darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Happy LJ-versary to me. On this date in 2004 I made my first bewildered post on LiveJournal. The online world has changed a lot since then, hasn't it?

Like, in 2004, LiveJournal was still owned by Brad Fitzpatrick, and I think they still had an office in Portland (I remember seeing it; I'm sure that's not my imagination. It was down by the river near the Broadway Bridge. I cannot find corroboration of this memory online). MySpace and Facebook were just getting started, and Tumblr wasn't quite yet a gleam in the eye of whoever founded Tumblr.

FastCompany wrote about a LiveJournal "comeback" last year, and got some good comments from current (presumably US-based) users saying that LJ's comeback plans have nothing in common with what the core US user base wants--to wit, the journal world as it has always been, with threaded comments, screening, privacy, security, adult content allowed, no advertising. In other words, Dreamwidth.

I'm six days/posts behind in my big September 30/30 plan. Whoops.
darkemeralds: Photo of an empty room with caption "Imagine an Empty Room" (Empty Room)
Consultation with my sister the realtor has convinced me that there's no meaningful advantage in selling my house and moving to a condo. The only gain--that of no longer having a garden to waste water on attend to--would be amply offset by losses. I can't actually downsize--my house is already smaller than a lot of condos. I can't reduce my monthly rent by enough to matter. And in my price range I can't possibly improve on my inner-city location.

So I'm staying. But one brilliant idea emerged from the few weeks where I was thinking about moving: I'm gonna play dead and have an estate sale. Turns out there are businesses--reputable local businesses of long standing--that will broker, sell, donate or discard every single thing in a house and leave it "broom clean and ready to sell". They document everything, take a cut, and write you a check.

I'm gonna rent a POD, put a select few items in it, take a vacation to the beach, and let the estate sale agents go to town. Then I'm going to move back in with my few items and start all over again.

I'm hoping to accomplish this before I retire.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
Gosh, it's the third of September, which makes me three entries behind in my putative Post and Read Every Day In September plan, which I told no one about and only vaguely hinted at to [personal profile] ravurian. I guess it will be make thirty posts in September, a slightly different commitment.

So, thing the first: Google+ Hangouts. Really cool. My sisters and I have been using Hangouts for a few weeks now. We all live in the same town, but getting together in person is a big production number. We're working on manifesting improvements in our lives (me: remodeling), and we like to meet to share our progress. Hangouts work perfectly.

What I like:
  • The interface is reasonably intuitive
  • It's free
  • It easily accommodates several people and switches focus seamlessly to whoever's talking
  • The sound quality is good, and the system eliminates cross-talk and echoes amazingly well
  • You can start a Hangout on your phone, then switch to your tablet or computer, also seamlessly

What I don't like:
  • It's a wee bit glitchy and isn't 100% reliable on all devices and operating systems (yet).
  • It's a bit of a shock seeing myself as if on live TV. But I'm getting used to that. I'm figuring out makeup, lighting and angle.

It would be really cool if the geniuses of technology could figure out one thing: how to make it so that when I'm looking at you on the screen, I look like I'm looking at you. As it is, I have to gaze interestedly into the tiny pinhole front-facing camera on my device in order to look like I'm listening to you--and then I miss the nuances of your expression. Someone get on that, please.
darkemeralds: A young woman circa 1945 is intent on her knitting. Caption "Knitting For Victory" (Knitting)
It was nearly midnight when I closed the last stitch and wove in the single remaining yarn-end on my blue-violet cardigan last night.

I put it in the hand-wash cycle with a little Woolite Dark, and by 1:00 a.m. it was pinned out on the blocking board, where it's continuing to dry in shape today.

completed blue-violet hand knit cardigan pinned to a blocking board

All that's left is to sew on the buttons:

Nine bright silver disk buttons on a background of blue-violet handknit fabric

The fit is reasonably good--not as great as I'd hoped, but certainly wearable. I learned so much from this pattern, though, that the next sweater should come closer to a custom fit.

Now, on to the Neon Yellow Hoodie of High Visibility.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
While I stand here listening to Coffitivity and more-or-less patiently waiting for the lieutenants of finance to finish closing the damn fiscal year already, I found an ancient approach to mental health, Anxious? Depressed? Try Greek Philosophy, by a guy named Jules Evans.

Jules admits to having wrecked his own mental health with drug use in the 90s. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with its roots deep in Stocisim, was his road back.

