Reflections on Aphorisms #108

Well, I got enough stuff done today to avoid a crisis, but that’s not necessarily saying a lot.

It turns out that having my car in to have the oil leak examined actually exacerbated it, because it’s not a gasket like the shop thought but an actual crack in the part itself.

But it won’t be the end of the world.

Aphorism 148

The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and often acquires more reputation than real brilliancy. (Maxim 162)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

I’ve always prided myself on making use of what I have relatively well.

In truth, this is probably a fantasy, and there are quite a few things that disabuse me of the notion, but it is true that to such a degree as I am successful there is likely more to be said for making do than being particularly exceptional.

One of the things that I’ve never felt is that I’m some sort of chosen one with exceptional aptitudes.

Now, admittedly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I view myself as unimportant. But it does mean that I approach the world humbly as far as my potential.

Of course, I also believe that people have quite a bit of power and strength in them, so that’s not necessarily pessimistic.

However, as someone who’s had certain experiences as a part of growing up in my family (if second-hand anxiety is a thing, I’ve definitely got it) and been in traumatic work environments, I often find myself doubting my own potential and abilities. I know for a fact that this is keeping me down on my work; I always worry about my ability to complete my tasks.

The result is that I really value the idea that someone who doesn’t have exceptional talent can go on to create something spectacular, and overcome their basic aptitudes.

And I think that this is something universal, something that everyone can appreciate. Yes, the masters have their place, but most of the masters also have a distance from us by merit of their peculiar talents.

I think of it like classical music. I love classical music, but I grew up in a family with a lot of musicians, including (if you go far enough) professors of music and professionals with advanced degrees in music (from back when degrees meant something).

One of the things that interests me here is that most of my family members aren’t what you’d consider prodigies. They’re good, perhaps even great, at what they do, but none of them just picked up music naturally (except perhaps my maternal grandmother and a few individuals on her side of the family who I’m not familiar with). My parents, in particular, though musical, are where they are as a result of practice and not just having skill from the very beginning.

And I think that there’s some merit to that which you don’t get if you’re just particularly sharp. At some point, your edge fades, and you have to find the strength to carry on. If you’ve been tapping into that strength forever, you’ve developed it, but if you’ve been getting by on raw talent there’s not that substance there to carry you on.

Resolution

Work with what I have, not what I would like to have.

When I can’t be great, at least be good.

Never waste a talent because it is humble.

Reflections on Aphorisms #107

Well, today was more productive than the last couple days, so that’s a good start. Car’s fixed, life’s good.

I’m still feeling some lingering anxiety, perhaps from the past couple weeks, perhaps due to money. I’m not hurting on money right now, but I’m basically barely breaking even and using savings to pay for my master’s program. In the long-run, I think that’s a good strategy if it works, but in the short term it’s risky.

Aphorism 147

The most deceitful persons spend their lives in blaming deceit, so as to use it on some great occasion to promote some great interest. (Maxim 124)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

One of the things that I often find myself dealing with is the idea that I might be myself one of the liars that I claim to detest.

Of course, I don’t think that this is true (though you’ll have to take my word for it), but I’ve always wondered about the idea of self-deception.

I’ve been reading some of Kazuo Ishiguro’s work again, and one of the things that is a recurring theme in his work is the idea of self-deception and how it colors our concepts of the world around us. Particularly in The Remains of the Day, which might be one of his more famous works, this sort of self-deception in memory is a common staple in his work.

I’m not entirely sure that I’m dishonest, but if I am it’s (typically–I have not achieved moral perfection and likely never will) without my own awareness of it.

I used to find Descartes interesting, but a little eccentric. I personally adhere to a deontological philosophy (albeit a nuanced one), and I’ve found some of Descartes’ teachings interesting.

But I always used to find Descartes’ demon something of a self-indulgent thought exercise.

After all, I’m sort of a meat and potatoes guy, and I’ve always been of the idea that the simplest solution is typically the most likely. If I see and feel things, that means that they’re there. One can trust one’s perceptions when they present things that are simple.

But part of the problem with this is that there’s a major distinction between perception and consciousness.

I may perceive a light, but am I conscious of it? Most of the time, probably not, if we’re being honest. My desk lamp is something that I think of only when it is too dark and I become conscious of the lack of light, or when something goes wrong and I must get it going again.

