Writing for Catharsis

Jed the Leafs Fan

Jed the Dog in a Leafs Jersey


So it’s new year’s eve…day…(what’s the right way to say that?). Since my last post a few things have happened with my online dabblings. One of those things was an online identity crisis. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but essentially this problem stemmed from my obsession with categorization. Obsession may be a bit strong, but when I got the urge to write outside the theme I mandated for this blog in my head, my first thought was: ‘time for a new blog!’ I already had this topic-centric blog, and then I had my slightly newer Tumblr blog which I originally saw as my personal blog, but now see as my place-to-stick-random-things-I-want-to-share-ADD-style blog. So besides the run-on sentences, and saying ‘blog’ excessively, what would be wrong with having a third blog? My third blog would be my legitimate personal blog, and then I would have all the bases covered right?

Well, maybe. I went to work on WordPress to put together another blog, but I couldn’t find a theme I liked. Now you may ask, ‘what’s the big deal?’ It shouldn’t be that big a deal, so you’d be right, except that if a blog is the way I’m choosing to express myself, I sure as heck want the blog itself to look the way I want it to, just like I want what I write to read the way I want it too. And I was already very happy with how this blog looks, but I couldn’t use the same theme for two different blogs. That would just be weird.

Soon after this frustration began I got caught up in a conversation concerning a friend’s business endeavours and how they’d like to increase their presence online. Their ambitions were high but their experience with the internet was limited, so I took a look at what they were looking at and did my own research. I came up with an idea that we’re all really excited about, so now it looks as though I may be involved in this very cool new project (which I’m not going to talk about in any detail until it has actually hit the ground – sorry!). But from the experience of planning this new project I’ve learned (or rather, am in the process of learning) something very important: that strict categorization can be… well restrictive. It’s limiting! And it can be downright boring sometimes.

All of this is to say that I am overhauling my mental mandate of what this blog is about. This is mostly for my benefit. I do enjoy having the readers that I do (few in number as you are), and I hope you enjoy the change, but if you don’t – well, tough cookies.

I’ll still write posts on rediscovering the internet, but not all the time. Writing is too cathartic for me to limit myself to a formula so narrow.

Lunar Eclipse 2010: 4

Lunar Eclipse 2010 about 15 minutes in

 

In that spirit, I’ve included a picture I took the night of this past December 21 sometime around 1:45am. You may not have stayed up that night to witness the lunar eclipse, but don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. The quality isn’t great, but if you click on the picture it’ll take you to my Flickr account where I’ve got a series of 14 photos of the eclipse from roughly 1:20am to 2:30am. Lunar eclipses are fiendishly slow, not like their speedy solar cousins. It took nearly an hour for the moon to just become eclipsed, and at that point I went to bed. If you want to see what the un-eclipsing would have looked like, just cycle through the pictures in reverse order (and don’t forget to view it through a mirror’s reflection to complete the effect). And if you want to learn a little more about the eclipse, I highly recommend the Bad Astronomy post on this topic.

Continuing the topic of catharsis, there are few living creatures that perform this function better than my brother’s dog. Jed the Dog, named after two-term democratic President Josiah Bartlett of The West Wing television series (here’s a clip for your viewing pleasure), is unnaturally cute. He may look just normal cute in these photos, but if you ever have the pleasure of meeting him in person (i.e. in dog) you would be confounded by how there is virtually no action he can perform without being awesome in some way. In my experience just thinking about Jed can make troubles drift away. You may not have the pleasure of seeing him in person, but you can click on the picture I’ve included at the top of the post to see a few more that I’ve taken. Maybe his cuteness can help reduce some of your stress or frustration too.

Enjoy, and happy new year!

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Godzilla and Other Online Literature

from http://godzillahaiku.tumblr.com/ , submitted by pixelatedpizza

That’s right, Godzilla

can make a well writ haiku.

So why don’t you try?

Godzilla may be an unconventional source of poetry, but this is the internet we’re talking about here. Access for all, right? No matter how scaled, enormous and Japanese-city-destroying.

If you click on the Godzilla graphic above you will be redirected to a very entertaining Tumblr called Godzilla Haiku, which is chock-full of havoc-wreaking literary goodness. I’ve reposted one of my favourites here, but there are quite a few good ones, so in order to keep abreast of any new scaly poetry I’ve decided to follow it on my Tumblr.

