thing 18: web applications

It has been a while since I seriously looked at Zoho Writer, preferring Google Docs mainly for the convenience (I always have Gmail open in a tab, so it’s easy to one-click open Google Docs from there). Zoho Writer seems to have more editing and layout tools, or at least, displays them more like MS Word.

I have been dabbling with web applications like document editors and spreadsheet creators mostly because I don’t like the ones that I purchased with my iMac. I probably would like the Mac versions more if I were more familiar with their quirks, but I’m so used to Microsoft Office products that remembering what I can and can’t do in the Mac environment is too frustrating. While Google Docs isn’t quite the same as Microsoft Office, it’s more-so than iWork ’08.

Playing with Zoho Writer, however, reminded me that I need to work around my Google bias. Particularly since the Zoho products seem to have the productivity functions that make my life easier.

why I write for Blogcritics: reason #27

One of the Blogcritics writers was asking today about the site stats (3.5 million page views per month, if you’re interested), and another writer suggested using Alexa. That particular resource isn’t very accurate, but I found it interesting to compare what it considers to be the traffic number for Blogcritics with my own website. barely makes it on to the graph at this scale.

If you’re a writer and wanting to get more exposure to your work, Blogcritics is a great place to start.

Oh, and I forgot to do the round-up of what I wrote last month, so I’m going to do a July/August combo. Expect to see that shortly after I return from Dragon*Con early next month.

blogs are old skool?

I read a post in The Chronicle of Higher Education blog that declared that the end of blogs is near. Perhaps, but I think we have a few more months at least.

One of the tools that the writer points to is Shyftr, which looks like it could be as cool an RSS reader as Google Reader, and as handy a comment aggregator as coComment, but all in one place. Unfortunately, they don’t (yet) have a way to import an OPML file, so I’ll be leaving my nearly 250 feeds in Google Reader for now.

Eric Berlin, the Online Media Cultist, has some interesting things to say about Shyftr and its ilk.


You all may have noticed that I’m not cross-posting the full content of the reviews I write for Blogcritics. There are many reasons, not the least of which I am trying to keep this from becoming solely a review blog. What you might not know is that reviews aren’t my only gig with Blogcritics.

I hooked up with Blogcritics in the fall of 2004, not long after I had moved to Washington state. For the first year and a half, my only participation was in occasionally reviewing things that interested me. At some point in the winter of 2006, I convinced someone that I would like to help out more, and I found myself facing the slightly daunting task of assisting with inputing the contents of some 800 email messages into a database.

The way the review materials process works at Blogcritics is that publicists send Eric press releases, which he passes on to the writer’s group. Then, whomever is interested in reviewing the items offered will indicate their interest, and after they’re approved, they contact the publicist. Meanwhile, each review item is added to a database that includes information like the publicist’s contact info, who is reviewing it, and the date the item will be released. As you can imagine, this takes a lot of time to do. I estimate that when Eric is working full speed at forwarding press releases, I can spend anywhere from 10-15 hours per week on the database.

Mind you, I’m also trying to write at least one decent review per week, as well as my regular job and life, but apparently that wasn’t enough for me. Sometime last fall, I started taking all of the streaming audio, video, movie stills, and other digital paraphernalia sent to us by the publicists and mashing them together into a daily round-up column. This eventually morphed into its own site within the Blogcritics network, called the BC Goodie Bag. So, in addition to the database work and the reviews, I am now spending another 10-12 hours per week putting that together.

When I have a few spare moments, I’ll also pitch in and help edit some articles that are in the pending queue. Nothing is published on Blogcritics without first being looked over by a member of the volunteer editorial team. It helps keep the quality from sliding down towards naval-gazing, what-I-ate-for-breakfast blogging, which is fine for personal blogs but not so good for an online magazine.

You might be wondering when I find time for things like sleeping. I’m wondering that myself.

state of the blog

I began writing a waffling, slightly navel-gazing reflection on the state of my blog as it stands and the direction in which it is heading. Then I thought, “aw, forget it!” This is my blog. This is my writing space. While I do think it’s pretty damn cool that about 650 of you are reading it, I’m not writing it for you.

This past weekend, I had a realization. Since I wasn’t dressed in a costume or locked away in a room full of gamers, most people assumed I was one of the scads of writers in attendance. After telling the nth person that no, I’m not a writer, it finally dawned on me that in fact, I am a writer.

I write non-fiction.

This blog, the reviews, and my professional writing are all non-fiction. I find it highly ironic that I’m writing in a genre I generally don’t care to read in book form. Nevertheless, it’s what I am doing, and the surprising thing is that for the most part, I enjoy doing it.

All this is to say, I’m going to try to stop feeling guilty about pummeling my readers with reviews and non-librarian-y things and just write about whatever I feel like whenever I get the urge to do it.