For most of my waking, even if I sit at my desk, I am not conscious of the lamp. It sits in my field of vision, but I have culled it from my awareness because it is not something interesting. I do consider it quite a good lamp, but that’s not even enough to make me aware of its presence (and small little bouts of gratitude about everyday things like that would probably improve my life quite a bit).

If I am not really conscious of something that sits in front of me almost all the time, how can I be conscious of the greater meaning of existence?

It seems unlikely.

The only way to be honest is to admit that I am flawed and may not be reliable.

Resolution

Never assume that I am correct in my assumptions.

Make statements of truth carefully.

Don’t make doubt out to be a vice.

Reflections on Aphorisms #106

Not a whole lot of productivity today either. I’ve become hooked on Stranger Things and I just can’t seem to function. Though, to be fair, I spent a lot of time waiting in the auto shop to try and get my car fixed today.

Turns out it’s going to cost more than I expected. Take longer, too, which isn’t such a big deal because I don’t need to drive anywhere any time soon, but it’s a bad turn all ways ‘round.

Aphorism 146

Our repentance is not so much sorrow for the ill we have done as fear of the ill that may happen to us. (Maxim 180)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

One of the things that’s been on my mind recently is horror fiction, and what makes things scary.

It’s not necessarily the unknown; we actually have a part of us that relishes novel experiences and that which we cannot predict. The unknown is often scary, but it’s not that bad by itself.

Uncertainty is much worse.

We can deal with the unknown because we have a schema for it; we are either in charge of our world or we are not, and we respond accordingly.

On the other hand, when we have uncertainty, it puts us in a dilemma.

It’s not the unknown that scares us, it’s the unknown that we don’t have an answer for that poses a threat.

And this isn’t necessarily to say that it’s the only threat we can face; people can take a fearful and anxious approach to the unknown. However, uncertainty strikes everyone equally.

Of course, the strength of conviction and belief can be stronger in some than in others (for instance, it’s possible to accept uncertain things if the uncertainty is low in emotional and psychological value), and not everyone will be crippled by uncertainty or find it odious.

I’m in a stage of my life where I’ve embraced a lot of uncertainty in exchange for the promise of a potential future.

The question I have to ask myself is whether I can maintain my value in the face of potential disaster, if I can keep going when I am opening myself to potentially losing more than I ever have.

Of course, the great practical reminder here is that everyone else still seems to be making it in the world, even if they’re not living their dreams. The number of people who are abjectly miserable is probably fairly low, and even then a lot of people who are really struggling are living in a way that leads them toward that path and could change it if they were conscious of the interactions between things in their life and psyche that create those conditions.

Resolution

Pursue value, not certainty.

Make decisions based on the future, not the present.

Bolster the strength of my faith and conviction.

Reflections on Aphorisms #105

Today was unproductive, but I wasn’t feeling well and I’m going to chalk it up mostly to that. I just couldn’t focus on anything for any length of time.

I’m tentatively blaming my morning walk for a portion of it; I didn’t really pay attention to the temperature and I was out in the hot for basically an hour. I think I’ve also pushed myself past my limits on sleep recently, so getting a little more going forward would be nice.

Aphorism 145

The name of virtue is as useful to our interest as that of vice. (Maxim 187)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

One of the things that I feel hard-pressed to deal with in my own life is my tendency to put a favorable spin on my own behavior.

It’s very easy to point to things I don’t like and condemn them, and I think this is generally true for everyone.

However, I think it’s also really easy to point at something I like to do and accept it as the one true way to live, which is equally dishonest.

There are some things I’m entirely certain of, like the idea that acting honestly is one of the few ways to guarantee a better world regardless of the circumstances. There are also a lot that I can’t claim to have the same degree of certainty for.

Another thing is that sometimes virtue can be used by false teachers.

For instance, things like justice and charity are virtues, but you can twist and turn them selectively so that people follow a fragment of the whole virtue; they believe in justice for themselves and charity for those they consider their own, but fail to consider those outside the scope of their immediate concerns.

I recall an exchange in Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans in which the protagonist reflects upon his mother’s outbursts against the British colonial government in India acting contrary to Christianity.

In the scene, she argues that while Britain is ostensibly importing “charity” by helping to establish a government in China, they’re really creating a destructive force by encouraging the spread of opium. They may be establishing order, but it’s order for order’s sake and not order for virtue’s sake.

