m glad I made the purchase. It would suck having to lug around a power brick in my bag again. The quirks I’ve experienced with Mac OS have been solvable with some extra apps and everything else not mentioned is something I can live with. Will I switch to Mac desktops in the future? Probably not, since gaming on Windows is still king but I’m definitely open to staying on the Mac train when it comes to laptops for productivity.

MacBook Air – the best laptop I’ve ever spent my money on, would totally recommend 10/10.

“There’s no telling how much longer your world and mine will remain in contact.”

A long-awaited (by nobody) update to this mostly ignored blog. Hah! Thought it was dead, didn’t you? Not a chance. The domain and hosting expire in April 2022, so we’ll still be around. Also, I intend to keep it going. So nope, this blog won’t die, just yet. But what’s the point of a blog that isn’t frequently updated? I’ll tell you.

It lets me know how much time I’ve spent doing other things instead of updating my blog. Previously, I had plenty of things to fill these pages with. An update a day because I had so many things to talk about. As time went on, I found myself spending time on things other than writing because writing for fun isn’t that enjoyable when you do it for a living. To me, at least.

I can pinpoint my blogging habits according to the amount of writing I had to do for work over the past few years of my life. I wrote a lot more when I didn’t have to write much for work. I guess my body has a limited word output capacity. Also, it’s a mental thing. I’m sure I could keep on writing if I wanted, it’s just that I choose to spend my energy on other things instead.

Like Animal Bus. In case you weren’t aware, one year and eight months after the comic launched, I have completed it, and I couldn’t be happier. This means I get to work on other projects without feeling guilty (self-imposed, mind you). Nobody was making me feel bad other than myself and now I don’t have to anymore. While it’s not the best comic I have ever done, it is the first full-length I have completed and it was a great learning experience.

The art and story are terrible, I had the chance to make changes to them and I didn’t. Why? My goal for the comic was to mess around with my Wacom tablet and experiment with the graphic novel format. It was never intended to be my magnum opus (on a side note, do people ever know that what they are doing is going to be their masterpiece?) but a chance for me to prove to myself that I was capable of working on larger scope projects and seeing them through to the end.

What did I learn? Making long-form comics as a hobby is not easy. You need a lot of motivation to push yourself to keep going, especially if you’re working solo. In a team, you can be held accountable. If you’re being paid, you’re expected to deliver. When you’re doing something this ambitious for fun, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself. If you don’t feel like working, nobody can call you out. You’re just doing this for fun! It took a lot of willpower and faux discipline for me to complete all 50 chapters.

Things that appear simple aren’t so simple. There’s a reason major, scheduled comics have teams working on them. You have a writer, artist, inker, colorist, and letterer. It’s not so easy doing everything by yourself. For someone with no experience in laying out comics, I had to fall back on making simple layouts (4 panels per page, somewhat equal sizes). Speech bubbles were another thing to consider – where should they be? How much text should I put inside each one? What’s the reading order? Does it look good visually? What about the text? When should I break sentences up? There’s a lot I had to learn during the execution of Animal Bus.

Unless they were written with the intention of being comics from the beginning, stories are hard to translate into interesting comic panels. The original draft for Animal Bus had tons of monologue, character thoughts, and other non-visual elements. Because I originally didn’t have plans to turn it into a comic, I had to make a lot of changes while drawing it. This ‘translation’ process took up a huge chunk of my time. I had to be clever when deciding what to cut out, include or change.

If you’ve read the comic from the start, you would know that I initially wanted to color the whole thing. I mean, it’s just line drawings – I could use the paint bucket to color everything right? Maybe if I was more careful with my drawings, that would have been possible, but I had to use the brush to manually paint them, and that took up so much time. A few chapters in, I decided that it wasn’t worth it and skipped coloring altogether.

