The key to successful writing is selling out to Oprah.

Does this blog make me look fat?

“In my day, looking at people’s vacation photos was a punishment”- Betty White

June 15th, 2010

Yesterday’s lesson was about photo sharing sites. It made me think of what Betty White said during her recent Saturday Night Live monologue. I actually remember, as a child, being forced to look at people’s photographs from vacations or family reunions and wanting to claw my eyes out. Today, I actually enjoy looking at other people’s photos. The quality of cameras has vastly improved since the days of the Polaroid, the point and shoot with *gasp* film in it, the Brownie camera, etc. Pictures look much crisper and clearer, and I think it gives more people the inclination to be creative with their photography.

I love adding visual elements to things that I post online (hence, the pictures I have in virtually every blog post). I personally prefer sites like Photobucket to host a few pictures, but nothing major. I post a lot of pictures on Facebook.

On my trip to Europe last summer I took about 2000 photos, which I may eventually back up on Flikr so that I can finally wipe them off my SD card. Here are a few of my vacation photos for you to suffer through.
Amsterdam Bikes
Vienna fountain

I dug up an article that I dug, on a shoe that was dug up, then I Digged it on Digg. Ya’ dig?

June 10th, 2010

Today’s lesson pertained to Awareness tools. These are websites which keep you up to date on topics that are trending online. Surprisingly, I don’t hate them. I signed up for Digg.com and immediately synced this site with my Facebook account. Then I went on Yahoo news scroll on my Yahoo page (sadly, the source of most of my news) and found this article about a discovery from ancient Carrie Bradshaw’s closet. I liked it, so I searched for it on Digg, and one other person agreed with me. I clicked the “Digg” button, and this information was automatically shared with my friends on Facebook, so that they can get the idea of precisely how lame my interests are (as if they didn’t already know). Easy enough. Then I went to the Digg homepage and looked at things that other people were interested in. These types of trivial topics interest me far more than what is going on on Fox “news,” (and to show my further disdain, I add to those quotation marks, an *eye roll*). But, that is a topic for another rant.

There is an overwhelming amount of information on the web, I consider sites like these to be “blinders.” If I try to devote attention to everything floating around out there, it would drive me absolutely insane. I like sites that make things manageable, and this one doesn’t appear to be too clogged up with manure (keeping with the horse analogy).

“Your [sic] stupid”

June 9th, 2010

Today’s lesson was on forums. In my opinion, forums are the least reliable source of information on anything (except for perhaps proof of inbreeding). Take, for example this “You Know Your Stupid When” forum . You know you’re stupid when you don’t know what a contraction is? I am human and I make typos. I don’t know every grammar and punctuation rule inside and out, but things that I perceive to be pretty basic in written English are constantly misused and abused on these forums. If you can’t spell it, you’re not a credible source. If you can’t spell it with spell check, may the sweet Lord have mercy on your soul. This isn’t just a pet peeve of mine. It has grown so large that I need a peeve zoo to contain it. Yes, I sound like an old man shaking his cane at the sky, “You whippersnappers! Why don’t you proofread your forum posts?” I can’t help it. If you are going to claim that English is your first language, learn how to speak it. At least this guy has an excuse. He is from Poland and his English is far superior to many native speakers on the Internet Wasteland of Laziness. Don’t think that I’m saying that the problem is limited to forums. Chat rooms, micro-blogging, text messaging, it’s everywhere. I argue that forums are a petri dish upon which the bacteria of laziness and illiteracy multiply. My message isn’t that we should do away with forums. I love the concept of an easily accessible exchange of ideas; ideas that are properly spelled, punctuated, and proofread. There is help in the way of forum reform, check out this book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

And that is what grinds my gears.

P.S. Won’t it be ironic when someone finds a typo in this post? I’m waiting for it.

Survey says…

June 8th, 2010

Today we examined collaborative spaces in “the cloud.” “The cloud” is a place of virtually unlimited space that exists on servers, via the internet. I signed up for Google Docs, a place online that you can collaborate with others on documents, spreadsheets, slideshow presentations, etc. I wish that someone had told me of its existence before I spent a hundred and fifty bucks on Microsoft office. It has all of the functionality I need to create projects for work and school, and it is all online so I can access it from anywhere. Best of all, it costs my favorite amount, nothing. I created a survey using Google Docs. The data gathered from this survey could help stop global warming.
Alright, this survey is worthless for anything but the practice it gave me with Google Docs, but there are very useful applications of the program and it is well worth checking out. Once you have it down, convince your friends and neighbors, because the ability to share things via this platform ceases to exist if others refuse to use it. I wish I had known about this tool in previous semesters. I have spent hours at the library co-authoring papers and collaborating on powerpoint presentations, when I could have done the same thing from home and avoided a drive to campus in traffic, a walk from the scary parking garage all the way across campus, and the time spent waiting for inconsiderate group members to show up.

