Saturday, April 25, 2009

Status of the blog, Twitter and Facebook

As you may have seen, I'm neglecting my blog a little these days. I'm finding that Twitter is standing in for as-it-happens content, but is of course, limited to 140 characters. Therefore, for more in depth posts, pictures and embedded content I will continue to post here in my blog. As I was talking with friends last night, the 140 character limit becomes an interesting exercise in writing. The challenge is to summarize your thoughts and content in just a sentence or two. With the help of tinyurl and some abbrevs and TLA's, Twitter updates can become very efficient and potentially deliver a potent message. I have included my real-time feed of my Twitter updates in the right hand panel of this blog, in case you're wondering what's happening between blog posts.

If you don't get Twitter, let me try and explain it in 140 characters...
Twitter allows you to instantly share what you are doing, what you find interesting and what you think with about 8 million people. For those familiar with Facebook, Twitter is just the status part!

There is tons of information about Twitter these days (including a new blog called
Twitter Facts I just found) and you're probably hearing a lot more about it these days as celebrities, news sources and sports personalities start coming on board. Some interesting notes: only 35 people work at Twitter; I often hear news through Twitter, before I hear it through other online or traditional communication channels; for many celebrities, Twitter provides a way to disintermediate the paparazzi and junk tabloid press; and the limit of 140 characters stops the rants, rambling marketing BS, and wordy commentary - it just gets the point !

If you're wondering about the credibility of the Twitterer or their tweet, then my answer is the same for many online sources of information. The democratization of the internet, where everyone has a very easy way to provide feedback and comment to anyone and everything, creates a self-regulated internet information source. For instance, if someone nabs a celebrity's name and pretends to be them on Twitter, it will not take very long time for many people to discredit the fake source and educate people on where to find the real person.

However, not everything is rosy in Twitter world. There is an ugly side to Twitter in that it can open up unwanted online marketing channels. You'll notice this when you're happy tweeting away (say about your latest ultimate injury) and you get a notification that
jennyhealthexpert has started following you. Now, jennyhealthexpert may be a friend with a weird alias, or someone that legitimately is interested in your health and condition, but more often than not, jennyhealthexpert wants you to follow her so she can tell you about her thoughts or perhaps advertise her services. You have of course, the choice not to follow jennyhealthexpert, and if you don't then she'll likely eventually unfollow you. But, it still feels a little uncomfortable, knowing people are just waiting for you to tweet on a topic that they want to use to market themselves to you !

The other thing that came up this week about Twitter was the use of real names versus aliases. For me, I think I still like to use my alias when publicly posting on my blog and Twitter. I keep my real name for Facebook where the community is better controlled. As a few people have said, it is a little surprising how open people are sharing personal and professional comments under their real name on Twitter. It's probably not that difficult to figure out my real name from my blog or Twitter, but why advertise it ! My friends know how to find me if they're interested in what I have to say, so I'll leave it like this. In case you're reading this or following me on Twitter, and also a friend of mine on Facebook, you may have noticed that I have fewer Facebook status updates these days. This is because the auto feed from Twitter to Facebook now is selective, I get to choose which Twitter updates go to Facebook. I do get quite a few people politely comment that I update my Facebook status much more often than other friends. Hopefully, I'm not clogging your news feed as much these days !

I also use my alias when sharing other things publicly, incl.
Flickr and comments on other people's content. On that note, I'm pleased to say that one of my pictures was recently used on blogTO. I wonder how many people on the net are known more by their alias rather than their real name ?

I had contemplated posting "The Big Blog Weekend Update", but instead I'm just going to post individual pieces with titles and labels so readers can pick and choose. Plus I won't feel that I just need to add this one extra thing before I post the big update, so I'll actually get something out. Just remembered another reason I was going to do one big I could post just one link to Facebook rather than posting a lot of individual links, um.