In any case, it was probably too ambitious of a project for me to tackle as my first comic but if I didn’t complete it, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you this. That being said, when I do go back into making comics, I’m definitely going to work on a smaller scale. There’s no need to bite off more than I can chew. It won’t be anytime soon though – I’m done making comics, for now. I might still doodle stuff here and there (find me on Instagram) but I’m going to spend more time on music, dive back into game development stuff and maybe experiment with video essays (I’ve gotten very interested in them recently and am curious if I have the chops to pull one off). I also recently got back into Dark Souls, so that’s a good time sink.

Hope everyone is staying safe from COVID-19. The world kinda sucks right now. Take care.

Not Quite a Black Mirror

I was browsing through a local Facebook Group earlier today to see what was going on and I noticed a strange phenomenon. There were a lot of people who didn’t use their own profile pictures in the group. And I don’t mind if it’s some anime picture, cartoon, or landscape and so on. But a bunch of accounts used profile pictures of celebrities/models – people who they clearly weren’t. I know gravure models don’t live in Malaysia and share the same interests as me. Also, they don’t even pretend to be the model by using the same name, they have their own names attached to the profile.

What does using a cute Japanese girl or K-pop star in your profile picture accomplish? I’m befuddled. Does it give other people a better impression of you? Do you get better prices or responses to your items or comments? Does it make you feel good when you’re on Facebook? Does it make you feel closer to that person? Does it make you smile whenever you launch Facebook and you see that profile picture looking at you? Why in the world would you do that? What do you gain from it?

I’m not saying it’s wrong to do so, I’m really curious why people would do that. I understand being shy or wanting to remain anonymous – there are literally billions of other images you could substitute your profile picture with to not come out looking like a creep (or a weirdo…what the hell are you doing here? you don’t belong here).

Which brings to mind another topic I wanted to discuss in the past but forgot about: why do people use their own portraits as wallpapers for their phones? I get it when it’s a photo of a family member or your children, but when it’s a solo photograph of yourself? How narcissistic does one have to be to put themselves on their phone screens? Maybe I’m insecure about my own looks and don’t feel confident enough to put my own face as my wallpaper, and I’m the odd one out here, but never in my life have I ever felt compelled to do such a thing. It boggles my mind. Again, it’s not wrong to do so – put whatever the hell you want on your phone, it’s your phone and not mine.

Apparently, it can be helpful for some people to cope with their own lives. TIL.

Second Stage Turbine Blade

“I started with the hands, cos they looked like the easiest part to swallow. I didn’t have to chew too much. The internals weren’t too bad either. Not something I’d typically consume but it was bearable.”

“Oh god, you must have been famished. I can’t imagine what you did with the shell!”

“Haha, you have no idea. I had to grind it up before it was palatable. No way I could have eaten it whole. Was a pretty interesting experience!”

“Ew! Did you get the shits?” Fred laughed.

Jimmy pulled up a chair and sat at our table. “What are you guys talking about? Sounds juicy!”

“I was just telling Fred that I ate a clock yesterday, it was very time-consuming.”


Writing Prompt from Reddit: [CW] Write a story around a pun, a joke, or a punchline

Excursion

“On the right, beyond those rocks, you can see the cheetahs resting under the trees, waiting for the sun to come down before they start to hunt,” said Ms Lilium through the microphone.

The kids all looked out the side of the bus, trying to catch a glimpse of the predators they had only read about in books, letting out “oohs” and “ahhhs” excitedly.

This was their first excursion out of the Dyson sphere to planet Earth, and they were finally able to observe with their own eyes things they had only seen in books and television.

The driver slowed the bus down as a herd of deer stood in the middle of the road, blocking their path.

The deer were now circling the bus, noses in the air, sniffing frenziedly.

“Wait, aren’t deer herbivores?” said Lucy, the smart alec of the class.

Little Tommy felt a shiver run down his spine.


Writing Prompt from Reddit: “Wait, aren’t deer herbivores?”

Five Thousand Years

My jaw dropped, I could not believe what I was seeing.

There she was, standing precariously at the edge of the road.

Was it really her? She must be at least thirty five thousand years old now.

I called out, “Come here, Snuggles!”

She yelped, ears flailing in response, and ran to me.