I’m simplifying things, of course, and I may be stretching the point a little as it regards Ishiguro’s intended message. However, it’s worth noting that traditional wisdom states that wolves wear sheep’s clothing.

It’s very hard to motivate people through vice; you can condemn them, but that’s only a bitter and destructive path.

If you appeal to their virtues, you can deceive them even as they feel good about themselves.

Resolution

Act in accordance with greater virtues.

Weigh those who claim to preach truth.

Never manipulate through virtue; it is the worst lie.

Reflections on Aphorisms #104

Today was good and fun, even if it wasn’t the most productive. I don’t aim for much productivity on Sundays, so I think that I overshot my expectations.

Actually got some good gaming in. One of my players shot me a thank-you after our session, which is always fun and affirming.

Aphorism 144

Great men should not have great faults. (Maxim 190)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

One of the great tragic figures is the fallen hero. I can’t think of a better example than Shakespeare’s Othello, because he is so thoroughly transformed by his tragedy.

What Rochefoucauld catches on to with his assessment is the idea that a great person can be undone by a single flaw.

The bigger the flaw, the more likely it proves fatal.

In reality, everyone has issues that stem from their character, even if they try their best to overcome their natural inclinations.

What we can hope for is that the damage we cause is minimal and that we are able to keep it from undoing the progress that we have made, not that we never cause any damage.

It’s like sacrifice. To borrow from Jordan Peterson, we don’t get to choose whether or not to sacrifice, but we do get to choose what to sacrifice.
Ideally, we sacrifice something other than our morals.

A great flaw, however, tends to reach all the way down into our character.

We are only able to improve ourselves to the extent that we are aware of our weaknesses and strengths. It may be possible for someone to seem great if they have mastered their strengths, but if their vices or shortcomings are still extreme they risk having a negative effect and applying their strengths to an unworthy cause.

Resolution

Seek to learn my flaws.

Never accept defeat.

Pay attention to where my energy goes.

Reflections on Aphorisms #103

I may have stayed up past my bedtime already, so my apologies in advance for short, scattered, thoughts on this maxim.

Today was better, at least if only in my mind, than yesterday and the day before. I wasn’t super-productive, but I was at least happy (and there was some productivity).

Aphorism 143

We do not like to praise, and we never praise without a motive. Praise is flattery, artful, hidden, delicate, which gratifies differently him who praises and him who is praised. The one takes it as the reward of merit, the other bestows it to show his impartiality and knowledge. (Maxim 144)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

“I don’t see how Rochefoucauld influenced Nietzsche so profoundly,” I said, before reading Maxim 144, “They share many of the same ideas, but that is not so rare among thinkers, especially ones who share an intellectual tradition.”

But here is the proof; this is a statement that will sound familiar to any who have familiarized themselves with Nietzsche.

One of the interesting things about praise is that it really has a complex role in our lives.

We often withhold praise for one reason or another; fear of causing insult (if what we praise is not the right thing or our praise is not sufficiently fervent), desire to appear superior, inability to recognize merit, or just plain stinginess. Those are all deliberate reasons, too, overlooking the fact that it may simply never occur to us that something should be praised, that we find our own assessments to be based on universally self-evident qualities of someone’s work and therefore redundant.

We may also not communicate ourselves well. When I was teaching, I had many students who assumed that an A on a homework assignment meant the same thing as an A on the quiz; the homework was graded for earnest effort (with feedback to correct mistakes as needed), the quiz on accuracy. A pupil who was diligent but not particularly blessed with proficiency for one reason or another (typically a chronic absence of body or spirit from the classroom) would be astounded to find that they did not receive equal grades across grade categories.

Part of being a good teacher is communicating, bringing the truth to students by going into detail about what has and has not happened in their learning journey.

In this sense, praise is critical because it is a reflection of what students have learned. It’s also easier to incorporate praise into future work than it is to incorporate negative feedback; the praise is a reinforcement of mastered aptitudes, the suggestions require innovation and a new approach. Without both, students have a hard time growing.

But this is only one specific area where praise is especially important, and it should not monopolize our discussion.

The ironic thing about praise is that it’s often an attempt at self-aggrandizement. It’s a perfect way to ingratiate one with others, and in this sense it can become deception. The way around this is to make sure that one is always honest with one’s praise, in the sense that one never lies when praising and by doing so avoids a descent into hollow flattery, but also in the sense that one should praise without selectivity that which is good.

