blogger whines

I am convinced more than ever that Facebook and Twitter have both conspired to fan the nasty flames of my blogging indolence. (And, yes, they’re also to blame for my heightened self-centeredness and paranoia.)

I woke up one dark morning and realized I could not write more than 140 characters at a time. Horrors!

Worse, any attempt at “long-distance” writing is frequently interrupted by the urge—nay, need—to check friends’ post so I can “like”, comment, retweet, or get lost following links to pictures, videos, articles, or what-not.

Don’t forget to punctuate with an apt emoticon: ๐Ÿ™‚ :/ ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜€ โค or “hehe”, “haha”, or “huhu.” I don’t use “LOL”.

I have never been a consistent blogger to begin with, but since my love affair with social media’s mini-posts, the inconsistency has intensified to an alarming level.

Believe me, I have not taken the matter sitting down.ย Well, maybe I have, but only literally: I’ve sat in front of my computer many times in the past month attempting to break the blogging dry spell.

Iย struggled, despaired, and self-pitied (more than usual), only to churn out half-a-dozen drafts, each never maturing to more than a few sentences.

I’ve read articles—yes, picked up from friends’ FB and Twitter links—that bemoan or celebrate the way social networking media is dramatically changing the way humans (at least the chunk of humanity that has a modem) are thinking, learning, and relating. And writing!

Oh I feel the change.

See, this blog post even looks like a patchwork of Facebook status messages and tweets.

Woe is @aleks_tan.

Then again, maybe that’s the way to win the battle to regain blogging and “long-distance” writing momentum.

Think of each sentence or two as an independent mini-post.

Assemble and then hope the end product resembles something readable, understandable, even “like”-able.


my new macbook is old

So the rumors buzzing in Mac-themed sites are true after all. One month after getting my white MacBook (which I named Zak), Steve Jobs and friends launch new and improved MacBooks!

Swanky aluminum case. Glorious glass screen. Multi-touch (and buttonless!) trackpad. Faster. Better. Cooler. See for yourself here.

Someone needs an extra-strong shot of contentment.

working out

I decided to work away from the office today, mainly to do some zoom-out, big-picture thinking and planning. I rescheduled one meeting and informed my staff that I would be accessible virtually if they needed me, thanks to email, instant messaging, and the cellphone.

I find that working off-site once in awhile boosts productivity. Being physically away from my desk extricates me from the usual office distractions. Matters that need my attention are automatically filtered โ€”if it’s really important, I will get a call on my cellphone. And, when I decide to work some place other than home, the new environment stimulates creativity. I have a very able team, and I suspect that sometimes they also consider me a “distraction.” So maybe they welcome not having me around every now and then.

After going through email at home this morning, I packed Zak (yup, that’s the name of my MacBook – thanks, Ruben) and headed to Gloria Jeans in Araneta Center, Cubao. I like this place because of its many power outlets. Customers can freely plug in their gadgets without having to deal with the service crew’s darting looks. No time limit on power usage too. There used to be just a handful of laptop users in GJ; but since the rise of ultra mobile PCs, more techie telecommuters have swarmed the place. The spots closest to the power outlets are obviously the most coveted. Thankfully, my favorite spot was available.

I’m happy with how my day has panned out. I managed to pin down a backlogged project, flesh out some nascent ideas that would otherwise be ignored during the course of an office day, and start planning the next few months. As a bonus, I also got to put Zak to testโ€”to see how well we can tackle work documents together. Before today, Zak and I have only been playingโ€”it’s amazing how fun Macs can be! I’ve been a long-time WIndows user who dabbled with Linux for awhile, and so far I’ve found the Mac OS experience a pleasant one. The Mac is very intuitive and elegant, among other things…

But that’s a different story altogether.

back with a mac!

And I’m back! Apologies for the silence, friends. Been awfully busy (therefore, blog-lazy). There’s one thing though that I won’t apologize for: this silly grin on my sillyserious face. It’s been on for days now. And it’s all because of a gadget dream come true. I finally succumbed to a long-time want (it isn’t a need, I concede) of gliding my fingers on my very own Mac computer!

Sometime last week I abandoned caution and risked going hungry for the next year or so when I broke open the piggy bank (proverbial) and squandered a small fortune (literal) on a MacBook. Before the fateful purchase that reduced me to a grinning pauper, I had been visiting this computer shop at the mall to gawk at the shiny white gadget on display. I was a bit embarrassed that the lady manager recognized my face the day I came by to buy.

Di ba kayo po ‘yung kahapon, sir? (It was you who came by yesterday, wasn’t it? Yup, that’s moi. And the day before that too. And other days before that when I “just happened” to swing by and drool at the Mac on display. I joked that I had to sell a carabao to get enough cash for the purchase.

