Snow Day

I wish I was a crow, so I could see the the sky disappear onto rooftops, where I’d alight, not knowing whether I perched upon a weather mane or a stove pipe.

It’s the kind of day where, walking, you suddenly find your feet straddling the curb of a street where the sidewalk once was. Everything buried in a 12-inch quilt of white.

Looking down, eyes sparkle with rainbow-strewn dots flitting in and out of comprehension’s way. What is color?

The few people out and about are sweating in their winter fluff, rediscovering the true shape of their girlfriends’ cars while the women stand there, dutifully watching.

It’s hard to breathe. The air 50/50 mixed with engines giggling methane, left idling by whilst masters keep toasty inside. The biting cold freezing dripping snot runs that you can’t feel until lungs feel fit to combust.

No one should be working today. Why try and drive someplace? This winter Sunday is best enjoyed with screwdriver in hand, staring out the window at the splendor of nature’s destruction.

It knows not what it does. It just is.

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Hiatus is halfway done!

Hello, and welcome back! You might not have noticed, but I haven’t written for the blog in the last two weeks. Maybe this isn’t so preposterous, as during college or some of my lower points, I would go a couple of months without blogging, but the last two years I’ve been pretty adamant about posting at least once or twice a week, so somewhere in the back of my mind I get a little peeved about the fact that I haven’t been writing little news stories for you, for the last 15 days.

So! This is the halfway point during my speech where I inform you that I’ve made a proclamation to focus my attention on Camp NaNoWriMo, whereby my writing attentions are solely directed toward fiction. I made a Facebook post publicizing the fact, but just in case you’ve been refreshing this page every other day, looking for new content, and you’ve been sorely disappointed, now you know why!

There you have it. Congratulations to all participating in the month-long marathon that is NaNoWriMo. Starting Aug. 1, you can expect to see a flurry of new blog posts (I have, like, five potentials up my sleeve).

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Why upgrading to Windows 10 is no big deal

My first experience with Windows 10 is nothing out of the ordinary. The average person upgrades their OS every 5-8 years. So, if you’ve used Windows-based operating systems for the last 20 years, chances are you won’t freak out when you finally install Windows 10.

UI

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The user interface isn’t all that different from Windows 8. In the native start menu, you’ll see tablet-style tiles for news, Facebook updates, and suggested apps. If you don’t like this revolving flipboard of notifications, you can always install the Classic Shell and your start menu will go back to Windows 7/8. My favorite feature exists for the sole purpose of efficiency. When you click on the little arrow (woh2) near one of your frequently used programs, you have the option to click on one of your most recently opened files. So you can pick up right where you left off.

The Action Center is more for businesses, I think, what with the VPN controls and such, but maybe you want to see your Pinterest notifications, weekly alerts, and system status messages all in one place? I tend to ignore this thing on the right-hand side of the screen (it’s connected to the little thought bubble icon (woh) on the system tray/task bar). blog4

Naming Conventions

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See “All apps” instead of “All programs”, “Quick access” (boop) instead of “Favorites”. I find Quick access very handy, indeed. Quick access learns which folders you’re using the most, whether you’re frequently accessing a folder within your Desktop, somewhere in the cloud, or even on a remote server. So, instead creating a shortcut (how ’00s of you), now you can just click on the folder on the left-hand side of your File Explorer.

Edge

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Instead of Internet Explorer, we now have Edge. The icon (ee) is still quite similar, so I’m hesitant to click on it when I see it in the taskbar. I mostly use Chrome, as this wonderful browser has all my passwords, cookies, and bookmarks saved. And it loads fast. Why would you switch to Edge?

Cortana

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A long-winded sidenote about Cortana:

Cortana lives under the guise of a small circle (cort) lurking on your taskbar. She’s an AI named after the character popular in the Halo franchise, I imagine, and she’s hailed as the Windows equivalent to Apple’s Siri. However, she’s nothing like Siri. Cortana is a glorified search bar. So, instead of the Windows 8 version of the start menu search bar, you have to use Cortana, or look through your files yourself (see Quick Access section above).