Besides, you all should have had an idea of what you’d be getting when you started reading a blog with the word “eclectic” in the title.

can’t stop the pop

Refreshing alternative rock that reminds us of a time before the rise of angst-ridden boy bands with ironic names.

by Oohlas

The Oohlas are former Everclear drummer Greg Eklund on lead guitar and vocals, his brother Mark on bass and vocals, and Ollie Stone on guitar and vocals. They have recently added Luke Adams on drums for live performances, but Greg played the drums for Best Stop Pop. The volume of guitars and vocals cause the waves of sound to crash against the ears in a way that only mid-90s alternative rock can do. The Oohlas present a retro sound with a refreshingly modern approach that reminds us of a time before the rise of angst-ridden boy bands with ironic names.

album cover of Best Stop PopThe first track begins with a slightly industrial wail and clank bleeding into guitars and vocals from one of the Eklunds. It is an odd choice to put “Gone” as the lead song for an album that is essentially introducing the band to listeners outside of their Los Angeles area fan base. The theme of the song is that everyone the writer knows has left him (or her – I was not provided the liner notes for this review), and he doesn’t care. It is sung with emo-ish tenor, and could be Greg Eklund’s anthem of “I’m not in Everclear anymore and I don’t miss it. Really.” Or it could be about something else entirely. Since it is the lead track, one is left to assume that it is meant as a former band/friend post-breakup song.

By alternating tracks between male and female lead vocals, the Oohlas have kept the sound fresh on this album. This is handy since most of the lyrical content appears to consist of stream of consciousness or journal content. Aside from the occasional peculiar or amusing line, nothing really reaches out and grabs the listener by the collar. The music is undeniably engaging, but the lyrics are disappointingly not at the same level.

“Across the Stars In Blue” has one of the most entertaining yet odd lyric on Best Stop Pop: “Some pretty titty shaving kitty’s gonna charm the world, but I’m just charming the love of my girl.” It is possible that I have misheard the lyric, but it is such an amusing mental image that I hope I am right. The line leaves me with an image of a fluffy house cat holding a razor and chasing after a scantily clad woman with a blue starfield in the background.

press photo of the OohlasThe song with the best hook is “Small Parts.” Despite the happy-go-lucky feel of the music, the lyrics paint a picture of a person in the midst of a mental breakdown. Still, one cannot help but sing or hum along when the chorus comes around.

The whole album is very radio friendly, and I suspect that the band will have no trouble breaking out into the national mainstream music scene where songwriting is not as important as a tight sound and attractive band members. In that, the Oohlas have already succeeded.

An Interview with Susan Werner

“I believe that we can be a diverse society of extraordinary creativity and innovation and vitality and freedom, and those things are the best things that we can be.”

Susan Werner, PatriotMy introduction to the music of Susan Werner was in the fall of 1999 when a friend who produced a local acoustic music radio show lent me copies of Time Between Trains and Last of the Good Straight Girls. I was instantly enchanted with the sincerity and wit that Werner brings to her music. Her last album was a thematic collection of songs that sound like they are from the 20s and 30s, but are all orginal and new. Recently, Werner made available for download a song she describes as an alternative national anthem. “This is a song that takes the National Anthem and turns it on his head,” says Werner. “It’s Francis Scott Key meets Arlo Guthrie.” I had the pleasure of speaking with Werner about the song a few weeks ago.

Continue reading “An Interview with Susan Werner”

there and back again: part two

Despite getting a decent night’s sleep, I woke up a bit groggy the next morning. But I manged to find some espresso and a muffin and went to learn about herbology. Unfortunately, the herbalist was late, so most of the session was lead by the pharmaceutical expert.

Continue reading “there and back again: part two”

rules for the blogger/writer

I’m not much of a writer. I don’t sit around pondering my “craft” and thrilling over perfect sentence structures and exquisite word pictures. Nevertheless, I do want my readers to enjoy what I write.

It’s been a while since I had a formal grammar class, and English was never my favorite subject. Thus, Lori Mortimer’s response to John Scalzi’s suggestions for nonprofessional writers is more useful to me that the original essay. Scalzi uses accessible language, but Mortimer explains why a rule is important to follow. Both are worth reading, particularly if you’re a lazy writer like myself.

we have a life

Last night, I saw New York Times writer William Grimes’ essay in the Critic’s Notebook column on the phenomenon of the memoir pop up in my NYT feed. He writes, “The memoir has been on the march for more than a decade now. … But the genre has become so inclusive that it’s almost impossible to imagine which life experiences do not qualify as memoir material.”

As a blogger, I understand the attraction to writing memoirs. If given the chance, I could wax on about myself, my memories, and my revelations for quite some time. The nice thing about memoirs is that they don’t require much research or imagination. You were there – you know what happened. Of course, this means that it would be very easy to assume that anyone could write a memoir. While this is true, it does not also equate that anyone can write a good memoir, which goes for bloggers, as well. Grimes does not come out and explicitly state this in his essay, but the tone could imply it.

Grimes concludes with the thought that this propensity for penning memoirs might be a part of our humanity. He writes,

“John Eakin, an emeritus professor of English at Indiana University, has argued that human beings continuously engage in a process of self-creation and self-discovery by constructing autobiographical narratives. In a sense, we are the stories – multiple, shifting and constantly evolving – that we weave about ourselves, and this storytelling urge may even be hard-wired.”

Perhaps it is our super-ego and id fighting to dominate that causes us to want to share our life stories in a public setting? Ah, I never cared much for Freud, anyway.