Of course, there’s often a matter of taste (I’ve been writing reviews for perhaps a decade now, and there is definitely taste involved in figuring out what I like in things). There’s also a question of where and when praise should be administered; sometimes the best praise is a quiet affirmation of someone’s value as a creator. At other times, it is to shout one’s truth to the world. Just as one should be truthful in the things one praises, the methods should also be sincerely felt.

Resolution

Praise that which I find to be good.

Do not speak falsehood for the sake of self-service.

Let words serve their purpose as I should serve mine.

Reflections on Aphorisms #102

Today was kind of a wash (not really; I got a lot of listening to audiobooks done), but I was just not feeling it.

Kind of a shame after such a long streak of being on top of my game to come crashing down, but on the other hand I think that it’s totally fine so long as it doesn’t become my norm. Nothing’s on fire, everything’s still good.

Tomorrow I will achieve the writing I did not achieve today.

Aphorism 142

When not prompted by vanity we say little. (Maxim 137)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

One of the things that I’ve heard over and over throughout my life is the advice that everyone’s favorite topic is themselves.

I don’t know how true this is for me; part of me wants to look at how shy and generally opaque I like to be, but on the other hand I also wonder if that’s an image I’ve built of myself to hide how I tend to let myself dominate conversations when I can.

The challenge is that it’s very easy to forget how much of the world exists outside of us.

I think that it’s also difficult to recognize when our passions are nothing but our passions; they may not have an interest to anyone else.

For instance, I can go on and on about storytelling and game design. I’ve done it professionally, I’ve done it as an amateur, I’ve done it for years and years. If you ask me a question, I may or may not know the answer, but if you give me a topic I’ll be able to talk for a long time.

The problem is that generally these conversations will still be about me. Sure, I don’t come up in them, but there’s a temptation to be the star in my own show, and since I’m pouring out my brain it satisfies that desire to be known.

But the truth is that almost every time we speak we open ourselves up to self-aggrandizement.

The only solution to this is to make sure that we focus on other people when we talk.

Resolution

Focus on subjects outside myself.

Interact with others in a way that edifies them.

Don’t let self-importance dominate life.

Reflections on Aphorisms 101

Today was a rough day, just in terms of feeling exhausted and not wanting to do things. I mean, it was still productive day (I think I wrote something like four thousand words), but I’m just feeling weak and defeated.

But tomorrow’s another day, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m thinking I might reorient away from blogging to more freelance work; I’d keep up with aphorisms, but you’ll probably see less non-aphorism stuff here.

Aphorism 141

There are some who never would have loved if they never had heard it spoken of.

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

People are peculiar creatures.

One of the things that I feel is important is the understanding that there are universal things we share and things that are unique to the individual. One of the great questions that divides us is where we believe that boundary between universality and individuality falls.

On one hand, you have those who believe that everyone is not only fundamentally alike, but alike in expression (that is, alike in both nature and ideals), and that the differences in our actions are shaped by dynamics and circumstance rather than individual traits. This, of course, can be carried into infinite levels of recursion, from the simple Marxist doctrine of class struggle which is a relatively crude way of viewing the world down to advanced biological determinism that attempts to assess everything through the view of our genetics.

On the other end, you have people who believe that people differ in nature so much that they are fundamentally incompatible unless they come from the same backgrounds and status.

Interestingly, the two extremes come to the same conclusions, which is usually a sign that there’s a universal truth, but the variations indicate that the truth is not really understood.

I think that the universal truth is that there will always be conflict, that people will always be in motion between one state and another.

There’s disharmony that results, and there’s also the question of the Way, which I believe to be the greatest of all things. Because I am religious, I interpret this as being a manifestation of the will of God, but I also think that the archetypal Way, understood in a more broad context, can be a tool for benevolence even if its divine origins are not recognized.

The people who walk the Way will always be in conflict with those who do not, not necessarily a violent conflict, but a conflict of ideas and expressions.

One of the parts of the Way is love, but I think it’s not so evident that people love by default.

We’re broken, nasty things when you get down to it.

Sure, most of the time we work out fine, but I think that we can attribute that to the fact that most people genuinely desire to follow the Way, even if they do not properly seek it out. They are concerned with what is good and what is evil, even if they do not use those terms, and they are able to work toward that.

I think that what we saw in the 20th century and have been seeing in places in the 21st century is an abandonment of the Way. Of course, humanity has never been perfect, in part because people are imperfect and in part because the world is, but the truth is that we saw people abandon their moral responsibilities en masse.

