“Ladies. Has it ever occurred to you that fairy tales aren't easy on the feet?”
Kelly Link

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

the wide world of Android apps, as illustrated by Default Dude
Thu 2015-03-26 23:54:24 (in context)

Some years ago I was introduced to the Pomodoro technique for time and task management. I tried it out. After a while, I drifted away from some of its tenets--like, tracking how many 25-minute sessions, or "poms," I got done, or considering interrupted poms forfeit, or logging my distractions, or limiting myself to 5-minute breaks between poms. But the basic idea stuck with me: Set a timer, work during the timer, take a break after the timer goes off.

The timer application I got in the habit of using was Focus Booster (which I see has come up a few version numbers since I last downloaded it). I think at the time the Pomodoro people were linking to it. It's designed for the Pomodoro technique, in that it alternates work sessions and breaks, whose length you can define separately (default 25 and 5 minutes, respectively). But I started using it for just about anything with a duration of 2 minutes or longer. It came in useful for physical therapy, for instance.

I never quite got around to installing Focus Booster on the ASUS laptop when I moved all my work off the Dell. Either I just timed myself off the computer clock, "I'm done at 15:45" kind of thing, or I maybe possibly perhaps didn't actually get my timed writing done at all. *shamefaced*

Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated part of my brain, I'd just gotten the news that there will be no new levels for Two Dots rolled out to the Facebook app. This made me all kinds of unhappy. I don't have a smart phone, I don't want to have to get a smart phone--and, thanks to John's smart phone, I managed to get addicted to Two Dots during our train trip to New Orleans back in December. We'd take turns attempting levels, passing his phone back and forth. I was so happy when I found out I could play it on my computer via Facebook--and so sad to learn the game designers would not be supporting it on that platform anymore.

The disappointment was enough to spur me to try just one more time to install the Android emulator BlueStacks on my laptop. I'd tried to get it to work back in December, but either the application froze on initialization, or once it launched it felt klutzy and laggy to navigate, or I couldn't figure out how to get Google Play to let me install Two Dots in the first place ("You don't have any devices!" Damn straight I don't--that's why I'm trying to install an emulator!). Well, this time I managed to get it to work. BlueStacks itself seems to have rolled out a more stable and fluent version earlier this year, for one thing. But the main thing is, I flailed harder at Google Play until I stumbled across the process for linking my "device" (i.e. BlueStacks) to my Google account. I'm honestly not sure how I got there. I logged into Google, I logged out, I Alt-Tabbed over to Firefox, I came back, the dialogue box was waiting for me.

So now I'm happily playing through the Two Dots levels all over again, eagerly anticipating the happy day when I finish level 185 and keep going. Cave levels! Jungle levels! More dots! More!

I'm also happily discovering the world of free Android apps. Oh my gosh, y'all, is this why everyone loves smart phones? All the apps! For doing everything.

Maybe for timing poms?

I was completely app-happy by now, so I went looking for timer apps. And I found the Pomodoro Challenge Timer. It's like Focus Booster with more stuff: the ability to define projects, to track poms completed on each project, to define both short breaks and long breaks, and, best/worst of all, a tendency to nag you until you get to work. Seriously. When it's time to get back to work, it whistles at you. Like a sports coach. If you do not promptly click the START POMODORO button, it whistles at you again and displays the message, "Any reason why you're not working?" Nag, nag, nag! I'm not sure it motivated me per se, but it amused me, and I played along. And I logged five poms today before I had to do other stuff to get ready for tonight's roller derby scrimmage.

Did I mention it has achievements? It has achievements you can unlock. They are very sarcastic. Today I worked for at least two hours in a single day using the Pomodoro technique, thus unlocking the coveted "One foot off the couch" achievement.

Anyway, all that stuff comes with the free version. If you pay a whopping $4, you unlock Pro mode, which gets you a few other perks.

My only complaint about the thing, really, is about its front page design. The WORK button is illustrated by Iconic Construction Man! The PROJECTS button is illustrated by Iconic Science Guy! The ACHIEVEMENTS button is illustrated by Iconic Triumphant Business Dude! Like, would it have hurt to make one of these three Iconic Dudes a Dudette? How hard is it to insert a Rosie the Riveter type figure, or Marie Curie? For the love of little bran muffins, people!

It's a little piece of discouragement that looks me in the face every time I fire up the app: Male is the default pronoun, and Man is the default human. (Yes, even in women's sports. The number of times I've heard a roller derby coach or trainer tell a bunch of women on skates to form a "four-man wall," or describe the goal of our pack sprint as "no man left behind," exceeds my patience for keeping score. And don't get me started on "if you can't do a boy push-up, do a girl push-up!") "Everyman" really is a man, by whom women are expected to feel adequately represented and with whom women are expected to seamlessly identify. We shouldn't need to see female protagonists or pictures of women using the products we enjoy; of course that male cartoon figure stands in for everyone. What, don't you have any imagination? Are you really so selfish that you have to see pictures of yourself everywhere you go? (Meanwhile, when a woman is on the cover of a book, just for instance, or invited to speak at school, boys are expected, even obligated, to tune out.)

I'm sure the developers made their Iconic Humans men because they just didn't have a good reason for making any of them women. Now, if the app were primarily designed to help Mommy time her baking, or her children's time-outs, that would have been a good reason to include a picture of a woman. Or if the app was rewarding the user's hard work with pictures of sexy supermodels. Good reasons like that, see?

("Because about half of the population is women" never seems to be a good enough reason. See also.)

It's disappointing. Not enough to keep me from using the app--today's use of the Pomodoro Challenge Time was indeed useful!--but enough to itch every time I use it. And this is just the mildest example of what is called microagressions.

Which is a bummer of a note to end on, but it's past midnight and I'm out of clever exits. So. In sum: Two Dots is fun, the Pomodoro technique works, and human beings come in a wide variety of genders and colors that are all worth acknowledging. Do better, app designers!

(Oh hey! Also, I have downloaded Hybrid Stopwatch and Timer. Just in case it's ever not awkward to sit in the infield and time a skater's 27-in-5 with my laptop.)

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