Nothing personal about that at all. If I asked Siri, “What’s up, doll?” She responds with, “Helping Liam recycle solar panels, so we can all have a brighter future.” Now, that’s cute. Siri actually understands full sentences, too, so that’s comforting. Like Siri, Cortana does do things I tell her to. For instance, if I say, “Make a note,” she would start dictating for me, just like Siri.

However, when you activate Cortana, the stipulations state she tracks your browser history, she uses your location, she suggests things, and sends you alerts when it seems like you have all these other options to receive reminders (see Action Center above), and maybe you don’t want the office knowing you’re looking up guacamole recipes at work?

I’m disabling Cortana, FYI. (The circle icon then turns into a magnifying glass [meep].)

So, come on, Microsoft. Get with the times already. If you name an app “Cortana”, I expect her to be kind of buggy, severely accurate and timely, yet full of personality. Maybe I shouldn’t have played Halo and/or read the books so thoroughly…

Overall, switching to Windows 10 isn’t all that daunting. Sure, the text seems a little smaller and crisper than you’re used to, but you can always enlarge it in your Settings. So, don’t be scared to upgrade–especially if it’s free.

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Realizations of a nonplussed serpent on the rise of something great, yet unsure

I can facilitate, orchestrate, cheer lead, and purchase things, but I’m not a good decision maker. I’m realizing this about myself.

I’ll instinctively purchase a mic that’s $300 because I believe it’s high quality, merely based on price and the hour’s worth of research I performed before pressing the “Place Order” button.

Only to come to find out the transmitter and receiver are solid, but I need to buy a separate lapel clip for another $300 to get the sound quality we’re striving for, to do voice overs at work.

I have found a sense of balance however. I used to be inconsistent. I was a different person at work, compared with who I was at home or with different groups of friends. A shapeshifter, maybe. A selkie, if you will. But I’ve long since shed that unfamiliar skin and grew into some kind of chameleon hybrid instead.

I think I know who I am now, at 26 and a half.

I used to be highly concerned with what people thought of me. Did they view me differently with straight hair? Contacts or glasses? Do I feel different when invisible? Does my own altered perception of reality influence the actions of others around me?

The answer is no. I am who I was from the get-go. John Locke was wrong. We’re not all tabula rasa, but something else entirely.

No destiny to speak of, we’re already programmed with personalities, we just have to find the truth deep within and come to terms with it.

 

Featured image via THE DIGITAL COUNTER-REVOLUTION

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The Myopic Generation: An Experiment in Progress

There’s a social experiment in the works, here. It all started with a conversation at the local liquor store. During the latest transaction, the proprietor motioned toward my glasses and mentioned that her daughter had poor eyesight, but she could see 20/20 herself. Why is that, she asked? We discussed the issue at hand, reasoning that perhaps tech was to blame. I promised her I would investigate this matter further, and here I present my findings as provided partly by my own experiences with nearsightedness (myopia) and myriad articles I found online (via tech, of course, further subjecting myself to the further propagation of this perpetual problem.)

Purpose:

To find out why people believe that new generations of humans will have exponentially bad eyesight

Hypothesis:

Muscles typically used for long-distance vision atrophy as today’s technologically-centric humans train their eyes to focus on objects 6-12″ away.

