A Little Love for Apple’s Smart Keyboard

My iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard and a stack of books sitting on my bed.
My iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard and a stack of books sitting on my bed.

As much as everyone seems to be crazy for the Apple Pencil, my favorite thing on my new iPad Pro is the Smart Keyboard. Comfortably writing and doing research from my bed, while using keyboard shortcuts and being mobile AF? (That’s “as the f-word” for old fuddy-duddies like me.) It’s like productivity CPR.

(So much so that blogging has fallen by the wayside. True fact.)

If you like to write, and find yourself in the fortunate position of being able to obtain either a 10.5 or 12.9” iPad Pro, do yourself a favor and spring for the Smart Keyboard.

I have gnawing twinges of guilt over buying the iPad. (This despite the facts that 1. paying for the iPad involved and obscene amount of Best Buy gift cards stockpiled by my wife throughout the year—Pro-tip: You can only use 15 methods of payment per purchase at Best Buy, and each gift card counts as one method—and 2. we waited until Best Buy had discounted the price by $125. So, yeah. It came relatively cheap.) But none at all over buying the Smart Keyboard to go with it.

It should be noted that this post was composed entirely in my bed, written in Ulysses, edited and published in the WordPress iOS app, and typed up entirely on my Smart Keyboard.

It should also be noted that my Smart Keyboard stopped working, briefly, while writing this post. It’s the first time I’ve had that happen, and I suspect some sort of user error was involved.

Still. Life’s funny like that.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’ve got lazy typing to do.

Blue-Ringed and Blood Shot

Edited November 6th, 2017, to link up the art supplies.
Updated November 22nd, 2017, to note the passing of Gumball on November 21st. R.I.P., Gumball.

A colorful. close-up drawing of a cartoon blue-ringed octopus with a blood-shot eye, rings that escape into the water, and bubbles all around.
Blue Ringed and Blood Shot. Copic Multiliner SP 0.3, Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens, and Derwent Inktense pencils on Fluid 4 x 6 cold press watercolor block. October 24th, 2017.

This was actually drawn on the 24th of last month. I sat down to draw with a purpose in mind: To make a suitable graphic for my next post on Medium. I ended up drawing an octopus, which, frankly, happens more often than it should.

I’ll probably never post about octopuses on Medium. I can’t swim, I’ve never owned a salt water aquarium, and Gumball at the Aquarium of the Pacific is in hiding every time I visit—so all I know about octopuses I’ve learned from reading what someone else already knew.

I know enough to hazard a guess, though, that if a blue ringed octopus had a bloodshot eye, the vessels probably wouldn’t be red.

Why post a piece I’ll never put to good use? So my wife can see it later.

Why post it now? Because I’d like to get at the next sheet on that watercolor block!

Slowvember Suddenly Dawned on Me

There are two pictures today, because my Slowvember project has gone from “Hmm. What should I draw?” to “Oh! What am I drawing?!?”

Gold-edged art board with t-square, traingle, compass, eraser and drawing pencil on a black surface.
My Slowvember 2017 project-in-progress: previously-inked Canson Fanboy Manga Art Board with Wescott 12″ Junior T-Square and C-THRU triangle, Blick Large Spring Bow Compass and eraser, and a Derwent Graphic 2B pencil.

Yesterday, I had no idea what I was going to draw for this project. I responded in a logical way: I broke out the drafting tools.

I divided the art board roughly in half—both horizontally and vertically—with a t-square, traced the inside and outside of a triangle from a few positions at every innermost corner, and made circles with a compass at random intervals.

This was my first time using a Derwent Graphic Pencil, and possibly my first time using a 2H. I’m not a big fan of graphite, but I liked the feel of this pencil, and I’m hoping to give the 8B that came with the set a run once Slowvember runs out. (I also had to check out Wikipedia’s information on pencil grading, because—again—not a big fan of graphite.)

Derwent Graphik Line Maker pen on a gold-edged art board with black lines suggesting mountains and either a sunrise or sunset.
Lines suggest forms. Derwent Graphik Line Maker 0.5.