I found Godzilla Haiku via another page on another site. Namely, 7 Sites You Should Be Wasting Time On Right Now (PICTURES), an article on the well-trafficked Huffington Post site. Huffington Post being a website that was recommended for review by a frequent (I think) reader, FB. I have to admit to FB, and to all my other readers, that I don’t do a terribly large amount of online reading. I may do more in the future, but currently my online time is most often spent finding new content to write about on my blogs, and organizing it into relatively sensible topics. I have however done a small amount of exploring with Huffington Post and a few other related sites, so let’s get going.

The Huffington Post is a ridiculously broad news site. It covers topics on education, politics, sports, business, media, comedy, and a dozen other things in-between. It also boasts a small hoard of blogs covering a similarly varied range of topics. Here’s one that caught my eye while writing this post (be sure to read the titles above the pictures). I also want to bring your attention back to 7 Sites You Should Be Wasting Time On Right Now.  I have another favourite (and recent Tumblr follow) from this page I’d like to share: When Parents Text. This is a particularly funny site, because I have had personal experience with the parent-text phenomenon. When I travelled this past summer to Europe my parents were looking for a more instantaneous way to get in touch with me than email, but one that was less expensive than overseas calling: text message was the answer. However, I have to give my parents credit. Texting may not have been the most natural thing for them to learn (sorry guys!), but they didn’t make fools of themselves in their messages like this parent does.

Altogether, I have to say that most of my time on Huffington Post is spent on the comedy page, which is time very well spent in my opinion. But for those of you who still want to learn what’s going on in the world (who’d do a crazy thing like that?), there’s plenty of news to cut the cravings.

Slate is worth a look as well if you are of the news or pop-culture junky persuasion. Instead of being a kind of news aggregator and publisher like Huffington, Slate is more of an online magazine offering opinions on the news. I read an article by them every once in a while, which isn’t to say my poor readership is indicative of the site’s quality. It’s very good, but again my online news consumption is very limited. If you’re looking for a fresh perspective on news and pop-culture, you should seriously give it a look.

Most of my experience with Slate has tended to be with their podcasts – particularly the Culture Gabfest. The Culture Gabfest is a roughly hour-long roundtable where a few Slate commentators talk about three interesting topics in the forum of politics or pop culture from the past week. I haven’t listened to the podcast (or any podcast for that matter) for a while, so don’t shoot the messenger if the format is different. But my experience with them was always a good one. I always found it ideal for a twenty-minute or so commute, because it gives you something to listen to on your way to and from work.

A little off-topic, but worth the mention I think. And another special thanks to FB for initially introducing me to the Culture Gabfest oh-so long ago.

Onions may not be a traditional desert in any culture I’m familiar with, but that won’t stop us from enjoying it last. If you haven’t heard of The Onion, then I feel really really really bad for you. Really. The Onion is a news site in the same way that John Stewart or Stephen Colbert are news anchors. The good people at the Onion make their hilarious product in usually one of two ways. If a particularly large story is getting a lot of attention, they’ll usually find a way to report it in their own satirical style, like this article on the now infamous Julian Assange. The second and more common type of Onion story simply offers a satirical view of modern life. Much of their work is in written articles, like this one on how life in the US Navy rocks even more than the commercials imply. But there are also a number of pieces done in the form of radio broadcasts, like this story on the collapse of the internet. The Onion also produces stories in the style of high-powered testosterone-pumping news broadcasts like this story on Kim Jong Il’s upcoming hollywood role, and like this one in their softer, brighter morning-show format: social media helping parents stalk their kids while they’re at college.

Anyway you slice it, The Onion’s got (insert onion joke here). Happy reading!

A Simple Request

from Robin Good Masternewmedia.org

Hello dear Readers. Apologies, for yet another non-internet-exploratory-review post. This is simply to inform you that I’ve started using Google’s Feedburner to publish my RSS feed. I’m not totally sure of what I’m talking about either, but here’s the deal:

Feedburner let’s me keep track of my readership of subscribers using a reader. WordPress, the service I write this blog on, lets me keep track of stats associated with visitors to my blog, but not on people who simply read it with a reader (although it does count email subscribers, but who does that?).

So, my simple request to all you subscribers out there is to delete your current subscription from your reader, and to click on the new RSS chicklets I’ve put on the left-hand side of the page. They look the same, I know, but they are funneled through Google’s Feedburner so that I can keep track of you all for my diabolical reviewing purposes.

Thanks for your help, dear Readers, and happy new year!

New Blog and New Address

I’ve started a new blog, but don’t worry, if you choose to follow it, it’s not going to be the same as this one. It’s more of just an experiment to start, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ve started it on Tumblr, which is a kind of microblogging site. Microblogs are a kind of blogs, but their posts are generally more bite-sized. I believe Twitter is also considered a microblog.