Writing Prompt from Reddit: [WP] For five thousand years you thought you were the only immortal on earth, then one day you run into an old friend. A very, very old friend.

Paths

“Are you ready?” she asked me.

Turning back now would have been near impossible. I nodded wordlessly.

She handed me a coin. “It’s all up to you now.”

I removed my backpack and set it on the ground. The woods were surprisingly well lit at this hour. The moon must be working hard tonight. We were back at same forked path we had backed out of before – but we didn’t have the luxury tonight. I had to make a decision.

There were two routes in front of us. I had to choose one of them, but I wasn’t sure which one. There were no signs or any clear indication. She suggested I flip a coin to decide when the time came, and that time was now.

“Isn’t it the stupidest idea?” I said.

“Do you have a better suggestion?”

“No. But, we’re leaving it all up to chance!”

“You know that’s not true. Once the coin is in the air, you’ll wish for it to land on one of its sides. You can’t explain it, but you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s already a path you want to take. We can choose to go with your gut – or with whatever side the coin lands on. It’s up to you to decide, either way it’s all the same to me.”

I pondered for a moment. “Why can’t you make the choice for me? That way it would be so much easier!”

“This isn’t my journey. I’m but a mere companion. I go where you go.”

“What about them?”

“What about them?”

“Won’t we run into them if we go down the wrong path?”

“Sure, but we could also avoid them entirely. There’s a chance.”

“We could turn back-“

“And let them come after us? That’s fine with me too. We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”

“You’re not very helpful.”

“I know. I’m also imaginary,” she said with a smile.

“Very funny.”

I flipped the coin. It landed heads. Right where I wanted to go.

I picked up my backpack and headed down the path. She disappeared as quickly as I had made up my mind. I hoped I was right.


Writing Prompt from Reddit: [DP] “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”

Connect

It was a long and arduous trek to the edge of the world. Jimmy had trained his whole life for this moment, and today he was going to accomplish what nobody else before him had done. He was going over the edge. To be fair, he was going to be the first because nobody else cared enough. He didn’t even know what got into him. Nobody in his village believed that there was anything beyond the horizon, and the idea to visit it never crossed their minds. He wanted to prove them wrong. Lazy fucks! After two years of getting in shape and living in the wild to train himself to the harshness of the environment, was prepared for the journey.

It had been months since he bid farewell to his village, nobody shed a tear when he did. They expected him to give up and return, and since he didn’t, they probably thought he was dead. By his calculations, he’d be reaching the edge of the world soon. He had read in books about his ancestors living on a sphered world, where it would have been impossible to reach its edge (since it didn’t have one) but there were a significant amount of people who believed otherwise. Idiots. He knew that his world was flat because he had seen pictures of it taken from the air (at a very high altitude). There was an end point – and today he was going to find it.


She was on the run. There was no turning back now. Her family massacred, lover murdered right before her eyes. It had been by chance she had managed to slip by the marauders. She took it, and never looked back. Instead of heading westward, where other villagers could have sheltered her and offered protection, she decided to head east, towards the barren wasteland of the world. She preferred to take her chances on the unknown, instead of leaving her life in the hands of strangers. How would she know that they wouldn’t sell her out to those creatures? The monsters had caught up to her village because someone spilled the beans in the first place.

One thing she knew for sure – the marauders would never follow her east. It was much too dry and barren for them to travel through. They thrived in wet and slimy places – just like her own kind. She decided that she would rather die to the hands of nature than the claws of those beasts.

As she continued her journey east, she realized that the horizon was appearing closer to her – it wasn’t some intangible line that she thought it was when she first spotted it as a child. It seemed very real – like something within reach. She set her sights on it, and made it her goal. A literal endpoint to her escape. She wondered what laid ahead.


Writing Prompt from Reddit: [WP] A shattered Dyson sphere is fragmented across a dim star. It’s creators have long ascended. New life emerges on the sphere’s inner shell, where civilizations use the fragments as islands. Fungal life grows on the outer shell, surviving in the cold dark. The two sides meet for the first time.