Research:

  • “Children today have grown up with technology always at their fingertips. It seems as if kids learn how to use a smartphone or tablet before they learn to walk. Whether it’s playing the latest game or doing homework, technology permeates a child’s life and does so at a young age. Because this is a new phenomenon, not much is known about the long-term impact of computers or other digital gadgets on pediatric eyes. However, eye care providers have reported seeing an increase in cases of myopia, or nearsightedness. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 34 million Americans suffer with myopia, a number that is projected to rise to nearly 40 million by 2030.ix Although there is no one specific cause for the increase, scientists point to a mix of genetic and environmental factors, including increasing near-range activities such as the use of digital devices, and decreasing exposure to natural light through outdoor activities.x Digital eye strain can also affect children and teens, whose eyes may fatigue after long periods of use. Computers and smartphones are often tied to every facet of a young person’s life—from school to socializing, there is little respite from the constant use of technology. ” (via The Vision Council)
  • “Single-vision minus lenses for full-time use produce accommodative insufficiency associated with additional symptoms until the patient gets used to the lens. This is usually accompanied by a further increase in myopia and the cycle begins anew.” – Martin H Birnbaum (1973), Review of Optometry  (via Improve Vision Naturally)
  • “Modern living has sparked something of a myopia epidemic. Our children are spending more of their free time indoors watching TV and playing video games than generations of the past, and their long distance vision is suffering.

    In China, a massive 76% of lower middle school students are already nearsighted. Education officials now see to it that Chinese students perform eye exercises twice a day in order to tackle the myopia epidemic.

    In contrast, countries whose cultures place more emphasis on sports and outdoor living – such as Australia and New Zealand – have among the lowest occurrence of nearsightedness in the world. The solution, then, is to spend more time outdoors and actually using your long distance vision.

    Like any muscle – even like your brain – if you stop using your eyes they can become weak. If you’re nearsighted, you probably spend a lot of time indoors performing close-up tasks and your long distance vision has become weak. You can correct this by enjoying the great outdoors more frequently and focusing in the long distance.” – Improve Vision Naturally

Background

Studies show that myopia may passed down genetically, or it may be caused by a steady decline in eyesight, due to external environmental factors. In my case, both my mother and father have almost perfect eyesight. They’re parents also had perfect eyesight. And my great grandparents? I’ve never seen them wear glasses, either. I’ve thought this over, long and hard, and the first implication of the onset of my condition is enmeshed in a memory from the age of 2-years-old or so, when I walked outside, taking a breather from the otherworldly confusion ensuing from the TV as my older sister watched Munsters with her friend on TV. I found myself staring at the sun. What pretty colors there were to be found there. After staring at the TV screen, almost believing the world to consist of the grey-scale palette featured on the show, I saw hues of purple interchanged with blue and red and yellow and the whole UV spectrum seemed to open up to me. Who knows how long I let my retina erode at such an early age. You wouldn’t know it to recognize me today, as we have the most fashionable eyeglasses currently in creation (See: Warby Parker, my chosen frames and contacts, of course) but I have myopia. I actually have astigmatism, which means that instead of seeing the horizon as a flat plane, my eyes actually tilt flat planes into 45 degree diagonals. The average human being may see a little fuzziness around the edges, but I see double. Call me four-eyes, if you will, but when I look at the sun today, the glaring heat giant in the sky looks to be 10 times its size, as my eyes blur the multiple versions of the same object into one, without definition, disproportionate in scale.

After reading a few articles on the subject, I can’t help but think that while part of our brains have evolved over the centuries (See: Multi-tasking abilities, problem-solving skills, overall sense of urgency and a need for productivity) while another crucial part of our anatomy has devolved (See: Paleolithic-era hunters, scanning the horizon for enemies).

The future generations of humans will focus ever more closely to objects within a foot from their faces, and quite frankly (and this is the sci-fi part of me speaking to you, now) we won’t even have to strain our eyes that far, because we’ll probably have contacts within the internet embedded right in the soft faux-factory-induced-plastic material we’ve voluntarily subsumed into our ocular anatomy by the 22nd century.

There’s also somewhat of a spiritual-awakening trend taking place as we speak. Something about seeing what’s right in front of you… “living in the moment”. These messages are secretly seeping into our subconscious. Why worry about the future when you should focus on the here-and-now? Likewise, that object in the distance? Don’t look at that. It’s not important. Focus on the task at hand. The task! Complete it. Now.