If Bloglines are addictive, does that make them digital cocaine?

June 7th, 2010

In order to understand that joke, you must suffer through this poorly animated clip (all the way through to the end).

For today’s lesson on RSS feeds, I had to give Bloglines another shot. In my first blog for this course, you can see that I was not too keen on the idea. Today, I was warming up to the idea, and that can be attributed to the fact that my professor likened it to Tivo. I enjoy my off-brand cable dvr, which is essentially Tivo without the fancy bubble-pop sound effects, so I decided to go ahead and try Bloglines again. Bloglines is supposed to make managing web content easier, by putting everything you read in one place. It aggregates unread blog entries until you read them. The sheer amount of content on the web only serves to make me have an existential freak out, where I feel that I am a tiny speck of dust swirling in an infinite universe and my life will be over in the blink of an eye.

This aggregator of RSS feeds allows me to be selective about which feeds I collect, yet it adds undue pressure to something that should be pleasurable. I exchanged my Blackberry for an Iphone because I did not like that god damned blinking light screaming at me all the time, “Check me. CHECK ME!” I don’t like operant conditioning that comes along with the beeps, buzzes, and blinks of technology. If I know that this site is just sitting out there in cyberspace, collecting cyber dust on things that I “should” be reading, it makes me nervous. I’m letting my freak flag fly high on this one, I am just really bothered by to-do lists that aren’t checked off, blinking Blackberries, and RSS feeds.

Chubby Fats Loves Delicious

June 6th, 2010

Our last lesson pertained to tagging and social bookmarking. I didn’t even realize that social bookmarking existed and the extent of my knowledge of tagging came from Facebook, where my lovely comrades enjoy clicking a horse’s butt cheek and labeling it with my name. Social bookmarking allows users to bookmark their favorite sites and collect them in one location on the internet. They can organize their bookmarks by tags, so that they are easy to find later because they are arranged by category. They are also public, so you can see what other people are tagging and vice verse. The site that I tried social bookmarking on is Delicious.

I didn’t even have to sign up for Delicious, because it is owned by Yahoo and I already have a Yahoo email account. After signing in with my Yahoo user name and password, I was free to start bookmarking and tagging sites. If you’d like to get a snapshot of my interests you can view my bookmarks here, on my Delicious page. I have a lot of books that I want to read in the future, but at the moment I have zero free time. I plan to mark the books that interest me on Amazon.com via Delicious, so that after I graduate I can revisit my bookmarks and buy them.

The most amusing part of this whole Delicious experience was the fact that at some point in my rambunctious youth, I attached the name “Chubby Fats” to my Yahoo I.d. I don’t remember doing it, and I have no idea when or why I did it, but it must have been me because it really seems like something I would do. When I signed up for Delicious, it automatically pulled this info and labeled my site Chubby Fats’s bookmarks. Whatever my reasons were for naming myself this in the past, I’m sure they were good, because this still cracks me up. Coincidentally, it also goes along with the theme of the site name. Everything is Delicious to me because I am Chubby Fats.

Image via http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c342/zvoncic/ss-fat-guy.jpg. Danke!

Here a Tube, There a Tube, Everywhere a YouTube

June 2nd, 2010

It amazes me how many times in my academic career (as an English major) that I have to hear the words YouTube and Twilight. It seems like a minimum of once a day that one of these is mentioned during class discussion. Generally Twilight is only mentioned as a reference to something wildly popular that holds no literary merit (even though everyone in class probably keeps a copy under their pillow next to their copy of Tiger Beat with Rob Pattinson on the cover). I have used YouTube in several presentations, and I am always shocked by the little twinkle in the professor’s eye as I cue up my thirty-five second clip. Is this a scholarly source? Probably not, but it is a great way to incorporate multimedia into your presentation. English professors love it when you think outside the box (and inside the “tube”).

I have uploaded one video to YouTube in the past. It is a clip of my daughter singing when she was about four, and she is now mortified by it. (The filming was very similar to The Blair Witch, so if you’re prone to motion sickness I wouldn’t watch the following clip).
It is a bit long, I probably should have edited it before I uploaded but I am totally clueless when it comes to video editing software. In today’s lesson I learned that I can easily edit videos via my computer’s Imovie.

Another way videos are shared online is on Hulu. I have an account there and I subscribe to my favorite shows, so the site automatically add them to my cue as they are posted on Hulu, such as 30 Rock and The Office. All of the shows there are free to watch, and they carry a lot of content from the major networks.

