Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My new iPad. Kind of.

I am writing this on my new iPad! Well, it's an iPad 2, so I'm not sure if i can say 'new iPad', but still, I got it last week and have been experimenting on it.

I'm having fun attempting to play the piano (not particularly possible with the app I have) and drawing right on the screen. I've always wished I could have a backspace button on actual pen-and-paper drawing, and now it's almost like I do. The app I have doesn't colour in exactly like coloured pencils, though, so I've got to figure out a way to get the effects I want without layering the same as I would with real pencils.

But... Writing! I was quite excited to start syncing my iPad with Scrivener, so I set myself up with Dropbox and a text editor, went into Scrivener, looked for the sync button and... It's not there!!!!! I have the Windows version, which doesn't have syncing yet, so I have to find another way to do things until they update it.

In the meantime, I've been trying to find out all the little secrets that help you type quickly on an iPad screen, and realising how much I rely on some things that do not exist on a virtual keyboard. Good tip: pressing and holding the comma will give you an apostrophe, or, even better, swiping up on the comma will do the same thing. Most other things I can work around (though I find I keep pressing the space bar by mistake), but I soon realised an important set of buttons that are missing. The arrow keys.

Where be-eth my arrow keys? I searched online and found a few forums with people arguing for and against arrow keys (why do you need them on a touch-based system, people argue), but I would really, really like some arrow keys. It's annoying to have to zoom in and out when you want to move the cursor one or two letters, especially when the autocorrect has done something stupid and you want to fix just one letter. I've since found that if you touch and hold, a little magnifying glass appears and you can move the cursor easier, but I still would like my arrow keys. Fingers are too big to move the cursor quickly. Apple should add some arrow keys.

Ooh! Or maybe they could ship tiny pet fairies with the device, and you could get the fairies to move the cursor. I think if Apple could do that, I would be happy.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kensington Gardens

They have sun here! Sometimes. It's been surprisingly sunny this past week, and today I have taken advantage of it and gone to Kensington Gardens. I am currently sitting on the grass near the Round Pond, where there are swans and ducks and lots of people. A wet dog with a large stick in its mouth has just run past me looking extremely pleased with itself. Despite the sign that I'm pretty sure said 'no cycles', there are lots of people tick-ticking through on their blue Boris bikes. There are also a few people wearing dark glasses and baseball caps, who I am watching out of the corner of my eye and wondering if they are celebrities.

They could just be normal people who like to wear dark glasses and baseball caps.

My sole idea of Kensington Gardens comes from Peter Pan, though now I'm here and looking around I think I recognise it from a few movies. I know there is a Peter Pan statue somewhere around (I'll go and look for that later) but I'd expected the gardens to be somewhat like Neverland - you know, jungly and lots of flowers. Instead it is rather civilised, with trees spaced far enough apart that lots of light gets through, and crisscrossing paths. Until I find some actual gardens, I think I'd rather call it Kensington Park.

There are lots of nice parks in central London: Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park, Regent's Park (containing London zoo), St James's Park and lots of smaller ones in squares. Some of the smaller ones are fenced and gated, and only for the use of the residents living around the square. I've walked through St James's Park a few times, and I love crossing the bridge where you can see Buckingham Palace in one direction and some fairy tale castle-like buildings in the other, with the London Eye in the background. The good thing about St James's Park is the squirrels - there are tonnes of them showing off and running back and forth. Regent's Park is quite near Camden Markets, and I have been told that you can walk around the back of the zoo and see some of the animals in the outer cages. I've mostly been in there walking through the fields on the east side to get into the central(ish) city.

Green Park makes me think of deck chairs, because that's where I first saw the striped deck chairs that are set up all over the lawns in some parks. It has lots of trees and avenues to walk down, and at one end is Buckingham Palace. Hyde Park adjoins Kensington Gardens, and they hold events like Winter Wonderland and Proms in the Park there.

Mission now: find Peter Pan. And maybe some jungle.



Sunday, March 18, 2012

The back streets of London. And some front streets.

