darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
...that I love the internet?

Recent studies show that young Americans are losing interest in driving, and are actually preferring mass transit and active transportation over car ownership.* Of the many reasons suggested for this decline in driving, my favorite is that when you take transit you can amuse yourself with your mobile device the whole way.**

Eleanor O being in the shop overnight, I was riding the #8 downtown this morning, enjoying this very benefit. I was reading the many emails flying among [personal profile] vampirefan, [personal profile] sffan, [personal profile] llaras and me speculating about what the hell is going on in Teen Wolf, when [personal profile] ravurian pinged me from the end of his workday in London. I ended up chatting with him all the way to work. (Swype works quite well as an input method on a bouncy bus).

Is it just me, or does that still feel like magic? Sometimes--seriously, at least once per day hour--I am simply awestruck with delight at the global brain and what it has wrought.

* This shockingly un-American trend has sent a panicked auto industry into an advertising blitz, some of which targets the uncoolness of riding the bus, riding a bike, or walking. You know it's real when they're that desperate.

** Yes, you can do this while driving, but please, please don't.
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: 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: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Proud Member)
I've been in a bit of a blog-crisis for the last several months. Is this happening for others?

I'm getting my fandom fix mostly from Tumblr and Twitter; most of my clothes-and-style stuff ends up on Pinterest; and my little everyday illustrated posts start on my phone and end up automagically on Google+.

What's more, it's incredibly easy to share links on those platforms. They're more mobile-friendly. They're more there when I'm out and about.

As a consequence, some of the emotional needs I've fulfilled for years here on LJ/DW are being spread out over several platforms.

But! But...

But I just don't feel a sense of community in those places. Tumblr is a read-only experience for me (and when I say "read only" I mean "look at the pretty pictures of Tyler Hoechlin," mostly) where the local population seems to have an average age of about 18. I'm frankly terrified to post. It's insane.

Google Plus is gorgeous. It has every level of privacy control you could want. It has Hangouts. It has Ripples. It has all the power of Google behind it. But so far, I haven't managed to make it feel like a community. And I can't find that it's fannish at all. (If you know differently, tell me.)

So I'm neither here nor there, and it's causing me to have no consistent online presence at all.

All of which is a long way of saying that I'm still around, and sorry for not being around here more, and a bit bewildered.
darkemeralds: Image of River Tam from the River Tam Sessions, Serenity, with caption "I can see you." (I Can See You)
I read somewhere that Megaupload accounted for 4% of ALL THE TRAFFIC ON THE INTERNET, which is an incredible amount of traffic. The odds against the FBI singling any one individual out for an occasional one-off download, among 4% of the whole internet's traffic, must be astronomical.

Still, one would be kind of crazy to continue the practice. It's no longer feeling vaguely daring, or comfortably familiar. It feels like high-risk behavior, and I'm notoriously risk-averse.

Besides, speaking for myself, I can't say that most of the TV content I've consumed (ever) has enriched me very much in its own right. It's my fannish interactions with the content--fic, chatwatches, reviews, comments, conversations--that add value to my life.

I would miss that, and I wonder what might come along to replace it.

But! But! - rant ensues... )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Is anyone else trying to re-figure out how to have an online life? Is anyone else feeling that Google+ is cool but how many more social networks do I need? Does anyone else wonder if there's still a place for a journaling site like Dreamwidth and LiveJournal in their life?

I'm finding G+ very homey--more succinct than here, not quite as flighty as Twitter. Less conversational than here, but more interactive than Tumblr. It feels like a comfortable stream of connection.

Of course, it's new. Not many people are on it yet. Everyone's behaving like early guests at a nice party, so it's also much less contentious than here tends to be sometimes. (I have invites, by the way, if anyone wants one.)

Journaling/blogging has been a mostly wonderful experience for me for the past six years or so, but I feel it slipping away as a concept. I hate to let it go, but fighting the flow seems futile. Does anyone else feel that way?
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Nerd)
I think I've finally been won over to the Kindle side.

Not that I have anything against ebooks--I really don't. I bought a Rocket eBook when it first came out, in 1999, and I've been an avid ebook aficionado ever since--in theory.

But somewhere along the line I kind of quit reading. "Real" reading gave way to fanfic--which I avidly read on my PDA, then on a succession of smartphones--but I gradually seemed to lose all power of attention, and switched almost entirely to podfic and audiobooks. I liked the Kindle in principle, but I didn't really need one.

[personal profile] ravurian (who has been the instigator of a number of changes lately*) recommended Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London, and located an audiobook version for me. I enjoyed it so much that I listened to it twice, the second time finishing this afternoon while I was ironing on my porch in the sun. I wanted to go immediately on to the sequel, but it doesn't seem to be available yet in audio.