We need to go into the world and speak love.

Without our voice, there are people who will never love.

That sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

Resolution

Be a voice of love.

Always follow God’s will.

Be humble, but be bold.

Reflections on Aphorisms #100

Short aphorisms today because I’m hoping to get to bed a little earlier than I did yesterday.

This is day 100 of the aphorism reflections, and I’m still as in love with it as I have been. I’ve been focused on Rochefoucauld quite heavily recently, but when I manage to get my output up a little I’ll add more variety in.

Aphorism 140

It is far easier to be wise for others than to be so for oneself. (Maxim 132)

François de La Rochefoucauld

Interpretation

One of the great mysteries about our power of perception is that we are able to see things outside our own life more clearly than those that are in our own life.

I think that a large part of this is because we’re storytelling creatures, and it’s easier for us to see the patterns in other peoples’ lives because we only see the important information. It’s easy to over-fit our interpretations to the information that we have, coming to a conclusion and then looking for evidence to support it instead of finding evidence and then drawing conclusions objectively.

I think another thing that Rochefoucauld gets at here is the fact that it’s a lot easier to be objective when your emotions aren’t flaring up. I think that emotions have a very strong role in the decision making process, but the problem comes with passions.

It’s easy to be dispassionate with another person’s life decisions.

For this reason you may make better decisions for someone else than you would for yourself.

Of course, there’s another dilemma here: other people will also make the best decisions for themselves if they are able to see for themselves. They can’t make the best decisions if they just listen to other people.

One of the best things you can do for other people is to pool your resources with theirs; to humbly present your perspective that you have acquired through your own serious contemplation.

You can’t make decisions for other people, that’s not going to work. Coercion and force always ends in tragedy; think of all the people who grow up to do what their parents wanted them to do, yet never considered the proper path for their own life.

But the important thing is that an extra set of eyes works to extend the potentials of a single individual. Two people together are stronger than one, so long as they are connected by shared purpose and not by a desire for one to dominate the other.

Resolution

Help others earnestly and without conceit.

Look to advice from those who want the best for me.

Seek always to be what others need within the framework of myself.

Review of Atlas 10 Pro+

Back in June I was looking for a laptop or tablet that could be something that I could use on the go as a way to keep up on writing and work while traveling.

However, since I’m going back to school and doing writing as my main way of getting money, I had to get something extremely cheap. I was looking at Chromebooks ($200 or so), Windows laptops ($300+), and Android tablets ($100 or so), but I hadn’t been able to find anything that met all my needs that I felt comfortable shelling out the money for.

Then I called my brother, who works at a church. It turns out that they were using RCA tablets that came with detachable keyboards that they liked quite a bit, and he sent me a link to a few of them on Amazon.

I ultimately settled on the Atlas 10 Pro+ (affiliate link), which ran me about $100. The selling point here was that I’d have something similar in style to the Surface Go (tablet functionality, keyboard), but pay about a quarter of the Surface Go would cost if you wanted the type cover. There were also some very low-end Windows laptops that I had considered, but I wasn’t really sold on them.

Now, you do make a lot of sacrifices for that, especially in system memory (the Surface Go’s lowest end model has 4 GB of RAM, the Atlas 10 Pro+ has 1), and Android isn’t going to offer all your old Windows software if you’re committed to the ecosystem like I am, but the price was right. All of the alternatives I’d considered were pretty much equivalent in user experience, with the downside of being at least twice as expensive (Microsoft was actually sold out of the HP Stream 11, which would have been my first choice from my research at the time) and trying to run an operating system that is notoriously hungry for system resources.

The Atlas 10 Pro+ runs Android 8.1 Go. The Go variant is a special version of Android for low-spec systems, but I haven’t noticed the difference in any significant way. There are Go versions of a couple apps, like the Google Assistant and Google Maps, and supposedly more on the Play Store (I haven’t been able to figure out how to use Go-specific apps), but you’re not locked out of any apps. I ued the standard version of Docs to type this and I’ve also gotten Firefox as my main browser, and I’ve been pretty happy with it. Without a cellular connection, the Atlas 10 Pro+ isn’t going to replace a phone, and it certainly won’t replace a full desktop or laptop (though I did use it on my GenCon trip and found it quite satisfactory), but I’ve been liking it so far.