The past few weeks have been very busy at work preparing for and doing the Book Fair. It’s just now that I’m finding the time to get to know the new gadget–and each session brings with it new discoveries! I’m trying not to gush too much here…

Now I just need a cool name for this shiny white new laptop. I’ve named its predecessors after philosophers–Hobbes and then Kierk (short for Kierkegaard). I’m open to suggestions. Humor me while I still have this silly grin.

all in 2020

Imagine this. Tech experts predict that, based on Moore’s Law, by 2020 it is possible to have a portable storage gadget, say an iPod, with a capacity large—no, humongous!—enough to hold every movie, every TV show, every sound recording ever known to humankind.

Wow. Something about that prospect seems scary. What exactly, I can’t quite put a finger on it yet…

techie bits

Agggh. I can’t access my WordPress account tonight! (If I were paranoid, I’d think someone is attempting to sabotage my little blog marathon. Gasft.) I’m typing this in Google Docs, for pasting onto WordPress later.

Speaking of Google Docs, have you tried using it yet? Google Docs can be a convenient way to do your “office” stuff–creating documents, spreadsheets, or presentations–online! Imagine having your important documents stowed in cyberspace, all ready for you to access and work on wherever there is an Internet connection. You just need a Gmail account, and then you’re good to go. Google Docs comes with a host of features, including an option to share your docs with others, who can edit, comment, or simply view your material. A recent feature of the spreadsheet that I discovered are the forms–quite nifty for doing email surveys and what not. Coolness!

But that’s old news. I bet you already knew about Google Docs.

Since we’re in the turf of techie stuff, may I enjoin all ye who are geeks at heart to click over to this uber-cool site: Fun, fun, fun! (Thanks, Besp, for tipping me about this site! It’s become my daily fare.)

Hey, this seems to me a good-enough post already. I’ll stop writing now, and head over to Lifehacker. See you there?

blame the iPod

I once told a blogger friend that the silences in between blog posts are more often than not pregnant. While the public blog isn’t updated, maybe the private journal is being filled up page after page. Or maybe the heart and mind are wrestling with too many wild creatures, none of which tame enough to take the form of a blog post or anything written…

Or maybe there’s a new gadget that preoccupies the blogger? ๐Ÿ™‚

Okay, that last reason would be mine.

Friday night last week, during a moment of weakness and techie vulnerability, I got myself an iPod Classic 80GB. Never mind that I might have impoverished myself with this pleasure purchase. It’s December, and I simply summoned Christmas morning to come earlier for this oversized kid. Pure geek bliss washed over me when I opened the box (Apple’s packaging is truly spell-binding!). Then, running my thumb around the click wheel, I’m sure my heart skipped a beat. It’s amazing how Apple products are so intuitive there’s hardly any need to read the manual to get started.

After updating to iTunes 7.5, I was nibbling impatiently on a fingernail, eyes transfixed at the progress bar as songs were loaded onto the iPod… What? Just 8GB worth of songs? Pathetic collection size! I need more songs!

The next few nights were spent figuring out how to convert and load videos onto the iPod. I scoured the net and tried out some cool applications: Videodora, Floola, and DVD Video Converter. (Anyone recommend other cool iPod apps? Do share!)

Then I plunged into the world of podcasts. I subscribed to podcasts by Ravi Zacharias, John Piper, National Geographic (nice tiny productions!), and Scientific American. I’ve never been more excited about commuting to and from work! (Well, not since I first got an iPod shuffle two years ago.)

Okay, I’ll stop gushing. By far though, this has been the happiest blogging silence. So if I don’t post in the next couple of days or weeks, you’ll now I’m happily silent with my new baby.

tagged: desktop capture

Gypsy tagged me–ages ago, it seems. Here is my belated response.

The tag calls for a posting of one’s desktop image. So here is a snapshot of how my desktop looks like when it rotates as a “cube.” I’m running Ubuntu (Gutsy Gibbon edition) with its oooh-some eye candy ๐Ÿ˜‰

The desktop on the left has my blog site on Firefox, while the right shows an episode of Heroes. The cube can be rotated on command. The Mac-like dock with the icons at the bottom are courtesy of an application called Avant Window Navigator (awn). Linux is cool! But XP runs faster still, at least on my computer. The mileage, I hear, varies and there are some tweaks that improve performance. The wireless issue of Ubuntu on my machine has been resolved with the recent update, so I have found myself booting onto Ubuntu more than XP. Maybe one day I’ll wean myself off of XP? Who knows.

But I digress…

Anyhoo, here are instructions for this tag:

Upon receiving this tag, immediately perform a screen capture of your desktop. It is best that no icons be deleted before the screen capture so as to add to the element of fun.

