It’s a Brave New Wordle

Redbudd's WordPress Wordle1

This blog's Wordle as of Jan 1, 2011

I started this post with the picture above on the first day of the new year. Somehow I stumbled upon a post on Jamie Cooks referring to this interesting little site. Wordle allows you to create a word cloud based on any text you give it. You can either directly paste in some text of your choosing, or give it a URL so that it can cloudify an entire website. You can play around with colour themes, font, and word arrangement. Like your typical word cloud on a blog, it displays the most common words largest. You can save your Wordle in their database to be viewed by anyone, and print out a copy for yourself. If you’re trying and failing to save your Wordle to your desktop I suggest clicking print, and then saving to PDF instead – that seems to be the only option.

As the caption suggests, this Wordle was created for this blog on the first of 2011. I’d like to revisit Wordle in a few months to see how my Wordle has changed. And so I have the opportunity to say Wordle some more.

In other news I’ve spent my first day working on my new blogging project. I’ve spoken about it before, but essentially this involves my being employed part-time to manage a self-hosted blog. Today I set up the hosting with Dreamhost and then installed WordPress…twice. I ran into trouble soon after the first installation, because I wanted to install a theme that wasn’t included in the one-click install. I contacted Dreamhost’s tech support, and they got back to me right away. Turns out I needed to do the less fool-proof custom install, which I did. Now everything’s hunky-dory. But I can tell my troubles with this endeavour aren’t over yet. But I’m not giving up. Just acknowledging that I will likely be making more than a couple mistakes along the way.

If you have any experience with managing a self-hosted blog with WordPress or Dreamhost or both, I’d really appreciate any advice or tips you might have.

Blogs, Blogging, and a Blog-Related Challenge


'Blog' in typeset pieces

From Marcel Media, posted December 16, 2010


Firstly, happy new year to you all. I hope you had an enjoyable, not over-hyped celebration to bring in the new year. To start off I want to announce my inclusion in WordPress’s Post-a-Week Challenge for 2011. It’s just what it sounds like. I’m committing myself to produce at least one post every week for the next year. This could very well be too ambitious for me, since I only just started my blog a couple of weeks ago, but we’ll see how it goes. What have I got to lose?


This post I’d like to take some time to talk a little bit more about blogging and some things that come with it.

A web log, or blog, is what you’re reading right now. If you’ve never heard of or read a blog before, people use them to share their opinions, give reviews, report the news, showcase their talents, or just express themselves.

There are a bunch of different services out there that you can use if you want to start one up yourself. WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr are a few that I’m familiar with. Blogger is run by Google, and is a service I tried using a year or so ago (I mentioned something about this briefly in my first post). At the time I felt as though I kept bouncing between hobbies and so I was going to dedicate my blog to writing about my hobby of trying new hobbies. That blog never really got off the ground. Not because of the service though. I just didn’t have enough interest in my topic of choice to write about it. From what I’ve heard, Blogger is a very good service to use, and since it’s run by Google that shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are a variety of simple themes to choose from, and you can alter the colour schemes and change the layout of the page. Logging back into my empty account with Blogger, all of the tools look pretty simple to use. If you want to see a nice crisp Blogger blog in action (and/or are a Blue Jays fan) check out my brother’s blog, Blue Jays on Fire.

If you’re looking to blog with a format even more simple than what’s offered by Blogger, I suggest Tumblr. Tumblr has a large variety of free themes to choose from, though not much customization in the layout is available after that. You can link your Foursquare account up to it if you have one, so that it will automatically publish your check-ins and other things (it’s not really a selling point, but I thought I’d mention it anyway). The real draw with Tumblr is its ease of use. To start a post with Tumblr, you choose what kind of media your post will focus on from the list of post options at the top of your dashboard:

Tumblr Dashboard

From there, you create your post which will be published automatically in a format that lends itself to the content you included. There is a whole network of people using Tumblr, and it’s easy to search through their directory to find Tumblrs on the topics you’re interested in. Here are a couple entertaining ones that I’ve found thus far: Godzilla Haiku; When Parents Text (and here’s mine – ). Tumblr also has the ability to ‘reblog’ content that you find on other Tumblrs, which lends itself very well to spreading memes and creating a social network feeling to Tumblr.

