Category Archives: Geeky Pursuits

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon

The other day I got wind of an upcoming readathon on April 23. Take the time to read for 24 hours straight? Count me in!

20160421_020907976_iOS

Of course I won’t actually read for the entire 24 hours. For me, the readathon will run from 7 AM Saturday to 7 AM Sunday. I have a couple of engagements Saturday afternoon and evening, and I will have to sleep for at least a while overnight. But other than that, no TV or movies, just books! And snacks. And beverages.

I will likely spend some time listening to an audiobook so I can get stuff like laundry done and maybe knit for a while.

Watch this space for more updates during the readathon!

Blogging Does a Mind Good

Thanks to my RSS feeds, I ran across a story at Scientific American about a study that suggests that blogging might be therapeutic, even “self-medicating.”

Now, I don’t really have any serious medical issues I’m dealing with, such as cancer (those undergoing cancer treatment were the focus of the study), but it does seem to me like often just writing something down will help me deal with it. I don’t really blog — most of the time — about things I might want to complain about or stressful things, but sometimes venting those concerns in writing (such as by email or IM with a friend, or maybe writing/typing in a personal journal) does help me clear the air or at least clarify my thoughts about something.

The difference for a blog to a single conversation or journal entry, however, is that it can foster more widespread feedback on whatever it is you’re writing about. From the SciAm article:

Unlike a bedside journal, blogging offers the added benefit of receptive readers in similar situations, Morgan explains: “Individuals are connecting to one another and witnessing each other’s expressions—the basis for forming a community.”

What blogger doesn’t like to see a few comments to her post?

Mix CD

I’ve kinda been missing putting together mix CDs for the exchanges over at the Batcave, so when I was putting together a little Minnesota care package/birthday gift a couple of weeks ago for my friend Jessica who moved to New York State a while back, I thought it would be fun to include a mix CD with some of my current favorite music, focusing on things I enjoy listening to while driving. This mostly means that the songs are either upbeat or I enjoy singing along with them…or both.

  • Philosophy – Ben Folds Five
  • Love Song – Sara Bareilles
  • Let Me Go – Sonya Kitchell
  • Bubbly – Colbie Caillat
  • I Want You – Rachel Yamagata
  • Dirty Little Secrets – The All-American Rejects
  • Shut Your Eyes – Snow Patrol
  • Madly – Tristan Prettyman
  • Suddenly I See – KT Tunstall
  • Shy That Way – Tristan Prettyman & Jason Mraz
  • Myriad Harbour – The New Pornographers
  • Kate – Ben Folds Five
  • I Turn My Camera On – Spoon
  • We Used to Be Friends – The Daddy Warhols
  • Down in Mississippi (Up To No Good) – Sugarland
  • Beautiful – G. Love & Tristan Prettyman
  • 9 Crimes – Damien Rice
  • Hey There Delilah – Plain White T’s
  • Keep Breathing – Ingrid Michaelson
  • Did You Get My Message? – Jason Mraz
  • Heavenly Day – Patty Griffin

I’m kind of amused that Tristan Prettyman ended up on there three times; I didn’t realize it until I was listening to the playlist.

Video Games I Want

[Note: If you’re a Batling who frequents the Batcave, a lot of this is going to seem like déjà vu.]

I think I’ve mentioned the various video gaming devices I own: Sony PSP, Nintendo DS, and most recently a Nintendo Wii. (I also own a Nintendo Game Cube…though that’s mostly because I haven’t gotten around to figuring out how best to get rid of it yet.) Lately I’ve been on the lookout for upcoming games that sound decent, particularly for the DS since it’s what I tend to play the most.

Viva Piñata news: It’s coming out for Nintendo DS in the fall. Since I still haven’t figured out what the deal is with the PC version not working properly (probably my graphics and/or video card — I’m really not a hardware person — but it’s the only program I’ve had trouble with and I haven’t had time to investigate much), this might allow me to finally play the game, and a portable edition sounds great.

A couple weeks ago I had an opportunity to try out Rock Band. I have no idea why they tried to put me on drums first, but it was a good deal more difficult than it looked. They switched me to bass, which I started picking up fairly well before the song was over. The sad truth is that if I can figure out where to put all the equipment (a definite problem at the moment) I may end up getting the Wii version eventually (it’s due to be released June 22).

Also due out June 22 is the DS version of Guitar Hero. I’ve watched videos online of kids playing and I’m still not sure how that’s going to work, but I’m seriously intrigued.

One game that I want and will actually have soon is Mario Kart Wii. It and a few extra wheels are due to arrive Monday. I actually played this when I was at Best Buy recently — something I don’t think I’ve ever done, at least in part because the games are usually monopolized by kids — but now I’m looking forward to it even more.

Also due to arrive before the end of the month is the Wii Fit. I preordered that the minute the email from Amazon arrived letting me know it was available.

So, any games you’d like to recommend?

Get Thee to an RSS Reader

A few weeks ago my friend/former coworker Linda wrote about Google Reader on her new blog. I had certainly heard of Google Reader before, but had no idea why I’d want to use it until I read this post. It suddenly clicked that it was solution to my problem of not being able to keep up with various friends’ blogs, or at least the problem of remembering to visit them on a regular basis. What could be better than those new posts coming directly to me instead?