Well, this little topic took a lot longer than planned this morning, blogs about soccer, Arshavin, Anfield song, ultimate, St George's day, health, money, Travis gig, other music, Contact and Luminato festivals, God poster and cars will have to wait for another day.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ultimate - more than you think

Great article in blogTO about ultimate today. Fab video showing intense highlights below (although as one comment suggests, not really showing the nice, spirit-of-the-game side of our fabulous game). The video does its job of showing the sport really is extremely athletic and should dismiss those silly comments about it's just throwing a frisbee on the beach. Now if I could only cure this nagging arm injury, I'd be ready for the outdoor season next month.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Creative Grumpiness

I'm a little down these days. Maybe it's the cold weather delay of Spring, or my nagging arm injury (and concerns about sports in the upcoming months), or more dietary changes, or the lack of sleep and routine, or my Dad's health, or the economic woes effecting the globe. I guess it's all those things put together. Sidebar on health - maybe it's my age, but it seems that each successive issue I have these days has a much bigger impact on me than it used to do, I'm finding that just one ailment can easily effect me, combine a few and drag it on for weeks and months, and I'm not myself.

I've heard that musicians and maybe writers, find it therapeutic to channel their negativity through their art. We all know that there have been some great songs written my rejected lovers, or in memory of family deaths or reflecting on troubled times.

But what about photography (the art form I perhaps can partake in) ? Apart from the photo journalism reality of reporting on the nasty news of the day, I'm not one to look for depressing photographs. But maybe this is a neglected field.

Maybe I'll snap a few shots on the Blackberry at lunch or bring the DSLR out tomorrow and shoot some shots of road work, dirt and grime, ugly construction sites, garbage and litter. But how could that make me feel better ? I don't know, maybe I'll feel better with a few days of warmer weather, an extra hit of ibuprofen for my arm and a overdue pint.

Hope you're having a better day.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Photo Blog #10: DC Angles and Reflections

We recently had a fabulous visit to Washington DC. Lots of sites in all kinds of Spring weather. More shots on Flickr.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Mac Experience

I bought a MacBook shortly after Christmas.

First, I must say that the simplicity of buying a computer that deliberately has few options is a joy. Saw a rare $100 off deal at Future Shop, went in and um'd and ar'd for a few token minutes, then said I'll have it. Some might say I'm crazy, but we turned down Future Shop's maintenance plan and haven't signed up for Mac's service program. Logic suggests serious problems happen within a year and I really only buy insurance for my life, my house and my car. I bought a Airport Express at the time of the purchase with thoughts of a replacement for my 'g' router plus I loved the wireless iTunes capability.

I got home and literally within minutes turned it on for the first time, answered some very basic configuration questions and connected to my existing wireless network. I was literally up and running on a brand new Mac computer in about 30 minutes.

Next task, was familiarizing myself with basic Mac applications and getting used to the new magical trackpad. Some Mac things immediately began to trip me up like missed home/end keys and the awkward Finder interface.

The Airport Express wasn't really a "silver bullet" as it doesn't have an ethernet cable input for my existing hard wired PC. So I configured it as a wireless client just to stream iTunes. I got it configured pretty quickly and it worked beautifully. However, it did trigger the next wave of networking decisions and since then, I have bought a Airport Extreme from a friend and almost got it perfect. Some gotchas on the networking front and still occasional interference problems and the odd drop. It's not perfect , but doing the job and pretty fast. Note that I had thought my PS3 had an 'n' wireless card, but it only has a 'g' card so I've decided to downgrade the network on occasion when I need PS3 network connectivity. Otherwise I'm going to try and keep the network as 'n' only and on 5ghz to hopefully reduce interference. The last configuration change was connecting my Seagate external USB drive to the Airport Extreme. I had to reformat the drive (using an included Seagate app) to be compatible with the Mac (I think that means FAT32, but haven't confirmed because the drive appears as something special to the PC and is now being used as a backup Mac Time Machine. This last little bit was a nice bonus.
I spoke a little too soon - it just failed with a connection error.

And that little excursion may be a good example of the problem with Mac. When things go wrong, it's not always that obvious how to fix them. A few people have asked about my Mac experience and comparisons to PC's. I've quickly replied that I think Macs are great for the home, but I'm not sold on them being a good solution for a large business customer. The logic being that I haven't seen the granularity of control and configuration that is often needed to meet the high demands of enterprise information technology today. I've been very impressed by the simplicity of the Mac OS and its easy plug-and-play capabilities (especially with other Mac products like the Airport network components)
. However, on a few occasions I've been tripped up, merrily walking down the pleasant Mac boulevard, when gotcha, figure this one out !