Experiment:

To roll with my childhood intuition (or abhorrence toward wearing glasses), I’ll go two days without glasses or contacts and register the time it takes for me to register a headache, and I’ll use the pinhole method (the natural equivalent to using a pair of binoculars to focus on one object at a time) in favor of letting my otherwise lazy eyes strain themselves to focus on objects close up while I’m wearing glasses strategically engineered to sharpen objects at a distance (counter-intuitive, perpetuating the cycle mentioned in Improve Vision Naturally article.)

On Day 1:

I will read from a book (close-at-hand) and after 20 minutes, will stare out the window for 20 minutes, training my eyes to adjust from their natural (or unnatural, at this point?) nearsighted tendencies to focusing on objects at a distance.

On Day 2:

I should be able to focus on objects farther than 20 feet away, without incurring an immediate headache. I should become comfortable looking into the distance, without immediately finding myself fighting the instinct to grab for my glasses. Reading from a book less than a foot in front of my face should feel as natural as focusing on a rabbit running across the pavement on the street below, more than 20 feet away from the window.

Measurement:

This is a hard one. How can someone measure their ability to focus on objects in the distance, when they have made the habit of assuming said objects are out-of-focus? I suppose it’s all about comfort, yeah? I will go a weekend without corrective lenses, and exercise my eye muscles to focus on objects in the distance. Meanwhile, I will record my observations. Success will be measured by my comfort level at Day 1 versus Day 2. I know this is not a lot of time for such an extravagant endeavor, but I believe that by Day 2, I can train my brain to receive light signals off in the distance, instead of turning on all of the lights in the house so that I may focus on a single object close at hand. The method of measurement will be comfort. I will rate my level of comfort using an eye-strain, pain threshold such as 1 equals “little to no pain” and 5 equals “total annihilation of the senses, beginning with the eyes.”

Conclusion:

I will share the results of this experiment on my Twitter page. Just a short, little, 140-character snippet of my findings.

 

Featured image via Little Four Eyes

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Back in the day, short headlines were good headlines

Now, it seems like we have to pack every inch of cyberspace with SEO-expurgated copy, GIF ads, color-BAM!, and sound-WHUM! Until our brains are glitching out in time with our poor, broke back browsers.

Gone are the days when puns were artfully hidden within the tiny folds of a headline precariously placed between what precious little space was available on the physical page.

I, for one, was never all that good at coming up with headlines. By that I mean, I could spit out 10 or 20 phrases, each with words that might stick to the fly paper, but mostly it’s crapola. The best way to come up with a good headline is to stand around with your friends, teeth unconsciously grazing thumbnails, heads bowed in reverent concentration, and whisper things like, “Can you kern that line a little?” and “Try 18.265 pt., see if that does it.”

And the phrases go flying:
“Should it rhyme?”
“What do you think about alliteration?”
“Putting ‘killer’ in front of ‘baby’ makes it seem like Chucky’s little monster infant is out there, stalking the streets, hungry for blood.”

Oh, and most of your ideas get shot down in a real newsroom. I’m talkin’ about people cursing each other out. Stress at its peak. Deadlines stretching the time between two minutes like a chasm into which you could pitch the entire orchestra that is your soul’s longing to opine about anything you’re most passionate about, while simultaneously it’s like you’d blink and your story’s past due. Finito. “You’re no longer allowed to write for us.”

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Oh, no, I’m fine. I got this.

Flash forward five years and you’re a different person. You’ve changed with the tides, so to speak, ever evolving with the shifting sea of short attention spans and long-winded titles for articles that might not even have anything relatable in the body. It’s all so marketable now and “Is your landing page up to par?” and “How many clicks did I get today” and “I need more views on my video, so I can look like a badass, like I know what I’m doing and the numbers will prove my worth to all of society!”

Phew. It’s exhausting thinking about how fast things change around here, but really, who are we without change?