I wasn’t really sure how it would all work, but within a few days I decided to give it a try. It was easy and marvelous. I put pretty much my entire blogroll in there, and while it was nice to catch up on recent posts I had missed, it is even better now that they just arrive on their own, no effort on my part at all except to read and enjoy. And if I want to post a comment or there’s content I want to view that doesn’t show up in the reader, I just click on the link for the post and proceed as usual.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I could get all sorts of other things fed to me automatically: all my other favorite blogs, news, baseball blogs and news, my favorite content from EW.com, Dilbert…I just can’t believe how much stuff I want to read is available without me having to go look for it more than once to grab the feed’s URL. It’s sort of like TiVo for the Internet — everything just shows up and I read it when I want to. One other really nice thing is that I’m actually able to unsubscribe from a bunch of things I have been receiving by email and never get around to reading.

One test of the reader was when I went to Las Vegas a couple weeks ago. Vegas was a general test for my iPhone, to see if I really could get by on a short trip without dragging my laptop along and still keep up with important email, fantasy baseball rosters, and the like. But would I enjoy the mobile Google Reader as much as I had been in a browser? Yes and no. All the content was there, and it’s optimized for iPhone a bit so it was easy to read and navigate, but it lacked the organization I had set up in the standard reader and was a little more work than the regular version.

I had intended to try out other web-based readers to see which I liked best, and finally got around to doing so after realizing that one thing I didn’t like about Google Reader was how limited the area for my list of subscriptions was; even after organizing them into just a few tags I was constantly scrolling around this small area. Earlier this week I decided to check out Bloglines, and I fell in love all over again. There is more room for my list of subscriptions (which has grown quite a bit this week as I find more and more sites that have RSS feeds); it has a Clippings area that for some reason I like better than starring them in Google Reader; and the iPhone version, after tweaking my preferences a bit, is everything I could ask for. Plus, for some reason I’ve never been particularly fond of the Google “look,” and Bloglines is just more appealing to me aesthetically.

So now I’m trying out lots of different feeds, trimming them out if they don’t work for me, hopefully ending up with lots of stuff I’ve already been enjoying the hard way, plus new things I otherwise wouldn’t seek out or have time for. If you haven’t already, give an RSS reader a try. If you like it half as much as I do it’ll be worth it.

Bacteriophages

This morning I was listening to the April 4 episode of NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday (as a podcast on my iPod of course), where one topic discussed was “Using ‘Phage’ Viruses to Help Fight Infection.”

Most of us are probably at least somewhat familiar with the issues of “superbugs,” those bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. I’ve become a bit more interested in the issues concerning these bacteria since my dad had his left leg amputated just above the knee back in June 2005, though in his case it was a combination of diabetes, which he didn’t know he had, and delay in treatment that made it as severe as it was. However, we found out when he broke his hip this past December that he’s now considered a MRSA carrier (an interesting development, since we were under the impression that they thought his infection was caused by a strep bacteria, not a staph one), requiring a private room both at the hospital and transitional care. And requiring, one would think though no one has ever told us so, a bit more care for those of us who have close contact with him if we have cuts or scratches or things of that nature.

I sort of remember learning about bacteriophages in Biology classes, but had completely forgotten about them until listening to this podcast this morning. They’ve been with us all along, but bacteriophages were officially discovered and named in 1917 by Félix d’Hérelle, and work began shortly after to use these to fight infection. They were largely thrown over, however, when antibiotics began to be developed. According to one of those interviewed on the podcast, there were problems figuring out how to utilize bacteriophages properly back in the early days. But work did continue in some places, such as Georgia (the country). Phage therapy is being looked at again in the West to see if it can help with antibiotic-resistant bacterias and in other applications.

The thing that fascinated me is the idea of going back to something that’s already hanging out in the environment and using it to do what it does naturally. I’ll definitely be doing a little more reading about this, probably starting with the book written by one of interviewees I heard this morning, Viruses vs. Superbugs: A Solution to the Antibiotics Crisis? by Thomas Häusler.

If this topic interests you at all, I highly recommend giving the interview a listen. It’s nearly a half-hour long, but it’s a half-hour that I found well worth it.

Dying to Sell

Maggie Sefton is the author of a cozy mystery series with a knitting theme that I really enjoy despite not being a knitter, so I was looking forward to the first (and at this time, only) book in her real estate series, Dying to Sell. It was certainly an okay book, and I don’t have really any specific issues with it, such as problems with the plot or with characterization or anything like that, but I ended up being somewhat disappointed nonetheless. Sadly, the book just didn’t hold my interest. Around page 60 I seriously considered just putting it down and returning it to the library, but decided to plug on because it was the monthly read for one of my Yahoo! reading groups.

I’m glad I finished it because at least I have an honest opinion of the novel, but I didn’t expect it to take me an entire week to read it! I usually try to cram in as much reading time over the weekend as I can, but the weekend I should have easily finished this book, I just didn’t care enough about how it would end and ended up spending most of my free time playing a videogame instead (Sims 2 Castaway for Sony PSP). I finally finished that following Monday just so I could move on to another book.

I am, however, looking very much forward to reading the rest of the books in Sefton’s knitting series that I haven’t gotten to quite yet.