I went a-missioning around the West End of London today. I had two destinations: an exhibition on German design and the Apple store on Regent Street.

The exhibition on German design turned out to be just a furniture shop looking pretty (though they did showcase retina-scan doorbells), so I didn't spend long there and instead wandered the streets around the back of Oxford Street. Oxford Street was stuffed with people, but it was nice and calm back here with a few fenced parks and little shops selling monocles and ribbons and suchlike. There are also a lot of residences (I'm not really sure whether to call them terraced houses. 'Terraced houses' to me suggests tiny little things. These are not tiny little things) with very expensive cars parked on the street. I saw an old Rolls Royce, I think, and what looked to be a Ferrari. Where else can you put your car when you have no garage or garden?

I found the new BBC studios and a church with a very pointy round spire, then turned down Regent Street and into the crowds. The Apple store is in a beautiful old mosaiced building not far from Oxford Circus, and it was full of people. I still managed to snag a new iPad at the demonstrating tables, although unfortunately it did not have any games that I could find. I guess they'd get too many people spending hours playing Angry Birds otherwise.

Back out on the street, I heard a brass band and turned to find a Salvation Army band coming out of one of the side streets. They marched right out onto the road (the cars had to stop for them), turned and walked up Regent Street, forcing the cars to trundle along behind them.

I wonder if they're allowed to do that? And, if not, how long it was before they were told off for obstructing traffic?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The West End (and all that jazz)

It's got to the time of year when it starts to get silly to wear your coat. Today was beautiful and sunny, and while I don't think it was quite warm enough to justify wearing shorts and T-shirt (as I saw some people wearing) it was not cold enough to wear my coat. It's a bit sad, really. I like my coat, and I've worn it most days for months.

But anyway, rewind to Wednesday, when it was still reasonably cold and I went to Chicago. Not the city, the musical in the West End. The West End is kind of like Broadway in that they have shows on permanently for years and years - very different from the blink-and-you'll-miss-it seasons they have in New Zealand (all right, maybe they're on for a bit longer than a blink, but still).

The theatre was a bit smaller than I'd expected and had a kind of faded glamour feel to it which worked really well for the show. There were little pairs of opera glasses attached to the back seats that you could liberate from their holders for a pound, but I only had two 50p pieces and they wouldn't fit in the slot. We had reasonable seats, though, so I don't think we needed them.

I (shock horror) haven't actually seen the film version of Chicago in its entirety (you know the way it goes - two things on at the same time on different channels, fight over the remote, skipping backwards and forwards between the two so you get glimpses but never enough to figure out the whole thing) so I can't compare it properly. I am told, however, that the film is relatively realistic, whereas the stage version is determined to break the fourth wall at every opportunity. Song and dance numbers are introduced by an MC, Velma addresses the audience directly and characters call for their 'exit music'. The dancing was excellent, as was the singing, and there was a great energy to the performance. I loved the ending (which I won't reveal) and now I should really go and find the movie and see how they compare.

There are so many musicals to choose from: Shrek, Wizard of Oz, Legally Blonde, War Horse, Wicked, Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia, Ghost, Woman in Black... and more I can't remember.

Must go to more.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pizza, Shopping and Toadstools

I went on a mission to Shepherd's Bush on Saturday, for shopping and pizza. I failed, pretty much, at shopping (though I've earmarked a few things for later consideration), and trekked for ages to get special NZ pizza from Hell with chicken, cranberry and camembert. Mmmm.

There were a lot of people at the mall, being Saturday afternoon. I was in the midst of a moving crowd of people when I saw a poster in a shop window with a man digging up a giant toadstool on top of a hill.

I stopped dead. I stared. People had to move around me.

(This needs back story. When I was quite young, I went on holiday to Auckland, NZ, and slid down the side of a volcano with giant metal/concrete toadstools on top of it. I have never been able to find this particular volcano again [there are 50 volcanoes in Auckland] and everyone I ask stares at me when I talk about giant toadstools. I was beginning to think I'd imagined it.)

But there it was, in full colour on a poster in a mall in England!

I took a picture. I think everyone else thought I was weird.