Podcasts…Not just for Broken Peas

June 1st, 2010

Bad jokes aside, podcasts are a marvelous use of technology. I have been listening to them for several years. I generally download them from Itunes because it is a very user friendly interface and I can load them on my Iphone. My favorite podcasts originate from Librivox. Podcasts can be streamed directly from their site or via Itunes. You can download or stream free audiobooks from this site and it’s totally legal. The books contained on this site are in the public domain, making them easily accessible.

There are a ton of free podcasts out there that contain both audio and video. Finally, information that is available in my price range! I would never want to actually create a podcast because listening to the sound of my own voice deeply disturbs me (somewhat like meeting myself in an alternate universe, but I digress). If one was interested they could go to Audacity. I learned, during today’s lesson, that I can download podcasts from NPR. I am very excited about this because one of my favorite authors, David Sedaris, frequently makes appearances on this station.

I have been cynical about various uses of technology in the past, but I’m all in on this one. I can’t see where you could really go wrong with podcasting. It’s free, it’s available to anyone with an internet connection, you can get virtually any type of content, and did I mention that it is FREE?

Second Life? No Thanks, I’m Too Busy With First Life

May 29th, 2010

Our assignment on Thursday was to join the game Second Life. Prior to this assignment, I thought that Second Life was fabricated for the television show, The Office.

To me, the title seems to be a misnomer, as it implies that the players also have a first life. In many cases, it seems that players forego having a “real” life for the fantasy of their “Second Life.” I tried to go into this assignment with an open mind, but given my wholehearted disdain for games such as World of Warcraft and Second life, this was a major challenge. I will admit, the technology is pretty amazing, and in theory it has the possibility to entertain me. In practice, I just can’t get into it. I can honestly think of at least a thousand more worthwhile uses of my time than playing this ridiculous simulation of life.

Second Life was mildly entertaining to me, but it was probably not for the reasons that the creators of the game intended. Somehow I took all of my avatar’s clothing off and could not figure out how to replace it. Then I discovered that I could fly in the game, so I flew around naked for a little while. I eventually figured out how to put clothes on, donned a ball gown (on my male avatar) and flew to some “Faerie Island.” While I was on this island, I was “eavesdropping” on a chat conversation. A girl had lost her avatar’s hair and didn’t know how to retrieve it. She seemed truly beside herself as she sobbed over her keyboard “If I don’t get my hair back, how will I ever get a husband?!” I had to butt into the conversation at this point and ask if people actually got married inside the game. She told me that they do, and that she was getting old and needed to catch a husband soon so that they could have babies. Virtual babies. Jesus H. Christ. I suppose I should be grateful that this girl is not reproducing in the real world and passing her sub-standard DNA on to another generation, thus contributing to the de-evolution of the human species. Instead, I am just sad for her.

I understand the need for some outlet for frustration or enactment of fantasy for some people, but I am just not one of those people. I am stuck in front of a computer enough at work and for school, I don’t want to spend any more time hunched over a glowing screen in my free time. I guess I’m a purist, in that I think that life should be lived primarily on Earth and not in cyberspace.

If you would like to spend your hard earned money and limited existence on this planet piloting a digital person through a fake world with other digital people, you can join here. If you would like to live life to the fullest, you should get out into the world and experience it, Orbitz.com can help.

My Trust Issues with the Internet

May 27th, 2010

In today’s lesson we examined various websites and how to verify the accuracy of information contained on them. Although truth is subjective, I think it is fairly safe to say that the internet is full of purposeful lies, creative “news,” and propaganda. When doing research it is important to know how to sift through the crap and leave only the “reliable” sources (without getting into any philosophical ramble about truth.)

I learned today that this “Martin Luther King” website is actually run by a white supremacist group. It looks like a very simplistically designed website that would give Elementary school students basic information on Martin Luther King, Jr. When you click the links, you actually get racist propaganda. This is extraordinarily sick. This type of site probably wouldn’t be blocked by any sort of parental controls, it is a seemingly innocent url, and the main page gives you no inclination of the racist information contained on the links. I can definitely see this site luring in children working on a project about Martin Luther King, which truly makes me want to vomit. The authentic site on Martin Luther King, Jr. is here .

There are some websites that are obviously not truthful or authentic. You can usually tell by their amateurish appearance and horrific grammar. Obviously blogs and other opinion articles would not be used in an academic paper, but some sources that appear to be “authentic” and “scholarly” are just people who have spent a lot of money designing their site, only to fill it with misleading or untruthful information. Today I learned to research the sources of the site to determine the author’s credibility before citing their material. In the past, I didn’t really take the time to do this. Just to be safe, I would stick to the University’s library databases in order to avoid inaccurate or misleading information. I can now expand my research horizons because I know how to carefully screen information found on the web for authenticity.

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