Anyway, since starting this blog, I’ve started to have some random ideas of things to post on a more personal and eclectic blog. One that’s less focused on a single topic. I will continue to work on this blog as well, as I am still finding new and interesting things on the web. If anything, I  see this new blog as yet another way to cultivate new online connections and discover new interweb treasures.

The real purpose for this post is less in the flow of my usual reviews and is merely meant to bring this new blog to your attention, as well as one more thing. If you subscribe to my blog with a reader and you have been using nathanbudd.com, please update your subscription to use redbudd.wordpress.com. The feed you will be getting will be exactly the same, so no worries on that front. You should do this, because I will changing the settings of nathanbudd.com to forward to my about.me page. Having two blogs, it seemed weird to have one of them at nathanbudd.com and not the other. This way, I can have links to both my blogs from my About.me splash page.

I’ll be adding my new blog to my stuff on the side, or you can link to it at redbudd.tumblr.com.

Paper Paper Everywhere, But Way Too Much To Read

 

Online reading can be a bit of a pain. I don’t do so much online reading that this is a common annoyance, but it has happened. You link to an interesting page with an interesting story or video, but you’re in the middle of something else, or you were about to step out the door, or your procrastination is suddenly disturbed by a second or third bout of procrastination from that procrastination. So you either click away from the page and it’s existence is forgotten, or you minimize the window intending to return to it later. Only, when three days later you decide it would be a good idea to reboot your computer, because you’ve installed a new update, all your minimized windows disappear and you don’t even remember what was on them to find them again.

Solution? In today’s post I offer three sites for your consideration in managing your online paper problem

 

Instapaper offers the easiest, simplest solution so far as I can tell. Make an account with the fine folks at Instapaper, add their bookmarklet to your bookmarks,  and away you go. When you find a page that interests you (this fine blog for instance), but find you don’t have enough time to read it, you go up to your bookmarks, click on your Instapaper read later bookmarklet, and voila! This page is saved to your Instapaper page. Now just check in to your Instapaper site when you have the time to peruse all of the interesting pages you’ve left for later reading. When you go to your page to read it, you can either link right to the site, or choose to let Instapaper to cut off the fat and just show you the text of the page. Instapaper also lets you review your saved material on your iPhone or iPad, star favourites, and archive oldies so you don’t need to browse through them all the time. And there are some other extras, like integration with Google Reader, the ability to email links to your Instapaper page, and integration with a schmorgasboard of different iPhone and iPad apps.

 

Yahoo!’s Delicious is a side step from Instapaper. It does essentially the same thing, but with a difference in available features. Whereas Instapaper is for your personal use, Delicious is what’s called a social bookmarking site. Social bookmarking allows users to, essentially, share their bookmarks. When you add bookmarks you can choose to add tags that allow fellow bookmarkers to search through wide array of bookmarks by topic or category. You can also make subscriptions based on tags that interest you. So if you’re looking for sites with interesting things to say on your new uggs, you might make a subscription with the tags shoes and annoying. From there, you can find people with similar bookmarking interests as yourself and add them to your network, making it easier to share the new bookmarks you both find.

 

Personally, Instapaper seems a lot more interesting to me. I think I’ve been pretty good about trying a lot of new web-based networks and apps since starting this blog, but if I didn’t have this blog to write, I would never use Delicious (though I don’t do so much online reading, so I don’t really use Instapaper either). That said, for all you bloggers out there, Delicious is a great way to keep track of sites that you want to remember to refer to or use in your next post, but don’t necessarily care to have saved in your browser. At the moment I’ve added a little Delicious widget over there on the right-hand side of the page that shows you recent bookmarks I’ve added to my Delicious account, because this is the pool of sites I will be drawing from as I continue to write new posts.

So we have Instapaper, good for personal use. Delicious, good for sharing. I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty annoying when I am using two services that are so similar, but just different enough that they’re good for different things, rendering both indispensable. Technology should allow us to simplify the things we want to do, so there’s gotta be something out there that can cover the bases that Instapaper and Delicious do.

 

In fact there is, and it’s called Diigo. Diigo combines the best intentions of both Instapaper and Delicious, with more features and the result is greater than the sum of its parts. Diigo lets you bookmark pages to be read for later, and you can share them with others using the social network aspect of the site. But Diigo also lets you highlight and annotate any text on the page. You can add other document types to your Diigo library as well, like photos or text documents. Diigo also has apps for Android, iPhone and iPad, so you can access any saved item in your Diigo library from your mobile device to edit or read on the go. There’s also an offline ability for mobile devices which lets you download items from your library so that you can review them when you have no web connection.