So, with my new Android tablet in hand, and a Kindle-for-Android app before me, this evening over dinner I bought my first Kindle edition: Ben Aaronovitch's Moon Over Soho.

I'm in love. I can see it. I can read it. I'm reading again! It's wonderful.

* He also persuaded me to buy a hardcover novel not long ago--and I read it, but it took two months: Jo Walton's Among Others. Good book.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Proud Member)
Participation in a scholarly survey has finally forced me to get Skype. I think only a lack of actual need for it has stopped me until now, but the doctoral candidate writing his thesis on self-quantification wants to interview people by Skype, so I bit. I found a Skype client for Linux and tested my connection last night. There was one, but the sound was unbearably bad.

So at 5:00 this morning* I thought, hey, I bet there's a Skype app for Android. Now at 6:15 a.m. Skype for Android is polling, evidently, the entire universe inside my brain, finding everyone I ever even thought about, and determining whether they have Skype accounts too.

It's on contact 178 of 264, an old coworker of mine who left the area at least ten years ago and with whom I have never communicated.

For a few moments, as Skype for Android added the Italian cyclist who breezed through town the summer before last and cooked risotto for us, I thought whoa, stop! I'm gonna have to clean up all these contacts.

Then I thought, why? Connect me, baby! Let the Global Brain know me. What the hell. I spread myself out thin against the network, another translucent layer in the web of contact.

It's 6:30 and Skype for Android just finished its scour. Oh hey, look! There's one of my oldest friends in England. Cool!

Anyway, not surprisingly, I'm now Darkemeralds on Skype.

*Why was I thinking of anything at 5:00 in the morning??? I don't know.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I discovered this function on my new Android phone last night. Well, okay, my 14 year old nephew showed it to me:

You push a button and say, "Navigate to 1234 Southwest 5th Avenue."

And it tells you how to get there.

I know, I know: people who've had iPhones for years, or who have GPS in their car, are no longer impressed by this. And people who actually have a sense of direction could never, ever be as thrilled about it as I am.

But I have no sense of direction. It's a borderline handicap, a slight but very real disability, that carries all kinds of baggage: it's funny to people, it's goofy, it's "feminine," it's an allowable form of "stupidity" for an otherwise very bright, creative person. It's also annoying and incomprehensible to people who don't suffer from it. They think I'm just not trying. "Come on!" they'll say. "Just picture the route in your head!"

There's no picture there. On a good day, if I know that that's west over there (because the sun is setting or I can see the West Hills, or the Pacific Ocean or something obvious), then I can painstakingly work out that to the right of west is north, and to the right of that is east, and to the right of that is south, using the "Never Eat Shredded Wheat" trick. But I can't feel it, and even if I can see it, I'm unsure.

As a prosthetic aid, I have whole catalogs of street names and their sequence memorized from long residence in my hometown. Jefferson Street is south of Madison Street, so if I set out from Madison and come to Jefferson, I can deduce that I'm heading south. If I come to Salmon, on the other hand, I know I've gone north. I cannot sense directions. When I'm moving, I'm just heading forward. When I turn left, I'm still heading forward. That's all I've got.

I've burned a lot of calories and a lot of gasoline over the years correcting for this handicap.

So when I got in my car this morning and said to my phone, "Navigate to [XYZ Address in unfamiliar neighborhood]" and my phone talked to me, right in my ear, and said, "Head west on NE Beech Street and turn right on NE 11th Avenue," and kept telling me exactly when and where to turn--well, I'm not exaggerating when I say I felt like I'd been let out of a prison.

And when I got to where I was going and there was a Google Street View of the destination house right there on my phone screen looking exactly like reality, I wish I could describe the sense of safety and security it gave me.

When I think that I ever, ever ventured out without this tool, I am amazed at myself.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Proud Member)
I got myself a new phone this evening. Don't know what came over me. Tough day at work, chilly and damp ride home, and a T-Mobile store pretty much on the way.

I stopped, I dithered hardly at all, and I committed. I probably should BE committed. Anyway, I'm now the proud and ridiculously geeked-out owner of the HTC Android G2.

Pardon me while I have an orgasm squee a bit over the awesome. Those of you who've had iPhones for several years will be eye-rolly and unimpressed, but: it is online all the time OMG. I mean, I knew that, but I've never experienced it.

And it's on a 4G network. So I'm downloading audiobooks right now. In a few minutes I'm going to get some podfic. It's very, very fast. The screen is big and bright. It is beeYOOOOO tiful and I am a happy gadget freak tonight.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
This video of a home-made ascent into the stratosphere to video the blackness of space is the coolest thing I've seen all day. Maybe the coolest thing I've seen in a year.