I'm especially impressed by this statement (because I feel like I'm right at this very crossroads in my own mental health journey):

...after 10 years of practising philosophy, I wonder if it leaves something out, if it’s too rational, self-controlled and unemotional... this year I have started researching ecstatic experience, and how people can achieve euphoria through music, dancing, drugs or the passionate love of God. As a friend put it recently: 'Back on ecstasy, eh?'

He has a book, of course. Good advance reviews.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
It's Fiscal New Year's Eve here in the World's Tallest Basement--one of several key Last Times in my career.

Fiscal year-end is, as usual, a complete cluster-fuck. Frantic people trying frantically to finish financial transactions before the money goes away in this most frantic of bad fiscal years have made it Frantic City around here all day. Makes me feel so important!

Tomorrow morning--yes, Saturday--I have to be back here, nine o'clock sharp, to help guide the ceremonial closing of the books. If all goes well, we can get out by noon, whereupon I shall be free to sally forth in the too-hot sunshine and maybe go check out a couple of Pedalpalooza events. I'm considering Let's Go Bike To Queers (an LGBTQ celebration of Pride and the defeat of DOMA), at least to ride by and ding my bell (not a euphemism) in solidarity on my way to The Tiny House Tour.
darkemeralds: Photo of espresso with caption "Straight Up" (Espresso)
This is so cool! I'm standing here at my work desk and I feel like I'm across the street at my favorite downtown coffee shop.

It's Coffitiviy, "Ambient sounds to boost your workday creativity".

I've read in a bunch of places lately (most recently this Smithsonian article) that creativity is boosted by cities, by metaphorical friction among ideas, by noise. The ambient sound of a coffee-shop, studies are suggesting, is just right.

I'd like to spend creative time at cafés--and god knows I live in a place with plenty of them--but several limitations have made this impracticable: my laptop is just a hair too big to cart around, and there's no slimmer computer in my near future. Keyboard+tablet has yet to equal actual fast typing for me.

Also, my creativity-hours and my caffeine-hours don't usually overlap. Or when they do, I'm still in my jammies with crazy-hair.

But right this minute, with Coffitivity playing in my earphones, I'm feeling oddly looped in, yet not chafed, engaged but free-floating, comfortably alone in my head but surrounded by a sense of people. It's surprisingly pleasant!

Try it and let me know what you think.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Chrome to Phone is a one-click extension that sends the web page you're looking at on your computer to your Android device. (It requires a free app on the Android side.)

I have a single use-case for it: fanfic.

Here's how I use it:
  1. Find a story on the AO3 using my nice big computer screen
  2. Click the Chrome to Phone extension icon
  3. Go to my phone and open the page I just sent
  4. Use the Download/Mobi option to get a Kindle-compatible ebook version
  5. Move the .mobi file to my Kindle app
  6. Read!

(Chrome-to-Phone has a dozen other use cases--basically, any time you want to make something from your big web browser immediately available on your little mobile screen.)
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Chart)
If you have two and a half minutes to spare and would like an uplifting view of the world from fact-based reality, you could do worse than to watch Hans Rosling's The River of Myths.

screenshot from the video showing Hans Rosling standing behind multi-colored data points that appear to be floating in the air.

(Sorry--no embed code)

Rosling's the guy who developed the dramatic animated data modeling software that remains one of the most popular presentations on TED. Using massive data sets from the United Nations, he demonstrates how in several important measures relating to child mortality and family size, the world is actually getting better.

This new video updates the data and improves on the presentation, and it's really cool.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
One of my most-used Chrome browser extensions is Clearly. You install it and it puts a little button at the top of your browser window.

Then, when you come across a page like this:
Webpage of a local newspaper, cluttered with ads,

you click this little reading lamp:
Icon for the Clearly Chrome extension

and you instantly get this:
The local newspaper article completely uncluttered

I like it better than ad blockers because a) sometimes I do want to see ads, but get them out of the way for serious reading, b) as far as I know, the web page still gets an ad-hit for my click, and c) Clearly, besides removing extraneous crap from the page, renders the main content in a font size and line width I can specify for my own reading ease.

ETA: Oh, and a page rendered in Clearly usually doesn't display comments--believe me, a huge boon when reading anything about bicycling in any local press anywhere.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
My supervisor just told me that my annual performance evaluation is due in four days. We usually start sooner on this dreaded, tedious task because it takes hours, but today I finished it in ten minutes.