 

All three of these services have their own bookmarklets, and Diigo has a toolbar that you can add to your browser that allows you the functionality of highlighting, annotating, etc. At the moment I’m using both Delicious and Diigo, but not by choice. I’m trying to make my saved links available on this blog from Diigo, but there’s some issue with the code, so I’m trying to work that out. You can still access my Diigo account from the My Diigo link on the right, but I’ve synced it up with my Delicious account (yes, Diigo allows you to simultaneously add bookmarks to your Delicious account when you add one to your Diigo) which is displaying with some of my most recent bookmarks just above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter and Friends

 

From ArtCulando.wordpress.com, May 28, 2010

From my days as a summer camp counselor, I remember having pre-camp training sessions focusing on how to deal with different types of kids. There were a bunch of different types, and always a slightly different way on how to deal with their particular needs, but the funniest (and only one I remember) is the Attention Kid. An Attention Kid is pretty self explanatory. They do wacky, strange things for attention, and once they get it from you, they do more things to try to keep their audience. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Twitter lets you be an Attention Kid. Or, more accurately, it makes it OK, and even socially acceptable, to let your Attention Kid out. I had some other sites in mind to write about for this post, but leaving Chapters, having just tweeted my location via Foursquare, and proceeding to tweet my completion of secret santa purchases, I realized just how incredibly weird Twitter is.

For those who have been hiding from the internet under an even bigger rock than myself, Twitter is a social network intended to allow you to follow the happenings of friends instantly. You and your friends make posts of 140 characters or less to update anyone you please on what’s doing, so brevity is key here. Apparently one of the biggest uses of Twitter has been the following of celebrities, since this medium lets you get immediate status updates from your favourite stars. I’ve never been to engrossed in pop-culture, so I haven’t made any use of this feature, but I make no judgements – it’s just not my thing. I’ve also dabbled in subscribing to posts from news agencies, hoping to keep myself better informed. But news sites post so many stories during the day, the volume of tweets becomes overwhelming. I’ve found a better way to get your fill of sources that tweet a ton is to make a list of those tweeters, so you can follow them in one place and not have your friends’ posts get drowned out.

Twitter has always raised this problem for me though: I already have Facebook, a place where I can let my friends know what’s going on with me and what I’m doing. Why do I need Twitter?

My answer is…I’m not really sure that you do. But Twitter is different, if only slightly. It isn’t cluttered by all of the applications and information that Facebook has. Twitter is just status updates. No more, and no less. Alright, so there’s a little more, but I’ll get to that. Basically, I’d say that Facebook is for long-term status updates (and basically anything else, because it has a whole profile), whereas Twitter lends itself more towards The ADD kid in you who has to make sure that everyone knows exactly what you’re doing and how you feel about it all the time. Selfish and annoying, but think back to that attention kid. He was always having fun, wasn’t he?

Foursquare also lends itself to this ‘pay attention to what I’m doing all the time’ mentality, and as if that weren’t bad enough, it rewards your Attention Kid behaviour too. Foursquare is it’s own social network, but it connects to your Facebook and Twitter easily enough. It’s purpose: to make you log you daily wanderings. Just dropped into the neighbourhood coffee shop for a cup-a-joe? Check in with your Foursquare account to let all your friends know that you’re there (a smartphone is pretty much essential to make use of this network, though I think it is possible to check in via text message). When you do that, you get some points which are determined by how many times you frequent the place, whether it was your first visit, or even your first visit of the day. These points will add up in some mysterious way, and if you end up having the most points at a particular location you become the Mayor! Alright! Yah! Wait, so why do I want to be the Mayor of J&J Variety? Well, some businesses offer special discounts to Foursquare Mayors, so that’s kind of cool.

Now I’ve had my Foursquare account for a few days now, and I don’t frequent many places, as I’m an incredibly boring individual. But from my limited experience, I’m gonna have to go out on a limb and assume that there aren’t too many businesses that offer these discounts. And I’m gonna further assume that there are even fewer businesses that are even aware of the existence of Foursquare. But maybe not. I’m gonna keep my account regardless of this fact, and the fact that I only have one friend on it (and he doesn’t even live in the same city as me). And in case you were wondering, Foursquare is relevant to this Twitter post, because you can post your check-ins from Foursquare to your Twitter or Facebook account. A feature that is especially necessary when you have vastly more friends to ignore your post on these other networks than on Foursquare.