The performance is acceptable, and largely limited by the system memory. YouTube is a passable experience in Firefox and through the native YouTube app. Never having used Android with a keyboard and touchpad before, I was pleasantly surprised by how much it felt like a standard laptop experience. The 10” size definitely becomes a factor in what you can and can’t do, but it acquits itself pretty well. As an added bonus, it actually works as a laptop without being hot on your legs or feeling too large and awkward, because the tablet is vertical and so the part that gets hot (though it really only gets warm even under stress) is not resting on your lap.

The one thing to get used to is being patient. Apps load okay, but you’ll see a little delay between pushing play and Spotify starting if you haven’t listened in a while and the app isn’t open (this may also be Android not knowing which application to use), or between tabs in Firefox (which seems to reload the webpage every time it gains focus, perhaps due to memory constraints). Chrome may be smoother, but I don’t like it as much. You get used to this pretty quickly, and when you’re actually using stuff it feels responsive.

The camera is… about what you’d expect in a really cheap Android tablet.

Yikes! Yeah, this was probably not the ideal test environment (on my kitchen table, taking a photo of a reflective surface a few inches from the camera). There is a front facing camera, which is just as awful (perhaps even more awful; it’s hard to describe how awful it is), but given the price it’s still an addition. Given the fact that most people have smartphones and I’m not going to be using the Atlas 10 as a photography tool, I’ll give it a pass. However, if you absolutely need to take a photo or video, it can do that. In fact, it’s probably the perfect photography tool to use if you spot Bigfoot!

The screen resolution is not terrific, but honestly I don’t notice it all that much. As someone using a fairly large 1080p display as my primary driver, it doesn’t bother me to have a 1280×800 resolution on such a small screen. While the display is glossy turning up the brightness can help to mitigate any unwanted reflections; I haven’t had any problems with using it in any indoors condition, though I haven’t actually tested it. The touch-screen feels very much like plastic, and I’d bet that they’ve traded scratch resistance for something more shatterproof. After a couple months’ use I haven’t seen any issues. Since the keyboard makes for a very natural screen cover, I’m not too anxious about this, and since a lot of the touch controls are used less than they might otherwise be on a tablet because of the pairing with a keyboard I’m not too worried about it.

The touchscreen is one slightly annoying bit. It’s not inaccurate in the sense that you’ll get crazy wild results, but it’s not sensitive and there seems to be distortion around the edges of the screen. Having a dedicated keyboard makes this better, but I find the on-screen keyboard somewhat painful to use (though I don’t use the standard Google keyboard on my phone, so there could also be an adjustment pain here).

The speakers are not super-tinny, though you can definitely detect some distortion at higher volumes. They come out of the side of the tablet when it is docked (bottom in portrait mode), and they don’t get particularly loud. I’m not an audiophile, and they work fine for me, though I’d usually not use them unless I had to. It has a headphone jack, which is perfectly functional. The microphone is miserably awful, and sounds like you’re about eight thousand feet under-water and about twenty or thirty feet away from it. There was a little background noise when I was testing, and the one upside is that you can’t discern it. In an ideal situation, it might be better, but it’s probably still going to be terrible. If you want to do a whole lot of Google Hangouts, you might want to consider a Bluetooth headset with a microphone.

The actual build itself feels pretty good. Both the keyboard and tablet feel sturdy, as does the connector that runs between them. It’s thicker and meatier than a lot of alternatives, and the whole setup weighs somewhere between two and two-and-a-half pounds, with the vast majority of that being in the tablet. This means that if you pick it up and carry it by the keyboard it feels really awkward, but it still keeps the same angle it’s open at despite a little wobbling in the joint during sudden movements. There’s a micro USB port (which may or may not double as a charger; I’ve never bothered testing) and a DC charging cable that you can use for either the tablet, or the keyboard (which has its own battery and DC charging port, though it doesn’t have any USB ports that I can see). The keyboard is connected through a six-pin connection and uses magnets to stay connected to the tablet: this makes it really easy to remove when you want but also feels pretty sturdy against accidental jostling. Compared to something like the Surface Go, the Atlas 10 Pro+ is bulky, but I found that once it was in my laptop bag I’d forget which pocket I’d tucked it in. It’s all relative, and it’s light for its size.