If you have a smartphone, and want a place online to post cool share-able stuff that you come across during the day, I’d say this blog format is for you. It’s essentially a microblog, though it’s not quite as micro as Twitter is in that sense. Tumblr also lends itself well to photo-blogs, or any other focused blog where writing is secondary to some other kind of content (e.g. video, quotations, links).

But maybe quick and easy isn’t your style – I know it doesn’t seem to be mine. I use my Tumblr for random findings on the net, but I don’t think it really lends itself to expression of any length. For full functionality I make WordPress my blog’s home. I’m not just saying this because I use WordPress and I want to score points with the admin. I did after all mention two other blog services and didn’t say anything negative about either of them. It just so happens that I’ve chosen WordPress, and I’m very happy with it. It’s very functional, and has tons of widgets to add to the site. A blog, hosted by WordPress itself may not be as functional and customizable as a self-hosted blog, but you don’t have to pay for the former, and for now that serves my purposes just fine. However, some of you may remember my mentioning a new project I’m working on. That project will actually give me the opportunity to use’s self-hosted service, which I’m very excited about.

If you were hoping that I’d get talking about blog-related services at this point I’m sorry to let you down. I was going to, but this post seems to be a good length already, so let’s just call it a cliffhanger…

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!

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, please update your subscription to use 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 to forward to my page. Having two blogs, it seemed weird to have one of them at and not the other. This way, I can have links to both my blogs from my splash page.

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

Call Me Ishmael

April 27, 2007; Matthew Henry Hall

Don’t, actually. But Ishmael didn’t know what he was getting into when he signed up for his little expedition, and I’m not sure I do either. It was only two nights ago that I was sitting in front of my computer, staring at my browser when I thought, ‘I should find more things to do with the internet than check my email and Facebook accounts.’

I’ll back up for just a second now, and explain that for the past month or so, I have been marveling at my roommate’s ability to find random things on the internet: sometimes hilarious, and sometimes just strangely catchy. I asked my roommate how he found all of this stuff. His answer: StumbleUpon. For those of you who don’t know, StumbleUpon is a site that lets you ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ any webpage, as well as choose from a list of categories that interest you, and out of this information it will whisk you off to a randomly selected page that it thinks you might like too. And of course, you can share these rare finds with friends on other social networking sites as well as with your fellow Stumblers. So I dabbled in Stumbling across the interwebs for a while, and here’s one site I particularly enjoyed. Calvin plus snowmen equals crazy – who knew?

So I had my Stumbling, and my email, and my Facebook and all was well. Until a couple nights ago. That’s when I realized that I had been shunning the internet! Sure, I use the internet, but all the while I’ve been completely baffled by the schmorgasboard of sites out there, especially of the social network variety. As my Dad might say, it was mind-boggling. But I felt a left out. I mean, why does everyone else have this magical ability to find something interesting and shiny out of the infinite goop and gunk that is the internet? And it hit me – this is a self imposed isolation. For years I’ve turned down invitations to new sites and networks saying, ‘I’m already on Facebook, what do I need another site with a username for?’ I never realized that all of these sites, all of these networks are just one of many ways that people around the world get to the good stuff. The meat and potatoes of the web.

With all of this in mind I set out on my merry way. In the past two days I’ve followed links, read blogs, and found new sites focusing on things I’ve never heard of before. And in the middle of all this I’ve been thinking, ‘what about a blog?’ What about a blog indeed. Not too long ago I tried starting a blog with Blogger, but it didn’t go so well. I didn’t have a focus, I didn’t have an idea, and most of all I didn’t have the drive to really immerse myself in the online community. But now it’s different. Now I have an aim to rediscover the internet in all of its surprisingly random glory. This venture would have been exciting enough for me as it is, but I like writing too, so writing a blog about my misadventures on the web gives the whole endeavor an added appeal.

So here we are. My first post on my ‘first’ blog. My blog is the first of what I hope to be many additions to my online presence. But this blog will be a central part of that presence. I hope to use it to catalogue the sites I discover and the things I learn. And hopefully along the way I’ll find some fellow bloggers and/or readers that have some things they’d like to share with me to expand my web-crawling horizons.

I’ve already bounced this idea off a few friends and gotten some great positive feedback. Feedback that sometimes came with a lot of really cool sites that I am eager to explore and share here with all of you. So here we go. Plugging my nose and jumping in the deep end.

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