I was thinking about this on the way to work today, about Decartes’ clean slate and I’m still trying to figure out which side of the debate I lean towards. Part of me is all, “Mhmm, well, Carl Jung made a point there, with his structure of the Hero’s Journey, like, there’s something to this collective conscious-type instinct we have for speech and predilection towards religion…” So, like I said, still straddling the fence, here. Can people change or are we programmed from Day 1?

“I, too, need structure. A little fucking discipline.”
– Jane Burnham, American Beauty

Overall, I think I miss structure. Though there aren’t exactly enough hours in the day to do everything I was to do (five months since my “resolution” article and I still haven’t learned how to play guitar), but I’m still pretty much free to goof off. And no one’s telling me if I’m doing a good job.

School was degrading at times, depressing at times, sometimes passing through me as if I were made of fog, but at least I had some kind of system whereby I was graded on my progress in life! And college was life for a while, something to focus on, something to believe in. Now, as an “adult”, I’m just making it up as I go along.

It’s kind of like my “profession” in general. We’re all just making it up as we go along. We can show off some analytics and say, “Oh, hey. That’s working,” and “Look, this guy came to our site at 1:05 p.m. through a link I sent him in our eblast and then he purchased an item,” and yes, there are percentages and scenarios and A/B testing, but is that what journalism is about? Being the ultimate crowd-pleaser?

This may be part of my quarterly, semi-silent, psychotic rant phase, but there are times when I, too, feel a sense of doubt. Having read Orwell to pieces, I still can’t help but feel like “slavery is freedom” and when we’re put in chains, we at least have something to push back against, we have a need to find creative ways out of our situations. But, what if your life is like this big net of creativity? How can you tell you’re being creative, really, or are you just assigning yourself the label, wham, bam, thank you, ma’am?

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Coulda woulda shoulda

Sometimes I feel I’m being sucked into the tar, and immortalizing these crappy sentences I throw together in some stupendous rage, all because I thought something was interesting (I can’t blog on a consistent basis, because I find random things bloggable, at random times).

But, I mean, is it? Do you like it? Do you? And does it matter much anyway, in the large scheme of things? Part of me feels like I missed a crucial step in becoming a legitimate journalist. I could have traveled more, I could have fought for the rights of the underdog, like I was taught to do through sharing facts and quotes. I could have been another Marie Colvin, who lost her life in defense of pursuing the truth, through any means necessary. Another part of me is sitting pretty, thinking that this life ain’t so bad, and I’m kind of comfy in this chair, though it’s probably making my butt pancake-flat over time.

Who knows. Writing it out kind of makes me feel better, though. I mean, a physical diary just doesn’t quite cut the mustard, when I can satisfy my inner-adolescent’s need to merge tech with words with images and all of the above. Sure, I think I could have thrived in the newspaper world, pre-blogs, but who’s worse off in the end?

This whole thing really just started because I wanted an A+ on my headline test

And now that we’ve got THIS out of the way, there are a few things I’m tossing around up there in my noggin. It’s like playing Hot Potato with blog ideas:

  • On Reading Translated Works
    • Focusing on Truck Stop Rainbows by Iva Pekárková
  • Kombucha Tea
    • Guess the fermenting process is good for your gut. Does the same go for drinking beer, or what?
  • Is it just me or is the 50s-style of singing crooners coming back with reinforced, warbling vigor?
    • See: Tripswitch, others
  • The Future is Unclear–Literally
    • Inspired by a conversation I had with the proprietor at my local liquor store. She observed that her children have bad eyesight, but she sees 20/20. Is there some link here, between focusing on iPads and books (she said her daughter’s a READER!) allowing the muscles that propitiate foresighted-focusing to atrophy from disuse?
  • Nielsen Data
    • The nation is watching itself watch itself watch itself watch itself
  • 10 Ways to Kill Time at the Office While Simultaneously Staying Productive
    • I have some weird ideas for this one, for sure
  • The Cure is coming to town, June 7
  • Lab Girl – a book I want to read

Well, that’s pretty much it for now. I feel like a career hot-air balloon that’s finally descended back down to Earth to gather up its skirts and take a little cat nap.

