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!

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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.

Catching Up

Just a little post to catch things up from the past couple of weeks.

  • Dad’s home. He was in the hospital for six days before moving to a rehab facility. He was there for just over a week. He has a good amount of pain yet, but the healing is going pretty quickly, all things considered.
  • I bought myself a Christmas gift: a Nintendo Wii. I’ve been thinking about getting one for a while, but wasn’t really planning to get one when I was running errands last Wednesday. I popped into Best Buy since I had to drive right by it anyway, thinking I’d probably just get a Nintendo DS game or something. But lo and behold, they had a Wii, and it’s now residing on my computer stand (good thing my monitor is a flat screen…eventually I’m hoping to move the Wii into the entertainment center instead).
  • I haven’t played much on the Wii yet, as I ended up coming down with stomach flu/food poisoning on Thursday, and I pretty much just slept and read books until Saturday morning. I hardly ate anything for those two days, and it was such a nice feeling to wake up Saturday with a normal appetite.
  • Over the weekend I got pretty far in feeling caught up for the holidays by finishing the design for my Christmas cards and actually getting far enough with assembling them that about half of them went into the mail today. Usually I spread out the card creation over a few days; my right shoulder and elbow are a little sore from all the stamping.
  • Tonight I took a break from the cards to put together a playlist for a holiday music CD swap I’m running a bit late with. It’s mostly done, other than listening to see if I like the flow, and maybe adding a song or two.
  • Pretty much the only other thing I really need to do this week is pick up something for my mom for Christmas.

So there you have it in a nutshell. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get back to my plan of posting at least two or three times a week now that things are a little more under control.

Where does the time go?

I really had planned to update this a bit more frequently, so how have I not posted for over a month? Where does the time go, anyway?

In a last Cozy Mystery Challenge update, I actually won one of the books that authors had contributed as prizes. I received Deadly Advice, signed by author Roberta Isleib, a while ago now…I really need to send her a thank-you.

So, what else has been up… I got back in touch with a friend from high school. I really need to respond to that last email from him. Oops. Seriously, time is just getting away from me lately.

A few weeks ago I bought a Nintendo DS after seeing how much fun a coworker had with hers. I can’t believe how many games I’ve accumulated for that thing already. I haven’t been playing as much the past week or so, but I really need to at least get back to Brain Age.

A couple of weeks ago (really, this is the end of what seems like a really big spending spree) I bought an iPhone. It was either a Palm Treo or the iPhone, and the iPhone won out. I love it. I can access my Yahoo! Mail (which my primary personal email account is already forwarded to) seamlessly, I’ve got anytime-I-want access to the Web…oh, and it’s a phone too, though somewhat ironically I probably use that feature the least. It’s even better than my laptop for reading stuff in bed, so I’ve actually been getting caught up with my favorite recaps over at Television Without Pity.

My regular reading has been in a bit of a slump. I’m trying to read a book I’m giving one of my nephews for his birthday (he won’t notice if I’m careful, right?), but I need to get that out in the mail and can’t pick up the copy from the library I requested until Thursday, so I’ll likely pick up something else to start soon. I recently picked up the latest issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and am in the midst of the second story. I really do love short mystery stories when I take the time to read them! If you enjoy them as well, I recommend Criminal Brief: The Mystery Short Story Web Log Project. Which reminds me, I really should read that more often too…

A little teaser: Someday soon I’m going to get up early enough to have time to take pictures and finally do a “day in the life,” now powered by iPhone! Unfortunately for you, my life isn’t that exciting.

Sims Life Stories

So, probably a bit too much of my past weekend was spent playing the new Sims game, Sims Life Stories. When I heard a while back that there was going to be a laptop-friendly game coming out, I knew I’d have to check it out. Sure, I have the original Sims Complete Collection on my laptop, but after playing a little Sims 2 on my mom’s computer, it’s been hard to go back.

The thing was that even though the game was released last Wednesday at Best Buy, I made myself wait until Saturday to purchase Life Stories so I wouldn’t be tempted to play while I was preparing for a workshop Friday evening. That was a very good decision…

So now I’ve got what amounts to a light version of Sims 2 on my laptop. But besides classic open-ended play, Life Stories comes with two guided stories you can play to meet preset goals. While perfect for people who are new to the Sims, I as an experienced Sims player rather enjoyed playing through the first story. I stayed up way too late on Saturday. In fact, I finally made myself go to bed because I knew I just didn’t have the ability to concentrate on the final goal. I’m now saving the second story for this coming weekend, because I do need my rest… I have been playing a little bit of open-ended play this week when I’ve a little time in the evenings.

When I opened the package, I was happy to discover that Life Stories is just the first in the Stories line. I have Sims Pet Stories to look forward to this summer, and Sims Castaway Stories next winter.

These certainly aren’t going to be for everybody (for example, someone who can’t live without custom content), but if your computer doesn’t have the specs for Sims 2, it’s a really nice alternative.