You can do a screen capture by:

  1. Going to your desktop and pressing the Print Scrn key (located on the right side of the F12 key).
  2. Open a graphics program (like Picture Manager, Paint, or Photoshop) and do a Paste (CTRL + V).
  3. If you wish, you can edit the image, before saving it.

For MAC users: Press [ Apple] [ Ctrl ] [ Shift ] and [ 3 ]

Post the picture in your blog. You can also give a short explanation on the look of your desktop just below it if you want. You can explain why you preferred such look or why is it full of icons. Things like that.

Tag five of your friends and ask them to give you a Free View of their desktop as well.

And I tag everyone who wants to share the view from their desktop! ๐Ÿ™‚

tech notes

And now for some tech updates from me and Kierk, my HP notebook.

I’ve finally decided to subscribe to a DSL package. I did a little mental computation: I figured the money I spend for ISP Bonanza dial-up cards, and for coffee during frequent wifi sessions (wifi itself is free, thanks to a friend who’s letting me use his airborne access account) can actually be spent for a basic DSL subsricption. (Note: My favorite wifi-coffee hangout is Gloria Jean’s in Araneta Center, Cubao – more than enough power outlets and not too many people, even during weekends.)

After extensive googling to learn about other people’s experiences with their respective DSL providers, I decided to go with Bayantel. It was a major factor too that I have been a Bayantel landline subscriber for a few years now. No complaints too.

There’s a lot of frustration posted online about DSL subscription here in the Philippines. Most of the complaints have to do with fluctuating speeds and customer service. From surfing blogs, forums (okay, “fora” for the strict grammarian), and message boards, I say Bayantel gets the least blows. It’s a toss-up between PLDT and Smart Bro for the most “battered” provider in terms of negative feedback, not to mention elicited expletives from irate customers. Again, this is a subjective estimation, based on the general sense I got from gathering info before I took the DSL plunge.

So far, I’m happy with Bayantel’s DSL service. I should say though that there were some glitches with the scheduling of the installation. But I attribute that to one irresponsible account executive; his peers, when I called to complain and follow-up, were efficient and helpful.

We’ll see after a few months if my math – that is, coffee + prepaid = dsl subscription – serves me right. I hope I won’t have to skip meals just so I can cope with my new internet expense. On second thought, maybe that’s a way to force me to lose the few stubborn pounds. Hmmm…

One last bit: Bayantel (now rebranded as “Bayan” telecommunications, with new logo to boot) has instated a money-back policy that guarantees rebates for every day of delayed repair service. I think that’s a good move, as it gives customers a sense of security and value. Have you seen their recent TV commercial? I think it’s clever, in a gross kind of way.
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pandora’s (music) box

Not too long ago, a few friends were gushing about the internet radio site created by the Music Genome Project called Pandora. I’ve visited the site once or twice before, but never really got around to exploring because of the erratic internet connection.

Wanting to fill my hot Saturday afternoon with soothing music (and after the radio features of Yahoo! Messenger and iTunes have refused to cooperate with me), I paid a return visit.

And I’m glad I did. The site’s design is clean, sans bells and whistles (in stark contrast to other internet music sites that have album covers all over their home page). The idea behind Pandora is simple. Acting as your “personal DJ,” Pandora plays the kind of music that you like. Cool! But how does it know what you like? Well, the site prompts you to enter a song title or an artist’s name. It then uses this bit of info to create a “station” for you that plays similar and related songs from its vast database of music.

I was in the mood for good mellow melodies, so I typed in “Josh Groban.” Naturally, one of his songs was the first on the playlist, followed by others that Pandora thinks is “genetically” similar to Groban’s songs (including “You Raise Me Up” in almost all its incarnations).

Much to my delight, I stumbled upon newfound artists that caught my fancy, like David Phelps, Russell Watson, and Adam Watkiss. My music library hasn’t had an infusion of new tunes in quite a while. So I took down the names of the interesting artists and made a mental note to hunt for their music.

Of course, Pandora’s musical ESP is not fool proof. I’ve had to click on the “Next” button a few times to skip a song that I didn’t feel like listening to (Sorry, Barbra Streisand – perhaps another day?). I expected an abrupt end to an unwanted song after I clicked “Next”, but Pandora accepted my rejection with class by fading out the song and smoothly fading into the next. Ah, I feel the love ๐Ÿ™‚

There’s a “Guide Us” button on the Pandora player. I’m assuming this is for getting feedback from users as to why, in their opinion, a particular song does not belong to the “station” the Pandora system has created. I haven’t clicked it though.

Pandora has other cool features that I haven’t tried out yet. I’m hoping to spend more time exploring the site. Meantime, it’s good enough for me that it’s playing just the kind of music I want on this Saturday afternoon that has found me reading and writing.

Give it a try. You just might find some delightful treasures in this Pandora’s (music) box.