I’ve purchased goods from an online stranger twice in my life: seven years ago when I bought a used iPod touch on eBay, and then a few weeks ago when I bought a used iPad through Facebook Marketplace.
I met the seller outside of a nearby Safeway grocery store, where he talked to me for 20 minutes about everything from what it’s like working from home with a small child and cat to, well, that was basically all we talked about.
I’ve never felt more valued for being something other than a small child or cat.
(In case you forgot: you likely signed up for this newsletter on my website, jstnbrbr.com. I send a new email every month thanks to the support of my Bonsai partners. You can unsubscribe at any time via link in the footer.)
Anyway, I went home with a used 10.5” iPad Pro, keyboard folio, and Apple Pencil all in great condition for a great price (as well as a new connection on LinkedIn).
While I’ve always been curious to try using an iPad, Chromebook, or MacBook Air, I’ve never felt like I could justify buying one since my design work requires a large screen and above average computing power.
But now that I have two primary app driven workflows for all my Bonsai projects (writing in iA Writer and editing photos in VSCO), I wanted to see if they would be better on an iPad than my laptop and phone.
(I’ll pause here to let the privilege of that last paragraph sink in.)
When I write on my laptop I can get easily distracted because of how easy it is to switch between windows, tabs, and apps. Multi-tasking is too frictionless. I was hoping that the limitations of the iPad’s multi-tasking capabilities would prove easy enough to use while maintaining a level of friction that enforces singular focus.
Basically, I wanted a glorified typewriter.
So far so good — the smaller screen and lack of mouse makes editing long pieces of text more difficult (eg. moving multiple paragraphs to different places), but as a result, I’m more focused on what I’m writing in the moment instead of worrying about the paragraphs above and below.
And because text selection requires the extra effort of keyboard shortcuts or physically touching the screen, I think twice about breaking my flow to endlessly tweak sentences.
While writing on the iPad has a few tradeoffs, editing photos on the iPad is universally better compared to the arduous task of editing on my phone’s tiny screen. I mean:
I thought that using an iPad would give me profound thoughts on the future of computing, but instead it just dug up old frustrations.
As I feared before making my purchase, the most painful part of using the iPad is the stubborn ideology of iOS. I haven’t owned an iPhone in over five years and I’ve never used Apple Mail or iCloud for anything meaningful.
And boy howdy does abstaining from iCloud make using an iPad a pain in the booty (I’m sorry you had to read that sentence).
I’ll spare you the gory details — I’ve written enough at this point — but here’s the gist: any time I want to save, move, or open a file or photo, I’m forced through an elaborate maze to be able to choose whatever alternative app that I use instead of Apple’s default offering.
Rumor has it that Apple is finally considering giving users an option to change “default” apps (after 14 software releases and the vague, existential threat of antitrust lawsuits). Will that actually happen? Probably. Eventually. 🙄
Regardless, I’ve found the iPad to be an admirable stopgap for parts of my creative process. Which is…kind of a low bar? But that’s also all that I expected. The iPad is a slightly redundant, sometimes-more-convenient option than my 15” MacBook Pro. It’s a luxury device.
Man, what a boring iPad review.
Something stupid: $1 Drawings
While I’ve gotten lots of time with the iPad keyboard, I haven’t gotten a chance to experiment much with the Apple Pencil yet. So! Let’s do something stupid:
For the first 10 people to Venmo me $1, I’ll spend 5 minutes on my iPad drawing a picture of whatever you request (if you’re a Bonsai partner this is included as a perk 😂).
Within 48 hours of your request I’ll send you both the drawing and a recording of the process!
If you’re wondering
how good are you at drawing?
My answer is: eight years ago I got a B in Drawing 100 and haven’t drawn a lot since.
But if you don’t absolutely love your one-of-a-kind, commissioned piece, I guarantee a full refund.
One of my coworkers started a “lunch and learn” series where anyone in the company is free to present on a topic of interest or area of expertise during lunch — talks have ranged from creating 3D environments to sharing tales from a cross continent trip.
Last week I gave a “lunch and learn” on my Bonsai projects and the paid partnership model. It felt emotionally risky to present something so personal in a corporate context, but emotional risk and vulnerability is at the core of Bonsai after all.
The presentation was unrehearsed and it was also the first time I’ve tried putting together a complete story around why I’m doing everything that I’m doing (though I still forgot some important points).
If you’re interested in hearing the story I shared with coworkers, you can watch on YouTube below (the coffee shop background chatter dies down around 3:00):
Sustaining passion projects - YouTube
Lunch and learn at work
One Good Thing
Last month I linked to two newsletters that I enjoy reading and I was surprised by how much interest the recommendations drove – so I’ve decided that I’ll end each new Bonsai newsletter with One Good Thing.
I recently gifted our friends strawberry and peach jam from INNA Jam, a locally based — I’m not sure what the right term is — jammer? pickler? Whatever! All of their jams are organic and made by hand and are delicious.
The moment INNA’s jams landed on my tongue I knew I’d have to apologize to my taste buds for assaulting them with store bought, processed jams for all these years.
So taste buds, I am sorry. I didn’t know any better.
INNA’s jams are (understandably) expensive, so if you can’t justify spending that much on jam for yourself consider giving it as a gift!
Until next time,