Pizza

It was just another evening in Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque. I had just completed my exhausting journey through rush hour traffic and parked in my driveway when I saw that my neighbors, the Whites had done the same thing as well. Mr White, head of the family, got out of his car, walked around to the back to get stuff from the trunk – a red sports bag and a pizza box. From the back of his car, emerged their son, who hobbled with his crutches towards the entrance of their house.

I called out “good evening” and waved, but they didn’t seem to have noticed me. It’s okay, they must have had a long day, I told myself. The Whites were usually cheery enough to reciprocate, just not today. I walked out to the sidewalk and lit up a cigarette, watching the kid entering the house, while his parents stood at the doorway talking.

I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it looked like Mrs White didn’t want Mr White to enter their home. She took the sports bag from him but refused him entry. She didn’t seem to want the pizza either. Mr White’s face turned from one of elation into one of defeat. Ouch.

I stamped out my cigarette and walked to my front door. As I unlocked it, I turned to look at the Whites again. This time I saw Mr White stomp angrily towards his car, pause, and threw the box of pizza onto his roof! What happened next was magical – and I kid you not – the pizza flew out of the box and landed on the roof, while the box fell onto the ground. The pizza, uneaten and a perfect circle, lay there, as though it was meant to be there all along. I quickly went into my house, not wanting to appear nosy and peeked out through my windows. Mr White had started up his car and sped off. Something must be going on between the Whites!


Writing Prompt from Reddit: [WP] When you die, you end up in the universe of your favorite TV show as a background character. You see the events of your show unfold from your point of view.

3478*

I punched the number into the payphone after the job was complete, just like I was instructed to. Goddamit, pick up the phone. Why isn’t she picking up?? The dial tone continued ringing. I looked around anxiously, outside it was pitch black. The only source of light for miles was from within the phone booth I was standing in. It was quite a trek, but I had selected this place for a reason. Nobody would pass by at this hour, let alone this season – it had been snowing for days.

I stayed on the phone, waiting for someone to pick up. doo doo… doo doo… still no answer. I checked the time on my watch: four a.m. What the fuck do I do now? Why didn’t we come up with a plan B? Holy fuck. Frustrated, I hung up the receiver. This was no time to panic. What was my next step?

I looked out of the phone booth again to make sure that nobody had followed me, I was alone. I stepped out into the snow, walked around to the side to shield myself from the win, and sat down, back against the wall. What did I get myself into?

The calm that I felt faded away and was now replaced by fear and anxiety of the crime I had committed half an hour ago. Well, the crime I had looked like I committed.

I was told by Miss Chicanery (a fake name, I’m sure) I’d be paid double the reward of turning her in by donning a wig and dressing up like I had just killed someone in cold blood. I only had to walk past some security cameras to lead the authorities astray, while she (who would have done the deed), exited the same building in the opposite direction.

I had to make sure that I wasn’t followed, call her up to check in, and meet her somewhere else to collect my reward. Because she wasn’t answering, and I had no idea what to do next. I pulled out a cigarette and lit it up, I needed something to calm down my racing heart.

Now’s not the time to panic.

I finished my smoke and headed back into the phone booth, I tried the number one more time.

“What took you so long?” said the voice on the other end.

“Me?? I called you about five minutes ago and nobody picked up!”

“You must have dialled the wrong number, I’ve been waiting for you to call all night and my phone didn’t even ring once!”

“Forget about it, now that we’re talking – where do we go next?”

“You sure nobody is on your tail?”

“I’m pretty-“

There was the sound of a gunshot on the other end, followed by the thud of the cellphone dropping to the ground. What the fuck just happened over there? The sound of footsteps crept towards the phone. A man cleared his throat and spoke.

“Miss Chicanery?”

I remained silent. Do they think she is me??

“I know you’re listening. Nice decoy, but you’re not going to get away this time. I’ll be seeing you soon.”

He hung up. I placed the receiver back in its place and collapsed against the wall. Holy fuck. What did I get myself into?


Image Prompt from Reddit: Phonebooth