And that is on an internet full of cool things. Check it out. It's a wonder.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
[personal profile] kis and Mr Kis are off in a red rental car on their adventure across the American West, and I've moved back into my house after a week of delights.

With the exception of conquering a glaciated volcanic peak, which Mr Kis and my sister did last Thursday, it was a mild-mannered week. We got to the coast, managed two visits to Powell's Books, ate at a couple of Portland's nicest restaurants, and saw the R. Crumb exhibit at the Portland Art Museum.

There was a good deal of sitting outdoors over wine, food, beer and conversation, especially since the weather turned gorgeous on Saturday. My sis and I gave a party Saturday night at her house, and had a nice crowd of people and a lot of laughter (and good food!).

From my 14 year old nephew to my 80 year old mom, [personal profile] kis and Mr Kis seemed to enjoy meeting and spending time with everyone, and it was entirely mutual.

Last night at Lucca, when the waiter learned that our friends were from Scotland, he asked how we knew each other. Mr Kis pointed to [personal profile] kis and me and said, "They met on the internet."

What a wonderful world.


Aug. 31st, 2010 10:09 pm
darkemeralds: Manga-style avatar of DarkEm with caption Hee (cartoony me)
Can anyone explain the pingback thing--and the Twitter and Facebook crosspost-y thing--on LJ in Captain Dummytalk?
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I'm trying to make my posts more accessible, and since I post a lot of illustrative pictures, I thought it would be a good practice to include a description with each one, but I find that I need some help.

My reading suggests that putting descriptive information in the alt portion of the img tag makes that description available to text-reading browsers, but I can't figure out how to test it, since I don't have text-reading capabilities.

Any suggestions? Can anyone verify that the alt text on the picture immediately following this sentence is accessible to a text-reader?

St Johns Bridge in Portland, Oregon
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Dear Self:

Next time you're tempted by the ranty goodness, remember a few simple guidelines )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Is anyone else having this strange Google Docs behavior where Pg Up and Pg Dn zoom you most of the way through any document, no matter how long it is?

It is EXTREMELY annoying for re-reading and editing.

I've hunted around the help files and issues logs, and I can see that they know about it, but it doesn't seem to be high on anybody's radar, which makes me think it's a peculiarity of my O/S and browser combination or something.

I'm on Ubuntu and using Chrome for Linux. You'd think GoogleDocs would work perfectly in all versions of Chrome, wouldn't you?
darkemeralds: Painting of a nun, with caption OMFG. (OMFG)
If you still use Facebook, I think you owe it to yourself to see this amazing graph of the devolution of privacy on that service over the last five years. It's a shocking thing.

If you don't use Facebook and are just interested in the graphical presentation of information, you might want to have a look at it too. It's a gorgeous thing.

ETA: How To Permanently Delete Your Facebook Account

More ETA: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] shezan for How To Opt Out of Facebook's Instant Personalization, where there are step-by-step instructions for turning off the invasive features, handy if deleting your FB account isn't the move for you.
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
I'm hearing rumors in the bike blogosphere today suggesting that Google is about to announce a new GoogleMaps feature: Bike Routes!

Someone from Google has been scheduled last-minute as a speaker at the plenary opening session of League of American Bicyclists annual summit tomorrow.

I've got decent local bike-route mapping already, but if Google takes it on, rumor suggests that it will include things like elevation gain (kind of a crucial cycling consideration), and it will be rolled out nationwide in the US--with UK and Europe rollout coming soon.

It would give a fantastic boost to bike-riding if it's true. Google has had pedestrian route-mapping for quite a while now, and they added public-transit route mapping more recently. Every time anyone goes to map a route, they see those options. It's gotta have a subliminal effect even for people who don't USE those options. "Oh! there are sidewalks and buses!" Now maybe they'll think, "Bike route...hm."*

Google may be the Evil Overlords of the Internet, but this kind of on-the-ground (literally) tool for real people wanting to live sustainably strikes me as a genuine good.

*idea for Google: make "route with fewest bikes" an option for motorists!
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
A wonderful thing just happened.

It started with a terrible thing. Late last night, Tom Daley, a guy about to open his shoestring bike-repair business in Southeast Portland, had his location broken into and most of his tools and inventory stolen.

A tale of social networking and social conscience. )

Small steps, small steps. Thank you [livejournal.com profile] nwhepcat for making me aware, so I could pass it on. And good luck to Tom Daley, who is just trying to open a microbusiness in hard times.

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