Tag Archives: Technology

Beanbags are the Answer: Treadmill Desk

This is my first official “treadmill desk” post. I’m walking as I write this. I still haven’t quite got the brain/body connection going, though. My typing isn’t quite up to par, and I caught myself trying to write “I’m writing as I walk this.” But I’ll get it with practice.

The first treadmill desk-er I met was Arthur Slade. That was less than a year ago; I’ve been thinking about it and working my way up to it ever since. Take a look at Arthur Slade’s treadmill desk here. I haven’t got a fancy helmet like his, though.

I like the idea of walking while I write. I’d been standing at my desk for a few months now (I elevated the keyboard and monitor with pop cans), and it felt pretty natural. I fidgeted a lot, though, and would get a sore back if I stayed in one position too long.

For me, part of the appeal is the energy aspect of it. I want to keep my blood (and hopefully the ideas) flowing, and avoid that mid-afternoon slow-brain period. Walking slowly isn’t a lot of exercise, but it beats sitting in one place. I’m not sure how many calories I’ll burn this way, but I hope it will help me stay at my desk, and stay alert, longer.

My treadmill is a Horizon CT 5.1 It was on sale at Canadian Tire last week. It’s quiet and stable and I have enough room that I don’t need to worry too much about where I put my feet (useful for us clumsy types). It also folds up when I’m not using it — it’s not exactly compact, but at least I can run a vaccuum under it that way. I built the “desk” to work with the treadmill.

My monitor sits on a wall shelf. Since I couldn’t find quite the size shelf I needed, I built it. Same with the keyboard tray. They’re both cut from the same sheet of birch plywood, and I used glue-on wood edging to finish them. My shelf clips came from Solutions.

The keyboard try sits on two large beanbags, also homemade (filled with dried yellow peas, in case anyone’s curious). I had originally planned to stuff them into the cup holders and set the tray on them there, but that covered all the treadmill controls. The handrails were too far back, but with the beanbags tied to the spot where the handrails meet the console, it seems to work. I can reach the treadmill controls and see the monitor just fine, and everything is at the right height.

Eventually, I’ll use velcro to fix the keyboard tray to the beanbags, but I want to wait a while and make sure that this is the way I’m going to keep things. And, of course, my sit-down desk is still intact (with my laptop), because I know there will be times when I want to work that way. I still use paper for a lot of my editing.

It’s only day one, but so far, so good. I’m going to go write a chapter or three now; I feel like my characters should be walking somewhere slowly, on a journey of sorts. Gee, where did that idea come from?

I’ve Been iPadded! (Geek-talk alert.)

For our tenth anniversary last month, my lovely husband surprised me with an iPad. (I’ve mentioned that he’s a hard-core Mac Geek, right?)

I’m not exactly an early adapter when it comes to technology, and I have to admit, it took me a little while to come around. I have a laptop that I’m very happy with, and a hand-me-down iPhone, so what was the use of this in-the-middle size? But the thing I love most about Macs is their customizability. So, with a few new Apps and wallpapers and a little time, the nameless, out-of-the-box iPad became ‘Zoe’, my purse-sized, indispensable writing buddy.

Which is exactly what my husband knew would happen. Except, possibly, for the name part.

I’m not going to turn this into an iPad commercial. Suffice it to say, Zoe has come in handy — I am slowly coming around to e-books, and I love all the educational Apps available for my six-year-old daughter. (Math games! Yay!) The part that other writers want to know, though, is how it works for writing.

Here’s what I’m using:

1. iAWriter: I love the minimal screen display and the expanded keyboard. And because it uses text files and works with DropBox, it’s not hard to get my current draft from my computer to my iPad and back again. It does take some juggling, though, so I’m still waiting for Scrivener, my beloved writing software, to get in the ring. (According to this post, it’s in the works, but breath-holding is not advised.) My wish list: the ability to use iA Writer with rich text files

2. Evernote: The key for me, again, is the ability to share files with my Mac. With Evernote, I can jot down a story idea while I’m out and have it sync with my Mac when I’m home again.

3. Penultimate: Because sometimes it’s just fun to write with your finger. Also, this one is useful for getting my daughter to practice her spelling words.

4. Index Card: Well, to be honest, I haven’t used this one yet, just because I’m not at the shuffling-index-cards stage with any of my current projects. And one of the things that I love about Scrivener on my Mac is that the index cards are built in and work seamlessly with the rest of the application. Still, I like the look of this one, and I’m sure that it’ll come in handy, at least until an iPad version of Scrivener comes along.

That’s what I’m using right now. I’ll add more as I discover them! In fact, I’ve just noticed on the Scrivener blog page that apparently Scrivener 2.0 will sync with SimpleNote, so I’ll have to check that out when the time comes.

For a more thorough listing of writer-friendly Apps available for the iPad, please see this round-up by the incomparable InkyGirl.

Sunbonnet for Stella

Stella is my iBook. I’m about to take her on a trip to Nova Scotia, for a week-long writing workshop/retreat hosted by Peter Carver and Kathy Stinson. I’m hoping to do some writing outside. Stella has a shiny screen, though, and the glare from the sun gets to be a bit of an issue. 

I looked at different visors that are available, but didn’t like any of them. Macs are nice-looking computers; why cover them up with black vinyl? I also didn’t like the idea of any adhesive residue or velcro pads stuck on the lid. There’s a pretty cool telescoping visor out there, but it cost more than I wanted to spend. 

Fortunately, I have a Mom who’s pretty handy with a sewing machine. I took some measurements, drew up a plan, and brought her some fancy umbrella-patterned fabric (and apple buttons, of course). Here’s the result.  

It might be a bit cutesy for some (okay, for most, and don’t even get me started on what my Mac-loving husband thinks of this whole dress-up thing), but it suits me just fine, and it doesn’t leave any marks on Stella. The top and side panels are reinforced with plastic binder dividers and cardboard. Thin elastic holds the “sunbonnet” on to the laptop lid. The whole thing folds down small enough to fit in my computer bag. 

So, off to Nova Scotia this Saturday for a field test…