I should have been this relaxed about it 25 years ago. )
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
Screenshot of a countdown showing 197 days until retirement

Less than 200 days till retirement. And still not much of a clue what happens after that.
darkemeralds: Manga-style avatar of DarkEm with caption Hee (cartoony me)
The trouble with the Daily Posting commitment is that...well, there are bound to be some posts of virtually no substance.

Ahem! First of all, I bought one of these off NoMoreRack a couple of weeks ago.

A pink USB flash charger

It was on my desk just like that a couple of days ago. Norm walked up and after observing it, asked--very hesitatingly--"Um...what is that?"

LOL. I resisted the obvious crack and said, "It's a USB flash charger." Which it is. Very handy little device. You charge it, it charges your phone. Seems like it might save the day on a long flight.

Second of all, also in technology, my 83-year-old mom just got her first smartphone and is learning how to text. This is a major breakthrough for the I Heart Bell Telephone generation. Personally, I find text messages as heartwarming and welcome as letters in the mail used to be--and I hate talking on the phone; it will be interesting to see whether they make my mom feel more connected or less.

Third of all, as a follow up to the brain-cascade and migraine events of the past couple of weeks, it has taken several days, but I'm feeling "normal" again, whatever that is.

PS: NoMoreRack is the tumblr of bargain-shopping-porn. Don't go there unless you're feeling strong.
darkemeralds: Screencap from Teen Wolf showing Stiles and Derek against a flowery background (Teen Wolf)
Man, did Jeff Davis and Company go to Pacing School over the hiatus? By wasting zero seconds of screen time on Scott and Allison making out or werewolves doing the risible all-fours run through the woods, they actually have quality time for all the characters!

Some slightly spoilery squee )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
It's probably a coincidence, but following Friday's migraine-aura-neurotransmitter-cascade-hangover-hormonally-induced-brainstorm*, my brain shifted gears.

Detail of bright yellow knitting

This is only sort of a knitting post. I think it's about creativity. )
darkemeralds: Hellfire and tormented faces with caption Yay Hell (Yay)
About an hour ago I looked in the restroom mirror and realized that I couldn't see part of my face.

Being me, I thought, "Wow, I'm disappearing! It's a metaphor!" But, also being me, I tried to figure out what was going on by covering one eye at a time. The effect, a kind of shimmery arc in the upper-left field of vision, was stronger in the left eye than the right.

I went outside into the sunshine. The effect got stronger, but otherwise I felt fine.

I came back in and googled "eyesight aura" whereupon Wikipedia obliged me with this artist's conception of the pre-migraine phenomenon known as "scintillating scotoma" that's pretty much exactly what I was experiencing:

animated gif showing a small Asian shrine building with a shimmering arc in the upper left region of the image representing a migraine aura

I called my sister, who's had migraines all her life and has sometimes mentioned this mysterious aura. She asked if I've been under any unusual stress in the past several days. "Well, yeah," I said, thinking of the massive neuro-chemical cascade of last weekend, which, being me, I did not share with family members.

While we spoke I began to feel vaguely headachey, a bit numb in the tongue, ever so slightly dizzy. Now the visual aura effect is gone and my head's starting to go at it hammer and tongs.

So yeah, this doesn't suck at all. Grrr.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I'd like to introduce people to The Mental Illness Happy Hour. A wonderful person on my LJ flist pointed me to it the other day (you know who you are! Thank you again) and I'm paying the favor forward.

The Mental Illness Happy Hour )

It's good stuff.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
The Atlantic today published a very good short essay on the NSA data collection issue: Why Should We Even Care If the Government Is Collecting Our Data?.

There is a comparison of metaphors: the Orwellian 1984 image of constant surveillance inhibiting behavior, and the Kafkaesque The Trial concept of an inscrutable government doing inscrutable things for hidden reasons. The author argues that the latter is far more appropriate for the current disclosures about the NSA.

Her conclusion, which I think is excellent:

...we should ease off the privacy hand-wringing and turn our attention to something much more fundamental: how we relate as citizens to our government and how much power we have in that relationship.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
In his article Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere, Duke University sociologist Kieran Healy takes a time machine back to 1776 to show how powerful the collection of impersonal data can be.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear... )

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