Maybe this weekend, I’ll take up the keys and drop some knowledge on ya! ‘Til then.

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I’m not bald, okay? I shaved my head. Do you understand?”  – Kill Bill

 

Featured image via A Blogger’s Corner

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‘Weird’ is a hard word to define

It’s about time I wrote an etymology report, and I’m planning on publishing a new one each month. The subject matter should be comprised of either trending words, rarely seen, frequently misused, or words with strangely archaic origins.

The why and how of language is a curious thing.

I’ve always been interested in the origin of words, along with their connotations. On a personal note, as a child, my punishment for stealing or lying would result in copying, by hand, words from the dictionary along with their meanings. I often struggled in such a simple task, when my step dad wouldn’t allow me to use syntactical punctuation marks–I had to write this in full sentences. For instance, I might find a bottleneck like, “The meaning of the word meaning means…” How could you possibly explain anything with that circular way of thinking? I had to dive deeper, discover synonyms, and find other ways of conveying my point to my step dad. Would he become baffled upon reading what I had written? Would he be impressed? Would he even read it at all, I wondered.

This ultimately led me to discover I enjoyed exercising what I’ve learned, kinesthetically, usually by rephrasing explanations in a way that made sense to me. I continued the practice on a 1980 Macintosh word processor that my biological father brought home when I was around the age of 10 (early 2000s) and started typing up passages I liked from our encyclopedia collection (mostly about the habitats of arboreal creatures like frogs and leopards), then I’d stare at them for a spell, mesmerized by the blinking green line glowing amid a black background, and I’d print it out just for added justification.

Then there was Spanish class in middle school. I found a lot of words in English had similar-sounding homonyms, spelling, and associated syntax. This led me toward French, another romance language that I can’t get enough of (though I sound like an ape trying to pronounce a damn thing, no offense to apes). The point is, it’s all interrelated, English steals from other languages to compose a more hardy, marble-mouthed version of some of the most beautiful words in existence, in my opinion.

Now that my backstory is out in plain view, I’d like to take this little habit a step further and dredge up the meanings behind one particular word, monthly if it all goes as planned.

I plan to interview experts in etymology and bring their insights back to this blog, but for now, let’s just jump into the origin of the word “weird” as I think that might be the best word to describe my own blog. I should’ve named it “weird nerd” or some such nonsense, but as a computer lover, the 7331 speak spoke volumes to me. Hence, w3rdn3rd.

Well, it’s about time I get back to my origins for deeming this domain to be centered on nerdy words, then, ey?

Since I have no live witnesses on hand to demonstrate my hypotheses, let’s see what the internet has to say about the word, “weird.”

Definition for “Weird”

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Merriam-Webster
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Use over time for: weird

Can we go back to spelling the word “weird” with a “y”? I don’t know about you, but I kind of want to explore the Old English origins of this word. How did “destiny” turn into “abnormal” in everyday usage?

From Wordorigins.org:

Until its appearance in the Scottish Play, the adjectival use was restricted to the phrase weird sister. Only after Shakespeare used the term, did its use expand to other contexts.

The modern adjectival sense, meaning strange or uncanny, dates only to the early nineteenth century. Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary only records it as an adjective, “no longer in use,” meaning skilled in witchcraft. Shelley uses the word several times. From his 1817 The Revolt of Islam, used in the sense of something supernatural:

Some said, I was a fiend from my weird cave, Who had stolen human shape.

Oh, how I love that book…

Next month, let’s look at the word “devolved” because I’ve been hearing it a lot lately.

Are there any weird words you’d like to explore? Let me know and I’ll try to wrangle up a few experts in the field to debunk their origins.

Until next time!

 

Featured image via Alexander Vestin

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