 

Ever wanted to post pictures with your tweet? No? Me neither. Not yet anyway. But when I get the urge, I have an account ready and waiting for me at Twitpic. Twitpic is exactly what it sounds like. A sit that latches onto Twitter like a leach and lets you post photos alongside your tweets. There’s not much more to it than that, except to say that you can do this with the twitter app on your smartphone (or at least I can on my blackberry), so I’m wondering how long it will be till Twitter pulls the carpet out from under Twitpic and just lets you upload pics itself.

 

How about URL links? Ever wanted to share some of those on Twitter? What about Facebook? Ever been annoyed with the unruly length of some web addresses? Then you need to check out Bit.ly. at Bit.ly you enter a ridiculously long URL, push a button, and get back a nice short one that you can post anywhere like the original link. And if you make an account with them you can keep tabs on all of the links you’ve made with Bit.ly, tracking the number of clicks and so forth.

Profile Hat Trick

posted by Adam Rotter on October 28, 2009 to snyrangersblog.com

Now that I’ve gotten the emotional, token first blog post out of the way it’s time to get to work. Today I’m focusing on three new social network profiles that I’ve started. And by new, I mean that two are new and one is rediscovered. And by social network I mean that one is a social network, and the other two just work with social networks. And one last thing before moving on – a shout-out to FB for their very cool comment in my first post suggesting readers to send in cool site suggestions for me to blog about. Bring it on, readers!

Item 1: Linked in. Linked in isn’t so new to me, and it probably isn’t to you either. I’ve had a profile with this network for at least a year I think, though I haven’t started to really explore it until now. For those who haven’t linked in to this particular network yet, I would describe it to you as ‘professional Facebook.’ Not professional as in ‘Linked in is a much more well executed version of Facebook,’ but professional as in for the working professional. The business-minded person, if you will. On your profile you put in things like where you went to school, work experience, and basically anything you would ever dream of putting in a resume if you weren’t worried about brevity. Then from there you add contacts, like Facebook’s friends, except here your friends can post there recommendations of you on your profile (and not really anything else). It’s dissimilar to Facebook in that there isn’t a plethora of boredom-killing games, or any other random applications you can tack on to your profile (though you can connect your twitter feed). If I remember correctly from when I first joined over a year ago, that’s the gist of it. But looking it over now, I see that there are some added features in beta that let you search around for jobs, and look at company profiles. I haven’t filled out my profile as much as I would like to, and I still have yet to make any professional connections through Linked in. Although, when I added my email contacts I did somehow add someone in Calgary, Alberta that I had never met.

Item 2: About.me. About.me isn’t a social network, as I’ve said above, but it works really well with them (and without them for that matter). It’s just a single web page that you slap your name to, a tag line, and a little blurb about yourself. Then you can connect up to twelve different social media pages, as well as any URLs you choose. And the background to this page of yours is a high quality picture of your choosing. I’m still tweaking my page (for some reason the fonts I’ve chosen refuse to stick around after I’ve done editing). I’ve added my youtube and my (recently christened) foursquare account, though I don’t have anything to speak of in either yet (and I’ll be discussing foursquare at a later date). Anyway, I think it’s a pretty cool little page. I’m considering changing nathanbudd.com from my blog to my about.me page, because I think it makes a pretty good home page.

About.me also tracks some stats associated with the accounts you link up, like the number of recent status updates. It also tracks how many visits there have been to your page, and gives you the option of conducting shameless self promotion. That’s right, with just one button click About.me will post a message to your Facebook or Twitter (if you’ve linked them) advertising your new about.me page. It’ll even help you add a signature to your emails that includes your about.me page. It only wants you to be popular.

Item 3: Gravatar. My sister emailed me the other day, asking what the point of Gravatar was, but since she has a profile now perhaps those questions are answered? Or maybe you just got it for giggles and still hope for some explanation via moi? Alright, well Gravatar is the kind of online account you want, nay need, if you are active posting on a number of forums, blogs, etc. You know how every time you start posting your point of view in a new one, they want you to make an account with your email and a picture and whatever else? Well Gravatar lets you do that all in one place, and then you just link up your gravatar to the forums and blogs you’re posting on and voila – no more carpel tunnel from entering your contact information. Gravatar allows you to unify your online presences into a single presence with one username and one photo. It also keeps a profile on its site for you where, similar to About.me, you can link up your social media and add URLs (though it’s not as snazy as About.me – check out my About.me and Gravatar profiles for a quick comparison). Oh, and if you haven’t checked out the Gravatar home page, you should at least check it out for the short video there (I’m having some trouble embedding video, so you’ll have to just link over to the page). If you don’t like what he’s talking about, you can at least appreciate the accent.

  • Flickr

  • Delicious links I'm looking at

  • If you have a site you would like to see reviewed on this blog, drop me a line, or connect with my Diigo account.