Both the keyboard and tablet can be charged at the same time by a dedicated wall adapter; the keyboard does not have its own micro-USB port for charging, but both have the wall adapter plug (it’s a standard one that I’ve seen Chromebooks use, but I’m not familiar with the terminology).

If, like me, the disappearance of the humble headphone jack bothers you, you will be happy to know that there is one on the Atlas 10 Pro+ (which is something of a conceited name), as well as an SD card slot. The internal storage is 32 gigabytes, about 6 of which is used by Android, but that’s probably enough for most users given the camera short-comings.

The keyboard itself is surprisingly good. Honestly, it’s got one of the better laptop-style keyboard layouts, and while it’s tenkeyless it includes a full set of media controls. Some of the keys are pretty small, but despite my relatively large hands I actually don’t find them that bad. I’m not making typos, even adjusting from a glorious mechanical keyboard. My only gripe is that the left control key is really small and there’s a function modifier key where a full control button would extend, so I’ve fairly often hit that instead of control and not gotten what I wanted. The keyboard is not capable of wireless functionality, despite having its own battery, so you have to attach it if you want to use it. If you’re like me and you want something that has similar functionality to a laptop you won’t be disappointed; the keys actually feel really good to use. This morning I actually dug out an old Gigabyte gaming laptop, and I was surprised by how bad the keys on that felt compared to my tablet’s keyboard.

The integrated trackpad is actually better than I thought it would be, though it lacks dedicated buttons so you’ll have to tap on it to click. Since there’s a touchscreen on the tablet this is easily overcome if you find it frustrating, but I’ve found it really natural to use. The only downside is that it doesn’t really do multitouch, though I prefer to scroll and zoom using the touchscreen anyway since it’s more precise to work in screenspace rather than on a small touchpad no matter which device you’re on. If you don’t like the touchpad, you can disable it (and re-enable it) with a keyboard macro (FN+Space bar), which is nice.

In the few months I’ve been using the tablet, I’ve never had any issues with the battery life. As far as I can tell I get the six hours it says on the box (I’ve never let it run all the way down), and while there’s no way that I’ve found to figure out how much juice the keyboard’s battery has stored I’ve been able to use it in lieu of the charger (I did this in Indianapolis the first night I was there).

I’ve used it for a few things; I haven’t tested its outbound screencasting functionality (it is compatible with Chromecast devices, from what I gather), but it is able to be used as an external display with the help of apps. It’s not really a remote desktop option so much as a mirrored display, because it’s pushing its abilities to the limit with something like Parsec. Slack and Spotify work fine, as do the Google Suite and Firefox. I have intentionally avoided putting any games or other distractions on the tablet, so I can’t report on their functionality.

Screen rotation is sometimes a pain because the Android Go setup seems to love portrait mode, but this is a very small portion of the use experience, limited to first-time setup and the built-in Android Go app hub thing (I’ve used it three times, mostly out of curiosity).

In terms of value, I’m not 100% certain how other tablets compete. This is a pretty humble Android device in terms of specifications, and it lagged a lot during initial setup and app installation. The lag went away after that was done and it’s actually pretty smooth now (not as smooth as my Android phone, but my phone’s more expensive). If a lot of apps are running at once you may get some weird performance, but I’ve found that closing unused apps by swiping them away in the app-switch view usually fixes any issues.

The real question here is how you would value the tablet and keyboard combined. I didn’t do a whole lot of research into the competition in terms of tablets since this came with a personal recommendation, but as far as I could find on Amazon there didn’t seem to be a comparable 10” tablet available new at the same price range, much less one that came with a keyboard and external battery as part of the bargain.

If, like me, you’re primarily looking for something that lets you do light productivity-related tasks and function as a sort of computer away from home, this is a surprisingly full experience. It’s not going to win any performance benchmarks. When I tried using Parsec to stream a game from my PC to the tablet, it definitely hit its limits pretty quickly. However, for actual daily use it works fine; it definitely isn’t high-end, but it handles typing well.

I think I’ll be able to make this thing pay for itself pretty easily. After a few months’ use, I’ve found it to be really handy. The more I use it the more comfortable it gets, and it definitely is something that is pretty hassle-free to travel with (if you remember the charger). The only superlative it gets is “Cheapest laptop experience you can get without going for a used device”, but that’s quite a deal all things considered. I’ve been typing at least a few hundred words per day on it pretty consistently now, and I like the way that it’s liberated me to move around and find places where I can focus on my work, then get that work done.