Once I was done playing with the drafting tools, I began inking the lines that I was sure I wanted to keep and use. The obvious shapes were a flat, jagged, mountainous form and a 3313 RPM vinyl record, the latter of which could easily be mistaken for a sunrise or sunset.

The challenge, then, is to take those conspicuous shapes, use them, and find a way to make them become more than what they obviously are.

Slowvember: Making the Frame

I’ve learned one quick lesson this Slowvember: Canson Fanboy Manga Art Boards don’t bear up well when too much water is applied. I expected it to perform more like Strathmore Bristol, but nope. The board I began Slowvember with has been replaced, as have the Inktense pencils I wanted to use.

Slowvember 2nd 2017

One objective I want to accomplish with this project is to make a piece that will be simple to mat and frame. I have not just a tendency, but a compulsion to work to the edges, so, on the rare occasion that one of my pieces gets framed, there’s a professional framer involved.

This was my primary motivation for using manga board: The guides around the board’s perimeter necessarily constrain me, forcing me to be conscious of, and work within, the established layout.

I inked over those rules and numbers with my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, taking the black to the edges. And, since frames were a part of my thought process, I inked the outermost section with old, dried-up, gold ink from Winsor & Newton. It was thick and clumpy, and provided great coverage when applied with angled synthetic brushes.

I still haven’t landed on an actual concept for the project, but I know what my next step is, what tools are involved, and that it will be important to this piece’s discovery process.


Orange you glad for Kyocera?

Orange Kyocera Chef's Knives Set
I kid you not! I won this set of Kyocera knives on Facebook!

I’m so tickled! I entered a giveaway to win a set of orange-handled Kyocera knives through Facebook. I didn’t expect to win. In fact, I was suspicious when I got an email telling me that I had won and asking for my home address. And I was still surprised when UPS delivered the knives, but look! There they are, in all their orange and white glory, on the table on the high veranda!

The set would be a perfect gift for my wife, since she loves Kyocera knives, and orange is her favorite color. Alas, I was brought up with the superstition that giving knives as a gift would cut the relationship between the giver and the recipient.

I love my wife more than I love either gift-giving, knives, or orange, so this set will have to settle for being mine, and for simply being perfect.

Thank you bunches, Kyocera! Both for the knives and for inspiring the awful pun up top!

Slowvember’s Slow Start

A very short, ink black Derwent Inktense pencil, held in rough, dry fingers.
That’s my ink black Derwent Inktense pencil, freshly sharpened, held over a Canson Fanboy Manga Art board. I could probably do with a new pencil. And maybe some hand lotion.

To be fair, I didn’t know that Slowvember was a thing until it was already underway. The point of Slowvember, according to the Society of Visual Storytellers, is to follow Inktober with a challenge “…to slow down the pace and work on one image and make it as good as you can.”

“While Inktober is about making a new image daily, Slowvember is about quality and getting something really good.”

And, since documenting the process is a part of the Slowvember spirit, I thought I would start at the start. Inktense pencils seem like a great way to begin a month-long art project which will probably end with more traditional inks and maybe even some Derwent Graphik Line Painters.

Are you participating in this year’s Slowvember? Feel free to comment below.

And don’t forget to hashtag!


Daily Post: Knowing Your Neighbors

This was written in response to today’s prompt Neighbors, from The Daily Post, a good site for helping you get to know your neighbors on WordPress.com. It was written with Bear, and edited using ProWritingAid.

An adorable senior Maltese standing in a dog stroller.
Nena in her stroller on the day we got it, with Linda’s leg visible through the mesh. The stroller is great for taking Nena on longer walks around the neighborhood!

I grew up in small towns, brought up with the notion that people in cities don’t know their neighbors. I believed that notion. I thought it reasonable that city folk, having come from other places and having myriad options for work and entertainment, might have neither the time nor inclination to get to know the people around them.

Good lord, was I wrong.