I'm just getting around to finishing this post a few weeks later. I have seen Mac's hourglass equivalent - spinning colour wheel a few times and had to force quit on a few occasions, but I'm getting pretty comfortable with MacBook. Network instability is still a bit of a problem, but it's been on 'n' with 'g' compatibility for a little while and all the clients (PC, MacBook, Airport, PS3 and my work Windows laptop) seems happy. [Just as I finished typing this last sentence the Extreme router hiccuped and I lost the connection -
connectivity up and down now - weird, it's like the Mac network knows I'm talking about it from a Windows laptop].

I actually gave it trying to finish this post last night, I finally got the network back after installing the Airport Utility on my PC and changing it to 'n' 5Ghz - again. This morning, the Extreme was reporting an error connecting to the internet - I really getting to dislike that little flashing orange light ! I'm seriously thinking of replacing the Airport Extreme if I can't get config a reliable setup. Any suggestions on specific settings appropriate for my mix of machines and adapters in a very (wireless) busy and close proximity neighbourhood would be appreciated.

Some miscellaneous items:
  • antivirus - none installed, yes, none installed
  • Firewall - basic Mac firewall included in OS - seems a little too basic
  • fast user switching - beautiful and highly functional in a household with 4 users - but it's not ideal, because we have the "home" account streaming the music and then when someone is on their personal account, they're always being asked to skip to the next song; on a sidenote I did consider a remote control, but Apple told me it works on line-of-sight, so not great for me trying to DJ from the kitchen.
  • USB/iPod connectivity good except the Seagate connection on the Extreme seems a little funky and disrupting Time Machine and manual PC backups
  • Garage Band and Photo Booth lots of free fun
  • I'm still loving the trackpad
  • I'm not using many native Mac apps, Firefox runs great, and OpenOffice has nice compatibility when needed for office apps; I've moved all our music to the MacBook with iTunes, but for disk space reasons, source photos are still on the PC with Photoshop
  • Battery power seems ok, but not great and it does run pretty hot
  • The MacBook chasis is beautiful and strong - it's getting around the house on a regular basis
  • The screen is pretty nice and feels bigger than it's most 13"
  • Spaces seemed like a good feature to use initially, but not using it much these days
Final thoughts. I'm happy with the Mac OS, the beautiful styling and quality of Apple's products and I can overlook most of its shortcomings, although I have some doubts about Apple's networking products. Mac OS is more simple to configure and manage than Windows, in many situations it performs better is more stable than Windows. I'm pretty sure, my next desktop will be an iMac.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The result is in...being a vegan doens't help me

As you may recall, I recently became a vegan for 2 months in hopes of dramatically lowering my blood cholesterol levels, specifically my LDL.

I talked with my doctor a few weeks ago and my LDL number (the key measurement) only fell 15% from 2.9 to 2.48. As it happens, I've been told on a few occasions that the average person's dietary intake only accounts for 15% of their blood cholesterol. Decreasing it by 15% may be coincidentally convenient, but I'd like to think that I was in pretty good control of my dietary intake of bad fats before I became vegan (with the 2.9 measurement in January). There is in my mind, only one other factor that is in my control that may have some say in my blood cholesterol levels - alcohol. During my vegan months, I kept my alcohol intake normal (well, "normal" for me). One reason was to control the variables, and the other one is that there is no clear indication that alcohol consumption negatively affects blood cholesterol. And in fact, there have been quite a few
studies that suggest regular drinks of wine and beer can help - I like those studies.

This week I got the final numbers: LDL 2.48, HDL 1.37 (which didn't go up as much as I'd hoped), total: 4.46, triglycerides 1.34 and Risk ratio: 3.3. Pretty good for a normal person, not good enough for someone in a high risk category like me.

So the good news/bad news. Bad news: I can't reduce my blood cholesterol levels enough through diet, therefore I've increased my dose of Lipitor to 40mg/day (but still a moderate dose). The good news: I can enjoy meat and fish once again, and perhaps even better, I don't have to feel guilty or have to second guess - I now know being a vegan doesn't help with my particular condition. However keep in mind that besides my personal biggest health threat, high blood cholesterol,
there may be many other health benefits of limiting animal protein based foods.

The experiment did teach me one thing, I don't need to eat meat. Put into more socially acceptable terms, I don't need to eat meat as often. I have enjoyed many vegetarian and vegan meals over the last few months and will continue with many of them, but I'll enjoy eating fish (especially sushi) once again and be able to eat some red meat guilt free on occasions too.

Bon appetit