I now live in Anaheim, California. People may argue that Anaheim—even all of Orange County—is just a suburb of Los Angeles. But Anaheim boasts a population of over 300,000 people. If St. Louis is a city, then Anaheim is, too. And in Anaheim, I know my neighbors.

I know the military couple who rent the condo next to ours and whose Pomeranian owns more outfits than some children I’ve met. I know the athlete who lives alone, the Porsche mechanic whose wife lives in another country, the mechanic’s roommate and the mechanic’s cat, and the young couple at the end of the hall with their year-old daughter.

I know the people who live on the floor beneath ours, and the people whose units face the street.

In short, I know everyone who lives in our building.

My wife, Linda, and I know most of the people in the buildings immediately to the north and south of ours, as well as the building directly to the west. The further a building is from ours, the less likely we are to know its occupants.

We don’t know all the people on our block. That I’ll admit. But we might know all the dogs.

We know Winston, Brooklyn, and Jack (RIP), Bella and Bert. We know Rocco, Kona, Loki, Bodie, and Penny (who moved away). We know Charlie, Peyton and Kennedy. We know the American Eskimo dogs whose names we can’t pronounce. We know Sasha. We know Elway. We know well-dressed Bella. We know Miles who, like Penny, has moved away. We know Roxie, Lilo, Dumpster, Alphie, and Fiona.

We know our neighbors for two reasons. The first of these is interest.

Linda took interest in providing a platform for communication between neighbors,  so she set up a private group on Nextdoor for people—homeowners and renters, alike—who live in our development. She then took on the task of getting everyone to join.

She’s done well.  A high percentage of our neighbors have joined the group, and it’s more active than I expected, with people using the platform to find lost packages, announce HOA meetings and maintenance projects, discuss problems, and organize to find solutions.

The second reason is that we have a dog. Some of our neighbors interact with us because of our—admittedly ridiculously cute—dog. Even before adopting Nena, we knew our dog-owning neighbors, collectively, better than those without dogs. People who own dogs tend to walk them. They wander outside more often than people without dogs, and that makes them more available for social interaction.

As does the dog, itself.

It’s acceptable to want to greet another person’s dog, to want to pet that dog, to ask their name and their sex and their age, and to talk baby talk to them upon introduction.

Try that behavior with your adult, human neighbor. I dare ya. Unabashed delight is reserved for pets and small children.

In the last small town I lived in, for roughly twenty years, I knew my immediate neighbors, but not much beyond that. I didn’t know my neighbors there any better than I know my neighbors here.

In fact, the reverse is true.

Want to know your neighbors?

Live where you want.

Take interest in the people around you. Sometimes, their concerns are—or should be—your concerns.

Then get yourself a dog.

Edited November 3rd and 4th, 2017, to add links to a few of my favorite “neighborly” posts based on the prompt:

This, That, and the Other: Regrettable Greta
The Introspection Connection: The Apartment
Litterbox Riot: neighbors

Improvised “Tags” for WordPress Pages

Over the past two days, I’ve moved a lot of content to WordPress.com. Most of it has been published as pages, rather than posts. Last night, I wondered how I was going to go about making those 90-some pages of content more discoverable.

Also last night, I figured out a workaround.

You can do this in a page or post, but I prefer using a Custom HTML widget.

All you have to do—in that widget, page, or post—is create a series of links to search results within your site.

Format your links like this, where “tag” is the term you want to run a search for:

<a href="/?s=tag">tag</a>


<a href="domain.tld/?s=tag">tag</a>

So, for example, if I wanted to create a “tag” for “workaround” on this site, I would write this:

<a href="/?s=workaround">Workaround</a>


<a href="sharonda.net/?s=workaround">Workaround</a>


<a href="smwoodfin.wordpress.com/?s=workaround">Workaround</a>

I’m currently using relative URLs (the version which doesn’t include the domain) because the code won’t need to be updated even if it’s served from a different address, and for consistency between my primary domain and my WordPress.com subdomain.

You can see how this works by clicking here: Workaround

This workaround isn’t quite as simple as adding a tag on a post, but the method will work for both sites and pages, and it’s not at all difficult to implement.